You now how when you're little people are always asking you what you want to be when you grow up? Most people use that question as little more than a conversation starter (as if it's possible to start a conversation with a child, as if you'd want to - why not move straight to arson?) but it's always struck me as being a deeply serious and intensely problematic question. What do I want to be when I grow up? I don't have a clue.
The suggestion has been made, of course (generally by people who know me only slightly) that I am already grown up. As anyone who is a regular reader of this blog knows, this is a base canard (are there no limits to what people will say? Don't they realise the potential consequences of this kind of loose gossip?) - I certainly don't think of myself as being Grown Up. It's possible, of course, that this is a form of denial - not so much of my own mortality, as of the notion that this is all that being grown up might consist of. There's a line somewhere in Kerouac where he says "I have nothing to offer you but my own confusion". That's more or less how I feel most of the time, and I'd rather not believe (despite the evidence to the contrary) that this is all being grown up really consists of - a brave front, the ability to say the same stupid things, except with more authority. And isn't the fact that I still cling to my ideals of grown-upness proof that I'm not a grown-up yet?
But enough crazy talk. I finally realised, this morning, what I want to be when I grow up. No really, it just came to me, don't ask me why, there was this sudden flash behind my eyes and there it was: I want to be Robert De Niro. Not the old Robert De Niro of Meet the Parents and Analyze That, no, but the young man he's a caricature of - the De Niro from all those Scorsese movies, from Mean Streets and New York, New York, and Goodfellas and Taxi Driver and Raging Bull; the De Niro who played the young Vito Corleone, the De Niro from Cape Fear; the De Niro who was not so much a man as an attitude, a blistering, loose-limbed, in-your-face state of mind. Just once, just for one day, I'd like to be that malignant, that creepy, that obsessive. That intense. That thoroughly no good. Just once I'd like to be taken that seriously; just once I'd like to walk into a bar and feel the room get nervous around me. Just once I'd like to be able to take myself that seriously. Just once I'd like to be that raffishly charming, that outgoing, that impossible to say no to. Just once I'd like to be that cool.
And people say I'm grown up. Ha!
P.S. Thinking about it, if De Niro's already taken, I wouldn't mind settling for Kerouac. If I really had to, that is.