A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late September, 1992

by Richard Grayson

Monday, September 21, 1992

8 PM. My perception that the air conditioner was broken was correct.

The guy Gordon sent over said I need a new compressor, and he can’t install it until tomorrow morning, so I’m going to have an uncomfortable night.

An hour ago it was 89° and the humidity must be 95%; I’d already had a bad sinus headache. Always something, right?

Earlier today, when I still thought the hot apartment might be my imagination, I went to school from 3 PM to 4 PM, leaving the A/C on low. But when I returned, it was still hot and airless in here, so I got Gordon to send one of the maintenance men over.

I went back to school for another hour, and after dinner, I went to the public library just so I could be somewhere cool.

I wouldn’t mind the heat if I felt I could breathe. And I feel really cranky. I hope it’ll get fixed tomorrow.

It’s shocking how dependent we are on air conditioning; God knows how people lived before they invented it.

I feel annoyed that I have to live in Gainesville with its terrible climate. Every day the Times weather map has the word “sultry” over North Florida.

I know, it’s worse in South Florida, but at least there the winters are drier.

Even though tomorrow is autumn, it’s still ridiculously hot and humid. Why can’t I be in New York City?

I worry I’ll forget what New York is like, that I lose my big-city skills after not being there for so long.

Anyway, my bedroom is an oven, so I’ll stay here on the couch tonight, where at least I can open the window next to me.

At school this afternoon, I chatted for quite a while with Denise, Alison, Greg and Dan M.

Denise told me Carla got a 3.46 index her first term and gets A’s even though she doesn’t study.

Last year, Denise said, Carla read only the cases for Civ Pro and Baldwin’s class – and did that only because she was afraid of being embarrassed if she were called on.

Carla got a perfect score on the Evidence quiz and hadn’t even opened the text (or so she said), and that drives Denise – who works hard – up the wall.

Greg had an interview that didn’t go too well, but because the firm was “very conservative,” he didn’t want to work there anyway.

Everybody says they don’t want to work for a “conservative” firm, as if some law firms are “liberal.” In the end, they’ll take jobs with fascists, I’m certain.

Passing by Darin in his blue suit, I pictured him being my age and looking ten years older than I do; he already has that pained expression of exhaustion and resignation.

Dan and Greg both stayed up all night doing their law review articles. I’ve heard the odds of making law review via the writing competition are poor, but I guess it means a great deal to employers.

Perhaps I’ve already made myself unmarketable because I don’t have any of these law school activities under my belt.

If so, good. There’ll be even less chance than zero that anyone would want to hire me.

At the public library, I leafed through recent issues of Publishers Weekly. Ten years ago I subscribed to PW, but by now I’ve totally lost touch with that world.

I thought maybe I’d see Mondo Barbie in a St. Martin’s ad, but it’s probably considered a spring book.

It’s pathetic how much I look forward to seeing that anthology or any sign of it, but let’s face it: I haven’t had anything published in a long time, and it’s been ages since anybody in the outside world even acknowledged that I’m a writer.

Maybe I’m not one anymore. Could I deal with that? Just being a writer in my own head? I may have to.

I feel cranky. Colicky, too – what I mean is, I feel like an infant.

Why is my handwriting deteriorating so? I used to write so precisely, so neatly. Now anyone who sits in class next to me realizes how illegibly I scrawl. Shit.

I’m going to take a shower. No, one’s not missing.

Perhaps I’m no longer a writer because I have nothing to say, and even if I did, nobody could read my handwriting.

Wednesday, September 23, 1992

2 PM. It’s cool again, deliciously cool and dry. I’d like to say I won’t take air conditioning for granted again, but I know I’ll forget about it before the day is over.

Last night wasn’t as bad as the night before, but it was still sticky, and I didn’t sleep much on the couch.

I’ve been frazzled all day – from lack of sleep, discomfort, sinus trouble and dizziness. But I went to all my classes and I taught at SFCC.

Baldwin called on me this morning to discuss ABA v. Hudnut after he raised the issue of Yale’s 1974 revocation of its invitation to Dr. William Shockley and I told him about the demonstration we had the same year at Richmond College.

(“Richmond College? Where is that?” “Staten Island.” “Where’s that?” “New York City.” “Where’s . . . oh, never mind.”)

I’m smiling as I recall that; I love being put on the spot intellectually, and I wasn’t nervous in the least. It was a great picker-upper.

As we were leaving class, Marsha said, “You have a story for everything.”

I felt sickish during Evidence, but I stuck it out as Seigel began our study of hearsay exceptions.

During the break I got a Diet Sprite and ate a fruit bar, so I felt better during Family Law, where our guest lecturer, Professor Wendy Fitzgerald, discussed the legal, social, and ethical implications of eugenics and the Human Genome Project.

DNA therapy raises so many questions. We were left with this hypo:

Two couples came for gene therapy. One woman is pregnant with a child who carries the gene for cystic fibrosis; the other woman carries a baby who’s got the gene that marks the trait for shyness. Should gene therapy be given to both babies? In utero or after birth?

I stopped at the apartment on my way to teach and was glad to see them working on the new air conditioner.

In my class at SFCC, we went over essays by A.G. Mojtabai on “Polygamy” and Gloria Steinem on “Erotica and Pornography,” but the class discussion wasn’t as lively as I would have hoped, given the interesting material. (Both Baldwin’s class and Family Law have dealt with these subjects).

Still, it was good that I was able to teach at all today. I collected the class’s papers, but of course there’s no way I can grade them by Friday.

This morning I exercised at 6:15 AM because I wasn’t sure I’d have the A/C on later.

Right now I feel exhausted. I need to read for tomorrow’s Natural Resources class and I have to prepare for Nova by reading the text and creating a writing assignment.

I feel I wasted so much time this week.

Last night I did take two baths, at 7:20 PM and then at 9 PM, and they were a treat, as the lukewarm water cooled me off.

After years of showers, I’d forgotten how relaxing a bath could be – although not relaxing enough so that I could fall asleep early.

Well, let’s see if I can avoid being stressed out the rest of this week.

Next week Vivian Lee is planning to observe my teaching. Having another teacher in my classroom is unnerving, but as usual, I really don’t care about coming back to SFCC, so I’m not too concerned. After all, it’s like someone checking on you for a volunteer job.

If I knew I could get one Nova class in the spring, I wouldn’t consider Santa Fe, and I won’t travel to the community college three times a week next term; only a Tuesday/Thursday or one-day-a-week class is acceptable.

(Why am I using the passive voice like my students?)

On Monday there’ll be no Evidence class, so I’ll be home at 9 AM, making it an easy day. If I’m really running behind, I can grade papers before my class at noon.

And after next Tuesday’s Nova class, we’ve got a week’s break. (Perhaps it’s because of the eve of Yom Kippur.)

Ross Perot sounds like he may get back in the presidential race, and I’m afraid he could take enough votes from Clinton to reelect Bush.

Clinton has tried to avoid controversy because he’s sitting on a 10-point lead, and the two sides can’t come to an agreement about debates. (Bush won’t accept the bipartisan commission’s called for a single moderator.)

The draft issue is percolating, and yesterday Bush brought up Arkansas prisoner furloughs: it’s Willie Horton all over again.

I got a long letter from Tom. Debra’s teaching in Stuttgart again this year, Jessica’s teaching near Kyoto and loves Japan, and Tom feels “bereft again.”

Half his morning class at NOCCA “did not (seriously) know what an adjective was.” He wonders why I’m bothering to teach comp.

Rick Peabody wrote Tom that he’s working on Mondo Marilyn and asked if Tom knew any teaching jobs – “but not comp; I’m too old to pay those dues.”

Friday, September 25, 1992

4 PM. Got through the week.

I enjoyed last evening’s class at Gainesville High School. The Nova students are a good group.

Since the module is going to stay together, I did my part to help bond the students by having them (and me) freewrite about our names and then read what we wrote. I find that a good icebreaker.

We went over other essays in a workshop after putting the chairs in a circle, and then I discussed inductive and deductive reasoning and fallacies and the readings from the text (including an excerpt from Mein Kampf).

We meet again on Tuesday, which is already the halfway point of the term.

I see the module is supposed to take American Lit in the spring, and while I’d love to teach it, Barbara Goldsmith probably will.

(After Julin’s class this morning, Barbara asked me how my teaching was going, and when I said fine, she remarked, “It’s good to get on the other side of the desk, to give you perspective.”)

Home at 9:30 PM last night, I watched the PBS documentary on Nixon while snacking on fruit and Entenmann’s “fat-free” cake.

I also read the Times, looked at The Hotline on Lexis – Perot will probably get back in the presidential race soon – and watched Nightline: more Bush lies about his role in Iran/Contra are surfacing.

As expected, I slept only four hours, but I was rested from the night before, and I’ve grown accustomed to getting through the day on very little sleep.

Julin lectured, mostly, and we began, yes, the infamous Deterding case that seemed to occupy weeks this summer in Property 2.

I went up to Baldwin’s office and showed him my Miami News column from 1981, when I won the First Amendment essay contest, which starts with a reference to the Shockley speech at Richmond College. I left the xerox with him.

His wife Nancy sits behind me in Family Law and is always very friendly, but I don’t know if Professor Baldwin has mentioned me to her.

Dowd’s next Family Law writing assignment is to come up with a speech about the legal risks and benefits of adoption versus surrogacy.

She said our midterm will be two weeks from today; she’ll hand it out in the morning and it’ll be due back on Saturday morning.

I figured out I’d take off that day instead of the Wednesday before Yom Kippur at SFCC.

But when I got to SFCC, I found the memo from Barbara Sloan that our holistic grading session would move from next Friday to October 9, the day of the Family Law midterm.

I told Barbara about it, and she said she’d call Dave Hellmich and work something out.

My class went okay, and afterwards I got to see Vivian Lee, who thought at first that I was a student.

I schmoozed with her for a bit, telling her to come to my class next Wednesday to observe.

She wants me to visit her 11 AM class on Monday, though I feel it’ll be a waste of time.

Vivian may be a fine teacher, but I have vastly more college teaching experience than she does, and even though I’ll probably be terrible on Wednesday after teaching Tuesday night and then having three classes in a row at law school, at least I’ll get the observation over with.

Law school has wrung a lot of the fear out of me.

At home at 2 PM, I ate, finished the Times, exercised and did laundry. Actually, I have to go check the dryers right now.


Well, I got the clothes out; I’ll fold them and put them away as I listen to All Things Considered.

It’s drizzly and cool. Today’s high was in the lower 80°s, but the subtle change in temperature came too late to help me while the air conditioner was broken.

I’ve been averaging one piece of mail a day. Today’s was the leaflet advertising Justin’s MFA thesis production of As Is, which goes on at Brooklyn College’s New Workshop Theater next Thursday to Sunday.

I see Larry’s in the cast, so Justin must have replaced that actor who wasn’t working out. Good. It’s sweet that Larry can be a part of this.

I wish I could see the play: my old pal Justin, my old campus.

Oh, to be in Brooklyn in October!

Monday, September 28, 1992

8 PM. Despite sleeping soundly last night, I felt drowsy all day today.

Toward morning I had a marvelous dream that took place in Rockaway, and at the end of it I was riding up a glass-enclosed elevator and able to see outside as we went up, up, up, 80, 90, 100 floors.

When I got out of the elevator at ground level, I passed a newsstand and subway station in a part of Rockaway I had never quite noticed before.

That dream stayed with me for at least an hour after I woke up at 5:30 AM.

Because of Rosh Hashana, I had only one law school class today. Baldwin went over Chaplinsky and Cohen and managed to find some new material in the cases.

Before class, Martin shared with me a letter from UF saying that his Law School Democrats is now an official college group.

Martin’s happy that Clinton will win and feels Bush deserves his comeuppance.

I’m still antsy, having been a disappointed Democrat nearly every fourth November since I was bar mitzvahed.

Whatever Perot’s doing won’t play itself out till the end of the week, and it’s a game that could up end up throwing the election to Bush.

What will defeat Bush in the end, I suspect, is what killed Carter in 1980: the sense that if the President continues in office, there will just be more of the same, and people can’t abide thinking that.

Intending to exercise at home at 9 AM, I instead opted to get back under the covers of my bed until I left for SFCC a couple of hours later.

No, I didn’t go to Vivian Lee’s class. What was the point?

In my own class, I went over comma problems from the students’ essays with them and began discussing the two essays in the reader that I’d assigned.

On Wednesday, we’ve got pieces by Isaac Bashevis Singer and Harry Crews, an odd couple if there ever was one. For better or worse, Vivian will observe me then.

This afternoon I exercised, finished the Family Law paper for Wednesday, and did the usual stuff.

Tomorrow I need to spend the afternoon preparing for my Nova class. Without essays to critique, the time will be harder to fill.

Last evening I spoke to Dad, who said Sydelle called earlier to say that Bill was in the hospital. He suffered a stroke, probably a minor one.

Bill had felt ill the night before, but the ER doctors at Humana Biscayne sent him home, saying he was okay. Then he got sicker yesterday.

Well, Bill probably has high blood pressure; he’s also overweight and is a smoker and eats lots of fatty food.

Not that skinny vegetarians can’t get strokes, of course. I’m saying Bill’s condition is understandable, not deserved.

I fell asleep during Eileen Atkins’s performance as Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own. That’s the second time that occurred – which is odd because I love that essay.

Tonight I got around to much of this week’s Times Book Review.

Mark Leyner’s Et Tu, Babe really does sound good. It also sounds Graysonish, though with more style and wit. I clatter clumsily around words like one of my clumsy Santa Fe students.

It looks like I’ll get this unexpected SLS loan for $1,445, which is more than enough to get me through this year.

It means I don’t have to teach in Santa Fe next term, and maybe I can afford to take all the credits I want at law school.

Wednesday, September 30, 1992

2 PM. After chatting with Josh yesterday, I headed off to teach at Gainesville High School, stopping at the law school to get a caffeine-free Diet Pepsi, unavailable anywhere locally except at the machine at their lounge.

On the bulletin board, the summer Honors List and Book Awards were up.

Collier didn’t pick a Book Award winner for Con Law 2, so neither Lori, David G nor I will receive another little honor.

Well, that’s life; the three of us have enough Book Awards, and Collier probably thinks Book Awards are stupid.

Still, I was glad that Barry booked Property 2 and that so many new people had gotten Honors (3.0-3.49).

I’d like to finally be able to stop thinking about grades. This term I’m in classes with different people rather than one section like last year, so nobody will be ranking us.

Because I felt tired last evening, I let the Nova class go at 8:40 PM though I stayed on another half-hour to work with people individually.

Although there was less energy in the room than I’d have preferred, it was an okay class as we went over definition and essay organization.

I read aloud Max Shulman’s sexist and dated “Love is a Fallacy,” which is nevertheless kind of funny and presents a sugar-coated introduction to fallacies.

Luckily, I slept soundly last night, making up for lost Dreamland ground.

Today it’s been cool – right now it’s only 70°, a welcome change – and I went through my three classes a bit distracted but awake.

Baldwin continued hate speech; Seigel went over FRE 801(d)(2); and Dowd introduced the adoption process.

Next Monday is our hearsay quiz, but Seigel is giving us the hour after class, so hopefully the extra time will help me do better.

Dowd’s midterm is next Friday, and both classes have big reading assignments, as does Baldwin’s class, which has a makeup session tomorrow at 4 PM.

I have my English 101 papers to grade, so I’ll have plenty of work this weekend. Perhaps I can start on them tomorrow or even later today.

Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about teaching at Nova next week, and today I had a very good observation at Santa Fe.

The class was relaxed and chatty as we discussed Isaac Bashevis Singer’s “Why the Geese Shrieked” and Harry Crews’s “Why I Live Where I Live,” about Gainesville.

Vivian Lee came up to me at the end and told me the class was “a delight” and that my teaching had given her some pointers.

Before leaving campus, I collected my first Santa Fe paycheck: $140, a pittance. But it’s a nice feeling to be earning any money for the first time since May 1991.

After depositing the check in my NationsBank account, I came home to eat lunch and do the laundry.

I still haven’t read yesterday’s Times, let alone today’s, and I’m a bit drowsy, but I feel good about myself.

Josh told me that when he ran into Pete, Pete said he admired that I could go to law school and work at the same time. It is kind of neat that I’m able to juggle going to law school full-time with two part-time teaching jobs.

Although my grades may suffer, in the long run that won’t make any difference in my life.

Lorraine was all dressed up for an interview. She told me that the same few people seem to get interviews: herself, Martin, Dave A, Dave G, David W, Darin, Marsha, Lori, Duane and Carla.

I don’t know why that is. Maybe some other people are like me and just don’t apply for them.

Although it seems I just paid September’s rent, this afternoon I walked over to the Camelot office to pay my rent for October.

I still haven’t received my contract from Nova or that additional loan money from UF, so even with my paycheck, I’m down to $830 in the bank.

Still, that’s certainly much, much better than I was doing last summer.