John Kerry comes to Orlando

Time and place: 6 p.m. Oct. 18, Barnett Park, next to the Central Florida Fairgrounds. There was dust in the air from the dirt roads kicked up by the heavy traffic and the brilliant lamps in the Kerry camp made the phototropic bugs go nuts. The presidential hopeful had a similar appeal to his constituency – all colors, all ages, like the real world.

Flanked by Mayor Buddy Dyer and Commissioner Daisy Lynum, Kerry approached his Florida folk in a familiar manner. Best line: "If you people do your job and get me elected, I'm going to love you back – lots." He talked tough about healthcare reform, about Bush's Mickey Mouse administration, about jobs that don't pay, while the wind waved a wall-sized flag that served as a backdrop. The crowd ate it up. After speaking, Kerry introduced Jesse Jackson who stepped up to the podium, which prompted a swarming rush.

Eavesdropping as we made our way back through the cordoned-off maze to the car, it was telling to hear the back talk. "Bush is just confused, man, talking about preparing for attacks and everybody just taking care of themselves," from a 20-ish bearded blue-collar-type. "Oh, tsk, I just hate that Bush, oh, oh, tsk," which came out more like cursing from the mouth of a well-dressed elderly woman walking with assistance, a displaced New Yorker by the sound of it.

The support for Kerry is real, but he needs to keep it real. It's amusing that people couldn't bring poster signs into the arena, but Kerry campaigners brought out garbage bags full of them and told everyone to wave them around. When the crowd dispersed, the dangerous signs went along with them into the streets.

Orlando is a war zone – that Kerry/Bush thing people keep talking about – and the respective sides are letting their colors fly, in the form of yard signs. Some 'hoods are pro-Bush, some pro-Kerry, some are full of inscrutable urgings to vote for/against Amendment X. So we decided to turn the whole scene into a game to help you while away the hours you spend behind the wheel; think "punch buggy" if you're old enough to remember when VW Beetles weren't prefaced with the word "new."

The rules: You pick a side, then punch the person riding next to you in the shoulder every time your sign comes up.

A particularly conservative bruising took place in the Lake Cherokee area, Glenda's old 'hood, where the Bush/Cheney camp have sign supremacy and mortgages worth more than our souls. Over in Lake Davis Heights, we drew a droplet of blood for the Kerry cause, and our bleeding hearts. Cruising gaily through Lake Eola Heights, we nearly gave our passenger a concussion with open-handed bitchslaps for our man, John Edwards. But by the time we got to Pine Hills, we saw only one sign in the decay. It was for Kerry, but we didn't feel like playing anymore. Just voting, and getting this all over with.

After cutting jobs, slashing pilot wages and plotting to "destroy" a major airline union, the management of Pan American Airways is giving the finger to the United States District Court of New Hampshire.

On Sept. 22, a federal judge ordered a temporary injunction against Pan Am's corporate owner, Guilford Transportation Industries, for violating the Railway Labor Act and the exclusive bargaining agreement it had with the Air Line Pilot Association, International (ALPA) (see "Nasty skies," Sept. 23). Under the ruling, Pan Am was required to return the "status quo" pay rates, rules and working conditions to its pilots. They were also ordered to refrain from using their alter-ego airline, Boston Maine, for flights traditionally performed by Pan Am. The majority of the affected pilots are based out of Sanford.

Instead, Guilford decided to "furlough" (aka "fire") all of its Pan Am pilots, and shut down the storied-yet-troubled airline Oct. 31. Oddly enough, notes ALPA lawyer Marcus Migliore, Guilford is still accepting reservations for Pan Am flights after Nov. 1, meaning they could continue transferring flights from Pan Am to Boston Maine.

"We are trying to come to an understanding with Guilford soon," says Migliore. "They told us they would fix the Internet and telephone booking problem by the end of today, which they have yet to do, so we'll see if they comply. Otherwise, we're going to have to take this back to the courts."

Whew. That was fun. For a minute there, Orlando was starting to feel like a real city, where you can actually engage in quasilegal activities in semipublic places. You know, shady stuff. Stuff you aren't supposed to do. Stuff your mama doesn't condone. Fun stuff.

We speak here about poker. And sadly, we speak also about the death of poker tournaments.

The Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and local police in the tri-county area have been stealthily launching undercover investigations to bust what they've labeled "illegal gambling tournaments" in about 50 local bars and restaurants. In an exclusive – and anonymous – interview with one local Orlando bar owner, Happytown™ was tipped off to warn all gamblers away from local gambling tournaments or risk a third-degree felony arrest, per Chapter 849 of the Florida Statutes.

The bar owner, who ran a weekly tournament, says first place winners at his Texas Hold 'Em tables usually walked away with close to $500. And although the bar did not profit from the $20 buy-in fees, they did double their alcohol sales.

"We were making weekend alcohol sales on Mondays and Tuesdays," he says.

Said bar owner was let off the hook by police for initiating talks with law enforcement to "fix the problem." Officers warned him that any employee of his bar could and would be arrested and charged with a third-degree felony if the tournaments continued. The bar owner also learned that his particular tournament was already being spied on by an undercover police officer. The source says other downtown bars like Slingapours and Back Booth have also shut their tournaments down.

This development should surprise no one; did anyone ever attend a poker tournament and not think, "How do they get away with this?" Still, for a moment there, while we were all gripped in World Series of Poker fever, Orlando felt just a little more vibrant, a touch more clandestine, and little more alive.


Q: What do I.T. guys do for fun, you know, when they're kicking it with their I.T. friends?

A:Poker is near the top of the list, of course, but what with all the "attention" being paid by the authorities to the local tournaments that have been going on, I've been reviving some of my other favorite hobbies. For instance, I've been putting a lot more time into my research on the effects of psychopath-ology on game theory. I've been collecting illegal music "mash-ups" and then assembling whole CDs of RIAA-busting goodness and giving them to the homeless to sell on the streets. Recently, politics have been front and center in the public mind, and so I've been working on exploits for the Diebold machines that we'll be using to cast "votes" in November. (Look for a strong Libertarian showing in Florida.)

And of course, I spend a lot of energy running my school for wayward girls out of the office supply closet at Happytown™ HQ. It's hard work, but the look on those sweet girls' faces makes it all worthwhile.

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