No O.J.

A long time ago, a catch phrase, elephants in the room, a recurring dilemma, and 7 other things worth your time.

How old am I? Man, I’m old enough that when I was in law school, the O.J. Simpson murder trial was still a thing.

In fact, one of my professors was an expert witness in the case. His name is Dr. Henry Lee, he taught Forensic Science and Law, and he was a bit of a celebrity as a result of the case.

Fascinating class, actually. I remember two things in particular.

The first is that while Lee had been a witness for the defense, I sure didn’t get the sense he thought Simpson was innocent, even though there were big evidentiary problems in the case.

The second is that Dr. Lee used to tell us that his students were like family. I’m paraphrasing, but I remember him putting it like:

“If you ever need a favor — if you’re a lawyer and you need an expert, or you have something to ask of me — Dr. Lee is your friend for life. Always remember, you are a part of Dr. Lee’s family.”

Now, as it happened, a classmate and I had started a magazine for law students, and we were about to take it national. (It was a print magazine—so yes, I do feel old).

But we needed a cover story, and now I realized we had the chance to interview my professor about what was still one of the biggest stories in the country.

He agreed to talk with us — but this was a busy man, so he gave us a Saturday morning, starting at 8 a.m. I remember he sat down, told us we had just 30 minutes, and added his only ground rule: “No O.J.!”

I was crestfallen, and I’m sure it showed on my face. Then Lee started laughing; he knew exactly what we wanted to talk about, and this was just a joke. Funny guy.

Anyway, we did the interview, wrote the story (which said pretty much what I thought it would say), published the magazine … I could tell you all the things that happened afterward except that this newsletter would be the length of a book.

But also, I laugh to myself sometimes even now, all these years later, about “No O.J.”

Like, if there’s an elephant in the room and nobody is talking about it — it’s too awkward or exhausting or whatever — this phrase always pops to mind: “No O.J.!”

Which brings us to the “twin O.J.s” of our current era—oxygen-sucking, all-encompassing topics that seem to have multiple new developments every single day:

1. The November election, Trump vs. Biden, heck, the entire future of democracy.

2. The coronavirus, and its many, many, many ancillary effects.

My friends, the truth is, we’re only halfway through September, and I’m kind of exhausted. I have colleagues who write about nothing but Trump, or the election, or Covid-19. I can hardly imagine.

But, every day, I have an installment of Understandably to write. Every day, it seems, there’s something I could leap on about one of these two stories. At the very least, I could usually fill the “7 other things” or “7 other people” section at the end with nothing but relevant developments.

So, I don’t know how this all works out.

There are days when I want to say: fine, I’ll write the only newsletter on the planet that doesn’t mention the election or coronavirus again. Other days, that seems like an insane idea.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know I’m working through it. If you have thoughts on the matter — if you read this for my thoughts on everything, or if you’re happy to think of this as the one place that’s not about these two elephants, that’s worth knowing, too.

Otherwise, there’s only one thing I can promise: At least, “no O.J.”

Like, literally, I don’t think he’s likely to come up.

7 other things worth your time

  • The oldest known living World War II veteran celebrated his 111th birthday. (Army Times)

  • Potential signs of alien life were detected on Venus. Also, why NASA would never send anyone there to check it out. (Reuters, Business Insider)

  • South Dakota’s attorney general was apparently involved in a fatal car crash; he says he thought he hit a deer. (CNN)

  • Amazon says it’s hiring 100,000 people in the U.S. and Canada; if it hits that milestone it will likely become the fourth-largest U.S. employer, behind the U.S. Defense Department, Walmart, and McDonald’s. (Yahoo News)

  • Oh good, another hurricane: Sally, currently Category 2, likely to hit late Tuesday or early Wednesday near the Mississippi-Alabama state line. (AP)

  • Americans who stop in Canada to sightsee while driving from the Lower 48 to Alaska could now face a fine as high as $569,000. A Kentucky man is learning that they’re not kidding around. (Car and Driver)

  • Google now claims it’s at net zero carbon footprint over the course of the company’s lifetmie, due to largely to purchase of “high-quality carbon offsets.” (TechCrunch)

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