A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late July, 1992
by Richard Grayson
Wednesday, July 22, 1992
4 PM. It’s hard to get out of this depression.
Last night I couldn’t sleep, so I read. I finished Solitude: A Return to the Self by Anthony Storr, a British psycho-analyst [sic], and Wallace Shawn’s monologue The Fever, which gave me bad dreams when I finally drifted off at 3:30 AM.
My tooth had begun aching, a dull low ache, and this morning I decided to call some dentists from the Yellow Pages.
I made an appointment with one for Monday, but I decided that wasn’t soon enough, so I called another, who suggested I go to the Shands Teaching Hospital emergency clinic.
It opened at 1 PM, but I got there early because they only take ten patients a day, mostly for extractions, charging $30, plus a $3 chart fee for the first visit.
After I waited for 90 minutes, reading Jerry Steiner’s play Other People’s Money, the technician looked at me and said I should save money: they do only a temporary filling, and a permanent one at a regular dentist wouldn’t cost much more.
With money very precious, I got my refund. I’ll see if I can hold out till Monday.
When I returned home, there was a message from Santa Fe Community College. Calling them back, I set up an interview for next Tuesday at 4:45 PM.
They still don’t have two of my references, and it sounds as if they’re interviewing a bunch of people, so I may not get the job.
Maybe I’ll be better off if I don’t. I resent having had to spend $12 on transcripts, which will be all the money I’d make for an hour of teaching.
It’s disgusting that I made $600 a class at Long Island University 17 years ago, and now, with inflation making the cost of living about three times higher, I’ll be paid $1100 – probably less than half my 1975 salary in real money – to teach a class at SFCC in the fall.
This shows where America’s priorities are. One effect of my 1984-1990 credit card scheme was that it blunted my outrage over the inequities in society, but now I just feel rage.
Last night Bill Moyers had a program on the broken criminal “justice” system. In New Orleans, public defenders are paid $18,000 and have 400 clients.
One public defender, unprepared because of his enormous caseload, asked the judge to declare that he, the attorney, couldn’t give effective assistance of counsel as required by the Sixth Amendment. The judge agreed but was overruled by the state Supreme Court.
It’s not me or other people like me who are crazy – it’s the system and a ruling class that keeps it that way.
Thursday, July 23, 1992
1 PM. I want to write now because I feel relatively cheerful, and I’ve been so unrelentingly gloomy lately.
Last evening I read John Robin Baitz’s The Substance of Fire and then watched Fox’s 90210 and Melrose Place, finally falling asleep during a Barbara Walters special, Twentysomething: What Happened to the American Dream?, about today’s unsettled people in their twenties.
This year I’ve spent much of my time with people that age, and I feel sympathy for them. They don’t have the idealism and the youth culture of the late ’60s/early ’70s that my generation had, but they’re not the greedheads of the ’80s.
They’re really scared they won’t live as well as their parents – and they should be.
I woke up at 6 AM to listen to NPR’s news, but I drifted off into a number of pleasant dreams till 9 AM. I’d forgotten the pleasures of dozing late into the morning.
After breakfast, I went to the law school to get the New York Times and ran into Paul R, who’s working in a local law office.
I got to the public library when it opened and returned the five books I borrowed on Monday. Then I took out another seven books, all recent plays.
Someone at the library buys good plays, and unlike best-selling or new novels, they’re not checked out – and they’re a quick read and a good way to see what contemporary playwrights like Baitz are doing. It’s the closest I can get to going to the theater.
Another vicarious experience at the library is reading out-of-town newspapers: the Miami Herald, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Los Angeles Times, and New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Looking at local stories and even reading TV listings, movie theater ads, and classifieds in real estate gives me the illusion I’m in those places.
After reading the Wall Street Journal, I left the library and stopped at the downtown center of SFCC to pick up a fall schedule.
There are 80 “TBA” sections of English, and as much as I hate myself for it, I find I want to teach there badly. (You know that’s not what I meant.) Maybe I’ll get a chance.
I’m also looking forward to next spring’s publication of Mondo Barbie. That could mean at least a little recognition for my writing. Maybe someone will devote a sentence to my story in a review, and maybe I can do that reading at Books & Books that Rick is scheduling.
I should also contact bookstores in Gainesville about the possibility of readings here, whether related to Mondo Barbie or not.
Last year I had to devote entirely to law, but this coming year I can give over more of my life to other interests: literature, politics, whatever. Maybe I can find new interests.
While watching TV last night, I reorganized all my papers into different categories: stuff by me (fiction and nonfiction), articles about me (about writer stuff and other publicity), résumés, letters of recommendation, transcripts, law school stuff, my material about the 2 Live Crew trial, etc.
The mail brought my NCNB checking account statement, a $94 GRU bill I can’t pay – but it’s not due till August 10 – and junk mail for Broccoli Eaters PAC, which means I’m on the FEC mailing list and probably will attract the attention someone in the national media.
10 PM. After the last entry, I had lunch, read the Times, watched the soaps (I’ve begun watching One Life to Live for the homophobia storyline about the 17-year-old gay kid), bought groceries, and read three plays: Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation, Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow, and Bogosian’s Talk Radio.
Reading plays is like eating potato chips: they go down quickly. No wonder I loved to read plays when I was 14 and 15: Arthur Miller, John Osborne, Tennessee Williams, and especially Edward Albee and Eugene Ionesco.
No wonder I wrote plays when I was a teenager.
It’s fun to rediscover an old interest. Maybe I’ve got a lot of surprises left.
Saturday, July 25, 1992
9 PM. I think I’ve gotten over not going to New York although I still feel I’m missing an experience that I would have treasured.
However, I was right not to go. I didn’t have the money, and for once, I acted slightly responsibly.
Besides, it’s not so bad here in Gainesville. Every day it’s in the 90°s, but I don’t go out much, and when I do, I don’t really feel the heat.
Last year at this time I was enjoying my last couple of weeks in Rockaway, but I was terrified about what I’d be facing: living in Gainesville on my own, dealing with the pressures of the first year of law school.
Now I’m not facing anything that scary. Law school is a familiar haven. Gainesville isn’t a strange town to me anymore.
I still don’t know how I’m going to manage financially, but I called Chase Manhattan and their voicemail told me my checks for about $3,250 each will be mailed out on August 14 and December 30. So about a month from now I’ll have money . . . a little, anyway.
Barbara Sloan sent me the Santa Fe Community College English Department Handbook to read before my interview. They do things much more sensibly than Broward Community College.
Instead of putting the research paper in English 101, they leave that to a third course, Advanced Composition, which follows both English 101 and 102.
All three are Gordon Rule 6,000-word courses, and they’ve got uniform texts for each: one handbook and three readers.
There’s a holistically-scored common departmental essay in English 101, graded by two teachers who are not the students’ instructor, so it’s almost like CUNY.
And I liked the statement about students’ learning being more dependent upon the attitude of the instructor.
Even though they appear to be more organized than BCC, the English Department at SFCC just doesn’t seem as hard-assed.
Another nice thing I got in today’s mail was a letter from Joel Weinstein, editor/publisher of Mississippi Mud in Portland. He was glad to hear from me after so many years and said he has friends in Gainesville, including Christy Sheffield Sanford, whose performance piece I attended last Sunday.
Joel liked “Rules of Civil Procedure,” saying, “You really packed it in: scanners, tabloids, celebrity, aging, divorce, McGovern, Russia, law school – but it’s a good story (though without the harder edge I remember).”
He’ll pay me $50 when he publishes it. However, that might not be for over a year, since the magazine comes out sporadically in a tabloid format. Apparently Joel works on it all by himself.
I wrote him back immediately, telling him to publish the story whenever he can. I also told him about seeing Christy and sent him a copy of Narcissism and Me.
It really makes me feel good to know my story will be coming out in Mississippi Mud and that I’m actually publishing fiction again.
I think the next year may have some interesting moments – but then, my life always seems to have plenty of those.
I’ve slowed down on my reading of plays, although I finished Woody Allen’s The Floating Lightbulb and Peter Parnell’s Romance Language today.
I slept till 8 AM, listened to NPR, read the papers, exercised and read magazines and USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Arizona Republic. (That reminds me: I’ve got to call Sat Darshan.)
I felt exhilarated when I came home and read the mail from SFCC and Mississippi Mud, so after lunch I went to the Harn Museum, spending more time with their Indian collection but also looking at the art I saw last week.
I ate well, as usual, combining lots of frozen vegetables — California mix (broccoli, cauliflower and carrots), Roma blend (cauliflower, Lima beans, zucchini, green beans and carrots), succotash (until recently I didn’t know succotash was corn and Lima beans), sugar snap peas, yellow squash, and field peas and snaps.
Plus I had my usual sweet potato: I put it in the microwave till it softened and mashed it up with Pam (butter substitute), cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice as well as orange extract.
Tonight I watched ABC’s network news and Star Trek: The Next Generation, which isn’t bad.
Tuesday, July 28, 1992
3:30 PM. I’m nervous, but as I said yesterday, it’s good to feel fear because it tells me I’m growing. In 75 minutes I have my interview at Santa Fe Community College.
The grades are scheduled to be posted this afternoon, too, so I’ll probably head over to the law school after my interview. I’m prepared for a double disappointment, but not really.
Last night I fell asleep at 10:30 PM after reading Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound and Charles Ludlam’s delightful Vampire Lesbians of Sodom and Psycho Beach Party.
Having caught up on my sleep a little, I feel more frisky now. This morning I exercised, read part of the paper and lay down a little more.
Now I’ve got my clothes out. It’s about 97°, and I’ve got to wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and a tie for the first time in months. I’d better take a shower.
7 PM. I feel good. I had a nice interview at Santa Fe Community College, and although I’m disappointed with my C+ in Law and Psychiatry, I got an A (one of three in the class) in Con Law, and amazingly, another B+ in Property.
Given my tests, that’s about as good as I could have expected.
I’m now less interested in taking Slobogin for Criminal Procedure in the fall, but if I teach at SFCC, I’ll have to do it in the afternoon when that class meets because all SFCC’s evening sections are taken.
I was interviewed at the college by Jeff (of course, I didn’t catch his last name), a full-time faculty member who’s about 30, and we had a good talk.
He said I had more experience than most adjuncts, and he could tell from the way I present myself that I don’t sound like an idiot. I told him I had no preference about which class I wanted to teach, but I expect I’ll get English 101 because they have more of them.
Jeff said they’ll call me in a few days. SFCC’s English Department seems a lot more together than BCC’s, with less rigid attitudes, certainly, than Central Campus’s faculty.
They’ve got a good system, it seems, for ensuring uniformity with their departmental exam in English 101, and they get a good group of adjuncts.
“You won’t be out of place here,” Jeff said.
I’m looking forward to teaching again.
Jeff was dressed casually, but I’d put on my sport jacket and tie to look professional.
We talked a lot about graduate school and law school.
I feel like I could make friends with people in the SFCC English Department if they’re like Jeff, and they probably are.
Anyway, as usual, my fear about the interview was really just anticipation. I feel confident I can do a good job at SFCC although I know I have to improve as a teacher and be more demanding and less of a pushover.
Mom just phoned to ask how everything went. She and Dad will be here in a couple of weeks to help me move.
I’m excited the way I was on Saturday when I went to the museum after getting the FCC material and the acceptance from Mississippi Mud.
I think I may go out shopping now. Maybe I’ll go over to the library, too.
My law school GPA barely budged – from 3.30 to 3.3181818, which they list as 3.31. I guess that’s where I’ll stay and that I got a bounce out of an especially high first term.
I’m still in the top 15%, maybe the top 10%, of the class. And I’ve gotten more A’s than any other grade: four A’s, three B+’s, three B’s and three C+’s.
While I hate to see the C+’s on my transcript that’s UF Law School. My summer GPA is 3.35 or so, and that’s fine.
Besides, I easily could have gotten a lower grade in Property, which was a three-credit course.
Thursday, July 30, 1992
9 PM. Last evening I watched mindless but funny/hip/“co-oo-ol” programs on the Fox network.
Josh called to say he liked the Barbie story I sent him, and we talked for an hour.
As with the previous night’s conversation with Justin, it gave me the chance to talk to a friend.
In Gainesville, I haven’t really got anyone but myself to talk to , and I can be pretty boring.
Josh got a fax machine and a new computer in his apartment as part of an experiment in telecommuting the city is introducing.
It’s kind of hard to see the savings if Josh works at home one day a week, especially since he walks to work, but he says they’ll figure he’ll be more productive.
James has made a good recovery with the chemo treatments in Tulsa. Although he’s not out of the woods yet, his tumors have shrunk, and Josh said James is out of the hospital and is no longer depressed.
Actually, James’s deep depression was caused in large part because the doctors took off a patch that had provided him with a narcotic; he was going through withdrawal.
Josh scored in the 70th percentile on the LSAT (they now use a different scoring system than they did when I took the test), and he said that may not be good enough to get him into New York Law School or Brooklyn Law School.
I said I thought he could probably get in somewhere in New York City if he really wants to.
I fell asleep at 11:30 PM on the living room bed/couch. I figured I should try it at least once because that’s where I’ll be sleeping when my parents visit. And boy, did I sleep: soundly till 10 AM, and even then it was a struggle to get out of a dream world that was enticing.
I did aerobics to Homestretch at 11:30 AM, and I left the apartment at 1 PM.
At the law school, I looked at the grades again and noticed that Slobogin gave more than half the class C+ or lower.
I also got the revised fall schedule. Dowd will be teaching Family Law with Elizabeth McCulloch, who’s director of social policy at the Center for Governmental Responsibility. (McCulloch’s seminar on feminist jurisprudence was canceled.)
In the library, I discovered that my Lexis password still worked. I found this week’s Entertainment Weekly article on the disappointment that Batman Returns has caused in Hollywood. The piece extensively quoted Wes, who had to rush doing his rewrite in two weeks last July, and it seems that scenes, plotlines and characters (Marlon Wayans was all set to play Robin as a gang member) were cut or changed.
People say the movie’s plot makes no sense, but it hardly could, given the chaotic process.
I still don’t see what’s the kick in writing for movies. The money, I guess.
I spent an hour reading The Hotline on the campaign database for the last week: it’s a political junkie’s wet dream: inside baseball from inside the Beltway.
Bush’s polls are so bad, it’s hard to believe: in California, the President trails by 34 points, and Clinton is ahead in the polls in states he can’t possibly carry, like Arizona and Virginia.
I wish the election were tomorrow because I know November will be a nailbiter. It would be a great trick if Clinton could win easily, but I can’t believe that’s possible – unless 1992 is an election that produces a seismic shift, like 1932 or 1968/1972, from one party to the other.
Sated with info, I left school, saying hi to Professor Baldwin as I passed him in the parking lot.
Dowd’s first assignment was posted on the board: she wants us to hand in a definition of “family” and a drawing of a family.
Last night Josh asked if I was burnt out on law school yet. Anything but. I think Baldwin’s class and Dowd and McCulloch’s class will be interesting, and I look forward to the start of school.
At the Harn Museum, I took in the exhibit that opened this afternoon, Native Land and Natural Scene, featuring photos by Ansel Adams and Paul Strand.
I need to go back, but I enjoyed the landscapes and the photos of people (by Strand, mostly; Adams didn’t seem to populate his pictures).
At Walmart I bought some needed supplies (soap, decongestant, toilet paper), and then I came home to dinner, All Things Considered, and the New York Times.
I got a call from Leah Roy, a reporter for Buffalo, the Sunday magazine of the Buffalo News, who came across the Committee for Immediate Nuclear War in the Encyclopedia of Associations. She and I spoke for maybe twenty minutes.
While I had thought this month in Gainesville without school would drag on endlessly, the time has been passing quickly.