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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Oh, fercryin’outloud, ‘mouse...that is to say, hello, dear friends.  It’s true.  I am not dead.  I even have proof—blurry, ill-shot proof, mind, but proof nonetheless:

generalissima bakerina is not dead

That is in fact myself, at my new teeny desk—I have a desk!—in our sunny kitchen, which I’ve found to be the best place in the house to study, except for the late afternoon hours.  Somewhere between 3:30 and 5 p.m., the kitchen gets so bright and so sunny and so warm that study becomes impossible.  When that happens, I screw up my courage, open the sliding door out of the kitchen and sit on the deck, remembering that those Cadillac-sized bumblebees drinking at the morning glories really don’t bother themselves with me:

eventually, breakfast

From here I can peek out at the garden we were lucky enough to inherit from the previous tenant, surveying the zucchini and peppers and string beans and herbs, offering silent thanks to him for providing us with this good stuff.  I can remind myself that soon I will be able to order seed catalogs and make plans for our own garden—because as much as I used to love looking out our living room window at our landlord’s garden (and at the Triborough Bridge looming overhead), and how much I appreciated his sharing the garden’s bounty with us, there is nothing in the world like looking at a garden at which you can call your own shots.  Next year, we will have lime basil and graprao basil and good old-fashioned sweet basil; we will have oregano and marjoram (no more fighting wiry little line cooks for the last bundle of marjoram at the market!); we will hopefully have some sorrel and wild arugula and some form of cowpea or another; and you had better believe that we will have tomatoes, in a riot of colors, so many that I will be unable to leave the kitchen between August and October.

I am aware that I might sound a little boastful now, and I apologize for being so.  Contrary to what the words would suggest, I am not living in the sun, baking myself to freckly pink goodness while I pull oranges off the tree in the front yard and suck them dry.  There is the small matter of law school.  We are now nine weeks into the first semester, five weeks away from the end of classes, six weeks away from final exams.  This time last year, I was still at LuthorCorp, not knowing that I would be cut loose two weeks before Christmas, seeing nothing but long, glutinous failure on the horizon.  Being here, in a bright yellow kitchen, struggling to pull the key elements of law out of a case, boggles my tiny little middle-aged mind.  It is shocking and familiar, enchanting and disorienting, terrifying and thrilling, all at once.  I am biting my knuckles, trying not to make the easy and obvious joke of David Byrne hollering, “well...how did I get here?” Except...I guess I just did. smile

Before I had even made a final decision on which school to attend, ‘mouse had warned me that law school would rewire my brain, literally change the way I processed information and turned it into cogent thought and applied knowledge.  Kids, he wasn’t kidding.  Even as I write this, I am aware that I have fallen far from my old bloggy glory, which was never really all that glorious but was at least linear, and understandable, plain-spoken where it needed to be, multilayered where layers were both allowable and welcome.  Now, though, now things are different. It is all I can do to take subjects and verbs and objects and turn them into more than the sum of their parts.  I am no longer the same person who used to have conniptions over thousand-dollar frittatas, or the political hijacking of the events of September 11, 2001, or the silly and unnecessary maligning of English food, or the crime against humanity that is the value-added, shrinkwrapped russet potato.  In time, I hope I can be that bakerina again, but until then, I am left with subject-verb-object, subject-verb-object, almost like Hemingway, only without the evocative genius or the gaggle of adoring women. wink

What I can do, though, is thank everyone, every single blessed one of you, who called or wrote or sent care packages, wishing us well and asking us if we were okay.  Dear friends, it is good to know that you are out there, watching our backs, transmitting love with every word.  I can also answer a few FAQ’s, because even though people do frequently ask questions, I’ll be buggered if I can put up an actual FAQ page.

Without further ado:

1.  How is Lloyd?  Does he like his job?

I’m happy to say that Lloyd is the same brave, goodnatured dreamboat he has always been, and I am awed by his willingness to remain married to me while I turn into a keening, school-obsessed lunatic.  His job transfer did indeed come through, and he is now working at his company’s client satellite office at a certain Big Deal Computer Hardware Company.  Said satellite office is in Palo Alto, which leads to our next question:

2.  Are you two really sticking with that lunatic plan to have Lloyd commute to Palo Alto by bus every day?

Oh, sigh.  God knows we tried.  God knows we came to California with our environmental hearts on our sleeves, planning to continue living the mass transit-based life we lived for so many years in New York.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how many buses the local transit authority runs if the shuttle bus from the Palo Alto transit center to BDCHC’s office stops running at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.  So we sucked it up.  We bought the cheapest car we could find, a 1994 Honda Accord with 270,000 miles on it.  Lloyd drove it to Palo Alto every day, trying hard not to worry about those weird rattling noises it made every time he accelerated, braked, turned a corner or did just about anything else.  We had a mechanic look at it and he gave us bad news about the timing belts, i.e. These Things Are Going To Blow Any Minute, And If They Do, Your Engine Will Explode.  After a week or two of profanities and handwringing, we decided that as much as we hated the thought of more debt, we hated the thought of exploding engines even more, so we crossed our fingers, applied for a car loan, received the loan just minutes before the economy collapsed, and used it to buy this:

our little bread truck

Yes, it’s a Scion, the station wagon for Gen Y.  Yes, I know that I have forever surrendered my Little Miss Eco-Friendly Mass Transit tiara by buying this car.  I’m still glad we have it.  It gets great mileage and it has a short turning base, an important consideration for someone who hasn’t parallel-parked in 20 years.  Moreover, Lloyd can drive it to work and I don’t have to worry whether the engine will explode on the way.  I’d say the car is worth it. smile

3.  How do you like law school?

If I had better coding skills, this is where I would insert the .wav file of Gir saying “I...don’t know.” Okay, that’s not entirely true. For the most part, law school is terrific fun, but it’s not easy terrific fun.  For the first three weeks of school, I wanted to cry after every class, wondering why they had let me in, if I would ever understand the material presented to us, and just what I was doing trying to make friends with younger, brighter, cuter, more optimistic and just plain overall hotter people than me.  (I’m trying to decide what was worse:  realizing that during the summer I lost my virginity, one of my best, smartest classmates hadn’t even been born yet, or realizing that one of the smartest professors on campus graduated from college seven years after I did.)

Before I go on much further with the silly neurosis, I do have to address a serious issue, a moment of real pain for all of us.  During the second week of classes, we lost a classmate, a terrific fellow named Timothy Pramer.  Tim fell from a third-floor balcony at the new undergraduate library.  The investigation is still ongoing, and we probably will never know what happened.  Based on conversations I’ve had with some of Tim’s friends, including his roommate, who I count among my friends, he loved his new life in California, he was excited to be in law school and he was hungry to learn, so I’m thinking that what happened to Tim falls closer to the “accident” side of the spectrum.  What I do know is that he was always friendly, chatty and amiable with me, and I wish I’d got to know him better, and I wonder—and miss—what he would have contributed to our in-class discussions.

So it’s been a complex nine weeks, to put it mildly, but I can’t say I’m sorry to be here.  Those bright young kids who terrified the living saliva out of me during the first week have become friends:  funny, kind, sympathetic, interesting friends, about whom no assumptions can be made except that we are all smart kids, and on bad days we wonder just how we’re going to get through law school—the answer being, of course, by being there for each other.  We are also lucky enough to have a really good group of professors showing us the way.  They are all funny, smart to a degree that makes me suspect they all get together and bend spoons with their minds during off hours, and, wonder of wonders, they want to help us become that smart.  They are teaching us the ways of criminal law (in which we learn that we *have* to be able to argue both sides of a case, no matter how open-and-shut the case may be, but the plus side is that class discussions are so much better than anything I’ve ever seen on Law & Order—and I love Law & Order); contracts (in which we learn that contracts scholars are, frankly, full of beans—fascinated by a subject that doesn’t fascinate too many other people, and just itching to crack wise about it all); torts (in which we learn that, contrary to what some politicians might tell you, tort law is about much more than slip-and-fall cases; at its best, it provides avenues of redress for civil rights violations, among other forms of relief for people who genuinely need it); civil procedure (in which we do our “grunt work,” learning what steps we need to take in filing or responding to civil complaints, trying to keep rule numbers straight all the while); and legal writing (in which we learn that everything we know about writing is good knowledge to have in general, but not necessarily useful for writing office memos or trial briefs).  More often than not, I’m glad to take a break at the end of an afternoon and watch Keith Olbermann for an hour, because frankly, this stuff is exhausting.  Having said that, I’m starting to feel the first stirrings of applied knowledge, and I’m thinking that maybe, just maybe, I might be learning after all.

4.  Why are you telling us all this when you *could* be talking about what you’ve been baking?  Sheesh.

Ah, honeybunches. I hope I don’t horrify the lot of you when I tell you that I can count on one hand the number of things I’ve baked.  Most of this is due to time constraints, but some of it is also due to our keeping our books stored in the garage.  It’s a roomy garage, but it’s not that roomy, and usually by the time I find the box that has the book I’m looking for in it, there are boxes spread all over the driveway, and I’m sweating, sunburnt and in a bad mood, never good states of mind for baking.  I have done a little baking, though, and as time passes and we get the garage organized, I’ll be back on my game in no time.  To date, though, I have made two raspberry pound cakes, two loaves of chocolate zucchini bread, a focaccia and a loaf of rice bread.  There is more to come, you bet.

5.  How about knitting?  Do you still knit?

I don’t know what I was thinking.  Even though I have four enormous Rubbermaid tubs of yarn in the garage, even though I haven’t finished the socks I started on the flight from New York to San Jose, even though just days before we flew out, I went to Philadelphia for a yarn crawl with Momerina and bought even more yarn, even though I’m still boring away on the Alice Starmore wrap I started after our return from Connecticut last fall, I still felt compelled to visit the sweet little yarn shop in San Jose, buy four skeins of Euroflax and use them to knit curtains for the kitchen window.  Let’s just say that they’re going slowly and leave it there for now. wink

6.  Are you eating properly?  Are you getting enough exercise?  Are you doing something about your considerable hinders?  Aren’t you going to talk about the election at all?  You do know that there’s a presidential election, right?  And that the Phillies have made it to the World Series for the first time since your wedding day?  Anyone in there?  Hello?

This just in:  Generalissima Bakerina is still dead.  wink

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