In early March, through its Grand Challenges in Global Health program, billionaire power couple Bill and Melinda Gates announced their foundation's intention to make $100,000 grants available for the development of the next generation of a timeless classic, sometimes venerated, enduringly effective and frequently despised institution known as the condom.
"We are looking for a Next Generation Condom that significantly preserves or enhances pleasure, in order to improve uptake and regular use."
The thought here is that by decreasing the stigma that a lot of men associate with condom usage by providing something new and improved, you vastly increase actual usage — which in turn is a boon for overall global health. Fewer unplanned pregnancies would occur, you stem the flow of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and cut down on bad publicity for NFL players who take a loose interpretation of judge-mandated child support payments.
It's a win-win proposition.
Plus let's not beat around the bush: Condoms suck — especially that one that broke in 10th grade. You give me a better condom or a completely new approach to baby blocking and there's a chance that I'd be a little less sporadic and a bit more diligent when it comes to deploying my, uhh, defense system. My missile shield, perhaps? Yeah, let's go with missile shield. That sounds tougher.
But we aren't here to put me or the NFL Players Association on trial. No, the Gates Foundation's philanthropy and progressive thinking got me wondering about some of the proverbial broken condoms that could use fixing around Richmond. Stains on the prom gown that is our city, so to speak.
Our minor-league baseball stadium immediately comes to mind.
Then there are the city's transportation shortcomings. What about a monorail? Seems like a no-brainer, right? Unfortunately my City Council song and dance number on the benefits of an above ground, rail-based transportation system did little to sway that group of non-"Simpson's"-watching, risk-averse prudes.
Speaking of transportation, the city's roads are always in dire need of repair and I'm almost positive that there's a joke here involving potholes, pockmarks and the nightly tranny-hooker convention on Jeff Davis Highway, but I'm much too classy a gent to touch that.
What about crime in and around Virginia Commonwealth University's campus?
The gross inequalities of our city versus county public school systems?
And the parking situation in the Fan and downtown? Outdated like the crumpled-up Trojan that lives in every man's wallet, and soul.
Let's face it, the list of soiled prophylactics that litter the Richmond streets is a never-ending one. So where do we turn for funding? Where is our Bill Gates Foundation?
Well, it isn't as if Richmond doesn't have a host of philanthropic families, corporations, robber barons and cigarette conglomerates who routinely give with a focus on community betterment, local charitable endeavors and advertisement-naming rights to counter bad publicity — and most importantly, the construction of new practice facilities for the VCU men's basketball team. Those MeadWestvaco folks are ballers like that. There are certainly people out there who are willing to give, provided they're presented the right opportunity, and it's lucrative to them in some shape or form.
Sometimes it just takes a shotgun to arrange a union. Think about that.
Of course I don't have the smarts or the wherewithal to provide actual solutions, but maybe this will spur some young minds to action. To think about alternatives to the status quo, alternative routes of change. We must think away from the actual box.
Sometimes taking the back door is the quickest way to the kitchen. Think about that, too.
In the meantime, health advocates, professional athletes, hip-hop artists and men such as I will work with the current generation of condoms and do what we can to avoid the stresses of free clinic visits, unwanted babies and pesky child-support payments.
We will sit and wait for new ideas, new hope. We will burn like fire on the inside with the knowledge that change is a-comin'.
The receptacle tip of innovation is one that can never be too full.
A Race to Win
This Saturday I'll be serving as the master of ceremonies for the first Dogwood Classic Races being held at Colonial Downs out in New Kent County. A blur of tailgating, drinking outdoors and girls in sundresses? I need little else in life. Hell, we may even take in a horse race or two. So bring some friends out to the track this weekend. I'll be the guy driving around in a golf cart, attired in blue seersucker. And yes, I'm accepting all invitations to take beer bongs or shots with you and your friends. Ticket information at dogwoodclassic.com.
Have a question for Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Lauterback also is co-host of 103.7-FM's "River Mornings with Melissa and Jack," weekdays from 6-9 a.m. On Twitter @jackgoesforth.