Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Kicking the Dirt

OK, here's the result of a self-imposed writing exercise--just flat out write without thinking or editing for thirty minutes. What the hell is it with me and the Central Valley?

“Aw fuck, man, you know there are people who go to college to do what we do?” Cal asked, coming out of the restroom, thumb and forefinger to his nostrils, trying to get every last snort of the blow.

I didn’t bother to tell him that those people were most likely at the San Moritz catering to all the beautiful and plasticized rather than at the Motel 6 off the Buttonwillow exit running the Visas of doughy families on their way to Disneyworld and truckers with battered porn under their seats.

One of these days, I gotta ask Cal where exactly to find blow in the Central Valley. This is crystal meth land, sunbaked and cracked full of hicks shouting “White Power” while cooking up chemicals that could bring down a federal building if you’re not too careful, cooking them up as their toddlers go underfoot sucking their mouths on empty beer bottles. There aren’t any power brokers or aesthetic effetes here.

“Goddamnit, there’s gotta be a way to stop some of that shit from going down my throat,” Cal said. “The guy who figures out how to stop that will be one rich man, I tell you. Hey, anything sticking out?”

“No, man, you got the shirt all tucked in,” I replied.

Cal is a thin, wiry little fucker, and vain too. He told me the reason he’s not a crankhead is that he doesn’t want his teeth all yellow and shit. “Gotta look good for the ladies, know what I mean?” He figures that he and his ratty ass brown ponytail will save up some money from this gig and eventually head down a 120 miles south to Lalaland. There, he’ll get a recording contract. That’ll happen when the world clamors for coked acoustic renditions of Bon Jovi, but hey, a man has to have his dreams and I’m not that much of a dick to tell him he’s full of it. So I keep to myself that I used to live in Los Angeles, and that it is chock full of people with voices that could make angels cry busking on the Promenade for singles and living in shitholes.

At two in the clock in the afternoon, there ain’t jack to do. Check out time is at noon, and the type of folks who stay here are straggles who’ve been on the road too long while too cheap to splurge for the Holiday Day in two doors down. You don’t get those folks until eleven at night. So I get back to running totals from last night for the fourth time and trying to ignore that greasy feeling in my gut that comes from trying to digest my fifth Carl’s Jr. burger in a week.

7844; 22.7; 29.75

Number of songs on my Ipod after finally copying all my CDs + a few albums I downloaded from ITunes (note that there were many songs I decided not to copy from my CDs); Number of days it would take to listen to all the songs on my Ipod straight through; Number of gigabytes taken up (good thing I got the 60 gig Ipod).

Um, I guess you can say music is an important part of my life.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Incompetence should be a godsend if found in an opposing counsel. Incompetence should make your life easier–you don’t have to do hours of research and critical analysis to come up with a reply because stupidity speaks for itself. All you have to do is point it out. Really, most of the effort that you spend in dealing with opposing counsel’s incompetence is spent trying to figure out that exactly the jackass is arguing. Demolishing that argument is simple after that. Incompetence manifests itself in blown deadlines, dumb admissions (“well, my client does not dispute it hasn’t paid the money”), logic that smacks of effort (“my corporate client does not owe any money because the high level corporate executive who dealt with day to day operations had no authority to enter into the contract”), misrepresenting the law whether by intention or negligence (“those cases hold that there is no contract even though the court in those cases said that there was a contract in these same circumstances), and just plain poor writing and structure.

And yet invariably, lawyers including myself would rather deal with a whipsmart opposing counsel who can give as good as she gets and will force us to actually do work than the mental midget whose work is the legal equivalent of walking out the bathroom with his fly still unzipped and wet splotches all over his pants. I used to think this was due to professional pride. I don’t want myself associated with Corky the Very Special Lawyer. But that sort of shame by association only exists if you care about clients, and as almost every lawyer will tell you, the worst thing about lawyering are the clients.

No, I think what drives me bugfuck about incompetent opposing counsel is that, more often than not, they get away with it. There are a variety of reasons for this. In state court, most judges come from a pool of attorneys from small to mid-sized firms of the variety that have no lawyers from BigLaw backgrounds. These small to mid-sized firms don’t have the same resources as BigLaw, and their lawyers, by the ratio of lawyers to cases and the lower quality of the cases, do a lot of shit on the fly. The pool of law students they get aren’t exactly creme de la creme (if you’re Order of the Coif, are you going to choose BigLaw willing to pay you $140,000 off the bat to be in a cog in the wheel of multi-million dollar matter, or SmallLaw paying you $40,000 a year to deal with slip and falls?) Though there are idiots in BigLaw (because how good of a law student you were does not necessarily translate into how good a lawyer you will be), the mix of a load of crap ass cases in these smaller firms, the cost benefit analysis making it rationale to be quick and speedy on a low-value case as opposed to rational and smart, make for massive amounts of incompetence. (I should note, I am overgeneralizing, and in this overgeneralization, I am not including a subcategory of small firms whose members came from BigLaw–they tend to carry over that weird feeling from being a BigLaw associate to, you know, spend time on a case, even if it is a low value loser of a case).

ANYWAY, so most of the state court pool of judges come from these small to mid-sized firms where expediency and what necessarily arises from it (bad logic, bad research, bad writing, and bad case management) unfortunately are prevalent. To put it simply, incompetent opposing counsel often get away with their incompetence because state court judges incompetent opposing counsel. On one of the cases I was on, I had opposing counsel admit in court that he blew a court-ordered deadline, but the judge didn’t do squat. Opposing counsel then admitted after the hearing that if he were the judge, he would have sanctioned himself. Other lawyers I’ve spoken with said this particular judge isn’t that bright. Sigh. And I truly got the sense from the hearing that, even though the judge had set the deadline which opposing counsel blew, the judge himself had blown deadlines as an attorney. After I mentioned that opposing counsel was simply using delay tactics, the judge stated, “Well, that’s the risk your client takes when suing someone.” And you wonder why people think the system doesn’t work.

Now, not every judge is an incompetent SmallLaw boob, so that doesn’t explain every single instance of an incompetent lawyer getting away with it. Sometimes, an incompetent counsel is so incompetent, the judge is just in disbelief at first, and when the air clears, the judge just doesn’t want to deal with him.

We’ll call this particular opposing counsel “The Limper.” The Limper has a pronounced limp and a slight hunched back (or at least it looks that way, as his left shoulder noticeably droops). He has dark, slicked back hair with a barely trimmed beard. Think a sleazy version of Daniel Day-Lewis in “My Left Foot” His voice is phlegmatic and slurred. He sounds like Froggy from the Little Rascals coming down from a bad meth trip panhandling for change in the stink of his own urine of a downtown freeway exit.

So when he shows up in court after improperly trying to dismiss the judge or failing to file an opposition brief, what the judge sees is not a professional who has passed the State Bar and thus really has no excuse for disregarding the law, but instead a cripple in a bad suit who apparently has a speech impediment and who looks two days away from being out on the street. And so the judge treats The Limper with the same kid gloves he treats any ignorant Joe Citizen representing himself, gives The Limper an excuse (“oh, you must have been waiting for me to rule on my dismissal before you filed an opposition,” to which The Limper croaks “That’s exactly it, Your Honor”) and an opportunity to file an opposition. And yet the deadline comes and goes, and the Limper via his partner files with the court a request to yet again move the hearing, this time because the Limper is sick.

Now, a lot of attorneys would just roll their eyes, show up at the hearing and simply tell the judge that this is bullshit. But I’m a vindictive bastard with a low tolerance for this crap, so I write a written opposition to this request for a continuance, explaining that the Limper has failed to file opposition and then failed to show up at hearings in three other cases. At least the judge finally gets it, and sanctions The Limper and continuing the hearing on the condition that The Limper provide proof of his illness. And lo and behold, the day before the hearing, The Limper serves the office with a Notice of Non-Appearance claiming that he’s going to be in Hawaii for trial, so he can’t show up at the hearing in Los Angeles. And a quick call to the United States District of Hawaii confirms that actually, there is no such trial. The Limper has perjured himself, which I inform the judge.

Now, if I were the judge, I’d set an Order to Show Cause hearing on why this fucker shouldn’t be sanctioned and reported to the State Bar (and it turns out, the State Bar has already sanctioned the Limper, which would mean another disciplinary report who really fuck up the Limper’s probation). Now attorneys may misrepresent themselves to the court on time to time, but this is a rather egregious example of perjury. Shit, does the Limper not realize a quick phone call to Hawaii would reveal that he was lying?

But I’m not the judge. We prevailed, which was great for the client. I’m not complaining about that. However, I got the feeling that the judge just didn’t want to deal with The Limper’s shenanigans. If he or his clerk made a simple check of the State Bar website though, I’m sure The Limper would have more to worry about than telling his client that he needed to cough up more money.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Spies Like Us

OK, this freakin' scenario has been running through my head for the last few months. That's right, it's yet another prose exercise by yours truly. And there will be more, bwahahahahaha!

Kingman is New Delhi is Mombasa–pitch black nights drenched in heat, cheap motel rooms seeped with yellow flickering lights, moths and little lizards scuttling about warped wooden floors and chipped walls. The confluence of the heat and the sepia lighting made these nights amber-like. They were scenes encased in thick, languid memories. In these memories, in Port Moresby, in Caracas, in Little Rock, during these interchangeable summer nights, Lawson would be stripped down to his boxers, pencil scribbling whatever needed to be conveyed at the drop off. “The birds for the tea garden will not last. Please inform the guest that we will be having jasmine instead of Earl Gray.” “The tractor is overpriced–the gears are too old and the parts are worth more than the whole.” But now, he didn’t even have the scribbling of cryptic notes the pass the time away.
Not only was Peter Lawson a traitor, he was a seditionist and a traitor.
At least that’s what the President and his New Covenant Administration, just elected for a fourth term, believed. A rational government would spend its intelligence resources in attempting to win ongoing conflicts and to prevent additional ones. But zealots are, by definition, irrational. So the New Covenant Administration was going to expend its intelligence capabilities on tracking down every single operative who dared disagreed with administration assessments, who provided intelligence that contradicted the inner sanctum, or who just wouldn’t be bought off. This hunt was ongoing, even though the President had bogged down the country in Syria and Iran, in police actions in Venezuela and Cuba, in militarized missionary actions all throughout Africa and a newly friendly China.
Lawson still had friends, though. More importantly, Lawson still had money to keep those friends. At about thirty minutes before midnight, there was a hard knock on the door, followed by two softer knocks. Outside was the local constable, Muenda Kibaki, thickset, sweating and grinning.
“Ah, Mr. Halliday,” Muenda said, “I hope you are enjoying your vacation, though I still don’t see why you don’t stay at the Hilton. Surely, you would be more comfortable in air conditioning and fruited beverages with little paper umbrellas and plastic monkeys.”
“All right, smart ass, what’s up?” Lawson replied.
“Well, I felt you should now that there is an young American causing such a stir at the Hilton, making his feelings known about the current American administration. This is upsetting the businessmen and the missionaries. Perhaps you might want to discuss matters with him?”
“Hmmm, loud and young, you say? Probably has spiked hair, piercings, t-shirt with Che Guevara?”
“Actually, he is wearing a t-shirt with Hugo Chavez, but everything else is accurate.”
“Thanks, Muenda.”
“No problem at all.”
Lawson was about to shut the door, but stopped and asked, “So, have the Bible studies started?”
Muenda sighed. “Why yes, they have. I will tell you that I think the Spirit would be more likely to enter me if those smiling bright young men and women in the white shirts and black pants were not accompanied by marines.”
“No shit, eh.”
“No shit,” Muenda agreed.
Lawson spent the next few minutes packing getting his belongings, and even though it was a blessing to him, fuming about the incompetent Judas Goat at the Hilton. Preachers, by definition, make shitty spies. Lawson guessed it had to do with that messianic urge of preachers to spread the word, and destroy anything that didn’t fit with their interpretation. Even when they’re pretending not to be preachers, that urge to shout, to prostelytize, to call attention to themselves, still came through. And calling attention to oneself was not an option in a career that required being the background. Young New Covenant Lackey at the Hilton, though doth protesteth a bit too much. But where there was a Judas Goat, there was someone waiting at the other end of the tether. It was time to get out of dodge.
Whenever Lawson left a town, he entertained the thought about going to Zurich, getting a total make over from the molecular level upwards. Then Lawson would not be Peter Lawson, blond, blue-eyed Midwest boy who went to Ohio State with a B.A. in Poli Sci, Georgetown Masters in International Relations, and former operative of the CIA, but instead, George Halliday of Windsor, Canada, brown-eyed, sandy-haired graduated of McGill in French History and mild mannered accountant. Stem-cell research had progressed extensively since the New Covenant banned it in the United States. After Canada signed a Joint Defense pact with the Russianized EU, the Canadian CSE made it known that George Halliday would be more than welcome in their employ.
And yet every time he left a railway terminal, a shipyard, an airport, Lawson would head to the nearest cheap motel, reestablish old “friendships,” and wait. Perhaps hope springs eternal.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Psychos and Coco Puffs

OK, this wasn't the original Chuck Klosterman-like entry I wanted to write, but what the hey:

My friends used to wonder whether I created drama wherever I went, or if drama followed me around. Now, the whole heartwrenching clusterfuck that was a Certain Someone that has me in therapy (without any pharmaceuticals yet, thank you very much) was what made everyone, including myself, think that I inevitably create the drama in my life. On the surface, this makes some sense. My pal Dubois thinks the creative inclination comes from people who want life to be something else–not really a dissatisfaction with life, but instead the ability to see other possibilities in life. And all those possibilities just happen to be better than whatever routine counts for the aspiring artists’ life. Thus, entering into an unwise, unhealthy relationship with a woman who was unhappy with her then current relationship, a woman significantly younger than me, a woman who I worked with and related to the boss, might have been a mind-blowingly big fucking mistake. But in that artist’s calculus, the excitement and inevitable catastrophic results of bad nights, worse phone calls, and even worse scenarios that ran through my head of easy roof access and the properties of gravity were all much better than the ten hour daily grind of getting in pissing contests I had no vested interests in (better known as the legal profession) and going home to beer and internet porn. (Though I still have to say, there was a brief time where a Certain Someone and I loved each other very much. Plus, the sex was oh so very good.) So, the theory goes, is that I get myself tangled into bad drama because bad drama is better than no drama.

But now that I have more time again, and that I’m writing again, I’m beginning to think that this explanation might be a bit, well, if not facile, at least incomplete. This is because throughout my life, I have had plenty of completely tweeked, wholly unmoored, unstable people enter into my life without any volition from yours truly.

Back when I was in high school, I met this girl at a high school Model U.N. conference (hey, you guys know I was, am and forever will be a geek). I think her name was Becca. She wasn’t unattractive. Look wise, she’d be the type of plain girl a relative might set you up with, you’d sigh inwardly with disappointment when you met her and resolve to grin and bear it for your Aunt Priscilla, and then after three or four drinks, make out with her like a crazed mink and then both of you would be really embarrassed afterwards and vow never to talk about it again.

But ANYWAY, I spoke with Becca for maybe thirty minutes total at the conference. She went to high school in a township all the way at the other end of the county, which might as well be in another state back then. I have no idea why we exchanged numbers, but we did. And then we didn’t speak to each other except for brief five minute conversations about nothing. Oh yeah, she had a beau anyways.

Then, when I went to college, things got scary wiggy. The summer after my junior year, she got my number from my folks (who must’ve been ecstatic that some random chick was asking for me). Now, at this point, I hadn’t spoken with her for about three years, and the sum total–both in person and on the phone–of my conversations with her was about 45 minutes. Becca called me out of the blue, and for the next two weeks over some really intense and (for her) personal conversations, she informed me that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder but that she refused to take her medication. She informed me that she dropped out of college because it was too much pressure. She informed be that one of her friends passed away, which then led her to tearfully ask what was the point. All this with a guy, me, who previously spoke with her for 45 minutes total. Holy fucking shit. You can’t tell me that I created that piece of drama.
Hey, I too have made the tearful intense psycho phone calls, but that’s generally with people I’ve known for years. But I can’t imagine calling up some random person I met at jury duty last week and waylaying all my personal crap and darkest thoughts on her. That takes some massive instability, instability that even I don’t have.

And that wasn’t the only unstable person in my past–there was Hunter, who looked like an average white guy from Virginia who ostensibly wanted to talk about Curve, the Pixies, Echobelly and shoegazing music but ended up ranting in such a depressing manner that made Robert Smith look like an Up With People dancer on a prozac/paxil cocktail. There was Spaz in law school who believed with such certainty it could only be pathologic that every single woman who walked path wanted him and his greasy ponytail. My first year roommate law school turned out to be a schizophrenic who stopped taking his meds a month before graduation (and had to be escorted out of finals by security due to his erratic behavior). Oh, and let’s not forget my stalker a couple of years back, who talked to herself and believed that Richard Gere and Tom Cruise were misappropriating her astral image for their own nefarious purposes.

Certain Someone was my own damn fault, but Becca, Hunter, Spaz, Schizo and Stalker? I can’t control who meets me. And yet, at the same time, it is rather disconcerting that some twigged person’s unstable orbit enters mine every two years. Maybe I should take solace that it isn’t just me who feels unmoored, adrift every once in a while, or that I don’t always create the drama around me. Or maybe I should move to some shotgun shack out in the desert, away from all the freakin’ wackjobs.


I spent the last hour composing a Chuck Klosterman-like entry on my somewhat involuntary hiatus from OceanGig (there's no work since the main partner has been either preparing for trial or in trial the last five months and has not been able to hit the pavement, but on the plus side, they're keeping my position open and want me back when things pick back up) dealing with Ipods, high school memories and music on myspace, but myspace deleted it! Next time I have an urge to write, I guess I best put that sucker down on Word or WordPerfect first. Sheeeeee-it.