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3/3/2010

Columns > Happytown

Happytown

 

We’ve whiled away whole afternoons wondering just what it would be like to be among the brotherhood of the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation. With the flexible hours, the vice “dress-up” parties, the occasional wearing of a hood to look less conspicuous, the permanent stench of lube, the loose monitoring, it must be the life.

Actually, we haven’t had to wonder too hard, seeing as just a few years ago the MBI were spraying their stink all over our offices in an undercover operation aimed at getting us to respect their authori-tay (see “Operation MBI Shame,” Oct. 25, 2007). That was fun.

And so is this: Late last year we received a tip regarding the behavior of one of the plainclothes power rangers, a tip that included a police report for the arrest of two young ladies, Xueyan Zhou and Li Cheng, who were apprehended at a massage parlor called Natural Therapies on Mills Avenue downtown. In the report, MBI agent James Edmundson detailed his routine visit to the rubdown palace that September with some ill-advised transparency. In addition to noting that he got his ass rubbed, “manipulating skin, muscle and tissue,” Edmundson revealed that at some point during his massage, Zhou lifted her shirt to reveal her right breast. Edmundson, ever the polite representative of your tax dollars, grabbed the breast. And he dutifully reported that he did so, in writing.

Now, we didn’t run the story back then, see, because we have principles. The lawyer representing Zhou was reluctant to talk at the time, the MBI clammed up as usual, and the ladies at the massage parlor were scared. So we waited for the case to be heard in front of a judge, which is scheduled to happen March 5.

Fast forward to Feb. 25, and lo and behold, WFTV (Channel 9) was right there reporting it, even dusting off our 2007 imbroglio with the MBI as background. MBI director Phil Williams explains that the tit-grabbing was a “technique folks engage in this industry to determine whether or not this is a law enforcement officer.” (Funny that he never called us back two months ago when we were seeking a comment on Boobgate. We could speculate about unusually close relationship between the MBI and Channel 9 reporter Kathi Belich, but that would be unseemly and far beneath us.) He denied that there was anything sexual going on at all. There was a tit. It was grabbed. So what?

Well, the judge in the case (who happens to be a woman), Deborah B. Ansbro, has a problem with Williams’ groping semantics. “I don’t think exposing a breast means somebody can touch it; that is still battery,” she said. “You might want to talk to your officer about how he wants to resolve the case, because it sounds like, to me, you guys have a huge problem.” 

To his credit, Williams told Channel 9 that if Ansbro dismisses the case following a hearing this week, he might have re-examine the rule books as to how his undercover dicks behave. Ya think?

While we may not usually think of the University of Central Florida as a hotbed of progressive thought, the odds are that if you gather 50,000 kids between the ages of 18 and 22, you’re going to get at least some forward-thinking folks with agendas that involve petitions.

Last week, members of UCF’s Equal – formerly the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Student Union – announced that they were going to hold UCF president John Hitt to his vague promise of a safe, diverse campus. The way to do that, says student Rebecca Marques, is to include gender identity alongside other protected statuses (stati?) like race, disability and religion. In order to make the school listen, Marques and other volunteers have launched a petition (signable at www.gopetition.com/online/34300.html) and are planning some grass-roots signature-gathering leading up to a rally on April 16.

In the first 48 hours, Marques says they’ve already received more than 50 signatures, along with promises of support from the student government association and some members of the faculty (promises of extra credit included, bookworms!) Though they may not achieve their desired penetration of broader state legislation – because this is a dumb state full of rednecks who probably don’t like the word “transgender” – Marques hopes that because the children are our future, their message could have some influence. 

They want to “send a message that this is the way the young population sees things,” she says.

Just two weeks ago, we professed our unlikely affection for MTV’s teen-mom juggernaut 16 and Pregnant (see “The pretty good seed,” Feb. 17), not because it’s fun to watch people faced with awful circumstances at such a formative age, but because it’s important. Case in point: Nikkole, a submissive blond entrant to the second season sweepstakes, who, in addition to being scared of babies because they are “all purple and white and red,” is having a hard time shaking the dickhead father, Josh. This is the guy who complained that she was taking up too much room in the bed because she was in labor, and threatened to leave her if she didn’t get an abortion. So, uh, Nikkole doesn’t need to be having another baby, right?

Well, on March 2, MTV paid a visit to Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando to help Nikkole out with some birth control. Because it’s all wrapped up in the legalities of television and minors and sex and stuff, we don’t know much more than that, including why the Michigan native is shopping Orlando for her birth-control items, except to say that it’s kind of great news for PPGO, and that Nikkole doesn’t seem entirely unlike most 16-year-old girls wandering the aisles at the Mall at Millenia with potentially abusive boyfriends. 

“I think it’s good,” PPGO president Sue Idtensohn told us. “This really underscores the fact that we’re very accessible to teens coming in and talking about birth control and getting tested. We have a fairly active teen population.” 

The episode should air in a couple of months. 

Each spring, the Indian diaspora in Orlando throws colorful powders in the air – and all over each other – as part of the ancient healing rituals of Holi (see Selections).

As a parallel, the graffiti diaspora also has its springtime Orlando ritual: the Pintura Project, which brings together graffiti artists from around town and the rest of the world. For the last two years, we’ve sung the praises of the wild explosions of color and creativity that take over Robin Van Arsdol’s warehouses on Central Avenue in Parramore. Aside from the fact that you’re watching spray-can specialists do what they normally do in secret under the cover of darkness, it’s a wholesome affair that draws a crowd of spectators from diverse cultural corners.

So we’re here to officially sound the alert that the third annual Pintura Project gathering, scheduled for April 24, is endangered because of a lack of the color green. Organizer Angel Carreras is trying to pull it together, but $1,500 in donations or sponsorships is desperately needed to kick it into gear. It’s never been a moneymaker, but the graffiti created on the spot is fierce, and even global travelers have said they have never seen anything like it. To help out, contact RV at 407-929-4161 or via www.rvbadjet.com.

Oh, and about the city’s Keep Orlando Beautiful Graffiti Task Force? They actually like graffiti, as long as it’s on private property. 

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