Friday, May 29, 2009

My Private Parts: Twitter

twitter screenshot
Some folks have recently asked me why the heck I keep my Twitter account private and my follower number low if I'm so into social media. I've considered making my account public many times, but so far have had no compelling reason to do so.

Still, the question begs an answer, so I'd like to share my thoughts with you. Everybody has different uses for Twitter; there's no wrong or right way. Below is what simply has worked for me.

There isn't necessarily any strength in numbers. Quality is much better than quantity.

Having a bazillion followers I can't interact with does me no good whatsoever. Many follower requests are from spammers or people who just want me to follow them back. There is no rhyme or reason behind their follow requests. They don't know my blog. They don't know who I am. They don't give a rat's ass about what I have to say.

Following a bazillion people also does me no good whatsoever. Twitter is about interacting and it would be logistically impossible to interact with so many people on a regular basis, even if it was my full-time job. If I follow a bazillion people, my tweet stream will be flooded and I'll miss the tweets of those people I actually care about. Even if I use a program to separate my streams into different groups, what's the point if I'm going to ignore most of them?

I currently have 597 followers, most of whom probably care about what I have to say and who actually retweet my messages. Why do I need a bazillion followers when even ONE retweeted message can reach thousands?

A core, stable and steady group of followers who also interact with each other is far more effective, I think, then talking to a bazillion people who are not genuinely engaging me. The latter is like talking to a packed house of people who paid to come see me, as opposed to the former, which would be like mouthing-off to theater full of empty seats.

I don't want my Twitter account to be a soapbox. Let's care about what we have to say, to each other.

Twitter isn't a freakin' high school popularity contest. I don't care if your milkshake is better than mine. Just because you have a bazillion followers doesn't mean you necessarily provide quality tweet.

If your self-esteem is wrapped up in high Twitter rankings and your inner child throws a tantrum when you lose followers, seek therapy. Always make sure your Twitter ego is smaller than your ass, if you want to get over this rankings bullshit.

I don't put my dirty laundry out on twitter, but I do say things that I don't want the whole world to know, and by whole world, I'm including family, clients or potential clients who might not understand my exaggerated and comedic voices, my raunchy comments, etc; the kind of thing you're used to hearing here from Manola and company. However, once I know you're ok with my brand of humor and Twitter-talk, you're in. Once you get that I'm tongue-in-cheek, it's cool. Still, my Twitter stream is not for wusses or prudes. I want to be me, and all shades of me, without having to censor my voice.

I realize this is a sensitive issue, considering that many people are fans of this blog. In keeping my account private, I'm not holding court over some exclusive Twitter cabal. I'm not being a snob. The truth is, when I get a follower request, I don't know who that person is from Adam, unless I have actually met that person, or someone I already know on Twitter has referred that person to me.

How do I know Joe Blow isn't going to sabotage my online presence somehow? How do I know Joe Blow isn't some creep? How do I know Joe Blow isn't impersonating someone who wants to spy on me? I know that sounds crazy, but shit does happen online. There is a real issue of TRUST in online social networks, heck, even sometimes with people you thought you knew and could trust. So letting people follow you blindly and in droves means that you are being blind to your audience, unless you take the time to get to know them, one by one.

I get hundreds of follower requests. If I had to research each and everyone, I'd be poor and living under a bridge. People with public Twitter accounts face the same problem, too. Having to sort through all your followers to see if you want to follow them back is a Herculean task.

Again, most of them do not give a shit about my Twitter stream. They only follow me because they want me to follow them back. There is no common interest, no professional affiliation, nada.

I have been blogging for nearly four years. My real strength is in my blog. My Twitter account is not a substitute, although I do say a lot of funny shit on Twitter. That being said, I recently had a fan of Sex and the Beach email me, saying she'd love to follow me on Twitter. This was clearly not a random follower request from someone who doesn't know jack about my work, so I accepted her request. Oh, and I was really flattered, too.

(If you go to my Twitter account page @vicequeenmaria, you'll see a link to my writer's site, Wily Wordsmith. So if you can't follow my twitter stream right away, you can certainly get to know me and my work. All my other accounts, Youtube, Seesmic, Flickr, etc; are public and accessible from my writer's site, as well as this blog.)

And speaking of finding ... unlike Facebook, Twitter doesn't give potential followers the option to contact me directly via Twitter. So really, let's be honest: out of 38 requests I currently have pending (I've turned down hundreds), I want to know why a husband and father of four from Wyoming who works in a completely unrelated field wants to follow me. How did you find me? What's the point? What's the quality of my interaction with you, when I already follow 369 people and actively engage dozens of people on a daily basis?

Even if Twitter made contact an option, it would certainly be abused by spammers, creeps and trolls. And so it is.

Social media is SOCIAL! I recently attended a couple of tweetups in Broward and Boca Raton. I made several new Twitter friends in the process, and also connected with existing Twitter contacts I had never met in person. As a result, I now have REAL, meaningful Twitter conversations with a whole group of people north of the Miami-Dade county line.

Twitter doesn't mean a thing for me if it's not followed up by real, person-to-person, face-to-face contact. Having a bazillion strangers follow me on Twitter does not a strong social media presence make. I have to back all this up by showing my face at events. I need to be a connector in real life, too, not just in writing. For social media like Twitter to really work (at least for me), I need to build my relationships slowly and organically. Nothing can be forced. Fewer, but stronger, relationships go a long way. The mob mentality simply doesn't work.

I see Twitter as a place to socialize, network and share information. For me, it's like having people I care about come over and hang out in my living room. Throw a bazillion followers into the equation and it's a rock concert. A rock concert is fine, but not everyday. My daily Twitter experience truly enriches my life on a social and professional level. Having a bazillion followers will not enrich my life.

On the flip side, here's another amazing reason for fine-tuning my Twitter stream, which I can only really do if I moderate the number of people who follow me: quality sphere of influence. Yes, ironically, I can guarantee you my first born that if I shout "TWEETUP!" in any major U.S. city, there will be face-to-face connections with people I at least trust meeting in person. A follower number of 597 may seem small on Twitter, but my influence is way broader in scope.

So far, my strategy has worked for me. I keep my account private because I don't want to be some vapid celebrity with lots of followers. I really, truly care about connecting and interacting. I'm passionate about engaging my audience, not to mention having a good time with my friends. I want to give good tweet and get good tweet back.

Also, I make people knock on my door because it's not a perfect world. The system is flawed, full of spammers and assholes.

Yet, in spite of my private account, I have a very successful social media life, both personally and professionally. I am not a closed book, by any means. I regularly add people to my Twitter stream, I just do so mindfully.

Again, there's no right or wrong way to use Twitter. Twitter is really all about context and I encourage everyone to use it in ways that works for them. It takes time and practice to figure that out.

Some people hate Twitter and find it useless. That's ok, too.

I'll happily adapt and make my account public if I need to, and I may very well do so in the future, but until I have some compelling reason, I'll keep it private.

Planet Manola: Social Media Edition

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!

Even in the hot, sticky and rainy doldrums of South Florida summer, life goes on and gets creative!


life is art ecomb fiestaIn collaboration with Life is Art, my Fiesta Movement bad-ass driver Brad Schenck is celebrating his birthday in socially conscious style with a fundraiser for ECOMB at the lovely Upper East Side Gardens. A $5 suggested donation gets you in to enjoy some drinks, artist exhibits, tunes and even mini-golf!

Since I'm finally off my crutches, I hope to use them as a putt. Learn more about the event here.

Saturday May 30th
7pm - 12am
Upper East Side Gardens
7244 Biscayne Boulevard
Miami, Florida


laidoff camp miami

The first ever Miami-edition of LaidOffCamp, featuring FreelanceCamp, will take place at the Miami Beach Convention Center:
a gathering of job-seekers, freelancers, entrepreneurs and startups will meet at the Miami Beach Convention Center for South Florida's first community-driven conference for creative employment.
If you've never been to a camp style event, here's what it's like: it's a gathering of people who specialize in a particular field and some of them make presentations followed by question-and-answer sessions. Everyone networks and typically meets up afterward for some socializing.

This is NOT a formal, suit-and-tie corporate style convention. On the contrary! A limited number of slots are available, which presenters fill on a first-come, first-serve basis, so no one knows until the morning of the event who will actually be making presentations. It's an unconference. It's all about sharing. And everyone contributes -- not just presenters.

You don't have to be actually laid off to benefit from attending this event.

Yours truly may make a presentation about "How Blogging Can Help You Find Writing Gigs," or something like that.

Saturday, June 6
9 am - 2pm
Miami Beach Convention Center
1901 Convention Center Drive
Miami Beach, Florida

Registration is FREE and includes breakfast. A catered lunch will be available at an additional modest fee. Register at Eventbrite.


social media club south florida Social Media Club South Florida has put together a panel of Miami creatives, including yours truly. The other panelists are some great Miamians I know and admire: Steve Roitstein, musician (, Onajide Shabaka, artist (, Carlos Miller, photographer ( and Irina Patterson, events ( This month's topic is “Creative Community Engagement and Engaging Creative Communities.”

The meetup runs from 7 to 9 PM. We'll start speaking at 7:30 PM, sharp (not Cuban time) for about an hour and half. Afterwards, we'll enjoy the music of Steve's Afro-Cuban funk band, PALO!

Social Media Club gatherings usually consist of a presentation followed by networking and socializing. If you're a newbie to social media, or a curious business owner, keep in mind these events are for everyone -- not just for professionals already working in a social media-related job:

Social Media Club South Florida is being organized for the purpose of sharing best practices, establishing ethics and standards, and promoting media literacy around the emerging area of Social Media.

Please come, ask questions and share ideas!

Tuesday, June 6
7 - 9pm (followed by performance)
Transit Lounge
729 SW 1st Avenue
Miami, Florida

Please RSVP on Eventbrite (FREE) You can connect with Social Media Club South Florida on the social networking site of your choice: Facebook group, Twitter as well as LinkedIn.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day South Beach: Not Just About Booty

veterans for peace south beach memorial day
While everyone is talking about Urban Beach Week and how crazy it is, I haven't heard anyone mention the fact that there is a temporary war memorial in place at Lummus Park around 9th street and Ocean Drive. The memorial, set up by Veterans For Peace, flanks the eastern side of Ocean Drive and provides a sober and solemn reminder of the real reason for the holiday.

On one side, a bumper-to-bumper parade of tricked-out cars and a booty-to-booty display of flesh, while on the other, the make-shift tombstones of service men and women, carefully placed and marked by their surviving family members.

Now mind you, I'm not sayin' there's anything wrong with this celebration on South Beach -- I just want to point out what everyone seems to be overlooking.

veterans for peace south beach memorial dayMany of the tombstones mark identified fallen soldiers in their late teens and early twenties. A bereft father has turned his car into a moving memorial for his children. Amid the revelry on the streets, the contrast is shocking and heart breaking.

Yet a silent and invisible boundary seems to protect this tribute to veterans. "Everybody respects it," says Sam Feldman, president of Veterans for Peace's local chapter. "The place stays clean. This is the story that isn't told, but even here, there is respect for the memorial. We've been doing this for three years and only had two incidents."

It's actually fitting that a war memorial exist on Lummus Park. During World War II, South Beach turned from tourist town to military post. Homeowners donated iron gates from their homes for weapons manufacturing. All those quaint little art deco hotels on Ocean Drive became barracks. Mitchell Wolfson, South Beach's first Jewish mayor, served in Europe as a communications officer and came back to establish a media empire through Wometco Cinemas and South Florida's first TV station, WTVJ 4. South Beach's history is very much tied up with war, though luckily, it has never been fought on our shores.

It's not too late to check out the war memorial; it will be on display until Sunday, May 31st, after a service held at 5 PM on the same day. So if you didn't pay your respects this weekend because you were afraid of going to South Beach, next weekend, you have no excuse.

If you'd like to learn more, visit Veterans for Peace or email Sam Feldman at vetsforpeace [at]

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Miami: Stop Complaining and Get Off Your Ass

obama quiltThe woman who made this also had a boot cast; she had broken her toe. We instantly bonded! She is an artist who works in mosaics and jewelry.

I typically don't like getting into politics, but when my friend Brad told me about the 100 Days of Obama event at Kafa Café in midtown Miami, I was more than happy to attend.

The event was free and a delicious Ethiopian food buffet, as well as drinks, were available at modest prices. Elastic Bond, a great local band, entertained us and Progressive Rags sold Obama merchandise.

Several non-profits were present to create awareness. They weren't after money; they were seeking a commitment of time. About 100 people attended the event and 265 hours of community service were pledged.

Ani Mercedes, an elementary school teacher who volunteered during the Obama election campaign, organized the event.

When I asked her if there was something special about getting politically involved in Miami, her answer was a resounding yes. "There is something special. We had a lot of field organizers creating connections in areas that were small, but extremely well organized," Ani explained. "That wasn't the case in other regions of Florida."

"After the campaign there were a lot of people looking for direction," Ani said. "There was so much energy left over."

All that energy, Ani believes, could be directed to continued efforts in volunteerism: "The organizations at the event have a sustainable, long-term impact on the community."

Here's a list of the organizations and causes that were present (the list and descriptions compiled from Ani's follow-up email):

ECOMB: Working towards the sustainability of our community’s natural environment.

Urban Development
Miami Workers Center: Working towards welfare reform, affordable housing, tenants and voter rights, racial justice, gentrification and economic development, and fair trade.

Political Activism
North Beach for Progress: Working toward the fair districting of Florida.

Homeless Youth
StandUp for Kids: Working to get homeless and runaway teens off the streets and into safe homes.

Global Poverty Working to end extreme poverty and preventable diseases, particularly in Africa.

I'm very happy to see people like Ani, Brad and all the others representing their non-profits, working hard to make a difference. In my work as a forum editor at Miami Beach 411, I come across people who criticize Miami as a place without culture, full of a bunch of hedonistic, uneducated slobs who only care about fancy cars and who don't speak proper English.

Honestly, such criticism says more about the people doling it out than the city itself. It makes me wonder what circle they're hanging out in ... because it's certainly not mine and that of so many talented and smart people I know in Miami who are devoted to making this community a better place.

Volunteering is a great way to have a direct impact on your city, even if you aren't into politics. And besides, single ladies (and guys!) it's a GREAT way to make new friends.

Are you interested in getting involved? Check out the organizations above or visit Hands on Miami and Imagine Miami.

We've also been discussing volunteerism over at Miami Beach 411.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rum Running in South Beach, Part 2

caldas rum pouring mojito rum renaissance festival miami
The Rum Renaissance Festival grand tasting event on Saturday was everything it promised and more: a veritable feast, nay an orgy of rum tasting galore. As a rum newbie, I learned more about the spirit in one afternoon than a lifetime of drinking could afford me, for which my liver is obviously grateful!

Robert Burr, one of the event's founders, is happy. "The festival exceeded all of our expectations," he said in a phone interview. "We had an excellent turnout. And that is an indication of my theory that rum will have a renaissance is pretty valid. Rum is not new: it's old. But it has been under-appreciated."

Held at the Shore Club hotel on Collins Avenue (which I affectionately call the Whore Club), the event also offered some prime people-gawking, South Beach's favorite pastime. My friend MKH and I, members of the American-Cuban Alliance of Honky White Folk Who Never Sunbathe, were fully clothed in pants and hats.

We stuck out like sore thumbs what with all those snowbirds traipsing half-naked through the courtyard on their way to and from the pool. I just love it how people travel hundreds of miles to be in a large tub of chlorinated water with about 500 hundred other bodies, when -- lo and behold -- a perfectly good Atlantic Ocean sits neglected nearby.

(MKH pictured here with a modestly dressed and buxom Bacardi babe.)

But I digress ... back to the rum business!

paul sevigny rum renaissance festival miamiNo sooner did I hobble up some stairs with my crutches (Whore Club is not handicap friendly, by the way), I was happy to see Paul Sevigny from Splash Cocktail -- my new favorite bartender -- at the first exhibitor booth. He was improvising cocktails on the fly with a French fruit concentrate product called Les Vergers Boiron, a thick fruit purée that is 100% pure, with no added sugar or artificial flavors. It's perfect for professional pastry chefs, so why not bartenders? Unfortunately, it's not yet available retail, but I hope it will be soon enough -- the intensely rich mango, passion fruit and blackberry flavors I sampled made me reconsider my usual distaste for syrupy, sweet drinks.

As for the other booths, oh my! Where do I begin? There were dozens of exhibitors, a dizzying number that made it impossible to try them all in the span of a few hours. And by dizzying I don't mean sloshed: you can't get tipsy and expect to take good notes!

Even though some exhibitors were serving cocktails, most were actually eager to supply rum enthusiasts with small portions of their spirits, which is really how you should "taste" the rum -- neat or with a single ice cube (see video below).

Among those I managed to sample: Rhum J.M from Martinique, Cruzan from St. Croix, Appleton Estate from Jamaica, Mount Gay from Barbados, Zaya from Trinidad, Oronoco from Brazil, Castries Rum Creme from Saint Lucia, Caldas from Colombia, Zacapa from Guatemala and of course, the ubiquitous Bacardi from Puerto Rico.

j.m rhum martinique rum renaissance festival miamiDo you see the variety of countries from which these spirits hail? I find the history of rum to be just as interesting as the beverage itself. For example: Zacapa is aged at one and half miles above sea level; Mount Gay is the oldest brand in the world (since 1703); and Castries Rum Cream relies on locally grown peanuts and spices.

To know the history of what you're drinking makes the beverage all the more interesting to imbibe. I encourage anyone who is new to rum to explore the history behind each distillery. You'll learn quite a bit about our little corner of the world here in the tropical western hemisphere.

I also learned much about distinguishing one brand and type from the other by color, flavor and aroma. No, they don't all taste the same, and to arrive to this conclusion you need to instruct your palette in the art of subtlety, not to mention patience!

rum renaissance frozen nitrogen don qWhat I loved the most from the whole festival? Hands down, the rich, dark rums that you can sip slowly like brandy. Mount Gay, J. M Rhum, Zacapa and Zaya come to mind. Zaya has some incredibly fragrant vanilla and chocolate notes; it's like drinking a rain forest full of orchids.

On the other hand, I could definitely do without Bacardi's fruit varieties. The Dragonberry (dragon fruit and strawberry) tasted more like a corn syrup pop tart than real dragon fruit, but I suppose these varieties are good for mixing.

Nowhere to be found was the chilled swill that you'd find at Wet Willie's down the street at Ocean Drive. However, a frozen nitrogen drink featuring Don Q, while impressive in its elaboration and a decidedly tasty mix of guava and mint, could not, unfortunately, hold up to the Florida humidity. A 7-11 slurpee stays colder longer.

As I suspected, after the VIP tasting during Part 1, Castries Rum Creme was absolutely yummy in the hands of a capable bartender. Rob, Paul's business partner (my second favorite bartender!), made an incredible Thai Basil drink that is even somewhat healthy: muddle some jalapeño, basil and ginger, combine with vanilla vodka (he was using Stoli), Domaine de Canton (ginger liqueur) and Castries, shake, pour over ice in a highball glass and garnish with basil leaves (see video below). Again, the savory and sweet combination really adds zing to any aperitif. Castries Rum Creme was also wonderful all on its own, over ice.


Burr, with whom I shared a delightful phone conversation about South Florida and Caribbean history a few days after the event, hails from a long line of South Florida pioneers and influential Miami citizens. He publishes the The Great Gables Guide and is also very involved in promoting the Redlands.

Burr used to publish a magazine about scuba diving, which led him to the islands, where he would, invariably, taste rum and collect stories about rum. "Somewhere along the way, I decided I should get every bottle of rum that exists," he said.

And that's how it all started. Burr believes that rum drinking is really a journey. "When someone begins to discover rum, there's so much variation," he explained. "Everyone will find a rum they like. It's a way to celebrate island cultures. Every island has wonderful attributes and I think we see those reflected in each rum. I know a lot about rum, but I am always discovering."

robert burr gifted guide rumThough an expert, Burr is definitely no rum snob ready to preach some hoity-toity gospel about the spirit. He reminds me of Gary Vaynerchuck, who has done for wine nationwide what Burr is doing for rum here in Miami -- making it cool and groovy, accessible to everyone and a joy to discover.

Burr shares my taste for cocktails that have clear, defined flavors. "A true, original daiquiri is really simple -- lemon juice, sugar and rum. The simplicity of it cannot be duplicated," he claimed. "Also, ginger beer and rum were made for each other."

And clearly, rum has found a friend in Robert.

Want to learn more about rum? Grab a copy of Robert Burr's Gifted Rums Guide; this inexpensive, small booklet features a few articles and a comprehensive listing of different brands and types of rum. For tasting events in South Florida, subscribe to Robert's mailing list. Each event costs about $20 and introduce tasters to about a dozen fine rums. Expect more events as the season picks up later this fall.

Ministry of Rum is an additional online resource.




Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ford Fiesta: Car Wash


fiestamovementToday was Ladies Day at Europa Car Wash on 60th and Biscayne, so my girlfriend Bradlina and I went for little soap and sud action and some free champagne! What a bargain ... $10 for a total hand job! Five big, sturdy macho guys detailing the car and then some! I'm telling ya, it's enough to make a girl all moist in the muffler and give up her low carburetor diet!

Europa Car Wash is part of this rising trend to remodel gas stations into something better than a place to buy crack and turn tricks on Biscayne Boulevard. Inside, the place looks like a Starbucks-turned-club-VIP-lounge, complete with funky glass chandeliers, cow-fur upholstered chairs and beaded curtains. Coffee, sandwiches and desserts tempt motorists while a cold beverage cooler filled with sodas and imported beers takes care of thirst.

Oh, and there's actually a Chevron gas station outside ... so if you need to fill up, clean up and eat up during your daily Miami urban adventures, this is a good place to stop.

fiestamovementSomehow, my friend Bradlina managed to convince the staff that he was female, or at the very least, quite in touch with his feminine side. We enjoyed a sip of spumante while waiting for the boys to clean the car.

Biscayne Boulevard is the really new happenin' neighborhood in Miami. If you do go to Europa to get your car washed, you might as well have an antipasti salad or slice of pizza at Andiamo down the road and then stop for a cocktail at News Lounge on 54th street station.

(And yes, you can also get your car washed at Andiamo!) Boy, I just love this part of Miami. Little Haiti is just around the other side of the tracks, where you can visit a botanica and get your share of dashboard saints (that's a future trip for us, definitely) or listen to some great alternative rock at Churchill's, Miami's oldest British pub.

Long known as a blighted boulevard (a friend of mine used to live off 55th street -- he said he'd find condoms hanging from the tree branches in the morning) -- Biscayne is turning a new leaf and in doing so paying homage to MiMo architecture. It's really one of Miami's funkiest communities today, with some very gorgeous Mediterranean architecture in various bayside enclaves. To learn more about life in the up-and-coming Biscayne Corridor, visit The Biscayne Times, Miami-Dade and Miamism.

More pictures on Flickr.

And just because I couldn't resist ...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hurricane Season Boyfriend Nominations 09

OK gals and gays and all you fabulous people out there ... it's that time of year again. Look, it already started raining like crazy these past cupla days, so you know what's gonna happen for the next six months, don't cha? It's the humidity dance and the entire State of Florida becomes one giant absorbent Maxi Pad (unfortunately, this doesn't help Lake Okeechobee). Here and now, every afternoon for another six months ... wet, wet, wet ... and sometimes blow, blow, blow ... that bossa nova hurricane hoopla we all know and love!

Since 2006, here at Sex and the Beach we have maintained a time honored tradition of choosing nothing but the very best man to represent the utter horror, boredom, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety-ridden pain in the ass that is hurricane season in South Florida.

We look forward to this. Yes, so much so that if we were to design a retail shop window for Victoria's Secret, this is what it would feature: mint-scented moisture-collecting padded boy shorts, rain-water collecting bra pads, a gallon-sized spray can full of inflammable and extremely toxic mosquito repellent that doubles as hairspray, an anti-looting-and-price-gouging gun with GPS and bluetooth capabilities, a power generator -- featuring an ice-maker with crushed ice accessory (of course, because we've already used the ice pick to get all Basic Instinct on the snapper in the creek!) -- a cooler with a bottomless supply of Ketel One, Beluga caviar, toast points, cornichons, Maine lobster with hollandaise, a homemade sugar cane moonshine kit ... oh, and of course, we'd be impossibly thin from the nature-imposed sweat camp we've just endured, wearing platform heels high enough to let us traipse through those flooded sidewalks without having to wear galoshes.

Think I'm kidding? Let me take you to two weeks back in August 1992, when this little but ferocious category five trickster named Andrew ripped Miami-Dade county a new asshole.

So with this in mind, who would you choose to spend these completely miserable nights with? What man in the world could you do the two-week military curfew thing with? No ice and nothing but peanut butter sandwiches to fulfill your appetite, plus bacteria-infested cold showers to take the edge of your funk? And for pete's sake, you might actually have to talk to him because you won't have access to Twitter! And that Victorian novel you've been wanting to read? Forget it! There's not enough light on the gas Coleman.

Get it? Hurricanes suck. Aftermaths suck more. So pick your guy wisely.

We have already given love to Bryan Norcross (our eternal hero, of course), plus crooner and leather-bound pectorally well-endowed Katrina rescuer Harry Connick, Jr., gray-and-gay-but-unbelievably-sexy Anderson Cooper and of course the king of all commandeering -- biceps god Robert Irvine!

So where to next, girls?

Last year, I was feeling like an old dry curmudgeon in need of some serious lube (with regards to hurricane season) ... but this year, I say BRING IT ON! Let's have fun! Let's fight the winds like Don Quixote, brandishing rum cocktails against the ferocious winds!

Ok, I kid, I kid ... but seriously ... gals, help me pick a hottie celeb to be our official Hurricane Season Boyfriend. Remember: he must possess all the traits we love in a man: steadfastness, yet stubbornness (when required to get something done, like installing shutters); joie de vivre, courage and chutzpah (to get you through the scary moments); biceps of Adonis (even if they are imaginary); and of course, the sexual prowess to make you forget the roof is blowing off your house while he is indeed blowing you.

Please leave your suggestions in comments. And for further storm info, don't forget NWS. Be safe and be well everyone. And may we have enough power and innernets to blog and twitter our way through yet another season.

If we must have a hurricane, I think it should be named Barracuda, don't you? What's with those lame human names like Andrew, Katrina and Wilma? Puhleeze!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ford Fiesta: Super Sombrero Man Tows Car With Bike!

ford fiesta miami fiestamovement
The last thing you’d expect to see at this season’s last Miami Bike Day would be a two-axle, motorized vehicle within the barricade boundaries, wouldn’t ya? But that’s exactly where the Ford Fiesta was yesterday when Brad got it into his mind he’d tow this car with me in it, on a bike, with a rope attached to his body.

Now, I’m learning a thing or two about my team driver: when he sets his mind on something, he’s unstoppable! You know – Don Quixote fought windmills and Fitzcarraldo transported a boat across land in the Amazon rain forest. Towing a Ford Fiesta with a rope on a bike? Eh, piece of cake.

Brad had already gotten verbal approval from one of the Miami Bike Day organizers and while while we didn't have any trouble convincing security to let us through, it was a bit challenging to get around downtown what with all the blocked one-way roads. After driving around in circles from Lummus Park to Biscayne Boulevard, we finally got into Flagler Street and parked in front of Cacique Restaurant just across from the Cultural Center.

fiestamovement miamiBrad warmed up with a 15-minute bike ride, during which time I had breakfast -- a pastelito at the ventanita. As soon as I bit into the flaky beef pastry I purchased at the window, a few Miami Bike Day participants and some downtown resident crackheads started approaching me. Could it be the car? Or the fact that I was wearing a sombrero? Nah, it was the car!

When Brad returned, we drove two blocks east to the courthouse, where Bike Miami participants -- some of them on rollerblades, skateboards and two feet -- gathered on the steps for a rally, raffle and live music. At one point, everyone was dancing to La Bamba.

fiestamovement miamiCar parked and further police clearance secured, Brad proceeded to do a series of yoga poses in order to prepare for the iron man, superhuman sombrero strength challenge ahead. “It’s all about the sombrero,” he said. “The power is in the sombrero. I’ll be lucky if we can make it five feet.”

Five feet? Excuse me! After some initial fumbling while gathering momentum, Brad actually towed the car all the way down this historic street for six blocks from the courthouse to Biscayne Boulevard – one whopping half mile!

We had helpers along the way – numerous random strangers who pulled the rope, one of whom also taught Brad how to create a harness for his body, which was kind of kinky. Who in Miami knows how to tie a body harness? We certainly aren't rock climbing central and this guy did not look like your average dominatrix. Seriously though, we were all really concerned that Brad would end up with an injury and that the "fiesta" would turn into a visit to the ER at Jackson.

fiestamovement miamiAnyway, I digress … one of Brad’s friends actually had sailor’s knowledge in the art of knot tying, which was extremely helpful when we had to secure the rope to the car. The Ford Fiesta has a special towing key underneath the spare tire that you attach to the front grill. Easy peasy! But please, please don’t try this at home! And if you do, make sure you know your knots ... and body harnesses.

My job? I was part of the photography and steering committee. Even though my leg is technically still broken, I took my boot cast off for the event and made sure I kept us on a straight line down Flagler. I really didn’t have to do much with my foot at all, since the car was in neutral the whole time. This was the first time I had my hands on the steering wheel and it felt good!

We went past all the landmarks on Flagler, "zero street," which divides the city by north and south and is named after the railroad tycoon who helped put this city on the map. Here are just a few: the Miami-Dade County Courthouse, Macy’s (formerly Burdines), the Seybold and Alfred Dupont buildings and the Olympia Theater. Fellow cyclists cheered us on as we enjoyed some live tunes by trumpeter Renoir Rodriguez, who was playing in front of the classic Cuban department store, La Epoca, housed in the former art deco Walgreens building.

renoir rodriguez fiestamovementGood grief, if only Dr. Paul George had been there! I mean, come on! Don’t quote me on this, but I think this is the only time in Miami history that some freak has pulled a car down Flagler on a bike with an equally cuckoo person in tow behind the wheel. This is the kind of stunt Carl Fisher, father of Miami Beach and the Indy 500, would’ve been proud of, slow-speed notwithstanding. (Actually, I’m pretty sure Brad clocked some decent speed in towing … is there a Guinness record for that?)

Honestly, having a hot-blooded guy sweat and schlep, towing me down Flagler, was something that even Manola would’ve never dreamed of in a million years, even if you can still pay for a rickshaw ride in Coconut Grove. The only thing missing was a group of eunuchs fanning me with peacock feathers and serving me juicy grapes, but as is, my Ford Fiesta was nothing short of a luxury sedan! And best yet -- some acrobatics stunt guy was cracking a whip (jokingly, of course) as cyclists went by. "Faster, faster," he'd say. Then, thwack! on the pavement. When I passed him, I told him that Brad was my bitch. (Man tied up in ropes and another cracking a whip! What kind of family-oriented event is this?)

fiestamovement miami friendsAfterward, the inexhaustible Brad dropped me off at La Epoca where I could enjoy Renoir's music while he continued biking the downtown route. I hobbled over to a beauty supply store and purchased some nail polish to match the Ford Fiesta, during which time I bumped into Mario, a mutual friend of ours.

I'm really looking forward to pedaling in a Miami Bike Day event next year. Being able to bike in Miami without worrying about getting mauled by a motorist must be a treat indeed.

Special thanks to Soul of Miami, other friends and twitter followers who showed up to cheer us on and help us with the logistics and videotaping of this adventure. Brad and I could not have done it without you! Also, thanks to the City of Miami and Bike Miami for indulging this craziness. We love you, Miami!


As always, some stills for your viewing pleasure:

Brad is putting together one of his fabulous videos with all the footage we collected yesterday. But in the meantime, please enjoy:

Live stream from my phone on the dashboard mount. I forgot to turn off the camera after three minutes, so don't bother with the rest of the footage:

Brad has also set up his own blog
. Please stop by for his own account of our Ford Fiesta adventures and more!

Next up! Champagne car wash in Miami and some traveling on Memorial Day weekend.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rum Running in South Beach, Part 1

phil sevigny splash cocktails atlantico rum south beachPaul Sevigny of Splash Cocktail concentrates intensely as he prepares dozens of rum cocktails.

The first ever Miami Rum Renaissance: A Celebration of Cane Spirits in the New World popped the proverbial cap last night with a series of VIP parties in South Beach. My dear friend and rum connoisseur MKH, known for his long-standing blog Hidden City, joined me for the evening's festivities.

If you think rum is a frivolous, frou-frou spirit, or perhaps the stuff of projectile vomiting at college parties, think again. As MKH and I discussed on the ride over the Macarthur Causeway, the whole history of the Americas is tied up with sugar cane and one of its by-products, molasses, which in turn was used to make the spirit. Rum was probably just as much of a currency as the gold and silver imported from the New World.

Although I was in crutches, I managed to squeeze through the crowd and find a good spot to hold court at 8oz Burger Bar, a fabulous eatery on the fringe of crazy South Beach, but more on the food later. Our bartender, the energetic Paul Sevigny from Splash Cocktail, mixed away three different kinds of cocktails made with Atlantico rum from the Dominican Republic.

My favorite was the Rosa María: blackberry preserve, simple syrup, rum, burnt allspice and a garnish of rosemary, served over ice in a highball glass. I don't care for sweet girly drinks that drip heavy like treacle, so this was the perfect, light concoction -- the "just right" savory aperitif before a meal. The burnt allspice balanced the sweetness of the rum and transported me back to lying on a hammock somewhere under the stars by the Caribbean sea. Actually, the blackberry tasted more like guava -- so redolent and evocative of a homemade spiced punch I once had in Grenada.

My next favorite drink, because I like things spicy, was the Perfect Storm -- a lighter version of a Dark and Stormy, which is basically ginger beer and dark rum, also served over ice in a highball. Perfect Storm featured Atlantico rum, a little simple syrup, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur and was topped off by a hefty pour of Reed's Ginger Beer, followed by an aromatic garnish of fresh mint.

After 8oz, we headed over to the Mondrian just around the corner for a tasting of Castries Creme Rum from Saint Lucia, one of my favorite islands in the Caribbean. As the name of the beverage implies, it's very rich, blended with roasted peanuts, brown spices and vanilla. The drink served at the Mondrian, which remained nameless, also had cognac and nutmeg, and at this point I didn't want to sample anything resembling eggnog. I would recommended sipping Castries Creme on the rocks, plain and simple, to fully enjoy the creamy texture and complex flavors.

mondrian south beach While at the Mondrian, we bumped into Soul of Miami and set out to laze and converse on the lounge chairs by the bay, which was quite pleasant. But good grief, the first thing I thought when I walked into the lobby was: "how fucking pretentious." The second thing I thought was: "this is the perfect setting for a Clockwork Orange rape scene," after being greeted by an animé style, doe-faced floating head on the wall. Plus, the fat, plastic-looking dildoesque columns and round chairs, combined with outdoor lamps that look giant albino portobello mushrooms is "fun" and "wow!" for about two seconds flat. This kind of gimmicky design will be so yesterday by tomorrow. The out-of-proportion style works well indoors at The Delano, because it's subtle.

(By the way, if you'd actually like to see the giant plastic phallus from the Stanley Kubrick film, head over to the World Erotic Art Museum on Washington Avenue.)

Anyway, I digress ...

At this point, MKH and I were starving, so we headed back to 8oz to try their famous burgers. Not all is eight ounces here, but no matter: the 6oz "Melrose" was divine, nay -- the best fucking burger I have EVER had. Fixings were arugula, caramelized red onions, roasted garlic and sun-dried tomatoes, coupled with Gruyere cheese, a sweet, toasted roll and a perfectly grilled medium patty. MKH had the actual 8oz offering, which he enjoyed. We shared a side of truffled potato skins, which were more like soft, twice-baked potatoes. They were delicious, but lacking on the promised truffle oil flavor. I'm glad I don't live on the beach anymore, because if I did, I'd probably gain a few pounds living near this gourmet burger joint!

Oh yeah, wasn't this post supposed to be about rum? Well fret not, MKH and I will be back on South Beach this Saturday for a grand tasting at the Shore Club. It's not too late for you to attend either, if you're curious to learn more about all things cane spirits, including
cachaça. Visit Rum Renaissance for more information.

Video below: tasting the aptly named Rosa María. (I hope my friend Ines from Miamism Mojito doesn't think this is blasphemy!)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Coitus Interruptus on the Beach

sex and the beach

Just another lovely morning on South Beach, folks. The kind of postcard image you send home to grandma in Minnesota! This young couple was caught slumbering deeply in a passionate embrace, after not having made it past mid-fuck, it seems. I'm so sure this is what Carl Fisher had in mind when he developed Miami Beach. Who needs a bed when you have sand?

According to the photographer, Maxwelld -- who graciously allowed me to publish the photo here -- the image was captured at 11 am on a Friday sometime earlier this month. I just love the seeming non-chalance of the beach-goers nearby, the carefully placed bra, his sunglasses and the wayward gaze of the lifeguard.

Oh! To have been a fly in the cocoa butter! Good grief, I can understand being passed out on the beach, but this late? Past prime cancer hours? That's seriously fucked up, even by my standards. Hopefully these two slumped back to Club Douche, where happy hour starts in the morning, for some hair of the dog, or at the very least, had some coffee and eggs at News Café, where walk-of-shame breakfasts are made to order. That is to say, if a bum didn't steal their wallets while they were zonked.

Actually, their embrace does look quite loving, in a Romeo and Juliet sort of way, doesn't it? Like they're holding on for dear life or something -- I even feel kind of bad getting all sarcastic about it ... but couples, be warned!

This is a public service announcement: if you choose to even attempt sex on the beach, rest assured that even the most well-meaning and demure photographer, let alone a pervy peeping tom, will not resist the temptation to capture your unconscious ass in morning light. If you don't want your junk and naughty business to end up on the innernets, put your knickers back on and go home before you pass out. And drive safely, of course. Oh, and make sure to toss your condoms in the trash bins.

Or, you know ... you could always get a freakin' room! Actually, that's really what Carl Fisher (and the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau) would've wanted.

We've seen this before, of course. NSFW.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ford Fiesta: Vehicular Withdrawal

Wondering if Professor Chancleta's ex-boyfriend Julio doesn't mind that another man is driving the car?

Well, ya'll know we got back safely to Miami. But since then ...

... Brad has had primary custody of the vehicle. I feel like I gave birth to the car and that my baby daddy took my child away! Just 48 hours after we arrived in Miami, Brad -- who lives in South Beach -- was in my neighborhood to buy some proper closed-toed shoes for driving a stick, since he usually wears flip flops. He called and asked if he should drive by, so I could see the baby. I quickly sped downstairs in my crutches and indeed, she still had that new car smell and I said "ahhh ... "

But the truth is, I'm probably more like the sperm donor. See, Brad went through labor for 12 freakin' hours on the highway, delivering the car to Miami.

Yes, I'm nuts, but you already knew that! And now, it's crazy plus one!

The car has already had its share of adventures. For one, Brad has had to deal with the bureaucratic maze that is getting a parking permit in the City of Miami Beach. And no South Beach experience would be complete without getting towed -- which happened within a week of the car's arrival. Nevertheless, our baby is safe and sound -- though I almost called social services!

brad fiestamovement

Last week, Brad drove the car to Illinois to visit his sister. He is supposed to bring me back some world-famous Chicago deep dish pie pizza. Considering that he made it to Chicago in 26 hours, you could say that it's faster than Fedex. I'm tapping my toes ...

Follow us on Twitter for the latest pictures, videos and stories! Our first official mission will involve Memorial Day travel.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Father Alberto, Get A Room!

Alright, I'm so over the whole Father Alberto thing. And you know what gets me the most? Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, if not millions of young, attractive men and women in this great nation of ours endure each day without getting laid. Do you realize how much better the world would be if the greater part of the adult population in this country was actually sexually satisfied? Good lord! Praise the heavens! Blessings almighty!

Dude, if you take a vow of celibacy, and then you break it, you are technically offending the rest of us horny bastards who would gladly lick the moldy grout on our shower tiles every morning and call it sex ... but no ... YOU get to have hot holy horny sex under your frocks, which is why -- all classical morals aside -- it is so wrong. If you're gonna have sex (God damn it!) be a man, grow a holy pair, and freakin' OWN IT.

Because otherwise, you are having a shrimp appetizer in front of a bunch of starving Ethiopian children, and that's not just an episode from South Park, that's just NOT RIGHT.

Well, maybe this is all happening for a reason. Perhaps Sex and the Beach could start a new non-profit organization to help all the celibate people in the world get their rocks off ... or something.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Sexcrunch: Holy Sex! Plus, Wanking Off For A Good Cause

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

father alberto cutie god bless him

Oops! The handsome and dashing Father Alberto Cutié, a local "celebrity" priest, was caught by paparrazi in flagrante with an adult female lover. Why didn't anyone smell this coming a mile away? For Christ's sake, look at the man! Even my old Cuban mother lusts after him! What healthy woman wouldn't want to stick out her tongue to receive a wafer of grace and the promise of eternal life from this hunk? Talk about burning bush, man!

Seriously, I can't believe the Catholic Church would get its papal robes in a twist over this, what with all the sexual abuse cases of minors under its belt. I don't personally know Father Albert (or the Albert formerly known as Father), but I know people who know him, and I do know he is a well-respected spiritual leader in our community, plus he had a Spanish-language relationships advice column in El Nuevo Herald, which I've read. How groovy is that? The advice he gave was always sound, compassionate, modern and relevant -- never judgemental, never fire and brimstone.

I hope he will continue to serve as a spiritual leader, even if he has broken his vows of celibacy. I understand that a vow is a vow -- a discipline and a practice that you choose when you follow a certain path. Catholic priests are not the only religious people in the world who take such vows. The yogis call it bramacharya.

But we're all human, after all. I don't think we should judge this man for an earthly discipline he has broken (it's between himself and his conscience now); perhaps we should admire him for all the good work he has done, in spite of this. And perhaps, what with all the advice he has already offered, as a "regular" man he may make an even better and more trustworthy crusader for healthy relationships. Whatever happens, I just hope it isn't another Thorn Birds.

And as the bible says: Who shall cast the first thong?

Full story at Miami Herald. Discuss more at Miami Beach 411.


What is celibacy anyway? Does masturbation violate that vow? Masturbation is the safest, healthiest form of a sex a person can enjoy. Just think of it - it's like the pleasures of a one-night stand, with the benefits of a full-time committed, monogamous relationship. And you can't really cheat, can you? Has anyone ever said to themselves: "I'm going to break up with you. Our sex life is too boring."

The folks San Francisco's Center for Sex and Culture know this, which is why they organized the annual Masturbate-a-thon on May 2nd.

Apparently, some new records were set:
New World Record - Men's time record of 9:33 hrs broken by the previous record holder Mr. Masanobu Sato now set at 9 hours and 58 minutes.

New United States - Men's distance record held by (nom de plume) Mr. Flint Greasewood - 5 feet 4 inches.
Hey, why not wank-off for a good cause? Here's the mission statement: ". . . to provide judgment-free education, cultural events, a library/media archive, and other resources to audiences across the sexual and gender spectrum; and to research and disseminate factual information, framing and informing issues of public policy and public health."

"Judgement-free education," aint that the truth! Priest or otherwise -- the worst enemy is not sex, but the lack of education about sex. We could use an organization like this in Miami, too.

And speaking of ... if you're out there for good information, don't forget to check out Scarlateen, a website devoted to sex education for young adults and teens.


My blogger buddy and colleague Matt Meltzer wants to know what you men think about to avoid premature blast-off from mission control. Guys: What do You Think About so You Don’t “Finish” Too Fast? Go proffer you advice, which can be anonymous.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Ford Fiesta: Training and Delivery

fordfiestamiami fiestamovementThis is the baby ... we still haven't come up with a name for her. Rumba, Caramba and Hot Pistil are contenders.

maria s fordfiestamiami Miami to Atlanta and back in 48 hours was quite the whirlwind tour. At Miami International Airport, I was carted around in a wheelchair and whisked by check-in and security faster than you could scream "we won't be fooled again." And even though Horatio Cane wasn't present to conduct a body cavity search (damn it!), the security personnel did wipe my cast boot with a cotton pad -- I imagine it's some CSI way of checking for explosives.

Alas, dear readers, there are more expletives than explosives involved with being on crutches. Honestly, I'm surprised more people don't take advantage of the system and fake being cripple. Nevertheless, there's nothing funny about the way the world works when you can't use your own two feet in a normal manner. I've been learning quite a bit about accessibility issues and what it must be like to be handicapped, but let's save that for another blog post, shall we?

I do, however, need to thank Delta Airlines for how wonderfully they took care of me both at Miami International Airport and Atlanta Hartsfield. There is no way in hell I could've walked those interminable terminals on crutches. I mean, I could have, had I arrived at the airport a day earlier. And besides, I'm not exactly running for martyrdom here. I wish I could run, but I can't!

At MIA, my team agent Brad A Schenck joined me at the lounge by the gate, where we enjoyed a couple of pre-flight cocktails. Next thing we know, we're met by Natasha Tsakos, another Ford Fiesta agent from Miami. Natasha is a brilliant theatrical artist who has been working for years with a high school buddy of mine, also an amazing performer, Octavio Campos. I had never met Natasha before. Small world, eh?

Once we got to Atlanta, we met the other seven agents training with us, a diverse group of people with one thing in common -- that social media bug. Ford arranged for us to stay at a well-appointed and comfortable Marriot in midtown Atlanta. Brad and I got a suite on the 15th floor with sweeping views of the city. It felt like I was on one of my Caribbean travel press trips of yore, except that they didn't send up the poolboy with an ice bucket and a stiff cock ... oh, never mind.

fiestamovement atlanta old cuban drink home restaurantAnd speaking of cocktails, I'm certainly not complaining! Ford wined and dined us in style. Dinner at Home, a gorgeous colonial house turned into gourmet restaurant, was excellent and choreographed in such a way so that training time didn't interfere with our enjoyment. If they wanted to kiss our asses and give us some magical Kool Aid, this was the way to do it. The whole process never felt corporate or forced; it was utterly cordial and professional. Even though it was all about the car, it was also about connecting.

And speaking of Kool Aid, I did actually discover a Southern take on the mojito called the Old Cuban (video). The concept of a bastard mojito has already intrigued my buddy and mojito expert Ines over at Miamism. I dubbed the cocktail Viejo Verde, which translates as "green old pervy dude." The beverage is so delicious and refreshing, yet I have never, ever heard of anyone ordering it in Miami, so it could be a purely Southern twist on what I'd then have to call a Limp Julep. (Please note: the secret ingredients in this version were agave nectar and angostura bitters.)

brad s fordfiestamiami fiestamovement The next day, we sat through some more training over continental breakfast, where we went over policies and procedures (zzzzzz) and specs about the car (cool!). Brad, nursing a wee bit of a hangover, rested on the sofa afterward, and I wondered if Bed, Boy and Beyond might have this kind of cushion for sa ... oh, never mind.

And speaking of sales, driving for hours is not a hard sell for Brad; his idea of a short trip is picking up a friend in Arkansas on his way to DC! But we did have a long day ahead -- Brad had to transport us across state lines. A quick snooze after booze was absolutely needed.

During check-out, we received our car keys at the hotel, so by the time we got to Turner Stadium's parking lot for that much-anticipated moment to meet our cars for training and test driving, we were quite eager to make sweet love to our four-wheeled models. And as you'll see, I almost mean that literally.

fiestamovement fordfiestamiami carTen cars were lined up in a row. Because Ford Fiesta has keyless entry, we would only know which car was ours when we approached it and could open the door. Ladies, heed me! This is great technology: imagine a world in which you never, ever have to fumble for your keys in the black hole that is a woman's purse, those Prada bags that suck every bit of matter into the dark recesses of a zippered pocket.

Purse notwithstanding, I knew which car was ours, because I was the only agent in Atlanta who had ordered the yellow flower graphic on the passenger side.

It's hard to explain, but once we were in the car, even I could understand why my co-pilot Brad started tonguing the steering wheel, after which point I had no choice but to call him Pervy Young Gringo. "Yeah, I took it there, already," he groaned. "Oh my gawd," I replied incredulously. "Did you have a manual fluffer?"

Ok, ok ... seriously ... moving right along ... two professional driving coaches were at hand to teach novice and experienced stick-shift drivers how to handle the car. All the Ford Fiesta Movement models are manual transmission because they're fresh out of the factory from Europe. The models that will be sold in the U.S. in 2010 will be both manual and automatic.

fiestamovement atlanta I enjoyed a fantastic observation lesson from Chris (video), a great coach who went through all the nuances of driving. Since I couldn't get behind the wheel, I tried to mentally understand the whole tachometer - gear - shift - throttle and clutch - coordination thing. When you've been driving automatic transmission for so long, it's easy to take for granted what a car does to get you from point a to point b.

Brad, who is an experienced stick shift driver, maneuvered like butter with a whopping shot of Tabasco. He took to this car like nobody's business and went around the orange cones of the course with great ease and some modest bravado. (I'm sure he was holding back with delight! I'm sure of it!)

fiestamovement boiled peanuts brad After a couple of hours, we headed down to Miami on I-75 and the Turnpike. Natasha -- brave and spunky girl -- had never driven manual transmission before, so she followed us for most of the way. This never-before-seen convoy of magenta Ford Fiestas stopped at a Starbucks in Macon, Georgia, where we meet a gregarious, blond peach of a gal who regaled us with stories about movies featuring zombie monkeys. You just never know who you're going to meet when you're on the road, which is part of the pleasure.

We also stopped for boiled peanuts (video) and dined at a Cracker Barrel in Gainesville, where Brad, searching for an alternative to caffeine, drank some pickling juice from a bottle of Bruce's Jalapeño Sauce.

Did it work? Well, we made it to Miami in 12 hours flat. Atlanta departure: 2:40 PM - arrival at Maria's house: 5:40 am.

Stay tuned for our first official mission, which will take place sometime this month. We're not quite sure what it is yet, but if we get to do what we proposed to Ford, I promise it will be EXPLOSIVE! In the meantime, don't forget to follow Fordfiestamiami on Twitter for the latest photos, videos and updates.

Feel free to make suggestions for the name of the car, or places we should go in Florida that you'd like to learn more about!

Want to see more pictures? Here's a slideshow on Flickr. Below, a video recap of our trip, originally live streamed on Qik.