Monday, February 28, 2011

Radio Silence

My friend Hugh Tedder passed away yesterday. Words do not adequately convey the deep sense of loss that I feel for both myself and for Laura and the girls. And if I were a better writer, I wouldn't start the sentence with "words do not adequately convey etc." Best I can do. The batteries are low.

I will head back to Jackson sometime and I will be back sometime. And that's about all that I know. Thank you for all the messages and e-mails. I really appreciate them.

I will post the arrangements for any of the Tulane types that peruse Facebook just as soon as I get them.

Please keep Laura, Camille, Susannah and Hugh's Mother and brothers in your thoughts and prayers during this exceedingly difficult time.

Thank you.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Sunday Feeling

One doesn't readily think of exotic dancers when one considers the intended class of workers protected by the labor laws of our great land. But those who toil in in titty bars got rights too, pal! At least that's what Gretchen Bertram thinks. That's why she filed a federal class action lawsuit against a local "gentleman's club" called Visions for allegedly violating her rights under the Federal Labor Standards Act.

In her suit Bertram alleges that Visions, owned and operated by a man named-no lie-Ricky Edge, wrongfully considered Bertram and others similarly situated to be independent contractors who were paid only by a portion of the tips they earned from the "gentlemen" patrons for whom they performed instead of an hourly wage in violation of the FLSA. The lawsuit also alleges that Bertram and others similarly situated "dance in the club without very many clothes on." Which must have been a fun sentence for her lawyer to write.

I have never been to Visions or any other "gentleman's club." It's not that I am a prude or that I do not have an appreciation for women in scant attire. I just see no need to pay a cover charge and drink alcohol at stick-up prices to talk to women or to watch them dance.

Oh. Speaking of which, here's another amusing allegation from the Complaint. "The dance skills utilized (by the gals at Visions) are commensurate with those exercised by ordinary people who choose to dance at a disco or wedding." See Complaint at para. 46, as we lawyers say.

Maybe I am missing Gretchen's larger point but try as I might I do not recall seeing any lap dances during the reception after Meghann Crow's wedding over at Pleasant Valley Country Club last summer.

Anyway, what little I know about such matters came from an unlikely source: A reader of this blog. 4 or 5 years ago I started noticing comments to the blog posted by a woman named Sean. Her comments were typically funny and insightful. One day she sent me an e-mail in which she confessed to being a dancer at another "gentleman's club" in town. She asked me if she could give me a call.

"Absolutely," I wrote back.

"Sean"-which is not her real name-told me that she was going through a divorce and that she had recently lost her job as an office assistant. She and some girlfriends had gone to this particular joint on a lark one night. Sean told me she thought she could dance as well as the local talent up on the stage and decided to give it a whirl just to make some money to make ends meet until she could figure out her next step.

She would write me from time to time to tell me about life as an exotic dancer. She described her co-workers variously as a bunch of dumbasses or desperate girls with money or drug problems. Sean was in her thirties when she took up the pole which she said is pretty late in life as far as that line of work goes. Accordingly, she became a sort of mother figure to the other girls. And the older patrons of the joint tended to like to talk to her instead of the younger girls. Mostly it was depressing talk about their marriages. But hey! They were buying the drinks. And they didn't tend to be complete jerks like the younger guys. Speaking of which I always had a standing invitation to come out to the club to visit her. Just to provide a respite from the boredom. She said I wouldn't even have to buy her a drink.

I never took her up on it. I figured with my luck the place would get raided while I was there drinking my watery whiskey or I would get shot in the parking lot. Sean didn't dance for much longer anyway. She had been considering another line of work for no other reason than she was tired of listening to guys bitch about their wives. That and she had come to the realization that she was no longer sufficiently ingenue to wear 10 inch stiletto heels.

Last I heard of her she had moved back to a state out West where she was from originally. She had gotten a job with-no lie- the Department of Social Services. She was also thinking about selling cars. She thought her past relevant work experience gave her transferrable skills that would come in handy on the car lot.

One of the things Sean didn't complain about was the money. She thought dancing in a club was a silly kind of job to have. But she knew it was not her calling in life and besides she thought she was getting paid pretty good for doing something that kept her in shape. But she was lucky. She didn't have to do it for a living.

Now I don't know the first damn thing about the Fair Labor Standards Act so I am not in a position to assess whether Gretchen Bertram and other similarly situated hoofers have a case. But I am all for folks getting paid what they are entitled to under the law. And the discovery in this case should be interesting if not completely hilarious.

So I say: Pole dancers of Pulaski County, and other similarly situated Plaintiffs, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Many folks have wondered what I am doing in the Magnolia State. Here's the deal. My law school buddy Hugh Tedder is in the Critical Care Unit at St. Dominic Hospital in Jackson. About 2 weeks ago he came down with the flu. This turned into pneumonia which disinigrated into Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome(ARDS). He has been on a ventilator for over 10 days.

Hugh is slowly getting better. They removed the tube from his throat and inserted a trache into his throat. This will make him more comfortable. He is still sedated and sleeping as I type this. They will move him to a long term Critical Care facility next week and will attempt to begin to wean him off the vent sometime then.

While Hugh is improving he remains acutely ill. He will require much in the way of rehabilitation services and it may take him up to a year to fully recover. Still, he is stable and in the safest place in the universe he can possibly be.

Laura and the girls are doing as well as can be expected. Laura will return to work next week as Hugh will be here for a very long time and in the immortal words of St. Vincent Millay "Life must go on. I forget just why."

Thank you for all of the kind messages. I will come home sometime Sunday. See you then.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


The literary world will, once again, be in a state of grief but the blog is shut down at least until next week. I am off to Jackson to see my buddy in the hospital and be of some slight use to his family.

Talk to you upon my return.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Sunday Feeling

I don't really have much to write about this weekend. But seeing as how that has never deterred me in the past I will soldier on. The regular readers of this space, all 6 of you, may recall, that I had planned to be in Jackson this weekend to help Laura while her husband Hugh recovers from Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome in the CCU at St. Dominic over there. Well, that got cancelled when Laura sent me a text saying that she had a stomach bug. She said "Don't come." "Don't worry," I swiftly texted back.

Keeping a vigil will make you crazy. I sat with Mother pretty much every day that she was in her coma preceding her death. We humans like to feel helpful and useful at times like these. It is natural to feel that you have to be there at all times. To do otherwise is tantamount to abandonment. At least that's how it feels. But the longer certain situations drag on the more you tend to realize your irrelevance to the process.

There is a golf course across the street from the nursing home whether Mother spent her last years. About every 2-3 hours or so during my particular vigil I would go over there just to walk around and get some fresh air. Maybe watch guys tee off. I am a pretty active guy who likes being outside. I had to feel the cold wind in my face, the sun on my back. Just 15 or 20 minutes every 3 hours or so. Just to remove myself from the environment.

I once read a book called "Storms Can't Hurt The Sky-a Buddhist Approach To Divorce." While I was not in the process of getting a divorce, the book had received good reviews and it seemed interesting. Buddhism is a lot less "touchyfeely"than I had thought previously. And so the book had a lot of surprisingly useful and practical approaches to conflict and grief. My favorite observation in the book was that of the Zen approach to worry that came back to me during my final week with Mom.

It is this: "If a problem has a solution there is no need to worry. If a problem has no solution there is no USE to worry."

Mother was receiving the most competent and compassionate end-of-life care imaginable. She was in a coma. My being there at her side was not going to change the fact that she was going to die. My taking a break now and again was not going to hasten her demise. There was nothing I could do. There was no use to worry.

And life has a nasty tendency to go on regardless of how much the loved one would wish otherwise. The longer I was away from work, the more frequent came the calls from other lawyers. All of which were premised with, "God, I hate to talk about business at a time like this but..." But.

Indeed, my brother Bob who is the mama's boy in the mind of God told Mother one night "Mom, you know I love you. But I have to go see my boys."


My buddy Hugh is in the safest place he can be. He is attended to by two highly trained nurses at all times. He has stabilized. He is making incremental improvements on a daily basis. The plan now is to begin the slow process of weaning him off the respirator. This is a good thing.

I hope to get down there next Thursday and stay until Sunday. He is receiving the best care imaginable and he is getting better. There is no need to worry. Since there is absolutely nothing I can contribute to his care there is no use to worry.

But it is hard. It is hard.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

A Summons To Jackson

Like everyone else in Arkansas, I am socked in by one of the biggest snowstorms in pretty much anybodies memory. And for once, I really don't have time for this. Sure, it's pretty to look at and it's nice to get a couple of free days off from work. But I have other concerns.

My friend Hugh is in the ICU at a hospital in Jackson. He's on a ventilator. Seems he caught the flu, which turned into double pneumonia. Which turned into something called Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. It is every bit as scary as it sounds and is the reason for his current predicament.

I graduated from law school with Hugh where we went to ball games and hung out in bars together. We also studied occasionally. I sang at he and Laura's wedding. He called me when they adopted Camille and Susannah. We've gone to ball games, played golf and done the stuff guys in the South like to do. Except hunt and get arrested. Anyway, he is as good a friend as I have in this life. And here I am stuck on top of this hill at Ice Station Zebra.

I tried to game this. I checked on getting a flight down there. Unless I get to Memphis by 7 AM, which ain't gonna happen due to the jack-knifed 18 wheelers on I-40, my options aren't very good. Fly to Houston for 4 hour layover? No good way to fly from here to Jackson. Might as well drive. Sure, I could have stole a march on the storm and headed down Monday or Tuesday. But I had stuff at work that I had to catch up on after the office closing last Friday on account of snow. And it ain't a good idea to leave an 80-something year old house when they are calling for lows in the teens.

Laura and I talked about it at length Sunday and Monday. She understands. What are the odds of hale and hearty Hugh Tedder coming down with something like this while Little Rock is getting socked with the biggest "snow event" in memory? Just bad luck all the way around.

I also know there's nothing I can do except be with Laura. Hugh's sedated. It's not like I could really visit him. But I could drive Susannah around or let Laura go get some rest. It's not much but I could do that. I could do something.

I feel completely useless right now. But there's not a damn thing I can do about it until the roads clear. There's no point in me getting stuck on US 65 around White Hall or someplace. There's no point in risking wrapping my car around a lightpole. One member of the family in the ICU at a time please.

They came up for a visit about this time 2 years ago. We had a great time. We went to the Presidential Library and hung around in the River Market. We had a nice dinner at Ferneau.

Laura told Hugh that she wanted to move up here to Hillcrest. Hugh seemed amenable to the idea maybe someday. It was nice thing to think about at least.

Laura's cool. She knows I will be there as soon as I can.

I'm shooting for Friday. I hope to be in Jackson by Friday.

And I hope that both of them can come back to Hillcrest soon. Really soon. I don't think anything would make me happier to see them come through my front door agaun.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

My Sunday Feeling

I suppose that it is safe to say that I have more than a casual interest in sports. I played a lot of ball as a kid. I ran in races, played competitive tennis and am a passable golfer admittedly only on my best day.

While I follow professional football, especially the Saints, I have to admit that I am fairly agnostic about the Super Bowl. If there is a more relentlessly overhyped, over-reported and just over anything in professional sports I don't know what it is.

And so, it is perfect that the Super Bowl contest between the Steelers and the Packers will be played this year in Jerry Jones' over the top (there's that word over again) Cowboys Stadium. Where one of the teams playing will most definitely not be the underachieving Dallas Cowboys.

Which, of course, I think is great. But I digress.

The Super Bowl is the NFL's tribute to itself and to the culture of big business as much as it is about football. It is about as subtle as Ben Roethlisberger's barroom pick-up technique. Which makes big, rich, football and Republican crazy Dallas the perfect place for such a spectacle.

Except for one thing. The weather in Dallas is just awful this time of year. I mean, I get the fact that the damn thing will be played in a dome the size of Kansas. But that's not the problem. The problem is that Texas and Oklahoma are yet again socked in by the usual late January-early February ice storm. Planes aren't flying in or out. The freeway system is one big luge. Hell, five people were injured Friday, once critically, when ice slid off of Cowboy Stadium and struck them below.

And this crappy weather happens every year down there. You would think that all the corporate types that spend a gazillion dollars for all the events surrounding the game itself would have thought to consult the National Weather Service for a 5 year average for early February in the Dallas Metroplex.

But no. They didn't worry about the elements because Jerry's Stadium is domed. Which is pretty short sighted for a tight-assed quasi-military outfit like the NFL.

Turning to the game itself, I think it will be a close one. I give the slight edge to Green Bay just because they play well in domes to which their annhilating an excellent Atlanta Falcons team in the Georgia Dome attests. But I also like the Steelers. Indeed, both teams seem to be populated with pretty good guys now that Big Ben has been chastened and James Harrison is no longer running around trying to decapitate people.

And so while I am agnostic on the subject, I will watch the damn thing, just like everyone else in America and all her ships at sea. And hope for a good game so that the highlight of the broadcast is the game itself and not the commercials, many of which last year were simply downright strange.

And if you think playing the Super Bowl, hell, much less planning any large scale event in Dallas this time of year is idiotic, wait until they play the Super Bowl in New York. Yes, the same New York, fixated upon by terrorists for decades. The same New York where there are, as we speak, 10 foot snow drifts.

Hey! I got an idea!

How about Port au Prince as a future site? At least it's warm.