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.
—Robert F. Baldwin
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.
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
— 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.
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?