The most magical place on Earth, my ass... a tragedy in two parts

The other week, I went to a wedding in Orlando. While with some exceptions, weddings are usually not much to write about, this one was different. It was at Walt Disney World. While when I was younger, I always looked forward to going to Disney World, as I have matured I have come to discover Disney for what it truly is: a marketing and capitalistic scheme gone awry where image is given dominance over substance in an effort to create a demand in children to get their parents to fork over large amounts of money for a quasi-"magical" experience. So, I guess you could say, I'm not exactly a fan of the Fucking Mouse.

I picked up a friend on my way to Orlando and she, who also hates the Fucking Mouse, and I were off to the world of the commercialized Tinkerbell. Because the wedding was an evening wedding we stayed on Disney property and, since I didn't realize we were actually staying on Disney property, I did not make suggestions of which hotel to stay in, such as the stunning Grand Floridian or the luxurious Yacht Club. Rather, my friend made reservations at one of the hotels the bride's mother had suggested, the Pop Century Resort.

After an almost unsuccessful attempt to find the "resort," (which is never a good sign) we finally drove into the parking lot of the hotel which a friend later described to me as the "Motel 6 of Disney property." I personally think that description fails to give Motel 6 the respect it deserves. Nevertheless, as we drove up we were greeted with a series of five large buildings, each with huge illuminated "architecture." Additionally, each building had phrases on the top such as "Groovy" or "Don't have a cow man!" Upon discovering the outside of the main lobby building, I realized that the "Pop Century" meant each building had a different decade theme, so the "architecture" I saw were enormous "Rubik's cubes" for the 80's and giant "cell phones" for the 90's (complete with Disney's main number on the cell phone screen.) The phrases on the top of the building were sayings that found their origin in the particular decade. My friend and I looked at each other and said, almost in unison, "I fucking hate the Fucking Mouse."

Oh yes. I was in the most magical hell on the face of the Earth.

Because of holiday weekend traffic, my friend and I were in a bit of a rush to get changed and get to the Fucking Mouse Wedding Pavilion. So we make our way into the Fucking Mouse Pop Century lobby with a desire to get to our room as quickly as possible. We rush to the registration and get in the line. Of course, in Fucking Mouse fashion, there's a 90-foot empty maze to get to the part of the line that matters and, I must admit I was surprised (and even commented to my friend) that the line didn't include signs that said, "15 minute wait from this point."

And that's when I first discovered that the Fucking Mouse is about as efficient as chewing your way through a lead pipe.

Although we have only two people in front of us, we waited over twenty-five minutes for someone to help up. In true Fucking Mouse efficiency, although there were seven employees behind the registration counter, only three were actually registering guests. And I use the phrase "registering guests" in a rather loose sense of the term. One of the Fucking Mouse employees was chatting with the guest and dancing to the disco music that was causing my ears to rupture and bleed. Another was showing a guest where different places were on a Disney property map (how about directing that to the Concierge who doesn't have anyone in line?!?!). While I can't be sure, I think the third employee was picking her nose and showing it to a guest, claiming it was going to magically grow into a carriage to take her to the royal ball.

Fucking Mouse.

We finally get to the registration desk and my friend says, "We want to be the fastest registration you've had all day!" Yeah, right. Like that's a real accomplishment with Speedy Gonzalez over here. "Here's the credit card, here's the reservation number." Move Fucking Mouse boy, move! To his credit, he did actually attempt to check us in quicker than the people before us. But then, despite the fact that the line actually grew in the twenty-five minutes we were in it, Fucking Mouse employee number two (dancing boy) actually stops checking in people to talk to us! First of all, we really had no desire to talk to another Fucking Mouse employee. These people are Stepford Wife freakish enough. Second, uh dipshit, don't you have something more important to do than talk with us, like clear the line growing behind us by the minute?

My friend and I finally make our way to our room, which has to be one on the edge of the "resort" and we undertake a mad dash to get there so we can change for the wedding. After having a personal freak-out session when we thought the Fucking Mouse employee failed to properly scan our cards, we tried a few more times to open the door and eventually successfully made our way into our room. Besides the truly horrid decor, Fucking Mouse commercialism couldn't even escape the room. Smack dab in the middle of the room was a framed Fucking Mouse poster.

I quickly changed into my suit and, while I was waiting for my friend to change, I turned on the television and sorted through the Fucking Mouse-Viacom owned stations. At least they own ESPN. As I always do, I then began to search around the room for little things like the mini-bar. Yeah. Right. Not in this craphole.

My friend then called the front desk for directions to the Fucking Mouse Wedding Pavilion, which, by the way, we were due at in around forty-five minutes. She and the Fucking Mouse employees had the following conversation:

"Hi. I need to get to the Disney Wedding Pavilion pretty quickly. How do I get there?"

"Go to the front of the resort. Take a bus to the Magic Kingdom. When you get to the Magic Kingdom, get on the monorail. Take that to the Wedding Pavilion area. Then walk a mile and a half to the pavilion and you're there."

"Uh...that seems like a long way. How long will that take?"

"The estimated time is about an hour and a half to an hour and forty-five minutes."

"Like I said, we need to be there sooner than that. Is there anything quicker?"

"Well, that's the directions."


"Thanks for calling the front desk and have a magical evening!"

Have a magical evening. Seriously, take that magical phrase and substitute "Go fuck yourself." That's what these Fucking Mouse employees are really thinking.

It was then that I suggested we call a cab so if our plan to get considerably inebriated comes to fruition, neither my friend nor I have to drive back to the "resort." After all, nothing spoils a trip to the Fucking Mouse than going to Fucking Mouse jail.

My friend responded, "Fine. You call."

"Hi. I have to get to the Wedding Pavilion. Quickly. And the directions we were given won't get us there in time. Can you call me a cab?"

"Hold on sir. I'll connect you with a taxi company."

They won't call the cab for you? Even the Miami International Airport calls the cab for you and there people shoot at you. What a fucking joke.

"Thanks for calling the front desk and have a magical evening."

Yeah, go fuck yourself too.

"Yeah. This is [such and such] cab company."

It was then that I was able to explain that I needed a taxi and where I was going. Of course, in order to get the taxi, we (including my friend in high heels) had to walk all the way back to the lobby from our remote room. And while I adore my friend, her decision not to send her rather large and fragile gift ahead of time wasn't exactly her most brilliant moment. Less than ten minutes later and after some chatting with the taxi driver (a skill I developed in D.C.), we were at the Fucking Mouse Wedding Pavilion.

Hour and a half my ass.


Only the good...

When people, particularly college students, find out what I do for a living, I usually receive a series of questions about law school. Every once in a while, I'll get a question about One L or The Paper Chase. "Is law school really like that? Is it that cut throat?"

For me, the answer was no.

That's not to say that many people didn't find their law school experience to be exceedingly competitive or that if I had started in the class before mine or in the class after mine, that I wouldn't feel the same way. But that just wasn't my experience. For the most part, there was a sense of collegiality and mutual respect that permeated my section. And I firmly believe that the reason my section had this sense of collegiality was because of the people in it.

The top of my class set the standard. The top two graduates in my class were so nice that you couldn't feel bad that they just kicked your ass all over the classroom. And there were the friends with whom I spent most of my time. We relied on each other when we were frustrated and congratulated each other when we succeeded.

And then, there was Dan. Dan was unique. Dan was the guy in my section who always made things better. When I was called on in class and thought I made a complete idiot of myself, Dan was the guy who would come up to me and say, "You made some good points. Good job." When I was so stressed I could feel beads of stress dripping from my head, Dan was the guy who would say, "Hey man, relax. You're a smart guy. You've got this." When I was so concerned about the difference between a C+ and a B I couldn't see straight, Dan was the guy who would remind me, that grades were important, but not as important as being a good person.

Dan always seemed to have perspective. It didn't matter if we just suffered the worst academic hazing in our lives, Dan had a smile on his face. In three years of law school, I don't think I ever saw Dan without a smile. Dan was the first guy to crack a joke. Dan was the guy who, if you looked a little (or a lot) unhappy, he would sit down next to you, put his hand on your back and tell you that it was all going to work out. In three years of constant self-doubt, Dan always let you know that you were important, wanted, appreciated.

And Dan was one of those perfect guys. He had it all. He was good-looking, wicked smart, funny, charismatic, compassionate, and so many other adjectives that even if I could list, wouldn't even begin to do him justice.

Simply, Dan was the kind of guy that you'd hate if you didn't like him so damn much.

There's a Yiddish word to describe someone like Dan. Mensch.

Like many people in law school, once Dan and I walked the stage at graduation, we didn't really keep in touch. I think we anticipated the usual. That we would run into each other later in our careers or at our alma mater's football games and we'd laugh about old times, catch up and tell our legal war stories. But that didn't happen.

Earlier this week, I received an email from an old friend from law school.

Unbenownst to me, on December 23, 2004, Dan was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia called AML or Acute Mylogenous Leukemia. Over the past year, Dan had been struggling with this disease. Dan was in hospitals from Miami Beach to Seattle. Dan underwent radiation therapy and received an engraftment of his sister's blood cells to hopefully fight his own cancerous blood cells and send his cancer into remission. And through it all, from what I was able to tell from his website, Dan kept that picturesque, patented smile that I remember perfectly from law school.

In August 2005, things apparently looked better for Dan. His website indicates that his cancer went into remission. But, unfortunately for all of us, that didn't last long.

At 1:40 p.m. on November 5, 2005, Dan lost his struggle with AML. And on November 8, 2005, at almost the exact time I learned all of this, Dan was being laid to rest.

If I could talk to Dan, I'd tell him that I'm so sorry I didn't know. That I'm sorry I didn't call or send an email or ask friends who may have known what was happening to him. That I'm sorry I didn't have the opportunity to see him and smile or crack a joke or pat him on the back and comfort him. That I wish I would have taken time from the trivial things I dealt with on a daily basis and been there for him.

Of course, I know exactly what Dan would say. "No problem buddy."

Like I said, Dan was unique. I will miss him dearly.

And, even though it was only for a short period of time, I am a better person for having known him.

I've included some pictures of Dan below from his website:


The road less traveled by...

I know I've been gone for a while, but I have a feeling this post will more than make up for lost time for the quantity perspective. I don't make any promises about quality. Oh yeah, it will probably also explain where I've been...

I believe in destiny. I also believe in free will. How can I believe in these two seemingly contradictory principles? Well, it goes a little like this. I believe each of us have things we were meant to do, things that fulfill us and make us genuinely, truly happy. But I also think we have the freedom to choose those things or other, sometimes seemingly better, alternatives. When we choose an alternative, we have turned away from our destiny and picked an option that will make us unhappy, no matter how hard we try.

For example, I believe that each of us has someone that is our destiny. And when someone meets his or her destiny, spending the rest of life in love is, in a word, easy...or at least easier. So, why do around half of marriages end in divorce? Because people choose the wrong person. They take the wrong path. They either have jumped the gun and married someone who isn't their destiny or they just let them out of their lives and ignored destiny when it looked them in the face. Free will overrode destiny, so no matter how hard they tried, their relationship simply was not going to succeed.

Which brings me to my point. I've been thinking lately about my path in life. In fact, I've been thinking about it a lot. When I wake up, when I come home from work, when I get ready for bed (which is disturbingly close to when I come home from work). And recently, I've come to have doubts. A lot of them.

When I was a young, my parents' friends would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I would answer immediately. "I want to be a paleontologist." The response was almost standard. First, the adult would say how impressed they were that I knew such a big word and then inevitably ask, "What's a paleontologist?" My response, which was just as standard, was, "A scientist that studies dinosaurs." Then I would inevitably get the condescending, "Oh..."

My parents, however, were never surprised by my bookwormish pre-adolescent career choice. They always emphasized their love of books, knowledge, and self-improvement. And I think they also expected I wouldn't want to be a cowboy or fireman after I said my first words to my grandmother at six months and read them one of my bedtime stories when I was one.

Nevertheless, I always retained my love of all things scientific, but it, like me, evolved. While I continued to enjoy the physical sciences (and, as you will learn, social sciences), I became distracted by other things. In elementary and middle school, I fell into drama. I was quite outgoing when I was little. It was a function of moving around the country every two to five years. I learned, quickly, that other kids didn't introduce themselves to the new kid, so I took it upon myself to let people know who I was. Believe it or not, being outgoing, sometimes exceptionally so, would not only attract friends, but often kept bullies at bay.

But drama seemed to find me. One of my parents friends was an agent and, after indicating to my parents that she would like to get me work, she began to find me jobs. For a kid, there's nothing better than an acting job. You get out of school of the day, eat free food, stand were someone tells you to, smile, say some stuff that you don't always understand but have memorized, and get more money then you could ever conceive of. Granted, two to four hundred dollars isn't a lot now, but then, geez, that was a fortune.

When I moved to California, once again, I fell back into drama. I went to one of the main drama feeder schools into the Hollywood actor pipeline, a magnet program in a less than totally desirable area of Los Angeles. I took drama courses because...well...they were fun. Again, I got to get on a stage, be someone else for a little while, say some stuff I memorized, and classmates or an audience would clap. It's a lot better than taking some other electives where I would just sit at a desk all the time.

I wasn't the best student in California. I wasn't bad, I just wasn't good at what I wasn't interested in because I...well...wasn't interested. But in fifth grade, I had a teacher that changed that. While Mr. Johnson deserves a post all to his own, I will say briefly that he had a profound impact on me in an subject I never thought I was good at. And although I didn't know it, on parent-teacher night, Mr. Johnson informed my mother and father that I had scored higher on the required standardized math exam than any of the other twenty-five kids in my class. My parents, bewildered, responded with, "Are you sure that was him?"

That's when I learned I was actually good at math.

But eventually, I left California, albeit as a much better math student, and, at the ripe old age of twelve, I realized that leaving California really meant leaving drama behind. I still did some things in theatre. I took chorus classes in middle school, since in addition to acting I was also into singing both in California and many years before. But I quickly learned, in my new school, chorus classes were really for the kids that didn't want to do anything for an hour. And, shocked by the considerably more restrictive life my new school offered to its students than the one to which I had become accustomed, I became disenchanted and kept more to myself than I had in the past. But something strange happened. I began paying attention in my classes. And for some strange reason, I found the tests easy. Hey, how hard is an exam when you actually know the information you're being asked? Without studying, I started coming home with all or almost all A's. Once that happens, I couldn't let it slide. Now there's a bar. I began to expect it from myself.

So here I was. In seventh grade. High personal academic expectations, drama skills I wanted to retain and continue to develop, and beginning to think about what the hell I wanted to do for the rest of my life. That's when I started thinking about the law.

But what does a middle school student know about the law? I know what I saw on LA Law and on Night Court. They both looked like fun. You get to stand up, talk, and even resolve some problems. I knew you had to go to school for a while to be a lawyer, but I liked school now, so that's wasn't a problem.

Then I started looking for something to do that would get me ready for law. I learned that to be a lawyer, you have to be good at arguing, so I got into debate. However, my love of drama kept me into the speech side of "speech and debate," rather than the nitty-gritty, research-heavy, flow-sheet-crazy, argue-until-you're-blue-in-the-face debate side of "speech and debate." Oh yeah...and the girls in the speech events were much cuter.

When I got to college, I immediately sought out speech. My university had a speech and debate program that offered me the opportunity to compete in a way I had never before and, in time, my new team became my family away from my family. And even to this day, my coach remains my other mother. But, I spent nearly every weekend with my team, whether it was competing or partying on a bye week. But speech and communication (because, of course, I picked a major I thought would benefit me in law school) introduced me to a new love: Rhetoric.

Rhetoric was incredible. It had great thoughts from great minds and so much of it started with Aristotle. How cool is that? It's got to be cool if it's based on Aristotle! In this new and exciting world of rhetoric, I looked at communication events and determine why they were successful or unsuccessful by looking at communication models and offered my own thoughts and opinions on why the communication events successfully or unsuccessfully met the models and produced an expected or unexpected result. And every once in a while, I would suggest improvements to the communication models as well.

Yeah, I loved it. But I had planned to go to law school and, while I loved rhetoric, it was only a step in the chain to being an attorney.

And, after a major and a thesis in the subject, I said goodbye to rhetoric when I left undergrad. After all, thanks to my interest in rhetoric and my strict attention to my other college grades, I had law school in front of me. And I was elated with law school. Because I loved it.

In law school, I discovered the rules that made everything work. Suddenly, phrases I thought I understood, like "corporation" or "option" or "property" or "contract" or "crime" or "enumerated powers" had different meanings. I learned this amazing and wonderful historical process by which we have govered ourselves. And I can still remember the day in law school when I had the epiphany that these grandiose governmental institutions, Congress, the President, the Judiciary, the State Legislatures, the Governor, are all really the same thing: People. People who, despite their many differences, are all committed to the same values. Freedom. Justice. The Rule of Law. And I realized that these words, concepts I simply accepted my entire life, were both newly mysterious and exceedingly precious. They offer so much and can be lost so quickly. To hear someone say that is one thing. To truly, actually, realize it for yourself....well, that's another.

But when I left law school, I began to realize that the beautiful, raw, unadulterated body of law that I loved in law school was gone. I was dealing with problems, lots of them. And no one cared about these grandiose legal concepts that I had loved to discuss with my classmates in law school. People only cared about a legal concept if that concept got them to where they wanted to be. And the development of the law wasn't a concern, it was an argument to give to a judge for the benefit of a client paying in six-minute increments. I discovered, in practice, the law was something entirely different.

So, I've been trying to learn how to practice this profession and trying to determine if I enjoy it. So far, I can't say I do. I don't like the gamesmanship, the emphasis on speed rather than thoughtful deliberation, the information overload, and the lies. Especially the lies. The lies are a spit-in-the-face of the honorable profession that I signed up for. Add that to the fact that even in public practice, "the law is a jealous mistress" and, yeah, I've got doubts. In fact, I think, right now, doubts are about all I have. Well, doubts and stress.

I thought moving to the public sector would give me a little more time, but it hasn't. I'm working the same hours and sometimes more hours...ten to eleven a day, and most weekends. But the stakes are higher and the salary is lower. And I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss my blog.

But above all, I wonder. I wonder if the first answer was the right answer and my childhood love of dinosaurs would have been a source of lifelong fulfillment. I wonder if my affinity for math was a guide to a profession I gave short shrift. I wonder if I should have gone for a Ph.D. in Rhetoric. I wonder if I should have looked for other passions that I may not have recognized before. I wonder if I put something into my head in seventh grade and ignored anything that may have told me different. But most of all, I wonder whether I let my free will turn me away from my destiny. Whatever that destiny may be.