Austin: Swooning over Swelter
I've never set foot in a South Beach nightclub. I haven't even a passing acquaintance with the frivolity, venality, and fabulosity rampant in the world Tom Austin has covered in "Swelter" as a reporter for New Times.

I have, however, been a devoted reader, plowing to "Swelter" first with a fervor last felt when I copped a look at my dad's confidential magazines, probably before Austin was born.

The difference, of course, is that when I read Austin's trash, I was savoring the jottings of an artist. My sincere apologies for not writing sooner to tell you of my regard and appreciation of him.

I am guilt-ridden, but then, I have just returned from my front yard, where I affixed a "For Sale by Owner" sign to the gates of the home I have owned in Coconut Grove for almost twenty years.

I am guilt-ridden, but I am prepared to let it be.
I'll miss Tom Austin.
Jane Ross Scott
Coconut Grove

Austin: Swelter from the Storm
I'm sad to see Tom Austin go. I've enjoyed "Swelter" for its humanity, insight, and quirky use of language. I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.

Adam Matza
Fort Lauderdale

Drugs and Kayaks
Sean Rowe's well-written article "Bahama Trauma" (February 22), about kayaker Miguel Hernandez's traumatic experience in the Bahamas, was a thoughtful human-interest story that provided a lot of insight.

Op-BAT (Operation Bahamas and Turks-Caicos), which is an expensive collaboration of U.S. Coast Guard and DEA personnel working with Bahamian authorities to diminish drug trafficking in the area, had no right to incarcerate Hernandez in a Nassau jail, as he wasn't involved in any criminal activity.

A seasoned traveler like Hernandez, in a solo journey in a kayak looking for adventure, has the right to do what he wants as long as he is carrying a bona fide U.S. passport. Hopefully, drug smuggling in that part of the world will eventually be stopped -- when Congress decides to legalize the stuff.

Robert S. Denchfield, Sr.
Miami Beach

Digestive Tract
I would be remiss if I didn't compliment your restaurant critic, Jen Karetnick, on her astute reviewing. Many restaurant critics detail their own personal likes and dislikes, so we learn more about the critics than about the food. I've read critiques in which the reviewer writes that some dish was wonderful or was mouth-watering; the only things we've learned are that the critic carries around a set of rules in his head where his open mind ought to be A and that he's capable of salivating. Ms. Karetnick does what good critics are supposed to do: describe the subject in depth.

As a past president of a state restaurant association, I appreciate a critic who does a fair review without putting a restaurant in harm's way -- one who, by conscientious description, points out the attributes of a dish, whether positive or negative. Imperfections really should be pointed out in a relatively benign way. Rather than say, for instance, that the red snapper was old and fishy, wouldn't it be more merciful to say that the snapper was properly cooked but could have lost its life a little more recently? Oh yes, Ms. Karetnick occasionally will write that "the roast beef was cold and tough and a real disappointment," but there is really no other way to get across such information.

In my younger days as a restaurant reviewer, I once wrote that a certain dish could have been improved by the addition of anything. That kind of sarcastic remark doesn't really help anything but the writer's ego. Ms. Karetnick's comprehensively descriptive reviews, however, can indeed be helpful to potential dining-out customers as well as to restaurateurs.

Jay Tischenkel


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