A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late July, 1994
by Richard Grayson
Friday, July 22, 1994
4 PM. I think I would have had a good night’s sleep if I hadn’t been awakened by Josh at 11:30 PM. We talked for over an hour.
Although his problems are real and poignant, we danced around them, getting nowhere in a way that reminded me of our conversations during that summer when he was so paranoid about the people following and harassing him.
Basically what it came down to is that without a “gut tube” through his father’s stomach to feed him, Josh’s father will die because the IV isn’t giving him enough nutrients.
Josh hates the idea of the tube, partly (I think) because he’s queasy about it, but mostly (he says) because his father wouldn’t want it.
He wanted the doctors to give his father Ritalin, but it seems that the doctors had a valid reason not to even though Ritalin works faster than antidepressants on old people – or so Josh claims.
Josh questioned me about what I knew about the risks and efficacy of electroshock treatment for depression. What I couldn’t understand is why the doctors won’t put in the “gut tube” without Josh’s permission. You’d think they would have to do it if it meant his father would otherwise die.
But Josh became impatient with my questions, say, “Hey, Rich, I know you went to law school, but that’s not the point.”
Josh was leaning toward forbidding the gut tube although doctors and friends like Sharon told him to go ahead with it.
I couldn’t see why it’s such a big deal. His father is going to die soon whatever happens. He’s 86 and wants to die.
Anyway, I couldn’t sleep after I got off with Josh. I had already been on the phone all evening.
Frank Valdes, the California law professor who went to school with Rosalie and Lynn McGilvray-Saltzman, called about a month after he got my letter.
He’s 38, gay, and his article “Queers, Sissies, Dykes and Tomboys [followed by the usual ponderous subtitle]” will take up all of the January 1995 California Law Review.
I asked him about it, and it sounds like I’d like to read it, as it discusses gender role issues and culminates in “doctrinal reconstruction” that eventually calls for kind of queer jurisprudence.
I hate feeling like I’m somebody’s Goodwill project, and Frank really didn’t tell me anything I don’t know about law teaching except that he loves it because it provides so much “freedom, respect and compensation.”
I suspect I don’t need compensation as much as he does. Frank Valdes is a nice, generous, intelligent man, but I really don’t want to put up with all that stupid shit it takes to be a law professor. My feeling is that if the profession is so stupid as to expect only a distinct set of credentials, fuck ‘em.
I will take his suggestion to call Stanford and inquire about their law school teaching fellowship program that pays $25,000 a year plus tuition – if only because it would get me to the Bay Area in style, and I’d probably love doing it.
I thanked Frank, who said he might be in town for his tenth class reunion, but only if he can get his school to pay because he’s doing some presentation. (How come, if he’s so well-compensated, can’t he afford a plane ticket?)
After I hung up, the phone rang again. It was Laura C. She wanted to know if I’d be taking the bar exam.
I said no, of course, and then we chatted a bit. Obviously, she’d hoped to see me in Tampa. Brenda will be there, of course, but then Brenda lives in Tampa.
Laura has no job prospects except possibly through a friend of her father’s. (It sounds like he’d be hiring her as a favor to the family.)
After the bar exam, she’s going to meet her parents in Sarasota for a vacation. Laura is so attached to her parents and so much like a little girl that it surprises me when she said she’d prefer moving out of Florida.
She felt nervous about the bar exam. The only other UF graduate at her Boca BarBri class was Barry; most of the others are from the law schools at Miami and Nova.
I gave her my new address although I don’t have much in common with Laura and not much interest in stretching our friendship beyond what it was: a law school friendship.
This morning I read the entire New York Times and exercised before going to SFCC.
My reading assignment went over well today: I had the classes sit for an hour and read in our text, letting them read any unassigned essays they wanted, strictly for pleasure. After the hour was up, I asked only that they give me a list of what they’d read.
My inspiration for the assignment was In the Middle, the book by that Maine ninth-grade teacher Nancie Atwell, who let her students read anything they wanted to in class.
Back at the Unit, Mark told me that his next-door neighbor used to be my law school classmate Sharon.
Mark found her a bit annoying and said he advised her to get out of Florida. Instead of taking a job in her hometown of Jacksonville (“She’ll be stuck there forever), Mark said she should have taken one of the judicial clerkships she was offered.
I have a hard time seeing anyone being happy practicing law, let alone Sharon. But for me, law school was, as Frank said, “the best liberal arts graduate degree you can get.”
In the mail, I got my car title, my SFCC contract, and other junk.
I really need to rest.
Sunday, July 24, 1994
2 PM. Last night, after dozing off while listening to a tape I’d gotten in the library, Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, I slept only sporadically.
Like yesterday, today has been rainy.
So far today, I’ve read the Miami Herald (no Tropic story by me, of course – I didn’t expect it, but I felt disappointed anyway) and all of the Sunday New York Times except the Book Review; I’ve also done aerobics, checked my E-mail (Bob K replied to my response to the Human Rights Council’s ad in yesterday’s Gainesville Sun) and discovered how to subscribe to the Gay News Digest “listserv.” And I’ve been overeating (healthy stuff, but too much of it).
A lot of this activity has been by way of postponing grading papers. Last evening I did grade the remaining five papers of the first class, so I just have the second class left.
God knows why I hate grading papers so much. Once I begin, it’s not so bad, but part of the problem is that I dislike assigning grades; I hate judging others.
Is that because I’m afraid of others judging me? I feel awful if I have to give a C and I rarely do – but then I feel I’m giving too many B’s.
I’m starting to feel queasy so I’m going to stop writing now.
8 PM. In a D.C. political column on the second page of the St. Petersburg Times, I found this little item: “GOP Rep. Michael Bilirakis faces a challenge from Richard Grayson, a Gainesville man whose committee is called ‘God Hates Republicans.’”
That’s the first notice my House candidacy has gotten outside of Gainesville. Most of the article was obviously based on the quarterly FEC reports. (Senator Mack has $2 million in cash; Hugh Rodham, $20,000.)
This is also the first indication that my campaign committee’s name got to the FEC. I knew it would make for a great little item for the press.
I bought the St. Pete Times at Kash n’ Karry following a trip to the Tower Road library, where I worked on my paper for library class.
Before that, I’d graded five papers at home. Now I have just three to go, and I can leave those till the morning, really.
I was shocked to get a call from Teresa on Fire Island. We didn’t discuss my not seeing her in May when I was in New York, although I felt a little guilty about it and probably sounded sheepish.
She called after Pam had pointed out a wedding item in today’s Times. “Can you believe a grown woman calls herself Missy?” Pam had asked, showing Teresa the article.
The Missy in question turned out to be Mikey’s bride. Teresa said the article made Mikey sound like a very successful attorney and Missy’s family sound like wealthy nouveau riche Jews. I’ll find it in the library later this week.
We chatted and I told her about why I’m not taking the bar exam, about my teaching, etc.
She’s doing well financially at the beach – she was catering a party tonight – and said she needs to stay in Fire Island because she just got a contract with some beach club in the next town, Saltaire.
Teresa’s looking forward to getting away from Fair Harbor, where after all these years, just about everyone is her enemy.
Her sister and brother-in-law are running as co-district leaders in an insurgent movement against the Queens County Democratic boss, Congressman Tom Manton.
While the beach is plentiful this summer, the Army Corps of Engineers brought in coarse sand that’s not natural to Long Island, and nobody likes it.
I told Teresa I was glad she called, and I actually was because I didn’t want to end contact with her.
I left messages with Alice and Ronna about my change of address and called Mom, who said that she and Marc will be up here two weeks from tomorrow to help me move.
If I can, I’d like to get a lot of stuff moved on Sunday, August 7. (That Saturday I have my library class all day.) I’ll be off from work on Tuesday, August 9, so that will be my heavy-duty moving day.
I have to start saving computer files on floppies, and I’ve got a million other things to do.
This last week of July will be pretty busy, but I’m sure I can manage everything.
Now I have to grade some more papers and read the essays for the week’s classes so that I’m at least a bit more prepared than my students.
Friday, July 29, 1994
9 PM. Last evening, after grading some papers, I was editing a construction engineering article by Zeljko, Ivana’s husband (mostly adding the articles a and the that apparently don’t exist in Serbo-Croatian) when the phone rang.
It was the woman at Tampa NOW/PAC to whom I sent back their questionnaire. She said they were impressed with my thoughtful answers and wanted to ask me more questions before NOW gave me its endorsement.
So for over an hour, we talked, and I answered each question at length, if only because it’s such a luxury to be able to hold forth on topics like welfare, domestic violence, parental consent for abortion, allowing gay foster parents, etc.
At the end she took down some biographical material (my experiences as a community activist are pretty meager) and said NOW is holding its statewide convention in Orlando this weekend and I could expect their endorsement. She asked if I plan to run for the legislature in the future.
When I called Dad and told him about NOW’s endorsement, he didn’t even know what I was running for. Even telling him about SFCC asking me to teach four courses made him perplexed.
I’m not used to the fact that I have to treat my parents the way I once treated my grandparents: as people too old and out of it to really understand the details.
As I once did with my grandparents, I need to give my parents a simplified, semi-censored version of what I would tell a friend.
After falling asleep, I awoke at 1 AM, thinking about school. Teaching the same two classes 75 minutes each for five days in a row is so intense that it tends to crowd out everything else.
If I do teach 12 hours in the fall (which I doubt will come through), it will still be three hours less a week than I’m teaching now and a lot easier because those four classes will meet at most three times a week for 50-minute periods.
To kill insomnia and get out of the way the extra half hour of exercise to make up for not working out on Saturday, I got out a Body Electric tape I did bicep curls, dips, stomach crunches and other exercises.
It was 4 AM when I finally drifted off again – and not for long.
But I had a nice dream about Ronna in which we kissed and hugged; even after her boyfriend joined her, I felt jealous but tried to make it a threesome. (This was not overtly sexual but merely affectionate.)
For an ex-girlfriend of many years, Ronna appears an awful lot in my dreams.
This morning I shopped at Publix, graded papers, worked out again, listened to the news of another murder of a doctor (and a bodyguard) at another Pensacola abortion clinic. The killer is a former minister and “right-to-life” fanatic.
The violence of these people may discredit the religious right just as the Weathermen and Black Panthers discredited the New Left in the early 1970s.
My classes were small today, and I ended up with a better discussion in the first class than in the second. Again I chatted with Krishelle after class.
I’ve got a dozen papers to grade this weekend, with lots more coming on Monday – but at least I can grades some while they’re writing their in-class essays.
It was a long week, but I’m comfortable with the SFCC Summer B routine; it’s been kind of pleasant because the campus is so quiet.
There was no paycheck in the mail but some bills – I’ve been making sure I fill out address changes with my payments – and a yellow slip I have to take to the post office to sign for a certified letter from the League of Women Voters.
Driving to the law school, I saw Javier walking up SW 2nd Avenue. Although I decided to turn back and see where he lives and maybe say hi, I was too late because he obviously walks faster than I do.
I see Javier so often these days. It was easier this spring when I almost never saw him. I still would like to become his friend, and I’m going to see if I can’t arrange it.
Yes, I know: Javier is either shy, unfriendly or he just dislikes me intensely (because I’m too closeted? too unserious? too obnoxious?).
At the law library, after chatting with Charmaine and Arthur, I used the LUIS catalog (just as I had used the Wilsonline CD-ROM at the SFCC library) and also went on Westlaw, which now has the Wall Street Journal. (No, there was no sign of my even being mentioned there.)
When I got home, there was a message to call back Carrie at the Gainesville Sun – but the news department said she’d gone home for the day.
Tomorrow is another long library class with Adrian Mixson.
Saturday, July 30, 1994
7 PM. I hurt my back this morning, though it’s not quite as bad as last November. The spasms only started this evening when I got up suddenly, and I think I can rest this out.
But with moving a week away, this isn’t a good time to have hurt my back. Like last time, I caused the problem when I jumped up and down.
However, I wasn’t exercising; instead, I was jumping because of the elation I felt when thumbing through the Gainesville Sun, I discovered my guest column on the editorial page.
It’s something I wrote two weeks ago and sent to the New York Times and then the Sun, and when the Sun didn’t print it last Saturday, I gave up. That must have been what the call yesterday was about.
They didn’t identify me in any way. The piece was about Clinton appointing himself to the Supreme Court, and it’s the kind of breezy, funny and intelligent column I’d turn out if I again had a regular newspaper column like the one in the Hollywood Sun-Tattler.
Basically I wrote it in half an hour and just edited it lightly. I found one sentence structure problem and a couple of places where I’d make changes, but it’s fine.
I was so pleased to see it in the paper. When I wrote it, I knew it was publishable; perhaps it’s even too formulaic.
I’m glad I can show it as an example of an essay I wrote when I meet my classes on Monday. I didn’t even have to wait until next weekend’s Miami Herald to see myself in print.
It’s wonderful, worth hurting my back. This is the kind of thing I love to do – just like my congressional candidacy.
At the post office this morning, I got yesterday’s certified mail: a questionnaire from the League of Women Voters of Hillsborough County.
They asked candidates for questions with a 50-word limit on each, about abortion, welfare, healthcare and some of the other issues relevant to women.
The replies, along with the candidates photos, will appear in a pullout section of the Tampa Tribune on August 28 (though perhaps not in our local edition).
I sent back the questionnaire along with my photo to the League, and I also sent back another questionnaire I got – also via certified mail – today. (Luckily, I was home to sign for it on my lunch break from class.)
It was from Florida Family Forum – and the letter was signed by Paul Bain, who used to sit next to me in Julin’s Oil and Gas law class.
It asked personal questions (I told them I was single, no kids, “Jewish/atheist,” and gave my degrees) but mostly consisted of four dozen questions that I had to answer “support” or “oppose” – on gays in the military, health care (worded in a way that was very much biased against reform), gun control, etc.
I’m sure I’ll be the most liberal candidate in their 1994 booklet. The 1992 version, which they sent, looked fairly professional.
Last night I slept well and so I was alert during our penultimate library class at the downtown library between 9 AM and 5 PM today.
First, the teachers for the next Gainesville course, Collection Development, to be given on six Saturdays at Santa Fe this fall, spoke.
I’ve enjoyed Basic Information Sources with Adrian, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t enjoy library school as much as I thought I would last May.
It’s too easy after law school – and I don’t have the patience to take classes I’m not interested in.
I’d like to take courses in law librarianship or the kind of automated information systems like the CD-ROM databases and online catalogs we discussed today.
But an M.L.S. isn’t for me. Look at how much pleasure I get from my published writing and my congressional candidacy. I’d never be able to be a respectable little librarian.
What I have gotten out of library class is in appreciation of the profession – in particular, that of the reference librarian and the librarians who serve in public libraries. Adrian is a dedicated man who is obviously a model for his profession.
And I did make some nice friends in the class, mostly people who work in the public and university library system.
One of the things Adrian discussed today was the Gainesville Freenet, something I’d like to become involved with in some way.
Next week we’ve got our final and have to hand in a four-page assignment on CD-ROM purchases.
When I got home, I found a dog in front of my apartment door with some of the cat food I’d given Camelot this morning and which he had left over.
The dog had a tag with his license (dated 1994) and a phone number, so I took him by the collar and went into my apartment. He didn’t resist and even licked me.
I got only a weird sound when I dialed the out-of-Gainesville (but in Alachua County) number. Maybe it was a cellular phone that wasn’t hooked up or some kind of computer.
Outside, I went to the pool area and around Camelot to see if anyone knew to whom the dog belonged – no one did – and then somehow the dog just ran away.
For fifteen minutes I looked for it in vain. I left out more cat food and will check to see if it returns.