Saturday, April 30, 2011


....because the details are branded on my heart.

I was at the counter in the Clerk's office, waiting in line to file a motion to suppress, when I turned to my left, down a short corridor leading to the Office of the Clerk, when I first saw her.
She was taking dictation. I could only see her right side, but it was enough to transfix me. You've got it right, enough to transfix me.

I didn't know exactly what it was, except that it was not within my control. Nor was the acceleration of my pulse. I put the legal papers back into my briefcase, because nothing that mundane had any significance at that moment, and began walking down the hall.
She was walking toward me. The space would not accommodate two-way traffic. We came face to face, stopped, and took each other's measure. She had a face that was--(when a more descriptive word comes along, I'll consider using it)--absolutely glamorous. Dark hair, contrasting with her fair skin tone, a nose for which other women would pay tens of thousands, and sparkling blue eyes which could comfortably supply enough energy for the planet. She was, quite simply, the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.
Want an update? Change "was" to "is", and "had" to "have".

Without premeditation, for my mind was not responsive to that mode, I said, "who are you?"
She shot back, "who are you?" Neither question was answered in words; we just kept staring at, and then, passed each other by. The conclusion, nevertheless, was inescapable. Lightening had struck.

The next day, I returned to file the same motion. She was the only clerk on duty and so this was to be our second encounter. I extended the document, looking directly at her, as I was emotionally compelled to do. She showed no sign of recognition. She didn't even look at me. Her attention seemed to be focused solely on the documents. When she took them from me, she overreached, causing hand to hand contact. The effect of being within touching distance of her, again overwhelmed me, as it had the day before, only ten times the magnitude.

It should be noted that this phenomenon, the passage of time, notwithstanding, has never even begun to, in any way, subside in intensity. That's the way it is, with these once-in-a-lifetime happenings.

To be continued.... when I'm in this zone again...for you can't hurry these things....nor can you make them up.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


The Tucson cops were on to her. "Her" was Collette Adams, thirty-five years of age, pretty hot, if you asked anyone who knew her, and a lot of people knew her. By day, she worked as a salesperson at the cosmetics counter of the largest department store in town. The pay stunk, even by post civil war standards, and she was in desperate need of supplemental income. Accordingly, by night, she was a prostitute.

Not your regular, typical, every night accomodater, mind you, but rather someone who would be available if the mood hit her just so and the gentleman was presentable enough to warrant her attention. In other words, she was a semi-pro. If the guy had hair, and the money was there, love was in the air.

One morning, as the earth kept spinning on its axis, a command decision was made to incur favorable publicity  by bringing Collette down. The plan was simple enough. It was to be, literally and physically, an undercover operation. Sgt. Laker, a big, strapping, handsome, veteran cop was to approach Collette, at her day job, and, posing as a customer needing help in choosing a present for his sister, (Collette believed this, which makes her head available for someone's rock garden), attempt to talk her into a crash for cash happening. He was cool enough to not mention specific sums but what was left unsaid was also crystal clear. Preparation details were now put into effect.

Two adjoining rooms were rented at a so-so motel at the edge of town. He would take her to room "A" while other cops, cameras at the ready, were in room "B", waiting to rush through the door and make the pinch, upon hearing the pre-ordained signal from Laker, to wit, a loud cough. Not necessarily sophisticated enough to make Double 07 take notes, but, it was what it was, whatever the hell that means.

They met that evening and Laker, relying on his years of experience as to traffic lights, stop signs, etc., made it to the motel in record time, i.e, faster than a speeding bullet ( hold that thought), and the couple began to embrace, quickly shedding their clothes, thereby setting the stage for the question.

"How much will this cost me?", he croaked, his hands indicating that he was in no way ready to perform  brain surgery.
"One hundred dollars", replied the cool Collette, instantly regretting starting so low.

At that moment, Laker coughed.

All hell broke loose. The cops came stampeding in, flash bulbs were illuminating the heavens and Collette was placed under arrest. She came to my office for representation and, pursuant to the natural order of things, we first discussed fee.

"I'm afraid I have no money."
"Well, I can't work for nothing."
"Can we work out some other method of payment?"
"Yes, oh yes."

I explained that, due to the complexities of the case, many, many attorney- client meetings would be necessary. She understood. So did the District Attorney, when he did not object to my motion for a six month continuance.

Alas, the trial date arrived and I felt o.k. with it. My defense would be "entrapment", showing that the criminal intent had originated with the police, who had persuaded my client to go along with it. My theory was in no way spurious and, truth be told, in the past, I had gone forward with much less to talk about.

Sgt. Laker, upon whom the prosecution's case was predicated, was straightforward and confident on direct examination. Midway through, the District Attorney reached for a stack of photographs on his table, selected about half and, with Laker's authentication, put them into evidence. They showed Collette, obviously terrified and embarrassed, desperately clutching for a bed sheet, in a vain attempt to conceal her naked body---all of them different angles of, basically, the same thing. Permission to publish them to the jury was granted, whereupon the D.A. gave them to the  foreman, who perused them, one by one, and handed them to the other jurors for their individual scrutiny.
Not unexpected, but damning, nonetheless. Direct was concluded and I rose to cross.

By virtue of mandatory (by my rules) and intensive pre-trial preparation, I knew what I was going after, but after a few introductory questions, I noticed something that made me pause, a tool which invariably causes an increase in jurors' attention. There, on the D.A.'s table were the unused photos taken at the time of arrest.

"Your Honor, may I examine those photographs (pointing) which the Prosecutor has chosen not to introduce?'
"Objection!" (and a loud one, too).
"No, overruled. You picked and chose; he has the right to at least look at them."
I did.

My first impulse was to immediately bring in the Marine Corps Marching Band, brass section blaring.
The pictures were perfectly focused and the lighting was of professional quality.

They portrayed Sgt. Laker, clad only in jockey shorts, and it would have been a severely uphill battle to dispute the contention that the jockey was still in them.

The talent of Sherlock Holmes was not required to conclude that the good Sergeant had thrown himself into his work, body and soul. And he, regardless of political affiliation, would lead the charge against any bill which proposed the cutting of entitlements.

"I move these photographs into evidence, Your Honor."
The sound of a canon: "Objection!'
"Let me see them, please."
I handed them to the Judge.

To this day, I can only wish that I had a video camera, with me that day, to record what next happened, step by step. The Judge nearly bit his pencil in half as a means of not losing his composure, completely. By the color of his face, it was even money that he was about to have a stroke.
Then, my coup-de-tat.
"May they be shown to the jury?"
A half-gargled "Yes." And, so they were.
It was difficult to, with much detail, distinguish the reactions of the women from the men, save for the fact that they blushed more. But the common denominator was a feeling of gladness at having sat on this particular jury. Standing alone, was the look on Laker's face. It was goddamn, unequivocal pride. I asked one last question.

"Isn't it fair to say, Sergeant, that in the period of time leading up to your arrest of my client, your state of mind was not completely focused on enforcing the laws of Arizona?"

A long pause, and still longer. "No further questions."

When the jury got the case, they retired to their space, solely for the purpose of using the rest rooms, before returning with a verdict of not guilty.
Adrenalized by the win, I quickly packed my briefcase and hurried to my office where, waiting for me, was the only woman I have ever truly loved, with whom I would always relive the details of my day.

But, that's another story.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

IF I ONLY KNEW SOMEONE LIKE ME---PART TWO (see prior post for Part One)

That Monday began with a good omen. An old client showed up at 9:30a.m. with five one hundred dollar bills in payment of expenses long forgotten. He pocketed the money with growing optimism. Things were turning around, and every little bit helped. The famine was about to end---he knew it---he felt it. Miracles might become believable again.

At 10:30a.m. on the button. his secretary buzzed to announce Flemming's punctual arrival He quickly arranged his desk with papers and open law books to reflect activity, and rose to greet him. Be cool, confident and alert. Fleming looked like hell, as if he hadn't slept in nights. Whatever he had on his mind was obviously important.

They shook hands as they exchanged warm hellos and sat across from each other at Ramin's desk.
"So, Dick, tell me what's going on."
Flemming grunted and coughed. "Ah, this is personal, John, and I want this conversation to die right here regardless of how it ends."
Jesus, Ramin thought, I'll bet he's the one looking for a lawyer----beautiful---bigger than I thought.

"It's not gonna be easy for me so bear with me." Flemming paused and looked down at the floor.
"I've got to begin with why I'm here, and I'm not gonna mention any names although I know you'll be very curious. Your name came up in a conversation the other night, and it  was extremely complimentary to you--extremely."
Ramin was convinced he had the power to read the future. Good things were coming.
"They kept emphasizing what a compassionate guy you are.
Because of that conversation, and what I heard,"---another awkward pause.
Ramin could see it clearly, now. He had not surrendered to the temptation of giving up; he had picked himself up, dusted himself off, and was about to get back in the race. His reputation was the hook that had brought this man to him, just as time was running out.

A deep breathe and then, finally, he came out with it.

"I'm in bad financial shape, John." A solid right uppercut to the gut. This wasn't the good stuff his dream had promised. He began to sweat. He felt himself falling in space.

"I have to be extremely careful," Flemming went on, "who I ask a favor from, because in my job, I can't be obligated to the wrong people---I've come close to that---haven't done it---don't wanna do it."
I can't believe this, Ramin told himself. This isn't really happening. But it was, goddammit, and Flemming kept talking.

"But, I'm going to be very honest--very honest. I am in desperate need of four hundred bucks---I mean now. I'm sorry to sound like I'm making a demand, but, believe me, I need it now." Ramin wondered if it was possible to faint with your eyes open. No question about it, if he bought a suit with two pair of pants, he'd rip the coat. He stared at Flemming but said nothing.

"The only way"---his face was very red---"I can pay you back is fifty bucks a week, from my salary. If I told you I could do it any sooner, I'd be lying. I mean, I could try borrowing from Peter to pay Paul but I've learned that leads to where I am now, in the crapper, face down. I know I can spare fifty a week from my salary. Please, I'm begging you---for a loan."

Bang! Right between  the eyes. Ramin's brain was numb--no available thought process, whatsoever. Thirty seconds went by before he could react .It was as if he had exited and risen above his body, looking down at this tragedy for two. Then, a deep rooted primal instinct awoke  and began vying for control. Like a Judge about to grant probation to a convicted defendant. All of his prior experiences in life had resulted in an omnipresent trait of compassion which, more often than not, would become the captain of his ship.

He looked straight at Flemming and softly said "Okay." He reached into his pocket and, with his fingers,  separated one bill and pulled out the remaining four. The man who stood before him was now a crumpled wreck. He spoke with a voice that, surprisingly, rang with a bit of authority.

"I'll give it to you on two conditions."


"I don't want fifty bucks a week. When you are able, repay me in a lump sum. I don't care whether it's six months, a year from now, whatever. That's how and when I'll take it from you. I'm not going to bleed you at fifty a pop. If you want to put something aside each week, that's up to you. And, one more thing. This conversation absolutely goes no further." He would want this said to him, were the roles reversed. He extended his hand holding the four bills. Flemming took the money. He had little control left and looked as if he was about to cry. Ramin got up from his desk and walked with him to the door. The two men looked at each other until Flemming averted his gaze and, in a barely audible voice, but one filled with relief and sincere gratitude, said, "Thank you, John, thank you." And he was gone.

Ramin just stood there for a while and then began to pace the floor, staring in disbelief at nothing in particular. He tried to mentally and emotionally digest what had just happened. Four hundred bucks which, let's face it, he really needed, he had given to a stranger, really, to whom he owed nothing, as if his pockets were lined with C-notes. It defied reason. Why hadn't he flat out refused? No. That was something he simply could not have done. Was he just a fool? A sucker? Probably both. Why hadn't he just told the truth and explained that he had a cash flow problem? But that would have been to knowingly self destruct.

He looked out his window, scratched his head and took a deep breath. There now existed, on this planet,  a human being who was in desperate need, and he had helped him, to a small degree, anyway. Was he a good guy or a mark? Probably both. But it was too late to do anything about it now---and he wondered if he really would, even if he really could. Somehow, I'll come out of this, he thought. And, hey, aren't good deeds recorded in indelible ink?

His excellent reputation had been confirmed, but, in this instance,  had cost him.

If I only got a little  lucky----

If I only  would hit the lottery---

If I only could get a new, heavy case---

If I only knew -------    ----     --.

Friday, April 22, 2011


If you asked judges, lawyers, or the guys on the street, the answer would be the same. John Ramin was a top-notch criminal attorney and raking in the dough. He represented the gamut of defendants, from organized crime to professional men in trouble. He was respected by the judiciary and press coverage of his trials consistently took note of his skills in cross-examination and jury presentation. In court, he was, simultaneously,  courteous and dynamic, arguing with a sincerity couched in the common language of common sense. He had perfected the art of timing which enabled him to dramatize even a dangling participle. The jury was his captive audience and his closing arguments were calculatingly paced, always building to a climax of logic which made a "not guilty" verdict difficult to resist. The prosecutors rated him tough but fair, someone to respect.The pressure and tension of a trial, with spectators following his every move, was his organic high. He was that good because he was that prepared. He was a family man and could not be tempted. He had not been born to wealth and bore the earmarks of a self made man. His was the image of unqualified success. And, he was flat broke.

 For the past four months, not one new client had sought to retain him. Income had ceased while the nut remained. There seemed no answer as to why. Discreet inquiries revealed that his professional reputation had in no way declined. If anything, potential clients were fee-shy to approach him, an image he was trying to discredit without spurning rumors of a declining law practice, for that could be fatally counter productive. He was late paying bills while bottom line obligations had reduced his meager savings to zilch.

It was becoming harder and harder to function. Sleep was irregular at best, and when he opened his eyes, the awareness of depression smacked him in the face. The first daily challenge was to get up from the bed-trap and out into the world. Any trace of optimism was a sham; a smile of confidence, a back-breaking effort. His secretary was running out of paperbacks to read. He would sit at his desk, staring at a phone which now rarely rang, wondering "why?--why?--why?
He would tell himself to keep the faith, that he had to hold on, taking it one day at a time. The sun would surely rise tomorrow and who could be certain of what a new tide would bring in.
Then, one Friday afternoon, he got a call from Dick Flemming.

Flemming was a widely read investigative reporter whose assignment was the criminal courts. He covered trials and wrote about the lawyers involved. He had seen Ramin in action and his reporting had been both fair and accurate. He and Ramin had often talked during recesses of ongoing trials and, most importantly, he would always honor the agreement that something be "off the record." But, he had never called before. This was not usual. His tone was urgent and his words hurried, as if he was onto something big and important.

"Can I see you Monday morning, John, say 9:30?"

"Hold on, Dick, let me check my diary."What garbage. The only entries were payment deadlines for bills.

"Monday is good. Anything wrong, Richard?"

"No, just something I need to talk to you about."

"Ok, see you then."

All weekend, Ramin fantasized as to what this call could mean. Flemming knew a lot of people, on both sides of the law. He was a pro, a veteran, and had often gained the confidence of prosecutors and defendants. His insight into what went on in the streets was his credential. He was respected as a man who could be trusted. What the hell did he want to talk about?

Perhaps a case was about to break, an indictment about to come down against a notorious underworld figure or prominent public official. The potential defendant might be looking for competent counsel in anticipation of imminent arrest. He may have approached Flemming for his recommendation and "John Ramin" may have been suggested and okayed. And why not? Flemming probably wanted the exclusive inside coverage of the case, from indictment to verdict, a behind the scene, step by step analysis of how a defense attorney  prepares for and then begins the war of trial. The publicity would be invaluable. Ramin would take the case for short money for it would surely catapult him back into the limelight--it would generate new business and, God, would that be welcome. He became obsessed with this stroke of good fortune--this was his bailout! The adrenaline began to flow. He'd be in action again. And, he was ready.

To be continued..............

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I experienced, what was for me, a most significant dream. I dreamt of 5 sheep jumping over 5 hurdles. I awoke when my clock radio, for no reason at all, turned on at 5 a.m. It was day number 5 of month number 5. ------I had a hunch.

I shaved, showered, dressed , wolfed down cornflakes , grabbed the paper outside my door and began to study the horse race listings for that day. Hold it, I said to myself, what are you doing? You can't make sense out of the stats anyway and, besides, you're going to play a hunch.

I hailed a cab to the track. The cab's registration number was 555. No question about it, I was on a fate mission. The pavilion was crowded with people batting their brains out, trying to pick the winners. No such fool's errand for me. Git outta my way!

I ran up to window #5 and purchased five $5 tickets on horse number 5 in race number 5.

Came in fifth.

Monday, April 18, 2011


I had been representing him for several years. He was no stranger to Federal authorities. He was connected. Accordingly, the fee arrangement was somewhat contingent in nature: I win, I live; I lose, I become uninsurable.
Fortunately, I had been ultra successful in my defense efforts. Four trials, four acquittals. We liked each other and he would frequently call me to ascertain how the wind was blowing. His antennae could pick up any bad vibes, whereupon he would immediately go on the lammsville. He was very careful about that---about staying out of harms way. His name was Frank Hamilton.

During this period, I would always purchase my clothes at a certain well known retail store. I had been going there for years. One salesman became my go-to guy. No pressure, just always eager to help. We became friendly. His name was Frank Hamilton.

One day I was looking for a raincoat, found one that I liked but my size was not in stock. Frank said that he would order what I wanted and  call me in a few days when it came in. That evening, I had second thoughts and told my young son that "if Frank Hamilton calls, tell him I don't want the coat."

Two days later, client Frank called, from his usual downtown phone booth. My son answered.
"Hello, this is Frank Hamilton. Is your Dad there?'
"No, he's gone to  the office but he left a message for you. He told me to tell you, if you called, that he doesn't want the coat."

Every internal alert bell was activated. His personal traffic controller reported for duty. He held the phone at his ear as the lessons of having lived so many years of "the life" swept over him.
He spoke, very deliberately.
"Doesn't---want---the---coat. Got it!"
He slammed the phone down, jumped to the sidewalk and hailed the first cab that drove by.

"Just drive."
"Where to?"
"I'll know when I get there."

Saturday, April 16, 2011


They are multiplying as you read this. They appear everywhere: opening doors for you, holding signs in the middle of traffic or just sitting on the sidewalk with an inverted hat in their laps. They are  not asking, they are begging for money.

They are not all the same. Some smell of booze. Others are sober but a little too slick, i.e. two men conversing in front of a convenience store. As you approach, one of of them, abruptly, breaks off the conversation and smartly opens the door for you. As you pass, he whispers "change when you come out, sir?"

A couple confront you in apparent great distress. The woman looks to be in substantial pain. The man explains that she is suffering from a pancreatic infection, she lives in  Rhode Island and the last train leaves in 45 minutes, the've barely got cab fare to the station but desperately need help with the train ticket.
In instances such as these, it is not exceedingly difficult to detect an absence of legitimacy.

But, there are other, different individuals, alleging specific circumstances, who have obviously abandoned any vestige of self-pride and have accepted the alleged stigma of shame.

A woman stands on the island separating north from south traffic. Her face, shorn of any makeup, is gaunt and reflects the essence of agony, desperation and despair. She bites her lower lip--hard--in a last ditch, but unreliable attempt to maintain what little remains of her composure. When a red light causes the traffic to temporarily come to a stop, she boldly holds up a crude, self-made sign: "mother of children; about to lose home; must feed them." She steps into the line of cars and moves amongst them, the sign held high, pleading with the drivers' faces, making the maximum use of her limited time before red turns to green.
Reason and decency tell you that she has lost all hope but is doing what she must, to lunge at survival.

As diverse as these individuals are, so too are the reactions of those who observe them.
Get a damn job---I've got my own problems---These people are mentally challenged and should be institutionalized, etc,, etc., etc.
Is there some kind of formula one can use to unerringly weed out the shams from the legits? 
The only thing that comes to my mind is our own moral compass, that intangible, but oh so important, body part which no cat scan or m.r.i. can capture: our conscience. Its percentage of accuracy is higher than you might think. 

At the risk of sounding immodest, a charge to which I have long ago pled guilty, I believe that my life's experiences have endowed me with a reasonably reliable ability to size people up at first sight. I recall the many times, as an attorney, when I sat in the well, awaiting the entrance of a Judge before whom I had never appeared. As he took the bench, I closely looked at his face and evaluated him. The issue to be resolved: nice guy or sonafabitch? I was not often wrong. I believe that what you are inside will, sooner or later, manifest itself on the outside.
And, so, I, personally, use this as my standard.
I give to these people, pocket change or a buck, when my heart and soul tell me that they are truly needy. I've sometimes passed them by, thought better of it, walked back and gave them something.

Will the recipient rush to the nearest bar? Will it make any significant difference in his life?
I don't know. Up real close, that's not the criterion for giving. 

I've gone with my gut. I did what I thought was the right thing to do.
That's why you'll always feel good about yourself. A little skip joins your walk.
Hey, maybe you'll hit the lottery. 
I said maybe.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


 This is neither based upon, nor inspired by, a true story. It is a true story. 0ne name has been changed to protect the sane.

The Commuter's Center was where the students, who couldn't afford to live at the college, hung out.
It was my third year and I was desperately searching for a "gut" course, one in which it was impossible to get a poor grade.  So much for scholastic ambition. A majority of the commuters, being Townies who majored in drinking dime beers (in those days), were also on the same hunt and a lively half-shlossed discussion was raging among those who still had sufficient command over their tongues so as to enunciate full sentences. Various countries were heard from. Indeed, I was not alone in this inglorious pursuit of academic excellence.

Suddenly, as much as a stupor can be sudden, a consensus was reached. PSYCHOLOGY 101. The skinny was that the professor would give objective multiple choice exams every Friday. But wait! These exams would be distributed to the students every Thursday! The weekly results, along with a final exam, would be the basis for the final grade. A select (sober)  committee was formed to investigate and verify. The results were corroborative! We had found our gut course! I signed up.

At the first class, however, I discovered something very upsetting.  I couldn't understand a word the professor was saying. It was all in a  psychological language-a code of some sort-and was as foreign to me as the personal hygiene habits of Mad Max. Taking notes was out of the question and so I spent the hour trying to make plans to escape. It was then that I recognized one of the other 199 students in the class. It was King Kagan! All was not yet lost.

His real name was Mendell Nebish, and he had been blessed, at birth, with the brain of a genius. And he was a friend of mine. Only, now, he would become my best friend.

He was a commuter and so meeting him was inevitable. When he spoke, at our initial meeting, his first sentence made my jaw drop. Incoming flies mandated  shutting my mouth, but not before I grasped his  extraordinary gift of brilliance, and I was determined to  immortalize him. But his name did in no way match his capabilities. Mendell Nebish as the successor to Albert Einstein just wouldn't fly. So, in my world, I successfully petitioned my Probate Court for a name change. Now, the book could be judged by its cover.
And so, it came to pass that Mendell became known and revered, on the Harvard campus, as King Kagan.

I approached King right after class and explained my dilemma. Further, I detailed my plan.

"Listen, King, here's what I want you to do. Each thursday, we'll meet at the Commuters' Center and compare each question with it's several multiple answers and you will show me the correct one. I shall mark it so. At night, I shall memorize which answer goes with each question by picking a key word in the question and matching it with a memorized key word in the answer. Like, in question one, I will have memorized and matched: "bird" with "tree" and voila! I will answer the question correctly without having any understanding of what the hell it's about. A foolproof combination of your  intelligence and my memory"
As  King evaluated my scheme, I could hear Sinatra singing inside his head, accompanying the magnificent machinations of his brain. He administered a full body scan of me and solemnly announced his verdict: "okay".

We did not share our scheme with others. Dangerous to security, don't you see. The operation was in the strict confidence of the King and I.

And it worked! It's success resulted, at the end of the weekly tests, in me coming in at the top of the class. You see, King, relying upon intelligent analysis, made one inadvertent error along the way. Human frailty. I, however, not having a clue as to what I was talking about, relying on the auto pilot of memory, never missed a one. Thus, as we approached the final exam, I was ranked # 1, with a grade of A+. King took it with the majesty that was his. I was looked upon as the Ivy Leauge's Gordon Gecko.
That was the posture of things, on that sunny morning, as we all took our seats and were handed the final exam.

I felt as if I had overdosed on colonics. There were four questions, all subjective essay. What was required was an understanding of the basic tenets of the course. I couldn't even pronounce the professor's  name. The prognosis was bleak. There was trouble ahead. Facing the inevitable, I signed my name on the last page and turned in a blank blue book.

Three weeks later, I was summoned to the professor's office. We shook hands and he greeted me with "I can't say that I recall the face". Wonder why.

"Mr. Alch, surely you realize why you are here. You submitted nothing in your final exam.  Do you have any idea how this has affected what had been your grade of A+?"
I had a thought or two, mostly related to fastening my mouth on the exhaust pipe of my car.
"Unfortunately", he continued, "your grade is now a C-."

I lowered my eyes to the floor, in mocked humiliation. C- was a passing grade! Somebody up there liked me. The light  at the end of the tunnel was clearly visible. I wanted to kiss the professor and, if that went well,  dance with him.

But, he had more on his mind, a change in direction, like the word "however" in an Appellate opinion.

"When I was attending college, something similar happened to me," he continued. "I couldn't concentrate on my studies. I was in a perpetual fog. My grades plummeted. And then, my doctor told me that I was suffering from some sort of virus, perhaps walking pneumonia. He prescribed uninterrupted bed rest for two weeks and, sure enough, I was a new man, at the top of my game, scholastically."
Oh, no.
"I think that's your problem, Alch. Certainly fits the facts!"
Oh no, no, no.
"And so, in two weeks, I shall permit you to take a make-up exam and you'll get your A back. I'm sure of it."
No freakin' way.
I forced myself to look him straight in the eye."Professor, that is most kind of you, but I can't do it. I can't allow myself to do it. You see, (now, ramrod straight and very emotionally determined) I was taught, growing up, that a man must learn from his mistakes. Otherwise, he'll think he can get away with everything and never have to face the consequences. That's not for me, sir. I'll take my C- and shall forever avoid a similar misstep."

"Nonsense, my boy, you shall take the second exam and receive your rightful mark."

Back and forth it went. Second exam--gimmee my C-....second exam---gimmee my C-.

This guy could never even entertain the notion that a second exam would only produce a second blank blue book.

Now, with little to lose, I really laid it on him: "I respectfully say no to your offered kindness and my C- shall serve as a permanent reminder of the consequences of my conduct and will insure that a repetition shall never occur. A refusal of a second chance, which I don't deserve, is consistent with being accountable for one's actions. I am grateful,sir, but it's time to move on." My eyes messaged "end of discussion".

The professor caved. I got the passing C-, and King Kagan got his A.

After closure, I never forgot the incident and did indeed learn from it.

I came to realize that we cannot always be wringing our hands over the past.
In truth,we do what we must and get by any way we can.

We are always on the wheel of fortune.


Sunday, April 10, 2011


The opening act is over. Prepare for the main event. The battle over the House Republicans 2012 budget.
It will propose far bigger cuts in spending and would fundamentally change the nature of federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
Who wants this? An ultra conservative minority of the Republican party, which, by the way, was  not afraid of a government shutdown. They welcomed it because "it would say to the American people that the people we elected are willing to do what we want them to do."
They did. And they won. Pass me the hammer, Mother, there's a fly on baby's head.

The mainstream of the Republican party (an oxymoron?) was reluctant (read "afraid") to ignore them and, instead, opted to appease and placate. The jury on the future of the Tea Party is still out. Their mantra is "cut spending', re- repeated by House Speaker  John Boehner. The rest of the sentence should read "on entitlements upon which a majority of Americans have relied for decades."

The concern is whether or not this minority sentiment will grow, remain stagnant, or decline. The President and the Democrats agreed to spending cuts in excess of what they believed to be prudent, this in the spirit of compromise. This word does not presently appear in the lexicon of the Tea Party. How can you negotiate when the vocabulary of one side consists only of the word "no"? And, by the way, what is the connect between cutting spending and job creation?

The outcome of the looming, crucial budget battle depends upon the mood of the country. In the final analysis, that is the criterion to which our elected officials should adhere.  The strength of ideology is often overcome by that of public opinion.

Both sides are declaring victory over averting a government shutdown. But somebody lost something. As specific details emerge, we shall learn who and how much.

 Hold onto your hat. Not just because of the forthcoming legislative brouhaha, but because it will save you the cost of buying a new one.

Would the privileged few, if they owned a lake, give a duck a drink?

Saturday, April 9, 2011


O.K. Shutdown averted, at least temporarily. But people on both sides have the right (duty?)
 to ask what was the issue that forced this resolve to reach the ninth inning, bases loaded, with two strikes on the batter? Politics? To be sure. Politics "as usual"? I don't think so.

Numbers scare me. They can be orchestrated to support inconsistent conclusions. The stumbling block in negotiations was not whether to cut the budget. Both sides wanted this.Even how much to cut was negotiable. The potentially insurmountable barrier evolved around entitlements. Which ones to cut or cut out.

Consider Planned Parenthood funding. To intentionally generalize, one side points out that the rendered services embrace valuable counseling on women's issues diverse in nature, including, but not limited to, the concept of pro choice. The other insists that P.P.'s focus is anti pro life.

In substance, and in sentiment, and in reality, this is not a BUDGET issue. It is a SOCIAL agenda. A financial factor to be sure, but one driven by individual beliefs as to what should or should not be interwoven into our Flag's fabric.

It is almost universally reported that the prime mover  supporting the elimination of P.P. federal funding is a contingent of ultra conservative right wing members of Congress.
Assume this to be true.

These people are, in the main, newly elected officials with a specific mandate: make social entitlements, such as P.P., disappear.
Who demanded that they follow this political agenda?
The people who elected them, strong enough in number to give them  congressional membership.
 Are they not responsible for the evolution of this relatively small but apparently influential block of  politicians? So, if you take issue with their stance, should you not enlarge your focus of discontent so as to include the voters who empowered them?

"You lookin' at me?"

Thursday, April 7, 2011


The statute in play prescribed a mandatory jail sentence of 18 months for anyone convicted of carrying a concealed weapon without having a license so to do. No ifs, ands or buts.

A nineteen year old male, with an extensive criminal record well known to the police, was walking with his female date of the same age, in a high crime area. There were two outstanding warrants for his arrest. A gun was in his inside jacket pocket. He did not have a license to carry.

A police officer, riding shotgun in a cruiser patrolling the area, spotted and recognized the male. He directed his partner to pull over, exited the vehicle and gave chase in an attempt to execute the warrant by arresting the suspect.

The male, seeing the rapidly approaching cop, removed the gun from his coat,  thrust it at his companion and barked, "put this in your purse!" She, having been unaware of his illegal possession, did as she was told. The cop arrested the male and, pursuant thereto, patted down the woman for weapons and, to further assure his own safety, searched her purse. The gun was found. She was also arrested and charged with illegally carrying a concealed weapon. The matter was tried before me, jury waived. There was little, if any, factual dispute.

As the trial was nearing its end, I  began to analyze the case.
Technically, the acts of the defendant fit what the statute condemned, hand in glove.
But was this situation embraced by legislative intent? She had no criminal record. Every crime requires criminal intent. Was this her state of mind at the split second of obeying her companion's command? Was her conduct the true target of the statute's aim? If I  found her guilty, I would have no room for leniency in sentencing despite  the mitigating circumstances. The statute mandated 18 months IN. I had no discretion.

I found the defendant not guilty.
Any negative reaction, in words or expression, from the prosecutor? None.
Did the District Attorney file an appeal? It was never even considered.
I had done what to me was fair.
And if it was the fair thing to do, it was the right thing to do.

Next case.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


As of this moment, we anxiously await heavy congressional promulgations and how their consequences shall effect us. Like coming together, bridging political divides and bound by our common denominator of wanting less burdens in our lives.

Will there be a government shutdown which shall benefit no one?
Will the pain of spending cuts disproportionately be borne by the middle and lower classes while the upper top get a pass?
Will vital public services depended upon by average people be decimated?

I may be a naive nabob, but I still have faith in the indelible characteristics of reasonableness and moderation which, in the bottom of the ninth, shall awaken from its dormancy in the hearts and souls of the mainstream leaders of both parties and assume the helm. The alleged controlling influence of the fringes shall be revealed to be an overinflated myth with an ambiguous shelf life. The captains of both teams did not earn their stripes overnight. This is not their baptism in battle.

What is the secret of success? "right decisions."
How do you make right decisions? "experience."
How do you get experience? "wrong decisions."

The government shall remain open, doing, as always, what it must do,propelled forward by those who are now finally, under the watchful eye of the clock, putting the finishing touches on a compromise bill.

There will be spending cuts, which, when explained, shall be understood and tolerated. No services vital  to the common good of society shall be terminated. Dissatisfied politicians shall be heard on both sides, the sign of a well negotiated agreement.

And who should be credited for this accomplishment?
The President and the leaders of congress and the citizens of the United States who put them there.
My words shall be graded by the imminent, important decisions for which we impatiently wait.

As I am closing this post, my son's dog, whom we both adore, brushed by my leg,saying "hello' without wanting to interrupt.

Dogs understand everything.

Not math.

But that's okay.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Just got home from teaching class (mesmerizing!--see, I've gotcha already) fully intending to wax nostalgic on an unrelated matter. But, I turned on the tube for less than one minute and caught a summary of the latest budget proposal submitted by a Republican congressman. Now, let me make one thing perfectly clear  (shades of Watergate): add budgets and taxes to the phoenix-like mound of subjects upon which I am not an expert. Not to worry, I speak from my version of common sense. And, I'm out of college.

The bill's goal is to balance the budget. Its principal targets are medicare and medicaid. Tax loopholes for the giant corporations and opulent companies are ignored. A generalization: yes. A misstatement of bottom line fact: no.

Why do most Republican budget remedies sound this same theme? Because, in the main, their support (read: $$$) comes from the wealthiest Americans. This is neither illegal nor immoral, but it is a fact which must be included in almost any political discussion. Hey, I would love to boast membership in the "wealthy few", but alas, I can only envy them from afar. Reducing taxes for everybody is a tax break for them.

Moreover, the Obama budget, the ultimate agreement on which shall be as close to bipartisan as you can get, will itself include spending cuts effecting, mainly the middle class. The uppermost class can enjoy the benefits of Medicare, if they wish, bolstered by their ability to purchase supplemental insurance. But what of those who can only afford and therefor must exclusively rely on the "entitlement" of Medicare and Medicaid?

To claim that the only way to begin to balance the budget is to cut or practically eliminate such programs is to obviate the notion, art and benefits of compromise. Hey, when the banks were going under, it was Uncle who bailed them out. Nobody labeled this an entitlement. How about legislation which draws from everybody IN ACCORDANCE WITH THEIR INCOME.

Compromise, anyone?

Friday, April 1, 2011


It had become increasingly clear that my fifth grade teacher envisioned an indelible target on my face. He would pick on me even for the sole purpose of conceiving a reason to pick on me.

On this day, he was discussing President Abraham Lincoln, when he suddenly turned my way and barked "Alch!!!! who killed Lincoln?". I was startled and defensibly pleaded,"I swear to God, I never touched the guy!" The students registered "sadistic revenge-glee" on the Class Uproar Monitor.

"Oh, what a fresh punk you are, I've had it with you. Don't come to school tomorrow unless you bring your father with you!"

The next morning, my father was at my side and menacingly strode eyeball to eyeball with my tormentor , emphatically declaring,"If my son said he didn't kill Lincoln---THEN HE DIDN'T KILL HIM!"

That night, my father came into my room and sat beside me, determined to bring closure to this matter. He looked at me closely , with much trepidation, and whispered,"Son, we're alone now. Just you and me. Tell me the truth.....did you kill Lincoln?"