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Eastbound and Down?

October 27, 2012

Because I don’t pay to park downtown I typically have to park a few blocks away.  I don’t really mind the walk, but the tradeoff is that for every block I drive east or south, the seedier things seem to get. 

Our campus sits on a rather socioeconomically precarious lot.  Sometimes it seems too easy to forget about our surrounding East Village neighborhood, ignoring the unsavory elements that seem to proliferate here.  The contrast can be quite striking and takes little venturing from the comforts of our sleek and sophisticated bubble of 1155 Island Avenue.  Hours are spent each day discussing cases in our streamlined classrooms yet it is often in the two or three blocks walking to my car where I am able to actually see the various legal issues presented in our casebooks play out in real time. 

“You straight?” is a question I’m consistently asked when walking to my car. The question does not have to do with my sexual orientation.  I am pretty sure I’m being asked whether I want to purchase drugs, but I don’t really know that for sure – it is an inference from the context.  The scenario reminds me of the discussion of criminal conspiracy and how to analyze the particular communications in question.  I reply with an, “I’m good,” and continue on my way.  I also routinely hear, “Cigarettes?” and this is phrased in such a way as to be understood as a sales pitch.  I also infer the cigarettes in question are contraband. 

Last year, I was still taking public transit, from within a trolley car I witnessed an assault on the corner of Island and Park. Three men jumped another man, kicking him in the head while he was on the ground.  I thought about somehow trying to get off the moving trolley and interjecting myself into the situation, but instead just watched.  The truth is I did not want to get involved and was somewhat thankful that I was witnessing this from a moving trolley.  I felt guilty about that and I suppose I still do. 

People routinely ask me for money when I go to the 7-11.  Maybe they see my Apartment 9 dress shoes that I bought on sale at Kohls and think I have it made or maybe they just ask everyone who passes them on the street.  There is one woman that has approached me on several occasions.  I do not think she remembers having asked me for money before.  She gives me the same spiel each time about how and why she needs money for food. I really do not believe her, there is something in her routine that seems too staged and rehearsed.  She did not sell me on her plight well enough and I find myself thinking about how she could have maybe won me over had she been more genuine so that I could have actually empathized with her.  This is the type of emotional appeal a good trial lawyer must make to a jury.

There are far more instances I could speak of, some probably more interesting, some less.  These various encounters are a regular reminder that for better or worse we are a part of this community.  TJSL has not called the East Village home for very long, but already it is clear from the school’s enriching activities and events that we are a positive contribution to a neighborhood that is doing what it can to survive these tough economic times.