A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late August, 1994
by Richard Grayson
Monday, August 22, 1994
3 PM. I have a terrible schedule this semester, as Barbara admitted when she asked me to take over the 1 PM English 102 today.
At first she was going to hold it for a full-timer whose Shakespeare class didn’t make, but now Barbara is going to let it go to me.
She said she would make sure to give me a better schedule “next time,” but I hope there isn’t a next time.
I really did not want to be in Gainesville this academic year and I didn’t want to be doing adjunct work. I feel like I’m back where I was before I started law school.
Next January I either want to be in graduate school at UF, in a legal job, or out of town.
When I got home an hour ago, I got the latest listing of AmeriCorps programs. It’s too late to apply for the Legal Corps in Miami and nearly every other program, but others should be starting in January.
If I’m notified next week that I’ve been accepted to the Writers Corps, I am starting to believe I should accept. It would make my life utter chaos, as I’d have to break my lease and get rid of all my furniture and otherwise drive myself crazy.
But if that gig can get me $1,000 a month and health insurance, maybe I could manage in San Francisco, Washington or New York. I’d find some shared living arrangements the way I would if I were 23 and just starting out.
Hell, I don’t even know if they want me, but if they do, I shouldn’t dismiss it out of hand.
I’d be terrified, and I can just hear Mom and that voice inside of me that is Mom saying that doing this was impossible – and of course, that’s why I’d want to do it.
With Writers Corps, I’d be facing something scarier for me than law school. But it would get me involved in something new, something important, and it would be the biggest risk I’ve ever taken. Plus, it would get me out of Florida and to San Francisco, Washington or back to New York.
Just the fact that I think about it shows the level of my dissatisfaction with remaining in Gainesville. I’m settling by staying here. But if I do have to stay at SFCC for the entire term, I’ll try to make the best of it.
My 10 AM English 101 class downtown is surprisingly white – and they’re also green. I can tell a lot of them are scared about college and scared about the course.
I’m glad there’s a fiftyish white guy and some older black women in the class to add some stability to the mass of 17-year-olds, some of whom are away from home for the first time.
(Unable to get admitted to UF, they’ve come to Gainesville for community college so that they can be sort-of Gators.)
At home by 11:15 AM, I had a quick lunch and then went to Santa Fe’s main campus. Mark, no longer at Unit 4, has been replaced by new morning and afternoon receptionists/secretaries.
I met some of the unit’s new faculty, who seemed nice enough.
My 1 PM English 102 is also filled with young people, but there’s one woman in her thirties who drives in from Chiefland. The youngsters in this class seem okay, though a couple guys look scarily like skinheads.
What I enjoy most about teaching is getting to know the students. But it’s always hard to adjust to a new semester.
What’s frustrating is that I have to make eight trips to two campuses to teach three classes as opposed to the two trips to one campus to teach two classes I made last fall.
I shouldn’t have told Barbara I was available at all hours because my flexibility did me in, but I wanted to be busy during the day.
Teaching from 10 AM to 11 AM downtown and then from 1 PM to 2 PM at the main campus three days a week essentially kills Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for me.
Now that school is back in session, the traffic in Gainesville is bad.
Today I just went over the course outlines with the students as we introduced ourselves, but tomorrow I’ll also have my 9:30 AM class write diagnostic essays.
So far, neither the CGR or Lexis jobs have shown the slightest interest in me.
Thursday, August 25, 1994
9 PM. I just watched the premiere of My So-Called Life, a savvy show about a 15-year-old girl. Since I’m basically a 15-year-old girl in my head, maybe I was predisposed to like it.
I read and commented on the English 101 diagnostic essays but couldn’t get to the ones from tomorrow’s 1 PM English 102.
My students’ writing about their lives reveals all the problems in American Society: the lousy education system, yes, but also alcoholic parents, university football players who lose scholarships when they get injured (I’ve had three of those at SFCC), rootless families, single black women with sick kids on welfare, and displaced blue-collar workers.
I also have a woman being “stalked” by her ex-husband, who’s already murdered his first wife – he’s on parole and working for the city of Gainesville – and who has told her, “I’m going to ruin your life the way you ruined mine.”
I got her the names of some local resources for battered women. Part of me hates getting close to these students because it’s going to meet make me feel like I’m abandoning them if I quit in a couple of weeks.
Legally – and I’m a lawyer in my brain if not in the real world – I know I’m under no obligation to SFCC. My contract won’t come until just before I get my first paycheck over a month from now, and I signed only a letter of intent to tentatively accept a completely different schedule of four classes.
Of course, quitting may mean I teach for two weeks without getting paid, and knowing me, I’ll probably feel so guilty that I won’t press to get the money.
Every day that passes will make it that much harder to tell Barbara I’m leaving. But if I do get the Lexis job or the Writers Corps appointment, I’ve got to take advantage of the opportunities. The CGR job would be a dream come true, something I would do without hesitation – but it’s probably a lot less likely.
I know I’ve said this before, but this is a strange time in my life. I feel like I’m drifting with no idea of my next destination. No wonder I feel like a 15-year-old girl.
In tonight’s TV show, the girl said that in a way Anne Frank was lucky because she got to be in an attic for three years with a guy she had a crush on. I can relate to that.
Friday, August 26, 1994
3 PM. Once again, I slept only three or four hours last night. This morning I was in a real fuzzy state of mind, but I managed to have decent classes at 10 AM downtown and at 1 PM at the main campus.
I’m thrilled that this week is over, and I feel as dissatisfied as ever with my job.
The terrible traffic during my 16 trips to and from the two SFCC campuses is eating up my days, and I’m earning less than $200 a week.
During my lunch break, I spoke to Lori from Lexis. She’s going to conduct interviews at Gainesville Airport a week from today and asked me to meet her there at 12:30 PM. I agreed, of course, and got Brendan to substitute for me in the 1 PM class that day.
I already feel very guilty about the prospect of quitting SFCC if I get a better job, but as Pete said, I can easily be replaced with another adjunct.
He said I should stress to Lori that I haven’t taken the bar exam and that I don’t want to practice law, that I want to do the Lexis job as a goal and don’t consider it “settling.”
I’ll have to make sure my suit is pressed, and I’ll finally break down and buy dress shoes at Belk or Burdines.
Pete and I wondered what the Lexis job could pay. But even if it’s only $10 an hour, I’d be making more than I am at SFCC, so it would be worth it.
Adjunct work has no future, but working with this company does. So does the Writers Corps job even if it pays less. Even so, I know I will feel guilty about quitting SFCC.
With my life so up in the air, it’s no wonder I can’t sleep.
Saturday, August 27, 1994
7 PM. I found in my notes from Advanced Legal Research that Lori did indeed teach us Lexis on January 25.
In my diary, I expressed surprise the session was so basic and that my classmates actually needed that basic lesson.
I also thought I could have taught that session and said I’d like to get a job with Lexis or Westlaw.
I’ve been reading Emanuel’s Lexis for Law Students, and I found documents related to computerized legal research in general and Lexis in particular that I will have to read.
God knows how I got access to Lexis back on my computer, but I’m really grateful.
Even if this job didn’t come up, I’d be enjoying reading – as I did last night – The Hotline and Credit Card News and the Columbia Journalism Review – and using Lexis/Nexis as a free reference library.
I want this job more than I ever wanted any other. I’m going to be so prepared for the interview that if I don’t get the position, it will be through no fault of my own except perhaps that Lori dislikes me.
Hey, not everyone takes to me. I know that from my students – and from guys like Noor, who called last night.
We talked for a while, but although I wanted to meet him today and he said he’d call, I never heard from him.
Probably it’s for the best. I might have been attracted to him, but how could I have a relationship with someone from a culture even more different from mine than Jody’s was?
Noor, after all, is a Pakistani Muslim. (He read The Satanic Verses and thought it was quite blasphemous although he allowed that Rushdie has written other, better books.)
He’s also 18 years younger than I am. What common references do we have?
When we spoke last night, I mentioned in passing that I was Jewish. Noor didn’t say anything, but maybe he’s prejudiced.
It was a luxury not to have to think about Santa Fe Community College today. I won’t do any work-related stuff till late afternoon tomorrow.
At 7:30 AM, I went shopping at Albertsons and got the papers. Later in the morning, I went to the post office to mail letters and pick up a certified letter.
It was from the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections inviting me to a test of the computerized voting system. Apparently she had to send it to all candidates because the notice is required by Florida statutes.
Online, I had 22 E-mail messages – most from the GLB News listserv but also personal notes from Elihu and Justin.
I think I insulted Elihu by making fun of his vacationing in the same city, New Orleans, every single year. He wrote, “I despise San Francisco, so you’ll probably love it.”
Actually, I don’t dislike New Orleans at all, but I think of it differently than Elihu does. I consider cities I spend time in as possible places to live while Elihu thinks of them only as vacation spots because he’ll never move out of Brooklyn.
I never travel like a tourist and try to behave more like a resident: I like to go to supermarkets and shopping malls and neighborhood cafes to see how it would feel to actually live day-to-day in places like Inglewood or Van Nuys.
Justin apparently had a great time at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh. The production of his play went well and got a couple of good reviews in the Scottish press. He also appeared on several local TV shows.
Now that he’s back, Justin is starting to cast the production of the play about the stockbroker that I saw at Chuck Maryan’s workshop – though I’m sure it’s very different by now.
Crad sent a letter complimenting me on the Tropic and Gainesville Sun articles. He’s going to give a reading in Vancouver, and he’s progressing slowly in his goal of leaving Toronto.
Nearly all of his stuff that he wanted to donate to the library at the University of Toronto is there now, and he got a high tax credit.
Crad’s mother has been in and out of hospitals, but he doesn’t plan to visit her anytime soon. Crad’s girlfriend doesn’t seem likely to ask her husband for a divorce, so maybe he’ll eventually realize she’s just stringing him along.
I got back $155 of my deposit from Camelot today, a welcome little check which I deposited this afternoon at the ATM.
In the Millhopper library, I did some research and ran into one of my best students from this summer, John, who’s bleached his hair blond. I used to think he was a total redneck but now I’m beginning to wonder if he’s gay.
At the Oaks Mall, I thought I’d use my store Burdines or Belk credit cards to pay for a pair of dress shoes, but neither store had anything in my size, which seems to be too big for boys and too small for men.
Monday, August 29, 1994
7:30 PM. I was just at the law school and I’ll probably go back in an hour. I had wanted to see Rosalie, but she was giving a tour for some first-year students.
She had called me just as I was running out to teach this morning and said there’s a job opening – “far below your capabilities, but I think people have a right to know what’s out there” – at the law library.
I told her I’d call her back, but she wasn’t in later in the day. I did mention my upcoming interview with Lori from Lexis, and she said she’d given me a recommendation over the phone.
Apparently Lori is interviewing for her old job. I had wanted to speak with Rosalie this week anyway even before the interview.
It was great to be at the law school and run into familiar faces. I saw a sign that said spring Book Awards were ready, so I can pick up mine tomorrow.
Tom D saw me looking outside the placement office and said, “There’s no jobs there.” He graduates in December; right now he’s taking Weyrauch’s seminar and Don Peters for Negotiation as well as for Interviewing, Counseling and Mediation.
Tom surprised me by saying he and Julie G have gotten married. I didn’t even know they knew each other! But now that I think about it, I can see them as a couple. They’re both cynical, neither really wants to practice law, but they will – outside Florida.
Tom told me that Dan M is in the LL.M. program, and I ran into Jim P, who’s also in the LL.M. program. I guess If it were in something other than Tax, I’d be in it, too.
I also saw some friends from Dowd’s Women and the Law class who told me about the functions their LAW group is having this semester.
I showed them what I’d xeroxed in the library: a letter from Wendy Jones of Tampa NOW PAC endorsing me because of my stance on issues NOW cares about. I got a full endorsement, their highest rating (better than mere “support” or “recommendation”). The women said I should show it to Nancy Dowd.
Before leaving school, I picked up a copy of the alumni magazine and said hi to Charmaine and a couple of other familiar faces. There was a job on the bulletin board I took down: for a law assistant at a prison in Lake Butler.
Yesterday I wrote my comments on the English 102 papers and bought shoes at Shoe City. My feet are so small that I can save money by buying kids’-sized black loafers.
After watching the video of The Little Foxes, I went to bed at midnight. Surprisingly, I didn’t sleep that badly and had a pleasant dream in which I went to a building downtown (in what city, I’m not certain) and discovered that Sat Darshan, Alice, and Grant all worked there, and later I had a great talk with Libby at the beach. I miss all of those people.
My classes went okay today. I needed little preparation for the morning English 101 downtown or the 1 PM English 102 on the main campus, and for some reason there was less traffic today than usual.
I felt I looked nice today, today, in my Tommy Hilfiger green plaid polo shirt and pressed Levi 501s (though I go to the bathroom so much that the buttons on the fly are a real pain).
In the mail I got a credit card bill, a $3 Health Valley rebate, another rejection of my Davie campaign piece, the Tampa NOW PAC endorsement and the NOCCA newsletter, which listed all of Tom’s recent publications and provided news of Debra and the other overachieving NOCCA Writing Program alumni who are publishing, teaching, getting degrees and winning awards (Nicole Cooley won The Nation Discovery Prize).
The final piece of mail was a letter from the Early Childhood Association of Florida, asking for my “children’s platform.” I wrote a two-page letter and sent it back to them.
10 PM. Back at the law school, I spoke to Rosalie when she wasn’t busy helping students.
Essentially the job is a new position that Charmaine was scheduled to move into before she got a job with the attorney general’s office. Pam Williams will be hiring, and she’s interviewing people this week.
I told Rosalie I’d come by on Thursday to meet Pam, but I’ve just figured it out, and working at the reference desk and doing other stuff at the library for five full days would pay about $17,000.
I’m actually making more money at Santa Fe and I really want the extra time I have for myself, so I probably want to apply for the position.
Besides, as Rosalie said, the library workers are all very apprehensive about this opening because everyone on staff has worked together for 15 years and they spend more time together than they do with their own families; if someone lets them down, they’re really screwed.
I know that I wouldn’t stay in that job for long, and my talents aren’t really suited for it. While I love being part of the law school community, I’d be better off at Santa Fe in terms of time and status.
(After all, didn’t I leave a job as a library assistant at the Brooklyn Public Library twenty years ago to become a college teacher at LIU?)
I guess SFCC has its good points; I haven’t been a college instructor all these years because I’m totally crazy.
Rosalie thought Lori was looking for someone to train local lawyers as well as law students on Lexis for only one day a week.
But I told her at the job was actually 24 hours a week and involved in-state travel to other law schools.
She may have been confused because she spoke to Lori about me a while ago – although she did know that the interviews would be at the airport.
I chatted with Dave G, who loves the LL.M. program. He told me that Nancy got an administrative law clerkship at the last minute, and that Katen is in the LL.M. tax program at NYU. (That’s the only one considered as good as UF’s for tax attorneys.)
I’m tired now, though I never expect to sleep much.