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I am not the most graceful of God’s creatures. Indeed, were it not for those South Pacific goony birds who show up on the National Geographic Channel every month, spectacularly unable to land without bouncing on their noses and rolling bill over tailfeathers for two full revolutions, I think I could mount a pretty strong campaign for World’s Clumsiest Organism.[ 1] And as I find myself deluged every day by fund dunning on behalf of every malady known to man, it frankly offends me that there is no organization underwriting research to cure clumsiness. Don’t misunderstand me: I do not begrudge the National Asthma Center or the ALS Association or the Fanconi Anemia Research Foundation or the Greater Turlock Psoriasis Fund a single cent. In fact, I myself am constantly writing $25 checks to these people because I don’t have enough money for a big contribution but don’t have the heart to just throw away the address labels and calendars they so thoughtfully send to me every week. But somebody should be out there trying to help us clumsies. Ours is the forgotten malady. More money is spent every year to cure bags under the eyes than to cure clumsiness, and I’m mad as hell and not inclined to take it anymore. It’s time for a March of Dimes or a Million Mother March or a Washington Post March or something to put an end to clumsiness. And they better get after it soon, because clumsiness is getting way out of hand. Steve Wynn recently put his elbow through a painting so valuable it could fund San Francisco’s entire Culture and Recreation budget[ 2] for the next seven years. Really. Le Reve, a Picasso so famous even a Philistine like me was familiar with it. Now that’s clumsy. Seems he was showing off the painting, which he’d just sold for $139 million, and as he turned to point out one of its more interesting features, he bumped into it and put his elbow right through the canvas. Now I’ve had some bad days. I’ve had some moments of clumsiness that have left me forever scarred (an eighth-grade dance comes immediately to mind). But I have never, to my knowledge, damaged part of the planet’s cultural heritage and blown a $139 million sale. Of course, Wynn has a Matisse over one secretary’s desk and a Renoir over the other, so he’s functioning at a level that’s orders of magnitude above my own. He’s playing in the fiscal big leagues, and a dropped pop fly in the World Series gets more attention than a dropped pop fly in an over-the-line tournament in Huntington Beach. But still … putting your elbow through a Picasso certainly suggests that clumsiness has metastasized to hitherto unknown heights. I mean, we looked the other way when Alice Cooper fell off a stage in Vancouver. It was Alice Cooper, for crying out loud. The guy wore eye makeup and sequined spandex. He wrapped a boa constrictor around his shoulders. He chopped up dolls as part of his act. Falling off the stage didn’t seem as noteworthy as the fact that he sometimes didn’t. And when Ryan Adams did the same thing two years ago, we remained unconcerned. Rock stars, whaddya expect. But then James Dobson, the Focus on the Family guy, fell off a stage in Sioux City. I’m sorry, folks, but when a pillar of the community like James Dobson, adviser to presidents, counselor to God, is afflicted with clumsiness, it’s time to pull our heads out of the sand and take notice. If it can get James Dobson, it can get any of us. Last week, “A dancer with the Moscow Ballet took a misstep during a performance in Rochester … and fell off the stage.” A dancer! A person defined in terms of grace and agility. And this wasn’t just any dancer. According to The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle[ 3], this guy was playing the lead in the “Nutcracker.” The lead. We’re talking pandemic, folks. The courts are already starting to bend under the load. According to Newsday, “A New Jersey woman who said she fell off a slippery bar and injured herself while dancing in a ‘Shake-It-Like-Shakira’ contest is suing the Manhattan saloon that sponsored the competition.” The woman fell off a bar while dancing in a “Shake-It-Like-Shakira” contest. So she’s suing the bar. So help me, if there is a God, She has one helluva sense of humor. Now let’s get past the legal issues here so we can focus on the human tragedy reflected in this lawsuit. Twenty-two-year-old Megan Zacher[ 4] paid $35 to enter a contest in which bar patrons tried to … well … to “Shake-It-Like-Shakira.”[ 5] She fell off and tore a knee ligament. According to her lawsuit against the bar, “Calico Jack’s was ‘negligent, reckless and careless’ in ‘permitting the bar area to become and remain wet and otherwise in an unsafe condition, and by failing to warn customers of the hazards presented.’ The lawsuit alleges, so help me, that because of the wet bar “She was caused to be precipitated and fall.” If you speak pidgin legalese, you may understand that sentence. Otherwise, you just have to admit I may not be the worst legal writer you know. Say what you will about my stuff, I have never said anyone had been “caused to be precipitated and fall.” As to the merits of the suit, I’ve plowed this ground before, so I won’t belabor my opinion that a bar shouldn’t have to warn you that the bar you’re dancing on � Hello! � IS A BAR, for the love a Mike. I haven’t researched New York law on this, but had the case come up in California, the analysis would have required five questions: What do they serve on bars? DRINKS. What distinguishes drinks from food? They are WET. And what distinguishes the bar from the floor of the establishment in which it’s found? It’s ABOVE the floor, at waist height. So what will happen if you slip on the WET bar and fall? You will fall DOWNWARD. Toward the ground. And how many bars are there in the known universe with rubber floors or thick carpeting to break your fall? ZERO. Even in New York, where they do crazy things like allowing Rudy Giuliani to be the mayor and the president of the Hair Club for Men at the same time, I don’t see Zacher v. Calico Jack’s Place Where People Go to Get Stupid and Fall Downgetting to the south side of a summary judgment motion. But that’s not the point.[ 6] The point is[ 7], clumsiness is threatening not just to overwhelm our hospital emergency rooms, not just to damage and destroy our cultural heritage � whether it be music, art, dance or pontification[ 8] � not just to embarrass our respected civil servants[ 9], but also to clog our already occluded courts. We have to take action against it. I don’t have a magic bullet. Clumsiness is like kudzu. It’s been with us for centuries, has no redeeming social value, and seems impossible to eradicate. But we can’t just give up. As politicians are fond of saying, “This problem didn’t develop overnight, so we can’t expect to fix it overnight.”[ 10] But we have to start somewhere. We’ve made tremendous strides in the fights against comparable scourges. We’ve knocked out scurvy. Bad penmanship is a shadow of the pestilence it once was. And we’ve convinced most judges to stop wearing powdered wigs. We can conquer clumsiness too. The first steps are easy: a telethon or two, a national spokesperson[ 11], a pledge drive on a holiday weekend not yet co-opted by some other charity, that kind of thing. Then a nationally televised rock extravaganza that climaxes with a moving “We Are the World”-type anthem against clumsiness sung by 20 famous billionaire singers.[ 12] That will give us the visibility we need. Eventually, when we have that visibility, when people realize how widespread the problem is, we move into the political arena. We seek legislation. We repeal the law of gravity. Let’s face it. Anything else is just treating the symptoms. The root cause of clumsiness is gravity. Get rid of gravity, we get rid of clumsy. We start in Kansas. Give the school boards there another 10 years and the state legislature will be ready for gravity repeal. From there we move to the 10 states with the lowest educational expenditure per capita. Then we go federal, where I am confident we can count on complete congressional cooperation � once we explain to them what gravity is. Problem solved. Don’t thank me; it’s just what I do. Contributing writer William W. Bedsworth is an associate justice at the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana. He writes this column to get it out of his system. He can be reached at [email protected]. You can read more columns like this in “A Criminal Waste of Time,” a book fromThe Recorder featuring more than 30 of the best columns from Justice Bedsworth. Order by calling (800) 587-9288 or visiting www.lawcatalog.com/bedsworth.
Footnotes: [ 1] I don’t know; there may be a few amoebas or euglenas that bump into more stuff than me, but it’s gotta be close. [ 2] That’s including libraries, art museums, the fine arts commission, the War Memorial and all parks and recreation costs. [ 3] You really don’t fully appreciate the lengths to which I go to fill this space. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, for chrissakes. [ 4] Regular readers (both of them) will note that Megan is roughly the same age as the other New Jerseyite I wrote about recently who sued after falling out of a bunk bed. New Jersey seems to be raising a generation that expects the rest of us to go to considerable lengths to protect them. And, considering their proximity to New York, they may have need of such protection. [ 5] I don’t think this requires any explanation, regardless of whether you know who Shakira is, but just in case, Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll is a stunningly attractive Colombian woman whose performances absolutely mesmerize me. According to Newsday, her “latest hit is ‘Hips Don’t Lie,’” so apparently she sings while performing. I hadn’t noticed. [ 6] Yeah, I know. It’s always hard to tell what the point is with me. That’s why I throw in these clues. [ 7] Another clue here. [ 8] The James Dobson thing kinda messed up my parallelism here. I was so close. I had Cooper and Adams for music, Wynn’s Picasso for art, the premier danseur in Rochester for dance … oh man, I was Faulkner for 30 seconds. Then I remembered the Dobson incident and came crashing (more clumsiness) back to reality. Sigh. [ 9] That would be me; work with me a little here. [ 10] Which, come to think of it, may explain some of our national problems: Our politicians seem to think everything has to happen during the swing shift. [ 11] Gotta be Gerald Ford, right? [ 12] Including Shakira if I have my way.

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