Bookwise
Whether you're on the hunt for Madame Bovary, a Maurice Sendak coffee-table book, or the latest Twilight saga page-turner, Bookwise probably has a gently used copy tucked where you can actually find it — no small feat, considering there are more than 75,000 volumes in stock. If the store's plain exterior and humming fluorescent lights don't scream "you never need to enter a Barnes & Noble again!," half-off paperbacks and autographed Walker Percy novels might do the trick. As in a collector's home, the titles are organized lovingly and with attention to detail, with sizable sections devoted to classics, film, business, politics, New Age, children's books, and more. The "Granny's Bookcase" is worth a look for rare, old finds. Sorry, neat freaks — some overflow is piled in aisles, but Bookwise is spacious enough to accommodate, even providing some comfy chairs so you can take that tome for a test read.
Just a two-hour drive from South Florida, Everglades City would be a one-horse town if it had a horse. But the preferred vehicle of locomotion here requires a paddle, not spurs. This "city" — made up of a couple of small hotels, a few restaurants, and a hell of a lot of water — doesn't resemble a city in anything but name. It's essentially a launching-off point from the world as we know it: Step off dry land and float along on aquatic highways winding among the 10,000 islands the place is famous for — hummocks of oyster shell, coral, and mangrove with names like Rabbit Key, Osprey Nest, and Sandfly Pass. Adventurous kayakers can download a GPS map and get semi-lost for days; the less intrepid might settle for a leisurely half- or full-day guided paddle courtesy of Everglades Adventures (with a stop for lunch), which also leads moonlight, fishing, and naturalist tours. But even committed landlubbers feel pleasantly estranged here: sipping a gin and tonic over the antique pool table at the Rod and Gun Club, diving into a bowl of stone crab claws and plates of grouper fingers at City Seafood, or pondering what's in the spice mix that fires up Camellia Street Grill's deep-fried corn on the cob. Whatever's got you tied up in knots these days, you'll find easy instructions here for slipping free of your bondage.
In the sportswriting game, features and profiles are always nice, but nothing racks up points like breaking news. And by this standard, the Miami Herald's Jeff Darlington is South Florida's leading scorer. Whether it's who the Dolphins are going to trade (starting center Samson Satele), which coach is joining the staff (Mike Nolan), who's about to get cut (Joey Porter), who got an offseason DUI (Ronnie Brown), or how Bill Parcells negotiates with Ricky Williams (via Post-It note in the middle of the practice field, apparently), Darlington gets the story. And he usually gets it first. His sources — both named and anonymous — are widespread and accurate. His reporting is efficient. And his writing is effective. He's also a regular on local radio (The Joe Rose Radio Show) and several national television shows (ESPN's First Take, Outside the Lines, and NFL Live), so Darlington often delivers South Florida's most important sports stories to the rest of the country. In our fantasy sportswriter draft, Jeff Darlington is a guaranteed first-round pick.
The Capital Grille
Well, you just about have to be rich to eat at the swank, over-the-top eatery at the Galleria Mall on Sunrise Boulevard. It ain't cheap. That's probably one reason Scott Rothstein, the big-spending lawyer who turned the town upside down with his $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme, liked to eat there so much. It was one of the many ways he showed people that he was the man who should be given sums of money from well-heeled investors. Rothstein, you see, surrounded himself with gaudy things like gold toilets, matching $1.5 million sports cars, and ridiculously expensive dinners with friends at the Grille to create the illusion that he was Midas himself. And it was at the Capital Grille where he wined and dined some of those investors who handed him great sums of money that Rothstein promptly stole. And that's the thing: Just about all of Rothstein's victims are extremely wealthy, so wealthy that it seems most people don't feel sorry for them. In fact, the greed from not only Rothstein but his victims is so monumental that there is clamoring for them to trade in their truffle fries and wagyu beef carpaccio at the Capital Grille for the fine cuisine served in our federal centers of detention.
W Fort Lauderdale
Courtesy of the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel
Face it, there's no such thing as a painless bikini wax. But the folks at Bliss, the W Hotel's super-chic spa, deserve credit for getting close. The wax they use is aromatherapeutic (betcha didn't know that word existed!), melts at a low temperature, and can be used on even really short hairs. Plus it's a cool shade of blue, so at least there's something amusing to distract you from the inevitable. Kudos to Bliss for also eliminating three major downfalls of waxing: 1) redness, 2) the ruining of fancy panties (they give disposable undies to everyone), and 3) the embarrassment of describing what we want done. (A "Look Out Down Below" menu tastefully lays out every option from "The Love Triangle" to "My Bare Lady." Prices range from $35 to $70.) The best part is the relaxation room loaded with snacks; there's nothing like a smorgasbord of brownie and blondie bites to make a bikini wax bearable.
Gold's Gym
Sure, all you biceps-curling, muscle-loving junkies could break a sweat at any old gym in South Florida — but at Gold's Gym on Commercial Boulevard, every cardio machine will not be taken during rush hour when the business day ends; the sauna always works; and the gym contract isn't as binding as a marriage certificate. This facility has all the requisites — new cardio machines, complimentary classes in Boot Camp, Cardio Kickbox, and Zumba — plus a few extra-special touches. For instance, the staff is friendly (no frowning desk clerk hovering over you when it's ten minutes to close). The spinning room has black walls with neon decoration (how awesome is riding in the dark?). The agreements are reasonable (you pay your last month with your first, so simply give 60 days' notice and you're out). On top of all this, the cardio machines have iPod hookups (so your battery will never go dead again), and Gold's understands the ladies (there's a women-only workout area).
Green Cay Nature Center
The 1.5-mile elevated boardwalk that winds through 100 acres of man-made wetlands in western Boynton Beach is a rare example of the philanthropic trumping the acquisitive. Rather than sell out to developers, Ted and Trudy Winsberg, owners of Green Cay Farm, who ran a thriving pepper farm on these grounds before they retired in 2000, came up with an alternate plan. They leased 15 acres to Farming Systems Research (producers of Green Cay Produce), which still grows tomatoes, squash, beets, carrots, turnips, lettuces, cucumbers, eggplants, and more — for research and to sell to subscribers. The Winsbergs sold the remaining land to Palm Beach County at a rock-bottom price for use as a park, bird-watching attraction, and water reclamation project: The wetlands act as a natural filter and replenish groundwater. That's the backstory, but the tale being told daily around that boardwalk is constantly evolving — dozens of species of glades-loving birds, mammals, and reptiles congregate, and many get active when the sun sinks behind the pines and local photographers arrive to set up their tripods. The muted sunsets here are spectacular even on cloudy days; there's so much life skimming between the stray gold and pink threads reflecting off these aquatic surfaces. Metaphorically, the sun may be setting permanently on scenes like this in South Florida — and that only makes an evening stroll more poignant.
Once, at a Jamaican resort, a man asked artist Georgette Pressler to paint his "downstairs business" to look like Dino the Dinosaur from The Flintstones. She politely refused, but only because of the "creepy glare" in his eyes. To Pressler, the human body is a worthy canvas, no matter what its permutations. She has painted Playboy bunnies and pregnant bellies, all with an eye toward making the subject adore herself a little more. "Self-love, that's what body art teaches," she says. This art isn't just for half-naked girls in a cage. For around $125 an hour, you can get a unique painting, plus hairstyling, makeup, and a photographer to capture the moment. And don't worry, it doesn't tickle — much.
Alu, a Sunrise commissioner who doubles as a state prosecutor, had one hell of a year. First, we learned that she helped the FBI in a criminal investigation that netted Broward County School Board member Beverly Gallagher and County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion, among others. She also blew the whistle on Broward Circuit Judge Ana Gardiner for having ex parte communication with a prosecutor during a death penalty case; now Gardiner is facing charges by the Judicial Qualifications Commission not only for the ex parte but for allegedly lying about it. Why did Alu do it? Because she wanted to put a dent in the rampant corruption that pervades the county. Imagine that. On the dais, Alu spearheaded the winning effort to kill a dirty garbage deal being pushed by her colleagues (most notably Mayor Roger Wishner and Commissioner Don Rosen). When lobbyists from the firm Ruden McClosky started pouring money into commissioners' campaign accounts to gain backing for a monstrous office park west of the Sawgrass Expressway, Wishner et al. fell into line. Not Alu, who stood up to fight against it. Some call her courageous, some call her crazy, but it's hard to deny she's compiling a track record unlike any other politician this town has ever seen.
Greyhounds are fast, sure — but they're also so noble, loyal, and peaceful that ancient Egyptians considered them royalty. In modern-day America, however, they're being exploited for their speed. The moribund dog-racing industry processes these animals like commodities and spits them out tired, injured, and unnaturally aged. Stories of abuse, poor diets, unbearable living conditions, and dead dogs in cages have been whispered for years. Once these dogs are no longer profitable, they're often put down — but not always humanely. The nonprofit South Florida group Friends of Greyhounds tries to remedy this sad fact by taking the good-natured dogs after their racing careers have ended, finding them homes, and making sure it's easy livin' for the years they have left. The group — which holds adoption events from Boca Raton to Hialeah and is always in need of volunteers (hint, hint) — is so vigilant about the fate of dogs in its care that members personally deliver the dogs to adopters' homes as a final precaution.

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