Three days after I needed a tenth quarter to do my wash at my local Chinese laundromat, the 23 MacArthur Fellows for 2012 were announced.
Those selected in the arts included a flutist and arts entrepreneur in Brooklyn, a writer and professor at MIT, a mandolinist and composer in New York City, as well as a novelist and journalist in Washington. Recipients with singular talent also made the cut including my personal favorite a stringed instrument bow maker in Boston. He must have appreciated the irony in receiving what the New York Times called “a no-strings-attached $100,000 a year for five years”.
I could not help but notice that many of the artistic recipients reside in the East, but once again no web writer, such as a blogger and numismatist on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, made the grade. One would imagine that “blogger and numismatist” has enough of an esoteric ring to fit in with that elite crowd.
The MacArthur Foundation awards, also referred to as genius grants, cannot be applied for. According to Wikipedia, “People are nominated anonymously by a body of nominators who submit recommendations to a small selection committee of about a dozen people, also anonymous.” Therefore, nobody involved knows anyone, but then every year — poof — a select cluster receives half a million clams paid out in quarterly installments over five years. Nice award if you can win it. The chosen could afford air conditioning and an iPhone. In fact they would not need to tear their hovel apart in search of that one elusive quarter. They could afford to have their laundry done. Unfortunately, once again, bloggers, the Rodney Dangerfields of the written word, were given no respect.
Three days earlier I had nine quarters when I needed ten to do my wash. I looked through the quarters in my coin tray, but alas, every one of those eight dollars in quarters were either from the U.S. Mint’s America the Beautiful series or the 2009 District of Columbia and U.S. Territories Quarters Program.
There are six coins in that program but thus far, I have only collected five. It infuriates me that I’m still missing American Samoa, not that I have a clue where to find that territory on a map. I have four Puerto Rico’s and three D.C.’s, but not a single American Samoa. I also have five Grand Canyons and five Yosemite’s; rather popular tourist destinations with shoppers in my neighborhood unlike Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve quarter. I think I will sooner see dead people than that one. Even though I have duplicates of several coins in the America the Beautiful series, I refuse to subject any of my rare change the indignity of being ingested by the quarter quaffing machines at my laundromat. Although it is likely that when my niece, Sweetpea, inherits this fine collection, she’ll forget its distinction and will feed each and every one into a parking meter.
When I arrive at the laundromat, lacking a common Washington quarter circa 1998, I give the clerk two dollars and in exchange she gives me eight quarters. One happens to be a Chaco Culture National Historical Park quarter, a quarter I did not know I lacked for a place in New Mexico I never knew existed. When I regain feeling in my mind I celebrate and toss that quarter in my coin tray.
If a time arrives when the MacArthur selection committee either collectively slips up or lowers the bar to floor level and lifts the ban on awarding their fellowship to web writers, possibly a blogger, maybe one that wears a second chapeau as a numismatist with a now $8.25 quarter collection, will be considered to share the wealth. Or maybe that blogger and numismatist will sooner gain the ability to see stiffs.