For those who might have missed it, our front door played host to a nesting mourning dove family for a few weeks. It was a delight and a pleasure. Here are the three photos I posted to instagram during that time.
Sir Walter Scott said that.
Let’s set the scene, shall we? The year was 2005, the day: June 1st. I packed my clothes, books, and any other random crap I thought I would need into my 1994 Nissan Sentra [attack seatbelts, no airbags] and shuffled my way down to Baltimore City for a grand adventure.
Seven years have passed, and oh my goodness, what a marvelous time I’ve had.
I’ve lost people, pets, cars, apartments. I have made a million friends, fallen in and out of love [way too] many times, and gotten a stupid amount of self discovery accomplished.
You may think it’s silly, to celebrate an anniversary with a city, but I think you should always honor your great loves.
And so I honor Baltimore. I feel pretty confident when I say that she’s found a use for me. <3
I started writing this post a little differently than I’ve done in the past. I started by googling murder.
In the five years [and counting] that I have lived in Baltimore, 1058 people have been murdered. That number will climb, probably this week. Probably today.
Of these deaths, the overwhelming majority were gun related.
Knowing these facts, and having been raised in a liberal, democratic family who support gun control and abhor physical violence, I am naturally terrified of guns. Terrified. Until last Sunday, I had never seen a full gun in person beyond the handle of one poking out of police holsters.
I refuse to live my life in fear, though. There are things beyond my control – Guns exist. People use them, often for terrible, horrible things. I don’t have to be happy about either of those points, but I will never ever say I haven’t tried to walk in all peoples shoes.
And so, I wanted to know exactly what I can expect from a gun. The noise, the smell, the feeling of what the person holding it must have. And no self-respecting planner for the Zombie Apocalypse should ever pass up the opportunity for new skills.
So, I asked my friend, Matthew, an officer and a gentleman, to help me face my fear. He responded enthusiastically, and we set a date.
In the few days leading up to the Event, I was extremely nervous. I freaked out to everyone I could, including my dear friend, Rachel, who happens to be Matthew’s older sister.
me: what if i shoot your brother
will you ever forgive me?
Rachel: After I stop laughing
I will forgive you
only, please shoot him just a little if you can
how about near?
me: i can do near
What? It’s perfectly valid terror, okay?
“Do you think they’ll know I’m a democrat?” I ask Matthew, half-joking. We’re pulling into the parking lot of the range.
“Aaand that’s why we took my car.” he says, all chipper and matter-of-fact. I think of the OBAMA 08 magnet on my perky, import sedan, with its fuel efficiency and general liberal projections. I’m pretty sure nothing would have happened to it, but I still think it’s a sweet gesture.
We can hear the gun shots from the parking lot; a rolling stream of pops coming from a completely unassuming building at the top of a hill.
There are picnic tables outside and Matthew sets his bag-o-guns down to fish out ear and eye protection.
“Wait here,” he says, jamming orange ear-plugs into his ears.
I stand there, making furtive glances at the duffel bag that I know contains three guns and a whole mess of bullets. How can we just be walking around with this stuff? I mean, objectively I know why – because he is a police officer and therefor licensed for this sort of thing – but HOLY CRAP THREE GUNS AND A MESS OF BULLETS.
I keep my cool.
He comes back, and says the range is a little full and we’ll just wait here until a few more people clear out. I nod; it seems like the thing to do. He makes me try on the ear muffs, and decides I don’t need to wear extra eye protection since I’ve already got on my glasses. Okay, I tell him. It seems like the thing to say.
Inside my head I’ve got a steady mantra going of holy crap holy crap holy crap. I’m mostly not paralysed with fear. I mean, I can make my legs work, and Matthew is extremely reassuring.
“You’ll be great,” he says. I try not to laugh hysterically at his woefully misplaced confidence in my abilities. There are a lot of things I’m trying not to do. Vomit. Run away. Trip. Drop the deadly weapon I’m about to hold. Vomit.
We enter the range proper through a curtain of plastic flaps, and now I can really smell the gunpowder. My friend Casey warned me that it was a really great smell, and he wasn’t wrong. It’s, and I’m sorry to perpetuate any kind of stereotypes, but it’s kind of a sexy smell. Dark, sharp. Combined with the constant noise and people all around, carrying extremely dangerous things, I am giddy with fear and excitement.
Holy crap holy crap holy crap.
At this point, I can’t really hear anything Matthew is saying to me. I watch with close interest as he unpacks two semi-automatic pistols from a plastic carrying case. The clips are loose and empty and he sets everything out in a row. Next, he takes out a few boxes of bullets and arranges them just so, before opening one of the boxes and spends a few minutes telling me what’s happening.
All dialogue from now on is fuzzy, but I’ll try to recall as accurately as possible.
“We’re going to shoot the baby-Glock first,” he says, casually jamming bullets into the clip. I nod, pretty sure he didn’t tell me we’re shooting baby ducks. Matthew’s not a hunter.
All around us, the popping is never-ending. We’re close to the end of the pistol stations, and to our right, there’s a row of people stretched out on the rifle range.
Matthew is talking about safety, when I feel something small land on the top of my head and fall down in front of me. I look down at the ground, which is littered with brass, and then up at Matthew, and he laughs.
“Yeah, those are just bullet casings. No big deal.” It’s all so absurd. This is my Sunday, standing here, getting peppered with bullet casings. For many people, this is routine.
We grin at each other and get back to business. The baby-Glock [Glock 27] uses the same S&W .40 bullets as his service pistol, the Glock 40, but has a shorter handle, and I think, a slightly shorter muzzle. He puts the clip in, checks the chamber, and then shows me how to hold it so that I won’t break my thumb, which I appreciate. He tells me how to stand, to lean forward a little to prepare for the kick. I nod. He tells me not to even put my finger on the trigger unless I’m intending to pull it right then. I nod. He shows me how to line up the sights. I nod.
And I’m suddenly there in front of the target, holding a loaded gun. Everything kind of quiets to a hush, and I can feel my heart pounding in my mouth.
Holy crap holy crap holy crap.
I take a deep breath, and as I let it out, I squeeze the trigger.
My hand jerks, and I feel the kick all the way down into my feet. It’s loud, it’s startling, but I haven’t hit anyone! In fact, I haven’t even hit the target.
“Good!” Matthew says, “Now, try again, a little higher.”
I nod, and fire again. In the dirt. A few more times, and I manage to hit the board. Guns are heavy, and my hands are shaking more each shot. I let Matthew take over for a little bit while I think about things.
Shooting is fun, y’all. I am not even going to lie. It’s a visceral rush each time you pull the trigger. But, really, it is terrifying. It’s an extreme responsibility, and one that I wish people didn’t take so lightly.
That doesn’t stop me from trying some more. We move on to Matthew’s service weapon, the Glock 40. It’s larger, heavier, and when I fire it, I like it more immediately. The kick isn’t as extreme, and I manage to hit, not the bulls eye, but the same general area of the target a few times in a row. It’s not inside the widest circle, but, dammit, it’s on the paper.
We take turns for a while and then Matthew decides it’s time to bring out the .38 Special. “The gun of Sherlock Holmes,” Matthew tells me. It’s a five-chambered revolver that’s smaller than either of the Glocks.
Matthew loads it and tells me something surprising. I don’t know if it’s true with all revolvers, but with this one, you don’t have to cock it each time you pull the trigger. All my gunslinging preconceptions out the window! He hands it over and tells me to have at it.
The grip is awkward and small. I’m not sure what to do with my left hand since there’s really no room to wrap it fully around my right. I settle for a lady-like cupping and pull the trigger.
I do not like it, Sam I Am. The kick is much harder, and there is no cushion for the shock. I only fire it twice, before handing it back to Matthew to finish off the chambers.
We load the Glock 40 again and I shoot a whole clip on my own. Matthew, being the good teacher he is, coaches me through each shot. “A little to the left. A little lower. Look! That was the bulls-eye! Okay, that was the dirt, but look at that nice cluster on top.”
A cease-fire is called. Everyone has to unload and stand back while the range officers sweep away some of the shells and replace the targets. People are allowed to go and collect brass or take their target. A couple of range officers fix a target board that has been knocked sideways.
I don’t know exactly how long we’ve been there, but I’d estimate about forty-five minutes, maybe an hour. I am wiped out. Guns are heavy, and combined with the shock of each firing, my arms are tired and a little noodley.
The cease-fire ends and we pack up and make a donation to the range on the way out. It’s been quite an experience.
I’m still terrified, I still support gun control, strongly. I’ve never witnessed one of these Baltimore murders, and I hope to God I never will, nor be a victim.
But now I’ve asked the questions for myself and taken the time to do my research. I hope others are able to do so. Don’t ever say you haven’t tried to walk in everyone’s shoes.
So, guess whose photo got used as a Station Ident on Warren Ellis Dot Com?
THAT’S RIGHT, Y’ALL, MINE.
Hells. Yeah. I love the internet.
I still can’t believe it. I keep thinking he must have been hacked…
WHATEVER, I’LL TAKE IT.
People look at me funny when I say that Baltimore is my favorite city in the world – even above Paris. It’s true, though. I may have been raised in Delaware, but I am growing up in Baltimore. I am experiencing things here that I never could anywhere else. I am living on my own, making my own money, making my own way here. I am knowing wonderful, beautiful people who could never exist in another city in the world because that is what Baltimore does.
It gets inside you and makes you who you are. If I had to define myself without Baltimore, I don’t know if I would like who I would be.
Everyone needs to know a city that does that to them.
And here I have lived for five years. They have been, by far, the best five years of my entire life. and I know I am still young, and I have not been everywhere in the world, but I know that before I lived in this city I was sad until something made me happy, but here I am happy first and longest.
I look out my window and feel a surge of pleasure to see the rooftops and light posts and signs of Waverly and Charles Village in the distance.
Baltimore has its faults, for certain. High drug use, high STD infection, high gang-related deaths. But that in itself does not define the people inside. We are people. We are nurses and artists and doctors and writers and actors and lovers and haters and people with dreams. We are Baltimoreans. And anyone who looks at me funny for that can’t know what it is to be in love with a city.
I love you, Baltimore.
In like a lion, out like a soggy lamb:
- Juice. [Anything except grape, because it makes my teeth taste purple, and I dun like that.]
- Criminal Minds [I want to pack Dr Reid lunch every day and write him little riddles on his napkin. WHAT. DON’T JUDGE ME.]
- New friends.
- Old friends.
- Serial Comics on the Internet.
- My roof.
- Glass beads.
- Other people’s babies.
- The rain. [I soooo wanted to stay home and listen to it in bed today, but I made myself get up and go to work. Being an adult kind of sucks sometimes. But, other times, there’s cake for breakfast. So, I guess it balances out.]
- The letter “F”. fortuitous, fragrant, fecund, favorable, flighty, free.
I might post something with actual substance soon, but there are no promises. I have the attention span of a toddler that missed its nap.
So, the other night, among other insane things, I dreamt that I got a tattoo of a star that was in two parts across my forearms [on the outside, like keanu’s constantine]. And my apartment was inside this really old, like from the 1800s, department store, and I had to crawl through a small space and up a ladder to get to it. At one point I kept locking the door, and the landlady was chiding me that other residents needed to get in, but I told her that they were all monsters and we had to keep them out. She just laughed and unlocked the door. I tried to hide in this room that was in the middle of the hallway and was enclosed by glass-paned french doors all the way around, but I couldn’t keep the curtains covering all of the windows, and marble statues kept appearing and just stood there, facing in.
Then there was a horrific bit where some dude that I was dating [I think his name was Michael or John, something generic, but I’ve never seen him in real life before.] fell down a hill on his face and got really hurt and I had to go on a wild goose chase to find medicine for him, which ended up being a bowl of blood and a bowl of water. All the while I was being chased by some awful monsters that looked like people who had been wrapped in thorny vines with strips of grey silk covering their eyes and mouths and they yelled this horrible low howl that sounded like a million bells all going at once.
And I was running around the shadier parts of Baltimore, but I felt safer there than in the brightly-lit places. The dirtier and grubbier it was, and the more buildings that were boarded up, the more comfortable I was being there.
I don’t remember when I woke up. I think at that point I was just running and running and running.
Well, you all know about Ina by now. What you may not have known, is how important Astrology was to her.
She was born on July 14th, and was therefor a Cancer. We used to have long evenings of pouring over her Astrology books, reading about our birthdays and marvelling at the descriptions of us.
She wrote poetry, too, and some of her goofier stuff is located here, which she hadn’t updated it since 2004.
Anyway, when I was thinking of tattoos that I would like to get, Ines came to mind, and then the idea of a crab for Cancer. As I thought about it more, I realized that, yeah, Baltimore loves crabs, too, and I love Baltimore.
[Done at the Baltimore Tattoo Museum, by Josh Griffin.]
I love you, Ina. Now you are under my skin. <3
Insert obligatory year-end reflection post:
So, 2009 kind of rocked. And it kind of blew. Which is, really, what I like to see in a year. I don’t like all ups, because that means there will be too many downs later. I like a good mix.
Lester went through his first bout of congestive heart failure, and gave me a few grey hairs in the process. Emergencies never occur at two o’clock in the afternoon on a Saturday, y’all. It’s always four in the morning when you stayed up too late to watch random crappy videos on the internet the night before.
Anyway, then he got better, or at least we figured out how to keep him sailing on in his little furry body.
My pal Penny came to town from Seattle to see our intrepid Commander in Chief step into office, and we had a fantastic week kicking around. I ate a million pounds of Pocky.
Then I went and visited my sister and brother-in-law in Portland. I had the most marvelous time kicking around in one of the nicest cities on the planet. Like, really nice. Like, if Baltimore and Los Angeles got into a fight, Portland would be around to make sure we didn’t kill each other and maybe make us cookies afterward. It was delightful.
Watchmen disappointed me, but it’s cool. I forgive you, Watchmen. You were a good movie and all, but I’ll take the book any day.
I met a dude, and we dated for a bit, and then we weren’t dating anymore, and it’s all gravy. It was basically the most casual thing in the world, and we’re both so laid back that it was pretty much just one day we were hanging out and then another we were seeing other people. Easy peasy.
H1N1 hit, and my work life got CRAZY. I worked some overtime, and made cookies [that’s how I cope] and I tried to keep my nurses sane. We got through it, obvs.
Then I had a birthday! It was lots and lots of fun, and my Dad and I spent that weekend driving all over Maryland for blacksmithing adventures. A delightful time was had by all.
My cousin got married! I had a quarter-life crisis! The world continued to spin unaided!
AND THEN SILAS WAS BORN. He is the cutest little blob of human that was EVER CREATED. I LOVE HIM SO MUCH I CANNOT STAND IT. I get to babysit for him on Saturday, y’all, and I cannot WAIT.
I had some strange dreams and went on Vacation. Garrett County is GORGEOUS, y’all, and I recommend it for a relaxing time away from reality. I WAS ON A BOAT.
Lester had an episode, but he’s fine now, too. I guess I’ll be on the lookout for those every six months or so. Crazy dog.
I did a guest post on Zaftig Chicks! My site traffic increased by maybe two people! Wooo!
And then Ina died, and it still kind of sneaks up on me every once in a while. I’ll listen to a song that we used to love, or someone will say something that reminds me of her so much that I sort of space out and lose it for a minute. There’s nothing in the world that can prepare you for something like that.
So, autumn kind of blew through in a haze of grief and sourness. I really tried not to be down, but when patients at work are insane and you’re working long hours and the sun is steadily creeping away, it’s tough.
And then Jesse and I helped that lady on the street, and things kind of… lifted. Maybe it was the rush of endorphins, or the knowledge that I did something right, or learning that there are other people in this messed up, glorious city that will stop what they are doing and pick you up off the sidewalk.
Whatever it was, I felt right again. I’m back in my own skin.
Then it snowed. A LOT. I hate snow. Then it melted, and then snowed this morning again, and I have a PARTY TONIGHT, dammit, and I refuse to kow-tow to the weather. IMMA PUT ON A FANCY DRESS AND LIVE IT UP.
Christmas was wonderful – I got to see my sister again and I missed her so much you have no idea. I got fabulous new toys [ipod touch omg omg omg] and drank some nog, and things are okay.
Tonight is going to be fantastic, and that’s just all there is to it.
I love you, Baltimore. The world is great, too, but Baltimore has my heart forever.
Twenty-five things for which I am thankful, in no particular order:
– Coffee mugs from California.
– My cellular telephone.
– My laptop computer.
– My favorite turquoise necklace.
– My zombie messenger bag.
– My imagination.
– Science Fiction.
– My ID badge that gets me into doors marked “Authorized Personnel Only” because that’s a secret thrill even after five years.
– Secret corridors.
– Goofy action movies.
– My Kitchen-aide five-speed hand-mixer with milk-shake attachment. It probably has a proper title, but I use it for milk-shakes. So there.
– Punctuation in general, even if I abuse it horribly.
– My health.
– Old Navy. It’s actually a problem. A delightful, brightly-colored problem with clean lines and thoughtful design.
– My family.
– My dog.
– My friends. Even the ones that make me want to pull my own hair out. They keep it interesting.
– Dark, hoppy beer.
– Ramen noodles.
Obviously this is just a random assortment. I’m thankful for basically everything in my life, even the inconveniences and complications. It builds character, and I am all about character development.
EDIT: I’ve taken this story down in the hopes that I can get it published. Thanks for the wonderful comments on it, you guys are awesome.