A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early May, 1993
by Richard Grayson
Monday, May 3, 1993
3 PM. I hope I’ll be able to study Crim Pro this evening. My professional responsibility exam ended at noon, and while I’ve unwound, I don’t feel like plunging into studying right now.
Up at 6:30 AM, I was at school by 8 AM, chatting outside with Doug, Doug, Bob, Mark R and others. I like kidding around with people.
After two years of law school, it’s great to know so many other students; I haven’t felt this good about being part of a community since I was an undergraduate at Brooklyn College and knew everyone in LaGuardia Hall.
Slobogin didn’t show up today. Our exam was in the three smaller rooms upstairs, and we got the test at 9 AM. It was limited space, although Slobogin allowed us an extra piece of paper, though I seem to be one of the few that didn’t take it.
There were six questions, each dealing with a couple of ethical issues, and they seemed pretty straightforward. I didn’t feel extreme time pressure and was able to reread all my answers and clarify some of my illegible words.
It wasn’t an easy test, but it was fair, and I’m sure I touched on at least one relevant rule in each question.
The class has a lot of great students – Lori, Sharon, Marsha, Carla, David G and David W – so I don’t expect to get higher than B, given that Slobogin is a low grader.
As I didn’t feel like dishing the exam with my classmates, I came home, had lunch, and went to get a haircut.
That dim-witted but lovable girl who cuts my hair at the Mane Stop had a terrible cold. If I hadn’t just gotten over a cold, I’d be upset about catching it from her.
She was distracted by her cold and the plot of some dumb Drew Barrymore film, which she related to me in halting, wide-eyed fashion. Luckily, I have the kind of hair that nobody can really butcher.
At UBS, I got a pathetic $22 for my Professional Responsibility text. Back at home, I exercised gingerly, watching my lower back and my achy calves.
When I went out to get the mail just now, I was startled to see a duck floating in the pool and amused when I got up close and saw it wasn’t real.
I’d like to have been hiding so I could have seen my reaction.
Tuesday, May 4, 1993
7 PM. I had a bad night. Not only did my lower back and calves hurt, but my front capped teeth were wobbling and I couldn’t sleep because Criminal Procedure cases kept buzzing around my brain.
I felt as if I’m a month away from my 82nd, not my 42nd, birthday. Tonight my body still doesn’t feel that great, but I’m relaxed: My second year of law school is over!
I know it won’t seem like that two weeks from today, when I’ll be back in summer school, but it’s true. This morning I studied till 11 AM. (I always follow Marty Peters’ advice to stop at that hour when I’ve got an afternoon exam.)
I arrived at school 45 minutes early to bullshit with the gang. Marc R and Donna had just finished their own last final and were as giddy as the rest of us would feel at 5 PM.
A lot of my friends are in Crim Pro: Bob, Laura, Lee, Jane, Derrick, Dawn, both Dougs, Robyn, Kenny H, Rich, Rick and Lawrence.
Nunn’s final consisted of 40 multiple choice questions and two single-page think-piece essays on jury nullification and plea bargaining.
Multiple choice is usually very hard because the questions can be both ambiguous and tricky. I tried to work my way to the right answers and expect I did about average.
After I wrote the short essays, I had nearly an hour to go over the multiple-choice questions, so I can’t say I felt time-pressured. Laura and I took our exams up to the office just before the official 5 PM end of the test.
I felt much better when we came out to the ground floor and chatted with some people. As usual, I decided not to join the group going over to a bar. Instead, after saying goodbye to people who’ll be going away for the summer, I came home and had dinner.
Marsha said I should visit her in Tallahassee when I come up there for the arts council panel meeting. She’s volunteering to clerk for the newest state Supreme Court justice, and she’s sublet an apartment from FSU law students.
After dinner, I needed to go out, so I went downtown to the public library, where I found and xeroxed Margo Kaufman’s nice little review of Mondo Barbie (which mentioned my story) above the Los Angeles Times bestseller list in the Sunday paper.
Thursday, May 6, 1993
4 PM. I’m in the “freaking out” stage of adjusting to New York City. It’s culture shock, sensory overload and dehydration all at once.
I know that I’ll adjust, but right now I’m cranky and headachy and I wish I were home.
Is Gainesville “home”? I never thought about it that way.
As expected, I didn’t sleep much last night. Up early, I got a cab that took me to the airport at 7:30 AM. My flights were stressful, but only because I’m no longer used to air travel.
Actually, I lucked out on both flights because there was nobody sitting next to me. Boarding the plane in Gainesville seems surrealistic because I’m not used to going up the stairs from the outside.
(Forgive me: my head is pounding, and I just had a cappuccino nonfat yogurt out on West End Avenue because I felt so shaky I thought I would faint. I bought it at a Korean place, but couldn’t wait to get back here to eat it.)
By the time I got to the boarding gate at Atlanta – about ten light years from where the plane from Gainesville landed – they we’re already calling my row to get on.
This flight was slightly bumpy but okay. The only changes I noticed since the last time I flew were AirFones on the back of every other seat, and the flight to Newark showed an HBO video about movie stars. My ear hurt a little but nothing terrible.
I managed to find the Port Authority New Jersey Transit bus and I got into Manhattan at about 1:15 PM. I took a cab here, and Ronna had left the keys and a note with the doorman.
As the note instructed, I called her at work to say I’d just gotten in.
She told me that when she “reminded” Leah of my visit, that was the first Leah claimed to have heard of it – which could be possible. But Leah said my staying there would be okay with her.
“My roommate has been acting strange for the last thirty years,” Ronna said.
I called Alice, who was ill with a bad sore throat she got in Greece, and Josh, who was at home studying for classes.
I devoured a salad bar I got it Han’s, watched my portable TV to orient myself, and then took a long walk down Broadway.
People on the Upper West Side look the same as ever, but I’ve forgotten how they look and how many of them there are. Of course, the stores have changed radically: old ones closed and new ones opened. The banks are all different.
I saw several people I know: an actor from Anson’s 1988 revue; one of Judy’s sons, now as tall as I am, whom I recognized too late to say hello to; and various neighborhood characters.
Going into the new mammoth Barnes & Noble, I looked at magazines and found copies of Mondo Barbie with the new paperbacks. In Shakespeare & Company, the book was displayed with feminist stuff and books of real Barbie collectors’ memorabilia on a table.
At that point, I felt headachy and shaky, so I walked down 81st Street to Amsterdam, to get some TCBY frozen yogurt, but of course the store was no longer there.
God, I’d forgotten how dark and dingy and old prewar Manhattan apartments are. Ronna and Leah have such a small refrigerator with no available room, and their tiny frozen compartment is also filled.
I washed the dirty dishes in the sink.
Ronna’s room is cluttered with so much stuff you can hardly move around. Well, she was never very neat.
I think I’ll go out to McDonald’s for a McLean Deluxe, as I didn’t have any protein portions today except Weight Watchers peanuts.
Ronna won’t be home till 8 PM.
Friday, May 7, 1993
5 PM. It’s been beautiful weather here in New York.
Around this time yesterday, I went out to the McDonald’s around the corner and got a McLean Deluxe and water – I miss my Crystal Light – and then went to Riverside Park to sit on a bench and read the Times.
The apple, pear and cherry blossoms are in bloom, and the scene was peaceful and pleasant: lots of runners, bicyclists, strollers, kids in carriages and even people practicing fencing.
When I came home at 7 PM, nobody was here, so I turned on the TV and was amazed at all the channels Ronna gets – about 70, including some channels I’d never seen before, like Court TV. I’m used to my three or four broadcast channels in Gainesville.
After Ronna came home, we talked for hours. She looks the same to me: her hair has a reddish tint and she’s got new glasses, but I still see the girl I fell in love with over twenty years ago. She said I looked the same, maybe thinner (not true).
We talked about where we are in our lives. She’s been seeing a guy that the matchmaker fixed her up with: Neil, 43, a caterer who’s dyslexic. He’s extraordinarily romantic, inclined to gestures like sending over roses, but Ronna has her usual doubts.
Steve showed up at her door last week. His father died and he was laid off at his law firm, so he’s very vulnerable – and he’s still as crazy about her as he ever was.
Barry in Winter Park “cleaned out her teeth” when she went back to his place, but what he said to her was: “You need somebody like me, only in New York.”
Ronna doesn’t want to raise kids in Manhattan, but she doesn’t want to live in Winter Park, either; besides, Barry is seeing somebody else.
Last year, when Jordan got married, Ronna said she “went crazy.” Even though she and Jordan had broken up so many years before, he was a constant in her life, and Ronna wondered if she shouldn’t have accepted one of his marriage proposals back in the ’80s.
Ronna does love her job at Hadassah. Although she has the usual frustrations, it seems like she feels appreciated and is doing interesting work.
Ronna’s many friends threw her a mammoth 40th birthday party at David’s – he conspired with her sister, Ellen, and others to make it a surprise – and she still had out the dozens of cards and presents she got. Ronna has always had a talent for friendship.
I told her about law school and Jody and living in Gainesville.
We finally went to bed at midnight, and I was comfortable on the floor on the futon, but I got my post-flight vertigo and didn’t drop off until 3 AM or so.
I was up when Ronna’s clock radio went off at 8 AM, but I didn’t get up until after she’d gone out for the day.
After I exercised, had breakfast (I had brought my own packets of cereal), showered and dressed, I caught the IRT to Penn Station.
While waiting for the train to Jamaica, I phoned Mom, who said everything is okay; Dad is fine in Los Angeles.
For the last year, I’ve seen New York City streetscapes in my dreams, so I made sure to look out the LIRR train windows.
My train got into Jamaica and then I changed for the Far Rockaway line, arriving in Woodmere at noon.
At Key Food, I got two humongous salad bars – one veggies, the other fruit – and walked to the health-related facility. Now they make you sign in downstairs and on the floor where you visit.
Grandma Ethel was having lunch when I got to the new room on the second floor that she shares with Christine. But they told her I was here, and she came back in about fifteen minutes, after I’d begun eating my lunch.
She cried as we hugged. Grandma looked older, but her nose is totally bandaged, and her hair looked long. She has thick hair, lots of it – unlike Ronna, who showed me where she’s losing her hair – and later Grandma told me she hasn’t been able to wash her hair since the latest skin cancer problems. She hasn’t had it cut lately, either.
When the attendant came in to change her bandage, I saw where they’d cut, and it was pretty ghastly – but the stitches on the other side of her nose have healed okay although it looks as if she’s missing big chunks of her nose, which she is.
At least it’s only basal cell carcinoma.
Christine came in, and I said hi. Her room had always been decorated beautifully by her daughter, with lots of dolls and cards and postcards, and now Grandma’s side of the room is almost as warm – not sterile like her old room.
Grandma displayed some of the cards she’d gotten, and she had all my postcards and greeting cards.
She said Marty is trying to start a soda business, but at least Arlyne is doing well, as usual. (I knew from Westlaw that she’s with an organization helping the disabled with access to technology.)
Grandma raved about Jeff’s girlfriend, “who’s got very rich parents,” and said she met the guy Wendy lives with. I saw photos of the Sarretts: my uncle is nearly white-haired; Jeff, who used to be thin, has gotten the family chunkiness; Wendy looks the same, and her boyfriend is a big, bearded guy.
Grandma said Tillie is too weak to call her, so she calls Tillie, trying in vain to convince her to come to the home to live.
I told Grandma that both Mom and Dad are now on Social Security and that Marc and Clarissa have lots of trouble with Jason. (“He couldn’t sit still when I saw him,” she said.)
After Christine left, Grandma told me about all the things Christine does that bug her – but they’re things like turning out the lights when they leave the room, so Grandma tries to overlook them.
Grandma said she’s having memory problems, and I could see this, but certainly she can hold an intelligent conversation and is grounded in reality at all times.
We talked and watched TV and just hung out till 3:30 PM, when I had to catch the train back to Penn Station.
Saturday, May 8, 1993
It’s 2 AM on Sunday, but I didn’t write earlier and can’t sleep, so I came out in the kitchen. Leah may be coming home soon, and if she does, I’ll stop writing this and go back to Ronna’s room.
I either have another cold or bad allergies, as I have terrible postnasal drip, a tickle in my throat and a cough – all of which are preventing me from sleeping.
Last evening, after I rested from my trip to Woodmere, I bought a Healthy Choice dinner and ate it alone in the apartment.
Then I walked down Broadway to 85th Street and went past the old block, where the lights in Teresa’s old apartment were on.
Ronna didn’t come home till about 8:30 PM, just after I got in. We talked until quite late and played together most of Saturday morning and afternoon.
It’s been great to be with Ronna, finally as friends and not as ex-lovers – although she did say I appeared to have the same body I had when I was 20.
In the morning mail, Ronna got a Dear John letter from Barry in Winter Park. He’s been seeing another woman he met in January and told Ronna this woman is the right person for him now. Ronna was partly relieved, but it also bothered her, and she needed to talk about it.
We went out at noon and first stopped to see her friend Jane (who reminds me of Gary in that she uses Ronna as her diary and can’t seem to take a hint when Ronna wants to get off the phone).
Ronna sponsored Jane in last Sunday’s AIDS Walk and gave her a check for it. The three of us chatted in Jane’s lobby until finally we were able to leave.
Then we walked down Broadway – even Ronna hadn’t seen the newest stores – and went to Eeyore’s, the children’s bookstore, where she picked up books for Susan and Evan’s children, as she’s invited to a birthday party there.
I suggested a Lyle the Crocodile book and stuffed animal, and Ronna got a cookbook for kids.
Walking down to 72nd Street, we had lunch at Empire Szechuan Garden, where Ronna paid for my 450-calorie delicious tofu and veggies in peanut sauce.
Again, it was great being with her. I walked her up to 79th Street, where she had an appointment with her hair colorist and needed to go to the crafts fair.
I took the subway downtown and met Alice in front of Macy’s. She was late, and I was annoyed until I finally saw her; she looks thin and healthy although she’s getting over a cold.
At a nearby coffee shop, we talked for ninety minutes. Alice is in therapy to get over her phobia about moving to a new apartment. Right now she’s planning to move on August 1.
– Leah came in and I have to go back to bed now.
Monday, May 10, 1993
It’s 9:30 AM and Ronna just left for work, so I’ll continue where I left off with Saturday’s meeting with Alice.
She told me how Peter’s son, an untalented would-be musician and community college dropout, decided to camp out at the Berklee College of Music in Boston in an attempt to get admitted after they rejected him.
Strangely, this ploy worked, and Kevin did succeed in getting admitted. Peter agreed to pay the $5,000 semester tuition (a hardship for him), but once in classes, Kevin discovered the other students were all a lot smarter than he was, and so he dropped out.
I think that Alice is hard on Kevin, expecting a 21-year-old to know what he wants to do with his life the way she did.
There are ways in which success from humbler backgrounds like Alice’s makes people very hard. Unlike me, Alice doesn’t seem to have tolerance for indecision or weakness. She didn’t say anything judgmental when I told her about my parents’ bankruptcy, but I could see she was shocked.
It’s interesting to compare Alice and Ronna, both of whom went into therapy to deal with a fear: Alice’s about moving, Ronna’s about flying to Israel.
Neither would have much problem with the other’s phobia, but both of their fears are about change and lack of control – which are big issues in my own life. (Maybe in everyone’s?)
Alice and I sat and talked till 5:30 PM, when we said goodbye and I went back uptown.
Josh arrived at 6 PM and we spent the evening chatting in the kitchen. Later, we went out with Ronna to have dinner at Patzo and then to see This Boy’s Life at the 84th Street Theater.
It was a wonderful evening, reminiscent of many other good times I had when I lived at Teresa’s.
Josh now seems eminently sane. He was interested in Ronna’s Jewish activities and will send her a résumé to give to personnel in case of an opening at Hadassah’s MIS department.
Josh told us his M.A. program at John Jay was excellent – especially good was a class in intelligence and surveillance with a former FBI agent – and he’ll be finished next week.
The food at Patzo was good, and we all liked the movie, based on Tobias Wolff’s memoir about his bizarre stepfather.
I was glad Josh and Ronna got on so well, and after we took Josh to the subway, Ronna and I talked for a couple of hours before she got to sleep.
On Sunday morning, we woke up late.
Ronna called Orlando to wish her mother a happy Mother’s Day, and both Leah and I spoke to Beatrice, who told me she’ll be starting a new job in survey research after her visit here to Ronna’s, when she’s coming up for her aunt Irene and uncle Al’s 50th anniversary party.
(It was typical of Al – the owner of Yale Slacks, the biggest competitor to my family’s Art Pants – to call Ronna and reprimand her for not yet sending back an RSVP to their chaluscious invitation.)
Josh said he’s planning a 50th anniversary party for his parents, too. Because it’s been years since they’ve seen Josh’s brother – who can’t travel since the accident – Josh may take them to Miami and have the party there.
This morning at 11 AM, Ronna left for the Salute to Israel Parade, and an hour later, I left the apartment and got a salad bar at Han’s.
After eating it on the island in the middle of Broadway, I took the subway to Penn Station. The 1:20 PM Port Washington LIRR train was crowded with Mother’s Day travelers – plus a few baseball fans going to the Mets-Marlins game at Shea.
Teresa picked me up at Douglaston at 1:50 PM. She said she hadn’t realized the lunch at the country club was formal.
Knowing me well enough to know I’d hate it anyway, she dropped me off at her sister and brother-in-law’s house until they all got back. I used the time alone to sit outside on the deck and read the Sunday Times.
I wasn’t alone for very long. Teresa’s family were in the first seating for lunch, and the country club people rushed them out.
I kissed the ladies and shook the hands of the men as I said hello to Teresa’s parents, grandmothers, aunt and uncle, sister and brother-in-law, niece (tall and large at 11) and nephew (blond and precocious at 8), and her brother-in-law’s parents (who’ve been ill and looked it).
It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon on Long Island and a painless way to spend time with Teresa. She showed me photos of the homes on Fire Island that collapsed from the storm and the cute little house she hopes to buy in Locust Valley.
It’s in that area east of Glen Cove where I used to love to drive in the early 1970s: winding country roads that were especially beautiful in the fall.
I talked with Teresa’s parents about Florida and cars and boats. (The family recently acquired a boat after her brother-in-law’s client paid him with one.)
Grandma Agnes talked to me about her mother’s preference for the U.S. over Italy. She’s pretty senile by now, but she was interesting even if she didn’t know who I was or was talking in non sequiturs.
Teresa’s other grandmother is quite sharp but fairly deaf, and after a while both old ladies were pretty quiet.
I noticed Grandma Ethel’s crystal glassware in the breakfront. Connie says they’re getting a great deal of use from it. I’m glad someone is.
When Teresa took me to catch the 5:53 PM train, I thanked her and said I’d had a good time.
Back here at 6:30 PM, I found Ronna in the midst of doing her laundry. While she made some calls, I brought back the clothes from the dryer.
At 8 PM, we met David on 84th and Broadway outside Ollie’s, where we waited for a table for twenty minutes.
David is tall, 33, okay-looking but not my type, funny, smart – and obviously devoted to Ronna. I liked him and we had a pleasant dinner over good Chinese food.
(I had steamed vegetables, and somehow I keep letting people pay for me; Josh paid for my movie ticket on Saturday night.)
Although they wanted to go to the movies afterward, I felt too tired, so instead we wandered around the mammoth new Barnes & Noble, where I actually found a copy of I Brake for Dalmore Schwartz.
David likes to knead Ronna’s shoulders, and he did it to me on the escalator, telling me my shoulders were very tense; I liked the feeling until it started to hurt.
Anyway, we said goodbye, and Ronna and I walked uptown to her place. She wanted to watch the 11 PM news coverage of the Salute to Israel Parade.
(Along the route, there were signs of silent protest against the exclusion of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, the gay and lesbian synagogue, and there was an alternate parade at a different location.)
I dozed off immediately and slept well last night. My cold, which bothered me all yesterday, feels better today.
It’s another clear, dry, beautiful day, and all I have to do is drop something off at Ansche Chesed, Ronna’s synagogue, on 100th and West End.