Meewella | Fragments

The Life of P

Month: May 2004

A Perfect Circle

Yesterday was officially my last day of work out here. It was a low-key end to a most enjoyable stint. But I certainly got to celebrate it in style…

Billy HowerdellTaking the afternoon off work, I headed down to New Orleans with Jeff, Jenna and Caleb (who had come from Monroe). Our destination was the University of New Orleans where the evening’s entertainment was provided by none other than A Perfect Circle! In a way I envied Jenna and Caleb who were being treated to an amazing first gig experience (although I can’t really complain, having gotten to see Maiden at my first one!) We had floor tickets in the large arena which allowed us to work our way far closer during the fairly decent opening act, The Burning Brides, than I had hoped to get.

It really was everything one could hope for from the band, with a longish set encompassing the majority of their two albums. Maynard was reasonably talkative, joking around occassionally and teasing Jeordie about his Marilyn Manson roots as he introduced the rest of the band and then, “Jeordie – who? – Jeordie White – who? – Twiggy Ramirez – ohh.” Indeed, he did his best to embarass the poor chap since he used to live in New Orleans, culminating in a Jeordie-sung solo rendition of Will Ferrel-inspired “Fred’s Got Slacks”.

James IhaThe stage presence of the band is indescribable, above all James Iha, now sporting stunning long white hair, who just oozes unbelievable coolness without ever saying a word. The lighting was fantastic, especially the effect with layered silhouettes of Maynard during the first song, combined with a stage set comprising of eerie metal-twisted trees that strongly (strangely?) reminded me of coathanger sculptures.

So now, the morning after, I am as sore and raw-throated as ever, but could not possibly have asked for a better experience. Almost makes me glad I missed them back home since I got to share in Jenna and Caleb’s first experience. It was very cute to see Jen start bubbling the way she does this morning, and it took me a second to realise that it was the first time she’d heard a song by the band after the concert and so she was getting to hear the weird fusion of the studio version with her mind playing back her gig memory. The expression on her face certainly took me back.

Doodles & Sketches

When I started working out here I was given a fresh yellow legal pad, and also seem to have acquired another since then. At any rate, I have never been without at least one of them when in Court or scurrying about outside. During the quieter moments however, they inevitably led to the odd bit of sketching or doodling, and I thought I’d let you peek at a selection here…

What do kids need lawyers for?One of the biggest problems we face in regard to the views of those who create legislation is the idea that children should not require lawyers at all, and that our role in defending them is simply to drag out what should be a simple proceeding. The fact is that the process is far from simple and it is plain to anyone who has set foot in a juvenile court that even with a lawyer, children often find it difficult to follow what is happening to them. I was involved in coordinating a group of Steve’s university students at the State Legislature where we were giving testimony in support of a bill that would prevent juveniles from waiving their right to counsel. This is crucial because so many children effectively have this right waived on their behalf through pressure from judges, prosecution attorneys (who unsurprisingly would just love for there to be no opposing lawyer!) and even parents.

Of course I'm guilty, I'm a teenagerAnother prejudice we commonly find is that the majority of our clients must be guilty because, well, they’re teenagers. And you know what teenagers are like. The result is that there’s a feeling that we’re just wasting people’s time by even attempting to defend these people. Indeed, when explaining that our standard process involved a “not guilty” plea during a discussion about the lack of funding for the juvenile public defenders office, Steve met with the response, “Ah, well there’s your problem: you’re pleaing not guilty!”

That kid just needs a good beatingIt’s not uncommon to hear this casual remark from the security officers. It seems innocent enough, and maybe even quite astute. But so often from having spoken with the child previously in the office, we’d really like to say, “Well, actually you really don’t have to worry about that, this kid’s getting beaten plenty!” Corporal punishment may be all well and good, but interesting to note that these days the majority of supporters are people who were not even beaten regularly, let alone excessively. And frankly, there’s a number of our kids who’ve been screwed up by the “disciplining” they receive. Younger kids tend either to get traumatised or become more aggressive and violent towards other children, while if this form of punishment continues, eventually the child is big enough to hit back, and it’s hard for a parents to deal with by that point in what is usually a pretty dysfunctional relationship.

What am I doing as a cartoon?

The City That’s Half Asleep

Spent a nice lazy extended weekend up in Monroe, where everything’s just a little quieter. Apart from the chihuahuas, that is. Two of them. Crazy little beasts, one of whom is a lovely dog named Chance, and the other, Lika, who is pure evil. The others will argue the point, of course, but I know I’m right. She’ll growl and snap at strangers (including Karleigh) and yet she’s deathly afraid of them. Needless to say we have a healthy distaste for one another, and tend to keep our distance. But I’m not averse to growling back at her if she starts something!

I watched Troy with Caleb, albeit in the Mall cinema which I maintain is just a glorified TV screen, discussed the finer points of Rowling’s literary style with Alexis, although I didn’t get to speak with my aunt and uncle as much as I might have liked. I’m sure Jenna enjoyed the time off her feet, since Karleigh’s grandmother was more than happy to take over whenever possible (the only worry was whether or not she would eventually and unwillingly return the child), as well as the entire new summer wardrobe she acquired which included one of those ludicrously short Paris Hilton skirts, all courtesy of her mother’s wallet. I just smiled, rolled my eyes, and helped her tear off the clothing tags.

The car ride was certainly an interesting experience, with me sliding to the back of the car to try and calm a complaining Karleigh until we eventually stopped for a while. It was sort of a bonding experience for us, heightened again a few days later when I looked after and played with her for a few hours while I forced Jenna to get some much needed sleep before we drove back. She argued vehemently on principle, but appreciated it in her own way. I guess Karleigh must have slept through most of the trip back, since I can only remember it being much quieter, giving Jen and me a chance to finally catch up properly.

We did stop by my uncle Dwain’s office which is populated by a number of female staff, so he and I just stood back and let nature take its course as they flocked around the fawned over Karleigh. Jenna joked that it was good for him to see it, and he admitted that he did mope each time Jenna took Karleigh away after a visit. I smiled and explained that after seeing her last Christmas I nearly moped… and then spent five hundred quid to come back and see her again!

0.4 Seconds To Go

I’m no basketball fan, and generally I find it unbearably tedious to watch. However, last night’s Lakers game was phenomenal. Admittedly I was only really paying attention to the final few minutes, but what gripping minutes they were! Unfortunately we were in a rowdy, crowded, sporty restaurant/bar The Superior Grill at the time. It’s the sort of place that I could fully enjoy if I was drinking, but since Steve’s kids were there too, I decided against it. Possibly a mistake, since it left rather limited conversation due to a combination of the implausibly loud dull background roar and the number of margaritas being consumed by other people at our table. Oh, and the kids advised me to get the salmon which I went along with, forgetting for a moment that they were vegetarian so would never had tasted the chicken prepared in the same style that would undoubtedly have been better. A pretty depressing night, but strangely saved by some incredibly tense basketball of all things.

Kill Bill, vol.2 was a very different beast to its predecessor, being far more dialogue and tension driven in typical Tarantino style. While this will please some, I know many who expected more of the same bloodfest will be somewhat disappointed. I stand by my statement that the films should not have split, and when placed back to back, the range and variation in styles forms a more coherent and very impressive whole. A full review will be forthcoming, though may take a while.

Today I ended up handling most of the morning cases since some people were a little worse for wear. Today’s legal lesson? If people are going out drinking the night before, make sure you are the one getting drunk or not getting sleep so that someone else can do all the work! Nevertheless, my work was appreciated so I didn’t really mind the extra responsibility. And now I must away, up north to Monroe to see my uncle, aunt, and other cousins, Caleb and Alexis. However, a four-hour car ride with baby Karleigh is a distinctly ominous prospect…

Guns Don’t Kill People, Videogames Do!

NickYesterday Dave and Nick took me to a favourite haunt of theirs, a small place called gameLAN. Much like the various LAN arenas that are opening up in the UK, inside were about two dozen networked PCs with an assortment of multiplayer games. For about $10 you could buy a good four hours or so of gaming time, provided your eyes didn’t pack up before that from the frantic action and flashing pixels. There was a decent mix of strategy games available, but most played were the various First Person Shooters on offer. My personal favourite, Unreal Tournament, was nowhere to be seen, but I quickly got into the counter-terrorism antics of a “CounterStrike” server, although I am very much of the opinion that the dated Half-Life engine is really not up to scratch in comparison to (for example) Unreal Tournament “CounterStrike”-style rip-offs (err, “homages”!). Similarly, a Matrix-themed mod “The Specialist” just never seemed visually up to the UT varients, nor could it play as fluidly. That said, there was something distinctly satisfying about diving into a Quake 3 Arena fragfest and obliterating a bunch of arrogant American brats. 50-15! L33T!

Today Nick had a music recital in one of LSU’s very cool little concert halls. Brilliant accoustics meant the varied abilities of the performers did not detract badly. Nick’s drumming was particularly well-received and we celebrated at a Chinese buffet restaurant, The Great Wall which is certainly to be recommended (it’s been moved and redecorated since I last ate there over Christmas).

Although I am by no means a fan of the Harry Potter books, I must confess to being particularly excited about this forthcoming movie. The third installment looks far darker than its predecessors, combined with maturing actors and a great new director (the Mexican helmsman of the awesome road trip movie Y Tu Mama Tambien). A new documentary I saw this evening has further piqued my interest, so I have high hopes. My current plans are to see Kill Bill, vol.2 early in the week and maybe drop by a high school graduation party too. It’s weird the invitations you receive with a British accent…

The Only Game In Town

‘You know,’ says the man in the light grey suit, when his drink arrives, ‘the finest line of poetry ever uttered in the history of this whole damn country was said by Canada Bill Jones in 1853, in Baton Rouge, while he was being robbed blind in a crooked game of Faro. George Devol, who was, like Canada Bill, not a man who was averse to fleecing the odd sucker, drew Bill aside and asked him if he couldn’t see that the game was crooked. And Canada Bill sighed, and shrugged his shoulders, and said “I know. But it’s the only game in town.”

Neil Gaiman, American Gods

That short story (coincidentally set in the very town in which I am working) in the book I chose to read out here could not more perfectly describe our work. The situation here for kids isn’t fair, but it’s the only system there is, so we do our best with what we have, and meanwhile try to change the system whenever the opportunity presents itself. Once such occassion occurred today as we prepared for a debate at the State Legislature next week where we will be trying to pass a law that prevents children from waiving counsel in serious cases, as this is being abused to speed up the process, leaving kids struggling with no understanding of what is happening to them. To discuss details we met for coffee with Lucy McGough, a professor from LSU who I previously met at Stephen’s class. What I didn’t realise then was that she was responsible for writing pretty much half of the Lousiana Children’s Code!

I had a long discussion with Lee, the district attorney, about the dynamics between different people in court, and it was intriguing to hear that he had a very different take on things than Stephen. The two judges at the Juvenile Court have a long-standing dispute which has caused some embarassing problems in the past, but to an outsider hearing people’s views, it is entirely unclear who is at fault.

In the late afternoon I sat in on another class given by Stephen, in this case a one-off training session for CASAs (that’s Court Appointed Special Advocates, naturally). They are basically individuals who work closely with the children in cases and are able to gain a much better understanding of the intricacies and environment than we are able to since they deal with far fewer cases.

“Girls Run”

The Judge disappeared for hours today, leaving us unable to eat lunch in case she returned. During that time I spent a long while chatting to Stephanie, a young Probation Officer (we discussed everything from work to replacing the detention centre at the back with a bar, and using the juvenile detainees as free bar staff, possibly using the extras to open up a brewery too!), who explained that she much preferred dealing with boys than girls. Her reason was simple: girls run. She explained that even if a boy doesn’t like their sentence or the environment in which they have been placed (specifically Group Homes, which are like halfway houses for kids) they still work through it as a challenge. Girls, on the other hand, will often run at the first possible opportunity, and are impossible to find because the guys they stayed with would be extremely loyal (apparently guys on runaway are usually ratted out by ex-girlfriends…).

For socio-economic reasons, it’s unsurprising that the vast vast majority of our clients are black. However, I had to hold back my surprise at seeing a well-groomed, suit-donning white boy in court today. Not our usual breed of client, it’s fair to say. In fact I had been expecting to see him there since I had lunch with his uncle, an eminent Judge, in a Brazilian steakhouse and lounge named Marrazil a few days earlier. My rank was also upgraded to “associate” today, since I tend to talk with clients independently now, while Stephen is tied up in court. As a result, I guess many of them can’t really make any distinction between me and a “real” lawyer!

Yesterday Stephen and I attended an anti-Globalisation talk being given by an author/activist and a freelance photo-journalist who has spent a good deal of time in Iraq. The latter provided some really interesting insights as he was working there both at the start of the war and again at the end of March. As a journalist he was particularly outraged at the closing of Muqtada al-Sadr’s newspaper Al-Hawza. Indeed that, he explained, was what convinced the Iraqi people that the American occupying force was no more commited to their freedoms and free speech than the old regime.

"Civilization now depends on self-deception. Perhaps it always has."

(CC) BY-NC 2004-2023 Priyan Meewella

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