Hell hath no fury like a politician spurned. Barbara Aubel, a Lake Worth volunteer who lost a race for the District 4 City Commission slot in March, strode into the office of the city's chief lifeguard a few weeks ago and, she says, found the dude asleep. Out cold, she says. Dead to the world. She uttered Chris Porter's name twice, then poked him on the shoulder before he woke up. Aubel promptly called Lake Worth City Manager Paul Boyer to report this instance of "employee negligence."
When Tailpipe first heard about the incident, he assumed it was a case of a lifeguard deep into a siesta on his beach observation stand while distressed swimmers slipped under Lake Worth waves. But a short snooze in the office? The 'Pipe, who has been known to nod off occasionally when he's not spewing smoke, recommends at least one quick snooze a day (preferably not in midconversation). It's only healthy.
Besides, Porter, 45, a lifeguard supervisor for Lake Worth Ocean Rescue for the past 14 years, had an excuse. According to fellow lifeguards, Porter, who is diabetic, was feeling ill that day. "Chris had his hands on his head and was rubbing his head," says Ben Smith, Porter's second-in-command. "That was the whole issue."
Shauna Abrams, another lifeguard, says she had entered the office with Aubel and Smith to find Porter in distress.
"He had his head in his hands," she says. "You could tell something was wrong with him."
Still, Aubel filed a formal complaint. She insists that Porter was asleep, not merely groggy and ill.
A city official, responding to Aubel's complaint, immediately sent the lifeguard home while a full-scale investigation was launched.
"Sleeping on the job is a 'group 2 offense,'" says Paul Boyer, Lake Worth city manager. The penalty for such an offense can be anything from a two-day suspension to removal from employment, depending upon a person's work history.
Porter, who missed three days of work because of Aubel's vigilance, is still a little sore about the ordeal.
"A few questions would have been nice," he says. "Like 'Are you OK?' or 'Can I call a doctor?' But she didn't give a crap about how I was, just whether I was dead or sleeping."
Smith says the charge against Porter, which is still under investigation, is "off the wall." "It's like anyone coming into your office and if you're itching your crotch, they say you're masturbating."
The 'Pipe assumes that Aubel is being so Inspector Javert here because she's preparing for another run for public office. Not that Lake Worth is known for its insistence on the uncompromising rectitude of city employees. In February, George Allan Sirmans, the city's 54-year-old labor attorney, aimed a pistol at another driver on I-95 from behind the wheel of his BMW. He was never disciplined by his municipal bosses, despite being arrested for aggravated assault and facing a possible jail sentence (ultimately getting probation and mandatory counseling).
Tailpipe can't wait to see if Lake Worth penalizes napping on the job more heavily than menacing someone with a gun in one's spare time. Representing the city in this personnel fiasco? George Allan Sirmans.
By Saturday, Broward County will be afloat in gay softball players, as, for the first time, the Gay World Series comes to Fort Lauderdale. Between August 14 and 19, about 160 teams from all over the United States and Canada will compete here.
A pretentious title, sure (some say that gay baseball players long ago cracked the real World Series), but the event promises to percolate with the usual agonies and ecstasies of high-level sports competition.
As an homage to the Gay World Series' 30-year history, this year's chairman, Paul Falcone, has chosen "A Time to Remember" as its theme. But sitting among the banners, T-shirt boxes, and advertising materials that have taken over his Fort Lauderdale home, Falcone reluctantly confessed the other day that he'd like to forget some of the tournament's recent past.
His own team was disqualified last year in San Diego not for 'roids or corked bats but natural hidden talent. The North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA) doesn't drug test athletes, but it does take its ability ranking system dead seriously.
To ensure that teams are closely matched, the international softball league requires its teams to rate players between 1 and 27, based on a series of yes-or-no questions, where a "yes" means you're good and "no" means you suck. For example: "Player runs aggressively, taking extra bases consistently?" Yes? Give him a point.
The league is split into two divisions "open" (men, women, or both) and "women." The open category is broken up into the creatively dubbed A, B, C, and D divisions, which all have their own ability caps for both individuals and team totals.
Falcone's team, the Alibi Demons (sponsored by the famous Wilton Manors gay bar Georgie's Alibi), was competing in the B division last year when the protest committee composed of league representatives decided that several of the Demon players who supposedly sucked were actually ringers. Skeptical competitors called it intentional deception, but Falcone has a perfectly good explanation for the talent discrepancy.
"Some love the limelight and rise to the occasion," he said of his teammates' airborne catches and unlikely whacks into the outfield.
But Falcone turned in his pitcher's mitt for a chairman's visor this year. The Demons deemed it "selling out" to the national organization that unfairly disqualified them. The bitterness continues, Falcone says. Out of such contretemps are sports legends woven. The Alibi Demons are in the race again this year. At Level B, damn it.
So American lexicographers are having to play catchup in listing new words derived from Yankee slang. Two years ago, the hefty Oxford English Dictionary recognized ollie as a skateboard technique invented by Hollywood resident Alan "Ollie" Gelfand. Now, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary has finally gotten onboard, including the term in its Eleventh Edition along with a bunch of other long-familiar words (like supersize, wave pool, unibrow, drama queen, and ringtone.)
There's a reason for the Brits' being somewhat ahead of the curve here, says Merriam-Webster's associate editor, Kory Stamper.
"Because of the nature of their dictionary, they're more global," she says. "The Oxford English Dictionary is a huge unabridged dictionary. They don't have quite the space constraints that we have. A 20-volume unabridged dictionary can spare a few more lines."
Stamper says ollie first made it into print in 1979, a few years after the Hollywood glide jockey first started lifting his skateboard off the ground with a light kick to the tail of the board. Since then, there have been citations in, among a lot of others, Time, Sports Illustrated, the New York Times, and Vogue.
Ollie the man, 43 now, is still bounding through the air, at his own skateboard venue, Olliewood Skate Park in Hollywood. OK, Ollie, you've been tailpiped (take note, you Merriam-Webster laggards).
ol lie n ('ä-lE)
1. a maneuver in skateboarding in which the skater kicks the tail of the board down while jumping in order to make the board pop into the air.
2. a maneuver in snowboarding in which the rider transfers weight from the front to the back foot to snap the board up off the ground
Hang Up Your Spikes, Schlub
Speaking of vastly significant sporting events, what's the world coming to when kickball, the dippy love child of soccer's tryst with softball, turns into a sport for Charlie Hustle? Two weekends ago, a dozen teams converged on Bicentennial Park in Miami to determine the champion of the World Adult Kickball Association, and the results were eye-opening to beer-guzzling, laid-back, local kickballers.
"It seems like they've perfected the game in ways I hadn't even thought of," said Jon Wickham, captain of a team called UVL, out of the Boca Raton league.
The day was a reminder that, while kickball is still mostly the domain of quasi-athletic schlubs in South Florida, it can reach a level of absurd seriousness. For instance, in a game between a pair of out-of-town teams, two players collided with such force that both were taken to the hospital, one with a broken leg. After the game, the pitcher from a South Carolina team called Good Times sat on a cooler and contemplated a strained knee.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
"I can't ice it, because then it will lock up," he said. "My wife is going to kill me if I can't dance later. We brought a nanny all the way here just so we could go clubbing tonight in South Beach. If I can't go, it'll be a long drive back to Charleston."
Heck, it would be a long drive back to Fort Lauderdale. The only Broward team in the tournament, Drinkers With a Kicking Problem, had run through Fort Lauderdale's largest league nearly undefeated for two straight seasons; one kickball website ranked them the 16th best team in the country. They had a legitimate reason to be, in the words of team captain Adam Fell, "pumped." And they got crushed. A Virginia team named the Crunk Kickers took advantage of the Drinkers' fielding mistakes to win 3-1; then the eventual second-place team, Off in Public, overhand-sidearm pitched them right out of the park. "You can understand my disappointment," Fell said. "We were last in the tournament. Out of 16 teams, we were the worst."
Somewhere at Mills Pond Park, some knuckleballer is trying to throw that big red ball overhanded; others are thinking about looking for another sport. Hopscotch, anyone?
As told to Edmund Newton