My colleague recently confided in me that after a long and successful career in her industry, she was packing up and going to law school to try a second career. I started asking her questions about what schools she was looking at, casually leaving out what schools I was interested in when I applied to law school years ago.
“You wanted to study law? Why didn’t you go?” she asked. I offered an explanation as to why I didn’t go: I had spoken to a couple of lawyers who advised against it due to work-life balance issues and I changed my mind or something. That’s not why I didn’t go, but she definitely didn’t get in touch to hear the real reason: After studying for the LSAT for months, doing fairly well at the LSAT, completing my applications and essays, lined up my transcripts and did anything but hit the submit button, I didn’t go to law school because John Turturro told me not to do it.
It’s no secret that we live in a time when people are giving up their lives, quitting their jobs en masse, and going down paths they’ve always wanted to go but were afraid to take In front, and just doing some wild life moves all around. Some of it has a great fuck it energy; much of it comes from a full-and-can’t-take-anymore vibe; and a bit is reserved for those who just want to sell NFTs or pursue a substack hold. It’s been dubbed ‘The Big Layoff’, and while employers initially saw this as a slip-up among ungrateful employees who were sure to soon face financial ruin and crawl back, this era still seems to be on the rise. (I promise this isn’t a reflection on The Great Resignation; there’s been enough of that. You’re safe here.)
About a decade ago, I was fully immersed in all the necessary steps that someone who isn’t Kim Kardashian must take to begin the process of becoming a lawyer: namely, going to law school. It was also around this time that I found myself in a Brooklyn bodega picking up groceries when I heard that extremely familiar but elusive voice a few aisles down. I know that voice I thought, How do I know this voice?
There’s a checklist that feels a lot New York, although we probably don’t have exclusive rights to it, among people in their 20s trying to figure out why someone looks familiar. Have I gone to college with this person, have I met this person, have I met this person at a party, is anyone I know dating this person, is it this waiter from a place near this other location, is it a famous person, oh my god, have I met a famous person? But that was such a distinctive voice that it was driving me insane not being able to place it. The voice also moved through the bodega fairly quickly. Finally, I set up the correct navigational calculus and fixed my gaze on him: Standing in front of me was John Turturro with what appeared to be a teenager, who I assumed was his child. I was a little disappointed in myself for not immediately recognizing his voice because I adore John Turturro. I’ve seen everything he’s ever done. I’ve watched his scenes over and over again as if they were reruns of sporting events, trying to break down what he’s doing and how he’s doing it. He single-handedly helped me bond with my father, who also loves John Turturro. In this house we love John Turturro.
So of course I said absolutely nothing to the man – partly because I didn’t even know what I would have said. Oh my god, my dad and I love you! didn’t seem like a valid enough post to justify interrupting someone spending time with their child. So I quietly collected that moment in my New York Encounters file, along with the 20+ times I and everyone else in Brooklyn saw Paul Giamati on the train and danced home to call my dad.
Later that week, I was walking around Manhattan with my filmmaker friend when he stopped mid-sentence, grabbed my arm and said, “Holy shit, that’s John Turturro.” Indeed, it was. We both stayed silent and wide-eyed as the actor walked past us, and as soon as he was out of earshot we squeaked in tandem. I told my friend that I had seen Turturro in Brooklyn two days earlier, and we agreed that it was a mathematically unlikely and delightful coincidence. I went home and called my father again.
A few days after the second Turturroing, I met up with a group at one of our favorite restaurants, which is in a great location in an inconveniently located part of Brooklyn, where I was living from at the time. I’ll spare myself the dramatic introduction: we’ve damn well taken a seat next to John Turturro. What the hell was going on?! I started broadcasting the other two encounters to our table in that terse, quick whisper that you do when you’re trying to be low key, but you end up attracting a lot more attention because it’s just a really weird way is to be. But again I said nothing to Turturro, for what could I say that would justify interrupting someone’s dinner? I love you, my father loves you, I was at the bodega the other day and I was on the street, remember? I didn’t even call my father afterwards, it was too much.
The law school I was most interested in at the time was NYU because it was local, familiar, had great law clinics, and one of my favorite professors taught there. I’I kept stopping in front of the NYU building where one of my graduate school classes was being held, and it reaffirmed how badly I wanted to go there. I loved everything about it. I could imagine being there. It just felt right in my stomach. And maybe they wouldn’t take me, but I couldn’t wait to apply. It was also a really nice day outside and I had nowhere to be, so I did one of my still favorite things to do in New York City: pick a direction and walk around and try to get lost.
When the weather is nice in Manhattan, stores often drag carts of goods onto the sidewalk; Some of them feel like proper outdoor facilities, but often it’s just a display rack of clothes, a table with some shit on it, or a box of books for dogs to pee in. Most restaurants and cafes have their outdoor areas fully packed, and conditions are ideal for an aimless wander. I’m usually pretty good at observing where I’m going and being hyper-hyper aware of my surroundings, because New York has that quirky little thing that if you’re not hyper-aware of your surroundings, you could die instantly . But I was caught up in my music or the twee movie in my head that I was now the main character in and I wasn’t looking in the direction my feet were moving. I slammed into the window in front of some sort of comic book store at full speed. It wasn’t until I pulled away that I realized I’d stumbled upon a cardboard cutout – a cutout of John Turturro as Jesus Quintana, of course The big Lebowski. This one broke me: I called my father.
I believe in woo-woo stuff, signs from the universe, greater meanings, ways of deciphering the impossibly vast yet mundane existence that lives. But at that moment, I felt like a dumb kid being given a Rubik’s Cube, or more accurately, I felt like I was being given a Rubik’s Cube. I needed a little hint here, like after watching Interstellar For the first time with a friend I agreed the storyline was perfect and flawless but if you had to explain it to someone who has never seen the movie and is also a baby what would you say the whole storyline would be points, Explanation of the characters and everything that just happened?
I’m a rare dreamer: This is important here because it means I usually remember my dreams. The night after the Papp Turturro incident, I fell asleep and had a dream for the first time in a long time – a dream in which something was happening. Against a black abyss, John Turturro’s floating head appeared to me and said, “Don’t go to law school.”
It was a lucid dream, as opposed to something deeper and more paralytic where you can’t participate and everything is happening to you and around you, so in it I replied, “What should I do instead?!” And Turturro just repeated, “Go not to law school.” The dream ended and I woke up.
Far be it from me to question John Turturro’s trial, but I will say that even many years later I feel that this was a deeply unhelpful delivery. For the sake of brevity, I’ll spare you the suspense here: I haven’t applied to any law school. I missed all deadlines and did not click submit on any of my completed applications. With no other direction or clue as to what to do instead, I walked away with no backup plan. Nor is this the part where I tell you about the illustrious different path my life has taken just because I didn’t go to law school; My life is mostly comfortable, quiet and small and mostly revolves around my dog. I went through a pretty big faux leather pants phase this past winter, though, for what it’s worth.
As I recently shared this story, someone asked me if I ever thought John Turturro was also thinking, “Why do I keep seeing this woman everywhere?” this famous man told me not to go to law school zero times. I can tell you with great certainty that this was a totally one-sided series of, let’s face it, mathematically impossible encounters that I’ve recently learned qualifies as some sort of parasocial relationship — essentially one-sided celebrity adoration. I’ll buy makeup because Rhianna makes it, perfume because Billie Eilish sells it, and pasta sauce because Paul Newman was the OG pasta daddy (sorry Stanly Tucci, you’ll do it in time). Why wouldn’t I give up my responsible, achievable, well-crafted life plans completely because John Turturro told me to?
I may have imploded my life because a random celebrity who has no idea I exist told me to do it in a dream. My only hope is that this isn’t any more stupid than any of the choices others have made about their lives. It has certainly caused me to withhold my judgment when I hear of the large, sudden, and hopefully chaotic human life upheavals of late. I’m not a lawyer because John Turturro told me not to be.
https://jezebel.com/john-turturro-told-me-not-to-go-to-law-school-1848775480 John Turturro told me not to go to law school