Mark Drobnick
Mark Drobnick

Perry-Savage-Salem (part 2b)

Law students Mark Drobnick & Ann Spiegel at Wicker's wedding reception
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Perry post-view photo
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Salem preview photo
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Law students Mark Drobnick & Ann Spiegel at Wicker's wedding reception
Perry post-view photo
Salem preview photo


2)     Michael Savage, "Stop the Coming Civil War" --- by Mark Drobnick, book review/ essay (continued)


21.  Getting into my law school experiences
Since, I am on an education focus with the paragraphs of the last several sections, let me take the opportunity to meander into some of my own personal experiences with the Law.  This excursion, while somewhat digressive, will give you a better idea of how lawyers are formally trained in the USA.

Admittedly, the theory taught in law school might not be exactly what practicing lawyers need, to bring about results.  "Experience is the lifeblood of the Law," famously declared Civil War hero, Oliver Wendell Holmes, the Supreme Court's "great dissenter".  How true his words are!
But, as with everything, you've got to start somewhere.  So, as so many in Congress, and, the other two branches of government are law grads, you may come to more useful insight into how our system can go so right, or so wrong, based upon who's running it.

Or is that even the right way to develop our question?  Rather, is there some grand puppet master behind the scenes, pulling all the strings?  
Comes to mind, what famously declared writer Gore Vidal, "the recurrent, every-leap-year, ritualistic spectacle of nominating the next President, essentially, constitutes nothing more intricate than the following:  it is yet another opportunity, in an endless series, to parade before us, who shall be the next, anointed standard bearer, by the owners of the country."

That is, leadership, as oft-times happens, shall be by the following.  The elected official shall work for them, not the other way around!  
(And we, the populace at large?  What of us?  Well, we are simply along for the ride, like it or not.)


22.  Romeo Reyna (RR) tenant, was I
So, let me tell you how I came to find myself in west Texas, tending kerosene heaters, in the garage of my lodgings.  That was in order to keep tropical plants with enough heat thru the relatively temperate winter there, so they could survive, then be transplanted to outside again, when Spring warmth returned.

The residence had other exotic aspects besides the tropical plants.  Admittedly mundane, he kept a couple of small, pet dogs.  But, more unusual, RR had a doe gamboling about the fenced-in backyard, which he later moved out to his ranch in New Mexico.

Routinely, I "house sat" while he was away there.  In exchange, he would lend me his Audi when I needed to go anywhere beyond walking distance.  
Usually I have a head for figures, but here I don't recall the exact amount of my rent, except that it was a reasonable sum.  I would guess it to have been around $225 monthly for a separate bed and bath, in rooms at the northeast corner of the house, located off of the living room.  Additionally, I had access to all the premises' common areas.

In sum, RR was a very obliging fellow, both as to the car and hospitality.  In mostly all the important ways, it was quite comfortable living there, two blocks south of the law building.
During Christmas season, he had on display, a decorated Joshua tree from the desert, under which could be placed the presents.  It was nothing like the traditional pine the world in general favors.  Rather, it was a skeletal, prickly sort of tree, completely devoid of leaves, needles, or any greenery.  It simply was wood and bark, like a northern, deciduous tree, dormant for winter.  Nothing there to see except bare wood, until decorations were put.

RR, by vocation, was a tapestry artist.  That was how he made his living.  Early on he had studied the craft at Chicago's Art Institute.  Also, around that time, he did a stint for the U.S. Army in Germany.
He customarily had WFMT-FM piped in live, over the household speakers, indoor and out.  That would be the long-running classical music station, again, from Chicago.  
His fame encompassed "Architectural Digest" magazine.  It featured his artistic creations. 


23.  Savage "pre/ current/ post-view" photo --- Wicker's reception
a.  Harvard Blue Book laureate weds
One notable event I helped celebrate, during the semester I lived at Romeo's, was a house party.  It was to kick off law professor Jeremy Wicker's post-nuptials.   Wicker had wed with "Rosa", a latino lady on staff at the law school.

Note that the photo appended to this "Savage" review, is from that post-nuptial reception, of myself and another law student.  That was in October.  
One of Mr. Wicker's claims to fame was his inclusion in the Harvard Blue Book of Uniform Citation, universally utilized, in all the some 175 ABA/ AALS approved law schools throughout the (country) USA, and, by all lawyers and judges, nationwide.
Wicker was one of the more effective, memorable teachers.  Although well-groomed, he was the faculty's resident "long-hair", so to speak.

Cool chap that he was, I remember my effort at cocktail conversation with him being thwarted.  I asked him to elaborate on some legal concept he had gone into, in the class I had with him.  
He, however, was in no remote way favorably disposed to that frame of mind.  He gently upbraided me with:  "Please Mark, talk to me about anything, except, something related to law.  That would be just fine.  Thank you for your consideration."


b.  Hotel California
To this day, I vividly recall another legal doctrine he explained, and, how he most effectively made it indelibly stick inside all his students' minds.  The example he applied, was to teach us all, how relatively easy an European country's court may acquire jurisdiction over the defendant.  This would be in stark contrast to the USA's relatively more rigorous requirements. 

Here at home, it is common practice that the local sheriff serves summons into the hands of party defendants to draw them into the case disputed about.  Or, a civil process server could act similarly, and, likewise achieve being effective.  
Or, in other proceedings, it is enough to have a few publications spread out over a brief interval of time in the local newspaper.  That would constitute adequate, constructive notice that affected parties should present themselves before the pertinent tribunal at the appointed time, if they have something to contest.

Well, in Europe, it is no safety that potential fugitives have already checked-out and disappeared, from their hotel, in order to escape the long arm of the law.  That would be a defective flight, lacking in efficacy, provided that the defendant had made one small mistake.  
If the party defendant had inadvertently left any personal property item behind, e.g. a suitcase, then the local authorities were empowered to seize it.  The inevitable consequence would be to thereby draw the potential defendant completely into the case, anyway.  The defendant's physical absence, and, lack of direct or constructive knowledge about the court case, would be completely irrelevant.

Now, what's the mnemonic device for committing to memory aforesaid legal concept?  Here's the punchline, from law professor Jeremy Wicker, which made the legal principle infinitely more memorable.  He quoted to us a certain Texas musician, namely Don Henley, who concludes his singing of a famous, rock group hit song, with these words:
          "You can check out any time you like.
            But you can never leave."
     Eagles --- "Hotel California"

Wicker's point was:  (Under European law) You checked out, but, jurisprudentially, you're still there anyway!  They got you!
Now, you have to realize, what "lightning-bolt", practiced "showmanship" Wicker pulled off with this device.  By applying that musical analogy, he produced one of the more dramatic, exciting moments from law school,...anywhere.

Or, to quote a pertinent lamentation by another famous, show-business personality, very much on point here in conveying the opposite, usual feeling.  
Setting:  Celebrity's resignedness can be analogized to the study of law school textbooks.  In the referred to, comic episode, his character has just been presented with a telephone directory-sized, technical manual, to pass the time with.


Meanwhile, his "star" buddy is receiving extra special attention, being doted upon, by the same, elderly lady:
{Recited in monotone --- dejectedly, lethargically & defeated}  "No pictures,...Just,,...I,,...them..."    
--- Sponge Bob Square Pants (visiting with sponge Grandma episode)  


24.  TTU benefits from oil boon
Texas had so much oil money, that its state-supported schools were extra well endowed.  Education was where some of that money was invested.  Obviously, politicians had a serious commitment to higher learning.  Our campus was where the state legislature decided to allocate much of its money.   
West Texas, where we were, was oil country (more on that, in next section).  The state's Bar exam included an extra, pre-requisite course, normally not required anywhere else:  "Oil and Gas".

The local economy was why.  This was bread-and-butter subject matter, for Texan, practicing attorneys.  
The fact is that undergrad, in-state tuition was charged at $4 (four) per semester hour, for TTU (Texas Tech University).  That is, an entire year's tuition for a full-time student, averaged $120 total!  This meant that a four-year diploma could be completely paid off, for less than $500.

When I hear parents fret today, about how they'll have to borrow and mortgage, to meet the exorbitant tuition costs of their kids' private schools, $35 to $50 thousand annually, believe me, I think back to my halcyon days in Lubbock.  Apparently, there exist two sets of people, living in two completely different worlds, under the same flag, within the same country.  Each confronts opposite ends of the economic spectrum in striving to pay off formal schooling for their kids.

Coincidentally, TTU happened to be the largest university in the entire country, in terms of real estate acreage.  In other words, their land holdings, as to total area of the TTU campus, was second to no other institution of higher learning, anywhere in the U.S. of A.


25.  Mark & Ann photo
a.  Ann sartorially
So, next to me [b & w photograph] can be observed New Jersey Ann Spiegel, creditors' rights law student, and par excellence Saturday Night Live spoofer.  Also, please be informed that the picture doesn't do her justice.  This gal was indeed one of the prettiest co-eds in the entire law school of some 600 students.

She, characteristically, had a penchant for wearing form-fitting t-shirts around the law building, with some slogan or design emblazoned thereupon.  Of course, the admirer's attention was instantly drawn to scrutinizing what was displayed.  
Co-incidentally, but not inadvertently mind you, the canvas upon which it was painted, came into visual perspective as well, and, the frame upon which it rested, namely, hers.  Get it?

Accentuated, every time, was that she had a very nice figure!  Blessed by Nature, any man would have to admit, amply endowed.
Now, not any girl can dress like that and get away with it, without provoking sniping gossip.  But, there was something enchanting about Ann's personality, that you always found it easy to take her seriously, as a future, fellow lawyer.  Her attire wasn't the cake, but, only its frosting.

Within, you always discovered an intelligent, profound, engaging, and substantive person.  But, that's not all.  At the same time, she was fun to be around.  
She combined all the best.  In sum, while remaining true to herself, Ann, effortlessly got along just fine, with everyone.


b.  Ann's comedic talents      
She and a female, Florida-native student, molded and elevated the Dan Akroyd/ Jane Curtin news update debates to new heights of comedy.  How funny my comrades were!  Ann commandingly argued that night is day and down is up, against her debating opponent who refuted issue for issue.

This they kept clean, including devoid of the customary epithet television Dan hurled at Jane to kick off every one of his rebuttals.  Distracting to any jury, Dan would cast aspersion as to Jane's moral character, as if that was germane in garnering debating points.  This he would do while demonstrating an attitude of utmost disdain and contempt.
In contrast to TV, there were not any gutter tactics in Ann's debate.  "Get your mind out of the gutter, so that mine can float by," used to say, jokester law prof Michael Spak, conducting his Bar/ Bri lawyer license review course for us at Kent law school, Chicago.

Another gem from him:  "you better buckle down to pass my course, or it's off to barber school for those who don't make it".  Spak, you see, had a cranium as bare and shiny as the full moon, which you couldn't miss detecting instantly, unless you had your eyes closed!

Back to Ann.  We were colleague students at Texas Tech law school.  This is the region where West Texas crude oil is pumped from the earth.  
Midland and Odessa are two of the relatively neighboring cities, based on the industry.  As for Lubbock, where we were, included among its populace, was one of (Pres.) Bush I's sons.


26.  Out-of-jurisdiction students
a.  Out-of-state at TTU
So, how were there Illinois (me), New Jersey, and Florida students, in attendance at an out-of-state, locally-publicly funded, law school?  (Not to mention also, that there were students from Maine, Minnesota, Oklahoma, & Louisiana).  Well, the fact is, this is not so uncommon, even if I don't understand the mechanics involved.


b.  Out-of-country at Champaign 
For example, when I was at Urbana-Champaign, Law Dean Peter Hay had a sizable contingent of German citizenry students in attendance.  The student body was loaded with German nationals, compared to anyplace I'd ever been.  They all were there working on their law degrees.  
I recall one German, female student gleefully/ gaily remarking to me, "we are here, getting advanced degrees in law, so we can join the elite, when we enter into practice."  Mr. Hay, incidentally, also happened to be from Germany.


c.  M.D. program, relatively stringent residency requirements
Something else I have personal experience with, medical school, to the contrary, proceeds very much differently.  M.D. diploma earning is not at all similar, when it comes to the issue of domicile.

State funded (public), medical schools, in general, cater almost exclusively, only to in-state residents.  Scarce exceptions exist, on the order of two to three per cent of the entire student body.

In order to study medicine out-of-state, besides the customary, excellent grades and test scores, one is advised to focus seeking enrollment in those schools which are privately funded.  For examples, "private" would be schools such as Northwestern or Rush, in Illinois, or Johns Hopkins or Baylor, in Maryland and Texas.


27.  My TX connection
At Texas Tech law school, the Dean was Byron Fullerton, and Associate Dean, Joe Conboy.  Conboy is who had contacted me by telephone at my home, when I was based in northeast Illinois, inviting me to attend his school.  I recall our initial conversation.  
He opened, "I see your father studied law at Southern Methodist.  Well, come on down.  Once a Texan, always a Texan!"  (Also, referring to my application:  "I see you speak Spanish."  Me:  "Yes.  That's right.")

I got on the subject of musician Mac Davis, whom I recently had seen perform live in Milwaukee at an outdoor festival.  Davis authored "In The Ghetto", an Elvis Presley hit, and originated from Lubbock.  Another of Mac's hits of the time, which he himself interpreted, went, "baby, baby, don't get hooked on me."

Conboy, in point of fact, was from New York.  He was a St. Canisius, and, Georgetown University Law School graduate.  Recall that MS had something to criticize about Georgetown coursework.  Cf. the "Solutions:  albeit fanciful", § 18d, supra, for what he ridiculed. 


28.  Thanksgiving dinner
I recall Conboy inviting me to Thanksgiving dinner at his home, the week before, in November, when he visited one of my classes as it let out:  "Mark, let's put on the feed bag for turkey day.  Come on over."
He picked me up at where I had a room in the residence of a local, well-known, tapestry artist, the above mentioned Mr. Reyna.  Conboy had always evinced accommodation.  He's the same one who had chauffeured me from the airport when I first arrived in town.  


29.  How I came to live at RR's
Further, he was the agent who had brought me to this specific lodging, when I balked at staying in the dorm which was being offered initially.  The problem with the dorm was location.  It was too far removed from the law school building.  Walking to and fro several times every day, was impracticable.

I met Reyna thru Conboy.  In point of contrast [infra], I never really "met" Conboy's daughter, except most, most perfunctorily.  This was even when the opportunity patently presented itself to host Joe Conboy, at Thanksgiving dinner when we all dined together at the same table.

In practical terms, in the broad scheme of things, Conboy directed students to where he chose, following an agenda of his own.  That became evident over time.  
He was the chess strategist.  You, under his mantle, were designated either as bishop, knight, rook, or pawn, depending upon his design. 


29.1  Confides in me about minority paucity
Early on in the first semester, virtually at the beginning, Conboy observed to me, and appeared to lament, that there were really no Blacks in the school attending.  He explained:  "it's simply that we suffer from a lack of Black applicants.  They are not applying to study here."  Relatedly, as I recall, the only Black who comes to mind as having been on the premises, was one, young law professor:  Mr. Tucker.

Well, it's no surprise to me that your average Black will know more about Black circumstances and history than I do.  My grandparents originate from central Europe, not Africa.  So, I thought it odd that he offered up the controversial point, to me, as if that was one of my paramount concerns.  Didn't I appear to be merely another white student?

Did Conboy see me as their leader, spokesman, or advocate?  Interesting!  Then I thought, maybe this is good.  Yeah!  
He's from New York, after all (the North); and, we share similar, religious upbringing.  Conboy was Roman Catholic; in fact, helped out as deacon at church services, passing out communion.  This he did alongside the local, parish monsignor, another Irishman, and the latter, Irish national no less, having been born there.

Maybe Joe C. sees me as another northern progressive --- presuming that to be his politics --- cast in the vein of Texas patron saint, Lyndon Baines Johnson.  Coincidentally, my Tex-Mex landlord always spoke of LBJ with the utmost reverence, elevating the 1960's President to deity status!

One may recall the beloved character that LBJ was, to most in Texas society.  This is also the President who appointed the first Black to the U.S. Supreme Court, Mr. Thurgood Marshall.  
LBJ did so, by some accounts, simply to rile up certain sectors of redneck society, out of sheer contariness.  Yeah, reflected LBJ, "this will be good.  With this judicial appointment, I'm gonna make a lot of them good ol' boys squirm.  Take that, you s.o.b.'s!"


29.2  Pre-Civil War vestige that lingered for extra half-century
Further, the idiosyncratic fact about Lubbock municipal history is that it continued to fight the Civil War, in a manner of speaking, for an additional half century after hostilities had officially ended.  By that I mean, that the city enforced South African apartheid, or segregation of the races, until year 1912.

Now, when I say "civil war", I am referring to Lincoln and Jeff. Davis' civil war, not Michael Savage's.  Lubbock, until year 1912, had zoning ordinances documented upon the books, restricting Blacks to residing only in certain sectors of the city.  
Blacks were legally prevented from purchasing or renting real estate city-wide, anywhere they may have desired.  Money, or borrowing wherewithal, did not restrict and prevent them.  Rather, it is their skin color that did.  


30.  Who is RR
Anyway, the artist, my landlord, of ostensible Mexican heritage (although he characterized himself foremost, as Sephardic), was quite famous, both nationally and inter-nationally.  Among his works, he had publicly on display a monumental piece of handicraft, some 60 or 75 feet in width (wider than the average house), and taller in height than the average person, constituting a gargantuan mural, made of fabric.

It was part of the furnishings of the Lubbock Municipal Coliseum, hung upon the main wall of the reception area.  The governing board had purchased it as an investment.  The commercial structure they oversaw was the municipality's forum for conventions and professional sporting events.
His tapestries he created at a studio in yet another building he owned, this one, in town.  There he could concentrate and toil away at creating his latest masterpiece.  
He never brought any of these projects to the house.  All his labor products stayed at work.  But, he did keep promotional material handy.

Laminated photos of him in action, in three-part fold-out like a traveler's map, for example, were at the ready.  A priority on his mind, routinely, was to interest prospective clients in learning more about acquiring his art, no matter where that opportunity might surface.

Lubbock was a city about the size of Green Bay, Wisconsin, in population, i.e. 180,000 inhabitants.  Lubbock was surrounded by "The Loop", a circular expressway around its outer perimeter.  Thus there was a local freeway available to get to remote points of the municipality, relatively quickly. 

One of the things Reyna had in common with Conboy was that both were service veterans.  Reyna had served as a soldier for U.S. forces in Europe.  Conboy had seen action as a J.A.G. in Viet Nam.  


31.  Who is Conboy
a.  Small talker
Although characteristically convivial, Conboy was impossible to pin down about substantive issues.  A typical, definitive remark from him would be something like:  "this area has the best climate I've ever seen.  I love the weather here.  It's perfect."  But, the subject matter was inconsequential.

Yeah, [the local weather, it's] perfect if you like astro-turf and drinking lots of extra water.  For front yards that couldn't achieve watering most of the time, having green grass was a daunting challenge.  If one neglected artificial irrigation completely, then could be counted on, rampant, parched, yellow, dried-out turf, and green cacti, at best.
Now, another part of me completely agrees with him!  Neither have I ever experienced a nicer climate, notwithstanding February's dust storms and blown-about tumbleweeds.  Whether it's the severely cold winters of Chicago or New York, or, the too uncomfortably high humidity of Puerto Rico or Viet Nam, that would explain my empathy for his point of view as to the meteorological aspect of west Texas.  


b.  Vietnamese refugees
Next, getting to "substantive" topics, for example, I tried to draw him out about what he thought of the Vietnamese refugee problem.  Lubbock and adjacent areas were experiencing an influx of Vietnamese refugees, upon the winding-down of the war.  
I declared that we owed loyalty to the south Vietnamese who had demonstrated allegiance to us during the conflict.  Kind of like a federal witness protection program, albeit without so many strictures and anonymity, our country owed the U.S. loyalists something.  They had stuck their necks out for us.

Now, in my view, it was pay-back time to make sure that these people had a relatively secure future.  In other words, for the Vietnamese who had helped us fight Communism, we owed them a safe place to re-locate to, in the wake of their country falling under control of the enemy.

Conboy only listened impassively, without proffering any opinion.  Now, it is true, he had been a brave soldier, weathering enemy gunfire as he flew about in helicopters over battle zones with the generals.  Conboy's job was to give co-ordinates of enemy locations, so that our troops could correctly focus their attack.

But, I don't understand the conflict in his mind, if that's what explained his silence.  What harm's way he had been put in by the commies, was in no way reflective of the U.S. loyalists of the same country and ethnicity who had aided and assisted us.  If some of these ended up in Lubbock now, I didn't see any problem with that.


32.  More about Romeo
Back to Mr. Reyna, I recall he had an autographed photo prominently on display, with personal message, from fellow Texan, actress Farah Fawcett-Majors.  Also, he had a lady housekeeper who came in semi-weekly to keep everything tidy.  
When he showed me some of his prized knick-knacks, he would invariably comment on their cost, appending exorbitant price tags to them.  As myself being a budding lawyer, I thought that one motivation of his might have been to bolster possible, future insurance claim amounts, should the pieces go broken or missing.  He thus would have recourse to my coached testimony, to buttress his claim.

In spite of how much artistic acumen he may have been blessed with as to tapestry creation, in contrast, he was oddly insecure about fashion.  On occasion, he would essay a new item of wearing apparel, shirt, or pant, or boots, for example, then ask my opinion.  
"Mark, does this look manly?"  I routinely answered yes, because I thought it so.  But, I did reflect, more than once:  "mister, if you don't know the answer by now, all by yourself, then when's it gonna happen?"

He also owned a restaurant in Lubbock, which served Tex-Mex cuisine.  And, as introduced above, he owned a weekend, getaway ranch, located over the state border to the west, in nearby New Mexico.
He was a beloved uncle to his brother's children, who also lived in town.  Young kids, they really seemed to enjoy Romeo's company.  But, he had no kids of his own.  
I once asked Romeo:  "how did you ever reach fifty years of age, and not have any children yet?"  His reply:  "the world is so full of pain and suffering.  Why would I want to help bring more people, and, innocents at that, into this miserable, wretched place?  Inevitably, it would only lead them to have to pass tribulations and injustices which life invariably visits upon everyone!"
(Big words:  author's.  For the record, Romeo did not customarily express himself in the vocabulary of Magnum P.I.'s, Jonathan Q. Higgins, even if there may have been other similarities.

(For example, he had a yen for classical music.  He customarily had Chicago's WFMT-FM piped in thru the house's speaker system, as background to the day's activities.  His original connection to Chicago was that he had studied at its Art Institute as a young man.  
(Regarding idiomatic expressions, in fact, Señor Reyna customarily addressed me as "joven" {youth}, and, another of his favorite salutations, "buenas" {for good day, good afternoon, etc., even shalom --- as, already said, he had roots in the Sephardic tradition.}  Further, as to the religious reference, in contrast, I never heard him make allusions to any membership in the Shriners, Knights of Columbus, or Freemasons.  But, most definitely, understandably, and rightly so, he did take pride in his military service and religious background, such as he cared to make known.)

Anyway, as to Romeo's perspective about procreation and the human lot in life, these are examples of where we most definitely part company.  I have never seen it that way.  
That is not my take on things, as constituting an essential element of what Life means.  As I see it, there is so much potential for good, which prevails over all.  For that reason, "siempre estamos en la lucha" (always, we continue to struggle and hang in there).  


33.  Thanksgiving, continued
a.  Attendees   
For dinner at Conboy's home, in attendance were his wife, daughter, and a handful of students.  All of us were able to be accommodated into places around a table servicing eight.  The daughter was dressed more plainly than anyone else, dressed-down compared to the rest of us, without make-up, and in jeans.  I wondered why.  
She pretty much kept to herself for the entire social engagement.  It turns out that several years later, she elected to enroll in law school like her dad.  Later on, upon graduation, I hear that she landed an attorney position with the National Basketball Association.

Now, I would be a liar if I told you that I have not reflected upon, at least once, how my life would be different had I become romantically involved with that young lady.  Heck, even for someone in Barack Obama's job, and single, this would be a good girl to date:  1.  her dad's a law school dean; 2.  her uncle is a federal judge (lifetime appointment by President)---[more on that, infra].


b.  What would Groucho do?
Yes, it might have behooved me to have acted more interested, even if it was not of the most profound sincerity, a la the flirtatious Groucho Marx.  I could've adopted the tack from his Detective Flywheel character in, "The Big Store", where he's romancing wealthy dowager Margaret Dumont:

     Margaret:  "Oh Wolfgang, I'm afraid if you and I married, that after awhile, you'd find some young thing, and run off with her.  You would forget all about me."  
     Groucho:  "Nonsense.  I can definitely assure you there is nothing to worry about.  Twice a week, I would write to you!" 

Word to the wise (for feminists and disgruntled females):  Aren't men something else?  (Present company excepted, of course!)


c.  Mind your p's and q's
To begin dinner conversation, Joe was raving on about the exiquisite china his wife had set table with, imported from abroad.  It was some classy brand, like Lladró miniature sculptures from Spain.
He offered me some Lancer's red ---an exquisite, Portuguese, semi-dry, bubbly wine--- with the meal.  I demurred, thinking this simply was not the best idea.

The atmosphere was in no way the same dynamic as cutting loose with your classmates at a social function.  Here, rather, was boss man sizing you up, as you tried to mind your p's and q's.  Ostensibly, in demeanor, Joe was characteristically congenial.  But, what lurked beneath?


Mrs. Conboy was the charming and attentive hostess.  Although not especially talkative, I can recall one remark she made.  It was about the west Texas accent.  


If you came from New York or Chicago, some words, inflection, and the cadence of phrases, sounded extra different, to newly arrived ears.  A little bit breathless and emanating from the palate area, is how I would generally describe the sound of west Texas speech.  Mrs. Conboy remarked upon how manifested a specific example:  the word, "insurance".  


From where she and I came, the stress or accent is placed upon the second syllable.  But, in west Texas, that emphasis is pulled up to the first syllable.  How northeasterners and midwesterners pronounce "insular" and "insolence", indicates how west Texans say "insurance".  


[The word's] Definitely decipherable either way, at first listen, by visitor or native.  [Is] Simply, [that it] sounds peculiar, whenever listener and talker hail from different latitudes.  


d.  Spartan existence
I figuratively developed calluses on my posterior, from all the time I spent seated, studying away during my sojourn at TTU.  That's how serious and dedicated I was about my law studies.  
I can recall the arrival of visiting shows to the campus by show biz celebrities like Bob Hope and Leonard Nimoy.  All these I forwent, as my date with the law library invariably loomed in conflict.

One of the few luxuries I did allow myself, that I do recall, is a 13" color TV I indulged myself with, at my dorm room in Gaston Hall.  During my Spartan existence as future lawyer, here is where I got to see my first episodes of Magnum P.I.  What a great ensemble, characters, locale, and action that series had!  Definitely, it has turned out to be one of my all-time, favorite television programs.


e.  Malachi Constant's confidant
Oh yes, and one celebrity I did get see, up close and personal, was author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.  That's because he occupied one of my prof's lectern stands at the law school building which was my home away from home.  Up front and center, I got to enjoy his conference with a group of us students, about 75 kids.
His books were everywhere during my college days.  He was very popular.

My dad was a fan.  Dad "peeled away layers of the onion to discover latent messages" Kurt was feeding his reading public.  I'm sure he was right, and, he genuinely liked what he was discerning.  What was this author trying to tell us?  
Me, one connection to Kurt I recall, was linked to my appetite for pop music.  Scotchman Al Stewart hit it semi-big with an album prior to his blockbuster Year of the Cat.  "Modern Times" includes a cut called "Sirens of Titan".  And, Al makes quite clear that the inspiration stems completely from Mr. Vonnegut.  It is a very cute, clever song.  I like it (as they say in Facebook talk).

Why did Kurt make the pilgrimage to our Texas panhandle outpost?  I am only guessing, but mine is an educated one.  
Kurt was having troubles in U.S. federal court with obscenity charges at the time.  Suit was being brought against him for the content of some of his published writing.  He was on tour, making the rounds, at strategic venues where he could make more friends in the legal community.  Pretty sharp cookie, if you ask me.  Very good tactic.  
You have to perceive that this was a transition time, back in the days of U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese when we hadn't quite morphed into the anything-goes, complete relaxation of moral standards culture that seems to have taken hold today.  I mean, in the area of artistic, entertainment material, there comes with it a rating specifying which sectors of the general public can be its "consumer".  That is, there's the gamut of standards from "G" (general) to "XXX" (hard-core restricted to adults, wide-ranging, & under certain circumstances).  Thus today, once appropriately labelled, almost anything is permissible.

As an exception, for example, I was going to say (terminal) "snuff" movies are still "verboten".  That is a consolation.  But with the graphic, violent craziness from the Middle East that's on the world-wide web, I don't exactly know what you can conclude about this issue. 

So, back to Kurt, what do I remember about his chat with us?  (I apologize if this is not nearly as in-depth as some of my concert reviews.)  [He's a ] Tall, slim man, mustachioed, intellectual, in cowboy boots, dress shirt unbuttoned at neck, with sport coat, herringbone fabric, patches upon elbows.  [Wears] Horn-rimmed glasses, [has] a headful of longish, curly locks.  And, smoked several cigarettes while addressing us.  [He's] A most engaging and pleasant man.  Professorial.

Do you remember the entrepreneur who sold square-inch patches of bed sheets from the Fab Four's hotel suite which they had slept upon?  He got $10 a piece back during Beatlemania.  (That's sixty thousand dollars for one bed sheet!)  Well, someone at TTU law got the idea to attempt something similar with the butts from Vonnegut's ashtray.  
[I] Don't have any more info on that.  Struck me as no more than a fleeting curiosity.  
Nor, is it that I don't harbor proper reverence for my idols.  Just to show you, I think I would have passed on the $10 items from the Liverpudlians, as well.

Those were done deals in my mind.  [Best to] Keep things in perspective, [was] time to move on.


f.  Panhandle chewing gum
In my stream of consciousness, I guess I shall mention a close relative of snuff tobacco here.  I never saw so much "Copenhagen" and "Skoal" as when I lived in west Texas.  Seems that it was a local, cultural phenomenon.  
A sizable contingent of my male classmates carried these tins on their person like they were just as important in getting thru the day as a billfold.  "Don't leave home without it!", as Karl Malden used to say about another product.

And, it was like chewing gum to them, Wrigley's doublemint.  I think some of these chums had been partaking of the chew since the age of eight years old!
At Gaston dorm, my neighbor across the hall, hail fellow well met, from a rather wealthy, Texas ranch family, kept a spittoon in his room.  Yeah, [there was] a cuspidor filled with his contaminated saliva.  Yikees!  Ewwwww.  Nasty.

Try chew some time, if you dare.  Will knock you on your keister and turn you face green, unless you've already developed a tolerance for the nicotine of its noxious juices.  
Better yet, don't even get into it.  What they say about nascent addictions, is that you can't have the second try unless you've already made the first.  My bottom line advice:  don't go there.  


34.  Conversation at dinner there
Late in the Thanksgiving evening, there was a soon-to-graduate law student who engaged Joe in extensive apple polishing about what a genius our associate dean was.  What man wouldn't soak this up, when told so in front of his wife?  Naturally, Joe was just lapping it up.  
The law student was a military brat, who had grown up itinerant, following his soldier parents from station to station.  Joe Conboy was a reservist, with some years of military service under his belt.  The brown noser waxed on and on about how wise Joe was in racking up multiple pensions:  first the military portion, now the deanship of a Texas university.

JC (Conboy) had set the tone for the evening:  "you're probably all wondering how you got into this school.  Well, we don't know either!"

I got on the topic of grading.  This elicited a pregnant statement by a female colleague from my class --- "I don't know how anybody could cheat on law school exams."  This indeed was a pithy remark, considering who said it, and what she meant. 


35.  Law school grading system 
Anyone who has sat for final exams in an U.S. law school will know exactly what I mean.  One passing thru this experience soon comes to question whether grades are divorced from merit.  
Or, put another way, from the orientation at where I began law school, the official line says, here is how it's done:  the students' turned-in, final exams are thrown down from the top of a stairway.  How high they land determines whether they shall be marked as A's, B's, or C's.  (What the primer failed to mention, was that some papers fall all the way down to the basement.)

My advice to any law school novitiate is this:  be yourself.  You like to talk?  Fine.  You feel more comfortable clamming up, and listening?  Again, fine.  In any event, you'll very likely know after only one, full semester's credits how the administration regards you.  Then, you'll know whether to continue there, or transfer.

Now, get ready, a few of your final grades may be (purposely) withheld until you're some weeks into the next term.  Anything to drag out the suspense, I suppose helps to explain what the wardens are up to.

And, [engage in] administrative appeals of grades within the institution (probably provided for in their catalog, to "exhaust administrative remedies")?  [It's] A complete waste of time and spinning of appellant's wheels.  
It's a dog and pony show.  Get real.  Nothing's gonna be changed there.  These reprobates got it "right" the first time.


36.  Good triumphs over evil  
Instead, do what Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor did.  When a law consortium unjustly impugns your capacity to practice law, file formal complaint in a forum where you can get a fair shake.  I've found that courts of law routinely are possessed of sufficiently incisive teeth to get the defendant's attention.  
Yeah, that's right!  Sue the scoundrels, as necessary.

History records that Sotomayor prevailed against a law firm attacking her qualifications and status as a Yale law student, even before she was licensed.  With the right allies and adjudicators, thereby, you too may aspire to get as far in law as she has, adverse, cantankerous, contrary curmudgeons notwithstanding.

Be careful about being blackballed.  If you go a whole year and they give you the boot, then you're poison everywhere, nationwide, as to some 175 law schools.  This "leprosy" will contaminate you for a solid five years. 


37.  Hard to escape from your shadow 
And, apart from the law discipline, I cannot say I know of any traditional, brick and mortar school, in any field, which doesn't look to some kind of previous, scholastic record.  That would be their starting point to assess the new, incoming student, materially impacting upon subsequent courses taken at their institution.  So, again, be advised to approach the "cobra" with the correct attitude, and, eyes wide open. 


38.  Be very choosy about who your friends are
If I was counseling someone dear to me about embarking upon legal study, I'd have plenty to say, but in particular, this to begin with.  Earn high grades and score high on the LSAT entrance exam as an undergrad, in order to qualify for entrance into one of the sixty (60) best, U.S. law schools.  If you don't qualify for one of these, don't even waste your time, energy, and money anywhere else.  Seriously consider electing an alternative field of study.

Like many remunerative and non-compensatory vocations in life, there's a fraternal "hazing" period involved.  Any given individual may or may not survive the probation period, for reasons that are valid, capricious, or ulterior.  
Thereupon is met the crossroads.  One is seriously advised to consider:  what next?  How am I best able to make productive use of my life to obtain the best, for myself, my family, and, society at large?

Even in nurturing a personal relationship with your significant other, it involves some kind of testing period, in coming to understand whether you sufficiently complement one another.  Sounds obvious, but when one is caught up in the midst of these things, with a lot of resources invested, then objectivity can go wandering off, missing.      


39.  Enter,...The Happy Hooker 
Joe Conboy, interestingly, was of an extra-distinguished pedigree, by way of his younger sibling.  His brother sat as federal judge.  
Prior, the brother had been a government attorney in New York city.  One library source where you can find him referenced, is in Madame Xaviera Hollander's New York Times' reviewed, best-selling book, "The Happy Hooker."

Ostensibly, the younger Conboy appears in its chapters because he was cramping the style of the authoress-"working girl".  Officially, he was interfering with her running her business.  
Maybe you need to see an early edition from the 70's or 80's.  I skimmed what's on-line, recently.  Unless I missed it, his name has been edited out from current editions.

Check my work.  A logical place to start would be the chapter where Xaviera discusses authorities cleaning up New York city corruption.  That's the chapter where Mayor Lindsay, Senator Hughes, and the Knapp commission are referred to.
Coincidentally, you can bet that I paid close attention to her chapter on "Puerto Rico".  I lived there for 12 years, after all.  Seems Hollander found the casinos a great place to ply her trade, provided that it was done discreetly enough, and with the right friends watching over her.

One observation:  like virtually everyone, we all carry our world around in our heads.  Each individual's "reality" is different, as to the subjective element.  Therefore, I say you could put Hollander into a variety of locales and observe coming to pass, similar results.  
However, what she experienced there is most tangential to my own experience.  Her Puerto Rico is not my Puerto Rico.  Like anyone, to a very great extent, we are makers of our own destiny.

Snide aside:  query -- but, would I have liked for hers, also to have been my Puerto Rico?  Well, that's a loaded question.  Dr. Sigmund Freud (and I) might say:  answer depends upon whether you ask my ego, my id, or my super-ego.  That way, you may get three different answers!  


40.  How did the "two ships meet in the night?" 
Now, in civil federal practice, there are three ways for an U.S. federal court to acquire jurisdiction:  
1.  diversity of citizenship, between contrary parties, e.g. from two different states;
2.  federal question, at issue to be resolved; or,
3.  alleged damages demanded of at least $10 thousand (maybe small change today; was the threshold amount last time I looked).

But, with JC's brother, it's criminal law we're talking about, as the U.S. federal prosecutor is the complainant.  Since I am not as conversant with non-civil actions in this branch of government, I can only speculate by analogizing from civil to criminal.  Thus, I surmise that Xaviera's being a foreign national (from a "different state") was a factor helping to involve federal court as the applicable venue.  Thereby, nominally representing the people, figures in the government attorney, in this case Mr. Conboy.


41.  More law school anecdotes
a.  The Supremes.  There was a husky, energetic, balding, male law school teacher whom the kids nicknamed "Shake 'N Bake".  That tag was derived from his last name.  He had "immigrated" from Florida.  "Bake" displayed the usual, insider irreverence for the high and mighty running our country.

When it came to U.S. Supreme Court decisions, here's how he referred to the nine judges who ran it.  They were, "The Supremes!"  
Funny.  We all laughed.  Up until his course, I had always thought that was a famous, talented, female, singing trio from Motown!


b.    Luck of the draw.  I solicited commiseration and remedy from Conboy about one of my teachers, Edgar (taught non-elective course).  The curmudgeon, about 60 years old, was tall, lanky, and with receding hairline set over perpetually knit brows, wrinkled at the ready to pass judgment.  
He had leathery, tanned skin, and looked like he could be sibling to a couple of famous actors.  Imagine Richard Widmark's face mixed in with that of Karl Malden's, if you can picture that.

Also/, recall how these actors comported themselves.  That gives you a pretty good idea, both as to physiognomy and attitude.  Now, actors generally are more professionally practiced in the art of being charming.  Here was a case in point.

This "showboat" (Edgar) --- as described by one female classmate who had done well in his course, in a prior year --- had graded me with only a "C" on his practice, mid-term exam.  I, feeling crushed, was certain that I had done flawless work, obviously deserving a higher mark.  
Plus, there existed two alternative, less severe, teachers giving the same subject.  Why did I have to be in Edgar's section?  Why did I have to be tied to him?

By most accounts, this was one petulant, vexatious martinet of a taskmaster.  My own experience only served as confirmation.  
I petitioned my ostensible sponsor for help.  He, once again, impassively, would do nothing meaningful.  Conboy only rejoined:  "[Mark, you experienced] luck of the draw."


c.(i.)  Law prof seeks federal judgeship.  
Relatedly, a fellow student from Appleton, Wisconsin, set me up for a prank upon which I bit, hook, line, and sinker.  He really reeled me in with this gossipy tid-bit.  "Hey Mark, I hear Edgar is unhappy at law school here, and feeling he deserves better.  They say he's bucking for a federal judgeship!"

Like an information-starved puppy, I brought this morsel to my patron, Joe Conboy.  Unwittingly, I was getting caught-up in the midst of some clique's chiding in-joke, it would turn out to be.  Joe could not contain himself upon hearing me ask, what did he know about all this.  
Unbridled mirth issued forth from him as he told me how utterly foolish this was.


"Mark, no one gets a federal judgeship without the right connections.  He'll never get it," said Conboy, as if Edgar was fast becoming a laughing stock.  "That guy is only dreaming."

Little did I know at the time, that indeed there was under consideration for what I had inquired about, another Conboy, in President Ronald Reagan's pipeline.  This particular Conboy would, as things turned out, be appointed by the President to a circuit, federal judgeship.  That put the appointee on the fast track for promotion to a higher, appeals court, or, partnership in some big-name, big city law firm.


c.(ii.)  Showboat surliness
-----(1st) THE BANISHER.  Edgar was an ornery character, it turned out.  He's the same one who once declared to our class, between cases:  "the most valuable thing anyone in this life possesses, is their reputation."  I suppose giving bad grades was one armament he utilized to help impoverish real and imagined antagonists.  As if it even needed to be an issue:  off to the white house with this pupil, or, the poor house?  He decided.


-----(2nd) FORD DRESSED DOWN.  And, he could be verbally, extremely challenging with students, to an over the top degree.  This was a definite departure from the usual role of judge, which is the analog of what a law professor stands for in the classroom:  supposed impartiality.  
There was a young man, one of our colleagues, whom I'll call "Ford".  He never hurt anyone.  The gent was a reasonable, well-mannered individual to talk with.  But, his attitude, characteristically, was decidedly effeminate ("amanerado", as they say in Puerto Rico).  He most certainly was no John Wayne, nor even a Rock Hudson while acting the role of macho man.

Turns out, when Edgar grilled this kid about a case, he made sure to insert the word "bugger".  There the prof was, brow beating the chap before the entire class, declaring how some case they were discussing had been "buggered up".  Ford just took it in stride, deflecting the manifested abrasiveness in his usual, good-natured way.

Everyone caught the message from teacher.  After all, the lawyer's armament in his/her official capacity is not fire-arms, but rather, words.  Lawyers are much more sensitive to words and semantics, than the ordinary individual.  Edgar never used the buggering terminology with anyone else during the entire term.  
His intent here was transparent.  He was being undisguisedly nasty and spiteful.


-----(3rd) JERKINESS.  Now for an example of his jerkiness:  some court proceeding from our casebook found result in favor of administering corporal punishment, to keep young students in line.  Edgar welcomed and lauded the "jurisprudence".  "I am so glad to see this coming back.  It's about time," he savored.

So, here he is talking to a classful of students (us), that teachers should prevail in battering about students, as conforms to the teacher's whim.  I ask you:  wouldn't that be a hard sell, without a captive audience?  You bet it was a(nother) bitter pill for us to swallow.  
This was before the days of "politically correct" and modern crusades on behalf of minors.  Today, his conduct would likely put him under investigation by the state's attorney, in particular if his charges were below the age of majority.  But, at TTU law, he routinely got away with it.

We were all young adults.  We all stomached it, to an extent.  He dished it out and we swallowed.


-----(4th) RAZZLE DAZZLE.  However, comes to mind a rare exception.  It was a classic razzle dazzle successfully realized, on the part of a group of his students, my classmates.
Spontaneously, on the spur of the moment, one day late in the semester, stood up from their seats, in quick succession, about fifteen (15) students, consecutively.


They purposely disrupted the ordinarily routine, classroom proceedings.  The law students hijacked his class, for a brief segment of time.  
Each kid recited something obliquely sassy to make a point.  He/she used as a springboard, some memorable excerpt from various cases we had studied.  Then they molded it into an indirect message aimed at the professor, the content of which I don't specifically recall, although I may have this recorded on audio tape, archived.  (I taped many of my classes.)

The message to Edgar was that we stood in solidarity.  Although he was heavy handed, and, we had no choice in being under him, nevertheless, we were not gonna accept it lying down, without a peep.  The demonstration showed we stood together.

How did he take it?  He quickly discerned his "boat" had gone out of control and adapted steadily.  He only stood before us stoically observing, attentive and listening, for the seven minutes or so that the entire display consumed in time.  He didn't lose his cool.  And, if he had a footnote to add at the end, in reaction or comment, it wasn't anything memorable.

The students' ploy was an attempted pre-emption of whatever implacable, aggravated contariness awaited us in his next challenges.  A lot of us had become fed up by his [lack of] manner[s].


-----(5th) RATTLESNAKE.  He wasn't exactly "Paper Chase['s]" Professor Kingsfield.  But, he indeed was one bad-tempered man.  
If respect was the watchword with him, then it was the type of respect one would utilize when dealing with a rattlesnake.  Keep that critter at bay.  And, as to control, unfortunately this was beyond the realm of your possibility.


d.  "Who shot JR?"  

November 22 -- (I'm not superstitious, but, I do not trust that date, at all:  a.  my wife was in a bad, car crash, one year; b.  my dad died during another; c.  and, first to happen, was Dallas' Dealey Plaza tragedy).

Again, Conboy was impassive, when I asked for his perspective about the then, not too distant in the past, JFK killing.  He offered no insight, nor expressed any reaction at all.  
The assassination was being commemorated with an annual visit to Dallas by the Kennedy family, as was their custom in the early years.  I thought it exceedingly strange that Conboy, an Irish Catholic residing in the same state, 300 miles to the west --- small distance by Texas-sized standards --- had no opinion about what had happened to JFK.


e.  Anti-colonialist summoned before imperialist jurisdiction.  

I have to laugh profusely at Michael Savage's critiquing the limited, restricted breadth of Lamar Alexander's ability to communicate.  MS gibingly observes, "Lamar Alexander, who is so tongue-tied and illogical that he has trouble simply explaining to you what he had for breakfast!"  Pages 151, last ¶ - 152, ¶1.  That joking criticism is extra meaningful to me because I have personal experience with this individual.

While Lamar headed up Bush I's education department, I made official complaint to him about how I was mis-treated at the Interamerican University law school.  It took me about a week to get my materials together and file a formal complaint with Washington, D.C.  On the other hand, Lamar's employees protracted the decision making process to over a year-and-a-half period of time.  Not only was the waiting stressful to me, but for the chief defendant as well.

I recall, during the pendency of proceedings, that I had a personal confrontation with Law school Dean Manuel Fernós.  Maybe coincidentally, he was driving thru compact, diminutive Ocean Park (San Juan beach suburb) as I ambled along on foot.  
He stopped his Mazda sedan forty feet away.  How do I know the distance?


Answer:  point of reference.  Major league baseball's length from the pitcher's mound to home plate is 60 and a half feet.  Fernós was two-thirds that close to me.  
He halted the car, lowered his window, and simply glowered at me.  You could see he was very p.o.'d (angry).  He apparently was mightily vexed by my having had the audacity to stand up to him.

Seems he wasn't used to abusing defenseless law students and then encountering reprisal.  Several years later, he developed cancer, which God in his mercy, let him be cured of.  It went into remission.

I guess, giving this Dean the benefit of the doubt, he had experienced serious misgivings over his wicked ways.  That surely would be the reaction of most other "educators", in similar dire circumstances, assuming, they to be possessed of an intact and functional conscience.


f.  Ineptitude of epic proportions.  

Connectedly, I have to say, that there have been plenty of occasions when I've sat thru a law prof.'s course and found myself thinking:  "this individual belongs in another job.  This person belongs anywhere but here.  I have rarely seen such ineptitude surpassed.  This is bottom of the barrel.  Here's a square peg trying to fit into a round hole, if ever I saw one!"

Generally speaking, law profs. everywhere suffer from this c.v. deficiency:  they lack pedagogical training.  My wife is a graduate of the UPR's (University of Puerto Rico-RP) school of education.  Conversely, law professors may possess a bachelor's degree and law doctorate, but universally they lack training in how to teach effectively.

They have no formation in the psychology of learning.  So, they muddle thru and do as best they can.  I am referring to the sub-group who act in good faith, vis-a-vis the students.


g.  Royko's take on Lamar.  

Continuing with my commentary about Mr. Alexander, I recall a humorous item from the late, great Chicago newspaper columnist, Mike Royko.  Said Mr. Mike:  "this guy wants to be President?  Impossible!  
"Let's start with one of his first, major impediments, his name.  'Lamar'!  How could we have a President Lamar?  That's too absurd even to be countenanced."

Now, I understand Royko a little bit.  In the back of his mind, it wouldn't surprise me that a completely acceptable substitute would have been, "President Mike".  
Yeah, that sounds good to me, too.  Notice also, that it's remarkably identical to the columnist's name.

And, if Royko wasn't thinking exactly about himself, then he may have been thinking about how Mr. Alexander got the cabinet job in the first place.  It's because of whom his boss was able to beat in the general election.  A contrary vote there would have given us, another, President Mike, of Greek extraction,...from Massachusetts.


h.  He never studied!  

Re JFK Jr.  Now, up front, let me say I always liked this kid, in as much as second hand info came down to me thru the media telling me who is this person.

But, it dons on me that the circumstances of his graduating law school, yet being unable to pass the Bar in some half dozen attempts, brings up a glaring question.  How could this be?  In other words, what's going on here?

One very likely possibility is that he never studied, but instead, only purchased his diploma.  Note, interestingly, that this is the same law school to where daddy Fernós (a Puerto Rico island politician) sent his kid Manny (my law Dean), for law credentials, too.  (Recall, the "anti-colonialist" you met in section e., above.)

Isn't it always true?  People in the know discover where it's "greased", much more easily than the average person.

This much I know for sure.  I have studied in my share of institutions of higher learning, and, there's a definite difference in how one place, versus the next, will treat the same student taking the same courses.  I've obtained two letter grades higher, easily, when I was in the right place with the right teachers.


i.  Pop's long and winding road in law
My father, in fact, had to transfer to DePaul law school (Chicago) before he was finally able to earn the necessary credits for admission to sit for the Illinois Bar exam.  In those days, licensing officials had no diploma requirement, and, neither did he ever receive one.

An honorary Business Administration bachelor's degree was conferred upon him by Univ. of Illinois U-C, after he was 25 years in law practice.  This had to do with, that at this campus was where he had inaugurated his legal studies back in the 1930's.  It constituted some kind of belated recognition by the university's current chancellor and president.  
When dad was 60 years old, they bestowed upon him said sheepskin.  One might ask:  of what use is that to him at this stage of his life, two years before social security eligibility?  That would be a very good question!)

When I know how my dad was put thru the mill yet triumphed, I have only admiration for him.  What surprises me, considering all, is his perseverance, and getting as far as he did.  He had bad eyesight, but read avidly.  Dad was a first-generation American.  
His parents spoke only broken English.  His mother had very little formal education.

My grandpa had an ample share of street smarts, however.  He spoke eight languages.  When he left Europe, he had to reach America by way of detour to Brazil.  There he worked as indentured servant for several years before being able to make his way northward.

Dad practiced law for 40 years.  Did trial and appellate work.  Ran for magistrate and probate judge a few times.  And, seemed to feel he was steering me in the direction of a valuable legacy, lobbying me to cut short my physician studies for transfer to those of lawyer.


j.  Who's the boss?  
In this last, I must recognize that there's some substantial friction.  We never completely agreed about it.  By now, knowing myself, who I am, I have to say that if I never met my father, I would never have set foot into any law school, anywhere.

That's how little it speaks to me.  In retrospect, my fourteen years engaged in that profession, is more a consequence of his vision for my future, than my own.


However that background may have been of help to me in other walks of life I have traversed in the meantime.  
This is a subject for debate and introspection.  Much more clear is that there has to be an easier way to reach where you're going.


k.  Too much power
(i).  Now, "all cotton's from the plantation"
As for the nuts and bolts of law licensing, in the present day, law Deans are ever so much more powerful.  A great analogy of how it was in the 1940's versus today, is in the area of Illinois real estate brokerage.

Here, like law used to be, only core courses are required for state licensing eligibility; no diploma.  Aspiring brokers today are like would-be lawyers back then, in such respect.

Conversely, I know of no jurisdiction, in present times, where a student will be allowed to take the law Bar exams, regardless of whether he/she has taken all the credits; or, double that amount, or more than anyone presiding over any venue he/she is petitioning to.  All that preparation is fine, but, the sine qua non is the J.D. diploma.  This document, to be of efficacy, must carry with it the Dean's signature.


(ii).  Plight of "the fugitive slave"
Let's bring it on home, away from generalization, to a realistic example.  For me, here is just one, very palpable ramification of aforesaid policy change in the law.  
Referring again to my father (from §41.i., above), who practiced Illinois law for forty (40) years:  had he sought to enter the profession under today's rules, he never would have been permitted to practice as much as one single day of his lifetime.


There would never have been any "Mark Drobnick [Sr.]" representing clients in Federal nor state court.  The vocation of licensed lawyer and attorney-at-law would be a closed door to him, no matter how long and hard he knocked upon it.

That's because, in spite of all my dad's years of study, no school every conferred upon him an LL.B. nor J.D. degree.  He had taken all the required coursework in at least three law schools, plus a Bar review course for the licensing exam.  But nowadays, that is insufficient to cross the finish line.


(iii).  Who's your daddy? 
I think how we understand the roadblock to him, in our circle of those who knew him best, is that he never possessed enough of the right pull with the right people.  He wasn't aligned with any one, nor group, who could adequately help further him in his pursuit.

He simply wasn't connected to the correct people to have made his life easier in this respect.  It's akin to the slogan most of us have encountered in various and sundry situations:  "it is not, what you know, but rather, whom you know."

That's how retrograde evolution in law licensing has impacted upon everyman's access to justice in modern society. That's how it chronically colored our lives while living under the same roof we shared together for nearly three decades.

He always felt somehow incomplete, mis-directed, and unfulfilled.  That angst or uneasiness tainted getting along with him.  And I, unwittingly, was caught up in the "wake of that comet's tail".

What has come about in our society today is that the ability to protect one's rights, as in the securing of official permission to practice law, has taken a decided turn for the worse.  Its vigor has markedly deteriorated.

Choice has been supplanted by dictatorship.  Now the universal practice is, "do it my way or no way; and, only if I let you."


l.  Kicked upstairs
When I talk about Fernós' health problems, he got off lucky.  His buddies at school kicked him upstairs after he weathered his lawsuits.  The direct object noun in the last phrase here is in the plural, kindly notice.

Yes, there's another legal action, federal court case no less, besides my complaint, which I'll soon get into.  The PR good ol' boys made Manny, Interamerican president after that, removing him from the law campus.

Meant a pay raise too.  What else is new?


m.  Marlboro country
Re cancer, I am made to recall study at my first law school.  To show you how times have changed, get this.  There existed a closed-door wing in the library, with shelf upon shelf of law restatements, cases, and statutes, labelled with the placard:  "The Smoking Room".

I've never seen that anywhere else.  Maybe our proximity to Marlboro's Kentucky tobacco fields was partially to explain.

Here, law students could ease back into the wee hours puffing their favorite tobacco products, with impunity.  The air was oddly not invisible as it should be; rather, it looked worse than L.A. smog on a bad day!  You could cut thru it with a knife.

The smoky environment was entirely prescriptively sanctioned, and, provided for by the law school administration.  Thankfully, times have changed.  I don't expect a visit back there today would demonstrate any corner resembling aforesaid den of perdition.


n.  The tobacco Deans
And, what role models we had!  The original dean, always a taciturn fellow, died after retirement, in his eighties, from cancer.  His replacement, a protege, lasted only a few years in the same job, due to similar health problems.

My dad nicknamed this successor, "Happy".  The reason was that, characteristically, that was the expression on the Dean's face as he socially interacted during any given day. 
Others gibed that he was Mr. "Aw-shucks/Slick".  You may think perhaps a bit of actor Walter Brennan to have an idea of Happy's demeanor.  Except, Walt never did us any harm.  Rather, he entertained.

What detractors meant was that the law administrator said one thing, then went and did another.  All this would transpire even as he projected onto you unassumingness, and, continued smiling.
Anyway, "Happy" passed away at around age 55 from lung cancer.  He had overdone it.  Like actor Humphrey Bogart, he exercised too much moderation,...of his moderation.

This law Dean was a nicotine fiend, chain-smoking, "chimney" since the first day I knew him.  It ultimately did him in.  When he must have already known the diagnosis, he quoted Chas. Dickens to readers of his regular newsletter:  "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

What he meant with that quotation was that he had fallen into the good fortune of inaugurating the new law school building as its first Dean.  But, unfortunately, his term there as overseer, was to be most abruptly cut short against his wishes, in fact, terminally!



{ Next installment, part 3.  Action-packed conclusion.  Be there! }


( posted:  06 May 2015 )


Mark Drobnick


Waukegan, Illinois  USA


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