Monday, December 29, 2003


When I lived in L.A. a biker friend of mine from the north would occasionally invite me to go shooting out in the oilfields. It was fun. He had a regular arsenal: a couple of 45 calibers, a 9 mil, a .357, and some 22's, both rifles and handguns. He also packed a couple of 10 gauge shotguns. Much too much firepower for shooting tin cans, but you've got to use them for something.
We'd drive outside the city limits, down the oilfield trails and off the road a little ways. Shooting off rounds out there wasn't really legal, but it was common practice. As long as you weren't doing any hunting without a license the local law enforcement didn't much care.
We would practice every conceivable scenario. From drawing holstered weapons on quickshot targets, to sniperlike shooting from a distance of a dotsized target, to tight patterns on shotgun spreads, shooting imaginary moving beasts. It was an easy way to waste a few bucks on ammo.
Afterwards, we'd spend the evening shooting the breeze and cleaning out the weapons. We would put great care into this. Both of us were veterans and knew the benefits of keeping clean, well lubricated firearms. Kids were everywhere. Like every good biker household, my buddy provided shelter for destitute friends and their children. There never failed to be an abundance of people.
Late that night, and for some unknown reason, after emptying out the unspent shells from a shotgun, he miscounted and when he thought it was empty, he aimed the shotgun at the ceiling and pulled the trigger. The final remaining case shot out with a tremendous BANG! Everything stopped and we all stared at him in disbelief. His face was covered in white dust from the fallen plaster the blast tore out of the ceiling, leaving a hole the size of the Grand Canyon above him. Our eyes met as we both suddenly thought of the same thing: "Oh shit!!!" we yelled, and started gathering all the weapons as fast as possible, before the police arrived and arrested somebody for firing off a shot inside the city limits.
Within a couple of minutes we had bagged everything up and started making our way out into the backyard to find a hiding place for the guns. We put everything inside a small brick shed where he kept his barbecue supplies. Safely hidden behind the charcoal briquets.
Still waiting to hear the sound of sirens coming our way, we decided to peel out of there and head down to the nearest bar to play some pool. Pretty cavalier, I know, leaving all the women and children to face the law if they came, but my friend was right to believe that with his reputation, as soon as the cops saw his face they would decide he was guilty. If all they saw were some women and children denying everything, they were more likely to believe them.
The police never did show up. We played a few rounds of pool and later went home, and marveled at how we started the evening with a bang!

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Short story - Part I

The disturbing menagerie of crooked branches crowded in around us, as we quickly shuffled through the leafy path. It was late autumn, and the ground was covered by dry leaves and small animal droppings. The wind howled around us, through us, enveloping us in its bone-chilling harshness.
As we approached the brook, I took hold of Maggie's arm and slowed her down to a near halt in boarding the crossing. It was only twenty feet long, but its rickety boards didn't inspire much confidence. Maggie clutched hard at our child beneath her coat and blankets, hammocked in her mother's arms. The wind seemed to grow to a fever pitch as we crossed, aggressively trying to knock us over into the turbulent waters below.
The others were so far ahead I could no longer see them. We'd fallen too far behind. It became clear to me that we were now on our own. Nobody would be waiting for us.
The clouds were moving in, blocking the remnants of daylight left. Darkness was draping over the valley below, as we hustled on down toward the foothills.
Maggie's legs were getting weaker. She was tired but she couldn't bear to stop. The baby was happily nestled in her arms, yet we both knew she would awake soon. We had to keep moving. I couldn't endure keeping my family from shelter for another night . With our cabin behind us torn apart by the avalanche, our only hope was to reach Parmel, still a good fifty miles away. In the meantime, a small cave or a large rock would do. Just enough to keep the cold wind off my daughter.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

What a sweet sensation Christmas brings!
There is a feeling, scent and sound that surrounds you in the city during the holidays. Not during work hours necessarily, but afterwards, at night. As you make your way through overly trafficked streets, finding people's driving even more aggravating than usual, there's a particular feeling of Christmas.
I can't quite explain it, this feeling. It's not the smell of cinnamon in the air or the sound of Christmas carols. It's more akin to the briskness in our moves as we make our way through crowded shopping malls trying to find thoughtful gifts in the blink of an eye, and in the subconscious sensation that an impending source of joy awaits us.
When we were children it was so cut and dry. We'd count the days until Christmas. The holidays meant new toys and clothes, and time away from school.
The joy the Christmas holiday brings to us as we get older is much more subdued. As a rule, the head of household tends to view it from afar with a touch of disdain. More than anything else it signifies an additional expense; a drain on our pocketbook. But, I must confess, as the day draws near and after we've gotten used to seeing the tree and decorations our wives put up (and the outdoor lights they made us hang), we start looking forward to seeing the smile on our children's faces, the glow in our loved one's eyes as they open each becomes once again, truly a time for celebration. A celebration of love and family.