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Let's all stop for kebabs on the way in from the airport in Washington, shall we?

Now it's our turn for a few laughs courtesy of the letter writer who disagreed with the choice of Travel section stories and the content of those stories [Letters, Nov. 13].

I'm sure every U.S. citizen is thinking about the must-sees in Washington, D.C.: Maybe the White House, the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument? Not a chance. My first stop is going to be the Afghan Kabob Palace. What citizen doesn't crave a kebab?

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Second stop? Yes, I'm thinking an Ethiopian joint, because Washington has "the largest expat community of Ethiopians outside of Ethiopia."

Thanks for the travel tips. That letter writer is my new travel guru.

Robert Bubnovich

Irvine

One story, two views

I really enjoyed reading Julie L. Kessler's article about Papua New Guinea ["Going Off the Grid," Nov. 13]. I love off-the-beaten-path locations, but that one is so far off the path that I would not have considered it a possibility before learning how Kessler navigated it.

Her writing is clear, concise and full of imagery. I'm inspired by her adventuresome spirit.

Barbara Shoemaker

Redondo Beach

::

As a cultural anthropologist, I read with horror Kessler's articles on exotic tourism in Papua New Guinea.

She describes her excursions to "stare" voyeuristically at naked natives of various "clans," ostensibly unchanged for hundreds of years and untouched by the modern world, as if this were no more complicated than bird watching.

She repeats every trope of oblivious colonial adventure in the tropics, updated to add lack of cell service to the list of privations suffered by these "off-the-grid" savages.

Despite the history she recounts, albeit superficially, of New Guinea's exploitation by European powers, there is no hint of the social or ethical contexts in which these communities expose themselves for her leisure.

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Dennis O'Rourke's 1988 documentary "Cannibal Tours," on just the sort of trips she reports on, will help her see how anachronistic and absurd these pieces are.

John Norvell

Professor of anthropology

Mt. San Antonio College

Walnut

Battery tips

The best solution I have found for keeping loose coin batteries from shorting while traveling or in storage is to fold a piece of blue masking tape over them ["Know Your Battery Basics for Air Travel," On the Spot, by Catharine Hamm, Nov. 13]. I write the battery type on the outside.

Doc Dougherty

Playa del Rey

Here's to Bugsy

Re: "At 75, El Cortez Mixes Mob Past, Hip Present," by Jay Jones, Nov. 13:  As many times as I've been to Vegas, I've never taken the time to go inside the old El Cortez hotel. I'm sure the hotel, once owned by the infamous Bugsy Siegel, has a plethora of stories hidden within its walls.

Jones' article also covers the Flamingo hotel, which Siegel opened on the Strip in 1946. I've stayed there many times through the years.

The 1991 movie "Bugsy," starring Warren Beatty, Siegel says throughout the movie, "Everybody deserves a fresh start every once in awhile."

The next time I'm sitting at Bugsy's Bar at the Flamingo, I'll toast Siegel, who didn't get his fresh start but was shot and killed six months after the Flamingo opened.

Bill Spitalnick

Newport Beach

The friendlier skies?

A bright note: The much maligned United Airlines may be coming around under new leadership.

My son just returned from Tokyo on a United flight and reported that it was smooth and that it arrived almost an hour early.

I also had a positive experience recently. I arrived at LAX from Sydney, Australia, ahead of schedule. The last leg of the journey was a United Express commuter flight scheduled to depart  late in the evening.

I approached the United counter in Terminal 7 to inquire about an earlier flight, not really expecting help.

Instead, I was directed to another desk, where the attendant put me on standby for an earlier flight and waived the change fee.

I was among the people who swore off United after trips were ruined by canceled flights and poor service. If the sky has indeed turned friendly again, I just might become a United frequent flier once more.

Mei-Ling L. Liu

Arroyo Grande, Calif.

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