A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early October, 1994
by Richard Grayson
Tuesday, October 4, 1994
2 PM. I came home an hour ago and still need to unwind from the interview.
Last evening I exercised so I could skip my half hour today and then read Derrick Bell’s new book, Confronting Authority: Reflections of an Ardent Protestor.
The author of our Race Relations text and best known as the Harvard law professor who left to protest the school’s not granting tenure to any black women, Bell is my kind of guy.
Like me, he may become a little self-destructive when he gets on an issue he cares deeply about.
I slept pretty well last night, but the interview took a lot out of me and I feel exhausted now.
It’s actually stressful just to wear a suit, though I did command attention when I taught at Santa Fe this morning.
It’s amazing how people treat you differently when you’re formally dressed, especially at a community college campus where everyone dresses casually.
In class, I did little more than show the video of “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter” and return papers, as I wanted to get to the law school by their 12:30 PM class break, when I thought it would be easier to get parking.
However, I ended up on the street, as far away as I’d ever parked. Luckily, it’s a dark, cool day, so I wasn’t uncomfortably warm; this was probably the first day since April when one could wear a suit and not sweat.
I now have bandages on the back of my ankles because my cheap black loafers kept rubbing against them as I walked.
If I do get this job at the Center for Governmental Responsibility, I won’t have to wear a suit most days. Richard Hamann and the other males in the office wear dress slacks with sport shirts (and ties only sometimes).
Before the interview, I read for a while, then stopped in at the media library to say hi to Tom D, who was working behind the desk on his paper about informal Internet rules for Weyrauch’s seminar.
At the bulletin boards, I ran into Javier, who’d just dropped off some No on One leaflets with Marty Peters. I told him maybe I’d see him tonight at the Civic Media Center.
Yesterday I let the machine get a message from Kathy Lawhon, who told me that that night’s phoning was more important than today’s session. Bob K also emailed me that tonight there won’t be that much to do, but I’ll go anyway.
When I got to the CGR office, Carol Dolder told me to sit down and wait, as Liz McCulloch was running late because of a daycare crisis. Her son threw up in school, and once she brought him to her office, she had to stay with him there until her babysitter came.
The other members of the search committee were Michelle Jacobs, the law professor hired last year; Ellen Mayer, the other person with Liz in CGR’s Social Policy Division; and a former associate who now teaches in the social sciences (gerontology, I think).
I hadn’t realized that Alexandra Goodman had left and that these two positions were sort of replacements for her.
The job would be full-time for me, so I would have to give up teaching at Santa Fe. I told them that if they hired me, I’d need to give the community college two weeks’ notice.
I don’t think it’s profitable to speculate how I came off to the committee. I know I’m stronger on the educational policy side than on the legal side.
My weaknesses are apparent to me: lack of a track record, questions about my commitment, problems I might have in tracking down funding sources for future projects.
While the Florida Department of Education contract for the Schoolyear 2000 initiative (and I knew more about it than they expected, thanks to my research) is what they’d be hiring me for, I’d need to be trying to get funds to carry on other projects.
Within the broad field of education, I’d have leeway to pursue my own research interests.
I’d also have to do other stuff – like appear to be an expert within three days after being told to research an issue and write a report or a proposal.
The job sounds pretty good – though a little scary, the way all new things are.
Professor Jacobs seemed the most skeptical about me, but it’s always hard to judge. Fifteen years ago, I thought that Jules Gelernt, the English chair, was the one person on the Brooklyn College hiring committee for that Educational Services job who would veto my appointment, only to learn later that he said I was the only qualified person the committee had interviewed.
Despite the stress, I enjoy being interviewed. I like being tossed hard questions and having to come up with smart-sounding answers fast, and job interviews always give me the illusion that a new career option is at least possible.
Liz told me that they should know by the end of the week; they had another candidate coming in from out of town at 8:30 PM tonight.
I left my writing sample and letters of recommendation with Carol (who’d only gotten ones from Professor Taylor and Rosalie so far).
When I returned home, I wrote Liz a thank-you note.
There’s nothing more I can do now except leave it in the committee’s hands. If they’re willing to take a chance on me, great. If not, not, and I’ll go on with my so-called life.
Wednesday, October 5, 1994
4 PM. I feel overwhelmed. I may have gotten the CGR job. When I got home from teaching downtown at 11 AM, I found a message on my machine. It was – as something told me it would be – from Liz McCulloch.
She told me to call CGR and arrange to meet with Jon Mills on Friday morning and said that they were seriously considering – “more than seriously considering” – hiring me.
I phoned and arranged to see Jon on Friday at 9:30 AM. I also asked to speak with Liz, but she said she couldn’t tell me any more than that Jon – CGR’s director, of course – wants to see me and someone else, “and I think it’s good news.”
I don’t know if Liz meant me and someone for the other position or for the same position, and I can’t let myself believe I’ve got the job yet. But it’s going to be hard to stop thinking about it.
I took my suit to the cleaners, who swore it would be ready tomorrow after 5 PM.
When I got home from SFCC’s main campus a little while ago, I called Mom, who told me not to count my chickens.
I had planned to play Liz’s message for Mom, but taped over it was a message from Micki Johnson, offering me a Nova class in Ocala on Thursday nights.
I won’t call Micki back yet, because I’d like to take it if I don’t get the CGR job and all I’m doing this semester is teaching at SFCC.
I feel very bad about leaving my community college students, who deserve better – this will definitely upset many of them – and about telling Barbara Sloan.
I didn’t say anything yet to her except that I need to find a substitute for my downtown class on Friday.
Obviously, I’d be certifiable to stay as an adjunct at Santa Fe when I could have the CGR job.
Mom says I’ll get over the guilt in a few weeks, and she’s probably right, but right now it bothers me.
I suppose this proves I’m a dedicated teacher despite myself, that I can’t just blithely walk away from my students.
Naturally, it would be today that Nova offered me a class. Doesn’t it always work that way?
The phone just rang, and it was Joan David, the new SFCC secretary (Sherrie left her job last Friday) with the names of substitutes. I left her a message and I’ll call her back.
Last night I went to the Civic Media Center. Eden and Cynthia weren’t there, but many of the No on One campaign regulars and some newcomers were, but we had only a little to do because there was just a small mailing. Kathy is obviously harried, but it seems like Bob is bringing the money in.
I noticed that when Elizabeth kidded Bryan about being a “political wife,” he professed not to know what she meant. (She later called him “Mrs. Javier.”)
Bryan told this other guy – another Republican – that he cried when Bush lost the election.
It’s weird how I have nothing in common with some of these people, but I’m not surprised, this being the Bible Belt.
It bothers me that Javier and Kathy and others actually think we can win if we stay on message on not talk about homosexuality and instead concentrate on “discrimination” – “tear the community apart” – “lost jobs.”
I’m sure their market research is right, but I don’t give voters credit to be rational when they can believe the homophobic propaganda put out by the other side.
My guess is that 42% of the vote is the most we can get in this county.
I had a hard time sleeping last night, but I did manage to get about five hours total. Naturally, my mind was racing down the corridors of my brain as if it were a banshee on fire, just as it is now – leading me to horrendous mixed metaphors.
Today my classes went well. I could teach my classes blindfolded. By now I’m so comfortable at SFCC that leaving would be hard.
Rosalie Sanderson mailed me a copy of the letter she sent to CGR; it was so complimentary that I couldn’t bear to read much of it.
My car’s steering wheel sticks, but I don’t know what that means.
I’m so nudzhedik right now I don’t know whether to scream or eat a banana. I’d better calm down, read the Times, and relax this evening.
Luckily, I have nothing pressing; I can grade late papers tomorrow afternoon.
I can’t think about CGR now. Just go about your business, kiddo.
Thursday, October 6, 1994
2 PM. I managed to bring myself down last evening by reading the paper, watching TV (even a sitcom like Roseanne, which I rarely watch). I kept waking up during the night.
Last night was the second night in a row that I didn’t have the air conditioner on.
I feel a little bit vulnerable as my open window faces an open parking lot; at 2 AM, someone parked in front of it, and I kept seeing the shadow of a guy walking around the car.
More than that, of course, is the big change in my life that may be coming. I don’t know how I’ll deal with it. I’ve settled into a routine that’s comfortable.
But that’s precisely why I need to shake things up and stretch muscles I haven’t been accustomed to using.
I figure I’ll either find out tomorrow or else the suspense will go on a bit longer.
I can’t help thinking that it’s been a long time since I’ve held a full-time job.
My years as a full-time temporary instructor at Broward Community College were an adjustment at first, but those positions were all temporary, for an academic year or just a semester.
Today’s class went well, as I finished our fiction unit, going over three stories. I gave Iris the material for tomorrow’s subbing and I filled out the leave form so my paycheck can be docked.
I feel really nervous about approaching Barbara Sloan. But this term’s Poetry Writing class didn’t make and neither did my 8 AM Tuesday/Thursday class, and I was given an incredibly bad schedule which left me driving eight times a week to my eight class periods.
(If I do get the CGR job, it will save me a lot on gas.)
At 11 AM, when I got into my car at the faculty lot, the day seemed before me. It’s only about 78° today, dry and crisp, sunny with occasional puffy white clouds.
I read most of the paper and made an appointment for a flu shot at Health and Rehabilitative Services on Monday at 11:30 AM. (I’ll eat lunch out between classes).
Oh, but when will I tell Barbara if I get the job?
Maybe I should do it tomorrow afternoon. I’d hate to ruin her weekend, but she has the right to have that time if she has to replace me.
Hey, I’m getting ahead of myself again!
I think that maybe I’ll get in an extra half-hour of exercise (I did work out today before school) later in case tomorrow gets sticky.
I need to keep taking deep breaths.
Friday, October 7, 1994
4 PM. I’m overwhelmed. I got the job, of course, but it’s all so much to deal with. I’m glad I’ve had a couple of days to get used to the idea, and that I have the weekend to keep adjusting.
I called a bunch of friends just now, and I left messages with most of them, but I had a great talk with Alice, who’s really happy for me.
Of course, I called my parents the first thing when I got home from CGR at 11:30 AM. I find myself wishing I could call Grandma Ethel.
Dressed in my newly-cleaned suit, I was at the law school 45 minutes early. The first person I ran into was Nancy Dowd. (What I didn’t learn till later was that after I left her, she E-mailed Jon Mills an effusive recommendation.)
Going into the library, I came upon Javier, who was studying. Not that he cares, but I told him – as I did Nancy – about seeing Jon Mills, and then I left him to his studying with an affectionate pat from my New York Times.
In the library, I got on Westlaw and walked around until 8:30 AM, when Carol Dolder – she’s a sweetheart – greeted me at the CGR front desk. Liz came out of her office and took me into Jon’s, where we were introduced.
They weren’t sure how they were going to play it, but they basically told me the job was mine. Then Jon mentioned a project I need to get involved with.
Senator Fitzpatrick has recently pressured UF’s P.K. Yonge School to admit 25% at-risk kindergarteners next fall, an initiative supported by President Lombardi and Sid Martin, an influential former state representative.
But the P.K. Yonge parents object because they’re afraid the admission of at-risk children will cause their own kids to lose the “elite” education they’ve been getting. (I’m not yet sure what Jon expects me to do.)
Liz is really excited about my joining them because they’ve needed a full-time education person for a long time.
After I said, “I hope I live up to your expectations,” Liz and Jon assured me I would.
I went with Liz and started getting her files of documents on the Florida Department of Education contract and other stuff.
I’ve got loads of reading to do, including earlier memos – but it’s like being back in law school.
I chatted with Liz (that young black girl with her today and her brother are two kids she recently took in as foster children) until Carol Dolder told her that the other new hire, Carolyn – she just graduated in July, but I know her only by face – had come in.
While Liz and Carolyn were with Jon, Carol had me word-process a letter accepting Jon’s official letter of offer of employment.
My title is Visiting Assistant in Law Research, a full-time (1.0 FTE) non-tenure-track position which officially runs till June 30 due to fiscal reasons.
She took me around the office and introduced me to Laurie and Laura, the secretaries, and said that Carolyn and I will be sharing a half-time secretary who’s starting next week.
(Carolyn’s beginning on Wednesday, but I asked for two weeks and will start on Monday, October 24.)
Carolyn and I will share John Tucker’s office while he’s in Oregon this year. I’m sure I’ll get along with her since I’m pretty easy-going.
On Tuesday I’m going to the dean’s office to sign millions of forms. Can you see why I feel overwhelmed?
I have a real job: my first full-time non-teaching job, as Alice pointed out. I’m weirded out by this now.
Probably there’s a lot that’s important that I’m leaving out, but I can’t think of anything.
Even though Richard, Jeff and the other lawyers don’t dress too formally, I need to buy more dress pants and shirts and shoes.
At home, I spoke to both Mom and Dad together.
“I can’t believe you’re making so much money!” Dad said, although he amended that to say I’m worth ten times more than the $30,000 salary. “See, everything works out,” was the theme of the conversation.
I managed to change, eat, and go to SFCC. On the car radio, I heard Javier and Kathy introduced as the guests on Hank Connors’ call-in show. From my office, I was the first caller, asking them to address the issue of “special rights.”
I left a message on Javier’s answering machine, telling him the show was great and apologizing if my question was dumb. (Yes, I told him I got the job.)
At SFCC, I told only Elizabeth, who surprised me by hugging me congratulations, and Jeanne, who said I had to accept UF’s offer.
Unfortunately, Barbara took today off, so I couldn’t resign just yet. Actually, it’s just as well.
In the 1 PM class, I ended the fiction unit with Gish Jen’s story and didn’t mention anything to the students.
Pete just called after getting my message. He said my job sounds like a good deal. He’s taking three classes at NYU and teaching experimental prose and fiction writing (he took over the latter class from Ursule Molinaro, who’s ill), and applying for academic jobs, which he knows are few and far between.
I’m totally messed up. Yesterday I did an extra half-hour of exercise, knowing today would be crazy. I also slept pretty well. In one dream, Justin told me I didn’t have enough dress shirts.
Monday, October 10, 1994
3 PM. An hour ago, Barbara Sloan took the news of my job at CGR very well. She was more congratulatory than upset and said that she’ll find someone to replace me. She understood that I must take this job and said I should feel happy, not guilty.
She said I’d always given 150% and she never had problems with me. I’ll hear from her as soon as she lines up replacements, but she said not to tell the students anything.
She will go in with her replacement as soon as they take over and explain things to the class.
Up at 6 AM today, I exercised, showered, went out to get bread, milk and the papers, and came home to hear Javier debating a guy from Concerned Citizens on WRUF-FM.
I was the first caller. I said that Concerned Citizens are saying sexual orientation is a choice, unlike other categories of minorities – but one’s religion is also a choice.
When the guy was stupid enough to say that some forms of discrimination were okay, I attacked him for using recycled arguments from the days of the 1950s and 1960s civil rights struggles.
I had to turn this show off at 9:45 AM when I got to school, but I admire Javier more and more for the masterly way he handles himself. What a guy. It makes me feel good just to be around him.
Javier has really influenced me to get involved in gay rights issues. While the amendments will probably win, at least we’ll know we stood up for the right thing. It’s not like I haven’t been in hopeless battles before.
My morning class went over a Susan Brownmiller feminist-against-pornography article, and that got me talking about the 2 Live Crew cases.
After class, I went over to the HRS Public Health Unit, where I walked right into a trailer in the back and got my flu shot almost immediately. So far I’ve had no reaction except some soreness in my arm.
I had a McLean Deluxe on the corner of NW 13th Street and NW 28th Avenue, then got to SFCC’s main campus early.
My 1 PM class was a discussion on drama; we talked about the plays we’ve seen and the elements of drama. I’ll need to reread The Glass Menagerie tonight.
And then I talked to Barbara.
No mail today, as it’s Columbus Day, but Micki called, telling me to call her tomorrow.
Although it would be foolish to take the class in Ocala, it would keep me in the classroom, which I’d like. Maybe I’ll tell Micki I’ll take the class but only if she can’t get anyone else to do it.
Right now I’m going to wind down and read today’s New York Times. Later, I’ll go see Rosalie, who’s on duty at the law library this evening.
Wednesday, October 12, 1994
4 PM. Because I feel so harried now, when I have a lot of “free” time, it bothers me how I’m going to deal with a full-time job.
I guess I’ll have to make adjustments like moving my exercise time to the evenings, along with my newspaper-reading.
Right now I’m still very involved at Santa Fe. Part of it is having received a fresh batch of papers from the evening class that will make this a disgusting weekend.
I don’t have to grade the papers so carefully – though not doing so makes me feel guilty about short-changing my students.
I also feel guilty that I haven’t much of a dent in those papers Liz gave me. Maybe I’ll stay home and work on them tonight rather than go to that speakers’ training meeting.
I can’t see myself having time to speak to any group even if the No on One coalition lets me.
Unfortunately, the final phase of the campaign coincides with my first two weeks on my new job, so I can’t take much more time out to do phoning or precinct-watching or much of anything.
And while working against the anti-gay referendum is important and I’d like to be more involved, my job is more important and probably my first two weeks at work will set the tone for me in the CGR office.
Besides, it’s harmful for me emotionally to be too involved with a campaign that I know, deep down, will be a losing one. I’ve heard from Cynthia and various Listserv articles how burned out and dispirited the Colorado activists were after their defeat.
I had thought of going to the hearing at the courthouse today after my class downtown, but I really didn’t have time.
Time’s going to be a rare commodity for me from here on, although I might have more free time on weekends since I won’t be forced to grade papers or prepare for classes.
I did sleep well last night and woke up at 6 AM. The local NPR station began their semiannual pledge drive, so I can free up time by not listening to their appeals for funds that blanket the news shows.
Taking the suggestion of a Gainesville Freenet person, I logged on successfully, using the second login name (afn05397) I subscribed with. Now I don’t need a vanity name, so I’m glad I didn’t mail my check to Freenet.
My only piece of mail today was a bill from my overlimit NatWest Gold MasterCard. I’ve already spent most of my next Santa Fe paycheck on October’s bills; I can begin mailing them out soon.
Today was cloudy and cool, if not as rainy, but the gloom is expected to last all week.
This afternoon I went to Publix and put gas in the car, but I really need to check on the steering problem and the squeaking the brakes are making. I expect the car to break down within the next couple of weeks. Once I stop teaching, though, I should be saving money on gas.
In the fall term of my final year of law school, before the old car died at Christmas, I mostly drove the short distance between home and the law school twice a day, and I often didn’t have to fill up the tank for weeks.
My lessons today went well but I really felt distracted. Actually, that’s normal, since I know I’m quitting.
At Chestnut’s, I bought my 1995 diary – or “daily reminder” now that they’ve discontinued the style I used from 1969 to 1993.
I finally got around to reading Kevin McGowin’s poetry chapbook. Most of the poems are pedestrian although he’s got a few interesting images. I noticed an audiotape labeled “As Gay as It Gets.” It hadn’t occurred to me that Kevin was gay. Probably he’s not gay, and anyway, it shouldn’t make me like him better even if he were gay.
He has all these bizarre photos of Sarah Bernhardt and Isadora Duncan on the walls and all these books on various arcane subjects as if he’s trying to experience some artsy-craftsy epiphany.
I am going to that meeting tonight. The work on the No on One campaign is the only real social life I’ve had since law school ended.