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Roar of the Crowd

Readers respond to the November 2015 issue.

By December 2015Comments

So Texans, it turns out, really like barbecue. Last month’s article on “The Top 25 New and Improved BBQ Joints in Texas” drew a lot of attention—and a fair amount of, ahem, heat. On Facebook the story quickly tallied more than one thousand likes, shares, and comments, including a good many from people who wanted to know why their favorite barbecue joint hadn’t made the list. (Note to one outraged reader: Cooper’s in Llano is not new and it does not need to be improved.) Soon after, we held the sixth annual TMBBQ Festival, in Austin, which brought out hundreds of hungry guests, including Governor Greg Abbott and Land Commissioner George P. Bush. Zagat’s rundown of the “10 Best Things We Ate at the ‘Texas Monthly’ BBQ Festival” nicely got across the spirit of the smorgasbord and included a passing reference to perhaps the greatest four-word phrase in the history of the English language: “brisket chocolate chip cookies.”

And now, a sampling of feedback from our readers.

Surreal Estate

As someone who’s recently retired and gearing up to sell his home in San Antonio and build a house on a property on North Padre Island, I thought I’d find something of interest in Mr. Lomax’s article on Texas property values [“Can You Afford to Live Here?”]. Well, there were some interesting points, but most of it was, um—I’m not sure how to describe it. Nothing of concern to me, certainly, or, I would guess, about 99 percent of people who live in Texas. Mr. Lomax seems to think that everybody under forty is dying to live in a condo in downtown Austin. Do you realize that you’re writing for the few thousand young professionals who are willing to pay nearly half a million dollars for an apartment that could be rented for $850 a month in most parts of this country and most parts of Texas? If so, God help them; they don’t deserve anything better.
Robert Yadrick, San Antonio

No Offense

Texas Monthly brings us the stories of these broken lives from time to time [“The Outcast”]. They are devastating and heart-wrenching and, sometimes, healing and redemptive. I hope that by sharing your story, Mr. Torti, you realize that you have gained supporters, those of us who hope good things for your future. Nothing will give you back what you lost, but what becomes of your future is something you will have more control over (although I do realize that having your name on the sex offender registry is something you have no control over). I’m always amazed at the fact that there are so many violent criminals who have small, or no, sentences to serve. Yet someone who has not been a menace to society can have terribly long sentences. One can only hope that this woman, “Brenda,” will one day understand what she has done, will one day have the decency, courage, and substance to right her wrong.
BK, via texasmonthly.com

It’s not difficult to fathom how this miscarriage of justice has taken place. When it comes to meting out justice, we might as well still be in the dark ages. The lone source of Greg Torti’s innocence rested on a missing hot dog. A DNA presence, or lack of, on the missing hot dog might have proved his innocence. Unfortunately, without the DNA evidence, questionable testimony helped seal Greg’s fate. And why wasn’t something as simple as a lie-detector test administered to Greg at the beginning, rather than years later after his release?
Richard Rowland, Polo, Illinois

This is horrifying, and it raises more questions about whether sex offender registries do more harm than good. However the offenders ended up on the registries, these people have almost no chance of reintegrating into society. There is no doubt that some, like the man who raped Greg, do deserve to be on it and should be monitored closely for the rest of their lives, but public urination should not be a life-ruining offense, and we’ve made it into one in some states. If offenders can’t be trusted to live among us, their prison sentences should reflect that. If they can, then they shouldn’t be made to live under these onerous restrictions, which effectively ensure they can never get an education, hold a regular job, or even find a place to live. It seems likely that robbing them of all stability just increases the odds that they’ll reoffend or commit other crimes, because what do they have to lose? Surely there’s a better solution.
LizEnFrance, via texasmonthly.com

Clocked Out

I returned to Texas after fifteen years and subscribed to texas monthly again, expecting to find the magazine I was pleased to read in the past. Instead, I’ve found one that made a hard left turn, publishing nonsense like Dave Mann’s “Time of Fear” [Behind the Lines]. The truth about that event in Irving—a situation in which a student brought a suspicious item into school—is that the school district and the police did everything right. Can you imagine the outcry had the item been a bomb or something else dangerous and the school did nothing? Lawsuits would be flying, the editorials would damn the administration, and people would be rightly angered. And yet you create a squishy do-gooder article damning those responsible for doing the right thing.
Ralph Anderson, via email

I am a retired educator. I have a grandson in the ninth grade at a Texas public school. If he had taken this clock to school, he would have been arrested. He has blond hair and light skin. Ahmed Mohamed is a troublemaker. If my grandson had pulled this prank, he would have gotten grounded for at least six weeks.
Jennie Jackson, via email

Continental Divide

Shame on you, Texas Monthly, your “Up in the Air” story in the November issue does not provide a fair or balanced view of Continental in the eighties and does not live up to your usually high standards. Even your own March 1987 cover story on Continental does a better job of describing most of the eighties, which the 2015 writer dismisses as “ending with a whimper.” The facts are that under my leadership, Continental moved to Houston in the first place to change its California beach culture, which we inherited when we took over the company. The entrepreneurial culture wasn’t rebuilt in the mid-eighties, as the article alleges. We also created a competitive cost structure to allow the company to survive and prosper—unlike the Pan Ams, Braniffs, and many others—and built Continental’s most profitable hub at Newark, which gets dismissed in the current story as the airport that “brought [Jeff] Smisek down.”

The November 2015 piece is filled with innuendo that repeats the union line: nothing good happened under Frank Lorenzo. Even my departure from the company is distorted by phrasing like “with little choice in the matter, Lorenzo departed.” The fact is that my family owned a controlling interest in the company that controlled Continental. I was never interested in continuing with the company if we didn’t control it, nor interested in keeping our stock interest if I didn’t run it. Further, if I had had the “gutter reputation” that the writer ascribes to me, they would certainly never have had me continue as a director for two years after the sale (which, in fairness, the writer does disclose).

Your author also didn’t afford me a call with questions, as he apparently did with a number of other individuals. It is the most basic of journalistic ethics to contact a principal target of a story. I can only surmise that he had his story, with the union line, already firm in his mind and didn’t want the facts on the Lorenzo period at Continental to interfere with his tale. The writer had the opportunity to tell an honest story of Continental’s history in Houston in the eighties and blew it.
Frank Lorenzo, Houston

Fact Czech

Your “Kolaches on the Potomac” article in the November issue caught my attention. It seems that the traditional Czech kolaches are well on their way to universal recognition, with the additional element of New World variations. Chris Svetlik’s family is described as one of the many Czechs who migrated to the Dubina, Texas, area in the 1870’s. With that in mind, may I offer a point of clarification? For the record, those immigrants were not Czechs, they were Moravians. After World War I, the newly created Czechoslovakia consisted of three regions—the Czechs, the Moravians, and the Slovaks. Having visited the Dubina cemetery several times, I well recall one tombstone describing the grave’s occupant as having been born in Vsetín, still the major city in Moravia. Hence a Czech is not a Czech when born in Moravia. As a native Slovak, I think it appropriate to clarify the point.
Milan Michalec, Boerne

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