Wednesday, December 22, 2010

And with that you can close the book on Calcaterra's legal career

When a starting pitcher leaves a game with runners on base, he is still responsible for them.  His day, statistically speaking, is not done until those runners either score, are retired or until the inning ends.  When that happens the announcer usually says "you can close the book on" the starting pitcher, because nothing else that occurs in the game will be attributable to his line in the box score.

I just read in the Columbus Dispatch that the Ohio Supreme Court has finally ruled on a case involving the Ohio Legislature. The substance of the case would be boring for most of you, but it's interesting to me because I was the pitcher of record, having represented the Legislature while working for the Ohio Attorney General's Office. I had almost forgotten about the case in the past year. Reading about it this evening, it seems like something from a past life. Which I guess it is.

I took myself out of the game in November 2009 when I bailed for blogging, but there were still runners on base. The relievers who came in got me off the hook and, with today's decision, we ended up winning.  Personally speaking I probably got a no-decision, but I pitched pretty damn well.  Either way, I was glad to see the outcome. Not just because my side won, but also because it happened to be the correct decision.  It's not often both of those things happen in the same case.

But win or lose, it was a great game. The case helped me rekindle, well, not my love, but at least my fondness and respect for the law that I had lost in private practice. I lived and breathed it for nine months. It kept me up many nights.  But it touched on some elemental constitutional law questions. It required sophisticated legal thinking, writing and argument. My colleagues and I sat around and discussed competing legal theories just like I imagined I would always be doing back when I was in law school but never really did in private practice. No one ever talked about the amount of attorney time being devoted to the case.  Everyone just wanted to win it and to win it with our honor intact. We did.

And now that it's finally over you can close the book on Craig Calcaterra's legal career. Because unless I'm mistaken, it was the last case I worked on as a lawyer that was still active.  Soon the clerk will send the last file with my name anywhere in it to a storage room where it will be quickly -- and justifiably -- forgotten.

And though I probably don't deserve the honor, I have it on pretty good authority that Ohio Attorney Registration Number 0070177 will be retired. Not a bad way to end a career, no?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Where's home?

My mom and dad were born and raised in Detroit. After their first two years of married life in Alaska, they moved to Flint, Michigan in 1969, set up housekeeping and had my brother and me. He was 13 and I was 11 when we moved to West Virginia.  After 13 years away, my parents moved back to Flint in the late 90s -- same neighborhood even -- and stayed until around 2006 or so. They live near my fortified compound on the outskirts of Columbus now.

On Thanksgiving my dad and I were talking and the subject of Flint came up. Though he knows it's a hole now and said that he couldn't see the point of living there again, it seems pretty clear that he and my mom will always think of it as "home." Or at least as close to "home" as anyone who has lead lives as itinerant as theirs can.  Conversations with my brother suggest that he thinks of Flint as home too.

It's not my answer. When people ask me where I'm from I invariably say Beckley, West Virginia. I lived there from April 1988 until I left for college in September 1991, and again for the summer of 1992. That's it.  A little over three and a half years.  I lived in Parkersburg, West Virginia around the same amount of time but if asked to give a quick biographical sketch I usually leave Parkersburg out completely. I lived in Washington D.C. around the same amount of time and that's quickly referred to as the time I was in law school with no attempt to make a connection between the place and my life as a whole.  Counting college, I've lived in Columbus for a total of 16 years -- almost my entire adult life -- yet it's always where I live now, not where I consider home. And I often make a point to say that, if given the chance, I'd love to live in any number of other places.

What makes Beckley my hometown to me when at least two other places -- Flint and Columbus -- have much stronger claims?

Maybe it's the coming of age thing. I got my driver's license after I moved to Beckley. My first job. My first real kiss (spin the bottle in junior high school doesn't count) and first real girlfriends there. I graduated high school there. I met the woman who would become my wife there. She's a native, and for years when we went home for the holidays, Beckley was where we went. A lot of the important stuff in my life happened in Beckley.

But most of the same could be said for my brother too, and he doesn't call Beckley home. My parents did all of those things in Detroit, and that place seems consigned to ancient history for them, with Flint taking greater prominence.  And really, it's not like Columbus has just been a way station for me. My entire professional life is here. I bought my first home here. I've had and have raised two children here. Everything that's important about me as an adult can be explained by this town. But it's still not home.

It makes me think that home is merely a state of mind. That we can be, technically speaking, from anywhere, but we can choose what is home based on just about anything. Maybe it's time. Maybe it's people. Maybe it's an emotional connection.  Why Beckley? Maybe it's the weather. Maybe it's the topography. A lot of it is probably the memories. More than anything I think it's because I've always felt at peace there in ways that I've never felt peace here.

Where's your home? Is it a multiple choice question for you like it is for me? Am I odd in thinking that I can just choose the place I call home? Am I a central Ohioan or a Michigander in denial?

This is the stuff you think about on a Saturday night when everyone else is asleep, the ABC affiliate is carrying the crappy football game instead of the good one and you just had a tall glass of Maker's Mark.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Shyster Chronicles: The Interview

Before reading this, please read this.

I knew him, but I wasn't sure if he knew me. 

Oh, he knew my name, my work experience and my education because my resume was sitting on the desk right in front of him. He knew that my morning had gone well so far and everyone else had been nice because the interview had been going on for five minutes.  But did he remember me? Did he remember that two years ago I was, nominally at least, his lawyer? Did he remember that I was assigned by his friend -- my old boss -- to counsel his wife as she fought some petty little battle with a home remodeling company who had screwed up the basement renovation?  The lawsuit was filed in his name too because he owned the house and paid the bills, but I never spoke with him.  I only spoke with his wife, who made sure I knew which furs were damaged by seeping ground water and which family photos were curled by the moisture and flecked with mold.  Long conversations, mind you, that went on for as much as an hour after I had obtained the information necessary for the latest demand letter or the latest draft of the complaint.  She went on about the contractor. On about the neighbors. Occasionally she went on about her husband too, who at this very moment was asking me about where I saw myself in five years while -- maybe -- trying to figure out why I seemed familiar to him for some reason.

Those long conversations with Mrs. Morton ended abruptly. I was to call her on a Monday morning and she didn't answer. When two days passed without hearing from her I called her husband, but he didn't answer either. Emails went un-returned as well.  I drove by the house, but no one was home.  I was a bit worried by this, but only a bit. Mostly I was just happy that I was being given a break from this dreary little case, the time for which I wasn't even allowed to bill thanks to it all being a big favor from my boss to the Mortons. With them incommunicado I could get back to the cases which actually interested me and, more importantly, for which I could bill my time.  I was having a rough enough year without having to spend so much of it on this pro bono nonsense for my boss' golf buddy.

A week later I finally heard from Mrs. Morton. It was a short call. She sounded as is she had been crying. She told me to dismiss the lawsuit. When I asked her why, she would only say it was a personal matter. She thanked me for my time and effort and that was that.  I told my boss about it, but he acted as if he already knew. In fact, he seemed surprised that I was still in contact with the Mortons at all.  He asked for the file and told me to move on to other things. Oh, and not to talk to anyone about the matter.  Which was easy because I didn't know what was going on.

I finally figured it out a few weeks later when my boss' secretary spilled the beans:  Dan Morton had been arrested for solicitation of a prostitute the morning I was supposed to have spoken to Mrs. Morton.  It was kept quiet -- didn't even make the police blotter because of who Dan was and who he knew -- but he couldn't keep it from his wife.  After picking him up at the police station -- his car had been impounded -- she packed a bag and flew down to the condo in Ft. Myers to clear her head for a few days, a lawsuit over home improvements the last thing on her mind. My boss was doing his best to smooth things over legally for his buddy Dan. He probably would be successful in doing so, but no one knew for sure about that marriage.  Or what might happen to Dan's standing at his firm or in the legal community at large.

But he somehow gutted it out. The charges were dropped, because in this town they're always dropped when they involve guys like Dan Morton.  Word got around about the indiscretion, but not too widely.  Somehow Dan kept his job as managing partner at Hicks Henderson & Foley. Somehow Dan and Abby Morton stayed married. I went back to work on billable matters.

Over the next two years I lost momentum at my old firm.  I wasn't happy with my cases and my boss was increasingly unhappy with me.  I felt I needed a change of scenery and figured I'd try to jump someplace else before I was inevitably pushed. When the recruiter told me that Hicks Henderson was looking for a mid-level litigator I didn't give a second thought before telling her to go ahead and send them my resume. I didn't even think of Dan Morton until I got my interview schedule the day before and saw his name on it.  And now, here I was, sitting across the desk from him, the managing partner of their Columbus office, making small talk and wondering if he knew that I knew that he was busted in a Walgreens parking lot trying to pick up a $25 whore on a random Monday morning two years ago,

He knew.

"You're probably curious to know what happened with that business with the basement," he said.  "We settled.  It all worked out OK."

I told him I was happy to hear that.  After what seemed like a long silence he went on.

"When I got your resume the other day, I showed it to Abby.  She said that I should hire you.  Said you were . . . supportive back when the case was pending.  I appreciate that."

Again, I thanked him.  But I can't say that I liked his look.  He was clearly uncomfortable talking about this, even if he seemed compelled to cover this territory. And after an interview in which he had been far more content to talk and talk rather than to ask me any questions, he now seemed like he was waiting for me to say something.  When I did nothing more than offer a closed-mouth smile and a slight nod, his expression brightened.  He may have been waiting for me to talk, but he was happy that I didn't. And my silence apparently sealed the deal.

"Welcome to Hicks Henderson, Mr. Sullivan.  I'd like you start as soon as you can."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Great Moments in Product Placement

Reason number 346 why I want to move my family into a fortified compound:

Darren Rovell of CNBC is a sports business expert. His beat: Ticket sales. Team marketing. What ads were up behind home plate when the no-hitter ended. What logo the tennis player had on the towel with which she wiped her face just before winning the French Open. How much free exposure Anheuser-Busch got when the basketball player flew into the crowd and knocked over the beers. This stuff is occasionally obnoxious because, really, people don't want to be constantly reminded of just how for sale everything is, but Rovell is really good at what he does. And he's probably right that everything is for sale anyway.  I read and link his work all the time even if it drives me a bit nuts on occasion.

Last night, though, was a new low. Or high. I'm not sure which.

I was on Twitter, bullshitting with baseball and media people during the Rays-Rangers game. Just as the game was put out of reach, the first Chilean miner was pulled up from the hole. Everyone in my little clique of virtual friends was going back and forth between the game and CNN and everyone was talking about both things.  Then this exchange happened:

Rovell: "1st miner was wearing Oakleys. I estimate worldwide exposure of a least $100 million for company"

Me, retweeting him: "Not sure if serious . . ."  Really, I figured he was just cracking wise "in character," as it were. Which would have been pretty funny, actually.

Rovell, in a direct message to me: "dead serious. scroll back your TV, Craig."

Me: "I don't doubt he was wearing Oakleys. I was just surprised that your first thought at this was the marketing angle."

He ignored me after that, but tweeted a bunch more stuff about how Oakley provided the glasses, how Oakley has offices in Chile, and that sort of thing.

Again, nothing personal against Rovell because that's the sort of work he does and he probably can't help himself. But I think it may have been the most depressing Twitter exchange in the history of Twitter exchanges.

I am about the least sentimental and emotional person on the planet when it comes to news stories like these, but man, we were watching a rare moment in which the human spirit peaked out from behind all of the awfulness in this world, and people are thinking about . . . product placement.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Carlo hit a kid at school a couple of weeks ago. It wasn't a major incident. More of a reflex than anything else. The kid pulled on his backpack. Carlo hates it when people do that so he turned around and slugged him in the gut.

The teacher saw it and tried to explain to Carlo that it was the wrong thing to do.  There was no getting through to him, though, because Carlo tunes out disapprobation, 100% of the time.  "I'm awesome and righteous," he thinks to himself, "so there is no way this angry person could be talking to me."  The teacher wisely escalated the situation: she sent Carlo to the principal's office and the principal forced Carlo to call Carleen at work and tell her what he did.  This got through to him and he realized that he was wrong. I spoke with the teacher the night before last, and she said Carlo's been great since then. He either learned his lesson or the kids are all too scared to mess with him.

He's playing soccer this fall. That's probably worth its own post, but for now just know that he generally likes it. Apart from his stunning good looks he'll never have anything in common with David Beckham, but he's not the worst kid out there either. And he has a great attitude too: he runs around, has fun and doesn't care if he scores goals or if the team wins or not and that's probably all anyone can ask.

The games have all gone well until today. I should have known that it was going to be a bad day when the other team showed up and started doing highly regimented group warmups before the game. Kindergarten soccer teams don't do that. They run around and kick the ball a bit and talk about Batman. These other guys drilled like the Soviet army. Maybe they were having fun with all of that, but I'm not sure how it could be possible.

The worst part was that they played like goons.  They pushed and they shoved and they tripped and they tackled. The referee must have had other things on his mind, because apart from some half-hearted "let's keep it clean out there, boys" he really wasn't all that into restoring order.  The other coach seemed pleased that he had turned five year-olds into thugs, because no matter how ugly it got out there, he just clapped his hands and told his kids that they were doing a great job.

Carlo doesn't get the ball very often, so he wasn't getting shoved, but a couple of his teammates -- the fast, skilled little guys -- were taking a beating. One kid came out of the game after getting shoved to the ground, landing hard on his head.  At one point, when our boys started to get discouraged, our coach gathered them together and told them -- loudly, so that others might hear -- how proud he was that they were playing "good clean soccer."  It was heartening to hear.

But it wasn't enough for me.  Seeing the rough play made me think of how bad I felt when I heard that Carlo hit that other kid. It made me think of little incidents I had with other boys when I was young. It made me think of how difficult if can be to be a boy. To have society's expectations of what it means To Be A Man come into conflict with my own, non-aggressive and non-violent values so very often as I grew up. It made me think about the fine line a young man must walk in order to avoid becoming either a brute or a victim.

I can't communicate these feelings with Carlo yet -- he's far too young -- and even if I wanted to, I couldn't at that moment because the game was going on.  But what I was seeing go down this morning was starting to prey on me, so I did the only thing I could do: I stared at Carlo's head as he ran up and down the pitch, willing him to hear the psychic message I was sending him:

"Carlo: it's wrong to hit. I'm so glad you learned that after what happened at school that time. You are a sensitive boy, and I understand that your emotions sometimes get away from you. That happened to me when I was your age too. It will be hard to learn to control yourself sometimes -- you'll want to scream and lash out and cry to the heavens when things don't go the way you want them to --  but you'll learn to reign that in. I did. I know you can, because you're intelligent, and strong-willed and wonderful.

"But let's leave that until tomorrow. Right now I want you to chase after that tall boy with the blond hair on the other team who just shoved Aiden, and I want you to body slam his skinny punk ass to the grass and whale on him until he cries for his momma."

Carlo didn't hear me.  It's probably for the best that he didn't.

Raising a son is hard.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Free Tiffany!

As I've mentioned, I have a little studio in my basement. Each morning I spend  fifteen or twenty minutes down there taping the HBT Daily videos that get posted on the blog and various other places in NBC land.  The host is Tiffany Simons. She does her thing from the main studio in Connecticut. We hear each other via our little earpieces and see each other on video monitors. She sets up the segments and shoots me questions designed to make me look smart.

Everyone should have someone who does that for them, by the way. Not just about sports, but about life in general. Imagine if you were driving down the street and, rather than merely ranting when a jerk cuts you off, a pleasant young woman says "Craig: that guy who just cut you off looks like an asshole. Why don't you tell all of us the ways in which you're a better driver than he is."

Wouldn't that be great?

Anyway, Carlo is usually home when I go downstairs to tape. He has seen the studio equipment and he has seen the end product online, but he has never seen me actually tape a segment (which he thinks is TV). I didn't think it really interested him much until tonight when we had this conversation:

Carlo: Did you do the TV thing today?

Me: Yep.

Carlo: Is that lady still living in our basement?

Nope. That's not creepy at all. Not one bit.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Why Working at Home is Both Awesome and Horrible

This is stunningly accurate.  Really, apart from the fact that I wake up even earlier now that I work from home than I did when I had an office job, the dynamic -- if not all of the specifics -- is pretty much dead-on.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What do I do? Why, I'm a . . .

In the last eight months there have been several occasions on which I've had to name my occupation. Forms at the doctor's office. Surveys. Applications for this or that. It used to be easy. I'd write "lawyer" or, if I was feeling a tad pretentious that day, "attorney." It's not as easy anymore.

The most technically correct term for what I do and what I am is probably "blogger." But for as much as I love and defend the fine art of blogging, the title "blogger" sounds a bit, I dunno, silly. And even if didn't sound silly it's not always a useful term. Sure, anyone reading this or generally surfing around the web will be cool with it, but anyone who isn't at least moderately Internet savvy -- which is a lot more people than you may realize -- has trouble with the term. If they've heard it at all, it probably was used in some bullshit newspaper trend piece about how the lowering of journalistic standards is ushering in the End Times. If they haven't heard the term it takes so much time to explain what I do that the thumbnailing purpose of a title is defeated anyway.

I've toyed with "writer," but that's even more pretentious than "attorney."  For one thing it's vague. What do you write? Are you a writer of novels? Children's books? Instruction manuals for washing machines? Saying you're a "writer" is less a description of one's occupation than it is a lifestyle statement. A person who says that they're "a writer" -- and nothing more -- is usually trying to tell you that they're an intellectually-inclined soul who wears interesting and/or complicated glasses, doesn't hold up all that well when their political assumptions are challenged and likes jazz a little too much. Or they're trying to get laid. Either way, the only people who can really get away with calling themselves "writers" are people who have written a novel, a thin volume of half-decent poetry and an interesting though ultimately rejected screenplay. The rest of us are poseurs.

That led me to "baseball writer." First time I whipped that one out, however, I was asked which team I covered and why I wasn't at the ballpark that night. That aside, it's the best I had been able to come up with and -- after explaining that I'm closer to being a columnist than a beat writer -- it satisfies most people.

But it's not perfect. No, the closest to perfect is a description my friend Ethan came up with this morning:
I just realized: You're a DJ for the baseball news.  You don't create the news;  you aren't the news;  you just riff on the news.  You keep the music (news) going.  You know you have to play what's hot, but it's your mix and your patter, and you throw in an oldie or an obscure Smiths single when you want to, dammit.
I've taken to telling people that I've only had two jobs I've ever liked.  Turns out they were the same job all along.

Monday, August 2, 2010

How to Become a Famous Blogger

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The bike wreck

I recently pulled my bike out of storage for the first time in five years. Kids and work and laziness and everything else kept me from riding it, but now I'm back in the saddle as it were.  After a few short warm up rides I've done a 28 mile trail ride a few times. I'll probably keep doing that most weekends until the weather gets cold. I'm happy to be cranking again, at least in my own modest, flat-terrain, not-so-fast way.

There was a time when I rode more often. Between 1998 and 2003 I tried to do a substantial ride once or twice a week if I could. Nothing serious, really -- maybe 20 miles here or there -- but enough to keep the head clear and to keep sloth and obesity at bay. I rode much more seriously when I was in college, though, often doing 30 miles or more a couple times a week in addition to my usual riding around campus thing. At least until the bike wreck.

It was the summer of 1994. Unlike the previous summer when I worked two jobs and tried my best to keep busy, the summer of '94 was all about drinking beer -- I had just turned 21 -- throwing a baseball around and generally goofing off. I had a job at the Ohio State bookstore, but it wasn't particularly stressful. I worked at the office supplies counter. If I didn't feel like going in on any given day, I just didn't. If I felt like leaving two hours early on a given day, I just did. I'm still not sure how I got away with that.

I used my ample free time to ride around Columbus. Sometimes it was a purposeful ride on a trail. Sometimes it was a long stamina-builder out in the country. Sometimes -- usually with my friend Todd -- it was just riding aimlessly all over the city. We'd head downtown and ride down parking garage ramps. One time we rode through a hotel lobby and across a pedestrian walkway over High Street. Wherever it was, and whether I was with Todd or not, rare was the day when I didn't ride somewhere.

August 21st was going to be a great day. It was a Sunday, and I had tickets to see Bob Dylan at the Ohio State fair that evening. My first Dylan show, and I had been looking forward to it for a long time.  Figuring I couldn't just wait around all day, I decided to kill some time with a ride.  I hit the trial that follows the Olentangy river up to Worthington and back. It had rained the night before and there were a lot of puddles on the trail. I took things slower than usual from campus up to Worthington, but by the time I turned around to come home I was getting pretty confident. Too confident, it turned out.

I was somewhere between Antrim Lake and Whetstone Park, buzzing along at full speed, when I hit a puddle that turned out to be more mud than water. My bike slid out from under me but I kept going. As I hurtled head first -- and, alas, helmetless -- towards the pavement, I didn't panic. I didn't go blank. My life didn't flash before my eyes. Rather, I simply had this casual, almost lazy thought that more or less went "well, isn't THIS fucking great." I was more disgusted with myself than anything.

I don't think I went unconscious, but I don't remember the impact either. I was laying on my side, not yet feeling any pain, and feeling an immediate, inexplicable need to get back up. I struggled to my knees and then to my feet and turned around back the way I had come. Two rollerbladers were slowing down as they approached me. The woman went wide-eyed. The man started yelling at me: "Jesus! Are you alright! Jesus!" I really had no idea. Indeed, I hadn't really had a conscious thought yet.  As he started yelling it dawned on me that I could be injured. I decided to take a look at myself and see if I was.

"Hmmm. That left arm is hanging a bit lower than usual and I'll be damned if I can move it," I thought.  "More blood than one usually sees on my forearms and knees too," I calmly went on. I concluded the assessment by noting how difficult it was to triage the situation what with everything spinning around like it was.  I was interrupted at that point by Mr. Rollerblader grabbing onto my good arm and my back and telling me in very slow and soothing tones that I'd be better off if I sat down on the ground. That was probably a good idea, because I'm pretty sure that I did lose consciousness a few seconds later.

I woke up, lying on my back. Mr. Rollerblader was hovering over me. He had been joined by a jogger and another couple of bikers.  Rollerbladder was holding a little white towel to my head. I heard him say to one of the others that his wife had skated back to Antrim in order to call an ambulance. I also heard him say something like " . . . I don't think so, it's just bleeding a lot." I think he meant my head looked ugly but that he didn't think I had a cracked skull or anything.  At that point he noticed that I was awake. He told me not to move. I tried to sit up anyway because I'm kind of an asshole when it comes to stuff like that.

I made it to a sitting position but I couldn't do any better. My head was throbbing, but the real pain was in my left shoulder. I looked down and, just as I saw how low it was sagging, Rollerblader said that he was pretty sure I broke my collar bone and maybe separated my shoulder. I felt nauseous and dizzy and I couldn't hear very well.  Eventually he eased me back to my back, saying something about how anything could be broken, so I probably shouldn't move.

I have no idea how much time had passed when I heard the helicopter. It hovered several hundred feet above us.  There was a lot of confusion -- they weren't airlifting me out of there, were they? -- but it flew away a minute or two later. Turns out it was just trying to pinpoint where I was so the ambulance could find me. A few minutes later it backed slowly down the trail to where we were. I remember thinking how badly I wanted to ask the driver how hard it was to back all that way down the trail.

The EMTs got out and took a look at me. One of them moved the towel from my head and got what appeared to be a satisfied look on his face. He told Rollerblader that it was just a gash and didn't look serious. They got a backboard and a gurney out and rolled me onto it. They also put a neck brace on me. Rollerblader and the others gave me little pats of encouragement and some assorted take it easys and were on their way. 

Once in the ambulance the EMTs asked me questions and shined lights in my eyes to see just how messed up I was. I answered a couple of questions at first, but the neck brace was starting to freak me out. I'm claustrophobic and I have an intense fear of suffocation and I felt like the thing was smothering me. Instead of responding to their questions I repeatedly asked them to take the neck brace off. They said no several times, but after I insisted they went through what sounded like some legal routine in which they asked me if I understood what I was asking them to do, whether I took full responsibility for whatever happened without the neck brace and a lot of that kind of thing. I apparently satisfied them that I was lucid enough to make the choice, so they took the neck brace off.  One of them told me that if I ended up paralyzed that I shouldn't come crying to them. I think he was joking, but I'm not sure. I'd like to think that if they really thought I had a neck or a back injury that they would have just ignored me.

The hospital was rather anticlimactic. By then they had figured out that I wasn't a serious trauma case, so they had me cool it on a gurney for what seemed like forever. Eventually I was shuffled into an X-Ray room. Then I was shuffled to an exam room where I waited for an even longer time. At least there was a baseball game on TV to help me pass the time.  Eventually a doctor came in, examined me a bit and did some more light-in-the-eyes stuff. He told me that I had a clean break to my left collar bone and  a concussion. The gash to the head was pretty minor and didn't even need stitches. Same with my legs and arm. The treatment: lots of gauze pads, a funky looking brace that fastened with velcro straps to keep my shoulder immobilized and a big honkin' prescription of some big honkin' pain killers. I'd have to fill that myself later, but the doctor gave me the first dose and I was soon feeling pretty groovy.

When they went to discharge me they asked me who would be picking me up.  Good question! Carleen was in France on a study abroad program, so she was out. My parents lived hundreds of miles away. Todd and just about any friend I could think of who could get me was out of town. My friend April was the only person I had them even try to call, but she wasn't home.  They ended up just giving me a cab voucher.

In the cab on the way back to my apartment it dawned on me: the Dylan show! I had been in the hospital a lot longer than I had realized and the show was going to start in a little over an hour. There was no way I was going to be able to drive in my condition -- too many meds, way too dizzy, too much pain -- but something told me that I needed to go anyway.  I asked the cabbie if the voucher was good for two stops. He told me it was good for anything, so I had him take me to my apartment and had him wait outside while I changed out of my bloody and muddy clothes. It took forever in my condition, but I did my best to wash up, put on some clean clothes, grabbed my ticket, got back into the cab and told him to take me to the State Fair.  I'm pretty sure he thought I was a loony, but the fact that I let him fill out the voucher himself -- tip line and all -- probably made up for it.

I found my seat a few minutes before Dylan took the stage. He began with "Jokerman" which was a song I never much cared for. "Lay Lady Lay" was a bit better because he lit into it like he was angry, kind of like he did on "Before the Flood." "All Along the Watchtower" was good, but rather rote. Things ticked up nicely by the middle of the set with some "Blood on the Tracks" tunes and then a couple of obscure things like "In the Garden," which was easily the best song of the show. He didn't play "Like a Rollin' Stone" at all, though, which would have shocked me if my fuzzy, drug-addled head had allowed me to feel shock. As it was I was groovin' and I didn't really care.

I headed for the parking lot and walked around for a good five minutes trying hard to remember where I parked before it dawned on me that I was stranded.  I waked back into the fairgrounds and stumbled through the midway a bit, trying to think of how to get back home. I could walk it, I thought, but it was a few miles through some bad neighborhoods to get back where I needed to go, and I wasn't in any shape for that. I wasn't hopeful when I called April again -- for all I know she was out of town -- but thankfully she answered.

April met me at the gates of the fairgrounds and I got in. My shoulder was starting to ache again, and I remembered that I needed to get my prescription filled.  April drove me to an all-night pharmacy way up in Dublin and then took me back home. When we got there, her husband Brian was waiting on my front stoop. Though newlyweds, neither of them were 21 yet, and I had spent the summer buying them beer. Brian got the lowdown on my bike wreck and suggested that, in celebration of my survival, we all get drunk.  Seemed like a great idea to me, so we walked across the street, got a couple of cases of lager and spent the rest of the night in my apartment drinking beer and listening to Dylan. I didn't go to work the next morning. Since I didn't wake up until after noon, I didn't even bother to call in.

That all happened sixteen years ago, and a lot of things have changed. I ride a bit slower now than I used to. I also wear a helmet when I ride these days. Dylan's shows have gotten a lot tighter since then.  I don't mix heavy prescription pain killers with alcohol anymore and I haven't slept past noon for any reason in over a decade. Brian and April are divorced and presumably buy their own beer. People carry cell phones around now, which would have been handy a couple of times that day. One of the few things that hasn't changed is my regret over the fact that I didn't get Mr. Rollerblader's name so I could thank him.

If you're out there, dude: thanks.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Adventures in Video

So I've done two videos from my spiffy basement studio so far. The first one was yesterday.  The second one was today.  I think we'll be doing them weekly at first. If they get popular we may do more. If they don't get popular I suppose we'll burn the tapes and pretend it all never happened, like "Fletch Lives," "After M*A*S*H" and "The New WKRP."

Ever hear yourself on a tape recorder and think you sound awful?  Multiply that by a gabillion for video.  People are telling me that they're coming out OK, especially for a hopeless newbie like me, but I'm not so sure.  I have a face and a voice that lend themselves to the written word.

This is not evidence that I lack self-confidence. Quite the contrary, actually. I have no problems being pasty and bald, for example. But when you're bald you don't spend all that much time looking in the mirror, and as a result you start to think you're thinner, more handsome and less pasty than you really are. And my inner monologue voice sounds a lot like Cary Grant and that just somehow doesn't make it to tape. Having an overly healthy self-image challenged in such a head-on way is a rather sobering experience.

But I suppose I'll press on with it. I'll admit, I was more comfortable today than I was yesterday. I'll likely feel even better about it next week and the week after that.  By mid-summer I'll be yelling at production assistants and shunning my unfamous friends like a genuine TV star.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Basement Studio

NBC decided that it would be a neat idea to set me up with a little studio in my basement to do video for the blog.  Ten boxes and six hours with a technician in my basement setting it all up later and the thing is operational.

You've heard people tell stories about getting drunk and making cell phone calls they regretted the next morning? Imagine what might happen if I stumble into my basement after half a bottle of Wild Turkey and start broadcasting stuff . . . 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Anna's adventures in Wonderland

We've been reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to Anna at bedtime. We do a chapter a night. When we leave the room, however, she picks up the book and goes on reading, getting about halfway through the next chapter on her own before she goes to sleep.

I finished "Lobster Quadrille" before I left her room a few minutes ago, but waited outside her door to listen to her begin "Who Stole the Tarts." She read to herself out loud, handling 19th century rhythms much better than I do when I read to her.

After a few moments I poked my head back in her room, making the excuse that I thought I had forgotten to shut her window, but mostly because I just wanted to see her lying in bed, reading the book. As I left the room I asked her what she thinks of nonsense.

"Daddy, it's not nonsense. It's Wonderland," she said, not taking her eyes off the book for a second.

Friday, April 9, 2010

My Usual Day at Work

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Complete Spring Training Report

I'm back after eight wonderful days bopping around Florida. The product as written over in baseball land ended up being about 60% travelogue, 40% baseball, so it may be of interest to the dozen and a half people who read this site.  Here are links to all the posts, in chronological order:

Greetings from Spring Training

Day with the Mets Part 1
Day with the Mets Part 2
Day with the Mets Part 3
Day with the Mets Part 4

Meeting Old Gator

Day with the Twins Part 1
Day with the Twins Part 2
Day with the Twins Part 3
Day with the Twins Part 4

Red Sox Nation South Part 1
Red Sox Nation South Part 2
Red Sox Nation South Part 3

Arrrrgh! The Pirates Part 1
Arrrrgh! The Pirates Part 2
Arrrrgh! The Pirates Part 3

An Aborted Trip to Steinbrenner Field

Phun with the Phillie Phanatics Part 1
Phun with the Phillie Phanatics Part 2
Phun with the Phillie Phanatics Part 3
Phun with the Phillie Phanatics Part 4

Spring Training Trip Wrap Up

If you have the patience to get through all of that you probably enjoyed it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

To beard or not to beard?

Things you can do when you work from home: 1. Grow beard; 2. Pretend to be 19th Century president; 3. Pretend to be Elvis; 4. Go back to normal.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fear and Loathing in the Sunshine State

I got my itinerary this afternoon. The flights and hotels are booked, the rental car is reserved and the media credentials are (almost) squared away. I'm going to Florida the second week of March to cover spring training. I'm going to once again do battle with a state with which I have never really gotten along.

 There were, I believe, three childhood vacations to the sunshine state. Maybe four -- they kind of blend together so I may be mixing up the continuity a bit -- but none of them were unequivocal successes. The earliest was a classic "let's pile six people in a Buick and drive 1,500 miles -- why? -- because it's the 1970s and that's just what people did back then" trip.  The two extras were a young neighbor couple, friends of my parents. I think I was six years-old. Must have been at least six, actually, because we were driving the light green '79 LeSabre. [UPDATE: My dad notes: "It was not a LeSabre.   It was a full deuce and a quarter. Electra 225 Limited. Strictly class."]  A celadon green, I'd say, which my parents called "the thick and chewy Buick" because of the soft cushy vinyl -- or whatever it was -- on the roof.

I dwell on the car, because I remember almost nothing of our time in Florida itself. Just the interminable drive from Flint, Michigan to Key Largo, two adults and a child in the front seat, two adults and a child in the back. Plus purses. And pillows. And books. And Kleenex boxes. And shoes. And a cooler full of sandwiches and sodas, because it was Jimmy Carter's America and malaise meant only eating at restaurants once a day no matter how far from home you were. And it was always a Howard Johnson's.

The next trip I remember was just the four of us. It started out as another driving trip, but Ronald Reagan was in office by then, and he turned us all into men and women of action. 20 miles from home my dad hit an ice patch on the highway, decided that he didn't need two days of this crap, diverted to a pay phone and booked us on a same-day flight from Windsor, Ontario to Tampa. Well, next day, technically, as the flight left at what I remember as 3AM the following morning. We waited things out in a Travelodge motel sort of sleeping, sort of not.  Once we got on the plane my brother ordered an orange juice and the flight attendant brought him a screwdriver.

The trip itself was generally OK. We went to the pre-Epcot Disney World, which I imagine today would be considered quaint.  We made it down to Key Largo again, staying in a mobile home that belonged to my grandparents. I don't think they had been down there for some time, as the inside was covered with dust and grease and all manner of nastiness. The first morning there my mom turned on the oven and the whole place filled with noxious fumes. The room in which I slept was full of my grandmother's trashy romance and horror novels. One of them had a hyper-realistic cover picture of a man being hanged. It haunted my dreams for the rest of my childhood. I can still picture it, quite vividly, nearly 30 years later.

But the real downer of that trip wasn't the trailer -- you can overlook a lot when you're near a nice beach in January -- it was a short visit with some people we used to know named the Keefes.*  They had been our neighbors in Michigan for a time. The father sold cars (Buicks, natch). The mother, who seemed on the young side and was rather loopy, worked at a record store.  Their daughter, Janie, was a year younger than me, and we were more or less inseparable when we were five and six years old.  My dad built a ladder that straddled the backyard fence so we could visit one another. I swam in Janie's pool, she played with her Barbie dolls in my basement and we decided that when we grew up we'd get married and work together as garbage men, Janie driving the truck, me riding on the back, emptying cans. She was my first best friend.

One day, however, the Keefes just picked up and moved from Michigan down to Florida. I don't think that I ever knew the details, but I recall vague talk of scandal -- maybe drugs -- and other unseemliness.  I can only assume my parents decided to visit them for my and Janie's sake, and I remember being glad to see her. Their home in Florida, however, was a disheveled mess. The morning we went to Disney World -- Janie and her mother came with us -- the power was turned off at their house and some mention was made of "confusion" over the electric bill.  I was too young to know what was going on, but I knew something was amiss.  The day in Disney was fun, but the visit has become overshadowed by a certain sadness in my mind and memory, partially because of Janie's apparently unfortunate circumstances, but also because it was the last day I ever saw her. I've often wondered how her life has gone. I worry that it hasn't gone particularly well.

The next trip to Florida started off with such promise. It was April 1984. My parents were coming off a couple of years of relative prosperity and we were making the trip in a motor home with a boat in tow. In addition to the four of us, two of our best friends -- the Yoder brothers -- were allowed to come along for the trip. The two days on the road were great fun. We brought thousands of baseball cards with us and we sorted and traded them all the way down I-75. Day three was spent out in the great big ocean in our little boat speeding around, jumping waves and having a grand time. It had all the makings of an epic vacation.

That night, however, my father was paged by the campground office. The call was from Michigan. My great Uncle Harry -- who was really more like my grandfather and who may be more responsible than anyone for me being the baseball fan I am today -- had suffered a massive heart attack and died in his back yard.  We started back home that night.  His funeral -- a Jewish affair, held an extra sundown to accommodate our journey -- was the first one I ever attended. By the end of this ordeal I had come to associate Florida with sorrow and disaster.

It would be 21 years before I'd get back there. This time I was there on legal business, dispatched to Sarasota under outrageously stressful circumstances. I wasn't exactly told to obstruct an official investigation while I was down there, but it was pretty clear that everyone on my side of the table would have been happier if the investigation went slowly and was hopeful I could make that happen. I wasn't exactly being followed by government investigators while I was down there, but they certainly knew where I was at all times during the trip.  I wasn't exactly threatened while I sat in a warehouse full of rare coins for three straight days, but the fact that the security detail that guarded them openly and freely brandished Israeli assault weapons didn't make me feel all that comfortable either.  On the bright side I billed a shitload of hours that week and back in those days that was pretty much all that mattered.

My last trip to Florida came on the same case a year later when I visited my indicted client and his wife in their stately Florida Keys home to prepare him for his criminal trial. I'll admit, the place was fabulous. Great views. Expensive wine. Wonderful steaks, seafood, sunsets and  swimming. But for as nice as the accommodations were, an air of dread hung over the entire trip. I won't say my co-counsel and I knew exactly what was coming, but we did know there were rough days ahead. I remember floating in the pool and looking at the stars one evening when Tom walked out on to his bedroom balcony above where I swam. He raised a toast to me and told me that the next time I came I'd have to bring my family. I knew there wouldn't be a next time. I don't know if he did too and was merely playing the role of charming host or if he really felt he'd beat the rap. Whether it was hubris or denial I still don't know, but it cast a pall over the entire trip.

It's been four years since that visit, and again, I prepare for Florida.  Will this be the time nothing goes sideways for me down there? The first time that no bad news, bad cars, bad hotels, bad vibes or bad people come between me and all that the Sunshine State is supposed to offer?

I'm hopeful. After all, I'm going down there for baseball. To grok the spring training zeitgeist in the service of my dream job. I'll be armed with a press pass an expense account and a vague-to-nonexistent mandate to meet people, watch games and write stuff, which is something I'm fairly confident I can handle. No amount of bad Florida juju can mess that up, can it?

Wait. Don't answer that. If you need me, I'll be checking out the cactus league schedules and checking to see if my airfare to Miami is refundable . . .

*As is the case in many of these tales, some names have been changed to protect the innocent, the guilty, the vaguely shifty and the morally dubious.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

New Albany

I like to tell people that I live in a fortified compound on the outskirts of Columbus, but I really live in New Albany.

New Albany was a genuine little village dating back to the 1850s or so, though not much of one. As late as the mid 80s it didn't have much more going for it than a feed mill, a general store and a high school for the farm kids. Like so many other Ohio farm towns it was well on its way to oblivion.  Then the New Albany Company came.

The New Albany Company was, for all practical purposes, Les Wexner and Jack Kessler.  Wexner, Columbus' only billionaire, was the founder of The Limited, which spawned and/or bought and subsequently grew and/or spun off Victoria's Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, Express, Bath and Body Works and all manner of other stores that fill your local mall.  Kessler was a developer. The two of them decided that conquering the retail world was not enough. They wanted to make a more permanent mark.  They wanted to make the prairie bloom.  So they bought up a bunch of land in and around New Albany through shell corporations, made some shady deals with the Columbus city council to get the water and sewers sent out this way and started building faux Georgian mansions everywhere. The first one built was Wexner's house. At about 22,000 square feet, it's a modest little country place for his family of four.

At the time they told the locals that if they put a blindfold on and came back in 20 years they wouldn't know where they were. And they were right.  Most of the farmers were bought-off and left, their land replaced with neighborhoods with names like Alban Mews, Clivdon, Edge of Woods, The Farms, Fenway, Hampstead Heath, Lambton Park, Lansdowne, and Upper Clarenton. Instead of soybeans, this land is now used to grow the over-privileged offspring of bankers, insurance executives and lawyers.  They go to school on a campus of buildings that looks as though it was transported in toto from the University of Virginia. Leisure trails snake through the village -- don't you dare call it anything other than a village, even though legally speaking it became a city once it surpassed 5,000 residents -- and the entire community is lined and surrounded by miles of its signature white fence.

There are still a few pre-New Albany Company old timers living in their non-Georgian, early postwar homes. They were never farmers, really. They were just people who thought they were moving out to the country once upon a time. They live in the kinds of houses that, were they on New Albany Company-controlled property, would be regulated out of existence as eyesores and threats to property values, but they're people's homes. The old timers who live in them probably hate all of the folks who moved out there for the country club and Georgian homes and white fence. I can't say I'd feel differently if I was in their shoes. 

We moved to New Albany in 2005 when our daughter was barely a year old and our son was on the way.  We were convinced that our 75 year-old house in the city was too small and too drafty in which to raise babies, and we knew that the schools in the area were sub par.  We were probably right about most of that, though whether that demanded that we move to New Albany remains an open question.

Still, I can't say I hate it here. There were several times over the past five years when the level sidewalks and nicely landscaped village green right outside our window provided a calming counterbalance to the chaos inside the house.  Anna's school is very nice. The snow is cleared off the streets quite quickly. It's quiet at night.

But though our neighborhood is among the most modest in the village, to the old timers we're probably no different than the folks in the big country club houses  Sure, I drink regular coffee and not lattes and sure I could point out the subtle differences between our Volvo wagon and those Range Rovers, but I'm not sure it would help my case.  We're part of the new New Albany. The people who destroyed the village in order to save it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Appellant's Convictions are Affirmed

I received a blast from the past last week when the decision came down in a case I left a long time ago. The case? State v. Noe, one of my three forays into criminal defense work in my eleven-year legal career. The decision: Tom Noe's conviction affirmed.  His eighteen year sentence -- which still has around sixteen years left on it -- upheld. I wrote that appellate brief a good eighteen months ago. Maybe longer. Glad to see the wheels of justice spinning so swiftly. 

For reasons that aren't worth going into here I think it's an awful decision.*  Most people familiar with Tom Noe's story don't lose any sleep over him rotting in jail, but the fact is that Tom was unconstitutionally overcharged, shafted on a dozen procedural motions, convicted in the press long before a jury was ever seated and handed a sentence that outstripped his actual transgressions by orders of magnitude (query: how does one engage in a criminal conspiracy with oneself? Only that Lucas County jury can say for sure).  Still, there's a difference between not guilty and innocent, and when you play the kinds of games, make the kinds of decisions and make the kinds of enemies Tom Noe made in his life you're not going to get a lot of calls in your favor. The upshot: I'm not terribly surprised by the outcome even if, legally speaking, it's the wrong outcome.

People who know about that case ask me how I, a liberal guy with a strong aversion to backroom political messiness could defend a hardcore, admittedly corrupt Republican dealmaker like Noe for as long as I did. I have two answers to that. Well, two answers other than "he was my boss's client so I had to do so if I didn't want to get fired."

The first one is the boring one: I truly do believe that quaint stuff about people being innocent until proven guilty, about the government having the burden of proof, about the Fourth Amendment protecting people from illegal searches and seizures and about people being treated equally under the law.  Tom Noe deserved a defense just like anyone else, and if he was going to choose my boss and, by extension, me to give it to him, I felt duty-bound to give it to him.

It was the second reason, however, that made me quite happy to defend Tom Noe day-in-day-out for nearly two years: he's a neat guy. He's funny. He's strange in a harmless though highly interesting way. For all the malevolence of which he has been accused (and convicted, I probably need to add), he's the kind of guy you just want to hang around.  And before you assume that I was either a victim of Stockholm syndrome or hypnotized by his power, wealth and charisma, let me note that by the time he entered my life he had no power or wealth left and little in the way of charisma, if indeed he ever had any. Because of the scandal and media circus that preceded his indictment, by the time I met him he was basically an unemployed guy living off of the generosity of his family and the very small number of friends who hadn't abandoned him while waiting for his inevitable trip to prison.

I have about 50 Tom Noe anecdotes, most of which I can't share due to the attorney-client privilege. This one, however, kind of sums up his personality during his limbo of 2005-06, and it's the kind of thing that made me come to like him.

Tom was living in Florida when he got indicted.  The indictment came down on a Thursday.  He surrendered himself to the local authorities, was arrested, booked, and cavity-searched on Friday, flown to Ohio for his arraignment on the following Monday during which he had to pledge both his home and his elderly mother's home in order to make bail. He was given the perp-walk to end all perp-walks, his kids were tracked down and interviewed at school, and his name and face led every newscast in the state.  When he was finally released late Monday evening he flew back home to Florida.

Our co-counsel up in Toledo was handling the nuts and bolts of the arraignment and bail, so I hadn't heard from Tom this entire time.  On Tuesday morning he calls me.  I answer the phone.

"Hey buddy!" he says cheerfully.

I jokingly ask him if anything is new.

"You bethca!  They gave me a first class upgrade on the flight back last night.  Free booze!  And man, there's a lot of legroom! You shoulda been there! Really nice. You and me fly anywhere, we gotta fly first class. It's the best!"

I laugh, thinking he's joking around, but Noe is genuinely jazzed about his upgrade.  Talks about it forever. Asks me to help him figure out the best way to get upgrades the next time he flies. This, by the way, from a man who was just indicted for stealing tens of millions of dollars. If he actually had any of the money they said he stole, he certainly wasn't using it on airfare.

Anyway, it was at that point I decided that Tom was either (a) in total denial as to the seriousness of his situation; (b) had plans to take a boat to Belize soon; and/or (c) was some kind of sociopath criminal mastermind like the Joker or something, completely dismissive of the trouble he was in.  It's been nearly four years since that conversation and I haven't been able to rule out any of those options (though if he still has plans to book it to Belize, it's gonna take a jailbreak at this point). All I know for sure is that he spent three nights wearing blaze orange in jail cells, and first class seats on a two hour flight home was all he wanted to talk about.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not defending any of Tom Noe's actions here, proven, alleged or otherwise. And none of this makes Tom Noe a good guy. The judicial system and public opinion has decided pretty clearly that he isn't. I'm just saying that little stupid things like that are the reason I liked defending the guy. And given how few of my clients in my eleven years of practice I can say that about, it has to count for something.

*Given that I haven't worked for my old law firm since 2008 and haven't talked to Tom Noe since well before that, it should probably go without saying that the opinions expressed in this post are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of my old law firm, Tom Noe or anyone else except me.  I'm sure the old law firm will give a bunch of no comments about the court's decision if they haven't already and would probably call me a whack job if asked about that. At this point I'm sure Tom Noe would talk to you if you asked him.