A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-March, 1993

by Richard Grayson

Monday, March 8, 1993

2 PM. It’s gorgeous outside, and it feels as if spring has really begun. Highs in the 70°s are predicted for the entire week.

I’ve been out doing errands, being especially courteous to everyone and appreciative of cute children and dogs.

Yeah, I’m feeling better. Yesterday afternoon I called Justin, who was a great sounding board. He first wanted to make sure I taken precautions about sex.

AIDS is a function of life in New York City, unlike in Gainesville, where Jody doesn’t know anyone who had it; in yesterday’s Times, I saw an obit of the younger brother of Ronna’s friend Henry.

Once he knew we were safe, Justin asked if I felt the whole thing had been a mistake and that I never wanted to see Jody again.

No, I replied, I just feel very confused, not sure about the flood of emotions I was experiencing, and that I needed to sort things out.

Justin said that sounded good, that I should just take things as they come.

As usual, he’s been ridiculously busy: teaching, working, acting (and getting good reviews) in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, doing tech stuff and getting ready to tackle his thesis.

Justin would like to create a job for himself next year in the Brooklyn College Theater Department, and I hope he can because it would give him stability, income and a creative outlet.

He’s applying for a summer internship with a theater company in Ithaca; the Samuel French book featuring the prize winning one-act plays, including Justin’s, is coming out soon.

Larry is in Pennsylvania, getting some stuff of his artwork ready for a show and spending time with his father, who’s having prostate surgery today.

It was wonderful to talk with Justin.

Afterwards, I went to Eckerd to buy some stuff (including condoms), read the Times, cleaned my ceiling fan (Jody was right: it was disgusting), and cried my eyes out at the penultimate episode of ABC’s Life Goes On, watching the boy with AIDS suffering so.

He and his girlfriend agreed to part after he stabilized and both of them got on with doing something important with their lives.

The part that got me was when this guy that’s liked her all along gave her two plane tickets so she could fulfill the wish of her boyfriend with AIDS to see the ocean before he died.

I started nodding off early, and by the time Jody phoned at 11 PM, he said I sounded so sleepy that he would speak to me at another time.

I slept till 9 AM and felt absolutely wonderful this morning: refreshed and calm. I left a brief message with Jody at work and he called me back just as I walked in the door after being at the reopened public library (whose new computer system still isn’t ready).

He works till 5 PM at the law office and starts at Hardee’s at 5:30 PM. What a guy. He’s one of the bravest people I’ve known, in that manner that effeminate guy sometimes have – that Harvey Fierstein-like indomitable will and steely determination that comes from being forced to be independent and self-reliant.

Yesterday Paul Monette, who recently won an NBCC award for his AIDS memoir, had an op-ed piece saying all art is political and that as hard as it is, it’s important for gays to come out, especially the “second” coming out, relieving ourselves of self-hatred and shame.

Maybe I can do that, whatever happens with Jody. What homophobes really hate, Monette said, is a gay person living life with joy and style.

I’m reminded of Derrick Bell’s old Southern black lady who says she “lives just to harass white people.”

There was another article about the New York gay community facing trauma because every new advance in civil rights seems met with rabid hatred.

Some people in the city feel the same way I feel when I keep seeing signs of homophobia because of the push for an Alachua County gay rights ordinance.

But at this point I think it’s healthier for all the hate to come out, too. If there is a time when – as some people fear – there will be a blacklist of open gays the way leftists were blacklisted in the McCarthy era, it’s not going to make anyone feel better to deny themselves.

I think about the Jews who hid or posed as Christians in Nazi Germany or the Hollywood writers who used “fronts” and pseudonyms – the important thing was to survive.

Enduring, the way Faulkner’s Dilsey did, is not the same thing as just going on.

Wednesday, March 10, 1993

It’s just after midnight. Jody went home a little while ago.

We ended up making love, and it was sweet. We used condoms, so it’s also safe. This is a new experience for me, having a sexual relationship with someone I don’t love. I like Jody, but I can’t see him fitting into my life.

He brought over some chicken and salad from the restaurant as well as his photo album. I wasn’t surprised when the first photos were of him in drag.

I suspect he wanted to see how I’d react, and I didn’t react much at all. Certainly I wasn’t shocked, and I want to understand Jody.

Later, in bed, he told me he’s always felt like he was female and that he’d consider having a sex-change operation if he thought it wouldn’t hurt his career and chance to be a lawyer.

Of course, I like the masculine part of Jody that he doesn’t like, as well as his feminine side. But we don’t have much in common. He didn’t know who Bob Dylan was, and even if he’s got smarts, he’s no intellectual.

While Jody and I share an interest in law school and the law, he’s more committed to that than I am.

For a while tonight I thought I had done something impulsive last Saturday, and I wouldn’t repeat it. But once we opened up to each other about what else we do share – being gay (although in very different ways) – acting on our intimacy seems natural. I feel inexperienced and I’m probably extremely clumsy, but I also know I can be affectionate and playful.

His responses sometimes surprised me, like when he kept repeating my name. But Jody doesn’t smile much at any time.

Thank God I still remember how to kiss. I guess you don’t forget stuff like that because it’s so natural.

It’s difficult for me to relax and be as free as I’d imagine other people are, but I guess I have to be me.

Jody thought he might call in sick tomorrow but wanted to get home, and I’m glad he didn’t stay over. It made me feel relieved when he told me he’s dating other people. So I guess we’ll just take it from here and see what happens.

Thursday, March 11, 1993

4 PM. I’ve just come from seeing The Crying Game at the Oaks Mall.

I knew the twist in the movie because of the best supporting actor nomination for Jaye Davidson, the young black British actor who played the character you’re supposed to think (as does the IRA-terrorist protagonist) is a woman until about two-thirds into the movie.

It was an excellent film, and of course it resonated for me because of the coincidences in my life this last week. Jody, like the character Jaye Davidson played, is a feminine young black guy.

Of course I like him as a guy and the real misgivings are – and I feel like a creep saying this – there is not somewhat more masculine.

Still, I’ve had relationships with women, and I guess Sean was effeminate, though not so much as Jody, and there’s something that attracts me to him or we never would have gotten intimate on Saturday night or last night.

Gender is not as cut and dried as we’ve been told. In my Barbie story, Ken as a sex-change operation and becomes Kendra.

I don’t know. I can intellectualize this or use it in my writing or learn a life lesson from this, but I’m also dealing with a flesh-and-blood person whom I don’t want to hurt, even though I know he’s resilient.

Was it my imagination, or did Jody leave here abruptly last night? Did I do or say something to offend him?

When he didn’t call during his lunch hour, or if he took the day off, at any time, I felt odd and I just left a message on his machine: “Hi, it’s Richard, just calling to say hi.”

His cologne lingers on my pillow as I’m writing this.

No, I’m not in love with him; I don’t think I could ever be in love with him. The truth is, right now I don’t want to be in love with him. Maybe I don’t want to be in love with anyone right now.

Am I taking advantage of Jody?

Look, I was celibate for the entire Bush administration, so I’m having trouble knowing what to do with these feelings. I’m not used to this, and I’m trying to take it day by day.

Above all, I’m a control freak, so I don’t like to be overwhelmed emotionally.

Actually, I expect Jody is a bit of a control freak, too, if what he tells me is true. Last night he said that he lies a lot, but real liars would not say that. Does he really not drink or smoke or even eat fattening foods? Is he really HIV-negative?

(I trust condoms but looked through articles on the databases this morning to reassure myself that there are no recorded cases of anyone getting HIV from deep kissing.)

– Jody just called. He did take the day off, but he’s on his way to his second job now. He told me Janet Reno got confirmed as attorney general, which made him happy.

Now how can he be a total bubblehead when that was what we talked about, that and yesterday’s murder of a doctor at a Pensacola abortion clinic by a militant “right-to-lifer”?

Jody is okay. I forget he’s kind of a kid in the way that I never forgot it with Sean – probably because Jody is independent and a working adult living on his own.

This morning I read the chapter on negotiation for next week’s Professional Responsibility classes and went a little beyond that. Shara and I have to do this mock negotiation session next week, but it should be fun.

Yesterday Mom phoned to say I got a notice that Chase sent out an $800 SLS loan check to UF. I don’t remember it if I’m supposed to get one, but it would be a great help in providing me with a financial cushion.

Tom sent an interview with one of his Stuttgart seminar colleagues from last summer; the man sounded intelligent and interesting. Tom said Richard Ford was a bit pompous when he taught at NOCCA last week, but he proved pretty good for a macho literary celebrity.

Well, tomorrow’s Friday, the last day of my week off. There might be a blizzard in the northeast this weekend, giving me one more reason to be glad I didn’t spend spring break in New York City.

Monday, March 15, 1993

7 PM. Back to school. It’s another chilly night, and I’ve got the heat way up. Hopefully, it will warm up gradually over the next few days and soon we’ll be back in the 70°s.

Jody loves cold weather, as he told me when he called on his lunch hour today.

Last night I had a dream that was sort of about Jody. I dreamed I put on the self-tanning cream I usually use, only when I looked in the mirror, it had turned my skin the color of a black person’s. I liked the way I looked with dark skin and thought, “It’s the same color as Jody’s skin, and he’s so cute.”

This morning I stayed inside, continuing to work on my construction contract and doing other reading for school.

I also wrote the features editor of the Gainesville Sun, suggesting a story about Barbie that could be told with the Mondo Barbie book.

Local newspapers prefer feature articles about books to reviews; besides, the Sun doesn’t print original book reviews, just reprints from news services and the New York Times.

At school at 1:30 PM, I waited for Shara to come out of Mashburn’s 1 PM class. We made an appointment to do our negotiation at 9 AM tomorrow; I’ll meet her in the cafeteria.

I spent time chatting with people about their vacations.

Karin spent the week – in which she turned 24 – with her family on a trip to Fort Lauderdale, Miami (where she discovered the Deco District of South Beach, enjoying a lunch at the News Cafe’s outdoor tables) and the Keys.

Laura was home in Coral Springs and said she had an “okay” time.

Lorraine was still sick, and when her parents took her to Universal Studios, the earthquake machine made her throw up.

Ana went to the Smokies and got back to Pensacola to find two inches of snow on the ground.

The Times reports that Fire Island wasn’t hit as hard by this storm as it was in December, so I assume Teresa’s house is all right.

Professor Smith was badly sunburned from his trip along the Georgia and Carolina coasts. He struggled to lecture, beginning the topic of trusts.

In Legal Drafting, Lynn told us that on Wednesday, we’ll hand in our first draft of the contract, which we’ll have to revise. She’s decided to give us a lighter drafting assignment for legislation.

As I’ve already done a lot of work on the contract, I don’t have much more to do before Wednesday.

A lot of people were missing today, and I noticed that some classes were canceled, perhaps because people were delayed by airports closed by the storm.

The Times has a front-page story saying most of the jobs now being created are “contingency” jobs: part-time or temporary jobs with few or no benefits and no job security. Sounds like adjunct teaching.

Sterling Watson wrote me that he’s depressed going over the CVs of the 250 poets who applied to Eckerd College to replace the retiring Peter Meinke.

Sterling says that many of these people are much more accomplished than he is in terms of publications, reviews, recommendations, whatever. Most are in their late 40s or older. And nearly all of them have these “terrible jobs that are or should be demeaning.”

What a waste of talent. But these poets are not the only underemployed people in the U.S. today.

Wednesday, March 17, 1993

8 PM. Last evening I read Mondo Barbie and found the stories and poems to be excellent, especially Amy Holmes’s piece, which made me laugh out loud many times. My story is one of the few from Barbie’s point of view, which sets it apart.

This afternoon I got a phone call from Rick. He desperately needs more stories for Mondo Marilyn and he was grateful for my getting Tom to submit one. I’m glad Rick took Tom’s piece.

I gave Rick a few suggestions from a Lexis search, but I don’t feel like writing anything about Marilyn Monroe myself, mostly because of all the junky pop books about her.

On Friday, Rick and Lucinda are heading to Manhattan for the “big lunch” with their agent, the agent’s assistant, and the incompetents at St. Martin’s, including the 23-year-old publicist who blew the review in Harper’s Bazaar by lying to the editor and saying she’d send him a galley when there weren’t any more left.

St. Martin’s, of course, will screw up and then blame Rick and Lucinda if the book doesn’t sell. (They’re probably blaming Rick and Lucinda for the original cover that Mattel quashed although the editors had no say about it.)

The book is being shipped this week; supposedly B. Dalton has ordered it. Cosmopolitan had a little blurb in their March issue, calling it “a hilarious collection.”

Otherwise, there are no other reviews I didn’t know about. Rick says there’s a good chance for a German sale and maybe also a Japanese sale.

Rick’s phone calls now get returned, even from Alice Turner of Playboy, who gave him some leads on Marilyn stories.

St. Martin’s sees Mondo Elvis with blue pages and Mondo Marilyn with yellow pages, but they don’t like so much poetry and there’s another volume of Elvis stuff coming out with a different publisher which will have more clout.

Anyway, Rick plans to ride this for all he can, and I wish him luck.

It was 60° when I got up today, but we had to pay for those mild temperatures with heavy rain.

In the library second floor, Kim was at work and exchanging notes about her trip to New York with Lee, who got back from Paris last night.

Kim loved New York and did dozens of touristy things; she was happy they postponed her flight from Sunday to Monday night.

Lee had a great time in Paris with her husband, but they caught bad colds and had to sleep at Kennedy Airport on Monday night because of delays due to the storm.

Martin and I listened to the stories Kim and Lee told about their trips, and then Lee and I went to Nunn’s class, where he returned to the topic of the right to a speedy trial.

Back home at 10 AM, I exercised and worked on my construction contract, printing out three copies of a draft to hand in.

In class at 4 PM, we edited our work using a checklist Lynn provided, and we looked at the work of other people.

The hour before that, D.T. Smith taught about Totten trusts (I’ve had them and didn’t know it: my bank accounts in trust for my brothers); D.T. had on a green shamrock for St. Patrick’s Day.

Mom called to complain about her lawyer, who doesn’t answer her phone calls. My parents want to file for bankruptcy as quickly as possible, and the lawyer is dawdling.

Rather than have them send back the forms Mom didn’t fill out properly and fully, I advise Mom to make an appointment to do the paperwork in the office – and she called and made one for next week at the earliest time the lawyers were available.

Forget all the shit Slobogin is teaching us in Professional Responsibility: attorneys should return phone calls from their clients and then at least they’d be avoiding what probably irks clients most.

I spoke briefly to Jody today, but I have to face the fact that we really don’t have much to talk about. Of course he’s at work and has to be brief. I need to see him more to know if we can really talk together.

Yes, I’m attracted to Jody, but unless I can have some conversation with him – he doesn’t need to be an intellectual as long as we can talk meaningfully – it will be hard to sustain a relationship.

Friday, March 19, 1993

8 PM. On the eve of spring, the Gainesville weather continues to be wintry. Today was chilly and dark, and I’ve got the heat on now and a quilt over me (I’m dressed) as I write this.

At least we’re getting a change in the direction of the country. Justice White’s retirement, which I heard about on the car radio as I left school at 11 AM, will give Clinton the chance to replace a conservative with a liberal on the Supreme Court.

I felt better after sleeping for seven and a half hours last night. At school this morning, I read the Alligator, including a story about the late ’60s and early ’70s when campus activism made the University of Florida “the Berkeley of the South.”

In Crim Pro, we started our unit on discovery, which we will be plodding through until next week. I think Nunn finds the subject the most boring topic of the course, as I do.

We had another lively Professional Responsibility class that ended with a videotape of our negotiating problem dramatized by actors.

Slobogin confessed that he’s uncomfortable with the vagueness, unanswerable questions and blurry lines that make teaching ethics such a confusing and frustrating enterprise.

After doing aerobics at home, I was seized by drowsiness, so I lay down for an hour. I think I even fell asleep for a little while there.

I had taken the phone off the hook so I wouldn’t be disturbed, but right after I put it on again, Jody called.

Our conversation was interrupted twice, first by a phone mix-up and then because someone in the office called him to do something.

Probably sleeping with Jody on the first date was a mistake, but I’m not sorry about it. I needed to take risks emotionally, and it was good for me to be a sexual being again.

Still, Jody isn’t the guy I want to spend my life with, and I’m not sure I want to spend even one night a week with him.

Right now I don’t know him well enough. I need to really talk to him some more, find out what makes him tick, what he wants out of life, if he’s got values I can share.

And I can’t do that on the phone, certainly not while he’s at work. There are big pieces in my jigsaw puzzle of Jody’s life.

I went back to school for a double session of Race Relations, where we viewed videos on Charles H. Houston and his legal strategy that led to Brown v. Board of Education.

As we move from history to our own time (okay, I’m one of the few students who was alive in 1954), the class is getting more interesting.

My own view of Brown is that it was premised on a shaky conclusion dealing with social science studies like Kenneth Clark’s showing that black kids prefer white dolls.

Civil rights activists and our local black politicians don’t like to hear this, but I so see a parallel between the struggles against Jim Crow and today’s gay rights movement in that every step toward tolerance is met with the kind of vicious backlash we’re seeing in Gainesville.

Forty years from now, those people who decry “special rights for homosexuals” may look as foolish as the 1950s segregationists do now.

Like racism and anti-Semitism, homophobia will always be around – but sooner or later, the laws will have to stop sanctioning the hatred of gay people.

Locally, we are going to get barraged with lies and venom as the County Commission meets to debate the human rights ordinance – which I know will fail.

I try to detach myself from it by saying I don’t really live here – but I do, even if only temporarily.

On the other hand, there’s no way I’ll stay in Florida if anti-gay ordinances get passed here. I’ve always intended to either go back to New York City, go to D.C., or move to California or maybe Arizona (Phoenix) or New Mexico (Santa Fe).