A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late May, 1994

by Richard Grayson

Tuesday, May 17, 1994

7 PM. Even if I’m not getting much done, I’m enjoying myself. I woke up at 7 AM and went out to mail letters, pick up the New York Times, and buy a couple of items at Publix before it got too hot.

I didn’t go out again until 4 PM when I put on my Walkman to listen to NPR and tramped around the neighborhood because I figured I need to walk.

I did do low-impact aerobics this morning, but I’m used to walking a lot: first, those twice-daily treks to and from the law school and then all the walking I did while in New York City.

Last Friday was the filing deadline for Congress in Florida: Rodham, Ellis and two others qualified to be on the ballot in the Democratic Senate primary, so they don’t need me now.

But I called the Division of Elections in Tallahassee to ask for the package for write-in candidates.

What The Hotline and most papers don’t know – I do, because I read the statutes – is that write-in candidates have till this coming Friday at noon to qualify.

All being an official write-in candidate means is that they count any votes you get. (They don’t count write-ins for Mickey Mouse or anyone not registered.)

But no Democrat filed even as write-in candidates against six Republican congressmen, so if I can get the paper in on time, I’d like to file as a write-in against Representative Mike Bilirakis from the St. Pete area.

Since he’s running for a seventh term despite sponsoring bills to limit House members to six terms, I thought it would be funny if I ran against him, making me the anti-term limits guy and him the hypocrite.

I bet the St. Pete Times would do a story on it. Also, I guess I’d be the only “official” Democratic candidate in the Ninth Congressional District.

Would I get anything out of it? No, but I could have fun. If I can get the paperwork done by Thursday, assuming it gets here, I can FedEx it to Tallahassee in time. We’ll see.

I wrote Tom – finally. He’s immersed in literature over there in Europe; I’m sure he can get a job as a college professor once he retires from NOCCA.

I found an Ottawa Citizen column about Crad that was quite sympathetic to him (although the author didn’t deny that Crad can be annoying and both juvenile and vindictive) and which mentioned his leaving street-selling prompted me to send Crad a postcard.

I also sent the article to Josh, along with Tom’s syllabus for his summer science fiction course.

And I wrote a two-page recollection about Stonewall for the 25th anniversary coverage by the San Francisco Examiner in response to the paper’s call for letters about the riot.

On Delphi for an hour this evening, I read the postings in the gay forums and Usenet newsgroups, found a couple of ads in the Chronicle of Higher Ed I’ll respond to, and wrote an E-mail reply to Justin’s message. Although I still have Lexis, I expect to be cut off at any time.

I read this stuff I got from the Electronic Frontier Foundation about their positions on privacy (of course, they oppose the Clipper chip) and access (they call for universal common carrier service on whatever data highway develops when all the dust and mergers settle).

Perestroika got several Tony Award nominations, including best play and acting nominations for Stephen Spinella, Jeffrey Wright and David Marshall Grant.

Yesterday I got Paul Rudnick’s Jeffrey from the public library and think I’ll relax and read the play tonight rather than do something more . . . I was going to say productive but what I mean is practical, like working my way through the pile of stuff I need to get to and taking care of business.

Right now I’m listening to Beethoven on Lincoln Center Live on PBS and I don’t feel like doing anything resembling “work.”

Saturday, May 21, 1994

10 PM. I had long and meaningful talks with Marc tonight, and I feel closer to him than I have in years. We spoke about our parents and Jonathan and our upbringing.

We both think that Jonathan is wasting his life and too dependent upon our parents, as I have been to some extent.

Unlike Jonathan and me, Marc never became compulsive or dependent on our parents in the same way – because he grew up on the streets.

When we were young, Mom and Dad were always concerned with my emotional problems, Marc said, and Jonathan was their baby – so they devoted less attention to him, and in some respects, that was benign.

Although he made a lot of mistakes, Marc had adventures by 20 that Jonathan will never experience – and that I didn’t, either. Marc is glad he got through those bad times.

He spoke about Steven’s death being so hard on him, especially since he was very close to Steven before he died as they shared their problems. Steven urged Marc to help Jonathan do something with his life and felt sad that Marc had given up on him.

Marc said he was surprised that just before Steven died, Jonathan went over to his house for something, and apparently Steven told him in that nice way he had – that couldn’t make even Jonathan upset – that he should look for some kind of work.

Jonathan said that with $20,000 in savings, he didn’t need to work. “Sure,” Marc said, “when he has no expenses” – because he pays no rent to Mom and Dad.

We went online on Lexis for an hour, and I showed Marc some of the Internet, and he told me about scrapes his friends had with the law, mostly because of drugs.

Marc’s been lucky. When the feds picked him and his friend Susan up in New York a couple of years ago near Plum Beach, she had been smoking a joint and had cocaine residue in a vial, but the cops left Marc alone.

Marc told me that Mom had complained that my apartment is a pigsty; I guess it must have taken a lot for her not to say anything while she was here.

He says he doesn’t know how long Mom and Dad can keep the house once Dad stops working, but they can probably get a good price for it, especially if they wait a few years since the neighborhood is desirable and the house has more land than most of the newer ones.

I talked to Marc about this and that, and we watched TV; I feel like he’s my friend, and that makes me happy.

He likes Gainesville a lot. Last evening I got a little worried because Marc went out for dinner and didn’t come home for hours, but as I’d guessed, he went to a movie.

While it did cross my mind that he went out to do drugs and wouldn’t be back till morning, I also know that at 39, Marc has to be treated as an adult.

After sleeping well, I was up at 6 AM and had breakfast. It was 54° this morning; I love this unseasonably cool weather.

Marc dropped me off at the Alachua County Library just before 9 AM for my class. It felt odd seeing Ruthie, Charmaine and Brian from the law library there; I told Ruth to tell Rosalie that she’d been a bad influence on me.

While USF expected about 20 students, 35 people showed up, with some coming from Tampa (this course wasn’t offered there this summer), Melbourne, Jacksonville and other parts of the state.

This is the first class they’ve offered in Gainesville, said Kathleen de la Peña McCook, the division director (who’s fairly new, having just come from LSU), and they will probably offer more.

Most of the students were library workers or teachers, and the members of the class are certainly more like what I’m used to from my graduate classes in education than they are like law school students.

After McCook supervised the registration process and selling the texts, she spoke about the program. They’ve already managed to graduate 75 people from classes in Broward County, but others travel to Tampa on Saturdays and one day a week and get their degree in three or four years.

The turf battles and the problems with funding she recounted reminded me of my own experiences in Florida higher education.

The flexibility of the program also reminded me of how things used to go in my Teacher Education Center workshops for FIU. I miss leading those computer education workshops, but then I also already miss studying law.

While I loved today’s class and I’m glad I took it, I also loved the study of law and want to stay in the legal field somehow. I wonder if being involved with library science and law in the future will allow me to keep a hand in creative writing and teaching English because I want to do that, too.

I’m just a guy who loves school, and today gave me a chance for an insider’s view of the profession of librarian. Our excellent instructor, Alachua County Library director Adrian Mixson, is an articulate advocate for the field.

The course is Basic Information Sources, one of four core courses in the 36-credit ALA-accredited master’s program.

Today we covered not so much sources but the basics of what reference librarians actually do. We studied interviewing skills with patrons, using several exercises and videos as well as a lecture.

While it’s hard to be in class from 9 AM to 5 PM (I went for lunch at Subway with three Jacksonville teachers), Adrian kept things moving effectively, and I felt it was a useful class.

We have the next class on my birthday in a couple of weeks, and I’m glad for the reading and the assignments – which are mostly  information scavenger hunts like Rosalie’s assignments in Advanced Techniques of Legal Research.

The course costs $320, but I’ll pay with a credit card check.

If I can get just another $1,000 in credit lines, I’ll feel more relaxed; of the three applications (at Household Bank, Carolina First and Bank of New York) I have pending, perhaps one will come through.

Anyway, when I got home, I found that USF had sent both housing and financial aid information for the program.

Monday, May 23, 1994

10 PM. Thanks to Marc, I bought a car today and got rid of the old wreck. We went to a used car dealer on Main Street and 23rd Avenue late this morning and looked at various cars.

Eventually we settled on a 1985 Chrysler New Yorker, a large car that Marc said was a good buy because these big cars don’t have much resale value.

Marc was excellent in negotiating the dealer down to $2,100 price from a $2,370 initial offer. I know I’m bad at this kinds of bargaining efforts, and besides, I have no idea what the true value of the car is.

The air conditioner wasn’t working, and the salesman, Mr. Anderson, an extremely friendly guy, said he’d have it fixed and told us to come back to pick it up after 3 PM. He guaranteed the air conditioning for 30 days.

I went to a nearby Allstate rep to get insurance, paying $133 for the first few months. Then I went to NationsBank, where I withdrew $1,500 in cash and another $500 in credit card advances.

After lunch, we watched the services for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis at Arlington National Cemetery, by the eternal flame where JFK is buried. (This morning they carried the audiotape of the private funeral in a Fifth Avenue church.)

President Clinton spoke, as did John Kennedy Jr. and Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg; earlier, Senator Ted Kennedy and Mrs. Onassis’s companion Maurice Tempelsman spoke at the services.

At 64, Mrs. Onassis seemed too young to die – but then it was over 30 years ago that President Kennedy was buried after the assassination. Although she was the First Lady, she’d been extraordinarily young then, much younger than Marc or I am today.

We called a tow truck from a service recommended by Mr. Anderson and followed it out to a recycling center.

After deducting an $18 charge for towing, the paid me $70 for the Bonneville’s scrap metal value (measured by the ton). That money came in handy when I bought new front tires later.

Marc and I spent over an hour with Mr. Anderson, who was very chatty. Marc seemed astonished that after he said, “You’re not going to count the money, are you?,” Mr. Anderson just took the envelope with cash and didn’t count it.

He gave me the old registration and I had the tag from the old car to put on the new one.

After driving the car for the first time, I met Marc at Sam’s Club, the warehouse owned by Walmart, where we got new front tires. Then we went to an auto parts store and to a car wash, which did an excellent detail job.

The car, a silver-and-black model, looks great, and it has a lot of features I don’t really need.

It’s the first car I’ve owned with a digital odometer and speedometer. It’s got power windows and power reclining seats, cup holders, and a voice that tells you to fasten your seatbelts or to not forget your keys.

It will be so convenient to have a car again, and I really owe it all to Marc. He even made up an extra set of keys for me.

I could have never done this without him, and I’m glad he stayed an extra day. In fact, I wish he weren’t leaving tomorrow. But he’s going to accompany Dad on a sales trip to Puerto Rico in a few days.

Anyway, I filled out and sent off the free federal student financial aid form for USF, and last night I got through the AWP Chronicle.

Unfortunately, I now have only about $300 left in the bank and I owe a lot on credit cards.

But for the first time in five months, I have a car again. I don’t know whether I’ll have good luck with the Chrysler, as you never can tell with used (or even new) cars.

Last night Marc went to the movies again; I watched the last hour of Giant, which was a pretty good film, if a bit underdeveloped despite its length. (They left out a lot of plot and characters from Edna Ferber’s novel.)

This morning, for some reason, the local NPR station, Classic 89, went off the air, but I was able to catch the Morning Edition news on Concert 90, WUSF-FM, from Tampa, the first time I’ve heard it up here.

Perhaps it’s a sign. I may go elsewhere, but my gut instinct is telling me to move to Tampa.

Thursday, May 26, 1994

9 PM. It’s a gorgeous night. I just got in and I feel happy.

When I got out of the movies a few minutes ago, I found a $10-off McDonald’s/Flintstones coupon for Florida residents for Universal Studios in front of my car door. (I now have a car!)

It must be a sign. So I just devoured some crème caramel Dannon Light yogurt, licking the spoon when I finished.

I saw Ben Stiller’s Reality Bites at the $1.50 (after 6 PM) theater, and I thought the movie was pretty good. Winona Ryder can do no wrong, but mostly I liked the portrait of the twentysomething Generation X slackers.

While I don’t get all the 1970s kids’ TV show references that the youngsters do (Grammar Rock is one the exceptions), and I don’t relate to cigarettes, coffee, 7-Eleven Big Gulp sodas and junk food, at times I feel as if I have more in common with people twenty years younger and their McJobs, goatees, TV-based irony (even if they can’t define the word), grunge styles and aimlessness than I do with guys my own age.

Not that I’m not glad I’m 43 – or about to be.

Last evening I installed and got connected to CompuServe. After half an hour on it, I’m not very impressed: it seems very corporate, too orderly and constipated – but that’s a first look based on browsing, with very little in-depth exploration (mostly because everything good costs extra).

Getting into to bed at 10 PM, I turned on the radio and listened to Musica Antiqua, which plays genuine just-as-it-sounded-back-in-the-15th-century stuff, and then slept badly. I just wasn’t that tired.

At 3 AM, I finally got up and read the chapter on bibliography in the library science text – whose author, William Katz, is Library Journal’s magazine reviewer, who years ago used to mention me in various reviews of little magazines.

Up at 7 AM, I read most of the Times, ate a bowl of oatmeal, cream of buckwheat and spelt with skim milk and a banana, and did low-impact aerobics, push-ups and chest flyes using my night table extending from the bed as a weight bench.

Later this morning, I felt funny being on the law school campus after I graduated – as if somebody were going to say, “You’re pathetic, hanging out here now that it’s over.”

First I went to the placement office, where I got the latest bulletin, looked at their files and browsed in their library. There are a couple of jobs I might apply for – like a research assistant to a Miami judge – but I will wait till I get back the final transcripts I ordered yesterday.

On the second floor of the library, I discovered that Westlaw will work on campus with that password I picked up this term – so I can get access whenever I have a jones for Westlaw.

“Richard,” someone said I was about as I was about to leave the library. It was Rosalie, who said she was told I taking the graduate library course at USF. I stammered a bit and asked her advice.

She said the job market for librarians in academia was as bad as that for faculty, but if I was interested, I should go to the University of Washington library school because they’ve got a good placement record.

Rosalie said she assumed I knew I got the book award for best student in Advanced Legal Research – but I didn’t, of course.

We talked in her office for half an hour as friends. I told her I was gay and I talked about my trip to New York and my college reunion.

She and her family just moved into a new house with a swimming pool and jacuzzi, so she’s 180 degrees from where I am. Her husband has had a number of offers to leave, but she thinks they’ll be staying in Gainesville another fifteen years.

Early in their marriage, they moved around a lot and did it easily, going from San Francisco to D.C. to Brazil to other places, but now she’s ready to stay in one place.

Rosalie seems really concerned about my future, and I keep having to reassure her that I’m going to be fine. She says she’ll be happy to write me a letter of recommendation.

After leaving her office, I walked downstairs and spoke to Larry, who was studying out of the bar exam review book while he worked at his desk.

Then, after I ran into Kenny H by the produce at Publix, I decided I’m going to stop explaining to people why I’m not taking the bar exam in July and instead just tell them that I’m doing fine.

At home, I had lunch and did laundry, stealing glances at the cute guys at the pool on the way.

When I returned with the final load, I saw I had a message on my answering machine. It was from someone from a Tallahassee bureau that gets biographical information on candidates (date of birth, occupation, previous political experience).

When I called them back, it turns out that I did in fact qualify as the write-in candidate against Mike Bilirakis in the 9th Congressional District. Terrific! (Mom had absolutely no idea of what I was talking about when I told her about it later.)

I went to SFCC, where I said hi to Brian and researched the 9th C.D. in the Almanac of American Politics in the library.

It’s a month since I went to New York, and so much wonderful stuff has happened since then. As I expected, this has been a really happy time in my life.

Friday, May 27, 1994

9 PM. It’s the start of a holiday weekend and I had a good day. After I did my usual stuff, I began reading ahead in the Katz text and finished two of the four chapters assigned for next week.

At 2:30 PM, I got to the main library and began my “treasure hunt” assignment, spending all of my time at the reference desk because the 000s that I needed were there.

Adrian Mixson was on duty till 3 PM, when he went to pick up his kids, and he helped me out a little. As I learned in Advanced Legal Research, there’s no substitute for getting hands-on experience with reference materials.

Today was the first time I ever used sources like the Readers’ Advisory Guide, The Bookman and American Book Price Current (which gives the worth of selected books, letters and other signed documents), as well as the newer reference books on software, CD-ROM, video and audio cassettes. (I was already familiar with the International Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media, Books in Print, and other volumes.)

The librarians at the reference desk were helpful, and it was instructive to watch how they handled queries in person and on the phone. As one librarian explained to me, in a public library, service is the watchword. There’s something very noble about that.

I stayed until the library closed at 5 PM and only got half of the assignment done, but I’ll enjoy doing the rest of it.

I heard an interesting call-in show on WUFT-FM with a local lawyer involved with the Alachua Freenet, which should – with a lot of help from the Tallahassee Freenet – be up and running in September. Freenets are sprouting up in communities all over the U.S.

Wherever I end up, I’d like to be involved in the freenet movement because it has the potential to bring a community together – and because I like the notion of making vital information services available to all people, regardless of cost or the users’ technological skills.

On CompuServe, I got on the directory and found Justin’s number so I can write him after I figure out how to use its in-house E-mail.

Other people I found with CompuServe accounts are Mikey, Mark Savage and Cousin Wendy; I probably know others, too.

On Delphi, I went to the gay special-interest group and read notices on politically-oriented forums.

At 5 PM, I had dinner while listening to the news. Governor Chiles signed a bill allowing Florida to sue tobacco companies for compensation for Medicaid patients whose illnesses are caused by cigarettes.

This will make the tobacco industry much more vulnerable to liability, and that’s a good thing. I remember Professor Dowd used the liability for cigarettes to introduce concepts in our first Torts class – my first law school class ever – way back in August 1991.

Monday, May 30, 1994

10 PM. I went to another $1.50 movie tonight: Threesome, a mediocre film narrated by a gay man looking back at his junior-year college roommates, a straight guy to whom he was attracted and a woman attracted to him.

Naturally, the straight guy lusted after the woman and nobody’s lust was reciprocated.

It was kind of interesting in a bisexual-repressed way, but the three characters were so unattractively obnoxious and immature that it was hard not to be impatient with them.

Last evening I read most of the Sunday Times and went to bed around 11 PM.

Today was a holiday, and although a leak from a pipe underneath my sink is getting worse, I didn’t want to bother the maintenance staff; the problem can wait till tomorrow.

This morning I exercised, read, and put my library homework in a word processing file. After lunch, I went to UF’s Library West, where I just about completed the assignment for our next class.

I still need to read the rest of the text carefully. At 4 PM, I stopped at the law school library looking to use Westlaw, but once I got on it, I found I had little to do.

Spotting Gene, I called out to him. He passed the February bar but only last week got a job at a firm in Satellite Beach.

Gene said the climate for attorney positions in Florida is awful. He made do with some work he got as a reservist, and while he wanted to live in the Panhandle, where his wife’s family is, he’s got to take the job on the Space Coast.

I wished him good luck and made up some baloney about my own plans.

On the radio I heard an excellent speech by Congressman Bernie Sanders (Independent-Vermont) on the single-payer health care system that Canada and Western Europe have but which isn’t possible politically in the U.S.

Why are we so different? Unlike the rest of the developed world, we have to put up with high rates of poverty among children, a lower standard of living, the violence caused by a proliferation of handguns, no family-leave policies except that pathetic bill that passed last year, a larger percentage of our population in prison, and the highest levels of income disparity between the super-rich and everyone else.

I used to think all the time about living abroad. When Clinton got elected, I thought there was a chance for change, but now I see it’s impossible to turn America around.