I Am A Bum

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I
have achieved the American dream. I am a bum. I’m not rich nor famous.
I own nothing save a 1960 Volkswagen micro bus which sits in storage
in my father’s garage, some guitars and a hammered Suzuki Samurai
with the steering wheel on the wrong side. I’m totally useless and
a drain on society fulfilling no beneficial function whatsoever.
I’ll be 50 in one year. I have nothing to show for myself; no addictions,
no high blood pressure, no ulcers, no cholesterol problems; no health
problems physical or mental other than the occasional guilt over
failing to be a great American entrepreneur. Sometimes I do feel
bad for not owning a chain of beheamothic super stores cranking
out sub-par merchandise at affordable prices while paying its employees
just well enough so they can only afford to shop at the very store
they work in. But usually this doesn’t bother me. I really don’t
feel bad about it and don’t care. I’ve reached the pinnacle of all
our desires.

So
how have I achieved the American dream you say? I seem to be the
antithesis of everything we stand for and hope to become in our
lives. Well maybe yes and maybe no. You see I’ve managed to weasel
my way into a couple of coveted situations and if weaseling your
way into things isn’t The American Way I don’t know what is. First,
I’m a house husband. My job is to hang out with my son. Oh sure,
this means I won’t get the penthouse suite, a company limo and will
never get to sit with Wayne Gretzky in his luxury box at the Staples
Center but I don’t really care. I will also never get to make underlings
squirm in terror at the thought of being told their services will
no longer be required, but “say hello to the wife and kids and don’t
forget the fruit basket on your way out." Oh sure, it’s a sacrifice
but I am willing to make it. Oddly enough, unlike most of the big
Kahunas out there standing center-ring running the show, these things
don’t give me any satisfaction. I don’t even enjoy humiliating people,
ruining lives or squashing bugs. So I guess there’s no point in
me running for office but…I don’t care! And of course as Mr. Mom,
I have to go to the store, do the laundry, clean the house and cook
dinner. So what? I go to the store and come back with a heap of
steaks, ribs, grillin’ salmon flanks, corn on the cob, charcoal,
ice-cream bars and cases of beer. Real American men live for these
things. Do we ever let our wives even touch the BBQ? Hell no! That’s
our turf! And, I do not come home with broccoli, cauliflower or
meat loaf fixins! Yeah, I gotta make the spawn do his homework but
again so what? I don’t sweat the small stuff. Whadaya mean you didn’t
get it done?! Oh well, neither did I and I’m a huge success. So
let’s go work on that balsa wood airplane kit and see if it flies.
I do what most American men fear in their worst nightmares breaking
out in a cold sweat, I take care of the house and kids! NO!!!! Well,
let me tell you, they don’t know what they are missing.

However,
that is only the first of two things I’ve weaseled into. Here’s
the second and clincher for which I’m sure I’ll be truly hated;
I live on an island. Yeah, that’s right, an island. No, no, no!
Not England or Japan! Nope, none of those cold and dismal rainy
little island countries for me! I don’t even live in Hawaii which
has Wal-Marts now, not a good thing, especially since I don’t own
them. But of course I don’t care. I live on a real, tropical island;
Grand Cayman Island in the middle of the Caribbean, nineteen degrees
north of the equator with an average temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit,
this goes for the crystal clear tropical water too. It’s twenty-two
miles long and between four and seven miles wide, although I know
of a spot that can only be one mile from shore to shore at best.
It’s a tropical paradise with a tropical sand beach seven miles
long and some of the best snorkeling or SCUBA diving in the world.
Never heard of it? Well, then you must indeed be an American. Most
Americans don’t even know we exist unless they are divers or the
Caribbean cruise ship drops them off here bewildered just long enough
to buy a T-shirt and let their teenage daughters get their hair
braided. Maybe this will help: Have you ever been on that Pirates
of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland/World/Empire or whatever it’s
called? That is where I live.

Of
course it’s now the 21 century and all the pirates are long gone,
dead of scurvy, mutilation, shark ingestion, syphilis or hanging.
Or I should say, the classic pirates are all gone. Argh! I ain’t
seen no scurvy dogs with their peg legs and parrots slinkin’ about
these parts in a while. There are still one or two modern pirates
lurking in the shadows and back alleys however. You see the Cayman
Islands are a tax-free British colony. That’s right, you heard right.
I said tax free! It just keeps sounding better all the time doesn’t
it? If you are a real, red-blooded American this will make your
portfolio water. Way back in the 18th century during a hurricane,
ten of King George’s sailing ships loaded with valuable booty ran
aground on part of the coral reef that surrounds the island. The
locals valiantly risked life and limb saving all aboard. In gratitude,
King George declared the Cayman Islands tax free forever! Can you
imagine that, people doing a good deed and being rewarded by the
government?! It’s hard to believe but it’s true. What this means
today is that this is one heck of a place to launder or hide your
money while you work on your tan! Yeah we’ve got pirates. We’re
proud of them too! They’re what keeps us afloat Matey. We even have
laws protecting them from the gallows. It’s an ideal world for them
scoundrels and I’m proud to say the tradition of providing a safe
harbor for the likes of Rackham, Captain Morgan and Blackbeard,
all who hid out here in their day, is still safely upheld. In fact,
Halliburton, our honorable Texas-based oil, development company
and judicial branch had for a while stashed…er, I mean, invested
millions here despite the fact we have no oil at all or even war-ravaged
cities to exploit. Not to say Halliburton is a company of thieves
and scofflaws taking advantage of the political situation to line
their own pockets with doubloons! God forbid! But they do seem to
have a lot of that good old-fashioned American Entrepreneurial spirit.
Strangely enough, I think all they did was set up a laundry. Anyway,
to celebrate our cultural heritage we have a one-week festival in
October where the pirates are allowed, even encouraged to run rampant
through the streets raping, pillaging, looting, laundering and investing
openly. You see, the American dream. Even us normal folk are encouraged
to get into the act and make bloody fools of ourselves too. Many
of us do so, gleefully. Shiver me timbers! I for one don’t care
and don’t need to. That’s the beauty of it all. I’m not a pirate
and they cannot pilfer anything from me even if they wanted to here,
unlike my homeland which is becoming more secure from financial
security daily. They really don’t want to run the risk of being
evicted from their safe harbor now do they? And of course since
they’re not allowed to tax us, they can’t take my money away –
not that I have any – and use it to blow away any insurgent
women and children. So, we’re safe from them.


Seven Mile
Beach, Grand Cayman

I
have indeed achieved the American dream: No job. No taxes. No winters.
No smog. No commute. No military. No Wal-Marts. No terrorists. No
crime. No Piggly-Wigglys. No war mongers. No Americans. Well, er,
there are a few of us here but we’re in the minority. Most ex-pat
residents are from the British Commonwealth. We have lots of Canadians,
Australians, Scots, Brits and a few South Afrikaners, not that they’re
British. Either way, we’ve all fled something or another for a better
life. I certainly have. Hmm, odd isn’t it? People used to flee other
countries for America in search of a better life. Some still do.
Golly gee willachers! I hope they are not disappointed or misinformed
by the brochures!

So
as far as I’m concerned, hang the classic American Dream from the
yardarm! It’s not real. It’s for a select few. Let them have it.
Most who pursue it die of heart failure, brain aneurysms, self-inflicted
gunshot wounds to the head or run away livers. And what do they
get for all their work, a giant prefab tract home, a Porsche Boxter
and season seats to the Lakers? All worthless pieces of dung in
reality. Still not convinced? I am full of shipwreck you say? Okay,
how many times have you seen one of those Corona beer television
commercials, the only sound being the sound of waves gently lapping
the shore, tranquil vacationers lounging next to a beautiful tropical
sandy beach with their Corona bottles prominently displayed? You’ve
probably seen these ads hundreds of times. It’s a hugely successful
Madison Avenue marketing campaign that I’m sure boosted some ad
exec up to a private office on the top floor; got him a 100% tax
write-off Lincoln Navigator to drive to the office and back, and
probably his own private tennis court. It sells millions of Coronas
annually by linking that watered down imitation of beer with the
dream vacation. It’s a dream vacation which usually lasts a week
and costs thousands – the once a year reward for running in
the middle of the pack at the 24/7 Rodent Race Ten Trillion. I can
relax on the beach with real beer, BBQ every day of the year and
avoid the pack completely.

I
choose not to run. I won’t even step foot on the race track. I’m
a bum. I’m a failure. But, by not competing, I have found the true
American dream!

December
14, 2004

Tom
Chartier [send him mail]
played lead guitar in legendary Los Angeles punk band The Rotters
for 26 years until their final appearance in January of 2004. He
has lived in Tokyo, Japan as well as Los Angeles working in the
entertainment industry. He is the primary caregiver of his nine-year-old
son and currently resides on Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean.

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