I woke this morning an hour later than I normally do on a weekday. I woke alone, in a giant four poster king size bed, in a corner room, paneled entirely in some rich oak looking wood, high over Park Avenue. I was not hung over, exactly. Not really. Just tired from the steady consumption of excellent bourbon, fine single malt, and first rate wines (both white and red) over the space of some five-six hours the night before. I include the roof top cocktail party with the stunning view of the Chrysler Building all lit up. Beautiful night for it.
There is something to be said for going to bed alone after having overindulged in good food, fine spirits, and diverting conversation. Something neatly self contained about taking all the fellowship and happiness and walking away with it tucked into your breast pocket. Sends you off to bed with a warm glow. Maybe that was the single malt, of course.
I think I am going to like these monthly obligations -- attending a board meeting in black tie (cause I love getting dressed up!), socializing, drinking, eating, etc. A reminder of life before children when your obligations to others was more theoretical and you could seek your own pleasure, within limits, without worrying overly much about the consequences.
Today, however, I am a bit less useful than normal. A residual effect of the booze, despite my best attempts to sweat it out in the fitness center before coming to work.
You know what the worst thing is about walking sideways to your responsibilities, at least your work related ones? It makes every day feel like Monday, every morning feel like the same start to the same day it was yesterday. It makes Friday feel like something other than the end of the work week and the it makes the weekend feel somehow devauled, somehow less merited. You end each day with the same to do list you begin it with and you realize that time passed but you gained no traction on it. The same lassitude gently laps at you and pulls, stupidly at you, like too much humidity and not enough cool air. This is what happens when your week is filled with responsibilities other than work, when you put on a dinner for around 250 people that lasts for 5 hours, when you attend board meetings, attend committee meetings, when you occupy yourself with everything other than your occupation. A person, could develop a cold. Or at least a feeling that the end of the week is nigh but not for you.
It has been a complicated week but not a productive week, not for me at work at least.
But the dinner I organized, in recognition for Vietnam Vets, was a huge success. One Vet wrote me:
that was the most deeply moving evening I have ever had over my Vietnam experience and it is because you pursued the idea and made it happen. i will never forget last night.
That makes it feel a bit better.
But not enough to make it feel like a Friday. Not enough to make it feel like I should have cashed that paycheck.
Guilt. Unresolved feelings of guilt. It ain't ever enough, anywhere, is it?
Today, at 2:30 p.m., in the Rose Garden at the White House, President Bush will award Corporal Tibor Rubin with the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Rubin immigrated to the United States in 1948 and answered Americaās call to duty by volunteering for Army service. By July 1950, Rubin was fighting on the front lines in Korea as an infantryman in I āItemā Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. During numerous engagements, Rubinās actions to engage the enemy and to tend the wounded, at careless disregard for his own safety, resulted in the heroic defense of his unit. In one such mission, Rubin single-handedly defended a hill for 24 hours, allowing his company to withdraw.
Subsequently, Rubin dragged to safety a critically-wounded Soldier who others had left to perish. When he and surviving members of his unit were captured and interred in North Korean and Chinese Prisoner Of War camps, Rubin drew from his hard-won personal experiences in the Holocaust death camps to find food and provide medical care to his fellow captives. The U.S. Army credits Rubin with saving the lives of more than 40 Soldiers.
Now, 55 years later, Rubin will receive the nationās highest military honor.
More information on this American hero is available at the Army's website.
Unofficially, I believe that this is the only award of the MOH to a concentration camp survivor. Also, I believe that this doubles the number of living Jewish MOH recipients to two. I have had the privilege of meeting the other, Colonel Jack Jacobs, on several occasions.
As always, I find myself humbled when I read about men like these.
I have been dipping back into some Liebling (I find him comforting, frankly, as he could write like an angel. A New York angel but still an angel) and stumpled upon the following little bit I wanted to share as it amused the heck out of me:
The Colonel's ideal of feminine beauty remains constant.
In this he resembles an old wartime friend of mine named Count Prziswieski, a minor figure in the exiled Polish Government.All my life I have been faithful to one woman, the Count once said to me --- a fragile blonde with a morbid expression.
He found this woman in every country, and she never aged, although the Count did. The fragile blonde with a morbid expression, wherever she turned up, was in her twenties.
More to come later.
I defended a deposition in the afternoon, yesterday. It is a small case involving commissions owed to a former salesperson for a major media company here in NYC. The deposition was taken at the offices of the defendant's attorneys located in the same building as the company. While I was waiting for my habitually late client to show, we were meeting in the lobby, I was treated to a display of young models signing in for a cattle call upstairs. All young, all trying to look young while still looking world weary and sophisticated, all bravely clutching their portfolios. Nice way to pass the time. The only thing that distracted me from the parade was the vision of the New York City tow truck towing a quarter of a million dollar new Bentley coupe. Ouch. That's gotta hurt.
Anyway, client arrives (late but not too late) and deposition commences.
The lawyer for the defendant was really pretty bad at this. She asked lots of circular questions, lots of questions attempting to restate my client's previous testimony (and by previous I mean from 5 minutes ago), lots of questions assuming facts not in evidence, lots of questions which were irrelevant and dealt not at all with the complaint or her client's affirmative defenses. I objected a lot. I was forced to. All to the form of the question. I doubt that much of what she asked will be admissible. Oh, and don't get me started on the marking of exhibits.
Well, you had to go and get me started, didn't you?
Exhibits and documents, same thing sometimes, get marked at deposition and questions are asked about them. Experienced and careful attorneys understand how crucial it is to examine on documents in such a way as to authenticate them and make them admissible for trial or for summary judgment later. Why summary judgment? Well, lots of times lawyers forget that a summary judgment motion has to be made on admissible evidence. I regularly can knock out parts of other attorneys' summary judgment motions by attacking the admissibility of the evidence. Judges love to be reminded of stuff like that. If you don't lay a foundation for the admissibility of your evidence at deposition, you are in big trouble later. You should only have to make that mistake once in your career before you never make it again.
This attorney has not had that experience, I guess. She laid no foundation for her documents. She may have some trouble later. Oh, and without a foundation, I'm going to move to strike whatever testimony she got from my witness with regard to any particular inadmissible document.
Anyway, my favorite objection of the afternoon:
Examining Attorney ("EA"): Now, is it my understanding that you did the following thing after your termination meeting?
Me: Objection, instruct the witness not to answer the question. [By the way, that instruction may not have really been totally proper, but still, I did it anyway]
EA: What! How can you instruct her not to answer? What is the basis?
Me: I thought you said you didn't want speaking objections. Now you want me to explain?
Me: Ok. Your question didn't just call for the witness to testify to the operation of another's mind, it called for her to testify to the operation of your mind! Totally improper. You want to restate the question?
EA: No. The question was fine. I want to take a break.
*break taken, EA leaves room*
Court Reporter to me: You were right. That was a totally fucked up question.
The whole deposition was kind of a waste, really. Let's just say that at the conclusion, we had some meaningful settlement talks.
Yesterday was the first day of pre-school for the Boy Child. There was no way that I was going to miss this; I re-scheduled a deposition until later in the afternoon so I could attend. In fact, to my surprise, I was the only father in attendance yesterday. I donāt understand how other fathers donāt prioritize these kinds of events.
Anyway, no drama. The Boy Child was beyond fine. He was excited to go to school. He walked into his classroom under his own power, holding only his sisterās hand; she insisted on taking him to his class before going to her own. He took one look at the trucks on the shelves and we ceased to exist for him. Didnāt even seem to notice that we were leaving, didnāt respond to our calling goodbye to him, although his sister got a goodbye after she became insistent, and he was good. No separation anxiety in the slightest.
Well, no anxiety for him. He was golden. I was a total mess. I went upstairs after his door closed and returned a couple of business calls and then snuck back down to peek into his room. The window, while mostly covered with construction paper cut outs, did have some gaps and I snuck a peek. It was snack time. He was sitting in his little chair, one arm insouciantly hanging over the back, the other hand occupied with a cookie, happily munching away with a big smile as he looked around and took everything in. He was so beautiful, so perfect.
I am not ashamed to say that I almost cried. Hell, Iām almost crying right now as I type this. It was the purest realization that he has now taken his first step away from us, his first step out of the house, his first movement towards being his own person. Simply, I am not ready for that. In some ways, change is like death. It is a leaving behind of what was. I am not ready for him to leave behind what was. Look, I know that I am, as my wife calls it, taking my sorrows in advance here but it was just the same a very poignant moment for me. I had the same problem with the Girl Child on her first day of pre-school. She was fine; I was a basket case.
I got to watch his class from the windows of the library as they went out on the playground and ran around. He was a blur of constant motion, taking everything at a joyful and determined run. When class was over, we met him on the playground and he seemed delighted to see us, although he objected quite strongly to leaving the playground. His teacher told us that āhe was very sweetā and that if she could, sheād have let him stay all by himself for the next introductory session scheduled on the heels of this one but sheād get in trouble. So we coaxed him from the playground with a mention of the train that he had to take me off to. One of the other teachers exclaimed, in surprise, that the Boy Child ate three cookies at snack time. I replied: āThe Boy can himself some eat cookies.ā In fact, cookie may be his major food group.
He chatted with us, happily, all the way back to the train station. Everything was āgĆøyā (Norwegian for happy or fun, pronounced kind of like gay). Trucks, park (his word for playground), juice, snack, all was gĆøy. He liked his teachers and he agreed that he was very tired.
I was tired, too. Wrung out, actually, and I slept for a good part of the train ride into the city.
I think heās going to have a good experience there. And Iām glad. The part of me that isnāt sad, still.
To catch up, since it seems to have been a while, I have passed a very active couple of days, filled with many things, few of them work related, I am happy to report. Let us kick off with Friday.
This day was spent mostly in transit. Approximately six hours or so of travel time in order to attend two hours of meeting. Still, it did not appear to be time wasted, although I did not get to meet Elizabeth, as I had hoped to do. We traded a bunch of messages and had several pleasant conversations. However, the point.
I went to Chicago on Friday for a job interview. I think it went well. I was slated to meet with three people and was told that in almost no circumstance would it exceed an hour and I could plan accordingly. The meeting was at 3. I arrived at around 11:00 in Chicago and took the train into the city. I had scads of time and the train, while slow, was only $1.75. I got out at Jackson, in the loop, right in front of the Monadnock building, the last tall building built only on masonry load bearing walls. By Burnham and Root, if I recall. It was a pleasure to see the old fellow, again. The walls at the bottom are extraordinarily thick, six feet, to support the 11 stories above without a skeleton. I then made my way to the Union League Club of Chicago where I had privileges and managed to hang out, read, prepare, and have lunch before my 3:00 interview. The interview was just a couple of blocks down the street, making the Union League very convenient. The food was excellent, actually.
I arrived at the interview 15 minutes early and had a lovely chat with the receptionist. When her relief came, about 1 minute before my interviewer arrived, I thanked her for babysitting me and she said she didnāt babysit me. I agreed, remarking that she didnāt even tell me a story. So she said that was true and offered to tell me a joke. I assented, of course. Just before the end of the joke, my interviewer came to fetch me and I actually asked him if we could wait one second so I could hear the punch line of the joke and he was fine with that. Set a good tone for an interview, maybe, if you can show how relaxed you are.
I met with three people. We spoke for an hour about my background and about the position. At the conclusion of the interview, they excused themselves and said that they were going to go into the hallway for a moment and chat about me. Ok. Odd, but whatever. After about 5 minutes they returned and asked me if I had any more time free. I did and they asked me to meet with another three people and I met with them for also about an hour. I think it went pretty well. At least, I suppose, I made it to the second round right on the spot. I regard it as a positive development, although you never know.
Made it home by about midnight. Long day that started at 4:30 so I could work out before heading out to the airport.
Started the day exhausted. Mother in law was visiting from Norway. Enough said.
We took everyone to the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport. The kids had a great time. We saw three five-month old baby Siberian tiger cubs; turtles; alligators; wolves; monkeys; birds; and all sorts of reptiles. We left with exhausted children. The Girl Child, nonetheless, declined to nap. While she declined to nap, I gave my mother in law a driving tour of the area.
Upon our return, I had a brilliant idea. No cooking for me that night. I generally do all the cooking, actually. Pretty good deal for my wife. Instead, we would sally forth, acquire fried whole clams, bowls of lobster bisque, piles of onion rings, and bottles of beer and take them to a small beach near the house where there were picnic tables to be found on a small bluff overlooking the beach and the ocean and we would dine. And so we did, all while watching the storm roll in over the ocean from Long Island. The thunder was loud, at times. The dinner was outstanding, above the waves as they beat against the shore, as the light changed from the oncoming storm. We were pretty much totally alone. After dinner, we ventured down to the sand to collect sea shells. It was low tide. We found some lovely small ones.
The Girl Child and I had an amusing interchange at the picnic table after I remarked on the presence of grills and said next time we could bring charcoal and make our own food. I said that one of the grills I would not want to use as it was too close to a bush.
GC: Why wouldnāt you want to use that grill, Pappa?
Me: Well, it is too close to the bush and I would worry that the bush would catch fire. No burning bushes for us; too biblical.
GC: What does that mean?
Me: Ask your teachers on Monday about the burning bush and theyāll explain it to you.
GC: I donāt think I want to.
Me: Why not?
GC: I think that if I did, it would freak āem out.
Might be right, come to think of it.
Then we got back in the car and set off in search of the storm. We drove around for a while and eventually the storm and us found each other. Went home in the pouring rain through very quickly flooded streets. It was delightful.
Even better? No leak at the house.
This day commenced early as the driver came to retrieve my mother in law at 6 for her departure to the airport.
The Boy Child arose shortly thereafter.
After the Girl Child joined him, for a happy breakfast of Lucky Charms ā yay, Pappa! - I adjourned with the children to purchase Halloween costumes. The Girl Child having determined that she wanted to be a witch. She was beside herself with excitement as we picked out pointy hats and brooms, robes and other scary things. The Boy Child announced that he was not going to wear a hat at all. āMy no hat on, Pappaā. No problem, I assured him.
Then we went home to get my wife. At that point, I announced a general nap amnesty coupled with a desire to do something fun. We set off to visit the Railroad Museum in Danbury, about 45 minutes away. The Boy Child was the perfect picture of excitement. He could not stand still when we arrived and discovered we were just in time to join a vintage train ride. He literally began to jump up and down. āMy up-I toot-tootā, he announced. Yes, I agreed, you are going to go up in the train and take a ride. His smile was infectious and practically beatific.
After the ride, including a visit to the last turntable still operating in CT, where we got to watch an engine get spun around, we were able to explore the yard and some other vintage trains. Then, a visit to the gift shop where we procured a Junior Engineer Train Set for each child, consisting of a blue and white stripped hat, a red bandanna, and a whistle. I told the Boy Child that he was going to wear this for Halloween, complete with overalls and he could be a Toot-toot guy.
BC: Pappa, my no hat on.
Me: Not even this blue toot-toot hat?
BC: Blo toot-toot hat?
Me: Yeah, you donāt want to wear the blue toot-toot hat and be a toot-toot guy for Halloween?
BC: My wear blo toot-toot hat. My blo toot-toot guy!!!!
All objections to the hat disappeared with the excitement of the realization that he was going to be a blue toot-toot guy for Halloween. He spoke about it off and on for the next five hours. Oh, to be 2.5 again.
After the museum, we wandered back along Route 7 for a late lunch at a small outdoor shack advertising homemade ice cream. Oh, the joy. The masses ate fried things while I virtuously consumed a salad, filching the odd onion ring now and again. After buying the three of them two scoops of ice cream, the banana was declared the best flavor, I had exactly a nickle left in the pocket.
It was a good day. A really good day.
I made them all eat grilled zucchini with parmesan sprinkled on top and grilled asparagus for dinner later that night. Clemintines for dessert, with the Boy Child greedily stealing all the sections that my wife peeled for herself.
All in all, it was a wonderful weekend.
Tomorrow, by the way, is the Boy Childās first day of school.
Iām not ready. Heās too little.
Donāt look for a posting tomorrow. I take the Boy Child to school and then rush into the city for a deposition.
Pax tibi and yāall keep your fingers crossed for Chicago, ok? I mean, Iām not sure Iāll take the job but Iād rather have it be my decision, ya know?
Anyone get the reference in the title?
We had something technical explode at the office and lost all connection to the internet for the last four days. No email, no legal research, no guilty pleasures, no not so guilty pleasures, no connection to the outside world (did you miss me, world? I missed you.), no nothing.
It was kind of restful. I re-discovered the joys of solitaire. I caught up on work, on phone calls, on all sorts of stuff.
One of my phone call exchanges has been back and forth with an admin type at the Pentagon. In my next life, I want someone that efficient working for me. I imagine it must be liberating. And when you talk to people there, they are always in a hurry. Always. The speech is clipped and quick. The manner decisive. Kind of made me sit up a bit straighter in my chair while talking to them.
I have been arranging transportation and other stuff for a big shot from there who is speaking to an organization I head. The speech is tomorrow and I have to introduce him. Ought to be cool. In addition, I get to meet a Medal of Honor recipient. They are not called winners, I am told. They are called recipients. I am so far out of my league that I am totally relaxed about the experience. Really, what else can you do? Just relax and go with the flow.
What else happened while I was cut off? I have a new niece, according to my wife. My poor sister in law brought a child into the world after a scant 30 hour labor. Kids today, slackers all of 'em.
Where do you learn to slap men upside the head? Is it something that comes from playing with Barbie dolls? I'm trying to figure it out you see based on two conversations I had with my daughter this weekend. Remember, just 4 1/2, she is, ok?
GC: Pappa, who is your favoritest singer in the whole world?
Me: Probably have to say Ella Fitzgerald.
GC: Why not me, Pappa?
[Long pause as I think to myself, "oh my god, I can't believe that she just set me up like this and I fell for it"]
GC: Pappa, why not me? Why aren't I your favoritest singer in the whole world?
Me: Oh, I thought you meant to listen to on the radio.
GC: I didn't say on the radio.
Me: I know. I misunderstood. Of course you are my most favorite singer in the whole world.
She had received spiffy new sneakers for the first day of school, which she put next to my lovely French Westons, which I cannot afford to buy anymore now that I have children.
GC: Pappa, which shoes are prettier, mine or yours?
Me: I think mine are prettier, actually.
GC: Well, why are mine uglier?
[long pause as I wonder what happened again]
Me: They're not uglier.
GC: Well, if yours are prettier, that means mine are uglier. Why are they uglier?
I used to joke when I wrote that I thought I was doomed. Now I am not joking. I am totally screwed.
Here's the thing, I seem to recall reading that little girls learn to become women by practicing on their fathers. Its safe and they can figure out what works for them and what doesn't. If that is what she is doing, at this tender age, I pity the man she ends up marrying. Really pity.
I'm posting much later than I'd care to. Sitting here with the laptop, watching the Yankees/Red Sox game, decompressing from my day.
I had a job interview today. It was with a head hunter and it was a screening interview. Mostly, those are a waste of time. Today's was little different. She met me and will "promote" me for the job. It would be cool, a career change, no longer practicing law. That would be fine with me right now. Of course, it means in the long run that I'd probably be exchanging the devil I know for the devil I am not yet on speaking terms with. But still, change can be good, right?
If I get it, I will tell more. All I know now is that there are rounds and rounds of interviews ahead of me and personality tests to take. I was worried about the personality tests until I realized that those are kind of out of my control. I mean, I am 37 years old. I kind of figure that I am who I am and if that isn't good enough, there ain't nothing I can really do about it now. One thing, I'm sure, is that they will find a personality. Will it be the right one? Beats me. Its right for me.
Also, I have that other interview coming up next Friday. I have to prepare for that one of these days. That will take some hours worth of work. All for a job I am not totally sure I want. Still, I'd rather be the one to decide that after they make me the offer. That's a better place to be, right?
Thank you all very much for the very thoughtful, cogent, sometimes penetrating insights you all left in the comments to my last post. It was the only post I've ever put up that I almost closed comments for and then, when I didn't, I almost chose not to read them. I'm glad I did. Thank you for your friendship and for caring enough to take the time to share your thoughts with me. That was really excellent.
Some updates on more important things:
*Two days in a row of the Boy Child peeing on the potty!!! Life is good. He is so proud of himself when he does it. Still having a little trouble getting the little pee-pee pushed down so that he doesn't pee all over his feet, but hey, that's what parents are for, right? That and teaching the post-pee shake. Gotta get that down.
*The nanny resigned last night. Long chat ending up with her feeling that she was torn by her family's demands that she leave. Howard's going to be bummed. He liked this one. I think that the kids are going to be upset. She was only with us for a little under 90 days, just long enough for the Boy Child to bond with her. The Girl Child remained a little standoffish, which will stand her in good stead in the circumstances.
*Anyone seen a Brooks Brothers shopping bag on the over head rack on the train? If so, can you just turn it in to lost and found? It contains two new pairs of chinos that I screwed up and left on the train. They fit really nice, too. Maybe they'll fit someone else really nicely, too, now.
*Finally, I thought about noting this but I am simply not a big enough person to let it go. The NY Times today decided to publish articles about the loss of art and artefacts on the Gulf Coast and the damage to the legal system. I believe I wrote about those things some six days ago. Is that a scoop, then? Listen, NY Timesers, if you need another idea for an article, y'all feel free to come back and browse through my archieves and swipe something else, ok? No need to attribute it, I'll know. And you'll know. That will be quite enough for both of us, right?
Anyway, have a nice weekend, y'all!
Hell, I may not even publish it. I'll wait and see. If I do, I warn you, this a really long, disorganized, extended look into my head at the moment. I am not writing it for you, whoever you are, but for me, as a chance to try to figure some things out.
Still here? The rest is in extended entry below:
* * * * *
There is a coiled sensation along my jaw line and up behind my ears, a suggestion of shallow breathing, a pre-adrenaline feeling. Can't really describe it better than that, I suppose. It is a feeling like something is about to happen, like we are poised for a great change. There could be several reasons.
First, after only being with us for not quite 90 days, the new nanny may be resigning her position. This is not ideal. The timing is unfortunate. The reasons, while not relevant, are lame. I think that she has an all too human tendency to shade the truth in her favor, to color things in a way that I dislike, so that's why I think her reasons are not relevant -- they can't be totally trusted. So, again, timing not great but not broken up to see her go.
Second, in the middle of all this, I have received a job interview. It would be a cool job, but it is in a state far, far away. They are calling in eight people to be interviewed. If I get it, I cannot imagine turning it down. I also cannot quite imagine taking it. I am waiting to hear about other job possibilities, other interviews, other situations.
All I can really say with any certainty at this point in time, and I firmly believe certainty about life is a temporal thing, related completely to circumstances as they exist and as you hope they may exist in the near future, and even then Life has a way of making all of your little plans, all of your careful machinations, totally useless. Sorry. Where was I? Oh yeah, I have pretty much decided that I do not want to stay at the firm I am at, that I do not want to be a partner, that I don't really even want to continue practicing law in a private lawfirm. Although, I have mouths to feed and mortgage to pay, so I will do what I have to in order to meet my obligations. That said, I think that I will look at three options: in house; in government; or in a totally new and different field, a career change.
I expect to receive at least a couple more interviews and only one of them will be for a position in this area. In other words, the way things are at the moment, I may actually be in a position where I put my family back onto a moving truck just a short while after taking them off a moving truck. So, I face the thought of moving with no small reluctance.
And I have roots here. They get deeper all the time. I have civic involvements and friends, community ties and family, personal inclinations and historical connections. They get deeper, as I said. We had orientation last night for the kids' new pre-school and we walked away with a very good feeling. Especially for the Boy Child. He is going to love it and his teacher is the absolute best kind of kook. I love her already. She had no problem with the fact that a large portion of the Boy Child's vocabulary was in Norwegian and even asked us to write out, phonetically, several words and phrases so she could learn them. How cool is that? I already feel a strong aversion to taking him out of her class room and they haven't even started yet!
What happens to roots if you pull them up? I suppose they die. They certainly change and that can be indistinguishable from death. I'm not saying, exactly, that change is death and yet, I suppose, there are similarities. As things morph and become unrecognizable, isnāt that a kind of death?
But there is a feeling of adventure, a feeling like taking a job and running half way across the country would satisfy a need for adventure. The tension I alluded to elsewhere comes, maybe, from a feeling like I might be being pushed into the adventure instead of jumping into it. But, at the end of the day, does it matter much how you ended up in mid-air, jumped or pushed? Youāre still in mid-air and you have to start concentrating on the landing as opposed to the take off, right?
So, landings. Maybe I should stop thinking about the take off, assume that I am already in play, already in mid-air, and start instead thinking about how to land. Well, that sounds good, a little bit overly simple, maybe, but still like thereās a lesson in there I can extract. Iām not sure what it is, mind you, but it is in there.
September and October look to be terribly busy. Iām certainly feeling the pressure from that. Black tie events at least three or four times in the next 30 days. Often enough that I have to think about buying another shirt to wear, just in case the cleaners canāt get my other one back fast enough. Engagements, meetings, interviews, appointments, up to my ears, and now perhaps having to find a new nanny. All of a sudden, it is as if the schedule turned around and swallowed me up.
I spent the weekend either by myself for some hours at a stretch or with my family. We hit the beach each day. It was a glorious weekend, weather wise. The ocean was terribly strong on Monday and the children and I spent time jumping in the waves. The Boy Child was especially enthusiastic after he first felt the power of the waves slapping him back to the beach. He was positively gleeful. We held hands and jumped up and down as each wave hit. They hit us hard enough that he would be pushed back, as if on a pivot attached to my hand, his whole body pushed back to the shore. He laughed, shaking the salt water from his face, spluttering, āmore, Pappa, moreā. Indefatigable. The Girl Child and I had already had our fill of playing farther out and eventually we opted to move from the Atlantic to the more pacific waters of the big kidsā pool.
Basically, I delight in the company of my children. I love them and I love being with them, teaching them, learning from them. I already hate that the Boy Child is headed off to school, even if it is only two days a week.
I think that my conflict is that on the one hand, I want to stay home and take care of them. I want to be the primary caregiver. On the other hand, I am fiercely competitive. A little burnt out on the practice of law at the moment, but still ready to heed the call of the bugle and charge back in if appropriately motivated. So, I want it all, both things at the same time. The total wonderfulness of raising my kids while still getting the fulfillment of being able to do complex litigation. The thing is, I canāt. No one can. It aināt possible to practice litigation part time. It is a tension. Wanting what you canāt have.
I have no solutions. Nothing. All I do is sit here and plan and ponder and consider. And make my morning workouts progressively harder in an attempt to deal with the stress. 50 minutes cardiovascular this morning with an average heartbeat in the high 130's will certainly get your blood moving, wonāt it? At best, it is a temporary cure.
Part of the weekend was spent with our first house guest. One of my uncles, who I love dearly. He was in from California to attend a meeting regarding my grandfather who is not getting better in this rehab facility. My uncle thinks the care given there has been negligent at best. Heās a practicing doctor so I give great weight to that opinion. I think that without his intervention at other stages, my grandfather would have died and the rehab facility would have lived up to its name by facilitating that process. The bastards. My uncle wants to get him out of there. It isnāt an easy proposition. Iāve offered to let him come live with me but my house isnāt really wheel chair appropriate and I donāt think they will take me up on it. Besides, he has a wife, my grandfather, and he ought to be living with her. Although I gather that there are serious strains in that marriage. A hell of a time for them to appear, no? We chatted about all of this well past our bedtime as my uncle and I drank the remainder of a 1985 St. Emillion which we had opened with dinner.
Again, people, life is too short to drink bad wine and if you hold on to it too long, waiting for an occasion, you will find that the wine, much like life, has moved past its prime while you were waiting for something excellent to happen.
I have no idea where this post was going or where it got to, but I think I feel a little better for writing it.
What you make of it, this post of 1600 words, I have no idea. But this one was for me, anyway, I suppose.
Considering how crazy life has been of late, it is odd that I should lack for inspiration. The situation in the Gulf Coast has numbed me. The focus on scoring political points in the aftermath of the storm has left me feeling like our political culture is. . . What? Broken? Corrupt? Unfeeling? Almost stupid beyond redemption? So utterly self-referential that every utterance, every thought, is shared and feeds on the one before it and acts as fuel on the one after it until they forget that there is anything else happening beyond the need to score points. Call it what you will. Pick your own boogeyman. The Howard Deanism or Karl Rovism of political culture. I lean towards Howie. But he's not the cause, just a visible symptom. Like a pimple on a sexual organ is an outward manifestation of an inner sickness.
I'm not saying that "hard questions" don't need to be asked. I'm just saying that they need to be asked by someone who doesn't appear to have an axe to grind. Is that too much to ask?
Here in this courtroom and courtrooms all across America, the American people will gather to see that justice, individual justice, justice, not war, individual justice is in fact being done. The very President of the United States, through his officers, come into courtrooms and lay out evidence on which specific matters can be judged and juries of citizens will gather to sit and judge that evidence democratically, to mold and shape and refine our sense of justice.
See that flag, Mr. Reid? That's the flag of the United States of America. That flag will fly there long after this is all forgotten. That flag stands for freedom. And it always will.
I am not an expert on any of the things I am about to write about. I am just a relatively thoughtful guy who sat back on the train this morning, closed his eyes, and tried to sort through some of the broader consequences, broader implications, of this entire mess on the Gulf Coast. I think that this has the potential to wreak havoc far beyond the state borders down there.
First, these cities have municipal bonds. They have to pay interest on these bonds. They issue the bonds to pay for things like sewage projects and canal work and convention centers and all sorts of either infrastructure stuff or for projects that they calculate will throw off big revenues. The bonds are usually serviced by taxes or fees. Fees are paid by the users, like with a sewage project. Taxes are paid by everyone. Taxes are generated as a consequence of economic activity -- sales tax, for example. Where is the revenue going to come from now that the city is a dead man crawling? I know that there are reserves, up to about a year, socked away to continue interest payments, but do you really think that money isn't somehow going to get sucked into something else? What are the consequences when these cities seek bankruptcy protection or just plain default on the debts? Are they going to be able to go to the markets again to raise money? What happens to the people who hold that debt? It isn't enough to say that the bonds are insured because, at the end of the day, someone will bear that cost. Someone sitting in their dry and comfy home in a state far, far away is going to take a hit on their portfolio. Oh, and by the way, who hold munis in the first place? Those on a fixed income -- the elderly.
Second, the national mortgage market will take a hit, I think. Mortgages today are not as they once were. Once upon a time, your local bank lent you money, held your note, serviced your loan, and collected on it or foreclosed if it had to. Today, mortgages are the first step in an exotic financial market where they get converted into pool and tranches and debt is diced and sliced and sold off all over the place. This is a mighty big business, no two ways about it. You, the homeowner may not think about it like that as you write your check, but it is. Rarely do banks lend for their own portfolios anymore. What happens now when there is a national market in the mortgage debt and people have no reason or no ability if they have a reason to continue making payments on a house that doesn't exist anymore and for which insurance may not cover any of the loss. What are the implications for the national market as portions, large portions, of two states default on their mortgage debt? And what the heck do you foreclose on? How do you even find the land now that the river has reclaimed it in places? What will happen to interest rates? Beats the shit out of me. I just assume that there will be a problem.
Third, who is going to repopulate New Orleans? Those who are the most mobile, the best educated, those with the most portable skills, they are going to establish lives elsewhere. I was on the phone yesterday with my kids' nursery school and the director told me that she just got off the phone with a woman from New Orleans who is relocating up to Connecticut. She was calling from a hotel room in Houston. Once these kids get into new schools and the smart and aggressive types get new jobs, are they going to go back? I am skeptical. Highly skeptical. They will wonder whether anything in New Orleans can ever change and they won't take the risk of putting their families back there. So what happens to the city when you have this huge brain drain? You cannot populate the city with the Ninth Ward, those who may lack the skills and the resources to re-establish themselves elsewhere. Not to be a doom sayer, but I am deeply worried about the total eradication of the middle and upper middle class in New Orleans. You can't have a city without these people, at least, not a city people would want to live in.
Fourth, what the hell are the people who have a livelihood tied to the area going to do for money now? Let's take the lawyers for a moment. Law in Louisiana is based on the Napoleonic Code. It is the only place in the country with this kind of law. Lawyers admitted in Louisiana may not be able to really practice anywhere else. And even if they were, where are their clients? Who is going to pay them? What about real estate brokers? They sell local real estate. Well, I'm kind of thinking that market may be a little moribund for awhile. Or. . . Well, take any service provider in a local economy. They are all screwed. Are they all going to go from upper middle class to welfare in three easy steps? Consequences there are huge. First, a new and great strain on a cruddy social welfare system to begin with. Can the system even handle these new people? (Actually, one consequence might be a reform of the system if you suddenly get a lot of well educated people as "clients" of it). Second, where are the taxes going to come from to pay the welfare? If the high earners are not earning, they ain't paying taxes. Enough said, right?
The above is just a start. It is deeply depressing and I kind of have to stop now.
Except for this. Kathy (who I love) has written, in the midst of an excellent post about the anarchy in New Orleans, about the losses suffered by her brother's new car dealership in New Orleans. My heart goes out to them. However, I think Kathy is focusing on the wrong thing. It isn't whether the cars are a total writeoff or whether the dealership building has been damaged. No, the question is: who will be able to afford to buy the cars? What if no one in the economy has any money or jobs to justify credit to buy the cars? If that happens, we as a nation may be facing much greater trouble than we all think.
I hope I'm wrong about all of this. I really do. *sigh*
U P D A T E
Well, so much for being wrong. I read the following things on the Times Picayune Blog this afternoon:
Mortgage Loan Relief Available
Fannie Mae has mortgage relief provisions in place for borrowers in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and other states facing hardships as a result of widespread damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.
With Fannie Mae's disaster relief provisions, lenders help borrowers in several ways, including suspending mortgage payments for up to three months, reducing the payments for up to 18 months, or in more severe cases, creating longer loan payback plans. Such assistance is provided on a case-by-case basis, and is designed to meet the individual needs of borrowers.
For information on mortgage relief, homeowners who have experienced hardships should contact the lender to whom they send their monthly mortgage payment.
Ford Offers Payment Deferrals
Ford Motor Credit Company is offering customers affected by Hurricane Katrina the opportunity to defer up to two vehicle payments.
Under the Disaster Relief Program, customers have the opportunity to defer these monthly payments without paying extension fees. The program is open to customers living in counties that FEMA has declared federal disaster areas as a result of the storm.
Ford Motor Credit customers who are eligible for the Disaster Relief Program should receive letters next week with instructions on how to register. Customers must register within 60 days to qualify. Deferred payments are due at the end of the contract term.
Looks like some of the big lenders are concerned that if they don't permit some form of deferral of payment, the debtors are going to tell them to go f*ck themselves.
What do you think that would do to Ford's stock? Not to mention Ford's corporate bonds?
This is just going to get more and more ugly.
Viewing this picture just breaks my heart.
The caption read:
Darryl Thompson tries to comfort his daughter Dejanae while waiting for who knows what on the Pontchartrain Expressway, Wednesday, August 31, 2005.
My parents are about to take off for a ten day trip to Norway, their first time there. My mother told me that she had the following conversation with the Girl Child:
Nanna: Would you like me to bring you back a stuffed animal reindeer from Norway?
GC: That would be very nice, Nanna, but what I'd really like would be an IPod.
All I can say is that my mother better not bring that child an IPod. I don't care how far she is wrapped around the Girl Child's finger.
There I was, this morning, standing on line at the bank, when an older man got on line behind me. On his lapel, he was wearing a CIB -- a Combat Infantry Badge, an honor given to those who have served in combat. I am a respectful sort by nature. My mom kind of beat that into me. So, I asked this man if he'd like to go in front of me on line and we had the following conversation:
Me: I see that you are wearing the CIB. May I offer you my place in line?
Him: That's very kind of you. I'm also 91 years old.
Me: Well, you certainly don't look it. [And he really didn't]
Him: Yes, I was 30 years old in WW II.
Me: Is that where you earned your CIB?
Him: Sure was. I fought at Omaha Beach and with Patton. I was even with British troops during the Battle of the Bulge. They were something else. Can you believe that every day at 4:00, they stopped their tanks, got out, and made tea? Couldn't believe it. Tea. They were tough little bastards, though, gotta give 'em that.
And with that, he was called to the next teller, although he thanked me for letting him cut ahead and we shook hands. I actually shook hands with someone who fought at Omaha Beach. Like I said in the title to this, you never know where courtesy is going to lead you or what interesting conversations you can have. That bit about the Brits was, I thought, priceless.
This is the text of an email I received this morning. It was sent from a law school professor at Southern University Law School. As she says at the close, can you imagine a disaster like this in your state? It is to weep.
5,000 - 6,000 lawyers (1/3 of the lawyers in Louisiana) have lost their offices, their libraries, their computers with all information thereon, their client files - possibly their clients, as one attorney who e-mailed me noted. As I mentioned before, they are scattered from Florida to Arizona and have nothing to return to. Their children's schools are gone and, optimistically, the school systems in 8 parishes/counties won't be re-opened until after December. They must re-locate their lives.
Our state supreme court is under some water - with all appellate files and evidence folders/boxes along with it. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals building is under some water - with the same effect. Right now there may only be 3-4 feet of standing water but, if you think about it, most files are kept in the basements or lower floors of courthouses. What effect will that have on the lives of citizens and lawyers throughout this state and this area of the country? And on the law?
The city and district courts in as many as 8 parishes/counties are under water, as well as 3 of our circuit courts - with evidence/files at each of them ruined. The law enforcement offices in those areas are under water - again, with evidence ruined. 6,000 prisoners in 2 prisons and one juvenile facility are having to be securely relocated. We already have over-crowding at most Louisiana prisons and juvenile facilities. What effect will this have? And what happens when the evidence in their cases has been destroyed? Will the guilty be released upon the communities? Will the innocent not be able to prove their innocence?
Our state bar offices are under water. Our state disciplinary offices are under water - again with evidence ruined. Our state disciplinary offices are located on Veteran's Blvd. in Metairie. Those of you who have been watching the news, they continue to show Veteran's Blvd. It's the shot with the destroyed Target store and shopping center under water and that looks like a long canal. Our Committee on Bar Admissions is located there and would have been housing the bar exams which have been turned in from the recent July bar exam (this is one time I'll pray the examiners were late in turning them in - we were set to meet in 2 weeks to go over the results). Will all of those new graduates have to retake the bar exam?
Two of the 4 law schools in Louisiana are located in New Orleans (Loyola and Tulane - the 2 private ones that students have already paid about $8,000+ for this semester to attend). Another 1,000+ lawyers-to-be whose lives have been detoured. I've contacted professors at both schools but they can't reach anyone at those schools and don't know the amount of damage they've taken. Certainly, at least, this semester is over. I'm trying to reach the Chancellor's at Southern and LSU here in Baton Rouge to see if there's anything we can do to take in the students and/or the professors. I think I mentioned before, students from out of state have beens stranded at at least 2 of the other universities in New Orleans - they're moving up floor after floor as the water rises. Our local news station received a call from some medical students at Tulane Medical Center who were now on the 5th floor of the dormitories as the water had risen. One of them had had a heart attack and they had no medical supplies and couldn't reach anyone - 911 was busy, local law enforcement couldn't be reached, they were going through the phone book and reached a news station 90 miles away!! It took the station almost 45 minutes to finally find someone with FEMA to try to get in to them!!
And, then, there are the clients whose files are lost, whose cases are stymied. Their lives, too, are derailed. Of course, the vast majority live in the area and that's the least of their worries. But, the New Orleans firms also have a large national and international client base. For example, I received an e-mail from one attorney friend who I work with on some crucial domestic violence (spousal and child) cases around the nation - those clients could be seriously impacted by the loss, even temporarily, of their attorney - and he can't get to them and is having difficulty contacting the many courts around the nation where his cases are pending. Large corporate clients may have their files blowing in the wind where the high rise buildings had windows blown out.
I woke up this morning to the picture of Veteran's Blvd which made me think of my students who just took the bar. My thoughts wandered from there to the effect on the Disciplinary Offices. Then my thoughts continued on. I'm sure I'm still missing a big part of the future picture. It's just devastating. Can you imagine something of this dimension in your state?
There was a time in the not so distant past that hurricane relief meant turning down a refill on your hurricane at Pat O's in the French Quarter so that you could toddle off to the next bar. I hope we see those days again.
In the meantime, a lot of people are putting their money where their mouths are:
Michele has things up for auction to benefit the victims
Phin is put up for auction a web re-design.
Kathy has a good post on disaster relief, including a reminder that the American Red Cross has nothing to do with the International Red Cross, an important reminder for those of us who dislike the IRC.
Finally, I direct you to Little Green Footballs for a huge collection of links to charities.
For me, personally, I intend to wait a little before donating. I want to see where I think I can send my money to do the most good. At the moment, I don't have a clear idea so I will sit back a bit. I have emotional and real connections to the town and its people and there are local charities, local institutions, which may have first claim on me. I'm waiting to see what they need.
In the meantime, I understand that all of my friends are safe, or they were two days ago. I am very thankful. Very thankful, indeed.