Hey, Bob, no one knows what you're doing right, but keep it up. Cherub-faced and perennially chirpy, Soper could probably announce the arrival of six simultaneous hurricanes with a smile and a cheery sendoff. In the face of gale-force winds, Soper keeps his chin up, warning us about the dangers of flying fruit from neighbors' trees with cautionary concern. Moreover, Soper's back-page column in the local section of the Sun-Sentinel (recently redesigned, much to our chagrin) is his forum to answer questions and dispense good-natured advice. Want to know when to plant broccoli? Or why it gets dark at night? Or what makes rain so gosh-darn wet? Or does it ever rain cats and dogs? Or frogs? Just ask -- no question is too big, small, or inane for Soper's genuine good humor to tackle. Moreover, and most important, Soper's predictions often pan out.
De Land offers a three-in-one package deal of Florida attractions: In one weekend (without excessive hours whiled away on Interstate 95) you can enjoy Spanish moss-strewn Old South, Disney-tinged commercialism, and lush natural beauty. Located about 225 miles north of West Palm Beach, De Land echoes Savannah, Georgia: Both towns boast graceful architecture and bona fide downtowns. But unlike the isolated Savannah, De Land sits conveniently between Orlando and the Ocala National Forest. While you're in De Land, have dinner at the Holiday House Restaurant, located at 704 N. Woodland Blvd., across from Stetson University. While you clean off your plate of Southern-style buffet samplings, members of restaurant cofounder Willa Cook's family watch: Family portraits, each painted by Cook herself, literally cover the walls. Cook, aside from starting a thriving restaurant in 1959 and working as a professional painter, also happens to be a three-time water-skiing world champion. Eating aside, the turn-of-the-century storefronts warrant a nice stroll through downtown De Land, and the university's architecturally diverse campus beckons. If you like hiking, the best section of the Florida Trail happens to cut right through the nearby national forest, where the trail weaves through gently rolling hills. And when you tire of the outdoors and sleepy Southern charm, the mouse awaits.
A specter is haunting CityPlace, and its name is Michael Monet. The actor, model, club kid, and all-around scene fixture died in 1995 of a heroin overdose in the old First Methodist Church that is now the centerpiece of the gaudy West Palm Beach shopping complex. In the early '90s, in the interval between the bankruptcy of one real-estate scheme and the construction of the current consumerist playland, Monet worked as caretaker of the then-abandoned church. While living in the church's warren of storage rooms and living quarters, he turned the place into an informal artists' collective, a drug-fueled hangout, and a nighttime rave club. It could have been an experiment in living -- what anarchists call a temporary autonomous zone -- but Monet's personal demons got the better of him, and he sank into the paranoia and depression that led to his suicide. Monet might have despised the fate of his haunt, a short-lived bohemian enclave now entombed in mainstream materialist frenzy. On the other hand, he might have appreciated the irony. Whatever else he was, Monet was both authentic and original -- two qualities sorely lacking at CityPlace.

Riverside Hotel
Back in the 1930s, well-to-do Chicago brothers Preston and Tom Wells fell in love with Fort Lauderdale -- and with Champ Carr, the likable fishing guide and raconteur who took them out on their annual winter excursions into the briny deep. In 1936 the pair decided to build a small but exclusive resort hotel on the banks of the New River and install Carr as manager; they even named it the Champ Carr Hotel. When Carr retired in 1947, the lodging was renamed the Riverside Hotel. Other than that, it hasn't changed much from the original three-story hotel and six-story tower. It's still an unpretentious, European-style inn with the original Lapa Lapa tile floors and coral rock keystone fireplaces designed by society architect Francis Abreu. The 105 traditional rooms and suites, which range in price from $149 out of season to $269 in season, still boast their original Jacobean-style oak furniture, and although the clientele has changed from wealthy dowagers to hard-charging business types, the rhythm and serenity of the hotel hasn't. Food offerings include two well-regarded restaurants, both Ron Morrison creations: the moderately priced Indigo, with its Southeast Asian fusion cuisine, and the expensive Grill Room, a steak-and-seafood house modeled after a British colonial pub in some far-flung outpost. A word of warning: the hotel is in the process of adding 112 rooms and 4 executive suites in an adjacent 13-story tower by 2002. As at any of the world's newly renovated grand old hotels, you'll want to consider asking for accommodations in the old wing.
Snyder Park
A socialized dog is a happy dog, and a dog allowed to run off-leash is in heaven. Problem is there aren't many places left for dogs to run around unfettered in this concrete jungle of ours. Bark Park, "the park dogs ask for by name," is just the place to let Bowser play with other dogs and get his romp on. Located inside Snyder Park -- park admission for adults is $1.50 weekdays, $2 weekends -- Bark Park is a fully fenced facility just perfect for four-legged frolicking. If your hound has a hankering to run with the big dogs, then by all means, let her hang out in the area designated for "adventurous" dogs. If not head for the separate enclosure for smaller dogs. Tree-lined trails run through the park, and along the way are side-by-side drinking fountains at heights for dogs and people. Play equipment such as ramps, hurdles, and tunnels are available if your dog is up for the challenge. Although much fun can be had at Bark Park, one must abide by the rules. Your pooch must be on a leash on the way in and out of the park, and you need to have your leash with you inside. You'll also need your dog's proof of current rabies shots. The most important rule of all: Owners must clean up after their dogs. Scooper supply depots are set up throughout the park for this purpose. Hey, better to scoop now than deal with poopy paws later.

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