LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
THE PROPER USE OF PUBLIC SPACE in an urban environment has been of interest to me ever since I read Jane Jacobs's 'Death and Life of Great American Cities' while in college. I'm now a retired urban planner living in Jersey City, NJ. For years my community has been paralysed into inaction over the wisest and most cost-effective utilization of the undeveloped portion of Liberty State Park, which is choice real estate overlooking the priceless Manhattan skyline.
The present plan is to construct a golf course. This has naturally polarized the community, so much so that it strikes me that the pro- and anti-golf course forces will never compromise. I'm aware that the matter is now closed to public debate, but my years of experience have suggested to me a novel solution: build a pyramid. It's a grand scheme for a grand park, and think of the views! We could charge a nominal admission (cheaper than greens fees), and have a small concession at the top selling light refreshments and perhaps educational postcards of persons of historical import: the Sun God Ra, our mayor, etc. Also, it will provide jobs for city residents. It's supposed to have taken 20,000 Egyptian slaves 20 years to build the Great Pyramid of Cheops. That's a lot of votes, Mr. Mayor.
Readers interested in researching Rosemary's idea will undoubtedly come across the 9/13/94 Jersey Journal in which several citizens submitted their own proposals in letters to the editor. Lisa R. Smith suggested a Great Adventure-type amusement park, and as Joseph R. Nichols, professed Secretary of the Liberty Park Guardians, put it, there are "hundreds of other revenue-raising ideas that would be advanced by the public, if they were given the opportunity to advance them." Such as: professional volleyball ("which generates great revenue"), horseback riding, an indoor ice skating rink, and rental of camping space ("a gold mine of income"). Ms. Veldt politely but firmly wishes to inform prospective usurpers that she thought of her particular idea first, and considers it to be copyright protected. Just another reader service provided by LR.
YOUR MOTHERS' DAY ISSUE celebrating mothers throughout history was a refreshing change of pace, and made for very pleasant reading. I might take issue with you on one very minor point, however. Laura Halloway, in her seminal 'Mothers of Great Men and Women' (Funk and Wagnals, 1883), points out that Martin Luther's mother Margaret Lindmann was "virtuous, chaste, and God-fearing," so to describe her a "a bit of a swinger" may be stretching things.
Your readers will be interested to learn that Mrs. Lindmann once beat little Martin "till the blood flowed" for stealing a hazelnut. If only today's mothers had this kind of courage!
AS A TAXPAYER I'M CONDITIONED FOR ABUSE, but not hubris, and no, I don't think hubris is too strong a word. I'm referring to the typical public service advertisement, paid for by the city -- paid for by the taxpayer, that is -- which often appears in The Jersey Journal (my hometown paper) and which, for some reason known only to God, must have our mayor's name affixed to it as if it just came off his desk.
This may be an incumbent's perk, but it is not without cost.
Let's look at an example, perhaps a bit dated but still quite valid. In the August 4th Journal there is a notice from the water department. [Ed. query: What water department?] Municipal ads run at $15.10 per column inch. Our mayor's name appears at the bottom.
I'm not going to identify him unless he pays me for the honor!
This could easily be a smaller, cheaper ad if his name, which is centered, with nothing on either side, were excised in an operation painless for the taxpayer if not for the mayoral ego. The savings? 1.5 column inches, or $22.65 off the cost of the ad. The identical notice also ran on the 5th and the 6th, for a total taxpayer bill of $67.95. For a name. Pure hubris!
This phenomenon infects city signage, as well. Let there be a new mayor and suddenly innocuous signs, even the sides of trucks, have to be repainted to reflect the changing of the guard. And sometimes the guard changes before the end of his shift in Jersey City, as I'm sure you're aware. Think of the paint! Or of the adhesive, if they're using stickers! The untold squandered man hours! If policemen were forced to waste their time in such a manner there would be a public outcry!
Such shenanigans will cease in 1997. That's right: I'm running for mayor. I know it's a little early to announce, but then, it's never too early for the truth. My slogan? 'I know it's too early, but it's never too early for the truth.' Alternate slogan: 'You won't be paying for the name'. Look for one of these on a bumper sticker soon. Which one? You decide!
If there's a law saying that the mayor is required to put his name on everything, I'll change it. That's promise number 1. I'll keep you informed about my campaign as it gather momentum (the big 'mo'). Please sign my petition when it comes your way. And write your John Hancock large, with pride! Just kidding.
I know your magazine has a policy against anonymous letters, but it's a matter of principle, for now.
LR's forward-thinking no pseudonym policy would seen to preclude our publishing such a letter. We also had to edit a few exclamation points. But his request seems uniquely appropriate, so we'll let it ride.
YOUR REVIEWER SHOULD GET HIS FACTS STRAIGHT before he writes the kind of egregious nonsense that appears in your publication under the guise of 'literary criticism' (New Biography of Tonya Harding Lacks Substance). As the author of the work in question, I would like to correct a few of the misconceptions your readers may have been left with.
First, I have written many, many books before I tackled this project, so to call me "inexperienced . . . and a little infantile" is just plain wrong.
Your biographical data were also lacking in veracity. I am from South Orange, NJ, not West Orange. Easy enough to check, no? And I am married (ah, you got something right!), but my lovely wife is named Astrid, not Enid. Also, I am not an orphan once-removed, nor am I particularly short. Talk about eccentric fact-checking!
Before becoming a writer I was a skilled color therapist, so contrary to your reviewer's clap-trap I am accredited. My interpretations of Ms. Harding's childhood are fully supported in the literature.
Then there's the small matter of my 'motives'. Contrary to your reviewer's rather 'unqualified' charge I did not pen this biography to cash in on a truly unfortunate incident. I started writing the book before the Kerrigan to-do. That should lay that little goose-egg of suspicion to rest.
LR regrets the errors, and eagerly awaits Mr. Cognat's next book, 'OJ: The Forgotten Victim'.
IN THE PARK THE OTHER DAY, just fooling around, when this
guy started having a seizure or something. One minute he was spray-painting
this statue and the next he was flat on his back, gasping and
flopping around like a fish. I wasn't doing anything, just hacking
my girlfriend's name in some bench, so I ran over to see if I
could help. Pretty soon there was a little crown of people who
had gathered just like me, to see if they could help. But nobody
was helping. Then somebody called an ambulance. By this time the
guy was a little blue, although I couldn't tell for sure, because
I'm not a medical expert. And he wasn't flopping around so much,
which may have been a good sign. The paramedics gave him mouth-to-mouth
reception. Those guys are brave. This guy was a complete stranger.
He could've had a disease. They finally got him breathing better,
then took him to the hospital. So I just wanted to thank those
paramedics. The same thing could have happened to me or to you.
I didn't get their names, but they know who they are. If I knew
who they were, I'd put their initials somewhere, too.
COVER PHOTO Drug testing for municipal workers: a good idea?