Week of May 26, 2004

May 26, 2004 at 4:00 am
Knife Moves
When in doubt, punch him out: When our traveling pilgrim from Kansas was informed that he was carrying an illegal weapon into the Arch, he should have replied, "No, I don't have an illegal weapon -- it's a pocketknife and Christmas gift" [Malcolm Gay, "Arch Nemesis", May 19]. Then he should have grabbed the security guard by the shirt and decked him. While the little licensed thief was lying on the ground, our pilgrim should have added, "Go ahead, punk -- make my day."

Dirty Harry was the answer to this type of McCarthyism-like activity that now is being conducted throughout our land. Big Government has its bulldogs out in force these days, and the new J. Edgar Hoover is having a heyday with our civil rights and privacy.

A bureaucratic, paper-trail solution to the pocketknife incident would be Concealed Pocketknife Registration, just like other privately owned hand weapons. Of course, some witch-hunting legislator would have to write up a bill or an amendment to the concealed-carry law in order for this to be a voting issue put to the general public.

What would Dirty Harry do if he were around today? I fear for common justice's future with all of this "terrorism" paranoia since 9/11, and the full rein given to the security personnel violating our privacy. Just like our pilgrim, "Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore."
Paul Cameron
Ste. Genevieve

Remember Shandi?
Calling all St. Louisans! Weigh in on Rodney! Imagine my shock and utter surprise to find that the Riverfront Times did not display me as a person who is genuinely concerned about the future of my city. Instead they shortened my piece and allowed a non-municipalized individual from Wood "Rat," Illinois, to nominate me as "Douchebag of the Week" ["Letters", May 12].

I'll have Jimmy D. Fuller know that I am a man and do not think it's proper for a "River" man to associate me that way. He needs to go back to Canada and mind his own business and allow the good people of St. Louis the chance to have their say toward my comments about anybody who shuns this great city of ours. To my fans: See you soon.

Is that brief enough this time around?
Rodney M. Norman
St. Louis

Poked, Paid
Bottom lines: I would just like to thank you for the cover on your May 12 issue. My little girl thought it was hilarious that you put a picture of "someone's big butt" on the cover. We both got a big laugh out of it!

I'm sure you'll get some letters from those whose children were scarred for life, having seen such vulgarity (a real human buttocks! Shame on you!), but I personally applaud you. I firmly believe that one of the reasons that we have problems with so many "sex crimes" in this country is because we are so uptight about our sexuality and our "parts."

It's nice to see a publication that lets it all hang out! Laughing our butts off...
Cynthia Capps

It's all about the Benjamins: I have two qualms with Ben Westhoff's story "Get Poked, Get Paid" [May 12].

First, having been a guinea pig myself five times for Gateway Medical Research, I would like to clarify Alecia Hoyt's comment in which she indicated that if you aren't nice to staffers they will kick you out. It has not been my experience that a staff member can kick you out solely for not being nice to the phlebotomists.

Secondly, when Vera Hassner Sharav stated that facilities like Gateway Medical exploit young people's "lack of knowledge, lack of maturity [and] lack of skepticism," she left out the most important motivator for young people's participation in the studies: lack of money.
Richard Martielli
St. Louis

Is It Art?
The story of Uncle Hugo: In "Sculpture Shock" [April 21], writer Shelley Smithson reveals that the city fathers of Sunset Hills labeled Ernest Trova's art "junk."

That's exactly what my old Uncle Hugo thought years ago when he happened to be strolling in Laumeier Sculpture Park and came upon this pile of steel which seemed to be all welded together. Seeking to do his civic duty by removing the junk pile, he grabbed his trusty acetylene torch from his pickup truck and quickly made small pieces, which he tossed into the bed of his pickup truck. His truck loaded, he wandered off in search of a drinking fountain.

When he returned about a half-hour later, he was amazed to see a bunch of people gathered around his truck. Approaching closer, he saw a gigantic blue ribbon attached to the windshield. "First Prize," the ribbon read. He was even more amazed when he was handed a check for $200,000. It was then when he noted the tires of the truck were embedded in concrete, a sure sign that his truck was now a permanent sculpture.

He was forced to walk home, but with a check for $200,000 in his pocket, who cared?

"As they say," he grinned, "One man's junk is another man's treasure."
Harvey Meyer
Green Park

Ten Years After
A victimless crime: After his death, Rolling Stone pointed out an interesting paradox about Kurt Cobain [Gina Arnold, "A Denial," April 14]. He had once traded in his old clunker of a car for a Lexus. He caught so much shit from his friends about driving a nice car that he returned his new car and got his old car back. That doesn't sound like the rejection of success and consumer culture that Gina Arnold claims Nirvana's "Lithium" represents.

As far as Cobain's suicide is concerned, he comes from a family tree where suicide is not uncommon. If the rock-star industry never came along to sound his death knell, I'm sure some other industry would have. He apparently was a self-treated manic-depressive. Of all the things he was, the one thing he wasn't was a victim. No one gains that much notoriety without looking for it.
Steve Maliszewski
St. Louis

Kurt appraisal: We were hoping it was Beck? I think most of us would hope that it would be some hack journalist who obviously has little regard for human life.
Tim Maples
St. Charles

Schools Daze
Bills, Bills, Bills: This response is in regard to the article entitled "Bill's Bills" [Geri L. Dreiling and Shelley Smithson, January 21]. I am a teacher for the St. Louis Public Schools, and I am just disgusted about the changes that Bill Roberti has done to our district. He doesn't seem to care that he is eliminating jobs. What does he care -- he's making big bucks and will get paid regardless of who he lets go. He is overcrowding our schools, which is causing more chaos and less learning to take place.

Roberti states that Bill Haas' statements caused him to "[suffer] public ridicule, personal humiliation and loss of reputation, public confidence, respect, and professional standing within the community." Also that he "may lose business contacts and opportunities due to the cloud placed upon his reputation." That is total b.s. He was being ridiculed by the public the minute he walked in the door, and he lost all respect from the majority of the employees in the district once he started tearing our district apart. He can afford to lose business contacts with as much money as he is making: $600 an hour. That is a disgrace. They need to take the money he is being paid and give the teachers a raise. Not many will work for the city district because of the low pay and the horrible working conditions. Personally, Mr. Roberti needs to take his arrogant ass back to New York and leave us alone here in St. Louis. He has done nothing for this district but brought down the morale. I talked to the man on the phone, personally, and he is nothing but an ass. He had no answers for me. The only thing he could do was to tell me that "I am not making friends by throwing irate e-mails in my boss' face."

I am not trying to be his friend nor do I want to be his friend. He is nobody to me as far as I am concerned. I support Bill Haas and Rochell Moore 100 percent. They need to ask pertinent questions about how the money is being spent and how buildings are being sold in the district. As far as Amy Hilgemann goes, she needs to take her ignorant ass somewhere else as well. I had the utmost respect for her when she first started on the board but now she is just like the rest of Slay's raiders. They don't give a shit about anyone who is working in the trenches of this downtrodden district, nor does Roberti. He is just worried about collecting his paycheck!

I could go on for days, so I'd better stop now.
Name withheld by request
St. Louis