A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-March, 1994
by Richard Grayson
Monday, March 14, 1994
7 PM. It’s good to be back at school. I was up at 6 AM, letting the cat in soon after and then eating breakfast.
Getting some groceries at Publix, I saw that somebody left all the Florida newspapers for today at the racks, so I had plenty to read even if I didn’t get the New York Times until I went to school.
When I called Professor Little, he said he’d meet our class on Wednesday and give us the South African Law final then or at a later class this week.
I came across Professor Dlamini walking on SW 2nd Avenue and thanked him for his lectures and wished him good luck. After reading all but one of the articles he assigned us, I feel prepared to write a decent exam.
I also RSVP’d for the faculty/senior social two weeks from tomorrow and ordered a TV and VCR for the classroom at SFCC on Saturday.
While I waited for my breakfast to digest before I exercised, I watched the first half-hour of A Raisin in the Sun, which played even better than I remembered it.
In the mail I got a rejection from Modesto Junior College. They had 250 applicants for the position, which tells me it’s unlikely I’ll even get an interview for a job in California. Of course, it’s hard to get a full-time job cold, on the basis of simply an ad and a curriculum vitae cattle call.
Today’s seminar had two fairly boring presentations – Barry on patents and a very nervous Min on the UCC remedies in contract for problems with computers – and I got home early, before 6 PM.
I feel confident I can give a decent presentation; for one thing, I’m used to teaching.
Andy asked if he could go first next week because he’s got to leave town and of course I agreed; I have such a crush on him that just hearing him call me “Rich” made me feel good. So I’ll begin about 5:10 PM next Monday.
We moved our last class to a Friday so that Professor Taylor can attend an IBM seminar. Now we’ll finish on April 11, with the papers due April 21.
When I got home, I had messages from Alice and Teresa on my machine.
Alice was at her last day of work – or maybe she said she quit today and had given notice; anyway, she was happy about leaving Woman’s World.
It turns out that Alice gave my address to Rose, who gave it to Meyer Levin Intermediate School. Alice seemed surprised I wasn’t interested in going to the school’s reunion – though of course she wasn’t, either.
Teresa said she’d been in California when I called. She had already heard about the Brooklyn College reunion and said she was interested if I was.
I’ll call her back soon – and also get back to Alice later in the week.
Actually, I accomplished a lot of work today, so I’m no longer feeling so desperate.
But law school has always tended to be like this: I’ve had moments when suddenly I seem to be free, but they don’t last long – and I always know I still have plenty of work to do.
Of course, I like it that way.
Tuesday, March 15, 1994
2:30 PM. I’ll be heading back to school in an hour. I hope I’ve read enough of Intellectual Property to get through today’s class.
I assume that Hunt will spend more time on the Betamax and Ford memoir cases, but with him, you never can tell. The 2 Live Crew parody case actually fits in here, too, under “fair use.”
This morning I left the house at 9:30 AM, wearing jeans and Reeboks, and above them I had on a blue Oxford shirt, a tie and my suit jacket for my graduation photo.
Karin, Dionne and Dawn were ahead of me, and I felt embarrassed when I saw Karin because last night I dreamed that while we were sitting next to each other in class, we began holding hands and it was really kind of erotic.
Martin was also there, and, and I probably made a mistake by telling him about my campaign for the U.S. Senate. He spread the news so fast that by the time I got out of the photo session in the faculty dining room, Peter S came over and asked me about it. Oh well.
Other people’s reactions were pretty good, so when I got home I printed out a press release – I know, I know: I said I’d wait for them define me – and sent one out as an “exclusive” to a St. Pete Times reporter who’s covered Hugh Rodham’s candidacy.
Whether she’ll call, I have no idea, but if it gets in one paper, it will probably be picked up by other media. At this point in my life, I could use the tonic of a little publicity.
God knows what my graduation photo will look like. I had gel on my hair and I felt the photographer asked me to pose with such a big smile that my face felt like it had split open.
(I don’t know why, but I realized the other day I’ve made it a rule to always smile broadly in formal photographs: none of those serious thinker/tortured-artist poses for this writer.)
It was horrendously cold in Bailey Courtroom, but Rosalie seemed oblivious to the frigid air from the A/C as she lectured on American Law Reporter.
She handed out a revised syllabus for the next six weeks. I have yet to work on my pathfinder and need to start. We’ve got no assignment for the next class, thank God.
I didn’t take my jacket off in Dowd’s class because I was still feeling cold as we broke up into small groups and began discussing surrogate motherhood and new reproductive technologies, cocaine babies and the “pregnancy police,” forced C-sections, etc.
I went to the Dean’s office with Lisa S to pick up graduation tickets, and I gave her four of my seven. Like a lot of the black students, Lisa has a large, close-knit family. She said that her great-great-aunt apparently invited their whole church.
Last week I discouraged Marc and Clarissa from coming to graduation, but I doubt they were interested anyway, and of course Jonathan won’t come.
Still, I am participating in all the trimmings of law school graduation – like today’s photo session. (A number of people did as I did and wore “court attire” only on top.)
Nobody mentioned my cutting my full beard down to a goatee, and I expect most people don’t notice any difference. We flatter ourselves that people actually look at us, but mostly they don’t.
I got my SFCC check in the mail, and I’ll send that off with a Health Valley $5 refund to deposit in NationsBank.
I sent away for some guidelines for two short story collection contests, and I queried an editor about Thirties/Eighties for a new University of Illinois Press creative nonfiction series, though I doubt they’ll be interested.
Friday, March 18, 1994
8 PM. As I expected, I didn’t get enough sleep last night. I fell asleep at 10 PM but woke three hours later and was wide awake for a long time as my mind’s hypertext led me from one thing to the next.
But I did get out of bed and went into the living room to read A Raisin in the Sun – the movie, with a screenplay by Hansberry, followed the play closely – and I worked on my glossary of BBS terms for Monday’s handout.
Finally, after 5 AM, I drifted off into a weird REM sleep where I kept having dream-images – including two sex scenes – pop up one after another.
I might really be bisexual because the one of me in bed lying on top of a cute skinny guy with a hairy chest was complemented by one with a luscious woman with long chestnut hair on top of me.
Anyway, I didn’t get the deep sleep I needed, and right now I’ve got one of those behind-the-eyes headaches.
I still have to correct and comment on half a dozen SFCC papers although I read them and gave them letter grades already.
Hopefully – yes, I know, I’m an English teacher – that won’t take more than half an hour to finish up, and I can do that tomorrow.
After breakfast, with the cat asleep on the couch, I worked out to Bodies in Motion, one of those ESPN shows I taped in Fort Lauderdale.
I called my parents to find out why I was still getting calls from Marc’s creditors and found they were wondering the same thing. When they and I filed for bankruptcy, all creditors’ calls ceased immediately.
I went to work on my handout, expanding my outline and glossary, cutting my bibliography, and adding a table of different libel standards for various defendants (media, common carrier, distributor, etc.).
When the phone rang, I assumed it was a creditor of Marc’s, but instead it was Ellen Debenport of the St. Petersburg Times.
“You write a good press release,” she said, and while I wasn’t as quick as I would have liked, we had a good interview.
I could hear her typing as I talked, so there’ll probably be a story in tomorrow’s paper. I hope so – even though Saturday, when they did the Broccoli Eaters PAC story in ’92, has the lowest readership of all the week’s editions.
We shall see. At least I know I can still get the media’s attention.
After going shopping for groceries, I prepared for the South Africa test. As it turned out, I should have done more because I figure I’ll be lucky to have gotten a B on it.
While I know this stuff, an hour wasn’t long enough to organize my thoughts, and I made the classic law school exam mistake of spending too much time on one question.
On the question with 25 points, I wrote more than four pages while I wrote only two pages on the one worth 15 points and just a page and a half on the 10-point question.
Instead of sounding eloquent, I kept fumbling for words. Of course, I don’t know how well the other eight students in the class write.
Anyway, before that, when I first got on campus, I went up to Professor Taylor’s secretary with my completed seven-page handout. (Four pages are bibliography.) She’ll run off 16 copies for everyone, saving me time and money.
Then I chatted with Rachel at the table in front of the library. Danny S came over and tried to enlist me to run in the Race Judicata that SALSA, the Hispanic law students’ group, is holding for charity on Sunday.
Earlier, Danny had sponsored a JLSA guest speaker, a rabbi who told people how to prepare for Passover. Like me, Rachel is not religious because her parents weren’t raised that way.
We tried to study for the exam together. Javier passed by and I saw him smile as he overheard me trying to explain an article on KwaZulu to Rachel, who graduated from Princeton with honors but still seems a bit bubble-headed to me. I don’t think our studying helped either of us.
I still haven’t finished Rosalie’s assignment. As I was leaving campus, I told her that although it was straightforward, she gave us a lot to do. (I suspect library school assignments are similar.)
Back home, I opened the New York Times, fed the cat (yes, the neighbor who said she liked turkey was correct), and had some teriyaki chicken myself.
Saturday, March 19, 1994
4 PM. I’m looking forward to catching up on my sleep tonight. Last night I didn’t sleep enough and woke up at 5 AM.
An hour later, when Lexis went online, I dialed up and found Ellen Debenport’s story in the St. Pete Times. At 400 words, it left out some of my best lines, but it was remarkably well-written, with interesting transitions.
The headline, “Candidate goes for yuks,” was fine, as was the lead:
“Richard Grayson’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate is a joke. Really. It’s his joke, his way of poking fun at . . . the sad state of Florida Democrats as they try to bring down Connie Mack.”
Then she used my “Most Floridians know that don’t know the first thing about her,” followed by, “Mack, of course, is male. So he’s Grayson. He is 42: about to finish law school, “etc.
She put in my voluntary prayer for schoolchildren (a parody of one passed by an idiotic state senate committee): “We pray that God in her wisdom will grant brains to Republican state legislators.”
She described me as “a staunch Democrat who calls Mack a “conserva-Nazi.” (I like that because Rush Limbaugh uses “feminazi” all the time.)
After describing Broccoli Eaters PAC and quoting me on Hillary Clinton’s firing of the White House chef, Debenport neatly segued to Hillary’s brother and Ellis Rubin, and ended with my saying I couldn’t understand why the Florida Democratic party couldn’t get candidates who are anything but jokes:
“I thought I might as well run a joke campaign. I’ll debate them in any comedy club in the state.”
It’s a good article, but it’s on page 6 of the Tampa Bay and State section on a Saturday, so few people will see it. Still, I feel gratified.
At 7 AM, I went out to get the papers, and a couple of hours later, after I had done two loads of laundry and had breakfast, I made up copies of the article at Chesnut’s.
When I called Dad and read the article to him, he said the truth is I probably would be good at politics and be a better candidate than Rodham or Ellis. I’m certain of that, but I can’t put up with all the shit politicians have to deal with.
Ivana picked me up at 11:40 AM. She told me that to help her case to stay in the U.S., she sent her parents blank stationery to which she signed her name and she gave them photocopies of all her documentation. She figures that since they’re in Belgrade, her parents will better know how to compose a letter that will get a positive response.
Perhaps the Serbs will pressure their Bosnian Serb allies to negotiate with the Croats/Muslim confederation that just came into being, and the U.S. will drop its sanctions against Belgrade that affect Serbian citizens studying here.
Although I felt a bit unfocused, today’s class went okay. It was helpful, I think, to show short excerpts from the film as part of our discussion of A Raisin in the Sun.
I handed back and collected papers, and I gave out their next assignment. When they did the teacher evaluation, I left class, and after Ivana took it to the office, I drove home with her.
While I don’t like being dependent on a student for transportation, it saves me time and money, and I enjoy talking with Ivana.
It’s a hot afternoon, and lots of people were by the pool as I collected my mail: mostly junk, but I got that pre-approved Amoco MultiCard plus an additional card in Dad’s name. Maybe he can use it to charge Avis rental cars or at one of the hotel chains where it’s honored.
After getting credit by piggybacking in Dad’s name, the least I can do is return the courtesy.
The cat was still asleep on the pillow in the living room when I got in, but it left an hour ago.
I had my veggies and frozen yogurt and read the New York Times, and I printed out more articles – this time from popular magazines – on my seminar topic. But I think I’ll take a vacation from work for the rest of today.
Josh called yesterday, first at 6 PM from the office and then after 9 PM from his parents’ house in Brooklyn, where he’s been sleeping – on a mattress on the floor – every other night since his father got out of the hospital.
The doctors reversed themselves and decided what Josh had already figured out: that his father could not survive surgery. So they’re treating him with antibiotics, and he still got a catheter stuck in him and is on Prozac for the depression.
Josh hired a woman to stay with his father all the time for about $500 a week. His father has begun to eat a little more: some neighbor keeps cooking Jewish food that he enjoys. But Josh says the man isn’t the same.
My suspicion is that, like Grandma Ethel, Josh’s father is dying of old age. Josh is certainly a good son and he’s turned his life upside-down to be a caregiver.
I know I’d never do that. Sure, I visited Grandma Ethel all the time, both before she went into a nursing home and afterwards, but if my parents got really ill at an advanced age, I wouldn’t feel the horror Josh does at the prospect of “putting my parents in a home.”
My parents and their siblings put Grandpa Nat and Grandma Ethel in homes, and my grandparents did the same with some of my great-grandparents.
Even Great-Grandpa Max and his sisters put their mother in a nursing home after she had a stroke about a dozen years before I was born.
Monday, March 21, 1994
8 PM. I’ve got a splitting headache, but I feel relieved to have done my seminar presentation. The rest of the evening I’ll relax and watch the Oscars on ABC.
After a night which I spent thinking about defamation on electronic bulletin boards, I woke up at 5:30 AM to a driving rain.
At 6 AM, I worked out to the Channel 5 broadcast of Body Electric. Their tenth-year programs contain some new exercises, and I wish I could record as well as play videos so I could get some fresh shows rather than rely on the ones I taped in Miami and New York between 1986 and 1989.
Then I went back to bed, getting in an hour’s rest before I let in the cat and had the rest of my breakfast: a mixture of spelt and rye cereals, skim milk, a banana and an orange.
After going through three or four law review articles and making notes to my outline, then adding them on the computer, I realized I had plenty of material – probably too much.
Then I did a batch of laundry and exercised when Homestretch came on TV at 11:30 AM.
While I was eating lunch, I listened to a terrific speech by Cornel West, the black scholar at Princeton, about what it means to be a radical democrat. His talk was laced with references to Sophocles, Tocqueville, Eliot, Baldwin and William James. I bet he’s an exciting teacher.
I got a call from an editor of a humor magazine who saw the St. Pete Times article about my candidacy. He said he can arrange with a Pinellas comedy club to sponsor a debate between me and the other Senate candidates.
He’s going to send me a copy of his magazine and asked me to write a little something for it. Why not?
By 2:45 PM, the rain had let up, so I walked to school. After picking up my handouts from Taylor’s office, I completed the assignment for Rosalie’s class and tried to help out others in the library who were also working on it.
Arriving in our seminar room early, I sat down next to Brenda, who was doing her law firm work.
Andy gave his presentation first because he had to leave for Tampa afterwards, and he did an interesting talk on ATMs. I know a lot about banking and banking technology from my credit card days, and as usual, I asked the most questions.
While I felt I rushed my own presentation, I went on talking for an hour. I could tell that some people – notably Barry and David B – were annoyed with me for taking so long, but I was really into my topic. I hope it wasn’t that boring to the others.
Brenda gave me a lift home and said I shouldn’t care with Barry and David think but what Professor Taylor thinks, and she said my presentation was a good one.
Brenda admitted she’s never liked Barry since the first week of our first semester when she overheard him and some other guys – none of whom knew anybody at that point – making nasty comments about students in our section during Torts.
I told her that I have never liked Barry, either; he’s a nasty guy who’s never had a good word to say about anyone or anything.
Brenda said she’d seen Taylor writes down comments about what people were doing during others’ presentations. If that’s true, she must notice who’s blowing off the class and who seems to care.
I take my education seriously, and I love learning. I guess that makes me an asshole in the eyes of a lot of people – but fuck ’em.
I like doing good work. For example, I type up all my assignments for Rosalie Sanderson’s class because they look so tacky otherwise.
Or on Saturday night, I read the material for Dowd’s class this week. When I saw the first part was all about the legality of same-sex marriages, I was hooked and went on to do more reading on my own.
Well, I’ve got exactly a month before all my papers are due: on my last day of law school classes, Thursday, April 21.