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.

Kara E. Plunkett
Coral Gables

Pearly Gates Yours for Only $29.95!
I want to thank Sean Rowe for exposing the likes of "Pastor Bob" ("The Resurrection of Robert Tilton," January 1). I hope, however, that your piece did not give people the impression that Tilton's practices are unique and isolated. The belief that God is going to bless one's tithes and offerings is now commonly held in most Christian churches. The Christian mega-network TBN practically guarantees hundredfold blessings in return for one's financial gifts. One of its leaders, the Reverend Benny Hinn, claims that one cannot grow spiritually unless one gives financially.

Collecting money in church has nothing to do with the teachings of Christ, and people like Tilton know it. The Old Testament does mention tithing. Only a small percentage of Israel's population was required to tithe, and even then it was to help the poor, to help them maintain a certain measure of social justice that would ensure their survival.

The much-alluded-to "offering" went from animal sacrifices during Abraham's time to gifts for the poor during Isaiah's time. Later Jesus discouraged the building of lavish temples by teaching that "the kingdom of God is within you," and he encouraged his followers to give to the poor directly.

Giving to the poor is a fruit of salvation, according to the Bible, and not the cause of it, as Tilton and many others like him would have his followers believe.

Perhaps it would be best if people left these iconoclastic and esoteric movements and havens of worship such as Tilton's and returned to the worship of God in the home, as in the early days of Christianity -- or basements, gymnasiums, or schools, where the emphasis of worship would be not so much on what can be seen or what is gotten as on the love of God. Then maybe the poor would get some help, the worship experience would become more personal, and we'd stop dumping all this money into movements that carry some hefty expenses and that promote lifestyles much more luxurious than those of their supporters.

Manny Losada

Savannah Gets Shrunk
In light of recent reviews by theater critic Savannah Whaley, it is apparent that she does not see the importance of supporting our local theaters. It is hard enough to get an audience to come see any show with all that television has to offer (in its ignorance).

I have not seen a positive review from her. It's one thing to be critical; it's another to be menacingly vicious. It seems that Ms. Whaley has an ulterior motive behind her writing, although the only motive I can see is to prevent anyone from seeing any theater. I am not asking that she give glowing reviews for lousy theater. That would be ludicrous. But for God's sake, the audiences are slim pickings.

I'm sure we've all heard it before: "If you don't have anything nice to say...." I would rather see a blank page than have to suffer along with the actors in another one of her miserable interpretations. I'm sorry if she is an unhappy person. There's always counseling. Don't take it out on us!

Name Withheld by Request


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