It was like a scene out of Grand Theft Auto IV: While vice cops were sorting out the detritus of a predawn raid on downtown's Pink Monkey nightclub, still more hell broke loose. A stolen ambulance with an (allegedly) intoxicated driver behind the wheel came careening down Franklin Street and smashed through the police roadblock. Before it came to rest, its windshield shattered and its hood ripped off, the ambulance had sideswiped or smashed into a trailer, another ambulance, a private car and a police car. The driver, who went unnamed in all the coverage of the chaos, was cut out of the wreckage with the jaws of life and headed to the hospital, before eventually joining the 140 other people headed to jail on that most dramatic of Saturday nights. Authorities later learned that the miscreant had absconded with the meatwagon from a Galleria-area 24-hour Starbucks.

Houston architect Brett Zamore was featured in Best of Houston® 2002, after he rehabbed a house as an architecture student at Rice University. The house won "Best Shotgun Shack." Zamore now runs his own company, and his designs are creating a buzz. Perhaps most notable are Zamore's "kit houses." The kits aren't preassembled, but all the materials are shipped to the build site. The houses take a builder about 20 weeks to complete. Zamore has seven designs for his kit house, and a couple are being built in the Heights. In 2006, Zamore won the Architecture for Humanity's Biloxi Home Competition for his post-Katrina work.

Let's face it, in a day and age when paying five bucks or possibly more for a gallon of gas has become a reality, not driving is more than just nice. It's great. Think of it: No hour-plus commutes each way with ridiculous amounts of traffic. Downtown, you can do this strange activity many Houstonians previously thought to be long extinct called walking. If you want, you can also ride that thing in the back of your garage you haven't used since you got your driver's license. It's called a bicycle.

Discovery Green
Photo by Katya Horner

Susanne Theis is the programming director for Discovery Green, the 12-acre, $122 million park opened in downtown Houston this year. As such, she'll be responsible for getting people to the park. If her track record is any indication, she'll succeed. Theis was with the Orange Show for 25 years, helping to make it — and the Art Car Parade — become a destination, signature place and event. She managed to do it without using the words "zany" or "wacky" to describe the offbeat aspects of either. She's got a great imagination and terrific energy, and she's absolutely devoted to Houston and its art scene.

No, it doesn't have the most verdant grounds or the prettiest headstones, but there is ­something utterly Houston about this 1,100-square-foot family graveyard in Spring Branch. Could it be that it is tucked in the corner of the parking lot of a tire store on the corner of two strip-mall-ridden Spring Branch thoroughfares? Why yes, it could. The Hillendahl Cemetery and its 19 slumbering German farm volks stand as a perpetual testament that even in bottom-line Houston, some matters, like family pride, can trump the relentless onward march of sprawl.

Is Lloyd Kelley the best civil attorney in Houston, home of some of the legendary giants of the courtroom? Probably not. But he is the best civil attorney this year, for no other reason than he gave us the vastly entertaining soap opera and career implosion of District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal. Clumsily romantic e-mails, dumb ethnic jokes, remarkably inept explanations to a federal judge — it was a wonderful show, watching the pious born-again DA go down in flames. And we owe it all to Kelley, who took a run-of-the-mill suit and used it to create the best soap opera of the year. If that's not good enough to make him Best Civil Attorney, we don't know what is.

Best Contribution to ­Downtown Development

Discovery Green

Discovery Green
Photo by Katya Horner

Let's say it was any year up until 2008, and you were a tourist in Houston, staying downtown, and it was Saturday afternoon, and you had got your kids with you. (Bear with us here, we're on a roll.) What was there for you to do? The tunnels are closed weekends, as were most of the restaurants, and there are no museums worthy of note downtown. In fact, until this year, outside of the ungodly expensive Fertitt-arium, there wasn't a thing to do at all other than stroll parking lots and dodge crackheads. But now a vast prairie of little-used parking lots has been replaced by Discovery Green, a dozen or so acres of green space, bocce courts, lakes, water parks, performance spaces and restaurants. Sure, the name of the place is meh and they got a little sponsor-happy, but when you take in a concert at Discovery Green, you really feel like Houston is giving Chicago a run for its money as America's third city. Readers' Choice: Discovery Green

Probably everyone knows the apple trick, and we had a high school friend who once ­MacGyvered a crude bong out of a half-deflated basketball, but this one takes the cake: In May, Houston police arrested three teenagers for digging up the skeleton of an 11-year-old boy buried in 1921 and using his skull for a bong. They were charged with "abuse of a corpse" — a misdemeanor. (Unfortunately, there is no law against being a total dick.) They confessed to digging up the remains over a two-day period — and The Man says the reefer makes you lazy! Talk about a bunch of potheads — hey-oh!

In years past, Judge Mike McSpadden was regularly in the media, creating or joining an ongoing controversy. Nowadays the veteran isn't in the limelight as much, but he still provides the fairest trial you'll get at the hang-'em-high Harris County courthouse. He knows all the tricks, he knows when a defense attorney — or even a prosecutor! — isn't as prepared as he or she is trying to appear. He cuts through the B.S. and tricks and gets justice. What more can you ask?

Your client is an illegal immigrant who got drunk and killed a cop. He's on trial in Harris County, which sends more convicts to Death Row than most hemispheres. And you somehow convince a jury to forsake the death penalty and give a sentence of life without parole? That is some lawyering. Danalynn Recer, founder of the anti-death penalty group called the Gulf Region Advocacy Center, did just that in the high-profile case of Juan Quintero, convicted in the killing of HPD officer Rodney Johnson. Johnson was, by all accounts, a good man who didn't deserve his fate, but Recer convinced jurors (in Harris County!) that, as she told one friend, local residents "are not as bloodthirsty as we've been led to believe."

Best Of Houston®

Best Of