Munching on Manny
I barely crack the pages of the January 15 issue and I see pictures of a guy with an alligator and a shark. The second paragraph of Kirk Nielsen's story ("Do Not Try This at Home!") describes Manny Puig "finding a nice big gator, looking the beast in the eye, then jumping on its scaly back and taking the terrified animal for a brief ride." Thrilling? For whom, I wonder? I trust that wildlife officials will find his antics harmful to animals.

I look forward to a future article about Mr. Puig's ride on a great white. Unlike the alligator, who appears docile in his own environment, I am confident this shark will do what comes naturally: have him for lunch.

Sometimes you gotta ask yourself: Is life really that boring?
Cynthia Johnston

Welcome to the Inaugural Meeting of the Ben Greenman Fan Club
Ben Greenman's article "Real to Reel" (January 8) was majestic, spiraling upward to the atmosphere of the superb. It captured in an hourglass the experiences of so many young men who have dealt with puppy love, infatuation, and all-American lust. Teenage years -- no matter when and where they may have passed -- can claim a link to that about which Greenman has written.

Certainly the triumph of filmmaker Julie Davis is extraordinary. Her perseverance, her commitment to her art and craft, her creativity, and her fortitude in the face of seeming failure are highly admirable. But Greenman's ability to capture the essence of youth and adolescence is special, and his language is both engaging and spontaneous. Greenman as the Holden Caulfield of Palmetto High may not be a stretch. And his prose is spellbinding, notably in three passages that are the equal of any I have read over the past 40 years:

*"During a discussion of William Faulkner's 'A Rose for Emily,' [Jon] was asked by an overtaxed English teacher to define 'catatonia,' and he answered, 'It's a pasta dish with a delicious light cream sauce.'"

*"In adolescence, every day is a car wreck -- noisy, painful, and costly."
*"Laughter is incompatible with lifelessness, and not to be taken lightly."
Greenman is insightful and open, two essential attributes of a successful storyteller. That only he might write a book! Or two or three. In the interim, bring him back again and again and again.

Ted Baker

Rosie Lays Down the Law -- and it Sticks
In 1991, after three long but happy years of high school at Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, I was looking forward to the legendary "senior slump" I had heard so much about and eagerly anticipated. I had already sent in my college applications, including one to the University of Miami's "Baby Doc" six-year medical school program. My biggest goal for the 1991-92 school year was getting the vice principal to let me skip lunch period so I could take advanced placement biology in preparation for my medical career.

Then along came Rosie Heffernan, messing up my life plans. She had just finished her first year leading a class in the "We the People" competition and was eager to continue it. She approached me at the end of the 1991 school year and asked me to join her "Constitution team." I accepted, mainly because I had an empty spot in eighth period as my lunch-skipping proposition had been summarily rejected -- and because I like Rosie Heffernan a lot.

What I encountered in that class was a shared experience among twenty female students and one dynamic teacher the likes of which I have never seen since, nor do I believe I will ever see again. She was probably the most openly partisan teacher I had, a Democrat to a fault. Or perhaps I thought so because she embraced the exact opposite of every conservative leaning I had -- and still hold dear. In the midst of very different political views, she taught. And we learned.

The law embraces tenets that at times directly conflict with the Catholic beliefs that were the basis of my high school years. I did not believe that abortion was right when I joined Ms. Heffernan's class, nor do I now. I would never have argued, in front of a panel of attorneys or otherwise, that abortion should be legal.

As Kirk Nielsen noted in his article ("A Crash Course in Tolerance," January 8), Ms. Heffernan's class gave me the tools to divide the head from the heart, legally speaking. Ironically, thanks to her and her class, I learned through legal analysis to attack objectively the legal theories that are the basis of Roe v. Wade. I learned early on that the law is not always a moral compass, nor should it be. But it's sure fun to figure why or why not -- and how it could be better.

Now, six years later, I am graduating from UM's law school. At the end of my high school senior year I withdrew my medical school application and began a career collision course with the law. In the fall I will be joining a prominent Miami law firm as a civil litigator. When my mother wonders aloud why she's not going to have a doctor in the family, I just laugh -- and lay more than a little of the blame on Rosie Heffernan.

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