A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late March, 1994

by Richard Grayson

Tuesday, March 22, 1994

9 PM. My headache faded last evening as I watched – or listened to, from bed – the Oscar awards. Stephen Spielberg’s Schindler’s List swept the awards for best picture and director and a few other categories, including an award for screenwriter Steve Zaillian, Wes’s friend, whom I remember vaguely from New York in the late ’70s.

Tom Hanks’s acceptance of his best actor award for playing a gay lawyer with AIDS in Philadelphia was moving because he said he wouldn’t be an actor without the support of a gay drama teacher and a gay classmate he met at 16.

I was also moved by the producer of Schindler’s List, a survivor of Auschwitz, who talked about fulfilling the wishes of those he saw die not to let the world forget what happened. Hollywood may be vulgar and crass and stupid, but it sure beats most of America.

I slept sporadically, dreaming I was invited to Buckingham Palace to meet the royal family.

Today I calculated that I have only twenty more days of law school classes left. I don’t know when I’m going to get everything done. I’m so tired I don’t think I can do any work tonight, and I can barely keep up with my daily work.

That’s why, when I got the fall semester grade report and transcript in the mail today and learned that McCoy had given me an A in Legal History, I had very mixed feelings.

This brings my GPA to exactly 3.5, so they’ll probably put High Honors by name in the commencement booklet. But I truly doubt I’ll be able to go 3.5 this semester, and I could even get two C’s or C+’s.

I worry about being embarrassed at graduation because Dean Savage would call me up and say just “Honors” and then everyone would know I fell down in my final semester.

I’ve had only two semesters when I went over 3.5, and both were in the fall, when I had more time to do my work. My spring grades have always slipped about .25 GPA points.

When I saw Sharon, who’d just collected her two latest book awards, I told her the situation, and she made me see that most people won’t be looking at the commencement booklets – at least not our fellow graduates.

People tend not to pay attention anyway, Sharon said, so if they do look at the booklet, they’ll think Dean Savage made a mistake when she said just “Honors.” And if by chance I do go 3.5, it will be nice to have 3.5 in the book.

Sharon’s right – and I thanked her. With her very high GPA, she’s one of the few people I could go to with this “problem” because people with lower GPAs would only envy me and think I was bragging.

When Martin and Karin asked me how my campaign for the U.S. Senate was going, I showed them the clip from the Ocala paper.

Martin and Barry told me Bar/Bri lowered their price to $895 if one pays in a few weeks.

But I wonder if the price won’t get even lower closer to the time their bar review classes begin and they’ve got empty seats. The leverage I have is that I’m not desperate to take the bar exam this summer.

Classes today were fine although Rosalie overwhelmed us with lots of Florida reference books in Advanced Legal Research. She seems to expect us to be as quick as she is in figuring out what sources to go, and I dread next week’s quiz.

Instead of breaking up into groups in Women and the Law, Dowd had us pick partners and decide – assuming we were in a committed intimate relationship – whether we would get married, and if so, if we’d have some kind of contract or agreement and what default provisions the law would supply if there was no agreement.

Shay and I agreed to “marry” and not write anything down. She’s married in real life, of course, and while I don’t ever intend to get “married” – and I mean that in the sense we did in class today, where we included same-sex unions – as I told Shay, it’s hard to say never.

At some time in the future, if I met the right person, I might come to believe I’d like to spend the rest of my life with him. It’s unlikely, given that at 43, I’ve never wanted to “marry” anybody, and I’ve never wanted to “be” married.

For my lifestyle, being single has great advantages. Let’s face it: I’m selfish and set in my ways. Even living alone has never bothered me; I enjoy it.

In class tomorrow we’ll discuss single-sex marriages. The text has the Hawaii case from ’93, Baehr v. Lewin, which paves the way for legal recognition there.

In Intellectual Property, Hunt went over copyright remedies and sailed through some interesting cases on infringement involving Chris Durang, Abie’s Irish Rose, and the Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love.”

A month from today, classes will be over. How the hell am I going to get everything done?

Friday, March 25, 1994

7 PM. I stayed up till midnight, reading the Times and the first act of Death of Salesman.

Josh called. His father had trouble getting along at home – he got violent and attacked the home-care aide; he urinated into his catheter – and so Josh put him back into the hospital.

But now he’s in Beth Israel, not far from Josh in Manhattan, and that should make things easier.

I suspect that even if Josh’s father isn’t dying, he’ll never be able to live at home again, and I tried to tell Josh not to feel guilty if he has to put his father somewhere.

After all, he’s already done a yeoman’s job, one that few children of our generation would devote themselves to with more dedication.

“I’m sure your father would appreciate it if he knew,” I said.

After breakfast this morning, I graded papers by the couch as I listened to NPR and watched the cat sleep in this week’s preferred spot near my dining table.

My students’ papers are improving, and none of the eight I graded had major problems, so I’m happy about that.

After getting some groceries at Publix, I returned to the couch and finished Death of Salesman, getting misty-eyed at the end.

I first read Miller’s play when I was in high school and I liked it, but by the time I read it when I was in Saul Galin’s Modern Drama class in 1972, I found Willy Loman and his family grotesquely obnoxious and I disliked Miller’s manipulation and sentimentality.

I appreciated the play more rereading it in the early 1980s when I was teaching it at Broward Community College.

What struck me most on this latest reading was that in the Brooklyn characters’ dialogue, I could hear the cadences and expressions of my family: my grandparents and great-aunts and great-uncles, and particularly Grandpa Herb – although he was nothing like Willy Loman.

Neither is Dad, but I can’t help noting that Dad, at 66, is still a salesman, and right now he’s having about as much success as Willy is when the play opens.

After exercising, I showered, dressed and had lunch – all while a tremendous thunderstorm raged. The rumbling scared the cat, whom I petted and told it would be okay.

I’d intended to take the bus to school, but the rain had let up by the time I got out and I walked to school without getting wet.

I’d read those South African cases Klug had assigned once I got them xeroxed, but they were pretty tough going.

Klug cleared up a lot of the mystery when he lectured on the South African legal process dealing with getting interlopers, squatters and rightful occupants off property one owns or has possession of.

I tried to do the assignment for Advanced Legal Research, but I wanted to be home by 5 PM, and I haven’t been able to finish so far. Yes, I’m trying to remember what I told myself last evening about not getting myself too wrapped up in being a perfectionist.

Maybe I can make some headway this weekend, but I just seem to manage to stay current in my law school classes.

Saturday, March 26, 1994

7 PM. Last evening I read the paper and got tired before 9 PM, so I got into bed early and slept soundly, feeling relaxed by the time I woke up this morning.

It was a warm, sunny day although I didn’t see much of the outdoors. After getting the Times (although I haven’t read it yet), I listened to Weekend Edition on NPR while doing this week’s one-page paper – on automated transportation systems that control the speed of cars on highways – for my Computer Law seminar.

Basically what I’ve been doing for the weekly seminar papers is downloading articles from newspapers for each week’s topic and using the articles to fashion my own responses.

Hey, it’s a kind of sophisticated plagiarism, but I am doing research, and my papers are more thoughtful than the one-paragraph handwritten papers I see some of my classmates turn in each week.

I downloaded articles on robot surgeons and satellite remote sensing for future papers, and I already finished the one for a week from Monday, on computer animations in the courtroom.

What I’m attempting to do is get as much work out of the way as I can so I can concentrate on my pathfinder, seminar paper and paper for Dowd.

Since 3 PM, I’ve read about 60 pages of Cynthia Fuchs Epstein’s Women in Law, and I plan to finish the book this week and begin my paper. (Cynthia must have been working on the book when we were at MacDowell in June 1980.)

If I can get a rough draft by the end of the week, I can then turn my attention to the work on electronic bulletin boards.

I’ve made separate files for my pathfinder, which will be about all legal issues relating to BBSes, and for my seminar paper, which will focus on online defamation.

Anyway, I began exercising at 10 AM – the cat came in while I was doing pelvic tilts – and when I finished, I showered and dressed and walked across the street to rent Death of a Salesman in case the school hadn’t brought it over to the downtown campus as I’d requested.

It was actually a good idea because, as I found out later, someone at SFCC had screwed up, as usual.

However, I couldn’t rent the video because the store was going out of business, so I bought it for ten dollars, a good price.

I asked the storeowner if Blockbuster had put him out of business, and he said no, it was the fact that the nearby theaters had become dollar movies and that the Performing Arts Center had opened, and there was so much more to do now in Gainesville than when he opened the store a decade ago.

He did agree with me that the video delivery system of the future will probably be people ordering movies direct by phone – either from cable companies or whatever phone or computer company ends up with the information-highway franchise.

I was slightly late when Ivana came to pick me up at Publix at 11:40 AM. I enjoy our conversations, as she’s got a spunky spirit.

When we got to the SFCC Downtown Center, Lisa Lynn told me that last week’s Skinhead rally, which she had to go to as part of a massive police presence, was a bust, with the racists outnumbered four to one by cops and twenty to one by protesters.

I handed back papers to Lisa (whose work has improved a lot), Ivana and some others.

Zohreh came in late to class, and during the break, she told me she had just come from the emergency room, where she and her husband had taken her younger daughter, who now has chicken pox.

She doesn’t understand why her kids got so sick from the disease. Her older daughter’s face may be permanently disfigured by her staph-infected chicken pox.

I told her she should go back to the hospital herself, but she said she’d only be waiting there a few more hours anyway and being in class was more important. International students are so diligent.

The bad part is that she and her husband have no medical insurance – because they’re returning to Iran soon – and this has cost them a fortune.

My students seemed to relate to the plight of Willy Loman and his family. I had gotten articles off Lexis, including the news articles about the ’83 Beijing production.

JiaXing knew both the actors who translated the play into Chinese and the performer who took the role of Willy.

(After class, I showed him a Times review of a Manhattan restaurant that serves Shanghai-style food like the drunken chicken and other dishes that he’d told Ivana and me he’d learned when he went to cooking school back in Shanghai.)

I told the class about my own changing reactions to the play, and we discussed the usual stuff; I showed three long scenes from the start, middle and sad ending of the video. At least my students got to see John Malkovich in another role (as Biff) besides Tom in The Glass Menagerie.

Ivana said Dustin Hoffman seemed to be very much like Willy Loman in his Rain Man character – and that was before I showed the video or she knew Hoffman played Willy.

For me, though., the Lomans will always be Lee J. Cobb and Mildred Dunnock.

Next week we start poetry. I lent Ivana the video to watch in its entirety and came back to my apartment after she dropped me off at the shopping center.

Hey, I just realized it’s Passover now. I’d forgotten. It’s been years since I’ve been to a seder; I can’t remember the last time. Was it at the Littmans in 1981, when that rabbi from Brazil was there?

Mom usually just served matzo, and she made lasagna with the matzo, but our family didn’t have any kind of a seder. I’m sure it’s a big deal at Ronna’s and even Teresa goes to more seders than I do.

I mailed out a postcard to Aunt Tillie today, telling her I’ll call her when I’m in New York in May and letting her know I’m graduating from law school.

When I went out to the mailbox at 4 PM, I wasn’t wearing my lenses, so I’m not sure who smiled and said hi to me though I’m pretty sure it was one of the German exchange students in my Women and the Law class.

I probably should have gone over to him and his friends by the pool; they’ll think I’m unfriendly. Well, I’ll explain it to them in class.

I had that new “harvest burger” from Green Giant – the veggie hamburger. Between two slices of thin whole wheat bread, and with parsley, Spanish onion, yellow tomatoes and Healthy Choice ketchup, it tasted almost like a real hamburger.

Tuesday, March 29, 1994

7 PM. I just got back from the faculty party for graduating seniors, which I enjoyed a lot.

I would have liked to stay longer and talk with people I didn’t get a chance to chat with, but Laura was ready to go home and I not only wanted the ride, I didn’t want her to think I’d abandoned her. She’s not the most socially adept person, and she always seemed to show up at my side.

Unlike most of the guys in suits, I had on Levi 301s, sneakers, a checked sport shirt and sport jacket. At this point I feel comfortable expressing who I am. A lot of people didn’t go to the party, some (Brenda, Lorraine) because they don’t want to socialize with teachers after bad experiences at law school, others because they had stuff to do.

Lori had said she wasn’t coming because she was kosher for Passover, but in class this morning we convinced her to go. I met Dionne’s husband – I think he was named Dion, too – who’s an artist from New Port Richey, and Bob brought Birgit – who remembered me this time.

Martin told some people, including Amy Mashburn, about my Senate candidacy, and I’m ham enough not to complain.

Martin hopes to become the law clerk to this Miami lawyer whom Clinton has promised to appoint to the Federal District Court once Rosemary Barkett’s nomination to the Circuit Court goes through and this guy’s private-club membership and babysitter Social Security tax problems are cleared up.

Nancy told me she’ll be staying on another year to get her LL.M. in Tax; she looked at NYU’s program – she’s originally from Nanuet – but it was too expensive.

When I went over to Jack to commiserate about our allergies – he says his just began in Gainesville last year – he seemed really impressed because someone told him I was an author of short stories. Jack, too, writes stories and would like to teach.

Marsha joined our conversation and said she ultimately wants to teach law but she would need a federal clerkship first.

For now, Marsha has accepted a job offer to do commercial litigation in Jacksonville. She’s ambivalent about it because her whole family is there and she went to high school in the city.

Doug G seems to be heading for Orlando; he dislikes the congestion in Plantation, where he grew up (near the Broward Mall). He’s one of the few people who, like me, will readily admit to really liking law school.

Pam told me she’s going to a small firm in Port St. Lucie, which is too much of a retirement community to suit her, but it’s near her family in West Palm Beach.

Nick told us he and Carol are getting married on the weekend after graduation, just before the bar review course starts. Most people are taking the Florida bar, even Nancy, who hates Florida and plans to leave; she said she likes different places and can’t see settling down.

A number of the people there I know only by sight; they’re students who came in the spring term of ’92 and who are graduating early, like Rod.

Except for Amy Mashburn and D.T. Smith (who said, “I didn’t realize you were an author”), I didn’t chat with any faculty. Nancy Dowd, Jeffrey Davis and others weren’t there, and I just said hi to McCoy and Weyrauch.

I chatted briefly with Donna, Lee, Steve F, Dave G and some others, and I would have liked the chance to talk more with Angelina, Midori, Mark R, David A and a whole bunch of other students.

The party reminded me of how much I enjoyed Dan R’s graduation party in December. When I’m with people I know and feel comfortable with, I can be very sociable. I forget that at Brooklyn College I used to love to talk to people at parties.

Last night I studied Advanced Legal Research, and I have so much more to do that I’m thinking of cutting Dowd’s class tomorrow and not coming to school until the afternoon.

Rosalie gave us our homework back, and I’ve done well on all of them; unlike most people, I type them and am very conscientious, and if I can get a good grade on the quiz, I’ll have leeway to do a less-than-superb job on my pathfinder.

We’re all a little concerned about the quiz, especially after today’s review session.

In Dowd’s class, we got into new small groups to discuss our agenda, and we took up domestic violence for most of the hour.

A couple of the women gave experiences of their own from high school or undergraduate days. Melissa said she broke up with a guy after four years when he slapped her once – which confirms my belief that Melissa has a strong sense of herself and good self-esteem.

I read the Times during my break at home because I knew I wanted to do work tonight.

Back at school at 3 PM, I found Intellectual Property boring today as Hunt went over cases dealing with preemption by the federal copyright law; the problem was that he may have had the cases in front of him, but they weren’t in our text and we hadn’t read them.

I went from class to the party at “the main dining room” – that’s what it said on the invitation, but of course it was just the cafeteria. D.T., the funniest of my professors, told us they’ve treated us like garbage for three years and this party was supposed to make us forget that.

Ionesco died. God, I loved his plays – The Bald Soprano (which I saw in high school) and the others with their silly, profound situations and their wonderful wordplay and sense of the absurd. I need to feel more like a writer after I graduate from law school.