This article from last week’s Missoulian caught my eye. The gist of it is summed up in a couple sentences. First this:

Students at Missoula’s Lowell Elementary School were kept inside during afternoon recess Friday while police talked with a person who was carrying a holstered firearm in Westside Park.

Then this:

Police determined that it was legal to have a holstered firearm in the park and that the person had broken no laws. The situation was resolved without further incident.

If you do read the article, I’d recommend not reading the comments . . . unless you are a glutton for punishment and prefer to have your brains rendered to mush. Legal or not, one may question the decision to carry a gun near a school, but I suspect many folks who do carry would think nothing of it. It isn’t that big of a deal to me. I doubt someone meaning to be a menace would wander around with it holstered.

When we first moved back to Missoula, when my son was in 4th/5th grade, he went to Lowell, and we lived nearby. He used to play at that park quite often with his friends. It is of a type with one of those wooden structures on it, kind of like a castle, with slides and climbing poles and things like that. One night he was there with his cousin, who is only a few years older. They were there in the evening, and they were playing Star Wars. They had plastic guns, or water pistols, or something like that . . . and the obligatory sticks for light sabers.

Someone in the area called the cops and said there were people in the park with guns.

The cops came and accosted the boys. I don’t recall for certain the details, but I believe Sid said the cops made them get on the ground, and I don’t recall if the cops had their hands on their guns or had them drawn. The boys didn’t get in any trouble or anything once it was sorted out, but it scared the hell out of them. As for me, what did I do? Nothing. And the reason is because I didn’t hear the story until months later. Sid never told me, he said, because he was afraid he’d get in trouble. Nor did the cops call us parents to explain what had happened, a failure on their part. But that’s Missoula’s Finest for you, I guess. . . .

I still get a chill thinking about that, what could have happened. Then there’s anger at the paranoia of people living near a park who can’t recognize children playing.

Which brings me to the next phase of this post. The Missoula article/incident is somewhat related to this other article I read via Mother Jones a couple weeks ago, called, “Blam! These Tykes Got Busted for “Guns” Made of Legos, Pop-Tarts, and Paper.” This one is well worth your time (as is pretty much everything MJ puts out) to read. The opening paragraph sums it up nicely:

In the wake of the Newtown massacre and the NRA’s call for putting armed guards in America’s schools, some school officials have reacted severely to young kids’ play around the subject of guns. Recent cases have included the suspension of students as young as five years old simply for talking about playing with toy weapons. The offenders’ arsenal has included breakfast pastries, Legos, and Hello Kitty.

Man, when we were kids practically everything we played was some kind of adventure theme that revolved around running and jumping and (simulated) blasting away at each other with bows/guns/lasers/etc. Then there were games we played like “Smear the Queer.” That was one where a gang of kids would throw a football in the air and whoever caught it ran like hell, with everyone in pursuit, until the ballcarrier — aka the “queer” — was smeared. If you were afraid you could toss the ball away before being tackled, but the point was to see how many kids it took to bring you down. Back then “queer” meant nothing to any of us other than the kid with the ball. Nowadays, though, that would never fly, and in the latter case probably justifiably so. Still, these modern folks with their ridiculous rules and paranoias would probably have had us all either doped up or committed.

There was this TV show, SWAT, that had a popular theme song. My friends and I would put the song on, then act out the intro where dudes jump up out of their bunks to grab their weapons and go battle the perps. We used to use anything we could find at the elementary school playground as kind of a sawed-off version of parkour, just because that’s what we saw on TV and in comic books. We hurled ourselves up and down and off things that would probably cripple me these days.

We played versions of capture the flag out in the woods with toy guns, sticks, or anything we could get our hands on with which to simulate a weapon. I have a class picture from the 4th grade or so where I have (besides the shitty, Dad-given, out-behind-the-goat-barn-haircut) scabs on the side of my face from where I took a “grenade” (i.e. a very hard, green, spiky pinecone) at fastball speed to the side of the head. Those days were scraped-up, bloody, and often tear-filled, but also a friggin’ blast.

Our parents managed us with varying degrees of skill and involvement in our lives, and many of us had our share of problems, but none of us that I know of turned out to be murderous sociopaths. And that is even after we graduated to hours and hours of Dungeons and Dragons, a game guaranteed to turn us all into Satanists and perverts! I made it to adulthood just fine, thank you very much.


Somewhere the plot has been lost when it comes to the causes for the violence we’ve seen with young men and guns. It isn’t how kids choose to play in the playgrounds, that’s for sure. These silly rules concerning paper and pastry shaped as guns are examples of band-aid solutions that I think are useless. And it bums me out. I’m glad I’m not raising a young kid these days.


Stand Your Ground

Friday evening, shortly after having arrived home from an errand, my neighbor across the street called out to me as I was getting out of my truck.

“Hey, Chris,” she said. “Have you heard what’s been going on around here lately?”

“No,” I said. “What’s up?”

She took a deep breath, a serious look on her face, and related the stories of recent daytime burglaries to the houses on both sides of theirs, which is directly across the street from my house. The next day, this article came out in the Missoulian about it.

We don’t live in a rough part of town. The street we live on isn’t a major artery, so we don’t get much traffic beyond the folks who live here. It’s quiet, we know a number of our neighbors, and we like it. Even so, we haven’t been immune to nefarious activities. And Julia had just remarked a week ago that she saw some “sketchy looking guy” in the neighborhood that she hadn’t seen before (the fact she noted that should make it clear that such things are noticeable around here).

Man, what a strong surge of emotions I got from this conversation.

I’m gone a lot, so it makes me nervous. The thought of anyone coming into my house while I’m away fills me with rage, well beyond having stuff swiped out of my car in the driveway (which has happened in the past in a couple different places I’ve lived). But the idea of some punk out there, preying on people on my street . . . let alone if they came into the house while anyone from my family was actually home (which someone usually is). Of course they’d have the dogs to contend with, but still.

This is what Red Alert looks like

I’m not a violent guy, but I know this would drive me to violence. Sid was with me when the neighbor gave me the update. I was ranting and raving afterwards about needing to have a baseball bat around, etc. He showed he has one in his room, and I’m glad he does. I want one near to hand as well. Sound macho? Probably. But I know I wouldn’t hesitate to use one either.

As for Julia, yes, I worry about her being here, often alone, when I’m gone. Even though she’s a grown-up and lived alone enough in a much rougher neighborhood in Tucson (and has a .38 and knows how to use it), I still worry. I know the odds of something happening are slim, but it still lurks in the back of my mind. She can handle herself. I’d prefer she not have to.

By coincidence, this thing came across my feed today. I like it. I know it’s not a security measure, but it would sure get a good image of anyone who did come through the door. If I had the extra scratch to buy it, I probably would. Maybe I still will. . . .

I’ve thought about putting a sign on the door too. “Trespassers will be shot and/or beaten, then fed to the dogs.” Something like that.


Flash Fiction, or True Crime?

Got the following in an email last week:

The mom was at home asleep, her daughter and daughter’s friend were in the living room watching movies. Out of the corner of their eye, they saw someone in a dark hoodie coming up the walk way. They figured it was grandpa, taking his late night break from his Wal-Mart job. They didn’t pay any attention when he came in the house and stood in the living room. After about 10 minutes, they turned around and saw a big native guy sitting at the kitchen table, eating one of their pieces of pizza! He was really drunk, didn’t even seem to realize where he was, asked if he could use the bathroom.

Then the daughter and her friend went into the mom’s room and woke her up. The mom shut them in her room and went out and told the guy to leave. He wouldn’t leave; she told him she was calling the police. She called them and went in her room with the girls. 20 minutes later the police finally showed up, but the guy had wandered out. The cops looked all over for him but couldn’t find him. They did, however, find 3 other people walking in the neighborhood that had outstanding warrants, and arrested them!

When the mom got up this morning, she discovered the guy had peed on her living room rug. Then at 7am, the cops called her to say they’d found and arrested the man. He’d been so drunk he ended up in the emergency room being treated for alcohol poisoning, and apparently has no recollection of being in her house.

What do you think, true story or fiction?

Actually it’s a true story, and all this went down not half-a-dozen blocks from here. The names and source have been changed to protect the innocent. Kinda funny, really, though I’m sure at the time it was pretty friggin’ scary.

I’m Living A Piece of Crime NONFiction Today

Woke up with a cold medicine hangover today, not so addled though that I forgot to curse the alarm. Skipped the gym and was happy not to have to take The Boy to school. Went upstairs, got started on what should have been an easy work day. Julia was up and moving a little earlier than usual, as she had an AM doctor’s appointment scheduled. She heads out to leave, and comes back in.

“Where did you put the car?” she says, puzzled.

“You drove it last.”

“What about when you took Sid to school this morning?”

“He doesn’t have school today.”

“Chris, the car’s not out there.”

See that dark space not covered with snow? That’s where the car was supposed to be. Some fucker stole it some time after the snow stopped falling last night. Tracks clearly showed it backing up, then heading down the street. They paused long enough to spin a few donuts at the four-way intersection just down the block.

We’re guessing they got ahold of a set of keys. About a week ago both sets were accounted for. About midweek we only had one, but that’s not unusual — sometimes they turn up in pockets, purses, whatever. Julia’s pretty sure the keys she’s been using are the ones still in her purse. So it’s possible the other set was out there and we didn’t realize it, or they were left in it some time over the past week and the fucker grabbed them then with a plan to come back some other time. Once not all that long ago I went outside in the morning and the passenger door was open, so we know there are people with bad intentions occasionally about. We’ve tried to be better about keeping the keys inside, nothing valuable out there, etc. Obviously somewhere we fell down.

So we pile in the truck so I can take Julia to her doctor appointment at the Blue Mountain Clinic — just her yearly, routine check up. No big deal. But there is a little knot of anti-abortion protestors hanging out at the gate, and women volunteers in the parking lot to escort women into the clinic.

I was kind of dumbfounded. Friends of mine have told stories about these protestors, but it’s never been anything I’ve encountered. I dropped Julia off, then as I was pulling out they were yelling at me. I rolled my window down.

“Why is she coming here on killing day?” this old bat hollers.

“Killing day? What do you mean?” I say.

“They kill babies in there!”

I just felt this surge of rage stir. Maybe it was being sick, the thing with the car, I don’t know. “This country kills thousands and thousands of people every day!” I holler.

“I should hope not, I should hope not!” The old bat answers. The two old guys flanking her were babbling something too, but I was so pissed all of a sudden I knew I just needed to leave. So I hauled ass. I was pissed all the way home — I’m talking knees-shakingly pissed. These people are representatives of the crowd that put that asshole in office who started two wars that see the murder of thousands of innocents a year, and have made refugees of millions. And there aren’t any signs of it stopping under the new asshole. No, I’m not a big fan of abortion, but I am a huge fan of a woman’s right to have one should she choose to, or should medical circumstances require it as being in her best interest.

I haven’t been that mad in a long time. I’m really glad I didn’t linger.

So I call the cops on my way home, and ultimately an officer arrives to have me fill out a report.

While I’m inside filling it out, he’s outside doing the investigator thing.

When he comes back, he says he could track the treads all the way down the street. Apparently the asshole was pulling into every driveway down the street, then getting out and checking all the other parked cars. He got good pictures of their shoe prints in the snow, he said.

And pretty much that’s that. In a couple days I’ll call all the towing places to see if it’s been picked up and impounded anywhere. Technically there’s supposed to be communication between the police and those places, but you and I both know how that is going to go down.

So I go back to the clinic to pick Julia up. The asshole protestors are still there.

I didn’t speak to them at all this time. I suppose I should take the high road and say I’m glad they have the right to do this, but it’s still pretty lame. When you consider the terrorist activities of those of their ilk who blow up clinics or assassinate doctors, though, one could say they too are on the edge of that slide into terrorism themselves, if not closer. You wouldn’t get any argument from me if you said that.

Passing their car (I know it was theirs because there was an anti-baby killing sign leaning against the windshield) I had to chuckle at the Ron Paul sticker. I still have earnest people trying to tell me he is “the guy” I should be pulling for. Fuck Ron Paul and his “revolution.”

So it’s been a weird day. Like Julia said, if we knew someone took the car because they needed it to get to work, or really needed a car, or something like that, it would be one thing. But knowing it was probably just some deadbeat meth-head or someone using it as a means to transport other stolen shit to wherever those people take that stuff, sucks. It sucks too because it was originally my mom’s first brand new car, and when she got a new one she signed it over to us to “keep it in the family.” It was kind of a beater and had some problems, but there is some sentimental value there. I hope it turns up.

What a weird freakin’ day.

On a positive note, this long-awaited, much-anticipated comic comes out today. Note the title. Coincidence? Hmmmm. . . .