Sweaty and sunburned from jostling with the trendoids and tourists on East Las Olas Boulevard? Then duck into the doorway between Indigo and Golden Lyon marked "Riverside Hotel." Walk down the dark hallway, past the pay phones and gift shop, and through the glass double doors. Select your choice of daily newspaper from the rack on your right: the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and of course the Miami Herald and the Sun-Sentinel. Now plop yourself down in one of the comfortable flower-print chairs. Soak up the air conditioning and quiet. Laugh at the fireplace adorning each end of the room. Much better.
Your first inclination will be to pick some private, out-of-the-way spot. Forget it! Hell hath no fury like a lover dumped, and what you're gonna want are lots of witnesses around in case things get bloody. Sawgrass Mills has a fine security force and 100,000 shoppers on any given day. Therefore, park your car near the Pink Flamingo entrance, tuck yourself behind a table at the center of 15 restaurants and 270 stores, order a sober glass of carrot juice and speak calmly: "Chris, I think we need to talk."

Good ol' Edgar. He's always there for us, perched on a railing. He's just one of the 43 species that inhabit the aviary for injured birds at Flamingo Gardens. When it first opened, in 1991, Edgar was the first tenant; now he's the welcoming party. But you have to get the conversation going. Michael Ruggieri, director of animals, says that fish crows like Edgar are born mimics. Repeat something a few times, and they'll respond. We've heard Edgar utter "hi," but he also says "hello," "what ya' doin'" and "good morning." His fellow tenants, which include 14 species of wading birds, have it pretty good: They live rent-free in a place divided into five South Florida ecosystems, and their healthy offspring are taught to hunt, then let loose in the wild. Visitors have it good, too. Aside from the aviary, Flamingo Gardens offers gardens, a mini zoo, and fruit, including the tangelo, a hybrid of tangerine and grapefruit invented by Floyd Wray, who started the operation with his wife, Jane, in 1925. When Jane passed away, her will set aside 60 acres for preservation, and the not-for-profit Flamingo Gardens has remained faithful, hosting 30,000 schoolkids and 100,000 visitors every year. That's a lot of hellos, but Edgar's happy to oblige.
"Chris, I think we need to talk." That's all you say on the phone. When Chris shows up, you're waiting in the Pier Top with a bottle of Dom Perignon and a view of nighttime Fort Lauderdale that's second to none. Tiny bubbles, twinkly lights. "I was a fool," you say. Later, feeling as suave as Julio Iglesias, you might point out that the Pier Top Lounge revolves once every 66 minutes. "Everything comes full circle, Chris. Especially love."

Not even a pane of glass separates those inside Nick's from the action on the Broadwalk just outside. The windows swing in and anchor to the ceiling, leaving large openings in the stone façade. All the better to spy on the parade of exercisers speed walking, teenagers cruising, couples courting, babies wailing, condo commandos conferring, Canadian snowbirds squishing in Aquasox, tourists sweating in rented pedicabs. Peer past them to the sun-addled die-hards blackening on the beach, then adjust your pupils to the worn nautical interior and peel a few spicy, beer-steamed shrimp and slurp a daiquiri. Patience. If you sit here long enough, it seems, every demographic and nationality will make an appearance. Yet despite this variety, a lack of pretension or even self-consciousness binds the passersby into a single stream.

Say you just had your hair done. Ten minutes ago. If you're a man, you had it frosted. Or cut short and brushed forward à la George Clooney. Your hair matters less if you're a woman. Because you're wearing something tight. And black. If it's Saturday night, you hope to catch a glimpse of Donald Trump. Or Jenny McCarthy. Or Yanni. (OK, no one cares about Yanni.) So you wait in line with the rest of the riffraff, while the beautiful people stroll past in the VIP line. Sunrise 251 is in its first full year of operation, so it's bound to be crowded. Here's a hint: Tell the bouncer you're friends with Stephen Heise, the bar's self-described "fun manager" and the owner's older brother. That's who Trump et al. call when they plan to swing by. Then pay the $5 cover -- no problem if you're part of the well-heeled, 25-to-55-year-old jet set that frequents Palm Beach's newest nighttime hot spot. Strut past the dance floor, wind toward the bar past the handsome folks on their cell phones, and buy yourself a bottled beer. Do not -- again, do not -- light up a cigar. That's so '98. Now check your posture. All right, you've arrived.
It's a glorious afternoon in South Florida, and your guests are already braised to a tender vermilion, strung out on seafood, and exhibiting signs of mai tai malaise. So you slide into the car and head east to see how the other 1 percent lives. Nature and nurture have struck a truce on Ocean Boulevard, where the luminous waves and terra-cotta roofs on opposite sides of the road play Ping-Pong with the sun. Cruise leisurely alongside the painted net, swiveling your head to follow the match. Peer over hedges and through wrought iron gates and topiary arches at colonnaded estates and sprawling haciendas. Set aside your gripes about conspicuous consumption and stage a million-dollar dream in one of the Gold Coast's most extravagant mansions.
Just like sausage-making, it may not be pretty to see how government works, but it sure is instructive. The most entertaining show lately is in Hollywood, where the five combative commissioners perform on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. Crowds arrive in eager anticipation of a good scrum. Slick-suited lawyers and lobbyists clog the entranceway, cutting deals up to the last minute. The Pledge of Allegiance is recited, as in the prelude to a ball game. Rogues, cranks, and goody-goodies line up to testify, alternately flattering and blaspheming the commissioners. Every foreign accent can be heard, from New Yawkerese to comic-opera Italian, with most speakers invoking the lofty principles of American democracy to support their causes. The commissioners let no compliment or complaint go unanswered. Occasionally one will storm out in a snit. Then the real action begins. They joust for hours over whether to let their rich campaign contributors build giant hotels on unspoiled beaches. The city manager and his staff sit nearby, cringing, waiting for their masters to flog them. To end on an inspiring note, the commissioners invariably pass a resolution praising some beloved old person in the room, preferably a woman of color. You laugh, you cry, but what's the alternative?

If you hang out at Port Everglades and watch as the three immense cranes offload containers from supercargo freighters, you're witnessing the refueling of South Florida's economy as needed goods and products and raw materials pour into the region. What you may also be watching is the feeding of a drug habit. Last year Port Everglades was unmasked as a major point of entry for cocaine shipments into South Florida, as no fewer than three smuggling rings jockeyed for position and profits within the port. Eventually an investigation by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Customs Service resulted in charges being filed against 29 dockworkers, port security guards, and associates. Even as they basked in a successful bust, however, port authorities admitted they were no closer to winning the war on drugs. Because it's impossible to comb every single container coming off every single ship, the drugs may still be coming in.
This political caged grudge-match got heated in 1997 when Rodstrom started raising hell about the county's purchase of Port Everglades land from developer Michael Swerdlow for three times the appraised value. That scuffle was ugly and salacious, but the conflict between the two commissioners really got interesting this past year when Rodstrom urged political unknown Kristin Jacobs to challenge Sylvia Poitier, a commissioner and long-time Cowan ally. Rodstrom, for all intents and purposes, ran Jacobs' campaign, and Cowan ran Poitier's attempt to keep her seat. The two puppet masters were, of course, really fighting each other, and the balance of power in Broward County was at stake. Jacobs pulled the upset, giving Rodstrom the upper hand on the commission and forcing Cowan into an unaccustomed second-fiddle role. The two men talk about mending fences, but that's merely PR. The fight has just begun.

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