Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sexcrunch: Looking for Sex in All the Right Spaces

All the news that's fit for bed, served between the sheets. Don't ever say you aren't getting any!

photo of dogs copulating by Miami Fever Photo by the fabulous Miami Fever


Sexual Healing, an article by Michael J. Mooney at Broward/Palm Beach New Times touches on the emotional side of sexuality. If you really think about it, how many of us aren't in need of the right healing touch? It's no wonder there is only one certified sexual surrogate in the state of Florida. Most people think of sex as something that's supposed to happen a priori, naturally -- a given. But the truth is, we get degrees in all kinds of vocations and yet very few of us actually practice the art of sex, which should be so deeply integrated into our lives as spiritual beings. Caught up in our daily, stressed out, internet lives, many of us have lost touch. Yes, simply touch. And that's why a full grown man can break down in the most innocuous of circumstances:

He extended his hands to her body. First to her hands and arms, then her shoulders and stomach, and soon her breasts. As his hands moved over Catherine's soapy body, he gulped. His eyes turned glassy. His hands shook. He felt a twisting deep in his chest.

Soon it was too much for him. The merchant marine was overwhelmed by the experience. He began sobbing.

While part of me thinks this would be a really fucked up career choice, I can't help but think this woman is doing a few people a healthy favor.


Oh yeah, just when you thought getting laid in gravity-laden earth was a challenge, some scientists are worried about astronauts who may be forsaking sex while in orbit. Oh, give me a break! If I'm traveling to Mars, sex is just not going to be a basic human need like water, food and waste disposal. Nevertheless, I applaud the dudes for thinking about the naughty stuff. After all, floating around in closed quarters may make you horny. And I'm sure that someone has done the nasty up in space. Russians? Americans? Anyone?


Well, whether you are bound to the planet or flying in the 100-mile club, I do hope you'll make the best of your God-given ability to kiss. Dr. Marty Klein at Empowher talks about the art of kissing. And ya know, he's gotta point! As my favorite sex therapist/philosopher once said: "Women are like crock pots. Go slow."
So, there is something about kissing that is really, really intimate and I think what it is that kissing takes place up here where we think we live as opposed to intercourse taking place down there which we can have some sort of psychological distance from.
Even though Dr. Klein ended his run-on sentence with a preposition (granted, it's a transcription), I must agree, kissing is pretty much a real litmus test of someone's ability to focus on sex. If a guy can't stop and smell the roses for a few minutes -- er, I mean, stop and let his tongue linger in your mouth (or elsewhere) -- without concentrating his mental energy on so many other things, well then, you've got an intimacy issue. Actually, it's true for everyone. The bottom line is that kissing is a good test for ADD. Multitasking in bed only works if you're multitasking for your partner's pleasure. I say, in this case, a kiss isn't just a kiss, but a foretelling of things to come -- or not.

Next time you kiss someone, pay attention to the energy behind the kiss. Is that person really present and kissing you? Don't you just know if they're faking it?


Maybe the next level substitute for a real human being surrogate is an electronic one. Hey, don't knock it. It might help a few people work through their challenges.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Nature Girl: Fishing

fly fishing photo by angie chestnutPhoto courtesy of Angie Chestnut

Since I started my Volunteering at Fairchild blog, a Flick friend of mine, keylargo_diver – who takes wonderful photos of South Florida with vintage cameras, by the way – started teasing me about this new side to Manola. “It makes me think of Carl Hiassen’s novel, Nature Girl,” he noted. I had never read Hiassen’s novel, so I picked up a copy at the library and found that I couldn’t put it down. But as much as I loved the story and all its quirky characters, I can’t say I’m as crazy as its main female protagonist, Honey Santana. But my friend is right -- I do have one thing in common though with Honey – it’s the love of South Florida in its natural state. And so I thought to take advantage of what my friend called “a major shift in consciousness” to write about my adventures in the Everglades. Here is part 1 of the series.


Back in ‘90s I used to go fishing in the backcountry of the Everglades almost every weekend. As you’ve probably guessed, I did it because the man in my life then was devoted to the sport. I didn’t mind, because becoming an angler also meant that I could regularly escape from urban Miami into the remote, primeval wilderness.

But this wouldn’t be the first time I had cast a line in the water. When I was a little girl, my family would go fishing on the catwalk suspended under the Bear Cut bridge in Key Biscayne. I would stand in the shadows looking down, awed by the relentless energy of the water swooshing below, echoing loudly in my ears. My clumsy fingers would hold the thick line spooling from the yo-yo, palpating the heavy sinker as it dragged in the direction of strong currents. Wrapped in the mist of sea spray, I would wonder about the finny creatures below, swimming in and out of the cut. I patiently and eagerly waited for the telltale tug that meant a fish was nibbling at a squishy chunk of squid.

Once, I stuck a hook on my leg, and even though I was startled and cried as my dad pulled the barb out of my flesh, I quickly went back to platform’s edge with my spool, determined to catch a fish.

I don’t recall ever catching a fish then, but years later, as a grown woman, I would catch more than my boyfriend, who spent so much time maintaining the boat, steering and tying knots, that he basically became my personal guide. You see, even though fishing is a male-dominated sport, it’s also male-supported. Even though guys get to do everything, they also get to do everything for you.

But let’s not get caught up in gender disparities; ideally, fishing requires the effort of at least two people. Though not impossible, it’s not easy for one person to do everything – I still wonder if I could ever trailer a 17-foot flats boat into the water during low-tide in an cranky old ’86 Chevy Blazer Silverado. I had a hard enough time parking that gas-guzzling beast in the streets of Miami, although it did give me a sense of security on the road. Nobody would dare fuck with this Cubanita behind the steering wheel!

Our fishing involved responsibilities assigned to whomever could do things best. He did all the heavy-duty guy stuff, while I focused on all things girly, like making sandwiches. I also got my ass out of bed at 3:30 am without complaining, because the reward was being on the water in Florida Bay just before sunrise – the liminal, magical hour.

My other reward was intellectual and satisfied my inner explorer. Since he always steered the boat, and we never used GPS or a depth finder, I became a navigator. I poured over marine charts of Florida Bay and the backcountry, learning the contours of waters beneath us as if they were, literally, like the back of my hand. I had to -- navigating is no divining skill. Distinguishing the shallow flats from deeper channels and predicting how navigable each would be in the fluctuations of the tides is absolutely necessary.

Our boat, named Cyan because of the color of its hull, was a 17 Hewes Bonefisher. Cyan had a shallow draft so it could float even in about 12 inches of water. At the stern, a platform stood above the outboard motor.

In shallow water, he would raise the motor, hop onto the platform and "steer" the boat with a 16-foot pole, pushing down on the muddy flats to propel it forward. The work was challenging, even in slack tide with a weak current. Although he huffed and puffed, the vessel would glide quietly through the water, without spooking fish or damaging fragile grassbeds. The platform also served as a higher vantage point from where to spot fish. He would always call out instructions: “Fish at 3 o’clock. Cast lightly.”

Fishing in the backcountry is a predatory sport. Like hunters, we watched for signs of activity and approached stealthily. Polarized sunglasses, which reduce glare on the water’s surface and enhance contrast, helped us see what was going on just underneath the water’s surface, even on a cloudy day.

Gold and silver spoons fooled the eyes of hungry tarpon tailing in the shallows. Live shrimp attracted feisty jacks in the channels. Bobbers were meant for snook feeding by the mangrove roots – a fishing technique that sometimes attracted half-submerged alligators in the early morning. These wily reptiles would follow the bobber to the boat and then swim back to the mangrove, waiting for us to cast again. Sometimes, they proved to be such a nuisance that we had to pull up anchor and fish elsewhere until afternoon.

We only ever took home whatever we were going to eat fresh the next day, which we preferred to cook simply as possible. More often than not it was a filet of sea trout, thrown into a pan with butter, lemon and dill. We always practiced catch-and-release and obeyed wildlife regulations.

Now, you’re probably wondering if I ever did anything on this boat besides navigate, fish and eat sandwiches – all this while the poor man slaved away at the “guy stuff” for my fishing pleasure.

I never quite got the hang of tying knots, no matter how much I tried. Whenever my line broke, it was just easier for him to fix it. It wasn’t exactly textbook co-dependency, but close enough. I wish I could go back now and tie my own knots, damn it. Or at the very least, I wish that he had been firmer in insisting that I learn. If I ever fall in love again with another fishing fool, I’ll make sure to enroll in Knots 101 straightaway.

I did at least file down the barbs of my hooks so that the metal would slide easily off a fish’s bony mouth, minimizing damage during the struggle. Besides, it was more sportsman-like to give the fish a fighting chance.

But perhaps I've been telling you a bit of a tall tale, which anglers are wont to do. You see, it’s not as if he never fished -- it’s just that I caught more. Sometimes, even when we anchored in one spot for a long time and I had absolutely no need whatsoever for his assistance, he would try so many different strategies that he would inevitably spend more time fussing with tackle than with his hands on the reel.

I used to say that fishing was like Secret deodorant: strong enough for a man but made for a woman.

Actually, it was more like this: requiring a man’s strength, but also a woman’s patience.


After countless weekends engaged in this activity called fishing, I realized that I had become more than an angler – I had morphed into a naturalist of sorts. After all, in order to catch fish, we had to be experts on their behavior; we had to understand how they interacted with their environment. Everything was connected.

I had turned into a bird watcher, a botanist, an environmental steward and a lover of unspoiled Florida.

Out in the silent, vast territory of the Florida Bay, every mangrove looked the same against the flat horizon. The muddy water, colored like pea-soup, ran endlessly under the weight of big skies. It was easy to lose perspective here, especially in oppressive heat, but instead, our observation skills grew keen -- every breath of wind, every shift in the tides, every flutter of a heron’s wings, every shriek of a hawk, every falling leaf, every blooming flower – everything struck the senses deeply and the soul even deeper.

The smell of the Everglades at sunrise, that sweet indescribable scent of this amazing ecosystem taking its first collective breath at dawn, is something I will never, ever forget.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Planet Manola: The Truth Is Out There

Random news, commentary and photographs. Updated at least once every menstrual cycle, if not more frequently. If you are easily offended, do not read on!


On the one-year anniversary of my heart troubles, my dear friend Stephanie Quilao, publisher of Back in Skinny Jeans, asked me to write a guest post on her blog about a very personal issue I've never discussed here.

She urged me to share my untold story because I have recently made a complete recovery from a crippling, long-term episode of anxiety disorder and agoraphobia. And in the process of getting my life back, I lost 50 pounds.

You may be surprised to learn that I started this blog in one of the darkest moments of my life. In the post, I explain why the quirky phrase "a single woman's guide to chronic living" is so significant.

I thought it would be challenging to discuss this condition publicly, but the truth is, there is nothing to be afraid of and no reason for holding back. Millions of people worldwide suffer from anxiety disorder and if I can help ONE person find inspiration and hope, it will all have been worthwhile!

Read "Overcoming agoraphobia, panic attacks and losing 50lbs in the process" at Back in Skinny Jeans.

Thank you Stephanie for encouraging me to write this post. As always, it's an honor to contribute to your incredible, inspirational blog!

By the way ... Stephanie will be speaking at a BlogHer session on Saturday. If you're attending, don't miss it!


On an unrelated note, I found out yesterday that this blog is in very good company! Citylink Magazine, where I used to write a column, considered Sex and the Beach as one of four of South Florida's sexiest blogs written by singles. The other three were Ipanemic, Naked Boy Chronicles and Restaurant Gal.

Thanks Citylink!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Planet Manola: Of Poems and Plants

Random news, commentary and photographs. Updated at least once every menstrual cycle, if not more frequently.


Not long ago, I bumped into my high school English teacher while taking the Metrorail downtown. Peggy Hall is retired now, but she and her partner Sandra Riley (another former teacher) have been writing poems, books and making films for years.

I just love Hall's homegrown South Florida verse in the form of a classical Italian sonnet. What local can't relate to this?

Seasonal Amnesia

Miami summer skies, puff-bloated black
by three o'clock, chase faces red or pale
from pink cabanas by the pools, assail
slow picnic parties with swift thunder cracks
and scare us all with lightning rickrack
quick-basted down from sky to sea—I shall
desist from piling up these dire details
and simply ask, Knowing this, who'd come back?

The old, who rise to take diurnal walks,
the young, who bed the day until sunset,
some Witnesses, who knock from door to door,
flambéed tourists, who come to shop and gawk,
and optimistic natives, who "forget"
each daily storm and crowd the blonde seashore.

As a highly creative team, Riley and Hall started a non-profit arts and culture organization that puts on some shows each year. This coming Saturday, July 12, Hall and others will be performing some of her poetry at the New Theatre in Coral Gables. Other events will follow in the summer. Visit Crystal Parrot Players for details.


Speaking of poetry, I recently read my Pillow Poems at The Bohemia Room on Lincoln Road. Joining me were two other fellow poets, Carlos Miller and Brad Schenck, as well as 411 colleague Suzy C.

The theme that night was Cunnilinguistics: Erotic Poetry. You'd think that'd be a natural for me, right?

Our gorgeous, vivacious host welcomed me warmly but the audience reception was lukewarm. Not that there was anything wrong with the audience or with my little verses; my coffee-house-meets-boudoir groove was simply out of place. Kind of like that movie Save the Last Dance -- ballet in a hip-hop world.

However, I just loved the down and dirty rhythmic spoken word style of the other poets, so deliciously raunchy and unabashed. One woman sang a beautiful, soulful song -- a weekly crowd favorite. Surrounded by such talent and loungy DJ interludes, I can't think of a better way to spend late night on hump day, even if it will occasionally interfere with beauty sleep. I'll definitely be back, but first this white girl better play some funky music.


I think I might have to change the title of this blog. After all, what could be sexier than a tryst in a lush, tropical garden, surrounding by the sweet, intoxicating scent of ylang ylang? Well, if you can get past the heat, humidity, bugs and pesky raccoons ... but heck, at least you wouldn't have any sand lodged in your crotch!

I started a new blog where I can go crazy with plant porn, but the only tryst I'm having in this garden is with those gorgeous trees, flowers and shrubs. And even if I just happened to slip on a banana peel and fall on top of a hunky, shirtless gardener, I wouldn't tell ... or would I?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Erotic Verse: Skinny Dipping

leda and the swan
A sudden splash: my sly eyes lowered still
Above the swaggering man, his thighs caressed
By the dark waves, my hands caught in his thrill,
He holds me helpless crest upon crest.

How can those terrified shy fingers roam
The wearied glory from my loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white foam
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders yet
The broken lust, the burning heart and flower
And past loves dead.

Being so swept up,

So mastered by the brute waves of the sea,
Did I put on his baggage with his power
Before the indifferent dick could let me be?

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