Posts Tagged ‘woody allen’

ONE L by Scott Turow

August 11, 2015


First, some corny lawyer jokes (excerpted from the book):

How do you know when a lawyer is lying?

His lips are moving.

What do you know when you find a lawyer up to his neck in concrete?

Someone ran out of concrete.

How do you know that God, who created the world out of darkness and chaos, was a lawyer?

Because he made darkness and chaos first.

The first time I read One L, Scott Turow’s memoir rewritten from a journal he kept during his first year at Harvard Law School (first year law students are referred to as 1Ls), I was an undergrad student and had just completed two semesters of Business Law. Thumbing through One L while waiting on line at the college book store, it grabbed me from page 1.

I enjoyed and did well in Business Law and seemed to have an affinity for legal thinking. I even enjoyed the exams. Exam questions were were presented like intellectual puzzles. A case was summarized and the multiple lists from which to choose the correct answers were intricately nuanced. Settling on the correct response required knowledge, deeply considered reasoning and an understanding of how the law worked.

I guess that’s what prompted me to re-read One L. I’m a proponent of reading good books more than once. During a first read, there is a great deal of information to absorb. The second visit, then, offers a more comprehensive read. Familiarity with the story and plot allows you to focus more attention on the details. A seemingly minor detail noted the second time around (or, perhaps, briefly overlooked during the first read or unremembered) will often elicit a joyful revelation or aha moment. Such discoveries are the rewards bestowed on you by the act of re-reading. If many years have passed since first reading the book, the life experience you bring with you upon the second reading enriches your experience and understanding.

This describes my experience of re-reading One L.

Working in a law firm for the past 5+ years, I was able to more fully appreciate lawyers and what first year law students have to endure, or, at any rate, if they attend Harvard Law School (HLS). Year 1 at HLS  is an arduous, torturous, frustrating and reliably miserable period of intense study and exhaustion. All-nighters, enervating self-doubt, no free time at all, and constant tension and fear of being cited as unprepared in class further characterize the first year.

To be admitted and stay the course at HLS  you must, first, have aced the LSAT, love the law and possess the intellectual faculties to earn top grades (As).

The good news is, after the first year, 2Ls and 3Ls have an easier time of it. If, however, a 2L student is exceptional enough to possess the aforementioned qualities and also make the Harvard Law Review (which in itself requires a commitment of 50 hours a per week of additional work), that student will be guaranteed a position at a top law firm upon graduation. And a boatload of money — which is a prime motivator for many HLS grads.

For a cinematic rendition of HLS, and before I re-read One L, I re-watched a classic Hollywood film called, The Paper Chase (it’s a favorite of mine — and available for viewing in its entirety on YouTube). The film came out in 1973. This is a great clip:

Re-watching the film prompted me to read One L again. I downloaded the ebook and breezed through it in no time. The difference between the early publication of the book and the most recent is that Turow has included an epilogue.

The experience of re-reading One L shortly after re-watching The Paper Chase left me astonished at the similarity of the dramatic elements and personalities shared by the memoir and film. Wondering if One L had been optioned for the film, I googled to find out.

The Paper Chase, I learned, was actually adapted from a novel written in 1970 by John Jay Osborn, Jr., who also attended HLS., and was a direct descendent of Supreme Court Justice John Jay (another attendee of HLS) — after whom John Jay College in N.Y. is named.

The telling of these three stories of HLS are uncannily similar. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

I now realize that my enjoyment of Business Law was that of a dilettante. I was dabbling. I would never have withstood the trials and tribulations of law school. My employment at a law firm (which I will resume at the end of this month after 3 weeks of physical therapy) is about as much as I can stand of the law. The tedium of the work sometimes drives me mad. As do the many rules and regulations to be remembered and recited; the bureaucracy to wade through; the eye-tearing repetition. Forms, forms and more government forms.

A few months ago, a member of the firm wrote this in a email to me, designed to cheer me up: A poor day at the ofice is better than a good day on a broken ankle. Spoken like a lawyer.

So doesn’t it make perfect sense that Scott Turow abandoned the legal field to pursue writing novels. Before HLS, Turow had attended Stanford University as an English major. He left a tenured position teaching English at that same university to enter HLS. Eventually, he returned to his first love — literature — and, as we know, has enjoyed enormous success.

If you work for 8 hours a day, it is important to love what you do. But life is not that simple. Responsibility is always nipping at your ankles. There are bills to pay, health insurance, keeping your body fed, internet service…and so it goes.

At the end of the movie Annie Hall, the Woody Allen character sums it all up with a joke:

This guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Doc, my brother’s crazy. He thinks he’s a chicken.”

And the doctor says, ‘Well, why don’t you turn him in?”

The guy says, “I would, but I need the eggs.”

Our Mayor is a Billionaire and We Have to Pay the Price

March 8, 2012

And the city is a madhouse.

And rush hour is an insanity.

5:00 p.m. Commuters descend the staircase en masse at 60th St. and 5th Ave. The moment our feet touch the station floor, the multitudes disperse. Individual lines begin feeding through turnstiles. Me, included.

Metrocard in hand, ready to swipe, a body suddenly muscles against me. Next, I feel a deliberate thump on my shoulder.

I turn to the middle-aged, scowling business woman at my right. Incredulous, I say, “You hit me…?”

“I was bringing my hand down!” she screeches. “It’s too crowded in here. Christ!” And she takes off.

Animal!  — This, I say to myself.

Before I know it, the day is over, I’m exhausted, I sleep fitfully, and then the alarm goes off. A new day begins.

Running late, I catch a bus on the corner. When we reach 75th St., the driver doesn’t make his usual lefthand turn toward the subway station.

Why? A garbage truck is parked in the middle of the street next to a mountain of trash. Our bus driver decides to go rogue.

He bypasses 75th St. and drives to 73rd Street. On 73rd, a double-parked truck is delivering produce. He bypasses 73rd St. and keeps going — and going.

An elderly man next to me looks worried. “What is he doing?” he asks. He probably thinks he’s in the Sandra Bullock move, “Speed.”

I explain to him about the garbage truck. He seems momentarily relieved and says, “This is a smart driver.”

But as we reach 69th St. (the subway station is at 74th St.), the man’s facial expression changes to annoyance.

I’m familiar with this bus driver. He’s a grumbler. He makes asides. Actually, they’re more like stage whispers.

Once, on a very crowded bus, I was standing near the front door. Each time he pulled into a bus stop and more people got on, he would mutter something like,” Can’t they walk a lousy few blocks? It’s nice out.”

I was pretty hilarious. Except, now I fear he’s having a breakdown.

At last — thankfully  — we arrive at the 74th St. station, via the circuitous route, in record time (because he was turning corners on two wheels).

On the R train, luckily, I get a seat. I open my brand new book, “An Available Man,” by Hilma Wollitzer, a birthday gift from J.C., which I am eager to begin reading.

But, as luck would have it, a big-mouth 20-something Asian guy boards the R train holding an electronic device the size of a iPhone in front of his face and starts reading Bible stuff from it (I don’t know what Bible it came from — no Bible I’ve ever read).

One of his “quoted passages” goes something like this: Television is a sin, according John (verse something or other). Never watch television. Television’s evil lasts 30 minutes, he continues — straight reading — no improvisation- without an scintilla of dramatization. Like a robot). I want to strangle him.

I try reading the first paragraph of my new book four times before giving up and closing the book.

The train pulls into the next stop. This idiot says, loudly, before departing, “Thank you for listening.”

“Like we have a choice,” I mutter to the guy sitting next to me.

And this guy next to me says,”They have mass on television”  (as in, how could that guy not know that?)

Which brings to mind Max von Sydow’s character’s classic rant from the Woody Allen film:


Tomorrow is another day!

No Good Earthly Reason NOT to Move

July 9, 2009


Beautiful Central Park

Beautiful Central Park

During a recent trip to my favorite place on earth, New York City — I’m verklempt already from clicking on this link — a good friend of mine had asked what I would miss the most about leaving L.A. 

With no ready answer, I was stumped. I had to think about it for a minute.

The best I could come up with? “The vegetable soup at the Good Earth restaurant.”


Which is true. I love that soup. And, of course, the friends I’ve made while living here. But there’s a lot to be said about living in the place that’s right for you, a comfortable place, a stimulating place, a beautiful place where you feel you belong. I’ve never felt that here in L.A.

Many non-native New Yorkers experience the Big Apple as “a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

But not all non-natives feel that way. Lucky for me that I’m married to one of them.

Off the top of my head, I could probably rattle off dozens of reasons for moving back to New York City. Currently, at the top of my list is: The High Line.

But it’s also the everydayness of the city that I miss and love so much. Each time I emerge from the subway and step onto the sidewalks of Manhattan, my energy level soars.

ilovenyI DO!

Here in L.A., I sometimes quell my New York cravings by watching Woody Allen’s movies. Most of them have a character cast in the role of a tortured writer, too — which means that I get to feed two of my fantasies at one time!

These are my favorite Woody Allen films (skipping over the superb Manhattan — since you’ve already clicked (I hope) on the link at the beginning of this post):

1. For the most satisfying gorgeous apartments/loft space/architecture/ art gallery/boutiques/walking through the park porn — plus a scene shot inside one of my former stomping grounds, the old Tower Records store near Lincoln Center: Hannah and Her Sisters.

2. For a view of New Yorkers, street traffic, a Jewish wedding, Central Park, Fifth Ave. and Tavern on the Green!!: Crimes and Misdemeanors.

3. For a healthy dose of N.Y. intellectual types, writers, stage actors, shots of the Village, and the ability to feed yet another fantasy, that of being able to afford a Manhattan rental studio of your very own in which to write your new book: Another Woman

4. For a vicarious, yet, intense escape from tony  Manhattan to the tony Hamptons: Interiors.

5. For everything romantic and fabulous and wonderful about the city (plus an interesting juxtaposition of life in N.Y.C. vs. life in L.A.): Annie Hall.

6. Haven’t seen this film yet, but I want to! The trailer features a full-frontal Statue of Liberty, street cafés and some great local color — including a shot of a Lower East Side knish bakery!!!: Whatever Works.


I particularly enjoy stories that are set in New York, too, or where New York is one of the characters. What are some of your favorites? What have I missed?

Here are some of mine, which are set in Manhattan (I’ve also included a few links to good film adaptations — for your enjoyment): Rosemary’s Baby (Levin), Portrait of Jennie (Nathan), Days of Awe (Nissenson), Professor Sea Gull (Mitchell), Slaves of New York (Janowitz), The Metropolitan Diary (Monday’s section in The N.Y. Times), The Catcher in the Rye (Salinger), When Kafka Was the Rage (Broyard), Tepper Isn’t Going Out (Trillin), Reunion (Cheever), Diary of a Mad Housewife (Kaufman), Reunion (Ford), The Bonfire of the Vanities (Wolfe), All Mixed Up (Orlean), The Gilgul of Park Avenue (Englander), How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie (Diaz), 84, Charing Cross Road (Hanff) — and The Fountainhead (Rand) — which I first read at the age of nineteen and then re-read twenty years later. I’m sorry to say, for me, it didn’t age so well (Rand was pretty strange, though — check out The Passion of Ayn Rand).