“Sir? Are you OK?”

Was I OK? It was a good question. There I was — slouched on the floor of a hallway in some old San Francisco office building. I was just outside the restroom where I had just lost my “attempt” at lunch. Exhausted and feeling faint I had decided to slide down the wall and catch my breath. However, instead of catching it I lost it. That was when the crying jag began. I just sat on the floor in my father’s-far-too-big-for-me-brown-leather-coat and cried. Mom had made it thru the surgery fine but I had been told that we wouldn’t know about the cancer for another 48 hours. But, they think they got it all and caught it in time. This was a relief and the most important thing going. But, I felt spent. The crying had stopped and, somewhat dazed, was getting it together when the security guy had approached me.

“I’m fine.”

But, as he pointed out, I was on the wrong floor. I had to go up to the 19th floor where my bag and coat were inspected. I had to remove my belt, shoes, all items in my pockets, bracelet and monkey penis necklace to get thru the sensor without beeping. Once I was “cleared” I gathered my stuff, put on my shoes and took another elevator up to the 22nd floor.

This was the day I have been dreading since Christmas Eve. But at least this would be the end of one of the most humiliating bits of my journey. …Bankruptcy. Trust me. It could happen to you. No matter what you think. Cast no judgments. It can happen and it fucking sucks. The bankruptcy filing was back in November and no one contested at the official California Meeting of Creditors where they are to stake their claim against my filing. I was so relieved. My cheap lawyer told me that I was all set and could really get a fresh start rolling. But on Christmas Eve he called me to let me know that American Express was filing lawsuit against me to contest their portion of my bankruptcy. And, the court date was already set for March 17th at 2:30pm.

Deep breath. I entered the Room 22 and discovered that I was in an actual fucking formal court room complete with jury box, microphones, video cameras, seats, an elaborate judges desk, two opposing tables with mics and an intimidating podium with two microphones.

I took a seat. I sat quietly and tried to focus as my mind raced. Lawyers in suits whispered strategies and other people like me just looks frightened. This was like a movie set. It was all so Oliver Stone looking. And, for some reason I found myself thinking of Meryl Streep in a bad wig pleading for mercy from the mean judge, “I swear! The dingo’s took my baby! I would never hurt my baby! It was the dingos! The dingo took my baby!!!!” …the wig goes askew, that dude from The Omen moists over with tears, the judge looks confused and Meryl stands indignant. We know. She didn’t do anything wrong. The fucking dingo ate her baby! For a brief minute I find myself fighting the urge to rush the podium and scream about how the dingo’s fucked me over and American Express was an evil corporate empire more concerned with my little debt that the millions that they allow major corporations to scam on every day. It was the dingos and AmEx, dammit!

My proto-soap-box-courtroom-drama fantasy was crushed by the call for us to stand as the judge entered.

And there he was. The one who was to stand in judgment of me. Dressed in a big black gown with very little hair. I am not paranoid. He looked at those of us not in lawyer suits with disdain.

My case was called first.

“Case of American Express vs Matthew Stanfield”

I was told to approach the podium. I felt so sick. I couldn’t decide if I was going to hurl or cry. What fucked up thing did I do in my last life to plunge me into these last 3 years? I got a grip and told myself to fuck the pity and just pretend I was tough enough to deal with this bullshit.

I looked around for the opposing counsel as they are want to be called.

Suddenly, as if the voice of God was calling to me, the mean lawyer representing AmEx started speaking over the speaker system. The mother fucker phoned it in. I imagined him sitting in his multi-million dollar home playing on his home pc while he pretended to work from home.

“Your honor, Mr. Stanfield failed to file a motion to my client’s claim.”


Before I could think or say anything the judge spoke, “No, I have Mr. Stanfield’s motion in front of me. It was filed and it appears that it was mailed to both our court and to your office in Sacramento.”

“No, your honor. We did not receive it.”

My voice came out surprisingly strong, “Yes, you did. I confirmed with your administrative assistant. I have her name, the date I spoke with her and her confirmation to me written right here.” I read it all into the microphones. I could hear my voice booming thru the giant room.

The judge spoke to the voice of the evil corporate lawyer and asked him to confirm if that person was his administrative assistant. The lawyer confirmed that she was but must have been covering the phones from New York as that is where she is based. What the fuck? Then the asshole lawyer said that she was incorrect my motion had not been received.

The judge told me that I would need to resend the motion to the Sacramento office and we would reschedule the trial for April 28th at 2:30pm.

“Thank you, your honor.” said the floating lawyer’s voice.

I fought the urge to ask if I could simply call in from work on the 28th as well. I fought the urge to say that the case should be dismissed on the counts that AmEx wasted California funds by not making their claim at the appointed Meeting Of The Creditors and by lying when his assistant confirmed that they had received my motion back in January. I fought the urge to scream that I was going to counter-sue for putting me thru great mental stress. Instead, I leaned in and asked the judge how I could be sure to know that the lawyer would be receive once I spent the money to recopy all of the papers. Should I send via Fed Ex or registered mail? Before anyone could answer I read the address info I had for the law firm to ensure I had the right info and asked for an administrative contact at the Sacramento office who might answer the phone and confirm information correctly so that I could avoid dragging this personal hell out any longer than it had already been dragged out by AmEx. …this got a few laughs from the other poor souls behind me. I had noticed that AmEx was suing 8 other people today. Among the eight, I was the only white guy. The other seven were all people of color who looked to have about $10 all combined. Toss me in and we could have maybe sprung for a Big Mac meal.

I fought the urge to hiss, “You evil mother fuckers are ruining our lives!” …but I simply waited for answers.

I was told to simply mail standard US mail and it would be received.

The judge looked at me as if I was 4 year old child who had just broken Grandma’s favorite coffee cup.

I leaned forward and spoke, “I don’t mean to be sarcastic or rude, but that is what I did in December and I even confirmed with the law office and they told me it was received. I am confused.”

The invisible lawyer said it was never received. The judge told me that I needed to step down and return on April 28th. He then suggested that I hire a lawyer. I looked at him and asked, “With what? I don’t have any money to hire a lawyer. I just got a new job and their first payroll check bounced. I am broke.” …I think I might have said something else. I can’t remember. All I know is that the judge stopped me.

Then he essentially dismissed me and then fucking thanked the lawyer.

As I walked out, a sweet looking woman who was on the side waiting to be sued winked at me. I walked into the hallway. I wanted to cry. But, you know what? In the end none of this really matters. My mom pulled thru the surgery. I am healthy. I’ve got great friends. This is only money and if the California Bankruptcy Court decides that AmEx can own me then so be it. You can only get so much blood from a stone. I’m fine.

However, at this moment — I am not sure how I feel about the state of affairs in a country that is now run by corporate interests. A place where Enron can do what it wants. A place where the vice-president can shoot his friend and not even bother to visit them in the hospital. A place where war is the leading money maker and citizens and other human lives are expendable for a buck. A place where I am a second class citizen just by the nature of my sexuality. A place where women are still second class citizens just because they are not men. A place where a corporate entity can play with your life with a conference call and the judge treats you as if you are a fucking idiot. At this moment, I am ashamed to be a US citizen.

I am angry. …but, I AM FINE.

“….keep moving.”

March 17, 2006. Uncategorized.


  1. NWObserver replied:

    A sad story. But a great story and storytelling. You sure made me think about some things that I don’t often think about.

  2. Dessie replied:

    I’ve been to court a few times, and it is very distressing. However, I was suing people. It’s still distressing.

    I’m not sure what to say so I’ll shut up. Mail me if you need to talk babe xx

  3. Meredith replied:

    Whoa, what a roller coaster of a day. You’ve got the right attitude. It is only money, that’s true. It’s unfortunate that that seems to be what’s most important in this world. I’m finding it hard not to get furious thinking about AMEX, of all companies, suing average Joes. WTF is that!? Grrrr. Anyway… right. Focus, one foot in front of the other, move on.
    I just stopped by to see how your day went before I went to bed. Good news about your mom! I’m still thinking those happy thoughts for you.

  4. ginab replied:


    You know I am sorry. Someone else put you where you are.

    Your story scares people straight, I mean no pun. I hope the right people suffer, that they are the ones who feel their heart shrivel as their eyelids snap and roll back deep in the sockets and the electricity crawls along the gums from when they began smiling with gladness.


    I wish that for a lot of guilty people.

  5. digitic replied:

    No worries Matt (though I know that the words “no” and “worries” seem mutually exclusive at times).

    As I get to know you I can see that:

    You’re a survivor
    You’re strong (though, arguably, you’re a touch too forgiving)
    You’re tough (though you seem to get nauseous easily)
    You’ll get through this fine

    Remember that there *are* people out there who want you to succeed and be happy in spite of all these things that get in the way.

    We’ve got your back.

  6. matt replied:

    To all my 4 pals who sent me emails asking if this post was fiction or real — sadly, it is real. If only it were fiction.

    nwobserver – thanks! it really isn’t all that sad. just more of a pain in the ass.

    dessie – i don’t think i would even know how to sue someone. lawyers make me nervous and i always end up fighting with the one who was mine. …and, i don’t get angry easily.

    meredith — it has been a rollercoaster of a week. strike that — a rollercoaster of a couple of years. my mother’s sister (i guess that makes her my aunt) told me that God is merely testing me. LOL! Not sure what that means. I just said, Ok. I don’t like tests. yeah, the corporate interests have officially taken over our country. sucks. And, thank you! Yes! The news of my mother was really the only important thing yesterday — and that news was good. So, it is all about perspective.

    gina — thank you. i love the way you can say so much with so few words. you, my friend, are a true poet. and, for the record — I hope the very same thing. I like to think that everything comes ’round at some point. you can only do so much bad before it catches up with you. however, I often find myself worrying that I must have been a really, really bad person in a previous life. if i was — this karma is a bitch of a payback!

    Milford — You are my knight in shining hula armor! What would I be without you????? I know. It will all work out. Like you said, I just need to get a grip and see this thing thru. …well, you didn’t say it quite like that but that was the upshot. Yeah, I tend to vomit instead of crying. …tho, i’m getting a bit better as one of my phone calls indicated. To be honest, it is easier to toss cookies. …and, you don’t gain weight to boot!!!!

    …I wonder if Alice Cooper throws up a lot. We all know he never cries.


  7. ginab replied:

    And Matty, in a past life I ate children alive. I burned their mothers to alight my feasting. I severed male parts willy nilly, of fathers and sons. I skewered dogs, the ones that failed to impale cats with fangs.

    I was a bad bad person, Matty, in a past life.

  8. Bloodgood replied:

    Damn Man that is seriously a bitch!
    Sometimes when I see these long posts I dont always take the time to read them, but Im glad I read yours. It was a total reality check. I read your story and said to myself WOW! I pray I never have to go through that. That is such shit. I would have tried to crawl through the wire and strangle that asshole who couldn’t show up in person and I would see to it his assistant gets canned for incompetence. I wish you and your mom the best of luck!

  9. jungle jane replied:

    that’s fucked my lovely Matty. big big Jungle hug to you.

    you know what – this post was so well written – as usual i read it twice. i don’t even read my own posts twice.

    i think you should work this up into a 2,000 word story and try to sell it to a decent magazine, newspaper or television station after 28 April.

    because the whole world should hear this story…

  10. matt replied:

    Gina — Ok, point well taken. Karma has nothing to do with it. LOL!

    Bloodgood — Thanks. Yeah, not much fun and I would have loved to have “reached out and touched” that asshole. But, in the end, it would have gotten me no where but a contempt against the court. It isn’t so bad. My mother is going to be OK. And I’m fine. That’s all that matters. It’s just money and it is what it is. At some point we may all wise up to how out of control things have gotten with corpoate america. …Or, maybe not.

    Jungle Jane! Really, you think? I might give it a shot. I honestly would like to do something to help prevent this from happening to other people. Will have to think about it. Scary how easy it can happen. Very scary.

  11. ing replied:

    It is scary.

    This is just about me, this part. But I went through a bad breakup last year, and my ex’s actions do and can affect me in some really awful ways. (Ugh, he just called me, but I didn’t answer.) It’s so funny. . . you think you know people.

    If I was smart, my advice would be to not trust anyone entirely, no matter how deeply you love them. But I’m not smart, and I refuse to believe that the ones we love and who love us back can’t be trusted. Entirely and without reservation. So, I guess I’m doomed in this life to be poor as a churchmouse, struggling, and yes even puking sometimes.

    But we have to try to be true to ourselves, yeah?

  12. Tim replied:

    Matty, I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – you’ve got such an incredible attitude to life, I really do admire you. I’m glad you had some good news to balance the other crap though.

    It’s a sad fact of life that the business world (and, increasingly, the public sector, where this even exists any more) just does not care about the ‘little man’. People are clients and clients are money, we are just transactions to them, pure and simple. That lawyer had a vaguely annoying 5 minutes on the phone to you and the judge this morning, but then they can just move on and forget everything, whereas you have got to continue to live with this for another month. But, I have no doubt that you will continue to smile, and to find wonder in your life throughout this Matty. Chin up, old chap.

  13. Karyn replied:

    You know? I’ve done the What Did I Do In A Past Life dance a lot these past five (yes 5) years. I still don’t know. Musta been bad though.

    You’re dead right that it can happen to anyone; five years ago I had my own lovely little cottage apartment, two late model cars, my own office, business cards and a staff of 30, plus a checking and savings accounts in the black. Now? I have .52 in my savings account, both aforementioned cars, office, cards and staff have gone the way of all things and forget the little cottage apartment in Swankville.

    Believe me: I feel your pain.

    Still; you know what you know, which end is up and all that. I’m glad your mother came through ok.

    Breathe in, breathe out. xxoo

  14. joe replied:

    in my old dept, I used to handle a wide variety og legal issues (mostly estates and trusts), but the bankruptcies were always some of the saddest. It was always the clients’ kids’ money (held in some education fund) that we had to redirect to the bankrtuptcy trustees. I learned that anything can happen, and I’ve seen it all.
    hang in there matty. you’ve got lots of good wishes from Canada!

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