My name is Self-Appointed Expert, and this is my blog. It is part memoir, mostly fiction, and above all just trying to be funny. Some of is based on stuff that happened to me, some is based on stuff that happened to people I know, and a good deal is just entirely made up. So, if you find yourself offended, just remember - it's a joke. When you give me that look, it's a joke. Consider it my homage to the Secret Life of Walter Mitty, A Million Little Pieces, John Hodgman, and Christopher Guest.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Law Fruits.

I'm writing this post from my blackberry (so forgive any typos, capitalization errors, or delusions of grandeur). Blackberries are very controversial little gadgets. On the one hand, you have virtually unlimited access to your office and personal email accounts, internet, and voice mail. On the other, your office and personal email accounts, internet, and voice mail have virtually unlimited access to you. People call them leashes, or worse, crackberries.

I admit, a lot of people take Blackberries too far. Gyms in New York have divided off "wireless free zones," and for good reason. In the last week, I've been out to lunches on more than a few occasions where attorneys, who are being paid to have lunch with me, their recruit, have punctuated each course by reviewing their inboxes and actually sending and responding to emails between bites. Even worse, a friend of mine today (another summer associate) told me that she had started to experience thumb cramps, a well known precursor to Blackberry-induced claims for worker's comp, after working for her firm for less than two months. And even yours truly found herself whipping out my own little crackberry this weekend at an Indie Rock festival, much to the chagrin and derision of all the little hipster indie rockers and hangers-on around me. (I still maintain it was acceptable to do so, as I was just looking up the band schedule.)

Anyhow, the whole situation got me thinking. About law firm culture, and about fruits. If Blackberries turn into crackberries, just because attorneys don't have the will power to email in moderation, imagine what life will be like when they combine name other addictive status symbols after fruits! Methamphetangerines. Marijuananas. Blowberries.

My theory, as demonstrated by the Blackberry phenomenon, is that naming things after fruits makes lawyers incapable of resisting them - to the point where they are incapable of sleeping, observing basic social graces, or functioning generally without succumbing to their call. It's only a matter of time before we have fruit-inspired names for practice areas. Mangos and Aquisitions. Trusts and Dates. Bankruptcitruses. And, my personal favorite, the Applelate Law/Supreme Corn Practice.

And it'll work, too. Because lord knows that a good fruit name for their practice group is the closest thing any of these attorneys will get to a job that fulfills them in any way.

10 points to the first person to email me with the racial-slur-inspired term Jeremy invented to describe someone who was half-Japanese, half-Jewish.

My friend Jeremy got the short end of the Holocaust stick. Half-Japanese and half-Jewish, Jeremy lost a good portion of his extended family a full generation before he was even born. But genocide/atom bombs aside, Jeremy was still well-connected to his heritage.

The summer after our freshman year Jeremy and I shared an apartment in D.C. Since we'd both lived in the dorms, this was really the first opportunity any of us had to fend for ourselves in the kitchen - so it quickly became a habit of the Harvard kids in the area to convene in each other's apartments to cook and share dinner.

One night a mutual friend was inspired to come over to prepare for us seared salmon with apples and creme fraiche. And by seared I mean raw. And by raw I mean non-sushi grade, raw salmon.

New to the whole fish thing in general, but still experienced to know that there's a difference between shashimi and fish sticks, I was a little nervous when my entree came out. I asked the mutual friend to cook mine a little more.

Jeremy would have nothing of it. "My people have been eating raw salmon for thousands of years!" And with that, he grabbed his spoon, picked up the yet-to-be-seared raw salmon (still in the styrofoam tray), scooped up about a third of the meat, and popped it into his mouth.

"Now that's a nice piece of fish."

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Stories of my life, part I: The Lamar Alexander Story

I tell a lot of stories. As a kid, I moved around a lot, so I'd often find myself in groups of people I didn't know. The only way I could relate to them, I found, was to discuss things that had happened to me in the past - funny or interesting things that were somehow related to something that we were currently experiencing together. It was nice - it helped people get to know me, and, even more importantly, it let me be the center of attention for a few moments. Which is really, you know, my single motivating goal for virtually every waking moment of my life.

Anyway, it's occured to me recently that I have a set of stories that I like to tell and re-tell over and over again. I reached this realization mostly because between recruiting for jobs and dealing with a new school, I've spent most of the last year around people I didn't know very well - and as a result I've sort of slipped into my old get to know you habits. At the same time, however, it's occured to me that as time passes I remember some stories better than others - and it's a pretty frequent occurence that I'll be around my college friends and be reminded of crazy adventures I hadn't thought about in years. So, in the interest of preserving these memories, letting you all get to know me a little better, and allowing myself to be the center of attention, I present to you a series of stories of my life.

Tonight's story takes us back to my sophomore year. Adam, my best friend, and I were working at the Institute of Politics one night when a particularly crowd-worthy speaker came to address the ARCO Forum. (What's funny is that I can't even remember who it was.) Anyway, it was a big deal speaker, and we were kind of a big deal at the IOP. Unfortunately, we were late to the event, and all the good seats had been taken by the time we decided to show up. Using our cache and the resulting access it granted us to the innards of the Kennedy School, we decided to just grab some chairs from outside someone's office and make our own seats in the audience.

As we were walking through the empty halls to find our seats, we passed by the office of then former-governor Lamar Alexander, who was hanging out at the IOP for a semester to prepare for his bid to replace Fred Thompson as the TN Senator. As we walked by, I recalled to Adam an interaction I'd had with Mr. Alexander a few days before.

"He told me I could come by his office anytime I wanted to talk about Tennessee politics," I said.

"Sounds pretty cool," said Adam.

"But then I realized, I don't care about Tennessee politics!"

"Yeah!" Adam chimed in, "Screw you, Lamar!" Mid-sentence, Adam turned, and about the time he reached the second syllable of "Lam-ar," he looked up to find himself face to face with, you guessed it, Mr. Alexander.

"Hello," he said. And we were off.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Jacket and Tie Not Required

New job this week - so far, so good. But among all the attributes of the new place that I like, by far its best quality is...the business casual dress policy. I know, it's pretty amazing that just one single pair of khakis could have such a significant improvement on the quality of my life, and really sort of sad, but here we are.

Apparently, the trend towards biz-cas in New York really got started after the investment bankers dropped the suit, and the law firms followed. The only problem with this arrangement is that while bankers and counsel are now in khakis and polos, New York's finer dining establishments still expect a more traditional attire. The result is that while most people dress up to go to work, I dress up to go to lunch when I go to work. It's kind of absurd, but mostly awesome.

Other observations based on my short time in the big city:
(1) I love walking to work. It makes me so unbelievably happy. We're talking quantities of happy here that are comparable only to the levels of soul-crushing depression formerly caused to me by having to commute on the subway. Some people think that living right where you work is depressing, since you never really leave work. These people apparently don't mind the stench of 150 bodies vying for the same space in a 200 square foot tube for 55 minutes every morning.
(2) NYC is more convenient than DC. On may way to work at DC, I had to transfer trains to get to an ATM, make a special trip to find a Starbucks, order groceries off the internet, and walk past two homeless shelters. In the ten blocks between my apt and my office in NYC, I pass three Banks of Americas, 3 Starbucks, about 100 restaurants, and 3 grocery stores (not counting no fewer than 5 outdoor fruit and veggie stands). And an Anne Taylor, Banana Republic, Bebe, and Gap. And no hobos. (Which is such a relief - if there's one thing I don't need right now, it's rebound hobo sex.)
(3) New York is one of the few cities where being single is the norm. Sort of scarily so, in fact. My first day here I saw two people holding copies of the "Dummie's Guides to Divorce." Frankly, when it comes to divorce, I'm glad to remain a dummie. But, really, I feel the same way about marriage, so who am I to complain.
(4) Too many of my friends live in Brooklyn. Seriously, you're not 40 and you're not still living at home. You owe yourself a bed in Manhattan. I say this as a girl who has been in New York for approximately 15 minutes, and a resident of tiny rural towns throughout the South for about 15 years. Brooklyn is BFE.
(5) Both foie gras and Tasti D-Lite are disgusting. Albeit for entirely different reasons, both taste like crap.

All in all, I'm happy to report that I couldn't be happier. Here's hoping that the actual working at the firm doesn't muck things up too badly.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Week in Review

Sorry to be MIA the last week. I'll make it up to you later. For now, here's a potpurri of updates:

(1) Saw Superman Returns. I thought it was great, despite me not having any idea where he was supposed to be returning from (as I've never seen any of the original Supermen flicks). Little known fact: the same scorewriter composed the themes to Superman Returns, Indiana Jones, and Star Wars. Try humming them all in a row. It's impossible.

(2) Saw Devil Wears Prada. It was entertaining, but also infuriating. The movie's theme, in a nutshell, is that women can't be successful both at work and at home, so they should really just give up and stay at home. What's even worse is that they had a throw-away line where Anne Hathaway's character said something along the lines of "No one would criticize the devil lady if she were a man - they'd just focus on how successful she was." From there, they proceed to emphasize over and over that you can't have a career and a personal life if you're a chick. (Or effeminate male.) Also? Her job was not that bad. Having to answer the phone during dinner is not the end of the world. Finally - Is Anna Hathaway ever going to do a movie where she doesn't start out with ratty hair and end up with sleek hair? We get it. You look better with a straightening iron. Now fucking try acting.

(3) Saw Jason Alexander host the fireworks in DC. Quite possibly the funniest thing I've seen on TV this year? The moment where Jason sings a neaveau spiritual about "freedom" with the help of a group of about 15 fifth-to-eighth graders. It was hilarious. None of them matched. No uniforms, no color scheme. It looked like Jason had walked up to a softball field and recruited the infield. All in all, it was a great show. Nothing like a whiny sniveling superficial neurotic self-centered cheap hardhearted stupid New Yorker to symbolize everything I love about America.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Do you take...this woman?

Sometimes I get lonely. Despite all my big talk, I don't have a boyfriend - homeless, homely, or otherwise. No one to cuddle. No one to improve. No one to mooch off of or clean up after. I think the problem is that I hate most people I meet, and my standards are even higher for people who want to do me. Another issue is that as much as I hate people, I hate dating more. Really, I don't even want a boyfriend. What I want is a husband. But without having to date him first.

It makes sense to me. Boyfriends are afraid of commitment. Husbands, on the other hand, seem to support it - at least on paper. Boyfriends live in shitty bachelor pads. Husbands live in houses that I get to decorate, but they have to pay for. Boyfriends break hearts. Husbands fix sinks. It seems like a no-brainer.

The problem is I've found that guys don't marry girls if they don't, for instance, know their last names. The way I see it, though, what does it matter what my last name is? I'm just going to give it up when I take yours anyway. So, when I say to you, Evan Thompson, "Hi, my name is Sarah," don't ask me, "Well, do you have a last name?" Just think, "Sarah. Sarah Thompson. Right." Sort of has a nice ring to it, eh? Specifically, a gold ring. White gold. With diamonds.

And an inscription on the inner band: "To the girl I just met, who tricked me into marrying her. You're more fun than the bar scene. I think." Only in Latin. It sounds a little pushy in English.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Dang! We're in a tight spot!

This morning the DC metro flooded. About half the lines were closed. Not mine. DCMTA knew better, I guess.

My neighbors were another story: the station outside my apt was, in my opinion, excessively crowded. Although CNN had reporting all morning that the beltway was closed due to a mudslide, no one thought it worthwhile to clue in the locals to the heavy delays on the train, so everyone was out in full force. The result was that you'd walk past the bus stop, past the taxi stands, and trek down into the metro, business as usual, only to approach the platform and discover about 200 people crowding the gap. (On a busy morning, there's more like 10-20.) By the time you figured out that trains were running at every 10-15 min rather than every 1-2, it was too late for you to turn back. You were already part of the jam.

Suffice it to say that when the trains showed up, not everyone could fit. Really, only about 15 could make it on at our stop, as the train was already packed to the gills with commuters, bags, umbrellas, and hyperventilating claustrophobics. I didn't think I'd make it, and at first I didn't. But after the initial push, the train paused at the station, doors open, for about 3-4 minutes. I couldn't stand it - it was now or never. I crowded on.

I deflected the natural chagrin of my new, very intimate, commuter friends with a comment about how someone in the middle of our car had left a seat open. Instantly, I was accepted - I was a compatriot, equally inconvenienced and annoyed by all the idiots around us who were really just fooling themselves if they thought they were going to make it on this train. Somehow they forgot that only moments before, I, too, had been one of those idiots elbowing my way into their personal space. I made friends with a Pakistani man to my right. He congratulated me on my success. I smiled back, happy to have an ally.

The woman next to me was a middle aged blonde named Renee. I knew she was called Renee because she hung a name tag around her neck on a faded lanyard. She worked for the Peace Corps. She had probably been shot at, dehydrated, forced to fight off malaria and subsist off of grubs and rice staples for weeks on end - surviving only out of sheer force of will and her commitment to making the world a better place. On the train, however, she looked like she had met her match. Dejected, wilting, she shrunk further into the corner with every passing stop, complaining to a woman next to hear wearing a hijab that though she didn't have back problems, her back was hurting her now. Once I tripped and nearly crushed her when the train operator hit the accelerator a little too enthusiastically. I smiled, happy to give her a reason to sigh dejectedly.

Immediately in front of me was a clean cut intern with dark jellied hair and a tan, either new to law school or fresh from college. He was wearing a crisp white shirt, and as the train lurched the curve of his ass kept bumping up into my abdomen. I had to turn my face to the left (and alternately look up to the ceiling or down to her nametag to avoid staring directly at Renee), and brace my neck to resist the centrifugal force of the train's careening path through the tube - doing my best to keep my lips, my face, and my cheeks from rubbing up against his momentarily immaculate starched collar. I couldn't deny the sexual tension that developed between my midriff and his backside, but I didn't want him to get dumped on false pretences when he got home later that night.

Eventually the overflow of people reduced to trickle as we approached the heart of the city and progressively larger groups of commuters began to peal away at their respective destinations. The rain continued for most of the day; when it didn't rain, the air stayed dirty and wet.

I took the subway back home at the end of the day. This time I got a seat, but nothing to write about.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Just Like I Did With Old Yellar

So, I went over to Jimmy's "house" this weekend, and we had a long conversation about the benefits of supply side economics that, I have to say, really got me thinking. In the end, though, like most liberals who briefly flirt with conservatism only to come running back to the left, I just couldn't take the smell. I broke up with him in a note written on the back of a discarded Dunkin Donuts wrapper that I found on the ground under a pile of used syringes. It was sort of passive of me, I admit. He can't read, after all.

Anyway, the good new is that as I was walking home, I stopped a bar for a post-break up pick-me-up and ended up picking up a new guy. He's great. A little short for me, though. He stands about mid-waist on me, so I guess heels are out. And his nose is sortof - big. Not that that's usually a problem for me (I'm Catholic, but I've had as much Jew in me as Kesher Israel), but this schnoz is worse than usual - it's big and black and wet, too. Ok, I'll just come out and say it. I'm dating Brian Griffin.

Apart from being a "cartoon character" and a "dog," he's everything I've ever wanted in a man. He's well-read, hates children, liberal, witty, and above all: house trained. (Which is more than I can say for the last guy I dated!) (Although I suppose it's hard to be house trained if you don't have a house.) All in all, I'd say he's a keeper.

Plus, if things turn out badly, I can always put him to sleep.