Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Bad, bad choices
All kinds of good, exciting, and fun kayak stuff is happening this month. Instruction, trips, and general good times on the water are happening in the heart of the northland summer. I have blog material galore, including a paddle trip I did around the six lake chain where our childhood cabin used to be. But instead today I get to write about a shooting outside a neighborhood bar in Northeast Minneapolis. My neighborhood bar.
Grumpys is my primary after work stop a night or two during the week. I know a number of the regulars, the bartenders, and the owner. Its a friendly spot with countless events and specials, including Hotdish Night, various musical acts, Vinyl Night, and most recently a benefit for Haitian relief. The vibe does change on late weekend nights however, and on the rare occasion I've stopped after a game or a show, I haven't recognized many patrons. Friday and Saturday nights are the only nights that the bar has a bouncer and that's not by coincidence. Last Saturday night at 1 am, a young man that had either been cut off or asked to leave the bar, went home, grabbed a butcher knife, and returned, after his mother urged him not to. According to media accounts, the 24 year old drove up on the curb, got out of the car, and attacked the bouncer with the knife. The bouncer tried to ward off the attack with a collapsible baton and then shot the man twice after he was cut on the hand. The bouncer, who had a valid carry permit, received stitches at the OR. He was questioned and released by police.
Reading the sparse accounts in the paper prompted me to jump on my bike after work and ride down to talk to the folks at the bar and get some more insight into what happened. Those sparse reports however, were more than enough information to prompt over 200 predominantly crackpot comments on the article describing the incident. They ranged from the 'he was a good boy/ban guns/jail the bouncer' to the 'the punk deserved it/arm everyone/send the riff raff back to where they came from' camps. Middle ground was very, very rare in this amazing regurgitation of comments and half baked opinions.
The bottom line is that this happened because of bad, very bad choices. In this situation, as in many potentially dangerous situations including kayaking, bad decisions and bad judgement tend to pile up, raising the stakes geometrically and more often than not ending badly. I don't want to debate the nuances of the event, parrot the liberal or conservative party line, or paint is as some morality play one way or the other. I just want to stress again that good decision making and cutting your losses when bad decisions are made, can prevent this sort of tragedy.
There are some interesting parallels between this event and the kayaker deaths over the past few years at the Meyers Beach sea caves. Neither kayaking or drinking are inherently dangerous activities but when the bad decisions begin to accumulate, the dangers increase geometrically. Venturing on to Lake Superior in rec boat with no spray skirt is shaky. Add cold water and shorts and a T shirt and the danger ratchets up. No method of getting back into the boat and a 25 knot wind and we are well into the danger zone. Paddle into nasty rebound waves along sheer cliffs and sea caves and chances are huge that bad things will happen. In two instances they did and fatalities occurred. In Saturday nights incident at Grumpys too much alcohol, with a combative attitude added in, was bad enough. Driving home in that state while intoxicated made the danger level worse, and grabbing a knife and returning to the bar to attack the bouncer escalated it into the almost certain disaster range. In both instances there were a number of points where disaster could have been easily averted simply by stopping but the mistakes, bad judgement, and poor decisions kept piling up until people wound up dead.
I hate to keep referring to "the bouncer" because I know the man, but names are being avoided for obvious reasons. He's a good guy, family man, veteran, and very active in the community. The first question from 1st LtO (my youngest son), a guy who has held a firearm in life and death situations, been a bouncer on New York City's lower east side, and is currently trained in the use of lethal force, was, "how is (the bouncer) doing?". On the other side of the equation, the assailant, according to some of the more lucid folks in the newspaper comment section, was a troubled but good guy who was trying to get his life back on track. He leaves a mom and dad, sisters and brothers, and friends trying to make sense out of that which makes no sense at all. There are no winners and losers although I will say that 'the bouncer' did his job and protected himself, the bar staff, and the bar patrons. That does not make it any less tough for anyone however.
Whether you're going out for a drink or a short paddle on Lake Calhoun in the city, take 10 seconds and think a bit about consequences. I encourage people where I work to become good pool players. Don't just sink that stripe ball next to the corner pocket, think things through a bit and see if you can't maybe set things up for more opportunity down the road. Since the beginning of this blog the masthead has read 'Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement. Bad judgement can and does happen. By thinking, just a little bit, and taking an easy peek into the crystal ball, most trouble can be avoided. And for god sakes, when the bad crap and bad decisions start to pile up just step back, take a look at the situation, and then stop. Just stop. Lose the macho 'blindly plow ahead' attitude and stop. Everybody wins that way and no mature person will think any less of you because of it.