Killer Fibers

Week of January 15, 2003

Killer Fibers
They didn't know: My dad, Paul M. Baltz, began work as a young man at the Ruberoid asbestos factory on Riverview Boulevard in the early 1940s. Ruberoid was later bought out by GAF. I think you should research further back to learn the full extent of what asbestos has done to families not only in Bellefontaine Neighbors but all over St. Louis and Illinois [Geri L. Dreiling, "Left Behind," January 8]. We lived on fifteen acres in what is now Hazelwood, and Dad brought home truckloads of broken asbestos shingles that we used to pave our road and driveway. We would use hammers to break them up into small pieces to make a smooth [surface]. They worked great! But we didn't know the hazard they contained. Those asbestos shingles are now in the Queen Ann Drive subdivision in Hazelwood. Dad and Mom raised thirteen children on [those] fifteen acres. I am number three. I am 61 years old. My siblings range from 43 to 63 years. Mom is now 88. Dad passed away at age 62 on Christmas Day 1979 from complications of asbestosis. Blood clots in his lungs broke loose and traveled to his heart, killing him within minutes. I watched him die, gasping for breath. Every one of his co-workers we knew died the same way within a few years of Dad. I remember visiting the plant in the late '50s. It was summertime, and the overhead doors were all open in the saw shed where they cut the hardened shingles into the right size. That's where Dad worked. The air was sparkling with tiny fibers floating lazily everywhere. It was quite pretty -- like snow in summer. Little did we know. None of the employees wore breathing protection. Dad would come home in the evening, white from head to toe, covered with the dust. Mom would wash his clothes with ours. Who knows what damage that has caused? Also, Dad did not smoke. I hope this can help in backtracking the pain and suffering that the asbestos industry has gotten away with. They took my dad away way too soon.
Jerry Baltz
St. Louis

Spike's On
Get it right:The reviewer of the latest Spike Lee Joint seemed to miss some of the film's not-so-subtle points [Robert Wilonsky, "Zero Hour," January 8]. The film's a tale of how being a cowboy will get you nowhere. From ... Wall Street hustlers to uptown brothers who won't pass the ball, the story has no mercy on the cocky masculine attitudes which lead one to indulge in forbidden sexual fantasies or the "just one more time" drug deal and the conflict that [results from] these actions. Rather than being full of "self-righteous" contempt, Monty's character is turning a corner [toward] being responsible for himself and his actions, knowing that he is to blame, not others. It is a "reflection" scene, no? Bravo to Spike Lee ... for making the first film with political balls "post-9/11."
Christopher Snively
St. Louis

Dead Right
Jerry's in an urn, not a grave: I do not appreciate your comments about the Other Ones, Bob Weir and the Grateful Dead [Mike Seely, "Rotations," January 8]. I am personally offended that you refer to Bob Weir as Paul McCartney (who is a sellout nostalgic yuppie bastard -- unlike Weir). That made me really upset. Besides, Weir charged just over $20 for his St. Louis appearances (which the Post decided weren't worthy of reviewing), not hundreds [of dollars]. Nor did [Weir] put out anything nearly as shitty as that god-awful post-9/11 sycophantic ode to "Freedom." He [McCartney] sold out terrorism nearly as much as the guys selling those stupid Bin Laden T-shirts with the targets over his face. Anyway, no other reviews tear up other artists to describe how good an album is. I agree with you on the Dave Matthews part -- he sucks. But to call the Other Ones "lesser musicians who headline gigs in Bumblefuck, Maine" is just unnecessary. While the Other Ones' initial gigs were somewhat hesitant performances, did you bother to go see any shows from their fall tour or at least listen to recordings of them? I am tired of the constant need for music reviewers to assert that the [scenes] for the Dead and Phish (two entirely different bands stylistically) are all about getting high and twirling. Getting into the Grateful Dead opened up a whole new realm of serious music for me and many other people -- not just the Dead's music but their influences and the bands influenced by them. When I see those bands, I listen quietly and intently and enjoy watching and hearing the collective improvisation that only happens in this music. And I do not merely get high and dance, using only the drums to keep a rhythm to propel my intoxicated body. I really look forward to seeing how you edit (chop up) my letter if you decide to print it! And bring back News of the Weird, dammit!
Jim M. Feeherty

Right Now
Ears tuned to today: So, Christopher O'Connor finds Riot Act, Pearl Jam's seventh studio album, boring ["Rotations," January 8]. I would too, if I approached their music like he does, comparing it to earlier stuff recorded over ten years ago. Listeners, like musicians, must grow and, for God's sake, learn to listen without nostalgia. Riot Act is an important work of music and Pearl Jam sounds energetically present.
Dave Drebes
St. Louis

China Fish
This is a very good article [Michael Renner, "Steamy Choices," December 18] about a Chinese restaurant. I like this one, Lu Lu Seafood Restaurant, because it's the best in the St. Louis area.
Jerry Lee
St. Louis

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