The final April Fool’s Day of the century.
At the time, I was living with my parents in Ohio. I had graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania in 1998, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life, so I decided to, as many such undecided people do, go to law school.
I was kind of not sure where I should go and what I should do; I could have gone to NYU and probably have become a Neutral Ground Demonic Attorney like Brook North, Eric Kesselman, and Rob Hahn before me. Or if I had gotten into Penn, I could have just pretended that I was still a senior or whatever, and just hung out with my same friends, who were all a year younger than I was.
However I forgot I had the LSAT one Saturday, on account of being confused about a PTQ date (they were both a Saturday). I didn’t do any LSAT prep and because I missed the first one, I only had one left to go. I had always done well on standardized tests, so it didn’t occur to me to do any prep with a program like Bell Curves (http://bellcurves.com) … But if I had, I probably would have swung like a 98 or 99%, which is consistent with every other standardized test I have ever taken in my life.
My advisor told me I could get into whatever program I wanted with a percentile score of 88%, so I really didn’t think that I needed to do prep. Where was http://bellcurves.com when I needed them?
So I was radically unprepared for the LSAT, which is an unusually specialized standardized test, and I scored a… wait for it… 86%. I subsequently didn’t get into any of the [highly competitive] schools I applied for, except the one where my dad was a professor (MBN / is).
Ultimately I topdecked a scholarship to law school, and decided to go in Cleveland, Ohio.
As you can see where my priorities were at age 22.
Anyway, that year I routinely won PTQs in various states and was just coming off a win in Detroit, MI the previous weekend, which was probably the only reason I was still alive.
Speaking frankly for a moment, I have talked a bit recently about this concept of enthusiasm. I am in some ways a chameleon who can get along with every kind of person but one (people who disagree with me AND are also stupid; I have no problems with people who disagree with me who are smart); however I just wasn’t in a good situation that year.
I was distant from almost all of my friends.
I played Magic like twice a week, but not often with anyone who I was that close with… I just traveled to faraway local stores for tournaments.
I did spend a lot of time in the Cleveland Museum of Art (which is actually an excellent art museum, and that is coming from a New Yorker who attends museums easily 20 times per year); but mostly I went home and ate three-pound bags of M&Ms and hung out with my mom, watching re-runs of The X-Files.
I was an erratic law student. Awesome or awful, depending on how much I personally identified with the subject. Property? Conspiracies? Acquiring stuff? A. Torts? Lamers and losers complaining about stuff and passing off their misfortunes to whoever happened to be standing in the room when something bad happened to them? C+ (or something… No recollection, actually). Writing? A. You get it.
So I never studied-studied, which is pretty consistent with how I have always approached school.
My dad taught me how to get an A in every class with objective answers, so I just used his method when I was not being too lazy (sadly I was too lazy a good percentage of the time); and never acquired less than an A- using this method.
I separately developed my own technique to get an A in every class with subjective criteria; remembered to use it for my Property final but somehow forgot to use it for my Torts final (I spit you not). Probably just lazy and / or completely disengaged from the idea of becoming an attorney.
I can’t think of any time in my life that I was less enthusiastic about my everyday than 1998-1999. I was basically enthusiastic about going to the movies (I saw literally every movie at the gigantic Cineplex in my parents’ neighborhood that year, up to and sadly including I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, which almost ruined me for movies before being rescued by Shakespeare in Love). 1998-1999 was some kind of year to watch literally every movie. There was Titanic (which I saw with the girl who told me to pick up and go to Chicago), and Rounders and Epidsode One (both of which I saw with an ex-boyfriend of hers).
And then there was April 1, 1999.
The new movie that I hadn’t seen was The Matrix.
I somehow hadn’t seen The Matrix yet – probably off winning a PTQ in another state. I decided to make it the cap on what was going to be a long day.
Now remember when I said that I was an erratic student?
I had like a huge paper due and a presentation the same day, but I had been busy testing for the Pro Tour over Apprentice and the academic obligations slipped my mind (I tested approximately 50 hours per week for Pro Tour New York 1999, once I qualified, despite being a full-time law student). If you peel back the point in time we were in, I had also just published a little article you may have heard of, “Who’s the Beatdown?”.
So I stayed up writing the entire previous night, but I knew I had to survive through the entire day to make my final, which was the last period of the day. So my solution was to drink coffee.
I know some of you think you have drunk coffee. However I doubt strenuously you ever had an April 1, 1999. I drank three pots of coffee that day. I was alert, I finished my paper, made it through the entire day, and felt absolutely bonzer the entire time!
And my reward at the end of the day…
… Was sold out.
This was The Matrix. Of course other people wanted to go.
The only available movie I hadn’t seen yet was Ten Things I Hate About You.
I absolutely loved it!
Ten Things I Hate About You featured the yet-to-be-discovered Heath Ledger and Julia Styles, a future multiple Emmy winner from The West Wing, and a Neutral Ground regular who would years later get to play opposite Zooey Deschanel. It was the whimsical retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, but with a charming cover of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”.
On three pots of coffee it was among the best movies I had ever seen (and remains one of my Top 10 favorite movies of all time).
How to Grow Taller:
Actually, there is very little in today’s adventure that can help you grow taller. Shorter, sure (drink coffee)… More flexible… Now we are talking.
I really wanted to see The Matrix, but I couldn’t. I could have just bailed, but ended up seeing an unanticipated movie I ended up loving.
How to Grow Darker:
Spill coffee all over yourself? Really… three pots.
April 1, 1999 was so not-dark it is almost un-possible to view it with a darkling eye. Like I said, I was riding high from a PTQ win, hopped up on caffeine, and ultimately plopped in front of a heartwarming, hilarious, and star-studded movie event.
How to Get More Handsome:
I said earlier in this post that winning PTQs was basically the only reason I was still alive at that point.
I was so consumed by apathy at my everyday life (I was really not loving law school) that I just had no interest in… Living? It turns out things get better. Lots better. It turns out that life is full of amazing opportunities and that you just have to open your eyes (maybe after a few pots of coffee) and look around.
The chief crime of most sub-optimal introverts is that their perspectives are too limited. Was life boring in 1999? Sure. Especially if I wanted to focus on something I didn’t enjoy, watching re-runs (and movies I for the most part didn’t like), and eating candy. But life was so much more, in so many more places. Life is boring, sure… But also exciting and sexy, engaging and ingenious. I have come to realize that the negative portions of life are a tiny minority of our potential experiences… But sure, if you only want to focus on one tiny part of life, it is certainly going to look glum.
You might as well say that life is all-joy, or all pain, that the government is entirely corrupt, or that we really can trust some of these politicians we elect. Every one of those statements is equally true… Depending on where you put your focus.
Equally true… or not.
For some years, I told everyone that April 1, 1999 was the best day of my life. I still can’t think about it without cracking a smile, to be honest.
But in hindsight, writing and reviewing these seven days from younger years, I find that the so-called best day of my life doesn’t hold a candle to 02/02/02, the births of either of my children, or that one surprise Ani DiFranco concert with John Shuler (later in 1999).
Probably that title — for I would guess it was apt when I so-Christened the day — was a product, itself, from a limited perspective.
Still, it will always have a special place for me.