Sunday, August 28, 2011

Silicone Bitch: Teacher Versus Shill

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

I was on the phone yesterday catching up with my dear friend Stephanie Quilao, the amazing health lifestyle blogger best known for Back in Skinny Jeans. One of the things that came up in conversation was how some very high-profile social media people can be total fakes, professing the art but not practicing what they preach.

Our talk begged the question: what's the difference between being a true teacher and a showman?

The core of this question had to do with yoga teachers who get breast implants and others who seem to say one thing yet practice another. Ditto with social media personalities who are all "out there" but can't fit the bill when it comes to their personal success at relationships of all kinds, be they personal or business.

I'm not going to name names, but I have seen some pretty absurd behavior in my career involving social media. Heck, I've made mistakes too.

In my mind, it boils down to this. You can't be a true social media personality if ...

... You don't practice what you preach. If you say wear pink, you better be wearing pink yourself. And it's cool if you decide to stop wearing pink one day. Just make sure you tell your audience why.

... You aren't compassionate. Social media is just a digital expression of what the yogis have been saying for years. (I wrote about it in this post on yoga and social media.) Hey, we all have to make a living and we all have an ego, but using social media for self-aggrandizing is only the start. Once you get there, what are you doing to make this world a better place?

... You aren't brutally honest about all your misgivings. Cult of personality is not about perfection. It's about owning your imperfections and knowing which boundaries you are willing to break in order to share. You don't have to share everything, however. You aren't a reality show star, for pete's sake. Stay classy and keep some of your dirty laundry private, but let the world know that "rock star" is their attribution, not yours.

... You don't take time "off" from that persona you've created and you don't know the difference between the two. If you're always "on" how do you know who you really are? I tweet like a crazy idiot but there are stretches of time during which I am very quiet. Why? Because I'm taking time to be "me." I don't have an agenda to push anything 24/7. But when I do tweet or blog, you know damn well it's pretty authentic. That's how it should be.

... You sell snake oil and pretend like that's ok. Selling snake oil just doesn't cut it anymore. And if you must sell snake oil, at least be more of yourself in the process.

... You aren't a student. A true teacher is always a student. What's the zen saying? In the mind of the beginner there are many possibilities, but the "expert" is full of shit -- no room for expansion.

... You aren't humble. Being humble is key. Learning from your students is imperative. All a true teacher can do is share best practices and discuss skill sets -- what the student does is entirely up to his or her innovative, not just imitative, application. I don't give you the fish -- I teach you how to fish, but it's up to you to do the fishing etc;

... You don't know when to call it quits. Knowing when and how to end is a major plus. Beginnings are wonderful but endings should be just as special. When has an idea run dry? OK, good. It's time to move on with something else. Own that and don't fake your way through it with false, sugar-coated enthusiasm.

... You suggest short-term, turn-key, solutions for life-long issues that you know are never really going to go away. Nobody becomes an expert over night. A true teacher focuses on the present, to be sure, but doesn't run away from the bigger picture. Problems will always be there, but the key is sharing best practices.

... You believe exclusively in numbers. There are no reasons ever to try to get thousands of followers just "because." Popularity is a fake dream and the true star is the one who doesn't give a shit. (Yes, heaps of irony there, but that's zen for you.) Following is something that should be earned the hard way in an organic, evolving process. Don't sell a dream. Sell a really usable, practical reality.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Sexy Scottish Affair, Part 2

A very international experience in Miami, in which I attended a Scotch whisky tasting and a reading from a historical romance novel set in Scotland – all on the same night. Read Part 1 here.

Miami author Michelle Marcos discusses her latest historical romance novel,
Secrets to Seducing a Scot, at Books and Books in Coral Gables. Scottish Highlander men are jaw-dropping tall, according to Marcos. See the video to learn more about these kilt-wearing seducers and why a Miami girl is writing a romance novel trilogy on the subject.


secrets to seducing a scot michelle marcos novel historical romanceAfter spending a couple of hours tasting Dalmore Scotch with Richard Paterson and discovering the sensual angles of the experience, I sauntered into Books and Books feeling a certain frisson.

Miami novelist Michelle Marcos was reading from her latest novel, Secrets to Seducing a Scot. What an appropriate end to the evening, although somewhat ironic – as clearly the Scotch had already seduced me.

I first met Marcos when I was an "agent" in the massive Ford Fiesta Movement social media campaign. At the time, Marcos was working with Habitat for Humanity as Communications Director. During our acquaintance, she gave me a tour of Habitat for Humanity’s development in an underserved Miami neighborhood near Overtown.

Marcos, a lovely, soft spoken gal was not only championing this amazing non-profit, but also writing historical romance novels on the side. Later, she would take a career leap and dedicate herself to novel writing full-time.

Marcos looks and talks like your girl next door. She’s Christian, humble and devoted. But she has this saucy side to her and is a phenomenal wordsmith. You think blogging is hard? Try cranking out novels.

I just love that a Miami girl, encouraged by a big and warm Cuban family, is successfully writing romance novels set in the Scottish Highlands. You’d think that’s a stretch – but Marcos has the smarts and wit to pull it off. She represents the Cuban-American 305 truly, giving us volumes of good sensual read better than any telenovela out there.

You wouldn’t ever think to put Hialeah and Scottish Highland in the same sentence, but there you go. Weirder things have happened in this amazing universe.


Secrets to Seducing a Scot had me spellbound, even though, I’ll confess, it’s my first read in the genre.

The closest I’ve ever gotten to historical romance is the obviously prudish Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Please don’t tell me Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte was a romance, because I’m thinking that stick-in-the-mud never had an orgasm or at least, never dared to speak the unimaginable of female pleasure. However, I’m pretty sure literary genius Jean Rhys, author of Wide Sargasso Sea, probably indulged in an orgasm or two even though she never wrote about that directly.

And of course, there were the gothic novels I studied in grad school, where there was always a chaste, orphaned heroine being threatened by all kinds of ghoulish fears, most of them, of course, imagined archetypes when she was really freaking out about being pressed to give up her chastity.

Giving it up was a big deal back in the day. Well, it still is. There's your vagina (the physical organ) and then there's your vagina -- the part of your body subjected to all kinds of moral, cultural, political and religious scrutiny.

Serena Marsh, the novel's heroine, isn't about to give it up so easily. She's a stunner and has a flair for fashion, but in spite of being beautiful, she's far from perfect or pure, which makes her character quite likable. A smart, sassy and pampered writer penning a Sex and the City style column for a London newspaper in the early 19th century, Serena March is obligated to travel to Scotland with her ambassador father, who must make peace between Scottish clan leaders and the English monarchy.

Under some twisted circumstances (I won’t give up the plot) Serena Marsh finds a “protector” in Malcolm Slayter, a knock-out macho Scotsman who is an outcast, belonging to no particular clan but fiercely loyal to anyone who should place her trust in him.

This is a true tango of masculine and feminine, spelling out “I’ll dance with you, but only if you can lead me.” This is Taming of the Shrew without the shrew, though Serena Marsh is admittedly stubborn, in a good way. Both man and woman seduce each other, just like a real tango, with equal leverage of power, even though it appears, at first glance, that the woman is strictly submissive.

There’s a fantasy scene written out where Serena Marsh imagines what it would be like to explore under her would-be lover’s kilt. If you can imagine a brazen woman owning her sexual bravado, this is it. But the city girl gets seduced by the Highland knave, though not overnight. She must also prove herself worthy of love.

Marcos is particularly attracted to the Regency era, so the novel takes you through that time period and not without some of the bloody violence you might also read about in history books. The sex scenes were hot, but I loved journeying through the Highlands with characters encountering potential danger at every corner.

Secrets to Seducing a Scot is Part 1 of a trilogy and I am absolutely aching for the release of Part 2 in the Spring 2012. My guess is that I’ll read this sipping a good Scotch from the Highlands.

To follow Marcos, check out her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Here's the link in case you missed A Sexy Scottish Affair, Part 1.

A Sexy Scottish Affair, Part 1

A very international experience in Miami, in which I attended a Scotch whisky tasting and a reading from a historical romance novel set in Scotland – all on the same night. Read Part 2 here.

richard paterson dalmore whiskyThe indefatigable Richard Paterson, master blender for Whyte and Mackay Distillers, Glasgow. We met at Fleming's in Coral Gables earlier this month.


As the author of Sex and the Beach, I have been to many spirit tastings and liquor events (yes, it’s a terrible job, but someone’s gotta do it), and none have impressed me as much as meeting master blender Richard Paterson from Whyte and Macay Distillers in person to sip glorious spirit from the Scottish highlands.

Blending Scotch whisky is no easy task, requiring a razor sharp, almost bionic sense of smell and a keen understanding of the land where it’s produced – a connection to every grain of barley, ever handful of earthy peat and every drop of fresh river water in Scottish terrain. It is, as I was to learn, a rather sensual profession. Another “tough job” someone has to do and God bless Paterson for that.

Scotch is definitely not a girl drink. Can you imagine Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City ordering a neat scotch instead of a Cosmo? Scotch was the kind of thing Mr. Big would drink. It’s a guy’s drink, your father’s drink, your grandpa's night cap, Mad Men ad exec closing a business deal drink, genteel men excusing themselves for cigars and post-prandials as the ladies go play cards in the parlor room drink.

Or so I thought.

Paterson presented scotch in a way that never occurred to me. We’re used to words like “body” in tastings but I’d never heard “long in the mouth” or “art of swallowing” or “multiple orgasm” anywhere outside of a tantric sex lecture.

Paterson, whose ebullient personality betrays his passion for Scotch, encouraged us to slow down much like a yoga teacher would in this style of drinking.

“Hold it in the mouth for at least 15 seconds,” he recommended. “Taste it a second time as you swallow. We’re all in a hurry. Take time to sip and savor.”

When I asked if Scotch was always enjoyed in such a sensual oral ritual, he replied without hesitation. “No, people used to knock it back like cowboys.”

There’s a legitimate, scientific reason why Scotch shouldn’t be consumed like wham-bam-thank-you-m’am.

In this case, the spirit on our tongues was from The Dalmore, an exclusive single malt produced in a distillery north of Inverness at sea level on the shores of the Firth of Cromarty. This whisky had been sitting in different casks for years, bespoke barrels that in turn, probably held sherry from Spain or bourbon from America for many years prior. A lot of time -- and a very patient, biochemical process -- passed between that grain of barley sprouting from the ground and that golden liquid slinking down my throat.

I wasn't just downing booze. I was taking in history.

Why rush through it?

The metaphors continued in a philosophy that I genuinely liked, because it was so damn sensible. There's something very organic and yummy about it. Just as in life and with people, so with Scotch -- you never want to rush into a relationship.

“I treat whisky just like I would a person,” Paterson said. “I get to know them. I say hello, listen and communicate with them.”

There are sensual receptors in our heads – the mouth, the tongue, the nose and the eyes – all in service of the spirit you’re about to swallow. “The Scotch has an inner world,” he said. “Let it open up.”

When asked if women would make better Scotch drinkers than men, Paterson answered with a decisive yes. “It’s the same as buying perfume. You don’t just accept it right away,” he replied. “You let it sit and get to know it.”

“Women are more apt to listen and pay attention,” he continued. “In fact, women will add less water to Scotch. A man is a pussy compared to a woman.”

This impeccably dressed Scottish gentleman, with such elegant aplomb, had me in stitches when he dropped the "p" word! Good Lord, he’s serious about his Scotch and doesn’t mince his words.

But most of all, it was fun. Paterson suggests you try Scotch as a flavor adventure for the palate, pairing it with chocolate, coffee and crème brûlée for that “multiple orgasm” experience, which he explains rather jovially in the two videos below.

Sorry the video was cut off ... more here.

I don’t know … I think I’d rather drink my dram of Scotch with just a wee drop or two of pure water, but that’s because even food seems like a distraction from something so fine. Anything that tastes so good and simulates a long, drawn out foreplay works well for me.


Dalmore is a single malt, which means that it is only blended with other single malts from the same distillery in the Highlands producing Scotch since 1839. Dalmore has stocked some of the rarest Scotch in Scotland, making it high couture of liquor. The Dalmore Trinitas sold for approximately $150,000 including VAT at Harrods in London in 2010.

But you can buy other Dalmore bottles at Total Wine in Fort Lauderdale for far less ranging from $49 to $149 for the 12 year old, Grand Reserva and 18 year old expressions. Other outlets include major South Florida liquor stores and many cool Miami cocktail spots that get a thumbs up from Sex and the Beach: Fleming’s, The Local, Van Dyke, Tobacco Road, Transit Lounge, Soyka, Brickell Irish Pub, Segafredo South Miami, to name a few.

To learn more about Scotch history, pick up a copy of Paterson’s book, Goodness Nose, co-authored with Gavin D. Smith. Paterson is a third-generation Scotch whisky professional, so part of the book focuses on many of the tedious ups and downs of the business over the years. But the book is also a travel memoir; especially seductive are Paterson’s travels through remote Campbeltown in Kintyre and the Isle of Jura. I wanted to book a flight as soon as I closed the back cover of the book.

Next up: read A Sexy Scottish Affair, Part 2. And by the way, Jason Korman over at Gaping Void has some interesting thoughts on Scotch and the marketing industry. Read more at The Market For a Scotch to Believe in Is Infinite.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Silicone Bitch: Big Media Companies Shouldn't Do Blogging Contests

I almost didn't want to waste my time writing about this, but I write about social media and blogging, and because I'm passionate about South Florida's social media and blogging community, I kinda gotta do it.

CBS Miami wants you to vote for Miami's most valuable blogger and that's all fine and well, but you have to wonder about the method behind the madness. It's like me putting a contest together for Miami's best brain surgeon. If pushed to do that -- because I'd refuse at first, not being an expert in the field -- I would consult with ... guess what? Brain surgeons and other medical professionals!

I just spent some time looking at the blogs that were nominated for voting -- a rather sanitized selection, by the way, with blogs that are "inappropriate for the community" kicked out of the PG party. Obviously that's the CBS community, not the community-at-large.

Some of the blogs are top-notch and listed on the South Florida Daily Blog blog roll, not surprisingly. Find them here.

Others are rather amateur by comparison.

Don't get me wrong and don't give my shit for saying that. I'm not trying to sound like a snob. I am a champion of encouraging anyone to blog about anything, whether they are professional writers or people who just like to post pictures of kittens. I practice what I preach and teach blogging workshops for newbies, for pete's sake.

But at the end of the day, it's another non-curated popularity contest with no regard for quality. It's a social media whoring platform.

And more importantly, it's a big media company portraying the blogosphere to its non-blogging audience in a short-sighted way.

You want to really highlight the local blogging community to your audience in a fair, well-researched way? Here are some tips:

  • Why not interview them once a month in a regular column, for example?
  • Or have one of your staff do a link roundup every week of relevant posts from local blogs? (I don't mean republish their content so you can make money off of it. I mean just link to blog posts.)
  • Why don't you do tweetups and engage the blogging community socially? (Sun Sentinel has a similar contest, but at least they throw a party. As far as I know, they are the only media company engaging bloggers socially. Miami Herald doesn't do blogger meetups anymore.)
  • Why not let people submit their blogs for review, so you can highlight them in the future and create a list of active local blogs? (Oh wait, South Florida Daily Blog already does that.)
These contests make it look like you really don't take the blogging community seriously. You use contests like this to make the public think "oh look, we're cool, we care about bloggers."

It's just like when I receive a pitch from a PR person who says they've read my blog and are selling me on some mommy blogger bullshit. Clearly, they haven't done their homework.

But it's not all bad. This is a good start and you can do more. At least you're trying.

As far as I'm concerned, every single blog listed at South Florida Daily Blog should be in ANY competition involving local blogs. This is the best, curated source for quality, active blogs and represents a tremendously creative and diverse cross section of Miami. If you are a big local media company that wants to research blogs, you should make that your daily read.

As well, any big local media company that wants to do a blog contest should really consult bloggers when they are designing these contests. And I know a good group of editors who can help with that, by the way.

Big media companies, do your homework.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sketchy Miami is Better Than Art Basel

Sketchy Miami Party, August 2011
Artists and enthusiasts around the Beached Miami table last Friday.

The Sketchy Miami party last Friday was like romper room for grown ups, with so much fun and creativity buzzing through the maze-like and enormous Bakehouse Art Complex. Sketchy Miami is a brilliant idea, undeterred by its lofty aspiration: "The goal of Sketchy Miami is simple and impossible: to create a portrait of every person in Miami."

I have to wonder what the Beached Miami guys were doing (or drinking) when they came up with this concept, but they put together a website and boom! a movement was born.

On the Sketchy Miami website, you'll find over 200 photographs (and counting) that some artists have turned into portraits. The format gives artists an opportunity to connect with potential fans and buyers, which is exactly what happened at the Sketchy Miami party, but in face-to-face encounters.

Everyone who submits a photo or a Sketchy to the website has the option of adding a bio. You don't even have to be an "artist" to submit a portrait, so it's very democratic. The website could potentially become a larger-than-life Miami yearbook of sorts, an epic who's who, or as Sketchy Miami puts it: "... a definitive and inspiring testament to Miami’s diversity, ethnic, creative, physiognomic, and otherwise."

Sketchy Miami Party, August 2011
Non-resident artists were sketching in the hallways.

But back to the party. The Sketchy Miami event was free with an optional $10 Sketchy package that included food, drinks, collectible Sketchy postcards and more goodies. Sitting for a Sketchy was free, with no obligation to buy, but if you wanted to fork over some dough for your portrait, that cost $30. And while it took place in a rather "sketchy" neighborhood, there was ample, free street parking.

More than 20 artists participated in Friday's event, about half of them in residence at the Bakehouse. But many more studio doors were open to the public and just milling about the Bakehouse complex was engaging enough -- the location boasts 3.2 acres and 70 studios in the compound.

At one point I blurted: "This is better than Art Basel."

Of course, I can't really compare it to Art Basel -- the massive mother of all art fairs -- but I have to admire what a little grassroots push does to rally Miamians who probably would never buy expensive artwork. It was art for the the people, by the people, no snobbery involved. (Yes, artists are people too.) And for that reason, it is better. This kind of event will stick in Miami like a cotton shirt on a hot and humid day, long after Art Basel is gone.

And speaking of Miamians, there were quite a few characters at the party. I'm not sure what fascinated me more, the sketches, the people behind them or the organic connection between the two.

More photos and commentary below.

Sketchy Miami Party, August 2011
Everyone was a poser here, but in a good way.

Sketchy Miami Party, August 2011
Art for a cause. Colleen Kelley, of Haus of Art and resident at the Bakehouse, was supporting a Miami homeless children project. Please take a good look at the background. A sign reads: "There are 4,500 registered homeless youth in Miami-Dade." That's unacceptable.

Sketchy Miami Party, August 2011
Ami Lawson of Earth Angel Outreach has worked with homeless youth. Here she stands before one of the painted doors from an art project that supports the cause.

Sketchy Miami Party, August 2011
I fell in love with Judith King's botanical, surreal pencil drawings. She is an artist in residence at the Bakehouse.

Sketchy Miami Party, August 2011
Spontaneity was the name of the game. No room to mess up and if you do, just go with it and draw. This wasn't "caricature artist at the fair" type of sketching.

Sketchy Miami Party, August 2011
These were the only naughty bits exposed during the evening, beautifully done in watercolor by Bakehouse resident Marcelo Daldoce. No, people weren't posing naked, though that would certainly make for a very interesting Sketchy party.

Sketchy Miami Party, August 2011
A definite Miami character, this young man was dead serious about his companion animal spirits. He identifies with giraffes and constantly wears them on his shoulders. Rather a cute stuffed animal then a chip, that's for sure.

Sketchy Miami Party, August 2011
Photography is Felix Estrada's thing. The artist, also known as Felino, just moved to Miami from New York and was taking pictures of lovers or friends kissing and hugging. See more on his Facebook album.

Sketchy Miami Party, August 2011
I was thrilled to finally meet some of the Beached Miami team in person. Pictured here, left to right: Geoff Campbell, Josh Snyder and Brett Campbell. Unfortunately, I didn't get to shake hands with Robby Campbell and Jordan Melnick, the co-creators.

They're all so cute, smart and eloquent, they should really do Miami women a favor and clone themselves.


I was also thrilled when my friend Ines from Miamism, who recently interviewed the blogging duo, did a Sketchy of me! (Not at the party, but of my photograph.) More at Miamism F2F with Sketchy Miami Creators.

Miami Beach 411 profiled Campbell and Melnick in June. More at Beached Miami Setting New Standard for Blogs in South Florida.

And speaking of art, don't forget Life is Art, a local organization dedicated to the support and promotion of the art community in south Florida. One of their recurring signature events, "River of Art," is coming up on August 31st at Mai Tardi in the Design District. Expect artist exhibits and happy hour all rolled into one.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Silicone Bitch: Interview with Rohit Bhargava

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

rohit bhargavaRohit Bhargava with a great Gaping Void cartoon on display.

Rohit Bhargava, reknown author on the subject of social media marketing, gave a great presentation at this month's Social Media Club South Florida meetup this Tuesday. Bhargava is the author of the Influential Marketing Blog and the book Personality Not Included. His new book, Likeanomics, is scheduled for launch in early 2012.

The room at Nova Southeastern University was packed with social marketing pros and people just wanting to learn (Social Media Club events are always free and open to everyone). Bhargava touched upon some of the basic ideas behind "likeanomics," which begs the question: "how can brands survive believability in an age of constant manipulation?"

"Trust is deteriorating," Bhargava said. "It's harder to convince people to believe in things these days."

"Social media isn't enough," he continued. "Often it is a distraction."

I think I would agree that any good marketing strategy employs all the tools at its disposal. As well, Bhargava reminded us of what we already know, but may often take for granted: "storytelling is the most powerful form of communication."

In a funny slide, Bhargava stated that most people would rather work with a loveable fool than a competent jerk. Think about that every time you hit the Facebook "like" button. The presentation reminded me a lot of what Guy Kawasaki is also saying in his book Enchantment. It's important to be enchanting and likeable these days ... but, how to do it?

Bhargava gave a few examples. Oprah Winfrey was honest about her history with abuse. The Hans Brinker hotel in Amsterdam readily admits it's the worst hotel in the world. The Dyson guy is just so damn straightforward about vacuum cleaners.

One of the things that stood out in Bhargava's presentation was the idea of being "Authentically Unselfish." In the video below, I asked him about that and how bloggers can apply it to their own craft.


Remember that whole Jimmy'z and Sugarcane cluster f*ck on Social Media Day? Co-founder of blogging resources site, Julia Diaz Asper, interviewed @nataschaos on successful social media strategies for small businesses in a post entitled How To Get Superfans, Not Just Likes.

The Startup Forum is putting together a Social Media for Startups program on August 16. Ten bucks gets you in for some great advice from Alex De Carvahlo at the MiamiShared co-working space.

There'll be a fun tweetup at one of my favorite South Florida restaurants, Timpano's, August 25 starting at 5:30. It's on a first-come, first-serve as far as the freebies go. I'll be there with Social Chats and South Florida Food and Wine. If you've not had their mussels and martinis, you don't know what you're missing.

Tedx Miami is doing it again on September 13 at the New World Symphony Campus. Trust me, it'll be the best $50 you'll ever spend in Miami. If last year's event was any indication, this year's will be just as intellectually intoxicating.

Go up to Palm Beach on September 17 and pedal your ass off for a kid with cancer at a cycling studio. If you do decide to do it, make sure you tweet with the hashtag #pedal4kidscancer.

The first ever "Sea Tweetup" is taking place in November and organized by a group of local cool folks -- Soul of Miami, Aubrey Swanson, Sebastian Rusk, Social Esquire and I Am Jeff Cohen -- as well as one of Sex and the Beach's favorite travel writers, Rich Tucker from Cruise Source. There's supposed to be eight hours total worth of complimentary wi-fi during different times of the voyage for your twittering pleasure and cabins start at just under $300. The Norwegian Cruise Line ship departs Port of Miami for the Bahamas on the 18th. Visit the Sea Tweetup Facebook page for more information.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Why Celibacy Is Cool

beach heart sex and the beach
The subject has come up lately about why I'm not dating anybody. And when I stopped to think about it, coming to the conclusion that I'm pretty happy with my life just as it is, warts and all, I asked myself the question: "Oh yeah, you haven't been with anyone since the ex. What's up with that?"

I think it's safe to say that after a year or more of no sex, no romance, no nothing of that nature, you're pretty much celibate.


I don't go out thinking that I could potentially find a lover.

"Pick up" for me refers to hors d'oeuvres, not sexual experiences. You know, I'm pretty sure I could snap my fingers at any horny toad after a few drinks, but that's not my modus operandi. Also, I don't dress to impress, even if I might wear something that flatters the generous girls hanging from my chest. I am totally WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get).

You better love me with or without makeup, with or without Manolo Blahniks and/or cheap, gas station rubber flip flops. I don't do online dating anymore and I am not on the "prowl" like some friends say when we're joking about Cougars. (Don't be offended, younger men, but as cute as you are, that's not a lifestyle choice for me.)

"Sex" is not part of my social agenda. I'm just being me all the time, completely authentic. No roles, no drama. The corny, overused and misused Zen phrase "it is what it is" pretty much guides me.

And I think it's totally cool to say I'm good with all of that.

I *could* have more, but I choose to, prefer to, not to have more of all of the bs that would come with a more complex life.

Does that make me a freak?

If I say "I don't give shit about sex" will you find that strange? Ok, fine, I'll own that.



But there's more to this than meets the eye.

Rather ironic for Sex and the Beach, I know, but sex is overrated. (Not the first time I've written about that, but formerly a sweet potato was involved.) Actually it's not sex -- but rather all the drama and anxiety associated with romantic connections that is basically a huge tax on human existence -- it's all that crap I would rather do without, thank you.

Maybe it's all the yoga I've been rediscovering lately. Maybe it's becoming more mature with age and gathering wisdom. Maybe it's my hormones drying up in some pre-menopausal party. Whatever it is, I do know this: I just don't give a fuck about fucking and I'm all the better for it.

I want to make something clear. I am not running away from romance. I am not choosing celibacy to avoid the inevitable challenges that come from two people trying to make a life together. I just don't want bullshit imitation drama romance sex.

Yeah, please don't get me wrong. Sex is awesome. Sex is an amazing thing. Sex is a wonderful way to connect passionately with another human being. Sex is primal. Sex is a natural and beautiful expression of all that is human when it is done with good, honest intentions, even sex for sex's sake.

A life-altering, passionate union should be on everyone's bucket list. And hell, I'm not even talking about intercourse. Sex in all its glorious manifestations is an ingredient in life's bounty, even if it's just touching, holding or kissing. I will light a candle to the altar of true sensuality any day.

And yes, sex makes babies, if that's your thing. Nothing wrong with that.

But, I think, at least for me, it's an all or nothing experience at this point in my life.


Just look at what I wrote above. All this good stuff, right? But what about the cons?

How many people do you know or have had sex with who actually really have had sex to connect with you? How much of sex is not just some self-satisfying, masturbatory experience? How much of sex is not some self-serving marketing and pubic relations campaign? How much of sex is your ego using that as a form of manipulation to claim ownership of another person? How many people do you know who are cry babies, needing this or that, getting totally wrapped up in some drama of some kind even in relationships that are not sexual? How much of you is really involved in the sexual experience? Do you honestly let go or are just playing by some rules -- some artificial category that the other has created in order for you to be pleasing and subdominant, to maintain some status quo?

Seriously. I could go on and on with questions ...

How does his sticking his penis inside of you have to do with how you are evolving as a spiritual being in this life path? Because if that's what you're using to satisfy your relationship craving, that better be some good dick!

I think it's safe to say many women can admit to ALL of the above. It's part of being human. It's part of the lessons learned.


There's something to be said about purity of mind and purity of soul -- yes, something to be said about cleansing the mind of all the drama the ego craves. That's really the whole point of celibacy, if you look at it from a yogic perspective. I'm not the first tantra-focused yogi to say something similar.

Develop a relationship with self first. It means you put your energy elsewhere, harnessing it for a higher purpose and all kinds of creativity. It is liberating and absolutely freeing to not have the anxiety associated with desire and craving. It is wonderful to feel universal love -- a love that is not about "me" but about something more lasting, something bigger than me.

I'm not sure how to describe this. But instead of feeling lonely, I feel like a huge balloon of love has burst inside me, and I never, ever feel alone even if I am in a reclusive writer mode or I am simply enjoying something out there in the world on my own. My heart expands. This is so much better than the ego-driven complications of sex and romance. I am loving on a whole other level that I was not capable of when I was younger.

It means that I go out, live my life, have everything I need, give up attachments to major material things, without worrying about what's missing. I am living, walking, breathing love all the time. Just because I'm not giving someone a blow job doesn't mean I'm not loving.

Love is a universal right. Those who can do so in a mutual sexual expression that is bound by respect and honor are very lucky. But it's not limited to lovers. You can be a lover and still be celibate.

I guess that's what I'm trying to say. You are not "without" love just because you aren't dating or having sex or romantically involved with someone. And that love, that feeling of connectedness is a very powerful drug you can tap into. My arm is attached to that universal IV of yummy satisfaction 24/7. Sex with the right guy would be icing on the cake. He would simply benefit from all this love.

The ancient yogis called this Bramacharya. I call it peace of mind. (See a Sex and the City clip at this New York yogi's website on the subject.) Even the principles of sexual tantra spell out that a union between two bodies will or should ultimately branch out as an expression of a greater, more humanity-oriented love.


Is this how you are "having" sex? Is sex something you should "have" or is it a bigger part of yourself that you could never actually "have"? How can anyone "own" sex anyway? Because really, at the end of the day, that belly you are rubbing up against isn't going to be around forever and neither are you. What are making of this experience? Is it really love?

I sigh when I read what I just wrote. Some of the emptiest moments I've had in my life have been in the hot and heavy, sultry and sweaty daliances with an other. I call it existential sex that takes me out of the moment. I hate that. Clearly, those lovers didn't have a real spiritual hold on me or maybe I just wasn't mature enough to be "there" for them.

Good grief, people do so much shit to attract sex. They lose weight, they wear flattering clothes, put on makeup and just get all jacked up, but it's all like lemmings wanting to jump off the cliff. No one ever thinks to go inside and clean up all the emotional garbage, the practice of which I think should be a precursor for great sex. I don't care how hot you look or how good you can bang me in bed -- neediness, insecurity and all that bullshit is not sexy. And of course, it's certainly not sexy if I am the needy and insecure one in your embrace!


Look inside before you make love. Are you really ready? Are you spreading your legs or just spreading yourself thin?

I think a lot of women can relate to that ... I'll admit I've spread myself thin before, not honoring myself at times when I was better off being celibate. And I know that's not love. It's genital exhilaration surely and more like an acrobatic exercise, a mediocre excuse for love, all physical pleasures aside.

Does this mean I will never enter a passionate union again? No. It just means I know what I want and will not settle for less. I think this is something every woman should feel. I'm lucky to feel it in my early 40s and to have this way of living, this freedom.

Does this mean I never actually connected to past lovers? No, I did. And I honor and thank the universe for giving me such experiences. Just because my ex-boyfriends didn't end up "ever after" doesn't mean I don't honor the love we shared. Marriage is great, but it does NOT define love in all its complexity!

Does this mean I never fantasize or think about someone I'm attracted to? No, of course not. That happens as well. And if have to, I'll relieve myself, but whenever and if I even want to. So no, I'm not living some monkish life devoid of pleasures.

The difference is that it all falls into place. The sex and romance thing doesn't stress me one bit. I am actually, by being celibate, approaching what it might be to actually be a great lover -- in love completely without being attached (yet) to one particular person.


Shit, I've even had to deal with the Cuban guilt trip about how not being a mother makes me an incomplete woman. I'm sure that pushing out a human from your vagina is an incredible experience and I know that raising a child is the most selfless, compassionate thing a person can do, but I'm not broken or "less" of a woman because motherhood hasn't been part of my path so far. Well, at least, I choose not to buy into that kind of thinking that wants to put me down and judge me negatively on the basis of having a uterus that hasn't incubated a rug rat. In fact, I think that having babies doesn't necessarily make you instantly compassionate or even a good human being. (Apologies to all you great mothers out there. I'm not referring to you.)

A relative whom I adore told me earlier today that "I'm sorry things turned out bad for you." But "things" are not bad at all -- just because I haven't taken the traditional path, haven't had a marriage and kids, and am currently not actively pursuing a dating life -- all of this doesn't mean I haven't honored life and done good in my own, quirky way.

Listen, women, there is no "traditional" path out there. It's what you make of it. Make your own tradition. You have the gift of life, use it. Create your life. Write your own story. For me right now, it's a path of celibacy and one that I'm proud to honor because it works for me. For you, it could be so many things -- singlehood, rediscovered life after divorce, a rekindled flame with a hobby, a career change that makes you jump out of bed in the morning -- who knows, whatever, seize it! Celibacy could be a time to nurture yourself and your passions outside of the bed sheets. It's not dry or boring in the least. Just be aware. Be conscious of it.

I'm just sharing a good practice here.

Think about it, you single ladies and my non-lady guys, too. I encourage others to try it out, even if it just means letting go of the "intention" to find a lover. Love yourself instead and focus on the people in your life who matter, just obviously in a non-sexual way.

Fall in love with your life, with just being alive, first, before falling in love with someone else you're going to share every fiber of your being with. The best sex is the kind you really believe in. Don't settle for anything mediocre. And when you do get there, don't forget to connect, be grateful and enjoy.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Nature Girl: The Real Sharks

The New SoBe Dining Trend

In honor of Shark Week 2011, I thought I'd revive this old cartoon of mine and offer up a few links.

Beached Miami, my favorite blog crush, has put together two hilarious but actually educational videos in Shark Week Exposé Part 1 and Part 2.

In 2007, I wrote about how riptides and lightning are far more dangerous than sharks and alligators over at Miami Beach 411.

"The only sharks you have to worry about are the ones on the sand," said a savvy lifeguard. Ladies, my observations in four years prove that nothing much has changed.

Oh and don't forget that I recently caught a small black tip on the Gulf Coast of Florida during my quest for the elusive tarpon.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Silicone Bitch: Rick Sanchez Wants Me to Own My Cuban Ass

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

Young journalists, time to break some old stereotypes!

Attending the National Association of Hispanic Journalist’s Convention last June was a real eye-opener for me. I never even considered thinking of myself as a “Latina” writer until fairly recently, when I began to connect with other women writers and bloggers of Hispanic descent and understood the impact of the LATISM (Latinos in Social Media) movement.

The truth is, I never liked the idea of being a Latina writer, blogger or Latina anything. Sí, I’m Cuban-American, sí, my roots are in Spain and sí, yo hablo Español perfectly, but I am loath to label myself, to pigeonhole myself into any category. That's simply too limiting.

I’m even uncomfortable with the word “Latin” because it was fabricated as a reaction to government census stuff. (For a great explanation of “Latin” versus “Hispanic,” listen to Dan Grech’s interview of demographer Maria Aysa over at WLRN Under the Sun.)

And sometimes in the often overly-enthusiastic, crazy world of social media, cultural labels can get out of hand and become gimmicks. (Yeah, I know I'm gonna get some shit for saying that.)

However, going to NAHJ helped me come full circle and see things from a broader perspective. No matter what I write, I really can't take my ethnic and cultural background for granted.


I’m white and blue-eyed and can get away with not looking Latin. Perhaps because of my appearance, being Latin has never, to the best of my knowledge, held me back personally or professionally.

Or maybe it has and I don’t even know it.

It's a whole other song and dance for Latinas who don't look like me. I can't speak for them, but I think it's safe to say we've all had different experiences because of and in spite of our backgrounds – some negative, some positive.

And this is ridiculously screwed up, because Hispanics, Latins, whatever you want to call us, come in many shapes, sizes, colors and variations of humanity. Judging a book by its cover doesn’t work here. But that’s what “they” seem to be doing – or at least according to the overwhelming consensus at this convention – despite the fact that Latins are a huge force in this country. “They” being that part of America that puts a mirror to us and says: “hey, you’re not like us.”

Whenever someone asks me how I could possibly be Cuban, I simply sigh. They’re ignorant, I tell myself.

This is especially palpable for me living in Miami, where I am perfectly comfortable, yet constantly listening to the “why can’t Miami be like the rest of America” chatter. Get over it, people. Not all of us wear fruit on our heads.

(If you want to see how Hispanic culture is coming soon to every corner of America near you, see this video by Univision: The New American Reality.)


When I look at the bigger picture, I find that I do have to stake a claim on my Hispanic heritage. It just feels right in my gut. Because we’re not all alike and if we don’t make that clear, if we don’t represent who we are, nobody will listen.

But regardless, as writers, we all want and need the same thing; I don’t care where you’re from or what you look like. This is about owning every aspect of yourself and not denying any side of you just because someone will think less of you if you do. It’s about having the freedom to do that and being able to express yourself. It’s about embracing your passion to share and educate through words.


Rick Sanchez and other panelists (all stellar female journalists) drove the point home in a talk entitled “Latina Journalists Wanted.” Despite the phenomenal growth of the Latin population in the U.S., there is still a dearth of Latina journalists in the newsroom. There are some, but not enough.

Why aren’t more Latin women taking advantage of this to carve a niche for themselves? Today, Latinas in journalism -- and blogging, for that matter, all self-publishers and communicators -- have the opportunity to become trailblazers.

I caught Sanchez, the Cuban-born journalist who started his career in Miami before eventually moving on to CNN, at a cocktail party after the panel. Sanchez, who was fired from CNN last year for a politically incorrect rant, has never been one to mince his words. People either love him or hate him.

In this quick interview, he pretty much summarizes what was discussed in the panel.

(Incidentally, Sanchez just announced he’s back in Miami and about to begin a stint as a broadcaster for FIU’s football team. Read that story over at the Miami Herald.)

After attending NAHJ, will I still refuse to label myself as Latina? Yes and no. I will certainly not label myself as anything just to cater to brands or because it’s trendy. I have one foot in two worlds and that's my real writer’s identity.

But spending a couple of days with hundreds of other writers with ties to Hispanic culture made me realize that I am in fact carving a niche, one blog post at a time. Like it or not, I am part of that bigger picture. I am "Latina." And I am everything else, too.


Many thanks to GM Southeast for sponsoring my trip to NAHJ.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Maria's Florida Keys Favorites

Eden House Key West
The Eden House boutique hotel in Key West definitely lives up to its name.

I recently hosted this year's fourth annual SxSe, a South Florida social media retreat and tweetup, in the Florida Keys. The location turned out to be perfect for the event and if you weren't able to attend, that doesn't mean you shouldn't pack your bags and enjoy some of my favorite Florida Keys spots on your own.

So here goes, just some of many reasons I love the Florida Keys.

Alabama Jack's Beer Garden
Alabama Jack's knows what grows well in gardening zone 10. This backcountry restaurant is close by, right at the border of Miami-Dade and Monroe counties on Card Sound Road, but it's a world apart from the 305 mindset.

SxSe 2011
Something amazing happens at the Seven Mile Bridge. Miami becomes a distant memory. It's like stress gets scrubbed off your soul by a giant spiritual loofah.

Eden House Key West
Reading, Key West style, at the Eden House.

Eden House Key West
I dare you to not fall into blissful sleep in this cozy, tropical nook at the Eden House.

conch carpaccio cafe sole key west
Conch Carpaccio, served with capers, bell peppers, Parmesan cheese and a heavenly lime vinaigrette at Café Solé, is worth the 180-mile drive. The menu boasts: "So tender and delicate it will make you cry." It will do more: raw conch is said to be an aphrodisiac.

green parrot bar no sniveling zone
No snivelling is allowed at the legendary Green Parrot Bar. Actually, that should be a rule at every bar in Miami, too. I like this bar so much, I brought a tank top like the one the bartender is wearing to add to my "Favorite Florida Bars" wardrobe collection. Oh and Green Parrot also has a cool blog.

bahama bob leonard key west rum bar
No visit to Key West is complete without a dark and stormy from Bahama Bob Leonard at the Rum Bar inside the Speakeasy Inn. That's Gosling's black rum and Barritt's Ginger Beer, two great exports from Bermuda.

rum barrel bar key west
The Pirate Museum may have moved to St. Augustine, but even the bathroom tile is swashbuckling at The Rum Barrel on Front Street. Catch live music, grub and grog upstairs on the rooftop terrace.

Mr. Z Philly Cheesesteak Key West
Key West's best late night snack is a big fat Cheesesteak sandwich from Mr. Z's, made to order by this fine gentleman. Seven bucks gets you 12 inches of meaty goodness and yes, I mean the sandwich.

mac's sea garden historic seaport
One of my favorite strolls in Key West begins at Mac's Sea Garden in the Historic Seaport. Actually, there are several bars and restaurants here, so it's more like a long, leisurely walk on a short plank.

cuban coffee queen Key West
Just in case you can't function without your shot of diesel, stop by the Cuban Coffee Queen next to Mac's Sea Garden.

key west
Nobody gives you shit about cocktails to go and nobody acts like a dick head. That kind of thing would never fly in South Beach.

fried key lime pie
Fried Key Lime Pie at Porky's Bayside BBQ in Marathon. It's as scrumptious as it looks.

rum runner's holiday isle
I almost don't want to share Rum Runners Holiday Isle with you. I want it all to myself and my friends. Nothing beats a cold one sipped in the crow's nests at this dreamy beach side bar.

Rum Runners Holiday Isle
If you do go, make sure you let the world know you were there.

Got more Florida Keys favorites? Share in my thread at the Miami Beach 411 travel forums.