Dania Beach Jai-Alai
So you and your mate are tired of evenings spent vegging out to Friends or Ed? Dinner on Las Olas or Clematis too pricey for your slender wallet? Try Dania Jai-Alai, where the entry fee starts at $1.50 and the game is faster than the NHL and NBA combined. The competitors, who are mostly from Spain and France, play a kind of Basque handball that will keep you quite literally glued to your seat for hours. (Yeah, neither the crowd nor the facility is especially highbrow.) And when you're not ogling the fronton, people-watching is primo. Old guys stand outside the seating area and holler the last names of their favorite players, while younger fellows scream obscenities in raspy Spanish and families munch on a variety of perfectly delightful and unhealthy fare. Then there are the bets, which start at two bucks. You don't have to wager, but you get more involved when you do, and the pots can be sweet. The fronton opened in 1953, back when sports in South Florida meant anything that included gambling, and it still has the feel of that era. Everyone, but everyone bets at Dania Jai-Alai -- security guards, concession-stand workers, even pets. The biggest pot on a recent Sunday afternoon was $578.40. And just think, you skinflint, you won't even have to pay for the air conditioning.

It's a rickety old place with only six screens. But how can you go wrong at $2 admission on weekdays and $2.50 on weekends, especially when the person who books the films always manages to include one or more features from the art-house circuit? Maybe the choices reflect the fact that most of the clientele consists of retirees from the Northeast who, whatever their shortcomings, have a taste for movies with more to them than bang-bang, snicker, and leer. You may hate to find yourself behind them on the highway, but you could do worse than find they're ahead of you in the ticket line.

Here it is a rainy Saturday afternoon, and there's not much to do. Going to the movies doesn't seem like such a good idea, unless you're dying to see Crocodile Dundee Got Fingered or whatever. So how about this? Ride the Tri-Rail. If you live down south, hop on at the Hollywood station and locomote through Fort Lauderdale, Pompano and Deerfield beaches, then Boca and Delray, to the end of the line in Mangonia Park. If you live up north, take it the other way. Or try both. Flat-fare, all-day adult tickets are available on weekends for $4, and they're good for one-way, round-trip, or multiple rides in each direction. So pick up your portable CD player, grab your favorite book, and enjoy. Or look out the window and be glad you're not stuck in the traffic jam that's bound to spring up on I-95.
Voodoo Lounge
An unsuspecting man walks into Voodoo Lounge on a Sunday night. It's a bit too early to be going to a club, but he's bored at home and figures, "Well, what the heck? Let's start the night off early." The first patron, he saunters up to the bar with blasé self-confidence. He orders a Stoli and Red Bull, then casts a glance at the tall drink of water at the other end of the bar. Now that is one tall, leggy blonde. Damn. He sips a bit more of the Stoli, especially after the blonde gives him a dirty look. Wait a minute. That's no woman. That's a man! Ah well, if you don't know any better, it's an easy mistake to make Sunday nights at the Voodoo, when the club puts on two performances of "Life's a Drag," South Florida's top female-impersonation show, which begins at 11:30 p.m. and 1 a.m. Hosted by Daisy Deadpetals and featuring fellow dragsters Lady Valentina, T.P. Lords, Lola Lush, and Glitz Glamour, the performance includes lip-synchs of songs by popular female pop stars. These people do it well; they are professionals. Anyone could have mistaken them for the real McCoy, even this guy I'm talking about, who looks absolutely nothing like me.

Upon its release in 1966, the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album was seen as a stumbling block in the band's career, a detour from the AM-radio hit parade. Thirty years later you can't swing a surfboard without hitting a critic who places Pet Sounds in any position but best record of all time. The album has even warranted a four-CD boxed set, perhaps the most elaborate analysis of any single album ever. South Florida was lucky enough to be included on the tour when Wilson assembled a 10-piece band and 55-piece orchestra to reproduce faithfully each and every intricate note of the Pet Sounds album, even down to the Coca-Cola cans and bicycle horns used on the original recording. Though the man appeared more than a little out of it (unsurprising considering his legendary chemical intake), Wilson presided over a piano and TelePrompTer while his band churned through a thrilling "Sloop John B.," complete with crystalline harmonies; the sepulchral bliss of "You Still Believe in Me;" the James Bond drama of the title track; and the heavenly heartache of "Caroline, No." Elevating a simple mid-'60s pop record into an experience rivaling anything the Beatles ever produced, Wilson's performance finally cashed Pet Sounds' postdated paycheck.

One look at the dress code, outlined on a sign above the front door, and you know you're in the right place. It reads: "No muscle shirts, tank tops, cut-off or beach shorts, spurs, knives or guns." And for good measure, keep those cigars, pipes, and clove cigarettes in the car, buddy. You're at Davie Junction, the most Western bar in South Florida. The décor is pure country honk, featuring dark paneling, neon beer signs, and wagon wheels. For a reasonable price you can get yourself a longneck, scoot your boots, and tuck into a big steak. (The place bills itself as a "Western-style nightclub" but offers a full menu.) The bands play both kinds of music, country and western. And management offers line-dancing lessons so you don't have to look so dang stupid trying to figure it out.
Finally a nightclub does it right. Unlike typical dark rooms with bars and dance floors, Sutra has a theme that it sticks with. After getting past those velvet ropes and walking down a hallway with straw mats, one enters a place that can be described only as haremesque. The dance floor is small, but only because there is a bar on one side, some tables on another, a large bed heaped with Turkish pillows on the third, and on the fourth what appears to be a shrine to Buddha, a small room with couches and prayer rugs forming a semicircle around the jolly messiah. Slipping between the bar and the Buddha, one passes another bar then reaches the stairs. The second floor features yet another bar as well as a VIP lounge, which is made up of a series of oh-so-comfy couches and throw pillows surrounded by a gauzy, transparent curtain. All in all the only things missing from the scene are the harem girls. Oh, and by the way, the DJs this place attracts, including Nicco and Sweet Peach, are some of the best in town.
The last time we stopped at Sneakers, a guy was bellied up to the bar wearing a boa (constrictor, not feather), a woman was lying on the bar as the bartender poured a drink into her mouth, and a band was playing Skynyrd covers on the minuscule stage. We chatted with a tipsy dude who insisted he was a helicopter pilot and offered to take us for a ride. We declined, preferring to suck down Buds and endure the occasional cue in the ribs. In other words this is a slice of paradise, especially after a night tippling at the area's froufrou drinkeries. Sneakers is just like the town it serves: ragtag and eclectic with a hint of danger -- just the way we like it.

Artistic director Michael Hall did South Florida theatergoers two favors this season. First he brought the socially relevant and riveting docudrama The Laramie Project to his stage. It was the play's first production after its off-Broadway debut. Second he assembled a troupe with the range and experience to make the production not only important theater but good theater as well, including Kim Cozort, Jason Field, Laurie Gamache, Jacqueline Knapp, Pat Nesbit, Mark Rizzo, Robert Stoeckle, and Michael Warga. Dressed in drab brown tones, the ensemble of eight portrayed more than sixty characters, from townspeople to ranchers, doctors, reporters, and friends of Matthew Shepard, the young gay man who was beaten, tied to a fence, and left to die by two local boys in Laramie, Wyoming. With fluid and subtle transitions, these characters switched roles seamlessly, revealing an unforgettable cross section of small-town America and a staggering array of attitudes.
Did you know alligators can climb trees? Or that they can hear your pinky hit the water four miles away? Or that the blazing color of bougainvillea comes not from its flowers but from its leaves? These fun facts and more can be had for a buck and 30 minutes of your time at Knollwood Groves in Boynton Beach. Originally owned by the vaudeville comedy team Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, better known as Amos and Andy, the 71-year-old orange grove offers visitors a slice of Old Florida and enough trivia to win bar bets for years to come. A tractor-pulled cart leaves every hour on the hour for tours of the pesticide-free grove, traveling through a genuine Florida jungle hammock, past a 1000-year-old water oak and a four-story-high bougainvillea vine, as well as gumbo limbo, ginger, and coffee trees. For the kiddies it makes stops to visit turtles, a wild boar, and of course gators. On Saturdays at 2 p.m. the grove also features an alligator show with Martin Twofeather. At $6 for adults and $4 for kids, it ain't half bad -- you can even pet the gator. Still the $1 tram tour, which begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m., is better. The grove is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. seven days a week in season. (It's closed Sundays in the summer.) There's even a gift shop that sells funky Florida stuff, like plastic gators that sing, and a fruit stand where you can pick up oranges, green pepper or papaya jelly, and vine-ripe tomatoes for, you guessed it, a buck a pound.

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