"Panhandle With Care," Adam Cayton-Holland, March 1
Having read "Panhandle With Care," I can rest my inner curmudgeon and say: Hot damn, that was funny. Now, I'm not just saying this because I think I saw my car in the Speer Boulevard picture; I honestly found myself giggling like a schoolgirl while reading it.
I loved it all. From the spray-bottle tease, to Super Mario's potty mouth, to the crazy drunken guy near the 16th Street Mall's H&R Block. Adam's struggle to find just the right sign was great, too. Hobo-chic? Fuckin' gold. And not only was the article funny, but it also raised some good questions, like: "What should we do about our city's downtrodden citizens?" "Does giving to panhandlers help or hurt the situation?" and "What's my dad doing on the 16th Street Mall before 3 p.m.?"
But seriously, "Panhandle With Care" deals with an issue that even the most anally puckered conservatives and bitchy douchebag liberals can agree on: getting rid of dirty people. Of course, this is a dangerous topic for me and my giggling schoolgirl friends (or "hobo bait," as we are sometimes called), but Adam teases it out with style, charisma and an excellent sense of humor. The only weak spot is the beginning, where Westword's less sarcastically inclined readers might be confused by the very dry humor. But once Adam gets on his hipster-razzing, bird-watching, potato-chip-crunching roll, it's all gravy. Sweet, Jim Beam-spiked gravy.
Well done, Adam. I know there will be many a pleasantly amused hobo sleeping in your article tonight. Well done, indeed.
I can't quite articulate how integral Adam's writing is to my respect for Westword. It just is. From the first time I nearly wet myself reading his column, I have been enamored with his wit and intellect. For a person to have such a gift with the written word is rare, and "Panhandle With Care" is another example of this. So I just wanted to say please keep the Adam factory churning. His column is one of the reasons I pick up the paper each week.
I just finished reading Adam Cayton-Holland's panhandling story. He had me cracking up on the bus to work. His style reminds me a bit of David Sedaris. Thanks for the laughs!
Update from Adam Cayton-Holland: Much to the chagrin of that town's beefcake firefighters, last week the Castle Rock Town Council voted 5-2 to ban panhandling at intersections. The move comes as a devastating blow to the "Fill the Boot" campaign -- an annual Labor Day event during which firefighters collect change for the Muscular Dystrophy Association -- as well as innumerable homeless panhandlers whom the town council informs us are omnipresent, yet no one has ever seen.
"The Transformers," Luke Turf, February 22
I really enjoyed "The Transformers," but I have to say that the whole macho bullshit of the "gangstas" makes me sick. I am continually amazed at what lengths people will go to "fit in." Also, many of the "gangstas" peddle the poison that had me addicted for seventeen years. It's an unnecessary evil. The crack peddlers had me and my friends wrapped around their little fingers, and we were willing to do anything for the next hit.
I hope the programs to get the fellas out of the "gangsta life" work. Gangbanging leads to three places: hospitals, institutions and the cemetery. I am reminded of an old bumpersticker that read "Listen Up, Smarty -- This Ain't No Party. Don't Gangbang."
I was born and raised in Park Hill. Although they weren't from my neighborhood, there were Brick City members on the streets at least by 1980. The way I remember it, we had Crips showing up from L.A. about that same time. The "Boyz" had a rally in what used to be Skyland Park; about 200 members showed up, and that event made the local papers. Crack cocaine was all over the streets of Denver long before 1987.
The article was an interesting part of Denver history -- just not the way I remember it.
I'm the sister of Fredrick Abram, the man Luke Turf interviewed. I just want to thank you for letting my brother's voice be heard, for his point of view, and for letting society know that people can change for the better. Now society knows that there are people who are able and willing to leave gangbanging and who want to become productive citizens in society. "The Transformers" also lets society know that these young men are not a lost cause; all they need is unconditional love and support from family and friends.
I want you to know that I have always loved and supported my brother in everything that he was and what he has become. I'm just finally happy that he has grown up and given up gangbanging. Your article touched me and my family deeply, and I'm sure it touched society as a whole. Thank you, and please keep up the good work.
Natira J. Abram
I am writing in regard to Cedrick Watkins, one of the gentlemen in "The Transformers." Since you discussed his past and the positive transformation that he has made in regard to leaving gang activity, why don't you investigate the cause of his incarceration? Cedrick was in Des Moines, Iowa, at the time the robbery was allegedly committed. Although he has had a less-than-favorable past, this time the wrong man was convicted. My mother and I were even flown to Colorado to testify on his behalf; we had all of the evidence to prove his innocence, but it didn't help. The wrong man is definitely behind bars.
I also would like to clarify the type of people that we are, because we are nothing like the type mentioned in the article. My mother worked for the Des Moines Police Department for over twenty years. I am a graduate student at Iowa State University. I have two brothers: One plays for the New York Giants (#48) and one is in high school. We are very upstanding citizens and have never been affiliated with any kind of "ghetto" nonsense or gang activity.
This situation is really worth further investigation. One is innocent until proven guilty -- but what if one is convicted but really innocent? That would be the case of Cedrick Watkins, the former gang affiliate.
Des Moines, Iowa
"Loveless," Jason Sheehan, February 22
I read the Jason Sheehan piece about Chi Bistro. I have some concerns about the viciousness, which seemed way out of line for a restaurant review. I am not affiliated with Chi at all. I have eaten there many times, however, and have taken many guests there who have had nothing but good experiences and returned on their own. We can't all be that dumb.
Jason is entitled to (and paid for) for his opinion. But this just seemed like much more than a food issue. It seemed like a vendetta, and using such offensive language is really not necessary in a restaurant review, is it? I'm no prude, but that kind of assessment is not really called for. He just seems to have something else going on that food is not going to cure.
I have lived in Denver for over forty years, and have been a resident/businessman/elected official/neighborhood activist/ parent/husband for a good part of that tenure. I only tell you this because I want you to understand (if not appreciate) that history as the basis for my response to Jason Sheehan's amazingly shortsighted, misdirected and racially disparaging comments in his review of Chi Bistro.
Please understand, I am a devotee of Westword. It has been and remains one of the few examples of truly objective journalistic publications in existence today. Also, I understand that it is the right -- even the responsibility -- of restaurant critics to experience/investigate/review and report/ reflect on the many dining opportunities that exist. That said, "Loveless" is a textbook example of how those with the pen and paper have the opportunity to bastardize that profession when they choose to serve self above service.
I don't question Jason's opinion of Chi Bistro, but rather how he chose to express that opinion in an amazingly foul, demeaning, hateful and racially offensive manner. "Yellow man," indeed. One wonders which adjectives he would use in his description of German, Italian, Mexican, French or African-based cuisine.
A caring and savvy restaurateur always changes, adapts and alters their menu. They do so based on their desire to make sure that what they offer their clientele is unique, fun, tasteful and desirable. I implore you to not just go to Chi Bistro, but go there now! The owners, chefs and staff show their "love" in everything they create and put forward to each and every individual who has the gift of entering their door. Every time. Every day. Every menu item.
Letters about "The Magic Number," March 1
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Sure enough. I knew if I waited, Westword would feature at least one letter from an American of Hispanic heritage complaining that gabachos like me "just don't get it."
The real question: Do Hispanic Americans get it? Show of hands: How many Ernesto Vigils out there believe a guy with my name needs to worry that some counterfeit documents dealer on South Federal is going to be peddling my docs to some guy who hopped a fence in El Paso last week? Weak as they are, there are laws about illegal docs that some employers will actually pretend they are following and some state and federal agencies also pretend they are occasionally enforcing. You got a guy on the payroll who speaks only Spanish, stands 5'2" and looks like he just stepped off a Mayan temple frieze but has a driver's license with my Kraut namen on it, and even the most myopic, lazy ICE employee is gonna have to do a double take.
Who are illegals hurting more? Some guy with my schnitzel-and-lederhosen heritage, or some guy with a more, I dunno, tortilla-and-poncho one? I'd like an American Hispanic who read Jared Jacang Maher's "The Magic Number" to tell me something: If last spring you marched with your hermanos because even though your family's roots here go back 100, 200, 500 years, you convinced yourself that "there but for the grace of God...," you gonna be marching with them again this spring?