A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early February, 1994
by Richard Grayson
Tuesday, February 1, 1994
8 PM. Last night I read for class and then looked at my mail. I had difficulty falling asleep and was still awake at 2 AM.
Huh – a plane is passing over now. It’s rare that I hear the sound of an airplane in Gainesville (and I almost never see them).
I forced myself to get out of bed at 7:30 AM so I’d be able to eat and then wait an hour before I could exercise and still have half an hour before I left for school. Tomorrow I’ve got more wiggle room because my first class is at 11:30 AM.
My morning classes were interesting. Rosalie showed us some things about Lexis and Westlaw that last week’s labs didn’t go over, and she was very helpful – although as Dionne and Sharon said, it’s heartening to see that Rosalie makes errors, too. She’s such a sweet lady, and I really like our class.
Women and the Law began to get more exciting as we broke up into small groups to discuss the readings on essentialism and heterosexism.
I promised myself I wouldn’t say anything today because I hogged Friday’s discussion, but it was hard to restrain myself.
Greg reported for his group, and he seemed to unleash a wave of annoyance with the readings. As people become more open, they feel more like criticizing what they perceive as male-bashing or female-bashing and the idea that if you don’t agree with this or that author, you’re not a true feminist or have a false consciousness.
Although the discussion has just begun, it’s already fascinating. Pauline addressed the issue of why black women feel alienated or sit apart from the feminist movement.
I could definitely use this week to come out, and I may, if the discussion goes where it will be important to do it.
But what bothers me is becoming the class’s spokesman for gay and bisexual men. I can relate to the way Pauline must feel when racial issues come up in class.
It’s weird: I think of one of Philip Roth novels, where the Roth-like protagonist’s father tells him, “If you ever forget you’re a Jew, a gentile will remind you.”
It’s easy to forget you’re white. It’s easy to forget you’re male. It’s easy to forget you’re heterosexual – or middle class – or whatever the “norm,” whatever the majority, is.
Just about now the hateful, Khalid Abdul Muhammad is speaking at the kickoff of Black History Month at UF. “Oppose Anti-Semitism, Bigotry and Hate” posters popped up today, and the Anti-Defamation League had a full-page ad in the Alligator, the same one they ran in the New York Times, with excerpts from Muhammad’s Kean College speech.
His anti-Semitism is only one of his objectionable hatreds, but he’s as open a Jew-hater as I’ve ever heard outside of the Nazis or clan.
Well, we’ll see: maybe he’ll moderate his tone tonight when his subject is supposed to be black history.
Jewish students and others are planning a silent peaceful protest outside the auditorium.
The Alligator editorial was even more stupid than usual, saying that they’d never heard any other speaker so criticized before people had a chance to hear him out, and after all, white students brought Dan Quayle and former Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates to speak on campus.
I gave Min the notes I’d xeroxed – yes, I know, I’m committing genericide on a trademark – when he was out sick last week. (It’s the least I could do because I might have given him my cold.)
Intellectual Property went slowly today, and I was bored – but I was the only one in the class who the name Larry Harmon meant anything to. Raising my hand, I said, “He was Bozo the Clown and he’s very litigious.”
Thursday, February 3, 1994
7 PM. I’m so glad law school classes are over for the week, as I feel exhausted.
Again last night I didn’t get enough sleep, partly because the cat knocked (or whatever she does to let me know she’s here) at the door at 11:30 PM, and it was so cold out that I couldn’t not let her in.
A few hours later I sensed she wanted to go out, but she soon came back – probably because she went to the bathroom and then didn’t want to stay out in the 25° cold.
This time, for the first time, she hopped on my bed and fell asleep on the down comforter.
She’s a big cat and she lay crosswise, so I was slightly uncomfortable, but there was something nice about being in bed with a warm living thing – which I haven’t experienced since that (also) nearly sleepless night with Jody nearly a year ago.
I didn’t have the heart to send the cat out until I had to return to school for my afternoon classes, and I hated to use the electric broom to scare her away.
I think I’ll finally buy some kitty litter, so I don’t have to worry about her soiling the apartment.
When I got home a couple of hours ago, I saw her on the porch of the Dutch exchange students, and I expect to hear from her before another cold night is out.
For the first time I’ve fallen behind in my classes. I did such a half-assed job on the assignment that Rosalie gave us using USC, USCA and USCS that I felt embarrassed turning it in.
And I was one case behind where Hunt stopped today in a class that was excruciatingly boring: he plodded along with the text, and the room was so overheated that everyone was falling asleep.
I probably should have come out in Dowd’s class today, but after volunteering to lead off the discussion with a comment on stereotypes of black women, I didn’t say anything when the class later turned to homosexuality.
Dowd told the class her experience of being the only straight speaker at that 1991 gay rights rally that I attended.
I felt disappointed. Evidently Dowd is not gay, as our first-year rumor mill had it, and as I had assumed.
When Dowd said there are obviously gay people in our class, I didn’t feel like going to be the only one to talk about my orientation, mostly because of what the first one to speak on the topic said.
She was from Key West, a gay mecca, and she said what irked her was that most people think that gay people are nothing more than their sexuality.
The stereotypes about Jews are being featured in the ongoing debate about Khalid Muhammad – whom Farrakhan fired today, denouncing his aide’s tone but using the same old myths about Jewish conspiracies.
I had a long talk with Marsha, who was very upset about a discussion in Nunn’s Race Relations class.
Marsha participated in the demonstration before the rally but wouldn’t go to hear Muhammad, for the exact same reason I turn off the TV when speakers I know to be homophobic come on: Why upset yourself by listening?
When Marsha talked about her feelings in Nunn’s class, he and the black students told her she was being unreasonable, that they could separate the good in his message from the bad, etc.
Marsha felt attacked, and nobody defended her although Lisa Stewart came up to her after class and expressed sympathy.
Yesterday the Times had a letter from an African-American who’d heard Muhammad speak at Kean College, and the writer said he had called Spike Lee “Spook Lee” and referred to Mayors Dinkins and Bradley as “Stinkin’ Dinkins” and “Uncle Tom Bradley.”
That’s what I’d expect from somebody who refers to “Jew York City” and “Columbia Jewniversity.”
I’ve always thought Jews were too quick to see anti-Semites lurking everywhere, but I’m now sensing – in skinhead attacks, in Zhirinovsky’s rise in Russia, in the garbage from Khalid Muhammad – a rise in anti-Semitism that is one indication that a scary worldwide fascist movement is gaining strength.
Of course African-American anti-Semitism has little effect on Jews: because of racism, blacks aren’t in a position of power to deny Jews jobs, housing, etc.
But it seems as though anti-Semitism is close to becoming an acceptable part of discourse.
I did see a positive story on ABC News about what happened when some skinheads (still at large) threw a cinder block through the window of a Jewish child’s bedroom in Billings, Montana, because it had a Chanukah menorah decoration.
Many of the town’s Christians responded by putting pictures of menorahs in the windows of their homes and churches and Catholic schools.
Of course, that led to about 65 more broken windows. Oh well.
I’ve been reworking a story, “Suspicious Caucasians,” which is either extremely funny or very stupid; it’s a lot of whimsical word play, and if I’m the only one who enjoys it, so be it.
Rachel told me she can’t find a job for anything, “and I went to law school so that I could get a job that an A.B. from Princeton couldn’t get me.”
I spoke to Rich T, who loves being in the Criminal Clinic and representing criminal defendants. Rich got sick at the end of last term and still hasn’t taken his finals. I don’t know what’s wrong with him, but his obesity can’t help.
Erasmus had another good class today – but I’m nowhere ready to take his exam on Thursday.
Saturday, February 5, 1994
7 PM. Yesterday’s black mood faded after a good night’s sleep. Instead of watching TV last evening, I read the Times and then my Women and the Law text, a section on the construction of female sexuality.
After one reading, the “Notes on Female Orgasms” contained this question: “Would you support legislation requiring major movie production companies to show simultaneous orgasms in only a realistic proportion of sex scenes?” I’d love to run for the U.S. Senate on such a platform. (A later question for the reader was: “Have you ever ‘faked’ an orgasm?”)
Today was a mild, sunny day, and it looks as if real Florida weather will be here all week, with temperatures in the 70°s.
The cat came in and stayed in the apartment around the same time she was here yesterday, from 7:30 AM to 4 PM. I don’t mind her being here while I’m gone.
While exercising early this morning, I downloaded citations from Westlaw and Lexis on my seminar topic.
Since I returned from teaching at SFCC, I’ve been editing the citations and now I have a rough bibliography. Still, I have a good deal more to do before I can hand it in to Taylor on Monday.
Ivana picked me up at 11:40 AM, just ten minutes after she called.
Our arrangement reminds of the old TV show Our Miss Brooks, in which Eve Arden as a high school English teacher was picked up every day before school by her student Walter Denton, played by a very young Richard Crenna.
In class, I began by giving back and collecting essays. I talked about the CLAST exam and the writing process, and answered students’ questions about my comments on their essays.
Then we discussed Crane’s “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” and Hemingway’s “Coming Home,” stories I used to teach in English 12 at LIU in the ’70s.
I let the class go a little after 2 PM. It amazes me sometimes how bad some of the other part-time instructors at Santa Fe are.
Zohreh’s English 101 teacher told her to use the present tense even when discussing people who were dead.
Thus, Zohreh’s CLAST essay on Martin Luther King Jr. referred to him as if he were still alive. When reading it, I couldn’t understand she had constructed it so awkwardly.
She told me she’d argued with her teacher that it wasn’t logical, but he told that she had to write in the present tense if she wanted to pass the course, so that’s what she did. He gave her an A.
I told Zohreh she was smarter about writing in English than her former teacher and that if she just followed her instincts, she would get another A from me.
On the way home, Ivana told me it’s scary how inferior American humanities education is to what European students experience.
When I got home, I ate a little, did my work for Rosalie’s class on the computer, exercised and read the Times.
Yesterday the Fed raised the fed funds rate for the first time in five years, and the Dow fell nearly 100 points.
Nobody sees any inflation on the horizon, but apparently the Fed is now worried about economic growth getting out of hand.
I guess it turned out that I actually did wait out the worst three years of the downturn in law school.
Although California and the Northeast are still in pretty bad shape, it appears that the worst of the recession is over everywhere. The problem is all these lost jobs in manufacturing and other industries are never coming back.
Monday, February 7, 1994
7:30 PM. Last evening I worked on my Computer Law bibliography for at least two hours. Then I got to bed late and woke up early, after a light and unsatisfying night’s sleep.
This morning I continued to work on my bibliography and then noticed we were supposed to have an outline, too.
After printing out law review articles for 90 minutes, I got frustrated because I can’t find a lot of what I needed.
As usual, I forced myself to exercise, and I found time to read the Times this afternoon.
I haven’t studied at all for Erasmus’s South African Law exam, nor have I done any reading for Intellectual Property or Advanced Legal Research. I’ve never gotten this far behind in my reading.
When I left the house at 3 PM – I didn’t need to use the electric broom treatment on the cat, who took a hint and left with me – I picked up a huge batch of mail.
Most of it was from colleges where I’ve applied for jobs which were sending applications or telling me that they needed more stuff from me.
The Atlantic rejected “In the Sixties,” and from LIU, Ken Bernard sent a xerox on the entry on me from Richard Kostelanetz’s new Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes:
“In the late 1970s Grayson was the most prolific and interesting young fiction writer in America, and publishing in a variety of magazines. . . Two qualities distinguishing his work were weighty sentences and the appearance of names similar to those of real people, including himself. Intentionally confusing fiction with reality, he acted out the fiction of running for president, issuing press releases that were picked up by big newspapers. . . I use the past tense in talking about Grayson here, not because he has passed, but because he published less and less through the 1980s, until, at last report, he was getting a law degree. Essays and perhaps books will no doubt be written accounting for the premature disappearance of such a prodigal talent from contemporary literature.”
That’s followed by a listing for I Brake for Delmore Schwartz with its publication date.
What a has-been!
Unfortunately, Kosti was one of the few critics to take me seriously, and I, for one, doubt that any books – and not even one single essay – will be written about my “premature disappearance.”
It’s hard not to be both upset and flattered at the same time.
Going back to what I wrote yesterday, I hate it when people think I failed as a writer or just gave up. Did I? If I’d just kept turning out stories in little magazines, would something different have happened?
What did make me stop writing fiction? Had I written myself out – or into a corner? Was I unable to adjust to being an adult?
Or had I wised up and concentrated on more satisfying pursuits when I realized my books were never going to make me into a well-known writer and I tired of repeating myself – or ran out of ideas?
I doubt that anyone but Richard Kostelanetz ever thought I was the most interesting young fiction writer in America.
Well, there’s me, of course – but I changed my mind when I saw that so many people believed otherwise. Sigh.
I read my mail as I walked to school, and when I got on campus, I handed in my paper to Dowd’s secretary. I got an A on last week’s paper.
Then I sat outside with Min, Dwight, Laura V, Denise and others I don’t see very often.
In Computer Law, Taylor didn’t even ask us for our outlines, though I plan to have a conference with her soon.
Our guests were with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Information Systems Management Division, including a special agent for FDLE who set up and runs the Computer Evidence Recovery Unit.
They talked about all the databases on crimes and criminals and went over all manner of computer crimes, from fraud to child pornography, and explained how they get evidence from seized computers.
It was a mild, sunny day, but I was indoors mostly.
Tuesday, February 8, 1994
7 PM. Last evening I spent an hour studying my South African Law notes and an hour reading for today’s Legal Research class on citators. I also managed to complete a couple of job applications to colleges.
Although I slept okay, I still could have used more rest. At 9 AM, I debated whether I’d be better off staying in bed for the next half hour or exercising, and exercising won.
Today was the most beautiful day of the winter. It was sunny and over 80°, so I could wear shorts to school in the afternoon. Knowing New York City had a foot of snow today also makes me feel better.
Because the First District Court of Appeal is sitting in Bailey Courtroom this week, our Legal Research class met in the room where I have Dowd’s class immediately afterward.
Rosalie tried to get a lot of information crammed into one session, and she gave us a Shepardizing assignment for next week.
On Thursday we’ll have a lab on Westcheck, the software package from Westlaw that automatically does citations; I signed up the session held during our regular class time.
Dowd’s class with pretty interesting, as you’d expect given the week’s readings.
Mindy told me she and Greg were in the group who met with Dowd for lunch yesterday, and they had a pretty wild discussion.
In our small group, the women – Heather, Michelle and Nancy – seemed to agree that some of the readings were so extreme in rejecting heterosexual intercourse that they were turned off.
After we set our agenda, Linnea told this story of what happened last night at the mental hospital where she’s a nurse: A 17-year-old girl “lured” a 14-year-old boy into her room and had sex with him.Both are in there for what Linnea said were “conduct disorders” and neither has any greater mental capacity.
It was clear that the girl instigated the sex. She refused to take the morning-after pill because she said she wants to get pregnant with the 14-year-old’s baby.
And perhaps the most important fact: the girl is white and the boy is black. So today that boy is in jail for rape.
Linnea said all the nurses tried to protest, and most of us in class thought it seemed unfair, if not outrageous, with anti-black racism and myths about male and female sexuality being the motivating factor in the charges.
“See,” Dowd said, “some of you were wondering how all our reading fits in with the law, and Linnea has given us a great real-life example.”
As we were leaving class, Shay told me she’ll probably have to postpone her graduation till July since she’ll never finish all of her papers by late April.
She said she’s not taking the Florida bar exam because it doesn’t reciprocate with any other state, but if she did, she wouldn’t take a bar review course.
I’d always assumed you had to, but Shay says we can study on our own if we paid attention in law school.
Back at home, I ate lunch and then read Intellectual Property for two hours, getting through 80 pages and finishing the trademark section.
In Hunt’s class, I could tell that very few people had done the reading. Min is about 20 pages behind, and Lorraine says she’s about 150 pages behind.
It was a delight walking home in the late afternoon warmth, listening to All Things Considered on my Walkman, and waving to classmates stuck in traffic.
I stopped at Eckerd and Publix, where I saw several of my fellow law students: Heather, Melissa, Chip.
After that shitload of mail yesterday, today I got just two flyers for literary magazines trying to get me to subscribe.
It’s official, according to a front-page Alligator story: The Alachua County November ballot will definitely have two anti-gay referenda, one to repeal last year’s gay rights ordinance and an amendment to the county charter barring the county commissioners from ever trying to pass one again.