Years ago my best friend Michael J. moved to Reno, Reno to pursue his fortune in the world of casinos and slot machines. This was a perk for me because I went and visited him at least once a year.
I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Reno. I went there for the first time when I turned 21. Harold's Club and the Nevada Club still existed back then. I remember going to my first cabaret show at Harold's Club called Bordello. The first number was, "If you want to see my busoms you'll have to pop my balloons." The dancers actually came through the audience and let you pop a balloon. At 21, I thought that was the height of sophistication.
Anyway, when Michael J. moved to Reno and started working at Harrah's, I was more than happy to take advantage of it as an excuse to visit him whenever I could. It was an opportunity to drink a little, gamble and little and go shoot groceries on the desert outside the city.
While working at Harrah's, Michael met a Vietnam veteran named Joe. Joe liked guns and introduced Michael to the pleasure of driving out to the desert with a cooler of beer, lawn chairs and a .357 magnum with plenty of ammunition. Michael soon learned the Zen art of plinking away at random objects with a handgun. And on one of my trips to Reno, Michael introduced me to the joys of shooting up the desert.
I was no stranger to guns. I grew up in Idaho. We used to go out on the desert and shoot cans with a .22 rifle. So I didn't really balk at Michael's suggestion that we drive out to the desert and engage in some theraputic target practice. But whereas growing up, we simply shot cans, Michael introduced me to the art of shooting groceries and produce. Before we hit the desert in Michael's Jeep, we stopped at a Ralph's Market and stocked up on things we thought would be fun to shoot. This included pineapples, coconuts, bottles of water, light french salad dressing, barbecue sauce and eventually Barney dolls.
After the first shooting adventure, I was hooked. The desert shoots became the highlight of my Reno trips. I eventually bought my own pistol -- a chrome plated .357 magnum single-action pistol called, the Marshall -- and learned all the airline rules to pack it and take it on my Reno trips (this was long before 9-11).
Now granted, neither of us were great shots. But nothing makes up for a bad aim like lots of ammunition. One time we put a liter of bottled water on a fence post. I pumped so many rounds into the post, it fell over and broke the bottle.
Eventually Michael grew sick of Reno and moved back to Seattle. Ironically, I saw less of him once he moved back to Seattle than I had when he lived in Reno. Now I never see him. But I always remember our trips out to the desert where we'd bond our friendship while plinking away at bottle's of Snapple.
The video above documents what I think was our last shootout on the desert. I can't even tell you what year it was. Judging from how skinny I was, it was a long, long, time ago. But shoot, it was the best therapy in the world and I miss those times.
Michael J, if you are out there dude, here's to you bud! Hope you still have the dog's playing poker print I gave you.