Even watching at home on an 18-inch television screen, peering through cigarette smoke and sipping beer, this much is clear: Every time Pavel Bure touches the puck, the game is demonstrably altered. Number 10 seems to explode across the ice, gathering the puck at the blue line and snapping it past another unsuspecting goalie before you can say, "Holy perestroika, Pavel!" Take one game, say early March, against the Northeast Division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs: The Cats are in a horrid, season-threatening slump, losers of four straight at home and seemingly sleep-skating for the last month. The team's once insurmountable lead in the Southeast Division has dwindled to just two games over the insurgent Washington Capitals. Enter Pavel. Near the end of the first period, number 10 cuts across the ice and blisters a puck past goalie Curtis Joseph. Goal number 44 (long ago shattering a Panther record). Bure then slides across the ice on one knee in gunslinger fashion, pumping his fist, and all you can think is… Slump? What slump? Just like that, clear as Russian vodka, the Cats are back. The Panthers go on to manhandle the Leafs, with Bure adding an empty-net goal as an exclamation point to the 3-1 victory. And they then go on to bury the Capitals in the bottom of their litter box.

Even watching at home on an 18-inch television screen, peering through cigarette smoke and sipping beer, this much is clear: Every time Pavel Bure touches the puck, the game is demonstrably altered. Number 10 seems to explode across the ice, gathering the puck at the blue line and snapping it past another unsuspecting goalie before you can say, "Holy perestroika, Pavel!" Take one game, say early March, against the Northeast Division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs: The Cats are in a horrid, season-threatening slump, losers of four straight at home and seemingly sleep-skating for the last month. The team's once insurmountable lead in the Southeast Division has dwindled to just two games over the insurgent Washington Capitals. Enter Pavel. Near the end of the first period, number 10 cuts across the ice and blisters a puck past goalie Curtis Joseph. Goal number 44 (long ago shattering a Panther record). Bure then slides across the ice on one knee in gunslinger fashion, pumping his fist, and all you can think is… Slump? What slump? Just like that, clear as Russian vodka, the Cats are back. The Panthers go on to manhandle the Leafs, with Bure adding an empty-net goal as an exclamation point to the 3-1 victory. And they then go on to bury the Capitals in the bottom of their litter box.

So many reasons from which to choose… the weather, the cornucopia of exposed flesh, the fact that a Dunkin' Donuts is never more than a block or two away. Yes, these are nice things you can't find in Cleveland, but what really sets us apart down here is the quality of the light. Natives say you can tell the season by the color of the sun's rays: glare white in summer, pastel yellow in spring, soft brass in the fall, and eggshell in the winter. Sometimes, when the atmospheric conditions are just so, the entire world turns a shade of rosy pink that even makes the strip malls look appealing.
So many reasons from which to choose… the weather, the cornucopia of exposed flesh, the fact that a Dunkin' Donuts is never more than a block or two away. Yes, these are nice things you can't find in Cleveland, but what really sets us apart down here is the quality of the light. Natives say you can tell the season by the color of the sun's rays: glare white in summer, pastel yellow in spring, soft brass in the fall, and eggshell in the winter. Sometimes, when the atmospheric conditions are just so, the entire world turns a shade of rosy pink that even makes the strip malls look appealing.
Forearms with tendons that resemble banyan roots, only they move. A cool and collected toughness that spells B-I-G T-I-M-E. Just 7 percent body fat on a musculature that is at once drop-jaw beautiful and downright frightening. Be afraid. Yes, be very afraid, because it's Preston Wilson, a young man simply dripping with uncanny talent and blockbuster potential. Last year as a rookie, he gave us just a hint of his incredible power and a fielding prowess that's gonna soon fill ESPN highlight reels. Move over Junior Griffey, there's a new daddy's boy in the league. Preston, who is former Met Mookie Wilson's stepson, definitely has a career. Now, the question is: Will it be with the Marlins?

Forearms with tendons that resemble banyan roots, only they move. A cool and collected toughness that spells B-I-G T-I-M-E. Just 7 percent body fat on a musculature that is at once drop-jaw beautiful and downright frightening. Be afraid. Yes, be very afraid, because it's Preston Wilson, a young man simply dripping with uncanny talent and blockbuster potential. Last year as a rookie, he gave us just a hint of his incredible power and a fielding prowess that's gonna soon fill ESPN highlight reels. Move over Junior Griffey, there's a new daddy's boy in the league. Preston, who is former Met Mookie Wilson's stepson, definitely has a career. Now, the question is: Will it be with the Marlins?

They call him "Chop Chop," and not necessarily with admiration. In the blueblood circles of horseracing, Jorge Chavez has long been looked upon with a wary eye for his demonstrative (some would say brutal) use of the whip. But at four feet, ten inches -- tiny even by jockey standards -- Chavez leverages every ounce of his body into making his horses run. It may be ugly, but it's effective. At the ripe age of 39, the former Peruvian street urchin has found horseracing glory. Last year he rode two winners in the Breeders' Cup and was the top finisher during the Gulfstream season. Chavez capped off the year by winning the Eclipse Award for top rider in the country, besting such better-known Gulfstream stablemates as Pat Day and Jerry Bailey and permanently catapulting himself out of the ghetto of 30-to-1 long shots and claiming races. So for now, at least, make that Mr. Chop Chop.
They call him "Chop Chop," and not necessarily with admiration. In the blueblood circles of horseracing, Jorge Chavez has long been looked upon with a wary eye for his demonstrative (some would say brutal) use of the whip. But at four feet, ten inches -- tiny even by jockey standards -- Chavez leverages every ounce of his body into making his horses run. It may be ugly, but it's effective. At the ripe age of 39, the former Peruvian street urchin has found horseracing glory. Last year he rode two winners in the Breeders' Cup and was the top finisher during the Gulfstream season. Chavez capped off the year by winning the Eclipse Award for top rider in the country, besting such better-known Gulfstream stablemates as Pat Day and Jerry Bailey and permanently catapulting himself out of the ghetto of 30-to-1 long shots and claiming races. So for now, at least, make that Mr. Chop Chop.
If you're like us, you're repelled by the very idea of a bed-and-breakfast. Who in his right mind can relax in somebody else's house while surrounded at the breakfast table by a bunch of overfriendly yahoo tourists? Ugh. A friggin' Motel 6 sounds better than that. But the Banks of the Everglades is a different kind of bed-and-breakfast. You get to choose privacy by staying on the second floor, which has rooms that are fully furnished and have a private bath and kitchen. While the rooms are as fresh and clean as any Holiday Inn, the place is not a cookie-cutter corporate box; rather, it's wholly unique. With the look of an old-time courthouse, the building was constructed in 1923 by the late Barron Collier and served as the first bank in Everglades City. You can eat their delicious breakfast in the old bank vault or, if you find that a bit claustrophobic, outside on the porch facing a royal palm-lined street that is just a short walk from the Gulf. It's not too cheap and not too expensive -- we paid about $100 for our night in an efficiency that was cutesily dubbed "The Foreclosure Department." To get there, simply take the scenic drive through the Everglades on the old Tamiami Trail to Everglades City, which offers great fishing, a nice tour of the naturally gorgeous Ten Thousand Islands, good eats, and the kind of rich, quiet peacefulness you rarely get in Broward and Palm Beach.
If you're like us, you're repelled by the very idea of a bed-and-breakfast. Who in his right mind can relax in somebody else's house while surrounded at the breakfast table by a bunch of overfriendly yahoo tourists? Ugh. A friggin' Motel 6 sounds better than that. But the Banks of the Everglades is a different kind of bed-and-breakfast. You get to choose privacy by staying on the second floor, which has rooms that are fully furnished and have a private bath and kitchen. While the rooms are as fresh and clean as any Holiday Inn, the place is not a cookie-cutter corporate box; rather, it's wholly unique. With the look of an old-time courthouse, the building was constructed in 1923 by the late Barron Collier and served as the first bank in Everglades City. You can eat their delicious breakfast in the old bank vault or, if you find that a bit claustrophobic, outside on the porch facing a royal palm-lined street that is just a short walk from the Gulf. It's not too cheap and not too expensive -- we paid about $100 for our night in an efficiency that was cutesily dubbed "The Foreclosure Department." To get there, simply take the scenic drive through the Everglades on the old Tamiami Trail to Everglades City, which offers great fishing, a nice tour of the naturally gorgeous Ten Thousand Islands, good eats, and the kind of rich, quiet peacefulness you rarely get in Broward and Palm Beach.

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