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Goodbye to Mark Achilli

I had to say goodbye to a friend last week, and it is particularly hard because he was a brother, hero and a friend. I'll be going to his funeral; it will be brutal, it will be painful, but mostly it will be sad. Sad because our town has lost not only an icon, a friend and a citizen, but sad because there aren't many like him around any more.

I'm talking about Mark Achilli, who was taken from us in Los Gatos ("Achilli's Heel," MetroNews, March 19). I have been in the restaurant business for 30 years in this town, and for most of them I have known Mark—he was Mr. Los Gatos. In some circles I have been Mr. Downtown San Jose, a title I do not know if I am worthy (I think it's because of my longevity more than anything else), but our common thread was that we understood what the word "hospitality" was all about.

First of all, Mark was a great bartender (a lost art), and I, for the most part, a waiter. We met when I started working at Steamers in Los Gatos and Mark was a bartender at Carrie Nations. We soon bonded when I realized that Mark was the first person that I ever met that would admit in front of people that one of his idols was Dean Martin (and I'm not even Italian!) That was all it took.

One day, many years and many cocktails later, Mark was the manager at Carrie's. I was telling him that I was going to start my own catering business, and Mark said that he was thinking of having munchies for Friday Happy Hour, and that I should provide the food. To this day I'll never know if he was really thinking about it, or he just wanted to give a brother a break.

Mark is a hero to me because in this day of corporate restaurant chains, he did something not a lot of people can do anymore—he basically opened a mom and pop place, smack dab in the middle of one of the most high-priced, high and mighty places in the valley, Los Gatos, and you know why? Because he paid his dues, he toiled in the trenches, he served his clientele with respect, humor and trust and hard work.

I went into Carrie's tonight and had a cocktail in memory of Mark, and another warrior who has been serving us for many years, Mike Downing, was bartending. Through the disbelief and tears we toasted Mark, and as Mike walked down the bar, I thought to myself: please stay with us as long as you can. There's not many of us left. We don't do this because of the money, or because we have to, we do it because this is what we love, this is what Mark loved.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the next time you go out for a drink, or go out for dinner, or you get your hair done or your nails done, anyplace where someone is serving you in any way, that is your brother or sister there. Don't be in such a hurry that you don't show your appreciation and say thanks; you may not have another chance.

I do not know, or may never know why Mark was taken from us, but I do know why Mark was given to us—because he cared!

God bless and keep you, Mark!

Rudy Ayala

San Jose

Same as the Old Meat

Re "The Meat of the Matter" (Cover Story, March 19): In her article, Christina Waters waxes on about "a new renaissance in meat eating" as if that were a good thing. The "back to the pasture" movement may help carnivores feel better about what they eat but more "humane" farming methods don't make animal farming kind and compassionate. Just a little less cruel.

I wonder what Ms. Waters thinks goes on in those "family-run" slaughterhouses? Brother and sister hold the pig while Mom hands Dad the knife? She is really grasping at nonexistent straws if she thinks that animal slaughter can be a tidy humane process. Using words like "dispatched" to describe the violent wrenching of life away from a 400-pound pig shows a Mary Poppins naivete with more than a spoonful of wishful thinking on her part. We're not sending these animals off to boarding school. Slaughter is an inherently brutal, bloody process—cruel because it is completely unnecessary. Probably not a good family activity.

Mainstream scientific and nutritional agencies such as the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada say we don't need any animal products to live long and healthy lives. Despite Ms. Waters' feeble optimism that "lean meats might not lead to heart attacks," mainstream science still holds that animal products increase the risk of many of today's most serious diseases including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

If her goal is to make the exploitation of animals more palatable, Ms. Waters has all she needs to prop up her "new renaissance" in meat eating. But if she were really interested in the morality of her food choices she'd look more critically at the prettied-up exploitation being sold as the 'back to the pasture' movement and ask some bigger, tougher questions.

Why do we bend over backward to justify the unnecessary exploitation of other species? The use of animals will always be plagued with serious moral issues. There is a lot more joy in learning to cook, eat and dress without these products, rather than trying to stuff the inherent cruelty of animal exploitation into an uncomfortable fit within an ethical framework that doesn't really meet even the most minimal standards of humanity.

Wade Spital


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