I'm still fuming about this but a little less than ten years ago. From the National Endowment for the Arts website:
-May 07, 2009-
Washington, D.C. – Today, details of the Fiscal Year 2010 budget request for the National Endowment for the Arts were submitted to Congress as part of President Obama's FY 2010 budget. The President's budget requests $161.3 million for the agency, an increase of $6.3 million or 4 percent over the NEA's FY 2009 budget of $155 million. The proposed FY 2010 budget would allow for the distribution of approximately $133 million in grant awards to state and regional arts agencies as well as nonprofit arts organizations in all disciplines across the country to fund performances, exhibitions, tours, festivals, education programs, and other activities.
Good news? $161.3 million is spread throughout the U.S. as well as administration costs.
The reality is that amount of money is not even statistically significant enough to place a percentage value to the third decimal place in the overall 2010 budget.
$161.3 million is the approximate cost of three(3) AH-64 Apache helicopters.
While the federal government's budget is not soley a national potlatch where everyone contributes and benefits, artists do pay taxes. Are artists' interests and the benefits they bring to the economy, education, and creative endeavors being accurately valuated to three(3) helicopters?
The world is not oriented to the individual although the phrases ‘personal choice,’ ‘personal needs,’ and ‘personal privacy’ are always on the sale rack with the other ready to wear garments which come in and out of vogue regardless if someone is there to buy them at the right price. After all, price is the conduit of human behavior not personal taste, morals or ethics as previously reported over the past three thousand years.
I’ve arrived at the Lincoln Park Grill which is just a few blocks from my house and my regimen is usually to be here every Friday at exactly 4:30 for my Tanqueray martini followed by a dozen Blue Point oysters. The hostesses – beautiful teenagers who do a great job but are just a few phases distant from stuffed animals and Saturday morning cartoons – greeted me with, “Good afternoon, Max. Would you like a table?”
“Yes, thank you.”
The tall teen then asks, “Will there be a lady tonight?”
“No, a table for one will be fine.”
She smiles and takes me, or puts me, in my place.
So, I’m sitting here enjoying the ‘me’ time and writing this piece in my head while nodding and acknowledging other familiar faces as they transit the bar, aisles, and facilities a little more wobbly at each pass. That will get worse as the evening progresses so I will enjoy this moment with a magnificent martini which was just delivered with the oysters exactly twenty minutes behind when the kitchen opens at 5:00 p. m. I enjoy other peoples’ punctuality.
My table is for two and I’m alone which bothers a lot of folks. My being alone, socially and personally, seems to provoke two basic responses from other people; 1.) the observation that I am unhappy about being alone, and, 2.) I pose a clear and present threat to any escorted or unescorted lady and, therefore, I should be ‘fixed up’ immediately. Neither are correct because when Noah finished his manifest of two of every kind, he would have called my name and said, “Your table awaits you but, please, keep away from the livestock.”
Captain Noah was navy and I’m army so that probably would not have worked out. The myth is safe from further blasphemy.
Many single people have told me how difficult is to cook for one at home. Also, many have observed they have a lot of unused space left over from a past relationship. While a lot of this can be attributed to a transition from 2 to 1 it is still a sobering reminder being a solo act is better than being in a really bad partnership.
The socio-economic pressures really don’t care about people though because it’s Things that bring happiness and create jobs sowe can afford the happiness. Most things are based on double occupancy; resorts, cruise ships, tables, and home loans which favor – though illegal – a marriage as a sign of stability regardless of its reality. It has been a long time since a street legal automobile was built having only a driver’s seat. There is also a reason why popsicles can be divided into two romantic portions. I wish I could have come up with that idea before someone else did.
The oysters arrive.
I do feel a special connection with all singles living sans ‘live-in’ partners. Despite outside influences we do not rely on some financial-emotional co-dependency to have meaning in our lives; we made that choice and have raised the bar for our personal expectations if that choice needs amending. Of course this is no guarantee the moment of ‘meaning’ arrives like a bolt of enlightenment along the superhighway exit ramp to satori.
Two of my friends who are, interestingly, single but political strategists on opposing sides of the minefield, are very concerned about the upcoming midterm elections. Both have voiced their concern that single people are not even being considered as a voting ‘block’ by either party. Their data, which according to them, is being ignored shows unattached single males and females will be a major factor especially in the under 35-year old age group. But, the older people in their traditional marriage value-added illusion are the money people and it will be interesting if either party gains from their solicitation to the rich minority. Only people who are miserable vote anyway.
The oysters are great and the place is filling up with couples.
I am trying not to adopt a cynical position. I am not a cynical person or thinker. There’s a difference between being a cynic, like Chomsky, and being a positive observer, like McLuhan was. Being nothing and saying nothing is being a politician or a cleric.
Like most singles I receive unsolicited advice from ‘happy’ people. According to them, I should cut my hair, stop wearing extremely short shorts if anything at all, I should also stop being so open to people, socially or privately, and, stop hanging out with trashy blondes (this one I took to heart and will never do again but it took Jamaica to carry me over on that one). I really haven’t met that many happy people although they do tend to gravitate to the Nietzsche herd for safety and the idea of happiness because, well, everyone seems to be happy.
If given a choice, I’d prefer to listen to people who deem themselves as unhappy or even disgruntled which is the opposite of gruntled (when asked how you are feeling by those who could really care less, just say, I’m gruntled and thanks for asking.”). They have real stuff to say with no expectation of it being fixed by me or anyone else. The irony is most unhappy people I know are either married or living with someone. I’ll leave the correlation between happiness and relationships to the bartender who got my nod for another martini.
He knows I watching his vermouth pour – not the cheap stuff – and I am simultaneously thinking about my dear friend Sandy – who is single – who keeps telling me I am ‘different’ and while I want to take that in a positive way I’m still not sure that is her intent. I’m thinking about Sandy because her situation is similar to George’s who stops by my solitude to say hello and to ask, “Max, is it true you actually gave a lady a ring?”
George is anomaly as far as divorcee’s go. He won sole custody of his two kids who are attending Auburn and, yes, was awarded alimony from his ex-wife. So, George’s question was more in disbelief that I would consider doing something he would not do. Well, I jumped out of airplanes for a while too.
There are a lot of single women who are receiving alimony which prevents them from doing what they might otherwise do if the monthly check wasn’t there. I’m not sure what the intent and result is because of the family court/lawyer ethic being after the gavel hits the wood it is presumed justice has been served. The difference, I suppose, is one’s perspective on the difference between compensation and control.
But, George is a reminder that a truly single, free person is beyond the control of things which would, potentially, make them otherwise. Yes, I would postulate it is far more difficult being single than being married. And, yes, a lady received a ring from me and I’ve not seen her since which, again, is another toothpick in my cumulative case argument or theory about singles.
Ah, the second martini - my last - arrives as well as the trio of platinum platitudes who I have avoided over the past eight years because they reek of Este’ and wear too much jewelry, and, well, they are just disgusting in a fashionable sort of over 40ish sort of way.
I have to start thinking about getting out of this place before someone sits down to start a serious conversation not knowing I’m already having one with myself. I haven’t a lot to say to other people anymore anyway. But, I am free to make that choice.
Too late, interruption #2; Cynthia sits down. She’s meeting someone later and she’s dressed for it. She’s also three drinks ahead of me and heading for a designated driver for the evening which I’ve done but don’t do again. Cynthia has never been married, in her early 40’s and, though I have no first hand knowledge of this, has a bio clock strapped to an IED of micro size beneath what passes for a skirt. She’s intruded in my space but she’s beautiful and I’m forgiving as I chew on the second olive.
Before Cynthia’s smile appeared across the table I thought I had a little thing already written for my website and was working on the ending. Then, she said, “Max, we were watching you from the bar and George said you look so sad when you are alone.”
I don’t immediately respond and she continues her reconnaissance with, “So, what are you thinking?”
This is a question women always ask in the same way men wonder what color and cut the lady’s intimate apparel embodies. It’s always a trick question because I have to think what I was thinking about and I’m not sure which choice is the correct answer. She probably isn’t interested in my preoccupation with the eventual invasion of my street by Visigoth hoards raping and pillaging and my uncertainty of having proper Visigoth attire. One cannot be overly prepared.
Immediately, I think what a professor once told me about the most absurd thesis abstract can be defended in the meat of the thesis as long as the attributions are made. Academia is vested in appeals to authority when there’s no cognitive thought present So, I can either scrap what I’ve already processed in my mind or amend previously stated viewpoints. The Visigoths probably won’t mind.
I don’t answer Cynthia because of what I thinking. Now, she asks, “Is what George said true?”
Singles who are getting ready for a date are just as evangelical about other singles’ happiness as those who have a 24/7 connection with another. I stand corrected between theory and postulate.
I don’t say much to Cynthia and she leaves saying, “Well, Max, you are different because you are a hopeless romantic and you have my number if you want to talk.”
She’s right. I do have her number.
A waiter brings over another martini sent by someone ‘over there’ who I don’t dare look at since I have some thoughts to complete here and, then, go home to whatever is there.
I suddenly realize that most of what I have ever learned has come from single people. I think that is the paradox about those who really influence others; they sacrifice the queen sized bed for their personal commitment to others whether they be soldiers, students or children. That comes with a lot of bad personal choices by singles in an effort to reconcile the paradox which is an exercise in futility. That’s why I am now smiling and it isn’t because of the martinis. I’ll walk away from the free one untouched. Some things should remain untouched.
I’m still learning that and when someone has to say they are free, it has never been true. I suppose the table for one is marginally better than Dotty Parker’s Algonquin table long ago in NYC when the trash and bash scene was in fashion amongst the erudite and tragic. That’s a little too bit mean-spirited for my taste.
This just happens to be where I sit and no one else is invited. That is not a challenge to anyone, it’s just a fact.
I am single, have a table for one, and haven’t a clue about the ‘free’ thing.
The motorcycles have returned to the highways and cut through the bug free air of spring stopping only, or, occasionally, for red lights next to poor fellows behind the wheels of mini vans loaded with progeny and pets. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his 19th Century treatise, Compensation, “For anything you gain, you lose something.”
The quote is appropriate to life experiences including motorcycling (Robert Pirsig’s book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance incorrectly attributed a paraphrase of Emerson’s quote to Thoreau which really wouldn’t matter a bit if Pirsig’s book had anything to do with Zen or motorcycle maintenance). To ‘gain’ the experience of riding through the countryside as opposed to experiencing it through the windows of a car is an aesthetic gain while protection from the elements is an acceptable loss for many bikers.
While much of the U.S. citizenry is undergoing some new age psychotherapy, transactional analysis, plugging their round pegs into square holed archetypes, and walking around muttering to themselves through the tongues and minds of politics, economics, and religion in efforts to conquer that universal foe – fear – as if talking it out of existence makes it go away, the motorcyclists know they rarely get a second chance at decisions made on the highway. They ride and live accordingly, or, they don’t live very long.
Failure, or, rather, the fear of failure, is something motorcyclists overcome. Failure is not a part of the plan like some cheesy pre-nuptials preceding a two-year date-marriage to underwrite, well, failure, when the sex chills and the chardonnay warms. Skydivers, pilots, scuba divers, the flying trapeze people, surfers, and so forth, also share that position which is viewed by others as taking unnecessary risks and, yes, for those who surrender to their fears comes at the price of some rewarding experiences. It is socially correct these days to be without balls and with fear of leaving home without a cell phone just in case something happens at the expense, or loss, of personal privacy and self reliance.
The motorcycle experience encompasses far more than the overcoming of fear; there’s the more practical aspects of learning and knowing how to service and repair the machine. Most male bikers – there is a growing contingent of ladies astride – would agree anyone can use their toothbrush, sleep with their old lady, but don’t touch the bike. Bike riders have a passion in knowing through their empirical, mechanical experience that every nut and bolt is secured on the machine with the correct torque. It won’t be the dealership bike mechanic whose butt is on the line should mechanical failure occur at 60 miles per hour.
It is noteworthy to mention the biker’s penchant for safety and preventive maintenance does carry over to when they do wrap themselves within the four wheeled, two thousand pound suppositories; they are better car drivers. This is something the underwriters have understood for some time until the first-time biker owner – demographically over 50 years of age, riding a Harley-Davidson, and a danger to themselves – began to emerge from the recently divorced, baby-boomer pack. Combined with the distinct sound of a v-twin engine designed to fire out of sync thus giving it that loud snap-crackle-pop sound, the Harley’s ridden by the old guys often carry a 200-pound load on the back of the bike taking the form of hard case bags or a ‘lady’ in need of Jenny Craig, or a two year tour of Somalia, successfully combining noise and visual pollution.
Usually, these two-wheeled threats to traffic flow only own the bikes for a couple of years for fair weather poker runs before trading them in for a golf cart and flooding the motorcycle market with barely used motorcycles. The time they do have on the bikes fulfills something they missed when mommy said ‘no’ to motorcycles, football, and pointed scissors.
The more familiar image of the biker is associated with the bike gangs mainly located in California which Hunter Thompson, Hollywood, and local law enforcement successfully stigmatized bikers who ride in groups of three or more. In his 1965 article printed in The Nation, Thompson opens his story:
Last Labor Day weekend newspapers all over California gave front-page reports of a heinous gang rape in the moonlit sand dunes near the town of Seaside on the MontereyPeninsula. Two girls, aged 14 and 15, were allegedly taken from their dates by a gang of filthy, frenzied, boozed-up motorcycle hoodlums called "Hell's Angels," and dragged off to be "repeatedly assaulted."
A deputy sheriff, summoned by one of the erstwhile dates, said he "arrived at the beach and saw a huge bonfire surrounded by cyclists of both sexes. Then the two sobbing, near-hysterical girls staggered out of the darkness, begging for help. One was completely nude and the other had on only a torn sweater."
Some 300 Hell's Angels were gathered in the Seaside-Monterey area at the time, having convened, they said, for the purpose of raising funds among themselves to send the body of a former member, killed in an accident, back to his mother in North Carolina.
One of the Angels, hip enough to falsely identify himself as "Frenchy of San Bernardino," told a reporter who came out to meet the cyclists: "We chose Monterey because we get treated good here; most other places we get thrown out of town."
In the 1953 film, The Wild One, Marlon Brando played a bike gang member who rode his (Brando's) own personal Triumph bike and more than a decade later, Steve McQueen rode a Triumph in his famous riding scene in The Great Escape. Still later, in the cult classic, Easy Rider, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper took their fateful ride on chopped Harley’s after consummating a drug deal.
Whether in real life or on the screen, bikers do enjoy the rebellious bad boy (or, girl) label whether accurate or not when the bike is in the garage. This seems to be a phenomenon specific to western culture since more motorcycles are used for daily transportation (ok, socio-economic pressures being different) in the Far East.
While the early Café racers coming out of the UK in the late 1950’s through the 1960’s (Norton, BSA, and Triumph) set the pace for high performance bikes, it was Japan which produced what could easily be described the best designed motorcycle ever made; the Honda CB 750. The bike had everything including reliability and acceptability outside the ‘bike gang’ stigma. As the motorcycles changed, so did the market and the ‘type’ of riders. When Honda introduced the grand touring motorcycle, the Gold Wing, a new type of motorcycle club emerged specific to bike brand which had a membership of all ages.
In contrast to Hunter Thompson’s report, and his book, Hell’s Angels, the motorcycle evolved into an attractive, sexy vehicle much as the ragtop autos of the past. Women, both as riders and passengers, boosted a new market in leather wear which ranged from basic chaps through the tight, low-rise jeans, to the 13” mini-skirt topped with a leather halter. Other spin-off’s included a resurgence, and, again, acceptability, of the visible (as well as concealed) tattoo and body piercing. To be fashionably rebellious no longer requires the actual motorcycle, just some of the regalia.
That’s what the market economy does best; it exploits what is on society’s fringes into a mass appeal product much as it did with rhythm and blues/rock n’ roll music and plugs it into every possible human activity. There are ‘parade bikes,’ trail bikes, touring bikes, high performance crotch rockets, metropolitan scooters, as well as collectors of classic Indian’s, Harley’s, and Enfield’s of eras long past. The bikes are used for commuting, long distance traveling, recreation, or just a thing to do on the weekend after a long work week.
Regardless of type or purpose, anyone with a motorcycle endorsement on their state operators license can, at any given moment, become a little rebellious if only briefly.
Today, the bike has become a practical alternative to the automobile in response to gasoline prices hovering around the $3 per gallon mark for ‘regular.’ There are quite a few ‘suits’ riding bikes during early morning commutes and the benefits extend beyond gas prices; parking in many cities is an additional expense plus the annual insurance on a bike – depending on engine displacement and overall value – is usually less than $200 per year. Add a helmet, a rain suit, a saddlebag for the laptop, the commuter is still ahead of the expense game plus arriving at work a little more emotionally charged.
While the bike has undergone considerable design changes geared towards safety, performance, and reliability, the experience of motorcycling will essentially remain the same as long as there are winding roads away from the interstate highways. The destination, to a biker, is secondary to the ride and that may be the last aspect which separates the biker from non-bikers. It is, after all, the non-bikers who ‘truck’ their rides between Daytona and Sturgis to participate in middle-aged spring/summer breaks heavily tinged with melancholic sighs of lost youth and the eventual return to the mediocre lives on either side of the double yellow lines never changing between nine and five.
There is a Zen aspect to reconsider as well.
If Emerson was correct, then it does become a relevant question in the context of personal freedom, use and appreciation of natural resources, and, yes, an aesthetic experience which can be a positive reckoning with the more mundane chores; what is one willing to relinquish to gain such an experience?
Bikers have their own unique answers to that question and negotiate their fears accordingly in a society which trusts others to guarantee the illusion of risk-free lives with the predictable consistently of oatmeal. When that illusion fails to deliver what’s promised, some just buy a bike while others undergo therapy.
Both usually end up on the highway stopped at the same traffic light.