BEST DIRECTOR Michael Hall The Loman Family Picnic The veteran Hall has long been known for consistent professionalism, but this time out his direction of Donald Margulies's oddball memory play really excelled. Hall's compelling visuals were easy to spot, and to admire, while his subtle, beautifully paced scene-work and careful coaching of two child actors were far more subtle but just as effective. The result was a carefully orchestrated, fully realized theatric vision that was the highlight of the season.

BEST HERO Judge William Hoeveler In last year's edition of "Best of Miami," we acknowledged Hoeveler as Best Judge. In hindsight that seems a bit restrictive. Still hearing cases as an octogenarian senior federal judge, Hoeveler deserves hero status for one simple reason: He's earned it over a career that should be an inspiration to everyone inside and outside the legal profession. Why? Because of his integrity, his fortitude in the pursuit of justice, and his courage. Whether presiding over high-profile and highly contentious cases (Manuel Noriega, Elian Gonzalez, Everglades cleanup) or coping with personal adversity (the loss of his wife, his recovery from a stroke), Hoeveler has conducted himself with honor and dignity. In 2002 the University of Miami created the William M. Hoeveler Award for ethics and leadership; naturally the judge was the inaugural recipient. The annual award goes to those in the legal profession, but that too seems a bit restrictive. It could rightfully be extended to all those who, like William Hoeveler, work in the public interest and for the common good.

BEST CAREER MOVE Alberto Ibargüen He may have been sincere in telling his colleagues at the Miami Herald Publishing Company -- from reporters to advertising reps to pressroom workers and anonymous midlevel managers -- that he will miss them greatly. But in fact he couldn't be happier. No longer struggling with a whittled-down, anemic version of a once-proud newspaper under the life-sucking, soul-crushing financial thumb of parent company Knight Ridder and its pinhead CEO Tony Ridder, 61-year-old Ibargüen snagged what must be one of the best jobs in the land -- president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. There he'll be facing a very different, and much more appealing, challenge: how best to dole out some $90 million each year in grants to improve journalism and strengthen the social fabric in communities across the nation.

BEST LEISURE ACTIVITY OTHER THAN CLUBS OR MOVIES

Reading at the beach

BEST LEISURE ACTIVITY OTHER THAN CLUBS OR MOVIES Reading at the beach Wake up Sunday morning. Grab the paper, glossy magazine, maybe a current book of interest. Slather on SPF 30 sunblock. Don swim trunks, flip-flops, straw hat, dark shades. Pack bottled water, roast beef-Gruyre-tomato dagwood, and fresh grapes and apples in cooler. Put cooler in trunk of car along with umbrella and chair. Take Collins Avenue to southern end of Haulover Beach. Pay five-dollar parking fee. Scan beach from behind shades. Select spot far from family with screaming tykes, teens with radio, and couple with dog. In fact avoid any sentient life forms. Plant butt in chair under umbrella, take deep breath. Crack open Grisham-Steele-Dostoyevsky-Garcia Márquez-Hemingway tome. Exhale slowly. This is why we live here.

BEST PLACE TO DONATE YOUR CLOTHES SoBe Thrifty 1435 Alton Road

Miami Beach

305-672-7251

www.careresource.org Where can you pick up dominatrix gear, metal walkers, Guillermo Alvarez Guedes LPs, and free condoms in one unassuming little store? Okay, so the donated stock does vary from week to week (except the free condoms), but this thrift store tucked away on the "wrong" side of South Beach certainly has a very intriguing clientele. All the above disappeared rather quickly. Proceeds go to Care Resource, the oldest HIV/AIDS service organization in South Florida and the folks who also throw the White Party. Did we forget to mention the fabulously large selection of gay-interest books?

BEST READING SERIES Books & Books Various locations in Miami-Dade County

www.booksandbooks.com Mitchell Kaplan is our collective dignity's last line of defense. Do we really want the rest of the world to think of us as only a romper room for Paris Hilton? Our highest cultural aspirations to be the fashion photo shoot? Our most fervid debates to be about Botox? Kaplan's long-running reading series at his Books & Books stores in Coral Gables and Miami Beach brings us in contact with the world of letters and ideas, a world that too often skirts our shores. And in a nod to the nature of the community, he assembles an international array of literary stars to read from their works: Haiti's Edwidge Danticat, Chile's Isabel Allende, St. Louis's Jonathan Franzen. This past year saw both press handler Ari Fleischer and former President Bill Clinton walk through the doors. We've got enough eye candy. Books & Books gives us much needed brain candy.

BEST ART GALLERY Bernice Steinbaum Gallery 3550 N. Miami Avenue

Miami

305-573-2700

www.bernicesteinbaumgallery.com It is getting difficult to choose from among the growing array of high-quality art galleries gracing our strip-mall-and-condo town. If the mega-event Art Basel is any barometer of gallery hierarchy, then the royal court is composed of Fredric Snitzer, Diana Lowenstein, Genaro Ambrosino, and Bernice Steinbaum, the four locals whose galleries were accepted to the main fair this past December. Steinbaum has been in Miami four years, barely long enough to discover the mix of opportunity and immaturity that dominates all aspects of life here. Yet in that short time the New York art-world veteran has distinguished her gallery through consistently strong offerings from some of Miami's most intriguing artists, such as Edouard Duval-Carrie, Glexis Novoa, Peter Sarkisian, Elizabeth Cerejido, and Hung Liu. Her Website touts the BSG's emphasis on female and minority artists: The roster is half female and about 35 percent minority.

BEST PUBLIC RESTROOM Village of Merrick Park 358 San Lorenzo Avenue

Coral Gables

305-529-0200 If you were to think about it, you'd expect the cleanest, least claustrophobic, most hantavirus-free public restroom to be at the Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables, along with Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and the Donald J. Pliner store. And it is.

BEST LOCAL PHANTASMAGORIA Rain falls, storms threaten, winds kick up, Gulfstream Park gets torn up, tanker trucks smash up, Alex Penelas goes down, DuPont Plaza goes down, bus fares rise, Cuba visits get cut, canker crews cut, Lawrence Plummer dies, Andres Nazario Sargen dies, Caribbean Marketplace survives, Shaqmania arrives, Venezuelans arrive, Argentines arrive, Video Music Awards arrive, One Ninety disappears, Nerve Lounge disappears, Burdines disappears, flu vaccine disappears, Maurice Ferré reappears, Grove Playhouse appears to be for sale, Carrie Meek surely not for sale, Ralph Arza absolutely not for sale, Freedom Tower is sold, 1 Herald Plaza is sold, Miami Arena is sold, Miami Circle is stalled, Performing Arts Center stalls, MIA expansion stalls, traffic snarls, rapists prowl, rip currents kill, drive-bys kill, DCF kills, children die, West Nile strikes, Jimmy Morales strikes out, Marlins strike out, Asian termites sneak in, Luis Posada Carilles sneaks in, Rudy Crew checks in, Merrett Stierheim checks out, Dave Barry checks out, Business Forum chickens out, Angela Gittens gets the boot, Gail Thompson gets the boot, Frank Cobo gets the boot, priests confess, churches pay, gas prices soar, property values soar, speculators descend, condos go up, neighborhoods go down, too much traffic, too many people, no time to think, no relief from storms, Hurricane Charley threatens, Hurricane Frances threatens, Hurricane Jeanne threatens, Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin steps down, Bob Graham steps down, Alberto Ibargüen steps down, Tom Fiedler tries stepping down, Miami Herald keeps going downhill, Ricky Martin packs and goes, J.Lo goes, Calvin Klein moves in, Matt Damon moves in, Billy Joel moves in, Dan Marino gets inducted, Tito Gomez gets indicted, Liberty City kills, Opa-locka kills, drugs kill, more children die, Clint O'Neil dies, Jane Meyerhoff dies, Fleet Starbuck dies, Bill Dobson dies, Big Daddy Flanigan dies, pirate radio lives, crocodiles live at UM, bald eagles live in Doral, Doral explodes, Street Weekly implodes, Ricky Williams implodes, Jumbo's turns 50, Biscayne Boulevard turns inside out, Mara Salvatrucha arrives, Cubans arrive, Haitians arrive, Haitians get deported, Art Teele gets busted, Nilo Juri gets busted, Myra Taylor gets busted, Bill Kamal goes to prison, Manuel Noriega stays in prison, schools keep failing, Jackson hospital keeps stumbling, stun guns are everywhere, children get zapped, Jeffery Allen gets tapped, Connie Kaplan gets scarce, Everglades Hotel goes down, Hialeah Speedway shuts down, animal shelter is slapped down, Derick Daniels dies, Christopher Marquis dies, Robert Bass dies, Joy Reese Shaw dies, time is precious, life's too short, stress too common -- especially when trying to park in Coconut Grove. Until now. Last summer Xavier Cortes responded to an ad in these pages and landed a new gig: Parking Meter Fairy of Coconut Grove. Bedecked in curly wig, frilly tutu, and heavenly angel's wings, he was paid by local merchants to skate through the Grove's business district with a purse full of quarters and a mission of mercy -- feeding visitors' expired parking meters and doing his part to make our lives just a little more pleasant.

BEST MARLINS PLAYER Miguel Cabrera On TV Miguelito seems so sweet, so young, so, well, soft. Then someone throws a ball at him, and suddenly that cherub's face is fronting an aggressive six-foot-two hitter with 210 pounds of power behind his swing. Though youthful, the Venezuela native is poised to become a superstar. Last year, his first full Major League season, he was an All-Star, joining a handful of players in the history of the game to have 100 RBI, 100 runs scored, and at least 30 homers in a season before the age of 22. In 2003 the rookie helped the Marlins win the World Series as a midseason addition. The Marlins snatched the then-sixteen-year-old prospect out from under the Minnesota Twins with a surprising $1.8 million signing bonus in 1999. But the team's high bid became a bargain: Cabrera works cheap (a mere $370,000 last year) and won't get his chance to negotiate for big money until 2007. Now, with the more seasoned super-slugger Carlos Delgado in the lineup, expectations are that Cabrera will get even better, not only because he'll learn from a great, but also because opposing pitchers will have a tough time deciding when to bring the heat.

Readers´ Choice: Miguel Cabrera

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®