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.
Radio-Active Records
Ian Witlen
Whether music is literally your hot, hot sex (Cansei de Ser Sexy — go ahead and Google it) or you're the one trying to remember that one band with that one song, it's almost impossible to walk out of Radio-Active Records empty-handed. Crate-diggers and collectors belong in the enormous backroom, where there awaits a surprisingly undusty stock of wax nostalgia that includes rock, jazz, R&B, salsa, and a Nancy Sinatra platter on the wall that'll make eyes with you every damned time. There's a stage back there too that props up an eclectic roster of local and national acts. Up front, find newer vinyl offerings from labels like Stones Throw, Matador, and Sub Pop and friendly staffers ready to hip you to it. For the obsessives, special orders are a cinch. But heck, if payday's too far away, just buy a cold soda and fulminate about the new MGMT album with someone who actually knows what you're on about. You can't hug that Joanna Newsom MP3, people!
Boca Raton Resort and Club
Private clubs like the Boca Resort take their cachet seriously, and much of it depends on exactly who gets turned away at the gate. That would be me and you: variously known as the hoi polloi, the unwashed masses, the riffraff. Under normal circumstances, it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a poor man to stroll under the resort's Mizner-designed archways. Or to bask beside its private swimming pools or under its waterfalls, to pick at fish tacos and sip its bloody marys under a seaside umbrella. But we're in a recession, and even Boca Resort — which is owned by Waldorf Astoria — has felt the pinch hard enough to permit a thin stream of commoners. For an affordable price ($109 a night at presstime), you're entitled to every luxury the resort routinely showers on its members. That includes a staff for whom no request is too niggling (inevitably fulfilled with brisk friendliness); some of the best sushi in South Florida at Morimoto's casual little bar; eyefuls of nearly nude girls in their early 20s who sunbathe and flirt at the Resort's Beach Club in droves; a full spa stocked with excellent massage therapists, a Turkish-style bath, and lots of sweet-smelling products; and a tiny taste of what it would be like to be rich enough to spend $110 on a mani-pedi without blinking. One Saturday night is enough, unless you've just won at Lotto (arrive early and leave late on Sunday afternoon). A door to a locked and guarded room has temporarily opened a crack: Enter while you can.
Take an afternoon off. Grab some good food and someone you love. Park somewhere cheap and follow the beach north a few hundred feet from Anglin's Fishing Pier to a tranquil, hidden oasis. Just behind the brush, shielded by the dunes and the shade of the swaying trees, on a patch of bright-green grass, there are two round picnic tables. On a clear day, the only sounds you'll hear are the birds singing, some children playing in the distance, and the waves crashing on the beach. When you're done, walk to the edge of the brush and look out over the ocean. Feel the sun on your cheeks, the wind in your hair. Hold hands and forget about stress. For the moment, all is right with the world.

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