A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-July, 1992
by Richard Grayson
Monday, July 13, 1992
6 PM. I finished my Con Law final an hour ago, and I’m trying to calm down. It wasn’t hard, but I wrote hard for three hours and I feel a bit hyper.
The first question was a straightforward analysis of a college hate speech code, and I probably could have done a better job. I didn’t really mention equal protection although I did analyze the statute methodically, section by section.
The second question had quotes from Matsuda, Delgado and the judge in the Doe v. University of Michigan case, and said, “Discuss.”
I took that as an invitation to be as creative as I could, rambling a bit, but using language the way probably none of my classmates can.
In my second essay, I wrote a fantasy sequence about what would happen if hate speech was outlawed and suggested we’d see TV ads that said, “Insulted because of your race, religion or gender? Call 1-800-HATE-LAW for a free consultation.”
Then I said that, as usual, only attorneys will benefit from a new law. At least my final will be livelier than anyone else’s; that’s got to count for something.
It was also personal, as I wrote about feeling assaulted by the FAGS graffiti on the 34th Street Wall and the (apparently mandatory) daily homophobic letter to the editor in the Gainesville Sun.
I wrote from my heart, but maybe I should have written with my brain. In the end, of course, I came down against hate speech restrictions.
I’d like to believe I got an A on the final, but I could have gotten a B, and I’ll be satisfied with a B+. At least I enjoyed writing the second, freewheeling essay.
Before the test, Martin said, “I hear you’re going to take my Con Law book award away from me,” telling me that E.K. had told him that when E.K., of course, had said nothing of the kind.
As far as I’m concerned, Martin can book Con Law II. “Get a life,” I told him. He said, “As long as Lori doesn’t get it.”
I happened to see Lori’s notes; my God, that woman must study 27 hours a day.
“I don’t make outlines,” I said to her casually.
Last evening I read a little Con Law and much of the Sunday Times. I had trouble sleeping because of a toothache, but if I’m right, the problem is that I’m grinding my teeth; I’ve had this kind of pain before.
This morning I listened to the convention reports (tonight I devote completely to TV-watching), read the paper and a few things for Con Law; I also exercised and took a walk to the post office.
College Park Properties called, and I told them they could show someone my apartment while I was out this afternoon.
After lunch, I left for school, getting there an hour before my test.
Tomorrow I’ll study Property and maybe also Law and Psychiatry.
I got lots of mail. Chase Manhattan sent me a $2 coupon, good for any supermarket in Manhattan (Gristedes, Pathmark, etc.) that takes their Visa debit card. Good timing.
The SFCC English chair, Barbara Sloan, wrote that my file is missing two out of three recommendations; I bet Dr. Grasso and Joe Cook never sent anything. Mary Ellen Grasso is an odd duck.
SFCC is interviewing the first week of August, and the form letter said to get in touch with them if I’ll be on vacation then.
I just went to the post office and mailed the letter giving Barbara Sloan my parents’ phone number and Ronna’s, as well as old transcripts from Teachers College and letters of recommendation from ten years ago, dusty photocopies that might do.
While I’d like to teach English again, at this point I’ve given up hope, so it won’t be a big deal if I don’t get to teach in the fall. I should be able to get by with my student loan.
Also in the mail was rejection of the Barbie story from a little mag (at this point, who cares, right?) and one of those free New York City papers sent by Josh containing an article by a former attorney who hates the legal profession.
Wednesday, July 15, 1992
2 PM. It’s a dark, rainy, cooler day. It’s a good thing I got my Law and Psychiatry final delayed until tomorrow because 90 minutes after the Property finally ended, I still haven’t recovered; in fact, I feel sort of physically ill, like I’m coming down with something.
Maybe it’s just stress. I hope so. My throat hurts and I feel chilled and achy. Of course, I felt this way after Civ Pro last term.
Property was another terribly time-pressured test. With all the learning I have, I couldn’t find what I needed to know to properly answer the question.
With three and a half hours, answering the first (70%) question was impossible. It took me over an hour just to read and understand the ultra-complicated situation.
I tried to start off by organizing the answer, but I didn’t know how to go about it and what cases to cite. If I had another day, I could have come up with a brilliant answer, or at least an adequate one – and isn’t that how this situation would be in real life?
I spent pages just framing the issues. And I didn’t have much time for the second question.
But I know lots of people must have had the same experience, although part of me wonders if I’m not especially stupid. All my notes and outlines and flowcharts were virtually useless.
The thing is I do know this semester’s work, but my test answers didn’t show that. Still, nothing I could have done would have prepared me better.
I don’t intend to prepare much for tomorrow’s exam except maybe to reread my notes and read some of the books I borrowed from the library.
I put Post-it notes on sections of Judge Bazelon’s book, but if Slobogin’s test is like Julin’s, I won’t have time to consult the book.
Last evening I watched and listened to the Democratic Convention. I was moved by the talks of Elizabeth Glaser and Bob Hattoy, who have AIDS/HIV. Hattoy is a gay environmental adviser to Clinton; he seems like he could be someone I know.
It’s a measure of my internalized homophobia that I reacted to all the “Lesbian and Gay Rights NOW” signs with worry that it would alienate voters.
But my second thought was that the Republicans wouldn’t even let gay people address their platform committee, and it’s they who should be ashamed.
Clinton’s no saint, but what a difference it would be if he got elected; it would probably prevent some people from dying prematurely.
I again got misty when Jimmy Carter received a rousing reception and gave an impassioned speech. Carter is a terrific person; unlike Reagan and Bush, he’s really seen the lives of people in the inner cities.
His peaceful manner didn’t sell back in a Rambo-worshipping era, but the invasions of Panama and Grenada, the secret Contra war and the Gulf War were all so unnecessary and wasteful.
Jesse Jackson stirred me with his usual crusading oratory: he, too, is the champion of little people.
After sleeping okay from about midnight to 6 AM, I had a good breakfast and chatted with other students before the exam.
Everybody in the first year got finished with school today except for those of us in Law and Psychiatry.
George R and Rich found out that a couple of the people who made law review – Sharon and another woman in the other section – didn’t take a full class load last term.
Like Gena, they got out of Con Law and Appellate Advocacy because they have young children, and a lot of people think it’s unfair that their GPAs were figured in even though they had fewer credits.
Well, I still haven’t calmed down from the test. Maybe once I digest lunch and after I exercise, I’ll feel better.
I guess I won’t see most of my summer school classmates for the next month.
Tomorrow at this time, I’ll feel relief even if the Law and Psychiatry test is a horror.
Thursday, July 16, 1992
1:30 PM. I feel I blew the Law and Psychiatry final. I knew I was going to have problems yesterday when I tried to study and realized I needed a lot more time to organize my material and then I was still confused about the distinctions between civil commitment, the insanity defense and competency.
Just now I thought of something I stupidly left off the final.
That’s why I hate law school exams. The policy question I chose – about the abolition of the insanity defense (one of the choices) – I probably did okay on, but the fact pattern on the other question was so convoluted that I couldn’t sort it out.
Rich, Kevin, Gena, Robyn, Ken M and I took the final in Bailey Courtroom, where there was no clock and of course I didn’t have a watch.
Anyway, it’s over: two terms of law school and one summer semester.
I guess I got another two C+’s, but it’s also possible (barely) that I got B’s in Property and Law and Psychiatry. While I hope I got an A in Con Law, I wouldn’t be surprised by a B+.
How can I stop myself from caring about grades? Maybe a month away from the culture of law school will help.
It didn’t do my studying any good that the last day has been so interesting politically.
I wanted to listen to the speeches of Brown and Tsongas and Mario Cuomo’s fiery nomination speech; I drifted in and out of sleep watching the corny roll call, which Clinton and his family watched in Macy’s Cellar, and then when he went over the top, he came to the Garden to thank the delegates.
Tonight’s his big acceptance speech.
But the big news is the collapse of the Perot campaign. Last night, after rumors of dissension, Ed Rollins quit as Perot’s campaign manager, and when I got to the car at noon today, I heard Perot say he wouldn’t announce his candidacy after all – because he realized he couldn’t win.
What a phony Perot is! If I were one of his volunteers, I’d feel like I’d been taken for a ride. I guess politics isn’t as easy as egotistical businessmen think it is.
But I’m dismayed because in a three-man race, Clinton had a good shot. The Democrats will have a terrible time getting more than 45% of the vote against the Republicans, whom the Electoral College math favors.
For example, there’s no way Clinton can carry Florida, a solid GOP presidential state, so my own vote is wasted.
It’s ironic that Clinton’s greatest triumph and his 17-point lead in the polls will evaporate, just like Dukakis’s did after the 1988 convention.
Well, time to get my passport. The law school’s added a spring 1993 course on post-1992 European integration (team-taught by professors from England, Germany and Poland) that I should probably take.
Josh called yesterday, wanting to chat about applying to law school; that article discouraged him.
When we made tentative plans to meet for dinner on Tuesday, I again started to feel that I still have at least part of my life in New York.
After I got home, I gathered up all my textbooks and sold them at UBS for $30, then used the money to buy supplies at Walmart.
I got Mom’s check for $100 and a blank one to use in New York City. Hopefully I’ll survive the financial problems of the summer.
I’ve got lots of stuff to do before Monday, as I also want to prepare for moving, but I need to take the rest of the day off. I haven’t yet read yesterday’s or today’s newspapers.
But at least I know I passed my classes and have got 35 of the 86 credits I need to get my J.D.
Saturday, July 18, 1992
11:30 AM. I had just finished aerobics when the phone rang. It was College Park, asking if they could send someone over to look at my apartment at 1 PM. I said fine and got back to stretching when the phone rang again.
It was College Park again, telling me I owed them $264 for a half a month’s rent and that $2-a-day late fees were starting to kick in.
That made me realize my trip to New York was something I could not afford. I have to be realistic. As much as I want to be in New York, I can’t afford it.
I called my Mom at the flea market and told her. She, of course, wanted to argue with College Park, but I know that’s useless.
“Should I tell Dad to send you the money?” Mom asked.
No, I said. I mean, they could barely afford to send me $100. How can I ask them to send me this, especially since I know I’d still be cutting it so close in New York?
“I feel terrible,” Mom said.
So did I – and I know the full depression hasn’t set in yet. I phoned Alice because I wanted to tell someone, and she had dates for me to stay at her apartment.
It would have been a lovely trip. But I’ve got to grow up and take responsibility and accept reality.
I’ll see what I can do about my airline tickets and about reversing my mail forwarding.
This will be the first summer in my life that I couldn’t get to New York City. Well, I’ll dream about it. It will be tough to call Grandma, and maybe Ronna will be disappointed.
This all happened in the last half hour, so I’m kind of in a state of shock. I hope I have the strength not to fall into a total depression.
I think I’d rather stay here in Gainesville than go to Fort Lauderdale; it would be depressing to be around my family with their money problems.
Maybe I can do something positive. Without school, I’ll be alone every day.
Oh God. This is tough. I look back twelve years and remember the summer of 1980, when I was broke in Rockaway and my parents were broke in Florida and Grandpa Herb got sick and Janice died, and how hard that was for me.
But it did make me stronger.
Dad just called and said he’d give me the money for the rent. But I told him no, and when he persisted, I said I’d think about it and call him back tonight.
9:30 PM. I called Delta and cancelled my reservation after I learned I could make new reservations if I pay a $25 fee and the higher fare, so I can use these tickets next May or whenever.
I feel depressed but also relieved.
Sunday, July 19, 1992
12:30 PM. I slept a lot last night and I’ve been lying in bed, wanting to sleep more the way I usually do when I’m depressed.
I walked to the post office at 7:30 AM, and for the first time, I lost my $3 in quarters trying to get the Sunday New York Times out of the vending machine.
I felt frustrated and helpless, and of course it seemed like a symbol of my inability to get to New York.
I get twinges and a sick feeling whenever I think about not seeing Grandma, Ronna, Alice, my other friends and the city itself: the Upper West Side, Brooklyn, even the Five Towns.
But I had many happy summers in New York. Last year in Rockaway, I did savor every moment, and I was lucky enough to be there at Christmas. And one day I’ll go back.
It surprises me how homesick I am. I feel like I just broke up with a boyfriend or girlfriend – or kind of like somebody died.
Well, I’m in mourning. But I don’t want to be melodramatic: I’m hardly suffering more than acute disappointment.
I’d rather not be in Gainesville for the next month because without law school, I feel as if I’m in exile in a strange country. But maybe that’s a feeling I can learn something from.
In the last day I’ve gone through more emotions (and wanted to express them on paper) than I have in a long time.
I just left a sad message on Ronna’s answering machine. I worry my friends in New York will forget about me.
Oh God, the feeling-sorry-for-myself waterworks are starting. I can’t call Grandma today. God, I hope she doesn’t die before I see her again.
Why am I so greedy? I should appreciate all the good times I had in New York in the past decade.
7 PM. After I finished writing my last entry, I went to the Harn Museum of Art soon after it opened at 1 PM.
It’s free, and it’s a pity I was never there before. They’ve got a neat collection: mostly twentieth century American paintings by artists I’m not familiar with, and West African and Indian art.
There were two good exhibits. “Transparence/Transcendence,” organized by a German curator in Aachen, used forms that played with life,.
At 2 PM, I went into a surprisingly crowded auditorium for a two-act performance piece by the poet Christy Sheffield Sanford and the group Sumac.
Called The H’s: The Spasms of a Requiem, a Meditation on the Effects of Romanticism, Modern Architecture and the Love of Adventure in the Life of a Suicide Victim, I found it pretentious and preening, but at least it got me thinking and they got me out of the house and it was free.
It turns out there are plenty of New York-type arty people in Gainesville, but I haven’t met any of them in law school, of course.
I can use the time this next month to forget about legal issues and reacquaint myself with literature, art, music and other stuff I’ve been neglecting.
Last night I read issues of ZYX, the excellent one-man zine about innovative fiction and poetry.
Maybe I’ll even be able to do some writing myself. No, I’m not expecting miracles.
At the museum I kept wanting to lie down, a sign that this depressed feeling is not going to be going away soon, though it could also be a sign of sinusitis. (I get pretty sleepy in class, too.)
Anyway, I’m not going to call Grandma till sometime this week. I also have to call my other friends – particularly Josh and Pete, with whom I’d made tentative plans.
Tonight I can watch Crossing Delancey and get vicarious New York pleasure – the way I did earlier when I encountered two paintings, one of a midtown Manhattan skyline and the other, Jefferson Market Courthouse (now Library), that familiar Sixth Avenue sight – although the painting still had in the background the old Women’s House of Detention before it was demolished.