Living the American dream, one arrest at a time.

Just another day. I was headed in to work, and due to my impeccable timing, missed the bus. No problem– cabs exist for a reason.

Shortly after calling a driver pulls up to me, smiling.

“Oh, I am very sorry, do you want me to open the trunk for your bag?”

“No, no! I’ve got it, I’m ok.”

He was so cheerful. He had a great big smile on his face, and asked where I was headed. I told him my theater, and he became excited and animated. “Are you a musician!?” No, no. I am not. I told him about my job, and Kamran whipped out his phone.

“I was in a band! Would you like to see?”

The rest that followed simply blew me away.

Kamran came to the United States permanently in 1996, he said. Most of his musical success came in the early to mid 80s.


“It doesn’t look or sound as good as I’d like. It is fifth generation video you’re watching. There! That’s me, on the keyboards!”

We talked shop for a while. He told me of the songs they would play, and how he set up a camera system to show video and the crowd at their shows, “which in Pakistan, nobody really had done that before. We played a kind of music and put on shows that were special. We were number one in my country, can you believe that?”

It’s when I dug a bit deeper that the conversation steered to a darker tone.

“So what made you stop playing?”

“Ah. Well, I was kidnapped…”

He didn’t say anything else about that for a while. We continued along the road, exchanging videos of music and discussing his adoration for playing. Kamran explained how after a while, his band broke up, so he started a solo career.

“I couldn’t sing! I didn’t care. They loved me, on TV. So I wrote a song, made this music, shot a video… all in one day. They put it on the TV. They did love me very much, there.” He dug around in his center console and pulled out a tape.

“This was us! I like to show this to people and play it for them. The memories make me so happy. It’s sad but happy.”

The Arid Zone tape

After a while we came up on my work, but I couldn’t leave it at that. He seemed to dance around the subject of why he came to the US, but I could tell he wanted to approach it. “So… what’s your story then? Why are you here?”

“I came here at first to learn English in 1991. That’s why I come, I wanted to know! I liked it here, too.”

I started unloading my bag, but I had to hear more. I told him I was planning on writing this out, telling his story, even if I only had minimal details. “I’d really love to hear more about what happened to you, if that’s ok.”

“Sure! But it will make you cry.”

“I was so big in Pakistan. I was a model, too! Here!” He shows me TV ads with him selling products, posing for the camera, taking a well timed sip of coffee for the advertisement. It is all very 80s kitsch, and it is awesome for that.

“I had money. So, of course, I was kidnapped. They only wanted money from us. The bad thing, I was dating a woman who had a father involved in the US military or… I think security company from US? And her father sent men to intimidate and hurt the ones that captured me. My father, he told them what a horrible idea. Now I could be killed. He sent me away to the states, afraid for my life. That was in 1996. I lived here, I got my degree, everything was fine. I have degree in business and management, I knew what I was doing. But then…”

He got a bit quieter. My time was running short to make it into work on time. We had long since turned off the meter in the cab, and I hadn’t even paid yet… but I couldn’t leave.

“Then 9/11 happened. I was married by then, but my wife, she didn’t want me anymore. So she reported me as a terrorist. I was taken away by the FBI. She took it all… my house, my money, my life. She left our son in foster care, she never wanted him. After a while they realized I wasn’t a bad man and they let me go, but it was too late. She got everything and now I had a record as being arrested for terrorism. I was never convicted, but it didn’t matter. I can’t get a job except this. I even asked the FBI, please… this is my life, just remove this from my record, it’s ruining everything. But no. even though I am innocent it is still there, and always will be.”

He pulled out his phone and showed me the background image of a smiling, handsome young man.

“My son! This is my baby. It took me two years to find him again in the foster system. Two years to get him back. I told them, this is my son, get your own. This is my baby. They fought me so hard, but he is my boy. I couldn’t lose my baby.”

“I lost everything, but it is good. God does this… how is it? He gives you the world, but then he tests you. He takes it all away from you as a test. And it was good… before I was just too greedy. So much money, money money money. Now, after I had nothing, I can smile. Little things, you know? I am happy, God has been so good to me. I am alive! You just… just stay happy, and realize what you do have.”

I couldn’t stay any longer and I told him as much. I hated to leave, but I had work to do. He gave me his card with his number, and I asked him to turn and smile for the camera for me so that I wouldn’t forget his face or his story.

“Oh, don’t worry. You will never forget.”

I won't forget Kamran.

I won’t forget, Kamran.


Cat’s in the cradle

This is a different kind of run-in with a crazy guy.
It was purely by accident, and I’ll have to remember this forever, despite my best interests. The hard part about it is that I’ve never even met him.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the crazy, drug-fueled people that have crossed my path in the past, and certainly in the future. I know previous drug addicts, and many I call friends. I know current drug addicts I call friends. Some are alcoholics, other turn to pills, and more snort their choices. I still care about them, and can only hope they will be alright with what they do.
Some, though, I cannot be around. They’ve gone beyond function, roaming the streets and generally just causing havoc. They’ve ruined themselves, families, and even taken lives– or tried to. This man happens to be one of the dangerously ruined ones, the kind that make me look on in fear when a friend confesses a drug “adventure.” You’re only really a few adventures away from being like him.

It was disheartening to hear the first half of the story. I had actually asked a private investigator friend of mine to look into this, to find out anything I could. All I found were things I half expected, half hoped I’d never see. Drugs. Abuse. Felonies. Broken families, children left with restraining orders instead of a decent life. Nothing I can say was surprising after the stories I had heard, really, but still. Disappointing nevertheless.

So for some time, I hunted for more concrete information. I couldn’t find much, not even so much as a picture. Facebook was useless, and the people search engines gave me a hundred addresses. A lot of homelessness was involved, and tracking down a homeless felon isn’t as easy at it sounds with only the internet available. I decided it was time to take a new route and hunted down some of his family I never even knew had existed before. I managed to get a phone number, and from there, a little more information.

He spent time as a child in the Dominican Republic. He was a highly talented musician, picking up many instruments along the way. Natural gifted all around. Always had a very wicked temper, and a sort of laissez-faire attitude about anything of real importance. Highly intelligent, too. Perhaps a bit too much. Sounded like a rather troubled person, though. That was made obvious by his later mistakes.

Not much came of any of this, though. Not until yesterday when, on a whim, I did another Google search. That’s when the mugshots cropped up all over the place.
First was the more recent– cocaine. Then came trespassing, failure to appear, public intoxication and misconduct. Sometimes there was a home address, most of the time it was simply “at large.” I was, to say the least, in a state of disquiet. I’d never seen his face before, and this was the last way I had hoped to.

I’m a person of silent morality. I may have interesting stories to tell people, but rarely do I let much about myself out to be heard. So my general set of ideals, beliefs, and other such inner makings don’t often get to come out. It’s partially a matter of my own introversion, with a dash of utter fear. I grew up with people disappearing; seldom did they stick around. Investing in others was just a pathway to feeling bad, so I didn’t. But inside, I have a very solid set of right and wrong. I am disgusted by certain actions, like abusing an animal or cheating on a spouse. This gave me the same feeling– but it was coupled with a new sense of revulsion and dismay.

I didn’t expect anything good, to be honest. What I did expect was to feel uncomfortable. I got just that.

My family always had a bit of a problem with me. They didn’t purposefully shun me, but I was also pinned down as a bad child, no questions asked. There were some things that cannot be discussed here, but needless to say it wasn’t always pretty. My uncle was the only real male figure I had to associate with a father until my step-dad came along. My mother never married the man, but he was what I had. His drunken ravings, constant misbehavior, treating me as a horrible person and obvious outsider, and eventual proposition to me for sexual favors didn’t leave a good impression. So now, as I stare at the terrifyingly familiar, yet unseen until now face of my actual father, I am only able to wonder why.

There’s something deeply disheartening about seeing your paternal progenitor only in a mugshot. Somewhere deep in me I sense I’ve seen the face before… my recollection of my childhood is uncanny at times, remembering things from toddler-hood that some people have no capacity to recall. So in there somewhere is the knowledge that this man was in my presence at some point, a long time ago. I see hints of my face in his. The eyes remind me of my own. But what truly hit me was his expression. In most of the mugshots, he’s smirking. He couldn’t care less. In one, however, it’s rage. A rage I know I have seen in my own face, the kind that led him to multiple arrests, and ruined his relationships with family and various others. It’s in me, and I can feel it burning. His fears, anxieties, anger, addictions, insecurities and disturbances are in my blood, and I know them well.

I have my doubts that I will ever be face to face with this man before his inevitable death from his own misdeeds. I daydream of wandering around his town, hunting him down (most likely at a bar) and having a very pathetic conversation that ends in him brushing me off. That’s about the best I can hope for after twenty-six years, I suppose.

A lot of people can shrug these things off without a second thought. For me, though, it’ll eat at me. I’ve always wondered about him off and on, and it consumed me for a time months ago. My own search for who and what I am and will become has been a constant struggle, and knowing of him has been part of the puzzle. It taught me a lot about why I do and act in some ways that confounded me. It has always shown me how NOT to be as a person, for which I am grateful. The genetics in me do not define me, yet they have an impact that is subtle and creeps up on you when you least expect it. The only battle is making sure it doesn’t control you.

Yet here I am, staring at this ruined man that created me, and I can only wonder now: will I attend his funeral?