Sunday, July 25, 2010

Stephen Foster Goes Way Down

I first met Steven Foster while he was serving a stretch in an Ohio prison. He’d been there before and he’s been there since. He is one of the few inmates I’ve ever known who I think could have real potential for success in Hollywood. It’s not that he’s trained as an actor, it’s just that seeing as how Steve is about 6’7” and weighs somewhere around 300 pounds with a shaven head, I think he could make a good living playing heavies in prison movies as an enforcer for the Aryan Brotherhood. Despite his far-from-sterling record, I will say in Stevie’s defense that despite his menacing appearance, as far as I know, he has never done any physical harm to anyone. What harm he’s done to himself and his family due to his predilection for illegal substances, I can’t say.

Several years ago, he was seriously injured while serving time in the Delaware County Jail. I don’t know all of the circumstances but I do know that here in America, even guys doing life on the installment plan are entitled to the protection of the law, and Steve managed to win a judgment against the County for, I believe, $150,000. This was a source of great delight to the lawyer who represented Mr. Foster on a contingency fee basis. Stevie certainly enjoyed his big payday. I’ve heard it took him an entire month to go through it. (I do not want to know what he spent it on. ) I was once at a sentencing conference representing Steven when the visiting judge commented, “Steven Foster? He should’ve stayed in his Old Kentucky Home.” I replied, “I’ve got you beat, your Honor, I say he should’ve stayed Way Down Upon the Sewanee River.”

A Fracas on the Sixth Floor

This past Wednesday, I was on the sixth floor having a case heard before Judge Yarborough. This was a custody matter that has gotten extremely unpleasant.

I should preface this story by stating that I frequently tell people to not use the expression “now I’ve seen everything” while in the courthouse, it is very bad luck. I won’t say I’ve now seen everything, but I will say that I saw something I’ve never seen before in the 22 years since I passed the Ohio bar. When my client’s aunt learned from the Franklin County Children’s Services case worker that my client was going to get to have overnight visits from her daughter, the aunt pitched a conniption fit and after calling the case worker every thing but a Precious Child of God, she had the gall to walk in to the conference room where my client was sitting with two witnesses, and to start shouting at her. I saw this and very rapidly stood between my client and her out-of-control aunt. I told the aunt in very clear language to leave the conference room. The aunt declined and proceeded to shout her low opinion of both my client and me. I again told her to leave the conference room and again she emphatically declined. At this point I started to push the door to the conference room shut to force her to leave. That psycho lard ass had the temerity to shove the door back at me, and I then demonstrated that I was not going to lose a door shoving contest with her. From the other side of the door she proceeded to bellow that if I broke her foot, she was going to break my nose. I was stunned, and actually said, “What?” At which point she repeated her threat word for word. Perhaps my response was not optimal. I told her “Don’t write a check with your mouth that your ass can’t cash.” and I called her a bitch.

Apparently this offended her tender sensibilities and she demanded to know what I had just called her. I replied “Bitch… B….I….T….C…..H” (In retrospect, I thought that was quite helpful of me to spell it for her, but maybe it was a futile gesture. I doubt she knows the alphabet past “C.”) Shortly thereafter, a couple of Franklin County Sherriff’s Deputies showed up and peace was restored. A few seconds later it hit me exactly how bad that situation could have become if that lard ass skank had actually hit me. It is possible I might have retaliated in kind and she might have suffered a massive coronary on the spot, in which case I would be looking at a manslaughter charge. I quickly composed myself and informed Judge Yarborough in chambers exactly what had happened. I even owned up to having referred to that dual-x-chromosomed person as a bitch. I didn’t find out until later that Judge Yarborough had already received one report on what had happened, and perhaps he thought there had been a second incident. In any event, the rest of the day definitely went my way.

Judge Yarborough summoned Franklin County Sherriff’s deputy Clark. Deputy Clark is a black gentleman with a shaved head who is of only average height but is positively huge across the shoulders. I have at times kidded him in a good natured way that he looks like the Sherriff’s Department’s version of Marvin Haggler. Deputy Clark would be an imposing presence even if he weren’t carrying a Smith and Wesson 9 millimeter on his hip. Judge Yarborough asked me to step out into the hall and indentify my client’s aunt, which I did. Judge Yarborough ordered her out of the building. She tried to put on a s**t eating grin and said “I’ll admit I was a bad girl.” Judge Yarborough directed Deputy Clark to escort the bad girl out of the court house. At that point the bad girl’s boy friend thought it was appropriate to demur, and I heard Judge Yarborough say “One more word out of either of you and you’re going to get 30 days in jail for contempt.”

That brought all discussions to a *complete* halt. Judge Yarborough later told me in exactly so many words that he did not think I had done anything wrong and he went on the record to describe what had happened. From my point of view, though, it’s a case of horseshoes and hand grenades; things could have gotten very very bad.

After careful reflection, however, I do think I should make an apology:

Jean and Jerry, I apologize to Sadie.

Mark and Barbara, I apologize to Skyla and Karma.

Sand and Mac I apologize to Bum-Bum.

Vikki and Kirk, I apologize to Pookie.

Comparing any of your wonderful pets to that psycho lard ass Bad Girl was completely uncalled for.

Lindsay Lohan and the Tap Dancing Mule

Upon reading of Lindsay Lohan’s incarceration, I was reminded of a story I tell often at the courthouse: the one about the tap-dancing mule. The story goes that a farmer once had a mule that could tap dance—it was quite impressive, looking rather like Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers simultaneously. One day, a circus owner approached the farmer and offered him a huge sum of money for the equine curiosity. The farmer informed him, “You just bought yourself a mule.” The circus owner put the mule in the big top and people came from far and wide to see the amazing tap dancing mule. Unfortunately, when the curtain came up, the mule just stood their looking stupid and there was a riot because everybody wanted their money back. The circus owner took the mule back to the farmer and informed him that there was a serious problem because the mule would not tap dance. The farmer picked up a baseball bat and smashed the mule right between the eyes at which point the mule started tap dancing. The farmer commented, “That’s gist the thing about this critter. Sometimes you just gotta get his attention.” I hope that Ms. Lohan’s stay in the Crossbar Hotel turns out to be a baseball bat between the eyes for her. If she doesn’t achieve sobriety *really* soon, I think its just about even money that she will not live to celebrate her 30th birthday.

James Roberts: Soldier, Statesman, and . . . . Ice Cream Salesman???

I recently reread the story of James Roberts: one of Canada’s most distinguished sons. Roberts came from a fairly well to do family and, in 1937, he and his brother attended a Canadian trade show in Toronto where an American businessman demonstrated a machine that dispensed ice cream that was soft. It was the ancestor of today’s Dairy Queen machines. The two Robert’s brothers made that businessman an offer for the rights to using his machine in the British Empire. The next year, they set off to the English resort city of Blackpool and turned a very nice profit selling soft serve ice cream to tourists. That winter they invested their profits in additional ice cream machines and anticipated becoming Britain’s ice cream tycoons. Unfortunately, next year the prospect of the outbreak of WWII caused a dramatic downturn in the number of visitors to Blackpool and the brothers dreams of riches melted away.

James Roberts returned to Canada and when his country entered the war in September of 1939, he joined the Canadian Army. Since he had some previous experience in the Canadian militia, he received an officer’s commission. James Roberts turned out to be an extraordinarily talented officer specializing in armored reconnaissance (the subject on which he once wrote a book). By D-Day, he’d been promoted to full Colonel and was commanding a regiment from Manitoba. By all accounts, his men held him in the highest regards since he was brave, resourceful, and genuinely concerned for their welfare. In early 1945, his brigade commander was killed and Roberts was promoted to Brigadier General—an extraordinary accomplishment for a man who was not yet forty.

Roberts later wrote a book about his life entitled The Canadian Summer, the title is in part a reference to the Dutch habit of referring to 1945 as the “Canadian Summer,” since Canadian troops liberated most of Holland. The Canadians were extremely welcome because the Canadian summer succeeded the hunger winter of 1944/’45, when most Dutch civilians had been on the brink of starvation.

Roberts married the widow of a Dutch officer, served as a senior civil servant in the Canadian government, was his country’s deputy to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and finished his career as Canada’s ambassador to Switzerland.

That is quite an impressive record. However, he achieved complete immortality in the Canadian Army due to a remark he made to the German General commanding the Wermacht army in Holland. At the time of the surrender in May of 1945, Brigadier General Roberts was given the assignment of picking up the German General at his headquarters, transporting him to the surrender ceremony and then returning him to the German headquarters. I’m not entirely sure about the protocols of the Canadian army, but that strikes me as a truly extraordinary honor. As they drove back to the German headquarters, the German General was silent for most of the way, obviously thoroughly depressed about just having surrendered his army. Finally, he asked through his interpreter whether Roberts had been a professional soldier. That question took Roberts by surprise.He’d been in uniform for 5 and ½ years, and anything that happened in peacetime seemed to be incredibly distant. It then occurred to Roberts that the German General was trying to console himself. So Roberts replied, “No, very few Canadians are. In civilian life I sold ice-cream.”

The German Generals response is not recorded. If I were writing a sketch for Monty Python I would have Brigadier Roberts recite the details of how to make 28 different flavors of ice cream—but that would have been *cold*.

I think it’s fair to say that James Roberts was a really cool guy.

Giovanni Martini: The Luckiest Cavalry Trooper

Giovanni Martini (who had anglicized his name to John Martin) was a trumpeter in the 7th cavalry regiment. At 15:30 (that’s 3:30 p.m. to you civilian types) on June 25, 1876, trooper Martin was riding along with 210 other troopers in a column behind Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer when they came to a rise and looked down to see the most enormous Indian village any of them had ever seen. Colonel Custer called Martin to his side, and had his adjutant write up an order to Captain Benteen (Custer wasn’t sure that Martin could make himself understood due to his thick Italian accent). The order read “Come on. Big village. Come quick. Bring packs.” And with Custer’s order in hand, trooper Martin rode back to meet captain Benteen’s column.

The last thing he ever heard from Custer was a shout of “Now we have them, boys!” Martin managed to make it back to Captain Benteen although Martin’s horse did stop an Indian bullet. Martin was destined to die in Brooklyn in 1919. He had another 43 years to live. The other 200 men with Custer had about 43 minutes.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Royal Birthday

Recently, I was assigned to represent a woman named Barbara Royal. Next month, Ms. Royal will celebrate her 37th birthday. Her eldest daughter will celebrate her 17th birthday. Her daughter's daughter will celebrate her 4th birthday. No comment.

Stalin's Bust--BUSTED!

A friend recently forwarded an article that announced that the D-Day museum in New Orleans was displaying a bust of Joseph Stalin. I thought, "No way, no way, no way." How UTTERLY inappropriate. A picture of Stalin at Tehran and Yalta with FDR, or at Potsdam with Truman--fine. A picture of American and Soviet troops meeting at the Elbe? Fine. Zhukov shaking hands with Ike? Fine. But a bust of the 20th century's 2nd most prolific mass murderer--give me a freakin' break!

Ironically enough, back in Stalin's home country of Georgia, the government there is finally taking down a bust of Stalin, 57 years after that old monster's death. (Maybe they managed to sell it to some REALLY dumb people in Louisiana???)

The Andersonvill Election (Mature Subject Matter)

Most people know that Lincoln won reelection with 55% of the vote, carrying all but two states and lived long enough to get the news of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Few people know that, in an attempt to show a softening of Union resolve, the Confederate authorities allowed a mock election at Andersonville prison camp. It, of course, had no legal impact, but they hoped that Northerners would see a weakening of morale. The results? I would very much have liked to have seen the look on the Confederates’ faces when they learned that 91% of the Union prisoners voted for Lincoln. Southern newspapers immediately killed the story. 146 years later, I am in awe. Everyman in Andersonville knew they were staring death in the face. They couldn’t be certain that the Confederates wouldn’t simply massacre them before the end of the war. 146 years later, the fact that they had the moral courage to show such determination and defiance simply staggers the imagination.
You see, during the American Civil War, the Confederate prisoner of war camp at Andersonville, Georgia was perhaps its lowest circle. After General Grant's termination of the prisoner exchange system in early 1864, the Confederate government forced 45,000 Federal POWs onto a 26.5 acre enclosure designed to hold 10,000 men. 13,000 of them died over the course of 14 months. Confederate sentries shot a few men for attempting to escape, or for crossing the "dead line" trying to get to fresh water.

They were the lucky ones. Food and fresh water were always inadequate, and medical supplies and shelter were practically nonexistent. Most of the men now buried at Andersonville died slow horrible deaths from starvation, exposure and dysentery (like this anonymous Union POW). After the war, Federal government tried and convicted the camp's commander, Captain Henry Wirz, for murder—he was hanged in late 1865 (shown below). It is still a hotly debated question whether Wirz intentionally killed POWs or was simply doing the best he could in an impossible situation.

By the late Summer of 1864, the Confederates had suffered so many defeats that their only hope for victory lay in the Presidential election set for November. If President Lincoln had lost to the Democratic candidate, George McClellan (who, two years previously, Lincoln had relieved as the General commanding the Army of the Potomac), the Confederacy might still be independent after Lincoln's term expired at noon on March 4, 1865.

In Mr. Klinksick's Study Hall

Almost forty years ago, when I was a sophomore at Upper Arlington High School, I was in study hall with Mr. Klinksick. (OK, with a name like that, I imagine that he would be bitter at the world; besides I seriously doubt he gave up a great career as a rocket scientist to teach shop class.) Anyhow, I was sitting down front and some kids figured nothing could be more fun than throwing pennies at the back of my head. I complained about this to Mr. Klinksick and he told me, “Don't let it bother you.” All these years later, I still get angry whenever I think of that. All he had to do was
1. Put me in a seat at the back of the room OR
2. Remove his head from the lower terminus of his alimentary canal and pay attention to who was doing it OR
3. Go to the trouble of saying "Ok, next person who throws something gets detention."

If those punks were trying to enrage me, they did a really good job. Then I finally managed to catch a glimpse of one of the guys who was throwing the pennies—a punk named Ted Schultz. A few minutes later, the bell rang and I jumped him bigtime. I pulled his head down with my right hand and managed to get in at least six really good punches with my left- before the Assembled Multitude pulled me off of him. (Lucky for him—otherwise I would have still been beating on him at dawn the next morning.)

I got a trip to the principal's office and a two-day suspension. I'm happy to report that my father was 100% cool about that situation. He told me later that he wrote a check for Schultz's x-rays and wrote a note to the parents to the effect that he regretted that the incident had happened, but he did NOT apologize.

The next week, I saw Ted Schultz in the hall—Wow!! He did not just have a shiner; the whole left side of his face was black and blue. This of course caused me great remorse- remorse that I didn't break his nose, break his jaw, knock out a dozen of his teeth and maybe make him wear an eyepatch from the rest of his life. (Yes, I do have MAJOR anger issues- do I approve of what Harris and Klebold did at Columbine? Hell no! Do I have some understanding of how they felt? Hell, yes!)

Ted Schultz never threw another penny at the back of my head and neither did anyone else. I saw him at the Class of '73 25th reunion back in 1998. He is now a minister. No comment. I thought, but did not say, "Go ahead and throw a penny at my head! See what happens!" I could still totally kick his ass.

Earlier today I made a call to Upper Arlington High School, and got the correct spelling on Mr. Klinksick's name—and found his address. I am seriously tempted to write him a note and tell him that over 13 years in the UA system and nine years of college, he is the sorriest excuse for a teacher I ever saw. Or I might just go over to his business office, throw a penny in his face and say, "Don't let it bother you!"

Just another Day in Court

Last week, I got a consent decree against a Mr. Carl Davenport. Here are the facts on Mr. Davenport:
Women: 5
Children: 6
Marriages: Don't ask
Child support payments: Don't ask
Criminal record: Don't ask
I do NOT understand why *any* woman would want to lie down on that Davenport, or let that Davenport lie down on her.

A Very Scary Kindergarten Statistic

Occasionally while surfing the web, I happen upon some really scary statistics: numbers that have implications that simply defy imagination. One of the gristliest sets of numbers I ever happened upon was a listing of the totals for new students in the kindergartens of the Soviet Union in 1930 and in 1935.

In 1930, there were four times as many new kindergarten students in the Russian Soviet Republic as there were in the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. In 1935, there were eight times as many Russian kindergartners as there were Ukrainian kindergartners. I remember once pointing that out to a friend and his comment was “A real population explosion, huh?” No, quite the reverse. I think to know that statistic and to fully understand its implications gives the reader a blinding insight into the horrors of the forced relocations and collectivization of the Ukraine, of the extent of the evil of Joseph Stalin, and of the evil of the Soviet Union.

Presidential Athletes and Popular Perceptions

A trivia question: Who is the only president of the United States who ever had the chance to make a living as a professional athlete? Gerald R. Ford was an all-American center on the University of Michigan football team. When he graduated from college, he got an offer from the green bay packers to play in the NFL. The offer however was for something like a thousand dollars (present day, an all-American center drafted by an NFL team could expect a contract of close to eight figures). In 1975, when President Ford gave a commencement address at Ohio State University, Woody Hayes met Ford and later related that he had resisted the temptation to say, “Gee Mr. President, if you had just stuck with football, can you imagine what you might have accomplished?”

Instead, Ford went to Yale law school, which then and now has the reputation of being the best in the country. I think that’s a very impressive record. However, shortly after taking office, President Ford stumbled while descending the stairs off of Air Force one in Vienna. Ford himself commented that Vienna was certainly the right place to make a Fordian slip.

It’s understandable that President Ford took a certain amount of ribbing for that gaffe, but Chevy Chase made a career out of depicting Ford as clueless stumblebum.

“President Ford has his weekly accident today,” announced Chase in one Saturday Night Live segment of “Weekly Update.” “Ford’s Lincoln was hit by a Buick. The Buick was grabbed by alert secret service agents and wrestled to the ground. When he got out of the car to see what happened, Ford stuck his thumb in his eye. The thumb was grabbed and wrestled to the ground by secret service agents.”

Chase never let up on Ford’s alleged clumsiness and outright stupidity. In one sketch, Chase portrayed Ford as being unable to do simple addition. After Ford’s death, Chevy Chase wrote a column in which he praised Ford’s good nature. President Ford had met Chase on a number of occasions and was quite a good sport. It was only later that Chevy Chase heard that some of his material had really hurt Ford’s feelings, and thirty years later, Chase commented that having been the target of some cruel jokes himself (Chevy Chase’s extremely short lived series on Fox was a punch line in show business for many years), he regretted that he had been so hard on Ford.
I think it’s a good idea to remember that story anytime a politician is the target of personal invective. The popular perceptions can frequently be 180 degrees from reality.

November 22, 1963

I was in Mrs. Hannahs’ third grade class when a kid named Greg Sopp told me that Kennedy had been shot. I simply didn’t believe him. Shortly afterwords, all the kids at Barrington Road Elementary School got let out of class to go home. I remember vividly running the three and half blocks home just as fast as my eight-year-old legs could carry me, because I knew perfectly well that there was only one possible explanation: World War III had broken out and Soviet missiles were in the air, with one no doubt aimed at Columbus, Ohio. I was trying to think of how I was going to survive the ensuing nuclear radiation when I got home, and my mother informed me that President Kennedy had indeed been assassinated that day in Dallas. I vividly remember what a sad weekend that was for the entire country, however for a few short seconds I was profoundly relieved that I was not going to die that day.

Chuck Wepner's Grooming Decisions

Chuck Wepner was a fairly good heavy weight fighter active in the late 1960’s and into the 1970’s. He could take a very good punch, but had one major weakness: He was extremely susceptible to cuts. Since he hailed from Bayonne NJ, his nick name was the Bayonne Bleeder. Wepner managed to be philosophical about his tendency to cut. Indeed his trademark was that, whenever one of his fights was stopped on account of cuts, he would comment, “I’ve cut myself worse shaving.”

He once lost a fight to the English heavyweight Champ Joe Bugner on a ten-stitch cut near his eye. Wepner growled with the referee, “Hell, I ‘ve cut myself worse shaving.” Wepner achieved his greatest fame in 1975 when he got a shot at heavyweight champ, Muhammad Ali. It was an extraordinarily one sided bout. Ali used Wepner as a punching bag and all Wepner could do was get into a clench and hammer away at the back of Ali’s neck with rabbit punches. In the seventh round, Wepner achieved fistic immortality when he managed to land a hard right hand to Ali’s body which, combined with the fact that he was stepping on Ali’s right foot, managed to knock Ali off his feet: something which very few fighters ever accomplished.

When Wepner returned to his corner he said to his trainer (noted cutman Bill Prezant), “Hey, I knocked him down!” To which his trainer replied. “Yeah but now he looks really ticked off.” Wepner battled on gamely into the fifteenth round suffering cuts above both eyes and a broken nose when Ali knocked Wepner down. Wepner managed to regain his feet and pumped his arms in a come-hither motion to Ali. He was losing on points but had made a dramatic comeback in the final minutes. Wepner had taken a first class beating but he was still game. Nevertheless, with only fifteen seconds left in the fight, the referee stopped the contest. Ali later said of Wepner: “There is not another human being in the world that could go 15 rounds like that.”

One of the people who viewed that fight was a young actor named Sylvester Stallone who took Wepner’s story—a terribly overmatched journeyman fighter getting a shot at the world championship and putting in the effort of a lifetime—into the Rocky movie and franchise. As usual, after the fight Wepner commented about the fifteen stitches he’d taken: “I’ve cut myself worse shaving.”

A less famous Wepner bout saw the Bayonne Bleeder take on the former heavy weight champ Sonny Liston in 1970 in what proved to be Liston’s last fight. Liston was old and slow, but Wepner was none too mobile himself and Liston’s fists remained lethal. Wepner took a terrible beating but kept coming back for more. I recently read that Wepner suffered a broken nose, broken cheekbone, and suffered six different cuts that required a total of seventy stitches.

At the end of the eighth round, Wepner face was so bloody that the apocryphal story has the referee holding up three fingers in front of Wepner and asking, “How many fingers am I holding up?” Wepner replied, “How many guesses do I get?” Wepner’s cornerman then helpfully tapped him on the shoulder three times. Wepner said three, and the bout continued.

The referee finally stopped the bout in the ninth round. Afterwards, the reporter asked Liston if Wepner was the gutsiest man he’d ever seen. Liston replied, “No, but his manager sure was.”

I do not know if Chuck Wepner employed his usual tagline after the Liston fight, but if I’d been there, and had heard Wepner say “I’ve cut myself worse shaving,” I would certainly have said, “Dude, grow yourself a beard.”

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gore Vidal (PG-13)

I recently read that the author Gore Vidal stated that in his entire life he never intentionally gave any of his sexual partners any physical pleasure. This strikes me as an absolutely ghastly attitude for a person to take towards sex. Furthermore, seeing as how Mr. Vidal has stated that his life’s philosophy was to “never miss a chance to have sex and never miss a chance to go on television” and I know how much I’ve seen him on television, and as I understand that Mr. Vidal goes both ways, I’m astonished that he wasn’t dead twenty years ago from HIV/AIDS. While Mr. Vidal obviously has extraordinary literary talents, he strikes me as being an incredibly selfish, uncaring individual. And if he’s not a complete sociopath, he’s awfully close.

The polar opposite of Mr. Vidal’s attitude was well expressed by the actor Donald Sutherland in the movie Space Cowboys in which his character Jerry O’Neil was interviewed by Jay Leno. Upon being asked by Mr. Leno if it was true that he had a reputation as a ladies man, O’Neil’s response was “I guess my life’s work is to help women get in touch with their unlimited supply of orgasms.” I find Jerry O’Neil’s outlook infinitely preferable to Mr. Vidal’s.

Brad Garrett's Chopped Onions

I've always enjoyed Brad Garrett's work- he has a very Rodney Dangerfield-esque demeanor. There's one sketch I've always wanted to see him do. That's the one where a young lady finds a genie's lamp, and after being told she can have any wish, she whispers in the genie's ear- and *poof* Brad Garrett appears. And the young lady says to the genie, "You idiot, you thought I said I wanted to get wild and crazy with Brad Garrett???" The followup would be for BG to say "So what am I, chopped liver?"- and which point the young lady hands him a bag.... of chopped onions.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Client's Priorities

Last week, I met with a client at the courthouse to get him a Stalking Order against his ex-girlfriend. When he arrived, I told him that while I like basketball as much as the next guy, I thought that a basketball jersey that did not cover his armpits was not appropriate courtroom garb. I noticed that he had tattoos on both arms from wrist to shoulder, and asked him exactly how many tats he had. His reply was "Fifteen". (If he had any more that were not immediately visible, I certainly did not ask to see them.) OK, some people like to buy tattoos; other people like to buy shirts with sleeves. At least, when he was in front of the magistrate, he did not point at the ceiling. And, yes, Her Honor did admonish him about his attire. Of course, seeing as how the Respondent (his ex) was chewing gum in the courtroom, and got a very stern lecture about being rude to the court staff, my client didn't look all that bad by comparison.

Hmmm... maybe if I get him a Protection Order, he'll have a copy of my business card tattooed on his forehead--I could use the referrals...

Instructing Mr. Pace

As some of you know, some years ago, I worked as a ship-riding Professor, as an instructor, with the Program for Afloat College Education (PACE). Yes, I was a PACE Instructor.

On December 17, 2007, I got a new client, Mr. Fredrick Pace, who was celebrating his 18th birthday that day. (Just 27 days after my Honorary Nephew Bryant. Aside to Mark and Barbara: *please* hug him for me.) By the time I was assigned to the case, Mr. Pace had already pled guilty to a second-degree felony, for firing a gun into an occupied dwelling. (They'd reduced the charge from Attempted Murder.) So, I'm stuck with trying to convince the judge that my client should not be locked up until his 21st birthday. Hmmm. . . . OK, Mr. Pace, it was an accident, right? The gun just went off . . . oh, six times?

--Gee, why use a revolver? With a Glock automatic you could put more than double that many rounds on target.

Well, Mr. Pace, would you please tell me *why* you fired into an occupied dwelling? You were ticked off at a drug dealer . . . and the 'older women' (about 20 y/o) you were with told you that since you were 17, the worst you could get was a couple of months of reform school? Uh-huh . . . and what law school did they attend?

I have had the experience of telling a juvenile that if he shoplifts after he's 18, that conviction can haunt him for the rest of his life. I tried my level best to make Mr. Pace understand that it was just dumb luck that he had not killed at least *one* person, maybe more, and that he could have been facing Life Without Parole. To nobody's surprised, Mr. Pace got permed.

Last month, I got the news that Mr. Pace's grandmother had requested that he receive Early Release, and I represented him at the hearing. Hmmm....let's see here...only a dozen disciplinary write-ups in the past 2 1/2 years. Well, your Honor, uh . . . so far this year, none of his write-ups have been for violent acts, and he has been making progress on his GED, so . . .

Somewhat to my surprise, the judge gave him early release. (Of course, he'll be on probation until Dec. 17th), and his grandparents stuck me as really decent people. (Father? What's that?)

The next day, I visited him at his grandparents' house. Obviously, he was getting ready for a photo shoot for Gentleman's Quarterly: dew rag, unshaven, large faux diamond earring, untucked short sleeve shirt, pants that came to the middle of his shins, large tattoo on the inside of his right forearm, and another good-sized tattoo on his neck. I encouraged him to continue working towards his GED, and even told him that since he was getting an "F" in history, if he wanted, I could tutor him, since I have a Master's in that subject.

Then he asked me if I could help him get a job. (WHAT??? Employers aren't lined up around the block to make him offers? Make sure you get a dental plan, stock options, and six weeks vacation.) I took a deep breath and told him "Lose the dew-rag, lose the earrings, shave, lose the neck tattoo, get a dress shirt, wear dress pants, get a necktie—if you don't own one, I'll buy you one, and show you how to tie it, and wear a jacket, and then we'll talk about it."

Surprisingly enough, 17 days later, I have not heard from him. Hmmm . . . however, I think I can get him a job. Does anyone need to get air conditioning—cheap and fast?

The Amazing Mr. Feder's Incredible Luck

I often tell people that my studies of world history have convinced me that the overwhelming majority of Americans (well over 99%) have absolutely no idea how lucky they are to be living in America, and no idea of how unpleasant things can get in the real world. If I ever express that opinion to Mr. Arthur Feder, I suspect he might fondly pinch my cheek and say “Tell me about it, Mr. Mitchell, Tell me about it.” Mr. Arthur Feder was born in Feb of 1925 in a small village in central Poland where his father worked as a fishmonger. It appears to me that Mr. Feder has led a life of hard work blessed with absolutely incredible luck. In Sept. 1939, both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia invaded Poland and Mr. Feder’s village happened to be located in the Soviet zone within easy walking distance of Nazi occupied Poland. If that line had been drawn one mile further east, Mr. Feder’s life would have been a very short one.

Shortly after the Red army occupied his village, Mr. Feder applied to be trained as a railroad engineer, and despite some misgivings by his parents, he rode a train 100 miles to the east to an engineer training school. On weekends, he would ride back to visit his family. One bitterly cold Sunday in the winter of 1940/41, the snow in his village had fallen so deeply that he missed the only train back to engineering school and was absent for one day of classes. What happened next amazed me when I read it. For missing one day of school, the Soviet authorities sentenced a 16 year old boy to a year in prison. (There are people who derided President Reagan for referring to the Soviet Union as an evil empire. I have no patience for those people what-so-ever.)

If someone had told young Arthur at the time that spending a year in a youth prison was an incredibly lucky break for him, I’m sure he would have found that very difficult to believe. But that’s what it turned out to be. The youth prison was located in Kiev, another hundred miles from the school he had been attending. On Sunday June 22, 1941, Arthur Feder caught another extraordinary bit of luck. On that day, the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, and the prison authorities released all youthful offenders on the theory that they were needed for the war effort. If Mr. Feder had been home with his family that day, he would now be lying in an unmarked grave along with his parents and four older sisters. Within days of the invasion, SS troops massacred the entire Jewish population of Mr. Feder’s village.

Upon his release from prison, Arthur had the good sense to continue traveling to the east. This turned out to be an extremely wise decision on his part because a few months after the invasion, German troops overran Kiev as well, but by that time Arthur Feder was working at a collective farm far to the east of Kiev. Sometime after that, he worked for awhile at a munitions plant and then, shortly before his 18th birthday, he joined a division of Cossacks, where he managed to land a position as an aide de camp to the division commander. He fought through some of the bloodiest battles of World War II on horseback. Sometime in 1943, he was out in the open when a Luftwaffe aircraft made a strafing run and Arthur Feder suffered a terrible wound in his foot that cost him a couple of toes. Again, if someone had told him at the time that it was another incredibly lucky break, he might not have appreciated that fact. However he had achieved what many combat soldiers dream of: A wound serious enough to get them out of combat, but not enough to maim them for the rest of their life. In the American armed forces, that’s sometimes referred to as a million-dollar wound. After a stay in a military hospital, he was transported to Moscow where he and a great many other Stalingrad veterans received decorations from Joseph Stalin himself (and from everything I’ve read about Stalin, anyone who came away from a meeting with that tyrant alive should count their blessings). Mr. Feder’s good luck continued. In 1944 he met another sole survivor of a Jewish community and on New Year’s Day, 1945, they married. (Note to self: be sure to send Mr. and Mrs. Feder an anniversary card, although I suspect it will be difficult to find one for a 66th anniversary.)

Mr. and Mrs. Feder managed to make it out of the Soviet Union unscathed (more extraordinary luck), and spent a number of years in Israel where Mr. Feder fought in the Israeli War of Independence. This time he made it through without a scratch. Although he did rather well living in Haifa, he ultimately emigrated to the United States, at the urging of friends and family, where he started working as a waiter in Miami. I have often referred to Mr. Feder’s extraordinary good luck, but what happened next is a tribute not only to luck but also to a lot of hard work and extremely good planning. Many Americans might regard a job waiting tables as a drudge or a curse. Mr. Feder recognized it as a godsend. After what he’d been through, getting 15% in tips was manna from heaven. He was also smart enough to figure out that if he really applied himself to being an excellent waiter, he could find employment at progressively more expensive restaurants and provide a better life for himself and his family.

While working as a waiter, Mr. Feder happened to befriend the members of a family named Miller. Their son Arthur had achieved considerable fame as a writer. On one occasion, Arthur Miller informed Mr. Feder that he was going to be out of town for a while and he was concerned that his new wife Marilyn hadn’t been eating right, and he asked Mr. Feder to see to the matter. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Feder delivered room service to the new Mrs. Miller while she was still in bed. As she ate, Mrs. Miller indicated that she wanted to Arthur to sit down on the side o the bed next to her, so strictly speaking, Mr. Arthur Feder can claim that he once shared a bed with Marilyn Monroe.

I don’t want anyone to think that I would insinuate that Mr. Feder did anything improper whatsoever. Besides, I have seen a picture of Mrs. Feder. I seriously doubt that Arthur was going to settle for second best. (If anyone doubts my word, take a look at Arthur’s daughter Hedy sometime. She is an amazingly babelicious brainac.) In later years, Mr. Feder got into business and did very well for himself indeed. I had occasion to meet him earlier this year at the Bar Mitzvah of his grandson Alexander (a.k.a. Alexander the Great). I found it a bit mind boggling to reflect on what a dramatically different world young Mr. Alexander Glaser lives in compared to what his maternal grandfather went through.

Mr. Arthur Feder is a gentleman I am very proud to call my fellow American.

Post-Script: Considering Mr. Feder's lifelong incredible luck, and my dubious retirement prospects, I think maybe I'll send him a money order and ask him to pick out a lottery ticket for me.

Flying Tiger's Big Score in Singapore

Late in 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt approved a plan to have three squadrons of American fliers travel to China to fly missions against Japan. They were officially employees of Chiang Kai-shek. Their first combat mission took place on December 20, 1941 and achieved an outstanding success, downing nine Japanese bombers. I recently learned that en route to China they managed to pull of an impressive coup of an entirely different sort. They were adventurous young men who were each carrying a large chunk of advance pay. History relates that when their ship docked in Singapore, they placed a large advertisement in the Singapore Times announcing that they were Hollywood producers looking for actresses to star in major motion pictures. Alas, there is no record of how many scores they tallied while in Singapore.

Libraries (among other thing)

A few days ago, Paul McCartney received an award at the White House. I thought it was quite nice that he got to sing Michelle, My Belle” to Michelle Obama. However, I was a bit saddened when Sir Paul made a snarky comment to the effect that President Obama’s predecessor did not even know what a library was. I would’ve been quite impressed had President Obama had the good grace to point out that while a great many people do not like George W. Bush at all, seeing as how he has been married to a librarian for the last 33 years, I really think he knows what a library is.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Why I Like Mike (Singletary)

The current coach of the San Francisco 49er’s, Mike Singletary, made quite a name for himself playing middle linebacker in the 80’s for the Chicago Bears. I suspect that there are a great many retired quarterbacks and running backs who wake up screaming from nightmares of the physical punishment he could mete out on the football field. My favorite story about Mike Singletary however, is an incident that took place the morning of the 1986 NFC Championship game. It was a bitter cold Sunday morning in Chicago when the team assembled on the street outside their hotel to catch the bus to Soldier Field. Singletary spotted a young boy barely into his teens selling newspapers on the street corner. He walked up to the young lad and asked how many papers he had. When the boy replied “Fifty,” Singletary handed him a $50 bill and said, “Kid, go home and study.” He then handed out the papers to his teammates and coaches.