Friday, April 28, 2006

Bon Voyage, Mes Chères Lectrices et Mes Chers Lecteurs

As of tomorrow, I'll be heading to Barcelona via Madrid and making a pilgrimage to Asturias to see my maternal grandfather's house -- the place where he was born. Francisco Campillo lived there until 1902, when he emigrated to Cuba in search of a better life.

My family recently discovered that we have living relatives in the area. As I never met any of my grandparents -- thanks to exile after the Cuban revolution -- this will be a particularly spiritual journey.

With a beautifully bound blank book and a fountain pen in hand, I'll be journaling old-fashioned style. (Oh my, do I even know how to write with a WHAT? A PEN?)

As soon as I return, volume 2 of Meridian will come to life. Manola has always traveled to Spain alone. This time, she accompanies the old folks, so she'll have to behave -- a mighty challenge considering that opportunities for Manola-style mischief abounds in Spain, land of man-hunks falling over Manola like bees to honey!

I will stand at this window, looking at the same view my grandfather surveyed in those baby blues I inherited from our Celtic blood. This region in Spain is one of the seven remaining Celtic nations. Bagpipes and jigs are cultural legacy.

I imagine this would-be grandfather as an infant, in diapers with a great-grandmother stirring some thick, rich bean and sausage soup in a black cast-iron pot. Today, it's the granddaughter he never met, gazing upon the peak in the distance -- named Naranjo de Bulnes because it captures the waning orange glow of sunset.


[photo courtesy of my brother, first sibling to make the pilgrimage]

The Campillo family currently uses this house as storage. I want to buy this precious heirloom and turn it into a summer writer's retreat. Would you join me for some sidra some summer afternoon on the terrace, enjoying the crisp mountain air?

I'll miss all of you ... and just think of all the reading I'll have to do when I return! So I depart with this message:

Resolutely Slutty, Mama Manola won't be able to watch over your wanton behavior. Daddy Stevie, it's your turn to babysit our hellion.

Rick, keep lighting those candles and don't lose faith. Love knows no boundaries. 836, 826, I-95 and 1-95 are no match for cupid. :-) I expect the Cliff Notes version of Stuck on the Palmetto upon my return.

Alesh, I'd hire you in an instant, if I were a major performing arts center. :-) John, you're not off the hook either. A pastrami on rye from Katz's is your get out of jail card, ok?

Mr. Manners, you'll never run out of fodder. Promise.

New Miamian, may I continue to discover new things in old places.

Steve, you need to take a blood thinner. But that doesn't mean you aren't a man of well-balanced humors.

Christian, I know you will run over to Miami Ink around the corner and get a Manola tattoo. Child, I realize my absence on the innernets will be traumatic. However, a good Red Bull and bagel will help assuage the symptoms of Manola withdrawal. :-)

Al, I'm not a smoker, but you sure do make it interesting.

Rebecca, things are only going to get greener!

And last but not least: Dubious Wonder, you ARE a wonder to behold!

If I've forgotten any favorite blogs in this Oscar acceptance speech, please forgive me, including Hidden City, who once gave me flowers. It's 12 AM and I've yet to pack my luggage. Believe it or not, Manola is really a low maintanence woman who will throw a pair of jeans, a few tshirts and a nice jacket into a bag and call it over. As long as there's twenty pairs of matching shoes in the bag, of course.

Actually, as Spain is 6+ hours ahead, I'm burning the midnight oil so I can zonk and zzz while crossing the pond and wake up fresh as a rosebud upon arrival. Yeah, right. A little vino and xanax after the in-flight movie should do the trick.

No worries regarding packing. After spending approximately 72 hours scouring the shelves of an Old Navy outlet (actually it was only 45 minutes, according to Manola time ... )

major digression

... ugh, I hate shopping, yes I AM THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE WORLD WHO HATES SHOPPING AND CHOCOLATE, OK? Yes, I am a freak of nature. A no-nonsense shopping femme. Know what I want. IN AND OUT of the store. And for pete's sake, don't give me chocolate! However, shoe shopping is like going to an art gallery ...

back at the rant

... I found the perfect pair of jeans (ladies, you know this is an ordeal worthy of an academic dissertation). As well, in addition to a replacement battery for my Pentax SLR, I also found the most frivolous yet can't-leave-home-without-it-this-season travel accessory: espadrille open-toe canvas pumps with non-skid sole for less than $20 ... how could I resist?



PS ... on a completely unrelated note: scrambling around today running errands, I had to park near Lincoln Road and Washington. Manola convinced the otherwise rough Sopranoesque valet parking attendant to let her park for FREE in a $10 flat-rate spot! Talk about SOUTH BEACH street smarts, honey. I begged the man (in Español and English, of course): "I'M FROM MIAMI BEACH. I'M NOT A TOURIST! PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE! ALL THE METERS ARE FULL! PLEASE, PAPI RICO PLEASE ... ! I JUST NEED HALF AN HOUR! PROMISE!" It worked. No blow jobs involved. And I tipped the guy a cupla bucks. Not bad, eh? Talk about a smooth quickie parking job ... WINK, WINK!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Got Crack? Get Spackle!

"Dear Manola 180,

As you know, here in Tallahussy, the political capitol of Florida, we tend to dress rather conservatively. After all, we love it when republicans cream all over our pecan pie. You pusillanimous Miamians like key lime, but WHATEVER. Laura Bush wearing a pastel izod polo is our version of porn. However, answer me this: do women in South Beach let their bellies hang out from their low-rider jeans? I'm losing sleep over this. Please respond!


Mrs. LL Cool Babe"


Dear Mrs. LL Cool Babe,

Honey, I might have to call Horatio at Miami CSI. You've cracked a cold case. I don't even know if you are psychologically prepared for the answer to this question. This isn't just about pie, it's about dressing the proverbial PIE, sweets!

And like Horatio, I will take great pains to be compassionate -- not to mention the ten minutes to say five words while I place my sunglasses on my dramatically raised eyebrow. Go ahead, sit down, pop the cap off a cold Pabst Blue Ribbon. Yeah, go ahead. Old dogs on the coffee table and take a few gulps.

Here's the low-down on low-riders: not only do women let their bellies hang out of their low-riders, they let it ALL hang out, baby. Have hanging body parts, will wear jeans. And the more synthetic, plastic-surgeon applied, the better! In South Beach, NOTHING is left to the imagination!

In fact, South Beach fashion has practically obliterated the 'sex' out of sexy. Yes, I've seen women wear their thongs on the OUTSIDE of their jeans! I kid you not.

Manola actually prefers this highly obnoxious fashion trend over the subterfuge of showing a peak of rectum. At the end of the day, there's a certain philosophical honesty and integrity -- a particular 'je ne sais fuck' about it.

You just never know. You could be sitting at a Lincoln Road café eating a salad and suddenly a woman's butt crack peaks out of her ill-fitting low-rider jeans, thereby ruining your taste for that risotto you'd been hankerin' for all week.

Oh, and while biting on an arugula leaf slathered in olive oil, what could be better than peering into the bung hole of a tight-assed man wearing a translucent white speedo, showing every well-meaning unshaved follicle of his rear to humanity, as he cycles down Lincoln Road while I try to digest my food?

As I am obliged to choose between the worst of two butts, via two publicly displayed exterior rectums, I'd rather see a thong over a pair of jeans than a zoom-in colonoscopy. Call me crazy, but ass and food just doesn't mix.

So it is with this completely hapless logic that I conclude: underwear-cum-outerwear may be declassé, but at least it's straightforward and honest. " 'I'm going to wear my sex in your face' is better than 'I'm going to sort of try to wear my sex in your face but sort of hide it in my pedestrian low-class Jerry-Springer taste, failing miserably in good taste and style.' "

It breaks the brain, really. Really. It does.


Am I misguided? Judgemental? Maybe it's the fashion du jour preference for your average proctologist to enjoy seeing the environs of someone's poop park while dining among other humans, but quite frankly, Manola finds gazing at anything ASS while consuming nutrition completely unappetizing.

[Ouch. Manola is a real snob, aint she? Go ahead and give her big white ass a good spankin' ... ]

jeans thong

Manola 180's bottom line:

• the utilitarian purpose of thongs is zilcho

If you have a decent, worthwhile vagina, that thing, that thong WHATEVER is just icing on the cake. A thing-thong covering your ample pudendum is like trying to put a tarp over the entire state of Florida after a hurricane. Really. Only thing that should be covering your HIGHNESS is the passion of your lover. Fabric? Are you kidding? Fabric in the way of a hero and his sought-after prize? The prince cutting the thicket with a machete hoping to awaken that sleeping beauty is more like it, I tell ya! Who are you kidding? Fabric just doesn't cut it. Especially if your clitoris is aroused. Move over, thong, thing, thong-thing, WHATEVER ...

Now, talk about stylish hurricane repair ... if you'd pay $100 a square foot to cover your damaged roof with Vicky S frilly thongs, that'd be another story ... ! Aint no man in the world who would approve of this. Nor would said archetypal neanderthal fix-it man approve of his woman wearing underwear made of blue tarp, no matter how Gone With the Wind things got after a hurricane ...

• mama manola knows

Come on, even Manola's mother, who's strong as an ox and quite sharp-witted in her mid-seventies -- a woman who buys acre-wide underwear by the bushel at K Mart -- recently said: "Grasshopper, why do you wear those things? What's the point? Why bother wearing panties at all?"

Damn straight! And if you happen to leave the house without panties, OMG ... what if you have an accident? Don't you want to be wearing clean proper panties?

Beg to differ if ... your rescuer is pouty-lips and perky pecs Delco from CSI? Wouldn't want to be caught dead in K Mart grandma girdles, would we now?

But if you're dead in an ambulance, who TF cares what you're wearing? Ah, the pride, the PANTY PRIDE digs deep, doesn't it? Apparently, even in death I must have a perfect mani-pedi, a clean thing-thong and look like I just gave my hairdresser a blow job, leaving my flaxen tresses straight and squeaky clean. Oh the pressure ...! Pass me a tranxene with a Smirnoff, will ya?

• feminists: burn bridges, not bras ok?

Mama Manola makes a good point. It's like that line from Bamby: "If you're not going to say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

Ladies, why do we need an extra swath of cloth to cover our already ample, sweet and luscious areas of interest? Isn't this the best piece of real estate only your lover can buy? Sure, maybe interest rates are high, but returns are guaranteed. A good investment. Well, if your man is good to you, Manola says: BE GOOD TO HIM AND DON'T DRYWALL SHUT THE ENTRANCE TO THE AMUSEMENT PARK.

• butt floss is high maintenence

Boo-boo about boobs? Think about it, your 'property value' can stay tight in Miami's fluctuating market. You've heard of lagging real estate values but you'll never be culpable of sagging nipples, will ya?

Let's put the 'panty' back in panties, shall we? Panties are supposed to protect your pants and loins from your excretions. Back in the day, panties may have had this role in addition to veiling a woman's modesty. But in South Beach? Modesty is word unknown.

Ladies and gents, admit it. No one is exempt from poo-poo and just think about what happens when nature calls and you carry on with the rest of your hot and sweaty South Beach day wearing butt floss.

• crack act vs. class act

Even Manola owns a pair of low-riders, but since she has CLASS, she makes sure that when she sits down, she's covering her crack -- with shirt, jacket ... whatever. Men and women in South Beach: I don't want to see crack. I'd like to see some class.

Next time I venture out, I will carry a jar of spackle. I will personally cover your offensive butt hole with a cheap plastic spatula from Home Depot. Spackle dries within 24 hours. Think about it ...

Frolicking on the beach? Manola expects to see all ... all kinds of holes come and go with the tides. But when dining surfside at a swanky joint? When enjoying a human moment with other human beings in a human place? Please keep your genitals at home.

• cranklusion

So, based on the scientific findings, I hereby declare the THONG to be the most frivolous, unhygienic, impractical piece of apparel EVER. While easy to wash, they serve no other purpose than the fact that guys like our asses in thongs. Gospel truth, I swear. Go without, I believe.

In the spirit of our impending hurricane season, here's the only crack Manola wants to see! And I do have a leak in my kitchen sink! Anyone want to come over and work on my leaking crack ... ?

crack plumber

bunion notes

Fanless, you need to do a paparrazi hunt on thong styles, please.

Don't be embarrased if you haven't watched Miami CSI ... but do click for a classic Horatio sunglass moment. Plus there's Delco ... all pouty with pecs, ya know?

In a perfect world, the man you love also has a Man Camp. Here's a crack you don't mind as he's fixing the backyard hurricane -proof BBQ, attached to the ground by thick steel girders. Any man who can concoct his own camp in my territory is sponge-worthy. Y'all have to clone yourselves!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Melancholy Manola: A Writer's Confessional

Putting the pieces of SATB back together again, one post at a time, has been a tedious and laborious process. The romance and wit of writing all gone in html code, cut and paste and tired fingers. Talk about a turn off.

I wonder: why even bother? But then again, writing always was and always will be my first love. Writing and love, love of writing, writing for love and about love comes so naturally that I cannot imagine myself as a creator separate from her creation.

And yet, this piecemeal process of rebuilding has made me reconsider why I even created the character of Manola Blablablahnik. She's not just a gimmick named after expensive high heels (I'm not ashamed of wearing knock-offs), nor is she merely a flattering nod at the character of Carrie Bradshaw (a character who cannot and should not ever be recreated -- she was just right). Rather, Manola B is a congruence of myself and everyone who has ever crossed my path who has also experienced life in SoBe -- that -- and so much more besides.

But she's not all me. She's definitely not all me and yet the more involved I become in writing her, I find myself making distinctions. She came to life and took shape in a public forum -- yet out of a very interior, personal evolution. She's an alter-ego of sorts, the brightness in the author's darkness. In fact, I rather dislike how much she swears and yet like her author, she surely doesn't mince her words on the page or in life. She's everything every woman secretely wants to be ...

I remember passing notes to a friend in high school about our latest crushes. We'd use the names of Shakespearian ladies instead of our own. Even at 16 -- aka Miranda from The Tempest -- I was already taking love and transporting it into a magical realm where humor could ease the tension of its banal reality. And we were still innocent. Still virgins. Hearts and hymens unbroken and hopeful. But even then, we could intimate that these butterflies in our stomachs were striking chords that we'd never heard and that soon enough the harmony would turn into dischord.

I recently celebrated my twentieth-year high school reunion and I'm still the same passionate writer. More polished, experienced and stylized, to be sure, and as a woman all the more. I don't miss the past, but I know today that the reality of love hits hard. You fall harder and then it's harder to fall in love.

In high school, writing was innocent because we hadn't yet really lived to tell the tale. Today, we've lived the tale, and have to tell it.

And speaking of a very real today, I walked along the beach alone and basked in the violet rays of the sunset, thinking about about Manola and how I had almost lost her. Why Manola? Who is she? What is her voice? What does she wear? Who does she love?

And the answer came, quite simply. She's a spark amid my darkness, even in the waning light of day.

As a writer, I'm experiencing a very strange collusion of life imitates art and art imitates life.

I also thought about Mr. Thinks He's Huge. I no longer love this man, but he still plays an important role in my thoughts because his involvement in my life led me to a sadness and seclusion so severe, that I thought I'd never find myself again nor see the light of day.

When I met him, I wasn't new to love, but I had never experienced a relationship with a man who was sufficiently manipulative, mentally abusive and emotionally careless enough to crush my shining spirit. I didn't fall in love with that man. I met him later, when it was already too late.

And I state this not as a male-bashing front, but because he must've come into my life for a reason. I know it now: he taught me everything I don't want and should never put up with, which is a good lesson I'll hold on to.

As I walked away from the beach onto the Collins exit, I thought of our relationship in these terms: imagine yourself like a Kafka character walking down the street. You mistakenly make a wrong turn. Suddenly, a man comes out from the alley, ready to shoot you. The difference between this scenario and my relationship is that he didn't inform me he would shoot me until I was already in love and blind to the weapon that threatened to destroy me.

That wasn't real love, of course. And while it took place near the Atlantic ocean, it wasn't the joy of sex and the beach.

When I first started SATB, I didn't know Manola would help rescue me from that lone gunman and the darkness. I didn't know she would take me by the hand and say "come on you funny girl, go make some readers laugh." But now that I'm having to rebuild her story by story, she's coming back to life and I'm coming to cherish her as a good friend.

I hope that she will continue to give you much joy, laughter and who knows what -- you just never know with her -- for years to come.

Manola may not be all me, but she's definitely a spark rekindling my spirit. And like any good, strong woman, she's got her ups and downs. But she'll be back ... or her name aint Manola!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Hurricane Season Boyfriend Needed [update 4/21/06 6:30 AM]

update: scroll down a few miles

2005 hurricane season map

The hurricane season is just about to poke its ugly, wind-blown head into the city and Miami bloggers have been discussing preparedness. Rick is contemplating buying a generator and MKH is relieved that his favorite rum is so good, he can sip without ice.

Manola, on the other hand, is desperately seeking the most important hurricane accessory of all, which by the way, is not available at any hardware store ... not even that 24/7 Home Depot on Calle Ocho (although the arepas and coconut water are so tasty) ... No, it's not what you'd assume ... not Manolo Blahnik flip flops or batteries for a vibrator ... Manola needs


Why? Because last year, I spent the first few days after Miami's brush with Katrina alone. At night, without enough light to even pluck eyebrows or do a pedicure, oh my Lord, one humid, dark steamy night after another, with nothing better to do than sit on my bed lashing at mosquitoes and asking "why?" or talking to myself like Rain Man and then wondering: if I'd have a man around, we could be making major strides on page 69 of the Karma Sutra! Damn it!

It was SO humid here at Apartment 17, that after a few days, the tile floor was literally covered with water. I kid you not. Would've given sex on the kitchen floor a whole new meaning. Fun when slippery road sign would've been necessary.

After my apartment turned into a wading pool, I packed my ass, my mini-macaw, a toothbrush, the remaining unspoiled broccoli and a family-size bottle of Ketel One into the humble Toyota. Made the tedious drive over to the old folks on the mainland, trying not to hit a fallen ficus. God bless the old folks and the fact that we all still had our lives not to mention a roof over our heads -- as opposed to blue tarps -- but staying with the ma and pa was definitely an exercise in sensory deprivation and boredom!

Where was Mr. Thinks He's Huge? MIA as usual. (And no, he wasn't at the airport.) To be fair, the night Katrina hit he had to tend the home where his ex and two children resided. Of course, I wouldn't have had it any other way -- I wouldn't have loved a man who is an irresponsible father.

Nonetheless, is what it is, right? Mr. Thinks He's Huge had never experienced a hurricane and apparently he took a big dump in his pants (his actual words) while also dumping his responsibilities as Manola's man. Didn't see hide nor hair of him for a month, when I needed him the most. (I know, who really wants to see hide or hair of any man unless it's Brokeback Mountain?) But still, men who love rights and not responsibilities need not apply.

While enduring Katrina's aftermath and for the entire hurricane season thereafter, I realized how much I had taken for granted having a man around the house -- A REAL MAN WHO NOT ONLY LOVES MANOLA, BUT IS ALSO NOT AFRAID TO COOK A FRITTATA AND PUT UP SHUTTERS. It's not just about sex and the beach, it's about enduring the aftermath of a hurricane while STILL enjoying sex, capiche?

drill man hurricane shutters

But I digress. Ladies, fear not. A gusty woman can spend a hurricane alone. It's not the storm, it's the aftermath that humbles, challenges and toughens even the weakest spirit.

single south beach woman hurricane plan, evac optional

• PANIC: "Oh my God, who's getting the vodka? THE VODKA! HELLO? Bottled water, wait, but ..."

• FRANTIC GUILT: "Why did I procrasinate? Was I too busy masturbating to Colin Farrell? Oh, shelves at the store just gutted! No more bottled water. But wait, here's 50% off Revlon dipstick and OMG! Colin is on the cover of People!"

• FREAK OUT THAT'S NOT LE CHIC BUT OH-SO HUMAN: "Bryan Norcross, I'll marry you, even though I think you're gay."

• DEPRESSION: "I'm a Scorpio. Why did I go off Zoloft?"

• STINK: "If I have to take another shower today with contaminated water, I think I'll just become a lice-pickin' chimpanzee."

• ICING ON THE CLOUD: "Well, at least I don't own a home. Look at those insurance rates! I could buy twenty pairs of Blahniks, please!"

Ladies, after a hurricane, you'll never complain about PMS again. PMS is a walk in the park!

Manola spent Georges -- the gay hurricane, remember? -- alone on a corner oceanfront apartment of the seventh floor. The building shook, rattled and rolled, but my parrot and I hunkered down in the living room and woke up rather refreshed, actually. If it doesn't kill you it makes you stronger: NOTHING can compare to Andrew. 8/23 is as etched in my mind as 9/11.

So this season, I'm RENTING A REAL MAN!

Ladies, Colin Farrell may be well-endowed, but can he drill a hole and put up hurricane shutters? When it comes down to brass tacks, you need a man who can do it all!

se busca un mucho super macho man

se busca un boyfriend

why colin farrell?

Manola recently received this email:

Date: April 19, 2006 7:01:51 PM EDT
Subject: Re: Colin Farrell's sex video


"Sorry for disturbing you. I just saw your comment in this site:
I Don't Like You in That Way.

And I just want to ask you, can you please send me that Colin Farrell video? I'm really looking for it everywhere but can't find. Can you please send it to me or upload on

Best Regards"

I received a snippet of the now infamous Colin Farrell sex video from a friend who works for paparazzi. To be honest, after I re-inserted my eyeballs back into their sockets, which popped out from the shock of seeing that Irish lad's huge schlong (he doesn't think he's huge, HE IS HUGE) -- I promptly deleted the video clip because it was really quite boring. Colin's ex gf, a second-rate porn star with bad hair, had the audacity -- and the bad manners -- to try to bank on this very personal moment.

Oh, and yes, he is sizzling hot!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Praise from a Porn King

Manola is worth reading!

DH Spicy Blog, written by a husband (faithful, I hope!) whose extracurricular activity is to report on spicy blogs, made Manola's day:

"A little humour and hanky panky, advice and much much more can be found over at Sex on the Beach. Blogger it is again. This time more of an entertainment blog as opposed to erotica. Still some spicy moments and cool points of views listed here. Someone worth reading."

Sleepy Sex on the Beach

Behold a masterly comedic tale of sexy spontaneous snoozing direct from the mind of Milcho, honorary Manola.

Rick will appreciate the steering wheel techniques and Al will just love the smokin' seductive blow!

veronica milchorena el narcoleptico sex and the beach

All will love the implications of snooze and sex, regardless ... SEE IT NOW AND STEAL MILCHO'S BANDWIDTH, DAMN IT!

Yep, it's a big-ass file, but here at SATB, you know we lounge around in reams of silky bandwidth -- due to our big-ass size -- being totally slowfish, ok? BUT WHEN IT'S GOOD, IT'S WORTH THE WAIT, BABY.

On a PC? I know Mac and PC just had this unholy marriage ... but WTF? Get Quicktime to enjoy the sexiest snooze ever!

bunion notes

[warning: this link will open a new window and your mind into the marvellous world of milcho]

Veronica Milchorena

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Newsflash! Condoms Not Canned!

Sun, sex and sand is fun as long as it's safe!

As previously reported on Bling Bling Goes Ew Ew, Manola 180 was inspired to investigate a serious condom controversy.

After speaking with SoFla's Planned Parenthood media rep, Manola 180 has confirmed that a New Times article had a fact check boo-boo regarding the distribution of prophylactics on SoBe at Planned Parenthood.

Turns out, rubbers available free of charge to one and all Tuesday and Thursday!

bunion notes

[warning: the following links will open slippery new windows made of latex]

Planned Parenthood of South Florida
New Times

Sex and Delete

Congratulations to uber-blogger Rick for his successful six-month anniversary!

Critical Miami also recently celebrated its first year of kicking blogger butt!

... which reminds Manola that she completely forgot her own six-month mark on April 8th!

What better way to celebrate than deleting your own blog into oblivion? But you know how blogger gets buggy sometimes? I swear upon my favorite pair of heels:

colin farrell blog button

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Miamista made some excellent observations today about blogging communities and virtual connections. Let's dig deeper, shall we? Don't think too hard:

Create polls and vote for free.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Manola is Back from the Dead

... and looking rather peaked, to be honest!

Manola's Childhood Compulsive Blogging Disorder

Manola's Childhood Compulsive Blogging Disorder

Even as a tender toddler, Manola was already playing with a tripod -- yes, it has three legs and a prominent metal protuberance that slides up and down, complete with a very convenient handle! No lubrication necessary!

Too young to wear Manolo Blahniks, Manola still NEVER left the house without wearing a mini-dress, flats and matching handbag stolen from mami's closet.

Manola was ready to conquer and chronicle her world even though papi wouldn't let her anywhere near the Nikon SLR!

Moral of the story: No delete button in the world is going to stop Manola!

Bling Bling Goes Ew Ew [update 4/18/06 1 PM]

[update: scroll down to bunion notes + photos of bejeweled roaches]

While I resuscitate SATB from near-death, here's a story I found to keep my lovin' readers entertained.

Sara Stewart of the New York Post reports that "This season's creepiest fashion accessory is a live, bejeweled cockroach worn as jewelry - and what better place for roach couture than New York."

New York? This is SO SOBE SOFLA!

Photo courtesy of Jared Gold

Come hurricane season, Palmetto Bugs -- yes, savage critters that elicit fear, respect and disgust and that are completely worthy of capitalized proper nouns -- will be having plenty of sex. After all, a recent New Times article proclaimed South Beach as the 'casual sex capital of America.' Palmetto Bugs should cash in on the latest fashion craze as well as the fact that all living things on the barrier island are constantly having sex without meaning ... OF COURSE!

Madagascar hissing cockroach? Please! Our SoFla cockroaches can FLY! So the Madagascar version hisses and defecates, but can it FLY? Oh yes, Palmetto Bug jewelry should cost that much more, as you'll have to hire a professional falconer to train and tame your roach. Now that's being fly on the fly, yo!

I think I know why the universe contrived to delete my blog. See, wearing insects as fashion is a sure sign of impending apocalypse and the certain foreboding of utter collapse. End of the world as we know it, for sure. I have FTP access to the archives of Nostradamus and there is a very obscure apocryphal text relating to the following tags: end of the world, froo froo, roaches and bling bling.

Seriously, buy your hurricane supplies NOW because we'll have to batten down the hatches and hunker down when the world ends due to the wrath of God, which is perfectly understandable. I'd be pissed off too, if I were God and my teenage daughter was wearing cockroaches.

What's more, Manola is up to her ovaries in insect issues. She's been battling mosquitoes in a skirmish no less passionate and bloody than Braveheart, using Windex to eradicate this offensive environmental vector. Can you imagine a phalanx of King Arthur wannabe warriors brandishing plastic bottles of Windex against near-microscopic buzzing and flying insects?

As well, try doing yoga with mosquitoes. No way not to practice non-violence. Shoulder stand. SMACK! SLAP! EXPLETIVE! OW! OW! PLOP! OH! CAN'T CURSE! CRAP!

Bug Ring

advice from the trenches

So, trust Manola. Here's how to be walk defensively in South Beach, always prepared to combat ICK:

Strolling down Washington Avenue -- la di da, la di da -- and you rub shoulders with a certain Ms. Froo Froo Slicemy Stilton is sporting a cockroach Swarovski accessory. Maybe it's a knock-off -- the jewels, not the roach. And suddenly, even though said Madagascar roach can't fly, it just took a hit of exstacy (along with its owner) and decided it just LOVES YOU and jumps on your shoulder! EEK!

A most difficult ethical decision, because as we all know -- if you are on the receiving end of "I don't welcome roaches in my space" -- aint no person on the planet going to sit there and just let a bug crawl all over skin.

So, on your keychain, gals, will be not only a can of mace, but Windex. Mace for rapists. Windex for insects. Oh, and throw in a can of EVOO, in case you have to cook gourmet low-fat. And of course, a can of KY in case the cookin' is REALLY good!

(Oh, do keep in mind. Windex won't eradicate a stupid fashion decision, but it will immobilize the bug.)

Guys? Here's why women carry such big purses for a big night. Clutch bag can't accomodate all these multi-purpose aerosols!

Now, speaking of ethics, be prepared, because Ms. Froo Froo Slicemy Stilton could hire her attorney to sue you for spraying Windex on her Swarovski bug.


bunion notes

[warning: these links will open new windows and crawl all over you]


Baby, don't I bug you enough? CLICK ME NOW to read the whole story. Free registration required.


Watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding to learn more about the benefits of Windex.


Answers to those frequently unasked questions about Stilton Cheese.


Manola 180 is concerned about lack of condoms in the casual sex capital of America. Kudos however to Emily Witt for bringing the issue out of the sheets and onto the street.

Original tip-off to story courtesy Stuck on the Palmetto.


Apparently, live insect jewelry IS fact, not fad.

Egyptians and Victorians
Available for Purchase
Designer Jared Gold
Video Coverage

Sunday, April 16, 2006


"Dear Manola 180,

Thank you so much for helping me get through that rough patch. I miss my lover terribly, but I have given up the affair, knowing in my heart that in spite of everything, I love my husband. We have children and I'm not willing to give up an entire life just because I am a hot mama who attracts sex like bees to honey.

But Manola, here's a question even my therapist can't answer. Now that my husband has regained my trust in the sack, and in spite of the fact that we've been having sex for donkey's ages, I am still completely befuddled. Why must he 'drain the pipes' in the morning and why does he get all enthusiastic about dickrise?

My husband is 41 years old and EVERY MORNING he looks at his stiffy like it's the first time he's ever been hard. His eyes light up. He points at it and says "Look! Look!" Kid at the candy store kind of thing.

Bless the man, most mornings we only have about five minutes to consummate the act, and he's all worried about making me come. I told him to not worry about ME as this was all about HIM and my orgasm is way too time-consuming. Truth is, all I can think about when I wake up is that first cup of coffee and what I'm going to make the kids for lunch."

Sincerely yours,



You ever heard of a rubber husband?

OK, here's the deal. Just now, me being on a low-carburator diet and trying to spice up my otherwise high-protein meals, struggling to open a jar of hot banana peppers, and because aint no man around here to drain pipes, open jars and perform other various and sundry matrimonial duties, I nearly gave myself a case of arthritis trying to open that damn jar. In fact, I think I might've broken a few knuckles.

In my book, being the receptacle of AM pipe drainage is well worth the sacrifice, provided that your matitunal barbarian loves, adores and cherishes you 24/7.

Now, let's examine the matter, shall we? First of all, being married means having to compromise and put up with shit, including sperm. Talk to some mad scientist who claims there are biological reasons for wet dreams and random penis uprisings, but the bottom line is this: that thing is going to invade your vagina even when you are closed for business. That thing, which you usually refer to as 'husband,' will come knockin' at your door even when unwelcome. Remember, you fell in love with that thing. You claimed 'until death do us part,' and crap, if a penis is persistent enough, it will find a way to fuck you even in the after-life!

(Case in point, remember your mom telling us that she was so tired of having sex with her aging husband. It used to take ten minutes. Now it takes twenty minutes. OY! SUCH PATIENCE TO BE A WOMAN, I'M TELLING YOU!)

Another case in point, my ex, Mr. Thinks He's Huge -- who is quickly developing the reputation for being the world's most impressive asshole -- used to shove my face into his dick every morning, expecting a blow-and-go. Mind you, who needs an alarm clock when you can be dick-slapped? Ugh. So fucking rude! Talk about bad bed manners! Talk about lack of pleasure for Manola! No, forget that. Talk about the total turn-off! Wait. Is it possible to have a non-orgasm? Is it possible to have non-foreplay? Like, can you get not-wet? Yes, yes, yes.

So, kindly tell your therapist, that according to Manola, the blow-and-go, dickrise and slap wake-up call process is only valid if the man benefiting from skillful and pleasurable fellatio is also performing the two most important matrimonial duties round the clock: unconditional love and leaving the toilet seat down.

Mrs. LL COOL BABE, seems like your husband, RISES to the occasion. All day and night, he's considerate of you, your body and your wifely pleasure. Heck, the guy loves ya. I strongly suggest, that after twenty years of marriage, you learn how to be in a coma while he drains his pipes. Sleep through it and dream of the scent of roasted java and freshly-baked doughnuts as you flit about in your hair rollers, anti-wrinkle masque and Wal-Mart lingerie through a field of blooming daisies. Next thing you know, reality kicks in ... kids screaming, getting ready for school, going to work ... and boy, oh boy, that much-awaited long-distance phone call to Manola on Friday afternoons.

Now THAT is a pleasure you DON'T want to miss!

Yours truly,

Manola 180

Friday, April 14, 2006

Unprotected Sex ...

... that is premeditated, can lead to giving birth.

In this case, sex and labor produced America's next rock and roll legend, courtesy of aka Shveckle Havemeyer, mother of said future star and Manola's friend of over twenty years.

Indirectly related to sex and the beach ... see, this tiny tot, barely three years old, is the product of planned parenthood. And even with such short notice, this marvel of reproduction has already spent two vacations chez auntie Manola on Miami Beach!

(I mean, come on! Three years of life! Takes me three years just to put on make up and fix my hair!)

This unspeakably cute future Elvis was conceived in Brooklyn on a particular afternoon one September ... how do I know?

"I'm preggo," Shveckle wrote on instant messenger. "We boned just in time for me to give birth after grad school."

Aha! Shveckle had a partner in crime. That's the wonder of wonderful relationships. Boning, banging and babies down to a T. Oh, and did I mention love? Yes, love. It is a good day, sunshine.

Oh yes, the dead pan, spaghetti-eating NYC real estate mogul, husband and father in the background -- aka X chromosome partly responsible for musical child genius and quite possibly the only man with the slickest and most raven tresses on the planet! Watch out. Donald says 'you're fired,' and Juan says 'you're tired!'

It's not Sex in the City. Shveckle doesn't even own a pair of heels. And it's definitely a far cry from Sex and the Beach. But it is this: sex, reality and babies in Brooklyn, with a few bagels thrown in besides and a jubilant child as a result. And many, many visits to that crazy friend on the beach, auntie Manola.

Damn. Such cuteness, in the form of a mini-testosterone, baggy-jeans-wearing little sprite of energy, makes Manola want to run and buy a spermsickle immediately. Well, a magical thing happens when your best friends have children. Gives you insta-love-attacks, as evidenced in auntie Manola's tendency to offer slobbering wet kisses, a bad habit she has been cultivating since toddlerhood.

If this video doesn't restore your hope in humanity, make you believe in love all over again and at the very least -- give you a good heart throb -- let me know and I'll stop by with my defibrillator or a cortadito, whatever works fastest.

N don't be shocked sweetheart, live the life of Manola, and you'll end up old and soppy, shopping for sperm!

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

Perhaps in anticipation of the weekend, I am hoping to turn It's Not Funny into It Could Be Funny. I would love nothing more than to let this episode go and forget it ever happened, but that brief moment of fear has taken a toll on my health. I have struggled all week with insomnia, anxiety and an awful gnawing feeling at the pit of my stomach that while Carnage at Apt 17 is unlikely to occur, another Crackass and Company show will come soon to a neighbor near me.


After last weekend, I'm no longer so keen on letting anyone walk all over my peace of mind. So this weekend, I hope to turn the tables. Instead of being the sheep, I'll be the wolf in sheep's clothing.

On Tuesday, some fifty and sixty somethings who have been living here for over twenty years, ganged up on Crackass, literally. The timing was exquisite. In the afternoon, when he was on his way to work, apartments number 27, 24 and 15 -- all board members -- were huddling around him with arms over their heads visibly deploying the universal WTF? gesture.

Do you think this stern talking-to is sufficient after months of verbal and written warnings? Crackass and Company haved pulled some kind of shenanigan just about every weekend if not every other weekend. It's expected.

My brother, a nth degree black belt (sensei) who lives in LA CA, suggested that while I can't kick this guy's ass, I could pull a simple practical joke: spray adhesive on the door knob, so that whoever should attempt to rattle it, would be stuck until the police arrive.

But what kind of adhesive? Any better ideas?

Dear readers, I am the sort of person who doesn't hurt a fly. In fact, I usually rescue the fly and take it to ER. I heard a priest once say, "be kind, but not stupid." So this time, I MEAN BUSINESS. Maybe I can't kick his ass. But I'm not going to let anyone kick mine.

Seriously, I am really going to be on edge ... because it really isn't fair and it really isn't funny.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Crackass Crackdown

This weekend, not a PEEP from Crackass. On Sunday evening he pumped up the volume on his TV to surround sound status so that you could hear the actors saying 'fuck you' across the walls; however, who would've thought that loud TV was a blessing in disguise?

City of Miami Beach Answer Center
is very useful. I made an anonymous complaint and got a 24/7 weekend number for code compliance. First time, warning. Second time, slap a fine on the offender's ass.

Abrazos to Dubious Wonder for devoted support and information regarding MDPD. Ladies, we needn't feel helpless!

As well, thanks to Mr. Manners, our local eyewitness etiquette observer, for bringing attention to the issue.

I've asked myself why I've been challenged ... and perhaps the answer is a wake-up call to be more empowered as a single woman.

NOISES MANOLA LOVES (BESIDES A MAN MOANING IN BARITONE): Samba Jalapeño, a mini-macaw who hatched from the egg one year ago (happy hatchday!) -- from a reputable breeder, of course -- aka the notorious model behind Parrot Hilton, said her first words this weekend. (First words other than 'hello.') This little tender 'velociraptor,' the 'owner' of Manola, said "OK" (sort of like the teacher in South Park) and "alright," which she must've picked up from overhearing one-sided phone conversations.

Click here for an instant cutenessgasm. (Note: Samba Jalapeño is the 'clever' green one with gorgeous pin feathers.)

EERILY SIMILAR, NOT SO FUNNY AND YET A GOOD LAUGH ANECDOTE: a friend of Manola's who resides near a mere spit away -- Pine Tree and Sheridan -- also had a 'mistaken door identity' incident this weekend. Not on her door, mind you, but on her neighbor's. As she peered through the peep hole, she noticed a man across the landing frantically knocking, pounding and finally kicking the door wide open. Turns out, the man was desperately trying to reach a friend who had been depressed and somewhat suicidal, but aforementioned sad pathetic case lives ON ANOTHER SIDE OF THE BUILDING ALTOGETHER. Talk about embarrasing faux pas! Eventually, Ms. Prozac was found, alive and well. Kick-the-door-down man apologized to the cops, landlord, neighbors and also paid for the damage. A good intention that could've been -- and was -- initially misinterpreted. All's well that ends well ... but FOLKS, PLEASE ... next time you knock on a door, PLEASE get the address, ok?


• Prada for 40 at almost 40. Love that number. Not only my slowly encroaching decade, but also the street price for a baby blue REAL leather handbag. Yes, even smells like hide. Need I say more? Yes, TOTALLY politically and environmentally NOT correct. Oh, shut up. Look, I haven't had sex in an almost a year, so I am entitled by default and according to some esoteric documents in the Geneva Convention to make a completely impulsive fashionable purchase in the form of knock off purse, OK? Miami Girl, call me. Got the hook up, chica. I'm the crazy bag lady on the corner of Alton and 41st Street dealing fake Prada and Manolo Blahniks. Hagglers welcome.

• Planning the following itinerary from Barcelona to Asturias:

Barcelona to Asturias

Friday, April 07, 2006

Sex in the Garden: Good Omens

Love is in the air.

Snowbirds will say that in SoFla, the first tulip bulb doesn't rear its pretty head out of permafrost, but out of a bucket filled with water in air-conditioned Publix. But our NY "OH MY GAWD" friends aren't privy to the rioutous flowering of bougainvillea -- the blooming cycle of which seems to imitate the comings and goings of 'season' itinerary.

Seasonless SoFla?

Manola -- plow in hand -- begs to differ.

There's hot and then there's hot. Walk on the pitch-black asphalt and suffocate hot, wishing you were dressed as scantily as Paris Hilton hot. Hot as in wishing your boobs were less perky, smaller, flatter and not sweating under the creases of your generous flesh HOT. Hot, yes, showering twice a day so to wake up and remember your name HOT ... ah, the season of HOT and HUMID, with a few good things besides ... (except HURRICANES)

Sneezing? Could be mango flower pollen in the air mid-summer, beckoning the season of the world's most juiciest and delicious fruit. A little light cream, butter, cayenne and you have a mouth-watering accompaniment to mutton snapper caught under the August full moon.

(OK, if you are a Florida old-timer August gives you the heebie-jeebies after Andrew '92, and if that's the case and you are married or have a partner within lovin' distance, please go have sex IMMEDIATELY to get your mind off the WORST HURRICANE EVER ... see? sex. hurricanes. wine ... weirdest and yet totally understandable series of tags.)

Sneezing still? Think pollen a la Florida avocado. The greenest fruit that does olive oil, lemon, fresh cilantro and sea salt a favor. Please. There's more than oranges growing in Florida and you can practically trip over avocados in season.

Look around. Trees flourishing in spite of their proximity to ugly urban. Weeds growing out of a crack in the concrete.

And orchids. Yes, orchids. Oh YES Orchids!

Exquisite foreplay a thing unseen, silent and then, like any physiological event worthy of being called an orgasm, comes suddenly, with a big burst of energy, color and purpose.

sex in the garden

The orchid on the top left corner -- Miss TIGER -- hasn't bloomed since 1997, when I could have, in spite of all odds, 'dumped' her for her insidious resistance to blooming.

I, a child of the tropics and a believer in these mysterious seasonal omens -- anyone from the tropics will surely agree -- thought that once this orchid bloomed, I'd find love.

1997, folks. For some reason, Miss TIGER hasn't bloomed since I broke up with Sir Fish a Lot, a very decent man, currently a good friend. Instead of an engagement ring, he offered me this blooming orchid.

The blooming of ORCHID AFTER ALMOST A DECADE is an EVENT ...

sex in the garden

A good omen, so very tropics ... yes, once in Antigua I was browsing a street shop and asked the vendor for fresh tamarind. 'You pregnant?' she asked not the least bit surprised. 'Pregnant woman crave tamarind. Tamarind make baby beautiful.'

But I wasn't pregnant. And the tamarind was good. I'll have tamarind any day. Pregnant or not, Miss Tiger is FINALLY BLOOMING and DAMN IT should mean something after so many years not putting forth flower!!!

(If you haven't tried a mouth-puckering slice of tamarind, DO SO IMMEDIATELY.)

LOVE, are you trying to nudge me out of singlehood? Are you tempting me with these wild, unruly and totally unpredictable blossoms?

LOVE, the door is closed, but if you knock softly, I might just take a peek ... XOX

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Sex and the Snake Handler

sex and the snake handler miami beach

Honorary Manola: Expert Bla Bla Bla

An old acquaintance of Manola's appeared on the cover of New Times in July 2005. Lovely, nutty and highly creative, Milcho is not only an extremely talented professional in the film arts, but also a master of rant. This little ditty, in which she demonstrates the technique of bla bla bla in exquisite detail -- and the fact that she is a resident of the beach who keeps it real -- earns her a very-well deserved Honorary Manola B.S. degree!

bunion notes

[warning: the following link may open a new window and squirt rogaine all over your scalp]

Crown of Thorns

Monday, April 03, 2006

Helen of Oy and Her Three Husbands

Helen was born in Hungary 94 and a half years ago. Her family owned a saloon where all the farmworkers would come to quench their thirst and addle their brains after a long day at the field. Helen's grandma was a tough-as-nails barkeep. Her muddy, alcohol-soaked leather boots were worn at the heels. That tough lady would kick burly, drunken men out the door -- literally.

Helen, to look at her today, she couldn't hurt a fly, but she inherited that spunk in her blood.


During the early years of Helen's womanhood, she had no idea of the future that would bring her, after a much convoluted route, to a little apartment just off Arthur Godfrey Road. Yes, although Helen was born in Hungary, she would spend most of her life on Miami Beach.

And I, Manola, who has quite a bit of bark, but still rides on a relatively soft thirtysomething spine to back up her bite, would be honored to have crossed paths with such a remarkable woman. Manola never had a grandmother. All separated by the divide of exile.

Sometimes, however, exile makes for strange familiarity. I once called Helen bubulah and she pinched my cheek.

"You are adorable! How do you know Jewish? You pronounce it so well! Did you know I had three husbands?"

"Yes, Helen. You told me about your three husbands."

And she did. Oh yes, she loved talking about her three husbands.

As a young woman in Europe, Helen was no stranger to the swagger and palaver of men. She owned a corset shop in town, which forced her to walk about ten miles a day -- first, to work, then back home for the big midday meal -- then back to work and home at the end of the day. Men would lurk on the streets, asking unsuspecting and yet flattered ladies if they could simply escort them for a walk.

Helen confessed that her father, who often found himself commuting by foot or horse-drawn cart on the same road, would pretend not to see that she was holding hands with her boyfriend.

"Boyfriend?" I asked.

And with endearing coyness, Helen replied: "Oh ... of course! He walked with me everyday. He held my hand."

Hand-holding in public. Yes, I'd forgotten about that.

She barely escaped the war, but that didn't break her spirit.

On an average day, I'd see Helen by the mail dispatch and we'd talk about the weather and, inevitably but with much affability, her three husbands.

She only well and truly loved the second man. The first one was a German pilot who, in a grand stroke of irony, died in a plane crash on a detail to Israel. Helen speaks little of husband number three, but number two, well ... he was, without a doubt, THE LOVE OF HER LIFE.

"You only love once, Manola" she explained as her eyes twinkled and she grabbed my shoulder with bony hands. "I told you I had three husbands? Yes, I've had three husbands, but the second one, the father of my children, the one I met at a dance in Chicago, well, we were love birds. He held my hand all the time."

In an instant that spelled eternity, the aging woman shrugged her shoulders.

"He held my hand until he died."

Yes, holding hands.

I'd forgotten about that.

Helen loves that I know a smattering of yiddish.

"Knock, knock. Excuse me, Helen. I need change for the laundry. Look at me, I am such a meshugenah shiksah wearing schmatteh" (which is true, by the way, being nuts, broke and wearing rags) and instantly, I get not only a pinch on the cheek but a kiss to boot.

"How do you know Jewish? You pronounce it so well! Here's the change. Let me teach you how to say 'I love you' in Hungarian ... Hungarians are so romantic ... did you know I had three husbands?"

Yes, Helen, time and time again, I know you had three husbands. And that's the only story you can tell. And you think it matters to me? Of course it does! I haven't even managed to have one. In fact, I've avoided three divorces.

Deep into conversation -- which only took a few minutes, if you navigated imaginatively with the mind of this somehow sharp yet senile lady who survived a brutal past of persecution, a woman who had lost her family to a holocaust and then endured three marriages -- well for Helen, it was all in a day's work.

Concerned about my life, she would ask, quite bluntly, if my ex-boyfriend fulfilled me.

"Does he make you feel good, you know, like a woman?"

Imagine my surprise! A question about a sexual life that she might've heard across drywall and concrete -- oh, no she was too deaf -- but she knew what she was asking, even if she sometimes depended on my courtesy to turn on a lamp Friday evening, when the timer failed to work on Shabbos.

When I re-entered singlehood, she inquired -- out of the blue, bumping into her on the 41st street sidewalk -- about the fact that I, now free to do as I pleased, and a very good-looking girl, did not go to dances to meet boys. She didn't just ask -- she'd perk up and sway her flat, barren chest side to side.

"But you, you should go to dances to meet boys! You know, Hungarians are very romantic and we love to dance. When I clean my house I listen to czardas. Here, let me show you! Did I tell you I had three husbands?"

This tiny creature, made of bird bones, sheer courage and grit, grabbed my waist and twirled me around.

I smiled knowingly. Yes Helen, I know you had three husbands. But I kept quiet because I'd never want to spoil Helen's memories with the sordid truth.

Men and women no longer meet at dances. I thought of Crowbar on South Beach. Nineteen year-olds on exstacy humping in the VIP section. Is that really love? What of holding hands? What of until death do us part? And does death really part souls who share love?

Yes, Helen. You dance. You live. You survive.

And now you're moving to Detroit to be closer to your progeny. Years are catching up to you like the yarns of your knitting. You've defied death long enough, but you've done so swimmingly, marrying three men, keeping house, bearing children, wearing your color-coordinate polyester outfits just to walk to Kosher World at 3 PM everyday to buy supper, even though you have nothing much to live for, at least as far as my own eyes can see.

And I could very well be blind.

No one could imagine that this wrinkled waif, strutting happily in Miami Beach, still bothered to give herself a french manicure and coordinate her jewelry with her ensemble.

Helen, fashion is trivial. But in you, Helen, fashion is defiance. You believed in yourself, Helen. Dead family, lovers and love-of-your-life aside, you believed in life and lived it, even when your body shrank and shriveled and you survived on the Friday wine of memories.

Last week, speaking about life in assisted-living, Helen worried about making new friends.

"Helen" I winked, "maybe you'll meet a nice fella in Detroit."

"Oh, I don't like old Jewish men. They are not worth the trouble. I'm not going to change anyone's diapers. I'm too old for that. For me it has to be a man under 70. Did I tell you, I had three husbands?"

The woman in me would like to believe that Helen, spry flirt she is even with one well-shod foot in the grave, enjoyed more than just holding hands. I'd like to believe she reveled in tender kisses and exquisite love on the shores of the beach.

But that dream is stored in a dusty collection of black and white photos only her great-grandchildren might find some cold day in Detroit while exploring an attic. Memories come alive in the grainy voice of a singer sulking in the melody of a Hungarian czardas.

Maybe her idea of love had to do with holding hands, which, at the end of a long life, is a far better keepsake than some random encounter on the sand.

Never second-guess love. Never assume passion is a thing of the past. I saw it in this old, weathered face and those cloudy yet bright eyes.

"Manola, if you don't take care of yourself, who will?"

Yes, Helen. And if I do make it to that ripe old age of 94, living alone and still able to bend over and pick up a fallen kleenex, slice an apple with a knife, sweep the floor and do calisthenics in the pool, dance to old tunes from my grouchy cassette player, dress up every day, cut my own hair and give myself a mani-pedi, remember ... well, yes, remember ANYTHING for that matter, well yes, I'll remember you, your three husbands, definitely, as well as my three near-miss husbands ... all long, long after you're gone.

"After you die, nothing matters. I like to enjoy each day. I thank HASHEM for each day. Do you know how to say God in Jewish? Everyday, I ask him, if he is going to keep me alive, keep me well."

And he will.


This little voice that embraces life, this vivid little flame that illuminates an aging body is quickly darkening.

The day she dies the sun won't rise as brightly on the beach. Or maybe, knowing Helen, it will. Matching shoes and hat, no doubt.

During a thunderstorm last summer, Helen, wearing a satin robe and panther-print sandals, knocked on my door. So short! Standing well below my own petite frame, I could only see a few whisps of gray hair through the peep hole.

"Look, the clouds are getting black! Are you afraid, Manola?"

"No, Helen." And in my mind, I thought of grandmothers I never met.

Silently, I answered: "Of course not. What's a little storm when you've weathered the most horrid fate so elegantly with grace and gratitude?"

And speaking loudly so her feeble ear could hear, I replied: "No Helen, of course not. But call me if you need anything, ok? I'll always be here for you."

Damn, I'll miss my neighbor.

I'll always be there for her because she was always there for me ... and, most importantly, always there for herself.

UPDATE: March 2007 -- I heard from another neighbor that Helen slipped, broke a hip and passed away while in Detroit. Can you believe it? After all those years of living alone she moves to assisted living and dies? Had she stayed here, I reckon she'd still be kicking. But you know what? She's at peace now and making heaven a better place. I will always honor you, dear Helen.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

It's Not Funny

[4 AM Saturday]

At 1 AM, startled by a door slam from next door, even though I was listening to music with headphones. So loud was the slam, made me jump in my seat.

Then, a strange, rasping noise on my front door. Then, the knocker. And then, nudging on the window, followed by a frenzied turning of the door knob and pushing of the door.

Heart racing, fingers shaking and eyes crying, I called 911. Cops arrived within minutes, but now, there's nothing I nor they can do.

I'll sleep with the phone close to my heart and hope it was someone trying to gain entry into my neighbor's unit. A simple mistake from one drunken idiot in an otherwise peaceful neighborhood and a family-oriented condo, right?

I'm frightened.

I'm typing in the dark.

You can't put a price on peace of mind. Feeling threatened when you're alone is turning Manola's smile into a frown. Sorry, my friends. Manola is scared ... and these monsters are real.

[update 4 PM Saturday]

Thank you all for the support. Even though the surf is smooth today, I felt those waves of psychic calm and serenity travel across the Julia Tuttle and land in my home!

Rick, in a grand stroke of April Fool's irony, I thought "God forbid I should become a news item on SoTP!" (In case that happens, Manola's real name is Maria, by the way, just like your favorite tennis player.)

Trouble has been brewing in paradise since my neighbor and pals -- I'll call them Crackass and Company -- leased that apartment.

My friend (known as Male Platonic Friend in SATB) comforted me last night. I called him and he told me that a similar incident occured to him where he lives, a gated condo on Euclid Avenue, South Beach. A man pounded on his door while he was having sex with a girl. "It ruined the moment" he said. "But it was clearly a case of mistaken door identity."

Well, some comfort, but not long lasting.

Crackass and Company have been rabble-rousing and pulling shenanigans for months, including an incident last weekend, in which they were not only rude to one of my older neighbors, but also trespassed onto our terraces and dumped property into the canal. Although she witnessed the incident, she was too frightened to call the cops, and now Crackass hasn't even offered to replace the missing property.

As a result, they already received a letter from the condo association earlier this week, but Crackass has Lameass for a landlord. Lameass claims that "he's good pay" and that in order to evict Crackass for foul behavior, he would have to hire an attorney. Well, isn't this landlord liable for the disturbance in our lives?

Besides the obvious evening jitters, the inefficiency of the system galls me. Crackass and Company can get away with public disruption that is not only disrespectful, but harmful to others. And even the powers that be are powerless against Crackass and Company.

So, in typical Manola fashion, I thought I might put a big black and yellow sign on my door with an arrow pointing to the right with the following in big, bold letters: WRONG DOOR, SHITFACE

Any other suggestions?

[update 8 PM Saturday]

I've decided to take justice into my own hands. Note sign on the door. And to make it a fully interactive experience (just in case Crackass and Company are too shit-faced to read the WRITING ON THE WALL), I smothered the door knob with rancid canola oil (rancid only because I usually cook with EVOO).

Shame on you! Slap on the wrist! Don't even say MANOLA OIL because that is another story that will rear its stiff nipple after hurricane Crackass gets evicted and I can return to writing semi-fictional humorous anecdotes. I'm in survival mode, ok? But still, not bad.

Try turning a well-lubed knob, especially if you are a drunken sot.

"Ew. Did this knob just come all over me?"

All in a day's work here in paradise.

door to apartment 17

[update 2 PM Sunday]

All quiet on the mundane front last night -- I even managed to draw a grungetoon, but once my head hit the pillow, my anxiety level prevented me from sleeping, because it was TOO quiet, a quality about my building's atmosphere I normally prize. Crackass' parking space was empty and so I anticipated the dreaded late-night knock. Like a character in an Edgar Allen Poe story, I was in fear of what might happen, but only because it already had happened.

Crackass owes me, but I'll let it go if I could only regain my sense of safety and peace.

See, Sir Fish a Lot, boyfriend numero dos from years ago who is still a friend, kindly invited me to go offshore fishing for dolphin (mahi-mahi) on his friend's boat, but I was too exhausted to make the trek down to Matheson Hammock Marina at 6:00 am. When I finally managed to nod off into light sleep early this morning, I swear I had a dream that someone was knocking on my door.

I feel a sense of violation, even though the moron never entered my space. It's too close for comfort.

Years ago, a friend and neighbor of mine (Lorelei on SATB) used to call me "old lady" not only because I would drive slowly -- always on the right lane -- but also because I would lock my apartment door just to go throw garbage down the chute or change a load of laundry. Now that she's a single mom to a toddler and and traded her mustang for a mommy mobile, of course, she takes ALL OF IT BACK!

But even years prior, when I was still "young and stupid," I was mugged at gun point in Coral Gables. At the time, the crime du jour was rear-ending a car so that the unsuspecting driver would leave the vehicle to check for damage. In no time, a masked mugger would jump out of the other car and by the time you realized you'd been duped, it was too late.

After feeling the cold metal on my face and the barrel click, I had every reason in the world to act like an "old lady," out-smarting the possibity of crime and being aware.

No Carnage at Apartment 17, but definitely difficulty recovering emotionally from the frightening incident, which might have made the night of the mugging also resurface unconsciously.

This morning, however, I had a good chuckle after reading Stuck on the Palmetto. I definitely need to brush up on my garden variety hex skills. Perhaps a dead chicken will ward off Crackass for good!