A&M’s resident realpolitik columnist Dave Lazer tells it like it is. This time he’s walking the mean streets of Acton, headed for a pirate party… or is he?
I have such strong feelings of resentment for so many things that I am becoming increasingly worried that I will never be able to love a band, book or person ever again; so much so that I made an appointment with my GP to address the situation. My doctor asked if I “could possibly be projecting feelings about myself on to other people, situations and objects; if the dislike for certain situations I seemed to fixate on were actually brought about by me feeling uneasy within myself?”
I pretended to think about my answer, tensed my brow and waited for what seemed like an acceptable amount of time to indicate quiet contemplation, before replying: “No, I wouldn’t say so; I think I’ve just come to realise that most stuff isn’t that good and that most people’s lives are completely pointless in the grand scheme of things”, before adding (thinking I was probably starting to sound a bit like a sociopath), “I care deeply about my family and friends, though; I just can’t seem to get excited about much”.
“I think we all feel like that sometimes, to be honest”, she replied, before asking, “Have you ever thought of harming or killing yourself?” “Not myself, no”, I replied with a grin. She laughed, before adding, “Sorry, I have to ask that. If you went home and killed yourself I’d be in all kinds of shit for not asking.” As doctors go, mine is pretty cool.
Having decided that I was suffering from nothing more than a slight case of narcissism coupled with a generalised acceptance of the failings of Western civilization, I decided to tackle another major issue head on. I had, to my utter dismay, been invited to a party that I really had to attend. Through sheer coincidence I had found myself cancelling my last few engagements with the person having the party, and I knew that failure to show up for their birthday would just not be on.
I have no problem with parties. I do have a relatively big problem with fancy dress parties, however, and fancy dress parties where you are specifically told what to wear seem so utterly pointless and forced that I cannot begin to understand the thought process the host must have gone through before deciding to plough on with their fascistic, awful idea of a gathering. My friend Pat Cheddar recently turned 30 and had a ‘hat party’. I reluctantly borrowed a fez from my father (a fez he had reluctantly bought when forced to attend a similar occasion aboard a boat somewhere o the coast of North Africa) and wore it with such an air of resentment I looked like a foiled Egyptian bread thief awaiting his comeuppance (due to my ears sticking out through my hair and over the sides of the hat, I also looked quite a bit like the monkey from Aladdin).
As I stared at the invite screen of the Facebook ‘event’ page, Pat Cheddar’s hat party now seemed immensely favourable by comparison. I now had to go to a ‘pirate party’. I had to dress up as a pirate (what, like in the Johnny Depp films? Oh, great. You’re a fucking genius).
I think I knew deep down that what I was about to do would piss some people off. However well I argued my point, some people would not be able to grasp that my costume was in no way racist (and that by them thinking it was racist, they were in fact being a bit racist themselves), and I think that, at this point, if I was being painfully honest with myself, I should have just put an eye-patch on, swallowed my pride, gone to the party and pretended to enjoy myself. Instead, I decided to dress up as a Somalian – a Somalian pirate to be precise (see, it’s a clever, funny, amazing costume). Now, here’s my point: had I been asked to dress up as a Somalian and gone dressed as a Somalian pirate then that could be considered racist (by assuming all Somalis are pirates), but I wasn’t going as ‘a Somalian’, I was going as a pirate who happened to be a Somali. Not racist.
As I waited for my friend Charlie to pick me up in his car, I looked at myself in the mirror. It really was an excellent costume. I had a pair of old suit trousers that I had ripped into shorts, a curly wig that I had rubbed some hot chocolate powder into (to indicate weeks away at sea) and was wearing an old West German army surplus shirt. I had also mixed up some of the hot chocolate powder with water and rubbed it all over my face. I knew that this wasn’t really considered socially acceptable – I felt slightly uneasy about the procedure, but without it I just looked like a homeless Leo Sayer.
My sense of satisfaction was quickly dashed when Charlie casually called me to say he was running late and he’d just meet me at the party. “OK, no problem, Charlie. See you there”. It was a fucking problem. Now, I would have to travel the entire length of the Uxbridge Road on a bus dressed as a Somalian pirate at 9pm on a Saturday night.
Let me make this clear, Acton is my favourite place on earth. It is beautiful, has a rich history and is culturally diverse. You really should visit. Look on a map of London, look at where Acton is; it’s in between Shepherd’s Bush, Ealing and Chiswick. Acton doesn’t get nearly enough press (apart from a mention in Alan Partridge, the exterior shot of Del boy’s at and the odd reference on London Tonight). Coincidentally, Acton is now home to so many Somalis that the road that leads from the high street to South Acton estate is referred to as ‘Mogadishu’ by pretty much everyone who lives here. I was going to have to walk through Acton dressed like this.
It was colder than I had anticipated; my over-sized parka completely covered my tatty pirate shorts. It looked like I wasn’t wearing any trousers. Normally this would bother me, but I’m not usually blacked up in an afro wig. I didn’t care that I looked like I’d either just escaped from a hospital or was about to jump out on someone and expose myself. I would take ‘mental asher’ over ‘mental racist’ any day of the week.
I made it to the high street and with my hood pulled up over my head, sat down and waited for the 207 bus. I did a quick scan of the surrounding area. No one was paying me any attention. Good. The almost entirely useless bus countdown display said ‘seven minutes’. From experience I know this can mean anywhere between zero and a million minutes. If I’d had to sit there for a million minutes I’d have been in a right mood. Luckily the bus came in about seven minutes; fair play, Boris.
I would like to say those seven minutes were uneventful, I would like to say that no blood was spilled on the streets of Acton. I would like to say I see a day when people will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character. However, I feel I have to be honest with you. My name is not Dave Lazer; I do not live in Acton. I have never dressed up as a Somali pirate.
My name is Raheem P. Williams. I am sitting on death row for a crime I did not commit. I am set to be executed by lethal injection at 7pm ET on Wednesday for the 1989 killing of Terrance Gene Bollea, an off -duty police officer who was working as a security guard in Savannah when he was shot dead rushing to help a homeless man who had been attacked. In the words of Bart Simpson: “I didn’t do it.”
I sit here in my cell, six feet by six feet. Every day the same as the last, with only my imagination for company. I’m sorry if you feel deceived. I’m sorry if you feel like I have wasted your time. I just wanted to pretend for a minute that I was an English guy living in the free world with a friend called Charlie who drove a ’74 Mustang coupé. I created Dave Lazer to help me forget. I created a whole life for him. I even gave him a middle name. It was ‘P’ (the same as mine).
Please, I need your help. Please raise public awareness of my case, please visit the website www.freeraheemwilliams.com. Please forgive me for my deceit. I meant you no harm. I’m just a lonely guy desperate to escape from the coldest, harshest of realities.
Please. Help me. God bless;
Your boy, Raheem.