For your Own Good
By the time you read this, Valentines Day will have come and gone. Some of you may have harvested a basket of fond memories; perhaps a great dinner followed by some sweet loving. Others of you may prefer to drop the subject entirely. Which is fine, but for me, Valentines is four days away and I'm thinking about it now.
I don't know who felt that the best day to celebrate romantic love should fall in the middle of February, but I'm going to guess they lived in the tropics. I'm from Minnesota and the very date of February 14th (or any time around it, give or take six weeks) doesn't conjure any intimate or warm thoughts. It reminds me that I'm cold and tired; Tired of the cold, the short days, the snow, the minus-18 wind chill. I can only conclude that when St. Valentine was murdered in prison, it was chilly in his cell.
As for the inspiration for the holiday itself, love, I will safely assume everyone's equally confused what to make of it. Sure, we all engage in romance, but we don't understand just what it is we're doing when we're doing it, whatever it is we're doing. We just know that we feel compelled to participate.
To clarify this crazy little thing called love, I thought I might gain some insight on the concept of love by looking at it in a historical fashion. After all, shouldn't the average Joe get a leg up on the manners and morals of courtship since everyone that raised him has been, or at least desired to be, in a relationship? As the old axiom says: "Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it." Which is terrific if you're Ron Jeremy.
However, the historical perspective was a dead end. No great culture has been any more successful at defining love than any other. Even the Greeks failed to describe it. We've all heard that the Greek language has several words to quantify love. For example, the word used to encapsulate the "love of one's brother" carries a meaning separate from the word for the "love of one's date". While this attempt is noble, the distinction between the two has been blurred, at least in reputation.
Perhaps love is so hard to define because its very nature is intangible. One refers to it as condition hanging off of someone else, i.e.; "You know what I love about her? The way the sunlight plays upon her hair lip…" We also express our love through the application of other's actions; "I love it when you make minnow pancakes for breakfast." But as for love it self, we never say, "I love loving you.", at least with our clothes on. Even then, we're referring to an expression of love, not the source.
As for Americans, we don't even try to differentiate the different facets of love with mere words. We use websites. But this is just another semantic trap; my google.com search for "love", "sunshine", and "hair lip" turned up something very different from any of the meanings of love by any standard, American or Greek.
So I'll just resign myself to thinking about love through metaphor. Many people have said, "God is love", and I think that's great. But I want to bring love, even as a metaphor, into the physical realm. God tends to be just intangible enough for me to move the metaphor a little closer to home. So I'll just use beer instead.
Ben Franklin said, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." In one sentence, Ben ties together beer, God, and love, and since he's smarter than me, I'll take it. Besides, beer has a lot in common with love: Both feel good when it's happening, boost self-confidence, and help the world look a little smoother. That's just some of the good stuff. To expand the metaphor, love and beer further their symbiotic relationship by commiserating some of their negative qualities. Regrettably, beer and love can hurt in the morning, impair sound decision making , and have been known to just plain stink. Not to mention that they both make in-laws uncomfortable.
That said, it does us no good to see beer and love in such black-and-white terms. Above all, beer and love are dangerous, which make them fun. At some point, we all admit that the thrill of chase trumps the kill. There is something about the risk of walking the high wire that inspires us to dig a little deeper within ourselves. Whether it brings glory or failure becomes in itself a moot point; half the fun of treading the gray areas in life is that you might get burned, which makes success all the more sweet.
If I may be so bold, I'd like to introduce that the engagement of risk, damn the outcome, is an expression of love itself. If you believe that something, or someone, is worth having, then it should follow that you would accept the risk of rejection as a possibility. And so it goes with everything else in life, and God bless it; No matter what the bitter among us say, more often than not people arrive at happy conclusions when taking a risk. If we didn't, we would've given up on our emotions long ago. Either way, we inherently love to risk and risk to love.
So now the love of love and the love of beer (which we established as an extension of love in itself) are tied together with a dangerous bow. Untie the bow and you might not like what pops out of the package. But then again, you might. Unfortunately, this temptation doesn't sit well with everyone. Some folks actually enjoy mixing their contempt for danger with the attraction of love. The natural result of this folly translates into a most unwholesome uptightness that pops up in their attitudes pertaining to everything else that inherently contains an element of risk. If wine and women are too risky to enjoy, why not throw song, the third and most influential part of Solomon's trifurcate, into the pit of condemnation?
The morality police feel compelled to impose limits on all things fun. After getting shot down a few times, these folks truly believe you'll be grateful when they impose their advice, or worse leadership. While I can't blame anyone for being too shy to shove their hands close to the fire lest they get burned again, I'm learning to take great umbrage with the inevitable agenda they adopt. For every time someone's personal preferences are backed by a statistical possibility, opinion becomes a political mandate.
Right now, philosophical descendents of the Women's Temperance League, the Parental Music Resource Center, and the Congressional Committee for Un-American Activities have surfaced, with unprecedented influence, to put the kibosh on smoking cigarettes in bars. Armed with good common sense (smoking is unhealthy) and questionable morality (nobody should ever smoke), the haters of risk feel justified in their crusade to legislate everyone's behavior.
It is no accident that recent crop of killjoys has unleashed their campaign with resounding successes. The no-fun crowd and their ilk have celebrated victories banning alcohol for those less than 21 years of age and warning parents that their kid's music is evil via "Parental Warning" stickers.
Since the nation's youngsters have adopted the wholesale rejection of high school keggers and naughty lyrics on records, I have to wonder what took the morality police so long to prohibit adults from smoking in bars that they legally purchase alcohol. Now everybody can be safe and happy as long as they don't imbibe any alcohol before their twenty-first birthday, never consume more than the FDA's recommended 1.5 drinks after that, and stay away from those evil smokers puffing down about 20 feet from the door of every gin joint, as required by law. This means that I won't be in the bar very long, as it takes mere nanoseconds to put less than two Old Styles. Of course, my girlfriend should be pleased as punch, but then again maybe not. True, I won't be wasting any more of my youth in the bar, but I'll always come home sober and grumpy because I never had any fun.
However, there are factions of our great society that whole-heartedly endorse this kind of fun. I call them Ninnies. It’s easy to spot the North American White-Tailed Ninny- Their natural habitat is located between the upper-crust neighborhoods in the urban centers and the suburbs, they drive Volvos, think ciabatta bread is Euro-chic if not "ethnic", probably vote for Democrats even though residential breadwinner secretly doesn't want to pay taxes for the social programs their representatives introduce into legislation, and never patronize the bars that nobody else can smoke in. The most savage among them also profess a love of all things environmental, yet hire cheap labor in lieu of soiling their own hands with the Craftsman Yard Master rusting behind the garage.
I bet you know these people. If you're some variation of the middle class, college educated (or at least "college attempted"), groovin' hipster that reads jambands.com, you'll probably find these people look like your parents. And if you read this article in fifteen years, you may find the killjoy from your childhood looking back at you in the mirror. But that doesn't let these fuckers off the hook. Whoa baby, far from it. The mandate against fun, or as I like call it, freedom, has been perpetrated by these oligarchies. What is an oligarchy? The dictionary included in my computer's Microsoft Word toolbox defines an oligarchy as "a small group of people who govern a nation, or control an organization, often for their own purposes" or alternately, "government or control by a small group of people".Before the militant faction of you non-smokers jump to the obvious conclusion that you and your ilk are in fact the majority of the population, thus don't fit the profile of an oligarchy as defined by "control by a small group of people", let me be more specific when accusing you of blowing havoc upon our social moors. If we polled two groups of people, non-smokers and the owners of the establishments you so desire to legislate, neither group would truly support the zero tolerance tobacco policies as practiced in California and New York.
You may ask: "Pray tell Padre whatever-your-name-is, how did you arrive at this asinine conclusion?" And my response is this: True, the majority of Americans don't smoke, but don't get fooled into believing everybody shares your recalcitrant objection to sitting in the no-smoking section as much as you do. Generally speaking, the largest differential in any large opinion poll yields a 5-7% differential, at best. Some non-smokers may have the social graces to enjoy a night out despite a little cigarette smoke. Others have romantic partners that smoke, negating any nit-picking, at least for the first six weeks. Lastly, half of any sub-group, including non-smokers, don't acknowledge their individual preferences as the basis for national referendum. In other words, they couldn't give a shit.
As for the folks who have actually invested their time and money into the proprietorship of a bar/restaurant/club, I guarantee you one thing: They hate to see anybody, even a minority such as smokers, stop coming out. Their client's lungs may be black, but their money is green. In one desperate attempt to keep his clients, a bar owner in Ocean Beach California cut the roof off half his building so people can actually smoke while enjoying a drink. Not surprisingly, his gambit has paid off. The place is packed every time I walk by it on tour.
And that's what this is all about. Since California went smoke-free a few years back, bars and clubs have been closing doors after their revenues went tits up. With a twist of irony that can only be provided by our government in action, nobody will be getting cancer at work because they won't have a job. As for any employee that raises a stink about the alleged health risks of working around cigarettes, they can go to fret somewhere else. It's not as if the markets of the free world will crash if some ninny quits serving deep fried Awesome Blossom onion rings at Applebee's. The downturn in revenues for California's entertainment establishments has added to the state's robust unemployment rate, which in turn has driven deficit spending far past the average non-smoker's ability to make up for in higher taxes.
While I'm not claiming that clean lung friendly legislation is responsible for California's economic woes, it's a fine example of why the over-regulation of every aspect of the citizenries daily lives is not only limits the freedoms we enjoy, but is irresponsible. Private businesses operated by people by folks who risk their financial livelihoods, pour their time and sweat into building successful careers, should not be targets du jour for a bunch of ninnies who glad hand the pursuit of happiness for their personal pet peeves. Besides, bars and clubs are not public services. To regulate an establishment out of business and then leverage taxes on what they didn't out-right lose is just plain wrong. Perhaps the ultimate irony is that unlike the tobacco companies, government subsidies and handouts do not hedge the entertainment industry's chances of failure when business slows.
I would like to propose a Valentines gift for everybody. It doesn't matter if you smoke or not, but to receive the whole benefit of this gift, you must be open to the idea that freedom is more important than petty legislation. The next time some ninny says "There ought to be a law…" do your patriotic duty and tell them to suck it up: For it is always better to endure the successes and failures of freedom than it is to resign to complacent boredom of social engineering, ninny-style. For the love of freedom is an extension of the love of life. As Rush sang in that great anthem to individuality, Tom Sawyer:
"The world is the world is
Love and life are deep,
Maybe as his skies are wide!"
Sounds a hell of a lot better than the irritating whining from the ninny killjoys…
Since I've been on tour for the last five weeks, I've been eating too much fast food. As a result, I'm completely tapped for ideas for a recipe. But I'm going to Japan for a little R&R after this tour is over and I'm sure to be inspired when I get back…
This month's Old Style Zealot is a man I'll call "The Jimboriffic". He engineered the new Big Wu CD we recorded in early February. Not only is guilty of kicking ass in the studio, but will do anything for money, include pose with a bottle of beer he has no intention of drinking. What a whore…