Sunday, March 29, 2009

Zombie law firm

Whenever I find myself alone in the office, late at night or on the weekends, my mind often turns to how I would defend myself if I was attacked by zombies. Inside the perimeter of offices along the exterior, the core of the floor is a dense warren of narrow hallways and alcoves. There are elevator shafts no one uses, doors that are never opened, behind which you can hear the building groan and howl. Coming up through the night elevators deposits you in a dark, empty room, and a security card is required to gain entry into the offices beyond. When the partitions to the main elevators at shut, even the old print-out sign seems ominous: "Use the night elevators as a LAST RESORT."

Six months in, with a lingering confusion over those inner hallways, the mysterious elevator shafts, and most of all, the constant whine from behind those doors -- honestly, it's as if we're a couple dozen floors above the gates of hell -- I do find myself thinking of zombies. Not the slow, stately kind, with their predictable lurching and almost adorably simple agendas -- I'm talking about the hyperactive, "28 Days Later"-style zombies: fast, enraged, and mean. Presumably these zombies were lawyers once.

Sometimes when I look down the long, empty corridors, lined with vacant offices and silent from the usual weekday din, I imagine seeing some agitated zombie scuttling down the hall, mouth agape and screaming a loud shrill cry, like the sound from that damn elevator shaft. I dart into a nearby office and slam the door behind me. It won't or can't lock, and the Aeron rolling chair is useless to keep it shut. Leaning against the door with all my might, there is a sudden thud as the zombie throws himself against the door from the other side, and I feel a ringing in my body from the impact. I can briefly see the zombie's twisted face mashed against the frosted glass panel beside the door. Enraged, he snarls and momentarily retreats. Holding my breath, knowing what's coming, I try to ground my feet into the muted colors of the carpet, desperate to find some leverage to keep him out, to strengthen my hold on the door. With a piercing scream, a sound like the air itself tearing away in front of me, the zombie hurls himself against the door. I am filled with horror as he comes blazing into the office, a gust of bitterness, coppery and pungent, filling my lungs as as he tumbles on top of me and we fall behind the desk. Animal panic rises in me as I sense the zombie's teeth gnashing near my skin, as I realize that his brittle dry fingers are clamped on my body. Feeling as if I am on fire, as if there is nothing else in the world besides my own survival, I slam him against the credenza and he yelps -- I shove his head back with the butt of my palm, momentarily disgusted by the softness of his forehead, and drive him into the cheap wood paneling of the office furniture. Taking advantage of his confusion, I reach to the shelf above to grab a copy of Siegel's New York Practice, 5th edition -- 900 pages, hardback, of everything a young attorney needs to know about the practice of law in the Empire State. Standing up and gripping it tightly, I strike him backhandedly and shove him upwards, over the credenza and against the glass of the window -- after a moment of pressure there is quick sharp rush as the glass shatters, and the zombie is yelling in fury and then horror as he goes tumbling out the window, a thrashing figure engulfed in a rain of glass, plummeting down to 50th street far below. I am standing there in the wrecked office, breathing heavily as a new wind gusts inward from the street, holding my New York Practice as loose papers -- cases and briefs and memos and articles -- swirl around me, until eventually the coppery bitter smell is gone and all that is left is the air of the city, forcing itself inside this new unexpected home I have created.

That's what I end up thinking about, being alone in the office on weekends or at night. There are some benefits in realizing you're the only one around. Obviously, you can bring reading materials to the restroom with impunity. Yet eventually my thoughts always turn to this kind of thing: the rooms I haven't seen, the hallways I can't master, and the constant churning sound of the elevator shaft, rising up from someplace unfamiliar into the the office we think we know.

Boy, this turned out kind of weird, didn't it?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Two things:

At hip hop tonight, as people were getting tired and frustrated with not getting it right, not being as smooth and sharp as we all wanted to be, our teacher watched us from the front, sitting on her haunches against the mirror. "Think of when people tell you, 'no, you can't,'" she said quietly. "This is when you say, 'oh yes, I can.'" There was a murmur of assent, and then we did it, tight and razor-sharp. Turning over her words in my mind, thinking about how the last few weeks have been, I almost got a little emotional, somehow.

Later I was at Chipotle picking up some dinner on my way home. I was sweaty but jubilant. As I stood in line one of the girls behind the counter was talking about me casually to a coworker. "I like him," she said to her colleague as she cut lettuce or something. She saw me looking at her and smiled. "You look like you're on a talk show!" This was perplexing. "Like, 'General Hospital'!" Apparently my devastating combination of bland good looks and big teeth adds up to a possible career in daytime television. That's cool, though -- I'll take it where I can get it.

Oh yes, I can.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


You know I'm stressed at work when I start yelling at pedestrians, and dang if it didn't happen today. Earlier this afternoon L and I were on our way up to Central Park for an eight-mile run, and we were waiting for the light to change at 7th & Grove so we could continue up 7th, towards the subway. We stood there waiting patiently for the light to change so we could walk. There were cars waiting to cross in front of us. Then these two moon-faced chicks start wandering through the intersection, ignoring both the stoplight and the "Don't Walk" icon shining steadily before them. One of them had her nose buried in a guidebook and the other one was looking for traffic on the one-way street from the wrong direction. Before I could stop myself, I was talking.

"Be careful, that car's going to hit you," I said, pointing to the car a foot from their calves, which was patiently waiting for them to cross so that it could move on its green light. I was sort of hoping the driver would honk, but he didn't.

"Thanks," one of the girls replied listlessly.

"I can't believe that," L said, shaking her head.

"I know!" I replied. "How can they be so oblivious! They're the reason traffic is so horrible--"

"No, I can't believe you," L said, clarifying her point. "Why were you talking to them?"

"Because they were being stupid," I said patiently. "This is a community issue."

I explained how pedestrians have to share the road too, and how there's a time and place for jaywalking, but L did not seem particularly interested in my points, even though I felt they were strong. But it was a helpful reminder that yelling at pedestrians is an indicator that I need to manage my stress in new and different ways.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Merry ways

This was the weekend that opened up the springtime, the possibility that this long bleak winter might someday come to an end. On Saturday morning L had to go to work early in the Bronx, so I ventured forth to the Union Square Farmers' Market on my own, armed with a few canvas bags and a very detailed list. The walk up was very pleasant, strolling in just a fleece, feeling the sun on my face and listening to the new Ryan Leslie album on my ipod. A strung-out looking man on the corner of 5th and 11th was trying to flag me down, and at first I was determined to avoid him, but then I decided to give it a go (it was daylight after all, and I can throw a punch or two (theoretically)). Turns out he was a foreign tourist, eastern European, and he needed directions to Ground Zero. Proud of myself for being so helpful and non-judgmental, I set him off towards his destination and continued along my merry way.

The crowds at the farmers market had not yet descended when I arrived around eleven. I meandered through the stalls, gathering up carrots, eggs, two brown paper bags of mushrooms, and some yogurt and milk. Vendors were selling cherry blossom branches with the buds just starting to grow, and there were many more apples than I expected to see. I stopped at Trader Joe's for wine and made my way home, talking to my mom as I lugged everything back.

When L finally came home, we went up to Central Park for a nice long seven mile run. She's training for a half marathon for her birthday in late April, and being the kind of husband who enjoys spending time with his wife and has seen plenty of episodes of well-intentioned trainers hollering at the people on "The Biggest Loser" until spittle is gathering at the corners of their mouths, I decided she needed my help.

The Park was full of people jogging along the road, families meandering along with their kids, and hateful bikers zooming along like they think they're Lance Armstrong. L and I have never really run together, based on significant differentials in leg length and speed, but we thought we'd give it a try. I tried to run a little slower than usual, a nice steady jog so I could follow her lead. I haven't run more than five miles in a really long time, and was anxious about how this would go.

Well, it was fantastic. Although we were going a little faster than L was accustomed to, it was really wonderful to run through this beautiful park with her by my side. The place was vibrant, full of life, like the whole city turned out to celebrate the first spring weekend. Sacramental. Running at a nice easy pace, anticipating the familiar hills and sights along the path, I thought a lot about all time I have spent running that loop. So many sense memories in the pavement, remembering songs I used to listen to or specific instances where I found that perfect alchemy of physical exertion and natural beauty and a moment of clear-mindedness. It's happened before, and it happened there.

After we finished our 7.4 miles I was shocked to find that I felt like I could continue. I was proud of my wife and really happy that we spent that last hour or so running alongside each other, buddies on the road, like everywhere else.

The weekend continued along a similar simple, restorative trajectory. We ordered in both nights, watched television, read a lot. The burdens and stress of work, which weighed heavily on my shoulders this week, melted with each moment in the sunshine, each glance to my left to see my wife beside me.

Today I enjoyed a couple afternoon drinks with Ashesh at Wogie's, and as I told him about some of the work stuff that had caused me so much worry this week, I thought about everything for a moment, and said, "I have a very rich life." And on weekends like this it feels like everything opens up.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

On Facebook

After the initial euphoria wore off (Friends from high school! What's my status right now? Ooh, photos!) Facebook now feels like more square footage of the internet that demands attention. God forbid my status go unreported.

There have been a lot of small pleasures in this thing, though -- I like the quick public scribblings on people's walls; the status update really is kind of cool for those of us reluctant to dive into the shameless narcissism of Twitter (not like a blog is much better, though, admittedly); and it really is great to see all my high school friends again. What would Facebook be without high school friends?

There seems to be a limit, though. I was trying to think of the right simile and I can't quite reach it, but to me Facebook is like you and everyone you know, standing in their own individual glass box like a phone booth. Somebody has taken all these glass boxes and lined them up in a circle. When you log on to Facebook, the lights in the room come on, or the people who lined you up in the circle reveal new glass boxes to you, and suddenly you realize -- hey! It's your friends! You see your friends and loved ones, beloved, well-missed, and you knock on your glass and get their attention and wave and smile at them. They make eye contact and smile back. You bonk on your glass, and they do the same. So you look at each other for a little bit, and then -- hey! There's somebody else! So you turn your attention to that person, and you wave and smile and mouth the words "how are you," which fogs up your glass a little. And after a little while you realize that although you can see everyone, and from here they all look great, and they can hold up little blurbs about themselves and their lives now, you still can't quite touch them or hug them or dap it out. But you're still in your glass box, staring at everyone you grew up with, some people you thought you had lost to time and distance, and you don't dare look away.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Ok, you win

L and I joined Facebook. So if you want to be internet friends, drop me a line. This should be amusing.