Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Verdict: A Surprise Ending

"Finally!" I hear you mumbling under your collective breaths. I know you're anxious for me to stop writing about all this trial business and get back to the more important things I usually post about, like hats that don't mess up hair, the cost of toothbrushes, and the embarrassment of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta." Well, never fear. I'm about to reveal the verdict and the funny twist that happened after the jury submitted its decision.

I wrote about the first day's deliberation a few posts back, so I won't go back over that stuff. To be honest, I had a hard time sleeping that night. The decisions were weighing heavy on the old brain, and I dreaded going back into the deliberation room. But I did.

We had to resume where we left off - stuck on the question about whether or not the cardiologist conformed with accepted medical practice in his examination and clearance of the plaintiff for surgery. Two of us felt the evidence - testimony of plaintiff and defendant, as well as the handwritten exam notes - showed that he did depart from the norm, given plaintiff's medical history and symptoms. Four disagreed. But we had to have a consensus of at least five. In the end, and to move on, one of the two joined the four, though she didn't really agree with them.

We moved through the 17-page questionnaire quicker after that. We did think that the phone call to the on-call cardiologist had been made - phone records or no phone records - and found for the plaintiff on that one. But as far as the whole Pepcid AC business, well, we couldn't find against the on-call cardiologist since we didn't really know what was said.

That's the way it went for the rest of the questions. We didn't find negligence on the part of the defendant or the plaintiff. We thought the truth was somewhere in between, but the plaintiff just didn't present enough real evidence to prove his case.

After adding up the answers and decisions, we awarded nothing to the plaintiff. We felt bad because, again, we felt there was some truth to the fact that no one took his arm/shoulder pain seriously and it may have been a warning sign that his arteries were closing again. But we just didn't have enough evidence. The cardiologist was an arrogant asshole, but you can't convict somebody for that (though I think we should change the law to be able to do so). We sent our verdict to the judge and waited to go into the courtroom.

We all dreaded going back in and reading the verdict. We did not want to face the nice plaintiff and his family - they didn't seem to be the litigious type of folks, and we felt bad for them. After about 10 minutes, the judge called us to the courtroom and we filed in and sat down.

OK. Here's the kicker.

"Thank you for your time and attention," says the judge. "I have not shown your verdict to the lawyers, because while you were completing your deliberations, the plaintiff and defendants came to a settlement, the amount of which I cannot disclose to you. Thank you again for your service. You are dismissed."

Well, we all started laughing and shaking our heads. After all the tense moments during the trial and in the deliberation room (it got heated at times), to think the parties reached a settlement! To tell the truth, we were all relieved that, yes, the plaintiff would get a little out of this, even though we weren't able to find in his favor.

We went back to the jury room to collect our belongings. While we were doing so, all three lawyers came in to ask how we'd decided. Only the cardiologist had settled (not defendant NYU hospital), so he must've felt it wouldn't go his way. The plaintiff's lawyer and the NYU lawyer stuck around (the cardiologist's lawyer slinked out) and talked to us a long time, wanting to know which witnesses worked, etc. And we asked about the phone records and such.

As I headed for the elevator, the plaintiff's family was getting ready to leave. They thanked me, I shook the plaintiff's hand, and I told him to take care of himself. The end.

I was glad for the way everything turned out. And it was good to have the jury experience, even though it put me 'way behind at work. Now I'm off the jury pool list for six years. All's well that ends well, I reckon.

The Trial, Part 2: Just the Facts, Sirs

Loosen your girdles and put your feet up. This is a long one.

Facts. Well, I can only give you an overview of the facts as I heard them. One of our jurors kept saying that a fact was a fact (and of course, those “facts” just happened to be the way he saw them), but we all know that while, yes, a fact is a fact, whatever it is comes filtered through an awful lot of stuff before it reaches your grey matter. Thus, facts aren’t always “facts.” And sometimes there is a disconnect between “fact” and “truth.”

That said, here’s an outline of the “facts,” sprinkled with my own biases and truth. since it can’t be done any other way:

1. The plaintiff (aged 58 in 2002, the time of the incident) – nice, hard-working family man (nobody disputes that, so I’ll consider it a “fact”), originally from New York but living in Florida for the past 30 years or so; musician on the side. Active, until diagnosed with prostate cancer, the disease which had killed his father some years earlier. Plaintiff decides to nip it in the bud, as it were, and opt for a radical prostatectomy. He decides to have the operation in New York by a noted urologist rather than in Florida and goes to see the urologist at NYU to schedule the operation.

2. The New York urologist schedules the operation but insists that plaintiff have a series of pre-op tests with his doctors in Florida, including a cardio stress test, because of plaintiff's other medical issues – diabetes, hypertension, lupus anticoagulant. Plaintiff goes back home to Florida to have the tests and wait for the operation. During the cardio stress test, doctors discover that plaintiff has major blockage that requires stenting in a couple of arteries (July). Prostatectomy postponed.

3. A couple of months later (August), another blockage occurs and plaintiff has to have another artery stent. Prostatectomy postponed again.

4. Prostatectomy is re-scheduled for October. Florida cardiologist clears plaintiff for surgery in a letter dated early September. Florida internist clears plaintiff for surgery a few days before plaintiff leaves for New York, even though plaintiff complains of pain in left shoulder, upper arm, and neck.

5. Plaintiff arrives in New York a week before scheduled prostatectomy for more pre-op tests. Still has shoulder/arm/neck pain, but not severe. Reports pain to urologist and hematologist (had to see him for plaintiff’s lupus anticoagulant problem) during exams. Hematologist sends plaintiff to a cardiologist for clearance because of plaintiff’s recent stents; mentions arm/neck pain – but not concerned.

6. Per cardiologist, he “squeezes in” plaintiff for a cardio work-up, at request of hematologist colleague. No medical records/history paperwork given to cardiologist before exam. His work-up is determined by a 10-minute interview with plaintiff. Cardiologist corroborates plaintiff's recollection of interview, including information on recent stenting, diabetes, hypertension, lupus anticoagulant, medications (a long string of them), and the neck/shoulder pain.

7. Cardiologist moves the arm around, determines it’s not heart-related, just a pinched nerve or something (nothing definitive), and prescribes Tylenol with codeine. He listens to the plaintiff’s chest, then does an EKG – which was reported to show “within normal range” – and clears plaintiff for the radical prostatectomy scheduled for six days later. Cardiologist never notes on his exam report that plaintiff has neck/shoulder pain, or that he prescribed medication for the pain. He gives plaintiff a business card and says to call if pain gets worse or if another symptom develops. And, oh, by the way, he’ll be out of town until Tuesday (Columbus Day holiday), but his service can take the call.

8. Plaintiff gets Tylenol with codeine prescription and goes to his daughter’s house in New Jersey to await the operation. There are some family things going on – daughter has high-risk pregnancy and is about to deliver – and everyone’s worried on a variety of levels. Neck and shoulder pain persist, though the codeine helps. Family goes out to a restaurant Saturday evening and plaintiff develops what he thinks (or insists) is heartburn.

9. Heartburn persists; wife and daughters (allegedly) call cardiologist’s service. An on-call cardiologist and member of cardiologist’s medical group (allegedly) returns the call, listens to plaintiff’s complaint of chest burning/heartburn and his history, and (allegedly) prescribes Pepcid AC. Doctor (allegedly) tells plaintiff to go to the emergency room and/or call back if symptoms persist. There is no record of this phone call, and no phone records were submitted by either plaintiff or defendants (all lawyers later said that records were no longer available from 2002, no way to prove one way or the other if the call was placed).

10. Plaintiff takes Pepcid AC. The “heartburn” eases but sticks around, as does the neck and shoulder pain. Plaintiff doesn’t go to emergency room; doesn’t call the cardiologist on Tuesday. Plaintiff (allegedly) thinks his pain is being treated properly and that he is just nervous about impending operation.

11. Plaintiff goes to hospital for prostatectomy on Thursday morning. Pre-op paperwork (allegedly) filled out by attending nurse anesthetist shows a brief medical history of plaintiff, though no mention of shoulder/neck pain. Paperwork shows, “denies chest pain.” (And there was a lot of quibbling about what “denies chest pain” means here.)

12. Plaintiff goes in for prostatectomy – successful (no wrongdoing alleged about this) – but experiences a massive heart attack just after returning to recovery room, resulting in extreme heart damage and the need for a defibrillator/pacemaker.

One primary question before us was: Did the NY cardiologist depart from acceptable medical practice by not taking plaintiff’s complex medical history and the neck/shoulder/arm pain seriously enough to warrant more than an EKG for post-op clearance? Did his paperwork/clearance omit important facts of the case as he (the cardiologist) passed plaintiff through the medical system?

The other question was: Did the plaintiff do everything he could do to ensure his own cardiac safety leading up to the operation? Specifically, did he really tell anyone(s) about his persistent chest-burning either in the days leading up to the operation or when he got to the hospital the morning of the operation?


The Trial, Part I: Order in the Court

Cue the credits and the “Perry Mason” music. My days as a juror are over because we ended deliberation and rendered our verdict yesterday afternoon. I know you are just dying to know the outcome, but I’ll save that for a later post. There’s just too much to explain in a single entry. I will do my darndest to give you as much bare bones info as possible, while retaining my pithy little sidebars.

For all of you who have been sending along advice to “hang ‘em high,” you must know that capital punishment was never an option. This was a civil, not criminal, trial, and the end result would be the awarding (or not) of settlement money. No bloody footprints (though blood was involved). No splattered brains. No shady characters. Well, maybe a shady character or two.

No. This was a medical malpractice suit. In terms of the law, “negligence” involving the field of medicine is “medical malpractice.” It certainly doesn’t involve or presume anything intentional. It focuses on whether or not accepted medical practice was used at the time(s) in question.

Our particular case involved a plaintiff with a long string of complicated medical issues who had a massive heart attack just after a radical prostatectomy. The plaintiff contended that he received clearance for the operation from a cardiologist who gave him a cursory work-up before passing him on through the hospital system, missing or ignoring medical symptoms that would have postponed the operation and avoided the MI (myocardial infarction – love those big bad medical terms). A difficult thing to prove, especially going up against a well-known New York cardiologist, his medical group, and NYU Hospital.

Evidence that we the jury could consider included: trial testimony, deposition testimony, and any exhibits presented in court (files, papers, pictures, etc.). This evidence could be “direct” or “circumstantial.” Individual jurors could imbue as much weight on specific evidence as they wish – “circumstantial” is just as valid as “direct” or testimony. One person’s testimony may hold more weight than another’s; it’s up to each juror to decide what to believe. And of course, the reality is that each juror brings experiences, biases, and knowledge that impacts a person’s final decision.

We heard testimony from the plaintiff, his wife, his daughter, the cardiologist in question, a cardiology expert, a nurse anesthetist, a urologist, and an weekend on-call cardiologist. Three lawyers – one for the plaintiff, one for the cardiologist and his medical group, and one for NYC Hospital – were a sight (and sound) to behold. All of the eye-rolling, head-shaking, and deep-sighing - in addition to “Objection, Your Honor!” – could have been distracting if one took them seriously.

Testimony was often long and rambling (not unlike this post). Contradictions occurred within single testimonies, which is to be expected in light of the way questions were phrased by the lawyers. If you’ve ever been deposed or appeared as a witness, you know how infuriating it is to have a lawyer keep yelling, “Yes, or no! Answer yes or no!” when the question may have lots of gray areas. Having been deposed a couple of times, I really felt for all of the witnesses. I wanted to stand up and scream, “Hey! This isn’t a simple “yes” or “no!” Let ‘em say what they need to say!” Of course, er, I had to just sit there and empathize with the poor schmuck on the stand.

The judge was what a judge should be – pragmatic, a little sarcastic, and to the (legal) point. I’ve since learned (because we couldn’t research anything or anyone related with the trial while it was going on) that she beat an incumbent party judge in the mid-90’s, ran uncontested a few years ago (she’s now the party judge, I guess), and was the first openly lesbian elected as a NY judge. That’s cool.

I took the judge’s instructions seriously about keeping an open mind. Every time I felt my sympathy drifting to one side or the other, I intentionally pulled back. It was hard, and it caused headaches (literally). When I left the courthouse each evening, I reviewed what I had heard and tried to argue for all sides to keep myself as impartial as possible. Alas, a couple of my fellow jurors seemed to have made up their minds early on, and those biases reared their ugly heads during deliberation.

The trial - from charging the jury to releasing the jury - lasted ten long days over the course of three weeks. No one said it would be easy. And I never did see Perry Mason, Jack McCoy, or Atticus Finch.

Friday, January 30, 2009


It's been a long road. Two weeks of complex testimony. Expert witnesses. Distressed plaintiffs. Of course, two weeks for the jury is a drop in the bucket compared to eight years for the plaintiffs and defendants. Eight years of pain and fear - enough for all sides.

So it's down to us six. Six people from different walks of life, who now must render verdicts based on what we heard, what we saw, and - yes - what we bring to the table in terms of experience and bias. It comes down to direct evidence, circumstantial evidence, and a lot of "he said/he said/he said." All can be considered, according to our judge.

As far as I'm concerned, this cannot be rushed. We have 17 pages of questions from the judge. One question per page. We cannot move on until 5 of the 6 jurors have come to a consensus. One dissenter is allowed, but we all have to sign off on each question. Our yeas and nays will be sent to the judge to formulate the verdict. But each question must be considered.

Alas, we have three members of the jury who just want to be done with it. Truth be told, I just want to be done with it, too. But this is no time to rush to judgment, just to get out of the jury room. Real people's lives will be affected, whichever way we go. All sides will feel the impact. All sides - 1 plaintiff, 2 defendants - gave compelling testimony and evidence. All sides gave lousy or questionable testimony and evidence. It will take time to sort out what's what as we go question by question. Every element of the case has been teased out to force us to consider all the action in question. This cannot be rushed.

We deliberated yesterday for about an hour and a half before being dismissed for the day. We made it through the first question fairly quickly, which allowed us to skip to the fourth question based on our answer to number one. The question facing us now is a tough one; I think it's the toughest thing we have to decide. We need to bring real intelligence to this, and to rush through it just to "get done" is failing our duty as a jury, I believe. I do think it interesting that of the three who want to rush, two are retired and one works part-time. The other three of us have full-blown, 50+ hours-a-week jobs. But we did take an oath, and deliberation is not the time to fail the plaintiff, defendants, the judicial system, or ourselves.

I'm not looking forward to today. There will be some wrangling, believe you me. The truth is that I, too, hope we finish this afternoon. It's hard being on a jury during the day and catching up with my work at night and weekends. I'm tired. But this part of the process is called "deliberation," not "let's just check off on these questions and get home." It's about logic, reasoning, and thoughtfulness. And lives will be changed by our decisions.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Don't-Know Chapeau, or The Conundrum of the Cap

It's cold. I need a hat. But hats are tricky things unless you're: a) a toddler, b) an old lady, or c) a guy. In order for a hat to work effectively, it must cover the top of the head and ears, since those are what the wearer is trying to keep warm in frigid temps. So far, so good. Until the hat is pulled off, and - ooof! - you're left with . . . the dreaded hat hair.

Now, every morning I spend a fair amount of time washing, drying, and styling my hair. The last thing I'm going to do is pull a hat down over my fine work and spend the day as Miss Flat Hair. I mean, no one strives for a Bad Hair Day, whatever gales are blowing outside. Forget it. I'll just freeze my ears off. A small price to pay for normal looking work-day hair.

I know what you're thinking: earmuffs. Well, yeah, and I do wear earmuffs on cold days, but they don't keep my head warm. And in really cold weather, that matters.

Believe me. I've tried everything. A jaunty beret? I look like Geraldine Chaplin in Home for the Holidays - yikes! A stocking cap? Bag lady. Wool scarf or pashmina? Terrorist. Icelandic knitted jobbie? Too stupid to mention. And all of them give me hat-hair. Pooh.

Listen, anybody out there who can invent a hat that keeps head and ears warm AND doesn't mess up the hair for the rest of the day will be a ka-trillionaire. Ideas? Really?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy (Chinese) New Year!

Ten Thousand Matters as (You) Wish

Let's hope the Year of the Ox brings more peace and financial security than the Year of the Rabbit. Now, get out there and have a steaming bowl of won ton soup!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Thus, I am baffled

I found myself in the midst of a swirling vortex of "Wha -?" all day long. "Wha - ?" you ask? (And can one use two question marks in one sentence?) Yes. Total puzzlement over several little things has grown into one big ball of confusion. For example:

  • When did toothbrushes get so expensive? I'm talking about just the regular, manual kind. A stick of plastic with some bristles on the end. I mean, $3 - $10 for a plain old toothbrush - why? And don't get me started on the toothpaste. Can we ditch Emeril, and go back to the animated Ipana beaver? It was a lot cheaper.

  • Why do credit card companies make the numbers on the card so hard to read? I get that it might be somewhat of a security measure, but when the cardholder can't make out the numbers at all and has to do a crayon rubbing to reveal them, things are out of whack. Or maybe I'm just getting too old to read the numbers.

  • What is it about rich folks that allows them to get away without paying taxes until they are being vetted for some political position? Somehow, I don't think the IRS will buy it if I say, "I forgot."

  • Why do I keep getting ads through the mail for General Motors cars? What on earth would make me want to run out and buy a Cadillac Escalade or Chevy Malibu at this particular point in time?

  • Why do I keep getting ads through the mail for car insurance when I don't own a car (GM or otherwise)?

  • What in the time/space continuum causes a 4-day work week to seem longer than a 5-day work week?
Thus, I am baffled. Wha-?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A little chocolate, a little Co-Cola

That would make my jury experience so much better. Truly.

Though I can't talk about the trial until it's over, there are a few things about the jury experience that I feel compelled to share. And one of those things is that I believe I could pay better attention to the dense, deep testimony if once in a while, the officer of the court would pass around a tray of chocolate and Cokes. As you know, Shorty will do just about anything for food, including not nodding off during that after-lunch testimony. Chocolate. Cokes. Got it?

A massage chair would be a big step forward, as well. A jury member's rear end can get right numb sitting hour after hour. A seat with "happy fingers" would definitely motivate said jury member to stay focused.

A bigger courtroom would certainly help. Our room is kind of small, so the judge, lawyers, and witnesses are really close to those of us asked to render a verdict. A little too close for comfort for this jury member. Get out of my face. (And pass the chocolate.)

Our courthouse (not the main one; we're in the Lefkowitz - wouldn't you know - court building) has cool elevators, though. With actual elevator operators, which makes elevator-travel tres chic. After just two days I've come to believe that all elevators should have smartly dressed elevator operators, as of old. We need every bit of class we can get in this old world.

Notice, I'm not mentioning the fact that we totally missed all the inauguration hoopla because we were in the courtroom hearing testimony. By the time we were dismissed for lunch, the ceremony was over. We were very disappointed people, I tell you. Sigh.

Back to court tomorrow, and hoping the officer of the court picks up my little chocolate and Coke hint. Hint. Hint.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Feets, do yo' stuff

I have discovered a great blog dedicated solely to walking around New York City. I discovered the blog, Walking Off the Big Apple: A Strolling Guide to New York City, around Christmastime, when I came upon a great post about a walk around Chelsea, Clement Clarke Moore's (The Night Before Christmas) 'hood. Did you know the neighborhood was named after Moore's estate in the area? Me, neither.

Anyway, this site is just loaded with great ideas and information that I fully intend to put to good use as I walk this wonderful city. I mean, who can resist a list of bookstores and nearby cafes? Garbo walks? British Invasion Walks? Or a list of chocolate stores (ooh, Liz, this has your name all over it!)? Simply fabulous stuff.

Now I have a New York equivalent of diamond geezer, my go-to blog for London (and environs). Great blog, WOTBA creator!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I, the jury . . . maybe

I'm finding the jury selection process rather interesting, though not as interesting as the Mickey Spillane poster (not even close). I've never gotten this far in the process, as I'm usually dismissed without so much as a howdy-do. But since I was one of the leftovers not chosen yesterday, my name was called for the first batch o' the day.

Everyone whose name was called crammed into a tiny, airless room, and sat in assigned numbered chairs. About half of the folks came up with a good reason that they couldn't serve on a jury for a case lasting more than a few days. That left the rest of us who couldn't come up with anything more believable than, "I'm too busy for this."

The lawyers for all concerned gave us an overview - but no real details - of the case, then proceeded to question us one by one. Lots of stuff about where we worked and what we did and were our parents alive and so forth. A few people had to go outside of the room for private consultation. It was long. It was hot. And at the end of the day, they hadn't finished with us, so we have to come back tomorrow for more questioning.

Now, I appreciate the process. I mean, all of us would want the very best, most impartial jury if we were on the jury-needing side. My only real complaint here is the small hot room. Seems like they'd put us in a real comfy room, bring us cold or hot drinks, feed us a steak or two. I'd really be more inclined to want to sit on the jury of a lengthy trial if they made me more comfortable. At this rate, I'm a little concerned that the trial (if I get that far) will be in a tiny, hot room. I'm afraid I will be predisposed to find fault with both the plaintiff and the defendants in that case.

I have no idea whether I'll be chosen or not. Who knows what the criteria is? Maybe I'm too Southern. Maybe I'm too Episcopalian. Maybe I'm just too damn smart and cute. (cough. cough.) Still, it's been an interesting procedure.

We'll see what happens tomorrow.

UPDATE: Believe it or not I was chosen for the jury. Alas, after 2 1/2 days, they've only managed to seat 4 of us. I have to call in every day to see if I need to report for duty. Then again, maybe they'll settle out of court. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Turning pages

Here's what I think. I think that some years are good book-reading years and some years are not-so-good book-reading years.

For example. Last year, I had a not-so-good book-reading year. It was frustrating. It caused reader's depression. (I just made that up, but I think some smart psycho-goofball could run with it.) I could not find a book in the first 11 1/2 months of 2008 that made me want to tear through it without stopping. In fact, some of the books I plowed through took me weeks - nay, months!

See, a book impacts more than just, oh, enjoyment or knowledge or even a sense of accomplishment. To me, reading wraps up my day. A good book gets me to bed earlier (which is a good thing), because I just can't wait to crawl back into a story or idea before falling asleep. Or not falling asleep, if the book's really good. It gives me a wonderful sense of satisfaction throughout the day, just knowing that an engaging story is waiting for me when I get home.

And a not-so-good book does the opposite. It makes me kind of fractious knowing that I can take or leave whatever un-good book is waiting for me. More like homework than reward at the end of the day. So I stay up later watching old Law and Orders or CSI: NYs, then grumpily read a few pages of the not-so-good book and huff off to sleep. I don't know. It's sort of stressful not having a great book to read.

OK. So I've established that 2008 was a not-so-good reading-year for me. But 2009 looks promising. I got a little jump on the good reading-year in late December with Pete Hamill's North River and Kate Atkinson's Case Histories. Tore through both of them in less than a week right around Christmas. And thanks to a Barnes and Noble gift card and a book swap at the office, I've amassed a good stack of promising good reading-year books for the coming weeks.

So farewell Year of the Not-So-Good Reading, and welcome Year of Looking-Pretty-Good Reading. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a book to get back to.

Shorty meets Jack McCoy

OK, not really. I mean, I won't have the opportunity to meet New York's real "Law and Order" folks until I report to jury duty this morning.

I've never served on a jury, even though I was called four or five times when I was in Atlanta. My experience has been that you just sit around for a while - can be an hour or all day - then somebody comes in, calls your number, and says you're dismissed. It would be kind of cool to serve on a jury (be careful what you wish for, I know), but I have a really busy week ahead of me and hope to be dismissed sometime today. But one never knows, do one?

So I have plenty of reading material and sudoku books packed in my briefcase. I've opted not to lug the laptop down there, even though it is allowed and wifi is available. I'll just stick to the Blackberry. But count on me to report back on the New York courthouse scene.

And who knows? I may show up in an upcoming episode of "Law and Order."

Update: Well, I didn't see Jack McCoy or anyone who looked like him. Or Fred Thompson. I spent all day sitting in a big room (comfy chairs, BTW) of about 300 people, waiting for my name to be called. It wasn't. In fact, there were only about 50 of us losers left at the end of the day. I have to report back tomorrow, and if I'm not called then, I've fulfilled my duty for four or five years, so they say. Wonder why my name's never called? I think I'd make a great juror. Hm.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

And here’s what I think about that

There’s something about this downward-spiraling economy that has me in a bunker mentality. Head down, nose to the grindstone, working overtime for my day-job and my freelance projects. I do, however, occasionally lift up my head and attend to a couple of news items that keep popping up on TV and the internet. Some of these people just won’t go away, so I feel the need to pull away from work for a bit to add my 2¢-worth.

1. Caroline Kennedy. First, just let me say that I really hate losing Hillary Clinton as my senator. I’ve loved every minute of it, girlfriend, and if there was any way for you to be both Secretary of State and my NY Senator, I’d be all for it. However, no can do, Hills, so the Guv’nor must appoint someone to serve in your place until the next election in 2012. Sigh. OK. Second, so Caroline Kennedy steps in and wants the appointment. Hm. Now, I’m familiar with Ms. Kennedy’s credentials. In fact, I used her book In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action when I taught Advanced Placement Government & Politics in high school a few years back. I appreciate that she’s not some rich chick who’s clueless about the Constitution and how the government works.

However, her pursuit of the Senate position bothers me. Why now? She’s never shown an interest in elected office before. Still, I’m not someone who thinks only career politicians can be effective in Congress, so that’s not what has me bugged. But then it was revealed that she has a pretty spotty voting record over the years. OK. That does bother me. If you can’t get yo’ rich white butt outta yo’ Upper East Side digs to pull a few levers for democracy - especially in key primary elections - well, I don’t think you deserve a Senate seat. Plus, all those "ya' know's" in her interviews. Sheesh. Advice: start voting, yes, even in primaries. Start learning about the issues of the people of New York state (the whole state). Work with a speech coach to eliminate those adolescent speech tics. Then run for the seat in 2012. Love you. Love your pony Macaroni. But this Senate appointment should go to someone who’s been in the trenches. There. I’ve said it. (Are you listening, Gov’nor?)

2. Bernie Madoff. Where to start. These are the times that make me thankful that I don’t have enough money to invest. Yes, it pays to be poor. Anyway, back to Bernie. House arrest? Excuse me? The guy ran the biggest Ponzi scheme of the ages (and admitted to it), messing with not only rich fat cats, but lots of charities and projects that depended on those investments. And yet, the powers that be let him hang out in his fancy-schmancy Upper East Side penthouse. (Gee, the Upper East Side comes up a lot here, eh?) His last little jewelry-hiding scheme should land him behind bars. Due process, my Aunt Fanny. I’m surprised old Bern hasn’t been blown away as he traveled in police custody over the past few weeks. Could that be the police plan? Whoops! Just couldn’t protect the guy from that mad gunman/woman! At any rate, there’s a special level of Dante’s Inferno for Bernie Madoff. Such a scumbag.

3. Rod Blog-whatever-it-is. Gotta give this guy credit. He absolutely has the most enormous solid-steel cojones on the planet. He’s either the country’s #1 Sociopath, who honestly believes he’s done nothing wrong, or he’s the country’s #1 Arrogant Sumbitch (wait – that’s probably Bernie Madoff). I mean, the guy’s wheelin’ and dealin’ Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder, gets caught, quotes poetry, then slides in his Senate pick to the total flumoxation (is that a word?) of the Senate Democrats. Kinda’ brilliant, actually. Then, he gets impeached, goes jogging, quotes more poetry. And always has time to blow-dry that enormous mane of his. Yikes! I think he and Sarah Palin should go on the road together. They are the most entertaining couple of pols to come down the pike in a long time. I vote they do a sort of Regis and Kelly Show on the tube. Blog/Palin would blow Oprah out of the water.

What a cast of characters, eh? If you came upon these people in a novel, you’d write them off as unbelievable. Ha! to all of you.

Nose back to grindstone.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

How quickly the years pass. Why, it seems like only yesterday when my birth year 1951 was ushered in - what? - 30-35 years ago. And now it's 2009.

OK. I'm delusional this New Year's morning. I just liked the picture, that's all.

As for 2009, no resolutions for me, since I'm either a)perfect already, or b) totally irredeemable. I do, however, have a few wishes for the coming year:

1. I'd love to snuggle up with the Clever Writing Muse for a few months, the one that will spur me on to finish the three books I've started. I'm already in the vice-grip of the Industrial-strength Copy-churning Muse (fortunately) that keeps me going at my real job and for my freelance gigs. Maybe I can only have one muse at a time? Sigh. Can't give up the one that pays the bills - or pays almost all the bills - now, can I?

2. A real vacation. I'm trying to think of the last time I took a week or two off to unwind and recharge. I guess it was that week in August 2007, when I stayed here in NYC and played tourist. But what I want is a week to go somewhere like the Catskills or Adirondacks to a comfortable little cabin where I can read, sleep, hike, write, drink endless cups of tea. I'm really wishing for that.

3. I wish for a law making car alarms illegal, including a clause that allows for any car owner to be shot with a non-lethal paint gun at the very first woop-woop hint of an alarm. If you lived in my 'hood, you'd understand.

4. A lottery win. Nothing outlandish - $50,000 would do. I'm not greedy. If not a lottery win, I wish that fee-paying freelance writing opportunities keep coming my way.

5. Health, contentment, steady and interesting work, joy, and love for myself, my family, my friends, and for everyone who really needs a boost right now.

From my keypad to God's ear, eh?

May all your New Year's wishes come true. Happy 2009!