Monday, October 31, 2011

Kim Kardashian Divorce: What Would You Do With $10 Million?

kim kardashianPhoto courtesy of Beacon Radio's Flickr on Creative Commons.

My twitter following twisted my arm to write about this, though I hesitated. Anyway, unless you are living under a rock, news of Kim Kardashian's divorce is sizzling all over the interwebz and it pisses me off.

Because I care about or know Kim personally? No.

It's because of the massive amount of money that was spent in this endeavor and because rumor has it that Kim actually profited from her marriage, even though she filed for divorce today, just 72 days after allegedly not much nuptial bliss.

This isn't really shocking news, actually. We're used to shallow entertainment making big bucks. And you have to hand it to Kim -- what an ace, pro business woman, bombshell, brand etc;

At the end of the day, to each his own. But look, British royalty is expected to spend a shit load on weddings, not American TV reality stars. Can you imagine what you could do with that cash?

You could fund non-profits. You could create endowment programs. You could create fucking jobs in America in the non-profit sector or whatever dirtbag Third World Country of your choice.

You could, and actually would, change the world.

The vanity and narcissism of this is appalling and justifies what some Europeans told me way back in 2001 when I was stuck in Spain after 9/11: "You Americans are just a bunch of uncultured yahoos who only eat hamburgers."

And what's worse? That the public takes it all in. If the Kardashians are famous, it's because we let them be. I'm guilty of that right now.

I actually think Kim is a smart girl but she needs to put her influence to good use. She needs to talk to Angelina Jolie. And who knows, maybe her husband turned out to be a real asshole.

I try to be compassionate when talking about people I don't know, but this is just so ridiculous. When you are a celebrity, you have a responsibility. Kim doesn't come across as a trouble maker and this is just a terrible example to all would-be brides of misplaced energy and resources.

Marriage is sacred and something to be taken seriously, I don't care if you are straight, gay, white, black, whatever. If you make a commitment, stick to it unless you find yourself in an abusive situation. Relationships require work and aren't perfect.

Don't tread lightly into that good night, so one poet said. I will add, don't tread lightly into that marital chamber.

People spend so much time focused on the wedding, they forget they have to work on a relationship. That's just messed up. A wedding is supposed to be a symbolic ceremony and gathering, not a sham party. Get over it!

This is one of the reasons why I'm not married, because if I ever do tie the knot, it will be one of the most serious decisions of my life.

And also, expect a humble wedding, even if I have cash to go shoe shopping in Dubai or fishing to any exotic saltwater destination in the world, I would be mortified and embarrassed to put together such an ostentatious shindig. Over the top weddings like this only flaunt vanity and have nothing to do with real love.

Am I saying people shouldn't have nice weddings? No. But just keep it real.

Am I saying I hate rich people? No. But I hate egregious waste when there are others suffering. Go ahead, have your nice wedding but give back as well.

I hope Kim finds a deeper path to pursue in her life. Being able to amass such money and following is one thing, now turn it around for good. In theory, she has potential.


Kim Kardashian's wedding to Kris Humphries cost a reported $10 million. What would you do with that amount of money to improve the world? Please leave a comment here or on my networks.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Silicone Bitch: GM Southeast Grassroots Awards

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.

miami bloggersSome South Florida social media and blogging royalty, left to right: @zipporahs, @dayngr, @johnnybond86, @miamishines, @vicequeenmaria, @thetinyjewelbox, @lapp,@midtownchica, @teachme2save. Visit each Twitter account for links to their respective websites. Missing here: @lizawalton.

In my last column, I bitched about the sometimes conflicting relationship between brands and bloggers, pointing out some of the confusing and negative aspects of those connections.

Well, this column is going to highlight a positive relationship and a brand that does it right.

Yesterday, a bunch of bloggers and social media influencers gathered at the South Florida Auto Show in the Miami Beach Convention Center for a GM Southeast "thank you" reception. For all of us who have worked with Chevy and other GM cars, it was a nice affair with food and drinks.

GM Southeast has been collaborating with bloggers and social media influencers on a hyperlocal, grassroots level for a while now, sponsoring fun events like pizza and croqueta crawls, among others.

They have supported my crazy travel and fishing trips as well the big tweetup SxSe, which I have been organizing in part with other co-conspirators for the last 4 years. GM also sponsored my participation at the National Association of Hispanic Journalist's conference this summer.

(Boy, FTC, hope you are happy now? I've disclosed so much, you can practically see my titties! Better get my pasties on.)

The women on the team, one who happens to be local blogger Midtown Chica, are a pleasure to work with, open to ideas for all kinds of creative projects that help content producers fulfill a vision or facilitate some event. They keep a fleet of cars for journalists and others just for this purpose, all managed by the very cute guys at Prestige, who deliver the car loans to your door.

GM events are always flawlessly organized, despite many logistical challenges. I know how hard it is to organize social media events, so I appreciate their work.

I was talking to a head PR honcho from GM yesterday about my relationship with Ford, which never really flowered after the Fiesta Movement; it was like a sudden divorce. Mind you, Ford was nothing short of spectacular during the Fiesta Movement. They were wonderful to work with during the project and I am extremely grateful to have been part of it; however, the follow-up was nil and I never heard back about some of my proposals to continue producing great adventure stories with Ford cars. I just assumed Ford had a similar fleet of cars like GM does for local bloggers, but I guess they don't or didn't.

Do you see what I'm getting at here? After seven months of being surgically attached to a Ford Fiesta, the umbilical chord was severed and the relationship fizzled quickly. Not good, right?

This is the big difference. I have said this before and will say it again. It's not about the car, it's about great things that happen with the car on an on-going basis.

It's all about community outreach and support -- yesterday, one guy who won an award actually went out of his way to take his Corvette loan to an under-served school in Liberty City so the kids could enjoy a ride.

I have worked with other car brands but GM and Chevy get my thumbs up for a regional department that gets it. It's no wonder the agency won the PR News Award for Best Digital PR Campaign of the Year in the $100K budget or under.

jewel figueras and craig agranoff Our very own Jewel's Fab Life and Craig Agranoff won recognition that was well deserved; they are movers and shakers that make cool things happen. Unfortunately not pictured here, Heather Radi-Bermudez from FIU.

See brands? This is how it's done. Not once in all my work with GM was anything expected of me out of obligation, but out of mutual support and gratitude. They treat me like family. This is why I work with no other car brands and have stayed mainly loyal to GM.

Not that I wouldn't work with other car brands, but I have turned down projects because of this great relationship. I once passed on food crawl with Infiniti because I had just done a Chevy project. I told Midtown Chica: "I'm not a car ho. I'm not going to cheat on GM."

And by the way, GM is loaning me an Equinox for my last Trail of the Pirates investigation, which will be at Pirates in Paradise in Key West this December. This means I don't have to put miles on my old jalopy Toyota, which is a huge help for the long drive. Does that count as my FTC disclosure? (Insert eye roll.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Silicone Bitch: Bloggers and Brands Make Strange Bedfellows

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.

Nothing is safe on the interwebz these days. Beware of what comes out of your yapping mouth. You might get in trouble!

We had a superb Social Media Club South Florida meeting yesterday at Florida International University North Campus. The subject? Social Media and the Law.

I would tell you who the presenters were but they actually told us that we might get in trouble for videotaping the session (that's unusual at Social Media Club) and so I'll leave it up to you to follow the link above, wink wink. But it was hilarious -- something tantamount to "please consult an attorney before considering this free advice from attorneys."

All kidding aside, the presenters were great and offered much valuable information on what is legal in any form of expression on the interwebz these days. It's actually so complex, it's a miracle anyone ever speaks at all through a tweet, a Facebook update or a blog post. Good grief, it's like every time you utter a word, you're walking on eggshells.

Applying for a job? Watch your ass. Own a blog? Feel free to moderate comments. It's yours and your not responsible for trolls engaging in defamation.

Or so they said. Please seek legal counsel because what I'm not liable for what I'm writing here.

Moving on ...


I'm a huge proponent of self-publishing, so I want to focus on the topic discussed that would be of interest to bloggers -- the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rulings on disclosure. It basically boils down to this: if you get free shit, you're supposed to tell your readers that the shit was free.

But here's the deal, in all my years as a travel journalist for "magazines" and "newspapers" -- remember those types of publications? -- I never had to disclose anything. Why are bloggers treated differently than journalists?

I'd go on press junkets, fam trips and write an article for Caribbean Travel and Life or other publications and I never had to say it was sponsored. Why now?

It's basically understood that writers who focus on lifestyle subjects such as travel, food, drink etc; generally get some perks, media passes, free stays at hotels, complimentary meals, gifts and so forth. A "journalist" doesn't have to disclose anything when he or she is given a media pass. Why should a blogger?

It begs the basic question: what is a blog? what is a blogger?

I have said this before and will say it over and over again. I am a professional writer who just happens to use the blogger format to self-publish my stories to share with the world. I am NOT a blogger.


Don't get me wrong. The FTC ruling is good; it basically prevents bloggers from being asshole shills who promote products. When celebrities make paid endorsements and they need to follow up on that in their social networks to keep it real and transparent. The bottom line here is to keep anyone from making misleading claims. The FTC law protects the consumer.

It comes down to type of content.

Check out this great post over at MomCrunch about Aveda and paid compensation for bloggers, which became a little scandal during the EVO conference this past summer. MomCrunch does a great job of explaining the BIG difference between editorial and sponsored content.

If you are writing advertorial and don't tell your readers, then you deserve a slap on the wrist.

However, do you think a beauty editor at Cosmo has to disclose she got a free sample of shampoo? Do you think a food critic at a newspaper has to tell you whether or not every meal was complimentary? No! This is standard practice, especially in the travel and lifestyle industries.

It's a tricky question for bloggers.

A savvy, reasonable and ethically responsible blogger isn't going to write misleading editorial.

I think it's bad blogging to do product reviews, I don't care how much you are getting paid, because that is sponsored content.

In that case you can say "my blog is endorsing this product," but then the issue is whether or not you have original content that is worth reading or your blog is suddenly "owned" by a brand and you are slaving over a hot stove for a few bucks.

Many brands are highly abusive of bloggers who just want a second in a spotlight. Seriously, would you have blogged so much and done a Youtube video for one freakin' bottle of shampoo from Aveda? I don't think so.

Bloggers, don't sell your soul for some corporate interest without making an equitable agreement that supports the quality of your work.

Ask yourself: is it worth it? In some cases, it is. That brand or business better be giving you something touched by Midas. Ideally, the partnership is so organic and germane to your topics of interest, that it makes sense to partner with a brand and get compensated for it whether in cash, goods or services. And you don't give up your voice at all; it flows seamlessly.

It's a true endorsement agreement that works for both the brand and your blog. And yes, that you definitely should disclose, but if you're good at it, you'll produce great sponsored editorial, not just content.

I hope that makes sense: sponsored content, editorial, advertorial and "sponsored" editorial.


In my case, I have worked with brands such as Ford and GM, as well as numerous travel entities, venues, businesses and events. For the most part, I try to tell my readers who is supporting what, but I'm not going to disclose every single stinking penny that I didn't spend. That's just ridiculous.

I have accepted "media" perks and passes in order to produce great content for my readers. I have never lost my voice or become an exclusive brand ambassador. I'm a lifestyle blogger. I get invited to stuff. So does the same editor or contributor at Miami New Times, Sun Sentinel and the Miami Herald. What's the difference?

Regarding the FTC ruling, I pride myself on being obnoxiously honest, but you all know that I tell it like it is. If I don't like something, the heavens roar. Or maybe I just won't write about it. PR loses. Rogue journalists like myself have to maintain a delicate balance with businesses and interests in their communities.

I don't see why or how I could possibly get in trouble with the FTC, but the question did cross my mind last night and I think it's a hugely important one for all bloggers to consider as they evolve. When should I disclose? Why am I working with this brand or business?

You will not believe the many requests I get to do straight on product reviews or offers of text links, which I always flat out refuse. Oh and as if I needed content, some companies offer me blog posts that they write in exchange for nothing. Are they nuts? Why would I put something unoriginal on this blog? Nobody parks their ass on Sex and the Beach just because. A blogger has to choose their partnerships carefully. Keep your integrity and dignity.

There are two kinds of bloggers in the world -- those who want to monetize with ads and are forced to kiss the ass of brands and those who can monetize indirectly, like myself. I will not have any brand take over my blog, not even Google Ads. I will not have my content controlled by businesses and for this reason I don't accept advertising of any kind. I used to have barter ads, but no longer. If I link to anything, it's because I genuinely believe in it and enjoy it. Or it's a business that's supporting a particular project so I can bring you great content.

Also, keep in mind that when you start engaging advertisers, you are no longer a writer or a blogger. You are now not only a publisher, writer and editor of your own content, but a god damn salesperson, marketing department and coffee maker plus janitor. It's exhausting. That will sap every living ounce of creative juice out of you and then what's the point? You started a blog because you loved creating unique content, right? Who can wear so many hats?

Read my friend Stephanie Quilao's post on why she decided to move on from blogging to mobile publishing for some additional insight from a highly experienced top blogger.


I started this blog because I am a writer who loves to share and I find self-publishing to be a an exhilarating exercise that opens many doors. But if I were to sleep with brands every day, the spark and inspiration would be gone. It would have to be some excellent collaboration, like the Ford Fiesta Movement, to make me have that affair for a spell. I partnered with Ford because I knew it would give me opportunities to provide fun reads. It was never about the car. It was about the experiences that the car afforded me. Remember, I went gator wrestling. You can't top that.

So I want to say it now: every time I go to a "media" event, you will notice that I tell you it was a media event, so you better assume it was free, just like it was for the "journalist" from Miami New Times or the Miami Herald or whatever. And when I plan a travel series like Trail of the Pirates, I tell you in a final paragraph what businesses and institutions supported my travel and vision, just like the credits at the end of a PBS documentary.

I only work with businesses and brands that I genuinely like, but I am not an "endorser" of anyone brand or business in particular. I love many and am attached to none -- call it promiscuous.

My favorite PR people? Those who offer something for nothing. That's RESPECT ... because then it's coming from me because I want to, not because I have to. Those PR people get it.

You know you are getting 100% original opinion from yours truly, with no bullshit. There is no way to be a lifestyle blogger and get around this. If you are going to write about life and be a travel, food, drink, adventure blogger or whatever, you are inevitably going to be out there in the world and have to deal with the reality of brands and businesses who court you. You are writing about your niche; opportunities are there to be seized. Nothing wrong with that.

But that's it. You can and should do it all with transparency and integrity.

And if you are a business or brand, don't even bother to send me a request for a text link or blog post inclusion. I don't give up my Google juice or SEO any more than I spread my legs for some jerk.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Every Day is Halloween in South Beach

Pink Wig Photos
Who is that woman? Taken at the fabulously renovated Hotel Breakwater. The rooftop terrace lounge is great. You can't beat that view of the ocean and Lummus Park.

Remember when I took a random stroll in South Beach a few months ago and bumped into a guy with a lemur on his shoulder? (And no, this wasn't the same recent lemur experience at Jungle Island.)

Well, on Saturday I was part of the freak show. You see, I wear a pink wig every time I go to a fundraiser -- it's something I've been doing for about two years now -- so when we left the Miami Rat Pack party to go for late supper at the 11th Street Diner, I was practically accosted by people on the street with hollers of "Nicki Minaj" and even one "OMG Lady Gaga."

Seriously people? You see a honky big ass over-40 Cuban woman wearing a pink wig and you confuse her with a young slim African-American hip hop star? Well, that's ok. I had a couple of martinis in me too. It was all in good fun.

On the way back, a camera crew stopped me on the corner of 10th and Ocean Drive, where the street was buzzing with energy, music blasting from the Clevelander. Apparently some very young heart throb Portuguese singer -- he was about 12 years old in menopause years -- was working the sidewalk crowd for some video footage.

His name is Carroral, but I can't find a darn thing on him in Google. For some reason, he said "Shakira" when we asked him what his name was on tape -- not exactly a smart marketing move, buddy. Anyway, although I am far from playing cougar, he serenaded me right there on the spot. He did have a sweet voice.

Never a dull moment, I tell you. If you miss South Beach for Halloween, don't worry. The show is on 365, 24/7. You don't have to go to a club to be entertained. Check out Ocean Drive, Washington Avenue and Lincoln Road for the best people watching south of Manhattan.

Special thanks to my partner in crime @miamishines for capturing the video on my iPhone.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Grand Debut of Sex y La Playa Cocktail in Miami!

from here to eternity kissing sceneSex on the beach looks romantic, but just think of all the sand up your ass. However, if you *must* have sex on any beach, try this one.

Every time I google Sex and the Beach, the sex on the beach cocktail comes up inevitably in search engine results, which is tiresome, for several reasons.

That little preposition makes all the difference in the world.

Sex on the beach, which sounds terribly romantic, is actually a gritty affair, putting many a human orifice to the test. Sex and the beach is so much better than sex on it ... so make sure you always grab your plush towel, cozy lounge chair or bed whenever canoodling seaside.

The original drink itself is too girly, like the punchbowl beverage you'd drink at a sorority hazing involving nothing more dangerous than taffeta -- what? vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice and cranberry? I don't think so ...

Here at Sex and the Beach, we like our drinks with a serious kick and mucho character, which is why, after a grueling three hours of work, fabulous mixologist Robert V Burr, his sidekick Papa Lazo and I came up with the best gin drink ever -- think tiki style with the botanical pleasures of this classic herbal liquor. In honor of the fact the we live in Miami, this kick-ass taste sensation was baptized Sex Y La Playa.

For my gringos, that's Sex and the Beach in Spanish, y'all.

Martin Miller's Gin "Sex y La Playa" Cocktail
Our mise en place. That's just a fancy French way of saying "get your shit together" before attempting any defiant act of mixology.

Martin Miller's Gin "Sex y La Playa" Cocktail
I could not have done this without my friend Robert. We've talked about him before here at Sex and the Beach. Check out Rum Renaissance Festival.

Martin Miller's Gin "Sex y La Playa" Cocktail
Papa Lazo came up with one of the subtle ingredients -- rose water. Effin' brilliant!

It's not drinking on the job; it's research! This cocktail was created after grueling experimentation at the super secret Rum Wreck Bar in an undisclosed location of Miami-Dade. It's by invitation only and it's where some serious cocktail magic happens. We actually studied several recipes, including a traditional Daquiri-style 1930's "Miami Beach" cocktail that featured gin. That recipe was from the Florida Bar in Cuba, where Hemingway used to wile away the hours over drinks.

Martin Miller's Gin "Sex y La Playa" Cocktail
Who says cocktail making isn't academic? There are books involved. You can even see I was taking notes on a napkin.

Martin Miller's Gin "Sex y La Playa" Cocktail
A page from a bartender's bible. Sex and, on, in, over, under, whatever ... will never be the same after this cocktail!

Why did we do this? Oh, because it's a tough job but somebody's gotta do it, plus we're entering a cocktail competition for Martin Miller's Gin called Trading Up, thereby giving this old "Sex on the Beach" hag a new facelift and boy does she look, taste and smell better than ever. It's like Joan Rivers blossoming into an ethereal virgin, keeping her wit, wisdom and sassiness intact.

I'm not going to give up the recipe in print just yet, but you can see our brilliant interpretation and execution in the video embedded at the end of this post.

Made with the freshest possible ingredients, Sex Y La Playa is a truly cosmopolitan drink, with many flavor profiles from around the world, capturing the essence of gin, which consists of many distilled wonders from the plant kingdom such as juniper, coriander, liquorice, cinnamon, cassia, nutmeg, angelica and orris root as well as orange and lemon peel. Adding a bit of eccentricity true to Martin Miller himself, the water used to produce this gin comes from glacial Iceland. You might even imagine Bjork serenading you softly as you take a sip.

Martin Miller's Gin "Sex y La Playa" Cocktail
There she is, Sex Y La Playa in all her glory!

Martin Miller's Gin "Sex y La Playa" Cocktail
The team: Robert V Burr, Yours Truly and Papa Lazo.

On this taste and scent journey, we also used Barritt's Ginger Beer and "Burlesque" bitters from Bittermen's. While international in nature, Sex Y La Playa is also a sensual tropical delight, featuring refreshing, effervescent Bermudan ginger beer and hibiscus as well as long pepper in the bitters -- all perfect, naughty complements to the gin.

I dare say there may be some aphrodisiac properties to this concoction, but I'll leave that to your imagination. It definitely makes a great apperitif to enjoy before a meal, but don't let me stop you from making this a pre-coital drink as well.

To learn more about the competition, visit Martin Miller's Gin on Facebook. More photos on Flickr.

We didn't plan it, but Robert is wearing a Blue Heaven tshirt and I'm wearing a Green Parrot Bar tank top -- two favorite places in Key West. It takes a village to create a good drink recipe: special thanks to the Burr family, Robert for his mad mixology skills, Papa Lazo for the ideas, my friend Gita for manning the iPhone video, Lakshmi for the company and of course, Martin Miller's Gin.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Miami Rat Pack Party on Ocean Drive

My friends and I at the social group Miami Rat Pack are putting together this rogue fundraiser to benefit the New World Symphony's community programs. Come on by and have a drink with us in South Beach at the Hotel Breakwater! The event takes place this Saturday, October 22, starting at 7:00 PM. Details at the tweetvite: Miami Rat Pack Fundraiser.

What is the Miami Rat Pack?

We are a group of friends from diverse professions who like to socialize in real life and use social media to stay connected online. The name recalls the early days of the 60's when the musical "rat pack" of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr. and other artists used to perform in Miami, Vegas and Hollywood.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Miami Goes to the Dogs

Performer from Dogs Show

I'm not really a dog person, but I did have a chance to see the Incredible Dogs show, which is still playing under a tent at Bicentennial Park until October 23rd. It's actually quite fun to see these dogs -- most of them rescued from shelters -- perform some amazing tricks.

This lady was one of the more elaborately dressed of the performers. You get to meet and greet the dogs and their trainers at the end, which is a special treat.

For more information, visit The Incredible Dogs.

A Maria Miami tip: if you go, save a little money by parking in the meters on the side streets across Biscayne Boulevard. Miss Yip is a nice place to go for Chinese food and cocktails before or after the show.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I Touched a Lemur and So Can You!

Jungle Island, Miami lemur experience
Lemurs jumping on me! See why I write about stuff that's more interesting than sex?

Life is all about serendipity. After I saw the amazing Animal Planet documentary Madagascar, I found out through a friend that Jungle Island here in Miami has an interactive lemur experience. This was on my bucket list and I didn't even know it was in my own backyard.

The lemur experience is the most fun you can have with your clothes on! Seriously. Mind you, I interviewed Ron Jeremy a few weeks ago but these primates were more touchable and less hairy. (Sorry, Ron, you're still awesome in your own way.)

For the lemur experience, a small group of people enters a nursery where juvenile lemurs are taken care of and, I might add, spoiled rotten by a lovely care giver. You sit on the floor and the pro-simians -- they're primates but not technically monkeys -- are let out of their enormous cage for playtime. They jump and leap all over the place, including you; you're part of the props. They eat treats out of your hand and just generally frolic.

As a yogi, I found it very grounding and therapeutic to hang out with the lemurs. I got in touch with some primal part of myself that had nothing to do with my damn iPhone, Facebook or Twitter. A truly "social" event, with no words spoken and none of the encumbrances of being human. One of them even nibbled my finger without biting!

I will probably go back to do this again from time to time because it's not like you can handle lemurs just anywhere in the world. These primates are endangered and heck, that plane ticket to Madagascar costs quite a few clams. This was truly a very special experience.

While most people come to Miami for beaches and nightlife, no one ever thinks to touch a Madagascar lemur right here on the shores of Biscayne Bay.

Lemurs are fascinating to me because their sexual and social behavior is worth pondering. In the animated movie Madagascar -- wildly riotous and funny for kids of all ages -- there is a lemur character named King Julian. But here's the thing: lemurs run a matriarchal society, so there is no "king" to speak of, only a queen. Women rule! So I guess that's a right match for South Beach, right? It's full of queens.

Jungle Island, Miami
I'm not sure if this was "Nibbler" or "Athena" ... in this particular group, there were four females and one male.

Female lemurs are only available to mate for a very short period of time -- we're talking 24-48 hours -- once a year. So the guys better be on the ball and get their mating on or no future lemur babies will happen. This is all timed to perfection, so that lemurs are born just around or after the monsoon season when there is plenty of food.

Lemurs are not particularly monogamous. It's a fair game mating sperm war, so oh boy, those 24-48 hours of mating must be quite a spectacle of sex.

madagascar lemur animal planetCredit: Animal Planet/BBC

Lemurs are also interesting because of the way they move. Think of a slow motion elegant ninja combined with a capoeira dancer with perfect posture. The yogi in me very much admires the flexibility and jumping power of these creatures. I think I need to create a lemur pose.

The Jungle Island lemurs are bred in captivity at refuge in Tampa; in my recent encounter with them, this particular troupe was just a few months old.

Eventually, the lemurs return to that facility where they spend the rest of their lives in as close as possible an environment to native Madagascar. The Tampa spot is not a public attraction, but rather a conservation sanctuary.

I had a bit of a moral dilemma with this as there is always the big question of how sad it is to see animals in captivity. But let's face it, we humans are stewards of the planet and we do "capture" animals, in every sense of the word, as they do us.

The old Parrot Jungle (the attraction preceding Jungle Island in Pinecrest) is a place I went to as a child and where I first learned to appreciate the animal kingdom. I think experiences like this further cement and bolster our potential to preserve and respect nature. I felt like a kid again coming here and breathed a sigh of relief knowing that there was something so special in a destination otherwise known for shallow entertainment.

I interviewed Mel, one of the animal handlers, after our group experience. The camera is a bit shaky, but that's because the lemurs were jumping all over the staff member who was kind enough to hold my phone! A very challenging shoot, for sure.


The 45-minute lemur experience is limited to adults or children of about 10 years or older who are well behaved. If you are skittish about animals and are a Monk-like OCD germaphobe, this is not for you -- although everything is extremely clean and tidy. But hey, if you have dogs and cats, you really shouldn't feel weird about this. There is a liability form to sign, but honestly, it's probably more dangerous to drive to Jungle Island than to spend time in close proximity to these animals. The lemurs are very soft and furry; they'll jump on your head and extend their tender paws gently when offered a raisin or bit of cereal.

At time of publication, the lemur experience costs $45 exclusive of entry to the rest of the attraction, which is a whole other park and a great place to visit if you only have a short period of time to explore South Florida. There is a beautiful tropical garden path (you won't see that many trees in South Beach) and even an authentic Everglades boardwalk, with mangroves, egrets and alligator gar in the ponds. For more information about the park, its shows and events, visit Jungle Island.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ladies Let's Go Fishing Coming to Islamorada in November

Tarpon Fishing at Sunset on the Gulf of Mexico
This would be a dream day for me. Photo via pmharkam on Flickr

At long last, my prayers were answered when I came across Ladies, Let's Go Fishing, a regular program of seminars for women who aspire to be or already are accomplished anglers.

Betty Bauman, the founder, is a lovely lady who lives in Broward. Bauman has been organizing these events in South Florida since 1997 in conjunction with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Over 6,000 female anglers have graduated from the seminars, many of them attending from other states and abroad.

I will be participating in the Islamorada program mid-November, a real birthday treat as I'm approaching the dreaded mid-40s! It's something I've been wanting to do for a couple of years and decided not to put it off any longer.

Although I have experience in fishing, I am looking forward to the beginner's track to start fresh from scratch, especially to finally get a grip on tying knots -- no pun intended. You can't really fish on your own, not even shore cast, if you can't adeptly tie lines and leaders. What if you lose a fish and have to start over? Well, there you go. I don't have a boyfriend to tie knots for me anymore. I need the schooling.

And I also want to meet other women who like to fish as this has largely been a male dominated sport, especially here in South Florida. That has certainly been the experience for me, but I hope it will change. I remember meeting fellow anglers when I was online dating and I'd get excited when they would tell me they liked fishing. But imagine my disappointment when they would remark "oh, it's a guy thing, a male bonding club, you can't come out on the boat with us."

I didn't like that exclusion. In fact, it was practically insulting to me and today, I would never consider dating a man who would hesitate to take me fishing with him.

Ladies, Let's Go Fishing is also known as the "No Yelling School of Fishing," so that women who do go out on boats can feel confident and skilled enough that they can hold their own in any angling situation.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Betty Bauman on my radio show last week with my co-host Tonya Scholz. Listen to the radio show at Social Chats Today.

We talked about everything under the sun, including how to protect your skin from the sun without actually killing baitfish in the live well. Slather some sunscreen on your hand and that might actually be toxic to the fish. In fact, the less you handle a fish you're going to release, the better.

Ladies' fishing fashions came up, too. It always irked me that women in Florida Sportsman magazine were modeling bikinis with a catch of a huge redfish or snook. Serious anglers know this isn't a vanity sport where you play girly girl trying to catch a tan while hooking a fish.

Bauman told me there are clothing manufacturers now making female-friendly zipper pants and mesh, breathable fabric shirts, which is a huge relief for me as I would wear a damn burqua to protect my skin. I realize that's not very sexy, but when you are out fishing for 8 hours in the day time, it's something important to consider.

But back to the adventure.

Bauman has been blessed with some incredible angling experiences; she told us about a salmon she caught in a river in Alaska. We also talked about how fishing is not just a sport, but an activity that inspires you to become a steward of environment. This is so important for our precious Florida Keys and Everglades back country water environments.

One of the things I loved most about fishing was going out at the crack of dawn and seeing nature in all its untouched glory. It was well worth the drive down to Everglades National Park, waking up at 3 am to be there at 6. When the first bait hit the water, it wasn't even about the fish that might bite, but about the splendor of hearing birds rise out of their rookeries or even the nuisance of a gator following the cork bobber going "plop" in the water as I cast by the mangroves. At that point, I didn't care if it was a croaking, slimy catfish on the the end of the line, a feisty jack crevalle or a fighting tarpon. I was out in a very special place that warranted respect.

Fishing is a very ironic sport. You are in love with the environment and yet obviously are going to kill something to eat if you're not releasing because your catch falls within conservation rules. It can be predatory, especially when you're sight casting with polarized glasses, seeing your unsuspecting prey swimming just below the surface of the water. It brings out the hunter in all of us, even women, who have been traditionally gatherers.

If you're not using a lure, you will stick a hook in a live bait and yes, this makes the yogi in me cringe a little -- the poor, damn stinky little shrimp suffering because of my sporting pleasure. But there is something primal about these experiences that feeds my soul, not just my belly. It is the noblest way you can catch a meal, where you can truly be thankful to the animal about to sacrifice its life, being very conscious of your actions. In this way, fishing is very yogic and requires incredible focus, concentration and patience. It is like meditation.

Staying informed about catch sizes, harvest limits and environmental laws also makes educational seminars like Ladies, Let's Go Fishing worth attending. Advanced anglers can go and fine tune their practice.

I am thrilled I will also get to do some inshore fishing with Captain Bob Jones, an expert guide who operates out of Islamorada. I think the plan is spin casting with light tackle and I will talk to him soon about what we might expect to catch.

There are still spots open for Ladies, Let's Go Fishing. The seminar is reasonably priced and will take place the weekend of November 11 at Holiday Isle. Can you say Rum Runners? I'm all over that too -- but early nights are important when fishing. Angling experiences are separate and cost extra. For more information, visit the site.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Yoga: Why I Don't Buy a New Mat

Some of you may already know that I used to be a yoga teacher. I did my 250 hour Yoga Alliance certified training nearly 10 years ago and because I already had a career as a writer, I would teach on a rather comfortable schedule of substituting for my colleagues whenever they needed me, especially for my Iyengar-based mentor, Allaine. I occasionally led a class on Miami Beach and had some private clients, but I wasn't committed to it full time.

Years later, for a spell, while I was going through my reclusive phase and dealing with anxiety disorder, I stopped teaching and doing poses. But I never stopped practicing yoga. Yoga isn't just about poses. The time I took away from the world to heal myself, to work with a life coach on my anxiety issues, get rid once and for all being a victim and getting caught up in drama -- all that was an act of yoga.


Yoga has become way too commercialized here in the United States. While this is a blessing in disguise -- heck, at least you are doing something -- the real point of yoga is not to have a tight ass or spend bucket loads of cash on Lululemon hot tops and pants, traction towels, fancy mat bags and all that gear.

Yoga is not Bikram Choudhury who had the audacity to trademark 26 poses in a practice that should be FREE for all to share. What yogi drives around Los Angeles in Rolls Royces?

Yoga is not wearing birkenstocks or eating granola all the time. Yoga is not having to change your name to something Indian just because it sounds cool. I don't have to wear a sari or put a bindi on my third eye to be a yogi. I am Spanish, damn it, and I'm proud of my heritage. I can still be a yogi even if I still wear stilletos, don't have a sanskrit name and don't hail from the continental land mass we know now politically and culturally as India.

And yet in writing all this, I see the irony. Lululemon makes nice garb. There's nothing wrong with that. And of course I don't hate Bikram. Yoga is also a business and teachers have to make a living. God bless them. They are the true health providers of this country because yoga is an amazing practice for preventive health. If you do any yoga -- even limited Bikram -- that's good. Just do me a favor and give me a plank pose now and then, ok?

What I'm trying to tell you is this: less is more and don't be bedazzled by any glamor or retail or celebrity. Yoga is sweat, grit and constant introspection, a positive mind fuck. Witnessing your deepest heart self, stretching yourself emotionally so you can evolve and be a better you. Being patient in a traffic jam. Smiling at an idiot who just pissed you off. Laughing when shit doesn't work out and having faith against all odds. Yoga is something you are, not just something you do.


Yoga is an ancient art and spiritual science of the body, mind and soul. The early practitioners were probably part of some exclusive caste where women weren't even allowed, doing poses on a dirt floor over a palm frond mat or something. Think twelve year old skinny boys who were limber enough to squeeze themselves into a pretzel, living a monastic life, reading volumes of arcane tomes that are pre-Biblical and would probably put most people to sleep.

That's not exactly glamorous, is it?

Of course it's wonderful that yoga is universal now, with people practicing all over the world. No one "owns" yoga. It is not "Indian" in that sense.

There are eight branches to yoga and asana (poses) is only one of them. If you are lying in bed in and there is oxygen coursing through your bloodstream, you can still do yoga. You can do yoga in a wheelchair. You can do yoga if you are overweight and stiff as a door. You don't need any fancy shit to do yoga.

I practice poses again now and I also do bramacharya -- this is celibacy to live a healthy, drama-free life, being selective in the process of finding a loving companion and trusting that the right love is already in my heart, whether or not there is a man by my side. There is also the path of dharma -- something that has been on my mind a lot lately -- where you choose a vocation to do good. You devote yourself to help others.

The ultimate aim of all your downward dogs and headstands and twists is to get your body into shape so you can meditate. The purpose here is to be healthy physically so you can do good in the world and your body becomes second nature, something you don't think about. But the goal is spiritual. Not religious, mind you, but spiritual.


I am still practicing poses on the same old mat I had when I first walked into Allaine Stricklen's class at a gym in South Beach nearly 15 years ago. Obviously, the journey has been long and it has some wear and tear. I thought about buying a new one the other day and then I asked myself why? For vanity's sake?

No thanks.

The mat works. It does its job. It has been my friend all these years, putting up with me in countless practices when I felt sad or happy, just simply being in the process of living.

My relationship to my mat is intimate. It tells the story of who I am. It is not a dumb, invisible thing that just puts up with pressure from my hands and feet or the imprint of my ass. It is a space I create for myself where I can cultivate love, peace and joy.

And of course, the most important thing is what I do off the mat. It always cloaks me, even if I'm not standing on it. It's an incredibly important symbol for anyone who practices yoga. So what if mine has a few worn spots? If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Yoga is about non-attachment, but I think I'll stay faithfully attached to my old mat.

I won't be buying a new mat any time soon and let's hope my old warrior mat takes me through many more years of resilient practice.

What is your relationship to your mat?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Day The Music Died: RIP Steve Jobs

steve jobs memorial apple computer macintosh
I almost hesitated to prepare a dispatch on Steve Jobs, but how could I not write a tribute to the man who changed the world?

Last night, I called my brother -- the mac guru who now lives in Hawaii -- seriously, he really is a total geek and has worked professionally in Apple IT -- to confirm the rumors I had seen on Twitter. Then I spoke all night with my blogger friend @skinnyjeans, who lives in Phoenix, on what this meant for all of us. Two women who usually talk about girly things, suddenly focused on Silicon Valley and the impact of technology.

Are you getting the gist of this? Mobile and global communication in just a matter of minutes.

I find it ironic that Jobs' death was announced just hours after the new iPhone 5 release. It's as if he was holding on for dear life, took his last breath and then said "look, I did it" before moving on.

Or maybe he died earlier. Maybe he passed on the same day as the much anticipated tech announcement and the spin engine of PR chose to delay the obituary.

Who knows? It doesn't matter.

Steve Jobs was a game changer, a paradigm shifter, a man for all ages -- can I come up with more corny praises? Whatever. He shall not soon be replaced.

Where do we go from here? I think it's no coincidence this whole "Mayan calendar" event horizon is supposed to happen next year. That isn't about the end of the world, but about transformation. This is about humanity being prehensile like monkeys using touch screens. This is about people like me reaching out to the world through a simple blog. This is a very exciting time to be alive and Steve Jobs was influential in that.

Seriously, young people out there ... what are you doing in tech and science to make this world a better place?

mac sad faceJobs' death and battle with cancer was sad, but his life and accomplishments should be celebrated. We should ponder on how we can use technology to improve life for others who are suffering. We should take this momentum and go full speed ahead for good.

No other brand in the world could get people so emotionally passionate about technology. Good lord, I may be consciously practicing celibacy from a yoga and Buddhist point of view, but I am surgically attached to my iPhone. Thanks to this simple little device, I never feel lonely. (There's irony in that as well, but I'm chuckling. Technology is spiritual.)

I remember listening to Guy Kawasaki -- one of Apple's premiere evangelists -- when he came to do a talk in Coconut Grove for Network Solutions. He said something that always stuck with me. Apple came out with its first computer trusting that it would have a future, even though it wasn't perfect. The moral of the story was this: "Why wait? If you have a good idea, push it through and make it happen." Can you imagine if Apple had hesitated?

Perfectionism is not smart. It leads to stagnation. Being bold, imperfect and visionary is the way to go. Trusting in the process is key. There is no end to a good idea; there is evolution.

I shudder to think of the amazing technology we'll have in the future.

Oh and by the way, just look around you. Mother nature is a pretty good example of being bold, brilliant, visionary and yet imperfect. Models abound.

carrie bradshaw laptop apple macintoshI remember writing my term papers at the University of Miami on some old macs, the little rectangle boxes. I almost wish I had one of those quaint antiques today, while I type this on my big-ass G5 desktop. Even fictional character Carrie Bradshaw penned her column Sex and the City on an old Powerbook G3 laptop, the repair of which was the subject of entire episode written to get her to trust her then beau Aidan Shaw.

Anyway, every day I have to remind my 80 year old parents how to do certain apple + keyboard functions on email when they're forwarding jokes on their iMac. I think Steve Jobs would be proud of that. Octogenarians using an iMac ... mission accomplished.

God bless Steve Jobs. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Six Year Old Blog on Display at Museum of Natural History!

Six years ago, on October 8, I published my first post, Wax and Pap, which I still think is a good idea. Why not have a drive-through service where you can get a wax and pap, shoot two birds with one stone -- know what I mean? Look, you have all these fancy car wash places on Biscayne now. Talk about adding value to service: wax, pap, car wash and a glass of Chardonnay.

We've come a long way, baby, none the worse for wear.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Sexiest Twilight

The Liminal Hour sunset miami matheson hammock park

Move over vampires, I got your breathtaking sunset for you here at Matheson Hammock Park near South Miami. It's that time of the year again, when cooler breezes caress Biscayne Bay and blood-thirsty mosquitoes are just a memory of summer. The liminal hour offers a spectacular show, making for one of the city's most secluded and romantic strolls. You can have your drama -- mother nature provides just what we need -- only the herons stirring as they fish for their evening meals.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Fresh Eats in South Miami

Inspired by my buddy and neighbor Mike La Monica's post last week on the South Miami Farmer's Market, I finally made a bee line to city hall parking lot, skipping Winn Dixie for a change. I can't believe I've been missing out on this for so long!

The market is small, but I left with a decent variety of veggies and fruit. I would have brought more, but since I'm cooking for one, I'd rather buy just enough at a time so food won't spoil.

South Miami Farmer's Market
A little feast for the single gal's kitchen: cilantro, guava, baby eggplants, mamey, tomato, cucumber, avocado and sugar-free jam.

South Miami Farmer's Market
Freakin' Flamingo posing with her goods.

The best part of my morning was bumping into my Twitter friend Renée Joslyn (@rjflamingo), a very funny gal with whom I've had the pleasure of clinking a glass or two. She is the entrepreneur behind Freakin' Flamingo, where she makes delicious micro-batch jams. She's also a South Miami neighbor. Talk about supporting local business!

I brought the last sugar-free jam today; they're popular and she runs out of those quickly. Sweetened with xylitol, the Starfruit Vanilla is absolutely delicious, especially if you are a fan of that fragrant orchid seed pod. I enjoyed some of the jam over Whole Foods unsweetened peanut butter and Ezequiel toast for breakfast.

Quinoa Salad with Cucumber, Onion, Tomato and Cilantro
Easy peasy quinoa salad. I haven't cooked any rice since I discovered this versatile, high-protein grain.

Lunch was just as good with the produce I had purchased earlier in the day, and the perfect, spontaneous meal for one. Chopped tomatoes, cucumber and cilantro, plus an onion I already had in the fridge, mixed with extra virgin olive oil, white balsamic vinegar and salt -- all added to some cooked and cooled quinoa. So ridiculously easy and tasty! I made two servings, so it will be even better tomorrow.

I'm looking forward to sautéeing the baby eggplants in garlic and making milkshakes with the guava. I'll spoon the mamey pulp straight off the skin, sprinkling it with a little nutmeg.

I spent about $20 on the whole shopping spree. The jam was the most expensive item at $9, but well worth the price. The guava and avocado were grown locally. I'll definitely be going back to South Miami Farmer's Market.

Single ladies, don't tell me it's boring and pointless to cook for one! It's one of the best things you can do for yourself. Look at it this way -- at least you please yourself and don't have to worry about feeding other mouths!

Please stop over at Mike La Monica's blog to see a great video about the people and musicians at the market: Saturday in my little town.