By the time you get to the police station to pick up an arrest record, you're probably in a rotten mood. Maybe the cops arrested your kid. Maybe your backyard marijuana farm caught a police officer's eagle eye. Maybe, in a last-ditch effort to ruin your fascist boss, you've launched an extensive background check on the bastard. But whatever your circumstances, a festering rage probably pumps through your veins as you stumble into the station; the last things you need are ornery bureaucrats crawling through the motions of locating incident reports. That's what you get, though, unless you had the foresight to commit your crime in Davie. The Davie Police Department records section, located in a spanking new building with an open, light ambiance, offers quick, polite service. The men and women retrieving records actually smile. They gladly explain and interpret police reports. And they even listen politely to the rambling stories of injustice that accompany each document.
Fashion-conscious South Florida has a way of keeping the passé at bay. Hairstyles that have come and gone are usually relegated to backwoods parts of the Panhandle, appearing every so often in Davie or at the odd demolition derby or NASCAR event. But the haircut police evidently haven't cracked down on the Home Depot in Oakwood Plaza, where you can rock your Tennessee top hat without fear of reprisal. You know: your mudflap, your Kentucky waterfall, your IROC cut, your Billy Ray Cyrus. Translated, we're talking about the long-in-back, short-in-front style about which folks guffaw behind your back -- everywhere but here. A recent visit for home-improvement supplies found the SoFla mullet alive and well. Keep your eyes peeled and you may even spot a few tykes with adorable mini-mullets.

The mullet, of course, is a fish generally caught in our waters for sport, rarely to be eaten. (What did you think we were talking about?) But it's one of the most interesting aquatic creatures swimming in our midst, especially in late fall, when the fish begin to spawn. The extremely active critters regularly leap out of the water to feed, twirling their silvery bodies in a frenzy, but during spawning season one can see stretches of local waterways absolutely boiling with sex-crazed schools of mullet. Just before dusk hundreds of the fish congregate under bridges and docks, swirling and churning noisily. Just seconds south of downtown, the section of the Tarpon River that passes under the Third Street bridge is prime mullet-spotting (and -catching) territory.
When original Bice maitre d' Maurizio Ciminella packed up his seating charts and set up a pasta palace of his own a few blocks north of Worth Avenue, a good deal of the glitz went with him. Revlon gazillionaire Ron Perelman may or may not have been his silent partner, but the balding mogul makes it a regular pit stop, at times in the company of his better half, actress Ellen Barkin. Athletes can't seem to get enough of Maurizio's wood-fired, Tuscan-style oven, whatever their game: golfer Greg Norman, All-Pro wide receiver Chris Carter, NASCAR's Jeff Gordon, god-with-a-puck Bobby Orr. Broadcasters also can't get enough: NBC Today host Matt Lauer has been known to break bread sticks with CBS Early Show host Bryant Gumbel. You can't dine anywhere in Palm Beach without running into local boys Jimmy Buffett and Rod Stewart, but Amici has hosted rarer warblers, from the sublime Jackson Browne to the ridiculous Michael Bolton. Perry Farrell and the whole Porno for Pyros crew passed, unfortunately, preferring Maurizio's newer joint, Galaxy Grille, just a short way south.
Everglades Holiday Park
Photo courtesy of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau
This down-home campground is easily overlooked as a tourist destination. Sure, there may be more politically correct, environmentally friendly ways to entertain your visiting friends -- but that's not really the Florida way, now is it? No, the Florida way is to fuel up an airboat, drop some tourists on a little island "planted" with plastic orchids, and browbeat them into buying $6 alligator bites while they wait for the start of a show in which a suspiciously sluggish reptile is poked and prodded. But it's all worth it when the airboat driver spots a live one, breaks into a shit-eating grin, and lets the throttle rip. Then you're whistling through the sawgrass with the boat bouncing and bobbing hell-for-leather while your uptight Yankee friends realize they're somewhere they've never been before and maybe will never be again -- and are thus moved to yell things like "YEEE-haw! Get them gators!"
Forget the stereotype of the cop huddled in his patrol car as he munches on Dunkin' Donuts. In the wee hours of the night, Fort Lauderdale's men and women in blue leave their cruisers parked and running at an abandoned Las Olas Boulevard gas station. As their cars purr away our tax dollars, the cops file into the Floridian and plop down for a proper feast. The laid-back Las Olas culinary fixture even cordons off a whole room just for the officers. The separation of the people from the police will recall your nursery school field trip to a country farm: In spite of a fence and Mrs. Pleasant's warnings not to get too close, you strained to see the ducks, cows, horses, chickens, and... uh, other various and sundry farm-type animals.

Water is trickling

Lilies glistening as they

Listen to the wind

She's pro-choice, she votes, and she wants you to vote as well -- especially if you're pro-choice, too. To that end Burch's red head can be seen at countless street festivals, Lollapalooza-like concerts, Planned Parenthood clinics, and women's events, asking anyone within hollering distance, "Are you registered to vote?" She isn't one of these paid types who accosts people at post offices; Burch does this because she cares deeply about a citizen's right to choose. In the spirit of knowing one's enemy, Burch even subscribes to the Christian Coalition's newsletter. "It's painful to write the check every year, but I do," she laughs. Burch has maintained an active volunteer schedule for the past decade, acting as chairperson of the local Planned Parenthood public-affairs committee, the public-policy chair of Boynton Beach's branch of the American Association of University Women, and this year as president of the Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates. That last role gave her the opportunity to collar Gov. Jeb Bush in late February, when she regaled him with the benefits of abstinence-based, not abstinence-only, education. To her delight the governor said he wanted to know more. Though pleased by this brush with fame, Burch says she will still go back to the grassroots: setting up tables in local Planned Parenthood clinics, asking women if they are registered to vote, and patiently showing them how to fill in the forms.

Sure, it's been a year of skirmishing in South Florida. The baseball stadium, the convention center, Elián, and of course Chad all sparked disputes that were better than anything that happens in the ring these days. But tear gas notwithstanding, all those issues still qualified as good, clean fun -- and that's not the way we like our debate. We are particularly enamored of the allegedly disgusting behavior that led to the Town of Davie's suspension last year of Rocky Johnson, dad of World Wrestling Federation champ The Rock. Johnson, himself a former pro grappler, was hired in June to a $9-per-hour job working around kids as an activities leader at Pine Island Community Center. Before he was summarily dispatched, he had a helluva time at taxpayers' expense. Among other things, cops say, he received a blow job, got a massage, and took naps at work; bragged to the kids about his (and The Rock's) penis size; and inappropriately touched a camp counselor's behind. Twice. How was he hired? Three clues: Davie mayor Harry Venis drove Johnson to his interview, sat in on it, and was listed by Johnson as a reference. We just can't understand why they sacked Rocky. This is the kind of behavior that gets people elected governor in Minnesota.

One more time: Butterfly ballot. Angry Democrats. Happy Republicans. OK, we're done.

Best Of Broward-Palm Beach®

Best Of