Posts Tagged ‘Micro-loan’

The Resolution and the Mongoose

Monday, May 11th, 2009

I made a little New Year’s resolution for myself. Working so much in NYC exposes me to so many people asking for help, either homeless or worse, so I thought that I might agree to help instead of hurrying by. I came up with a simple rule, if somebody asked and I had change, I would give them my change. Because I need my cash for tolls or even for emergencies, like a few days ago when the Christopher Street Station refused my MetroCard in every single turnstile and I had to put cash into the machine to get a stupid paper card.

It is quite a challenge to uphold the rules of this program because I am conditioned to ignore everything around me like everybody else. Maybe that is what this is really about. Surely my stupid pocket change is not really helping anybody, but there are studies that show that being ignored has very negative psychological effects on people. Don’t make me cite the study here, I just remember that it was about people who worked in retail like somebody at Sam’s Club who offers you a sample of some Italian sausage from a little grill. It drives people nuts when you walk by instead of just saying, “No thanks.”

I am usually either trying to see a client or rushing home as fast as I can, so have to force myself to stop, but usually I can do it. I was at the Broadway-Lafayette Station last week and a guy came right up to me and asked for change. I waived him off almost automatically. I immediately realized that I just broke my rules because I had change in my pocket. I started to follow him down the platform, but he turned around first and came back my way. He came up to me again as if he already forgot he approached me and before he could ask, he had my quarter. There is another guy who works with this outfit called the United Homeless Organization or UHO as it it written on his money jug. I understand that this is a kind of organized panhandling outfit, but that doesn’t change my exercise. If I have change, I give it. If the argument is that handing money directly to the person asking is wrong because it will not help him, I propose that without the cash in my pocket last week, I would have been standing in the Christopher Street Station trying to figure out how to get home.

I have seen several blogs that trash the UHO because the person asking for the donation usually gets to keep whatever they can get, minus fifteen bucks that they have to turn over to their headquarters, wherever and whatever that is. So, if that is not really a problem for me, then I guess the other complaint is that the organization pays some CEO for travel and expenses. Perhaps that is a problem, but again, because I am a quarter down at the end of the day hardly means that I have made a huge negative impact on myself or somebody else. Perhaps the president of the outfit is more than a pimp, I can’t say. Yes, obviously, a donation to a legit organization would be money better spent, but don’t tell me that another non-profit won’t spend the money on something other then direct aid to people on the street. I a pretty sure that people sitting in cubicles at most non-profits have a larger paycheck than I do. Is Lincoln Center a non-profit? The budget for their renovation is a cool 1.2 billion dollars. I heard the lead architect on WNYC last week talking about how the street is where all the city’s energy is and that Alice Tully Hall will bring the center down to street level, whatever that means. Does it really have to do that? Does Lincoln Center use all of its money for support of the arts, or does it pay somebody to drive people around or make copies?  Most of the sites that I checked out for background on the UHO were pretty callous, and one was actually about hanging out in the Hamptons, but the author took time out to belittle homeless people just to change it up, I guess.

1.2 billion is an amazing amount of cash, but I guess it is about the cost of a single B-2 Spirit, so maybe it’s not that great. I think 1.2 billion would be a nice number for some seed money to start a street-level arts micro loan program and still have enough money for your CEO’s expenses at the end of the year. Bloomberg was speaking at an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of Lincoln Center today and he said that there were twenty-thousand ballerinas in NYC looking to fill the one-hundred ballerina positions at the center. Really, twenty-thousand, or is that just cute billionaire talk. If there are that many ballet dancers out there, how many painters are there that could use a micro-loan to get their practice up. It is unfortunate that we live in Sparta and not Greece. The stimulus bill has next to nothing for the arts, a mere fraction of the budget for the Lincoln Center facelift at 50 million dollars, and I’m sure most if it will go to Shakespeare theaters that do a great national service promoting English plays with American money. Perhaps there is a way to do a micro-loan program for artists and really take it down to the street level, after all, that is where all the energy is. If there was a sanctioned program, there would likely be a way to get art onto the streets for real. We could get those ballerinas out for a few open-air performances. Can you imagine a serious sculpture or suite of paintings right out in the street? They closed streets this summer so that people could walk and bike them, and in some instances there was spontaneous dancing, so why not fund the dancing and throw in some heavy duty visual art too. It sounds weird but it could work, and every artist I know has a shovel ready project. I have one that I could start tomorrow.

Speaking of that kind of thing, I recently saw a lost/stolen BMX bike up in Clifton, NJ on the side of Route 46. I turned around and grabbed it and tossed it in the truck. No seat, no brakes, it is a typical abused and abandoned bike. It was probably stolen, but it doesn’t look like it was garage kept, if you know what I mean. I guess I snaked it because I saw the Mongoose decal on the down tube, and that sealed it. I have wanted a Mongoose since I saw a Trend video with Dennis McCoy riding his Hooligan. The plan is to fix it up and ride it around the West Village and the Bowery as a sort of performance. I have no idea what direction it will take, but maybe it is a warm up for Bantam Mechanics; a sort of build project with a performance to get my feet wet before we start the big one. Besides, I really want to ride in NYC and a found bike could wind up staying in NYC when the performance is finished. No real loss, given that the parts I need will hardly amount to a substantial sum. Maybe I can find a reputable non-profit to accept the bike, or perhaps I can just give it to somebody who asks.