A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early November, 1993
by Richard Grayson
Monday, November 1, 1993
4 PM. The week has just begun, and already I feel worn down. I was over at Anoush’s for five hours last evening.
Aileen was there when I arrived at the rented condo not far from here, and Kevin came over soon after I did.
Steve and Darren arrived about half an hour later, giving us the chance to discuss things without them.
Kevin ended up calling our client for our last five minutes with her. Reluctantly, “Martha Greenpiece” agreed that the county would provide free advertising and a tax deferral for the developer.
The other groups had to call their clients two or three times during the course of a very frustrating evening.
Nobody was adversarial or hostile, but it was just so hard to put together a package that all our clients would approve.
For a long time it looked as though we were going to deadlock as we tossed out, chewed on, and threw out (to mix metaphors) a variety of problem-solving schemes and tradeoffs.
Kevin and I were satisfied at about 9 PM, but the other two sides couldn’t resolve their dispute over money. At one point it looked as if we were going to deadlock with them only $3,000 apart.
I felt very tired and I didn’t talk much: Kevin, Darren and Anoush took the leads for their sides.
(I’m beginning to think I may have been wrong about Darren’s being gay; he could be straight and just a little effeminate.)
Anoush put out popcorn and Diet Cokes although Kevin and I didn’t eat or drink anything.
During a short break from negotiating, we talked about how Anoush, Aileen and Steve got soaked in Jacksonville at the Florida/Georgia game on Saturday.
Finally, we managed to convince Darren and Steve that they could go along with the agreement, and after a quick phone call to their client, they said yes.
Anoush – by that time Aileen had left – and Kevin gave me lists of the provisions to include in a tentative draft agreement.
Late this morning I spent an hour grinding one out, and then after discussing it with Kevin (who was home writing his seminar paper for Nagan), I redrafted it during the afternoon.
All of us have gone beyond our authority, so I’m half-convinced at least one of our clients will balk at signing it.
I printed out six copies of the agreement to give to everyone in class tomorrow. They will undoubtedly want to change things or add or delete items, so I expect to be redrafting all tomorrow afternoon.
Kevin said he called our client tonight to make arrangements for what will hopefully be our final face-to-face counseling session sometime on Wednesday.
By the time I got home at 11 PM last night, I was exhausted and cold, but I still couldn’t sleep much because I was too stressed out by the long negotiation.
At least I got some sleep, and early this morning I graded the one paper for tonight’s SFCC class; I’ll be going over A Doll House so I don’t really need to prepare.
It was a cold 32° – right at the freezing line – when I went out at 7:30 AM. At least it’s light out now at that hour.
In fact, I noticed a blue light coming from my front door’s peephole as I walked in the dining area.
For several minutes I moved my head back and forth as it turned to indigo and violet one way and green, yellow, orange and red the other. The sun was hitting the peephole so as to create a rainbow.
Although I put on a long-sleeved shirt, sweater, winter jacket and gloves before leaving the house, when I got to school I still saw fellow students wearing shorts. (Kevin told me he wears long pants only when he needs to for work.)
I chatted with Julie G as we waited for the polls to open in the JMBA runoff vote for president.
Julie went to D.C. for the NAPIL job fair over the weekend and got several job offers from legal service agencies. She’ll probably take the job in in Beckley, West Virginia, because her sister lives nearby and can get her settled easily.
Karin wasn’t in school again, but Ana thought Karin had said she needed to go out of town for a job interview.
Nagan did skip to a new chapter, but he never got up to it today, so hopefully I can do the reading before class tomorrow.
After giving Kenny H my parking space, I came home to exercise. In addition to working on the negotiation agreement, I read most of the Times and other newspapers.
River Phoenix’s death at 23 – he collapsed outside a West Hollywood club – was shocking to Aileen and Ana and me and a lot of students in Gainesville because he lived around here.
“He was too cute to die so young,” Ana said, and I thought about seeing him at the Clinton rally last fall.
I also did some laundry, paid my rent, got rejections in the mail, watched 15 minutes of a soap opera, and lay down with my eyes closed for half an hour.
Tonight I’ll have to put the heat on again. Right now it’s 55° and I’m cold.
Tuesday, November 2, 1993
7 PM. It’s good to be home in the evening. I’d love to be able to fall asleep early and catch up on my rest, but I’ll settle for any kind of dreamtime.
Last evening’s class at SFCC went well as we had a lively discussion of A Doll House.
By 9 PM, we had run out of things to say, however, and the darkness that fell even before I left for school and the unexpected cold made me want to get home early. My students agreed.
I watched the second part of the PBS series on the Great Depression which had wonderful footage of Fiorello LaGuardia and Upton Sinclair.
Both Paul R and Martin asked me who I thought would win the New York City mayor’s race today, and I told them Giuliani unless there’s a very big black turnout.
At school by 7:45 AM, I met Kevin before his Poverty Law class and gave him a copy of the first draft of the agreement and then went to the library, where I began reading the Times and finished my International Law reading.
Nagan droned on again today, and Karin wasn’t there. She called me an hour ago to say her job interview had been postponed for a day, so she’s still in Orlando and will wake up early tomorrow to drive to Gainesville for our 8 AM class.
I told her that Baldwin called me on Friday and advised her what to read in case she’s called on tomorrow.
Karin got the classes she wanted at registration. I’m glad we’ll have one class together in our last term.
Home by 10:30 AM, I exercised and read up on mediation for Don Peters’ class today.
From the cold morning it warmed up to 65°, and I got to school an hour before my class.
At the JMBA office, I picked up the new student directory and congratulated Peter S on his 30-vote win as president. Then I wandered around, trying to finish my reading. (It was too warm to sit in the sun and too cold to sit in the shade.)
Before class, I met Darren, and he went over the agreement, making some changes.
Don showed some videotapes of mediation sessions and briefly discussed the process, which in Florida is mandated in family law and civil cases in the circuit courts.
The six of us in our negotiating group went to Bailey Courtroom after class and worked on changes needed in the agreement.
Because Anoush and Aileen are meeting their client tomorrow but Kevin and I aren’t meeting with our client until Thursday at 10:30 AM, we discussed how we could get the agreement from one group to the next so that all the clients could sign it.
I went home, revised the agreement with the new changes, and printed out fresh copies that I brought to Anoush in the JMBA office, where she was selling Gator Growl and football tickets for Homecoming this weekend.
Then I drove over to Mother Earth and bought some hot cereals before returning home to listen to All Things Considered and eat my Healthy Choice French bread pizza for dinner. (I put lots of cayenne pepper on it so I get that great tingly, spicy feeling – which actually is healthy).
In the mail, I got a note from Bob Karp, treasurer of the Human Rights Council, thanking me for my second contribution and telling me about Sunday’s workshop at the Millhopper library – which I plan to attend.
Justin sent a flyer about his play’s opening in Manhattan tomorrow night. I hope Justin gets his biggest break from this play although I found it a little creaky when I attended the staged reading on Roosevelt Island years ago.
Also in the mail was an application to the Thurber House writer-in-residence position.
Thursday, November 4, 1993
9:30 AM. This ongoing negotiation is the most frustrating experience I’ve had in law school.
It’s the only thing, as far as I know, that’s made me feel physically ill; I’ve got an acid stomach, and usually my stomach can handle anything.
It felt good to be able to teach at Santa Fe last night because I could do something that I had control over.
The class went well. We discussed A Doll House, different schools of literary criticism and tools for literary research, and I eased them into our unit on poetry. I get the feeling my students like and respect me – as I do them.
Back home, I read a big report on part-time community college faculty that Barbara had left in our unit file.
Basically, the report revealed the exploitation of part-timers and suggested various ways to equalize their status.
But I doubt if anyone will do this because education in general is a low priority for state legislators. Voters would rather spend their tax money on prisons.
I slept about six hours: not enough, but at least it was deep sleep.
Baldwin called on Karin today as we began entrapment; she was fine although she probably doesn’t think so. (I know because all last weekend I kept going over every missed answer and hesitation I uttered on Friday.)
After class, I met Kevin. Steve found him yesterday, and Kevin called “Martha Greenpiece” last night. She’ll be in school today but can’t leave Ocala tomorrow, and Kevin has a doctor’s appointment in Orlando.
We spoke to Don, and he wasn’t willing to bend on the penalty assignments but at least he said we could waive our final client counseling session.
At 11:25 AM we’re going to see our client before her Clinic meeting, and I guess we’ll need to get her to sign a paper that gives us the authority to agree to a final deal. Then, at noon, we meet the other parties for negotiation.
While I don’t have any other classes today, I dread this afternoon. Because of this negotiation, I haven’t had time to exercise or read the paper.
Well, I guess either we will reach a deal or we won’t. Either way, it will all be over by tomorrow.
4:30 PM. I went over to meet Kevin and Liz (“Martha”) but they had already seen each other in the cafeteria and he’d gotten her to sign off on a sheet giving us specific authority to settle within certain terms and sign her name to the agreement. (I guess that’s the equivalent of power of attorney.)
We six negotiators met outside. Darren and Steve were in suits (Steve had another interview, Darren had a long mediation session for Don’s other class), and Steve had a cold and said he was dizzy with hunger.
So we pushed two tables together in the cafeteria and began to renegotiate. It was a pain, but we managed to logroll and hammer out a new settlement in about ninety minutes.
I had to call our client when she got back home to Ocala, and the other parties called their clients, too.
Once again I revised the agreement and the press release, working from changes the others made on a copy of the old agreement.
At home, I knocked out some copies of the new agreement and Kevin came over at 3 PM to help me go over the text; then we got on different extensions and called our client for a final conference.
“Martha” seemed to be happy with what we negotiated. Kevin and I signed it, and he took it over to the JMBA office to Anoush, who was there only till 4 PM.
She and Aileen also have a paper allowing them to sign for their client, and now they have to hand it off to Darren and Steve, who need to get their client’s signature. Hopefully, it will get in Don’s mailbox by the deadline tomorrow.
I felt too exhausted and headachy to go to McCoy’s class even if Javier is giving his presentation today. Anyway, I don’t want Javier to think I’m stalking him, and at this point, my crush on him has dissipated. Besides, I need the half-hour of exercise my body is accustomed to.
Now I just have to write a 10-page reaction paper by Monday, and then I’ll have a week to write a 10-page final paper summing up the course. This weekend I also need to grade a dozen papers for Wednesday.
Obviously, I feel better about our Negotiation class now than I did last night or this morning.
Tomorrow is Homecoming, and the university shuts down – except for the law school.
Sunday, November 7, 1993
5:30 PM. I’ve just returned from a two-hour workshop put on by the Human Rights Council at the Millhopper library.
The speakers included the group’s president, Bobby Endress (the local MCC church pastor); Bob Karp, who spoke about the Radical Religious Right’s agenda; Javier, who discussed the statewide campaign on the American Family Association’s proposed amendment (and in other groups’ possible proactive amendment expanding privacy rights); and Kathy Lawhon, who discussed the Alachua County campaign.
Joe Antonelli gave a motivational talk, and then County Commissioner Margaret Eppes elected last year largely on the pro-gay rights issue talked for about fifteen minutes. (She looked like a typical Southern grandmother, indistinguishable from the Baptist ladies against us.)
About 30 people were there – which was about what they’d expected, given the number of chairs in the room.
Javier must have seen me, but he never came over to me before the meeting, and so I didn’t go over to him afterwards.
I’d like to say I felt inspired, but I’m too cynical. Javier with that angelic look of his talked about “winning” the statewide campaign. He used the word “win” or “winning” several times.
But one side, his side, can’t win; it can only not lose.
And given the track record of gay rights votes from Miami in 1977 to Cincinnati last week, I expect gay rights will lose locally and statewide next year.
But of course I didn’t want to say that, and especially not to Javier, who’s going to make this campaign his whole life over the next year.
Maybe if I felt any attachment to Gainesville, I’d get involved, but I’ll be out of this town months before the vote next year, and I don’t want to get involved in this group any more than I got involved in any group at the law school.
Last night I slept soundly, dreaming deliciously for nine hours. In the final dream, I was staying at Teresa’s and being fought over by various men and women in various stages of undress. Just like life, huh?
I wonder: If Javier had shown he was interested in me, would I have been more interested in working with his group? Maybe . . . I’ll admit that.
I’ve come to doubt that he has a boyfriend, and if he did, it would have to be somebody just as engaged in gay activism as he is.
My back was very stiff this morning and only about noontime did I feel slightly better once I began moving around.
I noticed the Sunday Miami Herald had a special section on the Book Fair, but evidently it wasn’t in the state edition.
When I called my parents’ house, Marc answered and he found my name in the list of authors to be appearing. I told him to save the supplement for me.
Marc said his back goes out at times, and he goes for adjustments from his chiropractor friend. If I had health insurance, I’d definitely go to the Shands sports medicine clinic, and I may go anyway if my back keeps hurting me.
I bought Poets & Writers at Goerings when I picked up the Sunday Times. On the magazine’s back cover, there was an ad for Mondo Barbie, a full page, with a photo of Rick and Lucinda, and inside they asked for nonfiction submissions for Mondo Barbie II.
I still have time to grade the eight papers for Wednesday’s class and I want to grade them as carefully as I did their last assignment.
Josh returned the call that I returned that he returned that I made last week: answering machine tag.
Monday, November 8, 1993
11 AM. My disgust with Gainesville has reached a fever pitch this morning. Last night I lay awake thinking about the meeting and Javier and how I still maybe should try to get involved.
When I awoke, however, I was confronted with something some of yesterday’s speakers discussed: the daily progress report on the AFA amendment on the local news cut-in on the NPR station.
The station’s news director is a member of the born-again Baptist church that’s part of the AFA campaign, and WRUF keeps subtly pushing it.
Furious, I called the station to complain, but they put me on hold, so I hung up and wrote them a postcard. I’m glad I never contributed any money to them.
Then, I go to school, and in the library I open the Alligator only to see a column headline, “Homosexuality Is Not Normal,” in which one of their three white-boy columnists sounded oh-so-reasonable (“Most homosexuals are great people, but…”).
I flung the paper away and began reading the New York Times.
When Javier came in, he gave me one of his half-nods of recognition, and I motioned to him to come over.
First, I told him it was a good meeting yesterday, and then I told him about my complaint to the station.
I couldn’t help adding, “I wish they wouldn’t even break into NPR with that local news because it just reminds me I’m in Gainesville.”
“I know you like it here and this is your home,” I said, “but this is not my home and I just want to live someplace normal like New York again.”
He walked away. We can never be friends, I’m sure – much less anything more than that.
I know life in New York City and other big Northern cities is harsh in many ways, but on the other hand, there I don’t have to put up with these constant assaults on gay people.
Yesterday Joe Antonelli said not to let ourselves get angry, but so far I haven’t been able to help it.
If I became active against the anti-gay campaign, it would just sap my energy and spirit because they can’t win.
I’ve become a little scared, after being in the warm cocoon of security here, about moving on. But I’ve paid a price for living in Gainesville and I’m totally sick of the place.
I was glad to be able to talk to Laura this morning because she hates this town with a passion.
Yes, I know: I’m the kind of complainer who will always find fault with the place he lives – but I’ve had enough of this daily dose of hatred from the local media. I need to ignore it.
What makes me crazy is that people here – Javier – treat this kind of bigotry as normal.
“Gainesville Is Not Normal” is the headline on a column I could write. I’m so fed up.
Nagan was incredibly boring this morning. Thank God there are only a few of his interminable lectures left to go.
Wednesday, November 10, 1993
10 PM. I’m tired, but tomorrow is a holiday, and I’m enjoying the anticipation of it; I have only one class over the next four days.
Last evening I read and then found the Gore/Perot NAFTA debate on Larry King was being carried on an AM radio station, so I listened to that silliness.
Perot came off as petty and grouchy, but Gore didn’t give many more facts even if he’s less obnoxious.
Josh and I finally hooked up after all that telephone tag. As usual, in response to my “What’s going on?” Josh said, “Nothing.”
So we talked about topical issues (he’s against NAFTA and voted for Giuliani – no surprise) and my life.
Josh always manages to surprise me by being surprised when I talk about my plans or lack of them. I have no idea what the state of his paranoia is, and I guess I’m grateful for that.
It was chilly when I went out this morning. Baldwin went over the first confession/self-incrimination cases of the 1960s, Massiah and Escobedo; next we come to the Miranda revolution.
I came home and exercised lightly and carefully; at this point I feel like I’ve got just a regular back ache.
Then I got under my quilt in the front room for 90 minutes; by then it was raining hard and it seemed like the thing to do.
After reading the paper, I returned to school at 1 PM. In Negotiation, we got our papers back (I got a good grade) and discussed the ongoing negotiation.
Our class is really tight by this part of the term because so many of us have worked together intensely, and we had a good discussion for the first hour.
Kevin, Steve and Darren were really impressed with my newspaper clippings yesterday, and that makes me feel good even though I knew they liked me anyway.
In Bailey Courtroom for the second hour of class, we were supposed to meet our clients, but only Allison Flournoy and three of her students showed up – including Dionne and Gena (who played Anoush and Aileen’s client). Still, their comments on our negotiation were interesting.
Back home, I got that Miami Herald section on the Book Fair. If I had seen it on Sunday, it would have cheered me up.
I’m listed on the pages among best-selling authors like Stephen King, Anne Rice and Dave Barry; literary stars; and my well-known contemporaries like Mark Leyner, Donna Tartt and Brad Gooch.
Rick sent a postcard that mentioned the Manhattan readings for Mondo Barbie, the notice in The New Yorker, and Ira Silverberg (who did that High Risk anthology).
Rick is coming down for the Book Fair on Amtrak next Thursday and Friday. I called Amtrak to see if I could pick him up in Waldo, but the train doesn’t come until 2 PM on Friday and I want to leave in Gainesville in the morning.
I guess Rick really doesn’t like to fly.
Next week St. Martin’s is shipping Mondo Elvis to stores all over the country; Rick said it has a “dynamite” cover.
He’s now reading for Mondo James Dean (first I heard of that – maybe I can come up with something) and Mondo Barbie II, which will be real-life stories.
It was nice to show my class tonight the Miami Book Fair schedule. I always remember how Lucy Calkins used to say how good teachers made a student feel like an “insider” in a field, and I think I can show them the inside of literature from a writer’s perspective.
My bio in the Book Fair supplement is kind of embarrassing when you compare it with people I consider “real” writers – although at least one Broward Community College English teacher (Barbara) is also reading.
Anyway, I hope I can see some of the authors there and not feel like I’m a nobody. I sort of like the idea that I’m just good enough to be on the fringes of authordom. At 42, I’m reconciled to not ever being successful in society’s eyes, but I feel I’ve achieved something just with what little I’ve already done.
Also, I compensated with stuff like going to law school and doing my little publicity stunts. I’ve had an interesting life and career.
Tonight I had a good class going over poetry at Santa Fe. My tentative assignment for this spring is just what I wanted: English 102 downtown on Saturday afternoons. Hopefully the class will register.
There’s also an open section of Western Literature II downtown on Monday nights, but I can’t volunteer to teach it because my Computers and the Law seminar won’t end till 6:20 PM and I wouldn’t have enough time.
No, it’s better to have just the one class on a weekend, especially since I’ll have Fridays off from law school.
The cat came in with me tonight when I got home, but I didn’t have anything for it to eat.
Tomorrow I can sleep late if I feel like it. I love veterans.