Mar 262013

I wrote this when I was in law school. I always kind of liked it as a piece of writing. I also think it remains a perfectly sound theory…

BoingBoing has a post about an author of a book on parasites, which explains, among other things, that there is a parasite in cat feces that can affect humans – making women more friendly and men into jerks.

Perhaps that’s why my August 2000 turned out the way it did. I had been living, catlessly, with my boyfriend for 13 months. He really wanted to get a cat, but I resisted. It’s not that I object to the concept of a cat, but I am not comfortable with their logistical realities: smelly input and output, and the long-term commitment any house pet requires. How could we go places? How could we travel? Having a cat would seem to instill a burdensome complexity in our lives that I thought we were better off without.

Still, I wasn’t anti-cat, per se. Just like everyone else I thought the stray kitten we found frolicking at the bottom of the stairs of our garden apartment was incredibly cute and charming. To the point that I tossed and turned all night worrying about what would happen to it. It was not an idle concern: we discovered later that the cat had been living across the street — a four-lane street, which was hardly conducive to safe cat crossing! But she and her two brothers were all strays that a neighbor had been leaving some food out for. And that was about to end as her husband insisted that they be taken to the humane society. Word had it though that if they ended up there, after three days they’d all be put down. But this little calico seemed way too sweet and friendly to allow that to happen to.

So we brought her home — temporarily. Some friends of mine at my job worked with a cat rescue organization, and as a favor to me agreed to take her and get her adopted out. But they couldn’t do that right away so we took her in for a couple of days.

We named her Bovina because her calico spots made her look like a cow. She wasn’t too young — my boyfriend thought she was the equivalent of a teenager — but lots of things were new to her and she seemed to enjoy exploring our apartment. For this brief period I didn’t mind having a pet. She was very affectionate and nice to pet and I genuinely cared about what happened to her. But I knew I couldn’t commit to taking care of her, so instead I did what I could to find her a nice home elsewhere.

Soon my friends came to take the cat away and get her ready for adoption. Shortly thereafter, my boyfriend also moved out. We’d been having issues, but the move-out came as a surprise to me: I came home from work one day to find half the furniture gone! I was not thrilled with him, to say the least. But now I understand – perhaps this assholishness was caused by the parasite! He obviously couldn’t help himself — the cat made him do it!

It did seem bitterly ironic that within less than a month, I’d managed to lose both a cat and a partner. The apartment had rapidly gone from very crowded to very empty. But I do think it was all for the best. Look at my life now: I travel the world hither and yon, having all sorts of adventures. How could I do all that if I were tied down by a long-term commitment?

And what would I have done with the cat?

 Posted by at 8:50 am  Tagged with:
Mar 112013

Sometimes in life you just need to run off to Paris. So I did.

It was certainly time: I hadn’t set foot in France in 10 years, which was particularly odd given that I had twice lived there, once for a month in Provence and once for a better part of a year in Paris. That’s when I got the gift of French language skills. Unfortunately, being away from France for so long those skills had necessarily gotten really dusty, and for various reasons, now was the right time to find them again.

So I just spent a little over a week in Paris. I wasn’t a tourist. I didn’t see a single museum or historic site (at least not purposefully; in Paris you kind of can’t avoid seeing them accidentally). Instead I sublet an apartment and settled into my old home.

In many ways it felt like only yesterday since I’d been there, but the truth is that I left it nearly 15 years ago, and over and over I was reminded by how much has changed since. Back when I lived there they had JUST converted to the Euro, but still used French Francs. They had JUST built the 14th line of the Metro, but not the next several RER lines or tramways. The Internet had only just become popular back then, during that Christmas when everyone got “Internet in a box” (the hot item back then was a box containing a 14.4 modem, CD with Netscape, and a subscription to Wanadoo), but otherwise it was a country still attached to Minitel.

Back then I knew the rare places where you could find sushi (mostly in the 5th and a few spots in the 6th), but now it’s on every block, while bistros and other local cuisine has become much harder to come by. And now when people “take a coffee” it may well be from a Starbucks or McDonald’s “McCafe.”

It’s also much harder now to practice one’s French – English is everywhere. The Internet is everywhere, even in the Metro. What I noted about Germany seems true for France too: pan-Europeanism has replaced a lot of local cultural identity.

But, as a French friend reassured me, that is what the French want. Tastes have changed, he said. What you now see in Paris is what they have changed into. And to be sure, plenty of profoundly French hallmarks remain. There are still boulangerie-patisseries and boucheries on every block. Even supermarket food is French in style and reflects the local demand for quality and French ingredients. The Metro runs well, except when it doesn’t, just as it always has. The streets are still French, the buildings still French, and the people still French. But French life now includes a kind of global cosmopolitan openness it didn’t so much have before.

As well as far more bagels, donuts, cupcakes and burritos than there used to be.

Mar 012013

As long as I’m reposting items from the blog I kept while I was a law student, I should include this one because there has been an important update.

For some context, I did a semester of my 3L year in Hamburg at Bucerius Law School. The first private law school in Germany, it funded itself in part through the sponsorship of large law firms.

The Clifford Chance Napping Room

The other day some German students were discussing how Bucerius really needs to build a “napping room,” perhaps with an LCD screen that should easily show new nappers which beds were available. In case of high demand, they could also be put on a timing mechanism, kind of like the showers in train stations. (I used one once in Copenhagen: you get 30 minutes for your shower, and when the time’s up, the door is going to open whether you’re ready or not…)

One student then suggested that perhaps Clifford Chance could sponsor the “napping room.” After all, other rooms in the school had been sponsored by leading law firms, like Linklaters and White and Case. But Clifford Chance does not (yet) have a room of its own, and the students thought this might provide the perfect sponsorship opportunity.

“Do you have napping rooms at your schools in the US?” the students asked me.

“Yeah, but we call them libraries.”

Anyway, the upshot is, apparently Bucerius does indeed now have a napping room. I’m not sure if Clifford Chance sponsored it, but if it would like the opportunity to, every law school everywhere could certainly use their own…

 Posted by at 6:15 am