As with most young people, I had a no sense of mortality. No matter what I did, I knew I would be okay. Thus my many mind-numbing acts of stupidity.
Okay, back to guns.
I know it’s not a popular thing to say in my circles of liberal, left-wing metaphysics, but I like guns. I have a fascination with them. I don’t have any, nor do I ever again want a gun —I know, never say never. I like a lot of things I don’t want to own: horses, for one. I think horses are beautiful and amazing creatures but have no desire own one. I never wanted children either, but that’s another story.
I’ve had a lot of exposure to guns from antique to modern. To me, they are amazing machines, an art form, albeit a dangerous one. Gun control is a complicated topic and I won’t get into it, except to say that I think Congress is acting like a bunch of petty children having a tantrum when it comes to gun control—on both sides.
Shut up Anita. Don’t get political here.
You’d think that because I’ve been on the business side of a loaded gun twice in my life, that I would be anti-gun. I’m not. For the most part though, my gun experience has been safe. Odd, sometimes, but usually safe.
When I was growing up, most families we knew had a gun or two in the house. My dad had a rifle, even though he never shot it. He wasn’t a hunter. In fact, he was a bit of a pacifist. My brother and I knew there were weapons in the house but never even considered touching them. In fact, one of the only times I ever saw the rifle was in the 1960’s during the Los Angeles Watts race riots. Watts was a predominately black community, depressed, and poor. We lived about 35 miles away, in “The Valley.”
I was so oblivious to the state of the world in those days, I had no idea what was really going on. My mother raised me to be “color blind.” I had no concept of racial tension or bigotry. To my credit, I experienced people, not color. I still do. Thanks, Mom.
Oh, silly me. As a child, I was completely out of touch with racism, bigotry, and hatred. When the race riots broke out and Watts was in flames, I was so befuddled, someone had to explain what was going on there and why it was burning to the ground. People were rioting in the streets. That was an eye-opener.
Now, my dad was a different story. Raised in a small town in Oklahoma during the 1930s, he joined the Navy during WWII. He had bigotry tied up in a big bright box with a self-righteous bow on top. He hated everyone who wasn’t white, middle-class, American, and Protestant. The Protestant part always confused me because he was’t religious at all and often commented that the ceiling would collapse in any church he stepped into. Still, Catholics and Jews were satan’s spawn in his little locked-up-tight mind. He used colorful language to denigrate anyone who didn’t fit his profile of “okayness.”
So, the rifle. No, he didn’t go out and blast away. He sat on our front porch during the riots with the rifle across his knees, watching the ashes fall onto our lawn like snowflakes. He kept vigil in case any of the “&#@%$#” came running up our little suburban street in the San Fernando Valley to ‘start something.” Mom thought he was disappointed when nothing happened. She explained to me that Dad was a bit off in the head and we should just ignore him. We did. I’m glad he didn’t mistake any of the neighbors for renegade rioters.
When I was fourteen, I had my first run-in with a doped-up maniac holding a sawed-off shotgun. Some friends and I were out walking, making noise, and generally being disliked by everyone who saw us—like normal teens. We were stopped short when two, young, Hispanic men came running toward us.
I don’t remember much about what was said. I remember they threatened us. They had just robbed a Mom-and-Pop grocery store and shot the owners. I also remember that I had no fear. All the other kids were terrified. Fortunately, they just stood there and said nothing.
Something—God, angel, or great-grampa in “heaven” told me to ask the guy waving the shotgun, if he knew Artie. He pointed the weapon at us and shouted, “I gotta kill ya—”
I blurted out with false confidence, “Hey, I know Artie. You know him? He’s a good friend of mine.” It was true that I knew Artie. We hung out together sometimes. He was a good kid who acted bad. Charismatic. Natural leader. He liked me. He let me iron his Pendleton shirt. Oh, swoon.
The crazy guy with the shotgun lowered the barrel and stared at me. “Yeah! Artie’s cool, man.” He glanced at his partner for agreement. “You know Artie? I don’t hurt no friends uh Artie.”
He nodded and gestured as if to say, “get outta here.” We all turned and walked away. Nice and easy. As soon as we were out of sight, we ran like scared rabbits.
I didn’t tell my parents about this incident. Not that I was afraid to. It just didn’t occur to me.
I didn’t think about guns for a long time. One night when I was twenty-something, I was in my favorite nightclub, dancing my little Vodka Collins-filled heart out to blaring Three Dog Night and psychedelic lights. Someone I occasionally saw “socially” ran into the club. He was a manager at the local Pep Boys Auto Parts and had a bit of a shady reputation.
Herding me into a corner, he begged me to hide his pistol in my purse. I said, “Sure.” Remember, I told you I was stupidly short-sighted and unafraid. I didn’t even blink or ask why or what happened.
Fortunately, nothing bad came of it, and at the end of the night/morning, he took his pistol back and left. Afterward, I joined a group of equally sizzled friends for a burger and fries at the Broken Drum in Santa Monica, an open-forever-for-drunks-and-partiers restaurant.
I never found out what the whole “hold my gun” thing with Artie was all about. Or, he might have told me, but it had gone right into the pickled part of my brain to be lost forever.
A few years and two divorces after that, I married Lee, hubby number three. We shared a love of antique firearms. We would go to the reddest-of-neck gun shows in Texas, with their Confederate flags flying and kicker music playing. Toothpick-sucking guys in cowboy hats, beards, and scars would proudly show their wares.
We loved flintlocks and black powder. So we acquired an arsenal that could hold off any 18th century army that dared to march into our town. It’s a wonder any battle was ever won with black powder weapons. They are complicated, time-consuming, and dangerous to load or shoot. Plus most of them couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with any accuracy.
One of my fondest memories is when Lee bought a replica of Napoleon’s cannon. Unfortunately, in Houston, Texas, we found no place to fire such a monster. Go figure, in the gun capital of America, there was no suitable place to shoot a cannon. So when we went to visit Mom and Step-Dad in the dusty hills of Southern California, Napoleon went with us.
Mom had forty acres of wilderness, dirt roads, and hills to play in. The canon came to life. KABOOM! It was aimed at a target on the side of a hill. Target safe. Hill, not so much—it was nearly leveled after Step-Dad and Lee had played with Napoleon all day. I’m sure every rabbit on the property was duly deafened.
The closest I ever came to an untimely death by murder was when I lived with a psychopath. Again, making major life decisions with no thought of danger or consequence. Talk about being one pinata short of a fiesta.
Robert-the-Strange and I lived in Santa Monica. He had a corporate job. I stayed home. It was good at first, but after a few months, he grew increasingly paranoid and was, from what I remembered of my college education, “a lunatic.” He tried to control my every move and thought, was insanely jealous of any man or woman friendly to me. This was a textbook case of nutsoid.
One night, after a huge argument, he told me to get out. I think he expected me to beg or cry, or do something that would feed his Godzilla-sized ego. I didn’t.
I casually went into the bedroom and packed a suitcase.
When I came back into the living room, he was sitting on a stool, blocking the open front door. He waved his pistol around and shouted, “You aren’t going anywhere! You can’t leave me!” and other such nonsense.
I wasn’t afraid, but my mind raced as I searched for ways to get out of there without holes in my body. I agreed with him and said something like, “I’ll just go and unpack.” I went back into the bedroom and quietly called a friend. I told her what was happening and asked her to come and get me.
After I hung up, I heard him shout, “Get back in here where I can see you!” I reminded him that he had told me to get out. He said he’d changed his mind and that, “If I can’t have you no one can.” He pointed the gun at me, ready to fire.
I don’t remember what I said to stall him. I kept talking while I slowly positioned myself closer to the open side of the door but still out of his arm’s reach. I was going to make a break for it if I could.
As usual in my life, providence stepped in. Just as I was about to make a dash for the door, hoping he wouldn’t grab me, my friend roared into the driveway, honking the horn. The lights through the window and the noise was just enough to distract him for the few seconds it took for me to dash through the open door.
The next day, my friends’ tall and handsome neighbor, whom I had once desperately wanted to date but never did, helped me. He took me to the apartment while ape-for-brains was at work and helped me pack all my stuff and get the hell out of there for good.
Still not scared. What’s wrong with me?
I never reported this to the police. Didn’t even think to.
Life has not been that close to the edge since. I hope it never is again.
So, leave a comment. I love comments. Love to hear your stories, too.