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Think in the Morning ran into Peter Lit at the Albion dump over the weekend and he told me this story. I don’t think he would mind if I repeat it. Just a memory from years ago when we were in the bar business in Mendocino and Caspar.
Yes, there were mass shootings back in those days (the 70s and 80s) although we didn’t witness any of them. Any shooting is one too many–lives needlessly destroyed, communities disrupted and divided, an entire society fractured. The evidence surrounding mass shootings is complicated and we won’t discuss it here. Celebrity academics like Steven Pinker and Neil deGrasse Tyson have been castigated for suggesting that violence as a whole has been decreasing, that the number of deaths from causes other than mass shootings (homicide, car accidents, medical accidents, poverty, etc) is larger than the number from mass shootings and for ignoring the emotional impact of mass shootings especially when children are involved. That is a subject worth exploring but it isn’t our purpose either.
What follows is no more than a little story Peter offered to remind me how lucky we were back in those days, how different things were without Twitter and Facebook and 24 hour news especially in the insular and isolated coastal world where we both ran our businesses. Not better but different. Draw your own conclusions and please don’t accuse us of trivializing the terrible events of the past few days. That isn’t our purpose at all. If there is a purpose to this post it is to provide some small solace through the memory of different times.
Peter told me he had a rule that there were no weapons in his bar. One night he saw a man sitting at the bar with a Bowie knife under his belt. He confronted the man and told him about the no weapons rule. The man was not very happy about it but he took his knife out to his car and locked it inside. Awhile later a scruffy mean-looking character came in and sat at the bar. He was unkempt and had the gnarly look of a man who lived in the woods. Peter noticed that this man also had a knife under his belt.
“Oh God,” thought Peter. “I really don’t want to confront this guy but I have to be consistent.” After all, the first man was still sitting at the bar. Peter went up to the newcomer and told him as pleasantly as possible that he could not have his knife in the bar. The man grew angry and grumpy at the news.
“Whatta ya want me to do with it?”
Peter told him to lock it in his car but the man didn’t have a car, of course, he had a motorcycle which should have been obvious from the leathers on his legs.
“Okay then,” said Peter, “give it to the doorman for safekeeping and he will return it when you leave.”
“I ain’t leavin’ my knife with no doorman. I’ll give it to you and you better have it for me when I leave.”
Peter took the knife and went on about his business. Several minutes later the man, who looked very upset, waved Peter over.
“Oh no, now what,” thought Peter as he walked over to the man.
“Say,” said the man in a voice that was surprisingly friendly. “I got to thinkin’. If there ain’t no weapons allowed, you better have this.”
The man reached into the inside pocket of his coat and pulled out a handgun which he turned over to Peter.
Different times indeed.