BEST LOCAL CITY IN WHICH TO LIVE Coral Gables No doubt you've heard about the crazy regulations that plague residents of Coral Gables. (Does a fancy SUV count as a truck or a car, and can I park it in my driveway overnight?) But for many Gables citizens, it's a small price to pay (well, maybe not so small) for the privilege of living in such a beautiful city. The lush foliage (tightly regulated) and exquisite examples of Mediterranean Revival architecture (don't even look at a can of paint without the necessary permits) are just a couple of reasons why people prefer living in George Merrick's dreamscape. A disproportionate number of South Florida's better restaurants and retail stores are within city limits. The arts and entertainment scene is burgeoning, helped in part by having the University of Miami also within city limits. Even tourist attractions like the Venetian Pool and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden are classy, tasteful, and fun.

BEST LOCAL GIRL GONE BAD Geralyn Graham Graham has been charged with murdering a four-year-old girl placed in her care by the state. She has yet to stand trial. Still, even if what the 59-year-old Graham says is true -- that state workers came and picked up little Rilya Wilson and never returned her -- it's shocking enough. Who loses a four-year-old? Who doesn't make enough phone calls to track her down and make sure she's all right? That, of course, is the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario, the one prosecutors allege, is that Graham suffocated or beat the child to death (no body has been found yet). And don't forget Graham's long record of identity theft and fraud convictions. Her son was also convicted for taking part in fraud schemes with her. All in all, she's not worthy of caring for a houseplant, let alone a little girl.

BEST LOCAL GIRLS MADE GOOD Kerry Gruson and Karen Mitchell National sailing champions. Two years running. Both disabled. The event was the U.S. Independence Cup/North American Challenge Cup, an official US SAILING championship regatta hosted this past August by the Chicago Yacht Club. Competing in the Freedom Independence 20 class of specially designed boats that include an able-bodied assistant, long-time crewmates Gruson (from Miami) and Mitchell (now living in Deerfield Beach) overcame unfavorable weather and equipment malfunctions to capture the title. Along the way they've shown the world that hard work and determination can overcome any obstacle. Mitchell, an occupational therapist, suffered a broken neck as a teen. Today, following two successful battles against cancer, she is confined to a wheelchair but has some use of her upper body. Gruson is a veteran writer for the New York Times's Miami bureau. Three decades ago she was assaulted by an interview subject, a disturbed Vietnam War veteran who, in a psychotic rage, choked her so severely she nearly died. The attack left her virtually immobile. Such extreme adversity might overwhelm most mortals, but it has done nothing to dampen the competitive spirit of these women, both of whom are deeply involved with the Shake-a-Leg sailing program in Coconut Grove (www.shakealeg.org) and both of whom are universal champions in our book.

Readers´ Choice: Gloria Estefan

BEST LOCAL LANDMARK Archway at Sunshine State International Park 1300 NW 167th Street

North Miami-Dade

305-624-8585 In 1964, when Miami was still a pretty dinky town and el exilio thought they'd be returning home shortly, the newly erected concrete archway at the Sunshine State International Park seemed too big for its britches. Since then the metropolis has grown up around it, and today it's just part of the landscape. Thousands of Palmetto Expressway commuters pass by it every day without a thought. A modest echo of Eero Saarinen's famed St. Louis Gateway Arch, the Miami version also suggested a gateway, but this one opened to the south, toward Latin America. Of course four decades ago it must have seemed ludicrous to imagine Miami as a gateway to anywhere but the mosquito-infested Everglades. Designed by Charles Giller and O.K. Houston, the parabola actually straddles NW Thirteenth Avenue at the entrance to a large industrial park (not a recreational park) that includes other examples of Miami Modern architecture.

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 LOCAL POLITICIAN State Rep. Dan Gelber Miami Beach office: 305-531-7831

Tallahassee office: 850-488-0690

[email protected] It's not easy being a Democrat in Tallahassee these days. Not easy, that is, if you want to be effective. Dan Gelber, whose District 106 encompasses the coastal communities from Miami Beach to the Broward County line, is one Democrat who has managed to be quite effective despite the Republicans' stranglehold over both House and Senate. How has he done it? By being way smarter than most elected officials in Tallahassee, in particular his colleagues in the Miami-Dade delegation. Of course, Gelber himself would never admit this, but it's true. Because he's smart, he knows when to stand firm and when to compromise. Because he's smart, he understands the value of building lasting alliances, even among political foes. Because he's smart, he knows when to stay in the background and let someone else take credit. Because he's smart, his fellow Democrats earlier this year unanimously chose the 44-year-old former federal prosecutor to be their House Speaker-Designate for the 2006-2008 term. Okay, being smart isn't everything -- Gelber can also hold his own shooting hoops. Plus he's a genuinely nice guy.

Readers´ Choice: Marta P´rez

BEST MAGIC CITY ICON The moon That's right, the big orb hanging supernaturally above the ocean on its twilight ascent, full and yellow and ghostly, shining brightly through a layer of hazy clouds. People stop and gawk, step out their doors and point heavenward, gather in primeval bands to bang on drums in celebration of its light. "Moon Over Miami," they sing of this lunar phenomenon, putting the "magic" in Magic City. As you drive east across the causeways, you see it -- hanging low over the horizon and beckoning you into the night, a tribal pulse that surges through your body. And it's there at the end of the night on your return drive, falling into the city over downtown, guiding you home like an old friend.

BEST MANIFESTO Seth Green When we last heard from Mr. Seth Green, who was featured in last year's "Best of Miami" (see Best Place to Slow Dance), the Titian-haired star of cinema and television was held aloft by twin streams of bubbly champagne success, doing mainstream comedy in the syndicated series Greg the Bunny while enjoying artistic street cred from his appearance as James St. James in the Sundance Film Festival hit Party Monster. A frequenter of Miami Beach hotel parties -- he visited the Delano recently for a rooftop screening of Monster with costars Wilmer Valderrama and Macaulay Culkin -- Green was riding high. Then came Without a Paddle. The 2004 treasure-hunting comedy was the least funny, most boring buddy flick of all time, and sank without a trace. The cancellation of Greg the Bunny came soon afterward. Suddenly the indie darling and teen heartthrob was faced with a coppery five o'clock shadow and nothing to do but coast on his past fame. Will he bounce back? Will we ever see him again at the Shore Club or Prive? Perhaps his future is predicted in his own words. What follows, carefully culled from Green's work beginning with 1985's The Hotel New Hampshire and concluding, well, with Without a Paddle, are some of his most illuminating lines of dialogue. Sadly, Green shows himself not to be a lucid philosophe but a bit of a bruiser with an obsessive violent streak -- which may explain his affection for Miami. Here, then, is a stunning, stinging sample of the Green Manifesto: "Who could beat a night of cards, chips, dips, and dorks? Something stinks in suburbia. You nuked my brother. You took him from ögeek' status to öking' status to no status. Babe said it was good for my complexion. I swear. One out of ten. You're worse than I am, kiddo. At this rate, we might as well let that damn clown take us one by one. Yeah, and one of them better be good, Bill, because right now, you're in the lead with a pathetic three out of ten. Have you ever killed anyone? That many? Wow! Well my friend Sweet Jay took me to that video arcade in town, right, and they don't speak English there, so Jay got into a fight and he's all, öHey quit hasslin' me cuz' I don't speak French' or whatever! And then the guy said something in Paris talk, and I'm like, öJust back off!' And they're all, öGet out!' And we're like, öMake me!' It was cool. What? Are you feeding him? Why don't you just kill him? I have a gun, in my room, you give me five seconds, I'll get it, I'll come back down here, BOOM, I'll blow their brains out! I was thinking I like animals. Maybe I'd be a vet. No! Maybe like work in a petting zoo. I hate you! I hate you! I wish I was never artificially created in a lab! I haven't seen you my whole life and now you just show up and expect a relationship? I hate you. What? Get away from me, you lazy-eyed psycho! Well, to the casual observer, it would appear that you're trying to make your friend Xander jealous or even the score or something. And that's on the empty side. It's okay. I can wait. That's some deep academia there. Looks dead, smells dead, yet it's moving around. That's interesting. Yo, both of y'all. That is a öFragrance of Love' scented candle, bitch. Damn! It means I gots a 92 percent chance of embarrassing myself. Hey, birthday dude! You want some ice cream? Yeah well we weren't in hell! I mean there was this bright white light at the end of a long tunnel, right, and there was these voices, and that music ... There is something wrong with my friend, I think he smoked some nutmeg or something. I was a little bitter about the getting killed by my best friend thing but I've had time to get over it. I mean, no, I'm glad everybody's all right, but ... that was weak. How could you do this to me? On national television! Him? Look at him, he's crazy. He's like a vicious little Chihuahua thing. He'll kill me the first chance he gets. Siegfried and Roy are here? One of us has to be the victim, one of us has to be the witness. What kind of a witness would you make? I'm your own brother, I don't know what the hell you're saying. Hey, why don't you guys give him a break? Instead of stabbing him in the back, why don't you try showing him a little support in the front? Let's face it, humans have been mistreating puppets for centuries. It's nothing new. We lure them to our country with the tartar sauce, and the lollipops, and the empty promises of sparklers which I believe are yet unfulfilled. Tardy, you got your sparklers? The only chance we have to survive is to huddle together for warmth. I got to act tough or these people will beat up me a lot. And then he's just the media darling. He's on the cover of all the magazines. He didn't even graduate. I'm not addicted to drugs, I'm addicted to glamour. I don't even know you but I hate you too. What do you mean that's it? I'm not giving up! And neither are you! And neither am I!"

BEST MEMOIR The Summer That Changed Miami Beach by Seymour Gelber A day-by-day, often hour-by-hour account of the tumultuous summer of 1972, when Miami Beach played host to both the Democratic and Republican national conventions, and with them a roiling mass of politicos and protesters. Former Beach Mayor Seymour Gelber, then a Dade County assistant state attorney, was dispatched to work as legal adviser to the Miami Beach Police Department. It was a job that put him in close contact with events on both sides of the barricades, and Gelber has managed to recapture it all in gripping detail -- from the demonstrators camped out in Flamingo Park to the tear-gas-clogged marches on the convention center -- complete with plenty of backroom negotiations and drama that had never been aired. Gelber's 284-page book is self-published, but it's a memoir well deserving of better distribution and a larger audience. For now, check the Miami Beach public library.

BEST MIAMI HERALD WRITER Glenn Garvin Love him or hate him, Garvin has become a formidable presence at the Miami Herald, transforming the once staid job of TV critic into a prominent platform for a crusading conservative warrior. Simple sitcom reviews become launching pads for full-blown media criticism; even the slimmest of news pegs grows into a strike on cultural elitism. True, Garvin often still seems to be roaming the Nicaraguan countryside with the contras -- a bullet-dodging foreign correspondent role he played in the Eighties for the Washington Times -- with left-leaning Hollywood starlets and liberal press bias now standing in for the Sandinistas and Soviet expansionism. But that enduring Manichaean fervor is also what makes Garvin's writing so vital. Every piece is brimming with conviction, a sense that ideas matter, and that his words on those ideas demand to be read and pondered, whether he's mocking Dan Rather or shaking his head in disbelief over the mania surrounding Art Basel. In a newspaper that's far too full of stenography masquerading as journalism, with stories that often appear to be doing little more than filling space, Garvin is a welcome relief.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®