A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early March, 1994

by Richard Grayson

Wednesday, March 2, 1994

8 PM. I lucked out again today in that the heavy rain petered out into a drizzle by the time I left this morning, and I managed to walk back and forth to school twice without getting caught in a downpour.

An hour before class, I went to the library, where I told Rosalie that I couldn’t find the Student Lawyer article she asked us to read because the magazine isn’t on Lexis.

She and I managed to find it (we knew it was in a May issue but didn’t have the year), and I told her I had a piece in Student Lawyer in 1978 or 1979.

That led to my telling her about being a writer, and after I finished the article, we had a good talk.

Rosalie didn’t enjoy law school when she went as an over-30 law librarian; she found the teaching methods peculiarly unsuitable to understanding the subject.

I don’t know why I’ve enjoyed law school so much, but for me it’s been an intellectual challenge and a delight.

In Dowd’s class, we discussed birth control. I talked once, and only because people were interested in the male point of view and wanted to hear about teenagers.

I recalled how, over twenty years ago, my first girlfriend and I started by using the I-hope-it’ll-be-all-right non-method, and after a few weeks, with a great deal of discomfort at the drugstore counter, I bought condoms.

But that did not stop the worry every month when Shelli was late with a period, so after some stress-filled times, we made an appointment with Planned Parenthood.

I went with Shelli, and she got birth control pills which I paid for.

“Not that that mattered,” I told the class, “except later when her next boyfriend wondered how much he owed me.”

People laughed, and of course I don’t mind revealing that stuff. It’s easier than talking about being gay.

I remember with great fondness that day Shelli and I went to Planned Parenthood on Court Street.

I think it was September 1, 1971, and it was the first day it felt like it wasn’t summer anymore – but it was a sweet relief because it was cooler and less humid.

I wore skin-tight blue jeans that I had faded in a bathtub of bleach and that Shelli had put a flower applique on one knee where the fabric had ripped.

I picked her up very early – I wasn’t used to getting up so early in the morning, and I remember thinking that it smelled morning as we drove across Eastern Parkway and that I should get out at that hour more often because there was something so pleasant in the air that faded by 10 AM.

We were put in a discussion group with other teens, and they gave us donuts, and a Planned Parenthood lady said she was glad to see a guy there, that they didn’t get them often, and I felt proud that I was a good boyfriend.

When Shelli came out of her gynecological exam, she said she’d had her period during the time she was being examined by her “very cute” young black doctor.

And I paid for a prescription for birth control pills, and we went somewhere else – maybe to the college – for the rest of the day.

At that point we were already unhappy in our relationship, and that was just about the time Jerry came back from Europe.

Within six weeks, we had broken up and she was with him, but somehow that day remains; it was the best day we were to have.

Or rather, we were at our best that day: responsible, caring, scared and finally relieved. Wow. Some reverie. . .

My afternoon classes were a little tedious but okay.

Before South African Law, Shawn came over to me and said he gathered from my comments yesterday in Hunt’s class that I know something about getting published, and he wanted to ask me what was the best way he could get a script he’d written for The Simpsons to the show’s producers.

I told him what I knew, which isn’t much.

Maybe I was wrong in thinking my remarks yesterday led everyone to believe I was an obnoxious know-it-all.

When I opened the door to my apartment at 5:30 PM, the cat was anxious to escape.

A few minutes after I got in, Karin called. She expressed her worries about doing her seminar paper from McCoy, but mostly we just talked.

I miss our conversations and regret that we don’t sit with each other in a class this term.

As I said to Karin, most of us know we shouldn’t be so concerned with grades at this point in law school, but old habits die hard.

This morning Josh phoned. His father’s MRI from Monday showed a problem, an infection in the bone between his nose (behind it) and the brain.

The neurosurgeon says they must operate immediately, but Josh says his father looks like an Auschwitz inmate and he doubt the old man could survive the surgery.

Basically, it’s Josh’s call, and he’s angry that his father didn’t get an MRI a month ago when he first entered the hospital. I have a feeling Josh’s father is going to die.

Monday, March 3, 1994

1:30 PM. It’s a bright but very chilly day.

I made a reservation to rent a car from Value at the Holiday Inn on 13th Street on Saturday afternoon. Their weekly rate is higher than Budget’s, but I can save money by walking over there after class at SFCC.

This way I can avoid calling a cab on Sunday and maybe I can leave earlier. Next Saturday I can take a bus home after I drop off the car.

I called Mom this morning to wish her a happy 63rd birthday. I made her laugh when I told her about my running for the Senate. (When I called the Federal Election Commission in D.C., they told me that so far I was the only candidate who filed on the Democratic side.)

In class, Rosalie gave us another assignment – this one using ALR – but I enjoyed our discussion of law review articles.

She also singled out my homework: To answer the question “What was the first edition of CJS [Corpus Juris Secundum]?” I had written “Corpus Juris Firstum.”

When Duane said that the Florida Law Review was publishing his note on the state’s lemon law, I asked him that if that had something to do with the Florida Citrus Commission.

In Dowd’s class, I kept quiet during the discussion on abortion, as I didn’t have anything to add. Does anybody? What else can be said about abortion?

We went around the room telling everyone what we’re working on for our final paper. Most students’ topics are far more ambitious than mine, and they involve surveys, literature – Toni Morrison, for example – and oral histories.

Oh well. I’ll do the best I can with a history of women in the American legal profession.

I’ll go back to school earlier than usual because I need to xerox an article for the seminar.

Friday, March 4, 1994

8 PM. Spring break has begun – except for me, who has to teach at SFCC tomorrow, when I’ll have a short discussion and then have the students write on The Glass Menagerie.

I graded their papers today, and they’re pretty disappointing. Ivana’s paper was probably the best, and a couple of others are pretty good, but nobody writes with the grace and style of about one-third of last semester’s students.

I don’t feel I’m getting as much across as I did last semester. It’s possible that this class is a little too small for effective discussions, or else I just don’t have the mix of people I did in the fall.

Late this morning I took the bus downtown to return videos to the public library and to see if Barbara had assigned me summer classes.

I saw that I got two advanced composition classes back-to-back, 10:50 AM to 12:05 PM and 12:15 PM to 1:30 PM, in the second summer session, from the end of June to mid-August.

It’s a good schedule, but as I know from last term, it’s tentative; still, at least I have a good chance at having some income until close to the time I leave Gainesville. (The final exam date corresponds closely with the date I have to vacate my apartment.)

I also got the galley proofs from my revised column, “Sylvia Ginsberg, Superstar,” which Brendan Pieters selected for the Santa Fe Review.

He asked for a photo of Grandma Sylvia, but all I have is a grainy xerox of her and me in the Miami Herald. I’ll send back the galleys and the photos as well as my acceptance of the courses in the SFCC interoffice mail tomorrow.

Professor Dlamini is going back to South Africa on Wednesday, March 16, so we’ve had our last two lectures and we’ll have our final when we return from spring break.

I guess I’ll call Professor Little early on the Monday that school begins to find out when the exam is.

I enjoyed studying South Africa’s interim constitution, which may even work out if the Inkatha Freedom Party today tentatively agrees to participate in the elections.

Yesterday in I.P., Hunt went ahead quickly. He started off by mentioning a case in a news story he had clipped out of the Sun years ago; it was about a copyright suit involving the singer/songwriter John Fogerty.

I think I unnerved Hunt just a little more when I raised my hand and said that the Supreme Court decision on that case – the ultimate issue was attorney’s fees – had come down on Tuesday. Obviously I’m the only one who reads the New York Times.

Once again I must have come off like a show-off, but then I am a show-off. “You’re way ahead of the reporters,” Hunt said. (He never calls me by my first name the way he does Rick, Rose or Shawn.)

Anyway, I don’t expect particularly good grades in either Hunt’s class or South African Law, where Professor Little, trying to make a perfect curve in a class of nine, will probably give me my first C.

I did a load of laundry this afternoon before I went to class, and I’m trying to take care of things before I go away.

In the library after class and then at home, I finished the ALR assignment for Advanced Legal Research, and last night I completed the one-page paper for the Computer Law seminar.

That means that during the break I can concentrate on my paper for Women and the Law, my pathfinder for Legal Research, and my paper on online defamation for the seminar.

Of course, without the computer in Fort Lauderdale, I’ll be limited to reading. But I’ve got a ton of stuff to get through. If I have time, I can go to the next assignments in Dowd’s and Hunt’s classes, but I also need to read the South African Law materials.

I mailed off a check to Deutsch Pharmacy because I’m running low on Triavil, and I sent back an acceptance of a “pre-approved” credit card from Belk’s department store, though I doubt I’ll get it. (Belk turned me down ten years ago when every store in the United States would give me credit.)

There were no calls from The Hotline, so I expect it’ll be a while before anyone notices I filed to run for U.S. Senator. While I’m tempted to send out press releases, let’s see if they find me first.

There will be no statewide referendum on gay rights this year. The American Family Association, which was having trouble getting signatures on their petitions, lost in the Florida Supreme Court.

On procedural grounds, the court struck down the proposed amendment because it was too broad and covered more than one subject. I wasn’t surprised.

It will save the state of Florida a lot of needless hate and anger, although local referendums, like the one here in Alachua County, will go on, thanks to the gay-haters.

(By the way, Tuesday night’s “lesbian kiss” episode of Roseanne got great ratings and few complaints.)

A year ago, I met Jody and shocked myself when we slept together that Saturday night. That week of spring break was basically our whole relationship.

Although I’m not really looking forward to Fort Lauderdale, in some ways I’ll be glad to get out of Gainesville for a few days.

Monday, March 7, 1994

7:30 PM. I slept like a log last night, probably because I was tired from the long drive.

I always get a little disoriented when I move around the country. At this latitude, the quality of light is markedly different than it is in Gainesville, only about 250 miles north.

Of course, the climate is totally different, as you can tell right away by Gainesville’s deciduous trees even when it isn’t so much colder there.

I didn’t accomplish very much today, but I suppose I should concentrate on what I did do.

I read and highlighted to the point where I needed another highlighter – seven law review articles with titles like “Is Cyberspace a Public Forum?” and “The Liability of Computer Bulletin Board Operators for Defamation by Users,” the latter being essentially my topic.

I have another seven law review articles to go through, along with shorter periodical pieces. But I’m pretty certain I’ve got the general idea and that the remaining material will only refine what I know.

Luckily, the topic interests me. For defamation and more broadly, for First Amendment concerns, what kind of medium is a BBS? Analogies are inexact to current media, where different standards apply.

Online bulletin boards are not exactly like print publishers or over-the-air broadcasters or common carriers (like the phone company) or public fora or secondary distributors (newsstands, bookstores) or cable TV networks (itself a hybrid category).

Only one defamation-by-bulletin-board case, Cubby, Inc. v. CompuServe, exists to provide any judicial guidance.

But if the electronic data highway becomes as important as everyone believes it will, this could be a significant issue that might shape 21st-century communication.

Anyway, I’m at the point where I can see the broad outlines of my paper and my presentation in two weeks.

Today the Supreme Court handed down a great free speech victory, ruling for parodists when it said that 2 Live Crew didn’t have to get permission from the copyright holder to make a parody of “Oh, Pretty Woman.”

I went out only to do some shopping for frozen dinners, fruits and vegetables in the morning and to take a brief ride around Davie’s education complex: BCC, FAU (they’ve got a four-story building under construction), FIU, UF’s agriculture station, and Nova Southeastern University, whose law library was open only to their students.

Talk about a busman’s holiday: I always love visiting college campuses.

My parents and Jonathan were home most of the day. As usual, they’re in front of the TV now.

Going to law school and having access to only three broadcast channels has weaned me from TV. I find the number of channels here appalling.

Today all I watched was ten minutes of Another World and all of the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and Connie Chung, and that’s only because I can’t get NBC or CBS at home.

I put my 1993 diary in the banker’s box on the top shelf of this bedroom’s closet with all my diaries dating back to 1969. I’d consider taking them with me, but so far they’ve been safe here, and I like not being tempted to read them.

Even if my diaries were destroyed, while I’d be devastated, in the end I know that it’s the process of writing diary entries for 25 years that’s the important thing, not their content.

Dad just got back from San Juan on Saturday and he has no more work to do except the usual phone and fax wrangles till the samples for the next line arrive.

Mom cleans and plays with China and shops and does laundry. I’m not quite sure what Jonathan does or how he stands being so unproductive.

I guess I also spent a lot of the 1980s not working, and I do recall that time has a way of filling up. But I don’t think I could ever live as leisurely again, at least not for more than a couple of weeks. Last summer when I wasn’t working, I nearly went crazy.

When I see myself in mirrors down here, I look unexpectedly old: I see my love handles and the lines in my face and the gray in my beard more because the last time I spent here was about three years ago, and I’ve aged since the spring of 1991.

I’d better get used to it: aging is not going to stop as long as I keep breathing out and in.

Thursday, March 10, 1994

4:30 PM. Marc and Clarissa came over last night.

Marc said they’re going to try to spend the weekend in Melbourne, where they have tickets to a Marlins spring training game: “We need to get away after all that’s happened.”

Later, Mom told me that Clarissa had an MRI yesterday and they may try to treat her tumor without surgery.

My sleeplessness persisted, and I went to bed early, listening to the dialogue of Sleepless in Seattle while the picture was scrambled because I hadn’t called in to pay for the movie.

Up before 6 AM, I was ready to go by about 7:30 AM. I said goodbye to Jonathan and kissed Mom and Dad (who was shaving). China was still asleep when I left.

I know I must have seemed like an ungrateful guest, so I made sure to thank my parents for everything. Mom replied, “Don’t be silly; this is your home.”

Once I got out of Broward’s morning traffic, the ride was smooth as I listened to the news and then classical music on NPR, switching from WLRN in Miami to WXEL in Palm Beach and then WCQS in Fort Pierce. (That’s the station I went to in March 1982 to be interviewed.)

After 10 AM, I listened to Neil Rogers on 610/WSUN, a Tampa Bay AM station that simulcasts his show.

Curious about Yeehaw Junction and their signs urging everyone to get off at that exit, I got gas and bought some orange juice there. Just as you’d expect, it’s a tacky dump.

I also got off the Turnpike in Orlando, amazing myself by finding International Drive out of luck or instinct. At a Gooding’s, I got some fresh salad and took Tylenol – and of course, I went to the bathroom.

Being in Orlando always makes me feel cheerful – unlike, say, Jacksonville, which I find depressing. Perhaps if I have nowhere else to go, I could move to Orlando.

It’s not as expensive as many cities, and the weather is better than Gainesville, where it was 62° and rainy; in Orlando, it was 78° and sunny.

Besides, Orlando is an international city, and people would visit me because of all the tourist attractions.

I could do worse than Orlando. I’d probably like it as much as Tallahassee, and I’d be just far enough from my family.

I stopped again at Wildwood for a McLean Deluxe. On I-75, the weather changed, and the rainstorm, combined with the eternal construction on that highway, slowed me down.

When I got off at Archer Road at 1:45 PM and stopped at Albertsons to shop, I felt chilly in my T-shirt and shorts.

Back at Camelot, I picked up a boxful of mail – Rhoda, by the laundry, said it had been warmer in recent days – and I brought everything into the house.

After calling Mom to let her know I’d arrived safely, I began putting my stuff away and sorting the mail.

I got rejected from my first community college (in Eugene, Oregon, which I’ve heard is homophobic) and I got an addendum to an application in San Antonio, where I already missed the deadline. (I’ve heard San Antonio isn’t a great place, either.)

I got lots of new applications, but I’m going to be more selective about filling them out. Colby College in Maine wants additional letters of recommendation.

And there was information about Writer’s Voice residencies that I should apply for, and the NEA fellowships abroad – which I won’t, as I can’t come up with all the detailed material by the April 1 deadline.

Joel Deutsch sent a new generic version of Triavil 2/10. It looks like Merck stopped making the drug.

Finally, I got a letter from the alumni association for Meyer Levin Junior High School – now Meyer Levin Intermediate School – for a June reunion, signed by Dr. Karl Bernstein, my old science teacher. How the hell did they get my Gainesville address?

On Lexis and Westlaw, I checked for any mention of my Senate candidacy, but there was nothing on The Hotline or anywhere else.

I did find a Washington Post book review by Rick, and I printed out the court decisions on the 2 Live Crew and the Florida anti-gay amendment ordinance while I worked out to a video.

Although I feel tired, I’m not letting myself lie down till tonight. I’ve got tons and tons to do.

In Fort Lauderdale, I realized that how that no matter how much I complain, I enjoy life best when I’m extremely busy.

So I guess for the next six weeks – the homestretch of law school – I’m going to be enjoying myself a lot.