Sunday, December 29, 2013

Technical Problems

No post for today as my old modem bit the dust yesterday and I don't have a real keyboard for the iPad.  

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

My Sunday Feeling

I suppose this dreary Sunday is as good as any to discuss, and perhaps put in some perspective, the latest dust up concerning the piece on Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson in next month's GQ magazine.  As we all know by now, Robertson was suspended by the Arts and Entertainment Network (which probably should drop the first word of its brand name since A&E is running a show like Duck Dynasty) for certain awkward remarks about, and I paraphrase, the relative merits concerning the mechanics of gay and straight copulation, the Bible's alleged condemnation of homosexuality, how the absence of Christianity in Japan and Germany (or "no Jesus" as Robertson succinctly put it) was the putative cause of World War II, and how black folks were "happy" "pre-welfare." He also lumped gay folks in with "drunks and terrorists" as the sort of folks that he prays for.

Of course, these remarks were offensive to gay folks. They were probably offensive to drunks and terrorists as well. 

This has produced the predictable firestorm of protest from Christian conservatives who claim that Robertson is being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness and that his "rights to free speech" are being violated.

This of course, leads me inescapably to Nolan Richardson.  You may recall that Mr. Richardson, who formerly held the Chair of Basketball at the University of Arkansas, once dared UA to fire him in a post-game interview.  They obliged him.

He sued the State of Arkansas claiming that his firing was an act of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  He also claimed that he was fired for exercising his right to free speech under the 1st Amendment.  UA claimed they fired him because his popping off damaged the basketball program.  UA won.

What has this got to do with Duck Dynasty?  This. And my license to practice law is up on the wall to my right as I type this.  There is no such thing as "free speech."  Robertson, Nolan, Sarah Palin and you and I have the 1st Amendment right to believe and say anything we want to.  But the 1st Amendment does not inoculate you against the consequences of the free exercise of that right.  And, the 1st Amendment can only be violated by the government.  Not a cable television network.

Which brings me back to Nolan Richardson.  He was fired by a governmental entity after the free and unfettered exercise of his right to hate Frank Broyles. And he lost.  

But I do agree with Robertson's supporters.  This situation is all about freedom.  He is free to run his mouth as he sees fit.  And A & E is free to discipline him according to the contract that binds them both. Paula Deen got fired by the Food Network.  Alec Baldwin got cashiered by MSNBC. It happens.  And the folks that are threatening to boycott the show's sponsors are free to do that.

At the end of the day, it will come down to nothing more principled than money.  A & E will make the business decision on how much the backlash will hurt. The Robertson family will decide if they want to continue to do business with the network.  And this will all be forgotten in 6 months.

I think the better question is why does junk like "reality TV," which is to "reality" as televangelists are to Christianity, have such a purchase on American culture?  I read the GQ piece.  Phil Robertson comes across more as strange and low-stupid than he does as a flat-out bigot.  But who gives two hoots in Hell about Phil Robertson's opinion on anything outside of duck hunting anyway?

I mean, c'mon.  

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Slacking on Sunday

Nothing to report worth reporting.  I used to be more diligent than this.

Oh well.  It is what it is.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

My Sunday Housebound Feeling

The annual Yuletide ice storm came a little early this season.  Last Friday much of the State was greeted by scenes such as the above as we were socked by another winter storm.  Northwest Arkansas got a bunch of snow, here in the rest of the State we got ice.  Which is the worst.  

But we got lucky for once.  The robo-call from Entergy last Thursday warned me to prepare for power outages lasting 5-7 days.  Which made me want to catch the first thing smoking to Santa Fe or someplace equally dry.  But even if I were to seriously give in to that, air travel was screwed, blued and tattooed across the West and Midwest due to what the National Weather Service euphemistically refers to as "disturbances."

Even after the dreadful Christmas of last year, it was hard to take such warnings of dire weather seriously.  After all, I went for a walk with a neighbor Wednesday night.  It was almost 80 and we were in shorts and shirtsleeves.  The next evening I heard thunder.

Thunder in December in Little Rock is never good.  

But like I said, we dodged a bullet.  The temps were cold enough that we got sleet instead of freezing rain which is a "pick your poison" kind of a deal.  Sleet makes the roads impassable which is a pain, especially now that we are into Day 3.  Freezing rain takes down power lines.  

So we had very few outages here in Pulaski County.  Which is good as this meant that the basic comforts of life, namely heat and the Internet, were still obtainable.  Though the area churches are mostly closed today, I have cable TV so I have access to televangelists to sustain me at this hour.

And, unlike many people who inexplicably wait until the last minute to acquire provisions,, I had gone to the grocery store and the liquor store last Tuesday or so.  So I have enough groceries to last me into next week.  Along about that time I went to the hardware store and bought 2 bags of ice melt crystals and 3 cans of windshield de-icer.  I could probably auction them off right now.

Pain in the ass that this is, it has been nice to catch up on my reading.  I've been getting calls and text messages from all over the place and that has been fun.  My friends and I do running checks on each other.  So far so good.  Nobody has fallen or gotten a heart attack.  Or lost a bunch of money on college football.  That I have heard of.

We are all inconvenienced.  But that's all we are.  As long as we are inside our cozy homes we are allowed the luxury of forgetting how bitterly cold it is.  And how dangerous it is.

I am the son of a Hoosier.  My father believed that you have to de-ice a car at your earliest convenience.  So I cleared a path to my vehicle with the ice-melt stuff.  I fired it up and cranked up the defrosters. I sprayed the windshields.  And I froze my ass off.

And it occurred to me at that time that this sort of thing is not completely necessary.  Buck Bowen did not live long enough to see fuel injected engines or reliable batteries.  There is little likelihood of water freezing up a fuel line as the gas we buy now is better.  And unlike my father, I do not buy Chrysler products with their notoriously balky starters that I can't imagine that Chrysler has gotten around to fixing.  But I can't help myself.  I am the son of a Midwesterner. I de-ice the car.

I was outside for about an hour.  It took me another hour and two cups of hot tea before I quit shivering.  I thought of the man in the tent.

A lady walking her dog spotted a tent on the North slope in Knoop Park the other day.  Another witness thought he saw a man living down there.  Guys from the Park Department went down there to roust him but found nobody there.

I know that you can't have people camping in the city parks.  I get that.  But what a symbol of our society's inability to cope with the problem of homelessness, mental illness and grinding poverty.  

Cold doesn't much bother me.  And yet I could barely handle an hour of exposure to the bitter cold we are currently experiencing.  

I am merely inconvenienced.  The man in the tent may be dead.  

I am blessed.  I am fortunate.  I have nothing to complain about.  

And if you can read this, neither do you.  

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Duty Calls

Between, Thanksgiving and deadlines for 2 other writing projects, there is no time for blogging.  

I hate it when this happens.

Meanwhile, never yield.  

See ya later.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

My Sunday Feeling

When I was a young lawyer I was scared to death of judges.  Now I am a not-so-young lawyer and I'm no longer scared of them.  Part of this has to do with the fact that I have more experience now.  But it also has to do with the fact that I knew most of these folks when they were plain old lawyers just like me before they were transfigured.  So while I respect them, I'm not afraid of them.  

And I am friends with a few of them.  Got a text message from one the other night.  And I played golf the other day with another one.  When I was young in the practice the notion of my playing golf with someone who wears a black robe 8 hours a day would have been unthinkable.  Now it's no big deal.

I know Judge pretty well.  We have eaten lunch together and serve on committees together.  We had just never played golf together until the other day and I hadn't spent a whole lot of time with him since he went on the bench.  

We had a great time both playing golf and catching up on old news.  And while we really didn't talk much business-mainly because he can't but also because I have none to discuss-I did take the opportunity to ask him how seeing the practice of law from the other side had changed him.  

" I'll tell you," he said as he gazed downrange as we waited for the group ahead of us to clear. "I now understand that removing people from society for long periods of time is a very real part of my job."  

Former neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman got himself arrested in Florida the other day.  He was charged with aggravated assault, battery and criminal mischief after a domestic disturbance in which he is said to have threatened a lady friend with a shotgun and to have shattered a glass table.  He is free pending the trial, but one of the conditions of his bond was that he not possess firearms.  

To which I reply "about damn time."  

If you may recall, Zimmerman was acquitted in the death of teenager Trayvon Martin a scant four months ago.  In September his ex-wife called 911 after she alleged that he threatened she and her father.  The authorities found insufficient evidence to charge him with that offense.  

Some people just have a nose for trouble.  And it would appear that Zimmerman has such a proboscis himself.  He latest attorney is a public defender.  This is because, according to CNN, he is liquid in the amount of about $150 and owes 2 million in debts.  This implies a history of poor decisions leavened with a healthy dose of bad luck.  In other words, George Zimmerman is a loser.

But as a friend of mine said the other day after learning of Zimmerman's currant run-in with law, "Who would have thought that the slaying of a teenager wouldn't be the stupidest act of a lifetime?"

Indeed.  But there are some people who resist the temptation to lead a quiet normal life.  And Zimmerman appears to be one of those folks.  Even after after having that life restored to him by the jury in perhaps the most racially charged case since the OJ Simpson case.

Me?  I lay low.  But then again, I wouldn't have gotten myself-and in fact- haven't gotten myself into any of the fixes our hero has gotten himself into.

Back here in my little neighborhood, we have been experiencing a spike in property offenses.  People are justifiably angry and scared in equal measure.  We are having a meeting Monday night to discuss this.  One of the topics presented will be whether to form a neighborhood crime watch.

I am less than sanguine about this option primarily due to the Trayvon Martin case.  While I am reasonably sure that we don't have many cowboys like George Zimmerman running around over here in Hillcrest, you never really know.  But I am just one vote.  

I just hope that if we go that route that it will be after extensive training and be subject to stringent rules of engagement.  One Trayvon is too many.

And if George Zimmerman is convicted on the most recent charges, he needs to be removed from society. And he doesn't need to own a weapon ever again.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

My Sunday Feeling

I finally got to take in my first Hendrix Warriors football game yesterday.  Hendrix fielded its first varsity football team in 53 years this year.  It competes in NCAA's Division III in the Southern Athletic Association along with the likes of Oglethorpe (who are the Stormy Petrels, which has to be the coolest mascot ever), Millsaps, Rhodes, and Sewanee among others.  

As I understand it, Hendrix decided to get back into the football business because kids wanted to play football.  That, and the other states where it recruits heavily, like Texas and Tennessee have an ingrained football culture.  On the other hand, Hendrix also recruits on the East Coast.  So now they play field hockey and lacrosse.  

And so, what once was woods is now an athletic complex that is pretty impressive.  They have a multi-purpose football facility surrounded by a track, really nice baseball and softball parks and a soccer field.

I marveled at all of this stuff when I took in a baseball game last Spring.  Back when I was a kid, Hendrix played basketball, golf, tennis, swimming and did cross-country in what was back then the old Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference (AIC).  Women's athletics pretty much existed as club sports although Beth Forney was pretty much the men and women's tennis teams.  And though Hendrix did well in basketball and swimming it was pretty lousy in everything else.  

But then again, it didn't much care.  As long as Cliff Garrison's boys were filling up Grove Gym, everything was hunky-dory on Washington Avenue.  

But those days are over, boy.  

I read, and reviewed for the local paper, The System by Armen Keteyian and Jeff Benedict.  It is a book that serves as an indictment of how money completely drives and corrupts Division I football.  It is no exaggeration to say that the football tail wags the institutional dog at many of the university that fields teams.  

Even the so-called "academic schools" such as Northwestern, Duke and Vanderbilt have gotten serious about football and all are bowl eligible this season.  Hell, even Tulane is bowl eligible.  And Stanford is about as good as anybody in the country.  

So it can be done and it can be done with a reasonble nod at integrity.  

D-III is all about participation and academics.  The women's sports are taken as seriously as the men's.  You don't hear much about Title IX problems at that level.  Nor do you hear as much about off-the-field-stuff in D-III as do in big time college athletics.  Then again, D-III doesn't offer scholarships and recruits real students.  Real students tend to socialized.  

So, what did I think of today's tilt between the Warriors and the Sewanee Tigers?  Not much.  Neither team was very good.  Sewanee was bigger and had more guys than Hendrix did.  The Warriors were gamers but just got wore down by the visiting Episcopalians.  

By the way, and this is apropos of nothing, but I have visited the campus of the University of the South.  It is the most beautiful place I have ever seen.  You should go.  Really.

Back to the game, although the boys in black spotted the Tigers 20 points at halftime they came back fired up in the second and almost made a game of it until getting picked off in the 4th quarter which led to Sewanee's final TD for a 35-9 win.  

Still, the Warriors blocked 2 PATs in the first half which I had never seen before and returned one of them back for a safety which I had also never seen before.  And there was a pretty good, albeit brief, fight after the interception which led to the ejection of one of the scrappier Warriors.  That was fun.  

They won 3 games this year.  That's more than I thought they would win.  They are obviously well-coached.  They have a good foundation and nice facilities.  If you have to do football, this is as benign as it gets.

What the hell.  I may go up to Sewanee when Hendrix plays them up there next season.  I hear that guys wear kilts at their games which I can certainly do without.  But the University of the South.  There are worse reasons to go on a road trip.  

And you don't see crazy shit like guys wearing kilts in DI. 

I'm in.  

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Overtaken By Events

Between short stories and random acts of journalism and photography, there was no time for blogging this week.

Catch you later.  

We'll try to do better next time as Tony Kornheiser says.  

Sunday, November 03, 2013

My Sunday More Light Feeling

Daylight Savings Time ended at 1 AM this morning.  As my friends know, I really don't do very well for the first few days or weeks of Standard Time.  I don't know what it is exactly.  

Maybe it's because the first couple of days it feels as if the dark just falls on top of you out of nowhere.  Maybe it's because I can't play golf late in the afternoon.  Much of my neighborhood is not particularly well lit.  It is unwise to go out for a walk or run without some reflective gear on.  And it has to be said that crime goes up a little when the darkness arrives sooner.  CST is a pain in the butt.  

Then again, maybe I dread CST because it heralds the beginning of the inaccurately named Holidays.  While I tolerate Thanksgiving reasonably well, I have absolutely no use for Christmas.  And very little for New Year's Eve.  And it occurs to me that with that latter remark, this is the earliest in the calendar year that I have started bitching about the Holidays.  On the other hand, there is basketball to watch along with the bowl games.  As long as they keep making whisky I can get by.

One of my friends told me that he and some of my other friends were moderately concerned about me when CST started right after I retired.  He said that I have a tendency to "be a little blue" at the start of CST.  They thought that after all the stuff that had gone on prior to my retirement combined with my complete discombobulation at not having structure in my life,well, they were worried.  

While I am fortunate to have friends that keep watch over me, I didn't think the slight malaise that envelopes me briefly at the end of Daylight time was particularly noticeable.  But I guess it was.  And, seeing as how I find myself typing this, I guess I lived to get beyond November of 2011.  

Not everybody is like me.  I have a friend who is just the opposite.  She gets depressed at the advent of Spring. Which I find unfathomable.  She actually likes the dark and to a lesser extent the cold.  Conversely, she finds my lightened disposition around March to be intolerable.  And she reminds me of this without surcease.  

To each their own.

This year I have a plan for when the lights go out.  Since we tend to stay indoors more during this wretched season, I plan to be productive.  My closets are a disaster.  I plan to straighten them up and donate a bunch of stuff to Goodwill.  I have some book reviews to tend to.  And I need to figure out if I am going to practice law again.  Or maybe I don't.  

The deck is repaired and soon both it and the front porch will be strung with lights and lanterns.  Just in time for the Holidays!  Seriously, I plan to entertain more than I have.  I like to cook.  I like having folks come over.  I need to get back to that.  

Goethe's last words were "More light.  More light."  Well, around 4:30 this afternoon, the light will go away again.  And I won't like it one damn bit as per usual.

But this year, I gotta plan.  This year I gotta plan.  

Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Sunday Feeling

As of last Thursday, I am officially pushing 60.  I am barely into my second year of retirement.  Or at least of my divorce from Uncle Sam.  

Neither of these things seem entirely possible.  

I still feel pretty much like I did when I was in my forties.  Sure, I have a bad back and shoulder.  And sure, I have coronary artery disease despite a fairly healthy diet and lifestyle and I have a bum shoulder.  

But I feel pretty good.  I still have a lot of energy.  I have gained 2 inches in my waistline in 20 years.  I still look pretty much as I did 20 years ago too.  A little grayer and balder certainly.  But folks I haven't seen in years still recognize me.  I can't make that claim about every person I run into after a prolonged absence.

It's pretty silly to get too worked up over one's birthday at this age and station in life.  Of course, I enjoyed the cards and the phone calls.  I was grateful to receive a few presents and to have a nice low-key birthday dinner with somebody who is dear to me.  And I got a text around midnight from a young woman who I have in my life.  Doesn't she know I am in bed by 10:30?  

And I was completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of birthday greetings I received on Facebook. Over 200!  Far in excess of what I remotely deserved.  Such a kindness.  I am so grateful.  

I mainly enjoyed watching my friends enjoying my most recent trip around the sun.  Yes, there were the entirely predictable jokes about my becoming elderly. As my friend Steve said, "Congratulations!  You don't look a day over 70!"

Ho Ho!

That's OK.  

And if I take everybody up that has offered me a free lunch or dinner, not only will I not have to buy groceries until January, I will have to purchase a new wardrobe!

Really, it's all good.  

And I really like my odds of being the first male on my father's side in too generations to get into the 5th decade of life.  As my doctor said during my physical, "unlike your father, you're in phenomenal shape, you don't smoke and you take statin drugs. The odds of you dropping dead from a coronary are practically zero." I guess he doesn't get to tell that to everybody my age with CAD and what the white coats refer to as a "strongly positive family history" of early death due to bad tickers.  

So really, I don't think about it all that much.  Really, I don't.  Twice a week, a muscular black gentleman in dreadlocks locks me into a harness.  And twice a week, I pull his big ass up and down the track at Scott Field.  

Lately we have been doing the cardio portion of the workout out on the football field.  I go out for passes.  Just like I did when I was a kid, except now I am much creakier, slower and I can't see as well.  Apart from that it is circa 1970 all over again. I catch the ball, jog back and we go again.  Usually about 10 times.  It is great fun to make what passes for a cut at the cone and to watch the ball come out of the sky as I head for the sidelines, the sun and the wind in my face.  

Sometimes I even catch the damn thing.  

"You know how many guys your age can do this?" Dennis always asks.  "Not many."  

And in any event, it beats sitting in a law office all to hell.  

I've been doing this blog since 2005.  Every year around my birthday I've mentioned getting closer to beating, not fulfilling, my genetic destiny.  And every year I say I like my odds.

I'm saying it again.  

And I'm saying that a more grateful man never existed.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Between the Race For The Cure and Miracle League there was no time for blogging.  

Talk among yourselves.

And how 'bout them Hogs?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

My Sunday Feeling

Unless the House of Representatives comes to its senses, the Government of the United States, the Greatest Nation on Earth, the Leader of what is left of what passes for the Free World, the Planet's police force-you get my drift-will have been out of business for 2 whole weeks.

The world must be looking on in amazement.  

It's not much more complicated than this.  A handful of Republican Members of the House are rolling their Speaker who doesn't have the balls to call to the floor a Continuing Resolution to fund the Government that doesn't have a lot of other crap attached to it.  Earlier on it was defunding the Affordable Care Act.  Never mind that it was legally passed into law.  Never mind that the Republicans ran against it in the Presidential election and lost. Never mind that the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that it is Constitutional.  And never mind that millions of people are signing up for insurance.  Or they are when the websites aren't crashing.

They don't like it and so they were willing to hold the Government hostage.  Why?  Because it's "socialized medicine."  Because it will "kill jobs."  And because-get this-it requires employer provided health care plans to offer coverage for birth control.

If you will look at your calendar you will see that we are well into the year 2013.  Not 1913.  You would think that this issue would have been resolved by now.  

Anyway, they seem to have come to the conclusion that defunding Obamacare is not going to happen.  Not with a Democratic majority in the Senate and a twice elected Democratic President in the White House.

So, they have moved on-as they say after failed relationships-to the next ransom note: the debt ceiling.  

To overly simplify things, Congress passes laws on how to tax and how to spend.  Traditionally speaking, and we're talking up until fairly recently, if there is less revenue to pay for the stuff Congress has told the Administration to pay for in the Budget, it has raised the debt ceiling to allow the Treasury to borrow the money to fully fund these things.  And it has done so 74 times since 1962.  

This would be the definition of a "rubber stamp."

And why would it be otherwise?  Remember.  This is to fund the obligations THAT THE CONGRESS HAS AUTHORIZED.

So.  Now the House wants to tie the increase in the debt ceiling to deficit reduction and decreased Federal spending.  And so you are hearing sappy comparisons to how the government should "live within its means" just like you or I do.  This comparison is inapt.

I am able to use balance sheet accounting to run my life.  I know that I will take if x amount of money and so I only spend x amount of money.  More or less.  

But household budgeting is different from government budgeting. Families grow.  Members die.  I don't print money.  I'm not raising a military force.  I'm not paying retirement benefits.  My obligations are merely to provide for myself.  

And my personal obligations are not mandated by law and are not guaranteed by the "full faith and credit of the United States." But here's where the "household budgeting" meme has some applicability to this particular crisis.

If I default on my debts, or pay them late, my creditors are likely to charge my a higher rate of interest the next time I borrow money.  Same with the Government.  If the sovereign debt of the United States of America goes into default on October 17, then our  creditors will act just like GMAC and charge Uncle more interest.  

Some fools have suggested that Treasury piecemeal some of its obligations until the crisis is resolved.  Maybe pay interest on bonds first.  Social Security next.  That sort of thing.

This is madness.  A default is a default because the government's obligations are backed by the "full faith and credit" of the United States.  Period.

Just remember.  If this isn't fixed by October 17, then the government won't be able to borrow the money to pay for the bills that CONGRESS ORDERED IT TO PAY.  

Thus endeth the Civics lesson.  

Sunday, October 06, 2013

My Sunday Feeling

The two year anniversary of my taking early retirement from my job with Uncle was October 1.  That was also the day the government shut down.  I do not think there is a cause and effect.  

This is one of the reasons I left government service.  While I could not have predicted a shut down 2 years out of the chute, working for the Feds had become more stressful since 2008.  Every September saw a fight over funding the government through Continuing Resolutions to continue funding the government.  Forget passing actual budgets in a timely fashion.  A Presidential election was coming up in 2010 that had every chance to be the nastiest in history given the rise of the Tea Party in the previous Presidential election.

The Agency that I worked for had no money for travel or training.  One of the lawyers I worked with had a hearing in Louisiana.  She needed to pay for gas and to book a room.  She was told by the Regional Office to ask the Judge down there to hold the hearing in Little Rock.  

Right.  Now THERE'S a helpful suggestion. 

No.  I was sick of it all by 2011.  And so I got out while the gettin' was good.  

I had been through at least 3, maybe 4 shutdowns in my 28 year career.  The first one was under Reagan. The longest was under Clinton.  I think that lasted about 5 days.  We were days away from one in either the last years of the Bush administration or the early years of the Obama administration.  Hell, I don't remember and I'm too lazy to look it up.

Closing down a Federal agency is not easy.  Individuals were told who were considered "essential" and who were not.  Full disclosure: I was never deemed "essential."  I was cool with it.

Cases, the legal work that the taxpayers were paying us to do, and which was the reason for our jobs, had to get long range planning about a month out.  Which meant that if you had a case load of 200-250 cases, as I did, you picked the 4-5 biggies that had discovery deadlines or God-forbid actual hearings, and made sure that you had them covered by whoever at Justice was deemed "essential." 

By the way, I ran into an Assistant United States Attorney buddy of mine today in the grocery store.  She is furloughed.  She had a deposition scheduled for last Friday.  One of the guys from the Criminal Division covered it for her.  Which is, of course, crazy.

The closer you get to the day of the furlough is when you get the "talking points" from Washington to give folks if you are asked why you were spotted on the driving range during working hours.  You were given a script to use for your voice mail greeting and the "out of office (and boy were you fixing to be out of the office)" reply on email.

The support staff secured the office.  Instructions were gone over.  No you can't volunteer to work.  That's actually against the law.  And the rule back then was that you couldn't accept any other outside employment.  My thought was "the hell with that." If the shutdown we were preparing for lasted more than 5 days I was going to instantly become "of counsel" somewhere until sanity was restored.

Then there was the issue of the actual, well, paychecks.  I was privileged to be making a lot of money for around here in the practice of law.  I could handle the hit at least for awhile.  But there's a difference between a GS-14 attorney and GS-7 documents examiner.  The idea of not having a paycheck was terrifying to a lot of good people who did nothing to deserve it.

I realize that nobody cares about Federal employees.  So let's talk about the taxpayers.  People expect government services.  They expect the parks to be open.  They expect to be able to get their farm acreage certified.  They expect to get their passports.  They expect to have their applications for Social Security processed.  

But they can't because the United States Government, the same government that built the Hoover Dam, brought electricity to the Tennessee River Valley (You ever dealt with anybody from the Tennessee Valley Authority?  What a bunch of assholes.), invaded Normandy and put a man on the moon is out of business.

Not sufficiently absurd for you?  How about this?  The United States Government is out of business but Chrysler is up and running.  

This is beyond ridiculous.  

Like I said, I got out while the gettin' was good.  

Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Sunday Feeling

I called the grandfather-to-be last week(expectant grandfather doesn't sound quite right for some reason) just to take his temperature.  I asked him how he was holding up.

His youngest daughter had gone into labor in Birmingham.  Here we go!

" You know," Don said. "Some things just don't seem possible.  The first time I felt like this was when you retired.  I looked in the mirror and asked myself 'How can this be possible?'," he said.

"Then a year later Annie tells me she's going to have a baby.  Again, I looked in the mirror and asked myself 'I'm old enough to be a grandfather. How can this be possible?'" 

I confess that this is sufficiently surreal to me to as well.  Come October 1st I will have been divorced from Uncle Sam two whole years.  There are no bears in the windows.  No wolves at the doors.  I sometimes feel like I ought to be doing something more than what I am doing.  But obviously, I'm not working real hard at trying to figure it out.

I was still gainfully employed when Annie blew through town.  She was going to Oklahoma City for some reason and stopped here to spend the night with me.  I'm thinking 5 years ago.  I was still working.  I was still with J and Hugh was still alive.

We all had a great time.  We went for pizza that night.  I took Annie to breakfast the next day.  She said that I looked nice in a suit.  I, in turn, sternly lectured her on the importance of an education.  Lucky her.  I'm surprised she ever spoke to me again.

And now that goofy kid with the big brown eyes has a daughter.  Alexandra is her name.  Mother and baby are fine.  I would be happy if Mother and Grandmother would return phone calls from Little Rock.  But it's OK.  They are kinda busy.  

Of course, Alexandra is both beautiful and miraculous in equal measure, as all babies are.  My friend Ann has had 5 of  them.  She said the first thing she did each time a new baby was placed in her arms was to count fingers and toes.  That was her threshold completely unscientific way of ascertaining that each new kid was OK.  

As far as I know, little Alexandra has the full compliment of digits.  And I do know that she comes into this world surrounded by a cloud of witnesses that love her very much.  Loving parents, grandparents and great grandparents.  At least one Aunt that I know of and a disreputable honorary Uncle back in Arkansas.  That's a pretty good start.  It doesn't hurt your chances in life when you start out with all kinds of folks that can't wait to hold you in their arms.

But Don's right.  It doesn't seem possible.  I can close my eyes and be transported back to Tulane in an instant.  Don and Karin were dating.  Now they are grandparents.  I'm no longer working for the government (or working much at all actually).

And little Annie is a mama.  

I will head over to Birmingham to make her acquaintance once the dust settles.  To the extent the dust ever really gets settled when a new baby arrives. There will be plenty of time for me to get to know her.

Actually, that's not true.  While there's no great rush for me to get a look at her there's not plenty of time.

Alexandra's arrival punctuates the fact that 30 years just went by in a finger snap. 

Like her Grandpa said, "How can this be possible?"  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Rest Cure

I have been pretty much preoccupied by all things Harvest Fest this week.  So, no MSF today.  

Keep calm and bet the over next week when the Hogs play A&M.  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

My Sunday Feeling

I will have been "retired" 2 whole years come October 1.  This still seems pretty surreal to me although not so much as it did those first dreadful months when my life did a complete 360.  Now, everything is way cool. But there are times where I still see things through a lens somewhere outside the body.  Friday was one of those days.  

According to my calendar, or what passes for my calendar nowadays, I was scheduled to sing the National Anthem for a Naturalization Ceremony at the Courthouse.  I got up, put on a jacket and tie for the first time since the last funeral I attended, or maybe since last Easter, and headed downtown.  

I take that back.  I wore a suit to the Centennial Service at Pulaski Heights Baptist Church a couple of weeks ago.  But suffice it to say, I don't wear ties that often anymore. 

Driving downtown was so familiar to me.  Down Kavanaugh to Markham.  Past the Arkansas Schools for the Deaf and the Blind.  Through the State Capitol grounds to 4th street. All so familiar. How many times have I made this drive? And yet I never go downtown any more.

I parked a few blocks from the Courthouse in a free space on the street.  I headed on foot toward the Courthouse.  I forgot how slippery leather soles are.  

Past the Federal Building where I toiled in relative obscurity for 28 years.  One of the guards recognized me.  We shook hands.  No other familiar faces.  I was rather relieved. 

The first sign of a problem should have been the notice outside the Federal Courthouse that no cameras or cellphones were allowed.  I didn't much think about it as I had my Courthouse Technology Permit in the front pocket of my shirt.  But they always let folks carry cameras into the Courthouse for the Naturalization Ceremony.  It's pretty much the only time they allow it.

I walked up to the security point where I was greeted with "What are you doing here?" At least that salutation wasn't accompanied by the production of weapons.  

I told them I was there for the Naturalization Ceremony.  Wrong.  I was a week early.  

"Now THAT'S the mark of a man who is retired," one of the Security Officers said as he put his arm around my shoulders.  I would have never made that sort of mistake back when I was working.  But now I can't remember anything.  A therapist friend says it is because I am no longer hypervigilant. She says I will live longer this way.  

Great.  I may live longer but I will do so as a goofball.

So I had time to kill before meeting Phil for lunch. What to do? Go drop by my old office?  God no.  Unless I am being audited or I lose my Social Security card I don't think I will ever set foot in the Federal Building again.  

It was a pleasant day.  So I went and sat on the bench by the fountain in front of the Courthouse.  How many times had I sat there?  That's where the deaf lady from the IRS taught me sign language.  That's where I learned that Hugh had gotten sick.  That's where I met folks who wanted to talk about stuff they didn't want to talk about inside.  

And here I was again.  Same as ever and yet somehow completely different.

After I awhile I went back to the car and headed down to the River Market for lunch.  I didn't really remember how to get to the restaurant.  Then again, I hadn't eaten there since before I left government service.  Just don't have a reason to go down there anymore.

I was looking for the street where I always parked down there and I was having trouble finding it.  I suddenly found myself crossing the center line.  Oh yeah, the one way becomes two way after you cross Main Street.  Shit.

I eventually parked the car without incident and found my way to the restaurant.  Phil was waiting.  It was the kind of pleasant lunch that I used to do all the time.  Now I never meet anybody for lunch.  Hell, I don't much eat lunch anymore.

Adult themes were the order of the day.  Phil talked about taking a young colleague with money problems under his wing.  I talked about a friend who was sick. He asked me to try to figure out the story on the house across the street from him that was on the market.  

He heard that the owners just gave it back and walked away.  This was inconceivable to him.  They both had jobs.  They had done lots of work on the house.  What could be going on behind closed doors that caused them to lose such a nice house in Phil's pleasant neighborhood? 

As I headed home I pondered on all the trouble in the world.  Bad stuff happens to good people.  Good stuff happens to bad people.  People get sick.  Young people lose their way and need the advice of someone who has been around the block.  Everything that was once so familiar can seem distant and foreign.

I made a mental note to put the Naturalization Ceremony on the calendar.  I can't trust myself to carry information around in my head.  I'm no longer hypervigilant.  

I drove past the Courthouse.  "See you boys next week," I said to myself.  

And I will make the trip again.  

Sunday, September 08, 2013

My AWOL Feeling

This week had too much action.  So no blogging.

However, I have a great story to tell when I get the time to tell it.

Until then, talk among yourselves.  

Sunday, September 01, 2013

My Sunday Feeling

Yesterday's news is indeed proof of the old saying that some people will steal anything that's neither tied down nor red hot. 

Some bastard or bastards broke into the storage unit at Miracle League Field here in Little Rock and stole 75 baseball gloves.  Around 4:30 yesterday afternoon it was discovered that 2 buckets containing around @ 50 "soft" baseballs were also taken.  You know how these things go.  I'm sure that as Peggy, the Executive Director, continues to poke around she will discover that other stuff is missing.  That's the way it usually works.

To the uninitiated, Miracle League is a nationwide franchise dedicated to baseball for disabled kids.  In Little Rock, it has expanded to two leagues.  The Friday night players actually learn skills, get called out and keep the score.  It was for those players that we needed the gloves.  Naturally, we start up next Friday night.

My first reaction is to repeat what I usually say about this kind of offense.  Property offenders sure work awfully hard for a minimal payoff.  It would be easier to hold down a real job. 

Here, the crooks apparently climbed up the side of the building, pried off a loose panel on the metal roof and dropped themselves into the shed.  That's a lot of work to steal a bunch of stuff that has zero resale value on the street.  As a matter of economics and tactics, this heist makes no sense whatsoever.

Which makes me wonder if somebody is trying to outfit a couple of tee ball or pitching machine teams on the cheap?  That makes more sense than trying to fence this stuff.

Stealing from disabled and underprivileged kids to gather gear for your own kiddie team is so completely fucked up, I kinda like it as a theory.  In any event, nothing else makes much sense.

But some good has come of this.  Like discovering that Facebook can be used for something more useful than posting pictures of lunch.  And to see folks from all walks of life get to work out of a sense of complete outrage is wondrous indeed.  The Junior League is pissed.  My State Representative's wife is pissed.  The Better Business Bureau is putting out a collection box as are local Starbucks. 

The guys at a local high end men's store have been sending me good ideas about resources to tap.  My brother is in contact with an acquaintance in the corporate office of a nationwide sporting goods chain.  The Junior Deputy baseball program, who deeded Miracle League the land where we play, is going to scare up some balls and gloves.  Before it's over, I suspect the Hillcrest Baptists and Methodists will pitch in.  Because I have put the arm on their respective pastors. 

The very idea that somebody would steal from disabled children has a whole lot of folks completely riled up.  But another typical reaction may be summed up from my buddy Jeff who texted the following: "It is a sad world we live in." Indeed.

I hope whoever did this can live with himself.  But because a whole slew of good folks from all walks of life, some of whom could give a rip about baseball, couldn't live with what he did to those kids we are gonna play ball as scheduled this Friday.   

Whoever you are that did this, if there are Bunsen burners in the lowest part of Hell, I hope you get assigned one. 

Because you stole from disabled children. 

You son of a bitch.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Elmore Leonard will spin in his grave at this news but there will be no MSF today.  

Talk among yourselves.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

My Sunday Feeling

My friend R lost his mother the other day.  She was quite elderly and confined to a nursing home.  She sustained a stroke a week ago and finally passed away in hospice care last Friday.  So he finally joined the club I was inducted to a little over 4 years ago.

Which can't seem possible.  But it is.  I will have been "retired" 2 whole years in a little over a month. And my nephew Henry started college yesterday.  Time seems to proceed at an accelerated pace the longer I walk this Earth.  None of this seems possible.

R had talked about his mother every now and again. He is a man of a deep and abiding faith and so when he talked of welcoming the prospect of her passing, he spoke from the perspective of a Christian son who wanted his mother's suffering to end.  

My own relationship with faith is, shall we say, a negotiable one.  But I have been there.  My own Mother's last years were just awful.  She somehow broke a hip in the bed.  Her Parkinson's had caused her dementia to accelerate to the point where her grasp of reality was occasionally tenuous.  For example, there were times toward the end of her life that she did not remember my name.  

As my friend Mark said of my mother's state before she died, "We just live too long."

I tell the high school kids that one of the scariest aspects of financial planning is the prospect of outliving your money.  I tell them that longevity is a rather recent phenomena.  During the time of the French Revolution people tended to die in their forties. Indeed, people would come from miles around to get a look at somebody my age.  

Of course, I exaggerate.  But not by much. Our medical technology can keep us going longer than Mother Nature intended or our finances contemplated.  Or, maybe in the case of R's mom and my mom, they were just tougher than most of us.  I know Mom almost set a record at the nursing home for living without food or water while she was in a coma.  Sounds like R's mom gave her a race.

Keeping a vigil is hard. Mother died during what the advertising industry refers to as the Holiday season.  Hearing Burl Ives sing "Holly Jolly Christmas" over the Muzak system was excruciating. To this day I damn near break into hives when I hear it. And R's a busy man with many people that depend on him.  He had to have been torn between his duty to his mother and his professional duties.  Been there too.  

The timing of these things is never good.  R will hit the ground running when after the funeral.  Events that have been planned for years are on the immediate calendar.  St. Vincent-Millay put it best concerning the death of her own father. "Life goes on. I forget just why."

And of course, those of us who love him felt useless during this time.  Because while you want to do something, there is really nothing you can do and you don't wish to intrude.  But you want to do something. It's just human nature.

He asked me to cancel a meeting for him.  I was happy to do that.  On my own I contacted some of his professional peers to let them know what was going on.  One of them described my doing so as "thoughtful."

He is kind.  I don't think of it as being thoughtful so much as the very real appreciation for the breath that God has lent me.  And so I viewed my gesture as trying, in a small way, to pay it forward.  And back and sideways.

Because R is my friend.  And because I have been in his shoes.

Friday, August 16, 2013


This is what I found gracing the front of Pulaski Heights Baptist Church the other morning.  Hillcrest is like a lot of neighborhoods in Little Rock.  It has graffiti punks who place their "tags" on other folks' property throughout the neighborhood.  It is mostly an annoyance which the police, understandably, don't have much time to look out for.

But it's one thing to deface Kroger.  It rises to another level when it is done to a place of worship.  That is an act of desecration.

I am certain that the idiot who tagged the church is not well versed in history.  He (I say "he" because these "artists" are almost all young men as I am made to understand)probably doesn't know what the Nazis did to synagogues.  He doesn't know what the Klan did to black churches.  He doesn't know that desecrating a church is a hate crime.

Granted, it's not up there with burning a cross or throwing a Molotov cocktail into a church full of people.  But it is a hate crime nonetheless in that whoever did this showed little regard for the generations of folks who have worshipped in that building or for all the good PHBC does for the community.

And I madder than hell about it.  

I told the Mayor about it.  I called 311.  I told the Residents Association.  That crap is gonna get removed if I have to clean it myself.  This is intolerable.

Now I know that the odds are slim that the moron that did this will ever be caught.  But if he is, here's how I think he ought to be punished.  I think he ought to be sentenced to spend 90 days with Dr. Randy Hyde and Rev. Carolyn Staley.  He should be made to do public service, write essays on the history of church desecration and to attend church.  Over there.  If anybody could make a man out of whoever did this it would be those two.  

And he better hope that he is apprehended by the cops.  Because he doesn't want me to get my hands on him.  

Because he would wake up in the hospital.  Preferably at Baptist.  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

My Sunday Feeling

Let us all agree on something right from the start.  If Johnny Manziel autographed items in exchange for money, he violated the NCAA rule that expressly forbids student-athletes from receiving "extra benefits" beyond what they receive as part and parcel of an athletic scholarship.  If it turns out that he did indeed violate the "extra benefit" rule he must be suspended.  And until the NCAA determines this, Texas A&M can be forgiven if it feels the better course of action is to keep him off the field rather than run the risk of forfeiting games for using an ineligible player.

Those are the rules and those are the potential consequences.  Just so we're clear.

And I think it also a fair comment to suggest that the young man's flair for reckless behavior is not confined to the playing field where his breathtaking play lead Texas A&M to last year's Cotton Bowl and for which he received the Heisman Award, the first freshman ever to be so honored.  

And it has been all noise all the time from College Station ever since then.

"Johnny Football" has over 400,000 followers on Twitter upon,which until recently, he could be counted on to pop off with frequency.  As you might imagine, some of those tweets have been problematic, such as the one in which he lamented life in College Station and the one in which he and a buddy are pictured in a casino brandishing wads of cash.  

I bet that latter exercise of his First Amendment rights amused the Aggies' Athletic Director to no end.

He has had a couple of minor run-ins with the law. During one such contact by law enforcement, he was found to have fake ID.  He has showed up at the NBA Finals.  He has thrown out the first pitch for a Rangers game.  His mug has been plastered all over the Internets at parties where it is evident that spirituous refreshment is abundant.  

Much of this is rightfully attributed to his being a kid in the age of the Internet.  Lord knows the trouble I could have gotten into if I had owned an iPhone at 18. And JF is not the only kid to find himself in hot water due to an indiscretion that got into the public. Indeed, I know a girl who got kicked out of boarding school in another state after a picture of her pretending to smoke from a bong in her dorm wound up on Facebook.  Technology frequently trumps teenage sense.

But if JF indeed autographed a bunch of helmets for a memorabilia broker in exchange for $7500.00, as the broker claims, he has created a huge headache for both himself and for Texas A&M.  But it is clearly against the rules.  No two ways about it.

Which again brings up the issue of the hypocrisy of college athletics, particularly in D-I Men's sports. Why is it OK for A&M to auction off stuff JF has autographed to raise money for renovations to Kyle Field but it's not OK for JF to get a piece of the action? What gives the NCAA the right to potentially come down hard on JF when up until fairly recently you could buy a jersey with Manziel's name on it from the NCAA website?

Isn't it the height of hypocrisy for everybody to get to line their pockets but the student-athletes themselves?  

I don't the answer to this.  I do know that I'm an enabler.  Which makes me a hypocrite as well.  I subscribe to my cable provider's premium sports channel.  I go to Razorback games.  I take 3-4 sports magazines.  

I donate to the booster clubs of both Hendrix and Tulane.  And when September 7 rolls around I will be in Conway watching the Hendrix Warriors play football again for the first time since the Sixties.  

And so I really have no room to talk.  

But I will say this, Johnny Manziel is not exactly some kid from the inner city who maybe takes a $50 buck handshake from time to time so he can buy gas and go to the movies with his girlfriend.  Although that is just as illegal as what JF is alleged to have done, I get that.  Especially when everybody is making money off of him but him.  

Johnny Manziel comes from a well-to-do family.  He doesn't need money to buy gas or to go to the movies.  Indeed, alarm bells went off throughout the system when he was seen courtside at that game in the NBA playoffs.  They were cancelled when it was revealed that his daddy paid for the ticket and for airfare.

Having little regard for appearances is not an NCAA violation.  Otherwise, JF would have been in the NCAA hoosegow a long time ago.  

But if these allegations are true, then both the NCAA and Texas A&M need to drop the hammer on the young man.  

Because he didn't need the money.  He did it because he's Johnny Football and because he evidently believes that this makes him bulletproof and invisible.  

Am I hypocrite?  Absolutely I am.  

But I'm a hypocrite with a sense of proportion.  At least I got that going for me.