Thursday, August 20, 2009

Planet Manola: Fried Chicken, Food, Sex and Fat

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!

fried chickenPhoto courtesy of on Flickr.


I nearly bust a gut laughing when my fellow writer buddy Teresa Mears (@miamicheap) reported Michy's $33 all-you-can-eat fried chicken special on her fabulous (and practical!) site, Miami on the Cheap:
For $33 per person, you can get endless helpings of fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, coleslaw and watermelon Greek salad, plus a piece of dark chocolate cream pie for dessert. The price doesn’t include tax, tip or drinks.
Now, I don't have anything against Michelle Bernstein or her Biscayne corridor restaurant, Michy's. In fact, I'm all for the culinary adventures and success of any woman who had made it in hard-ass business in an even harder part of town. Kudos, all the way.

But Michy, please ... Are you fucking kidding me? $33 for fried chicken? FRIED CHICKEN? $33 for the classic, cheap American comfort food? $33 for what? A cupla chicken breasts? I mean how much am I gonna eat, really? And why would I eat your fried chicken when I can get your awesome and exclusive Miami Spice menu for $35? And what's up with not having collard greens, mac and cheese and cornbread? And does this fried chicken come with a lotto ticket?

Boy, I imagine there are some cash-strapped families in Liberty City who would either laugh or cry over this offer. Or, I can just imagine a few people getting off at the Greyhound Bus station downtown and saying, "hey, let's take a bus to Michy's and chow down on some of that cheap $33 fried chicken." (Surely, the extra expense is worth it over the fried chicken sold at the gas station across the street from Soyka.)

Come to think of it, how does the $33 price tag compare to blow jobs and crack on Biscayne?

Oy vay, I don't know if Michy's chickens lay golden eggs or what, but I hope this doesn't become a trend in our city's finer restaurants. What's next? Barton G doing their own version of a Denny's Grand Slam?

There's chicken. And then there's chicken. Pass the KFC bucket, please.

(PS, every self-respecting Miamian should follow @miamicheap.)

hyattpier66 brunch plateNo, it's not a penis, but it sure would be nice if I had one for dessert. Photo by yours truly taken recently at the food-gasmic @hyattpier66 brunch in Fort Lauderdale.


And speaking of food and people to follow on Twitter, one of my favorites is Jennifer Iannolo (@foodphilosophy) of the Culinary Media Network, a gorgeous, informative food and travel website. Jennifer's writing focuses on the sensual aspects of food, which of course I love. Recently, she started a meme on twitter called #sexonaplate, which provides me with mouth-watering fantasies all day long. As Jennifer explains it:
The original “sex on a plate” quote comes from my first manifesto, On Food and Sensuality, written in 2004 when I discovered that the pre-consumption sight and/or smell of certain foods evokes a visceral reaction in me that is so sensually satisfying, the eating is almost an afterthought. Almost.

So now I’m asking what evokes that reaction in you. What makes you swoon? Sigh? Tremble? Drool?

I do have an ulterior motive here, which has become my life’s work: I want you to eat better food and have better sex. They go together, you see.
I couldn't agree more. Especially with the first line of her manifesto: “Never trust a woman who doesn’t like to eat. She is probably lousy in bed.”

Amen, sister.

Read this manifesto NOW. You'll never eat the same way again.

(PS This edition is about ladies in the kitchen, but Jennifer works with Chef Mark (@chefmark), who is another great follow from the Culinary Media Network.)


Another favorite food blogger, Katie Pizzuto (@gonzogastronomy), also writes zestfully about food on her site Gonzogastronomy, inspired by Hunter S. Thompson's term gonzo journalism, of course.

And speaking of chicken, Katie's biting wit is clear in her latest post about how to make things taste good without "the fat crutch":
I’ve recently come to the forehead-smacking conclusion that most of the chefs whose mantra is “fat is flavor” have that mantra because they’re just fucking lazy. Putting a half-stick of butter in a pan to finish a dish is undoubtedly going to be delicious, but it’s easy—and, of course, fattening as all hell. . . .

The challenge that presented itself to me is the one that, in the end, forced me to define just how good I am in a kitchen. Exactly how good can you make that chicken breast taste, sister, if you can’t deep-fry it, wrap it in pancetta or drizzle it with a cream sauce, hmmm?
Amen, sister!

Now if anyone can come up with a low-fat, low-cost version of fried chicken, I'd be in heaven.

And by the way, I'm really tempted to do a blind review of Michy's fried chicken. I'll just see if I can wrap my mind (and wallet) around the $33 tab, which you know is gonna be more, since you gotta have some bubbly with fried chicken.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ford Fiesta: Calling All Miami Volunteers


habitat for humanity

As part of our fourth Ford Fiesta Miami mission, Brad and I will be spending the day helping Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami on a team build, Saturday, August 22. Ford Fiesta is sponsoring this project by offering a $500 gift to this non-profit organization.

Of course, we'll be offering our sweat equity and we're hoping you'll join us on site to help build a new home.

Brad and I will not be the only Ford Fiesta agents volunteering this month. All 100 agents across the country are involved in their own projects, so if you work with us, you'll also be part of a greater effort to make this nation a better place.

Locally, we'll be contributing toward the completion of a home and helping break the cycle of poverty. Greater Miami's branch is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary and has built 700 homes to date. Numerous beautiful communities have sprung up in some of Miami-Dade's most run-down areas.

Of course, I'll have a full report about everything once the mission is completed.


Bloggers, twitter peeps and all ... not only can you make a difference by hammering a few nails, but also by spreading the word on your social networks. This is a great opportunity to stop bitching about Miami and get down to making change, literally!

There is room for 20 volunteers per construction site.

Register at the Volunteer Hub and type FFT in your join code. You'll also need to bring your own lunch and tools, since we can only sponsor those items for the first five volunteers, and those slots have already been filled up. Details on time, location and tools to be announced after you register.

Again, make sure you type FFT in your join code.

If you're unable to attend, please consider making a donation of furniture, reusable household and construction items to Habitat for Humanity's ReStore. It's better than throwing valuable items into the landfill -- good for our neighbors and good for the earth.

A financial contribution is always welcome, of course. Habitat for Humanity relies on private donations for all its work. There is no government funding.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Ford Fiesta Third Mission - Miami Graffiti

July's Fiesta mission was one of our best local adventures yet! The theme was "style and design" and Brad and I were sort of scratching our heads figuring out what to explore, since Art Basel doesn't take place until December. But one day, while driving northbound on I-95 and passing the impressive graffiti wall on NW 23rd street, we realized there was some great Miami style and design right under noses!

I knew squat about graffiti before I started this mission, so I had to do a little digging. It just so happens that earlier this year, James and Karla Murray, part-time Miami residents, published a book called Miami Graffiti. The photographers, a husband and wife team, authored a comprehensive tome on the local graffiti scene, which has been active for about 25 years.

The back cover states: " . . . there's so much more to Miami than South Beach and Spring Break. . . . graffiti in Miami is wilder, more creative and vibrant than in most other cities throughout the world."

James and Karla have been following graffiti culture since 1990 and had already published two books about New York's scene when they discovered one of Miami's most famous graffiti spots, the Hialeah penit. This abandoned building, which has since been destroyed, was named so because it looked like a would-be penitentiary. The name stuck though -- now the term penit refers to any similar structure.

James and Karla continued to explore those areas of Miami off the beaten track and amassed a collection of graffiti photos over ten years; many of the original images are in film.

"The colors in Miami really grabbed us," Karla explained. "It's different than in New York. Colors there tend to reflect the dirty nature of the city. Artists use darker colors, like dark blues and purples. No one paints in hot pink or neon orange in New York. When we asked Miami graffiti writers why they used tropical colors, they told us that they didn't even realize they were doing something different. They had simply grown up with those colors."

In our early conversations, Karla was kind enough to hook me up with local grafitti writer Atomik, who met Brad and I one hot July afternoon at Culture Kings in the Design District. We spent the day checking out some of Miami's hottest graffiti spots (see below for specific locations) and learning everything we didn't know about the art form. Later that night, we headed to Transit Lounge's outdoor space, where Atomik spray painted a canvas that sold at auction.

I told Atomik his painting didn't have to be about the car or girly (like the flower graphics I had picked for the car), but in fact, his abstract work really captured the idea of movement and direction, as well as the curvy lines of the vehicle. The very act of painting itself was dynamic. It was a pleasure to watch Atomik go at it, deftly wielding the spray paint can.

ford fiesta miami atomik graffiti painting transit loungeThe final painting by Atomik. You can really feel the energy that went into this painting.

I would've kept the painting myself, if I could! But instead a lucky guy picked it up for $100 (surely it was worth more than that). Part of the proceeds went to Transit Lounge's favorite charity and the rest to Atomik's pocket. The guy who brought the painting was hanging out with a lady friend. "It's going to look great in his Brickell bachelor pad," she said.

Atomik wasn't the only person who got creative that night. The outdoor space at Transit Lounge became one massive graffiti fiesta. We thought it would be fun to paint on the car, so Brad purchased an enormous semi-transparent plastic cover, but that really wasn't going to work out as well as we thought, because the cover wasn't actually as big as the car and even if it had been, it would've defeated the purpose of showing off the car.

The guys at Transit Lounge had an even better idea though -- they taped the cover on a wall and then everybody had a chance to try their hand at graffiti.

ford fiesta miami graffiti transit loungeFord Fiesta Agent Brad Schenck writing over other graffiti.

Well into the evening, the crowd buzzed with creative energy. Some of Atomik's graffiti writer friends showed up, but others who had never written participated too. I really loved this event because it was so interactive. People kept walking up to the wall, covering other drawings with their own. By the end of the night, every inch of that plastic sheet was covered with amazing blasts of color!


Most of us associate graffiti with vandalism and gangs, but it seems to me to be an art form that doesn't get enough respect. I learned a lot from the few hours spent tooling around Miami with Atomik. For example, graffiti artists are called writers instead of painters; a tag is your signature, which basically says "I was here."

Mind you, not all graffiti is illegal. Some business owners approve of designs (within the regulations of their municipalities), which has helped beautify some rather run-down parts of Miami-Dade. But even these so-called permission walls don't always last.

atomik miami graffitiMiami graffiti writer Atomik stands proudly in front of his work. He's old enough to mourn the loss of Miami's beloved Orange Bowl icon, glorified here at a Wynwood wall.

Atomik is a soft-spoken, relaxed kind of guy who takes his work very seriously. I really enjoyed hanging out with him and respected how devoted he is to the art. He has been painting for fifteen years, since he was in his teens. "I've just always loved art," he told me. And indeed, it seems to come naturally to him, as he also does commercial and graphic design work. At the time of our graffiti tour, he was a member of the MSG crew (Miami Style Graffiti).

Next time you drive around Miami-Dade and see some graffiti, take a moment to really appreciate it!

Here are the locations that we visited. Click through to see pictures.

Little Haiti
Corner of NW 47th Terrace & NW 2nd Street at Little Haiti Hardware and Lumber store, side street wall by Siner, Zame and Cure.

NW 7th Avenue & NW 46th street, side wall of a convenience store, alien character theme by Freak and Theme.

NW 24th street in between NW 1st and 2nd avenue, mural by Retina from Los Angeles and The Mac from Arizona.

NW 24th street in between NW 2nd and NW 3rd avenue, empty lot, location of Miami Graffiti Book Jam in May 2009 (the paintings are on the interior side of the lot walls, so if the gate is closed, you might need to sneak in like we did -- it was closed, but not locked).

NW 6th Avenue & NW 23rd street, The Wall of Fame done for Art Basel 2008, visible from I-95, featuring artists from all over the world.

NW 2nd Avenue & NW 22nd street, abandoned warehouse (be careful at this location, it's a sketchy zone, right next to the projects).

For a great collection of Miami graffiti photos indexed by writers or crews, visit The site also features a brief history and handy glossary.

James and Karla Murray are curating an impressive satellite event during Art Basel 2009, December 4-6. Graffiti Gone Global will feature urban street art from around the world at 3252 NE 1st Avenue, Suite 101, Midtown Miami. Sponsored by Sushi Samba.

Don't forget to check out those who helped us on this mission: Atomik, James and Karla Murray and Transit Lounge. A special shout-out goes out to Transit staff for not only helping us on a busy night, but doing so with great enthusiasm! Transit regularly supports artists -- you can see paintings on the lounge's walls.


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Back to Miami, Part 2: Atlanta

A retrospective series on how I missed my trip to San Francisco and found my way back to Miami from Atlanta, traveling as a single woman alone, using only public transportation to visit friends and do some backyard tourism in Florida.

The escalator in Atlanta's Peachtree MARTA station surely causes a few stomach knots. Photo courtesy of mdxi on Flickr.

So, after being stuck in Atlanta's airport, I made a brief stop downtown before taking a bus to Tallahassee.

I was particularly impressed with Atlanta's public transportation and the general friendliness of people.

It was so easy to get downtown! I took the free shuttle from the hotel back to the airport. The shuttle driver dropped me off right in front of the MARTA station, which is one of many stops in Atlanta's citywide rail system. I purchased a one-way pass for an 18-minute ride to Peachtree Station ($2.50). At the turnstile, an official MARTA guide greeted me, asked me where I was staying or going, and helped me figure out my route. (No worries here -- Atlanta-Hartsfield is a final stop, so you can't possibly get on the wrong train.)

The railway was sometimes above ground, sometimes subterranean. At Peachtree Station, you can see all the black rock from which the tunnel was carved, which is kind of spooky, but also interesting.

And OMG, the escalator to reach street level was the steepest, scariest, longest-ass escalator I have ever seen -- worse than NYC or the Tube in London. There was no freakin' way I was going to go up or down this thing -- 190 feet at its longest length, according to Wikipedia -- which vertically would be about 19 stories! I don't really suffer from vertigo, but man, this was just crazy. My knees wobbled when I looked up this mechanical Mount Everest. It doesn't help that the tiles along the walls are laid out on the same diagonal as the escalator, creating an even more dizzying illusion of height.

Those of us who are handicapped or carry luggage have special dispensation to use one elevator. Yes, ONE elevator, as far as I could tell, for a station that must handle hundreds, if not thousands of people a day.

Do wobbly knees count as a handicap? Well, I did have a carry on with wheels . . .

But apparently, most Atlanta citizens are used to this. Later that day, back on the platform on my way to the bus station, I met a woman named C who has been working at the Chick-Fil-A in the Peachtree Center food court for over 10 years. When I passed by her, she smiled, sighed and gazed at me with that "I've had a long day at work" look. We instantly connected. I asked her if she took the escalator regularly and if she was afraid of heights. "I just stand sideways and don't look down," she said, cringing and shrugging her shoulders a bit.

We chatted until we arrived at my stop. I reached out my hand and she shook mine. "Next time you're in town, stop by Chick-Fil-A," she said. "I'll take good care of you."

(I sure will, C! I've yet more to explore in your city.)


The Atlanta Grill at the Ritz-Carlton. Better than Hooters for lunch, (which was another alternative nearby) and actually, not really that much more expensive! Great service, too.

C wasn't the only friendly person I would meet that day. Earlier, when I finally arrived above ground at Peachtree Station -- the elevator ride was probably longer than a minute -- I met a uniformed tourism ambassador who helped me figure out where to eat and what to do in three hours.

I wish Miami had these kind of folks patrolling downtown and the beaches. And as for random strangers are concerned, I had not one, or two, but three friendly folk who stopped and asked if I needed help when I looked a bit lost. Miami: I think you might learn a little from Atlanta when it comes to public transportation and helpful residents.

The Peachtree area is a shopping, hotel and business district with some skyscrapers and a couple of quaint side streets lined with outdoor cafés. This hilly area is also home to the city's Ritz-Carlton, where I had lunch while sitting on a colonial-style balcony overlooking the main street.

I was about to take a Greyhound bus, so what the hell was I doing at a Ritz Carlton? Well, you know what they say, you can get more bang for your buck at a ritzy place if you go for lunch, and the Atlanta Grill hit the spot. Actually, had I really wanted to splurge, I would've had a hard time. The most expensive lunch entrée was less than $25 and my delicious $12 grilled chicken panini was so big, I had leftovers for dinner.

And besides, I just had to stop and rest in a quiet, uncrowded and peaceful place, where I could rest and use a comfortable restroom to freshen up. When you're a woman traveling alone through a city without a hotel, a quiet, well-lit, cool and comfy place to sit for a spell is important. Schlepping a carry-on suitcase during a hot Atlanta day was just not fun after an hour or so, especially with all those hills and bumpy pavements! My forearms were seriously starting to ache after my previous day's airport marathon, and remember, I was still recovering from a fracture in my leg.

After lunch, I eventually had to get to the bus. The tourism ambassador had explained that instead of taking a taxi, I could save money by getting back on the train (another $2.50) to Garnett Station, which is literally a few steps from the Greyhound bus terminal. The day before, the Westin hotel concierge (who was very helpful, by the way) told me to avoid this part of town by foot, but in that short distance between train and bus stations there was nothing to avoid really, so I felt safe.

Next up: traveling by Greyhound bus to Tallahassee.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Back to Miami, Part 1: Airport Cluster Fuck

A retrospective series on how I missed my trip to San Francisco and found my way back to Miami from Atlanta, traveling as a single woman alone, using only public transportation to visit friends and do some backyard tourism in Florida.

delta airport atlantaSomething I never got to see! Photo courtesy of hdport on Flickr.


Everything happens for a reason ...

... even when we don't know why. I was supposed to spend a week in San Francisco and Mendocino, but boy what a cluster fuck that turned out to be.

The plan was to stay with my dear friend Stephanie from Skinny Jeans and meet some twitter friends at Mendocino. San Francisco, the Pacific Coast Highway, friendships, forests, mountains and wine ... ah!

But little did I know, that flying on the Delta buddy program (my brother started working for Delta a year ago, shortly after he moved to Hawaii), would be so challenging, if not impossible.

On Wednesday, July 23, I left Miami on a 6:45 am flight and actually got a first class seat. I arrived in Atlanta-Hartsfield two hours later only to spend the next 14 hours trying to get on at least six different flights to the bay area.

I was always last on the list, competing with about 20 other people for about 5 seats. No matter what the agents told me, I never really knew if I could board the aircraft until scant minutes before departure. Stranded in Atlanta-Hartsfield close to midnight, with my only hope of another hit-or-miss ordeal to start again at 8:25 am, I said FUCK IT and took the free shuttle to the Westin (yes, their beds are truly heavenly) for a good night's sleep.

I scrapped the whole trip to the west coast and here's why:

Another day of schlepping with a carry-on all over the massive Delta terminal to miss so many flights was not exactly appealing. (Oh yeah, I couldn't put my carry on in a locker, because we were under Code Orange, and Department of Homeland Security prohibits use of lockers under those conditions. Fucking terrorists. I'll send you the bill for my sore forearms.)

Another day of having to spend money on an unbudgeted hotel room was like watching the meter run while standing on idle, hoping I would have enough money left to spend at my destination.

Another return trip from San Francisco, having to deal with the same cluster fuck, wasn't exactly making me sing in the rain, either. And yes, you guessed it: everybody in the god damn world wants to come to Miami through Atlanta, so guess which idiot would be waiting on standby to get home, only to get stranded again?

So live and learn: Atlanta is a major hub and San Francisco is a major cross-continental destination. Major European and Asian flights go through Atlanta to get to San Francisco. You'd think Wednesday wouldn't be a busy day, but in fact, it's the busiest. Every freakin' plane on that day was COMPLETELY FULL, including the final 9:10 PM flight.

(Yeah, it was a 9:10 PM flight, literally one minute away from the most feared series of numbers today: 911.)

Everybody says the economy is bad (and it is) and everybody says the airlines are suffering (I guess so). But step foot inside Atlanta's airport and try to get a standby flight -- you'd never fucking know.

I tried alternative routes to San Francisco. For example, flying through Salt Lake City to get to Oakland or San José. Those flights were heavily booked as well. I was up the proverbial creek, with no pilot or propeller.

The thing is (as my brother tells me) airlines are using smaller craft and overbooking, which basically means, that unless you're traveling to some podunk destination, you aint gettin' on the plane on standby. And if you want to be persistent, plan for a hotel budget, unless you want to sleep in the airport. (I don't know about you, but being a single woman, the idea of sleeping overnight in a deserted terminal is about as sexy as staying in a clinker after a wrongful arrest.)

Had I known all this, I would've just bit the bullet, booked a regular flight and paid an extra $100 - $200. I ended spending as much at the Westin, especially after a late-night supper of delicious lobster ravioli (actually reasonably priced, all things considered, and I had leftovers for breakfast).


This picture was taken at 10pm, Terminal B. Multiply by 10 and you'll get a sense of Atlanta airport crowds earlier in the day. Courtesy of richmanwisco on Flickr.

Ok, so I spent a day in Atlanta-Hartsfield. It was frustrating. It was exhausting. Yet, I always try to learn from life -- and what an experience this was.

Atlanta-Hartsfield airport is amazing, not because it's some work of art or anything, but because it is so gargantuan and handles bazillions of passengers a day. It's simply dizzying. This kind of thing just fascinates me -- you know, it's an organism that needs to work and flow somehow, with the potential for disorder and malfunction a constant threat. Just like the human body, an airport like this is a masterpiece of logistics, not to mention design.

If you're phobic about crowds, don't fly through here during peak hours. Thousands of bodies rush about like ants in a shaken pile.

By the time I left the airport, I knew its every nook and crannie. How did I spend my time?

I took a nap by lying down on a bench, using my purse as a pillow and wrapping my carry-on strap around my wrist. (It really wasn't a nap, what with all the noise, but I felt perfectly safe.)

I enjoyed a 20 minute neck and shoulder massage at Spa Express, followed by a complimentary session on this incredible lazy-boy style chair with massaging rollers. Had it not been for this, I would've been seriously miserable.

I met some very friendly people, including a couple of interesting gentlemen who've been Delta customers for years and fly this route every week.

I met a lovely and sweet young mother from Peru, who spoke no English and was also flying on standby. I'm not quite sure why she had a standby ticket, but she had been dealing with this even before I arrived, with her toddler in tow. It was really sad, actually. She had to ask me where and how she could make a phone call, and then what coins to use that would work in the public phone, as she was completely unfamiliar with US currency. (I offered her my cellphone, but she insisted on using a public phone.)

To make matters worse, she didn't understand the standby process at all, and apparently I was the first person that day to explain it to her. I could only imagine her confusion. She put her hand on my shoulder and said: "Eres un angel quien vino del cielo. Te lo agradezco muchisimo." (You're an angel that's come from the sky above. I am so grateful.) The irony of her words doesn't escape me: we were waiting for something from the sky, and my name translates as Maria of the Angels.

Fortunately, she did eventually make it on a flight, which is a good thing. At that point, she was already running out of diapers for her kid. Whew ... and I thought I had it hard.

I also made a new friend, a gorgeous and sassy 61-year old nurse who didn't look a day over 45. This twice-divorced grandmother made wonderful company. She had been here to visit her elderly mother and was also waiting to fly back home on standby to San Francisco, because a regular ticket was just too expensive.

We shared a cocktail and an appetizer together. "I'll have what she's having," she told the waiter without hesitation while she finished a cellphone call, not ever having tried a vodka martini. "It tastes like lemonade," she said as she winked on her first sip. And by the time she reached the bottom of the glass, I knew a lot about her. She told me about her favorite club, where she dances to hip-hop and rock and roll. She also uttered the single woman's universal lament. "I'm tired of the west coast," she complained. "Can't find any good men in San Francisco." I held up my glass to hers. "Honey," I replied, "it's the same everywhere."

Oh, I also met an adorably cute spring chicken, a blond guy with the face of James Dean and the wink of Elvis, who left an Eastern European country (I won't say which) to avoid compulsory military training. He was reading from a hand-written journal, which is such a rare sight these days. Our conversation was cut short by his flight to a very famous musical city just shy of the Midwest. When I went to pay the bartender, I learned he had taken care of my drink, but he was long gone, and I couldn't thank him.


twitterI should've spent my time doing this, but I part of the pleasure of being stranded meeting new people and sharing stories. Photo courtesy of ahockley on Flickr.

Something very important -- besides my relative sanity -- was missing from this picture. Yes, my friends, believe it or not, if you haven't already guessed, I spent the entire time at the airport without any access to the innernets.

The LCD panel on my trusted Nokia N95 is out of order. So basically, I have a bare bones telephony device and a data plan, but I can't see squat on the screen. I've been walking around with pieces of paper in my pockets, because I don't even have a proper phone book that isn't digital. I've been getting text messages from would be booty calls, not knowing who the heck is contacting me, because everyone who is close to me knows not to leave text messages. No live-streaming video on Qik, no live photos uploaded to Pikchur, no Twitter, no Facebook updates -- nada. This would decidely be the anti-social media trip.

Atlanta-Hartsfield doesn't have free wi-fi and I didn't want to pay $7.95 for 24-hour internet access at the airport, because I never knew if I would be pretty much soon be on the next flight.

I realize now that one of the most frustrating parts of this trip was not being able to kvetch or stay connected to my friends on twitter, many of whom are part of my life for real -- not just online. I was going through serious withdrawal. At this point, I hadn't been on Twitter for over 48 hours.

And yes, I had my laptop, and I could've done some writing during this time, but I was so exhausted and overstimulated by my surroundings that I simply had no creative energy. And besides, I my laptop battery barely has any staying power. Seriously, it needs a good dose of viagra or a case of priapism to stay charged for over 4 hours.

Oh and as if that wasn't enough, my camera's card reader decided to get wonky, which will explain the sporadic number of original photography available to this blog series.

So yeah, basically, every piece of technology I usually depend on was just as reliable as my standby status. And this would be an important lesson for me in the days to come. Just living, breathing -- all exercises in patience and all with minimal technology.

So when life gives you mint leaves, you make mojitos.

I came up with a Plan B.

Instead of going to San Francisco, I decided to take my time getting back to Miami from Atlanta through the Florida peninsula, by way of Greyhound bus, Amtrak trains, Tri-Rail, taxi and the kindness of friends. I never expected this, but got to see a side of travel life I would've never known. I reconnected with old friends and made new ones along the way. In the coming days, I'll be filling you in on what happened -- or didn't happen -- on the way back home to Miami.