A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early August, 1994
by Richard Grayson
Monday, August 1, 1994
4 PM. I just got off the phone with Neil, a writer from the Tampa Tribune, who called about my congressional candidacy.
He’s not very bright – very slow on the pickup – so I can already tell that the article will make me sound like a lunatic.
Still, I’m enough of a publicity hound to enjoy even bad press, especially when it’s in a bad (faraway) paper like the Tampa Tribune.
Last night, after watching the two-hour conclusion of Best Intentions, Ingmar Bergman’s parents’ story, I fell into a deep sleep that refreshed me.
I probably shouldn’t have exercised even lightly this morning because my back hurts me worse than it did yesterday.
At 10 AM, I went to the library and used my UF Westlaw password to download some materials on CD-ROMs on my diskette; I need to finish that library paper by Saturday.
This young black guy came in and wanted to practice Westlaw, so I helped him. He’s an entering law student, one of those Virgil Hawkins Fellows who’s been taking orientation classes this summer.
I not only got his Westlaw password (okay, that wasn’t nice, but he’ll never know I’m using it), but I spent over half an hour with him, showing him how to do searches.
Just as I loved teaching people how to use software, I loved helping this guy. I would be a great legal research trainer on Lexis or Westlaw.
Once again I spotted Javier today. He was on the second floor, obviously doing some research for whatever attorney in town he’s got a clerking gig with. Naturally he didn’t see me.
Maybe being a gay activist has made him careful about not looking around; being visible as a publicly “out” undergraduate probably led to unwanted, unpleasant confrontations, so he never would want to attract attention by doing anything other than minding his own business.
I got to SFCC at 11:45 AM. Brendan had already seen my Sun column, but I showed it to Mark and to my students, none of whom, of course, had read the paper on Saturday. (If you want to hide something from a college student, put it in the newspaper.)
While my first class wrote essays, I called up students who’d handed in their last out-of-class paper today and graded it in front of them. But by the time the second class came in, I just read their papers, saving grading them for later.
I now have tons of grading to do, so we’ll see if I can get away with doing some of it holistically.
Back home, I found I still had no paycheck, so I phoned someone at Payroll and left a message.
In the mail, I got only rejections (that breast anthology turned down my piece on court cases dealing with breast size), an offer for another secured credit card (I threw it away), and the stuff from Stanford on their J.S.D. requirements.
The program is too rigorous for me, and I probably wouldn’t be admitted anyway. Besides, I’ve pretty much decided that I don’t see myself as a law professor.
Josh returned my call and filled me in on what’s going on: He never went to court to sue the hospital over the feeding tube because his father developed septic shock. A spinal discovered he still has a brain infection.
The doctors sound incompetent to me. But at least now, in addition to treating Josh’s father for his illnesses, they are giving him nutrition via an IV, which is what Josh wanted.
Sharon finally moved into her new apartment, though Josh said it was filthy.
I wrote a note to Mikey and Missy congratulating them on their marriage, but I don’t expect to hear back from Mikey again in this life, as Missy has moved him into her world. (I’m beginning to appreciate how much I liked Amy.)
So far I haven’t even glanced at today’s New York Times.
Tuesday, August 2, 1991
8 PM. I was surprised that I slept so solidly two nights in a row. I decided not to exercise this morning and instead graded all the papers except the set written in class on Monday.
At the public library when it opened at 10 AM, I made copies of some CD-ROM reviews from Library Journal that I can use for my paper.
(I must have copied that guy’s Westlaw password wrong, because it doesn’t work. Serves me right.)
I returned home for lunch, and the phone rang just as I was about to leave for work.
It was Neil Cote, that annoying Tampa Tribune reporter. I dislike it when people presumptuously call me “Dick.”
He said he’d phoned the law school and they told him they had no record of my attending or graduating.
For some reason, I lost my cool, first sputtering, “That’s impossible” – later I realized that’s exactly how a man who knows he’s caught up in a lie would sound – and then berated the guy.
I actually told him he was an idiot before I calmed down and gave him the name of the law school registrar as well as Dean Savage. I also told him to look me up on Nexis.
Although he was polite, I expect this piece will be very unfavorable. Apparently Cote writes a “campaign notebook.” I picture him as a total nerd.
Still upset when I got to school, I vented to Mark, who suggested that maybe I should let the reporter run the piece with a sentence like “Grayson claims to have a law degree from UF, but school officials say they had no record of his attendance,” so that I could sue for defamation or at least publicly demand a correction.
Finding that my paycheck was at the cashier’s office made me feel a little better. I netted $673 out of the $790 gross.
Classes today were mostly question-and-answer sessions about the research paper. Either they’re not paying attention or I’m doing a poor job because they don’t seem to have learned the stuff I’ve gone over more than once.
Brendan passed by while I was for the umpteenth time telling students that when you end the sentence with a quotation, the period goes inside the final quotation mark, and later he told me, “They probably just refuse to learn that just to annoy us.”
The initial drafts of research papers I’ve gotten so far range from acceptable to awful; not one contains the required parenthetical MLA citations.
I have about ten other papers to grade, but I’ll put them off till morning – or if I have insomnia, during the night.
I came home to see another message on my answering machine. Dreading that it was the Tribune guy, I was delighted to hear the voice of “your old friend George Myers.”
Later, when we spoke, I told George that I regularly read his Columbus Dispatch pieces on Westlaw/Dialog. (“Yeah, so does this guy on the Quincy [Massachusetts] Ledger, who rewrites them and publishes them a week later.”)
We chatted for a while about what we were doing these days. When George asked if I was still writing, it was nice to be able to say that I just had a column in the Gainesville Sun and would have a piece in the Miami Herald’s Tropic magazine on Sunday.
After hearing my exploits, George told me to send him all the material he’s missed for a story he’d like to write. I will, but actually it was great just to hear George’s familiar voice.
Before All Things Considered came on at 5 PM, I exercised lightly.
Last night I got upset when I hit the scale at 152 pounds; I’ve gained about five pounds since the spring.
Probably it’s from not having the added exercise of walking to and from law school every day.
When it becomes cooler – today it hit 99° – I’ve got to start walking again.
My back feels slightly better.
Although I still have a lot to do, I’m tired and need to veg out for a while.
FedEx left a note on my door saying they left the package with my lenses in the office, but it wasn’t there.
FedEx is supposed to be this model company, but I’ve had better luck with the much-maligned UPS.
Sunday, August 7, 1994
4 PM. Marc should be here soon.
I had too much on my mind to sleep well last night. I woke up in the middle of the night and started to scrub the tub and sink and put stuff away in boxes.
At 6 AM, I got the Miami Herald; I took copies of Tropic out of a few Sunday papers and replaced them in the newspaper rack.
The magazine’s cover had a line with my article’s title and page number on the bottom of the page.
My story appeared in the center page (12) and for two pages afterwards. They illustrated it with a fancy full-page collage using a couple of the headlines I’d sent, a photo of Dexter and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and some other “scandal” stuff.
There was a nice teaser and pull quote, and the editor put my comments about why I did it – the wiseass quotes about Brooklyn, the news about my current congressional campaign and God Hates Republicans – in the article and identified me as “a freelance writer.”
I decided to send off “Horsing Around in Politics” to Tropic next. it’s unlikely that lightning will strike twice, but that’s the piece that has the best chance.
At 8:30 AM, I made the first of three trips to the new apartment, which was comfortably cool.
I brought over nearly all the stuff on hangers from here and managed to get it in my new closets. (The bigger closet has two hanger racks, one on top of the other).
At Walmart, I bought some new kitchen supplies so I can throw out what I ‘ve got here, and I did the same with a bath mat, shower curtain and kitchen mat.
I also brought over the chest of drawers from the bedroom, the one I kept my clothes in, as well as some other stuff. I still can’t figure out how I can fit both beds in there.
Although Marc isn’t always reliable, I’m glad that Mom isn’t coming because moving will go smoother without her. (She’s good at details but can drive me crazy.)
I xeroxed the Tropic piece and mailed it, along with the rest of the junk, to George. I also sent copies to my friends in New York, who may or may not care less.
But I do hope that some people who know me from Broward Community College or law school or elsewhere read Tropic today.
I went to Publix and to Mother Earth to get some groceries, and by the time I got home, it was 1 PM. I exercised, getting so sweaty that I was more than ready for a shower.
When I phoned the job line at the law school placement office, I heard about a clerk’s job at UF’s Office of General Counsel that’s 10 to 20 flexible hours a week for the fall semester.
They really want a student, but maybe I could apply because it sounds exactly what I’d love to do. I’ll contact the placement office and see if the position is available for recent alumni.
Loading my last wash in the Camelot laundry room a little while ago made me realize how much I’m going to miss this place.
Ivana called to say that her mother-in-law is dying, and so they have to go to back to Yugoslavia tomorrow. She said she’ll drop by tonight with her finished research paper.
I told her that would be fine and that she should just forget about writing the final essay. I did the same thing with Zohreh at the end of last term when she got chicken pox from her daughters.
Both Zohreh and Ivana were going to get an A in the course anyway. Most of the international students I’ve had are so diligent.
After taking $100 out of the ATM, I now have only about $400 in checking and very little available credit on any of my cards. But I do have another $673 check coming in on Friday – if it gets to direct deposit that day.
Part of me harbors this bad feeling that I’m going into a really bad time in my life. Unlike the last three years, when I was in law school, my life doesn’t have that intense focus.
Still, Santa Fe should provide some kind of framework to structure my life for the fall.
My continuing fearful fantasy is that this coming year will be as bad as time as 1979-80, when I was so broke, unhappy and sick in that little studio by the boardwalk in Rockaway.
On the other hand, that was 15 years ago and the first time I’d ever lived on my own.
I may have been 27, with my first book published, but didn’t know how to cope the way an adult should
I’d lived with my parents my whole life and suddenly they’d moved to Florida. . The financial and emotional stress I was under caused me to become both depressed and physically ill.
But I’m now 43. By now I’ve lived by myself not only in that Rockaway apartment, but in Sunrise, North Miami Beach, Lauderhill, at four different apartments in Davie, at Teresa’s in Manhattan, at Justin’s in Park Slope, at Marc’s in Sheepshead Bay, and in two apartments here in Gainesville.
I’ve traveled to and spent time – from a week to a month – living or working in New Orleans, Los Angeles, Virginia, New Hampshire, South Carolina, etc. At this point I’m a survivor and I can handle what’s ahead.
Meanwhile, I haven’t even looked at the Sunday New York Times yet.
Tuesday, August 9, 1994
8 PM. I just took a shower. I’m alone in my new studio apartment at Sundowne. Nothing seems to be in the right place yet and the furniture is really squeezed in here.
I could easily give up one of the beds, which are squished together at a perpendicular angle with the night table just managing to get in between them.
It’s going to take a lot of getting used to, and I think about everything I miss in the old apartment, like a full-length mirror.
Of course, the bathroom is nicer here, and I like the stainless steel kitchen sink better. Certainly this apartment is cleaner than the one I left behind after two years.
Eventually, I know from experience that I will adjust and I’ll find out where everything really goes. Objects tend to find their own places.
For now I can make believe I’m in a hotel while visiting a friend.
Last night I slept for six hours, enough so that I wasn’t tired today.
I brought some stuff over early, and then at 9 AM, Marc and I rented a U-Haul truck at a farm equipment place on Archer Road.
We returned it two hours later, as it didn’t take long to load everything in the truck and take it out.
I felt that Marc did much more work than I did because he was sweaty and out of breath, but perhaps that’s only because he’s overweight.
Marc is good at what I’m not: the nitty-gritty details of everyday life. He’s also a whiz with electrical stuff: he fixed the wiring on my floor lamp so that all three bulbs can be used again.
And after we shopped at Walmart, he did things I could never do, like getting an extension cord from the answering machine to the computer on the other side of the room. He had it go above the door, and we bought a two-line adapter so I no longer have to keep plugging and unplugging the connection to the modem.
After we brought back the truck, we returned to my old apartment to pick up the computer and peripherals, and Marc detailed my car, waxing it and checking under the hood and painting my bumper while I scrubbed the bathroom and kitchen. Maybe I’ll get more of my deposit back if the apartment is left clean.
We went to McDonald’s for lunch and then to Walmart, where Marc also got me a new antenna for the TV. He showered and changed at 3 PM.
I wanted him to stay tonight, but he left to visit his friend in Fort McCoy, saying he might stay at a bargain motel in Orlando tonight instead of driving back to Fort Lauderdale.
After buying $70 worth of groceries at Albertsons, I turned in my keys to the office at Camelot. Last evening Marc and I were so busy talking that it hadn’t occurred to me last that I was spending my last night in the apartment.
I had two phone messages – yes, the phone here is already working – but both were disappointing job news.
The UF law clerk’s job is only for current students, and Dr. Moreno of Central Florida Community College could offer me only three dual-enrollment classes in high schools in the area for the fall semester.
All were three times a week and within two hours of my 10 AM Monday-Wednesday-Friday class at Santa Fe.
To drive such a long distance three times a week isn’t worth it even if the timing were better, and I really don’t like the idea of teaching in a high school.
I got my mail here today: a postcard I sent myself as a test and a confirmation of my deposit for a secured credit card from Signet Bank.
I skipped a workout today (I did get one in last evening when Marc went out for dinner and a film), but I probably got my usual exercise by doing the hard work of moving.
This is going to be an odd time in my life: I’m no longer a law student and I’m teaching only part-time – although, come to think of it, I’ve been in that exact position for the last six weeks.
Still, coming up is the academic year. I guess I will apply to grad school at UF for the spring. I’m good at being a student, and if I can defer my student loans and get some more money, why not take advantage of UF the way I did at law school?
Even though I feel I want to move on, I might end up staying here longer than a year. Gainesville isn’t so bad.
Last night I got a call from Skye Moody, the head of the new PEN Gulf South chapter.
She’s in New Orleans and wanted to know if I’d be coming to the organizing meeting in Mobile in three weeks or to the meeting in Natchez in October.
Skye wants me to send her a three-to five-page excerpt of prose for the group’s journal and a long bio for teaching (writer-in-residence) possibilities she’s going to try to get for members.
This evening, Mom called to read me an article in the Herald about Lisa B, who’s now working as an animal psychic healer.
Some dog owners claim she’s done wonders for their sick pets, but China’s vet, the head of the Broward veterinarians group, said it’s impossible for Lisa to diagnose and cure illnesses in animals from psychic readings.
Still, knowing Lisa, I’d bet on her abilities.