09_2004_hanikhalil.jpgVitals:
Name: Hani Khalil
Age: 25
Occupation: Student at Rutgers School of Law
From where: Libertyville, IL
Reside in: Kips Bay
How long have you lived in New York: Four years

The Questions:
You came to New York straight after college with stars in your eyes and the gumption to make these mean streets work for you. Four years later, you’ve adapted pretty well and are still unashamed to be a Midwesterner. What’s one thing about New York that can’t hold a candle to the heartland?

One thing that always amazes me is how very short people's fuses tend to be out here. Today, for example, when I was swimming, a fellow in the lane next to me accidentally collided -- and not at a particularly fast clip -- with an old lady who was practicing her back kick using a board. A simple and honest mistake. It's a pool. In the city. Things tend to get a little crowded. I swear this old woman just totally blacked out on this guy. I mean, yes he should've watched where he was going, but it certainly didn't merit a "What the hell is the matter with you?" It's a hustle living out here, I realize that, and sometimes it gets the better of me. Maybe it's a product of aging, but I really don't look forward to the day when I begin seeing provocation in everything that happens to me.

I think a lot of folks out here, for whatever reason, internalize that hustle and just become instinctively nasty.

You’re a future lawyer of America, but without the aspirations to become one of the scum suckingambulance chasingdepraved normal ones (no offense to lawyers). You’re the head of your campus ACLU with past summer internships helping out at the Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project and Arab-American Family Center. Poor you, when your classmates are running around power-lunching and making cash hand over fist, you’ll be living pseudo-GOSPLAC style. But you’ve got your ideals! But enough with the cynicism, what made you want to become a lawyer?

I did International Relations in college (if I make it sound like drug abuse, it's only because the residual effects have proven to be probably just as beneficial to my career path as LSD), and eventually became interested in comparative governance and comparative normative orders. That's what laws, and legal systems, really are at the end of the day. I never harbored any aspirations a la L.A. Law or The Practice. In fact, the appeal of trial practice continues to elude me. But, I've always been interested in the scope, power, and formulation of laws; what they say about us, and to what extent we are shaped by them. This fascinates me and it's probably not the first thing you'll hear most law students say. Then again, I know people who practically get off on reading the Federal Rules of Evidence. No complaints here.

On your blog, you write in a dense erudite manner that is a throwback to the days when being urbane was a must, not a pretense. In keeping with that, you’re presently on the elusive search for the perfect vodka gimlet. Any frontrunners?

Well, let me start with one place you'll all do well to avoid: Zana on 30th Street. I ordered a gimlet there once. The bartender, after verbally acknowledging that I had, indeed, asked him to make me a gimlet, wound up serving me a Gibson. That's a dry martini with a cocktail onion in place of the olive. Sad to say, it wasn't bad. There are currently two frontrunners in my search: 1) Rue B, on Avenue B, mostly because they've had a lot of practice with me; and 2) 718 in Astoria, where they hand-squeeze the limes. One of the best new restaurants in the outer boroughs.

Half-Dozen:
Please share a personal (and hopefully interesting) NYC taxi story.

I spent a big chunk of June 2003 with my family on a cruise of the Mediterranean. There comes a time in every mid-20-year old where they realize that family vacations are simply not to be done...until they get kids of their own. After an especially harrowing experience just getting my parents back on the plane to Chicago, I picked up a cab (illegally) from the departure level and couldn't help but notice that the gentleman driving the cab was Egyptian. I started speaking with him in my admittedly weak Arabic and somehow, the discussion devolved into what a horrible job he thinks my parents must have done raising me. I think the low point was when he flat out said, "I don't want my kids turning out like you." Egyptians are, by nature, a pretty sarcastic bunch, but this guy was just ripping into me with full conviction. He also shared with me the philosophically objectionable pearl about how nothing you do in this life matters because we should all be living for "the day after the end". This might've been the time I contemplated just upping and leaving the cab without paying, except we were stuck in traffic on the Queensboro.

Favorite subway line:

The 7. For sentimental reasons. When I first moved to the city four years ago, I was living on my cousin's couch out in Fresh Meadows. I was so desperate to get myself onto Manhattan and the 7 was my umbilical cord to the island. I remember getting off at the wrong stop -- Bliss Ave maybe, I really can't recall -- and looking up at the skyline from there in the hot August sun and just standing in awe of the immense clusterfuck I had just committed myself to.

Also, the 7 train produced the best line ever uttered on public transportation: "Yo mamma ho'd herself to every dude in town before she went and sucked my daddy's dick!"

Best celebrity sighting in New York, or personal experience with one if you’re that type.

Growing up, I was subjected to a lot of repeat viewings of The Muppets Take Manhattan and assorted Woody Allen. I think, overtime, this is where I developed the notion of moving to New York at the earliest opportunity. You can imagine then, how weird it must have been to see Woody Allen crossing Lexington, Soon Yi by his side, as I left my first day on the job, only my third day in New York. I took from this some sort of strange comfort that all gestalt happens for a reason and that everything was gonna be okay in the end.

What’s the most expensive thing in your wardrobe?

A $1200 pinstripe suit I had custom tailored. The material came from a German manufacturer called Gaenslen & Volter. I had it made for an interview that, suffice to say, has yet to happen.

What’s your theme song on the streets?

It always changes, but "Theologians" by Wilco has probably been getting the most rotation on my iPod these past few months . . . the lines eerily relate to an incident between myself and a Union Seminarian from about two years ago.

I've been binging on Nina Simone lately, too, and she did this great cover once of Hall and Oates "Rich Girl". No story behind that, but I just can't stop listening. I'm sure it'll arc in a few days.

Most overrated trend/movement sweeping the city:

Livestrong. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that so many people are buying them and contributing to a great cause but I'm pretty physically active myself, my mother is a two-time cancer surivor, and I don't even have one...because they're all sold out...fuckers!

-Interview by Candice Holmes