The Naughty or Nice List

He’s making a list, checking it twice, and a few of you are in trouble. For some, the jolly old elf says, “Ho, ho, ho!” For others he mutters, “Uh oh.” Pull up a chair, Rudolph, and let us begin reading.

Flesh-eating Bacteria – Naughty
I can take sunburn, tolerate jellyfish, and endure bullies kicking sand in my face, but flesh-eating bacteria is the last straw — no more bathing in Eslava Creek. In 2013, the Mobile County Health Department confirmed cases of Vibrio vulnificus, an evil, man-eating germ, infecting area waters. Though rare, the organism attacks the human body, devouring flesh, inflicting pain, and with my luck, strikes on the day I swim with Cindy Crawford. This lump of coal is for you, naughty list Vibrio vulnificus. And Merry Christmas, Cindy Crawford, wherever you are.

Red Snapper Extension – Nice
Making our nice list, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council earns sugarplums and tartar sauce for granting a 14-day extension to red snapper season. Gleeful anglers had more time to reel in the beautiful fish, which jiggles, rolls and shakes its tail like an aquatic Miley Cyrus. The extra two weeks, Oct. 1 through 15, were a welcomed reversal after the federal government warned local fishermen that they had already exceeded the allowed red snapper catch. Their data was compiled on computers also used to register people for Obamacare.

Mobile Press-Register – Naughty
Santa’s bag is slim for the Mobile Press-Register since the former patriarch of local newsprint laid off around 400 employees. They also scaled back from publishing daily to three times a week, enabling subscribers to read about deceased loved ones buried days earlier. Local cemetery grave markers are now inscribed, “If visiting after reading my Mobile Press-Register obituary, sorry you missed the funeral.”

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Lagniappe – Nice
But Kris Kringle sends a white-gloved thumbs up to Lagniappe, the alternative newspaper that has helped “Keep Mobile Funky” for 11 years now. Lagniappe’s 70, 000 readers know the unabashed gazette is not afraid to part Mobile’s azalea bushes searching for the untold story. (They’ll be doing so weekly come spring 2014.) Santa proudly includes the publication in his nice list. Of course, Lagniappe calling Mobile Bay Magazine the area’s best monthly glossy didn’t hurt St. Nick’s decision either.

D.J. Fluker – Naughty
The Foley High grad and former Crimson Tide All-American tackle was accused of taking thousands of dollars in violation of NCAA rules while he played football for the University of Alabama. If proven problematic, the incident could forfeit an Alabama national championship, canceling Christmas in Tuscaloosa. For this, D.J. Fluker’s name is on Santa’s naughty list, next to Harvey Updyke’s.

Abraham Mitchell – Nice
What is more joyous than walking in a winter wonderland with $50 million dollars? Ask the University of South Alabama, where wintertime merriment sprang from last spring’s cha-ching. This year, USA set a state record, receiving the largest single donation ever from an individual to a public university. Half of the funds will go toward a new academic scholarship program for students in all fields of study, while the other half will support the Mitchell College of Business. Mobile’s nice list entry, Abraham Mitchell, philanthropist, benefactor, and the wealthiest, dearest friend I’ve never met made the $50 million contribution.

Brad Orrison – Naughty
’Twas three months before Christmas, and all were aghast, as The Shed went belly up, while its owner laughed. “Hey, you gotta find a job!” Brad said with a shrug, as laid off workers found doors locked up snug. On fixtures! On furniture! On dishes and walls! Carry it out, and fire them all! In the twinkle of an eye, Brad left no trail, returning to Mississippi, to food just as stale. And I heard Santa exclaim, as he rode out of sight, “Not one lump of coal, Brad, that’s not your luck. For the way you act, I’m sending the truck.”

Karen, the Storm that Wasn’t – Nice
Thank you, tropical storm/ depression/ low-pressure system Karen! You will now forever be known as Hurricane Whatever. But we are not complaining. Much to the chagrin of local TV weather forecasters who spend every day coming up with new ways to say, “90 degrees with a chance of afternoon thunderstorms, ” you changed paths and weakened. And, because of your kindness, Mobile Bayfest rocked on. Santa says, “Thank you!” To the disappointed folks at the Weather Channel: Get over it.

Clark – Shaw Magnet School – Nice
Another meteorological event did not share Karen’s kindness. On Christmas night 2012, a tornado decimated Murphy High School, leaving the historic campus in a New Year of turmoil. But the answer, my friend, was blowing in the wind. Kudos to Clark-Shaw Magnet School for generously sharing facilities with Murphy-less students in times of need. “It’s a Wonderful Life” taught us that “every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.” That includes school bells.

Carey Arensberg – Nice
The December twister that shattered Christmas barely missed the home of local artist Carey Arensberg. But in the aftermath, she collected broken wood and branches from her neighborhood. She painted crosses on the debris and sold her Crisis Crosses artwork for $25 each. Proceeds were returned to her storm-damaged community. For her efforts, Carey’s name is on Santa’s nice list – and there’s a gold star by it.

Fred Richardson – Naughty
“I demand a raise, ” said Alfie the Elf. “I’ve worked too long without one.”
Santa replied, “But did you voluntarily come here, Alfie?”
“And did you seek reelection to this post?”
“Alfie?” Santa asked. “Check our records. Find one person who would make such a request.” Alfie returned with a note, which Santa read, looked up and asked, “Who is Fred Richardson?” He is the Mobile city councilman who, in this economy, spearheaded a drive to raise councilmembers’ pay by state ordinance. It was voted down, but councilman Richardson gained approval for Santa’s naughty list. Alfie the Elf is on administrative leave.

Airbus – Nice
Vive la France, y’all! Mobile landed Airbus. Let loose from Toulouse, the French aircraft giant has broken ground here for a shoe-in entry on the nice list. Stuff that in your Christmas goose, Boeing. Airbus of Mobile projects 1, 000 new jobs, producing the A320 family of jets that make flying reindeer so 2012.

Flora-Bama Mullet Toss – Nice
OK, so reindeer may not actually fly, but mullet do. And the ungainly game fish, with more bones than an elephant graveyard, commonly eaten the day before payday, soars at the Flora-Bama Lounge and Package. Where Baldwin County meets Florida, the Mullet Toss makes the nice list because it raises $20, 000 annually for local youth charities. It’s also an opportunity to experience shoreline wildlife. Some people even show up to watch the beach animals.

Mobile Police Department – Naughty
It’s a blue Christmas for the local men in blue. In 2013, some Port City police officers were accused of altering crime reports to lesser offenses. They skewed statistics to make it look less serious, much like the captain of the Titanic saying “Don’t worry, folks. We just stopped for ice.” Santa tried adding these policemen to the naughty list, but they kept changing the infraction to something not as bad.

text by Emmett Burnett • illustration by Stig Marcussen

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