Ever wonder what the animals do at night after all the gawkers have left the zoo? Find out for yourself at a Zoo-Inn slumber party. September through June, Miami Metrozoo hosts groups of 15 to 30 nocturnal guests for overnight adventures. While the giraffes and elephants eat their evening grub, you'll nibble on pizza. Then a zookeeper will lead you and your friends into one lucky animal's nighthouse. Get an up-close look at a Bengal tiger, a Galápagos tortoise, or an Indian rhino doing whatever it is they do at night. Then embark on a bracing zoo walking tour and a presentation at the Ecology Theater. When you're done, the group will bunk down in the air-conditioned comfort of one of Metrozoo's classrooms or boardrooms. Sounds like fun, right? Especially because Mom and Dad can hardly blame you kids if you spend the night acting like beasts!

In our fantasy, the best place for a first date would be an exotic faraway locale like Casablanca or Spain's Costa del Sol. We'd meet in secret under the stars, perhaps pursued by nefarious forces, in the ruin of an old Moorish castle by the sea. You would look stunning in the half-light, gingerly stepping around a peacock as you approach through the rubble. We would kiss furtively, then part, fearing for our safety yet certain to meet again. In the meantime, let's meet at the restored Olympia Theater at the Gusman in downtown Miami. The faux Moorish architecture and simulated night sky will do for a setting. A peacock stares out from a box beside the stage. You will look stunning as you step gingerly up the steep balcony stairs, perhaps pursued by an usher, your hands filled with popcorn. If we pick the right night, Casablanca may be on the screen. We can kiss furtively when the lights dim. Whatever happens next, we'll always have the Gusman.

A few seasons ago Tim James carried the University of Miami Hurricanes basketball team to its greatest heights, making it to the NCAA tournament known as "March Madness." He then qualified for the Miami Heat's twelve-player roster. Nothing came of it, though, and he was soon gone. This year Miami native and former Miami High School star Udonis Haslem not only made the Heat roster, he's made a mark with skills far exceeding those of most rookies. Strong, fearless, and gifted, you can bet that this Miami product will be burning net and grabbing rock in the NBA for many years. Let's hope the Heat is smart enough to keep the young, versatile forward here in the sunshine, and, with starting forward Caron Butler's injury-related problems, in the spotlight as well.

BEST POLITICAL CONVICTION IN THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS

Pat Tornillo

The former United Teachers of Dade boss was a throwback to the days of smoke-filled rooms that admitted only good ol' boys. In 40 years Tornillo built the UTD into a political machine that propelled to power numerous school-board members, state legislators, even governors. With that kind of clout (and total control of the union), it wasn't so surprising to discover that the man's sense of entitlement led him to consider the UTD treasury his personal piggy bank. Audits revealed that Tornillo had embezzled at least $2.5 million to finance a lavish lifestyle that included luxury gifts for his wife, ritzy hotel rooms (some right here in Miami), and an extravagant three-week vacation that burned up $50,000 -- roughly the cost of hiring a new teacher with a master's degree and fifteen years' experience. On August 26, 2003, Tornillo pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion and mail fraud. Many were outraged at the lenient 27-month prison term he received, and incensed that he wasn't required to cooperate in further investigations. But he did get caught, and he was prosecuted, convicted, and incarcerated. In Miami, that's a rare achievement.

BEST POLITICAL CONVICTION IN THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS

Pat Tornillo

The former United Teachers of Dade boss was a throwback to the days of smoke-filled rooms that admitted only good ol' boys. In 40 years Tornillo built the UTD into a political machine that propelled to power numerous school-board members, state legislators, even governors. With that kind of clout (and total control of the union), it wasn't so surprising to discover that the man's sense of entitlement led him to consider the UTD treasury his personal piggy bank. Audits revealed that Tornillo had embezzled at least $2.5 million to finance a lavish lifestyle that included luxury gifts for his wife, ritzy hotel rooms (some right here in Miami), and an extravagant three-week vacation that burned up $50,000 -- roughly the cost of hiring a new teacher with a master's degree and fifteen years' experience. On August 26, 2003, Tornillo pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion and mail fraud. Many were outraged at the lenient 27-month prison term he received, and incensed that he wasn't required to cooperate in further investigations. But he did get caught, and he was prosecuted, convicted, and incarcerated. In Miami, that's a rare achievement.

Modern condo high-rises may tower over the five-block area just east of Biscayne Boulevard between 68th and 72nd streets, but history still lives there -- in the 208 houses of oolitic limestone, Dade County pine, and keystone that sit on the tree-lined streets of Bayside, designated an historic district by the City of Miami in 1991. Each street was platted individually between 1909 and 1925 by different folks, yielding four separate subdivisions and much later a patch of greenery dubbed Baywood Park. Along 68th Street, settlers from Elmira, New York, came down at the end of the Nineteenth Century and created the Elmira Colony, now one of Miami's oldest intact planned communities. Paving the road with seashells, the pioneers put up frame vernacular houses reminiscent of their northern abodes. One lovely home from 1903 remains. In the 1920s Coral Gables mastermind George Merrick and developer Wykoff & Estes got their hands on 70th Street, calling it Acadia and plunking down a batch of Mediterranean Revival houses. The Krames-Corlett Company's Baywood subdivision laid claim to 69th and 71st streets; and millionaire developer Samuel Prescott named 72nd Street "Washington Place." His stunning mansion at 72nd and Tenth Avenue, which once featured a golf course, has been there since 1923. One of the last bayfront estates in northeast Miami, the dilapidated house has been a sitting duck for years, repeatedly marked for demolition by developers, and even used as shelter by visiting anarchists during last year's FTAA meetings. Majestic Properties' Jeff Morr recently purchased the home, so who knows what its fate may be. Whatever the future holds for Bayside, it's certain the wise residents of this architecturally eclectic district will ensure it survives and thrives as one of the city's most pleasant neighborhoods.

Modern condo high-rises may tower over the five-block area just east of Biscayne Boulevard between 68th and 72nd streets, but history still lives there -- in the 208 houses of oolitic limestone, Dade County pine, and keystone that sit on the tree-lined streets of Bayside, designated an historic district by the City of Miami in 1991. Each street was platted individually between 1909 and 1925 by different folks, yielding four separate subdivisions and much later a patch of greenery dubbed Baywood Park. Along 68th Street, settlers from Elmira, New York, came down at the end of the Nineteenth Century and created the Elmira Colony, now one of Miami's oldest intact planned communities. Paving the road with seashells, the pioneers put up frame vernacular houses reminiscent of their northern abodes. One lovely home from 1903 remains. In the 1920s Coral Gables mastermind George Merrick and developer Wykoff & Estes got their hands on 70th Street, calling it Acadia and plunking down a batch of Mediterranean Revival houses. The Krames-Corlett Company's Baywood subdivision laid claim to 69th and 71st streets; and millionaire developer Samuel Prescott named 72nd Street "Washington Place." His stunning mansion at 72nd and Tenth Avenue, which once featured a golf course, has been there since 1923. One of the last bayfront estates in northeast Miami, the dilapidated house has been a sitting duck for years, repeatedly marked for demolition by developers, and even used as shelter by visiting anarchists during last year's FTAA meetings. Majestic Properties' Jeff Morr recently purchased the home, so who knows what its fate may be. Whatever the future holds for Bayside, it's certain the wise residents of this architecturally eclectic district will ensure it survives and thrives as one of the city's most pleasant neighborhoods.

You know you like each other. Now all you need is the spark that will set your love aflame. The grand circular lobby at the Eden Roc provides the perfect backdrop for larger-than-life romance. Get in the mood with a dry martini at the lobby bar while Patrick tickles the ivories and sings "The Way You Look Tonight." Hollywood-style romance. Then make like Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity on the spa's white sand beach. If all goes well, you may find yourself playing Raquel Welch to Frank Sinatra's Tony Rome: "Room service? Please send up a bottle of champagne. And two glasses."

Not just a building, it's a work of art. Maybe. Perhaps someday before we all die. In the meantime, the signs along the perimeter of this taxpayer-funded mess might read: "It's not just an ill-conceived albatross rife with multimillion-dollar cost overruns and design blunders, it's also a mangled mass of girders and construction guts spilling out onto Biscayne Boulevard, Fourteenth Street, and NE Second Avenue, mucking up the skyline and tying up traffic for years."

Not just a building, it's a work of art. Maybe. Perhaps someday before we all die. In the meantime, the signs along the perimeter of this taxpayer-funded mess might read: "It's not just an ill-conceived albatross rife with multimillion-dollar cost overruns and design blunders, it's also a mangled mass of girders and construction guts spilling out onto Biscayne Boulevard, Fourteenth Street, and NE Second Avenue, mucking up the skyline and tying up traffic for years."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®