TOYS AND TOOLS

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I purposefully chose this picture for this post. This AK was a war trophy. My generation was raised on John Wayne and Audie Murphy movies. And we postured with our weapons when we posed…we still do. We fetishize our war personas. That’s part of the mythology of combat.

I was a city kid. I did some scouting but it was never about hunting or firearms; it was camping and hiking and navigating. But I had for years coveted a Daisy Red Ryder carbine – a bb gun – made famous in The Christmas Story.

“You’ll put your eye out with that, kid!”

One Christmas in the early 50’s I discovered my wish under the tree! It had a 50 round capacity (50 bb’s!) and a lever action that was stone cowboy! I was soon pretty damn good with Red. That’s what I called my bb gun. Tho I don’t remember ever naming any real gun I carried in combat…

Squirrels would scamper across the telephone lines in my back yard in DC, back in the early ‘50s. Red lacked the power to penetrate their skin but I enjoyed knocking a running squirrel off the wire – that judging and squeezing and succeeding was reinforcing! Then one day I took out a bird in flight. It fluttered, fell to the ground and soon died. (I think it was an Oriole.)

That was not so reinforcing. I felt like a real asshole. I wasn’t going to eat this bird…I’d just killed it and rather thoughtlessly. I didn’t much like that feeling…so I stopped shooting at the birds in my backyard.

I do remember having Red taken away from me one day by my parents. My younger brother Glenn had apparently tried my patience or provoked me…so I shot him in the ass. I still don’t feel guilty about it. I love Glenn; did then, still do…but I’m pretty sure he’d gotten out of line that day.

So that’s about it for guns in my childhood. Years later, once drafted, at Infantry Basic Training at Ft. Bragg, I entered into a sort of fraternity. No Greek letters and it does include women. Actually it includes ALL who’ve ever enjoyed firing a weapon. Firing a weapon is an act both literal and symbolic. Firing a weapon presents challenges…it will be sensually aromatic…and it will have genuine fucking consequences !

Life in 2013 seems a mad scramble, everyone yearning to find a way to matter…to stand out…to feel empowered…to feel powerful. We live our lives today, many of us, as tho our life is a movie. And we tend to dramatize our narrative (and are generally casting our film even as we live it:)

I have a working familiarity with guns. I once qualified expert on ten. As a commander in combat, I possessed and used various weapons – M-16, M -14, M2A2 carbine, M-79, M-60, AK-47, M3 greasegun, various pistols…

Being a good shot is fun. The endorphin generated by competence is affirming…and frankly, cordite is as arousing as pussy…to me at least.

But I knew THEN of far more destructive weaponry that existed and also available to me: Tac air, Cobra teams, gunships, Spooky, artillery, mortars, Naval gunfire… Used a lot of that, too. Big booms will trump little booms every time. If I’m lying, I’m flying…

(That was 40 years ago. Gun freaks, we got drones today. I’m just sayin’…)

Judgment. Expertise. Mission. Permission. (Hmmm, never quite appreciated that root.)
On every occasion – whether the outcomes were triumphant or grim – the explosions, the personal involvement was fun…for me.

Any of us that have fired a weapon, under whatever circumstances, can cop to that. It’s fun.
And it’s good to be king. See, that’s what gun possession represents to many of us. A gun speaks to our core wiring.

I’m pretty sure it was Teddy Roosevelt that said, “There is nothing so invigorating as being fired at…without effect.” Meaning they were not firing in your direction – they were firing at YOU. That’s a rush…especially when they miss.

“I can KILL someone with this. That’s right!” You know, we all respond to that kind of power. Now in my case, because of what I knew about myself, knowing who I had become, I chose not to own a weapon…for almost 22 years.

I knew how to use them. I knew I was efficient with them. But I didn’t trust myself to employ that kind of power…appropriately. And I also feared my potential to harm myself.

As I write this, I can’t know how everyone else regards firearms. I can speak today for no one else but Tucker. “A firearm is a tool, much like a screwdriver or axe or hammer.”

Some people regard firearms as toys.
What do we do with toys? We play with our toys. What do we do with tools? We employ them, we use them in our work. We take pleasure in being good with our tools. But when the work is done, we clean our tools and put them away.

So what have we learned today, children? Well, for openers, that Tucker is clearly ripped …

But additionally, realize that Americans have a multi-faceted relationship with firearms. I’m not engaging the complexity of regulation tonite. I’m just offering one guys insight into this discussion of what guns mean to Americans and a bit of grist for the discussion about how we improve the odds for ‘civilians’.

This has been on my mind for some time. I’d imagine there is more to be shared…but I just felt the need to speak to the underlying attraction that firearms present. Not just to Americans. To people in general.

LES MIS

So wonderful. Permission to…feel. To connect with something universal, common to all of us.

Permission to grieve, to purge is a possible outcome from art. There is something fundamental, in the themes of this film that connects! We’re mocking it – emotionality is grist for ironic bandinage – but those tears are real, the emotion is real. THE FILM gave audience members a chance to bleed their lizard…to delete their personal sadness.

Nothing like a good cry…

NORMAL

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This is not easy to explain, particularly without sounding like an ass. When I was a child I was regarded as exceptional, a prodigy, a genius. I skipped grades, I was paraded around…all of this in a time of desegregation in America and living abroad, in Greece and Germany. I always stuck out…and at times the constant pressure, the expectations, the attention became oppressive. I just wanted to fly under the radar for a while. Just be allowed to be normal. I didn’t GET that…but it’s what I desired.

My mantra, even today is my Mother’s words to me as a child, whenever I was leaving. “Now don’t show off.” How does someone like that become an actor? I NEVER showed off, I hated the limelight. But I kept getting noticed.

Life is funny. It’s much easier now. I am no longer exceptional, at least in the ways I was when younger. Brain damage changes a lot of things. Good thing I had a little surplus :)