Letters from the week of 12-28-2006

“Going Gondola,” December 7

Piping Hot

The feature asking clothing designers to weigh in on the gondolier’s uniform was brilliant! Georgianna Londre’s entry was the only one that really hit the mark. The gondola attendant will hand out moist towelettes and peppermints and have lights in the piping of the uniform! Recent advances in LEDs have made that entirely feasible.

I, for one, think the current infrastructure for ferrying people to and from the airport — privately operated vans — is entirely adequate, as my East Coast cousin had no trouble getting to midtown without hiring a taxi when she visited.

I voted for the Chastain proposal because of the gondolas aspect. If building a monorail between Swope Park and the airport is the cost of getting more attention to the national World War I memorial, so it is.

That said, is the Pitch opening its pages to proposals for what the gondolas are to resemble? I think it would be good, and probably less expensive in both the short and long runs, to refer to early 20th-century technology with self-propelled, lighter-than-air craft guided by the cable rather than by a more traditional system in which cables have to not only suspend the gondolas but also pull them back and forth.

Then we could put the other $9 million into design and the long-term maintenance fund, while the gondola operations become self-funding due to the fee on the private compartment, where visitors and regulars both are able to make the most of their peppermints and wet naps. Sketch available on request. David Nichol, Kansas City, Missouri

Feature: “Holiday Bummer,” December 14

Holiday Jeer

Thank you, in this season of giving, for opening our eyes to the folly of being kind and giving. All these years of contributing to the United Way, helping out Katrina victims and occasionally giving a buck to the homeless, I thought I was helping the world. I never knew sharing a bottle of Mad Dog under an overpass could be so luxurious. Scrooge was right. I’ll be at work by 10 Christmas morning. Here, I have been deluding myself that some of the homeless might be too afraid or crazy to go to a homeless shelter.

What will be the next title in the Pitch‘s coverage of the homeless? Is the Pitch planning to reveal the repercussions of their article on the homeless with a New Year’s “Kick ’em While They’re Down” edition? Tricia Case, Kansas City, Missouri

Take the Plunge

Since Ben Paynter is obviously so interested in issues that affect the homeless, I invite him to contact the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, D.C., and ask them about a program they run called the “Urban Plunge.” It’s where participants are asked to voluntarily live on the streets for 48 hours as if they were homeless.

First, you must dress the part. Don some rags from a dumpster or make a poncho out of a trash bag. Second, don’t bathe or shave for a week. Third, spend all of your time doing various assignments, such as panhandling, trying to use public restrooms, asking for job applications, tracking down soup kitchens, trying to eat at a McDonald’s without being kicked out by the security guard, and sleeping on the concrete next to a bar so that around 2 a.m. you are surrounded by drunk rich kids kicking you in the ribs.

How long do you think you would last, Mr. Paynter? You should have no trouble worrying about where your next meal will come from or whether that cop who has been following you is going to arrest you or that you’ll suffer the indignity of people half your age speaking to you like a 3-year-old. Finally, when the former dentist you met in the shelter tells you about how when his son died at 10 years old and he was too distraught to eat, let alone work, you won’t have any trouble thinking of something to say.

Of course, if you are too scared, maybe you should just stay in your warm homes with all of your precious possessions. Stephen Nichols, Lawrence

Street Scene

I was offended by your article and hope for a public retraction or apology. Your thief-jargon (“take”) and derogatory labels (“moochers,” “smells like,” “hustles”) attack vulnerable, marginalized people begging for relational, dignified re-distribution of resources. I have heard two or three of the persons featured in the article express their disappointment and surprise at how they were portrayed. Further, your article has directly resulted in increased maltreatment of these people. Shame on you for exploiting friendships and jeopardizing their fragile futures.

Chris Brennan Homiak, Kansas City, Kansas

Shame, Shame, Shame

Ben Paynter, and anyone else who helped contribute to this piece of pathetic work, seriously needs to reflect on the purpose of the article. It was obviously written not to help our brothers and sisters but to use them in a humorous way to appeal to the readers of the Pitch who lack humanity and compassion. I personally know several people you interviewed and spoke with one of them yesterday. Your writing has caused damage. I am very disappointed. Shame on you!

Andi Johnson, Kansas City, Kansas

Social Distortion

The people of Revolution Church were appalled by the callous cover story “Holiday Bummer.” How can a publication that presents itself as a champion of the underdog deliberately exploit the very people who are in the most need? Aside from exploiting our city’s most vulnerable citizens, what does journalism like this accomplish?

Was it supposed to be funny? It wasn’t.

Is it a public service? It’s a disservice.

And please don’t even try to get away with saying that this was an attempt to help poor people in Kansas City. Because it doesn’t help.

As a church that has meaningful, daily relationships with many of the human beings low-lighted in your article, we are even more shocked by the fact that Nancy Keyes and Ron Johnson (and probably others) were approached by Mr. Paynter under false pretenses. Paynter’s satire is hardly the story on the plight of the homeless that its subjects were promised.

As an urban, socially active community of faith that looks to the Pitch to provide an alternative view of what passes for reality in Kansas City, we are horribly disappointed.

And don’t even get us started on Josh Ziegler’s cartoon. Tasteless. The People of Revolution Church, Kansas City, Missouri

Wizz Kid

I gotta tell ya, I liked the article about me in the Pitch. No, by the grace of God, I’m not homeless. But, I gotta say this: First, I don’t bum from people unless it’s absolutely necessary; second, I dress in those outfits to help my image; third, as far as dancin’ like I’m bein’ electrocuted, if you studied hip-hop, poppin’ & lockin’ (I’m not a B-boy, I don’t breakdance), you would see that that’s how it’s done. But to the untrained eye, I can see how you would think that. By the way, I quit dancin’ in Westport. There, everybody likes to watch but few like to tip.

Well, take care of yourself. Happy holidays. PLU (peace, love, unity). James “J-Wizz” Hathorn, Kansas City, Missouri


Ben Paynter responds: “Holiday Bummer” was not about homeless people; it was about panhandlers. Several of the people profiled are not homeless. None of the reporting for this story was done under false pretenses. The terms of the interview were clear: “We want to do a guide to local people who have their hands out. We imagine you have an interesting story. If people can relate, they’ll know where to find you.”