While your feathers are probably still ruffled from the startling election blowout last night – “which was so amazing, right?” smirks the column that went to print before the last splotch of blood hit MSNBC host Keith Olbermann in the face – we’ve been licking our feathers for weeks over the aviary scandal of the century! It all started on Oct. 21, when an e-mail landed in our inbox from the Orlando Police Department’s ladymouth Sgt. Barbara Jones detailing some sinister goings on down at Lake Eola. There were swans, see, and they were stolen.
“Hijinks!” we squawked. This, we thought greedily, would be our fucking Pulitzer. Alas, the Orlando Sentinel was already on it. In less than two weeks, the paper printed no less than eight investigative tomes about the absconded fowl, including one obligatory puff-piece detailing the history of swannitude in the City Beautiful. It just so happens that the mean birds have been here for exactly 100 years.
Anyway, the cops kept a clumsy clamp on the meaty details of exactly what was happening, slowly letting the public know that two, no seven, no nine (maybe eight?) swans, worth $500 apiece, were missing from the city’s central retention pond. Although OPD had an idea what, exactly, was being done with the swans – and by whom – it wanted to make certain the case was handled with utmost discretion. For the rest of us, the suspense was unbearable.
But then, just as everybody was zipping themselves into their stolen swan costumes in preparation for Halloween weekend, the saga came to a rousing close. A 22-year-old hot guy from Jacksonville, Stephen Brezil, turned himself in for allegedly stealing the birds (through a bail bondsman, because this story couldn’t be any more ridiculous) early Friday afternoon. In addition to being an exotic-amphibian enthusiast, Brezil runs a Jacksonville pet store called Blazin’ Reptiles; that store sold four of the black swans to a Lake Butler man who grew suspicious of his purchase and called the authorities.
Now, at least six of the stolen swans are accounted for and back in their unnatural habitat. As for the others? There could have been a screw-up in counting the birds, bird-loving Commissioner Patty Sheehan told the Sentinel. You can’t make this shit up.
Well, you can certainly sit onshit (wait, what?). Last Thursday, Oct. 28, a little smidge of personal politics crept across the evening news transom: Mayoral hopeful (as of press time, anyway) Bill Segal’s 28-year-old son had been arrested while buying crack in a bad part of town. Yikes. That would have been bad news were it reported when it actually happened on Monday night, but it didn’t show up on the Sentinel “Breaking News” blotter until Thursday night, that much closer to the weekend before the election to end all elections. Conspiracy!
Even so, the Thursday announcement – and its attached “respect our privacy” statement from the Segal family – naturally elicited a response from Segal’s foes. First up was Orange County Commissioner Linda Stewart, the bawdy lass who came in third in the August mayoral primary. According to Stewart’s always-on Facebook page, you can’t have it both ways.
“As much as elected officials might want to protect family from press, it is impossible to do so,” she wrote, channeling Noelle Bush. “When you are elected, your whole family is elected. Might be why many just don’t want to go through the stress.”
A dusty wind blew across a dry horizon. Or was that a sigh? Whatever it was, it wouldn’t last for long. Just a couple of hours later, Tea Party hero (and also a mayoral primary loser) Matthew Falconer raised Stewart’s Facebook chatter with – wait for it – a press release! Falconer called Segal “friendly, caring and compassionate,” before issuing what may well be his last reported decree.
“I hope the media understands this is a family matter and not of political significance,” he typed to no one. “Politics is about public policy and the human shortcomings of family members of candidates for public office should not be fuel for political campaigns.”
Oh, election season – you sure do know how to bring out the best in people. And by best, we mean worst. And by worst, we mean the hatred that lurks in the hearts of men (and women, too).
Just ask Congressman Alan Grayson, who’s still taking the flak over his campaign ad calling opponent Dan Webster “Taliban Dan.” Admittedly, we did the same thing in our Halloween masks feature last week, only in a better-natured, more satirical way. (Make note of this, political consultants, because it makes all the difference in the world when you’re trying to get your point across: Don’t use doctored sound bites that make candidates sound like they’re saying the opposite of what they actually meant.)
It also brings out the best in our readers, some of whom didn’t find our masks – or our endorsements, which ran in the same issue – very funny or enlightening.
First, there was the creepy phone call from a guy who sounded downright gleeful when he told us that America has spoken: Liberals and progressive ideals are “so over,” the caller crowed. The Tea Party is the shit and we better keep up or it’s all over for us, too.
“Everything’s going to change,” he warned. And seriously, it kinda sounded like a threat more than a promise.
Happytown™ suggested that he write a letter to the editor. We think he just liked the sound of his own voice, though, because he tried to keep talking as we hung up the phone.
And then there was a letter to the editor, sent from a wholefoods.com e-mail address, criticizing us for writing a “political trash article” that compared Webster to “some towel heads who follow that peaceful Mideastern religion.”
Really? You used your corporate e-mail address to send us that message? Who does that? We know that Whole Foods CEO and founder John Mackey leans conservative/Libertarian (did you see his August 2009 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, titled “The Whole Foods Alternative to Obamacare”? Among other things, it suggested that most people’s health care problems are “self-inflicted” and that no one has an intrinsic right to health care), but we couldn’t imagine that the company would be so laissez faire about its corporate image that it’d let employees send ethnic slurs with its name attached.
We called Whole Foods media relations to tell the company about the nature of the e-mail we received and to ask if that would be an OK thing to send the media from the office desktop. (For the record, we didn’t reveal the intolerant employee’s name – the economy is bad enough and we don’t want to be responsible for making it any worse. See? Liberals aren’t all bad.)
Spokeswoman Libba Letton told us that the company supports its employees’ right to free speech and that “we don’t even have an Internet policy, necessarily.” She made it clear, though, that the company would not appreciate employees using their corporate e-mail addresses to send screeds or slurs. “Everybody has the right to their own opinion,” she says. “If he wants to write a letter to the editor, more power to him. I’d prefer that it come from his own personal e-mail account, because it could be misconstrued as coming in on behalf of Whole Foods. We’re a grocery store, we try not to take stands” on things that might alienate customers.
We asked the letter writer if he’d like us to publish his letter. He thanked us for our response but declined to answer our question. We think that probably means no.