A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late October, 1992

by Richard Grayson

Thursday, October 22, 1992

4 PM. I’ve been goofing off most of the day, and part of me feels guilty and part of me says “who cares?”

While doing another load of laundry now, I even sat out by the pool. But I can’t sit still in the sun anymore. I keep thinking of wrinkles and skin cancer rather than a cute tan the way I used to when I was young.

I’m sure the young law students sitting in the sun around me were thinking the way I did in my teens and twenties.

I wish I knew some of them who live here, especially the guys who are exchange students from Leiden in the Netherlands and seem interesting.

At the pool, one girl remarked to the only guy among them that I thought was cute: “Hey, they grow them nice there, too. Chests, I mean.”

There’s a happy hour at 5 PM sponsored by the Jewish Law Students Association that Marsha invited me to, but I don’t fit in well at bars – both because I don’t drink and I don’t make good small talk.

Part of it is being 15 to 18 years older than most of the people here, part of it is being gay – but then I don’t do so hot in gay social situations, either.

Maybe it’s my curmudgeonly personality. I do fine with people one on one, even with strangers. But at bars, I never know what to do with my hands. I guess I’m a confirmed recluse by now.

I got a B+ on the Family Law midterm, which was a little disappointing when I saw that nobody had gotten less than a B and other students got A’s.

But having spent hours grading essays, I know how arbitrary these things are, and I’m sure Dowd could have easily given me either an A or a B as well as a B+.

She flew to Arizona for the birth of the son she plans to adopt, and McCulloch took over the class today. She was clearly nervous, and the problem was compounded by her tearing her contact lenses this morning and having to rely on her old glasses. (I know the feeling.)

People tried to help her out during the lecture and discussion about child custody.

I got my divorce negotiation packet this morning. Tomorrow Ana and I need to sign up for videotaping our negotiating session the week after next.

Although I’ve skimmed the facts of my client’s case – I’ve got the husband – I haven’t yet been able to bring myself to really focus on it.

Pre-and post-negotiation memos will add up to anywhere from 10 to 16 pages.

Up at 6 AM after a decent sleep, I was in Julin’s classroom an hour early trying to catch up on oil and gas cases – but I finished the stuff he said to read for tomorrow’s class.

The revised spring schedule was posted this morning, along with a tentative summer schedule.

There are only a few classes I’d be interested in taking this summer: Nunn’s Race and Race Relations and Weyrauch’s Legal Counseling, which drew cheers from everyone who took it last summer.

Since they changed a lot of the scheduled times for spring, I’m not sure what else to take although Professional Responsibility and Legal Drafting are fourth-semester requirements.

I’ll also probably take the recommended/registration-priority Estates and Trusts although I’d like to take English Legal History, which is given at the same hour but only twice a week.

Collier’s seminar will be on Philosophical Bases of Freedom of Expression, and I’d take it except it’s on Tuesday from 4 PM to 6 PM. On the off-chance that Nova will ask me to teach American Literature on Tuesday evenings, I’d rather keep that time free.

I don’t know how many credits I’ll end up with, but I want to take 13 or 14.

During my break between classes, I sat with Gene, who’s a Republican, and a woman from my Family Law class who said, “The economy’s gonna take a dive if Clinton wins.”

Yeah, right – like jumping out the basement window. But today’s Times had front-page stories about Bush’s revived campaign style and Perot’s recent surge, so I think it’s quite possible Bush can still stage a come-from-behind victory.

In July 1988, when everyone expected a Dukakis landslide, I was skeptical, and I’m skeptical of a Clinton landslide now. I believe the election will be a nail-biter and that if enough people vote for Perot, Bush could squeak through with a 40% plurality. Americans are idiots, as they proved in many elections.

Last night on ABC’s The Wonder Years, the teenage hero was disappointed after working on the 1972 McGovern campaign.

There really hasn’t been a good presidential election since 1964, the only Democratic landslide in my lifetime of 41 years.

That Kennedy in 1960 and Carter in 1976 just squeaked through is scarier to me than the Nixon, Reagan and Bush landslides.

Even armed with my skepticism, I’m going to feel crushed if Clinton loses, especially if Bush can win simply by bashing Clinton and avoiding either a defense of the last four years or giving us the agenda for a second Bush term.

I went to a short ACLU meeting at noon with Jeff H, Dawn, Dionne (who led the group last year), Ben, Midori, Marla and Nancy Baldwin. Maybe I can force myself to work a bit tonight.

Red Barber, God bless him, died today.

Friday, October 23, 1992

4 PM. Even though I had law school classes, today was a relaxed day partly to the festive spirit of Homecoming.

By teaching at Nova and SFCC this semester, I gave up a lot of law school student life; that was even more obvious today. But perhaps I’ll be able to get more out of law school next semester.

Hanging out on campus today, I got to schmooze and socialize with a lot more people. Usually I just go to my classes and run home – or more often, to SFCC.

I even brought some Santa Fe papers to grade outside at law school, amusing classmates like Martin, Shara and Katan with my students’ tortured writing.

I have eight papers from Santa Fe and 13 from Nova to grade this weekend, and that’s not a great burden.

At home, I finished a light workout at 3 PM. Picking up the mail on my way out to go shopping at Walmart and Albertsons, I got the first installment of my SLS loan, a check for $802.

After depositing that in the bank, I have $1,400 in checking, so that I’ll have $1,000 even after I pay November’s rent next weekend.

Next Friday I get a $140 SFCC paycheck, and today my Nova contract came in the mail, confirming I’ll be making $1,400 for the eight-week class. If I get that money by the end of the year, I’ll have no problems getting by.

Actually, I should get the second $802 installment of the SLS soon, so that even without Nova’s pay, I’ll be doing all right.

At least I don’t have to worry about spending every penny the way I did a few months ago.

In seven weeks I hope to be out of Gainesville and visiting my parents for several weeks in December. I spoke to Mom and Dad last evening.

Dad was told he’s not getting the Georgia and Alabama territory after all, but they did give him the Guess line. He’d like to have Introspect as well, but they want a separate salesman for that line.

Who knows with that company? The sales reps are upset with all the changes. Dad spoke to his friend Barrett in Texas, who was crying because he didn’t get the Guess line.

Dad and I spoke about Red Barber. Of course Dad knew him from the old Brooklyn Dodger games while I’ve been listening to him every Friday morning on NPR for the last decade.

Mom said that Marc is growing grey at the temples, and that Jonathan, too, is showing grey hairs. My only obvious grey hairs are on my chin, and I usually cut them off. If the hair on my head is turning grey, I haven’t noticed.

Last night I read some Natural Resources cases and ended up dreaming about oil and gas leases. I read some more before Julin began teaching at 8 AM.

Angelina left class in the middle to go visit her family in Georgia, and lots of people were out today. Maybe they need to prepare for Gator Growl?

Passing by the Law Review bulletin board, I saw the photos of those who made it on via the writing competition, among them Kathy, Aimee and Alison.

I know lots of people like Martin, Barry and David G and others who tried and didn’t make it must feel disappointed. I’m glad I didn’t waste my time.

In the library, I followed The Hotline’s presidential campaign coverage on Lexis, and I read the latest Wall Street Journal, whose poll shows Clinton with a double-digit lead.

In Family Law, McCulloch tried her best as we discussed more about custody today, but she’s no Dowd.

Those of us who often participate try to help her out although she calls on people who just sit back.

I went home for lunch at 11 AM but returned soon afterwards and sat outside.

Shara, wearing Larry’s motorcycle jacket, came by. She looked upset and told me that because of roommate problems, she was forced to move out of her apartment today – on a day’s notice.

I hung out with her and Dave G until Larry came to fetch her. Steve F and Katan asked me to have lunch with them, but after thanking them, I said I’d already eaten.

Laura said she and Kathy would be driving back to Broward after their Corporations class today; Lisa said she wished she could go home for the weekend, too.

I met Ana downstairs and we signed up to video our negotiating session on Election Day at noon. I’ve got a lot of work on the project to do beforehand, but so does everyone else.

Planning to go home, I got hijacked by Martin, Ray and Steve F and taken to a panel on judicial clerkships. I guess that could be something for me to consider. Maybe I’m not up to a federal clerkship, but perhaps I could try a mid-level state appellate court like the Appellate Division in New York.

I’ve probably done less career planning than any other third-semester student.

Tuesday, October 27, 1992

1 PM. Although I’m teaching tonight, I don’t feel as harried as I did last week because I’ve done most of my grading and preparation. Also, knowing that this is our penultimate Nova class helps because I feel that if I screw up this evening – but I won’t – it’s no big deal.

I’ve just taken a shower after vigorously exercising for an hour. Now I can skip my regular 30 minutes tomorrow if I need to because I have registration at 3 PM.

Last night I slept well after a couple of hours listening to an Atlanta talk radio station.

Perot may have stepped on his own surge in the polls with a wild accusation that he claims is the real reason he got out of the presidential race in July. According to Perot, Republican dirty tricksters were going to doctor a photo of his daughter to make it look like she was a lesbian, and thus her August wedding would have been disrupted.


Perot is one of those conspiracy nuts. I don’t agree with much that Bush’s press secretary Marlin Fitzwater says, but he was right when he called Perot paranoid.

Perot will be spending millions to flood the airwaves with commercials in this last week, and it’s scary to think how a billionaire nutjob can fuck with the political process.

I looked through yesterday’s Hotline stories, and while Clinton seems to still be comfortably ahead in enough states to win, I’ll believe it a week from tomorrow if and when I see it.

School seemed to go quickly today, both in Baldwin’s class and Seigel’s two-hour session, during which we finally finished hearsay and began the more interesting topic of character evidence.

During the break, Shara and I signed the envelope as witnesses for Karin’s absentee ballot. Our group should be called on next week in Evidence.

When we got out of class, the spring schedules finally came out, and Doug G and I went to grab them and the other registration material.

When I got home, I found a phone message from Teresa, who got my postcard last week.

This week she’s house sitting in Oyster Bay for one of her friends there. Teresa says she’s “sort of homeless” because her house in Fire Island has no water.

She said that at times she’s been staying there without water, but that must be totally inconvenient, to say the least.

Teresa also said she was doing some catering or cooking for some local Long Island company and “trying to rebuild,” whatever that means.

She’s got an 800 number at work this week, so she said she’d call me back. I’m going to eat lunch now.


10 PM. I just got back from Gainesville High School and now I’m trying to unwind after my Nova class.

I said goodbye to my student Larry from Lake City, who has to travel on business next week; he did his final essay tonight.

Jack Biggs had the students fill out the teacher evaluation form at the start of class, and we had a pretty good session.

My review of mechanics wasn’t too boring, and they enjoyed my group exercise, “Who Will Survive?,” which tested the underlying assumptions behind their choices.

This related to the subject of this week’s text chapter on warrants, the last part of the Toulmin method of argument.

If I had to teach the class over again, I’d prefer a different textbook, but I don’t think Nova adjuncts have a choice in the matter.

I’d certainly make up a different syllabus, one that more realistically and methodically goes over the material in eight weeks – but again, in these clusters, teachers seem to be forced to follow the syllabi that Nova gives us.

In today’s mail I got the oddest postcard from Josh. It convinces me that his mental illness is still a big problem.

Here’s what he wrote:

Dear Rich – Remember when Teresa was planning on shaming and humiliating the writer uncle of a woman tenant of hers in order to extort money from him? I’m just curious – how far did she go and did she ever finally realize that what she did was undeserved by him, wrong and immoral? How come nobody considered her actions criminal? How were her actions not blackmail? Or did everyone for some unexplained reason dislike this man so much that they lost track of right and wrong? – Josh.

What I think he’s referring to is an offhand remark I made early last summer related to what Teresa told me about the tenant who skipped out on 85th Street, taking the carpeting and leaving her with months of unpaid phone and electric bills.

The woman’s stepfather was the novelist Donald Westlake, and Teresa said she tried to shame him into “coughing up some money,” meaning she’d asked him to pay something to cover at least part of the expenses caused by his stepdaughter’s actions.

I don’t know what happened because Teresa never mentioned it again, but certainly I never talked about anything like blackmail or extortion.

I did think it was odd last summer when Josh phoned to ask me about it a few days after I casually related the story. It was just something I mentioned in passing.

I suspect Josh identifies with the “uncle” who’s being harassed because he feels that’s what’s happening to him.

So he’s still paranoid; he’s just avoided discussing his obsessions with me over the past couple of years. Sad.

Friday, October 30, 1992

2 PM. Another week over with. Yesterday I didn’t grade papers or write my pre-negotiation memo. However, I did read Evidence and Family Law for next week.

That means I don’t have to read anything for law school this weekend, and I can spend my time working on the memo and grading two sets of papers.

I did a little preparation for the memo by reading parts of books I got in the library and by doing “rehearsing”: planning what I’m going to do.

The paper is due at 5 PM Monday, and I’m sure I can get it done.

Next weekend will be more hectic than this one because then I’ll have the post-negotiation memo and a set of papers from Santa Fe, and I have to be in Jacksonville to teach Barbara Goldsmith’s Nova classes all next Saturday.

Most people at the law school seem to be going to Jax tomorrow for the big Florida-Georgia game.

Returning to school yesterday afternoon, I sat with people I hardly ever see: Laura V, Dan N, Brenda and Nick. They are party animals who are planning a huge tailgate party and lots of drinking tomorrow at the Gator Bowl stadium in Jacksonville.

They also eagerly related stories about the goings-on among our classmates at the big Halloween party the night before. To me, it’s like an anthropological report.

Julin left a note on the door of our Natural Resources classroom. It told us to continue reading for our classes, “which may resume next week.” I’m worried that he or someone in his family may be very ill.