Thereís this toll road nonsense, for instance. People in Montgomery who think weíll happily pay for the privilege of driving on 280, however fast, have a serious case of freezy-brain. That the highway would be elevated makes the concept even more comical, as though those who could afford the extra expense would be taking the high road.
Thereís also health care reform reaching critical mass this week. All winter long the best and the brightest, or at least those with the greatest financial incentive, have struggled with the difficulties of financing universal health care. Now that balmy breezes are starting to blow, the permafrost in all those congressional crania should thaw sufficiently to admit the simple solution thatís been there all along: barter.
Curb your mirth, there. For most of the republicís history, citizens in need of health care have often traded out with the local sawbones.
My grandfather, for example, a practicing physician most of his life, attended to the populace of Blount County on a cash basis, insurance back then being what you used to finance your burial. When a patient was short of the ready with which to pay for Dr. Hadenís services, he was as likely to accept produce or small animals in exchange. (Iím not aware that he ever required anything larger than a tom turkey.)
If thereís anything of which we have a surfeit in this new century, itís stuff. Rather than taking all the time to list it on Craigslist or auction it on eBay to raise money for medical bills, letís eliminate the middleman and deal directly with our health care providers. Need an EKG? Trade a couple of iPods for it; your kidsíll scarcely miss them. Annual checkups? Maybe the doctorís missus could use that pair of Manolos taking up needless space in the closet.
Thereíll be haggling, but no more than goes on with the health insurance companiesí death panels. And what will the doctors do with all the stuff they acquire? Why, sell it to their pals at Goldman Sachs or MorganChase. They love stuff and thanks to taxpayers, they still have loads of dough with which to buy it.
Now, if we can just implement the Fair Tax to cover all this consumption, weíll get the national budget balanced in no time.
Thinking about my grandfather reminds me of one of the real harbingers of spring: neckties. Throughout the winter Iíve been wearing more sweaters than usual, but now that perspiration is returning to the forecast, Iíll be returning to my favored apparel.
I inherited a fond regard for neckties and their appurtenances from father and grandfather, both of whom wore them proudly and often. Though men of fashion have been wearing cloth wrapped around their necks for centuries, the necktie as we know it today was only about fifty years old when my grandfather was born, having been made a part of the wardrobe by the 19th Century Tim Gunn, a trendsetter known as Beau Brummell.
Those inclined to take the trouble will point out that gentlemen of the Roman Empire wore kerchiefs around their necks and that Louis XIV brought the word ďcravatĒ into use because he liked the way his Croat mercenary soldiers wore theirs. However, here in America, the fancy silks of Europe were democratized into ribbon ties or bow ties. Though Martin Van Buren was the first President to wear a bow, it was Teddy Roosevelt who first posed for a presidential portrait wearing a necktie.
I started borrowing my fatherís ties not long after I realized that, clip-ons notwithstanding, tying a four-in-hand knot was a true rite of passage. Those ties were exotic to me, wildly colored swatches of not-so-flameproof rayons and acetates, some even hand-painted with flamboyant plant life out of tropics no one in our family had ever visited.
The necktie later became a way to infiltrate the business community, a place in which I otherwise had no business. My hair might be down to the middle of my back, but if I sported a respectable tie, and never with a short-sleeved shirt, I could pass.
That I had an array of ties to wear resulted from a happy accident. The irrepressible Deb Watts ran a little vintage clothing/antique shop on 29th Street which I patronized back before I kicked the kitsch habit. I was walking past one afternoon en route to my apartment when I heard Deb calling, ďYa wanna buy some ties?Ē She had decided to liquidate her business and head north, and as a means of lightening the inventory, she offered me her storeís entire inventory of neckties, maybe three hundred or so, for fifty bucks. Plus she threw in the rack they were hanging on.
At that time fifty bucks was real money, but I couldnít resist, and Iím sure I looked quite the fashion plate lugging a tie rack up 30th Street. Iíve still got most of them today, though age shredded a few and my reluctance to wear wide Seventies styles sent those particular examples to quiltmakers. As I spin the rack, foulards, paisleys and polka-dots meld with rep stripes and geometric patterns. Some of these ties bear the names of famous designers and some the names of long-shuttered department stores, but all of them serve a purpose by serving no discernible purpose. There is no real reason to wear a necktie anymore, which makes it all the more important that I wear one.
The winter of our discontent is giving way to the spring of our discombobulation. Itís time to tie one on.
Courtney Haden is a Birmingham Weekly columnist. Write to email@example.com.