Monday, August 2, 2010

Day 212: Coffee with Ian Graham

Unbillable Hours by Ian Graham. So worth it.

At times, when I title my posts Coffee with Charles Bukowski, Coffee with Hugh MacLeod, Coffee with Sabrina Ward Harrison or Coffee with Julia Cameron, I'm actually having coffee with their books.

But in this post, I'm kinda sorta somewhat having coffee with Ian Graham, author of Unbillable Hours.

Kinda sorta somewhat?

Let me explain. Ian and I go to the same coffee shop.

That is definitely not the same as having coffee with someone. 

You're right. To be more accurate, we have spoken in line at the coffee shop before we got our coffees, while waiting for our coffees and at the milk bar adding milk and sugar to our coffees.

But you've never actually had coffee with him. 

No. I have not.

Doesn't count.

What are you? Judge and jury?

Ahhhh, that brings me back to the reason for this post.

I've been observing Ian Graham for a few years now. I've watched him come and go. I've wondered about him. And I've even prayed for him.

That's friggin' creepy.

Yeah. A bit. I noticed him at first because I liked his car. He'd often pull into the parking lot as I pulled out. It was an Audi and I was considering buying an Audi with my new plush paychecks from my new Associate Creative Director job at a highfalutin advertising agency. Then I noticed him because we happened to be in line at the coffee shop for a bunch of days in a row. He was friendly but quiet. So was I. You can't judge anyone before they have a few sips of coffee. We're all a bit groggy.

Then something weird happened. I started seeing him everywhere. I'd see him in the park, in restaurants, on the street, at the farmer's market. Almost daily. If I was crossing the street, it was his car at the stop sign. If I was grabbing a beer at a pub, he had just grabbed his.

I think it was a bit odd for both of us.

And that was when we acknowledged seeing each other. I saw him out of the corner of my eye many more times than that. We didn't actually talk to each other beyond the odd word, wave or smile and we certainly didn't bring up the weirdness of seeing each other all over the place. I was, and still am, too shy for all that. I was willing to know him, but you know how it is. We both, it seemed, always had somewhere else to be. 

This odd quiet weaving in and out of each others daily lives was like being haunted—but by someone who isn't dead. Or it's like being in on a cosmic joke but the cosmos won't let you in on the punchline. Seeing Ian happened enough for me to ask God about it in the silence of my meditations. "Just send good vibes his way" was the answer I got. So, I'd send good vibes his way and leave it at that. Then I'd see him later and wonder why all over again.

After awhile I saw him change. His cars got fancier but he seemed sadder. As if his life force was slowly depleting. He looked tired and spent. This guy appeared to be my age. He shouldn't be so old. On the rare occasion when I could not help but say something to him because we would almost literally bump into each other, I'd stammer out a "Where are you off to?"

"Work" was his most popular answer.

Until two days ago.

I, nearly literally, bumped into him at the coffee shop again. This time I stopped and talked before my shyness took hold. I asked him what he'd been up to and he told me he'd just been on a book tour.

(This is the moment when the record player screeches and stops.)

Turns out, all those days of depletion were from his attorney days at Latham & Watkins, a very fancy law firm in downtown LA. He found himself with a grueling schedule and on a murder case. Turns out... well, I won't tell you how it turns out. He wrote it all down and now it's a book. Get the book.

After I read the first chapter, that was it. I accepted that I had to switch around my schedule to read the rest of the book. It was that good. I also learned why I got "Just send good vibes his way" because he sure as shit needed it.

Love it when you swear.

Plus, I learned how parallel our lives were during all this time of running into each other.

When he was overworked, I was overworked.

When he spent countless hours in traffic, I spent countless hours in traffic.

When he couldn't keep a relationship because of his grueling schedule, neither could I.

When he saw his life disappearing due to his job, I saw the same in mine.

When he bought expensive toys to compensate, so did I.

When he left his corporate America job to write a book, I... well you'll have to stay tuned for that one. Wink. My coworkers read this blog.

Do yourself a solid and read Unbillable Hours by Ian Graham. The gist of the book from Amazon:
"Landing a job at a prestigious L.A. law firm, complete with a six figure income, signaled the beginning of the good life for Ian Graham. But the harsh reality of life as an associate quickly became evident. The work was grueling and boring, the days were impossibly long, and Graham’s main goal was to rack up billable hours. But when he took an unpaid pro bono case to escape the drudgery, Graham found the meaning in his work that he’d been looking for. As he worked to free Mario Rocha, a gifted young Latino who had been wrongly convicted at 16 and sentenced to life without parole, the shocking contrast between the quest for money and power and Mario’s desperate struggle for freedom led Graham to look long and hard at his future as a corporate lawyer."
Now when I see Ian around town, I won't wonder. And it's unlikely that we'll ever sit down and have a coffee as this post title suggests. But I think I'll still send him good vibes. I've been doing it so long it's become a habit.

A good habit?



  1. Speaking of good read... todays blog. So good.

  2. Yeah, yeah, murder case, discovered what he really wanted to do with his life, good read. Okay, here's what I'm thinkin': If he didn't sell the Audi maybe you can steal it at a good price. That was the point of the post right? You're welcome.

  3. Wait a second. I got stuck at the "I was, and still am, too shy for all that."

    You're shy? Got me fooled! :)

  4. Oh Cassandra. It's true, I'm super shy. I can be scaredy cat.


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