Letters for the week of July 3-9, 2002 

Give St. Clair a pink slip, give SoCal burritos their due, and give ICN nurses a hand.

Pass the dutchie
Katy St. Clair's article ("Roots Radics," June 5) reveals an overt racism towards "white boys," or what she disparagingly calls "honkies." Furthermore, she should not report on things she knows absolutely nothing about.

First of all, calling the entire genre of reggae "essentially all the same song" is like saying all of jazz sounds like Kenny G, which is complete nonsense. If she doesn't like the music, that's fine. But please do not allow her to insult the entire reggae community by making such comments when she clearly doesn't know the first thing about the music and its various subgenres. Calling the music "homogeneous" is a slap in the face to those who work hard at their craft. The Express is notorious for this type of biased, unbalanced "reporting." An ethnomusicologist she clearly is not. She may want to take a music class before her next "assignment."

Secondly, calling a 21-year-old man a "boy" -- black or white -- is not only offensive, but is also meant to demean the stature of an individual who is clearly an adult. If I were to call a black man "boy" in print, I would probably be lynched in People's Park. But I am sure that Ms. St. Clair is immune from such criticism in the world of political correctness.

Lastly, calling any white person a "honky" is akin to other offensive racially disparaging terms such as "cracker," "wetback," "nigger," and "gook." Shame on you.

As a melanin-challenged person who has been playing the music both here and abroad for many years, I am aware of the common misperceptions that white people can't possibly play black music, especially reggae. These stereotypes are often reinforced in print by the likes of ignorant racists such as Ms. St. Clair. This flies right in the face of the fact that some the greatest reggae musicians in the world are an admixture of many races, much like the Jamaican people themselves.

I hope you have enough sense to give her a pink slip for such insensitivity, ignorance, and overt racism. Until that time, the Express is going to the bottom of the bird cage, where it belongs.
Prince Red-I, Berkeley

Not skinny, not super, but just right
I am writing to set you straight on San Diego burritos. In your review of Krung Thep ("Pass the Crunchy Mummies," June 5) you wrote that Rubio's Tacos specializes in "skinny southern California burritos." There is no such thing. I spent the last seventeen years living in San Diego, and I ate a significant portion of my meals in taco shops (not taquerias, a Northern California name) and consumed many a burrito. If you go to any "authentic" (a silly word, but signifying any taco shop in San Diego County selling a carne asada burrito for around $2.85 and a bean-and-cheese for about $2.25), you will find that the burritos are far from "skinny."

Order a carne asada burrito, and you will be presented with a paper-wrapped -- not tinfoil like they do it up here, which tends to steam the tortilla and make it too soggy -- burrito that takes two hands to hold. It has substantial heft and feels comfortable in your hands; however, it is not as overstuffed as the "fat (overpriced) burritos" from the taquerias around here. Local burritos acquire their fatness from being stuffed with filler -- lettuce, undercooked pinto beans, and an excess of rice. Buy a burrito in SoCal, and it will be stuffed with what it was named. If you order a chicken burrito, it's pure stewed chicken. Order carnitas, and it's just carnitas. The "skinny burrito" served by Rubio's does not represent SoCal burritos, and there is no archetypal southern Californian "skinny burrito." People in Southern California know that you go to Rubio's for the fish tacos, which are decent, not for their lame, ineffectual burritos. Please get your facts straight before spreading misconceptions about San Diego burritos. Next time you are down south, head to any true taco shop, order a bean and cheese or a machaca, and experience a true burrito without the filler or silly names. By the way, you won't find any "super burritos"; the regular size is just right.
Colin Goodwin, San Leandro

You gotta wonder what Jacques Barzaghi's Web site says
I have a friend who likes to look at the code on Web pages. I recall that when JB's campaign site (7 Days, June 12) went online during his first run for mayor, she discovered that the file name for the platform page was called "Spock's Brain." Jes' thought I'd share it wit'cha!
Jay Leonhardy, Berkeley

Mayor Moonrocks
William F. Buckley once asked Jerry Brown: "What are you smoking?"

Jerry has been playing "Personality" for most of his adult life. He is a manufactured, contrived, vacuous product of a political entity. He is a curio to those who need an image but not for those who need a substance.

If we need to "Explore the Universe," (7 Days, June 12) we need not go very far: I am afraid that we got a pile of moon rocks, right here in Oakland, for the next four years!
Rob March Harper, Oakland

A team like no other
I was happy to see the heroines of the Children's Hospital intensive care nursery (ICN) featured in a news article ("Divine Secrets of the Yo-Yo Sisterhood," June 5). How long could the Bay Area overlook this medically excellent and spiritually elevating team of health caregivers that goes so far beyond the lowered expectations we adults have of the medical establishment?

As I learned while my newborn daughter recovered from pulmonary hypertension during an eighteen-day stay in the ICN in April, Children's Hospital is different. By the end of our stay, I felt honest-to-God love for our neonatologist, Dr. Tannenbaum, and even hugged her when we said good-bye. I felt equally fond of and indebted to our two primary care nurses, Betty Bermudez and Ahn Zaw.

Our daughter Cassidy survived her illness, and, for my part, what I witnessed in the ICN was tiny babies thriving, essentially getting well. I saw experienced veteran nurses teaching the resident physicians. I never saw a baby crying, inconsolable and alone. When our baby had her trials, she was held and comforted by the nurses when we couldn't be with her. As she convalesced, the nurses allowed me, to the extent that I could, to be her nurse and primary caregiver. I was never ill-treated by a doctor or a nurse; quite the contrary. The hospital was supportive of new mothers who want to breast-feed, providing "industrial-grade" pumps for rent and privacy rooms for pumping.

This place is blessed with people who work as teams, like I've never seen or experienced previously in the modern workplace. If more media attention were spent exposing these wonderful people and the rewarding work they do, we wouldn't be facing a nursing shortage in the near future. I hope the medical establishment will wake up and give them all the giant pay raises they deserve.
Janet Burggraf, Livermore

Conduits of healing
As a senior member of the "Yo-Yo Sisterhood," I would like to thank the Express and Laura Novak for her wonderful article. Because of my many years in the field, I would like to respond to Laura's question at the end of her story, "What invisible motor propels these extraordinary women through the endless detritus of others' lives?"

We are the kind of nurses that thrive on intensive care. Babies can turn on a dime, with the margin of error being nonexistent. We like the excitement, the challenge, and the thrill of satisfaction from doing a good job. There is nothing to compare with the feeling of using one's own gifts for the power of healing.

ICN nurses are known to be independent and opinionated practitioners. Most nurseries have the most intense patients in one large room, so we perform our care shoulder-to-shoulder with our peers. Hence, the Yo-Yos are mutually supportive, helping out other nurses if assignments get overwhelming, as well as jumping in to help with procedures at which we may be especially skilled. Part of the secret motor is the unfailing help we get from all who are with us in this endeavor. In a hospital like Kaiser there is a team of support, from managers to unit assistants, housekeeping, and staffers that help us do our job. But the main part of that motor is that we become conduits of healing that gives a blessing and grace that can only be understood by those who serve. Helping mothers like Laura Novak is part of that grace.
Amy B. Casey, RN, Walnut Creek

The real crisis
The crisis in healthcare today is not the 48 million uninsured, the shortened length of hospital stays, or rising insurance premiums. It is the shortage of nurses that has created a ten to twenty percent vacancy rate in nursing positions across the country, a shortage that is predicted to get even worse over the next decade.

Laura Novak did an excellent job of describing the incredible contribution that nurses make every day in neonatal intensive care units. These nurses -- with their expertise, knowledge, and compassion -- save the lives of fragile infants. They make an incredible difference.
Kathleen Dracup, Dean and Professor, UCSF School of Nursing, San Francisco


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