July 30, 2007

Negotiated departure

One of my partners is withdrawing from the firm. This happens pretty regularly at big firms but it doesn't happen everyday at smaller firms, much less at small firms like ours. In one way or another, this partner has been associated professionally with the firm for at least 25 years. The other partners are hashing out the terms of his amicable departure in the conference room across the hall from my office. I am not attending this conference, I am happy to report. Just because I never liked the guy doesn't mean I am sorry that he is leaving -- I am, kind of.

I imagine things are going to be unsettled around here for a bit.

This is, or was, a rather intimate relationship in a small firm. When someone leaves, it changes the dynamics substantially. In a big firm, you're really just another number. In a small firm, you are a person.

We are now one person less.

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A new market

A thought hit me this weekend and I promptly shared it with my wife. I told her that while I could not really see myself hiring a woman of the evening for sexual relations, I could easily see myself, a happily married man, hiring a woman to sit across a table from me, look deeply into my eyes with great sincerity, and just tell me, over and over for a half an hour:

You're right. I was so wrong. I just didn't look at it the way you did. You were so right. I should have listened to you. I'm sorry.

Every married man I know harbors this secret, deep fantasy. If they don't, they're not being honest with themselves. It isn't wrong, is it, to contemplate paying a woman for this kind of illicit rendevous? How could it be wrong if it felt so right, so good?

And by the way, my wife laughed very hard. But she never said I was right about this, either.

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July 27, 2007

The best day to play hooky from work, ever

Yesterday was very close to a perfect day. I took the day off from the office to stay home and attend the Girl Child’s swim meet. She is on the swim team for the Club and is terribly proud of herself. Recall, please, that she is just six and a half. She has been swimming in the swim meets with the team but only in the minnow event, the 6 and under exhibition where the little kids jump in the pool and complete one length and everyone claps for them. They go first and then we could leave. I have not attended a single one of her meets and this one was the last possible opportunity for me to do so. So, the Viking Bride signed her up for the last swim meet and her first “away” meet at a really lovely country club in Blackrock (link).

I started the day with the Boy Child, though. He had his tennis lesson at camp that morning and I took both kids to camp so I could attend his lesson. It started very badly. He came up to the front, took the racquet in his right hand, turned his body, and flailed pathetically at the ball with the ugliest forehand I have ever seen on a child. It was horrible. I could not believe he had the guts to get up there and perform so badly, week after week. I couldn’t just sit there. So, I called out the pro and interrupted the lesson: “Hey! Jaime! Did you know that the Boy Child is a LEFTY?” Oh, he replied. The Boy Child was then duly turned to his other side, the racquet was switched to his left hand, and he began banging the ball around. It was a marked improvement almost immediately. I was very gratified. I believe that the pro and the Boy Child were also gratified. The lesson lasted an hour. In the sun. I had carefully applied sunscreen to the kids but not, of course, to myself. Tant pis.

I then walked over to meet the Girl Child to accompany her to her horseback riding lesson. You should have seen this gorgeous little thing – long, lean, bronzed, in her riding hat, boots, and chaps, striding along like she owned the world. Reminded me of the description my grandfather used to give of me, actually. So, as it turned out, this was a perfect day to attend her riding lesson. This was the first time the riding instructor took her off lead and let her walk and trot around the ring all by herself. It was a big day, according to the instructor. The instructor assured me that the Girl Child was doing very well. She looked so great on her pony, her back straight and her manner very confident. She was also quite pleased to be allowed to ride the pony back to the barn from the ring. I was quite happy to witness that. Then I went home, to meet my sister and nephew to take them to lunch.

Fortunately, they were late. That gave me time to review a major settlement agreement and make comments to my client. That was a huge boost and made me thank whoever made my Blackberry possible.

After lunch, I collected the Girl Child, still damp from the pool but proudly sporting her swim team bathing suit. We drove over to the other Club through the back roads. Can I just say, whoa, there are a lot of old and beautiful houses in Fairfield County.

As I said above, I believed that it was a short meet for us. She’d be in the first heat and then we’d take off. I declined, therefore, the request to act as a timer. I mean, I didn’t think we’d be there that long.

Then the swim coach came up to the Girl Child, bent down to look her in the eye, and asked her if instead of swimming with the minnows, if she felt up to swimming a leg of the backstroke relay with the bigger kids. No hesitation at all. She simply looked up and said, “yes”. She started the race, the first one after the minnows did their thing. She got in the pool and hoisted herself up on the handles. I leaned over and told her to bend her legs so she could explode out and back and she did that, looking up at me for a moment, squinting in the glare of the sun, and we waited for the announcer to blow her whistle. I stood there and looked down at her and I thought I was going to cry, I was so proud of her. Her first big kid swim meet! I was so happy I could be there. When the whistle went, she threw herself backwards and backstroked with all of her might, until she got hung up for a moment on the lane divider. I walked the whole length of the pool, yelling “GO!” and otherwise cheering for her. If she had not gotten hung up on the divider, she had a shot at beating one of the older kids because she actually caught up and almost passed one of them.

We walked back to the start where her coach congratulated her on her efforts and asked her if she felt like she was up to swimming a freestyle event, too. Again, no hesitation, just an immediate yes. She relaxed for a moment or two, sitting on the grass and throwing it at some of her friends, who threw it back at her. Then her race was called. The freestyle girls, 8 and under. She climbed up onto the racing start platform like she had been doing it all her life and got into a racing start position. The whistle blew and she kind of launched herself forward and sort of fell forward into the pool. She swam her little heart out. A much better effort than anything the Viking Bride had described having witnessed at earlier meets. She came last, again, but only barely, I think. Again, I walked the length of the pool, cheering my head off for her. I may have been the only parent to do that, come to think of it.

Again, we walk back together and again her coach approaches her and asks her if she is up for swimming one more event, the 8 and under freestyle relay. Again, no hesitation in answering yes. Again, she swam her little heart out and again she finished last. But there was no hesitation in effort on her part. She left everything in the pool.

She swam three events, under pressure of real competition, when she normally only swims one event with no pressure. I asked her if she was scared when she was waiting for whistle to blow and she said, no. Nervous? No. Nothing.

We stayed for the team cheer but she passed on the popsicle in favor of taking off and eating the goldfish she had reserved from her lunch box. As we got to the car, and she climbed in, she looked at me and said, “Boy, I sure am going to sleep good tonight.”

While we were off swimming, the Boy Child was at music class to try out an instrument to see what he might like to start taking lessons on. He had been partial to the flute, before, but today was the cello. The teacher was impressed that he knew all the parts of the cello and liked the Boy Child’s fancy bow – one arm behind his back and one arm in front of his stomach. The teacher told him that the cello bow was different, just arms to the side. He showed me later – just leaned over, looked down, and said, “hello, toes!”. On the ride back, the Viking Bride asked him if he wanted to go back to see a group lesson on the flute and he declined, saying, “no, I’ve seen enough”. He picked the cello, explaining that with the flute you have to keep blowing into the instrument and he didn’t think he could hold enough air in him to do that. Also, he liked the sound of the cello.

Well, I thought that all of these accomplishments today merited a celebration dinner out and I let the kids pick. Pizza it was. As we sat over dinner, we had the following exchange:

Girl Child: See, there’s this problem. . .

Me: If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Viking Bride: If you are part of the problem, get out of the way.

[small silence and then the Boy Child pops up, earnestly]

Boy Child: Pappa? I am part of the solution!

If I could have picked a day to take off from the office, this would easily have been the day I wanted to have. It was perfection.

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July 25, 2007

Happy squash goodness

I just picked up my re-strung squash racquet. I bet it is going to feel like a totally new racquet tonight when I attend this bi-monthly squash clinic that is so hard on me that I actually will lose 3-4 pounds between now and tomorrow morning. I am thinking that the ball is going to jump off these shiny new strings like it was shot from a gun. I am, in short, way more excited about this than I have any right to be. It is pathetic. I kept twirling it around in my hand the whole way back from the store. I am itching to pick it up now to see how it feels all the while knowing it will feel almost precisely how it felt when I walked it over to the store this morning.

One nice thing was the wear pattern on the old strings. The old strings had started to unravel and fray. Where? All in the sweet spot, baby, and no where else. Meaning? I was striking most every ball right in the middle of the racquet (or else I was dinging the other shots off the frame). Nice.

Like I said, pathetic. I am going to be 40 this year and here I am gushing like a kid over a new car.

Still, I am so looking forward to banging a ball around tonight for a couple of hours.

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July 24, 2007


Mark, at Irish Elk, has kindly nominated me for a "Thinking Blogger Award", not for any particular post (see rule 3 below), I gather, but for general thinkingness. Or something. I am terribly grateful. Thank you, Mark.


The rules:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote...

Here are five thoughtful blogs (in no particular order) that may not have been tagged yet, and deserve to be:

1. The Llama Butchers: A great read on a daily basis ranging from bad movies to good literature and the ocassional and always well received Naval Geekery post.

2. La Antigua Guatemala Daily Photo Blog: Like it sounds. Daily pictures from one of favorite places in the whole world.

3. Everyday Stranger: If Helen doesn't make you think, or at least feel, give up right now.

4. Simon World: Simon is wicked smart, writes well, and writes about Asia. It is usually important. More so than my blog, that is for certain.

5. Critical Mass: Erin writes beautifully and fluently and fights the good fight for academic freedom. You should know about her if you don't.

Happy reading! And thank you, again, Mark!

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:49 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Knock three times

I just returned from an interesting lunch. Have you ever been to the 21 Club? I'm sure you have at least heard of it, even if you have never been. It is on West 52nd Street and has been around for a very long time. I gather that the bar and the main dining room are very nice. I wouldn't know. I just passed though the main dining room on my way to the door to the kitchen. I passed through the door to the kitchen and turned right, past food prep areas (very clean, by the way), and turned right again to go down the stairs. Then I turned left at the bottom of the stairs, through more food prep areas and turned left, and stepped down, into the wine storage area. I continued through the shelves, holding hundreds of bottles, some of them tagged with the words, "Private", until I came to a strange and dark opening in the wall. I bent down to bring my head below the lintel and I stepped up over the pipes running at the bottom of the opening and from there I entered the Wine Cellar where I found a lovely table surrounded by wine storage for even more bottles of wine, buried in the deepest, darkest recesses of 21. It is a vestige of Prohibition. It was really very cool.

I highly recommend the experience. The food was great, too.

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The Boy Child, Diplomat in Training

The Boy Child's maternal grandfather is a retired career diplomat and the Boy Child must have picked up a thing or two from our recent visit to Norway.

So, last night, I had the following exchange with my little diplomat:

Me: What did you guys do at camp today with all of that rain?

BC: We mostly did art projects and watched a movie. I made two projects, Pappa. One for you and one for Mamma. Which one do you want?

Me: I want the best one!

BC [Pausing to think for a second] Ok, Pappa, you can have the best one. [Turns to his mother] And you, Mamma, can have the VERY best one!

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July 23, 2007

View from the bridge

I found a lovely picture on the internet that shows one of the views I enjoy from the train on my way home. I think this is really quite nice. There is just something about the water I find very soothing. And by the way, that big cabin cruiser? I've never seen it move.


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The Boy Child amused me

There are times he just cracks me up. Let me share with you a couple of
interchanges we had last night:

[I am in the bathroom brushing the Girl Child's teeth and the Boy Child comes in with a scrawled all over piece of paper]

BC: Pappa, read my sign!

Me: I can't, BC. You read it to me.

BC: It says: "Do not come into the Boy Child's room because of the poetry".

Me: Poetry?

BC: Yeah, poetry. We have poetry every night at 12:00.

GC: Wow! Can I come?

BC: Sure!

* * *

Me: Well, goodnight, young man.

BC: What do you mean when you call me "young man"?

Me: Well, you are not yet a man but when you act so grown up, I want to
let you know that.

BC: Well, I am not a baby anymore.

Me: You are always going to be my baby.

BC: It is my room and I make the rules here.

Me: Really? What are your rules?

BC: First, no monsters.

Me: That's a good one. Any more?

BC: Then, no trolls. After that, no cars with strangers in them and no
cars with bad guys in them.


BC: I have a lot more rules, I just can't remember them right now.

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July 12, 2007

Jewish Culture without the Jews?

I read an article in the NY Times this morning about a strange revival of Jewish culture and life in Poland. At one time, prior to the Second World War, Poland was home to the largest Jewish population in Europe. Those few Jews who survived the Concentration Camps (remember, please, Auschwitz was on Polish soil), were further thinned out by State sanctioned pogroms and other anti-Semitic actions. When it came to anti-Semitism, it would appear that we have found something that the Poles absolutely excelled at.

Now, however, the Poles are in the process of rediscovering the contributions made by the Jews to Polish culture -- food, music, literature, architecture, language, art, and science. There is a veritable revival. The NY Times thinks this is great and seems to think it is kind of amusing that the Poles are managing to do it without the Jews. The tone of the article, I feel, is ironic amusement.

There is nothing ironic about it, from my perspective. Jewish culture without the Jews who live it and practice it, Jewish culture divorced from the religious observances which gave rise to such culture and around which such culture revolves, Jewish culture there is not Jewish culture. Klezmer music played by Polish, non-Jewish, musicians, to Polish, non-Jewish, diners eating "kosher" Polish, Jewish food (I have to think it is simulated "kosher" or kosher style food because where would they find the appropriate authorities to certify it?) is NOT Jewish culture. It is a simulacrum of Jewish culture.

It is also at once both an appropriation of Jewish culture and perhaps the ultimate example of Polish anti-Semitism. First, Jewish culture divorced from the religious calendar has little meaning. It is simply the Disneyification of Jewish life, celebrated by those for whom a connection to Jewish life is purely theoretical. It is, I suppose, a living museum. It is, in this regard, deeply offensive. Jewish culture is not here for the Poles' amusement and attempting to live it cannot be left for them to feel better about having wiped out their Polish Jews. I understand that they feel a void in Polish culture. It is understandable considering the contributions of Jews to Polish culture. But this way is wrong. Jewish culture is being lived by Jews all over the world in places other than Poland. It is lived every time a Jew celebrates the Sabbath or observes, with joy, a holiday (holy-day, right?). It is not ready for a museum.

Secondly, as I said above, it is the height of the expression of Polish anti-Semitism. After all, what could be better, from the Polish perspective, than taking the best of Jewish culture and enjoying it, all without having to be inconvenienced by the presence of a Jew?

Jewish culture without the Jew. Welcome to Poland. Be real careful getting on a train, you never know what the next stop will be.

Indeed, what better proves my point about how strange this all is than this photo (note the Crucifix, please):


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July 11, 2007


I have just learned, as I sit here, that nothing helps you contemplate your own mortality more easily that a 12 page letter from your own lawyer that begins:

In accordance with your request, we enclose for your review proposed new Wills, Revocable Trusts, Health Care Proxy, Declaration and Organ/Tissue Donation Forms, Durable Powers of Attorney and Deeds of Gift. In order to assist you in your reading and understanding of the drafts, I have briefly summarized their provisions.

If a summary is 12 single spaced pages, it is hardly brief.

Just the same, it is kind of humbling to think that your entire life, and the arrangements to tidy it up, can be so neatly summed up.

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July 09, 2007

Trip to Norway -- back safely, if not entirely sanely

I have once again returned to my native shores, y'all. I will post, in dribs and drabs, updates and recaps of our two week excursion to Norway. In the meantime, I will lead off with the most negative and pessimistic recap I can possibly conceive of, one I shared with my wife already (who, by the way, I told at some point during the trip that my next wife was going to not only be a local girl but an orphan to boot).

The trip can be summed up as follows:

I told the driver who was coming to pick us up to take us to the airport to begin our voyage to basically fuck off after he called 5 minutes before we were supposed to leave and told me, after I asked, that he was more like an hour away.

I told one of my brothers-in-law to go fuck himself as we were saying goodbye the night before leaving to come back to the States (more on why later). I assured him that I meant it in the nicest possible way, though, as I shook his hand goodbye.

In between those two events, it rained and I gained 8-10 pounds.

Sounds idyllic, doesn't it?

Well, there were some nice moments, but I will blog about those later.

Nice, sooooooo nice, to be home.

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