It was decided among the lawyers that I should go to New York to prepare for my deposition. I resigned myself to the process. Courtney came to Tennessee and I handed off the keys to the extended stay place and rental car the next day, after showing her around the care facility and introducing her to everyone. She and Ruth hit it off right away during the nightly game of hearts while Claire and I just kind of shared amused looks with each other.
Claire only tried once to get me to stay a few more days. When I explained it was my lawyer summoning me—as opposed to I preferred Ziggy’s company to hers, which neither of us would say but which she tried to imply—she relented. Lawyer shit is urgent shit.
I left the next morning, flew into Newark, and had to take an expensive car service to Ziggy’s from there. Ziggy wasn’t in when I arrived, the bed was all rumpled, and a Nikon camera and one of my guitars were sitting on the bed together. The black Ovation looked as rich as coffee against the cream-white of the bed linens. I picked it up to put it back into the case and it surprised me with how light it felt. What was I expecting? Which other guitar had my arm thought I was lifting? Strange.
About as strange as whatever reason Ziggy might have been in bed with my guitar…? All things are relative.
I left the camera where it was, changed my clothes, and then headed up to the WTA offices to meet Carynne. It was past lunchtime by then, so I grabbed a pita sandwich from a cart vendor on a street corner where I came out of the subway and ate it as I walked the couple of blocks to their building. I passed the BNC building and resisted the urge to hiss at it like a cat.
Carynne met me upstairs. I went to wash my hands, which were covered in tahini or something, and ran into Feinbaum in the men’s room.
“What a mess,” I commented.
“Indeed,” he agreed. “Or were you talking about your face?”
“Ha.” I wiped kabob sauce off my chin. “Okay. I’m ready if you are.”
We repaired to a small conference room with Carynne. Legal pads all around, though why I had one, I don’t know. So I wouldn’t feel left out? Or in case I got a sudden song idea? If only.
“Okay, you know what a deposition is?” Feinbaum asked. He was in just a polo shirt today, no suit jacket.
“Pretend I don’t,” I said.
He nodded. “Both teams of lawyers are supposedly going into the case with the same information. It’s not like on TV where a witness suddenly ambushes one side with totally new information. So both sides get to depose witnesses together. What you say in a deposition is sworn testimony and admissible in court. A court reporter will be there to transcribe the whole thing and there’ll be an audio recording, too.” He cleared his throat. “I think it would be advantageous for you to be deposed in person rather than by phone.”
“Okay. So it’s kind of a dry run for the trial…?”
“Eh, sometimes. Other times they don’t need you to get back up there and repeat it during the trial because you’ve already said it. If they do, sometimes it’s because they’re trying to see if you’ll change your story and they can catch you in a lie.” He tapped his pen against his legal pad. “So it’s generally a good idea to tell the truth, so you don’t have to keep track of any lies.”
“Good idea.” Not that I had any intention of lying about anything. Truth being my thing and all.
“One thing I gotta stress is you should keep your cool. Stay calm. Sometimes you’re going to get asked the same question ten different ways. That’s normal. Don’t feel like you have to change your answer just because they ask again. This isn’t like a normal conversation where if a person asks you something twice it’s because they didn’t understand it the first time. They’re trying to get you to state, in your own words, what they already know but so they can enter it as evidence that supports their side — or our side, since sometimes it’ll be me asking you the same damn thing again and again.”
“Sounds grueling, but all right.”
“Next thing. Don’t offer more information than you’re asked. If they ask a yes/no question, just answer yes or no, or say I don’t know. If they want more details, make them dig for it.”
“Third. It’s okay to say you don’t know or you don’t remember. Remember Ronald Reagan’s whole Iran-Contra shtick? It was probably bullshit but it worked, right?”
“You’re asking me to imitate Ronald fucking Reagan?”
He made that calm-down motion with his hand like he was patting a horse. “See, this is what I’m talking about. You gotta keep your cool.”
I took a deep breath. “How long will it go on for?”
“Your part, not long. Maybe a half hour, and probably two hours tops? Just a guess. You’ll spend more time getting there and back than you will in the office, that’s for sure.”
Oh. “Where exactly is this deposition going to take place?”
“Offices of your dear old pop’s lawyers. In Los Angeles.”
Of course. My favorite place. “I’m going all the way to LA for a two hour meeting.”
“We. We’re both going. Because no way should you appear without your lawyer present.”
“And this is really better than doing it by phone?”
Feinbaum held up his hands to forestall my next objection. “Remember. Best case scenario is the deposition is it and you won’t have to actually appear at the trial. You think a deposition sounds stressful? A trial is worse, believe me.”
“Okay, but, am I a witness in the case or am I being accused? I kinda thought I was being accused because I’m part of Digger’s corporation.”
Feinbaum nodded. “Right, right. We made a motion to dismiss you from the claim. The court didn’t dismiss you out of hand but after the deposition, there’s a greater chance. Given that you don’t know shit about what was going on and that you didn’t even know you were listed as president of the corporation.” He held up a finger. “In the end, going now might save you a trip later. Plus, the depositions of your father and the Rogalas should be entertaining to say the least.”
“Oh, will I be there for that?”
“You might not have to be, but I will.” He seemed to relish the chance. Well, he was a lawyer and liked being one, I guess. “And, you know, maybe while I’m there, in casual conversation, I might be able to bring up the concept of settlement.”
“Ah.” Okay, now it made sense that we were going all the way there. “The deposition is an excuse, then.”
“Hey, they didn’t want to do it by phone. Fine.” He shrugged like it was no skin off his nose. “Now. Let’s practice.”
“Yeah, practice. What, I have to explain this to you, the musician? A deposition is a performance and we’re going to rehearse.”
“I thought you said all I had to do was tell the truth.”
“Doesn’t mean you won’t have to practice to make sure it comes out smooth and believable.” He made a gesture like he was sliding his hand across a wet glass tabletop, then slicked back his thinning hair. “You ready?”
I told him the truth, which was that I’m always ready to tell the truth.
(John, what in the world are you wearing and is it some kind of misguided James Brown homage or something? -d)