A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early February, 1993

by Richard Grayson

Monday, February 1, 1993

8 PM. Last night I got to sleep at about 11 PM and was up just before 7 AM. Before breakfast, I drove to school to get my copy of the Times, which I read in bed.

I had the whole morning free and didn’t return to school till 1 PM. Even then, I had a couple of hours before my classes began. I read the Criminal Procedure stuff for this week, and I even read all of the Estates and Trusts cases that D.T. cited in class. (Just now, I read the cases he cited today, which I got off Lexis this evening.)

I also played around on Lexis and exchanged a few words with various friends. And I looked at some guys I don’t know at school who I think are cute.

Once I know somebody, of course, I can still think he’s nice-looking, but the person isn’t interesting to stare at. Familiarity takes away a lot of sex appeal, and I’m not going to get crushes on guys who are married or who I know are straight.

Of course, I don’t really know if any other guy at the law school is gay.

Maybe that’s a good reason to call Marty Peters about the gay support group she mentioned again in this week’s Docket. I just have this fear that it’s all lesbians, the really political ones who are clearly out on campus.

The faculty voted 28-26, by a secret ballot not released until late Friday afternoon, to make the first-year classes 4-credit, one-semester courses.

This probably means the 60-minute hour is coming back next year. I prefer 50-minute classes, but if they kept them, the first-year students wouldn’t be getting nearly enough time in each subject.

D.T. complained about the change during his lecture on Florida statutes for protection of the family: the spouse’s elective share, the homestead exemption and the family allowance.

After we got back our marked-up complaints in Legal Drafting, Lynn went over some of the problems we had with the assignment and how to fix them. I plan to work on my paper tomorrow morning.

Back home at 5 PM, I listened to All Things Considered and had dinner while my computer printed out the Lexis cases.

Boy, with no Transboundary Environmental Issues class this week, I feel like I have so much less work to do and so much more free time. But I can always read ahead and find plenty to do.

The weather seems to be stuck in a pattern where it’s about 38° to 40° in the morning and up to 60° to 63° by mid-afternoon, but as long as the sun is shining, I’m not complaining.

More and more, I figure I’m best off remaining in Gainesville for the summer unless I get some good deal elsewhere. Since I have to pay rent anyway, staying here is the cheapest option.

I’d also like to take Weyrauch’s Legal Counseling course because it’s the last time he’s going to teach it and I can afford two credits if I can afford anything.

As I told Gordon when I went to pay my February rent today, I also plan to renew my lease. This apartment is convenient and pleasant, and it’ll be nice not to have to move again.

Wednesday, February 3, 1993

Noon. “Can you put up two guests for tomorrow night?” Mom asked me when she called last evening.

Dad and Marc are on a sales trip and they have appointments in Bradenton this morning, Tampa this afternoon, and Jacksonville tomorrow morning, so it’s only logical that they stay here this evening.

I’m a bit nervous about making them comfortable. At least it’s not clean-freak Mom visiting, but I still needed to clean the bathroom so it doesn’t look quite so disgusting.

Dad and Marc probably won’t get here until it’s dark, and since they’ll leave early in the morning, they won’t be here long.

But I need to make them as comfortable as possible. Even if I have to sleep on the floor, I can deal with it.

Because of their visit, I’ve had to put off revising my complaint, but I have the whole weekend to do that.

Elihu returned my call last night. He and I haven’t spoken in over a year, and he didn’t even have my old address in Gainesville, but he looked me up via directory assistance.

Elihu’s life seems uneventful by my standards, but he’s apparently content. I guess he’s been that way since high school.

His cat Alex, whom he got when I spoke to him last year, is obviously his closest companion – though Alex is not as smart as his beloved Nicky, who died in 1991.

Elihu is looking around for a new job, but the job that he started last year is “tolerable for now.”

I doubt any job he can get will be as good as the one with Goldman Sachs – at least in Elihu’s mind.

It remains cold here, but on the other hand, Elihu said the wind-chill factor was 10° below zero in New York. I told Mom to make sure Dad and Marc are prepared for temperatures in the 30°s in the night and morning.

Today I went off to school in a corduroy shirt and the heaviest jacket I could find, as well as a hood and gloves. Some guys still wear shorts on days like today, and they must either not feel the cold or want to show off their legs very badly.

I enjoyed Nunn’s class, which focused on the prosecutor’s decision to charge. Dan R and others have told me that the famous Professor Jerold Israel, who has the other section of Crim Pro, is a terrible teacher.

I’d say I have good professors this term. Nunn and Smith are clear and easygoing, and Slobogin for Professional Responsibility is better than Probert, according to everyone.

After shopping at Publix, I came home and exercised and then watched a fascinating look at electronic publishing on PBS’s The Computer Chronicles.

I’m very much excited by the possibilities of new media that weds text with sound, graphics and all the capabilities of computers, including hypertext.

I just put up a load of laundry and took out a quilt and a blanket so I can accommodate my guests tonight.

I’ve been living here nearly six months now, and things probably look a lot different than when my parents left me here last August when I first moved in.

I’ll probably have lunch and read the Times before I return to law school for my afternoon classes.

Thursday, February 4, 1993

Noon. Dad and Marc arrived around 5:30 PM yesterday, just five minutes after Mom called to ask if I’d heard from them and about half an hour after I had gotten home from school.

I happened to look out the window as they were arriving, so I opened the door to welcome them. Both were surprised by the chilly weather; apparently it had been much warmer in Tampa, where they were coming from.

This is Marc’s first road trip as the Introspect salesman, but of course with Dad here, I couldn’t ask him how he feels about the position; actually, he probably doesn’t know himself yet.

Dad has been selling on the road for years, but I guess I never saw him in the middle of a trip like this.

Maybe it’s Willy Loman and the images Death of a Salesman gives off, but I find something slightly sad about Dad carrying around his samples and his good clothes and his toiletries.

Dad inadvertently left a pen, a comb and some of his order forms here, and seeing them makes me feel a lump in my throat. I’ll mail them back to the house.

Marc and Dad relaxed as much as they could in the apartment, changing into more casual clothes. Dad called Mom and heard the usual business problems and also that China threw up.

Dad said he knew the dog was upset in the morning when she saw him and Marc going away. Marc said, “You mean the dog is neurotic?” and Dad replied, “Why should she be different than anyone else in the family?”

As I figured, Dad didn’t let Marc drive. But because the station wagon was too crowded with goods to seat three, I drove them in my car to Sonny’s Bar-B-Q, where after a 15-minute wait, we got a table.

They both got the salad bar and I ordered a baked potato, as I’d already eaten a Healthy Choice dinner. Dad marveled that the three of us could go to a restaurant and end up with only a $9 bill.

Back here, Marc went into my room to call Clarissa while I showed Dad the map of how to get to Jacksonville.

When Marc returned to the front room, I got on Lexis and then Westlaw and astounded Dad as I made searches. (I printed out the property records of one of his bosses who owns a $5 million house in Beverly Hills.)

“I’m really glad you’re getting a lot of use out of the computer,” Dad said, because he never learned how to operate it and it was going to waste.

I decided that Dad should have my queen-sized bed to himself, and Marc offered to sleep on the box spring of the bed in the other room while I slept on the mattress, but I insisted on using the box spring myself.

We were watching Melrose Place, and Marc was talking to me one minute – he couldn’t remember when I moved out of the bedroom we shared and Jonathan moved in; neither could I, although I figured it was when Jonathan could trade his crib for a bed – and he was snoring the next.

He said Clarissa sometimes goes into another room at night because his snoring is so bad, but it stopped after a while. However, his snoring sounds as though he actually stops breathing for a moment – and a couple of times his own snoring woke him up.

I barely slept, but I must have gotten some sleep because I don’t remember a couple of hours.

The box spring hurt my neck, so I moved onto the floor. But I couldn’t manage to back to sleep, and I got up at 5:30 AM to have breakfast.

Because I set the alarm on the clock radio in my room too loud, Dad awoke with a start to the strains of Mozart on WUFT-FM at 6 AM.

Mostly I tried to stay out of their way while Marc and Dad showered and got ready for their drive to Jacksonville.

They have an appointment in Winter Park tomorrow, but they’re not coming back to Gainesville this evening.

After we said goodbye at about 7:15 AM, I exercised and then showered and changed for school.

Yesterday afternoon’s classes went okay, and so did this morning’s, although I think I talk too much in class and say stupid things. Perhaps I miss the luxury of mouthing off that teaching provided me last semester.

This afternoon I’ve got Race Relations at 3 PM and an eye doctor appointment at Burdines at 5 PM. I feel tired, but I’ve been on a high energy cycle till just a few minutes ago.

Because of the winter weather, my fingers have become so dry that the skin has actually split open in a couple of places.

I’m getting a little spacy now, so perhaps I need to lie down before I return to school. Tonight I’ll catch up on my sleep for sure.

Saturday, February 6, 1993

7:30 PM on a rainy Saturday night. I just got off the phone with Mom, who was asking me questions about bankruptcy.

She must have convinced Dad to go ahead and file – or at least see an attorney – so I gave her Richard Laren’s name. Although he charged me too much, he did what I needed him to do.

I also told Mom to check ads in the newspapers and on TV. In Gainesville, commercials for bankruptcy attorneys pop up regularly.

As far as my own precarious financial situation is concerned, I’ve decided that four weeks from now I won’t be getting on a plane to New York after all.

The cheapest current fare on Delta is $375, and even with my turning in my $150 ticket, I’ll be spending money I may need later.

Besides, I’d rather go in May or later in the summer if I’m going to pay that much for airfare. The weather in New York is still lousy in early March (now it’s 10° and snowing there), and I could use ten days here to catch up on schoolwork and my other work.

I feel bad, particularly about not being able to visit Grandma Ethel. But I’m poor, and I’ve got to accept that there are things I used to do that I can’t do now. No matter what, I’ve got the memories of all the great summers I spent in New York in the 1980s and the times I spent with Grandma in Rockaway.

In my dreams I can still be in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, and I can still be with my old friends.

Back in the MFA program and even before that, a sense of loss propelled some of my best writing; maybe this loss will also do me some good.

I am looking forward to being on the Grants Panel for Literature. Mom sent the stuff from the Division of Cultural Affairs. The deadline for fellowship applications is at the end of this month, and the panel will meet in May or June in Tallahassee.

In addition to me and Jeffrey Knapp, the other panelists are Professor Mildred Hill-Lubin of UF’s English Department (maybe I should introduce myself to her), Randall Polk from Tampa Bay (he was a grad student in English at USF and edits a newsletter for creative writers) and Barbara Hamby of Tallahassee, a poet who teaches at FSU.

Alternates are Professor John Holman of USF, a black short story writer who got a Whiting award; Jean Trebbi; and Monica Haskell from the Key West Literary Seminar.

It should be interesting to work with these people, and maybe I can even make a contact that will help me get a reading or something one day. I’ve never “networked” properly, not compared with writers like Judith Ortiz Cofer, who got on the staff of Bread Loaf this year.

Anyway, I spent about three hours working on my amended complaint for Legal Drafting today. As a writer, I enjoyed fiddling with the document.

While I know it doesn’t have to be perfect, I’m sure Lynn wants to see that we’ve done a lot of work, and my revisions already reflect that.

A letter from Tom contained lots of good news. He won the $1,000 Editors’ Prize from the Missouri Review for “The Spectral University,” the amazingly good lecture he delivered in Stuttgart last summer.

He and Daniel Quinn, who won the $500,000 Turner Tomorrow Award for his novel Ishmael, are writing a book “working off [Tom’s] sequence of afterlife fictions from 1977.”

John Schaefer, his Stuttgart Seminars colleague and former University of Arizona president, a scientist whose photography book with Little, Brown sold 70,000 copies, wants to do a photo book with Tom doing the text, working from Spoon River Anthology. Tom says he will do it.

He turned down David Vancil’s offer to publish the collection of stories: “No point, no profit.”

Tom says that Debra has finished the second draft of The Robber and has had some short translations taken by Fiction International.

Finally, the screenplay Tom wrote over Christmas was optioned for $100. Tom is doing amazingly well. I feel so unproductive by comparison although he did say that my GPA was “incredible.”

Look, for now I’m happy with my “Twelve-Step Barbie” story and my appointment to the Literature Grants Panel.

Monday, February 8, 1993

9:30 PM. I just got in, and the first thing I did was turn on the heat. With the way the system works here, the apartment will soon be unbearably warm.

I’d left the house at 7 PM. This was the first time I’ve been out that late all winter, and I really liked being out in the chilly night air.

First I went to the public library to return some stuff, and while I was there I read the Village Voice. I miss my connection with that paper and its sensibility and its politics.

After 45 minutes, I drove to the O’Connell Center to hear Sister Souljah speak. She’s the rap artist and social activist Bill Clinton used to make it look like he was standing up to Jesse Jackson last year. It got Clinton white votes and made Sister Souljah a household name.

This morning I was reading about the abolitionist movement in Before the Mayflower, and seeing Sister Souljah reminded me of those fiery speakers against slavery. She spoke to the black audience (“Africans”) only, but I found her to be provocative.

Her problems with white people are understandable; however, she also stressed black self-esteem, responsibility, entrepreneurship and education.

She lambasted people for interracial dating, doing drugs, having casual sex, and their lack of community feeling.

Funny how being out on a winter night reminded me of times in the past when I felt I was fighting the gloom of winter by being out and about in New York City: the movies and museums Ronna and I used to go to (I remember us leaving the Whitney one cold night and shivering in my car till the heater warmed us up), or the times I went out with Avis (going to that Don McLean concert at Carnegie Hall and seeing Trojan Women at the Sheepshead Theater in February 1972), or when I’d just hang out with the LaGuardia gang.

I remember the time in mid-October 1970, the first night chilly night of the year, when Student Government showed Fellini Satyricon, and afterwards I drove around with Elspeth, Mark Savage and others from school – that was the first time in college I really felt I had friends.

I guess being a student again brings that time back, as if the ’80s and most of the ’70s had never happened. Oh well.

Last night I slept sporadically, and I got up early enough to fetch the New York Times before all the parking spaces at school were taken.

It was a dark, gloomy morning, and I spent it reading and studying and exercising. I did get a lot of reading for class done before I left the school at 2 PM.

We began looking at wills themselves in Estates and Trusts, and we did the usual confused exercise in Legal Drafting.

It was instructive to read other people’s papers – in my group were Angelina, Claudia and John T – to see how differently they handled the same complaint.

Back here at 5 PM, I met Carla at the mailbox. She’s got a 4 PM class, too, Bankruptcy with Davis.

There was no mail for me, but I did have a phone message from Teresa: someone called the West 85th Street apartment wanting to know something about Narcissism and Me.

Of course, that’s the address of the small press publisher for that book. Anyway, I called the woman whose name Teresa got from her tenant.

She turned out to be the owner of Books, Etc., a retail store in the St. Louis area, who had a customer who wanted to order the book. I told her to write me here.

Of course, I’m so stupid I’d give the book away – which is what I’ll end up doing anyway, since the check will probably be made out to the small press and thus I won’t be able to cash it.

What fascinates me is how the heck this person in St. Louis ever heard of the book. Has there been a recent review in some periodical? Did someone tell the person about the book? Why now, years after it was published?

Narcissism and Me was mentioned in a couple of Florida papers, in Paul Fericano’s YU Press Service, in Laughing Bear Newsletter and New Pages, but all that was years ago, and I didn’t get any queries back then.

Anyway, I feel happy that somebody in America actually desires to get a copy, although having given most of them away, I don’t have many left.

Because I have only the 3 PM class tomorrow, this was a good night to get out of the apartment.

(Yes, I already turned off the heat.)