At the Thanksgiving party, early 1950's:
Distinguished male guest: "Bobby, I have a shiny new dime for you."
Bobby, loudly, allowing all to hear: "I don't collect dimes; I collect silver dollars!"
Bobby's father: "Bobby, may I speak to you alone in the kitchen?"
I have many hobbies. It was always thus. I collect things. I become interested in things. I cannot control this behavior. It started early (seashells, magnets, cereal-box toys), continued during the old childhood illnesses (when I was occasionally bored and bed-ridden), and continues to this day. All I have been able to do is recognize that I have constant hobbies, recurring hobbies and occasional hobbies.
Recently, however, I have increasingly noticed that annoying aspects of state influence intrude into my hobbies and ruin my enjoyment of them. There was no exact start date but things got much worse around 1968, or so. Apparently, some people got shot shortly before that, or something, and there was a war. Here are some of my constant hobbies:
Music and entertainment — the lyrics to many rock songs are socialistic; the FBI monitors CDs and DVDs; states regulate nightclubs, bars, the drinking age and drunk-driving standards; governments censor entertainment language and images. Country music rocks pretty hard right now but it often has super-patriot themes. Many of the better music artists are either gun-control liberals or entertain-the-troops rednecks. Many TV shows have a disturbing government theme (torture, terror, vice control). Often, I root for the "bad" guys (gamblers, prostitutes, drug salesmen, etc.).
Motorcycles — the state regulates speed, exhaust decibels, insurance and helmets. Most motorcycle clubs have many ex-soldiers, police and patriots as members and they participate in embarrassing, flag-waving, charity events.
Guns/knives — Well, before 1968 I had bought a nice "baby" Browning .25 semi-automatic pistol for $49.50. It got stolen from my glove compartment (don't ask). I had good insurance so they gave me the full $49.50 for the loss. I went to my favorite gun store and told "Robin" that I needed another Browning .25. He said, "I have a used one there in the display case for $249.50." I said, "That must not be the same thing; mine was $49.50, new." He said, "That was before the new gun control bill. We can't get any more new ones. It's a collectible now." Nowadays there is even more gun control, carry restriction and mailing/purchase red tape. The gun and knife magazines are chock full of disgusting references to the products' use in Iraq, Afghanistan, the drug war and in the "global war on terror", and of cop and soldier adulation and worship. Last year, I received a mail-order pocketknife. On the top of the box, in huge letters, it says, "FOR THOSE WHO SERVE" and "for professional use." Knives are hyper-regulated as to type, blade length, grind and opening mechanism. 50 states; 50 sets of rules.
Photography — I used to love having a camera with me all the time and taking candid, natural-light shots. But one day (after 9/11), my wife stopped her car and was taking a picture of a tiny wildflower near a restaurant and some wannabe-hero inside called the police and they came and questioned her!
Shoot, just driving around in the truck is aggravating. The back of the current Texas car registration sticker says, "Check the date; love your state." The sticker is right in front of the driver.
I have some occasional hobbies:
Coins — I started collecting coins when they were silver — real money. As a boy, I didn't care that the state made them. Now, however, I see coin sets at the store that are not precious metal. To each his own, but who would want to collect hunks of zinc that seem to commemorate the debasement of the currency?
Amateur radio — Here, they "license" you to use the "public airwaves." Most "hams" are patriotic, too, and can hardly wait to help policemen, firemen or soldiers corral everyone in an emergency.
Japanese swords — Well, here I was ignorant. After getting interested in them, I learned that they were mostly used by the armies and bodyguards of feudal lords and forbidden to others. Of course, I can't wear it; it's too "long."
Hobbies you might have:
Stamps — produced by the state to commemorate famous government tyrants and their dubious achievements. When the state makes a mistake on these, they are worth more — just like failed programs and policies.
Fishing/hunting — all of those licenses, weapon restrictions, seasons and bag limits. A guy could starve!
Travel — passports, visas, searches, humiliations. I am almost glad my dear mother is not alive to have her lingerie and hygiene products scrutinized in public while dogs sniff her.
I have come complete circle; I now collect free prizes in cereal boxes even though I suppose that they have been inspected for lead, or something. So far, I have a Star Trek communicator, Spiderman web-spinner with Spidey-call light and two Lego race cars. My wife lets me stay in the cereal aisle as long as I want.
You probably have some hobbies. How are they doing under state scrutiny?
Bobby [send him mail] is grown now and is a retired musician living in East Texas.