Sunday, May 26th
Last Sunday, on Pentacost, Emma, Nic, Bill and I spent the late morning and early afternoon gambling, smoking (Bill) and drinking at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Classy. So it will perhaps seem like a form of redemption that we spent this Sunday morning at the gun range. No smoking or drinking allowed. If there was gambling, it was not sanctioned.
So here seems like the place to toss out some stray facts about myself which I do at my own peril and for no particular reason except, maybe, for context. They may unmake me some friends and I will not try to reconcile any inconsistencies. It’s complicated. So here goes.
By some very well established and traditional measures, I’m not a very good American. I have very strong socialist tendencies. I flinch and chafe at almost all forms of authority – uniformed in particular. Memorial Day makes me angry at the jingoistic, reflexive and unexamined celebration of our military, and heartbroken at the ghastly death and waste it marks every year. I hate war. I especially hate our newest, “endless”, for-profit war. I hate the NRA. I’m not a big fan of hunting unless it’s for food. I fly a peace flag in front of my house. I’m that guy.
Except for one little wrinkle. I love guns. Really love them. And I love to shoot. There’s almost nothing, in fact, that I’d rather do given the opportunity, than target shoot. I have no idea where that comes from but I’ve been like that as long as I can remember. But that itch doesn’t get scratched very often because I don’t own a gun, because I don’t know very many people who do, or who know enough about shooting to help me do it safely.
Here’s a more interesting fact. Nic is a Marine. Not in the active duty sense, but in the “once a Marine, always a Marine” sense. Eight years in the Corps, two tours overseas, etc. He’s the real deal. Semper Fi. He owns guns. And he can shoot. Boy can he shoot. And he does it the right way.
So we spent a good chunk of the Sabbath on the range. A long drive out to the middle of nowhere (allegedly Petaluma California) and on to some guy’s private land. We stopped for ear plugs on the way and arrived around an hour before noon to find the place packed. Gun church. There were three general shooting areas lined up against a berm carved out of a hillside. Each had separate concrete shooting stations (table and a seat) and were protected by both a roof and a sloped wooden awning that provided eye shade for the shooters and helped prevent misdirected supersonic projectiles from angling up over the earthen backstop.
The pistol station had targets set at fifty yards. The long gun stations had targets at one, two and three hundred yards. And there was a separate area for skeet shooting on the opposite side of the dirt parking lot. Shooters pay a flat fee, then stay as long as they like (or their ammo holds out). Shooting sessions last twenty minutes. At the end of each, a cease fire is called, shooters are required to unload, open the breach of their weapon, put the safety on, and step back from the shooting tables. Then (and only then) does the range manager allow folks to retrieve targets and set up new ones downrange. The guy calling the shots was super crabby and absolutely no-nonesense. He wasn’t the slightest bit afraid to bark at anyone who was even a little bit out of line. The whole thing was very structured and pretty safe. At least as safe as a farmyard full of men and women armed with mostly semi-automatic weapons can be.
Nic brought a Glock 9mm handgun, a .22 cal AR-15, a .308 hunting rifle with a folding bipod on the barrel, and a beautiful 12 guage over/under shotgun for skeet. We shot them all. A lot. Pretty awesome. Nic was an excellent teacher, very patient, calm, and completely in charge. And we actually did pretty well as a group for a bunch of beginners. We finished around one in the afternoon, with sore shoulders, reeking of gunpowder and with fingers stained by brass shell casings. Never happier.
Then a long drive back to Sonoma with a stop for lunch and a well deserved beer, and then another detour for groceries. Nic and Emma invited some friends over to our guest house for a cookout so as soon as we got home they started prepping for our party. I took that time to clear out the rental car and pack for our plane ride home the next day. And before I knew it our guests were arriving and I was eating and drinking again. Hmm.
Emma and Nic’s friends are wonderful. Almost all of them we met were also employed at Hanna so they have that bond in common. Great company and really funny. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. I finally faded off toward bed and left the younger crowd to their own. And woke this morning early to find the house cleaned and all the dishes done. Wow.
Random thoughts: So that’s it. Trip over except for the flight home from San Francisco. Perhaps a last entry later on that with some general musings on the whole thing if I can find a theme that makes sense. And maybe something too about our rental car – but that’s on Bill. Final totals we rolled up were 5,264 miles driven hitting 20 states in 21 days and burning about 160 gallons of fuel. No mechanical problems other than a faulty oil pressure warning which we ignored.