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San Francisco 2007 How Weird Street Faire.

May 8, 2007

With Guns
Tuesday. Well, all right. Into the office early, feeling OK, insofar as I ever feel OK, cutting out around three, home now with the fan blowing cool air across my body. Ms. Emmy is sitting in front of the sliding glass door to the balcony, the door itself open, but the screen still in place, which is good, as the two pigeons, who are hopping about on the balcony railing, have her absolute attention. Spring is here. It's isn't as warm today as it was yesterday (we broke the local record), but it's warm enough. Maybe I'll trundle on down the hill later after five for some sushi. Maybe I'll crawl into bed and sleep. Maybe, maybe. Here in Oakland.

The news story today about the arrest of six “Jihadists” who were planning to attack Ft. Dix, New Jersey (Ft. Dix, New Jersey?) is bizarre. Attacking a fort seems, um, foolish, although I suppose they could surprise the MP's at the gate, but they'd have to be lucky and expect to die pretty quick under a shit hail of bullets from their fellow MP's once they understood what was up. Unless, I guess, they avoided the gate and crawled under a fence to hit a mess hall in the middle of breakfast.

As an infantry officer stationed at Ft. Lewis I never carried a loaded weapon and I'm sure that's true for the soldiers at Ft. Dix. We checked any of our own personal weapons into the company arms room when we arrived and only checked them out to transfer to another assignment or visit the shooting range. The issued stuff was never loaded except on the range and in live fire exercises (and those were hairy enough). The MP's, however, are police, and I believe they carry loaded weapons. Still, if they crawled under a fence. Lot's of fences at Ft. Dix. Lots of fences at Ft. Lewis.

I was ordered to carry a loaded side arm once in the United States in 1968 when my unit marched in an Armed Forces Day parade in the local town of Tacoma. I and my three fellow lieutenants (marching in line in front of our troops) were warned not to inadvertently shoot any innocent citizens should anti-war protesters open fire from one of the buildings. Our job was to provide short term cover for our NCO's while they grabbed automatic weapons out of the trailer we'd attached to one of the jeeps so they could provide covering fire while we beat a retreat. I wasn't concerned anyone would open up on my company, most of my friends (who were anti-war and not adverse to protest) weren't big on shooting people, soldiers or not, but, you know, contingency plans: this was, after all, the army. Marching along checking the buildings for snipers seemed surreal, unreal and, if it weren't for Vietnam, cowboys and Indians.

These guys in New Jersey, though. How do you get a handle on what kind of wacko you're dealing with, what you might need to understand about them from these news reports so you can apply it, if necessary, to your own situation here? They said the authorities were tipped off by a store clerk when one of these six asked him to duplicate a video he'd made, a video in which he and his friends were running around shooting rifles and shouting “God is Great!”. Cowboys and Indians in the woods with real bullets. Wacko's, in other words. You hope this remains the level of intelligence we'll run into in the future - “hey, guys: duplicate this here home made video for me, will you, but please don't tell the feds.” - and they pick a video duplication service that employs a curious clerk or, if they don't, they stick to heavily armed military bases as their targets. Better than a school. Better than a hospital. Better than my house. Here in Oakland.

You're worried about being attacked?

No, that's what's so fucking weird about any of this. I'm finding it difficult not to laugh. Remember the guy nailed boarding an airplane wearing exploding shoes? Funnier than hell unless he'd brought it off. Then again the airplanes into the towers. Those were images on a television screen, but they had, particularly in retrospect, a serious and lasting impact. Maybe even the idiot stuff, the exploding shoes, carry a psychological undercurrent that's difficult to judge. Ft. Dix, New Jersey. I've driven by it a few times in the past. I suspect the guys at the gate, at all the gates of all the forts, are checking the cars more closely now as they approach. A certain “thump! thump!” added to the mix. That's what makes it so weird, the senselessness of it, the idiot factor, Abbott and Costello with guns.

Postscript 5/14/2007: “Fear is their go-to play. Mushroom clouds as smoking guns! Terror alerts any time the poll numbers take a dip! And isn't it interesting how we have the Fort Dix arrest of the gang that couldn't jihad straight just as Bush's approval rating hits a record low?” (Arianna Huffington, The Huffington Post)

Huffington's rationale hadn't occurred to me when I read the New Jersey “gang that couldn't jihad straight” piece mostly because I still have trouble imagining anyone playing what I believe to be this particularly ugly game. More the fool I.
The photograph was taken at the San Francisco 2007 How Weird Street Faire with a Nikon D2Xs mounted with a 70-200mm f 2.8 Nikkor lens at 1/1000th second, f 2.8, ISO 100.