Sunday, December 16, 2012

To The Kids Of Newtown

A decade ago when I lived in Danbury, Connecticut, the word "Newtown" referred to one thing: Newtown Teen Center, unofficial home of my old band, The Pac-Men. We weren't teens, but our fans were. It was a great room. No stage. Just an all-inclusive place to see local bands at a low price, without the "bar" atmosphere, a town over from where I lived and two over from where I grew up in Ridgefield.

We played our first show there and it was like a homecoming every time we played there after that. We had our "anniversary show" there, where globs of cake flew through the air like tasty, sluggish butterflies. What?

We had a show that doubled as a Ms. Pac-Man competition where we brought in stand-up arcade games (Brian, our singer, said that if he should die before the show happens, to go ahead with it anyway, as it was his lifelong dream--who the hell would have sang, Brian?). Atom & His Package came up from Philly and headlined that night.

We played a Halloween show there, where every band had to dress as, and play the songs of, another band. Opting against the predictable Ramones/Dead Kennedys/Sex Pistols ideas, we showed up dressed as the Spice Girls and wowed the unsuspecting audience with brilliant renditions of several of the group's hits. Our drummer's tween sister was thrilled that these four dudes who played ear-blistering punk rock in her basement once a week wanted to borrow her Spice Girls cd to "rehearse."

On top of that, I have friends from Newtown, I dated a girl from there (was with her when Columbine happened and I remember how distraught she was, I can't imagine how she's feeling now), my sister's boyfriend lives there, and when I first met Rebecca, who you may remember from her blog and the times we hung out with the Red Sox on the streets of Manhattan, she was living in Newtown, and currently has nieces/nephews in Newtown elementary schools.

And what I didn't know until later in the day Friday was that my mom's new husband's grandson is a second-grader at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He is okay. I still have a step-nephew.

So I have a lot of Newtown connections, and I keep thinking of how all these people are directly affected by this. All those kids who came out to see my band probably know the family of someone who was killed senselessly. Some of them might even be the parents of those kids, for all I know. The shooter's brother would have been a teenager back when we were playing those shows and might have seen us play. (Or at least heard his friends talking about how incredibly awesome those stupid Pac-Men are....)

We lost a big group of future Newtown Teen Center (or whatever the all-ages music venue is there these days) concert-goers, and that's really sad. Two of them were pronounced dead at the hospital where I was born.

But I have to say, even without these connections, even if this was in California or something, it hits home. Even if you're not a parent, you certainly were once a first-grader.

To the gun owners, no one's trying to take your guns away. But maybe it's time to think about voluntarily getting rid of them yourselves. What is the point? Are you so scared of roaming packs of first-graders that you need to be able to massacre them all at once? It's hard to not blame the shooter, but I'll gladly put most of the blame on his mother. I almost wish she'd lived just so she could see exactly what her guns could do. Of course, she'd probably claim her son was evoking his second amendment right and that the class of little kids collectively lunged at him first.


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Location: Rhode Island, United States