Letters From the Issue of Thursday, October 20, 2005

Mold School

Truth, moral values and justice: I'm appalled at the Gilbert Public School District's denials and inaction regarding black mold at Mesquite Junior High School ("Mold Attacks!" Robert Nelson, October 13). The district should model truth and moral values, not dishonesty and evasion.

Hopefully, a good lawyer will be able to bring justice for former "Coach of the Year" and teacher Jeff Corn (and others afflicted at the school) so that this doesn't happen again.
Loyd Eskildson, Scottsdale

A Mental Challenge

Deserving of respect: Your story on rhythm-and-blues musician Carl Gholson's life and long, slow death was very moving. In fact, several of its passages moved me to tears. Imagine the lips that blew such beautiful music on the saxophone having flies buzzing around them in death ("Crying Shame," Paul Rubin, October 6).

This was not the usual story about a homeless person. Gholson was truly a man who never would have died on the street if not for his mental illness. He was somebody who probably would've been rich and famous.

I'm sure that many of us probably walked by Carl not knowing what he was really about. He was just another crazy person on the streets of Phoenix.

How many others are out there like Carl? Such people, the mentally ill ones, weren't always down and out. At earlier intervals, they had real lives. They were human beings deserving of respect.

Even though the mental institutions of years past were sad places, as in Ken Kesey's novel and movie, they at least provided roofs over the heads of people who couldn't take care of themselves. They made sure mentally ill people didn't hurt themselves out in society.

The situation now is much worse. There are so many unfortunate stories on the streets of our cities because people are too crazy even to take advantage of a group-home situation. Take Carl Gholson, who was assigned to a group home; he wound up dead on the streets because he was too out of it to get out from under the Phoenix summer sun. Very sad.
Betsy Bowles, Phoenix

A higher level of treatment: I read with great sorrow your story on the passing of Carl Gholson. For 10 months in 2003, I was Carl's job coach at the thrift store you mentioned in your story. Carl, sadly, is yet another victim of the pathetic mental-health system in Arizona.

I myself have worked for many behavioral-health providers in Phoenix, off and on since 1993. Every time I hear of another mental-health client dying, I am left wondering when things will change.

I recognize that serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, is difficult to treat, as doctors cannot plate, pin, screw, set or cast a broken mind. But handing out medications once a month and whore-housing people in group homes, hospitals, jails and shelters is a pitiful excuse for "care" or "treatment."

An individual like Carl Gholson needs a much higher level of treatment, close supervision and an all-encompassing "treatment plan" to ensure his safety.

Imagine, if you can, trying to get through one scorching Phoenix afternoon with the following compounding factors stacked against you: voices screaming at you from within your own mind, paranoid delusional thoughts, little or no insight into what's reality and what's not, drug addiction, homelessness and poverty.

On top of that, the system that's required to care for you has been auctioned off to the lowest (for-profit) bidder: in this case, Value Options.

How long would you last? Carl made it 30-plus years with his mental illness. He's the exception, not the rule. And I must add, from my experience with Mr. Gholson, those years were not at all easy.

Please continue to expose the horrors of Arizona's mentally ill. You just might become a voice for the voiceless. Godspeed, Carl.
Bryan Casagrande, Phoenix

A talent lost: Thank you for such an enduring and wonderful article about Carl Gholson. My husband and I enjoyed Carl and his music so much. Oh my, what a talent!

Of course we are so sad that he's gone, and it has taken us a while to process and think about his predicament. Indeed, it's a "Crying Shame" that he came so far to a somewhat recovered condition and we did not protect him.

When I would visit my husband at Arizona State Hospital, Carl was so sweet; he gave me many decks of cards that he had sealed shut and told me never to open them. Keeping them sealed, he said, would bring me good luck. They are still unopened to this day.

Also, his playing of his sax with the Ashtones band was so remarkable. I especially remember him playing on Mental Health Awareness Day. Jack Harvey, the longtime spokesman for the mentally ill in this state, loved Carl's music.

I just thought I would take the time to tell you that your interest and knowledge about the mental-health system is like a page of history for us. We appreciate New Times' interest in the plight of our most vulnerable.
Mickie White Carstens, past president, Mental Health Advocates Coalition of Arizona

A pure and gentle spirit: Paul Rubin really captured what made Carl Gholson special. 'Cause it was truly amazing that a man like Carl, even though severely mentally ill, had such a positive effect on almost everybody who knew him. Carl was so pure. Not an evil bone in his body. Just an angel walking on this Earth.

It was not just the music in him, either. He was the gentlest of spirits. People would be stand-offish at first because he could look scary. But soon he would win everybody over. He was just a hell of a good guy!

I think people like Carl are sent here by God to remind us that we need to be better people.
Richard Steiner, Phoenix

A man of many gifts: I had the blessing of knowing Carl Gholson. I was absolutely shocked to hear of the crack pipe, as well. I knew many of the other things about Carl: his gift of empathy, his musical gift, his gift for social commentary that transcended literal communication.

I wonder if his illness wasn't schizophrenia but spiritual emergency.

Regarding that saxophone (with which I was blessed to be serenaded by Carl one Christmas Eve), I wonder if Carl, ever the salesman, sold it. He may have done so because he couldn't play it once his teeth came out.
A friend of Carl's, Phoenix

Give Blood

Any night's all right for fighting: I am 51 and female. I have been attending hardcore shows in the Valley for a little more than a year, and I'm honored to know some of the kids you speak of in "Blood Brothers" (Brendan Joel Kelley, October 6). It's the passion, honor and heart of these kids, almost as much as the music, that keeps me going back.

I've been clocked at shows. Sometimes there's no safe place to be. So be it, as long as it's not done with malice. It happens. I don't like the fighting at shows, but I wouldn't like fighting as a means to resolve any issue, no matter where I was. Whenever you have people gathered in an environment fueled by adrenaline, there are going to be instances of intolerance.

Is the scene in Phoenix perfect? No, of course not! Nothing is, people aren't. On the whole, though, it's the closest thing to perfect I've found in my time. I'd rather spend an evening with these kids -- listening to the best original music I've heard in years -- than listening to covers in a smoky bar. (Don't even get me started on that scene -- a bloody nose is better than some asshole putting Ecstasy in a girl's drink.)
Marion Wilkinson, Phoenix

Scumbag brothers: Why would New Times feature a story about such scumbags on its cover! "Blood Brothers," indeed!

Just when I think things are getting saner within America's youth culture, I read something like this. The kids who are into this violent scene should be taken directly to Tent City.
John Malcom, Phoenix

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.