A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early April, 1994
by Richard Grayson
Saturday, April 2, 1994
7:30 PM. I just remembered I need to set the clocks ahead one hour for Daylight Savings Time. It’s a sign of my crazed behavior that I think: God, I hate to lose that hour.
Another sign of stress is the cold sore on the side of my lip. I can’t imagine what else could trigger my dormant herpes simplex (type one) virus, but hopefully, it will go away.
I’ve been working on my paper for Dowd, and I think I’ll have it finished by tomorrow – or by Monday at the latest.
The trouble is this week I’m not going to have much time to work on my seminar paper or pathfinder.
I did the reading for Women and the Law this week – okay, I skimmed it. Yesterday I saw Dowd pull out of her driveway (she honked her horn to say hello); apparently, she lives just the other side of Publix.
I wish I weren’t a writer because I know I’m revising the paper too much.
Anyway, I just need to write the third of the paper that focuses on Epstein’s book. (If I have a question, I guess I could ask Cynthia since she remembers me from MacDowell.)
This morning it was chilly, but it turned into a beautiful, cloudless, 70° day. Before Ivana picked me up, I managed to read the Times and exercise. The cat came in early and fell asleep on a chair; it left when I got back home from school.
I really enjoyed teaching today, exposing my students to poetry. It’s also a pleasure when I see them “getting it”: it’s a thrill when someone understands that when X.J. Kennedy writes about someone sticking his tongue out at a priest, a student picks up that it’s to receive the communion wafer.
I collected six papers, which will make this week’s grading not too bad; another student said she’d mail me her paper. I’m grateful for Ivana’s rides back and forth to the SFCC Downtown Center and I value her friendship; she’s someone I enjoy talking with.
In the mail, as I expected, was a rejection from Stanford. The letter said over a thousand people applied for ten Stegner fellowships, so my odds of getting in were pretty bad. I also am not being considered for jobs at Sequoia and Yosemite Community Colleges in California.
It’s obvious I wasted energy, time, paper and postage in all my efforts to find a teaching job, and I’ll be very selective in future applications.
Also in the mail, I got the confirmation for me, Ronna and Teresa at the reunion and a parking lot pass for Brooklyn College.
In today’s Times, by the way, they printed the names of winners of the annual contest Barnard College has for high school girls who are creative writers.
Again this year, the winner (and one of the runners-up) was from Midwood High School, another of my alma maters, and I bet Sharon was her teacher.
Anyway, I’m faced with the problem of Life After Law School.
If I had more money, I’d definitely take the Florida bar exam in July. I need to apply by the first of May, but if I do, the bar application will cost $725, the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam another $175, a bar review course is $600, and I’d have to rent a car and hotel room in Tampa for two days.
I currently have $1,500 in the bank, and the cost of taking the bar exam would be at least $100 more than that. I can’t see how I could do it. I suppose if my fondest wish were to be an attorney, I’d manage to find a way; after all, I’m flying to New York City for my BC reunion in May.
But for me, I don’t think it’s worth the price right now. I’ll think about it some more, but of course I can always apply to take it in February.
Now that I’ve got to face the fact that no deus ex machina solution will rescue me, it’s going to be time to figure out where I go next: New York City? Back to South Florida? Tallahassee? Orlando?
Without a job, I see those as my four alternatives. I don’t have the balls to move to California or Arizona on my own without employment waiting for me there.
Yes, part of me wishes I could stay here in Gainesville – now the joint M.A.M.C./J.D. program I gave up doesn’t look so bad – but I’d also like to move on. (Still, I know that I can always return to grad school at here at UF.)
I’m no worse off than I was three years ago: the student loans I incurred are more than offset by what I’ve learned and experienced in law school and from living in Gainesville.
Mom called tonight and we chatted till I needed to pee very badly. I haven’t told Mom I probably won’t take the bar exam. I know it will upset her, but that’s her problem.
Wednesday, April 6, 1994
4:30 PM. I couldn’t face Hunt’s class today. I hate to cut, but today doing it was a smart move. I yawned dozens of times in Klug’s South Africa class and on the walk home. I’ve been having another off day, and I need time – not to do work on my projects, but to keep from getting so stressed out.
My chest hurt as I walked to school this afternoon, and for a moment it occurred to me that I might be having a heart attack.
Oh well, I thought, I hope if I do, I can get to the law school and be around people if I collapse. And I thought, if I die, they will probably award me my degree anyway, and my parents will come up on stage at commencement to get my diploma as everyone applauds.
But of course I wasn’t sick, only tired. I did fall asleep early yesterday; however, I slept fitfully and lightly and would wake up for hours at a time. The problem is that I’ve got so much on my mind.
I slept so soundly at my parents’ house in March and at Ronna’s apartment last May because I didn’t have so many things I had to juggle. Today, before I got up early and showered, my final dreams were about being harassed by the photographer from the Sun.
After breakfast, I put an ice pack on my face because my eyes felt so puffy, but no photographer ever showed up.
At 10 AM, I left a message with Laura Kauffmann at the Star-Banner, but she hasn’t returned my call, leading me to believe they killed the story or else they’re running it without the photo. Either way, I don’t much care by this point.
I got the 10:15 AM bus, which left me off by the stadium, and I walked – I was without my lenses today and walked around in a haze again – to the Reitz Union.
Trying to find the auditorium for the financial aid exit interview, I ran into Alison and then Greg, Mark R and Doug K, who’d driven over together. The thing didn’t take as long as I’d expected, and we just had to hand in some forms.
5:30 PM. Teresa called while I was writing. She probably preferred to leave a message, and I should have let her. She got my letter about the reunion, and already she’s being difficult.
She won’t come up to Manhattan to pick up Ronna (and me?), but she doesn’t want to go home alone and she doesn’t want to go to the reunion by herself. When I suggested she meet us at Susan and Evan’s near Brooklyn College, Teresa even balked at that.
At this point I’m almost glad Teresa has to give up her house to the family renters the second week I’m there; if Ronna will have me, I’d rather stay with her anyway. At times Teresa’s often abrasive personality made it hard for me to live with her on West 85th Street, and she doesn’t seem to have changed.
She remarked with bitterness that today was Brian’s birthday and told me that she didn’t really like her time at Brooklyn College. There are some people who give off attitudes that make you want to run away from them.
I don’t think I could live with Teresa again unless things changed. I’d actually prefer living with my parents, who leave me alone a little more. For example, Mom doesn’t get offended when I make my own meals or don’t join her and Dad in an activity. Oh well.
I had Healthy Choice chicken fajitas for dinner and listened to NPR on the retirement of Justice Blackmun.
He’ll always be remembered for Roe v. Wade, but his finest opinion was his dissent in Bowers v. Hardwick. I hope that I can live to see the day when Blackmun’s view of sexual privacy will be the law of the land.
Anyway, I left off writing about the student loan exit interview. We just had to hand in some signed forms and watch a Chase-made video that tries to scare you into paying. Doug drove us back to the law school in time for Greg and me to get to Dowd’s class.
Frustrated that our discussion of child custody was going over the same ground, I suggested the possibility of making divorces harder to get for people with kids.
That was derided by everyone, and I myself think it’s a terrible idea. But the custody situation is so maddening, I even brought up the possibility of recognizing reality and having fathers divorce their kids as well as their wives, because most never see them much or support them financially.
Back home, I let the cat out and assumed the message on my phone was from the reporter. But it was Scott, and I called him back after I forced myself to work out (lightly) to a Body Electric videotape and had a big lunch.
Scott wanted to know who was coming to the reunion. He thought $65 was very expensive. (Odd, since he makes a six-figure income, though he probably has high expenses.)
But in the end, I guess I convinced him to come. However, he said M.J. would have to stay home with the baby.
Scott related some gossip about a married Brooklyn College girlfriend of his who called him up out of the blue. I think I remember the girl, Silda, but I’m not sure exactly. Scott told M.J. about her call, and M.J. got upset.
We didn’t talk long, but I disabused Scott of the notion he had that I’m living off my investments. When I told him I’d gone through a bankruptcy, Scott said, “That’s no life you have.”
Maybe – but Scott’s had the same job for at least fifteen years, and to me, that’s no life, especially when his job seems so unfulfilling to him.
I am having a lot of trouble getting a grasp on Klug’s course, and I’m reconciled to doing badly on Friday’s exam. The best I can hope for is that others are just as confused as I am.
My lenses came and were in the rental office; I put them on and they feel fine although I’m not used to wearing them.
Friday, April 8, 1994
4:30 PM. I just walked in. The South Africa law final wasn’t that bad, as I told Professor Klug as I caught up with him after I got out of Publix, where Rachel was buying junk food and Professor Davis was buying beer.
I’m going to feel relaxed as soon as I can feel something, but unfortunately, I’ve probably got that cold I thought that I would get.
I popped one of the throat lozenges I just bought; already I’ve got the start of us sore throat and postnasal drip, and that’s how all the colds I’ve ever had start.
Actually, if I have a cold now, it’s not bad timing. I had one about this time last year and I still managed to get my Legal Drafting paper done. I suppose I can always summon the energy to sit at the computer and write.
Last night Ronna called. She can’t sleep over at Susan and Evan’s house in Brooklyn the night of the reunion, but we can meet them, Felicia and Spencer, and their families on Saturday evening and go over to the college together.
Teresa can meet us there or not; whatever happens, I’m not letting Ronna travel to the West Side alone after the reunion is over.
Last night I slept well and felt fairly relaxed this morning. I didn’t study as much as I could have for Klug’s exam, but I probably studied enough.
I know my answers were well-written and well-organized, and that may be sufficient enough to earn me a B in this exam.
However, although it would be disappointing, I wouldn’t be shocked by a C+ or even a C in the class.
Taylor set out a catered lunch for us at our makeup session: sandwiches, potato chips, cookies and soda. I took a can of Diet Pepsi (even though it had caffeine) but brought my own sandwich, plus carrot sticks and a cold sweet potato.
Duane’s presentation on computer-related legal malpractice was as meticulous as you’d expect from the editor of the law review and a top student.
The presentation by Larry K was on E-mail in the workplace and privacy. He knew the subject well because he’d been the E-mail administrator of the Miami Herald before he got to law school.
I asked Taylor if technology was opening or closing jobs for law librarians, and she said that although law schools think they can now get along with fewer librarians on the staff, they actually need more of them.
I wonder if I should think about getting an M.L.S. degree. I don’t know of any library schools in Florida, though.
I decided to walk home at 1:50 PM although I could only stay here long enough to have some veggies, let out the cat, change into shorts, and get my mail.
My new checks came today – but I really just needed the deposit slips to send off a deposit to NationsBank.
Last night I filled out an application for a job at St. Petersburg Junior College. It occurs to me that schools may be blackballing me because of something in my personnel record at Broward Community College (the Legislators in Love brouhaha?) or maybe my bankruptcy from a credit bureau.
SPJC asked for a statement of educational philosophy that had to be written by hand, and I can only assume they use a handwriting analysis – which to me is less accurate then even a lie detector, something that isn’t at all reliable.
Well, my immediate concern is to grade the essays on drama for tomorrow’s class – but I may put that off until tomorrow morning.
No word on whether the Star-Banner story ran today; there wasn’t anything in the Sun.
While I really am tired, at least the most hectic week of the term is over. I’ve essentially finished not only the South Africa class but all the work for Women and the Law.
I’ve got the two big projects left and the I.P. final, which will have to wait.
I chatted with Andy before the seminar today, and I haven’t quite gotten over my crush on him. I know that because of the feeling I get when he calls me “Rich.” He’s the only one at school who does that.
Saturday, April 9, 1994
3 PM. I had a bad case of insomnia last night. It was after 5 AM before I drifted off to less than three hours of unsatisfactory sleep. I’ve had a dull, behind-the-eyes headache all day, although I enjoyed teaching and forgot about it while I was in the classroom.
Last evening I loaded up on vitamins and supplements, and I don’t seem to have a cold yet. My throat was less sore today. At least having insomnia got me to do all my grading. I kept getting up and potchkeying around.
I listened to a radio talk show about the suicide of Kurt Cobain, the talented songwriter and guitarist for Nirvana, the first big grunge band out of Seattle. “He had to go join that stupid club,” his mother said. “I told him not to join that stupid club.”
Cobain had drug and alcohol problems, and he shot himself at 27. I admired his work, and for a straight male, he was extremely pro-gay. Too bad that, like poor River Phoenix, who I last saw here in town in September or October 1992, he had to die young.
This morning I got several calls from students, and I tried to help them all. Ivana asked me if I could figure out the word taketh; she couldn’t find it anywhere. I hadn’t realized how confusing archaic English would be for ESL students.
Coming back from my break, I overheard one student telling another that she really enjoyed my class and the other agreeing. That felt great.
I love teaching poetry because it’s easy to prepare and it brings up so many interesting things to discuss, whether it’s Elizabethan beliefs about biology, the evolution from Old English to Middle English, or World War II refugees. I have such a great storehouse of information that I like to share.
There was a front-page Times story today on an MIT student arrested for allowing the pirating of software over his bulletin board.
Yesterday in our Computer Law seminar, Taylor said it’s hard to keep up with developments in all the fields she’s interested in, and one student said that now some law firms pay people just to read newspapers and magazines and keep them current on hot topics and issues. Obviously, that’s a job I’d love.
“Teaching is a trip,” Klug said yesterday, after I told him that I taught. “It’s better than practicing law, which is so tedious.” Somewhere there’s got to be a way I can make a living doing what I want to do and contribute to society.
I got rejections from three colleges. Bakersfield College said I wasn’t one of seven candidates selected for interviews out of only 63 applicants. Those 9-1 odds are better than I thought, and that tells me something’s wrong with the way I present myself.
Or else, and perhaps more likely, the college knows what I should also know: that others are better suited to their needs. It’s not as if my goal is to teach freshman comp, while for some people, that may be all they ever wanted to do.
Well, right now I’ve got to concentrate on my papers, not on job prospects. I forced myself to continue my off-the-top-of-my-head rough draft of the seminar paper on online defamation. It’s truly horrible, but I’m going to attempt to finish the draft by tomorrow morning and then begin the real writing.
Last night I put away my South African law materials and other stuff I won’t need. I looked at Hunt’s Intellectual Property final from last year; I’ve forgotten a great deal, but the test didn’t seem a total mystery.
I’ve got only three papers to grade for next Saturday, my last day of teaching.
Barbara Sloan sent me my revised teaching schedule for the summer term, which I signed and returned. I told my students who want to take me for Advanced Writing that it might not be me in front of the scheduled course, however.
Three weeks from tonight is the Brooklyn College reunion. Five weeks from today is the University of Florida law school graduation. I wish I weren’t so tired. How will everything get done?