I can only think of writing this story when I have had a grand meal and a good deal of wine. When lean, clean and sober it is simply too embarrassing. One of the issues to deal with when you have become sufficiently senior and knowledgeable is the issue of what a really stupid fool you have been on many an occasion and for such lengthy periods of time in your earlier years. The temptation is to pretend that you were never a jerk - to insist that you were indeed born with sophisticated sensibilities and great intellect, and that you never ever did anything in your whole life that would be embarrassing were you tomorrow morning to see it as a feature story in your local newspaper. One problem with that is that you are certain in your heart that everyone was once a stupid jerk and that you are no exception. Another problem is that you can't pull that off unless you never run into anyone who knew you when. Then the only question is whether you can make your historical idiocy sufficiently entertaining to write a bloody story about it. Here goes!
Fortunately for me, I was born into bloody awful circumstances. Accordingly, with no parental resources from which to draw any social maturity, and certainly no credentials of any kind in terms of genealogy, I was blessed with the opportunity to invent myself. I was the ultimate urban wild child - no manners - no sense of obligation - no sense of social or other context - no vision or guidance concerning direction - and absolutely no idea of grace. My impetus was the universal canine instinct - if it feels good, do it - if it itches, scratch it.
I suppose the first monumentally stupid thing I did was to begin smoking cigarettes at age eight. Even though many had said to me that smoking was a filthy habit and bad for your health, I had been told that about so many things that were enjoyable that I simply no longer believed any of it. If it was that bad, how come so many folks did it with glee? Later, of course, I would be told that jerking off will make you blind and crazy and that it was a "sin". But, if you are really unthinking and a slave to sensory pleasure, you can smoke and jerk off at the same time. Accordingly, I expected insanity and poor eyesight, but when they never occurred, the lesson became clear that what adults tell children is just bullshit. Scaring children - trying to scare children - is just something adults do for fun. I just ignored as much of what adults said to me as was possible. Little did I know that, while I would fail to develop properly in certain important respects, in the long run I would be much better off, unfettered as I was by other peoples' rules.
I could see early on that adults did things that were really disgusting, and yet they would lecture about the evils of whatever it was that I liked to do and that I knew they were doing and that they obviously didn't know I knew about. What was it about adults that they are compelled to instruct children against the propriety of emulating them? The answer of course is that they think we don't know that they lie, cheat, steal, pick their noses, drink whisky, hang out in beer joints, and joke amongst themselves about how they managed to pull off some stupid stunt or other, not aware that little ears are within hearing distance. "If it's so bad, how come you do it?" is something you say only once. That slap you remember. Maybe the lesson they are trying to teach you is to play the game, to dissemble, to pretend that you are paying attention when you are saying to yourself, "What a bloody ass!" None are more fatuous about such disingenuous instruction than clergy, no matter the religion - they are all of the same stripe. How many times was I chastised for telling some religious person of obvious congregational imprimatur to kiss my ass! That lesson turned out to be one of the most valuable of all - never trust anyone who claims to come bearing the word of God. If you distrust them all, you may occasionally offend someone who does not deserve offense, but in the main you will be right on target. The unctuous are obvious posturing fools. Giving offense to them is an act of true justice. The heavy breathing, excited about Jesus people are also fair game. Anyone who officiously offers to guide you through the gates of heaven needs to be avoided.
I lacked, and still lack, the ability to see people as they wish to be seen. I still see them as they are. The only exception to that rule is that I have upon occasion seen women as good candidates for marriage, when in truth they were good for nothing outside of bed. I was 52 years old before I finally made the right decision in that context. That is perhaps among the most expensive forms of stupidity. When we are aroused, we see what we want to see. It is as though our erections were gear levers that, when engaged, shift our brains into a mode in which we will sign anything, swear to anything, pledge anything, embrace truly awful people, and in every possible way act against our own interests. It was once competently explained to me as the product of our own/my own narcissism. If you think only about yourself and whatever sensation you wish to gratify at the moment, true insight into anything/anyone/any situation is unlikely to occur. True insight, in many important situations, occurs only over time - it grows. Sometimes it comes in a flash, but in relations between the genders, what comes in a flash is probably more Eros than agape.
Of course, I come from a generation amongst whom intimacy was thought of as sacred, connoting commitment and permanence. It was what a girl shared with you because she believed that you would never do anything to harm her and that you truly cared for her. Nowadays, if you even suggest to a woman that you feel that way about her, you ruin the whole recreational sex experience, and she won't come near you. I always wanted it (and I mean constantly), but it was supposed to be part of some larger dimension of relationship. Had I been more intelligent/cynical about it, I probably could have gotten twice as much and married much less of it. From those experiences I came to develop certain views. If you must be intimate with a married woman, make it a woman who is married to someone else. And I suggest you ask yourself before getting "involved" whether real sex with a real woman is so different from jerking off as to be worth the aggravation. My dear departed best friend Mike used to define eternity as the time between when he got off and the woman got up and went home. I still aint that cynical.
I have always been stupid about money. Some folks who come from meager circumstances are smart enough to take effective precautions against ever having to return to those conditions. Folks who had money and who went through the desperate times of the great depression received an intense course in the vicissitudes of uncertainty, and became terribly frugal thereafter. I never had it when I was young, and I never learned to manage well what was not there to manage anyway. So I developed my own protocols for financial risk control. It may be summed up as "Live well today, for tomorrow you surely die!"
How this systems works is an encyclopedia of stupidity. If properly executed, it is an absolute guaranty against the accumulation of wealth. If you sign up for this system, the oath of allegiance includes the statement, "I believe that no matter what I do and no matter how many mistakes I may make, there will always be enough incoming opportunity to handle any mismanagement." If you are an insurance company, this is absolutely true - at least in theory - and it is known widely as "the law of large numbers". How was I to know that this would become financial management gospel at many of America's major companies, including, Enron, General Motors, Tyco, MCI-WorldCom and many others now wending their way through bankruptcy courts, and whose executives are no longer addressed as Mister, but as Defendant. If I had known that I had invented the system used by Jeff Skilling and so many other financial mismanagement whiz kids, I could have published it, taught university level seminars about it, and made a fortune just teaching high level executives how to be idiots, thieves and liars.
Of course, it could be said that the system is based upon Islamic religious principles. Primarily, this reference is to the Islamic notion that what is the intent of God will happen, no matter what you or I may do. If God intends that I never run out of money, I will always have money. If God intends that I be poor, nothing I do to save and invest and build a financial estate will make the slightest bit of difference. In'shAllah! Y'Allah!
And so, like the students of my system whom I have just mentioned, I lived well. No matter who I found myself with at cocktail or dinner time, I never let anyone pick up a tab (not that there are many who would do so anyway), feeling that as long as I was paying I could order whatever I liked and never have to be concerned about the possibly limited budget or circumstances of someone else. People, especially other lawyers, being as cheap/intelligent as they are, I rarely had to fight over a bill.
I recall a humorous incident many years ago that illustrates the point about lawyers never picking up a tab if they can avoid it. Jerry Jeff Walker wrote a song about this some years later, entitled "When The Man In The Big Hat Is Buying". I was about to ride from Detroit to Houston on my motorcycle to visit with a client and work on a case. I decided to go through Fort Wayne, Indiana where I have an old law school classmate who has a small law firm engaged in specialty practice. I called him up to say I was coming through and suggested that we have lunch together at their very best restaurant, Café Jonell. I arrived at the Café at just before noon, and my dear classmate showed up within minutes with his entire law firm in tow. In retrospect, I doubt he would have brought them along had he suspected for an instant that he might end up being the host. His assumption was correct for reasons beyond what I have just said. He had sent me a nice case from which I profited mightily, and I owed him at least some hospitality. We consumed several before luncheon cocktails and several bottles of the Café's best with our Lucullian repast. This was followed by after luncheon digestifs. On the way out, he spotted some friends, and there ensued another hour of "happy hour", all on my tab.
Having decided that I needed to make it at least to Louisville, Kentucky that day, I left and went out into the parking lot to mount my motorcycle and continue on. He and his law firm were engaged in throwing up all over the Café, and the manager came running out into the parking lot screaming at me that he would hold me responsible for their retching and ralphing all over his flocked wall paper. He was still to be seen jumping up and down in choleric rage in my rear view mirror as I roared off into the late afternoon. When I arrived in Houston, my ex wife was mad as hell. My friend's wife had called her and complained loudly that I had gotten her husband's entire law firm drunk and in so doing caused them to disgrace themselves in public in that small town where everyone who counts would know that they had been rowdy during working hours. I, of course, told my ex to tell the bitch to go straight to hell, and that I was not to blame for her husband's intemperance, which would never have happened had he been the host. Anything worth doing was always worth doing to excess.
One of my ex wives recently upbraided me for being such a wastrel that I am still working hard in my dotage. I love my work, and would be working hard in my dotage anyway. But what she missed, and what I quickly pointed out to her in rejoinder, is that in my generosity upon separation from her, whatever was there became hers anyway. Thus, I would be no better off had I not been extravagant - but she would have been better off. And so, in my particular instance, my theory of personal economics worked perfectly for me. Had I had less fun, I would not now be any better off. Now that is what I call God's justice. Y'Allah!
I think what finally brought me to my senses about eating in all the world's finest restaurants was a thoroughly stupid event at what was then touted as the best of the best of the best. Start luncheon with a simple salad of mixed greens dressed with vinaigrette a moutarde a l'ancienne, accompanied with a bottle of slightly chilled Corton Charlemagne. The wine should never have been inside a fridge, but simply put on ice about fifteen minutes before you begin to drink it. It should not go back into the ice bucket after it is opened - just left standing on the table. Finish the wine before going to the next course and the next wine. The next course was a substantially undercooked breast of duck, sliced thinly and served on a veneer of a bigaradesque sauce lightly "painted" onto that portion of the plate on which it would sit, four asparagus spears and a half dozen very small pieces of roast potato ala nondescript, accompanied by a bottle of Clos St Denis (Domaine Dujac) of appropriate vintage and opened immediately upon my entering the restaurant and looking at the wine list - decanted to facilitate aeration/"breathing". I aint much on rare poultry. The meal was stingy and served with an unctuous attitude - - ala "Who the fuck let you in here?". The bill was a number so obscene that I would never disclose it. I consider it to have been tuition to an almost theophanic message/lesson to the effect that if you think this represents anything Epicurean, you are out of your fucking mind - this is simply wasteful stupidity.
I totally lack the ability or the inclination to be politically correct at exquisitely significant moments, especially when it comes to clients. I refuse to allow a client to be as big a fool as I am, and when they do it, I try to get them to "get real" so that it doesn't come round and bite em in the ass. Now any lawyer worth a $ 100 haircut, a Rolex and a pair of Gucci shoes knows that you don't do that. There's a lot of money to be made from NOT trying to keep the rich and important from making bloody fools of themselves. The more trouble they get into, the more they need a good trial lawyer. Don't be a putz! If you stupidly tell em the straight truth, they can't handle it. It's an "Emperor's New Clothes" kind of thing. Some of these situations would be really funny if they hadn't been so costly.
Old Bob was/is certainly a marvelous example of a case where I could have been politically correct and profited mightily. I had represented his company in "bet the company" cases for several years, and had been totally successful by keeping him off the witness stand. He is the most arrogant, posturing bozo witness you can imagine. He hired me because his last lawyer lost a case in which he was dumb enough to put Old Bob on the stand. Of course Old Bob refused to cooperate in cross-examination. He gave totally unresponsive answers, like a politician answering a reporter's questions on a Sunday morning television show. To each question, he would go into some self-serving monologue that had little or nothing to do with the question. Opposing counsel would move to strike the answer as unresponsive. The judge would grant the motion and instruct Old Bob to answer the question that was being asked, and Old Bob would go right back and do the same thing all over again. There were calls for counsel to approach the bench, and the judge would tell his lawyer off the record to take a break and take Old Bob out into the hall and straighten his ass out. Old Bob would come right back and pull the same stunt again and again. The judge noticed that the jury was just as fed up with Old Bob as he was, so he decided to simply let Old Bob self-destruct and move on. Old Bob never figured out that in that situation he wasn't the person in charge and that he wasn't going to be the person making the ultimate decision - until the verdict came in. Old Bob had a massive tantrum and fired his lawyer. He then sent his in-house counsel on a hunt for a new trial counsel, and that's how I got the business.
The first item of business was, of course, the interview in which Old Bob got to tell me all about how he came from poverty to wealth through honesty and hard work, and how some of his franchisees were always trying to take advantage of his generous nature. Somehow, I managed in that meeting to be constructively unsympathetic, flirting right on the edge of not getting the business. He told me about his lousy lawyer who lost the case that caused all the trouble, because, as is always the case in franchising, once the franchisor loses one case, everyone thinks they can have his guts for garters, and the lawsuits start coming in big time. He insisted that I review the trial record and sue the first lawyer for malpractice. I reviewed the record, and it made me wonder how the hell I thought I would ever be able to keep this account, until it dawned on me that the only way to win was to try to keep this posturing windbag off the witness stand.
In the next meeting, he said, "If he had just followed my instructions and put me back up there on the stand, we would have won." Of course nothing could be further from the truth and I told him so. He took it. I didn't get fired. But I think he painted a target on my back for saying that. We either won or settled on extremely favorable terms over 14 cases for him, including one with 127 franchisee plaintiffs who sued the sumbitch for $ 63,000,000 under the RICO racketeering statute. They got nothing and ended up paying us $ 750,000 to settle the case. They never got to take Old Bob's deposition. In his first self-published book entitled "How I Became The World's Most Fantastic Business Executive", he devoted an entire chapter to that lawsuit, most of it utterly untrue, but never gave me credit for the victory. I was described as his "lawyer who never lost on any issue brought before the court", when in truth no issue was ever brought before the court at all about anything. The case was over in exactly one year and the lawyers resolved all discovery issues in a cooperative manner without the need for judicial intervention. The first time we even met the judge was when we walked into her chambers with the settlement and dismissal papers. This was back in the days before case management orders and Rule 16 conferences.
For those several years, every time I encountered Old Bob, especially if there were other people there, he would greet me as "You no good son of a bitch", and I stupidly thought he was jokingly paying me a compliment. He meant it! He never got over my telling him that my predecessor had not committed malpractice by not putting him back up there on the witness stand.
Then one day the dreaded moment came. There was a case in which he was being called by the other side as an adverse witness, and I couldn't keep it from happening. I prepared a file of the materials he would be asked about, and sent it to him to review before we met for his pre-testimony "flogging". I always like to flog a witness just before he goes on the stand. The flogging has the glide path of a brick, and if you do it significantly in advance of the testimonial event, you have to do it all over again. When I flog a witness, it aint fun to watch, and it's less fun to be the poor witness. I put him through the worst experience of his life, but when I'm done he has total command of the subject and knows how to give direct and truthful answers. Most folks would normally tell the truth, but tell it so badly that it might as well be a lie. I teach em to tell it effectively. I even wrote a tutorial on how to do it and put it up on my web site for other lawyers to refer to. I have received many "thank you" notes for that from lawyers all over the country. It's entitled "Preparing A Witness To Testify".
I expected that Old Bob's flogging would be just the two of us alone, or maybe with the addition of his in house general counsel. WRONG! Old Bob staged it in his boardroom with all his officers there to observe how wonderfully prepared he was and how forcefully he expressed himself. The meeting started with "OK, Muldoon, what are we here to do today?" I replied "I don't know what all these people are doing here today, but I'm here to see if it's possible to win a case for this company where you are a witness." A pall descended upon the boardroom. You could hear the sucking in of breath all over the room. Old Bob turned beet red and I thought he might be having a seizure. Oh well! I hear that they aren't winning cases where the franchisees have competent representation anymore.
Friends can save you from yourself. One California client was so delusional that his entire in-house legal staff went way out of their way to keep me from ever meeting him, and this ploy worked very well. It was an article of faith in this company that no middle management position could be filled by anyone who had not undergone EST training. EST training is essentially a non-surgical lobotomy, a course of indoctrination in which you are converted into someone with no sense of reality at all. Everything will be beautiful if you just convince yourself that everything really is beautiful, no matter the reality of it all. This was back in the Richard Nixon days when the White House was claiming Executive Privilege as a way to frustrate Congressional investigation into the criminal conspiracy that was the Nixon White House. When we would receive a notice to produce documents in cases involving this company, there would sometimes be a flat refusal, asserting Executive Privilege - "I'm and executive. Therefore, I do not have to respond to discovery in this case." Yeah, right!
I almost never got this client in the first place, as I declined to sue a competitor with a similar but obviously non-infringing name. In ESTian logic, something is an infringing use if you say and believe that it is an infringing use. Some much smarter California law firm took the case and made a lot of money losing it.
Since that firm was/pretended to be a believer in whatever the ruling lunatic said from moment to moment, it also got the case in which the Head Bozo In Charge decided that he didn't feel like paying off a roughly $ 250,000 promissory note that was due and convertible into one third of the outstanding shares of the company upon default. HB (Head Bozo) invented some bozolike theory of why he shouldn't have to repay the loan. The creditor elected to convert the note into the stock. The stock into which the note was convertible was then worth over $ 100,000,000. If you do the math the level of stupidity is obvious. HB hires the same law firm that lost the infringement case - they still believe in him and tell him he has valid defenses - - it's the "we could argue that ......." bullshit that bozo lawyers always say to prospective clients who don't know any better and like the taste of their own bathwater. . They made some really serious legal fee income before they lost again. He lost the whole company. The pre and post judgment interest, bad faith bozo positions taken damages and attorney fees that the California courts awarded against him were all affirmed on appeal. Meanwhile, we had prevailed in or favorably settled over a dozen franchise cases. And all this good fortune was, I am certain, because my friends on their in-house legal staff saved me from my own stupidity by never allowing the two of us ever to meet. Friends really do count for a lot. One day I may become smart enough to know that you always tell prospective clients that they are right, no matter what. Then, if you are really smart, you can rip em off for some big scratch before you blow the account.
I took a sabbatical year in 1994, during which I ran a country restaurant out in Brenham, Texas. The theory was that I would bring really great international and fusion cuisine to the rustic millionaires who had retirement hobby ranches out there in Washington County. Now that was really stupid beyond belief. The retired millionaires out there rarely socialize with the locals, and that includes going out to local restaurants. They'll stop in for a meal every now and then, but regularly they eat out there at their ranches and they often go into Houston for the really good cookin. The local rustics like the $ 3.99 salad bar, no matter what's on it or how long it has been sitting out there with no attention to freshening it by the local lazies who work in the restaurant. I made three really stupid decisions immediately. I deleted the Bosnian Buffet on the grounds that its appearance and the quality of the food on it wouldn't stimulate the appetite of a starving Somalian. WRONG! I eliminated house accounts for locals who were never paying their accounts current for the former owner - they sought revenge. I threw out the local chapter of the White Citizens Council who used to hold their "Keep America White" monthly meetings in the upstairs banquet hall, waited upon by the local Negro waiters and waitresses. That eliminated about 10 % of the customer base. STUPID!! When you count up the cash in the till at the end of the evening meal, you can't tell which bills came from the pockets of people who may have extreme notions of how America ought to be run. PECUNIAM NON OLET! MONEY DOESN'T SMELL! When the tour bus groups, 45 old blue haired bitches per bus load, would come in during Bluebonnet season, want to all sit together at one long table, demand separate checks, never tip, and demand to be permitted to order from the children's menu, I threw em the hell out. I can now competently recommend that local lawyers always get in their cars and follow these old farts' bus around town, because somewhere during the day one or two of em will fall down in some establishment and something will be broken. Bring your business cards and your cameras so that you can immediately photograph the premises and preserve a view of whatever the situation was that you will later claim to have been negligently maintained. And finally, I eliminated chicken fried steak covered in cream gravy from the menu on the grounds that every restaurant in Texas serves chicken fried steak, and no one would miss it if they happened not to eat it here. DUMB! I put Veal Parmigiana on the menu and told em it was Italian chicken fried steak. That worked well, but no one ever forgave me for dropping the Texas national dish - chicken fried steak with heavily peppered or Tabasco sauce spiked cream gravy. It is even eaten for breakfast here with toast/biscuits, eggs over easy and a side of bacon and/ or sausage and pancakes. But it won't help you sober up. If that's what you're looking for, you need two raw eggs floating in a glass of clabber as the chaser to a double shot of Tequila. To get back at me for my stupidity, Belinda insists that I order and eat chicken fried steak with cream gravy every time we are in a country restaurant.
The Lord has been most generous with me. I am blessed by having as my consort the smartest woman in the world. Fortunately, I recognize the difference in our acuity, and I defer to her on every issue and subject. I now luxuriate in the fact that, with her there to make every decision, no matter what, I no longer have to exert any sentient effort whatsoever - my brain has turned to mush. When I am alone and something comes up, I am now programmed to ask myself, "What would Belinda do?"
By Seamus Muldoon, Himself
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