Don’t go there.

Or: No really. Please don’t go there.

Most of my friends will tell you I’m a man of very strong opinions.

Sometimes, the passion of my opinion gets carried away and the result is not pretty. At other times, a well-reasoned defense of a particular position has been known to change more than a few minds. Almost universally, though, you won’t find me unwilling to express an opinion.

It was bearing this in mind that I asked a question at breakfast this morning.

“How do I feel about the whole Roman Polanski thing?”

It took me about three minutes to convince my friends that I really don’t know how I feel, my feelings are mixed, and I was seeking their input in hopes of finding clarity in my own confused thoughts on the subject. But we’ll get back to that in a minute because I wasn’t planning on blogging about a rapist and the prosecutorial misconduct that has led to this debacle.

But something changed my mind. It was this little gem from The Gothamist. It seems a number of Hollywood types not interested in their future careers, have come out with a petition to free Polanski.

A number of notable film notables, including Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, David Lynch, Jonathan Demme, and Pedro Almodovar, have reportedly signed a petition demanding his release.

Woody Allen? Really?

Let’s see. If you’re this Woody Allen, wouldn’t the last thing you want to do be endorsing the release of a man who pleaded guilty to the forced rape of a 13 year old girl? I mean really, don’t you expect people are going to connect those dots? Is there some weird, Hollywood version of NAMBLA I don’t know about, one for pervy directors who like to use their position and influence as the gatekeepers along the path to superstardom as tools to get in the pants of unsuspecting (or fully suspecting, as the case may be) young women?

Yet, here’s Woody’s geriatric self, jumping out in front of the Greyhound of public opinion. Good job, Wood. Really, two thumbs up, man.

But Woody Allen’s insipidity aside, I’m still left with the facts of this case. A man in 1977 raped a girl. Of this, there has been no dispute. A judge in the case agreed to accept a guilty plea in exchange for time served. The prosecutors and the judge colluded behind the scenes to break that agreement. Of this, there has been no dispute. The perpetrator of this horrid crime fled the country. His lawyers negotiated a financial settlement with the girl and her family in order to put the matter behind them. Of this, there has been no dispute. And when it seemed the entire matter was about to finally be laid to rest, once and for all, judicial stupidity and possible misconduct again reared its ugly head and scuttled the whole process. Of this, there has been no dispute.

Yet throughout it all, one thing is also without dispute. Everyone — from the judges to the attorneys to the mother of the girl were all in the wrong. They all made bad decisions, committed themselves to bad courses of action and were all sharing in the blame of continually, perpetually and repeatedly raping Samantha Geimer on the front pages of newspapers, on the cable news stations, on the interwebs. Again and again, she’s relived her ordeal at the hands of millions of undefined, ill-pictured Others as the courts continue to drag her into the spotlight very much against her will. All the while, she has begged the courts, the attorneys, the media to just drop it. Please stop. She’s ready for it to be over.

These are words and phrases that should be familiar to Samantha Geimer. They’re the same things she said to Roman Polanski more than 32 years ago. Ironically, tragically, he did not listen to her then and no one else seems to be listening to her today.

The more things change…

And now I know how I feel about the case. For Ms. Geimer’s sake, I hope it is resolved quickly because she’s the only one whose opinion should matter.

Monday, funny Monday.

Or: Moving coffins on Labor Day.

In addition to my books and to a sometimes-thriving marketing consulting business, I’ve worked as a journalist for the last 9 years.

Sometimes full-time, sometimes part-time, but always writing for periodical publications. Most recently, my publisher promoted me to co-editor of a weekly newspaper.

It’s a job I enjoy. I write – a lot. But the job also affords me the opportunity to meet interesting people and explore topics about which I might have no other opportunity to learn. (Seriously. How else on earth would a city-boy like me learn about crop yields?)

Since I’ve been writing for the newspaper here, I’ve pondered what a fish-out-of-water story might look like. Either via a television dramedy (I hate that word, but it fits), or a sitcom. It isn’t something I’d actually consider writing, probably, but who knows. At any rate, yet again a moment arrived – ironically on the very first day I was down here full time.

Like any good story, it starts with a stranger at the door…

“Excuse me,” says the man. “I was looking for…” he says, referring to my predecessor. I inform the stranger that he has retired. What can I do?

“Oh! Congratulations, I guess. Well, I was really just looking for a strong back.”

This is going to be interesting, I think to myself. The man is well-dressed, shirt and tie, looks respectable and respectful, so I offer, “What can I do for you?”

“I was just going to ask someone to help me move a coffin.”

In all fairness it’s not a question you expect to receive — well, ever — but doubly so on Labor Day morning. As if detecting my immediate hesitation, the gentleman chuckles.

“It’s empty,” he says.

He goes on to explain he owns the funeral home adjacent to the rear of our building. Since it is Labor Day, he’s the only one in the office and has just received a new shipment, which needs to be placed in the showroom.

I agree to help and in the process learned my first lesson of working in a small, tight-knit Louisiana community. Everyone is willing to step in at a moment’s notice for pretty much any and all requests that might come their way. Over the next few days, I began to wonder: why is the same thing not true in a city?

What is that x-factor, peculiar to communities larger than 30,000, that turns off the ‘help the neighbor’ gene? Are we just too busy with our own lives? Maybe it’s distrust.

In a small town, when you’re asked to move a coffin, one’s first reaction is one of trust.

“Hey, this guy’s asking me to move a coffin. I’d better go help him move a coffin,” you might say to yourself. Yet in a larger city, the immediate reaction one of fear or suspicion.

“Hey, this guy’s asking me to move a coffin. Maybe he wants to put me in it!”

So here’s my weekly challenge to you as you go about your daily lives. If you live in a city, take a moment each time you receive a request for aid, no matter how trivial or mundane, and consider if your response is coming from suspicion. You don’t necessarily have to agree, but I’m betting that, if you do, a lot of people will get helped.