How Puffy Changed My Life

Puffy Combs’ trial on gun possession and bribery charges hasn’t

only put a dent in his

routine-described by his retainers, both past and present as a magic-carpet

ride of limousines, Lincoln Navigator pursuit vehicles, helicopters and almost

POTUS-like advance work for the rap mogul’s arrival. The case has also scrambled

mine.

Before the proceedings (now threatening to meander into

mid-March) started, and on days I didn’t have to walk my daughters to school, I

could hang out in bed until 8, 8:30, sometimes not getting to the office,

located in the building where I live, until 10 or 10:30. I frankly can’t

remember the last time I took the subway at rush hour.

All that has changed.

I’ve been forced to become a working stiff, rising at the crack of dawn and

clawing my way onto the downtown Lexington Avenue express to make certain I get

a seat at the trial (forget about one on the subway)-which, judging by the

armada of microphones and TV cameras awaiting Puffy’s arrival each morning in

front of 111 Centre Street and the number of reporters elbowing each other in

the press section, is becoming an increasingly hot ticket. As I write this,

word is that Jennifer Lopez won’t be testifying on Puffy’s behalf-which is both

a disappointment and a relief.

A disappointment because one would like to take the star’s

measure in person (her lawyer, Louis Aidala, who attends court each day sitting

in the front row next to the sketch artists, told me confidentially that while

he didn’t know what his client would wear were she asked to testify, it would

probably be determined by the weather), but also a relief because God only

knows the jostling and ugliness that would ensue for the limited number of

press seats.

Thus far, the media has been limited to the Associated

Press, the local newspapers, TV and all-news radio stations, plus a smattering

of reporters for Court TV, MTV, etc. The only journalist of national stature

who’s shown up on a fairly regular basis is ABC’s John Miller, who dresses

better than anybody on either side of the railing, with the possible exception

of Johnnie Cochran, who seems not to have worn the same suit twice.

But one can easily imagine the celebrity journalists who

would demand admittance were J. Lo to mount the witness stand, place her pretty

hand on the Bible and swear to tell the whole truth. Brokaw, Jennings, Rather,

Blitzer and Geraldo for starters would need to be there. Room would also have

to be made for the analysts and historians-Stephanopoulos, Gergen, Shields,

Russert, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Mike Bechloss-who just might be able to

explain why the trial, despite the strenuous efforts of those of us in daily

attendance, hasn’t more fully engaged the public’s imagination. Hell, Dominick

Dunne hasn’t even shown up once!

Maybe it’s because Puffy’s brooding countenance-unlike, say,

O.J.’s or Bill Clinton’s-doesn’t have the same narcotic, all-is-forgiven,

lovable-rogue effect on the general public (though he can muster a winning

smile for his supporters and kids seeking autographs).

In the face of the big boys, I doubt it would do any good if

I argued that I deserved a place simply by virtue of the fact that I have a

near-perfect attendance record. The court officers-and one of them in

particular, a barrel-chested gentleman possessed of Colin Powell’s posture but

none of the former four-star general’s sense of humor-patrol the aisles and

brook no disobedience, ordering us to put away the newspapers that inevitably

pop up during lulls in the action, and bouncing us from the courtroom for any

infraction.

Just such an incident

arose on a recent afternoon. Judge Charles Solomon-who, had the trial been

televised, would probably already have book offers and a lecture agent, so

deftly does he keep the proceedings moving along, and so unmoved does he appear

by both the prosecution’s petulance and the defense’s star power (and make no

mistake about it, Mr. Cochran’s ability to charm borders on the

supernatural)-frequently reminds everyone to turn off their cell phones.

But one day, John

Miller’s producer forgot. Its ring drew a discouraged glance from the bench,

and a moment later that no-nonsense court officer was standing at the head of

our aisle, motioning the malefactor to follow him from the courtroom. I felt

for her, flashing back to first grade, when misconduct was punished by a visit

to the headmaster’s office, a fellow one wanted to avoid at all costs-at least

until after lunch at his club when, under the therapeutic power of his favorite

beverages, his mood mellowed considerably.

In this instance, the young lady was allowed to return to

court, though her cell phone was confiscated.

Perhaps the most dramatic effect the trial has had on my

lifestyle has been to make me, once again and after many years in hiding, a

member of a professional community .

The last time I reported to an office with co-workers was during the 1980’s.

Since then I’ve labored alone, either working out of my apartment or, now, in

lonely isolation, my office facing a brick wall reminiscent of the yard in Van

Gogh’s Prisoners Exercising .

To say I have little contact with the outside world wouldn’t

be an overstatement. The most exciting thing that happened lately was the

unexpected visit of a pigeon. He fluttered down from the heavens, helped

himself to some birdseed I’d tossed outside the window months earlier in the

lost hope of attracting the occasional member of his species, and then startled

me by perching on the sill of my open window and threatening to join me.

I’d recently received some blood work that had concerned my

doctor, and even though it turned out to be nothing, so starved was I for company

and disoriented by the pigeon’s arrival that I began to wonder whether he might

be some sort of harbinger, come either to offer me reassurance or to tell me to

get my will in order.

So it’s been something of a switch to get up each morning,

join the multitudes heading downtown, and then take my place in the line of

coffee-guzzling reporters and spectators waiting to gain admission to the

courtroom.

While my social skills remain rusty and I still prefer to

lunch alone, I did dine once with a fellow

journalist I’d known previously, though the deli we picked didn’t lend

itself to bonding. And, on another occasion, I escorted a reporter for a cup of

morning coffee during one of the trial’s frequent breaks, without incident.

However, I apparently made something of a faux pas-and

probably exhausted whatever limited respect I’d accrued among my

colleagues-when, during another break in the action after an especially tedious

stretch of testimony, I asked one of the defense lawyers what he did on such

occasions to keep his mind occupied.

He started to answer, and I started to take notes. But

another reporter standing with us-one of the courthouse regulars-reminded me

that there was a gag order in place and reprimanded me rather severely. I guess

I’ve still got a ways to go before I fit in.

How Puffy Changed My Life