Over a year ago, Lat and I had a good debate about whether a student already in law school should finish the effort or drop out and cut his losses.

Somewhat predictably, I advocated getting out while the getting was good.

I don’t know what happened to that student. But I recently came across a student who was a part of the class of 2010 and dropped out, voluntarily, in 2009. Yeah, I found a guy who saw the writing on the wall after the dark days of 2008, had the foresight and the bravery to quit throwing good money after bad, and left law school.

Sure, I found him now that he’s unemployed and literally running out of food as we speak. But that’s hardly the point. The point is that he’s doing something exciting with his life. The point is that he’s still alive, and still trying to make a difference in this world.

And trust me, if you ever are living in a world overrun by zombies, you’re going to want to make your way to this guy’s house. He’ll be prepared for the worst….

The man is named Johnpatrick Marr. He went to the University of Maryland Law School, but didn’t finish. His website is “The Baltivore.” He’s a foodie, or at least he wants to be. But it’s his latest project that got my attention. I’ll let him explain on his blog:

When I lived with my best friend (who has since gotten married and moved across the street), we’d spend commercial breaks during episodes of Wife Swap debating the finer points of our zombie survival plan. Whom in our building could we trust? Should we collapse the stairwell and make a rope-ladder? Could we move into the Agora Publishing building across the street with its high stone walls? There was one question, though, that especially intrigued me: how long could we survive on the food we have in our home right now?

Smash cut to three years later when I’m nostalgic for plenty of reasons: it’s Halloween and zombies are still so in, my best friend is going to court for a restraining order against his former spouse and I’m unemployed for the first time since young adulthood. In other words, I’ve been presented with the perfect opportunity to see how many licks it takes to get to the center of the proverbial Tootsie Pop. If this were a darker situation, the Tootsie Pop would be a metaphor for my eventual starvation, but I’m living in a major urban center and come from an upper-middle-class family so really the worst-case scenario is landing on my parents’ front steps in rural Massachusetts.

That sound you heard was Morgan Spurlock screaming, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

It’s a great idea. In disaster movies, there’s always the obligatory scene of people cleaning out a store of its canned goods. But when the apocalypse does come, there’s not going to be time for all that. Are you prepared right now to survive?

Marr has simple rules for his experiment/training:

1). I will spend no money on feeding myself (since that money should go towards rent for as long as possible) until I either find a job or am in actual danger of malnutrition. I say myself, because my cat should be exempt from this. I will continue to buy her food for as long as possible, although since I can’t bring her home she’s really in more dire straights than I am.

2). Anything I find or have already paid for is fair game. This isn’t a true end-of-the-world survival scenario, because I already own some Groupons, and pre-paid for three more weeks of my One Straw Farm CSA. These factors should artificially extend the amount of time I can eat out of my home.

So, however long he lasts, add two or three days because in a real survival situation he’d have cat meat.

Obviously, I was intrigued by how this guy went from being a 1L at Maryland Law in 2007 to a zombie preparedness expert in 2011. Luckily, he was able to answer a few of my questions over email. First and foremost, I wanted the gory details about why he got out of law school:

I attended UM Law from 2007 to the very beginning of 2009 and then extricated myself from legal academics. 2008 was a period of economic freefall as we all remember vividly and one of the first years in any of my colleagues’ memories that students who had been accepted into Law Firm position for the summer were being told they no longer had a job for the summer or after graduation. We were offered free access to crisis counselors. I chose to leave and not throw any more good money after bad. I’ve had some good jobs since then, although becoming a teacher in Baltimore City Public Schools was disastrous. My two closest friends who went on to finish law school are working part time as a document reviewer and consignment shop clerk, respectively.

Is that a Pryzbylewski reference?

Seriously, one of the most satisfying things about getting out of the legal racket (whenever you choose to exit) is looking back at your friends. Some of them are doing cool things; some of them are making more money than you. And some of them are working in a consignment shop. There but for the grace of God.

It’s not like what legal training he received has evaporated. But there are few law skills Marr can bring to bear on his current project:

Law School bestowed some serious life skills on me, although going without food was NOT one of them. Career fairs, firm visits, mixers: food was thrown at me constantly. If anything, I am less prepared for the zombie apocalypse because I feel that I’m owed a free lunch just for showing up somewhere in a suit. Sleep, on the other hand, I can do without.

Eventually, though, Marr will have to earn a living. I asked him if this project or this blog could be a beginning to something that would give him enough cash to purchase fresh food items:

There are two outcomes to my current situation as I see it. Three if you count me being destitute in about five months, but I’m optimistic enough to rule that out. I’ll either get a job that’s not ideal, selling centrifuges is a particularly likely scenario at the moment. Or I’ll get an ideal job. Ideal jobs for me would include anything related to food or health policy: Communications Coordinator for Planned Parenthood, rolling out one of University of Maryland’s new initiatives. Clearly I’m never planning on making the big bucks. If I don’t get an ideal job I’ll be applying to fully funded PhD programs for Psychology. I may be optimistic, but not enough to think it’s worth paying for any degree program.

This guy is my hero. Destitute, or doing something he loves; do or do not, there is no try. Either way, he’s not falling for the advanced degree lotto again. This project is about testing himself and maybe entertaining others. He’ll not be taking food away from anybody who needs it:

I’m interested in how freegans in Baltimore live. I’d like to find and interview some dumpster divers for this project. I’m looking into how easy it is in this city for students to get food stamps. I think these are interesting and relevant issues. While my situation is real and tenuous, I think I’d be competing with people who really need the money if I were panhandling or going to the soup kitchen. I’d still like to visit the local soup kitchen for this project, though.

There are real world applications of what Marr is doing that go beyond getting ready for the zombie horde. Like all self-imposed hunger games, the project should raise awareness about what happens to people who are really trying to eek out a meal in a society of plenty:

I specialized in public health at UMD Law and worked in the Tobacco Legislation Clinic for my Practicum. I was hoping to apply the lessons of legal battles with Big Tobacco to Genetically Modified Food labelling and related issues. I’m trying to understand why it’s so hard for low income families to eat healthily and what this means for our society. I’m a huge proponent of the slow-food/whole food/farm-to-table/urban homesteading movements and I’d like to increase awareness about these as well. I think what I’ll illustrate is that even though my situation is superficially similar to other disadvantaged people, my education and social access gives me a far better outlook. Like I said, there’s only so far I can fall. I think we need to be real about that, and I think law students especially need to be real about that. There’s a value to our social status and education even without the economic opportunities we previously enjoyed. It’s all about access.

Yep, to keep ahead of the curve during a zombie apocalypse (a.k.a. the current American economy), you’re going to need more… BRAINS.

The Hunger Games or: Some People Have First World Problems [The Baltivore]

Earlier: Cut Your Losses, or Finish Law School? An ATL Debate


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