October 29, 2004

An Update / a Ramble

Herewith a rambling, stream of consciousness, not totally filtered catching up post.

I have not written much this past week or so. I hate that. I have come to enjoy the act of writing non-legal things. I love the comments I get, pro or con, and the dialogues that result. But really, I miss the writing. Sometimes when I write, I want a cigarette. Well, not really want so much as remember times past when I would write late into the night with coffee cooling next to me and an ashtray with a burning cigarette in it on the desk. I miss that part of smoking, the part that I associate with those nights and that kind of creativity. I quit smoking some ten and a half years ago, in the days after I sat for the NY Bar Exam. I figured that would be the most stressful moment and once I got past it, I could and should quit. And so I did. Now, of course, I hate smoking. I hate being behind people on the street when they smoke and I hate bars or restaurants filled with smoke. But it is a special kind of hate because I know that I miss it, like I miss that 21 year old kid smoking "Peter Rouge" in Paris in 1988-89. Paris memories involve smoking. Damn I miss that.

I had no intention of writing about smoking, by the way, so I suppose my lead in that this would be stream of consciousness was correct. I will stop here on the smoking and the callow youth I once was. Although, I suppose it is natural to reflect back on what seemed to be simpler times and the person I once was since I am staring my birthday right in the face. Monday, in fact. Another year passed in which I once again managed to dodge the sabre toothed tiger (that's how I cheerfully think of it). But that's not quite what I intended to write about either.

No, I was going to write about: thinking. I have enough time these days to write, but not enough time to think and to organize my thoughts enough to draft a coherent paragraph with a natural and orderly progression of point to point to conclusion. That's why my posts have been so short of late. More in the nature of random observations or remarks than anything I am particularly proud of. No, the problem is I am too busy to think. This is the luxury I crave. Time to step back from the rushed and harried existence. Time to reflect on my observations, to organize them, to see if I can learn anything from them. Time to record these observations as engraved images on my brain, like a print maker makes an impression. Otherwise, the observations are fleeting and they leave with a sort of, "gosh, I have to remember this so I can write about it later" sigh, but they do leave. Like yesterday, I have a half formed impression from seeing two young woman facing each other on the subway, one playing a game boy, the other clutching a text book on international financial management. I had thoughts about the value of education and the soul destroying nature of video games, but they have not fully crystalized and may never.

I also took some time away from the office yesterday to go renew my driver licence which is set to expire on Monday. I walked guided only by a need to go South and West and a desire to keep moving, so I went where the traffic lights sent me and I ended up wandering through the West 30's, a part of town not greatly frequented by tourists. It is the heart, still, of what we in NY call the shmatta trade. The rag trade. The fashion business. Full of wholesale only clothing and all the fabric stores. It is kind of seedy and dingy and full of men pushing expensive clothing through the streets on rolling racks. Clothing you might expect to see next season in the department stores. I think that's fun. It made me want to buy a small, pocket sized digital camera for my birthday to be able to carry with me and take pictures of interesting things on the street so I can post them here. There was one old fashioned barber shop that I would have liked to take a picture of, for sure. Otherwise, renewing my licence was painless and quick. I was, to quote an English friend, gobsmacked at how easy it was. Something has changed drastically at the DMV. I distrust it but I like it.

I am going to be working all weekend, again. I suspect that this might just be the case through Thanksgiving. This is the part of my job I sometimes hate, but not really. I mean, yes, I hate that I will not be seeing my kids or my wife very much but I enjoy working hard. I think that there is a reward unto itself when you stretch your capacity and work hard. Especially if the work is interesting. That's one nice thing about practicing law, the work is usually interesting and requires me to become a quick expert on whatever my client's business is. Right now, its high stakes real estate development and the financing and construction aspects specifically.

That said, I think I grow a little weary of this professional life, weary of the conflict, weary of trying to separate the truth from the untruth. You know what? Truth is inherently malleable. It really is a matter of perception when trying to establish the truth between two competing versions of events. I used to think that truth was TRUTH -- simple and inviolate. It isn't really. There are concepts that cannot be distinguished away and their may be scientific, unarguable truths, but to say that one person swears one thing is true and the other swears the other is true and therefore one is lying is not necessarily the case. They may both be convinced they are each telling the truth. And then the fact finder, judge or jury, decides which version is more credible and thus which is the truth. This is tiring. Especially when you begin to think that your own client may have a more casual relationship with the truth than you are comfortable with. Enough said, I think. Except, perhaps, a word of caution: don't lie to your own lawyer. I hope I don't need to explain why this is a bad idea, do I? One other thing, even if I may be experiencing enough burn out with my current profession to be looking up MBA programs on the web, I am old enough to know that I should not be making any long term decisions under the over worked / under rested circumstances. I'm just thinking about other options without allowing myself to take a position I may have problems retreating from. I think that counts as wisdom and not timidity. But I may just be inclined to self-generosity here.

In the midst of all of this, I had a win yesterday. A motion I filed back in February and which was submitted to the Court in May was finally decided in October. The Court favored my clients with a 10 page decision, which is unusually long for State Court. I moved to dismiss 8 counts of a complaint and I won on 6 of them, have a good argument to renew my motion on the seventh after we serve an answer to the complaint, and know for a fact that the plaintiff cannot prove the eighth count. We'll spend a little time in discovery, which is expensive, but the big threats have been removed. My clients are thrilled. Now they just have to pay their outstanding bills which I think and hope they'll be able to do.

Well, back to work now. Here endeth the ramble. I hope you enjoyed it. And if not, that's ok, too. I am not re-reading it or editing it before posting, by the way. It is truly unfiltered.

Posted by Random Penseur at October 29, 2004 09:49 AM

Smoking is a harsh mistress (or mister)RP. I quit for 17 years. Quit cold turkey while I was in law school. 17 years later, on a business trip to Europe (during the break up of my marriage) while surrounded by smokers I took it up again for a year. It was as if I had never quit. All the smoking mannerisms returned almost immediately: juggling a coffee or a drink with a cigarette; lighting up in the wind; etc. Quitting the second time was much harder than the 1st. I feel deprived of the 'mannerisms' if not the nicotine.

As to career changes, no need not to think of them. This is a second career for me (12 years in the transportation biz between undergrad and law school) and have to say it was a good change. Guess the legal career was my answer to burn out . . . which is the opposite of most law trajectories. :-)

Posted by: ivan at October 29, 2004 10:10 AM

I always enjoy your ramblings, Random. Ramble away. :-)

Truth...yes. It is not absolute. Just another reason why when people insist on breaking everything down to "black and white", I want to thump them on the head with an umbrella.

It's never that simple. Probably a good thing, really. If life were that simple, things would be much more boring, I think.

Posted by: Amber at October 29, 2004 12:11 PM

Your unfiltered ramblings are as welcome as the other kind. Different flavors of the same wonderful dish.

I know from quitting smoking.... How much that brought back.

Two of my relatives both changed careers as lawyers a couple of times. One from litigation to mediation ... and the other from corporate to family advocacy. They seemed subtle to the outsider like me,("You're still a lawyer, though, right?".

Then a few years ago I went from managing small projects as an all-purpose tool (planning, executing, writing the supporting materials, providing the training) to being a program manager, where I manage all sort of people who do each of the bits and it is my job to ensure delivery. It sounds like a progression, and it somewhat was, but my days are completely different now.

We're humans, we need change. Nuanced or blunt.


Thanks again for the thought-provoking post!

Posted by: Elizabeth at October 30, 2004 10:42 AM

Thanks for the great comments, y'all. I'm just impressed you got this far. When I put it into WordPerfect to spell check it, it was 3 single spaced pages, which is a lot to ask people to read.

I'm sorry I don't have the time to respond as I'd like to, but please know that I've read and enjoyed all of your comments.

Posted by: RP at October 30, 2004 12:24 PM

Penseur, what a great post.
Stream of consciousness is so much better than cadavre exquise, I think. There's a progression that often leads to unexpected places.
For your readers, it's an experience where our minds move along the same paths as yours.

Posted by: emilyohyes at October 30, 2004 12:45 PM

I really enjoyed this post as well! Thx RP!

Posted by: indigo at November 2, 2004 03:38 AM
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