Attention Internet hermits: Being online will no longer be an acceptable excuse for your antisocial behavior -- at least not in Coral Gables. Following the lead of many businesses in many cities, the Coral Gables Business Improvement District along with ADX Technologies and IDS Telecom have installed a free (really!) wireless Internet connection on the Mile. The motive: Visitors tech out for a while, then maybe hang out and drop some green at area restaurants and shops. Brilliant! To take advantage all you'll need is a Wi-Fi, or "wireless fidelity," compatible adapter card or wireless-ready computer or portable. The cloud (another nickname for a Wi-Fi zone) is at the intersection of Ponce and Miracle Mile. Plans are in the works (Adobe mostly) to extend this cloud the entire length of the district. Fast approaching is the day of one super computer (named Hal) hooked to every person's keyboard and mouse. Instructions are available at www.gableshotspot.com.

In this sixteen-block stretch of Miami's Wynwood neighborhood you can see the past and the future simultaneously. Not long ago it was a forlorn and forbidding stretch of warehouses punctuated by abandoned storefronts and the occasional bodega or bar. Today it is the spine of what has come to be known as the Wynwood Art District. First came the artists themselves, who'd fled Miami Beach's inflated prices to set up studios in spacious, affordable, but dilapidated old buildings. Then came gallerists who gambled by opening commercial venues to show the artists' work in an area more menacing than welcoming. Then came the early real estate speculators who saw potential. They were followed by a stampede of speculators who feared they'd be too late. Now the area has a future, though it appears it will be dominated by a single massive development project that will soon break ground. Dubbed Midtown Miami and covering some 56 acres along the east side of North Miami Avenue between 29th and 36th streets, it will be a city unto itself -- 3000 condominiums, 1000 apartments, 100,000 square feet of office space, and 1,000,000 square feet of commercial space. By the time it is completed, the artists undoubtedly will have migrated yet again, urban nomads cursed by their own foresight.

In this sixteen-block stretch of Miami's Wynwood neighborhood you can see the past and the future simultaneously. Not long ago it was a forlorn and forbidding stretch of warehouses punctuated by abandoned storefronts and the occasional bodega or bar. Today it is the spine of what has come to be known as the Wynwood Art District. First came the artists themselves, who'd fled Miami Beach's inflated prices to set up studios in spacious, affordable, but dilapidated old buildings. Then came gallerists who gambled by opening commercial venues to show the artists' work in an area more menacing than welcoming. Then came the early real estate speculators who saw potential. They were followed by a stampede of speculators who feared they'd be too late. Now the area has a future, though it appears it will be dominated by a single massive development project that will soon break ground. Dubbed Midtown Miami and covering some 56 acres along the east side of North Miami Avenue between 29th and 36th streets, it will be a city unto itself -- 3000 condominiums, 1000 apartments, 100,000 square feet of office space, and 1,000,000 square feet of commercial space. By the time it is completed, the artists undoubtedly will have migrated yet again, urban nomads cursed by their own foresight.

In the theater, sometimes everything just falls into place. That was definitely the case with GableStage's masterful presentation of The Goat. Featuring Edward Albee's bitterly funny script, a fine cast, exceptionally effective direction from artistic director Joseph Adler, and an outstanding set design by Rich Simone, this production was a gleeful blend of absurdity, horror, and dry humor that sent audiences' heads spinning.

Mario Diament's tale of five characters in search of one another proved to be a fascinating exploration of chance, fate, irrational obsession, and love at first sight. Delighting audiences at the New Theatre in Coral Gables, the tale involved a seemingly simple string of impromptu encounters and quiet conversations but was really a complex interweaving of characters and ideas that made for intriguing, intellectually challenging theater.

Alvin Malnik and son Shareef haven't been the subjects of a Hollywood film or tell-all book. But they should be. Al, an attorney, garnered notoriety for his long association with legendary Mob financier Meyer Lansky. The New Jersey Casino Control Commission, in denying Al a casino license in 1980, labeled him "a person of unsuitable character and unsuitable reputation [because he] associated with persons engaged in organized criminal activities, and that he himself participated in transactions that were clearly illegitimate and illegal." In some circles, that sort of publicity would be a career-killer, but it only served to make Al's the Forge restaurant (which he purchased in 1968 and lavishly refurbished) a wickedly seductive destination for generations of celebrities -- from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson. (Jacko and 70-year-old Al are best buds.) His wealth wasn't solely the result of the Forge's success. Al has also reaped riches as owner of Title Loans of America, an operation that has been called "legalized loan-sharking" for its practice of lending money at usurious rates to people whose only collateral is their car (hence the "title" in the company name). In 1991 Al handed over the Forge operations to son Mark, who by then had changed his name to Shareef and had satisfied his wild-side urge to race off-shore power boats and Le Mans Series Porches. The younger Malnik profitably reinvented the restaurant as a hip destination for the jet set who, in the early Nineties, began favoring Miami Beach as an international playground. In the process, though, he managed to maintain the Forge's decadent and vaguely illicit ambiance. His good looks and trademark Lothario mustache have made him one of the most recognizable faces on South Beach, and have landed him a few acting roles as well (Just Cause, The Blackout, Coffee and Tobacco). Shareef, once married to Saudi princess Sheika Hoda Al-Fassi, recently split from wife number four. How's that for a father-son team?

Alvin Malnik and son Shareef haven't been the subjects of a Hollywood film or tell-all book. But they should be. Al, an attorney, garnered notoriety for his long association with legendary Mob financier Meyer Lansky. The New Jersey Casino Control Commission, in denying Al a casino license in 1980, labeled him "a person of unsuitable character and unsuitable reputation [because he] associated with persons engaged in organized criminal activities, and that he himself participated in transactions that were clearly illegitimate and illegal." In some circles, that sort of publicity would be a career-killer, but it only served to make Al's the Forge restaurant (which he purchased in 1968 and lavishly refurbished) a wickedly seductive destination for generations of celebrities -- from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson. (Jacko and 70-year-old Al are best buds.) His wealth wasn't solely the result of the Forge's success. Al has also reaped riches as owner of Title Loans of America, an operation that has been called "legalized loan-sharking" for its practice of lending money at usurious rates to people whose only collateral is their car (hence the "title" in the company name). In 1991 Al handed over the Forge operations to son Mark, who by then had changed his name to Shareef and had satisfied his wild-side urge to race off-shore power boats and Le Mans Series Porches. The younger Malnik profitably reinvented the restaurant as a hip destination for the jet set who, in the early Nineties, began favoring Miami Beach as an international playground. In the process, though, he managed to maintain the Forge's decadent and vaguely illicit ambiance. His good looks and trademark Lothario mustache have made him one of the most recognizable faces on South Beach, and have landed him a few acting roles as well (Just Cause, The Blackout, Coffee and Tobacco). Shareef, once married to Saudi princess Sheika Hoda Al-Fassi, recently split from wife number four. How's that for a father-son team?

Battered, bruised, but far from beaten, Merrett Stierheim in June will relinquish his position as the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools. When he took the $210,000 job in 2001, Stierheim set out to do what he does best: reform a public agency plagued by low morale, bureaucratic ineptitude, rampant cronyism, and outright corruption. He has succeeded on some fronts; for example, hiring the district's first inspector general and exposing the blatantly political nature of career advancement. But Stierheim was only able to scratch the surface of the deeply entrenched problems that cripple the nation's fourth-largest school district. In the months preceding his announcement that he would be stepping down, Stierheim found himself under constant attack: The teachers' union bashed him during contract negotiations; he clashed with the state oversight board that controlled tens of millions of dollars in school-construction money; and small-minded, short-sighted board members never stopped harassing him. But even as he prepares to depart, Stierheim's enemies are on their toes. The veteran bureaucrat is contemplating the unthinkable: running for a seat on the school board. "I care about the school district a lot," he says, "but do I really want to do something political when I've been apolitical all my professional life?"

Battered, bruised, but far from beaten, Merrett Stierheim in June will relinquish his position as the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools. When he took the $210,000 job in 2001, Stierheim set out to do what he does best: reform a public agency plagued by low morale, bureaucratic ineptitude, rampant cronyism, and outright corruption. He has succeeded on some fronts; for example, hiring the district's first inspector general and exposing the blatantly political nature of career advancement. But Stierheim was only able to scratch the surface of the deeply entrenched problems that cripple the nation's fourth-largest school district. In the months preceding his announcement that he would be stepping down, Stierheim found himself under constant attack: The teachers' union bashed him during contract negotiations; he clashed with the state oversight board that controlled tens of millions of dollars in school-construction money; and small-minded, short-sighted board members never stopped harassing him. But even as he prepares to depart, Stierheim's enemies are on their toes. The veteran bureaucrat is contemplating the unthinkable: running for a seat on the school board. "I care about the school district a lot," he says, "but do I really want to do something political when I've been apolitical all my professional life?"

The ebullient, outspoken Adler might seem a complete mismatch with tart, taciturn Edward Albee (author of The Goat or Who Is Sylvia?). Nonetheless Adler's masterful staging of Albee's provocative tragicomedy at GableStage was a perfect meeting of master minds. Adler is well known for his gutsy, go-for-broke style, but his work with The Goat was particularly risky and insightful, put together with such skill that many of his roll-the-dice choices looked as if he were using loaded bones to make point every toss.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®