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.....