Saturday night, sittin here – watch Cowboy Cook off on the Food Channel, or maybe some old golf reruns, or a movie I aint seen in so long that it might seem like new if I could just forget that I already seen it. Your mind starts to wander – back to the old days of hard drinkin and womanizing – DAMN that was fun! This must be what it’s like to “grow up”. Sure glad I didn’t do that earlier on. Been over thirteen years since I run after a gal. Ah, but I had a way of doin it. Hell, I had several ways of doin it – depended mostly on which way I felt like at the time. Probably depended on the gal too – you gotta use just the right approach. About half way through the evening you’d be having such a good time drinkin and telling bullshit stories that a gal wasn’t worth the effort no more. So you had to get with it kinda early before you lost interest, if you know what I mean. Some gals had heard so many different approaches from so many men that it didn’t matter no more what the story was – it mattered how good you could tell it. Nowadays, I’ll go out and pick up a gal for somebody else just to keep in practice – livin vicariously they call it. Mostly it don’t work, cause the guy I’m trying to help out aint able to take over when I’m done – and the gal just follows me around all evening even though she knows I’m spoke for. I should have gone into the theater. I can get into character real quick. Trouble was usually getting out of character. One ex wife even used to send me over to help out some sad sack she had spotted and just knew he was going home with his own self less’n somebody helped him out. He’d be sittin there with a whole pitcher of beer and two glasses, one of em empty, and a look on his face that just pleaded for some gal to sit down and get offered a beer. After about fifteen minutes the head would be gone off the pitcher and the beer would be getting flat, and he’d start to look sadder and sorrier with every bursting beer bubble. Some folks just can’t be helped, no matter what. Most of em are too cheap to even go back to the bar and get a fresh pitcher of beer – and they wonder why it is that they struck out. Patent lawyers are the cheapest. But they’re probably the smartest too. They have so little personality that it just aint worth investin in a fresh pitcher of beer, and they know it. If a patent lawyer goes to lunch with you, he’ll charge you for the time. Clients are so dumb they think the sumbitch is really being friendly. Smart clients never go to lunch with a lawyer.
I think maybe the reason I got luckier than most of the lawyers in any given room with women in it was that I never looked or smelled like I came out of some container, like a roll of squeezable toilet paper, all scented and everything. Them other boys were all so “professional”, whatever that is. You know em when you see em – go take a crap with a suit on. Wear so much perfume that a mosquito would drop dead before he got within fifty feet of em. Hundred-dollar haircut, manicure, Gucci loafers. If they were gonna get any, they’d just have to buy it with cash. Being totally transactional, they think that buying dinner is a ticket to getting some. Then they go home all upset that they wasted some money on some gal who didn’t seem to understand what she was supposed to do after dessert. And they wonder why their wives’ll do it with the hired help. Sure must be hard being true to a lawyer!
Being a biker, I saw lotsa guys who could just walk into a saloon and start talking to folks and sooner or later end up with a very friendly woman. And their special trick was just being a plain old nice guy. They would never be ashamed of somebody knowing that they were making payments on their motorcycles, or that they couldn’t take you out for a big evening cause they were paying child support. Of course, telling some gal you were paying child support was almost guaranteed sex, cause her old man wasn’t payin his. The real trick to pickin up women is being a nice guy. If all you can talk about is the trappings of your self-importance, every woman will know you aint nothing but some insecure, selfish sumbitch that would always run when the chips were down. If a woman thinks you’re the kinda man who can be counted on, you’re there. It’s that simple! Sure, there are some who need assurances of financial substance at pretty significant levels. First of all, there aint no such assurances these days. You may have it now, but who knows about next year? A key client is acquired and you lose the business to the other law firm. Your firm merges and it goes bust cause the chemistry aint right. There are dozens of going broke scenarios. And when you go in the tank from the stress cause you really aint man enough to muddle through with grace and Herculean effort, your old lady is simply gonna clean you out and head off into the sunset with some other cowboy. The guys who fold first are always the ones who had everything handed to em and never learnt what it was like to have to make things happen. And that certain smell can be identified by almost any woman in any room. It’s like bug spray. And unless they’re handing out jobs there aint a gal will go near em, much less git neked out of sheer excitement.
Damn! Life has sure been fun! I don’t really wanna go back to cattin around. Hell, I got the best gal in the world. But I do reminisce every once in a while, especially when it’s Saturday night and there aint nuthin on TV that I aint already seen, and my saloon days are long over. So I try to channel my thoughts in some constructive direction, like sitting here and writing a story, some of which may be even close to true, but writing it good enough so you can’t tell what’s true and what aint.
The bullshit changes when you get older. Late middle age bullshit aint the same as the bullshit you need when you’re thirty years old. Nowadays, when Belinda and I are out shopping and a salesperson comes up and asks me if she can help me with something, I tell her that I’m just following my daughter around – pointing to Belinda – and that she comes and gets me at the home every other weekend and takes me out for the afternoon shopping with her and to Luby’s for lunch. The saleslady then reassures me what a really fine and devoted daughter Belinda must truly be, and then walks over to Belinda and praises her a bit for being such a devoted daughter. Belinda knows the deal and just smiles. I put on my semi-Alzheimer’s stare, like I aint really sure where I’m even at. Luby’s, in case you aint from Texas, is a cafeteria where the old farts go when they go out for a big time. They have wider aisles at the buffet so the old farts can git through with their walkers or so that they have a rail to hang on to in case they have some kinda seizure while they’re pickin out which mushy, overcooked mess they wanna eat that don’t taste too bad when they get it to the table and it’s already cold. I remember reading a review of Luby’s once. The writer interviewed the manager and asked who he thought his competition was, expecting him to say it might be the Cleburne cafeteria or Denny’s or something like that. The manager said that what takes the most customers out of his restaurant was the grim reaper. You go from Luby’s to Earthman’s – now aint that a perfect name for a family undertakin business. Ten years ago if a saleslady came up to me and asked if she could help me, I’d ask what she had in mind – not so subtle double meaning that was never missed.
When you get to be this age you have to adjust to having friends who, instead of being totally preoccupied with getting sex, rant and rave about how the world is going to hell in a handbasket; how the democrats are so low down and dirty; how the level of morality seems to be getting lower, not better; and who can tell you where the best prices are on groceries. You don’t meet folks so much in saloons like you used to – although if you give up saloons, you’re really a fool – still the most fun you can have with your clothes on. You meet em in the grocery store or when you’re taking your morning walk before the sun comes up. It seems to be my role in my group of late middle age guys, to remind everyone that the Republicans aint exactly what thrills me – at least not in Texas – with the religious fundamentalist assholes running the party’s agenda. I absolutely hate folks who think they have to tell everyone else what they can and can’t do. I hate folks who insist on keeping women “in their place”. I hate folks like that malignant dwarf congressman Tom Delay who panders to aggressive preachers and bible thumping jerks. He’s the meanest, most spiteful little bastard you could possibly imagine. My belief is that folks ought to be able to do whatever it is that they like doin, so long as they aint stopping you from doin whatever the hell it is that you like. Mind your own goddam business and leave other folks be. If gay folks wanna marry each other, that can’t possibly affect you one bit – why the sam hell are you so upset about it. Lord knows heterosexual marriage with its 50 % divorce rate and folks runnin around on each other all the time aint no example of what the bible thumpers think/claim/pretend marriage is all about. And, truth to tell, the bible thumpers are getting caught as much as anyone else cheating on spouses, molesting kids, defrauding folks they do business with. They oughta shut the fuck up about morality! I have always believed that folks who are always talking about Jesus aint got the slightest notion of what it’s like to really live a Christian life. They’re out there using Jesus to sell furniture and used cars, and to promote themselves into some position or other of prominence. Real Christians are quiet folks who aint always mouthing off about the Lord.
A great illustration of that principle occurred within the last few weeks here. A basketball player at Baylor University – big Baptist school – was shot dead and found in a field, his car stolen. It is turning out that another basketball player on the Baylor team may have shot him – since he apparently admitted to doing so to a policeman. The shooter is trying to pull off an insanity scam, claiming God told him to shoot the guy. The coach went public on television claiming that as a Baptist and a Christian, he was going to be sure that the right thing happenes in this case, no matter where that may lead or what the consequences may be. He didn’t know when he went public with his testament for Jesus that someone had secretly tape recorded him telling other players to start a false story that the decedent must have been selling drugs, to account for the fact that the decedent had more money than your normal college athlete. “You can be certain that he won’t be here to contradict you.” Was the coach’s closing comment on the recording. Truth is that there has been an unlawful/against NCAA regulations scheme to compensate the players, managed in large part by the coach his own self, the Baptist, Christian, I’m gonna see that the right thing happens no matter what, coach. Among the issues still being investigated are the question whether something was afoot in which the decedent might be going to blow the whistle on the program, and the question whether it was the coach and not God who ordered the murder in order to keep the improprieties from coming out. This is a perfect example of how so many people who tout their religiosity turn out to be really trashy scoundrels.
Of course every denomination has to claim a monopoly on the truth – only they have the right slant on Jesus, and in many cases only they have the keys to salvation. Everybody else is bound straight for hell. There are a few denominations that make a profession out of denigrating other communions. “We’re the sweet elected few. The rest of you be damned. There’s room in hell for all of you. We can’t have heaven crammed.”
I live in an era of great confusion about the “Establishment Clause” of the Constitution’s First amendment. That prohibits the establishment by the government of a state religion and the prohibition by the government of the practice of a religion. Simply stated – and it is simply stated - the government can’t authorize or prohibit any religion. Now if some group engages in some criminal activity and calls itself a religion, we don’t have to be stupid about it and pretend that a bunch of baby eating girl mutilators are protected by the first amendment. Prisoners have brought many a first amendment lawsuit claiming to be denied religious freedom because they can’t smoke pot during their religious services in jail. There aint one judge in America dumb enough to fall for that bullshit.
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. A rather reliable Newtonian observation. Here in America these days, the right wing religious fundamentalist assholes are so in your face about everything that there is also an extreme anti religious movement that has become militant about every symbol of religiosity at or in any official venue. It has gotten to be that the polarity is so extreme, especially in the south, that the courts are flooded with ridiculous litigation about God and government. A large part of me wishes that the anti religion faction would shut the hell up and quit their bullshit. Aint nobody hurt by folks in public gatherings saying grace before meals or beginning some official proceeding with the Lord’s prayer. And if the religious right weren’t always shoving their agenda in everyone’s face, the anti religion folks might not be so aggressively distrustful. The current resulting situation is that anti religion folks go around looking for any plaque with some reference to anything religious on it, displayed in a government venue, and bring suit to make em remove it. The Jesus freakers go link arms and lie down on the ground all around the plaque to demonstrate against any removal of it, putting on a grand show every time some media cameraman shows up. Once the cameras go away, they quit yelling “Praise the Lord!” and go back to playing cards and sneaking off to some bushes for a snort of old Panther Piss or whatever it is they drink in secret. The preachers out there ranting and the religious bozos out there foaming at the mouth about the ten commandment plaques never ever showed up there for any purpose to commemorate anything or observe anything at that site until the lawsuit resulted in a removal order – they didn’t even know the plaque was there. But as soon as CNN shows up, they go into their craziness. This theater includes bible thumping politicians coming out when the cameras arrive to make “I support the Lord” speeches, then going back to whatever corrupt activity they were engaged in before CNN arrived on the scene. One guy I know over in Florida is so Christlike that he even travels around with a whore – his own Mary Magdalene. He has a big mouth and no substance to him and is the most opportunistic and ungracious sumbitch you could ever meet.
The truth of the matter is that such plaques harm no one and certainly do not suggest that anyone who is not Judeo-Christian won’t get a fair trial. Recitation of the Lord’s prayer and grace before meals at public gatherings with official sponsorship is not the establishment of a state religion. And I do believe that no one would ever give a shit about it or start a lawsuit if the religious right would be a bit less disgustingly in your face with their fundamentalist bullshit. Live and let live. Leave folks alone. They aint bothering you. The Lord won’t punish a society that permits people to elect to end their suffering and die with dignity instead of putting their loved ones through some months long death agony of unspeakable discomfort. If smoking pot will help with the ill feelings of chemotherapy, there is no divine mandate to deny a bit of weed to the suffering. Mind you own goddam business and let folks be. If all the gay people in the world decided to marry, it would have zero impact upon the quality of heterosexual marriage. Let folks be. If there were as much effort spent on preventing preachers from sexually molesting children, the world would be a much safer and better place. And where there is the greatest concentration of priest child molesters, there is the greatest insistence that women are not worthy to be priests. Gimme a fucking break!
Similarly stupid people believe there is a war on drugs. There aint no war on drugs – never was. There is war on drugs theater – a political construct calculated to make ignorant people believe that right minded folks are trying to protect their kids from the evil of drugs by repeating anti drug use slogans – “Just say no” – when in fact the political establishment makes too much money from drug dealers to ever be able to make any intelligent effort to deal with the problem. We also suggest to poor peasant farmers that they ought to stop growing profitable drug crops and grow unprofitable other crops instead – yeah right. They aint likely to do that. We blame others for producing what we are the biggest customers for – can you get stupider than that? When you are that stupid, no one with half a brain would believe that you are seriously opposing drugs. If the profit motive were gone from drugs, the problem would go away in about twenty years. Drugs would be plentiful and cheap. There would be a proper educational campaign about the hazards of drug use. Idiots would eventually be the only ones using drugs. Using drugs would stigmatize you as an idiot. Only the idiots would overdose and kill themselves off – a real public service if I ever saw one – folks who wouldn’t be making a positive contribution to the society anyway and will never be missed. What we waste on the so-called drug war could be used for the real war – the war against Islamic terrorists. The Nazis are back – they just call themselves Islamic fundamentalists. Aside from the name and the stupid costumes, everything is identical to the Nazi bullshit we had to deal with in the 30s and 40s. We dealt with it then and we will deal with this now.
The same idiotic approach is used to “combat” teenage unwed pregnancies. These dumb kids are out there fucking their brains out, and what they really need is some education on birth control. But the right wing religious nut cases oppose aggressively any attempt to teach birth control – “It will encourage fucking.” Anyone who isn’t brain dead knows you don’t have to encourage fucking – the kids are doing it in Olympic proportions anyway. Telling them to ignore their hormonal tidal waves is just idiotic. At least teach em how to prevent tragedies and disease and make birth control readily available to them. But the anti fornication league is very aggressive and openly threatens anyone who advocates sex education at a meaningful level, all the while fucking their own brains out whenever they get a chance.
I happily tune all this bullshit out. I wouldn’t be writing about it here, except that the level of stupidity is so damn funny when you look at it carefully. A rational estimate would be that public policy on drugs, sex and the role of religion in public life is being orchestrated by the three stooges.
At this age it is like I live in a life/place with several favorite rooms that I can visit whenever the mood is right. Certainly my most favorite is the room where Belinda is always there, and her personality is the light and the sun and the warmth and the music and the flavor. Doing something with Belinda is the best. Nothing done without her participation is anywhere as nice as it is when she is there. Even the most ordinary things become different when they are done with her.
In another room I practice law. Those who come to me are betting their entire asset base on the project about which I am their primary counselor. If it is an investment in a small business, franchised or not franchised, there are areas of risk for which I alone among their team am best equipped to provide analysis. With forty years in franchised small business experience, I have seen almost every mistake that can be made and have tried cases about practically all of them. I have a better sense of the likelihood of mistakes being inherently present in a deal than someone who is a tax lawyer or a general practice lawyer. I certainly have better knowledge about how inefficient it is to have to remedy mistakes through litigation or arbitration. The risk identified and properly evaluated before the investment is made is nowhere near the order of magnitude of seriousness as the same risk popping up out of the blue with no expectation of it and biting you in the ass. Whether the clients are considering making the investment or seeking redress of a grievance about a bad investment, they are very stressed, and I have to be at my best for them. Many times I feel that the only right thing to do is strongly advise against an investment, even though I know the client is totally sold on it, and sometimes I have to write a very self serving letter to protect myself against a future claim by a client who won’t take the advice. I hate doing that, because I feel like I have somehow failed to get the message across about how much risk there really is. And occasionally I even have to tell a potential client that I simply won’t be their lawyer if they intend to invest in the business that they are targeting when they first come to me. From personal attorney experience, I know so much about some businesses that, even though it really is not my place, I tell a potential client that, without charging them a fee, I simply will never be able to give an advisory green light to any investment in that business. Several times a year I have to watch fees not come in for that reason. I hate to miss a fee, but I hate even more any possibility that I might take a fee and a client might make what I believe is an awful investment and think that there is anything that I can do to mitigate the risk. I just can’t in some situations, and in those situations the client must be sent away if they insist.
There is another room that is very happy. In that room I am Chef Muldoon who lives in the best food city in the world and can purchase any ingredients from any culture in stores within ten minutes drive and access via the Internet web pages that are devoted to every cuisine in the world. I know every cooking technique and have a spice and herb inventory that defies belief. If a particular combination of spices is not available commercially, I can blend it myself – Ras al Hanout, for example, the soul of Moroccan cooking. Meloukhia is a regularly used pot herb, and almost no one here knows what it is. When I teach people how to use it they are delighted. It is north African, Bedu. Most people think that Bedu is simply another kind of Arab. You could make that argument linguistically and in terms of their common religious beliefs and social customs, but if you refer to a Bedu as an Arab you may get your throat cut. If you go into one of our many middle east food emporia and ask for Ras al Hanout, no one knows what it is or has ever heard of it. You just have to make it yourself. I can happily spend hour after hour in my new kitchen making variation after variation on basic approaches to any dish. I have a year’s supply of olives on hand from a wonderful Armenian middle east delicatessen and wholesale food store near here. He doesn’t make batches of this particular olive blend very often, so I order a year’s supply at one time. He used to think I was nuts. No one not running a restaurant buys that many huge jars of olives.
And I have a friend with whom I take my morning walks who is also a food nut, and we enjoy a veritable potlatch of gift giving of cooked or baked goods back and forth between us. He is also extremely erudite about good music and has a bit of a trashy sense of humor just like mine. His scope of knowledge is extremely broad, and we never have any empty air between us in any conversation. We are the same age and are both very happy people. I think I may be happier than he is, as he lets things bother him that I just tune out. Maybe it’s just a difference in how cynical we are – I am a total cynic – he is still a bit of an idealist. He wants to believe that people in general are conscious of some need to be decent. I know better. Except for a very thin film of people who are people of conscience, the world is just a seething mass of beastiality. What people willingly do to each other for little or no reason would turn your stomach if you didn’t just say to hell with all of them. He cares more than I do. But he’s that way about everything he does. He is a scientist who insists upon things being the way they should be because he knows that when things are not just so, they don’t work properly. I see things is anything but orderly and perceive that the disorder is what keeps us sharp. Dealing with uncertainty and disequillibrium creates shortages, and shortages cause people to fight over what is available. The strong get the most and become stronger. The weak are destroyed. In that way the species improves in durability. It is the need to correct inadequacies that stimulates innovation. Balance in all things only creates lassitude and complacency. As a scientist, he knows that all equations must be balanced to prevent chaos. But we need chaos. Without chaos what would we lawyers do? In my heart of hearts I wish that we were more like him. In real terms, however, I know that we are not. Belinda and my daughter are very grateful for him, as they know I might not get up and do a fast mile almost every morning if there were not someone that interesting to visit with en route. I am grateful for him as well. There aren’t many people around who are really renaissance level breadth of scope intellects.
In another room there are the cats. Now I was never a cat person until I met Belinda. She has transformed me in this respect as she has transformed me in every other respect. I refer you to the “Booger and Bubba” and “Feast of Saint Belinda” stories in this anthology for the history and flavor of the cat room. There are the three inside cats that we are permitted by deed restriction to have here. And then there are the itinerant strays that Belinda will feed and show kindness to – even to the point of scooping them up and taking them for sometimes expensive vet appointments when they get sick or lose a fight. If she can get her hands on em she’ll run em over to Doc Martin for a spay/neuter and shots visit. I like to tease her that word has gotten around that if a cat lets Belinda pick him/her up and pet them, it will cost them their masculinity/ability to conceive. Knowing that, the cats defensively try to stay out of her grasp. She thinks I’m only kidding and that the cats don’t really talk about her in that manner. I sense that soon we will no longer take trips, for the reason that no pet sitter is going to do all the cat maintenance chores that she does without being put on full time retainer. On the rare and sad occasion when a cat becomes road pizza in the neighborhood, I run quick with the shovel and fulfill the final office before she sees the tragic scene. I wonder what the police would do if an officer of the law were to see me parading down the block with a dead cat on a shovel. Knowing my aggressive tendencies, would the police take my word for it that it was not I who had just dispatched the cat, and that I was simply being the undertaker of last resort dealing with the detritus of a bad guess by a cat that couldn’t run quite as fast as it thought it could. I don’t think many lawyers worry about things like that. Does that make me exceptional or just odd?
With my office here at home, I spend more time around cats than would normally be expected of someone like me. They come into the office and jump up on the desk or table when I am working, and I am not allowed to get back to work until they have had a cuddle or some petting and a short discussion to express my appreciation for their concern to come visit me and give me a break from earning a living. When a client is here for an office visit, they are very discreet and stay hidden in other rooms.
Member of the Firm
Old Miss Vickie, the oldest indoor cat, is getting to what may be very late in her life. I am beginning to steel myself to a grieving period about her. She came into the picture not long before Belinda and I first met. She is indeed a family fixture. It will be very sad when that happens. I sense that Belinda senses it too, because she is paying much more attention to newly arrived stray kittens than I thought she might. When Felix and Oscar, the other two cats that were here when Belinda and I met, passed away there was a significant grieving period. Then one day she happened to pass an SPCA store in – of all places – The Galleria – near Nieman-Marcus – and Booger and Bubba came home with her that day as very, very young kittens.
In all likelihood these new stray feral kittens will take off in a few weeks, never to be seen again. On the other hand, their parents both show up for breakfast at our front door every morning, and they might get accustomed to not having to hunt their meals. Stray feral cats have a much shorter and less healthy life experience than those Belinda takes care of. Like she does with me, she improves the quality and duration of their lives.
In another room we are just now opening our third Muldoons Saloon here in Houston. Muldoons as a concept is born of a notion that there is no bar in the world big enough to hold the egos of two Texas trial lawyers – each needs his/her own domain. Mine is Muldoons. A Texas trial lawyer is another dimension of the species, trial lawyer. I have tried cases in most states over the years, and I think that if you can make it trying cases in Texas, you can take that level of performance anywhere and it will do quite well. The Texas trial lawyer persona tends to be a class unto itself.
Anyhow, Muldoons was created after my biker friends had mostly died off and I no longer had a lot of pals to cruise a lot of bars. The first Muldoons is described in “Evening At Muldoons” and the second Muldoons is described in “Murder At Muldoons”. In our grand opening announcement it says “If you didn’t like the others you won’t like this one either.” The attitude doesn’t change. Saloons are about really great bullshit. Cocktail lounges are another genre. Elsewhere a gentleman’s club is a sedate affair where everyone dresses rather elegantly and who you think you are is pandered to. In Texas a gentleman’s club is a titty bar where nude girls come over and dance for you alone at your own table, practically in your lap. Some of the gentleman’s clubs here in Texas are doing so well that their stock is publicly traded on NASDAQ. One small group of titty bars, according to a recent SEC filing, does over eight million dollars a year just in cover charge fees.
Titty bars aint my style. The sight of young women doing that for a living just makes me sad. I wish they could have some other way with more self-respect to earn a good living. But it is not unusual for a young woman to dance three nights a week and take home over fifty thousand dollars a year for it. Many of them have other positions in offices during the day. I suspect that all too often they end up with the wrong sort of man and tragic results ensue. Many are single parents and trying to provide for the product of previous indiscretions or marriages that didn’t work out.
I used to raise all kinds of hell at the first Muldoons. It was a period of several years when the world was very good and life was always lived at 100 mph. By the time the second Muldoons came on the scene I was getting long in the tooth and had even forsworn the dry martini and all other hard liquor. We didn’t go there that often. I don’t know what my involvement with the third Muldoons will be, rather distant I suspect. If it attracts the younger punk set that races up and down Westheimer Avenue every night, I know I will stay away. We’ll see. I was never involved in the hands on management of any of them. I never went behind the bar and I always paid cash for my tab at the end of the evening. One of the quickest ways to go broke in the saloon business is for the principals to come in there and drink and then go behind the bar and play big shot. When the guy behind the bar is drinking, there’s no respect and the place turns to shit. Drunk owners start buying rounds of drinks and at the end of the night the financial results are disastrous. Owners who have open accounts tend never to bring them up to date and to regard the place as an adjunct of their bar at home. When the accumulated tab of one starts to be bigger than the tab of other owners, jealousy raises its head and soon everyone is entertaining friends and customers there and paying for nothing. Everything turns to shit very fast. We don’t do anything like that. The saloon is professionally managed by the best saloon personality in town, and it works like a very well run business establishment – but with a very sarcastic attitude. After all, attitude is what Muldoons has always been all about.
Where does that leave us now? Well, all things considered, especially the excellent state of my health and the fact that I spend my days and nights with the woman I most dearly love, I’m in much better shape that just about anyone else in the entire world. Business still ebbs and flows, but I know that’s the expected fluctuation of a one-person specialty practice where fees are fair but certainly not cheap. My web site now accounts for just about all the advertising I do. No one looks in the phone book anymore. The Internet is a much more fruitful place to hunt. As my practice is more a national and an international practice, the local phone books have no significance for me. Happily, I can keep just about anyone from being defrauded in the purchase of any franchised business. Over forty years I have learned how to spot the bullshit. My Specialized Tutorials inform prospective clients about what can be provided and what approaches I take to most issues. With that insight into how I operate and approach situations, they can decide if they want to adopt those methods and practices or do something else. If they read the materials and still call me, they are pretty much pre-sold on doing it my way. Some, sadly, have already been pre-sold by some franchise sales group, and it is either difficult or impossible to get them to “disinvest” emotionally from a project they have been moving towards for several months. But, since they either have to bite that bullet or decide not to waste money hiring me, I sometimes lose a few. I also lose those who have no appreciation of the value differential between a general practice lawyer and a specialist with forty years experience. I have carved all the fat out of my fee system that I reasonably can. It is fair but relatively significant. I won’t cut it any more, and would rather folks just go away if they don’t appreciate the impact on their future of what I bring to bear. I have never regretted being that way. I also insist upon prompt payment. Lawyers who carry receivables from clients for months and years end up working for nothing or having to earn the fee twice – once for the work done and again to collect the fee. That’s just plain stupid! Those lawyers have more clients than I do, but I have no receivables over thirty days old and they have to go borrow money to finance theirs. Damn silly if you ask me. If you’re not smart enough to get paid, why the hell are you in this business anyway?
There are many franchisors who slow pay their lawyers and some even threaten not to pay at all. Their lawyers’ typical response is to cringe and whine and beg and do a lot of free work. I have always told a client who thought he could abuse me in that manner to fuck off. I chuckle that one of them even threatened to sue me for all the years of past fees if I refused to continue as their lawyer and take their shit. I keep that letter around as an ego booster – as though I needed an ego booster. Their bullying style didn’t work with me, and it hasn’t been working well with their franchisees either. They have a very nice headquarters campus that I suspect will be available soon for other use. Only their threat to enforce their covenant not to compete, which any competent lawyer could defeat, keeps their franchisees from leaving en masse. When their franchisee has a competent lawyer, the covenant not to compete is just something for sale – some way to get a few feel good bucks in exchange for shortened litigation and saving legal fees. Now that’s a sure sign of a company on its way down the toilet. There are other large bright signs of demise. The owners never would accept the notion that markets change and that they have to adapt. The essence of their problem is that they never kept pace and their franchisees had to look elsewhere for resources to accommodate the requirements of a changing world. Since in theory that’s what a franchisor is supposed to be providing in exchange for royalties, the franchisees rightly cannot see a reason why they should still pay this bozo. What keeps total collapse at bay for the moment is that the franchisees are too cheap to get together as a group and take effective action. So every month they pay and whine. When I was that company’s counsel, trying to talk them into diversification and being told that they don’t need a goddam lawyer telling them how to run their business, it was precisely because the franchisees had gotten together in a group of over one hundred and hired effective counsel. I kept that wolf from the door, but they couldn’t see that that was a sign of things to come. I kept them out of bankruptcy until that storm died down, but finally had to tell them to go elsewhere for legal assistance. They had started to get to a level at which I really couldn’t expect to continue that kind of performance into the future. They’re still around, but a mere shadow of what they used to be and nothing of what they could have been.
Right now I am so spoilt with the way my practice works that all the horses in Texas couldn’t drag me back into a traditional law firm office mode. I don’t have to produce $ 600,000 a year just to pay the bills anymore. Hell, since it’s only me, I don’t even have to carry errors and omissions/malpractice insurance anymore. When I had to account for all those other lawyers in the office, I wouldn’t be able to go to sleep at night if I hadn’t had E&O coverage. The age of the computer has served me better than I ever could have imagined. Investing time and effort to become computer literate has made professional life so manageable. I thought I would miss traveling, especially to the Pacific Northwest – San Francisco to Vancouver – but I don’t miss it at all. Before, in the old days, there was no reason to stay home – life was more fun on the road. Now life is great at home. I get a lot of ribbing from folks around here that I would occasionally go motorcycling with, just day trips, because I always decline. I tell em that if I have to choose between a day with them or a day with Belinda, they can forget about it. I just came up with a new salad that Belinda says “I could eat this every day”. That sure beats a greasy burger in some country beer joint. I had my share of wonderfully delicious greasy burgers in country beer joints. I enjoyed every single one of them. Time to move on. There’s a certain look that Belinda has when she smiles and is really happy. Trying to keep that look on her face is the most important thing in life.
Pushin 66 is so much better than I ever thought it could ever be. Thank you, Jesus.
By Seamus Muldoon, Himself
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