The drug connection: I spent ten months working for a pawnshop chain upon graduation from college ["Eaten Alive," by Josh Harkinson, January 26]. I'm very confident that we would not have 75 percent of our drug problem if pawnshops didn't exist. I had addicts selling their mothers' or victims' jewelry in line behind dope dealers buying the jewelry to get all that cash out of their pockets, only to bring the jewelry back a week later to convert back to cash at 75 cents on the dollar. The pawnshop loaned 10 to 20 cents on the dollar to get an 18 to 20 percent 30-day return. Then, upon default, the shop sold the jewelry for a 200 to 800 percent return, only to buy jewelry back in a week for 75 percent on the dollar. I even had an upper-management guy brag to me about how the industry writes its own laws at the state level. No industry makes more money legally on dope than pawnshops. Not even prison construction firms.
Hello from Tokyo: Very interesting article on Kobe beef ["A Cut Above," by Robb Walsh, December 29]. I work in Tokyo at the Takashimaya department store. I often help foreigners purchase Wagyu (Japanese beef) to take home. Often they come looking for Matsuzaka beef, but sometimes Kobe beef.
It does not appear that the beef is aged here. I'm curious: Is Japanese marbled beef meant to be aged?
On a cultural note, my Japanese friends find it curious that although Americans prefer low-fat meat, I'm often queried as to why many Americans are overweight. As the Japanese beef is so rich with fat, only a little slice is consumed. It is quite difficult to eat a large piece of wagyu.
When are you coming to Japan? Plenty of Japanese meat to explore here! Not just beef, but pork as well.
Taylor's a Texan: I'm Eric Taylor's son, Nathan. I'm glad you like his music and writing [Playbill, by William Michael Smith, January 19], but you should know that my dad was born just outside Atlanta, Georgia, in a town called McDonough (which is the Deep South). He moved to Texas in the early '70s, and he's never lived anywhere else. So to call him a Midwest Yankee is not even close. Good article otherwise.