Dear Tucson City Manager Mike Hein:
It has recently come to my attention that the city of Tucson will be spending a buttload of money to accommodate some artists who have been working in a broken-down old building over by the railroad tracks. Unlike just about every other human being in the world who has heard about the city's stunning generosity toward a constituency numbering in the single-digits, I'm not going to ask why. I'm going to ask why not--as in, why not do the same thing for writers?
I'm sure there are two or three dozen wannabe writers who have convinced themselves that all they need to make it big--I mean, to enrich society--is a place where they can go and write in peace. They can't go to the public library because of the rhythmic commotion caused by the people who want to exercise their First Amendment rights by holding up a computer monitor with one hand. They can't do it at home because their mom and/or wife and/or girlfriend will keep telling them to take out the trash and stuff. And they can't divert their attention at work long enough to write something meaningful, unless maybe they work in security at Sky Harbor Airport.
When best-selling author Barbara Kingsolver was starting out on the book The Bean Trees, she used to write in a closet at her house. Just imagine if she could have had a part of the Steinfeld Warehouse in which to work. She could have produced something even more substantial, like maybe The Pork 'n' Bean Trees.
I've heard grumblings that the artists are a vocal and inordinately influential lobby for their own cause. Apparently, hanging out by the railroad tracks has toughened up these artists. This Steinfeld boondoggle (also known as "forward-thinking support for the vital artists' community") shows just how powerful they are. Now, Mr. Hein, just consider the far-reaching benefits that could be gained through similar support for the writers in this community, some of whom, thanks to the Internet, stand a chance of having somebody actually read what they've produced.
I write for the Weekly, which is billed as some kind of arts journal, so I'm not hatin' on the artists. I've seen movies about artists. In one, I think Kirk Douglas cut off his ear (although he did it off camera, so he might have just stuck a Q-tip in too far). In another one, Ric Ocasek's art drove him so crazy, he was living with Pia Zadora.
I actually like some art; I could look at Norman Rockwell's stuff for minutes at a time. I also know that art is supposed to challenge and inspire and all that. As a matter of fact, it inspires me. Every time I see that "sculpture" in front of the Main Library, I get inspired, although mostly I just get inspired to go home and write about how God-awful it is.
It's rather clever that you want to use money earmarked for transportation to save the building, which isn't historic, just old. Since the Aviation Parkway extension to Interstate 10 is going to go right by the Steinfeld Warehouse, some have argued that Regional Transportation Authority funds should be used. Even the people at the Arizona Daily Star think that's a dumb idea.
It's like that old story that Flip Wilson used to tell about a guy who was in a horrible car crash that left one of his arms hanging by a thin tendril of skin and muscle. The first five doctors he saw said they'd have to cut it off. The sixth one said that he'd have to amputate, which, at first, the guy thought was better than cutting it off. Finally, he saw the greatest doctor in the world, who told him that they wouldn't have to amputate the arm.
The guy thought that was great, but then the doctor said, "No, in about 15 minutes, it'll fall off all on its own."
Heck, in the case of the Steinfeld Warehouse, you could save on demolition costs just by showing it a picture of that sculpture in front of the library, then letting natural forces take their course.
I write at home, and since I do it in short bursts (columns and magazine articles), it suits me fine. But just think what I could do with a writer's studio in the newly refurbished Steinfeld Warehouse. Maybe that long-awaited and oft-promised Great American Novel might bubble forth. Or a screenplay for High School Musical IV.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must mention that I don't live in the city, but I'd be willing to move if I could get one of those spots. I'll need a wall so that I can put a hoop up to shoot free throws while searching for the perfect combination of words. You know what that's like.
I even have a quick rejoinder if the artists complain: Tell them that when the A&E channel did a special called Biography of the Millennium: 100 People, 1,000 Years, the No. 1 pick wasn't an artist. It wasn't Da Vinci or Picasso or even Jack Kirby. It was Gutenberg.
Thanks, and save me a spot.