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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Report on Old Doug: Health, Theater, eBook, and More

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Normally on my blog I try and write little essays about various topics, but I thought it was time to furnish a few updates on various personal matters for those readers who know me well. Let's start with my novels.

1. eBook. At the height of the recent recession, I tried to publish what was in reality my second novel (see Related Posts below, "Frightening the Horses" which explains the first), called "Imaginary Friend." Unlike the first experience, where I had no trouble finding an agent, I couldn't get the new work read by even one of the 125 agents I sent it to (they were swamped by unsolicited manuscripts), so I eventually published the book myself on Amazon.com. It sold well enough in the beginning, and all of the reviewers were very complementary about my atheist thriller (a new genre). I even put the first three chapters on the blog (see below, starting with "Explosion at Ohio Stadium"). But I never took serious steps to publicize the novel (of which I am immodestly proud—the last three chapters still disturb me on finding that I had such horror in me) until now.

As of today, the Kindle version of my book is available for download in an electronic form for the price of $2.99. I'm very pleased by the way it looks, though (from all the law books I've published for the last 40 years) I know that devilish little errors are the first thing I notice when I read the published version of anything I've produced (and there have been dozens of such publications, all with the same disappointment). I only hope there aren't big mistakes in "Imaginary Friend" (say, a missing chapter) that I've mysteriously overlooked. Anyone wanting the printed version can still get it from Amazon for $15.00. But I am not done publicizing the book, which leads me to the next topic.

2. ThrillerFest. I've painfully learned that the way to sell a book is to meet people at writers' conferences and get friends in high places, so I went to a small conference in Florida in past January, and next week (July 5 through July 10), I'm going to one of the biggest in the country. It is in NYC at the Grand Hyatt Hotel (42nd Street), and is called "ThrillerFest." I will see Broadway shows most evenings ["Sister Act," "The Book of Mormon" (Tony Award for Best Musical), "War Horse" (Tony Award for Best Play), and "Anything Goes" (Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical)], but during the days I will be a budding novelist trying to sell both "Imaginary Friend" and my unpublished thriller (now in its fifth draft) called "Corbin Milk" (as to which see "The Thunderbolt" in "Related Posts" below).

The conference agenda is amazing. On Wednesday, July 6, it's devoted to "CraftFest," with many experts discussing things like how to make a presentation to an agent, how to get publicity for an eBook, etc., with CraftFest extending until the morning of the next day. The afternoon of Thursday is the equivalent of "speed dating," only with 50 well-known agents, each willing to hear a three minute pitch about prospective novels. I've already culled their bios to find fifteen who look promising ("interested in controversial works" catching my attention fast, given that one of my books is about atheism and the other about homosexuality as a covert CIA activity). On Friday and Saturday there are a series of panel discussions with famous authors doing the presentations. By "famous" I mean the biggest names in thriller fiction: Ken Follett, James Patterson, John Sanford, etc. One two-hour event involves a panel of actual members of the real CIA talking about that agency's representation (and misrepresentation) in thrillers—what's right and what's wrong. I plan to raise my hand and ask if the agency really uses homosexual agents to penetrate otherwise closed societies (see "Related Posts" below at "“The Thunderbolt”). That should prove interesting.

3. Theater. The Columbus Civic Theater's run of "Hamlet" is over. It was great fun with a wonderful cast, crew, and director. The reviews were very good and the audiences praised the show. Shakespeare is always to rewarding to play, being rich in beautifully phrased lines and revealing insights about the human experience. At every performance I saw something new that my character, the evil King Claudius, was plotting. The best fun for me was the famous prayer speech in which the king tries vainly to concoct a prayer that heaven will accept and thereby excuse his considerable sins. Playing villains is always fun—when the lights went out at the end of the play, four bodies littered the stage and mine was one of them.

"Forgive me my foul murder?"
Plans for me to direct CCT's September production of "Come Back, Little Sheba" fell through for various reasons, but I'm hopeful that in 2012 I can direct an evening of four one-act plays by Edward Albee ("The American Dream," "The Sandbox," "Home Life," and "The Zoo Story"). That would be great fun. CCT is also doing "The Christmas Carol" in December, and I doubt I'll be able to stop myself from trying out for the part of Scrooge.

4. Health. As related before on this blog, at the one year anniversary of my heart transplant last November I was the poster boy for the whole program. My rejection rate was zero (the scale runs from zero, very good, to four, very bad), all of the tests showed I was in great shape, and I was vigorously working out with weights, push-ups, sit-ups, exercycle, etc. The tests did reveal the start of a buildup in two of my arteries, which I was assured could be handled by a new medicine. At this point the doctor changed my medications, taking down the anti-rejection drugs slightly while adding the new pills, and then I was told the hospital would now move to a three month examination period, with a new biopsy to check my rejection level being scheduled for late February. This worried me. Prior to that I'd been having biopsies every month (they had all been good), and I thought it was probably a bad idea to switch my medications and then not test me for three months. But then I remembered I was in law, not medicine, so I kept my mouth shut.

In February the biopsy reported a rejection level of three, which is very serious. At this point there were major new alterations made in my drugs, and I was given more medicines than I'd had at the time of the original transplant (56 pills a day), particularly prednisone (a steroid), which always caused me to go into a mental fog, my hands began to shake and cramp, balance issues arose, my cuticles disappeared completely, I felt constantly tense and irritable, and worse. I became convinced (and remain convinced) that I was over-medicated. Most people gain weight on steroids, but both after the transplant and the new February medications, I started dramatically losing weight. I normally weigh between 195 and 200 (when working out), but the prednisone stripped me of my appetite and everything I put in my mouth, including my favorite foods, tasted like paste. I could detect salt or spices, but that simply meant the bite tasted like salty or spicy paste. Every mouthful was a chore. It took me an hour to eat seven bites of the center of a chicken pot pie one evening. My energy level dropped, I didn't have the ability to workout, I had trouble climbing steps (and all this caused my performance on stage to look shaky at times), and I couldn't sleep without an Ambien. My weight dropped and dropped, and yesterday morning I stood on the scales, a skeleton, and looked at the number 161, down from 163 the day before. None of my clothes fit. Some of my symptoms sound funny but, trust me, are not: I have no fat in my buttocks which means I'm painfully sitting on just skin and bones, and I'm in constant danger of my pants falling down wherever I happen to be (ho, ho, ho, right?). For my trip to NYC next week I had to buy all new clothes. The mental fog has been tough on me too. I had to rewrite one of my law casebooks this spring, and sometimes had the problem of being unable to type due to shaking hands and faulty memory; playing tournament bridge one evening I forgot how to keep score in a game I've played for decades. Fortunately the steady drop in the amount of prednisone finally lifted the fog, and my head is clear these days.

The prednisone level has been reduced from 70 mg a day to 5 mg, but that hasn’t solved my loss of appetite problem, and another reduction in the prednisone is not planned for months—so close and yet so far. I'm forcing myself to eat solid food and drink supplements, and I am gaining some strength, but it's a constant battle, and I can feel the prednisone weighing me down all day, every day. I do worry that some other body function will fail (a kidney problem put me in the hospital for ten days in May, but was easily fixed), and I'm working hard to keep healthy. Things should be fine by the time of the second anniversary of the heart transplant in November. All my doctors say the same thing: "Doug, eat more." When every bite is a stomach-revolting event and one has no appetite at all, this is easy to say but hard to do. However, I'm good at rules and planning to live a long time, so I'm force-feeding myself good food. It would be wonderful to enjoy eating again, and I so look forward to that.
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Related Posts:
"My Heart Belonged to Andrew," February 17, 2010
"Frightening the Horses," April 7, 2010
"Mama, Biopsies, and My iPad," May 19, 2010
"Imaginary Friend," June 22, 2010
“The Thunderbolt,” September 3, 2010
“Explosion at Ohio Stadium,” [Chapter One of "Imaginary Friend"] October 9, 2010
"Escape From Ohio Stadium," [Chapter Two of "Imaginary Friend"] November 2, 2010
"Open Mouth, Insert Foot," [Chapter Three of "Imaginary Friend"] November 21, 2010
"Naming My Heart," March 24, 2011
"Another Opening, Another Show: Doug is in Hamlet," April 29, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

The World's Greatest Game [Bridge] Needs You

A Bridge Tournament
Are you the sort of person who likes challenging intellectual games? If so, the best game in the world is calling you to learn to play bridge. Why is bridge the best game in the world? Because it combines a basic card game with complex rules, an artificial bidding system that can be as complicated as you want to make it (including adding your own inventions), a play of the cards requiring concentrated analysis and application of skill, all of this combined with the fact that you and your partner must be in perfect sync to make it all work. Daunting? Sure? But rewarding, even at a the beginner's level? Oh yes. Take a few lessons at your local bridge center and you'll be hooked for life. Pick up the hand in the photo below and you can take all the tricks (a "Grand Slam").

How often do you think this happens?
Alas, this wonderful game is dying out. Why is that? The truth is that it was once very popular, but when young people discovered video games and other entertainment possibilities, the quaintness of card games became passé, and so, alas, the bridge-playing population is aging. At one tournament in Cleveland there was a twelve year-old boy playing. He'd been taught the game by his parents, and he was a very good player, but it occurred to me that it was almost cruel to teach him to play. Who will be play with him as he ages? The saving answer might be in cyberspace. The game is alive and well on the internet, where I'm told it's much like the Wild West. You are paired with partners in far-flung parts of the globe (one of my Columbus friends routinely plays with Turks, someone in South Africa, or is randomly paired with a partner in who-knows-what country), and the usual conventions are flouted with abandon, making for some hair-raising games. Actually, bridge is in the process of being tamed on the internet, where there are now respectable tournaments and permanent partnerships forming (sometimes with partners who will never meet in person).


There's a huge difference between party bridge (which is very social and typically played by people who aren't very good at the game) and duplicate bridge (used at bridge clubs and tournaments). In duplicate games the cards are dealt out into four hands (13 cards each) and then each hand is placed into slots in a little metal tray (called a "board"), and given a number (Board #1, for example). Each slot is labeled with a direction of the compass (North and South versus East and West). The players sit down at a table, all four pull out their cards from the board, sort them, and the game begins. When this board is played, the result is put on a tally (how well did North/South do compared with East/West?). After playing few such boards, the East/West pair gets up and moves on to play another set of boards with a different North/South pair at a different table. At the end of the evening the winners are determined by which North/South pairs played their cards the best versus other North/South players (and the same for the East/West pairs). Thus it really matters little whether your pair happened to have had good cards or not, the major question is how you played your cards compared with the other pairs holding the same ones. This removes much of the luck factor from the game, meaning that the best pairs tend to win over and over, always a hallmark of a good game.

I started playing bridge when I was in high school and then played in some minor tournament games while in college. When Charleyne and I married in the summer of 1971, we were both in our twenties and realized we had no idea what to do with much of our free time. Since Char had also played some bridge in high school and college, we took advantage of the happy fact that there was a local bridge center just a mile from our home in Indianapolis. It was called the Blackwood Bridge Center, and it offered two duplicate bridge games every day (one in the afternoon, one in the evening). So we decided to try playing there.

Easley Blackwood
What we didn't know was the "Blackwood" in the title was the famous bridge expert Easley Blackwood, the inventor of the most used bridge bidding convention in the world, and this club was run by him and his wife. Wow! For Charleyne and me it was like diving into a pool of sharks. What we should have done (and what I recommend to you) is sign up for bridge lessons, and that would have eased us into the game. But, stubbornly, we are both autodidacts (people who like to teach themselves), so we bought books and practiced a lot a home, while getting routinely bloodied by the BBC crowd (who were great people, but dangerous opponents). At the end of the first year, however, Charleyne and I were entering tournaments (playing in the beginner's sections) and even winning them (a great thrill!). It was the start of a lifetime of duplicate bridge that continues to this day. Charleyne and I even managed to play as partners for a year or two after our marriage ended in 1976, finally quitting when it became too difficult to get together to play (she was in still Indianapolis, but I had moved to Columbus). I should also mention that playing with your spouse has to have certain set rules ("Your marriage must not depend on what you lead," "No discussion of hands is permitted on the ride home unless both of you agree," "No frowning when your partner makes a really stupid bid," etc.).

When you first start you will play in beginner games, and progress upward from there. At whatever level you reach, including international competitions, there are always teams better than you are, so don't worry about that. The thrill is in mastering this terrific and challenging game at whatever level you currently inhabit. You will hunger for more.


Once Charleyne and I quit playing, I more or less abandoned bridge during my teaching years (it can be addictive), but once I retired from the Ohio State Law School in 2004, I went back to playing duplicate bridge on a regular basis. My current partner is James Griffith, with whom I have also acted in a local community production (which is where we met). He's a great guy, a much better player than I am, and very tolerant of my frequent fumbles. We currently play every Thursday night at the Franklin Bridge Club here in Columbus, which is possibly the oldest bridge club in the country. In the photo, Jim and I have won the bidding, at which point the first person on the winning team to have bid the winning suit plays the hand while his partner (now called, unflatteringly, the "dummy") lays his cards down on the table and follows instructions from his partner at to what cards to play (which is what Jim is doing in the picture).

If you decide to investigate this fascinating game, Google up "bridge center" along with your town's name, and then call the bridge center and ask if lessons are available (they will be). If you don't have a partner, they'll find you one. Bridge people are, by and large, very accommodating and always welcoming people who want to learn the best game in the world.

Be one of them and enter into an experience that will change your life. I promise you that's true.

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Related Posts:




“When Good Things Happen All at Once,” October 21, 2015; http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2015/10/when-good-things-happen-all-at-once.html

A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013: http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-guide-to-best-of-my-blog.html 

 

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Puppet Party

Art, Barbara, Ann, Jerry, Mary, and Me
In my life I've thrown some strange parties, a few of which have been described previously on this blog, but surely one of the oddest was the April 20, 1985 Puppet Party. Jerry and I had begun our twelve year relationship that previous January, so this was probably our first social event with my closest friends: Art and Lorri Greenbaum-Latek, Mary Bush, Ann Matheson, Barbara Shipek, Lynn Brown, and a few others. The conceit of the party was this: everyone was to furnish his/her own puppet, and only the puppets were invited to the party. The puppet owners had to come, of course, but were not allowed to talk as real people; only the puppets could speak to one another. This was a party for puppets only.

The Art and Lorri Puppets
Amazingly, this nuttiness worked very well, and everyone entered into the spirit of the event with great brio. There was good food, lots of drinking, and (I suspect, but don't specifically remember) probably some marijuana to help a few of the puppets relax. Lorri, ever creative, hand-made puppets for herself and Art that looked just like them (she told me recently she ran across these puppets when cleaning out a little-used closet). My puppet was Sesame Street's Grover (since I could do his voice), Jerry's was a wolf, Mary's a bird, etc.

"Pin the Tail on the Donkey"
The puppets played games too. There was "Pin the Tail on the Donkey," with the puppets being blindfolded (but—note—not the humans). Somehow none of the puppets managed to correctly pin the tail on the appropriate part of the donkey diagram (see photo of Lorri's puppet pinning the tail up near the donkey's ear). There was a ring toss game (see photo of Mary's bird missing its first throw), and a game of hide and seek. In the latter, the puppets hid, while the attached human beings were in full view, but the players understood that the human were to be invisible, so the seeker had to find the hidden puppets without the clue given by the lurking human near the hiding place (see photo below of Mary being discovered atop the refrigerator by Art).


The highlight of the evening was a re-creation of the story of the Wizard of Oz, with the puppets playing the familiar characters. We lacked a Toto, so I appropriated a hand-carved wooden rhinoceros I'd purchased in San Francisco (ten inches long, beautiful carving, very lifelike, carved in Kenya), and he became Toto. In the photo below, Lynn's Emerald City Gatekeeper is denying entrance to the usual Oz travelers (note Toto hanging just above sofa in middle of the picture).


A Very Strange Version of "The Wizard of Oz"
After the party some of the puppets made phone calls or sent thank-you notes to say it was the best puppet party they'd ever attended. Okay, it was crazy, but great fun. In future posts I'll tell you about some of the other festive get-togethers: the potluck where everyone had to bring a dish that needed utensils to eat (like spaghetti), but which had to be consumed with hands alone (quite a mess before that evening was done), the oddest of the playreadings, my 60th birthday party where skits were performed on a make-shift stage in the garage and the first public singing ever of "Big Birthday" occurred (while I wept over my lost youth), etc.

So if you have friends as eager for nonsense as mine are, I recommend you throw a Puppet Party of your own and see what happens.
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Related Posts:
"The Woman Who Runs My Life," May 5, 2010
"Elena Kegan and Me," May 23, 2010
"Far Too High in Las Vegas," September 1, 2010
“Recidivist: A Criminal Who Does It Again,” September 10, 2010
"The Evil Big Birthday Song," November 5, 2010
"A Control Freak Turns 50 and Throws His Own Party," May 11, 2011
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Mormon Loses His Faith

The Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City
The most incredible email I've ever received took me by surprise this spring. I've omitted the sender's name for obvious reasons. The email follows, dated March 24, 2011.
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My Dear Professor Whaley,

I have been meaning to write you for some time, but after finding your blog (and thoroughly enjoying every word of it) I feel obliged to share a few thoughts with you. I'm not sure where to begin. First, I need to thank you for being such a great professor. Your knowledge of the material, wit, and compassion made learning truly enjoyable. I know many of your former students, and I can tell you my appreciation for you is shared by all.

You may not remember, but you also helped my wife and me with a payment-in-full check dispute involving her dentist while I was still in school. It was successfully resolved and the dentist's attorney was flabbergasted. Thank you for your assistance.

As your student you had no reason to know this, but I am, or was, a Mormon. I no longer believe but I have not yet formally left the church, and am trying to do so with as little disruption to my family as possible. I know you are familiar with how Mormons treat homosexuals, so you won't be surprised to learn it is hardly better for those who leave the faith for intellectual, historical, and doctrinal reasons. Both my family and my in-laws are very devout Mormons and will not be welcoming to this change when I eventually tell them.


(Click to enlarge)
I entered law school as a true believer. I had already served a foreign mission for 2 years and married (and was “sealed” to) my wife in an LDS temple. During my second year I sat with my fellow Mormon law students during lunchtime meetings discussing prop 8 and vocally defended the LDS church's efforts. That makes me sick to think of now, but I am trying to make amends. I won't bore you with the details of my loss of belief, but suffice it to say my natural curiosity and love of history was ultimately incompatible with believing in Mormonism. In my desire to be a better, more informed member of my faith I educated myself right out of it. It is simply impossible to know the history of Mormonism and to also buy into the white-washed version given by the church. So my world fell apart - my marriage was in question, my family would likely shun me or at best distance themselves, it was a horrible time. I went through months of serious depression and anger, both at my personal situation and at the fraud I had cherished and believed in my whole life.

Almost two years later, I am in a much better place, things are looking up for my marriage and the thought of telling my family doesn't send me into a panic, well, at least not usually. I've become involved in a support group helping others through this difficulty. It is still a tough road, but I feel more confident every day.

I tell you all of this because you helped me. When I found out you were gay there was a great deal of cognitive dissonance. You were kind, not perverted (shocking to me - believe it or not), intelligent, and emphasized ethical behavior. This was difficult for me to process because growing up I had heard every possible negative thing about homosexuals. Child molesters, pornographers, sex-fiends, on and on and on. You didn't play into any of the stereotypes I had been conditioned to expect, but were instead a role model (I'm not trying to gush, but really, you were). Even recently, LDS church leaders claiming divine revelation have insisted that homosexuality is not biologically caused, but rather is a choice. Although at the time I didn't realize it, there were cracks forming in my worldview. You showed me what I had been taught wasn't correct, not by shoving it down my throat or being preachy, but just by being yourself. I can't tell you what this has meant to me.

I've since learned about all kinds of things I didn't understand before – evolution, sexuality, human history, secular morals, etc. I've read Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, as well as books on the bible and a plethora of non-faith promoting Mormon history. What a journey it has been! I am moving from Ohio in a few weeks, but if there is a time that you are available I would love to buy you lunch or a drink and thank you some more in person.

Your friend,

[Name omitted]
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Shortly thereafter this former student and I had lunch, and his tale was even more amazing than related above. How this will will play out is anybody's guess. In the meantime, he's working hard at his marriage, talking online with other ex-Mormons, all the while struggling to recreate a life that has been completely upended. I cannot imagine what this is like, though he and I both agreed he's in a spot similar to the Muslin Atheist I wrote about in a prior post.

I wish him the best life has to offer and I admire his courage more than I can say.
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Related Posts:
“Catholicism and Me (Part One),” March 13, 2010
“Superstitions,”March 21, 2010
“Catholicism and Me (Part Two),” April 18, 2010
“How To Become an Atheist,” May 16, 2010
“Imaginary Friend,” June 22, 2010
“I Don’t Do Science,” July 2, 2010
“Explosion at Ohio Stadium,” October 9, 2010 (Chapter 1 of my novel)
“When Atheists Die,” October 17, 2010
"Escape From Ohio Stadium," November 2, 2010 (Chapter 2)
"Open Mouth, Insert Foot," November 21, 2010 (Chapter 3)
"Rock Around the Sun," December 31, 2010
"Muslim Atheist," March 16, 2011
"An Atheist Interviews God," May 20, 2011
"Is Evolution True?" July 13, 2011
"Atheists, Christmas, and Public Prayers," December 9, 2011
" Urban Meyer and the Christian Buckeye Football Team," February 19, 2012
"Intelligent Design, Unintelligent Designer?", May 12, 2012
"My Atheist Thriller: Another Book Reading," May 17, 2012
"'The God Particle' and the Vanishing Role of God," July 5, 2012
“Update: Urban Meyer and the NON-Christian Buckeye Football Team,” August 24, 2012
“Atheists Visit the Creation Museum,” October 4, 2012
“Mitt Romney: A Mormon President?” October 17, 2012
“The End of the World: Mayans, Jesus, and Others,” December 17, 2012
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Friday, June 3, 2011

Bob Whaley Goes to Law School

University of Texas Law School in the 1960s
As I've explained before in this blog [see Related Posts below], my father Robert Whaley dreamed of being a lawyer since he was a little boy. However World War II sent him into the Air Force, and the necessity of keeping a family (and his own considerable skills as a pilot and squadron commander) kept him there. In 1949 he was tranferred to St. Louis University where he taught ROTC for two years. Interestingly, St. Louis offered an evening law school, and Dad, excited, promptly signed up. He loved taking the courses, and by the time he was transferred two years later, he'd amassed 40 credit hour and was second in his class.

Fast forward to 1967. I was about to graduate from the University of Texas Law School the following spring, and Dad, age 49, was retiring from the Air Force at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He told me that he was going to sell real estate or insurance, but mostly just play golf with my mother. I vetoed that immediately. "Nonsense, you're going back to law school" I told him. He looked both shocked and pleased, and I persuaded him to take the Law School Admissions Test, on which he made a respectable score. Next I went to the main office at the UT Law School, and had an interesting conference with the Associate Dean, who I knew, and the school decided to admit him. Texas gave him full credit for his St. Louis courses, and, indeed, wouldn't even let him take some of those basic subjects over again (even though, for example, constitutional law had changed dramatically between 1949 and 1968---the Warren era!).

Dad was very leery of returning to school so late in life, and knew he would feel out of place . . . a retired Air Force Lieutenant sitting in class with lots of very liberal hippies (mixed with very conservative Texans as well). One of my mother's sisters, Gerry LeMastus, happened to be visiting my parents at this time, and her youngest son, James ("Bo") was about to start kindergarten. Dad explained to Bo that he was nervous about this new adventure and asked how Bo felt about kindergarten. Bo shrugged and replied, "Well, we're signed up, so I guess we gotta go!". That made Dad laugh, and Bo's reply became his mantra.

Of course, his worries were unfounded---he loved being back in law school. Okay, he quickly wearied of being Doug Whaley's father (as in, "Aren't you Doug Whaley's father?"), but Robert Whaley was personable, intelligent, very experienced, and deeply interested in how law really works. He was also possibly the most charming man on the planet, and soon had lots of friends among his classmates. One day a strange young man sat down next to him in class,wearing a suit and tie, hair cut short, very spiffy. When Dad looked at him oddly, the man smiled and asked, "Bob, don't you recognize me?" It was one of his hippy friends, who confessed he'd lost a bet with his father and had cut off all his hair and dress up. No one knew him.

Law is taught through a Socratic dialogue (question and answer), and Dad entered into these exchanges with brio. One of his favorite professors for such sparring was the great Charles Allan Wright.

A few words about this incredible man. The intimidating Professor Wright was the leading constitutional law expert of his day, President Nixon's lawyer during some of the Watergate affair, and a determined eccentric. He dressed in a three piece suit, with taps on his shoes, plus a watch fob and chain. He carried nothing into the classroom except a seating chart, but referred his casebook by page numbers and often mentioned famous cases, including their official citation numbers, using his prodidous memory alone. He refused to call on the few women students then attending the University of Texas Law School, because he thought the Socratic dialogue was embarrassing to them (this later caused him some trouble). He famously coached an intermural football team called the "Legal Eagles," and the rumor was that members of the team would not be called on in class if the team was winning---so these students would sit there bloodied and bandaged, but smug.
Wright with his Legal Eagles

I was Professor Wright's student in a "Federal Courts" class, and the first day he was having trouble getting a discussion going. It was a huge group of over a hundred students, seated alphabetically, and I was with the "W" segment in an upper corner. One of his questions caused me to shake my head, and he swiveled, pointed at me, and asked my name. I gulped, managed to remember it, and even reply when he asked me why I thought the answer was no. That set off an interrogation that not only lasted much of the class, but carried on sporadically throughout the semester. In all of law school I never prepared so hard for class as Wright's, and made a very good grade. When I was first being considered for appointment as an Assistant Professor at Indiana, I was asked if Charles Alan Wright would give me a letter of recommendation. With some trepidation I asked him, and he kindly did so. Then a year later he sent me an invitation to the Texas cocktail party at an annual law prof convention, addressing it to "Doug" and signing it "Charlie." To this day I can't remember if I had the courage to call him "Charlie" in return.

Dad, of course, was unintimidated by this giant, and their classroom exchanges became the talk of the school. Later Dad told me he dropped by Professor Wright's office one afternoon for a friendly visit, and told Wright that among other things he much admired his mastery of the "show business" of teaching (remember Dad had himself taught at the college level). Dad said that Wright smiled happily at this compliment until Dad added, "except for one thing," at which point Wright's face "collapsed like venetian blinds slamming shut." He asked Dad what supposedly marred his performance, and Dad replied that it was the seating chart he lugged into class. This made Wright laugh, and he confessed that he used to memorize it but had unfortunately gotten lazy in recent years.

Assistant District Attorney Robert Whaley
Dad graduated in 1970, immediately passed the Texas Bar Exam, and was made an Assistant Prosecutor in the Dallas County District Court, run by the famous Henry Wade (he of "Roe v. Wade"). Though Robert Whaley started in the misdemeanor courts, his considerable talents soon made him a leading prosecutor, head of the "Career Criminal Division" (going after, for example, the Mafia). Dad's photo hangs in the office one of the Justices of Texas's Court of Criminal Appeals (highest criminal court in the state) because the Justice tracked me down some years ago after Dad had died and asked for it, saying "Bob Whaley taught me everything I know about criminal law."

On Dad's deathbed, he commented, "Doug, thank you for talking me into going back to law school. In ten years I put a lot of people in jail who should be in jail."
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Related Posts:
“The Socratic Dialogue in Law School,” January 31, 2010
“Bob Whaley, Boy Lawyer,” March 28, 2010
“The Sayings of Robert Whaley,” May 13, 2010
“Bob Whaley and the Best Evidence Rule,” June 26, 2010
“Dad and the Cop Killer,” July 19, 2010
“The Death of Robert Whaley,” September 7, 2010
"Women in My Law School Classroom," January 8, 2011