I recently watched a screening of the movie, The House I Live In, the important Drug War/ Prison Reform documentary directed by the director Eugene Jarecki. I probably don’t have to tell many of you about the rich body of work produced by Jarecki – it’s impressive. But in this case, he has moved beyond story teller to becoming an assertive social justice missionary whose post-documentary work in the field makes me proud and awestruck.
This blog, however, is about my first encounter a little over a decade ago.
In my previous life as a real estate attorney in Westchester (mostly in Westchester), I was the lawyer representing a neighborhood group against the size & scope of the Mormon Temple proposed for a site at the intersection of the Hutchinson River Parkway and the Cross Westchester Parkway. It was a very big deal and put my law firm on the map.
I was referred to a couple who lived next door to the then-being-built Golf Club at Purchase. They had a big problem as the massive clubhouse was proposed to be relocated to loom over their home. I went to see them at their home and first thing upon meeting them, they announced that I was entering the “Herman Tarnower House” – the very house where Jean Harris had shot and killed Dr. Tarnower. They grabbed me by the arm and showed me the bullet holes in the walls. It was the start of a fascinating and wonderful friendship – the Missus herself was the United States National Canasta Champion, with loads of interesting stories to tell.
They sold the Tarnower house and moved to an even larger home in Harrison, next door to the Jarecki’s. Of course, as wealthy Jews who knew every other wealthy Jews’ business in the neighborhood (I’m Jewish, I can say these things), they knew all about the Jarecki’s Moviefone deal, and every last detail of Jarecki family business – or so they thought. They took me under their wing and practically took me door-to-door introducing me to all the Harrison hoi polloi – including the Jarecki’s. I guess they thought the Jarecki’s were just the kind of family I should be representing – after all, I was General Counsel to a bunch of other wealthy Westchester families & their businesses.
And they gave me sage advice along the way – such as, the most important thing in life was to just keep showing up. They assured me that if I could do that, nothing could stand in my way. I think they were very intuitive – the way great card players must be – because I was already heading for my bottom. They must have known it and were desperately trying to save me from myself.
But it was too late – the deed was done. It wasn’t too long after that that I resigned my law license, went to rehab, got arrested and went to prison.
Of course, there’s a redemption story too – but that’s the stuff of another blog.
Director, Progressive Prison Project