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Thursday, July 16, 2020

"Think of me."

My kid said to me. More than once. As I recounted a story about me taking photos of masked gunmen at a recent rally in Bloomington.

"Think of me."

She doesn't realize I always think of her, every single day, about what's she's doing, reading, thinking, writing.

But this was an admonishment of sorts, her kind way of reminding me she wants her dad around for a while -- at least until her first Academy Award nomination. (I called dibs as her date.)

I had been applying for jobs and writing blog posts while enjoying some beer at The Tap in downtown Burlington as I saw some dudes openly and legally carrying long guns to an anti-racism rally.

After finishing my last beer, I walked toward the rally with my iPhone. I hadn't anticipated seeing what I had so I left my fancy cameras at The Hermitage, where I'm staying. But I've been doing journalism for 30 years so, like a swimmer and a pool, I dove in.

The thing is, though, I didn't have an assignment in mind. What should be my focus? What was new about yet another rally in Bloomington? 

How about these dozen cats with long guns, there theoretically to protect the crowd from harm?

That became my motif.

If someone had a gun, I walked up and started taking photos of them, even as they turned away. Even as a couple of big guys without guns followed me. Even as someone ran up and took a photo of me, "Be careful of what you ask for, buddy," he said. I offered to take off my mask so he could get a full face photo. "Nice beard," he said. "No, it's not," I laughed.

"Think of me," my kid said at this point.

I understand. I need to make decisions that will allow me to see her career blossom after she graduates from college. 

I left the sweltering rally to rehydrate with another beer at a different tavern (Bionic Dragon -- great IPA) and then left to drive home with no plans to post anything about the gun dudes. It wasn't newsworthy.


I came across them again on Eighth Street as they blocked off intersections so the rallygoers could march. Now the gun guys were directing traffic -- and poorly. Half a dozen of the long-gun holders waved me through while the other half a dozen waved me through.

I wanted them to agree on a direction.

And not because they were all armed to the teeth but because only days before, two people were injured by a vehicle following another rally.

Holding my hands and shoulders in the international sign of "what the hell" I angered some of the gentleman, including what appeared to be the tacit head of the group dressed in camouflage. (I'm not a fashion diva but I can tell you camou in a city atmosphere doesn't camouflage you. It just shouts "toy soldier.") He angrily tugged at his camou mask and waved me through.

I did so riding the break, hoping no one would jump out in front of me.

As I passed the long-gun cats, one said, "You'll get yours, buddy."

I posted something on Facebook when I arrived home, shocked at the lack of coordination by anyone who knew what they were doing. Where were the police? Where is any moderate training on gun use? Or traffic control?

"Think of me."

I will, kid, I will always think of you.

Peace and Bionic Dragon unto all of you, my brothers and sisters.

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