REMAIN IN YOUR HOMES! 


Like all right-thinking people, I've been deeply shaken by the tragic sights and sounds of the past week. Panicked flood victims airlifted from their homes. Proud communities subjected to the cold hand of martial law. Distraught husbands crying for wives who have gone missing. And through the parade of televised carnage, I've kept my sanity by focusing on one unavoidable conclusion:

I want martial law and I want it now.

Hear me out, 'K? I'm not calling for some commensurate disaster to befall Central Florida, leaving military rule the only alternative to chaos. Oh, nononono. That would be monstrous – a grotesque taunting of the gods who spared this area the brunt of Katrina's wrath. I just want martial law to be declared – swiftly, with no loss of life and for no good reason whatsoever.

I guess part of me aches to express solidarity with our brethren to the west – to show them that we can make sacrifices, too. But mostly, I'm just curious. I want to know what martial law is like. I want the thrill of living through something that most of us grow up hearing about but never get to experience firsthand. Like sunspots. Or intimacy.

I'll be honest: I'm not all that sure what martial law is or how it's conducted. I know it has something to do with armed agents of the government stepping in to oversee the ebb and flow of daily life. Whatever. I'm pretty sure it supersedes most normal activity, and that sounds pretty good to me. See, I'm always on the lookout for new ways to get out of work, and martial law would fill the bill nicely.

"What's that, boss? There's an all-staff meeting at 8 a.m. Friday, and attendance is mandatory? Hey, I'd love to help you out, but my hands are tied. I'm under martial law here." It sounds like an even better dodge than some of the others I've had to use in the past, like claiming bizarre religious obligations and calling in fat.

And I wouldn't be the only one benefiting. Anybody who's ever complained about the hectic pace of local life (snigger!) will have to admit that martial law narrows your choices considerably. "You can go to the Mall at Millenia for 34 minutes at 3 p.m. on a Sunday, or you can take a rubber truncheon up the alimentary canal." It's the ultimate minimalist day planning: Get up, keep nose clean, go to bed. In between, you get to sit around in your underwear eating Wheat Thins and reading Martial Law for Dummies.

Plus, think of all the great smart-alecky comments you get to make. Cut off in traffic? "Hey, slow down, asswipe! Martial law means you, too!" Somebody carries one too many items into the express checkout? "Nice move, Grandma. I'm going to be as old as you by the time martial law's over." Cell phone goes off in a movie theater? You point out the culprit to some big gorillas in khaki and they pistol-whip him until his ears bleed. And then you say something clever about martial law.

Yes, I won't rest until we're all living under martial law. And what's more, I want the Orange County Sheriff's Department to be in charge. Now, I know that this admission will drive the folks at my paper's "news" desk batty. Regular readers will point out that it flies in the face of the myriad cheap shots I've taken at the department in this very column. Well, suck it up, pinkos! We're under martial law now, and there's going to be some changes made.

There's more at play here than simple hypocrisy. They say the gun was the great equalizer in the Old West, and I'm all for anything that gives the out-of-shape a fighting chance. Not only is martial law the just due of the armed civil servant, but it's the only thing that will bring Sheriff Beary up to my social level and down to my weight class. So knock yourself out, tubby! Have some martial law on me!

Now, there's always a chance that I'm romanticizing martial law. It could conceivably be grimmer and less stylish than what I'm envisioning: a plasticene gulag full of good-looking citizens who have to wear electrified dog collars and pledge allegiance to a nameless leader every day at noon in the town square. Hot Topic totalitarianism is the motif I foresee – like one of those shitty TV pilots Gene Roddenberry kept making after Star Trek folded. Maybe that's a pipe dream on my part, but it sure would be sweet, especially after widespread sterility makes all the other males of our species as 0useless as love slaves and it's discovered that my semen is strong enough to punch a hole in a Kenmore washing machine. (Trust me on this.)

Besides, it's not as if martial law would seem all that alien to us locals, anyway. Here's how you can find out just what I mean:

1) Log on to the Internet and download every document you can find about civic planning in Greater Orlando. Print them.

2) Go to a U.S. government site and download the rules of martial law. Print them, too.

3) Now Wite-out the titles of every document and try to tell them apart.

For more fun, make it a party game and run it for 16 consecutive Wednesdays at the Copper Rocket. As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said, "The city will not be functional for two or three months." Good to know that SOMEBODY's on a timetable.

Yep, martial law is the magic bullet Orlando has been searching for. And it'll come to us soon enough, of that I have no doubt. So there's no need for us to tempt fate. We don't have to start running around like a bunch of hooligans, looting Blockbuster locations for copies of Alfie and engaging in three-ways with the hired help.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you want martial law, but all you can get is Jude Law – WAIT!


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