13 July 2012


In homage to one of my favorite writers, here is an exerpt from Don Winslow's 2010 novel, Savages, published by Simon & Schuster, now a major motion picture.  It is an adventure story, a love story, a story about the SoCal drug wars ~

.... Chon and Ben hit the shooting range.

Chon goes to the range all the time not because he's preparing for the revolution or the Reconquista, not because he has phallic wet dreams about protecting home and hearth from burglars or home invasion.  You gotta love "home invasions" ~ we thought it would be Mexicans, turns out it was mortgage companies.

He likes the feel of metal in his hands, the kick, the blowback, the precision of chemistry, physics, and engineering mixed with hand-eye coordination.  Not to mention power ~ shooting a gun projects your personal will across time and space in a flash.  I want to hit that and that is hit.  Straight from your mind to the physical world.  Talk about your PowerPoint presentations.

You can spend fifty thousand years practicing meditation, or you can buy a gun.

On the shooting range you create a neat, tiny hole in a piece of paper ~ the crisp entry but not the sloppy exit wound ~ and it's deeply satisfying.  Anyway, Chon likes firearms, they are the


of his trade.

(The distinction, anthropologically speaking, between a "tool" and a "weapon" is that the former is used on inanimate objects and the latter on animate objects, if you can get with the concept of animate "objects".)

Not so much Ben, who has been taught to loathe guns

and gun owners.

Who were, in his liberal home, the object of derision.  Atavistic redneck goobers and right-wing crazies.  His parents would shake their heads and chuckle sadly at the old bumper sticker You'll take my gun when you pry it out of my cold dead hands.  How sad, how sad, how backward.  Guns don't kill people, people kill people.  (Guns do kill people, Chon says ~ that's what they're fucking for.)  Yes, people with guns, Ben's father would opine.

Anyway, Ben is nonviolent by nature.

"Impossible," Chon argued with him one time.  "We're violent by nature, nonviolent by training."

"Other way around," Ben countered.  "We're socially conditioned to be violent."

"Look at chimps."

"What about them?"

"We share ninety-seven percent of our DNA with chimps," Chon said, "and they're violent little fuckers who kill each other.  You can't tell me they're socially conditioned for that."

"Are you saying we're chimps?"

"Are you saying we're not?"

We're chimps with guns.

.... Chon takes Ben to the firing range.

Which is filled today as usual with police types, military types, and women, a few of whom are police or military types.

OC women love shooting those guns, man.  Maybe Freud was right, whatever, but they're in there with their earrings (off for the headsets) and jewelry and makeup and perfume blasting away at potential burglars, home invaders, rapists, and actual (okay, not actual) husbands, ex-husbands, boyfriends, lovers, fathers, step-fathers, male bosses, male employees who gave them shit ....

It's a truth-worn joke that women at firing ranges aim not for the head but the groin, that they're shooting not for the bull's eye but for the snake's eye until the instructors just give up and teach them to aim at the knees because that pistol is going to throw high so they'll catch boyfriend/hubby/daddy/ex-boyfriend/ex-hubby square in the junk.

Take O, for instance.

Chon took her to the range one day for giggles and shits.

The girl could shoot.

A natural.

(We mentioned that O likes power tools, right?)

She squeezed off six shots ~ two at a time, like Chon told her ~ and smacked each of them into fatal spots on the target.  Lowered the pistol and said, "I think I came a little."

Now Chon hands Ben a pistol.

"Just point and shoot," Chon tells him.  "Don't overthink it."

Because Ben overanalyzes everything.  Chon is surprised the boy can piss without succumbing to mental paralysis.  (Would it be better to take my dick out with my right hand or my left hand?  Would the choice of left hand have a subconscious connection to concepts of "sinister," as opposed to my right hand feeling "dexterous," and why is urine running down my leg?)

And truly, Ben is looking at the target silhouette and wondering if there are African-American shooting ranges where the target is a white figure on a field of black, a menacing KKKer coming out of the Mississippi night.  Probably not.  Not in the OC (which zealously guards its Second Amendment rights), anyway, where they should just put a sombrero on the targets and get it over with.

Take that, Pancho.  And that, and that.

Ben hates this, how totally out of place he feels in this very weird, neofascist sandbox, looking at the black, albeit deracialized, silhouette staring menacingly at him as Chon is saying something about ~

"Point and shoot twice."


Chon nods.  "Your hand-eye coordination automatically corrects for the second shot."

"What should I aim at?" he asks Chon.

"Just hit the damn thing," Chon answers.  At the range they're probably thinking about, it won't matter, and anyway, hydrostatic shock is going to do the job.  The bullet hits, creating a wall of blood that hits the heart like a tsunami wave ~ side out.

Ben points and shoots.


Bam bam.

Misses the whole silhouette.


So much for self-correction.

"You're going to have to get better at this," Chon says.

Recalling what his SEAL instructors said ~

The more sweat on the training ground ....
.... the less blood on the battleground.

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