I like football, but now is not the time of year when I usually think about it, because, while I like football, I LOVE baseball, and this is Spring. However, football has lately been in the news because the NFL draft was held in New York a few days ago. I don’t pay much attention to the draft, because it is boring and I am too busy thinking about baseball – I figure I can read about it in the papers, then wait until Fall to think about football seriously. But there are people who not only think about the draft, they watch it on television or, stranger still, go to New York to watch it happen live. This seems like a consummate waste of time: while there is some element of surprise in a sports draft, it is not the kind of surprise that is exciting to watch, like going for it on fourth and four at the other team’s twenty, say. It’s more like the surprise that might be generated by a quarterly corporate earnings statement, and I’m hoping that we’re not yet at the point, as a society, where the filing of financial documents is broadcast live on pay-per-view. I’m glad, though, that there are people who care enough to spend time watching or traveling to the draft. People who spend their time in such trivial endeavors must love their freedom very very dearly – more dearly than I do, I suppose – and I assume that if that freedom is ever threatened, they will be vigorous and militant in its defense.

Speaking of freedom, and football, the occurrence of the draft gave me a thought about our society’s evolving standards of what constitutes and acceptable exercise of personal freedom. I was thinking that someday, instead of having a handful of professional athletes who admit that they are gay well after they are retired (god bless you, Glenn Burke!), we will have gay players in all the leagues and no one will care at all. Eventually, then, the first intra-team, same-sex, committed relationship will come to light. My sincere hope is that it ends up being between a quarterback and a receiver, not for the crass jokes that might ensue, but because then we could, someday, hope for one of those NFL Films documentaries on grainy film, with the deep-voiced guy who can imbue a burp by Mike Ditka’s uncle with heroism and historical importance, all about the couple’s incredible on-field chemistry, with clip after clip of the sort we know and love: tight focus on the quarterback as he sidesteps first one, then another lineman, then lets off a crisp pass just as another defensive back slams into him from the side, and then he goes out of focus because we are following the ball, spinning in slow motion while players clash and scramble pointlessly below, and then two men enter the frame, one a few strides back and in pursuit, and the leader, the receiver, jumps, extends his gloved hands, and plucks the pass from the air, then turns as he lands, perfectly avoiding the defender’s last-ditch tackle, and heads unencumbered to the endzone. And then, the deep-voiced guy says, “Over seven seasons, two men led the Green Bay Packers to six championships, five Super Bowl victories, and more passing yards than any other quarterback-receiver combination in the history of football. This is their story: THE THROWS OF PASSION.”

Goodbye, Bridgeport

April 23, 2010

Goodbye, Bridgeport

For two years and eight months I have had a marvelous job, working with teenagers in Bridgeport, representing them on a vast array of legal matters, fighting intransigent systems that refused to serve needy kids as well as they deserved, and maybe even changing a few people’s lives for the better. To start from scratch, knowing nothing about the city and precious little about the areas of law, was a worthwhile challenge and I feel I took it on well. Mostly, I had lots of fun. My clients made me laugh and inspired me, and every day, tired though I may have been, I was satisfied that I had done something good and worthwhile.

Unfortunately, this job was burdened with the twin encumbrances of an hour-long commute and a genuinely, famously difficult boss. In the winter, it became, at times, a two- or two-and-a-half- hour trip – each way, and in all seasons my boss was, well, awful. Once, after a performance review that was basically all positive (cases going well, lots of success in my systemic advocacy, good publicity for our scrappy non-profit, etc.), she turned angrily to the fact that I HAD A TWITTER ACCOUNT. IN MY OWN NAME. AND SOMETIMES I MENTIONED DRINKING BEER ON THERE, AND OH MY GOD, WHAT IF MY TEENAGE CLIENTS SAW IT. IT WAS SO INAPPROPRIATE. Never mind that we had had a whole half-day seminar from fancy New York media consultants who said we should use social media to develop contacts and put forth a certain persona, which I was carefully doing and which resulted in my being the featured guest on an hour-long local radio show – the point was that TWITTER IS TOTALLY UNPROFESSIONAL. My boss concluded by saying, “I would fire you if you weren’t such a good lawyer.” Um, OK.

So when there was an opening in a public defender’s office near home, I jumped. I could ride my bike to work. I would be out from under the miserable boss. It seemed like a no-brainer. But as the date drew near, I started to fill with melancholy, thinking about Bridgeport and my relationships there. After my last appointment on Thursday, I even spent half an hour just driving around the East Side, feeling strangely in love with that downtrodden town.

Luckily, my boss went out of her way to remind me why I’m happy to leave: First, she decided that even though our employee handbook says we get all our vacation at the beginning of the year and the term “pro-rated” never appears anywhere, my unused vacation days would be paid out on a pro-rated basis – resulting in a loss of nearly $1000 for me. Then, when I wrote a detailed, polite, lawyerly e-mail to her and the Deputy Director explaining with the employee handbook supported my position, she suddenly told me I couldn’t handle an appeal she’d promised me I could hold onto after leaving – a potentially law-changing case that I really busted my ass on, both at the trial court level an on the appellate brief.

So I started my new job today feeling about as optimistic as a person can feel. I suppose I’ll write more about that later, but suffice it to say, it’s a nice change for many reasons.

For now, some photographs of Bridgeport:

Bridgeport

Waterview Auto Sales, Bridgeport, Conn.

Waterview Auto Sales, Bridgeport, Conn.

Main Street, Bridgeport

Remington Arms Factory, Bridgeport, Conn.

Bridgeport Train Station

Ah, Springtime

April 13, 2010

Dusk, early Spring

Best sign ever.

Springtime