A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late August, 1993
by Richard Grayson
Monday, August 23, 1993
3:30 PM. In the midst of a hectic, stressful day, I just picked up the mail and learned I didn’t win the AWP Nonfiction Award for Thirties/Eighties. Michael Stephens got it for a collection of essays, and there was no finalist, so I guess Phillip Lopate didn’t like my book.
It would have been so nice to be recognized, but now I don’t have to deal with any problems caused by exposing my friends’ and family’s privacy.
Still, my diary entries are meaningful to me if to no one else. The book still exists, and it’s at the Brautigan Library along with the only copy of A Version of Life.
Perhaps Lopate was offended by my book; I wish I had some sort of reaction to know if he thought it was boring, incomprehensible, or immoral.
I don’t know what I’ll do with the manuscript now. Certainly there’s no point in submitting it to the contest next year; Lopate was about as sympathetic a reader as I could have hoped for.
Although I got into bed before 9 PM, I didn’t get to sleep until after 4 AM, and I slept less than three hours. Consequently, a hard day – and it hasn’t ended – seemed harder.
I finally reached Don Peters an hour ago, after I’d come home to eat lunch. I went back to school to get his signature on my drop/add application, which I filled out (dropping Moffat’s seminar) and handed into Dean Savage.
I bought Don’s own text at the JMBA bookstore. Now I have to read the assignments although he said I could just watch the exercise the class will be doing tomorrow.
There’s a lot of work involved: lots of negotiations and planning outside of class and quite a few reaction papers and other writing assignments.
Today Nagan’s International Law class seemed okay, if still a bit theoretical, but Dolan’s was peculiar. She still appears unfocused and nervous, and her calling on students was half-hearted. Luckily, people in the class contributed intelligent comments, but so far Employment Discrimination Law is a bust.
Although there’s always hope things will improve, this will probably be my least favorite semester of law school.
At this point I just want to graduate, and I’m sure my job-minded fellow third-year students feel even more strongly about it.
I called Sherrie at SFCC, asking her to put the roster for tonight’s class in my new unit, on the first floor of the B Building.
I haven’t yet read most of today’s paper or the assignments for tomorrow’s classes. The first week of school, and I’m already behind. I did find time to exercise, albeit lightly.
I can’t stop thinking about the AWP contest.
It just started raining and thundering heavily.
9:30 PM. After the heavy rains ended, I went out at 5:30 PM and drove to Santa Fe, where I got a security guard to open up the unit office so I could get the roster. I have no mailbox, but I found it in the secretary’s desk files.
Getting to the classroom an hour early, I greeted my students as they arrived. It’s a full class, but it seems like a nice group, mostly adults.
I gave out my handout and syllabus and talked for an hour: first housekeeping stuff and then about literature vs. popular entertainment.
Next week we’ll start fiction. I gave them an open-ended writing sample prompt and left at 9 PM when the last person finished.
SFCC, unlike Broward Community College, is eerily deserted at night.
It’s good to be in front of a classroom for the first time in more than nine months; I feel comfortable on the other side of the desk, and it gives me perspective on my role as a law student.
I guess I’ll get over the AWP Award Series and get on with my life, such as it is.
Dad will be coming late tomorrow.
Wednesday, August 25, 1993
3:30 PM. I feel tired but I can get through teaching tonight’s introductory class. There’s no reason to go to SFCC way before the class begins at 7 PM.
Last night I printed out course descriptions – Dad found two typos that nobody on Monday night brought to my attention – and syllabi.
I felt bad about ignoring Dad during his visit, so when he returned to the apartment after his walk, I combined studying and talking to him by trying to explain the cases I needed to prepare for today’s three classes.
The time went quickly because at one point Dad said it was 10 PM and he was ready for bed.
I slept in the living room, and as I knew I’d have a hard time falling asleep, I used the time to read the Times for Monday and Tuesday.
I also filled out the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument that Don gave us; I scored zero on the aggressiveness scale and high on avoidance, compromise and cooperation.
Eventually I slept from about 12:30 AM till 6 AM, which isn’t bad for me. At 7:30 AM, after going to Publix to buy a few groceries I needed, I came back here to say goodbye to Dad.
He didn’t have to be in Jacksonville until 11:30 AM, so he had plenty of time. From Jacksonville he was going to appointments in Winter Park and then to International Drive in Orlando to see the Disney World buyer.
I regret that his visit did not occur during the six weeks I was free because we could have done more stuff together then; for me, this is a particularly hectic time.
Classes were okay this morning. Baldwin taught Gideon and I think he noticed I had Anthony Lewis’s book with me and could follow the facts that weren’t in the record.
Although I yawned a lot during Nagan’s class, his lecture on the article justifying U.S. nuclear tests in the 1950s wasn’t boring.
Between classes, I read as much as I could stand of Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, but even after we went over it in Dolan’s class, I’m still unclear. The technicalities of employment discrimination cases are arcane; as David A said, we need a good nutshell for this course.
I sat down with Darin in the cafeteria between classes. He’s an odd guy: I always figured he was gay but didn’t know it.
I think he’s from a religious Christian background, and he’s a bit of a dullard, though he drives a Thunderbird (the only car in the parking lot that’s covered every day).
This summer he worked in an in-house law office in some Orlando corporation and said he enjoyed it a great deal.
Home at 12:40 PM, I had lunch, put away the day’s notes in my looseleaf binder, and drove to Santa Fe.
I handed in my course materials and schedule card to Sherrie in the English Department, filled out a new W-4 at Human Resources, and arranged to have my meager paycheck mailed to me at home at Payroll. This way I won’t have to drive to SFCC on paydays.
Back home again, I did aerobics and took a shower after cooling off. I’d like to read the paper, but I think I need to lie down and close my eyes now.
10 PM. As much as I tried, I couldn’t quite fall asleep in the late afternoon although I came close.
Eventually I gave up and I read the Times and listened to All Things Considered while I had dinner: Healthy Choice chicken fajitas, an Entenmann’s fat-free fudge brownie, and blackberries with Equal.
Then I put on jeans and a button-down sport shirt – my favorite one, a yellow-and-black plaid – and drove off to Santa Fe, where I had a nice class tonight.
I’ve got about 19 students, nearly all adults, some of whom seem quite intelligent.
I did just about what I did on Monday night, giving them an orientation to the course and letting them get comfortable with me. After I read “A Rose for Emily” and “A&P,” they did their writing samples.
There were almost no cars in the lot when I left after 9 PM. Santa Fe, like all campuses, seems so serene at night. I’m glad I’m not teaching during the harsh light, heat and activity of midday.
I look forward to teaching literature, if not to grading papers, at SFCC.
Thursday, August 26, 1993
7 PM. This afternoon I handed in a petition to Dean Savage’s office to exercise my automatic drop to get rid of Dolan’s class and to go below the standard minimum of 12 credits.
If it’s approved, I’ll have 11 credits, the minimum I need to get full-time financial aid, and I can take 12 credits next term and still graduate.
It’s a shame I’ll have to pay the extra money, but the $300 will probably be worth it in the extra time I’ll have.
Instead of finishing classes at 12:30 PM on Mondays and Wednesdays, I can leave at 9:10 AM, which gives me time to do work for law school and SFCC; on Tuesdays, I can leave at 9:10 AM and don’t have to come back till early afternoon.
I like my other classes, and I can take Employment Discrimination with Dowd in the spring if I want.
I assume there will be no problem with the drop even though I listed “personal reasons” in my explanation.
Last night I slept sporadically, and after a good class with Baldwin, I came home and exercised and then felt exhausted.
I started thinking about how pressured I feel, and once I made up my mind to drop Dolan’s class, I was anxious to get it over with. Why wait till the November deadline? At least now I can get a 25% refund of $90.
I don’t know how I find out if it’s approved, but I guess if there’s a problem, I’ll hear from Dean Savage that the petition is denied.
It was a long afternoon, with Negotiation from 1:50 PM to 4 PM, but I learned a lot as we looked at various videotaped scenes of negotiation scenarios on the class’s first exercise, and I spoke up even though I really don’t know any of my classmates except for Steve F.
I think if I can devote time to all my classes, I’ll get more out of them.
Rosalie Sanderson, the research librarian, lectured in Legal History on using Westlaw, Lexis and the LUIS catalog to do research.
At the end of class, I lined up right behind Javier to talk to McCoy, and he approved my topic of the Yanomami. Back in the fall of 1970 in Anthropology, I read Napoleon Chagnon’s book on them, and lately they’ve been in the news a lot, with massacres of the tribe by gold miners in Brazil’s Roraima state (north of Amazonas).
I came home and had dinner, and now I plan to read the paper, call Fort Lauderdale to see if Dad got home all right, and call Julie to make plans for lunch.
Tomorrow my only class is Baldwin’s because McCoy will be spending the next three class sessions meeting with students.
As my topic is on a primitive culture, I can get it over with early in the oral presentations.
My Unemployment check came today, and the deposit from yesterday’s check cleared, so I paid my overdue electric, phone and credit card bills.
Even after dropping Dolan’s class, I’ll probably still be sleep-deprived this semester, but I know I’ll be much more relaxed and less pressured for time.
I deserve to enjoy my final year in law school. Who knows what pressures I’ll face after graduation?
Friday, August 27, 1993
3 PM. Relaxing the way I have been today seems so much sweeter because I’d been so busy this week.
While I have lots of stuff to do this weekend, right now I feel like vegging out for a little bit.
When I called Mom last evening, she said that Dad had arrived home an hour earlier, and he’d gotten some good orders, including one in Jacksonville for $50,000.
When I spoke to Dad, I told him that I wished I hadn’t been so occupied during his visit. But as he said, he wasn’t here very long.
It was about 11 PM when I fell asleep, and thankfully I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night to obsess.
Leaving the house at 7 AM, I noticed that today seemed cooler and more pleasant than the last few days.
Then, on my way to the car, I stepped in shit. Somehow I got it on my white socks and bare calf as well as on my sneakers. (As usual, I was wearing shorts.)
After having to go back to the apartment to wash the shit off, I started my day in a bad mood. But that didn’t last long.
Before Police Practices, I went to the library’s mezzanine. Looking through the Supreme Court Reporters allows me to follow all the facts in the complete opinions of the cases rather than rely on just truncated summaries and excerpts.
As prepared as I was, as we went over right-to-counsel cases, Baldwin still managed to amaze me with his fancy intellectual footwork relating to constitutional law.
When class ended at 9 AM, I went to NationsBank, where I deposited my last unemployment check of 1993, withdrew $200, and got two rolls of quarters.
The other day I had cut out a coupon in the paper from Winn-Dixie that was for $2 off any $20 purchase, and I also had another $6 worth of coupons I used to buy groceries and household items.
Winn-Dixie is cheaper than Publix, but of course, being across the street, Publix is much more convenient – and it has better produce.
Back in the house, I did low-impact aerobics before showering, dressing, and driving downtown.
I stopped at the main library, where I returned the videos I borrowed two weeks ago, and from there, I met Julie at the Our Place Cafe.
Over a couple of decent tofu platters, I talked with her about her CGR Public Interest Law Fellowship job at the Guardian Ad Litem Program office and how she likes Liz’s Poverty Law class.
Julie grew up in Pensacola with her mother; her father, a military officer, died when Julie was very young.
She began UF law school in the spring of ‘91, but I guess she dropped out for a term or a year. She’s mentioned taking antidepressants.
Julie told me she recently broke up with her boyfriend, although I had already gathered that from overhearing her conversation last week with Steve F, whom she dated once. (Her only other law school date was with Mark B, also in my Negotiation class.)
Julie put an ad in the phone-personals “Meeting Place” in the Sun this week, and already she’s gotten 50 calls, mostly from weirdos.
She called back only one, who turned out to be someone her family knows from Pensacola.
I mentioned that I had answered Jody’s ad and told her what happened (in abbreviated fashion).
It was odd to be able to tell a classmate about my answering a guy’s personal ad, but aside from being open, I wanted to let Julie know that I’m not potential boyfriend material.
Not that I think that she thought that, but who knows? She did take my books out of the library.
She had to leave early to get to Seigel’s Evidence class – she dislikes him as much as I do – but I followed her back to campus to check out the bulletin board and the library catalog.
The books on the Yanomami are in the Latin American collection in Smathers Library, which has odd hours: the only time it’s open all weekend is on Sunday from 5 PM to 9 PM.
I chatted with Michael K, who’s energized by his courses this term – although Administrative Law, Federal Courts, and Conflicts of Law are classes I’d never take in a million years.
Derrick and I joked around for a while, and as it got late, I walked to the parking lot with Martin, who told me I should go for an LL.M. and become a law professor.
I was asked to join Bob, Lee, Dan R, Gene and others at the happy hour at a nearby bar this afternoon, but since I don’t like to drink or spend money, I said I’d see.
Tuesday, August 31, 1993
Noon. I have to go back to school for Negotiation soon. I’m groggy, having spent another one of my sleepless nights. I wasn’t even tossing and turning; I just never seemed able to relax and turn my mind off.
At about 5:30 AM, I had one of those hallucination-like dreams in which I say to myself, “Oh, this can’t be happening – I must be dreaming – and I’ve got an erection – so I guess I’m in some kind of sleep state.” That lasted an hour at most.
Still, over the years, I’ve learned I can function without any sleep.
Last evening I was able to get into my office at SFCC because a full-time instructor was there, so I got my mail and filled out the forms I needed to. Tomorrow night I’m supposed to get the key from another adjunct.
Class went okay. I had a few new students. After handing back their papers, I read “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and got the usual reactions: mystification, disgust.
At Santa Fe, I have to deal with a lot of fundamentalist students, so I was glad I could inoculate myself with O’Connor’s Christian/Catholic philosophy and read a statement by her about redemption through Christ.
Later, after we covered “A Rose for Emily” and “A&P,” I let them go at about 9:35 PM even though I thought we could have examined the stories in more detail.
I guess that’s better than my not having enough to say. The class has a few talkers and a lot of silent students. Mostly it’s a very conservative crowd with the exception of an older man and some young guys with goatees who don’t talk much.
Home at 10 PM, I ate some fruit and cereal and cake, read the rest of the Times, and then tried – unsuccessfully – to get to sleep.
6 PM. In Negotiation, Don lectured on MBTI types and gave us the material for tomorrow’s negotiation. We’re being observed by him and two lawyers in breakout groups, and we’ll be videotaped for at least part of our negotiations.
I represent the club that’s being sued for injuries by someone who was hurt by their mechanical bull, and my partner and I go on videotape 45 minutes into the hour.
Hopefully we should come up with a settlement. After reading the information for my side, I’ll write out a one-page negotiation plan, which is due at 9 AM on Thursday.
I feel I haven’t the slightest idea of what I’m doing, as if I’m playing a game for adults when I’m only a kid.
But I’ve heard lawyers say they sometimes feel like impostors, too. I do know that the negotiations I’ll be forced to do this semester are uncomfortable for me – which probably means I’ll grow from the experience.
After class, I went to Publix, where I met Norma Dew, who’s keeping busy after her retirement from Santa Fe.
What made her decide to leave was the probability that the state legislature, to cut costs, will no longer allow teachers to get paid for accrued sick days.
They really want older teachers to retire so they can bring in others whom they can pay less. It’s being done in all industries as the income of working Americans declines.