the lawyer writer

sometimes legal                     sometimes literary                     sometimes not

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Tom Wolfe Was Right...Sort Of

The reason you can't go home again, I think, is largely because, if you do, you can't get a blasted thing done.

I sit down to type. But am I comfortable? Wouldn't I be more comfortable at the table? It would be better on my wrists. Remember when I needed those wrist braces? Why don't I wear them now? Why didn't I bring them? But don't type with that laptop, your father needs it. What am I typing? Is it that silly blog, or is it something I'll actually get paid for? By the way, why can't my own parents read the blog? And now it's time for lunch, so I'll need to move the laptop to the couch. Why don't I type later? Besides, Fill-In-The-Blank Auntie is coming over in twenty minutes. Maybe...I should change? Of course, if I want to wear that, it's okay, but I look so much nicer in that other shirt. Your mother will find it. Can I please watch the stove? Well, I can just put the computer to sleep for a moment, and then watch the stove. Remember to save my files. Do I need a floppy? Your father has a floppy, he'll go get it. Am I still typing that blog? But it doesn't make me any money. Is that the doorbell? Can I get the doorbell? Where is your mother?

(work word count: five)

It's delightful and frustrating to be completely thwarted in any attempt to work. Because then Fill-In-The-Blank Auntie comes and it's time for gossip. Who's wedding is being planned? Where are they holding it? But the food is terrible there. Who is coming to next weekend's party? Can they bring potato curry/chapatti//mango chutney? No lasagna, please. And let's make sure the men don't get so drunk this time. The kids? We've given up on the kids.

(work word count: seven)

Who's going to India soon? Can they bring back some spices/copper utensils/bootleg dvd's? But no saris. We definitely don't want any saris. No matter what the border looks like (gold thread embroidery) or what color it is (saffron fading into rose) or how many yards it is (six yards), we definitely don't want anyone to bring us any saris. No, not even if they are incredibly gorgeous. We would be insulted by any sari someone would bring, especially if it came from Devi Sari Emporium in Gil Nagar, and we would complain unendingly about the inappropriate generosity, as we have done for the last twenty years.

(work word count: ten)

Fill-In-The-Blank Auntie will also complain about her children. Even though they make so much money and are engaged to be married and live within shouting distance of her home and have just bought a new hybrid car, Fill-In-The-Blank Children are completely impossible. But your daughter looks so nice, even if she doesn't practice law. The blue in the hair is very cute. Let her do that sort of thing, she's young, and besides, she's not my daughter, so what do I care? At least she's gained some weight. She used to be such a stick figure, it wasn't healthy at all. What? How is Fill-In-The-Blank Uncle? Oh, don't get me started on him

(work word count: thirteen)

After invariably bringing food and gossip, Fill-In-The Blank Auntie will leave. I will sit down at the computer again, brimming with optimism and puritan work ethic. But oh no. It's time for lunch, and we will be serving some unbelievably delicious homemade South Indian food. As usual. And after lunch, Fill-In-The-Blank Cousin is coming over and we're going to play Mah-Johngg. You love Mah-Johngg, don't you? So, like an unruly baby, the computer will be once again put to sleep.

(Total work word count:fifteen. Witnessing the comedy that is home: priceless)

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Lynch Land

I grew up in Almaden Valley, which is far south San Jose, and is definitely David Lynch land. San Jose has been getting a lot of Blue Velvet comparisons lately, because of the Wendy's Chili Finger, but I think the comparison is long overdue. Almaden Valley is as south as you can get; it's where highways come to die. When we moved there, our house was still farmland; all of Almaden used to be acres of farms filled with horses and grape and peach crops. We lived across rolling hills which, blithely ignoring "No Trespassing" signs, I used to escape into for hikes. (I once had a sudden encounter with an irritable bull, which would have been comical if it had been The Three Stooges rather than me). The nearest bar to either of our houses was the Feed & Fuel, a country-western themed bar where truckers line-danced and fueled up--in all sorts of ways.

People are always surprised at this description of San Jose, but it only became Silicon Valley headquarters in the early 80's. That's when hordes of over-educated Asian and East Indian immigrants poured in--where IBM went, they followed. Living in San Jose was being in the center of constant change, trickling south. Tomato canneries and meat-packing plants were replaced by Sun Microsystems and Oracle headquarters. Downtown San Jose acquired opera houses and jazz clubs and a decent (for California) public transit system. San Jose teenagers grow up drinking beer the backseat of Corvettes, getting stoned in stadium rock concerts, and being extremely elitist about our "alternative" taste in music.

But, except Constant Construction of Three-Bedroom Houses, Almaden Valley has stubbornly refused to take part in the change. For most of the upwardly mobile population here, the lengthening of the highways and expansion of the malls has been a good thing, but there's still an Almaden Valley hidden in the hills. I used to like to drive when I had things to think about, or when the going got tough at home, and a few wrong turns had me up in a strange new world. Driving through the foresty country roads, you'll find the old inn and restaurant which resembles nothing less than the Country Bears Jamboree House in Disneyland, complete with a big-wheeled wagon out front. It promises food, lodging and live, banjo-themed entertainment. You keep driving and pass the Blue Barn--an old Victorian house with a blue barn that always seemed to packed with pick-up trucks in field and raucous parties. The road thins into a sliver, which is tough since it's a two-way road, and you have to pull over if you see another car. There's the New Almaden Museum, which looks like a little house converted into a littler musuem. It's differentiated from the other houses by the painting of an Indian with a tomahawk. Soon, a gorge opens up and the road gets winding; you travel over bridges like a Grimms' Brothers fairy tale. Below, there's a swampy looking lake, and driveways become long and lean, sometimes leading to a bored looking horse in a makeshift corral. Eventually, when the forest gets deep and the bridges get rickety, the road ends abruptly into a gate. At this point, a uniformed soldier emerges to let you know that you've hit The Mysterious Army Base, and it's Best If You Turn Around.

Our favorite show growing up was Twin Peaks, but though we recognized the tall redwoods and oddball mentality, it was still Lynch land, a blue velvet world removed from ordinary, boring reality. It was clearly as far away as you could get from suburban, tech-obsessed, single-family home, hyper-educated San Jose. Right?


(btw, the Feed & Fuel is still the closest bar to my folks' house).

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Flying Home With Bruce

The flight on Jet Blue always goes by fast because they have those fabulous television sets (even if most of the channels are ESPN or Fox News). I swear, I couldn't find anything, and I really tried, but that's how I ended up watching nearly all the episodes of The Surreal Life. Surprisingly, I learned a few things about life in general: 1) obnoxious 22-year old models can get any man they want if they're creepily aggressive and persistent (that chick from America's Top Model) 2) over-the-hill ex-child stars can be much hotter than over-the-hill ex-models (Christopher Knight (Peter Brady) vs. Marcus Sheckenberg)(Fine, make fun of me, but li'l Peter has some really hot biceps) and 3) never underestimate anyone, as yesterday's perky girl band bassist can become today's perky fetish dominatrix (Jane Wiedlen of the Go-Go's).

But then The Surreal Life marathon ended, and I started to feel gross, like I'd eaten a couple bags of potato chips. Too much junk food for the mind. Luckily, to counteract this, I found out that VH1 was playing its own marathon of Bruce Springsteen videos, and that kept me occupied for the rest of the flight.

I never called Bruce Springsteen the Boss; it feels like a mad-up nickname that doesn't fit him right. My appreciation of Bruce was at odds with most of my other musical tastes (brit pop; grunge; garage bands; punk; rap), but there was something about him. There are those who dismiss him as just another working class. overly-patriotic white boy, but they aren't looking hard enough. Early Bruce was all about being a misfit, an oddball, a dreamer--something that a middle-class Indian girl who stole library books could relate to. His most exuberant songs are all about trying to get out on the open road and chase down dreams (Born to Run, Thunder Road), but when he sings soft and low (Secret Garden, I'm On Fire), I will believe anything he tells me. Yes, I had a crush on him, like I'd have a crush on so many blue collar poets, because he was a man who loved women and all their secret gardens--without being any less of a man. My favorite image is the video from Tunnel of Love--the abandoned carnivals, the song of rebirth, and a scruffy, sexy, wiser Bruce singing, "you learn to live with what you can't rise above." I feel like I'm always trying to catch up to him.

Watching Bruce on the plane seemed fitting, because his music was one of the reasons I came to New York. Not because I thought he was representative of boys from Jersey (although it was startling to find out how off the mark I was on that one). It's because when he sang "it's a town full of losers/and we're pulling out to win," I really believed he was talking to me. I felt to born to run; I had things to do; I didn't fit in. There were a lot of images and daydreams that brought me to New York in particular (Debbie Harry playing at CBGB's; cocktails on top of the world; all-night Eurotrash parties in abandoned warehouses; writers huddling in coffeehouses in Tompkins Square; vintage clothing stores), but Bruce is the reason I ever thought of leaving town.

Now things are different. He has political and social caushes; he has a family; he has an Oscar. And while I'm glad that people have finally started to take him seriously as a writer and poet--someone who embraces all of America, not just garage mechanics and good ol' boys--I think I'll never feel the same way as I used to about him. My Bruce has stopped wanting to run out and tackle that open road, and I'm not sure I have. But maybe that's just fine. As the plane landed yesterday, I realized that the Bruce I loved, the voice of running away, has now become the soundtrack of coming home.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Yes, I Know the Way...

For once, I've been smart enough to call a car to the airport instead of trying to catch a cab. The trick is, with this flight, all the cabs in my neighborhood are going off duty. Sometimes they only think of it when you're in the damn cab. Then they stop and ask you to get out, or they discreetly radio their buddies to find some sucker who will take you. I got tossed around in three different cabs once like some sort of very angry hot potato. And that third cab proceeded to rear-end someone on the BQE, so I missed my flight anyway. My only recourse in these circumstances is to level a Medusa like glare at previous cab driver and assume my Lawyer Mode with the next one: Bitchily, unapologetically demanding. Or, of course, I could just remember to call a car.

I am going to San Jose, which is a kind of weird place. I will describe it in later posts. Suffice to say that while people may think I'm going there to see my folks, I am actually going to put an end to that Wendy's Chili Finger debacle once and for all. (Apparently the woman who found the finger has been arrested, and the police are offering $100,000 for any knowledge of the origin of the finger. I am on the case.) I hate waiting at airports, and I usually end up in the store called BOOKS and either succumb to some zen business motivational manual, or catch up on magazine reading. I will learn "Celebrity Diet Secrets" from US magazine and "How Thin is Too Thin?" from Star Magazine. Each will have Jessica Simpson on the cover.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Bloody ANZAC

I admit it. I am drunk. It's 9:00 and I have attempted to make pasta, which has been a total disaster since I have spilled all the shredded cheese and cut the garlic into big slices rather than crushing it properly. (My goal with fresh garlic is to slice it thinly, like Paul Sorvino does in Goodfellas, with a razor). Anyway, while the pasta boils, I can tell you about the Australians.

Australians are bad. They drink all the time. I was at the Sunburnt Cow, some Australian bar in the depths of Avenue C, drinking to celebrate ANZAC day, which is like Veteran's Day, only it has to do with the Australians and New Zealanders sent to certain death in various wars by the British. Not sporting, exactly, but there you have it. The celebration of ANZAC day involves some sort of coin toss game which everyone circles and shouts and bets money on, and drinking yourself into a coma by noon. I showed up at three with Mary and her boyfriend Joe, thinking this was respectable, and was blotto before the sun when down. I freely admit that I flirted with all sorts of youngish aussie boys and danced rapturously to Come On Eileen. There was some sort of free Fosters-and-meat-pie giveaway, which I managed to convert into various Stoly drinks.

The lowlight of ANZAC is that I got the hiccups. I got the drunken hillbilly bimbo hiccups. Seriously, I couldn't stop. All sex appeal and intelligent conversation dies with hiccups. Instead, people amuse themselves by suggesting cures to you that only get you to do ridiculous things. I drank out of the wrong side of the cup and held my breath and swallowed. At one point, Mary and three random strangers shouted at me, in order to scare the hiccups away. If there was an old wife there, and she had a cure, we would have tried it. My only consolation is that I was amusing my friends greatly.

Eventually, the hiccups went away, and I even managed to get into an intelligent conversation about the L-Word, and why men should watch it. Not, as commonly noted, for the innovative, varied and well-lit sex scenes, but because it portrays an interesting world of women who seem to be doing just fine without men. If pressed, boys, we could do it. It isn't our first preference, but if we have to...

Anyway, the combination of Stoly and hiccups had made me blind stinking drunk by 8. I barely even danced when they played INXS, which, as many know, is the seventh sign. I decided to go home.

Note to drunken pasta makers: be careful how much pasta you put in the water. Otherwise it will overflow and spill pasta everywhere. Then you will attempt to pick up the pasta, only to get burned on the hot stove. The trick is to turn the stove off before gathering up loose pasta. Trust me, you need to know this.

The pasta is ready. It's time for the goings-on at St. Mary Mead. If you know this reference, then you are someone I want to know.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Room for Rent

There are few things I hate more than looking for a roommate, but it looks like I'm going to have to do it again. My v. cool roommate Mary is moving out to move in with her boyfriend, and all I can do is hope they get an apartment in our building, which would be very fun.

I'm one of those people who actually likes roommates, once you get the right one. The longest I've lived alone is four months, but that sounds pretty rough now, when I'm also working at home. I have had a couple pretty bad experiences, like that girl I took to court, or that temporary lawyer guy. But mostly I've had exceptionally good experiences, like Mary, and my former roommate Julie, who was visiting this weekend. The ideal roommate for me is someone who really wants to live with someone, and likes the idea of coming home and making a martini and watching some B-movie. Or, alternatively, throwing a party. I know that the days of keggers are behind me; but clearly, I still like the idea of having a sort of college-y, social atmosphere around the house. Besides, whenever I want to, I can go to my room and shut the door.

It helps, of course, that I don't have to get up in the morning, and that the roommates I've picked have the same party levels as me (i.e. weekends are fair game weekdays are not). Julie was probably my most social roommate, having lived in Australia and made enough friends to keep us busy for a while. At one point, we had gone 11 weeks of having at least one guest staying with us. And I really liked it, actually (though I can't convince Julie of that).

But really, it was because I had all day to sit typing on the computer. So while everyone was out sightseeing or at the office, I can get my work done, have some alone time and be ready to drink at night. Guests give you the excuse to party in the apartment, which is much cheaper than trekking out to a bar. (which, actually, we also do anyway).

So given my track record, I'm actually a little optimistic about the new one. You can start to get the hang the roommate hunt if you've been at it long enough. You also need a little blind faith, but still, it's not the worst thing in the world.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Deranged Marriage?

Am watching The Golden Girls' episode where Dorothy finds out that Sophia had an arranged marriage but got it annulled and sailed off to America. She asks Dorothy not to tell anyone (Bear with me, this is going somewhere). So Dorothy, who's recording some family history thing, says that Sophia was a pioneer in the women's rights movement by refusing to be thought of as chattel.

Now, arranged marriage is a thorn in my side. For those of you who are curious, when most people ask me where I come from, I still say "San Jose, California." But mostly they're curious about my heritage, so I always follow up with "Madras, India," which is where the folks are from, and what makes me Indian. I myself am more technically from "Poughkeepsie, New York," but people always seem a bit dissatisfied if I give them that as my second answer.

There are lots of follow up questions as to exactly where me and my family are from, and they usually go like this: "South India. Tamil. Brahmin. Kodumbaakum." And after all that, there's the question that everyone wants to know "what's your family's story with an arranged marriage?" I've gotten a little touchy about the subject. I went to a conservative college where people tripped over themselves to ask the question. It made me feel like all the other questions were just warm up pitches

Anyway, I was also thinking about this because, recently no fewer than two of my friends sent me an article entitled "Is Arranged Marriage Really Worse Than Craigslist?" by Anita Jain. The article was a pretty well-written piece about the trials and tribulations of a single 30 year old woman trying to find a nice guy in New York, and willing to go through Craigslist and through her parents (dubious) choices on matrimonial websites. (Oh yes. There was one called I kid you not.) My responses, which were big essays on Why Arranged Marriage Is Not For Me, were probably just defensive measures to ward off being seen in the stereotypical (and pretty untrue) "subservient Indian wifey" role. But I do get a little, er, animated on the topic, mostly because it seems there don't seem to be any Indian-Americans who are writing about Why Arranged Marriage Is Not For Them.

I mean, Jain smokes, drinks, carouses and generally sounds okay, (except that it does sound like she has lousy taste in men, Indian or otherwise). The whole essay is about the losers she's been out with, both through Craigslist, and through her parents' setups. She ends up saying that one is no worse than the other, and she'll continue doing both. My response is: if something gives you nothing but negative experiences, why keep doing it? There are other websites, other methods. I mean, if you pick from a pool of certain ill-fitting statistical expectations, why should you be surprised when you keep getting lemons? Guys who advertise for a "Brahmin caste" or specify that Ms. Right must have a M.S. are as tiring as those ultra-demanding chicks from That Show I Hate. All those days you spend going out with them could be spent with friends, at parties, and generally figuring out what works.

I think Indian-Americans are afraid to say "it's not for me" for three reasons. First, we might be wrong and actually meet a great person through this method. Second, if we get nervous and feel like we're running out of options, we might decide to give it a try, and then we'd look stupid having denounced it. Three, it's a recognized part of Indian culture, and we don't want to sound like we're disrespecting the culture.

Hey, I can take the risk. In the event of the first two reasons, I'll either be wrong and married to Mr. Right (um, gee, the agony), or I'll have bigger things on my mind than what I wrote on my blog some late night. And as for that Indian culture excuse: gimme a break. All cultures have customs and nobody in the culture follows all of them. I think you pick and choose. This custom used to be about child-marriage, exchanging property and dowry, and yes, (thanks, Dorothy) treating women like helpless chattel. If you want your parents' help finding a match, that's great, but don't hide behind religion and society and say it's customary and that you can't go against it. Besides, there are so many more beautiful, powerful customs in India that I don't feel sorry to let this one go by.

And frankly, I just don't think that the places my parents look for eligible men is a place where my Prince Charming is going to go. In other words, unless it's a hilarious Touchstone comedy staring J.Lo, my guy is not going to be advertising for a wife. I just don't see it, and will go so far as to say that if it happens, then it's a goddamn, straight-up, fluke. And it goes both ways--few guys who are that ready to be married--not in love, not with a girlfriend, but married--are going to be very happy with me. Right now, anyway.

Faced with six nights a week of going out with Craigslist or lemons (or shoes that don't fit, if you prefer), I'd rather make a martini, put my feet up and watch David Brent dance around and sing "Simply the Best" at the motivational seminar.

And if that cuts down the percentage of Indian men in my dating pool, then so be it. Mr. Right can be any damn color he wants; it's not going to make me any less Indian.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Hootchie Stories

A ridiculously beautiful day, which means I accomplished nothing and will be up until 3 trying to do what I should have been doing all day. I ended up down in Union Square trying on party clothes at a hootchie store.

Ah, yes, allow me to elaborate. For those of my audience who are, well, guys, I will explain. I am not, exactly a hootchie. (actually, since I am no longer college aged, the appropriate description would be "floozy," and I am not that either). However, I, and other respectable impoverished females, have a secret hootchie store where we get our club/party/hootchie gear. Everybody knows what I mean: those one-shoulder fuschia tank tops; those stringy glitter halter tops; anything with "punk rocker" stenciled on to it. Trampy and trendy.

You could, as Paris Hilton does, buy out gorgeous, exquisitely-made cutting edge designer trampwear, but why bother? We are planning to dance in them, spill drinks on them, and talk our way into clubs with them. We don't care that they're going to fall apart in a couple washes; they'll be out of style by then anyway. So for these clothes we go to the hootchie stores.

The most bottom of the heap hootchie store is the "Everything Under $10 Clothing Store." This like all the hootchie stores I patronize, is a chain. (I've heard rumors of a "Everything Under $5 Clothing Store" that could just be folklore). The "Everything Under $10 Clothing Store" is serious about its title. You will geniunely find tops, pants, dresses, shooes, swimsuits, lingerie, sweaters and accessories, all under $10. The only mention of a natural fabric will the be a tag on some bustier that reads "50%Mylar 50% Cotton" only it's spelled "Cotten." Unsurprisingly, these shops offer very slim pickings as they are sized all wrong and often held together with staples. But once in a blue moon, you'll find a quality hootchie top there--not too vulgar, just revealing enough, and doesn't push your boobs into a weird place.

The top end of hootchie tops is H&M. H&M, whoever or whatever they are, are gods. These shops feature cool outfits at pretty decent prices. Some women dream of the Ralph Lauren store; I want one day and a credit card to shop at H&M's.

In between these two are the following, in descending order: Urban Outfitters, Forever 21, Joyce Leslie, Bang Bang, Contempo Casuals (beloved in high school, if it's still around) Strawberry, Wet Seal(another that may be gone)and Rainbow. Some of you not on the East Coast may not recognize the names, but I have patronized them all, with pride. That blue sequined/glitter tank? Wet Seal. The black vinyl pants? Bang Bang. That weird lacy camisole top? Urban Outfitters. That t-shirt I cut up to look punk rock? Rainbow. You get the drift. They are the reason that I will never pay more than $7.99 for a tank top--ever.

Now, you may think that at my age (i.e. above 17) I should not be purchasing clothes which were designed solely on paparazzi phots of Britney Spears. But I figure it's only hootchie if my whole outfit comes from hootchie stores, a la aforementioned P.Hilton. No, I distinctly remember Vogue magazine saying that every outfit should have at least one quality piece. I've always tried to follow that ideal, except that instead of the $3500 Chanel jacket, I have my $50 Express Anchorwoman black slacks.

If you have not guessed, this has nothing to do with being either a lawyer or a writer, but it is about how I spent my day. Which means that I will spend my night, here, typing. But it was a damn fine day.

(Ladies, feel free to enter your vote for the best hootchie store below)

Sunday, April 17, 2005

My Fellow (Slinky, Opinionated) Female Bloggers

It's a bit embarrassing to admit, but I don't read many blogs regularly. I check up on my girl bunnyshop to see what stylish items I would be buying if I had money, and I browse through Wonkette for some political info (though history has proven their election predictions to be a little suspect). And, of course, like many New Yorkers, I browse on occasion to see what Paris Hilton accessory (chihuahua, Sidekick, Nicole Ritchie) has recently been misplaced.

A recent visit to The Gawker, however, filled me with blog-envy, as I saw an excerpt from a blog called opinionistas. As it is a blog written by a hip, young, female attorney who lives in Manhattan, the situation was further exacerbated by the fact that two well-meaning friends sent me the link to say "uh-oh. another lawyer-writer and SHE'S on" Oh, dear.

A well-known fact is that the vast majority of bloggers and blog-readers are male, usually white male. Perhaps only white males have access to computers--I don't know. But since it's nice to support the sisterhood, I decided to take a look at both Opinionistas, and another girl-blog, The Slinky Cat Speaks. This last is primarily because The Slinky Cat has been nice enough to post comments on my blog from time to time.

This is what I have deduced about my fellow bloggers. My immediate reaction is that I would probably enjoy having drinks with the chick behind Opinionistas. She's creative, she hates Sex and the City, she's unafraid to bash lawyers and the law life, and she does it in full rant mode. I find her writing a little undisciplined and hard to follow, but that's to be expected from a blog that aspires to be an "interior monologue on the computer screen." In substance, a lot what she has to say about the law is on target (more on that below). Slinkycat is focused in terms of a topic, but I find that her subject matter often parallels mine: odd New York moments, parties, gossip, confrontations, self-deprecation. I identify most when it's personal--about herself rather than about the world. I have a sneaky suspicion that she is not based in the U.S., though I'm not sure why. I'm also not sure that she's a lawyer.

Both are hugely entertaining looks at the lives of young women-writers, sort of an alternative to the dreaded chick lit. I have to admit I turned a little green on The Slinky Cat's exegesis on the relationship between Carrie and Mr. Big, but for the most part, I find her writing and life generally pretty damn funny. So she is linked at the left.

There's no question that I find a lot interesting in Opinionistas as well. La Opinionista herself appears to live in Soho and work for an employment law firm. A friend noted that since she is still filled with fire and brimstone, that she is probably a recent graduate and junior associate. I asked someone whose opinion I respect if he felt that her descriptions of lawyers and law firms was accurate, and he felt it was. I myself don't have such colorful stories, as I felt utterly beaten down by my law firm the minute they took the photo for my i.d. badge. I remember only walking down maroon corridors filled with perplexing modern art and feeling vaguely that I'd been taken hostage by drafting and collating terrorists. Now that I'm safely out of that world, I don't have as much anger about it as Opinionistas does.

What I found most interesting were the various comments after Opinionistas' blurb on Almost all were from fellow attorneys. Many commended her wit and her accuracy in depicting what people don't know about law life. But quite a few others seemed offended by it. This last group of attorneys seemed united by one common theme; namely "you knew what the life was when you chose it, so you have no right to complain." Interestingly, this is also the justification of paparazzi hounds for their lifestyle and career choice. To wit: "I have a right to chase J.Lo down a dark alley because she knew that this was part of the celebrity life when she chose it, and therefore cannot complain when I take pictures of her thong underwear when she trips and lands on her face." I didn't buy it then, and I don't buy it now.

I do some work for a legal publisher, and part of my job is going through mountains of confidential feedback from associates at both small and large law firms. Everybody hates their hours, but they are terrified to admit it openly. Instead, everyone says "the hours suck, but I knew that when I picked this job." I applaud their foresight. I, personally, thought the work was going to be much more intellectual, the hours much more manageable, and the job much more satisfying. I am still not quite sure by what process the large urban law firm manages to suck the life marrow out of your bones, but I suspect it has to do with the fact that you are suddenly faced with adoration and acceptance by society at large (you're a lawyer, you must be smart!) and treated as disposable as a tampon by your boss and co-workers. I think this identity crisis is at the core of lawyer burnout.

I'd like to see opinionistas give in less frequently to her anger and delve a little deeper into why firms and lawyers are the way they are. I feel like she could come up with some real gold on the subject. Furthermore, I do find one thing in common with her critics--namely, if she hates it as much as she seems to, why is she still practicing at this firm? But, in the meantime, she's linked at left as well, and I look forward to following her battles with the inexplicable, many-tentacled monster that is the law firm world.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Hustle to Kung Fu Hustle

I was at an east village bar talking to a lovely young man in a (nice) vintage suit who spent a good portion of the evening telling me that while his agent thought he as a genius (said twice) he had no respect for people who told him that, and that he would much prefer someone to say "you're crap, but we want to publish you anyway." Now I found him truly precious, and the richness of the contradictions and the material in general could fill a blog post, but I will let it go, because I want to write about something else. To wit:

Go See Kung Fu Hustle.

Now, it is rare that I actually recommend a movie to the world at large, as I think some things are largely dependent on taste and sensitivity. However, it is 2 o'clock in the morning, and I am not sure how much longer I will be awake/able to type, and I am very sure of myself. If you read this blog, for any reason, you should go see Kung Fu Hustle. It is already the best movie of 2005.

It is, unfortunately, the kind of movie that brings out the film major in me, kind of like the creature rising from the Black Lagoon. (or was it Blue Lagoon? Discuss). It really is that kind of movie. While the most interesting thing about Tarantino is his love for Hong Kong action movies (before he became too literal), then it makes sense that there should be a Stephen Chow, a Hong Kong action hero with a love for American movies.

There is about as much plot as there is in a Tom & Jerry cartoon, but there are three groups of people to worry about. There is the murderous Axe Gang, a group of prohibition-era gangsters who dance in Busby Berkeley formation with their weapon of choice, led by a sexily effeminate and ruthless leader. There are the inhabitants of the Pig Sty, the poorest section of town, which has its own group of misfits: bitchy landlady, gay tailor, sexy laborer. Finally, there is small-time hustler Sing (Stephen Chow) and his big puppy-dog sidekick. Sing has learned there is no use to being a nice guy, and wants desperately to be badass in the Axe gang.

The whole movie is essentially a tug of war between these three outfits--or, if you prefer, an elaborate excuse to have the funniest fucking fight scenes on the planet. Think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, with a sense of humor. Just as you expect it to lapse into sentimentality, it gets cheesily hilarious. When there's romance, it sours. Characters slap the shit out of each other like Warner Bros. cartoons, and the only real disappointment is that an anvil didn't actually drop on someone's head (and that there were no references to the Acme Corporation). It's all about loving American movies, the best things about the Golden age and the modern age of movies: speakeasies, nattily dressed gangsters, Western standoffs, the Three Stooges, The Shining, The Matrix, the leisure-suit Vegas of the 70's, Chuck Jones cartoons, Bugs Bunny, Frank Capra, Buster Keaton, superhero comic books, silent films, Silence of the Lambs, fortune cookies, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Gangs of New York, lots of Quentin Tarantino, glamourous Fred Astaire musicals, broad Scary-Movie slapstick, Chaplin, Roadrunner, Bugs Bunny, Martha Graham, West Side Story, and everything that Bruce Lee movies have taught us about martial arts. It even throws in a telling reference to Greek mythology.

You will like this movie if: 1) you like to discuss/study movies, especially old movies 2) you like Bugs Bunny or Tom and Jerry 3) you like movie martial arts on any level 4)you like movies that are surreal, sublime or silly. Just a warning: like I said, the plot isn't the point. The fights are-- think of them as a mixture of comedy, violence and dance. Both the movie and the fight scenes mix obvious cliches with unknown ideas, cheap puns with filmic philosophy.

I'm actually holding myself back here--there's a lot more I could say about its brilliance. Maybe I just love it because I recognize another film buff at work. But just know this: it is funny, it is unexpected and you'll feel pretty giddy leaving the theater.

Now--did I make the right choice? Should I have written about the self-deprecating genius-dandy sitting in the bar and telling me about the evils of the literary scene? Well, go watch Kung Fu Hustle, and then you tell me.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Fancy That

Cat Fancy magazine has emailed to tell me that they like my article idea, and that they will mail me a contract. The only hitch seems to be that I don't recall pitching an idea to Cat Fancy magazine. It does sound like something I would, drunk. Apparently, the idea had to do with cats and the law.

Now, the only reference I can think of is that loathsome Wisconsonian proposal to allow people with small game licenses to hunt feral cats. Feral, in this case, means "without a collar." So any pussy with out a collar is literally fair game. Luckily, the Wisconsin governor and half the state oppose the idea, so it may not happen.

That topic, however, would be a hard-hitting article of journalistic integrity. I don't think Cat Fancy does hard-hitting articles of journalistic integrity. I think they do stories about how to own a cat. And if the fuzzy barbarians running all over my house are any indication, I am not the person to be advising others about owning cats.

There is an upside to this. Namely, that my article has been approved for the 2006 Calender. So that gives me at least seven months to figure out exactly what I may or may not have pitched them about cats and the law.

If I have ever told you my article idea, please comment below.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Food Porn

I have a strange little fetish. It has to do with eating. Or, specifically, reading while I'm eating. I like to read about food while I eat the food.

Now, I happen to think that there are perfect books for any occasion. Literally any occasion. Beach reading is cheap, trashy novels about exotic locations and improbable love affairs. Traveling in general should have at least one book of essays about your destination. Bathtub reading is girly books or film books (I don't know why, but film books go nicely with a bubble bath). Airplane reading is usually magazines, although sometimes I'll be browsing around the bookstore and be suckered into buying a psuedo-business book like "How To Be the CEO of You Life" or "Seven Successful Secrets of Dogwalkers and How To Apply Them To Your Career."

Anyway, when I eat, I like to read about food. I think this harkens back to when I was a child. I was a notorious undereater who did not like to be at the table for any reason. If I had a book, however, it went by less painfully, but my parents thought that was antisocial and wouldn't let me read at the table. The only meal that went by pretty quickly was breakfast, and I think this is entirely due to the fact that I read the back and sides of cereal boxes in great detail. This is where I learned about Riboflavin and Natural Coloring #2 and that [insert cereal name here] is part of a complete nutritious breakfast. (This last part is presumably for lumberjacks, as the breakfast always pictured had milk, orange juice, two pieces of toast and a banana. That always sounded like its own complete breakfast to me. But without the cereal, there would be no cereal box, and therefore nothing to read).

At any rate, many foodies do take food literature quite seriously. My ex, an excellent chef and crazy foodie, had shelves full of literature about food and cooking and various cuisines--you know, the high-brow stuff like M.F.K. Fisher and James Beard and that guy who writes for Vogue. I liked reading those books, but they were lacking something crucial--pictures. And while I like food magazines like Gourmet or Food & Wine (and like to keep a few on hand), they too seem lacking, as the descriptions seem to pale behind long and technical recipes.

My favorite item of food literature is in fact not really literature, but food porn. It is the Williams Sonoma Seasonal Catalog, which someone at Williams Sonoma mistakenly thinks I am affluent enough to receive. Normally the catalog is filled with ridiculously expensive cookware and plates and utensils and useful items like lemon zesters and garlic presses. Since I do not cook, this is of no use to me.

No, what I like in the seasonal catalog is the dozen or so pages of prepared food and seasonings that you can buy directly from William Sonoma. All the food is beautifully shot and carefully described. Thoughtfully, the folks at WS offer both the sweet desserty foods and the spicy cheesy foods, so I can read it for meals or for snacking on cookies.

Witness, for example, the caption accompanying a picture of The Big Caramel Apple: "Each confection begins with a magnificent Washington Fuji apple, a variety prized for its juicy crispness and sweet, slightly spicy flavor. Candymakers double-dip the apple in handmade caramel that’s been simmered in copper kettles to rich, buttery creaminess. The apple is blanketed with a thick layer of Guittard dark chocolate and finished with a drizzle of chocolate." Now I'm not sure what Guittard dark chocolate tastes like or where exactly Washington Fiji is, but doesn't it sound delicious? And look at that thing. It looks like a big chocolate bowling ball.

And how about the one for Lobster Stew: "The hearty melange ...contains cream, butter, milk, spices and more than half a pound of lobster chunks with every quart." That sounds pretty damn rich, and this picture just makes me drool.

The funniest part is that I like to read about the meat and fish as much as anything else. Even though I eat neither, it just sounds so good! Everything is succulent and moist and applewood-smoked or maple-bourbon glazed or Cajun-spiced or sliced paper thin. And they come in flavors! Case in point: the Sausages by Amy can come in Chicken, Mozzerella, Peppers & Tomato (that's one variety) or Chicken with Apple and Gouda or in a half a dozen other flavors.

Who is Amy? ("A third-generation sausage maker") How do you make a sausage taste like apple and gouda? Is there hickory involved? And what is hickory? These are the questions that vegetarians like me wonder about, but I'm happy to have them unanswered. The truth is, I know that once I try one of Amy's Sausages, it will never live up to its description: ("flavors lean cuts of chicken and pork with herbs, fruits and vegetables to reduce the fat without diminishing flavor") and will just taste like...well, meat. Which I find bland and oily unless covered by one, preferably two, condiments.

Of course, my favorite part of the WS Catalog is the cheese. I can read about cheese all the time. For example, did you know that the Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese below is "moist and intensely flavorful" and "revered as one of the world's great cheeses."

And it has its own little aristocratic history: "...made by hand from the finest all-natural ingredients in Emilia-Romagna, the region in northern Italy that also produces prosciutto di Parma and Aceto Balsamico. Following a tradition almost 700 years old, cheesemakers age wheels 12 months or more before initial inspection by the Parmigiano-Reggiano consortium. Wheels that pass the test are branded and aged at least six months longer to become eligible for the consortium's highest rating; our cheese is cut from these vintage wheels. Delicious grated over pasta or risotto." What does this all mean? It means it's a damn fine cheese.

Now, as this cheese goes for about $50 a wedge, I will not be ordering it anytime soon. However, as I read this description while eating my sandwich with melted Kraft 2% American Cheese, I will be very happy and full of cheese-love.

What can I say? Food porn. And proof that there's something to read in any situation.

Monday, April 11, 2005

What About The Blue-Haired Girls?

I have decided to write chick lit. This obviously a surprise to my regular readers, who have been subjected to my tirades on why chick lit is formulaic and ridiculous. Allow me to say only this: it is, but maybe it doesn't have to be. Besides, I need the money.

What changed my mind--more than my agent or my poverty--is the book I'm currently reading, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and its sequel But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (gee, golly, I hope so). These lovely little chick-lit predecessors were written by Anita Loos in 1925 and have more to say about the relationship between men and women than Candace Bushnell could dream. They're essentially about two daffy, gold-digging flappers who are out for a good time and rich men. I started reading this because I've just seen Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the movie, starring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. And I saw that only because I was reading this really fabulous cultural study about the conflicting views of Marilyn Monroe. (The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe by Sarah Churchwell) So that's how I get hooked on things, and while it does mean I'm going to give my own version of chick lit the old college try, it also means that the other books I'm ostensibly reading (most notably Lucky Jim, which I love) get put aside until I forget the plot entirely and have to start all over.

The Marilyn Monroe thing is new though. I never realized how much I liked her until I really started reading this book. For the most part, I've been more aligned with fast-talking, gum-chewing, wisecracking dames like Rosalind Russell or Katherine Hepburn. This probably comes as no surprise to you if you are my friend, or if you are an editor I've tried to pitch something to, or if you are a cabdriver who jets through the crosswalk even though I clearly have a walk sign. But what's surprising about Miss Monroe. is that far from being a victim of her own publicity, she was actually a smart-mouthed dame who spent her life trying to make up for a lack of education, and created and controlled her own persona. She did do too many drugs, and had lousy taste in men, but she also read Chekov and Freud and Thomas Paine, and was known to tell someone to go fuck himself if he got out of line. Like many Hollywood-ites without a formal education, she was touchy about it and spent much of her time trying to improve herself through classes and the "right" books. (Groucho Marx, another who never made it past high school, was widely regarded as one of the most well-read people of his time) It was funny to realize that as messy as her life may have been, she may not have been the "victim" of men and her public persona that everyone made her out to be. Even now, a certain skeptic responded to this by saying "Are you actually trying to tell me she was some kind of genius?" And my answer is unless you have a Colonel Parker or Karl Rove pulling the strings, most successful people are smart, or become smart, along the way.

If I sound like I'm trying to justify reading a book about Marilyn Monroe, well, I am. Up until recently I thought it was just one step away from reading about Elvis or UFO's or Elvis in UFO's.

Anyway, so I got inspired to watch the movie and then read the Anita Loos book, which is very funny and made me believe that chick lit is salvagable after all.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Packing Meat

What, exactly, happens to you when you eat too much cheese grits? Or is it too many cheese grits? At any rate, this is a serious question, and quite relevant at the moment, actually.

My editor friend Julie and I started the night at Kimberly's apartment, which is an lovely picturesque pied-a-terre in the West Village. There was absolutely nothing to drink except champagne--the actual French kind. Actually, Julie brought Coronas, but I think she drank most of them herself. It was a tiny room full of artsy people, and, as one person commented, you couldn't throw an oil-cured olive without hitting a fellow writer. It was very enriching, although I think the champagne helped a lot. And the cheese. This was a perfectly elegant little soiree where one could safely wear a vintage white Chinese silk kimono (if one owned such a kimono), and not feel out of place.

But we did leave at a decent hour and decided to find a slice. For those of you who are unfortunate enough not to live in New York, I will get into the Philosophy of the Midnight Slice later. There is nothing better, believe me. But unfortunately, we headed in the wrong direction and ended up in the Meatpacking District. I would say that the Meatpacking District has gone Jersey, but my roommate, who is from Jersey and clearly not the kind of Jersey I'm talking about, objects to the appellation. Suffice it to say that the S&M club has been replaced by a fancy, tastefully neon restaurant, La Perla has a boutique next to Western Chicken, and the cobblestone streets seem clogged with a wide variety of taxis, cars and limos--with many of those SUV- or Hummer-limos (which surely are mutations that God never intended). And all the bikers have been replaced by skinny chicks who want to dress rich rather than dress pretty, and the meat-packers have been replaced by those who, whether from Jersey or, say, Long Island, work very hard to make you believe they are indeed packing meat.

Ergo, not an easy place for a slice. But we were hungry and determined, and we came upon a solution which all reasonable, drunk and reasonably drunk people would agree upon: we got cheese grits at the Hog Pit.

The Hog Pit is next to the sex-club-turned-tasteful restaurant, and while its clientele has changed from hairy shaggy bikers to Upper East Side yuppies who want to know if "out of work" is one word, it does serve a mean, cheese-oriented menu. It may be surprising to some that an organic-produce type gal who has never been further South than Virginia should love cheese grits. But cheese is the main reason that I'm simply a vegetarian, rather than a vegan. Julie, who is Southern, needed no prompting, and we squeezed into the bar, ordering two orders of cheese grits and two glasses of water.

Now I am not actually sure what a grit is, only I know the whole cheese grits dish is very bad for you. It's white flour and eggs and cheap cheese and salt and lots of other non-South Beach stuff. Which is the dilemma, because grits taste so damn good that your mouth keeps craving them even though your stomach is plotting an elaborate revolution for the next morning. So between the champagne and the olives and the groovy funk music at the previous party, plus the pretentious yuppies and the intentionally trailer trash decor at the Hog Pit, I really don't know if I ate too much. But we will find out, won't we?

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Apres Hiatus

Why a hiatus, you ask? Sheer disorganization, really, and getting easily distracted. I blame it on the weather, which is suddenly wonderful and making the dog walking a lot more fun. I've spent the last week wandering around feeling like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Why the weather has to be any different is a mystery to me.

Last night we Had People Over. This is our generic term for our parties, which can be as small as three people or as large as thirty. My roommate Mary and I both like to throw parties, only it's funny how we can never predict how they're going to turn out. One of our craziest parties was with just six people. Everyone showed up with vodka and, for some reason, cheese (we're near a Whole Foods; the cheese selection is irresistable). At five o'clock people were still smoking and drinking and arguing and I was sure that, at any given moment, people were going to burst into song. Last night's party wasn't as crazy, but we did have the door open (the cats like to hang out in the hallway) and there was a fair amount of smoking on the balcony (though I suspect that drifted into the hallway as well). And because we have the right kind of friends, friends who don't waste time bringing flowers or candy, we had no less than seven bottles of vodka, quite a few bottles of wine, and "an amusing variety of beer" provided by Ollie, who drank most of them, including, I suspect, the Mike's Hard Cranberry Lemonade. And, of course, the usual amount of cheese.

Having people over is wonderful, especially if you live in my apartment building where the neighbors don't complain because they're usually sitting on your couch with a gimlet in their hands. And you can play your own party music, as bizarre as it might seem to others (Ray Charles, George Clinton & Parliament, Dimitri from Paris, Les Sans Culottes, in that order, intermixed with Mary's music, of course, though I put my foot down on Beta Band--too mellow). I wore my trampiest halter top because it's my party and I can tramp out if I want to (and I don't have to go outside).

After taking good care not to be too hungover (see previous entries) I am back on the computer, with apologies to my loyal fanbase of six, who have been lawyerwriter-less for the last week. Sometimes inspiration does not strike. Actually, I'm not sure this is inspiration, but at least I'm back on the horse, so to speak.

By the way, Les Sans Culottes, if you haven't heard of them, is a fabulous faux-French band by way of Brooklyn. Which means that they are all actually American, but they sing and speak with Inspector Clouseau accents. The music is very late 1960's go-go French mixed with modern rock and techno with lots of harmonies and guaranteed to make you want to shimmy and twist like you're in some Gallic acid-trip version of a Frankie Avalon movie. They really have to be seen to be believed, but luckily, they're playing at Studio Seven on the 16th. Definitely buy tickets and see them--unfortunately I'd be out of town, but otherwise I'd be shimmying with you...