[This rant was originally published in issue #106 of Poor Mojo's Almanac(k), in early 2002. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks we were offline for several months; the switching center used by our hosting company had been located in the basement of the World Trade Center. Little bit of water under the bridge since then . . .]
As a recent arrival in this country, I received a phone call yesterday from Tom Ridge, the Director of Homeland Security, asking me about any previous dealings I may have had with Osama bin Laden. It's all a part of Attorney General John Ashcroft's way of adding a personal, cuddly touch to the racial and ethnic profiling he's mandated. Sort of like Hitler wearing pyjamas with feet.
I told Ridge about the last time I saw Osama.
Osama and I go way back. Way, way back. Back even before the last time he hated the U.S. before they trained him and gave him money and then he liked them and now he hates them again. We've never been particularly close, mostly because of the religious differences (he's an Extreme Fundamentalist Muslim, whereas I think women are human beings). But still, he calls me every time he's in town, we hang.
So a couple of weeks ago I'm lying in bed, wondering what to do with the weekend, and I get the call. He sounds pretty depressed.
"Osama, baby! When did you get in?"
"How was the flight? I joke, I joke. So what's happening, man?"
"Oh, you know. You've probably seen the news. . . "
"Yeah, pretty heavy stuff. Still, nothing to get down about, right? Am I right?"
"I guess. . . "
"Oh c'mon. The U.S. is throwing million-dollar bunker-buster bombs at sand dunes, and you're in L.A. getting your fundamentals rocked. What's not to like? Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"VEGAS, baby! VEGAS!"
So we go.
On the drive out, we pick up a couple of cute hitchhikers: Nancy and Peggy. They're heading out to Las Vegas to become showgirls, and from what I can see (which is a lot, considering what they're wearing), they're built to make it. Nancy and I really hit it off, and after a few minutes and a couple of hits of weed we're making out in the back seat, and Osama's in the front giving Peggy his whole Fundamentalist Islam bit about the role of women and men in service of Muhammed. It's nothing but Koran this, the word of the Prophet that from the front seat: I just roll my eyes at Nancy and start humming "Hey Mr. Taliban."
"David, if you don't quit singing that shit, I SWEAR to Allah, I'm pulling this car over and there'll be a holy war right up your ass so fast your colon will think it's Ramadan in April."
Nancy and I just giggle and go back to trying to permeate each other's clothes (Osama has this "no nudity" rule in the car), but as it turns out Peggy has been thinking about converting to Islam for some time now, and she's totally getting into what Osama is saying. She's nodding at everything that comes out of his mouth, even when he calls her a "Bush-humping infidel" because she admits to having worked on the Republican campaign in 2000.
We finally roll into Nevada, and at the first little chapel we can find, in a quiet ceremony, Peggy becomes Osama's 14th wife while Nancy and I consummate our relationship in the vestry. Peggy looks beautiful walking down the aisle, and positively glows when after the ceremony Osama hands her one of these disposable burqas from this big pop-up carton he keeps in the trunk.
It's late, so we head out to one of the local watering holes to get some beer and pretzels. Turns out it's a karaoke bar, and the locals are getting loud and off-key. The place looks OK, and there are no Northern rebels in sight, so we decide to stay.
We sit down and order some drinks and nibbles: Osama orders a gin and tonic for Peggy, she bows her head demurely. But the waiter hasn't even brought our order when this couple of rednecks in the table behind us starts getting rowdy.
"Hey, towelhead! I can't see the stage!"
"Hey, what's your chick wearing, a poncho?"
Osama just sits quietly, hands folded in his lap. I watch him carefully out of the corner of my eye: I know he's got a vial of anthrax in his back pocket, and as the (former) town of Littleton, Ohio knows, he's not afraid to use it.
"Hey Saudi Arabia, how come you so ugly? Yer mama screw a camel?"
That tears it. The Taliban may be the most brutally oppressive and misogynistic regime the world has ever seen, but they have a real soft spot for their mothers. Osama calls the waiter over.
In a loud voice, and gesturing wildly, Osama declaims: "We are under attack by the Great Satan sitting over there in that table. I call upon every devout Muslim to defend our table, even at the cost of their own lives, in Holy jihad against table thirty-six. Your reward in Heaven will be great, and where are our damn nachos?"
The waiter, a young mujihadeen named Trevor, rips his shirt open to expose thirteen sticks of dynamite strapped to his chest with duct tape, and runs towards the redneck's table shouting "ALLAH IS GREAT!" They scatter, and we dive out of the back just as the whole place explodes.
An hour later, we're back in the car speeding down the road, and Nancy has convinced us to play Truth or Dare.
"Osama! Truth or Dare!"
Osama always picks Truth.
"OK. So is it Osama, or Usama?"
"Heh. Funny story," he says, "but it used to be Osama. Then when the U.S. government provided me and my elite cadre of resistance fighters with training and equipment, they requested I change it to Usama so that I would always remember where I learned everything I know."
"I don't get it," says Nancy.
"Usama. U-S-A-ma. It's a bit of an in-joke in the CIA."
"Peggy! Truth or Dare!"
Peggy glances over at Osama.
"She chooses Dare," says Osama.
"Show us your ankles!" screeches Nancy gleefully.
Peggy bows her head, and for a moment we think she's not going to do it; but then she quickly lifts up a corner of her burqa and gives Osama a flash of ankle. Nancy brays with laughter, and Osama pretends to be mortified, but he's really turned on.
It's late at night, almost early morning when we finally hit the strip. Peggy and Nancy aren't with us any more, having asked to be dropped off at Nancy's cousin's house just outside Vegas. Nancy and I had a brief, emotional farewell, and a quickie on the porch swing. Out on the strip, Osama just wants to cruise. I love the city at night, the lights, the colours, the people, the beautiful women walking down the street. Osama loves shouting "Where is your veil, WHORE?!" at them and throwing disposable burqas around.
One of the women picks up the burqa and throws it back at the car, yelling "Go back to Afghanistan, you terrorist nutjob!"
I lean my head out of the window and yell back: "Lady, this guy wouldn't be caught dead in Afghanistan right now!" Osama high-fives me: it's an old joke, but it never fails to crack him up.
"So where are we staying tonight, Osama? The Bellagio?"
He glares at me. I know he can't check into a hotel, not with a pocketful of credit cards with essentially the name "World's Most Wanted Terrorist" emblazoned on the front.
"Red Roof Cave it is then. We'll leave a blazing torch on for you!"
We spend the better part of a week there, just hanging out and playing the tables. A few days in, we see Peggy again. Married to a Taliban fundamentalist, and therefore unable to work, she is begging for change on the street. I feel kinda bad for her, so I start towards her while reaching for my wallet, but Osama stops me. "Don't. She'll only spend it on food and shelter."
He's probably right. After all, she is his wife.
So that's pretty much it, I tell Ridge. We hung out, we partied a little, converted a few people, left a couple of smoking craters where buildings used to be. That kind of stuff.
Last I saw bin Laden was about three a.m. last Thursday night, drunk off his ass. He was trying to convince the doorman at Circus Circus to defect to the Taliban. The doorman, a staunch Northern Alliance supporter, didn't want to let him into the hotel.
"But you'll have sheventy virginsh in Heaven!" slurred Osama.
"Mr. bin Laden, I'm not going to tell you again. The last time we let you in here, you ousted the manager in a violent coup using poker chips, and slaughtered seventy guests for not having beards. The management has decided that you are no longer welcome at this establishment."
"Virginsh! Lotsh of them! Huge boobiesh!" he shouted as I tried dragging him away, but he refused to budge.
I walked away to a safe distance and looked back at the scene just as security and the police showed up. Osama was still yelling "I'm not retreating! This is a shtrategic withdrawal! I'll be back, I promish!" as they threw him in the back of the squad car.
There was silence at the other end of the line for a couple of moments, and then some whispered voices. The Ridge came back on the phone.
"You wouldn't happen to know where Osama is right now, would you? We've got a, uh. . . "
"A, uh, birthday present that, uh, I've been meaning to give him for a while, but I've, uh, lost his address. Any idea where I can find him?"
Yeah, I'm going to fall for that one.
"No sir, Mr. Ridge. But I'll sure to call you when he contacts me next."
"OK. Thank you, Mr. Pacheco, and welcome to the United States."
Just before he hangs up, I cough into the phone: "<cough>massive intelligence failure<cough>"
"Nothing, Mr. Ridge. Something stuck in my throat, that's all."
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