Saturday, December 24, 2011


Christmas time.
When I was a kid, I'd visit downtown Boston and be mightily impressed by the Christmas lights that seemed to be everywhere. The streets were bustling despite the presence of traffic. Downtown Crossing was yet to come and Filenes reigned supreme. The Basement was still your best bet. Jordan Marsh was next door, while across the street stood Gilchrists. And don't forget Raymond's or R.H.White. These Washington Street havens formed a compound of holiday activity complemented by Salvation Army chorales and the ringing of its bell. Electrical Santa Claus's hung on high and it was magic time. The spirit of Christmas permeated everything and everyone. Carrying wrapped gifts was the right of passage. A smile was the password of the day and snow was the perfect complement. Bing Crosby's dream had been fulfilled. None of the future malls would ever came close to replicating this concentrated space of the nice kind of excitement.

All that is gone. Macy's tries hard, but it cannot overcome the symbolic dreariness created by the transformation into Downtown Crossing, where the streets become precarious for pedestrians after dark.  Today, people seem to slog along, burdened with the chore of staying within financial limits, as they strive to cover their gift lists, with strained incomes making the chore most perplexing and challenging. Is it all the fault of the economy or has the way it is today, in all things, become a joint venturer? Foreign wars seem to have existed forever. We have come to live with the constant threat of terrorism. Has a toll been taken on the nation's mood?

Entering a supermarket, today, I spotted a man soliciting donations for the Salvation Army. He was dressed in familiar garb, holding a bell in one hand and a receptacle in the other. But there was no movement of enthusiasm to his manner of indifference, no ringing sound or oral greeting. He looked just a little depressed. Are we wading through an "On The Beach" atmosphere or is all this a figment of my imagination?

Driving home, listening to the radio, all I could get was news or sports talk.
Then, by chance, I found a station playing universal Christmas songs, exclusively.

A breath of old but fresh air.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Based upon what I've been reliably told, it must be something like this. A nightmare while awake.

You're called in by a superior in another department who awkwardly invites you to sit. He's uncomfortable in what he has to say but this does not deter him.

"There's been an ongoing process of cost cutting options which has necessitated re-evaluating current personnel. Accordingly, your slot is being temporarily voided. This does not reflect adversely against you on a personal level. I have for you a separation package which you will, hopefully, find fair and reasonable and which you must accept or reject by the close of business tomorrow." He is speaking mechanically, as if reading from a prepared script, which he probably was.

"Your rights of appeal are spelled out in the proposed agreement. You may, of course, seek advice of counsel but remember the twenty-four hour deadline for accepting or rejecting the benefits proposal. Now, I must request your company I.D. and your office key."

It's coming too fast for you to emotionally digest right then and there and you involuntarily slip into a denial-induced degree of shock.

"Oh, and your garage pass, as well."

Heavens, we wouldn't want to forget that, would we? My robbery plans have been foiled.

"Please return to your office where you'll be met by security. You'll have fifteen minutes to collect your things. Your cooperation would be very much appreciated."

Just like that. No advance warning. No opportunity to speak to your boss. What the hell had happened to the constant accolades from your co-workers and even the CEO? Your ship had just capsized and you hadn't even had the chance to leap onto a life-boat. As you close the door behind you, you hear your terminator mutter something about aspects of his job "which suck." Frig him.

Standing behind your desk. Staring at it. What to do? How to begin the end? Through the door walks the guy from security, holding two packing cartons. All cover has been blown. Great. The entire floor knows. Your brain tries to help. Take the pictures, all personal files, notes, anything you may want to access later. Go through the drawers as prior months and years flash before you. Mr. Security checks his watch. It must be a felony to exceed the time limit. Frig him, too.

And then, the last mile of humiliation. The walk to the elevator, in full and plain view, carrying the boxes, accompanied by security, passing lowered eyes and apparently sealed lips. No words of support or regret. You're contagious now. Your "palls" have vanished. Frig them, as well.

The security guy walks you to your car. Presumably, considered a safety risk, liable to pull a gun and begin to massacre. He sits in the passenger seat so as to let you exit the garage, for the last time without fee. And then you're driving away with sweaty palms signaling the onslaught of realistic comprehension. False explanations will have to be created, attributing your disconnect to an act of election mandated by the irresistible offer of something better.

But through it all, you realize that no one --no one--will truly understand what you have been through. It's been your ordeal, alone, and accordingly, the credit for pulling yourself out of this shall be yours, alone.

That notion, in and of itself, is the motive for self-redemption.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I had just passed the Bar and been sworn in. Because of a military commitment (in those days), my practice window was limited to six months. Thereafter, I would enter the Air Force for three years. Accordingly, I was lucky to get a "bridge" job for a weekly gross of fifty bucks.

On my starting day, as I was taking off my coat, my boss thrust a file at me.

"This is our Motion to File Interrogatories Late. Tell 'em our secretary was out sick and we missed the date. Now, run to Court, you're late."

As far as I was concerned, this was an encounter with an extra-terrestrial alien. What the hell was he screaming about? What are "interrogatories"? With whom do I discuss the secretary's health? What's my name and how did I survive birth? I had to pee.

I sat in the courtroom, waiting for the judge to appear. A yell of "all rise" and he walked out of his lobby. Oh, Lord! If I had a face like his, I'd let it come to a boil and have it lanced. Compassion? He was obviously in the crucial stages of constipation. I searched for the causal connection between my sins and this scenario from hell.

I watched the other lawyers as they addressed the Court. Everyone so smooth, so confident. Bad luck was my destiny. If I bought a suit with two pair of pants, I'd rip the coat. I'd awakened this a.m. with a huge zits on my nose. My file bore the sweaty imprint of my palm.

My case was called. I stood before the judge as he read the motion. He re-read it. His eyebrows arched. Four minutes had passed. Had he smoked a joint before taking the bench? Would he offer me a toke? Non-frivolous questions, these. Finally, he spoke.

"Counsel, you represent two plaintiffs. Interrogatories have already been timely filed on behalf of one of them. Now, you seek leave of court to file another set, albeit late, on behalf of the other plaintiff, to the same defendant, posing the same questions the answers to which you already have. Explain, why do you need them?"

"Beats the sh-t out of me" was my immediate mental reaction. For, this man addressing me was surely mad. Speaking in some sort of code. And he couldn't be talking to me, since I was successfully effectuating a self-induced coma. I simply stared at him with the unfocused eyes of a castrated cat. And he stared right back at me. Silence, save for the ticking of the antique Roman numeral clock on the wall. Were we falling in love?

"Answer me, counsel!" That was a sober-upper. But what this boob obviously couldn't comprehend was:  how could I answer a question which I would never understand if I became a monk and took the oath of silence so as to enhance my powers of concentration?

My gaze upon him did not waiver.
"Motion denied!"
He had been given the one-way gift of the ability to hypnotize me, but had not a clue as to how to un-trance me.
"Next case!"
My traumatization had obviated my power to move, hear or further speak. My mission in this life was the obsession to just look at this man.
"I direct the court officer to escort this young man from the courtroom. Now!"
The bailiff put his hand on my elbow and whispered,"Better come with me, Son."
Now, picture this scene: as I was ushered out, I, in the ultimate act of defiance, refused to relinquish control of my pupils. It nearly broke my neck, but I didn't allow any interruption of my visual contact with His Honor. My body was removed but my eyeballs remained.

Legend has it that the old guy suffered something akin to a nervous breakdown and was heard to be muttering, "Those eyes, close those eyes, god-damn-it, close'em," as he was wheeled into the ambulance.

The basics of the story are true, a lesson in the pitfalls of non-preparation. It solidified my professional ambition. Let the tort lawyers make the millions. I'll opt for the gorgeous highs and the dreadful lows of criminal defense work. There's no juice like it.

Just keep your eyes open.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Some vignettes you never forget. A snapshot of something that captures an occurrence in sync with your good antennae. No particular reason. It just clicked and you remember it. Such an occasion was my very first visit to the Bell-In-Hand pub and the nature of the relationships subsequently formed. It was adjacent to the building which housed my job from hell. I was in the weeds, walking with my head down, ignorant of the interior of the place except for its allegedly possessing the longest bar in town. Accordingly, I was ready to love it at first sight.

One morning, 11 a.m., I could stand it no more. Files were spread on my desk to feign activity. Specifically, however, my thoughts were on the thickness of my window, a fact quite relevant when analyzing, and indeed contemplating, the feasibility of hurtling through the damn thing. I was familiar with jumping, as in out of my skin. My Boss was out, making an unnoticed exit obsessively attractive. Frig it. I needed a drink.

I dashed into the elevator and was bolstered by a non-stop plummet to the street. A direct left turn and there I was, staring at the door of one of the most fabled watering holes in Boston. I entered and was awestruck by the size of the bar. My drinker's eye immediately appreciated the aura of invisibility which was ready to engulf anyone who chose to habituate the far end of this oasis. The architect had definitely been an alky (remain on board, that word is my creation) who had devised a way to protect the shores of his brilliance from even the initial stages of booze erosion.

The early hour, notwithstanding, there were about a dozen guys imbibing and I took their measure. They were nattily dressed, no skid row guys, these, and obviously knew each other well, such was the tone of conversation. Within five seconds of my assuming a drinking position, they went silent---not a word. A stranger was in their midst. The bartender, Tommy Reilly, slowly sauntered to where I stood and addressed the outsider.

"What'll it be?"
"Double vodka, straight up, beer chaser."

Absolutely, no reaction. I wasn't playing to impress, this is what I felt like at the time. I thought I picked up a slight stiffening of Tommy's posture, but I couldn't be sure. This was no rookie, he'd been around awhile. He poured the drinks and placed the two glasses before me. I had put a fiver on the bar. I lifted the vodka to my lips and tossed it down, immediately repeating the maneuver with the half-glass of beer. Total swallowing time did not exceed thirty seconds. I turned on my heels and walked out.

I have since been told that the regulars exchanged looks of bewildered favorable impression and simultaneously asked, "Who the hell was that?" In the absence of premeditation, I had passed the test of initiation and, after a few more visits, was accepted as one with whom you could talk. Each one had his own story and shared a common denominator: they were good guys who enjoyed the sauce and each other's company. The group had been created by a positive force of nature. Some were family men, some weren't. They were good people who had come together, perhaps by fate, at this particular bar which became their meeting site. There was definitely a little magic going on. Allow me to tell a tale which examples it all.

I had long since established my bonafides. It was the end of a winter work day and it began snowing like hell. I had made arrangements with my daughter, who had gone to a downtown movie that afternoon,  to meet me at 5:30 in front of my office building. By 6 pm, it was zero visibility because of the storm, and she still hadn't shown up. I called the theatre to see if she was waiting for me there, but nothin' doin'. I had been at the bar since 5 pm and in the following hour had explained to the guys the reason for my angst. Now, it had come to resemble a blizzard. Suddenly, one of the men yelled' "The hell with it! Let's go! We'll retrace the steps between here and the movie place!" And without even thinking about putting on his coat, he ran out the door, followed by the rest of the lads, similarly unclothed, as they all made their way, as best they could, to the theatre. As I ran with them, I took a mental snapshot of these kind-hearted men, motivated by pure goodness, sloshing their way through the snow, yelling my daughter's name. Sure enough, don't you think they found her? About halfway to the mark. She had been making her way to us and screamed with joy when they grabbed her. And them? You'd have thought they hit the lottery. Impervious to the weather, they were like miners rescuing trapped co-workers from a cave-in. They were so damned happy! Pure as the driven snow. Strangers, not so long ago.

And when good fortune came my way, having just gotten the job of a lifetime, I ran down to the bar for a celebratory drink and told Tommy the news. He just looked at me for a few seconds and then he smiled. Let me tell you something, Dear Reader: when an Irishman, with a heart of gold, smiles from his soul, turn off the lights. You don't need 'em. He brightens the sky and warms the North Pole. And when he told the others, it would have been impossible for an outsider to select which one of us was the beneficiary of great news. I lost track of how many subsequent rounds were on the house.

They've all since passed. But my memory of them is, and shall remain, clearly focused. The many laughs we shared. The good wishes for happiness that permeated the air. The outside world would become temporarily blocked out. Stress was left at the door. The bond between us was friendship. Decent, solid people. May they all rest in peace. What a group.

It has been said that to have a friend is to see the face of God. Well...................

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, addressing Jewish Republicans, accused President Obama of "appeasement" in his alleged lack of support of Israel.

Look, I know it's campaign time, where the elasticity of reason is put to the test, but when the line is crossed into the realm of deliberate inflammatory slogans which spit in the face of history, Slick Mitt should do a Quick Quit. Shake hands with this man and you become the Crisco Kid. He claims to champion the cause of righteousness while opponents are among the reckless falsifiers. Admittedly, he's intelligent, too smart to mistake poison ivy for mistletoe. He should have the definition of political appeasement spoon-fed down his throat.

In September of 1938, with their intentions of world domination alarmingly evident, Germany demanded that the Sudetenland, in Czechoslovakia, be brought under its control. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin met with Adolph Hitler, at Munich, and agreed to the dictator's demands. "Peace in our time" he crowed.The slaughter of millions of Jews, rounded-up, gassed alive and incinerated, stands as the most heinous crime against humanity of all time. Chamberlin's cave-in, historically and unequivocally, defines "appeasement". Romney's blatant misuse of the word, in an effort to impress Jewish voters, is diabolically transparent.

He should be ashamed of himself.


I was in grammar school, not too young to remember. Every radio station was pre-empted. No T.V. The vulnerability of the U.S. was a shock to the system. How could such a large armada of Japanese warships travel so many miles of ocean, refueling at midpoint, without being discovered? Our Pacific fleet in flames. Twelve vessels lost. The Arizona and the Utah still sitting in the harbor, entombing its crew. Legitimate fears that the enemy could run the table. The next day heralded stunning historical bookmarks: President Roosevelt, the penultimate father figure, declaring war ("A day that will live in infamy......and we shall win this war, so help us God.") as endless lines of enlistees ringed every local draft board. Not just kids, but men of all ages, motivated by patriotism and revenge. The survival of our values jeopardized by a sneak attack. A sudden change to a world war footing. Would there be enough time to weaponize, stem the tide and turn it around? A Japanese submarine allegedly seen off the coast of California. This was no drill.

The times were so different. Mothers in housecoats, leaving doors open, commingling with apartment neighbors. Air raid drills, four times a week. Blackened draperies to obviate light, potential beacons for enemy bombers. Air raid Wardens, monitoring each street for security violations. Reading daily accounts of the Bataan Death March. Slogans everywhere. "Keep 'em flying." "Loose lips sink ships." And, of course, "Remember Pearl Harbor." Street posters of Uncle Sam, pointing at you, imploring unwavering support for the war effort. Anxiety increasing with Japan's Pacific advance. Seemingly unstoppable. And then, the Battle of Midway.

This battle represented the strategic high water mark of the Pacific ocean war. Prior to this action, Japan possessed general naval superiority and could usually select where and when to attack. After Midway, the two opposing fleets were essentially equals and the U.S. soon took the initiative. Japan's intended attack on Midway was thwarted by superior American communication intelligence which deduced the scheme well before battle was joined. This allowed the U.S. fleet to establish an ambush by having its carriers ready and waiting for the Japanese. This was the most decisive U.S. naval victory of the war. The Japanese could never again operate offensively while the Americans could now do so at places of their own choosing.

The Empire of Japan surrendered, unconditionally, on August 15, 1945, three and one-half years after Pearl Harbor. The most indelible common denominator between then and now is the bravery and acceptance of sacrifice of our troops in combat, the difference in mores, notwithstanding. Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Similar bellwethers, similar responses. History tends to repeat itself. We must remember. There are lessons to preserve and people to honor.

Times were different and the same.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I decided to give it a try. What the hell, my life was in its home stretch but the memories of youth were alive and well and, oh, how it used to be. Could that resilience be recaptured? After all, it was my most formidable asset. I was optimistic.

The test came soon enough. I was helping my spouse carry breakfast dishes to the sink when our elbows inadvertently touched. A tangible and mutual jolt surged through us. Suddenly, we were no longer in our kitchen. We had been transplanted to a white-sanded, blue water beach, somewhere in paradise. I felt the old romantic craving. I was vibrantly young again, endowed with control and endurance. No instructions necessary. Like riding a bike.

This rejuvenation was not fleeting. My prowess was constant and I indulged lustily. I had regained the peak and all was sublime.

But there was a difference. There was no respite. Even though the hunger would temporarily subside, my manifestation of romance would not de-energize. It was impervious to control. Cold showers, ice-pack applications had no effect. Suddenly, the basic tasks of every- day functioning were being precluded. Padded clothing proved fruitless. I couldn't leave the house and go to the office unless I assumed the Quasimodo position. It was necessary to feign an accident, requiring me to be wheelchair-bound, in order to mix with the outside world. Initial humor quickly gave way to undiminished terror. Doctors shrugged their hands with the frustration of ignorance. I had inadvertently discovered the immutable object. Only in the privacy of my home, could I dare stand straight, but without any smidgeon  of romance. The idyllic Caribbean island was neither present nor desired. My life had disintegrated into phallic hell. Why had I been so reckless? Everything was over. I reeled with anxiety. I was plummeting from a cliff.

And then, just before I hit the rocks, I woke up. It took me ten seconds to convince myself that it had all been a dream. Thank you, Lord. Thank you.

I decided to embrace the measure of who I was. I would accept the ups and downs. The road ahead was still full of romance and I would enjoy it the old fashioned way.

Science, and its future, can be scary.
"You see that kid walking down the street? His father is a pill."

Sunday, November 27, 2011


I applied for a summer job as a waiter at a place called Avalock Inn in Lennox, Ma. It was directly across the road from Tanglewood, the seasonal home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Reservations had to be made at least two years in advance. Aside from its location, its forte was the dining room, a five star rated restaurant which boasted excellent cuisine and first-class service. The ad required professional experience which I enthusiastically but falsely claimed to have. Hey,man, it was to be an adventure. Two days of on-the-job training and I'd have the moves of a pro and be pocketing lucrative tips from the wealthy clientele. And if a beautiful, rich young woman would catch my eye, well, as Frank sang, "I'm gonna teach me to fly." Everything was set for a swingin' three months. What can I getcha, Baby?

When I arrived, I met the owner, a rather pompous ass who showed me the tables I'd be serving.
"We open for breakfast at 6am. Be in uniform and ready to go. Now, why don't you get your linens and set up for the morning?"
Linens? What the hell were linens? Was this a covert cathouse? A fellow waiter explained that the reference was to tablecloths and napkins and showed me where they were. The service trays were huge, round, silver and heavy. Everyone was carrying them on one faced-up palm, in perfect balance, as if they were on ice skates. I loaded my tray with silver, glasses, cups, saucers and bread boats and my first attempt to lift it assured me of a severe hernia. I used the kindergarten method of holding the tray with two hands and walked as if I were performing the nine step heel to toe field sobriety test. Even then, my cargo was dangerously shifting from one edge to the other, with the Vegas bookies laying even money on a fall-and-break as a sure thing. My lack of credentials were exposed for all to see, but, hey, this was rehearsal learning time. I'd be ready for the morning. I walked into the kitchen and was introduced to the Head Chef. A really hip dude who dug fine jazz and was apparently holding some fine sinsemilla. We hit it off, pronto, Tonto, and agreed to spend the night digging sounds, drinking and getting high. This is a lovely way to spend an evening. He took me by the hand and we hit three or four clubs where the cool music was complimented by vodka and the the most lethal pot ever smoked. They called it "two-toke-shit" but we paid no attention to that legendary limit. The scene lent itself to excess and so we indulged. If I had gotten any higher, I would have flirted with comasvile. The night was sweet and we were mellow. Until the chef reminded me that it was 5am. Time to get ready for work.

I made my way back to the waiters' quarters and was confronted with a decision. Should I shower, brush my teeth and put on my bow tie monkey suit, still shitfaced and stoned---or----should I grab a fifteen minute nap? I made a mistake rivalling buying a Titanic ticket. I went for the short shut-eye.

There was banging on the door of the waiters' cabin. It was the owner screaming my name. Sherlock Holmes was not needed to conclude that he was pissed-off big time.

"Where the hell are you, Alch? There are guests at your tables waiting to be served and it's 6:20. Get the hell down there, NOW!

I wasn't just sick, I was being tortured to death. My hair hurt. My eyes were bleeding on my shirt. My tongue was mired in sand. With my next breath I would surely heave my guts. And I absolutely REEKED from booze. Flies were dropping dead as they flew by my mouth

I ran to the sink and doused my head in cold water, took a bite of toothpaste and tried swishing it in my mouth but my tongue could not be reached for transmission. I threw on the waiters uniform as I tried to finger-comb my hair into some semblance of a human, ran out the door and up the hill to the dinning room. Three of my round tables were filled with eight guests at each. The chef looked at me as I walked through the kitchen and his eyes rolled up to the Deity for help. He looked in good shape. He had done this before, a veteran who knew not to sleep.

Someone pushed me toward my tables. I approached the first one to confront eight richee-poos aggravated by hunger. I looked at Mr. Constipation and barely whispered, "May I take your order, sir?"

He snarled under his breath and began: one large orange juice with one-half of the pulp in; two kippurs using sea salt for drying it in the open air; a bowl with one and a half sliced bananas in skim milk; three eggs over easy with one yoke gently broken; a rasher of bacon slowly cooked, crispy but not greasy to the touch; three apple pancakes with Maine maple syrup;a dish of vanilla yogurt with blueberries;------and on and on he went. God forbid the snob could have just ordered a bagel with coffee. As he was declaiming, all I could bring myself to do was nod like a puppet, up and down, as this idiot was obviously ordering for the New England Patriots. I didn't remember one thing he said. I just kept smiling and nodding as I went 'round the table, getting a similar 7 course breakfast order from each of them and announcing,"Thank you, sir" at each order's conclusion.

I didn't remember one freackin' thing that was said to me. I HADN'T EVEN BROUGHT A PAD AND PENCIL. I finished the charade at last, thanked them once again and mumbled something about getting the order working straightaway. I walked into the kitchen, thanked the chef for a groovy night, took off my white shirt and black bow tie, ran to my cabin, threw my stuff into my bag and ran through the woods until I hit a highway. I stuck out my thumb and, almost instantaneously, a yellow Cadillac convertible, with brown leather seats and the top down, screeched to a halt and the driver yelled,"I'm going to Boston. Interested?" Within 30 seconds I was riding shotgun, heading for the poolroom, looking up at blue skies and engulfed by a warm wind---and all was once again good in the world.

Word has it that to this day, those goofs are still sitting at their tables waiting for those Saddam Hussein breakfast specials.

The only other time I tried my hand as a waiter was at an insane asylum, serving soup to nuts.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


I was a junior at college when I discovered the genesis of co-ed summer camp. Imagine being hired as a counselor and getting paid (Freudian slip?) to work for two months in beautiful New Hampshire, with female counselors as your peers. I was in heaven, but not without romantic drama to enhance everything. And the women! These were not strays from the pound. Au contrare, monsieur. They were gorgeous, from upper-state New York, from Cornell, Syracuse, etc. whose parents obviously wanted to protect them from the perils of summer at the country club.

The schedule called for all counselors to report one week prior to the campers' arrival in order to clean and set up. That was my first look at the ladies. There was one lass who was destined to become Miss World and I was a goner at first glimpse. She was playing it very cool, realizing the pick of the litter was hers. But my sights were set. She was to be mine. My pool-room roots would be redacted from my record and classified outside the boundary of human access. How could I make her (another one) take note of my aura in the absence of phone booths wherein I could change from Clark Kent to you know who?

One of the first tasks assigned to the us was to set up the boxing ring. We were going about this task when I first noticed him. He was from The Big Apple and he was a bully. He donned boxing gloves and began challenging everyone to a fight. All demurred. Being in new surroundings, it was my wont to keep my head down and my mouth shut. As I minded my own business, I watched the jerk making his rounds, hoping he would pass me by. But he couldn't find anyone to take him on so he kept working the crowd until, at last, he approached me.

"Whadda ya say? Wanna go a round with me?"

Sh-t. I was not a fighter. Besides, this guy was bigger and stronger than me. It's not that I was afraid, it's just that I was afraid. Accordingly, I allowed emotion to triumph over reason.

"O.K.--what the hell." A schmuck for all seasons.

The head counselor fitted me with gloves and I climbed through the ropes (which I would soon stain with blood) and waited for someone to yell "bong." All the other male counselors began giving me signs of support, urging me to kill this bum before whom they had chickened out. I didn't know how to box. Oh, a few street fights now and again, but the Marquis of Queensberry rules? Forgeddaboudditt! A distant relative must have been a Kamikaze pilot.

The round began and I experienced an epiphany. Frig it. Just swing like a mother. And so I did, blindly. And so did he. Each of us, retreating not an inch, kept flaying away, hoping to land a haymaker. Surprisingly, I landed with more frequency and could see him a bit staggered. I kept this whirlwind going until I could barely lift my arms. The "bong" idiot yelled again and I opened my eyes to see the jerk with a red welt under his right eye, his arms hanging lifelessly by his side. Everyone was cheering, declaring me to be the victor. I didn't know what the hell had happened except that I was lucky to be alive. We touched gloves and his look promised that he'd leave me alone in the future. A good start for the summer.

The campers arrived that afternoon and we all congregated at the assembly area just before the evening meal. The owner of the camp would preside, welcoming all, and announce the evening's activity. The female counselors were in full attendance.

"Tonight, we have a special treat for you. Something you'll really enjoy. We're going to have an exhibition boxing match between Doug Ratnor and Gerry Alch......." He kept on talking but I had tuned him out. Whose idea was this? Who the hell was Doug Ratnor? I ran to the head counselor and demanded an explanation.

"Relax, kid. We're all still talking about how good you were this morning against that jerk---this will be just three rounds---I'll referee it and you'll show the kids a great time. You know how to handle yourself." Not with people watching, I thought. I found Ratnor, a first year counselor from Chicago and asked if he had ever done any boxing. "Only a little Golden Gloves. Nothin' heavy."
Nothin' heavy? Golden Gloves was semi-pro.

 I began to sweat as I took stock of the situation. I was going to die that night. Worse, I was going to look like the wuss that was me---IN FRONT OF THE WOMEN! The humiliation would be my scarlet letter. I would pack after I was revived and slink out of camp under the cover of darkness. My Shangri-La summer would not come to pass. I would become a monk. Or, better still, a eunuch. I was so terrified that I literally became ill. I was burning up and my palms were sweaty from fright. I met with the infirmary nurse. Sure enough, my temp was 102. She forbade me from fighting that night. I told her I had to....period! I wasn't about to confess what an insecure coward I was. That would come to light after my suicide.

It was fight time. The rec hall was packed. The beauty I had branded as my own was looking at me with a curious attraction in her eyes. Oh, what I was about to forfeit. The shame of it all. I would take up new residence in Singapore, a known hideaway for yellow rats. I was a bald Sampson. The only way I could increase my self-hatred was if I were twins. I looked across the ring. There stood Jake La Motta, drooling for the taste of flesh. Someone rang a bell and the fight was on.

I tried to make believe I knew what I was doing. I assumed a pose that I remembered from the movies. We met at the center of the ring. Ratnor was bobbing and weaving while I was admiring his grace. Suddenly, his left jab connected with my nose. HARD! Didn't he know this was for show? I felt dizzy and then WHAM! Another left jab, harder than the first. I saw stars. I was on the verge of falling. Merely by instinct, with my eyes closed, I feebly swung my right hand. And then, several things happened at once. I heard a ROAR. I was still reeling from those two jabs as I opened my eyes. RATNOR WAS ON THE FLOOR! How the hell did that happen? The head counselor came running into the ring and lifted Ratnor into a sitting position. He was almost out cold. He must have taken a dive! He was taken to his stool. There were screams of "call an ambulance." The head counselor began yelling at me.
"What the hell's the matter with you? This was just an exhibition for the kids! You had nothing to prove! We all know you can fight." Ratnor was rushed to the nearest hospital. Hours later, we learned what had happened.

It was the freakest of things. My blind punch had made contact with Ratnor's left ear in just such a way so as to force compressed air into his ear canal. His eardrum had been punctured. It could have been fatal at a different angle. The guy was o.k. but no swimming for the entire summer. The poor bastard couldn't even take a shower.

The word spread like wildfire through the camp. I was looked upon as the heavyweight champion of the world. And, believe me, I played it to the hilt. I announced that I would never fight again. Hell, I could kill someone. I had been cursed with deadly fists. Of course, I was sad at the curtailment of a brilliant career in the ring, but I owed it to my fellow man to hang 'em up for good. I deserved an Academy Award.

As for my summer, I was the retired undefeated champ. I hooked up with my chosen beauty and love was in the air.

I claimed right field on the baseball diamond as our turf for making love under the stars. Every night. Even in the rain. Right field was the right field.

And if any young stud, seeking fame and glory, challenged me to a fight, I would apologize while explaining why I refused to kill him.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


The Law School Fall Semester is drawing to a close. After the holidays, the final semester (for most) coincides with Bar Exam preparation and it's crunch time. I choose this chapter of matriculation to reflect my personal sentiments regarding the students in my class. My predicate are the vibes I picked up on day one, which have consistently graphed upwards, reflecting steadily increasing enthusiasm for the curriculum.

My students, using that phrase for descriptive purposes, are terrific. They are attentive, diligent and thirst for knowledge. And, very importantly, they are surprised by the opportunity and, indeed, welcome the invitation to laugh while they learn. These two philosophies are neither inconsistent nor inappropriate. On the contrary, they can be mutually reinforcing if presented in an harmonious mix. Consider, they are both natural instincts, on the plus side of life. The immersing of positive moods is consistent, in a not-so-strange way, with the splitting of an atom. Don't laugh--I mean laugh all you want--it's good for you. I've tested this notion in a variety of seemingly uninviting circumstances: a pressure-packed jury trial, as a Judge presiding over a crowded courtroom, and, yes in a classroom. The essential elements are the ability to make people smile, coupled with proper taste. It's a dynamic duo and one which I have found promotes an atmosphere most conducive to a desire to listen and remember. And it ain't all that common. Hooray for mavericks. Whatever the task, if you enjoy doing it, you'll do it well. A happy job is not synonymous with work.

Thus, I have intentionally strayed from the norm. I try to teach and simultaneously entertain, and unless I'm being misled, it works. And if the students enjoy class, then I do, all the more. Humor is a most effective tool, even in academia. Pressure and stress shall never know famine. Let's row against that tide, shall we?

Which brings me back to gratitude. Which is what I owe my students. Causing them to laugh while contributing to their education, is is a maximum turn-on for which I owe them big time. Their faces say it all and every semester brings a repeat. They enjoy our time together and their education is furthered. I thank them.

Is it any wonder that I whistle to and from the Law School?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I woke up this morning to find Kim Kardashian in bed beside me. It was inevitable. Hey, let's face it, the ugliest guy in the world I'm not. And she's been stalking me for months, the restraining order, notwithstanding. Nevertheless, I was crushed when her recent marriage to Freddy Krueger didn't pass the test of time. She worked hard to make it work. She cooked--oh how she cooked for him. She was a very religious cook. Everything she made was a sacrifice--her burnt offering. She was the only woman in the world who could burn a stove. She didn't make pot roast, she made roast pot. Only she could screw-up cornflakes. And, you had to admit that he was nuts over her. Sadly, they were married by candlelight but it only lasted a wick.

It wasn't that I chose to look down at her, I had to. You see, I used to be a vaudeville contortionist. In order to make myself more limber, I had my backbone removed. I had the space for my missing backbone filled with mercury. At room temperature I stood about 5'11''. On hot days, I'd shoot up to about 6'4''. One winter day, I shriveled to 3'' and was almost dragged away by the cat. Even when she wore stiletto shoes, she just about reached my poopick.

My favorite episode of her reality show was "The Kardashian Family Defecation." What togetherness.  They moved as one. And, believe it or not, when she was courting me, her mother didn't approve of my street roots and, one day, told me she thought I was crude. I shot back,"What is this crude shit?" That night, when I drove her home, I spoke with great tenderness.
"You're the first girl I've ever kissed," I said, as I shifted gears with my knees. It all ended the night she laughed when I sat down to play. I had no idea the bathroom door was open.


The first time I met Herman Cain, I wanted to buy his head for my rock garden. I had heard that when he was born, the doctor didn't know which end to slap. He told me about his memory problem.
"I've completely lost it. I remember nothing. I can be talking about something, and as soon as I'm finished, I don't remember what I was talking about."
I asked, "How long have you been suffering from this?"
He replied, "How long have I been suffering from what?"
I gave him some mental exercises to perform and wished him luck. Three months later, I saw him trying to sell pizza to Vito Corleone. When he saw me, he hugged me and began whispering in my ear for the longest time. "Be cool. To me, you're a horse." He went on in this manner, as if my ear was his sanctuary. I neighed for a carrot.
"I shall always be grateful to you, dear ear. You have cured me. My memory has returned. I remember everything. As a matter of fact, there are only three things in the whole world that I can't remember. I can't remember names. I can't remember faces. And I can't remember the third thing."
I told him to put his hands in his pockets and get a hold of himself. He had just returned from Germany where he had tried, in vain, to meet, hire and promote  a woman. He kept muttering,"Nein on the Rhine. Nein on the Rhine." I tried to cheer him up. "Expose your accusers." It didn't work. He just shook his head sadly. "I'd rather expose myself."
I got my camera at the ready. I would possess the world's first shot of a pepperoni putz.

What great movies these vignettes could be. I would, of course, secure the exclusive contractual rights to play (with) myself.

Monday, November 14, 2011


On Wednesday, November 9, 2011, a member of a prominent law school staff sent out an email soliciting "much needed supplies to be put in care packages to be sent to deployed troops." The email specifically mentioned that one law school student, deployed to Afghanistan, would be a recipient. A member of the faculty reacted rather strongly:

"The solicitation email was a political statement, although cast as support for student activities........I think it is shameful that it is perceived as legitimate to solicit in an academic institution for support for men and women who have gone overseas to kill other human beings.......The politics of that solicitation are that war is legitimate, perhaps inevitable, and that patriotic Americans should get behind our troops. We need to be more mindful of what message we are sending as a school. Since September 11, we have had perhaps the largest (American) flag in New England hanging in our atrium. This is not a politically neutral act. Excessive patriotic zeal is a hallmark of national security states. It permits, indeed encourages, excesses in the name of national security, as we saw during the Buch administration and which continue during the Obama administration."
The professor further criticizes unnecessary foreign invasions by the U.S. and questions our sending support to the military instead of Americans who are losing their homes due to the economic collapse.

It is not my intention to engage the professor in a wide ranging political debate. His anti-war sentiment is a worthy matter for discussion. What takes me aback is the apparent basis and catalyst for his broadside against our servicemen and our flag.

We are at war. We are at war with terrorists. The signal event was the attack on 9/11. It was not the first act of war by terrorists against the U.S. but it maximized our awareness of the threat to our homeland. Our troops are fighting those who have sworn allegiance to our destruction. They are killing those who are sworn to kill us. These dedicated men and women are sacrificing their lives so that we can be safe on our own soil. They put themselves in harms way not for self-aggrandizement but to preserve our liberties  which, ironically, permit their being criticized by those of the professor's ilk. Their devotion to the protection of our country constitutes nobility which cannot be surpassed. Where do we get such men? I stand in awe of them. Whenever I see one of our troops, I approach and say, "God bless you." The inevitable response is "Thank you, sir." Their foes are insane radicals who deem it an honor to blow themselves up so as to inflict damage on us. They face and slay this dragon every day. I pray for their safety, these bravest of men and women. How can a national fight for survival be denigrated? And how can our troops, exhibiting the utmost bravery under heinous conditions, not receive our boundless admiration and gratitude? To disrespect those who risk their lives for their country  is, to me, unfathomable. I shall support them in any and every way I can. They are in my prayers every night.

The American flag makes me proud. Its size has no bearing on what it symbolizes. Whether hanging on a front yard porch, as a lapel pin, as a rear windshield adornment or yes, even as the largest flag in New England hanging in a law school atrium, it is the flag to which I pledge allegiance. With its history, it shall always represent the grandeur of America and its glory shall in no way be diminished by how many proudly fly. We are a Democracy concerned with our national security---not a national security state.

Now, in the wake of Veterans Day, for an intra- school solicitation of care packages to cause such a negative discourse on the role and purpose of our troops, warrants the suggestion that there is something wrong with the professor's picture.

A patriot is defined as a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies and detractors.

Our armed forces personnel are patriots who risk life and limb in protecting us against murdering zealots. Disapproval of our foreign policy does not justify abandoning their support. Try explaining that connection to a Gold Star Mother.

In the days, weeks and months following 9/11, our country was bathed in American flags as citizens mourned the incredible losses and stood shoulder-to-shoulder against terrorism. Our patriotism pulled us through some tough times and it shouldn't take another attack to galvanize us in solidarity. Our American flag is the fabric of our country and together we can prevail over terrorism of all kinds.

Our troops are fighting, ready to sacrifice their lives, to protect our cherished freedoms. Questioning our support for them should not be sparked by a solicitation for care packages.

That is what is shameful.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Look at a field of grass.
Question: In which direction are the blades leaning?
Answer: Depends on which way the winds are blowing, at that given moment.

An allegation of wrongdoing is picked up by the media. The focus intensifies and becomes partisan, the usual disclaimers, notwithstanding. Citizenry interest is molded into concurrence. The news coverage is thorough but inevitably comes down on one side. The population adheres. The other side of the story, and there always is one, is not afforded equal treatment.

The initial result is the institution of criminal proceedings. Many people want to be on the jury. During the impanelment, most deny ever being exposed to media pronouncement. They'll be able to decide the case solely on the evidence adduced at trial. They seek confirmation of their prematurely formed position. They have become the blades of grass. If the jury is not sequestered, the influence of media winds is not diminished. Despite being instructed to the contrary, newspapers will be read. The case will be discussed with family and close friends. A cynical observation, but that's the way it tends to be.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right to due process of law. Due Process means fairness. The above scenario is not fair. It takes place in the court of public opinion. The remedy? Keep an independent open mind. Formulate an opinion only when all the facts are ascertained. And that is not subject to any short cut.

For, if a jury's verdict flies in the face of media opinion, that will never be the predicate for a new trial.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


What should be required of a lawyer who wants to be a judge? What are the mandatory makings of a "good" judge? What type of person should the aspirant be? What ingredients, if missing, preclude the bearings of a jurist?

A judge hears all the witnesses and any other evidence presented by the parties of the case, assesses the credibility and arguments of each side, and then issues a ruling on the matter at hand based on his or her interpretation of the law and his or her own personal judgement. (emphasis supplied).

Thus, the prospective judge must graduate law school, pass the bar exam and be admitted to the Bar of a state, thereby assuring, or at least presuming, a knowledge of, or familiarity with, the law.

But that's only the half of it. For he must also have experienced, in his own life, the practical ways of the world, the conduct and custom of life on the street, far from the maddening crowds of libraries and classrooms. It is not enough to be intelligent, he must also be SMART, an attribute attained by meeting and having contact with diverse classes of people. He should be just as comfortable playing poker and drinking beer with friends and neighbors, as he would be at a professorial dinner party, inhaling the air of intellectualism. Are there such persons on the Bench today, before whom (young) lawyers appear? That question must stand or fall on the reputation of each individual jurist. Nor are there any cut-off dates for tallies, for people can change as their life's experiences change. We are what we have gone through.Valuable lessons may be learned from mistakes while good deeds sometimes backfire.

It may be summarized thusly: the most valuable preparation for a trial judge is to have been a trial litigator himself. Only then will he be equipped to appreciate the extreme degree of preparation, the investment of self, the long arduous non-glamerous hours of late night work and the great stress enthusiastically assumed by the advocate as he readies himself for the ultimate battle in the courtroom. Without this ability to empathise, a trial judge observes, but he does not see. He listens, but does not hear. The reservoir into which he taps for resolution is substantively barren. And that effectuates a formidable obstacle for litigating lawyers who dare to strive for FAIRNESS.

A case pretty much in point:

A young man's parents retained me to represent him in a case scheduled for trial the very next day. The attorney initially retained had concluded that jail time could not be avoided and intended to have the son plead guilty and beg for mercy. The facts and relevant law presented a rather complicated situation which I shall not set forth lest I stray from the issue at hand: the proclivities of judges plucked from the public sector. Perhaps another post.

I explained that I would accept their money only if I could obtain a continuance of the case. Preparation was necessary and the necessity of obtaining expert testimony would have to be explored. The parents understood and agreed. We all met at Court the following morning.

The sitting judge was the First Justice of this particular District Court and the word was that he absorbed and believed his self evaluation. Here comes the judge--prepare to part the Red Sea.
I knew him. He had been a staff lawyer for the Board of Bar Overseers, the organization designed to police allegations of attorney misconduct. Our paths had crossed on more than one occasion, when I had represented lawyers accused of violating professional ethics. We had gotten along well. My impression was that we shared mutual respect. This was a good sign.

When the case was called, I addressed him directly, setting forth the circumstances attending my appearance before him. I asked for a one week continuance.

"Counsel, you are aware that this case is scheduled for trial today. I am always attentive to case management. You are an attorney of many years experience. I am sure that your study of the case, during the intervening hours since you were first approached by the defendant, has afforded you ample time to ably represent him. This case is going forward--today. Request for continuance is denied. Trial commences after the morning recess."

I couldn't believe it. This pompous ass was completely ignoring the practicalities of the situation. It was parental panic time. I told them to be calm, that I was not yet conceding the point. As other cases were being addressed, I approached the Clerk, whose path I had crossed during years of tilling the soil, and whispered, quite imploringly,"Tommy, you've got to get me into the lobby when he takes his break. It concerns Mr. Green." He was a veteran of the wars and he understood. I got my lobby conference.

It was just about S.R.O. The clerk, chief court officer, probation officer, court stenographer and, of course, the judge, himself. It was not a leisurely atmosphere. He was taking no chances of a "you said, I said."

"Counsel, you wanted to see me?"

"I did, Your Honor, and I thank you." The hell with it. Don't fail for lack of effort. Go for it.
"Judge, you and I know each other. We're not strangers. We've had cases together before you took the bench. I never threw you any curve balls and you treated me the same way. Nothing ended on a bad note. Please remember those days and understand that if I can't get this case continued, I get no fee. This is important to me. You know how it is, office expenses that don't go away, hedge-hopping from one case to another, the inconsistencies of income in the criminal defense business, while survival is the name of the game. I want this fee. Speaking candidly with you, I need this fee. My request for a seven day continuance is not unreasonable. This court will not shut down if you grant my request. You're still an attorney, after all, and I ask for consideration, from one lawyer to another."

His face was red. He was very uncomfortable, as he should have been, in front of witnesses to his arrogance. He lowered his gaze to the top of his desk. You could hear the ticking of the Roman numeral clock on the wall. His expression became one of resignation. He said,"All right. One week."
The clerk noted the docket appropriately, and shot me an imperceptible wink.

I got my fee. Imploring him on bended knee should never have been necessary. Never having experienced it himself, the travails of a practicing attorney were foreign to him.

My saving grace was the realization that, between the two of us, he had been the more embarrassed.

He had been absent the day real life was taught.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


He was starting the practice of criminal defense. The place was Arizona. It was 1962. Three years in Air Force Jag had provided a degree of trial experience, but now he had to earn a living. Scary for a rookie. He was a romantic, a dreamer, and this challenge was no exception. He had a goal. And that was to get to the top. This would be realized by ultimately representing the highest tier of potential clients: organized crime. But credentials were required. A rookie the Big Boys did not seek out. He got a break. The most illustrious, successful criminal defense attorney in Tucson had taken a liking to him and offered  a partnership. He was taken by the hand and introduced to the essential players: the cops, sheriffs, A.D.A's, with the powerful preface of "he's with me." An education far beyond the reach of any law school. Finally, he met the local members of La Cosa Nostra. His foot was in the door. His to validate or screw-up. His senior partner allowed him to sit in on meetings, whenever appropriate, and his mind edited every word before his mouth was allowed to pronounce. His acceptance gradually took root. His participation in office meetings increased and, eventually, he was dining or having drinks with them. It was all very exciting. The public fawning juiced him. Hero worship? Not precisely, but very close. He was young, ambitious and he dug it. Time passed and one night, he was to meet them for drinks, alone, without his mentor. He felt elevated from the ranks of freshmen. And he was still in awe of it all.

The best thing about the Tidelands was that, in the West, it was the closest thing to the East. A plush, dimly lit cocktail lounge with thick carpeting, a long bar, personnel who were surprisingly hip and a musical group providing cool sounds as a perfect backdrop for just about anything. The red brick walls were lined with red leather cushioned booths, serving as an enclosing perimeter of the tables which protruded from the many barstools. An atmosphere inviting you to forget and relax.

When he arrived, he spotted the client, John, sitting at the bar with another man whom he had not met.

"Hey, Gerry, right on time. Vodka and tonic, isn't it?"

"That'll be fine, John, and thank you."

The bartender, forever standing nearby, immediately mixed the drink as if John was his only customer which, for practical purposes, was true. This special attention preceded John in all public places.  The attorney always picked up on this and, yes, it provoked envy. They tapped glasses and he took a long swallow. Into the mouth and over the gums, watch out stomach, here it comes.

"I want you to meet a personal friend of mine," John said, referring to the man at his left, "say hello to Carl (redacted). Carl, this is one of my lawyers." The ensuing handshake threatened to fracture his knuckles.

Carl's looks were unique. He was dark skinned, with closely cropped grey hair, muscles which would bulge through a sheepskin coat, and an unlit cigar butt which would forever be clenched between his side teeth. He was a man of very few words, each one of which would speak volumes, who would ignore anyone he didn't know or trust. Until and unless that status was achieved, Carl would simply not acknowledge your existence. He wore a perpetual scowl as if angry was his mood of every day. A pleasant expression rivaled the sunrise and a smile was the equivalent of a Papal blessing.  He was, in short, a genuine tough guy and a man with whom you did not f-ck around. You missed this message at your peril.

The lounge was crowded to capacity, with the music from a quintet barely audible above the conversational commotion, like a party which had captured that elusive intangible of spontaneous excitement. John did not tolerate empty glasses and, before long, the young lawyer was enjoying the positive benefits of booze, that relaxing glow which delineates the boundary between pleasure and the toxic pain of overindulgence. He made a mental note of downshifting to the slower pace of sipping as a fresh drink was placed before him. Drinking too much would be disqualification from a world in which he was on probation.

He was aware of frequent glances at John and whispers of "do you know who he is?", a notoriety to which both John and Carl had long since been accustomed, but it was still exciting to him and he wanted this scene not to end. Even Carl was beginning to occasionally grunt his way, making the evening all the more magical.

From the time of the attorney's arrival, a large man wearing a ten gallon hat and cowboy boots, had been sitting at the bar to John's right. He now rose from his stool and began winding his way around the tables on the crowded floor and joined two other men similarly dressed in western garb. He was a dead ringer for the Marlboro Man: rugged, tanned, well over six feet tall, epitomizing the "western" look. His companions were of the same mold---buckeroos with buckles and muscles---but they were loud and boisterous, hell-bent on serious drinking. Rhinestone cowboys, refusing to be fenced in.

As the lawyer slid onto the vacant bar stool, he noticed that the Lone Ranger had left four dollars and change on the bar. He moved the money a bit to the left and forward, nearer to the edge of the counter. It had either been forgotten or meant as a tip, but, in any event, it was neither his money nor his business and he had merely relocated it a few inches.

Suddenly, in the midst of conversing with John, four words exploded within inches of his ear.

"You took my seat!"

An apprehensive hush enveloped the bar area and beyond, as all heads turned in the direction of the shout. It was the Marlboro Man whose seat he had taken. He was standing directly behind John and his non-focusing eyes told his story. Thoroughly and belligerently plastered,  his tone unmistakably threatened violence.

John glanced at the man, one time, turned back to his glass, said nothing and made no move whatsoever. Carl's jaw muscles were pulsating furiously as his teeth clenched to a steady beat. His body lurched ever so slightly, as if coiled to attack, but John said,"Not now, Carl," and there was no movement.

"Maybe you didn't hear me, fella, so I'll tell you again. You took my seat!"

The cowboy's voice was even louder than before, menacingly demanding trouble. The cigar butt dropped from Carl's mouth onto the bar, bitten clean through. His teeth must have ground into powder. With stoic determination, he put down his drink in readiness to respond, but John, again, softly  said, "Not now, Carl," causing self-control to just barely prevail over animal instinct.

Since John's first backward glance, neither he nor Carl had looked at the cowboy. The tension in the lounge had mounted and become tangible. The jerk pressed it.

"You dirty son sonofabitch, you even stole my money!"

As he shouted this accusation, his right hand grasped firmly onto John's left shoulder. Big mistake. Bye-bye, point of no return. John, still outwardly calm and composed, very slowly shifted his gaze to the hand on his shoulder, negatively shook his head as if surrendering to fate, sighed deeply and whispered, "O.K., now, Carl."

For years to come, the lawyer would swear that Carl never left his seat as he made his move. Like a shot, his right fist smashed into the cowboy's nose with devastating impact, propelling him backward, summersaulting over two tables and hitting the floor with the thud heard 'round the world. He was out cold, with John and Carl seemingly oblivious to anything unusual having happened at all.

But the two other musketeers were not so inclined to ignore the incident. They rose from their table, in unison, and began to make their way to the bar, seeking to avenge their unconscious colleague. Because the floor tables were positioned so close to each other, for maximum seating capacity, they could approach in single file only, and accordingly, arrived one at a time.

John moved not at all, while Carl, consistent with his devotion to energy conservation, stood only when the whites of number one's eyes were in plain view. He greeted this first oncoming chin squarely on the button with a perfectly timed, ferocious right hand punch, endowed with every ounce of his strength. The sound was that of tearing flesh as number one fell as if yanked downward by a neck chain of iron. This demolition accomplished two things: it gave the Marlboro Man a companion in dreamland, and, to Carl, unimpaired access to charging buckeroo number two. Carl's expertise was truly magnificent. His feet shifted in synchronization with his bloodied right fist which was drawn back and again launched forward. The fracture of bone was heard as number two flew back and down with his head fortunately landing on the shoes of a retreating onlooker. A momentary silence was broken by Carl muttering "f-ck!" as he examined a split or broken knuckle. This commentary, on the way things were, served as a cue to the Maitre d' who directed security, with haughty finesse, to get rid of of the fallen three while he showered John with profuse apologies, ordered drinks on the house for everyone, and inquired if all was right with Carl, vowing that such an inconvenience would never happen again. Chairs and tables were rearranged, the quintet began another set, the patrons tried to remember what they had been doing so they could get back to it, and only the the constant crowd murmur attested to Carl's demonstration of Italian martial arts. The young lawyer, disregarding a prior pledge, consumed a fresh drink, completely bypassing the function of swallowing.

John and Carl conversed as if there had been no interruption, while the attorney vowed never to cause so much as a hint of a furrow on Carl's brow and mentally memorialized him at the top of a list called "Who Not to Piss Off In Order To Live."

Some memories not only never die, they never even begin to fade away.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


The Occupy movement has its genesis in the debt-ceiling budget debacle and the bank bailouts. It represents the drowning middle class, desperately screaming for a life preserver. It is the bastard child of the Tea Party.

The infusion of cash into the banking system had a string attached. Lend it out to the public on reasonable terms. This implicit promise was betrayed. Credit interest rates skyrocketed. Foreclosures became the name of the game. Homelessness became a national fabric. Something began to stir. In the usually dormant middle class.

The Tea Party, through its robotic, congressional surrogates, refused to consider any remedy other than the cutting of entitlements, as a means of solving the deficit problem. The middle class rustlings began to ferment. People, comprising the citizenry majority, had no prevailing leader.  Their elected officials, burdened with the weight of reasonableness, had been overrun by zealots who were targeting their lifelines of existence. They needed a voice. They became their own.

When people are desperate, struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, with reasonably paying jobs nowhere to be found, governed by a stymied political system, watching rich corporations getting richer, reading about outlandish bonuses to already-fat-cat CEO's, feeling the pain of rising credit card interest rates, with no help in sight and nowhere to turn, history teaches that strange things can happen. The atmosphere is set for a strong leader to emerge.

It can even be the incumbent with a more aggressive attitude. He has the ammunition: the defeat of the jobs bill at the hands of an arrogant, extremist legislature. The cure for the majority destroyed by a minority. We are witnessing the embryo of social revolution (see my post of 4/9/2011).

This is global in nature. Do not turn the dial.


I was in the third grade when it began in the schoolyard, during a recess. Nicky, my age, same grade, approached me and demanded a candy bar that had been packed with my lunch. My reaction to the beginning of this ordeal has never been clear to me. There had been no prior contact with him.  He was bigger, meaner and tougher than me. That was the basis for the beginning. The suddenness of his approach and his sadistic manner frightened the hell outta me. His face, especially his eyes, reflected a bad seed. I gave him what he wanted and he slapped me. A few kids noticed but said nothing.
"I'll see you tomorrow."
That night, I slept very little.

It picked right up the next day. Half a sandwich extorted. Then it became my entire lunch. I was living in two worlds. In class, I almost forgot and was almost happy, but with recess, the nightmare returned. The demands intensified. He wanted my belongings. First, my lucky-charm rabbit's foot. Then, my wallet. Then, whatever change my mother had given me. It got worse. I began secreting things out of my bedroom in the hope that it would please him. Sometimes, it didn't and I was pushed, tripped and threatened. One night, while supposedly falling asleep, I tried to analyze the sordid mess. Bottom line; I was terrified. Fear had become my way of life. I was afraid to stand up to him. And I hated myself for being a coward. My burden of being bullied was compounded by self-loathing. I had no idea where the end was and found it hard to believe that an end was possible. A classmate, who knew everything, implored me to, at long last, tell my parents, but I demurred. That was unthinkable. To reveal my lack of courage to my Dad would shame me forever. Being an only child obviated the intervening help of an older brother. It seemed I had no lifelines. Then, fate stepped in.

One early evening, my parents had a sit-down with me. Aside from noticing my change of mood and behavior, they had discovered the disappearance of my many personal items. I was confronted and finally fessed up. My Mom's reaction was shock, sympathy and forgiveness. My Dad's was that as well but with the governing emotion of anger. He was really pissed. At me, but more so, at Nicky. He wanted to know where Nicky lived and realized that it was just a mile away. It was summer, daylight 'till 8p.m. or later. "Let's go!"

He was not "Father", he was "Dad". That just about says it all. Blue collar and a graduate of Street Smarts University. Looking back, he was a downtown guy, a savvy, wonderfully loving and super dad. He held my hand as we walked, encouraging me with every step. I was glad that he was taking charge, but still mortified and more than a little afraid as we approached Nicky's house. A middle-aged woman was sitting on the steps. Nicky's mother. My Dad told her the story, in detail, making no effort to mask his hostility. At first, she refused to believe any of it, vehemently shaking her head from side to side. But my Dad would not be put off. He kept repeating the accusations and challenged her to bring her son forward. And, then, he saw, on the steps, one of my games which rightly belonged in my room. The woman instantly recognized it as something not belonging to her son. She began screaming for him to come out of the house. When he took in the scene, especially the look on his mother's face, he showed his capacity for fright. She took off one of her shoes and began hitting him on his head, demanding that he bring out all that was mine. My Dad handed my stuff to me, as he was assured that due punishment would be meted out and the reign of terror was over. Nicky never looked at me. Even once. Not a glance.

On the way home, being the type of guy that he was, he neither lectured nor scolded. He simply said,"I bet, if you ever see that kid again, you'll knock the crap out of him." He was able to appreciate the hell I had been through, and the shame, right up to the finale. Boy, did I love him. Even when he was taken, just prior to my thirteenth birthday, I never let dwindle, and continued to bask in, the comforting memories of our relationship.

I did meet Nicky, again, two months later. I was playing ball in the schoolyard when he appeared with some friends. He looked at me with a smart-ass smile but said nothing. I said nothing and did nothing. I did not live up to my Dad's expectations. I didn't have the guts. I never shared this epilogue with anyone.  I was too ashamed. I repressed my feelings and this effectuated a character flaw which stayed with me for several years, extending into my young adult life, until I was able to face it, grab it, and throw it away.

It took its toll in a self-destructive way, a desire to punish and take myself to task.

Whenever someone would do or say anything to me, which I took to be insulting in nature (and I was wrong in this regard about 99.9% of the time), I would not immediately react. But, beginning that very night, I would indulge in the guilt, shame and vengeance game, and when an indefinable point had been reached, I would argumentatively meet the person, who hadn't the foggiest notion of what I was talking about, and offer (just short of a challenge) to fight him. This never materialized because my perceived foe would innocently say something to diffuse the situation and make me feel silly. The confrontation,nevertheless, in and of itself, would pacify my inner turmoil, and I would, that night, sleep soundly. Even if I would have gotten the worst of it, in an actual fight, I would have felt better.

As I grew older, I was able to realize that the "confrontation" was really with myself, and that this proclivity was completely inconsistent with, and had no place in, a normal adult life.

Emotional experiences, during formative years, often leave their mark. for better or worse. In the latter case, the cop, inside us, hopefully puts up his hand and stops a red light from being run.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


The viagra commercial proudly proclaims, "In case of an erection lasting 4 hours or more, seek immediate medical help." EXACTLY WRONG. DO NO SUCH THING. Instead, call the classifieds and publish an AD under "Services rendered. Exhaustion guaranteed." Just before the medication wears off, (bummer!) call a taxidermist.

"Don't blame Wall Street. Don't blame the banks. If you don't have a job, blame yourself." Such was the ranting of Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain against the Wall Street protesters. The arrogance of the man! Heaven forbid, he should have any sympathy for those fired from their jobs by wealthy and powerful corporations under the misnomer of "cost-cutting" as opposed to "profit-increasing."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) referred to the activists as a "mob which has pitted Americans against Americans.", a description much more accurately referencing the Tea Party, whose cause Cantor embraces. Stop the world. I wanna get off.

 The "bailout" of 2008 was, in fact, an infusion of billions of dollars into the country's leading banks. The plan's expectations called for lending to the public so as to ease credit and restore confidence. The Treasury was on its knees, desperate to avoid a total collapse of the financial system which would trigger another Great Depression, or worse. The banks, realizing and taking advantage of their bargaining power, refused any attached strings which would regulate what they did with the dough, such as reducing yearly bonuses to CEO's. Today, they continue to impose usage costs on customers. Bank of America plans to charge a $5 monthly fee for use of its debit cards in making purchases. Having to pay for access to your own money! A fee too far.

In the original movie "Rollerball", starring James Caan, the world was governed by international corporations. No governments. The population was compulsorily fed mood relaxers. There were no wars, no outbreaks of rage. The venting apparatus for all citizens was the ultra-violent world game of Rollerball where teams from each country played each other in contests to the death. The howling spectators were refrained by steel fences. Extremely futuristic, wouldn't you say? But then again, who would have thought that the old "Buck Rogers" movies, replete with men traveling into space, were actually portending things?

Figure this one out: Three traveling salesmen enter a motel, seeking to bed-down for the night. The clerk informs them that there is only one room available for thirty dollars. Each man pays ten. Subsequently, the clerk realizes that the room only costs twenty-five. He gives the bellhop five singles to refund the men. On the way to the room, the bellhop decides to keep two dollars for himself, and delivers three dollars to the men, one dollar to each guy. Now--originally--each man paid ten bucks, but he is now receiving one back. That means that each man wound up paying nine bucks. Three times nine is twenty-seven. Two taken by the bellhop is twenty-nine. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE EXTRA BUCK?

There's a story making the rounds about an an alleged failed attempt, several years ago, by Mitt Romney to swim the English Channel. In explaining why he was unsuccessful, he claimed he had so much grease on his body that he kept slipping out of the water.

Two stoned jazz musicians were strolling at midnight. One, looking up at the sky and pointing at the full moon, asked, "Hey, man, what's that?"
The other replied,"Don't ask me, dude, I don't live around here."

Not so long ago, I suggested that the stagnation stand of the Tea Party, and its House Republican zombie-followers, in the debt ceiling debate, was an attempt to establish a minority-rules-the-majority way of political life which would be rejected by the American people. The Wall Street protesters, championing the rights of the middle class, are a reflection of that rejection. When you see them on T.V.,study them. It's like looking in a mirror.

Today's big news was the foiling of an Iranian plot to terrorize the U.S. with bullets and bombs. The intricate details of our military- intelligence network, to which we are not privy, are staggering in their effectiveness. The Obama administration is continuing and augmenting the Bush anti-terror policy. We know only what it is possible to disclose, and that's the way it should be. All intelligence agencies and  the military should be permanently saluted. And, don't look now, the credit begins at the White House.

I believe that our political times can best be compared to a pendulum. Slowly but surely, left to right and back again. Its timing is of the essence. Remember, it always makes its way over the center. Come the 2012 elections, that's where it shall be. The man whose course of conduct has been steady, consistent and reasonable, shall be at center stage at the right time. That's why President Obama shall be re-elected.

Things have a way of working out, in their own time.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


In July of 2011, John Demjanjuk, former U.S. autoworker who was deported to Germany to stand trial, was convicted of 28,060 counts of accessory to murder for serving as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. Munich prosecutors argued that if they could prove that he was a guard at a camp like Sobibor --established for the sole purpose of extermination--it was enough to convict him of accessory to murder as a part of the Nazi's machinery of destruction. It was the first time someone was convicted in a Nazi-era case without direct evidence that the suspect participated in a specific killing.

It has not yet been tested in court whether the Demjanjuk precedent could be extended to guards of Nazi camps where thousands died but whose sole purpose was not necessarily murder. Murder and related offenses are the only charges in Germany that are not subject to a statute of limitations.

Immediately after the war, top Nazis were convicted at war crimes tribunals run by the Allied powers while investigations of the lower ranks eventually fell to German courts. But there was little political will to aggressively pursue the prosecutions, and many of the trials ended with short sentences or the acquittal of suspects in greater positions of responsibility than Demjanjuk had. However, the current generation of prosecutors and judges in Germany has shown a new willingness to pursue even the lower ranks.

The enemy is time. The number of victims and Nazi criminals still alive is lessening daily. The test for the German judicial system is to see if prosecutions can be expedited in an appropriate manner to enable these cases to go forward. The sights have been reset and progress is being made.

And, yet, on the other hand.....................

Acquaintances, of the Jewish faith, recently vacationed in Germany. On their list of things to do was a visit to Dachau, the site of a World War II death camp. When they advised the hotel of their plan, they were offered the services of a guide with vast experience in this sort of thing. During the drive, he began theorizing on the Holocaust and told them the following: Hitler was completely misunderstood. The actual culprits were Joseph Goebbels, minister of propaganda who committed suicide rather than surrender to the Allies, and Herman Goering, Nazi leader and politician, who, having been sentenced to death at the Nuremberg war trials, committed suicide in his cell. They acted without Hitler's knowledge, who, in his own way, was not a dedicated anti-Semite. Further, he explained, gas chambers and crematoriums never existed. To be sure, he acknowledged, people died at Dachau, but this was from over-work and not as a result of premeditated murder. When they were shown structures clearly having served as gas chambers and ovens, he steadfastly denied their existence.

Upon their return to the U.S., the couple wrote a detailed letter of complaint to the hotel, which reflected its "sadness" for the experience and wished the senders a happy Jewish new year.

In a contest of evil, between perpetrators of the Holocaust and the denying revisionists, the difference is not distinguishable. Anti-Semitism was ingrained into the population of the Nazi years. This was not without exception. There were German citizens who risked their own lives to save others during this black chapter of history. The new generation, and its leaders, seeks to dissipate the taint of its forebears.

The necessary element of passage of time is in no way inconsistent with "never forget."

Learning from confronting effectuates cognitive therapy.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I'm sure there are some, but I've never encountered an indigent doctor. They enjoy God-like status and act like it. And dentists have it made. They are so specialized, they refuse to think beyond their own field. It's a referral network. The influx of loot in both professions is never-ending. And it's steady. By the time students have graduated from med school and gone through internship, their futures are just about guaranteed. More power to them, reaping the benefits of hard work.

A switch of gears is required when contemplating the plight of law students. During their senior year, they are gripped by anxiety. Will they pass the bar exam? And then, what? How will they earn a living? Top-notch law schools pour out highly qualified graduates each year, flooding the market with job seekers. The top percentile score with the prestigious law firms. The majority ponder in the face of uncertainty. Letters of recommendation, interviews, a consideration of military JAG---anything to prevent joblessness. They refuse, in any way, to acknowledge the  misconception of trial attorneys.

Litigious, slick, manipulative and exploitative. That's the misguided stereotype which is pervasively advertised to the public. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A litigator is, by definition, an extrovert, a type A personality and neurotic. Anyone who's not settles for mediocrity. "Tort lawyers cause insurance rates to rise. Criminal defense attorneys represent the guilty." Baloney. When an individual is injured by the  negligence of others, the first scream heard is, "Get me the best lawyer and tell him to get me maximum money." Someone charged with a crime instructs his lawyer to "do whatever it takes to get me off." And heavy responsibilities are assumed by men and women dedicated to uphold the solemnity and integrity of the trial system of justice.

These are noble professionals who shall receive our respect the old fashioned way.

They shall have earned it.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


"Traveling from secret bases on opposite sides of Yemen, armed drones from the CIA and the military's Joint Special Operations Command converged above Anwar al-Aulaqi's position in northern Yemen early Friday, 9/30/2011, and unleashed a fury of missiles." (Greg Miller-Washington Post-9/30)
Aulaqi was killed.

He was an imminent threat to the security interests of the United States and was deliberately hiding in a place where neither the U.S. nor Yemen could realistically capture him. He had played a direct role in the plot to blow up a jet over Detroit and had become an operational figure within al-Quaeda's affiliate in Yemen. Having been born in New Mexico, he was a U.S. citizen. That fact has prompted criticism from prominent liberal organizations, such as the ACLU.

Their complaints are predicated upon an alleged failure to afford an American citizen the constitutionally mandated right to Due Process of law. The plain language definition of Due Process is "fairness." The goal, they advocate, should have been to capture and bring him to trial, whereby he would have enjoyed such benefits as the presumption of innocence and the right to confront witnesses called to testify against him, etc. They claim that a dangerous precedent has been set for the targeted killing of  U.S. citizens without judicial process, based upon evidence kept secret from the public and the courts.

The belief that such objections are made in the utmost good faith legitimizes motive but not common sense. We are at war. With terrorism. We were attacked by this enemy on 9/11 in a manner arguably reminiscent of the 1941 Pearl Harbor tragedy. Both events rallied the nation. Both events called for vengeance. Complete and unqualified. The axiom of World War II was "unconditional surrender." So it is now.

War is never a gentleman's sport. An approach to our military heroes, returning from combat, must be gingerly made. Their wounds are not confined to the surface. Memories are indelible. Whatever happened to the Due Process rights of the World Trade Center victims, the vast majority of whom were American citizens?

In the matter at hand, an opinion was initially sought from the Justice Department which promulgated a green-light memorandum, without which the CIA would not have acted. Detailed evidence, validating the classification of Aulaqi as a genuine threat to national security, was presented and is available to the public, surely in lesser detail, in daily press reports. This intelligence/military operation should be applauded and grounds for high confidence in the Obama administration. The buck stops with the President. He should be saluted.

Our terrorist enemies are fanatics who gladly commit suicide at every opportunity to murder us. Any of their members who are technically American citizens should be deemed to have waived all rights attending that status. Those thinking otherwise, motives notwithstanding, should reexamine their opinions through the the filter of war's realities.

Mainstream sentiments of our two political parties should be respected. Extremism, in either, is bad for the brew and should be rejected.

Being a U.S. citizen did have implications for Aulaqi. He was not only a terrorist, but a traitor, as well.

Friday, September 30, 2011


At the last GOP debate, why wasn't there some response by any of the candidates when members of the audience booed a gay soldier, on the job in Iraq, asking about the don't ask-don't tell law? The strongest after-the-fact statement was "unfortunate." This man, one of our finest, risking his life for his country,  should be greeted with "God bless you" or "We are grateful for your service", regardless of what he has to say. Is the fear of the ultra conservative right that strong? Let's get centered here. Enough gutless silence. A soldier gets a pass on boos from any audience.

Why are acts of violence (read "kill") committed exclusively by pro-lifers against pro- choicers? Might it reflect out-of-control maniacal zealots versus reasonable people who dare to have another view? Believe what you will, but a doctor providing abortion services, in a responsible medical way, will not be charged with any degree of homicide. People should be able to disagree without killing each other. Or is the right of pro-choice an exception to that rule? And why must this issue be discussed in whispered tones?

Never, ever, discuss politics while drinking.

If a close friend or relative of a criminal defense attorney is killed by a drunk driver, watch that lawyer's zeal in defending OUI cases plummet off the chart.

Why are so many self-professed intellectuals really pseudo-intellectuals?

Why do men, at the height of their good-look swag, get unnecessarily short haircuts, and have to hibernate 'till it grows back. A full head of hair is a man's strongest asset. Groom, don't cut.

I don't care who you are or what you do, always have a wintergreen BreathSaver in your mouth. What an edge you'll have, comin' owtta the gate.

Why do young people refuse to benefit from advice of elders, insisting on making the same mistakes themselves, before paying heed?

How to handle a woman? Look to Camelot: "Simply love them, love them, love them," Try to top that.

A key member of the Boston Red Sox, following their stunning loss to Baltimore, coupled with the more stunning Tampa Bay come-from-behind victory over the Yankees, said"I believe in God and it was his will that we not make the playoffs." Can you even try to picture those words being spoken by Ted Williams, Babe Ruth,Joe Dimaggio, or players of their ilk?  They'd be kicking empty cans all over the lot, as well as their own asses. Please, a breakdown is a collapse is a choke.

Falling in love with love is falling for make-believe.

Weren't former president of Egypt Hosna Mubarak, former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and former dictator of Iraq Saddam Hussein all one time allies of the United States? Receiving monies and weapons from us? Don't look now, but their being overthrown at our initiative, has worsened the security of those regions and ours as well. We should pick our poisons more carefully.

Why the hesitation in unequivocally stating that President George W. Bush lied us into the Iraq war and all that inevitably followed. He was a puppet of his Vice President and did what he was told. Funny, if it wasn't so damned dangerous. Can you ever forget his reaction, caught on tape, to being told, by Andrew Card, of the Twin Tower attacks? THERE WAS NONE FOR 8 SECONDS. Cheney was the man in charge and issued the tough orders. A most competent guy, when he's on your side.

I am not a racist. But a Mosque near the site of Ground Zero insults the memories of those slain and does irreparable damage to their families and loved ones. Like building an Auschwitz memorial on the West Bank. Any constitutional argument in support, should be trumped by common sense.

Yes, I do get very concerned when I see people in Muslim garb flying on the same flight. I remain anxiously vigilant and pray that there are FBI agents, posing as passengers, on the plane. I'll bet I'm not alone.

Two stoned guys conversing: "Is Rip Torn his real name?"
"Is Rip Torn who's real name?"

"God grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."
Is that not up there, just beneath the Bible, as a standard for living?

If you knew Suzy like I knew Suzy, her father would be after you, toozy.

President Obama, avoiding the speed lane while staying in the middle of traffic, will slowly but surely win the race. His car is named "REASON."

As Mrs. Cassidy said to Mr. Cassidy, "It's time to hopalong."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


He was a walk-in. No appointment but what the hell, could be moolah. He sat across from me. Not from Gentlemen's Quarterly, for sure. Dressed like a shitbum. A tilted stocking cap on his head. A schmuck with earflaps. His face was sunburned and scarred from cheek to cheek and nose to chin. Looked like a hot- crossed-bun. The following is a verbatim transcript of our dialogue, with pertinent commentary.

"The CIA is trying to kill me."

"Frequently happens."

"They're sending me signals through my TV." Hmmmm. This guy has made it to the second rung.

"The electro-waves from my radio and phone are also sending me messages."

"Have you notified the FBI?"

"Are you crazy? They're in on it too." The first three words sorta grabbed me.

"I'm being poisoned through my water pipes." That's a first. Give the guy credit.

"Do you have any proof of this?"

"I certainly do." Bluff-calling time.

"They've filled my kitchen sink tap with urine." The cuckoo's nest has come to rest.

He reached into his coat pocket, pulled out a wrinkled brown paper bag, from which he produced a small bottle filled with an auburn liquid. I recoiled in horror as he placed it on my thirty-five hundred dollar desk. I screamed,"No-no," as he lurched forward as if to open it.

"Please. The chain of custody must be preserved. Put it back!" I prayed to the God of Lysol.

"Will you help me?"

Got to be diplomatic, here. Any possibility of a complaint to the Board of Bar Overseers must be nipped in the bud.

"I'm sorry, sir. This office specializes in criminal defense work. We simply do not handle CIA-attempt-to-murder cases."

Rejected and deflated, he left with whatever the hell it was. As he closed the door behind him, my phone rang. It was a very deep voice. "Ya done good, kid." The caller ID reflected "NSA."

If it was a test, I passed.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Those were my orders, from my nationally famous partner, regarding the 1969 murder of Joseph Yablonski, an American labor leader in the United Mine Workers. Our firm was Bailey, Alch and Gillis, and that was F. Lee, if you please. He was the hottest lawyer in the country because he was the best lawyer in the country. He was gifted with the most extraordinary mind I have ever seen in play. Watching him work was an exhilarating and educational experience. He was a stunning genius on his feet. I would watch him cross-examine a witness and have no idea as to where he was going. And if I didn't, the witness had no clue. When the inevitable trap was ultimately sprung, the witness was decapitated. I watched and studied his moves, as my personal criminal trial education continued. I was learning from the Master. These were heady, fast-track times.

The day after the Yablonski murder, our office received a call from a woman who identified herself as the sister of one of the alleged shooters who was about to be arrested and charged, and who wanted Bailey as his attorney--fast! An appointment was made for him on the following day at 2p.m. Bailey, whose commitments had him flying, non-stop, all over the country, was unable to be there and thus delegated to me the most urgent and important task of getting the client signed. I looked Lee straight in the eye and solemnly declared my realization that this was a most challenging assignment and that he need not worry. I was not without talent and would roar to the occasion. Lee felt certain that this would be a big score, since the suspect's fees would be paid by the Union, not known to handle things in a niggardly way. The secretaries were duly advised as to the next day's preeminent event and all was at the ready. A notorious case, bringing in a hefty fee, created the atmosphere we lived for. And I would be the one to lock it up.

I was late getting back from court. Maximum panic mode. Please, Lord, let the guy be patient. If not, it's off the roof. Schmuck, schmuck, schmuck. I ran from the elevator, stopped briefly to gather myself, and entered our penthouse suite. There, sitting in the waiting area, was my man. Muscles bulging under his t-shirt, soiled jeans, an unmistakeable Mine Worker murderer. I introduced myself, apologizing profusely for my tardiness, and beckoned him to follow me down the hall to my office. Don't run, idiot, and be cool. I grandiosely gestured him to a chair as I noticed my secretary waiving me over.

"You may have to speak up a bit, he's a little hard of hearing."
"No problem, thanks."

I sat across my desk from him, and decided to get right on with it. You don't bullshit with guys like this. I studied him, mano a mano, and let it fly. Skip the preliminaries.
"Sir! You killed Yablonski! Mr. Bailey will take your case. I've discussed it with him. The retainer will be $50,000. He'll set the final fee down the line when the facts are clearer. Is that agreeable?"

The guy just stared at me. No expression. No reply. Thirty seconds passed. Zilch. Then I remembered what my secretary had told me. I was talking too softly. The guy couldn't hear me. I moved my chair up, so that the edge of my desk was collapsing my chest. I sat erectly (relax-I'm not going there), leaned forward into the famed giraffe position, and bellowed, "Okay! You killed Jablonski!  Bailey will take the case! Fifty grand up front, the total fee to be set later!" I was, just about, yelling.

Same freakin' thing. Nada. Maybe his eyes widened to the point of the pupils popping out, but he said not a word. Another thirty seconds of silence. Perhaps I should sit on his head and risk spritzing his eardrum with saliva. Suddenly, thank God, I perceived lip movement.

"My name is Jim Duffy. Yesterday, I got pinched for drunk driving. That's why I'm here."

Ha-Ha! The Alch could not be fooled that easily. I shot right back.
"No need for that, Sir. This is a privileged conversation. My lips are sealed. Murder is a heavy charge, but we're here to help you!" My secretary later told me that she could hear me through the walls.

He rose from the chair, white as snow, opened my door and began fast-trotting down the hall. I took chase. He was muttering, "These f--kin' guys are nuts! A lousy OUI ticket and I'm lookin' at the chair!"

"Come back. Please stop. We have to talk!" But, it was no use. The guy jumped on the elevator and was gone. I had lost him and probably Bailey's confidence as well. I had flubbed the dub.

Subsequent events proved not so. The next day, the sister called, apologizing for her brother being a no-show. He had been steered to a union-connected lawyer. The big case had simply never materialized. No fault of mine.

But, somewhere, in this world, there was a man undergoing a lobotomy, in a desperate attempt to rescue his sanity, and forever obviate his fear of serving fifteen years for a traffic ticket.

One thing, for sure. He would not be a repeat client.

True story. Dem waz da days.