Tuesday, December 29, 2009

1L in Quito

Robby and I arrived in Quito last night for our three-week Ecuadorian adventure. Though our flight from Miami to Quito was an hour late we managed to arrive at the hostel before midnight. The first thing I noticed in Quito was that taxi drivers sparingly stop at red lights. Our driver flew from the airport to Travellers Inn, our home base for our two nights in Quito. Robby and I were tired from the travel and didn't mind the bumpy ride and disregard for traffic rules.

Surprisingly, we were up and showered by 7:30 this morning. We both noticed the sun had been up for some time before we roused and were shocked to find it was still so early. We were eager to explore Quito and were out the door by 8:30 after a homemade breakfast of fresh fruit, juice, yogurt, and eggs at our hostel. $20/night for a private room and a fresh breakfast is a pretty good deal. The fruit is the freshest I've ever had since I'm closest to the source as I have ever been.

Just flying into Quito brings me to the highest altitude I have ever been at in my life. I think my hike to Mt. Washington in New Hampshire set the previous record. There are mountains to the west of the city that you can see from any point in Quito; they seem to loom over the city as protector or predator, always engulfed in clouds. The weather in the city was clear and warm, though breezy and fresh due to the altitude. We walked from our location in the New Town of Quito to the touristy Old Town. I was curious whether I would be affected by the change in elevation and the only thing I noticed was my sinuses were congested and Robby had a bit less energy than usual. But we were captivated by this new place and persevered to finish the walking tour we had set out to begin. I've never been in a city like Quito, never been in a Spanish-speaking place, never been to a modern city with such integrated poverty. The beautiful plazas and stone streets were abound with business people and tourists, and young children offering to shine your shoes and old women selling lottery tickets. In my one-day estimation, Quito is a city that is trying very hard. The public parks and plazas are plentiful and very well groomed and clean. But we are warned to take taxis after dark and ATM's are protected by armed guards.

When we finished our walk around New Town and Old Town we went out for seafood at a place recommended by Lonely Planet, about 5 blocks from our hostel. The ceviche, garlic shrimp, and cervezas added up to $16 and were incredibly tasty.

Tomorrow we will either go to Cotopaxi, the local volcano, or check out the art museums in Quito. Tomorrow night we are taking an overnight bus to Canoa, a beach town on the West Coast of Ecuador.

My Spanish is rusty but not terrible. My proudest moment today was at the pharmacy buying deodorant when I said, "no necessito bolsa, gracias." I'll continue working on my conversational Spanish and will continue with updates on our journey.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Semester Wrap Up

Today I've been groveling around my apartment trying to convince myself that being hungover never felt so good. Though it feels great to have the first semester of 1L year over with, this in fact does nothing to lessen the hangover.

But last night was amazing. We finished our final exam at 5:30 and immediately headed to Sao Paulo's, a Brazilian restaurant close to school, for their margarita and queso (http://www.saopaulos.net) happy hour. About 20 of us gathered around tables pushed together and promised we wouldn't talk about law school. Amazingly we succeeded! Rather than bitch about future interests or debate affirmative action, we talked about our families, our boyfriends/girlfriends, our plans for winter vacation. We then went to a classmate's house party and onto a 1L party at Maggie Mae's (http://www.maggiemaesaustin.com/), a bar downtown where there was live band karaoke. A friend and I sang "Santeria" on stage but the best performance was by our classmate Joe for his rendition of the Beastie Boys "You've Got to Fight." The evening was such a welcome and celebratory end to an intense period.

Fully knowing what I cliche it is to say this, I feel unbelievably fortunate to be surrounded by the best classmates in the world. UT divides the 1L class into groups of 25 or so and our small group has really bonded. The support we give each other is invaluable and especially meaningful in this competitive setting. During finals we would check up on each other regularly, sharing notes, complaints, and even desperation. We all hugged before our property exam last week; anyone who knows me knows I love hugs so this was especially comforting.

When I moved here and didn't know anyone I told Robby that I was surprised what I missed most was being touched. I didn't just mean by him so I'll elaborate. When you're in a city full of strangers there aren't hugs, there are just handshakes or maybe a brushing of shoulders. But when you're surrounded by friends there are hugs, arms around each other's shoulders, guiding hands on each other's backs. This is a primordial comfort that I had never thought of until I was alone for the first time in my life.

So when we hugged before tests, danced the night away after our last final, and lounged around entangled in each other and our hangovers the next day I didn't feel alone. It's almost overwhelming to reflect on last semester already. The city, the school, the people... it's been an amazing four months. If my thoughts become more cogent I'll post them here but right now it's a bit of a haze.

Robby and I are headed to Ecuador for 2 1/2 weeks this break so ideally I'll have some "1L in Ecuador posts." I hope everyone has a great holiday and sending my love especially to my fellow 4C'ers. Can't wait to do it all again next semester.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Late night studying

me: 10th amendment is stupid
Jordan: totes
like if you care
put more words in it
me: totally

(from a 1:00 AM gchat conversation)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Finals Update

Today was a good day. It's been surprisingly cold in Austin (even flurried yesterday) and I elected to give in and use the space heater that was provided by my landlord. I spent the morning grocery shopping and doing laundry and then decided to work on my pot roast recipe while creating flash cards for my property final. Comfort food and coziness are a great prelude to productivity and I made significant progress on studying. I had five friends over to enjoy the roast with me - law school students tend to lack sustenance in this time and I was happy to feed my nourishment-needing classmates. Though we tend to primarily chat about exams, it's comforting to feel like we are all in this together. I brewed some coffee at the end of the meal and two of my friends stayed for a necessarily distracting conversation that in no way involved the law.

We then met at another friend's place and eight of us hunkered down for five more hours of studying. Hitting the books was happily interrupted by meaningless banter, law-based questions, and the suspenseful victory of UT football over Nebraska. 46-yard field goal with one second left!

Con Law final is Tuesday so with tomorrow I will abandon my property flash cards and proceed to judicial supremacy, the Commerce Clause, and Equal Protection. Juicy stuff.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Study Break

Today was the last day of classes. This symbolic end to the semester was anticlimactic since it was actually only the beginning of the most intense two weeks of school - finals. Because in law school most if not all of your grade is derived from the final exam, this two week abyss I am entering tends to be wrought with panic attacks, sleep deprivation and general freaking-out. I, however, am trying to keep my cool.

While the panic rushes in at moments, I have discovered ways to find calm. A search on YouTube of "relaxation video" will bring up images of meadows and streams, with a soothing voice instructing your breathing. Cooking my very first pot roast on Sunday gave me a sense of accomplishment that could only be outmatched by a mastery of the Rule Against Perpetuities (Weird coincidence - my twin in Maine was also cooking her very first pot roast that afternoon.) Laughing with my friends about the students they branded "the diaper people" (those who during an 8-hour take home exam will choose adult diapers over a 30-second bathroom break) instilled a sense of perspective. I read an article in the New York Times today about a man who is set to be executed in Texas who has an IQ between 68 and 86 - this reminded me of some of the reasons I am training to be a lawyer. Even though I am sure these next two weeks will be trying, I know there is nowhere else I would rather be.

We jokingly referred to Trinity as "the Bubble" in college. Here I feel as protected as I did there, and perhaps even as insulated. Yet law school carries with it a sense of engagement in the "bigger picture." For me, this idea is incredibly grounding during this intense period of study and preparation. I am preparing for the class exam, but at the same time and more importantly, I am preparing for a profession that is fundamentally integral to our society and our sense of justice as a people.

And now, back to the studying.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Reason #15 I Love Austin

I was in line at Buffalo Exchange today (GREAT consignment store a block from my apartment http://www.buffaloexchange.com) and I overheard a trapeze artist chatting with a roller derby girl.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reason #14 I Love Austin

Today was our last legal writing & research class and our professor brought us cupcakes!

Monday, November 16, 2009


Finals studying time is upon us which means my focus for the next month will be on Property, Criminal Law, and Constitutional Law, rather than on barbeque, margaritas, and music. This is probably a good thing though, and of course reflects the primary reason I moved to Austin. The fact that I now live in a dynamic city that has taken ahold of me must be secondary to my academic aspirations... right?

Right. I say this to serve as a disclaimer that over the next month my posts will probably be more school-oriented. Thanksgiving is this week and I am staying at school to buckle down in the library, only to break for the Law School Thanksgiving Dinner and Dance. And yet I'm really looking forward to Thanksgiving "vacation."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Law School Humor

Law school can be pretty funny. In line with the way I approach most endeavors, I came to school hoping not to take it too seriously and to have some fun. So far neither of these goals has been difficult to realize, though with finals coming up I'm actually trying to step up the seriousness. On the other hand, I don't think the fun part will wane. It's about appreciating the little things. For example:

It seems like everyone in school has a cold and with it, the requisite sick noises: sniffles, coughs, and sneezes. As property class was starting yesterday, the noises were synchronized in pitch and rhythm, like a symphony of sneezes. I was thinking this when suddenly I let out a loud, high-pitched sneeze, similar to cymbals crashing. This was the grand finale, and with it class began. I looked up to see my friend looking at me and laughing and I knew he was thinking the same thing.

Today in constitutional law our professor caught himself as he said, "naked power organ" in reference to the Court.

Many times amusements come from learning about Texas law. Today I learned that in Texas, calling someone a "communist" is libel per se. This is the most serious kind of libel and means that malice does not need to be proven.

There's a framed painting in the Atrium of the law school of a bunch of men standing around laughing. They are tan, many silver-haired, a couple wearing newsboy caps, one in sunglasses, and with drinks in hand. I'm guessing they're hot shot alums but when I first visited the law school I actually thought it was a painting of the cast of the Sopranos. I laugh every time I walk past it.

I was thinking of starting a website similar to "Overheard in New York," but instead "Overheard in Law School." Part of the learning process here is to test the law - to see if rules hold up in extreme circumstances. The hypotheticals people come up with are worth recording. In one class, we were talking about whether ignorance should negate the culpable mental element of a crime. One of my friends came up with a hypothetical where a bunch of Swedes are in a room with automatic weapons. "But, you know" he demonstrated, "they're Swedes so they don't know what the guns are." Could the innocent Swedes be brought up on weapons charges?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Reason #13 I Love Austin

It's November and today I was lounging poolside in a bikini. (Studying, of course.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Home Sweet Austin

I have been shirking my blog duties! Austin has been busy and beautiful. The weather has remained in the 70s and sunny, school work has picked up in the past week, and I had a special visitor the past four days. Robby flew in from NYC for Halloween.

Last week one of my classmates posted on his facebook status a message to the effect of how grateful he is to be at the law school he always dreamed to attend in the city he always dreamed to reside. Unlike my classmate who seems to have had a good idea of his path for a long time, I never could have predicted I would be attending UT Law, let alone that I would live in Texas. Yet, like my classmate, I do have a keen sense of gratefulness to be where I am now. This sentiment is omnipresent among students I talk to at UT Law. I think it is the symbiotic combination of living in a diverse, affordable, "weird" city and studying at a great school that has instilled in us this sense of appreciation.

With these thoughts abound, Robby arrived in Austin on Friday. I loved having him around so I could share with him this enthusiasm for my new home. Friday night we had a drink with friends downtown and then headed to the Alamo Drafthouse on 6th Street for the 10:00 showing of Nightmare on Elm Street with the Master Pancake Theater (http://www.originalalamo.com/Signature.aspx?id=15). Master Pancake is an improv group who comments as the movie is playing. They will ad lib their own dialogue, or make keen observations on the movie. As we learned, the mother in Nightmare on Elm Street is constantly drinking vodka and a character in the beginning of the movie looks eerily like Rod Stewart (a woman, of course).

Saturday we decided to take advantage of the perfect weather and conduct our own walking tour of Austin. We walked from my apartment to the Capital (about 20 blocks), then to downtown (about 8 blocks) and over the river to South Congress (about 20 blocks). We walked through the UT campus, passing a pond overrun with turtles, then to and through the Capital and its grounds, pausing for a picture of Robby with the Dubya portrait. We came upon the Texas Book Festival downtown, walked through food stands with huge outdoor grills, and saw a cooking show being filmed. Our final destination became a Tex-Mex restaurant on South Congress, which was hopping at 12:30 in the afternoon. It may have been because it was Halloween, or just because it's Austin, but there seemed to be a party everywhere we went. The bar was packed and in the spirit of the festivities, we enjoyed a couple margaritas. We then headed back to my apartment to put on our costumes. Robby donned a banana suit and I was a sock-hop girl in a poodle skirt and cat-eye glasses.

Robby happened to have a friend in town staying at the Hotel San Jose (http://www.sanjosehotel.com/) on South Congress so we went to catch up with him and his friends before the Halloween evening activities ensued. The Hotel is one story with cabana-like rooms and an outdoor pool/bar. It's inexpensive with a retro style that emits that cool, laid-back Austin vibe.

We headed from South Congress to downtown and bar-hopped a bit before meeting up with a Trinity friend and her husband and sister at a lounge. They told us about their friends who were in a cross-dressing informal parade that was going through Austin, the paraders dressed as a marching band complete with the instruments and baton-twirling. The band made its way through the bar and I made sure to get photos with the members. Those ladies were looking hot.

We proceeded to 6th Street around 10 PM and the street was packed with costumed revelers. We toured the grounds to costume-watch and settled on a 6th Street bar, whose name of course escapes me. There we encountered two more bananas and a banana dance-party ensued. Robby and I headed home around 11:30, satisfied we experienced an Austin Halloween.

Sunday night we went with my friend from school and her boyfriend to The Salt Lick (http://www.saltlickbbq.com/), a famous barbeque restaurant outside Austin in the Hill Country. It's located in a dry county, which I didn't even realize existed until last weekend, so we brought a couple six-packs. We filled up on the best brisket, ribs, and sausage I (and Robby too, I think) have had and made sure to leave with the mail-order catalogue. The finest smoked meat in Texas is a pretty solid Christmas present.

Robby stuck around until Tuesday and it was such a pleasure to have a buddy with whom to share this wonderful place. For the first time, I felt like I was showcasing my home. When Robby was here in August it was over 100 degrees every day, I didn't know anyone, and I got lost with every turn. Since then, the temperature has dropped 30 degrees, I have friends, and I know the cardinal directions from most points on campus. It's been a pretty productive 2 1/2 months.

While it was wonderful to have Robby in town, he was quite the distraction so now I am hunkering down with my schoolwork.

Above are some pictures from Robby's visit, taken on our Saturday walk and with some marching band members Halloween night.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Austin Greenbelt

The weather here has been perfect lately. Today's forecast was a high of 72, sunny, no humidity. Last weekend was the same and I was itching to do something outside but I didn't know what to do or who to call. I went on a couple bike rides and resolved to plan something for this weekend to take advantage of the pristine Texas skies. I did some research and discovered the Greenbelt, 8 miles of hiking trails within Austin. Among Austin's multiple nicknames is "A City Within a Park" and today gave me some insight why.

I asked a girlfriend if she would join me for the hike. She's been in Austin for about four years and has been very encouraging of my will to discover this city; she also has a "down for anything" attitude that makes her a great companion for a new venture. Last weekend I thought about hiking the Greenbelt by myself but didn't think that was wise; a single girl on a hiking trail sounds like the premise for a horror movie. Thankfully and unsurprisingly, Laura was happy to check out the Greenbelt with me.

She picked me up at my apartment around 11:30 and we both confessed that we were slightly hungover. I was glad we were on the same page and we agreed this would be a leisurely hike and hopefully not too strenuous. The hike turned out to be precisely that.

The path paralleled a creek, which would intermittently break into a waterfall. The trail led us through wooded areas, and through meadows of stunning yellow wildflowers. When we were walking through one of the wildflower meadows, I suddenly smelled something rotten. We continued walking and then at the same time we both looked down and screamed; on the trail was the leg of a dead animal, with a hoof (see the picture above). We couldn't decide if it was a deer or a goat but we were sufficiently creeped out. After seeing the appendage, Laura and I were especially on edge. We would hear a lizard in the bushes or a bird in a tree and gasp. We decided this would be a good time to turn around.

Notably, I saw my first wild cacti (and of course subsequently pricked my finger). The trail was more of a walk than a hike but by the time we were done we had been in the Greenbelt for almost three hours and walked 7 or 8 miles. The perfect way to spend a beautiful afternoon.

Reason #11 I love Austin: The Greenbelt.

Reason #12 I love Austin: On the way back to my apartment we drove past Zilker park and I saw a naked man riding his bike on one of the paths!

P.S. Happy Birthday, dad!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Reason #10 I love Austin

Conversation at the UPS store:

UPS Guy: Could I take you for a drink sometime?
Me: No, thank you, I have a boyfriend back in New York.
UPS Guy: Well I have a girlfriend in Dallas.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Find your Passion

I came to law school expecting to "find my passion." This is a phrase I heard a lot growing up and it was the most important directive my parents gave me. Find what you love and the rest should come together from there. I don't know exactly how it will unfold, but I do think law will be the professional love of my life, and I think I've actually known that for longer than I had realized. So I haven't been surprised at how much I enjoy class, my classmates, and my professors. It's like it's always been a part of me.

What has surprised me, however, is that another passion has entered my life. If you were on the field with me tonight, you know what I'm talking about. Flag football.

The Adverse Possessors brought their record to 2-1 tonight with a 15-7 win tonight, defeating some solid competition from the previously undefeated Hargrave Society. In only three games I have been shocked at the rush I get as soon I am on the football field. The adrenaline pumps as I dodge defenders trying to find an opening, and wave my hands furiously at our star quarterback, Patrick. I am struck by feelings of anticipation, dread, hope, and sheer amazement when the ball has been thrown in my direction. Pulling the flags off an opponent gives me wild satisfaction. Who would have known.

Tonight was the highlight of my brief, but blossoming football career. I scored my first touchdown. Last game I scored on a conversion and was elated; I knew I wanted the ball to keep coming my way. Patrick threw the ball to me in the end zone and I fumbled it in the air for a second, but then grabbed it and pulled it in close. I cannot think of a feeling comparable to what I felt when I looked down to see the ball in my arms, and my self in the end zone. I jumped up and down for about 30 seconds, and high-fived all my teammates.

I also got to play the whole game, on offense and defense, as there is a 4 girl on the field rule. Our faintly demarcated field was covered in ant hills but I could hardly bring my feet to step off it when the game was over.

I'm proud of my playing but I have to give MVP of the evening to Robbie Carman. Robbie had two interceptions, one that converted into the first touchdown of the game, and the other which ended the game. We simply have a good team with high spirits and lots of love. We've all got the passion.

So my mom isn't too worried about how I am spending my time here, I need to make clear that football has not superseded law school in my attentions. I don't believe in monogamy in life passions and my love for law school has not waned. I've just found a little additional spark elsewhere, a place to spend my Wednesday nights. Law, you're my #1, but football, you're my sweet fall fling.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Cherry Bombs vs. The Hellcats

Imagine a world where "fights like a girl" is a compliment, family fun includes your father wearing a curly blond wig, the national anthem is sung like a rendition of "November Rain," and if it happens to be your birthday, you are treated to 26 women in fishnets, helmets, and roller skates, lining up to give you your birthday spank. This is the world I was introduced to last night, when I attended my first all-girls roller derby in downtown Austin. The Cherry Bombs fought the Hellcats in an epic battle for the TXRD (http://www.txrd.com) championship.

I went to the Derby expecting to love it - the perfect expression of today's feminism as fashioned by this strange city. The first half of the game I was blown away by these two teams of tough women, frank in their sexuality and unapologetically looking to kick ass. Their names expressed this intersection of sex and violence: Honey Homicide, Miss Amerikill, and Cherry Chainsaw, to name a few. They wore tight neon uniforms with short skirts, many in ripped fishnets, some with their brightly colored underwear inevitably exposed by the crouched stance of a roller girl in action. When a penalty was called, the offending roller girl would spin the "penalty wheel" and would have to compete against a chosen member of the opposing team; there was an arm-wrestle, a pillow fight, a tug-o-war, and "anything goes" - where two girls race to finish two laps of the rink and anything goes in stopping the opponent. Before the race even started, the two women were on the ground, wrestling and fighting each other. They had to be separated in order for them to be able to actually skate and finish the race.

There was live music, before the derby and at half time. The opening band was called "Wicked Celtics," (http://www.wickedceltics.com) described in the program as the hypothetical love-child of "Scott Stapp of Creed, that dude from Nickelback, and James Hetfield of Metallica." After their show they had a table for autographs and a sign that read, "Wicked Celtics autographs, $48.99 or best offer." I thought it was weird that the derby began with the national anthem but when the lead singer of Wicked Celtics performed, I understood it was meant somewhat ironically. Or maybe it wasn't; maybe I'm just in Texas.

At halftime, Cruiserweight (http://www.cruiserweight.com) performed, the self-proclaimed "official band of roller derby." The lead singer, a woman with cat-eye glasses and a tattoo of an electrical socket, sang pop tough-girl tunes, a continued celebration of the roller girl persona.

Roller girls would frequently flip over the railing of the rink in an effort to save their ribs from breaking when pushed full-speed into the ropes. As the derby went on, the wounds became more visible: bloody noses and burned thighs. Although I cringed at each hit in the derby, I admired these women for their temerity. I thought at least in football men wear all that padding, but these women are truly putting their bodies on the line for the sport.

Early in the third quarter, tragedy struck. In writing this, I can hear myself as a mother in ten years: "it's all fun and games until..." In this case, until Cherry Chainsaw of the Cherry Bombs gruesomely broke her ankle. When she went down, you could hear her scream and the derby came to an immediate halt. At first I thought it was part of the show, the level of dramatics being so high - women crying and even vomiting, all with stunned looks on their faces. But as the announcers repeatedly called medical personnel to the rink, it became clear that this was not part of the show. Cherry Chainsaw's mother was sitting in front of us and she rushed to her daughter's side. It took about 20 minutes to get Cherry on a stretcher and to the ambulance that had been called to the Convention Center. The crowd stood in stunned silence as the announcers filled the void with narrative about Cherry, how she is a single mom, this was to be her retirement derby, her contributions to the game, etc. Johnny Stranger, the Cherry Bombs manager, walked around collecting money for Cherry's medical bills with the announcers continuing, "unfortunately, roller derby is a skate-at-your-own-risk sport and Cherry Chainsaw does not have medical insurance; we all know how much she would appreciate your help."

Once Cherry was out of the arena, the game went on. The managers had decided, for time's sake, to jump straight to the fourth quarter. I thought the mood on the rink would be slightly subdued, but rather it was heightened. The level of brutality grew and three major penalties were called. There were two fights.

My sense of liberation in the first half turned to aversion in the second. Half-time seemed to perfectly slice my reaction to this "anything goes" style of all-girls roller derby. At the risk of sounding too much like Carrie Bradshaw, I left wondering, in our quest for equality, must we match men in everything? Was this an unexpected turn in women's lib, or a showing that we can be just as brutal and stupid as men, but in this case with fewer benefits and more to lose?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Thinking like a Lawyer

When we started law school we were told over and over again that we are not here to learn the law, but rather, to learn how to think like a lawyer. In some sense, we are being brainwashed; our old ways of thinking need to be erased to make way for the lawyerly way of thinking. Our professors employ the Socratic method in class to emphasize the need for constant questioning, the hallmark of a good lawyer. It's hard to describe this philosophy of teaching because it is by definition largely insubstantial - it is meant to frame our way of thinking. Our professors question our assertions, court opinions, and statutes, in order to get us to start thinking in this way. It is a wonderful intellectual exercise.

And it's starting to rub off. It's funny talking to other 1L's and noticing that we are all becoming a bit more lawyerly in our speaking and our thought. I also notice this in conversation with my parents, friends, and Robby. The other day I accused Robby of an act "without my knowledge or consent." A friend of mine here at school was debating selling her parking space for the most recent home football game and wondered aloud whether she's selling the space or merely the rights to the space for that period, and whether she had a right to do either. It's pretty dorky how exciting it is for us novice law students to see that the "thinking like a lawyer" is settling in. But that's what we're here for and it's validating to see some proof that our education is working.

I acutely noticed what a legal dork I am turning into this past weekend, when I attended a friend's wedding in upstate New York. I was seated next to a high school friend of the groom who I hadn't met before the wedding, and who graduated from law school a few years ago. Of course, we had law school in common so it's no surprise that that's generally where our conversation went. He told me he only dates lawyers now, which terrified me. He explained it in the in terms of "thinking like a lawyer," which made more sense. When you are able to think like your partner, it can make things a little easier. We then got going about the Constitution and he surprised me by saying he's an originalist, and politically liberal. While these two ideas aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, they're not found together as often as originalism and conservatism. We laughed about Scalia's ornery opinions and debated the merits of originalism in a democratic society. About four glasses of wine deep, I quoted Marshall's, "this is a constitution we are expounding." We shared a love of the Constitution and its enduring beauty and we both seemed genuinely excited by the conversation.

I learned the next day that everyone else at our table was laughing at us.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Its important to be nice

Here I have been writing primarily about food, law school, and the banalities of my day-to-day life, when I am in the Live Music Capitol of the World. It is notable that I haven't been to much live music here. I've been around live music, whether at the greenmarket or the Hot Sauce Festival, but tonight was the first time I made a deliberate effort to go see some. When I moved here I was overwhelmed by Austin's music reputation and was in a sense paralyzed - I didn't know where to start. Of course, this is a poor excuse for not taking advantage of an enviable scene. I decided about a week ago that I wanted to go to the Continental Club (http://www.continentalclub.com/Austin.html) on S. Congress as my first foray into Austin music. A friend from law school, who happens to be from Brooklyn, lives near this famous venue; we agreed to go there together sometime.

She has a friend visiting from New York and they made plans to go to the Continental Club Gallery tonight to see Jon Dee Graham (http://www.myspace.com/jondeegraham), who she described as Tom Waits-ish. This comparison didn't mean much to my ignorant music mind but I know my dad likes Tom Waits so I was sufficiently intrigued. I met her and her friend at a seafood restaurant across the street from the Continental Club and we arrived at the 8:30 show around 8:35. The man at the door cut us a deal on the cover, 3 for $30 (compared to $12 each.) On the way upstairs I smiled at the sign on the wall (Mr. Cool Ice Says: Its nice to be important, but its important to be nice.), see above.

Maybe it's only in New York that shows start about a half hour after their advertised starting time*, because Mr. Graham and his lovely guest for the evening, Erin Ivey (http://www.erinivey.com/), were already playing when we arrived. The room was small and intimate and the only three seats available were directly to the left of the stage so we tip-toed around to take them.

I wish I was a music critic so I would have the proper vocabulary to describe the show but I'll try my best with what I have. Mr. Graham has a throaty, gruff voice. He is the father of your friend who you think is a grump but actually turns out to be a softie. He told a story about teaching a fellow musician to hug and moments later insisted on an awkward silence to make the audience feel uncomfortable. He is self-deprecating, sore, and sad but all the while hopeful and full of love. The last song was about a friend praying for him. That's the kind of faith he has - the faith in a friend who prays for him, but not the faith to be the one praying. He is also a terrific guitar player and his slides seemed to make the guitar cry.

Ms. Ivey is pretty and looks younger than she is. I just read her bio and she mentions coming to Austin for college and subsequently says, "as ten years in Austin approached..." Honestly, I am relieved. I thought she was prettier, more talented, and younger than me. Turns out she's only prettier and more talented. One song she sang, "Little Star," made me think of the black sweatshirt with neon stars that I wore everyday when I was three years old. The song obviously triggered in my memory the stars, but also youth and innocence. Maybe this is why I thought she was younger than she is - this is what her voice conveys.

Mr. Graham and Ms. Ives probably played only 6 or 7 songs in their hour and a half set. The show didn't seem to be rehearsed and one would join the other in their respective songs. At one point, Ms. Ives asked Mr. Graham to accompany her on his electric guitar, "but not too loud." He was dismayed by the instructions and their banter suggested he would not oblige, but sure enough her soft voice was never obstructed.

After the show, I hailed a taxi to get home. The van pulled over and as I opened the door to the backseat, the driver said, "No, sit in front. More comfortable." On the way home I learned he is a cricket player, moved here twelve years ago from Kashmir which he described as "a very poor country." "Do you know it?," he asked. "Heard of it," I responded. "Like the sweaters," he said. Embarrassed, I wondered, how can he tell I am not well-traveled and like soft knits? He literally won citizenship to the United States when he finished high school. There was a lottery in his country and his name was pulled. "And I was the one who won," he went on, "worth more than a million bucks." I could tell he was serious. When he learned he won, he asked a friend where the coolest place in the United States is, and his friend told him to move to Austin.

*When I looked at Ms. Ivey's website I noticed she advertised the Continental Club start-time as 8:00, so while I originally attributed the half-hour leeway in advertising showtimes as a New York/Austin thing, I now think it is generational.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ummm... dildew?

I can't tell if this is a joke but either way it's reason #9 I love Austin. This sign was hanging in the laundry room of my apartment complex.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Least of These

Last Thursday I went to a screening at the law school of "The Least of These," (http://theleastofthese-film.com/) a documentary film about T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a controversial family detention center in Taylor, Texas, for immigrant families awaiting asylum hearings or deportation screenings. Specifically, the film focuses on the efforts of a UT law professor and immigration attorney, Barbara Hines, to address the prison-like facilities that were housing these families, including children. The film can be viewed for free on its website and can also be found on Netflix. I encourage anyone to see it.

The crux of the issue at Hutto is as follows: sick of the "catch and release" policies on immigration, where an undocumented immigrant was instructed to appear at court and sometimes would not, the Bush administration began detaining these people until their asylum or immigration hearings. Because many of the people crossing our borders came as families, the concern was then how to keep families together within this new paradigm of detention. This is how the Hutto Center began. In what was formerly a medium-security prison, the largest private prison operator in the country, CCA, was contracted by our government to create a family detention center. This poses the obvious problem of keeping children in a prison-like, or actually, a prison environment. The legal problem for Professor Hines, her students, and her colleagues, was whether the facilities complied with the federal standards of housing children, but there is also the larger moral problem of detaining children. One official at CCA lamented that unfortunately sometimes children pay for the crimes of their parents, but in our just society, is this an assumption we should be so willing to accept? The legal question was within the jurisdiction of Professor Hines and her students and colleagues but there was always that larger moral question lingering throughout the film.

The Least of These is inspirational, heartwarming, and heartbreaking. I initially heard about this project from a New Yorker article published about a year and a half ago (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/03/03/080303fa_fact_talbot) and I was reminded of the story when it was mentioned at the admitted student days I attended in Austin last March. I remember when I first read the article being so impressed that law students' work could have real-life results. Professor Hines was teaching an immigration law clinic at UT so her students became intimately involved with the case. Hearing the story of Hutto and the efforts of Professor Hines, her students, and other attorneys that became involved in the case made me proud to be a part of an institution that is willing to speak for those marginalized in the legal system - I have been here for only a month but this sense of responsibility of lawyers, that relatively small subsection of the population who is trained to understand and interpret the law, is very apparent in the legal education here at UT.

I don't need to summarize the film further but there are a couple of scenes that stuck out for me. In one case, a family from Iran had escaped persecution to Canada, and their son was born in Canada, making him a citizen. The parents, however, were denied asylum in Canada and the family was sent back to Iran, where the parents were tortured and eventually paid for forged papers to return to Canada with their nine-year-old son. On the way to Toronto, a passenger died on their flight so the plane was redirected to land in Puerto Rico, where the false documents were discovered and the family was detained at Hutto. While there, the family (and other families at Hutto) were forced to have their child present for meetings with their attorneys, where the parents recounted the horrific stories of torture in Iran. The mother and father had hoped to shield their son from the traumatic knowledge of this past, but he was present for these meetings for asylum, and learned of the abuse his parents endured. This aspect was among the most heartbreaking for me. The hope that the parents could shield their young son from the knowledge of the torture inflicted in their home country was shattered in Hutto. It is such a fundamental parental instinct to protect their children and yet at Hutto, the freedom of such an attempt at protection was stripped.

Another scene that stuck out was towards the end of the film. A young mother, pregnant with her fourth child, escaped from her abuser, the father of the children, to America. She had scars on her face from the machete he assaulted her with, and she was forced to leave her eldest daughter behind with the abuser, who held the child at knife point while the pregnant mother and the two youngest girls fled. The mother, her two girls, and now infant baby were released from Hutto recently and the oldest of the girls, probably about six, was being interviewed for the film. She said how she was amazed by the beauty of Houston, a statement which, while there was hardly a dry eye in the audience I was among, still elicited a chuckle. The interviewer asked her more specifically what was so beautiful about life outside Hutto, in Houston. The girl replied (I am paraphrasing): There's a place called McDonald's, which is so beautiful, and has a big toy where you can slide down into a pool of balls.

Such innocence and sadness accompanied this statement by the young girl.

The title of the film comes from a passage in Matthew, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." I am proud to be at a school and in a country that believes in the possible embodiment of this statement through our legal system.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Adverse Possessors

Apparently law students love legal puns. As I mentioned earlier, the Thursday bar event is called the "Bar Review." I learned recently that the Halloween party at the Law School is called "Ex Parte." And my intramural football team is called the "Adverse Possessors."

Yup, I'm on an intramural football team. All the classes of 1L students have their own teams so it was natural for me to participate in mine. Tonight was our first game of the season and we played a team studying Nuclear Physics at the grad school here. The game started at 8:00 and our coach asked us to be there at 7:30 to practice a bit. I left my apartment at 7:00 to catch the UT Shuttle to the IM fields but I couldn't find the bus stop, so I walked the 25 blocks to the fields.

I walked through an Austin neighborhood called Hyde Park. I've heard of this area before as the place where a lot of graduate students and professors live. It has a real neighborhoody feel, the first I have noticed since I moved here. As I have professed, I love Austin, but I must say that aesthetically it doesn't have much on New York. There are no rows of brownstones, and sidewalks seem to come and go with no reason; it is primarily a driving city. I am a walker who enjoys meandering and getting lost in the grid of pre-war New York City buildings and townhomes, so this has been an adjustment for me. Sure, Austin has a certain funkiness about it that I really appreciate; it is utterly unpretentious with a kitschy charm. And although I think the West Village in New York is generally too overrun with designer labels and yuppies and hipsters, there is nothing like the quaint two or three storied brownstones that line those cobblestone streets, their basement bars and hidden back gardens giving New York that "New York" feel. The feel of a small town in a big city.

In Hyde Park there are no brownstones and no townhouses, but there are cottage-like houses with small yards lining narrow streets where each intersection has a four-way stop. The houses are modest yet polished, there are trees with swings hanging from them, a public swimming pool and tennis courts, and people taking evening walks. It's charming in the homey sense. It's the small town feel in the city.

I arrived at the IM fields at 7:40, a bit late but nothing catastrophic. We threw the football around awhile and the game was on. I am proud to say that I was on the receiving end of the first complete pass of the game. My problem, however, which I first noticed in practice, is that when I catch the ball I am so proud of the catch that I kind of forget to run; the flags around my waist were immediately stripped. Our team played fine and was certainly not out-matched by the Nuclear Physicists we were up against but sadly, we lost. The loss was comforted by team margaritas at Trudy's after the game.

The IM fields at UT, like just about everything here at UT, are enormous. They are not lying when they say everything is bigger in Texas. We played under the lights and the evening was uncharacteristically cool compared to recent weather. It was lovely.

I'm hoping the Adverse Possessors will have a couple practices before next week's game. Once the bulk of us get more comfortable with the game I think we'll be a solid force. In the meantime I'll enjoy my walk to the field.

Monday, September 14, 2009


It's kind of embaressing that I am writing about meat again. But last Sunday I went on a lunch trip with a friend from school and her boyfriend to Lockhart, Texas (aka the Barbeque Capitol of Texas) and it was such great fun I can't keep it to myself.

I enjoyed the trip for numerous reasons, not just the brisket, which I will iterate:

1) The furthest outside of Austin I had been within Texas is the Austin Airport, which probably doesn't even count. Though we ventured less than 30 miles outside of Austin, the surroundings felt very different very quickly. Austin is known for its lakes and hills, and as we were heading south the landscape changed noticeably. The land was suddenly very flat and barren. We passed trailers, pecan trees, and cows between Austin and Lockhart and not much else. The clouds were looming, adding to the ominous character of the land. To pass so quickly into such a different territory was itself an experience.

2) Smitty's. We tried out two different BBQ places, sampling different meats from each. My friend's boyfriend had done a BBQ tour recently so he knew just where to bring us and just what to order. The first place we stopped was Smitty's (http://www.smittysmarket.com/9.htm). When you walk into Smitty's you basically walk into a smoker. There are exposed flames from the wood logs that are burning to create the smoke which flows into the large pits. It's one big room with granite floors and brick walls, and the savory smell of smoked meat. This is where you order the meat by weight, which is served on wax paper. The next room from the smoke room is a cafeteria-like dining area where you can pick up your sides and sweet tea. We skipped the sides to focus on the important stuff, took our seats and got to work. Our sampling included their brisket, sausage, and pork chops. The pork chops hands down were my favorite. A thick, juicy cut that you have to eat with your fingers. They literally do not have forks in this place. The food coma was starting to set in but we still had some BBQ to try.

3) Black's Barbeque (http://www.blacksbbq.com/). We were glad we went to Black's BBQ second because it has a cozier feel for eating, and with the mounting daze from all the smoked meats we knew we would want to take a seat for awhile after eating and before heading back to Austin. We also decided to try out some of the sides and desserts here. Our sampling included brisket, smoked turkey, jalapeno cheddar sausage, banana pudding, blackberry cobbler, candied marshmallow yams, and deviled eggs. Wow, this seems even more decadent as I write it out. Each of the sides is in just a small bowl so I swear it's not as bad as it sounds, and three of us were tasting. I tried everything except the yams and my ranking from best to worst is as follows: 1) smoked turkey; 2) banana pudding; 3) brisket; 4) deviled eggs; 5) jalapeno cheddar sausage; 6) blackberry cobbler. The turkey was a welcome break from the delicious yet moist and fatty brisket that I have been consuming entirely too regularly since I moved to Austin. It was smoky and lean and guilt-free. The banana pudding was to die for. I don't think I have had banana pudding before and from what I hear it is pretty easily made but I was still impressed. The blackberry cobbler was disappointingly bland and as for the sausage, well I don't really like sausage flavored with too many additions. Nothing against Black's BBQ, but just meat is fine by me. The brisket was good, and the deviled eggs could have been creamier and less yolky. An altogether satisfying second lunch and I was glad we were able to linger in the booth we were sitting in. There were also longhorn horns (?) above every doorway, inspiring me to look on Ebay for a set for my apartment. My bedroom is a bit too girly and nothing plays down girliness like some dead animal paraphernalia.

4) Lockhart's Caldwell County Courthouse is just stunning (see above.).

5) It's nice to spend some good time with good people, especially in a new place. Makes it feel a bit more like home.

I fell into a food coma when I got home from the outing and was useless for the rest of my Sunday afternoon, but with no regret.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The list continues...

Reason #8 I love Austin: I needed an electric drill to hang up my curtains but alas my tool box is nonexistent. I knocked on my next door neighbor's door to inquire whether he had a drill (although I believe I mistakenly called it an "electric screwdriver"). He said no, but he has a friend who does and he can call him and ask him to bring it over. I insisted it wasn't necessary to inconvenience his friend and thanked him for the offer. Two hours later there was a knock on my door and I open it to find my neighbor and his friend, toolboxes in hand.

Unfortunately I told them the wrong places for the screws. I have since had to backtrack and remove the screws, but I can't get one of the screws out. I borrowed a drill from a law school friend, drilled another screw in the wall next to the unmovable one but again in the wrong spot. I placed the holders for the curtain rod too far apart so I have the holders in the wall and can't hang the rod. This is my own damn fault. I still love Austin.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Will you be my friend?

It's taken about three weeks to get settled into my apartment and into the rhythm of law school but I realized after last weekend the one thing missing is friends. Jacob and his Texan buddies were in town last weekend so I was able to mingle a bit, but of course visits are fleeting and relatively infrequent. I'm going to be here for three years - a support system imported from the Northeast isn't going to cut it.

What added to this realization was Jacob's constant teasing last weekend that I do not have friends here. Every time I was introduced to someone new, my first question was, "do you live in Austin?," hoping to establish a contact here. When he pointed this out to me I realized my desperation. Something needed to be done.

Making friends here is different from what I've experienced in the past. Because so many Trinity friends transplanted to NYC after graduating, I haven't really had to try to meet people since I went to Trinity eight years ago. The experience of making friends as a 17-year-old freshman at a small college nicknamed "The Bubble" is vastly different from making friends as a 25-year-old 1L at a huge school in a vibrant city. I don't live in a dorm here. When I entered Trinity, I, like most of the freshman class, was single and excited to meet people of the opposite sex - that incentive is (happily) gone. 80% of students at UT are from Texas, which means they have family and friends somewhere in this huge state, and well I just don't. We are encouraged to "network," which for me makes social situations even more strained and awkward, as if there is some calculable end to the forced laughs and clinking of the beer bottles. The most difficult thing for me, however, is the sheer necessity of it. I have never felt like I needed to make friends; it was always a pretty natural process.

So I needed to be more deliberative and proactive - I, for the first time I can remember in my life, had to make a forced effort to make friends. When I heard about the happy hour for our Society (about 100 of us who have two classes together) I knew a free beer scene would be the best possible situation for my newfound resolve.

The open bar event was at 6:00 at Scholz's beer garden, on the edge of campus. I went to a meeting at school at 5:30 for a group I am interested in joining, and at the meeting was a fellow "4C" student (I still don't have a hold on the system, but UT Law divides you into societies and sections - our society is about 100 people; our section is a smaller group from the society of about 25 people with whom you have all your classes.). Recognizing each other from classes, we started chatting and turns out she and I lived in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn, as did our Criminal Law professor. We were both heading to the Society happy hour and she offered me a ride with another girl and guy from our Society. This meant I had three new friends before we even got to the bar.

At the happy hour I got to know some of our other classmates better and I found myself enjoying the conversations - nothing like the forced Q's & A's I had feared. I exchanged some phone numbers, and was on a roll. At about 8 I left with two girls in my class and we decided to walk downtown, about 10 blocks, to get dinner before the "Bar Review" party at a downtown bar. (The Bar Review is every Thursday night and is put on by the Student Board of Advocates. It is just a pun in name and has nothing to do with the Bar, like my mom thought, but rather simply takes place at a bar.)

On our way downtown we walked past the Capitol building and through its grounds. (See the picture I took, above.) The Capitol is just stunning. It is massive, I believe larger than our Nation's Capitol building, and the grass there is pretty much the only green grass I have seen since I have been to Austin, due to the drought. We also saw a possum lurking around the building and bats flying above, circling the capitol dome. It was a beautiful walk. We ended up getting a slice of pizza and then headed to the Bar Review.

I stayed at the Bar Review until around 1:00 and hopped in a cab to go home, which I shared with a girl I had met earlier that evening who needed to pick up her car on campus. More phone number exchanging ensued.

I woke up with a headache the next day but felt pretty good about the previous night. Making friends isn't so tough. Oh, and I found out Jay-Z is coming to Austin Nov. 22, and UT students can get $25 tickets. Made plans with my new friends to go.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Barton Springs

When I was moving to Austin my dad kept telling me to "find the fountain." "OK, dad," I said each time. I had no idea what he was talking about. My dad used to be a professor and seems to still use lectures to convey his ideas so I didn't ask him to expound, fearing a drawn-out answer. Well, turns out he was talking about Barton Springs.

In Austin's Zilker Park you will find quite literally, an oasis. Barton Springs is a three-acre natural spring-fed pool that provides swimming pool-like aquatic relief for Austinites on the hottest of days, maintaining a cool 68 degrees temperature. Fun fact: Robert Redford learned to swim there at five years old. (Pshhh I was 3 when I learned to swim.)

Last Monday, Labor Day, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. After a long, hot, boozy weekend I needed some relief. I packed my backpack with cookies, an apple, water, a book, and a towel, threw on my bikini and a cover-up and set out to take the bus to Zilker Park. The bus ride was miserable, requiring a transfer on a detoured bus route downtown running on a Sunday schedule. The compounded effect of transfer x detour x Sunday schedule took a toll and I found myself lost in the middle of downtown in 100 degree weather being misdirected by a friendly, yet clueless police officer. That kind of sucked, but in the end the experience added to my appreciation of the relief that Barton Springs provides.

When I arrived at Zilker Park, I found my way to Barton Springs and paid the $3 entry fee. Right before you get to the pay-entrance you pass a playground, rows of covered picnic tables, and a snack bar featuring sno-cones. I was already thinking about what flavor to get for the way home. I entered the pool area, spread out my towel, and picked up my book but soon found myself just looking around. The pool in some ways looks like any artificial in-ground pool. The water depths are marked on the side and there is a cement sidewalk surrounding most of the area. There are stairs leading down into the water. There is a diving board with a long line of surprisingly old bathers waiting to do tricks off the board. The differences are there is algae floating in the water, there is a slippery bottom of rock and moss, the opposing wall from me that bordered the pool is rock, and it is much larger than any backyard pool I have seen. After taking in the scenery I began to listen to the people around me. In front of me was a French family with a plump mom, a very handsome dad, and three young children. I tried to make out what they were saying but my very elementary understanding of French was no help. To the right of me was a Chinese couple, the woman in a two-piece with bottoms that reached well above her belly-button and the man in a speedo. They too were speaking in their native language. Behind me were two young Australian men. I was surprised at how many countries were represented just within my auditory range.

I quickly got hot and went for a dip in the pool, which was colder than any lake I have been in. It was so refreshing, to be in the cool water surrounded by rock and grass, with hundreds of people young and old all around, and odd too, to at the same time see the tall buildings of downtown Austin not far away. An oasis indeed.

I was getting sunburnt so I dried off and left the Springs after about two hours, stopping for a lemon sno-cone on the way out. Thankfully, the bus ride home wasn't as bad as getting there, although while I was waiting for the second bus a pregnant woman sat down next to me and lit up a cigarette. She looked pretty scary so I didn't say anything.

If it doesn't rain too much this weekend I think I will go to Barton Springs again, only this time with a friend so I don't have to take the bus.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Joe Wilson, you lie

For a few minutes, the Wikipedia site for Joe Wilson had only one line under his name, "the man who embarrassed himself and his country."

From FactCheck.org:

Claim: Page 50: All non-US citizens, illegal or not, will be provided with free healthcare services.

False. That’s simply not what the bill says at all. This page includes "SEC. 152. PROHIBITING DISCRIMINATION IN HEALTH CARE," which says that "[e]xcept as otherwise explicitly permitted by this Act and by subsequent regulations consistent with this Act, all health care and related services (including insurance coverage and public health activities) covered by this Act shall be provided without regard to personal characteristics extraneous to the provision of high quality health care or related services." However, the bill does explicitly say that illegal immigrants can’t get any government money to pay for health care. Page 143 states: "Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States." And as we’ve said before, current law prohibits illegal immigrants from participating in government health care programs.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bus Conversation

On the bus heading home from South Congress last Thursday, a young heavily-tattooed man takes the seat across from me.

Tattoo:  With those boots you're lettin everyone know you're from Texas.
Me:  Funny thing is, I'm not from Texas.
Tattoo:  Oh yeah?  Tennessee.
Me:  Nope.
Tattoo:  South Carolina.
Me:  Nope.
Tattoo:  I know, North Carolina.
Me:  Nope.
Tattoo:  Well then where in the hell are you from.
Me:  New York.
Tattoo:  New York!  Well if you ever want to get inked come to my shop, it's called Between the Lines.
Me:  Ok, thank you.
Tattoo:  You know, if you've had a few shots of Patron and you want a little butterfly tattoo.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Hot Sauce

Update: Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival raised $14,269 and 29,413 pounds of food items for the Capital Area Food Bank!

AND apparently I have quite the sophisticated palate - Tears of Joy Tequila Lime Hot Sauce won 1st place in the Special Variety Hot Sauce Contest!

No Law Day

This weekend I was officially indoctrinated into Texas culture.  I attended UT's first football game of the season.  Apparently, Texas home games are referred to as "no law days."

My friend Jacob is in town for this weekend - he lives in DC and worked on the Norm Coleman campaign (tough break, guys) with a UT graduate, Bob.  Bob was meeting his friends in Austin for the first football game and invited Jacob to tag along for a Texas-sized weekend.  So I tagged along as well.  

Bob and his friends are true Texans.  They call me "baby" and are very gentlemanly.  And they liked my cowboy boots, so I really enjoyed their company.  I met Jacob, Bob, and the gang Friday night at a BBQ restaurant downtown (yes, that means brisket two days in a row) and we went to 6th Street after dinner until closing time.  What a scene!  The street closes to cars around 11 and is lined with bars, most of which have a live band playing.  We were out dancing till 2 AM.

The next morning was a bit painful, but I had to rouse to make it to the tailgate.  I met Jacob & friends at Taco Shack, about two blocks from my apartment and rode in the back of a pick up truck with Jacob to the scene of the tailgate.  We drank some Miller Lites in the parking garage and I was ready to go.  There is a very strict uniform for the UT game and tailgate - burnt orange clothing, or for the girls, white dress and cowboy boots.  I opted for the dress/boots combo.  

The whole UT campus is littered with tents for the tailgate.  The prime areas are in reserved parking lots, where the heavy-hitter donors are awarded with a parking spot.  After a beer in one such lot we mosied to another lot which housed what ended up being my favorite tailgate.  Some people had a school bus that had been converted to a Longhorn fan bus with tents attached and water spritzers to keep cool.  They also had two choices of beer on tap and a smoker for the homemade brisket, chicken, and smoked sausages that were being served up (consecutive day #3 of brisket).  Bob introduced me to his friend Phil, one of the owners of this particular tailgate, so I will be happily visiting Phil again next home game.  

We left Phil's party bus around 4:30 and met up with the rest of the crew at a tailgate that one of their friends who was on the football team in college had set up.  He had brought a flat screen TV to broadcast the game and his homemade pulled pork.  This was the best pulled pork I have had - seasoned with a spicy original recipe barbeque sauce and plenty of black pepper.  I have eaten a lot of meat the past three days. 

Game time was at 6:00 and Bob's friends were nice enough to supply me with a ticket.  I signed up for the Longhorn sports package for athletic tickets, but apparently you have to actually go pick up your ticket for the game.  Of course I realized this too late and was lucky enough that one of the guys had an extra seat.  

According to Wikipedia, Texas Memorial Stadium has a capacity of 100, 119.  This makes it the 36th largest stadium OF ANY KIND IN ALL OF HISTORY.  It is HUGE.  I've never been to a pro football or college football game before so this was all completely new for me.  Our seats were pretty high up but I had no problem watching the game.  I loved seeing the sea of orange before me as thousands of Longhorn fans packed into this massive venue.  I especially loved the camaraderie of the "hook em horns" hand sign (see above).  About half way through the game a UT player was injured, lying on the field, and the whole crowd held up their horns in a show of concern and solidarity.  When he finally rose and was driven off the field in a golf cart, he held up the "hook em" sign and the crowd went wild.

Of course, we won the game.  I met Jacob and friends at the Alumni Center during the 3rd quarter and forced down a whisky and Coke but decided to call it a night around 9.  I walked home in my dress and boots, passing still-active tailgates with the cookers lit, the kegs still tapped, and the flat-screen TV's showing the game.

I love Texas.  Hook 'em horns!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ruby's BBQ

With my first full week of classes behind me (my last class of the week ends at 11:20 AM Thursday - amazing) I decided to treat myself to a Texas BBQ lunch.  When Robby was here to help me move in, we went to the famous Stubbs BBQ downtown near 6th Street on the recommendation of our taxi driver but we left dinner unimpressed.  Robby thought that Hill Country in New York was better and I thought what an irony it would be for us to be surrounded by Texas Hill Country here in Austin and yet have "Hill Country" in NYC be the better BBQ joint.  Shouldn't the original be the best?  I had to keep looking in Austin.

When someone told me that Ruby's is a great Austin BBQ spot I rejoiced - it's only 2 blocks from my apartment!  I decided to check out Ruby's for my Thursday afternoon celebratory meal.

Ruby's looks like a classic Austin spot.  I mean this mostly architecturally.  A lot of the buildings here are one story, with low ceilings, hardwood floors, and wood beams throughout.  Many also have outdoor areas.  Ruby's is just as I described, and although I love dining al fresco, with the temperature at 102 I decided to sit inside.

Being ignorant as to how it Ruby's is run, I posted myself at the counter and asked if I could sit at a table.  "Just one," I said unabashedly.  Ruby's doesn't have full-on table service; you order at the counter and when your food is ready one of the servers brings it out.  Upon instruction, I grabbed a menu and took a seat at a table by a window.  The window looked out onto the parking lot but the sunlight beaming off the table was beckoning.  

I had done my research before going to Ruby's and surmised that the brisket was the way to go.  The only question was: sandwich or plate?  The sandwich ($5.75) is 1/4 lb brisket with a side of pickle and the plate ($11.95) is 1/3 lb brisket with two sides off the menu.  Feeling decadent, I opted for the plate.  I was curious to try the spicy baked beans, which I chose as I side and wimped out with a side salad for my other side.  Gotta eat your veggies!

My plate came with the brisket served sliced on wax paper accompanied by the spicy beans in a bowl, the side salad in a bowl, two slices of thickly cut whole wheat bread (white bread is the other option), and a small serving of BBQ sauce.  The brisket was perfectly marbled - not too fatty, not too lean.  I made myself an open-faced brisket sandwich with the meat and bread, and the BBQ sauce drizzled on top.  

BEST BRISKET I HAVE EVER HAD!  I savored every bite and even though I was planning on bringing leftovers home for dinner, my tray was bare by the time I was done.  Ruby's has made my list for go-to spots in Austin and even better (or worse perhaps) it is a 3-minute walk from my apartment.

I also love that Ruby's advertises wedding catering on their website.  Slow-cooked cow breast sounds like a great party to me.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Reason #7 I heart Austin:  Met a friend for drinks, we each had 3 margaritas, our check came to $23.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Love 'em boots

Cowboy boots are a hit already. I took them for their first stroll this evening to my local grocery store and within 30 seconds, received two compliments. The first came from two undergrads on a balcony, "nice boots!" and the second from a young cowboy in a pick-up truck, "love your boots!"


Monday, August 31, 2009

Cowboy Boots

So apparently you're not supposed to buy cowboy boots the first week you move to Texas...

but nobody told me this until AFTER I ordered mine!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Why I am falling for Austin

Reason #5: My afternoon reading was interrupted by a band playing in the courtyard of my apartment complex.

#6: Lots of Teva sandals.

The Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival

Just when I thought Austin could not get any hotter, I went to the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival.  I knew I would love it when I read on the website that admission was three items of non-perishable food.  Hot Sauce Festival/Food Drive sounds like my kind of afternoon.

The Festival was in Waterloo Park, at 12th and Red River, not far from the Capitol Building.  I decided to ride Jenny there, to test out bike-riding to downtown.  Half of the trip was through the University of Texas campus so I was able to check out a side of campus I haven't seen.  Man, is UT huge.  From the edge of UT to Waterloo Park was only a few blocks and I was able to navigate through smaller streets, making a bike ride to downtown Austin very manageable.  Good to know, especially now that Jenny is equipped with a basket on the back to carry groceries and such.

When I arrived I locked up Jenny on a fence and entered the tent-covered grounds, depositing my three non-perishables in marked boxes on my way in.  There were lines at each tent for the hot sauce and salsa tasting and I immediately got in line to taste "Tears of Joy" sauces (http://www.tearsofjoysauces.com/store/customer/home.php).  They were having tastings of their red sauce, green sauce, a hot sauce, and their tequila lime hot sauce.  I really loved the tequila lime hot sauce - it has quite a kick moments after you have actually tasted it. Perusing their website I just noticed they have a "lawyer's breath" hot sauce.  I should make a trip to their place on 6th Street for a bottle.

After tasting at Tears of Joy I proceeded to the main tent for the blind tastings.  In the tent you are handed a bowl of tortilla chips and you proceed down a table tasting all different kinds of salsa.  I got in the red sauce line and tried about ten salsas.  The variety I tasted was amazing.  There was a bbq sauce based salsa, what tasted like a ketchup based salsa, one salsa with asparagus, and another with olives.  All salsas are certainly not created equal.

After the salsa tasting I was full and sick of waiting in lines so I went to the main stage to check out the live band.  There was a line-up of five local bands for the afternoon and I was lucky enough to catch Nakia & His Southern Cousins (http://www.myspace.com/nakia).  I LOVED THEM.  Nakia has a booming soulful voice and is backed up by two lovely women in cute matching dresses with sweet high voices.  I am definitely going to keep an eye out for more of their Austin shows.  In front of me at the show was a young family with the cutest blonde twin daughters, probably about 2 or 3 years old.  Each parent had a girl on their shoulders, and the girls were wearing matching polka-dot dresses.  I noticed the dad had a camera in his hand so I asked if he would like me to take a couple pictures of the four of them.  They were a very precious, gracious family and I enjoyed telling them that I am a twin as well.

As much as I loved Nakia & His Southern Cousins, I was getting hot, tired, and thirsty so I left the festival and hopped on Jenny to go home.  As I was leaving, I was stopped at a red light and a man on the corner said, "My wife likes your bike!", and there was his wife next to him grinning and nodding.  I thanked them and then I got the nicest compliment I have received in a long time.  The wife said, "It fits you!"  My Jenny is beautiful and sassy and sunny so for someone to think I could be the right match for her is certainly an honor.

On the way home I stopped at the law school to pick up my Con Law book and remind myself that I am here to be a law student.  With that I will now hit the books!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

San Miguel Seafood

This morning I took the bus to the Austin Farmer's Market.  The Market is in downtown Austin and a 15-minute bus ride from my apartment.  I want to make a shrimp stir-fry tonight so I brought my grocery list.

I approached the seafood stand advertising "Texas Gulf Shrimp" for $9.99/lb.  Having five dollars in my wallet and only cooking for myself, I asked for a half pound of shrimp.  The man at the stand apologetically told me they only had pre-sorted 1 pound bags to sell.  I shrugged and said that's too bad because I only have $5 with me.  He responded, "well, if you promise to tell your friends about us I'll give you the 1 lb bag for your five dollars."  I didn't tell him I don't really have any friends here yet, and instead graciously accepted his offer.  Roberto introduced himself to me and asked if I was a UT student.  I told him I just started at the law school and he pulled out his card and handed it to me; turns out he works at the Attorney General's office.  He encouraged me to contact him if I was ever interested in an internship.

So if you are in Austin on a Wednesday afternoon or a Saturday morning, be sure to visit the San Miguel Seafood stand at the Austin Farmer's Market.  

Since I moved to Austin, I am reminded daily of what makes this city so special.  I am enjoying discovering this new weird place, which brings me to start a list: Why I am falling for Austin.  Here are a few to begin:

1) Roberto San Miguel at the Downtown Austin Farmer's Market
2) On the bus ride to the Alamo Drafthouse, a homeless man gave Robby the finger.  (Robby commented that this was the coolest thing to have happened in his visit to Austin.)
3) I have been asked twice if I am a freshman at UT.
4) UT student discounts.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Alamo Drafthouse

Since I began thinking about moving to Austin, people who had been to Austin or who lived in Austin started telling me about a seemingly mythical venue where one can watch a movie and be served beer and food at the same time.  This sounded amazing, and I immediately thought of how much Robby would love something like this.  He has trouble sitting in a movie theater and gets very antsy.  With the aid of food and booze he shouldn't have any trouble sitting through a whole movie.  (We have walked out of theaters numerous times, not once on account of the film.)  When we were nearing the end of Robby's trip to Austin with me, we decided the last night we would go to one of these places - An Alamo Drafthouse.

When you arrive at the Drafthouse, you buy tickets like you would any other theater.  Except the prices are drastically lower than NYC and UT students receive a discount - our two tickets were $13.  The movie theater also looks like any other theater but for one thing: in front of each row of seats is a counter, about chest-high.  On the counter there are menus, sheets of paper, pencils, and underneath the counter is a light to help you read the menu.  Soon after we took our seats, a cheerful waiter came to the two of us sitting side-by-side and explained the process to us.  On the sheet of paper you write your order, you then put the piece of paper in a silver slot that runs the length of the counter, and waiters will regularly check if you have placed an order.   This was awesome.  We happily placed our first order of the German beer bucket and chips and salsa.  

Did I mention that rather than previews they play British sketch comedy?  I was in heaven.

We were planning on seeing District 9 but the show was sold-out so we decided instead on In The Loop.  I don't think it was a very good movie, but I can say that Robby and I enjoyed it as much as anything.  We were drinking beer and laughing for two hours.  An evening well-spent.

Post Script: The Alamo Drafthouse also has different kinds of showings; in addition to current movies you can go to, for example, an 80's one-hit wonder sing-a-long, or the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

UT vs Trinity

Law school orientation started Monday and classes started yesterday. As I have been spending more time on the University of Texas campus, there are some differences I have noticed between this school and Trinity, or the Northeast in general. Here are a few:

At UT, EVERYONE wears Longhorn gear.

At UT, people carry backpacks rather than tote bags or just books. This is because the campus is so massive and it is less of a strain to wear the backpack. Unfortunately I learned this the hard way and will be expecting my new bag to arrive next week, none too soon.

At UT, the standard wardrobe for girls is orange running shorts (Longhorn color) and sneakers. I mentioned this to my mentor and she said there's a joke at UT that you can recognize a sorority girl by her orange Nike shorts and her pearls - thus making the sorority girl/pearls relationship pretty consistent on a national level.

This is more of a difference between Austin and NYC, but the people working the crappy jobs are nice. They actually seem to enjoy what they are doing and want to help. My theory is this is correlated to the cost of living in Austin. Unlike in NYC, in Austin you can still afford a pretty good quality of life with a low-paying job. And the people you are serving aren't that much richer than you (or plain aren't richer than you). This further makes me believe that a widening income gap is harmful to society - it penetrates the most fundamental interactions of everyday life. Which brings me to theorize that I will become more of a socialist living here...

People's eyes widen when I say I moved here from New York City, making me feel pretty cool.