Monday, December 10, 2012

American Gladiator

It's been a week or two since we had dinner with the woman, a writer and friend of Leslie's. She was from Massachusetts, solid Berkshire counter culture stock. She had been a young mother and her kids were also young mothers and now she was enjoying a small brood of grandchildren.

I believe that the family might have had a spell in Oregon at some point. Dinner conversation touched on wicca and Waldorf schools and lots of other liberal stuff that I really wasn't totally familiar with.

The children had not been allowed to play with guns as kids and then as luck would have it, became or married soldiers. A hippie nightmare but it happens in the best of families, or so I guess.

I remember seeing a study once that showed that children that were allowed to play with guns were far less likely to engage in violent behavior as adults than children that were forbidden to play with them.  I don't really have the inclination to hunt for a citation this evening but will oblige you sometime when I am feeling better. Anyway it was something about catharthis and play acting. Violent play acting serves an atavistic purpose for humans who have an innate need to feel powerful. Hence the popularity of the NFL.

Since most of us, or I hope most of us, refrain from real acts of violence in our lives, there is one other  place in our lives where we become gladiators and engage in play combat. I speak of course, about the freeway system. I would wager that more altercations start in our cars than in any other place in our lives. Because people do some really stupid shit while they are driving.

I used to think that it would interesting to conceive a world where our motorized steeds were equipped with a top mounted rocket launcher. You only were permitted one shot a year so you would have to wait for a real s.o.b. and not waste your try.

The great writer Harlan Ellison wrote a wonderful short story many years ago that imagined just such a scenario. It was called Dogfight on 101 and first appeared in Amazing Worlds 43 #3 in 1969. Later in was republished in his Deathbird Stories, retitled Along the scenic route. You can order the compilation from Amazon here.

I love this story. Steranko did illustrations for it as did Al Williamson. Anyway our main character George is getting hassled by a punk and decides to show him what for. Things soon spin a little too far our of control. Give it a read.

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