A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late June, 1993

by Richard Grayson

Friday, June 18, 1993

1 PM. I’m glad I was one of the few hundred people who walked from the UF library to the downtown plaza last evening.

At first, I felt uncomfortable, mostly because I was by myself and most people were with friends. I thought maybe I’d see someone from school.

But the only ones I recognized were activists Clare and Javier, whom I don’t really know except for press reports – although I always make it a point to smile and say hi when I see them on or off campus.

I also wondered about outing myself in front of TV cameras, but in the end, that would only be an easy way to do it.

The crowd was diverse, with lots of people wearing T-shirts with pink triangles, a few drag queens, some older people (by “older” I mean my age and above), some straight couples (students), a Lhasa apso who kept licking my leg as we marched, and all kinds of flags, banners and posters.

The Gainesville cops were incredibly helpful on their bikes and motorcycles, and a squad car led us as we made our way along University Avenue.

Most people chanted along with the bullhorn leaders, but I’ve always felt silly chanting, even in the old anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, so I just kept smiling.

What surprised me most was the lack of hostility from onlookers. Again and again, I’d see people along the route who look like they were going to start trouble – for example, a group of tough-looking teenage boys – and they turned out to be people joining us.

The crowd was smaller than I expected and smaller than predicted, but the lack of counter-demonstrators and the cheers and waves and honking horns as we walked made up for that.

At the plaza, I got to sit on a ledge in the shade and listen to the locals: musician/astrologer Flash Silverman and the speakers, Joe Antonelli of the Gainesville Community Alliance, Jerry Seay of the Metropolitan Community Church, someone from the local Democratic party, as well as Clare and Javier, who are active in a new organization formed to fight next year’s proposed statewide anti-gay initiative.

The woman who introduced Javier ended by saying, “He’s cute, too” – and for the first time, I realized he was.

He began by talking about coming here from Nicaragua when a brutal dictatorship came to power, and he worried the same thing could happen here.

In Germany, Javier said, the Nazis arrived just at the moment of greatest freedom for gays and Jews.

His speech almost made me want to do something more than just marching one evening.

I felt safe walking back alone because people traveled in groups and cops were watching us.

Saturday, June 19, 1993

7 PM. Last weekend I berated myself for remaining aloof from people. This past week I made some efforts, in Tallahassee and on the march on Thursday, to reach out a little. They’ve been tentative steps and I need to do more. The problem always is that I get too comfortable and fall back into my familiar routines.

Since the march and rally on Thursday evening, I’ve had this absurd crush on Javier. I’ve never been able to go over to him when I see him at law school – which I do maybe once every couple of weeks – but the next time I see him, I’ll compliment him on his speech.

Besides, if I get to know him, I can get over my crush, for he can’t be as saintly as I imagine.

And if I find out he dislikes me – well, at least I’ll know. Maybe he’s never even noticed me, or maybe he has contempt for me because I’m not “out” at school.

He’s got the intensity of someone who’s going to be a leader, and I admire that enormously. People like me owe a big debt to people like Javier.

Jody once said he’d heard that there was this openly gay guy at school: “Imagine being openly gay at law school,” he said as if it were the most outrageous thing he could envision.

Jody was a sweet guy, but a genius he wasn’t. I’m over him by now; we never could have gone anywhere.

This is going to sound incredibly stupid, but even though I’ve barely spoken to Javier, he’s the first guy I could imagine sharing a life with. I guess that I mean someone like him. This is all nonsense.

I went to the dollar theater to see Three of Hearts at 3 PM today. The film had gorgeous shots of downtown Manhattan that made me homesick and a lame plot about a jilted lesbian who hires a male escort to win back her former (bisexual) girlfriend.

What I did like about the movie what was its matter-of-fact treatment of the gay relationship, even if you never saw the two women making love.

I caught up on the week’s newspapers and with my household chores.

Yesterday I told Mom I’d probably need money to pay rent for July, but I certainly plan to pay her and Dad back.

My biggest fear is that I won’t get to teach at SFCC this summer and I’ll be totally broke because my extended benefits will run out soon (I mailed the claim card to Tallahassee today), and even they won’t pay my expenses.

I’d have to accept any kind of job or else save money doing something I dread: going to stay with my parents for a month.

Still, that’s a worst-case scenario, and I didn’t have to do that last summer when I was pretty desperate.

At least I got a $30 cash advance on my Bank of Hoven MasterCard. I’d forgotten how seductive ATMs are; I felt like a recovering compulsive gambler when I used the Publix Teller as if it were a slot machine.

I couldn’t get a phone directory listing for the Ponte Vedra Hotel in St. Augustine, but I expect it’s a large resort and it would be hard to locate Alice and Peter there.

In any case, they have my number if they wanted to call, and of course there’s no way I have the money or the car to go to St. Augustine, much as I’d like to see the beach.

It’s between undergrad summer terms at UF, so Gainesville’s student population has mostly disappeared this weekend.

Clinton finally had a good week with Judge Ginsburg’s nomination and a few legislative victories.

Tuesday, June 22, 1993

4 PM. Dad just went out for a walk. I told him to take an umbrella because it’s been raining on and off all afternoon. Basically I don’t quite know how to entertain him, and I thought he might fall asleep since he lay down on the couch.

He got here a couple of hours ago, earlier than I expected, but he didn’t want to stop because the car was riding okay.

Dad looked tired, but of course he’d been driving for hours. He has two appointments in Jacksonville tomorrow, the first at 10 AM, and the next day he’s got an early morning appointment in Winter Park.

He gave me the $400 as an advance on my voucher from the state. At least now that I’ve deposited the money at NationsBank, I can pay my rent for July. If I’m late on the other bills, it’s not that big of a deal.

I still haven’t heard anything from SFCC about my summer class.

I showed Dad some of the stuff we’re doing in Legal Counseling and gave him a copy of my transcript to bring to Mom.

He’s going to Puerto Rico on Monday and will pay Marc’s way so Marc can help him with all the suitcases of samples he’s got to get to the hotel in San Juan.

As I said a couple of weeks ago, Dad is getting too old for all this salesman stuff.

There’s a real gap between us, and I was thinking it has something to do with class difference, which is what Weyrauch stresses all the time.

By virtue of my education, I’m in a different social class from my parents and brothers. (I’m the only one who says “He doesn’t” instead of “He don’t.”)

Today Weyrauch noted that an emphasis on acquiring money is not an upper-class and maybe not even an upper-middle class preoccupation.

Weyrauch said that when he first joined the faculty, another law professor said that Gainesville was a great place to live for one reason: you could buy cheap real estate outside of town and eventually get rich.

It appalled Weyrauch that someone with those values was on the faculty, although of course the man was right about the value of local real estate investments.

It made me think about Alice and her emphasis on making money, which is also very lower-middle class. But unlike me, she grew up relatively poor.

My parents are now much less materialistic than they were when I was growing up – but then, of course, they have a lot less money now than they did back when I was growing up.

Dad said he feels better telling people I’m in law school than he did when I was in grad school for creative writing – “but that’s only because the people I tell it to understand one thing and not the other.”

Marc had a terrible trip to Cape Cod, but had a good time in New York City, where he hung out and played cards with his old friends and visited Grandma at the nursing home twice.

Dad told me Bill owes Sydelle $6,000, but she doesn’t expect to get it back. It’s worth the money to be rid of him, as Sydelle is much happier now.

I guess we’ll go out to Sonny’s Bar-B-Q for a salad bar when Dad returns from his walk.

Thursday, June 24, 1993

4 PM. My vertigo is the worst it’s been in years. I just tried to exercise, and I had to modify the workout because I couldn’t lie my head back on the floor without a paroxysm of vertigo and that horribly unpleasant feeling.

Still, it’s not crippling – at least I’m trying not to give into it – and I know that eventually the dizziness has always gone away before, even if it took a long time.

My biggest problem now is what I’m going to do for money. At Santa Fe this morning, Barbara Sloan told me the English 101 class downtown has only five students registered.

She said to call her tomorrow afternoon, but it doesn’t look like they’ll let the class run.

But another teacher may be hired for a permanent job, and if she gets it, Barbara will let me take over her class after the first week.

It’s good to be back at SFCC and see Diana and the other teachers. I filled out a form to list my schedule preferences for the fall.

But I was counting on that $1,000 or so income to get by this summer. However, unlike last year, at least I have another three weeks on unemployment. I’ve got $246 in checks coming, and I deposited my latest check for $164 today.

After I pay the rent, I’ll have only $325 in the bank, so I’ll delay paying my other bills – credit card, electric and phone– as long as I can.

Come late August, I’ll have my scholarship and student loan money as well as my salary from Santa Fe. I’ve gotten through two years of law school without financial planning, and at this point I know I can somehow graduate.

At least I’ve been enjoying Weyrauch’s class. Going to school today and yesterday help me fight off feelings of depression, and I’ve been doing some outside reading that Weyrauch suggested.

Last summer I managed, and that was worse: I had my heart set on the trip to New York even though I should have known I’d be unable to come up with enough money to go.

This summer I was resigned to stay in hot, humid Gainesville. I probably would be in good financial shape if I hadn’t gone to New York in May, but I wouldn’t trade that trip for anything.

Well, I guess I’m glad I didn’t spend a lot of time preparing to teach English 101 this summer.

I should have realized the downtown class might not make. (All the ones on the main campus did.) After all, I’ve been in the adjunct biz long enough to know not to count my classes before the first day (and sometimes not even then).

That’s one of the reasons I long ago realized I’d always have an uncertain life as a college English teacher. At the time I thought that was the price I had to pay for freedom.

At least I know I’ll have enough money to eat decently for the next few weeks. Of course, if any unexpected expenses arise, I’ll just have to . . . well, I don’t know.

If my car breaks down, I’ll simply have to walk until I have the money to fix it in the fall.

This is a pretty scary way to live, but I also know many people in Bosnia and Somalia and South Africa and China who’d be happy to exchange places with me.

After all, I’ve got food, comfortable apartment, air conditioning, a TV, a radio, a video cassette player, a computer and a telephone.

I’ve got access to books and periodicals and free time. I don’t live in fear of being killed or imprisoned. And my health, despite vertigo and other problems, is generally excellent.

I’ve got plenty.

Monday, June 28, 1993

4 PM. Sherry, Barbara Sloan’s new secretary, phoned me at 8 AM to say the downtown class was cancelled. So I was able to go back to bed.

But a little while later, I drove over to Criser Hall – first, to ensure myself that they had lots of minimum-wage clerical jobs on campus open (they still do), and second, to see if maybe I could pick up a graduate course in the second summer session. But they really weren’t offering anything I would take, and besides, I would have had to borrow the money.

What concerned me was not having enough to do, but I know I always manage to keep myself occupied by reading and finding some projects. There’s no point in doing anything for the next couple of weeks.

After next week, the summer term at law school will be over and I’ll have no more unemployment compensation, so I’ll then figure out how to get by for the five weeks until the start of the fall semester.

I got an electric bill today, and it’s just $59. I’ve been running a credit balance with GRU, and if I miss one month’s payment, they’ll charge me only a 2% fee. Anyway, the due date isn’t till July 14, and it would be the first bill I missed.

At school at 10 AM, I read the Wall Street Journal and chatted with classmates. Dan M said the Civil Clinic is the best learning experience he’s had in law school; he has a divorce trial this week.

In class today, Weyrauch told some great stories dealing with the conflicts when one person is your client but another one is paying you.

For example, an attorney let a 15-year-old boy who was arrested on pot charges to stay in jail even though he could have easily gotten the kid out.

The boy’s parents and the attorney thought it would be good for the boy “to see how the other half lives” and “to learn a lesson.”

It shocked me that some students agreed with the lawyer’s behavior. I argued that he was wildly irresponsible and guilty of malpractice.

Back home, I had lunch while reading the Times. Tony Kushner, the playwright, had a great op-ed piece opposing CUNY Chancellor Reynolds’s plan to give herself life-or-death power over programs at the colleges; presumably she wants to shut down arts and humanities majors and install more career-related programs, an insult to the minorities who make up most of CUNY’s student body.

Tom sent me The Camel’s Back. If I remember the excerpts correctly, I expect it to be a terrific read. It’s a nicely-designed book, too.

I also got a postcard from Harold in Shanghai, where he says he’s having “a mind-blowing experience.” Pete, I’m sure, is more the familiar China hand. Harold writes that the locals are fascinated with all aspects of American culture.

I also got a note from Gaylen Phillips of the Division of Cultural Affairs, thanking me and my fellow Literature Panel members for our “selfless contributions” to the state.

I guess I did volunteer a lot of my time this spring, but it was more than worth it.

Wednesday, June 30, 1993

3 PM. This is the first afternoon in days when it hasn’t been raining, and I had forgotten how oppressive a sunny day in the 90°s could be. Well, I’ll chill out inside until it’s dark.

Mom complained about the South Florida heat when she called last night. She wanted to know why my phone was busy the night before, and I told her I was using the modem, but actually I’d taken the phone off the hook to avoid her call.

Last evening I managed to direct the conversation away from her inevitable “So what are you going to do?” questions about my losing the SFCC class.

I just remained cheerful and brisk, letting her kvetch – as usual – about Preston Henn’s rules at the flea market and how terrible Dad’s latest Guess line is.

Eventually, I had to cut her off because she’s like a broken record, and then I tried to answer all her questions about secured credit cards.

Dad is in San Juan now, and Mom told me she was the one who insisted Marc go along to help him: “It’s too much for him to do it alone.”

I haven’t seen my mother in six months, and although I love her, I don’t miss her.

While she and Dad always mean well, I notice I now have to talk to them differently – sort of the way I used to talk to my grandparents – because so much is beyond them.

That sounds snotty and patronizing. However, I loved my grandparents and still love Grandma Ethel. But as much as I try to explain things to her, Grandma has no real understanding of what my professional and personal adult life has been like.

At school today, they posted the Book Awards and the Honors List for the spring term. The awards went to the usual suspects: Sharon, Carla, Kathy, Shay, David A, Duane.

While I didn’t get a Book Award in Transboundary Environmental Issues, nobody did, either, and the same was true of several other electives.

My name even got left off the 3.0-3.49 Honors List. I’m embarrassed to admit that I went into the office and told them about the oversight so that by the end of the day I could feel sheepish that my name was the only one, along with six or seven people who had High Honors (3.5 and above), on a typed “addendum” sheet.

I hate myself for even caring what people think about my GPA. On the other hand, as Dawn said, you know people look for other people’s names and wonder why they’re not there.

On the third floor, in an unsuccessful trip to see if I could find Professor Probert to ask if he’d let me into his Humor and the Law seminar, I saw the big photos of the fall 1992 and spring 1993 graduates. There were a lot of about familiar faces that won’t be around anymore.

I don’t know a lot of first-year students so most of the names on the Book Award list were unfamiliar.

It’s funny, though: When I walk around campus, people whose names I don’t know keep saying, “Hi, Rich,” to me.

I did see that Javier booked Civ Pro II, and another gay person, Lynette – who graduated in May – booked Employment Discrimination.

Speaking of gays and discrimination, I woke up today to the news that several Oregon cities and counties passed anti-gay ordinances yesterday.

The Times had a front-page story on how these anti-gay referenda are causing closeted gays in places like Idaho to come out to their friends, who would otherwise assume they don’t know any of “those people.”

I expect lots of people at the law school know that I’m gay, but I really should be more out before I leave this place.