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Posts Tagged ‘Trial’

I’m a hat guy. I don’t know why. Throughout my life, I have collected and worn hats. Every five years or so my hat collections have disappeared like all the other things I have collected whenever in a fit of despair or of some other absurdly irrational emotion, I have abandoned, given away or sold them all.

I have also worn many different kinds of hats from the elegant black Homburgs I wore 50 years or so ago whenever I would go to court on the day I was to sum up my case to the jury, to ascot caps, Australian bush hats, balaclavas, beanies, berets, boaters, bowlers, coonskin caps, deerstalkers, turbans, fedoras, ghutrahs, yarmulkes, Panama’s, Stetson’s, pith helmets, Santa hats, sombreros, Toques, Trilbys, and many others.

I should not have been surprised then when 14-year-old Hayden began wearing a hat regularly. It did begin to worry me, however, when this began to seem like the beginning of an obsession like mine.

It all began a few weeks ago. The early summer heat settled on the Great Valley. The morning’s springtime breezes began slowing beneath the light caress of the warming sun. It is a fine day. I was looking forward to a day of blissful indolence when I received a message from Hayden insisting I pick him up at the skatepark after school.

I became worried. He rarely demands my assistance. So, I drove off into the Golden Hills to find out what was going on.

On the way, I  stopped for lunch at an upscale Italian restaurant near Town Center that I had wanted to try for some time now. Its interior reeked of suburban elegance. and its menu was limited but expensive. The wine list, however, was extensive but overpriced. I ordered gnocchi in a squash and butter cream sauce along with a glass of prosecco. The meal was tasty but too heavy for my liking.

After lunch, I drove to the skatepark picked up Hayden along with his friends Jake and Caleb. As he was getting into the car, I asked him what was so urgent. He said, “I want to buy a hat for my trip this summer to Cozumel with Jake and his family. I picked one out at Tilly’s in Folsom.” 

So, off we drove to Tilly’s in Folsom to buy the hat. following which I drove them back to Dick’s house where, after warning them not to get into too much trouble, I drove out of the foothills and back to the Enchanted Forest.

Here is a photograph of Hayden in that hat:

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A few weeks later, I drove once again into the Golden Hills to pick up HRM after school and drive him home. It was the first day in about a week that the sky was neither mostly overcast nor actually raining. Instead, the sky was filled with big giant cottony battleships of clouds, floating on a sea of bright blue. It was warm — not the warmth of late spring, light and with a promise of warmth, but more like the warmth of autumn, sharp-edged and resisting the march of winter cold.

As he entered the car he told me he had ordered a new hat and was waiting for it to arrive.

“I thought you bought a hat when I drove you to Tilly’s last week,” I said.

“I did,” he responded, “But I wanted another one also.”

When we arrived at the house, we saw a package leaning against the front door. Hayden eagerly tore open the box and pulled out his new hat. Here it is:

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Being a hat guy myself, I liked it.

I pondered over H’s emerging fondness for hats and recalled several years ago when he was five or six years old, I had promised him that we would write a short comic book together entitled “Hayden Without a Hat.” Each evening thereafter he asked me if I was ready to write the story with him and each night I gave some excuse or another. Finally, being tired of my evasions and convinced I would never get around to it, he decided to write the store himself in a notebook and one evening instead of asking me again he handed it to me. The notebook contained the following (everything is as he wrote it including the punctuation, except for the quotation marks which I added). I promised him I would “publish” it. So here it is:

“Story for little boys, girls!

Hayden Without a Hat
Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Hayden Without a Hat.

“Oh, no!” says Grandpa Pooky. “Oh no!!!” Grandpa Pooky says “You need a hat.”

“A hat…” says Hayden, “a hat.” “Let me think. Hmmm, ok” Hayden says. “I do need a hat!!!! “Hey, we can go to the hat store.”

So Hayden picked out his favorite hat. It was just like Grandpa Pooky’s hat.

Remember kids always have a hat!!! And mom’s and dad’s.”

For those who may have some interest in the various head coverings I have chosen to wear recently, here are a few:

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And one not so recent:

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One day, after a brief sojourn at my sister’s house on the Mendocino coast, I stopped at Booneville’s bakery and coffee shop for a breakfast. I ordered a coffee and a scone. As I sat down at a table by the window, I noticed a copy of the local newspaper that someone had left behind. I picked it up started reading as I ate my breakfast.

The newspaper’s masthead identified it as the Anderson Valley Advertiser. Its motto Fanning the Flames of Discontent sounded to me more like a call to scratch an itch than to a revolution. The paper also claimed that it was the Last Newspaper in California. I had no idea what that meant.

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The office of the Anderson Valley Advertiser and its Editor.

On the front page,  a lengthy article appeared entitled, The Courtroom As Porn Parlor. I surmised it would prove diverting and began to read. It reported on a trial recently concluded in Ukiah, the Mendocino County Seat.

It seems that a 15-year-old girl from the coastal hamlet of Point Arena was, as has been common with teenagers forever, unhappy with the behavioral restrictions imposed on her by her mother, a single mother, who worked nights and whose husband, the girl’s father, lived in another state. The mom, in the running for mother of the year, responded to her daughter’s complaints by threatening her wayward daughter with being sent off to live with her father with “all his rules.”

The daughter, as teenagers will, sought solace elsewhere. In this case, on the internet, and in social media, especially rap sites and chat rooms. Eventually, and as expected, her pleas and complaints elicited a sympathetic response from a seeming sympathetic 25-year-old young man, Thessalonian Love. Rap Star Love as he came to be known in the article. Rap Star resided at the time in the less than picturesque city of San Bernardino. One of Rap Stars earliest and perhaps most effective messages to our Point Arena ingenue intended, I assume, to soothe emotional turmoil experienced by the troubled young lady  declared:

“Yeah, I’m a guy, so show me them titties, bitch, and send me a ass shot!”

Responding eagerly to such endearments our ingenue and Thessalonian eventually agreed that he would travel to Mendocino, take her away from her drab existence besides the crashing surf, rolling hills and redwood forests and introduce her to the excitement of life in beautiful downtown San Bernardino.

Somehow, Mom got wind of this and when Love the Lothario presented himself at the girl’s school he was met not by the object of his affections but by the Sheriff who promptly arrested him on various charges of attempting to corrupt a minor and human trafficking.

The trial of Thessalonian Love aka Rap Star Love commenced with his lawyer’s opening statement to the jury that began:

“I don’t think 15-year-old girls still call it a pee-pee anymore,

and continued;

“As for oral copulation, we’ve had President Clinton discussing it on TV long before this little girl was even born. And if any of you have listened to rap music, like most 15-year-olds have, you know it’s not unusual, or foreign and, frankly, these girls not only call their vagina a pussy, they refer to themselves — their gender collectively, despite the progressive achievements of the feminist movement — by the same terminology.”

And further on;

“We don’t know what this girl and her friends had to say about this ‘rap star’ coming to see her, but we can imagine they were pretty excited.”

Indeed.

The trial lasted ten days mostly made up of reading into the record or listening to the recorded communications between the young lovers. I would like to imagine that the jurors, hearing the rap exchanges, saw the young lovers as modern versions of Romeo and Juliet’s, but I doubt it.

As fascinating and entertaining as this may have been, however, it was not the most interesting thing that happened during the trial. No, not by a long shot.

The defendant took the stand. Unusual though it may have been, it, in itself, was not particularly interesting. What was, was that after a day on the stand attempting to explain himself, Thessalonian, began to lose hope, so after court was closed for the day, as he was being returned to the jail by the bailiff, Rap Star Love escaped.

The entire police force of Ukiah, including its four-person SWAT team and its K-9 Corps, was called out to search for him. They searched for him all night to no avail. This was odd because as cities go Ukiah is distinctly modest. In fact, even as towns go, Ukiah would still not shed its modesty.
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The next morning, a bailiff on the way to the court spotted our Thessalonian standing motionless in front of the town’s Walgreen’s and took him into custody. After feeding him breakfast he promptly returned him to the courtroom to resume his testimony. Unfortunately, Rap Star, not having slept all night, would periodically nod off during questioning.

Later during the trial, after Love complained to his attorney bitterly and loudly (out of the hearing of the Jury of course) that he was not receiving the quality of defense for which he was not paying, his attorney was overheard responding:

“You haven’t listened to a single thing I’ve said, and now you are in so deep there’s hardly anything I can do to save you from even the weakest charges they have against you. So, please be quiet for a minute, and let me think how best to salvage this mess.”

Thessalonian Love was quickly convicted by the jury on all counts and before sentencing on those charges now awaits trial for escaping while in custody.

All I could think of as I finished reading the article was, “Who knew things like this happened among Mendocino’s rolling hill and vineyards?”

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There comes a time in every journey where novelty begins to pale and events become merely circumstances to endure on the way home. Awakening this morning after a night of almost no sleep became that point for me.

One of my favorite travel books is entitled A “Short Walk Through the Hindu Kush.” It was written by Eric Newby who in 1956, at the age of 36, ended his London career in fashion and decided impulsively to travel to a remote corner of Afghanistan where no European had ventured for 50 years. Although ill-prepared and poorly experienced, Newby and his friend Hugh vowed to climb Mir Samir, an unclimbed 20,000-foot glacial peak in the Hindu Kush. He and his friend prepared for the venture by spending a weekend with their girlfriends hiking in Wales. Then, after driving a Volkswagen van from London to Kabul where they picked up their cook, they began their trek. Long before they had reached Mt. Samir (which they ultimately never climbed) they had arrived at the same juncture that I had this morning.

For today’s trip, I was asked to ride in the new truck of the friend in whose house I had spent the sleepless night. She drove and Lek and I accompanied her.

Lek told me about her concerns for her friend’s happiness and marriage. It seems the friend had married a man who worked for the Thai version of the forest service. According to Lek, he treated his wife badly, telling her he was going to work but later appearing in the city with a woman he claimed was his daughter. Lek also was unhappy that he had persuaded his wife to spend their money on this new truck when they already had a perfectly serviceable older vehicle. In addition, the man apparently had alienated the wife’s children from a prior marriage.

Having met the gentleman, I concluded that Lek’s concerns were probably accurate.

We spent most of the day traveling to the other end of the lake (or to a new lake, I did not know which) I dozed on and off throughout the drive. I was so exhausted I was dizzy.

We arrived at a place that I was told contained the longest wooden bridge in Thailand. It was built from scrap lumber and crossed the lake to connect two villages that had been forced to relocate on higher ground when their original villages were inundated by the rising water caused by the construction of a dam forming the lake. One village was Karen and one was Mon. I did not know which was which.

Anyway, the building of the bridge by the townspeople, with little assistance from anyone, was considered so remarkable that it was almost miraculous, prompting the local temple to conduct extensive and colorful ceremonies every year commemorating the completion of construction and as a side benefit bringing substantial tourist dollars to the temple and community.

We crossed the extremely rickety bridge, that was undergoing repair and reconstruction for the first time since it was built and walked down to the lake shore where a small village of houseboats awaited.

We got into a rooster-tail boat to cross the lake to view the partially submerged ruins of the local temple. The water level in the lake had dropped about 20 feet in the last few years for some reason, so the temple now stood on its own little Island. The trip came complete with the obligatory mysterious and miraculous legend.

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It seems the head monk who built the temple 20 years or so ago also planted a grove of palm trees that he tended assiduously throughout his life. On the day of his death, mysteriously and miraculously all the palm trees died. You can still the tips of their blackened trunks rising above the waters of the lake.

We returned to the shore. Ate lunch in a local restaurant, recrossed the bridge and headed back. We ate dinner at the same roadside place as last night. I was too exhausted to know what I was eating. Then off to drive back to Kanchanaburi through a driving rainstorm to a motel where I went directly to my room and immediately dropped off to sleep without stopping to remove my clothing.

 

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A few years ago, I read a news report that Sharon Stone had been signed to play Linda Lovelace’s mother in an upcoming biopic to be called, “Lovelace.”

Linda Lovelace (originally Linda Boreman) was my first wife’s younger sister, so I obviously knew her mother well. Sharon Stone is not who I would have chosen to play her. On the basis of physical appearance, personality and hairstyle, the Kathy Bates of “Misery” would be more appropriate.

Linda’s mom, following the all too frequent and normal indiscretions of a teenager of the time, found herself unmarried, with a child and, it being the 1940s, with little hope of finding a husband as she was during those dark days considered “damaged goods.” However, as luck, pluck or whatever would have it, she found someone who did marry her and had two additional children, my ex-wife Jeanne and Linda. As was not unusual during those times and in that social strata, Linda’s mom then became a religious fanatic and often beat her daughters for exhibiting the slightest evidence of sexuality, all to no avail with any of the three sisters.

Linda’s dad was a tall man, a gentle giant, 6’7″ or so and looked a little like Liam Nielsen with a weak chin. I liked him a lot. He was a kind, humorous inoffensive man. My mom referred to him as the most ineffectual man she had ever met. That is saying something given my Mom’s long marriage to my father who, love him as I did, nevertheless topped my list for that particular classification.

Linda’s dad drank a lot. In fact, he drank rather steadily and as far as I can recall was drunk more often that he was sober, a sweet, funny, blackout kind of drunk.

He also had a bad back, a disk problem of some sort in his lower back. One afternoon we came into the house and found him on his knees on the floor with his face pressed into the sofa. At first, we thought he was drunk, having found him like this several times before. We usually just left him alone like that to sleep it off. It was only when we heard a groan and a muffled cry for help that we realized that he had thrown out his back and we quickly called for an ambulance.

Linda’s dad was an NY City police patrolman. He joined the force for the sole purpose of putting in his 20 years or so and retire to live in Florida. His career was notable for his never having received a promotion or a commendation. Its other highlights were that he never took a bribe, never unholstered his gun and never issued a ticket of any kind. As a result, his superiors regularly assigned him to the worst beats and saddled him with the worst shifts (e.g., 3 AM to 11 AM) imaginable where he continued to steadfastly refuse to notice any crimes committed in his vicinity whatsoever.

Perhaps it was his incorruptibility or his stoic refusal to notice the criminality around him that prompted the station captain, once a month, to choose him to drive him around to the businesses within his precinct to collect that month’s graft payments.

Linda herself was, for the most part, a friendly, attractive, empty-headed teenager, the kind that used to be called a valley girl here in California.

When she was about 16 years old, her father retired and promptly moved the family which now consisted only of himself, his wife and Linda, to Florida, the older two girls having married and were busy raising families of their own. They settled on a town called Opa-Laka in a home he had purchased years ago in preparation for retirement. Opa-laka originally was basically a retirement community for NYCPD patrolmen but over the years has degenerated into one of the Miami areas worst slums.

Within a few months, Linda was thrown out of the home by her parents and returned to NY to live with her sister and me, our two babies, Jason and Jennifer, and our neurotic dog in our large home in Yorktown Heights in the uppermost reaches of Westchester County.

I remember that time fondly, especially because it was during her stay that Linda gave me my first toke of Marijuana, for which I will always be grateful to her.

Linda was also affectionate. Every evening as her sister and I lay in bed, before retiring into her own bedroom, she would come in to give us a goodnight kiss and hug, wearing see-through bikini pajamas. (I wonder if that will make it into the movie.)

Another notable thing about Linda was that she was utterly unable to answer a question without including a large dose of fantasy. Although she did this at times to deceive, she also did it when deception was not an issue. For example, if you came upon her eating a bowl of ice cream and you asked her if she was enjoying it, she would launch into an often quick-witted response denying she was eating ice cream at all.

Another thing about her was that she was a clever, enterprising and successful shopper, amassing closets full of the latest fashions and accessories, all without paying a cent for them.

At that time, I was a trial lawyer in NYC of some local repute having accumulated one of the longest consecutive string or victories in jury trials in NY. It was not that I was a particularly good lawyer, I was not, I couldn’t recognize a rule of evidence if it punched me in my nose. But it seemed my particular brand of opinionated, didactic certainty made juries believe I knew what I was talking about and that I actually believed whatever crap I was saying. My goal in life at the time was to become like one of the great trial lawyers of the past and die of cirrhosis of the liver before I was 40.

I was a lousy husband, often uncommunicative, angry and during trial entirely preoccupied. I was also a blackout drunk. After each victory I would eat a big meal, drink until I blacked out and disappear for days at a time, eventually waking up, still dressed in my three-piece black pin-striped Brooks Brothers suit, Homburg hat and grey leather gloves in places like the men’s room in Grand Central Station lying on the floor in my own vomit.

On New Year’s Day morning, when Jennifer was about 9 months old, I was awakened by the screams of my wife coming from the nursery. “My baby, my baby, something has happened to my baby,” she screamed over and over. I rushed into the baby’s room. Jennifer was dead, a crib death I was later told.

She was splotched all purple and red where the blood had pooled. Her body stiff and cold as I hopelessly tried to blow life into that tiny body, until the ambulance arrived and the emergency crew pulled me away and out of the bedroom.

About two weeks after the funeral, my wife left me taking the other child, Jason with her. Three months later, my life having collapsed around me, I left for Europe with Jason.

I was a traditional sort of person at that time in my life, Catholic, Republican, ruthless and often drunk. As such, I believed that a child should be with his mother. Unfortunately, after discovering the child with cigarette burns over most of his body, I took her to court and the judge awarded me custody.

I resumed my legal career working for an American law firm in Rome, practicing international tax and corporate law, areas I know nothing about and was awful at.

Jason lived in a small mountain village with my great-aunt. He thrived there. When he walked through the town people would call out to him and wave as though he was a celebrity.

When I decided to return to the US, I took him with me. I regret that decision more than almost any other decision in my life. I was not a competent father, nevertheless, I removed him from a stable environment where an entire village loved him and resettled him into a life where he was often alone or left with an almost virtual stranger while I strove to save the coast or otherwise engage in whatever self-indulgence appealed to me at the time.

I have never been able to shake the guilt I feel at his current unhappiness. What is worse, I seem to be able to deal with it only by ignoring it.

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