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.
Platt's company, Suspended Animation, will open a laboratory in Boynton Beach, where researchers will do tests on frozen tissue. The company originally planned to set up a lab in Boca Raton, complete with caged rats and euthanized dogs from animal shelters, but the Boca City Council put the freeze on those plans amid protests from animal rights activists. Boca denied Suspended Animation's building permit.
The new lab in Boynton Beach will be a much more modest facility. No animals. No dead humans.
Boynton Beach city officials tend to flinch when you ask them about it, like somebody who has been ducking shrapnel. "Oh boy," says Commissioner Mike Ferguson, heaving a heavy sigh.
Yes, there will be a lab on High Ridge Road, he acknowledges through clenched teeth. "They're not going to be shrinking any heads or freezing whole bodies," he says. Just small bits of frozen flesh, "for research."
Platt, whose articles include an exploration of how we might overcome the seeming impossibilities of teleportation and a piece about the virtues of a little machine that enhanced web browsing by emitting smells that matched the pictures on your screen, decided he didn't want to talk about this with Tailpipe. Nuts. This disappointed cylinder had just wanted to offer encouragement.
Someday, we're all going to have to have our heads shrunk. Sooner better than later, the 'Pipe says.
Anderson's Greatest Hits
Tailpipe loves Hollywood Vice Mayor Cathleen Anderson. Unlike with most politicians, the 'Pipe can tell that Anderson is honest. But is she, well, sane?
A blond with thick, large, darkly tinted eyeglasses that resemble something out of the X-Men comic book, the 70-year-old Anderson has represented the beach area on the Hollywood City Commission for more than three decades. Unlike the I-lost-my-personality-on-Taft-Street Commissioner Keith Wasserstrom, Anderson is known for speaking her mind -- albeit often in rambling diatribes that sometimes even make sense.
Since Anderson will surely be missed during the Hollywood City Commission's current summer break, Tailpipe has put together some of Anderson's greatest hits from dais, courtesy of the last commission meeting:
On a voting disagreement with Commissioner Wasserstrom over Hollywood's new nightclub restrictions: "I don't have a degree in law, Commissioner Wasserstrom. I do know how to win friends and influence people a little better than you do." For emphasis, she stood up, walked over to Wasserstrom, and repeatedly pointed her finger at him.
On Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Cindi Hutchinson: "I don't know her very well. I only met her once. But she's married to the son of a retired Hollywood policeman, and he thinks she's great!"
On whether Pinnacle Housing Group is the same company that brokered a questionable land deal in Pembroke Park: "I understand they are not the same people... I was told these are not the same people." But, alas, they were the same people.
On being positively ancient: "I have more junk from the Sun-Sentinel and Miami Herald than anyone in Broward County. Sometimes [newspaper reporters] call me if [an article] was before their archives and computers."
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On her undying love for Mayor Mara Giulianti: "Ms. Trailblazer here becomes mayor, and she decides to save the Great Southern [Hotel]."
On life's being like a box of chocolates: "I've learned that if you can't get everything you want, you have to decide what you want."
And if you try sometimes, Cathleen, you get what you need: a translator to decipher your brainwaves for your loving constituents.
-- As told to Edmund Newton