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The biggest drawback to being an appellate court justice is that it makes it harder to be young. People keep asking you to swear them in and give commencement addresses and mentor their daughters. These are not young-person activities. And no matter how fresh my senior prom still is in my own mind, the fact remains that it predates about 40 pages of my daughter’s seventh-grade history book. More and more these days, I get the feeling I may have lost a step. Nothing serious, mind you. I can still go from first to third on a single to center. But I find myself with increasing frequency unable to come up with a good reason why I’d want to. I’ve been trying to reassure myself that this is a matter of maturity, that I am finally growing up, rather than just growing older. “If the world seems to be moving a little rapidly,” I’ve told myself, “it’s only because I am learning to appreciate a more measured cadence.” I’ve taken solace in the thought that a more reasoned pace would result in refinement of my tastes. I’d develop an affinity for cognac and stop drinking Diet Cokes and “virgin coladas.” I’d learn to forego Cajun music and Vachel Lindsay and chocolate chip cookie dough in favor of Humperdinck (The original, not the Vegas one), Wordsworth, and vin et fromage. And I just kind of assumed the rest of the world would move right along with me at roughly the same pace. This seemed to me to be the natural order of things: a long, slow progression into eventual — but still distant — geezerhood. Wrongo-bongo, Beds; wake up and smell the latte. That roaring sound you hear is the 21st century flying down the track like a bullet train on meth, and it’s gonna flatten you without even feeling the bump. It appears that the rest of society has no intention of either slowing down or growing up. They’re out there carousing and debauching and just generally flaunting convention in ways that my poor, straight little mind never conceived of. To borrow from a friend of mine, “Them folks are eatin’ things we wouldn’t even go swimmin’ with back home.” I was informed by my radio this morning that police in San Diego had to respond to a call of a “man beating his chicken.”(Sounded like a euphemism to me, too, but it wasn’t.) Right away, I knew this guy’s having more fun than I am. In my whole life, I have never beaten a chicken. When they answered the call, police found this guy had tied the chicken up (honest!), sat him in a box of water (the chicken, not the guy), and was kneeling in front of him, spitting in his face and hollering insults. (Sounds a lot like some calendar courts I’ve appeared in.) Picture that. Just put down your coffee for a minute and work up a clear mental image of that entire tableau. Then tell me how in the world he ever thought that up. Some folks just know how to have a good time. I, on the other hand, clearly lack the imagination necessary to keep up with modern measures of “fun.” I have no tattoos. I have no earrings. I have no nose rings, eye rings, nipple rings or tongue studs. (If you can read the phrase, “nipple rings or tongue studs” without shuddering, you are considerably better prepared for this century than I am.) I don’t eat sushi unless it’s first dipped in batter and then deep-fried. I’ve never had an espresso or a cappuccino or a latte or anything else, the essence of which is boiled coffee beans. The only way I’m ever going into a Starbuck’s or a Diedrich’s is if Bob Seger does a concert in one of them. I don’t do drugs, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink — except, of course, for tequila, and that isn’t so much drinking as it is reupholstering your esophagus. My idea of an alternative lifestyle is someone who holds the TV remote in the left hand. I did not watch a single episode of “Survivor.” And, incredible as it may seem to those of you who’ve seen me, no part of my body has ever been surgically enhanced — although my breastbone was wired together after the heart surgery, and I do have a metal clip in my left temporal lobe. For all these reasons, I am resigned to my place in the apres garde of modern culture. I accept the fact that I enjoy a lifestyle which, by today’s standards, is hardly deserving of the suffix “style.” Nonetheless, I wrote the chicken guy off as an aberration. People who beat chickens are, to my mind, the cannon fodder of the cultural advance. I figured he was far enough ahead of the rest of us troops that he might actually have been the rear guard of the last Grateful Dead concert. But then I read about Jerry Lee Tommie. I read about Jerry Lee Tommie in the opinions of the Texas Supreme Court. The opinions of the Texas Supreme Court are a good starting point any time you’re looking for stories about people with entirely too many first names. (I have a cousin in El Paso named Billy Ray Dale who is better than even-money to make the Texas Supreme Court advance sheets in any given year.) In a memorandum opinion, the Texas Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Texas Court of Civil Appeals, which had reached the remarkable opinion that Jerry Lee Tommie was both “happy” and “well-adjusted.” Since these are not the kind of conclusions that courts of appeal are typically called upon to render, it should come as no surprise to you that Connecticut General Life Insurance Co. v. Tommie, 619 S.W.2d 199, is not a typical case. (Your second clue that it is not a typical case is its citation in this column. Read on for your third and final clue.) Here are the facts of ConGenLifeInsCo versus Jerry Lee, as related in the official reporter: While Mrs. Tommie was out of the house shopping for groceries, Mr. Tommie dressed himself in her wig, bra, nightie and panties. He went into a bedroom and placed the end of a nylon exercise rope in a noose around his neck. He placed a pad around his neck under the rope. Standing with his back to the door he ran the other end of the rope over the top of the door and down the opposite side of the door around the outside doorknob, and then tied that end around his left foot. The exercise rope was equipped with pulleys so that with his left foot he could increase or decrease the pressure of the rope around his neck. The purpose of the preparations made by Mr. Tommie, according to the medical testimony, was to heighten sexual pleasure during masturbation by reducing the supply of blood, and therefore the supply of oxygen to the brain by gradually tightening the rope around his neck. The reduced oxygen to the brain produces a state of hypercapnia, or an increase of carbon dioxide in the blood, and a state of hypoxia, or a decrease in oxygen in the blood, which is supposed to increase the intensity of orgasm. 619 S.W.2d 199, 201-202, so help me. Boy, do I feel out of it. Some East Texas redneck with three first names knows more about sex than I do. Or at least, knew more about sex. Ol’ Jerry Lee bit — you should pardon the expression — the big one. Something went awry with his little Howard Stern science project and he strangled himself. When Mrs. Tommie got home, she was unable to get into the bedroom until she got a kitchen knife and cut the rope, at which time she was confronted with a picture even more difficult to imagine than the chicken guy on his knees spitting at a tied-up pullet in a tub of water. If you haven’t already, go back and read the excerpt from the opinion quoted above and imagine what this poor woman’s husband looked like when she found him. So whaddya think? You think this is pretty bizarre behavior? You think this is maybe just a little bit off the wall? I did. But then, I’m Mr. Stodgy, remember? You wanna know what the appellate courts of The Great State of Texas thought? In rejecting the idea of suicide, they opined that there was, “abundant evidence that Mr. Tommie … was a well-adjusted, happy individual who was looking forward to the future! …” 619 S.W.2d 199, 203. Well, of course he was. And Dennis Rodman will be the next Bishop of Rome. Oh, I have no doubt Mr. Tommie was happy. And I’m quite sure he was “looking forward to the future.” In fact, I’m reasonably certain that his rather obsessive, happy anticipation of the immediate future was what got his ass dead. But I’m afraid I take issue with the judicial description of him as “well-adjusted.” “Well-adjusted!” And this wasn’t the North American Society for the Preservation of Serious Weirdness that called him well-adjusted. This wasn’t some half-baked band of peyote-chewing dingbats. This was the Texas Supreme For-Crying-Out-Loud Court. If this is what passes for “well-adjusted” in Texas these days, I’ll just stay north of Red River and west of the Pecos, thank you very much. Nonetheless, I am a trained logician (which I understand to be someone who performs sleight of hand with large pieces of firewood) and if you ignore the undistributed major premise, the syllogism here is very simple — even for a rookie justice. The Texas Supreme Court is a prestigious, conservative body, and it thinks men who dress up in women’s lingerie and put nylon nooses around their necks are “well-adjusted.” I want to be considered “well-adjusted” by prestigious, conservative bodies (especially the one presided over by The Honorable Ronald George). Therefore … Therefore, I’m leaving the court. My life is obviously too banal and humdrum to relate to most Californians anyway, so I’m embarking upon a new endeavor. I’m opening an escort supply service, providing chickens, lingerie, pulleys and rope to “happy, well-adjusted individual[s], looking forward to the future.” That’s just exactly how the ad will read. You can come visit me when I’m rich. I’m sure I’ll seem a lot younger. William W. Bedsworth is an associate justice at the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana, Calif.

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