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The Rec-ing Crew

Week of April 16, 2003

The Rec-ing Crew
Anywhere but here: I'm glad you ran Matthew Everett's story about the opposition to the "community center" in Carondelet Park ["Not in My Park," April 2]. I am a South City resident who resides on the north side of the park, and the comments of Alderman Matt Villa surprised me. I feel that he is trying to bring up the issues of social class and race and cover up for all the political antics city officials are notorious for pulling. I also believe that if Alderman Fred Wessels would make a visit to other wards in the area, he would see that more signs do exist.

I am in favor of the community center, but I, like Friends of Carondelet Park co-founder Birgit Spears, believe there are enough "blighted" areas of the city that could use an uplift with a center like this, other than a historic park.
Diane Santiago
St. Louis

Party at Matt's house! Alderman Matt Villa stated that the residents of the Holly Hills neighborhood who are opposed to a community center being built in Carondelet Park are against it because "they don't want poor people or African-American people in their neighborhood. They're afraid of both race and class." If I use Matt's logic and attempt to read minds like he does, I could deduce that Matt doesn't like poor people or diversity in race and class, since he resides in a $400,000 home on Holly Hills Boulevard.
Michael Szerzinski
St. Louis

The race card: Thank you for "Not in My Park." It certainly helped generate greater awareness about the potential community center in South City. But while the article served to highlight an important development issue for South City and potentially Carondelet Park, it unfortunately only focused on the same ol' angle: class, race and all of the traditional St. Louis city hot buttons. As the piece pointed out, the issues raised by individuals opposing the development are very diverse, as diverse as the people who oppose it. It is important to point out that opposition to the park's development comes from residents of multiple-stakeholder communities, not just Holly Hills, and from people with multiple cultural backgrounds.

It's a sad fact that when concerned residents challenge the city's decision to proceed with an idea, officials often present the opposition as racially motivated -- a classically divisive tactic used to divert attention from some of the core issues. In that light, Alderman Matt Villa's comment was very disturbing. In his support of the development, it seems Villa has decided to use the "race card" by saying that anyone questioning the city's ability to take care of its rec centers is doing so because of a racist or classist subtext. While Mr. Villa may very well have experienced this in discussions with some of his constituents or neighbors, he should be aware of the more pragmatic and legitimate concerns voiced by the opposition in his constituency -- concerns such as the loss of public park land, cost, maintenance, capacity and a spoiled opportunity for further development surrounding the facility. These are the concerns that are widely held by individuals who are opposed to this potential park development, and they are not motivated by anything other than pragmatism.

The article was correct about the difficulty in judging the degree of opposition. But the notion put forth by Carondelet resident Pat Eby that opposition might be "manufactured" seems superfluous, since the only manufactured aspect of the issue is the signage, and it speaks for itself.
Birgit Spears
Monica Groth Farrar
St. Louis

Bombs Away
Hit us where it hurts -- in the pants: The article on St. Louis' being a potential terrorist target gave a few good areas which dearly need to be hit ["Unreal," April 2]. Allow me to add a few more:

Walgreens drugstores: Just like those annoying Canada geese, they seem to be everywhere. There are so many, in fact, that even a dumb bomb, launched haphazardly, would hit at least one.

Potholes: Again, a dumb bomb could do the job. Just launch one in the general direction of St. Louis or St. Louis County and stand back. With any luck at all, the thing would hit an empty parking lot, where it would throw tons of debris into the air. The chance of filling any given pothole with this debris is a certainty.

Gasoline price boards: Yet another job for a dumb bomb. Trying to figure out when the price is right to buy gas is enough to drive the average motorist nuts. To protect our sanity, these signs have to go.

Oversize trousers with crotches that drag the ground: This is a job for a smart bomb. It must first figure out what it is that holds the trousers from falling all the way to the ground, then demolish that device without harming the clown who is wearing the trousers. On second thought, instead of a smart bomb, make that a brilliant bomb -- and lots of them.
Harvey Meyer
Green Park, Missouri

Hoosier Corner
Show us your hoosiers! To the parents who were offended by the "Hoosiers" cover [ Letters, April 9]: Shame on you for missing a perfect opportunity to teach your kids an important cultural lesson. Anyone knows only a hoosier would flip a kid the bird in front of his parents.

Face it -- if you live in St. Louis, you share your city with countless hoosiers. Heck, you probably have some hoosier in you whether you want to admit it or not. Give up the "Well, I never!" act and come on down to the South Side, where we will gladly demonstrate to you all the joy that hoosierdom can bring! Leave your money at home; the PBRs are on us.
Kevin Elliott
St. Louis

In Indiana they don't get it: When I moved to Indiana in 1989, I had to ask natives if it was OK to use the word "hoosier" in stories in the newspaper. I knew the University of Indiana used it as a nickname, but I wasn't sure it was acceptable in the rest of the state. All I got were blank stares. "What's wrong with 'hoosier'?" they asked.

I told them about how my mom (a native of Mt. Olive, Illinois) called us hoosiers if we didn't wash behind our ears or, later, if I punched it in the '73 Mercury Monterey to fit through a seam in traffic when leaving Kroger, or if I left KSHE cranked on the radio so it came on blasting when she started the car the next morning. "You drive/act/look/smell like a hoosier." Aw, Mom....

I could have used your piece to show my hoosier coworkers what I was talking about. I only wish there was a way I could condense it into a form that readers here could see and understand. Thanks for it, either way.
Dave Bangert, opinions-page editor
Journal and Courier
Lafayette, Indiana

Hoosiers everywhere: I've seen "hoosiers" everywhere, way beyond the vicinity of St. Louis. I saw them in New England, where I grew up: in the backwater marshes of Rhode Island (where they were (called "swamp Yankees"); on Cape Cod; in the mountains of Vermont. I also saw them in Hawaii, on the northeast coast where native Hawaiians -- as in Polynesians -- lived the same life you reserved for a special breed of "white trash."

The same divisions exist among Afro-Americans (who call their own hoosiers "niggers"). Some long-term CNN watching tells me most of the Third World lives that way. Ever been across the border in Mexico? I understand that the bulk of the Nazi brownshirts were German "hoosiers" who had given up on the long-winded Communist leadership. Isn't Saddam Hussein an Arab hoosier? Do Married ... With Children and The Simpsons have something in common with Redd Foxx?

I grew up on a rundown farm -- the owner had sold its fields to a developer in the 1950s -- and I watched suburbia spring up on the abandoned fields between the small villages. The new suburbanites put up fences and tossed their leaves and rocks over the fences into our "hoosier" farmyard. Down the road were "real" hoosiers who lived in shacks and abandoned cars. It's all relative, isn't it?

Bottom line is that it is class snobbery. My dad's family goes back 100 years in St. Louis, and I know the culture here is profoundly based on class boundaries. The county refuses to merge with the city because of "hoosier" and "nigger" fears -- same as years ago, when the city was where the rich lived and the impoverished county was refused a merger.
John Wilder
Quakertown, Pennsylvania

Just the top of the tallboy: I enjoyed your article very much -- so much that it was recommended reading to all my friends. I think you just popped the top off a tallboy, and there could be more hoosier stories to come. You've left my friends and me wanting more. And let us know when there is another White Castle dinner theater.
Peggy Trotter
St. Louis

Now they know in Iowa: I have lived in Iowa for about three-and-a-half years (former Drake University and current Iowa State student) and had to essentially cut "hoosier" from my vocabulary. Like the Supreme Court and porn, I know one when I see one, so to try and articulate all the various traits to someone who's thinking about Indiana was a pain.

Now my friends know what I'm talking about and no longer think I'm a nut with a thing for Indiana. This article was pure entertainment and some great nostalgia.
Megan Mahony
via the Internet

The Eye of the Beholders
But is it art? Ivy Cooper's review of the Richard Serra exhibition at the Pulitzer Foundation Gallery makes many references to Serra's work as it relates to architecture and construction ["The Shape of Things," March 26]. Having spent all of my life around construction sites, I could not disagree more. The heft of the pieces used by Serra more resembles [that of] debris left in a shipyard or a metal-reclamation facility. Serra's genius is not his arrangement of these pieces but his exploitation of his patrons' gullibility. Cooper makes mention of the "fragile equilibrium" and "imminent collapse" of the various pieces. If these pieces were piled on the floor, would Cooper and other swooning art critics praise them for their "silent repose" or "solemn weight"? Quite possibly, provided Serra's name was on the placard accompanying the work.

To quote Cooper: "[T]hey all demonstrate basic principles about space, structure and human perception." Of space and structure, I make no judgment. About human perception, however, they demonstrate that you can fool some of the people all of the time.
Mike Killian
St. Louis

Richard says no: I'm astonished that someone's nose could fit so far up someone's ass! Ivy Cooper praises Richard Serra beyond all reason for his "artistic" contributions to the world. To Serra and Cooper, I respond, "What crap!" I have had Serra's work inflicted on me every time I am downtown, and I cannot avoid his pieces when I visit the St. Louis Art Museum, try though I might. What Serra does is no more art than my pile of dirty laundry is, and Cooper, though quite adept at art-fag phraseology, might find her talents better suited to more noble endeavors, like writing effusive travel brochures or scripting Home Shopping Club banter for "special celebrity guests" hawking wares to the unwitting.
Richard Gaddy
St. Louis

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