At 27, Carey McWilliams became the first totally blind person in the USA to acquire a conceal and carry permit. Despite weapons training during his ROTC years, McWilliams has faced opposition to his right to bear arms from both the media and public officials.
Once fervently against hunting, McWilliams now views hunting as a way to connect to a system greater than himself and cope with PTSD brought on by a recent violent dog attack. In his down time, he carries a loaded pistol to the grocery store.
VICE headed to North Dakota to witness life as America’s foremost blind outdoorsman and gun enthusiast.
Horse Racing Is Totally Depressing When You’re Blind
“Do you like sodomy? Do you like artificiality and cars? If so, stay in LA. Why would you decide to come to LA? If there’s wisdom I can give you, it’s leave LA. Do you fight?”
An artifact of some twisted bizarro strip stood in front of me in the bearing, smoggy heat, with foppish yellow pants, army jacket, scrunched up face, and a thick mane of dreads. He had a sociopath’s smirk and stood too close. On home turf this kind of thing is easy to ignore, but my friend and I were stuck in front of Sunshine Liquors just south of the 210 in Pasadena, duffel bags on the curb, waiting for a ride to the racetrack.
“Do you gamble?”
In whatever dazed alternate reality he lived in, the guy somehow still smelled it on us. When we said yes, he pushed, “Can I come to Santa Anita with you and gamble?” I managed to fend off the question. Then in normal derelict-gadfly fashion, he got bored and turned: “Well, I’m going inside to get some liquor.” He got about 20 feet away and then spun around, and offered, his voice raised the way your grandma would offer tea sandwiches, “Do you want to fight?”
Contrast this with the three homies we found spliffed up and and drinking tall cans at the bus stop ten minutes before. Nelson was just a truck driver, but his friends revered him, because last year he won the Super High Five at the Preakness Stakes. That’s in Baltimore, the second leg of the Triple Crown competition (which starts with the Kentucky Derby this weekend) and one of the biggest and oldest horse races in America.
We Interviewed a Blind Film Critic
If you’re one of those army fuckers with 20/20 vision, chances are you’re not aware that there’s a whole other (very fuzzy) world that us lesser-sighted people inhabit every day. A world where sometimes you can’t even tell if another person is staring deeply, romantically into your eyes or if they’re asleep. Sometimes all you normal-sighted folk’s eyes are just two dark splodges on a big pink splodge. Sorry.
This happened to me the other day, when I tried to watch Ratatouille and couldn’t find my glasses. I had to listen really intently to figure out when the rat was talking, and when the humans were. But obviously a lot of people can’t just put their glasses back on, so movies with shitty soundtracks and clumsy dialogue sound 100 times worse.
Tommy Edison goes by the title the Blind Film Critic and makes YouTube videos reviewing movies he’s never seen, only heard. It’s pretty fascinating, and totally useful for fellow blind and partially sighted movie buffs. We caught up for a chat, largely to find out what he thought of The Matrix, but also to learn more about his Instagram account, his favorite movies, and who he crushes on.
VICE: What exactly made you want to start reviewing movies in the first place?
Tommy Edison: Well, I’ve always been into film, but sometimes with movies it’s a long watch, and then you get to the solution at the end and… they don’t say anything, it’s all visual. Ben, my video producer, was like: “You’ve got to see Die Hard, that’s an action movie with great dialogue.” So we thought, Hey, why not start reviewing movies?
Which movies are the most reliant on visuals?
Action movies are, quite frankly, pretty dull for me, what with all the CGI, fights and effects. That’s true of most superhero movies, really. Like Thor, for example, bored me—the story wasn’t much. Although The Dark Knight was amazing.
Some movies are hard enough to follow when you’re not blind. Like Inception, WTF.
Well, if you close your eyes, I think you can actually follow Inception even better. That was one of the earlier ones we reviewed. Everyone kept asking me to review it, but in the end, I was actually able to follow it pretty well.
How about The Matrix?
When the first Matrix movie came out I watched it over and over and still couldn’t figure out why everybody thought it was so great. Then I used the “descriptive video” feature and was able to follow it. Then I realized why everyone was going crazy for it! When I go to the movies with Ben, though, we don’t talk about the visuals—I just listen. Otherwise there wouldn’t be any point in being a blind film critic.
Do you develop crushes on movie stars?
Mila Kunis—I’ve never seen her, but I love her!
SENSORY OVERLOAD AT THE BIGGEST RATTLESNAKE ROUNDUP IN THE WORLD
I’m one of those assholes at the airport who slaloms past you on a beeping golf cart. The limo of the elderly, lazy, and infirm. Even I can feel the seething looks. Sorry, but it’s for your own good. Airports are punishing enough without my people slowing the herd. Or so we tell ourselves as we relax in our cushy seats and run you over.
Since I’ve nothing to look at, and all I can hear is beeping, I’m left with one entertainment between gates. I smell the terminal. This is about as interesting as it sounds. Having said that, the salty, carbon-rich fog of deep-fryer grease we rolled through in the Dallas airport was pretty stunning. A nasal lubricant. Texas doesn’t just look big; it smells big, like a hungry, oily place.
I was racing to make my connection to Abilene, another hour’s flight west of Dallas in the heart of what’s considered central West Texas. You know something’s large when its west has a center. I tried this bit on my golf-cart driver. He just honked his little horn at the pocket of body odors clogging our passage.
At the gate, I listened for a familiar voice. Nobody called my name. I stared into the blur and hoped to be recognized. Still nothing. My brother, Mykol, was to meet me. His plane from Toronto had landed an hour earlier. The plan was for the two of us to fly from here to Abilene together. That seemed unlikely at this point.
They announced preboarding. I paced and called Mykol’s name, even flagging my white cane overhead. Bupkus. Final boarding call was given. I tried his cell phone. No answer. Should I just go and hope he’d catch another flight? I wasn’t prepared to bumble about Texas on my own. They’ve got trucks. Lots of them. I fit under trucks.
“Y’all are sure he was on the plane, sweet pea?” the gate agent asked and punched some keys on her computer.
“No idea” I replied.
“Don’t worry, hon. Bet he stopped for a snack. Some fries. Or a burger or—” I got the notion she was consulting the horizon of menus over my shoulder.
She was probably right, and I wouldn’t have worried, but things happen to Mykol. What kinds of things? Just look at the way he spells his name. There’s also the fact that lizards are his preferred roommates. I can’t say I know anybody else who collects sand or has imbibed a glass of bleach, twice. Once he even beat up our sister’s boyfriend because the man was on fire. Not only did Mykol extinguish the flames blow by blow, he fulfilled our sibling fantasy. Did he start the fire? Who knows. Is it wise to fix the wiring of an industrial dishwasher with your switchblade? Mykol has provided me with the answers to such questions.