My vacation this year was a dichotomy of sorts – a week with the family in Utah, then a week with my best friend in Las Vegas. From the Promised Land of the Mormons to Sin City ... can’t get more disparate than that. Silly me, I presumed that Vegas debauchery would be the highlight of my hiatus – but that was before I got shot in the head by a SWAT team in Utah.
Usually when I vacation out west, if the natives ask where I’m from, I’ll say, “New York, but not the city” to avoid the standard follow ups about how I like dodging the homeless and the drug dealers on the subway. Sometimes, though, I’ll be more specific. But not Norwich-specific, because really, what’s the point? If pressed, I’ll throw out a “Binghamton.”
That typically draws the same glassy-eyed response that “Norwich” would – except this year. This time around, my vacation to sunny Utah came a mere three days after “Binghamton” became national news, in the worst way possible.
It’s ironic, then, given the aftermath of that tragedy, that one of the activities my niece had planned for me was portraying a drug-addled hostage taker in a SWAT team exercise. Her husband, you see, is the commander of the Weber-Metro SWAT Team, headquartered about an hour from Salt Lake City. Victims, err, volunteers, were needed to help the team put its training and equipment to a practical test. Why not, I figured. After all, I’m a proud graduate of the Norwich City Police Department’s Citizens Academy – wherein the culminating exercise was a training scenario which led to me shooting an officer six times (largely in the butt, but who’s keeping score?).
Let me tell you one thing: Our local boys handled me with kid gloves compared to the Utah force. They meant business. Given everything that transpired in Binghamton (and too many places elsewhere in the nation), I have tremendous respect for the job done by the men and women behind the badge, even if they did play rough.
My nephew-in-law cooked up a plausible scenario complete with mugshots in which I was a disgruntled newspaper editor from New York (no acting there) who had lost his job and subsequently shot and killed a deputy serving an eviction notice. Oops. From there, I guess I fled to Utah to seek asylum with my brother, his wife and son (played here by my friend, my niece and my great-nephew). So of course the SWAT team knew I was armed and dangerous, and proceeded to my brother’s home to extradite me.
To call this place a “home” required a stretch of imagination far greater than my purported propensity for offing cops. The exercise took place in a real house all right, but it was a shell of its 1970s glory. Abandoned and scheduled for demolition, it had been the real-life home of a drug horde, and I’d dare say 10,000 cats. Kitties were gone by the time we got there, but let’s just say they left their calling card.
To make a long story short, I would not go willingly. Armed with one of those Glock-lite paint pellet guns, I brazenly shot at an officer outside the window and took him down. OK, my nephew did the shooting, but it was all part of the ploy to throw his team a curveball. I did shoot at an officer. I believe I hit him in the knee. Clearly, I need target practice.
Once the SWAT team stormed the house, all hell broke loose. Even though it was all fake, it was startlingly realistic. Emboldened by adrenaline and the fact that I was wearing a helmet fit for a Sherman tank driver, I took my little great-nephew hostage and refused to go down without a fight. But go down, I did. Hard. It all happened in a flash, but I thought I’d play out the scenario and not let go of my gun, even when the SWAT guys ordered me to at gunpoint. As they wrestled me to the floor (getting me intimately acquainted with the cat debris), I still wouldn’t let go of that gun. That is, until I heard my nephew, who was in command observing his men, say, “Don’t rough him up!”
Indeed. Don’t rough me up, please. Newspaper editors, even disgruntled ones, bruise easily.
I’d be remiss here if I didn’t mention that while I was fighting the law (and the law won), my “brother” and his “wife” hid in the closet like Elian Gonzalez. So much for family loyalty.
After getting a beat down from an entire SWAT team, gambling, drinking and spending what remains of my 401k in Vegas seemed almost anticlimactic. If nothing else, my brush with the long arm of the law makes editing “30 Seconds” look like a walk in the park. Just don’t try to evict me from my home, because I’ll turn on you. I’m a badass like that.