(from this weekend in Nashville)
It is Sunday. I am at the airport in Nashville waiting for the return flight to Chicago Midway. Airports and banks need to hire better lighting designers. Even when I went to Washington Mutual to open my business checking account last week it was still as dark and sterile as the Citibank on Clark. It seems to be that banks look like the way banks think we want them to look than how we actually want them to look. There’s no plants, no sunlight, the air is stuffy. Same thing with hospitals. Surely just opening a door and letting in some fresh air would make things less institutionally opressive.
I learned how to fire a gun on Saturday morning. Last Saturday of every month the county sherriff hosts at the local firing range. My brother-in-law and I drove up to the Nashville prison and then the deputies accompanied us through the prison gates, across the compound and out and to the firing range. It was an outdoor range inset into the ground up to 50 yards with room for 12 targets. We were able to rent guns for the time we were there which was nice. Kinda like bowling shoes.
I’ve never fired a gun before in my life. I always see guns as fear in the form of a solid object. I knew that actually firing a gun would probably be anti-climactic – most things that feel like they should be big deals normally aren’t when they actually happen. My main concern wasn’t firing anyone or even worrying about hitting the target. I just didn’t want to look like a dumb newbie.
Sidebar: This nasty skanky guy is clipping his fingernails. Indoors. At the airport. Oh my God that is so damned disgusting. Almost as bad as when men shave their heads in the lockerroom at the gym. Or shave their nether-regions in the showers. Ugh.
But looking like a newbie is completely unavoidable and I decided not to worry about it: I can only know what I know and be ready to learn more. I was firing a Walther P22 handgun. I was most concerned about the kickback. Raised on a media diet of violence and gunfire in THX surround sound had me convinced it would make my shoulder sore – even from this weenie little gun. My brother-in-law taught me how to fill the magazines with 6 bullets each and load them into the gun, cocking the gun, turning the safety off. It seemed relatively easy. I figured it has to be easy.
Sidebar: Jesus Christ this guy is doing both hands. He might as well take off his shoes and chew the dead skin off his feet.
Like most things that many people have to be able to do, shooting a gun is simple. The sheriff went back behind us and we started at 5 yards – nice and close. He was on a megaphone so I was able to hear him through my earplugs. Load and make ready! On my whistle! His whistle blew and I thought here goes nothin’. I raise my arm and held the gun as instructed – careful not to put my left hand where the thing that slides back would hit or cut it (I still can’t remember all the names of all the parts). I pulled the trigger and realized I probably should have aimed better. The gun went off and there was no kickback – barely any sound – it was as innocuous as tassels on a girl-bike.
(On the plane now – I’m amazed at these chumps that are in the A group and they all queued up a half hour ago. You’re A Group! You get your pick! Sometimes I wonder at the obedience of Americans. LIke when they back up the trucks at the gay bars in Chicago and load us all to transport us to re-education camps – will we all just go willingly like sheep?)
Like how I know most of my history of Argentina from the musical Evita, I know most of what I know about guns from the Stephen Sondheim musical Assassins. After the initial: That’s it? I actually remembered to aim. Then I remember that it wasn’t just the sight at the end of the gun but the two at closer to me that I had to triangulate. I shot five more times. All the others finished their magazines. Then after the all clear we walked up to our targets and marked our shots with chalk. I actually hit the board with the target on it a couple times.
Back to 10 yards. This time I actually remember to take a breath before each shot and was much more relaxed.
Back to 15 yards. Another six rounds. Targets getting better.
Then it was time for the second group to go. So my brother-in-law and I held back and drank soda while the other folks went. Eventually it was our turn at bat (shoot?). This time around we started at 15 yards and took turns on signal, walking towards our repective targets and shooting our guns. I tried to imagine what was going through each shooter’s heads – some of them moved like Clint Eastwood and even stopped to reload and kept walking.
I thought maybe I should scream DIE CRACKER! or something to that effect but figured that might be inappropriate.
I did pretty good walking towards the target. And I have to say the whole thing was very cordial. The deputies on hand were very patient and friendly. Not the scary racist xenophobic banter I was expecting (evidently that is more in the parking lot before we go to the range). Then the sherriff announced we were going to play a game called Surprise Yourself.
We all stood at 50 yards and took our time shooting. I actually got four hits on the target – a couple good enough to maim. Assuming I’m at 50 yards and we are both standing still on a clear bright day. I was pleased with my performance and wondered how easily it would be to do this kind of thing in Chicago. I’m ignorant of Chicago’s gun laws and wondered how drug gangs practiced their target-shooting. Preusambly on real people.
I think Ron would enjoy the precision of it – that’s what I liked – the puzzle and the challenge. The gun had all the force of a fireracker in my hands and seemed so much more mundane than the handgun used to kill rogue creatures from another dimension in Half Life.