Sunday, December 27, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

I thought it was unusual when my brother John texted me about bringing my camera to Michele's house for Christmas dinner.  Then again, I thought that maybe they didn't have one since everybody takes pics with their cellphones nowadays.  Still, he never had made such a request in the past.

So, M and I packed the camera along with the Christmas wine I had bought and the salad that she had made and over the river and through the woods to the Village of Wellington we went.

After everyone had eaten, about 6:30 or so, John called everybody into the living room, ostensibly to pass out gifts.  He instead reached into his pocket and produced a box.  In it contained two wedding rings.  About that time other family members and friends started coming through the front door behind him.

"Well," he announced. "Since everybody is gathered together and since we have two preachers here-referring to Cousin Bruce and M-Michele and I are going to get married on Christmas." Actually, we have 3, the third being Bruce's wife Carolyn.  But who's counting?

He turned to the bride-to-be.  

"Go get your dress on and let's do this."

Obviously, Bruce-a minister in the Disciples of Christ or Christian Church (think TCU)-was in on this from the get-go. But that was probably about it apart from Michele's sister.  I'm not sure that Clarke or Kole knew.  As I got the camera ready Bruce told me they decided that the time was right and that this is how they wanted to do it.

"Besides," he said. "We really are lousy with clergy in this family nowadays."

Could be worse I suppose.  Some families are lousy with lawyers.

Presently, Michele made her way down the stairs escorted by Kole.  Bruce gathered the wedding party to order.  The bride was radiant.  The groom was gallant.  

And there in the living room, John and Michele were married on Christmas night.  All was calm. All was bright.

After champagne went around, M and I went back over the river and through woods back to the People's Republic of Hillcrest to exchange gifts.  We had just gotten settled in when my buddy Dale texted me from over above the river just east of here.

"You missed one hell of a good time over here," he wrote.

"I bet I did," I wrote back. "But John got married tonight. And I had to take pictures."

His response was intemperate and shall not be repeated in this space.


"You're next," he then wrote. " Don't dare do it without telling us."

Dale hates surprises even worse than I do.  The big sissy left town on his 50th birthday for fear that we would throw him a surprise party.  Really he did.

" I promise you," I replied. "If I ever decide to give up my celibate lifestyle you will be the first to know."

"You monk you."

"Good night."

I don't know if I would want to get married at Christmas.  Or Valentine's Day either.  Things are stressful enough on those occasions.  Further, I know a couple of people who have birthdays around Christmas.  They say it still sucks as much now as it did when they were kids.

Then again, I ran into my buddy Jim on Saturday morning.  Jim was the friend that was not drunk texting me on Christmas night.  He said his brother got married on the 4th of July just so he would always remember his anniversary.  So there is that.

Still it is exciting to officially add to this family that is lousy with clergy.  Michele is a great gal.  John over-married. Even he would admit it.  Kole is a good kid.

They have a great future ahead of them.

All is calm. All is bright.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Still MIA

I got too much stuff going on.  The literary world will just have to do without me again today.

It will live.  Most likely it will prosper.

Talk amongst yourselves. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sick Leave

I have been struck down again by bronchitis, this time pretty bad.  It's hard to blog when you got pleurisy.  

The good news is that the horse pills seem to be kicking in.  I should be well JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS!

Talk amongst yourselves.  

Sunday, December 06, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

I'm thinking about getting a gun.

I would buy it from a licensed dealer.  I would go through training.  I would get a concealed carry permit.  All of that.

I wouldn't pack it in church. Or at the doctor's office. Or at a high school ball game.  Or at a nice restaurant.  

At least I don't think I would.  I haven't really thought it through.  

I guess most people that know me would be surprised by this notion.  After all, I don't hunt, although I have no problem with it.  I'm not paranoid.  Indeed, I think that I am fairly well adjusted and socialized.  Lord knows I'm not insecure.  I'm extremely comfortable in my own skin and have no particular need to exert dominion over others.  

But I have this feeling that I am outnumbered.  

Let's face it.  Gun control has failed.  There are more guns floating around out there than could ever be confiscated without a house-to-house search by the Marines.

Which, contrary to the het up delusions of what used to be the fringe, will never happen.  

And here's something else.  The other day Congress voted down a bill which would have, in part, prevented folks on the Federal terrorist watch list from buying guns.  President Obama rightfully referred to this as "insane." I refer to it as failing to "provide for the common defense" which according to the Constitution of the United States of America is one of the jobs of the government.

OK. So I have established that I am neither crazy nor paranoid. OK so I'm not paranoid. I think my public record is one of civic duty and adherence to the rule of law.  I vote. I pay my taxes along with my personal obligations as they come due.  

So what am I scared of?  

Home invaders?  Not really.  While there's always that chance, I am fortunate to live in a safe neighborhood where that sort of thing is pretty much unheard of. Mass shooters? A little. But that's nothing that won't be ameliorated by my not attending the opening of Star Wars or staying out of a Planned Parenthood clinic.  That and I don't work in an office anymore.  

But I live in a country in which the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution is evidently sacrosanct and entitled to greater deference to the obligation of the government to provide for the common defense.  

Which means that pretty much any idiot with a driver's license and a Certificate of Live Birth and no felonies can buy an assault rifle at Bass Pro Shop.  Which means that you never know when some white punk whose boss yelled at him or whose wife cut him off won't try to man up and show the movie theatre who's boss.  Like the guy in Mississippi who plugged the server at the Waffle House for telling him to put out his cigarette.

Think about it.  You can't smoke in most restaurants or other public buildings because smoking is considered a risk to public health.  But packing a gun is not.  

Off the top of my head, I can't think of a better metaphor for the insanity of the gun culture.  

Do not misunderstand me.  I know many law abiding and responsible gun owners.  I would shoot craps over the phone with Chris and Jim Mark.

But neither one of these gentlemen, as far as I know, have a felt need to openly carry an AR-15 on a trip to the hardware store.

The ones that do are the ones that scare me.  

And so I'm thinking about getting a gun.  

Because I KNOW I'm not crazy.  


Sunday, November 29, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

One of the best things about my new life is that I get to spend a lot more time with kids now than I used to.  My nephew Clarke's Mom lives just down the road from Catholic High as do I. So, one of the things I do about once a week when he's with Amy is take him home after he has ROTC.  

Like most 14 year olds, some days he is chattier than others.  Some days he is downright grumpy.  He had a lot on his mind when I went to get him last Tuesday.

"What do you think about the Syrian refugees?" he asked.

"It depends,"I replied. "What's your question?"

"Well, some people say they need to be monitored."

"And to them I would say that it seems like they will be monitored as well as any other legal aliens can be once they get through a pretty in depth screening process that will take about 2 years to complete."

"Some people even say that all Muslims in the country need to be monitored."

"Even American citizens?"

"I guess."

"Well," I said again." That's unconstitutional."


"Sure.  You have a constitutional right to be a Muslim.  Or a Baptist, Catholic or nothing at all. According to the First Amendment to the Constitution the government can't pass a law that would interfere with the free exercise of religion.  Whatever religion that might be.

Second of all, how on Earth would the government do it? Have them all register as they leave services at the mosque? Investigate the background of all people with Arabic surnames? Then how would they "monitor" them? Law enforcement is doing good just to keep up with guys that are on parole. 

And who would do it?  The FBI? Not likely. The INS? Please. The military and CIA can't be used against US citizens. So you see people that are in favor of crazy stuff like this haven't really thought it through."

He grew pensive for a moment.

"But WHY would people even WANT to do this?  What would monitoring Muslims accomplish?"

"Good question," I said. "I guess some people think expending zillions of dollars and violating folks' constitutional rights in order to flush out a handful of potential terrorists is a wise expenditure.  Personally, I think we would be money ahead to keep guns out of the hands of crazy white folks."

"It doesn't make much sense to me," he said.

"People are scared.  The problem is that the world is a complicated place.  There are no simple solutions.  Only difficult responses."

By then we were at his house.  I watched him walk to the back in his fatigues and cap.  This is the world his generation will inherit.  A world where fools dream about creating apps to track Muslims.

Good luck, Son.  Maybe you young folks can straighten it out someday.  Come tell me about it in the nursing home if you do.  

Thursday, November 26, 2015

My Thanksgiving Feeling

A couple of Sundays ago, I went out to my car to put something in the golf bag.  Sylvia was on her knees tending to her flowers at the antique store across the street.  There was a young woman standing over her.  She was gesticulating in a dramatic fashion as she talked. Sylvia seemed to be ignoring her.

The young woman approached me as I stood in the yard.

"Hey Mister," she said. "Can I talk to you?"

Great.  A panhandler.  We don't get many of those in this neighborhood.  We get the door-to-door sales crooks and jackleg yard guys all the time.  Panhandlers not so much.

She was in her early twenties.  Her hair dyed jet black, was parted in the middle, which required her to repeatedly push it out of her face. 

As I have written in the past, I don't give money to panhandlers.  It's not that I am heartless.  Indeed, I think I enjoy something of a reputation for charity and good works in this town.  Which doesn't make me the second coming of Gandhi. I get that. But I don't get guilted into much either.

And while I typically take an exceedingly aggressive approach toward solicitors that arrive unbidden on my porch, I didn't throw this girl off of my yard as a matter of course.  Maybe because she was a young woman. I don't know.  

"OK," she said brushing her hair out of her eyes. "I'm really embarrassed to have to do this."

"Do what?" I asked.

"To ask for help. But I'm kinda desperate.  I hitched a ride with a guy in Springfield who was coming to Little Rock.  Anyway, he had a heart attack and is one of the hospitals here.  I don't know which hospital. I don't even know his name.  All I know is all my stuff is in the trunk of his car. And I need some money to get something to eat and to get back to Springfield."

"I'm sorry," I said. "I don't have any money on me."

That's what I always say.

"Well, maybe you could take me to an ATM and you could use your card."

"You must be kidding." 

She didn't look particularly dangerous. But for all I know she was packing. No way I was going to get in a vehicle with her.

"No. I'm not. I really need some help." 

There was a part of me, the part of me raised by Donice Bowen and the United Methodist Church, that wanted to believe this.  Then I remembered the last woman who showed up at my house looking for help.  She turned out to be a total con artist who had taken the time to do research on me. She was a pro. You have to protect yourself.

This girl looked more crazy than criminal.  But still.  Her story didn't make a whole lot of sense.  That's when I went full blown lawyer on her.

"You mean to tell me you rode all the way from Springfield, Missouri to Little Rock with some guy and you didn't catch his name?"


"Tell me how you know he's had a heart attack."

Silence.  She was getting pissed.

"I think you need to leave. Now." I said.

She headed back across the street from whence she came.

"I hope I don't die!" she yelled back at me from over her shoulder.

OK. That hurt a little bit.

I have written in the past that while I'm not a very good Christian. I'm a pretty good Methodist.  And us Methodists are hard-wired to "do all the good we can." And while I've done well for myself, I'm hardly wealthy.  Still, it would not have made a dent in my standard of living in the slightest to have slipped her 5 bucks. And maybe I should have done that. 

But ask anybody in law enforcement or social work about panhandlers. They will tell you that 90% of them will take any money you give them and will either smoke it up or drink it up.  It is a better and more efficient use of the money to give it to homeless shelters or food ministries. Which I do.

Or to give it to friends that are soliciting for charitable purposes.  A buddy brought his 10 year old daughter over the other night.  She was selling some homemade granola trial mix junk she called "reindeer food." The 2 buck donation goes to "Toys for Tots." I gave her a 20.  I know where that money is heading.

I saw the Girl from Springfield last week.  I saw her over by the grocery store down the street.  She was wearing a poncho and a backpack.  Maybe she got her stuff back.  And maybe this was a line of bull straight from jump street.  

But she didn't die after leaving my house. 

And I am grateful for that.  

I am also thankful for people whose vocation is to help the less fortunate.  The ones who run the shelters and the feeding stations.  They deserve all of our gratitude and support.

As I have written once before, about turning away a guy who showed up at my house at 2 AM allegedly seeking warmth, Jesus walked the streets.  But he didn't walk these streets.  Theodicy is theology's attempt to explain the inexplicable.  Check it out on your own time. 

Back to the real world.

 I don't particularly regret not giving money to a panhandler with a sketchy story. 

But I guarantee you I will write a check to the homeless shelter this week. I'm not a very good Christian but I'm a pretty good Methodist. And I try to do all the good I can.  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

No Time For Blogging

I have been forced to actually work this week and last.  It no longer suits me.  

So no blogging this week.

If we don't talk before then have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

I haven't had as much time this Fall to substitute teach as I have the previous couple of years.  I have been practicing law a little more than I have since leaving Uncle.  Most of it has been Legal Services stuff.  They tend to call me in on stuff involving money or property or Federal Court.  They don't get a whole lot of that kind of business. 

I spent a good bit of last week helping with a housing discrimination case down in El Dorado.  Next week I have depositions in a really interesting case in which we opened a Probate for our client's daughter.  Client's boyfriend, the child's father, got whacked a year or so ago.  Shortly thereafter, Quitclaim Deeds purporting to bear the Decedent's signature which were allegedly executed prior to his death popped up which purport to convey certain real estate owned by him to a woman who claims to be his cousin and boon companion.

My client contends that the decedent's signature is a forgery.  It sure looks like it to the untrained eyes of me and co-counsel.  So we filed an action in the Probate case to cancel the Deeds for that reason.  And away we go.

This is actually fun.  You can't make this stuff up. It's a lot of work.  But fun nonetheless.  

However, I was able to go spend last Friday with the Middle School kids at St. Edward's downtown.  Which once again raises the entirely legitimate question of how a Methodist lawyer got himself in the big middle of Catholic secondary education in this here town.  This is certainly the question raised by many of my greatly amused Catholic friends.  But here I am.

I got asked to help out at St. Edward's last Spring.  I was kind of apprehensive because I had never spent time with kids that age outside of baseball.  I certainly had no experience with girls that age.  It worked out all right.  I discovered that I get along with sixth graders which was unknown to me.  I got along with everybody else too.  And they behaved for me.

I am not above this sort of commerce and so last Friday I offered the 6th graders a bribe.  They had never seen a fountain pen before.  So I told them if they behaved we would take some time at the end of class for them to write with my fountain pens.  The fact that I carried two astounded them. Worked like a charm.

I like it over there. 

However, I suppose I am sufficiently exotic to them that they had questions for me.  Mainly about my "favorite" things.

"What is your favorite color?"

"I don't know.  I'm wearing black, blue and khaki today.  I wore a lot of blue and gray when I worked all the time.  Kinda like a uniform. But I don't have a favorite."

"What's your favorite TV show?"

"I don't watch much TV except for sports and the news."

" What is your favorite sport?"

" I'm mainly a golfer now.  But I played pretty much everything but soccer when I was your age."

"Why didn't you play soccer?"

"Because nobody played soccer back then."

" What's your favorite football team?"

"The Saints. Lord help me."

"Do you like Notre Dame?"

"I hate Notre Dame."

That one actually drew a gasp.

"What is your favorite soft drink? Coke or Dr. Pepper?"

"I don't drink soft drinks." I decided it was best to let it go at that.  

"What is your favorite pizza place?  Papa John's or Pizza Hut?"

"I try not to go to chain restaurants."

"What is you favorite video game?"

"I don't play video games."

"You don't?  

"I think we are establishing here that I'm just not much fun. Sorry."

At that point I was saved by the bell-literally- and they scurried out. 

But it occurred to me that maybe the tastes of these kids are largely shaped or influenced by the advertising with which they are bombarded.  I am pretty much impervious to advertising. There is no car ad in existence that could entice me to a showroom floor.  But I had to at least quit tuning them out once I started doing consultant work for the Better Business Bureau a couple of years ago though.  I know at least take notice.  

Part of it is their age.  Things are pretty black and white at 12.  So when I was asked about my favorite food, I had to tell them that I didn't know. That I liked all kinds of foods just like I enjoy all kinds of music.  That it largely depends on my mood.  

Then again, I'm 45 years plus older than these little guys.  I have experienced and done more.  My tastes are broader and not informed by the media. At least not much. My responses to their questions were the nuanced answers of an adult.  Sixth graders don't do nuance much.  

But I wonder about them and the messages they are getting.  I'm not so sure it's a good thing.  

The guy the State accused of killing my client's boyfriend and an associate who was definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time was charged with everything they could think of.  2 counts of capital murder, arson (he is alleged to have set the house they were in on fire), 2 counts of corpse desecration (secondary to the arson), unlawful possession of a firearm by a prohibited person (naturally he was out on parole when this all went down) and spitting on the sidewalk on Sunday.

He was tried a couple of weeks ago.  The jury hung up 11-1.  He is back in prison (they revoked his probation when they arrested him a year ago. Duh.) awaiting a retrial in May.

Like I said.  You can't make this stuff up.

The sixth graders' world may not be subtle or nuanced.  But at least it is safer than the real world.  

It's too bad it can't stay that way.  



Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veteran's Day 2015

The Veteran's Cemetery is a heavy place.  I generally get out there to see Buck at least a couple of times a year.  And I never get over the optics of white markers "row on row" to quote the famous poem as far as you can see.

They put American flags out throughout the grounds on Veteran's Day and on the Fourth of July.
On gray days like Veteran's Day 2015 and 2014, the colors literally pop in front of you.  The stately white monuments seem to strain to reach up to the sky.  At least that is the illusion my mind plays on me as it attempts to process the final resting places of Americans that are denoted by so many markers. The red, white and blue flags remind you that you are in a place of shared sacrifice.  Sure, not every soul interred there was killed in action. Not all of them saw combat.  But they all share the common bond of having worn the uniform.

Which I never did.  My father and I never saw eye to eye about, well, anything.  He was a very good man.  And I would imagine that I wasn't exactly a day at the beach as a young person.  He joined the Navy at 18 and went off to the Pacific Theatre with the Seabees.  Can you imagine?  The enormity of what he did, being the bookish and painfully shy man that he was, is overwhelming to me.  And so I go pay my respects. Day late and dollar short at this point. But it's the best I can do.

Arkansas weather is by definition crazy and unpredictable.  Last year was freezing cold. This year I played golf in my shorts the night before.

M and I were just getting to know each other by this time last year.  I was standing out by Buck's grave when she called last Veteran's Day.

"Aren't you cold?" she asked.

"Yeah," I replied as I threw my scarf over my shoulder and turned my back to the howling wind. "It's cold."

"Don't stay too long."

"I won't."

"And you need to find somebody to hug."


"Anytime a person visits a loved one in a graveyard by themselves, they need to find somebody to hug."

"Never heard that one before."

"Well, you need to do it."

By the time I got out there today, an unseasonably clement gentle rain was falling.  From my vantage point where Buck is buried, I could see out across the plain that serves as a huge columbarium.  There are plaques in the ground to note the resting places.

There was a lone woman out there in the middle of the plain.  She was sitting on the ground under an umbrella. She was wearing jeans and her legs were open, astraddle a plaque there on the ground.  She sat there motionless for as long as I was there.  Eventually, she got up and walked to her car, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.

I remembered last year's advice about going to the graveyard alone.  If the lady had been closer to me I would have offered her a hug.

M and I are together now.  It's hard to extrapolate from memories that are damn near over 40 years old at this point. Indeed, it's almost like he never existed at this point. But I think Buck would have liked her.  I wouldn't call her shy.  But she is a quiet sort who has her nose in a book whenever she gets the chance.   Quiet people, like water, find their own level. But I'm making stuff up.

Maybe that's why I go visit my father a couple of times a year.  It's proof he really existed.

And that he, along with other (mostly) boys, did this amazing thing.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Two Weeks In A Row

Between actually practicing law and attending ball games and fundraisers I have had no time to pick up the pen.  Er, keyboard.  

Let me clear some things out.  I will return then.

Talk among yourselves.  

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Day of Rest

No time for blogging this week.  I'm actually having to do some work and it doesn't suit me anymore.

Talk among yourselves.....

Sunday, October 25, 2015

My Sunday Sexagenarian Feeling

The doctor took the stethoscope out of his ears and reached in his pocket for his prescription pad.  I have been sick off and on for a month due to allergies and sinus stuff.  The bronchitis returned last weekend so I went in to get a steroid shot.

"The deal with patients like you," he said as he wrote me a scrip for antibiotics and cough medicine. "Is that y'all never met a day that you didn't find something to like.  And that's a great thing.  The problem with guys like you is that you never rest when you are sick. You're always pushing."

I never thought about it like that before.  In retrospect the good doctor is on to something.  While I will never be confused with Fred Rogers or any other Mary Sunshine type you may think of, I do tend to find something to like about most every day the Lord sends.  Especially now since I don't practice law all the time anymore.

Perhaps that is what has sustained me for much of my 60 years, the first day of which I enjoyed yesterday.  

Yesterday, I became the first male on my father's side in 2 generations to hit the big six-oh.  While I can't say that I obsessed about the bad hand I've been dealt genetically or went screaming in the night about it, it is fair to say that I have been aware of, not so much my mortality, but just how any of a number of things that happened along the way could have jumped ugly.

Around 1986, I was mugged at gunpoint.  My Tulane classmate Jeff Adams had the same experience right after graduation.  He got his head blown off.  I didn't.  About 5 years later a drunk in a Tahoe ran a red light turning my Chevy Nova into a concertina.  I walked out with a small laceration in my ear.  

Around 1993, I came home from work to find 3 guys robbing my house.  I must have scared them as much as they scared me. They went out the back while I went back out the front.  Surely one of those assholes had a gun.  I certainly didn't.  All they got was stuff.  You can replace stuff.  It worked out.  

About 2008 I was diagnosed, much to everyone's considerable surprise despite my sorry family history, with coronary artery disease.  It is in the left anterior descending artery which is popularly, for lack of a better word, referred to amusingly as "The Widowmaker" for it's documented ability for killing people dead.  Heart disease claimed my father and his father.  I'm asymptomatic.  I crush every stress test they throw at me.  

My cardiologist says I have a better chance of getting shot than having a fatal heart attack.  Whatever that means.  My PCP goes so far as rating my chances for such an event as "zero" despite the sludge in my system.  I am fortunate to be living in the era of statin drugs and stents.  My dad was not so fortunate.  Also, unlike my father and my grandfather I don't smoke.  Smoking will kill you graveyard dead about 5 different ways.  

One of the reasons I don't smoke is because I  have suffered from upper respiratory problems all my life.  I had pleurisy as late as last May. Some folks get colds. I acquire stuff out of a book by Dickens.  I catch these things and I get over them. Around 2010, Hugh Tedder, another Tulane classmate, caught the flu.  He died. He left two daughters.  Where's the fairness in that?

I don't much ascribe the hand of God in sparing me all these years.  That would suggest that God routinely intercedes in human history which I can't say that I see from the evidence before me.  Or that if he does, he is perverse about it.
So I can't say that I can provide an explanation for how I arrived at this charmed state of affairs. 

But as the doc says, I do tend to find something good in every day that I am lent breath.  I enjoy spending time with the boys at Catholic High.  Even when they piss me off. I practice law just about as much as I can stand.  I think my current caseload stands at 3.  I still pretty much suck at golf but it no longer troubles me enough to try to improve.  I am playing guitar and singing with the help of an exceedingly patient and frequently amused young professional musician.  

I have stumbled into a relationship with a beautiful, kind, and tolerant woman.  She is lovely in every way.  Far better than I deserve in any event.  

Last night we attended a party where I was surrounded by family and friends.  Good food and drink.  Much story swapping and laughter along with a few tears. How did I get to this pass?  Call it pure dumb luck.  Call it what you will.  

But I realize that I am the most fortunate man on Earth.  And I don't take it for granted one little bit.  

The doc handed me the scrip. 

"Have fun at your party.  Take a little of the cough medicine about an hour before you go.  Eat and drink what you like as long as you got a driver," he said. "Just see if you can find something good the next couple of days that involves reading a book or watching sports.  Because I want you to rest. No working out. No golf. Chill out.  You're in remarkable shape for 60. But you are 60. And you need to get well."

I started to walk out of the room.  The doc called my name.  I turned around. 

He gave me a fist bump.

"Congratulations, man," he said. "You did it." 

So it would appear.  

And I don't have to think about this stuff anymore.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Day of Rest

No post today as I have been busy with all things HarvestFest this weekend.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

I had just gotten on the "El" from the stop located at Midway.  I was trying to get to stop at Adams and Wabash to go spend the afternoon at the Art Institute of Chicago before hooking up with my friends Don and Mark.  Mark and Don went to Vanderbilt together whereas Don and I went to law school at Tulane together.  Over the years we have all become friends.

Mark lives in the Lake Forest section of Chicago (I think) and graciously offered to put us up if we ever wanted to come up for a "guy's weekend."  The stars aligned and off we all went a week or so ago, me from Little Rock and Don from San Francisco.

Now I have taken the El many times but always from Evanston or Willamette.  I had never gone from Midway to the Loop.  I was pretty sure I had figured it out but just to make sure I made discreet inquiry to a woman that was the only other person in the car.

She was a beautiful.  Blond hair, black sweater and coat.  Pearls. Grey pants.  

"Excuse me ma'am," I said. "This goes straight to the Loop doesn't it? I'm trying to get to Adams/Wabash."

She smiled and nodded.

"Oh yah," She said. "Da Loop is da only place dis train goz. Adams/Wabash is da last stop before it turns around an goz beck to Midway." 

Face like Catherine Deneuve. Mouth like Studs Terkel or Dennis Franz.  

I was in Chicagah all right.

Chicago is a hell of a town.  It has the harmonic convergence of sports, the arts and really cool bars that would give me plenty to do.  Think of a more frigid version of New Orleans which is not a completely inapt analogy.  They both are Catholic towns. Indeed, folks in both cities identify themselves by what parish they are situated in.  They both are completely mobbed up. And the politics of both are riven with corruption.

I could deal with all that.  What I couldn't deal with is the cost of living up there and the fact that Mother Nature tries to kill you 3 months out of the year.  So my appearances in Cook County will be sporadic in nature and limited to early Fall and late Spring.

This trip was a quick one.  Don's visa was of a limited duration and both he and Mark have to work for a living and all that. Besides both Don and I have been to Chicago a bunch of times.  Neither of us needed to see the sights.  So we basically hung out at the Art Institute and in a couple of bars in the Loop.

Chicago and New Orleans are both alike in that they are both tavern towns which is nothing you can say about Little Rock.  The bartender that ministered to us at Miller's Pub on Wabash Avenue was 75 if he was a day.  The lady that waited on us at Exchequer down the street on Saturday told us she had been working in bars for 15 years.  A person can actually make a career working in joints like Miller's and Exchequer.  

Both establishments have been around forever.  Dark wood paneling.  Pictures of various celebrities and sports figures up on the walls.  Ball games on the monitors.  And, as Don pointed out, pretty girls everywhere.  I've had better steaks.  I've had better pizza.  But being with good friends in a couple of cool bars made the dining experience all the better.

Speaking of weather, I'm glad that I pretty much limited my sartorial selections to golf stuff.  Saturday was pretty nasty.  The high was 52 or so and the wind was howling across the lake at 30 mph.  Walking from the Art Institute to Centennial Park was a trek under the circumstances.  The breakers on Lake Michigan were up around 7 feet which I had actually seen before.  Still an amazing sight.  

Talk of the weather was not far from many casual conversations with folks in the restaurants and the guy in the liquor store.  This was pretty cold for early October even for those folks.  Does this mean we are in for another terrible winter?    

Not for me.  Oh, we will have our ice storms and day or two of three inch snows here in Little Rock.  We will be inconvenienced for a couple of days.  Mark has to shovel snow a couple of times a week every winter.  And like the rest of us he isn't getting any younger.  I can see why retirees leave there for warmer climes.  I understand why folks with the means to do so winter in Florida.  Like I said, Mother Nature tries to kill folks that live up there for about 3 months a year. And the older you get the tougher it is to put up with.  

I love Chicago but I'm glad I don't live there.  Better to hop on a plane and head back home reading the Chicago Tribune sports page where the bottom line is they hate Jay Cutler and love the Cubs.  The Northwestern Wildcats, occasional doormat of the Big 17 or whatever they are calling it now, are 5-1.  Things are good on the North Side.  

But better to come home.  


Sunday, October 04, 2015

Greetings from Midway

No MSF today as I am waiting to board a flight home after a weekend in Chicago. 

Northwestern is 5-0. The Cubs are in the playoffs.  All is well on the North Side. 

See you later. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

Once more into the breach dear friends, once more.

The great line from Henry the V as he leads the troops into battle against the 
French comes to my mind as we approach September 30.  As it stands right now, that is the last day that the United States Government is fully funded.  This is because there are a small number of Republican legislators that would rather "defund" the government than to allow an appropriations bill to fund the next fiscal year that begins on October 1 if said bill contains funding for Planned Parenthood.  

Regardless of your opinion of PP, is this anyway to run a government?  If you call this a government.

I went through 3-4 of these when I worked for Uncle.  Talk about a pain in the ass.  That's one of the reasons I left when I had the chance.  I didn't want to go through another one. You have to make sure that your cases got covered as well as could be expected.  You had to secure the office.  You were given a script for your voive mail and "out of the office" email message.  Boy, talk about "out of the office."  Technically the office no longer freaking existed.

And even though you aren't allowed to volunteer your services to Uncle, neither are you allowed to work elsewhere either.  A rule which I fully intended to violate if the last shutdown turned into some protracted affair.  And while I wasn't sweating it too much financially, I worried about some of the folks in the clerical or entry level ranks.  Missing a paycheck was a problem for them.  Or at least some of them.  

I'm supposed to get on a plane Friday.  So I got on the Internet to see how a shutdown would affect that.  It won't.  TSA workers are "essential personnel." Folks on pensions wonder if they will get their check Oct 1.  (They will.)  But why should we even have to ask these questions?  What is this?  Greece? Or some other less stable banana republic?

I mean, give me a break.  

Not everybody at the VA hospital is "essential personnel." But the vets will still show up for services.  Not everybody in law enforcement is "essential personnel."  You think the crooks will lay down their weapons until it is once again a fair fight?  

You get my point.  The fact is that most folks expect services from a government that will be there when they pick up the phone to call.  They don't expect to get a recording with some disembodied voice on the other end saying, "I'm sorry.  Your call is important to us.  But we are shut down.  Please leave us a message.  We will get back to you, well, we don't know when.  In case of an emergency...well...we don't have an answer for that either.  Have a good day."

I read somewhere that the last shutdown cost the taxpayers 25 billion before the catfight in the House got resolved.  And all because about 20 Tea Party types there can't get to yes on practically anything that might resemble compromise.  Otherwise known as "governance."

Think this will get better? You must be on drugs.  Speaker of the House John Boehner just announced he is retiring effective the last day of October.  As one of the local political writers said on Facebook that the manure was about "to hit a bigger and faster fan." Or, as I said, the inmates are gonna get their shot at running the asylum.

Once more into the breach indeed.  

Is this anyway to run a damn government?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

I attended the annual session of the United Methodist Lawyer's Conference last Thursday at my church.  These sessions are usually pretty interesting.  Or as interesting as any Continuing Legal Education session is I should say.  But it was just down the street, it was free and they served lunch.  Besides I needed the CLE hours.  

Generally speaking, these conferences center around such issues as copyright, taxation (or how to lose the tax exemption), protection of children, and the like. The United Methodist Church got serious about a lot of these issues in light of all of the troubles that beset our Catholic brethren 10 years or so ago.  So we tend to talk about them a lot in these meetings.

The last speaker for the day was a lawyer who formally represented businesses and financial institutions.  His topic concerned Arkansas' new "Open Carry" law concerning firearms.  Arkansas, like some other states, has gone completely mad and passed legislation that allows folks to pack a weapon on them open and notoriously (to borrow language from the law of real property).  Our Attorney General has opined that this applies to handguns as well as AK 47s.  Perfect.

Not that I am an expert in this area of the law but it is my understanding that you are not supposed to bring the damned things to into churches.  And I'm sure my church bans firearms on the premises.  But human nature being what it is and this being Arkansas, Baker felt compelled to ask the group the formerly preposterous question of "Does your church have a policy concerning folks that show up packing?"

"I mean," he said. "What are you supposed to do?  Ask one of the ushers to have a word with him?  Go get the security guard?  You do have a guard don't you? And what if it is generally known in the congregation that the guy with the gun has it in for another church member who is present that day because he felt that the other guy beat him out of some money on a business deal? Do you-you being the church- have a duty to warn the other guy?"

Most of my fellow lawyers in the room looked at each other with "hell if I know" looks.

"Well, you need a policy," he said. "And here's another question.  Does your church have a policy regarding active shooters on the premises? 30% of all mass shootings occur in churches you know. Do you fling open the doors and let people escape?  Do you lock it down? What if somebody who would have preferred to escape gets shot during the lockdown? Has the church increased its exposure to liability under those facts?"

There was more.  

"Is the church locked during the day?  If it is, who makes the decisions on who gains entrance?  Is there a policy on that or does dear old Mrs. Johnson who volunteers during the week make that decision?  What if you take the view that the church should remain open to all?  Eventually, somebody armed and crazy may come in.  What are the ramifications to either scenario from a liability perspective? We have to start thinking about these things."

I guess so.  We're lawyers.  We're the ones that think about this stuff.

As an aside, I asked a police officer acquaintance of mine what he thought about the new law the other day.  He chuckled ruefully and shook his head.

"It wasn't exactly Mayberry out there before they allowed open carry.  This just makes law enforcement harder and more dangerous.  I mean, what are the rules?  What if I confront somebody?  All I can do is ask him what his intent (for being armed) is.  Do you think a criminal is going to tell me the truth?"

Nope.  It ain't exactly Mayberry out there.  And the church house is no longer a safe haven.

But we Methodist lawyers were sent back to our respective communities to discuss formulating policy for responses to the unthinkable in a world gone completely mad.  

I guess somebody has to do it.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

My Feeling Worthless On Sunday Feeling

Too much tennis, music, golf and football going on to string two sentences together. Perhaps I won't be on sensory overload starting tomorrow.

Talk amongst yourselves. 

Sunday, September 06, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

I wasn't going to write about the Kim Davis case.  I tend not to go out of my way to borrow trouble at this stage of my life, although I sometimes don't do a very good job of it.  And actually, I'm not writing about Kim Davis as such.  Rather, I'm going to write about what happened here within the framework of what has been venerable precedent in the courts of law.  And I'm going to address what I perceive to be certain irresponsible comments by people that should, and probably do, know better.

When I was a law student, I was taught the basic principals of criminal and constitutional law in my first year.  I'm pretty sure the following case popped up in both classes.  But I remember it with clarity in light of recent events.  

There were some defendants who had gotten indicted on drug charges.  I somehow remember them as Native Americans.  But they could have been anybody.  They were indicted for the illegal possession and use of peyote.  Their defense was that their use of peyote was part of closely held religious beliefs and that their prosecution was a violation of their right to free exercise of their religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment.  

Does this sound familiar?

Anyway, they Defendants lost. The ruling of the Court was to the effect that while one is free to believe whatever one wants, one is not allowed to act on those beliefs to the extent that it violates the civil or criminal law.  That has been the law of the land for a hundred years.

When I was a young lawyer, I assisted another lawyer with a Tax Court case.  The clients were Christian pacifists.  That was not the name of their denomination.  That what they were. They opposed war in any shape, form or fashion.  And they were opposed to any portion of their federal taxes going for military purposes.  They believed that forcing them to pay taxes for military purposes violated their First Amendment rights.  They weren't opposed to paying taxes.  They just wanted whatever portion of their tax dollars that went to the Marine Corps to be appropriated to the Department of the Interior.  Or something.

They lost.  The Tax Court ruled that the Congress appropriates tax money.  Not the taxpayer.  So basically, write your Congressman.  Or a letter to the editor.  Secondly, the Court stated that if everybody could pick and choose where their tax money was to go, the result would be anarchy.

Again, you can believe whatever you want.  But neither you nor I have the unfettered ability to act on those beliefs.  And if our religious based actions run afoul of a valid and/or constitutional law, the law prevails.  Which is what happened in the Kim Davis case.

Unlike most people that have expressed an opinion in the case, I actually read the transcript of the hearing on the request for injunctive relief filed by the Plaintiffs who were denied a marriage license by Davis's office based on her faith based reason that same sex unions are contrary to God's law.  

In an apparent attempt to prove that her beliefs were genuine, her lawyer asked her a series of questions about her devotion.  I'm working on recall here, but it is my recollection that she testified that she attended services 3-4 times a week and that she was part of a prison ministry. 

Based on her own testimony about her religious practices the judge ruled that requiring Kim Davis to issue marriage license to anybody-including same sex couples-did not create a substantial impact upon her First Amendment right to freely exercise her religion as she otherwise saw fit.  And so she lost.

She appealed all the way to the US Supreme Court and lost every step of the way.  Still she refused to issue the licenses to same sex couples.  This got her hauled back in front of the judge on a contempt charge.  She lost that too and got tossed in the pokey where she will stay for up to 18 months (as I recall) or until she purges herself of contempt (as they say).  

And here's the point.  Mike Huckabee's suggestion that Davis's incarceration proves that Christianity is being "criminalized" would be laughable if weren't for the fact that a certain number of people believe such nonsense.  The reality is that there is not a power in these United States that can make you believe anything or punish you for having a religious persuasion.  

I am a Methodist.  Nobody forced me to be a Methodist.  I like being a Methodist.  However, Sunday I'm going to the Baptist church to hear my buddy preach.  Nobody can stop me.  I guess he could.  But I'm not worried about that.  Or nobody can stop me from staying home and watching the US Open tennis tournament if I so choose.  

But I don't get to pick and choose among what laws I intend to obey or ignore because I am a Methodist. Again, that would be a prescription for anarchy.     

Conversely Kim Davis isn't eating county food now because she is being persecuted as a fundamentalist Christian.  She's in jail for violating a lawful order of the Court on an issue that had been litigated fully.  That's what she's in jail for.  

Which brings us to another bit of legal analysis on the part of Governor Huckabee.  He has gone on the record as stating that the United States Supreme Court "cannot make a law." That it can "only" "make a ruling on the law." 

I actually find myself in rare agreement with Huckabee.  I just don't agree with his conclusion as to the practical effect as it applies to this case.  Or most cases for that matter.

The United States Supreme Court ruled that state statutes that prohibit same sex couples from marrying violated the United States Constitution.  Accordingly, these laws were entitled to no more effect and states are no longer legally able to prohibit same sex couples from obtaining a marriage license on that basis alone.

Which is exactly how I explained it to the 10th grader in my life over lunch one day.  It is not much more complicated than that.  

So yeah, Mike, the Supremes can't "make a law."  But they can sure as hell rule as to the constitutionality of laws passed by legislative bodies and they have done so since around 1830 when the Supreme Court ruled that it was the function of the "judicial department" to declare what the law is.  

You can believe that same-sex marriage is wrong.  You can choose to join a church that doesn't marry same-sex couples. Like the Methodist church.  You can refuse to attend same-sex weddings.  You can write letters to the newspaper or to your congressman expressing your opposition to it.  You can refuse, in your personal life, to associate with gay folks.  Nobody can stop you from doing any of these things.  

But your closely held religious beliefs doesn't mean you can pick and choose what laws you will obey and what laws you won't.  At least not without consequences.

Kim Davis's position has never been the law.  Never, ever, ever.  

And that is all there is to say about this situation.  

Sunday, August 30, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

No MSF due to family obligations this weekend.

Talk among yourselves.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

Facebook is a many splendored thing.  It is a fun and useful way to keep up with friends and relatives.  Once upon a time, back in the days when I kept a paper calendar, I had an address book that contained where I logged the birthdays of those that were near and dear to me.  Now I pretty much rely on Facebook to let me know when somebody has made another trip around the sun.

Facebook also provides one, if one is paying attention, with something of a Rorschach test of the psyche as it obtains around these here parts.  One is frequently encouraged to "like" certain statements regarding religious or political pronouncements.  I'm guessing that somewhere somebody or some entity keeps track of this stuff.  I know in the political sphere such nose counting goes on.  It wouldn't surprise me if the folks that put out these other pronouncements for approval by the Facebook audience did likewise.

I never, or hardly ever, participate in this sort of commerce.  One reason is that the world is a pretty complicated place.  Pamphleteering on Facebook is not typically given to nuance.  Here's an example.

Last night-and I am working on recall here-somebody put up the following pronouncement that went something like this.

" We are told by the media not to judge all Muslims by the actions of a few.  And yet, all gun owners are blamed when a single deranged person commits a mass killing with a gun.  
   They say that Social Security is going broke.  How come nobody says that about welfare?

   'Like' this if you agree!"

This was posted by an otherwise reasonable and intelligent person.  It received an "amen" from another.  And I'm certain that before the night was over it had made the rounds out there.

The problem with this kind of statement is that it, to borrow from my line of work, assumes facts not in evidence.  

In the first place, while I know there are zealots on both sides of the gun control issue, I don't think people blame the average gun owners for gun violence.  My friend Chris Riviere is an avid sportsman.  He is a law abiding and responsible gun owner.  I no more blame him for what happened in Lafayette earlier this summer than I blame myself.  

I might blame the nation's policies on gun control but I don't blame individuals. And I don't know if anyone else that does either.

Secondly, Social Security is not "going broke." As those known communists at Forbes Magazine said in an article I read last summer that it is "a logical impossibility" for the program to run out of money.  It referred to such statements as "much ado about nothing." 

That's because there is a crucial difference between an "actuarial shortfall" on a long term basis and actual insolvency.  This has always happened from time to time and it has always gotten solved, typically through the liquidation of treasuries in which the Social Security Administration has invested. 

As to the "issue" (for lack of a better word) of the abundance of "welfare" insinuated by the post I would just ask "define welfare." Apart from Social Security, and other Federal retirement systems, there are no need based income program.  There is no "dole" here as there is in Great Britain.  Surely, there are various anti-poverty programs involving health care, housing and nutrition to name but a few. Perhaps that is the "welfare" complained of in the Facebook post.

However, if one were to define "welfare" as any financial benefit conferred by the government (and just so we're clear "providing for the general welfare" of the country is in the Constitution) the class of recipients of such largess gets broader and deeper.  How about corporate taxation or relative lack thereof?  How about cities funding sports facilities built by billionaires? How about tax-exemptions for churches? And televangelists?

How about the deduction of the interest I pay on my mortgage each year?  When viewed through this wider lens the discussion more closely follows the principle of the gored ox more than anything else.

The world is a complicated place.  Nuance prevails in reality.  Facebook is better suited for announcing birthdays and showing selfies of narcissists at lunch.  It is not the best forum for highfalutin political discourse although it does serve as something of a Rorschach test for the occasional strain of paranoia which obtains out there. Nothing more. Nothing less.

"Like" this if you agree!  


Sunday, August 16, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

About 5 years ago, at the insistence of my financial advisor, I bought an iPad.  And it has been a lot of fun and convenient to use.  I've read books on planes, email in hotel rooms, and used it to read my notes when I am at Catholic High.

But in the last 6 months the damn thing has started to show signs of imminent death.  It crashes repeatedly when I try to use interactive apps like Google or Facebook.  When it isn't crashing, it is painfully sloooooooow.  And typing on it has always been a pain in the ass.  

And so I started poking around to see what I could get to replace it. I didn't really need another computer.  The HP that an old girlfriend's genius kid had configured and ordered for me still works great.  But it's a laptop with a 17 inch screen.  So hauling it around is really not all that convenient.  

I generally resisted going into the world of Macs. First of all, the government world and the legal world are still pretty much PC.  And I was for many years a lawyer who worked for the government.  Mac documents couldn't be opened by PCs and vice versa.  I am assured by my lawyer friends that use Macs that this is no longer the case. But still, to this day, documents I send in when I write for the paper that are written in Word cannot be opened over there.  I have to cut and paste into email.  This makes no sense to me.  But it's the way it is.  

I guess the main reason I have resisted buying a Mac was that I didn't want to join the cult of Mac users.  When I first started looking at them some 20 years ago, I always had this feeling that anytime I powered one up some guy in a ponytail and Birkenstocks would materialize next to me to give me pointers.  That and my brother John, who is in the communications industry, told me that he didn't want me "fooling with a Mac."

But in all honesty, the laptops up until the HP I bought about the time I left the government were all junk.  The ThinkPad started falling apart almost immediately.  The Gateway wasn't much better.  I think I have put the Dell out of my mind.  The HP I bought about 8 years ago worked great until, out of nowhere, I got the "blue screen of death."   Like I said, so far so good with the current HP.  It's still plugging away.  

I liked all the apps that came with or I downloaded on the iPad.  So when the Blackberry started to die I bought an iPhone after the government decreed that they were sufficiently secure to work with.  And I have loved it.  And it syncs up with iPad perfectly.  

So, as any of my friends that offered me advice on the subject (bidden by me or otherwise) correctly pointed out, it wouldn't make much sense to buy a PC tablet under the circumstances.  And they were right.  Whether I wanted to be there or not, I was a Mac user.  

I didn't want another iPad.  I hated typing on it.  So I started looking a the MacBook Air.  It was about as light as a new iPad.  It wasn't much bigger. It would fit easily in my briefcase like the iPad.  It maybe cost 400 bucks more.

And it had a real keyboard.  So I bought one. And, predictably, when I announced this on Facebook I received countless "likes" and favorable comments as to the wisdom of my purchase.  Welcome to the cult of Macs.

So.  What do I think?

Not bad.  There are some things I really like about it vis a vis my HP.  It has a backlit keyboard which makes doing email in the early morning or at night easier seeing as how my vision isn't what it wasn't what it once was but my typing still is.  

I've sent and received documents to lawyers I am working on stuff with.  They open just fine.  The MacBook communicates with my printer just fine.  The Federal Court's electronic docket and the MacBook don't get along.  It will let me look at pleadings filed.  But it won't let me download them or print them which is a pain.  But as one of my lawyer friends said, there has to be a "work around" given all of the Mac users out there so she advised me to call the Clerk's help desk.  Which I will do.  I haven't tried the State court docket yet.  

The OS is really fast.  Surfing the net on this box is instantaneous.  It powers up quickly and is nice and bright.  

What do I not like?  Not really impressed with Pages, the word processing system installed with it.  Granted I haven't spent much time with it, but I've only used Office for the past 15 years or so.  I know where everything is on the screen.  And my resume and letterhead, pleadings and such are in that world.  I may try to open an old pleading or something with Pages and see what it does to it.  My doctor's wife uses Word for Mac.  He tells me that she likes it just fine.   So I may do that.  Or just stick to the HP for legal writing.  

For some reason I can't figure out how to name pictures I have edited with Photos, which is the OK photo editing software onboard.  iPhoto used to be great so I hear.  But Apple wasn't making a sufficient killing on it.  So I think they went in with Photoshop which you can get on a subscription basis.  The Nikon guy over at the camera store I use told me the other day that there's not much difference between PCs and Macs when it comes to photo editing any more.  Except Mac does seem to offer more opportunities for desktop publishing.  

They one app I hated in on the iPad and with the new machine is the Calendar function.  It is different across the iPad, IPhone and MacBook.  It's hard to enter data.  For example I was putting dates on the calendar for a case I am helping with in Federal Court.  I inputted the date for a first "alert" and a date for a second one for each event.  Once I hit "save" it would invariably switch the 2 events.  Which makes no sense.  And is a pain.  This happens on all 3 devices I own.  What a piece of crap.  

Botton line is that I think I'm going to like it for travel and for use in class.  It runs circles around the PC on the Internet and the mail works well.  

But I'm not going to quit using the PC anytime soon.  

Which I guess means I haven't completely drunk the Kool Aid served by the Cult of Mac.