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October 10, 2005


No Laughing Matter
Open mikes aren’t generally for public consumption; they’re workout rooms for comedians, and making any kind of observations or judgments based on performances viewed would be much like peering over the shoulder of a seasoned writer as he or she worked up a first rough draft [“One Night. Five Open-Mike Shows. Hundreds of Lousy Jokes,” by Adam Sternbergh, October 3]. And P.S.: I’m not a “400-pounder.” It’s 475 pounds!
— “Angry Bob” Carbo, Flushing

The Mayor and his Money” [by Chris Smith, October 3] was a fair characterization of Mayor Bloomberg. He may not have started as a politician, but Bloomberg is most definitely a politician today. I had the opportunity to work with him at Salomon Brothers, and I know that we learned more about the city from the trading desk there than we could have learned anywhere else. Now those skills have helped him re-create the city as a product to be marketed. The mayor understands that we live in an era of branding. He sees things that others don’t, and perhaps that’s the best reason to vote for him in November.
—Steven A. Ludsin, Manhattan

While my heart goes out to Maria Pesantez’s family, their anger is wrongly displaced onto Mellie [“Maria and Mellie Got Lost,” by Robert Kolker, September 26]. As a friend of Mellie Carballo’s, I can confidently say that it’s impossible to imagine Mellie “roping” anyone into doing drugs, pressuring anyone to go someplace they didn’t want to go, or using force, flattery, or foul play as a means to an end. Mellie was, hands down, the most good-natured person I’ve ever met, and she is missed every day. The Pesantez family needs to take a hint from the Carballos and use Maria’s tragic death to help others realize how dangerous teen drug use really is.
—Lia Belardo, Westchester, N.Y.

Cold Prickly
As a provider of syringe exchange to homeless youths on the Lower East Side, I’ve worked with a number of young people who stayed at the apartment featured in “The Heroin Den Next Door” [September 26]. These “dens” are for people abandoned by a social system that fears and despises drug users. Hepatitis C, fatal overdose, and physical and sexual assault are outcomes of housing and drug policies that exclude drug users not ready, willing, and able to accept narrowly defined drug treatment. If we had decent housing programs available to drug users before they kick the habit, or safer injection rooms similar to those in Europe and Canada where IV-drug use is supervised to keep people from overdosing or sharing needles, then maybe these addicts wouldn’t be sleeping in Union Square, or poking for a vein for 45 minutes, alone, or dying of overdose at a rate of nearly 1,000 per year in our city.
—John Welch, Manhattan
Program Director, Safe Horizon Streetwork, Lower East Side

Band Camp
As a mother of a Penn State marching- band member who performed during Marc Jacobs’s fashion show, I was disappointed with Emma Rosenblum’s condescending point of view in “Penn State’s Big Fashion Week Field Trip” [“Intelligencer,” September 26]. She describes the band as dancing with “effusive nerd abandon,” and points out the gaucheness of their “plasticky blue-and-white uniforms”—as if they were paid professionals. The Blue Band received the 2005 Sudler Trophy, the most prestigious award a collegiate marching band can receive, and the featured twirler enjoys a national ranking as an elite champion.
—Carol R. Loy, Pittsburgh, Penn.

Begging for Change
I could barely believe the discrepancy between the salaries of a soldier ($18,444) and a panhandler ($24,000) in your coverage of New York salaries [“Who Makes How Much,” September 26]. I really wonder why all those young men are in the military when they could do better on the streets of New York City.
—Patricia S. Smith, Brooklyn

After reading “W.’s Hurricane” [“The Imperial City,” September 19], I would urge Kurt Andersen to stop for a moment and consider what he’s saying. He writes, “To people in this Bush-hating metropolis, the damage to George Bush amounts to a silver lining of the hurricane.” Really? So he thinks that more than 1,000 innocent lives lost are a small price to pay for tarnishing George Bush and the Republicans?
—Gene Loprowski, Chicago, Ill.

The Riddler
Is Will Shortz, the Times’ crossword editor, once again testing our ability to decipher clues [“Letters: Money Talks,” October 3]? By telling us that his $90,000 salary is no longer current, is he telling us it’s now higher (due to inflation and seniority) or lower (due to corporate efforts to reduce employee compensation)? He’s left us to ponder this question, and if I had to guess higher or lower, I’d have to know how many letters the clue allows.
—Leon Mitrani, Manhattan

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