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Not-So-Good-Hands People

Letters published Thursday, November 1, 2001

Another Allstate tale of woe:

Loved the article ["Good Hands People?" September 6]. I was involved in two separate accidents last year, neither of which was my fault. Both drivers had Allstate. All I will say is that my lawyer warned me they are pricks. The first accident totaled my car. So I went and bought a 2000 Ford truck and some dickweed ran a red light and hit it. Thank God I had a witness. I had just finished up a physical therapy appointment for injuries related to the first accident when I got hit the second time. I hope Allstate is slammed every time they step into a courtroom. Thanks for exposing them.


A message from the Columbia Station Tourism Board:

I thoroughly enjoyed the "Best of Planet Cleveland 2001" [September 27], and I especially agree with the choice of "Best Country Living in the City." I would like to cast an advance vote for next year's choice.

May I humbly suggest Columbia Station. It offers many of the same amenities as Russell Township: the short commute to downtown, the quiet, and the lack of crime. Columbia Station is also refreshingly removed from franchise mania. There's not a McDonald's, a homogenized chain restaurant, or a megamart to be seen anywhere.

Last (but not least), there is a sense of community that is absent in too many places. I lived in apartments in Parma and Brooklyn for four years and met just a few of my neighbors. I've lived in Columbia Station for just under two months and am already friendly with several of the neighbors.

Alas, the parade of ticky-tacky homes has just started. By next year, there may be a Super K where the IGA is now located, and a TGIFriday's is replacing the Four Keys. Consider Columbia Station as your choice for next year's "Best Country Living in the City" before it's too late.

Meghan Donovan
Columbia Station

Scene's poll toys with its audience:

C'mon. Adults judging the best toy store is like us saying which cat food tastes best ["Best of Planet Cleveland"]. Big Fun exists for nostalgic adults who are looking for a gag gift. Any other toy store is for children, who don't vote in Scene. Did you really expect a different winner?

Frank Barnett

Thanks for the Shaw High band story:

I very seldom pick up Scene. However, I'm glad I did today. I read your article about the Mighty Cardinal Marching Band ["Tuba or Not to Be," October 4]. I graduated from Shaw in 1983 and was very saddened as I watched the band dwindle. My aunt was one of the co-captain Highlighters in the 1970s. They would go to the fair in Columbus and place in competitions every time. I'm so glad to see they are growing, and I look forward to seeing them perform soon. Thanks a lot for your article.

Deneen Hatcher

You don't pick a sex; you get it at orientation:

I was extremely glad to read Laura Putre's article "Hell to Pay" [October 4], about gay black men. It is about time someone exposed local black churches for the psychological dangers they present to gay youths. It is also time someone shamed black parents into being supportive of and respectful to their gay sons and daughters. I have only one problem with the article: Time and time again, the author used the term "sexual preference." The word preference denotes something that is changeable. The preferred and more accurate term is "sexual orientation."

Tamara Adrine-Davis
Cleveland Heights

"Hell to Pay" makes the debate public:

Bravo to Laura Putre and Scene for "Hell to Pay." The intersection of race and sexual orientation has been, for too long, a region marked by painful silences and bitterly contested (though rarely public) debates about identity and community. You've helped bring those debates out into the open.

Many of us have become increasingly convinced that, if we cannot confront the issues of race, gender, and sexuality head on, we won't get very far in what should be a common fight against AIDS. Critical to progress is engagement and open dialogue.

It shouldn't have been, but the article was controversial. We've heard reports that copies of Scene have been pulled from certain locations (or destroyed) because there are two black men holding each other on the cover. On the other hand, more than a few of the people with HIV/AIDS whom we serve have said, "It can't be public, but I'm glad somebody did."

As for the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, we are extremely proud to have here on staff people like Robert Burns, Chris Coleman, and Tracy Jones (and those not mentioned in the article). Since September 11, there has been a renewed interest in the meanings and forms of heroism. This is just one more example.

Earl Pike
Executive Director, AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland

A salute to outed gay black men:

I would like to thank your publication for "Hell to Pay." Never before have I read a more realistic view of the black gay dilemma (locally or nationally). I would like to thank Laura Putre for her real-life presentation of the critical social and health issues that black gay men in Cleveland deal with.

The article dealt with the reality that there are committed monogamous relationships in the black gay community, despite the fact that there is very little social or legal support for them. Homophobic bigotry in the black churches, racism from the gay white community, the concerns of black gay youth, and the terrible fact that HIV has ravaged this community all are devastating realities. Much of this has occurred because of a lack of mobilization within the black community (and Cleveland at large) around these serious issues.

I have firsthand experience that the city has a huge community of black gay men who have chosen to stay invisible, rather than deal with the backlash that seems to come from all directions. Many of us choose extreme masculinity, hip-hop fashions, or physical fitness to hide the truth about ourselves. This is called Down Low. While it can be fashionable to be an "out" black lesbian, it can be deadly to be an "out" black gay man -- socially, spiritually, and physically. The only way to shield ourselves from the prejudices is to hold the reality of who we are as a sacred secret, only to be exposed when there is a need to express oneself, keep one's sanity, or help someone else deal with the struggles that arise out of a man's need to love another black man.

I applaud the men in the article like Robert Burns and Chris Coleman, who are "out" for those of us who cannot afford the exposure. But just as I salute them, I salute the many others who are behind the scenes making a difference. It takes a publication such as yours to present real people with real issues to a broader audience that has no idea how its prejudices and miscommunications literally have the power to destroy lives.

Stephen Johnson

Church is not the place for comfort:

After reading your article on gays and religion ["Hell to Pay"], I was truly mystified by the assumption that God and homosexuality can be reconciled. We must first understand that all sin has no place with God, and he does not view any one sin as more heinous than another sin. There is no way to biblically justify sin outside of marriage, even if it is of a homosexual nature.

There are many instances in the Bible that tell us homosexuality is wrong. Can we change the rules just because it is convenient for us? In the article, there were many references to gay people who do not feel comfortable in church. All of us sinners should not feel comfortable in God's church; everyone should be striving to follow Jesus's perfect example.

Greg Tucker
Brook Park

Music showcase? More like blowcase:

I stopped by the Symposium and Phantasy this past weekend to see what was happening with Undercurrents [Soundbites, September 20]. Nobody was there. It was pitiful. I saw bands playing in front of other bands, not for a general audience. I played in the first Undercurrents years ago, and we performed at a packed Peabody's DownUnder. We actually met several A&R reps. I understand that the Cleveland music scene is not what it used to be, but last weekend's Undercurrents was the complete opposite of what I experienced years ago. What made me even more frustrated was learning that some of the bands and musicians came from as far away as Indiana, Rochester, and New York City. The people saved their pennies and made the trip to Cleveland just to perform in front of other bands.

Were there A&R reps there? Probably not. Hell, nobody was there. Was there an ad campaign? How is it that someone from Indiana would know that Undercurrents is happening when 99 percent of Cleveland doesn't know? My message to the Undercurrents staff is this: Either end it now or put more effort and cash into it. I can just hear those bands going home and saying, "Man, Cleveland sucks." What a frickin' shame.

Charley Newcomer

Get back to good ol' American principles:

Bravo on your October 4 commentary about Bill Maher ["Crushing a Contrarian"]. The biggest "crisis" we face now is not whether or not we "get" the terrorists, but whether we can, in the face of this tragedy, maintain our observance of and work toward justice and our basic values of democracy, including free speech and liberty. More than ever, we need to lead by example and adhere to the principles that made America a beacon for immigrants in the past. This country should be a haven for law-abiding freethinkers and those of different religions. We should not stamp out those seeking to create political and social debate. Open expression of thought is the basis of the First Amendment.

Ed Skoch
Seattle, Washington

The price of free speech:

While I agree with most of Bill Maher's comments, I do not agree with Ms. [Jill] Stewart's hypocrisy. (On the surface, Maher's comments are offensive, but they make good sense when he explains them.) If her goal is to be regarded as a fair and objective commentator, she failed. I believe free speech also extends to the Houston radio hosts and those who called to complain about what Maher said. Surely, Maher is not so sacred as to be above criticism.

Mike Maletik

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