The gunfire started precisely at the stroke of midnight. In fact, I had dozed off watching the last of the Roswell episodes I had on DVD, and wouldn't have known it was midnight, except for the gunfire.
Happy New Years' from the south side of Chicago...
They do that here. Shoot guns off at midnight, that is. Oh, yeah, there's fireworks - firecrackers, M-80's (and bigger) - all illegal, of course. But I'm coming to be able to distinguish the sound of gunfire out here on the edge of the 'hood.
Depending on the weapon, I'll hear six or eight bangs in succession - not poppoppoppoppoppop, but slower and more deliberate - like pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop. It's a little scary for me, actually - after all, each room in this apartment (except the bathroom and the front stairwell) has one or two very un-bulletproof windows. And while I'm sure the 100-year-old brick will stop good-sized slugs, my only protection really is that the line of fire from the street would probably hit me unless I was standing pretty close to them. I often wonder what happens to all those shells - and where they end up coming down. After all, it's not like the bullet-fairy whisks them off somehow - what goes up must come down, I guess. Thankfully, none came down in my place.
This is not the first time I've experienced this - there was minor gunfire in Hyde Park where I used to attend school (and an earlier display of firepower here in Pullman while celebrating the White Sox's World Series win), but last evening's display sounded more like a scene from the OK Corral...or Apocalypse Now.
Fortunately, gunfire was not the dominant theme this weekend. Sloth and entertainment were. From Tuesday to Friday I put in 60 hours at the new job; not unwelcome, just not expected. If I'd planned not to be home before 10 PM for a week, I'd have done things differently (like come home a day early from Christmas to prepare for it). But while it was exhausting (and promises to be so again this week) it really wasn't bad, compared to my former employment.
After all, I've been on the new job for nearly 2-1/2 months, and I haven't yet heard anyone say, "Gee - it really smells like dead mouse(/rat/varmint) in here." (Not an unusual occurrence in my former employment site.) In 10 weeks, I haven't yet come into the office to find out that the powers-that-be decided to turn off the electricity (or heat, or water) for long-overdue all-day repairs (without telling the staff ahead of time). No squirrels have chewed through the DSL line, cutting off Internet and email connectivity to the company. And even among the employees of color, there hasn't been nearly the overdose-of-attitude that was all-too-frequently the case "back there." So I'm still a grateful man.
About 12:45 AM Thursday morning, as we were preparing to leave the office, one of my co-workers came into my cube and said, "You don't even look pissed!" And she was right, thanks be to God. I was tired; I was disappointed (a goof on my part resulted in more than an hour's rework added to the long-day-and-night) but I wasn't angry. Gratitude was still very much a gift for me, because I knew (and know) what the alternative is. And thankfully I don't have to go there, today.
Friday night, I got to go up to the Improv Olympic to see one of my friends and his team in an improv competition final-match. It was pretty neat - especially when they won - but it was also just nice to be a part of the evening. He seemed appreciative of my coming out, too (especially since the show started at midnight Friday). So Saturday, and Sunday, except for the a couple AA meetings and a New Years Eve afternoon prime-rib dinner with friends, was basically spent in bed or on the sofa.
All weekend long, I've been seeing and hearing tragedies - just on the ride back from the Improv early Saturday morning, there were 6 car wrecks on the stretch of Lake Shore Drive and Stony Island between Belmont and 115th St. In addition, several AA friends had weeks last week that would have made Job himself wince. So compared to them I really, really don't have anything to complain about.
This afternoon, I heard that there was gunfire and explosions in Iraq - but they were much more deadly than anything that happened on the south side of Chicago last night. It reminded me yet again of how safe and secure my life is, compared to so much of the world.
Amidst the gunfire, Lord, here is a prayer for peace. That nations and sects and denominations might stop fighting (and killing) in Your name. That Your followers will remember that Your son prayed "that they might all be one," and not that each and every one could start his/her own splinter group. That this will be a year when the death toll from natural disasters will not be matched by sectarian and racial violence. That a quarter million people will not die in places like Darfour again, alone, barely noticed, and rarely mourned.
Help us remember, Lord, that no matter what we think about "just war" or same-sex partners or gay-lesbian ordination, the central fact of Christian faith remains what Paul wrote about 1,940 years or so ago:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all, as to one abnormally born, he appeared to me also. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8, NIV).Help me keep my eyes on that prize, Lord. Let me be of maximum service to my fellow human beings, and as honest as I can be about who and how I am. That's probably the best I can do to do Your will - this day, and always. Amen.