Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Couple Thoughts to Extend This Study Break

It's amazing how well impending finals motivate me to clean my apartment. It wasn't enough to wash the dishes or change the cat litter. No, I had to break down the cardboard, and unpack all our books from boxes, where they had been sitting since June 1st. We are moving again in six months, so it's unclear how pressing the need was to unpack those books. Oh, and I had to sort some mail. I mean, having a messy study area keeps a guy from really bearing down and focusing focusing focusing.

Fear is a powerful motivator. I have a job, and I have done well at finals for four straight semesters. Motivation thus a bit lower this time 'round.

A thought struck me the other morning: why did I stop practicing religion as soon as I decided it was fake, yet continue to consume pornography? Both require one to willingly suspend disbelief in order to create a bubble of warmth in the cold void.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Things Are Looking Up

New President. It's been a long time since I felt like our president could do some good for the nation and the world.

New Job. I will be serving a 2-year clerkship starting next year. Normally, law clerks do research and help draft judicial decisions. My job will be more focused on recommending whether the appeal should be heard at all.

New city. Moving from New York City to a smaller city. Looking forward to more time with Mrs. Beckett, more time outdoors, less time spent in traffic, lower expenses, and more snow.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Still Waiting

I have always felt there was something I would become. At some, point, I would awake into the life I was meant to live. But days and years have passed and I have not had my great awakening. I have become clearer, smarter, more focused, less self-destructive. But I am not changing the world. I still want to change the world. I still believe in the power of my insight, and my ability to help. I am a good teacher. I am a good thinker, and a good writer. I am empathic.

Within a year, I will be a lawyer. And, if nothing changes, I will be working at a law firm. Not because it is my dream, but because it is where my life is going right now. I have to be patient now. I am still in school. I am still learning. I am still building my skill as a thinker, writer, and advocate.

And I am still waiting for my life to start, even as I understand that this day, these moments are my life. They are all there is.

This time must have my care and focus. Every moment is another opportunity to awake into the life I am supposed to live because my life is the life I am supposed to live. I think this is akin to the weak anthropic principle. I have seen it rendered many ways. I attempt to render it thus: the possible conditions that can lead to the present state are necessarily unique. It's why deduction is possible. I have seen something; therefore, the universe of what could have happened is limited. Imagine, for example, that you see a wilted flower. That wilted flower can only have been produced by a limited set of occurrences, e.g., the life and death of the flower. Moreso, that flower could not be, were you not there to see it.

Just so, I now am. I could not be otherwise. My very existence removes a whole world of possibility from existence. My existence prevents my father from having been killed in Vietnam. That I never have played professional baseball prevents me from having been a professional baseball player. Thus the future affects the past as much as the past affects the future. It is a way of stating an obvious imperative that's easy to overlook.

Related: There is no meaning independent of the listener. There is no reality independent of consciousness.

Perhaps I should not be twisting astro- into metaphysics. But how else to know whether they go together?

photo: (c)2007 Derek Ramsey, grabbed from this page.

Friday, September 26, 2008

High Anxiety

Do you live your life in a state of high anxiety? Do you feel like a motor drives you from one task to the next? Do you constantly worry what others think of you? Do you have trouble relaxing? Do you feel like you're running toward a goal that keeps moving further away? DO you sleep erratically? Do you always feel like your world is about to collapse around you?

If so, you may be suffering from panic disorder, law school, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and/or manic-depression linked to the need to please others in order to maintain a sense of self worth.

Self-medication is not advised.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Police Chasing a Dog or Police and Dog Chasing a Person?

So I just got out of bed to make a trip to the bathroom and to have a light snack. As I sat at the desk in front of the window in our cozy garret apartment, I noticed police lights up the street. I then noticed movement and heard some shouting. Then I saw a couple of policeman jogging up the street. In front of them appeared to be a giant dog. A huge dog. The size of a small horse. A mastiff or some such. One of the policemen had some sort of chain. Someone yelled "back it up, back it up," and behind the dog/police parade appeared one unmarked police car with a dashboard light coming up our narrow winding street in reverse. After that came at least three more police cars.

I went downstairs and outside to investigate, where my landlord and the tenants below us were assembled, gawking at the receding lights. Sadly, I was the only one to have seen the dog. Less sadly, the thought that a horse-sized dog was loose unnerved the girl who lives below us. Her boyfriend theorized that they were looking for a claw-hammer murderer/rapist. I doubt they could have had any object but the capture of a giant dog.

It is always possible that they were actually chasing some felon (perhaps a claw-hammer murderer/rapist), that the dog was a police dog, and that the cops running behind the dog were simply holding his chain. For this to be true, my estimate of the dog's size would have to have been way off. Police, so far as I know, do not employ horse-sized dogs. It's possible I erred, though, given that I watched the action take place on a dimly lit street maybe thirty feet away.

Nevertheless, I lean toward it having been police chasing a dog. They were running down the middle of the street. Why would a fugitive or a dog chasing a fugitive do that? Anyone who's seen Cops knows that fugitives go for backyards. They want to hide. Also, I never saw a person running in front of the dog; just a dog trotting (seemingly nonchalantly) in front of the cops. Finally, I was immediately struck by the size of the thing. For a moment I really did wonder whether it was a horse.

Regardless, it was more than I bargained for when I got up to piss and eat some crackers.


Dear Conservatives,
If you support the bailout of failed financial firms, stop your sniveling about assistance to the indigent.

Dear Libs,
If you support welfare programs, please spare the world your outrage that the feds would bail out financial firms.

Dear Everyone,
I am aware that corporate and personal welfare are two different things. But both are premised on the idea that our government should protect us economically, even when we are partly to blame. The differences lie mainly in how "us" is defined. Unfortunately, the indigent do not have the same voice or power as corporate America. Example: Bankruptcy. Tough on consumers; cushy for corporations.

Also, Dunkin Donuts on Lefferts Blvd. in Kew Gardens has consistently tasty coffee. Much better than at the Metropolitan Ave. Kew Gardens location, at which it is consistently burnt.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Win for Life

I've seen a lot of a certain lottery commercial recently. A balding guy grins maniacally while talking the viewers through his shit-eating-grin-inducing life. He's won Win For Life, so he gets a million dollars a year for life. Thus, he shows us how he rows a treadmill (next to his accountant) and drinks wheatgrass (next to his personal trainer). He is doing these healthy things, he explains, in order to live as long as possible, so as to keep the money pouring in for as long as possible.

For a while, I didn't pay much attention to this commercial. But it annoyed me a bit more than other commercials. Tonight I realized why I find the commercial so unnerving. The lottery-winning man is grimacing because his life is gruesome. He is attempting to smile, (because the the thought of money still excites him), despite the harrowing prospect of year upon year of life bent on nothing but its own extension.

His family would keep him alive at all costs, unless those costs got too close to one million a year.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Life of the Mind

So the law firm I worked at this summer offered me a job today. An honest to goodness, 160,000-a-year-to-start-corporate-servant job. I would be a courtesan to the moneyed elite.

When I was maybe 8 or 10, when I was in first, maybe second grade, a friend of the family who I idolized told me corporate lawyer was a great job. He said that was where the money was. He said corporate lawyers were rich. I thought rich equaled unassailably happy, so for awhile, when grownups asked my little self what I wanted to be, I said corporate lawyer.

Before that it was fireman, and then missionary bush pilot, then, after corporate lawyer, astronaut and Air Force fighter pilot. By the time I was in high school I realized that me and most of society were not a good fit. Between that realization and the deep pain I felt within me, artist seemed like the natural choice.

So visual artist, then actor. To survive, I became a proofreader, including legal proofreading, and after years of underusing my brain and longing for more challenge I decided on law school so that I could make a daily difference in people's lives. I wanted to be a public defender, or maybe work for the ACLU. So I went to a less prestigious school than I could have in order to minimize my debt.

I have done very well in law school. That success got me this job, which payed me $80/hr, $3,100/wk, for 11 weeks this summer. This summer has provided me with a direct path to worldly wealth and success.

I don't want it. I like a lot of law work, but I don't like the work I did this summer. I like that I got good training and became a better thinker and writer, but I need a client that I care about. I need a person, not a corporation, to help. I am applying for clerkships. If I get a position with a judge for a couple years, it will delay the decision for a while.

You may be reading this wondering, he doesn't want to do the job, what is the problem? You may also be reading this wondering why I am so conflicted about a job that could set me up financially for life. I don't want to work 80 hours a week, but I don't want to be broke. I want to be able to raise children and not subject them to poverty. On the other hand, I don't want to be "The Cat's in the Cradle" dad and never see my kids.

I will be taking the bar exam in one year. If I accept the job with this law firm, they will pay for me to study for the bar. And of course, once I take the bar and start work, I will have the money to buy a house. How strong the golden handcuffs become would be a function of what kind of house I buy, what kind of suits I decide to wear. If I don't take this job, I will have to drop one more loan on top of the rest in order to study for the bar.

I have struggled since entering law school with how to live within a culture to which I am deeply opposed without assimilating the values of that culture. It's tough. I want to accept, be accepted, fit in, and not live in constant dissonance. Put another way, were I to take this job, in two years would I still be indifferent to the Hamptons and Cape Cod?

I know I should turn this job down. But it's hard for me to say "no" to people who want me. And it's also hard to say no to a solid offer of a good job that could help me build a safety net for me and my family when I will have to wait until the New Year to know whether I can get the job I want. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

This is a very long post, but this is a very weird, difficult time.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Meaning What

Maybe you know what I meant, maybe I know. We can agree that it was an accident, right?

I take the strips of paper from shredded documents. I stare at the parts of letters and form them into words like these.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Summer Love

I apologize, as all periodic bloggers must, for my long absence. Law school is on hiatus while I work for the man. I am working for an international law firm. A firm that is called a midsized firm. Something like 250 attorneys worldwide. And attendant staff. But why count them? I just got back from a recruiting event. A scavenger hunt in the Village, topped off by a boozy dinner at a nice restaurant, and a cab home to Queens.

While many of my classmates wonder why they have been unable to find work for the summer, while many of them work for low pay, while all over the world people starve despite being desperate to work, some of us make $3,100 a week. Apparently, my work is billed at $250/hr. And I am not even at a "top" law firm. Those summer associates by and large do no work at all. I do a fair amount of work. And I am learning a lot. The problem is that doing this work at all is contrary to my politics.

I thought it would be easier to take the money and run. The idea was that I would use this lucrative summer of working for the man to pay off my final year of law school and work in the public interest. But a year here could by a house, and pay off my loans, and, and, and suddenly I am at a corporate firm, and forty years old, and thinking, a few more years, and I'll make partner, and I'll really be able to make a difference.

Meanwhile I'll own real estate in the area and in Vermont and have close friendships with corporate overlords. I can see from here how easy it is to become what I loathe.

I got lucky enough to be assigned a pro bono case (meaning the client gets free legal representation), and the client is a self-entitled professional student. The kind of person who always gets off while the homeless person whose threats are clearly the products of insane delusions gets five years.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Of Decedents

Part I.

The thing that sucks about the Sean Bell trial is that either the prosecutor brought a case they shouldn't have, or they or the judge did a bad job. Either the cops shouldn't have been up on those charges at all, or justice was not served. The defense lawyers sounded pretty good at riling up the prosecution witnesses and getting them to contradict themselves. But the prosecutor should have been prepared for it. He should have known the weaknesses of his witnesses.

I was flat-out wrong about the possibility of rioting. The paramiitary police presence in this town had something to do with it, as did the fact that a couple of the police were black. Instead of being a case that symbolized out of control police driven by hatred of blacks, it was a story about out of control police who just screwed up royally.

Part II.

So I spent three hours, from 6:30-9:30, dealing with decedents, trustees, grantors, right of election, the rule against perpetuities, ademption, abatement, per stirpes distributions, essay questions, multiple choice questions, a monitored bathroom break.

Here's the way this excruciating process works. You spend a whole semester learning new concepts, statutes, and cases, attempting to assimilate large and complex doctrines in a day or two. So one thing piles on top of another, on top of another. If you seek out the professor, or read more deeply into a topic, you can alleviate what confuses you, but that puts you at risk of falling behind, since it's more all the time. All the while, you have to collect all this information with an eye to assimilating it all at the end of the semester. You make outlines, or flashcards, or charts, or you reread your notes. And as the semester goes on, and the number of things you failed to fully grasp accumulates, the final exam looms larger and larger. And, finally, after you are exhausted from a semester of reading cases and sitting through alternately challenging and brain-deadening classes, and writing papers, and editing footnotes for a journal, and writing briefs and doing oral arguments for moot court, it's time to study for exams. Just when you are burnt out enough to fall down and sleep all summer, time to study for finals. So you break out your notes and outlines, and study aids, and you tell yourself "this isn't going to be that bad," and at first you feel okay about it. But the more you study, the more you realize the gaping holes in your knowledge. You realize that this is a memorization contest that you can't win. And the pressure builds every day as the final gets closer. A bad grade, and your scholarship could be in danger, or you won't be able to apply for a clerkship, or you won't do well enough to graduate cum laude. One grade gains an outsized importance, and the pressure is ever-increasing, because you have no clue what the test is going to be about. So you go into the test that stands as your grade for the entire semester, and you wait and wait for it to start, and try to make small talk to pass the time, and then it starts. And your heart is pounding, and then there's a question you don't know. You're totally thrown. Can't remember it. Stuff you know, or think you know, and you just can't be sure of the answer. One after another of 120 multiple choice questions, and none of them are easy, because you have to look for tricks in all of them. You have to apply an exception to an exception to a rule, and hope you did it right and mark your little T or F in the bubble.

Then you read essay 1, and think, wow, I think I know how to do this, and you start through it, and then realize it's not quite what you thought. This is something you've never even contemplated before, and now you have to do a correct analysis of it applying a set of tools that you barely know how to use alone, let alone in harmony. It's like asking a person who's learned to play recorder, triangle and base drum to conduct a symphony. Subtlety? You'll be lucky if you nail all the obvious stuff. You're sure that there are issues layered into the problem that you can't see, but you don't really have time, because you only get 45 minutes per essay. So about 2 hours into this thing, you're heartrate is still through the roof, your mouth is dry, and you can barely force yourself to do the last essay. So you bang through it, feeling less worried about whether what you're writing is wrong anymore, because it's too late now, you just have to go with what you have. 15 minutes to go and you try to recheck your 15 or so multiple choice that confused you. You generally come out the same way. Fret and change one or two. You have no idea what just happened in the past three hours, and then it's over. They call time. And then someone asks you a question and you know you missed at least one big issue. And you start thinking about the test, and what you did wrong, and how much you were unsure about. You look around at a roomfull of ashen faces. People say things like, "the professor could have just beat the shit out of me, and saved me this agony." You go home thinking, "maybe I really blew it. What if I get a C? A C-? Is it even possible for me to get an A?"

And then, then, then, you have to shut out that experience within 12 hours or so, because you have another beating ahead in just a few days, and you can't let the demoralizing experience of one exam ruin those that follow it. You need confidence in these things. And after all the testing is done, after every poor law student has attempted to spew back an entire semester's learning in three or four three-hour sessions, the month-long grade watch starts. Some people will move to the top of the class. Some will get Fs. Some will get A+s. Some will lose their scholarship money. For many, it won't make a very big difference. But every day, multiple times a day, you'll be checking to see if any new grades are up. You might even start checking before finals are over.

By the time all grades are in, work for the next year has already started. Moot court, fellowship applications, clerkship applications.

And then it starts again.

I know you reading this will think: he's just got to relax. One grade isn't that important. And you are right, but if you were in this place, it would happen, to you, too. It happens to everyone here. It's intentionally stressful to the point that finals are traumatic experiences. I really do remember certain awful finals moments with absolute clarity.

The school looks like a prison, and around finals, it becomes one in the short term.

Part III
I swear, Hillary Clinton must have made a deal with the devil. It explains everything.

Part IV
And the Elliot Spitzer thing was only a month ago, but now all the press can talk about is miley cyrus doing a sexually suggestive picture for Vanity Fair. Apparently, people were angry that Vanity Fair photographed her as an underage sex object. Isn't that what she was before? The picture may well go too far, but how does it go any further than her image as it stood?

So it's okay to have her dressed like a stripper in a schoolgirl outfit why? Because she's actually young enough to be a schoolgirl? That's okay, but the Vanity Fair Shoot is not.

Underage girls are constantly being tarted as sex objects.

But the one picture that causes outrage is one in which she is undeniably naked beneath that sheet, as opposed to undeniably naked under scant clothing. It must be that putting her on the bed under the sheet acknowledged without artifice that she is a sex object, which shoved the Disney Channel parents' faces into the awful truth: Miley Cyrus is a sex symbol. Countless creepy men and adolescent boys drool over her, and countless young girls try to replicate her precocious sexual alure.

Vanity Fair didn't cause the problem. It took a picture of it.

Friday, April 25, 2008

What a Surprise

Our justice system fails again. The Sean Bell killers walk.

The charges were politically calculated. They tried to take the middle road. No murder charges so the cops don't get too pissed. Manslaughter charges that won't stick to try to placate the masses. One has to wonder how much the prosecutors really wanted a conviction. The judge said the prosecution witnesses were not credible, while the defense witnesses were. A bunch of black dudes from a strip club is found less credible than a group of police officers brought up on criminal charges whose testimony is self serving.

What makes the most sense of what we know from that night? An undercover officer with gun drawn approached a car full of guys who had just had a confronation. They try to get away, and bump the cop with their car. The cop panics and fires (he claims he incorrectly thought they had a gun, and was terrified of being shot). The whole swarm of them panic and fire. So the cops' defense is, when it boils down to it: we were incompetent, but not criminally so. They were there to run a prostitution sting, and found themselves in a situation they could not handle.

I don't know the ins and outs of the trial. The judge's decision may well be correct. But people will not accept that police who behaved insanely, firing 50 times (one even emptied his clip and reloaded), can be innocent of all charges.

Will there be riots? I am located not far from the courthouse, and I hear helicopters circling above. No justice, no peace?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Are You Named Dylan or Julian?

Then, chances are, you are one of the guys above, or your parents live in Park Slope.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

More of the Same

April already? Really? Winter just started. Hell, it was just Thanksgiving.

The trees budded. It's light out at 8:00. It's bright out, but still cold.

I've never before felt I wanted to hold back time like now. The summer will be by, another fall, and I will expect the calendars to read 1999.

I feel 21. Not like I did when I was 21; then I scarcely felt.

When I was 16, I made problems up to see how many I could leave unsolved. They were biting flies that swarmed me. Terror and beauty were no different. Abjection and beauty. Desolation and beauty. I wanted to somehow draw inside me the thousand night lights of the oil refineries along the Turnpike, near Newark Airport. I wanted to draw them past my reflection into the car into my self. That they represented some grand truth I knew certainly.

I wanted simultaneously to be destroyed by wickedness and to defend purity. Even if that sounds trite, it is also true.

I still make up problems. Now I solve the problems too. Each fly is hardier than the next. Each next whisks with it the thrill of maybe being the one that prostrates me.

I remind myself that when I fixate on the past or the future, I miss the present. I hold my breath, I force a deep breath, I imagine popularity or rejection. I hold my breath. If I'm lucky, I'll think, this is right, which it no longer is. Then I force a deep breath. Then I rue.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Holy Shit

I can't believe a powerful politician hired a hooker. I pray none of our trusted leaders have ever used cocaine or driven drunk.

And oh, the painful irony that he painted himself as a reformer. Gadzooks, he may be disingenuous, self-deceiving, self-deifying, or amorally in it for the power, or some combination of the above. Up to now, I thought politicians said what they meant and meant what they said. And what are the implications if his behavior is not limited to the political class? Is it possible that all people are capable of believing one thing and acting contrary to that belief in spite of it?

At the very least, we can count on NY's reputation for clean government and lawfulness being tarnished.

Rilke warned against sarcasm. I believe he said it was for the lazy. I agree, but I am tired.

On a different note, I wonder how many people's first reaction was: "at least he isn't a homo."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Dear MS Word: Fuck You, Die

How many years has Microsoft been working on Word? Yet, after all this time, they can't design a program that doesn't freeze and crash with regularity. And they feel the need for Word to constantly interfere with your work while you are writing. Self-applying styles? Why not? I mean, why not make your user want to smash his computer to bits in a frenzy over your shitty program? I've got a great idea. How about, when a user cuts and pastes text from other documents, why don't you sometimes impose formatting changes on that text that can be neither seen nor altered by the user. That is a wonderful idea. It is probably fun to imagine your users' tears of frustration and rage. With near 100% market dominance, why produce a functional, nonintrusive interface when you can deliver a bloated piece of shit?

Fuck you Microsoft. Power has made you stupid.

EDIT, 3/11
My more perceptive reader(s) may have inferred that a bad incident involving Word prompted the above tirade. Such an inference is correct. It turned out, I lost no more than 15 minutes of work to the crash. So, now that I am calm, and have had an opportunity for less agitated reflection, I wish to add an addendum.

Microsoft, Word, I am compelled to use you. I understand that you will do all in your power to maintain your market dominance. I understand that you pay a lot of engineers to do things like think up new toolbars to add to your overburdened program, so that you can sell a new release every so often and claim that you have made "upgrades." I also understand that you will never bother to make Word for Mac a quality product, as it is in your best interests to make Mac as unappealing as possible. And sadly, the alternatives to you create compatibility problems and interface issues. So I have to work with you. But I do not have to like you. And I will keep trying to get out of this relationship. Because you are a bad program, Microsoft Word, and I am a good person, who should not have to take your shit.

Monday, February 11, 2008

It's not all bad.

I complain more than I should about a choice I made, and continue to make. Complaining and acting like evil forces are forcing all this work on me does not help. It makes me feel overburdened and persecuted.

I am too acutely aware of my numbers, of the competitive aspect of it. 18/211, 3.66; 21/232, 3.67; 17/256, 3.74. My ranks and gpas from my first three semesters, in ascending order. I can also tell you that I was top 9% last semester and moved up to top 6.6% this semester. I feel insecure that, despite all the As I've managed, I have yet to get an A+. Am I serious? Yeah. I wish I wasn't. I don't even know why I'm working so hard anymore. I have a great job locked up already. I don't need these kind of grades to get a public defender job. The only reason to obsess over grades and rank is if they represent my own worth. The inadequacy of grades as a reflection of my self worth is evident in that, even with excellent grades, I am wracked by insecurity. Having nothing but A+s and being #1 would not heal my pain.

But I started by writing that it's not all bad. Because it isn't. The competition, the stress, the grades; that shit is bad. But I like trusts & estates. I like mastering concepts and learning to work within a complex web of rules. I like my saturday morning class, where I get to do opening statements and cross examinations, just like a real actor, er, lawyer. I like my con law class, helmed by a crotchety throwback with sideburns and a jacket with elbow pads. He makes us all sit with one seat in between, disallows eating and drinking (even water), does not permit ANY absences, and makes his students handwrite the finals. I like my theater law class, which feels warmly familiar. I get a lot out of that school. So I am trying to appreciate it more and spit bile less. I presume that those within spitting distance will be grateful.

And yeah, that's what the law building looks like.

Here's a haiku I wrote about it.

hulking and ashen,
law school looks like a prison
or a factory

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Every once in a while I will read some of my writing from a few years back. It's all from a few years back. I haven't done any creative writing in a couple of years at least. Not a play, not a story. Shit, I can barely keep this thing updated once a month. Before this whole law school nightmare started, even when I wasn't writing, I was still creating. I acted, I directed. I did what inspired me. Now, I do what I am told. I do what must be done to get the degree, and to get the most out of a crappy situation. I even enjoy it. I like the challenge. I have some good friends. But I don't create. I write briefs. I write memos. I write papers. But I don't write. And that really sucks. I have always felt the urge to create art. Art is what has moved me, and excited me; it is what's precious about life. I want to be a part of it and create it.

But I need to do the law school thing right now. I think it was the right thing to do, but it is harder than I could have imagined.

I know I couldn't do it without Mrs. Beckett.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Little Brothers

Two moments of sadness this past week. First, my little brother by blood, the one I grew up with, suffered the death of his grandmother. She was not my grandmother, and her passing did not move me much, but I feel for him. My grandmother died not too long ago, and I miss her still. The funeral took place in a viewing room at a funeral home. It was open-casket. The priest gave a fairly formulaic speech, did the rites, and then we walked out. The priest did a fairly good job; he didn't seem to know her or the family. That was my Wednesday morning. Thinking of you, little brother.

The other moment just occurred. As I have mentioned here before, I am a mentor with Catholic Charities. My Little is now 13. He is a bright, energetic, sensitive young kid. Everyone remarks on his smile. Anyway, he just called me, and told me in his always-quiet voice that he couldn't hang out tomorrow. We were going to finish putting together the Lego Ferrari I got him for his birthday. It was clear he had been crying and he wouldn't tell me what had happened. And he said he didn't know when he would be able to hang out. He then told me, with a little urgency, that he had to go. I heard his mother saying "Get off the phone," and he sort of whimpered a little. I think I said OK, or bye or something and she yelled at him to get off the phone again.

I wish I could go there and take him out of there, if just for a half hour. I was in his shoes, on the other end of the phone, many times as a kid. I was constantly getting into trouble for which my mother's preferred method of punishment was some sort of deprivation. I would be forbidden to see my friends, or go out, or watch a TV show, or have a snack. So I felt deep empathy for him. I know he is lonely, and that his mother is stretched to the limit. And I think he has been branded as a problem and a troublemaker. If making trouble is how he gets his mother's attention, I know from experience, their conflicts are unlikely to abate any time soon.

I also miss the chance to hang out with him. Playing and putting Legos together and eating pizza is a nice break from law work. And I know it means a lot to him to be treated as specially as we treat him here in the Beckett household. So, I'm thinking of you, too, little brother.