Saturday, April 29, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

This happy little guy is my nephew Clarke who just turned 5. I was in attendance at his birthday party which was held out at a place in West Little Rock called "Pump It Up." Evidently, "Pump It Up" is a very popular party venue for little kids. It features inflated climbing and sliding stations along with a place to jump around. I had never heard of the damn place before last night. My excellent friend T has two little boys. So, I thought I would ask her about it.

" You ever hear of a place called "Post Up?" I asked.

"Pump It Up? Sure. I go there a lot." she replied.

"Pump It Up. Sorry. I gotta go there for my nephews party tomorrow."

"You ever been there before?"

" What's it like?"

"AH-HAHHAHHAHAHA!" she said by way of reply. I could only imagine that her head was thrown back as she held the phone out in the air. T has a deep voice for a woman and this dark laughter was coming from somewhere around her solar plexus. It reminded me somewhat of Samuel Raney as Mephistopheles.

I should have listened to T. All was chaos at "Pump It Up." There were about 16 guests. About 4 girls. The rest were boys. You never saw such running and jumping around in your life.

After taking pictures for about an hour and I went and sat next to one of the moms.

" Why do these parties take soooooo loooooong?" she asked.

"You're asking me?" I replied. "I'm just a civilian. I had no idea this damn place even existed before today." I noticed that I was developing a tic.

She closed her eyes and smiled in the world weary way of young mothers everywhere. "This is a whole new world for you isn't it?"

Right then the cell phone buzzed. The old world, the one in which I live and where they know me and everything, was texting me with the news that the New Orleans Saints had drafted Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush. You would think that as a Saints fan I would be elated by this news. You would be wrong.

Oh God, This Is Just Awful- On paper, the Saints offense next year might be pretty salty. After all, they got rid of Aaron Brooks and replaced him with Drew Brees whom the Chargers let go in order to walk off the plank with David Rivers. They should get Deuce McAllister back from injury this year. Deuce and Bush sounds like a hell of a backfield. The Saints have an okay offensive line. Sounds like a recipe for success, right?

Forget it. These are the Saints. If there is anyway for disaster to strike it will. If there is anyway for them to screw this up, they will.

Look at the last time a Heisman Trophy winner was drafted by the Saints. Back around 1980 or so, they made South Carolina's George Rogers the number one pick. They knew that had a problem when Rogers showed up in camp so out of shape that he could not run a 40 yard dash without collapsing. As I recall, about all he and fellow RB Chuck Muncie managed to accomplish during their tenure there was to fumble a lot and fail many drug tests.

So, here is my prediction, one that is made with the confidence of a man who has seen every edition of the Saints that stumbled out of Loyola Drive since 1978.

They will will find a way to screw this up. They are the Saints. It is what they do.

By the way, I noticed that Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler was drafted in the first round one notch behind Matt Leinart who was last year's Heisman Trophy winner. I am no expert on end-times theology but I have this feeling that a Commodore getting drafted in the first round is one of the signs and wonders foretelling the last days as mentioned in Revelations.

So prepare to meet God and prepare for something horrible to happen to the Saints. More horrible than usual even.

Big Trouble at Duke II- Can the situation at Duke get any uglier? First the prosecutor swabs 44 of the 45 guys there in order to mine DNA evidence. The defense attorneys claim that the testing was negative. The prosecutor counters with the surprising comment that there is no DNA evidence present in 50-75% of rape cases. Being neither a prosecutor nor a rapist, I turned to a prosecutor friend of mine to run this story past him. While he doesn't prosecute sex crimes, he allowed as how that was not his understanding of how these cases work. Hmmmm.

The prosecution says that examination of the complainant revealed evidence consistent with a sexual assault. The other dancer there that night has said that a) that she believes that something happened and b) she doesn't believe anything happened. Both stories can't be true. One of the guys charged says he can prove that he wasn't there during the time that the assault took place. One of the other guys got his probation revoked on an earlier assault charge (more on that later). As if this were not confusing enough, now it has come out that this is not the first charge ever filed by the complainant. Evidently, 10 years ago she claimed that she was assaulted by 3 guys then as well.

The other guys present that night have clammed up. Which is their right. Contrary to popular belief, you pretty much don't have to talk to anybody in this great land of ours if you don't want to. But if you do talk to the cops, you had better not lie. Does this explain the silence? Don't know. I wasn't there.

And guess what? Neither were you. We just don't know what happened that night except that the Duke Lacrosse team at the minimum displayed poor judgment and engaged in swinish behavior.

All I know is this. 47 souls were in that little house that night. Somebody knows what happened.

Who the jury winds up believing will be revealed in the fullness of time. But we don't know what happened. We weren't there.

And it is better to leave all speculation aside and let the criminal justice system sort all of this out.

And now, for some levity, let us turn now to Wally Hall's take on all of this- In last Wednesday's column, Wally notes that Collin Finnerty, one of the boys charged with rape in the Duke Lacrosse fiasco, will have to stand trial on an unrelated assaulted charge as, according to Wally, "a D.C. judge decided the arrest violated his probation and Finnerty will stand trial for that assault charge."

This caused him to ponder, to the limited extent you can associate the word "ponder" with the following mangled prose, " And we thought the judicial system was created on an innocent-until-proven-guilty platform."

Excuse me Learned Hand. But if you get charged with a felony while you are out on probation they revoke your ass. The innocent-until-proven-guilty platform still exists. It's just that due to his exceptionally poor judgment Mr. Finnerty gets to add to his resume the fact that he was a defendant in 2 felony cases involving violent crimes. I'll bet his folks are proud of him.

But back to Wally. He's bad enough when he confines his gaze to the world of sports. Would it be too much to ask for him to at least look stuff up or talk to a lawyer friend before going off into an area that he knows absolutely nothing about?

I guess that it is.

This Blogging Life- In the past week or so I have been asked why I a) don't post more often and b) why I don't get MSF out earlier on Sunday. While I am gratified by this, the answer is that I have been pretty busy the last couple of months with my day gig. And quite frankly, some nights the last thing on earth I want to do is look at a computer screen.

I don't know how some of these folks do it. I try to put out a good product although I know that I'm not always successful in that regard. And believe it or not, this stuff takes time. I don't know whether it's due to my age or the fact that I have been so busy or all of the above but I just can't crank it out like some of these bloggers do. I will try to do better.

But this is the last time I will send out an "alert." You guys know where to look. I will always have something up by Sunday afternoon. I will try to do at least one or two a week from here on out.

So come by as you feel so led. Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing.

Let's continue the conversation.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

"Life is Crazy."-Iggy Pop

A friend of mine died last week. Paul had gone in for minor surgery on his neck. The surgery was successful. As I understand it, close to the time when he was to have been discharged, one of his sons discovered that he was having difficulty breathing. From there he went into full blown respiratory distress. They couldn't bring him around. He died Thursday night. He was 54.

God almighty.

Paul was a trial lawyer. Like most trial lawyers, he was a pretty intense guy. But he was also a very kind and fun loving person when the mood struck him. He lived in the neighborhood. He used to delight in sneaking up behind me in his big ole Cadillac while I was out running. He would follow me for awhile and then lay on the horn just to see me jump out of my skin. I would have killed anybody else for doing that. But he was the kind of guy you couldn't get mad at. I was telling one of my friends yesterday that Paul once told me that the reason he liked me was because I had "such a nice disposition."

I thought my friend was going to pass out from laughing.

Hell, it wasn't that funny.

When my Aunt Jean died, Uncle Bill asked me to look into the possibility of suing Merck, who manufactured the Vioxx that Jean was taking for her knee. Paul volunteered to visit with Bill. He said he would take an afternoon to go over there and that he would take all the time that was necessary to explain his options to him. During our luncheon conversation about this, I expressed my doubts as to how much a case like this was worth. After all, Jean was 80 when she died.

" Every life has value," Paul said. " Merck knew-they KNEW!-that Vioxx wasn't safe when they put it on the market. Your Aunt Jean was a healthy elderly woman. She could drive her car. She could go to church activities. She took care of your Uncle. One night she goes to bed and she doesn't wake up, probably due to a coronary. And now your Uncle, a stroke victim himself, wakes up one morning to find that his wife of 60 years has gone on ahead. She didn't deserve this. He didn't deserve this. Juries have a way of understanding these things. They really do if you can get through all the bullshit you have to do to get it in front of them. Because every life has value. Every one."

I talked to Charles-one of his brothers- yesterday. The family is doing okay all things considered. They are a pretty close knit bunch. I told Charles that I last saw Paul about a week or so ago. He was parked at a red light. He held his fist to the side of his head as if he were holding a phone to his ear. He mouthed the words "Call me." I told his brother how sorry that I was that I didn't call.

"Awwwww, you can't think that way." he said. " I mean, it's not like any of us could have expected that something like this would have happened. You don't expect that somebody you see all the time will dead in a week. "

He paused.

" Then again, I suppose that we are all guilty of thinking that we have all the time in the world and that nothing bad will ever happen to us. Obviously that's not true either."

I met my friends for a dinner last night down in the River Market. There was all kinds of activity down there last weekend. There was the Arkansas Literary Festival. All kinds of authors were brought in to speak. I went to a cocktail party earlier in the evening. Me and another lawyer here in town had our picture made with some author of children books that was there for the Festival. He and I grew up in Southwest Little Rock and soon we will be gracing the insides of one of the local society magazines.

The irony was not lost on us.

It was also prom night and the streets were full of dressed up teenagers. The girls all looked pretty good. The boys, for the most part, looked kind of ridiculous. But then again, maybe I look pretty ridiculous in a tux too.

After dinner, I walked around in the River Market. It was a beautiful evening and the streets were full of life. I had not been down there in over a year. I walked by a restaurant I used to frequent. I put my hand to the window. We humans are tactile by nature. It is almost as if you can bring something back if you touch it.

Even if you know it's not true. But you touch anyway.

Life is crazy. You think you got it figured out and boom! before you know it you are pimp-slapped by reality. But Paul was right. Every life has value. Every one. We take each other for granted and we take for granted the time we have here on earth. You. Me. The writers of all the words who were flown in for the Festival. The pretty young people playing dress-up on President Clinton Avenue last night. Every one of us. We think we have forever. We think we have all the time in the world.

Goodbye buddy. Running down Kavanaugh just won't be the same.

God, how I wish I had called you.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

My Sunday Feeling: The Easter Section

Today is Easter Sunday. As many folks know, I have no particular use for Christmas. It is mercenary and overly sentimental. Odd combination I know, but you might agree with me if you stop to think about it. But I like Easter. I always have. The weather is better (unless we are having tornadoes), the music is vastly superior and there are no bills to dread or things to take back to the Mall.

As I grow older, I find it harder to reconcile the historical with the mythical. But that's ok. A story is no less "true" just because it has very little empirical basis in fact. I don't know what I believe but I am pretty sure about what I don't believe. And I find more truth in honest doubt and in historical perspective than in claims of inerrancy and truth. All I need is one day when I am reminded that there is light. I'm pretty much okay after that.

Last Easter, I was sick unto death. Some of it was viral even. This Easter will be better. In the first place, I settled an especially nasty situation last Monday so I am not spending Easter in Jackson getting ready for a trial. My friends from the other end of Mississippi are in town this weekend for a big USTA event out at Pleasant Valley. I wonder what genius thought it was a good idea to run a tennis tournament over Easter weekend anyway? I spent last night watching junior tennis players consume mass quantities of food. It was utter carnage. Boys. Girls. Eating, talking, taking pics of each other with the cellphones.

This is a true story. My buddy's kid introduced me to this girl as " You know those cool pictures in Facebook? He took 'em."

Girl: "Really? Coooooool."

Me: " Whaaaat? Those pics are in Facebook?"

Him:" Yessir. I thought they turned out real good."

Me: " Don't I get any royalties?"

Him: " It's in the mail."

Glad I could help him keep his public up to date as to his likeness. Is this a srange new world or what?

Today, I will go to church and then go visit my mother. Tomorrow afternoon the local minor league team opens the season down the street at Ray Winder Field. It will be a perfect end to a good day.

Today we are reminded that victory remains in love. Maybe I do know what I believe after all.

I believe in Easter. I believe in the light.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Without Siderails

I took delivery on a new car today. I confess to some degree of ambivalence about the transaction. After all, it's not like there was anything particularly wrong with the old vehicle. It still looked and ran great. But I was getting to the stage where I was going to have to spend some money on it: it needed new tires and a new timing belt. And I couldn't really justify driving a big SUV anymore since it's not like I haul kids around nowadays. Further, you factor in the rising cost of gasoline and well, it was time to at least take a look at what was out there. Caveat: I guess that, technically speaking, the new vehicle is a SUV as well. But it is smaller, lighter and gets better mileage.

You cannot win on a car deal. You are going to get screwed so you better make them kiss you. I have prior dealings with this salesman. He's alright. He's out to make money. I understand that. He's just not a jerk about it. He's not a pest and he doesn't play "hide the ball." The number on the proposal he faxed me on the new car pretty much matched up with the number in my head. The number he put on the trade-in was the number to the penny that I gleaned from my Internet research. So what the hell. Why not pull the trigger on this? It's just a car. Besides, I'm getting kissed.

So why the ambivalence? In the first place, I buy the steak, not the sizzle. I am pretty much impervious to hype and advertising. While I like to drive nice cars, I certainly don't view them as an outward and visible sign of my persona. And when I say "nice" I don't mean "luxury." But it's something else. Something else that I can't quite put my finger on.

Maybe it is this: although I am not a terribly sentimental person-or I don't think that I am-I have some happy memories bound up with the car I traded in today. My friends and I have gone all over the place with the damn thing full to the gills with golf equipment. I have gone to Florida, Alabama, Missouri and Tennesee in the old car. The little boy liked it because it had running boards which he called "siderails." I guess siderails are important when you are not quite 4 and a half foot tall.

In what was one of the worst jobs I have ever gotten myself into, I once hauled pizzas for consumption by the participants in the Little Rock Marathon. In case you are curious, the 2003 Nissan Pathfinder LE will carry 100 10" pizzas in a single load. I carries 4 loads of pizza that day. I had to go to the detail shop afterwards to get the smell of pizza out of the car. It was weeks before I could eat Italian again.

The second worse job I ever got talked into was when PM and I made two trips to Jacksonville to get a plastic shed for his backyard. The damn thing was hanging out the back about a foot. PM had to look out the open back to advise me when it was safe to change lanes. It was a sufficiently ridiculous "guy" thing that he felt compelled to write about it in his column in the paper. It was also sufficiently ridiculous that one of the other columnists- a female otherwise not known for saying bad stuff about people-was moved to write me to tell me she thought we were "idiots."

Hey! At least we weren't drinking beer at the time.

I got the first ding in Jackson, Mississippi. Somebody shanked one off of the fairway at Colonial Country Club and hit the hood. It sounded like an RPG had hit it. I thought the airbags would deploy. This is an example of the kind of luck I have. I drive by War Memorial Golf Course here in Little Rock 2 or 3 times a week. The worst golfers in the world-guys worse than me even-routinely send projectiles into Fair Park Boulevard and Markham Street. I have never come close to getting hit. But, let me drive to Jackson and all of a sudden I am a target of opportunity for some old boy who has no business hitting a 2-iron.

It drove my mother safely and comfortably between here and Conway a hundred times. It took me to the funerals of my beloved Aunt Jean and Uncle Bill. It kept me and the little boy's brother out of a ditch one Christmas. Of course, the fact that it was a rear wheel drive vehicle is what damn near put us in the ditch in the first place. Which is another reason to make a change.

It has been a good safe rig. But it is time for a change. I can no longer justify driving such a big vehicle.

Besides, there's nobody around here anymore that needs siderails.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

Today is Palm Sunday. Even as you read this I am on the road. I am traveling to Jackson, Mississippi. Monday morning I will head down to Hattiesburg to the United States District Courthouse there for a settlement conference.

I know. Pinch me. I'm dreamin'.

This will be the second Palm Sunday in a row that I will be somewhere other than inside a church. I missed last year because I got struck down with an upper respiratory virus. I was feeling much better by the time Sunday rolled around but I decided, out of an abundance of caution, not to insert my germy self into a packed churchhouse. I would hate to have caused some elderly person to keel over by Maundy Thursday. I figured that God would understand.

We have gotten progressively more churchy over there the Methodist church I attend. We even do the Stations of the Cross this time of year. Granted, you won't exactly find this at your average Methodist church in South Arkansas, but I'm good with it. How my Catholic friends view all of this high church stuff over at Pulaski Heights UMC seems to depend on where the respective person is along his or her faith journey. The cradle Catholics find it amusing. The converts are outraged. Which is as it should be. While I don't personally know any, converts to any sort of religious or political persuasion can tend to be the biggest pains in the ass about it. At least that's what I hear. And I suspect that even the most gentle and pious of priests wince whenever they see an e-mail from a convert in the "in box." After all, nobody else would even want to discuss last week's homily.

Stylistic differences aside, Palm Sunday is when Christianity puts on the old game face. Everybody recounts the familiar story about the triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. The Catholics, never liturgically subtle about these things, after the reciting the account of Jesus's entry, reenact the Passion of Christ, with various members of the congregation speaking the roles of the characters in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark or Luke, as the Priest may choose. Just to give you something to think about for the next week.

The news last week gave us something else to think about when it was reported that the Gospel of Judas had been discovered and declared authentic by various learned scholars in the field. As we know, the Gospels tell us that Judas betrayed Jesus and turned him over to the authorities in exchange for 30 pieces of silver. And thus, has Judas been reviled throughout history for his greed and treachery.

Most "modern" scholars think Judas has gotten something of a bum rap. Not quite up there with Bill Buckner but close. Nobody nowadays much thinks that Judas ratted Jesus out for the money alone. His subsequent actions are particularly un-snitchlike. He returned the money and his grief and shame at what he had done caused him to commit suicide. The historian Garry Wills finds Judas's betrayal of Jesus interesting in light of what Wills describes as the almost "intimate" dialogue between the two during the Last Supper and when Jesus is betrayed. This causes Wills to walk around in Judas's head a little bit.

In his new book, "What Jesus Meant" Wills theorizes that perhaps Judas was a little impatient with Jesus. Indeed, many of the Jews believed that when the Messiah came He would liberate them from their Roman oppressors. Well guess what? By the time of the entry into Jerusalem, it hadn't happened. Wills wonders if perhaps Judas hoped that Jesus's arrest might provoke an insurrection. Maybe so, maybe no. In any event, the Judas in the "Gospel of Judas" is integral to Jesus's fulfillment of his prophetic destiny.

By way of vastly oversimplified explanation, the Gospel of Judas is an ancient text found in Egypt which purports to contain an account, among other things, of conversations between Jesus and Judas in which Jesus tells him that "He must sacrifice the man that clothes me." In other words, according to this ancient text, Judas didn't betray Christ. He was just doing what he was told.

It is widely thought that this text was suppressed by the early church as the writer had obvious sympathy with the Gnostics who were thought by the early church fathers to be heretics. And no, I won't explain Gnosticism. You can look it up for yourself. The Gnostics probably still exist. They probably have a website where you can enter chatrooms, buy stuff and everything. Just like every other nutbar organization.

Anyway, I wonder how the discovery of this document will inform our future discussions of Judas and/or the Passion. I also wonder if my Baptist aunt over in Oklahoma has heard about this. Maybe if I get bored enough on the road to Jackson I will call her up and ask her what she thinks of the Gospel of Judas. It might be fun. I guess I shouldn't fool around like this. Lent ain't over yet and that I had best be getting my game face on whether I am in in church or driving through Lake Providence.

By the way, if you get the chance sometime, go do Palm Sunday with the Catholics. They would be glad to see you. Really they would. It's pretty impressive. Better yet, go with a Catholic friend. Catholics love to explain stuff to Protestants. After all, the catechism charges them with the responsibility of instructing the ignorant. They get extra points or something.

Just be forewarned. If they do a good enough job of explaining things, you might want to join. And after that, your old Catholic buddies might not return your calls anymore.

Because at that point you will be a convert. And at that point you will be a pain-in-the-ass.

Monday, April 03, 2006

My Sunday Feeling-An Explanation

I wasn't able to do MSF yesterday because I discovered that Blogger for Word no longer works. That was a completely useful program that allowed you to post a Word document directly to Evidently, Microsoft found out about it and installed some proprietary code in Word such that this feature is now disabled. I can only assume that MS got its nose out of joint because it wasn't getting any $ out of the deal.

Now I know what is going on and will resume posting directly to Sorry for any inconvenience. Thanks for writing.