BEST DISAPPEARING ACT Alex Penelas Who would've thought I could've vanished so completely. And so quickly! Believe me, it hasn't been easy, which you'd understand if you had spent your entire adult life seeking the public spotlight. It happened so fast I didn't even have time to take an unhurried victory lap to bask in the glow of my many legacies. You know, like my environmental legacy. Remember the sprawling commercial airport I pushed for down in Homestead? Talk about vision. You can't say I wasn't down with spending millions in county resources trying to help some of my biggest supporters get that job done. And didn't I lend a big hand to Mickey Arison so we could preserve the last tract of undeveloped public waterfront land in downtown Miami? You bet I did. My transportation legacy definitely deserved more recognition. Who else could have smoothly funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into the hands of loyal friends as part of our 1999 "Transit Not Tolls" campaign. Am I bitter that voters rejected the plan? No. It was worth the effort. But I am still steamed that the media claimed the public didn't believe we could be trusted with the money. I'm telling you, all of my damn people got paid. And what about my human-rights legacy? Who else but the mayor was there for little Elian 24/7? People seem to forget that the issue wasn't whether I threatened the president of the United States; the issue was life and liberty in America or living hell in Castro's Cuba. No regrets. And of course there's my political legacy itself -- a staunch Democrat who survived in a sea of Republican Miami Cubans. Don't listen to Al Gore. He's a loser.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Lorena Diaz Diaz, a resourceful actress with extensive range, delivered an outrageous, over-the-top performance in Betty's Summer Vacation (a Christopher Durang satire) as Mrs. Siezmagraff, the lunatic landlady from hell. Diaz was as fearless as she was shameless, creating a nightmarish cartoon of a character that ran away with this Mad Cat Theatre show, no minor accomplishment among a cast of real clowns. If there's any negative about Diaz's work, it's that it isn't seen often enough.

BEST DEFENSE AGAINST TERRORISM P. Diddy When Sean Combs lived in Manhattan during the Nineties, he was beset with 99 problems. P. Diddy had a tempestuous romance with J.Lo and a highly publicized feud with Death Row Records, was accused of severely beating Interscope Records executive Steve Stoute, was present during a shooting in a nightclub, and eventually faced charges for illegal possession of a firearm. In 1997, after a period spent mourning the death of colleague Notorious B.I.G., Combs emerged from seclusion with his most successful album, No Way Out. He won a Grammy. And he moved to Miami Beach. Here he led a quiet and unassuming life until the fall of 2001, when, mistaking him for Public Enemy's uniformed, militant, and subsequently banished Professor Griff, South Florida called upon P. Diddy's familiarity with Islamic fundamentalism and knowledge of firearms and kung fu to protect citizens in treacherous times. P. Diddy manifests his protective schemes in many low-key ways. He came out with a line of so-called urban clothing called Sean John, the bagginess of which conceals its true purpose, that of bestowing upon the wearer the ability to don bulletproof under-gear. He shared the secrets of the video-surveillance company he employs to observe his abode with a local doughnut shop franchise. He even organized a team of specially trained penguins. Note to Homeland Security: Sign this guy up.

BEST SET DESIGN Adrian W. Jones Anna in the Tropics Jones's inspired design -- a lone windswept palm tree against a huge sky with a massive interior of walls and wooden beams depicting a Tampa cigar factory in the Twenties -- gave Nilo Cruz's production of his own play great emotional texture and beautifully emphasized the story's tensions between emotional freedom and societal restrictions. Here's hoping audiences have the chance to see Jones's work again in this region -- and soon.

BEST NEW LAW Sidewalk bicycle ban City of Miami Beginning May 12, the elderly Hispanics who clog the sidewalks of Calle Ocho can feel a little safer walking up and down Little Havana's most famous thoroughfare. That day Miami police officers will begin enforcing a new law that bans bicycles, scooters, and skateboards from the sidewalks of SW Eighth Street between Fourth Avenue and the city's western boundary at the Palmetto Expressway. The Miami City Commission adopted the legislation last year in response to growing complaints from area business owners and residents. Unruly cyclists would tear down Calle Ocho with little regard for pedestrians, sometimes causing bone-crunching collisions, sometimes snatching a purse or two. Offending cyclists will be issued a $25 fine

BEST PLACE FOR A SECOND DATE Café Sambal Mandarin Oriental Hotel

500 Brickell Key Drive

Miami

305-913-8251 Oh, yes. The first date was smokin': great conversation, definite chemistry, you didn't want the night to end. Even though you said you wouldn't do that on a first date, you did, and now he's nudging you for breakfast. Even if you aren't staying at the Mandarin Oriental, you can still pretend to be vacationing in a sleek hotel and let the romance continue with mimosas, eggs, and alfresco flirting. The All American Breakfast menu lists the staples -- French toast, sausage, fresh fruit juices -- but with the shimmering water of Biscayne Bay, a spectacular view of downtown Miami, and sexual tension so thick you can cut it with your apple-butter knife, you might forget breakfast and find yourselves a room.

BEST COMEBACK (ANIMAL KINGDOM) Miami Blue Butterfly Once more prevalent than cars on 836, the Miami Blue (Hemiargus thomasi bethunebakeri) wasn't doing so well thanks to humans and, mostly, their always encroaching development. (Habitat loss, natural disasters, and mosquito-reduction spraying are the three biggest destroyers of little flying things in South Florida.) It was even thought to be extinct after Hurricane Andrew charged through in 1992, but the bug was still hanging on -- roughly 50 of them hiding out at Bahia Honda State Park. The tiny blue-winged insect was destined to be wiped out during the next big blow, but thanks to a University of Florida breeding program, the Miami Blue is on the rebound instead. Several generations have been bred in captivity and hundreds were recently released into the wild. To keep an eye on the high-minded effort to preserve a bit of nature's bounty, check with the Miami Blue Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association (www.miamiblue.org or 305-666-5727).

BEST REAL-ESTATE APPRECIATION Aventura With all the hype over the forest of condo developments sprouting in downtown Miami, the Design District, and Miami Beach, it's important not to lose sight of reality -- especially if you're one of the many hopefuls mortgaging your future in the name of quick profits. According to a Wall Street Journal study, 2004's greatest real-estate appreciation in the entire Southeast was (drum roll, please) zip code 33180 -- Aventura -- where the median home sale price was $445,500. That's a one-year increase of 23.6 percent and a five-year increase of 112.5 percent. Of course you'd never know this from our local media coverage, in which the decidedly unsexy Aventura finds itself overshadowed by the hype for buzz-laden new projects to its south. Let the buyer beware.

BEST FM RADIO PERSONALITY Papa Keith The Beat (WMIB-FM 103.5)

www.mega1035.cc/pages/papakeith The Baka Boys might get you wired and ready for work while you're battling morning traffic, but Papa Keith is the man who takes you home smoothly and safely, easing the stress of the day with hip-hop and humor. On his daily drive-time show (6:00 to 10:00 p.m.) he treats audiences to slick urban hits, including the daily diet of 50 Cent, Ludacris, Pitbull, Lil Jon, and Trick Daddy. While some of his disc jockey counterparts choose the oft-traveled crass-and-snarky path, Papa Keith loves the kids and isn't afraid to show it. A weekly segment is "Papa's Pep Rally," during which teens are invited to the studio to give on-air props to their schools. A live teenage audience might seem like an odd fit considering that Papa Keith adopts playfully lascivious and pro-marijuana stances, but this DJ's exuberance manages to take the inappropriate edge off his more risqué comments. He makes occasional reality-TV-esque phone calls to his girlfriend. He extends raw words of wisdom to his listeners on the sometimes poignant, often hilarious, always insightful call-in segment "Cleaning Out Your Closet." "Rumor Control" has Papa Keith taking time to clear up celebrity rumors by calling famous people for verification. Sunday nights he reps his Caribbean background to the fullest with the reggae countdown show "Island Beat." His hope is to get the show syndicated so he can take his earnest blend of rhythm, honesty, and charisma to the nation. Preach on, Papa. Preach on.

Readers´ Choice: Kenny and Footy, Y-100 (WHYI-FM 100.7)

BEST REASON TO STAY IN MIAMI FOR THE SUMMER Languid days, sultry nights Not all of us can afford to zip up to the Hamptons for six weeks of madras-clad croquet amid the cool climes and waterfront estates. Nor can we all shell out for a ticket to Ibiza for round-the-clock partying. But being rich and idle isn't all it's cracked up to be. For one thing, winging it out of town at the first hint of summer means never experiencing the true essence of living in the subtropics. Those languid days when time slows and no one can be rushed. Those sultry nights when it makes perfect sense, after the slow groove of day, to come out and play. The casual ease in securing reservations at the best restaurants. The absence of attitude. And all of it made more pleasant by the fact that the obnoxious rich are nowhere in sight.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®