Archive for category Personal

The Semiautomatic Weapon Binds Our American Tragedies

Guns used in the Aurora shootings

As the details rippled through the media, I kept searching for one fact: what weapon was used? This answer might give me more insight than understanding why he did it. The psychology of a mass killer, in a singular catastrophic event, is so nuanced and hard to forecast that it does little in understanding how such a tragedy can be prevented.

Fantasies of destruction are a part of being human. There are societal safeguards blocking the ability to act on those fantasies. Permissive gun laws in America—“the loosest in the developed world” The Atlantic wrote in July after the Aurora horror—are the biggest hole in those safeguards.

I am not anti-gun. I have fired handguns and rifles for kicks; I have gone hunting with men who abide a fierce code of their second amendment rights, which I respect. You can say that guns don’t kill people; people kill people, but that is a limited truth. Guns make people killing people a whole lot easier.

Let’s say you can justify the handgun for self-protection.

Let’s say you can justify the shotgun and the rifle—that darling of Americana—for hunting.

Let’s say you can justify the next class of weapon, the semiautomatic weapon, which has been used in the deadliest shootings on American soil, including Sandy Hook.

In all of the single-shooter non-political tragedies of the past five years, look at the weapons that were used:

2007 Virginia Tech

9mm semiautomatic Glock 19—purchased legally (same weapon used in the Gabby Giffords assassination attempt, which killed 6 and wounded 18 in 2011, and would’ve been banned under the Semiautomatic Assault Weapon ban)

.22 caliber Walther semi-automatic pistol—purchased legally

2012 Aurora

a semiautomatic variation of the M-16 rifle (100-round magazine), the AR-15, same as the one in Portland EARLIER THIS WEEK but it temporarily jammed, and another national crises was kind of averted.

12 gauge shotgun

one .40 caliber semiautomatic pistol

According to the NYT, these are among the most popular guns available in the multibillion-dollar American firearms market.

From 1994-2004, certain semiautomatic assault weapons were banned. From the ATF: “The law defined SAWs as 19 named firearms, as well as semiautomatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns that have certain named features.” Amidst the cosmetic features that were banned, the most significant element was the banning of LCMs(large capacity magazines) which hold more than ten rounds of ammunition. (A semiautomatic differs from an automatic in that each round in a semiautomatic requires a pull of the trigger.)

Still, did that ban prevent Columbine? One killer had a TEC-DC9 9mm semiautomatic handgun; the other killer had a 10-shot Hi-Point Carbine rifle; they both had sawed-off shotguns. All guns were gotten illegally. After Columbine, the Denver Post reported that the TEC-9 was made in 1994 by a gunmaker who had tripled production to beat the ban—“and called it his best year ever.”

The ban didn’t stop them but it might have slowed them down. Two people armed with such hate were going to do damage, but if they had 100-round semiautomatic guns, it’s conceivable that the damage would’ve been worse. Consider that semiautomatic weapons don’t allow shooters a chance to think, a chance to process the reality of their destruction. The moment of doubt comes too late. Nearly all of the killers ended their spree by suicide, except in Aurora.

NBC News reported that the weapons used in Sandy Hook were legally purchased and registered by the mother of the shooter. “Two 9mm handguns, one made by Glock and the other by Sig Sauer, were recovered inside the school. An AR-15-type rifle also was found at the scene, but there conflicting reports Friday night whether it had been used in the shooting.”

The AR-15 same as Aurora and Portland; was the brand of Glock the same as Virginia Tech? Remember, these are some of the most popular guns in the country. They are easy to get, easy to use, and easy to do devastating destruction.

These places, these towns that were unknown to popular culture are now known for that singular horror. Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech, the island in Oslo, the Portland mall, Sandy Hook. The empathy and the hurt are worsened by the random possibility that it could happen in our town. And why not? What is stopping it? These places weren’t any different from ours.

If nothing can stop it, then what can prevent it? The easy answer—admittedly not necessarily the best in understanding the cultural or psychological forces at play in these not-so-isolated incidents—is gun control. Get semi-automatic weapons off the goddamned streets. Make guns built to rapidly kill a lot of people illegal, except in the hands of military. Reenact the semiautomatic assault weapon ban.


Here’s a report card on state gun laws:

From USA Today via Business Insider citing semiautomatic weapons used at Sandy Hook

CNN reports that Obama supports the assault weapons ban, which limits the number of rounds a semiautomatic weapon can hold.



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Fat man: big, fat, chubby

It’s official: I’m fat. I stopped denying it when the button popped off a pair of shorts, leaving me with only two pairs that still fit. It became a problem when, 15 minutes before a first meeting with a new client, I stood and the button on my pants popped off. I had to safety pin it to my belt. I am, unquestionably, what my kids call me: a big fat chubby.

I ride my bike and my thighs pattycake my belly. Shave my beard and lose my chin. Take my shirt off and lose my waistband. If this keeps up my stomach will eclipse my netherregions into furry shadow, a total eclipse of my part.

I can't believe this is a merchandise line

Women of a certain mentality call this a “dickie-do”, when your belly hangs out farther than your dickie-do.

My license still lists my weight at 155. I was 21. That was almost 30 goddamn pounds ago. And I’m still trying to fit into the same sizes. Denial runs thick. Actually, it rose over the swollen sandbags of fat until I had to buy a pair of jeans one size higher, from 32 to 33, for the first and—what I promised to be—last time in my adult life.

Like baldness and the disappearance of that Costco-sized bag of chips, fat doesn’t happen instantaneously; it’s a slow and gradual disgust. There’s the picture you see of yourself, a candid shot where you’re having fun and uninhibited, the rare ones that capture the true undeniable you in all your fat youness, and you have to stop because you feel the 1o years of neglect slapping your neck fat like a gizzard, pushing at your waistband like rising dough. Like catching your reflection in a storefront window and smoothing down your shirt only to find those aren’t wrinkles they are rolls.

Big. Fat. Chubby.

In the old comparatively impoverished days, one would look at a fat man with envy, because fat meant wealth and means. Fat comes with a sense of entitlement, as if it has been earned, a privilege to eat the world, a self-indulgent luxury.

My newfound me was amusing at first, like a gross party trick. But I’ve gained 20 pounds since I turned 30, since I got married, had kids, and limited the frequency of being an irresponsible goofball. I’ve stopped bartending and having late nights, when food is inconsequential. I have a routine now more in line with the typical mealtimes of the day, have cereal with the kids, and munchkins too, lunch, dinner, but the worst part is the end of the day, that two hour window when the kids are in bed and my metime includes stuffing my face full of pretzels and chips to stay awake.

I’m not obese: but I could lose a couple, ten, twenty. I’m still active, I work out once or twice a week, yet incrementally, late at night, I fatten. It’s work to stay fit. It’s more work to be fat. Even my mild expansion has saddled me with added ecological, economic, and health costs. From tying my shoes to stuffing myself into clothes, the fat makes things harder. If this keeps up, I’m going to have to go clothes shopping, which I loathe more than being fat.

I have a bet with my dad to lose 7% of bodyweight by his 70th birthday in October. I plan on winning. Counting calories. Corking my gaping maw. In the meantime I have to learn how to sew buttons.

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Last Day Mountain Blues

I just got back from four days of skiing in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The first leg of the week was with an old ski buddy, a resurrection of an annual trip that had been on hiatus due to time and resources. Due to age. We hit the double diamonds in the back bowl, hit many of the bars downtown (really, in both cases, it hit us), and what we lacked in form and endurance we made up for in effort and wit. After he left, my sister and her kids—Colorado natives—came up for two nights of games and good times on the more salubrious half of the trip. We saw John Popper play at après with his new band and scavenged for free Smartwool socks, we played a dynamic board game called Ticket to Ride and packed a picnic for our day on the mountain.

The only thing I have missed more than the mountains was to share them with my wife and kids.

It’s the Last Day Mountain Blues.

On the south ridge at Steamboat


It hits me while unlatching my boots

A sadness so full even this I will miss;

The last time setting foot

In these two shoes of stone.


A lifetime ago the mountains were home

I wrote and I drank cause I was alone.

The choice to go back to where I was known

Means that every return feels like here that I’m from.


The shush of the snow, the sky blue white sky,

A white pristine clean, a blue glaring clear,

Crystal too is the air

Where nothing is up here.


From way up on high is little downtown

A nest of wood and brick in a sea of whitecaps

Where people pass like the fall

Alike but nevr the same.


A lifetime ago the mountains were home

I wrote and I drank cause I was alone.

The choice to go back to where I was known

Means that every return feels like here that I’m from.

Apres beer


In between two places, always apart nevr one

A few days of the year it ain’t ever enough

But what lifetime is?

Mountains don’t ever get old

Getting home is better

Than the one left behind


A lifetime ago the mountains were home

I wrote and I drank cause I was alone.

The choice to go back means that getting home

Is far better than the one left behind.



The minivan: the true SUV

There’s no way to be cool about this so I’m just going to say it: I love my minivan.

I can hear your ridicule already. Its mere name, the diminutive ‘mini’, subjects it to mockery. Aside from its full-size namesake, the minivan is a misnomer. The mini is bigger than a wagon or a cross over, and is bigger inside than an SUV. In other parts of the world the minivan is known more accurately as an MPV, or multi-person vehicle.

The Honda Odyssey caravan

Our MPV seats seven legally. It can fit six adults without anyone’s knees touching. Try that, you SUV flesh-touchers. Unlike the SUV, the extended cab of a minivan can become a familial lodge on the road. If you take out one of the mid-seats, as we did on our first major road trip—a five-hours, 350-mile thrill ride—and put the two toddlers on the bench seat in the way back, there can be serenity on the open road. They could spread out with their stuff in arms’ reach. My wife and I switched off playing flight attendant by walking between our seats. She was able to read. I was able to nap. We only stopped once. If getting there wasn’t half the fun at least it was pleasant. We can go camping without worrying too much about the elements because if it gets too scary or too wet we can fold down the bench into a bed, pull up the middle seats, and sleep in the sweet canopy of our minivan.

Like so many people before us, we bought our 2002 Honda Odyssey with 110k miles on it when we moved from the city to the suburbs two years ago. It’s part of the adventure in the city to take the kids by bike, by bus, or by train, to avoid the hassle of driving whenever possible. Work was accessible and preferable by public. In the suburbs, you drive. To the cleaners, to the play dates, to the strip malls. We tried going it with one car—I’d bike to the train station, my wife would bike eight miles to work—but the kids were outgrowing our bike carrier. When we both needed the one car coordinating our day became as big a pain as driving in the city. We were not intrepid enough to bike in the weather, to go grocery shopping by bike, to ride the kids to picture day at preschool by bike. We tried and it sucked: it was not worth the self-righteous pride of going it with one car. Enter the minivan.

The minivan is the true SUV: the suburban utility vehicle. Do you SUV-touters (usually minivan haters), know that driving on your lawn does not count as off-roading, therefore you’ve never really used your sport-utility vehicle for its intended purpose? Such a waste. Or the absurd crossover, which is an SUV body on the same car frame as a minivan. This is not a truck; it’s a station wagon. The minivan is more versatile than either the truck-van hybrid of the SUV or the car-wagon crossover. When I take out the mid seats and fold down the back, that’s 88 cubic feet of space. The back has been filled with plywood, snowblowers, a rented aerator, a foosball table, my daughter’s bedroom furniture. Virtually any home repair can be satisfied in only one trip to the Home Depot with my minivan.

The minivan—despite the now standard V6, which means, with its lighter body, it can take most SUVs off the line—is built for comfort. The minivan can be a party on wheels, great for road trips, tailgating, and necking with your wife on date night. I mentioned how the back seat folds down? Yes, the minivan is for lovers.

According to an Edmunds analysis, “Minivans generally have the best safety ratings, have flexible interiors and great fuel economy.”

With gas prices expected to exceed $4, you SUV dweebs can have all the unused sport you want. With the money we save on fuel economy we’ll be able to use our car. Minivans also have better resale value; I recently got a solicitation from the local Honda dealer to buy our Odyssey back at $1500 over fair market value. That’s just about what we paid for it used two years ago.

My minivan is the best car I’ve owned.

I’m not trying to persuade anyone of anything, except that people who choose an SUV over a minivan are illogical and irrational. I’m just saying that the minivan stigma in American is steeped in stupidity. Ultimately, a person’s vehicle preference is a matter of style. And we all know there is no accounting for that.


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