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.
Don't Blame Me, I Thought I Voted for Gore
OK, you're a parent. Junior's marks this year are underwhelming. And the teacher and the school, well... let's just say they're not meeting their obligations to you or your child. What to do? How 'bout doing it yourself? There's precious little stopping you: The state requires only that you file a letter of intent with the local school board. But who will help you? First rest assured that you're not alone; currently nearly 6000 children from kindergarten through 12th grade in Palm Beach and Broward counties are home-schooled, and the practice is growing 10 to 15 percent nationally every year. The Florida Parent Educators Association (FPEA) refers parents considering home schooling to several local support groups. (These groups tend to gather their own kind, be they free thinkers or fundamentalists.) Once you begin, home schooling options are almost limitless. A family could spend as much annually as the cost of tuition at a private school, though it's also possible to do it for next to nothing by buying used materials at the home school associations' sales and workbooks from pharmacies and grocery stores. Catalogs, online resources, and enrichment courses are available for parents who feel they need more-traditional school supplies; field trips, physical education classes, spelling and geography bees, and book clubs spin off from the support groups as the need arises. How will you know if Junior is progressing? Once again you have options. You can have your child tested by a certified teacher or administer a standardized test. (The Iowa tests are a favorite.) And what about the long-term outcome? To get beyond high school, kids "test out" by taking the GED or dual-enrolling (as home-schooled teenagers) at a community college. Most universities accept home-schooled students with a year's worth of college grades. Heck, you might even consider Stanford for your baby, baby! Last year Stanford University admitted 9 of the 35 homeschooled children who applied, calling the applicants "an exceptionally strong group."
Florida citizens enjoy unparalleled access to government documents -- our Sunshine Law is the most comprehensive in the nation. But the people whose job it is to hand over the documents are a mixed lot. Some are helpful, some are incompetent, some delight in their ability to obfuscate and complicate. And then there's Jeff Samuels, public records guy extraordinaire. The last time we called him to look at a file, Samuels said he was really busy and it might take a while. "How long?" we replied, expecting to be put off for weeks. When he answered, "Is tomorrow OK?" we nearly swallowed our No. 2 pencil. On another occasion, after we had copied some documents, Samuels called the next day to report that he'd done a quality check on our request and discovered that we'd been overcharged by 60 cents. They just don't come any better.

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