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Itís Alright Ma (Iím Only Bleeding)

I have gone gently into the good night of geezerhood. I'm not sure exactly when it happened. At some point, apparently while my attention was diverted, I went from being "The Kid"1 to being "Acting PJ." That's like going to bed Warren Zevon and waking up The Werewolf of London.

It's not like the age thing snuck up on me. Two years ago, my birthday breakfast was served under a banner my wife had hung in the kitchen: 59, Gateway to the Wild Embellishment Years.

And a plaque I won in high school is on a wall in my chambers.2 It's dated. Every time I walk past it, I am reminded of my membership in the Class of '65. I should know how old I am.

But I was somehow still unprepared to find myself blurting out medical information to virtual strangers: "Yeah, got an arthritic right hip that makes it difficult to walk the course anymore" or "Chondromalacia in the left knee; little too much weekend warrioring."

I was still surprised to hear myself muttering "Dipstick!" under my breath while a Nobel Prize-winning economist held forth on television. And I was not ready for the realization that my youngest, a junior at UCLA, no longer regards me as a major obstacle to her future happiness3 as much as a quaint memento of her childhood.

These sure signs of advancing age seemed to spring fully-developed, like Athena from the head of Zeus4. They just suddenly appeared, fully armored and intimidating as hell. Scary stuff.

I'm still fighting, but it's pretty much Custer standing next to the flag, pointlessly firing a six-shooter at a thousand Sioux and Cheyenne. I know as soon as I stop to reload, I'm going to be toast. I'm going to find myself eating dinner at 4:30, watching re-runs of Matlock, and yelling at kids to get off my lawn.

But even though I know all that, there is a part of me that takes great pleasure in the fact I have reached an age at which I have greater confidence in my ability to identify idiocy.5 This, I believe will be a great comfort to me when my children file the conservatorship petition. I'll be able to wave my walker at them and shout, "You idiots! I'm not crazy, you are. . . . and get off my lawn."

I mention this because another sure sign has manifested itself this morning. I find myself completely bumfuzzled by the morning paper. The newspaper, which, like me, treads further down the path of the buffalo every day, is so far over my head this morning that I can't even hear its engines.6 And I think this may be an appropriate time to employ my newfound idiot-detection confidence.

If I read it correctly, Bob Dylan is being threatened with a lawsuit because the portable toilet on his sprawling Malibu estate is wafting noisome7 odors onto the property of his neighbors. Apparently you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows if you live next door to Dylan.

According to the Los Angeles Times, which I hope will be one of the last buffalo shot by the internet, Dylan has a porta-potty on his property that - at least according to his neighbors - is not doing a good job of containing sewage gases. They insist they've been sickened by them.

Dylan is not commenting.8 Nor is his New York lawyer.9 So I hasten to point out that we do not have both sides of the story. I hasten to point this out because I suspect Dylan has libel lawyers on speed dial.

And his neighbors are probably not dining on free cheese, either. Certainly they have a bigger budget than I. Their response to the odors was to install five industrial strength fans to try to blow the fumes back toward Dylan. Unfortunately, they are due east of the Dylan estate and even King Kong fans are no match for the prevailing westerlies.

So when self-help failed10, they asked the city to do something about it. But when the city's code enforcement officer showed up, Dylan's security guards refused to let him in. They told him he was trespassing. They threatened to sue the city. So he left. Took his badge and went home.

Instead of demanding access, the city had the City Manager drive by. Sure, that oughta do it.

Here's how the City Manager handled the matter: "I drove by one time and couldn't locate the porta-potty or smell anything. I called the rental company on her behalf to find out what chemicals they use and forwarded that information to her."

What more could he do? The National Guard is deployed in Iraq: there just weren't any troops available.

The city has an ordinance requiring that temporary toilets connected to authorized construction projects must be removed upon completion of the project, but Dylan's position appears to be that this is not a temporary toilet. It's permanent.11 It's for his employees. Check and mate.

Dylan's neighbors consider this preferential treatment. The city denies that, and, of course, it is certainly unprecedented for entertainment bigwigs to be treated any differently by government officials than the rest of us, so I'm pretty sure they're as on top of this as they could legally be. As I understand it, their official response was, "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright."

But in that regard, I do feel obliged to point out one small point in the Times story that concerns me. The guard shack where the code enforcement officer was turned away was built in 1989. At that time, Los Angeles County building inspectors discovered it was not accessible to the handicapped. But they allowed Dylan to bypass the accessibility requirement "by promising, in writing, that he ‘would not hire any handicapped persons' to work in it."

Excuse me? Did I read that correctly? You can avoid the requirements of the ADA just by promising - in writing - that you will, in the future, discriminate against the handicapped?

"Tell you what, instead of making my Burger King accessible to the handicapped, I simply will not allow them in." That works? "Instead of putting a ramp up behind the judge's bench, we'll just agree that no handicapped persons will be appointed judges." That works?

Apparently it works in Los Angeles.

But I try not to get too worked up about these things. At my age, it's not safe. So rather than continue with the Dylan story, which involved a lot of civil law I didn't want to research unless it came before me, I decided to read a story about criminal law. I'm an old prosecutorial horse. I figured I'd understand the criminal law story a lot better.

It said a woman had been arrested for stealing breasts. Say what?

Well, I guess that's not exactly what it said. But let me put it this way: If you obtained a car through false pretenses, you would be accused of stealing that car, right? Penal Code §487 explicitly covers theft by false pretenses.

Well, according to my newspaper, this woman is "accused of using a false identity to get breast implants and liposuction." In other words, they say she obtained them through false pretenses. So in plain language, the allegation is that she stole breasts.

I think this is a new crime. It's certainly one I've never heard of before.

And I therefore take great pride in announcing that the seminal case in this regard - Patient Zero, if you will - has been filed in my county, more specifically in Surf City, USA: Huntington Beach. Huzzah.

Obviously, I cannot comment on the merits of the case. This is good news for me because I know absolutely nothing about the merits of the case.

What's more, I am apparently hopelessly out of step with modern criminal conduct. In my day, you changed your appearance so you could change your identity. Now, as I understand it, that's been reversed. This woman is charged with having changed her identity so she could change her appearance.

Needless to say, if that rather pedestrian aspect of the crime confuses me, I have no chance with the much more exotic concept of felonious body improvement. Trust me, folks, if there is anyone on the planet who should be willing to lie, cheat or steal to get a better body, it's me. Yet this particular crime - fraught as it is with surgically inserting goo into one part of the body and surgically sucking goo out of another part - simply eludes me.

But I don't really need to comment on the case. I need only express my complete and utter confabulamentation12 that I have reached an age where even basic breast crimes are beyond my ken. I mean, I expect to have difficulty with computer crimes. I expect to have problems when a negligence case involves some colossally complicated principles of medical technology or an alleged investment fraud requires understanding of derivative securities.

But breasts? I really thought I understood breasts. I would have thought I knew all the illegal things you could do with breasts. You get to my age and find out there is breast crime you never even imagined, it's hugely disconcerting.

So I'm just going to put the newspaper down and resolve to try again tomorrow. Right now, I think it's time for my nap.

1 I was the youngest member of my law school class.
2 Yeah, I know that's a little sad, but it's in an out-of-the-way-spot; I'm the only one who ever sees it. There have been so few athletic triumphs in my life that I don't want to take the chance of forgetting one.
3 The proper role of all fathers of daughters.
4 No, I was not there to see that.
5 Still another sure sign of geezerhood.
6 Apparently my figurative ears are giving out as quickly as my real ones.
7 This word does not mean what you think. Neither does "bemused," which describes me a whole lot better than "amused" these days. Digression: another sure sign.
8 If he did, he wouldn't be Dylan, now would he?
9 The Times thought the lawyer's residence was significant, and they know more about journalism than I do, so I thought I better put it in, too.
10 Talking it out with Dylan failed. When a guy writes things like "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry," he figures to be difficult to negotiate with.
11 "Temporary Like Achilles."
12 A portmanteau word: lamentations caused by my increasing inability to distinguish fact from fancy.

Posted by William W. Bedsworth on Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 10:08 Comments (0)


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