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High Wire Act

Posted 6/4/2003

Thanks for the excellent interview with David Simon and the story about The Wire ("Under The Wire," May 28). In showing us what's wrong in society, Simon shows us what's right with television. When done well, TV doesn't have to be "a vast wasteland," but instead can be a medium for telling complex stories. Homicide, The Corner, and The Wire document the lives of people whose stories are rarely told in any form, not in the news or on film. The city of Baltimore should take pride in the fact that these rich, multifaceted stories come from its environs.

Beth Haller

Rehab Rebuttal

I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with the recent article written by David Morley titled "Halfway There" (Mobtown Beat, May 14). The impression I received from the article was that health-care agencies such as Baltimore Behavioral Health, a state-licensed provider of mental health services to the adult population of Baltimore City, are part of the city's problem and not part of the solution. I heartily disagree, and would like to take this opportunity to address specific points with which I take issue as contained in the article.

Please allow me to say how very unfortunate it is that Michael Dannenberg, president of the Hollins Market Neighborhood Association, is so "exasperated" by the fact that there are health-care agencies, halfway houses, and group homes in the neighborhood. It seems a shame that a man who earns his living working for the Department of Social Services takes such a dim view of the very organizations providing such life-saving and community-preserving services at the grass-roots level to those in need in the community. In an unbiased article, Mr. Dannenberg's assertion that the neighborhood has become a "dumping ground for halfway houses and group homes" might have been countered with the information that the city of Baltimore, which is desperately trying to meet the treatment needs of the mentally ill, especially those who self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, currently maps locations of health-care agencies citywide to prevent just such a "dumping ground" phenomenon.

Baltimore Behavioral Health primarily treats patients suffering from mental illness, many of whom are dual-diagnosis patients (the simultaneous occurrence of mental health issues along with substance-abuse issues). There is no on-site pharmacy at Baltimore Behavioral Health, as was printed in the article, and, furthermore, the Poppleton Street site is an additional location of Baltimore Behavioral and not, as printed in the article, Baltimore Recovery Center. The Poppleton Street location also does not, as reported, provide "intense detox care."

The statement that Baltimore Behavioral "brings hundreds of individuals to the Hollins neighborhood" is incorrect as it gives the impression that the individuals receiving services from Baltimore Behavioral and the other local providers are solely being transported into the neighborhood. Indeed, we are serving the community, including a mixture of individuals with and without families, with and without jobs, with and without substance-abuse issues, with and without homes. Furthermore, we provide a positive, defined economic impact on the Hollins neighborhood based upon the fact that our employees patronize local shops, eateries, and businesses as well the fact that Baltimore Behavioral alone employs more than 30 percent of its staff from the surrounding ZIP code radius.

As for the statement that Rey Sheppard was approached by Baltimore Behavioral with regard to his Café del Rey property, I can state unequivocally that Baltimore Behavioral has never sought to contract with Mr. Sheppard in any fashion.

The problems stated in the article exist citywide. Health-care agencies such as Baltimore Behavioral and the others mentioned in the article are working to eradicate them. How very unfortunate and counterproductive to read that the city's residents are blaming these widespread social diseases on the very health-care agencies working to solve them!

If the attitudes toward mental illness and addiction recovery expressed in the article by those interviewed from the Hollins Market neighborhood exemplify those of the average person on the street in Baltimore City, then I tremble for the city's future, because these issues truly are pandemic, and they will not go away without affordable, on-demand health care at a local, accessible level.

Terry Brown

Vice President, Resource Development, Baltimore Behavioral Health

News editor Erin Sullivan responds: When we looked into the errors cited by Mr. Brown in his letter, we discovered that yes, indeed, we did slightly mischaracterize the services provided by Baltimore Behavioral Health. The center is not strictly a drug-and-alcohol rehabilitation center; it provides services to clients who are mentally ill and may have also suffered from addiction. Also, the organization does not have an on-site pharmacy, but it does have an on-site pharmacist and physician. The Baltimore Behavioral Health facility at Poppleton Street was once called the Baltimore Recovery Center and is still referred to in the neighborhood as such. Otherwise, we stand by our story.


I typically don't like to write letters in response to letters, but this time . . . man, I just had to. I can only hope you print this, for the topic is one that I believe needs to be aired, and settled, once and for all. I was heartened to see, for one of the first times I've seen in print, Bret McCabe's jab at Mike Patton's vocal abilities, or rather the lack thereof (The Short List). I was equally disheartened to read Seb Roberts' defense of Patton's noise pollution (The Mail, May 28). Salvation was then found in McCabe's response, which contained the dead-on analogy of Patton's singing to both a baby with a machine gun and Yngwie Malmsteen. My girlfriend is a huge Mike Patton fan, so I've heard all the arguments for why Patton is a talented man . . . and they're all without substance.

No matter what "project" Patton is working on or who he's working with (and granted, usually he does work with some truly great talents of whom I am a fan), you already know what you're going to get from Mike: some high-end caterwauling, some low-end crud, and all the shit that's fit to stink in-between. Just because you can take your voice all over the vocal map doesn't necessarily make you talented, nor does the fact that you can mean that you should. That Patton insists on plying his same old tired shtick, rather than meshing with his bandmates' efforts, actually suggests the very opposite of talent. Please, Mr. Patton, please! Please give up the music business, and stick to what you obviously do best--sucking your own dick.

Richard Worth

Pain in the Eyes

Just a word of minor complaint. While I love to read many of the columnists in your paper, I'm also a huge fan of your editorial cartoons. In the May 28 edition, Tim Kreider's The Pain--When Will It End? was shrunk to the point where it could not be read by myself or many of my co-workers ( I know at 39 my eyes aren't as sharp as they used to be, but if I wanted to see something that small, I'd collect postage stamps! Please give The Pain a little more elbow room.

Steve Warble

Editor Lee Gardner responds: We feel your pain, so to speak. Last week's supercompressed comics spread was the result of a last-minute layout mishap. It shouldn't happen again; see the editor's note below.


I write in retort to Michelle Strunge's comments on the "pointless ramblings" of Miss Emily Flake's Lulu Eightball (The Mail, May 14). Ms. Strunge, at one point in my life I got bent out of shape over the quality and content of the comics I read in the newspaper. Then again, I also played with Tinkertoys and believed in the Easter Bunny. Please, for the sake of the rest of us, grow up and lighten up. Miss Flake isn't trying to change the world with Lulu Eightball. She, in my opinion, is simply channeling life's quirks and certain citizens' downright inanity through a medium that even the simplest minds can grasp.

Moreover, Miss Flake is a very talented artist (graphic art is one facet of her many artistic skills). And she is not a local (she's from Connecticut). Miss Flake is witty, intellectual, and capable of laughing at herself. Ms. Strunge, I suggest learning the facts before lecturing. Or at least meeting the young woman you are criticizing. You write of "containing" Miss Flake's thoughts and voice. Last time I checked, freedom of speech and press are protected by the Bill of Rights. And freedom of thought and voice are concepts we as Americans cherish. Here's an idea: Look in the mirror and try to contain the voice and thoughts or, at the very least, the lopsided opinions of the person staring back at you.

Zack Barbour

Editor's note: With this issue, we bid adieu to Ben Katchor's Hotel & Farm comic; fans who still need a fix can catch it on his Web site. Also with this issue, we liberate the comics from a single spread and redistribute them throughout the Baltimore Weekly section. Please see our table of contents to find your favorites.

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