Here's Muddy's in Your Eye
I recently wrote to thank Westword for Patricia Calhoun's July 13 column "Feel the Burn," which alerted us that the city was going to use the Washington Park Recreation Center for the curfew program. Now I must thank you again, this time for the August 24 Off Limits item about another curfew-program fiasco: raiding Muddy's coffeehouse.
What a tremendous waste of time and money this program has turned out to be! Is the city so desperate to make it seem a success that it must resort to taking kids out of a safe environment in order to fill its Safe-Nite sites? At Washington Park, there are often more guards (paid with our money!) than kids.
I'm a 21-year-old waitress/bartender/manager at Muddy's and have been there for two and a half years. Before I became a waitress, I was an employee's daughter. My stepfather, Joe Abramo, was a waiter and ran his theatre company out of Muddy's basement. I've been either hanging out or working there since I was fifteen.
I'd like to say a few words on Muddy's behalf.
First of all, if kids aren't going to go home, they might as well go there. We offer a safe environment for people of all ages. Girls dye their hair in the bathroom and then come get an espresso. The kids play pool, listen to the jukebox, play cards and chess. They do homework, read poetry and write in their journals. They protect their environment by tagging only on the special board provided for that purpose. Some of them come by during the day to help clean or paint.
They bus our tables for a free Coke. These are not bad kids contributing to the "Summer of Violence." These are young people who might have purple hair and black lipstick, and they might not tip. Maybe they have read too much Anne Rice and not enough Burroughs, but they try to take care of themselves as best they can. They look out for each other. Some of them don't go home by 11 p.m. because their parents are drunk or because they are physically abused. Maybe at the rec center those parents should be greeted with counseling pamphlets as well as a ticket.
I personally had to fight tooth and nail with about five cops so they wouldn't take thirteen-year-old Rosa DeRose off to the rec center. Her parents were out of town and her sister was at work, and if she'd rather stay at Muddy's, where she's watched and protected by many instead of home alone on the north side until 3 a.m. when her sister gets off work, why the hell shouldn't she? When I explained to the police that her parents wouldn't be able to pick her up as they were out of state, the cop said too bad. If they couldn't come get her from the rec center, she'd go to juvenile hall. What!?! I have never been so scared in my life. She's only thirteen! And she's at her father's business!
Busting Muddy's was stupid. I'd like to know what other crime was going on in Denver on a Thursday night, when a bunch of young poets, actors, musicians, writers, waitresses and green-haired kids were getting arrested for playing rummy, drinking a cappuccino or sinking the eightball.
Put to the Test
Regarding Steve Jackson's "Book 'Em," in the August 31 issue:
The majority of the students and faculty at Graland Country Day School should be ashamed. J.B. Trost is/was one of the finest music teachers in the state. Having studied under him from ninth through twelfth grade at Air Academy Junior and Senior High School in Colorado Springs, I can personally vouch not only for his character, but his skill and commitment as well.
I pray that my children will be fortunate enough to learn from someone as talented and compassionate as John Trost. I can only guarantee that they will not be enrolled at Graland.
Annette Hartung Conlon
I am an eighth-grader at Graland, but when Mr. Trost was there, I was in seventh grade.
I am not going to form any opinions of Mr. Trost or of his teaching style. I am also not going to talk about if the two boys who accused Mr. Trost were lying as to whether Mr. Trost was abusive. I was not there, so I don't know what happened. What I am going to talk about is the way the article was written. Now, I may be just a "spoiled Graland brat," but while harassing my teachers with my money, I picked up a couple of things about journalism. I don't know what you were taught, but I learned that a good journalist always shows both sides of a story and is supposed to be impartial in all situations. It seemed to me that your story was quite one-sided. The truth is, you only showed the side of the story that showed how Mr. Trost suffered because of Graland faculty and students. The side you failed to show was that the school had to do its job, and that is exactly what it did. You made it sound like Graland was unfair to look into and investigate all the accusations made against Mr. Trost, when in fact that is exactly what it should have done. The school has an obligation to the parents, the students and the faculty to check into any and all accusations made against anyone, no matter what. If they don't, then they would be a worse school than you made them out to be. Maybe that hurt Mr. Trost, and for that I am sorry, but I know that if I or any other student were sexually assaulted, we would have the courage to come forward only because we know Graland would take us seriously.
To Mr. Trost, I am very sorry that you have suffered so much because of this. I hope that someday you will be able to teach again and to love children again.
To Westword, I want you to know that I was amazed that a newspaper journalist would write a story like that without even thinking about the other side.
I'm sorry if I sound like a "spoiled brat," but I thought you should hear the side of the story you obviously forgot to look into.
Reading about the music teacher wrongfully accused of molesting two students brought the same chills to my spine as reading a Stephen King horror story. This man's testimony rang of a truth that hit too close to my own home. I am also a music teacher with a similar experience where the students ran the school as well as my own program.
I graduated with honors from a top university and looked forward to teaching with eagerness and the idealism that I would positively affect students and instill a love of music. My first two years of teaching were a shocking disillusionment when I discovered that the students were out of control and that the administration was afraid to support its staff. After two years I left with strong doubts about my future. I had not taught music--I had battled to keep my self-esteem alive and my integrity intact.
I now substitute at many different schools and find most situations to be the same. The students know there are no consequences for their abusive behavior, and they pretty much run the show. If a few students turn against a teacher, that teacher is in grave trouble, as the article described. Though I am still paying off student loans that financed the degree for which I worked so hard, I am looking for other career possibilities with much regret.
My heart goes out to J.B. Trost with the utmost empathy. I offer encouragement and support to go on with his life and find happiness. I fear for our future and for the children who think they're in charge of it.
Arthur Hodges's story about Santa Fe Drive ("West Side Story," August 24) painted the controversy as merely one of representatives and city officials acting out of political partisanship. Let's not forget the value to voters of the mayor's performance. Mayor McNichols lost to newcomer Federico Pena over the inability to keep Denver's streets clean during snowstorms. All of the shmoozing that McNichols could do failed to keep him in office.
I've visited Santa Fe Drive and other local improvement districts in the city and in Littleton, Arvada, Englewood, etc., and Santa Fe Drive definitely looks worse than others. Why are other areas able to maintain their streets so much better than Santa Fe Drive? Public money was invested in all of these areas, but maintenance is the key to keeping them either attractive or ugly. This is not a question that should involve political partisanship.
George E. Martinez
Your article entitled "West Side Story" was quite interesting. In it, NEWSED director Veronica Barela says that the work her organization does is of no economic benefit to them since it brings in no money, when all the while her organization is desperately fighting to retain the right to do the job--this seems contradictory, doesn't it? If NEWSED was really not making "one red cent" from the contract, shouldn't they be eager to duck the controversy and pass the contract to someone whom the taxpayers and the Department of Public Works preferred to do it?
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Barela is further quoted as saying that her organization was "totally blindsided" when the Department of Public Works moved to cancel their maintenance contract in May 1994, but what your reporter failed to uncover was that Public Works had written letters to NEWSED in May and October of 1993 expressing dissatisfaction about the lack of maintenance on Santa Fe Drive and warning them to start making progress. If this really was a surprise to NEWSED, it just goes to show how arrogant and out of touch NEWSED is with the people along the street and how unable NEWSED is to properly perform the work they are being paid to do.
After reading the article, I was forced to ask myself: Do we really want a mayor in office who values political considerations and his own re-election over doing what is right and what is the popular will of the people, a mayor who chooses special interests over the general good? Isn't this whole controversy just a microcosm of the way the Webb administration has operated--nepotism, special favors to friends and rampant mismanagement?
A Santa Fe Drive Merchant