Monday, April 25, 2011

Favorite Thing #3

I'm in Austin now, finishing papers away from the stressful law school atmosphere and getting settled for the summer and bar review before flying back to Cambridge to graduate and pack up the apartment. I think it's going to be fun doing these Favorite Things from here, where they take on a little extra nostalgia.

This is my favorite building on the law campus, the library, Langdell Hall.
It's so different from most of the other law buildings, and so much the epitome of what I think a law library should be, that it about stopped my heart the first time I rounded a corner on campus and saw the exterior and again when I hit the top of the stairs from the dim lower floors into the gorgeous Reading Room.

A huge portion of the things I'll miss most from Harvard are located in this building. For one thing, there's a table where I know a few members of my 1L section will always be sitting if I need some moral support while studying. Also, a funny assortment of milestones have happened around the printers on the ground floor, because ours at home isn't quite reliable enough for the really important stuff. So my applications to TAP, various "by permission of the professor" courses, and the Texas Bar issued from this building. And the lease for my house in Austin, which begins May 5.

I'm going to miss having access to insanely rare historical documents on demand. A scanner that nobody ever seems to be using when I need it. Reference librarians who work unbelievable hours and will always hand me a spare Bluebook when I leave mine at home. Big containers of staples, paper clips, and binder clips for anybody to take. The DVD library where I got seasons of The West Wing to show Russell. Having somewhere beautiful and nearly silent to work, sleep, or just stare outside whenever I want.

I told you these posts were going to be extra nostalgic.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Favorite Thing #2

These are my two favorite trees on the whole Harvard campus.

There's another one just like them outside Adolphus Busch Hall on my street, but it can't match the sort of critical mass of gorgeousness of these two together.

Because of the hardiness and waxy texture of the flowers, I was tempted to think they were magnolias. But the pink color (much brighter in person) and the shape of the trees didn't match any magnolia trees we had back home. So I did a little research, and it turns out there are some varieties of magnolia a lot more like these. So I'm pretty certain that's what they are.

It's so nice to have them waiting, in the springtime at least, at the end of a shortcut I take to school between some ugly science buildings. Just when I start to wish I'd taken the longer, more attractive route, there they are.

I've stopped to photograph them so much more than their fair share over the years, I almost wonder if the other trees are getting jealous. But these are the ones I'm really going to miss.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Favorite things

With so much of my life wrapped up in preparing to leave this place, whether it's frantically writing final papers so I can get my grades and graduate or buying a duffel-shaped carrier and one of those ridiculous cat leashes to get Ramona through security for the flight home, I thought I should expend a little energy remembering the things I've loved here.
So prepare yourself for a series of sappy posts about my favorite things at Harvard and in Cambridge. I'll try to keep the sentimentality from getting too ridiculous, but no promises.

Thing #1 is that Richard J. Lazarus, who was only visiting Harvard when he taught my first-year Torts class and became one of my all-time favorite professors, has finally been recruited to join the faculty permanently. I have no idea what it ultimately took to pull him away from Georgetown and its easy access to the Supreme Court, but I know they tried for years, and this is a big victory.

Richard J. Lazarus

According to another professor of mine, Jody Freeman, "This hire leaves no doubt that HLS is the go-to place for environmental law." But my mind is on the 1L Torts classes he'll teach with the same, surprisingly rare Harvard magic he brought to ours. I can hardly picture this institution without him, and I'm so glad he's an official part of it now.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ridiculous luck

As spring finally comes to New England and the sun is actually starting to shine (which is weird to say today because it's cloudy, but more often than not it's true), I'm baffled not only by how little time I have left in this place, but also how far out of its way the universe seems to be going to remind me what an amazing opportunity it's all been.

For one thing, hard as it is to believe, the lunch with Sonja Sohn I mentioned last post turned out not to be the peak of my celebrity spotting this semester - not by a long shot. A few days later, I got an e-mail from one of the teaching assistants for the same class, proclaiming, "Congratulations! You have been selected to attend the dinner with the cast of The Wire this Tuesday, April 12, 2011!" I was one of ten winners of a lottery that students in the class could enter by writing a paragraph on whether or not we supported drug legalization. Amazingly, my good friend Nancy won as well. So after the cast spoke in our class Tuesday afternoon, and after another event open to the public that evening (where my friends were all ecstatic just to be in the same 300-person courtroom as the cast), the two of us hopped into a van to join Sonja, Donnie Andrews and Fran Boyd, Jim True-Frost, Jamie Hector, Andre Royo, and Michael K. Williams for dinner at one of the undergraduate houses along the Charles River.

Some things about the dinner weren't ideal. Our group of law students was outnumbered by guests of the professor and undergraduates from the house where we were eating, few of whom seemed to know the show like we did or appreciate the magnitude of the opportunity they were getting. Watching some of them sit closer to the cast members and barely speak to them was torture! And sorry for the tangent, but the lack of vegetarian option for the appetizer was just bizarre.

But all was forgiven when people began getting up and mingling, allowing Nancy and I to march up to each cast member in turn, introduce ourselves, and have a real conversation of substance. Without fail, each one of them was warm, funny, and receptive to our questions. Nancy's paper for the class is about the presence and absence of hip-hop music in the show, so she wanted to know which rapper each of them thought was most similar to their character. Meanwhile, I got an enormous hug from Andre Royo after Nancy let slip that I'm always saying I want to hug his character, Bubbles, every time he comes on screen. And I bashfully confessed to Michael Williams about the cat I named after his character, Omar Little. To my great relief, he was unsurprised and actually pleased to hear it!

I wish I had photos or autographs to show you, but Nancy and I decided early on not to join the people badgering the cast for those. My friend Ryan has some great shots from the public appearance, though, if you want proof that they came. And we've gotten a little media attention as well.

However, that wasn't even the only great thing to happen on Tuesday. First of all, I finished a paper for my Law and Social Policy course that was my last official assignment for the academic year. Now I'm free to focus on my final papers, which won't always be fun, but is much better than having them loom in the distance causing added anxiety as I try to get through more urgent, but less important, things.

And second, also on Tuesday, we got a really amazing and long overdue piece of news about life in Austin after graduation. It's the culmination of a really long, dramatic, and mostly miserable story I promise to tell here later, but I can't right now because (a) I can't possibly fit it into this one post, and (b) given the aforementioned long story, I don't want to tempt fate into seizing what tiny opportunity still exists to ruin this for us.

But I will say that it looks a little bit like this:

Cliffhanger enough for you??

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Another awesome Harvard opportunity

On Tuesday, the latest in a long series of guest speakers for my class on The Wire was one of its stars, Sonja Sohn, who played the police officer Kema Greggs on the show. She brought along a major in the Baltimore Police and the woman who works as Program Director for her nonprofit community group, ReWired for Change. They run afterschool programs and give counseling, yoga classes, and urban gardening lessons to kids of different ages in East Baltimore, a pretty cool development from just playing a character on TV.
The best part was that I got to be one of fifteen students allowed to sign up for a pizza lunch ahead of class with Ms. Sohn and her colleagues. We mostly socialized, asked some questions about why she changed to this kind of work after the show, and got some specific tips for working with kids and teens at risk. It turns out acting was a profession she resisted for a long time out of a sense that she was meant to make more of a difference in the world, so the transition was very natural.

My favorite thing she said: "We were all put here to work for the forward movement of humanity, and what you need to do is wake up each morning asking, 'Am I doing that? Every day, in my every act?'"

Pretty inspiring.