Saturday, June 30, 2012


The literary world will once again heave a heavy sigh but there will be no My Sunday Feeling tomorrow as I will be out of town. 

Talk among yourself until I get back. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Why Would I Lie About That?

I ordered something to eat at the rolling Mexican food place-a taqueria?-outside the wine place I like out in West Little Rock. 

As the kid-maybe 10-was writing down my order he asked me a question.

"Senor, have you ever seen an Anaconda?"

"In person? No."

"They can eat big rats and small dogs even."

" Do I remind you of an Anaconda?"  Could be.  I still hold a license to practice law. 

"No Senor," the kid said.  "I'm just studying them and I think it's interesting. I get bored taking down orders for Mama and I like to talk to customers." 

I told him that was OK and that I would see him in a minute after I had bought my groceries at the liquor store.

When I returned to the rolling restaurant there was a lady standing there looking at the menu on the side of the van.  She is wearing a smock as would a worker in a nursing home or some other useful profession. 

"Excuse me, " she said. " Have you eaten here before?"

"Yeah," I said.  "It's great."

"Well, I live in Southwest Little Rock.  These kind of places are all over there.  They are all good.  "


"Mabelvale.  Over by the ball park."

" Little Oaks?  Played Little League and Babe Ruth there. Was baptized at Mabelvale United Methodist."

" You're kidding! "

I extend my hand. 

"My name is Paul, ma'am"

"My name is Carla," she says." Your shirt says Hendrix.  You went to Hendrix? And you're from Mabelvale?"

"Yes ma'am," I said. " And my law degree also says I'm from Mablevale, Arkansas."


"Why would I lie about that?"

"Well I guess you wouldn't," she said turning back to the menu. " How are the burritos?"

"Don't know.  Good luck. I bet they're good. I have to go now."

"Nobody's from Mabelvale," she said.  

"Nobody but you and me," was my reply. And I walked away. 

I swear to God this happened tonight. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

"Sexually attracted, you know, I, I enjoy young people.  I,I, love to be around them.  No, I'm not sexually attracted to little boys." 

Thus was the organ recital Jerry Sandusky gave to Bob Costas last year in response to the simple question of whether he was sexually attracted to little boys. 

You ask me the question "Why do you help out at Miracle League?" you would hear me say, "I enjoy being around the kids."  You ask me if I am sexually attracted to them and you will wake up in the hospital.  But, then again, it's pretty black and white with me and everybody else I associate with. 

The Bob Costas interview was when I, and I suspect the whole sane world, knew that Sandusky was a creep.  He just wasn't a convicted creep at the time. 

He is now, Brother.  Last night the jury came back and convicted him of 45 of 48 counts of sexually assaulting 10 boys over the last 15 years. 

He got off light. 

I understand stealing.  I understand burglary.  I understand cooking the books.  I understand selling drugs.  I wouldn't do those things but I at least have a frame of reference for them. 

I don't get sex offenders.  And I reeeeeaaalllly don't get adults that do kids.  Their brains are deeply unhinged in a way I cannot fathom. 

My friend Peter bought me lunch the other day.  A defendant he was about to sue up and died on him.  He and the lawyer for the decedent's insurer moved the Court to have me named as Special Receiver for Service of Process or some shit.  For this he was buying me lunch.  I work cheap. 

Anyway, I had expressed my exasperation as to why Sandusky was evidently hell-bent on going to trial.  As the old saying goes in the criminal world, when you get charged with that many offenses of the same nature, "Boy, you know you done at least one of them." Same here.  Why drag yourself and your family through the shame and degradation?  Why cruelly force these young men to relive these unspeakable acts?  Especially when you know you "done at least one of them."

Peter is an old prosecutor and he still does a little criminal defense.  Mostly of the knucklehead variety.  Peter's take on it was interesting.

"Here's the deal with child molesters Pablo," he said. " in the fucked up way Sandusky's brain operates, he probably doesn't think he did anything all that bad.  He probably thinks he helped those kids out more than he hurt them.  Anybody who is that delusional probably thinks that the jury will see it his way." 

Which, as it turned out, was crazy. 

And now there will be hell to pay.  Sandusky will spend the rest of his life in isolation.  This could be a long time depending on whether he accidentally runs across the wrong con.  One who has nothing to lose.  Or he may kill himself.  He supposedly is on "suicide watch." This is not surprising.  There must be nothing worse for a man with such juvenile and twisted ego needs to have limits placed on his behavior. 

The former athletic director and another official are charged with perjuring themselves before the Grand Jury.  The FBI is poking around as is the United States Department of Education.  Penn State will get sued as will Joe Paterno's estate.  The new President and Athletic Director will get to spend the next couple of years in the company of lawyers. 

"Happy Valley" indeed. 

If there is any lesson to be taken away from this exceedingly sordid and heartbreaking tale it is that there are monsters among us in all walks of life.  They burrow into otherwise good and honorable professions.  They are clergy.  They are teachers.  They are coaches.  As a society, we have to be hyper vigilant about their presence among us.  And we should give aid and sustained comfort to their victims.  We should applaud their bravery when they name names and give voice to the unspeakable horror visited upon them. 

In short, we should never forget that this can happen again.  Because there are monsters among us.  Monsters like Jerry Sandusky who rightly figured that the system would give him a pass because it did for years. 

As for me and my friends at Miracle League?  Yeah.  We like to be around the kids.

And we can't let the Jerry Sanduskys of this world ruin it for us. 

Want to make something of it?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

Could there have been anything more heart-rending than the testimony of the young men at the trial of former Penn State Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky who is charged with molesting numerous young boys? The witnesses, now adults, bravely, and at great emotional cost to themselves, took the stand and described in vivid and graphic detail what Sandusky is accused of doing to them when they were kids.

The prosecution put Mike McQueary on the stand last week to testify about what he saw one night in the shower in the Penn State locker room.  McQueary was an assistant coach there at the time.  He testified that he saw Sandusky raping a young boy.  He said that he slammed a locker door hard to let Sandusky know he was there.  But that's all that he did.

"Physically, [I] didn't physically remove the young boy from the shower or punch Jerry out," he testified. 

Why not?

"I was extremely frustrated and flushed," he testified. "Once I saw them separated, it's safe to assume I assumed it was over.  I've said repeatedly I didn't do anything to stop it.  Its been well publicized."

My buddy Don asked a pretty simple question.  Again, why not?

McQueary's not a bad guy.  He reported the incident to Head Coach Joe Paterno who, following protocol advised the Athletic Director.  He then told his story to the Athletic Director and the Vice President in charge of the campus police.  Who did nothing.  Anybody that got hurt by Sandusky after the incident in the shower that night, that's not on McQueary.

The sporting press has been full of arm chair psychology about that night in the locker room.  Most of them don't fault McQueary for not intervening because "none of us know what we would do if we were in the same position as he."

Which is bullshit.  I know what I would have done.  Don knows what he would have done.  And nobody has ever mentioned either of us alongside the phrase "physical bravery."

You pull the attacker off the kid.  You tell the kid to run.  If the attacker fights you, well, bad for you.  Most likely if McQueary had intervened Sandusky would have run away.  Fine.  The cops would have known where to find him.  You get a towel or blanket to cover the kid.  You comfort him without touching him and you assure him that he is safe.  You don't touch him to let him know that you are different than the bad man that hurt him.  You also don't touch him because his body is basically a crime scene and he will have to be examined by a doctor with a rape kit. 

And you call 911.  You frigging call 911. 

It is a no-brainer to me.  And it is a no-brainer to just about anybody I know.

Meanwhile, back in Court, Sandusky's lawyers won a ruling that will let them put on an expert who will testify that Sandusky has a "histrionic personality disorder." Their theory, as I understand it, is that the disorder caused him to seek the affection and companionship of young boys while not necessarily grooming them to be victims of molestation.  Talk about your thin lines.

Well, I'm not exactly Mr. Criminal Defense Lawyer but gooooood luck with that.  The problem with such "diminished capacity" defenses is that they are rarely successful.  And that's because they are interposed to explain a defendant's behavior.  In other words, since they can't refute the facts, they will use this in an attempt to explain away the facts.  As I have said, "good luck."

But what the hell.  From what I can tell they don't have much else going for them. It's not like he has an alibi. It's not like it's normal for a grown man to shower with young boys. It's not like they can put Sandusky on the stand.  He's too stupid and squirrelly to stand up to cross-examination.

But who cares about him? 

This whole sorry situation represents a massive institutional failure on the part of Penn State University to protect the weak and the vulnerable.  It is easily the worst scandal to have visited college sports.

And I will have to believe that Mike McQueary will kick himself all the way to the grave because he didn't "punch Jerry out."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

Yesterday was Mother's Birthday.  I'm thinking that she would have been 86 or 87.  But I don't recall what year she was born.  I almost forgot her birthday altogether but  my friend Jennifer was kind enough to remind me and to tell me she was thinking of me.  That was nice.  She didn't have to do that.  I am always grateful for small kindnesses extended my way.  I seem to get a lot of them and I am not at all sure that I deserve half of  what I get.

I have been getting a few "How are you doing?" type messages and there are a lot of kind posts on Facebook.  Again, my life is abundant with small kindnesses.  And I am grateful for each one.  So.  How am I doing?  This is how I'm doing.  Pretty good. I've lived a lot of life in the last couple of years.  Some good, some not so good.  But we are on a definite upward arc. 

Granted, yesterday had a strange feel to it.  It wasn't sad exactly.  Rather, it was-for lack of any other phrase that I can someone forth right now-sweetly poignant.  It wasn't grief and it wasn't nostalgia.  It was somewhere at the intersection between the two.  I guess her birthday provided me with the occasion to look back at the last years of her life and to reflect upon how much I time I spent taking care of her, paying her bills, driving her to the doctor and visiting with staff.  Sometimes it felt like a second job.

And even though toward the end of her life as the dementia more fully engulfed her mind Mother didn't know the difference between her birthday and Easter Sunday, I always went to see her on her birthday.  Typically, I would bring her flowers.  Mother loved flowers and I would never cease to marvel at how, though she occasionally didn't fully appreciate just who had borne her the flowers she held in her hand, she could name each of the various ones.  Pretty much up until the end her love of flowers remained hard wired in her head.

And I say all of this by long winded way of explaining that it feels odd not to be able to wish my Mother a happy birthday.  Christmas-who cares?-and Mother's Day was almost as big a pain in the ass as Valentine's Day.  And the day of her death the last two Decembers didn't really affect me all that much. She suffered greatly. Death, under the circumstances, is merciful. But not being able to wish somebody a happy birthday on this day really has bothered me.

I discovered yesterday on Facebook (where else?) that my Baptist preacher golfing buddy shares a birthday with my Mom.  I am not an overly sentimental man and I am not typically given over to magical thinking.  But I find it oddly comforting that I still have somebody I can celebrate this day with.  Maybe it is because we humans find comfort and meaning in symbols and rituals.  Hey, it's worked for the Catholics, Episcopalians and Orthodox for centuries. 

Or maybe it's because when you are little birthdays are really big deals and remain thus until after you can drive a car and/or legally buy a drink.  And your Mom always made a cake and invited your friends over.  In any event, why fight it?

As you may recall, my friend Michele has recently joined me in the Motherless Adults club. It was in that vein yesterday that she suggested that I get a piece of cake and in that way celebrate Mom's life. This is why I love Michele Walter.  Because buying a piece of cake would have never occurred to me in a million years.  As Michele said, "That's what I'm here for."  Again, a kindness bestowed.

I don't have much of a sweet tooth.  I have a gin tooth.  But I used to take Mother oatmeal cookies from Starbucks.  They are soft and Mother could tear them with her hands and swallow them easily.  I would take one for me and one for her. And we would eat them together in her room at the nursing home.  So yesterday I bought myself an oatmeal cookie from Starbucks in remembrance of my Mom.

Happy Birthday, Mother!  And Happy Birthday, Randy!

And thank God for small kindnesses. 

Sunday, June 03, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

There are times when events occur that makes one wonder whether they are a by-product of the national zeitgeist or whether they are more accurately understood instead as mere localized stupidity. 

Last week, a 4 year old Mormon boy-or more accurately a little boy born of Mormon parents-was denied admission to pre-school (I guess) at Little Rock Christian Academy.  The parents were upset and went to the press.  The reporter interviewed a member of the Board.  A lady named Carla Emanuel, who evidently is of some prominence socially seeing as how her picture coincidentally graced the cover of a local magazine the same time as the interview took place.

"It's very, very sneaky when people come in especially in elementary and junior high grades where the kids are [sic] very influenced.  It's frightening how quickly things can get turned around," she said. "They are called to do that, which is fine.  But then start a Mormon school,"  she said.

And if we need further proof that Ms. Emanuel does not possess a "Gee, Maybe I Better Shut Up" alarm in her head, she went on make the informed and theologically nuanced observation that "I don't believe they ("they" being the Mormons we may safely assume) will go to Heaven."

A more paranoid and profoundly stupid remark can scarcely be imagined.  Don't believe me?  Then let us parse it further. 

"It's very, very sneaky when people come in..." What's sneaky about it?  I'm sure the kid's parents filed an application with the school just like everybody else.  They evidently didn't lie on the application either. And what "people" are she referring to?  She didn't mention the Mormons by name.  Jews have historically been accused of sneakiness.  Or maybe she doesn't like Unitarians. 

And it is evidently the height of sneakiness when "people" try to come in to "elementary and junior high grades where the kids are [sic]very influenced."  But that's not what happened here.  The kid was trying to get into pre-school. While it is not uncommon for paranoids to get their facts wrong, this one, like Barack Obama not really being born in the United States, is not even close. 

"It's frightening how quickly things can get turned around." Really?  Has it ever happened before? Did the kids at LRCA start making reference en masse to the "Holy Ghost" and asking for martinis for breakfast the last time an Episcopalian child was admitted there?  And are they so insecure about their own faith out there that the presence of a 4 year old Mormon is a threat?

And finally, "They are called to do that, which is fine. But then start a Mormon school."  I assume she means that Mormons are called to proselytize.  Which is not only "fine"it's true.  But again, the kid in question is 4.  Even Jesus didn't confound the Elders in the Temple until he was older.

Now the question I had momentarily is whether the kerfuffle over at LRCA has anything to do with the larger question burning its way through some quarters as to whether Mormonism (for lack of a better word) is so outside the stream of American religious experience that it will hurt Mitt Romney politically.  There are a considerable number of people that do not believe that Mormons are Christians.  Or as noted theologian Carla Emanuel put it, they ain't going to Heaven.  That would be 6 million of them in the United States alone.  Each and every one of them consigned to Perdition by a member of the Board at LRCA. 

I may be wrong but I don't believe that I know any Mormons. If I do, they have chosen, much to my considerable relief, to keep it to themselves. But I can certainly believe that they are Christians if for no other reason than they tend to display outward and visible signs of the faith such as hard work, thrift, devotion to family, clean and moral living and charity. However, I also fully believe that Joseph Smith was a con artist of the first water who was in it for the money and the chicks as much as anything.  And while I am exceedingly tolerant of the religious persuasions of others, I find some Mormon beliefs such as baptism by proxy and how Smith came to receive the revelation from the Angel Moroni to be utter hooey.  Finally, while I probably don't think of end time theology very much, I can say that I do not believe for 5 minutes that the Second Coming of Jesus will occur in Missouri. 

But being a Mormon doesn't disqualify Mitt Romney from the highest office in the land because the Constitution forbids a religious test for Public Office, although you wouldn't know it from the debate during the Republican primaries.  And I believe upon further reflection that the recent unpleasantness here in town has little to do with the larger national debate.  From what little we know now, it is just a local bit of ugliness.

Mitt Romney's faith does not disqualify him from the Presidency.  But it evidently would disqualify his grand kids from admittance to Little Rock Christian Academy.