A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-October, 1991

by Richard Grayson

Monday, October 14, 1991

4:30 PM. I still had cramps from the stomach virus today, but no diarrhea, which may be a result of the medicine (Kaopectate and Imodium) I’ve taken. But I got through the day taking it easy. I didn’t have a lab this morning, of course, and I didn’t go to a C-10 tutorial, nor did I rush back to school for a study group session.

I just attended my classes and after Torts, went with a group of students and Dowd to a place outside where she helped us process the Thomas hearings and the issue of sexual harassment, which is Dowd’s specialty.

Like her and most of the students there (who were women), and unlike the majority of Americans, I believe Anita Hill’s charges. Dowd said they’re consistent with the sexual harassment cases she’s dealt with, notwithstanding the lack of corroboration by other female staffers of Thomas.

It will probably be a very close vote in the Senate tomorrow night. I’ve tried to call Bob Graham’s office – he’s still undecided – but all the Capitol Hill circuits are overloaded, and the phone at his Miami office has been busy every time I’ve tried it.

After Jurisprudence, since we’re dealing with natural law, I showed Collier an article on the subject I’d taken from the Times on the Thomas hearings last month, and he took it for xeroxing. I spoke briefly with Michael K, whom I truly like and wish I had time to get to know better. If he’s gay, I’m sure he’s got a boyfriend because he’s too neat not to have one, but I’d just like to be his friend.

Costas went to Miami on Saturday, and Dan says he’s having marital problems and may be dropping out. Anyway, enough about law school.

When I discovered last night that my parents won’t be going to New York City, I decided to book a flight for myself to New York on December 17, the Tuesday after finals end.

I’ll fly on a Delta jet from Gainesville Regional Airport – I made clear I didn’t want one of their commuter flights – to Atlanta, change plans for LaGuardia, and be in Queens that afternoon.

That’s only two months from now, really, or nine weeks from tomorrow. I assume I can still stay in Rockaway. If not, I’ll ask Teresa, Ronna or Alice if I can visit, or I’ll ask Pete I could stay at his place while he’s in the Far East.

I booked a return trip for Monday, January 6, the day before registration, giving me three weeks in the city. In one respect, I’d like the time to relax here in Gainesville, but it’s important to me to see Grandma Ethel and my friends, renew my ties with New York City, and realize I have a life away from law school.

It’s costing me $290 in nonrefundable tickets, which I charged to Diners Club.

Right now I feel more relaxed; it was good to get back in the groove, and I’m relieved I didn’t feel sick in my classes. (Before class, I had told Dowd I was ill so I felt comfortable because she’d know if I left in the middle.)

I’ve been eating only cooked vegetables, not salad. It’s odd, but on Thursday night I decided I needed to lose weight, so I’d planned to cut down on my food intake before I got sick.

Basically, I can relax for the rest of the day, and I need to take time to do that.

Tuesday, October 15, 1991

4:30 PM. Last evening Dad called to tell me Ron Ishoy used the Gainesville Sun clip I’d sent him in his Miami Herald column; Mom is mailing me a copy.

I did my Crim briefs for the week, and tonight or tomorrow morning I need to work on Civ Pro. I’m far ahead in the reading, but I need to brief cases on class action suits.

I slept fine, dreaming of visiting Harold in Minneapolis and seeing the community college where he works. I had some cramps this morning, but basically I’m beginning to feel better.

I skipped the C-10 again today, and although my grades may drop, I don’t care; I’m willing to see myself as a C student. Two months into law school, with two months till finals are over, I can already see past this term and the spring.

The summer will be different since most people won’t be here at law school, and then, next fall, I won’t be in the law school but grad school. So already I feel liberated knowing that this is just a temporary interlude in my life, not the preparation for a career that it is for my 22-year-old classmates.

Classes went okay today, and in Jurisprudence we had a lively discussion over natural law in the 1872 Bradwell case, in which the Supreme Court decided it was against nature for women to be lawyers. Then we got into the Cruzan right-to-die case.

Lorraine seems especially upset by the Thomas nomination. She’s one of the few liberal Democrats at law school, and she said that’s why she hated teaching high school in Brevard County so much: “My students were little Nazis.”

Doug G, on the other hand, expressed amazement that anybody would consider Democrats to be credible, Peter Arnett not to be a traitor, or Reagan and Bush not to be the best presidents ever.

He’s typical of most of the young students, and as I said to him, I understand it, kind of. He’s a product of his generation and background, just as I am of mine – except I’ve seen more of the world. (Doug actually believes the recession ended months ago.)

Nothing, especially not Thomas’s expected confirmation coming in a few hours – I watched some of the Senate debate at home and in school – does anything to dissuade or dispel my fantasy of one day leaving the U.S.

Gainesville may not be Barcelona, but at least for now I’m learning to live in a place by myself, to create a routine in a new city, to make friends. It’s a first step, right? In ten years I should be ready to move to Europe by myself, but a lot has to happen – I have to make it happen – between now and 2001.

Wednesday, October 16, 1991

9 PM. I’m tired now, but I may be too excited to sleep. Not that anything amazing has happened; I just feel good. Physically, for one thing. I didn’t have stomach trouble today. Last night I’d read ahead in some of my texts, and I also looked at hornbooks and outlines. Up at 6 AM, I exercised.

At school by 8 AM, I read the Times in the library while sitting next to Darin. You know, he’s not half-bad looking. To me, it’s obvious he’s gay, but I don’t think he knows it yet; he’s a Mormon or something fundamentalist, I suspect. But he’s very smart, and I’m sure he’ll do just fine as he gets older.

The Times was filled with names of my contemporaries and old acquaintances.

Jay Hershenson at CUNY was commenting on a disputed election for head of the University Student Senate, his old position back when I was the senator from Richmond College in ’73-’74.

Kevin Essig, the first boyfriend of Ronna’s college friend Felicia, was at the Supreme Court as a New York State Assistant Attorney General, arguing with Justice Scalia as Kevin defended the “Son of Sam” law preventing criminals from getting profits from books about their crimes.

George Schweitzer, my friend from tenth grade at Franklin School, was quoted in the business section in his role as CBS’s senior vice president of communication.

I guess people I know, people of my generation, are moving into positions of power. Speaking of which, I was sorry to hear from Bob Miller that the official recount showed him 181 votes behind Councilman Dear. Bob asked for more money – the campaign is in debt – but $10 was all I could afford to send him. More than I could afford, actually.

We had Torts and then Crim Law one right after another, and then I went home and had a quick lunch before getting a haircut and returning to school.

You know how they say law profs always spot the least prepared student in the room to call on? Because I looked at Karin’s notes from Friday’s Civ Pro class and saw that we started to cover a case, I never bothered to brief it.

So of course I hear Mashburn call “Mr. Grayson” and my heart beats so loud I think the whole class can hear it. I fumbled a little, made one error of fact, and then saved myself at the end with an intelligent comment.

Finally she left me and went on to the next case, calling on Karin with just ten minutes left to class. Both Karin and I were giddy with excitement and relief as we went over our notes with the study group. Dan was out sick this morning but returned for Civ Pro, and Todd said he saw Costas in Torts; however, nobody else saw him, and he wasn’t in the other classes.

Before we parted today, I gave Karin a bunch of my old newspaper and magazine clips, and I hope she gets a laugh out of them.

At 4 PM we finished, and I did some shopping at Publix. Dean Kent wrote that my status is straightened out and he told me that I could apply for an assistantship, but that money was problematic, given the budget cuts.

I filled out the application and wrote a cover letter, which I printed out along with a curriculum vita and some other supporting material I’ll xerox at school.

Calling Ronna, I learned she likes her job at Hadassah. She no longer feels underpaid although she may be more overworked. Ronna prefers working on Central Park South to Washington Heights, of course.

I was sorry to hear that she and Ralph are now seeing other people – although they were going together tonight to hear Rabbi Harold (When Bad Things Happen to Good People) Kushner lecture at the 92nd Street Y. She said their relationship hadn’t been going anywhere and they could have kept on, but she feels she can’t drag her feet at her age.

Too bad: I like Ralph. Of course I also I liked Jordan and Steve and all of Ronna’s other boyfriends; except for me, she always had good taste in men. I told Ronna I’d see her in December.

Thursday, October 17, 1991

6 PM. Once again I thought I might go out this evening – there’s a fiction reading at the English Department – but once again, I’m too exhausted. As I expected, last night my high level of excitement led to poor sleep; the noisy party upstairs didn’t help.

Just about all of the University and Gainesville are off tomorrow for the Homecoming festivities, including a big parade and the Gator Growl at night – but not law school classes. In fact, because Nunn scheduled a double session to make up for some days he’s taking off in a couple of weeks, I’ll have three classes instead of two.

On the other hand, in two weeks I won’t have Crim Law on Thursday and Friday, and I don’t have Legal Research and Writing that Thursday, either, so I’ve got two days when I won’t have to be in school till the afternoon.

I spoke with Lorraine before class; she hadn’t realized I was a “real” writer until I showed her my Contemporary Authors bio. I xeroxed material to send with my application for a graduate assistantship, and then went to Legal Research and Writing.

I feel fairly confident about the second half of our legal memo, and I plan to do a first draft this weekend. The first draft isn’t due till a week from Monday, but I’m trying to get things done ahead of time.

My other classes today were fine, although Mashburn and Collier seemed uncharacteristically giddy as we went over the Hansberry case in Civ Pro and the Cruzan case in Jurisprudence.

Costas dropped out and returned to Miami today. Dan said Costas had been coughing up blood, so he got a medical leave of absence and a refund of his tuition. Costas’s old boss will give him his job back, so he’s in pretty good shape, but we’ve lost one of our study group.

At least one or two other students in our section have also dropped out. Me, I can see the light at the end of the semester. Two months from today I’ll be in New York City, and six weeks from today it will be Thanksgiving and just before the start of finals.

Today was so chilly I had to wear my blue jacket this morning; the dungaree jacket wasn’t warm enough. Evidently the last time I wore the blue jacket was on my birthday, for I found a Green Bus Lines transfer dated June 4; that must be the day I left Rockaway to meet Mikey for lunch and spend the evening with Ronna.

When I heard today’s date on the radio this morning, I realized that today is twenty years to the day when I broke up with Shelli. Actually, we had already broken up and she was seeing Jerry. Unable to stay away from Shelli, I visited her and we ended up having sex, after which she told me she was sleeping with Jerry.

If I’d known that, I probably wouldn’t have gone there, and I certainly wouldn’t have gotten sexually involved with her. But then again, I’ve run away from sexual relationships most of my life, and I’ve used – among other things – the hurt I felt in the fall of 1971 as an excuse.

Still, as depressed as I was twenty years ago, at age 20, it turned out to be a healing time in my life. I got into herbs, tried to make new friends and develop a way to be by myself. Maybe in the last, I succeeded too well.

Thinking about Ronna, I wonder if she isn’t a lot like me in avoiding relationships. Unlike me, she certainly does see guys, but they never manage to get together in the permanent way she says she wants. Oh well. Look at how Alice still can’t move, how Teresa doesn’t progress in her career or love life, how we all seem to be stuck in self-limiting patterns.

At least in 1991, I took the risk of moving to Gainesville and starting law school.

Friday, October 18, 1991

6 PM. Today the entire university except the law school was off, and when I left the house at 9 AM after exercising and eating breakfast, I noticed heavy traffic on University Avenue as the floats for the Homecoming parade were getting set up in the parking lots by Florida Field and the O’Connell Center.

It looked as though most of the second- and third-year students skipped class today, but our section had a double dose of confusion with two hours of Nunn and Criminal Law.

As he stumbled through trying to explain criminal attempt, Angelina and Karin were marking off on a piece of paper the number of times he said “uh,” Gene fought to stay awake, and in the back row, students were playing turkey bingo.

After I learned that during the break, I stopped raising my hand. The reason I volunteered to talk earlier was to stave off boredom. But I don’t want to be one of the five turkeys – students who talk in class – on some guy’s “bingo card.” (The first person to cross off all five students on his list wins.)

Everyone resented being at school today and some of the younger guys were in a state of impatient giddiness by the time Civil Procedure rolled around.

I ate lunch with Dan and Emira. Like me, Dan also declared bankruptcy last winter and said he didn’t mind admitting it because I’d already talked about it. Apparently he and his wife had humongous medical bills when their daughter was hospitalized for months. He’s moved around a lot, living not only in Union City, N.J., and Tampa, but also in New Orleans for three years.

Dan went to Tampa this weekend, and everybody else either also went home or is planning a big night at Gator Growl, the biggest university entertainment extravaganza in the county.

Kenny K and Doug K both asked if I was going, but I told them I was too old. Actually, it would be interesting, but I’m too tired and don’t want to spend the money.

Grateful I found a parking space in our lot when I came home at 3 PM, I’m trapped for the weekend as hordes of out-of-towners descend on Gainesville. There’s a big afternoon football game tomorrow.

Anyway, I’ve read the newspapers. Justice Thomas was sworn in today three days after his 52-48 Senate confirmation. In a move that will affect me more personally, by just two votes the Senate failed to override Bush’s veto of the extension of unemployment benefits.

The President is talking up the improvement in the economy, but I can’t say anyone else sees much of a recovery. The economic statistics are mixed, but mostly negative, and people are very pessimistic.

Dad said he expects a lousy Christmas shopping season, but of course his department store business has nearly disappeared anyway. This weekend all the Jordan Marsh and Maas Brothers stores – the ones that are still left – became Burdines as the latest fallout from Campeau’s leveraged buyout disaster.

I’ll never forget that dinner we had a midtown Japanese restaurant last summer when Bert Stratton’s Japanese investment banker friend told me what a great deal Campeau’s leveraged buyout was. Sure, for him: he got all those fees.

But the guy is probably out of work by now anyway. Still, who knows?

Sunday, October 20, 1991

3:30 PM. I haven’t done any work today, but I do feel like a human being. I’ve just returned from McDonald’s on 13th Avenue, where I had the luxury of sitting at a table and eating a McLean Deluxe as I watched young people pass on the street.

I even saw a guy I knew from law school, from my Jurisprudence and Legal Writing classes, who said hello. It’s a gorgeous fall day: about 78°, perfect weather, really.

I went out early to shop at Albertsons and Mother Earth, the health food supermarket, and then I went out again, taking a drive to see if I could find the Alachua County Health Department, where I’m supposed to get my flu shot early tomorrow morning.

Out at 8 AM to get the paper, I thought about how peaceful it is here compared to crazy New York. And then, after I put twelve quarters in the vending machine and got my New York Times, I was stopped by a Hispanic man on a bicycle who asked me, “Do you know that the floodlights in this neighborhood have led to the extermination of Juan Miguel?”

“Why, that’s. . .” and I was about to say “terrible,” but then I realized that this loco might think that Juan Miguel’s extermination was a good thing, so I said, “Why, that’s remarkable,” a more neutral word.

Then, walking up 17th Street, I saw the old black homeless woman with the shopping cart, whom I’ve seen many times. She walked over and picked up soda and beer cans from last night’s celebrations, although God knows what she’ll do with them since Florida doesn’t have a can and bottle deposit law.

Before I reached home, on the next block, I encountered a disheveled woman doing the rhumba as she walked down the street, and when I got home, I decided Gainesville isn’t all that different from New York City.

Teresa and I spoke for an hour. She bought a 1992 Ford minivan with the help of a loan from “the Bank of Grandma,” and she’s using Brian’s mother’s permit to bring it onto Fire Island.

Trying to clean up her rental house in Fair Harbor, Teresa isn’t sure where she’ll move to next. She spends her nights with Brian, who’s got the old bed from 85th Street.

That apartment is sublet, happily, but Teresa’s Oyster Bay tenant moved out abruptly when he lost his job (or said he did), and she feels she doesn’t want to spend the large amount of money on the rent for that house.

“Right now everything is up in the air,” Teresa said, and she’s not sure where she’ll be living and if Brian will ever make a commitment. She doesn’t have much catering work, apart from several parties and three receptions she’s doing for the U.S. Mission to the UN.

When I told her I’d be up in late December, she suggested we might drive back together. Teresa would like to spend January in Florida, and her visiting me here in Gainesville could either be fun or a disaster.

Probably she’d spend most of her time in warmer places – at the beach on the Gulf Coast with her family.

I read most of the Times; Neal Gabler had a great piece about American life as showbiz entertainment. I’d hoped to get my memo started, but we will see. . .

Monday, October 21, 1991

8 PM. Leaving the house at 7 AM in the darkness of night, I rode the deserted streets, getting an AM news station from New Orleans on the car radio. (David Duke got in the gubernatorial runoff with Edwin Edwards and may be become Louisiana’s Nazi/Klan governor.)

I didn’t have to wait long at the Board of Health, and I got my flu shot – I barely felt it – and paid $5, a great bargain. My arm is slightly sore now, but at least I’ve immunized myself against the flu.

School went fine today, although it was a long day. On campus at 8 AM, I read much of the Times, and in Torts we covered prenatal damages. I stayed for Jed’s C-10 tutorial as we went over a hypo. Actually, I find the hypos intellectually challenging and I like trying to spot issues and analyze the reasoning in applying the rules.

I can see how some students may know cases down pat and have complete mastery of black-letter law yet still screw up their exams. In any event, I plan not to succumb to paranoia and panic. In Civ Pro, I’ll be happy with a C, and if I can get two B’s out of my five classes, I’ll be satisfied.

Contracts was okay, and afterwards Todd, Dan, Emira, Karin and I went over the day’s notes. It’s odd not to have Costas in our group because in a lot of ways he seemed like the linchpin. I’m the only one of the five of us who volunteers in class, but they often seem to have a better grasp of the issues than I do.

Home for lunch, I returned to school just in time for Jurisprudence, which nearly put me to sleep today. It wasn’t Professor Collier or his discussion of customs vs. law but my own exhaustion, and once I was back home, I fell into bed for an hour till I revived a little.

After I started working on my memo, I realized I needed three other cases, so I returned to law school, going there for the first time at night, and I xeroxed the cases from the reporters.

If I do an hour a day this week, I can probably finish the memo on the weekend without too much strain. I’ve done the Jurisprudence and Criminal Law reading for next week (we’ve got Crim only Wednesday that week) and we do have an extra hour because of the return to standard time.

At Eckerd Drugs I weighed myself (140!), took my blood pressure (115/70) and bought Bonine and shampoo. Three teenaged boys with skateboards came over and asked my advice on using some black hair dye, a Clairol product for women.

I felt like Quentin Crisp at the end of The Naked Civil Servant when suddenly it’s the 1960s and the outrageous clothes and styles he was scorned for wearing were suddenly the norm everywhere.

Twenty years ago, when I used Sun-In to bleach my hair blond – or orange – I couldn’t imagine every guy in his teens would someday be dyeing their hair and wearing earrings like these kids were. And these boys were lower-class Southerners, probably David Duke supporters.

Tuesday, October 22, 1991

1 PM. Last evening I listened to the second tape of four sides of T. Coraghessan Boyle’s East is East, a vibrant, funny novel that wickedly sends up life in an artists’ colony. Naturally, having been to MacDowell, Millay and VCCA, I got a big kick out of it.

Up at 6 AM, I exercised and put on shorts because it’s a bit milder today. School was okay this morning: a lecture on duties of landowners in Torts and stuff about liability for failed negotiations in Contracts.

I spoke with a lot of people, including Judy, Greg, Darin, Paul (I was surprised he knew my name) and others. Yesterday Lorraine showed me an article from Sunday’s Florida Magazine in the Orlando Sentinel: they used the reapportionment story I’d sent them and the article included new ideas, not just what was in the Gainesville paper, but stuff about Disney districts for Central Florida.

It seems as if those of us who’ve had experience teaching writing and publishing our own work – like Lorraine, Judy and I – are not doing well in Legal Writing. Well, I’ll try to map out an hour to work on the memo today; I’d really like to finish it by Friday.

Most of my classmates seem to be spending less time briefing cases now, and I’m doing my briefing just before class these days, although only after I’ve already read and highlighted the cases. The one habit law school has given me is that of reading with a yellow highlighting pen.

I’ll go back to school in an hour for Jurisprudence and our study group meeting to go over hypos. Right now I’ll stay here for a while and see if I can finish reading the Times.