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Added: 7 October 2002
[Commentary] [Fiction]

Angst Among the Whores

So George Harrison dies in the middle of war breaking loose all over the place with the words "love one another" on his wise and dignified Beatlepudlian lips.

But enough about that. There is nothing that will put you off conversation in general more than a red-faced balding American 55-year-old in the Jockey Pub of the Nairobi Hilton telling a Kenyan prostitute that he'll never grow up, to a backdrop of CNN showing somebody blowing up something in retaliation for some retaliation for some retaliation with the sound turned off. It is a tableau mortel.

"So you want to be a pilot when you grow up?"


"A pilot. You want to be a pilot when you grow up."

"Yes. Yes. I want to be a pilot."



"So you're not grown up yet!"


"You're not grown up yet. You want to be a pilot when you grow up, so you're not grown up yet."


"Let me tell you something. I'm not grown up yet either! I've gotta tell you, if there's one thing I know it's that I never want to grow up. Listen, I've owned two businesses. One, I was a building contractor in Hawaii, and two, I was a construction engineer out in Iowa. And I'm telling you, I am never going to grow up. That's death, that's the beginning of the end. I've been a bartender, a ballboy, a bricklayer, a birder. Never grow up."

He did that sort of thing several times — make an assertion, lay out a couple of unrelated random statements, and then conclude by repeating the assertion as if he'd just made himself a nice airtight case.

"Never grow up! That's a nice lamp and there are lots of things you can do with string. Thursday! Woven carpets! The Beatles! Never grow up!"


Like she was going to argue. Full of these, the Jockey Pub. I have no heart for the ugly word, let's just call them bar girls. God bless them, I wish each and every one of them nothing but the best and that they don't die slowly and terribly from opportunistic infections. Never grow up. It's awful to think of the odds. Conversations and people smiling in photographs, they're terrible, they make you want to cry.

If I walked into a bar and there was nobody in there but Osama bin Laden and he pointed his ever-present Kalashnikov at me, I'd stay cool. I'd be all grown up and dead already; I'd say his famous name. Care to have a conversation? I'd say it while looking right into his eyes and giving him a disarming half-smile, not caring whether he would have the conversation or not. Pull the trigger. Such things are the concern of Zeus who views the wide world and bears the storm cloud.

Osama bin Laden would see something in me, in the twinkle in my eye, and he'd wave his long fingers over an empty seat at his table. Truce. After all, what's the hurry? Death should always be saved for last. I'd order the shrimp and go along with the myth and allow as how he'd made quite a name for himself, and then I'd do a lean-in on him and speak in confidential tones: "If you'da touched the Empire State Building though, I'd personally kick your ass off seven walls right now." Then he'd make a move for the Kalashnikov but I'd be quicker. I'd wrest it away and smack him with the butt end of it and point it at him, still with the same easy half-smile, brooking no hatred, unconsumed, no rage. I'd shine with the unworldly love under which all men are ne'er-do-well brothers and hand him back his weapon, and I'd turn my back on him and saunter for the door, sticking him with the bill.

I can't decide if I'd make it to the door but I think the little boy in him that hadn't grown up would either kill me or not depending. If I made it outside and a Kenyan bar girl asked me what I was doing that night I'd give her a warm smile of the purest shine, oh, my brothers, oh, my sisters, it's all right, let us laugh here on our knees, together, all of us together, all in a wink and I'd tell her naaaaaaaahhhhhh.