My new book project, Wounded: The Aftermath of Gun Violence, is an ethnography of gunshot victims. To say the least, this research has lead me to some pretty interesting areas of the city. In the past 1.5 years, I've spent time with numerous young men who have been shot in armed robberies. While many are random victims of gun violence, some victims were themselves offenders in the past.
One of the victim/offenders in my study, Paul, was a former stick-up boy who used to rob drunken patrons stumbling home from bars and nite clubs. While hanging out near his old haunts, Paul has taken me to different areas of the city in which he used to wait for the unsuspecting passerby. One such spot is a shaded awning that wraps around the side of a low-income apartment building. Using the natural cover provide by the awning and the lack of lighting on this street, Paul used to sit quietly with his "Saturday Night Special," a Rossi .38 special snubnose revolver, waiting for the right person to stumble by.
|"Saturday Night Special"--an old Rossi .38 special snubnose|
So, how did Paul become a competent armed robber? Aside from commitment and practice, how did Paul improve his craft?
In order to work up the steel needed to rob people, Paul and other stick-up boys used medications that help them calm down.
This got me thinking about other ways in which people use performance enhancing drugs before engaging in some kind of high stakes performance. As a kid, I was a huge Oakland A's fan. Jose Canseco--the first guy to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in a season--was my idol. I was crushed when I learned that he was juiced up on steroids during his years as an elite baseball player.
I was also reminded of drunken kung fu fighting. During my years in college, I used to love watching "Legend of Drunken Master" starring Jackie Chan. In addition to being a really cool martial arts movie, LDM is a story of a kung fu fighter who uses alcohol as a way to work up the nerve needed to take on throngs of other fighters. Fictional hyperbole aside, drunken kung fu is a real practice, and isn't so different from drunken bar goers who develop "liquid courage" after a long night of drinking themselves into a rage.
Anyways, what do you all think? Any other examples?