Long-distance relationship: I became interested in Jason Sheehan's writing when I heard his ode to the pleasures of barbecue on NPR's "This I Believe" on Memorial Day. Since then, I have enjoyed reading a number of his older food columns online -- even though I may never get to any of the restaurants featured. (I am, however, making a list of the ones I think my family would most enjoy, so that when we visit my nephew in Silverton we may give some of them a try.) I have always thought the best cookbooks were those that were as enjoyable to read as to use as a cooking guide; I suppose I feel the same about food columns. I don't have to actually go to a restaurant to enjoy reading about it.
Fort Smith, Arkansas
Follow your bliss: "Wedded Bliss" is probably the finest restaurant review I've ever read. I just wanted to drop a line and say that.
I've read Jason Sheehan's stuff while I've been living in San Francisco the past few years, basically because I was always curious to see what was happening food-wise back in Colorado. I've been a big fan of Jason from the beginning of his stint at Westword. He brings so much more to the table, both as a writer and as a conveyor of information and opinion, than just about any food writer I can readily identify.
I was in the car on Memorial Day with my wife when his NPR segment was played. When they were introducing him, I turned up the volume and told my wife, "You've got to listen to this. This guy is awesome." While we're both no mammals/no birds eaters, the segment on BBQ didn't disappoint.
We're about to move back to Denver, and absolutely looking forward to becoming more familiar with his work and the joints it takes us to.
San Francisco, California
Editor's note: Last summer, Jason Sheehan was contacted by National Public Radio to record a variation of his "Believe It" review of Big Papa's, originally published in the May 12, 2005, issue, for the "This I Believe" series. Originally scheduled for last Labor Day, Sheehan's NPR piece was bumped by coverage of Hurricane Katrina and held for another suitably barbecue-ish holiday. It finally aired on Memorial Day, and is still available -- along with essays by Colin Powell, Penn Jillette, Studs Terkel and Albert Einstein, although none of them are talking about barbecue -- at www.NPR.org. Just click on the "This I Believe" logo on the right-hand side of the page.
Success story: Regarding "Final Testament," in the June 1 issue:
Richard Velarde was a student of mine in 1995-96 when I was the basic-skills instructor at Community College of Denver Technical Education Center West. We were doing in a few short months with these students what DPS has not done in its history: succeeding.
I was very sorry to read last week that Richard had died. I was glad that Adam Cayton-Holland's articles gave Richard some of the attention that young guys like him seldom get, but was also sad that his shooting and his death were the reasons he received attention. The article on Richard and his mom captured in words what I remember in memory of them both. I knew Jody to be a strong woman, and she cared greatly for him. Damn. I remember how she would come to meetings at TEC West to see how her boy was doing.
It was a great waste and tragedy when Richard was shot. He was a good guy, not a bad person. I can't really judge who the "bad guy" was in all this, and maybe there was one, but I also remember my own days of being young, and stupid, and drunk. And I remember a lot about guns, and always remember that race and class are the context for all this, and always have been. So what judgment do I cast?