Friday, June 12, 2009

Gunsmoke

"I'm from Texas, so I love guns," Josh said to me with a sly grin. "Let's go do some shooting,"
It turns out Dade County operates a range north of Homestead at the intersection of Krome Avenue and Tamiami Trail, on the edge of the Everglades. It also turns out Joshs's wife is from Seattle, a more genteel corner of the country and she has no love of weaponry, so Joshs's firearms excursion was a boy's day out. I was the spare wheel, as we went with Josh's oldest friend in the Keys, the debonair Scott, seen here at the range with the gun in question, a Mossberg 500 pump action shotgun.
We piled into Josh's modern comfortable Nissan Altima, a fine automobile but not as splendid as my aging Maxima, loyalty to inanimate machines seems misplaced yet obligatory to me, and we drove north with Josh at the wheel:
I was delighted to be the passenger in the rear seat, an unusual place for me to be and I took full advantage of the opportunity to look out the windows and fully enjoy the views that can only be snatched when operating the vehicle. First stop: Arby's in Key Largo for roast beast sandwiches for brunch. Josh is from Texas you see, and he lives a deprived life with Lisa so he was salivating at the thought of a mountain of beef and bacon wedged between buns. "No lettuce, no tomatoes," he groaned in anticipation, a sentiment I shared as my wife keeps me on a culinary short leash too. They also had something called curly fries which bore the faintest relation to potatoes but appeared to have been cooked in lard which gave them extra calories with the extra taste. I was even more happy to take a back seat and burp quietly to myself for the final leg of the trip to the mainland.

The range is close by the Miccosukee Casino which is located at the eastern edge of the reservation and offers public smoking and the opportunity to lose wads of cash, but allows no photography, so you will just have to imagine a vast spacious hall filled with people all zoned out and pressing buttons on modern fruit machines. As the idiot of the trio ( they are physicists, I'm not) I volunteered to lose the first five dollars in a machine which gave me a winning ticket and I immediately cried uncle and we left, up twelve dollars with free sodas in hand. "Can't beat that!" Josh grinned as I sniffed the tobacco fumes in my shirt and wondered what my wife would wonder when I got home smelling of depravity.The range is a family affair with Papi burning cordite while los ninos play nearby in the jungle gym.We the novices, made it back from the casino in time for the safety lecture and were awarded our range cards for unimpeded future visits. It costs $9 to shoot your weapon here which is a bargain in the world of entertainment and it was great fun. Lisa, eat your Seattle-raised heart out. The shotgun wasn't the weapon of choice for my comrades in arms but they promised to retrieve hand guns currently in storage along with a "proper" rifle for future use. Being as how I'm not a physicist I was quite happy to pop off a few slugs (no buckshot at the fixed target range) and hope they travelled more or less in the direction of the paper target. The scientists in the party spent some time lamenting the absence of rifling in a shotgun and they spent some happy time arguing lobbed trajectories and stuff I didn't quite get.It was a gray drizzly sort of day at the range, and it happens quite frequently that a bright sunny day in the Keys turns into a rainy summer day on the mainland. This was a good spot to be on a rainy day though, as the shooting portion of the range is under cover:The rules at the range are strict but simple enough to follow- no naked weapons behind the red line, no concealed weapons on your person, and get help if you have a misfire or if you need assistance to clear a jammed gun. For the rest the loudspeaker told us when it was time to shoot and when it was safe to walk out and check our targets. It was mighty civilized:They even had a dude out there with a dustpan and brush to keep their place tidy what will all that spent ammunition flying around:And there were tons of empty casings lying around as we weren't a.lone at the range:This guy was shooting with an intensity and calm purpose that we all noticed and talked about later. We were speculating that perhaps he still hadn't got over the surrender in 1975, but who knows really. He was obviously very experienced and I hope I got some good tips from watching him at work:Now the smell of cigarettes was overlaid with the smell of gun smoke in my seersucker shirt and that wasn't the end of the boy's day out. Scott is planning a cross country trip on his Kawasaki KLR 650 so we had camping gear to seek out and buy, Josh had cigars to pick up so I beat them at dominos while they puffed on the poisonous weed. We ate more fried food and drank beer and eventually pointed the wheels towards home.I was half passed out in the back of the car as the two front seat riders spent a happy few hours bickering their way home. They discussed their personalities, the value of science in every day life, memories of childhood and they stropped a couple of times for more food as our dinner of Peruvian food hadn't quite filled them up.

"There are mosquitoes in the car, dammit!" Josh exclaimed.
"Drive!" Scott ordered. Josh slammed his door closed while he clutched caffeine drinks, jerky and Funnions in his arms. He put the car in gear and peeled out of the Circle K parking lot, as I sat in the back thinking "Improper start- we're going to get pulled over!"
"Keep the windows open," Josh said and Scott, pressed back into his seat said thoughtfully:
"You know, it's not acceleration that will solve your problem. It's velocity." Said like a physicist I thought to myself, impervious as usual to mosquitoes and wondering what the fuss was about.It was for me quite the unusual day, not at all like going shopping in Miami with my wife.