PANDEMIC BLUES

When the global pandemic washed across the world and brought the global economy to a standstill, I think it’s fair to say that most of us were in something of a daze, facing a future of indefinite uncertainty we’d never, ever had to contemplate. When the lockdown first took effect, I couldn’t help but think of the title of the sci-fi classic, “the day the earth stood still.”

Confined to our homes, unable to anticipate when work might resume, or what life would be like if we ever made it through this, millions of us turned to projects that would fill time, be productive, distract us from the dire state of things. The dumpster business was vigorous as all kinds of household clutter found its way into landfills in April and May. Garden shops and greeneries did gangbuster business, and new or expanded gardens sprouted. Old hobbies were resumed. Paint sales were brisk.

There was a great deal of emotion in this period. Sadness, anger, fear, despair, worry seemed to be at the top of the list, as there wasn’t much to be positive about. It was difficult to be suddenly confronted with isolation from your friends, family and workmates, unable to pursue the expressive outlets you had come to rely on for peace of mind and happiness.

The lockdown barred me from the weekly blues jams that had fulfilled my happiness outlet for the past twenty years. To fill the void, I spent many nights writing and recording songs on my simple Garageband iPad app. Just me, recording my own voice, guitar and bass and adding drums and piano from the app.  Each time one was finished, I shared it on Facebook. I called them the “Coronavirus Isolation Blues Series” (since shortened).

Over six weeks, I published ten songs in all on Youtube, some quite unremarkable. If you were to listen to them chronologically, I think you would find an evolution in my emotional state – first bewildered, melancholy, darkly humorous, devolving to sarcastic, then downright indignant! One might even characterize one or two of these as “protests songs!”

One of my favorite music friends is Jay Psaros, a talented, industrious, smart, and hard-working musician. Shortly before the pandemic hit, Jay had rented some space in  Scituate and built out a recording studio, which he now couldn’t use, except alone. An opportunity had become a worry. Jay took the opportunity seriously, and produced several superb “Facebook Live” shows from the studio that were quite successful. In another inventive promotional effort, he had his fans video themselves lip-syncing one of his songs, cut and spliced them all together, and published the compilation as a new music video.

Still, dozens of music venues had closed indefinitely, with no certainty that they would ever reopen (and less certainty today!). Performing artists had no place to play. Like Jay, they also turned to Facebook and other social media platforms to try to preserve their livelihood with virtual performances. Suddenly, we could watch Chick Corea’s practice sessions every day at 5:00, and for so many well-established performing musicians, Venmo/Paypal became “the door.” “Live From Home Open Stage” became a thing, open to anyone brave enough to click the green button. Much of it was very bad. Some of it was brilliant.

In early June, Jay and I talked about recording a few of the songs in his studio. I contacted Andy Bergsten (who was locked down in Florida) to ask for his musical direction and bass skills, and he agreed… once he was permitted to leave Florida and cleared quarantine at home.

I had this wild idea that someone might actually contribute money to this music project, so asked Andy for a few ideas, and the first words from his mouth were “Magical Moon Foundation in Marshfield, the creation of Donna Green, a talented local artist and great humanitarian. More on Donna and the Foundation below.

Over a few days in late July, four songs were recorded. Then in August, we added Bobby Mroz’s brilliant keyboards and harmonica, and all was then mixed and produced by Jay at “PB & J Records.” The songs are presented chronologically – see if you can detect the emotional shift!

They are offered to you as a gift of good will, along with a request that you pay that good will forward by clicking the link right below and help us save the Magical Moon Farm.

Here is the link to the Pandemic Blues Series on Soundcloud.

Here is the link to Magical Moon Donate

If you want to know more about these songs – or the ones that weren’t recorded – you can find a more thorough discography here.

A final word about the civil unrest and protests following the murder of George Floyd and the many victims of racial violence. I initially wondered if the pandemic songs had been rendered irrelevant by superseding events, and perhaps I should rewrite the songs to incorporate the protests. As I watched the nightly videos and reports of what was happening in Minneapolis, Seattle, St. Louis, Washington D.C., and other cities, I decided that the subject deserved a focus of its own, and and not with the whimsy that is displayed with these songs. It would take much more thought before I feel I could deal with that subject in a credible, and creditable, way.

But on that very important subject I want to leave you with a song just published by my dear friend, Chuck McDermott, in which he captures, as only a master songwriter can, the moment of our collective dilemma, in Here’s the Thing About America:

“Here’s the thing about America:  she’s as dirty as she’s clean, she’s as gentle as she’s mean, she’s everything between shear hell and fantasy…

…She’ll sing a harmony, as if she means every word, as if all those cries were heard, as if color lines were blurred, just don’t sit next to me…”

I hope this has been fun for you to read, and that I have added something to your listening. It is my most emphatic wish that we are all able to join together again, in close space, side by side, to enjoy live music and the magic of its work on our souls.

–Pete

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The Magical Moon Foundation” strives to nurture and empower children with cancer and other life-threatening conditions, supporting children and their families by teaching healthy ways to deal with challenges and stress. While there are many wonderful organizations that support research, Magical Moon uniquely strives to empower children to manifest miracles in their lives. At Magical Moon Farm children can feed their bodies with our nutrition programs, and can feed their minds and spirits with our educational, arts-themed, magical grounds. It is a safe haven for guards to be let down, for emotions to be expressed, for experiences to be shared, and for kids to simply relax and experience some fun and joy.

More important to the music community, with Andy Bergsten’s guidance and crew, MMF constructed an outdoor performing arts center where musicians could safely perform and an audience of hundreds could safely listen, with all of the social distancing that a five acre farm would provide. Magical Moon Farm has all the potential to be a… MAGICAL new-“normal” antidote to the no-live-music blues.

Pandemic Blues Discography

Discography and Psychology of the Pandemic Blues Series

Here’s the story behind all ten of the lockdown songs:

Fake News was the first song to hit Facebook (April 3). It is a laundry list of grievances against our fake President, presented with sarcasm. A demonstration of poor Garageband production capabilities, I learned several things from this: (1) it takes a long time to assemble photos and add visual content to be able to produce with iMovie (thus, I curtailed it substantially); (2) I can’t sing, and (3) this was fun, I had more to say, and I’d better improve my Garageband skilz. I almost deleted this one.

Don’t Touch Me (April 5) reflects a melancholy sense that I (as a cancer survivor) really might face death if I wasn’t careful doing something as essential to survival as buying whiskey. This was before the fight over masks, social distancing and stay-at-home had really begun in earnest. The lustrous organ of Bob Mroz in the final recording and mixing of the song really added a whole new dimension.

Bye Bye Corona (April 8) represents a shift in attitude, a bit more optimistic (in hind sight, tragically pollyannaish) that we would “do what we must do to beat her at her game.” Boy did “we” fuck that up, and I don’t mean me. With Andy’s beautiful bass lines and Bobby’s classic piano, the final recording of Bye Bye Corona represented a vast improvement.

Be Thankful (April 10) was written and recorded in a single night when I was back in a blue mood, but by this time, Elizabeth and I had been quarantined together for some time, and we were really enjoying it together as we researched “the next great cable series” and set forth to exhaust all remaining new content. The lyrics will date me when I refer to “Dick Van Dyke, the Lucy Show and Ephrem Zimbalist,” but I swear, I did find all three, although not on the same channel. And the “afternoon of cooking shows” was very much my choice.

In Payroll Protection Blues (April 12), the blue mood continued, but this song shortly followed the announcement of the “Payroll Protection Program,” around which time “my temperature began to rise and my blood run cold,” when my bank of 45 years (the biggest bank in the country) told me I was ineligible. The cynicism is starting to take over.

Things got more sardonic with The Beginning of the End (April 15), which was written and recorded the night after Trump announced that he, as President, would make all decisions on which states would get pandemic support and which wouldn’t. “When the governors suggested that his facts were contested, he threatened them with the power of his purse.” I wanted to include this in the recordings, but by late June, the lyrics had become dated already, as closely aligned to the news of that day as they were. So I wrote new lyrics to the same song, and redubbed it, “We’re Community.” It preserves the sardonica, but finishes on a more upbeat message. “What we build we build together, because we’re community.”

When the gun-toting crazies invaded the Michigan State Capitol building with assault rifles, ammo belts and camo, screaming in cops’ faces about the tyranny of a face mask order, I almost threw something at the television, and I was back in the dark mood. Pandemic Blues (April 19) targets the obscene disconnect between Trump’s maliciously partisan and incompetent war with the states over managing a virus that was then beginning an inevitable climb to an apex that still hasn’t come. I was still thinking about the Michigan covidiots, though.

On April 23, I hit another low point with the almost molasses-sluggish Got Your Back. I was totally depressed by the incomprehensibly violent reaction of so many Americans to the idea of shared sacrifice for the common good, so I went after those morons a little bit. “Free speech is a priceless thing, but when subversion is your thing, that’s a bird of a whole different feather.”

The Same Boat (April 30) was inspired by a few of the early stories about big crowds flouting all the safety warnings, egged on by the exhortations of Trump. The crowded party boats in the Ozarks inspired the name. “We’re all riders at the mercy of the Captain of a ship in a time of tempest, and he sure has lost his grip.” Honestly, as I listen to it now, I don’t know where the optimism came from.

Do Your Duty (May 15) is the last of the project, coming right as Trump’s exhortations to “LIBERATE” the states and open up the economy were reaching a fever pitch. I was outraged that such recklessness and perfidy would continue to be humored among so many other Republicans. He was openly abusing democracy. “When armed men storming Capitols demanding the right to spread disease are praised as decent people, we all better get on our knees,” “we got to work together to do what we can to end this nightmare and restore accountability.” The song got reworked some in the studio, and the title was changed to Abusing Democracy, which just makes more sense.

–Pete

Birdie Barage

At a particular portion of Minot Beach in Scituate, just to the north of “Bar Rock,” is a tiny cove, well-protected from the storm surge by a series of offshore rock outcroppings.Screen Shot 2020-08-31 at 5.44.28 PMSee?
When a strong storm blows through, the surf naturally stirs up a lot of seaweed, and currents and wind direction dictate where that seaweed ends up. As you might note from the photo, the northern corner of this cove is a natural spot.

And sometimes, it piles, and it piles, and it piles – into large berms. And when the berms build, the seaweed coming in after it has nowhere to go. So it sits in the languid surf, sodden slop. For days upon days. And it begins to rot and stink. It is one of those “low tide” smells that only lovers of the seashore welcome, even perhaps inhale with a sigh. “Ahhhhh, the ocean!” I have visited dairy farmers who exclaim similarly, but I don’t quite smell the equivalency. Because I’m from the shore.

All of this decomposing flora, naturally, attracts millions of bugs, winged and wingless.

And those bugs attract birds! Lots and lots of birds. [Don’t lie – you had no idea where this was going. You were expecting a rant about stink from a cranky old man.]

I have been to this spot many, many times in the past 25 years, whether the seaweed has been piled four feet high or been sucked out with the tide. The “Bar Rock” beach is an attractive spot for family beach going. Nice protected waters, cool rock to climb, periwinkles and crabs. My son jumped off Bar Rock a hundred times. I walk to the end of the beach at the top of the photo, and climb out onto the rock lege that juts a good 300’ into the surf. At low tide, you can walk out to the end, sit 8’ above the crashing waves, and charge your Mojo big time.

Each time I visit the shore, it is a different discovery.

This past weekend, I popped down for a little me time. The weather wasn’t terrific and the seaweed was stinking pretty good, so the beach was quiet of people. Not so, the shore birds, who were there to get fat.

I walked up to the upper end of the cove. The sea weed was piled 2’-3’ to the high water line, with maybe 15 feet of sand before the wall. You can see the big lawn at the top? There’s a nice 3’ stone wall along that line, good for planting your butt in the soft, dry sand, leaning back, and watching the action.

So I did that. For a good hundred feet to either side of my spot, dozens and dozens of shore birds foraged the seaweed. Least sandpipers, spotted sandpipers, semipalmated sandpipers, sanderlings, lesser yellowlegs, plovers, and my favorite new find, the “Ruddy Turnstone.”1200px-Arenaria_interpres_(habitus)

Can you dig that? (Not my pic)

This was all fun, naturally, but then I discovered why my spot against the wall was so advantageous!

The shore birds were doing fine picking the bugs out of the weeds, but what about all those flies? Who was going to feed on them?

These guys showed up, and the show started.

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They were there to take care of the flies, and they were very efficient at it. For some reason, it appears that the flies enjoyed the area closest to the wall, and so that is where the swallows hunted most aggressively. They would circle off of the seaweed heaps and then race in a straight line down the length of the wall…where I was the only obstacle.

And so there I was, watching barn swallows head straight for me at head-level, and flick off to evade me by a foot. I could feel it and hear it. They circled back repeated their routes. After a few passes, they got used to me, and passed closer. It got so ridiculous, I closed my eyes to see if I could tell when they passed by. I broke out laughing at the discovery that indeed, I could.

The world is in an awful place right now. Awful. Moments like these have taken on a vastly more important role. Make them happen, and make use of them for your peace of mind.

A Lesson in Pool

While doing some housekeeping on my Youtube homepage, I spied a video in the sidebar feed that brought back a lot of memories.

The video was an old (and badly kept) film of a pool match between Willie Mosconi and Minnesota Fats. The emcee for the competition was Howard Cosell. The year was 1978, and I was living at home in Washington, D.C. during the winter, working as a staffer in Senator Edward Brooke’s office. I was twenty-two.

I watched that match on live television with my father, while my mother watched from the kitchen while she cooked. It turns out, we were three of twenty million to tune in – the largest television audience ever for a pool game.

I’ve remembered that day as often as any other lifetime event. We watched silently as Cosell emceed the competition. Willie Mosconi felt both players should keep their jackets on during play (his was a tuxedo jacket). Fats disagreed. He said, “A pool player with a tuxedo is like putting ice cream on a hot dog.” My father groaned – a man who put on his blazer to go to the grocery store. The jackets came off.

Mosconi was a man of few words, and went about his business with an effortless precision while Fats was shooting off his mouth, playing the role of comic hustler. He was obnoxious, and not funny. He was a huckster, and I didn’t like him from the get-go. At one point while Mosconi was setting up a shot and Fats continued to run his mouth, Mosconi looked up at the referee and asked, “are you going to let this continue?”

Mosconi had class. He let his pool cue do the talking. He kicked Fats’ ass at 9-ball, 8-ball, and rotation, ending the competition before they even got to the straight pool game.

My father asked me if my pool game was any good. I said it was okay for a bar room. He said, “In pool, and in life, be like him,” pointing to Mosconi, “not like him,” pointing to Fats.

Some years later, I have no idea how many,  I was visiting my parents at their place in Kennebunk Beach one summer. It was a cold, rainy day. Dad invited me to come along to his afternoon game of pool, played with a half-dozen of his old pals from the past 30 years. Really just an excuse for the gentlemen to begin their scotch drinking a little earlier than usual. They had all known me since childhood, and their children were friends of mine, so it was comfortable for me. I stood to the side and kept a little quiet while the gents worked through their first game of 8-ball.

Then it was my turn, partnered with dad, playing for $5 a head. I broke, then quietly worked my way around the table and finished off banking the 8-ball into the side pocket.

Charlie Shriner, my dad’s best friend for the past 30 years, handed him his $5 and said – in mock disgust, “leave the fuckin’ kid home next time.”

The lesson was remarkably simple. Be a doer, not a talker. Don’t tell people how good you are, show them by example. And wear your blazer.

Fake News

I raised this blog from the dead because I have too much time on my hands.

I have this iPad with Garageband on it. I wrote some thoughts about the current situation, formed them into some words and put them to some music. It’s just me, the production is a little rough, but here’s FAKE NEWS.

Don’t Give Me a Hand!

If there any followers of this blog left to get this, HI! How ya doin’?! Life sure has changed, hasn’t it?

For new visitors: this blog became dormant years back for the reasons blogs go quiet. I’m glad WordPress didn’t delete the blog for non-use, because I can think of no better therapy, and I have the time I haven’t had.

Call this… the Coronavirus Awakening.
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I want to say a few things about hands.

I was just washing my hands with a much greater thoroughness and sense of purpose than I ever have – ever! – and it occurred to me how much I miss the simplest physical contact of a handshake. I thought back to the routines of my former life to try to assess how often I shook hands and reflect on what the gesture means.

Some people are good at handshakes; they put some effort or meaning into it. To others, it is a perfunctory act. You can tell a lot about someone, right off the bat, with a handshake.

One handshake can ignite an instant affinity or attraction that makes you want to know that person better. If I compare my top 5 friends with the quality of their handshakes, I would say there is a high degree of overlap. I don’t happen to have any friends with bad handshakes.

I shook the hand of a very famous celebrity lawyer, at a professional dinner where he collected another award. His hand was sweaty, warm and limp. His gaze was elsewhere. I have a very low regard for the man.

I don’t trust people who don’t look me in the eye when they shake my hand. How do I make that calculus now?

Notable people whose handshakes were memorable to me for their quality: Tip O’Neil, George H.W. Bush, Howard Baker, Joe Moakley, Dan Quayle, John Boehner, Dapper O’Neill, Chuck Colson, Bill Weld and Willie McGinnest. Bill Weld has large hands, but Willie McGinnest has catcher’s mitts that’re so big, he has to be very careful not to squeeze.

Sometime within the past 10-15 years, the “bro hug” began to take over, and the handshake became “step one” into the bro-hug motion. A lot of my contemporaries haven’t quite picked up the bro-hug thing. A few of them relish in taking it to extremes, with ferocious bear hugs that lift you off your feet. I love that shit.

This summer, I’ll really miss that shit. A lot. I hope I don’t have to miss it forever.

I did not expect to celebrate my 65th birthday with the realization that a handshake could literally be deadly.

Stay healthy everyone! #elbowbump

Nixon, Colson and another growth spurt

An Election, Another Explosion

When Nixon was elected in November of 1968, things really began to heat up at Gadsby & Hannah. Colson’s work on Nixon’s behalf had been very much appreciated by Nixon (even if it wasn’t by some of his men), and the opportunities for recompense at the firm were going to be substantial and numerous. In the midst of the burst of publicity and business development following Nixon’s election, Colson thought he would repay his old friend Joe Tauro with a favor.

Tauro’s boss, Governor Volpe, had just been appointed Nixon’s Secretary of Transportation, but Tauro had declined to follow him to Washington as his general counsel. He had a growing family and needed to get into private practice and make some money. Thinking he could help, Colson suggested to Morin that they include Tauro in a story that the Wall Street Journal was working on that identified Gadsby & Hannah as a firm that would have great influence with the new administration. With Morin’s enthusiastic agreement, Colson called Tauro and asked him if it would be alright if they included his name as one of the Boston lawyers who would be a factor with the new administration.

“Well I am a member of the D.C. bar, but I don’t have a Washington office,” Tauro told him.

“That’s okay Joe, I talked it over with Charlie, and we’ve agreed that you can use our office here at Gadsby & Hannah. As long as you tell him you’re coming to Washington, it’ll be okay.”

The Journal reporter called Tauro, he stuck to the script, and his name appeared in the article alongside Colson and Morin as one of the Boston lawyers who would be a big influence with the new administration.

And Tauro did, in fact, spend time in that office, working on a multitude of legal matters that resulted from that news article. He later became the U. S. Attorney for the Massachusetts district in 1972, and that same year was appointed to the U.S. District Court in Boston, where he still presides.

Morin’s Boston-based securities work on behalf of Cantella & Co. and the Boston Stock Exchange had ballooned significantly by the Spring of 1968 – and Morin needed help to get it all done. He turned to a young lawyer from South Carolina to help him. A genuine son of the confederacy, James Treadway was a product of Rollins College (where he was a high-ranking member of the nationally-ranked tennis team) and Washington & Lee University Law School. After two years in Atlanta, he decided to live among the New England Yankees, and was looking for a firm in Boston. He had an exceptional resume, and received offers from all of the top white shoe firms, including Ropes & Gray, Herrick & Smith, Gaston Snow & Ely Bartlett, and Hale& Dorr. But after an hour of talking with Morin, Treadway decided to pass up the big firms to work as Morin’s principal corporate securities man. By this time, Freddie Moss was ensconsed in the Boston Stock Exchange, Cantella & Co. was the 800 pound gorilla on the regional exchanges, Federated’s head-butting with the SEC continued apace, and Germany’s largest bank, Dresdner Bank, had retained Morin to represent its interests in trading on the U. S. regional exchanges. Here was an opportunity for Treadway to jump into deep water and work hand-in-glove with a man who had already proven himself a formidable presence in the corporate securities field.

In the summer 1968, Dresdner wanted to get into the US securities markets. Originally, it wanted to be a member of the NYSE, but they had a rule forbidding foreign members. The regional exchanges –especially Chicago and Boston, allowed–or did not forbid–foreign members.

So Dresdner was engaged in discussions with both Chicago and Boston. They were leaning toward Chicago because it was slightly larger and geographically central, when someone on the CSE floated the rumor that Dresdner had been the major bank for Hitler during WWII. The Dresdner executives went berserk, furious at the CSE for this unfounded slander. Thus, Dresdner Bank bought a membership on the Boston Stock Exchange, and, on the advice of Moss and BSE’s largest trader, Cantella, Dresdner retained Morin to represent its varied and substantial legal interests.

Becoming a member of the Boston Stock Exchange allowed Dresdner to trade stocks listed on the New York Stock Exchange under what were called “unlisted trading privileges”— but not all the NYSE stocks. Dresdner had to apply to BSE for these privileges, but the companies sometimes objected. They had no legal basis to object, but the BSE did not want to have a war with the NYSE or the listed companies, for political reasons. So initially, Morin was asked on occasion to clear the politics so that Dresdner could involve itself in the market for particular securities. He and Treadway would soon have their hands full with Dresdner’s interests when more European banks got into the act and the NYSE began to appreciate how much trading business was being siphoned off to the regional exchanges by foreign banks. These issues, which involved the arcane and complex Glass-Steagall Act and even the German laws regulating banks and securities firms, would eventually come to a boil, and Morin and Treadway would be at the forefront of a frontier

After the successful 1968 campaign against Hubert Humphrey, Colson was asked by Nixon to stay in the White House as counsel to the President, an offer he found impossible to resist. As had been amply demonstrated by his work for Saltonstall and Brad Morse, his political instincts were meticulous and they would lead him to achieve things for Nixon that were highly improbable – such as getting the Teamsters to support Nixon in 1972, and getting James Roosevelt to head the “Democrats for Nixon” organization. Much has been written about the impact of that career decision on Colson’s life, but there would be resulting events in Morin’s life as well.

Colson’s move to the White House in 1969 left Morin to manage the Washington office. For that reason, as well as Treadway’s insistence that there was major securities deal business that could be developed out of D.C., Morin and his wife made the decision to move from Boston to Washington. He had been going back and forth every week for years, spending a good deal of time in airports and trains. In 1963 they had moved their three boys out to a beautiful 18th century colonial in Wayland, but by 1970, Charles, their oldest son, was at Boston University, and James and Peter were at boarding school. Betty had been spending more and more time in Washington – they had taken an elegant apartment at the Sheraton Park Hotel, two floors above Spiro Agnew, in what had come to be called “the Republican Wing.” They kept the house in Wayland another year or two, for holidays and summers, but by 1973 Betty and Charlie considered themselves true Washingtonians –like everybody, from somewhere else. They sold the Wayland home and bought a stately home on Rockwood Parkway, in the elite Spring Valley neighborhood of Washington.

Both Sides of the Aisle

Gadsby & Hannah Goes Bi-partisan

It became apparent by the mid-sixties that Gadsby, Hannah, Colson & Morin was “too Republican.” Several of their clients, including Grumman’s Lew Evans, told them they should get a high-profile Democrat in the firm. It turned out that, at that very moment, Lynch’s pal Dick McGuire was looking for a place to hang his hat – if he were to join, he would add the Democratic powerhouse to the firm. Dan Lynch brought Dick into the office, and they chatted for a long while. Colson had done a good deal of work with McGuire while representing the New England Council. McGuire was very close to the entire Democratic leadership, especially Tip O’Neill, who was then chairman of the House Rules Committee. Due in large part to Lynch’s relationship with McGuire, he was eager to join the firm, but he said he wanted to bring in a lawyer from New Orleans named Merrigan with him. How could they say no?

Morin and Colson reviewed the scenario over a few drinks. Now how would they name the firm? Merrigan wanted his name in it, McGuire too. They came to a practical solution. They were running the firm – who cared what the name of the firm was? So they agreed – they both dropped their names, and the firm became Gadsby, McGuire, Hannah, and Merrigan. Befitting their new powerhouse image, they moved into penthouse offices at 1700 Pennsylvania Avenue, perhaps the most prestigious address in the District, looking out at the White House next door.

In 1968, Florida Senator George Smathers retired from the U. S. Senate. Smathers was elected in 1950 after Harry Truman recruited him to run against Claude Pepper, who had been part of a cabal that attempted to dump Truman from the 1948 ticket. He beat incumbent Pepper soundly, but the race is most famous for a speech Smathers apparently never gave. Smathers was alleged to have given a speech in rural Florida that went something like, “Are you aware that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert? Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law, and he has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper before his marriage habitually practiced celibacy.” No one could prove that he ever said these things, but it has become part of political lore.

Smathers was a friend of Merrigan, and landed at 1700, where business was rolling along stronger than ever.

But not all was fine in the penthouse. Merrigan and Colson did not get along at all. Merrigan was very high-strung and had a ferocious, uncontrollable temper – a brilliant lawyer, and a New Orleans gentleman, except when he got mad. Colson couldn’t resist goading him, and eventually Merrigan had had enough of Colson and left.

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The Mutual Fund Business Explodes

By 1967, due in large part to Morin’s reputation, the firm had been retained to represent the ten largest mutual fund organizations in the country (Keystone, the United Fund, Fidelity, Mass Investors Trust, to name a few) against the SEC’s attacks. The SEC’s offensive, and Morin’s defense of the industry, would eventually culminate in the passage of Investment Company Amendments Act of 1970.

At the same time, there was a ferocious battle going on between the banks and the mutual funds. Banks wanted the rules of their common trust funds relaxed so they could take fees from them and still be exempt from registration with the SEC (giving them a competitive advantage over the mutual funds). One of their most important allies was James Saxon, who was Comptroller of the Currency at the time. Saxon’s top priority as Comptroller was to expand the national banking industry and to liberate national banks from regulation he determined to be unduly burdensome, putting them in direct competition with the mutual funds. During his first year in office, Saxon approved 434 new bank charters, compared to the 237 charters issued in the previous decade.

Five years earlier in February 1962, Saxon had appointed an Advisory Committee of 24 bankers and lawyers to review the findings of a survey conducted with national banks. The committee published its findings the following September in a volume entitled National Banks and the Future. With these recommendations as a foundation, Saxon permitted national banks to engage in businesses they had previously been denied entry to, including the sale of insurance, revenue bond underwriting, and the issuance of credit cards.

These developments exacerbated the disputes between the two industries, to the point where the Investment Company Institute (then called the National Association of Investment Companies) brought a lawsuit against Citibank and the other major national banks to enjoin them from conducting these forms of business. It was a very, very bitter fight between mutual funds and national banks, with billions of dollars at stake.

Saxon was one of Dick McGuire’s cronies in the government. In 1967, he was preparing to leave the Comptroller’s office and enter private business.

Morin received a call one day from Wilfred Godfrey, the chairman of the Keystone Funds. Godfrey, a hard-nosed, crisp Welshman and CPA by training, was calling from Paris.

“Mr. Morin?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Say it isn’t so.”

“What isn’t so?”

“I’m reading in the Herald-Tribune here in Paris that Jim Saxon has become a member of your firm.”

Who?

“James Saxon.”

Morin said emphatically, “No way is he a member of this firm, or ever will be.”

“Well I’m pleased to hear you say that, because obviously our relationship is at an end if he becomes involved in your firm.”

And Morin assured him there was no truth to it, and promised him he would find out how the report had come to light.

Morin and Colson went straight to McGuire, who confirmed that, without consulting either Morin or Colson, he had told Saxon, “I’ve got an office for you, you make the announcement.” So Saxon announced to the press that he was joining the firm.

Colson let McGuire know there was no way that Saxon was coming into the firm.

McGuire said, “it’s Saxon or me.”

Colson said, “It’s you then – good luck!”

And McGuire left, joining with Saxon in a venture that failed in short order.

With McGuire and Merrigan gone, Colson and Morin were once again faced with the name change issue, which they resolved once and for all. The firm would simply be called Gadsby & Hannah, no matter who came or left. And that is the way it remained, even decades after both Morin and Colson had left, until the firm merged with McCarter & English in 2006.

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Growing Pains

While Morin was pulling pranks on Colson, he was also exceedingly busy with high-powered lawyering. By the mid-1960’s, Federated’s problems with the SEC were an almost constant source of work for Morin and his principal litigation partner, Joe Mitchell.

His relationship with Federated, and in particular Jack Donahue and his senior team, Dick Fisher, John McGonigle and Tom Donnelly, deepened – they were all highly intelligent and motivated men who shared strong conservative values and rigorous moral and ethical principles, but they also knew how to enjoy their work and each others’ company. By the early 1960’s, Donahue had developed (with good reason) enormous confidence in Morin’s legal acumen, his mental discipline, and most especially, his fearless pursuit of his client’s interests. Nowhere were these attributes demonstrated more emphatically, and more often, than in Federated’s seemingly endless showdowns with the enforcement and investigative staff of the SEC.

In the mid-1960’s, Federated’s assets under management fell below the minimum $1 million threshold, and the SEC enforcement people went after them with unusual zeal. During a tense, contentious conference, chief staff attorney Sidney Mendelsohn offered a settlement proposal: Federated could continue in business, but Jack Donahue would be barred from the securities industry for life. Morin sat at the far end of the conference table, his clients between him and Mendelsohn, eyeing the regulator inscrutably.

“Fuck you Sidney,” he told the chief counsel of the enforcement division. Mendelsohn’s suggestion infuriated him. The idea that this bureaucrat could accuse Jack Donahue, or any member of the Federated firm, of lacking integrity or honesty was inimical to what he knew of them. He demanded to proceed with an administrative hearing, which he zealously prosecuted with Joe Mitchell.

SEC was represented at the hearing by a man named “Weiner,” pronounced WY-ner. Throughout the proceedings, Mitchell steadfastly called the man WEE-ner, to his burgeoning annoyance. After two months of exhausting head-to-head battering, the SEC caved in. Morin offered them a cosmetic, face-saving fig leaf, but Federated and Donahue remained in business. Donahue’s loyalty had been placed in the right man. And Morin’s fearsome reputation among the SEC enforcement staff had been established.

Joe Mitchell’s status as a foil and partner in the firm changed dramatically one day in early 1966 when Morin received a telephone call from Joseph L. Tauro, who was chief legal counsel to Governor John Volpe (and a Brown classmate of Colson’s). Tauro told Morin that Volpe wanted to help the law firm by appointing Joe Mitchell to the Superior Court bench.

“Bullshit! I can’t afford to lose him!”

Tauro wasn’t taking no for an answer. “Think what this’ll do for his family.”

“Well, don’t put it on the basis that you’re doing us any favor because we don’t want to lose him, but if he wants it, then good enough.”

So after five good years of practicing with Gadsby & Hannah, in 1966 Joe Mitchell became only the fifth black man in Massachusetts history to serve in the judiciary.

The Secretary and the Postmaster

Morin’s frenetic work pace did not distract him from preserving the office culture of well-planned pranks. He occasionally targeted another foil for his carbon trick: Colson himself. On one of these occasions, he  ensnared an unintentional victim.

In January of 1967, Maine Congressman Stan Tupper was newly retired from Congress, looking for a law firm to enter, and was encouraged by Colson to join them at Gadsby Hannah. Morin crafted a letter to Congressman Tupper in which Morin confided that Colson’s addiction to alcohol was a great cause for concern, and Morin felt that the Congressman’s steadying presence in the firm would do Colson good and help him to reach and maintain a state of sobriety.

The carbon went into the Washington file, where it found its way to the desk of Colson’s secretary, Hannah Campbell. Campbell was unaware of the gag, however, and instead of passing the carbon along to Colson, who would immediately get the joke, she rushed down to Capitol Hill to the House of Representatives mailroom, where she attempted to convince the Postmaster to retrieve the letter.

When the Postmaster called Morin to request his assistance in assuring Ms. Campbell that her demand was out of the question, Morin had to confess; and Ms. Campbell impressed the House Postmaster with her command of the idiom.