Two of my brothers and I took our mother to Mother’s Day brunch yesterday. (She actually found the place and made the reservation, which is kind of embarrassing. What’s wrong with us?)
The restaurant offered, among other things, a creme brulee French toast as part of a buffet that also included omelets, lox and bagels, a salmon covered with thin cucumber slices arranged to look like scales, various fruit and vegetable salads and a flowing chocolate fountain into which you could dip ripe, sweet strawberries, banana slices, marshmallows and profiteroles — little bubbles of pastry filled with whipped cream.
There was a barista, and thanks to her I got my mom her first mocha latte, ever. This barista told me she usually works catering jobs, and for a certain generation of coffee drinkers, she provides their first exposure to espresso beverages. Apparently, not everyone has been inside a Starbucks.
Along with my two brothers, my son was there, my father, and one of my brothers brought his girlfriend. We talked about movies, books, TV, news, the difference between MySpace and Facebook, what my parents’ doctors say, what we each had the omelet chef mix into our omelets. My son is disgusted that I like feta cheese. My brother’s girlfriend is very thin, but prefers egg-whites only omelets anyway. We gave my mother gifts and discussed each one as she unwrapped them.
We talked about everything we usually talk about when we get together as a family. The only topic we avoided was the fact that I might be going to prison in a few weeks.
I say “might be.” This is because my surrender date has been postponed until the 9th Circuit Appeals Court rules on my request to be free on bail until the appeal is resolved. Various procedural issues have stretched out this process. It would seem automatic that bail would be granted pending an appeal, in the event that the appellant wins. It would seem to me you would need a very good reason to incarcerate someone whose conviction might later be overturned; a history of violence, or a motive to flee the jurisdiction of the United States. But the system doesn’t always work that way.
Indictment was bizarre. To see the awesome might of the most powerful government that ever existed aimed at you is like being chased by a grizzly bear. The trial was a battle, albeit on a tilted battleground. The period after the trial, as I waited for rulings on the motions to overturn the verdict, was one of anger and the kind of helplessness you feel when you’re yelling and no one can hear you.
But as bad as all of that was, this period — the waiting — is the worst. Maybe it’s because of the accumulated weight of all that has come before. I can’t honestly say I’d prefer for it to be resolved, if the resolution entails my surrender. I look at my wife and son, my job, my parents and my home, and freak out about leaving them all behind; freak out about the chaos my departure will inflict. But then I stop myself and think: “I’m not going anywhere. Not now. Not ever. What’s supposed to happen is what will happen — and I don’t belong in prison.”
Over brunch, one of my brothers whipped out his Blackberry to show me a story in LA Weekly about the premier LA blogger, Kevin Roderick. Kevin was kind enough to mention me to the writer, and the writer, Ella Taylor (whose film reviews I remember enjoying on KPCC) was kind enough to include the mention. And I immediately felt a little sheepish. Despite what Kevin says, I know this blog hasn’t been as interesting lately.
The waiting is taking a toll on my psychic energy. To be a great blogger, you have to be passionately interested in what you’re writing about. You have to constantly be saying “Hey!” to yourself about something you stumbled across, or a thought that came to you. You have to be zealous about sharing it. This waiting has made me more apathetic than I’ve been in a long time about things in the news, politics, issues, whatever.
The presidential debates sound to me like the same yada-yada that all politicians use to rationalize the careless destruction of lives. I got momentarily stimulated by Elliot Mintz’ yo-yo act with Paris Hilton, but I had to fight a kind of vertigo in order to write those posts. I had to admit, I join Paris and her entourage in their outrage about the judge’s vindictive showboating. At the same time, if you spend an hour or two on Prison Talk, and you read post after post of heartbreak, tragedy–and quite often, intractable injustice–you hate yourself for sympathizing with Paris. Or with me. The worst that can happen to either one of us would equate to a miraculous turnaround for the hundreds of thousands of Americans trapped in the system. Nearly two million people woke up this morning incarcerated somewhere in America. If only five percent are there wrongly — and do you doubt it’s at least five percent? — that’s 100,000 people.
Politics in this country has gone absolutely jail-happy, and the results of all these wildly popular “throw ’em in jail” policies get virtually no attention. Where are you, reporters? Why aren’t you reading Prison Talk, and running down stories about lives ruined to satisfy the ambitions of politicians, cops, prosecutors and judges? Why aren’t you looking harder at what happens inside those prisons?
Just now, it’s hard to write about the kinds of things that initially attracted Kevin and probably others to this blog. All I can get excited about are the small, good things we are given in the course of our daily lives, if we’re lucky. A barbecue with friends. A surprise invitation to see “Porgy and Bess.” My wife making us scallops. My son singing a solo in his school musical. Our dog dancing on his hind legs. A blue sky, or a gray one. A re-release of a long-lost Warren Zevon album. A Dodger rally. The way your lungs seem to expand after working out. Just being with people I love, like I was all day Sunday.
Somehow, through the grace of some evolutionary survival tactic, when we see the walls closing in on us, we’re able to enjoy those small, good things in the most uncomplicated, clear-headed way, without even trying to multi-task. Knowing it could be taken away makes you just want to take a bath in these moments. If I do end up in prison, I’ll pass some of the time replaying these moments in my mind in detail, and I don’t want to miss any of them.
So if my next few blog entries seem a bit more personal and a bit more trivial, that’s where my head is now. The news about my bail situation will come when it comes. Waiting can throw you off the rhythm of your life, and that’s uncomfortable, but at least I’m still at the dance.