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 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 PLACE TO THROW A PARTY The former building of La Moderna Poesia 5246 SW Eighth Street

Coral Gables Here's a little real-estate advice for any savvy entrepreneur with some green to spread around. Miami Beach is too expensive, and everyone knows downtown is riddled with cranes and dump trucks working away at creating a metropolis for the millennium. But where is that diamond in the rough? The undeveloped area waiting to explode with profit and booze is on the outskirts of the Gables, not far from Little Havana. The vacant building that once housed La Moderna Poesia is just the right size and only blocks away from DJ Le Spam's weekly gig, which is always packed. The Suenalo Sound System commune is right around the corner, as are many of the group's fans. A creative person just might be able to revitalize the area into the new hot hang. Don't be turned off by the demise of the previous tenants. Much of Miami doesn't like to read, let alone in Spanish. Much of Miami does, however, love to party.

BEST FESTIVAL Ultra Music Festival Bayfront Park

301 Biscayne Boulevard

Miami We're sure Russell Faibisch and Alex Omes, the perpetrators behind all things Ultra, would love to hear that their little bash by Biscayne Bay is awesome because of the music lineup -- which is in fact awesome. We're sure the City of Miami would like to hear that Ultra is bomshizzle because it brings people of all races and all ages together under one continuous melodious house beat, which it in fact does. But really, folks, we're not gonna kid around here. Ultra is the absolute best festival because it inspires such an uninhibited, gluttonous consumption of recreational drugs. Imagine the extreme pleasures of smoking blunts, snorting coke and special K, and popping Ecstasy pills of every hue in the rainbow -- from noon until well past midnight.

Readers´ Choice: Miami Improv Festival and Coconut Grove Arts Festival (tie)

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®