Hard Candy – I Like Mike

*Initially appeared in print as the January 30 Hard Candy column in the Gabber Newspaper*

like Gulfport’s Ward Four Councilmember Michael Fridovich. I find him inherently distasteful and morally repugnant, but in spite of that – in spite of what I can only say are his best efforts to show his, er, unpolished side, I’m starting to like his politics. And it unsettles me.
Why should that bother me?
One, he has no class. None. I’m talking a shorter, older, better-fed version of How I Met Your Mother‘s Barney Stinson, only with less hair, no gym membership and less luck with the ladies. This is a man who told me – while sitting at the dais waiting for a city council meeting to start – my “can” was “looking good” shortly before a council meeting last year. What upsets me most about crass comments about my rear end – aside from the whole “objectifying women thing” – is that I don’t have a nice can. You want to compliment me in a 1940s secretary way, tell me I have a nice rack. Endeavor to be more believable, especially since endeavoring to be classy is clearly not happening.
Two, he eats like a hyena hunched over a newly-dead gazelle on the African savannah. The only time I shared a meal with him I thought his dining habit was some sort of strategy to put me on edge. You know, unnerve the person on the other side of the table by eating like you were raised by velociraptors.
Three, he has an embarrassing fascination with lesbians. Now I have no problem with lesbians, but I figure beyond the social niceties, their being a lesbian is their business. They don’t want their sexual practices or proclivities discussed like they’re being judged for a blue ribbon at the fair, and I’m thinking his asking a lesbian about his chances of dating one of the sisters is equally abhorrent to them. Same goes for asking about his chances with people’s barely-legal daughters. One is insulting, the other creepy, both are distasteful.
Four, he eschews rules that prohibit him from speaking with city staff, circumventing them by insisting he can “fact find” so long as he fails to give direction. Does city staff find this inappropriate? They find it, “off the record” to me, less appropriate than if the city hired Justin Bieber to run its DUI education program, but they’re scared to report him because they are scared of getting fired.
Five, he had no qualms about meeting with another about-to-take-office councilmember outside city limits to talk about things. While the other councilmember replied honestly when I asked about the meeting, he chose to lie. When confronted, he did not apologize, only told me his issues with the Sunshine Law and how the city attorney didn’t understand what he did wasn’t wrong.
Despite these reprobate behaviors, I find myself unappealingly charmed by his actions as my ward representative. I wouldn’t let him near my younger cousins (the older ones would make sure the cops never found the body; of the older Salustri women, I’m the “nice” one), but as my representative, I’m pleased with his efforts.
He’s doing his best, it seems, to convince us that although he basically walked onto the job, he deserves the seat. I’m hard-pressed to disagree. He doesn’t hesitate to call other cities and ask questions, and he certainly seems to have a high level of cognitive function despite whatever personality disorder compels him to attempt to shock people. He spends a lot of time talking with Gulfport – not to Gulfport, with Gulfport. I once saw him spend 45 minutes with a man who clearly wanted to tell him why the city was wrong, wrong, wrong. Councilman Fridovich patiently listened, explained his point of view, and after almost an hour, I think the irritated party had started to understand the city’s motivation. I know I lack the patience for that, which is why I should never be a politician, but perhaps that’s why Michael is – I shudder to say this – doing a fine job. He has become an incessant, unyielding voice for Ward Four, and it’s something we desperately need. I applaud his efforts and offer my gratitude. He’s attempting to do right by the residents he’s trying valiantly to represent. When he’s up there on the dais, in between taking hilarious pot shots at his nemesis, Vice Mayor Dan Liedtke, we never have any doubt he’s going to bat for Ward Four and, in the grand scheme of things, Gulfport. He attends just about every function the city has, and all you need to do is ask for his help and he shows up. He is a “roll up your sleeves and get to work” kind of guy.
Which is why I’m bringing all those other distasteful characteristics to light: Councilman Fridovich, you’re going to muck it up. Stop. Please. Someone needs to Eliza Doolittle your ass, and quick, before you get the city sued or start racking up ethics violations. You’re passionate, driven, and almost exactly what Ward Four requires of its councilmember. I’m petrified your next attempt to shock or prove what a rogue you are will involve me Googling “synonym for ethics charges” or come up with a catchy headline about lawsuits and sexual harassment. You’re this close, sir. We already have the headline ready to go.
I, for one, would appreciate you not making our city the laughingstock of the nation. Florida has had enough of that. Also, if you could not become fodder for the next Carl Hiaasen news column, I’d appreciate it.
It’s bad enough you’re in this one.
Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.

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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.