A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early July, 1992

by Richard Grayson

Wednesday, July 1, 1992

2 PM. At the library at 8:15 AM, I read the New York Times. Later, I gave an article on Bush’s Circuit Court of Appeals appointments to Martin because I know that subject interests him.

I was glad to see that Terry McMillan has a real bestseller in her new novel. She’s been gaining well deserved attention.

If only in my own mind, I can feel good about that because we were successively Writers-in-Residence at the Rockland Center for the Arts, and so she’s incredible company to be in.

Sitting in the tax library, I read the remaining Property cases and lent my handout to Dustin, who’d misplaced his.

Professor Dowd again greeted me warmly; the faculty and staff had a sit-down lunch outside today.

Before Con Law, Mike M told me the legislature passed a budget calling for a 15% tuition hike. Even though I know my education will still be a bargain, that really seems unfair.

In today’s mail, I got my Stafford promissory note to send to Chase (Dan M told me that David A is working at their student loan department in Tampa), and it’s for $7,075, of which I’ll need every penny.

It’s a good thing I went to summer school this year and got in seven extra credits at the lower tuition.

Someday Florida will have an income tax, just as I said it should ten years ago. Ah, to be a prophet is a lonely, misunderstood existence!

Speaking of misunderstood, Con Law was fun today as each half of the class debated the R.A.V. case. Tomorrow we finally get to equal protection.

Dan M told me he and his wife signed up for dancing lessons at the Thomas Center, and they’re in a class with Professor Collier and his girlfriend, who everyone says is “surprisingly beautiful.”

Peter B and I had a nice talk. He said he grew up as the only Episcopalian in an all-Baptist Bible Belt town and he asked me some questions about Judaism.

A lot of the Protestants I’ve met here don’t know if Judaism is a religion, a nationality, or what, and of course that gives me a chance to drone on about a subject I pretend to know about.

Pete S and Barry were discussing Ross Perot. They’re both undecided between Perot and Clinton, who’s finally climbed out of the cellar in the polls. The latest ABC News poll has the presidential candidates in a statistical dead heat, with about a third of the vote each.

In Property, we moved on from donative transfers to bailments. Julin seems to be getting a lot better. (Yesterday Kevin M said, “Julin’s the man.”)

At least classes seem to be going faster; I’ve noticed fewer people getting up to go to the restroom.

Back here, I had my veggies and cottage cheese on bread (both fat-free) as I watched the Pine Valley people on All My Children.

I need to read the last 20 pages of tomorrow’s Law and Psychiatry assignment, so maybe I’ll head back to school to do it there.

Thursday, July 2, 1992

8 PM. Two weeks from today I’ll be through with finals, and tonight I have the July 4th weekend to relax as well as to prepare.

After a decent night’s sleep (I dreamed I was in Las Vegas with Denise and Shay), I waited to leave the house until after the 8:30 AM announcement of the June unemployment figures.

The rate increased from 7.5% to 7.8%, and payroll jobs were lost, not gained.

The numbers were so bad that the Fed immediately cut the discount rate, the banks cut the prime rate, the House and Senate passed extended unemployment benefits, and Bush stopped whining about the “declinists” who are spreading doom and gloom in these great times.

On campus, Bob told me Martin would be insufferable today because he found out he booked Con Law.

“Thank God,” I said, knowing Martin had wanted more than anything to book that class.

Needless to say, I didn’t book Torts; E.K. and David A did. (So ends people’s theories about Dowd favoring women, since three of her four A’s were men.)

Lori, of course, continued her Bataan Death March to the top of our class, booking Contracts and Property, and David A also booked Civ Pro. Marsha booked App Ad and two other courses for the other section.

My name was on the honors list, with people who got 3.0-3.5 indexes for the term, and for our section, I’m between the 85th percentile and the 90th percentile so I probably rank around tenth or eleventh in our class of 86.

That’s good enough. Since our class identity disappears now, there won’t be any other rankings for a while – not until we graduate, in fact.

Today felt like a long day, but classes were not too boring. I had looked forward to beginning equal protection in Con Law, but Collier began with a lot of theory. He scheduled a review session for next Friday.

Julin began the subject of found property, and then in Law and Psychiatry we went over competency decisions in the criminal arena.

Of my classes, I feel least prepared for my Law and Psychiatry final because the material seems to fade from my mind immediately and I can’t distinguish among the cases.

Also, I find I can answer few of Slobogin’s hypos, and there’s no study guide to help me. But as Kevin said, we’re probably all in the same boat.

I expect to see my index go down again for the summer, but hopefully it will pick up again next year, and if not, who cares?

One thing that’s going up is tuition, and it’s a rise of 25%, not 15%, for graduate students. We all griped about it as we hung out this morning.

If I have to drop out because of money, I will, and I’ll come back to finish when I can afford it.

I’m going to miss the intimacy and camaraderie of the summer semester at law school. In a lot of ways this has been a golden time, one I’ll look back on as fondly, the way I remember the friendships of my undergraduate days at Brooklyn College.

Sunday, July 5, 1992

8 PM. I’m beginning to get into a money panic as I realize I have no way to get through this summer.

Nearly all the $970 check I hope to get this week will go towards tuition and my other bills, leaving me literally with no cash to take to New York.

I’ll just have to ask my parents for money.

Tomorrow morning I’ll go to the unemployment office to find out if I’ll be eligible for the new extended benefits, but I’m not getting my hopes up, and if you even if I am eligible, I won’t get a check before I leave.

Maybe I shouldn’t have bought tickets for New York, even at the low price. I could have saved money if I stayed in Gainesville or even more if I stayed with my parents for a month.

Of course, I really wanted – and I still want, very much –  to experience three weeks in New York and see Grandma and my friends in the city.

But even the cheapest supermarket food is so expensive in Manhattan that I don’t know how I’ll be able to afford it.

My Delta tickets are nonrefundable. I don’t know what to do.

Well, I’ll decide after my finals are over in ten days. Till then I need to concentrate on my classes; I don’t need the distraction of worrying about getting by.

Given my money situation, what’s the worst that can happen? Instead of going to New York in a few weeks, I’ll take the bus to Fort Lauderdale and stay with my parents, where I’ll be comfortable and get free food and utilities and gas money. That wouldn’t be so bad.

Or Mom and Dad will send me just enough to get through the summer up here. While that wouldn’t make for the most pleasant summer – I’d be lonely, hot, and bored – I’m sure I’d manage to get on top of the situation.

Certainly there are tons of Americans who are struggling much, much harder than I am.

Monday, July 6, 1992

4:30 PM. Last evening I watched the ABC national news and listened to those old- time radio shows – World War II-era broadcasts of Superman, Fibber McGee and Molly, and some horror shows – on WURF’s Theater of the Mind.

I fell asleep before midnight and got up at 6:30 AM, feeling less sorry for myself. At the unemployment office when it opened at 8 AM, I was told I’d get a letter from Tallahassee telling me if I were eligible for extended benefits.

At 1 PM, I was at the faculty parking lot to meet everyone for our field trip to North Florida Treatment Center. Kevin and I signed up to go with Danny S, this guy in our class.

This is Danny’s first term at UF. He transferred from Rutgers Law School in Camden, which he didn’t care for.

It must be hard for him to come to a new law school, so he could probably use some friends.

I have a little crush on Danny even though he has a dumb laugh, he’s not that good looking, and he’s probably not gay.

He was born in Argentina, but his parents took him out of Buenos Aires after his Jewish day school kept being threatened during the generals’ crackdown, when everyone was disappearing. Since then they’ve lived in Miami, off Ives Dairy Road in North Dade.

I assume Danny’s family has money because he’s got a snazzy red Honda with a car phone.

We followed Slobogin and the others’ cars to the North Florida Treatment Center not far out of town.

At a conference room, we signed forms pledging confidentiality (to protect the residents) and met the lawyer, a disabled black man, who told us that his clients are either insanity acquitees or defendants incompetent to stand trial.

We split up into five groups – I went with Robyn, Gina, Julie and Rich T – to be taken on tours of the facility.

Our guide was Clarence, the head of one of the residential buildings, each of which holds nine men.

It’s a maximum security mental hospital, but more like a minimum security prison. The inner fences have sensors that pick up the slightest pressure, and the outer gates have a high arc that prevents most people from getting close to escaping. There hasn’t been one escape in the 16 years the place has been open.

The director told us he was proud of the institution, and from what I saw, he should be.

The security is incredibly tight, with each building controlled by an elaborate system of video cameras, speakers and locks, all run by a worker with complete control of the computer board that can monitor everyone, including those sent to the room for residents who are out of control.

That room has a stainless steel toilet (no seat), a sink that comes out of the wall, and a mattress on a raised section to which they can be restrained.

We didn’t get to talk to any of the residents, but most of them seemed to be medicated to calm them down.

Despite that, violence is frequent, although the staff and guards (none of whom have weapons apart from restraining devices and a plexiglass shield) use their wits and special techniques to stop it.

The grounds are spacious, and they have a nice media center/library, where residents go to listen to CDs via headphones and read books and magazines. They also have a lot of videotapes, some of which were made at the Center for training purposes.

There was also a room with old TRS-80s and software and typewriters for the use of residents and also for classroom aids in teaching those under 21.

We went to see the dayrooms and up to the tower, with the guard has control of the facilities.

Clarence said he’s proud of the staff and that they do a good job of caring for the residents, respecting their rights (since none has been convicted) and getting the ones who can be made competent ready for trial.

One guy has been there for 16 years and doesn’t want to leave, but many stays are a lot shorter.

All in all, it seemed about as decent and humane as it could be. I was fairly surprised.

Wednesday, July 8, 1992

1:30 PM. Classes for the summer semester 1992 are over.

I’ve got Collier’s review session on Friday, and then next week his test on Monday afternoon.

The Property final is on Wednesday morning, and because it conflicts with the Law and Psychiatry final, I got that exam delayed until Thursday.

I’ll begin studying later today although I don’t feel I have to do much about Con Law because I’m fairly conversant with First Amendment issues and know I can use my general knowledge to write an essay that Collier, with his humanities background, will appreciate.

Basically, the exam will give me a chance to show off.

For Property, there’ll be a lot more work involved, but if I put in the time and effort, I should do okay.

I have the least idea of how to approach Law and Psychiatry, but I’ll do the best I can.

I slept soundly from 10 PM to 6 AM, and at school early today, I hung out with Bob, Roman and Dan R till they left for class.

Then I inadvertently insulted Emira as she approached by saying, “Oh, I didn’t recognize you at first. Say, your hair looks nice that way.” She just laughed.

I spoke to Larry as he was working at the library reference desk and played around on Westlaw before getting to class early to chat with Gene and Karin.

We barely got up to the highest level of equal protection scrutiny in Con Law, but as Collier said as we applauded him after doing the Korematsu case: “Life is short, but constitutional law is long.”

During the break, I sat outside with Gina, Kevin, E.K. and Pete until it was time for Property.

Julin mostly took questions, keeping us only an hour; this time, we applauded him, too.

During the next break, Kevin spotted Costas, and we called him over; he was with his wife.

Costas said that he had an appointment with Dean Savage to see about getting back in next year. Things in Miami are fine, he told us – although his wife didn’t look that happy.

After they left, Dustin and Kevin told me that their pal Tom P, who dropped out in September, is living in the woods of Pennsylvania and is about to be married.

The only other one of us to drop out in the first semester was Wil. Since then we haven’t lost anyone although now people may transfer or take leaves for financial or personal – not academic –  reasons.

Our law school is hard to get into, but once you do, it seems like you have to work very, very hard to flunk out.

Sunday, July 12, 1992

5 PM. I’ve been rereading my Property notes, and not only do they now make more sense, I’m astonished to find that just at the time I thought Julin with totally senile, he was actually doing a brilliant job tying things together – only I couldn’t figure it out then.

His disjointedness and repetition were really very clever ways of showing us what he was driving at.

Perhaps I’m overconfident, but I almost look forward to his exam to show him that I understand and can work with some of these very difficult concepts.

I get a rush from this kind of intellectual experience; it’s like I’ve heard and read this stuff before, but now the light bulb above my head goes off.

Last evening I read some Con Law material as I watched the two-hour ABC show In a New Light, an all-star program of entertainment and information about AIDS.

We’ve really come so far in terms of the public attitude, but Hollywood is probably skewed towards AIDS awareness because gay people are all over the industry.

So many talented and good people have died, I feel ashamed that I’ve done very little to help. I’m glad I gave money to the PEN Fund for Writers and Editors with AIDS, GMHC, ACT-UP and the other organizations.

Maybe even my “Caracas” story got somebody to think about AIDS. Remember when Chauncey Mabe wanted to use an excerpt for the Sun-Sentinel’s magazine as part of its “First Person” column?

That should have been my tipoff he wasn’t too bright: assuming I’d lost a lover to AIDS because the narrator in my story had.

At 10 PM last night, I bought $22 worth of groceries at Albertsons.

This morning I deposited my loan check into the ATM at NCNB (in Florida, they’re becoming NationsBank soon), and I hope there are no problems with that.

Marc W called to return the favor that I did for him yesterday, telling me about a case that might help on the Con Law final. But from Lexis, I can see it’s not really applicable.

Still, I studied in the library for a couple of hours, and it was good to get out even say hi to Rich, Donna, Dwayne and Jake.

The Democratic Convention coverage has begun, and it’s heaven for political junkies like me.


7 PM. I just had my dinner – Healthy Choice chicken fajitas, my favorite, $1.66 at Albertsons – and watched ABC’s Sunday news show from Madison Square Garden, with lots of convention news and interviews with Dukakis, Mondale and McGovern.

I hope I get a chance to watch most of the little convention coverage there’ll be. My best bet is PBS, where the NBC reporters will be – because, like ABC and CBS, NBC is limiting its convention programming to one hour a night.

Now, having got gotten through two-thirds of my Property notes and astonishing myself by feeling exhilarated as I studied, I can either read all the articles and cases I got off Lexis for Con Law or I can begin the Sunday Times. Probably I’ll do a little of both.

I haven’t heard from Mom in six days, not since I complained about having no money last Monday.

I did get Dad a birthday card today; his 66th is a week from Tuesday, when I’ll be starting my first full day in New York.

I haven’t had time, what with preparing for finals, to think about my trip, but I’ll be free as of Thursday afternoon and I’ll have four days before I leave: enough time to get ready and to take care of business here in Gainesville.

While time has gone by quickly in the eleventh months I’ve lived in this town,  my days have been full.