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 MILE OF MIAMI The Venetian Causeway Yes, we know it's 2.75 miles long. It also crosses eleven islands by means of twelve bridges, two of which open for boats. It's also South Florida's oldest causeway (in continuous operation since 1926) and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. As for its length, just pick the mile that best suits your needs. For those who seek to be mesmerized by glittering panoramas, there's no better place than the western side. Whether by bike, car, or on foot, this is the best place to take in the visual wonderland that is the Miami skyline. For those who seek to indulge fantasies, the eastern section allows for up-close views of luxurious yachts moored at million-dollar homes -- the perfect place to dream of what could be. In fact it was an indulgence of fantasy that created the Venetian. The islands didn't even exist when the causeway was conceived, a detail that didn't stop Miami dream merchants from selling submerged home sites; and the destination -- Miami Beach -- wasn't much more than a sandbar ringed by mangroves. To traverse the Venetian Causeway, then and now, is to blur the line between reality and imagination.

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD NEWSPAPER Biscayne Boulevard Times www.biscayneboulevard.com Development is rapidly altering the landscape of the Biscayne Boulevard corridor in ways both good and not so good. Residents in this area, roughly from downtown Miami to 79th Street, keep track of the changes not through the Miami Herald but through this small, scrappy monthly newspaper that comprehensively tackles nearly every neighborhood issue, from big-picture to the picayune. Helmed by long-time resident and sometime art gallery owner Skip Van Cel, the BBT's tiny staff (supplemented by articles and columns from activists and business owners) cranks out dozens of pieces each month, intense coverage for a fairly small area. Art exhibits, landlord-tenant disputes, new businesses, city politics, development, crime -- it's all there.

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 NEW TREND Pugs in public Most people realize they are mere servants to their dogs and follow their every canine command. What many civilians fail to acknowledge is that dogs collectively have a larger mission -- to eventually rule the entire world. Purebreds like schnauzers and Cirnecos dell'Etna harken back to the dictatorial pasts of their home countries of Germany and Italy to create a mongrelized, utopic vision for governments of the future. The plan begins with an infiltration of public places where humans are known to congregate, such as pubs and markets. (This has already been accomplished without resistance in the Netherlands and countries of the northern Renaissance.) The surest sign Miami is experiencing a Europeanizing, as well as Latinizing, influence is the emerging ubiquitousness of canine "companions" everywhere you go. Rugged Norwegian elkhounds stroll the hushed aisles of Anthropologie while beribboned, snowy Maltese peek out of Birkin bags at art galleries. Some dogs even command their own tables at Lincoln Road cafés and coffee shops. At Nordstrom in the Village of Merrick Park, Karin Albert, a saleswoman in the teen clothing department, reports seeing many Chihuahuas emulating Tinkerbell, the teacup pup who uses Paris Hilton as a public escort. "The dogs are usually really good, and the people with them seem patient and happier," observes Albert. "The dogs seem to enjoy going shopping as much as the girls." Apparently capitalism will remain a fixture in the new four-footed regime.

BEST NOT-SO-CHEAP THRILL Weightlessness Zero Gravity Corp.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

1-888-NO-GRAVITY (1-888-664-7284)

www.nogravity.com If $3750 seems like a lot of money to spend on roughly one minute of weightlessness, well, that's why this gets the Not-So-Cheap award. Based at the Fort Lauderdale airport, Zero Gravity's modified Boeing 727-200 (the only such commercial aircraft certified by the FAA) takes "teams" of 27 customers on a two-hour flight that includes a couple of parabolic maneuvers that allow wannabe astronauts to experience added G-forces (ascent), mild weightlessness (crest), and complete weightlessness (descent). It's nearly a full-day affair, beginning with training, lunch (please stay down...), flight, and informal celebration once back on terra firma. The company, founded by former NASA executive Pete Diamandis, launched its maiden voyage this past September. Apparently lots of people have strong stomachs to match their disposable incomes. Three flights out of Fort Lauderdale are (tentatively) scheduled between now and the end of the year, in July, September, and November.

BEST PARKING ON SOUTH BEACH Bay Road between Thirteenth and Sixteenth streets After a couple of years of major construction, including the Waverly and Flamingo condominium projects, this stretch of road has emerged from the Dumpsters and bulldozers as blessedly unregulated. No parking meters in sight. No residential permits required. (It can't possibly remain this way forever.) The location is convenient -- only a couple of blocks from the west end of Lincoln Road. If you're clubbing on Washington Avenue, park here and cab it over. The spaces are not unlimited, so check early and frequently.

BEST PARTY OF THE YEAR MTV Video Music Awards Dear Diary: Something's up in the MIA. I don't exactly know what it is, but all week Ferraris and Lamborghinis with out-of-state plates have been zooming past me on the highway. Damn tourists with their boku bucks and flashy cars. Dear Diary: I was at a stop light today and Missy Elliot pulled up next to me. I'd do her! Dear Diary: I can't explain it, but everywhere I go I keep seeing Usher plastered on billboards and in newspapers. He's all over the place. I don't know what the hell people see in that Justin Timberlake guy. Dear Diary: Apparently MTV is having its Video Music Awards in Miami this year. That's what all the hype was about. I gotta find a way to get myself close to the action. Dear Diary: I came up with the perfect plan. I'm renting a limo and buying myself a pimpin' suit. The reason? I'm going to pretend I'm a rock star at the Ocean Drive after-party and I'm going to crash it. Dave Navarro and Carmen Electra are going to be there. Dear Diary: It's D-day. Tonight I'm going to party like it was 1999. The limo will be here shortly, the booze is on ice, and I have more plastic baggies than I can fit in my pocket. It's going to be some night. Dear Diary: Where the hell am I? I must have passed out. The last thing I remember was walking the red carpet with a shitload of celebrities like Dave Chappelle and the Beastie Boys. My celebrity whore girlfriend left me to party with Jay-Z and Beyoncé on some private yacht. I didn't care because my long hair, pimpin' shades, and rock star suit made people think I was the frontman of that shitty band Creed. Even John Surgent, one of the principals of some new club in Hollywood called Gryphon, came up and begged me to play at his grand opening. For a while there, I think I was dancing with Al Sharpton. Dear Diary: I shaved my head today.

BEST PLACE FOR A FIRST DATE Miami Improv Streets of Mayfair

3390 Mary Street

Coconut Grove

305-441-8200

www.miamiimprov.com What do you do? Where are you from? Where were you born? Small talk can be downright tedious, no matter how good-looking that stranger sitting across the table may be. Avoid the uncomfortable silences and spend your first date at the Miami Improv comedy club, where local and national stand-up comedians will work hard to keep you laughing as you sip cocktails from a full bar and enjoy appetizers or a complete meal. (Show tickets generally cost under $20, drinks and food extra.) This really is the perfect recipe for first-date success: honest entertainment, drinks, and dinner all under one roof -- and plenty of fodder for conversation when you stumble back out into the night, buzzing from the high of a good laugh.

Readers´ Choice: Just the Funny

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Best Of Miami®