A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early April, 1993
by Richard Grayson
Saturday, April 3, 1993
7:30 PM, although I’ve already changed my clock radio and microwave to read 8:30 for Daylight Savings Time.
I didn’t sleep much at all last night, and today I’ve been tired and fighting off a cold.
Still, I managed to make one pass at reading all the Legal Drafting final exam materials – although I had to skim the Uniform Partnership Act statutes.
I also finished The Alchemy of Race and Rights by Patricia J. Williams, which not only gave me a lot to think about but has revived my interest in writing a similar mélange of autobiography, diary, social criticism and fiction.
Williams is my age, and she’s half-crazy – which is to say, in this society, she’s saner than the vast majority of people.
Last evening Mom and Dad competed to see who could tell me the most Jason horror stories from his week of living with them while Clarissa and Marc were out of town.
My impression is that Jason has a serious personality disorder, which, if left untreated, will soon get him in a lot of trouble, perhaps with the criminal justice system.
Just before Jason’s visit, Jonathan wisely took all the cash that he had in the house and put in the bank. Jason not only went through closets and drawers – Jonathan heard him moving around all night – but he appropriated stuff like my shorts and my 2 Live Crew album.
Jason got fired from Chuck E. Cheese because “a girl customer complained after he told her she had a nice butt.”
“That’s sexual harassment,” I informed my parents. Dad agreed and said that Jason is “a creep.”
Dad wanted him to know that Jason wasn’t fooling him when Dad drove him to school and picked him up every day.
“Yesterday I purposely got there 25 minutes before school let out and he was waiting outside,” Dad reported. “He comes in the car and says, ‘I had a super day at school today.’”
“I said to him, ‘Jason, on a scale of 1 to 10, rate your attendance this week.’ ‘An 8,’ he says, and I said, ‘I think it’s more like a 5.’”
He makes up stories about girlfriends and fights he had and he refers to Marc’s minivan as his own car.
Mom feels sorry for Clarissa, but Dad says he feels sorry for Marc and understands why Clarissa’s last husband couldn’t get along with Jason.
To me, it sounds like he believes his lies the way Nikki did.
Dad dropped Jason off at a friend’s house for the weekend, but of course the kid could be anywhere. Clarissa and Marc get home from Vegas tomorrow.
I spoke with Mom and Dad long enough so that China started barking because Marshall walked in with Jonathan. You’d think that dog would get used to Marshall since he’s been there every Friday night for the past eight years. It’s pretty comic.
(Oh yes, that reminds me: Mom said Jason teases China by splashing water in her face even after Mom saw him do it once and told him to stop.)
Dad got a $1,075 check from Social Security, and they’re going down to the office on Monday.
Yesterday I left a message on Jody’s machine, which is probably why he called me early this afternoon, between his first workout at the health club across the street from here and taking his sister to work.
Jody couldn’t talk long, said he’d call me back later but didn’t; however, I didn’t really want to see him anyway.
I think we’d both like to end the relationship but are too polite to stop returning the other’s phone calls. So I’ll be the bad guy: if he calls tonight, I won’t answer, and if he ever calls again, I won’t call him back.
Perhaps we’re both a little embarrassed about sleeping together on our first date four weeks ago tonight and then again the following Wednesday. It does feel odd that I got intimate with somebody I didn’t really know – but, hey, it probably happens to everybody.
At least I know I can still function in a sexual relationship. The experience makes me want to develop an intimate relationship with someone I can relate to better than I could with Jody.
Anyway, for the next three weeks, I’ve got the assignments for Legal Drafting, Transboundary Environmental Issues and Race Relations, plus my reading for my three other classes, to keep me very busy.
I got my unemployment check today, and the attached stub said my eligibility determination for extended benefits after my next – and last – regular check will be sent to me in the mail.
Monday, April 5, 1993
7 PM and it’s still light out. I’ve been cranky today, the result of not enough sleep and disgust with law school.
I read the Crim Pro material for tomorrow’s makeup session, but there’s more to read, and I dread the idea of doing that outline and questions for Legal Drafting.
I was annoyed that Lynn handed me back my rewrite of the contract with lots of criticisms and a warning that I’d better have another conference with her before the final.
I hate the final in that class, and I know I’m never going to draft another partnership agreement, so I’ll probably end up with a bad grade.
My antipathy towards all commercial transactions makes this a bad choice for me; last term they got to do a divorce agreement, which I would have enjoyed more.
I feel very much like blowing off this whole semester, and I probably will. I bet I get my first C and maybe more than one. Who fucking cares?
Well, I did say I felt cranky. I don’t have the patience for law school today. Both Vieira and Smith went slowly, explaining the 1978 Amazon Pact and the application of class gifts to the Rule Against Perpetuities – no, it’s the other way around: the application of the Rule Against Perpetuities to class gifts – respectively.
I now have people sitting on all sides of me with bad colds, so fighting off this virus seems useless. And I felt resentful and bored in Legal Drafting.
When I got home at 5 PM, there were two messages. Seeing them annoyed me, but both were nice news. Alice called from her office, where she found a copy of Mondo Barbie on someone’s desk and said it looked wonderful.
Ronna called from Orlando and I phoned her back, interrupting her preparations for tonight’s seder. Billy is driving back here tomorrow, but Ronna wants to stay for tomorrow’s seder, so she will try to drive back with Melissa on Wednesday.
She can stay here or at their apartment on Wednesday night and go back to Orlando on Thursday, either taking the train or bus or having her mother pick her up. I really look forward to seeing Ronna and to taking off from school.
While I hate the idea of being absent, I’ve been much too rigid about school attendance. Ronna said she’d speak to me tomorrow and I wished her and her family a good Passover.
I’m feeling so antsy today. I tried to write down some ideas for the partnership agreement outline, but I couldn’t get far. I haven’t read the newspaper yet, so maybe doing that will relax me.
Does Jody have anything to do with my bad mood? I’m not sure, except otherwise why would I even think of him? How do I feel about Jody? Right now I’m angry, although I feel angry in general.
Why am I angry? (This is the night of the Four Questions, so I’m entitled to ask.) Well, I guess I feel used. Right now I am sorry I slept with him. I shouldn’t have gotten sexually intimate with someone I didn’t know.
And I guess I’m pissed because we weren’t able to resolve the relationship. It was Jody who was too tired to come over the Saturday night of the storm and the Wednesday after that, and I now am not sure when he decided he didn’t want to see me.
Not that I was so sure I wanted to see him again, either.
Oh, I guess I’m just mad things didn’t work out. It’s not his fault he’s him or my fault I’m me – but I’m more upset that I was so lonely that I ended up in bed with the first guy who came along.
Maybe I didn’t realize how lonely I felt before. Does this have anything to do with why I’m in a bad mood – or why I’ve been having insomnia? Maybe.
Well, it also means that I’m growing and pushing up against a barrier; it’s painful but it’ll lead me to a better place.
At least I’m able to write some of my feelings down – the ones I can feel, anyway. I need to get away, to give myself some breathing room.
Maybe Ronna’s visit will help me see myself more clearly. None of my friends – only my parents and Marc and Clarissa – have visited me here and seen my life, such as it is, in Gainesville.
Tuesday, April 6, 1993
4 PM. After sleeping only four hours last night, I’m so sleep-deprived that I got shaky the last hour in Estates and Trusts and thought I was going to faint.
God knows how I got through my classes today, including the makeup session of Crim Pro. Maybe it was the first Diet Coke with caffeine I’ve had in years.
This morning I forced myself to exercise and do a rudimentary outline and a question for Legal Drafting. At least I’ve got something I can turn in tomorrow; I only need to work on it for half an hour in the morning.
I can’t write any more. I need to lie down and close my eyes. I feel like I’m 116 years old.
7 PM. Although I yawned during my afternoon classes, I was fully alert most of the time.
I gave Dionne the Arts Council booklet so her husband, a potter, can apply for an Individual Artist Fellowship; the deadline in Visual Arts is next week.
Back home, I found a message from Ronna on my machine, as I expected, but she wasn’t in Gainesville. She had chills and diarrhea today, as well as a sore throat, and just didn’t feel up to coming back with Melissa.
I was disappointed. It seems that even when we’re both in Florida, Ronna and I can’t get together. But I will be staying with her in New York next month.
I got elated when my mail contained a letter from Santa Fe, giving me an English 101 class for the summer. It’s at the Downtown Campus, five days a week from 9:25 to 10:45 AM.
Initially, I assumed it was for the first summer session, but when I got the summer schedule at the Downtown Campus, I saw it was for session B, which runs from June 28 to August 9.
I immediately sent back a signed copy of my contract. Of course the class may not register or I might get bumped for a full-timer who needs the class, but I hadn’t expected to be offered a class this summer. It means I should definitely have a class at SFCC this fall.
Thursday, April 8, 1993
4:30 PM. Yesterday’s ebullient mood lasted longer than I expected after I discovered, on Westlaw, that one of my letters to newspaper people had resulted in a mention of me and Mondo Barbie in Tuesday’s Los Angeles Times.
Steve Harvey’s “Only in L.A.” column in the Metro section led with six paragraphs on the book, two of which were entirely on my “Twelve Step Barbie” story, which of course was set in Los Angeles.
He briefly mentioned other titles and the pink pages (so he must have seen a copy of the book), but there was nothing about Rick, Lucinda or St. Martin’s.
I printed out several copies of the article and sent Rick a copy with a sheepish note apologizing in case he thought I was stealing his thunder.
On the other hand, I was the one responsible for the column mention, and it can’t do any harm to sales or general buzz to be featured in the Los Angeles Times.
Perhaps someone I know saw it (though Libby and Grant subscribe to the Daily News of Los Angeles and Wes doesn’t read newspapers). I’ll look for a copy of the article itself at the public library.
Of course, it’s just a silly little column like the New York Times’ “Metropolitan Life,” not anything seriously literary, and chances are it won’t do anything other than satisfy my ego – that’s basically all the similar publicity for With Hitler in New York (the mentions in Liz Smith’s and Arthur Bell’s columns) did for my book sales or for my career.
Still, it makes me feel good to know that I still have the knack for publicity and that reporters think my ideas are interesting.
I called Mom and gave her the case number for her and Dad’s bankruptcy, which I discovered by using the voice mail info system of the Southern District of Florida.
That’s how I got my own case number long before I heard from my attorney. Now Dad can deposit his big Social Security checks because their filing date was Monday.
After leaving messages with Alice and Teresa, I went to bed at 11 PM and slept straight through till 6 AM.
At school early, I consoled Larry on his loss for re-election as a JMBA rep; he seemed pretty bummed out. Of course, the situation with Shara isn’t helping matters for him – or for her, either.
Criminal Procedure, Professional Responsibility, Race Relations – all my classes – seemed interesting today, and I felt much better about being a law student, probably because getting the summer teaching job at SFCC and the L.A. Times notice showed me I’m not just a law student.
During the long break, I exercised and read for class. Tomorrow, at 3 PM, we’re going over to the Thomas Center to see bell hooks (no capitals in her pseudonym), the black feminist literary critic and scholar.
Two weeks from now, classes for the spring semester – and my second year of law school – will be over.
Friday, April 9, 1993
10 PM. I look forward to sleeping as much as I can this weekend.
Tomorrow I’m going to get serious about the Legal Drafting final and devote as much time as I can to it over the next ten days.
I don’t have tons of reading left for my other classes, so I can force myself to work on the partnership agreement – although I do need to study for Vieira’s final on Thursday.
This morning’s classes were exhilarating: more on plea bargaining in Crim Pro and then a discussion on the unauthorized practice of law in Professional Responsibility.
I said that Rosemary Furman, the legal secretary who was convicted and sentenced to jail for getting people cheap divorces, wills and bankruptcies (the governor pardoned her) deserved a medal for trying to provide needed services at a fraction of the cost lawyers charge.
The usual crowd – Marsha, Kevin J, Mike W – agreed with me, but the horrified traditionalists like Clinton and Lawrence – rich WASPs whose fathers are prominent old-line attorneys – were joined by a lot more embryonic lawyers trying to make sure their future turf isn’t invaded.
I left school thinking I’d get a haircut, but the wait at Supercuts was too long, so I came home and did low-impact aerobics to Homestretch at 11:30 AM.
While I was waiting for the haircut I didn’t get, I went into Kash n’ Karry and noticed the May issues of the women’s magazines. Mondo Barbie didn’t get a mention in any of them.
But it got mentioned again yesterday in Steve Harvey’s “Only in L.A.” column when he discussed a local cartoonist who must have contacted him after Tuesday’s column with word of his creation, “Fatal Attraction Barbie.”
It’s kind of pathetic if St. Martin’s can’t publicize the damn book as well as I can.
The bell hooks lecture at the Thomas Center proved fascinating.
This was my first time at the Thomas Center, which was the home of the Thomas family, built in 1910, and then a hotel (where, according to a plaque, Robert Frost often stayed and where his wife died). Now the city has offices as well as the Cultural Center there.
The Florida Statewide Women’s Studies Conference sponsored the lecture. I got there during an earlier panel discussion, where I ran into an art teacher from Santa Fe I know (but whose name I forgot).
It was a pleasure to see people dressed more normally than the frat boy-look that dominates the law school. The audience was really diverse in terms of age, race, sexual orientation – although probably not politically.
I was one of the few people in our class there early enough to get a seat. Nunn came with his wife, and they sat down in front, but most of my classmates had to stand in the back or upstairs overlooking the space, which was an atrium with a glass roof.
bell hooks talked about recent experiences trying to deal with male Howard professors and white Donahue staffers who wanted to set her up as a man-hating feminist. She related that to the problems black male intellectuals and white feminists have dealing with someone who’s both black and a woman.
Her talk was more complicated than I could possibly articulate, but hooks invoked Their Eyes Were Watching God, dissed Madonna for her Sex book and Skip Gates for his defense of 2 Live Crew as embodying elements of traditional African-American culture, criticized black nationalists who say homosexuality is a “white” thing, and laid out some of the framework for anti-patriarchal, post-capitalistic society.
Although she used some deconstructionist buzzwords, I found her refreshing and probably a good antidote to most of the voices we hear at law school – not only for my conservative classmates like Lawrence, but also for myself.
At the reception afterwards I greeted Jacqui with a kiss; she was there with her professor in some race-related grad course. It’s always great to see Jacqui, someone I now know for about a dozen years.
Nunn said that our class discussions tend to be much more stale then the kind of give-and-take we heard during the Q&A exchanges today.
I chatted with Shawn, Jeff H and his fiancé, Carla and Denise (not in our class, but she works across the street and came by) before returning home at 5:30 PM.
Nunn was right to have us come see bell hooks.
Saturday, April 10, 1993
9 PM. I’ve been doing everything I can to avoid schoolwork today. Up at 7 AM, I went out early and spent plenty of money (using my credit card) at Walmart and Albertsons.
After getting my much-needed haircut, I decided to check out the bookstores at the Oaks Mall. Waldenbooks didn’t have Mondo Barbie, but B. Dalton did have a few copies that sold out: a good sign.
Back at home, I spent the day exercising, talking on the phone, doing laundry, reading non-law school stuff – and yes, forcing myself to sit at the computer for two hours and begin drafting the partnership agreement. But it’s a monumentally complicated task.
In the mail I got a copy of Further State(s) of the Art, “a critical newsletter of New American Fiction.”
I sent the editor, Phil Leggiere, a copy of Narcissism and Me and he wrote back that he’d review it in the next issue. He said he “loved I Brake for Delmore Schwartz, which is the only book of yours in stock at stores in New York City.”
I enjoyed his zine because we tend to like the same fiction writers; he appreciates people with sensibilities similar to mine, like Janice Eidus, Mark Leyner (although he felt Et Tu, Babe was too commercial), Lynn Tillman, Greg Boyd, etc.
The last few pages of his zine were a decade-by-decade compilation of lists for a “chrono-cultural map of recent American fiction,” featuring important books, ideas and events in non-literary arts, techniques and genres, etc.
On the 1970s page, in a box marked “1975,” he said this was the “Coming of Age of Generation of Acker, Gibson, Tillman, Mooney. . .” and I went down the usual names I’d expect from until I got to “. . . Texier, Shange, Hijuelos, Gifford, Grayson, Boyle, Spiegelmann, Eidus (all born circa 1946-1956).”
Wow. I’d consider myself the most obscure of the twenty authors mentioned.
Naturally, seeing my name in such excellent company made my day. I forget that there are people who value my work even if it’s never achieved even the kind of reputational success the other writers on the list have had.
I keep hoping that someday some academic will look at my work and see its value. It’s been harder and harder for me to believe in its worth as the years go on, and I see all the Iowa City/New Yorker/Gordon Lish people get all the book contracts, press, academic honors, and even a little money.
For most of the last decade, it’s been unusual when people around me even knew I was a fiction writer, and most of the time I wasn’t certain myself.
When Pete called (to celebrate finishing a paper on Reinhold Niebuhr, he said), I asked him about Phil Leggiere, and Pete said the guy once took a story from Pete and published it in a magazine without ever sending him a copy.
Anyway, Leggiere has boosted my ego a little.
Pete’s winding up his classes in the program at NYU for the semester. NYU’s English Department is so bad, he may take an English class at the CUNY Grad Center instead this fall.
Pete’s been reading Balzac, Zola and other nineteenth-century writers lately. We chatted about that and academia: our usual complaints about obtuse literary theory and jargon.
(Steven Paul Miller told Pete that boundary 2 accepted a literary article he wrote but asked him to revise it “and put in more jargon.”)
Pete’s had no more luck getting published lately than I have.