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 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 TOUR Redland Riot 305-443-7973

www.redlandriot.com Sunday morning. Rapidly approaching afternoon. Check list. Grind sticky green; twist Chonger for road. Print booklet from Website, crank up music, head down for Redland Riot. Cruise through area's fruity, tropical history in purple haze -- past quaint, funky Cauley Square. Hold joint low when rolling through downtown Homestead. Turn tunes up louder; sing joyfully. Visit Knaus Berry Farm; feast on delicious, oven-fresh, sticky-sweet buns. Profusely thank German Baptist farmers -- praise their heavenly munchables. Stop, stretch, stock up on fruit jelly and fresh veggies at Burr's Berry Farm. Satisfy ganja-related dry mouth at Robert Is Here. Stare goofily at animals while slurping fresh-fruit milkshake. E-mail friends about bus being spacious and comfortable. No loud, rickety airboats. No shady tour guides grasping; no money-grubbing at all. Just sweet relaxation. Down-home treats. Amazing key lime milkshake. A clear view of the glory found in South Miami-Dade. From list check off having blast.

BEST LOCAL BOY GONE BAD Bill Kamal The elegantly dressed and apparently bionic weatherman for WSVN-TV (Channel 7) seemed never to sleep during the 2004 hurricane season, so devoted was he to projecting the speed and movements of Danielle, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne. But the darkest storm was yet to come. Sunday, October 24, he put on shorts, flip-flops, and a sleeveless shirt and then drove his Jaguar to Port St. Lucie to meet a fourteen-year-old lad he'd met via an Internet chatroom. Using a pseudonym, Bill had told his prospective teen date he was looking for "a son" to have sex with. But the forecast that day would not be "sonny." When Kamal arrived at the rendezvous site, there was no kid, just some good ol' boys from the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office. Talk about a tropical depression. The ex-weatherman pleaded guilty and was sentenced this past February to five years in prison (plus probation for the rest of his life) for Internet enticement of a minor for sex.

BEST POET Will "Da Real One" Bell www.willdarealone.com Will "Da Real One" Bell represents the new poetry. He spits words like high-caliber machine-gun fire, and his booming voice sets ears ablaze. He snarls ferocious truth about the things he's seen -- heartbreak and pain, crime and punishment, struggle and poverty. Much of his work is inspired by his hardscrabble Liberty City childhood. His parents still live there, but Will has moved away. "I got tired of coming home and all my stuff was missing," he explains. Now he makes his home in Miami Shores, but "I be keepin' it real for where I am," he stresses. Indeed Will Bell has followed an unusual path to poetry stardom. He discovered his talent while he was a county inmate, serving fourteen months for trafficking cocaine. "It wasn't even the money for me -- it was the lifestyle," he says. "Fast money, money all the time, money every day. You can afford to be very spontaneous when you're raking in four, five grand a day. I wasn't like no Colombian drug lord, but that ain't nothing to sneeze at," he says. "I had a chance to look at who I was when I was incarcerated, which made me make different decisions as a human being when I was released." In 2001 he emerged as Will Da Real One and proceeded to blaze a trail to the top of the local spoken-word scene. Bell was invited to perform on Russell Simmons's HBO program Def Poetry Jam. This past February, he filmed his second appearance on the show. "I've been doing some volunteer work with the Department of Corrections, and I'm trying to introduce poetry workshops in the county jail system." He also co-owns a small coffee shop in North Miami called The Literary Café. "I just got a knack for reaching people," Bell says. "I got a message that I'm trying to distribute, a piece of myself I'm trying to share."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®