There’s are several unofficial mottos here in the Golden State, and one of them is “Work hard, play hard.” I have been resisting this approach for ten years of living here; it seems like if you have to play just as hard as you work, then it’s kind of like, well, more work, right? But this doesn’t ring true with the culture around me, particularly in this part of the state, so I try to play along.

When something new comes up on a weeknight, I try to buy in, even though my job has turned into an exercise in anarchy management, not workforce management, lately. Last Thursday night was no exception; my sister-in-law asked me to go to the Oceanside Farmer’s Market with her. I have been to farmer’s markets in San Diego’s “Little Italy” neighborhood, in Encinitas, and in Carlsbad, and prefer the Encinitas market best for vendors and venue (the market is held at a civic and environmentally minded elementary schoolyard and holds mostly farmers, with a few artisans and about a third of the booths being prepared dishes served). The Oceanside market intrigued me for a number of reasons: the location is near the pier, which is a pretty commute in; the Oceanside community is known for being a little rough and tumble, and I imagined this as a rare night of peace and harmony; and I was trying to imagine farmers traveling to Oceanside.

Sadly, I think that the farmers were trying to imagine it, too.

To begin with, there were about four times as many people at the Oceanside market as the other markets. Parking was choked up for blocks around the four block intersection that was the market. There was also no sign of a pause in the Oceanside culture, but more of a confirmation of it; in the first half hour at the market a skateboard rider took out a side mirror of a moving Prius about four feet from me, a half a dozen people stepped on me or into me by not paying attention, and two dog owners had to pull apart a German Shepherd and a Saint Bernard that got into a fight at my right hip. That last one was the snapping point–I had been attacked at work all day long like most managers wouldn’t want to be (and I’m not a manager), and this was supposed to be my “play”? It was too hard, not an even balance, and felt like I was just working overtime. I told my sister-in-law I would meet her at the entrance to the market. She tried to get me to stay, but any argument was moot; if I could have caught a plane to Montana that moment I would have taken it.

I settled for an excellent blues band and bad samosas instead, but my good sport inclinations are running thin. I don’t see a way out of this culture, but I am doing my best to just survive in it, hold my own, looking for little filings of silver in these abusive clouds, and find…solitude in a riotous crowd.

I wonder how long I can do this…without too much lasting damage. I think I’m over trying to be a good sport or fit in.


Big, tough guys with their guns. Raring girls with their guns. Aren’t you nine kinds of pain with your automatic, circular cartridge catastrophe. Aren’t you just something special on the news with, saving the world kind of, defending our rights by editing out the part about “life” that was thrown in with liberty and pursuing stuff.

Thanks for nothing.


I have only handled a gun three times, and all for theater. In my junior year in high school I got the part of Aunt Eller in our high school production of “Oklahoma!” and the musical requires the cantankerous woman stopping a fight between farmers and cowhands with a threat of gunfire in the air. During dress rehearsal I was presented with a Colt, chambers full of blanks, and told to aim it to the ceiling and pull the trigger. “Careful, it has a bit of kick,” said the gun owner as he passed it to me. I took it from him and nearly dropped it; who needed bullets when you hold something you injure someone with just by dropping it on their foot. The term “pistol-whip” took on all kinds of meaning in my hands, and THEN the damn thing had a trigger.

Lifting it was a bit of a challenge, but I was up to it; I played marching baritone in band during the summers, so I had triceps like an acrobat. It was the relaxing enough to just lift it and pop the trigger. My first attempt nearly jolted me from end of my left index finger (stage placement made Aunt Eller a left-handed shooter and a right-handed butter-churner, apparently) all the way down to my heels, followed by the sudden urge to reach out and hold on to something. What a percussion instrument! Fantastic!

And yet, once was enough.

I didn’t have that option, though, so I jerked through a round, sore and tense by the end of the rotation. They asked me if I felt comfortable with it, and I answered that I didn’t but that more shooting wouldn’t improve the situation–it would just turn Aunt Eller into a pacifist.

So the first night I stopped a brawl with an airborn blank (the gun yanked out of one of the actors’ holster, too, which is an action about as smooth and successful as threading a needle on a mechanical bull, although I haven’t tried THAT) and could enjoy my acting for the rest of the evening. The second night, though, I felt such a fear of that damn weapon I clenched my eyes shut as I aimed it. Aunt Eller was fearless, but I hated that kick.

But it didn’t kick. The gun clicked instead.

My eyes popped open as those surprised folks in a cartoon. The audience laughed, enjoying the theatrics of my ad-lib, and I found my fearless side. Having to only shoot one bullet a night, I wasn’t normally the one who cocked the piece, but I shook it (maybe the blank wasn’t in the chamber?) cocked it, and stretched out my arm and tried again.


It was at that point that I gut-reacted. Fucking gun, I thought and spun on the fight and yelled “HEY!” at the top ferocity. Everyone roared. A weapon that wouldn’t protect me in a modern-day place of business or legislature or learning was funny for fourteen seconds.

That night was our last performance and I never handled a gun again.


A Colt is its own form of cantankerous, with jams and weight and single dispatch of bullets (about the only way to make a Colt into automatic weapon is practice hitting back the hammer with the heel of your right hand, which isn’t on my bucket list). I understand, with full sobering gravity, that this isn’t the Wild West in that these mass killers and vigilantes don’t use this kind of gun when mowing down the world.

That would, as I mentioned, require some level of skill.

The natural inclination is to make all guns illegal, but because that’s just not acceptable, then some states limit the amount of rounds you can buy. (Too few states, in this writer’s opinion, but there’s a take on all of this that screams disagreement.) Others ban certain kinds of weapons. I’m thinking any gun is still too cowardly, unless it requires skill and patience and quick-thinking to operate one. If there is going to be an insistence on owning a firearm, shouldn’t it be with some kind of cost other than monetary? If you can squeeze off a shower of lead, you aren’t committing to the act, really. Shouldn’t you be limited to the gospel itself, the kind of guns that were around when that Second Amendment was written, in order to hang on to that power you so crave? True, you may only mortally wound one person at a time (or fill your own face full of powder), but you’ll have earned it.

Or what about a compound bow? Real strength is in pulling back one bolt at a time, isn’t it? If you have to carpet the world with your own brand of justice and end one third of the sum of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness (I stand corrected; ending someone’s life would end all three), then why not do it with sheer muscle?

But we’re venturing, again, into too much of a commitment.