Letters for June 6, 2002
Caution, E-Yente ahead: In regard to Wyatt Olson's May 23 cover story, "Mismatch," thank you for a well-written and, in my opinion, balanced, sensitive, and fair article. His reporting coincides with my experience with Helena. I am, like a man mentioned in the article, someone who simply answered an ad that described a mythical lady and then found Helena's dating service at the other end of the phone. She didn't charge me a fee, though I did go out with several people.
Of course, the person I liked the best was younger than me, and so concerned about her fee that, after meeting me, she preferred to get her money back rather than go out again. We actually spent most of the time during our brief date discussing whether I had paid a fee. Though I didn't lie, I tried to hem and haw, feeling a certain misguided loyalty to Helena. I learned about the astronomical and outrageous size of her fees only recently, so, in retrospect, my ego was not shattered.
While Helena is probably in large part a con artist and her use of psychological profiling, recently complemented by handwriting analysis, largely a scam to provide a legal, financial justification for her fees, there also seems to be some kind of "Jewish Mother" sincerity within her complicated personality. I think you caught that especially well in the article. Who really knows if legendary historical shadchanim were any different?
The only important point you may have missed in your piece is that her service is becoming a relic because, more and more, it is being swamped by much less expensive Internet outfits like JDate, which manage to do the same thing that Helena does. For people with even a modest level of computer competence, do-it-yourself, wholesale matchmaking has replaced high-end retail.
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Hustler on the Roof, maybe? I enjoyed your article on Helena Amram and her matchmaking business. The references to Jewish-theme movie classics like Fiddler on the Roof and Barbra Streisand's Yentl, and your frequent use of appropriate quotes from them for comparative illustration was superb! I mean, a cute and yet professional tactic for driving the point home.
I have one favor to ask of New Times. Right now, Amram is presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, if she is eventually convicted of fraud, you must give us a sequel about her matchmaking files, and you must name it Swindler's List.
Who can remember the name of that defunct tab? Thank you for deeming my little rag, Slug, as Best Local Zine in your 2002 Best of Broward-Palm Beach issue (May 16). However, I have some questions:
1. How can an esteemed publication like New Times mistake the name of my previous magazine? Especially when you've written about it before. It was called the Free Press, not Free Times. If you had searched your own archives, you would've noticed that New Times called the Free Press "a mediocre rag" (November 1998) with "vapid, first-grade commentary" (April 1999). I think I liked it better when you hated me but were accurate.
2. Also in April 1999, you called me a "so-called editor" and the "loser of Palm Beach." But in your best-of issue, I'm "undeniably irrepressible" and even "very, very good." How could your opinion of me change so much in three years, when I'm essentially the same asshole I've always been?
3. If my zine was so goddamn good, how come you still won't hire me? I see Steve Ellman's byline in your pages all the time, and he was also a Free Press/Free Times editor. In fact, his vapid commentary seldom rose above a preschool level. Only my skills as a Sun-Sentinel-trained journalist succeeded in raising it to a first-grade level.
I look forward to the smug yet amusing headline you'll put on top of this letter.
Are you listening, Lori? Does anyone remember that routine by George Carlin from a few years ago? The one where he gets to the root problem of homelessness? "The problem," says Carlin, "is that there's no money in it." What he meant is that no one has figured out how to help the homeless and make a profit at the same time.
Wyatt Olson's May 9 story, "Room at the Inn," makes clear that Sean Cononie has solved that problem. The guy has somehow figured out how to feed, house, and provide jobs to hundreds of homeless people and run a successful corporation in doing so. And incredibly, he hasn't required taxpayer money to accomplish this feat. How have the homeless crusaders responded? By filing lawsuit after lawsuit against him.
I am outraged by this. Government bureaucrats think that only they know what's good for the homeless. They refuse to allow any aid to go to the homeless unless it comes out of government coffers or taxpayers' pockets. What arrogance to think that they have a monopoly on aiding the homeless. How much are these lawsuits costing the public? Wouldn't those funds be better spent on a few more shelters, beds, or meals for the needy?
I don't know Sean Cononie. And I don't know whether he's a saint or a class-A jerk. But the county shouldn't try to fool the public by pretending that these lawsuits are for the public good. They are personal vendettas by neohippie pencil pushers. Drop the lawsuits, and work things out at the bargaining table. The homeless need aid, not lawsuits.
A crying shame: Ashley Fantz's March 21 story, "A Queer Law," brought tears to my eyes. It was a very well-written piece. I actually did not know that gays and lesbians as single people were not able to adopt. I thought it was only gay couples.
Bravo to Fantz and New Times for taking the time and interest in something as important as gay adoption.
Crying ignorance: This is to congratulate Ashley Fantz on the fine article she wrote on gay parents. New Times always prints the best stories, and hers is "top of the list." Unfortunately, we have a large number of ignorant legislators. Your story may help. I'm going to write to my brilliant governor.
Please keep up the good work. The key word is ignorant.
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