|My Retirement: Pucks, Ducks, and Yucks
Well, it's official. The retirement papers are filed, I've said goodbye to my colleagues, and turned in my ID card. I may come back on assignment sometime, but basically I'm retired.
I know I'm going to miss it. I enjoyed it tremendously. I liked making the rulings, liked the attention, even liked the controversy.
I felt bad, of course, about my mistakes. But there were only five of them in fifteen years, which I felt was a pretty respectable number, considering all the calls I had to make.
Oh, I know there are some who insist I blew more than five calls. I got used to guys banging their sticks against the glass and glaring at me. And I frankly kind of enjoyed it when Grant Fuhr, a Hall of Famer, threw a water bottle at me. But instant replay only proved me wrong five times, so that's the number I'm claiming.
And one of them - the puck that went through the net - really wasn't my fault. An accident reconstruction specialist later explained to me that the time it takes a hundred-mile-an-hour slap shot to go through the thickness of a hockey net is faster than the human eye can react, so there really wasn't much I could do about that one. Had it not been for ESPN's super-slo-mo camera, I would have suffered only four reversals.
But it was time to put an end to my career as a National Hockey League goal judge. Like all great athletes. I had lost a step over the years. The climb from our locker room to my seat behind the net seemed steeper, the line for the pre-game meal in the press room seemed longer, the chair in which I sat for three periods seemed harder.
It was just tougher to get into judging shape every season. It may have looked to the uneducated eye like I was just sitting around, but actually, goal-judging is a lot more sedentary than it looks.
And the wear-and-tear on your thumb is - as you can imagine - brutal. My job was to sit for two-and-a-half hours every night, pressing a button to turn on the red light above my goal every time the puck went in.
Sure, most hockey games end with four goals scored. But there were occasional wild shootouts, crazy 6-5 offensive pyrotechnic displays, which could mean a half-dozen thumb movements a night. You add to that the ceremonial testing of the light before every period, multiply it by 45-55 games a year, and you can see what I mean about the fans not appreciating the physical toll goal-judging imposes on the body.
It was time to step aside for a younger man.
A shame really. I'd done the job for fifteen years. The NHL thus ties the Orange County District Attorney's Office for the title of employer who was able to put up with me the longest.
I was one of the original Anaheim Ducks goal judges. I was there opening night. I called the first goal in franchise history.
I got the job by writing a letter to the NHL when they announced the formation of a franchise in Anaheim. I pointed out to them that this was not Saskatoon; they were not gonna have thousands of job applicants who had been goal judges before.
I told them I had a day job where people yelled and screamed about my calls, so that wouldn't bother me. And I figured out that as an L. A. Kings season-ticket holder for fifteen years, I had driven 60,000 miles to see hockey games.
This last was one of the most embarrassing admissions of my life. I did the math several times before I was able to face the horror of it. Fifteen years of making a hundred-mile roundtrip from south Orange County to Inglewood forty times a year came out to 60,000 miles.
Sixty thousand miles. The equivalent of fifteen trips across the country. To see hockey.
Worse yet, to see the Kings, who, while not exactly the doormat of the league, were at least one of the throw rugs.
Only in an application for a job as a goal judge would that not qualify as an admission against interest.
But it worked. They tried me out for a coupla months in a professional roller hockey league in Los Angeles. When I convinced them I could watch roller hockey for two hours without losing consciousness, they hired me.
And it was more fun than anyone ought to be allowed to have.
For one thing, unlike the rest of the world, the National Hockey League recognizes degrees of impartiality. All season, we were expected to be impartial. But for the playoffs, we had to be REAL impartial . . . so they sent us on the road.
This meant me and a couple of my buddies from the officiating crew would go to Denver or Vancouver or Phoenix or Chicago or wherever they needed REAL impartial goal judges to replace the merely ORDINARILY impartial goal judges of the home team. There we would officiate two hockey games in three nights.
On a typical assignment, we would fly in on Thursday and work the hockey game. Friday we would get up and play golf, and then - since there was an off-night between all playoff games - we would go to a sports bar and watch hockey games on television. Then Saturday, we would go play golf. Saturday night, officiate the hockey game. Sunday morning we'd fly home.
It was every nineteen-year-old's dream weekend.
Of course, it wasn't all country clubs and margaritas. I had a full beer dumped on me by an irate fan in San Jose. I got stuck in a wild Cinco de Mayo parade in Denver and was almost late for the game. And one of the referees, Rob Shick, beat me like a drum on the golf course every year.
In short, it was grueling work and exposed us to the seamy underside of professional sports.
And, of course, there were those horrible reversals. When you make a mistake as a trial judge, the Court of Appeal sends you a politely worded opinion two years later that tells you what you should have done. They share it with the parties and their attorneys, so maybe a half-dozen people in the world know you erred.
In the NHL, they announce it to 17,000 beer-drinking fans and a local television audience: "The guy in the NHL blazer sitting behind the net, the guy with the beard who has nothing to do but watch the puck . . . he screwed up."
At least that's how it sounds to the goal judge, whose hearing is usually distorted by the glass box in which he is sitting - and the booing and laughter of the crowd.
It is, of course, even worse if the game is nationally televised. Once, when I was in trial and had to stay late to work on jury instructions, the crew chief asked the two penalty box officials if one of them would fill in as goal judge. One responded, "Are you kidding? Do I look like a masochist? The job description for goal judging tonight's game is, ‘Sit there for three hours waiting to be embarrassed on national television.' You gotta be crazy to do that job."
You don't have to be crazy. But it helps.
Which, of course, makes it a lot like my day job. Being crazy helps if you're going to take a job where the best grade you ever get is 50%.
And that's the plight of the bench officer: Every call makes you one temporary friend and one permanent enemy.
That's a little disconcerting when you first realize it. When it first dawns on you that you are not universally admired, that the attorneys do not go home singing the praises of your Solomonic wisdom, and that in fact they invariably walk out at the end of the day convinced you blew at least three calls, it comes as a bit of a shock.
And in a civil case, with a half-dozen parties, you can get grades like 33% and 16%. Judges are people who did well in academia; we are not used to bad grades - much less F-minuses. Watching six of the seven lawyers in the courtroom struggle to find different euphemisms for "moron" is tough on us.
But in almost a quarter-century, first as a trial court judge and now as an appellate jurist, no attorney or litigant has booed me, thrown a water bottle at me, or drenched me in beer. That may not say a lot about my judicial skills, but it should indicate to you why I decided to leave the NHL and stay with the court system.
 And smaller.
 With only two fifteen-minute breaks, two one-minute time outs, and fifty or sixty stoppages of play a night. Sweat-shop working conditions.
 Yeah, I know, Lloyd Freeberg, the local criminal defense attorney who's served as the other goal judge all these years, is still going strong at 94 or 95 or whatever his age is now. But Lloyd's a physical freak who still PLAYS hockey two or three times a week. He's been paying for ice time and his equipment with his social security check since the Eisenhower administration.
 Peter Zeughauser, another Orange County attorney, was the goal judge at the opposite end of the ice. How the only attorneys on the officiating crew ended up locked in a glass box every night is a question I try not to dwell on.
 And the first one in Great Britain, when the NHL's 2007 two-game opening series between the Ducks and Kings in London was serendipitously scheduled the same week as my speech to the ABA's International Law section.
 Let me hasten to point out that I was a trial judge then and the hallway outside my courtroom on law and motion day resembled nothing so much as an 18th century asylum, with people tearing their hair out, screaming at the tops of their lungs, and trying to leap through windows.
 Pretty much the same qualification that convinced Pete Wilson I was Court of Appeal material.
 Except without the strippers.
 San Jose provided two ushers to protect the goal judges, but mine was over-qualified. He was a college student. He knew enough to get out of the way of flying beers.
Posted by William Bedsworth on Friday, November 05, 2010 at 15:15
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|Finally -- A Judging Job I can Handle
I think I've found my calling.
This will come as good news to those of you who have waited so long for me to find it. You were pretty much convinced it wasn't appellate justice or columnist, but you were hard-pressed to figure out what it might be.
So was I. Lord knows, I've looked everywhere.
They've had me judge criminal cases, civil cases, superior court, juvenile court, appellate court, dog shows, flower shows, chili cookoffs, the National Hockey League . . . . The idea was to have me judge stuff until we found something I could handle.
We were still looking until last week, when my wife handed me a copy of Time Magazine and there it was, smiling up at me from page 43. Something I could handle: Fantasy Sports Judge.
I beg your pardon? Of course that's a real job. And a danged important one if you ask me.
Fantasy sports judging is the wave of the future, and I'm gonna jump on it and ride until I reach the shore or fall off my board, break my collarbone, and spend the rest of the summer the laughingstock of Hermosa Beach.
According to both Newsweek and BusinessWeek, fantasy sports is a three-billion dollar industry in this country. I'll stop while you re-read that sentence and try to catch your breath.
In fact, this might be a good time to take a break and walk around the block. After all, it's not every day you encounter a sentence that tells you the culture to which you belong has reached a new nadir. If you thought we made a u-turn at Smokey and the Bandit and were headed back toward civilization, this has to be crushing news for you. A little fresh air might help you deal with it.
A three billion dollar industry (this is an admitted approximation; it grows 7-10% a year and it's hard to keep up with the numbers) with somewhere between 15 and 25 million participants. Baseball, hockey, football, basketball, golf . . . hell, for all I know there's fantasy badminton and backgammon. You talk about addictive substances, fantasy sports is right up there with cigarettes, alcohol and baked goods.
I personally manage two baseball teams and a hockey team every year. That means the sun never sets on my need to know who got a hit in the Pittsburgh-Houston game and how many assists the Blackhawks got against the Leafs, games I would otherwise have no interest in.
Don't look at me like that. Justice Fybel has a baseball team and I know of at least two other judges and two of the best lawyers in this county who play. And we don't even play for money; we're just in it for the competition.
The mayors of eleven major United States cities (including San Francisco, Sacramento, and Oakland) are, as I write this, adjusting their rosters for their big Yahoo fantasy football competition. Soon they too will be squinting from having to read the agate nanotype in which box scores are printed.
I don't know how to break this to you, folks, but while you've been spending your off hours listening to Copeland and Ives and Cage, re-reading the Durants, and cultivating your cymbidia, much of the male - and a statistically significant portion of the female - populus has been pouring its time down the sink of fantasy sports.
You wanna know how big it's gotten? Yahoo and the National Football League Players' Association spent part of their summer vacation sparring in US District Court over whether Yahoo was going to have to pay for NFL stats for its fantasy leagues. Two years ago the 8th Circuit, in a 2-1 decision ruled that a fantasy sports company did not have to pay Major League Baseball for using its players' names and statistics in its fantasy games.
If you are not a government lawyer - if you have the luxury of choosing your clients - you know this indicates there's big money involved. I mean, you're not going to choke down your pride, put on your best big-boy suit, stroll into a federal circuit court and utter the sentence, "I represent a producer of fantasy sports games," unless there's some serious green on the table.
And I aim to clear that table.
Turns out there is an outfit called SportsJudge.com, started five years ago by a Rutgers law professor and erstwhile Skadden Arps associate, that resolves fantasy sports disputes. For a fee.
You think somebody violated your league salary cap or made an illegal waiver claim or made a trade after the trading deadline? Take it to SportsJudge.com. You think there's been collusion in your league because Joe Shlabotnick just traded three all-stars from his cellar-dwelling team to his cousin Tony Shlabotnick's contender in exchange for the Minnesota Twins' bat boy? Take it to SportsJudge.com.
But just as our judicial system has its alternative dispute doppelganger, Sportsjudge.com will soon have competition. Me.
Hey, not only am I a fantasy sports veteran, I'm a judging veteran, with 25 years' experience and the NHL on my resume. This is perfect for me; I'll be great at it.
I haven't yet decided on a name for my new enterprise. I'm going back and forth between JAMSMUS (Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services for Made Up Stuff) and ADRARD (Alternative Dispute Resolution for Alternative Reality Disputes). My choice of a name has been delayed by the need to do a little research on unfair competition law, but I'm almost there.
And this is just the beginning. There are all kinds of computer-simulated virtual worlds, whose players, having created their own worlds, now prefer virtual reality to life. Those folks seem to be tripping over each other to spend real money on made-up furniture for their made-up homes in their virtual reality worlds. And when they start slipping on the made up floors of the made up furniture stores and spraining their avatar lumbars, they're gonna wanta sue somebody, right?
And when they do, and when they find long lines waiting at the virtual courthouse doors, they're gonna come to JAMSMUS or ADRARD or whatever I end up naming this thing.
And when that happens? Easy street, Baby.
No more lugging briefs home every night, no more petitions for rehearing all weekend, no more ruling in favor of whichever side's brief the cat falls asleep on . . . oops, did I actually say that out loud?
Better get back to that unfair competition law research. Me and the cat may need work sooner than I'd planned.
 I was a National Hockey League goal judge for 15 years. Worked NHL games from Anaheim to San Jose to Chicago to Vancouver to . . . well, to London, England, where the Ducks and Kings played the season openers in 2007. Great fun, but I would have had to work 2,000 games a year to match my DCA salary.
 My writing instructor always said metaphors are better if they are based on true life experience, but I find that mine often take turns I don't anticipate.
 Just stay away from rooftops and bridges. And leave your gun, your belt, and your shoestrings behind.
 I'm usually skeptical of any statistics that involve something people are liable to do under an assumed name. Especially if they're liable to do it several times and only report once. After all, if you tried to gauge how many people eat chocolate chip cookie dough right out of the package, my own consumption would lead you to overestimate by a couple of hundred.
But I keep finding numbers like this everywhere I look. Lord have mercy.
 Football is the big dog in the kennel. Fantasy football generates a fanaticism that makes you grateful there is no reason for them to resort to improvised explosive devices.
 San Francisco inexplicably took Peyton Manning when it could have had any of the 49er quarterback candidates.
 My wife calls it baseball porn.
 "I represent a serial rapist"? Maybe. "I represent a polluter of our nation's waterways"? Maybe. "I represent a producer of fantasy sports games"? Show me the money.
 That whirring sound you hear is my mother, who never got me to clear a table in her entire life, spinning in her grave.
 Yeah, I know it sounds like a weak argument, but my pitch for the Court of Appeal gig wasn't a whole lot better, and here I am. Say what you will about me, I can sell.
 Pronounced "Jams-am-us."
 Maple Street, Second Life, Fox News.
Posted by William Bedsworth on Friday, November 05, 2010 at 15:10
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|A Ticket to Walk: Cap'n Crunch and the Other Terrorists
I think I may have underestimated the Pepsi Cola people. This would, after all, be an easy thing to do. About all we see of Pepsi is that red-white-and-blue beachball logo, and it's hard to take them seriously as an evil empire when all they seem to want us to do is join the Pepsi generation and think young. Frankly, I think we've long since passed the point of diminishing returns on getting me to think young, and I doubt I would be successful if I tried somehow to switch generations, so I'm afraid I haven't paid them a lot of attention.
Too bad. Turns out they are some kind of corporate Hannibal Lecter and I've fallen right into their evil clutches.
Yesterday I received word, via the magical powers of Al Gore's internet machine, that Pepsi is part of a vast, international Zionist conspiracy. The worldwide web treated me to a diatribe by an Egyptian cleric who maintained on his television show (picture Jimmy Swaggert with an Old Testament beard and a turban) that the letters P-E-P-S-I were an acronym for "Pay Every Penny to Save Israel." According to him, every time I drink a Pepsi, I'm really investing in missiles for Israel.
This was, of course, remarkable news to me, since I was pretty sure Pepsi pre-dated Israel by at least fifty years, and if the company was that prescient, I would have expected their stock to be selling for more than $54 a share.
But it was on the internet. It had to be true. At least that's my understanding of the law.
And it appears to be the understanding of a disturbing number of people who have my email address. I find that I know people who do not accept as authoritative the Koran, the Pentateuch, the New Testament, Joseph Smith's golden tablets, the sworn testimony of the Attorney General, or the pronouncements of the United States Supreme Court, but will forward to me every half-baked crackpot idea they find on the internet as if they had personally seen it graven in stone and handed to Moses.
Thanks to these people, I have learned that Barack Obama is not a United States citizen, that Hillary Clinton bore three children out of wedlock, that the walls of my colon are plastered with at least ten pounds of gunk, and that Elvis Presley is alive and being held for ransom in the rec room of a Croatian family in Secaucus, New Jersey. I have learned that the mainstream media hates U. S. soldiers, that stem cell research was started by Adolph Hitler and that the Virgin Mary is flitting all around the world to make guest appearances on cheese sandwiches and garage doors.
And now, thanks to the worldwide web and some half-wit imam in Sharm el-Sheikh, I've learned the truth about the sneaky folks at Pepsico.1
The problem is that I don't have time to act on all these problems. There's just too much to do. As Edmund Burke so poignantly noted, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to get too caught up in fantasy baseball."2
So it's important that I channel my efforts. If I try to combat all the evil plots and horrible conspiracies that show up in my email,3 my efforts will be diluted into ineffectuality - just as the Tripartite Commission intends!4
So, having conducted my own triage process to try to figure out which ones were most pressing, and having concluded that Dick Cheney can't save the world all by himself, I had bought a bus ticket for Secaucus5 and prepared an email of resignation to send to Justice Ming Chin.6 I was gonna rescue Elvis.
But then I received an email from Blaise Curet. Blaise is a nice guy, but he's an infidel as far as the internet is concerned. He insists on checking things with snopes.com7 and doing his own research. Blaise is hopelessly mired in the twentieth century.
So when he forwarded to me the story of Janine Sugawara and her heroic battle against Pepsico, he did not understand its significance. He did not realize how completely it corroborated the Egyptian holy man's clarion call. He had no idea it would cause me to forward my bus ticket and the Elvis email to Geraldo Rivera and go after Pepsico instead.
Janine Sugawara, like many brave Americans, fights daily against special interests.8 But, like the rest of us, she finds herself overwhelmed by their greater resources - resources they have gathered through unspecified nefarious means, the secrets of which have been handed down from the ancient Hebrews to Edmund Burke to the Masons to . . . uh . . . well, to the special interests.
One of the secrets they used against Janine was tricking her into eating Captain Crunch with Crunchberries breakfast cereal. After four years of eating Captain Crunch with Crunchberries breakfast cereal, Janine somehow developed the extraordinary insight that "crunchberries" were not berries at all! They weren't even fruit! They were sugar-saturated cereal just like everything else in the box.
As you might imagine, Janine was - to use the legal term - freaking blown away. Her trust in her fellow man, like her teeth, was completely eroded. She could not believe that Pepsico, a company she had trusted because their beachball logo seemed to be smiling at her, could deceive her this way. So, of course, she sued.
She alleged Pepsico, in its zeal to collect thousandths of dollars for Israel, had misled her. Until her phenomenal powers of observation uncovered the true non-fruit nature of the crunchberries and foiled them, Pepsico was stealing her fractions of centimes and funneling them to the Middle East.
According to the opinion in Sugawara v. Pepsico 2009 US Dist LEXIS 43127, 9 the lawsuit boiled down to this, "The Crunchberries are pieces of cereal in bright fruit colors, shaped to resemble berries. While close inspection reveals that the Crunchberries on the [box] are not really berries, Plaintiff contends that the colorful Crunchberries, combined with use of the word "berry" in the product name, convey the message that Cap'n Crunch is not all sugar and starch, but contains redeeming fruit. This message is allegedly supplemented and reinforced by additional marketing that represents that, ‘Crunchberries is a combination of crunch biscuits and colorful red, purple, teal, and green berries'."
A winner, right? Colored Sugar Pops passed off as redeeming fruit! The attorney who drew up this lawsuit, clearly knew what he was doing.10 He had Pepsico by their corporate . . . er . . . berries.
But he filed the suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. This was, of course, a tragic error. The Eastern District of California is part of the Ninth Circuit, a court whose domination by the international communist conspiracy has been well-documented in scores of emails. Everyone knows the Ninth Circuit is in Pepsico's Zionist pocket.11
Sure enough. The case was assigned to Judge Morrison C. England, Jr. Think about it, folks: The man's last name is England! Edmund Burke was from England. And his first name, Morrison, is a Scottish name. Burke's Hebrew madrasah? Where was it? Scotland!!! The poor woman never had a chance.
Judge England threw her out of court. Oh sure, he cloaked his evil bias in bogus legalese, suggesting that reasonable consumers should know what berries look and taste like and that had she read the ingredients on the box, she would have seen it contained neither berries nor any other kind of fruit. He seemed to insinuate that four years was an unusual amount of time for someone to be unable to identify a berry. But anyone who ventures into the tubes of the internet - as any concerned patriot ought to do - knows the real reason she lost.
I would call filing in the Eastern District a rookie mistake, but Janine is not a rookie. A few years ago she dragged Pepsico - kicking and screaming - into the sunlight over their fraudulent marketing of Froot Loops, a product which, as she revealed to an astonished America, contains NO FRUIT.
She lost that lawsuit, too.
God bless her and her lawyer for continuing to get up off the canvas and keep fighting.12 I look for more big things from them. I'm pretty sure Mountain Dew is not really dew, mountainous or otherwise. And if you're drinking Pepsi's Sierra Mist, well, you should get in touch with Ms. Sugawara right away, because you're clearly a member of the defrauded class.
Let's hope she and her courageous lawyer try a less closed-minded court next time. What circuit is Secaucus in? According to the internet, there's a dynamite false imprisonment suit there, just begging to be filed.
1 I've also learned, thanks to the imam, that a penny is "one-thousandth of a dollar." This is why the godless minions of Pepsico have been so successful: They have mastered the zero, an Arabic invention that has apparently not quite caught on in some parts of the Middle East.
2 Burke's prescience got him a job on the original Pepsico Board of Directors. Historians were baffled by his commitment to the survival of Israel until they found out he had been educated for three years in a hitherto unknown Hebrew madrasah in Scotland. If you doubt this, just google, "Burke Scotland schooled with Obama."
3 Did you know that no Jews died in the 9/11 attacks? Or that the plane that crashed into the Pentagon was in fact NOT one of the hijacked airliners, but a small jet of a type typically used by the CIA?
4 It's also important to remember that sometimes, as Senator Ted Stevens explained so well, the tubes that make up the internet get clogged up with advertising and important emails sent to him by his staff sometimes get delayed for several days until Roto-Rooter can get the internet up and running again. So when you try to figure out which conspiracy to fight against, always check to make sure you're dealing with new matter. The Hitler/stem cell email, for example, was sent to me in 1944, and only arrived two weeks ago.
5 Did you know you could buy bus tickets on the internet? Be careful to re-read footnote 4, however, so you realize your ticket may not arrive as quickly as you'd hoped.
6 Yes, I realize that ordinarily my resignation should go to Chief Justice Ron George, but I received a disturbing email the other day indicating that during his Princeton years he once visited Secaucus and was friendly with an unusual number of Croatians, so I decided to send it to Justice Chin instead. I wrote it in code to make sure the Chief would not get wind of my plans to rescue The King.
7 I've forwarded to Blaise an email I just received explaining that snopes is actually British rhyming slang for popes and is part of a Papist conspiracy to turn all Mormon temples into IKEA outlets.
8 Special interests. Noun. Anyone who does not back your candidate in an election. Antonym: The American Way.
9 Once again, if you want the truth, you go to the internet.
10Although he inexplicably failed to name Gordy Berry and Halle Berry as codefendants.
11 After we invaded Iraq, and therefore had to delete it from the Axis of Evil because, in the immortal words of Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us," President Bush proposed replacing it with the Ninth Circuit. Fortunately Condoleezza Rice convinced him that if we lumped North Korea in with the Ninth Circuit, North Korea would almost certainly declare war. Just another fact the mainstream press failed to report because of their liberal bias. If you don't believe me, google Axis of evil, Rice, Ninth Circuit.
12 I have not included the name of her lawyer, though it's set out in the court's opinion. I've read that lawyers who file cases against Pepsico have a peculiar habit of turning up missing shortly after mysterious black cars bearing CIA or NSA license plates are seen parked in front of their homes. That is, of course, what happened to Judge Crater, a brave Prohibition era opponent of the Pepsico/Zionist cabal's scheme to distribute bourbon disguised as soda under the brand name "Cap'n Pepsiberry."
Posted by William W. Bedsworth on Saturday, August 01, 2009 at 12:52
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|Itís Alright Ma (Iím Only Bleeding)
I have gone gently into the good night of geezerhood. I'm not sure exactly when it happened. At some point, apparently while my attention was diverted, I went from being "The Kid"1 to being "Acting PJ." That's like going to bed Warren Zevon and waking up The Werewolf of London.
It's not like the age thing snuck up on me. Two years ago, my birthday breakfast was served under a banner my wife had hung in the kitchen: 59, Gateway to the Wild Embellishment Years.
And a plaque I won in high school is on a wall in my chambers.2 It's dated. Every time I walk past it, I am reminded of my membership in the Class of '65. I should know how old I am.
But I was somehow still unprepared to find myself blurting out medical information to virtual strangers: "Yeah, got an arthritic right hip that makes it difficult to walk the course anymore" or "Chondromalacia in the left knee; little too much weekend warrioring."
I was still surprised to hear myself muttering "Dipstick!" under my breath while a Nobel Prize-winning economist held forth on television. And I was not ready for the realization that my youngest, a junior at UCLA, no longer regards me as a major obstacle to her future happiness3 as much as a quaint memento of her childhood.
These sure signs of advancing age seemed to spring fully-developed, like Athena from the head of Zeus4. They just suddenly appeared, fully armored and intimidating as hell. Scary stuff.
I'm still fighting, but it's pretty much Custer standing next to the flag, pointlessly firing a six-shooter at a thousand Sioux and Cheyenne. I know as soon as I stop to reload, I'm going to be toast. I'm going to find myself eating dinner at 4:30, watching re-runs of Matlock, and yelling at kids to get off my lawn.
But even though I know all that, there is a part of me that takes great pleasure in the fact I have reached an age at which I have greater confidence in my ability to identify idiocy.5 This, I believe will be a great comfort to me when my children file the conservatorship petition. I'll be able to wave my walker at them and shout, "You idiots! I'm not crazy, you are. . . . and get off my lawn."
I mention this because another sure sign has manifested itself this morning. I find myself completely bumfuzzled by the morning paper. The newspaper, which, like me, treads further down the path of the buffalo every day, is so far over my head this morning that I can't even hear its engines.6 And I think this may be an appropriate time to employ my newfound idiot-detection confidence.
If I read it correctly, Bob Dylan is being threatened with a lawsuit because the portable toilet on his sprawling Malibu estate is wafting noisome7 odors onto the property of his neighbors. Apparently you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows if you live next door to Dylan.
According to the Los Angeles Times, which I hope will be one of the last buffalo shot by the internet, Dylan has a porta-potty on his property that - at least according to his neighbors - is not doing a good job of containing sewage gases. They insist they've been sickened by them.
Dylan is not commenting.8 Nor is his New York lawyer.9 So I hasten to point out that we do not have both sides of the story. I hasten to point this out because I suspect Dylan has libel lawyers on speed dial.
And his neighbors are probably not dining on free cheese, either. Certainly they have a bigger budget than I. Their response to the odors was to install five industrial strength fans to try to blow the fumes back toward Dylan. Unfortunately, they are due east of the Dylan estate and even King Kong fans are no match for the prevailing westerlies.
So when self-help failed10, they asked the city to do something about it. But when the city's code enforcement officer showed up, Dylan's security guards refused to let him in. They told him he was trespassing. They threatened to sue the city. So he left. Took his badge and went home.
Instead of demanding access, the city had the City Manager drive by. Sure, that oughta do it.
Here's how the City Manager handled the matter: "I drove by one time and couldn't locate the porta-potty or smell anything. I called the rental company on her behalf to find out what chemicals they use and forwarded that information to her."
What more could he do? The National Guard is deployed in Iraq: there just weren't any troops available.
The city has an ordinance requiring that temporary toilets connected to authorized construction projects must be removed upon completion of the project, but Dylan's position appears to be that this is not a temporary toilet. It's permanent.11 It's for his employees. Check and mate.
Dylan's neighbors consider this preferential treatment. The city denies that, and, of course, it is certainly unprecedented for entertainment bigwigs to be treated any differently by government officials than the rest of us, so I'm pretty sure they're as on top of this as they could legally be. As I understand it, their official response was, "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright."
But in that regard, I do feel obliged to point out one small point in the Times story that concerns me. The guard shack where the code enforcement officer was turned away was built in 1989. At that time, Los Angeles County building inspectors discovered it was not accessible to the handicapped. But they allowed Dylan to bypass the accessibility requirement "by promising, in writing, that he ‘would not hire any handicapped persons' to work in it."
Excuse me? Did I read that correctly? You can avoid the requirements of the ADA just by promising - in writing - that you will, in the future, discriminate against the handicapped?
"Tell you what, instead of making my Burger King accessible to the handicapped, I simply will not allow them in." That works? "Instead of putting a ramp up behind the judge's bench, we'll just agree that no handicapped persons will be appointed judges." That works?
Apparently it works in Los Angeles.
But I try not to get too worked up about these things. At my age, it's not safe. So rather than continue with the Dylan story, which involved a lot of civil law I didn't want to research unless it came before me, I decided to read a story about criminal law. I'm an old prosecutorial horse. I figured I'd understand the criminal law story a lot better.
It said a woman had been arrested for stealing breasts. Say what?
Well, I guess that's not exactly what it said. But let me put it this way: If you obtained a car through false pretenses, you would be accused of stealing that car, right? Penal Code §487 explicitly covers theft by false pretenses.
Well, according to my newspaper, this woman is "accused of using a false identity to get breast implants and liposuction." In other words, they say she obtained them through false pretenses. So in plain language, the allegation is that she stole breasts.
I think this is a new crime. It's certainly one I've never heard of before.
And I therefore take great pride in announcing that the seminal case in this regard - Patient Zero, if you will - has been filed in my county, more specifically in Surf City, USA: Huntington Beach. Huzzah.
Obviously, I cannot comment on the merits of the case. This is good news for me because I know absolutely nothing about the merits of the case.
What's more, I am apparently hopelessly out of step with modern criminal conduct. In my day, you changed your appearance so you could change your identity. Now, as I understand it, that's been reversed. This woman is charged with having changed her identity so she could change her appearance.
Needless to say, if that rather pedestrian aspect of the crime confuses me, I have no chance with the much more exotic concept of felonious body improvement. Trust me, folks, if there is anyone on the planet who should be willing to lie, cheat or steal to get a better body, it's me. Yet this particular crime - fraught as it is with surgically inserting goo into one part of the body and surgically sucking goo out of another part - simply eludes me.
But I don't really need to comment on the case. I need only express my complete and utter confabulamentation12 that I have reached an age where even basic breast crimes are beyond my ken. I mean, I expect to have difficulty with computer crimes. I expect to have problems when a negligence case involves some colossally complicated principles of medical technology or an alleged investment fraud requires understanding of derivative securities.
But breasts? I really thought I understood breasts. I would have thought I knew all the illegal things you could do with breasts. You get to my age and find out there is breast crime you never even imagined, it's hugely disconcerting.
So I'm just going to put the newspaper down and resolve to try again tomorrow. Right now, I think it's time for my nap.
1 I was the youngest member of my law school class.
2 Yeah, I know that's a little sad, but it's in an out-of-the-way-spot; I'm the only one who ever sees it. There have been so few athletic triumphs in my life that I don't want to take the chance of forgetting one.
3 The proper role of all fathers of daughters.
4 No, I was not there to see that.
5 Still another sure sign of geezerhood.
6 Apparently my figurative ears are giving out as quickly as my real ones.
7 This word does not mean what you think. Neither does "bemused," which describes me a whole lot better than "amused" these days. Digression: another sure sign.
8 If he did, he wouldn't be Dylan, now would he?
9 The Times thought the lawyer's residence was significant, and they know more about journalism than I do, so I thought I better put it in, too.
10 Talking it out with Dylan failed. When a guy writes things like "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry," he figures to be difficult to negotiate with.
11 "Temporary Like Achilles."
12 A portmanteau word: lamentations caused by my increasing inability to distinguish fact from fancy.
Posted by William W. Bedsworth on Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 10:08
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