A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-February, 1994

by Richard Grayson

Saturday, February 12, 1994

8 PM. I read the stories for today’s class in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep.

Later, I played the tape of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway and realized I can’t always discern when I’m sleeping. On both sides of the tape, I must have fallen asleep because at one point I noticed the side was over and I didn’t remember hearing it – so I probably am overreporting insomnia.

If I sound like a social scientist (“overreporting”), that’s because I’ve just read this week’s assignment for Dowd’s class, on rape, and it had a lot of reports from social science research.

I need a break from that, so I’ll concentrate a little more on my other classes or maybe just goof off for a change.

Ivana picked me up at Publix late this morning, and we had a pretty good class today. First, I went over their papers as I handed them back and spoke to some students individually.

Then we discussed Toni Cade Bambara’s “The Lesson” and Gish Jen’s “Typical American,” so I guess it was women-authors-of-color day, although I did start our discussion of “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter,” which we’ll get to next week as we close our unit on fiction.

Mr. Mickle explained how I can reserve a TV and VCR, and I figure I need a little break one Saturday.

There aren’t many talkers in this small class, so I end up talking a lot myself. While I don’t mind this, it would be more interesting to my students if they would get more involved.

I wonder if JiaXing, the Chinese student, is gay; his head shot up when, in discussing W.H. Auden, I mentioned the word “homosexual.”

In his first paper, he wrote that Farewell My Concubine was “not only about love between man and woman but also between man and man.”

He’s a nice-looking kid, and he’s shorter than I am, something I always find attractive. Too bad he’s my student.

Hey, I must be dreaming: Even if he’s gay and I wasn’t his teacher, what would he want with me?

I spoke to Mom this afternoon, and she told me that last week Clarissa called for Marc. He was just beginning to get over her, and Clarissa had been pretty weird to my parents, returning the Christmas gifts Mom and Dad gave her in 1992 (when I was at her holiday party).

Anyway, she had been having vision problems, and a medical examination revealed that her brain tumor, which had never been fully removed, had started growing again.

Clarissa needs an operation, and of course it’s pretty delicate – with possible side effects like loss of sight.

While the doctors are optimistic they can remove the malignancy, Marc has been over at her house constantly since then.

Mom obviously isn’t pleased – plus she’s worried that Marc will neglect his business with his partner. (I don’t understand the connection, but then I’ve given up trying to understand my family.)

Clarissa couldn’t get health insurance with her pre-existing condition, so she’s in real financial trouble.

(How can Republicans say there’s no health care crisis?)

My mail today included the usual rejections and a packet from the Division of Cultural Affairs; apparently I’m an alternate grant panelist this year.

Sunday, February 13, 1994

9 PM. Today was low-key and pleasant although a throbbing sinus headache sneaked up on me in the last couple of hours.

Last night I slept fitfully and ended up doing some school work and getting off a job application to Santa Barbara City College.

Before dawn I had an incredible dream set back in Brooklyn: I was living at the house of Dr. Lipton with him and his wife, who was somehow related to me, as well as with Ronna and several other friends including people from Gainesville.

In the dream, we drove out to the edge of the Everglades, a place I’ve been in my dreams before when I find myself in a landscape similar to that of furthermost West Broward.

I was awakened from the dream by the cat knocking on the door, but after I let her in, I fell back to sleep till 8:30 AM.

Later, at 1 PM, after I’d had lunch, I gave into my feelings of drowsiness and lay down on the living room couch, falling into one of those rare, wonderful alpha states that’s more relaxing than sleep.

For an hour I lay inert, my mind turned off, but not quite dozing; I realized I was drooling and didn’t care.

By 3 PM, I shrugged myself awake and cracked my back and shoulders and knuckles, had some frozen yogurt, and walked to the law library.

Today was cloudy but over 70°, ending a warmer-than-normal week of near-summer in mid-February.

Tomorrow’s high temperatures are supposed to be only around 60° but I’ll settle for that, considering the cold weather in January and how bad winter has been up North.

Doing the Advanced Legal Research assignment was time-consuming, but schlepping among the digests, Shepard’s, and other volumes was a valuable exercise; I’ve always avoided doing print research, especially since I have no clerking experience.

Actually, Advanced Legal Research is providing me with skills I won’t need if I don’t practice law – but I like books, and you can never tell what you’ll need to know.

Besides, finding citations is sort of like a treasure hunt, and unlike so many other law school assignments, it gives you the satisfaction of getting exactly what you need.

I’ll write everything up tomorrow for Rosalie.

Being at the law library gave me a chance to talk with Karin (later, I found her Westlaw password card at the terminal I was using), Sharon and others.

I didn’t get around to the Sunday New York Times until after I got home at 4:30 PM, when I took the news section out to the pool while I did laundry.

“You’re reading a real paper,” said the old man in 104 as he shuffled along to mail some letters. He looks so frail. His wife had privately told me how ill he is.

With all my grandparents gone, I’ve missed the chance to talk with old people, so we chatted for a while.

He told me how he used to go to Radio City for fifty cents and would get standing room at the old Metropolitan Opera House when the building existed downtown – in the ’30s, he thought – and how his father had a law office on 42nd Street across from the public library.

This morning I bought some more groceries, did low-impact aerobics and push-ups, and watched The McLaughlin Group.

This evening I finished most of the paper except for the Arts and Leisure and Book Review sections.

Yesterday Mom asked me if the cat scratched a lot because she was concerned it had fleas, so today I kept feeling various itches and began to get paranoid.

This week marks the start of the trial of Danny Harold Rolling for the August 1990 student murders. Santa Fe Community College gave us a leaflet on how we should handle reporters, but while big news in Florida, I don’t think this trial will become a circus for the national media.

Wednesday, February 16, 1994

9 PM. I didn’t get out of bed until 9 AM today. After breakfast, I went out shopping for groceries, read the rest of yesterday’s Times, and worked out.

Before I left the house, I called the woman at the SFCC Downtown Center and arranged to have a TV and VCR for our class February 26.

At school, I went to Professor Little’s office after seeing a note on the board that he had the materials for our next South African lecturer, Professor Dlanini.

In class, Dowd handed out a sheet of revised short paper grades; I got an A on the last assignment.

We had a terrific discussion on rape, mostly centering on this case in which a guy pretended he was a modeling agent and took this young woman to someone’s house. Because he didn’t use a weapon or threaten her, it seemed more like a deceptive seduction than a rape to the appellate judges.

Men just don’t get it – and I see a little of that even in myself, though I know I never raped anyone or ever had sex without my partner’s consent.

But then I’ve had very little sexual experience with different women: just Shelli, Ronna, Stacy and maybe a couple of others I’m hazy about.

After class, I went to the library and worked on our confusing legislative history assignment a little more.

Martin came over and pointed out the window. “Look at that egotistical schmuck,” he said, referring to Professor Slobogin being interviewed by a TV reporter, presumably about Danny Rolling’s surprise guilty plea.

I got home after 1 PM and made myself lunch. Then, while doing a load of laundry (cold water: my shirts), I read 40 pages of Intellectual Property.

Once I got past a certain point – one that Hunt said was so difficult that he himself didn’t understand it, assuring us that it would definitely not be on the final – the cases and notes got easier.

I thought I was way ahead, but I got only as far as the 1980 Chakrabarty case where the Supreme Court okayed genetically-engineered bacteria that gobbles up oil spills. And that’s the case we got up to in class today. I never seem to get comfortably ahead of myself.

In the mail I got all my materials back from the Thurber House with a letter from Mike Rosen, the director, telling me “beastly” news: they picked another person to be Writer-in-Residence. Like I expected them to select me, right?

Crad sent back a letter in response to my sending him that NPR transcript of the interview with that compulsive diarist. Crad said it was the worst case of graphomania he’s heard of, including Arthur Inman (he still reading The Inman Diaries) and Jack Saunders.

And this guy NPR interviewed, Robert Shields, “doesn’t do or think anything worth recorded, so he is pathetic.”

Crad has boxed 25 volumes of his own diaries for the University of Toronto Fisher Library, retaining those only since 1991.

Crad says it’s the worst Toronto winter in anyone’s memory and once again told me he’s met the woman he wants to marry. She’s already married but intends to get a divorce.

He ends on a cheerful note: “I want to vomit over this entire society. Toronto is a shithole of inhumanity, the province of Ontario is hopelessly retarded, and our politicians are scum. It’s the End of the World.”

At school this afternoon, after trying to help Mindy with the Legal Research exercise, I found that Hunt’s class livened up today.

Although it was very dark all afternoon, it didn’t rain, so I was able to walk home at 5:15 PM, listening to All Things Considered on my Walkman.

Once I finished dinner, I printed out the legislative history assignment and read today’s Times.

It’s too bad that I’m tired already because I hoped to get a few pages ahead in Intellectual Property. Well, if I have trouble sleeping tonight, rather than then toss and turn, I’ll do work.

I pretty much decided that if I don’t get any of the jobs I applied for, what I’ll do is go to New York and see what I can do there to make a living.

Although life is hard up there, I want to reacquaint myself with the city, and I do have more friends there than anywhere on the planet.

Maybe I’ll just stay a few months until I can figure out where to go next. I am going to need to take some time off after three years of law school although I suspect about two weeks’ rest is all I can stand.

I wrote Dr. Golden at FSU, telling him to forget my fellowship application. Going on to grad school was a cop-out, an easy way out, the path of least resistance, and whatever other clichés I can’t think of now.

Friday, February 18, 1994

3:30 PM. I just finished exercising to a Body Electric tape.

It’s another cloudy, drizzly day. We’ve had a lot of them recently, but at least it seems the coldest weather is over. I put away my gloves because I hadn’t used them in so long.

Last night I barely slept, but at least I took advantage of being awake to do schoolwork, other reading, and to mail off yet another college job application.

Although I felt really washed out this morning, once I had breakfast and forced myself to shower and dress, my mood brightened as I walked to school.

At least I could get my New York Times for free on campus, and I also finished my Legal Research assignment and had a good talk with Professor Taylor, who said my seminar paper outline was fine.

Taking swigs from a Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi can I got in the lounge, I walked behind the tennis courts, the football stadium and the O’Dome to the UF bookstore at the Hub, where I ordered my commencement regalia for a $27 charge. My head got measured as 7¼ inches, which sounded familiar.

I enjoyed being on the main campus for a change, where people look so relaxed – and there are a lot of really cute guys.

In Library West, I tried to find the books I’m doing my big Women and the Law paper on, but a classmate had beat me to them. I’ll have to renew them from the law library for the shorter loan period.

Although I intended to go downtown to see about getting a video of a film to show my class, I was hungry and decided instead to head back home.

I read the paper while waiting for the #5 bus. There were two long front-page articles I found interesting.

One was about the number of earthquake-traumatized Los Angeles residents who were leaving the city, and the other discussed how the New York City regional economy is changing as many corporations shed middle management jobs at the same time that the industries that are brain-powered (law, financial services, entertainment, publishing, communications) are adding jobs.

To me, the people leaving L.A. and New York shouldn’t do so because they think those cities are in decline; both are vibrant places and will come back again. Everything’s cyclical.

Of course, some of these out-migrants are probably right to change their lives by moving elsewhere. If law school and living in Gainesville have given me nothing else but a revitalized self-confidence, they’ve given me a great deal.

Although some of my New York toughness may have worn off, I can learn to wear that armor again.

New York is tough, but so is coming to a town I’d never been to before, a place where I knew no one, to do something new and difficult – and also exciting.

Whatever happens in the near future, I’m going to handle it.

The mail brought another little magazine rejection, another request for me to fill out an affirmative action form, the stamps I ordered by phone, and acknowledgement of a $400 deposit I made in Oregon’s Orchard Bank in an attempt to get another secured credit card.

The cat decided it wanted to roam free at 3 PM when I began my workout. I still have stuff to do for teaching tomorrow – but I can put that off until morning.

I don’t think I recorded this before, but a couple of weeks ago I filed an FEC statement of candidacy to run for U.S. senator against Connie Mack, an undistinguished Republican apparently everybody believes is invincible – to the point where the Democratic candidate looks like it’s going to be, by default, Hugh Rodham, Hillary’s obese 43-year-old brother, a Dade assistant public defender.

Last week the Senate Ethics Committee sent me a financial form to fill out and send back.

I hope some media find out about my candidacy and contact me because then I can say my usual outrageous things. I’ve already planned to refer to Connie Mack as “she,” as if I didn’t know the senator is male.

Sunday, February 20, 1994

7 PM. When Mom interrupted my work this afternoon, I could immediately tell from her voice that something was wrong. “I’m so upset,” she sobbed.

A guy had just called to see if Marc was home, but he was sleeping and she thought the caller was a debt collector, so she said no.

He explained that he was a friend of Steven G’s and was calling to say that Steven had died that morning.

Mom, when she realized it wasn’t a joke, became hysterical; Jonathan heard her screaming and took the phone from her.

He was told that Steven passed away suddenly after complaining of feeling terribly nauseated. Then he just died, either before the ambulance came or on the way to the hospital.

Mom was crying and she told me how Steven was over the house or calling regularly, and that since he had Marc both worked in Pompano, they had lunch together every day.

Steven was Marc’s oldest friend and his best friend, and he was a sweet, good-natured, even-tempered guy.

I remember him as a little kid: I guess he first came over to our house when he was 7 or 8, and I watched him grow up.

He and his family moved to Sunrise since I’ve been up here in law school, so I wasn’t aware of how much Marc and the family saw of him.

Mom said she felt terrible for him and his little girls and his parents and his wife.

His wife was the one who was sick, not Steven. She’d had a cold that turned into pneumonia and a lung problem, and she was hospitalized repeatedly last fall.

“And they needed her income, because like Steven said to me just Friday on the phone, he made only $7 in commissions that day.”

Mom worried how Steven’s death would affect Marc, who was already in such bad shape.

Apparently what triggered Dad’s call to me about psychiatrists on Thursday night was that Marc took some cocaine and drank and showed up at Clarissa’s, and he crashed terribly.

Marc’s “therapist” got all excited, protesting when Marc said he’d decided to see a medical doctor about antidepressants. As I’d expected, the “therapist” isn’t really a psychologist.

I tried to explain to Mom about chemical imbalances in the brain and that it was loony for Marc to medicate himself with coke and yet resist seeing a doctor who could prescribe and monitor an antidepressant.

Marc has an appointment with an M.D. on Tuesday although now that’s the day that Steven’s funeral is scheduled for. On Thursday, Clarissa is going into the hospital for surgery.

God, how could Marc not be depressed and stressed out? He’s faced more bad things at one time than I’ve ever had to deal with.

I was a bit surprised by Mom’s reaction to Steven’s death because she’s not a crier and was pretty calm when Grandma Ethel died – although, as she said, her mother’s death was expected and occurred at 83, not 38.

When I got off the phone, I started sobbing myself. I last saw Steven at Clarissa’s 1992 Christmas party, and he looked tired and older than his age. I recall he complained about stomach problems and I knew he had an ulcer. God.

Dad hadn’t come home yet when Mom called me – which is why she called me.

She told Marc, but I expect the news hadn’t sunk in yet. Mom said she hopes grief doesn’t lead Marc to take drugs that could make him sick.

Today was another mild day, but when I went out at 3 PM to read the Sunday Times by the pool, it waited only ten minutes before starting to rain.

Between last evening and today, I’ve worked enough on my on my Women and the Law paper to require only an hour or so to complete it by tomorrow afternoon.

I also read a dozen pages in Intellectual Property and sent out two more applications for jobs at community colleges.

I did aerobics and went to Eckerd Drugs and the stationery store. At the Omni bookstore, I ordered Part 2 of Angels in America: Perestroika. (At first the woman there thought I wanted a book by Rabbi Harold Kushner.)

Until today, I hadn’t realized that tomorrow is Presidents Day because the state university system doesn’t treat it as a holiday.

So there’s no point in trying to go to the public library tomorrow because it will be closed, and there will be no mail delivery, either.

The cat didn’t come in at all today, so it must have a regular Sunday appointment at another apartment.

For the first time, a federal law – the Los Angeles earthquake relief bill – protects gays and lesbians against discrimination.

And Attorney General Reno has ordered Justice Department mediators to protect two lesbians whose Women’s Center has been attacked by their small-town Mississippi neighbors.