A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early December, 1993

by Richard Grayson

Thursday, December 2, 1993

4 PM. I’ve just been sitting outside for the last half-hour, reading a couple of Lexis cases for Police Practices.

I’m spending way too much time on the International Law exam. I spent several hours on the draft of another question today and feel I have so much left to say.

But I know that the amount of time one spends on a take-home final doesn’t correlate with a good grade, and I suspect Nagan might even penalize me for trying to be creative when he prefers to have his own class notes regurgitated back in sanitized form.

Although I know I write well, I don’t know if I’m giving Nagan what he wants. I’ll work on it more tonight and tomorrow, but all I’d like to do on the weekend is some polishing.

I need the time to study for Baldwin’s final, especially when I’ve got grading to do for Monday and I need to plan what I’m going to do in class that night.

Last night’s class at SFCC went okay. I got there early, trying to fend off Tamarsha’s chatter.

– Interruption: Mom just phoned me from the cellular phone in her rental car as Marc was driving from Flatbush Avenue onto the Belt Parkway.

They rushed to the cemetery from Newark Airport, thinking the funeral was scheduled for 1:30 PM, but it was at 2 PM, so they had plenty of time.

Mom said that very few people were there: her cousins Suzi and Lynn with Uncle Sidney, Aunt Minnie (Tillie is recovering from cataract surgery), and her cousins Phyllis and Barbara, in addition to the immediate family.

Mom wanted to ask me some questions relating to the Rockaway apartment because Marty asked her to pay half the expenses of the funeral – supposedly $5,300 – and stated he’d paid rent on the Rockaway apartment for three years “because it was the only shred of dignity Grandma had left.”

That’s patently ridiculous. Grandma constantly told me she badgered Marty to give up the apartment and couldn’t understand why he didn’t.

Clearly, Grandma had no use for it; I was always surprised how unsentimental she was about it, and when I offered to take her for a visit when Teresa lent me her car in May ‘91, Grandma said she had no interest in seeing the place.

While I’m glad that I was able to stay there, Marty didn’t claim he was keeping it for me. I suspect Marty and Arlyne were probably hoping the Mitchell-Lama co-op would go condo, or else they were just slothful.

That family are all creeps. Jeff never acknowledged my sending him Grandpa Herb’s ring, and on Lexis I saw a tirade Wendy wrote in the Los Angeles Times letters to the editor, complaining about taxes being so high and how unfair it was to take the money of the hard-working people and give it to inner-city welfare slobs.

Grandpa Herb, who was a Eugene V. Debs socialist, would be ashamed – but I remember that Wendy, as a child, greedily argued against the progressive income tax. The Sarretts are all so mercenary.

Anyway, I told Mom to forget about it; she doesn’t have to have anything to do with Marty anymore, and if he wants money from her, let him sue her. I will gladly take the case. I’m relieved that I wasn’t at the funeral to hear all this talk about money.

At 7:30 AM, when I went to get my copy of the New York Times and turned to the obituary page I saw “Sarrett, Ethel” listed in the death notices (she was the first S) and my short “I’ll miss you – Richard Grayson” printed.

Perhaps if I were more selfless, I wouldn’t have signed my whole name. I have to admit I like seeing my name in print and I wanted to get my message in without identifying myself as her grandson – partly because Grandma was also my friend.

It makes me a little creepy to think the Sarretts have all my cards and letters to Grandma – anyway, they would have gotten them when they picked up Grandma’s things in Woodmere  – including the Thanksgiving card she never received.

But I don’t need anything at all to help me remember Grandma.

– Anyway, last night we went over poems, and after class I drove to the UF campus to see the dimming of the Century Tower and join the candlelight vigil in memory of those who died of AIDS.

I stayed up till midnight, and after I fetched the Times this morning, I worked on school stuff, going out only for some air just now and for a drive to the post office to buy the new AIDS Awareness stamps.

Monday, December 6, 1993

4:30 PM. I just finished reading my Police Practices notes. I began going over them this morning, and of course I’ll go over them twice more – tomorrow and on Wednesday.

In some respects, the course makes more sense when I look at it in totality, but in other ways, the details just become more confusing. It’s as if the general picture is now in clearer focus but the specifics are blurry.

Oh well. I know I’m not alone in finding this material difficult conceptually. I do find it fascinating and I’m actually looking forward to testing my analytical skills on Baldwin’s questions.

Last evening I didn’t do much more work after I spent an hour reading the briefs in a case Baldwin mentioned: the oral arguments were a year ago, but the defendant died after that, and the case was declared moot by the Supreme Court. Right now I can’t remember much about what I read, though.

Laura C called. She just returned from Coral Springs on Friday for a final the next day and plans to leave after her last exam on Thursday.

Next semester she’ll be here only three days a week again, and she dropped her Federal Criminal Prosecutor Clinic – a great opportunity – because she didn’t want to be here on weekends.

(Karin told me Laura has no work experience and could have really used the clinic job.)

Laura said I should come with her to Dan R’s graduation party the following week when she’ll return to Gainesville just for that. Laura, by the way, sent me a Chanukah card; I had no idea the holiday was coming up soon.

I called Dad, who returned from his week in San Juan. He’d just spoken to Irv Littman, who said he and Mavis were robbed at gunpoint by two teenagers just outside their dentist’s office on NE 125th Street in North Miami. (Aunt Sydelle uses the same dentist.)

Yesterday I was pleased to see that Mondo Barbie made the Notable Books of 1993 list in the Christmas issue of the New York Times Book Review.

After breakfast, I went to school and met Ana downstairs. Together we walked up to the third floor to hand in Nagan’s final (she said she spent “an obscene amount of time on it,” too).

That done, Ana went to see if Professor Nunn was in because she wanted to find out if his wife had their baby yet.

I came home, and except for a brief look at the headlines and my usual exercise and shower, I studied till 1PM.

Then I went back to the law library, saying hi to Martin, Steve F and Laura V, who were studying together outside, and to Lee, studying for Dolan’s Employment Discrimination final.

While printing out Police Practices cases on Lexis, I graded my students’ poetry journals, which were pretty good; however, most of the students who handed them in early were my best writers.

I also chatted with Mark M and said hi to Kenny H and Doug K, who were heading off campus to have lunch.

In the mail I got some applications for jobs at community colleges in California and Texas. I’ve got a lot of applying to do over my “vacation.”

I prepared the manuscript of stories to enter the West Side Y/Writer’s Voice Capricorn Fiction Award for writers over 40.

Why not try everything I can? At least I can look forward to a lot of rejections in my mailbox.

Tuesday, December 7, 1993

9 PM. Last evening I left early for Santa Fe because I had to pick up the tape player myself. But I didn’t have any trouble with it, and I had a pretty good class as we listened to poems from the tapes that came with the text.

We heard Robert Frost read “Mending Wall” and “Birches,” Robert Lowell read (and explain) “Skunk Hour,” Dylan Thomas read “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” Dorothy Parker read “One Perfect Rose,” and nameless actors read Byron, Shakespeare, Keats, Browning, Blake, etc.

Next week is their final, and it’s from 8 PM to 10 PM.

I didn’t feel like going home right away, so I did my grocery shopping at Publix. Then I stayed up for hours, reading the newspaper and other stuff. But I couldn’t face Police Practices again.

Today I went over my notes, starting at 10 AM in bed and finishing up at 5 PM sitting outside by the pool, when I began to feel chilly even in a long-sleeved shirt.

This week it’s been cool, although not cold, and as usual, the difference between the morning low and the afternoon high means a person really has to dress twice.

In today’s news, I learned that the ACLU and gay rights groups have filed briefs arguing against the American Family Association anti-gay amendment before the Florida Supreme Court.

Oral arguments are on January 7, and I think they’ve got a good chance to show the amendment is misleadingly labeled and would affect so many laws that it breaks the rule limiting initiatives to one subject.

Maybe I’m wrong, but the Florida Supreme Court just might do everyone a favor by taking it out of the voters’ hands and forcing the AFA to use language that will make them show the amendment is directed against one particular group.

In that dumb Texas county, the local commission re-voted and will now allow Apple Computer to build a plant there despite the company’s same-sex couples benefits to employees. I’m disappointed that Apple didn’t just say, “To hell with you,” and go to a more liberal place.

I don’t know if I can take another year of living in the Bible Belt.

I went to school at noon to fetch papers and print out some more cases for Baldwin’s final exam. After spending the last hour reading three of them, I despair of ever having the analytical skills to frame the issues so clearly and discuss them so logically.

(Of course, most of these decisions reversed boneheaded blunders by trial judges rejecting motions to suppress.)

The only person I chatted with all day was Greg G, who’s always seemed standoffish; on the other hand, we don’t have much in common. Anyway, he was quite pleasant today.

Tonight I’ll read the last of the cases from Lexis tonight, and tomorrow I’ll go over my notes a third time and look through the Search and Seizure Checklist.

Today is Pearl Harbor Day. Two years ago it was the 50th anniversary, a Saturday: I watched Bush speak in Hawaii and went off to take Davis’s Contracts I final at 2 PM. That was only my second exam in law school.

Two years later, I feel so much more jaded about my legal education, of course – which is how you’re supposed to feel.

Until I got through all my final exams that first semester, I wasn’t sure that I’d ever finish law school.

But I also remember that even after my first exam, I took out the catalog and began thinking about what electives I could take in my second and third years.

There will be a whole new crop of first-year students here in January. I think that this fall’s group, the first under the new curriculum, has it easy compared to us: just three final exams instead of five, and they get two credits, not one, for Legal Research and Writing and Appellate Advocacy.

Why is it that, having gone through an ordeal, we want the next group to experience the same torture?

Thursday, December 9, 1993

4:30 PM. I had forgotten how hard it can be to come down to earth after a law school exam.

My handwriting is shaky now because I just had a hard workout and I’m a little in need of food. Oh well, I just sipped some grapefruit juice and I should eat dinner in a bit.

I never got to go over my notes again, but it would not have helped. Early this morning, though, I decided to go on Lexis and reacquaint myself with the Green case, the one declared moot when the defendant died after Supreme Court oral arguments.

That turned out to be the second question on the exam, worth 40%, and the case was clear in my memory bank.

I’m sure it will impress Baldwin that I knew the actual case although I think I only did about average on the first question, which was loaded with facts that I tried to analyze in an organized, logically coherent fashion but which got away from me as I became pressed for time.

I did tell the gang about the Green case before the test, and afterwards Steve F said, “You were right.”

However, I also put in a lot of ideas that probably didn’t belong – I should have quit before I was ahead – and although early this morning Martin announced that I’d probably get the book award, I doubt it.

“I’d be happy with a B,” I told him, but I really hope that I wrote a B+ paper and my classwork will bring me up to an A.

What the hell, even if I have a 3.0 GPA in the three courses I’ll be graded on, my overall GPA will still be close to the top tenth of my class. (I’d have to pull a hat trick to get my overall GPA into “high honors” territory.)

But if there were an award to the student who went to the bathroom most often during the exam, I’d be a shoo-in. Knowing my bladder, I took the exam in the classroom closest to the men’s room and sat closest to the door.

I finished the test just after Martin, with about 15 minutes to spare.

Baldwin told us that he had a great trip to Bangkok, “but it’s really a city one should go without one’s wife.” He’s going to Uganda after Christmas.

Anyway, we chattered about the exam afterwards, and I wished Bob, Donna, Steve, Martin, Karin, Jack and Ken K a good holiday before coming home.

Okay, the first thing I did when I got here was to check Lexis to see if I made the right arguments on the second question. (By and large, I did.)

Last evening I let my SFCC class out at 8:30 PM after we listened to some poems on tape; I told them I’d enjoyed this semester, and I really had.

Although I’ve got a lot of papers to grade, I can grade the Wednesday classes during the two hours of Monday evening’s exam, so really, all I have are a dozen papers to do by Monday – plus I have to make up the final essay question.

Today – right now, in fact – they’re giving me English 101 exam, and I’m glad I don’t have to do holistic grading this term. Teaching English 102, I have so much more freedom, especially because I teach at night.

I couldn’t get to sleep till after 2 AM and I slept only about four hours. (In one dream, Javier and I were roommates.)

On the radio this morning, I heard that only three dozen people had showed up for the Human Rights Council town meeting last night, but of course that isn’t my fault.

After eating lunch, I had shpilkes, so I drove back to school to find people to talk with – mostly Dwight, stationed at the library reserve desk – and I sold my books back to UBS for $19.

In the mail I got the invoice from the Times for last week’s death notice. It cost me nearly $78 for the ad, but Grandma Ethel is worth it. I’m particularly pleased that I, who can’t keep things quiet, didn’t tell a soul about the Times notice.

I haven’t read today’s newspaper, yesterday’s, or the Science section from Tuesday. There’s so much I need to do, beginning with my Legal History paper on the Yanomamo, but I need time before I can even make a list of the stuff I plan to accomplish.