Letters to the Editor
"Split Decision," Michael Roberts, March 8
I am (was?) a friend of Michael Andre's, so I cannot claim to be unbiased, but I was angered by the decision of the Denver Post to put Andre's name on the website that afternoon. I also questioned the portion of the story that indicated the Post had tried to contact Andre on his home and cell phone. As I doubt the reporters were trained crisis counselors, the decision to call him strikes me more as vultures trying to get a man's last words than an actual attempt at news-gathering. I communicated this opinion to the editor, who sent me the same justification e-mail he apparently sent to everyone. I did not buy it then and do not buy it now. They wanted the story, and it was better with Andre's name. That was their only concern.
Once the shock of Andre's death diminished a bit, I realized why the Post had to run the story that day: They do not publish on Saturday. While other media could wait on the story for their late broadcast or the paper the next day, if the Post did not run Andre's name on Friday, they would not have the chance to get in on the story. Indeed, that Sunday's Post did not have one word about Andre. He was old news by then -- except to those who miss him.
Responsible journalism is an oxymoron. Journalists need to publish, and damn the consequences. The bias must be for freedom to write, even if it is "irresponsible." However, for the Post to claim its decision was anything but a desire to get readers to its website is crap. The Post made an economic decision, and if they want to pretend otherwise, no one with a brain should buy it.
Ask a Mexican, Gustavo Arellano, March 8
Gustavo Arellano, your column's mascot has my vote. As you stated, being Latino and using it drains its racist power. African-Americans strive to do the same thing with the N-word, and though it is still not wholly benign (and probably never will be), the epithet's many years of circulation in the community has markedly weakened its impact as a racial slur. Of course, no matter how successfully these insults are co-opted by their erstwhile targets, their ugly history must never be forgotten.
Okay, that's enough sociological analysis! Call me a fake or tell me I am in denial, but my first impression of the cartoon honestly was not "fat, dirty Mexican." I perceived a friendly guy beaming over his love of life -- and perhaps a shot or two of mezcal. He embodies the cliched infectious smile, with the disarming touch of a single gold tooth. To me, he looks like a grandfather or uncle who has just caught a glimpse of children at play. That leads me to my suggestion for your logo's name: I think Tío César (as in Chávez) would be a perfect name.
I know this is a caricature of your father, but Padre sounds intimidating, and Papá only works in North America when followed by "Bear" -- or, in this case, Oso. Tío is a nice term of endearment for any male elder -- blood relative or not -- and as you know, César Chávez was a contemporary revolutionary. Good luck!
Gustavo, aren't you perpetuating racism, or at least stereotypes, by using the cartoon character at the top of your column and by using the term "gabacho" to refer to all (I assume) whites, "Anglos" or non-Mexicans?
If the column were Ask a Yankee! (since "American" can refer to anyone who's from Alaska down to Tierra del Fuego), would you use a cartoon drawing of Bubba Redneck, or a handsome movie star? Granted, both might be Yankees, but it seems you've chosen to use the Mexican equivalent of Bubba Redneck (gap-toothed, overweight, stereotypical sombrero, ammunition bandoliers over the shoulders).
I'm never sure what the reference is with the term "gabacho," since in my Spanish dictionary (Bantam New College Revised, 1987), "gabacho" means "Pyrenean" (someone from the Pyrenees, the mountains between France and Spain), "Frenchy" or "Frenchified Spanish." I would think most of the "Frenchified Spanish" in America would be found in Florida, New Orleans and the West Indies. Or has the word come to mean something else in the last twenty years?
As an aside, and not to accuse or criticize, but merely to discuss: All "whites" are not "Anglo." "Anglo" is a combining form, as in "Anglo-Saxon," "Anglo-Gallic," "Anglo-Celtic." The Angles were a tribe closely related to the Saxons and Jutes. They all invaded Britain from what is now Germany and Denmark, and eventually England was named after them (Engla land, or Angle land). They interbred with the existing peoples there, who were descended from Celts, Picts, Romans, Norsemen and other ethnic groups. But they weren't all one race or ethnic group. To say someone is an "Anglo" is akin to saying they're "Indo." Indo-what? Indo-European? Indo-Maylay? Yes, I know "Anglo" is a catch-all term referring to those related, however distantly, to the Anglo-Saxons and other tribes from Great Britain. But not all whites are "Anglo." I happen to be half Greek and half Norwegian, with so-called "white" skin (although when I hold my arm up to a piece of white paper, I'm about seven shades darker) and most people would call me "Anglo," but neither the Greeks nor the Vikings were Angles. I think "Anglo" is used too much as a catch-all term.
I find your column somewhat informative, amusing, occasionally reverse-racist, but some of the racist people who write in must be "Jerry's kids" (Springer, not Lewis).
As I read "Thou Shalt Not Stereotype," I looked at the Ask a Mexican logo -- the sombrero-clad, jolly Mexican fellow who's either missing teeth or has gold crowns or something. Is that what Gustavo really looks like, or is the logo a stereotypical caricature?
After the last fifteen years working in the kitchens of Colorado, two things are obvious: Jason Sheehan knows what the hell he's talking about, and whatever we name the Mexican won't matter, because everyone will call him Chuy.
"Panhandle With Care," Adam Cayton-Holland, March 1
Adam Cayton-Holland's article on panhandling left me laughing so hard on my lunch break that some of my co-workers now think I am manic. The jabs at the wannabe hip -- with "the same defeated look you'd see on any Denver hipster if his favorite unknown indie band had just landed a song on The Real World" -- were just as funny as the creative signage that Adam came up with for his research. Even though "Panhandle With Care" was highly humorous, the contrasts between what the homeless experience in Castle Rock and Denver really was an eye-opener. Anyone who is willing to deal with crazy Colorado weather, possible assault and personal insults due to the words written on their sign, in my opinion deserves whatever they can scrape together from it.
The only motivation I can think of for Westword to print Adam Cayton-Holland's "Panhandle With Care" was to show that he had the balls to pose as somebody in need (and perhaps to rectify matters with the girl who text-messaged him). Reading about the reactions to his funny-ha-ha signs and "hobo-chic" attire was like watching an episode of MTV's Jackass. And about as insightful. Gosh, I had no idea that there are actually sober panhandlers. And drivers stopped at an intersection can be uncomfortable with a panhandler's presence? Hmmm, I wonder if that's why people give them money.
The reason Denver has panhandlers is because they're making money at it, which isn't new information. As Doug Wayland, director of Education and Advocacy for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, stated, "The community should conscientiously try to have alternatives for (panhandlers)." It looks like our community should come up with a doozy of an alternative, because why would panhandlers opt to do anything else when they can make $16 an hour standing still? Appealing to people's sympathy as a way to earn a buck -- it's the oldest con in the book!
Keep handing that cash out your car windows, Denver. Let's see if we can exceed the $4.5 million from last year! And Westword editors, take the cardboard sign out of your boy Cayton-Holland's hands and keep him on posing as The Real World crew and drunk-rapping at foreign nightclubs. At least then we know he's trying to be funny.
I really "enjoyed" the craft and content of Adam Cayton-Holland's homeless article. He is a superb writer who could pull off an On the Road if he wanted to.
My wife worked for several years as a nursing-pool nurse at Denver CARES, the notorious overnight shelter for anyone who blows drunk enough into its malfunctioning Breathalyzer. While waiting for my wife to get off work, I've watched their dogcatcher wagon pull up and unload their catch by grabbing the backs of their belts and hoisting them out, drunks too inebriated to walk. My wife and I have had many discussions about what makes up a substance abuser or a homeless person; many times it's nothing more than several bad turns of luck. I myself hitchhiked to Buffalo to work one summer and spent my first three days in a homeless shelter, too broke for a hotel, and listened to the obligatory "Jesus Saves" sermon each night from a once-hopelessly-degenerate alkie miraculously transformed into a man of the cloth, one for whom all life and love were now one -- the only truly, totally transformed person I have ever met
It is a complex phenomenon, these faceless people with their signs, sometimes with their children huddled around them. My heart reaches out to them. I hope your readers' hearts do, too . . .and not necessarily with just spare change.
Thank goodness for writers like Adam Cayton-Holland, whose "Panhandle With Care" reasserts that Denver is a real city, unlike Castle Rock, because we have panhandlers and citizens who give to panhandlers. I couldn't fathom the thought of Denver losing its urban credential by enforcing its ordinances prohibiting solicitation in right-of-ways. What better way to say Denver is cooler than Castle Rock than by poking fun at, demeaning and advocating panhandling? You rock, Adam Cayton-Holland!
I just read the panhandling article, and I must say that it is very much appreciated. Homelessness is, of course, a very complex and multi-dimensional phenomenon, and it's nice to see it looked at in a different light.
Thanks to Adam for the "walk in my brother's shoes" perspective on a newsworthy issue. Not only was the article witty, but it gave us all something to think about. It is sad the way Denver has now chosen to deal with the problem of panhandling and homelessness, by creating the "politically correct" giving receptacle (parking meters on the 16th Street Mall) and its accompanying propaganda. Just one more opportunity to feed the bureaucracy and have absolutely no accounting of how our money is being spent. Maybe that money will go to another out-of-state polling firm to come up with funky figures about how much Denver gives to panhandlers!
At least when we give the guy on the street corner a couple of bucks, we pretty much know he's gonna buy himself a drink! Don't get sucked in, Denver! Go ahead and give if you feel like it! Who's it hurting, anyway?
Drink of the Week, Nancy Levine, March 1
Nancy Levine obviously stumbled into an establishment that is frequented more by locals than "cougar" tourists. The bartender has never been rude to me, my family, friends or anyone else in the three years we have been frequenting the Sunspot bar. He has always gone out of his way to give us the best service we have ever had at any establishment.
I am guessing that Nancy may be one of those people who can never be pleased with anything. Maybe she caught him when the bar was just opening -- as I recall, that's around 9 a.m. So I'm wondering what type of person needs a cocktail so early in the morning. If she wants "resort kiss-my-ass treatment," she should try Beaver Creek (Spruce Saddle), Vail (Two Elk Lodge) or Aspen (Ajax Tavern). There's plenty to go around at those areas.
"Brokedown Palace," Jason Sheehan, March 8
Thanks to Jason Sheehan for his great review of the D Note, where the DeGraff brothers and their rad crew have established a home away from home for us working musicians. An amazingly eclectic assortment of musical talent comes through the D Note as the patrons listen and munch meditatively on their pizzas. The D Note is clearly the most signficant live-music and dining venue in Jefferson County. In its juxtaposition of avant-garde musical aesthetics and family-friendly ambience, the "Note" is possibly unmatched in the metro area.
Hopefully, more folks will come to experience the D Note, and in their post-prandial stroll past the other awesome venues in the neighborhood (such as Bliss Cafe and La Dolce Vita) will discover that Olde Town Arvada is not some Disney-esque suburban "Arvadaland," but a genuine destination for hungry supporters of live music.
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