It was the fall of 2000 and life was good. I had a new job, a new car, a new apartment and money to spend. Having just finished graduate school, I was doing the 9-5, or in my case, being a late riser, the 11-7 in a software outfit in New Hampshire.
Friday evening, I was talking to my friend, S, on the phone. The discussion veered to weekend plans. As usual, I had none. Then, he suggested, "Hey why don't you drive down to Jersey for the weekend? If you start right now, you could make it in 4 hours." Barely giving it a second thought, I said "You think so? Sure, lets do it".Thats how I used to be. Impetuous. Nowadays, with my advancing age, any kind of activity, even for example, retrieving the tv remote control from the coffee table, anything that threatens to disrupt my state of inertia involves a lot of decision-making on my part before I actually carry it out.
So I started for New Jersey, made pretty good time, crossed the George Washington bridge in 3 hours and was at the Garden State Parkway exit at about 11:00 at night. And then, I took a wrong turn. As I was driving along South Orange Avenue, I could see a lot of gangster types roaming the streets. When I reached downtown Newark instead of South Orange as I had expected, I knew I had made a mistake. I called up S to ask for directions.
"Where the fuck is your apartment man, theres a lot of shady looking people here shooting a music video or something", I said.
"Nah they always hang around there, it's what they do all night", said my friend.
"Well, I'm pretty much pissing in my pants, just give me the fucking directions", I said as I drove by the milling horde, driving under the 25 mph speed limit.
"Just turn around, go back the way you came and keep going straight. Listen, don't get out of your car to ask for directions.", said S.
Yeah, like I was gonna do that.
So, I turned around, drove back, and after a while, reached S's apartment. I parked my car on the street, and climbed up the stairs to his first floor apartment. After all the initial backslapping and WTFing was over, I said "Hey man, theres like a homeless guy or something hanging around on your front steps."
"Yeah thats my landlord.", replied S nonchalantly, "He's a pothead."
"I see", I said, "Is my car gonna be safe parked there?"
"How the fuck should I know, I don't even have a car", replied S.
"So what have you been doing all evening man", I inquired.
"Nothing really, the place was swarming with cops, you know, because of the shooting", said S.
"I see. What was that again?", I asked.
"There was a shooting here downstairs. Probably a drug related one".
"You mean downstairs as in inside the building?"
"Well, not in the building, outside on the street. Right there", he said, pointing to a spot 2 feet from my car."
"Is this place like a ghetto or something?", I asked him.
"Yeah, kind of", replied S. "You want a beer?"
Yeah, I wanted a beer. No, make that two beers. Or 10. After the drinking was done, I stayed awake all night long, keeping my ears alert for sounds of gunfire, staring through the window at my new car, making sure she was alright.
Morning dawned, crisp and clear. I couldn't believe how shit scared I had been all night. In the light of day, my fear seemed to evaporate. Suddenly, I felt very brave and gangsterish. It was probably 'cause of the ghetto surroundings.
"You know what we should do?", I said to S, over our morning chai.
"What?", he said.
"We should drive around our ghetto with our windows open, belting out loud rap music", I said. In the safety of daylight, it had become "our" ghetto.
"Yeah, I can see us doing that", said S, "Ok lets do that."
We got into my car, put on some Dr Dre and drove around the predominantly black neighbourhood, bobbing our heads to the sweet sounds of the Compton G. Damn it felt good to be a gangster. We nodded amiably at all the homies we passed on the street. Blank stares greeted us. All the good black folks going about their business could not have been more scornful of us if we had been a couple of black guys driving around, headbanging to Britney Spears.
So, to answer the question, what do I have in common with the 43rd president of the US? We are both a couple of fucking wannabes. No he is not really a cowboy. Take off his cowboy hat, peel off his cowboy boots and you will see what remains is just a stupid blithering sorry excuse for a human being, who was too much of a wimp to go to one unjustified war, but was macho enough to send other people into another war, equally unjustified. He is the fake cowboy who got his daddy to pull strings for him so he could sit at home with the National Guard, knitting sweaters, and then, after he became president, told the world to "Bring it on". So give it a rest, Mr President, no more masquerades. We know your secret. You ain't no cowboy, so stop pretending.