TIMES SQUARE got the headlines last month when NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre announced that our favorite gun club plans to build a tourist-oriented theme restaurant and game arcade in the heart of Manhattan. There, next to Planet Hollywood and the All-Star Caf鬠patrons will be able to learn about handgun safety, eat overpriced cheeseburgers, and purchase slogan-bearing T-shirts.
Overlooked in most news accounts, however, was the completion of the NRA's pilot project right here in Seattle—a sort of trial run for the Big Apple. You may not have noticed, but it's already open for business on the top floor of Pacific Place, with lines running around Sixth Avenue as throngs of trigger-happy customers wait to get in.
Earlier this spring, apparently upset over the City Council's skeptical attitude toward both his proposed $223 million parks levy and residual WTO follies, Mayor Paul Schell green-lighted the blueprints for Heston & Company's grandiose bastion of bullets. What happened to the multiplex, you ask? Days before signing off on the NRA plans, Schell drafted an ordinance banning cinemas from operating within 500 yards of a shooting range.
When asked to justify his actions, Schell snapped, "Which do you think is more dangerous—law-abiding gun owners or movie theater popcorn butter that does nothing but clog arteries and kill? Besides, the NRA is offering exactly the sort of upscale, world-class retail environment that creates jobs and attracts valuable tourist dollars." On a more conciliatory note, he added, "Besides, look at this neat camouflage tie I bought at the gift shop. It's real Italian silk."
Naturally this reporter was curious to explore the NRA dining and entertainment experience. Accordingly, my companion and I toured the theme park-like complex (officially dubbed the NRASports Grille and NRASports Blast) and recorded the following impressions.
With a restaurant boasting "a wild game menu and fresh mineral waters from around the world," we expected more rustic cuisine, but were pleasantly surprised by the succulent snow leopard steaks, lemur p, spotted owl soup, rhino horn garnishes, and whale blubber souffl鳮 Sure, we had to spit occasional shotgun pellets out of our bald eagle satay-style appetizers (served with a tasty Thai peanut sauce). But that only contributed to a pleasantly authentic Ralph-Lauren-on-safari feel, as did the mounted animal head and hide decor. Service was excellent, with khaki- and bandolier-clad waiters attentive to our every request. (It was also reassuring to know they could dispatch of any security threat with the 16-shot Glocks in their burnished gazelle-skin holsters.)
Thus refreshed, we proceeded to the gaming arcades. Equipped with complimentary eye and ear protectors, we were invited to choose from an exciting array of weaponry. As we sorted through the carbines, automatics, semi-automatics, pistols, and Uzis in the product displays, the commanding Godlike voice of NRA President Charlton Heston emanated from a loudspeaker, reminding us of our Second Amendment rights and responsibilities.
Armed to the teeth, we prepared for "an exciting total shooting sports and sporting goods experience." Indeed, as the pop-up outline targets appeared in the "Urban Commando" arcade we had selected, we were powerfully reminded of the need for a well-regulated citizen militia able to defend itself against government tyranny. Aided by lifelike sound effects, figurines of past despots and oppressors leapt up as if to attack us—only to be struck down by our metal-jacketed dum-dum-tipped AK-47 rounds. "Take that, redcoat!" we exclaimed. "Eat lead, Adolf Hitler!" "Adios, Joe Stalin!" "You're history, Pol Pot." "Here's my vote, Al Gore!"
IT WAS EASY to get carried away with so much fun and easy to understand why so many visitors in the other specialty-themed arcades had brought their children. (Scaled-down .22s are provided for kids, while BB guns are made available to the tykes in the NRA's own on-site daycare lounge.) My companion and I enjoyably spent the rest of the afternoon blasting away in the other real-world-inspired venues, which include "Convenience Store Robbery," "Tract Home Takeover," "Mall Parking Lot Carjacking," "Japanese Exchange Student Trick or Treater," "ATF Standoff," "Carpool Lane Violation," "Parking Space Grabber," "Guy Who Flipped Me Off," "The Last Time My Wife Talks Back to Me," "If I Can't Have You, Nobody Will," and "Bad Day at the Office."
Our ears ringing with the sound of freedom, we naturally decided to visit the gift shop on our way out. In addition to the usual emblazoned caps, shirts, and belt buckles, the shop provides a comprehensive selection of the very latest ammo and firearms—all available for purchase after the federal mandatory minimum waiting period! (Those jackbooted fascists.) We couldn't help noticing all the well-dressed women shopping for the very latest in preparedness fashion, overhearing patrons comment, "Do you think this bulletproof vest makes me look fat?" and "Ann Taylor just doesn't know how to hide the bulge of a shoulder holster."
In all, the NRA Caf頮ow ranks among our favorite themed eateries, and once my companion recovers from his wounds—oops, I didn't know it was loaded!--we intend to return.