July 2006


Today I moved from my little east village apartment to my little west village apartment and I could not be more smug about this development. Little west village apartment is perfect- it has a shower that lives in the bathroom and a stove, and a refrigerator, and a microwave, and a dresser, and a Belgain beer bar across the street…

I could go on, but I would start to get boring, telling you over and over again how charmed I am by my neighborhood, plus as I was in the process of writing this, a piece of the ceiling in the hallway outside my door fell down and dumped a big pile of very old and very scary looking celing parts onto the ground.

So I guess it’s not perfect.

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I suck at this meme thing, because I’m so bored thinking about what’s in my closet I can hardly bear to type it, let alone subject you to it, but then I remembered that I always enjoy reading these when other people do them, so I’d better sack up. Thanks to SamJo for giving me my first tag! I’m flattered.

Five items in my freezer:

I do not currently have a freezer (see “teeny tiny shitty apartment,” below). Thanks for rubbing that in. Stupid meme. But I will try to remember things that are in my lovely freezer in my lovely kitchen in my lovely apartment in Chicago. Sniffle.

  1. A carton of Ben and Jerry’s coffee toffee that’s so close to empty its not worth eating, but over which John and I have nonetheless reached an impasse as neither of us wants to throw it away because that would be wasting food
  2. Half a baguette
  3. Trader Joe’s sweet potato fries
  4. Basil ice cubes
  5. Mojito sorbet

Five items in the closet:

  1. Tupperware box of knitting supplies
  2. Red feather boa from bachelorette party
  3. 47 unworn flannel nightgowns given to me by my grandmother for every birthday, Christmas, Easter, Arbor Day, etc since I was 10.
  4. Pair of hipster jeans stolen from little sister.
  5. Two Frisbees; one dog-chewed, one not.

Five items in my car:

  1. two empty diet Pepsi cans.
  2. my employment law textbook
  3. my constitutional law textbook
  4. an old parking ticket (oops)
  5. a well worn Road Atlas

Five items in my backpack:

  1. A book for my morning commute
  2. Two Wild Sweet Orange teabags
  3. Flip flops
  4. Moleskine notebook I’m using to try to break my bad habit of writing down terribly important pieces of information on scraps of paper that inevitably get lost
  5. Bodyglide (it prevents blisters, pervs.)

Five people I tag:

Um, I’m really no good at tagging. I also suck at chain letters, petitions I’m meant to pass on through the internet, and returning phone calls. But if this speaks to you and you’d like to be tagged, consider yourself tagged.

When I first was looking for sublets in New York, a lot of people I talked to about their apartments told me right away that their apartments lacked air conditioning. It had been about 98 degrees in New York for most of July, and these people were melting- their popsicles were melting, their soap was melting, their hairdos were melting- and they really wanted me to know what I was getting into if I rented their apartment. I appreciated that, if only because it seems like someone who confesses their apartment’s temperature regulation problems on the first phone call seems unlikely to be trying to rip me off or scam me into some sort of “Cheap room in exchange for backrubs!” kind of arrangement.

While I appreciated their candor, however, I did not actually listen to what they were trying to tell me. I didn’t much care about whether the apartments had air conditioning or not. I actually kind of hate air conditioning. I can’t sleep with it on at home or I wake up with a sore throat. I despise the chilled, sterile feeling of over air-conditioned offices. I’m a big fan of fans.

I had, of course, forgotten what New York is like in the summer. I lived in the Bronx for a summer four years ago (as an aside, it freaked me out when I counted back and realized it was four years ago because where the hell did those four years go?) when it was also record-breaking hot in New York, and I have never looked or felt so awful and dowdy for such a prolonged period of time as I did that summer. My hair was an unmanageable mess of frizz, my clothes clung to my body from the unstoppable sweating, and I was covered with a fine layer of chalk dust at the end of every day (more a function of my job as a summer school teacher than the heat, but it definitely was not helping me look any better.) I slept in an un-air-conditioned building with the other girl teachers in my program and would have killed any one of the boy teachers if it meant I would have gotten to take their spot in the air-conditioned building. I don’t know how I could have forgotten all of this. It was miserable.

And so it is in New York in the summer: miserable. (And smelly, but that’s for another post.) I’ve been okay with actually sleeping in my apartment so far, with a ceiling fan droning all night to keep me cool, but the exertion that comes from waking up, showering in the kitchen, and getting ready for work is enough to drench me in sweat. The subway is, of course, the hottest place in the city, if not on all of God’s green earth, which causes me to sweat even more and develop attractive armpit sweat stains to add to my already sort of deflated appearance. I arrive at work damp, frizzy-haired, bangs plastered to forehead sleeping toddler-style, and very very hot. Within 5 minutes, I’m shivering from the dreaded air conditioning. This is not a good look for me.

What I want to know is this: how do all the other women in my office manage to look fresh and well-pressed in this shit? Seriously. It’s like some sort of New York secret that they aren’t sharing with outsiders. So if you know a way that I could arrive at work looking more like an office worker and less like someone who’s just come from birkam yoga class, please please please tell me how.

Dear Person from the United States Military Academy who was referred to my blog by doing a google search for the word “nudist:” Ew.

Same goes for whoever it is who visits EVERY SINGLE DAY based on a search for “anna/nicole/smith/fat.” Seriously. Ew. Stop.

Back when Stark Raving Crazy Bitch still said she intended to sublet to me, she told me that her apartment would only be available from August 5 through 26th. Since I arrived in New York on July 22, this presented something of a problem. So back to craigslist I went, looking for a place that was available from July 22-August 5. So anxious was I to find a place for these exact dates, thus avoiding double booking myself and having to pay for two apartments on some nights, that I sort of ignored some of the finer points of these craigslist postings, like “proximity to public transit” and “existence of a kitchen in the apartment.”

So it is that I come to be settled in the East Village’s coziest shoebox, which was available for exactly the dates I needed and thus I practically threw myself at the feet of the craigslist poster, begging her to pick me. It has some charming, if somewhat unexpected, features:

* The “kitchen” consists of a hotplate and a mini fridge that appears to be older and more decrepit than the mini fridge I had my freshman year of college, which is unlikely to mean much to you but I ask you to take my word for it is a Very Bad Thing.

* The lamp above the bed, with the all-important attached fan, appeared for the first four hours I was here to be completely nonfunctional until, in a fit of frustration, I picked up a remote control that I assumed operated the stereo, pushed “power,” and the lights and fan came on. Hallelujah!

* The “bathroom” is the same room as the “kitchen,” by which I mean the shower, a jerry-rigged contraption of pipes and curtains suspended above a free-standing tub, is right next to the kitchen sink and less than two feet from (a) the fridge, (b) the hot plate, and (c) the front door. Using the same sink for kitchen and bathroom purposes has turned out to be much more unsettling than I expected.

* There is no closet, dresser, card table, plastic bin, or any other storage area to place clothes. I am beginning to suspect that the person who lives here full time is a nudist, which is making me feel even more creeped out than I was before about sleeping on her bedding.

There are some good points, though. What the apartment lacks in creature comforts it makes up for in musical elements. I have concluded that the permanent tenant is a musician (a nudist musician?) and the place is crammed full of cds of all types of music, many hundreds of them, thousands and thousands of dollars worth of music. This is, I suppose, an excellent way to invest your money when you are living in an apartment with a faulty lock (did I forget to mention that part?) as it is sort of hard and not that rewarding to steal hundreds of cds in their jewel cases (“Stop! Thief! The one with cd cases falling out of his backpack!”) There is also, sitting by the front door, (immediately opposite the shower/sink/kitchen) the string board of an old piano that makes loud, dissonant, horror-movie sounds when it is accidentally struck by something like your keys or your bookbag, which adds a nice measure of ambiance. I’m sort of hoping that any thief who is tempted by the faulty lock will barge in, knock the door into the string board of the piano, hear the resulting ominous dissonant chord, be terrified, and run away screaming. It’s a Nudist Musician Burglar Alarm System! ™

I move into my new place on Sunday. Five nights. Not that I’m counting.

When I started law school, I did not ever intend to be a law firm lawyer. (In point of fact, I never even intended to take the bar exam. I intended to be some kind of low-income person’s renaissance woman, teaching the little ones and dispensing free legal advice and cooking casually elegant meals for the crowds of people who would flock to my charmingly rustic yet well-appointed apartment to enjoy my company. I was woefully misinformed about the technicalities of legal licensing and also perhaps the teensiest bit delusional.) But, as Dutch put it so aptly recently, I envisioned myself as some sort of female teacher-goddess version of the next Clarence Darrow, committed to serving justice and righting wrongs and, in my particular case, working to make educational equality more of a reality through carefully-planned legal action instead of just more talk and blather.

My mother, never one to hide her feelings, took me aside after a particularly insufferable outburst on how I intended to save the world and said: “If you graduate from law school without ever having worked at a law firm, you’re going to regret it for the rest of your life.” Now, it’s true that Mom is drawn to hyperbole (this is, after all, the same woman who said, after I told her I wasn’t planning to change my name when I got married, “well, I hope you’re prepared for a lifetime of heartache and confusion!”) but she had a point. Without ever working in a law firm, and without ever knowing in real life anyone who worked in a law firm, I had ruled them out entirely, which was maybe not fair. Plus, they pay gobs and gobs of money to their summer employees, which became more tempting as the student loan debt began to mount. So I decided to take my mom’s advice and work at a law firm for half of this summer (thus also conveniently sidestepping 40 years of her saying “don’t you ever wonder what might have happen if you’d just given it a shot at a law firm?”) And, as you might have read here, it was pretty good. The people were truly great- smart and funny and interesting and well-informed- all the things I longed for when I was teaching, frankly. And, as promised in my interviews, law firms (or at least the one I was at) do good work. My firm was kind enough to sniff out my public interest leanings and staff me almost exclusively on a pro bono case for the second half of my time there, and the case was fascinating- important, with the potential for nation-wide impact, and an opportunity to work with some really smart people.

I know what you’re thinking: you’re thinking that this is where I’m going to tell you that I had it all wrong about law firms. I’m going to tell you that I’ve seen the light, and really the best way to practice public interest law is from within a law firm, where you are wrapped in a cozy blanket of financial security and you can “leverage the firm’s resources behind the pro bono work to really make an impact.” That’s certainly the line law firms feed you during on-campus interviewing when you ask about pro bono work. Indeed, I did see how nice it can be to be working on behalf of poor people with the benefit of unlimited copy paper, unfettered use of Westlaw, and a word processing department to type in all the changes we made to the dozens of drafts of our amended complaint and memorandum of support. It takes some of the stress away, that nagging tension you feel when you’re trying to walk the tightrope between effective advocacy and responsible financial choices and wonder whether your cost-saving measures come at a cost to your client’s case.

But I didn’t drink that deeply of the Kool-Aid. The resources are great, but I also know that as a full-time law firm lawyer you never get to spend 50% of your time working on a pro bono matter, because you have to bill hours to paying clients. And while I don’t like worrying that I’ve shortchanged my client in my cost-cutting measures, I do like the sense of ownership that comes from doing all pieces of a case. When there’s no word processing department, you’re typing the brief and editing it and making changes and filing it yourself. And sometimes that’s stressful, but it also lets you see the whole process. The attorneys I worked with did a great job of explaining my assignments to me and giving me a sense of the larger case and the big issues at play, but when it got right down to it, I was a very well-compensated research assistant.

So today I head to New York, and on Monday I start my public interest internship, where there are sure to be fewer lunches at swank restaurants and where there will definitely NOT be a Word Processing department. But hopefully, during my six weeks there, they’ll be short handed enough that they’ll give the intern some actual work of consequence to do, and I’ll get to learn a whole lot more about foster care and how it works (and, more importantly, how it doesn’t,) than I know now. Hopefully, I’ll come to the conclusion that underpaid but meaningful-to-me public interest work is the direction I want to take for my career. I’ll also be sure to entertain the non-law interested people among you with tales of how fantastically I manage to screw up using NY transit and sad sad stories of eating cereal for dinner 14 days in a row. You’ll be riveted, I promise.

Recently seen on one of those poster-sized advertisements pasted to the inside of the door of a bathroom stall in a bar:

Putting on lipstick won’t make your butt skinny.
–Bally Total Fitness

My response? “Shit, I forgot to cancel my gym membership!”

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