"Run to Ground" [by Wendy Grossman, March 9] is the first material of yours that I have read. I was spellbound. I couldn't put the damn thing down. By the time I was done, I could smell the stale cigarettes, taste the cheap beer and hear the cold Texas wind whipping around the rusting camper. You did an outstanding job of conveying not only the facts but the whole picture, the lifestyle and the culture that these people are part of.
This one really grabbed me by the beans -- thanks.
Just read your article. It is the bomb! Very well done.
Kansas City, Missouri
Bravo to you, for telling it like it is ["Out at the Zoo," by Brad Tyer, March 16]! I was on the board of the zoo for many years and gave a whole lot of money to make the place safer and healthier for small mammals. There is no point pouring good money after bad when the city allows someone like Olson to run it. The best zoos in the country are private, and Houston should make it private if at all possible. Look at Fort Worth and San Diego. What great treasures. This city deserves the best, and so do those that live in the zoo!
Name withheld by request
I have been employed 28 years in the zoo business, have done zoo consulting and have worked more than three years at the Houston zoo. Because of this, I have dealt with many zoo directors, and I have had many meetings with Mr. Olson.
I have always found him to be very reasonable and professional. Don is a businessman and is straightforward. He is one of the best directors, or maybe the best, I have ever had the pleasure of working for. Most of the people that you had in your articles have had very limited experience in this field and have no real grasp of what it is like to work in business. My point: Had they dealt with other directors, they would appreciate Mr. Olson. I have the utmost respect for him.
I think your article is well founded. You might also look back at the previous article about Karl Peterson ["Sick and Fired," by Brad Tyer, May 19, 1999]. I also filed a grievance with the city about my supervisors that was totally ignored. I was a lucky one; I was able to find employment elsewhere. Keep up the good work.
Name withheld by request
More Than a Smile
I, too, learned to love Jose Serna ["Last Call," by Steven Long, March 9]. I was a waitress, and the waitstaff regularly went to Warren's. I saw the obituary in the paper telling of Jose's death, but I had no idea that he had killed himself. His wife's death was very hard on him.
I felt so sorry for Jose and would come close to tears when I'd see his Winnebago parked out front. I haven't been to Warren's in a few years. I feel terrible about this. I wish I could have seen Jose's smiling face one more time. Thank you for the article.
Your article a few weeks back about Billie Bob, the lottery winner, was marvelous and compelling ["Billie Bob's (Mis)Fortune," by Steve McVicker, February 10]. What's happened since? It's worth a follow-up. Thanks for a read I'll never forget -- a real American tragedy.
Middle Age Crazy
It was a nice article ["Swordplay? No Way!" by Lisa Gray, March 2]. I wish, though, that you had done more homework about the Society for Creative Anachronism before you wrote your disparaging remarks about it. They have been doing this a lot longer than Mr. Clements has, and the SCA is not all about wizards and warriors; it is about learning about the Middle Ages in general.
Too often members of the SCA, who put just as much time and effort into training and research as Mr. Clements, are ridiculed about their hobby. In fact, most of the members pay for this out of their own pockets and do not try to "make a buck" from it.
I read your interesting article. I would like to note that I was a founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism. I've never heard of Hank Reinhardt, and he was certainly not one of the founders. And he certainly had no great reputation SCA-wide as a great fighter.
The SCA has always attracted people from the gaming community, as it has from fantasy and science-fiction fandom. It does not encourage role-playing at events, except as in re-creating essentially medieval personae to both learn and enjoy the events more. Sorcerers and sorcery are pretty much no-no's.
In my personal experience it is not possible to get a real feel for medieval combat without wearing the armor as well as wielding the sword. I'm glad you enjoyed yourself, and I hope you were interested enough in the concept of medieval combat to perhaps attend an SCA event.
I thought the article was great -- except the part about the SCA "sorcerers." As a longtime SCA member, I have yet to encounter anyone using the persona of a "sorcerer." While many of our members enjoy role-playing games, in the SCA we are trying to re-create history, not fantasy, and there are plenty of groups available for "sorcerers."
Really enjoyed your article on our Pat Robertson of the medieval/renaissance sword. You pretty much captured the essence of that personality. Check out my Web site at www.twoswords.com.
And $7 Popcorn?
I enjoyed your article on the overbuilding of movie theater screens in Houston ["Battle of the Megaplex Monsters," by Richard Connelly, March 2]. However, I disagree with you that we will have to pony up $6 to $10 to see the latest movies. There is a Silver Screens Cinema 6 in Missouri City that shows first-run movies for $2 before 6 p.m. and for $4 in the evenings. If you're willing to wait two or three weeks until the hoopla dies down, you can see the same movies at Loews Southwest or Sharpstown Cinemas for $2. On a hot summer day, the price of admission is worth it if just for a couple of hours of air-conditioning.
I'd much rather go to the local Bay Area Sony/Loews Theater in Clear Lake than drive up to the new Gulf Pointe 30. I hate waiting in the endless line at the megaplex. But if it meant I wouldn't have to endure the mildew and urine stink and greasy seats and floors at the Sony, I'd drive across Houston to see a movie.
While I appreciate that kids need a good cheap movie theater, I also welcome the coming of movie theaters where I don't have to park my 24-inch-wide fanny on the front two inches of an 18-inch-wide seat and suffer miserably just to see the latest flick.
I wish to congratulate Richard Connelly for his superb article. It was honest and up-front concerning the battle for theater existence in Houston -- and the real mess they got themselves into.
Salt in the Wounds
Thanks for a wonderful article ["Drowning on Dry Land," by Wendy Grossman, February 3]. My 40-year-old son has asthma and a condition called angioedema. It all started when fluoride was added to our drinking water. Gradually it dawned on us that iodized salt was another antagonist, as was bromide contained in cough syrups, and some of the chlorides.
Perhaps the most insidious culprit is the Freon used to propel the inhalants. Atrovent sent my son to the hospital recently; he had seizures of the most violent sort.
Not all asthmatics are allergic to halogen compounds, but it can be a fatal mistake for those who are. I firmly believe that most of the present epidemic of asthma is caused by exposure to these poisons.
Seeing the Light
My family lives in a modest home about five miles from the Houston Heights (and a quarter mile inside Loop 610). We do mow our lawn, but we don't do a lot of landscaping, feeding, fertilizing or, in general, messing with nature. The city mosquito sprayers have forgotten where we live.
We are fortunate to have a wooded lot next to our home, as well as a small tributary of White Oak Bayou running just behind us. The fireflies ["Lights Out," by Wendy Grossman, March 2] still appear in our yard and the surrounding woods for two to four weeks each year. We consider this one of the many rewards of a modest lifestyle.
Name withheld by request
Thanks to Wendy Grossman for her story on my efforts to bring fireflies back to Houston. Readers who have spotted these "natural lights" are invited to e-mail me a report to be included on my Web site (www.burger.com; click the "Fireflies" button).
There are about 2,000 species of fireflies around the world and over 170 in North America. The odds of reintroducing them to Houston are increased if we can start with a species we know is adapted to our heat and humidity. Every report of a Houston sighting of these marvelous creatures is appreciated.
Moved by Mighty Mickey
I thoroughly enjoyed your story about Mickey Dunlap ["Turnstyled and Junkpiled," by Brad Tyer, February 17]. In a story that could have been terribly pitying, you forthrightly portrayed Mickey and the bad hand that life has dealt him. I am going to have my daughter, a senior at Memorial High School, read it, not so she can see how much better her life is, but so she can admire the persistence and determination Mickey had in the face of daunting circumstances.
Thank you and once again, a terrific story.
Dead Last on His List
I am originally from Dallas, but I recently moved here from Chicago and took over a new restaurant on Main Street in Midtown. One of the things that impressed me about Chicago's rail system was its easy access to all riders in the suburban areas.
Houston's rail system ["Train in Vain," by Richard Connelly, February 3] will reduce air pollution only if it reduces traffic. It takes me just 15 minutes to drive downtown from my home inside the Loop. Most of the traffic complaints are from outlying areas such as The Woodlands and Sugar Land. So why not take out the useless HOV lanes and run a rail system straight up and down the freeway? That's the way it's done in other cities.
I would also fix the streets inside the Loop. I have been all over the country, and these streets are the worst I've ever seen. If I had to make a choice on a place to move a business, Houston would probably be dead last. Please do not make me regret my move to Houston.
Having been quoted in the article "NASA Gets Weird" [Night & Day, March 9], I'd like to compliment Dylan Krider for a well-written article. In my continuing effort to obtain the truth, I find it interesting that NASA would choose to display information related to the Roswell incident as something fun for a wacky good time. Many firsthand witnesses to the incident would not agree that it was fun, and neither would NASA or the people responsible for the exhibit, had their lives been threatened.
Making light of what some of us still believe is a serious matter is a form of disinformation to the American public. I assume NASA will continue to look for life elsewhere in the universe with my tax dollars and each $13.95 per person collected for the display.
Your suggestion that Houston's FotoFest represents "a bumbling mass of insecurities" and lacks an overriding theme rings true, of course, but seems to not appreciate the value of those attributes ["Insecurity Complex," by Mark Frohman, March 16]. Photography is an art of individual expression and interpretation. To try to impose upon an eclectic variety of unique photographers a unifying theme or message would undermine the diversity of their perspectives and expression.
We're grateful for the city's high-energy, focused festivals as well, but it's refreshing to appreciate a change of pace that lets us explore more quietly, and perhaps find a single, unique piece of work that speaks meaningfully to us. In its diversity of perspective, FotoFest offers an opportunity for us to make discoveries on our own, instead of just swallowing whole someone else's focused vision.
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Here's to Margaret Briggs for reviewing Riva's ["Inner-City Suburban," March 9], a Montrose hideaway that my friends and I have made home since it opened a couple years back. She's right about the refreshing simplicity of the restaurant, from the casual elegance that has the good sense not to try too hard, to a menu whose reach never exceeds its grasp.
Oh, yeah, and the $3 glasses of wine that make patio stargazing all the more enjoyable. Thanks again.