Brew Urban Cafe

This fair-haired son of a preacher man seems determined to save Fort Lauderdale from itself. Proving wrong the axiom that South Florida's native sons grow up to either chase money or leave, he taught himself to play guitar, and now he tours local bars and art venues with his one-man act, Alexander. When he's not making ladies' knees wobble with his wholesome serenades, Alexander takes on ambitious projects: He was an unofficial partner in the now-shuttered Collide Factory, where he helped build a recording studio inside a graffiti-clad shipping container. And you're right, you do recognize him from somewhere: As a co-owner of Brew Urban Cafe in Victoria Park, he may or may not have drawn a heart in your latte. [Photo credit: Janelle Proulx, via the Museum of Art|Fort Lauderdale]

There will come a time when the social contracts that bind society will fall away. Blood will run, and chaos will rule. People will organize in small packs of roving marauders, pillaging what's left of humanity, perpetually searching for the next meal. The skies will be dark, the waters darker, and safety will be scarce. Then one person shall lead us and protect us from the circling storms. One prognosticator, one seer, one man who knows the unknowable — he can predict when it will rain! — will emerge from the gargling mass of unwashed humanity and guide us back to a civilized way of life. That man could very well be Steve Weagle, lead meteorologist at WPTV (NBC-5). Yes, he's won this award before, but Weagle — and maybe only Weagle — has the cool head, the charm that we will almost certainly need one day. Also, he's pretty tall.

Try this: Next time you're driving home superlate on a Saturday night, just grazing the legal alcohol limit, tune the radio to 91.3 (yes, South Florida's NPR news station) and turn the volume up, way up. Suddenly you're part of a family of late-night wanderers united by a love of Caribbean music and a subtropical nighttime bliss that stretches over silken airwaves from Homestead to Grand Bahama. "The Man Inside Your Radio," Davis lays down a backing track at the top of the hour (the toppa the arr, in his lullaby island brogue) and devotes his voice to shoutouts: Late-night wanderers, partygoers, newspaper deliverymen... cabdrivers... Good morning to ya. Listeners call in to request tracks, tell stories, or just say hello. Your ears are ringing and your friends have left and the drive-through is closed while they're changing over to breakfast, but the man inside your radio plays on in the electric dark.

Welcome back to Topical Currents. I'm your host, Joseph Cooper. Today's guest is, well, it actually doesn't matter who today's guest is, because he has long ago fallen asleep. Apparently he has listened to our show before, because he brought his own pillow. He's spooning with it now on the floor of the studio. Anyway, I'll be taking your calls for the rest of the hour. Hello, Pembroke Pines, you're on the air. Pembroke Pines? Asleep, I'm guessing. Seeing as that was our only caller, I'll be taking my own nap now. By now, I assume you are all asleep and nobody will notice. So stay tuned at the top of the hour for NPR News, or as we call it here on Topical Currents, our alarm clock.

For political climbers eager to win big on the national stage, the general rule is to hide the crazy — the KKK enthusiasts, the anarchists, the fringe lunatics. Allen West never got that memo. In November, before setting foot in his congressional office on Capitol Hill, he nominated Joyce Kaufman, who hosts an ultraconservative talk show on lowly WFTL-AM (850), to be his chief of staff. Within hours, all hell broke loose. Rachel Maddow unearthed a video clip of Kaufman telling a Tea Party crowd, "If ballots don't work, bullets will." An unhinged woman in New Port Richey saw the clip, got angry, and emailed a threat to Kaufman's radio station that led to a lockdown of all Broward County schools. Overnight, Kaufman and West's peculiar brand of right-wing insanity became national news. Kaufman promptly quit the chief-of-staff post and enjoyed a brief flicker of infamy before fading back into talk-radio obscurity. Turns out, Allen West is plenty crazy all on his own.

In the gritty spring-break bars by the beach in Fort Lauderdale, they call him a "fixture," a "landmark," the man who comes around to put all the regulars in a cheery mood. In what seems like another life, he taught art at Harvard and fronted one of the country's first punk bands. But now he roams these bars. For a dollar or two, he draws delightfully crude caricatures in crayon. Hundreds, maybe thousands of Mickey Clean's drawings dot the walls of drinking establishments all over town. Perhaps more than anybody, though, Mickey personifies this part of Fort Lauderdale: He's a bit dirty and vulgar but also a special kind of charming, and he's as reliable as the morning tide. He offers his artistic services and a moment of companionship to the happy and the sad alike, to the tourists and the locals, to the drunk and the sober, to the lost and the wayward. He isn't beloved by all, and he won't be around forever, but we're lucky to have him while we do.

When Gypsy fortuneteller Gina Marks was swindling vulnerable and desperate people out of their life savings, nobody seemed to be able to stop her. She walked away from numerous criminal allegations, often after paying off the victims with some form of restitution. It happened over and over again — and to add insult to injury, HarperCollins, a major publishing house, put out her bogus book, Miami Psychic, which she wrote under the fake name Regina Milbourne. It wasn't until her victims found a dedicated Palm Beach PI named Bob Nygaard that Marks was brought to justice. He worked the case for several of Marks' victims and then handed it to law enforcement on a silver platter. Nygaard didn't go the easy route and try to work out an off-the-table restitution deal that would have kept Marks on the street to find more marks — he fought for justice and put her behind bars.

More specifically, the Fort Lauderdale Riverwalk just west of the railroad bridge, where looming trees and a gazebo provide discreet and scenic respite. But don't take our word for it: On certain evenings, as lulls of conversation rise from groups of shadowy friends, the brackish air is ripe with the smell of smoke, both marine-grade and more organic. And if anyone in blue should inquire about that steaming wad floating seaward, of course you have — cough — no idea.

Downtown Hollywood, 115 S. 20th Ave

The celebrities here are of a... different sort. Hollywood is filled with the nation's down-and-out second-starters who settled here because they thought the name sounded nice. They mix with those of us who revel in that kind of diversity. The locals include rednecks, trannies, yuppies, hipsters, addicts, professors, urban pioneers, and everything in between. Find a chair outside on the tree-lined sidewalks, order a drink, and enjoy downtown Hollywood's star-studded fishbowl all its own.

Moving in South Florida can be a scary endeavor. Locals are ready with stories of "bad neighborhoods" that wildly contradict each other; luxury and crime coexist block by block. Well, nut up and shack up in one of the few truly historic neighborhoods Broward County has to offer. Rich, poor, black, and white coexist along the quiet, walkable streets lined with live oaks north of the New River. Housing ranges from 90-year-old studio apartment buildings with hardwood floors to charming cottages and modern condo flats, all within walking distance of downtown (any closer and you'd hear Himmarshee on a Saturday night). Head east to the Broward Center or west to the Sailboat Bend Artist Lofts, hosting a gallery with frequent exhibitions; walk the pup down to Cooley's Landing Marina to chat with boaters at the site of an Indian massacre. If it weren't for all the lovely dappled sunshine, you might forget you live in Florida. Oh, and don't worry: The Fort Lauderdale police headquarters abuts the neighborhood.

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