Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Buying a bar?

I've daydreamed about buying a bar just like you have. Even though you don't like people, and won't wash your own dirty dishes in your own sink, the IDEA of having a bar -- one that is not just "your bar" to friends who look for you there when you don't answer the phone, but to the wider world. Where you are the Boss, and can make the place as you wish, not to mention having a drink after hours any time you want without having to go home . . . you get the idea. So yesterday my across-the-street neighbor heard i was going to get a bar, and thought that was cool, and we were both disappointed when it turned out i was TAKING the bar, but not GETTING the bar. Having my cake, but so not eating it. She wasn't even born yet when I went to law school, and found it hard to believe I had ever done that -- but really i did go, seventeen years ago, and now i am finally ready to finish what i started and get licensed.

Why? For me, preparing for the bar is a kind of vacation. Really. Like going to a zen monastery and sitting in an uncomfortable position eighteen hours a day for six weeks, it is absolutely guaranteed to make you forget completely whatever was bothering you before you started. Its an IMMERSIVE vacation, like surviving a plane crash on the tundra. taking it one day at a time -- any day your fingers don't turn black and fall off is a good day. Because I am a small businessman whose business is losing about $50,000 in cash every single month and will continue to do so until something fundamental changes -- or until i scream in pain and stop paying the bills for good. It seemed like a good time for an immersive vacation.

Today is the first day of "Bar/bri" - the semi-official $2,500 cramschool program almost everyone does for two miserable months before taking the three day Bar Exam. About fifteen shiny new lawschool graduates who look to be about the age of my daughter, and me. But i remembered with something of a rush how much being a lawyer once seemed -- a set of skills, a guild membership, a quiet office reached by a fast elevator; a clean, well-lighted desk where other people emptied the wastebasket and vacuumed the rugs last night after you left. A job! A profession!

And a second, more tender feeling, of regard, even respect, for this near-infinite collection of odd rules, nice distinctions, and conflicting precedents that not even law students, only bar studiers, get to take in ALL AT ONCE. A system (or at least a collection) that is quite beautiful, actually, because it is made, piece-by-piece, by human beings who all appear to believe, from the writings they left us at least, that they had the time, power, and knowledge to discover an describe a right result. The poignancy and vulnerability of THE LAW never seemed so obvious to me -- but I've got to start studying.