The Weekly Planet has been living with a secret: For the last seven years, we’ve been harboring an illegal alien.
Arnie showed up on our doorstep in 1998, back when we had some sweet digs in Ybor City. We figured he was just another fellow sleeping off a Saturday all-nighter, but his green skin, saucer-like eyes and inhumanly long fingers were a tip-off that this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill Ybor drunk. Arnie was an alien. A real alien. And he had nowhere to go.
So we took him in.
At the time, most of us thought aliens were all cute and phone-homey. But Arnie wasn’t intelligent, and he wasn’t cuddly. To put it bluntly, the guy was a dick.
He was rude and he was annoying. He picked his nose (or at least what we think was his nose) ceaselessly. He vomited after meals, played the numbers too much and liked to watch The O’Reilly Factor. And that was when he was sober. When he drank, he became the surliest friggin’ alien you’ve ever seen.
Heeding an attorney’s advice, and out of concern for Arnie’s welfare, the Planet decided to keep him locked in a small but comfortable basement in the El Pasaje building. He survived on Cheetos (puffed, not baked) and review copies of the DVDs our critics threw down the mail chute. And he read tabloids — tons and tons of tabloids. “They’re the only ones covering my species,” he used to say. Understandably, Arnie complained a lot about his captivity. So we let him out from time to time to join us as we did our favorite things in Tampa Bay.
He ate great Cuban sandwiches. Drank café con leche. Hung out at the finest dive bars. Arnie played darts and ate bourbon chicken at the mall, napped in the park and flirted at Starbucks. We even let him do some yard work.
Arnie found our politics strange and our politicians stranger (except for Ronda Storms, who he said reminded him of a creature from his planet). He was intrigued with downtown St. Petersburg and wanted to put down a deposit on a new condo. Our crazy little alien had dreams.
But last year, when the Planet moved to new offices in West Tampa, the Arnie box didn’t make it. We forgot him. And by the time anyone remembered our favorite Venutian and went back to Ybor to find him, Arnie was gone.
We don’t know what happened, or where he his. We were hoping to civilize Arnie — to present him to the world as an upstanding alien member of society — but now we just want to see him again. So we’ve made our annual Best of the Bay issue into our version of a tacky tabloid, hoping that maybe, just maybe, Arnie will pick up a copy. And we’ve thrown in some pictures, too. (But don’t worry: Unlike the stories in those other tabs, the information in this issue is true.)
If you see our alien out and about, please tell him the Planet says hello. And whatever you do, don’t buy him a beer…