Saturday, March 15, 2008

bringin' it back

any of the pop-music savvy among us knows that JT (justin timberlake) is "bringing sexy back." it's MY mission, however, to help TJ (thomas jefferson) bring back one of his legacies - the two dollar bill. though the frequently forgotten bill was first printed in 1862 and features the portrait of the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, the $2 bill that we all know and love bears TJ's visage and began circulation in 1869.

i've been met with a wide range of reactions upon spending my "tom's" (as coined by several numismatic enthusiasts). i've had cashiers refuse to accept them, i've had people offer to buy them from me, i've gotten TONS of doubting and suspicious looks, and most commonly i hear, "you sure you want to spend this?" of course i want to spend it. it's money! most people think that $2 bills are novelties or that their rarity makes them collectible. both ideas are false and it's this self-perpetuating cycle of nonsense that keeps poor "tom" relegated to souvenir boxes and not out there rubbing elbows with his other brethren of currency. the $2 bill, although not as popular as the other denominations, is still a viable and vital bill in our current currency structure. according to the U.S treasury, as of april 30, 2007 there were $1,549,052,714 worth of $2 bills in circulation worldwide. because people "save" them or "collect" them or keep one folded and tucked inside their wallet "for luck," a percentage of that 1.5 billion is laying dormant in an economy that could use any kick in the pants we can muster. the hoarding of $2 bills defies good common sense so i'm here to spread the message...the $2 is the new $1!

think about it...what costs a dollar anymore? small things that used to cost under a buck like snacks, drinks, a loaf of bread, a gallon of gas, a cup of coffee, or bus fare, now cost at least a dollar and change. this creates a twofold unwanted and unwieldy profusion. because $2 bills are rarely used, this causes the buildup of singles in every pocket, wallet, billfold, and purse around. because of inflation, the things we would have previously used a $1 bill to pay for now require us to use more of them. secondly, the coinage from the use of more $1's builds up in our pockets, on dresser tops, and vehicle cup-holders. the good news is that it can all be stopped. embrace the $2! the $2 is your friend!

aside from the wear and tear switching to deuces would save the seams of our pockets, it could also stand to be a step in a (forgive the pun) greener direction. it was pointed out in Economic Reviews by Suzanne J. Stone (Mar/Apr 1976 Vol. 62 No. 2) that by replacing about half the "ones" with an equivalent dollar volume of "twos", thus decreasing the number of bills in circulation, the Federal Government would save about $5 million (in 1976 dollars) in printing, handling, storage, and shipping costs. individuals would need to carry fewer $1's thereby facilitating small cash transactions and reducing the number of pieces of currency retailers and banks must handle. decreased handling, in turn, will help to lower business operating costs. not bad, eh?

businesses have also periodically employed the two as a clever advertising method and have shown by doing so that TJ's double-dollar can hold it's own in a Washington-centric world. other establishments, such as nightclubs and bars, have welcomed the $2, often giving them as change to their patrons. in turn, many of the $2's end up back in the bartender's or dancer's"receptacle" to be recirculated once more. some people have reported that using the $2 to tip or pay for dances or drinks makes them more memorable to the servers and attracts better service throughout their consumer experience.

so no matter whether your motive is to bolster the economy, to show appreciation for our nation's numismatic heritage , to help your local exotic dancer pay their way through college, or just to lighten the load on your wallet, the next time you're at the bank, ask for a few $2's. most banks carry at least $100 worth of them and will give them to you if you ask.

the $2 is the new $1! embrace it. love it. live it.


Saturday, March 8, 2008

"found" wisdom

when we need it most, wisdom, like a gift from the sooth-fairy (i just made that up. feel free to use it if you want), sometimes falls into our laps. when i was going through one of the most tumultuous times in my life and indecision was toppling my structures of security (and sanity!), my message found me. i went to work on a day when i thought i'd almost reached my breaking point and opened the paper during a lull to find the sooth-fairy's offering right in front of me.

it's so funny to think that we will open the paper and read our horoscope (or "horriblescope," as my grandmother says) every day and discount is as drivel 99% of the time but that ONE time when it fits perfectly, we swear it was put there just for us. this time was no different. i was in such dire need of a sign, the sooth-fairy delivered this one just to let me know she was out there listening...and so was i.

i did make the leap of faith as my mistress of astrological guidance advocated and, though it was frightening, i did move ahead. i was pushing my own boundaries and pushing myself to new and better places. i knew i'd done the right thing but was still needing reassurance. again, my fairy answered. what could be better than a chat with a friend over some good chinese food? good chinese food with an undeniable cosmic sign that "You are heading in the right direction!"

in addition to good sound advice, we all occasionally need a little ego-massage and sometimes it comes in small packages :-) i was lucky enough to find two pieces of wisdom on this particular day. aside from my self-esteem boost, i got some dieting advice as well (check the last line of that piggy passage).

the next time you look down and find the torn corner of a magazine underfoot and it bears what appears to be the encouragement or direction you were desperately seeking, don't discount it as a fluke...She may have put it there just for you. i call it "found wisdom" and it's everywhere. there's also found art, found poetry, found music, and who knows what else. whenever you need it, it's there. all you have to do is be on the lookout.


one step forward and many steps back

when you grow up in a small town in southern virginia, there are some things you're brought up knowing. some of those things are learned by rote, some through whatever schoolin' you're lucky (or unlucky, depending on perspective) enough to have, and some things you're bashed over the head with on an almost hourly basis. the most notable of these:

1. NASCAR rules
2. god knows all (he IS our lord and savior, after all)
3. you're not eating enough
4. i'll see you at church on sunday
5. peeing outside is ok
6. NASCAR rules
and, the nugget of wisdom that has spawned this post:
7. being gay is *utterly and unequivocally morally and ethically reprehensible
*for my fellow southern virginians, that means "real bad."*

for most of the people who still live in that tragic town and have been indoctrinated over the years with those wonderful kernels of knowledge, the boat never rocks, the view never changes, and that is the way it is. but for those of us who have dared to question the conventional teachings and have managed to escape what i like to call "Farmageddon," it's much different.

my yarn begins with my recent trip back to my home town. in town for two days to visit family, i met up with a high-school friend for a few drinks at a local chain restaurant (akin to a ruby tuesday's or some other such nonsense but with a liberal smattering of redneck panache). there's a guy with a guitar and synthetic drum machine in the corner playing a bad cover version of whatever song the drunk stool-sitters blurt out and the waitstaff looks like the front row of a 1988 willie nelson concert. the "one step forward..." portion of the tale came when two girls came in, sat down, ate, drank, sang, danced, and left arm in arm without so much as an awkward glance from the other good ol' patrons. it may seem like an insignificant occurrence but, to me, it was great to see. i'm glad the last 10 years has brought about at least a little tolerance to Farmageddon.

the "many steps back" portion of the post is much less innocuous. on february 12th, an openly gay 15 year old eighth grader was killed by a fellow classmate because he had asked that classmate to be his valentine. ellen degeneres spoke briefly but poignantly about it recently on her talk show and the short clip bears watching and listening.

the los angeles times reported the shooting as a "hate crime." it's pretty clear though, to me, that this tragedy is more an "ignorance crime." ellen adds a political urgency to her message but i think it can be much more simple. having come from an environment that sometimes fostered the same sort of "hatred" and scorn for anything other than good-christian-white-bread-red-blooded-american virtue, i know (and am supremely thankful) that sometimes all it takes is for the dissenters to challenge others to THINK for themselves.

it's strange to be all at once encouraged by tolerance in one place and terribly disheartened by such extreme ignorance and intolerance in another but to me it's a reminder that learning takes place in all spheres, in many ways, and that it's a process that should never stop. whatever part you play in the learning continuum, whether as a teacher, mentor, friend, student, or anything in between, don't take it for granted.

think for yourself!