Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Planet Manola: Sartorial Edition

Random news, commentary and photographs. Updated at least once every menstrual cycle, if not more frequently. If you are easily offended, do not read on!

Since we're all going to die from swine flu, I thought I would focus on vanity in this edition of Planet Manola.

buttcrackNot even the finest, most elegant pair of shoes could undo the damage of this common South Beach fashion faux pas.


Today's Herald features an article about Donna Sozio, a self-proclaimed "shoe-ologist" who claims she can size up a man based on his shoes:

If the shoe is really clean and the stitching moves in one direction, then the person may be balanced or organized.

If the shoe has cluttered stitching, then the wearer may welcome chaos in his life.

If the shoe has long laces, then the man has boyish characteristics.

Is this for real? Well, here's my rule of thumb. Never date a man whose hair is more fabulous than yours! Let's start talking about hair. You know how important that was for Bill Gates in rescuing his marriage!

Seriously, I never think to look at a man's shoes. Does that make me a piss-poor candidate for Millionare Matchmaker? Oh Lawd! I might as well pop that can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and trim my toenails while watching Jerry Springer, right? Does this mean I'll end marrying Mr. Buttcrack? And what would Joe Plumber have to say about that?

Well, there's so much more to a man that what he puts on his feet. And besides, all the sartorial fireworks in the world aint gonna make up for a lack of personality. If he's just right in every respect but his shoes, why kick him out of bed?

For real. If he's some rich dude and is way too obsessed with his footwear, I'd be turned off. But you know, a barefoot crackhead on Biscayne Boulevard won't get me to come hither either.

So how about a happy medium? The idea behind Never Trust a Man in Alligator Loafers is definitely sound:
... her theory explains how a man's relationship with himself trickles down onto every relationship he has, which includes his relationship with shoes and his relationship with his significant other.
True, guys. If you can't take care of yourselves, how are you going to take care of us? Still, while I wouldn't want you to look quite this trashy, I'd rather you take more care of other things than your shoes.

Shoe stuff is girly stuff. Amen.

Read more here and join the forum discussion, started by Carlos Miller at 411.


New contributor at Miami Beach 411, recent northeast transplant and utterly lovely Christy, goes where no voluptuous, big-ass Cuban woman dare go: South Beach boutiques! If you wonder why South Beach is famous for its scantily clad denizens of nightclubs, it's because most dresses sold are barely larger than a maxipad and far less absorbent than a shamwow! (That's Manola talkin', not Christy.)

In her words:
There are many factors at play in our decision to wear a cocktail dress. We want to show off our tan, show off our body, and it’s hot here! We enjoy getting dressed up and looking as sizzling as our town’s nightlife. We’ll save those skinny jeans for a night out in NY, thank you very much! And most of Miami’s tourists play along. A friend of mine revealed that, to her, one of the best parts of coming to Miami is being able to wear the racy dresses that somehow accumulate in her conservative closet!
So to make the long hem short -- you guessed it -- South Beach is the place where it's ok to like a ho! We've always known this here on Planet Manola. And we also know that in South Beach, "cocktail dress" refers not to the length of your hem, but the alcoholic beverage that you will be wearing after some coked-out asshole spills your drink all over your boobs as you make your way to the bathroom.

How to get that look? Read more at A Girl's Guide to Shopping and Style in South Beach. Kudos to Christy for showing us the ropes to get inside the velvet rope! There are tons of fashion-savvy tips about different shops in the area -- from the relatively economical to the Black Amex splurge.

Now ... go buy some clothes and strut your stuff!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ford Fiesta: And We're Off

atlanta to miami google map
As of tomorrow, Brad S and I will be off to Atlanta for our Ford Fiesta training. You can follow us on Twitter @fordfiestamiami or check out the widget on the sidebar (Flash required on your browser to see widget). From Twitter, we'll be microblogging not just with tweets but also with links to pictures and live streaming video.

We expect to drive back from Atlanta in one shot. This should be interesting!

Cartoon in the Flesh

hugh macleod cartoon
Earlier this week, I wanted Hugh Macleod to draw a cartoon on my crutches, but he didn't have the right kind of pen for the rubbery handle. Instead, he drew one on my arm!

Since I last mentioned Hugh on this blog, he relocated from London to Alpine, Texas. Most recently, he has been spending more time in Miami for work. His craft has evolved from "cartoons on the back of business cards" to full-size canvases. They're really quite beautiful when you see them in person, printed on gorgeous paper. You can see them online at Gaping Void Gallery.

My arm drawing will wash off, of course -- including that copyright symbol on my skin! I still have another spur-of-the-moment cartoon he drew for me a couple of years ago on the back of an actual business card.

Of course, one of my favorite all time Hugh prints is this one, which I find quite funny:

hugh macleod gaping void south beach print

In his words: "Believe it or not, there are normal people who live in South Beach, and this print is for them."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ford Fiesta: Meet the Agents

Bad ass ford fiesta miami teamPhoto courtesy of Miami Art Exchange. Thanks, Onajide!

Maria D and Brad S at FiestaMovement

AGENT MARIA (in her own words)

Maria is a jane of all trades except for the world's oldest one. She doesn't exactly have the carpentry skills to build you a bookshelf either, but books and words have surrounded her since she read the novel Shane in junior high school.

Today, Maria is a freelance wordsmith and social media enthusiast who loves to gab about her hometown Miami. She has been called "someone worth reading" and "someone whose cleavage is pleasant on the eyes." A blogger for three years and counting, she enjoys seeing the brighter side of life and sharing a good laugh, especially through the motley crew of characters she has created on Sex and the Beach.

Maria hopes to enjoy many leisurely South Florida trips in the Ford Fiesta with her teammate Brad and to share all the road-worthy fun with her followers. And of course, she will carry her Horatio Cane amulet to protect her along the way.

Learn more about Maria's work at Wily Wordsmith.

AGENT BRAD (in his own words)

The world's most interesting man crowned him Most Interesting Man in the Universe.

Manatees come up to him to swim. By the age of 26 he was the groom in 3 weddings and legally married twice, but is still a hopeless romantic. He has built haunted houses, worked for Six Flags in Europe and then worked on staff to elect Barack Obama as President. There are pictures of him from before he was born. He has technically died twice. It has been documented people sleeping near him sometimes have the same dream.

Brad A Schenck is not, as some believe, a clandestine agent. Although this filmmaker, social activist and creator of good-natured mayhem has lived in several cities and countries for a spell, he now resides on South Beach. When not editing films or working on projects, he pretends to surf, but also rollerblades and dances till dawn. With his pal Maria, he'll drive around and show people the inner secrets of Miami.


Twitter: fordfiestamiami
Pikchur: fiestamiami
Qik (Maria): vicequeenmaria
Qik (Brad): bradaschenck

Ford Fiesta: The Show Must Go On!

As some of you already know, I broke a leg bone a couple of weeks ago and so a big question came up: how the hell am I gonna drive my Ford Fiesta?


Well, I thought I would have to give up my participation, but Ford really wanted me to be part of this movement. Considering I am not even a millennial, this cracked me up! I really must be the Twitter queen!

Anyway, I proposed a compromise and solution: team up with Brad Schenck, a friend of mine who has worked with Miami Beach 411 and does videos. At first they were reluctant for me to bring a second agent along, but because of my condition, it was absolutely necessary I have a driver.

Honestly, even though I'm considered top banana on this project, I think the missions will be even better with Brad on board! Let's not treat him like chopped liver -- he's a really groovy and extremely creative guy. An activist, poet, painter and more, he was also recently on staff for the Obama campaign in Florida.

Also, it was I who inspired Brad to get a new phone so he could live stream on Qik, so you know that there will be mad live streaming whenever we go on any of our Ford missions.

One of the things I discussed with Ford was the idea of the pleasure of driving, of going places. Being a passenger is just as important as being a driver. I'll enjoy our journeys, and the car, just as much as if I was behind the wheel. And besides, it'll be a nice change of pace to have some testosterone, a deeper voice and five o' clock shadow around to complement my videos. Ying and yang, baby. Just think of the delicious irony -- Manola gets a good-looking, 20-something guy as her private chauffeur!


All the Ford Fiesta Movement cars are manual transmission, fresh off the European factories. I was expected to go to Atlanta for lessons on how to drive a stick shift and then bring the car back to Miami. I'm still going to the training session, except that Brad is coming with me and he'll do all the driving.

On Friday, Ford flies us up to Atlanta. A wheelchair will be awaiting me at the airport as well as the hotel. Brad and I are already wondering if it will have multiple speeds and a clutch.

On Saturday, we come back to Miami. It's one long-ass haul, but Brad wants to be back by Sunday and it's not the first time he has driven for hours! In addition to having driven cross-country several times, he once drove from Pennsylvania to Denver in twenty hours. And the last time he drove from Miami to DC, he made a small detour to Arkansas, just to pick up a friend!

I wanted this road trip to be our first official Ford Fiesta mission, with a stop or two, but Ford said nothing can start until May after all 100 agents receive training around the country. Nevertheless, maybe we'll do something exciting like a pit stop at Cracker Barrel on the Turnpike.

Without a doubt, some hilarity will ensue on these missions. We're already coming up with characters, like Mulder and Scully, Thelma and Louise, Cougar and Poolboy ... stay tuned!

Learn more about Maria and Brad in their bios and don't forget to follow fordfiestamiami on Twitter for up-to-date microblogging. (Check the widget on the sidebar, too.) In the coming weeks, I'll let you know whenever we'll be on the road.

Thanks to Ford for working around my injury. Brad and I look forward to our missions.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

At Least My Heart Isn't Broken!

broken foot
About two weeks ago, I was going to see a play in Little Havana, but when I got there, it had been cancelled. So instead, I joined some friends for dinner at Tap Tap, a great Haitian restaurant in South Beach.

Clearly, I wasn't supposed to be there, but we all know about these twists of fate. Two very odd things happened: one, I bumped into an old friend of mine whom I hadn't seen in years, yet I had dreamt about him the night before; and two, I slipped on some stairs, fell flat on my ass and broke my fibula, just above the ankle.

Now, before you say anything: one, I had just taken the first few sips of my mojito (amazingly, I did not spill a drop of my drink!); and two, throughout my life, I have danced ballet in pointe shoes, tangoed in ballroom heels, skated on ice and balanced on one leg in yoga poses -- a lot. Those ankles you see in the photo are very strong. My pride and joy. And basically, I popped out out of the womb wearing stilettos. So, this, my friends was a freak accident!

I walked on a swollen foot for four days thinking it was a mere sprain. I had complete mobility of the foot and leg, but it hurt to point and flex the foot. When I finally went to the doctor, I discovered this:

xray broken fibula
Lovely, huh? Now I'm supposed to wear a boot and walk on crutches for about eight weeks.

So obviously, I can't drive or get out as much as I normally do, which is really frustrating, considering that I am fully recovered from agoraphobia and need my dose of fresh air everyday.

Cabin fever is not the only annoying mental side effect of a broken leg bone. I'm going to go nuts having to refrain from full-body exercise, so I'm developing a Pilates and yoga routine to avoid developing full-out blogger butt, slouching posture and tight hamstrings -- all this without making my injury worse.

People tell me I'll get used to walking on crutches, but I don't know. After eight weeks, I'll be all lopsided and one leg will be weak while the other is strong. This type of movement can't be good for my spinal alignment. On the plus side, crutches force you to use your pecs, biceps and abdominals.

Alas ... some good shall come of this: expect a lot of writing here!

Does this affect my involvement with the Ford Fiesta movement? Actually, it doesn't! The show will go on. Stay tuned for a very exciting twist of ... drivers.

In the meantime, please enjoy this Qik live-streamed video featuring revelers at Tap Tap. A carnival-style event had taken place that night on the streets, with costumed folks singing and dancing.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Boy From Ipanema

ipanemic Ipanemic getting all Greta Garbo on my ass. And no, he didn't drink all those beers.

In case you haven't heard, my friend Ipanemic has embarked on a colossal cross-country road trip from Miami to Los Angeles on his scooter. Word has it, what with his backpack and saddlebags, he can still burn rubber at 40 MPH.

Ipanemic is one of the most interesting guys I've ever had the pleasure to meet. When I first crossed paths with this slim, demure dude, I don't think he even owned a camera. And in less than two years, he owned his camera and not just in the financial sense -- he became quite the photographer. He explored the erotic, the boudoir, the playful, the nude, soft porn and sometimes even crossed the line to the point where even I got tired of seeing so much tits, ass and vagina on his Flickr stream. But the subject matter of his photography is not the point here: his tenacity, passion and commitment to the craft was impressive.

And it wasn't just about the babes. He also took some amazing street photography that captured some very real, painfully hard to observe scenes on South Beach. He was a pair of eyes for me on the reality prowl when I had already become too jaded to look.

Click, click, click ... in between lighting a cigarette and taking a drag -- he could barely sit down for brunch on Lincoln Road. That's how madly, madly in love he was with the camera and what he was capturing. And always, absolutely always, he was humble about his talent.

He's like that in many ways. One day, he invited me over for dinner and cooked me noodles with chicken, oriental style. He apologized for the dish not being perfect, but, in fact, it was perfect -- perfect for that shared meal among two friends. Besides, it really was quite tasty! You can whip up magic in those small South Beach studio kitchens.

Ipanemic and I are vastly different; yet somehow, I think I get him. He's into caffeine and I haven't had coffee since July 2007. He's into (or was into) photographing women and I'm just a straight girl trying to make sense of it all. He somehow thrived on South Beach, just as I made my departure, although he would make an exit not too long after me. Whenever I hung out with him, I knew I was in the presence of someone who was also trying to make sense of it all; I knew I was talking to someone with a limitless amount of whatever wonderfulness he could contribute to this world.

And so, even though I didn't hang out with Ipanemic day in and day out, and even if his craft took a different bent from mine, I feel like his road trip brings yet another South Beach chapter to a close. It really does -- I've seen so many people come and go from this town and Ipanemic's case is particularly poignant.

You get burned. Or maybe burned isn't the right word. He has his own metaphor for it, something about circles and a rhombus. But somehow, no matter how you dissect it, no matter how you draw it, no matter how you cut it up, eat it, spew it out and put it back together again, you just have to get away from the island. I completely understand.

Ipanemic is on a mission now and I'm happy for him, because I think -- no, I sense it intuitively -- that he's somehow following his heart. These journeys outward are always a journey within. He may be looking for the fabled girl of Ipanema, but what he passes by and doesn't see is that he is a treasure unto himself.

God speed, my friend.

You know you'll always have friends here in Miami.

Visit for posts or keep up with South Florida Daily Blog for "Where the Hell is Ipanemic?" updates. You can also join the discussion about the trip at Miami Beach 411's forums.

Carlos Miller put together a great video of Ipanemic's farewell. The road trip is sponsored, in part, by Miami Tour Company.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Love and Ashes

matheson hammock

I spend many splendid afternoons strolling in Matheson Hammock Park. You've probably already read my words before, singing praises to this magical little lagoon by Biscayne Bay.

On Sunday, April 5th, I found myself here again. The park was crowded and on this day there was a notable abundance of couples. I notice these things -- just like I notice the fluctuations of tides -- how a particular log sticks out on the bay when the tide is low, or how the pelicans swoop over schools of bait fish when the tide is high.

I know this place. I know it like my own heart beat. And each and every time I come here, something, some little detail, strikes me anew, and I learn a little bit more about this place, about myself.

I know this place. It inspires the living, the loving and even those who are no longer with us.

On this day, every bench was occupied by men and women holding hands, kissing. And the bay waters were not to be spared of unabashed amorous embraces, either.

Love was in the air.

So was death.

What struck me the most was a gathering of people just a few feet away from the lovers you see kissing in the photo above. As I walked by, I overheard someone say: "Who's next? This is what he would've wanted." The man who spoke these words was sitting on the edge of the sea wall, holding a plastic bag full of ash. Those ashes had been a body, a life. And now, whoever had been those ashes, well, whatever remained of him was surrounded by those who cared to follow him this far.

No one was crying. It really wasn't particularly dramatic.

Is this really what he wanted? Did he want his remains to be cast into the bay? On this particular Sunday, his ashes were guided by a glorious, cool and rather feisty westerly wind.

Yes. The kind of wind that makes you want to keep going, alive or dead. Unfurl the sails, let it carry you somehow. To another place, to somewhere new, or maybe, to some unfathomable place, where you might touch someone's heart.

I settled on a bench nearby and let the golden light of the sun warm my neck. I stared straight ahead at Miami's skyline, it looked so hazy and soft in the distance, concrete turned into tangerine clouds. I heard the voices surrounding me. Children giggled as they spotted crabs and jelly fish in the lagoon. The water rippled and cooed gently out into the bay. Palm fronds swayed and swooshed, muffling the piano riffs that drifted in the air from the speakers at Redfish Grill. The silent nothings of lovers drifted too, carried away into the night ahead.

I couldn't hear those silent nothings, but I knew they were there, just as I knew the voice of a person whose ashes had been graciously tossed into Biscayne Bay. Is this really what he wanted? Who was this he? And did it, did he matter anymore?

And for a moment, I thought -- this is probably what I would've wanted too. To go, among this life, this beauty and this peace, surrounded by all this love. If this is what he wanted, then he must have understood what I see everyday, when you see yourself tied to a landscape, bound somehow to the beauty that surrounds you.

Whoever you were, I'll always think of you when I stroll by the lagoon. And I still do.

But on that Sunday, just like that, I got up from my bench and I went home.

The sun always sets, lovers kiss by the beach in twilight, we die and the sun rises again on the east.

And even in death, these are blessings.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Go! Go! Miami

I love vintage Miami Beach media. Have you checked out my Flickr group? This is a recent contribution. Some things never change ... but do notice how "blonde" was a major theme and compared to today, you don't actually see a heck of a lot of flesh. This is like grandma's version of Nikki Beach Club.

Video courtesy of Bobster1985. He's got some great vintage items in his stream.

Miami Is So SxSe!

sxseA bunch of Twitter people are getting together again for a second time in the magic city April 16-20. Some folks are even flying in from out of town to enjoy our hospitality.

This is a very informal, casual and relaxed un-event, un-featuring dinner at iconic Cuban restaurant Versailles, an Afro-Cuban funk performance by PALO! in a great Little Havana music lounge, brunch at JJ's in South Miami, a meet-up at Carrabbas on Miami Beach and a lazy day trip down to Morada Bay in the Keys. You pay for your own shit and get there on your own. Come to one or all. Just show up! Only extra cost is a $10 contribution for the musical performance.

All local bloggers are welcome -- you needn't be on Twitter!

Curious? Everything you need to know is at ... including information about our supporters.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Baby, I Can Drive My Ford

ford fiesta magenta

Here's the one-of-a-kind hot magenta car that you'll see in the streets of Miami come May! Obviously, I picked the flower details because you know how I love my gardens.

Here is the deal behind the wheels: 4,000 people submitted videos and only one hundred were chosen to test drive the car for six months. I was one of them. Every article I've read so far says that Ford was targeting Generation Y and Millennials (those born between 1979 and 1985), which goes to show -- my Cuban secret for keeping a youthful complexion really works!

Us Ford "agents" are going to go on "missions" and we're a very motley crew. Now, before you say "Manola, you're just sucking Ford's ass ... " Yes, I realize this is a VAGINORMOUS advertising campaign, but none of us have to a be a shill. To begin with, there aint no paycheck and Ford has no control over what we will broadcast. Obviously, we signed a contract and a non-disclosure statement, but if the car breaks down and is a piece of shit, we will state just the facts, m'am.

I have never taken advertising on this blog precisely because I never wanted to be bound to anyone else's agenda, but this opportunity seems more like a patronage of the social media arts -- a bone has been tossed to me, so I'll make of it what I can.

Besides, we don't think twice about patronizing sports that are so corporate sponsor-driven, we never know if tennis is alive one day because of tampons or the next day because of mobile phones.

For those of us who are already social media ho's, an opportunity like this is capital. Not only will we get more exposure on a personal career level, we'll also have an opportunity to learn about a growing field as the boundary between consumer and advertiser begins to shrink. This is also an exercise in community building.

I had a conversation with twitter buddy @geogeller online: I said, "of course, I will give them the real me!" and he replied, "Good! Ford needs to hear what you have learned about trust/community wonder/mystery."

What's more, I'll get a new video camera and have the opportunity to cover more of what I already love to do, which would be reporting even further afield about all the fascinating nooks and crannies of my beloved Florida, with free gas, insurance, maintenance and some other expenses included. This is something I'm not able to do in my current car. It's a jalopy and I refrain from driving it too far.

And this is truly a big leap for me, considering the challenges I had in the past with anxiety disorder. Talk about freedom of the road! I am ready to embrace it fully. Mind you, I know I work at home and don't have to commute, but sometimes, I just drive more than I need to just for the heck of it on the backroads of town. I love driving now. No, I don't love asshole Miami drivers, and I don't love Miami's horrendous rush-hour traffic, but I do love being able to get in my car and just go.

I look forward to showing you (locals) and everyone else (the new Miami audience to be born from this) how to enjoy Florida in a leisurely way -- that's my angle. Let's bring the pleasure back to driving. Driving not to work -- but to places you love and are worth getting to.

I'll be flying to Atlanta for a training and to pick up the car at the end of April. I'm arranging for a road trip back to Miami with a couple of stops. I'll re-cap my missions here with edited videos, but if you want to follow live, please join me on Twitter, Pikchur and Qik. I will also be enlisting the company of some very interesting local people to join me on my missions -- writers, bloggers and other creatives.

Even though other car companies have attempted similar campaigns in the past, this one is really going to set a standard and I'm happy to be a part of it. I am not an expert in advertising, nor do I tout myself as a social media guru, but I can tell you what I suspect: a campaign of this size will definitely create some ripples, if not a tsunami.

Of interest: agent GrassRootsModern is planning a road trip across America to visit the most interesting architectural sites. How cool is that? Oh, and here's what Forbes has to say.

Want more Miami experience on the innernets? Start here: Miami Beach 411 and South Florida Daily Blog

--- payin' the bills ---

Thinking about a new car?  Maybe you're in need of one.  Whatever the case may be, if you're low on funds, look into payday loans.  And get your vehicle today!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Little Havana: Manola-Style

As some of you know, I've been exploring Little Havana in the last few weeks and thoroughly enjoying myself while doing so. Here are some additional photos that I've taken since I wrote that article plus a live-streamed video -- all for your viewing pleasure. The man in the video, who claims to be 68 years old, sets up shop on the sidewalk in front of the Tower Theater during Viernes Culturales.

I went to hear PALO! play on Friday and I chose to grab a bite to eat on my own. Single ladies, I felt completely safe walking around that stretch of Calle Ocho between 12th and 17th avenue. Inevitably, there were a few comemierdas standing on every corner drinking coffee and talking shit, but no one messed with me. Be always safe, of course, but don't miss out on enjoying things just because you're on your own.