Monday, March 27, 2006

You Can't Take It With You


One of my favorite feel-good movies of all time (I have a list of feel-demoralized movies too) is Frank Capra's You Can't Take It With You. I recently watched it again, and kept thinking of the Kelo eminent domain decision. But that is what law school does to you. It robs everything of its purely aesthetic value as you analogize everything to the law (since law school teaches you to analogize to everything) until you're muttering similies like so many cursed prayers under your breath. Law school also teaches you to go for easy to digest plattitudes like "I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it" and "with great power comes great responsibility." Oh wait, I learned that last one from Spiderman. But anyway, plattitudes are good. "You Can't Take It With You" is one of them.

In the movie, Jimmy Stewart plays the heir-to-be of a giant corporation owned by his father, played by Edward Arnold. The corp is in the business of buying up property from poor people and then redeveloping it (see the Kelo connection?). Complicating things is the fact that Jimmy Stewart is not terribly enthusiastic about the family business--he's only enthusiastic for his fiancee/stenographer (ah, the days before sexual harassment prophylactic policies) Jean Arthur (totally different than her role in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington). Complicating things further is that Jean Arthur lives with her zany clan in a house that Edward Arnold wants to buy. The clan is headed by the wonderful Lionel Barrymore (you may remember him as the evil Mr. Potter from It's A Wonderful Life) who collects stamps and plays the harmonica all day. Jean's sister makes and sells candy, which she calls "Love Dreams." Jean's brother-in-law makes explosive fireworks and unwisely decides to market them as "The Revolution" (ah, the Red Scare! The Eugene Debs era!). The zany clan (and the all-but-condemned house) grow to absorb other oddball characters, like a frustrated former bank clerk who leaves his job to make inventions. And this is the family that Jimmy Stewart wants to marry into. And this is the only house on the block standing in Edward Arnold's goal of redevelopment (and millions in wealth). Chaos, hilarity, broken hearts, reunited halves ensue. It's a great movie. The title? It's what Lionel Barrymore (what the heck happened to that great acting lineage) asks Edward Arnold in jail--why do you want to pursue wealth so much? What does it get you, other than bad health? Wasn't there a time of simple pleasures? Do you like playing the harmonica? Do you know Polly Wolly Doodle? And finally, Lionel Barrymore says it: "You can't take it with you, you know."

As you can see, I like Capra movies. They help me feel good again after I watch my feel-demoralized movies like any film based on an Andre Dubus novel. Capra movies are rich in simple morals and political references. Good things for a lawyer trained to remember 1) dont commingle client/personal funds and 2) always try to ruin a good aesthetic experience by comparing it with the law. Yet I am struggling with this particular moral.

It's not that I'm a gold digger or extreme wealth seeker. When a man picks me up for a date, I fail to notice the make and model of his car (I do notice if it's clean, but I figure that's just hygenics). I don't ask the man how much he makes. I don't notice the designer of his watch. Nor do I particularly care. I wonder if I should though, because what if one day I'm kidnapped and dumped somewhere and can't identify the car that took me? But anyway, I watch way too much Law and Order. But my real problem is that I'm a pack rat/bibliophile/clothes horse. Despite the fact (or maybe because of it) that I buy everything on sale or at steep Amazon.com discount, I have a lot of stuff. Most of my clothes I've owned since college, or even before. And growing up poor and with few possessions, you tend to want to keep it all and bring it all with you wherever you go.

I'm moving in 4 months and I am struggling with how much to bring with me. I am pretty well settled on Liberal College Town, despite the fact that this week I am waiting to hear the regrets from Elite Secret Society Law School and WASP-y Privilege Law School. The good thing about Liberal College Town is that it's a manageable road trip. So I can actually drive up a lot of my things rather than ship relatively few of my things. And despite bringing only half of my clothing and 10% of my shoes and purses (I am a girl, who went to bourgie metropolitan law school--sue me) I have a lot to bring up. Let me just make it clear: I'm higher maintenance than many (despite being Buddhist, I am not an ascetic) but a lot lower maintenance than every girl who would have disdained my Old Navy shopping habits (pretty much most of the girls at Bourgie Metro-Sexy Law School). So you know, I have a lot of stuff, and a lot of it I want to take with me.

So what am I bringing? Well, here's a few lists:

Things I never fail to bring with me no matter where I move:
  1. Framed pictures of family, kids, and friends
  2. Photo album with the same
  3. A figure of Buddha
  4. The Collected Stories of Flannery O'Connor
  5. The Collected Poems of T.S. Eliot
  6. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  7. The Workshop, a collection of Iowa Writers' Workshop short stories
  8. Books by David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, and David Rakoff (holla if you love This American Life)
  9. A few Calvin and Hobbes collections
  10. The Casebook of Hercule Poirot
  11. The Concept of Law by H.L.A. Hart
  12. Law's Empire by Ronald Dworkin
  13. The Morality of Law by Lon Fuller
  14. A scarf my sister knitted me
  15. A few pictures that the kids drew in which I made them write "I Love You, Aunt Belle" somewhere in the picture
New additions to this list since law school:
  1. Critical Race Theory, ed. Kimberle Williams Crenshaw et. al.
  2. Critical Race Feminism, ed. Adrien K. Wing, et. al.
  3. Race, Racism and American Law, ed. Derrick Bell
  4. Foundation Press' Turning Point Series books on Equal Protection (Louis Seidman) and The Commerce Clause (Dan T. Coenen)
  5. The Miner's Canary by Lani Guinier
  6. That stupid leather portfolio thing that you use in presentations
  7. A wheeled backpack
  8. A nice pen that costs more than a week's worth of groceries
  9. Something that gives me pure joy, so that I might endure the moments of abject sorrow inflicted by law school
  10. Advil

Of course, I'm bringing loads of research/books I've done this year on federalism and hate crimes laws, but that's too much to list. Besides, this is stuff I would take no matter what I was studying next year.

Movies I'm Packing:
  1. Roman Holiday
  2. Sabrina
  3. Breakfast at Tiffany's
  4. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  5. You Can't Take It With You
  6. Kung Fu Hustle
  7. Shaolin Soccer
  8. Mutual Appreciation
  9. Das Boot
  10. The Incredibles
  11. Star Trek TNG DVDs

(I would bring more, but I don't have any more movies, and because I have no money I tend not to invest in this medium since I'm actually trying to cut down on passive entertainment. (most of these movies were given to me) This by no means encompasses my excellent/eclectic taste in film, although it gives you an idea of where my tastes range. However, it does not tell you how much I like old westerns, action movies and Merchant-Ivory productions)

Greatest Invention Ever, Allowing Me to Leave All The CDs at Home:

My Ipod. It may be a first generation 4G mini that they don't even make anymore, but that combined with a decent hardrive and I don't have to buy/bring discs anymore. Again, I'm too poor right now to invest in a new one, and I have books I need to buy. A higher maintenance gal would go for the Gucci shoes or the blinged out Ipod. I demonstrate to you my nerd bona fides.

Signs You Are Growing Up, Or At Least Entering The Oxymoronic Parodoxical Universe of "Business Casual":
  1. You own at least 2 good suits and several button down blouses
  2. You own 6 blazers (outside of the suits) that can make any outfit lecturer-ready.
  3. You own a lot of panty hose. You actually wear panty hose.
  4. You own more slacks/khakis than you do jeans
  5. You own more twinsets than sweats
  6. You can't imagine moving anywhere without packing your suits and a good pair of pumps in case you have a conference/reception/roundtable to attend.
  7. You always pack a black cocktail dress "just in case"
  8. You own jewelry that wasn't purchased from a street vendor
  9. Casual to you means not ironing your jeans after they come out of the dryer.
  10. No one of consequence would ever catch you without brushed hair or subtle, profesional makeup.
  11. You own more than one fancy "I could buy groceries with what this cost" perfume.

Indications I'll Never Be an Ascetic:
  1. "Packing light" means only bringing up three pairs of black flats, one pair of dressy pumps, one pair of stilettos, two pairs of sneakers, one pair of boots, and three purses (from a collection that could multiply every one of those categories by 3)
  2. I can pack 9 pairs of khakis/slacks and still leave 5 at home for when I visit
  3. I am only bringing up 4 coats/jackets, and I own more than twice than that despite living in a very temperate climate.
  4. I have to choose between 5 pairs of pumps in deciding which one to pack.
  5. If a handsome Brit named Seamus offered to whisk me away that very moment to the moors of England to come live with him and be his love, I'd ask if I could go home and pack a few things. Like a few textbooks.

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