Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Issue 5: Sin City

This past weekend was my best friend Pat’s bachelorette party – in Vegas! My luck began on the flight out to Vegas. I was seated in the back of the plane, along with 25 Irish guys on their way to a bachelor party. The drink cart never made it past our section. As the flight attendant would try to move forward, someone she had served three rows back would order another round. They insisted on buying me drinks. Thus, at the end of the 1.5 hour flight, I was 1.5 sheets to the wind.

Las Vegas is over 100 degrees during the day – it felt just like DC! We headed down to Freemont St. Now, earlier in the week, my officemate Mike taught me how to play blackjack. Apparently, this is something everyone knows how to do, another hole in my basic knowledge. BUT, I’ll be honest, I didn’t gamble – I’m not ready for that yet.

Saturday night we went to see …."The Thunder from Down Under!!" That’s right – a "male revue." I’m not really allowed to talk about the show because of that famous adage "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas", but I think that I can talk about what I did. I touched a stripper!! He had a very firm…handshake. I’ll be honest, I was scared of the women at the show. We spent the rest of the evening checking out some of the casinos on the strip.

Vegas, and the Strip in particular, are unimaginable if you haven’t been here. It’s all about OVER THE TOP! Lights! Neon! Immense Scale! The buffet tables are longer, everything stays open late, late, late etc. etc. It’s like an adult (and I do mean "adult") version of Chuck E. Cheese. And I didn’t like it. I should have been dazzled by everything, and on some level I was, but mostly I was thinking, "Fall of Rome…Fall of Rome!" Surprisingly, Vegas brought out my granola side: I couldn’t stop thinking that all the time, energy, and money that went into the edifices on the Strip could have been used for good. While the girls gambled, I went and bought a book at one of the Mandalay Bay stores. So, I found my own perfect little experience in Vegas: reading "Madame Bovary" at midnight, watching the casino-goers float by. There’s nothing funnier than seeing a bride (full-on big, white, "I am a cake" dress, etc.) playing a slot machine.

The next night, I took Pat to see "Zumanity", the Cirque du Soleil show at New York, New York. I’ve been a huge Cirque fan for years, so going to one of the shows resident in Vegas was a goal. (The other ones are O (aka the one in water), and Mystere.) When a Vegas ticket office warns you repeatedly about the adult content of a show, you know it’s going to be "interesting." And it was. I probably would have been shocked by some of the content at the beginning of my Vegas adventure, but that didn’t occur to me until later.

Vegas was eye-opening, thrilling, frightening, and thought-provoking… and I was thankful to get back to the Bay.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Issue 4: Pacific Heights

The plan: the summer associates from our office would head up to the San Francisco office for The Firm's chairman and CEO’s "State of the Firm" address. And then, off to CEO's house for a "cocktails and hors d’oeuvres’ party with the Hiring Committee. I think we can all see the potential pitfalls here.

We all left from the Valley WAAAY early. But we hit hella* traffic on the 101. I drove up with Aaron, who periodically flipped out that we were going to be late. (Considering that everyone from our office was also going to be late, I didn’t see why it was a big deal.) Ralph’s speech (what we caught of it) was … interesting. And by "interesting" I mean I couldn’t figure out why we were there.

A little bit of "kids from the suburbs let loose in the city" and we were off to the Big Boss's house. If you’ve never been to San Francisco, you don’t understand about steep streets. It’s bad on foot, but just the thought of driving around San Francisco in a stick-shift makes me tense. And then, there are the lights on the tops of hills. So you get stuck on a red light on street that is angled about 45 degrees. Very anxious-making indeed. the Big Boss’s house in the Pacific Heights neighborhood is one of the gorgeous Victorians San Francisco is famous for. As I learned during the party, the Big Boss's family lived in the guest house behind the building for 2.5 years while the building was renovated (it used to contain 20 medical offices.)

The Big Boss greeted us at the door, and said to me "I made a joke at the meeting, and you were the only one that laughed." Aaron said "Yes, well that’s Deepa all right." I’d been thinking about the same thing all day: how much I really enjoy the other summers, and how quickly we’ve all been able to get to know each other. I’ll come back to this topic.

As you know, I’m not always up for social situations – and this party was a doozy. So, I handled it like an adult and started drinking. Let’s look at the elements again shall we: potentially incredibly important party (quite the opportunity to make an ass of myself, at least), museum-like beautiful house with accompanying furnishings, my fellow summers with our penchant for mischief, open bar (only clear liquids, to protect the fabulous furnishings – i.e. no red wine or red cranberry juice), me and my low, low tolerance for alcohol. Right, good…moving on. Not to worry – I didn’t actually do/say anything incredibly stupid, at least I don’t think so.

I had an incredibly good, alcohol-enhanced time: I bonded with Jeet’s wife about Indian moms (thereby getting in good with Jeet since now his wife knows ALL of them are insane, and not just his in particular), met the summer associates in the SF office, and the significant others of our office summer associates, had a lot of conversations I don’t remember (but I was BRILLIANT and FUNNY!) Leaving the party, I thanked the Big Boss for the party and got into a conversation about DC (he used to live in Alexandria and teach in DC.)

Driving home with James, Stephanie and Aaron (other SV summers) we were cracking up about something or the other, and Aaron said "Let’s all come back to the firm, okay?" It was just so…sweet. And, really, what I want.

* Northern California term, meaning (as you could guess m context) "very" or "a lot"

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Issue 3: Six Degrees of Val, the Rottweiler

I’ll skip directly to the weirdest story of the week. On Saturday, The Firm took us up into Sonoma for some wine tasting. At our second winery, I sat with a few other summer associates and some associates for lunch. An associate mentioned that the vineyard used to have a mascot dog (Wino) that passed away recently. I commented that, sadly, big dogs have a shorter life span, and mentioned that my friends had rescued a Rottweiler named Val when she was 6. One of the associate’s wives said "Val? Rottweiler?" and gave me the weirdest look. Then she said "Minneapolis???", to which I said "Um, yes." As it turns out, one of my best friends from college is married to the associate’s cousin. (Tyler: I work with Max’s cousin Gabe – how weird is that?) Melanie (the wife) was especially weirded out because she had been telling Gabe that I reminded her of Max (the cousin in question.) Apparently, we have the same laugh. So, there you go - Val the Rottweiler, bringing people together.

Back to the wine trip: My mentor Heidi grew up in wine country, so she really, really knows her stuff. The wineries had amazing tasting rooms – patios covered in wisteria, gardens, fountains with lily pads. I’m not sure that it put people in a wine-buying mood, but it was relaxing. The weather was perfect, the views were amazing. We all joked that if the law thing didn’t work out, we’d go into winemaking, but the truth of it is that I could skip the wine-producing thing, I just want the views of the hills…or maybe just the patio.

So that’s the end of the week, back to the beginning. I went to a mock jury exercise, sounds thrilling I know. Basically, a jury consulting firm hires people to come in and hear attorneys from the same side present both sides of the case (no witnesses, no actual evidence, no objections, etc.). We watch the whole thing from behind one-way glass (is that what it’s called? What I mean is: we can see them, but from their side it looks like a mirror.) I felt kind of bad at times, one woman kept turning around to check/apply makeup using the mirror. Because of the way the observation room was set up, this woman was literally applying lipstick about 6 inches from a partner’s face. As he said, it really felt like an invasion of privacy. Then, the jury deliberates (and we get to watch!) Lessons learned: juries are irrational ("The plaintiff asked for $3.2 billion, let’s give them half!"), take hold of things that no one said, and apply current events "creatively" ("That guy Arthur Andersen was indicted in this case.") I loved, loved, loved going to this exercise. It made me really excited about becoming a lawyer, and getting into litigation. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of time this summer for me to lose that feeling (if law school is any indicator) and become jaded, cynical and bitter.

Those are the two big things for this week. Coming attractions: The Firm’s CEO is having us over for dinner on Friday night (eek!), and I’ll be spending this weekend finally figuring out Palo Alto (lots of driving, lots of getting lost – that kind of thing.)