A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-October, 1992

Thursday, October 8, 1992

4 PM. I’m anxiously working on my Family Law midterm though I know I’ll have it done in time.

Dowd said we should take only two hours to answer each question, giving us a limit of eight pages, double-spaced and typed limit. Basically, it’s like doing two of our biweekly writing assignments.

I chose one question from each of the two parts. The first, which I’ve only gathered material for, is designing the ideal law firm to balance family responsibilities and work.

The other question deals with the legalization of gay relationships by common-law contracts, same-sex marriage or domestic partnership laws.

I’m genuinely fascinated by both subjects, and I’ve done an outline and a rough draft of the gay question.

I have this evening to work, of course, and tomorrow I’ve got only Julin’s 8 AM class and my own teaching at noon.

I’d like to hand in my final draft at 5 PM tomorrow. Our deadline isn’t until 8 AM Saturday, but I just hate cutting things that close. If I can do a rough draft of the law firm essay by tonight, I’ll feel better.

Up at 6 AM, I was at school in the darkness an hour later, and I managed to read most of the Times before and after Julin’s class.

Our Family Law discussion on work and the family again interested me. I think most of the 22-year-olds are naïve thinking they can have it all.

Nancy Baldwin said that from her “hundred years’ experience at this law school,” she could remember when all the students were men and a speaker told the students’ wives group that their husbands were going to have a mistress they could not compete with: the law.

But if lawyers love their work, a lot of them in their forties seem to be breaking up with their lovers because people are leaving the legal profession in droves. My classmates don’t seem to realize this.

I’m especially interested in the movement toward part-time legal work, and I’ll write about that in my essay.

I had a long talk with Alice. Each phone conversation we have convinces me our values are so divergent that we can never again be as close as we once were.

Alice is, like her mentor Andreas, a profoundly conservative person who believes only individual initiative matters.

While other freelancers complain that the bad economy has shrunk their incomes, Alice said hers hasn’t shrunk: “Why? Because I’m always hustling!”

When I mentioned seeing Clinton at the rally, unlike all my other friends in New York, Alice didn’t say she hopes he’ll win, and when I said, “A lot of people blame Bush for the economy,” Alice snorted, “As if it’s his fault!”

In a lot of ways, I despise Alice’s smug attitude, and I’m sure she finds my radical viewpoint offensive to her sense of the world.

The truth is, though, I read and think and Alice doesn’t.

Her last question to me was about Bob Grant, the acerbic right-wing WABC radio talk host. She had an offer to ghost-write his biography, but Alice didn’t know a thing about him.

When I told her Bob Grant’s life was probably boring, she said she’d forget about it. I knew that was a better tack then decrying his racism and sexism.

Alice and her partner did sell a humor book to Dell – something about why a man should be more like a cat. In other words, a non-book.

I guess I’m being very hard on Alice. She really hasn’t changed over the years, so I must be the one who did. Still, our conversations lately have left me feeling frustrated and a bit angry.

Friday, October 9, 1992

9 PM. I handed in my Family Law midterm today at 4 PM after spending many hours writing and revising my essays.

Last night I did a rough draft of the law firm question, and I worked on a second draft of the gay partnerships question from the time I got back home from Julin’s class this morning until I left for Santa Fe.

When I returned from teaching, I worked for over two hours – polishing, editing and cutting so I’d have exactly eight pages.

I spoke to Carla this morning, and of course she’d already finished her midterm; Ana said she hadn’t done much yet.

Ana agreed to be my partner for the divorce negotiation that will be our next big project, accounting for 30% of our grade.

I feel I did the best I could on the midterm and actually did enjoy the hard work of thinking and writing.

I showed my SFCC class my rough drafts with the many insertions, revisions and cuts to give them an idea of how I handled the writing process.

Their own rough drafts on the presidential election are due Monday, and I’ve got most of their revised narratives to grade now.

Mom and Dad called last night, and if anything, they were more outraged than I was over Bush’s sleazy tactics in the election.

When I told Mom I thought Alice was supporting Bush, she said, “What is she, an idiot?” and Dad remarked that Alice “only knows one thing: how to make money.”

Laura called to let me know she’s coming here at 10 AM tomorrow so I can drive her to the library, where she likes to study.

Tomorrow there’s an at-home football game, and Laura is afraid that all the spaces in the law school parking lot will be filled with fans going to The Swamp.

In the afternoon, after I pick her up, we’re going to the Harn Museum. After I told Laura about my visits there, she said she wanted to see it.

Although I have my usual ton of work this weekend, I also need to take a break.

Sunday, October 11, 1992

10 PM. The candidates’ debate was a little dull. Nobody made any blunders or said anything that was unexpected, which probably is good for Clinton since he’s already in the lead.

Perot helped himself with a folksy, decent performance, and Bush did okay, too. While I thought Clinton did best, that’s probably because I agreed with him.

To me, it seems that Bush just doesn’t get it and it’s time for someone from a younger generation.

Sat Darshan phoned immediately after the debate. She said she missed the first half of it because it started so early in Phoenix. She had expected it to be on later in the evening, not at 5 PM.

She and Ravinder got married in late September, but he had to return to New York because his closest relative in the U.S., his brother’s brother-in-law, the man whose family he lived with, was dying and calling for him.

The man died on Friday, the cremation is tomorrow, and Ravinder will be flying back to Phoenix once he takes care of some business in New York the next day.

Sat Darshan likes her job at the Montessori school. She’s never bored, and by now she knows all the little kids who go there.

Although her paycheck is meager, she works with nice people, and she now realizes how unhappy she was working at the bank in New York.

Sat Darshan told me she’s always felt she had to make money for retirement, but now she figures that if she’s happy, she’ll just work until she’s so old that she can’t anymore.

She and Ravinder realize they’re going to have to struggle for several years, but they can live on less than they needed in New York.

In fact, they may buy a four-bedroom house on their block that’s been foreclosed and which the FHA is selling for $49,000. It would end up costing her less than the house she’s renting.

Sat Darshan’s mother stopped talking to her when she found out that she married an Indian: “I think she had it in her mind that I’d only become a Sikh because of Krishna’s influence, and that after I divorced him, I’d become a Jew again.”

Before her mother cut her off, she told Sat Darshan that Ellen had gone back to Texas to take all her stuff out of Wade’s house and file for divorce. Ellen has been living in L.A. with a younger guy, but she didn’t leave Wade for him.

Sat Darshan said the temperatures in Phoenix have gone back into double digits, with daily highs of 96° rather than 115°. Nights and mornings are cool, without any rain since August.

It was good to hear from Sat Darshan.

But because I missed the post-debate commentary, I called Dad, a CNN junkie, who said most people viewed it the way I did, scoring it A+ for Clinton.

Monday, October 12, 1992

5 PM. It was cool when I went out at 7 AM today. At the reference desk in the library, I saw Larry, who was working there as usual, in deep conversation with Shara.

When I returned to check out yet another constitutional law casebook (in lieu of a text for Political and Civil Rights), Larry told me that Shara studied so much that he hardly saw her anymore.

Later, sitting next to me in Evidence, Shara showed me photos of her and Larry this summer in Vermont, Maine and Montreal, so I guess they’ve been going together a long time.

In class, Baldwin called on my seatmate Carla today, but she was more than prepared.

I knew I’d be upset once I saw Seigel had the hearsay quiz, and I was: I got a 12 out of 24. But after staying for the session after our class, I realized that I do understand hearsay; it’s just that I got no credit for answers that were close calls.

I hate Seigel’s objective quizzes, just as I hated Slobogin’s, and I don’t think either of them are good teachers.

In addition to being plodding in class, Seigel is very picky because he wants you to analyze things exactly the way he would.

I’m just sorry I didn’t take Dean Lewis for Evidence instead.

No matter how hard I work in Seigel’s class, I’ll probably end up with a C or C+.

So from now on I’ll just do the minimum and try to concentrate on my other classes, where I have a chance to get B’s or better.

Much to my surprise, this term I ended up liking Julin’s class much more than Seigel’s, and of course I also like Baldwin and Dowd/McCulloch.

At SFCC, my class discussed last night’s debate. Listening to my students made me realize how stupid most 18-year-olds are.

I heard a lot about how wrong it is to protest against your country from pipsqueaks who have no idea what it was like to be their age in 1969.

I also heard a lot about “family values” from kids who parrot their far-right, anti-abortion, homophobic Christian parents.

After I returned home, I had lunch, went to Criser Hall to get a student deferment for one of my prior loans, did some laundry, and exercised.

No Columbus Day holiday here, despite the 1492-1992 quincentenary. Of course, in these revisionist days, Columbus is viewed as a villain.

My feeling is that if Columbus hadn’t been the first European to come to the new world and exploit the natives, it just would have been somebody else.

Thursday, October 15, 1992

8 PM. I just finished reading, probably for the tenth time, George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language.”

It’s going to be hell to teach it tomorrow because the essay will be too difficult for my students, who are unable to perceive nuance.

Of course, Orwell is saying that forty years ago even professional writers had become insensitive to language. So why should I expect very much from American 18-year-olds in 1992?

In less than an hour, we should get more proof that Orwell was right as the presidential candidates and the audience questioning them (in an Oprah or Donahue-style format) debase the English language and hide behind ugly phrases.

Last night I fell asleep early and deeply until about 4 AM, when I read Family Law for an hour before dozing off again.

At school early, I spotted a dressed-up Marsha, who was of course having another interview.

I asked her about the process and how it was going, and she ended up telling me a long story.

Because of her grades, she’s gotten numerous interviews but only one callback. After she wondered what was going wrong, the placement director offered to make inquiries and discovered that firms were rejecting Marsha because of her distinctive voice, which is high and squeaky and which some of our classmates have made fun of.

She said when she found this out last week, she ended up both angry and upset.

“I was crying in Marty Peters office,” Marsha said, explaining that her voice had always been an issue in her life until recently, when she accepted that it was part of who she is.

She knows some people can’t stand her voice, but it also makes people remember her. Marsha was particularly upset at her mother, who suggested she see a professional to try to change it.

I told her she had a healthy attitude in her acceptance of her voice and she should just be herself.

I explained how I’ve had similar problems with my own weird high, nasal voice that people have also made fun of all my life.

Marsha also said that a lot of people are disillusioned with the recruiting process at the law school. Interviewers are unprofessional, like the people at Holland & Knight, the biggest law firm in this state, who asked David A, “What race are you?”

There were other horror stories, but I didn’t expect anything better. Marsha says maybe she’ll just end up as a law professor.

Before class, Angelina told me the firm she interviewed with in Jacksonville on Friday is taking a vote on hiring her today.

Kathy and I later agreed were glad not to be part of the interviewing process.

As the widow of an attorney, Kathy knows lots of lawyers, and she thinks they also probably discriminate against women who are overweight, like Marsha and the heavier Lorraine, who also hasn’t gotten any callbacks.

Classes went quickly this morning, and during the break I went to visit Alison at the library, where she was working, to congratulate her on being picked for the Leiden program. (I’d seen the notice on the board.)

She was very excited and trying to work out her schedule. It was difficult because the classes began on different dates, and the Dutch law school’s credit system needs to be translated into ours so she could get six credits.

Since Alison lives with her boyfriend, the only problem is his added expense for the apartment – but a friend is moving to town and will be his temporary roommate.

I’m glad Alison is going to the Netherlands because I know how much she wanted to be in the exchange program.

Home at 11 AM, I did aerobics and then forced myself to grade the dozen English 101 papers.

Finishing up by 3 PM, I took off for school, where I went over to sit with Doug K, who was talking with Evan (who’s never really spoken to me), Carol and Laura V before Baldwin’s make-up session.

We had an entertaining two-hour class on cases involving public forums (fora?).  I taped the class for Judy; hopefully she’ll be able to understand what was said.

There was a JMBA social that began at 4 PM and was still going on, but I wanted to get home and so I declined when Robin and Marsha asked me to go have a beer with them.

I guess I’m only a peripheral part of the law school community, but I do feel I’m at home there, and I try to be as friendly as I can with everyone, including people who don’t normally talk to me.

Monday, October 19, 1992

2 PM. It’s a sunny, dry autumn day. When I left the house this morning, it was 48° and it’s probably about 68° now.

Last evening I spoke to Mom. Business at the flea market is not very good, she reported. In addition, Preston Henn keeps coming up with his stupid ideas: the latest is that all the vendors have to wear photo IDs.

When I asked how Bill was doing after his stroke, Mom said Dad visited him at Villa Maria and found Bill to be okay although he can’t walk yet or move one arm except by using the other one to lift it.

Mom is amused at the way Aunt Sydelle is “carrying on” about Bill being sick because recently she’s been expressing her hatred of him.

And why shouldn’t she hate her husband? Mom said Sydelle’s therapist pointed out that Bill abused Sydelle when he pushed her, causing the ankle injury that put her in a cast and on crutches.

“She married Bill only because he had money,” Mom said, “but now that he’s lost everything gambling, he’s completely broke.”

Dad joined an HMO for his medical care, but they rejected Mom because she’s overweight and has high cholesterol despite being a vegetarian who eats only low-fat dairy products.

The new pets at our home are Gwendolyn and Cecily, two dwarf rabbits.

When Jonathan first brought these tiny bunnies into the house, they trembled with fear, but now that they’ve grown used to the patio and are given the freedom to run free, Mom says they seem like they’re enjoying themselves.

I suspect dwarf rabbits don’t live long, but I bet they’re cute.

I got to school at 7:30 AM today.

In Political and Civil Rights, Baldwin went over Frisby v. Schultz and Boos v. Barry, First Amendment cases I already knew from Appellate Advocacy.

In our two-hour session, Seigel haltingly and confusingly covered the hearsay exceptions for medical statements and present state of mind.

With registration next week and only six weeks of classes left, people are beginning to focus on the end of the term.

Carla told me she’s got to miss two days next week because of a callback interview in Tampa.

Like Martin and Pete B, Doug G was wearing a suit for an interview today; he told me he planned to take off his earring beforehand.

At SFCC, I had my students write on CLAST-type topics for the paper that Vivian Lee will grade. She was out ill today, so I left the batch in her unit mailbox.

While my students wrote, I began marking their essays on the presidential candidates. They were dreadfully written, perfect examples of Orwell’s thesis about political writing.

Probably I shouldn’t have given the assignment. Their understanding of the issues is so poor, it’s frightening.

Even when they supported Clinton, they did so for irrelevant or idiotic reasons. One guy supported him “despite his going to Russia to protest the war” – a charge not even Bush, of course, ever made.

Tonight Bush will attack energetically in the final debate because he’s behind in the polls.

While I explained to my students that I probably won’t have finished grading their papers by Wednesday, I know I really should get them done by then.

Perhaps it’s because law school has sharpened my critical sense, but I find grading essays even more painful than it used to be.

Now it’s all coming back to me how much I hated reading papers from first-year community college students who write as if they’re using meat cleavers rather than typewriters.

Reading a bunch of their essays causes me to immediately lapse into inarticulate prose and tortured syntax in my own writing.

Maybe I won’t even try to teach at Santa Fe next semester. If I can get a class at Nova, get unemployment benefits, or even get some other part-time job, I might be better off.

Of course, I could feel differently if I got an English 102 class, where I could teach literature, or English 230, where I’d have advanced students.

If I slept adequately last night, why am I so tired now when it’s only early afternoon?