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 ( 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," ( 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 ( 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.