Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wild Sex on a Tropical Island

palm beach madagascar animal planetPalm Beach, Madagascar. Credit: Animal Planet/BBC

No, this isn't a private beach at a luxury resort in the tropics, it's a beach in the evolutionary marvel of Madagascar, an island off the coast of Africa. Strange creatures that don't live anywhere else in the world call this beautiful island home, where extremes are the norm. Dry seasons, tropical monsoons, rugged terrains, lush forests and the challenges of survival make for some weird mating habits -- all far more interesting than human sex, for sure!

pygmy chameleons animal planetPygmy chameleons. Credit: Animal Planet/BBC

Talk about having a hard time finding a date. Not even eHarmony would work for the determined male pygmy chameleon, who searches for his tiny counterpart on the thick, leaf-covered forest floor. She is barely two inches long and he is even smaller. Once he finds her, he climbs onto her back and latches on tight, staying there for days before mating. God forbid he should lose her ... or maybe he just wants a free ride.

frog sexYellow frogs mating at Kirindy. Credit: Animal Planet/BBC

This variety of frog is brown year-round except for the short-lived rainy season when they go into a spawning frenzy. The males turn yellow, although no one knows why. Maybe they want to avoid copulating with the same sex. When the waters rise, the frogs hump each other, all pairs side by side, putting any swingers club to shame. Once they lay their eggs, it's back to drab brown for the guys.

But most fascinating is the sexual behavior of the polyandrous Vasa parrot. That's just a fancy word that means the female is a little slutty and sleeps around. But she does this to ensure the survival of her brood, fooling each mate into thinking he's the baby daddy. Perched high atop a tree, she calls out her "come hither" cry and more than one guy shows up to feed her. A girl has to do what she has to do, right? She gets more food for her babies with minimal effort. Pretty damn clever.

The 2-hour Animal Planet special, Madagascar, premiered in March but has been airing on my local cable recently. Stunning visuals and beautiful narration make this a must-see. Catch it if you can. It airs again on October 1st.

Visit Animal Planet to learn more about conservation efforts in Madagascar.

Related: Sex and the Animals at Miami Metrozoo

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Silicone Bitch: Woman Bitching on Twitter Gets Ass Kicked Out of Restaurant

News and notes about the South Florida social media and blogging scene, with a little tech thrown in for good measure. And maybe some other random events, too.

An ethical question plus a tech event update for you in this edition.


This happened earlier this summer, but it has been on my mind since @nataschaos told me about the story.

A woman hanging out at a Texas restaurant got kicked out after she insulted the bartender on Twitter. The manager then called the restaurant, asked to speak with her on the phone and requested that she leave.
The basics of the story: Matsu, an avid tweeter who won a Houston Press Web award for "best late night twitterer," was out enjoying a beer or two (an Allagash to be exact) at Down House with a friend when she overheard a bartender mention Bobby Heugel, a prominent Houston bartender and restaurateur. Matsu told Eater, "I tweeted that I heard the bartender behind the bar at Downhouse quoting Heugel. I said he was a twerp and used #jerkoff."
-- read the full dirt at Eater Houston

I don't know this tweeter and I believe that if you have a popular following, you should have enough delicacy to avoid burning bridges with local businesses you patronize. As a popular broadcaster, you do have a responsibility to the community, especially if you're always out in the world.

I would have thought twice about insulting a bartender in a public forum, even if I had a personal beef with something he said. And the bartender, as well, could have been careful about what he was saying in public within earshot of customers. Nothing is private these days.

But this case raises some questions about customer relations. There is a social media lesson to be learned here.

Can a business really control what its customers say on Twitter any more than on online forums and social networks? Thousands of people can give you bad reviews, whether they be real-time on Twitter or posted after the fact on Yelp, Facebook, blogs -- the list is endless.

Are you going to ban them all from your restaurant?

What's the difference if someone opinionated is blabbing on Twitter?

There could have been a more elegant solution to this to avoid such a PR disaster. It's called a carefully crafted response to the complaining customer.

As well, maybe the customer was right to complain. What if the bartender was truly at fault here? Why not look into the complaint before kicking someone out of the premises? As a business owner, you should be able to turn this negative into a positive by responding to the complaint in diplomatic way and by investigating why the customer was dissatisfied.

The bottom line is this: restaurants shouldn't have their customers walking on eggshells if they choose to broadcast during their meals.

What do you think? Was this an appropriate response?


Mobile Monday is relaunching this Monday, October 3 to discuss mobile payments and commerce. The group meets at 7 PM at the Irish Playwright in Gulfstream Park.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Spice Up the Holidays with Ron Jeremy Rum

Ron Jeremy Rum Media Tasting

I'm usually pretty unapologetic on this blog and when asked if I wanted to meet Ron Jeremy at a media tasting for his new spiced rum, I hesitated a little, since Sex and the Beach is not pornographic -- hell, I don't even like porn and American Apparel ads piss me off -- but I do, however, write about spirits.

And from a marketing perspective, it's interesting to see one of the most famous adult film stars in the world diversify his career.

So there we were, a group of local writers plus Robert Burr, founder of the fantastic Rum Renaissance Festival in Miami, sampling rum last Friday at the Irish Times in South Miami -- a great little family-owned bar on Sunset Drive. Mr. Jeremy, whom, ironically, is not a big drinker, was with us, as well as the founders of One Eyed Spirits, owners of the brand.

The story behind this rum is interesting. The founders -- two guys from Finland who specialize in advertising -- were in Amsterdam one day when one of them drew the idea of "Ron de Somebody" on the back of a bar receipt. Ron is the Spanish word for rum and they needed a famous Ron. Ron Howard and Ron Reagan didn't make the cut, so guess who won out?

After investigating distillers in the rum community, they came upon the legendary Don Pancho, a septuagenerian Cuban expat living in Panama and one of the best rum makers and blenders in the world -- he hails from the old school Cuban beverage industry.

The straight Ron Jeremy rum is aged 7 years and the spiced is blended with a 3 year-old rum. The latter version comes from an old Caribbean recipe that Don Pancho and his business partner, fellow master blender Carlos Esquivel, purchased from a rum family in the islands.

So there you go. Two guys from Finland come up with this idea in Amsterdam, an American adult film star gets involved, and you're sipping rum made in Panama from an old Caribbean recipe, probably aged in sherry barrels from Spain.

See? There really is no sex involved. But sugar and spice, yes. Plenty of it.

The rum is extremely smooth, with very woodsy and smoky notes, brimming with vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon. It definitely transported me to some pirate ship in the Caribbean with balmy breezes pushing us out to sea from Grenada or the Grenadines. When a rum can make you fantasize about pirates and islands, you know it's good.

Try it neat over the rocks, but think of this as the kind of rum you'd also mix into your holiday hot toddies and egg nog. It's definitely a good candidate if you want to spike up your Starbucks Pumpkin Latte on cold, blistery days.

Ron Jeremy Rum Media Tasting
Yes, I went there. He signed his name backward so I could see it in the mirror. But that's as far as we got, trust me!

All kidding aside, I've interviewed hundreds of people in my life and Ron Jeremy was one of the most interesting characters I've ever put in front of a camera. This Jew from Queens whipped out a harmonica and played Amazing Grace for me since I was raised Catholic.

I also asked some questions from twitter friends @miamisnap, @elliem72 and @beahbunnie. Why did you get the name The Hedgehog? What's the proper piña colada to rum ratio? What's your favorite drink to get you in the mood?

For the answers, check out the video below.

Ron de Jeremy is available online and locally at Crown Liquors in Broward as well as The Little Liquor Store in Pompano Beach. Remember to always imbibe responsibly.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Flights to Cuba Are a Joke

For Elian's Mother
This is a drawing I did in honor of Elian Gonzalez's mother, who drowned in the Florida straits while fleeing Cuba in an innertube.

A fellow broadcaster in my Latina blogger's group alerted us today about new flights scheduled to Havana from Atlanta. There are now routes even to Camaguey, my mother's birthplace.
But not just anyone can just walk up to a ticket counter at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and book a flight: Only people whose travel falls under certain categories can be authorized to travel to Cuba, Marazul says on its website.
Read more here.

I realize that people travel to Cuba for some serious personal, humanitarian or educational reasons and I respect their choices. But I also think it's important to spell out why some Cuban-Americans don't go to the island.

Flights to Cuba? Really? My big fat Cuban ass!

The bottom line is this, nothing has changed. I'm still stuck in the rut I've been in all 44 years of my life, being Cuban-American, not being able to visit the island where my parents were born, while everyone else gets to go for "purposeful travel."

Hmm ...

I normally don't get into politics, but this rubs me the wrong way. Here are just a few reasons why I refuse to go to Cuba.

My parents suffered all kinds of hell to get out of that communist snake pit. And they were lucky; others fared worse, dealing with executions and death. Hearing stories about your grandma having to smuggle black market eggs under her skirt because some 12 year old was standing in the corner of the block with a machine gun doing "neighborhood watch" puts a damper on any allure of a tourist brochure, doesn't it?

I can't go out of pure, deep respect for my parents and all who fled the regime. I may not stand for anything, but this I will stick to. When they die and communism is out the door, well, then, that will be a different story. Sure, intellectually, the idea of going there is very appealing, but hell, there are plenty of beautiful beaches in the Caribbean for me to explore.

You can have your Cuba in the meantime.

So until things change, really change, these flights to Cuba are just a fucking joke.

I once published an essay on what it feels like to be a second-generation Cuban-American and I compared it to the ghost pain of an amputation.

It's something so close, yet so far, but you can feel it even if it's not part of you any longer, or never was.

So I don't get to see the house my mother was raised in. I don't have the freedom to traverse those mere 90 miles to research my dad's side of the family's history with Harley Davidson. Damn it, I'd even want to handline a big fish in Cuba's water, Hemingway style.

But most importantly, I don't get to put flowers on my grandparents' graves -- grandparents I never met because of the separation of exile. That is seriously on my bucket list. It gets me teary-eyed and I don't cry about just anything. It hurts that I can't honor their memories because of embargo and politics.

My inability to travel to Cuba freely is still a form of being subjugated to dictatorship.

Nothing, nothing has changed.

Yes, it totally is an amputation. A spiritual amputation -- where I don't get to visit the homeland because of some political bullshit. I don't care what people say, the U.S. and Cuba are bedfellows in this. Things are the way they are because someone very powerful doesn't want it to change. We can go to the fucking moon, take down Muslim terrorists and we can't fix this stupid Cuba issue?

So I am only left with stories that flood my brain and drown my heart in nostalgia for something that is part of me that I am not allowed to experience, taste, feel or see in person.

Cuba, tourists from Europe come to your shores, sleep with your saucy jinetera whores, spend Euros there, and then these same guys tell me, to my face -- as one Basque guy did in Spain -- that I should never say I am Cuban because Europeans equate that with cheap, easy tourist sex.

Really? This is not the country my parents came from.

I'm sorry I'm getting all José Martí on your ass, but you can take those flights and shove it.

I'll see you in Cuba when I don't require special permission to go there. I can't trust any country that wants more than a passport.

In the meantime, your tourist dollars could do some pretty good damage in other beautiful islands like Saint Lucia, Grenada, Aruba ...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Save the Schweddy Balls!

The original Saturday Night Live skit with Alex Baldwin as Mr. Schweddy, founder of a holiday bakery called Seasons Eatings.

I haven't written a lot about sex lately. I cover "stuff that's more interesting than sex" (see my header) and to tell you the truth, this post isn't even about sex. It's about people who have balls and people who don't.

Earlier today, I read a curious piece at Huffington Post about One Million Moms, a group of uptight ladies who are requesting that Americans boycott Ben and Jerry's latest limited edition ice cream.

The humorless, fun-averse conservative group One Million Moms, an offshoot of the American Family Association, is -- once again -- none too pleased with frozen treat liberals. . . .

Yes, boycott an ice cream, people. You heard that right. Like we don't have enough problems in this world.

Sorry moms, I am really grateful that you pushed a human the size of a watermelon out of your vagina and you are probably well-meaning, good moms, but this is simply ridiculous. Why not harness your energy for things that truly matter, like homelessness, famine and domestic violence? It is not and should not be your job to censor and edit the American population.

What is wrong with this country? You let your children play vicious and violent video games and yet you get all your Kmart giant panties in a twist over a completely innocuous and gut-busting funny sexual reference? Good lord! I am sure God is rolling his eyes in heaven in frustration. Why are you wasting your energy over something so harmless?

Guess what? You just did Ben and Jerry's a huge favor, because I am officially launching a Sex and the Beach "Save the Schweddy Balls" campaign. The puritans landed here in the 17th century. It's 2012. We have bigger fish to fry in this great nation. Get over it!

Dear readers, it is your democratic right to not only NOT boycott Schweddy Balls, but also eat it and relish in our freedom of speech to be able to call an ice cream something so memorable. In fact, if you don't eat this ice cream, nay -- if you don't absolutely demand it at your local store -- you are being un-American.

Support your right to be a sensual creature by indulging in this sweet and savory treat, made of fudge-covered rum and malt balls. Let's get crankin' so that Schweddy Balls be available forever!

Also, please eat in moderation. I'm not asking you to gorge and become a fat ass over ice cream. Oh dear, like I need another inch on my luscious Cuban ass and I certainly don't want you to be a photo candidate for People of Walmart either. This is an important symbolic gesture.

By the way, I am not working for Ben and Jerry's. Shit, I don't even like sweets. But this is something I'm willing to support. Oh and I'm trying to find out where the delicious dessert is available in our fair nation's dicktip. I'll update you all as soon as I find out.

Hey, at least the marketing people at Ben and Jerry's didn't call it Crunchy Cojones, but cojones is something you need to have, regardless of gender.

So what say you? Do you have the balls? Be ballsy in life! That's the only way to live and to make a difference in the world.

In fact, even those humble pilgrims had balls to cross an ocean and become pioneers who homesteaded a new nation.

Balls are synonymous with the United States of America.

Long live the balls.

Save the balls!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Disappointed Miami Spice Customer

Wily Raccoon at Matheson Hammock Park
Foraging for fritos in a garbage can instead of shellfish in the mangrove beds. Caught in the act at Matheson Hammock Park.

"What happened to the $35 mangrove oyster special?" asked the wily raccoon. "Scavenging aint what it used to be since the humans arrived."

Talk about eating local and authentic, there's a forward-thinking South Florida conference coming up highlighting on doing the best we can to make the greater Everglades a viable agricultural food economy. Learn more at this home-grown organization and summit at Earth Learning.

Listen to a podcast by Leticia del Mello Bueno from Gastronomisti and Mario Yanez, founder of Earth Learning over at my radio show, co-hosted with Tonya Scholz. Locals at Social Chats -- Earth Learning Podcast.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pirates: Interview with Pirate DJ Bilgemunky

Ahoy, maties! I haven't written about pirates in a while, but I'm gearing up for Pirades in Paradise in Key West later this year, which will add to my Trail of the Pirates Florida documentary travel series.

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, so in honor of all pirates far and wide, I'm treating you to an exclusive interview with Bilgemunky, a pirate DJ who runs an arrr-tastic radio show and website full of pirate-y goodness.

I spoke with Bilgemunky while he was on vacation here in Miami. And yes, I walked unabashedly through the lobby of the Delano Hotel wearing my buccaneer's hat.

Bilgemunky writes about pirate stuff more so from a pop culture perspective than a historical one and his site offers great information. Learn more by watching the video.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Silicone Bitch: From the Blogger's Workshop

News and notes about the South Florida social media and blogging scene, with a little tech thrown in for good measure. And maybe some other random events, too.

Writing Class 1
Oh dear! My most important blogging tip? Keep good posture and support your lower back with a pillow! Photo via kchichster's flickr.

Yesterday, I led a workshop and brainstorming session for some wonderful people who are either already blogging or are interested in blogging. We had quite a creative South Florida group: an artist, a PR professional, a neuroscientist and yoga teacher, a financial trader and social media pro, and finally, a professional horse groomer.

My friend Ivan Mladenovic, owner of Preemo -- computer repairs and website development company -- generously hosted the space. Whereas I tend to focus on editorial, Ivan balanced the conversation out by chiming in with some very intelligent points about Wordpress and the more technical aspects of blogging.

Here are just a few things we shared in the jam-packed 2-hour session:

What is a successful blog?
That depends on your definition of "success." If making money is part of that, then yes, a monetized blog that actually makes money would be considered successful. However, blogging can open many doors and help you create community to connect with others. It can enrich your life when you use the blog as a means to an end, to self-publish and explore a topic you're passionate about.

How often should I blog?
This depends on the type of blog. If you are a magazine type blog with a huge readership, you're probably looking at least 3 posts a day minimum because you have a business engine obligated to push advertising. For the average blogger, this is not the case. You can also determine your pace and shape the expectations of your readership. One really good post once a week is better than several crappy, less crafted write-ups put out with more frequency. Quality and quantity need to remain in balance.

What are local Florida resources?
Try WordCamp, Wordpress meetups, WP Beginner and check out Refresh South Florida for Wordpress workshops and other geeky goodness.

Although I was the teacher in this scenario, in reality we were all teaching each other and as usual, I left the session incredibly grateful for the insight my "students" provided.

A "blog" is just an empty vessel, as I always say -- and it's a technical thing anyone can master. What you put in it is the key. Great and regular content is king here. You have to start thinking like a journalist, an editor and a publisher. It's a thing of beauty you can create, so long as you are persistent, consistent and authentic in your endeavor.

I plan on doing more of these workshops in the future. They are by donation and a great time to meet like-minded people who are interested in self-publishing.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mussels and Martinis

Mussels and Martinis at Timpano's Fort Lauderdale

Do you remember how I raved about the saucy and sensual garlic shrimp in Oahu's Kahuka region?

While I would gladly fly 5,000 miles to repeat that delightful culinary experience, I have found a similar lusty substitute close to home.

I normally avoid I-95 like the plague, but I would happily drive 40 miles to Fort Lauderdale for some of Timpano's mussels and martinis.

My mouth waters like Pavlov's dog on the northbound journey.

The black mussels arrive on a sizzling cast iron skillet coated in sea salt after being roasted in extra virgin olive oil. As if that wasn't enough, a bit of drawn butter for dipping adds a touch of lusciousness. Crusty bread sits waiting to sop up the juices and you'd swear -- once the skillet cools down and nobody's looking -- that you'd lick it after the bread runs out.

The tender mussels are waiting to be ravished, sitting inside pearly shells, heady with the briny fragrance of the sea. This dish transports me to some wild, rugged seashore.

The martinis are perfection too, generously poured and shaken to a very cool, crisp temperature.

This simple but seductive repast can be enjoyed at table or in the Sinatra bar, which features a lounge area with live jazz. Timpano's is a sophisticated joint, but it's warm and casual enough that you can forego your seafood fork and slurp in all that mussel goodness by hand. After all, no meal is truly sensual without it being a little sloppy.

There are so many textures to this dish -- the hardness of the shells, the softness of the meat, the silkiness of the butter, the coarseness of the salt -- all of this makes it so fun to eat. Go here on a date and if the two of you aren't horny by the end of this dish, you'd better be calling your doctor for some help.

Oh, and the rest of their food is pretty damn good, too. But for me, even just the mussels and martinis are worth the schlep.

Timpano's Chophouse is located on Las Olas Boulevard and offers a great happy hour, Monday - Friday 4 to 7 PM, featuring $5 bar menu and 1/2 off select liquors, wines and bottled beers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

TedX Miami Showcases the Best of the Magic City

You want this lanyard, trust me.

TedX Miami outdid itself from last year’s already extraordinary first attempt. Held at the New World Symphony’s new campus, the event brought together nine outstanding speakers from all walks of life who are based in or vested in Miami.

The theme was Between the Lines, which is often where so many dynamic ideas begin.

Every speaker hit a raw chord -- literally, as in the case of the musical presentations – but also figuratively, giving us opportunities to think hard about the potential we all have to come up with positive, life-changing ideas. Every talk moved, inspired and provoked. Sometimes, the audience laughed and I'm fairly certain that in a few cases, there probably wasn't a dry eye in the full house, either.

This is one of the sentences I jotted down last night in my notebook: “The only way I can describe this TedX event is ‘breathtaking’ and it leaves me without words.”

So, I’m just going to give you a brief recap of each talk. But honestly? That can't even begin to do justice to all the profound thoughts that were shared. When you’re done reading, you’ll see why this was so kick-ass awesome and why there's so much more to Miami than meets the eye.

Attendees waiting for doors to open at the Frank Gehry building, the best thing to happen to Miami Beach since Columbus discovered America.

• Bestselling novelist Brad Meltzer begged the question of writing one’s own obituary. You don’t get to write your own obituary, but you do get to have a lasting impact. Your legacy isn’t just about children but about the people you influence in your life. Meltzer brought up the example of Jumbo’s restaurant in Liberty City. Founded in 1955, the restaurant hired black employees during segregation.

• Mathematics, computer and engineering super geek Scott Rickard asked if it was mathematically possible to write music without repetition and patterns. (Repetition is "key" to enjoyment. Think about it: you enjoy music because you know what's coming next.) A short piano piece called the Perfect Ping was performed and though it had no repetition, I dare say I think it’s impossible for the human ear not to seek it out. We are so wired that way.

• The absolutely lovely former fashion designer and now jewelry maker Barbara Devries spoke of Plastic is Forever. One day, she started picking up pieces of plastic debris on Eleuthera’s beaches -- random objects washed out by the hot sun and salty sea. Out of this hobby came not only beautiful jewelry, but also an entrepreneurial program for children in the Bahamas. Ironically, the kids actually sell jewelry to cruise ship guests – the cruise industry being one of the greatest polluters of Caribbean waters. De Vries wants her idea to be copied as there is enough plastic jetsam out there in the world for many more mini-entrepreneurial empires. Something to ponder: how many times a day do you come in contact with plastic?

• Dennis Scholl, Vice President of Arts at the Knight Foundation, spoke of Random Acts of Culture. This is a hell of a fun program. Imagine sitting at a food court in a mall minding your own business when suddenly Joe Schmoe sitting next you gets up and starts belting out opera. Actually, something similar happened last night in the audience as well, catching us by surprise with a rousing performance of Toreador from Bizet's Carmen, full female chorus included.

• My friend and brilliant artist Hugh Macleod exhibited some of his work in the hallway upstairs. The drawings were from the main TED Global conference at Edinburg earlier this year, part of a Dewar's scotch whisky series. (Very smart of Dewar's to sponsor TedxMia by the way. Scotch is sexy and smart.)

• TedX is a forward thinking event and the venue was perfect; the philosophy at New World is aligned. Talk about an idea worth spreading -- it's all about technology and universal access to music and music education. Bill Williams, Dean of Musicians at the New World Symphony, spoke on the subject. I’m just going to quote him: “We are sitting at the intersection of music, architectural beauty, technology and design, connecting musicians from around the world.”

(A personal note here: I used to write art and technology grants for the symphony and I saw this idea grow from seed to its current manifestation. I can’t even begin to tell you how thrilled I was to be in this hall.)

• I fell in love Felecia Hatcher from Feverish Ice Cream. She and her husband make gourmet popsicles from local fruit but it’s her kid’s entrepreneurial program (not unlike the one mentioned above) that really stood out. They have taught 20 kids in South Florida how to create and manage a popsicle truck business –- everything from picking strawberries to marketing in their own communities. That’s something very tasty -- ice cream with a cause.

• Colin Foord of Coral Morphologic discussed two hybrid corals growing, nay, thriving, at the mouth of Government Cut – two true South Beach beauties. An imminent dredging program is threatening the organisms. This is serious science stuff, folks. The corals are exceedingly rare, proving that adaptation is possible is an urban waterway and further study could help revive dead coral colonies in different bodies of water. Find a great article on the subject at Beached Miami.

• Did I say I was in love already? I was absolutely smitten with Shelly Baer, a luminous beauty who grew up with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Her condition is visible in her hands and in her limping walk, but honestly, if you see her real beauty, you can’t tell. My heart sank when she said: “I never looked into a full-length mirror until I was in my early 30s.” Baer was part of a show called Raw Beauty that exhibited in Miami a while back and featured women with disabilities. It was all about breaking stereotypes. “Beauty is in the flaws,” Baer told us with refreshing candor. In a city where plastic surgery is a lifestyle for some, hearing those words was like a breath of fresh air.

• Last but not least, Barrington Irving regaled us on how he broke a world record by flying around the world in an airplane he put together -- not just with mechanical parts -- but with some seriously gutsy grit. He's the youngest person and first black pilot ever to accomplish the amazing feat. Barrington then founded Experience Aviation in Miami, which brings math and science education to kids through a flying simulation classroom, among other programs.


Well, it's exactly what you just read. An evening of great ideas and inspiration and the best fifty bucks you'll ever spend in this town. But fyi: TED is a non-profit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It all started in California 25 years ago. There are global conferences but the “x” offshoots are local, self-organized events designed to get people thinking about great ideas and how they impact community. TedXMia is a high-caliber grassroots effort, requiring devotion and hard work from many curators and volunteers.

Want more? TedXYouthCushman takes place on November 20 with kids sharing their own great ideas. The next TEDxMIA event is December 16 at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. Tickets go on sale next week. I suggest you nab one right away; Between the Lines event sold out a month ahead of time. Videos from last night's event will be available to view on YouTube in the coming weeks. Find details about it all at the TedxMiami website.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 Remembered from Abroad

segovia castle spain

On the morning of 9/11, I was in the centuries-old Spanish city of Segovia. A friend and I had just visited the castle, where my imagination roamed wild, thinking about Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand giving Columbus his orders to explore the alternative spice route to the west that would lead to the “discovery” of a wholly different continent.

It was here, I mused, that America was born.

We then walked around this hilltop city, still stuck in its medieval form, walled in with cobbled stoned streets and broadcasting its even older Roman heritage by the aqueduct that stands strong.

So well preserved is history here that all thoughts of modernity escaped my mind. 9/11 would be a rude awakening from this mental vacation.

At 2:30 PM, we were having lunch at a hole-in-the-wall next to the cathedral. Amid the wine and food, one thing kept us with one foot in the 21st century – a very anachronistic and annoying television. I figured the tube was hanging on the corner of the bar because Spanish people are soccer freaks and watching matches is compulsory citizenship.

But a soccer game wasn't on TV. It was 8:30 AM in the U.S. and like most people, I could not believe what I was seeing. None of the towers had fallen yet. But I would see it all, thousands of miles away from home.

Shaky, clammy, heart racing, floor under me crumbling and sinking: a full-blown and real panic attack ensued. I was completely disoriented and all I could think of was that I needed to call home.

This was before I would ever consider carrying a cellphone abroad. And thanks to the delicious Spanish tradition, every single store in town was closed until 4 PM for the obligatory extended lunch and siesta.

It was an excruciating wait and somehow I managed to polish off my lunch mechanically, but I could have been putting steel bolts in my mouth, honestly, I wouldn't have known the difference. The wine helped but didn’t properly soothe. Every nerve in my body was raw yet I felt disconnected from my surroundings.

We eventually found a pharmacy that sold calling cards. My friend had to buy it for me because I couldn’t make sense of what the clerk was saying. Coins were dropping from my hands. I handed the money to my friend and she took care of the transaction.

I also struggled to remember phone numbers and my friend had to dial for me.

Not surprisingly, phone lines were jammed.

roman aqueduct segovia

I smashed the receiver onto the hook and just walked away. I simply gave up. There was nothing I could do and I let the feeling of helplessness guide me, trusting my family was ok.

We wandered aimlessly around the streets in a surreal haze. I remember thinking about all the bloody history of this city and how its Roman aqueduct still stood strong.

“America is a young country,” I kept telling myself. “We don’t have ancient monuments.” This was the only thing that could anchor me. Buildings can fall but people can rebuild and be strong.

I had to spend an extra two weeks in Madrid because I couldn’t get a flight home any sooner. My Spanish friends and acquaintances were very sympathetic but in general there was a feeling in the air that Americans deserved it and that we finally got what it means to have terrorism in your own backyard.

This only reinforced my sense of what it means to be American. As much as I loved my Spanish roots, I was not going to give up on the land where I was born.

And even though I felt my world fall apart that day, it was those old stone structures of Segovia that gave me some sense of hope.

Friday, September 09, 2011

The Best 'No' That Was Ever Said

beach girl enjoying day in sun
I was going to title this post as "Some More Thoughts on Celibacy" but then by some delicious serendipity my friend and lovely writer Maura Hernandez wrote this on Twitter: "Saying 'no' feels good. You should try it."

This hit me at the core, because it was exactly the phrase I was looking for in the wordsmith mill. You see, last night, after dinner with friends in Fort Lauderdale, I walked around in a club on Las Olas, looking for a few strays who had left the table for some diversion while a few of us finished our cocktails.

The place was hazy, shadows and lights in stark contrast, bouncing off the walls like the music -- scantily clad club goer bodies everywhere and I couldn't find my friends.

I'm not surprised they didn't stay.

There were an unusual amount of women who looked like Russian whores and lots of young Guido types. The bouncer, who was a Caucasian refrigerator about ten feet tall, wasn't carding people. But his mountainous stature was all for naught -- I suspect the biggest threat to the place was a Boca bitch wearing steel sharp stilettos, lording it over with her cheap hundred dollar hair extensions. The spot wasn't particularly appealing to me. It reeked of fake. It portended sex for money, not love.

And then it happened. The ex-boyfriend just swooped into my line of sight, life flashing before me in a 30 second B movie that I hate to replay.

I saw him mingling with some "kids" in the corner.

How is it possible to feel compassion and repulsion at the same time?

Honestly, nearly a year and half later, that's what I felt.

And I was a bit surprised ... I hadn't thought about him at all in months.

All this bolstered my now conscious decision to be celibate in a sex-crazed world, a world that defines relationship that way.

Because along the path of celibacy, I have also developed some of the best relationships I've ever had, some that have made my life more meaningful and given me great purpose -- something I could never achieve with the ex and much less so wearing the mask of cheap romance.

But more about the evening.

It probably wasn't a coincidence that some of my dining companions were a lovely couple that had found love under some rather challenging circumstances. One of party is going through a divorce and the other was encouraging the partner to feel compassion for the soon-to-be ex-spouse.

People come into our lives for a reason. Perhaps if my ex had not come into my life, I wouldn't have had the trial experience and I wouldn't be where I am today, feeling very complete on my own and very anchored in this drifting process of living. Because we are all drifting towards death and it is all a process, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. I know it sounds morbid, but if you don't appreciate every breath you take, warts and all, you aren't really living.

Why do I tag this blog as a "guide to chronic living"? Because we can't help it. Life is a gift.

And my friend Maura is right. Every 'no' is a great thing, because it opens opportunities not only in our own lives but to someone else and elsewhere. Every time I say 'no' someone else gets a 'yes' ... it is all a give and take in this interconnected web, an interchange and market of the same energy.

You cannot possibly feel alone when you feel connected this way.

This is why, even though it sucked to see my ex and I thanked God he didn't acknowledge or recognize me (I've lost weight and after all, it was a crowded lounge), I can still project love to him.

I still wonder, however, how I could have ever spread my legs for that man, and I know every woman can relate to that.

And regardless, we were not the right match.

When I was younger, I thought that people gave me funny looks for being single and childless. Now, I think the "funny look" might have been a glance of envy for the power and freedom I enjoy because I'm single and childless.

There is nothing wrong with love and having a family, but there is also nothing wrong with honoring a path of devotion to others that are not your biological family. That is really what celibacy is all about. Actually, being celibate is all about love. Real love, agape love -- devotion to the world -- not just one individual.

When I hear my single friends whine about men and loneliness, I wish I could reach into their hearts and show them that there's so much more to life than sex and romance. There's nothing wrong with sex and romance, but the heart needs to aspire to more eventually. We are bigger and better than that.

Sex and romance can be true detractors from our real purpose.

So far, I've told you there's nothing wrong with a bunch of contradictory things and now I'm going to mix it up and tell you that I have no clue what the right thing is for you or anyone, but I do know this: no lover will ever take away my purpose in life. He'll contribute to it. And I won't settle for less. Love is enormous and his heart better be even bigger. We will swell and sway together.

In the meantime, I'm happy to be in this path.

Those two little words 'no' and 'yes' can define us in so many ways. They help set boundaries. You can still be loving and refuse with a 'no' when it's the right thing to do. And you can take huge leaps of faith when you say 'yes' for the right reasons as well.

If my ex hadn't said 'no' to me, I would've been in a place that I would have never wanted to be. He did me a huge fucking favor. I am grateful to him for that even if it makes no sense or it rhymes with reason in a twisted way.

Think about that simple word 'no' ... it could be your most fortunate destiny.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Handlining on Biscayne Bay

Handlining at Dusk, Miami Style
Matheson Hammock Park

I snapped a photo of this fisherman handlining at dusk during high tide with low wind. A thunderstorm had just passed, so the air was slightly charged, but it was quite serene, like the sensation of post-coital release. You might even call it perfect.

Here you'd probably fetch some juvenile snapper because of the shallows and proximity to the mangrove that makes this an ideal fish nursery. All would have to be released because of size limits. I do fantasize of reeling in a big snook or feisty jack when I walk around here though. You need good shore casting skills to sink a lure into the deeper channels when the tide is low and the predator fish are feeding.

I fondly remember wade fishing with Sir Fish A Lot in this gem of a Miami-Dade park. There are crocodile warning signs on the flats, but as far as I know, no one has ever been seriously threatened by that amazing reptile. In fact, I'd be thrilled if I could actually spot one. I always have my camera phone ready, just in case.

Never Smile at a Crocodile

I almost reluctantly post this because I don't want to give up my secret bliss. Matheson Hammock is one of the many reasons why I moved from South Beach back to the mainland. The tropical beauty of this public park is unparalleled in Miami-Dade.

I've seen dolphin around these waters as well and some very sexy kite surfers when the wind comes up to speed. I'm eternally grateful to William Lyman Phillips, the architect who designed this park as well as adjacent Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. His vision was to create a "wow" tropical landscape and thank heavens this part of the bay has not been populated by high rise condos. Even though it's not an island, it feels like one. Much more so than the beaches.