November 21, 2008

Heaven help me for showing up for the first time in over a month, with the only new content being a “no new content” advisory.  Heaven help me further for uttering not a peep on this space about the presidential election.  In any other year, such a post would have been my karmic reward for the post I wrote after the 2004 election—and yes, for the record, I voted for the winning candidate, and yes, I am thrilled, and yes, I held it together until he started talking about the 106-year-old lady waiting to vote, and then I cried like the big baby I am. smile (I also voted no on Proposition 8, which, again, should have had a post dedicated to it long before now.) But by now I’m sure you know what’s coming, namely that Law School Changes Everything (feel free to start singing that to the tune of the Brains’ “Money Changes Everything,"), and I just couldn’t blog about it and keep up with reading and outlining and career counseling and everything else.

All of this prevaricating is my way of saying that unless something spectacular (and unforeseeable) happens, I will not be free to write again until after 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 11, when I take the last of my final exams.  (The other three are on 12/1, 12/4 and 12/8; the take-home final for our writing class was 2 1/2 weeks ago, and was a special brand of hell for us law school whoosits.  I never want to live through something like that again, but since we have another semester of it in the spring, I will.) We’re not doing anything special for my birthday on Tuesday, nor will I be roasting a turkey on Thanksgiving.  It’s all finals, all the time, baby.  Well, okay, we’ll probably go out for Thanksgiving, and I’ll bet that I snap and make a Shaker lemon pie from the lemons off our tree, but otherwise, I will be living contract remedies, the major bodies of tort law, various ways to prosecute or defend man’s inhumanity to man, and more Federal Rules of Civil Procedure than you can shake a stick at.  (Disclaimer:  Please do not shake a stick at the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  They work for you, not against you, even if you’re the poor bastard being sued.)

Dear friends, with any luck, the next new content here will be written on Friday, December 12, from that nifty deck, while I drink my coffee and watch the hummingbirds.  I will have a few hours to kill until my parents arrive from Philadelphia to celebrate early Christmas with us and visit our new digs for the first time.  I won’t even be hung over.  Probably.

from the backyard

Posted by Bakerina at 09:05 PM in • (0) Comments
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

Posted by Bakerina at 01:24 PM in • (0) Comments
August 27, 2008

When your friends call and write and ask, sweetly, if all is well, that’s a sign that you’ve been gone too long.  When the people who have been where you’ve been, and know what sort of enormous change has been wrought upon your life, write and ask, sweetly, if you plan on sharing the details of that enormous change any time soon, that’s an even greater sign.  But when the comment spammers show up and post gibberish seven times a day, well, that’s when you know you have to send up a flare. smile

Dear friends, all is well, really well.  I have landed safely at law school, where I’ve been a brand new 1L for seven days, dancing with the usual suspects of a first-year law curriculum:  Criminal Law, Contracts, Torts, Pleading & Civil Procedure, and the timorous beastie known as Legal Analysis, Research and Writing.  I have made some friends, many of whom were in middle school when Lloyd and I got married, but they don’t hold that against me.  wink I won’t lie about the workload:  it’s been confounding, and I’m still trying to figure out the best way to manage it.  It seems that I either read too quickly, and thus miss a lot of nuance, or I read too slowly and overparse when I could be getting a lot more done.  Fortunately I have a study group, and once we get together, I’m sure we’ll all have a lot to learn from each other.

On a happier, or at least more familiar note, our month of living in hotels is almost over.  Tonight we take a walk-through of our new apartment and receive the keys from our landlord; over the next couple of days we will bring carloads of stuff from our storage space—oh, wait, did I mention that we have a car now?—and on Friday we will check out of our scary hotel, and, after my last class, we will get the bed out of storage and move in for real.  Our new sofa and our cable/internet hookup arrive on Wednesday.  Between that, the unpacking of the kitchen utensils and the arrival of my orders from King Arthur and Penzey’s, we’ll *really* get something done around here. smile

Thank you, dear friends, for being so patient and kind at a time when I’ve been so spacy and disconnected.  It’s not been an easy process, but overall, it’s been a very, very good one.

can be found here for the next three years

Posted by Bakerina at 12:30 PM in • (0) Comments
August 10, 2008

To quote both one of my favorite novels and one of my favorite movies:  Well.  Here I am again.  (Mind you, the context in which I say this is considerably less dramatic.) wink

The past week has been both so action-packed, and yet so quiet, that it’s hard for me to believe that at this moment seven days ago, Lloyd and I were holed up in the tiniest, most craptacular airport hotel of our shared experience, watching Law and Order: CI, trying to fall asleep so that we could wake up good and early for our car to the airport.  At the time, nothing loomed larger to me than the plane ride, of zipping across space and time, chasing morning across the country, watching the landscape change, bumping gently over the Great Lakes, noticing the ground suddenly becoming closer as we flew over the Rockies, descending into San Jose just before lunchtime.  (The last two flights I had in and out of San Jose, I flew at night, so I had never seen the ground below me before.  “We live here now,” I thought as I watched us descend over flatlands, hillocks and chapparal, and I wanted to laugh and cry all at once.) I had thought, honestly, that once the flight was behind us, the hardest work was behind us, too.  We had packed and shipped and junked our way out of New York City.  Everything else would be gravy.

I won’t say that our first week here has been harder than anything that has come previous to this—nothing, but nothing, will ever be harder than the Thursday the junk men came—but I can’t say it’s been terrifically relaxing, either.  We hit the ground running in San Jose.  From the starting point of the big fugly SUV we rented at the airport (which is too freaking big for most of the available parking spots in town, but works like a charm for moving boxes around, which is why we opted for an SUV as opposed to a nice hatchback or sedan), we have spent the past week travelling the Enforced Cultural Death March that is the freeway.  If I haven’t mentioned it lately, Lloyd is my hero.  He drives that big fugly thing onto entry and exit ramps like nobody’s business, he merges carefully but assertively, he occasionally shows annoyance but he never, ever, ever shows fear.  I, on the other hand, do.

There are about 500 lovely things to do on any given day here, from walking to the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden to visiting my dear Northern California-based friends who have waited patiently for us, but for the most part we’ve been tuckered out by driving from Fremont to San Jose, running a series of errands (getting our storage locker, greeting the big rig full of our stuff and unpacking it, opening bank accounts, etc.) and then driving back to Fremont.  Tomorrow morning Lloyd and I will go to the DMV and take our written test.  Once we have our shiny new California licenses in hand, we can arrange to get that special auto insurance that you get when you don’t yet own a car—so that when we *do* go buy our car, we can say “hey, look, we’re insured!” We’ll start car shopping.  We have finished bike shopping, and even as we speak, we are waiting to take delivery on our new Schwinns.  Monday night, we’ll try to score some groceries.  On Tuesday we finally take the big fugly SUV back to the airport and ride back to our neighborhood via the Airport Flyer.  At some point Lloyd will board a bus to Palo Alto to do a dry run of his commute before he goes back to work on Friday.  I, meanwhile, will be doing my required reading for orientation, which starts on Wednesday.  We’ll be doing all of this from a suite at a grotty little motor inn within walking distance of school.  When we booked the room, I was so thrilled to be in a place that didn’t involve Rollerball-like levels of travel stress that I didn’t care much about amenities, at least until our landlord said “gee, are you sure you want to stay there?” (I nearly answered, “well, no, but since we can’t move in until the end of the month, we aren’t exactly spoiled for choice.” But like our old landlord, our new landlord is a likeable guy, and I don’t want to piss hime off with my snarktastic tongue.)

All of this laundry-listing is to say that dear friends, I am so hungry to land in a place of our own that I can feel actual hunger pangs.  I don’t want to live indefinitely off of Trader Joe’s food, coffeebar sandwiches and Big Bags of Frozen Meat from Costco.  (Yes, we ponied up for a Costco membership.  I live for the day when I can bring home entire pallets of Fat Tire and economy boxes of Cheez-Its.) smile I want to unpack my pots and pans and cookbooks and baking sheets.  I want to bake a goddamned loaf of bread.  I want to go to the Capitol Flea Market and buy 30 pounds of apricots for jam.  I want to go to smaller, shaggier flea markets and buy butter lettuces and banana shallots.  Until we can get our hands on our own orange tree, I want to buy four pounds of oranges for a dollar and suck them all dry.  I want to make bright, beautiful food for our friends, but especially for Lloyd, to whom New York City was not especially kind, from a physical-health perspective.  Most of all, I just want to sit still for a while, in our living room or on the deck in our backyard, knowing that no matter how busy the coming weeks and months will be—and, make no mistake, they will be busy—we won’t have to plan the logistics of how we’re going to come or go.  We’ll just sit still, even as we’re also moving into something truly amazing.

I have to admit, I oversimplified a bit.  It hasn’t all been filling out forms and driving out to Fremont.  We’ve had a chance to eat some terrific food (although I think I picked up a little food poisoning at a taqueria, but I hope I’m wrong because I really want to go back and try their tamales), from machaca in San Jose to pho in Fremont.  On ‘mouse’s recommendation, we took a drive out to his flea market of choice, which was noisy and raucous and every bit as much fun as he promised it would be.  To the surprise of no one, I found the yarn store in San Jose, a short bike ride from our house and a short walk from my upcoming part-time job.  (Confidential to Momerina:  Come now.  No, really, right now.  Are you on the plane yet?) And, of course, as soon as we felt solid earth under our feet, we took a walk to the Municipal Rose Garden after all.  Those showy beauties are just too damn irresistible to not visit.

Happy start of the working week, dear friends.  With any luck, I will be considerably less truculent, and more voluble, once I have some interesting school tales to tell. smile

lusciousness

lusciousness detail

what awaits

glass roses at the library

glass rose detail

Posted by Bakerina at 09:58 PM in • (0) Comments
August 06, 2008

There’s so much to say, dear friends, and I’m the first to admit that I’ve fallen down on the job at saying it.  I have yet to write a proper “farewell, New York” post.  I have not yet begun to enumerate just what it takes to leave the place you’ve called home for 14 years and move to a place further away from home than you’ve ever lived.  (The short answer, though, is “money,” and you’d better believe that I have opinions about this.  wink The sheer panic of the last week, of getting out of Astoria; of having to hire a private carting company to pick up all the trash we could not leave out for NYC Sanitation; of spending 90 minutes at Staples trying to UPS the last of our belongings to San Jose; of spending four days at a hotel on the ass-end of JFK Airport, taking Long Island Rail Road into Manhattan and walking around the city as visitors, as opposed to residents; of getting on the plane and having an uneventful flight (save for the moment when I tried to buckle my seat belt and discovered that no, I did not lose any weight this month as I thought I did); of arriving in San Jose, driving around for an hour with a miskeyed GPS system (once we corrected it for driving as opposed to walking, we were fine), losing our calm minute by minute, and then finding it again at the truly fine Thai restaurant on the Alameda where we stopped for lunch; of gradually getting our bearings and finding our home and our hotel and school and ‘mouse’s office—it’s all there, clanging around inside my head, which, really, is a terribly selfish place to keep it.

It will all be shared in due time, dear friends, from the pure joy of discovering what is considered “humid” in San Jose to the pure whimsy of stopping at a dollar store in Fremont to get some paper plates and plastic utensils following our Trader Joe’s run, and finding dollar packets of curry leaves at the register.  In the meantime, I can say that it’s quite something to consider:  in less than a week, we have gone from this:

empty kitchen

standing where the kitchen table used to be

empty living room

to this:

we live here

Okay, in fairness, we don’t actually live there yet.  We are living in a hotel in Fremont until Sunday, and then moving to another hotel in Santa Clara for two more weeks.  But at least now we know we have a safe place to land, and that, to crib shamelessly from Robert Frost, has made all the difference.

peekaboo

Posted by Bakerina at 11:22 AM in • (0) Comments
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