A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-July, 1994

by Richard Grayson

Monday, July 11, 1994

3:30 PM. Half an hour ago, having had a nice day at school, I was in a good mood when I walked in the door and heard the answering machine going off. When I played the message, it was Micki Johnson.

Oh, I thought, she’s going to make sure I’m in Ocala on Thursday. But no – she was telling me the course was canceled because not enough people registered for the module.

Damn! I’m upset and angry. My lack of control over the situation is very frustrating and depressing. For one thing, it means the loss of $1,450. With that money, I was figuring on having to work less hard this fall.

Also, I’d all but decided to stay in Gainesville. I still might, but there’s nothing keeping me in town past the next month except the possibility of classes at SFCC that may or may not materialize.

This has happened too many times in the past for me to be totally shocked, but I had convinced myself that I had as sure a deal with Nova as any I could have. Double-damn! I regret my own naïveté .

Well, I no longer have to worry about going to Tampa or anywhere else and coming back to teach in Ocala on Thursday evenings. In the mail, I got the ticket for the Professional Responsibility (MPRE) test in Tampa on August 12, and now I won’t have to be in Ocala the night before the exam.

But now I’m back to where I started. Having talked myself out of moving to Tampa, I wonder now if I’m better off there or in Gainesville.

I did apply for that full-time lecturer position at the University of Miami, but I don’t see why they should treat me anymore more seriously than did any of the other colleges where I applied for full-time jobs.

Grad school at USF isn’t the answer, but it might provide a segway to Tampa. With all the work in a big metro area, I could either find adjunct classes or a full-time job doing something else.

I’d take any part-time teaching position and then quit if I managed to find a full-time position related to law or something else that’s interesting.

God, just when I started to feel as if life was settling down. . .

I won’t be notified about the Writers Corps job till August 12, when I have to be out of this apartment. I think I have a good shot at it, and right now I’d take the lousy pay and long hours and go to San Francisco, D.C. or the Bronx just to go somewhere and be doing something that would get me there.

I’m so confused. What if I move into a new apartment in Tampa and then have to go to San Francisco?

I guess I’m sounding like Mom, obsessing about details that I may never have to concern myself with – the way I did with the logistics regarding the Ocala course.

Hey, I’ll wait till the time comes. What I probably should do is go to Tampa a week from Saturday, and if I find a place I like, rent it. (Hopefully, I won’t need to show I already have a job in town.)

If I don’t do that or can’t, I’ll find a place in Gainesville to move to – at least temporarily.

Look, the Nova job may have been a good slap in the face/wake-up call (pick the preferred metaphor). Remember how events like this have made me disgusted with adjunct work? Isn’t that why I went to law school?

Besides, it’s good to be reminded of the utter impermanence of life. You may count on something, but suddenly, in a second, it’s gone and you’ve got to go on.

I will. But it’s once again a painful lesson.

I did get my $50 check from Stories on Stage in today’s mail. They said that “Twelve Step Barbie” was read by an actress whose reading went over well with the audience.

This morning I was at the bank, depositing a cash advance check; I’m at my limit on nearly every account. I also got gas (for Ocala, I thought) and bought Dad a birthday card and got other stuff at Walmart.

After exercising, I went to school, where I had pleasant classes. I taught an essay by William Golding and returned the last set of student essays.

The upside of this bad news is that I can relax a little over the next month.

Thursday, July 14, 1994

4:30 PM. I just put down a deposit on an apartment at Sundowne, a complex behind Butler Plaza. I know I said I was going to wait, but this afternoon, I started calling places and nobody had any one-bedrooms available for August.

Becoming a little desperate, I went over to this Sundowne place after they said they had some studios.

For $289 a month, I’m getting a place that will be pretty small; I suppose I can fit all of my stuff into it, but I might have to get rid of the queen-size bed or the other bed.

It will mean a harder time with visitors, but how often do I have visitors? The place isn’t as nice as this one, but I’m saving $100 a month. At least I know I’ll have an easier time paying my bills.

Although I feel unsure of what I’ve done, if I do get into Sundowne – I left a $210 deposit and the manager will call me tomorrow after he’s checked out my application (I guess he will call Camelot and SFCC) – I know I can adjust.

I’ll be further away from SFCC, but it will add only a few minutes to my drive, and I’ll be further from the law school, but I don’t need to go there – or to UF – very often anymore.

I guess I’ll put away all my stuff about Tampa although I may go there sometime in the future.

I can live in small places. The important thing is that this will be my very own place.

I can walk to Walmart or to the Publix (although that’s a bit further than the one here), and there are bus lines that stop at the shopping center, which is filled with every kind of store I’d ever need.

I’ll adjust. And if I’m unhappy there . . . well, it won’t be the fault of the apartment: it will be my fault.

I really have to restrain myself from calling my parents right now to tell them the news. But they’d only make me feel bad by not being supportive, and I know I can get by without their approval.

The good thing about moving to a studio is that it will force me to throw out stuff that I don’t need and live with less junk. That will make the next move easier.

This morning I awoke after some wonderful dreams. In one, this gorgeous guy – at first he was my childhood friend Steve H – was nude, and while nothing overtly sexual happened, I enjoyed looking at him. In another dream I was waiting to take the bar exam with my law school classmates Karin, Donna, Larry and Todd.

I went on Delphi, where I had E-mail from Elihu and read the Gay and Lesbian News Digest, which has a lot of gay rights news I can’t get elsewhere.

After exercising and printing out the assignment for tomorrow’s in-class writing (I still have to make up an assignment sheet for tomorrow for the next at-home paper), I had a bite and drove off to school.

Things at the unit were pretty funny today, and I was in good form, cracking up Mark totally with some of my jokes.

My classes also went well: we went over Asimov’s “The Eureka Phenomenon,” which provided with us with a lot of fodder for good discussions.

Back home, I got the copy of the letter about being selected for Order of the Coif that Don Peters sent me in Fort Lauderdale.

He still can’t spell, writing that membership in the Order of the Coif closes “it’s [sic] role [sic]” in November.

Kestrel rejected my diary entries, but the editor wrote an appreciative note, saying that I’m a good writer but he really was looking only for essays and not excerpts from people’s journals.

Signet Visa sent me a pre-approved form – but it’s for a secured credit card, and I already have plenty of them.

I also got an information package about librarianship from the American Library Association in Chicago as well as two mailings related to my congressional campaign.

I haven’t yet changed out of my sport shirt and long pants.

I guess I’m relieved that I no longer have to worry about where I’ll be going.

My Camelot lease expires at noon on August 10, and the Sundowne manager assured me that he’d have the apartment ready – they’re putting in a new carpet – by August 9 and possibly even as early as August 7.

Since this just happened and I still need to wait to hear from him, I shouldn’t count on anything and I’ll keep my feelings in check.

Moving is always difficult, but it’ll be good for me to adjust to a new place, if not a new city.

I’ll read the Times this evening – I haven’t looked at the paper yet – and try to wind myself down.

Friday, July 15, 1994

10 PM. Mom called an hour ago to say that Wes was going to be on Larry King Live. I told her I can get the sound from the CNN TV show on my radio from WRUF-AM.

It was a pleasure to hear Wes’s voice again: he sounded just like he always did.

He was on a panel with cop novelist Joseph Wambaugh and lawyer novelist Scott Turow discussing – what else? – the O.J. Simpson murder case.

The TV shows are running out of angles since the preliminary hearing ended, and so they’re turning to “How would you write this as a novel or a movie?”

Wesley was as articulate and intelligent as he could be under the circumstances. King said he’ll be directing that movie with Daryl Hannah – I guess that’s the one put on hold years ago.

I’ll probably drop Wes a note – not that he knows I exist anymore.

I’m feel really good about my decision to move. Even my parents seem to be, if not enthusiastic, then at least supportive.

At 3:30 PM, when I got home today, I called Scott Winslow, the Sundowne leasing agent, who said everything was all right. So I spent time on the phone (with extraordinarily friendly employees) arranging to transfer my phone (Southern Bell) and electric (GRU).

My post office change of address form is ready to be mailed; I called the post office to find out my four-digit zip extension. My new address is 3619 SW 24th Avenue #52, Gainesville FL 32607-4419. I’m glad I can keep my phone number.

Last evening I began to feel better about staying in town. Is it relief? Only partly. But I also like the idea of moving to a new, smaller place.

It’s like Carlyle says in Sartor Resartus: if I can’t increase the numerator, I’m decreasing the denominator. Where else could I live as cheaply as I can at Sundowne?

Last night I slept pretty well although I had an anxiety dream that Professor Dowd was giving a family law exam that had 100 short-answer questions and I couldn’t get through five questions before the time was almost up.

A more pleasant dream had me on Flatbush Avenue and Avenue U in Brooklyn, across from Kings Plaza, walking in a crowd of returning commuters that included Lorraine from law school.

Up early, I was done with aerobics, laundry and other chores by 10 AM, and I arrived at school about before 11 AM.

At Payroll, I filled out a form to get my paychecks direct-deposited, and in the library, I got some information on the next CLAST exam for my

After chatting with Mark – he’s trying to figure out how to get recommendations from his UF professors when he doesn’t plan to stay beyond his master’s – I went to class, where my students wrote and I read.

I have 36 papers to grade, but I’ve read many of them already, and they’re a pleasure: mostly character sketches or other personal essays, so much better and more interesting than the dry analysis of their last take-home essays.

I stayed at school late, till the last student had finished, but I didn’t mind.

In the mail I got a painful rejection of “Suspicious Caucasians” from Another Chicago Magazine. The editors wrote that they admired my early work, but that this story just consists of setups for stand-up jokes.

They seem to think I’ve squandered my talent – and they may be right. I see now that the story does not work and that it could only get published in a junky magazine that didn’t expect anything better from me.

Chemical Bank sent late notices on my four student loans. I was on hold for 20 minutes trying to get through to them. I’ll write them a letter after I’ve researched the CFR rule on loan deferments; I must be eligible for some way to reduce or defer my payments.

The Human Rights Task Force’s Voter Information Project invited me as a candidate for Congress to come to a meeting at the University of Tampa.

I told them I don’t campaign, but I answered their brief questionnaire on gay rights and said, “I’m gay, so of course I support anti-discrimination legislation.” That’s about the most public coming out I’ve done so far.

I wonder if they’ll publicize it. It’s not like there are lots of gay candidates for Congress.

Wednesday, July 20, 1994

9 PM. With the power off last evening, I went to the downtown library to read.

I wore glasses because I had taken off my lenses for the night, and I was dressed pretty sloppily.

So of course, I immediately met one of my students, James, a black guy who lives in the rural town of Alachua. At least I was able to help him with his research paper.

Then, just about this time when the library closed, I found myself walking next to a woman who was talking to Javier.

“Hi, Javier, how are you doing?” I said, but they just kept on talking as if I didn’t exist.

I can’t imagine even Javier being so rude unless he thought I’d been rude and had interrupted their conversation.

It’s the height of irony that the one person in town who I most wanted to get close to is completely oblivious to me.

As I drove home, I decided that in the darkness of the parking lot, he might not have seen or heard me. Yet that must have taken some doing.

I wish I’d never even tried to get friendly with the guy, and I’m going to try very hard not to think about him anymore.

I mean, he must have something wrong with him: either he just dislikes me or else he has no social skills whatsoever and is so involved with his gay rights work that he can’t see how he behaves toward other people.

Up at 7 AM, I graded papers and exercised, then went shopping. I came home to begin reading the paper, which contained many interesting articles today.

At school, I brought Mark a sample of my clippings, which he thought were very funny.

Talking to Brendan, I learned that he went to UF law school in 1985 but hated it and dropped out after the first year because, he said, he was used to independent work as a grad student and didn’t like the highly structured law school curriculum.

Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I read my Newsday op-ed piece to my classes and discussed the 2 Live Crew obscenity cases. We still had time to discuss at length Elisabeth Kübler Ross’s “On the Fear of Death.”

Back home, I discovered a $15 money order from the Alabama Literary Review, which I subscribed to but which I never looked at online after they rejected my stuff. (What they published was the most conventional sort of boring fiction.)

So I had another check to deposit; I also filled up my gas tank and got some Vidalia onions, which I’d forgotten to purchase earlier.

I’ve been reading for my Library class, and I started doing my library telephone reference assignment, listing tools I’d want in such a collection.

Mom called to say hi, and as usual, I stayed on too long with her; as soon as I reach a certain point, I start feeling frustrated and want to hang up.

I guess that the point where I got annoyed with Mom today was when she started in about “If only you could teach at law school.”

“I like what I’m doing,” I told her, and I got off the phone. God, I’m so glad I have to see my parents only a few days a year.

I told her it wasn’t necessary for her and Dad to come up to help me with moving, but she said she wants to because she looks forward to a trip here (“It’s the only place I ever go now”) and she’ll come up with Marc, not Dad.

I’ll call Dad tomorrow to wish him a happy birthday although I know he probably hates the idea of turning 48.

My beard has now grown in fully after about ten days of shaving only under my neck. (I’m also shaving that little spot directly under my mouth.) I still haven’t decided if this is the look I want now.

There were even more 25th anniversary moon-landing retrospectives in the media today.

Almost all of my students have no memory of moon landings. For those under 21, there haven’t been any men on the moon in their lifetimes.

I can barely remember the later five lunar landings, much less the last one in December 1972.

And I don’t think I got too excited about the first one, either, nor did most people my age; a lot more interesting things were happening on earth in the summer of 1969.

I have a photo of the moon landing on TV that I took with Grandpa Herb’s Minolta camera.

I don’t have many photographs of myself from that summer, but I found one where I’m wearing striped bell bottoms and a tapered striped “body” shirt covered by a fringed suede vest – probably something my parents got for me on Carnaby Street in London that summer.

While I look pretty good, the photo doesn’t really look like the newly 18-year-old me I remember.