If you live by the water or you live near a swamp (and who down here doesn't?), you know exactly what we're talking about. There aren't many places in the contiguous 48 states where parrots and iguanas breed with impunity -- come to think of it, most of the country isn't known for an abundance of bright-green wildlife at all. From a downtown Fort Lauderdale riverfront cottage, we watched raccoons and red foxes foraging, shiny silver smelt and mullet spawning, and a variety of colorful lizards leaping, including the basilisk (or "Jesus lizard"), plus snakes like black racers. A nest of burrowing owls and their babies in the backyard. Of course, not all members of our prodigious critter kingdom are welcome, hellacious bugs in particular. But especially for transplants from colder climes, the sight of screaming, dive-bombing streaks of monk parrots or the sight of a four-foot iguana sunning itself on a deck while chomping on hibiscus flowers is a surreal reality.
Just as the giant Chili Cookoff inspires food with the impact of a reactor-core meltdown, the Jerk Festival usually ignites taste buds in a big way. Scotch bonnet peppers, the fiery ingredient in jerk sauce, appears to greater and lesser degrees in the authentic Jamaican cuisine offered by vendors and competitors. Having outgrown a smaller spot in Pembroke Pines, the festival settled into the big fields of Markham Park last year, where the food and music lasts until 9 p.m. (last call used to come at 5:30 in the old location). And there's more jerk chicken, fish, and pork than ever before, with a $500 prize and the Dutch Pot Trophy waiting for whoever can curry the judges' favor without burning their tongues. Instead of the country anthems that blare at the redneckian Chili Cookoff, these jerk fans get off on reggae, ska, dancehall, soca, and mento. The red, gold, and green banner of the World's Loudest Island replaces the Stars & Bars. Caribbean-made and themed wares, naturally, are aplenty. If you simply must make an ass of yourself, the opportunity awaits at the jerk-pork-eating competition. Just don't call it a jerk-off.
The sign of a successful protest isn't the number of people marching; it's how seriously the rest of the world takes those who do. By that measure, the demonstrations during the June 2005 meeting of the Organization of American States General Assembly in Fort Lauderdale were a triumph. Hundreds marched along Federal Highway, then down SW 17th Avenue to the Convention Center, where they rallied against the proposed enactment of the Central American Free Trade Agreement. An army of police from across South Florida, decked out in Darth Vader-like riot gear, lined the march route. The cops, seemingly outnumbering the protesters, surrounded the rally, which was held in a heavily fortified "protest pit" designed so that police could sweep down and crush any nascent violence. But there wasn't any fighting, only the loud voices of those remonstrating against the decisions of a body politic they didn't elect and to which they had no direct access -- not unlike similar gatherings in the 1770s.
We already knew about John Rodstrom's muscle-flexing ways. A former investment banker, the county commissioner raised ethical concerns a couple of years ago when Citibank paid him more than 400 large to help broker a bond issue for Miami International Airport while he opposed expansion of its competitor, FLL. But if there were any questions about Charlotte Rodstrom's own power hunger, she answered them right after her election to the Fort Lauderdale City Council in March. Her first act was to boot nonemployees out of City Hall, a move transparently aimed at unpaid volunteer coordinator Genia Ellis, a one-time Citizen of the Year. Ellis had done fine work in helping the city crawl out of its fiscal crisis, but she had also (oops) supported Rodstrom's opponent in the municipal election. Not long after that aggressive move, Charlotte helped bounce fellow City Commissioner Carlton Moore's hopes of narrowing Sistrunk Boulevard from four lanes to two in a revitalization project. It just so happened her husband at the county was of the same opinion about the project. Clearly, this is a power couple locals are going to have to keep their eyes on.
Operated by the not-for-profit Hollywood Trust, this site seeks to better balance the public's role in decisions made by city officials. The philosophy underlying the site is that Hollywood's city government doesn't give average citizens much say-so about how their taxes are spent. Public comment isn't allowed during meetings of the city's redevelopment agency and restricted during commission meetings -- which are still not shown on public-access television. This all comes at a crucial time for residents of Hollywood, as its elected officials oversee the explosion of development in a small town in the throes of either remaking itself into a kingdom of looming condos for the wealthy or maintaining its Old Florida charm as it grows. An editorial on the website opened with this salvo across the bow: "The city commission continues to slip millions of our public dollars and valuable tracts of our public land into private hands: developers, attorneys and former city staff members are the major beneficiaries."
South Florida is a little behind the curve in blogging -- Miami scribblers are gaining some steam, but Broward and Palm Beach cyber diarists have a long way to go to catch up to thriving blog communities in other parts of the country. As more locals join in on the conversation, however, they could do worse than to emulate Stuck on the Palmetto. This excellent web journal is the creation of a Pembroke Pines resident named Rick, who asked not to be identified more completely for fear of being "dooced" by his employer. Fine by us. Anything to assure that he keeps up his hilarious takes on local news. Rick tells us that he spent a couple of years blogging in obscurity about national politics until he realized last fall that it was more fun to write about the absurdity of life on our swampy peninsula. Rechristening his blog to commemorate his lousy daily commute, Rick has found a niche he finds more fulfilling -- and has given us a destination we hit every morning, without fail.
Save for Miami Beach's famed crayon-box outcropping of Deco hotels, out-of-town visitors rarely find much to write home about regarding South Florida architecture. In fact, it's probably easier to locate architectural atrocities and "what were they thinking?" landmarks. But the mid-'50s Kennan Building, at the northwest corner of Federal Highway and Oakland Park Boulevard, always draws compliments from locals and tourists alike. Twin columns of coral rock, steel, and glass adorned with a stylized, mid-century-modern mosaic, terrazzo floors inlaid with turquoise and silver -- they don't design buildings like this in Broward anymore. In fact, sadly enough, most of the area's best structures have been cannibalized by the wrecking ball. Even a renovation a few years back couldn't mess up the Kennan's Jetsons-esque appeal (it's hard to alter a round building, after all), which remains a beautiful beacon in a lonely sea of strip malls and chain restaurants.
Once upon a time, there was a lovely kingdom that flowed with coconut milk and sugar-cane juice. It was a warm, sunny place, and its citizens reveled in happiness and shared their joy and homes with every manner of beast: dogs, cats, ferrets, hamsters, birds, bunnies. But the subjects of the kingdom acted unwisely with their pets, which milled about the kingdom pell-mell. Cat begat cat and dog begat dog at a furious rate. They howled in the alleys and yelped in the streets and hopped in the neighbors' yards. So the queen, a just and beloved leader, commanded that each wandering or unwanted pet be brought to her court, where her jesters would feed them and pooper-scooper after them all their live-long lives. And the land rejoiced. Unfortunately, South Florida isn't a fairytale land, and there's no magic bullet for handling unwanted and discarded pets. But Abandoned Pet Rescue, with its no-kill policy, is probably the closest thing we have to it. Founded in 1996, the shelter takes in abused and neglected pets, then rehabilitates them and finds them good homes. It's all done with a troupe of volunteers who run the shelter day to day, but it takes cash to keep all those animals fed and cared for. The shelter is currently trying to raise money to buy a used recreational vehicle or bus to use as a mobile adoption unit, which will be outfitted with cages, to help more animals find adoptive owners.
Pity the poor rich men who cruise the singles clubs. They sink a hundred G into Porsches, Maseratis, Lamborghinis and Mercedes and then have to leave them in valet backlot purgatory. They enter the club as plucked peacocks, dehorned rams. After all, a snappy Italian suit and a ruby pinky ring can impress only so far. Mercifully, the valet parking for Blue Martini at The Galleria mall is sympathetic to the plight of the well-to-do. Home of $12 martinis and enough breast silicone to float a yacht, Blue Martini is among the top pickup clubs in Broward -- and the more ostentatious presentation, the better. The great thing is, valets don't hide the most elite, expensive cars back in the garage. For drivers who make the cut, their automobiles are parked along the curved drive abutting Blue Martini's front door and patio. Why, that's as good as puffed-up plumage.
Prestige Car Wash and Salon
Here's what you do. You need your oil changed, you go to Jiffy Lube at 44th Street and University Drive. When you're done there, they give you a $7 discount at Prestige, which is right up the road. So if you want to get a standard wash, you get it for $3.99 -- and you get top-of-the-line service while you're at it. Remember, Prestige isn't just a car wash; it's a salon. Real tony, this place. And you can go all the way up the ladder of offerings if you have the time and money. You want a full detailing of the interior and exterior of your car? That costs $100 -- but a mere $93 with the $7 discount. And you thought gas prices were high. Hey, if you got it, might as well spend it, right? If you don't, get the $3.99 deal. Can't be beat.

Best Of Broward-Palm Beach®

Best Of