Ian Witlen
Whether music is literally your hot, hot sex (Cansei de Ser Sexy — go ahead and Google it) or you're the one trying to remember that one band with that one song, it's almost impossible to walk out of Radio-Active Records empty-handed. Crate-diggers and collectors belong in the enormous backroom, where there awaits a surprisingly undusty stock of wax nostalgia that includes rock, jazz, R&B, salsa, and a Nancy Sinatra platter on the wall that'll make eyes with you every damned time. There's a stage back there too that props up an eclectic roster of local and national acts. Up front, find newer vinyl offerings from labels like Stones Throw, Matador, and Sub Pop and friendly staffers ready to hip you to it. For the obsessives, special orders are a cinch. But heck, if payday's too far away, just buy a cold soda and fulminate about the new MGMT album with someone who actually knows what you're on about. You can't hug that Joanna Newsom MP3, people!
Private clubs like the Boca Resort take their cachet seriously, and much of it depends on exactly who gets turned away at the gate. That would be me and you: variously known as the hoi polloi, the unwashed masses, the riffraff. Under normal circumstances, it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a poor man to stroll under the resort's Mizner-designed archways. Or to bask beside its private swimming pools or under its waterfalls, to pick at fish tacos and sip its bloody marys under a seaside umbrella. But we're in a recession, and even Boca Resort — which is owned by Waldorf Astoria — has felt the pinch hard enough to permit a thin stream of commoners. For an affordable price ($109 a night at presstime), you're entitled to every luxury the resort routinely showers on its members. That includes a staff for whom no request is too niggling (inevitably fulfilled with brisk friendliness); some of the best sushi in South Florida at Morimoto's casual little bar; eyefuls of nearly nude girls in their early 20s who sunbathe and flirt at the Resort's Beach Club in droves; a full spa stocked with excellent massage therapists, a Turkish-style bath, and lots of sweet-smelling products; and a tiny taste of what it would be like to be rich enough to spend $110 on a mani-pedi without blinking. One Saturday night is enough, unless you've just won at Lotto (arrive early and leave late on Sunday afternoon). A door to a locked and guarded room has temporarily opened a crack: Enter while you can.
Take an afternoon off. Grab some good food and someone you love. Park somewhere cheap and follow the beach north a few hundred feet from Anglin's Fishing Pier to a tranquil, hidden oasis. Just behind the brush, shielded by the dunes and the shade of the swaying trees, on a patch of bright-green grass, there are two round picnic tables. On a clear day, the only sounds you'll hear are the birds singing, some children playing in the distance, and the waves crashing on the beach. When you're done, walk to the edge of the brush and look out over the ocean. Feel the sun on your cheeks, the wind in your hair. Hold hands and forget about stress. For the moment, all is right with the world.
Anyone who says South Florida's dining scene is dead just needs to show up in downtown Delray on a weekend night and take notice. In that stretch of Atlantic Avenue between Swinton Avenue and the Intracoastal is a wealth of restaurants doing creative things with food. In the past year, Delray has attracted big names like Militello and Susser, whose talents were unleashed in creating cutting-edge gastropubs the Office and Taste. The city's got swank and then some, with posh joints like 32 East and Vic & Angelo's leading the charge. And for a high-end small-plates, beer, and tapas bar, Tryst delivers charming plates with easy-to-swallow prices. Even ethnic dining has made a big splash in Delray. Indie joint Bamboo Fire has drawn in gobs of foodies with its honest take on island food, while Cabana el Rey has earned fans for its homey Cuban cuisine. You could eat for weeks in Delray and never run out of options — breakfast at Atlantique Cafe followed by lunch at Jimmy's Bistro? Or maybe sushi at Yama before drinks and tunes at Dada? The options are wide open in this gourmet paradise.
Remember LAN (local area network) centers of the past? Well, move over, bacon! Here's something leaner!: Phas3 Gaming. Finally, PC and console gamers can congregate in one place and play brand-new and even beta games for cheap prices. Phas3, pronounced "phase," currently has one PlayStation 3 (more coming soon) and 12 PCs, each with 2.5G Core 2 Duo processors and 8800GT video cards. On those PCs, you can play mainstream games like Counter-Strike, Call of Duty 4, or Half Life 2, plus newer games like Left 4 Dead 2 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Salivating yet? Wait till the owner of Phas3, Wilson, lets you get your hands on Starcraft II, which is still in a limited beta release stage and available to only 11,000 gamers. Since the center is new and still getting off the ground, it's offering special gaming packages to new players — $20 for ten hours.
The most amazing thing about Alfred Phillips is not that he has won at least eight Best in Show awards since moving to South Florida in late 2003, although that's pretty impressive. Nor is it that his cartoon of George W. Bush being sodomized by an Arab sheik landed him on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart a year later, although that's impressive too. (The image was for the Broward Art Guild's "Controversy" show.) No, the most amazing thing is that the artist didn't even begin painting until seven years ago. Before that, he worked in the ad business for three decades, first at agencies, then at his own graphic design firm, so it's not like he started from scratch. Still, the prolific Phillips has made the most of the past seven years, holing up in his studio at the Tarpon River Art Centre near downtown Fort Lauderdale and turning out painting after remarkable painting that demonstrate virtuoso technique and a broad mastery of styles and subject matter. He's highly competitive and enters lots of shows, hence the awards, but he's also supportive of fellow artists, showing up at their openings and offering encouragement and advice, such as this tidbit that surfaced in an interview a few years ago: "If you don't live and breathe it, don't even start. You have to be dedicated and willing to work hard. There is a glamorous side to art, but the work comes first." Strong words, but Phillips doesn't just talk the talk; he walks the walk.
Panagioti Tsolkas has his fingers in so many pies, it's a wonder he hasn't keeled over from diabetic shock. Tsolkas, who says he got his first taste of political activism in tenth grade, when he and fellow students stood on tables in a "spontaneous refusal" to continue taking the FCAT, has become an expert in the decade since at staging much taller stunts. He likes being up in the air: Acting with the Lake Worth Global Justice Group in 2004, Tsolkas mounted a giant tripod on Dixie Highway to protest a luxury condo being built in downtown Lake Worth. In 2009, he led an affinity group protest from the roof of a building on Dixie Highway and Banyan Boulevard in West Palm, where he hung a banner decrying FPL's plans for expansion into prized wetlands. Last year, he helped organize an action against FPL's West County Energy Center construction site that involved 25 activists tying themselves together to blockade Palm Beach Aggregates' rock mining operation. Tsolkas did 14 days jail time for his trouble (he still has more to serve). Now, Tsolkas is involved in a campaign to pass Slow Growth Amendment 4; he runs the Night Heron Grassroots Activist Center in Lake Worth, hosting lectures, art shows, classes, and afternoon tutoring sessions for kids; he plays key roles in the PBC Environmental Coalition, Everglades Earth First!, and the Green Party, with which he recently cowrote a green paper on Florida energy policy. How he found time this year to tangle with his Lake Worth Neighborhood Association, Tropical Ridge, is a mystery. But he managed to prod it into a new level of professional conduct: The association has a new set of bylaws and rules governing elections now, along with a renewed sense of the demographic it serves — association members had to shift their seats slightly left to make room for the radicals.
For lease: 40,000 square feet of newly available luxury office space in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Equipped with high-tech security system, glass-walled executive corridor, and a secret elevator — great for those stressful afternoons when you just want to sneak away... to Morocco. There's ample parking for a fleet of luxury cars. Never mind that the entire building is named after the largest bank in the country amid an era of mass theft on the part of America's financial institutions. Never mind that the 16th floor was the office of the biggest fraudster in South Florida's history or that the walls of Scott Rothstein's inner sanctum were decorated with the same stolen funds that provided his jets and yachts and the Rolls-Royces that picked him up downstairs like the modern-day robber baron he is. Never mind that the posh accouterments epitomize the disgusting lust for wealth that has crippled this once-great nation, infecting every aspect of American life like a festering bacteria from which we may never recover. Never mind the heartbreak and rage caused by the evil perpetrated here or the injustices inflicted upon thousands of trusting individuals. The view of the ocean is to die for. Ponzi schemers need not apply.
During any other period in South Florida history, Sean Healy would have been a legendary crook. A big Ponzi schemer, Healy had the misfortune of being in a pond with much bigger Ponzi fish. He didn't swindle nearly as much as Palm Beach County's Bernie Madoff. Nor did Healy have the high-flying political friends of Scott Rothstein. But there was an elegant simplicity to Healy's scheme: The Weston businessman asked investors for their money; then he bought stuff with it. Although he was 39 when he got busted, Healy had a 15-year-old's taste in luxury goods. Rap-star bling. A trophy wife from Hooters. An automotive fleet that included a stretch limo, a Lamborghini, a Ferrari, two Porsches, and a Hummer golf cart. Toilets that operated by motion sensor. Statues of superheroes that stood seven feet tall. All told, a Pennsylvania court found Healy guilty of spending nearly $20 million in investor money, for which he was sentenced to 16 years in jail.
In this recession era of belt-tightening, nothing sounds sweeter than the word free. The new West Palm Beach Public Library, barely a year old, has taken its mission of providing free services to heart, so much that books seem almost an afterthought. On Saturday mornings, hordes of people ride the elevators to the third floor, where sunshine pours through generous windows to illuminate gleaming hardwood floors. In a carpeted auditorium, a free yoga class is taught cheerfully to children and gray-haired yogis alike. Other days, one can find free Pilates and tai chi classes and perhaps an Argentine tango performance. Here, seniors or the otherwise technologically impaired can learn to navigate Craigslist and PowerPoint — hell, even Wii Bowling! So go to the library, and take your Bubbe with you. She will be so proud.

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