By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
ON THE RAILS
I just finished reading Ben Ehrenreich’s story “Hobohemians” [ July 26–August 1], and felt renewed and energized. I sometimes wonder why I write and work as an editor for an alternative newspaper. Ehrenreich’s story reminded me of the types of stories that I hope I can discover, uncover and tell. And it made me forget all the usual things people think about L.A.
The recent piece on modern hoboes is the first newspaper article I’ve seen on this subject that tells it like it is. At the age of 68, I don’t ride as often as I used to, but I still enjoy reading about it. Believe me, it’s hard to find well-written, well-illustrated pieces like this one. Congratulations to the editors, the sensitive author and “Virginia Slim,” whom I already know from the hobo world.
I was at the Dunsmuir hobo gathering, and witnessed other parts of the drama recorded by the Weekly reporter. Congratulations to the editors to allow — for once — an honest journalistic piece on a hidden but continuing stream of American experience. Most of the stuff on TV and newspapers drips with the myth-driven bias of the railroads, who try to convince the public that many current riders are desperately sick, thugs, dope dealers or even violent murderers.
—Banjo Fred Northridge
After 30 years of riding freights and eight or so years of reading about it on the Net, I want to congratulate your magazine on publishing the most informative and unbiased article yet on freight-hopping. This is as close as it comes to the “real thing.” There really is a community here, and we’re about as far from mother-rapers and father-stabbers as you can get. Thank you!
—North Bank Fred
I enjoyed Ben Ehrenreich’s article about the Dunsmuir gathering, but found it odd that he neglected to mention that Sarah George’s train documentary Catching Out screened after the Railroad Days Parade, especially considering that two of the film’s characters (Lee and North Bank Fred) are mentioned in the article. It’s a strange omission, considering the detail with which he describes the rest of his time there.
Your cover feature on the subculture of train-hopping hoboes was the latest in a long line of articles which, regrettably, glorify the hobo lifestyle. As president of Operation Lifesaver Inc. (www.oli.org), a national nonprofit group seeking to end the nearly 1,000 preventable pedestrian deaths and injuries each year on railroad tracks and property, I appreciated the editor’s final comment on the dangers of hoboing. However, that brief disclaimer doesn’t go far enough to dissuade young people who might decide to take their chances. Law-enforcement folks have better things to do than pick up the pieces, especially kids who die because some feel-good article leads them to believe it’s okay to hop trains or hang out on the tracks.
LOWERING THE RADAR
Bravo to Jay Babcock’s “Empire of Doom” [cover story, August 2–8], about homegrown indie labels. All too often, struggling small labels are completely under the radar of their local media, even despite recognition abroad. Cataloging a sampling of labels was a great idea as well.
Greg Burk, author of “Man vs. Cat” [A Considerable Town, August 2–8], is a naive, lazy, selfish, cruel sicko who made no effort to solve a problem other than using torture and terror tactics — determined as he was to find a quick and easy solution, even if it put an innocent animal in danger. For future reference, the Feral Cat Society (www.feralcatalliance.org) — a group that arranges for free medical treatment, including vaccinations and neutering — provides free and humane cat traps, cleverly designed so as not to hurt the animal. It worked like a charm on two wild cats in my area, who now are both safe and healthy in their new homes.
—Jeff Kushner Los Angeles
NEITHER THE FIRST NOR THE LAST
In the last issue’s Film Pick of the Week, Hazel-Dawn Dumpert claims that The Sixth Sense was M. Night Shyamalan’s debut film. Was the research too much for her? Or did she call it his debut because it’s the first one she saw, or the first one that made money?