A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late January, 1992

by Richard Grayson

Wednesday, January 22, 1992

7 PM. Although today was a satisfying productive day, I’m already fading out.

Last night I spoke to Mom, who had been helping Dad at the Miami menswear show. She complained about Dad’s employers and the lack of business at the flea market but said everyone in the family is well.

Ronna called at 9 PM and we talked for half an hour. She still hasn’t shaken her month-long cold. Although she says she’s getting better, I advised her to begin taking vitamins and getting more sleep; Ronna admitted she’s been sleep-deprived.

She got my message about my good grades and was happy for me. When she told Jordan about my book award, he replied, “So what? I got four of them in law school.”

It’s horrible of me, but I take satisfaction if he’s annoyed by my grades. Three years ago, at Ronna’s Hanukkah party, when I predicted economic hard times and said it would hit white-collar professionals badly, Jordan scoffed and said I wouldn’t do well in a depression because as a writer and artist (well, he did give me credit for that), I didn’t “serve a socially useful function.”

I reminded him I was also a teacher and computer trainer but got the impression he felt that as a lawyer, he was far superior to me. While I don’t intend to make law my career, now I can become an attorney if I want to.

Still, I can understand Jordan’s feeling (and that of other friends, like Mikey or Scott – but not Kevin or Denis, who are also writers and teachers) that I’m encroaching on his field.

I fell asleep after finishing the three-hour tapes of Connie Bruck’s The Predators’ Ball, the book dealing with Michael Milken and the junk bond takeover artists of the 1980s.

How did these people ever think they could get away with it? Although I lived on credit cards and built up huge credit lines, I never for a moment forgot that it had to end sometime because my money was based on a mirage.

Also last evening, I got a call from MBNA, pleading with me to apply for a Gold MasterCard on the basis of my being “a student at one of the nation’s most prestigious law schools.”

I said I didn’t want a Gold MasterCard, didn’t need one, wouldn’t be approved for one, and finally, after the salesman persisted, I told him I had declared bankruptcy.

“Well, you could still give it a try,” he said, and that’s when I hung up. The guy must be paid by how many suckers he gets to apply.

This morning I got to school early and enjoyed Baldwin’s class, in which he toyed with us over Ex Parte McCardle. Some people are mystified or annoyed, but I just go with the flow; to Baldwin, it’s all a game, and I like the way he teases and plays with ideas.

Once again, it’s the process, not the product; the journey, and not the destination.

I was studying with Lorraine and Karin until Laura (and then Greg, and then Mark) told us Davis’s class was canceled.

What a break: I could now go home at 9:30 AM instead of two hours later and finish my Statement of Facts for Appellate Advocacy.

It took me a long time to get out four pages I felt satisfied with. Although I know I could make it a lot better, I decided to turn in the last printout at 1 PM.

I had enough time before Torts to send out my NEA fellowship application – like everyone in Gainesville, the man at the post office was as friendly as he could be – and do laundry.

In class, Dowd went over false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

I showed Martin a couple of articles about my ’84 presidential campaign, and when he passed them around to Ken K, Steve F, Shara and Lawrence, I was only slightly embarrassed. The truth is, of course, I like being recognized.

Alice sent a card congratulating me on my grades (“I’m not surprised”) and telling me her book was selling 80 copies a week even before she was on Entertainment Tonight.

In addition to Good Morning America next week, she’s doing another syndicated talk show and Joan Hamburg’s WOR radio show. I’m so happy for Alice and hope The Last Ten Pounds makes her a fortune.

I xeroxed the page with my weight loss tips on it, which has certainly been read by more people than anything in my own short story collections.

At the public library I took out some books, videos, and audiotapes and came home to read the papers, have dinner, and veg out.

Thursday, January 23, 1992

3 PM. I just blew off the Contrcats Contracts exam review. I’m sleepy – otherwise I probably wouldn’t have just transposed the A and the C in spelling Contracts – and figure that reviewing probably wouldn’t help since I did so much better than I expected anyway.

Not that I know why Davis gave me a B rather than a C . . . and I’m sure I could benefit from learning what I did right, but I’m going back into my “I can afford to get some C’s” mode.

On my way to the car after class, Andrew asked if I’d be doing the C-10 tutorial for Collier’s Jurisprudence section this term. He’s got a friend taking Collier, and Andrew heard I did well in the class and figured I could help out the anxious first-semester students.

I hope some second- or third-year student volunteers, or maybe the person who booked the class (the other A), because I don’t even have an outline and wouldn’t know where to begin.

Last night I slept okay, though I didn’t get enough sleep. Today was warm – it was 68° when I left the house this morning – with torrential rains. I had to change my shoes because I couldn’t get into my car at lunchtime without walking into a four-inch puddle.

Classes went fine today: Julin lectured some more (and we still haven’t really gotten to a case – that doesn’t bother me as much as it does some people), Rambo told us how to structure a persuasive argument, and Mashburn went over a delicious case, Teamsters v. Terry, about the right to a jury trial.

Tomorrow in Civ Pro, we begin the topic of directed verdict; I’ve got 30 pages of heavy reading, which I’ll put off till morning.

This weekend I’ve got my optometrist appointment (I had gunk in my eye during the night so I didn’t wear my lenses today) and I have to do that Appellate Advocacy library research exercise. I also need to start xeroxing cases because my initial argument is due the following Monday.

If anything, this semester seems worse than last in terms of time: everything is rushed.

Monday, January 27, 1992

4:30 PM. After Torts ended half an hour ago, I was walking to my car with Peter and Min when someone told us they’d posted the class rankings, so we made our way to the back of the huddle in front of the bulletin board.

I was pleased to see I’d booked Jurisprudence as well as Criminal Law, but I was pretty confident about that. (I already told Ronna and Alice that I’d booked two classes.)

They put my name on the “Honors” list (above 3.0 but below the “High Honors” of 3.5), and I saw that I’m in the top 10% of the class.

Actually, at 3.42 (no, they don’t tell everyone your index), I’m very close to the 95th percentile cutoff score of 3.43. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment, I guess.

Lori booked her Jurisprudence section as well as Torts, and other people from our section who got Book Awards were Kenny (Contracts), Shay and David G (Civil Procedure), Brenda (Legal Research and Writing) and Bill (the third Jurisprudence section).

I always thought Bill was smart even though I’ve barely spoken to him; I remember how he made a brilliant observation one day in Torts.

In one sense, of course, there’s only one way for me to go, and that’s down, but if my first term was the best one I have in law school, at least I know I got a great deal out of it.

Up at 5:30 AM, I could not bring myself to exercise and instead lay in bed till 6:15 AM.

I got to school at 7:30 AM and read before Con Law. Steve H did a very good job today when Baldwin gave him the third degree about McCulloch v. Maryland.

At 9:10 AM, we had a Lexis overview lecture for appellate advocacy; I sat with David G and Larry, both of whom, like me, are excited about trying out the system.

I’m more interested in using Nexis to access newspapers and magazines. In any case, it will be an adventure to learn to do a Lexis/Nexis search.

Just yesterday I was thinking about how much I miss my computer education workshops in Dade County for FIU; that really was a wonderful job.

I also miss the computer ed courses I took it FIU, FAU, and especially at Teachers College. Of course, I also miss teaching writing and literature a great deal.

Contracts was fun today: Davis went over two cases that he believed were wrongly decided even as many students tried to defend the decisions.

After I rushed home in time to work out to Homestretch at 11:30 AM, I spent the rest of my break reading the Times and listening to a Barbara Ehrenreich lecture in which she exposed the myth of political correctness.

This afternoon I had to park further away from the law school than I ever had before, but at least I did find a space on the street.

I sat chatting with Dan M and Dwight until it was time for Torts, where we went over trespass.

Five weeks to the day that I was in Macy’s Herald Square to see how Christmas shopping was going, Macy’s filed for bankruptcy.

Now every major department store in New York City (Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, A&S) has filed for bankruptcy or gone out of business (Gimbels, B. Altman, Ohrbach’s).

It is unclear if Bill Clinton can go on as a Democratic candidate. He and his wife made a good appearance on 60 Minutes, but this afternoon Gennifer Flowers – who looked just as I pictured, blonde with hair like 1970s Farrah Fawcett – held a New York City press conference where she played the tapes she gave The Star.

While the tapes don’t prove she and Clinton had an affair, if people think he is lying – he didn’t deny having affairs but said he never was Flowers’s lover – he’s through.

Since except for political junkies and New Hampshire voters, nobody knows Clinton, his first introduction to the American people is that of a man denying marital infidelity. That alone may be too much damage.

Tuesday, January 28, 1992

5 PM. A hard rain has been falling all day.

I rather enjoy the change of weather Gainesville provides. If I were older and interested in a nice place to retire, I think I’d stay here rather than congested South Florida even though this area has at least some kind of winter.

I enjoyed myself at school today. In the morning I met Karin at the bulletin board.

She’s had a real problem with her transcript. Thompson changed her Incomplete in Legal Research and Writing to an S+, but the registrar goofed in making the change, and now she’s got an Incomplete rather than a B in Contracts. That screws up her index, bringing her below 3.0 – which is why her name wasn’t on the honors list.

Karin needs her revised, correct transcripts this week to send to Orlando firms for summer jobs.

During the day, several people congratulated me about the book awards. I’ve learned how to just say “thank you” gracefully rather than be embarrassed and pooh-pooh my accomplishments.

(I finally realized that when I denigrate my academic achievements, I’m also denigrating theirs, too.)

Martin came up to me as I was reading the paper in the lounge at mid-morning and after congratulating me, said, “But you better watch out. If you waste time reading the New York Times, I’m going to beat your record this term.”

“I hope so,” I said with a spontaneity I recognized as genuine even if he didn’t.

My book awards make me feel conflicted, mainly because I don’t like how much I’m enjoying them; philosophically, I’m opposed to exactly this kind of hierarchical ranking that law school imposes.

I don’t know how I’d feel if I booked a third class, and I’m glad Lori also booked two classes so that I don’t stand out so much.

Besides, Kathy and a few others who didn’t book anything probably have higher indexes than I do, as I missed the cutoff for the top 5%.

I feel horrible even writing about this so much. I don’t know how to acknowledge my competitive instincts, and I don’t feel comfortable with them.

Probably I’m the one person in the class for whom law school grades will have the least practical effect.

At 40, I know myself all too well: I’d be miserable taking a high-paying, high-pressure corporate job. It almost feels worse now that the option is open to me.

Karin has another problem with one of her roommates, who stopped going to class, uses drugs and alcohol, and brings three guys to stay over and stay up all night.

Although Karin and the other two roommates went to the UF housing office, the college won’t interfere.

Classes were interesting today: Ogden v. Gibbons and the Commerce Clause in Con Law, foreseeability to avoid damages in Hadley v. Baxendale in Contracts, and nuisance cases in Torts.

Then Dan N showed me some of the fun he had with Lexis: he printed out articles about his favorite UF football player from the Nexis database. I can’t wait to use it.

Mom sent me my annual NEA fellowship rejection letter from Joe David Bellamy, who’s now Literature Program Director.

That $20,000 award would actually have changed my life. But I expected the rejection. The NEA has stopped sending the lists of the fellowship winners, which is probably a good idea.

Friday, January 31, 1992

3 PM. Finally, after a drizzly morning, the sun appeared this afternoon. I’ve got the window open now to get some fresh air and to take advantage of the sun’s light.

This is Appellate Advocacy weekend. I won’t be doing my usual reading ahead, but I should have enough time next week to keep up with my coursework.

Last night I fell asleep before 9 PM while listening to Bobbie Ann Mason’s Spence + Lila. At school by 7:30 AM, I found the last of the cases I plan to use for my initial argument.

While I could spend hours tooling about Nexis and Lexis, I limited my stay today.

However, I did transfer to disk (rather than the printer) the law review article by Mashburn and Harrison about Godard and critical legal studies; the bound volume has been missing for months.

Today’s Property class seemed to put people to sleep, but I like Julin’s style and feel we’re covering the material slowly to make sure we understand it. I’m starting to get comfortable with the strange rules and new terms.

Home at 10:30 AM, I did aerobics and then showered and read today’s cases for Civil Procedure.

That and lunch took all the time I had, although I stopped in at the office here to give them my rent check for February.

Before class, I talked with David A, Dan N and Bob C outside. It was a pleasure not to see rain and gloomy skies.

Mashburn went over the landmark Pennoyer v. Neff to start our unit on personal jurisdiction. So far I don’t find it that complicated, which means I’m probably missing a lot.

“Another week,” Peter said to me with a sigh as we left Civ Pro, expressing the hope that this term would go slowly so that finals don’t come right away.

I gather that Peter did badly last term, which is why he moved to the first row for all his classes this term.

I’ve started thinking about getting out of the joint degree program, but I figure I should wait until May to make a decision based on my grades for the spring.

Last term’s grades may have been a fluke – I certainly can’t imagine booking a class this semester – but they’ve made me wonder if I should just go straight through law school.

The hardest part will be over by the end of the summer term, after which I’ll have completed all my required courses except Legal Drafting and Professional Responsibility.

We don’t have to take Corporations, Evidence, and Estates and Trusts although they are strongly recommended, and I have to take only twelve credits a semester to be full-time.

I can plan my own schedule, and of course I could join the law review if I make it.

Given my age, getting out of Gainesville after two more years of law school rather than the three or more of grad school and law school would certainly make sense.

I’m still interested in journalism and communications, of course, but part of the reason I applied under the joint degree program was insurance in the event I hated law school. But so far I’ve enjoyed it much more than I expected.

Well, we’ll see. I’d feel bad about turning down the J-school after they’ve gone to so much trouble, but I’ll talk to Dean Savage at the law school and see what she thinks. They couldn’t force me to take an M.A.M.C. degree, after all.

I spoke to Teresa on Wednesday afternoon. She had gotten back to Mexico early because it rained so much.

Teresa stayed in a friend’s condo in Puerto Vallarta, which is filled with American snowbirds and people who left California and other states to live cheaply.

After our conversation, I decided that Teresa is never going to change.

She told me how she called Christine (David’s wife) from Mexico to have her tell David and Brian, who were sailing in the Caribbean, that she was thinking of coming to the Islands to join them and that they should be on the lookout for her.

This was not true. What she wanted was to keep Brian from forgetting her and to actually spoil his vacation by making him think that Teresa could pop up at any time. How neurotic.

She said that Brian wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of mentioning it after he got home, but Teresa chortled when she told me how a third member of the sailing crew told Teresa that “Brian jumped every time he saw a blonde.”

What kind of person gets satisfaction from making her lover uncomfortable just because he’s away from her?

The same kind of person who berated her customer, the bar mitzvah lady, for not sending Teresa a check fast enough while also telling me she was deliberately being slow in paying the Fire Island grocers because she wants them to know that they don’t have power over her.

I’m glad I don’t live with Teresa anymore. What amazes me is how she can’t see what she’s doing, the same patterns over and over.

On the other hand, can I?

After reading a review of a play described as self-indulgent and solipsistic to the point of embarrassment, I felt that I understood why Narcissism and Me didn’t get the response I expected.

I wasn’t able – still am unable – to see how pathetically narcissistic the chapbook is, even if I tried to have the joke on myself.

It shows you why an author shouldn’t self-publish; now I feel mortified that I sent out copies of the book to so many people.

Speaking of self-publishing, Crad wrote to respond to my thank-you for Putrid Scum. (Never the truth-teller, I made some inane comment about skimming the book and enjoying it.)

On top of his letter, Crad wrote, “Don’t throw this away – it may be a collector’s item someday,” presumably because it was written on the “actual manuscript” of his play, The World’s Worst Play (which, judging by one page, is idiotic).

Crad says this year will determine his fate and whether his career goes on, as his writ of mandamus against the Canada Council is pending and his own case (appealing his ticket for street-selling) comes up in March.

Crad’s mother may sell her house and move in with his sister: “If she sells, I’ll get half the value of the house, so I could probably afford to live off the interest if I moved to a cheaper city.”

Crad kindly says he’s not surprised I got good grades because I always underestimate myself. He thinks I should write popular books about the law maybe and “hang out a shingle to get some experience. ”

(Crad’s ideas about everything come straight from the 1950s – but then he doesn’t live in the real world.)

I just got a call from KSL, a CBS Radio affiliate in Salt Lake City. In an hour, I’ll be on their newscast, interviewed by the station’s Bob Lee about the disbanding of the Committee for Immediate Nuclear War.

Bob Lee said he thought I sounded like, you guessed it, Woody Allen.