A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early July, 1993

by Richard Grayson

Thursday, July 1, 1993

8 PM. When I began writing yesterday’s entry, I remarked that it was sunny out, but by the time I finished, clouds had taken over the sky and we had a severe thunderstorm. The same thing happened around 4 PM today.

Last night I had bad insomnia as my mind kept racing around things Weyrauch had said in class, soap opera plots, my precarious finances, the Book Award and Honors List at school, and all kinds of other totally useless material.

Well, at least I’m not dizzy when I lie down anymore.

Today Weyrauch held what he called our most important class, and social class was the topic. He obviously loves to lecture on the different American classes and how to spot them quickly – and so do I.

Tommy, the black guy who sits next to me, showed his own class origins when he answered Weyrauch’s question, “What are some of the concerns of the lower-middle class?” by saying, “Concern for the environment.” Really?

Of course, a lot of this class stuff is hard to spot when you’re 22 or 23, but after a while, people can be reduced to simple stereotypes: the car they drive, the sports they like, the jewelry they wear.

When a student objected to this stereotyping, Weyrauch told him that all the law we’ve learned so far deals with stereotypes. After all, what else is the “reasonably prudent man (or woman)”?

I expect to do okay on the final next Friday because I write well and have been around the block more than most of the other students – and maybe knowing more will also help.

God knows why I take grades so seriously. I suppose if I had other, more creative outlets in my life right now, I wouldn’t be so grade-conscious.

Remember how I used to add up all my lines of credit from my MasterCards and Visas? Or earlier, my clips from newspapers? Or the number of short stories I’d published in little magazines?

What a compulsive bean counter I am. Most people do it with their income, I guess.

After coming home at 1 PM, I watched TV, exercised and read the paper.

This weekend I plan to read Tom’s The Camel’s Back and the recent Supreme Court decisions that I got off Lexis.

I haven’t called any of my friends in New York this week because I’ve been trying not to spend money. I didn’t shell out a penny for the last couple of days.

My Visa bill arrived, but the minimum $80 payment isn’t due for three weeks. I did pay the July rent, of course.

I suppose I should spend more time worrying about how to get some extra cash. It’s too much to hope for that that SFCC teacher will get that permanent job and I’ll get to take over her class next week. Still, it would be thrilling if the phone rings tomorrow and it’s Barbara Sloan. . .

Actually, it would be thrilling if the phone were to ring and it weren’t a wrong number – except for Mom, the only calls I’ve gotten in a week have been wrong numbers.

I wish I could get away from Gainesville, even if only for a couple of days like when I went to Tallahassee. My trip to New York is receding from my memory, as it’s been about eight weeks since I was in Manhattan.

Still, I managed to get through last summer in Gainesville. Stop me from feeling sorry for myself. Besides, if I feel isolated or bored, nobody is responsible but me.

Actually, sometimes I complain just because I feel it’s expected of me.

Saturday, July 3, 1993

9 PM. Last night I finished reading the Legal Counseling and Interviewing nutshell, which made me realize how much I used to enjoy psychology books by people like Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow.

Last night I dreamed that I was standing with a bat trying to hit a baseball as it came out from a hole in a slanted roof. Because I couldn’t see where the ball was coming from and couldn’t predict the intervals between balls, I missed nearly every chance to connect with the bat.

What that means, I don’t know. Certainly I was never very good at baseball. Did I ever get a hit when I played softball? I can’t remember.

Back in Brooklyn, we mostly played punchball, and in junior high, I once hit a double. Usually I struck out.

I was almost always the last one picked when guys chose up sides, but at least the other boys weren’t snotty about it – especially not the black kids who were forced to take me for their team. (I treasure the memory of the one day a kid told me I was “an honorary Negro.”)

Generally other kids were protective of me because I was so little, the littlest guy in our entire ninth grade of about 18 different classes. (I know that because we had to line up in size place for graduation.)

Probably that’s why I developed the personality I did and was never argumentative or angry.

When I was in second grade, kids would rub my crewcut for luck before they got up to bat. A boy once told me my hair felt like a velvet carpet: smooth if you rubbed it one way, and standing up briskly the other.

Leading this free association back to my dream, I haven’t a clue. “Keep your eye on the ball” is a cliché that comes to mind.

Today I spent over two hours back in the public library, where I read Psychology Today, American Health, Publishers Weekly – apparently, the American Booksellers Association convention in Miami was a disaster – and various newspapers.

I rushed through lunch at home in order to get to the movies in time for the 1:40 PM show of Menace II Society at the dollar theater.

At first I got upset that the mostly black audience laughed and hooted at the terrible violence of the ghetto that was shown, and I was disturbed that people brought little kids, white and black, to see all those shootings (mostly for someone looking at another person the wrong way).

But in the end, as the Hughes Brothers (the 21-year-old directors) showed, there was no way out but early death. Then the audience grew quiet.

I thought Menace II Society was better than Boyz in the Hood or Straight Out of Brooklyn. But it’s great to see so many talented young African-American filmmakers out there telling their stories.

Stopping at the college law library before it closed, I ran into David A, who was on his way out. After congratulating him on his latest book award (in Smith’s class), I asked him how his summer clerkship in Tampa was going.

It’s a very corporate firm, he said, and while he’s making lots of money, he doesn’t enjoy the work at all. He’d rather do labor law, but no one was interested in hiring him until he stressed his M.A. in economics and his business interests.

Still, David has decided not to accept a permanent job with this Tampa firm and will interview again this year for jobs in labor law.

He told me Carla was inside the library, as she, too, had come up from Tampa for the weekend. So I went over to Carla to congratulate her on her book award (in Slobogin’s class).

Carla seems to like her clerking job better than David does. When I asked her if she worked long hours, she said, “No, just from 8:30 AM to 6:30 PM.” (Ten hours a day seems pretty long to me.)

I’m too present-tense-oriented to think about doing those kind of legal clerkships just to have money. I certainly know I don’t want that kind of permanent job, ever.

Or maybe I’m just too lazy and self-indulgent?

Monday, July 5, 1993

3 PM. Mom phoned last night and we talked for half an hour, mostly about Jonathan’s allergies, the hot and sticky South Florida weather, and Dad’s problems with business: his Guess lines don’t come out in time for the Miami menswear show, and Guess doesn’t go to the Las Vegas and New York shows.

Mom said she didn’t realize I was “intending” to teach in the fall. Intend is a word my mother uses often in regard to my plans, as in: “What do you intend to do now?”

The way she uses the word, it carries the implication that I’ve made mistakes in the past and my future decisions will also be screwed up.

Or am I just being defensive?

I got up at 6 AM and realized I wasn’t going to get back to sleep, so I exercised to the broadcast of Body Electric. It’s too bad I haven’t been able to tape any recent shows because my videocassette player doesn’t record. (Of course, I end up saving money on tapes.)

The electricity went off as I was finishing breakfast; I heard a bang and then the lights, radio, air conditioning and all the digital clocks went off.

Figuring the power outage wouldn’t last long, I got back into bed. I also assumed someone in the area would phone the utility company.

An hour later, when I went out to get the newspaper, I was surprised that the traffic lights were working and the shopping center had power.

I had no luck calling GRU: I kept getting stuck in voicemail hell, going from one dead end to another with the press of a button.

When I tried another number and finally was told I’d be connected with an operator “in the order in which you called,” I listened to their recurring announcements and helpful energy-saving tips for the next 25 minutes before I hung up in frustration.

Of course, our rental office was also closed due to the holiday, and there didn’t seem to be anyone about.

Without air conditioning, it was starting to get hot and stuffy inside, so I took the paper out by the pool to read it – not that I could concentrate.

A girl came out to sun herself and so at least I discovered that I wasn’t crazy, that the electricity was out all over the complex.

It’s odd that I felt annoyed that a pretty girl in a two-piece bathing suit saw me with unwashed helmet hair and my goofy glasses and generally grungy appearance.

Why should I care what an 18-year-old blonde thinks of how I look? It’s just that there’s something sexual about a pool when you’re not wearing much clothing.

I’m attracted to guys and certainly not to females young enough to be my daughter – generally, anyway.

But there’s like this weird something in my prehistoric brain which sees a woman in a bikini and says, Yes, you should go after this.

No wonder heterosexual young men act like such assholes around the opposite sex.

Anyway, by 10:30 AM, I was getting concerned nobody had been able to even notify GRU, so I drove downtown to their new offices.

Of course the building was locked and empty – not even a security guard at the front desk.

When I returned home, I did see a GRU truck and cherry picker at the next apartment complex. Once I knew somebody was at least aware of the problem, I felt better.

And within fifteen minutes, the electricity returned. Hallelujah! How crazy we get without accustomed comforts.

I’ve been reading shocking stories on the Johns Committee files on Westlaw. While I understand that homophobia is an old Florida tradition, what they did back in the ’50s and ’60s was nearly unbelievable.

Otherwise today, I did laundry, watched soaps, listened to Noam Chomsky talk about the media as a propaganda tool of the establishment, and waited for the daily thunderstorm to lower the temperature and stickiness level.

Wednesday, July 7, 1993

3 PM. Like yesterday, it’s another hot day, but hopefully we’ll again have a thunderstorm that will clear out the air and lower the temperature. It may be 93° degrees here now, but we’re better off than New York, where it hit 98° yesterday and 99° today. This crazy weather is also responsible for the record floods along the Mississippi River.

Last evening I went out at 7 PM and found it comfortable. In the library for two hours, I read the case histories in the text from which Weyrauch took his course material.

If he uses one of the cases in the book, at least I’ll be familiar with it and whatever commentaries I looked at.

I got about two-thirds of the way through my notes and I’m writing down seven or eight big things in the course like: “Who is your client? (conflicts of interest)” and “How much should you bill?”

When I returned home last night, I turned on the Mostly Mozart concert on Live from Lincoln Center and read until I fell asleep.

The truth is I’m going to feel bad tomorrow after the final because then I’ll have to face unstructured time and my financial problems.

According to the phone mail info system, my unemployment check hasn’t been issued yet.

I did get a call from the Cultural Affairs Division; they were working on my request for expenses and could not read my Social Security number (one of my 5’s looked like an 8). I don’t know how long that check will take to get to my parents’ house so they can be repaid for the money they advanced me to pay July’s rent.

Once I send off my phone and electric bill – and I paid only part of the balance on each – I’ll have very little cash in my checking account.

I still have my $80 Visa bill, although I guess I can miss one month on that. What’s so scary is that I know there’ll be some unexpected expense, like a car repair or dental work, that I won’t be able to afford.

This weekend I’ll look in the paper for part-time employment, and on Monday I’ll go over to Criser Hall to look at the on-campus jobs available.

Probably I would have been better off had I not expected to teach the second summer session at Santa Fe, because then I would have made alternate summer plans that involved getting some income.

Last year I sold some clothes to that downtown store, and maybe I’ll do that again. My parents have given me clothes I don’t ever wear, and even if the store doesn’t pay me much, it’s something. I could also take some books to the bookstores that buy used stuff.

And on Saturday I’ll call that Tradio show on WRUF-AM and offer my laptop computer for sale – not that I can get much for such an antiquated machine. (In 1988 it was state of the art, but it’s about two and a half generations old by now, with only got 640K and no hard drive.)

At the end of last summer Josh said that I could have asked him for money as a short term loan. I hate to have to do that – but I also hate the idea of going to my parents again when I know they’re barely scraping by.

Today’s New York Times review of David Lodge’s The Art of Fiction spurred me to go on Nexis and print out all of his columns that made up the book that were originally published in the Independent, a British paper.

And I read the 25 or so items for political junkies in the daily briefing from The Hotline, filled with inside-the-Beltway gossip items and news.

Friday, July 9, 1993

4:30 PM. Weyrauch took his final exam question from the 1964 edition of the Harrop Freeman Legal Interviewing and Counseling text, and since I had borrowed the book from the library on Wednesday night, I’m probably one of the few people who had read it ahead of time.

However, I didn’t give it much thought when I was looking through the book, and I’m not sure my prior knowledge was helpful.

Indeed, at first I didn’t recognize the case, and it only came back to me as I read. It concerned a rabidly depressed 54-year-old businessman’s estate planning problem.

I wrote for two and a half of the three hours, filling up 16 pages of an oversized blue book. My handwriting started off okay – I find I’m more legible if I print rather than use cursive – but I’m afraid it degenerated as I picked up steam.

Basically I analyzed the family members and what I could make of their dynamic and then discussed how I would have handled the situation.

I think I had some creative insights, but who knows? At least I’m sure that I write more skillfully then a lot of students.

What surprised me was to see so many students – like Clare and Marissa – show up for the exam who I didn’t know were in the class. I guess that’s what happens when attendance is optional, but I still believe that class attendance is always the best preparation for a final.

As we discussed our answers, which all seemed to be along the same lines, someone said to me, “Oh, you’ll book the class,” but evaluating my answer, I can’t imagine that my exam could have been the best. I’m not sure I got an A or even a B+.

Grades won’t be posted for over two weeks, so it’s best to put it out of my mind.

I told Julia and Julie I’d go with them to lunch downtown, but when I couldn’t find a parking space and was afraid I’d be towed, I told them to go ahead and eat without me. I really couldn’t afford a nice restaurant anyway.

My unemployment check was issued yesterday, the phone info service said, so I guess it will arrive tomorrow, and with it, I’ll find out if I’ve got another week of benefits left.

Julie told me that I could have applied for a Stafford loan for the summer in addition to my award for the academic year. If only I’d known that, I could have more cash now – and I could have taken another class.

Well, what little summer school I had is over. I’ve got 63 credits out of the way and 23 left to go till I get my J.D.