Fort Lauderdale City Manager George Gretsas' latest jihad seems to Tailpipe a little more serious and disturbing than his past push to remove chewing gum from the sidewalks. Now he wants to remove from those same sidewalks the freedom of the press. Or at least to hinder it with obstructive bureaucracy and energy-sucking regulations.
Seems Gretsas, who sometimes reminds the 'Pipe of that movie character who can't seem to keep his arm from shooting into a Heil salute, can no longer stand the sight of all those wild news racks on his city's streets, even certain stylish red-and-yellow ones that contain the publication you're reading right now.
In a proposed ordinance, our little führer suggests that news racks in Fort Lauderdale bring visual chaos (which in some circles is known as metro ambiance, signifying something called democracy).
Gretsas wants to remove all the news racks and replace them with "modulars" holding two to 16 "pockets" each. Along the beach, the modulars would all be beige; everywhere else, they would be dark green.
Companies that deploy the news racks would be required to get a "certificate of compliance" from the city that would include all kinds of information, such as "plane coordinates certified by [a] professional surveyor and mapper for center of each newsrack."
Ve have vays of making you conform, Yankee pig.
But wait — there's more. Gretsas even specified the brand of news rack everybody should buy: ShoRack Models K49-16 or K-100. (City Attorney Harry Stewart informed Gretsas that this was patently illegal, so it will be mercifully struck from the ordinance.)
Certainly, Mayor Jim Naugle, a rigorous conservative, opposed these burdensome, possibly unconstitutional regulations on area businesses, right? He did what he could to strike down this attack on freedom, didn't he? No. He supported it. In fact, the only commissioner who has criticized the plan is Charlotte Rodstrom.
Thankfully, there will be public discussion on the matter before a vote. Fight it with everything you have, people. Your favorite read might depend on it.
So what's with comic books these days? Tailpipe used to love to follow the exploits of all his favorite superheroes in full pixilated color, though his parents watched their kid suckin' up his comics with lip-curling disapproval: "Can't you find something useful to do?" True, there was a wacky, aimless aspect to the hobby. Debates raged behind closed doors about what would happen in a mano-a-mano duel between Superman and Batman (and, later on, whether Robin was really Batman's bitch). But graphic sex, unpatriotic story lines, and heavy gore? Fuhgeddaboudit.
The comic-book set nowadays, though, says that all that saving-the-world-from-evil-one-kick-at-a-time stuff is, well, dull. This century's fans are into Japanese anime tales, especially the yaoi. The climax of yaoi (pronounced "yowee") stories is often hot butt sex between male protagonists. Sometimes, they even sexually assault each other after a good scrum, then passionately profess their love for each other.
There's also, for a certain group of connoisseurs, "tentacle rape," where people get it on with clutchy aliens.
At a recent anime convention in Fort Lauderdale, a group of underaged anime readers gave the 'Pipe an update on the latest in anime sexual trends. Between giggles and eye rolls, they explained that it's largely about the butt sex. To a lesser degree, it's also the draw of girl-on-girl interludes known as yuri. Some of them acknowledge that they haven't quite decided whether they like girls or boys yet, and through anime, they say, they can explore both sides.
Tailpipe was feeling especially past his prime after referring to the books as comics; every hip 14-year-old knows to call the Japanese illustrated novels manga. "Don't use the word comic, please!" one youngster pleaded.
In real life, when they meet other fans, the adolescents get to experiment by simulating same-sex dry-humping. Since their anime heros typically go at it fully clothed, so do they. Some even do dry-humping for money — the latest in sexual pay for service. For a buck, some young men said, they'll happily bump and grind with a buddy for you.
As Tailpipe tried to keep up with the conversation, the tweens suggested a demonstration of a pastime they call "Plush Puppet Porn." With the help of stuffed dolls, two 14-year-olds began simulating anal sex between two of their favorite anime characters. "This is why Itachi is good," said one, flashing his doll's bare bottom. The only other narration he offered as the dolls slammed into each other was "Butt rape!"
One of Tailpipe's pipettes used to take dance lessons at a tender age from a wise old dancer who frowned upon some of the lascivious moves that one or two of the pipette's classmates were unleashing. "None of that — just do the steps," she'd say. After one class, the teacher shook her head, confiding to the 'Pipe: "Some moves just don't make any sense if you've never had sexual intercourse."
So don't worry about it, anime kids. That shining moment will come soon enough, but simulated sex is programmed to disappoint. In the meantime, Aquaman is just cruisin' for a bruisin' from Captain America.
Kim Milligan was stoked when he saw the exact same car he had been looking for, a 1999 Mercedes C230 sedan, advertised on cars.com. It was the "DEAL OF THE MONTH!" at $7,997. Milligan had been shopping around, so he knew that this offer by Miramar Master Cars, doing business as Payless Car Sales, was $2,000 below the going rate.
Milligan says he called to see if the car was available before flying down from North Carolina the next day and was told it was. But when he got to Fort Lauderdale, he was informed the Mercedes had been sold the day before. He says that General Manager Greg Frye "started pitching me terrible cars: a Jaguar with cracked windows, an Audi with 100,000 miles on it." Milligan had already sprung for a hotel and a cab, which, along with a return flight, left him about $600 lighter.
Later that week, he says, he logged back on to cars.com and saw the Benz still being advertised. Using a pseudonym, he called. He says the salesman told him it was available: "When can you come in and look at it?"
This angered Milligan enough to file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office, which promised to look into the matter. But there's not much anyone can do, says Ann Nucatola at the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Miramar Master Cars is licensed, she says, and there's only one other, unrelated complaint against it. Milligan paid no money to the dealer, so his only recourse, she says, would be to "get a lawyer and sue."
Master Cars' Frye says the car was available when Milligan called. But it sold online, and the buyer wired the money. Milligan "should have put a deposit down," Frey says.
When Milligan arrived, he stayed on the lot for five hours — and never found what he wanted: a luxury-brand car for under $10,000. "I said, 'You're just hard to please, man,' " Frye recalls. He adds that Milligan was equally picky about sleeping quarters — a salesman gave him a lift to find a hotel, and they went to three before finding one satisfactory to Milligan.
Frye says that his website gets updated when cars go in and out of stock, so he can't believe an employee would have told Milligan the car was available after it sold.
Really? So why is it still listed now — two weeks later?
"Oh," Frye explains. The buyer found a problem with a sensor, so Frye took the car back and refunded the buyer's money. So there is a car for sale after all, Frye says. "It's called 'Nightmare Car.' "
Tailpipe prefers "Wet Bar of Soap."
Life in a high-end condo on Hollywood Beach is supposed to be easy and breezy, sí, compadre? But Joe Cimino found himself lugging a window-unit air conditioner up to his pad in the Tides the other day. "The [central] A/C is costing $40,000 to repair," he cried. "It was supposedly brand-new."
That's not the only gripe that Cimino, board director of the condo association, has against MCZ Centrum, a joint venture between two companies that developed the Tides and sold off units during a condo conversion in 2004. The association is suing the developer because "they were supposed to do a lot of things." A beach club that was promised never materialized, he says, and problems have arisen with windows, a high-tech electronic key system, and the pool pumps. Insurance premiums have doubled, Cimino says, and taxes have risen since he moved in.
Although calls to MCZ Centrum were not returned by press time, part of the issue, it seems, is the slow real estate market, symbolized by the many empty nests in the Tides' two buildings. Of 722 units, at least 180 are for sale. A recent analysis of data by the Daily Business Review showed that the Tides is the second-most-foreclosed-upon condo in Florida. (The first is Jade at Brickell Bay in Miami.) Residents aren't paying maintenance fees when they can't even make the mortgage.
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Wasn't it just a year or so ago that investors were buying up condos like hot popcorn at a matinee?
It's the latest. It's the newest. It's the condo slump blues.
Cimino says maintenance fees should be just a drop in the bucket for MCZ Centrum, which runs at least 23 residential properties, plus commercial buildings, in Florida, Missouri, and Chicago. The Tides' residents, he says, could take matters into their own hands and recoup some costs — if they had the rights to the roof and could rent out the space for a cell phone tower. But MCZ won't let them.
Cimino has no desire to move. Despite his quibbles, "It's a great property, right on the beach." Besides, he's into the place for a couple of hundred grand. He hopes to work something out when lawyers for the two sides meet later this month. A realtor himself, Cimino notes that what's bad for owners can be good for renters. "For $1,200 you can get a one-bedroom that includes electric, basic cable, and a parking space."