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

Monday, December 14, 1992

4 PM. As expected, today was stressful. I woke up with a sore throat and postnasal drip, and if I’m coming down with a cold, today’s stress won’t help forestalling it. At least I slept soundly and got enough rest last night.

I took the Political and Civil Rights exam in Bailey Courtroom with a couple of people taking other exams.

I didn’t finish the first question till 11 AM, and then I spent an hour floundering with the second question and 45 minutes writing off the top of my head on the third question, which invited us to respond to Baldwin’s thoughts – as reprinted from the syllabus – about the “right to know” and special privileges for the press apart from freedom of speech in general.

While I know I can write skillfully, I have no idea if I did a good job in answering the questions.

My guess is that I got a B, but I wouldn’t be surprised by a C+ or a B+, though I think my classwork will raise my grade to at least a B. I hope so, anyway.

I rushed over to SFCC, feeling embarrassed to be coming into the holistic grading session when everyone else had been already working for 4½ hours. But I got normed quickly and soon began grading the English 101 final essays.

What mind-numbing work. I stayed late to help sort the papers by teacher.

My own pile showed four students failed, and they’re just the ones I would expect to fail. I left messages with them that they need to take the retest exam tomorrow at 3:30 PM.

Tomorrow I’ll be in my office till noon, where I’ll work on giving grades for the majority of my students who did pass. I’m a bit surprised some of them did, but that tells me I’ve done my job.

Besides that, I just had some veggies and cottage cheese; before that, I got through the day on snacks (low-fat ones, but still not very good for me).

I haven’t had time to think about law school being over. I certainly didn’t have time to decompress after the exam.

Some of my classmates who weren’t here over the summer took Julin’s Property 2 exam and got out the same time I did, and I took Laura’s number in Coral Springs.

Doug K told me that yesterday he saw a newspaper article based on Baldwin’s first question: a display of paintings of Christ in a park for Christmas.

Learning that was kind of a letdown. Or maybe not – I haven’t had time to think about it yet.

But as I told Teresa last evening, for me, law school is half-over. This was a weird term because I was also teaching at Nova and Santa Fe.

Next term I’m taking 14 credits, not 12, and six classes, not four, so I’ll not only have a lot more work, but I’ll be on campus more. This term I had to run off at 11 AM three days a week.

With traveling time and office hours, I’ll get back about seven or eight hours I spent at Santa Fe, not to mention the time I spent on the eight-week Nova class.


9 PM. On Lexis, I discovered the cases on which the first two test questions were based, and I also realized I missed the really big picture on both of them.

On the other hand, I’m sure other people did, too. Probably Martin and a couple of others could see beyond the obvious, so maybe I still have a chance at a B.

My responses were superficial, but then I’m not a federal appeals court judge with law clerks and more than an hour to figure things out.

Enough about law school.

I read the Times, watched the news from Clinton’s economic summit, and tried to teach myself more about Microsoft Works.

I’m definitely fighting off a cold again. My throat is scratchy and my nose is congested. Of course, the electric heat doesn’t help.

They keep promising an end to this unseasonably cold weather, but it doesn’t seem to arrive.

Well, I have to be out of the house early in the morning, so I need to rest tonight. I hope I can leave SFCC at noon tomorrow and relax in the afternoon.

Wednesday, December 16, 1992

6 PM. Today was the day that really felt like the end of the fall semester, as I finished up teaching at SFCC.

Last night I went to bed early and slept okay, although one of those cyst-like zits appeared on my forehead and made me feel self-conscious all day. However, if acne is a sign of youth, I guess I’ll take it.

I arrived at the grading session slightly late because I stopped off at the law school to get the paper and speak with Barbara, who ridiculed Santa Fe’s holistic grading as about a decade behind recent trends in teaching composition.

Far fewer teachers showed up today, but they weren’t expecting too many because the tables were filled when I got there. Most of the retake papers were scored 1 or 2, of course.

Actually, I didn’t mind the experience. With the number of graders we had, the process went quickly, and we were done by 10:30 AM.

In helping to sort the papers, I was happy to see that my students Robyn and Carlos both passed the retake. The other guy, Todd, who rarely came to class, didn’t show up for the retake, but I’m glad because he didn’t deserve to pass.

I hung out for a while, as I like talking to Diana and some of the other teachers.

After having lunch at home, I went back to SFCC to hand in my grades at the registrar’s office. (I graded borderline cases up to the higher grade every time.)

I also left my roll book, my students’ finals and a copy of my grade roster with the English Department.

Then I picked up my student evaluation printout. It was just about average for the course, department and campus: better in some areas like openness and preparation, slightly worse in getting papers back on time and meeting with students, but those were problems caused by my busy schedule.

I had one student who clearly disliked me and the class; he gave me D’s and C’s on every item. Stupidly, I started wondering who it could be.

But then I realized I did my job: every one of my students except a student who didn’t do the work ended up passing the final exam, and that’s rare.

By going to the UF on-campus bookstore – where Dan M was among the crowd selling back his books – I managed to get four of my texts for next semester.

The Legal Drafting, Race Relations, Professional Responsibility and Crim Pro books cost me $150, which I put on my credit cards. (So much for starting to pay them off.)

While it’s painful to shell out that kind of money now, the pain will be eased in January.

I’ll probably take a couple of texts with me to Fort Lauderdale.

In the afternoon, I did aerobics, took a shower, did one last batch of laundry, gave Gordon a postdated check for the January rent, returned library books, and began packing. I also sorted out my checking account, credit card receipts and other papers.

I don’t feel nervous about driving so many hours tomorrow. I’m pretty comfortable on I-75 and the Turnpike, which is sort of like its nickname, “Main Street Florida.”

I assume I’ll have an FM radio in the rental car, and if I end up having to stay overnight somewhere – well, that will be a treat.

I actually wish I could afford to drive down leisurely, spending a day in Orlando and another day at some oceanfront resort like Vero Beach.

I’m taking my smaller suitcase because Mom said I have plenty of clothes, old and new, at her house.

Last evening I began to get comfortable with being relaxed, and now I feel even better. For the next couple of weeks I have no deadlines, no obligations, and I shouldn’t impose any on myself.

It got up to 70° today, and that’s put me in a better mood. It should be mild tomorrow, if a bit rainy.

Last year on December 16, I finished my last final of my first semester of law school, and the next day I flew to New York City. This year I’m an old pro at law school and I don’t have to face the Northern cold.

Friday, December 18, 1992

7 PM. The house is quiet. I’m canine-sitting while everyone else in the family is out to dinner. Mom and Dad left a little while ago, and Jonathan went with Marshall to the Broward Mall (it’s Friday, isn’t it?). I guess Marc is still with Clarissa.

Last night I slept well. Only when I first closed my eyes did I get that sensation of coasting along a highway at 70 mph, but I didn’t take anything for the dizziness.

However, since last night I’ve had a severe sinus headache that makes me feel like I’m encased in something.

My contact lenses hurt unbearably today, and I wore them only when I returned the rental car to the airport. (The attendant checked me in as I drove up, and after entering all the data in her little shoulder-strap computer, she had a receipt printed out so I could quickly get into Dad’s waiting car.)

I also bought $40 worth of the groceries I like at Albertsons. They don’t keep many vegetables, fruits or grains in this house.

I spoke to Aunt Sydelle last evening. Apparently she’s driving Dad crazy with her constant calls.

In asking me about law school, she seemed to be, at least obliquely, querying me about legal questions regarding her slip and fall (she broke a wrist and a rib) and a possible divorce from Bill. Maybe I’ll go visit Sydelle one of these days.

Josh phoned, correctly ascertaining I’d be here when nobody answered in Gainesville. He had his comps for the criminal justice M.A. at John Jay today and had some questions about policy analysis, which, needless to say, I was unable to answer.

Only one-third of students at John Jay pass the comprehensive exam on the first try, and he’d taken off work to study and take the test.

I wished him luck with his grade. Josh became a good student later in life, so I’m not worried about him passing.

Shelli sent give me a card. She and her new husband had a beautiful wedding and now they’re renovating the house. While TVAnswer has had its ups and downs, Shelli said the business is going ahead. I’ll have to add her name to the list of people I need to call or write.

Today I seemed unable to get anything done. Mostly I vegetated, reading and watching soaps like Another World on NBC which I haven’t been able to view since March because I don’t have cable in Gainesville.

At 8 AM, I exercised to Body Electric on Channel 42/WXEL in Dad’s office, which has the only TV set here that doesn’t have cable. (The cable company doesn’t carry that channel among its 60 choices.)

Mom kept tossing out clothes to me, and I hauled in quite a load of denim shirts, knit shirts, sweaters, jeans, sweatpants, etc. But no more T-shirts, most of which were too large for me.

When Dad goes to New York in January, the company will introduce the Guess line. PDI can make everything but Guess denim tops and bottoms, and they’ve got the whole boys 8-20 line. (Would you believe I took some boys-sized clothes today?) Hopefully, Dad will do well with this line.

Late this afternoon, when I started feeling antsy, I took a walk. The sun and quality of light and the sky here are so different from what I’ve become accustomed to.

While I was walking on Nova Drive, Marc passed by in his Cadillac. I rode with him back to his new apartment, a two-bedroom on the bottom floor of the same complex where he was alone before.

His roommate Jeff’s dog, an Alaskan husky, jumped on me; it was just being friendly, but I’m not used to large dogs.

Marc told me he’s been living on cash advances and showed me his credit card bills. He’s got three cards from Chase, a MasterCard and a Visa from NationsBank, and cards from AT&T, Signet, Citibank, etc.

But he’s only taking money when he’s needed it, so he still has about $40,000 in untouched credit lines – although he owes over $20,000.

I told him he’s far from bankruptcy but gave him some advice to prepare. Maybe if Marc needs to file bankruptcy, I can do it for him, whether whether I’m a member of the bar or not.

At the flea market today, Marc said they took in only $200. With just one week before Christmas, it was a pathetic Friday. My hope is that Dad will convince PDI to hire Marc to take over Dad’s Introspect line.

Marc had to go see his chiropractor, telling me that he might get a $5,000 settlement for his accident.

He explained that his broken rib didn’t heal properly and still pains him, but says he was lucky his upper lip hit the steering wheel: “It swelled up to five times normal size, but a little higher and I would have broken my nose, and a little lower and I would have broken my teeth.”

Daniela’s parents moved into a new development on College Avenue south of BCC and Nova, and Marc saw Daniela and her lawyer husband there when they visited from London. They live near Regent Square and are apparently quite wealthy.

As we were walking out, Marc pointed to a red van he bought. He doesn’t use it much and told Jason he could drive it if he does well in school – although that’s about as likely as a blizzard here on Christmas.

When I got back home, Mom said Jason likes the South Carolina school a little better than the last one, but the school isn’t thrilled with him. Clarissa can’t afford to spend any more money on another military school if they kick him out.

Mom told me that Jonathan has been thinking of going to school to become a veterinarian’s assistant but is wary of the expensive private schools. I said I’d see what I could find out about programs at public colleges. Jonathan does seem to have a gift for working with animals.

Right now China is sitting in front of the glass panel by the front door, waiting for a car to pull up. She just barked, so perhaps Mom and Dad are coming back. Okay, now I hear them.

Saturday, December 19, 1992

8 PM. Last night I couldn’t get to sleep till almost 3 AM, but I put the time to good use, making my way through the last seven weeks of the New York Times Book Review, which I’ve been putting away every Sunday since October.

This evening I finally finished the lot, and now I’m working on my AWP and PEN Newsletters.

I slept till 8 AM, which gave me just enough rest to get through the day. With no exercise program on TV or videotape, I improvised a half-hour workout that ended at noon.

Jonathan was home today, having gone to bed as late as I did, when Marshall finally left. (I was hungry but didn’t go into the kitchen for a snack until Marshall had gone. It’s not so much that I don’t like Marshall, but that I don’t like talking to him.)

Mom and Marc did about $800 at the flea market today, a huge drop from the $2,200 they did on the comparable Saturday last Christmas season. But they don’t have many goods this year.

Today was overcast and breezy. Dad commented that the morning temperature of 65° was chilly, but I’ve gone through a lot of days in Gainesville when we didn’t even have a high of 65°.

I took the Cougar out for a couple of rides. The first one was to see the ocean. I bet I’ve never before gone nine months in my whole life without being at the Atlantic Ocean.

At a nearly deserted beach in Dania – only six teenagers were playing football and one guy was unsuccessfully attempting to windsurf – I stood around, just watching the waves roll in.

Of course, it made me think about the beach in Rockaway where I was staying a year ago.

My second drive, late this afternoon, was around West Broward. As usual, there are new developments, stores and highway construction everywhere.

Thirteen years ago, the first time I came down here, about three-quarters of what I saw today simply didn’t exist.

At BCC-South, I used the public library and read the student newspaper, and I walked around the pond, watching the homely Muscovy ducks (I saw two young ducklings, who are cute for now) and managed 2½ chin-ups at the chinning bar.

If I didn’t hear on the news that tonight is the start of Chanukah, I wouldn’t have realized it.

Tuesday, December 22, 1992

11 PM. It was good to get out and spend the evening with Pete, as my days here have been dragging a bit. Mom is now home most all the time, and Dad, Jonathan and China are almost always present.

The family mishigass drives me batty after a while, and I also seem to fall into a stupor when I get sleepy, which is most of the time.

Last night I got to about page 100 of my Professional Responsibility text before I fell asleep, and I stayed asleep nearly to 8 AM, when I exercised to Body Electric.

Then I had breakfast and got back into bed, not going out for the Times until 11 AM. I read the paper and spent the afternoon potchkeying around, watching soap operas and Clinton’s appointment of his foreign policy and national security team.

I’m glad I get only three TV channels in Gainesville, as it saves me a lot of switching with the remote. I can waste half an hour here just surfing from Channel 2 to channel 53 to find anything decent. Television is too seductive.

This afternoon, when Pete opened the door of his mother’s house in Tamarac, he looked much the same as the last time I saw him.

While saying hello to his mother and stepfather, I waited for Pete to get ready. Driving east on McNab, I ended up parking near the beach in Fort Lauderdale.

We walked for about a dozen blocks on the new sidewalk by the beach, where you used to be able to park. It was a mild, breezy night, and it was good to be able to take a long walk.

Then we drove around for a while. I knew it would be hard to find a restaurant that would be suitable for a food person like Pete, but I took him to a new Israeli café, The Famous Levy’s, which had pretty good food, he said. (All I ate was pita bread and some baba ganoush.)

Pete and I lingered in the restaurant after dinner – he paid for me – and then we drove up University Drive to its northern end in Parkland and came down via Pine Island Road.

I’ll see Pete again on Saturday. He is doing well, as he always seems to be.

He cut back working at Equitable to 2½ days a week, and it looks like his job is not in jeopardy. In the spring, he’ll be taking another two classes at NYU and teaching a section of creative writing there.

He also would like to start teaching not just NYU’s Continuing Education courses but in the school’s regular undergraduate program.

One of Pete’s students, a wealthy 60-year-old Brazilian, is investing in a New Age-type resort in Portugal and has arranged for Pete to teach writing for a couple of weeks there in August, with his expenses totally paid for.

In addition, he and Harold will be traveling to China in the summer. Pete’s already been to Hong Kong and Canton, but this time he’ll see Shanghai and Beijing, using mileage he earned on United.

Pete told me all about the restaurants and other things he saw when he was in Asia a year ago. By now he’s more well-traveled than anyone I know.

He’s divided up his book manuscript, sending out sections to magazines and getting a couple of acceptances. We talked about the success of Mark Leyner and Terry McMillan and about the Mondo Barbie book.

I told him I figure all I’ll get out of it is what he got out of the Between C & D anthology: my name mentioned in one or two book reviews.

Pete sent me regards from Richard Kostelanetz and Ken Bernard. It was nice that they remembered me.

Although I hadn’t seen Pete since August 1991, it hardly seemed like it had been so long ago. Apart from him, I haven’t seen any of my friends in New York all year – at least not since the first week of January.

I really wish I could see Ronna in Orlando next week, but then I expect to be staying with her in New York in a little more than two months, during spring break.

Spending time with old friends makes me feel like a person again.