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

by Richard Grayson

Thursday, November 12, 1992

8 PM. Two weeks from today is Thanksgiving, so I need to sit down and begin studying for all my classes.

I got an application to delay one of my finals because Julin’s and Baldwin’s tests are on the same day, Friday, December 11.

In the library, I asked Kim, who was working the reference desk, to get me copies of old finals for Natural Resources and Political and Civil Rights, which I made copies of.

I didn’t quite finish reading all the oil and gas cases for tomorrow, but Julin never even got up to the readings for today on implied covenants.

From what McCulloch said in Family Law about the pre-negotiation memos, I can tell mine won’t get an A or even a B+; I probably deserve a B. At the end of today’s hour, we began discussing how the law treats mothers and fathers differently.

It was instructive to talk with Carl, who transferred from Mississippi, and Jack, who transferred from Miami, because they said grades were lower at their old law schools, where people actually fail courses and A’s are exceedingly rare.

After lunch, I went to a debate about the state’s new enhanced-penalties hate crime law sponsored by the ACLU and JLSA.

A UF grad who’s the Florida counsel to the Anti-Defamation League spoke in favor of the law, while Dan Cohen, a student and ACLU member, took the position that the law is unconstitutional. There was a meager turnout, and the only people there I knew were Lori, Peter S and Professor Seigel. Although the discussion ran on for too long, it was instructive.

Back home, I caught the tail end of Clinton’s press conference. He’s a pleasure to watch, but so are all new Presidents-elect, if only because the old President is so familiar.

Clinton’s transition seems to be moving slowly, but next year may be exciting. It’s not going to be as terrific as when Johnson had his Great Society in 1965, but I’m hopeful it will mark as big a change as Reagan’s 1981 tax cuts and other conservative measures.

After I finished grading essays and exercising, I went to Walmart to get some stuff and then came home for dinner and All Things Considered on NPR at 5 PM.

Laura just called and we made tentative plans to go to the Harn Museum late Sunday afternoon. Her parents are coming for the weekend tomorrow night, but they’ll be driving back to Broward early Sunday.

Without any papers to grade this weekend and not too much reading to do, I shouldn’t be that busy.

Josh mailed me a William Safire column about phone surveillance and recording conversations by one party.

Obviously this is a part of Josh’s obsession with people spying on him. I think that’s the whole reason he decided to get an M.A. in criminal justice.

Friday, November 13, 1992

8 PM. Up early this morning after a refreshing sleep, I had time to deposit Barbara’s check in the NationsBank ATM and reread all of the cases Julin suggested we look at for today.

In class, he discoursed for 50 minutes, taking only a few questions, but I always find him interesting, and I like the chance to see a first-rate legal mind at work.

I thought I’d hate the law of oil and gas, but the cases are more about the use of language than anything else.

One reason I find the whole property field more interesting than I expected is that most of it comes down to varying interpretations of texts.

During my break, I had a Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi and read someone’s discarded USA Today on a bench outside.

When I felt chilly, I went into the library and info-surfed on Lexis till the time for Family Law, where we had another interesting discussion on how the law treats fathers and mothers differently.

At SFCC early today, I dealt with a big batch of mail. Most important was the school’s final exam schedule.

The departmental English 101 final will be on Thursday, December 10, and of course I have two finals myself the next day (though I assume I can get one shifted to Saturday).

The following Monday, the English faculty are grading the tests from 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM, though presumably I can leave early because I’ve just got one 101 section rather than two or three.

I can get the results on Tuesday morning when they’ll be posted, and I’ll hold office hours to talk to students who failed and need to take the retest that afternoon.

The next day the retake exam is graded – I have to show up for that, too – and by Thursday, December 17, I can get those results, hand in my grades and leave town.

If I were teaching English 102 or 230, of course, I wouldn’t have all this extra work. But I’m now sure I don’t want to teach at Santa Fe next semester.

Today my class did evaluations of me after we went over their last essays, which I handed back.

After lunch at home, I read Evidence for an hour and then exercised and went back to Evidence.

I’ve got a lot of reading to do for the last full week of school, but I have no papers to grade, and unlike last weekend, I don’t have to be in Jacksonville all day tomorrow.

Saturday, November 14, 1992

7 PM. Lulled by the electric heat, I slept deeply last night although I had a nightmare in which Professor Davis was a neurosurgeon who told me he had to operate because I had “urine on the brain.”

When I awoke, frightened, I realized that I badly needed to use the bathroom.

Anyway it’s another chilly Saturday night in Gainesville.

Today I did all the Evidence reading – on impeaching witnesses – that I needed to do for the week. And for Political and Civil Rights, I read over 150 pages dealing with freedom of religion.

I never bought the text Baldwin recommended but instead borrowed Con Law books from the library and got cases from Westlaw and Lexis.

It was good for me to study the religion cases in depth because Collier never covered them in Con Law 2.

It’s amazing how my mind clacks along as I read. The slower I read, the more the associations come to me and the more pleasure I take in studying.

I wrote down at least five or six ideas in the notebook where I jot down phrases or puns or titles or memories.

For example, until I read a case dealing with “released time” in New York City public schools, I hadn’t thought about that institution in 20 years.

When I was in P.S. 203, on Wednesdays at 2 PM, the Catholic kids – most of them, anyway – left for what I thought was called “release time” or “religious instruction.”

They went to Mary Queen of Heaven or one of the other neighborhood parish churches. The Jewish kids who were left – and maybe the few Protestants we had as classmates – stayed behind and did work that was not going to get us ahead of the ones who had left.

I think it was kind of a fun time, when we did arts and crafts or had spelling bees, but I don’t remember very well. After all, it was 30 years ago and more.

I still have hundreds of pages to read for Family Law and Natural Resources, but I’ve got free time during the week. Besides, these will be the last reading assignments for the semester in those classes.

Because I already did five Family Law writing assignments, I don’t have to do the one for next Wednesday.

Wednesday, November 18, 1992

7 PM. Last night I fell asleep at 11 PM, but I awoke a couple of hours later after a mildly erotic dream about Ronna. (I sent her a Thanksgiving card to commemorate the 20th anniversary of our first date.)

Musing about Ronna led me to somehow start figuring how to present the material in my English class today, and then I couldn’t shut off my brain, so I read for Natural Resources.

It was 4 AM before I was able to get back to sleep for two hours, but I felt tired all day.

Today was sunny and milder.

Baldwin finished our look at freedom of religion cases with the Louisiana creationism law and we began Bowers v. Hardwick, which I’ve already read half a dozen times in other classes and on my own.

Seigel put our final reading assignment on the board and again talked about the impeachment of witnesses.

McCulloch said we won’t have class next Wednesday, but the take-home final will be due at 9 AM on Wednesday; she’ll give it out on Friday at the end of class.

The pre-negotiation memo grade – I got a B+ – is 70% of the 30% total share of the divorce project, and she should have the post-negotiation memo grades up next week.

We divided up into two groups to discuss Clinton’s proposal for getting women off AFDC within two years and talked about the problems involved in reforming the welfare system.

I found out Karin is in my Legal Drafting class as well as Estates and Trusts next semester, but she took Probert for Professional Responsibility “because even if Probert is intimidating, he’s an easier grader than Slobogin.”

Karin is probably right – but I’ll take another C+ in exchange for not feeling terrorized in class every day.

Driving over to Santa Fe, I decided to give myself and my students a break on Friday. We’ve been reading essays and they’ve been writing in preparation for the final, so I ordered a VCR from AV services for Friday, and later I went to the public library and got the last episode of PBS’s The Story of English, with its study of English pidgin, creole and patois in New Guinea, West Africa, India and the Caribbean.

It ties in well with the themes of colonialism in Orwell’s “Marrakech” and the essay we covered today, Santha Rama Rau’s “By Any Other Name,” a memoir of her childhood and the clash of Indian and British cultures.

I was less than effective today, but I was tired and it was a small class. (Lots of law students were absent today, too.)

I felt so drowsy this afternoon, it was all I could do to get through my low-impact aerobics and the New York Times.

I found the obituary of Professor Gloria Glikin Fromm at the University of Illinois-Chicago English Department.

As Miss Glikin, she was my teacher for English 2.2 in the spring term of 1970, the semester that ended with the Kent State/Cambodia student strike.

Although she wasn’t always a great teacher, I remember that in her class we read Camus’s The Plague and Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year (both more relevant in the last decade than it seemed back then) and Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, which I loved and would love to read again.

I got a B in her class, and I suspect she didn’t give A’s.

Her husband said she died of lung cancer, and I seem to remember she smoked. That was back in the day when students and teachers could smoke in class, as did the two students on either side of me that term.

She was 61, which means in 1970 she was – let’s see – about 39 or 40: younger than I am now.

God, it seemed like she was 50, or maybe I just saw her that way.

Probably even though I look young, my students see me as old, too. I feel pretty old right now.

I can’t face grading essays or reading my oil and gas casebook. What I’d really like to do is fall asleep, but I’ll probably watch 90210 and other junk TV.

I suspect I will end up missing my job at Santa Fe. Even though they sit like corpses sometimes, I genuinely like my students.

And I like being around young people with their out-of-class energy, their purple hair, their nose rings, shaved heads (okay, this is a small minority, but I’m a sucker for the ’60s) and their sense of promise – or maybe just my sense that they have promise.

And okay, their cute young bodies, too.

Thursday, November 19, 1992

5 PM. My ankles and wrists feel achy, and I think I may be coming down with the cold everyone at the law school seems to have.

Coughs and sneezes punctuated the lectures and discussions all week, and today McCulloch felt so ill that she sat down during our lively discussion of welfare issues.

But actually it’s not a bad time to get sick if I have to get sick. Finals are still far enough away so that I could recover in plenty of time, and except for the take-home Family Law test, I don’t have much to do next week or this weekend.

Last night I rested pretty well, but I’ve been so tired that even my neighbors’ loud stereo didn’t keep me from sleeping once I moved to the living room couch.

The weather keeps changing. Today was sunny and about 70°. For the last few days I’ve kept this thermostat on “off,” using neither heat nor air conditioning. Maybe it will save me money on my electric bill.

Julin told us not to bother to read any of the pages I scrambled to get through – but reading them can’t hurt, can it?

Before class, Dwight and Angelina congratulated each other on their summer job offers, Dwight’s in Tallahassee and Angelina’s in Orlando.

At 9 AM, I decided to do something about my own prospects, and I went to see Pam England at the Placement office.

While I waited, I read the Times and found more bad news on the obituary page.

Audre Lorde, the terrific black lesbian writer whom I taught with at John Jay, finally succumbed to cancer at her home in St. Croix.

And the actor David Oliver died at 30; I used to watch him on Another World and then in a network evening series. He was a gorgeous guy, and I could tell he was gay.

Are there other people like me who read the obituaries so intently?

Pam seemed a bit distracted, but then she’s just begun her job. She gave me a couple of leads but said I’m starting late.

I’d like a paying internship in New York City; however, I’ll settle for less if I can work a few weeks for no pay. I told her I don’t even know how to put together a legal résumé, so Pam said I should drop off my 12-page curriculum vita tomorrow and she’d advise me how to boil it down to one page.

Outside, I talked with Donna, who didn’t get a single interview. She said law firms don’t want older students because they think young people will work harder and take less of a cynical attitude – “and they’re right.”

But Donna wants to practice traditional law. She got a 46 (out of 48) on her LSAT, which more than made up for her GPA since her law boards were in the 98th percentile.

She thinks boiling down her 15 years of work experience to a few lines in her résumé and putting in all her law school activities was a mistake, but that’s what the placement office suggested.

This afternoon I got through all but three of my SFCC papers, grading a few at a time and interspersing them with doing the laundry, exercising, eating, reading the paper and watching soaps.

At 3:45 PM, I went out to get the mail: my Nova check arrived. I ran to deposit it before NationsBank closed at 4 PM. They took a lot out in taxes and FICA, so I netted just $1,175 out of $1,400.

However, it probably means I won’t owe any money to the IRS and maybe I can get it all back.

My income for 1992 was only about $2,400 – but I got plenty of unemployment benefits, and of course those are taxable these days. (I hope Clinton changes that for future recipients.)

The Third District Court of Appeals in Miami declared Florida’s hate crimes law – the law at issue in the forum a week ago – unconstitutionally vague. Now it goes to the state Supreme Court.

I’d like to go to hear Jerri Blair, the lawyer for Gregory K, the boy who “divorced” his parents, at the law school tonight, but I may not be feeling up to it.

Friday, November 20, 1992

2 PM. I felt better by 7 PM yesterday and went over to the law school to hear Jerri Blair speak in one of our classrooms. Sponsored by LAW, the Law Association for Women, the crowd looked older, more liberal and counterculture-ish than the usual law school student.

(I mean guys who were scruffier and women who looked like Lynn Yeakel, the Pennsylvania Senate candidate.)

Liz McCulloch sat with Gena and some other students, but I sat by myself in the last row.

Professor Fitzgerald introduced Blair, who’s had a remarkable career since she got her J.D. at UF in 1985.

Not only did she handle the Gregory K case, but she was the attorney in In Re T.W., the state Supreme Court case that said Florida constitution’s right to privacy invalidated parental consent laws for minors seeking abortions.

Blair practices in Lake City, which makes it more impressive to have come so far. She’s very intelligent and determined.

Basically she spoke about the idea that minors should be treated as “persons” under the law. In outlining the Gregory K case, she said that she wasn’t advocating anything that the state doesn’t do every day: terminate parental rights for severe abuse and neglect. Only the fact that a 12-year-old got standing was noteworthy.

Now she’s working on a case where Florida teenagers want to avoid seeing their violent father in Missouri, where a court has ordered visitation.

Her position is that the children’s mother may have to agree to the court order, but also that the kids aren’t property and can’t be forced to go to Missouri.

Back home at 8 PM, I read the Evidence text for next week.

This morning Julin announced we’ll have a make-up class next Tuesday at noon; that will create a long day for me, but I’m able to attend.

I have this dopey crush on the guy who sits next to me in Natural Resources. I always get crushes on these straight-arrow guys, but thankfully they don’t last long. Usually once I get to know them, the crush stops.

Another adjunct at SFCC seems to have a crush on me, and he’s gay, but I can’t even remember the guy’s name. How awful of me: I guess he could be very nice, but he’s fat and not attractive to me.

I admit it: I’m guilty of lookism, judging people on their looks. (For example, I decided not to mention Jerri Blair’s looks above, but I did think about writing that she impressed me even more because she’s fat and dowdy, and that you don’t expect that in a brilliant lawyer.)

After Julin’s class, I showed Pam my CV, which of course impressed her – mostly my publications – but it’s pretty lame for a legal career.

I’ve got to boil 15 years down to one page although she said I could probably put my publications on a second page. I’ll make something myself, I guess, but my résumé will look very different from the average 24-year-old law school graduate’s.

At the end of our discussion of welfare in Family Law, Professor Dowd and the baby came in to pick up teacher evaluations and the present we as a class had gotten them.

We had raised the money for material so that Becky could embroider a baby blanket on which Judy stitched an inscription for Zachary.

Kathy presented it to Dowd while McCulloch held the baby, and Judy was experienced enough to know that we needed a second present for Zoe so she would not be jealous.

The class ended with our getting our final exams. I glanced at the questions but haven’t decided which ones to try to write on.

I have the whole weekend, basically – I need to do a little work for Santa Fe and a bit of reading for Baldwin’s class, but I’ve got time to write the exam.

At SFCC, I discovered that I wasn’t supposed to have the students write on the assigned essays; either nobody told me or I forgot.

There was a note from Vivian Lee from Tuesday on the wall, and I almost missed it again, as I did on Wednesday. I’ll call her or see her on Monday.

Half my class didn’t show up, so it was probably a good day to show The Story of English video.

Getting all that money in one lump sum from Nova teaching has made me feel even less enthusiastic about teaching for less money – a lot less, when you consider the work involved – at Santa Fe.

If I hadn’t taught at SFCC but instead took the Wednesday night Nova class in Ocala, I’d have more money for much less work and I’d be finished teaching by now.

God, I’m spoiled rotten.