03 March 2008

Relevance at the Barber; Jesus Meets Bernard Goetz and They Become Buds; and Other Fables

Friday, I was running around, going to the Courthouse, etc., and drove past the barber shop. You can tell what it is by the name of the establishment: "Barber Shop." Simple. Direct. Informative. Not unduly flashy. My kind of place. Sometimes I wonder if I’m caught in sort of time displacement, and this place is the direct incarnation of Floyd-the-Barber in Mayberry. (Those over whose heads that cultural reference has passed are forgiven, so long as you forgive this humble scribe for his profound indifference to contemporary cultural "icons.") Also, I’m reading a rather quirky novel at the moment by Wendell Berry, The Life Story of Jayber Crow, Barber, of the Port William Membership, as Written by Himself. Wordy title, quirky book, and I’m quite enjoying it. (The title is a touch of Rocky & Bullwinkle. I like Rocky & Bullwinkle.) This was loaned to me by Parson Jim, who is one of the few people I know who will conscienciously read a book and then return it. Anyway, the Barber Shop is an endless inspiration for my meanderings. I parked right in front of the door, went in, and in my own quirky tradition wished a quiet "God bless all here." I do that in bars, too. At least, I think I probably still do, but it’s been rather a long time since I’ve been in a bar. There were several fellows in there, one of whom was holding a rifle. Now, I don’t know where that would be a common sight. Certainly, here in Our Town, it isn’t UNcommon. This was a nice little rifle, a .22 caliber, with some sort of curious sort of semi-automatic action that ejected spent brass without bringing another round into the chamber. Why anyone would invent such a thing is beyond me, but we live in the age of Mighty Putty, Hercules Hooks, KaBoom and other stuff hawked by Billy Mays. This was an ordinary little rifle, and he passed it around, and while it’s ordinary, it’s always nice to see a well-made firearm. One of the fellows there was quite old, and talked about having "qualified" on an ‘03 Springfield, meaning that he was in the military a long, long time ago. Another fellow came in with his dog (not on a leash, quite a nice animal) and we proceeded to talk about dogs for a while. In my own continuing saga of idiosyncratic behavior, I got my already short hair cut to the length that is popular amongst law enforcement. I wonder why - I still have most of my hair follicles, and it’s mostly salt with some pepper, and I’ve kept it mostly long over the years. In the chair, five minutes, eleven bucks, and I’m gone. MamaMia and I did a bit of furniture shopping, and I went back here to No. 3 and spent a quiet evening dictating stuff.

Church as usual Sunday morning, and quite enjoyable. As we were filing out, I asked Pastor Josh if he’d like to go with my friend Dave and I to the Gun Show in the afternoon, for culture, commerce and politics. I think Josh was a tad taken aback - maybe he’d never been invited to a gun show? Well, the duality of a morning of Christian love with an afternoon of destructive devices was positively irresistable.

Yes, "destructive devices." Firearms are weapons. The so-called sporting uses are either (1) violent or (2) to develop finer skills for the user to be violent in the future. They are lawfully used for hunting. That’s violent. I choose not to hunt, but I don’t condemn those who do. First, people close to me hunt and they are fine folks, and second, the meat in the meager meals I have didn’t come from animals who got depressed and committed suicide. Target practice is seldom a free-standing sport, and those who are really serious about it are few and far between. It is not divorced from violence. Anything you do with a pistol is even more steeped in violence. Pistols are not useful for anything but to kill things, mostly people. Practicing with a pistol is to improve one’s skill, both speed and accuracy. Carrying a pistol is not done for sporting purposes. Carrying a pistol concealed is not sporting in any sense of the term, it is done so that one can employ deadly force unexpectedly when it is warranted. As long at the gun community (of which I am a part) hides behind the "sporting myth," we cannot have a genuine conversation about violence in our society and the presence of seriously bad actors who present situations where a violent/deadly response is legally (and morally?) justified. And that discussion needs to take place in the absence of loads of macho garbage where people exaggerate the dangers in the world and their own willingness to pull a weapon and kill an intruder, and in the absence of denials that the bad actors are out there. Doctor Reality, where are you?

Anyway, Dave picked me up at No. 3, and off we went to the local armory. Part of the building is secured and I presume that military stuff is kept there. The rest is a big open space used for basketball games, proms, and other public events. At the door, there were prominent signs: "Unload Your Weapons. ALL of them. This means you!" The entrance resembled the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, with lots of people slapping for holsters hidden all over to pull pistols, remove magazines and clear the weapons. My buddy and I toured around, chatting with people we knew, and he was handing out campaign brochures. I’d rather go to a gun show than a hooker bazaar, because I’m much more likely to buy something at the gun show. (Also, the noise I would receive from She would be less, although still significant.) I was sort of looking for a particular type of firearm, but when I found what I was looking for, it was (1) too small and (2) too expensive. (A Kel-Tec 9mm, which is just too darn small for that big a round.) However, the local Guard unit was running some sort of raffle for the benefit of the troops, and that bled a bit of cash, without any hesitation. The sergeants who were selling the tickets were uniformed, and I idly wonder if that’s kosher in the military – not that I mind, quite the reverse, anybody who would object to that is wasting their time with trivia. As we talked with them, one of the sergeants thanked us (Dave ponied up a good bit of cash, too) and commented that people who support the troops also should be supporting the war. Well, this was a nice guy, and it was neither the time nor the place for a political debate, so I moved on. Right next to the Guard table was a table with three guys I didn’t know, but a Shrine Fez on the table. One of them saw Fred’s ring (of which I’ve written before), and asked quite loudly how good a brother I was going to be. This was all in fun, but also an obvious and straight-forward way to put the squeeze on me for a nice slug of cash. Hey, that’s OK, if you want something, ask, don’t be mealy-mouthed. Being a good sport, I simply asked how much seeing the brothers was going to cost me. Twenty bucks, it turns out, but for a pretty good raffle, something called a "gun club." The idea of a gun club is that the sponsors arrange with a FFL holder (Clank, dearest, my friend in the U.K., dealers must be licensed in the U.S.) to buy a bunch of guns, usually rifles and shotguns, maybe 20 or 30. Then, once a week for several months, they draw a ticket and give away the next gun on the list. Some of them are ordinary, and some of them are nice, and they are a good fundraiser around here. (They used to be a better fundraiser when they were illegal. Wes Ruby, the patron of Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, who was a friend of my Dad’s, made the Boy Scout Council a LOT of money in the 60's with gun clubs.) I was amused at one table where a fellow had some .22's with synthetic stocks. There was a matched pair of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and Jr., rifles, and I have some difficulty making the connection. The vendor also had a small child-sized rifle that was - no kidding - pink. I thought that was a bit over the top. There IS such a thing as a "woman's gun," (years ago, I seriously annoyed the national Chief Scout Executive when he was picked up in an airport for stupidly forgetting he was carrying a gun -- I told him that the boys in West Virginia could understand the offense, but just couldn't forgive him carrying a .25 caliber woman's gun.) And let’s see - I found a handmade leather "scabbard" for the new cell phone I just got – The Blackberry finally annoyed me to the point that I got rid of it. And one vendor had a table of nice knives, including some American-made Buck knives, so naturally I HAD to buy one. (See some months ago my tirade on Buck moving production to China, where slave-labor reduces costs.) I’m honestly curious about the cultural accomodation made for implements of violence elsewhere. Perhaps the culture I’m doused in is unusual. I don’t have a context for comparison. Oh, one thing that does really, really annoy me about gun shows is the presence of so-called "militaria," usually Nazi trash like emblems, knives and so forth. Were I immensely wealthy, I would do the same thing some guy in Illinois did with John Wayne Gacy’s paintings, he bought them all up and burned them publicly.

There was a sign posted behind one table that speaks to the extremism of gun people: "Let Gun Confiscation begin in West Virginia – It won’t take them near so long to get it out of their system." Sigh. So many people equate regulation with confiscation.

One vendor (the one with the cell phone scabbards) was selling very nice handmade leather "possibles bags." I wish those were stylishly permitted, it would make life a little easier. Sometimes, I feel like I’m supposed to be Batman or something with all of the gear I honestly need to carry on my belt or in my pockets.

It was kinda cool to be able to park far away from the armory and "glide" through crowds in the aisles. I have to internalize this stuff.

What is this fascination with the American Idol contestants, and how they emotionally react to winning, losing, and so forth? Why do we really care what the "judges’" opinions are? These are young people who sing well. Part of that is a gift from God. Part of it is that most of them have worked hard to develop that gift. But this is all a part of the bread-and-circuses that distracts people from taking some responsibility and facing the lessons of Doctor Reality, and let’s them off the hook in their own mind and gives them the odd satisfaction that, if they cannot deeply care about anything that matters, they can always form a hazy, internal attachment to the lives of people they don’t know. This, to me, is just another variation on the theme of a "spectator society," where we are unwilling to interact with real humans, particularly when it involves any sort of unpleasantness. It’s also emblematic of the "celebrity society," where we strangely care about who Oprah, yadda, yadda, yadda, want us to vote for. Why do we favor these "gifts" over others? There are so many others in society who have gifts that they have developed and so many, many others who have overcome obstacles to develop skills or knowledge that are actually useful. A young man at the church [whose father is a good friend, whose grandfather was a good friend and mentor (those who do not like that word, tough), and whose great-grandfather I knew slightly] has the gift of an ear for music and hands that will play a musical keyboard WELL, and he has spent LOTS of time developing that, rather more I would think than your average American Idol. Heck, even grave diggers have gifts - there is a music video on the C&W stations now entitled "Grave Digger" by Willie Nelson. Someone who has a strong back and a willingness to do hard work is giving all of us a gift. There is no water holier than the sweat off someone’s brow.

Hmmm - perhaps there is a post on what I consider useless people coming. Let’s see, number one and two would be astrologers and psychics.

Pastor Josh says that he intends to link my blog to his "Pastor’s Blog," and I have warned him that the comments here are often somewhat edgy at times. Always honest, though. Well, at least indifferently so.

One good habit I have (at least I think it’s good) is that there is always a memo book in my pocket to keep notes. At some point in the service this morning, the idea for this "meditation" to do on Good Friday gelled in my head, and I was able to write it down. Now I need to get it translated into English on the keyboard. Perhaps I’ll turn it into several theses and post them on the door of the church. Nah, already been done.

Pippa passes.

Keep your powder dry.


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