Tales from the Frontier - No. 4

Every day confirms my opinion on the superiority of a vicious life. – Lord Byron

If reports are to be believed, Mexican towns on the US border are packed with drug sellers, buyers, pushers and runners. As far as I know we have only one well-known pusher on our border. Let’s call him Wilhelm. We’ll call him that since it’s his real name. Why the heck should we protect the identity of a criminal?

I haven’t known many criminals in my life, or if I’ve met them I wasn’t aware of their occupation. The one I did know masqueraded as a builder. Let’s call him Bill. That isn’t his real name. I’m not mad. He’s a builder! Got muscles to match and fists the size of a Christmas turkey.

He and Wilhelm have a lot in common, they both like the trappings of a swell life. House, car, exotic holidays, tailored clothes, fine dining, pricey entertainment, the whole nine yards, or 8.23 metres as we say here in Euroland. And both love to flaunt it.

Wilhelm has a huge villa that overlooks the Rhine. It’s got its own dock and boathouse. In his powerboat he can be in France in two minutes and in Switzerland in four. I’m guessing that with some of his powdered products you can be in la-la-land in five minutes. Travel is a wonderful thing. On the other hand, if you lived in such a gorgeous house why would you want to take trips away? I inhabit an apartment the size of the toilet on an Airbus A300 and the airplane’s seats are more comfortable than mine.

Wilhelm owns several cars. He’s very patriotic. He has a classic Mercedes, a BMW Series 7, and a sporty Audi Quattro. I’m more socially responsible with regard to pollution so I use the tram. He’s also got a VW Golf cabriolet for sunny days. Most days for Wilhelm must be sunny because he’s got a permanent tan. I’m a little bit pale. My wife made me buy coloured bed sheets because with white ones she said she was never sure whether I’d come to bed yet. We generally have to take our own sheets when we go on holiday to our extra-economy no-star hotel.

Wilhelm holidays in hotels with more stars than the Milky Way. Black silk sheets to order are probably his choice. He picked up his wife on holiday. She was Miss Thailand or Miss India or maybe Miss Universe – he can afford to go anywhere. She’s certainly the most gorgeous looking lady on this planet. Not that my lady isn’t a looker. She came third in a contest at Butlins. Okay, it was a knobbly knees contest but they’re a smart pair of patellas. Although you don’t get to view them often because she wears a polyester leisure suit most of the time.

Wilhelm wears suits made for him in Rome by Caraceni. He gets them there because that’s where Humphrey Bogart sometimes got his. Wilhelm probably saw Casablanca once too often and models himself on Rick. I had a suit once. Okay, the trousers didn’t match the jacket and it was really two halves of two suits but it was pretty sharp if you ignored one or two ketchup stains down the front.

That’s one thing Wilhelm’s suits never had. He probably hasn’t been in the same room as a bottle of ketchup for years. He only eats things with French names that look like abstract paintings on a plate. Like most drug dealers he started life grabbing a burger on a windy corner while palming off the odd Eight Ball; it didn’t take him long to realise that Swiss users had more money than those in Berlin and Brandenburg. He came to the border and widened his horizons and expanded his product range. He made money faster than the Royal Mint and the quality of his victuals rose accordingly. Rumour has it he has his own herd of Charolais in Burgundy and a château and vineyard to go with it. I was twenty before I realised meat came in an unminced form and wine didn’t necessarily have to taste like brass polish or come in boxes.

People complain that drug pushers like Wilhelm spread misery, which may be true, but I don’t buy his wares and have quite enough misery of my own. It’s getting harder and harder to watch Wilhelm flash by in his open-top dream car, with his unmatchable wife both looking like models of perfection on their way to fly off in their Lear jet to Mustique while I finger the coin in my pocket hoping it’s a euro and not just fifty cents. Virtue is its own reward so I guess I’m pretty rich but I bet Wilhelm looks at me and firmly believes that Lord Byron got it right.