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Heart of Darkness 

Keeping the fury at bay

Anger as soon as fed is dead. 'Tis starving makes it fat.

--Emily Dickinson

Who isn't filled with righteous wrath these days? And with good reason. Traffic is intolerable, you can't get a human being on the phone at any business anymore, most people have lost at least a chunk of their life savings in the stock market, and we just fought a war based on at least three other deadly sins (see greed, pride and gluttony). And when the mercury hits a humid 90-plus degrees and stays there for months, it doesn't take much to touch off an explosion of anger that could end with fingerprints and mugshots at your friendly neighborhood precinct.When I picked wrath as my deadly sin, I figured on going the pacifist route -- checking out yoga classes, places to swim and walk, maybe a massage -- activities to assuage the rage, soothe the savage beast.

Noble thought. And most of the time it works. But, dammit, we're a violent species, and the rage index increases mightily in the hellish summer heat. Sometimes you've just gotta give in to it and cut loose, as the genteel Ms. Dickinson advises. Feed the beast until it topples over, sated.

Sometimes you've just got to shoot something.

Those indoor shooting ranges are OK for target practice and learning gun safety -- and if you own a gun, you really should shoot and clean it at least once a year. Of course, if you're prone to fits of rage, you probably shouldn't own a real gun anyway. (I say this, not as a kneejerk pacifist anti-gun ranter, but as a responsible gun owner, like my fellow Michigander Michael Moore. Regardless of what statistics or some Michigan dwellers will tell you, everyone in Michigan owns at least one gun.)

The good news is, you don't need a real gun anymore to blow off steam.

There's a place called a video game arcade, and for far less than the price of a shiny new Glock, you can go to one and shoot aliens (of the extraterrestrial kind), terrorists, sharks, monsters, dead people, assorted criminals and even dinosaurs.

I visited a local arcade on a recent Wednesday afternoon, accompanied by a peaceful vegetarian who loves animals and has never shot a gun in her life. Neither of us had ever played in a video arcade before, so we spent some time checking out the options and watching others do battle before taking up arms ourselves.

Apparently other people learned a while ago that virtual gunplay is a good way to vent your spleen. There weren't a lot of people when we visited, but those who were there (mostly children and teenagers) were almost all clustered in the shooting gallery.

We watched a group of kids gathered around a big-screen game, shooting nearly life-size creepy corpses with what looked like urban assault weapons. When hit, the monsters sprouted gaping, bloody holes, but they kept on coming until their heads were blown off.

At another game, a couple of adolescent boys were massacring what looked like inorganic geometric shapes.

In many of the games, you lose time off your life by shooting innocent bystanders. In one game, you can add time to your life by finding the beautiful woman. Clearly, these games are aimed at boys, and most of the people there were male. But not all.

In the Jurassic Park game, you get to sit in a little car and shoot at dangerous dinosaurs running amok. When we were there, a woman and a very sweet-looking girl of six or seven were in the car, happily firing away.

"I would totally prefer to shoot people," said my companion, as we watched the little girl intently killing velociraptors.

We finally picked a game. I went first, splattering brains of the undead as they charged me with machetes. My research assistant helpfully yelled, "Reload, reload!" every time I ran low on ammo. It took us maybe 10 minutes to burn through a $5 card.

All in all, we decided we both felt a little more relaxed after shooting up virtual corpses. Of course, getting out of the office for an hour on a Wednesday afternoon will probably do that anyway, even without firearms.

ONGOING
If video games aren't your style, there are other ways to let go of your rage -- by reconnecting with the great outdoors. Along those lines, you may want to check out one of the area's many recommended Bike Trails. For starters, there are 6-1/2 miles of bike trails available at Renaissance Park, 1200 West Tyvola Road. Then there are the various greenways in town, including Little Sugar Creek, McAlpine Creek and McMullen Creek. And for the extreme sports enthusiast, there's the BMX Track at Hornets Nest Park, 6331 Beatties Ford Road. For a look at these and other bike trails, go online to http://www.co.mecklenburg.nc.us/Departments/Park+and+Rec/Things+To+Do/Outdoor+ Activities/Biking.htm.

Another option to getting all that stress out is participating in Yoga Classes. There's certainly no shortage of those in Charlotte. "Yoga for Life In Dilworth" offers daytime, evening and weekend classes (call 704-344-YPGA for complete details), while the Hindu Center, 7400 City View Drive (704-864-8212), will offer free Sunday morning classes outside the temple (weather permitting). For a look at several other yoga classes, check out our regular Happenings listings.

JULY10THURSDAY
If being surrounded by guns a-blazin' is your preferred outlet for coping with wrath, you can do so in a harmless setting by attending the Western Film Fair. An annual event in these here parts, this perennial Charlotte event will be held today through Saturday at the University Hilton Hotel. The festival will feature autograph and photo sessions with longtime celebrities like Bo Hopkins and Hugh O'Brian, 16mm movies shown on a big screen, a vast array of collectibles, and much more. A daily pass costs $20 per person; a three-day pass runs $60 ($75 for married couples); admission after 5pm is $5. For details, call Wayne Short at 704-365-2368.

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