Thursday, March 7, 1996
On Al Gore, our mayor and miracles

The Cincinnati Enquirer

''Did you see your column this morning,'' said an angry voice on the phone?

''Well, sir,'' I replied, ''I usually try to read it as I go along.''

''I can't believe you'd suggest we shouldn't protect our vice president when he comes to this city,'' he continued. ''Are you some sort of Communist?''

''All I am saying, sir,'' I answered patriotically, ''is that I think we might have handled this more economically.'' Vice President Al Gore came to town basically to visit 20 citizens, who paid at least $5,000 each to have dinner with him. Cincinnati police said this cost the rest of us $24,000.

So why didn't we just fly these people to Washington instead? Round-trip tickets (coach, with a 21-day advance purchase, $278) plus a night at a nice Motel 6 and a Trailways Bus from the airport - the city could easily have saved $18,000.

Next question.

''Was it necessary to do a column on Roxanne Qualls' surgery?'' asks Julia T. ''Hysterectomy is common for women in their 40s and 50s,'' she adds. ''Hundreds of thousands are done each year to help women feel better and live full lives. Men don't generally understand this.''

Well said. Next.

''You seem puzzled by the attention paid to jaywalkers,'' writes John W. of Sharonville. ''Real criminals are much more dangerous. It is safer and easier to harass ordinary citizens.''

Speaking of which, I thought you might be interested to know that Claudia Vercellotti, the former police officer cleared of involvement in a bribery scandal, is trying to get her job back. She applied for reinstatement this week.

Now a research assistant with Bowling Green State University who travels to Ohio's penal institutions, she says, ''It's easier to go in and out of prisons knowing I'm not going to have to stay.''

Most mail is about people, not politics.

After the death of pioneer feminist and community steamroller Monica Nolan, I got a beautiful letter from Tom Williams, who delivered her eulogy. ''Simply greeting Monica was an experience. It always entailed rearranging your clothes after her heartfelt bear hug. When Monica hugged you, you knew you'd been hugged. Next time you greet someone - anyone - put a little more life into it and remember Monica.''

My own reviews are somewhat mixed.

''I purchased a new dictionary recently and was not surprised to see your picture opposite the entry 'smart ass,' '' praised a Hyde Park woman.

And from a Monfort Heights man: ''When you started writing for The Enquirer, I thought 'Oh, goody, some snooty woman is going to tell me what I'm supposed to think.' But your column today wasn't terrible.'' I think it's clear that enthusiasm for my work is growing.

This man was referring to a column about Denton Ritchie, the father of 4-year-old Samantha Ritchie, murdered by her mother just days after Mr. Ritchie was denied custody.

''There exists an extreme bias against fathers who are trying to obtain custody of their children following divorce,'' wrote Dr. James H. Thomas, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati.

''This bias cuts both ways. It creates unrealistic expectations of what a single mother can actually do and it tends to free single fathers of any ongoing sense of responsibility for their children. This hurts all of us.''

Writing about another child, a baby named Simone whose birth mother is seeking custody after signing an adoption agreement, Mr. M.W. says, ''I hope the courts come down on the side of the adoptive parents firmly and quickly.''

Well, Baby Simone is finally in the hands of Juvenile Court Judge Sylvia Hendon, who will hear the case Friday morning. This child has been waiting for a permanent home for 139 days.

A father called to talk about the excruciating wait for final legal right to his adopted son. There's a happy ending. ''My son is 5 1/2 now and getting ready to start Little League. Everybody is entitled to one miracle. And he is ours.''

And the next question would be, of course, when does Baby Simone get her miracle?

Laura Pulfer's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU-FM (91.7 mHz), and as a regular commentator on NPR's Morning Edition.