Thursday, May 26, 2011
Saturday, May 21, 2011
(j/k) - Okay, it's past 5 California time and everyone still seems to be around. Even my lawn guy, who is a saint. So, no Rapture today, kids. We'll add this to the list of doomsdays I and the planet have inexplicably survived. (White Nights, the Emmanuel David prophecies, Helter Skelter, 1989, Hale-Bopp, 23 in 1998, 45 in 1999, Y2K, Halley's Comet and 65 more between 2001 and 2010--somebody add that up, it's getting to be quite a list).
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
One of my Big Cases is going to trial. This hardly ever happens. I don't have the stats at my fingertips here, but only some tiny percentage of lawsuits ever go to trial - I think it's less than 1%. The rest settle or are dropped. I've been a paralegal for about 10 years now and I've been involved in probably about 20 trials. And, yes, one of them did go all the way to the state Supreme Court, but my part was well over by then.
Now, mind you, lots of lawsuits settle the day before trial, or even the day of or a few days in. Far as I'm concerned, you get to that point, you might as well go for the gold with the jury because, honestly, all the work's been done. The rest is posturing. I don't have to do that - that's my boss's job. Anyway, for the uninitiated, here are the five phases of trial prep. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.
Phase I: Euphoria. Oh wow! One of your cases is going to trial! This hardly ever happens! (see above) There's so much work to do. Exhibits to list. Depositions to highlight. Witnesses to call. The adrenaline high kicks in and you're running on caffeine and sugar. Get as much done as you can; this phase won't last.
Phase II: Panic. Holy cow, there's so much work to do. It's impossible to get it all done. What's worse, all the people in the other cases you're working on seem not to know you're going to trial and they keep wanting things done, like, I dunno, returning calls and setting mediation dates and stuff. Add to that, people keep interrupting you every five minutes and pretty soon you want to hang a polite sign that says something like "F*ck Off" on your office door.
Phase III: Rage and despair. Your case stinks. You're going to lose. Your witnesses are all changing their minds about what they saw and at least three can't remember anything they said in their depositions. We should have settled months ago. The insurance adjuster won't return your boss's phone calls. He's throwing tantrums in your office door because the Chinese place sent kung pao squid instead of kung pao scallops. The other lawyers are Nazi drunkards, the judge is 16 years old and fresh out of law school and everything's starting to look like a bad episode of Boston Legal. Oh, and your client is now saying he's not sure the wheel flange was installed by Bob's Pretty Good Technicians, it might have been a guy from Bob's Topless Emporium down the road. Time to throw your boss, all the trial boxes, and yourself out the nearest window. Double points if you land on him or her and survive the fall.
Phase IV: Numb. You no longer know nor care what the case is about. Your boss has a seven word vocabulary and all of them are words you can't say in front of a jury. Oh, that's right, there's going to be a jury. God, you feel sorry for them. Two weeks of testimony on wheel flanges. Somebody please explain why we don't just duel to the death over these little disputes anymore. Wouldn't that be easier? Your boss makes you call the adjuster to explain that, really, there's not that much difference between a $6 million settlement and a $9 million settlement. It's only money, right? And hey, the trial costs alone will run - hello? Hello? Oh great. We'll have to go through with it, then.
Phase V: Euphoria. You've hauled the 58 trial boxes to the hotel room you'll be living in for the next month, set up the temporary shelving, hung the take-out menus in alphabetical order around the room and packed extra Gas-X in the tackle box you'll be taking to trial. You've sent your boss back to change three times and he/she finally looks almost presentable. You've got three extra sets of the opening statement notes on index cards and your laptop ran the presentation software more or less okay, with only minor glitches, roundabouts two a.m. this morning. Somehow it'll all hold together. You take a deep breath, swallow the rest of your double-shot sugar-free cinnamon dolce latte in a single gulp, toss the cup over your shoulder into the trash can and it's time to follow your boss into the courtroom. Four weeks from now this will all be a distant memory. The gavel bangs and it's showtime...
Well, at least I hope that's what Stage V will be like. I'm mired in Stage III right now. Two weeks to go. I'll keep you posted.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Friday, May 13, 2011
I admit it; I have too much stuff. I could say we have too much stuff, but that’s an open invitation to an argument. One person’s too much stuff is just barely enough and maybe we should get a little more. Fifteen years I’ve been living with Joan and if I wanna make it to sixteen I had better shut the heck up. Besides, I do have too much stuff. I have scads of books and t-shirts and things and I’m not even sure what-all in the scary room that used to be a garage and is now kind of the laundry room/craft room/ cat box room/ place where we dump stuff we don’t know what to do with. There are still boxes in that vicinity that we never opened when we moved in, uh, 2004. The only reason I haven’t opened them (besides the fact that they’re scary) is that all the stuff I’m looking for might not be in there, and then I might have to acknowledge that it’s Lost Forever and then I might have to go get more stuff.
Seriously, I feel guilty about the quantity of stuff I seem to have accumulated in my pushing-42 years on the planet. I have some weird stuff. A set of bagpipes, for one thing – a bit dried out, but probably still serviceable. A guitar. A bicycle pump. A nifty space heater that I’m now afraid to use because it might fall over, catch on fire and kill everybody. But by far the largest quantity of excess stuff is paper. I have more paper than any normal person. I have an embarrassment of paper. And I haven’t the foggiest idea what to do about it.
Way back in the mists of prehistory, ie, in high school, this whole writing thing started to get out of hand. I started to get this idea that I might want to quit fooling around and actually, you know, do something, like, I dunno, slap some words together and see what happens. A friend of mine decided to join me—God alone knows why—and we alternated chapters, if you could call them chapters, until we came to the end of one of the sorriest tales ever penned by anyone, ever. Don’t even ask me what was about. It’s embarrassing enough that it exists. It was about 140 pages and it didn’t conclude so much as it mercifully crashed into a wall. I thought it was brilliant, naturally. I still have it. It’s hermetically sealed in an envelope and I’ll probably leave instructions to cremate it with my remains, but I can’t bring myself to just put the thing out of its misery.
My next foray into the great literary scene was 224,000 words long. I shit you not. It was a sweeping epic of monumental proportions. This one had a plot, sort of, and there was a war going on, sort of, and the protagonists (oo, I used a big word) all got laid and there were exciting plot twists and, well, it actually wasn’t bad, except for being totally incomprehensible. This sucker took up four (count them, four) three-ring binders, took an entire weekend to print out on a dot matrix printer (remember those?) and ended happily, I think. One of the boxes down in the scary room is completely full of this manuscript, which I will probably never open again. And I haven’t brought myself to throw away that one, either.
By the third one, I was in college, and I’d actually learned something, scary as that may sound. The third one was a haunted house tale that I rather liked. There was only problem; it dropped dead on me at about page 200. I mean seriously, it just died. I could not add even one more sentence. If a story is going to die on you, it ought to be polite and drop dead around page ten or so. I keep kicking around the notion of going back and seeing if I can fix it, because, well, I hate to give up. I probably won’t, though. And twenty years later, it’s still in a box someplace. (I hate to tell you this, but this blog post does not end happily.)
You get the idea. I am swimming in abandoned manuscripts. I’m not even sure how many I have, but somewhere between five and ten, anyway. I sometimes give Joan a hard time because she holds on to old zines and underground publications, but I really ought to just get over myself because I’m just as bad. The good news is, I managed not to start querying agents and publishers on any of these suckers. I at least knew I was producing material that was Not Suitable For Publication. (Yeah, and Danielle Steel is Shakespeare. But I quibble.)
Still, ya gotta start somewhere. It’s not like there’s an instruction book or anything. I’d like to think I haven’t written ten bad books. I would like to think I have succeeded fabulously at finding ten ways that do not work. Meantime I’ll, uh, hold on to my illustrative examples. Yeah. That’s it. That’s the ticket. Until somebody buys me a great big shredder, that is.
Monday, May 9, 2011
"Democracy is not an American possession. It is universal."