Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Julia Tuttle Unveiled!

A follow-up of an earlier post in the Babes with Brains column.

julia tuttle statue miami bayfront parkJulia Tuttle can finally stand proud in the shadow of city she founded on July 28, 1896.

She's finally here in all her 10 foot bronze glory! The Julia Tuttle statue unveiling took place this very hot and sweaty morning behind the playground at Bayfront Park. Nearly 200 people crammed into an air-conditioned tent where movers and shakers -- from Mayor Tomas Regalado to historian Arva Moore Parks -- spoke on the subject of Miami's founder.

The statue is beautiful, thanks to the handiwork of Daub and Firmin studios. In a graceful gesture, Tuttle's palm extends upward holding the famous orange blossoms that convinced Henry Flagler to bring his railroad to the shores of the Miami river. That offering summarizes the story: "I gave orange blossoms and a city was born."

But Tuttle's skirt tells more. Bas relief displays scenes from Miami's frontier down days. The style is deliberate: Arva Moore Parks encouraged everyone to visit the statue and "touch Miami."

Tuttle wants you to touch her; it's supposed to be a tactile experience. She doesn't create distance. Those scenes may be from the past, but history is here and now. It's all around you. You're standing on it. You're looking at it. In a city that tends to ignore history, Tuttle's statue is a fixed reminder that history is always there, if you're willing to look for it, touch it and feel it in your heart.

There's something feminine and maternal about the work, yet also something strong and powerful. Her head is slightly tilted, looking to the side, so she doesn't feel like a statue, but rather an organic creature, who might have ironed her blouse just before posing. Her face is serene as if she was just about to ask you to join her for a cup of tea, yet she stands determined.

I simply love the immediacy of this statue. Yes, she's imposing, but she's also very real.

Most moving are the visionary words carved into her skirt, written just before her death:
"It may seem strange, but it is the dream of my life to see this wilderness turned into a prosperous country ... as surely as the sun rises and sets all of this will come true."
At the age of 42, Tuttle helped build this city with pure tenacity and grit. Sadly, she died at age 49 never to see her dream come true, so think of what it means to see her face framed by towering high-rises in the photo above.

R and B songstress Betty Wright belted out "I Am Woman" just after the statue was unveiled. Enjoy!

More pictures of the statue on Flickr.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

BREAKING NEWS! Sex and the Beach Is Too Fat For Its Pants!

trunk bay us virgin islands scenic panoramicThe sky's the limit. Trunk Bay in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo by yours truly.

Sex and the Beach is approaching its fifth-year anniversary! Who knew the voice of Manola Blablablanik would have come this far? Sometimes it's hard for me to believe that I've been blogging for that long, and as with any project of a creative nature, it's natural (and very healthy) for things to evolve. So here's a sneak preview of what's to come:


As some of you already know, I currently do travel writing about South Florida and moderate a local travel and living advice forum Florida at Miami Beach 411. But many years before all this online writing, I was an active travel writer specializing in Caribbean beach destinations. While I was wrapping up grad school, I worked part-time as an editor and staff contributor for Honeymoon Romantic Travel Magazine, penning an occasional article for Caribbean Travel and Life. Obviously I was all about the tropics back then, because my post-graduate work was in Caribbean studies, during which time I was planning on writing a doctoral dissertation related to Caribbean/South Florida history and literature.

It was a trip to Grenada that changed my life and tossed me into the heady seas of freelance writing, leaving academia behind. I knew that I had a passion for the Caribbean and South Florida, but that my audience should be broader.

Well, let's just fast forward to today. I put travel writing on hold for several years but that passion hardly ever lost its spark, so at long last, I'm opening up a whole new travel section here, which is a no-brainer, obviously. Sex and the Beach intends to cover as many romantic beach or waterfront destinations a girl can take!

To start with, I will cover much of Florida (yes I know, it's ironic because of the oil spill), and as soon as my passport is renewed, I'll be puddle jumping around our neighboring islands and eventually jetting beyond ... Mendocino and Madeira are on my list too!

Stay tuned in August for a premiere story about romancing the Keys! I'll be wending my way down the island chain stopping at a couple of romantic resorts. A special Hawaii edition for September is in the planning stages.


Expect more food stories whenever the fancy strikes me. I'm not really a "food writer" or "critic" but I do enjoy good eats and the bounty of friendships surrounding the experience, not to mention the sensuality, culture and history associated with food.


Yeah, a girl has to make a living, too. I've signed on to OpenSky, a new paradigm on monetizing blogs based on one's influence and reach in a community. As some of you know, I'm very active on Twitter, and while I may not (thankfully!) have a following of thousands, I do have a solid following that trusts my opinion. This has come from years of cultivating relationships and connections both online and in real life, which is what social media is all about, as far as I'm concerned.

From time to time, I will be posting here about products that I've personally tried, endorse and just think are way cool and practical, especially for the single woman or the single woman in you. And just like I did with the Ford Fiesta project, I'll make those posts interesting even if you're not interested in buying a damn thing. My intention is to seek out products that are as local as possible for South Florida readers to enjoy.

This is an experiment for now, so we'll see how it goes. I encourage other bloggers to try the OpenSky project too.


Expect to see more sponsor ads on the sidebar and occasional link ads on random blog posts. All my sponsors are businesses that I've talked to and checked out. Some may even be businesses that I really like and regularly support. What you won't see: a messy blog with intrusive non-contextual ads.


I used to joke about my big fat Cuban ass, but now I have to find a way of managing all this big fat content in a way that makes sense to readers. Eventually, I'll be moving over to Wordpress only because I need a more flexible content management system to separate out different sections of the blog. Don't worry though, I'll continue publishing here until the move is final.


I want to thank everyone who has been reading this blog from the get-go and those who have joined along the way! It's still business as usual around here, but because the blog is growing along with me, I need to adapt and expand.

It was always my dream to have my own publication. Guess what? I sort of got there, without even realizing I was doing it! I have always said that a blog is not a blog but whatever you make of it. This is what it is for me and I encourage everyone to explore the world of online publishing.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Grass Swingers

grasshoppers having sex butterfly world florida

A recent trip to Butterfly World in Coconut Creek had us dusting off the kama sutra. Is this doggie style or a freaky reverse cowgirl (note the position of the legs). Oh yeah, and in grasshopper world, it's totally ok to watch.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Babes with Brains: Miami Mama Julia Tuttle Finally Gets Her Due

Babes with Brains takes a look at South Florida's entrepreneurial women. This is the first of a series.

julia tuttle miami statue unveiling

Move over South Beach bimbos! The Kardashian sisters weren't the first to start business here. Hey, you gotta look back ... WAY back to the late 19th century when tough cookie Julia Tuttle pulled a Lebron James, packed her shit from Cleveland but instead of playing hoops, she built a homestead sans husband all on her own on the banks of the Miami river. Can you imagine dealing with mosquitoes and humidity in those heavy, frumpy frocks? This woman really had balls!

Julia Tuttle had plans for all the property she owned, as in big development plans, though it would be almost a century before high-rises would sprout out of the downtown limestone. Besides, she probably wanted more neighbors than the Brickells, who were trading with Seminoles on the south banks of the river.

With a gift of orange blossoms, she convinced railroad magnate Henry Flagler to bring the tracks down to what was then called Fort Dallas and soon enough, a city was born. Julia Tuttle is the only babe to have ever founded a major US city. Come on Miamians! And you thought Lebron James was the best Ohio export? Here's something you can really be proud of.

Thanks to hard work by some folks as dogged and determined as Tuttle herself, this pioneer in a pinafore finally gets more than a namesake causeway to Miami Beach. On Thursday, July 28 at 9:30 a statue in her honor will be unveiled at Bayfront Park.
The statue is a 10-foot bronze, and the skirt depicts in astonishing detail the scenes typical of Miami around the time of its incorporation. In her right hand, Julia is holding the famous orange blossoms that she sent to Henry Flagler to convince him to extend his railroad to Miami.

An Oversight Committee of experts and members of the two women’s commissions [The Miami-Dade County Commission for Women and the City of Miami Commission on the Status of Women] supervised the entire process and raised over $200,000 for the statue. Arva Moore Parks, noted Miami historian and member of the Oversight Committee, provided the historical research for the accuracy of the scenes depicted on the skirt. The statue was created by Daub & Firmin Studios, a noted sculpture firm with extensive experience in monumental sculpture and the creation of art for public spaces.
The statue has been a long time coming. Fundraising started in 1996, the year of the Miami Centennial. It's fitting that July 28 is also the 114th anniversary of the City of Miami's incorporation. Julia will finally get to look over the city she helped build -- if she can see through all the condos.

To attend, please RSVP to the Miami Downtown Development Authority at (305) 579-6675 or email info [at] miamidda [dot] com.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Girl Code

best friends forever girl code

It's bad enough when a guy dumps you, but even worse when a girlfriend breaks your heart. You see, if there's something that men do well, it's to fuck up friendships among women. Actually, correction: if there's something that women do well, it's to let men fuck up their friendships.

When I was in high school, my best friend got upset with me after I fell in love for the first time. I stopped paying attention to her because suddenly I was in the throes of young love, acting like a fool, kissing my boyfriend in the back seat of the car, skipping out on roller skating and the movies to be with him, not giving a shit about the rest of the world. She told me as much. She called me on it. I acknowledged her hurt and I balanced my new found love life with a friendship that was every bit as important to me. For the first time in my life, I was challenged by the girl code. Discovering eros, I also discovered the value of agape.

The relationship with my high school sweetheart lasted seven years, well into college. But the friendship is still going strong, 28 years solid, even though she moved to the northeast. She's in my heart; she's part of my life -- a faithful and silent companion even though we don't speak everyday.

Men will come and go but true friendships really do last until death do you part. It makes me wonder: we think nothing of festooning romantic attachments with silver and gold symbols yet we would never wear a ring in honor of loyal friends.

After all, just like married men and women, friends get divorced too. And just like marriage, it starts out right -- two idiots trust each other, open themselves up, make themselves vulnerable -- only to be deeply disappointed when the honeymoon is over and someone decides it's inconvenient. And just like divorce, the friend who betrays does the other one a favor, opening the door to more deserving relationships.

Marriage relies on a code of honor that is often broken and friendships are no different. I broke the girl code with my friend many years ago, but I learned my lesson then. For me, there's nothing higher than the love of faithful friends, except perhaps for the love of family, and even then, I consider my friends to be family, because being single and childless, they fill the gaps in my life and we love and trust each other implicitly. When I've finally met a worthy man who can honor me the same way, I'll know I've hit jackpot.

So now, at the tender age of 42, I'm thinking about the meaning of friendship again.

What does it mean to break the girl code now, when we're all jaded with closets full of skeletons, marriages, divorces, maybe kids, career changes, deaths and illnesses? Ladies, how do we trust friends we give our hearts to, thinking they are safe just because they aren't men?

Well, I'll tell you what I've learned and it's simple. Two words: integrity and honesty. If men and women can take vows, why not friends?

I will never toss you aside like worthless jetsam even if I am horny and desperate. I'll make time to hang out with my gaggle of vaginas even if I haven't had dick forever. I won't give up on special events with girlfriends just because penis has asked me out and will pay for everything. Friends come first and if I want to succumb to my baser instincts, at least I'll be honest about it and you'll respect me for that.

I will never, ever mess with your man. I'd rather have a pussy wax with molten steel than mess with your man. Even if he's your ex, I'll never go out with him without your blessing. Heck, it would never even cross my mind while the body was still warm. Your heart will always be more important to me, no matter how much I want to fuck him. And even if it's not about the sex, I will never go there until I know for sure you've moved on. The heart of a friend is sacred.

If I ever do break the girl code, I'll look you in the face and just own it, and you'll forgive me, because that's what friends do. It aint a pity party, it's a friendship.

Ladies, that's my girl code. What's yours and have you ever broken it? What would you be willing to pledge to a friend?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Silicone Bitch: Startups, Sports, Social and More!

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

social media club south florida bank atlantic centerBig turnout at Social Media Club this month. Photo by @miamishines.

It's summer, but there's still lots going on ...


Startup Forum, led by Seth Elliott and Alex de Carvalho, held its inaugural meeting on July 8 at Q Barbecue in the Design District. "Defending Your Moat" featured guest speakers John Christopher of Christopher & Weisberg and Jack Karabees of CP Capital Securities discussing intellectual property. The next meeting is on August 3 and will focus on developing sales, distribution and partner channels for business. Meetings are free and followed by networking.


Social Media Club South Florida
held one of its biggest and best monthly meetings yet at the Bank Atlantic Center in Broward on July 13. The Sports and Social Media panel was led brilliantly by Toby Srebnik (Pitch to the Rhino). The panelists were Kartik Krishnayier, North American Soccer League (@kkfla737 and @NASLOfficial), Jim Rushton, Sr. VP of Corporate Partnerships and Integrated Media, Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins), Boris Menier, Marketing Coordinator, Florida Marlins (@Marlins411), Jennifer Tobias, Director of Interactive Marketing and New Media, Miami Heat (@MiamiHeat), and Steven Ziff, VP, Marketing and Brand Activation, Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers).

Amazingly, the words LeBron James were only mentioned about three times in the entire session, but much was said about the impact of social media during the world cup, for example, when millions of Twitter users connected on the topic online.


Yours truly is now co-hosting Social Chats, an internet radio show, with Tonya Scholz from 1 to 2 pm every Tuesday. We're talking about social media and all things hyper-local from West Palm Beach to Monroe -- from restaurants to events and anything else that tickles our fancy -- all with Sex and the Beach style insight and humor. Our studio headquarters are at super geeky and ultra wired Securenet Systems in Deerfield Beach, but we're also be broadcasting live from other locations in South Florida. We're currently in beta and ironing out some technical kinks, but stay tuned for weekly posts about each broadcast.


By popular request, yours truly is teaching the first of many workshops to come on the subject of blogging and writing. Sponsored by Preemo, Miami's computer repair experts, this three-hour workshop will help guide those who have never started a blog or are new to blogging. We will focus on content development and writing techniques through a variety of lecture topics and exercises, custom-tailored to the group. The cost is $45 and includes a pre-workshop phone consultation to determine individual participant needs. The workshop is limited to 10 students and will be held at Preemo headquarters in South Miami. Pre-registration and pre-payment is required at Eventbrite.


Life is Art continues its great "Creative Connections" educational series by hosting a social media workshop with pro "branding professor" Patrick Barbanes at GAB Studios in Wynwood, Miami on August 21. The $35 fee is well worth it if you're new to social media. Sex and the Beach highly recommends!


It seems like social media events are all about the ride these days. Truly Nolen (@trulynolen) -- you know, the exterminators with the cute yellow cars that have mouse ears, whiskers and tails on them -- will host a few lucky tweeps and bloggers on a Broward adventure to the Museum of Discovery and Science, Pizza Fusion and Butterfly World. So if you see a bunch of Truly Nolen cars parading in the 954 this Saturday, July 24, you'll know why. Yours truly will be part of the team. Apparently, we're going to get a crash course in entomology, which I hope means a tip or two on repelling South Florida's real mascot -- the palmetto bug. Follow us on twitter with the hashtag #mousecarparade.


Refresh South Florida
is combining both Miami and Fort Lauderdale meetups into one giant gathering on Thursday, July 29 from 7:30 to 10 PM at Florida Atlantic University in Davie. "Demo Night" will focus on five companies presenting in five minutes each with slideshows. Invite on Facebook.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Local: Playdate is for Playahs

Tired of asking for the sheets to be changed at the corner swinger's club on Dixie Highway? Tired of squeezing your fat ass into pleather every time you go to a fetish party at some warehouse west of the Turnpike? Or worse, tired of waiting in lines at a South Beach club only to be wallet-raped every time you order a drink?

Maybe it's time for a little wholesome Mayberry style adult entertainment for you. Maybe it's time to get back to basics and that's exactly what Playdate is: a time for grown-ups to get together and play games. No, not mind games, mind you, but real games, like the ones you played when you were a kid: chess, checkers, UNO, Monopoly, Jenga and more.

playdate miami chessPlayahs making moves on some big-ass pieces.

I had the chance to attend Miami's first Playdate last month with some friends and spent a joyful, entertaining evening. It's the most fun you can have in a room full of adults without any of the oversexed hype of any club -- think romper room at your 30-year kindergarten reunion. A DJ, MC, cheap drinks and a reasonably priced buffet complimented the event. Everyone let down their inhibitions to do terribly risqué things like participate in hula hoop and twister contests. The group was varied with twenty, thirty and forty somethings in the crowd. Refreshingly absent were the typical club jackasses ready to mount on the first rump that wafts by.

playdate miami hula hoopsWeeeeeeee! Try doing this in your typical South Beach clubbing outfit.

Couples and singles go -- gaggles of girls and batallions of boys. One couple I met was there on their second date and the girl didn't seem to mind watching over him play chess. If you're a single woman, I suggest you go with friends, but if you go alone and are a social butterfly, you'll probably make new friends while you're there.

Playdate nights take place all over the country. Miami style returns this Friday night, July 16, 2010 at the Newport Resort, 16701 Collins Avenue in Sunny Isles, 10PM to 2AM. Cost is $10 (food and drink extra, but reasonable). 21+ only, please. Click on Playdate for more information.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Exclusive! Video Interview with Matt Passmore of The Glades

We already mentioned Matt Passmore's character, Jim Longworth, as a potential Hurricane Season Boyfriend and we are pleased to report he is still in the running!

I had the opportunity to interview hunky Australian actor Matt Passmore yesterday evening at the landmark Fort Lauderdale hotel, Hyatt Pier 66. Passmore was quite friendly and so was his lovely girlfriend Rachel. We didn't really talk about the show very much, but rather his experience in Florida -- he first visited years ago on a backpacking trip that included distractions due to many mojitos (we already love him for this). Recently, he's been busy, of course, shooting on location throughout the state, including (we've heard from VERY reliable sources), some choice locations in prime Fort Lauderdale neighborhoods, as well as Pier 66.

Passmore also told me that the trained alligator he worked with on the set for the pilot was so docile that he had to be insulted to get angry (you know we love us some good gator wraslin' ... I hope the screenwriters get all cracker on us at some point!). Unbelievably, Passmore has yet to visit South Beach because he's been terribly busy filming, which I hope he will do soon, and give us something else to talk about besides bloody Lebron James. As for hurricanes, Passmore delighted my ears when he said he'd pass on that "cheeky pleasure" (that's what hurricane novices always say) so that the oil spill won't go from tragedy to worse.

The new A & E series The Glades reminded me of a Carl Hiassen novel with the same kind of gritty characters and outlandish plot twists. (Interestingly, everyone I spoke to at the premiere last night had never heard of the renowned author.) Jim Longworth was indeed hard to get along with, perhaps because of his annoying persistence. The script is funny, actually, and Longworth, along with his police pal Carlos Sanchez (played Carlos Gomez) deliver lines with witty, sarcastic punches.

I'm not going to give up more, but I will say I'm tickled pink that this show does feel like the real Florida because it doesn't seem to be going in the direction of South Beach. The opening scene with the camera panning in a swamp sets the backdrop for what promises to be a refreshing departure from heavily photoshopped Miami CSI, which as we all know, rarely films in Miami. I mean seriously, what investigators show up in stilettos and pant suits in the heat and humidity? At least Longworth looked sweaty and he does get bit by a gator. I did wonder, however, why the actors were not told to swat mosquitoes.

(Ironically, part of the pilot was filmed in Georgia because, as a little birdie told me, Florida wasn't giving film companies tax breaks at the time. The rest of the pilot was filmed in Tampa as far as I know.)

Ben Johnson, National Account Manager for the Hyatt, was very happy to accommodate the cast and crew for filming on location. "We have a lot of history here," he said. "We represent Fort Lauderdale with the intracoastal background. We're more of a water culture rather than a beach culture."

Kudos to the Hyatt Pier 66 and the Broward Film Commission for welcoming the cast and crew. Geez, everybody's talking about LeBron James putting a dent in the economy, but no one want to talk about how important it is to have a film industry here and how great it is that the show is utilizing many local actors.

But we digress ... and the search for Hurricane Season Boyfriend candidates continues! We'll see how Jim Longworth performs in the next few episodes as he gets his Chicago honky ass used to the ways of nation's dicktip. We wouldn't want him to run out on us when the wind is blowing.

As for Passmore's looks and charisma, let me quote myself, referring to the alligator bite: "I can think of a lot of women in South Florida who would probably want to take a bite out of you."

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Mangolicious Food Porn

Holy flowing juices! As if we didn't have enough with yesterday's hunk, o la la feast your eyes on this cover of Edible South Florida's latest edition!

richard campbell mango

Do you remember when I used to volunteer at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in the tropical fruit program? During that time, I had the chance to meet and do some volunteer work with Richard Campbell, Senior Curator of Tropical Fruit. Although this cover is racy, it's not an exaggeration to say he practically sleeps with mangoes -- the man is a walking encyclopedia about all things tropical fruit. Plus, he's a really affable guy, willing to share his enthusiasm with others. Good lord, if he weren't married, he'd surely make an excellent candidate for Hurricane Season Boyfriend. The man can climb a tree and wield a machete like nobody's business and besides, who doesn't love a man in a bathtub with fruit?

Edible South Florida is part of a nationwide network of magazines that focuses on local, artisanal food culture. It's one of the best FREE things you can lay your hands on in South Florida, chock full of info, well written and backed up by an editorial team that is truly passionate about the subject of seasonal food in Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Pick up your copy at Whole Foods and other locations or read it online by clicking on the cover of "current issue" on the sidebar of the website.

Edible South Florida reminds us the 18th Annual International Mango Festival is this weekend at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. Follow them on Twitter @ediblesofla. They're planning a mango lassi tweetup of sorts so everyone can meet the magazine crew.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Glades: Sunny With a Chance of Hunkiness

matt passmore, jim longworth, the gladesMatt Passmore as Jim Longworth on the set of The Glades, tenderly holding a marsh rabbit. You know what rabbit (conejo) means in Spanish, right? Think the "p" word.

It's about time someone replaced Horatio Cane in the pantheon of South Florida TV crime fighters. Don't get us wrong, we love Horatio. Heck, we already know that every savvy woman carries a Horatio Cane amulet in her purse for protection.

But just like mosquitoes, we need fresh blood and The Glades might be the answer. Step in Jim Longworth (played by hunky Australian Matt Passmore), a disgruntled ex-Chicagoan who moves to a sleepy town in the Sunshine State for a good game of golf in between solving murders.

Like many folks new to South Florida, Longworth soon realizes that not everything is at it seems here in paradise, and if you've truly experienced the real Everglades, you know that's true: the water seems shallow, but step in it and the mud will suck you in.

According to the press release, Longworth is a "an attractive, brilliant, yet hard to get along with homicide detective," and we hope he will not disappoint. We are excited about Longworth not only because his name is ridiculously phallic, but because if he proves to be tough in the swamp, great in the sack and an asshole only when he needs to fend off gators and criminals, we know he'll make an excellent Hurricane Season Boyfriend.

matt passmore jim longworth the gladesThose biceps would make an excellent addition to any Hurricane Preparedness Kit.

What excites us even more is the fact that unlike Miami CSI, this show was actually filmed in Florida, according to sources. But we shall see; ehem, we can spot a fake Florida outdoor set 3,000 miles away.

Sex and the Beach will hang out with some cast and crew this weekend during a private premiere party at the fabulous Hyatt Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale. The intracoastal resort property was a location for several scenes in the first four episodes of The Glades. Stay tuned for a report!

"Sunny with a chance of homicide," The Glades premieres Sunday, July 11 at 10PM ET/PT on A&E.

Photo credits: Gene Page

Friday, July 02, 2010

Silicone Bitch: Who Owns Social Media in South Florida?

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

Silicone Bitch only publishes every two weeks, but in today's special edition we examine Social Media Day, the question of "who owns social media" and the issue of public relations companies jumping on the social media bandwagon.

social media day Mashable is a leading news source for social and digital media and they recently rallied communities world-wide to celebrate what they call the "revolution" -- social media as a phenomenon that has enabled all of us who are involved in it to stay connected and to help those in need. Mashable encouraged cities around the world to hold Social Media Day events of their own on June 30. This was not a proprietary event for any one particular community; anyone could've had a Social Day Event and labeled it as such.

That's all fine and well, and of course Silicone Bitch applauds Mashable for being a leader in social media awareness. But a funny thing happened on the way to June 30 ...

In October 2009, Social Media Club South Florida held a panel titled "Who Owns Social Media?" in Downtown Miami. About 50 people showed up to hear reps from five South Florida corporations discuss their social media strategies. The conclusion we came to was that no one owns social media. In fact, that's the beauty of it -- it's a medium that anyone can use to communicate and connect, whether it's for personal or business reasons.

It's obvious that social media would be a natural platform for public relations companies, so Silicone Bitch was not surprised to hear that a PR company would lay claim to at least one Social Media Day event in Miami. But here's where our enthusiasm about the project fell flat, because at this point in history of the social media phenomenon, traditional PR does not automatically translate into social media.

Silicone Bitch knows of many local PR companies using social media and got to thinking: what makes them successful? The social media motto is, after all,"if you get it, share it." Those companies that do get it share it all the time and share it well.

This is not the first time Silicone Bitch has pondered the matter. There have been speaking engagements with PR pros dying to hear what makes writers and social media enthusiasts tick.

Here are some tips, summarized from panel discussions and observed best practices.

1.If you're a PR company that claims to know social media and you never connect with local chapters of Social Media Club, that makes many folks scratch their heads.

social media club south floridaWhile everyone "owns" social media, there is a very cohesive group in South Florida that has been meeting up, connecting and making things happen for over two years. South Florida's Social Media Club chapter is one of the most successful in the world. This is, by far, and to the best of our knowledge, the only regular gather of social media enthusiasts AND professionals in the southeast Florida area, with monthly turnouts of about 50-100 or more people eager to learn and share information about social media. (This isn't counting Southwest Florida, by the way.)

While there are thousands of people using social media who are not professionals in the field, it would still behoove any public relations company to also establish some ties with its local Social Media Club.

2. Please don't embarrass yourself by acting like your PR company event is the last drop of water in the desert and never alienate others by calling your crowd elite.

Tweetups and such in Miami are more widespread than herpes -- they're like flare ups. Throw in Broward and West Palm Beach and you've got a veritable pandemic of people who've connected online and who've been meeting up in person, sticking their noses in their mobile phones and tweeting, foursquaring, twitpicking, facebooking, qiking and youtubing the shit out of everything all night for quite some time now. This isn't news.

Why do we keep mentioning other counties? Because folks, if you're really involved in the South Florida social media scene, you know we are all inextricably connected professionally and socially as far as social media is concerned. Many gas tanks have been filled for tri-county social media commuting.

There are and have been social media events about everything in South Florida -- dogs, drinks, sushi, pizza, wine, bla bla bla -- and gasp! some old school events that are just for social media's sake! Do your research, find out who's been doing what in the past, who's doing what now and show up and network, for Pete Cashmore's sake. You know, things like Twestival (another international event with local outreach), South By Southeast etc; have been making the rounds.

Dovetailing on a major national event without integration into an already established social media community is like wearing a Macy's cocktail party dress you have to return the next day with the tag still on it, never to be worn again.

mashable summer tourAnd yes, do research. Mashable was here in 2008 for Summer Mash, a productive daytime geek and social media "camp" followed by a smash hit social media party in South Beach with Mr. Cashmore himself taking pictures on the red carpet with every bimbo and himbo on the social media radar. This aint the first time there's been partying in the 305 for Mashable's sake.

3. Free booze does not a social media event make, duh. You need to be social.

Many PR companies think that by catering to lushes they can call their event a huge success. What bunch of cheap-ass alcoholics wouldn't show up? But horror of horrors, no nametags? No one to greet and introduce people to each other at the door? A screen feed that only projects your event and not other events and/or tweets around the world? No post-event networking and socializing? No good wi-fi?

Ugh. That's pretty lame, not to mention laughable. We've said it many times before and will say it again: if it aint got a nametag, it aint social media. And actually, you don't need fancy tech to have a good social media event. You need good old-fashioned "meet-and-greet now and stay connected" understanding of human social relationships.

And if people rush out the door after the liquor sponsor puts the cork back in the bottle, that means your social media proof was lower than the stuff in the bottle.

4. Tell me who you tweet with and I'll tell you who you are.

A PR company that is well connected with social media influencers in its community has a well-researched follower list on Twitter that goes beyond celebrity and company "soapbox" accounts. Not engaging with local bloggers and social media enthusiasts is a sure sign of indifference. Blocking social media pros who are trying to engage with you is a Twitter faux pas and the worst kind of netiquette, as is following people only to drop them after they've followed you. These Twitter practices are no better than that of a spammer.

5. Social media is about connecting and staying connected. It's the longest fucking phone call of your life, even if you want to hang up. It takes work.

There is absolutely nothing wrong a PR company trying to incorporate social media into its roster of services -- they'd be stupid not to. As a matter of fact, a good handful of PR local companies are creating social media events brilliantly, making many friends along the way. If you want to engage those who are going to give you the free publicity you need, you practically need to get in bed with them. Engagement is the key word here.

Silicone Bitch can't stand PR companies that pose and kiss a writer's ass for only a day. PR pros who recognize a valuable relationship stick to it because they know that writer's attention is golden. And by "writer" we don't mean only journalists and bloggers, but anyone who's active in social media who's going to help spread that message you've been paid to broadcast.

So in conclusion, every day is social media day. It's great that Mashable picks one day out of the year to highlight the amazing thing that is social media, but for those who talk the talk and walk the walk, this is the daily grind. A PR company that claims to know social media knows damn well it's not just about your turnout, your foursquare check-ins and your hasthag mentions, it's about the relationships you created on your way there and continue to maintain in your journey.

Silicone Bitch is not sure why it's all being called a revolution now, when in fact, the real BANG began years ago and we're all plugging away it day to day like it's second nature. But whatever -- it's good to not take for granted the power of one-on-one communication in social media and solid PR companies build there social media strategies on those kinds of relationships.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

A Taste of Cuba in South Beach

PALO! afro cuban funk bandPALO! Afro-Cuban Funk band. Photo by Ray Medina.

Travelers often ask me if it's worth visiting Little Havana and my answer is always yes, yes and yes! There's so much more to South Florida than Miami Beach and for a real taste of Cuban culture in Miami, you've got to cross Biscayne Bay to the mainland.

But if you're like many South Beach visitors who don't rent cars, the idea of taking a municipal bus in Miami-Dade County is hardly appealing. (Heck, I wouldn't do it and I live here.)

Luckily for the curious, a taste of Cuban culture is now available right at everyone's doorstep in South Beach -- a taste so good, even locals from the mainland make the trek over the causeway for it.


Behind his shy demeanor, musical powerhouse Steve Roitstein -- a Jewish white guy originally from Connecticut who makes fun of his own unlikely attraction to Latin culture -- has always been deeply inspired by Cuban music, food and culture. So inspired was he, in fact, that seven years ago he started his own Afro-Cuban funk band and since then PALO! has never missed a beat.

Combine Steve's music with the culinary artistry of Chef Douglas Rodriguez and you've got one of the best damn things you can enjoy in South Beach without having to stand in line behind a velvet rope: great food, drinks and music all centered around Cuban culture.

For several months now, PALO! has been playing in the charming side courtyard at The Hotel Astor on Washington Avenue, also home to D. Rodriguez Cuba, an upscale Cuban restaurant offering contemporary twists on traditional dishes. The courtyard is small, but surrounded by jasmine vines and bamboo trees -- a lovely green oasis off busy, gritty Washington Avenue. The setting is decidedly intimate and a great spot for a date.

PALO! plays on a terrace facing comfy lounge chairs and tables where, once seated, you can feel the sensual tones of Leslie Cartaya's voice swirl up in the air while rhythmic drumming on bongos and snare beat close to your heart. Combine that with Roitsein's jazzy keyboard inflections and a sax's players funky riffs, and you've got a top quality South Beach live music gig in a most unexpected location. Live music isn't staple entertainment in South Beach; thank the orishas for this!

If I had to describe Cartaya's voice, it would be like sweet molasses with a dash of spice, flying through high and low notes like her beaming smile. And I can sit at the bar, literally an hour or more, staring mesmerized at the fierce percussion moves by Phil Armanteros on bongos and Raymer Oladle on drums, which would surely resound deep into the night through mountains and valleys, if we only had them.

Through all this, you will also find me tapping my feet to the clave, a specific rhythm that underlies all Cuban music, which is easy to hear but difficult to master. I may not always "get" the clave, but I do mouth the lyrics, which are in Spanish and quite catchy, describing typical Cuban daily life experiences. Roitstein always explains the lyrics to the audience, so English speakers don't miss out on the themes.


A typical night at a PALO! performance here involves drinks, dining and spontaneous bursts of dancing by newcomers and regulars alike.

D. Rodriguez isn't your typical Cuban mama's home cooking but it takes an interesting departure from the traditional. For starters, try the homemade plantain chips with sofrito dip made with roasted peppers and rich in cumin, garlic flavor.

malanga tacos d rodriguezDon't miss the malanga beef and black bean tacos; the soft shells are made from a tuber root common in traditional Cuban fare. The flatbreads also use a tuber root, yuca, for a crust; the duck and foie gras version is delicious with smoked dates and radishes added to the toppings.

For the main course, try the Crispy Skin Cuban Pork with pickled sweet peppers that lighten up the rich meat. Seafood lovers should go for the Mahi Mahi Fricasee in a rich tomato Creole-style sauce. If you're new to Cuban food, take your pick of classic plantain side dishes like fried sweet plantains, tostones con ajo (double-fried plantains with garlic, not sweet like the former), and fufú de platanos (mashed plantain with bacon).

If there's room for dessert, the vanilla flan with pineapple is a tropical must.

Dining is also available indoors but PALO! show guests can sit outside and just order appetizers or drinks if they want to pass on main courses. The Dark and Stormy Mojito (Myer's Black Rum muddled with mint and topped with Ginger Beer) or the French Mojito (Hendrick's Gin, lemon and tarragon on the rocks with a splash of champagne) are both refreshing.


PALO! at D. Rodriguez Cuba may not exactly duplicate the street life of Little Havana, but it's the closest thing you'll get to an authentic Cuban cultural experience in hyped-out, over-saturated South Beach. Completely original, it's not a kitschy tourist trap. Trust me, there aint nothin' else like this in South Beach right now.

For performance schedules, check the PALO! website or blog.

This Saturday, July 3rd 2010, PALO! celebrates its seventh anniversary with a performance at D. Rodriguez Cuba. A $7 cover includes a free CD, which you will not want to leave Miami without after hearing this band. The bar will pour $7 mojitos. Keep in mind, PALO! shows rarely include a cover but this is a special event.

If grabbing a bite at D. Rodriguez Cuba, reservations are highly suggested. Call (305) 673-3763 for details. Buen provecho!

Food photo credit: D. Rodriguez Cuba