By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
Hey, all you dudes and dudettes. That rollicking road show, the Anti-Abortion Media Circus, may be coming to a town near you. Tailpipe's talking about West Palm Beach, where a suspicious nighttime fire on the Fourth of July has forced the closure of the Presidential Women's Center.
Think about it. Protests, sit-ins, mass arrests. People with battery-powered megaphones trying to embarrass would-be abortion patients. What more can an entertainment-hungry television audience ask for? Remember how much fun the Terri Schiavo protests were?
As City Commissioners consider an ordinance that would force protesters to stay 30 feet from clinics that perform abortions or its patients, critics have threatened to respond with gonzo PR tactics designed to attract the likes of Fox News and its mouth-breathing cohorts.
The proposed buffer zone has been kicked around for years, but the commissioners actually took it seriously a week after the fire, which was determined to have been started by an arsonist.
The leader of the opposition is Susan Pine, head of a group she formed four years ago called FACE Life Inc. She and her supporters have raised $100,000 to buy an RV that she parks every Saturday outside the medical facility. Pine's group invites would-be clinic patients into the 23-foot RV, which is equipped with a $30,000 Sonosite Titan ultrasound machine. The group uses the machine to print out color photos of the women's babies in the hopes of keeping them from aborting them.
Pine says that if the city passes the proposed ordinance, all heck will break loose. "I'm confident a lot of people will come here to join us in protest," says Pine, who spends every Saturday handing out pamphlets outside the center. First, Pine says, protesters will violate the buffer law in order to get arrested, perhaps by the hundreds. Then she'll file a lawsuit against the city that could drag on for years and cost taxpayers untold legal bills. "Law enforcement is going to have to deal with it," she says, "and taxpayers will have to pay for it."
Let's all hope the protests, if they happen, will be just as successful as the ones for Terri.
Parking tickets are the great human differentiator, Tailpipe has noticed. Some stiffs pay 'em; others don't. Last month, the reigning parking scofflaw in Fort Lauderdale, the 'Pipe has learned, finally got his comeuppance. Tony Allen Gonzalez, a 23-year-old whose last listed address is in Miami, was for a time the Jesse James of meter underfeeders. According to the city's Parking and Fleet Services Department, Gonzalez's blue Hyundai Elantra accumulated 37 tickets before it was booted on July 5 and towed two days later. On July 15, Gonzalez paid $1,710 in fines to get his wheels back. At the time, he had more outstanding citations than the city's second- and third-most prolific ticket skippers combined. (Added bonus: In the past two years, various Broward cops have also written Gonzalez tickets for speeding, driving on a suspended license, not wearing a seat belt, and not having insurance.)
Thus emboldened, Tailpipe plans to make more like Gonzalez (who couldn't be reached) and avoid the hassle of actually paying for parking. Traffic agents need to know they're wasting their time. As a public service, the 'Pipe presents to all readers a get-out-of-parking-tickets-free card, below. (Disclaimer: Will never be honored.) As for Gonzalez, the master, he scarcely needs the pass: Seven days after bailing out his car, he already had another ticket.
Look Up, Kids
With the crashes of a DC-3 and a Goodyear blimp in Broward County this summer, Tailpipe has taken to avoiding big open spaces. Chicken Little might have been onto something. After reviewing the National Aviation Safety Data Analysis Center's 70-plus reports from airports in Broward and Palm Beach counties over the past three years, the 'Pipe is sure of it. Some highlights from recent aviation "incidents" include:
December 23, 2004: A pilot without proper credentials crashed an "experimental aircraft" at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport due to "careless and reckless operation."
November 11, 2004: A two-seater Cessna made an emergency landing on the Emerald Dunes Golf Course in West Palm Beach.
October 10, 2004: A pilot towing a banner behind a Piper ran out of gas and had to make an emergency landing on the Florida International University campus.
Tailpipe's pipettes now have new ground rules: When you're crossing the street, look both ways, then look up.
Someday We'll Thaw Together
Gloomy souls like Tailpipe gaze into the future and see nothing but a harsh, post-Apocalypse world of denuded forests and, where cities used to thrive, radioactive dumps. But Charles Platt is an optimist. A sci-fi writer with more than 40 fiction and nonfiction titles to his credit as well as a former critic for Wired magazine, he has spilled gallons of ink on the brave new possibilities that technology holds for the human race.
Platt's faith in the future and in the power of science to solve humanity's global problems have brought him to -- where else? -- Palm Beach County. This is where he plans to open a company to study cryonics. You know, freezing the dead (or almost dead) until medical researchers come up with cures for the great levelers: aneurysms, arterial blockages, and assorted diseases and traumas. Someday, they'll all be curable, the thinking goes. Until then, keep the victim waiting in deep freeze.