I so clearly remember reading Peter Eichenberger's story after his bike accident ("Inside Eichenberger's brain," March 1, 2006). At the time, my husband was cycling quite a bit—mostly mountain biking, not road. One reason he didn't ride road so much was because of my worry. Although things are better here than some cities, there are still a lot of roads with no shoulders, let alone bike lanes and drivers who don't regard bikes as a vehicles. My husband has always worn a helmet and is a firm believer that everyone should. Peter spoke so profoundly and sweetly about wearing helmets in his article at that time, urging his fellow riders to start wearing one if they hadn't before.
I also remember how he praised (even gushed) over the nurses and staff who were helping him through his recovery. I could feel his genuine and abundant gratitude toward them. That is one of the Indy articles that has stayed in my mind, and when I read this week that Peter had died, I was so sad. I don't know him, I've never met him; he's not a friend of a friend. I just remember his article and I felt thankful he had survived and wished him well in his recovery. I hoped that cyclists would heed his warning and that any who didn't wear helmets would start doing so immediately. Even now, when I see students zipping around NCSU and the surrounding neighborhoods with no helmets, I want to yell out at them from my car window, because it makes me think of Peter.
I write to express disappointment with the Independent's response to Peter Eichenberger's death (Front Porch and Gallery, Dec. 1). One small article by one fellow writer did not do him justice, especially considering the significance of Peter's contributions to the Independent over time.
I know that the writer of the "tribute," Mr. Anderson, knew Peter and had great affection for him, but the suggestion that it was Peter's brain injury that allowed him to "open wide the doors of his perception and bear witness to our sacred connections" both romanticizes brain injury and obscures Peter's legacy. The "doors of his perception" were flung wide open long before Peter's bicycle accident. The implication that he was not already "bear[ing] witness" to our human connection is also simply wrong. Anyone who has passing familiarity with Peter's writing knows that compassion was always one of his strongest attributes and that he was always operating on a higher frequency than most of us.
Persons who never had the fortune to know Peter before the accident might read this article and assume that what was brilliant, unique, loving and driven about his writing was attributable to a blow to the head. I'm sure Mr. Anderson and Independent staff would agree that that would be a mistaken impression. What is certain is that Peter's talent and his enthusiasm were undiminished by the injury.
Peter Eichenberger's legacy to this community would be hard to capture in any single issue, but to reduce it to a single article that focuses on the brief period between his injury and his death represents a failure on the part of a magazine that owes him and Indy's readers much more.
There are several pundits whose writing and thought I admire—Thomas Friedman, Paul Krugman, David Brooks, Jacob Weisberg. But if I want to read something that expresses exactly how I think and feel, I have to wait for an essay by Hal Crowther. His Nov. 17 piece, "Gone missing: The country's conscience, brain and heart," expresses exactly what I think of the 2010 elections and the state of the union today.
This has been going on for me for decades, back to the days of Harvey Gantt and Jesse Helms. At times, I have found Crowther to be a guilty pleasure. I have read him, delighting in every blow he strikes, then pulled back and said to myself, "But this is elitist. He's denouncing the common people."
I finally decided that's all right. In the Nov. 17 piece, he avoids the annoying practice of most liberal commentators: deploring right-wing tactics as a short preface to their main point, which is to blame President Obama for not somehow disarming those tactics. No, Crowther lets his attention stay where it belongs, on the right wing's outrageous manipulation and on the gullibility of the voters.
Many of us have worked with the sycophant who buttered up the boss by telling him what he wanted to hear rather than the hard truth. We've learned, when that happened, the boss was not well served. Well, in a democracy, the boss is supposed to be the people. Somebody should tell them when they are being stupid. Apparently all candidates have decided that is the one thing they can never do. They must flatter the people at all costs. Hal Crowther, God bless him, would probably be a horrible candidate because he is willing to tell the people the truth about themselves.
Joe Schwartz's Nov. 24 article misleadingly asks "How much is a pet's life worth?" Precisely because a pet's life is worth a lot, North Carolina law is (counterintuitively) wise to compensate owners of pets that die due to veterinary malpractice according to the pets' market value, rather than the pets' subjective emotional value to their owners.
Malpractice plaintiffs Herbert and Nancy Shera should drop their well-intentioned but misguided crusade to change that law. If the Sheras' suit succeeds, potential medical malpractice liability—and hence insurance costs—for veterinarians in North Carolina will skyrocket. Vets will surely pass these costs on to patients, meaning that fewer pet-owners will be able to afford needed care for their pets.
While I sympathize with the Sheras' grief for their pet, the worst thing that could happen to pets in this state would be for veterinary treatment to become less affordable in the midst of an economic downturn.