Cothran

He told me a touching story about a life travail he'd experienced. It was a travail similar to one currently going on in my life, so it was all the more powerful. As he talked, I began to see him in human terms: Hey, this guy ain't that bad. He has problems just like the rest ...

I stopped myself. My God, he was cunning. He must have known his story would resonate. But how? Dear Lord, had he done research on me? Did he find that old criminal case in the East Bay? Was this the point of the delay in meeting me? To have a private eye provide him the information necessary to win advantage?

I stopped myself again. I was falling prey to paranoia.
Oh mercy, was this part of his design too?
In a matter of minutes I had already been knocked off balance.
Little did I realize that the worst was yet to come.

We decided on a date for the race: Jan. 22, a Friday. Again, the choice was well-planned. That's the day I close on a home. On that day, I will have been chewed to the bone and worn out by the vagaries and red tape of the real estate industry. Again, I pondered the evil genius of my adversary: Could it be that Hellman knew this, too? He is a captain of industry. And, oh God no, my real estate agent used to work for the Pacific Stock Exchange, which is a member of the Downtown Conspiracy to Crush Progressive Politics Now and Forever, over which Hellman rides herd. Could it be?

No, it is the paranoia again, I told myself. Another Hellman-devised distraction. I must resist.

I agreed to his proposed date and tried hard not to notice the sound of trapdoors closing behind me.

I was led into Hellman's private gym. There, he played for me a videotape of a strange ritual called Ride and Tie, an athletic event founded by the Levi Strauss & Co. (Hellman is an heir) to publicize its wares. Ride and Tie involves two-person teams: One runs and one rides a horse, racing across mountain ranges. The rider and runner switch roles throughout the 30-some-mile race. Hellman told me he engages in this strange and exacting ritual seven times a year.

I watched in horror as the men and women of the Ride and Tie pushed themselves to Herculean extremes of physical endurance. Just as I thought I couldn't take anymore, there was Warren on the screen riding and tying in cute little shorts and a bandanna jauntily knotted around his neck. I felt sick. Dear God, what had I gotten myself into?

Already rung dry by the negotiations, I proceeded to the mysteries of the so-called "stretch class."

I was introduced to Hellman's personal trainer, Dawn, a serious-looking blonde with well-defined muscles I had no idea existed. She smiled that smile that says "I will crush you if you cross me little man" and led me to the foam mat of my destruction.

I will not go on in too much detail about the humiliations I suffered there. Suffice it to say F. Warren Hellman is a limber little minx, and I am not.

His well-crafted plan of intimidation had worked its evil ways on me. I shook his hand and walked out of his lair a broken man.

But worry not. I'm going ahead with the race. I will show up on the southern embankment of the Golden Gate Bridge at 7:30 in the morning on Jan. 23, and I will race F. Warren "The Minx" Hellman. I am, if not a man of physical prowess, a man of my word.

Between then and now I will be deep in thought with my trusted circle of advisers, if I can drag them off their respective barstools. We will be crafting a plan of devious precocity; we will also be playing to win. I can't take the easy way out and simply exercise, get in shape, and compete honorably. That would be pedestrian.

And I don't think F. Warren Hellman, that evil genius of class warfare, would appreciate such a prosaic approach to competition.

No, this game requires deeper, more Richelieuian flourishes. And let me be clear: I make these preparations not out of spite, but deep respect.

F. Warren Hellman has taught me an important lesson on how the world works. It was a hard lesson to learn. But now I am ready to show my mentor how far I've come.

I hope I make him proud.

He's Come Undone?
I see District Attorney Terence Hallinan has now engaged, for the third time in recent memory, in an unethical private communication with a judge. I can't help but think something terrible is going on with our district attorney. It seems like every time I turn around, he is making yet another boneheaded move reminiscent of a first-year law student who is stumbling through a mock trial. And it's making me wonder: Is there something fundamentally wrong with Terence Hallinan? Like, does he have a major malfunction we all don't know about?

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