Oh sure. You got a killer deal on that home in Sunrise — so good that it was a little easier to endure the long commute back and forth from the job that lies east. Then gas prices hit $3 and headed for $4. So now you can't afford to circumnavigate this quagmire. Besides, I-595 is a parking lot. The westbound roads on either side are clogged with commuters from Margate and Coral Springs. No, the least of all these traffic evils is to get off at Oakland Park Boulevard and venture straight into the belly of the beast, inching through intersections that during prime time take 15 minutes apiece. Which is why if you're not one of those poor schmucks and you have the choice, you must avoid this street after five; and if you don't have the choice, well...you have plenty of time to sit in traffic and calculate whether you spend more at the fuel pump than you do on the mortgage.

The best sports writing in any anthology is inevitably about the losers. Nothing beats the passion and drama of an athlete or team working ceaselessly toward a dream and falling just short. So South Florida, with our cornucopia of incompetent contenders in virtually every major sport, should be a sportswriter's paradise. The tragedy, the poetry, the cruel irony. And nobody frames the pathetic ineptitude of this once-great region with more heart and optimism (even the strongest optimism runs into realism eventually these days) than Sun-Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde. Hyde's writing also has a passionate curiosity. It might have been this curiosity which brought about one of his best pieces, "Jake Scott: Where's Jake Scott? We Found Him." For the story, Hyde went to Hawaii and tracked down the former Super Bowl MVP Dolphin who is a notorious recluse, living, as Hyde puts it, "In the last state. On the last island. Down the last road. At the last speck of a no-stoplight town before the United States drops into the Pacific Ocean." Actually, Hyde should get an award just for figuring out an excuse to fly to Hawaii on the Sun-Sentinel's dime.

Miami's DJ Irie is the industry standard for what arena DJs are supposed to sound like, and he's the NBA's official DJ, which puts a lot of pressure on our other arena DJs to step their game up. One local jock stands out above the rest of Irie's competition. When the Florida Panthers brought in music director Brian Lenihan two years ago, they thought hiring a house music DJ would be the key to getting fans on their feet. Last year, Lenihan DJ'd and mixed tracks during Panther home games, but fans wanted a more traditional sound. Instead of staying the course, Lenihan has found middle ground and brought back the old-school organ rock. What he still brings from his days as a house DJ is being able to read the energy of the crowd and cue up different rock tunes depending on the situation. Of course you'll hear "Rock, n' Roll Part 2" by Gary Glitter after goals are scored, and Zombie Nation's "Kernkraft 400," the annoying club anthem that's only appreciated in a hockey setting. But he's not afraid to throw in some Tool or Soulja Boy, or some Top 40, which is unheard of in most hockey arenas. He's relatively new to the field but as he stays on top of cutting edge music, Lenihan is already developing a sound that's making him one of the top DJs in hockey.

Miami's DJ Irie is the industry standard for what arena DJs are supposed to sound like, and he's the NBA's official DJ, which puts a lot of pressure on our other arena DJs to step their game up. One local jock stands out above the rest of Irie's competition. When the Florida Panthers brought in music director Brian Lenihan two years ago, they thought hiring a house music DJ would be the key to getting fans on their feet. Last year, Lenihan DJ'd and mixed tracks during Panther home games, but fans wanted a more traditional sound. Instead of staying the course, Lenihan has found middle ground and brought back the old-school organ rock. What he still brings from his days as a house DJ is being able to read the energy of the crowd and cue up different rock tunes depending on the situation. Of course you'll hear "Rock, n' Roll Part 2" by Gary Glitter after goals are scored, and Zombie Nation's "Kernkraft 400," the annoying club anthem that's only appreciated in a hockey setting. But he's not afraid to throw in some Tool or Soulja Boy, or some Top 40, which is unheard of in most hockey arenas. He's relatively new to the field but as he stays on top of cutting edge music, Lenihan is already developing a sound that's making him one of the top DJs in hockey.

With those huge tigress eyes, that expressive yet low-key voice, and her girl-next-door smile, Laurie Jennings is the mother of all news anchors in South Florida. She's also the mother of twin boys, as all the veteran news watchers in Broward and Miami-Dade know. That's what really makes Jennings stand out — she's got a story behind her and she's been around long enough for people to know it. The young star left WSVN-TV after five years for New York City and MSNBC, stayed for a year, and returned to WPLG because she loves South Florida and wanted to start her family here (that's the story, anyway). And who wouldn't want to hang with Dwight Lauderdale, the coolest dude in South Florida history (may he retire in peace)?

We're convinced: before you can become a female news anchor, you are required to attend robot school. Here you and other news anchors are trained to look and act exactly like one another — the same highlights, the same shoulder-length haircut, the same vapid, monotonous voice, which you will then use consistently to describe forces as varied as hurricanes, Iraq, and Diddy's wardrobe. The question is: how did Channel 7 anchor Belkys Nerey escape this evil institution? (We know, she probably charmed her way past the guards; plus, she was probably wearing a really cute outfit to distract them!) Whatever; we're glad she got away, because with her unique tough-Cuban-pixie aesthetic, she helps make WSVN the most watchable newscast in town. Reporters like Carmel Cafiero ("Carmel on the Case") and Howard Finkelstein ("Help Me Howard") bring it home with just the right formula of hard news and kitschy "We're-here-to-help-you-Neighbor" kind of stuff that TV audiences slurp up. The station hit a grand slam with Deco Drive, its locally-produced entertainment show — kind of like Inside Edition with South Beach as the backdrop. Furthermore, as a FOX affiliate, Channel 7 brings us the best national show on network TV — The Simpsons. And we hate to admit it, but it gives us what we want (and want and want): American Idol two nights a week.

Best Value/Best Place to See and Be Seen in Palm Beach

Ta-boo

Ta-boo

Since 1941, Ta-boo has been a bar and bistro for the well-to-do. Sinatra, JFK, and countless socialites have dined there. It's even said that the Bloody Mary was born at Ta-boo, stirred up to soothe a hangover for troubled Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton. Considering its high-society credentials (and address), the fare at Ta-boo is refreshingly unpretentious — there are sandwiches, salads, and even pizzas. The prices, too, are surprisingly accessible: $17.50 for a salmon dinner entree; $12.95 for a bacon-topped cheeseburger at lunch. The decor is tasteful-Old-Florida-vacation-spot-meets-safari, with chairs upholstered in zebra print fabric and plants dripping leaves everywhere. Intricate woodwork adds a dash of Morocco or India into the mix. It's the perfect place to soak in the wealth of Worth Avenue without having to drop a month's salary on, say, a designer shirt.

Plantation Preserve Linear Park

Well, we've pretty much done it. Gone off and destroyed just about all the natural beauty of this place from the Sawgrass Expressway to A1A. That's why little oases like Plantation Preserve are so treasured. The preserve is an old golf course that was abandoned for years until the city recently renovated it. And give them some credit — they did it in style. Not only is the course one of the best in the county, the 1.5-mile linear park, routinely utilized by nearby residents, is a godsend. Suddenly, just a couple stone's throws from a Publix and strip mall across Broward Boulevard, the visitor is transported into the Everglades (it was all Everglades west of State Road 7 at one time). Herons, ibises, anhingas — you name the bird, it's there. And it's quiet. Whether you want some exercise or just a break from the storm of sprawl living, Plantation Preserve is a good place to do it.

A good weatherperson is so much more than a conveyor of information. He (or she, but in this case, he) should be even more than an expert meteorologist. Especially living in this sunny-one-minute-stormy-the-next part of the country, the best weathercaster should be an expert in the science of human emotion. And Phil Ferro, the main man at 7 News, is smooth enough to deliver even the worst weather news with the warm tone of an acceptable and agreeable stepfather — the kind of guy who might even understand if you told him you totaled the family car trying to impress a girl. Born in Cuba and raised in Miami, the Emmy-nominated Ferro started predicting precipitation in Spanish on Telemundo 51. To hear him call the clouds a couple times a night is to witness a world-class artist working his magic. Even if you're tuning in to learn a devastating hurricane is on its way to your front door, if it's Phil Ferro delivering the news, things aren't so bad.

We booked the last-minute cruise on a tequila-infused whim. But just as the credit card went through, the feeling of dread poured over us: OMG, the Vegas-style shows might be really cheesy! Grannies will surround us at the slot machines! Bartenders, holding us hostage on the ship, could get away with charging $20 a drink! We marched to the port as though it were a death camp. There, however, we saw that half the passengers were college girls in bikinis. Our jaded hearts defrosted when the lovely Romanian waitress brought us three desserts apiece. And we actually snorted with laughter when the on-board comedian did an entire set of jokes about snorkeling and beating his kids. If she'd had guts enough to enter, my sister would have won the Hairy Chest Contest, too. In addition to all that, the ship includes a water slide, a jogging track, a mini-golf course, and a gym. (Ever try yoga while a boat is rocking?) At press time, a two-day Bahamas getaway was going for $389. A five-day run to Jamaica and the Cayman Islands — with a window room — could be had for $479, what you'd otherwise pay in hotel costs alone. As we motored past Cuba, sitting in the hot tub while sipping piña coladas (only $5!), we admired our new luxury watches (bought duty-free!) and cursed ourselves for getting smoked at karaoke by those grannies.

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