Sunday, December 07, 2014

Early Holiday Trauma

I'm going to take a little break from this space.  I got way too much to do. Which seems odd since, suffice it to say, its not like I am overly burden by work-related cares.  In fact, I was way better at multi-tasking back then.  Now I'm not real good at "two-tasking."  

A friend of mine who is a retired law professor warned me about this.  He said I would arrive at this place.  

Boy he wasn't kidding.  

Then again, a lady told me the other day that I was awfully busy for somebody that has nothing to do.  There is that too.  Before I left the house last night I was emailing back and forth with a lawyer in Louisiana about the Declaratory Judgments Act along with other fascinating matters.  

As they say, once a Baptist always a Baptist.  Once a lawyer always a lawyer. Now, don't get me wrong.  I could not be trusted with a simple divorce without supervision. But I guess as long as my mind remains polluted with experiences involving the United States Code, federally insured loans and other arcane matters, the phone will ring from time-to-time.  

But that was yesterday.  Today, I have a book review to concoct before the Saints come on.  And I need to practice my guitar.  

What stress.

Talk among yourselves until I get back.  I'm going to lie down now.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Post Football Lethargy

No MSF today.  Too busy with friends, fambly and college football.  Will return soon.

Talk among yourselves in the meantime.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

         I first came into the orbit of William H. Bowen, who died a week or so ago,  when I was in my early thirties.  I had written something for the old Arkansas Gazette that had caught his eye.  Actually, my last name caught his eye.  Turns out he had a lifelong habit of trying to get to know anybody named Bowen that he ran across to see if there was some sort of relation. 

          In our case there was not, but that didn’t keep him from graciously inviting me to join him nonetheless for my first lunch at the Little Rock Club.  I don’t remember much about the lunch except that I enjoyed the view from atop what was then the Commercial National Bank building (as I recall) while wondering why on Earth Bill Bowen was wasting his time with the likes of a nobody such as me.

          We kept in touch over the years mostly through mutual friends and acquaintances.  We would see each other when out to dinner and the like.  And he called me out of the blue shortly after Uncle Sam and I split the sheets to make sure I “didn’t do something stupid” as he put it before he could get to me. 

          But my favorite memory of Mr. Bowen was back when he was running Bill Clinton’s office while the latter was flitting around all over the country running for President.  Our family has held our reunions at Eden Isle for as long as I can remember.  It was during one of those occasions that I ran into him in the club house at Red Apple Golf Course.  After we had made small talk and caught up with each other he asked me what I was doing in Heber.  I told him that I was up there for the family reunion.

          “Now, you lost your daddy when you were young,” he said.  “Did I remember that right?”

          He did.  The fact that he remembered it at all was amazing to me.

“Is your mother still living?”

          “Yes sir,” I said. “She’s in one of those condos over there.”

          “Take me to her.  I want to meet her.”


          “Of course I want to meet your mother.  Lead the way.”

          At that point in time he was merely the 3rd most important guy in the damn State behind Frank Broyles and Bill Clinton.  What was I going to say?  I had a tee time?

          He put his arm around my shoulder as we walked to the condo where Mother and the rest of the family was staying.  Mother was sitting in a rocking chair when we entered. 

          “Mother, I want you to meet Mr. William Bowen,” I said. 

          “Don’t get up ma’am,” he said as he extended his hand to her.

          “He’s the Chief of Staff for the Governor of Arkansas,” I said by way of introduction for the first and last time in my life.

          By this time, Mother had just begun her cruel descent into dementia.  Mr. Bowen must have sensed that as he took her hand in both of his. 

          “My name is Bill,” he said gently.” What’s your name?”

          “My name is Donice,” she said. 

          “I’m glad to meet you Donice, he said as he patted her hand.” I’m glad Paul told me you were here. I want you to know that your son is a very fine man. I’m honored to meet his mother. And that’s all I want to say other than I hope you are enjoying the family reunion.”  
          “Thank you Sir,” my poor confused mother said.

          As he left he said,” You take care of your mom, Paul.  Call me if you need me.”    

          They say that you can tell if a man is a gentleman by the way that he treats the waiter.  And I agree with that.  But a gentleman is also a man who takes the time to impart a kindness for no other reason than he has the opportunity to do so.  After all, is there a mother that breathes who doesn't like to hear a compliment about her kid? Even if in the case of Donice's oldest boy, Bill Bowen had to apply considerable gild on an exceedingly dubious lily in the process.

          Like I said, I’m nobody.  But on that day years ago a truly great man like William H. Bowen offered to meet Nobody’s mother just because he had the opportunity to impart a kindness.  

          Thank you Mr. Bowen.  You were a gentleman.

          Rest in Peace. 




Sunday, November 16, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

I really am agnostic when it comes to most things Razorback.  One of my best friends doesn't believe this.  But it's true.  

But if you are going to be a fan of Division I sports in these here latitudes you have to be at least cognizant of what is going on up in the Ozarks when it comes to the kingdom Frank built.  Because with all due respect to Arkansas State fans the Arkansas Razorbacks may not be the only game in town but they are the biggest.

Ok.  So they're not really "in town" anymore.  They have forever abandoned Little Rock and it's crummy football facility.  But they still have a hold on the collective mindset of our fair city.  That much is fair to say.  

And last night they beat LSU up in Fayetteville to end a 17 game losing streak in the SEC and to even their record to 5-5 over all.  

Really, their record should be better.  The only team that beat the daylights out of them was Georgia here in Little Rock.  They should have beaten A & M.  They should have beaten Mississippi State and Alabama.  They had a chance against Auburn.  

And they blew all of those games high, wide and handsome.

Unlike some of my friends and acquaintances that have expressed an opinion on the matter, I am no expert on college football.  But you have to wonder how much psychic residue Houston Nutt-Bobby Petrino-John L. Smith left on this program.  But, as second year coach Bret Bielema-who a couple of my friends believe should be fired already-said, of last year's squad, that it was the first bad team he had ever seen that was completely blameless for how it got there.  

But last night may go a long way towards cleaning up the residue.  Not only did they thoroughly dominate a quality opponent, that quality opponent was LSU.  

Suffice it to say, the LSU fan base is borderline psychotic.  Worse than Alabama and Auburn even who can at least back it up.  Ole Miss's fans are merely delusional while Mississippi State's are just kinda cute given the latter's newly found-and so far not unprovable legal-major prowess.  And A & M and Missouri have even less business in the SEC than Arkansas.  

But LSU is the worst.  Not a game goes by-not even the ones the Tigers win-that commenters on blogs run by the New Orleans and Baton Rouge papers call for the scalp of Les Miles.  Charles McClendon-"Cholly Mac"-coached there for 18 years.  This sort of tenure is unthinkable down there given the advent of talk shows and internet bulletin boards.  Indeed, who could blame Miles if he said    " to hell with this" or the Cajun-French equivalent and took the soon-to-be-open job at Michigan from whence he graduated?  At least the Wolverines are just obsessed with Ohio State.  

So despite my agnosticism concerning all things WPS, it was indeed highly amusing to see the downtrodden Razorbacks lay it on the Bayou Bengals.  And I shall enjoy collecting on an improvident bet made by a friend in Baton Rouge, although I know at least one lawyer here in town that took LSU with the oddsmakers favoring the Razorbacks by two.

I do not begrudge him this.  Because I do not care and because I know that bidness is bidness.  

So next week the best 5-5 team in the country gets the Ole Miss Brown Bears at home.  I will root for the Razorbacks for no other reason than they are playing Ole Miss which is all sufficient to my mind.

To think that this bunch could get bowl-eligible next week is practically mind-boggling.  

Thanks LSU.  They couldn't have done it without you.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

The wife of one of Mr. Trimble's law partners approached my before the service.  
"I knew you played golf," Janie said. " I didn't know you could sing."

"I'm a lot better singer than I am a golfer," I replied. "Singing is easy."  

I suppose that I have sung at around 50-60 funerals in my day.  I have probably attended a hundred more.  It is my privilege to be in the orbit of many.  And so I seem to attend a lot of funerals.  

It is always a tricky thing when the laity speaks at funerals.  They are for most part not used to public speaking.  They tend to be understandably emotional. Indeed, it is for that reason that I declined the opportunity to sing or speak at my own mother's service.  And I'm experienced at both.  Come to think of it, while I have sung at any of a number of funerals I have never given a eulogy. I suppose hearing from me twice during one service would understandably be overkill.

I don't expect much at these times.  I'm not typically one to bother God with my supplications, seeing as how I figure He or She has better things to do than attend to my picayune concerns.  But I always pray when friends or family of the departed get up to speak.  

"Please God get them through this," I pray.

While I don't expect the Gettysburg Address at these times, I do expect a modicum of propriety and humility.  It's a low bar.  

Bearing this modest template for funeral oratory in mind, I can honestly say that the sermonette inflicted upon the congregation yesterday by the lay witness was by far the worst I have ever heard in my life.

He gave a few appropriate recollections that were truly amusing and gave insight into Mr. Trimble's formation into the gentleman he became. That was not sufficient.  He then veered off into a fundy hellfire and damnation sermon before his captive audience that was exquisitely inappropriate.  

Walls Trimble was a Presbyterian man of quiet dignity.  He would have been horrified.  

It went on and on.  He did everything but an altar call.  I was sitting behind the pulpit beside the Real Minister.  I noticed her inching forward in her chair. She was about to bring on the hook around Minute Twenty.  Mercifully, he shut up before that happened.

As we prepared for Mother's funeral, Vic Nixon told my brothers who wanted to speak his rules for witnessing at such times.

" You will have 5 minutes.  Don't preach.  That's my job."

Don't preach.  It's not your job.  

I didn't get to speak to the apostle afterwards.  It is just as well.  Because this is what I would have said.

" What you did was not about Walls.  It was about you. It wasn't really about proclaiming the Gospel.  It was about you.  And I guarantee you that the talk in cars going back to Little Rock or wherever won't be about old Walls.  And it won't be about how they are persuaded to accept your version of Christianity.  It will be about how dreadful your diatribe was before a captive audience that wasn't there to hear you preach.  That will be the recollection of this day."

The minister shook her head as she pulled off her robe after the service.

"I mean, you try to be respectful.  People are nervous.  People are emotional.  But that was hardly Presbyterian theology."

And that's the point.  It was a Presbyterian service after all.    

You try to be respectful.  

For God's sake.  You try to be respectful.  

Which means, at the minimum, when you are called to speak at a funeral, it can't be about you.  

Sunday, November 02, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

Just when I think (and boy I know I have written these words before) election rhetoric can not possibly descend any further to any lower depths, another two years comes along and proves me wrong.  While there is much to complain about from here in the electorate's Stygian darkness, where many "mute" buttons are fused to the "on" position, there is a recurrent leitmotif being bandied about (mostly on the "R" side of the equation as far as I can tell) that if a candidate has ever represented a Defendant in a criminal case, then ipso facto (as we say) said candidate is suspected of being "soft on crime."

The more prominent example of this argument (if indeed it rises to the level of same) involves a local attorney running for City Board.  Seems the one criminal case he has handled in his career was as a favor to somebody.  The Defendant pleaded out to some nickleshit shoplifting offense or something.  His lawyer went on to representing banks and other security threats.

For this one act, he has been labeled as "soft on crime."  This charge has been leveled at other lawyers in other various races who have represented Defendants in criminal cases.

Let's get the Civics lesson over first.  Under the 5th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, which we all profess to revere, a criminal defendant is not required to testify if his testimony would tend to incriminate him.  This right against self-incrimination ("taking the 5th") was expanded by the United States Supreme Court to include the right to have an attorney present during questioning by the authorities as well as the right to an attorney appointed by the government if he cannot afford one.

So, at the risk of belaboring the obvious, you and I have a constitutional right to be represented by counsel whenever we are taken into custody by the authorities.  This applies to juvenile court cases as well in which a juvenile is accused of having committed a delinquent act 

Further, when us local lawyers took the Oath to be admitted to the Bar we promised to "support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Arkansas." Further, we swore not to "reject, from any consideration personal to (ourselves) the cause of the impoverished, the defenseless, or the oppressed." Most lawyer's oaths everywhere have similar language.  

So, everybody has a right to a lawyer in a criminal case.  Lawyers have an ethical obligation to represent the poor and oppressed.  

And then there's Brandon Barber whose mugshot graces the top of this page. Barber, a former mover and shaker in Northwest Arkansas real estate caught around 65 months in Federal prison after pleading out to charges of bank fraud and money laundering to the tune of around 32 million bucks.  Interestingly enough, this is the amount both sides agreed to, although Barber may be ordered to repay a different amount after his restitution hearing. 

Property offenses are a big problem in my neighborhood.  Violent crime is worrisome and is often committed by really scary people.   Who ought to be locked up.

But I have always believed that white collar criminals are a bigger systemic menace to society than property offenders.  Property offenses are serious and they are a pain in the ass.  White collar guys take down several people at once. Charles Keating took down the Savings and Loan industry.  Bernie Maddoff bilked hundreds of investors.  How the guys that rigged the mortgage industry in the last decade haven't gotten indicted is rightly considered a scandal by some. And as for Barber, he didn't steal $32,000,000 without skinning numerous individuals and institutions.

And who represented Brandon Barber?  The Asa Hutchinson Law Group.  For those who don't know, Asa is the most likely going to be the next Republican Governor of Arkansas.  Indeed, his law firm's website states that 45% of his practice is devoted to white collar criminal defense.  This is how he made much of his living.  He and his son are listed on the docket as counsels of record in the Barber case.

So will you hear me accuse Asa Hutchinson of being "soft on crime?"  Not a chance.  I'm a lawyer.  Brandon Barber may be a snake in the grass but he has a right to counsel.  And Asa is a damn good one.  

But if the current Republican meme is that representing a low level dumbass means you are "soft on crime" than what does representing white collar punks that cause immeasurably more harm to society than a shoplifter mean?

It's a fair question.  And one that won't get raised.

Meanwhile, I will continue to watch sports in blessed silence until Tuesday when the polls mercifully close.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Happy Birthday to me and Uncle Ralph

No MSF tomorrow.  

Been doing the family thing.

Talk amongst yourselves until I get back. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

As I type this the Tulane Green Wave are trying to hang in there on the road against the University of Central Florida whatever that is.  The Greenies were getting hammered, as per usual, but have managed to cut it to seven.  

I have watched much Tulane football over the years.  I have seen many different Green Wave teams from Bowl caliber (such as last year) to hide-your-eyes Godawful.  This year's offering from the brain trust on Willow Street is just mid-range terrible.  But if they fooled around and won nobody would pass out or anything.  Apart from UCF's George O' Leary that is.

Down the street the Razorbacks are preparing to host the Georgia Bulldogs who are gracing the People's Republic of Hillcrest for the first time.  The Razorbacks haven't won a conference game in over a year.  They are 3-3 and by all rights should have been 5-1, having blown winnable games against Texas A & M and Alabama.  I don't anyone would be too surprised if Arkansas pulled an upset other than my friend Joan who is a Georgia alum.  She might take to her fainting couch.  

Stuff happens.  But I don't believe for 5 seconds that anyone could predict that Mississippi State would be the #1 team in the nation with Ole Miss nipping at their heels at #3.  

Of the two programs, the Bulldogs have had a little better success over the last 20 years.  And I have long believed that the Ole Miss boosters that thought another Johnny Vaught was going to appear and get them back in contention for the national title were positively hallucinatory.  But look at them now.

I have seen more Ole Miss football in recent years than MSU's product.  The Rebels have put out some pretty crappy teams.  Tulane used to thump them with some regularity when I was in law school there.  Or at least that is my recollection.  I don't recall the Greenies ever playing State when I was there. But many of my memories from those days are lost in the fog of alcohol.

One of my best friends is an alum of MSU.  And I managed to find 2 female former residents of StarkVegas here in Little Rock.  Both were great gals but they tended to be a little high strung when it came to Bulldog football.  

Still, while I could perhaps envision that one or the other would be pretty good, the notion that both schools could be in the top 5 in the polls much less one of them occupying the top spot would be along the lines of changing the gravitational constant of the universe.  

They are both doing with great coaches and by keeping the African-American athletes home.  Mississippi State has had an easier job of this than has Ole Miss which, shall we say, has something of an image problem in this regard. Deposed former Rebel Head Coach attributed much of his problems in recruiting to the "mamas" of potential athletes that remembered the events depicted in the film "Mississippi Burning."  And indeed, a fraternity there on campus got shut down after one of it's members puckishly placed a noose on the statue of Civil Rights icon James Meredith there on campus.  Like last Spring.

The politicians would refer to this as "bad optics."

But crazy or not, Ole Miss and Mississippi State are undefeated and heading for a confrontation for the ages in the mutual hate fest known as the Egg Bowl. But as Lee Corso might say, "Not so fast my friend."  The odds of any team running the table are low.  Indeed, you can make a case that Baylor is better than anybody in the Magnolia State.  They got beat pretty bad by West Virginia.  And they don't play in a murderer's row like the SEC West.  

So to my friends in Starkville and Oxford, my advice is to enjoy it while you can. Because the odds of this happening again are pretty slim.

But what do I know?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Rest Cure

No MSF this Sunday.  

After doing pics for Race for the Cure, Harvest Fest and the fashion show yesterday I am a tired boy.

Pics will go up soon once my eyes uncross.  

Talk amongst yourselves.  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

Local realtor Beverly Carter went out to rural Scott, Arkansas late Thursday afternoon to show a house to a man who claimed to be interested in paying cash for it.  

She never came back.  

3 hours after the 5:30 appointment her husband went out to the house.  The door was open.  Her car was in the driveway.  Her purse was in the car.  

The Pulaski County Sheriff's office is coordinating the search for the woman.  It is asking property owners to search their land for clues.  Volunteers are assisting in this effort. So far as of this writing she has not been found.

Little Rock really is a small town.  And everybody tends to know everybody. While I don't know Beverly Carter, it turns out I know one of her friends.  They were supposed to have had lunch last Friday but cancelled. They were supposed to get together tomorrow.  

"This is still very unreal to me," said the text message.  

"Of course it is," I replied. "How can you possibly put your arms around this?  There are no words."

That's because there is no frame of reference for something like this.  Bad things happen.  We all know that.  And while my friend would have been shocked and grief stricken at the news that Beverly had been in a car accident or had sustained a fatal heart attack, still there is a frame of reference for that kind of bad news.  

Not for this, boy.  Your wife goes out to show a house, something she does every day the Lord sends.  Only this time she doesn't come back.  You make plans to get together with your girlfriend.  Except she vanishes from Planet Earth.  This is not the way things are supposed to happen.  

Of course, foul play, as they say, is suspected.  My friend asked me if I thought that law enforcement would get to the bottom of this.  I told her that I thought that they would.

First of all, assuming that we talking about an abduction here, abduction is a very low percentage kind of crime.  Because you either have to keep the victim with you or get rid of them.  Either option carries with it a high risk of getting caught.  

I told her that law enforcement will scour the cell phones of both her and her husband as well as any computer she used for clues about the events leading up to that trip out to Scott.  The local realtors will probably put up an award for information.  Guys on the local sex-offender registry will get a visit.  

Somebody always knows something.  Secrets never stay secrets.  It is safe to assume that we are not exactly dealing with a mastermind here.  And I'm betting that somewhere along the line, he made a mistake.  

Whether they can connect the dots quickly enough to rescue this poor woman is another thing altogether.  My friend acknowledges this.  

"I'm not expecting a good outcome," she said. " I couldn't sleep last night thinking of my friend alone out in the weeds somewhere."

Which is easily the saddest thing I have read in a very long time.  

Certainly we hope for the safe return of Beverly Carter to her family and friends. But experience dictates a more somber assessment of this prospect as days succeed to days.

But there is no place to find perspective in any of this for my grieving friend.

And there are no words.  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

I spent much of last Friday with the good folks of the Nuclear Medicine department at Baptist Health Medical Center.  Earlier in the month I went to a rheumatologist to try to figure out the weird arthritis stuff that pops up in my hand occasionally.  In the process, they extracted a gallon of blood from both arms.  

The blood work indicated a possible problem with my parathyroid glands, which were 4-I think- examples of God's handiwork unknown to me until a week or so ago. I asked my nurse practitioner brother about this.  He basically shrugged and went "Eh."  I asked my surgeon neighbor the same thing.  His response was equally helpful.  I will remember this the next time either asks me for free legal advice. And so off I went to Baptist to get an MRI done on my parathyroid and thyroid glands.  

People really are good at times like this.  I received many text messages from friends wishing me well and asking me if I were OK.  I was also privileged to receive a running score of the San Francisco Giants game for most of the afternoon.  All of this  helped take my mind off of the lady across from me in the sardine can of a waiting room having an animated discussion on her cell phone with who could have only been her ex-husband.  Later another woman could be easily overheard telling somebody on the other end of the line all about her son's latest arrest.  I found the latter to be especially rude as it greatly interfered with my enjoyment of watching Roger Goodell try to talk his way out of it on the monitor in there.

Eventually, a young technician appeared and called my name.  Never was I so happy to see a white coat in my life.

He stepped into the mud right off the bat however as he led me down the hall to the machine that would record images of my innards.  

"You're having the parathyroid removed right?" he asked.

"Not that I am aware of, Son," I replied. "You know something I don't know?"

His face turned crimson.  

"No Sir," he stammered. "No. No. No."

It got better after that shaky opening drive of the tee.  

He put me into the tube up to my shoulders.  He put a marker on the right side of my throat.  And the machine started humming.  

"Picture #1 is starting," his voice said from somewhere.  

"I'm guessing there's lots of volts running through this thing," I said.

"Ohhhhhhhh yeah."

I've had about 7 MRIs I guess.  Mostly for athletic injuries. There's really not much to do except lay there.  And think.  

I thought about a question a friend asked via text while I was trying to ignore the witless cacophony back in the waiting room.  

"Are you nervous?" the text said.

"I don't do nervous," I replied.  

It's not that I'm particularly brave.  It's just I know lots of people that have it worse off than me whatever this turns out to be.  If it turns out to be anything.  

I know a man with leukemia at M.D. Anderson in Houston.  I know a woman with serious breast cancer.  I know a man in Louisiana who was told he's not long for this world.  I know a local man who is going to have part of his pancreas removed at Mayo next month.  I know a man who is slowly going blind from an untreatable condition.  I know a couple of relatively young guys who have had strokes.

Me?  I got nothin'. There ain't nothin' wrong with me.

The disembodied voice outside the tube told me that he saw on the chart that I was a lawyer.  He asked me what kind of law I practiced.

"Bankruptcy mostly," I said.  "Commercial litigation.  Money and property stuff."

"I guess you were busy around 2008," he said. 

That was when the financial system went kablooey! all over the world. Gentle Reader may recall this.  

"Indeed I was," I replied.

"My wife and I are Dave Ramsey fans," he said.

Good thing the machine covered my face.  That way the technician couldn't see me roll my eyes.

"Dave says that you should only finance the purchase of your home.  Because everything else depreciates."


"I'm sorry?"

"Well," so began my withering cross-examination from deep within the tube.  "That means Dave got it all wrong in 2008 doesn't it? Because real estate values went through the floor all over the world didn't they?"


"I guess you're right," he said. "Never thought about it that way."

" There you go. How much longer, Buddy?"

"We're about done."  

And a few minutes later I was back out in the sunshine.  

I'm scheduled to see Dr. Chi's nurse practitioner in late October.  I guess they will call me before then if there's anything wrong.  I probably won't give it a second thought until somebody gives me a reason to.  That's kind of the way I roll anyway.  

But it's also because I know so many people that have really serious stuff wrong with them. They are far worthier of the thoughts and prayers of my well-meaning friends than am I.  

But I really do hope that the MRI was able to somehow capture me rolling my eyes when the young man mentioned his appreciation of Dave Ramsey.  

I don't ask for much.  Really I don't.  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

By the time you read this I will have attended my 40th high school reunion.  I have avoided most class reunions at the various institutes of learning I have graced after the 20th.  This is because they tend to be rather dreary affairs at their best.  That and I am pretty much in contact with those classmates who I am close to on a weekly, if not daily, basis. If I am not in contact with somebody (and vice-versa) there is probably a reason for that.  And attending a reunion is not likely to change that.  

Truth of the matter is that I really don't have much interest in attending tonight's gala. (You may safely deduce that I am writing this on the Saturday before) Off the top of my head, I have remained in contact with maybe 6 people with whom I attended high school.  The Reunion Committee (God love them) thought I might help them find people that were eluding contact.  I don't know why they thought that.  I didn't remember 2/3 of the people on the list.  And I mistakenly identified one as dead.  Which they unfortunately ran with much to his considerable surprise which he quickly communicated from here on this Vale of Tears where he is still in residence.

Sure it will be a nice event.  The women on the Committee have worked really hard.  It will be good to see folks I haven't seen in eons.  It will be a beautiful Autumn night at a great venue.

But just for a little bit I would fake a car wreck or something to avoid this.  So why am I doing this?  After all, as someone pointed out the other day, I am not the sort of man that does things I don't want to do even though I concede that I'm not exactly charging a machine gun nest here. 

Here's why.  When Mother died I was set upon by a bunch of women from my high school class.  Some came from far away to be at the visitation.  Some I had not seen in years.  But it was like somebody sounded a fire alarm somewhere.  And these women came out of the blue because they loved me.  

I didn't even know.  

Fast forward 4 years to last Wednesday.  

It might alarm you to know that I am a mentor at the law school.  The Dean in charge of the program gave my name to a young first year student who foolishly thought I would be good for her primarily on the basis of stuff I had written that she found floating around the Internet when she googled me.  

She can't help it that she is not yet quite capable of discernment.  

I met her for lunch last Wednesday.  Nice kid.  Really smart. So purposeful and earnest.  She rattled off questions she had for me from the bullet list installed in her head. Boom, boom, boom.  It was kinda funny.  Part of my grilling came from her desire to find out why my career path went the way it did which was fine.  Besides the public record is the public record.  And part of it was because she is a woman.  It has been my experience that many women have a genuine interest in learning about a new friend's life and family on the front end whereas most guys would prefer to learn such details by what passes for osmosis. I suspect that so it is with my new protege.  

"How old are you anyway?" I asked.

"Guess my age," she replied.

"I'm not very good at this sort of thing in general," I said. "And I'm never around young women any more, unless they are like, 15 or something."

"Oh c'mon," she said.  "Throw out a number."

How old was I when I entered law school?  I couldn't remember.  Honestly.


She points her thumb to the ceiling and jacks it up.  Higher.


"24," she said." I had to do an internship after college to get my RDN. So I'm a year behind." 

Good God.  A time table.  She's way more focused than I was.  But then again, New Orleans will impart focus issues to a young man. Point for me.

"I guess I was 24 once," I said.  

The fact that I am going to a high school reunion is proof that I was 17 once en route to being where I am now where ever this is.  And now I've got a young law student in my charge. It all pretty surreal.  

She and I will be just fine.  She thinks I'm funny.  Really smart women tend to appreciate funny.  Hopefully this can overcome my lack of technical expertise in the law.  

Speaking of women, I am going to go do this thing tonight mostly because those women that showed up out of the blue a few years ago want me there. And to acknowledge a kindness that is beyond my capacity to ever fully repay.

The fact that Grand Funk Railroad will be playing in the background is grossly unfair.  But I will get through it.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

I made a cameo appearance at church last Friday night.  One can deduce that one's attendance is irregular when the pastor greets you with "What are you doing here?"

I am going to assume that he was referring to my showing up on Friday rather than the occasional Sunday.  

I don't know.  I was interested in the sermon topic.  And the finals of the US Open will be on Sunday.  So there I was.  For whatever reason.

Anyway, Rev. Skarda's sermon series for the next fortnight or so will be on "When Christians Get It Wrong." Or what I would just refer to as Bad Theology. Unfortunately Bad Theology, being easy to grasp and conveniently malleable to fit most prejudices pervades American junk culture.  

Rev. Skarda led off Friday night on one of my personal favorites " Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner." I have written about this before.  It is right up there with other such foolishness as "God Never Puts More On You Than You can Stand (nobody ever says withstand) and other similar gems.  I haven't looked ahead to see what all is going to be discussed.  But I bet that God smiting you with a tornado really being within your tolerance level as He, in His infinite mercy, would never lay on you more than you can stand, or withstand if you prefer, will be on the list. 

My main personal problem with hating sin but loving the sinner, at least up until last Friday night, is that this notion is never applied to any sins other than those of the sexual variety, for those who are predisposed to traffic in condemnation of such matters. More specifically it usually confined to gay folks.  

Having said that I do indeed believe that people involved in prison ministries "love the sinner."  They would have to.  So I give them a pass from this libel as they are getting their hands dirty doing the work of the Lord with people you and I would rather not deal with. 

But you never hear "I hate the armed robbery but I love the perpetrator." Why not? Sin is sin, right?  As for me, I could give two hoots in hell about what consenting adults do behind the privacy of a closed door.  And I can damn sure come closer to loving that particular "sinner" than the asshole that sticks a gun in my face.

Weak vessel for God that I am, I cannot imagine that I could bring myself to love anybody that assaults me.  And guess what? I bet that most of the smug adherents to HSLS wouldn't either.  That's where the hypocrisy comes in.  All of us are sexual beings, but not all of us are likely to be victims of violent crime, to use my most grotesque example.  Insert your own if you like.  Let me know how you really feel about embezzlers.  It is safe to believe in this notion because it is an abstraction for the most part.

Except that it's not.  Sermons can be like baseball.  And I'm not referring to the fact that both can be long and drawn out.  No.  Just when you think you've seen, or heard it all, something new pops up.  Here's where Rev. Skarda comes in. He led off with the fact that nowhere in the Bible is this notion mentioned. OK. That much I knew.

He then pointed out something out that I had never considered.  When you say that you "hate the sin but love the sinner" you are setting yourself apart.  You are making yourself superior. This is the sin of pride which even pedantic gasbag C.S. Lewis held was the worst of all sins.  Because narcissism is in the same Area Code.  And narcissism is both lethal and abundant in society.  By way of example, as I used to say, not all narcissists are batterers.  But all batterers are narcissists.  I give you the recent news out of the NFL if you need a recent example of the breadth of the issue.

Also, as Rev. Skarda pointed out, Jesus ate with the the tax collectors and the prostitutes, much to the horror of the scribes and pharisees.  And probably to the horror of some of the tax collectors and working girls come to think of it.  (I added that last part.) He didn't announce he was going to do it.  He just humbled Himself to do it.  And I like to think that He would break bread today with the sinners that are the objects of such prideful "love." 

So what's wrong with "hating the sin and loving the sinner?" 

It's narcissistic. It's typically selectively (in my experience) invoked in service of prejudice.  And it's impractical.  Apart from all that it is right up there with the Doctrine of the Trinity as far as soundness goes.  

Sermons are like baseball.  Every now and again something pops up that you've never seen or heard before. That happened Friday night.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

My Labor Day Weekend Feeling

Taking the day off.  From what?  I can hear it now.

Off to put the seersucker suit and the white bucks in the closet until next Spring.

Have fun on your own!  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

I don't know what happened between that kid and the cop in Ferguson, Missouri a couple of weeks ago.  Neither do you.  

And I am as pro-law enforcement as they come.  I like visiting with cops whenever I get the chance.  I had dinner with a prosecutor buddy last week. I have referred any number of bad actors to investigators over my 28 years with Uncle.  

So don't get me wrong.  

But here are things I don't understand.  

I don't understand how an unarmed teenager catches numerous slugs from somebody trained in the use of weapons and supposedly operating under rules of engagement for both aggressive confrontation with a citizen and the use of deadly force.  

Look at the picture above.  

I get riot gear.  I don't get camo.  This is Missouri.  This is the United States of America. This is not Beirut.  

I get cops protecting themselves.  I don't get pointing automatic weapons at a person whose hands are in the air.  The optics are terrible.

Speaking of optics, if you are scared of black folks, you might find my trainer Dennis to be a pretty scary dude by the first glance.  He's built like the former DI defensive back and boxer that he was.  He wears his hair in dreadlocks.  

He's also former Navy Special Forces and a former Memphis cop.  Indeed, he recently interacted with law enforcement when he got pulled over by LRPD for some traffic thing.  I asked him how it went.

" I told him that I was a former cop in Memphis, that I have a concealed carry permit and a Glock in the door.  And I told him that I wanted to get home that night just as bad as he did."

And that pretty much diffused any potential tension.  The officer checked out his paperwork and sent Dennis on his merry way with the admonition to lighten up on the gas pedal.

I asked Dennis what he thought about the police response to the discord in Ferguson.  

"You never point a weapon at somebody unless you are 100% ready to kill that person," he said.  "You don't point a weapon at somebody who is complying.  You never point a weapon at somebody who is just running his mouth.  Mouth never killed anybody.  In fact, the dude that is running his mouth ain't likely to do anything but that.  It's the ones that don't talk that you have to watch. But you don't produce your weapon unless you have reason to and are prepared to put that individual away."

It also makes for bad optics.

Here's another thing I don't get.  Ferguson, Missouri has about 20,000 folks there on a good Saturday night.  

What possible need do the cops there-or any similar sized police agency- have for military grade equipment?  I get the fact that since 9-11 police forces throughout the US have legit concerns about terrorism.  However, I sincerely doubt that Shining Path has a sleeper cell in Bryant, Arkansas.  I say take the toys away from Barney Fife and give it back to the Feds.

I also don't get elected officials calling for removal of the prosecutor there and convicting the police officer involved in the media.  Cool heads need to prevail.  

I don't know what happened between that kid and the cop 2 weeks ago. Neither do you.

State and Federal authorities are all over this terrible situation.  All we can do is await the answer.  

And hope that Mayor Stodola and our new Chief of Police are reviewing the policies and rules of engagement in order to prevent such a tragedy from happening here in Little Rock.  

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Too much stuff going on this weekend to fool with blogging.  Will be back soon.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

One thing that is true both of baseball and the performing arts is that just when you think you have seen it all something else comes along to fool you. Early last week I was introduced on Facebook to Puddles the Clown and his website In reality Puddles is a 6'8" singer and performance artist out of Atlanta named Mike Geier who performs as "Big Mike Geier."

The video embedded here is of him doing a cover version of Lorde's "Royals" both of which I had been unaware of until I became aware of Puddles as well.  As my young friend Lucas Murray would say "it's a well constructed song." And Geier sings the living Hell out of it.  

The imagery is striking.  Here's a big man in white face portraying a melancholy clown singing a song written by a woman.  He silently comes on stage carrying a suitcase and a lantern giving off a vibe of homelessness and searching.  As I've gotten interested in this act, I've noticed that Geier typically starts a performance by staring at the audience with no expression on his face at all a la Andy Kaufman.  If Andy Kaufman were built like a lineman and dressed as a Pierrot.  At about 3 minutes (I've timed him) you start to hear nervous laughter from the audience.  

And then he just starts singing.  The video here has him silent for about 30 seconds before he gets going.

One of the most striking things about Geier is that he reminds me of Philip Seymour Hoffman in that both are big men and yet so graceful.  As you watch the video take notice of the gestures and the changes of expression.  I watched it 5 times in a row the other day and caught something different every time.  

And the expressions.  Is Puddles angry? Euphoric? Psychotic? Depressed? Hubris infected?  Overly in touch with his fem side?  Gay? Straight? Dunno. Maybe yes to all.  The expressions change with every measure.  Which leads me to the next point.

Geier isn't just screwing around (I resisted the word "clowning") up there. This character is the product of a lot of thought rehearsal and discipline.  And Geier isn't stupid.  This video has gotten over 8,000,000 views.  Geier's got as nice a baritone voice as I've heard lately.  But Bryn Terful he is not.  And Mike Geier doing grrl music isn't going to get 8,000,000 hits.  

A Bunyanesque man in whiteface with a nice voice and a crown just might.  

Is Puddles a gimmick?  Of course it is.  But unlike Kiss, Gwar, Insane Clown Posse, and even Parliament, this is a benign gimmick in service of the music. And Geier, in creating this semi-menacing character, has achieved what every performer wants. After all, you can't not watch as that beautiful voice comes out of that, that thing.  My friend S was over the other night.  Clowns scare her and she couldn't take her eyes off him.

This is pretty crazy.  But it's inspired crazy.  

And if the brain trust behind the Batman movies is reading this I've got another candidate to play the Joker.

Oh, and check out the video on You Tube where they cover Lorde's "Team." Watch for the saxophone player.

Like I said, this is pretty crazy.  But it's inspired crazy.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice did a very bad thing last February in a New Jersey casino. He cold cocked his then fiance.  Shortly thereafter he got caught on camera dragging the obviously unconscious Janay Palmer out of an elevator.  Take a look for yourself.  The imagery couldn't be more stark.

It shows the powerfully built Rice dragging an inert and utterly defenseless Parker.  Not only is this video damning in its depiction of the obvious differences in power between the two figures, it also amply demonstrates how not to transport someone who has sustained a concussion.  A fair fight this was not.  

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell rightly considered this incident to be a violation of the league's much ballyhooed "personal conduct policy" for which Rice caught a 2 game suspension and a fine of $529,411.24 (3 game checks).  And all Hell immediately broke loose among women's rights groups and advocates for victims of domestic violence claiming that the punishment was too lenient.  After all, other players have received stiffer penalties for smoking dope and doing performance enhancing drugs(PEDs).  

Goodell defended the punishment imposed upon Rice, saying that the other disciplinary actions were consistent with penalties negotiated with the NFL Players Union, so Rice's case fell under the evidently much more amorphous personal conduct policy which is the direct province of the Commissioner.

I am a lawyer.  I get this.  There was no policy in the collective bargaining agreement with the player's union that covered this incident. Rice was a first offender who Goodell said "has taken responsibility for this." And Rice, who was charged with assault by the authorities, has agreed to enter into counseling in a pre-trial diversion program for domestic violence.  

But still, Terelle Pryor caught a 5 game suspension in 2011 for selling Ohio State memorabilia BACK WHEN HE WAS IN COLLEGE. Granted, he also got Ohio State put on probation but the question remains why Goodell imposed 5 games on Pryor and only 2 on Rice.

Janay Palmer married her batterer.  (Which I don't get but which is a another topic entirely.) She also asked the league to be lenient with Rice.  Maybe that impacted Goodell's decision as well.  

Or maybe he doesn't get it.  After all, he wouldn't be the first.  Granted, I didn't much get it until I represented battered spouses in divorce cases.  And I later went on the serve on the Board of the local women's shelter.  I've seen women with broken jaws.  I've seen them with shiners.  Hell, I've seen a 4 year old with a shiner.  One of my best friends had the daylights beaten out of her when she was married to her first husband. It changes the way that you look at these issues.

It doesn't make me man of the year.  But it does mean that if I were Roger Goodell Ray Rice would have been suspended for a big chunk of this season. If only to make an example of him.  

Here's my proposed rule: You hit a woman you don't play football for a very long time.  Seems simple to me and entirely consistent with the hyper-macho culture of the NFL.  After all, I was taught that only "sissies" hit girls.  But that was only because "narcissist" is too big a word to explain to a 7 year old.  

As for Rice, he is saying all the right things.  

"[O]ne thing going forward that I can control is being a better father, a better husband, being a better role model going forward, being a better person going forward." 

And "I let my wife down, I let my daughter down, I let my wife's parents down, I let the whole Baltimore community down...because of 30 seconds of my life that I know I can't take back."

Ray Rice has a reputation for being a good guy.  I have no reason to doubt his sincerity.  And I hope he learns his lesson.

But he is a big powerful man in a league full of them.  It is not inconceivable that he could have killed Janay that night.  Or that she could have been hurt worse than she apparently was.

The League and the Union need to adopt penalties for perpetrators of domestic violence.  I like my proposal.  You hit a woman and you don't play football for a very long time.  Open the can.  Get out the lawyers.  Negotiate this.  Bring in some experts.  Go visit a shelter.  Get this done.

After all, hasn't the NFL supposedly gotten serious about concussions?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

As far as cons go, it really didn't make a whole lot of sense.  I haven't practiced law seriously in some time but as a criminal lawyer buddy of mine once said of me, I have a really good bullshit detector.  And it started going off pretty quick in the discussion in front of my house early last week.  Here's what happened.

I was leaving my house Tuesday afternoon to run some errands.  As I was walking to my car, I noticed an older lady walking on the sidewalk in the direction of my house out of the corner of my eye.  

"Sir," she said. "Excuse me, Sir."

Great, I thought.  Another version of the "I need 5 bucks to get gas to go to Conway" scam.  As I refuse to be panhandled, I started back up the steps to my house.  

Then she called me by name.  I stopped.  She called me by my name.

She was using a cane and she drug a leg a bit.  As she got closer to me I noticed the surgical scar on her chest.  She was perspiring.  I guessed that she was a cardiac patient. 

"I recognized you from your picture," she said. "I have been walking up and down this street trying to find your house."

"I beg your pardon?" I said.

She told me that she came from a military family and that her husband was buried at Arlington.  She told me that she really liked a piece that I had written for Soiree Magazine here in Little Rock about a picture I took of a young man before he was deployed to Afghanistan.  She said she wanted to shake my hand.  

I still wasn't much believing this, but as she posed no physical danger to me, seeing as how I can take out most elderly female cardiac cases,I stepped off the porch and shook her hand.  Then she got down to business. Seems she wanted me to be her lawyer.  She said she knew she could trust me.

I told her that I wasn't really practicing law right now and that in any event I didn't carry malpractice.  She wilted and leaned on her cane.

"Then I guess there's no hope," she said.

"What's going on with you?" I asked.

" I got a call yesterday," they're selling my house tomorrow.

Red flag time.

"And this phone call is the first you've heard about this?"

"Yessir.  I didn't know nothing about this.  I was hoping you could file for an Injunction."

Well, no I wouldn't even if were practicing law.  Injunctive relief is hard to get seeing as how you have to prove irreparable harm.  And losing a house is not irreparable harm because you can always theoretically get another house. But I gave her the names of a couple of bankruptcy lawyers and told her to give them a call pronto.  And I offered to give her a ride back to her car which was parked over on Jackson St about 4 blocks away.

En route she told me how much she enjoyed listening to me on "Tales of the South.' She especially liked a story I told in which I impersonated my father's Indiana accent.

" I'm from Iowa," she said. "I really liked that one."

She also told me that her financial advisor had stole all her money.  Same thing happened with the investments guy at a local bank leaving her destitute.  And she didn't know that the papers she signed to get money from an investment account was a real estate mortgage.

"Well, evidently you signed one somewhere along the way," I said.

Before I let her out of the car I wrote down the names of the bankruptcy lawyers I had recommended.  I also wrote down that she should go to the prosecutors and to the Arkansas Securities Commission. Just out of curiosity I asked her where the house in question was located.  She gave me the address. It was out in a high dollar neighborhood.  

Hmmm.  More red flags.  

I wished her luck.  But I also told her that stories like this were easily checked out.  She told me she would be glad if I would check her out.  Then again what was she going to say?  

As soon as she drove off in her SUV, I went home and got on the computer.  To check her out. No foreclosures on the Pulaski County docket for her name but there were lots of lawsuits involving people with the same name.  But it is a very common name.  And the cases were old enough that none of the cases were imaged so I couldn't tell.  However, there was more than Plaintiff involved in motor vehicle accidents with the same name.  And there was one lawsuit against a local lender.

I went to the real estate records.  There seemed to be a lot of activity on a property that was allegedly owned free and clear.  But for some reason I couldn't open any documents.  So I went to the Assessor's website.

Son of a bitch.

She wasn't lying about owning a house at that address.  A 500k one at that.  The picture of the house on the page even showed her SUV parked in the driveway.

My curiosity was in the red zone.  I went to the Pulaski County Courthouse early on the day of the sale.  There on the wall where they post the Legal Notices was the Notice of Sale on her house.  

I'll be damned.  

I called a lawyer friend and told her my story.

"That's pretty effed up," she said. "That's pretty effed up even for you."

I ignored the compliment and asked her to get on the real estate records online and tell me what she saw.

" Your friend lied," she said. "That property has been in foreclosure 4 times. And this person came to your house?  I would be a little scared."

My guess is that she also lied about her dire state of poverty, seeing as how she evidently was able to hold the wolves at bay 3 other times.  I kept an eye on the bankruptcy records online as well all week.  She never filed.  Never has filed ever.  Which probably means she has had the wherewithal to pull these other foreclosures out of the fire and I'm guessing the same thing happened last week although she was really pushing it this time waiting until the last minute as she obviously did.  

I'm also guessing the lawsuit against the bank by the person with the same name as hers was a suit asking for an Injunction against a foreclosure.  I don't know that but I'm guessing I'm right.  And an unduly suspicious person might make much of all the car wreck cases brought by a person with the same name.  Then again, it's a common sounding name.  There are probably 15 of them out there.  

Like I said, as far as cons go it didn't make much sense.  I guess she thought I would take pity on her and go helling off into Court seeking relief I well knew she wasn't entitled to on the basis of her word alone.  Or because she is allegedly a fan of mine as preposterous as that sounded even to me at the time. Perhaps she thought she could appeal to my vanity which is generally a safe play except I have a pretty good hubris defense shield that works in tandem with the bullshit detector.  I mean, there are easier ways to find a lawyer other then by searching house-to-house for a face in a magazine. Hell, there are easier ways to find me if someone really wanted to do it.

Like I said, red flags. In abundance.  

But to what passes for her credit, her story was at least partially true although how she got into this fix would be interesting to know. And she never asked for money which surprised me to no end.

I doubt that I will ever see her again.  The con, whatever it was, didn't work and she's smart enough to know that I would put 2 and 2 together. Because I told her that I would.

And while I'm not scared or apprehensive, I really don't like the fact that somebody like her knows that much about me.

Like where I live.  

She liked my fake Indiana accent. That's probably true but only in that she thought it might be useful for her. I'm guessing she saw compassion in my writing and thought she could work it. That's the way con artists think.  

For some folks everything is showbiz. It's how they relate to the world.

But really, I could do without her knowing where I live.  I could do without that.