Monday, July 25, 2005

Random Thoughts

The following are some random thoughts that have come to me while getting over a stomach bug, proving once again that an idle mind is the devil's workshop:

TERRELL OWENS- It is indeed hard for the average person to pony up the first ounce of pity for the plight of the professional athlete in a team sport who demands that his contract be renegotiated. It is particularly difficult when the athlete in question is as narcissistic and has as few roots in reality as Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens, who was quoted last week in the Miami Herald as saying:

" At the end of the day, I don't have to worry about what people think of me, whether they hate me or not. People hated on Jesus. They threw stones at him and tried to kill him, so can I complain or worry about what people think?"

I am no scholar, but try as I might, I don't recall a biblical account of the stoning of Jesus. And the historical record is clear in that the Romans did actually succeed in killing Jesus, albeit only temporarily, depending on your religious persuasion. But let us forget for the moment our inability to comprehend someone being unhappy with a contract that pays him 49 million dollars over 7 years. And let us try to overlook the hubris of a man who, intentionally or not, equates his business dispute with the agony of Christ.

The fact is, Owens has every right to take this action and to hold out of training camp if he feels so led. People often confuse business relations with moral obligations. And while there is certainly a moral element to the concept of living up to one's agreements, of equal dignity is the concept that implicit in every contract is the right to breach. This is Contracts 101.

Unlike Major League Baseball, the NFL has revenue sharing. This ensures that every team is awash with money from television and radio as well as from merchandising. This means that every NFL team is turning a healthy profit no matter how incompetently it is run ( read Phoenix Cardinals). Secondly, unlike the NBA, the NFL's owners are not madmen. Accordingly, there are no guaranteed contracts in the NFL. Or there are none that I know of. This means that teams can get rid of guys who underperform or get dinged up without having to eat their salary in perpetuity (read New York Knicks and Portland Trailblazers).

Both Owens and his agent, the equally reptilian Drew Rosenhaus know that he is an injury away from getting cut. And so, they are threatening to breach by "holding out." The Eagles, for their part, are threatening to sue to get the signing bonus back. These are all big boys here. And it says here at TMFW that Owens will go back as they are taking quite the PR hit. I mean, Rosenhaus is so obnoxious that he managed to save a little boy from drowning last week and still come across as a jerk.

Owens has every right to do what he is doing, even if you and I cannot comprehend it. I am not one to invoke pop theology, but since TO has brought it up: What would Jesus do?

I have no idea. But I would like to think that He would have a greater sense of perspective and that He would comport Himself with a lot more dignity than Owen and Rosenhaus have displayed thus far.

PROFESSIONAL TENNIS IS SUCH BULLSHIT- The US Open, will crank up here in about a month. I don't know if you have seen it yet, but the USTA has given nicknames to some of the players in its advertising. Really. Roger Federer is called "The Boss." Justine Henin-Hardenne they refer to as "The Comeback Kid." Andy Roddick is "The Rocket" and Venus Williams is "The Goddess." You can see for yourself at http://usopenseries/news/fullstory.sps?inewsid=194928 .

Why would the USTA adopt the subtle elegance of Pro Wrestling to hype its product?

Because nobody watches tennis anymore. At least not the men. The women are more interesting. They are , for the most part, easy on the eyes. Which I know should be an irrelevant consideration, but hey, I'm a guy. And the women all hate each other. This adds an aura of bitchiness that you just don't get with the guys.

Besides, the men are just boring. They, for the most part, rarely stray too far from the baseline. Assuming that the point gets past the first serve that is. The only serve and volleyers left are Great Britain's Tim Henman and USA's Taylor Dent whose main claim to fame is getting his ass kicked by Andre's 4 year old in that commercial. The rest of them approach the net as if it is radioactive. Where's the excitement in that?

I mean, I will watch the US Open because I used to be a player and I know how hard it is to play tennis at a certain level. That, and I know for a fact that Roger Federer may be the best player ever even if he is allergic to play at the net. And so, I will watch.

But there is no reason to make a BFD out of changing the color of the courts from green to blue. There's no reason to give the players these stupid nicknames (and by the way, there is only one Rocket and his last name is Laver) and there is no reason in this day and age why the women don't play 3 out of 5 just like the men.

No reason other than the fact that tennis is just bullshit. And that nobody much watches anymore.

HOCKEY IS BACK!-Who cares?

BERNARD HOPKINS-Just shut the hell up. What is it about you guys from Philly anyway?

And this are my random thoughts delivered while my stomach sounds for all the world like a flooded out Evinrude.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Dispatches from the Field

My friend Steve asked me to pick up his mail last week while he took the wife and kids to St. Louis for the family vacation. While I certainly don't pry, it is always interesting to see what other folks get in their mail. I'm sure that when Steve gets my mail for me, he can't help but see all of the returned checks, threatening letters from attorneys as well as the various items of correspondence from various state and local taxing authorities.

I am quite often badly misunderstood. It is an awesome responsibility being me.

Similarly speaking, I couldn't help but notice the stuff Steve gets. Indeed, I found the experience so fascinating I could not resist "text-messaging" him about it.

"You get more bills than even I do." I wrote.

A few minutes later came the reply across the ether, all the way from Six Flags over St. Louis or some place equally dreadful.

"I have four more kids than you do. Please don't bother me again unless the house is on fire."

He also gets one more copy of the "Arkansas Catholic" than I do, so I took the liberty of reading last week's edition. Evidently, there wasn't much of any import going on in the One True Church. At least not here in the Diocese of Little Rock. There was a nice article from Catholic News Service about how the new Pope is cooling his jets at the Papal villa in the Swiss Alps. The reporter quoted someone as saying that he was heard playing Mozart on the piano. Some guys really know how to let their hair down when they are off the clock. There was a weird little piece about the need to maintain reverence during Epiclesis.

For you Protestants out there, this is the moment in the Mass wherein the priest asks God to sanctify the gifts of bread and wine by sending down the Holy Spirit. I'm willing to bet that if you typed the word "Epiclesis" into a search engine, you would find all kinds of crazy articles and websites devoted to the subject. This is one of the reasons I love Catholicism. Five tool crackpot stuff like this abounds among the faithful. Finally, there was a thoroughly pleasant essay by the Bishop upon his memories of summer as a kid growing up in Memphis.

I confess that I was somewhat disappointed to see no red hot flaming letters to the Editor about gay marriages or the ordination of gays to the ministry in the Arkansas Catholic. To read the Arkansas Methodist you would think that this is about all us Methodists have on the brain anymore. What the hell kind of church newspaper wastes newsprint on the doctrine of Epiclesis when there are larger issues like eliminating social concerns and the "homosexual agenda" to obsess about?

I felt the phone buzz again while I was still yet engrossed in my ecumenical pursuits. It was my buddy D checking in from North Carolina.

" My first ex-wife just called and said she's leaving town Wednesday, so I just got in touch with my second ex-wife and arranged for her to take care of my youngest daughter until I can get back in town next week. " he wrote.

And what is he doing in North Carolina that is keeping him so damn busy that he is required to put in a call to the former spouse bullpen in order to relieve the starter, as it were? He is preparing to take the bar exam there. And why would an otherwise sensible man in a responsible position in a prestigious law firm in California and already armed already with three law licenses be sitting for the North Carolina bar?

To ask the question is to answer it. He is in love. To make a long story short, he saw C again for the first time in years at their college reunion. Zing went the strings of their hearts. And thus began their bi-coastal relationship. She has a young son in the home and cannot move. D's youngest is headed off to college in the fall. Hence, the plan to head east to the land of pine trees and big time college basketball.

I think this is utter madness and have made my position abundantly clear. I see no need for this foolishness especially when it ain't like there is a shortage of available women in Southern California. Besides, Me, I wouldn't take another bar exam for Sela Ward. This consideration has become even more acute since I am recent friends with a woman who is, even as I type this, slaving away at the law school preparing to sit for the Arkansas bar exam next week. And to think JL forsook the honorable and useful teaching profession for the wholesale agony of the bar exam. An involuntary shudder crawls up my spine anytime I look at her bar review books. It is indeed testimony to what a great gal she is as being around her is bringing back perfectly horrible memories.

Similarly speaking, honesty compels me to admit that C must be one hell of a gal to inspire such misery. I look forward to meeting her. And I hope she doesn't have any eligible sisters that are as obviously spellbinding as is she as I am not a particularly strong man nowadays.

And so, my sensible advice about all of this remains completely disregarded. They are a couple of crazy goddamn kids in love. There is nothing more that I can do.

Except to write back, " I'm certain that your future ex-wife would help if she could."

Steve came safely back last night and came by to get his stuff. I recognized on him the same poleaxed expression that my father used to wear after a week in the car with his four kids. JL is grimly beavering away at her notes and index cards. D is trying to remember what the hell arcane phrases like "the expectation is subsumed in the reliance" and other stuff equally not germane to an environmental defense practice actually means. Still, I have all the faith in the world that they will do just fine next week.

And that they too, like my buddy Steve, will all come safely back.

After Steve left, I got a reply from D to my earlier missive. It was succinct but it was not fit to relate in this space, devoted as it is to a general audience, as they say in the movie business.

I am quite often badly misunderstood. It is an awesome responsibility being me.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


I suppose that every now and again it does a person a bit of good to survive an act of craziness. As for me it has been a long time since I did anything crazy. And most of my brushes with bad craziness generally involved people wearing short skirts and high heels. But I'm not talking about that. And I'm not talking about other examples of forms of bad craziness such as reposing trust in e-mails from ersatz Ethiopian bankers asking for your bank account information or joining the Scientologists (or the Christian Scientists for that matter). No.

I'm talking about willingly doing something that could stand you a reasonable chance of getting yourself killed. Or worse. Like pumping gas while smoking a cigarette. Going up on the roof to mess with the satellite dish during an electrical storm. Standing between David Wells and an umpire. Stuff like that.

My friend Sula is an unlikely candidate for "Crazy Person of the Year" award. Sula on the one hand is the very model of the buttoned down kind of person that gravitates toward the practice of real estate law whose idea of an interesting day is to form condo associations and/or rifling through musty records in county courthouses. All the while racking up big honking fees for the title company where she works in Destin.

So you can understand my concern when Sula called to tell me that she was going to ride out the arrival of Hurricane Dennis instead of getting the hell out of Dodge, a course of action that I gently suggested a more prudent person might well be advised to take. Nope. She was bound and determined and could not be otherwise persuaded. After all, as she wrote in the blog ( )that she maintained while the electricity stayed on during this adventure, "I'm...fairly adventurous, and am an able handy person who will take risks."

Well...just so long as she didn't have a stupid reason for taking on 150 mph winds.

But you know? If you think about it, this is not of unheard of down here in the South. History's immortal scroll is replete with instances where Southern women took on equally daunting tasks against insurmountable odds and prevailed. A couple of quick ones come to mind. It took fully six weeks of siege from his gunboats in the Mississippi before Ulysses S. Grant forced Vicksburg to surrender. This is in no small part due to the indomitable will of the women of Vicksburg who never gave in despite some of them being reduced to in caves and dugouts during the worst of it. Another example is the women of Little Rock during the integration crisis of the fifties who decided that keeping the public schools open was simply too important to be left up to the men. It is no exaggeration to say that probably 40%, if not more, of the social progress that has been achieved in these parts probably had its origins in the parlors of halfway dotty Episcopalian or Presbyterian broads who,when confronted with overwhelming crises, simply folded their hands in their laps and said, "Now this just won't do."

And perhaps the issue was similarly no more complicated for my dear Sula who, maybe looked around at her home and her stuff and said, "Now this just won't do."

Maybe Sula isn't crazy. She is, after all, an able handy Southern woman.

In retrospect, Dennis never had half a chance.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Human Torch

I was driving through Hattiesburg the other day when I remembered a girl from Mississippi. Once upon a time, years and years ago, I was once crazy in love with a girl that was born in Hattiesburg. Now, it struck me as passing strange that I would think of her at that particular moment. After all, I was staying in Jackson where she has lived for 30 years and which is where we met. And yet, I didn't give her the first passing thought until I got out on Highway 49.

It's funny how we remember old flames. There is just no telling.

When I think of her, I remember her red hair, her green eyes and a deep voice, deeper than mine, that came from somewhere in her long, skinny body. She used to tell me that she yearned for me when we were apart. Really she did. Only it sounded like "yunned"when she said it.

I can safely say without hesitation or fear of contradiction that no woman has "yunned" for me before or since.

Of course, this reverie on Highway 49 did not pass by the many detours and obstacles along the way. There is no good way to get to Jackson from here. And despite her being as fit as a horse, she managed to rupture a disk in her back while mopping the kitchen floor, which made riding in a car uncomfortable. She had two young daughters, a deadbeat ex whom she was constantly haling into court and she wanted to go to graduate school.

That's a lot to unpack from 256 miles away. The timing could not have been worse. It could not work.

But I chose not to dwell on any of that. I vastly preferred remembering that a beautiful woman from Mississippi once yearned for me.

Werner Heisenberg would understand this completely. Surely you remember Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle which posits that the findings of the experimenter cannot be completely accurate for the reason that by virtue of conducting the experiment, the observer becomes part of the observed system. In other words, participating in a system necessarily colors one's perspective. Insert the word "relationship"for the word "system" and Werner Heisenberg prefigures Dr. Laura in history.

I once took a deposition in a sexual harassment case. The plaintiff worked with a man with whom she fell in love. They got engaged. It didn't work out and she broke it off. The ex still carried a torch for her and made numerous overtures to her in an attempt to win her back. She admitted that she went back with him but stated that she broke it off again after a couple of months.

The problem with carrying a torch is that sometimes you have to play with fire in the process.

She claims that he persisted in trying to hug her and kiss her after she broke it off for good. She claims that he called her house and that he pestered her in the halls. She is lovely, intelligent, articulate and believable. My client's guy, the ex, swears up and down that he left her alone after the second breakup. He is handsome, intelligent, articulate and believable. There are no witnesses to the acts complained of, which is not unusual in these matters.

So who is telling the truth and who is lying? Or are they both telling "truths" as whispered to them by their memories? Memories that are necessarily colored by their prior relationship if not their current relationships as well? Think of other "women scorned" of recent notoriety. Think of Anita Hill. Think of Paula Jones, if you must. Who was telling the truth? Who was lying?

The old country lawyer says, "Everybody lies a little bit." The problem is, everybody also tells the truth a little bit.

None of which would trouble Dr. Heisenberg in the least. What's good for describing quantum physics is equally good for describing failed relationships. The observer becomes part of the system.

Which is why I prefer to let my mind linger over the memory of a certain girl from Hattiesburg instead of remembering what a goddamned fool idea it was in the first place.

It is funny how we remember old flames. There is just no telling.