A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late April, 1992
by Richard Grayson
Tuesday, April 21, 1992
1:30 PM. I’ll be heading back to school for our last Torts class soon. Yesterday Dowd talked about wrongful discharge, which she’ll finish up today. At one point she asked if anyone knew how many workers in the U.S. were not covered by collective bargaining agreements.
When I said 85%, she said, “That’s a pretty good guess; it’s about 83%,” as people laughed. I guess I have the reputation for being Mr. Trivia Man.
As we walked to the parking lot, Peter complained that our class was becoming too competitive and not like the cooperative souls we were last term. He’s heard people making nasty remarks about others. If that’s true, I’m glad I didn’t hear them.
On the other hand, tomorrow is the last time we’ll be together as a section, since some of us are going in the summer session and some not, and the other required or registration priority classes don’t put us together.
I reread all my news clippings when I got home, and after dinner, I went to return books to the public library and get some stuff at Eckerd Drugs. Because I felt a sore throat, I was afraid I was coming down with a cold.
I spoke to Mom, who was badly bitten by China on Sunday night when she tried to pick fleas off her. (They’ve been having a bad flea infestation.) Jonathan managed to get a butterfly bandage on it and stem the bleeding, but it throbbed all night, and although Mom said it felt better, I advised her to monitor it and see a doctor if necessary.
Exhausted, I fell asleep at 9:30 PM, but I was up an hour later, and as tired as I was, I couldn’t fall back asleep. Some neighbor was blasting music, I felt sick, and I was so frustrated I wanted to cry. Eventually I did fall asleep, but it was unsatisfying because I didn’t sleep deeply or for very long.
Before Con Law today, I asked Lorraine about her insomnia, and she said it was still quite bad.
Baldwin went over child pornography cases and offensive speech today, and after class, I read material related to our next topic, the Dworkin/McKinnonite pornography laws relating to harm to women.
Contracts seemed hard today; because I kept struggling to stop yawning, I couldn’t understand all the intricacies of third-party beneficiaries.
Back home, I exercised to Homestretch and had lunch. My head hurts.
Wednesday, April 22, 1992
4 PM. I made it through the first year of law school classes. I suppose I should now be frantically studying for finals, but frantic isn’t my style.
I’m willing to accept some C grades this term – I think it was just a fluke that I didn’t get one last term – because my identity doesn’t rest upon my grades in law school.
As I keep telling myself ad nauseum, there’s no rationale for my “having” to get high grades. I won’t work for a commercial firm nor will I clerk for a federal judge.
Even if I wanted to do those things, I doubt I’d be a very good candidate, regardless of GPA. Kevin Urick was third in his class but didn’t get any corporate offers, probably because of his literary and academic background and his personality.
What staid law firm or federal judge wants to hire someone like me, who’s a public personality in his own right, someone who’s written and published the stuff I have, someone who’s pulled the publicity stunts I have?
It was hard enough for me to “represent” Broward Community College and the other colleges where I taught. I’m not a team player but an independent contractor. The kind of legal work I’d consider doing, I could probably do with a 2.6 index.
As for being a law school professor, I’m not sure I want to teach at a law school, much less write the turgid articles I see in law reviews. No, I’m still a generalist, not a specialist. So I don’t have to become a lawyer at all.
Even people who don’t know me intimately – people like Cynthia Fuchs Epstein or Aunt Sydelle – already suspect that I’m in law school just for the hell of it.
Yesterday afternoon we filled out evaluations for Dowd, and she talked about wrongful discharge, a subject that clearly excites her.
I was surprised at how many people dislike Dowd, and I’m not sure why. She knows it, however, and the mutual affection we’d had last term ended once lots of people got their grades.
She kept us after class if we wanted to discuss the exam, and there was no applause for her the way we clapped for Mashburn last week and for Baldwin and Davis today.
When I got home, Lorraine called and said Art told her Dowd thought our final was a week from Saturday when it’s actually next Tuesday. Today she finally realized we were right and sent a note with Davis, which he read in class, telling us so.
I feel bad for Dowd. Of course, after she gives me a C this term, I may dislike her, and it would make me less enthusiastic about having her for Family Law this fall, although I still think that her perspective as a gay person would be helpful to me.
Last night I fell asleep at 9:30 PM and managed to get some deep rest and vivid dreams, so I felt better when I got up this morning. But I don’t have to get up at 6 AM again until next August.
Anyway, Baldwin ended the term with an exciting discussion about pornography as harm to women and ABA v. Hudnut. I had plenty to say but I didn’t raise my hand because lots of people were anxious to talk now that they know Baldwin counts class participation. During the break, I looked up a case in hate crimes that Baldwin mentioned.
Karin was upset because she doesn’t know the difference between obscenity and pornography. “Forget about it,” I told her. “The Supreme Court doesn’t know, either.” These young students still are intent on finding the “right” answer.
Dowd warned us not to tell her everything we learned in a Torts hornbook on the exam. Like most teachers, she wants us to use the material and apply it. That’s why studying rules may be less productive than people think, especially on open-book exams. I almost look forward to my exams as a challenge.
Davis engendered grumbles when he told us to meet at 1:50 PM for a second session to finish third-party beneficiaries. He knew that most of us can’t concentrate on such a difficult subject now, but he said we’d thank him when we passed the bar exam.
So our last law school class wasn’t really our last one, and we came back to the Bailey Courtroom for half an hour. And that was that: people headed home to hit the books.
Emira told me Dan M is sick with a strep throat. He has 104° fever, and he must be upset as well. I hope he gets better or gets his finals postponed. What bad luck.
Angelina is going to Tallahassee right after finals to begin her $900-a-week, 65-hours-a-week clerk’s job. Her husband is off from teaching most of the summer but told her he won’t leave Gainesville. Two predictions about Angelina: she’ll be a successful, ambitious attorney, and her marriage won’t survive that success. I can already see the price some of my classmates are willing to pay for the sake of their careers.
Jim, who’s working at the same firm as Angelina, didn’t get a good response from the partners when he told them he planned to return to Gainesville every weekend to be with his pregnant wife. Angelina said they told him, “On weekends the firm socializes together.”
Am I the same person I was when I started law school last August? Definitely. I’ve learned a massive amount of material and have figured out how lawyers think, but, at 40, I was already pretty well formed.
The kids who are 22 or 26 or even 30 and who see law as their lives have definitely changed, and I doubt it’s for the better.
Probably the people who don’t get such good grades and don’t really care – Larry, Alain, Mike W – are the healthiest people in our class, although I think a number of the high achievers – Shay, for example – haven’t parked their humanity at the gates of the law school.
In time, this first-year experience will make more sense. Anyway, I can be by myself the next two days and study as much as I want.
Sunday, April 26, 1992
5 PM. One reason I didn’t do well on yesterday’s Con Law exam is I forgot to state the obvious – in three questions.
I merely assumed the First Amendment freedom of the press, the Fifth Amendment takings clause, and the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable search and seizure applied to the states; I didn’t mention their incorporation by the Fourteenth Amendment.
My level of sophistication about constitutional law probably worked against me, unless Baldwin can tell by the cases I cited and the terms I used in my arguments that I knew what I was talking about.
We’ll see. In the meantime, I should just forget about Con Law; I still have four finals to go. But I don’t really mind thinking about the last test because it did give me intellectual pleasure, and the more I see what I didn’t see, the more interesting it seems.
I’ve been studying Torts since last night, and I feel I have a better handle on the material because, unlike last term, it’s divided into more discrete units: intentional torts, product liability, defamation, etc. My notes are pretty good, and I started indexing them.
I figure it’s not how much you study, but how well you study. More study for Baldwin’s class probably would have made my answers yesterday worse. At least I know that if he bumps anyone up one letter grade for attendance and participation, that will be me, so I still might get an A or B+.
I spoke to my parents last night. Today they started the Miami menswear show. Dad has to go to L.A. for a two-day sales meeting, and the salesmen are up in arms about the high air fares; Dad is using his frequent flyer mileage for a free trip.
He said Marc got a cheap flight on the new Braniff to New York in June. I wish I could go to New York City during my break, but as I told my parents, I’ll be lucky if I don’t need their help to get through this coming week. At least I’m paying my rent for May, and then I’ve got only two more months at $450 before I move to a cheaper apartment.
I watched a little junk on ABC – the final episodes of some sitcoms – between studying last night. Up today at 7 AM, I went out only to get the Times and mail my unemployment claim card. By 11 AM today, I’d exercised and read most of the paper.
At least it’s been a gorgeous day: dry and nice and cool. Lately, it’s begun to get oppressively hot and humid, and it will be hot here until October.
9 PM. In the bathroom just now, I recoiled from my own filth. After finals, I’ve got to do some cleaning. I’d better move to another place or I’ll make this one uninhabitable. Of course, the undergraduates around here may keep house worse than I do, but I don’t want to imagine that.
I took a break at 5:30 PM and went out, browsing in a bookstore and bringing home a McLean Deluxe for dinner. I’ve finished reading and indexing all my Torts notes and study materials. Tomorrow I’ll read around in the Prosser and Keeton hornbook and look at Property stuff.
Already I feel prepared enough that I could take the Torts exam tomorrow. Hey, but I don’t have to do it then and so I have more time to study. For the first Monday since spring break, I can sleep late. Not that I ever sleep late, but it’s nice to know I don’t have to leave here at 7:15 AM.
I find myself feeling antsy right now, but I think I’m merely overtired and studied-out. Once again I tried to call Ronna; she never seems to be home. I hope at least she’s out having a good time somewhere.
As much as I’ve looked forward to the end of the term, I’ll probably find myself feeling lonely and lost. Going to New York over Christmas and to Fort Lauderdale for spring break provided me with new surroundings and lots of company.
Apart from law school, I don’t really have any friends in Gainesville. It’s an exceedingly rare day when my phone rings and it isn’t someone calling from New York or South Florida, and I don’t get too many of those calls, either.
Have I lost the ability to make close friends? I’ve never been to any of my classmates’ homes except Angelina’s, Kim’s and Emira’s.
Tuesday, April 28, 1992
11:30 AM. My Torts final is at 2 PM and I’ve done all the studying I care to. I find myself feeling rebellious and unwilling to play the law school game, and I feel stupid for being suckered into it by my grades and book awards last term.
Lawyers are so self-aggrandizing, and this silly mystique that they build up about their profession begins at such an early stage in their careers, it’s no wonder that that after twenty years, most attorneys are miserable.
Most lawyers probably wouldn’t become lawyers if they knew what they were getting themselves into. I see my young classmates, so eager to play good little boys and girls, and a few of them are so competitive, they’re already rooting for others’ failure.
I have a lot more respect for the law than I used to, but if anything, my low opinion of lawyers is now even lower. Maybe I could do some good as a teacher of paralegals, who could probably do 90% of the work of lawyers with more efficiency and less cost. And they’d save time by not spending so many hours patting each other on the back.
Imagine the concept of “ranking” and “booking” within the graduate programs I’ve been in: the M.A. in English at Richmond, the M.F.A. in creative writing at Brooklyn, the various graduate courses in education I’ve taken.
Writers and teachers do important work, but they don’t – I was about to say they don’t take themselves so seriously, but then I thought of all the pompous academics and career-schemer writers I’ve come across.
Okay, so law may be no worse than other professions, and the issue is me, my rebellion against authority. I tend to think my attitude is healthy. I’m proud that I’ve resisted “thinking like a lawyer,” but maybe I’m just childish. Am I not buying into the system because I know I couldn’t possibly succeed in it?
Last evening I watched a PBS Travels program on Los Angeles. A year after I left L.A., I find I’m still fascinated by the place and would like to live there, despite all the problems. I still love New York City, but I sort of love Los Angeles, too, and yes, I also do love Miami.
Gainesville is pretty and quiet and relaxing, but to me, it’s not a city. There’s not enough sense of danger here.
5:30 PM. My head feels like a punching bag after the Torts exam. I don’t have a good feeling about my performance on this test, and I wouldn’t be shocked to get a C. I doubt that my answers reached the B level I did last term, and Dowd is notoriously quirky in her grading; nobody can figure out what standards she uses.
The exam was long, and I felt time-pressured. I spent too much time on one question and then started panicking because I didn’t have enough time for the others. Oh well, at least I’m not standing around with everyone else: discussing the exam is bad news. I plan to put away my Torts casebook and hornbook and sell them as soon as possible.
Before I left for school, I got the expected letter from AmEx canceling my Optima card. They’ve suffered heavy losses with the product, and no wonder: after I stiffed them for $17,000, they turned around and gave me a $1,000 credit line. At least I got use out of it.
My brain seems to have stopped functioning after that exam. A lot of people go out drinking after afternoon exams, but of course I retreat into my solitude. What will I do tonight? Veg out, probably.
Tomorrow’s review session for Property is at 9 AM. Last night I began reviewing, but I feel more unsure about Property and the remaining two tests than I did about the last two (which I probably did lousy on). Who cares?
Well, partly I do – but actually, a part of me wishes that I had gotten C’s last term and could just have gotten the bad grades over with. I feel I wrote so inarticulately today on the exam. I feel inarticulate now.
Thursday, April 30, 1992
4 PM. I’ve just come in from paying the rent. I didn’t tell them I’m not coming back next year, but I saw that the apartment next door listed at $475, $25 more than I’m paying now.
It’s going to be a hassle to move, but I’m used to it by now, and it will be less hassle than it was coming from South Florida last August.
I was outraged this morning when I heard about the acquittal of the L.A. cops who brutally beat Rodney King last year.
Riots erupted, of course, as black people understandably feel they’ve been told their lives are worthless. I’d be rioting myself.
God, it makes me sick to think that this is how our legal system works. Right now I feel like I don’t want any part of it.
I went out early this morning and bought $20 worth of groceries at Albertsons with my Bank of Hoven MasterCard (yesterday my payment cleared and made credit available).
While I managed to pay my rent, I can’t afford to mail out my utilities check until my unemployment money comes.
I’ve got this week and part of next in my benefit year, which expires next week although maybe I’m entitled to more benefits.
In any case, I’m facing serious money problems unless I get my student loan approved.
But my immediate problem is getting through the next week of finals.
So far I’ve studied for about four hours today, and I feel I have a better grasp of Property than I did before.
Property is sort of fun. Since I already have a grasp of the basics of estates present and future, I doubt it matters which topics I study as long as I think about what I’m learning.
I made up a checklist for the exam. At least it will be over by noon, and then I’ll have only two exams left – although Civ Pro and Contracts are the hardest classes for me.
But just about this time next week, I’ll be finishing the last exam and I will really be through with the first year of law school.
Although I might not have written good finals in Con Law and Torts, I know I’ll get at least C’s.
This term will probably be my worst semester. From here on in, I’ll be taking fewer credits, only 12 or 13 a semester after the summer.
It’s another gorgeous day, with the air heavily scented. I just saw one guy moving out. He was shirtless and I saw him only from behind, but he had this incredibly muscled back tapering to a tiny waist.
Hey, tomorrow begins the lusty month of May. Too bad I’ve got a final exam in the morning.