I happen to be part of the small percentage of whites on Rikers Island that Gonnerman wrote about, and I had to endure everything she described and much more. I awaited trial for 28 months in the Beacon (the "Bloods building"). I often cleaned up after slashings and stabbings.

That island is unfit for any human being. It is always dangerous, and the COs [correction officers] only add fuel to the fire.

Frankie [Last Name Withheld]

Jazz And Pops

Gary Giddins [Weather Bird, January 9] laments the current absence of a galvanizing jazz figure such as Duke, Miles, or Coltrane; this is a misguided notion. It is the very absence of such a force that has allowed so many of today's musicians to follow their own paths. The climate of the jazz community has most definitely changed since the heyday of musicians like Clark Terry, Sonny Rollins, and Roy Haynes, but not for the worse. Today's musicians may not necessarily have innovation foremost in mind; rather, they aim to make music that communicates to people.

Just recently, Kenny Werner, Ben Monder, and Dave Holland (to name three) performed such music to very receptive audiences. Perhaps Giddins's view that "what's past is prologue, text, and epilogue" has come from spending too many evenings at Lincoln Center ruminating on the current lack of innovation in jazz instead of at more contemporary-minded venues. I encourage Giddins to check out any CD by musicians such as Brad Mehldau, Dave Douglas, or Matt Wilson and reexamine his view that "the most resourceful, energetic, and irreverent jazz musicians are over 65."

A fundamental reason why dead jazz musicians outsell their living counterparts is that pundits such as Gary Giddins and Ken Burns ignore the vitality and originality of so much of today's music, simply because it does not fit into their antiquated notion of what "jazz" is.

Dave Hertzberg

Gary Giddins replies: I am familiar with all these musicians and have written about most of them, but thanks for the encouragement. Incidentally, Clark Terry, Sonny Rollins, and Roy Haynes are still having their heyday.

Freight Expectations

J.A. Lobbia's excellent article "One-Track Mind" [January 2], about the High Line debate in Chelsea, was informative as far as it went: Some people (including Mayor Rudolph Giuliani) want to tear down the stretch of track, while the self-styled Friends of the High Line want to turn it into a promenade. But what Lobbia and the dueling Chelseaites ignored was the best environmental and economic use of the High Line: carrying freight into and out of Manhattan island.

Freight trains could unload in several locations along the West Side of Manhattan, including the industrial buildings through which they run in Chelsea. In the 1930s, in order to reduce noise and smoke, freight tracks were enclosed from 72nd Street to Harlem by Robert Moses, and parkland was built over the tracks. High Line tracks in Chelsea could be treated similarly.

The Shorewalkers group has been working on a plan for creating a six-mile-long freshwater lake between the Bronx and Manhattan with an 800-acre park around it. One of the many benefits of our proposed Harlem Lake Park and Causeways Project would be the development of dependable freight train tracks into Manhattan. Ninety-seven percent of the goods we Manhattanites use are carried to New York Island by diesel trucks that spew poisons into our air, destroy our streets, clog traffic, grate on our ears, and kill pedestrians. To reduce urban diesel truck traffic we must have freight trains.

Reactivating the West Side Freight Line would improve the environment and reduce the cost of moving goods into and out of the city. To use these strategically placed High Line tracks for any lesser purpose would be detrimental to New York City's future.

Cy A. Adler
President, Shorewalkers

The Ballad of Reading Gal

Having read Carol Cooper's review of Go Girl! comics ["Pretty Persuasion," January 9], I couldn't agree more about the lack of a demographic readership in the comic book industry. My daughter has a learning disability. Go Girl! has helped her to overcome the hurdles that have held down her reading comprehension levels.

Deanna Pauley
Portland, Oregon

Class Notes

Thank you for Tom Robbins's detailed story about my former classmate at Brooklyn College, Roger Toussaint, the recently elected president of the Transport Workers Union ["Underground Rumblings," November 28]: a great story—very informative. It painted a vivid picture of a charismatic union leader with grassroots leanings.

Yinka G. Stanford

Painful Truths

Thank you for Tristan Taormino's column on Cleo Dubois's new video, The Pain Game [Pucker Up, January 9]. As a psychotherapist and sex therapist working in a variety of alternative sex and gender communities, I often hear how difficult it is to communicate an experience that may have no verbal equivalent. The same holds true for all of us who try to speak about whatever we find ineffable. Ms. Dubois has performed a service by speaking clearly, and not only to the choir; she has performed an educational service by showing the truth and not pandering to the least informed among her prospective audience.

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