Big Bad Bosses

This weekend, I went to a party for a book editor who had formerly been an assistant to an agent I once worked for. Let's just say that she was the Abel to my Cain. She'd been there for three years and the Agent I worked for was over the moon about her. When I wondered why she wasn't working for him presently, or was a co-agent, he shrugged and said he didn't know either. This is before Agent and I had our famous falling out, resulting in my firing and him making a spectacle of himself to New York State Unemployment officials. For more information, here's an old post.

Anyway, Abel Assistant was a mutual friend and another assistant to Agent was there as well. And overall, it was very cathartic to be there. We reminisced about under-the-radar creepiness and vague feelings of being sexually harassed, the piles of manuscripts and unending letters to be typed, the curtness and shouting and rudeness and all the other fun stuff that bonded us like boot camp. I was glad to hear that while the nominal clockout time was 5:30 (something that Agent liked to brag about), Abel Assistant had routinely stayed after midnight to get anything done. Other assistant told me that he had no idea of expanding the agency, as he told me in the interview. I even had the satisfaction of hearing that a so-called close friend calling him a dick. It is immensely gratifying to know that something as humiliating as being fired from a minimum wage job can have nothing to do with you.

But, of course, it had everything to do with me. My friend, another who had interned for him, had been questioned on "what kind of men she liked to date." He never got that far with me. I was nervous about him from the start, as was he, only for different reasons. The one really great thing about actually practicing law is that you get used to being treated with respect. It's hard to give up, even in the name of paying your dues. I like to think that he sense that I wasn't his ideal assistant, some kind of sex-kitten girl friday who worked ceaselessly behind the scenes and provided stroking of the, er, ego. The poor girls who came before me had been subjected to the same weirdness and had put up with it for a lot longer.

If I hadn't been fired, I wouldn't have started writing. If I hadn't started writing...

I don't know how to end that sentence.

Ah, Timing

sometimes timing is wonderful. just as I was pondering as to whether I had offended karma or if it was indeed sour grapes that motivated my anger against Evil CoAuthor, I get the sales figures from The Street Law Handbook. They are actually quite good, better than I thought, which is nice to hear from a first book.

perhaps it's the effect of morning yoga, but I feel all stretched out and relaxed now...maybe a break before I tell you why Bonnie Parker is a Betty.

Dog Days of Summer

August is a bad month for freelancers--or good, if you don't mind not being busy. I like being busy. I also like being paid properly. Sometimes that just doesn't happen.

Found an article worth checking out about the life less travelled...I like to think it applies to me, but only to a certain extent. I find it funny that the author assumes that the people in cafes in midday are not working hard. I work so much harder than I did as a lawyer, because I care about being a writer much more. It just takes more forms, and I can move around, but it's really preferable to sitting in an office all day, becoming a drone. And a lot of the time I end up working late at night, when others are off carousing and gallivanting without me. So unfair.

Click here for the article.

But August is made for carousing, because everyone who can give you work is on vacation. What to do with lots of time and no money? Besides reality television, I mean. That's one dangerous hobby...

My agent represents The Washingtonienne, a sexually active, moderately amoral character whose blog (here) inspired her book. I find it fascinating that after two weeks of blogging she managed to be become infamous enough for a book and a huge advance. Then again, she was sleeping with low-level polithcos for rent money, usually on her lunch break. Another girl who likes to work hard, just in her own way...hope that's where the comparison ends between me and her...

Still, will work harder to make material more salacious.

The Street Law Ripoff

A few years ago, when I decided to write The Street Law Handbook, I thought I could use a consultant, someone who was still practicing law and could do some research for me. I put an ad in the legal job section of craigslist, got about twenty responses, weeded it down to about five. The guy I chose was a criminal defense lawyer with lots of enthusiasm for the project--someone who definitely wanted to be co-author more than consultant. Or...well, just author, actually. Unfortunately CoAuthor couldn't string words into decent sentences to save his life. And he didn't like to be edited or anyone "interfering." In fact, he didn't want me to do anything, and when I complained, he sent a long letter to our agent to take his side. That's when I blew my now trademark cool and, well, we had words. Nasty words, mostly on email, all of which I still have archived, by the way.

Once equilibrium--as I saw it, anyway--was restored, we went back to work. Then suddenly, he disappeared. The whole partnership lasted about two months. I wrote The Street Law proposal from scratch, sold it, researched it, wrote it, edited it, published it. About a year after the end of our partnership, CoAuthor turned up, friendly and complimentary, wanting to sign the Termination Agreement I had sent him--or, actually, his own version, which had no non-compete clause. You see, CoAuthor and I, both being lawyers, had signed a partnership agreement that stating that he could not publish anything to directly compete with Street Law, should he leave the project.

Ah, lawyers. Once again, we had words--mostly his this time, again, most of them nasty. I agreed to limit the non-compete clause to six months, mostly to get him and his negative energy out of my life.

Well, his competing project is out. You knew there was one, right? So did I. I wasn't surprised that it got published (dey vil publish aaaaanything, baby) but I was surprised to see how thoroughly and how unashamedly, he had ripped off my idea. It has the original title I had proposed before "The Street Law Handbook" and is a survival guide to the drug law. Like The Street Law Handbook, it has stories of celebrity busts, silly crooks, tips to the legal system and dealing with the police and going to trial. In short, it looks really, really familiar. CoAuthor will modestly note on his website how he came up with the idea on his own. I see that the phrase "answered a craigslist ad" is not in the explanation.

I will say this. His writing has gotten better. The early drafts I have of his writing were shit. (Are shit. I still have them, of course). Anyway, some editor has earned his money on this one.

Some friends have suggested legal action. I'm not sure it's worth it the aggravation, or the surge of negative energy, or the distraction from Wicked Woman and Unnamed Book Three. My agent says it happens all the time in publishing and it's really hard to prove these things. And I believe in karma, and that cream always rises to the top. I think venting here was enough.

Besides, it's all over for him anyway. Without me around, where's he going to get his second book idea?

The Critic as an Artist as a Lady

Last night I continued my quest to save money by being as still as possible. I calculated that since it cost me about $50 for the mere act of leaving the apartment, then it would cost about $20 for me to go into the living room from the bedroom and about $10 every time I got up from the computer. Note that these figures are highly suspect as I didn't pay a lot of attention in my college economics classes (which makes the fact that I minored in economics even more mystifying). At any rate, staying seated at my computer with the television on seemed to cost me the least amount of money for existing, so I threw in a cheap bottle of wine and spent a rocking evening browsing the internet. What you folks take for granted during your workday has become my most cost-effective form of entertainment.

All was not lost, however, as I quickly discovered Television Without Pity, a website devoted to, well, television, that features some of the most interesting writing I've seen in a while. These are clearly people who like to write. I've always rejected the notion that a critic is simply a useless-hanger-on of people who actually make art. The first challenge to this notion was when I read Oscar Wilde's essay The Critic as an Artist, which, rather jokingly, suggested that the critic was indeed at a higher level than the artist, or, at least as creative as the artist herself.

Nowhere is this more apparent than Television Without Pity. I, of course, went to the forum for the show Kept, which I had been quite interested in until it got really repetitive after the sixth episode. Even Madame Jerry lost her luster; her faux British-Texas twang began to grate, and it became apparent that this was simply another dating show, rather than the grand swayamvara that I had imagined.

That said, the boards are witty, alarmingly accurate and entertaining in a cynical way. A particularly fey contestant is presumed to be gay, or, at least "has some sugar in his tank." Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne "inhabit their own land of awesome." Merciless as the website promised, these are people who have no compunction about mocking the aspirations of "famewhores" even as they compulsively watch them. The writing about the show, in fact, was far superior to the show itself. If we buy into the antiquated notion that an artist is intrinsically superior to his critic, simply because he does something, then that means that the bobble-headed contestants of Kept and the manipulative, snarky producers of the show are intrinsically superior to the cultural critics who dissect them. Such is clearly not the case. What could be better reading than one poster's request that Elton John and his boyfriend do a similar search for a houseboy, and call their show "Two Queens and a Knave?" Brilliant. You can't find better writing anywhere. That these people are clear-eyed about the "Cinderella-storyline" (i.e. the scruffiest boy cleans up good to win the game) and the magic of editing to create hugely artificial story arcs makes the reading even better. They're willing to play the game, but they're not going to be fooled by it.

It was a much better evening than my sedentary self could have envisioned. What's equally fascinating is the dirt dug up on the contestants--four or five of whom rather coincidentally starting up blogs just as the show started airing. Absolutely hilarious. Reality television may be exactly what George Orwell envisioned as our entertainment in 1984 (complete with wall-high screens), but it doesn't mean that its viewers are stupid. Wit and perception can produce good writing out of virtually any subject matter.

As for me, I'm going to spend the $20 and go to my kitchen for some lunch.


I always speak pretty highly of the freelancing life--the late nights and late mornings, the independence, the avoidance of working with idiots, etc. But there is a serious downside to it, and I think I'm experiencing it now. August is a pretty slow time in New York in general--everybody goes out to the Hamptons or some similarly over-hyped beach area. What I usually plan to do is have enough money to get me through August into September, but alas, this year, that simply is not the case.

My level of poverty is so low that I've simply stopped leaving the house, except for dogwalks and general constitutionals (so I won't become one of those Addams-family type recluses). Anything else involves the spending of money, of which I have none. It's an interesting idea, to slow down and stop moving as much as possible so as to maximize resources and efficiently spend the pennies I find in my couch. But it's actually a terrible way to live. It's moments like these that I imagine people in their windowless offices, slaves to the wage clock, yet comforted by the knowledge that however bad their day is, they're going to get paid nonetheless, and the workday won't bleed into a worknight.

Hopefully things will change soon. I've got some small projects to nibble on, but the big ones that I am waiting on--the real estate blog, some PR work, a new book proposal--are not coming in yet and certainly won't be paying my bills for a couple weeks yet. It's a terrible feeling to come to a complete standstill, hoping that if you don't move, you won't be hemorraging money as usual. Yet another reason that us self-employed freelance types are in the minority--lots of wear and tear on the nerves, and we sometimes don't know why we do it either.

Birthday Bash

I actually don't like weekends very much, partly because I pretty much work every day, and it's much harder to work when everyone else is having fun. This is what made weekends at the firm particularly grueling; not only were you working, but most of the time you were doing pointless, mindless tasks like document review (where you review boring litigation documents) or due diligence (where you review boring corporate documents) At least now when I'm working, I can do it in my sunny bedroom with the Kept marathon in the background. (As predicted, my interest in this show lasted as long as my interest in any show--six episodes. I don't even know who she picked. I'm sure they're quite happy). Office politics are limited to which cat is currently thrashing the other, and whether I can take an extra dog walk in the evening.

Still, I get considerably little work done from Friday afternoon through Saturday. Sunday, being the day of repentence, is a very productive day. I pretty much wake up a bad employee on Friday--hungover, behind schedule, procrastinating here, there and everywhere. I suppose it evens out in the end because of Sunday, but still. Freelancing is feast or famine; last week it promised feast, but this weekend is famine. Which means I will worry about spending too much money, usually followed by my actually spending too much money.

However, the plans for Saturday night are particularly good--The Horse and I are throwing a joint birthday party at the Horse's apartment. He has purchased tiki torches, which I envisioned as those big Hawaiian flaming suckers, but now sound only like rather tall candle holders. My contribution will be introducing random groups of people, none of have really met each other, into a crowd of his more mellow friends. We will do some mighty fine repenting on Sunday, but hey, your 21st birthday only comes around six or seven times in your lifetime.

Thank God for the tradition of the houseparty, by the way. For the price of a medium-bodied cabernet, you can buy your way into someone's house, be supplied with a drink, lots of munchies and a comfortable place to sit down when necessary. Which makes me wonder why we even go to bars anymore. Well, other than the fact that I don't think I could get the memebers of Satanicide to do a private show in my apartment. (Or could I....? That would certainly teach Evil Cat Woman.....) Relying on being supplied with booze simply because of the charm of your company--another necessary to be a freelancer.

The Long Arm of the Law

Actually, the last post got me thinking about something rather strange. Mention that you're a lawyer, and there is roughly a 92.5% chance that the person you're talking to will mention how they seriously considered law school. Seriously, most of the population has thought about it. Is it the last refuge of all college grads when they run out of ideas? True, would-be lawyers and law school students are everywhere. For example, I just learned that Phil, the lead guitarist of Satanicide (actually, I think he goes by Alistair, or something like that) is a real estate attorney. If you're out there, Phil, are you still practicing? Just curious. And another member of the group, who shall remain nameless for his own protection, was also telling me how he thinks about going to law school. No, Baron, no!

But while it is interesting how many cool and creative people consider law school, it is even more interesting that I never met any. I mean, where were the spandex-wearing heavy-metal rockers at my law school? I don't recall any. Instead I was stuck with people who agreed with judges who made female lawyers wear skirts in court, because pantsuits were generally unfeminine. I! "Your honor, I actually have a very feminine butterfly tattoo on my left ankle and this nasty pantsuit is just covering it up...oh, wait, you don't like tattoos either? I'll just put on another layer of pantyhose then."

I will tell you what I told Nameless Member: if you are a creative person--not just creative, but if who you are is mostly driven by the creative impulse--then law school is not for you. Creativity is not a treasured asset in law school. The two do not mix in the wild, and cannot survive in the same environment.

If you are mostly creative, and still want to law school, then you must have another trait to succeed: marathons. A 10K will do, but really you must be able to run the full 26-or-whatever-K. Only those creative types who have the capability and persistence to train for a marathon should consider law school and/or a legal career. It's for the long haul.

As for me, I don't even break into a jog unless someone is chasing me. And, depending on the circumstances, sometimes not even then.

That should tell you something, though I'm not sure what.

Fame By Any Other Name

During my research for new book proposal, I stumbled across the following list. All were trained as lawyers but found fame in other fields. Some in particular give us hope...

Franz Kafka (writer)
Rene Descartes (philospher)
Francis Scott Key (composer)
Scott Turow (author)
Terry Louise Fisher (co-creator of LA Law)
Paul Robeson (actor/singer/civil rights activist)
Geraldo Rivera (broadcast journalist)
Richard Thalheimer (president/The Sharper Image)
Noah Webster (lexicographer)
John Wesley Hardin (outlaw)
Mahatma Gandhi (political/spiritual leader)
Tony LaRussa (former Oakland A’s manager)
Henry Fielding (author)
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (political leader)
Mortimer Zuckerman (owner of U.S. News & World Report)
Erle Stanley Gardner (creator of Perry Mason)
Sir Thomas More (statesman/saint)
Pat Haden (former LA Rams quarterback)
Charlie Rose (broadcast journalist)
Rossano Brazzi (actor)
Washington Irving (author)
Howard Cosell (sportscaster)
Hoagy Carmichael (songwriter)
Edgar Lee Masters (poet/novelist)
Wassily Kandinsky (painter)
Peter Tchaikovsky (composer)
Fred Graham (CBS TV reporter)
Fidel Castro (politician)
Otto Preminger (film director)
Madalyn Murray O’Hair (reformer)
Ralph Nader (consumer advocate/politician)
Jules Verne (author)
Archibald MacLeish (poet)
Studs Terkel (oral historian)

Satanicide Rules!

Having heard three out of the four bands that my friend Griff plays drums in, I think that Satanicide is my favorite. The others, made up of virtually the same people, are very, very good. This was not an easy decision. Hair Supply, as you know, is the heavy metal/Air Supply band, all spandex and, well, hair. Heather has a sound that's like hearing your boyfriend's band playing in his garage on a summer evening. But Satanicide was the whole package. A little Spinal Tap, a little glam rock, a little punk, a lot of metal, they even supplied their own scantily clad video vixens and tottering gothic pillars. Any band where the lead singer not only stage dives successfully, but gets the crowd to carry him back to the bar for a shot of Jack Daniels is alright by me.

Special kudos to Phil because I promised him, and because he made me feel like a celebrity introducing me to friends who read my blog. And for those of you who are into live music, bassist D. is playing Saturday night with Jamie Rattner. I know nothing about this, but Drew is a great bassist. Or maybe I would say that of anyone who plays Duff in a Guns and Roses tribute band.

I am one hour away from my birthday. I don't like birthdays. Actually, that's not true. I like birthdays, I just don't like the numbers that go along with it. Is there any way to get them to slow down, or even in reverse for a few years? But now that the day is almost here, it doesn't feel half bad. In New York, you always feel young. I only feel ancient out in the suburbs, where my former high school friends are wheeling their four children around in SUV's. Actually, I don't exactly feel ancient; more like...baffled. Am I the one who missed the boat, or are they?

Primary Birthday Wish: Gorgeous New Book Deal, with Matching Publicity.
Secondary Birthday Wish: Private, But Clive Owen-Related.
Tertiary Birthday Wish: Really Good Absinthe, Imported Only.

Or at least a nice massage. Shiatsu.