Letters for May 31 to June 6, 2007
Circle of Friends
The news about these Bulldogs was all good: I scrolled past this story the first 2 times I came across links for it online today as I perused my home Houston Press site ("The Bad News Bulldogs," Thomas Francis, May 24). The third time the link confronted me, I finally realized that your story was about Special Olympics. As a longtime coach, I was hooked. Your article was great, capturing exactly what it is like to be fortunate enough to have among your circle of friends some folks with functional disabilities. Life is richer. I feel sorry for people who don't have mentally challenged friends. Aren't you glad you do?
Houston, Texas Own up, Tom: You had fun. Why can't you just admit it?
Name withheld by request
Via the Internet
Don't Splatter the Good Guys
The DJ is just a sweetheart: I'm writing to complain about Jonathan Cunningham's story on my old friend Drew Carter, AKA Grandmaster Dee of Whodini. ("Freaks Come Out at Night," May 17). I worked closely with Whodini between 1984 and 1990. They remain my friends.
Cunningham called me a month or two ago to say that Drew had moved to Florida and that New Times wanted to do a story on him. Great. I happily spoke to Cunningham for a full hour about the good old days and in particular about Drew, who is a famously lovable person. Imagine my dismay to read his story and find myself quoted first about Whodini's drug abuse and then about their freakish sexual presentation (and finally about Drew's skills on the turntables). I'm not saying I didn't comment on these matters, but these remarks were cherrypicked with what appears to be malicious intent out of a lengthy and overwhelmingly admiring interview.
Cunningham's overall picture of Drew is even more disturbing. He gives the DJ due respect as a performing artist but otherwise paints him repeatedly as a drunken fool.
Whodini's career has been an open book. They grew up without much money in Brooklyn, hit it big for a while on the basis of their musical talent and good looks, toured the world, enjoyed the high life, and then fell off. We've all seen it a thousand times on Behind the Music. But here's the twist. No one's in rehab. No one's in jail. No one's dead. And no one's slinging burgers at a fast-food joint. These guys moved from the frozen North to the warm and welcoming South and continue to make money in 2007, entertaining people who remember them fondly from back in the day. It's the rare showbiz story with a happy ending. But that's not how Cunningham plays it. The tone of his story is tinged with unaccountable suspicion and contempt, and that is what I find objectionable.
New York, New York
Gimme No Alibis
Camilo gets no slack from ex-buddies: I was a fellow squad leader with Camilo Mejía during the initial part of our deployment ("Camilo's Retreat," Francisco Alvarado, May 3). Mejía was selected to be a squad leader and later promoted to staff sergeant because he demonstrated the abilities to handle that job, at least during peacetime training. During our two months of force-protection missions in Jordan, I was his first-line supervisor. At this time, he did not seem to have a problem with the job at hand. He later was moved to another platoon; therefore, I have less knowledge of his combat performance overall while in the other platoon, as I had my own platoon to care for. There are several facts that are not exactly correct with this article, and I feel they need to be straightened out.
Any noncommissioned officer who deserts the soldiers put under his guidance, mentoring, and leadership while combat operations are being conducted is a coward; there is no splicing, mincing, or softening this fact.
During our time at the mobilization site, when Mejía was selected as a squad leader, he had the option to declare himself a conscientious objector. We had one soldier do just that, and he was processed for separation. Mejía accepted his charge knowing we were going to war.
Mejía states that on January 14, 2003, when he was at the armory cleaning weapons, "there was a lot of chatter that our battalion was being activated." The fact is, we knew about the activation several days before and we were already completing the necessary paperwork, inventories, deployment rosters, etc., in order to deploy. We were given a couple of days to take care of personal business and left for the mobilization site on January 16, 2003. It was fast, but we had a very good idea a few weeks in advance, due to a sister battalion's having already been activated. So there were no surprises.
Mejía was tried by military court-martial (this is a trial, not a tribunal) and convicted of desertion. His one-year sentence by the military court means that Mejía is now a convicted felon. His current immigration/citizenship status should be in question.
Name withheld by request
Francisco Alvarado responds: The letter writer is correct in highlighting errors on my part. However, "Camilo's Retreat" is hardly a one-sided account of Mejía's desertion, as evidenced by interviews with his commanding officers, who unabashedly questioned Mejía's courage and disputed his version of events when he was deployed in Iraq.
Because of a production error, the text of the cover story in New Times' May 24 issue was published partly out of sequence. For a corrected version of the story, visit the New Times website, www.browardpalmbeach.com, and click on "The Bad News Bulldogs."
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