A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late September, 1993

Wednesday, September 22, 1993

3 PM. Busy, busy, busy.

Yesterday Don gave us the material for our major ongoing negotiation: Kevin and I are representing the county against Darren and Steven F (the developers) and Anoush and Aileen (the environmentalists).

We have our “client’s” number and we have to call him or her, but neither Kevin or I have looked at the material because we’ve been busy with the negotiation we have to do tomorrow.

In that one, Robert L – he’s on law review and in Criminal Clinic – and I are representing an academic journal being sued by a professor who was denied tenure when the editors were unable (or unwilling) to publish her article on time.

I’m familiar with academia and publishing, and I thought about this a lot last evening before bed.

After I did aerobics this morning,  I wrote down three pages of notes, and I discussed the case with Robert at 12:30 PM at school.

We’re up against a team that incudes Brad, who is very competitive and adversarial and who has gotten big settlements from others.

Our strategy will be not to play his game; I told Robert about Fisher and Ury’s “negotiation jujitsu” and he thought it was a good idea.

He had to go to court, so I just finished printing out our four-page negotiation plan, which is due at 9 AM tomorrow in Don’s mailbox. So that’s done.

While I felt drowsy yesterday afternoon, class was good. Don went over videotapes that illustrated how to conduct client-centered counseling.

he tapes ended with a scene from L.A. Law that showed what not to do: disregard your client’s wishes in favor of your own agenda.)

When I got in the car at 3 PM, I heard that Boris Yeltsin had suspended the Russian parliament and called for new elections (in violation of the old Brezhnev-era constitution) and the parliament in turn had impeached Yeltsin and sworn in Vice President Rutskoy, a hard liner, as president.

Baldwin’s class this morning was excellent. We went over cases dealing with privacy and the Fourth Amendment (helicopter flyovers, inspection of people’s garbage bags, etc.).

Even Nagan’s class perked up when he began discussing cases again (the UN reparations case). Apparently, I was the only one who knew about Count Folke Bernadotte, and Nagan made me tell the class about his assassination.

The rest of the day sped by, and I haven’t had a chance to read the Times yet. I did mark the remaining SFCC papers for tonight, and I’m ready for tonight’s class.

I’ll have conferences with students about the papers I’m handing back while they are writing CLAST-type essays.  (More work for me, but I’ll grade them holistically.)

Since tomorrow’s negotiation session ends at 2 PM, I should have time in the afternoon to catch up with the rest of my work – and to rest. (I won’t go to McCoy’s class till Friday, when I have to.)

Because Don is going out of town, our reaction paper isn’t due till Monday (rather than Friday) at 5 PM, but we’ve also got to view our videotape and select scenes for Don to critique at a special session next week.

Of course I’ll have about 40 papers of my own to grade for next week; I also need to write up questions for my students next take-home essay. God, no wonder my mind whirls at night.

Still no sign of Triavil from Deutsch, and I’m getting nervous because I’ve got less than a two-week supply left. I’ve never cut it this close before. I guess if all else fails, I’ll go to a doctor and try to get a prescription.

I got a brochure on time management, but I have no time to read it.

Of course nobody told me I have to exercise for half an hour and read the New York Times every single day.

Saturday, September 25, 1993

7 PM. Yesterday I hadn’t realized Yom Kippur was starting in the evening until I watched One Life to Live, where they worked the Jewish holiday into their storyline.

Before I went back to school yesterday afternoon, I stopped at the health food store, where I bought an herbal decongestant and Calms, a homoeopathic insomnia remedy that contains chamomile.

Before McCoy’s class, I walked around the nearly-deserted campus and found they’d posted the honors list and the Book Awards for summer. I was on the “high honors” list, as were a number of rising 3Ls – even Derrick, who brags about his low GPA. And I’m still above the cutoff for the top 5% of the average of the last three graduating classes.

Judy was probably sorry she sat down next to me in Legal History when she realized what a bad cold I had. Our A-J contingent of McCoy’s class listened to four African-American students who presented reports on the Ashanti, the Sidama and the Fulani.

Back home, I spent the evening reading and watching TV, avoiding the bedroom till 10 PM. Deutsch’s package of Triavil finally came, thank goodness.

Just before I was about to phone her, Mom called and said she’s been feeling better.

She reported that Dad and Marc were flying home from San Juan. I hadn’t even realized they’d been there all week. Apparently Dad’s Puerto Rican business is picking up.

Mom also told me about the struggle with the developers who plan to build on the ridge behind their neighbors’ homes. This violates what the homeowners’ association said was an agreement and totally disregards the ecological value of Pine Island Ridge.

Jonathan went to a Broward County Commission meeting about it and said another homeowner involved in the fight is David Gonsalves, who was a favorite student of mine from BCC ten years ago. (He’s my age and from San Francisco, I remember.)

I was apprehensive when I got into bed, and I got out of bed twice when I didn’t fall asleep 15 minutes after lying down. But the third time was the charm, and I slept deeply, feeling refreshed even the first time I awoke, and I was able to return to sleep easily during the night.

I had dreams about friends from Brooklyn College, including Leon, Mike and Mandy, and Sat Darshan and her parents – all people I’d really like to see again one day.

After waking up at 8:30 AM, I stayed in bed for an hour, resting. The remainder of the morning I spent doing the usual eating, exercising and newspaper-reading.

At noon I drove to school and went to the media library, where Tom was in charge today. He told me he showed his résumé to Ann Slutsky, the Placement Office head, and she didn’t realize he’d written “top 95% of class” as a joke and dourly told him it would be better to remove it.

I spent 90 minutes looking at our tape. This time I felt better about my appearance, but I look kind of bulky even in a T-shirt. (I’m glad I have big upper arms, but I’d rather look sleek overall.)

As far as the actually important part of the tape goes, it was interesting to relive the negotiation. After taking lots of notes, I made my suggestion for a portion of the tape to go over with Don. I spent most of the day at home writing my 10-page reaction paper.

Probably I spent too much time on drafting and revising it – not to mention the kind of editing only a writer would do. Hopefully, though, Don will notice the care I take and will give me a decent grade.

Laura called at 4 PM, just seconds before I was going to dial up Lexis, and I chatted with her for half an hour.

She’s obviously bored and antsy on a rare weekend here in Gainesville. I don’t understand why she doesn’t have more work to do. She said she was going to Mass at 6 PM because her movie date had to back out.

I would have spent more time talking with Laura, but I still have to grade the papers from both my classes and do my Police Practices reading.

Maybe I could sleep better if I promised myself to grade papers when I’m lying awake in bed. Although I have fewer than ten essays to grade for Monday, I’ve got all those CLAST essays to give back on Wednesday.

My contract from SFCC came in today’s mail. I’m getting $395 a credit, $2,370 for both classes. That’s pathetic, really.

At law school, I noticed there are lots of listings for out-of-town positions and fellowships, and most are public interest or government work.

I need to get a nice one-page law résumé made up and go to Pam so I can apply for some of these positions. Most of the deadlines are in the next few months.

On the tape, I don’t think I look any older than Greg, Brad or Robert, and I think that will help when and if I ever have to go for an interview. I’ve always looked so young.

Although I’m still congested and have been coughing and sneezing, last night’s rest helped enough so that I knew I felt better when I awoke today.

Monday, September 27, 1993

4 PM. After an unexpectedly solid night’s sleep, I awoke this morning to the news that another tourist was murdered in Miami.

This time it wasn’t a foreigner but merely a visitor from the Bronx who was a passenger in a relative’s car when someone else on the Palmetto Expressway decided to shoot someone, apparently just for sport.

Immediately I thought of an idea for a T-shirt: a bullseye target, at the center of which it says FLORIDA TOURIST. I bet it would sell – although I don’t think I convinced Dad when I phoned him later to tell him about my idea.

Dad enjoyed his trip to Puerto Rico, where he wrote over $100,000 in orders and Marc won $400 at the blackjack tables.

At school, Bob greeted me by mentioning my letter in the Sun yesterday.

They printed my letter about how Florida should take advantage of the murders of European tourists by appealing to the same sense of danger and adventure that lures bungee jumpers and skydivers.

I suggested some newspaper ads, TV commercials, and T-shirts and ended with the line: “When you have a lemon (one of Florida’s citrus fruits), you can easily make lemonade. It’s a lot easier than passing gun-control laws.”

Later, I found a copy of yesterday’s paper and saw my letter alongside those who worship the National Rifle Association and take issue with the report that an asteroid struck the earth 65 million years ago because the Bible says the earth is 4,000 years old. (“Evolution is just a theory, not a fact.”)

It’s pretty pathetic company, but what can I do? If I still had my biweekly Hollywood Sun-Tattler gig, this could have been expanded into a good column.

Maybe Javier read the letter and that’s why he avoided me in the library at 830 AM. Okay, that’s the last time I go there that hour in hopes of seeing him.

In International Law, Nagan was discussing the UN’s 1960 role in the Congo (now Zaire) when he couldn’t remember the name of the guy UN troops handed Lumumba over to. He looked at me and I said, “Kasavubu,” jogging his memory.

Karin didn’t flinch; by now she realizes I know all this stuff. After class, I told her a joke I had heard in sixth grade: a Martian lands in the Congo and says, “Take me to your leader.” “Lumumba or Kasavubu?” he is asked, and the Martian responds, “I don’t want to dance!”

Outside, I read the Docket, which had an article about the search for a grading policy, and said hi to Laura, who decided to see The Good Son by herself last night and actually liked it.

I bought so much stuff at Albertsons that I could barely cram everything into my freezer. (Granted, not defrosting it once all year has reduced the space somewhat.)

At home, I listened to some of President Clinton’s speech at the UN, talked to Dad, and did aerobics.

After lunch, I went to the Tower Road library to get a copy of yesterday’s letters to the editor and a couple of videos (Jules and Jim and Metropolis).

This afternoon brought a big thunderstorm. Both the local news and the Times Monday weather map say it’s going to get cooler. We’ll probably get one week of pleasant weather before it becomes too cold.

I graded six of the 15 CLAST essays for Wednesday, and I can do the others while tonight’s class is writing and then get to the late essays.

I tried to make up a one-page law résumé, but it’s no good. I don’t have any real law school activities, like being on law review, moot court or trial team, and I have absolutely no clerking or public interest experience.

Employers don’t want to know about my publications and my state arts council fellowships. But it’s hard for me to leave them out.

To show that I’m civic-minded, I’ve got stuff like “Candidate for Town Council, Davie, Florida (1982)” in there. (I left out the part that I ran on a platform of letting horses vote.)

Let’s face it: I haven’t shown any commitment to the law as a career. Even I wouldn’t hire me.

I could never be “just a lawyer” any more than I could be “just a community college English teacher” or “just a computer education trainer.”

Life would be a lot easier if I could, but it wouldn’t be one-seventeenth as interesting.


10 PM. I had a pretty good class discussion on Mishima’s “Patriotism” tonight, and then I let the students write their CLAST essays.

I finished grading all the ones for tomorrow night, but I had to change some of the grades because I was using the now-discarded 1-4 scale.

When they “upgraded” the passing score on the CLAST essay from 5 to 6, they also changed the two readers’ grading scale from 1-4 to 1-6 – so passing should actually be easier now than it was before.

Some of my students are borderline, but most will pass, and some could write the essay in their sleep.

I still have to grade three late papers for tomorrow’s class, and then I’ve got the 18 or so papers written last night (plus late papers), but they’re not due back till next Monday.

Thursday, September 30, 1993

8:30 PM. The last couple of days have been so beautiful you could cry. It’s very dry, with morning lows of 58° and daytime highs of 82°: perfect weather.

As Carl and Liz said to me as we sat outside this morning, the Gainesville summer is so hot and humid that it feels endless. They both miss the ocean breezes that they’re used to in Daytona Beach.

Except for tomorrow’s 8 AM class, my week is over and I feel relaxed. My arm is a little sore from yesterday’s flu shot, but my cold is gone.

Last evening I had a good class. Santa Fe is so quiet and peaceful when I get there at 6:30 PM. After going over to the AV office to order a TV and VCR for next week, I went to class.

First I went over “A Hunger Artist,” and hopefully they were less mystified and annoyed with the story by the time we finished. Then I handed back their papers and talked about CLAST.

After our break, I handed out the topics for their next out-of-class paper and  read aloud two very short stories: Grace Paley’s “Samuel” and Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl.” As usual, these stories “taught” very well.

After I dismissed the class at 9:30 PM, Christian, the cute blond kid with wire-rimmed glasses and an intelligent manner, came up to me and said, “I know you’re a busy guy, but can you write a letter of recommendation for me for Phi Theta Kappa?”

He said that I knew him as well as any instructor at the college, and I was flattered to be asked.

Today I wrote him a nice letter. He probably figured out I have a little crush on him, though it’s mostly an intellectual crush.

I know from his writing that he’s straight – not to mention the fact that he’s my student and I’m not as confident that instructor/student relationships can be okay as I was eleven years ago with Sean.

Society has changed since then, and I’m now hyper-aware of anything I do that could be remotely considered sexual harassment.

Still, I like cool students – by which I mean the occasional very intelligent, “different” ones you get every so often, even in a community college.

I’d like to believe they think I, too, am cool. I think I would have liked a teacher like me when I was 18 or 19 or 20, though I could be wrong about that.

As I drove home last night, the air was smoky, a result of fires in Putnam County east of here. After watching a PBS show on genetics, I fell asleep at 11:30 PM.

When I got to school this morning, the septuagenarians who play tennis on the courts by the parking lot were meeting up for their games.

“I’d rather be playing than working like you,” one of the old men remarked.

“Me, too,” I said, “but I’ve got a few years to go before I can just play all day like you guys.”

It struck me as a remark nobody would have made twenty years ago, when old people didn’t seem so vigorous, healthy and leisure-loving.

Once again, I felt a little shaky on search and seizure during Baldwin’s class. Dori was called on, and she knew the cases a lot better than I did.

I return to school after 12:30 PM (and a morning of exercising and reading) for our group’s critique session with Don.

Robert, Greg, Brad and I had a lot to discuss, and it was a valuable session. Generally, Don seemed pleased with our problem-solving strategy, and we had the best outcome of the six groups although only one group became adversarial.

I know I interrupted a lot, and Don noted that on my paper, but he gave me a 13 out of 14 for the exercise and a maximum 13 points on my reaction paper.

I feel like I’ve learned a lot in Negotiation already, and I’ve sort of bonded with the others I worked with. I no longer feel like an outsider in the class although I still don’t know everyone.

I’ve got a one-on-one transactional negotiation with Steven F on Thursday, and Kevin said I should call our client and try to arrange a meeting for next Monday.

Next Tuesday’s class is canceled since we all had an extra hour this week.

Back at home, I found my first paycheck from Santa Fe in the mail: I netted $273.58, which is more than I expected.

After grabbing a snack and depositing my paycheck, I decided to go to McCoy’s class with the K-P group, mostly to chat with Javier beforehand.

Javier said that his group raised about $1,400 from the mailing and he seemed pleased. Most of the money for gay rights causes comes from big contributors.

I told him that before I went bankrupt, I used to give a lot to AIDS groups like the PEN Fund for Writers and Editors, ACT-UP and GMHC.

Angelina came in and sat down on the other side of me just as some of our African-American classmates began their reports on Madagascar (a place that McCoy knows well from frequent visits) and the Yoruba, Hausa and Ibo of Nigeria.