Sunday, May 18, 2008


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Prodigal Pittsburgher

Prod"i*gal\, a. [L. prodigus, from prodigere to drive forth, to squander away. . .

Each day for the last two days, I spoke with people who were planning to move from D.C., back to Pittsburgh. They had left Pittsburgh for D.C. in search of better jobs. At least one of them found that, helping a man go from Congressman to Governor and getting a lot of good things done along the way. And they're both looking to come back to the 'burgh.

Someone recently asked me if I was attached to working in Pittsburgh. Actually, a lot of people have recently asked me if I'm attached to working in Pittsburgh. I looked out of his picture window, following the yellow arc of the bridge across the river to the sun reflecting off the windows of the buildings on the the other side. Pittsburgh is beautiful. It's clean, affordable, and the people are kind. I would like Mag Lev to be built between here and Philly, to pull the state together like a zipper. I could get to my folk's house in an hour every Sunday for dinner, and not move Love from her hometown, from her parents, from the city I have come to love.

They say you can never go home again. I want to walk in the corn fields of my youth, but they've cut paved roads through them, and the park service drives through in trucks and yaps at me to keep my dog on a leash. Soccer moms pushing strollers take up the space between the corn and the soybean fields, and people drive their cars to the parking lots near the flush toilets.

My dog and I used to push through the hot air on the dusty red dirt roads between the corn and the soybeans, sometimes shaded by the mulberry trees, sometimes pulling ourselves through the clutches of the raspberry bushes, always, sooner or later, escaping to the flat rocks of the creek bed. Mint grew in the clay along the banks. A migrant field worker, wrinkled and smiling, holding a tomato that smelled like the sun. Here, a deserted farm house with a narrow stair way, a small fireplace in each bedroom, and newspapers like tumbleweeds that blew in from the 1970's. A quarter of a mile over, along the roadside and by the edges of the pine forest, jonquils silhouette the outline of where a house once stood. Hawks fly overhead. Deer evaporate into the pines.

"When bees are few, the revelry alone will do."

Einstein said that he solved problems by imagining himself traveling above the fray on a beam of light, taking in the whole picture from this elevated perspective. From there, the same circumstances did not look like problems.

"I put this moment here. I put this moment here. I put this moment over here."

I come home in twenty-two days. And I want to be everywhere at once.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Toward the Finish Line

A third-party account of my weekend, from the angle of my better, albeit limping, half:

Hello All,

Here is the only slightly abridged and perhaps slightly embellished story of my first attempt at competitive cycling. The date was April 12th, 2008, one day after my 45th birthday...

The town of Mount Joy, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, has a great Brew Pub called Bube's, a very inviting though only passable coffee house called Higher Grounds, and on the outskirts of town, a VoTech for Tractor Trailer operators. Michelle and I sit in my rental car in the parking lot of the VoTech where many racers and their well-wishers have parked. There is no TP in the portajohn and very little blood in my face. I am turning green. My bike was out overnight in thunderstorms and the chain looks like cardboard. I need chain grease, badly.

Michelle points out a couple of women parked a ways over with a truck that seems filled with gear and I walk over to them to ask for lube. They are from Baltimore, 2 of a 4 woman team. The tall one has me grab and remove her bike from the truck so she can get the lube for me. Her bike weighs about 1/3 of what mine does, even when my tool bag is off.

I ride up to the reg tent and get my number (579) and Michelle and Sophia walk over toward the start. I am wearing my new shoes, my new smiley socks that Suz sent to the B&B where we stayed (courtesy of Mot, Lori and Suz) and my Steel City Endurance racing jersey. I am the only rider representing my team in this race, and though I am definitely among the cutest in the field, I am not at all confident I will represent them well. There are 40 other women here, and every single one of them looks like they know what they are doing. I have never ridden in a pack or a paceline, and my training has consisted mainly of rides with Jeffrey and Melissa that take us on large, hill-filled, meandering detours between coffeehouses. On the way in I passed these women warming up on their stationary trainers. If I had spun like that for the last half hour I'd be too tired already to race. Oy. Lee Ann, one of Pittsburgh's best female cyclists is here racing for her team and she greets me with a cheer. That's a little boost. We all mash ourselves up to the start.

We get started on time and I am doing what Jeffrey and Melissa have told me right from the start: Get on someone's back wheel and hang on tight. I do that, going completely anaerobic for .98 miles before I am dropped once and for all from the peloton. Only 22.02 miles left, and I'm on my own. I catch my breath and set my own pace when I hear someone coming up behind me -- it's that tall Baltimore woman with the bike made of air! We settle in together and agree to take 2 minute turns pulling each other in the draft.

This is Esther's first bicycle race too, only she is racing this year as a year off from Ironman triathlons, which she'd done for 9 years, even placing in her age group in Hawaii. She says she is sorry now that she swam that extra half hour this morning because she is a little fatigued, she should have only done an hour. We share a companionable ride for 2 of our 4 laps together, but I am working so hard just to keep in her draft that after pulling her up the course's only steep hill on lap 2 I just have to let her go and run my own race in the back. I am going to finish this race, dead last perhaps, but I will finish.

Michelle and Sophia are hanging out on the grass just beyond the start, so I get a big wave and a cheer every time I pass. Michelle tells me later that Sophia looked with interest and sniffed at the calves of all the male cyclists that came by until she realized they were not me. Was that about body shape or pheromones I wonder? Sophia isn't saying.

Esther and I were passed by the men from the heat after ours, and then later when I was alone on lap 3 and my right shoe was lifting and clicking off the pedal, I was passed by the straggler of that heat. We chatted for a moment.
Me: "Beautiful day, isn't it?"
Him: "Very. How's it going?"
Me: "This is my first race."
Him: "What do you think?"
Me: "It's very humbling."
Him: "This is my third. It's still humbling."

Right before the steep hill on lap 3 I can't take the clicking and lifting anymore and I get off my bike to tighten things up. Esther told me during lap 1 that tool bags are not allowed, but it was too late by then. Good thing I didn't know because otherwise I wouldn't have been able to adjust my clip. It didn't completely fix the problem, but my shoe is in tight enough for the rest of the race. I've now given up just under 3 minutes of race time and I'm really clear I will have to push myself to come in under 90 minutes for the ride, which I've said I will consider a respectable time. I get back on and go.

With 2km to go in lap 3 I am overtaken by the women's peloton again. Yes, I got lapped on a 5.7 mile circuit, and these women are beginning their final sprint. I hunker down and get in their draft and stay with them for about 60 yards before they drop me again about 100 yards before the finish. They are done; simply not expecting anyone to be continuing on; so as I come through to begin my last, solitary lap I have to shout to them to move over so I can pass. They seem surprised. To them it just doesn't compute. I remind myself that they would not have lapped me had I not stopped for maintenance. It helps.

I take the first turn of the last lap just as the rain begins. I am alone, the wind has kicked up seriously and I am pelted by big, hard drops of rain. But I am not despairing. I have come to find out what racing is like, and I have found out. I have come to see where I am in the scheme of women's cycling and I have seen. I have come to finish, respectably for me, and I believe I can, come rain or shine. I am determined to beat 90 minutes, and to not be passed by any racers from the later races anymore. I do all that. I finish last, but I finish.

Michelle, Sophia and I load ourselves into the car. On the way out we pass by Lee Ann and a few other women. They ask me how I liked my first race. I tell them I hated it. They look shocked and dismayed. It is the truth. I hated it.

Over the next few hours I talk out with Michelle what my reaction is about. Certainly I didn't like getting my ass kicked, but that isn't it. I get my ass kicked every single time I play Ultimate and I love Ultimate. I think about why the bike race was so different from the triathlon, which I felt so good about. The triathlon, with its communal feel and staggered starts provided a constant experience of being with others who, by virtue of our varied start times, did not occur as my direct competitors, only as sister travelers. That's not it either though, because if I train like all the other women in these races over time I would find others around my level to play with as I did briefly with Esther. Here's what I really hated: I hated the physical experience of going strictly back and forth between anaerobic and recovery, without any time spent casually spinning along and taking in the scenery. I love cycling. I like to challenge myself to get stronger and fitter and faster. But I like just plain riding most, and when I can't get a breath I can only focus on that, and it's not enough fun to want to spend my whole ride feeling that way. That's what I hated about racing.

Michelle asks if I will do any more races. "Probably." I say.

Thank you all for your support.



Wednesday, April 9, 2008

New Low

this afternoon i scavenged in my car for lunch rather than take the time to get lunch from the drive through across the street.

it was dinner, too.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My Bar Exam Preperatory Books...

...weigh 35 pounds:

At the request of MicroMash Bar Review, this notice is to confirm that the following shipment has been delivered.

Message from MicroMash Bar Review:
MM Books
Delivery Date / Time: 19-March-2008 / 2:44 PM
Driver Release Location: PORCH

Shipment Detail

Weight:35.0 LBS

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Swimming with Sharks & Biting the Heads off of Goldfish

Me (accidentally) to all 200 students in my class: "Hi Adrienne - I owe Kaplan money, but I'm not sure how much. How do I go about finding out? Thanks, M"

One of my classmates, "X": "
Hey M: Just wanted to let you know you emailed the whole class of 2008. ~X."

Me, being an asshole: "
Hi X: I found that out when, as a member of the class of 2008 (indicated in my automatic signature, below), I received my own email. But I imagine you knew that already. ~M"

X, killing with kindness: "
M: Thank you for the well thought-out reply. However, I was just trying to be nice and let you know. Normally I would assume you were correct in what you "imagined", but since you sent it in the first place, I figured that you, again, might have over-look the email. BTW, I actually thought you were another M. ~X"

Me, pulling my head out of my ass: "
Hi X: I apologize for not giving you the benefit of the doubt regarding your intention. ~M"

X, being great with me: "
Hey M, It's okay. I should have added a "LOL." Take care. ~X"
Me, grateful for X's efforts to generate world peace: "Thank you. I had a rough week, I took it out on you, and you were sweet in return. I truly appreciate it. I have no idea who you are, but I look forward to meeting you. M"

Monday, February 18, 2008

Semiotics Summarized

Be careful how you interpret the world: it is like that.
~Erich Heller

Monday, January 21, 2008

It's Official - No Returns

Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2008 16:08:09
Subject: Verify Graduation Information

Dear Michelle,

This is to confirm that you have ACTIVATED your intent to graduate for
spring semester 2008.


Office of the University Registrar

How I Know I Need to Get My @ss Out of School

"[D]o you realize people born in 1990 can vote? ...[and] 1987 can drink." ~KH

Friday, January 4, 2008

Law School Application Essay (revised)

I was a young kid bored in the back seat in a traffic jam in Brooklyn. I sat smooshed between my siblings, sedated by the heat, hypnotized by the cacophony of engines, horns, overheated drivers and swiftly moving people. Across the street, his stillness caught my eye. He was dressed in layers and layers of faded brown clothing, worn and untucked. He matched perfectly, fruitlessly, the wall of the brownstone church he leaned against with both hands, his head bowed, almost imperceptibly rocking. The cord from his headphones dangled down at his side, attached to… nothing. His palms pressed flat against the walls of the church, he rocked and swayed to sounds only he could hear. The rest of us did not exist.

I have spent years honing my public speaking skills only to realize that the true creative power is in the listening. For example, “God said let there be light, and there was, and it was good.” What disappears from view in that sentence is the unspoken – the listening. Consider the possibility of God as the phenomenon of no gap between speaking and listening; divine communion. Closing the gap between speaking and listening creates agreement, creates reality. First we agree, and then we hold these truths to be self-evident. When we lose sight of that, we lose sight of our creative power.

Law exists inside a way of listening. In Plessy v. Fergusen, the rationale for segregating “Negroes” from other train riders was considered so obvious by the court that it declared elaboration unnecessary. Years later, in Brown v. Board of Education, the court declared the “mindset of the time” of Plessy v. Fergusen had passed and current awareness of equality as self-evident would henceforth supersede. The court of public opinion held a new truth to be self-evident, and thereby influenced judicial interpretation of the constitution. In response, the Court used the language of law to speak a new reality into existence, expanding possibilities for all Americans. Our modern parallel is the current public debate over the meaning of “marriage.”

Although in America religious marriage is available to all, civil marriage is reserved for those couples who fit the way our society commonly hears the idea “marriage.” I contribute to shifting the way people hear the word “marriage” by communicating that I am married to my same-sex partner. People listen for certain context clues and piece together a story. Our wedding photos, wedding bands and use of the word “spouse” tell the story of two women who are married to one-another. Six and a half years ago, weddings like ours were an unusual occurrence in Pittsburgh. Last month, however, I attended the inter-racial, same sex wedding of two of my friends, in a local church. The pews were packed with witnesses. As the public debate grows louder, people’s ways of hearing the word “marriage” continue to broaden. It is my belief that one day soon the validity of same sex marriage will be self-evident, and laws to the contrary will be put to rest as anachronisms.

By shaping how people listen one shapes what is heard, touching off the next round of discussion and progression. Whether declaring the value of a human to be 3/5 versus whole or negotiating the meaning of the word “marriage,” creating, interpreting and implementing laws creates a particular reality. I see Law as the international language of commerce; the business of human endeavor, the codification of values and relationships. Law is an ongoing, evolving conversation in which resources are recognized, valued and distributed. I intend to use the language of Law to continually close the gap between speaking and listening, to create a reality in which what works for one individual or corporation, is that which benefits all. There will always be a new possibility waiting to emerge.