As I opened my blue book for my final in Real Property and Practice, I couldn’t square my thoughts with the exam. Hell, I barely could fathom the instructions. I stared at the blank pages for a long time, until I requested a bathroom break.
The law school was under construction. I passed the men’s room and found myself on a construction platform staring into a large pit of machinery. I went out on a ledge and stared down at the dark bottom for a long moment, but was unsure if the pit was deep enough to kill me.
I was born and bred to be a New York lawyer. At the tender age of eleven, just hours before his oral argument, I had quizzed my father on the seating chart of the United States Supreme Court. By seventeen, I had dissected the lengthy transcripts of Lieutenant William Calley’s trial for the My Lai Massacre, and had read every word ever written about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who had been executed by the US government as Russian spies.
Being Jimmy’s son, I had followed every major trial in New York City from the moment I could read. I had studied in detail the provisions of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights and could recite the major case law that defined how critical provisions of the Constitution were interpreted.
I stood at the top of the construction site at law school that day contemplating the end of my life. I knew then that I would never fulfill my birthright and I wasn’t sure I could live with that. So I measured the distance to the bottom of the pit again and again, unsure if the fall would kill me.
I could not bear at that moment to focus on my father. Instead, I intuitively relied on everything I had learned watching him overcome so many of life’s obstacles. Jimmy might have gifted me the mettle to survive that moment, but, even so, I knew from that day on that I would have to find my own way. As it has turned out, that’s the way I like it.
Dad was nothing if not lucky. And so, it seems, am I. Thus, my odyssey began.