Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

I Am Meeting A Judge!

Last week on a clear cold day, I had a closing with an NYS Supreme Court Justice in downtown NYC. So I entered a grandiose Court House and met with Justice John Kelly.

After clearance and security, I walked to the elevator bank to the Judge’s chambers. The room was wood-paneled, filled with old pictures and ample cabinets. The most massive cabinet looked like a bar; as I soon learned, it was, in fact, a bar. I knew this would be a fun closing with twists and turns.

The Glasses Are Singing With Drink

The Judge introduced himself with tumbler glasses clicking and banging. Judge Kelly was chubby with light grey hair and was smoking a pipe. His glasses were low on his nose, which exposed large droopy eyes with massive eyebrows. He looked like a judge out of Hollywood casting.

As soon as I introduced myself, the Judge asked straightforwardly, not if I wanted to drink, but what type of drink I wanted. I told him I could not drink because I had a business meeting that night. The Judge looked bewildered by my answer and responded with a WHAT!! I explained that I was meeting a VP of a technology company that night. I explained I was SR. VP for a data company, the meeting was with a potential account.

Who Do I Look Like/Whom Am I?

Stepping back, the Judge was evaluating me from head to foot. He said immediately; I do not look like a notary; I do not sound like one, and I do not dress like a notary. Next, he asked why I was doing closings. I told the Judge I was making extra money as a notary for my family and kids. After additional questioning, which was more like a cross-examination, I continued to tell him I had a daughter who had just gotten married and another daughter in graduate school.

I continued to explain this was my second job to make extra cash and regain and maintain a stable lifestyle. The Judge gave me a big pat on my back as he kept his glass of whiskey steady in his other hand. He took a swig of the whiskey and told me my demeanor and work ethic were commendable and that he was impressed as he had never met a notary like me. I was never a typical anything and knew I was not a regular notary. I also knew I had never met a drinking Judge.

Let’s Have Another

There was another opening for the Judge to drink! The Judge twisted his body as he raised his glass; since I was not dull, let’s have a drink together. I just smiled and thanked him for his kind words. He raised his glass with another shot, filled to the brim, toasted me, and implored me to join him.

Thus, I sensed a real sadness and that the drinking was filling a void in his life. First, he told me he was a million-dollar defense attorney and defended Wall Street brokers who stepped over the line and deceived their companies and the public. Then, finally, he decided after 25 years to give up his lucrative law practice and become a judge. The Judge told me he loved his work, but his life outside his chambers was not happy.

We All Have Different Paths

Judge Kelly went on to say to me with great disdain that his wife never forgave him for giving up his million-dollar income as a defense lawyer to become and attain the respected position of a Supreme Court Justice. He also told me his wife continued to live a wealthy’s life even though his income was 20%-30% from his private practice years. I kept thinking about how I gave up a million-dollar-plus house and moved to a 500 sq. foot studio with my wife as we reinvented ourselves.

Accordingly, the Judge and I adjusted pretty differently to our new realities. He also told me how both his kids were doing nothing with their lives, and he would never give them money no matter what! The Judge told me his kids were spoiled-rotten, and one was in drug rehab. He again stated how he admired my work and kept drinking with a wink in his droopy eyes. He just laughed as he went on and on and kept drowning his sorrows. I stopped counting the drinks, but I think the Judge was up to 5–6 shots.

Never Judge A Book By Its Cover-Literally

I thought I was in a therapy session as Judge Kelly put his life and soul on the table. His soul was there for the world to see as plain as sight. As the session/closing continued, I held his hand as he signed documents. He was getting red-faced and had trouble controlling the pen. His signature was not clear, and it looked like a scribble. Finally, we concluded the closing; he thanked me and wished me luck. He shook my hand long and hard. The Judge’s face was dripping with sweat. With his mouth turning in, the Judge told me he does not talk to his kids and hardly talks to his wife. It was unfortunate, and I felt sorry for him.

As a notary, I run around like a crazy man from appointment to appointment, crisscrossing the city by foot and subway. Yet, I know I walk with pride and a great sense of purpose as I trek. I continue to climb back from a deep bottom step by step in more ways than I could ever know and imagined.

The journey from world trekking to notary trekking and the lessons learned continue. — reinvention, discovery, and keeping it real.