A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early June, 1994
by Richard Grayson
Friday, June 3, 1994
4:30 PM. I’ve just come from getting a cheap, quick haircut at Fantastic Sam’s so I won’t look so disheveled tomorrow on my birthday.
Last evening I kept busy on the Internet and CompuServe and typed up “But in a Thousand Other Worlds,” the old story from With Hitler in New York, which was never published in a magazine.
I want to put my old stories on disk so that I can send some of them out. It would be easier with a scanner, but I have more time than money, and besides, I can make a few editorial changes.
Last night I didn’t sleep much, but at least I had a film to watch when I gave up trying to sleep at 1 AM: Eric Rohmer’s Pauline at the Beach, which diverted me
This morning I exercised to two Body Electric shows so I can skip working out tomorrow, when I’ll be in class all day.
I was trying to get out of here after making the apartment presentable for the prospective tenant who was coming to look at it, but Gordon called and said she wasn’t coming until tomorrow, so I stayed in and read the paper.
Rick Peabody phoned to ask if I was planning to go to the West Side Y for Scott Sommer’s memorial service a week from today.
No, I told him, I can’t afford to. Rick is taking the train up from D.C. on Thursday night and staying with Janice Eidus and her husband.
He’s disappointed at the lineup of speakers at the memorial: Mona Simpson, Amy Hempel and a third woman writer whose name I forget but who’s interchangeable with the other two. I don’t know if they were Scott’s close friends or not.
Rick has Mondo Marilyn sold now, and Mondo James Dean is almost complete.
At the ABA convention in Los Angeles, the New Press got a great reaction to Rick’s abortion anthology. Very busy these days, Rick seems to be doing well financially.
He said he’d been hired to write a CD-ROM project on Jimi Hendrix but was dropped by the people in charge, “who don’t know anything about Jimi Hendrix.”
We talked about The Haldeman Diaries and how they’ll destroy the image of the Good Nixon that Tricky Dick has managed to acquire since shuffling off.
I told Rick about my congressional candidacy and said that I’ve been writing, which is sort of true. I don’t like people thinking I’m not doing more with my life.
My next phone call came from Angela Askew of the Career Services office, telling me to apply for a job with this appellate judge in West Palm Beach who needs a law clerk to start in two weeks.
While he really wants a law review person who’s already passed the Florida bar, Angela said he sounded desperate.
So I made up a two-page law résumé by cutting out most of my already pared-down CV and sent that with a writing sample, my seminar paper, to the judge.
Then Mom called to ask if “that woman” – meaning Angela – had called me. I don’t know why I bother to talking to Mom, who doesn’t understand anything. She made me upset because she kept saying she couldn’t understand why I went to law school in the first place.
I knew I’d have to deal with my parents sooner or later. I tried to be calm with Mom and I got off the phone before I told her what she should do with her worrying about my lack of “security.”
Every time I talk to my parents, I’m just more and more convinced that I’ve got to keep my distance from them.
I shouldn’t even have applied for the job in West Palm – I won’t get it anyway – because that city is too close to Fort Lauderdale.
I did call Mom back after I picked up the mail to thank her and Dad for the $25 birthday check they sent.
Today was a real mail bonanza. It turns out I did get that second Household Bank Visa – but with only a $250 credit line. Still, that’s $250 in credit I didn’t have before.
UF sent my final transcript reflecting my graduation with high honors and my 4.0 index last semester.
From USF, I got an acknowledgment of my graduate application to the library program and a graduate bulletin.
Also, the USF English Department chair wrote me back, saying they usually hire adjuncts just at the start of the fall semester, so I should send her my Tampa address and phone when I get there in August.
Going to Tampa feels right to me. While Mom and Dad won’t approve, I don’t need their approval or even their understanding.
I went to NationsBank and deposited $700 in credit card checks. (NatWest Visa sent some low-interest ones today.)
And according to the information phone number in Tallahassee, my unemployment check for $122 was mailed out today.
Saturday, June 4, 1994
7 PM. Again, I didn’t have a great night’s sleep last night. When I couldn’t get back to sleep at 1 AM, I went into the living room and reread Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Experience.”
The essay strengthened my belief that what Mom and most other people call “security” is an illusion, and that while I might be neurotic or self-destructive, a good part of my peripatetic career and life has been the product of my own choices, and those choices have been healthy ones.
I can’t get upset with people for not being able to understand the way I live my life. Maybe I don’t explain it very well to others.
Yes, I know: My life choices entail loneliness and constant uprooting, but deep down I feel connected to the world and quite rooted.
I slept just enough to avoid lethargy today although the long hours of the library class did make it a little tedious for all of us at times.
I like learning about a new field from an insider’s point of view. I also find the issues involved in library service interesting, though I come at them from the perspectives of an author, teacher and lawyer.
The other students in library class are somewhat similar to the people I’ve met in graduate education courses, but they seem to be more intelligent and better-read than teachers.
While the library students may not have the analytical skills my law school classmates did, most of them have a better background in cultural knowledge. They know the names of books and authors almost the way grad students in English and creative writing do.
It’s a delight to have my car whisk me downtown in air-conditioned comfort and be able to come home for lunch. It beats taking the bus on Saturdays or having to depend on someone to drive me.
Gordon must have shown the apartment while I was out this afternoon. If that woman is smart, she’ll take this place. I’ve been very happy here at Camelot.
Of course, I probably take my happiness wherever I go; I certainly didn’t find it in this apartment.
Last evening and tonight I’ve been reading and sending out messages on CompuServe. Justin wished me a happy birthday.
In the mailbox, I got birthday cards in the mail from my brothers and Alice. But today is probably the first June 4 in my life when nobody actually said “happy birthday” to me.
On CompuServe, I found some of my classmates from P.S. 203 and J.H.S. 285, and Jerry Lowenberg and I exchanged messages. He still lives in the old neighborhood in Brooklyn and is an insurance salesman.
Jerry’s parents died – his father ten years ago, his mother in 1992. He said that Arnie Bluestein is a dentist in Boston and Billy Sherman is a tax lawyer.
I guess compared to a lot of people who remained in Brooklyn, I’ve been out in the world.
Tonight I’m planning to goof off, pamper myself and get a good night’s sleep.
Wednesday, June 8, 1994
4 PM. I’m doing laundry at the moment, even as I write this.
Life is so interesting: When I got the Sun this morning, I was surprised at the prominence Mark Hollis gave me in his column, which appeared over the fold on the first page of the local section.
“Candidate hopes voters have a sense of humor” was the headline, and my name was in the jump quote.
What I liked about this story was that it described me as a Santa Fe Community College instructor and humorist and said nothing about law school.
Hollis twice misspelled Bilirakis’s name as “Bilurakis.” (I guess it’s good that he’s not the one running as a write-in candidate.) Surprisingly, Hollis actually quoted my sarcastic remark about Gainesville: “My work here is done.”
Hey, I’ve fantasized about everybody knowing when I’m leaving town, but I didn’t really expect to have it announced in the newspaper.
Anyway, the mention took up most of the first three columns at the top of the front local page.
Relating my opposition to congressional term limits, Hollis said, “Grayson is sure to garner attention.” From the columnist’s typewriter to God’s ear.
Just a minute ago I got a call from a woman at WTOG/Channel 44 in Tampa, asking when I plan to start buying advertising on her station.
“I don’t believe in television advertising,” I said.
“I’m sure Mr. Bilirakis will advertise,” she said
“Well, if he does, I will, but he’s got to go first.”
“Then I’ll send you all our material on campaign advertising so you can get a commercial on real fast in case he airs one attacking you.”
“That’s fine,” I said.
I wonder how far I can go with this congressional candidacy. But the extent of my campaigning today was to send out a press release to the Tampa Tribune.
Of course, if Bilirakis offered me a job on Capitol Hill if I dropped out of the race, I do it in a flash. At least then he’d be helping one person get health insurance.
Maybe I could I get MTV or the Comedy Channel to cover my campaign? For fifteen years I’ve had practice being a joke candidate, and maybe I’m now ready for prime time.
Rosalie phoned this afternoon, saying she’d been thinking about me and told me I should get in touch with her classmate from law school who’s now a law professor at a school in San Diego. The guy, Frank Valdes, was gay, not the greatest student, hated wearing suits, and was the first male UF law student to have an earring. Rosalie said he had the same kind of attitude toward life that I do. (By that, I think she met adventuresome or ironic.)
I guess I’ll write to him, but I can’t imagine he could give me any advice that would help me break into law teaching – and I’m not even sure I want a career as a law professor.
Of course, Rosalie probably would like to be a law professor herself. I’ve become like this walking Rorschach test for everyone who thinks I should do whatever it is they want to do.
Well, maybe Frank Valdes is a nice guy – or he’s cute or something.
I did thank Rosalie and feel grateful for her concern about my future. She’s very sweet. I know she feels it’s a waste that a top student like myself isn’t doing anything with his law degree.
Online today, UF President John Lombardi responded to my note by saying that he gets so many complaints that he appreciated hearing something good from me about my experience at the university. I also heard back from Carol Beaumont (who was Carol Sturm Smith when I knew her as a Fiction Collective author).
Also on CompuServe, I had a note from Robin Davis Miller of the Authors Guild, who encouraged me to send my defamation paper, as she was planning to have an intern research to subject. I printed out a copy and sent it via snail mail to New York.
When I was going to get the mail this afternoon, Gordon saw me and said that the woman who saw my apartment, an incoming first-year law student, not only kept him waiting four days and caused him to tell five people that they were booked for next year, but after she finally signed the lease and gave him the deposit on Saturday afternoon, she showed up at his door at 7 PM asking to be let out of the lease.
I don’t know why Gordon was nice enough to do it because he didn’t have to. But he told her off, saying they didn’t want people like her at Camelot anyway.
I got my unemployment check and a package of software: a health and calorie-counting kit. There’s no return address on the box, but it’s postmarked New York and the printing looks like Josh’s. What a bud!
When I called Ronna, she said she’s been very busy at work. This weekend she goes to Boston to speak on Sunday. “I always wanted a job where I could travel to Boston on business,” she said.
Her reaction to my plan to move to Tampa to go to library school and my running for Congress was mostly silence. I don’t know what I expect people to say.
But Ronna did let me talk about my feelings about constantly changing my life. “Maybe for you,” she said, “that is being settled down.”
It may take me forever to decide if I’m exploring Emersonian versatility or exhibiting neurotic self-destruction.
As I wrote the other day, I’m not going to examine myself more closely until I’m unhappier than I am at the present.
Maybe I’ve accomplished nothing, but most of the time I feel I’ve packed a lot of living into 43 years.
Friday, June 10, 1994
9 PM. After being home for about a month, I still feel the pleasure I got during my two weeks in New York, and I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve been back.
Yesterday I watched a couple of the foreign films I borrowed from the public library: Milos Forman’s Loves of a Blonde and Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player.
Today I borrowed more films as well as a number of books, and I’ve just begun reading Elizabeth Thomas’s The Hidden Life of Dogs.
I greatly miss the company of the cat, who has just stopped showing up here in the morning. Before Marc got China, I never thought I’d be a pet person. I like cats and dogs equally for their different qualities.
Last evening I was reading, of all things, Florida statutes. I picked it up to check out the election laws regarding write-in candidates and ended up reading the chapters on higher education and sporting events.
In one of last night’s pleasant dreams, I lived in a big house on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn (a great street, less overwhelming a boulevard than Ocean Parkway).
I came home with a dog I’d just bought even though the dog was 50 years old and I realized it couldn’t live much longer. It still seemed like it would make a good companion for however short a time.
This week’s Gay Pride activities are few, and I’m not going to tonight’s party or tomorrow’s picnic at Lake Wauburg, but I plan to attend the gay and lesbian films being shown on campus on Sunday, which is something I can go to alone comfortably.
This morning I read the rest of the library text assignment and did low-impact aerobics.
Gainesville is so hot and humid this time of year. The past week it’s been constantly alternating between showers and blindingly bright skies several times a day.
Yesterday in the bookstore, I looked up Gretchen in the index of the new biography of Pamela Harriman and saw from the last entry that Gretchen didn’t go to Paris with the new ambassador but instead got hired by Congressman Michael Huffington, the one-term Republican from California who’s spending millions on a Senate campaign, and his glamorous author-wife Arianna.
This afternoon I got a call from a woman in Chicago, Kathe Telingator. She’s with Stories on Stage, a series of readings of short stories similar to Selected Shorts at Symphony Space.
They’re doing a benefit with stories based on cultural icons, and they liked “Twelve Step Barbie.” Would I want them to send me a contract so they could do a public reading of it on June 29?
Great, I said. But I’ll believe it when I see it. Remember the guy who called to say he was going to buy the Hungarian translation rights to With Hitler in New York? I wasn’t surprised when I never heard from him again.
Still, Kathe said they would send out the stuff today and call me again next week.
Too bad I can’t go to Chicago to hear the story.
At the main library this afternoon, I helped Ruthie find some items in the first assignment, spoke to another classmate who’d read about me in the paper, and xeroxed papers from reference book sources to compile a list for our acquisition assignment.
When I got home, I looked through the mail: rejections of a story by a magazine and a job application by a community college.
But I got another Visa, this time with a measly $300 credit line, from Carolina First. I now have five Visas and MasterCards in addition to the three secured cards I have.
But the last three cards I’ve received – all in the last month – add up to only $800 in total credit lines.
Where once I would have been rejected, it seems as if card issuers now give me a card with a tiny line so they can’t lose too much on me in case I declare bankruptcy again.