A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early June, 1992

Tuesday, June 2, 1992

8 PM. Last night I slept for nine hours, getting the rest I badly needed.

My sinuses have kept me headachy and a bit drowsy today, as the temperature rose above 90° and the humidity was close to 100%.

But the rest I got made me feel better, as did getting back to a long day at school.

After I exercised this morning, it was nearly 9:30 AM when I arrived on campus. Going to the Con Law room early, I chatted with Gene and Shara, who sit in front of me.

Classes went fine today: Collier continues on his way, befuddling some – but he’d be one of my models if I taught in law school.

During the break, I reread Property, and even Julin was pretty interesting today.

I enjoy Property II more than I thought I would; I’ve ended up finding the subject more interesting than I did Contracts.

Or maybe I just do better with teachers who don’t teach like most law school professors.

I was home briefly, to have lunch – lots of veggies from the microwave (spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, sugar snap peas and black-eyed peas), four slices of Kraft Fat-Free singles and Vidalia onions on rice cakes, and a Weight Watchers chocolate frozen dessert (sort of like a Fudgsicle).

Back in the library, I read Law and Psychiatry so I’d do better if Slobogin gave a quiz.

On the last one I got two questions wrong, so it won’t count as a plus; if we get three plusses, it will bring up our grade a notch.

Class was interesting today, as eight pairs of students debated hypos in the text relating to the use of expert psychiatric testimony in criminal trials.

It would help in my understanding of Law and Psychiatry if I’d already taken Evidence and Criminal Procedure, but I think I can manage anyway.

Tired when I got home at 8 PM, I made dinner and listened to All Things Considered and just finished reading today’s Times.

I admire Jon Robin Baitz, the 30-year-old playwright who’s supposed to be very good, for donating his $15,000 NEA grant to two organizations whose grants were vetoed by Anne-Imelda Radice, the NEA’s new autocratic, conservative chairwoman.

The fired NEA chief John Frohnmayer said his experience at the agency turned him into a “First Amendment radical.”

Now the far right is aiming at the alleged leftist bias of National Public Radio and PBS.

The polls have already closed in some primary states, but they’re still voting in others, and California won’t come in till 11 PM.

Ross Perot isn’t on the ballot, but the exit polls of the networks show him with great strength. I’ll be interested to see how the two California Senate races come out, but if I can get to sleep early, I’ll wait wait until the morning.

Thursday, June 4, 1992

9 PM. I’ve been feeling dizzy since I got home four hours ago, and I hope it’s just my sinuses (it’s still extremely humid) and not a new round of the severe vertigo I had in the spring and summer of 1989. Of course, it could be psychosomatic.

Today was my 41st birthday, and it has stirred more discontent in me than did the big four-oh last year.

Part of it may be that I’m living in a place where nobody knew it was my birthday, and I didn’t tell anyone. I mean, was I going to say to classmates, “Hey, it’s my birthday!”?

At 5 PM, soon after I got home, the power went off, and I took the time to call Mom to thank her and Dad for their card, which came with $50 in cash and a note saying that the day I was born was one of the happiest days of my parents’ lives. (I wonder why sometimes; I haven’t been a terrific son.)

Anyway, Mom was the only one who wished me a happy birthday except for Alice, whom I called next.

At least I slept adequately last night. This morning I got to school early and did the reading for Law and Psychiatry.

Collier was slightly tedious, but Julin was unbearable today, and as Lorraine said in a note she passed me, “This is what hell must be like.”

I’m starting to wonder if Peter S was on to something when he off-handedly suggested Julin might be going senile.

Sometimes he appears to be out of touch as he rambles on, gesturing dramatically, answering his own questions, repeating himself endlessly.

There were a couple of moments there when I got this sick feeling similar to what I used to feel when Josh would say something irrational.

Perhaps I’m making too much of this; I hope so. It’s not us as students I’m concerned about but Julin himself. Either he has no idea he’s lost 80% of the class or he just doesn’t care.

I guess I’d feel better if I knew he taught the same way when he was younger.

I spent the break between classes with the Shay-Carla-Denise-Barry-Mark R contingent in the cafeteria.

Since I’m nobody’s close friend and socialize with just about everyone, sometimes I’m surprised how different groups don’t seem to talk to one another.

There’s Dustin, Bob and Donna, who are pretty tight; Rob and Paul, who are inseparable, sometimes joined by Dan M (I think they’re active in the Christian student group); of course, different groups of blacks who hang together; and other configurations.

Karin never hangs out outside or in the cafeteria, but she’s pretty strait-laced.

After lunch, I went back to school for Slobogin’s class, where we talked about the insanity defense.

It’s surprising how the second- and third-year students look older to me. Obviously, they’re all younger than I, so it’s not a function of age but most likely a kind of law school weariness.

Alice said she finally got the house closing behind her, and Aunt Dottie is now in Deerfield Beach.

Selling the old house on East 51st Street was a nightmare. The inspector made them put back in the stairs between Alice’s basement apartment and the upstairs, and there was new electrical wiring to go with that and lots of repairs that went on till the day of the closing.

Because they sold to blacks, Dottie was the target of neighbors who threw rocks through her windows.

The buyers had a hard time getting a mortgage, but they’ve got it now and Alice’s family’s apartment will be turned into the wife’s beauty parlor.

Alice told me it’s been unbearable at work for months, as it’s obvious she’s going to be fired.

They’re advertising for Alice’s position, which means once they find someone, she’s out; meanwhile her boss has been making life hell for her.

She’s been job-hunting frantically and trying to hang on rather than resigning because Andreas told her if she’s fired, she could get unemployment.

But today Alice’s accountant told her that would be impossible because she’s an independent contractor.

I asked Alice if I could stay at her place, and she said the best time would be the first week in August, when she’ll probably be away in Montreal.

However, she said I could stay with her a few days if I have nowhere else to go. The truth is, I don’t.

Why did I make my stay in New York three weeks long? I don’t have Teresa’s apartment or Grandma’s, and now I’m afraid to call Ronna; I can’t impose on her for more than a few days.

Teresa might be able to find someplace where I could stay, but I feel embarrassed to ask her.

I guess that’s why I feel depressed tonight. I no longer have a home in New York. I have only this home in Gainesville, where nobody knows it’s my birthday.

Well, things change. Alice has to get used to losing her job, and although she long since separated from the Brooklyn house, it’s the only other place she lived besides her present apartment.

It’ll be nice if I could stay by myself in the Village for a week, even if the air conditioner is only in the living room.

Maybe I can go to New York later, or leave earlier, or get some kind of living arrangement for the rest of my trip.

Right now I have no place to go to when I get off the plane. Well, I’ll figure something out.

Monday, June 8, 1992

3 PM. Josh called last evening, and he just called again – to ask an odd question about something I mentioned in passing about Teresa’s tenant leaving. It was very strange.

As normal as Josh sounded last night, I’m convinced that he has a mental disorder that could be diagnosed if someone knew the DSM-R-III, the diagnostic manual we’re studying in Slobogin’s class.

Last night Josh wanted to talk about the LSAT, and since I, like all those who’ve completed the first year of law school, consider myself an expert in the subject, I told him everything he wanted to know and more.

Josh is taking the LSAT a week from Saturday but said he might cancel his score if he feels he did poorly. He said he couldn’t get up to speed on the analytical questions.

Josh deflected my queries about why he’s considering law school, and I get the feeling he hasn’t thought it through. I doubt he’ll end up going, and I’m not sure he could get in to most law schools in the city.

Ronna’s number was busy all night. I wanted to speak to her, not only to ask if I could stay at her apartment, but also because I think Jordan’s wedding was this weekend and I’m concerned about Ronna’s reaction; I know she was bound to have mixed feelings and that she’d also felt funny about seeing her ex-friend Susan after so many years.

I fell asleep around midnight and woke up at 6 AM, forcing myself to exercise to Body Electric.

It was good to get out early. By 10 AM, I had gone to the law school to return library books, to info-surf on Lexis, and to give Dean Patrick a note reminding him I’ll be registered in law school in the fall so he’d remember about my scholarship.

I’d also gone to Criser Hall, where I learned my $970 loan check has been mailed to me (I have to pay tuition on my own), and I got a much needed haircut and beard trim.

After buying a few things at Publix, I went to get gas and then spent a few hours at the public library, reading Fiction Writers’ Market, newspapers (I’m trying to save money by not buying the Wall Street Journal) and magazines.

The New York Review of Books had a review of Anthony Lewis’s Make No Law by Ronald Dworkin, who discussed the very stuff we’re dealing with in Con Law. I began to feel like a freelance intellectual again.

As I ate lunch, I listen to a WRUF-FM interview with Bernie Sanders, Vermont’s socialist congressman, and watched Natalie finally marry Trevor on All My Children.

Grant set me an audiocassette, a professional-looking one labeled with his name; I guess it’s his country music. I suppose this is the record business equivalent of small press publishing.

In the presidential race, Perot is beginning to worry me because of his autocratic and paranoid streak, but I also think only his candidacy can make a Clinton victory possible in November.

Tuesday, June 9, 1992

8 PM. About a week ago I noticed I kept getting a muscle twitch in my right hand, where the thumb and the index finger join.

This twitch occurs several times a day when I’m at a keyboard or, as now, gripping a pen, and I wonder if it’s carpal tunnel syndrome caused by repetitive motion. I’ll have to watch it.

I got to Ronna last evening although we talked only for a couple of minutes because she had to rush out to 84th Street and Broadway to meet a blind date. From her New York personals ad, Ronna got only six replies. “That comes out to $60 a response,” she noted.

Anyway, she said I could stay at her place “for as long as you need to,” and that made me feel good. Ronna will be back from the Hadassah convention in D.C. by the time I get to New York.

After I hung up the phone, I realized that I’ll be in New York in just six weeks; that’s hardly any time at all.

I phoned Fort Lauderdale to find out if Marc, Clarissa and Jason had come back, and Dad said they had, that Marc had no trouble finding anything.

They visited Grandma after their arrival on Wednesday and again on Sunday. After picking up Jason at school, they all drove to D.C. for the weekend. (Unfortunately, Scott and his family were on Long Island for his grandmother-in-law’s birthday.)

Later I was thrilled when Justin phoned and said, “Of course I don’t hate you.”

He hasn’t called because he’s been even busier than I. His spring term has ended, but before that he was overwhelmed by coursework as well as roles in Brooklyn College productions as an actor and technician.

For next year he’s got an internship and perhaps, if the dire budget allows it, a teaching fellowship as well.

Right now he’s working four days a week at a center on Church Avenue and East 18th Street (by the D train), where new Americans – mostly Eastern Europeans and West Indians – learn job skills.

Justin is teaching them WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3 and dBase (stuff I need to brush up on myself).

He submitted four one-act plays to the Samuel French Short Play festival later this month; two were accepted, so they’ll be performed with other one-acts over a few nights, with the winning plays to be published by Samuel French.

Larry was painting at his studio but came in as we were talking; he’s still working at the Met and sounds fine.

Justin seems like he’s now really a part of the Brooklyn College theater community although I can tell he’s not totally enamored with the MFA program.

His thesis production will be the first one next year, and he’s chosen to direct As Is. I reminded Justin that we saw the play on Broadway together in August 1985, just before he went to Reading and I took over his room in Park Slope.

We’ll definitely see each other this summer, of course.

After I got off the phone, it was 11:30 PM, and I was not ready for bed.

Talking to Pete, Josh, Justin and Ronna and hearing about Marc’s trip has made me realize once again that Gainesville and law school are just a part of my life and that I have a whole different life with my friends and as a writer.

Unable to sleep, I read the Authors Guild Bulletin, which had a great symposium on the difference between Los Angeles writers and Hollywood writers. I admire the L.A. writers who have contacts with the industry but are not a part of it, even if most of them are really poor.

The kind of writer I am is a selfish, immature, undisciplined one, and I know I don’t have the interest or the skills necessary to be a screenwriter, not least of all because I seem constitutionally incapable of writing for money.

It was 3 AM when I finally dozed off, and I got up at 7 AM.

School today was long, even though Collier was out sick so I could come home for an hour to read Property before class.

Julin was okay in Property today, but I don’t like Slobogin’s quizzes in Psychiatry and the Law (we can get our grade raised by good quiz scores) because they distract me from learning.

Slobogin uses the period to go over answers as a way of getting into the topic.

But I was so annoyed by my two wrong answers – I got a quiz question wrong about the Durham test despite reading Bazelon’s  book! – that I had a hard time paying attention to the material.

Nor did I feel like contributing to the discussion. I felt like telling Slobogin that I didn’t come to school to be tested but to learn.

However, my annoyance had begun earlier in the day when Martin said to me by the bulletin board, “Hey, Rich, your book award isn’t up yet!”

Our grade reports were removed from the bulletin board yesterday, and now everyone is waiting for them to post the book awards, the class percentiles with GPAs, the list of people who went over 3.5 and 3.0, and the five top students, who automatically make law review.

What concerned me was that I had in fact been waiting and thinking about that, too. How did I come to forget what I went to law school for – to learn – and become an ambitious, grade-grubbing, super-competitive type like Lori?

Bob and Donna told me Lori took down the grades of all the exam numbers who got an A and made a class ranking for the term, probably to make sure she made law review.

Bob and Donna are both going to these weekly meetings of the Journal of Law and Public Policy, the third-ranking publication (after the “real” law review and the International Law Review), so they can produce a case note and try to get in.

“It’s not like the real law review,” they said. “That stays with you your whole life.”

I could only think: Who cares? And then: But you do, Richie, a little!

And then I started thinking how apart from the law school world I feel. I should be relieved that I didn’t make law review.

My C+’s are probably a blessing, because I can see forgetting who I am. At least I know I’m not going to waste my time trying to get in via their writing competition in the fall.

I don’t want to work on a law review any more than I wanted to write an English doctoral dissertation or scholarly articles. Creating impenetrable prose and numerous footnotes won’t do me any good.

I want to write for a real audience, even if I never get that chance. (Hey, I already have!)

At least I found my $970 loan check in the mail. I was down to $40 from last week’s birthday gift.

Thursday, June 11, 1992

8 PM. Although I slept well last night, I’m tired now, probably because it seemed like a long day.

After being fairly interesting for a couple of days, Julin gave a stupefyingly boring lecture in Property today that put most of the class into a coma.

In Con Law, Collier was only a little less boring, and although I was better able to appreciate Slobogin’s class – and I talked a lot – it was still two hours long.

The air in Gainesville has been so thick with humidity, it’s almost palpable.

Last evening Mom called me about another letter from Chase Manhattan that she thought might be important (it wasn’t), and she told me more details about Marc’s trip.

He said Grandma Ethel looked pretty good although he was surprised that her hair had turned totally white. (I never noticed how it lost its gray color because I see Grandma so frequently.)

Marc took photos of Grandma, himself, Clarissa and Jason on the nursing home’s terrace.

On Sunday, Marty and Arlyne were there, and while they of course couldn’t ignore Marc and his family in front of Grandma, they didn’t say much.

“Marty has learned from Arlyne,” Marc said. I now figure that when I sent Jeff Grandpa Herb’s ring, it only made them more spiteful.

I’ve come to believe that Jeff is a real lowlife; not only did he have the nerve to call me about the coins, but he never had the sense to acknowledge when I sent him the ring with a friendly note.

I don’t intend to attend Grandma’s funeral because I know how uncomfortable I’d feel there. That will probably only make it worse for Mom, but I don’t want to deal with the Sarretts.

I visited Grandma Ethel enough when she was alive, and I didn’t fly to either Grandpa Herb’s or Grandpa Nat’s funeral and don’t feel bad about it.

If Arlyne expresses surprise that I’m not there (as she did at Grandpa Herb’s funeral), I’ll write her not to worry, that I would make sure not to miss her funeral.

Mom said that the military school was so anxious to get rid of Jason that they wouldn’t let Clarissa stay on campus once she picked him up.

Jason acts up in class and lies, the school officials said, and his academic performance was so bad that they might even not give him credit for the year.

Clarissa is frantic about it all because she laid out a fortune to send Jason there. Now, I’ve never met the kid and don’t know what his problem is, but his lack of interest in school must have some serious problems at its root: perhaps deep emotional difficulties or some kind of learning disorder or deficit.

Clarissa, Mom says, doesn’t know what she’ll do with Jason. He’s going to be 16 and is just starting high school. The way he’s going, I figure he’ll drop out soon.

Anyway, from Pennsylvania Marc drove to Washington where they spent a couple of days sightseeing, and in New York City they saw our old block and visited Evie and Lou as well as had dinner with Bonnie and her husband and kids.

The Wagners don’t talk to the people who bought our house, who have not been very good neighbors, extending their driveway to where the front garden used to be and telling Lou he can’t park in front of the tree anymore.

Doris, who was visiting the Wagners, knew from Evie and from Judy that I was in law school and she wanted Grandma’s address in Woodmere, where she lives, so she can visit her.

I guess all this news from New York has made me excited about my forthcoming trip.

Summer school has settled into a routine. A lot of my classmates have jobs, mostly volunteer positions, as law clerks or interns after classes.

I’m still surprised that after all this time some people in our section don’t know each other. For example, I mentioned Peter to Lawrence, who didn’t know who he was; similarly, Barry didn’t know Gene.

This made me realize that certain people never seem to hang out together. It never occurs to me not to plonk myself down in front of any group.

It’s about the halfway mark of the summer term, and in less than a month classes will be over.