"The effectiveness of documents is judged not by grammarians, but by readers"---Fern Rook
Last night my wife and I went to the home of a woman in Richardson who does tailoring work. My wife had found me some suits for an improbably low price (we paid roughly the cost of one expensive suit for several moderately priced suits) in some recessionary-economy mail order sale. Now we had to get some minor alterations done, of the hem and minor tuck variety. I am not good about giving up our evening to drive across town so that someone can pin my clothes while I stand around, but we got through the minor ordeal with reasonable grace. The tailor had a placard on her wall, which reflected that she had been named Austin's "Best Seamstress" by the local alternative paper in 1997. She said, though, that this award did not materially increase her business, if one discounts calls from folks wanting patches sewn on their security guard uniforms. I wish I could avoid betraying my impatience with trying on suits--I'd like to be one of those Cary Grant types who can make it all amusing and suave, but I am not.
Yesterday on ebay I won an auction for something called a "Dixiecraft Metal Loom, complete with instructions". Although I generally do not support anything named "Dixie" or sporting the Confederate flag other than some of the many versions of the song "Dixie", I do like the name in this instance. It sounds so much like something one would get in the five and dime next to the Mad Butcher grocery store in 1968. I was relieved to win this auction, as I had narrowly suffered defeat in an earlier quest to win a "Ronco flower loom". I tried to find out if they still make "dixiecraft" looms, but google only turned up a Dixecraft boat trailer company, which I suspect is something different.
Now my ebay bidding frenzy is reduced to but two auctions--a one dollar and seventy nine cent bid on cookie (or soap) molds for a chess set, and a whopping five dollar bid for a book on soap sculpture. I believe that ebay does best when it is an under 10 dollar pastime.
The Summer prior to my tenth grade year of high school, I spent my Summer collecting bugs and butterflies. Our tenth grade biology teacher was the wonderful and stern Mrs. Slayton, a master teacher who was very fond of "collections". Each student had to make a "contract" with Mrs. Slayton for how many bugs and butterflies each student aspired to collect. As I remember, I made my "A" on each project, although I was helped by being the first to find a group of book lice, which had immense trading value on the open market. One evening that Fall, we all took our little butterflies and moths, carefully pinned back onto styrofoam, to make our butterfly boxes. I am hopeless at anything crafty, but I still participated in good spirits. Mrs. Slayton gave me the use of the styrofoam cutter. What an amazing device! Two batteries in a thick plastic tube, connected to one metal wire, held together by a sort of cleaver-looking bracket. The wire slightly heats, and styrofoam cuts like butter! I have wanted one ever since I first saw that one. Last year, I finally got on google to hunt one. All the ones I found, though, were on sale from "art supply house" type places for dozens of dollars. I pay ridiculous sums for ridiculous things all too often, but two batteries, a tube and a wire do not forty dollars make. But Sunday I found one for just eight dollars. Now I'm talking, and soon I'll be slicing styrofoam. Why? I'm not sure. But I'm sure it will be fun. My butterfly box still hangs on a wall in my old room in my parents' home.
Today my dentist will be taking the styrofoam cutter to my teeth. I have a good dentist, fellow one class behind me in Camden High, but I have no great love for that filled-in feeling. I have to get a crown (from the unrecorded peanut-brittle incident some time ago), a few fillings, and general renovation and remodeling. I don't mind the procedures themselves, as a general rule, but I hate the "numb thawing" aftermath of this kind of thing.
I heard from one of my on-line friends yesterday who is doing the law school application process. A couple of weeks ago, he let me know he had gotten an admission to one very good school, but yesterday he had gotten into a school which, in the odd and silly ways of this legal world, is considered a slightly "better" school. It's undeniable that large law firm employers pay an inordinate amount of attention to school rank, so that one is best served by as "good" an admit as one can get. Yet, it's all so silly in some ways. The admissions process in law is much less based on "ribbons" than on a formula based on GPA and the Law School Admissions Test, with the heavier weighting going to the LSAT. LSAT is a test that one takes on a Saturday, and it is not "about" law, but instead a sort of "GRE with logic games" or "super SAT" examination. Kids with brilliant GPAs get low LSAT scores, and end up in "lesser" law schools. Kids with middling GPAs get that mythical 170 on the LSAT and suddenly are in "top 15" contention. In some ways, I am grateful that I did not know that I should be worried about law school rank when I went to law school. I thought I'd be lucky to be admitted and pass in anylaw school, so I applied only to the two state schools in my home state. I had only B grades, but a good LSAT, so I could have gone "up the food chain" a bit--perhaps to one of the "solid but not top" schools like Washington University in St. Louis. But I must admit that the University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Law served me rather well. I always imagined when I entered law school that I would end up practicing in a small town Arkansas small firm practice. I had seen "The Verdict" and knew that large law firms were bad. But it is curious--when I did rather well in law school, I developed the deepest desire to be a law professor. I had my plan in place--two years in practice, then either get a law prof job, or, failing that get the LLM from a top school as a credential. But I didn't stick with the plan. I practiced for six years before I even tried to get a teaching job, and then, when I could not get a teaching job on just my lightly-regarded-school JD, I was unwilling to forego the salary, pay the massive tuition and take the risk of difficulties in finding a teaching position that getting an LLM from a top school would have entailed. As near as I could tell, I would be risking a substantial sum in hopes of one day getting a job that paid relatively little. But in my own personal "what if" speculations, the "what if" I dwell upon is "what if I'd gotten the LLM right out of law school, practiced two years, and then gone into teaching?". I could no doubt be pontificating in law journals for a living, and teaching classes where kids watch enrapt while I pose Socratic problems for which there is no answer.
I loved law school classes. The best ones were taught in the "pure Socratic" style--all questions, never an answer. I used to love to watch a good Socratic instructor lead a student down the primrose path to illogic. I could have been one of those, if I'd only had a heart, a brain and some courage.
Of course, if I'd wanted to be a law professor from the beginning, I'd have taken a liberal arts degree (for some reason, making an "A" in a liberal arts course comes easily to me, while making a "C" in a physics course is much more par for the course), gone to a "top law school", gotten an LLM, done a "ribbon" post-law-school job like law clerk to a judge, and then gone to the great law school meat market in DC one winter with a perfect resume and high hopes. But I took a rather less impressive path. Still, my path allowed me to handle some very fascinating cases, live in Dallas and Los Angeles, make a reasonable income, have a great marriage, and still be my own self, so it's not worked that badly.
Maybe it all comes back around, anyway. I now have the kind of "small town small firm" practice I imagined I wanted when I entered law school, if one overlooks that Garland, Texas is a "small town" of 200,000 residents. I cut this life out for myself in some ways just as surely as if I'd run the styrofoam cutter. As in that night in Mrs. Slayton's class in 1974, I haven't run the cutter quite down the straight lines. I am sure that other butterfly boxes came out more impressively than mine.
But I still think it's not about judging the butterfy boxes--it's just about making one's own.