A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-September, 1993

by Richard Grayson

Sunday, September 12, 1993

8 PM. I finished most of what I had planned to get done this weekend. This evening I completed my negotiation plan for Don, and yesterday I read ahead for International Law and completed Kenneth Good’s book Into the Heart.

Good originally went to live with the Yanomami to try to vindicate Chagnon’s theory about their violence, but he ended up thinking they were not “the fierce people” Chagnon made them out to be.

(If anything, Chagnon comes across as irrationally hostile in Good’s book.)

Good eventually married a Yanomami woman, and the narrative of their struggles is fascinating.

I need to do more research before my oral report on Thursday, but I already have enough material to talk about the Yanomami for fifteen minutes, I think.

I again slept soundly, with rich dreams (I was on a bus in Rockaway and saw Grandma Sylvia), not getting up till 8 AM.

For this week I’ve set the alarm at 7:30 AM, which should give me enough time to get to school for my 9:10 AM classes the next three days.

On Thursday and Friday, with Baldwin away, I don’t have to go to school until the afternoon.

Today I managed to read most of the Sunday Times, go shopping at Albertsons, go to the public library (where I borrowed two books on negotiation and got a list of four little magazines to send “Dateline: Monrovia” to), and write out 14 postcards requesting information on LL.M. programs.

Mom phoned last evening. She said Marc and Clarissa had taken China for the night so she had a “vacation.” I hadn’t been aware that Marc and Clarissa were seeing each other again, but I’m not surprised.

As usual, Mom complained about Jason, but told me something interesting: Last evening he went to a skating rink with other teens, and there they were locked in until 7 AM the next morning.

Apparently these kids want to be locked up all night to party. The parents have to sign their approval and the rink provides adult supervision and says no alcohol, drugs or guns are allowed.

Mom was upset by the latest murder of a German tourist in Miami. As is typical in these tourist murders, his rental car was bumped, and he didn’t stop – which is what tourists are told to do – but he still got blown away despite that.

Tuesday, September 14, 1993

4:30 PM. I just got home in a light rain. My Triavil prescription didn’t come in today’s mail, so I’m sending out a letter and another check to Deutsch Drugs tomorrow.

One reason I’m not in the greatest mood is that Aileen and I were unable in an hour to conclude our negotiations with an agreement on splitting the law firms’ contingent fee.

Perhaps I misunderstood my instructions, but it seemed as if I didn’t have authorization to go below a figure she wasn’t authorized to accept without additional concessions.

We approached it as problem-solvers and were cooperative, but there were so many other issues that it would have taken us extra time to come to an agreement and we were told not to go over an hour.

This evening at Santa Fe, we had a decent class on “Bartleby” although I ran out of stuff to say at 9:15 PM. Probably my students didn’t mind getting out early.

I’ve lost a few who haven’t come in since the first night, but that means fewer papers to grade.

In tomorrow evening’s class, I get my first batch of essays, and the real work (the non-fun part) of teaching this term begins.

Last night I finished another little book on the Yanomami, and today I begin reading an as-told-to narrative by a white woman who was kidnapped by them when she was a little girl.

At school at 8:30 AM, I hung out before my first class.

In International Law, Nagan used the word quixotic a lot in his lecture today, and a young woman raised her hand and asked what it meant. I snickered silently, but Karin told me she had never heard the word before, either.

I’m surprised that law students wouldn’t have come across quixotic, but then again I forget how much I’ve read compared to other people.

In the library after lunch, Julie F asked me if I ever thought of going on Jeopardy because I seem to know so much. This term she’s taking seven classes and will graduate in December. She likes Probert’s Humor seminar a great deal.

Lee came over and told me that Dolan is getting worse every day in Employment Discrimination and doesn’t seem to have a grasp of the material at all.

“I expect one day she’ll just start crying,” Lee remarked. I’m glad I dropped the class.

I chatted with Larry before I went to Negotiation. He’s taking a lot of classes in land use this semester, so I guess he plans to go into that field.

Dave G told me he’s decided to return home and take the Maryland bar exam when he graduates.

By now, everybody is as concentrated on what they’re going to do after law school as they are on school itself.

In Negotiation, Don showed videos of himself and Peggy from the Civil Clinic negotiating the problem we had, and it demonstrated what happens when one person pursues an adversarial strategy while the other is a problem-solver.

We’re supposed to pick our partner for the major project for the term, but I was too embarrassed to ask anyone because everybody else in the class came into law school together and they have friends in the class.

So I guess whoever is left without a partner will get me. It’s sort of like the last one picked for a softball team. Oh well.

During my break from 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM, I came home, exercised, showered, dressed and had lunch.

Tonight I get to stay home and tomorrow I don’t have Baldwin’s 8 AM class, so I can relax and read the paper.

It’s too bad things couldn’t have worked out in 1993 so that this summer I could have taken an additional class and also taught the English 101 class downtown. Then, instead of having too much free time for four months and too little free time for four months, I could have had a decent schedule.

Wednesday, September 15, 1993

4 PM. I see that Rosh Hashona begins at sundown, but of course I’m planning on going to work at SFCC tonight.

I’ll teach the Crane and Ellison stories and then use the Cisneros to bring in Mondo Barbie. Without any classes tomorrow morning, I can sleep late and prepare for my oral presentation in Legal History at this time tomorrow.

I’m steeped enough in the Yanomami that I can talk for my allotted fifteen minutes.

This morning I was up early and decided to take advantage of not having an 8 AM class. I went to Walmart and bought $60 worth of supplies, which I charged to my Household Visa (my $500 payment cleared) and also to get gas and drop off the new letter to Deutsch at the post office.

At school early, I drank grapefruit juice in the cafeteria at a table by myself, not wanting to intrude on Dwight, who was studying, or Kathy and Sharon, who were engaged in a spirited conversation about job interviews.

I heard Kathy complain about sexist questions, like how she’s been able to support herself since her husband died – as if women can’t provide for themselves.

From everything I’ve heard over the last two years, most interviewers from law firms sound like assholes.

Last night I was thinking that unless you consider adjunct/temporary full-time college teaching as working for your department chair – and I don’t – then I’ve never worked for a boss and had to take all that shit.

My family tradition is to be self-employed, an independent contractor, and I’ve picked up on that. Certainly being a writer means working for oneself.

Nagan was especially lively today as we went over Nuremberg and other cases in International Law.

I stopped off at Publix before coming home. After putting away my groceries, I exercised for 45 minutes. In the afternoon, I read the Times, worked on Lexis, and tried to relax.

I called Teresa, but she was either busy or out. It’s still 90° every afternoon.


10 PM. Even if I don’t have to wake up early tomorrow, I hope I can get to sleep at a reasonable hour.

Driving back home in the rain just now, I noticed drivers flashing their headlights at me, and I realized I couldn’t see any brights although my dashboard was lit up.

When I got home, I saw that only the dims on one side were on, so either I’ve got a short or the lights have just burned out. I’ll take the car into a repair shop on Friday when I’ll mostly be free.

Tonight I had a good class with a look at “Battle Royal,” “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky,” and part of A.M. Homes’s story (before it got too graphic).

I received about a dozen papers, which will make grading them not as bad a chore as if everyone handed them in on time.

The odd thing about the Wednesday class is that they’re mostly male, so I’ve got a lot of students who never talk.

Maybe I need to do something differently. Or maybe they’re happy to be quiet, the way Karin and Ana are during class discussions.

I think I sometimes stammer or trail off into incomprehensibility during class, but I enjoy being in front of a captive audience.

Poor students, I know how they feel. But after being on the other side of the classroom again, I understand this need to do what my own professors do and indulge what Tom calls “teachers’ disease”: I like to have the sense of myself thinking aloud.

Barbara Sloan sent everyone in the department a note about the discussions during the last faculty meeting, and I sent back the form for next semester, asking for one evening class, preferably English 102 again.

I added a note saying I could also take a day section once I find out my schedule in November when we law students pre-register for the spring.

Thursday, September 16, 1993

7 PM. I feel really good tonight. For one thing, my work week is over. I don’t have to go to Legal History tomorrow, and Police Practices is canceled.

Even though I couldn’t fall asleep until after 3 AM, at least I could sleep till 8 AM today.

At school this afternoon, I had a high energy level as I socialized with friends and did a good job on my oral presentation in Legal History.

This morning Tim called and said I could pick up the photos at the liquor store where he works, so I went there and got them, giving him $30 and my thanks, as well as a promise to recommend him.

I put ten of the 5×7’s into a photo mailer I got at Walmart and will send them off to the Miami Book Fair tomorrow.

Back home, I did some aerobics (my back is better) and prepared for my presentation by putting key words down on index cards.

At school at 12:30 PM, I got the papers and went over to chat, first with Mike W, and then with Julie and her friends from APIL.

In the xerox room of the library, I joked around with Shara, who’s been busy with Moot Court, and then I sat down and gabbed with Rich T, who’s always entertaining.

I’m beginning to feel more comfortable in Negotiation. Kevin L asked me to be his partner in the big negotiation, and he seems like a quiet, reliable guy; I know he was Dan M’s partner in Civil Clinic this summer.

I’m getting to know the other people in the class, who razzed me a bit – but good-naturedly – when Aileen and I explained why we didn’t settle. (Neither did four of the twelve groups.) Don showed some interesting clips from our negotiations.

During the break, I joked with Steve F about my upcoming presentation and how I would talk about the Yanomami penis strings.

Next week we’re having our first major negotiation based on a problem with a professor not getting tenure when an academic journal reneges on their agreement to publish his article.

I’m one of four people – we’ll all have partners – who will go from 11:50 AM to 1:50 PM next Thursday because there’s not enough rooms and video equipment for more than three groups simultaneously. But we’ll find out more about that on Tuesday.

Don let us out early, and the thunderstorm that was brewing made me feel energetic.

I talked with Brad, the most hard-driving negotiator in our class, and with Kathy, who said she accepted a part-time job yesterday with a big Gainesville firm. She said the interview was so much nicer than the ones she’d had on campus.

In a few weeks Kathy is going to speak to Sheldon Schlesinger, the personal injury lawyer known for million-dollar settlements. (He was on the Broward Community College board of trustees and had a building on campus named after him.)

Kathy had never considered doing personal injury work before, but Schlesinger is the best in the business – 60 Minutes once did a profile on him – and it would be great to learn from a master.

I walked over to sit with some friends with some friends from first year. Mark R was complaining to Doug G about the twenty-minute length of on-campus interviews.

Before class, I chatted with Javier, noticing that he picked up his Book Award in Civ Pro.

When he found out that he didn’t have to stay today (only last names A-J did), Javier told me he had to go to the post office “because we’re doing a mailing.”

It seemed as if he was making an excuse for missing my report.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said, smiling.

About 30 people were scattered around the room – Judy sat up front – and I went into my talk, not getting to a quarter of the material I had before McCoy said time was up.

But I knew I did a good job. McCoy noted that I brought up dispute resolution and kinship rules, two themes we’ll see again and again.

Cynthia, the transfer student, took up similar topics as she discussed the Salish Indians in her Pacific Northwest, and then two guys did presentations on the !Kung and the Tiv in Africa.

We applauded everyone the way I was applauded, and I lingered after class to talk with some students interested in my topic.

Back home, I had dinner and looked at the mail. UF has a new-style transcript: it’s all on one sheet using blue paper that turns brown and gets covered with the word COPY when it’s xeroxed.

I got my certificate of enrollment so I can extend my student loan deferment.

Also in the mail was a guide to submitting to the Alabama Fiction Review, an on-line publication.

Today was one of those days when I seemed to be centered and in the flow of things. I feel like I’ve got a terrific life, and the truth is, I do – I just don’t realize it enough.

Monday, September 20, 1993

4 PM. I suppose I could feel worse.

I’ve got an itchy nose, watery eyes, and a general feeling of congestion and tiredness, but my throat isn’t sore – although I do have postnasal drip.

Otherwise I’m okay. But I know I’d feel better if I had managed to get to sleep before 3:30 AM last night.

Actually, I fell asleep at 10 PM but woke up half an hour later and had the familiar but frustrating experience of trying everything I could think of to fall asleep, but nothing worked.

I got up at 7 AM and brushed my hair, shaved, threw on a pair of shorts and some sneakers, and went off to school.

In the library, I read the Alligator and saw that they caught the guy who murdered a grad student in her apartment on Saturday. Mom had called last night just after we both had seen this story on our 6 PM local news. But this was an acquaintance murder, not another Danny Rolling serial killer.

In the classified ads, I found what I’m sure is another personal ad from Jody. How many other 24-year-old black gay men are there who have P.O. boxes?

He put in a few ads before the spring term ended, too. I guess he’s still looking for some mythic soulmate. Jody now describes himself as “ambitious” and “muscular” and is looking for a guy of either race, not just a white guy.

I sat downstairs in the library in the comfy chairs with Shay, Jeff H and Michael K, as well as Jason R, who never acknowledges me (but I think he’s just shy, not a snob).

Upstairs, as I figured I would, I saw Javier, but he was studying and I didn’t want to bother him. Besides, I don’t want him to get the idea that I’m pursuing him.

I like having a gay activist friend to talk to, and I do have a little crush on Javier, but I’m not really looking for anything from him but friendship, and I’m not sure he wants even that with me. I can tell he’s not attracted to me.

Besides, now that I’m going to leave Gainesville in less than a year, I’m not going to get involved with anyone romantically. (Moving away is a great excuse to avoid commitment.)

Last night Laura called after spending the weekend – as usual – in Coral Springs with her parents. She hates Gainesville with a passion, even more than Karin does.

But it’s not so bad here, and I know I’ll look back with fondness and nostalgia on my three years in this town. However, I am kind of getting shpilkes.

Maybe all I need is a quick vacation or something. Between my cold and my insomnia and my worry about the mole under my fingernail and my dithering about the future, I feel real messed up psychologically.

Somehow I need to redirect my life and I don’t know what to do next. These crises always resolve themselves, but not without discomfort. I expect the next six months to be difficult emotionally.

In International Law, Nagan went on and on as usual. Karin and Pauline said I should get the hornbook and read that instead of our text.

After getting a couple of rolls of quarters at the bank and some food in Publix, I came home to exercise, shower, read and then lie perfectly still under the covers for an hour.

That made me feel less tired, but I need to close my eyes again. I don’t feel up to teaching tonight, but I have to go. I’ll try to let them out early. At least on Wednesday, I’ll have the class write an essay after their first hour.

After I looked through the NYU grad bulletin, the American Studies doctoral program doesn’t feel right for me. Even if I got a fellowship – which is doubtful – it costs too much money.

If I do decide to remain in school as a last resort, I’m better off at FSU or in an LL.M. program, but right now I feel tired of school.

I definitely need some kind of change in my life, as I feel I’m drifting off-course.

Why do I simultaneously crave new experiences and fear the end of my established, comfortable routines?

Why can’t I commit? To the law, to creative writing, to a person, to a place?

I feel like an article in Cosmopolitan.