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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Humor: Letter: Lockdown proves we can live without the arts. Time to defund them for good

It’s nothing personal

For over 40 years, I’ve lived happily just off Main Street in an affable, amiable, agreeable little town where the Bible Belt meets the Rust Belt and the rubber meets the road, doing honest, blue-collar work at an honest, blue-collar factory that specially produces the highest-quality blue collars for America’s strongest, sturdiest, stoutest, solidist, soundest, heaviest-duty, longest-lasting, hardest-wearing, most robustly built beautiful, blue button-up blouses and shirts. The name’s S.M. Bleelyne, and I love my work. I love my work and I love baseball. In fact, I really love baseball, gosh darnit. I love baseball so much that I can’t live without it, even though it brings back memories of my son Junior. 

Obviously, with the coronavirus quarantine keeping me home from work and forcing the suspension of the MLB season, I’m currently struggling to live without my three loves. But I’m no pessimist, which is how I’ve managed to see that some good may yet come from this god forsaken plague. For example, we could emerge from lockdown with a renewed appreciation for the simple, pure, pastoral lifestyle that baseball epitomizes. Perhaps we could finally shed many of the laughable luxuries and trifling trivialities that the coronavirus has proved we can live without. That’s where I come in. You see, I’m optimistic that with a little help from me, this pandemic can most certainly eradicate a certain specific one of these useless vanities once and for all. And with the coronavirus by my side, I’m confident that I can actually come out the other side of this quarantine with all three of my loves again. Man he could swing a bat, that kid. Even when it was just T-ball. Sure do miss that.

That’s why I’m writing this letter. Now, I’m not a writer and I’m not a reader. But I know how to read the writing on the wall. And you know what it says? It says that the writing is on the wall for the arts. Yeah, that’s right. All the art galleries and performance halls are closed indefinitely and you know what? We’re all just fine. Fine without the fine arts. Just fine. Get it? We simply don’t need them like we need our real jobs and our baseball. The pandemic has proved we can live without the fine arts, so it’s finally time to defund them for good! Believe me, it’s nothing personal.

As you’ve probably gathered, I’m a fan of sports. But I’ve never been a fan of the arts. You know why? Because you can’t be a fan of the arts. You have to patronize them, and that’s just lame and boring. “I’m sorry, no cheering, screaming or booing in the art gallery! Hey old man, no beer, cottoncandy, peanuts or crackerjacks in the concert hall! Whoa there, pops! No fighting over foul balls at the theater!” Oh wait, I’m sorry — the theatre. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it, you don’t have to patronize me, okay sonny? Hey, how bout y’all patronize this, you pretentious patronizing f**ks! 

You see, I don’t go to take in a nice afternoon ballgame at the ballpark because I’m looking for “transcendence” or “self-actualization” or the need to “feel moved.” No, I go because I love baseball, gosh darnit! And it makes me feel alive. Art lovers wouldn’t get that. But you know who really used to get that though? Junior. When he was in Little League, he was alive. He was so damn good that he played on a team with the older kids. And you know what he did? What my little boy did? He hit a grand slam to win the Little League World Series. From then on, the bigger kids called him “Baby Grand.” He certainly was alive back then. When I was his age, I obsessed over trying to get a cool nickname like that on my baseball team!

But obsession isn’t healthy. People who needlessly obsess over the arts by buying season tickets to the symphony, frequenting the local art gallery, attending weekly poetry nights and going to their silly book clubs simply don’t understand what it’s like to regularly enjoy the comforts of cherished rituals and routines like sports fans do. Like I do by watching SportsCenter every night and taking myself out to the ballgame whenever I can spare a few bucks. Like my old neighborly neighbor Lee did by bringing over a batch of his homebrewed beer for us to enjoy every time the Yankees played the Red Sox. But that sacred tradition is where it all went wrong for Junior. One night, after his Red Sox destroyed my Yankees, Lee mentioned that his mother left him a baby grand piano that he could neither play nor make space for in his living room. He offered it to Junior for free. Said a couple piano lessons never did a kid any harm. Boy, was he wrong! Piano lessons killed Baby Grand. 

After several months it became clear that he was learning quite fast and was extremely musical for his age. And he really enjoyed it. I should have put a stop to it then. But how was I supposed to know that he’d soon turn into a goddamn child prodigy? Anyway, he soon quit baseball to focus only on music. He eventually got a scholarship to New England Conservatory, wasting all his baseball talent. I think he chose New England over Julliard just to spite the Yankees! And that’s not even the worst thing. Apparently, right before a performance of Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos somewhere in the former Soviet Union, the concert hall’s second concert grand was badly damaged and he was forced to perform his part on a baby grand instead. Yet, he still managed to compensate and adjust in the moment to the instrument’s worse projection relative to the orchestra and the other piano. Big deal! But because of that, all his music pals call him “Baby Grand” now. Can you believe that? The nerve!

Well, the joke’s on you now, sonny! You’re quarantined in Paris or Prague or Parma or someplace. And you know what? You can’t do all your Brahms and Schumann and Chopin recitals. Maybe not for a while. That means no income. But you don’t need to worry because I’m taking action to make sure that this is never a problem for you ever again. I’m starting a movement to defund the arts for good. And believe me, it’s for your own good. Now you can finally pick up your hat, bat and glove again and lose this newfound fear for getting your hands dirty. You had it all! You coulda gone pro! But it’s not too late! You’re still young and fit enough to make it to the Major Leagues! This will all be worth it in the end. Because in times of crisis when they can’t work, classical musicians don’t get paid. But pro baseball players do. And if we defund the arts entirely, they can get paid even more.

Written by: Benjamin Porter— bbporter@ucdavis.edu 

(This article is humor and/or satire, and its content is purely fictional. The story and the names of “sources” are fictionalized.)


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