Friday, May 27, 2011

Stream of Self-Consciousness

Casual Fridays are a thing of the past at my office. As a supervisor in an office with more than forty people, it can be a loathsome task to maintain a professional environment whilst the masses roam the halls clad in denim jeans. Some people don't understand that casual still means “business casual” and not “beach casual” or “club casual.” I have seen it all. T-shirts, flip-flops and someone even showed up to work once in what could only be described as pajamas. We now only have one casual day a month, and prior to that announcement, we had a casual day fashion show to help people understand exactly what was acceptable when such an occasion reared its ugly head again. That is one example that describes the essence of the people with whom I work.

The interesting thing is that the other offices in our building are dressed casual every day of the week. They don't have a dress code per se. Their dress code is similar to that of a Denny's Restaurant or 7-11 convenience store. Basically, they have a “no shirt, no shoes, no employment” policy.

Each floor in our building have one set of bathrooms that multiple businesses share. One for the ladies, and one for the gentleman. I was on my way to utilize the facilities last week, and I was greeted at the door by two men from one of the other offices on our floor. They were exiting the restroom as I was entering. As is customary, I stared at the ground trying not to make eye contact with them (I have heard the same rules do not apply in the ladies room). We passed each other through the open door, and one man who was wearing flip-flops was berating the other man who had on a pair of slip-on house shoes.

He said, “C'mon man, can't you control yourself? I'm wearing flip-flops and now I have piss on my toes!”

The man in the slip-ons answered, “I can't help it, I have a powerful stream!”

The door closed behind me, and I heard nothing more of their interaction. However, I did realize what had just occurred. It was another reason why flip-flops should not be allowed at the workplace. I had personal experience that a powerful urinary stream could be a problem at times. My friend Jason had the same issue, and during our raucous alcohol-laden outings he was known to emit a few stray sprinkles if you stood next to him at the urinal. It happened to me only once, and that was an occurrence I chose not to replicate (fool me twice, shame on me).

That snippet of conversation betwixt the two casually dressed “gentlemen” made me think about not what occurred in the bathroom minutes prior, but rather of what made Sir Slip-Ons so defensive about his urinary prowess. A subtle apology would have sufficed, but he took offense to the accusation. Was that just his initial reaction to anything? Or was that a painful recurring experience for him?

I pictured him as a younger man in his late twenties, and I imagined what kind of fateful incident could forever change him. This is what I believe must have happened:

He was at some shoddy bar to meet up with a woman for their first date. She arrived with her best friend, who was there for back up in case the date went awry. Eventually they would encounter his date's landlord. His name was Rolando and to say he was flamboyantly homosexual would be an insult to the term. He was quite obviously inebriated when they first saw him, and after a couple of hours of them being there he has crossed over to being downright drunk. By that time, Sir Slip-Ons would have had his fill of beer too, and his bladder would have forced him to take leave of his party to use the restroom. The men's room in this hole-in-the-wall bar would consist of a single urinal (which I pictured as having about 5-10 cigarette butts nestled haphazardly around the urinal cake), a stand-alone toilet without a stall, and an entry way without a lockable door. Rolando would take advantage of that latter fact to join him in the tiny restroom for an unwelcomed pee party. About halfway through his watery release, Rolando would begin complimenting him on the power of his stream. Not soon after the compliment, an awkward event occurred that would forever change his bathroom psyche. Sir Slip-on's powerful aquatic flow would ricochet off of the porcelain and onto Rolando's unsuspecting toes.

The previous compliments of his stream would now be met with an equal amount of contempt. An argument would ensue, and the open-hand slap version of fisticuffs would commence (slapticuffs?). They would roll out of the restroom with unwashed hands and open zippers. Not one of the bouncers would be brave enough to break up this battle (and who could blame them). After a short stint of slapticuffs, the two men would eventually be broken up by the woman who knew them. Both men would stumble to their feet and stand in front of one another huffing and puffing from heightened levels of testosterone and adrenaline. They would brush themselves off and zip up their respective trousers. Their cheeks would be in full blush from the embarrassment that was quickly filling their minds.

Once the tension had calmed down, Rolando would make his way from the bar and out into the streets to go home. Sir Slip-Ons would be left to explain what had just happened to the rest of the bar patrons, up to and including his date. His mind would race with lies that he could tell her to subdue her concerns about their fledgling relationship, yet all the while he knew his cover would be blown upon her next interaction with Rolando. Was the truth the only thing that could set him free from her anxious demeanor? He would decide that was indeed the case.

He would attempt to explain the layout of the restroom, the strength of his urinary prowess, and the splatter heard round the bar. All the while, trying to justify the cause of such an awkward situation. After giving his side of the story, he would await her response. Would she find this whole saga hilarious, or would she take this as a sign that she should not pursue any further interaction with him? Unfortunately for him, this was an unforgivable offense, and both her and her friend would depart with haste. Leaving him to stand at the bar waiting to pay his tab with a room full of watchful eyes and pointed fingers honing in on his location. Such an occurrence is something that would leave a mark on anyone's psyche. So much so, that any mention of his powerful stream or a single stray sprinkle of urine could cause him to react inappropriately.

I can't blame him though. If anything like that ever happened to me, I'd be humiliated. What if that woman was meant to be his soul mate? What if a simple divider between the urinal and the toilet could have saved him from perpetual loneliness and solitude? What if Rolando had just kept his damn mouth shut. Sir Slip-Ons would be a happier man today with a wife, two dogs and a child on the way. Damn you Rolando, and damn that powerful stream. Well, at least he can rest easy knowing that his stream is a sign of a healthy prostate gland. Although I'm not sure that will help him rest easy in his one bedroom apartment that he shares with his life-long best friend and casual coworker, the flip-flop guy.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Don't Judge a Book by Its Color

I was participating in a charity walk with a group of people from my office. The idea to participate was originally sold to me under the premise that the cause was to raise money and awareness to combat Lupus. Oddly enough, the walk was titled “The Walk for Lupus.” I had to check with the organizers to make sure I was not unknowingly raising money to further the prevalence of this autoimmune disorder. I asked, “is this a walk FOR Lupus, or against it?” The skinny lady in the jean shorts fired a look of contempt at me, and I quickly realized my question was inappropriate. I decided to keep my mouth shut, and just fade into the crowd to await the start of the three mile walk.

Now that I knew I had volunteered to help a worthy cause and not a devilish conspiracy, my legs churned with a purpose. We were all walking together on the first of our 1.5 mile laps; when I overheard a couple of other anti-Lupus supporters talking. They were apparently not very close friends or even coworkers, because they spoke unfamiliar and asked questions of one another like they had just met. Before I had a chance to join them in their strange discourse, their conversation became far too intriguing for me to interrupt with benign questions or disruptive observations.

One woman said to the other, “They call me 'Black Girl' at the office. At first I was angry, but I've gotten used to it.”

The other woman replied, “Why do they call you that, and not by your real name?”

Black Girl said, “Because I'm the only black girl there, and they give everyone nicknames like that at work.”

White woman replied, “That doesn't make it better. You should tell them to stop.”

Black Girl came back with, “I tried to tell Bow-Legged Mail Room Lady at the Christmas party that it bothered me, but she told me to get over it. So I did. I doesn't even bother me anymore. For brevity's sake, I took to calling her Bow-Legs after that night. We are good friends now”

I literally had to stop walking for a few minutes after that. My legs could not walk while my mind was running. I caught up to my coworkers after a short breather, and I continued to listen in to the rest of Black Girl and White Woman's conversation, but by this time they had moved on to a far less interesting subject. They were now talking about the adverse effects of dehydration on someone who was inflicted with Lupus. I didn't care to hear about her arthritis, fatigue or Pleural effusions. I wanted to hear more of the literal nicknames that are dealt out at her place of business. I wanted to know where she worked, who she worked with, if they had an in-house HR representative, and what his or her nickname was.

I thought back to the place where this all came to a head, and what was essentially the turning point in her story. The company Christmas party where she faced off with Bow-Legged Mail Room Lady. The time and place where she found herself feeling satisfied with the explanation and eventually even content with the moniker she was given. Black Girl had confronted Bow-Legs at that party by just sharing her feelings of offense and contempt. Bow-Legs responded by simply telling her to get over it. I'm not sure that argument would work for me if someone dubbed me “Cracker Boy” or referred to any of my non-flattering features on a regular basis. But apparently what was good for the black girl, is good for the gander.

I'm not sure the Christmas party at Literal Inc could have been a classy affair based on what I do know about their employees, but I am quite sure it would have been interesting. Black Girl and Bow-Legs would have mingled among the likes of Coffee Breath, Cankles and Butterface. They would talk about how their boss Senor Comb-Over should really focus more on product marketing and less about research and development. Lipstick Teeth and Chicken Neck would have been embarrassed when they showed up wearing the same red dress, and Weasel Face would be drunk before the clock struck 10:00 pm.

Usually, an office party is an affair where you try not to be the main character of a Monday morning story session. At this party, I'm pretty sure you would have to do something rather sordid to accomplish such a feat. Generally, if you introduce your wife to your coworkers by saying, “Jessica, this is Black Girl. Black Girl, Jessica”, you would find yourself with a fat lip and a Monday morning invitation to your boss's office. At this party, you can make a joke about Freckle Tits one minute, and tell your boss that you only refer to him as “Boss” because it stands for “Body Odor, Stained Suit” the next, and nobody would think twice about it.

The punch bowl would be spiked by the young intern everyone calls Pimple Face, while Liver Spots, his grandfather who got him the job, would be his lookout. In the corner, Short Skirt would be trying to garner attention by repeatedly dropping (and subsequently picking up) her cocktail napkin. All the while, Beer Gut and Whiskey Face would be making their way outside to smoke on the veranda (for the fifteenth time that evening).

Nobody would seem to mind the reality that every single person there had been stripped of their Mom-given names in lieu of a crude generality in reference to one of their literal traits. At least not at first. The night would still be young, and the inhibitions would have yet to be curbed by the “Pimple Face punch.” There was still time for someone to go too far, and at that time, a few pivotal patrons had yet to arrive to the party.

The satellite office was where all these generalizations and crude nicknames were created and shot like Nerf-tipped arrows at their suspecting targets. However, the Information Technology team from corporate was in town to join them at the party. They had been to the office a few times, but only on occasion for quick presentations or simple system upgrades. They were a busy couple of professionals, so they rarely had time to socialize with the other office workers. Unfortunately, they were prevalent enough to have received nicknames of their own. And unbeknownst to them, they were just as socially unacceptable as any other. Panty Lines and Gap Tooth were responsible for the names that were created for the IT team. Carlton, was a young black man who had recently graduated from Howard University and was known around the office for being a wine aficionado. They had dubbed him “Kunta Chianti.” The other person there to represent IT was Mohammed Abdel Fattah. He was a middle-aged man from Dearborn, MI who spoke with a distinct speech impediment. They had taken to calling him “Terrorlisp.”

Most people in the office had unseemly nicknames, but they lacked the color and creativity of those two sobriquets. At first, I would have assumed the people of Literal Inc were racist against black people, but then, why was Black Girl just called “Black Girl” and not something more imaginative than that? Next, I wondered if they were just close-minded against Muslims, but if that were true than they never would have hired a man named Mohammed Abdel Fattah in the first place. No, it was something far more sinister than that.

These other ignorant aliases were thrown around as if their office was a schoolyard, and they didn't know any better. But these two epithets were based on deep thought and were linked to hurtful chapters in the respective cultures of their targets. I believe they were actually sugar-coating their racism, hatred and misogyny with all the other names that were given out. But in the cases of Carlton and Mohammed, they took advantage of the fact that these two gentlemen were never there to defend themselves. They didn't have to mask their true ignorance, because the marks would never hear the hateful tags that had been pinned to them in their absence and obliviousness. You see, until that night, Carlton and Mohammed had no idea that this is how the people at this office spoke to one another. It didn't seem to bother them, because it didn't seem to bother those who were being referred to in such crass ways.

Well, the alcohol consumption had reached an ample point, and both Carlton and Mohammed would soon hear with their own four ears what everyone in the office had been calling them for months. It took only one slip of the tongue from Coffee Breath's disgusting mouth. He was talking to Cankles and Liver Spots about the issues they had been having with their print servers, when he called the two IT men over. Unfortunately, he did not call them by their actual names, nor did he do so at a volume that could be described as a whisper.

He said, “Hey Kunta Chianti, Terrorlisp, come over here.”

They turned and looked him dead in the eye. They somehow knew that he was calling them. Either that, or wanted to see why someone would be yelling those bigoted words at such a high volume at a professional office party. Their initial assumptions that they were indeed the targets of his comments were quickly verified by Coffee Breath waving for them to come over and join him in his conversation.

Carlton asked, “I'm sorry, did you just call me Kunta Kinte?”

Coffee Breath exhaled, “No, I called you Kunta Chianti, you're the brother who likes wine, right?”

Before Carlton could pounce on him and grind him into small morsels of a man, Mohammed spoke up. He said, “Did you just call me a terrorist?”

Coffee Breath had still not caught on that these two men were not part of their clique and did not get the jokes. At a close and uncomfortable proximity to Mohammed's face (and nose), he said, “Yeah man, you're the Muslim fella who talks funny, what else would we call you?”

Carlton and Mohammed stoically calculated their next move. A physical altercation was not the best choice, and not because they were worried about losing their jobs. No, they were skinny nerds just like every other IT professional. But they were observant enough to deduct that in that very instant, each person at the party had realized that these nicknames should not have been shared (or even applied in the first place). The entire room seemed to sober up instantaneously. That was when Carlton and Mohammed took action.

The microphone and amp were set up in a corner for the upcoming midnight toast from Flop Sweat (Literal Inc's CEO). Carlton swiped the microphone from its perch and began explaining to the room why his nickname, although quite witty and rather accurate to his race and taste for spirits, was boorish and inappropriate. Mohammed chimed in occasionally over Carlton's shoulder to give a lisp-laden sidekick-style affirmation of “yesssss” or “that'ssss right.” It was obvious that Carlton would and should be the spokesperson for IT that evening.

He told them that the nicknames the others had given one another were just as uncouth, but lacked that extra note of racism or cultural bias that they had bestowed on he and Mohammed. He announced to the party that as a member of the IT team, if wanted to, he had the ability to read their emails. They quickly realized that he indeed wanted to and had on many occasions. Carlton immediately began renaming the party-goers one by one with unrelenting accuracy and fervor.

Panty Lines was already aptly named for the tight dresses she wore that made it clear she was a fan of full-backed underwear. However, Carlton skipped past that fact and went on to point out that he knew about her numerous sexual escapades with many of the men in the office. Her red hair and pale complexion made it obvious that she was of Irish descent, so Carlton took to calling her Erin O'Shay McWideVagina. Panty Lines teared up while the room fought back spurts of muffled laughter.

Almost instinctively, he turned his ire toward Gap Tooth (the other person who'd renamed him). Gap Tooth had a southern accent, and was known for being a fan of NASCAR. Carlton had once read a confessional message from Gap Tooth to a close friend. In it, he confided that he saw his cousin at a reunion, and although he was fully aware that she was his 2nd cousin, he had a strange attraction to her nonetheless. Gap Tooth was therefore deemed Curt Cousin-Fucker. Carlton even went as far as to ask Curt if his “mom-aunt and sister-niece were proud of what he had become.” Gap Tooth didn't answer, he just hung his head in shame as he slithered toward the exit.

Carlton was on a roll, and went through half the room before Mohammed was able to subdue him. Unfortunately, Cankles had already become Jenny Jesus Freak, Butterface was called Martha Mobile Home, Liver Spots was changed to Denny the Divorcee, and finally Chicken Neck turned into Betty Bankruptcy.

Out of breath, and emotionally spent, Carlton and Mohammed took their leave. Behind them, they left a room of dumbfounded coworkers. Including the likes of Black Girl and Bow-Legs. Luckily for them, they were able to escape the wrath of Carlton that fateful evening. Maybe it is because Black Girl and Bow-Legs were a cut above the rest of them. Maybe it was because they were just lucky. Then again, it could have simply been that their emails weren't interesting enough to read. I'm sure the people at Literal Inc. are a little more cautious of how they judge people now, or at least they are more apt to shy away from using company email for personal business.  Either way, I'm glad I didn't stay at home to watch a House M.D. marathon on Netflix that day. Sometimes there is a reason to shut off the TV and go for a three mile walk, and once in a while, that reason is Lupus.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Indiana Jones and the Lost Coupon

I was in the grocery store picking up a few dinner items and a bouquet of flowers for my wife. In the line in front of me stood two younger men with untucked button-up shirts and khaki slacks. They were young professionals just like me picking up a few things on their way home from work. As we stood patiently in the express checkout line together, the couple in front of us were waiting for their total from the cashier. The woman had short red hair and a slim build, and the man was wearing an ill-fitting leather jacket over his torso and a fedora on his head. They had frowns on their faces and a significant number of items in their cart (way more than ten items I might add). He was arguing with his wife over the coupons she had forgotten at home. They were part of the new recession-caused shopping habit of coupon clipping. Apparently, she had seen something shiny on the way out the door, and had forgotten the cost saving slivers of paper at home. He berated her openly at the checkout, and most other patrons turned a deaf ear to it. The two men in front of me did not.

After the arguing couple had paid for their groceries and made their way to the exit, one untucked gentleman said to the other “Only douche bags and Indiana Jones wear fedoras; where is that guy's bullwhip?” I couldn't have said it better myself (although, I wish I had).

I started thinking of what Indiana Jones' life would have been like if he never got his Doctorate in Archeology. Maybe he was once just a young Henry Jones Jr, taking his core classes at a junior college when he got his high school sweetheart Deirdre Campbell pregnant. He would be forced to drop out and get a “real job” to support his fledgling family. His hopes and dreams would have fallen through the cracks of life like a Holy Grail in the caverns of Alexandretta. Rather than fulfill his fate as a Archeology Professor and worldwide adventurer, he would find himself an assistant manager at a pet store in Indianapolis. His natural calling was never meant to be tending to puppies, kittens, hamsters, and God forbid the snakes and rats. He knew that, and everyone else did too. Even his dog knew it, and the Husky named “Indiana” would look at him with his Elway-esque blue eyes as if to say, “what happened to you, Henry?” He would fall into spells of depression countered only by euphoric dreams of fighting the Nazis or Communists over some ancient relics like the Crystal Skulls of Brazil or the India's Sankara Stones. Yet, each time he would find solace in his imagination, Deirdre would call him back to reality to change the baby's diaper or go to the store for more Triscuits or milk. This would not be what Henry Jones Jr. wanted for himself.

His father would have been wholeheartedly against Henry's marriage to Deirdre, as was their trusted family friend Marcus Brody. They too knew that he was meant to participate in historically significant crusades, and should not just be settling for domestic mediocrity. Henry Sr. and Marcus were always inviting Henry Jr. to join them on their adventures, but each time, Henry Jr. would have to decline. It was hard to get time off from the pet store, and he was needed at home to care for the baby. Marcus and Henry Sr. would send pictures from their travels. Whether it was them eating monkey brains in India or touring the ancient ruins of Egypt. They had no pity on him, because neither of them thought Deirdre was good enough for him. She was a Succubus of epic proportions. Henry Jr should have gone on to graduate and teach Archeology at Harvard, Yale or Marshall College. But alas, this was now his chosen lot in life, and he had to live with it.

Such harsh truths ate at Henry, cutting to the core of his psyche and leaving just mere morsels of the man that once had such great promise. He would find adventure in other places. Creating caves made of stacked cardboard at the pet store that he and his trusty sidekick Rick (the other assistant manager) would expertly navigate to save the almighty night deposit from packs of ravenous guinea pigs or bunnies. At home, he would immerse himself in the fantasy of popular nerd fiction movies like Star Wars, Willow or Howard the Duck (anything produced by George Lucas). But if Henry III woke up, he would immediately have to change the channel to watch Dora the Explorer or Wonder Pets.

Each day would seem longer than the last. He would wake up, put on his khaki pants and fasten the buttons on his company mandated safari-style shirt. His walk to the bus stop for his 45 minute commute was a welcomed respite. His mind was free to wander and conjure up thoughts of grandeur and adventure. Just as a smile would come across his face, he would find himself at his stop, and he would exit the #9 bus to walk to his final destination.

The winters in Indianapolis were cold enough to make your bones shiver. But now, he and Deirdre had moved to Florida to be closer to her parents. Henry Jr was still a man of habit. The leather jacket and fedora were an everyday staple of his wardrobe, and neither heat, rain, humidity or more heat would ever change that. Not a day went by that he didn't adorn his body with those two items. He had purchased the hat and jacket as a college student, and those were his connection to the “good old days.” The days when his mind was filled with thoughts of what his life could be. Now, they are old and moth-eaten, and ever present reminders of what could have been.

Deirdre had taken the rout of many a stay-at-home mom. She had lost the luster of a young woman, and replaced it with a glow of animosity and beaming hatred of what Henry Jr had made her become. She too had hopes and dreams, but all he ever talked about was how he was meant for greater things. He was a shell of a man because of her superheroine fertility, and he never let her forget it. She too could have been a Archeologist, but their lovechild ruined that dream for her just as it did for Henry Jr. Every outing the two of them partook together was filled with argument and bickering. Who always had to do the dishes, who never asked how the others' day went and ultimately ending in who ruined whose chance at fame, fortune and life fulfillment.

I believe I may have witnessed the modern day equivalent of Deirdre and Henry Jr at the grocery store that day. On the outside, he was berating her for forgetting the coupons, thus causing them to go over their weekly grocery budget. But if I had looked deeper into their souls and pulled their still beating hearts from their chests like a Thugee High Priest; I would have seen what was really bothering them. It wasn't the chance to get buy one-get one Triscuits. No, it was the chance to be a folk hero or a world renowned Archeologist.

How dare those two nine-to-five working gentlemen in their untucked button-up shirts pass judgment? Who were they poke fun at that pot-bellied leather jacket clad man with a fedora on his head? Maybe he was somebody special. Maybe he was a hero, enjoying a relaxing day off with his wife. Maybe they just caught him at a moment of temperamental weakness. And just maybe he did indeed have a bullwhip, but he left it in the minivan while they went into the grocery store to pick up some Triscuits.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Notorious O.B.L.

I witnessed a dueling series of Facebook conversations this week between my brother-in-law Chad and his niece Jordan. One stream of comments contained political rants regarding the death of Osama bin Laden, and the other pitted two opposite points of view that epitomized the duel between generations on the relevance and quality of rap music in today's era versus that of the past. I read those comments during one of my cigarette breaks. When I returned to my desk, I was sharing the comments I had read with one of my coworkers named Bruce via instant messenger. Unfortunately, I had to leave my desk to attend a management meeting. The timing could not have been any worse.

When I returned to my desk, the only response I had received from my coworker was “first Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur, now Osama bin Laden. I just don't get it.” As I typed my response, I looked at my screen to find that he had left for the day. I switched over to email to send him my response. I typed a very long retort that asked numerous questions. I wanted to know if he was trying to make a joke or if he had in fact made a serious and poignant point. Immediately after I pressed the send button, I received an automated “Out of Office” notification. He wouldn't be back in the office until next week.

I looked back at the IM I received from him over two hours ago (my management meetings tended to run about that long). What did The Notorious B.I.G. (aka Biggie Smalls) and Tupac Shakur have in common with one of the world's most notorious terrorists (besides just being notorious)? Was my fellow Caucasian trying to give me a subtle hint that rap music was not being recorded for our ears to absorb? And finally, where did Eminem fit into this equation? I couldn't collect my thoughts. I had to think about from where the comments came. They were plucked from the headlines of the nightly news and the lyrics of rap songs. I decided to look for clues.

In my thirty years on this earth, I have spent about half of them as a fan of rap music as well as many other types of music (basically, everything except country). I remember many conspiracy theorists listening to the albums that were released after the shooting deaths of Tupac and Biggie. Makaveli was the moniker under which Tupac's music was posthumously released. And at the beginning of the album, there is a whispered line that many believe says “Suge shot me.” This would have been in reference to Suge Knight; the strong-armed CEO and co-founder of Death Row Records by which Tupac's later albums were recorded. The investigation into Biggie's murder has recently been “reinvigorated” according to a CNN report, and Suge Knight is again a suspect in this 13 year old murder case. Could this Anderson Cooper “Cold Case” report be what my coworker was referring to?

No, I believed there was something else that linked these three men. I picture Osama as a “gangsta” of sorts. He had an entourage that went everywhere with him, he wore a middle-eastern “doo-rag” just like Tupac, and he had six wives during his lifetime just as Pac and Biggie had many “bitches.” Tupac and Biggie were titans of the rap industry whose throngs of fans took their lyrics as a gospel of sorts. Osama was the leader of a terrorist group called Al Qaeda whose army of supporters took his word as that of a prophet. Osama made videos to further prompt his followers to do horrendous deeds. Biggie and Pac made music videos that showed a lavish lifestyle gained from selling crack cocaine and rap CDs. In Osama's videos he would tell his people that if they became martyrs for the cause, they would be greeted in heaven by 72 virgins. Biggie and Pac's videos subliminally told young men that if they bought Cristal champagne and decked out their cars with 20” wheels they would be greeted in this lifetime with scores of “bitches” (oddly enough many of them worked nights at a club called Scores). The autopsy photos of Biggie and Pac were the source of major journalistic and pop culture tension. And now the photos of a fatally wounded Osama bin Laden are the source of journalistic and political contention. Whether the battleground was located at the Twin Towers in New York or at the Tower Records Store in Los Angeles, one thing is certain; these men are indeed linked.

Tipper Gore led a charge in the mid 1980's against profane lyrics in music, ultimately coming up with the “Parental Advisory” sticker that can be seen on most rap albums sold today. Her husband, Al Gore, lost a very close race in the year 2000 to George Bush for President of the United States. At that time, plans were already in place to bomb the World Trade Center Towers in New York just one year later. I have to believe that Osama was expecting Al to be President when the plan was executed. On November 7, 2000, almost 51 million Americans tried and failed to make that happen for him, 1 woman in Florida ruined it.

George Bush and his armies of troops searched for Osama in Afghanistan and Iraq during much of his 8 years in office. They killed many people in the name of freedom and democracy, and even unseated Saddam Hussein while they were at it (is “collateral victory” a term?). But they never found Osama. Just like Biggie was an easy target for gun shots, because he weighed in about 350 lbs, Osama was not exactly a fast runner. It is believed that he suffered from an enlarged heart, a major arm injury and possibly even kidney disease. I find it hard to fathom him as “quick getaway” kind of guy with a bad blood pump and one useful arm dragging a dialysis machine everywhere he went. This is where Tupac and his six-pack abs separates himself from the group, because I don't think narcissism counts as a health condition.

Well, the one thing they all do have in common is that they are all three dead and gone. I'm sure just as Biggie and Pac released posthumous rap albums, we will see many videos of Osama released to the public. We will just have to see if there are any subtle clues as to who tipped off the Americans as to where his hideout was located. It wasn't exactly a cave in the mountains of Afghanistan like everyone thought, but he did spend five years at one location before the skilled US Navy Seals descended upon him in his fateful final hours. Perhaps one of those videos will start with a faint whisper of “Pervez Musharraf shot me.” Then again, probably not. By the way Bruce, you're a dick!