Illustration: Simon Bosch
In another disturbing trend of lawyer bashing, Thomas Lowe - an up-and-coming 58-year-old in Minnesota - has been barred from charging billable hours because he made love with his client. He charged it as legal services for ''drafting memos''. The Minnesota Supreme Court struck him off the roll for 18 months. The bane of a lawyer's life is the six-minute unit of chargeable time. There is never enough time in a lawyer's day and men such as Lowe could fit more than 24 hours into it.
Michael Harmer - James Ashby's mouthpiece - was stiffed by Justice Steven Rares for gilding Ashby's claim with sexual allegations against the lily-white Peter Slipper and Slipper's false cabcharge claims. Lawyers get it coming and going. We are the pinatas for disillusioned clients, who hit us with sticks for sweets. We are the modern witches, burning at stakes for telling truths.
Sheltering from sticks in New York for a month, the world changed in a blink of a battered blue eye.
Two girlfriends broke it off with me after learning of each other's existence. I forgot to take antidepressants for the first time in 15 years and broke down on the StairMaster during Beyonce's lip-synced US national anthem in Washington. I heaved through Obama's speech and will fall apart if I learn he lip-synced that oration. I froze with the rest of North America while Sydney sizzled.
Despite the heat, Telstra froze my telephone and email accounts, and now I feel like a Native American scanning the horizons for smoke signals during high wind. But here, the only reported news from home is the heat and Serena Williams. Julia is just another redhead.
Anything is possible, though, in the Big Apple. Ron Perelman - the bald billionaire owner of Revlon - warmed to me in the uptown restaurant Il Mulino and grabbed the back of my hair in his bare hands in a gesture of friendship as I tried to reciprocate, fumbling in thin air and hair. There was something creepy about fingering the back of a big billiard-ball-billionaire's head. He and his wife love courtroom drama, and I paid full price on Amazon for seasons one and two of Rake for their viewing pleasure. People-pleasing is an unflattering trait of mine.
After wearing out my welcome on my ex-wife's couch, I booked into the Captain's Cabin at the funky downtown Jane Hotel, which once housed survivors of the Titanic. Australians are everywhere in the lobby and bars, and it's G'day USA every day in Cafe Gitane.
The West Village is where Woodstock met Stonewall; it's an ideal place to write my coming-of-old-age story, which was the purpose of this trip. I plan to write a love letter to the law before we inevitably separate.
Reflecting on a misspent and overspent life in law, my Mahlab legal diaries scream out many disappointments and broken appointments. There are thrills and the odd win, the unexpected exhilaration of hearing the word ''not'' before the word ''guilty'' from the foreman's mouth. There is the diving into the details of another person's life and swimming to the surface with a handful of pearls, the intersection of lives lived, the stopping of the bleeding by getting bail, applying a loophole like a tourniquet to the infected arm and realising the real joy of life is helping yourself by helping others.
Life is full of wonder and surprise. Australia is held up in the gun-control debate here as the bastion of buyback policies after the Port Arthur massacre, and John Howard is a retrospective hero. Who knew?
Americans are as embedded with the right to bear arms as Bondi Beach beauties are with the right to bare breasts. We have different DNA: Americans born of their Puritan settlement and revolution, and Australians of our prisoner boat people from Britain with bare knuckles and light fingers.
The American repulsion towards guns during the tragic burial of the babies of Sandy Hook has waned as the people run to the nation's gun shops to restock and rearm should Obama's crackdown come into effect. In Sydney, our shootings are directed to the households of rival gangs; fibro walls are aerated by gunfire as an expression of testosterone and drug rage, rather than mental illness and madness.
I hope crime does not take a holiday in Sydney because I need to earn all the money I have spent here on swanky restaurants and even more expensive women. As I get older, I have a corresponding need to be generous to the society of women I desire. It is not a personal failing but a fault of the system. It celebrates youth and ignores the neediness of older age.
In New York, I see all the films and none of the theatre. As live performance, this is so predictable. Audiences applaud at the end of movies here, although I cannot discern if it's a standing ovation or they are just leaving the theatre. Cinemas are where people come to dream in company while awake.
An abundance of foreign-language films here attests to the United Nations of emotions, if not politics.
The world goes on with or without us. One's death is understood when you return home after a month away and realise most people have not noticed your absence - except Foxtel, Telstra and other billing companies - and your temporary absence is a flicker of the world after you die. A barman or barrister might greet you and ask where you have been, but everyone else does not notice. The page turns with the wet finger of fate and the new page can be written by you if you choose or left for graffiti by passers-by. You can participate or just anticipate, but life is a writing on the wall in another person's script.
One returns home in a new year laden with resolutions and laundry. The future beckons with a young woman's finger. The finger-pointing is over and what has happened is irrelevant, what will happen is unknown and what is happening is all. One can only hope that if the agony continues, so will the ecstasies. My wallet is so fat with receipts I find it hard to sit. Sorry to have dumped my luggage on you, dear reader, but the Captain's Cabin, at the Jane Hotel can be lonely no matter how many people are in it.