Amtrak writing writer residency

On offer: The chance to ride the rails and write about it.

How many of you would like to engage the creative process while never having to consider acquiring life’s annoying essentials, like food and shelter.

If so, there may be a few opportunities for you (and me).

The news stories I link to today not only engage the artist in most of us; they also are perfectly matched to Change of Venue Friday, that casual day when no one really wants to read about the new rules of arbitration (or whatever else is cooking in the legal profession).

So I invite you to kick back and enjoy a vision of yourself as an artiste, accompanied by your own financial backers.

The first story is one you may have seen: Amtrak is looking for writers. That’s right; your benevolent backer would be none other than America’s passenger-railway system.

Here is a news story that explains Amtrak’s plan to plop writers into a cozy berth from which they will trip the light linguistic.

If you’re ready to board that train, here is a link to Amtrak’s own blog, where you can get more information and complete their application. And yes, there is a dining and adult-beverage car (we are writers, are we not?).

(And for you attorneys still hesitant about blogging: Amtrak is blogging, which is the sound of you officially becoming a super-late-adopter.)

Here’s the serious skinny:

“Round-trip train travel will be provided on an Amtrak long-distance route. Each resident will be given a private sleeper car, equipped with a desk, a bed and a window to watch the American countryside roll by for inspiration. Routes will be determined based on availability.”

“Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and reviewed by a panel. Up to 24 writers will be selected for the program starting March 17, 2014 through March 31, 2015. A passion for writing and an aspiration to travel with Amtrak for inspiration are the sole criteria for selection. Both emerging and established writers will be considered.”

Sign me up! (And yes, that means I’m applying.)

If a less rollicking journey is what your writing arm requires, consider Detroit. That’s where a nonprofit called Write a House is creating a unique “writer’s residency.”

As this news story explains, the organization is repairing vacant and blighted homes to give them to writers.

I was intrigued to see that it was an editor at the marvelous Curbed, the real estate site, who was one of the founders of Write a House. Well, if an editor is involved, it must have been well vetted! (No kidding, we editors have got it goin’ on.)

Pertinent info:

“Write A House will accept applications from working, “low-income” writers in the spring, who will be asked to send writing samples and a letter of intent. The judges include former National Poet Laureate Billy Collins, poet Major Jackson, writer and filmmaker Dream Hampton and editor of the Farrar, Straus & Giroux publishing house Sean McDonald. Writers from all over the world, or living just a few miles away, are all encouraged to apply.”

Well, if my Amtrak train makes a stop in Motor City, I’ll stop by your house and we can trade writing stories. In the meantime, let’s apply ourselves!

Have a wonderful—and writerly—weekend.

In the madcap schema that is Change of Venue Friday, today’s story fits like a glove. For today I share something that may be the farthest afield from law practice, and that still involves practicing lawyers.

Today’s topic is … moustaches.

Specifically, it’s about those men who grow moustaches in the month of November, and occasionally raise money during the growth period. And they do all of that in service to medical research.

Confused yet? Let me put it this way: These are the guys who transform November into Movember. Here is how the organizers describe it:

“During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces, in the US and around the world. With their Mo’s, these men raise vital awareness and funds for men’s health issues, specifically prostate and testicular cancer initiatives.”

“Once registered at, men start Movember 1st clean shaven. For the rest of the month, these selfless and generous men, known as Mo Bros, groom, trim and wax their way into the annals of fine moustachery. Supported by the women in their lives, Mo Sistas, Movember Mo Bros raise funds by seeking out sponsorship for their Mo-growing efforts.”

“Mo Bros effectively become walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November. Through their actions and words they raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men’s health. The funds raised in the US support prostate cancer and testicular cancer initiatives.”

The hair-lipped copy goes on to say that the Mo Bros and Mo Sistas often celebrate with a Movember party at the end of the month.

Local angle? Yes, we’ve got one. It comes to us from those dedicated and occasionally hairy lawyers at Polsinelli Shughart.

I heard from Polsinelli shareholder Leon Silver, who pointed me toward their dedicated team page.

Leon tells me that firm shareholder Brian Flaherty is a cancer survivor and participates every year. But for 2012, they decided to make it an office-wide event. Go to their page to view the leaderboard and read the crazy-comment ticker (which includes photos of the lawyers’ kids with moustaches). Congratulations to all who participated.

Moustaches, huh? I remember three years ago when I spent the better part of November writing a legal novel (a novel!), as part of the national NaNoWriMo effort. Meanwhile, other guys stop shaving for a month and they’re heroes. Whatever, Leon.

Because a terrific event deserves a video, enjoy the following one from Bloomberg Law. In honor of Movember, they feature famous legal faces that were moustachioed.

Have a great—and barbate—weekend.

Who wants to write a novel in November?

Apparently, quite a few people.

In fact, it was two years ago today that I launched my effort to write a legal novel in November 2009. That wild adventure was part of a national movement called National Novel Writing Month. I posted chapters (warts and all) every day on this blog. (Full disclosure: I achieved the required word-count for the novel task, but never felt I had penned a final chapter. Ugh.)

In my novel, I described the exploits of a new law firm whose partner ranks were populated entirely by a unique species: lawyers who had formerly been state supreme court justices. They had anticipated that the firm’s brain-power and power-power would make it irresistible to potential clients. But what they hadn’t counted on was the hard work involved, and the difficulty they would have getting along. And, oh yes, there was an incontinent Corgi named Rufus.

Such the problem.

And now it’s November 1, and I am faced with the question: Do I plunge in again? Do I stay up late and get up early to scribble my required 50,000 words by November 30?

What do you recommend I do? And are any of you taking part? Let me know.

In the meantime, here is the opening of my 2009 novel, titled “The Supremes”:

“Dawn hadn’t yet broken over downtown Phoenix as Bernie Galvez inched his truck toward the parking gate. Much to his disappointment, it remained stubbornly horizontal, as he waved his key card at the sensor over and over. He knew it was still hovering around 85 degrees outside, even in the darkness, so he hesitated to climb out to come up with another solution. But finally he concluded that his vehicle—and all those others starting today at this new business—would be out of luck unless he made a repair.

“Galvez was the office manager of a new law firm launching that day, May 25th. He had been hard at work for three months laying groundwork for Dedrick, Duckworth, Castro & Paine. He had overseen the gutting and restoration of space at the Security building, the purchase of furniture, the installation of servers and computers. And today, for the first time, the lawyers and their staff would arrive. For the first time in months, he was using this entrance, the one that would soon be used by everyone on staff.

“The stubborn gate was a bad omen.”

You can read more of it (and the rest of the novel) here.

Shall we get writing?

Happy Change of Venue Friday. Have you ever wondered what it takes to publish a book? An organization guessed that people wondered about that, so they decided to shed some light on the subject.

The group is the Valley of the Sun chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, a great group of folks. Their idea was to gather a few published authors, invite folks, and hold the event in a place with great food and drink. So they hosted “From Journalist to Author: Turning Your Beat Into a Book.” Well done!

That is how I came to be at Monti’s La Casa Vieja in Tempe last Friday, October 7. That is a place with a lot of history, and they can mix an excellent martini. Most important, the panel was excellent.

The speakers were Jana Bommersbach, Shanna Hogan and Terry Greene Sterling. Each of them generously shared their thoughts on the highs and lows of book publishing.

One of the first changes you might note about that industry is represented above—every one of these accomplished women has her own website. That and the amount of marketing individual authors are expected to do are striking changes from the past.

This ain’t your grandmother’s publishing industry.

Click through to read more about these writers. Jana is an amazing author (from whom I once took a hilarious and insightful writing class) of the books Bones in the Desert: The True Story of a Mother’s Death and a Daughter’s Search and The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd. Shanna is the true-crime author of Dancing With Death: The True Story of a Glamorous Showgirl, Her Wealthy Husband and a Horrifying Murder.

And just to prove that it’s not all blood and guts, Terry spoke about her book Illegal: Life and Death in Arizona’s Immigration War Zone.

Their insights about the industry, agents and pitches were helpful. As a writer, though, I really appreciated their comments on that ink-stained craft of writing itself. For instance, Terry told us that “The essence of writing is understanding the human soul.” True that.

Shanna described her brave plunge from “fitting her writing in” to making it her main work. Attendees appreciated her honest assessment of those risks.

And then there’s Jana, who I’m sure would be able to make me laugh even as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse swept into town (“… and the horse you rode in on,” she’d likely mutter to the overly dramatic riders). She offered those gathered some suggestions that we all could use, whether we write book length or something smaller.

“Don’t overwrite the story,” she offered. “But you sure have to write the heck out of it.”

When you conceive of a book, she said, “Write a one-page treatment of it: If I can’t snare the reader in 500 words, I certainly can’t snare him in 15,000.”

Finally: “If you have the first sentence of your book and the last sentence of your book, you’re halfway home.”

Below you’ll find a few of my dreadful cell-phone pictures of the event. But you should go to the authors’ websites for better art and copy.

(And for an odd but related blast this weekend, head to—appropriately—The Trunk Space in downtown Phoenix, where the film “Murderess” will be screened. It is filmmaker Scott Coblio’s retelling of the Winnie Ruth Judd story—with puppets. It’s shown at 7:30 pm Sunday; click here or more information.)

Thanks to the authors and to the Phoenix chapter for such a great event. Have a terrific weekend.

L to R: Terry Greene Sterling, Shanna Hogan and Jana Bommersbach, Oct. 7, 2011

L to R: Shanna Hogan and Jana Bommersbach, Oct. 7, 2011

"We're 1!" I typed.

Later, I will post a story about an annual awards ceremony at which three Arizona lawyers were honored. But before we get to that, I have to tell why that event is significant to me and this blog.

It was one year ago, on March 17, 2010, that I launched my daily posting on this blog, AZ Attorney (and yes, I generally mean weekdays only – cut a guy some slack). And the story that historic day was a post about the same awards banquet, in the 2010 version.

Yes, I had blogged more occasionally before over the preceding six months. And I had started it originally to write my novel-in-a-month, called The Supremes. (The entire thing is still online. Go here to read the Prologue and Chapter 1. And if you want to keep reading about Dedrick, Duckworth, Castro & Paine—“Dead Duck”—have at it.)

I’m not much for birthdays, but I do feel a sense of accomplishment. Writing is a wonderful outlet, and I am pleased that it has become an essential part of my daily routine. It’s as second nature as drinking too much coffee and failing in my battle to not roll my eyes at nonsensical directives.

When I tell others that I write, I often feel that I should add an asterisk. After all, I live and work in Arizona, where the circus never leaves town, and where everyone from the governor on down happily shovels piles of steaming ideas on my writer’s doorstep every day. The primary challenge: selecting among the piles for just the right material for that day’s entries.

And now, I’ll turn to writing about the awards ceremony: the American Jewish Committee’s 2011 Learned Hand Awards Luncheon Honorees.

In the meantime, feel free to send some drinks to my table, or tell the waiter it’s my blog’s birthday—we’ll take the free cake.

The confession is a central icon of the law—and of the Catholic Church, come to think of it. And because I’ve operated in both of those worlds, the declaration of guilt should come easily to me—you would think.

Well, I may as well get on with it. My mea culpa for the day? I have never read To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

Yes, I know, that is a standard of the American legal literary sphere. Written in 1960, it won a Pulitzer Prize. It travels deeply into issues of racial injustice and the loss of innocence. But it never passed before my reading glasses.

Strange, I know. I even got a few English degrees, along with a law school education, and still no Kill for me. How could I have slogged through Pennoyer v. Neff but skipped the novelistic moral high ground?

All I know is, I can’t be the only one. Anyone care to share?

The timing of this emotional outpouring is related to a State Bar of Arizona event this evening—a screening of the classic 1962 film version of the novel. People like “Atticus Finch” and “Scout” and “‘Boo’ Radley”—much-loved characters in the American lexicon, I’m told—will come to life on the big screen.

(The showing will benefit the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education. I wrote about the October 14 movie screening here. And more detail is here. One thing to note: Bring cash, which is all the concession stand will take—not To Kill the Classic Movie Feeling, or anything.)

You never read it, son? I'm very disappointed.

I plan to be there in the Pollack Tempe Theater, with my daughters, as I watch and expiate for my literary sins. I’m hoping you join us too, whether you’re a Harper Lee groupie or not.

Day 29 in my novel-in-a-month effort:

Chapter 23: Free Assembly

In general. – The Secretary shall carry out a national scenic byways program that recognizes roads having outstanding scenic, historic, cultural, natural, recreational, and archaeological qualities by designating the roads as –

(A) National Scenic Byways;

(B) All-American Roads; or

(C) America’s Byways.

—Title 23, United States Code, Highways, Federal-Aid/Highways, National scenic byways program, Designation of Roads

The Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, in downtown Phoenix, is, as they say, loosely based on the National Mall in Washington, DC. There, the comparisons come to a screeching halt, except as fodder for stand up comedy.

Like its cohort three thousand miles east, the Wesley Bolin Plaza is an open air affair, a public space that proudly displays monuments, gardens and memorials. In fact, it displays 27 memorials, ranging in level of viewer interest from the Armenian Arizonan Veterans Memorial, to the Police Dog K9 Memorial, to one of the two anchors recovered from the USS Arizona, sunk in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, with a loss of 1,177 lives.

Tom Paine had always liked Wesley Bolin Plaza, ever since it was established in 1978. Sitting just east of the historic state capitol building, it occupied only about two square blocks of acreage, but it provided ample room for the rare and occasional visitor to contemplate in silence.

Until recently.

A few years after the attacks of 9/11, a nonpartisan commission had plunged into a project to create and dedicate a 9/11 Memorial on the Bolin Plaza. All seemed to go well, until pedestrians and, even worse, nearby legislators, began to read the quotations inscribed into the concrete.

Titling toward the sky, the memorial is a 42 foot steel ring. Walking beneath, one can read the words set into concrete that had been suggested by many Arizonans and selected by the committee – to their regret.

Most all of the quotations were what one would have expected of such a memorial: “We will never forget,” “Day of infamy,” “Loss of the innocents.” But a few inscriptions created a fire storm, one that led to a seemingly permanent “under construction” fence that still surrounded the memorial today. Paine remembered some of the quotes:

“Congress questions why CIA and FBI didn’t prevent attacks.”

“Middle East violence motivates attacks in the US.”

The phrase that ultimately almost led to destruction of the monument was “You don’t win battles of terrorism with more battles.”

Seeing the forest fire sweeping down into the Valley, the commission acted to inscribe a few counter proposals, which originally had landed on the editing room floor, such as “Must bomb back.”

Too little, too late. The crowds of protestors had turned out in force, fanned to white hot anger by the legislators, followed by the TV reporters, followed by more legislators, in the eternal circle of life.

Why Speaker Alan Spinkter had wanted to meet Tom Paine here, Tom had no idea. Spinkter had identified the 9/11 Memorial as the meeting spot, but Paine decided he had no stomach to listen to speeches and tirades today. He avoided the swelling crowd, the cameras, and a man on a soapbox (“Really?” thought Tom. “A soapbox?”) who seemed to be chanting something over and over again. Instead, Paine stood by the peaceful silence of the anchor of the USS Arizona, and kept a watchful eye out for the client he knew by sight.

This kind of meeting sat poorly in Tom’s stomach. For although Spinkter had retained the firm as a whole to prosecute his lawsuit, the billing partner on it – Spinkter’s “own” lawyer – was Claude Dedrick. Though the founding partner of Dedrick, Duckworth, Castro & Paine would never refuse to meet with a client, he had inquired as to how he could help Alan, hoping he could avoid the necessity of a get together. But the Speaker was quizzical, and demanding. Tom figured he could keep the meeting brief, get Claude up to speed afterward, and stay out of it in the future.

Of course, it’s not like Tom Paine had no idea that Alan was unhappy. Tom had heard from Sarah Fujii and Sam Adams about an odd interaction they had with Alan at a downtown eatery. Tom recommended that they not share that story with Claude, who might blame the messenger. Instead, Tom decided he would do what he could do to salvage the lawyer-client relationship. Clearly, this was a client who would require special handling.

Even with the crowds and the chanting, it turned out to be relatively easy to identify Speaker Alan Spinkter in the sunny afternoon. For he was garbed, head to toe, in shades of red, white and blue. Even his head was topped with a sparkled tam sporting all three colors, and a patch that ordered all around, “Don’t Tread On Me!”

Tom Paine, winced, but he waved Alan away from the crowd and toward the USS Arizona memorial. In the distance, it Tom saw Alan frown and deliberately turn his back on the attorney. Alan was engaged in a conversation with a reporter, and Tom could wait.

Over the next fifteen minutes or so, Tom could see that Alan was urging Tom to join him next to the 9/11 memorial, numerous times. But the lawyer decided that two could play the ignore game, so he read for the fortieth time that day the inscription beneath the words “USS ARIZONA, BB39.”

Eventually, Paine heard the voice of Alan Spinkter, standing at his elbow.

“Hey, didn’t you see me over there?” he asked Paine.

“Oh, hello, Mister Speaker, I did. But you appeared to be engaged in conversation, so I thought I would just wait for you over here.”

“But the cameras, and the crowds, are over there –“

“Indeed, I can see that,” replied Paine.

“– and the, you know, voters,” said Spinkter, his voice growing higher, almost wheedling.

“Oh, Alan, I’d be surprised how many of the people standing over there ever actually vote,” laughed Tom. “They appear to be attracted by the cameras, the vitriol and the ability to speak in public intemperately without consequence.”

(“My people,” Alan thought. “He’s described my people.”)

“Besides,” said Tom, “it’ll be easier to speak quietly over here.” Although Tom wasn’t sure if that would be true. Alan’s outfit – including a flashing American flag lapel pin that Tom had not seen before – guaranteed a near constant stream of well wishers, reporters and homeless. Tom thought that some of the questions posed by the homeless were more pertinent than those asked by the professional media.

(“Fine,” thought Spinkter. “If Tom wants to avoid the media, I’ll keep this short and sweet.”)

And so he did.

“Let me keep this short and sweet, then, Tom,” Alan began. “Your man, Dedrick, is not what right looks like. I am terminating your representation of me in this lawsuit against the Governor,” Alan finished.

Tom knew that possibility had been brewing, but he had anticipated a more lengthy conversation, more avenues of discussion, more opportunities to reassure the Speaker.

“Well, Alan, I know that Claude is an acquired taste –“ started Tom.

That was a mistake.

“Exactly,” said Alan. “I’d say he’s a fruit loop, but I don’t want to insult the breakfast cereal.”

Spinkter continued.

“Don’t get me wrong – I deal with all types of people, some who are actually certifiable” – Spinkter glanced over his shoulder at the twin modern buildings housing the state House of Representatives and Senate. “But he doesn’t even pay attention to my case.”

Tom Paine then made a first year associate mistake: He asked a question he himself did not know the answer to.

“That can’t be the case, Alan. Give me an example.”

Spinkter obliged. Holding up one finger after another, he recounted phone calls unanswered, e-mails barely responded to, concerns minimized, fears dismissed out of hand, avenues of attack laughed at. Alan was on what would have been his third hand when Tom Paine cried uncle; he had heard enough to agree that Speaker Alan Spinkter had a point.

Spinkter concluded.

“It’s almost as if Dedrick does not even want my case. He seems distracted and occasionally loopy. Loopy I can handle, but distracted? Not on my dime.”

“I certainly hope you will give our law firm another chance, Alan,” said Paine. “I know for a fact that we have expended a lot of time to this case, and I would hate to see it all for nothing.”

“It won’t be for nothing,” replied Alan. “You guys can order some of those high priced associates to box up all the files and send them over to the new firm.”

Paine was shocked how bad this had gotten so quickly. He didn’t even bother to hide his surprise.

“What, you already have spoken to another firm?” he asked.

“If you must know,” said Alan, “I’m seriously considering Lowe, Witt & Howe. Now, they have a fire in the belly.”

Paine rubbed his forehead.

“You would have no way of knowing this, Alan, but that particular firm is representing Dedrick, Duckworth, Castro & Paine in an unrelated legal matter, so your retaining them would likely be inappropriate.”

“Don’t condescend to me, Chief Justice Paine,” Spinkter bristled. “Of course I know they represent your firm – in that matter of Claude’s insane pirating of a boat on Tempe Town Lake. What, do you think I live under a rock?”

“Of course not, Alan. And I have to add that we expect to have the entire simple matter resolved soon, so it will all be behind us.”

“Uh huh, whatever you say, Tom. But while Claude gets his jollies playing Captain Queeg, my case is going down the drain. And I need lawyers who care.”

“Our firm cares,” Tom replied, convincing not even himself.

“Yeah, got it. And as for the supposed conflict you’re suggesting, I have it on good authority that, because I’m suing the Governor and not your firm, there’s nothing unethical in Lowe, Witt & Howe taking over my case from you.”

“I’m not sure where you’re getting your advice, Alan –“

“From Harvey Shinblock,” Alan responded without hesitation. “I’m not hiding the ball from you. Before Harvey was disbarred for playing law too hard, he knew all there was to know about conflicts. Tell me he’s wrong.”

“Well, not wrong exactly –“ Tom spun out as long as he could.

“Yep, just as I thought,” said Spinkter.

“But it is, shall we say, unseemly for lawyers to take work from other lawyers, while they are representing those other lawyers in a serious matter.”

“’A serious matter’? Tom. I thought you expected that ‘entire simple matter’ to be resolved soon.”

Spinkter was laughing at Tom Paine, and not even choosing to hide it. He could see that coming to this meeting had been a mistake.

Alan continued.

“So I guess we’re agreed that I am entitled to take my legal work to anyone I’d like?”

“Of course, Alan. That is always your prerogative. There would just be the matter of our fee.”

Now it was Alan’s turn to look perturbed.

“About that, Tom –“

“You mean ‘Chief Justice Paine’?”

Alan laughed, trying to keep the moment light.

“Actually, Tom,” said Spinkter, actually poking the lawyer in the ribs jauntily, “I believe that this case will be so historically significant, your firm may benefit greatly just for having been associated with it.”

“Even though we’re getting fired,” deadpanned Paine.

“Fired, schmired,” continued Alan, “we’re going in different directions. But we’re all going to be in the history books.”

“And the fee?” Tom asked.

“Entirely too high and beyond the limited means of a simple country legislator,” said Alan.

“Six time incumbent legislator, who happens to be the Speaker of the House?” asked Paine.

“Potato, potahto, Tom, I’m no millionaire, I’m a mere servant of the people.”

Tom Paine had been around long enough to know what was coming.

“Our firm is legally entitled to be paid for the time and resources we’ve expended, Alan. We could pursue this in other ways.”

Alan smiled.

“In court, Tom? Please, the firm of former Supreme Court Justices is going after a client for a fee, for some filthy lucre? And they’re pursuing a client who left because Claude Dedrick sailed a boat off the edge of sanity? Is that the case you want to pursue? The papers would have a field day.”

Tom Paine knew he was right. He had a flash of the future, and it included an angry and hurt Claude Dedrick. For not only was the firm unceremoniously dumped overboard (Paine reminded himself not to use that metaphor). But far worse than that, this case, on which Dedrick had staked so much – and spent so much – was going to bring in not one cent to their coffers. This high profile case would yield nothing. Tom sighed as he predicted Claude’s reaction upon hearing that an associate’s dog bite case would mean greater billings to the firm.

Added to that, the managing partner thought, Claude was probably right on one important matter: Sarah Fujii’s representation of the Chinese American community would likely be pro bono. This all would affect the firm’s bottom line.

Tom Paine began to rise to take his leave, when another well wisher approached Spinkter. It was the man who had been chanting on a nearby soapbox. Most of the TV cameras had been switched off, so he took the opportunity to speak with the Speaker, one news hound to another. Up close, the homeless man looked like he could have used quite a bit of that soap.

“Speaker Spinkter, hello, hello.”

The man spoke as if a crowd was keeping him away from Alan, though the concrete around them was desolate.

“Yes, my good man,” replied Spinkter, in a tone and manner rehearsed and honed since the earliest lie was ever told in recorded history.

“I just wanted to thank you for all you’re doing for the people of Arizona.”

“No, thank YOU,” said Spinkter. “You are part of the heart and soul of this great state.” Paine noted with distaste that Alan adjusted his stance so that his flashing American flag pin was more visible to soapbox man.

The man blushed (“Really,” Paine thought, “BLUSHED? What sheep we’ve all become”).

“That means a lot coming from you, sir. I love how you, you know, fight the forces of evil, and bring sanity back NOW.”

Spinkter had been about to walk away, his standard three and a half second constituent interaction completed successfully. But he paused.

“That quote,” he said, “sounds familiar.”

Soapbox man smiled.

“Well, it should, your Excellency” – with no irony, Paine noted – “because that is one of the standard repeated Twitter posts you send out to all of us SpinkterHeads. I read that at least once a day, and it guides all I do.”

Alan almost teared up. Sure, it was great to hear from a true fan (or follower, as Twitter would call him). But even more, it was great to know that the $23,000 his office had spent with a Scottsdale branding agency had paid off. “SpinkterHeads” – now that was gold, baby, gold.

“Well, thank you again, my good man,” said Alan, finally deciding he had learned enough from this man. “If there is anything I can ever do for you, please do not hesitate to contact my office.”

The man beamed.

“Well, how about this for a start?” he asked. “Would you sign this petition that would strip the Governor of the right to veto legislation? I’ve heard that there might be something called ‘constitutional problems’ with that, but I don’t care: This Will Not Stand.”

“What’s that you said there?” asked Spinkter, his ear clinically designed to capture sound bites.

“’This Will Not Stand,’ he answered. “I’m not really sure what it means, but it has a nice ring to it, especially when you say it with capital letters. And it’s good at stopping any argument cold. It’s a guaranteed winner.”

Alan Spinkter’s training and experience were founded on the ability to locate and secure guaranteed winners, and his ear was tingling.

“Change ‘Will’ to ‘Shall,’” he said, “and you’re onto something, my good man.”

Spinkter took out his pen and reached for the petition.

“What did you say your name was?” he asked.

“William Blount,” he replied with pride. “But you can call me Bill.”

Tom Paine realized with a start that Alan Spinkter had forgotten that he was there, and he may have forgotten that they ever met. The Speaker was huddled in conversation with the soapbox man, who now could be called Bill, and there was no cause for Tom to remain any longer.

The retired Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court walked slowly back to his truck. As he passed through the remaining throngs of protestors and speakers and super patriots, no one recognized the former leader of one of their government’s three branches.


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