Plenty of crackerjack reporters slave away at The Herald's Broward County headquarters. We think, for example, that Lisa Arthur, Dan de Vise, and Bill Yardley do some solid work -- given the constraints of daily journalism. But this award should go to someone unsung; thus our pick is Diaz. A general-assignment reporter with solid news judgment and a fluid writing style, Diaz has proven himself adept at both cops-reporting and feature-writing. He shies from sensationalism, writes with flair, and imparts his work with a rare sensitivity. Diaz's empathy for his subjects and sense of fairness distinguish him as one of The Herald's most promising up-and-coming scoops.
She writes one of those lifestyle columns you instinctively know you're going to hate. It's called "Real Life," but as any discerning newspaper reader knows, anytime a newspaper writer is set loose to write about "family issues," the column is going to be sappy, self-involved, and teeth-grittingly annoying. Emily Minor, however, rises above the my-life-is-so-damned-interesting phenomenon. Yes, her husband and her son are regular fixtures in the column she's been writing since 1995. But more often she leaves her family at home and writes about real people -- from parents watching their mentally handicapped adult child strive for independence, to a prominent doctor insisting that she didn't fully appreciate life until she got breast cancer, to a mother attending a Backstreet Boys concert to deal with her daughter's death. Minor isn't preachy, falsely modest, cloyingly familiar, or overly dramatic. "I'm such a beer-swilling slob," she writes. And you believe her and love her for it. In fact reading her column is a lot like having a beer with a friend who gives you something to think about but isn't offended if you disagree with her views. She's also not averse to stepping down from her lofty perch to write news stories. During the election melee that gripped Palm Beach County this past fall, she wrote profiles of elections supervisor Theresa LePore and county commissioner/canvassing board member Carol Roberts that depicted real women, not the monsters we saw in the national media. Moreover she's proof that in real life, stories don't always have storybook endings. Three years ago a New York literary agent contacted her about writing a book. The agent, Stephen Lord, discovered Jack Kerouac and, in so doing, gave the Beat generation its bible, On the Road. After getting an advance from Harcourt Brace, Minor took a six-month leave of absence to become an author. But when she was done, editors decided not to publish it. "My mom loves it," she says. That's real life.
The Sun-Sentinel television critic is not a man to suffer fools gladly. Therefore, when you write him a letter to ask him a dumb question -- like "When can I catch reruns of Touched by an Angel?" -- be sure to brace yourself. In his column in Sunday's On TV, he will publish your inane query, then he will administer the appropriate punishment. And if you're from the wrong part of town, watch out! Jicha's fond of rubbing your nose in it. "No wonder you're single," he berated one hapless writer. "You live in Weston." Don't even get Jicha started on political topics, especially global warming. He'll unleash a torrent of bile scalding enough to rival the surface of the sun. "It scares me that people still believe that nonsense," he recently testified. "Try talking about global warming to the people up in Canada." Jicha's anti-environmental theories are about as valid as Rush Limbaugh's, but that still won't get him to shut his pie hole. That's why we keep reading him.
When the Norton Museum of Art asked the West Palm Beach city commission to overrule the city's historic preservation board and OK the destruction of a 1920s garage to make way for the museum's latest round of expansion, the trustees expected to get their way. Not in Mango Promenade. The residents of this narrow peninsula of a neighborhood, less than 12 blocks long and a block and a half wide, have watched the well-funded cultural Goliath grow and devour their district's northernmost blocks through the years. Not this time. Mango Promenade was the city's very first automobile suburb, said the working folk whose sweat equity had revived the neighborhood in recent years, and those old garages are central to its character. The Mangoistas took that argument to a packed city hall hearing in February, outdueled a team of Norton lawyers and architects, and convinced the commission, for once, to do the right thing.
Boca Raton is notorious for symbolizing South Florida's anticulture: stuffy, platinum-pated, insufferably posh, and full of itself. We wouldn't want to grow up there. But if worse came to worst, at least there's one small pinpoint of hipness in this vast bad-jewelry-and-plastic-surgery capital. It's stuck behind a 7-Eleven off the corner of Palmetto Park Road and Dixie Highway. It's dark, dank, and about as unpretentiously pretentious as can be. For Boca's disaffected youth (or at least those of legal drinking age), it's nice to have a walk-to watering hole sans $13 chocolate martinis or dress-code elitism. What it does offer, besides reasonably priced cold frosty ones, is music of the live, local, and loud variety. How does such a bastion of anarchy survive in tanned, tony Tinselville? We haven't a clue, but we're sure glad the Boca Pub exists. Maybe there's hope for Boca Raton after all.

Who would have expected Japanese colonists in South Florida? Well, they were here, nearly a century ago, and although their Yamato farming community in Boca Raton didn't last, their legacy lives on in the form of the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. Think of this 200-acre complex as an organic whole, the way a Zen Buddhist might, and you'll begin to appreciate the architectural splendor of the place, which is actually made up of two distinct museum buildings and an intricate series of gardens linking them. The original "Yamato-kan," which opened in 1977, is a replica of a traditional Japanese villa, wrapped around a starkly beautiful rock garden and set on a small island. Nearly a mile of carefully manicured trails winds through half a dozen styles of gardens, each magnificent in its own way, to take you up the hill to the new museum, which opened in 1993. It's a much grander structure, also inspired by traditional Japanese architecture, featuring galleries, a teahouse, and a 225-seat theater. Between the two buildings is a large lake stocked with turtles and big, colorful Japanese carp that gather at a feeding station on the island, where, by the way, you can take in a collection of bonsai trees, which demonstrate that, in Japanese hands, even nature can be transformed into architecture.
If David Lynch were scouting for locations around Fort Lauderdale to film his next bizarre odyssey, chances are that Charlie's Rustic Bay Inn would be near the top of his list. But even if Lynch doesn't introduce dancing midgets, locals can say with some certainty that this is one of the weirdest watering holes around. Wedged between auto body shops in a forbidding industrial neighborhood, Charlie's looks like a place you'd bring your truck to have the engine valves adjusted. But inside the tiny, smoky, wood-paneled room is a small range of liquor and bottled beers peeking from an old cooler. The clientele is rough, gruff, and seedy -- just the type you'd expect at a clandestine joint such as this. But the real attractions are the tag-team servers behind the bar. These pneumatic women exude a certain scent of naughtiness that makes one wonder what might happen if the mood were to strike them. Imagine the possibilities.

If you've done any B&B-hopping in your life, you know the stellar inns are historied, meandering mansions. Stay in those B&Bs -- often Victorian style -- and you can almost hear the echoes of butlers announcing guests and piano lessons in the music room. Trouble is, Queen Victoria held little sway in South Florida, and venerable homesteads are few. Though it doesn't date back quite to Her Majesty's reign, the mansionesque Caribbean Quarters, built in 1939, captures some of the feel of yesteryear -- and stands within a block of the beach. The three-story B&B's spacious courtyard is an oasis from the hubbub of the beachfront and features a spa, lush vegetation, trellis centerpiece, and tables from which to eat that namesake breakfast. Rooms are swank, some with hardwood flooring and tiles preserved from original construction. Prices range from $75 to $175 during summer season, $110 to $220 in the winter. We are amused.
Flash back to 1909: There's little ten-year-old Winnie Lancy at her great-grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary in Vermont. As the festivities die down, her great-grandfather, a Civil War veteran who is about 81 years old, starts talking about something he rarely mentioned: Gettysburg. And Winnie listens with awe as he talks of shaking Abraham Lincoln's hand on the day the 16th President gave his most famous speech. Suddenly her schoolbooks come to life.

Zoom forward to November 11, 2000. There's 101-year-old Winnie standing between President Clinton and actor Tom Hanks at the groundbreaking for the new World War II memorial. She has a place of honor at the ceremony because she is the last known living mother of a soldier killed in World War II. Her son, Norman, was killed August 4, 1944, on what was supposed to be his final air mission before coming home. (She loves Hanks but doesn't care much for Clinton, though she shook his hand anyway.) Winnie, who has lived in Plantation for the past 48 years, earned her own place in history through incredible longevity. Born in 1899, she turned 102 years old April 5; her mind remains remarkably sharp, seemingly resistant to the decaying rigors of time. "God gave me a strong mind," she says. "If my mind ever goes, then I want to go." She's been widowed since 1973 and now lives in Plantation Acres with a daughter, one of her two surviving children out of six. She credits her long life to a good diet (at five-foot-two, she usually weighed a healthy 130) and having never touched cigarettes or alcohol, at least not voluntarily. She says the reason booze repulses her dates back to Christmas in about 1911, when her uncles, playing around, doused her with beer. We're thankful for that prank, since it might have contributed to the reason we have such a human treasure in our midst today.

YP president John Haley sums up his fundraising philosophy thus: "Give them what they want, and like, so that it becomes irresistible." And what do yuppies want? Parties! At least 3000 people in their twenties and thirties have joined, making this the largest young-professionals group to support a charity in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Last year YP hosted 42 events ranging from nightclub mixers to ski trips. Its members contributed $250,000 to Covenant House's $9 million budget last year, an admirable 82 percent of which went directly to the costs of helping the runaway, homeless, and at-risk youth who come to Covenant House for help. Perhaps all that beneficence explains why so many people at YP functions are smiling -- or maybe it's because they have something to confess on Sunday. Covenant House, is, after all, a Catholic charity (though it is not affiliated with any archdiocese and does not discriminate in its programs). And though the Holy Father may not sanction all the goings-on at a YP function, he certainly can't complain about all the good the group is doing.

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