Florida Hospital ads and gardening

We were watching the local news the other night when an interesting ad caught our attention. Perhaps it stood out simply because it wasn't a car ad. Have you ever seen so freakin' many car ads in your life? Who is buying all those cars? Anyway, we digress.

The ad in question wasn't for anything; it was against Florida Hospital, the Central Florida healthcare giant owned by the Seventh Day Adventists. It opened with a nice sunny-sky shot of the Florida Hospital main campus in Winter Park, over which was placed a banner reading, "They made $78 million in profit." Florida Hospital, you see, is a nonprofit entity. "Congress ... is this legal?" the ad asked (rhetorically, it turns out, because Congress wasn't there to answer the question).

We quickly recognized this for what it is: the work of our old pal K.B. Forbes, a Californian and former reporter who has made a cottage industry out of publicly shaming hospitals he believes overcharge uninsured patients. When last we checked on Forbes `"Army of one," July 24, 2003` he was busy dragging HCA Inc., a Nashville-based, publicly traded corporation that is the largest for-profit hospital chain in the country, through the mud. (HCA has two hospitals in Central Florida.)

Forbes set up a group (Consejo de Latinos Unidos) and a hotline (1-800-474-7576), and got so many complaints about overcharging uninsured patients at Florida Hospital and Orlando Regional Medical Center that he promised last summer to target them in the future. The commercial is him making good on that promise.

Forbes didn't call us back to chat. But Rich Morrison, regional vice president of governmental relations for Florida Hospital, did. Morrison explained that there is nothing wrong with making a little money. "There is nothing that says you can't earn a margin. From a business standpoint, you have to earn a margin," Morrison said.

Nonprofits plow earnings back into the business, he added; in this case, 80 percent of the $78 million went into immediate expansion, and the rest was banked for future projects. For-profits put earnings into shareholders' pockets.

It's no surprise then that Morrison isn't a big fan of the commercial. "It's extremely misleading and very simplistic," he said.

Although we took an oath that we would collectively kill ourselves before doing yard work, the quaint query, "Are you showing your garden?" uttered at the Lake Eola Heights convenience cottage, The Handy Market, made us giggle enough while looking down at our midsection that we thought we might give a quiet nose-around to some other people's gardens being featured in the Historic Lake Eola Heights Tour of Gardens April 18. The Flower and Garden Festival out at Epcot over the weekend might have been more ambitious, but we don't like to leave our neighborhood.

We watched Kerry gore Bush on "Meet the Press" before wandering out with scissors to waste some shrubs of our own. After all, most of downtown was aflutter with pierced-nipple crazy-hairs flowering up around the Florida Music Festival. We figured a simple flask for our garden-party tea-and-crumpet might be a little more up our latticed and water-featured alley. Besides, what's more fun than looking in other people's backyards? (Answer: peeking in their windows.)

With each house marked on the 14-home tour by a windsock resembling a lynched begonia hanging from a stick, we set out on our pedestrian journey, only to find out that we knew (nor cared) nothing about horticulture and/or landscaping. Still, a full page feature in the Sentinel must mandate some respect, right? (Answer: no.)

Our scissors were getting closer and closer to our wrists as we wandered the cobblestones feeling like something between a stalker and a homeowner. But, in all honesty, with the weather being as ridiculously nice as it has been, and the water features and wind chimes making every moneyed urbanite's palace seem like an oasis, we were less prone to mischief than we thought we might be. But how many water features is too many water features? (Answer: one.)

And who knew there were so many affluent gay people living downtown? (Answer: everybody.)

What boy doesn't recall that transformative moment when, sitting down at mom's sewing machine for the very first time, he realizes that if he could just master appliqué then he could make some really nice pot holders? And come to think of it, wouldn't a PlayStation cozy be just the thing to keep dust off the console?

Indeed, sewing is a rite of passage that many of us men fondly recall. Unfortunate is the lad who didn't spend quality time at the Singer with mom figuring out seam allowances and being inspired by the delicate art of Scherenschnitte. Life was so much simpler then.

Marc Middleton, who you may know as WESH-TV Channel 2's morning newscaster, was apparently denied the pleasures of needle and thread as a boy, which may explain why he's become so passionate about quilting as a grown man. And proficient, too. Or at least good enough to be a featured presenter at a weeklong quilting retreat beginning April 21 at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach.

Middleton, who strangely enough does not list quilting as a hobby on his bio posted on WESH-TV's web site, will be giving a talk April 21 (that's Wednesday, so get there quick!) titled, "A sewing machine: my favorite power tool." According to the press release, he'll have several of his quilts on display, and will "discuss what he has learned about quilting since sitting down at his mother's sewing machine as a grown man."

Do tell.