John S. Kaye, Esq. 02/25/62 – 03/11/14 Alav HaShalom

Sad news came to the Office that a dear friend and colleague passed away to his eternal rest. John’s obituary may be found at the following link.  http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=jonathan-s-kaye&pid=170145940

I also attach a remembrance of John by one of our colleagues. While we all  have our private memories, I think these thoughts are eloquent and true. My apologies, in advance, for lifting it from an email without express permission.

May you be comforted.

Sent: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 11:03 AM
To: [deleted]
Subject: Our Friend and Teammate John Kaye
As many of you already know our friend & teammate John Kaye passed away yesterday. Besides being an excellent father, talented trial lawyer, and all around great guy, John was also a fierce competitor and dedicated athlete.. My last memory of John on the ball field was at the DA Tournament in September. John had just completed a half marathon and came straight to the field to play two games of softball. I was truly amazed. He hustled after every ball in the outfield and ran hard on the bases on every play. John was as unselfish a teammate as he was a friend. He never complained about where he played or where he hit in the order. He hated to miss any games. The only thing that kept him from the field were his son’s baseball games or commitment to the office. At a time when we are consumed with our jobs and personal lives I hope that John’s death will help us put life into perspective. It is too short and fleeting. He left us too soon and will be missed by all of us. I think it goes without saying that we are dedicating this upcoming season to John and his family. I have copied the funeral information below.
RIP John
Friday, March 14th at 11 AM
The Park Slope Jewish Center
1320 8th Avenue (corner of 14th Street)
Brooklyn, New York

The dust returns to the dust as it was, but the spirit returns to God who gave it.”
Ecclesiastes 12:7


Down the Rabbit Hole

Been trying to answer the question: “is anything going to happen in Appeals under the new administration?”  Or as  Appellate Squawk asked, “Does Bobble Head even know it exists?”  Hey Squawk, thanks for such kind words in your own blog. I blush. http://appellatesquawk.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/humor-brooklyn-da-style/

As to the former question, I have yet to find an answer, as to the latter, I present the following thoughts:

The short answer is, I think, “yeah, in a vague theoretical way.”  While Bobble hasn’t indicated that he shares Hynes’ theory for assigning people to Appeals, he also hasn’t given any indication he values the bureau any more highly than the last DA.  So far, there’s been no rumors of change, but given the 19th floor tighter than a face lift attempt at total information shutdown, that isn’t a surefire “nothing’s happening.”

But will Bobble value Appeals? Frankly, do most trial attorneys  really value appellate attorneys or even know anything about appellate work? Most trial assistants seem to view the Appeals Bureau attorneys through the wrong end of the binoculars; far off and small.  And other than calling appeals with some arcane questions of law when your trial case is hitting the skids, when do you even think of them? And, as most Appeals attorneys will tell you, even when trial assistants call, and even when Appeals spoon feed them the answer, trial attorneys can’t seem to articulate it properly in court at the proper moment. To quote Goldsmith, ‘I find you want me to furnish you with argument and intellect too.’

If it can be said that a trial attorney, “struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more,” the same can’t be said about their damn mistakes. They remain around forever.  Frankly, the difference between trial and appellate attorneys can be summed up thusly: trial attorneys fuck up cases and appellate attorneys try to keep the bastards in jail.  (Well, perhaps a bit too much hyperbole. “Appellate attorneys try to work around the trial attorney’s mistakes to preserve the conviction if possible.”  Yeah, that’s better.)  So, while most trial assistants believe that appeals types lounge around all day, drinking cappuccino, reading their Wobblie Manifestos and adjusting their Berets between sets of Boules, in reality they’re batting cleanup after all those “hotshot” trial assistants who barely get on base.

Let’s be honest. Appellate work is viewed by most trial attorneys as some misty land you enter through the back of a Wardrobe. You push aside the mothballed fur coats and suddenly, you’re lost in a mythical world remembered only vaguely from Law School, involving odd incantations like “ipso facto,” “inter alia,” “post hoc, ergo propter hoc,” and an arcane alchemy called “legal research.” For those of you who actually realize those phrases are Latin, they’re not used anymore in legal writing.  Look, it doesn’t help our image much that the Appeals Bureau is full of characters that could populate the famous story of Alice– to mix my literary references in one paragraph –with its own manic sharp-toothed Queen of Hearts, dotty Mad Hatta, and frantic White Rabbit, inter alia (couldn’t resist using just one phrase!), but should we apologize to you for the burden of our intellect?

To do a successful appeal you have to let yourself be sucked down this strange Rabbit Hole where suddenly you’re checking court rules and font size, reading incomprehensible, rambling arguments in a transcript, correcting cite form, and attempting to discern legislative intent; where you’re either concerned or elated that someone forgot to preserve their objection for the record.  Frankly, it makes my head hurt. Appellate work, clearly, is not for everyone. But even if a case is tried to perfection, a convicted defendant will undoubtedly appeal. It’s not because the work of the prosecutor was inherently unethical or illegal, it’s because the defendant has nothing to lose by filing an appeal and alleging the most horrendous misconduct of either the defense attorney or  prosecutor.  Hell hath no fury like a convicted client.

By the way, the blame for a bad conviction goes both ways very often.    It’s just that a prosecutor’s mistakes are termed “misconduct,” while defense attorneys get the far gentler sounding “inadequate assistance of counsel.”  It’s as if intent to do wrong is immediately presumed when the state’s agent is involved.  Which just bugs me.

But I guess the biggest show of how little Bobble and Axe Man value Appeals is that the Conviction Integrity Unit or whatever it’s being called right now, is looking at cases that the Appeals Bureau has already argued and won.  The press has reported that the list of cases to be reviewed is 900. At 40 trials a year, that’s almost 20 years worth of trials.  Absent new evidence, why the re-look? Don’t you trust the smart appeals types to have reviewed the cases properly?  To be able to spot and report bad lawyering and incompetence? From the looks of it, he doesn’t. That, I think speaks volumes about how the new administration values the integrity of Appeals.

 But this low valuation of Appeals is not just limited to that bureau, it is spread throughout the Office.

We zone slugs had hoped for a blast of fresh bracing air when we walked into Narnia January 1.  Thompson promised us it would be a meritocracy.  But in this Brave New World that he and his crew inhabit, I’m getting the feeling that meritocracy only extends to HIS hires.  No one under a Beta level need apply.  Rumor has it that Bobble is considering taking away the few things that the $80K and under crowd got under Hynes, like car fare after 10pm and meal money.  The rationale is that this is government work and those types of perks are private sector.  If you want private sector perks, go work in the private sector. 

Supposedly there’s even a proposed salary matrix floating around that shows how Kenny intends to get rid of various attorney titles and consolidate the pay scale accordingly. So, while we banana slugs were hoping for actual raises, we’ve been reduced to hoping for no pay cuts.   Bobble’s universal dislike/distrust/diss of pre-2014 hires extend to even those who stepped up and helped him during the transition and before.  Even the Rackets and Sex Crimes rats who were feeding Thompson’s campaign and the media info during the election have been passed over in favor of outside hires.  Attorneys from the AG’s office are flowing in everyday for interviews with the Investigations Division executive, Willy Schaeffer, and new deputy chiefs have been hired to lead the renamed Investigations Division.  This leads me to think that between the new hires and the salary matrix, there will be some very unhappy people on 17th floor come April 2.

Word is filtering down that Bobble’s view is that if you’ve been working in the Office longer than 7 or 8 years and aren’t a boss, there’s something wrong with you.  He knows the concept of a career prosecutor — someone who consciously makes this their lifetime’s work, like his Chief Assistant and Chief of Staff, but  apparently if you’re not up that high, you should move on.  And as seen by the recent round of reassignments that look more like an effort to get senior people to quit than reorganize the Office, apparently he thinks that there’s a quite a few bosses that have something wrong with them, too.  Alan Ganeles and Anthony Catalano are rumored to be heading off to ECAB to join Anne Gutmann, while  Bobble announced that Mark Hale and Eric Sonnenschein are being sent to the Conviction Integrity Unit to work with Anna-Sigga Nicolasi and Tamara Edelstein. 

I am told that Mark and Anna both have one Macy’s parade float-sized homicide chief to thank for their new assignments. I’m sure they’re ecstatic; probably will chip in together and send him flowers.  No one knows why he so willingly gave them up but one could venture a guess that Anna-Sigga’s legal commentator gig didn’t endear her to his  over-inflated ego. Considering that probably every defendant Mark and Anna-Sigga convicted over the years has appealed for some reason or another, and, presuming that in those appeals they have been accused by various and sundry defense attorneys of offenses not only against nature but ethics and the law, how in the name of G-d on High will this review thing work?  I suppose there’ll be a lot of recusals going on.

And Eric’s reassignment may simply stem from a complaint made by him concerning a rude and obnoxiously out-of-line line assistant.  I worked with Eric in ECAB and liked the guy. He was fair, had a sense of humor and was even-handed, so for him to complain, it had to be bad. Eric had the thankless job for many years of running ECAB with all its broken toys, which I could list here, but won’t.  My surmise, based on rumors, was that he complained about this Putz who turned out to have the ear of the DA, and Eric’s reward for being a manager who wanted professional employees, was to be transferred. But at least he’s no longer working a thank-less job with crazy hours.

Two last bits of Gossip before I slide back into the shadows. First one is that the latest new hire in the Major Narcotics Bureau is busier reprising his political campaign by wandering around the Office talking to people, than he is working on narcotics cases.  Having seen him wandering around the 16 floor command center on more than several occasions, I can believe this.  Also, as previously reported, during his tenure in SNP he had earned a reputation as a loafer.  He reportedly is telling people around the Office that he’s the MNIB Chief “in training.”  Second tidbit I heard through someone I know at the AG’s office.  Changes are coming to the Land o’Money on 17.  Reportedly the Office hired a new person (again, from the AG’s office) to come on board to do asset forfeiture. Rumor has it that this person worked with one or two people who are now in healthcare fraud on a big benefits case. This new hire is being brought on board to reorganize the money laundering and revenue crimes unit and streamline its operations.  Apparently, the Boss is wondering why Brooklyn can’t make the same money from forfeiture that Manhattan rakes in and wants a new approach with an emphasis on corporate defendants and federal adoption, whatever that means.  And whatever the Boss wants, the Boss should get.


Nice Guy Finishes First

Finally, a nice guy gets recognized for his hard work. 

The Honorable Matthew D’Emic, Supreme Court judge, has been tapped to succeed Patricia DiMango as administrative judge for criminal matters for Brooklyn’s Supreme Court.

DiMango, as my Dear Readers may recall, was appointed as Brooklyn’s administrative Judge in January (this January…as in 2014) after spending about eight or nine months in the Bronx as part of OCA’s push to deal with backlogged Bronx cases. Based on news reports, defense attorneys gave her a Bronx cheer for her judicial style. http://www.thenewyorkworld.com/2013/10/21/bronx-judge-dimango/ They complained that the Dear Sweet Lady frightened their clients into taking pleas by addressing them directly from the bench. Perhaps more jurists should try this approach in Brooklyn. We might move a few cases along.

Almost immediately upon the announcement of her elevation, DiMango announced she was resigning the bench to take a job in a reality TV show. These TV deals don’t happen overnight, and the blonde bombshell jurist, as she’s being touted, clearly had this TV deal in the works even as she wriggled her way past all contenders to the top administrative spot. Look, a girl has to have a back up if Hollywood fails to sign the contract! It’s like dating two girls at the same time…you’re serious about one and have the second one as a backup in case the first one is out of town.

Media reports that Judy (aka Judge Judy) Sheindlin is producing the show. She must have done either a lot of market research or someone was watching in the Bronx, ’cause Judy chose to name the show, “Hot Bench.” But, based on complaints from defense bar, “Hot B-tch” may be more apropos.

But while Patricia moves on to the bright lights of Hollywood where pancake makeup and eternal tans will not seem out-of-place, and where defense attorneys can avoid her offensive judicial manner by merely not tuning into day-time TV, the rest of us courthouse slugs had to wonder who was getting the bump up to the Big Seat. These things usually involve a lot of political maneuvering, dick swinging, and sometimes, it seems, a little gerrymandering to ensure politically correct diversity.

Rumor had it that D’emic’s competition for the slot were Judges Balador and Chung. Able jurists but, given the number of multiple calendars that Judge D’Emic has handled in the past years (often on the same days), including domestic violence, Special 11 and the mental health treatment parts, he both earned the elevation and can handle its demands. His usually affable manner is not masking anything other than a more affable manner. And, unlike some judges, he can move his calendar without creating a stir with the defense bar.


gossip, humour, political satire

How much is that Doggie in the Window?

Breaking news….or was I merely the last to hear?

Gentle readers, Rumors were swirling about the office in the last few weeks that quite a few executives were being lined up and shot at dawn.  The bodies, however, were never found.  My little monsters were sending me missives claiming more firings were coming — not as many as right after the hostile takeover, but still coming. Conversely, there were some that were claiming that the firings were over.  Per these clearly optimistic cave dwellers, Bobble Head was finished; he’s ‘cleaned house,’ ‘we’re safe.” We learned such optimism is premature this week. Let’s head to cellar and wait for the tornado to pass.

This week Joseph (Thin Man) Ponzi, the chief of the detective investigators, was replaced, Pat Hynes’ Red-headed BFF, Lois Bricken, the head of human resources was demoted and is being replaced by someone from the outside, and the OTB Nag has finally been put out to pasture. I wasn’t shocked, after all, these people are all Hynes’ holdovers, but I was hoping for a final denouement about the other holdovers up there on the 19th floor, Rackets, and ECAB.  No word about them, yet.

Well, now we all know that the Thin Man is leaving the office because we got that glowing “thank you” memo from Bobble Head this week telling us he’d been replaced by the guy Bratton fired from ComStat.  And per my contacts the Red-Headed BFF met with her staff to give them the news she’s heading to Citizen Action Center.  I was also told by a very good source that the Nag told the Health Care Fraud people that her resignation was requested and her last day is the end of the month.  “Resignation requested” is the country club way of saying, “get out or get fired.” What I’m surprised about is that the Nag wasn’t given the Stepner treatment…kicked to the curb the same day.  Is Bobble Head getting soft?  No word on where she’s landing nor has Bobble released a glowing “thank you” for her, or for that matter the Wicked Witch of the West who is also leaving at the end of the month. A little gender bias on Bobble’s part?

I was surprised to have someone tell me that the Nag supposedly was not just the Consigliore of Crime’s Moll, a Bonny to his Clyde. WTF?  According to this person, the Nag actually did criminal cases. You know, hearings and trials on animal abuse cases. Who’d a thunk?  We all knew she was the head of the Animal Abuse Unit; who could have missed her misty-eyed appearance on the either short-lived TV show or long-winded campaign commercial, entitled “Brooklyn DA?”  But she actually did trial work?  Now I am shocked; it’s like when you’re a kid and find out your mother dated someone before she married your dad.

As for our new favorite horse, the Old Grey Mare, she’s now ensconced on 19 and has reportedly taken over all the Nag’s administrative duties.  This shouldn’t be too difficult and the 19th floor is a nice place to be put out to pasture.  No broken chairs or dirty carpets.  The Mare even got to take her scarecrow secretary up there with her to keep her company.

You know, it can be lonely at the top.

humour, political satire

Bobbing for work

(Gentle readers, I want to remind those who comment that I strictly adhere to your requests for total anonymity and will never post your real names or email accounts when you provide delicious tidbits of info for Shelob. Also, the private block on this blog the last few days was to get rid of spammers.)

As NYC weather turns from blinding snow and treacherous ice into a somewhat more moderate clime, the Bobble-headed DA’s heart remains as cold as a landlord with a bounced rent check.  Queen Mab’s minions never had a more frozen heart than Chubby-Cheeks’.   His resolve to transform the Office into DANY-south resembles Sherman’s march through Atlanta…burn, pillage, and then burn again.

Apparently, according to my sources, the realignment of support staff continues.  Yesterday, members of the office’s inaptly named “Public Information Office” were told to look for new positions.  Can you say “paralegal?” Could it be that DA Bobble Head has decided he doesn’t expect to be answering questions from the press and media and hence, he doesn’t need a five person unit?  Others speculate more darkly, and see these moves as management retaliation for the workers pushing their collective bargaining rights for paid on-call and overtime.

Press aides were called in yesterday by Leroy (the Tax-Dodger) Frazer and told that they were no longer needed in their current positions.  A new media mogul is coming in and has hired her own minions.  Uncle Magoo’s last deputy Mia Goldfarb is the last man standing (in a manner of speaking).  This is interesting because she’s been reporting directly to Mark the Axeman and Bobble Head.  Leading some ex-staffers to speculate if, “is this because they value her media insight gained from a mere two years of press office work, or are they merely keeping a close eye on her to build the case for termination?”  At $65,000 per year she’s making a lot of paper, but she was arguing together with the others for overtime and on call pay…

The purge in community relations is said to be continuing. Workers point to the recent “report to the office to clock-in” changes for neighbor office workers as evidence that Bobble Head decided against terminations, and is using a different ploy – make life miserable to convince people to leave.  Gotta give it to him. All along we thought that Doug was the brains at TW. Who’d have thought KPT could be so devious and underhanded?  Should a self-proclaimed “Christian Man”  have some remorse for the financial havoc he’s wreaking on working people?  Wonder what he’d do if the little old ladies he’s forcing out were his own dear Mom?

A few in Community Relations are complaining that the Church Ladies there cuddled up to Bobble Head’s party planning wife during the preparation for the Never Ending Inauguration Story, so apparently they’re safe, but the remaining are slated for either termination or reassignment.   Comments are being heard that the office is becoming AR Bernard’s “CCC Parishioner Full-Employment Program.”

“So,” one could ask, “where’s the union in all this??”  “Nowhere,” is the answer.  Union sources tell me that 371’s failure to ‘jump up and down’ during the last firing debacle signaled to them that Bobble Head and 371 Prez Anthony Wells reached an agreement to forgive and forget.  Opinion only, no definite proof, and no from the head office is talking.  I would say such an outcome is not surprising, given that Wells supported Bobble during the campaign … but sad for union members who have paid dues and expect adequate representation and recourse when their rights are trampled.

Ah, I smell a Political Sell-Out.  Well, Children, some things never change…

humour, political satire

POTUS over DACK by a mile

Well, for those of you who follow TheRevAl (Al Sharpton) tweets, he’s currently spending the evening at the White House enjoying a state dinner with the Obamas and French president Francois Hollande. As an ardent Sharpton follower (it’s the hair), I investigated further just to make sure it wasn’t a joke, because we all know what a kidder Al is, and sure enough, according to Darlene Superville of the Associated Press, TheRevAl had been invited!!  And to think I knew him when he was just a street agitator and here he is, rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous!

Superville reported that at the reception, people were trying out French phrases in honor of Hollande.  Even TheRevAl tried a few words. Superville stated:  “Oui, oui, oui,” declared the Rev. Al Sharpton, sounding like he was reciting the nursery rhyme about the little piggies.”  Really people? Really? Do you just have to hand these things to me?

I know you think I’m making this up ‘cause you think I’m a hater, but here’s the link.  http://entertainment.verizon.com/news/read/category/Top%20News/article/ap-stag_state_dinner_for_hollande_has_frenc-ap

So, I know I promised all of you a review of the Sunday inaugural ceremony of our beloved leader.  And I thought, why not juxtapose the Obama’s state dinner with Chubby Cheeks’ swearing in ceremony?  See which one comes up on top?  After all, both men were at the epicenter of two ground breaking moments in American politics; the first African American elected as President of the United States and the first African American elected as District Attorney, County of Kings.  So, let’s start…

As far as sheer power of office and scope of political reach, Barack wins that one hands down over Chubs.  POTUS over DACK.

As far as the length of the two events, well, DACK wins over POTUS.  After three and half hours with no end in sight, Sunday’s invitees were bailing out faster than the Vichy government could surrender.  The thing finally ended at roughly 4 hours and 35 minutes, which was exactly four hours and thirty minutes too long.

DACK’s over-the-top-can’t-stop-going-on-too-long-when-is-this-gonna-end-poke-my-eyes-out swearing in ceremony wins out over POTUS when it comes to music. Brooklyn was in the house. The steel pan band was good, the guy who sang the national anthem was superb, the cantor was jaw dropping Luciano Pavarotti excellent, and the Love Fellowship Tabernacle Choir is so good it hurts, but for simple understated class, POTUS wins over DACK.

It really comes down to the quality of invitees, I’m afraid. And for that, in my humble opinion, the Obamas win. Cecily Tyson, NAACP’s Ben Jealous, Stephen Colbert, San Fran Mayor Kevin Johnson, Bradley Cooper, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Irwin Jacobs the Qualcomm Inc. founder, and Jane Stetson, the Democratic National Committee’s finance chair were only a few of the heavy, heavy hitters in attendance tonight.  So maybe Francois and the French ambassador had to listen to TheRevAl recite the “Three Little Pigs all the way home,” but still, we’re talking people of substance. I suppose, when you’re pulling world-wide for your invite lists, versus just Brooklyn, you can get a wider range of better quality folks.

POTUS wins again in the “location” category. Obviously, the White House would win over the Steiner Studios sound stage. That was a no brainer.

I’m not sure how to score the size of the event category. If you weigh 350 White House state dinner guests versus a cast of over a thousand ‘close friends,’ who wins? I’ll have to give it POTUS. It’s quality, not quantity that truly matters.

And with regard to the required speeches and toasts tonight? Well, again, the Obamas are slam dunking their way to the game point.  Lu-Shawn, you tried. But the Sunday speaker list left a bit to be desired.  Putting on a big event is not just lining people up to speak. You have to comb through the list of “possible” and pick out the ones that can actually talk and be understood.  You got to learn to say “no,” to someone, because this thing was just too long.

Some of the politicians you chose to speak were illegible. I thought maybe my hearing was bad; “Am I having a stroke?” I thought. But other people said the same thing to me. Their pitiful performances underscored the travesty of their election to public office because if this is the best their respective districts have to offer, their constituents apparently are sitting around drooling.  I shouldn’t embarrass the speakers by naming them, but they’re public figures, so I’ll be content to say they were the first four elected officials speaking on the program. As for the others, in my opinion Chuck Schumer is so unctuous that I felt like a razorback after the Rockaway oil spill – in need of a degreasing bath in Dawn.  I can see why DeBlasio got elected Mayor, he was genial and affable and well, just so damn likable (but can he lead?).  And even Scott Stringer was a pleasure, given what came before him.  Frankly Lu-Shawn, you could have skipped all those people, kept the music, let Rev. A.R. Bernard and your man speak and we’d all have been happier and a whole lot less bored.

“Why,” some may ask, “are you so concerned about someone being ‘well spoken’ if their message is true and heartfelt? Social justice is important to the community.”  Look, if you’re going to speak to more than just your close friends and family, you need to be well spoken and articulate. You need to enunciate, or have an interpreter.  If you choose the form of communication, you’d better be good at it. The four speakers referenced above left me wondering, “What in the H. E. double hockey sticks are they trying to say?”  And by the by, what’s wrong with simply seeking, “Justice?”  Why do we need to bifurcate and trifurcate and atom-split the concept?  Justice is justice. Why do people have to talk about it as if it could be achieved in little bitty parts….ooh we need social justice, or economic justice, or political justice, or criminal justice. Child, we need Justice in all its iterations because if we don’t have all its iterations, we ain’t got it. Period.

The good news to those of us who stayed past the garbled words of HJ and NV, et al., was that the speaker list was shortened by one name.  TheRevAL, was on the agenda, but was MIA. Apparently, the TheRevAl preferred Fashion Week to the Never-ending Inauguration Story, as he tweeted to his faithful followers on Sunday:

Reverend Al Sharpton‏@TheRevAlFeb 9

Back in NY, running down to Fashion Week as a guest of Andre Leon Tally.

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Look, you don’t get to be a fashion plate activist by trying to find your way to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in a snow storm. My man Al has his priorities straight. Besides, the swag bags at Fashion Week are to die for!! The only swag I got at DACK’s event was inflamed haemorrhoids from sitting so long.

So, in brief, who wins out in this not so scientific and a bit catty review?

It seems that the Supreme Leader’s wife Lu-Shawn, took on the event planning and I have to give her kudos for that. And we need to remember that Michelle has the White House staff to help, who are professionals in this sort of stuff. But frankly, if you wanna play with the big boys you gotta step up your game. The winner (and still champion) is POTUS. DACK fails to even place.

Let’s face it folks! Michelle has class, intelligence, looks, savoir-faire, and consistently throws a mean event; Lu-Shawn has, well, she has a hyphenated first name, two cute kids, and four years to hit her stride as an event planner.  Let’s hope she learns from this disaster and brings her “A” game to the next event.


If he bought a graveyard, people would stop dying…

I think everyone knows someone like my office mate. You know, not a lomdem (scholar) or a paskudnyak (scoundrel); just a onshtendik parshoyn (a good decent person).  Someone who works hard, keeps their head down, does their job competently, but never seems to get anywhere.  The boss describes him as a utility outfielder – good at anything, but not a star; just a nice guy. 

But as nice as this guy is, he has no luck. If he bought a graveyard, people would stop dying.  So G-d didn’t give him luck, but gave him this way of telling stories that makes everyone roar with laughter.  Which is how, I think, he got the cutest girl in our law school class to agree to marry him.  She probably envisioned him taking on Late Night TV as a stand-up comedian. I think it was a shock to her when he joined me at the DA’s office. I suppose she blames my stories of courtroom battles and odd cases for his move after one year from big law to the public sector.

On Friday, he came into work with this look that just told me it’d been one of those mornings. Shoulders slumped, a little limp and a small sigh.  You can imagine my surprise when he told me he had to get a, “real job again.”  “Sure, we all do,” I told him.  He shook his head like a wet dog. “No, no, no, really, I gotta get a real job, that pays real money so I can get a place in the country.”

“Let me tell you why,” he started. “I’ve been an ADA for seven years and make $60K. I live in a one bedroom apartment in Manhattan in a 5 story walk up that is really a studio with an alcove. When my wife and I married, we thought we’d keep my apartment for a few years until we could afford something bigger, but I mean on my salary how much more can we afford in Manhattan? Even Brooklyn’s out of our price range.” He paused and shifted uncomfortably in his seat, lifting the lid off his coffee.

I’d been to his apartment back when I was on good terms with his wife, before his move to the office. It was the typical Manhattan walkup where the landlord carved three apartments out of one as the neighborhood improved and rents rose. In Brooklyn, even the mice have bigger living quarters. It was good for a law student, or even for two shacking up, but a married couple with a kid? I had no idea how they’d been coping.

He blew on the coffee and sipped it slowly. “This morning I woke up at 3 am to use the toilet. I remember ‘cause I checked my phone to see the time. I laid back down and stuck the phone under the pillow and went back to sleep. When it went off at the regular time I reached for it and just my luck, it slipped off the bed; down between the headboard and the floor.” He paused here to sip his coffee again. I noticed the bandages on his knuckles at this time.

He sighed. “So now the phone is on the floor ringing and I don’t want to wake up the baby so I start to rollover to get out of bed but there’s no more bed and I fall flat on my ass on the floor. That wakes up the little woman, who says ‘what happened? Are you ok?’ At least she asked if I was okay.  But of course I’m not ok I want to say, I just fell out of bed flat on my ass and I wasn’t even drinking.  But I don’t say anything like that because whatever I say at 6 am will be with me until 10 pm, so all I say is, ‘I’m trying to get the phone’ to which she replies, ‘Why are you on the floor?’  ‘Because I fell out of bed,’ I tell her and she says ‘that was stupid.’”

 “She always had the ability to understate the facts,” I offered.  My office mate smiled glumly and nodded.  “So here I am, flat on my back, jammed between the bed and the wall, trying to reach underneath the bed to the phone with one free arm.  Naturally, my luck is that I can’t reach the damned thing, but I do manage to hook one of my wife’s fancy underwire bras that’s under the bed for some unknown reason, and now I’m scrabbling furiously under the bed with the bra trying to snag the phone that’s still ringing.

I finally realize that I’m not going to reach it the way I’m trying to. Meanwhile the wife is hissing at me, ‘turn off the damned alarm before the baby wakes up,’ as if I’m enjoying laying on my back on the cold floor listening to the first three stanzas of ‘Ode to Joy’ being repeated for the 50th time. 

As I struggle to unstick myself from being jammed between the wall and the bed, my loving wife decides I’m not moving fast enough, that clearly I need her superior female help and she climbs out of bed and steps right onto me in a place that ensures that while we may have one kid we’re probably not having two.  As she proceeds to mash the ol’turnips into the rug I ‘naturally overreact’ — in her exact words– and bang my head against the side of the bed and smash my hand (here he raises his hand up slowly displaying the bandaged knuckles) into the windowsill.”  

He paused again to take another sip of coffee.

“Somehow through all this the baby has not woken up and I am thanking my lucky stars ‘cause that would be the end of the marriage at this point.  Anyways, as I struggle to get upright and get past her in the narrow space between the wall and the bed, she snaps, ‘Don’t turn on the light, it’ll wake the baby.’

Frankly if the baby has managed to sleep through the Three Stooges exhibition that’s been going on, I doubt a little light will wake her up, but I merely say, ‘I wasn’t planning on turning on the light, I was going to get the broom to push the phone out from under the bed.’  As I squeeze past my loving wife I manage, somehow, to smash my right foot into the television stand that’s at the foot of the bed. The pain is so excruciatingly intense that I fall to my knees yelling ‘fuck fuck fuck’ and manage to land on the dog whose bed is next to the TV stand.  My wife has had this dog since college; it’s now 15 years old and deaf as a doorknob but still has a full set of very sharp teeth which, upon being abruptly awoken by a 180 pound man crashing down around her at 6 in the morning, she used to very good advantage, ensuring that I won’t be bothering my wife for marital succor for some time to come.  Naturally, I screamed like a little girl, and successfully managed, with that, to wake up the baby.

Leading my wife to say, ‘You might as well turn on the light now, we’re all awake.'”

I have to say that this recitation of woe had me laughing out loud. My office mate looked at me mournfully. “Funny, huh?” he said.  “The best is when I finally turn on the light I realize that when I barked my knuckles in the beginning of this escapade they’d started bleeding all over the place. My wife is standing there holding the baby, bouncing it on one hip to get it stop crying and she gives me ‘the look’ all married men are familiar with and says, “Don’t bleed on that white duvet, it’s cotton. I’ll never get the stain out.”  He took another long pull of coffee.

“And that is why I need a real job, paying real money. I need a home out in the country where I can bury the body.”