Friday, February 5, 2016

Performance at Imagining America Conference: Mass Transit Muse/Be Encouraged

Audio recording of my featured performance at American Studies Association national conference in Baltimore: Imaging America.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bowie in 1999


David Bowie, in a 1999 interview, said of the Internet, “I think we are on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying,” before disagreeing with his interviewer who described the emerging system of information gathering and distribution as ‘just a tool.’ 
“No.  It’s an alien life form,” said Bowie with a wheezy laugh.
When David Bowie died, two days after releasing his final album, Lazarus, a reference to the legend of the man Jesus raised from the dead, he scripted the last line in a life of poetry that he crafted from a metamodern ethos still in its cocoon.  Bowie lived and died before his time, and in both his life and death, he gave us a glimpse of the good that can come of our emergent techno-society.  That is if we are as deliberate as he was in crafting poetics, in the classical sense, out of our on-line lives. 

       



Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Been a While

Been a while... been working on some things.  Here's a hint:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Process is the Prize: What I know by 40...

...is the measure of a life.

I grew up thinking that how much money we make, or who we marry, or if we have kids and what they do, or our careers will be the ultimate measure of a life.  I feel differently now.  

I measure my life in work, distance and time.  As much as I demand good outcomes from my effort, I've learned that the process is the prize.  It's in the process that you build the will and muscle needed to accomplish anything.  It's in the process that you learn how to handle failure, and how to handle success.

There's always going to be a new goal to reach for.  The process is the ultimate prize.  The best analogy for this is working out.

I've spent the last 39 days working out more consistently than I have since high school football.  It was hard.  The only way I could keep it up was to play math games to push myself.  And the measures were calories, distance, and time.  Why?

Calories are two units of energy, the approximate amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius at a pressure of one atmosphere.  Long story short, a calorie is a measure of work.

Distance is an amount of space between two things.  


Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.


So what?

By constantly focusing on how much work I was doing, the distance I was traveling, or the amount of time I was spending working, I felt like I am constantly achieving my goal.  It feels like the achievement of the goal at the end of my session was only a continuation of all of the goals I attained in the process of working out.  Ultimately the end of the session felt like just another goal towards another goal.  It kept me going.

Here's how:

First, I set the intention to measure everything in multiples of 15 because I want to spend the next 15 years till I turn 55 grinding to spend the 15 years after that reaping rewards.  To keep my mind on that big life goal, I created a measure of it (multiples of 15) and built it in to every part of my work out.  It not only felt good to pound that intention into my every step while running and every push while lifting, but it literally kept me going.  

Part of why I picked 15 is because the last 15 years have been tough.  I lost both my parents, lost my childhood home to Katrina, and took some serious financial hits.  I also got married, had two children, bought my first home and self-published several books.  It's been a period of contraction in which I've turned internal and focused on family, home, and creative vision.

Now I'm like a rubber band that's been pulled as far as it can pull.  I'm ready to spring out like potential released.  And the next 15 years will be all about expansion.  That's why I'm getting mind, body, and soul ready.

Here's how it has worked more specifically:

While running or doing elliptical or rowing or biking, I'd alternate goal setting between calories burned, distance and time.  Let's say I wanted to run 3.30 miles.  As I approached that distance, I'd look at my calories and go past 3.30 miles if it got me to an even number of calories burned (say 450 - a multiple of 15) or a whole number of minutes run (say 30 minutes - a multiple of 15).  Then I'd say well now that I'm at 3.38 miles I have to get to 3.45 miles.   But now I'm at 480 calories and I have to get to 490 (a multiple of 15) and on and on.  And even thought I knew I was playing a game with myself, it also felt like a serious commitment to this big goal of 15 years of expansion.


Long story short, now, 1 day before 40, I don't feel like tomorrow is the finish line, but just another step in the process.  Perfect way to start the next chapter of life.  And more importantly, a great lesson in how the process is the prize!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Make Room for Magic: What I know by 40...

As my cousin T. Rose said when he, my brother Tony, and I were making a series of film shorts called Crossroad Cab more than six years ago...



...You have to make room for the magic.  That means that, sometimes, things can't be scripted and must not go as planned.  Sometimes genius is only found in flow.  And though our film didn't win any awards or thousands of views, we learned a great lesson in teamwork and openness making space for magic.

So yesterday, while prepping for a presentation to youth, I asked Facebook friends to help me with a portion of the presentation by describing the current state of the world in 3 words.  I wanted to share the perspective of grown folk with the youth.  After getting so many diverse responses from so many diverse people, here are the words arranged in a word cloud.

The most used words are larger and are not in the original order.  But the new arrangement produced some really cool word arrangements.  Some of my favorites:

intuition imprisoned
wholeness generation
Will Love World
future innovation critical
dare build new
depressed perceptions
blind king sucks
dystopia potential
ghetto longing
prayed blues
coming mess
learn life love imagine

It's really cool how a bunch of adults gave three words about the world they wanted to share with youth.  Cooler that when those words were then run through a randomizing algorithm, the result was poetry.  That's making room for magic. And two days from 40, I'm all about it.

State of the World word cloud 



Monday, December 7, 2015

It takes the individual and collective: What I know by 40...

...is that it takes individual and collective action to change the world.  I'm presenting to youth twice this week about it.  Here's the outline of our time together.

Opening
  • Ago, Ame 
    • Call and response request to speak from the Akan language of West Africa.
    • I respect you and I am grateful for your time and attention. It’s going to take us all to make this a worthwhile 30 minutes.  Please participate.  Call and response will be the rhythm of our time together.
  • Call:  Describe the current state of the world in three words or less.  Snap if you see any words or phrases that came to mind?  3 participant responses.

  • Opening Spoken Word:  We are in a world of trouble
    • We are in a world of trouble/war reins supreme in the middle east/blood pours down the drains of city streets/human beings are called aliens on their own planet/refugees cry pleas for a piece of piece/hate runs hot in the hands of college students paint swastikas with feces/and cold in the hearts of people turned commodities of the incarceration industry/we are in a world of trouble/our earth is swollen with the waste of insatiable consumption/and as we wade through distraction/bitter in the bliss of detached connection/the world awaits our fingertips/with a mood change at a channel switch/and consequence it has come to this/we are desensitized and comfortably numb/while death and destruction run amok among our young/we are in a world of trouble.

    • But today I am encouraged because I’m looking at the future.  And you should be encouraged because the future is up to you.  There was a time when in America when, as children my mother and father, and some of your grandparents, couldn’t use public restrooms, pools, and had to sit in the back of the bus simply because of the color of their skin.  America isn’t perfect, but it there were hard fought battles to get this far. We do have a long way to go, but the only way we will get there is together.  It can be done. 

  • Framing:  60 years ago, there was a little old lady who was tired after work and refused to give up her seat for a young man, as was the law in what was called the Jim Crow south.  Her action led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

  • Call: Who was this little old lady?  3 participant responses.  
    • Presenter Reflection:  Rosa Parks wasn’t a little old lady, she was 40 and she wasn’t simply tired after work.  She had headed the Youth Division of the Montgomery NAACP branch for years.  She was an activist and a community organizer, and was prepared to face the consequences of her brave act. 
 












  • Call:  Who is James Blake? 3 participant responses. 
    • Presenter Reflection:  James Blake was the bus driver who ordered Rosa Parks to give up her seat, then called his supervisor who called the police. He always maintained that he wasn’t a bad man, just a city employee doing his job. 
 

From Individual to Collective

  • Call: Ask for one volunteer to stand and read each definition. 
    • Individual Agency = some power you posses as an individual.  Ask for examples.
    • Collective Agency = power formed when individuals join together.  Ask for examples.

  • Presenter Reflection:  It took many acts of individual and collective agency to make the Civil Rights Movement because Jim Crow segregation was made of many acts individual and collective agency.

  • Call:  What made Rosa Parks decision to use her individual agency to not give up her seat difficult?  What empowered her individual agency in that moment?  3 participant Responses.

  • Presenter Reflection:
    • Rosa Parks used her individual agency when she put her safety on the line in refusing to leave her seat on a Montgomery bus.  It was the collective agency of the NAACP that helped her know that she’d have bail, a ride home, and the organized support of people across Montgomery.  

  • Call:  What made James Blake’s decision to call his supervisor more challenging?  What empowered his choice?  3 participant Responses.

  • Presenter Reflection:  James Blake was a city employee doing his job.  If the Montgomery bus boycott had been directed at him, all about getting him fired, if people would have picketed his house, would anything have changed?  James Blake wasn’t the target of the Montgomery Bus Boycott because his individual action was empowered by the collective power of Jim Crow laws.

  •  “Eyes on the Prize” clip (Slide 10) and responses:  Prepare the students for the images.  It is important for us to witness to understand how far we have come as America, to know the terror people faced to get us here, and how future change is possible.  Ask students to write down their responses or to identify examples of individual and collective agency from the video. 


  • Presenter Reflection:  Moment of silence for all the people who suffered, died, and rose up to make change. 

  • Identify the collective agency of people singing, clapping, and marching together to prepare to face police batons, fire hoses, and attack dogs.
    • In civil rights non-violence training, organizers were very deliberate about the way they used singing.  These were some of the stated reasons for singing: 
      • Creating unity
      • Easing fear
      • Communicating message
      • Setting rhythm (for pickets & marches)…”

Closing

·      From a Raindrop to a Storm
  • Presenter Reflection:  Each person’s daily choices can have important impacts.  And how every choice, no matter how small, changes the world for better or worse. 
  • Song:  Combination of the last lines of Star Spangled Banner and Lift Every Voice and Sing pose a final call and response, question and answer I’d like to leave you with.  
 Does that star spangled banner yet wave
for the land of the free and the home of the brave? 
– Star Spangled Banner

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won. 
– Lift Every Voice and Sing






[1] Jim Crow is the name given to the American set of laws designed to keep wealth, political power, social dignity and full citizenship out of the hands of Black people and in the hands of white people. Government institutions, including police and courts, enforced those laws along with terrorist social groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. 
[2] The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the coordinated action of everyday citizens who refused to ride public buses and instead provide each other rides to work, church, and grocery stores.  They refused to pay bus fare until the Jim Crow laws forcing black citizens to give up their seats to white citizens was overturned. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Other Men Part III

A professor walks up to a podium and begins to speak as if already in the middle of a conversation.

     "So, as you can imagine, I'm flabbergasted.  I found, in footage from the most exclusive social club in the state, I find proof that Reverend Otieno, the radical left-wing Reverend Doctor Otieno, is invested in a private prison in Louisiana and its sister private immigration detention camp on the Arizona border and, and, wait for it, and its cousin private prison in Central America.  A private prison that has been called the epicenter of drug cartel organization in the Western Hemisphere.  I mean what the fuck?"

The students' laughter filled the lecture hall but was soon overtaken by the grumbling of the professor's peers.  The professor winked at a woman in the front row who did not wink back, but instead sat with a blank look of disbelief.  She was the chair of the Journalism department and had gone to Guatemala on a fact finding mission with Reverend Otieno.  The professor continued after a pause to let the stir die down.

     "And then there's the Senator.  Uno malo, malo Senator.  The first time I met the Senator, I literally shivered.  Here's a man with more blood his hands than a butcher.  And he knows I know this, right.  I've written articles about him.  I've, I've tried to burn this man with sunlight, with a magnifying glass as big as his bastard head with that bastard fedora he always has cocked to the right.  He knows who I am and what I know about him.  And he just stands there smiling at me.  Like, like..." the professor trailed off as he considered what he had done before coming to the lecture hall.

Having just left Reverend Otieno's home after they'd argued over the copy of a contract transferring $5 million worth of shares of Securacorp to the reverend's wife, it was dawning on the professor that he had just lost a great friend.  It was becoming clear to him that he might lose his life.  At 40 years old, he might have just drilled his coffin shut.

      "Like he'd have me dead before the sun came up," the professor finished his thought.  Audible gasps came from different sections of the room.

     "That's enough!" a voice yelled.  "The Senator has sponsored the full-ride scholarships of students in this room.  His father has a building in his name for Christ's sake.  Turn off his microphone!  Now!"

     "You can cut my mic," and his voice stopped as the sound was cut off.  He began to yell.  "But you can't stop the truth!  It's already out there and it's too late.  They ruined my friend.  They ruined me!"  He looked down at the Journalism department chair, who had her hand over her mouth, tears welling up in her eyes.  He walked over to her and plopped himself next to her.  She jumped up at the roughness of his back slamming into the seat.  She could smell the alcohol pouring from his pores.

     "You drunk idiot.  Do you have any idea what you have done?"  She looked forward, furious.  "You selfish, disgusting, jealous troll.  Otieno.  Otieno gave you... gave us, our only chance at doing something meaningful, something other than borderline muckraking.  You did this because..."

     "You fucked him," he spat the words out onto his own shirt.

     "And!?  The only reason I didn't keep fucking him was out of respect for his wife.  You mean nothing to me."  The harshness of her words didn't seem new to him.  It seemed familiar, almost comfortable to have her crushing the parts of his life that he believed even though he knew they weren't true.  She was a journalist.  And the professor, he was a drunk with pen.

     "Well, I don't think his wife respects you much anymore."  The professor pushed himself off the chair and nearly fell over into the space between the front row and the stage.  He collected himself and began to wobble towards the door.  He was completely drunk.

     "You told her?  You coward, you told her!  Why!  Why would you do that?"  She was yelling now, with no regard for the way she looked or sounded.  Many in the crowd, which had been streaming out of the exit doors, stopped to see what was happening.  "Do not come back here, again.  You are done at this university."

She began to walk toward the stage, toward a backstage exit that wouldn't require her going past students.  The professor followed her up on to the stage and reached, clumsily, for her arm.

    "Wait.  J, wait.  Please I'm sorry, J.  I didn't tell her..." He continued to stumble toward her, flailing his hands in an almost comical attempt to stop her.  She power walked backstage and was half way out of the door when it dawned on her what the professor had just said. "I didn't tell her," he said it again.

     "You didn't tell her?"  She asked, unconvinced.

     "I didn't tell her how boring you are in bed and that she didn't have anything to worry about!"  The professor began to laugh hysterically as two security guards climbed the stairs to the stage.  The Journalism department head walked out and didn't look back.  The security guards grabbed the professor by his arms and pulled him to a backstage room and sat him down in front of a large vanity mirror.  The lecture hall was nearly empty.

     "You the Senator's death squad?  You boys are sexy, flabby, but still sexy." He joked, adding a fake lisp to his words in a homophobic attempt at an insult.  Neither guard responded.

The Senator's lawyer walked into the room, holding a document in his hand.

     "Professor, you should read this and sign it and..." The lawyer's hard consonants jarred the professor into a bit of clarity.  "Get him some coffee."  The lawyer ordered the security guards.

     "No.  No coffee. Yerba Mate tea.  In honor of the great reverend Otieno.  Rest in peace, amigo."  The professor reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a bottle of whiskey.  He tipped it and poured it on the floor.  The lawyer jumped back to keep the liquor from splashing on his expensive, tan loafers.

     "The reverend is not dead.  And no one is threatening your life," the lawyer looked at the security guards and huffed out a puff of dismissive laughter.  "You need to read this and sign it."  His patience was getting thin.

     "I'm in no condition to sign anything.  I'm drunk."  The professor put his hand on the top of his head and rubbed at the spot where his hair had begun to thin.  His shoulders sank as he considered how long he had been a nightly drunk and how long he had before his liver failed.

     "Yes, you are drunk.  But you have exactly now and only now to make this right.  This is the only offer you will get."  The lawyer tapped his finger on the document and the loud cracking sound of the paper rang through the professor's temples.  "Sign it.  Shut up, and go away."  The lawyer's patience had run out.

The professor took the bottle of whiskey to his lips and took a long gulp.  He wretched.  The lawyer jumped three steps backward to avoid getting vomited on.  The professor sat doubled over and curled into his own lap as his body began to slip off the chair, almost leaving him on his knees.  His left hand held the tip of the bottle of whiskey as it rested on the floor.  His right hand was in his breast pocket.

The lawyer folded the document in half and put it in his jacket.  "You're gonna kill yourself anyway.  This opportunity would be wasted on you."

     "You're wrong," the professor said without lifting his head up.

     "Wrong about what?" The lawyer asked, raising his voice for the first time in the exchange.

     "The Reverend is dead."  The professor spoke the words into his own lap.

     "What?"  The lawyer asked, stunned.  The professor slowly raised his head and let it fall to the side.

     "I killed him before I came here tonight."

     "You're lying."  The lawyer said with certitude.

     "And I'm gonna kill you and kill myself, and the Senator will go on and on and on and on..."

The security guard put his hand on his weapon, but it was too late.  The professor had already pulled a gun from his jacket and fired into the shoulder of the lawyer by the time the guard could pull his pistol.  The guard fired four times, but not before the professor had fired once more, into the neck of the lawyer, whose was now leaning forward against a counter horrified, watching in the huge vanity mirror as blood curdled up out of his mouth in bubbles and spurts.

The professor lay crumpled against a wall.  With great effort, he wheezed his last words to the security guard.

     "Pour some whiskey in my mouth."

The security guard didn't move.

     "I could have been other men," the professor said and went silent.





  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Other Men Part II

A reverend walks into a party.

The reverend's unkempt hair spiraled out above his head like antennae and out around his face like bent cactus spindles.  His clean-shaven, sunken cheeks hovered, hollow above his clerical collar.  He surveyed the room and saw two men sitting at a distant table overlooking the city.  He quickly made his way over to them but was stopped by a large hand on his chest.

     "Dr. Otieno.  Excuse me, reverend.  I am the Senator's aide.  The Senator would like to speak with you."

     "I'm on my way to him and his lawyer now."  The reverend assured him.

     "Not now sir," the aide said sternly, then caught himself when the reverend gave him a look that showed his intention to disregard the command.  "Please sir, if you wouldn't mind waiting in the club library, the Senator will be in directly."

     "Will his lawyer be with him?"  The reverend asked.

     "I'm not," the aide paused to measure his words. "I'm not sure, sir.  Can I get you something to drink?  A glass of wine, maybe?"  The aide asked.

     "No thank you.  I'll just head to the library."  The reverend started where the aide had directed him and then stopped.  "Actually, I'll take a Yerba Mate' tea if they have it."

As he walked to the library, the reverend recalled how he had developed a taste for mate while on a mission in Gautemala, where he had defied the church to work for justice on behalf of the children of disappeared political dissidents who'd been kidnapped, likely tortured and murdered, during the central American nation's 36 year civil war.  The soldiers and police officers who carried out the bloody work did so under the cover of generals and political strong-men with U.S. military support and with the long arms of sweetheart arms deals from U.S. weapons manufacturers.

The reverend considered himself an enemy to institutional power when wielded against the poor and powerless.  That he was here, in the Commence Club, waiting for a Senator involved in arms dealing, drug dealing, and police violence in America brought back the twitch of angry fear to his left eye.  Mate' seemed to help when he first discovered the twitch after confronting a Guatemalan magistrate.

As he entered the library, he curled a lip in disgust at the men lionized on the walls of the place.  Segregationists and slave owners, cold-blooded meta-capitalists who had drained communities of men to profit off their imprisonment in private work camps.  He knew the men on these walls and hated them all.  He'd studied the depths of their voluminous double-speak, as written in the bills they had proposed and the political pork they had layered like gelatinous algae around prison building expenditures hidden in schools bills, police militarization grants hidden in highway earmarks.  He felt nauseous that he was even here, and broken that he was here to accept a payout.

The Senator and the lawyer walked into the library and did not greet the reverend.  They walked in, directly to chairs at the opposite side of a long table where the reverend sat looking like a child in trouble.  The lawyer spoke first, quick and sharp in tone, as though his voice were powered by a typewriter.

     "Anything you have done up until this point that might negatively affect the Senator, anything you have said or done, must be retracted immediately.  Publicly."  The lawyer spoke with little affectation, almost as though he weren't present to his own voice.

     "Wait.  The man asked for some tea.  Let the man have his tea first."  The Senator spoke with an modicum of respect that surprised the lawyer, who hadn't heard a deferential tone out of his employer since they'd gone to ask a supreme court justice to reconsider a vote.  This reverend, disheveled and with worn, cheap shoes didn't seem to have much to respect, the lawyer thought.

     "You know, I've already set some things in motion Reverend.  I called a few friends at your children's school.  You know when I told them about the wonderful, brilliant woman your wife is," the Senator paused as he turned to the lawyer.  "Did you know the reverend's wife and I went to law school together?  Oh she was a brilliant, beautiful woman then.  Still is.  Just one fatal flaw, though.  A bleeding heart for the, what Malayalam word did she use to describe them?  Povum.  For the poor povum, humble souls of the world.  I guess that's what drew her to you, reverend."  The Senator's words tore, like a vulture, at the frayed sinews of pride the reverend had left.

     "Can we just get to it?" The reverend spoke with pursed lips.

     "What about your tea?" The Senator asked, with a smirk.

      "I don't need the tea."  The reverend spoke, barely parting his teeth.

      "But you need the money." The Senator said, salting the wound.

     "Sir," the lawyer interrupted the Senator and handed the reverend a document at least ten pages long.  "Reverend, this contains a standard non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreement.  You should look it through, but it basically says you will keep this to yourself and not say or write any negative statements about the Senator or any of his work as a Senator.  Obviously, none of this would require that you violate the law should you be compelled to testify."

The reverend looked up from the packet at the Senator, who was staring at him with the cold look of a blackjack dealer waiting for word on whether one requires a hit or not.  Not that the reverend had ever gambled for money in his life.   He'd gambled with his life many times and had seen this look before, behind the wire rimmed eyes of a captain in the Guatemalan Presidential Honor Guard.  It was a look that said, 'Your choice. Testify and you will die.'

The reverend looked back down at the first page of the packet and the words seemed to teeter on the verge of collapse into a pile of splinters, like a scaffold of bamboo outside a jungle church.  He knew that once he signed, that any chance of justice for the millions of migrants who'd crossed the border to escape the violence, the violence this Senator had helped instigate with drug war policies and stoke with arms deals, would evaporate.  He knew that the million or more incarcerated Americans, languishing in prison for selling marijuana, for being addicts, for transporting cocaine to scrape a living from the gutters of society, would stay confined as the last in a chain of fools.  He knew the biggest American scandal since Iran-Contra would fall in to the shadows and dust.  The reverend knew his signature would damn him, and yet he didn't hesitate to sign and all he could think of was how much he really wanted some mate'.

The reverend signed two original copies in six places without so much as a glance at more than the first page of each.  The lawyer looked bewildered and concerned as he took the documents back.  The Senator smiled and, noticing the lawyer's concern, sought to ease his fears.

     "You are looking at a very smart man, Mike.  He's travelled the world to make it better.  Done so much in so many places that his own wife and children barely know him.  How old are you, reverend, 40?  It's time to settle down now and support that family.  You've done the right thing, here.  No one can hold that against you."  The Senator stood up and extended a hand.

The reverend looked at his hand and looked at the lawyer, who continued collecting the documents.  As the lawyer felt his gaze and looked up to meet his eyes, the Reverend spoke with an airy rasp, then cleared his throat.

    "There are few things you will ever see as sad as this.  I hope one day you pay for what you have done, whether I get to see it or not.  Until then, I wish you both all the bad karma the universe can muster and all the pain your bodies can handle before they give your souls to hell."  The reverend grabbed the Senator's hand and held it until the Senator jerked it away.  The Senator wiped the oily sweat the reverend left on his palm with a handkerchief.

The reverend stood and walked around the table toward the door.  "When will I have the money?"

The lawyer replied, "You should have read the document."

The Senator finished the conversation.  "The money was transferred the moment you walked into the club, reverend.  Congratulations, we are officially business partners.  Give my best to the wife and kids." He smiled, turned, and walked out.  The lawyer followed him.

The reverend stood in the library and looked down at his shoes, revealing the thinning dome of hair near the crown of his head to the security camera above the door.  The senator's aide walked in and handed him a cup of Yerba Mate tea.  The reverend waved him off.

     "Never mind.  I need a scotch."



Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Other Men Part I: What I know by 40...

... is that I could have been other men, one of those men being a corporate lawyer privy to massive scale capers and the dangers therein.  If I were him, maybe turning 40 would have been like:

A lawyer walked into a party.  His jacket was deftly tailored to swell around his broad shoulders and pull in towards the rigid, slender core of his frame.  A mature woman noticed this, and how his tan loafers contrasted the ash and blue of his suit.  She looked down at her chocolate slacks, which were snug around the ample, contoured thighs she'd earned over a decade of hot yoga.  She wondered if tan shoes would match or clash with her suit.
   
The lawyer was free of jewelry, rings and such, except for one of those fancy wearables, a watch that was also a phone, a calendar, and a personal trainer.  He stood in the doorway and scrolled through something on his wrist machine before he walked in.  The open french doors framed him like a brown James Bond on the cusp of confronting the bad guy.

The lawyer moved in the direction of the bar.  She'd never seen him before.

These parties weren't for newcomers, and she could tell he'd been invited by someone important.  No one walks into the great room of the Commence Club with his sort of confidence without having been vetted and having passed tests.  She wondered out loud whether it was the Senator himself or the Bishop, or one of the businessmen clones wrapped in their plush robes of cigar smoke.  He's definitely not with any of them, she thought.  His body language whispered fatigue, and there are no men more tiring than businessmen.

The lawyer walked passed the men in pinstripes without so much as a nod.  He leaned against the bar and ordered quickly.  A bar girl chased his double scotch with a smile.  He nodded, turned, and leaned back against the bar, his eyes falling directly on the woman whom had watched his entrance with such curiosity.  He lingered and led himself over, without hesitation, to her.

She welcomed him with a playful smirk and they began a conversation.

His name was Michael and, to her surprise, he hadn't been invited.  He was walking past, he told her, after a late night at the firm and decided he wanted to see the city from above his office for a change.  This was the highest spot, he said, being at the top of the tallest building in the region.

She shared what she was doing there, that she was only slightly interested in politics, only to the extent it either interfered or uplifted her true passion in the Museum of Fine Art.  He gave her his card and asked her what she did for a living.  She said she was an organizer.  He laughed and asked what kind of community organizer hangs out at the Commence Club.  She said she was an organizer of capital.

     "An organizer of capital?  Haven't heard that one," he took a heavy sip, his second since walking over to her.
   
     "That's an oldie but goodie, young Michael.  How old are you anyway?  Not that it matters.  You are certainly man enough by the look of you."  She covered her embarrassment at leaning in to the flirt by leaning back and sipping her glass of Malbec.  She was new to this sort of directness.
   
     "Well that's pretty forward of you," he said with an encouraging smile and spent a minute studying her lips.  They were full, the color of wine lit by candlelight.  It wasn't make-up or the Malbec.  She had naturally dark lips, like cut plums, he thought.

    "I'm not here for long, my friend.  And my time is valuable," she said, tucking her bottom lip under her teeth.
   
     "Clearly, your time is priceless.  Well, I turned 40 today, and I don't feel a day over 25, in the good and bad ways of that.  I don't feel old, but the last 15 years feel like one long day, echoing.  I honestly don't know what it means to be 40.  I've got no kids.  No wife.  Just work.  And on days like today, work is a bear on fire."  He looked over at the door and finished his drink with a gulp.
   
     "Hmm.  What happened today?  I mean besides turning 40.  And is there anything a grown woman can do to help make it a happy birthday?"  She was pouring it on now and not feeling shy about it anymore.
     
The lawyer's attention was broken by the Senator, who walked into the room glistening with the shine of power.
 
     "He happens.  Everyday."  He looked over at the Senator and left her other questions hanging.  Through all the business clones clamoring for a handshake, the Senator walked directly over to the lawyer and literally bowed.

     "Consigliere," the Senator started with overdone reverence.  "May I pull you from the lovely company you are keeping for a moment.  I need a word if you have an ear."

     "Of course, Senator.  Will you excuse me?"  He moved quickly in the direction of the door, but the Senator put a hand on his forearm to stop him.
     
     "Let's get a table.  Maybe you can join us a bit later, Mrs...?" The Senator leaned in.  The lawyer was embarrassed that he hadn't asked her name.
   
     "Jess.  Just Jess," she said looking at the lawyer.  "And maybe I will join you, Senator.  Thank you for your time counselor.  I hope you might have a bit more time later."  She smiled.

     "I'm certain I might," the lawyer smiled back.

      "Equivocated like a good lawyer," she said with an eye roll.  "Well, it takes one to know one.  I'm certain you might have a happy birthday, Mr. Michael."

     The lawyer nodded a smile and walked away with the Senator.  They settled at a table facing the new football stadium under construction and turned their chairs out so that no one could see their lips.  Jess walked to the bar and ordered another scotch to send over to the lawyer with her card.  She moved towards the door, stopping to take a last look at him and again noticed his broad shoulders.  She perused down his back and back up his neck to see a slight gleam under his hair.  His curls were thinning in the back.
     
     "40 looks good on him," she said out loud to herself.  "But time waits for no man."

     The lawyer felt her gaze and turned toward her just as she turned and walked out.  He watched her full hips and supple bottom rock her mahogany slacks rhythmically.  He lost track of what the Senator was saying until the Senator snapped at him.

     "Mike!  You do realize this is grounds for disbarment.  Shit, this is jail time!  Focus, man.  We don't have a lot of time."  The Senator placed a minuscule snuff box on the table between them.  The lawyer took it and looked it over with a weariness.  He opened it and dipped a pinky in, snorting a bump of white powder into each nostril.  He placed the box in his jacket pocket and looked around the room, finally settling on a man with bushy hair in a clerical collar.
     
     "He's here."