A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late March, 1993
by Richard Grayson
Sunday, March 21, 1993
5 PM. Jody just left for his job at Hardee’s. He was here half an hour. Don’t forget, this was only the third time I’ve seen him. Today he was wearing a yellow tank top and shorts, and I’d forgotten how feminine he could look.
Jody said that today the Gainesville Sun printed my letter, “Top Ten Reasons Not to Pass a Gay Civil Rights Bill,” which was a David Letterman-type parody, but of course I had only read today’s New York Times.
I showed him my copy of Mondo Barbie, but he didn’t know what to make of it. Mostly I tried to draw him out about himself, and I learned that he’s been on his own for five years, since he was 18. He got his job at the law firm two years ago “only because I had a 4.0 index.”
He and his mother talk every day; she’s separated from her husband, a drunk who disrespected her. “I could never respect him because of that,” Jody said.
His mother mostly worked in the fields and has no education, but Jody says she has expensive tastes and gets angry when he won’t buy her stuff with his credit cards, with which he’s very careful.
I like Jody, but a lot of the attraction has faded. Maybe I was so needy for affection – and so was he – that we just came together that night. I’ll probably see him on Wednesday night, when he’s off from Hardee’s. Jody said he gets his hard-working attitude from his mother.
God, I can still smell his cologne; it’s too strong for me. Am I trying to figure out how to back off from this relationship? I guess so. But I know that I’m far from being Jody’s ideal, so I don’t expect he’s crazy about me, either. Last evening he worked, so he didn’t call.
At about this time yesterday, Dad phoned, wanting my advice: He’d just picked up the mail and found a $6,000-plus check from Social Security. They said they owed him about three times that much, but he was not to expect any more money until May.
I got off the phone and went on Westlaw to do research for an hour, trying to read the incomprehensible U.S. Code and Florida statutes. Social security benefits are definitely exempt property in bankruptcy, but the trustee might wonder why Dad waited to get these benefits.
On the other hand, the income would have been exempt all along. I told Dad not to cash the check and to ask the lawyer about it on Tuesday. It would be a big help, of course, if he can go through bankruptcy and then keep the benefits.
Later, Josh phoned in response to the message I’d left asking if he had any Marilyn Monroe stories written. No, Josh said, “although it sounds like something I would have written about.”
Josh told me I should get on the Internet; I keep meaning to find out how I can. When I asked him about his parents, Josh said he spent Friday taking his mother to several doctors, although there’s little they can do for her.
He’s trying to get something together to celebrate his parents’ 50th anniversary. I’ve always gotten the idea that Josh’s parents were barely civil to each other after years of an unhappy marriage.
I told him about Grandma Ethel and Grandpa Herb’s 50th anniversary party in 1979 at that Israeli nightclub in Rego Park. They really loved it. It was just before my parents moved away to Florida, and then, the next year, Grandpa Herb got sick.
I have memories of leaving the Café Baba on 63rd Drive on that Sunday afternoon and going next door to the Rego Park branch library, which was open. I sat there reading magazines for a while, and when I returned to the anniversary party, I happily discovered that nobody realized I’d been gone.
In today’s Times, I saw an article that mentioned Eldon Greenberg, an attorney and advocate for anti-nuclear power groups. Twenty-two years ago, he was Ray Kennedy’s lawyer for the disciplinary hearings over the demonstration against American Express that shut down the Brooklyn College financial aid office.
Mark Savage and I testified for Ray, as did Consuelo – that was how she met Mark – and Ray was the only one of the four students acquitted. Greenberg prepared me to testify and calmed me down; I was so nervous about it, but he acted like a good lawyer would and helped me before and after I was on the witness stand.
8 PM. Funny how I started getting phone calls about my letter to the editor only after Jody told me about it. I got the paper when I did the laundry and saw my letter with its lame jokes were at the top of the Op-Ed page.
The first call was from a Southern-voiced old-timer who assured me that there already is a gay and lesbian adopted highway, “right where you live.”
“Thanks for setting me straight,” I said, and he said, “You’re welcome” and hung up.
But he might have been the most benign caller. Two others just hung up when the machine came on, and one man left a message asking me to call him.
I won’t, of course, and after he called, I took the phone off the hook. With all the homophobia around town, I feel a bit threatened, and of course now that I’ve spoken out in favor of a gay rights issue, everyone who reads the paper will know that.
Though I’m also worried that gay people will think I’m ridiculing them, and of course non-white people can be offended by one of my “reasons”: “Next thing you know, non-whites will think they’re equal.”
My last “reason” was “Mustn’t let Waco and Pensacola be the only cities where people live by the Bible,” a reference to the Branch Davidian shootout and the murder of the abortion clinic doctor. So that will offend Christians.
Still, it’s nice to know that my words have the power to affect people. I try to use what I know best, humor and satire, but probably half the people didn’t get which side I was on.
Part of me feels superior to this hick town paranoia; I’m a New Yorker, after all, and I’ve been in the media with other controversial stuff.
Of course, gay rights hits closer to home, and I still feel the need to protect my privacy. I don’t want to be identified as gay in the media. Is that cowardly of me? Isn’t hanging on in the closet worse once you’ve opened up the door?
Still, right now I don’t want everyone to know my business. That may change, and maybe this is just a toe in the water.
Monday, March 22, 1993
7 PM. The only people who commented on my letter were Bob and Marsha, both complimentary, and Lee, who said she heard about it from Donna. There were no hate calls or calls of any kind.
At home at noon, I turned off the radio when they were about to cover a live debate on the proposed county gay rights ordinance at the Plaza of the Americas because I didn’t want to hear ignorant homophobic speeches.
Everyone has a First Amendment right to speak, and I support that, but I don’t have to listen.
At the student lounge, I sat with friends, including Ana, who got engaged over the break to her boyfriend in the Marines. She wants to finish law school here in December because her fiancé is being sent to California.
Judy told me that she, too, will be graduating in December after going to summer school here and then taking courses at Oxford, as is Kathy. Others from our class who are planning to graduate early are Gene, Donna and Paul R.
Classes went well today, and I enjoyed school. Tomorrow I have an appointment with Lynn to discuss my construction contract, which needs a lot of work.
Wednesday, March 24, 1993
7 PM. Jody phoned from his house during the lunch hour to say he probably wouldn’t be up to coming over or going out with me tonight because he wasn’t feeling that well.
Supposedly his wisdom tooth was coming through and bothering him, but even if it was an excuse, that’s okay. I don’t really want to stay up late tonight and there’s a severe thunderstorm watch in effect. I guess if we were really crazy about one another, we’d be more eager to spend time together.
This morning I went to school early for Criminal Procedure and came back at 10 AM to exercise and read the Times before lunch.
Clinton is now hedging on gays in the military. In the face of adamant opposition from the services, he says he’d consider segregating them.
The whole thing is a crock of shit. He never appointed that AIDS panel he promised, either.
I was one of the first people to discover, when I returned to school, that the class schedules were out. The summer is the same as it was, and Legal Counseling is all I want to take and all I can afford to take.
The fall schedule seemed puny despite the promises that the new curriculum for first-year students would open up a lot of electives.
I’d like to take a couple of courses with old Professor McCoy, preferably Legal History Other Than Common Law, which should be fascinating.
I’d also like to take a class with Don Peters, probably the new Interviewing/Counseling/Mediating course. Liz McCulloch is teaching a new Poverty Law class, and a few other classes I’d consider are Future Interests (Smith), Children’s Law (Fitzgerald) and Police Practices (Baldwin).
Baldwin’s also teaching a seminar with a topic to be announced, but it conflicts with Legal History.
The spring 1994 list of courses to be offered features Women and the Law, taught by Dowd, and Harrison’s seminar on Law and Literature. Actually, I almost wish I could take a fourth year of classes at law school.
I pre-register a week from tomorrow and will put down a maximum number of credits (18) and then drop two courses, as I did last fall, once I find out what my teaching schedule at Santa Fe Community College will be.
Both Estates and Trusts and Legal Drafting went slowly today, but I wasn’t at all tired or bored.
For the next three weeks, of course, I’ll be back up to fifteen hours a week as Professor Vieira from Brazil comes to lecture for his segment of Transboundary Environmental Issues in the Americas. The reading is supposed to be available by Friday at Xerographic.
For now I have the time to read Woodward’s The Strange Career of Jim Crow, which looks like it will move quickly. I’ve done the reading for classes for the rest of the week.
Rick told me my gay rights bill letter in the Sun was funny, and he’s about as mainstream as they come, being the president of Blue Key, UF’s big honorary society, which sounds like a poor man’s Skull and Bones.
I overreacted when I figured people at law school would be standoffish with me coming out. Most law students aren’t homophobic, and the ones that are, who know me – people I’ve talked to in the past – are too polite to snub me or say anything nasty even if they think it or say it among themselves.
However, I doubt if anyone at school has so much free time that they can afford to spend it thinking about my sexual orientation or political views.
Every day I check Lexis/Nexis and Westlaw for cites on Mondo Barbie, and I’ve looked in the latest magazines – but nothing. And no local bookstore is carrying the book thus far.
Well, the official pub date is still weeks away, but I really don’t expect much. Michiko Kakutani likes to be hip and trendy, but I don’t think she’ll do a daily review in the Times.
Perhaps Rick Peabody’s D.C. connections will mean better luck in the Post. I wonder if Gretchen will go along to Paris with Mrs. Harriman, who’ll be our new Ambassador to France.
Friday, March 26, 1993
9 PM. This morning when I got to school, I hung out at the reference desk with Larry (who works there), Martin, David A and Jason R (who I don’t think has ever spoken to me before) as we looked at the teacher evaluations and the grade distributions for various teachers and courses.
Everybody says McCoy is both a good teacher and an easy grader and I’ll try to get into his classes. I decided to register for Police Practices with Baldwin rather than for Poverty Law.
Although I’m bad at procedure (I can hardly follow the stuff on discovery in Crim Pro), Baldwin’s classes are lively and it will be less work than the course McCulloch has put together.
I grew impatient with Professional Responsibility today when we discussed prosecutorial ethics and never touched on the reality of decisions based upon politics.
At home during the break, I finished The Strange Case of Jim Crow.
Yesterday I told Nunn I knew all about Starrett City, so near the end of our discussion on housing discrimination today in Race Relations, he called on me, saying I knew about this subject.
After I spoke, Doug G apparently caught Nunn’s eye. “Did you want to say something?” Nunn asked Doug, who said, “Uh, no, I just am amazed that Richard seems to have had all these experiences in every subject and teachers know this.”
People started laughing, and even more so when Nunn said, “With age comes wisdom.”
I feel like I’m perceived as a know-it-all asshole. On the other hand, I do enjoy talking about things I know about and I do exaggerate my first-hand experience, not out of a sense of self-importance, I hope, but more because I love to tell stories.
Okay, I’m also a showoff – but when I said this to Ana, she told me I “have a lot to show off.”
Barbara Goldsmith and Shay both came over to me today to say that they liked my letter in the Sun, and that made me feel good.
Sunday, March 28, 1993
5 PM. I’ve just been sitting out by the pool (but in the shade), finishing the materials for Vieira’s class and reading two different Florida cases dealing with creditors trying to get the proceeds of a trust.
In bed last night, I found a radio station playing a marathon of Lou Reed songs, and I lay awake (though with my eyes closed) listening to Reed’s voice for hours.
When I finally managed to doze off, I slept fitfully, dreaming about law school exams, walking around Manhattan, and teaching again at Broward Community College.
Up at 8:40 AM, I had breakfast, but the spelt I bought isn’t that great as cereal; it tastes like a primitive grain. After I went out for the paper, I exercised and lay down for a while.
Jody never called, so I phoned him at 1 PM and left a message.
I guess I should just forget about him. It’s becoming clear that Jody is more polite than he is interested in me, and part of me called him just to be polite, too. It’s like neither of us wants to be the one to stop calling.
Three weeks after we slept together and my feelings were all confused, I still am not certain how I feel about Jody, although I’m pretty certain I don’t want to be his “boyfriend” and I don’t want him to be mine.
The differences between us are just too big to bridge the gap of age, race, background, style and temperament.
Differences like those aren’t fatal if you’re in love, but neither one of us is in love with the other.
I’ll be surprised if I don’t hear from Jody in the next day or two, but I doubt our relationship can grow. Part of me will be relieved if we don’t see each other again, and part of me will feel disappointed.
At 2:30 PM, I went over to school and chatted with David A in front of the bulletin board, where they’d posted the names for Trial Practice in the fall.
It seems like nearly everybody in our class who hasn’t taken Trial Practice this year will be in one of the two fall sections.
I must be the only one not interested, and maybe the only student not interested in either the law reviews, moot court, trial team, the Civil Clinic or Criminal Clinic, or acting as a TA in Legal Writing or Appellate Advocacy.
I like taking classes more than anything else, and I want to use all my credits for standard classroom work and to use my extra time for my own dopey interests that are totally unrelated to law.
As usual, I’m out of step with everyone else. Maybe I should try to push myself into extracurricular activities, but I haven’t been successful at that so far.
I get along well with most people, but I prefer to work on my own; I’m not an organization person. Isn’t that why I became a writer and a teacher?
Still, I should learn to function as a member of a group rather than always going off on my own.
I haven’t even been active in causes I strongly believe in. In recent years I haven’t been involved in any political campaigns (except my own) or volunteering for good causes (AIDS, the homeless, gay rights, abortion).
Similarly, I’ve never been active in writers’ organizations like PEN, AWP and the Authors Guild. Why should I expect anyone to be interested in me if I’ve never reciprocated that interest?
And does that explain my relationship with Jody?
Wednesday, March 31, 1993
Noon. I need to write because I’ve just had a horrendous experience at registration. I’m so stressed out, I don’t want to eat lunch until I can calm down.
The first problem was when all the counseling and negotiation courses closed out. I kept adding stuff but then had to subtract other classes that conflicted.
Probert’s Humor and the Law seminar closed out while I was three people away from registering, and then Art Law and Police Brutality closed, and I frantically put together a new schedule which didn’t go through because of conflicts.
When I put in the revised schedule, I ended up leaving off Children’s Law and so I had only ten credits.
Well, I’ll pick up another two credits in the fall during drop/add. I took Police Practices with Baldwin, Nagan’s International Law, McCoy’s Legal History and a seminar in Law and Society with Moffett.
All my classes are before 10:10 AM and after 4:10 PM. I’ve left a big gap in the middle of the day to teach at Santa Fe Community College.
It’s really not so terrible, and I’m sure I can pick up another seminar or class in the fall. It was just so stressful to register. I can feel the adrenaline going through my body.
Well, at least I slept really well last night. This afternoon I’ve got three classes in a row, and if I can get through them, it’ll be pretty good.
I need to avoid going crazy over something as stupid as registration. After all, I’d be happy to take ten credits in the fall if I could. Deep breath, kiddo; relax.
7:30 PM. I’ve just exercised lightly to a Homestretch video because I didn’t want to go for two days without working out at least a little.
The stress of registration made this a difficult day, but I got through all of my afternoon classes.
I’ve been surrounded by people with colds, so I’ve been doubling on vitamins even though I know they probably won’t help; if a virus can get me, it will.
Perhaps I’ve forgotten being overwhelmed last semester, but I feel overwhelmed by the work I have to do from now till the end of the term. I didn’t even get to read all the material D.T. Smith covered today. But you know what? It didn’t inhibit my understanding.
Dr. Vieira was particularly interesting today, as we began discussing Amazonia. His city, Manaus, has more than 1.3 million people – yet how many Americans are aware it exists?
I had nice conversations with friends today. Karin’s registration was as traumatic as mine, but at least we’re taking two classes together in the fall. David G, a real intellectual, told me he recently discovered Camus, and we discussed The Plague. Carla, who still has spots but now feels okay, told me how sick the chicken pox made her.
Watching the pictures of Bosnian Muslims being crushed as a few of them frantically tried to claw their way onto UN convoys, I thought of the Nazi cattle cars to concentration camps.
The Alachua County Commission did pass, 3-2, the gay rights ordinance, but once the voters get a chance to repeal it, they will. Besides, it’s effective only in unincorporated areas and not in Gainesville itself.
Well, tomorrow’s April, and I guess I made it through the first quarter of 1993. If I can make it through the next four weeks, I’ll be fine.