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A PENNY SAVED IS FOOLISHNESS

I knew I'd read it somewhere but I couldn't remember who said it.

All I knew is that it was either the wickedly contrarian Irish novelist and critic Brigid Brophy or the wild and wonderful fantasist Angela Carter.

One of them -- that much I knew -- offered up Peter Pan's "do you believe in fairies?" solicitation of kid applause to save Tinker Bell as the most tortuous and dishonest moment in all of English drama. But I'd read it long ago and I just wasn't sure which. Both a quick check of my library and a long Internet search didn't help.

So I called the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.

Less than 24 hours later I had my answer -- Brophy. I was finally able to find the full quote in my own library and use it in my review of "Finding Neverland."

I know full well that my quote problem was unique to me. It wasn't exactly the kind of thing the cleanup crew at Ralph Wilson Stadium hankers to know; nor is it the sort of occupational problem that presents itself to a cashier at Target or Wal-Mart.

But that's precisely the point: EVERY question that has ever been answered by the wonderful people at the Central Library is unique to the questioner.

It is a service that is there for all, no matter what the question.

Unless you have ever asked them a question, you have no idea how extraordinarily helpful and pleasant they can be while they come up with an answer.

Well, not after Dec. 31.

The libraries are under budgetary siege from the infamous Giambra "Red Budget."

But then so is just about everything else that elevates the quality of life in Western New York above that of Calcutta or Port-Au-Prince, up to and including solid police and fire protection.

We are seriously being asked to contemplate a Western New York without a publicly supported Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra or Studio Arena Theatre or Albright-Knox Gallery -- all the things which make the quality of life here what it is.

We are asked by thug radio and slash and burners of all stripe to face the "reality" that, hey, no one really NEEDS culture anyway, it's just a lot of fancy-shmancy frippery for whiny elitists who wouldn't know a lug wrench from a pickle fork. All of which is easy to say until a cash-strapped Buffalo turns into Hoboken -- a waterfront bar town of no distinction whatsoever -- for a couple of years and people actually discover what it's like to live in a city without things as extraordinary as our orchestra and our libraries.

Believe me, I am not pretending to understand any of the politics of this. I don't and that's that. I leave the whos and the whys and the wherefores to others. I understand, though, that for anyone who really cares about quality of life for themselves and their children, libraries and "culturals" aren't really negotiable.

I also understand that we Americans tend to be crazed fetishists on the subject of taxes. It's been our birthright since the Boston Tea Party.

I don't like New York State's insane tax burden any more than anyone else. The idea that our take home pay compares to our salary the way it does in this state is nuts (to use the technical term.)

But if quality of life -- i.e. not turning into Flint, Michigan -- truly means a sale tax of a penny on every dollar, I'm ready to pay it in a second.

If it meant outlawing idiots and shutting some people up forever, I might even entertain as much as a nickel.