6 minutes reading time (1266 words)

Under Oath: Christopher Eley


Chris and I met at a coffee shop on a beautiful morning. We spent a moment catching up and then dove into to the questions.

Q. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A. “Hummm…. Can it include chocolate?” He joked. Staring across the room he pondered over the question as I sipped my tea. “I believe it requires balance. That tends to be a problem with lawyers today; to be useful in the law and still trying to have a full life outside of the office. I think most of us struggle with that, and the struggle is always changing.”

Q. What is your greatest fear?
A. “I’m going to skip this one,” he stated firmly, but politely. The fifth was not plead, nor did he allude to a possible response nor the reason why he chose to remain silent on the matter. It was succinct, respectable and we continued on.

Q. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
A. “Oh thanks!” He retorted playfully throwing his hands in the air while laughing. Leaning slightly across the table he shook a finger playfully, “It’s like you’re my therapist!” he teased. After considerable thought he reluctantly claimed, “Procrastination.”

Q. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
A. “I guess I should say procrastination,” he began, alluding to his previous admission. “But I am going to say… dishonesty.”

Q. What is your greatest extravagance?
A. “Well,” he started slowly truly stumped by the question. “I am not given to a lot of extravagance, but I do have a boat; a sail boat. I would describe that as a luxury; having a boat,” he offered. Then he shot up in his chair as if to correct himself. “But it is certainly not a luxurious boat by any means!” he chuckled. “Nothing fancy about it.”

Q. What is your favorite journey?
A. “On two different occasions I’ve gone to countries where the culture was, how do I say this…not modern? It’s as if they were back in time, where life was a little bit slower and simpler. I went to Tibet and I imagine that there would be similarities to if I were able to go back to the 14th century. It was captivating! And I also went to Africa, where people lived in simple huts which they made out of their local natural resources.”

Q. Tell me just one thing about yourself that most people do not know.
A. “One of my hobbies is making paper.” After I clarified that I heard correctly, which I had, he proceeded to show me some beautiful pictures of what can only be described as art, not simply “paper.” “You see,” he explained, “I have all this used paper from the office, and even though I put it into the ‘recycle’ bin, I know a lot of it does not actually get repurposed. So I began to play with it, and began to make paper, eventually adding plant material to it as well.” He talked about the laborious process of transforming old rough draft pleadings into beautiful custom, one-of-a-kind pieces of paper. He would add leaves, flowers, and other items pressing them into the paper until it was one piece of “paper,” without losing the identity of the diverse materials. When I inquired what he did with the paper he smiled and asked coyly, “Would you like some?”

Q. What do you dislike most about your appearance?
A. “Oh…” he stated leaning back in his chair as if he were caught off guard. Letting his charade of surprise drop he divulged, “I guess I have always been sensitive about my ears.”

Q. Which words of phrases do you most overuse?
A. Despite his great efforts, he surrendered and admitted, “I just can’t think of one!”

Q. What is your greatest regret?
A. “Oh gosh!” he gasped. “Am I being difficult if I say I don’t have one?” he asked. “Honestly, I cannot think of one great regret, but maybe…” He paused for a moment as he reveled in his thought. “Maybe that is a good thing.”

Q. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
A. “Oh,” he exclaimed as if his answer were one I ought to have had memorized, “My wife of course! Certainly, her! We have been married for 34 years. Her name is Tola, which is not common here, but it appears in a lot of other languages. Tola, in India, it is a weight of gold.”

Q. When and where were you happiest?
A. After concluding that a single moment could not suffice, he stated, “I think I am happiest in the mountains. In the silence.” He reminisced, “I often go to Yosemite… just beautiful.”

Q. Which talent would you most like to have?
A. The frequent smile returned to his face. “It would be fun to be able to sing. Not necessary well even!” he joked. “Life could be a musical!” He spoke about a restaurant in New York where the servers sing back and forth throughout the restaurant. Of course, I had to look it up (Ellen’s Stardust Diner) and I have since added it to my own bucket list.

Q. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing what would you like to be?
A. “I think for happiness… I’d be a German shepherd.”

Q. What is your most treasured possession?
A. He thought for a while giving serious thought, but concluded that he “just doesn’t have one.”

Q. What is your favorite occupation?
A. “You mean, if I weren’t a lawyer? Because I think law is a wonderful profession. Although it can be hard on one at times,” he admitted. I pressed for an alternative to the legal profession. “If not law?” He pondered. “Probably a journalist or investigative writer.”

Q. What is your most marked characteristic?
A. Smiling with a soft chuckle and directing his eyes at me for support, “perhaps I can ask you that?” he teased. He gave great consideration to the question posed, and, in the end, deducted a logical response. “Self-knowledge?” he laughed. “I really don’t know. I would have to refer to others on that one.”

Q. What do you most value in your friends?
A. The question hung on the air for a solid minute as he invested in his coffee while deep in thought. “I like to have friends who are intellectually interesting and who introduce me to things or experiences I would not get to on my own.”

Q. Who are your favorite writers?
A. “John le Carré (which is the pen name for David John Moore Cornwell) who is a British novelist and Robert Harding who wrote Officer and a Spy, Dictator, and many other books.” We spoke about some of our favorite books and our love for reading and the horrible misfortune of not enough time to read all the books to our heart’s content.

Q. Who are your heroes in real life?
A. He whistled, shaking his head with a hint of sadness. “Thirty-eight years of being a lawyer has made me skeptical of humans and even the concept of ‘heroes’. But,” he began, “I am hoping that Robert Mueller will turn out to be a hero.”

Q. Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
A. “Probably George Smiley, who is the hero of some of John le Carré’s books. And D’Artagnan from The Three Musketeers.” He paused and asked, “Can I have two?” I laughed and before I could respond he affirmed, “I am just gonna have two!”

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