I'm a little slow today. I just switched to Sanka. So...have a heart?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Reflections on eight years ago.

I feel like we don't get those sticky, gray, late-June days anymore. When the sky is a milky sheet of rolling shades of colorlessness, and there's no wind, and as soon as you walk outside, you pant, and the sweat beads on your back, and trickles down your spine, and 'tween your cheeks.

Stifling. And gray. And still.

But I guess we still got those gray hot days in 2002, when I made my first post-dead-grandmother trip down to Florida to look at the University of Miami.

I applied to UM Law as a safety school, with no intention of going there. It was like Hofstra - it was a school of last resort.

My LSAT score meant that my Harvard and my Yale Law applications were rolled up and put to use starting the fireplace of the 1913 apartment I was in, in Madison, but I was fairly certain I'd end up at Fordham, or St. John's or at least the University of Maryland (heyyy, in-state tuition!) I mean, I graduated college with a 3.7 for God's sake... I wasn't going to end up at some school for morons.

But the tech-bubble burst of 2001, and ensuing mini-recession, meant that everyone was going to law school in 2002. And schools that were once "sure things" were no longer. And the wait-list letters came rolling in.

Maryland - Waitlisted. Fordham - Waitlisted. William & Mary - Rejected (surprise, surprise...) Hofstra - Accepted, with Scholarship! (Not gonna happen). Queen's College - Accepted, with Scholarship! And multiple telephone calls! (Not gonna happen). UW-Madison - Waitlisted. Rutgers Camden - Waitlisted. St. John's - Waitlisted. Miami - Accepted.

I think there were others, but I don't remember them. Oh, yeah, Chicago Kent at the Illinois Institute of Technology - accepted to the Night program. (WTF?)

It was grudgingly - scowlingly, exceedingly grudgingly that I came down to Miami to look at the school. I fully expected to get into one of my wait-listed schools, but needed to check out this school which was marginally better than my other two choices. It was just in case. But anyway, it was in the wrong. geographic. area.

I hate heat. And I love taking trains. And walking fast. And crowded urban streets.

And I thought Miami was a cultural wasteland full of stupid people, illegal immigrants, drug wars, and the elderly. Even the bumpin' gay scene wasn't even on my radar. Miami was Parrot Jungle, Vizcaya, and being fifteen, awkwardly eating tacos on Ocean Drive with my parents next-door to Mango's.

So intense was my contempt for Miami that I booked myself down on a Southwest flight, that left at 7:30 a.m. from BWI - FLL, and booked myself a return ticket around 7:30 p.m. from FLL to BWI, getting in around 9:30... So that would leave me about four or five hours to see the campus before heading back to the airport.

I had no intention of staying in Miami for longer than necessary.

I certainly wasn't going to SLEEP there.

I remember getting off the plane, renting a white Ford Escort, and driving from FLL to UM. I remember the gray. I remember the heat. I remember thinking that the stretch of 95 between Hollywood to US-1 was possibly one of the ugliest stretches of road in the history of mankind.

Abruptly, I found myself an an alien landscape, where I-95 ended (a concept that was unimaginable to me before that day in June, 2002) and dumped into US-1. And where I was sitting in an inexplicable traffic jam at 11:30 a.m. underneath...what are those? Elevated train tracks? Who has an elevated train anymore?

I got lost on the way to school, because no one bothers to tell anyone from up North that Ponce de Leon makes a perpendicular curve and heads into the heart of the Gables - and that taking the first turn on Ponce is wrong... or if you do take the first turn onto it, to head southwest and not North? West? What direction is that? To this day, I have no idea. I think it's North.

It was at the Hotel Saint Michel (or whatever it was called) that I realized I was no longer in the possible vicinity of the University, that I was lost, and asked for help. I was instructed to turn around, and when I got back to the EL tracks (that's what I called them, anyway...) and to take Ponce south, as it paralleled US-1.

I was already off to a promising start.

Eventually I found the school, and turned down a winding, green, unremarkable street, into a wide expanse of asphalt (the Law School parking lot). I parked my unremarkable rental car, and walked into an unremarkable square building with a huge quad in the middle of it, where, remarkably, the classrooms appeared to open...into the outside?

What the hell?

There were mosquitoes, and an unremarkable tour. There was a fountain, and being uncomfortably compelled to ask unremarkable questions of the lady giving me and another kid (who didn't end up going there) a look around the School. There's not much to the law school. We saw the Library, scuffed and with buzzing lights. A couple doors opened for us, into unremarkable classrooms with stadium seating, letting out merciful gusts of cold, dry air...

I remember windows sweating on the outside.

And me sweating. Into my clothes.

After being thoroughly underwhelmed by the tour, I strolled around campus a little bit. My image of a proper campus (like UW-Madison's) was stately brick, and yellow limestone buildings, covered with and ivy, and flowers planted in the shape of a "W" or of Bucky Badger. Of clock towers, and Brutalist architecture, coexisting beside Mediterranean-Gothic Revival structures. Of quads, and fountains, and paths, and Neoclassical architecture. And there should be a lake on which to sail. And possibly a gigantic red brick armory/gymnasium from 1895.

Miami just had rolling fields of grass that I knew you couldn't walk on (fire ants!) and no flowers. Big elephant ear plants, and boring palm trees, and strange 50s architecture.

And mosquitoes. And I had swamp-ass.

I was only too happy to get back in my Escort and putt-putt back up to FLL, and only to happy to drag my damp and stinking carcass onto the plane home.

I came, I saw, I could stand it if I had to go there, but hopefully, that was the worst case scenario.

Flash forward 8 years.

How the hell am I still here?

In early job interviews, people would ask how I ended up in Miami, and I would lie and say that I wanted to use my Spanish, and I loved the family I had down here, and wanted to see them in their twilight years... and I wanted to escape the cold of Wisconsin!

It was all bull. I came here, because it was the best I could do at the time.

I settled.

In both senses of the word.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed. SIGH.

8:40 AM

Blogger Rootietoot said...

I saw Miami for the first time when I was 16, and babysitting for a couple who came there for a convention. We stayed at the Fontainbleu Hilton and some old guy who looked like shoe leather offered a proposition and tried to get me to his room. Being 16 and from Watkinsville, I don't remember the heat, only the scandalous Clothing-Optional beach area and my first bagel ever, improperly eaten with butter and orange marmalade. I do remember being underwhelmed and preferring Atlanta. I am guessing you stay there because it's familiar by now, and you anchored yourself with that condo.

3:29 AM

Anonymous Abbs said...

I'm with you honey. That's why I don't live there anymore. Like you, I graduated at the top of my college class but didn't get the LSAT scores to get into any of my first choices for law school. It was only 2 or 3 years ago that Wake Forest contacted me to see if I wanted to remain on the wait list for law school.
Still...if I hadn't gone there, I wouldn't have met you! (or Douglas). Oh Miami...

10:04 AM


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