Thursday, July 28, 2005

Assault by Waxing

In preparation for the wedding this weekend, I went to get my legs waxed today. The waxer was JoAnn and she has a vendetta against all leg hair. I suspect that either her mother, firstborn or whole family were killed because of excess leg hair. Like Anigo Montoyo she has spent her life practicing her craft so that she exact her revenge on all leg hair. Or maybe she was just dumped by the object of her love for having Chewbacca legs. Whatever her reason–she showed no mercy as she sought and destroyed all of my leg hairs.

Waxing has been my only method of hair removal for ten years. The slight initial pain has long since faded and I usually find getting my legs waxed relaxing. Not So today. There were moments that actually could be described as painful. Most of the time it was just amazingly intense. The salon was very cold, so my skin was already tight, upon which hot wax was smeared, then muslin strips which she leaned her whole body weight into and rubbed frantically, followed by the tearing sensation caused sensory overload. She jerked, bent and manipulated my legs with complete dominance and control–none of her actions demonstrated that she knew or cared that my legs and skin were actually part of a human being. I was on edge and all of my muscles were tense. Tactile overload is the only way to describe this sensation–each time I got tattooed I also experience this phenomeon whereby I just craved relief from the sensation, even though it wasn’t painful.

The exuberance and speed that JoAnn demonstrated was impressive. She was violent and intentful in her mission to deforest my legs. Her face was set in concentration and her eyes ever-diligent against a renegrade hair that might escape her fury. I fully expected to see pricks of blood appearing at my ravaged pores.

"Do you want bikini wax, too?" Oh dear God No. NO!

Are you crazy woman? Only a masochistic lunatic would allow your single-minded assault against hair to turn its wrath upon her pubic region. I know without a doubt that was I to permit your Auschwitz-styled sensitivity and efficiency near my tender parts that I would be bruised and pained for days. Hell. No. JoAnn’s deft hands would have rendered my bike seat into an instrument of torture.

Thankfully she was as fast as she was violent. I have waited in line at Chipotle longer than it took her to violate every follicle on my legs.

It is now almost two hours later and the heat and bumps from JoAnn’s assault have subsided. I am now experiencing the strangest sensations–my legs are tingling. While I have complete control and feeling in this skin, I have the sense that my skin is vibrating. Hard to describe but it is reminiscent of the muted feeling after hitting a ball with an aluminum bat, pushing a lawn mower all day, or that preliminary feeling before the ‘pins and needles’ when a limb that fell asleep starts to awaken. If this feeling had a sound it would either be a soft buzz, or the tail end of a tuning fork being struck. When I concentrate on this sensation it seems to intensify and spread.

Very, very bizarre. Maybe I should have gotten the bikini wax after all.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Ride the Lightning, Play in the Rain

Glorious, glorious lightning greeted me when I left my office on Monday night. I love lightning storms–absolutely love them. I was riding directly into the storm, and my eyes were much more on the sky than on the road. So much so, that I got ‘lost’ two times on the ride home.

Milwaukee Ave is a diagonal street, so there are several six-way intersections. I often take a left on Grand, the first one, because Chicago Ave is really, really bumpy & rough. I was so engrossed with the sky, that I didn’t realize I was at the Grand intersection early enough to cut into the left-most lane. Instead I planned on wiggling pedestrian/messenger style to make my turn. Somehow I wiggled successfully across several lanes, did a u-turn and made my turn. Except I didn’t–I managed to end back up on Milwaukee. What is worse, is that I didn’t even realize it until I got to the next major intersection–oops.

So now I am at the Chicago, Ogden (a diagonal basically perpendicular to Milwaukee), Milwaukee intersection. Embarrassed and somewhat confused as to how I made this mistake, I just swung a left onto Chicago. Except I didn’t–I actually turned onto Ogden and headed in the wrong direction. Once again, I didn’t realize this until I saw a Grand street sign at an intersection. WTF?! Mistaking Milwaukee for Grand was weird, but acceptable because I ride both routes often. But I think I only rode this stretch of Ogden once or twice–I recognize that I am ridiculously unobservant, but this is just unacceptable even for me.

I turned the correct way onto Grand and successfully rode home without any other inadvertent detours. The lightning was crackling and streaking importantly across the sky the whole way. Part of me thinks that my meandering route was a purposeful way to extend my ride. Those who have experienced my spacial retardedness first-hand know that isn’t the case. I get lost all the time. Thank goodness Chicago has a grid system, or I would probably have died of starvation trying to get home.

Tuesday night was even better. I needed to race home to shower before meeting Paul. I looked outside to check the weather and the sight was delightful: The sky was unnaturally darkened by a storm and I saw the tops of umbrellas crowding the sidewalks below. Oh. Yes.

Outside the weather was cool and my skin goosepimpled. Fantastic! Chicago was over 100 degrees this weekend and I was sick of the heat. The pedestrians on the street scurried past me as they futilely tried to stay dry. There was a driving wind, so the umbrellas weren’t much protection against the slanted rain. Two sheltered Doormen gave me sympathetic looks and warned me to be careful. I responded with a laugh.

The rest of my ride was full of giggling, smiling and joyful bursts of laughter. The rain was so hard and quick that many of the gutters were overflowing with water. Perfect puddle riding. I steered my Bianchi through all of them and water shot up around us as I squealed with delight. Is there anything more enjoyable that feeling the sun-baked pavement warmed water lap up to warm my cool skin? I love summer storms.

I think several people thought I was a lunatic with my dopey smile, squealing and puddle riding. At intersections the crossing pedestrians stared as I sat in the pouring rain at each light with my eyes wide and a huge smile on my face. I paced a cop for almost a mile and a half and he shook his head in bewilderment at my antics. The ride was great–fast, wet and refreshing.

John arrived home at the same time I did and we both began stripping out of our sopping wet clothes once we got inside. He didn’t seem nearly as delighted with the rain as I was. I claimed the first shower and actually took a warm shower for the first time in weeks. All of the road grit that stained my legs and socks was banished down the drain. I put on cozy clothes and wrung out my hair.

Once clean and dry again, I didn’t want to get too wet on the ride to Paul’s house–so I threw on my clear raincoat and folded my skirt up to my hips so it was protected by the coat, too. It worked perfectly, and my clothes were totally dry upon arrival. Besides being too cold, there are few clothing problems that can’t be solved by a little immodesty. The pedestrians I encountered were huddled under their umbrellas and the drivers were in windshield-wiper tunnel vision. So even though I was basically biking around in my underpants, I don’t think anyone actually noticed. Tehehe. Welcome to my dorky world.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Can I live in the ‘hood?

I went to visit the Hub on Friday night, a greenie, bikey housing cooperative that was recently purchased by several of my friends. The neighborhood it is in is sort of dangerous, but not too bad. Several of the surrounding areas are bad–and you need to ride through them to get to the Hub.

This wasn’t a concern of mine, even though I have recently heard people telling nasty tales of being threatened, chased and assaulted while riding. Shortly before Jim and I left the Hub it became apparent that he was nervous about the ride home, and was actually somewhat grateful for my presence. He listed some of the possible routes–which I didn’t care about either way. Normally when people suggest routes the concerns are traffic and/or pavement conditions–but it dawned on me that safety from pedestrians was the issue here. Weird.

Our ride was damned fast and there wasn’t any incident besides a few people who yelled angrily at us from their stoops. Jim bitched that he was sick and tired of ghetto bullshit and was considering moving away from Chicago because of it. Nooooo! Jim is super-cool and the other fixie-riding attorney in town. Knowing that he exists makes me happy, and I don’t want him to leave the city. [As a side note: Jim has messenger envy, and rides like one. My chicken, traffic rule-abiding ass had to choose at many intersections whether to follow his scary riding style, or get left behind (or show my cautious dorkiness to a person I really admire). I followed and dodged cars in many intersections as I whimpered and braced for impact. Not Fun (but certainly exhilarating.)]

I realized that I really don’t have much experience at all with riding through ghetto neighborhoods–especially at night. When I lived on the Southside, I took the spooky, but mostly safe, lakeshore path back to Hyde Park. My routes have always included the risk of random violent individuals, but never the risk of true ghetto, no-holds-barred group anger and violence.

After pondering safety/ghettos/risk for a while after this ride–I don’t think I have the stomach for it. I didn’t enjoy being mugged and I don’t like the fear that leaps into my throat when I encounter a solitary questionable character. I don’t like being yelled at or chased and I really don’t like the idea of dealing with people who don’t value my life. So maybe I am a coward, maybe I am a hypocrite, but I am going to place a higher value on safety when I contemplate potential neighborhoods for the co-op building.

I guess I am a) becoming a girl, or b) getting old and more cautious about risk.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Enron. Ask Why.

Paul and I saw the Enron documentary last night. Interesting–very interesting. There were a few things that really struck me.

California.
Apparently Enron orchestrated the black-outs in California years ago to drive energy prices higher. They viciously manipulated (reduced) the supply to raise the prices of energy. The estimated cost of this to the state was $35 billion.

The Traders.
Every image I saw and every voice I heard was young and male. These men joked with each other about raping California and gleefully talked about squeezing Granny tighter with increased energy costs. Their response to the wildfires that summer: "Burn baby burn". They eagerly anticipated natural disasters as an excuse to raise the energy prices higher and/or justify the temporary closure of more plants to further restrict supply across the state.

Jackals, scoundrels, carrion – these men turned my stomach. What is worse is that I knew them. Not personally, of course. But I lived with men cut from this cloth in my 1L year at the professional school dorm. Nothing but profit and power matters to these men–nothing. They are completely enthralled with a ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality, religiously believe in the invisible hand of the marketplace and love the cut throat nature of their business. Other people’s lives are just pieces in their game and instead of tragedy or helplessness evoking sympathy it causes bloodlust in these men. Spoiled. Greedy. Heartless.

Diffusion of Blame.
The documentary took pity on most of the Enron employees and laid most of the blame at the feet of Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, a few other executives and the vicious traders. The stockholders and lower employees were portrayed as perfectly innocent ‘victims’.

The Women.
There were three important women in this documentary. The first was an attorney-turned business woman who got out of Enron before the shit really hit the fan. The second was the Fortune reporter who first pricked the Enron bubble with a questioning article. The third was the whistleblower. There were other women shown attending staff meetings–but they obviously weren’t players. The other women in the documentary were the topless strippers that executives expense-accounted and one executive in particular was obsessed with strippers. He cashed out early for $300 million.
_______________________________________________
The relationship with the Bush administration was alluded to, but honestly there didn’t seem to be any concrete evidence of wrong-doing. Mostly innuendo and documentation of the chumminess between Enron and the Bushies. As much as I hate Bush and expect that his paws were dirty, too, there just wasn’t any proof.

Now for my thoughts. First, I call Bullshit on the victim attitude about all of the stockholders and employees. Let’s re-evaluate the role of shareholder. It means owner. Ownership has risks and responsibilities.

First, if you don’t agree with the policies of a company (environmental, labor, politically.....) then either don’t buy stock in that company, OR endeavor to change the policy through your ownership position.

Second–the profits: review the balance sheets–don’t whine and complain that you got fucked over when you did absolutely no research yourself. Apparently the financial sheets didn’t add up for years–everyone had the ability to see that the emperor wore no clothes, but they instead believed the hype and fawned over his cape of gold. Certainly, certainly, certainly the sophisticated banks, auditors and analysts were the most egregious in their blindness–but all investors should either educate themselves about the companies they invest in, OR depend completely on the experts and treat the stock market like Vegas.

Third–again, the profits. All of the people bitching and moaning about how much money they lost really need to consider this realistically. If the stock value was steadily increasing and highly overvalued, then please adjust your loss accordingly. If you invested $50,000 in Enron stock–but it was valued at $450,000 due to overvalue before crashing down to $2,000–you did NOT ‘lose’ $448,000–you really lost $48,000 (plus a rational interest rate–which would also have tanked when the economy nose-dived) and the unearned illusion of $400,000. Obviously $48,000 is a huge amount of money for most people, but it isn’t the fortune of almost a half million. Get your numbers straight.

Also, why did so few of these ‘victims’ question what was going on when the good times were rolling? As long as Enron made them money hand over fist, then the stockholders weren’t at all interested in the company’s policies. Expensive corporate jets, strippers, amazing executive salaries, purchase of politicians, the rape of California’s energy market.....who cares so long as the stock prices rise. It isn’t until after the shit and the fan connect that employees and stockholders become ‘appalled’ at these practices. The greed at the top is the same as the greed at the bottom–only the proportions are different. I can imagine some ‘greenie hippy’ being chided by his co-workers/friends for being too stupid/principled to invest in such a ‘sure thing’ as Enron. Profit above all else–it’s the American Way.

The non-repentant Losers. We hear from one of the traders who admitted that he rode this wave of wealth and was afraid to ask hard questions–because the answers might force him to re-evaluate his behavior–and force him out of this lucrative market. We heard from a Public Relation guy who seemed crushed that his company betrayed him–how many times did he spin the company’s message to investors, analysts and other players in the financial market? He certainly didn’t seem to realize that he was the mouthpiece of Enron and that it was his skill as a spin doctor that allowed Enron to become as huge as it was before crumbling. Company lies to
him? Bad. He spews company lies to public? Just doing my job.

The non-repentant Winners. Namely, the female attorney who got out early enough to not be stained. It wasn’t mentioned, but apparently she got out of Enron well before the foundation started crumbling. However, she was there to help build this shaky foundation. She is also an attorney, so I will hold her to a higher standard of ethical behavior. She speaks with concern about Enron’s path and the motivations behind Skilling and the other executives. She doesn’t say it, but she obviously Got The Fuck Out of There because she was smart enough to see the future. Not a bit of remorse and it doesn’t appear as if she feels any responsibility for the end result, even though she was a key player since the beginning. Her exit wasn’t described, but my guess is that she cashed out when things were really rolling and became rich in the process.

Finally–men and women. The only analyst/reporter who called the company’s bluff was a very young woman. She was writing an article and the balance sheets just didn’t add up–even though she isn’t an accountant. Apparently the graft was noticeable enough for a non-sophisticated party to catch it. Enron pressured her not to write the article after trying unsuccessfully to explain the fuzzy math to her, but she wrote it anyway. Good Girl. The employee whistleblower was promoted to a higher position, as assistant to one of the masterminds, that required her to crunch the numbers and she realized how f-ed up the books were. Once again, she blew the whistle. Jeff Skilling testified before Congress that both of these women were just too stupid to understand basic accounting–even after Enron bankrupted. He blamed their actions for the ‘run on the bank’ that caused Enron to crumble.

Skilling cashed out his stocks and resigned abruptly a few weeks before the collapse. Still he testifies that the company was sound before he left and it was just the meddling of these stupid women that caused the stupid market to get cold feet. Remember, this is a man who bowed down to the invisible hand and believes that free markets are an intrinsic good. Why does he suddenly lose his ardor for the wisdom of his precious marketplace?

Obviously this is argument by analogy instead of studies, but it was striking that the ruthless behavior was inordinately male. The people who rose above the threats to reveal the truth were women. Is this an anomaly, or is there something gendered that causes men and women to value money/truth/power/fairness differently?

Finally, the lawyers, accountants and analysts. Bad, bad, bad. These people all hold positions of public trust. Lawyers and accountants are bound by rules of professional ethics. Obviously, they were blinded by the money too and disregarded their responsibilities to their profession and their clients. Unacceptable. Totally unacceptable. I think anything I write about this is simply a rehash of the underlying greed from the smallest stockholder to the CEO that allowed this to happen. Their betrayal is worse because of the positions of trust that they occupied, but the motivation is shared with many: either willfully committing fraud or purposefully burying their heads in the sand because the money was just too good.

Anyway, an interesting documentary. I am not an expert on the Enron situation, so I can’t critique whether or not the facts were accurately presented. Certainly at times the arguments became sort of mushy and I felt like the film fudged sometimes to make things seem more egregious, but I don’t know enough to point them out. There was also footage of the frighteningly fascinating Milgram experiments regarding obedience. However, the connection wasn't made as clearly as I would have liked, and it seemed to assume that the audience was already informed about this bedrock of social-psychology. (yes, I'm doing the same thing). The doc was good--Check it out.

As a side note–yes this is the sort of unmitigated geekiness that occurs when Two Dorks Date.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Driving me Mad

I had to drive today. I had to go to a suburb today. I had to go to a jail today. I had to visit another punk kid today. I had to drive to a suburb to visit a punk kid in jail today.

Dear Lord. I still can’t believe that people willingly make this type of commute every friggin’ day. I left my office a little after 2:00, spent less than a half an hour with the punk and returned just before 7:00pm. Total miles: 83. This includes me picking up and dropping off the rental car (<2 blocks from my office).

Some of the people in the office were cracked up when they heard that I would have to drive–there previously were questions whether I would ever agree to do this. Today the office was crazy-busy with other peoples’ cases–so I didn’t even try to whine my way out of it. Still, it turned my tummy.

I haven’t driven since X-mas (maybe Thanksgiving–but I think I drove over X-mas, too). I demanded the smallest car possible with the most insurance at the rental agency. I was surly and whiney and the chick suggested that if I was nervous about driving then maybe I should drive a ‘safer’ SUV. I was too disgusted by this comment/blatant up-sell attempt to voice my opinion, but my glare shut her up just as well. As expected, the car was also an automatic–which I hate driving and feel even less confident than if I were at least driving a stickshift.

I hit the horrible highway and barely budged. I didn’t know this particular branch of the highway, so I didn’t know what city streets to take instead. For the first six miles I only once got up to 20 miles an hour, but normally it was between 5-10. I definitely could have biked out of the city faster. It was horrible.

Back when I owned a car, driving was much more fun for me. I rarely drove it, but when I did it was to get out of the city and visit my friends in Wisconsin. Usually I was excited about the trip and happy to get to my destination. Not the case today. Plus, my car was painted Leopard print, so the reaction of my fellow road-users was fun and amusing. The boring Dodge Neon didn’t bring anyone joy or surprise today. Additionally, I was too surly to even consider flashing my never-fail ‘merging smile’ so I had to try to wriggle into spots without the help of other drivers. Grrrr.

The visibility of this car also blew. The headrests were solid instead of having the cut-out I was used to peaking through, and the space between the side windows and the rear window created a huge blind spot. Turning to look over my shoulder was pointless–my mirrors gave me a much better view. I also felt too short in this car. I couldn’t see the nose of the car and the trunk partition was too high for me to see well out the rear window (the rearview mirror provided a better view, once again). What a shitty design.

At one point I attempted to roll down my window to enjoy a breeze on my skin. I quickly realized that it was a horrible idea: the 95 degree weather being quite hot, the air filled with nasty exhaust and the rumble of engines was just too unpleasant. So I did my best to hide: I rolled the windows back up, cranked the air conditioning and blasted the radio. Unfortunately nothing could be done about the view or my speed. So I crept along with the others until I was finally able to drive a reasonable speed once we were far enough away from the city.

The police station/jail also blew. Not really much to say because of confidentiality/privilege. One thing I didn’t appreciate was when the guards took about three to four minutes each time to come release me from the locked room I shared with my juvenile delinquent. Hmmm....he’s 17 years old, about a foot taller than me and being charged with a violent felony. You’ve been keeping him in solitary because he has been ‘acting out’ and ‘causing problems’. Maybe, just maybe, you should stay close enough to react quickly if he tries to cause me harm. Three to four minutes feels pretty long when locked in a small room with an angry criminal. Then again, I’m not a cop–so what do I know about safety precautions?

I hate the police stations. I hate having to pretend that I am completely confident and competent–because when it comes to criminal law–I Am Not. I hate the assumption that I am a social worker and the surprise and subsequent attitude when I correct them by saying that I am an attorney. I hate the powerplay when they ask for my attorney’s ID and the questioning look they continue to give me–the same fucking look bouncers gave me when I was younger and they didn’t seem to believe that I was old enough to enter. It makes me want to smack them, because I feel like they are accusing me of lying and expect me to confess that I am not an attorney–who lies about that? No matter how much I hate it, I know better than to smack an armed police officer. Then I hate meeting the clients/punks themselves. Once again, I have to act like I know what is going on–these kids generally have far more experience with police/courts than I do. I hate being locked in rooms with there glazed over eyes and tightly wound bodies. I hate knowing that there is damn little I can do for them. I hate thinking about what crimes they have seen, what crimes have been committed against them, what crimes they have committed already, and what crimes they are yet to commit.

Back on the road–it starts pouring. The cars are engulfed not only in the spray from their tires, but from the steam coming off of the hot pavement. People drive like assholes. I continue dorking along. The whole situation is disgusting and once again the road clogs up about 20 miles from Chicago. Who the hell are these people? Why are they driving into the city at this time. Singing loudly and angrily to the radio even lost its appeal eventually. [thankfully the playlist was appropriate: Metallica, Pantera, Guns & Roses, Rage Against the Machine, Chevelle, Disturbed, Staind–good angry teenage-boy music to match my mood]. I hated my fellow drivers.

No one looked happy. People jockeyed for spots and jack-rabbited for the slightest improvement in position. Many people were smoking and I saw two cigar smokers throw their stogies out onto the road. Lots of people were talking on handheld cellphones (illegal in Chicago). Fucktards.

There were many, many times–still outside of Chicago–that we were completely stopped for periods of time. I considered just turning the car off and starting to walk. People would be so pissed at me for stopping my car in the lane, but the thought amused me. I really wanted to just get out and move instead of being trapped in my cage. Then I started thinking about other annoying things to do.

For some reason my mind latched onto the completely repulsive idea of rolling down a window, yanking out my tampon and tossing it at a vehicle. This thought amused me for many, many miles. I tried to find my perfect target: obviously it had to be a jackoff who deserved getting a bloody tampon thrown at them. Beyond that I thought a white vehicle would be nice to hit–or a vehicle with an open window–or an open-bed pick-up. I wondered how good my aim would be through the passenger window–could I really expect to get it into the bed of a truck or into the passenger compartment of a car? Not likely, but how would I know if I didn’t try? Thankfully the traffic sped up before a jagoff holding a cigarette through his open window of his white Hummer didn’t pull up alongside me. I honestly don’t think I could have resisted. One day of driving and look at how violent and antisocial I become!

Honestly, as gross as this idea is, I am still enthralled by it. My aim would be much better while on a bike. Roll up alongside a vehicle that just did me wrong, reach up my skirt to remove tampon and fling it by its string through an open window and onto the lap of a dude who just yelled something foul and sexual to me. God that would be awesome. Especially since I could use my nimble bike to get the Fuck Out of There.

Would that make the nasty man think twice before yelling shit at women on the street again?
Would actually tell his boss/coworkers/friends how the blood got on his pants.
Would he scream like a girl?

Assuming I could exit the situation safely–is there a problem with this idea?

So anyway, a delightful morning that began biking to the farmers' markets with vegans ends with me considering assaulting people with bloody projectiles--all because of driving to visit a punk in a jail in a suburb.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Wards of the State

Once again, I do Not like the practice of law. I spent the morning speaking with one of my DCFS clients–and my boss is probably not going to be happy about it, because this was mostly outside of the scope of my representation of her, so he will have to discount the time. However, she is stuck in a psychiatric facility and being treated worse than a prisoner. The facility keeps her locked in a small room with nothing to occupy her time. When she complains, they shoot her up with drugs. The staff tells her that she will never get out of there. Fuckers.

So this girl is stuck and scared. Why is she in DCFS–because her parents abandoned her. She has a social worker who doesn’t seem to give a flying fuck about her and a guardian ad lidem who seems nice, but who seems too busy and too unconcerned to really raise hell about her situation. And she has me.

My job is supposed to begin and end with me advising her to remain silent and making sure that the cops don’t speak with her. I’ve done my job, and she has followed my advise perfectly–in fact, a little too perfectly, because her refusal to speak about an incident, according to my instruction, has caused them to insist that she is uncooperative. This girl is freaked out, rightfully so. She has only been in the system for about three weeks and is being treated like shit. Unlike some of these other punks, she obviously doesn’t know the ropes and how to survive in the system.

Whenever I speak with the DCFS wards I really try to relate with them so my advice sinks in. It is impossible with many of the boys–they are already so abused and abusive that their eyes are glazed over. These boys will die young and/or spend their lives in jail. Most of them don’t even have anger or fear anymore–they just have apathy. They are lost causes. However, the girls I’ve met seem different: they still seem like they have a spark of hope left in them. They relate well to me and not only listen and follow my advice, but put a lot of trust in me. My conversations with them go well beyond the generic advice I am supposed to give them.

My newest ward especially leans on me. I should discourage her from calling me, but instead I told her to call if she feels like it. She is sixteen years old, was in an abusive family situation before being abandoned and now is imprisoned in a psychiatric ward that she hates. Whenever she doesn’t act docile and sasses back she gets threats of being drugged. When she cowers at these threats this is taken as a sign of non-cooperation and the staff becomes physical–if she struggles, then she gets restrained with leather straps and drugged into docility. She has no books, TV or companionship. When she yells for a magazine or for someone to talk to–she gets drugged instead. This is a human being we are talking about. I had to argue with the staff to allow her to speak with me privately, instead of them being in the room. Previously I would hear them in the background taunting her and teasing that she was stuck there forever. Motherfuckers.

I’ve been to some of these facilities–the staff is only about one maturity/education level above the residents. Granted I would lose my temper with most of these freak-shows, too. However, I didn’t choose to work with abused kids, because I know that I wouldn’t do well at it. But, c’mon–what about some compassion? Maybe these kids wouldn’t be so f-ed up if their caseworkers, staff and counselors actually empathized and cared about them. Sixteen years old.

Once I forgot to mention immediately on the phone that I was her attorney, and waited forever for her to be put on the line. The woman who picked up each time sounded surprised that I stayed on the line and said in a surprised voice, "Oh, you’re still here!" Finally she asked in a snotty voice what my relationship to her was (and I realized that it wasn’t mentioned earlier). When I responded, "her attorney" the woman apologized hastily and I had the ward on the phone within seconds. Motherfuckers. Were they just fucking with me? Did they think maybe I was ‘unworthy’ to speak with her because I was ‘only’ a friend, teacher or relative? Unacceptable. For a g-damned mental health facility, they certainly don’t seem too concerned with this ward’s mental health.

The first time I spoke with her she seemed perky and normal–a little scared, but totally reasonable and stable. Now she sounds (rightfully) scared and distraught about her situation. She sounds like she is breaking down because of her treatment. She always sounds much better after talking with me, though. So maybe I am doing some good, although all I can really do is listen and try to be supportive. I’m considering visiting her over lunch some day just so she doesn’t feel abandoned there. The facility refused to let her caseworker see her a few days ago, and from talking to the caseworker it sounds as if she didn’t even try to argue her way in. Fuck that–she is a scared, alone girl. Isn’t it just possible that she might respond better if she was treated with respect instead of being threatened and assaulted with sedatives? Totally bizarre concept.

Anyway, this situation obviously frustrates me. There is a girl who seems to have put all of her faith in me to help her out of a miserable situation–and I can’t really do anything. The little that I am doing will probably displease my boss. What will happen when the girl is released? She will either move onto a group facility or with foster parents. Foster parents often suck and are abusive themselves. The group homes are filled with young criminals who feed on the weak. These places often seem colder and harsher than the streets in some ways. Certainly they don’t provide the support and attention this girl obviously needs. The tactics of restraining and drugging will probably continue at a group home, although to a lesser degree.

Some of my friends work as social workers or teachers of troubled kids. The system for them really sucks. First, we allow strung out addicts to continue to breed, knowing damn well that even before birth these kids are going to be developmentally injured and need special care and treatment. But instead we send them home with crackheads* to be abused or neglected. Even when we know this happened with crackhead’s kids one through three, we will give her the benefit of the doubt and send retarded baby #4 home with her, too. Pure Craziness. Then after documenting abuse and neglect, the child might be removed around age three or four: by then so much damage is done that the kid probably can’t recover and function normally. The kid might be damn-near catatonic, freakishly low language/communication skills, violent, distrustful and almost universally, undisciplined. The total package of dysfunction. The in vetro drugs, alcohol and poor diet might also cause this kid to be deformed, ugly and malnourished.

What now? Foster care, group home, adoption by almost equally fucked-up relatives–maybe even the grandparents who raised the crackhead mother; you know people with a proven track record of raising fucked-up kids. Plus these kids are more often than not going to get sent completely unprepared to regular school. ‘Mainstreaming’ it is called, but I think it is an assbackwards policy that hurts all kids. There are two reasons why mainstreaming is popular: 1, it is cheap–no special teachers/curriculum for the smart kids or the retarded ones, and 2, the powers that be have decided that putting kids in slow or retarded classes stigmatizes them and hurts their self-esteem. Sure. Stuttering and always being the dumbest kid in class who can’t read and has no chance of catching up is good for self-esteem. Plus, the other kids can’t tell who the dummies are and therefore won’t be able to pick on them as long as they are in the same classes. Riiiiight. Sorry, but I’d rather have these kids in super-slow classes where they have a chance to learn the 3 R’s, instead of in the normal class feeling completely clueless.

Back to the timeline: foster parents often Suck. There are good ones, of course–but a lot of them do it for the money. Taking in a disturbed child for a few hundred bucks a month is not a good deal unless you are rather poor, and often uneducated. (Taking in a disturbed/retarded child because you want to help them is awesome, though). So most likely the kid is going to end up in a cramped, frantic household led by parents who don’t possess the skills to deal with his/her problems. Sexual abuse by foster parents, their children or older foster children is far too commonplace. Physical abuse–also too commonplace.

The system sucks. One of my friends was kicked out of his mother’s house when he turned eighteen so that she could use his room for a foster child and collect money every month. Totally fucked up. Do you think a woman who takes these actions with her flesh and blood only-son (who is a pretty good kid, too) will be motivated to be a great foster mom? Survey says, NO. This isn’t uncommon in the foster parent world according to my friends that work with these kids. A lot of the foster parents suck and are only in it for the money. This obviously means that the Fps won’t be spending extra coin on these kids: food, hand-me-down clothes and other basic necessities. I don’t foresee sport camps or piano lessons or tutors. Nor do I see lots of trips to museums, great books or theatre. I label this as ‘kicking them when they are down.’

There is the possibility of adoption–but really, who wants to adopt a spaced-out elementary school kid or a violent middle-schooler? Who in their right mind welcomes this chaos and struggle into their lives. Some people get off on this do-gooding, of course–but not enough people to absorb this wave of damaged kids.

Once the kids get old and/or violent enough, they are abandoned by foster parents who can’t control them–surprise! Neglected or abused kids who have never had security or stability and have no chance for a future become violent and hard-to-manage: shocking. This is where group homes come in. I’ve seen children as young as seven in these homes, but most of them are street-hardened teenagers. Do you think any of these older kids abuse (sexually, emotionally or physically) the younger ones? Duh–of course. Some of these places are so lax that it disgusts me. Others are so strict that they are just a prep school for prison. Just like prison hardens petty criminals into hard dangerous criminals, these group homes often turn deliquents into criminals. Those too soft often become withdrawn and just try to cope. Fucking mess.

From what I have seen, what my friends have told me and from my Sociology background I doubt that many of these kids ever become productive members of society. From cradle to grave they are a drain of resources–be it welfare, foster care payments, prison or disability. And an even higher cost in human misery. So sad.

What to do? Liberals and black community leaders scream bloody murder at the idea of forced birth control (depo, norplant) or sterilization of these crackhead mothers because it is genocide and interfers with ‘a fundamental human right.’ Fuck that. What about the rights of the children? Also, taking a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ approach to crackhead moms also interfers with their ‘parental rights.’ Fuck that, too. How about this–if you birth a FAS child, a child with drugs in its system or a child who exhibits the signs of in vitro drug abuse–You get all of your children removed from your home because you are Unfit to Parent. Similarly, if you ever have had a child removed from your home, you have to overcome tests and prove that you deserve to reunite with them–if you haven’t done this and spawn another one–then yoinks! That baby gets removed too, until you prove you can provide a good home for it.

Why are these measures considered so draconian and racist? It would help keep kids from growing up in abuse and squalor: if more minority children currently are being abused, then why isn't that considered racist? Isn't it racist to ignore their suffering? How about this solution–sterilization. Forced Sterilization. Maybe a two or three strikes and you are out policy, for both men and women. Sexual abuse of a child? Snip. Shirking on child support payments? Snip. Snip. Mother of a crackbaby or FAS? Snip. Snip. Snip. Most of these procedures are reversible–so once the formerly-horrible parents get their lives in order and can afford kids–they can prove it by ponying up for the right to spawn another crop. This isn’t to punish parents–but to save kids. God forbid I suggest that retarded crackheads have forced abortions–I would be accused of being Hitler or causing a genocide.

NO--instead as a society let's be too afraid to infringe on people's 'rights' to fuck up their kids and then do nothing meaningful to mitigate the damage to these destroyed children. Our current policies don't really help and just try to prevent the kids from being too destructive to society until they are old enough to finally jail.


* I use the term 'crackhead' as a generic category for anyone so fucked up that they value their drugs (crack, cocaine, meth or alcohol) more than their children's health and well-being. The innner cities have a lot of them, as do many trailer parks--especially in areas overwhelmed by meth abuse.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Botanical Gardens Ride; A fork in the road

Hui Hwa and I decided to ride to the Botanical Gardens on Sunday. Round trip it is only about 50 miles, so I didn't consider it a long ride. I didn't wear my cycling gloves or clipless shoes since it was just a short ride. I also wasn't as concientious about sunscreen as I should be. I was hoping to even out some of my weird biking tan lines (for the wedding in two weeks)--and did a little too good of a job. Before the ride my backed looked like an ice cream sunday--the caramel of my upper back atop the smooth vanilla ice cream of my lower back: the result of biking in tanktops and sundresses. I wore a backless top, exposing this vanilla skin to the first rays of sun this summer. Now I am a strawberry ice cream/caramel sunday.

As we rode back from the gardens, I remembered doing this same ride with Hui Hwa back in November. At that point, I believe it was the longest single-day ride of my life, and I was slightly nervous about it. After completing the ride in November, I was super-happy, and decided that I wanted to spend more of my weekends taking long rides, because I felt so good and healthy afterwards. I had been hearing about Hui Hwa and John's bikepacking trips for a while and the ride to the Gardens convinced me that this was how I wanted my weekends to be: outdoors and active.

Earlier that week my boyfriend dumped me and I spent time evaluating that relationship and how it affected me. I realized that I gave up too much when we dated. He was very lazy and much of our time with him was spent lazing around his condo. Basically I conformed to his lazy lifestyle. [I did require that he buy and ride a bike in order to date me, and I believe he still bikes to work daily--so he did become less lazy, too.] I knew damn well that even though I had been considering going on this ride to the Gardens, I would not have done it if he and I were still dating. So besides planning to take long rides in the summer, I also vowed "no more lazy boyfriends!" I didn't want to get sucked into another indoor, TV-watching, lazy relationship with a couch potato again.

At the time of this November ride, I was also getting really nervous about my first BikeWinter commuting experience. I hoped, but doubted, that I would be able to bike commute all winter long. Most winter bike commuters take a few years to bike year round by slowly developing their stamina and tolerance for the cold.
How odd to remember all of this. I feel I've done a good job living up to these goals. I'm not sure, but I think since the middle of May, every weekend but one has included a 50-100 mile ride. The 100 mile days take up time, but I feel fine doing them and have no doubts that I will finish. (Chicagoland is flat--hilly terrain would of course be more challenging). My endurance and milage have increased dramatically since November. I biked to work every day in winter--cold, snow, sleet--I just kept pedalling. I also knocked out my first two centuries in the cold in a back-to-back Saturday and Sunday. A month later I moved my apartment, alone, by bicycle. The two boys I have dated since then are bikers--and dates have involved fast bike rides.

So while it seems funny to have once been slightly concerned about a 50 mile ride, I am pretty proud of sticking with my plans. That weekend was a turning point in my life because I conciously determined what path would make me happy and simply pointed my handlebars in that direction and kept pedalling. I should try this in more areas of my life.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Friends and New Urbanism

Another busy week. I love my life.

Tuesday I met with my lawyer friend Tara and introduced her to the Hbar. Tara is super-great. She still finds it odd that I am a business owner, because of all of our super-ambitions classmates she definitely didn’t rank me as one of the first to own a business. No Shit. We talked about buying homes in the next year and how excited/freaked out we were about it. Housing costs are probably one of the worst things about living in Chicago. As excited as I to eventually own a place, I can’t help but wonder whether it will also feel like just another shackle. My law school debt certainly does and the Hbar debt (will be paid off in August–WooHoo!) does to a lesser degree. Will a combination of mortgage and student loans bind my hands and be a 30-year weight around my neck forcing me to bend down before the man?

I guess I’ll find out.

Wednesday Paul and I met for a picnic at Millenium Park during an outdoor classical music concert. I picked up organic bread, cheese and fruit at the farmers’ market that morning with Chris and Dan; Paul brought the tarp, blanket, wine and utensils. Our picnic was very nice and was one of those moments when I just love Chicago, my city. The lakefront, the parks, the skyline–even the tourists. I just love the energy–and yet am able to sit outside on the grass, feel the breeze blow through my sun-warmed hair and hear music instead of the din of the traffic. Perfect. After the concert finished we continued to lay there and converse. Shortly after dark there was a fireworks display on Navy Pier that we watched from our cozy blanket. Finally the park closed and we were ushered out. We didn’t stay up as ridiculously late as we did on Sunday, so I got back to my place before 2:00.

I was hoping to get up the nerve to ask Paul to Steph’s wedding at the end of July. However I was nervous because it seems that as I have gotten older there is more meaning attached to certain events. I was concerned that he would hear the invitation as girl-code for "I want to have your babies." This idea bothers me, and I much prefer the way it was in college when inviting boys to events back home, such as Thanksgiving wasn’t a momentous proposition. Now it seems that any such invitation carries much more weight–including the dreaded Meeting the Parents. When did this happen? Besides, the opinions of my parents and extended family means far less than the opinions of my friends, whom boys normally don’t get too anxious about meeting. Silly boys.

Anyway, I briefly offhandedly mentioned the wedding; he asked if I was attending; I said that I was excited to go, and casually asked if he wanted to come with me. Paul eagerly agreed. I guess I shouldn’t have worried that he would get freaked out and think that I was getting too emotionally involved. If either of us is falling too hard, too fast–it is him. He often wears this completely smitten look on his face when we are together that is rather cute, but also a little unnerving because I don’t think we know each other well enough for him to adore me.
Back to Steph’s wedding: We will take the Amtrak train to Milwaukee (our poor bikes will have to be boxed!) and arrive around noon. After reassembling our bikes, we will probably get a quick lunch and then ride to the church and get presentable. The ceremony is at 2:00 and we will probably leave the church around 4:00. From there we will bike about ten miles to the reception/hotel to check in and clean up. The reception starts at 6:00 so this gives us plenty of time. It will also be fun, because I’m going to do my limited version of ‘dolling-up’ which he hasn’t seen. By far most of the time we have seen each other I have been sweaty and wearing my crappy everyday clothes with my hair in a ponytail (and often under a bike helmet). There will be a lot of friends at the reception, so I am really looking forward to it–plus I want to see how much bigger Kim’s baby is.

Then on Sunday, we hope to go to the Art Museum with the amazing new building. However, if my friends want to hang out, we’ll do that instead. Then we have about a 50-mile ride down to Kenosha to catch the 6:45 Metra train back to Chicago. I hope we don’t have a headwind. Fun, fun stuff.
________
Thursday night I met my friend Chris at a lecture on the relationship between New Urbanism and parking. There are some interesting initiatives to limit parking to discourage car useage and ownership. The private automobile must be the worst example of externalization of costs in this country. I usually think about the externalization mostly in terms of pollution, and also roadway costs. There are of course also the oil & automobile industries to consider. Parking wasn’t really on my radar screen though.

Chicago, like most cities since post WWII, has parking minimums for new construction or rehab. These minimums are meant to ease the demand for on-street parking. What they do unsurprisingly, is make it more attractive to own a car in the city. The same thing happens with streets: build it and they will come. Congestion isn’t reduced by more roads and parking, it just creates an environment where more people drive and park. Stupid.

There are some cities that are requiring developers to unbundle the cost of parking in their buildings–which forces people to really recognize the cost of parking and makes them choose to pay for it. So a person buying a condo in one of these cities is given the choice of a $300k condo, or a $350k condo with parking. Many people might choose the parking anyway, but at least they are aware how much the luxury of parking their car costs. One new development of 250 units created only 42 parking spots based on interest in parking from initial buyers–but only 20 were actually purchased and used once the building was filled. If this city had a typical minimum parking requirement, the building would have included 250-500 parking spots, instead.

Another move is towards making employers offer a ‘parking cash-out’ to people who don’t drive to work if they lease parking to offer to employees. Apparently most office parks don’t own the parking surrounding the building, but instead lease it from a company that manages & owns parking lots. Who knew? In near-urban areas, the cost is generally $150 per spot per month. Under these ordinances, the employees must have the choice of the $150 in their pocket, or a place to park. Makes riding a bike, walking, carpooling or transit more appealing.

Old Pasadena went even further. Despite vehement objections from merchants, the city put in parking meters at the rate of one dollar per hour in the downtown area. It also built a parking garage that gave the first 90 minutes for free, and then increasingly steeper rates per hour to further deter commuters. The city also funneled the parking revenues back into the downtown instead of the general fund. It specifically went towards street lights, sidewalk repair, benches and other pedestrian ammenities. Results: Old Pasadena thrived. In fact, the downtown revitalized so much, that it put a nearby mall out of business. Another thing that the city learned was that although the merchants initially decried that free street parking was needed for customers, an interesting discovery was made–almost all of the free street parking was previously used almost exclusively by employees of the stores, forcing customers to circle for parking or park farther away. Hmmmmmm........

These were some of the great examples from this lecture. Apparently more cities are trying to reduce commuter parking, but make it easier/cheaper for tourist/shopping parking. The main way this is done is by metering the streets more and making long-term (commuter) parking more expensive per hour parked, instead of soaking the short-term tourist from parking.

I am fascinated by urban planning, zoning and transportation studies. Don’t be surprised if I head back to school for my Masters in Urban Planning in the next five years. I should really do a better job researching a way to wiggle into this field with my law degree.

After the lecture, Chris and I headed to the Shedd Aquarium to listen to jazz and drink wine. We talked a lot about dating and relationships and both admitted that not too long ago we had crushes on each other. At times the conversation got sort of weird because of this–I hope there isn’t residual weirdness because of it. Chris got pretty tipsy and at times as we sped through downtown I was worried that he was riding too recklessly. But once we got out of the heavy traffic and closer to our ‘hood he started riding more calmly. It was a nice Thursday night, and I was asleep before midnight. Sleep is good.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Sleep...why have you forsaken me?

That's not quite accurate, because it is I who choose other activities over sleep.

Friday's date with Paul lasted until 3:00am. We decided to meet right after work to bike up to the Baha'i Temple together. I got slightly doored en route to our meeting spot but stayed upright and wasn't injured or damages (there is a yellow smudge of taxi paint on my panier). Paul also had an interesting ride: he totally ripped out the seem in the ass of his pants. After we giggled about it, we stopped at a thrift store for a different pair for him, because he didn't want to be disrespectful on the grounds of the temple.

We stayed very late at the temple, looking at the sky as it the sun receded into the darkness. The bunnies continued to feed and the birds were replaced by bats in the sky above us. Finally we headed back towards the city to get some dinner only to realize that everything was closing. First the tapas place in Evanston closed at 11:00--and we arrived at 11:30ish. Then several places in Chicago closed their kitchens at 12:00 also. Our ride meandered a bit through parks and Paul needed water, so we weren't moving too fast. Thai restaurant: closed. Hbar: kitchen closed at 1:00, and I didn't feel like jumping back there myself. Bite: closed. Finally we resigned ourselves to late night burritos and took them back to his place to eat on the balcony while his cats checked me out and demanded affection.

Saturday I went to Wisconsin to play with my friends Steph and Shalan. They were doing the Danskin triathlon and Steph was borrowing my Bianchi. Before I caught the train, I took the pedals off of my fixie to install in WI. My poor fixie--now my Bianchi has both her front wheel and pedals. She looks miserable and pathetic. Maybe I'll have time to fix her tonight.

We spent most of Saturday hanging out in the hotel and giggling like school girls. Truly, we are ridiculous--we all jumped in bed together and semi-cuddled while catching with each others' crazy lives. Steve and Peter watched TV and rolled their eyes at us. After swimming in the pool we piled into the bathroom together to shower, giggle, pee, giggle, change clothes, giggle. Even though they have seen this behavior before, the boys still are perplexed by it. "Why do you need to shower together? Do you hold each others hands when you pee, too?" I guess it is sort of weird--but we spent so much time in locker rooms together in high school, that it just doesn't seem to matter.

Anyway--Shalan and Steph were freaked out about the race the next day and seemed damn-near hysterical to my eyes. They bought enough gatorade to trek across the desert with. Besides swapping out the pedals, I even removed the rack and fender from the bike to make it a racer instead of a fast commuter.

When it was finally time to sleep, Peter took the floor because he said it was his turn. Shalan and I slept together. I wonder what will happen the next time we share a hotel, because then it will be either Shalan or Steph's turn for the floor. I somehow doubt I will end up bunking with one of their husbands. Sleeping on the floor isn't a problem for me--and it makes more sense, but they've got in in their heads that we should try to split things really evenly. Silly.

Sunday morning we woke up around 5:00 to start getting ready. The traffic into the remote parking lots was crazy. Everyone pointed out that all of the jackass drivers had Illinois license plates. They were trying to tease me, but calmed down when I reminded them that I ride my bike on the roads with them. We were really concerned about being there on time, and there were a few people who obviously felt the same way and unracked their bikes and rode on the shoulder towards the start. This certainly made sense to me--but my bike spent the night in the transition area. Not only was I up too early--but I spent about 45 minutes of my life in stopped traffic. Blech.

Both Steph and Shalan were pleased with their race and the vibe there was really good, because it was all women participating. People ran across the finish line holding hands with their friends and children ran alongside their playful mothers in the final kick. The atomosphere was much more supportive than competative. A lot of people rode horrible bikes for a race: hybrids, mountain bikes, clunky old cruisers. That must've sucked--especially considering that the riders of these bikes tended to be older and/or fatter, too.

After the race I rode across the border back into Illinois and to Chicago. A few times when I confirmed that I was on the right trail towards Chicago, I was met with laughter. I guess they thought I was kidding or didn't realize how far it was (about 60 miles). When I replied that I started in Wisconsin, the people seemed incredulous. I rode more than half of the ride on crushed limestone, stopped once at a gas station for ice cream & water and several times for map reading and made it in about 4.5 hours. I felt really shitty for about the last six miles and really poked around (plus I kept finding that my street didn't go through). For the first time my back ached from the ride. very weird.

Overall it was a good ride, but I think I prefer riding with at least another person just for boredom sake. Otherwise there is no one to delight in new sights with me, try to figure out the map or just chat away the miles. Plus, I will eat/drink more with someone else to remind me. It was hot and sunny and I drank two water bottles and ate an ice cream bar--not enough food or water for the ride. Bad me.

Once I was home and fed/bathed/watered I felt better and Paul and I met at the Hbar. What was supposed to be a short visit ended up lasting many, many more hours. The only problem with making out until 4:00am is waking up at 7:00am for work. I'm sort of out-of-it today as I sit here unbathed and with post-make-out session hair that is trying to pass as a rat's nest. So unprofessional.

Tonight I will try to sleep though.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Whole Truth

and nothing but the truth, so help me God. This is what the witness swore to speak before I deposed him. My first deposition. I freaked out for this ordeal. Why?

First I Do Not want to work in Litigation. Depositions are Litigation--and an especially icky form of it, too.

Second, my boss, genius crack-smoker that he is, somehow decided that for my First Ever Deposition, I should depose a litigation Partner at a large Law Firm. Yes, a Partner. A man who graduated from law school in 1984--when I was seven years old. An attorney who practice of law began before I learned how to write cursive or divide numbers. Besides that horror, the room was packed with attorneys: Me, EM (my colleague on the file), the Partner/deponent, his counsel, opposing counsel & worst of all--My Boss. I imagined that my boss was going to react to my fledgling deposition skills similarly to the way my dad acted when I drove a car for the first time: pumping the imaginary break, alternating flailing and clinging arms, stern/horrified looks that convey nothing but disappointment and fear: except my dad has much more tact and restraint than my boss can muster.

Oh yeah, and it was hot in the building because the air conditioning hasn't been working well. Nothing that a lined suit can't make a million times worse.

So anyway, I uncharacteristically Freaked Out. Early in the morning as Chris and I rode to the farmers' market, I was tempted by the realization that if I was hit by a car, I probably wouldn't have to take the deposition. Bad Thinking. But this was the train of thought I couldn't derail. I was in "Flight" mode instead of fight.

But the hands of the clock continued to point me closer and closer to my doom, and I became resigned to my fate. I realized that my boss was at a lunch meeting and might be late for the deposition. Would I start the deposition without him if given the chance? Absolutely.

He arrived moments before it started and gave me permission to begin without him. The witness was sworn and I began asking my questions. Less than five minutes into the dep, I was really relaxed and getting the witness to open up. I barely noticed when my boss entered the room--and began reading his mail. EM was between us, so I couldn't see if my boss ever reacted to the dep. Besides, I was deep in conversation with the witness: I gave sympathetic, understanding smiles and head nods--but nothing that will show up on the transcript. This partner admitted fully to several matters that I couldn't have even hoped he would give me a crumb. He walked the path I set him upon smoothly and smiling almost the whole time--even as opposing counsel flinched several times as I weakened his case.

After it was over, the partner said "damn good deposition for someone who must only be practicing for a few years." I thanked him and bubbily told him that it was my first deposition ever. He, his counsel and opposing counsel started and looked at each other in surprise, before telling my boss that I have skills.

So this is why I need to get the hell out of litigation: I am good at it, and my boss knows it. He has told me that most of the time my friendliness and open manner will work perfectly well, but that more importantly, "no one will fuck with you, because you won't let them." I can tell that he is just salivating to watch that part of me in action in trial sometime. It's sort of sick, but there are times that I know he pushes me until I push back because he is pleased to see my temper flare a bit to bring out my harder side. Every experienced litigator I have met has told me that I am a born litigator.

However there are several problems with this. As I mentioned I don't want to be a litigator and hate the practice of litigation. Being good at it seems like it could somehow trap me.

Another problem is that I don't even know the truth in the cases I deal with. I know my clients' version and the opposing parties' version. From this, we develop a theory that helps our client and roll with it, adapting it as we learn more. But never, never do I actually know what the hell happened.

I remember watching TV or reading books about crimes and thinking that I could Never defend a person who I knew was guilty. I still feel this way. However, it never becomes an issue, because I never know the truth. The premise that the adversarial system of law will uncover the truth is the biggest pile of bullshit that I've ever encountered. Nowhere in the practice of law does the truth take precedent over anything.

I have no idea whether or not my client did what she is accused of in this case. I know that she says that she didn't, and we are uncovering testimony to help support her claim against the allegations. But I honestly don't know. The facts cut both ways. We will never learn.

This explains a lot about defense attorneys--they don't have to suffer a crisis of conscious, because they never have the need. As long as they seek to prove their case, they need not be concerned about the truth, or lack of it. Very bizarre. Our work is the manipulation of words and the solving of puzzles. The facts of a case are relevant only so far as they help or harm our theory. Testimony is more important for what people admit or who can be impeached than for what it truly means. How disturbing and discouraging--here I am, right in the thick of the matter, with access to all witnesses and much privileged information--yet I still don't have a clue about what actually happened. If I don't fucking know what happened, even though I have much more information than is actually admissible, then how in the world can a judge or jury be expected to figure this shit out?

What a joke. The system of law, which is promoted as the means to uncover the truth actually distorts and conceals much more than it reveals. Sure, Justice is blind: because it is too fucking cowardly to pull the cloth from its eyes. What a joke.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Another Whirlwind Weekend

Friday:

Chicagoland Bicycle Federation's monthly Happy Hour at the Hbar. Good stuff. I didn't drink at all because I still felt sort of hung over. I gave David my old 18-tooth cog for the fixie he is building up. Some of the Ambassador Girls and I are planning to watch super-racing-Susan race sometime this summer. Fun Stuff ahead.

I also learned that Amy from the CTA, Amy the bass player in my roommates' band and Matt's girlfriend Amy are all the same person! I only knew her from the band, but she is multi-functional! Most importantly, I spoke with Steve, Paul's friend, who inquired about my 'date' with Paul. I filed this away excitedly, because I wasn't sure if Paul considered our time spent together on Thursday night a date or just hanging out. Learning that he told Steve that we were on a date was cool to hear.

I gave Chris the tour of the Hbar kitchen, and left to go home.

Mia and I had planned to go out to a neighborhood lounge when she finished work. We hadn't seen each other in a few days and had lots of boy babbling to catch up on. She was leaving on Saturday morning for a three week trip, followed by a house-sitting gig until the end of August, so this would be the last time we really hung out for a while. Out of the blue, she exclaimed, "Did I tell you that I was coming back in September?" Happy, Happy Day!

Mia was supposed to live with us in May until she found her own place. I didn't know her before then, but she is awesome and we have become fast friends. John has known her for over ten years and has expressed some jealousy over how well we get along together. Anyway, May became June and she looked at some places to live after her house-sitting gig ended. I hoped that she would decide to stay with us, because the house is really fun with her in it. Both John and I offered it to her, but she wanted to live alone. But now she has decided to stay and I am ridiculously excited about it.

Saturday:

Mia left for New York in a flurry of activity Saturday morning. I started making a cake for a vegan BBQ party. The grocery store didn't have all of the ingredients that I needed so I changed the flavors and modified the recipe in my head. The cake I planned on making rises with vinegar/baking soda action and needs to get into the oven really quickly. I had the pan papered and greased and deftly got it in the oven quickly. whew. Satisfied that it would rise well I licked the batter covered spoon and recoiled in horror: No Sugar.

Fuck. The recently purchased, but yet unopened sugar bag, explained the problem as it sat mocking me on the table. My first thought was to just scrap the batter and start from scratch, but realized that I didn't have enough almond oil for another cake. So instead, I yanked the batter from the oven, and scraped it back into the bowl and stirred in the sugar. Then I washed the pan and re-papered and greased it. I saw tons of little bubbles rise and pop in the batter--my leavening being wasted. Back into the oven it went.

My kitchen is a frantic mess from this mistake and I was embarassed. I used to be a pastry chef--and I don't add sugar to a cake. This is unacceptable. I made up a recipe that I expected/hoped would turn into a rich frosting and slapped it on the cake when it was done. The plastic wrap fell down onto the frosting and I expected would turn into a sticky mess. The vegans were looking forward to me baking them a treat for their birthday party--and I was bringing them a pan full of possible nastiness. Anyway, I strapped the pan onto my rack and biked to Chris's place, hoping for the best.

As we loaded grills and coolers onto trailers people looked forward to eating the chocolaty treat--even as I told them its history. The cake got a further baking in the sunny 15 miles to the forest preserve and the frosting was almost liquid. Once there I put it in the shade and helped set-up the party. Then I dorked around futilely trying to adjust my seat for a long time before cutting the cake. In the shade the frosting re-hardened and the plastic wrap pulled cleanly away from it--leaving a nice, smooth surface. I cut it and asked for guinea pigs. Several hands appeared and the verdict was: Amazing.

Throughout the day, many vegans approached me asking for the recipe. This was Chris and Casey's birthday party and I didn't know many of Casey's friends. They were anxious to meet the baker of this dessert and eagerly introduced themselves to me. Several thought I owned a vegan bakery or taught vegan cooking. Quite funny. Apparently I have created the best vegan brownie recipe ever. At least according to the owners of Soy Dairy ice 'cream' company, an actual vegan bakery owner and the other party-goers. It was really quite cute to hear these vegans admit that normally vegan baked desserts suck. So I was Hero to all Vegans on Saturday.

I almost want to write up this recipe step-by-step. [ pour batter into pan; bake for two minutes; remove from oven and scrape into pan; add sugar; let cool; frost; cover with plastic wrap and bike for 15 miles in the sun with cake; cool in shade; Enjoy! ] Too Funny.

The party was a blast, but on the ride home I got a flat. While pumping up the new tube, air started hissing from the pump, near the stem of the tube. The little screwy presta valve had broken off. The tire was hard enough to ride, but certainly not as much pressure as recommended. Not. Cool. Especially since Sunday was going to be a long ride 'date' with Paul.

Sunday:

After I spent over an hour trying to properly adjust my seat (no dice), Paul and I met at 10:00 in the morning for the ride he plotted. He called earlier than I expected and I didn't have time for breakfast. Oops. Paul guestimated that the ride would be around 70 miles, so we rode our Bianchi Bravas instead of our fixies. Instead of fixing my Bianchi's broken-stem inner tube problem, I just snagged the front wheel from my fixie and slapped it on.

We headed Southwest out of the city along the same route that we took on the way to Starved Rock. I noticed that he, like me now, often rode with his hands positioned in ways where he couldn't reach his brakes easily--I do this often now, but never did before the fixie. I think it is a dangerous habit that we developed after being spoiled by hands-free braking capabilities. We headed almost directly into the wind, so whenever he took the lead I snugged my bike up tight and shamelessly drafted off of him. For this leg of the trip we generally rode 15-16mph. Shortly before heading into the forest preserve we stopped at a gas station for juice, bathroom breaks and a map check. When I busted out the sunscreen he offered to help me apply it to my back so I don't add even more random sunscreen fingerprints to my collection.

Into the hilly forest preserve we went and rode around until we found a lake to sit alongside. Illinois is in the middle of a drought, and it appeared from the plant growth that the shoreline was approximately six feet in from where it normally was. There was nobody there but us even though it was a holiday weekend and gorgeous outside; 85-90 degrees and sunny. We sat in the shade and chatted for just under two hours before continuing on to the small town of Lemont.

Leaving the Forest Preserve we found an old hand-pump and filled our bottles with cold, rusty water, and ate a cookie. Along the way, there was an 'overlook' spot on the highway that was crammed with people fishing near their parked cars. I thought this was weird--why spend time on crowded concrete in the sun, when the grass and shadetree areas were vacant?

Anyway, we rode along some crappily-paved highway while cars whizzed by us. I took the lead for several miles before he jumped ahead--explaining that he had been surprised how easy it was to ride 17-18mph, until he realized that he was drafting me and that was why it was easy. I told him not to worry because I had no qualms drafting off of him. There was some pro golf tournament going on at one point and traffic picked up considerably.

In Lemont we had lunch at some crappy generic American restaurant. The decor looked like something my mom would do: a horrible juxtaposition of ornate, old furniture/pictures along with tacky, kitchy pieces (i.e. 'palm trees' with stems made out of lighted, bubbling water columns with ferns placed on the top) alongside art deco sculptures. We tried to order food that wouldn't feel like a brick in our bellies, but were not successful. My salad was iceberg lettuce smothered in meat and cheese--along with a cereal bowl filled with dressing. Food options are definitely and important reason why living in Chicago rocks compared with suburbia and small cities.

We talked some more and looked over the map to find out how to hit the trail. The options weren't good. According to the map we basically had to ride on a big highway over a river. But Paul looked at satelite photos and found a railroad bridge that would connect to a service access road to lead us to the trail without getting on a highway. He seemed hesitant to suggest it, but I was game for it.

We reached the railroad bridge and hefted our bikes up the steep weedy/rocky embankment. My gauzy skirt kept getting snagged by dead branches. grrrrr. At the top we looked for trains and briskly trotted over the railroad ties until we were across the river. No rumbling or near-death train experience. I found an old railroad spike/nail to keep as a souvenier. Then we scampered back down a similar embankment on the other side and hit the road. Fun stuff.

There was a yucky stretch of gravel that allowed us to only go about 11mph, and one point where we entered some sort of restricted facility by dragging our bikes through the woods to get across a long chainlink/barbed wire fence. Finally we hit the crushed limestone trail and were able to cruise along again at about a 16mph clip. This trail was hilly and curvy--at one point while taking a curve my bike just started sliding in a sideways direction. Yikes! I was too surprised and concerned with keeping upright that I didn't have time to process how scary it was. I apologized to Paul for almost sliding into him, but he laughed it off: The next several downhill turns I slowed down for more.

We got into a visitor center/parking lot type of thing along the trail and found another handpump. The rusty water in our bottles was replaced with less rusty water, and this time I pumped. Shortly afterwards the trail ended and we were riding through an icky suburban/subdivision that just creeped me out. Then Paul led us to an even weirder industrial area that was basically abandoned over the weekend. We had the smooth roads to ourselves for several miles and rode about 17-18mph. Soon we were back in the city, but still had at least 15 miles to go before we were back in our neighborhood.

One more stop for juice and we were back in our 'hood ridiculously quickly. Paul has done pretty well in the Tour de Chicago races and speaks about often going on long rides, plus before the ride he mentioned that it would be fun to ride fast together. I was a little nervous that I wouldn't ride as fast as he preferred. When he dropped me off I apologized for possibly slowing him down and he seemed surprised. He said that he wouldn't have gone any faster if he had been alone, and that there were several times that he could tell I had a lot more energy than he did. He sheepishly announced that he thought I was actually a stronger rider than him. Cool. I guess it doesn't matter who is actually faster/stronger--because it seems like it is damn close. What a perfect riding companion.

Because our riding time was so much quicker, and we stopped fewer times than on last weekend's century ride, we were able to stop and enjoy ourselves in new places for long periods of time. If a ride is going to last all day, I certainly prefer riding at a quicker clip and taking leisurely exploration breaks instead of being in the saddle constantly at a slower speed. Plus, this ride actually made me feel like I was working. I never felt exhausted, but I certainly felt like I was exerting energy and giving my muscles a workout. Even better though, was that my hands, wrists and shoulders didn't feel discomfort, because my time in the saddle was so much less because we rode so much faster. WooHoo!

We each ran through our showers quickly before regrouping and heading to the fireworks. We stopped off for ice and chocolate as directed by Todd and then slowly made our way through the throngs of people headed to the Lakeshore, too. There the plan was for someone from the sailboat to row out to the retaining wall and ferry us out to the sailboat. There were only four problems: poor cellphone reception; millions of other people; the lifeguards keeping people away from the edge and the Coast Guard keeping boats from the people. We basically gave up hope that this would work, but then saw a dingy head towards the edge--towards it we ran through the thick crowd, only to see it turn back quickly. It hung around a big sailboat--hiding from the Coast Guard.

After the Coast Guard vessel made a pass it came towards us again--and we were in the right place and ready this time. We jumped down through the people with our paniers and ice and headed towards the boat. Several other people ran to it too--with offers of money for a ride to their friends' boats. Jonathon of course was looking for us, though and didn't betray us for a profit. Understand that besides the lifeguards and the Coast Guard, we were very nervous about this: I am a coward about falling, especially over water, and Paul can't swim. However, our fears didn't have time and down into the boat we went. The Coast Guard boat had done a u-turn and the strangers from the nearest sailboat were drunkenly yelling encouragement to us as Jonathon rowed as fast as he could with the full dingy.

Despite Jonathon's efforts, the Coast Guard apprehended us and yelled at us. Apparently Todd had made a similar trip earlier for Josh and also got yelled at. Jonathon denied knowledge of that incident and said it must have been a different dingy. We were allowed to proceed to the American Excess though and scampered aboard. Todd, Josh, Karen and Kevin were there and poured us wine in exchange for our tidings of ice and chocolate. Fun. Fun. Fun. We explored the sailboat for a while, and then the fireworks started. I sort of leaned against Paul during the show and he reached to hold my hand. Awwww. As cliched as it was, it was also very sweet. The first concrete sign to confirm my hope that our recent outings were 'dates' instead of just hanging out as friends.

After the show Todd wanted to go for a sail. We sailed around in the dark for several hours. The sailors in the group kept exclaiming how perfect it was--good wind, few waves, mostly empty water. It was fun--I've never been on a sailboat before. Several people were went below to sleep at times, and I totally wanted to join them. I was damn tired and also feeling a little drunk. As nice as it was, I was anxious to get home and sleep--so I was happy when we were finally rowed ashore around 3:00am. Paul and I biked back to our neighborhood pretty fast and he gave me a goodnight kiss. He's a sweetheart. I foresee some more fun bike rides with him in the future. I guess at this point we are also probably considered 'dating'. Weird.

Monday:

I worked at the Hbar on remodeling projects with Josh and Todd. When I got there Todd was sleeping on his back across three bar stools--quite tired and hung over. He slept on the boat last night and somehow missed the conversation when Josh and I decided to meet after 10:00 instead of at 7:00. So Todd had been there for a while. He made us interesting, yummy burritos made out of components of many menu dishes (spicy baked tofu, stuffed mushroom caps, mashed potatoes, corn, pico de gallo, cheese, salad dressing...). I was ravenous and felt like crap. Hmmmm--could it be that even though I rode about 80 miles on Sunday I only ate/drank: two bottles of juice, a cookie, a salad, three tiny squares of chocolate and two large glasses of wine. Then add only four hours of sleep. Bad girl--I know better than this.

At first the food perked me up, but then I felt crappy again. After helping Josh and Todd with their respective projects, I started to paint the men's bathroom. This sucked. Standing on the ground I can't even reach the lowest point to be painted. We used this multi-position ladder which didn't have a top platform--so I had to keep trotting down the ladder to reach my paint. While annoying, this normally wouldn't have been a problem. The problem was that the bathroom was too small for the ladder in many parts, so I had to wriggle around the sink/toilet/urinal and hoist myself up. Up and down, wriggle and hoist, trying not to drip paint (while also trying to get as much paint on the paddle as possible to reduce the number of trips).

For a large segment I balanced one segment of the ladder on top of the toilet. Plus there was a lot of over extending and teetering precariously as I tried to reach far-away corners. I don't like the idea of falling and am not particularly fond of heights either, so this wasn't fun for me. The nasty ammonia smell eminating from the urinal (urine, urinal cakes--what the hell is this smell? it didn't smell like a girls' bathroom) didn't make me feel any better. For the future, when I am tired/hungover/feeling crappy--I will try to avoid ladders, heights and both the smell of paint and urine/ammonia. Blech. I also think when I buy a place I will pass on the super-tall trendy ceilings if possible.

I have a decent amount of red paint on me now and the neighbors freaked out because they thought I was assaulted or crashed my bike when I came home. I guess it does look like I am all bloody. Anyway, on my Fourth of July I was in the Hbar from about 10:30am--8:30pm working on projects. The bathroom still needs at least another coat--and I haven't really started with the ceiling. I hope the pricks who have been graffiting our walls (they must stand on the fixtures, too) stop it now that the walls are a single color instead of the semi-graffiti-looking paint combination that I painted over.

_______________

So that was my relaxing holiday weekend. I have a buttload of work to do this week, and should go to bed. However the crazy-loud fireworks that people have been mercilessly shooting off since I got home don't sound like they are slowing down. I probably won't be able to sleep for several more hours. Boom--car-alarm--crackle--dogs barking--snapboom--screaming--sirens--boomBoomBOOM--drunken whooping--popping--whizzying--exploding--whistly--dogs--people--cars. Knock it off and shut up already!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Critical Mass Photos

Here are two pictures of me and my big brother Equipoise riding in Chicago's June Critical Mass:


From the Front:


Left to Right: Tallbike, Penny Farthing, shirtless Big Bro on my Bianchi, Me on The Mint Julep, Dan Korn on his Tallbike


And the Rear:

We are riding East towards Millenium Park on Washington and about to cross State Street. The bandshell is in the background. Once again, I'm riding on the left of my shirtless bro, who is in the process of getting sunburnt.

Friday, July 01, 2005

I think I woke up drunk

Sad, but true. Worse was when I felt myself becoming slightly hung-over as the morning progressed. I had a meeting (maybe a date?) with Paul the guy whose number I got with the approval of my big bro at the last critical mass ride. We went to the Shedd Aquarium to listen to jazz on the terrace after walking around the aquarium. Fun. Stuff. In two weeks I’m going with my friend Chris–maybe my goals should be to go with a different guy each week.

Two glasses of wine on the terrace, and then we decided to get drinks in our ‘hood. Two and a half more drinks at this bar from probably 10:30–1:30. 5.5 hours – 4.5 drinks = too much booze for my system. God, am I a lightweight now.

Thankfully, Fridays don’t require the 8:00am "summer hours" start-time, so I didn’t have to be here early. I’m still at work because my boss is working from home on a document of mine and calling repeatedly to ask me questions or give me silly little assignments. His most recent call was about 10 minutes long as he lectured me about the format of a timeline: take out the bold, double space the lines.........pure formatting stuff. I hate it when he is in these annoying moods. Now I feel stuck here until I know he has moved on to another project. Grrr...... this is really annoying. I came in at 8:00 every other day, so I can leave early today, but now I am stuck. Plus, I don’t really have any work that I want to do, because I need his revisions before I can really do anything with that file. Tuesday and Wednesday are going to be hellish next week.

It is glorious outside and I want to break free and get outside. This morning I decided not to shower (I showered after work last night) and ride slower than normal to work because it was much cooler today. Low and behold, there were tons of bikers who whipped by me. Normally I am not passed. I wonder if normally my clip keeps these speedies from passing me, or if there are more speedies who work at 9:00 instead of 8:00.......hmmmm. At first I was sorely tempted to speed up and pace them, but then, my tired, possibly drunk & slightly hung-over wisdom kicked in, and I kept at my planned, pokey pace. Once I got over the trauma of being a slow rider on the road, it was pretty fun to just leisurely ride.

I have officially bailed from the bike-packing trip. There are too many fun things going on in Chicago that I don’t want to miss out on. Todd and I just verified that we will watch the fireworks from his boat–I’ve never been on a sailboat before, so I’m super-excited about that. I will probably also go into work sometime–and I need to hit the ground running on Tuesday morning. I feel perfectly happy with this decision and am excited about the weekend. Plus, both John and Mia will be gone–so I’ll have the place to myself. Fantastic. Paul and I tentatively talked about taking a long ride, maybe to the Botanical Gardens, so I’ll probably get some miles in this weekend anyway.

The trip wasn’t intimidating to me–50 miles a day is cake. The hills would of course make it harder, but I that was actually a draw for the trip, because I need to get comfortable spinning up hills. As for regretting drinking with my friends over the weekend–the bike packing trip will certainly involve generous amounts of booze. By staying in Chicago, I’ll sleep better and get some stuff done here and hopefully be recharged for next week. Recently work has been much, much more fun because I have some new files that are interesting and really keep my busy.

Screw work--I'm out of here. Later this afternoon is the CBF Happy Hour at the Hbar and then tonight Mia and I are going to the opening of her friend’s bar, The Lava Lounge. I feel tomorrow morning may bring me a repeat of today’s faucet ass experience.

Life is good! Have a happy weekend!

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