Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March 26, 2009

Dear Sis~
Just finished reading Moby Dick. What a great read it is! Anyone who loves language, who loves the skillful use of language, has to love this book. Written in 1850, the writing is definitely dense with colloquial syntax (it reminds me of James Fennimore Cooper or Joseph Conrad) but it's worth the effort for sure. Not only is it a grand adventure story, but the depth of the writing is superb. I'm sure modern-day literary critics would disparage Melville's style and call the book bloated, but a discerning reader can see the quality. I can't really say this is a book for young people (i.e., students) for, while they'll catch the main theme and grasp the underlying adventure story, it takes (in my opinion) a mature and well-read mind to appreciate the many subtle nuances of the writing, to plumb the depth of the author's intentions. There are multiple levels to Melville's writing in this book, many of which will escape the superficial reader. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Melville's vivid descriptions of the rolling oceans and the abundance of life they contain reminds me of how much I have always loved the sea, how the ocean always had an elemental attraction for me as far back as my memory reaches. Anytime I was on a boat or ship upon the deeper sea - whether it was the time you and me took that small cruise ship from Miami to Bimini with Dad, around 1961, or the times, later in life, when I took cruises to the Bahamas - being on the deck of a ship, with the sun on my back and a salty breeze in my face, and the dolphins racing along the bow waves, I felt incredibly alive, like an ancient explorer crossing uncharted waters. I think the oceans call to all humans; there's something in our DNA that harks back to the sea, or perhaps it's some more distant soul memory from a dimly perceived era of star ship captains and far-flung galaxies. Who knows?
Love, Bill

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

March 19, 2009

Dear Sis~
Just as I sat down to scribe this note several guys on my floor, watching the evening news, started yelling that New Mexico just abolished the death penalty. I don't know if the reports are correct, but it's a good sign if it's true. Still, until a state in the deep south follows suit, it will just be an occasional national aberration. Texas, for example, is so enamored with capital punishment that they view it as an integral aspect of their very nature. It will take another generation, I think, for the south to begin to lose its grip on the hangman's noose. Still, as I said, this is a good sign to the extent it denotes a trend, a shift in citizens' consciousness. New Jersey abolished capital punishment last year, and 5 or 6 states are seriously considering the same. Kansas abolished it about 30 years ago, then reinstated it perhaps 10, 12 years ago, and now they are on the verge of throwing it out again...
The seasons have turned quickly and winter has fled the coop, at least here in northern Florida. Out in the rec yard, I stripped to my gym shorts and bare feet, enjoying the blazing, cloudless sky, at least until the concrete began sizzling, forcing me to re shod my burning feet...
A friend of mine in Italy sent me some interesting genealogical information about our family back in Germany. As you know, the famous sculptor Gabriel Grupello lived out his later years in our family castle, the Castle (Kasteel) Erenstein until his death in 1730. You also know that Grupello created a beautiful bronze statue which still stands on the castle grounds today. What I did not know, until I read these particular papers, is that Grupello's daughter, Aldegundo Jacobina Grupello, married one of our direct ancestors, Peter Caspar Poyck, in 1725. So, we have a little Italian blood in our veins. (Perhaps that accounts for my deep love for Italy when I visited it in 1971). Moreover, Grupello himself was the son of an Italian cavalry officer and an Irish mother, so we also have some Celtic blood! By the way, while the castle was built around 1363, it came into our family in 1707 when Hendrick Poyck, schout (sheriff) of Merkstein somehow came into possession of it (I'm guessing he purchased it). Didn't know we had a sheriff in the family! Hendrick totally rebuilt the castle expanding it greatly, adding two round turrets and a chapel, along with a higher ring-wall. I'll send you these papers so you can make yourself a copy and return the originals to me. Since 1980, the castle has been part of the group of Camille Oostwegel Chateau Hotels & Restaurants.
Love, Bill

Monday, March 16, 2009

March 7, 2009

Dear Sis~
Two guards from F.S.P. were killed yesterday and two other guards critically injured in a domestic imbroglio turned violent. Between the scetchy news reports and the scuttlebutt among the guards here (it's all they're talking about) it appears that a male and female guard were romantically involved, but the guy believed she was cheating on the side. He attacked her, stabbing her repeatedly, then fled in a car, whereupon he slammed into a state vehicle carrying two other guards. The assailant was killed, as was a guard in the second vehicle. His companion and the female are in critial condition. A guard on my floor told me "I know the guy who did it; he was a really nice guy, you never would have guessed he'd do that." Love is like that, it can make some people lose their minds just long enough to own a lifetime of regrets ...
I'm reading Moby Dick which, I'm embarrassed to say, I've never read. There are a lot of literary classics which I've never managed to read, but I knock them out as I'm able to track them down from time to time. I also have a new copy of David Copperfield, which I've been anticipating, but now it's sort of been spoiled because I recently watched an excellent 3-hour version on PBS's Masterpiece Classics. The acting was terrific, as were the characters; Dickens was a great story teller ...
Right now, I'm listening to Prairie Home Companion on my little radio, as I do every Saturday evening. What a talented guy Garrison Keillor is! I've been listening to him for at least 25 years and he never empties that deep well of talent. His shows, with their skits, songs, poems and comedy, are the epitome of American culture; if someone wans to see what real America is all about, just listen to one of his shows. Tonight he had a band playing big band swing music and every time I hear a wailing clarinet I think about Dad and how he played his way across Europe in the years before the war, before Hitler made him trade in his clarinet for a rifle. Those were the days of wine and roses.
Love, Bill

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

February 24, 2009

Dear Sis~
Just finished reading a book titled Black's Law by the eminent Miami attorney Roy Black. The book profiles four of his bigger trials (one was a capital appeal, not a trial) and provides excellent insight into the workings of the judicial system. Along with a lot of other books I can think of, this one should be mandatory reading for all law students as well as those majoring in criminal justice. You may know that Roy Black is one of the nation's finest criminal defense attorneys. In 1971 I had my own encounter with Roy. I was 17 and had just been arrested for a robbery in South Miami, my first adult arrest. Initially Roy Black, then a new, young Public Defender, was appointed to represent me, along with his fellow new Public Defender, Jack Denaro (Jack also later went on to become a highly regarded criminal defense lawyer, once ranked in the top ten in America by High Times Magazine). I vividly recall both Roy and Jack meeting with me in an interview room at the Dade County Jail. Of course, I had no way of knowing that I was being represented by two guys who would go on to become famous and supremely successful attorneys, two of the best you could ever hope for. But Jeff convinced Dad to hire his old attorney, Lou Vernell (who later went to prison) who, unknown to us, was already falling from grace, descending from successful attorney to a drunken bum. So, Dad kicked out a lot of money to Lou Vernell, I lost Roy and Jack, and Vernell turned my case over to his incompetent assistant, Dennis Holober (later disbarred) and I ended up with a life sentence. I'm certain my life would have turned out differently had Roy Black defended me, but fate dictated otherwise.
We can always look back on the course of our lives and identify those "what if" moments, when things would have gone differently, had another road been taken. But, my worldview is that we must meet our karma, and so I must conclude that it was meant to be just as it was played out. Roy Black becomes just a minor footnote in my personal history, barely worth mentioning. Having said that, his book is good (and educational) and I recommend it to anyone interested in the criminal justice system.
Light & Love,