Monday, February 2, 2009

25 Random Things About Me (Continued)

I have become increasingly addicted to Facebook. I can sit for hours and play word games with folks from all over the world. In fact, prairie pondering has suffered since, at the end of the day, I am more likely to just unwind challenging my vocabulary skills by competing on the Internet than invest the substance over form that it takes to sound intelligent in this space.

By competing often, Facebook addicts like me are randomly paired in open games with the same people on several occasions. Facebook etiquette allows you to engage such frequent opponents in "conversation", carried on via the mechanism of instant messaging built into Facebook. Moreover, once you add the frequent opponents as formal "friends" on Facebook, they can view your homepage and learn as much about you as you have chosen to put out into cyberspace.

While I have not met most of my opponents personally, many of us have developed a chat relationship, keeping up on each other's activities, kids, jobs, etc., as if we were sitting down at a local Starbucks and catching up. For example, I seem to have acquired a number of friends among Canadian women who play Scrabble and various timed vocabulary games online. As a result, I am more up to date on Canadian politics than I have been in years. They, in turn, follow this blog since any posting is also posted on my Facebook page and I have become the "go to" person for a number of my nearly 300 Facebook friends for the latest information on the Minnesota Senate race.

The social networking basis for Facebook also results in a number of causes being supported by its members and, typically, invitations from Facebook friends to join in the support of a particular cause. The same can be said of participating in various role playing games, like something called "Mafia Wars" and personality quizzes in which one fills out surveys to determine how similar you are to others with respect to a wide range of subject matters.

For the most part, I ignore the invitations. I am in enough time management trouble just keeping up with my various word game competitions. Recently, however, I relented and agreed to participate in a survey as requested independently by at least six Facebook friends. The purpose of the survey, entitled "25 Random Things" is to share just that, 25 random things about yourself with the person making the request (and 24 others you choose to share the survey with). 25 Random Things must be gaining popularity as a Facebook icebreaker because in the last couple of weeks I ignored requests to participate from a number of different people. In a lot of ways, I am a fairly private person and am selective about what gets publicized. I finally decided that I might as well get it over with and complete my version of the survey so I would have something to send out to anyone making the request.

Here are the rules as explained as part of the invitation to participate:

Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

Here is what I came up with, fully expecting that this would be the end of it and that I would just send these responses out whenever asked in the future to share 25 Random Things:

1. I HATE talking about myself outside of my blog (
2. I love writing my blog.
3. I don't have enough time to write my blog.
4. I think I lived a block from the Coen brothers' family when I was young but I didn't know it.
5. Marrying Deb was the best thing I've ever done.
6. Practicing law would be a great career if it wasn't for clients.
7. I have always had a weight problem in my mind but can't understand why I thought so 40 pounds ago.
8. I wish I still had my convertible.
9. I am living Eddie Albert's Green Acres experience.
10. I am addicted to FB word games.
11. I cried during Sleepless in Seattle from the opening funeral scene on.
12. Humphrey Bogart and Frank Sinatra have given me my best lines.
13. I want to hang with George Clooney and this generation's Rat Pack.
14. I used to think calculus was cool because you could figure out the area of an ice rink but now I never go near one so I don't care.
15. I was into James Bond novels before the movies came out because I liked reading about sex. I was 8.
16. My grandmother instilled a love of language in me at a young (single digit) age by playing spelling games, having me read books like The Source and challenging me to play Scrabble.
17. My grandmother had second thoughts when I spent most of the drive home from Palm Springs to Chicago reading The Godfather instead of talking to her.
18. I don't like to be forced into preconceived structures.
19. I am only going to write 19 random things about me. Read the blog for the rest.

Then something funny happened. A few minutes after I posted this on my Facebook page and sent it out to the Facebook friends who asked me to participate, I thought of some additional "random things" about me that I wished I would have included. Some experiences are worth sharing and I decided to use Prairie Pondering to do so. In the future, I'll just direct Facebook friends to this blog in the event they wish to learn more about me. Think of this as the first in a series of personal experiences, randomly recalled, that I plan to post from time to time.

Random Thing No. 1 (it seems easier to start the counting over): I survived negotiations with the mob.

A client found itself doing business with individuals in New York City who were alleged to have connections to organized crime. I knew from comments made by Jimmy Hoffa when he visited my law school not long before he disappeared that there is no such thing as "organized crime". As explained by the missing Teamsters Union president, "It's like you got two guys who are plumbers in different cities. Sure, they might talk business, but that doesn't make them 'organized'." Nonetheless, the client was involved in government contracting and it became necessary to sever its ties with the New York business associates.

I flew to New York, looking forward to seeing friends once my business meeting was done. I had worked out a separation agreement while in Minneapolis and was meeting the other side to the tranaction as part of a closing. I cannot remember how much of a check I delivered to the closing, but it must have been substantial. I do remember that the other delivery was a message that my client was done doing business with the New York group and that we would not be having any future dealings or even communications.

The closing took place over lunch at Il Cortile, a restaurant in Little Italy where, apparently, familiarity with English was not a requirement for employment. My dining companions included the attorney for the New York group who had taken an equity position in the venture that was being terminated, his local partner in the venture, the partner's brother (who had acutally moved to Minnesota) and a local electrician who was also an equity participant and had separate agreements with both sides that also were being terminated.

My first clue that I was in for a "life experience" was when our preliminary conversations were constantly interrupted by locals reporting on the results of the days' numbers running and informing on the status of African American youngsters who had violated the peace of the neighborhood. Once I had witnessed that, the need for pretense disappeared.

Because the waiters did not speak English, my hosts insisted on ordering for me. They suggested I order a dish that was served with red and green peppers so that I "would look pretty when they pulled me out of the river and cut me open". I was pretty sure they were kidding but it was not a time to show any indication of fear.

Lunch actually went well. Because of the scrutiny that had been brought to my client's business by the New Yorkers involvement, they were relieved to be bought out and out of the spotlight. We had a straightforward closing. When it was over, I was escorted out by the electrician who wanted to show me something.

Among the things he showed me were the Federal agents sitting in vehicles on Mulberry Street with headphones listening to wiretaps. I had probably walked by them on the way to lunch but had not noticed them on my own. Only slightly further down Mulberry, we stopped at the non-descript door of a "social club" and went in. The electrician explained that he had recently completed the wiring of the club's remodeled facility and wanted to know what I thought.

The room we were in was tiny. There were not more than five tables and, although the new paneling, lighting and carpet were lovely, the electrician's enthusiasm struck me as a bit overboard given the apparent scope of the project. Under the circumstances, I commented on how beautiful everything was in the 15 x 20 foot room.

We went aroud a corner of the room to an interior door. The electrician knocked and a slide opened, allowing the person on the other side to see who wished entrance to whatever was on the other side.

We were admitted and there, in the middle of Little Italy, less than a block from the Feds with headphones, was a brand new casino, complete with craps tables and blackjack tables. I cannot remember if there were slot machines. The casino, of course, was the real reason for the electrician's excitement. The electrician informed me that the grand opening was that night and extended me an invitation to participate.

To this day, I wish I had said "yes". Instead, expressing concern over the absence of extra cash that I could afford to gamble with (true), I declined the invitation, insisting in addition that I had commitments to spend the evening with college friends I had not seen for far too long (also true, but easily modified).

The electrician took me back outside and down the street to where I could grab a cab to go uptown to my friends' apartment. I thanked him for his help in resolving our business situation and for the tour and told him he did not have to wait with me. "No," the electrician said, "I'm staying with you until you get into a cab. If anything happened to you, your client would think I had you hit and I don't want to have to deal with that."

Years later, during a subsequent visit to New York City, I attempted to find the electrician, hoping ot visit the casino in the social club. He had disappeared. His numbers were disconnected. Directory assistance had no record of a business bearing his former business' name. I was left to speculate on the why. But I realized that my "once in a lifetime" opportunity had proven to be once in a lifetime and it had passed.

Please keep visiting Prairie Pondering for additional Random Things About Me installments in the future and, as always, feel free to post your comments.

No comments: