I did not gild the lily
I gave it
All I can think of is being the class Ugly Duckling, having had my folks tell me I wasn’t sick enough to stay home from school, and vomiting in the trash can beside my teacher’s desk at the front of the class. There are many more instances, but I’m not in a sharing mood; his book will give you PTSD-like flashbacks if you grew up in a rural area. Faulkner’s Post-Modernist style of New South writing grabs your inner child by the hair and forces it to eat dead frogs in front of all it’s inner-child classmates.
I’m not sure I have much more to say about it than that, honestly. The writing style wasn’t any revelation given the time period, just another chapter in the book of “How Life Will Fuck Up Your Brain.” Ignorant Southern rednecks hidden in the nooks and crannies of the swamps will always be just that (pro tip: please avoid at all cost, only go toward the sound of banjos if you’re in a clean, well-lighted place – seeing blinking lights in the woods does not count as “well-lighted,” those are called willow-the-wisps, they do exist, and they will kill you [see also: Dr. Who's Angels]). It was a book. I survived it. The Red Cross should have a help line you can call when you read this book and don’t think you’re going to make it.
That being said, giving you a strong emotional reaction was the intention, so he passed. Super. 3/5.
I stopped writing frequent book reviews about the time I started reading “He’s Gone.” I struggled with this book. I had first seen it while wandering through Barnes & Noble on a particularly bad day last summer when the label caught my eye. I read the back, felt awful about my life, and set it down. Go to Hell, Caletti. Your work isn’t fictional enough. I hate you.
After another set of bad days a few weeks later, the abstract was still etched in my mind like sulphuric acid spilled on a Faberge egg. Maybe it was worth a read… but I had forgotten the author’s name and the title of the book; I couldn’t even remember what the flashy cover looked like! All I could remember was that it was about a woman who’s husband disappears out of the blue… but was it so blue? Maybe it was more of a bluish shade of clear?
The book was popular enough that after googling something along the lines of “husband disappears mystery novel depression,” it was the first thing that came up. Thank god for the internet… I was in full Boo Radley swing at the time and had no intention of changing that just for a book… even if it was a book that had infiltrated my every thought and resided there happily. That was the start of my tango with Caletti.
Caletti is known as an author of Young Adult fiction, the type that deals with hard topics that are too embarrassing, painful, or difficult to talk about for most young people. She carries that over into her experimentation with adult literature (What would you call that? “Adult literature” sounds very pornographic…). The book revolves around this man who disappeared and trying to find him, but it also deals with adultery, fear, divorce, millennials children, and learning how to be yourself – even when yourself is a pretty bad person. It’s a “what if…” sounding board that lets grown-ups explore themselves without making them evil villains. I found out later on that this is actually based on a true story, which happened not far from where my husband was at the time. Caletti has an uncanny ability to write very truthful lies.
When I started reading this book I had considered putting it down because the ending seemed obvious, even if that “obvious ending” was a general “nothing good can come of this.” I decided to read it anyway because it was like a flashlight through Hell. You’re still going through Hell either way, and maybe the flashlight isn’t a very big one, but it gives you a place to start and keeps you moving. Caletti sums it up nicely: “No matter what the reasons, no matter how well things turn out in the end for everyone, you do wrong and it sits with you, and that’s probably how it should be.”
Caletti’s writing isn’t philosophically deep, but it does point out truisms that haunt the darker corners of your mind and usually go unsaid. “The suburbs are one of the loneliest places on earth.” Having grown up in the woods, I had never wanted to live in suburbs because they seemed so cramped and busy. When I moved out of my parents house it struck me how solitary life in cities can be. There are so many people, but if you don’t know them they may as well be trees. Caletti brings new depth to the “urban jungle” philosophy.
“Being a man, being a woman, being a human being – it all hangs on such fragile architecture.” Now don’t go drowning in the nihilism. It’s easy to get lost. At some point in this book I started regaining a little bit of self-awareness and took a hard look at myself. It certainly does hang on fragile architecture, but you’re the engineer. Just as easily as you build yourself an empire you can build yourself a gallows. Aim for something in between; every city has two things: a church and a jail.
It’s a silly little thing, but there is one part that has eaten at me like no other; “One time, I was about to bring my laptop in to be fixed and had left it on the table as I went to get a jacket. By the time I returned, Ian had formed that cord into a tidy figure eight, secured with a twist tie from the kitchen drawer.” Like hell he did. Ian is supposed to be an engineer, one of the founders of a huge software corporation. Let me tell you something – an engineer would rather live solely off of cat piss and wingnuts than let you take a computer “in for repairs.” It’s blasphemy, especially if Ian was as fiscally anal as she says. That computer would be on the table in very neatly-organized pieces, albeit you’d have to threaten to take it in for repairs and start heading out the door with it for that to happen. Not only would your engineer demand to fix it for you, they’d probably also try to make it better, and then put it back together with half the pieces and leave the rest for the dog to ingest. This one sentence dang near makes the entire story completely implausible, to the point that I thought it was a plot twist and Ian had left in a fit of rage after the main character, Dani, refused to let him fix her computer.
Most of this book is a pretty difficult soul-searching journey to really explore who you are as a person and learn to deal with who you find along the way. Some of it, though, is emotionally terrifying. Eventually Dani is overcome by anxiety in a grocery store, and a good-hearted passerby grabs a nearby beer bottle to put against her head. “We leave that beer bottle behind, the one I’d held to my face. It seems wrong. Someone might pick it up and take it home, brining traces of my horror with them.” The thought that your feelings could jinx someone else in a voodoo-like transfer is enough to make you want to stay in your home forever and become a hermit. But if you do that, could it transfer over the internet through Facebook messages? How much damage are you doing to the people around you by living in that state of mind?
Well, you can do a lot of damage. Your mood is infectious to everyone you meet in passing, everyone who cares about you, and even people who dislike you. People are empathetic creatures. Making mistakes and poor decisions, even not being able to handle the more intense parts of your life, do affect the people around you. It doesn’t make you evil, but it does make you a human being. Caletti provides an outlet for a lot of these experiences without dragging you into a Dostoevsky-like stupor of suicidal depression. She doesn’t tell you how to feel; she shows you different ways to work through things and come to terms with yourself on your own terms. You are the architect of your own life.
5/5 – It’s a simple little work of fiction, but it was effective and I … well, I didn’t enjoy it. But it worked.
A stream-of-consciousness journal of my jury duty time, full of win and ‘Murica. None of it’s true, so don’t bother trying to sue me.
Here’s the thing… I think I just brought a pocketknife into the courthouse… But I’m not sure… And neither are they. On the way here I thought I had remembered putting one in my purse a while back, but didn’t think much of it. The guard asked to look in my purse, opened every pocket, and then asked if I had a knife… I told her that I didn’t think so, but she could obviously have it if she found it. She looked at me funny and gave it back. Maybe the early-morning pre-coffee snark with a knife in my bag was ill advised…
Orientation is starting… Like… Right now. You’re not technically “supposed” to tell anybody what’s going on, so of course I’ll fill you in as soon as I know. What are they going to do, confiscate the maybe-pocketknife they let me maybe-keep?
I had jury duty in Florida a long time ago. It was like To Kill a Mockingbird. That’s also where I learned that lawyers were much more like high school kids and a lot less like Boston Legal. The courthouse smelled like cigars and mold. Some fisherman had choked out his wife in their trailer park and the neighbors called the cops. She denied it, but the state pursued it anyway (or however that works). It totally happened, but it got thrown out halfway through the day because the judge thought they were all idiots.
This is pretty swanky so far. There are tons of people here, and they’re playing a video about the importance of jury duty. They get me every time with the “duty to your country” thing. Oh, heartstrings. I still don’t know how my parents managed to raise us to be so viciously suspicious of the government, but also so painfully loyal to the country. It’s so… American… In here right now.
The video is over. Everybody looks tense. Half of them probably need to pee, but they’re afraid they’ll miss something and get scolded. The other half are thinking about the things they forgot to do before they left work. I’m doing both; that, and I don’t want to lose my seat. I could leave my jacket… But it’s cold in here.
I’m glad I ate breakfast, but I wish it had been something other than sardines and cinnamon spice oatmeal.
Because I have a camera-phone, I’m supposed to turn it off and put it away. Well, I already have a maybe-pocketknife. What’s the worst that could happen?
Well, we just got released for lunch. I went directly to Brueggers and got more coffee, and a giant Lifewater… Because that’s what you do when you’re trapped in a courthouse all day making people uncomfortable. There was a question on the form, “do you have any problems that would make it difficult to sit in a courthouse for several hours,” or something like that… My answer probably would have been “I’m a scoundrel and a little bit of an asshole,” but they made the mistake of asking if it would make things difficult for me, not if I’d make things difficult for their employees.
So here I am sitting in Bruegger’s wearing this juror badge and taking up an entire four-person booth during lunch hour. Does that make me an asshole, or them antisocial weenies? Because America.
There’s something about the hazelnut coffee at this particular Bruegger’s… All the other Bruegger’s have amazing hazelnut coffee, but at this one it always tastes like Kahlua. I don’t know, I suppose it’s not bad, but that’s still high on my list of “tastes that are immediately associated with violent illness.” Yuck.
Ah, so, now that I’m back in the land of Freedom, some tidbits you missed out on. Before we left, they gave us strict instructions not to run away… They know where we live. They were kidding, but not really.
Now they’re calling out the cattle they need for each courtroom. I guess I should start paying attention.
Everybody got called upstairs and asked to sit around and wait for a while. We all turned our biographies in. The first 21 people, myself included, were called to the jury box. The rest were herded into the gallery to wait to replace the main group as they became ineligible.
My initial thoughts were “whatevs, I can be totally impartial.” The poor little Mexican defendant looked like he had been crying. His girlfriend sat behind him with an older lady. The lawyers introduced him as someone who had been arrested for getting a DUI. Well, whatever, I can be impartial on that, too; after all, HELLO New Year’s Eve hypocrisy.
I don’t have a problem with jury duty. I joked about trying to get out when I was younger, and as usual my father smashed my ego with his uncommonly fair logic. It’s my responsibility to my people, my ancestors didn’t struggle through life as Colonists to have me piss on their graves, and everybody deserves a fair chance, etc. It’s something I have to do because #america and who I am (and who my family was is part of who I am, and I am who my family was). That sort of thing. And, well, it worked. That whole Lion King Syndrome (don’t google that, I made it up).
My dad raised me to think deeply about other people. No matter who they are, I have to see the real person behind whatever stereotype they front. For example, I used to have a deep-seated hatred of sorority girls (which I now realize was mostly jealousy) because they were largely assholes… Right up until my dad told me that they are good people, they just don’t know it yet. Well, there goes my theory that they were always and could only ever be vile assholes. For as much as they built up my elitism, they also humbled me by cutting my ego off at the knees. I have no right to say this is a bad person based solely on what he did.
So, he’s had a few DUI’s. Everybody makes mistakes, and lots of people are still making them. More importantly, I am still making them, and I do feel like I can listen impartially as a peer. Or, I did, until they started asking more personal questions.
They asked the obvious questions about our personal relationships with law enforcement personnel and whether we could put aside our biases. Whatever, yes, next? Had we ever been on juries before, when/where/why/the verdict. And then they asked if we had ever been the victims of crimes.
I thought about the car accident. Was that a crime? Was it a crime against me? Thinking back on it and being honest with myself, had I caused that accident? How much of it was my fault? I had been drinking… But I couldn’t remember what had happened, exactly, or what led up to it. The other jurors took turns approaching the bench to tell the judge and lawyers their stories, and most of them were excused.
I felt like a bomb had gone off outside the building; my heart started beating faster, my ears started ringing, my palms started sweating, and I felt cold. Was that a crime? Why were we in the car? Did I really pull the steering wheel? Was he really trying to find a safer place for me to sleep than the back of my car, or was it what the cops’ theory? Where did the black eye really come from? How did it get so bad I woke up rolling through the ER in a gurney convinced I was in Iraq?
And then I realized I never answered the question. How could I be unbiased if I felt like that? I had to say something, right? If I had said something about it they would’ve asked me to leave. Right?
The judge asked again if anyone had something they needed to add. I opened my mouth… And said nothing. I didn’t raise my hand. Nothing. I felt paralyzed. The judge released everyone who was left.
While they were deciding on the final nine jurors I sat in the waiting room and started writing this email and trying to sort out how I felt.
The facts of the situation are simple, now. People aren’t good or bad, they’re people. They do things. I woke up in my car with the keys in the ignition last week in the parking lot of a McDonalds being watched by a server. This kid woke up on the side of the road surrounded by cops. We’re not the same, but we are.
I’ve had ancestors run out of Florida for fighting on the losing side, I’ve had ancestors hung for loud mouthing in a bar about being a spy, and I may be an illigitimate great grand child of Napoleon. Does that make them evil? No. That makes them people, and I am a product of my people. That’s why we have laws and judges and jurors and lawyers. You can do what you want, but there will be repurcussions. I didn’t do it, but I could have; therefore, I am Juror #7.
So, jury duty, right? I left that day after selection and went home. The next day everybody showed up at 1030. We sat in a little side room and waited for all the main characters to get their stories straight. Then, the bailiff shuffled us into the courtroom through a back door. Everybody stood up for us, we all sat down, then everybody stood back up for the judge. It was like a game show where the grand prize is a few years in prison.
The state attorney (prosecutor? how does that work?) got up and presented every single piece of evidence ad nauseam. Every single presentation was like listening to Alice’s Restaurant on repeat. There were a few breaks, and everybody got this attitude of “Omg, can we just say he’s guilty and get on with our lives? What the fuck, really? Without a doubt, this dude’s a shitbag.” Now that proved to be interesting… I wonder how much boredom and a desire to get on with your own life plays a role in how juries see people? I guess that’s why jury selection is so important to them.
So, day 1, we heard all the evidence. At the end of the day, the state attorney told us that this guy was a sumbitch and the only possible verdict was guilty. Superbueno. Then, the defense got up and said, no! she’s lying! he’s not a great dude, but he’s not that guilty, come on now. We all went home around 4:30.
Day 2, we all show up around 1030 again. The lawyers called up their witnesses – everybody from the assisting police detective (the arresting police detective had died earlier in the year of a stroke), the detectives that scooched the SUV out of the intersection (he had fallen asleep in the middle of an intersection at 1 in the morning with his foot on the brake… how that happens I have no idea, but it is what it is), someone from the MVD, and two chemists from DPS. The defense tried to get the cops to make themselves sound stupid by going over and over the parts that they couldn’t remember, but there were pictures of this kid asleep in his car before they woke him up, in the intersection with the car in gear and the headlights on with his cellphone in one hand, a lighter in the other, a pipe filled with marijuana next to him
Really, that’s all there was to it. It was pretty boring. Lots of procedural stuff, and each thing took a billion years. The verdict process was a little more interesting… stay tuned for part 2, coming to you tomorrow, where you’ll hear how Paula and her raggedy band of co-jurors made a fairly simple question into an intense philosophical debate on the definition of “control.”
I left off with the mind-bendingly monotonous process of bringing out all the evidence, right? The feeling in your brain can only be explained in this way: it’s like your brain is a thick, hearty slice of bread… and the courtroom is a toaster… and the process is electricity. It’s like feeling your brain slowly sizzle to a nice, crispy golden-brown, but you don’t want toast; you want luscious, fresh bread! Frank Herbert was wrong, fear is not the mind-killer; jury duty is the mind-killer.
Finally we got to the part of actually deciding whether this guy was guilty or not (obviously he was) and what exactly he was guilty of (maybe not so obvious). The lawyers crammed their closing statements down our throats – basically a nutshell version of everything they had said before, complete with powerpoint presentations in neon cornea-damaging colors.
So, the guy had two prior DUI’s for driving drunk. He had one of those breath-to-drive things installed in his steering wheel by the MVD. He was found asleep at the wheel in the middle of an intersection at 1am with the car on and in drive, his foot on the brake, a bottle of oxycotin on the floor, a pipe with marijuana in the center console, a lighter in one hand, and his cell phone in the other hand. He was charged with six counts of combinations of driving dangerously. We got shuffled into the jury holding pen (a little office outside of the courtroom) to make the tough decisions.
The first step was picking a … I don’t know what they’re called … a representative? For the jurors. Everybody else was super nervous about it, so I volunteered. All you have to do is write “guilty” or “not guilty” at the bottom of each charge and your initials at the bottom of each page when the jurors reach a consensus (if… if they reach a consensus. It’s not so much herding cats as trying to use your mind powers to overthrow a government of immobile monolithic cat statues).
I opened the folder and read off each charge. Everybody agreed to guilty on almost everything – except one girl, one time. She wasn’t super sure what “in control of the vehicle” could really be defined as. That seems obvious, right? Obviously if you’re in the driver’s seat, you’re in control. Well… maybe. Is it reasonable to postulate that if you’re unconscious, you’re not in control?
What if you had an unforeseen medical problem that suddenly caused you to lose consciousness and (without any of the drugs and stuff, that’s a separate charge), became incapacitated exactly the way this guy had in the middle of the intersection? Are you in control of the vehicle? Do the same rules apply? Do you have to be awake to be in control? Most of the other jurors were getting a little irritated about it… obviously he’s in control. Right? I mean… well… what if… What if you’re not in control of the vehicle? What if you’re on a nearly abandoned road in the middle of the night and no one got, or conceivably would’ve gotten hurt?
What if a lot of things. I went along with her line of thought, because if I were in his position I’d want someone to do the same for me. It’s like the scientific method, right? You’re not trying to prove your hypothesis true, you’re trying to prove it false. If you can’t find any faults, then it must be true, and therefore a theory. So, theoretically, laws should cover this, right? Well, no, actually. The closest you can get it “it depends.”
After a great deal of debate, some of which got nasty and personal (one nurse looking down her nose at the girl and saying “Well it just seems obvious to me that if you were a reasonable person you’d think say he was in control, that’s all I’m saying.”), I came to a conclusion. There were a lot of “what if this happened first?” types of questions. Well, not being able to prove what happened beforehand, or what could have possibly happened afterward had someone not found him, but focusing on the root of the question – was he in control of the vehicle at that particular moment in time regardless of state of consciousness, was he in control of the vehicle, there is a test for control vs. lack thereof.
If he was in the passenger’s side, would he be able to change the state of the vehicle (affecting movement) if he were awake? No. If he was in the same position and asleep, would he? No. If he was in the driver’s side with all previous conditions met (car on and in drive), but awake, would he be able to affect the movement of the vehicle? Yes. If he was asleep? Yes, because if his foot had moved, or been moved somehow, he would be changing the state of the vehicle. It’s reasonable to think that he could have moved the vehicle whether he was asleep or awake, and therefore he was in control.
Thankfully, that sold the girl. I signed all the charges guilty, to the relief of everyone in the room (because hello, Friday afternoon was calling), and we moved back into the courtroom. The judge asked if we had a verdict, I said we did, and handed the binder to the bailiff, who handed it to the judge, who read the charges. The kid didn’t look surprised in the least. I’m not sure why he even pushed the issue… clearly he felt like he had a fighting chance; granted he would have without the pictures since we didn’t have access to the arresting deputy’s police report (in order for it to be considered evidence he would have to testify that he filed the report), but it was pretty clear what had happened.
After we were excused everyone walked out. Somehow we ended up in the elevator with the state attorney, who talked to us a little more about the case, which I didn’t realize they could do. I guess there are some factors that they still can’t talk about, but for the most part once a verdict is reached it’s open for discussion. Oh! That’s how that happened – after we were excused we all went back into the little side office and the judge and state attorney came in the chat with us. I didn’t know that was a thing either, but it was interesting to talk to them about the case on in a more casual setting. The state attorney walked out with us after the judge went back to his office, and she answered a bunch of questions for us on the way down.
Apparently the guy had been arrested in 2012, almost two years prior to the actual hearing. Even his blood draw had taken almost six months to read. The court system is backed up in Arizona pretty far, and there’s not much that anyone can do about it. Everyone agreed that it would’ve been interesting to see what the kid said on the stand, but his lawyer urged him not to (his lawyer was a privately-hired attorney, not a state-provided lawyer) because he comes off as an ignorant moron who needs to spend some time in jail.
She talked to us a little bit about the court system and how everything works, and it was pretty darn interesting. I used to see lawyering as one of those professions I’d never be good enough for, but my view of that has completely changed. It’s going on my list of things I might go back to school for in the future if I want a change of venue, along with becoming some type of professor, or an engineer, or a psychotherapist, or a bartender.
So, that’s how I overcame my deathly fear of unfairly judging someone for getting a DUI, my romantic notion that lawyers are all genius Harvard grads, and used the scientific method to sway a young lady into changing her mind on the definition of “control.” It was certainly an experience… Next time I’ll have to write it as it happens. It’ll be much more interesting that way… The snippets are ok, but there was a lot that happened that I think I left out that you’d be interested in. It’s an intriguing process; I’d rather not repeat it anytime soon, it’s also gruelingly boring, but it’s definitely interesting. Now, go watch Boston Legal.