Monday, May 26, 2008

Nationals Park

Yesterday, L, Hank, Henry, and I went to see the Nationals play the Brewers at Nationals Park, the latest jewel in the crown of Southeast DC. I was very excited to check out the new park, and it did not disappoint. Rather than old-timey brick and wrought iron of Camden Yards and its imitators, this park was spare and basic, a simple limestone-colored structure wrapping around the diamond. Each concourse was open to the field; anywhere inside the building you could see the grass, hear the crowd, feel the breeze. We entered from the Metro and walked towards the main entrance at center field, where you make your way through a lively promenade with plenty of options for food and drink. Between the roving crowds, and the cloudless sky, it felt like a day at the beach.

My favorite part of the experience, though, were the mascots. They had enormously-headed versions of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt blundering all around the stadium. They were taking photos with student groups and making a few little kids burst into tears; at one point they were racing around the outfield, and Abe Lincoln came tearing through to take first place. I found the whole thing funny and irreverent, but not disrespectful; like the new park itself, there is a sense of levity that doesn't detract from the strong sense of history, civic identity, and even some good old Washington pride. There was a surprising number of Washington caps and shirts worn throughout the ballpark; I was really glad I had mine, too.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Wedding dance

You know what was wonderful about Ashesh and Mona's wedding, besides the marriage of two of our favorite people at a beautiful place on a lovely early summer day? The fact that L and I basically burned through the dance floor with our awesomeness.

Many of the guests at this party were Ashesh and Mona's relatives from South Asia, so the music was a carefully calibrated mix of American hip and hop and pop alongside all sorts of south Asian dance tunes. Obviously L and I were out of our seats for the American music, but as the bhangra tracks blared, and all the Indian relatives were storming the dance floor in their suits and saris, we hung around and tried to follow their lead: bouncing our shoulders, dipping our arms, keeping our hands high as we changed the light bulb or shimmied our hips. There was a fine line to walk between respectful imitation and boorish mimicry, but we did all right. Ashesh's sister told us that she had been afraid that the white people would clear the floor when the DJ called out, "Desis, this one's for you!" but she was glad to see us still dancing, and that we were putting her relatives to shame.

As the evening progressed, the DJ returned to American tunes, and he hit upon a gold mine: a sizzling mix of current hip hop and dance tracks. After an imploring look from Ashesh we returned to the dance floor alongside everyone else. Eventually, though, the other guests seemed to have filtered away, and L and I realized: we were the only ones dancing.

Did that stop us? Of course not. The DJ kept earning his money as the songs got better and better -- we were dancing by ourselves, making the most of the space, dipping and spinning and twisting and popping and shuffling and even grinding (they can't get mad at us, we're white and married, is what I thought when I briefly worried about what some of the older, more traditional guests might think). I realized that people were watching us, and even cheering and oohing as we moved around the floor. My eyes were locked with L's. We were hot, sweating. The wedding photographer was all over us, swooping around and squatting and putting himself in our midst like we were Lindsay Lohan. My fear now is that Ashesh and Mona are going to see eight hundred photos of us dancing like fools and mouthing the words to songs, and unfortunately that will be part of the official record of this wedding.

At the end of the night, as the wedding guests had dwindled to about 20 of us, the DJ gave us a special shout-out from his perch and people clapped for us. The photographer complimented us and said we had been very entertaining and a pleasure to shoot. Someone else told us we seemed so happy and carefree out there, and that it looked like L and I had a great relationship, and that we must practice all the time. I thought: actually, we do.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Thoughts on graduating

Today the darnedest thing happened: I graduated from law school. That means I don't go to law school anymore, because I took all the classes and I passed them and now I'm qualified to do new, different things, and those things don't require me to go to law school anymore. See?

I heard that both L and Mom got choked up at graduation, as the procession began and we all marched to our seats in our chunky maroon robes. I was surprised to find myself nonchalant about the whole thing. I did get nervous when we stood to walk across the stage. I didn't want to stumble, or have my scarf thing get twisted, or have some weird hair issues with the silly beret they made us wear. I really enjoyed clapping for people as they received their diplomas: my friends, people who did really well and got honors, people I didn't know but sort of liked anyway, people who made me laugh in class through their humor or pretension or weirdness or utter implacability. I also enjoyed not clapping for the people I didn't like; I felt oddly empowered to be able to deny my applause to those people.

The speakers were uniformly good, and intelligent, and concise. They emphasized the relationships and family dynamics that characterized the law school, and talked about the importance of public service and time with your loved ones amid the hectic practice of law. They seemed actually human, in a profession that can seem bureaucratic and petty beyond belief. It made me hopeful, and it reminded my that my future is a completely blank canvas. There is some fear in that, I guess, but I feel like I have an education and some knowledge and, more importantly, some people I love who are the bedrock of anything I could hope to do with this degree of mine.

I don't know how I feel about graduating. It feels like I outlasted something tenacious and difficult and angry, but somehow I'm the one left standing. I had to be reminded that this graduation is the beginning of something -- if I was on the street tomorrow, and someone asked me what I do, first I would avoid eye contact and try to move away, but if they persisted, I wouldn't know what to say: I'm a law school graduate? I'm going to be a lawyer in a few months? My occupation is studying for the bar?

One thing I really struggled with in law school was the fact that I felt like I was doing worse, and was thus perhaps stupider, than a lot of my classmates. After first year, my grades put me solidly in the middle of the pack, and I was told that firms "would not be fighting over themselves to get to me," which was a grim moment. After spending two years under this cloud, thinking I was worse than everybody else and was missing some element of lawyering that all these other ridiculous people seemed to have, I felt like a puppy that got kicked too much, just cowering and cringing in the corner when other people started talking about legal theory. My summer work showed me that I did indeed have skills that were valuable in the work place and important in real life (social skills, good humor, etc), but that law school didn't seem to acknowledge. I felt like an outlier.

But then, this year, my grades have been pretty darn good. Maybe the professors were being generous, but I worked hard and I was really proud. Perhaps I figured out the system just in time to leave it, which is appropriate -- after all, if you've stopped learning then it's time to move along. At graduation I didn't feel bitter about the people winning Latin honors, which I secretly hoped for but knew were unlikely for me; I knew I finished strong and that I was just as smart and capable as anyone else there. I'm glad I didn't end law school feeling the way I felt for so much of it: stupid, unqualified, unequipped. Looking ahead I don't think I would ever spend three years in a place that made me feel that way. And I don't think I would let something as stupid as grades have so much power over me. Hopefully I am too smart a dude for that.


We have had a very busy weekend. On Saturday, as the day-long block party bustled on the street outside, my grandparents and parents drove in from Virginia and my sister flew in from South Carolina. Before meeting everyone in the morning I ran a 10K, my first run in Central Park since the marathon. Once my family arrived we met them at their hotel near the Flatiron Building, then came down to see the apartment and wander around the kiosks of the fair. L got a necklace with a small gold circle, in which is imprinted a simple "L," and I love it -- it's perfect. We had an early dinner at Stand, and then once my grandparents were safely ensconced in a cab the five of us wandered up through Union Square to Shake Shack, enjoying the early summer air below the cheerful light bulbs in Madison Square Park.

This afternoon after graduation we proceeded directly to a Chipotle in midtown, then returned to the hotel in the rain and made it back down to the apartment. We ate at Fig & Olive in the Meatpacking District and explored the streets for a little while, watching the sky turn pink as the sun sank into the Hudson and the city evening descended before us. Then everyone returned to the hotel, and L and Kels and I came back home.

It has been a great, and exhausting, weekend. I have so much to be thankful for. And I have a lot of things to consider.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Newark odyssey

9:35 am. Depart for Newark, to get fingerprinted for the New Jersey bar application. Random requirement requiring extremely random trip to Jersey. Roll with the punches. Appointment at 11:30, but leave early just to be safe.

10:15 am. Excellent mass transit karma; caught some kind of express train arriving at Newark very quickly. In final moments of the trip, realized that form required for fingerprinting was forgotten at home. No way to get fingerprints done without this form. Shit. Flop sweat begins.

10:17 am. On board train again from Newark to New York. Seem to be on the Rahway Local, chugging along like a children's book character and never getting anyplace. Train overtaken by a glacier mid-ride.

10:50 am. Sprinting outside Madison Square Garden, trying to get taxi without waiting in taxi line. Leisurely taxi driver apparently prefers to drive in the wake of truck or bus. Leg slapped, epithet whispered in frustration when driver actually yields on yellow. Minimal tip given.

10:59 am. Dashing up stairs, into apartment, grabbing form, back out, into new cab. Ask to go back to train station; driver says there must be a rush. Situation explained. Ask the driver if he would drive to Newark (having studied the passengers' bill of rights on the previous ride). He agrees for $50. Realize that he probably comes from a haggling-based culture. Ask him to do it for $40. He says no. Fine. Then he says $50, and he'll pay the tolls. Overcome by natural fear of haggling, proceed to train station. Why so unwilling to play hardball? Question for some other day.

11:28 am. Aboard the next train for Newark. Hopes fading rapidly.

11:55 am. Arrive in Newark, again. Board the Newark subway according to directions supplied by the fingerprinting people.

12:10 pm. Disembark and study bus station map; realize directions were wrong, destination remains more than 10 blocks away. Decide to just walk rather than wait for the cartoonish trolley they call a subway.

12:15 pm. Explore vibrant downtown Newark. Previous plans to perhaps grab a light lunch at a local cafe immediately abandoned. Malaise of city now understood.

12:35 pm. Arrive at fingerprinting facility. Hear one man ask for directions for federal parole office, then head upstairs to find fingerprinting office closed until one. But of course.

1:05 pm. Shuffle into fingerprinting with twenty other felons, parolees, bar applicants, other riff raff. Immediately evident that no one, not a single employee, cares that original appointment was missed. Did not matter in any way.

1:20 pm. Begin fingerprinting process.

1:25 pm. Fingerprinting process completed.

2:00 pm. Back in Manhattan. After additional outing to pick up bib and t-shirt for Saturday's 10K, return home at 3:30. Vow never to leave apartment again.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Right now I am filled with self-pity. I just got back from the dentist's office, where I had multiple fillings done, after a two-year hiatus of professional dental care. Words cannot express my shame at requiring multiple fillings; that kind of thing happens to other people, not good, floss-conscious people like me.

The left side of my face is numb, if you include the part of your neck down to the adam's apple within the idea of "face." My lip is droopy and heavy, and my words were slurred when I profusely thanked the dentist, like a cretin, for drilling in my mouth and making my saliva spray onto my shirt and glasses. He used a variety of implements today, including: drills, the suction tube that always traps my tongue, a wedge designed to keep my mouth open, an egg beater, a staple gun, and a blow dryer. When he was drilling I could hear the high-pitched whine like a scream coming from someone else inside me. I tried to pretend I was on an airplane, but this was a failure. There wasn't enough anesthetic in my upper teeth, so I could feel the drill in a particularly specific and uncomfortable way. I was gripping the seats of the chair and clenching my butt and flexing all my leg muscles until I couldn't keep it in and grunted for help. So, I got an additional dose, which means I should be able to resume making facial expressions by the weekend.

Once again my dentist was about 14 years old; at one point I swear he said, "hold still, man," although it was hard to tell over the roar of the blow dryer. The important thing is that I'm back on the straight and narrow dental track, and have my next cleaning set up for November. My only hope is that by then I will once again have feeling in my face. Honestly, right now I could be drooling out of the side of my mouth -- what the hell, I probably am -- and I wouldn't even know it.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

And then we came to the end

Yesterday I spent the whole day working on my last paper for my last class of law school. After a tiresome weekend gathering notes and rereading sources, I spent Monday sitting at the desk in the study stringing my quotations together and trying to sound coherent. When I really get into the writing process, I find that words come into my head whose meaning or spelling is unclear to me, words like compunctious or inexorable, and I have to look them up to make sure I'm using them in the right way; thankfully I was able to find this groove for much of the day.

I was about halfway finished at ten p.m., when the muscles in my neck and shoulders were tense and knotted, so I decided to stop for the night and settle in with L to watch "The Hills." But as we enjoyed the antics of those golden-haired morons, I felt uneasy. I was unsettled, my mind was racing, and I kept asking myself questions. "Why is Lo being such a bitch to Audrina?" was one question. "What am I going to do about this paper?" was another.

After the show ended I had an epiphany: I had to finish that paper. Tonight. Right now. As L went to bed, I kept pecking away at my computer in the dark study, listening to Coldplay on my headphones, and finished my paper around one in the morning.

Five hours later we were awake to go to the gym, and my mind was immediately alert and engaged, thinking about the paper and the slight changes I wanted to make. It was odd to be awake so early and yet feel so attentive -- like a fighter pilot or something. After the gym I read the paper one more time and was pleased with myself; it's definitely not the worst 31 pages I've ever written (sadly, that title probably goes to the short story I wrote about Star Trek: The Next Generation in eighth grade).

Then I went up to school, printed it out, and submitted it. I sold back three of the novels we had read for the class for a grand total of ten dollars. I cleaned out my locker. I bought a diploma frame. Then I came home and went to Chipotle and bought myself lunch with the ten-dollar bill I had received for my books.

And now here I am, finished with law school coursework, sitting in my sunny apartment as the sun shines and the birds chirp nearby. There may be a nap in my future, maybe some reading for pleasure. Right now I'm not thinking long-term.