But I am so lazy, don't want to wander, I stay at home at night
But I don't feel afraid
As long as I gaze on Waterloo Sunset, I am in paradise"--Ray Davies
That guy Voltaire said that working keeps away "boredom, vice and need". I must admit that I'm rarely bored, but I am not quite pure virtue, and I am not quite free of needs (although I sometimes think I'm pretty needless, and shudder a bit that I am more than the usual quotient of heedless).
Tonight I was thinking of a really cool secret I learned last week. The problem with really cool secrets learned professionally is that they can't be shared. When I was 25, and the world was all before me, in concentric crop circles, pretty maze all in a row, endless passages and hopes and journeys, I owned a Dodge Colt Vista. A Colt Vista was a station wagon that had pretensions to being a kind of mini-van. It dated from those halcyon days when cars, not trucks, were the platforms for such things. I'd drive, and be free of secrets and office politics and stress. Life lived without secrets--for a moment, in a prairie, or amid piney woods.
I used to work like Dr. Frankenstein on a bender for five and a half days, although others with whom I worked literally lived their lives working, so that I got the ironic feeling of working way too hard, and not nearly hard enough, all at once.
My quarter-life crisis came about then. You have to realize that I'm one of reality's great self-entertaining souls. Until I was 28, I fully expected to be single all my life, and I did not marry until I was nearly 31. But at 25 or so, I actually felt a strange sensation: loneliness. I did the "is that all there is" angst appropriate to the age 25 to 30 age bracket. I dreamed of great things I wished I could do, but convinced myself I could not do.
"If only!", I'd say. But I soldiered on. In those times, I found myself an observer, someone who savored life and people, but from a distance. I seemed to make silly errors constantly, like forgetting to discard suit pants with a tear in them. I read mountains of books, and learned mountains of things, and took drives into oblivionesque prairie that restored me.
I was perpetually too busy to do the things I needed to do. I always find that the hardest part of this "job in business" thing. One is too busy to do anything. I had enough money, a charming little house I actually bought (right before a housing market collapse, but that's another story), and amid the misery of learning the craft, I was figuring out how to be a lawyer. But I was too busy to do the things that I had presumably become an adult to do.
I've always wondered why lawyering came relatively easy to me. I went from being an impractical college student to emerging from law school with a really solid head for business. I give credit to my law school, a place where nobody had any illusions of grandeur or philosophy, so people instead buckled down and taught and learned how to be a lawyer. But imagine my surprise when it turned out I was one of the practical people. I thought I was a sort of alpaca crossed with a feathery tropical plant, and instead I turn out to be a darn good burro.
In May, twenty years will have elapsed since I finished law school. I remember so many things about that first year out of school. I remember parting from someone I was dating then, as I moved to another city to begin practice. It's a wrenching feeling, when you are, as I was and am, someone who believes in long-term relationships but finds oneself dating someone perfectly amiable whom one is convinced one will not marry. I had never been in the position of leaving someone behind before, and it rather chilled me toward dating for some time.
I remember finishing the 1984 Texas bar examination, and driving to Dinosaur Valley State Park, and lying back on a huge boulder, on a short hill, in a park where dinosaur footprints can be seen in a river which runs amid scrub cedar trees and prickly pear. I looked up into the sky, on a hot July day, and saw my future streched before me. But I didn't see the facts--I just saw the years, like a great highway, or rather the void. I closed my eyes and watched my eyelids turn that sun-red I have always imagined to be more satisfying than space travel. Life lived as an observer--at a distance.
I remember my first trial, in a county court at law, in a landlord-tenant dispute.
The issue was whether my client, a landlord, violated the duty to keep the place habitable.
I won the case, on a procedural technicality, leaving the world danging forever on the key factual debate--was it "really" about the construction dust, or was it because they wanted a place with cable? But what I remember most is that my opposing counsel had two settings that day--one in civil county court, and one in criminal court.
The criminal judge kept sending notes to the judge trying our case that my opponent was due in court over there in that other court. I remember that after the testimony was over in our brief morning trial, the opposing lawyer scurried to the other court. Apparently, we learned shortly thereafter, the criminal trial judge had expressed the feeling . that my opposing counsel "was dead" . In fact, he was not literally dead, and I used to see him in the courthouse elevator, carrying a Penguin classic novel at each juncture. He unfortunately lost his law license when he got arrested for a curious crime. The allegation was that a client arrested for stealing goods had tried to use the goods themselves as collateral for attorneys' fees.
That was one of two opposing counsel in that era who ended up in the hands of the law. Another opposing counsel was on a trip to South America. She and the guy next to her figured out they had a mutual interest in cocaine. She wanted to buy some for resale, while he wanted to pretend to sell her some so that his federal agency could bust her. It's a small world, after all.
I do miss, sometimes, the great music shows I'd see then. The Dream Syndicate, early REM, a passel of fun folkies playing a tiny church basement in Richardson,
and endless great bands from the Deep Ellum and Austin scenes.The world was ruled then by a 17 year old girl named Shaggy who spun disks on KNON, the local left wing
I remember in that first year or two what a sheer high I would get from cross examinations. I was born to do them. I love to do them today. As a commercial litigator,I do not try that many cases. Most of my cases settle, or they are complex insolvency matters where "trial" has a relative meaning. But when I try a case in my element, it's truly fun. When I was a young lawyer, and I reduced my first few witnesses to rubble, I truly thought I'd found the meaning of "high".
But do you know what my most treasured possessions were? One was a La Z Boy. A huge, awful naguahyde brown La Z Boy I bought in 1986, and stationed just where the
sun would filter in through the window directly onto that chair. In that chair, I sat and let the sun burn my sins away, gently stroking my eyes.
The other was a Peugeot bicycle, a bottom of the Peugeot line, which I'd ride dozens of miles on a Saturday, to distant towns past fields of susan flowers.
I think sometimes what an observer I was for those four or five years. I dated only rarely, and turned down the chance to date (and in an instance or two, more than date) more often than I took the chance.
But maybe it's okay to take a moment, early in life and just peer out.
I'm still adjusting my lenses, so I'm not positive. Then I felt my first defeats and my first victories, and it's two decades later, and I'm puzzling it all out.