The Walking Dead and Shotguns

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A frantic string orchestra builds into a loud crescendo as The Walking Dead flashes across my television screen. My body automatically tenses. Adrenaline begins the race through my veins.

I’m thankful I’m sitting on a comfy couch in a world where zombies do not exist. I hate zombies. I have a deep-seated fear of a zombie apocalypse. But The Walking Dead? For some reason, every Sunday night, I’m hooked.

Minutes into any given episode, there’s a swarm of walkers. I cringe as I see Daryl shoot a walker with his cross bow, the arrow so gruesomely pierced through the bloody skull. When Rick uses his shotgun and a few walkers’ heads explode, I am both fascinated and revolted.

“I would kick ass in a zombie apocalypse. Just blow ’em to bits,” my longtime friend says as a walker narrowly misses biting Maggie on screen.

“I’d probably be one of the first people to die,” I admit. My friend laughs. Because we both know it’s true—besides my “irrational” fear for zombies (bath salts people, BATH SALTS CAN CREATE ZOMBIES), I’m petrified of weapons in general. How would I ever defend myself? I’m the first to admit – I am easy zombie prey.

This seems to be a common fear among the public. No, not zombies, but weapons in general. If you watch the news, countless people are trying to revoke the second amendment. Politically, I don’t think we should give up any rights. I want the option to bear arms if I want to. But actually handle a gun? Or a knife? The few times I’ve seen either in person, my body literally shook from fright. Sword fighting movies make me sick. Movies with too many gunshots, too much blood, too much careless brandishing of any type of weapon, give me so much anxiety that I stand up and leave the room.

However, a percentage of America doesn’t possess this fear. According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2014, 37% of Americans with children under 18 at home own a firearm. That’s an estimation of roughly 317 million American gun owners. My dad is one of those statistics – a licensed owner of a shotgun and a handgun. So one late August evening this past summer, I mentioned my fears to the gun owner himself.

“You don’t have to be afraid of guns. You have to respect them. They’re lethal weapons, yes. But if you know how to safely handle one, it can protect you. They’re less scary once you know what you’re doing. You should come with me to the shotgun range one day. An instructor can teach you, and I’ll be by your side,” my dad said.

It took me until November, about four months later, to take him up on his offer. I decided that I should face this fear straight on. How scary could it be? My dad has been hunting for years, since before I could remember. An instructor would be teaching me how to operate and properly shoot, and I was glad it was going to be my dad by my side the entire time.

My dad happily agreed to take me, despite the cold weather. So on November 19, 2014, my best friend Nikki, my little sister Isabella, my father and I headed up to Thunder Mountain in Ringwood, New Jersey, to go to the shotgun range. It was about 26 degrees out, but felt like it was below zero with the wind chill. It was 8 o’clock at night—the only time we were all free to try shooting before the holidays. The darkness blanketed us.

We pulled up to a small, one-story building next to a small field that had a few wooden huts scattered across it. Within ten minutes, a cute twenty-something year old man named Nick, wearing camo pants, Timberlands, and what appeared to be at least three layers of sweatshirts, walked across the field with Nikki, Bella, my dad and I towards a concrete pavement patch in the middle of the field.

“This is a 12-gauge, pump-up shotgun,” Nick said as he handed me the weapon. The gun had camouflage print, matching Nick’s pants. He spoke loudly so I could hear him over my ear protection.

“Put five shotgun shells into your pocket. You’ll load one at a time. Then you slide the pump up, loading the gun. Once it’s loaded, you have to always keep the gun pointed downwards until you’re ready for the clay pigeon – the clay disk that I’m going to release when you say ‘pull.’” Nick explained as helped me load the first shotgun shell and pump the gun. He then brought the gun up to my right shoulder and propped it against my inner shoulder.

“Press your face against the gun. Your right cheek. Keep your face against it. Squint your left eye, so your right eye is lined up with the gun’s barrel. You’re going to follow the barrel with your eye, and when you think the clay pigeon is about to be right in front of the barrel, you shoot. With shotgun shooting, you have to shoot where you think the pigeon is going to end up. You have to move the gun slowly upwards to follow the pigeon before shooting. It’s a moving target, so it’s a little harder. Don’t panic. Just breathe.”

I stood in position. My face felt frozen against the shotgun, but my fears seemed to have vanished as I held the gun. The entire field was silent.

Nick reminded me to breathe and say pull when I’m ready. I lifted the gun. It’s really loaded. My heart started thumping but I encouraged the adrenaline. It was controlled. I took a deep breath. My right pointer finger was on the trigger, and my left hand was on the barrel where Nick placed it. I squinted my left eye awkwardly, and my right eye stared down the barrel.

“Pull,” I said.

The orange clay pigeon disk soared across the black ink sky. I pulled the trigger and felt the gun jut back against my shoulder. I missed. I took a deep breath. The power, the loud burst from the shotgun, is actually what I expected. I imagined Rick shooting walkers and wondered how the hell he’s so precise. I imagined criminals in the real world using these weapons, and wondered at how they could possibly do such a thing. These thoughts don’t panic me or make me want to run, hide, or give Nick the gun back. Instead, I’m overwhelmed with respect for the weapon in my hand. It is deadly.

“Not bad. A little higher next time and you’ll get it,” Nick said. I laughed and let the gun face downwards.

“You ready to go again?” my dad asked from behind. I nodded and reached for the next shotgun shell. I shot about 15 rounds. I missed all of them. Nikki shot 15 too, and got one. My dad hit 18 out of his 25 shots. My little sister filmed and snapped as many pictures as her hands would allow in the cold. Nick and my dad excitedly bonded over bird hunting. As we exited the field, Nick smiled at me.

“It’s really cold out. You should come back on a warm day. It’ll be easier. But you did a good job. And you handled the gun well. It’s not that scary right?”

“It’s not that bad,” I admitted.

“I don’t even know why you guys would come on such a cold night,” Nick said.

“Just preparing for the zombie apocalypse.”

Snapshot Wednesday: Banksy

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Banksy is like the Batman of graffiti (though his art decorates London, not Gotham.) This gem is particularly captivating. When I traveled to London and Paris, I was blown away by the social acceptance of graffiti and thought it really made the ancient cities even more magnificent. Pieces like Banksy’s are works of living art. I wish we saw more of this in New York City. I’m beginning to think I’m destined to move to Europe permanently.

Happy hump day!

Music Mondays: “Drop The Game” by Flume & Chet Faker

“Drop The Game” by Flume & Chet Faker has an incredibly eclectic, laid-back vibe that I am totally feeling.

“Flume” is a popular Australian DJ and producer, and his real name is Harley Edward Streten. Flume is only 23 years old, and dropped his first album in 2012. An Australian record company named Future Classic signed Flume in 2011, and his first album reached No.1 on Australia’s iTunes charts. I’m looking forward to Flume’s music working itself more into the American music scene, and it would be interesting to see him start performing at the EDC/EDM concerts that take place in major cities in America. I’m personally not a huge fan of dubstep, but I would take the time to go see Flume from what I’ve heard so far.

I particularly like this song, again, because I think the vibe and beats give a relaxing, eclectic vibe. I’m also enthralled with the video itself. My friend only showed this song to me about a week ago, and I immediately downloaded it. As my friend and I were discussing the song and video, she pointed out that it seemed like the man’s dancing was beyond dancing. While I’m sure there was choreography involved, it seems like he is just dancing from his soul. He moves fluidly with the music as if he and the music are one.

Flume provides a fresh, new sound for me. What do you guys think?

Snapshot Wednesday: The Beautiful Jermaine Cole

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It’s 7:30 AM and I’m driving to jury duty in Elizabeth, New Jersey. I’m going down 1-78 E and the sun is steadily climbing up the morning sky, illuminating and awakening it’s pinks and yellows that dance among the clouds. I’m sleepy and I yawn as I reach for my Starbucks cup. I don’t want to be going to jury duty, I don’t want to be up at 7:30 on my day off. I have been in a funk for the last few days. I turn on J.Cole’s “Apparently” and my mood is immediately lifted. I’ve got my wings to carry me.

So I’m dedicating Snapshot Wednesday to the beautiful Jermaine Cole. I love this scruffy look on him, too. And seriously, guys – if you haven’t tried listening to 2014 Forrest Hills Drive, you’re missing out. His music feeds your soul.

Music Mondays (On a Tuesday): “Alright” – Logic ft. Big Sean

Music is powerful. It silences your mind when all of your thoughts are jittering around, bumping into one another, like a frantic flock of birds trapped in a too-small room, desperate to get to freedom once more. This song silences my mind, like many of the others I’ve chosen and shared on this blog.

I don’t know much about Logic as a rapper, but this song is inspiring me to look into him. The lines, “hold on, let me get my mind right, everything is alright” flows smoothly and is the exact line that relaxes me. I also like the beat and flow of Logic and Big Sean’s raps. It’s not too much, it’s something you can sit back and relax to. If anybody has any Logic songs to suggest, feel free to point me in the right direction. Otherwise, I’m excited to look into a new artist for me to become obsessed with (new artists and new music = Amy in a candy shop).

Je Suis Charlie

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I felt compelled to post something about all of the acts of terror going on in Paris, France. My CNN app continuously updated me with all of the Breaking News surrounded by these attacks, and when I was at work today, somehow my mind always drifted back to the streets of Paris that I had walked on only a year or so ago. It saddens me; sometimes I don’t know if it’s just because I’m getting older and notice what is going on in the world more, or if we have more access to the news through technology, but I feel like every time I turn on the news, I’m wondering where the compassion for humanity has gone.

And yet, I have to remind myself that we stand strong in spite of it all. Perhaps that is where the compassion still is – in the hearts of those who persevere in the face of terror, like the cartoonists who would not be silent, like the thousands of people across the world who are rallying. That is strength. That is love. That is freedom. That is promise of a better tomorrow in the face of fear. That is how evil will never win.

My heart goes out to all of those affected. Viva la France! We stand with you through this terrible time. We are all strong when we stand united together. #IAmCharlie #IAmAhmed