A Life at the Races
Take in Hialeah Park while you can: I had to write and congratulate Gaspar González and photographer Steve Satterwhite for the exceptional article and photo essay on what is still the most glorious racetrack in America: Hialeah Park ("The Last Pony Show," March 8).
I became a lifelong fan at the very end of the golden days of horseracing in the New York City area in the mid-Seventies. I watched Seattle Slew win the Triple Crown in 1977. Then I invested the grand sum of $10.50 to mail away for ten reserved seats ($1.50 each!) for my friends and I for the 1978 Belmont Stakes. Incredibly we lucked out and sat on the second level -- right between the sixteenth pole and the finish line -- as Affirmed and Alydar battled through what is arguably the greatest horserace in history.
I don't recall the exact attendance, but probably between 50,000 and 75,000 fans were there. I can still remember everyone screaming, not cheering but screaming, for the final mile in a one-and-a-half-mile race as these two battled back and forth and changed leads at least a half-dozen times. Affirmed finally squeaked by to win the race by a neck or so and won the Triple Crown. I still get chills thinking about it. It is the greatest sporting event I ever attended, and I've been to the World Series, saw the U.S. Olympic hockey team in Lake Placid, and have been to numerous NHL and NBA playoff games.
I eventually began an odyssey to visit as many racetracks as I could, and I've been to many, both large and small, including Saratoga, Del Mar, and Hollywood. But there is no comparison to Hialeah -- well manicured, colorful, and just oozing with history. You can literally feel the ghosts walking through the complex. Gaspar González did a fantastic job in conveying that to the reader. I took my future wife there on our first date when she visited from Tampa in 1994, and we have been back many times since.
Sadly there has been no Triple Crown winner since Affirmed almost 25 years ago. It seems horseracing blood stock has been diluted by overbreeding, just as the gaming and entertainment industry has been diluted by lotteries, casinos, and so on. Still it is the sheer athletic ability of the horses and the beautiful surroundings that make Hialeah so special.
Even a nonprofitable afternoon at Hialeah is a very memorable and rewarding experience. Owner John Brunetti and his staff should be proud of what they have accomplished through some difficult times. Everyone should visit this piece of history this spring, especially if its days are, in fact, running out.
A Different Kind of Veterans Day
This guy deserves some help -- now: Regarding Susan Eastman's story about Jack Giralt ("The Eviction Addiction," March 8), he is a Korean War veteran and should not have to suffer and struggle to find a decent and affordable apartment. In South Beach alone there are at least five subsidized high-rise complexes with hundreds of apartments. Someone in the Miami Beach Housing Authority should immediately secure him an apartment.
Mr. Giralt fought for our country, and he deserves priority for these apartments, as do all other veterans. They deserve all the help and courtesy we can give them.
Now there's a headline you won't see in the New York Times: Jen Karetnick is to be commended for her informative and readable articles about mad cow disease ("Dish," March 1, March 8, and March 15). Writing of this caliber is usually found in the New York Times.
It's scary to think that mad cow disease isn't just a European problem anymore.
Highstown, New Jersey
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Boldly naive ignoramuses: A self-proclaimed "Wisconsin Cheesehead" living in Pinecrest, one Martin Theodores from New York City, and Paul Waters from Miami Beach all take issue ("Letters," February 22) with Kathy Glasgow's article "A Cuban Idyll" (February 8). I hope these fellow citizens are not representative of the readers of Miami New Times, as they all show a high degree of not only ignorance but of boldness in talking about the reality of life in Cuba.
One does not need too much intelligence to understand that Kathy Glasgow's trips to Cuba are dependent on the diplomacy she applies in writing about the social and political conditions of life under the totalitarian regime of crazy dinosaur Fidel. As soon as Kathy speaks or writes openly in Miami about the tyranny, she will be precluded from going back to the enslaved island. And she needs to go back in order to produce at least some light that will get through the heavy propaganda and censorship curtain of the system.
When Kathy tries to raise the curtain a little bit and inform us, between the lines, of the reality of life in Cuba, these well-intentioned but naive American readers jump on her, not believing or not wanting to believe what every half-smart person already knows: Cuba is dying from starvation not because of some (nonexistent) American blockade but because of the total failure of a system that was a complete failure in Russia, the Eastern Bloc nations, and North Korea, and which would be in China were it not for financial support from the United States and other Western countries.
What Cuba is Martin Theodores talking about when he cites seven areas of progress under Castro? He probably was dreaming about a Cuba on planet Saturn, or maybe he has been reading and believing Granma too much lately. It would be stupid on my part to attempt to refute here the "progress" Theodores says he finds in Cuba after the revolution -- stupid and futile, since everyone is entitled to remain attached forever to his own ignorance of the facts. This seems to be the case with these three New Times readers.
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Our Town in a Nutshell
Pugnacious Cubans and redneck mouth-breathers: It is unfortunate that so many people only focus on negatives and don't care to see anything positive in the cultures and people with whom we coexist. This is the case with Paul Waters of Miami Beach, who wrote in response to Kathy Glasgow's article "Cuban Idyll." Mr. Waters chose to characterize the entire Cuban community in Miami by referring to a fistfight between two politicians. That is like me characterizing the entire Anglo community in Miami by referring to a group of Homestead inbreeds waving Confederate flags and carrying racist anti-Cuban signs.
Mr. Waters claims that "Castro's socialist dictatorship, which we so often vilify, has somehow left its peoples' soul the room to flower." The difference in Cuba is that people are helping out each other in the face of adversity and oppression, and they are surviving, just as our own community banded together after Hurricane Andrew, and the same way many of us are helping our brothers in El Salvador right now.
Most of us are hard-working people and have contributed much to this city. It doesn't matter to Mr. Waters, though. He only cares to see negatives.