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From the week of December 24, 2009

"A Hundred Miles an Hour Down a Dead-End Street," Alan Prendergast, December 17

Speed Chills

Well, it looks like Victor Gabler is going to spend the rest of his days exactly where he belongs. Perhaps we could share him with other states he's been a complete screw-up in, but I don't think it works that way. As stated in Alan Prendergast's article, he's had plenty of time and chances to deal with his mental problems. Time now for him to be shut away and save society from his further predations. He may not be fit to stand trial. If that's the case, he can stay in the state hospital until he is. If that happens to be never, that's okay, too.

Just keep him away from society.

Pat Desrosiers

Denver

Cafe Society, December 17

So Long, Sheehan!

What a huge loss for Denver to lose Jason Sheehan's insightful, hilarious, brutally honest reviews. No one looks at and tastes foods like he does.

Jason, you will be missed.

Stefanie Smith

Denver

I'm very sad to hear Jason is leaving. I've been reading his articles religiously every week for the past seven or eight years; I've debated his words and talked about his points of view with many professionals in town. I own his new book and the short story collection in which he wrote about Sean Kelly's fingers, and have listened to his NPR barbecue segment at least twice.

Good luck to Jason. Seattle is a great food city.

Etai Bar-on

Denver

Here are my Jason Sheehan top-three lists.

Love

1. Almost always spot-on about the food

2. Great at finding hidden ethnic gems

3. Occasionally writes good prose when not boasting about what a badass he thinks he is or some inane detail about his past.

Hate

1. Bourdain wannabe stylistically and often with content, very self-indulgent with writing and often self-righteous about food.

2. Thought nobody in town knew what he looked like before his book came out.

3. Has a very obvious hard-on for Frank Bonanno.

I'm actually going to kind of miss you, Jason, but this town needs a new voice.

Jesse Hall

Denver

Well, goddamn it, Jason! How dare you take your insanity and talent to another city? Whose amazing food reviews are we going to read now every week that not only guide us to great grub, but crack us up? How are we going to know the best places on Federal to eat? Seattle's gain is Denver's crippling, angry, binge-drink-inducing loss. Fine, then! Go! We'll still be here when that cheap tramp Seattle shows you that she has fuck-all in the way of good green chile and BBQ.

Seriously, though, I hope Seattle treats you and yours like kings. May you continue to find great success and even greater food there. And thank you for an amazing eight years.

K.D. Bryan

Posted at westword.com

I cannot believe that you let Jason Sheehan go. This is a very sad day. For 27 years, I have read all the restaurant reviews in Westword. There is no doubt that the best critic is/was Jason Sheehan.

The only hope I have is that the mildew in Seattle will drive Jason back to Denver.

Dave Barnes

Denver

Jason: So you're really leaving. Damn.

I guess we shouldn't be that surprised. For years, you've been building a national reputation for yourself. The annual appearance in Best Food Writing. The Beard awards. The mention in Time magazine. It's not surprising, then, that you've finally decided to trade up and go from being the lead food critic for a free weekly in a third-tier restaurant town to being the lead food critic for a free weekly in a second-tier restaurant town. Congrats!

Denver's a decent restaurant town, for sure, but there's only so much you can write about every week, isn't there? The restaurant in the aquarium or a great taco truck are colorful objects for social commentary or slice-of-life pieces, but are they really food news? Probably not.

For a long time, your review has been the review that everyone reads, the make-or-break review, the review that had nervous restaurant owners and chefs skulking outside red newspaper boxes at eleven on a Wednesday morning or, more recently, checking their computers every thirty seconds or so.

The writer in me has long enjoyed your reviews (and envied the amount of public space you have to stretch out in): the novelistic openings, the pungent demotic language, the vigorous transitive verbs. The chef-owner in me has appreciated your catholic palate and your sharp take on the realities of the business (if occasionally I've wished you would get to the point quicker). That's not to say I agree with everything you write or share your enthusiasms; I don't quite get your love for red-sauce joints or greasy spoons or certain steakhouses. And I think your trashing of the Kitchen was unforgivable: The Kitchen has single-handedly changed the restaurant scene on the Front Range, and to dwell on what seemed to you like their sanctimoniousness was to miss the point completely.

But for the most part, you pilloried restaurants that deserved to be pilloried and performed some useful brush-clearing: Thanks for ridding us of ...well, I won't mention their names. But as good as you have been at snark, your real strength has been as an enthusiast: You have put more than a few restaurants and reputations on the map. Like, for example, mine. If I have gone from being a fitfully employed itinerant chef who slept on a mattress in a rented apartment to being a comfortable member of the city's culinary establishment, it's thanks to a very short list of people. There's my wife, of course. And my business partners. And then there's you. Your reviews, besides putting a swagger in my step for a day or two, gave me something as tangible as money in the bank — a reputation.

There are more than a few chefs who feel this way. You, Jason, more than any other critic in the country, are the chef's advocate. If a lot of restaurant reviewers are proudly ignorant of the basic realities of how a kitchen or a restaurant works and are happy to destroy a chef's reputation for the sake of a cheap wisecrack, you know what it takes to make good food; you've been there. You know that to make even mediocre food can be back-breaking labor, and your deep and contagious appreciation of good food and the chefs who produce it has helped, in a small way, to change the culinary landscape in this town — and has certainly changed more than a few lives. Thank you, and I hope your successor at Westword has the same mindset you do.

So good luck, Jason. I look forward to checking out the web for your take on restaurants that I've never heard of and will probably never visit. And the way your career is going, I'm sure I'll turn on Bravo or the Food Network someday and see you at some judge's panel giving your verdict on some poor cheftestant's food in your salty ideolect. There'll be a slight twitchiness to you, because, as everybody who reads you knows, you'll be dying for a smoke.

John Broening

Denver

Editor's note: Yes, Jason Sheehan is moving to our partner paper, the Seattle Weekly. To read more comments about his imminent departure, go to the Cafe Society blog at westword.com.

"Shlock and Awe," Patricia Calhoun, December 3

church in the city

Nice column; thanks for the info about the use of LEDs. I thought those columns of light looked crisper this year.

I remember the 1980s case before Judge John Kane. He declared, quoting someone else, that when government and religion mix, it's to the detriment of both. I totally agree.

The Supremes of Washington, D.C., have decreed that if you surround the Nativity scene with enough Santas, reindeer, snowflakes, tinsel and other secular shlock that the Nativity scene loses all religiosity, and poof! — it becomes nothing more than a quaint scene of a homeless couple and their baby boy. If I were a devout Christian (I'm Jewish), I would be shocked and appalled at this trivialization of one of Christianity's most sacred mysteries, the incarnation of God as a helpless infant. But the Supremes were so desperate to keep Nativity scenes in front of City Hall that trashing a complex Christian concept was called for.

Happy holidays to you, however you observe them.

Peter Gross

Denver

Well, Amanda, who wrote the letter about Calhoun's column in the December 10 issue, must be right. Certainly there is much that I hate about the USA. While I can't claim to be a "radical leftist liberal," I did vote for a black man in that last presidential election. But because the "elections" in this country are so corrupt, I hate voting.

I hate the corruption of our government by corporate entities to the point that nothing works anymore and our economic system has essentially failed. I hate the fact that I am forced to buy insurance from those same corrupt companies that don't pay up when I file a claim. I hate invading other countries and killing those who have something these companies want. I hate what radio and television have become. I even hate driving my car because Big Brother is just waiting for me to step outside an absurd set of rules to rob me at gunpoint.

But the one thing I really hate is an education system that produces ignorance and the consequential stupidity that constructs Amanda's letter. If I must "assimilate" a religion that promotes the killing of non-believers and stealing their land and "assimilate" a rapacious industry-run government, perhaps it is time for me to get out.

Keep your television on, Amanda; you can have it all.

Ancel Phelps

Denver

"Rx Marks the Spot," Patricia Calhoun, December 10

Pot Calling Kettle

My state senator, Chris Romer, wants to regulate the medical marijuana industry. He has mentioned a board created to come between the doctor and the patient. Romer should stick to last year's idea to put a toll booth on I-70. With legislators like Romer, you can understand why this state is going backward.

Richard Weber

Denver

Many of us moved to Colorado after 1976, when the possession of an ounce of marijuana became a petty offense punishable by a $50 fine. I believe most baby boomer marijuanistos would agree with me that the prices, quality and accessibility have been very consistent across the state since then. The black-market providers keep most of us from ever needing to possess more than a "bag," usually a quarter of an ounce, at any one time!

Since 1992, when I collected over 5,000 signatures to legalize hemp and subsequently carried all the rest of the petitions that have appeared on the ballot to legalize marijuana in this state, I have talked to thousands of Coloradans. More than a few divulged their fear of signing anything to do with marijuana because they feared the police coming to the door, sometimes years after some incident when their "bag" was confiscated.

Even though we have a constitutional amendment that the majority of us voted for nine years ago to protect the marijuana user, Attorney General John Suthers and law enforcement have more: fear, ignorance and propaganda. And they have had eight years of the Bush administration's opportunistic DEA task forces fortifying our "drug-friendly" state with multiple offices. Vigilantly waiting at the beck and call of every cop shop that stumbles across more than 99 plants, the DEA got a big-time, mandatory-sentencing federal offense. Elected sheriffs got good PR, bringing out the media for good video. And a high-value bust funnels lots of both the taxpayer's and the marijuana provider's money into the legal community, the justice community and the corrections community.

Most of the Denver press shows dispensaries out of control and reports some kind of growing community threat! In PR, we know the power of the negative image and are hired to push back constantly against it. The only real community threat is any lack of access to marijuana for anyone over the age of eighteen in Colorado who chooses it first from the vast market of other, much more harmful drugs, for whatever reason. We marijuanistos must demand equal protection and compassion for ourselves and for the maintenance of the status quo.

Michelle LaMay

Denver


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