Wednesday, 30 July 2014

the passion that sparked me one terrible night

en months ago, I was in Chicago looking for an apartment. $1000 to live in a damn good 1-bedroom in a prime location, no brokers fees, old friends, new friends, high school friends, college friends. Comfort. Ease. That week in Chicago my days were spent running Lake Shore Drive, strolling along Michigan Avenue, dining on Rush Street, and drinking cold beer in Wrigleyville and Lincoln Park. Sweet Home Chicago was going to be a much needed change from Peoria, but it was a far cry from stepping out, truly challenging myself, and truly seeking out my objective of “never settling.” I was excited for sure, but it was on July 19, 2005 that I got back from a run along Lake Michigan and my cell phone rang and the caller ID said 212. I knew damn well who it was and I knew damn well the offer that was about to be made to me. It was the admissions office at New York Law School. I was off the waitlist. I was in. I was freaked.
I had less than 24 hours to decide what to do. If I wanted the spot it was mine. If not, there were others who would surely take it. Needless to say, four days later I was on a plane to New York. I was just a kid from the Midwest who didn’t know a soul in the city. Hell, I had never even been to New York until a few months before when I came to visit the school. But I knew it’s what I wanted and I was ready to take the risk. Never Settle.
That weekend I made some appointments with brokers for apartments that were 50% more expensive than the ones I was looking at in Chicago and they weren’t nearly as big. I made an offer on one just before taking the $12 bus from Grand Central to La Guardia, but it wasn’t until I landed at O’Hare that the shady broker called me:
“Uhhh, hey Mark, I got some bad news. Somebody else already got the apartment.”
So there I was: I made the decision to move less than a week earlier, I was actually moving in one week, and I didn’t have a place.
I had one more week in Peoria and one more week with Caterpillar, which meant every supplier wanted to come in for one last evening of golf, steak, and booze. I had to say goodbye to work, say goodbye to friends, pack my entire apartment, but most importantly I had to find a one-way ticket to New York City a few days ahead of schedule. The week flew by, and then July 29, 2005, I caught a 5 am flight out of Bloomington, IL. That afternoon, I made another offer on an apartment and had to beg them to let me move in just 2 days later. It worked, and on August 1, I moved into my first NYC studio apartment right smack in the center of Times fucking Square.
Suddenly I had moved from the cheapest city in America to the most expensive city in America, I was in a completely new environment, and I didn’t know anybody. And then there was that other thing looming just a few weeks away called Law School, aka the whole reason I moved out to this damn city and the ostensible result of that completely other spontaneous decision that I had made 7 months before when I said to myself “what the hell, maybe I’ll just go to law school?”
One of the first people I met at school was Carmine - the short Italian from Brooklyn. There I was, a relatively quiet kid with my Midwest drawl and then Carmine, dropping F-bombs, random jokes, and “fuhgeddaboudit’s” as we walked into A900 and awaited Contracts I with this apparently famous professor named Marvin Chirelstein. Sure enough, Marv showed up, and he quickly started spouting out terms I’d never heard of like promissory estoppel and rambling about topics like 19th Century Uncles telling Nephews they can’t smoke, drink, or gamble until they’re 21 (Hamar v Sidway), people writing out contracts on bar napkins while “high as a Georgia pine” (Lucy v Zehmer), and freaky old men showing up at women’s clothing stores in order to buy black lapin stoles for $1 (Lefkowitz v Great Minneapolis Surplus Store).
And then there was Torts. I sat next to Lou, another Italian with an accent. One of the first things he ever said to me was “did ya ever blow bubbles when you were a kid?”
“Did he cum?”
Mind you this guy is over 40 years old.
So anyways, I sat next to Lou by chance as Professor Sinclair filled our heads with terms like vicarious liability, ostensible agency, res ispa loquitor, and proximate cause, and we read countless Cardozo opinions and one rather long but amusing Andrews dissent (Palsgraf v LIRR).
The first semester went by pretty quickly as I started getting closer with people from school and finding my niche in the city that never sleeps. At the beginning it was just Busters on Thursday nights, but eventually we started branching out. One of the first times outside of Buster’s on a Thursday night was Houston’s Steakhouse followed by Flatiron Lounge (and then of course the subway platform for me and Hoboken for someone else, but we won’t get into that). But that was the best stuff, and there were definitely a lot of great late night Thursday nights first semester, that’s for damn sure.

But the best part of it all was that there was so much more to it than that. Luxor Café with Madiha. Jazz at Smalls and the Vanguard. And quite frankly, just being in a truly stimulating learning environment again was a great feeling.
So the semester came to a close and it started all over again in January, but this time it started up with phone calls coming in in response to all of the resumes I had sent out before finals first semester. In January, I started both a 40-hour per week job at an Insurance Defense law firm and another semester of classes. This time, Purcell talked about crooked politicians grand schemes in 19th Century Oregon (Pennoyer v. Neff), trains running over trespassers in Pennsylvania (Erie v. Tompkins), and divorced women running away to California while still trying to make a quick buck (Kulko v Superior Court, Burnham v Superior Court). And then there was Contracts II. Professor Gross yelling into the microphone so loud the feedback would resonate in your ears all week. Yelling about offices with a window, people selling heavyweight belts while tripping on acid, and of course cattle ranchers selling pregnant cows to bankers for 10% of their actual value (Sherwood v Walker).
Second semester was the most ridiculously busy 4 months of my life. There were times when I’d be up until 5 am trying to squeeze out an Appellate Brief. Or running to school from the 1 train after work in order to cram for a “lawyering skills” interview. Or trying to squeeze in another few cases for Civ Pro while sitting on the F train to Queens County Supreme for work.
It may have been excessively busy, but it was also perhaps the best 4 months of my life. I took 2 days off work in March for a long weekend in Northern California where I strolled the hills and felt the vibe of San Francisco and got drunk off Cab in Napa Valley. I went to Boston twice: once for what became the Freedom Trail bar crawl with Skerko and then again a month later for a night of gambling with the firm. The NYLS crew continued our Thursday night adventures, but for some reason Wednesday nights seemed to creeping in a lot more often as well. While the beer and wine continued to flow in sometimes excessive amounts at places like Barna and Tribeca Tavern, the focus often shifted to the food as we headed to Dos Caminos, the Odeon, Dylan Prime, Lombardi’s, and Brothers BBQ.
And at the heart of it all was the people. I developed closer and closer relationships with more and more people as time went on. Madiha and I continued our random evenings at Luxor Café. I actually became friends with Steph. I met Maryam. I became friends with Tom and had some crazy nights with him over the semester that can’t really be repeated here. And then there's those nights at Carnegie Club with Ken and anotherroom with Deva and the Baggot Inn with Taub and Off the Wagon with Leah and who the hell knows what that place was called on the East Side with Sully and Tre where I got used and a fake number to go with it from a Staten Island girl. And of course there’s always Carmine, whose nocturnal nature kept me up on more than one occasion. And Lou, for everything he did for all of us over the year and taking us in and giving us all a great time, a lot of laughs and drinks and food, and showing people like me what this city is all about. That and of course Lou's one on one conversations with Grosberg in Lawyering while the rest of us browsed the web and talked about how jack is g-y in the group chats.
Finals rolled around and the 14th Floor of the library became my home. Sitting there until 2 am with Maryam and Carmine and whoever else randomly decided to pop in was definitely frustrating and both mentally and physically exhausting, but it was a time I’ll never forget. It’s pretty amazing how, while the huge amount of stress, exhaustion, pressure and anxiety that is placed over your head right before law school finals can drive some people apart, those same feelings, when felt mutually and simultaneously, can actually bring people closer together. I’ve certainly noticed it with a few people over the last several weeks, and perhaps that’s why I really did enjoy this semester so much. So before I knew it, I was on the 14th Floor until 2 am for the last time on the evening of May 14th, 2006. The next day I wrote everything I knew about personal jurisdiction, subject matter jurisdiction, venue, long-arm statutes, proper notice, right to a jury, summary judgment, and impleaders in the fastest three hours of my life.
And then suddenly the crazy old proctors at the front of the room said the time was up, and One L was the newest chapter in the history of my life.
It was an amazing experience and it’s something that I’m never going to forget. It’s pretty obvious to me that my spontaneous decision that was made 10 months ago when my phone rang was the right one. It was a risk. People say that this city can eat you alive. But I was ready for it, I was ready for the challenge. I’ve tackled law school and I've done really well. I’ve met amazing people, and I’ve continually fallen in love with Manhattan over and over again. On Monday I start a new job working with the ***CENSORED*** - the most prestigious ***CENSORED*** office in the country, and then a week after that I start another round of classes over the summer. The year that has gone by has changed my life, but I can’t wait to keep it going and see what else lies ahead in both the near and distant future. At this point, the only looking back I’m doing is being thankful that I didn’t hesitate and had 100% confidence in myself when I saw “212” on my caller ID 10 months ago. Well, that and of course I look back, think of what the hell has happened to me since that phone call came and I can say to myself with complete honesty and a huge smile on my face:
“God damn I love this city.”