"Over the Top," Restaurant Review, 6/27
Ageism: It's What's for Dinner
Apparently, blatant ageism is the only "ism" left that is safe to freely express, as evidenced by Luke Tsai's review of The Terrace Room at the Lake Merritt Hotel. Tsai's take on the view, the location, and the food was overwhelmed by his stupefied shock of encountering old people doing the unthinkable — eating their dinner while enjoying the beautiful view in a nice restaurant not plagued with music amped up to create the illusion of a "happenin' scene."
I wanted to ask Tsai why it is any more remarkable for a diner to want or need to bring his or her own cushion than it is for diners to request a high chair for a tiny child, How condescending is it to assume the staff's "goodness" shown to the old diners is any different than the "goodness" shown to any regular patron (waiters depends on everybody's tips — even old people's). Why is Tsai so obsessed with the dining and behavioral habits of the old people whom he observed — an old man who put his hands on his head, then ate with "aplomb" (really? aplomb?) may, according to Tsai's interpretation, be doing so due to "confusion." Some old diners dressed up. Um, yeah, some people of all ages still like to honor a formal dining experience by dressing up.
Luke Tsai never comes right out and says that a restaurant room occupied by more than one or two diners who "look upwards of eighty years old" is just icky, but he sure suggests it by his concentration on this aspect of The Terrace Room. The real issue is why a review steeped in ageist attitudes is fit to print unchallenged by the editorial staff. I'm pretty sure that an observation that a restaurant's clientele is dominated by, say, a particular race that details his interpretation of their behaviors and dress habits, or by the disabled, would go straight back to the writer for a rewrite.
The irony of the oblivion to ageism is that everyone (except those who die tragically young) gets old — even Luke Tsai, even the editors at the Express.
Kathy Rehak, Richmond
Luke Tsai Responds
One of the tricky things that every writer struggles with (or ought to struggle with) is tone. The last thing I wanted for that particular article was to take on a sarcastic or condescending tone toward the elderly. I'm very sorry that that's how it came across to you. I wonder, though, if you go back and reread my review, if it's possible for you to see that I was trying to report, as objectively as I could, on what I saw at The Terrace Room. I did talk about how many of the diners were elderly, not because I have any problem with that, but because I think that's useful information for people to know when they're deciding if it's a restaurant they'd like to visit.
If a restaurant has a lot of families with children eating there, I'll mention that. If a restaurant seems to cater to tattooed "scenesters," I'll talk about that. In one recent review of an Afghan restaurant in Oakland, I mentioned that it seemed popular with the local Spanish-speaking population. I wasn't judging that fact; I just mentioned it because I thought it was interesting and maybe somewhat unexpected. I did in fact spend a portion of my review of The Terrace Room describing some of the elderly diners that I saw during my first visit, but honestly and truly, my intention was never to make fun of them or to make them sound "icky," as you put it.
"Pot Tickets and Prop 215: Ask Legalization Nation," Legalization Nation, 6/27
Educate the Cops
After working jail intake for seven years, I came up with a simple rule to stay out of trouble: Never talk to cops. If you must, be brief, be courteous, try to get on your way.
However, the ridiculousness surrounding the enforcement of Prop 215 sounds more like state-sanctioned schadenfreude than public safety provision. The c'est la vie policy seems to be not to require that our officers remain abreast of current law, but rather to slap cancer patients with felonies and leave them to (forgive me) hash it out in court.
Our justice system is overburdened enough as is, with only 5 percent of criminal cases making it to trial. The judges and prosecutors pushing the papers in these cases probably aren't thrilled about the busywork, so if the problem is a matter of lower-level officers not receiving proper education on the regulations, then the solution seems really obvious: educate them. Stop wasting time and money.
Tyler Pritchard, Oakland
"Silent Summer," Seven Days, 6/27
The Anti-Hunting Legislature
From a general environmentalist statement, you went off on a rant about lead and condors, professing [the value of] a ban on the use of lead for hunting and shooting statewide. I believe you are misinformed in a number of ways about the use of lead for hunting and its effects.
Without a conclusive scientific study about the condor population and lead, the state legislature, in a knee-jerk manner, superseded the authority of the Department of Fish and Game and enacted legislation to form a no-lead hunting zone in the Condor Habitat Range. You are suggesting banning the use of hunting with lead statewide, even outside of the condor range.