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Mike Penner's Difficult Life 

Thursday, Aug 26 2010
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Readers had plenty to say on topics that touched on all the L.A. food groups: surfing, burgers, serial killers and transgenderism.

Steve Friess' story about late Los Angeles Times sportswriter Mike Penner's struggle and suicide after trying to become a woman named Christine Daniels brought many thoughtful responses, starting with this one, from Roxanne Edwards:

"Can anyone truly understand the deep hurt and longing that drove this dear person to such despair? The contrast between the euphoria and the losses we experience is what makes us so vulnerable when we transition our gender. ... C/M was faced with the choice to live authentically while losing the love of their life. How would you react? Please, if you have compassion in your soul, and know someone going through transition, show kindness and love."

Caroline writes about her own struggle. "Like her, I am transgendered, on hormones, and out at work. ... The internal angst that most transgendered people face over the decisions they have to make ... we ask ourselves, 'Do I love myself enough to transition even if that means those I love may not understand?'

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"Unfortunately, love neither creates this medical condition nor does it cure it. For others, it literally is a choice between a bullet and a dress."

Finally, Babamoto gives a salute to Penner's professional skills: "As a longtime reader of Mike's sportswriting, it should be noted that Penner was a great writer. I miss being able to see his and Christine's byline."

So do we.

SURFERS VS. SWIMMERS

It's a big ocean, and there ought to be space enough for both swimmers and surfers. That was the message from readers responding to Tibby Rothman's story about Venice surfers' complaints that too often this year, the Venice Breakwater is being closed to surfing — a practice called blackballing.

Derek W. Zirkle says: "Blackballing is dangerous to surfers crowded into an area. They need to set up smaller (10 yards wide) designated swimming areas with their flags. Three swimmers were knee-deep at Topanga today, and at least 15 surfers were told to move 50 yards north with no blackball out."

A reader identified as Mick writes: "Decent surf spots in L.A. are hard to come by, and waves going unridden in the afternoon because three swimmers enter the water. Too many boundaries on land already exist; let's keep them out of the water."

Lucien Belmont has a different view. "While I can excuse a bit of poetic license to liven up a rather mundane controversy, this article's implied arguments are weak and too subjective. The report describes this summer as 'dismal.' ... Dismal for surfers at the Venice Breakwater? Maybe. Dismal for the millions of Angelenos? Absolutely not. It's one of the most pleasant summers of the decade."

Finally, Brian Humphrey of the Los Angeles Fire Department corrects one point: "Fire Department Chief Deputy of Emergency Operations John Tripp is a proud and highly respected leader within the Los Angeles County Fire Department, and not the Los Angeles Fire Department, which is a separate agency."

Point made, Brian. Thanks. We hereby blackball ourselves.

SO, THEN, HOW DID HE LIFT THE BODIES?

If you are suspected of being a serial killer, ripping off the city for a rotator-cuff injury seems pretty tame. But it wasn't to readers of Christine Pelisek's story about Lonnie Franklin Jr., who's charged with the Grim Sleeper killings.

Reader Adrian Brooks Collins writes: "The entire disability-benefits system has to be comprehensively overhauled. ... When it's that easy to get, the word spreads quickly. But a review has to be met with a compassionate evaluation system so that those who honestly are injured continue to get support."

Other readers weren't so gentle:

"You have GOT to be fucking kidding me," writes LadyLiberty. "Killer or not, Franklin has been milking the system for years and will be able to continue to do so. Anyone want to march on City Hall? I didn't think so — we all know that wouldn't change anything."

RobE says: "A rotator cuff can be surgically repaired. He was about as permanently disabled as I am (and I'm perfectly healthy)."

Or, as Dee Long puts it: "Well, isn't that lovely — the city is closing libraries while a serial killer gets a big, fat pension check every month. RECALL THE MAYOR AND THE CITY COUNCIL!!"

GOLD WITH RELISH

Our own Jonathan Gold. Hamburgers. N.Y. versus L.A.

Need we say more?

Gold reviewed L.A.'s Burger Kitchen, and Dean Curtis doesn't think it measures up: "I've had the pleasure of eating Minetta Tavern's Black Label burger [in New York], and not only is the meat outstanding, but so is the house-made sesame-seed brioche bun and all the condiments. The burger at Minetta comes in a manageable size, while this one looks impossible to eat unless you take it apart. This burger doesn't look like it's worth $26."

Liisa Lee writes: "Jonathan, first, I adore you. I read with relish each Thursday column in L.A. Weekly. ... THAT SAID — My dear man, your opening premise in this article is sorely (and if you're not sore, let me wallop you one to drive this point home) mistaken about NYC being bereft of a burger.

"One name: JG Melon. If you haven't been to this Upper East Side icon, then you haven't had a burger in NYC."

Sam says: "With the obsession to detail in N.Y. that most restaurants in L.A. lack, I'm sad to admit that they have surpassed us in the burger category as well. However, I absolutely loved the Silverton/Pressman burgers at Canele and at the Farmers Market."

And finally, Daniel, co-owner of Burger Kitchen and son of proprietor Alan Saffron, says: "Thank you so much for your review, Mr. Gold. I'm sorry I never got to meet you in person."

Oh, puhleeze. We've met Mister Gold. We'd rather be slicing shallots.

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