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

by Richard Grayson

Thursday, October 13, 1994

2:30 PM. The sun came out this afternoon after a series of gloomy days. I did go over to the AvMed Building downtown at 6:30 PM yesterday.

Javier pulled up next to me as I parked, and he told me Judge Tomlinson ruled that the repeal vote will stay on the ballot; he deferred a ruling on the county charter amendment until next week.

As Javier and I were walking to the entrance, I spotted Bryan by the steps before he did and said, “There’s your…” and my voice trailed off.

I expected a larger crowd, but we three were the only ones there except for Ted (I’m so bad with names, but I think that’s it) and another guy who, as Javier explained the talking points of the campaign, expressed doubts that he could stay “on message.”

I understand the guy’s feelings totally, but I also know Javier is right to be pragmatic and deflect any attempts to turn this into a referendum of whether people approve of homosexuality.

I probably went up a few notches in Javier’s estimation when I echoed the pragmatic line – and that I knew that The Lambda Report, quoted in a gay-baiting pamphlet from the other side, is a homophobic publication with a name designed to pretend it features “gay rights” issues so that people will think that most gays are clamoring for lowering the age of consent or mandating a gay curriculum in the schools.

Javier noted that the Concerned Citizens’ attorney had argued in court the other day that the 1964 Civil Rights Act “took away the rights of the majority.” Both the Sun and Alligator did catch that quote today, just as Javier had hoped.

Javier said we’re not sure it’s even possible for us to win this election because there’s no polling data.

Back home, I answered an E-mail from Elihu congratulating me on my staff attorney job and I spent the rest of last evening finishing the folder of memos that Liz gave me. They scare me a little, because I’m not fully conversant with the privacy and intellectual property issues in them.

Also, I haven’t done much legal writing and worry that I won’t be up to the job. I’ll just have to work harder than more experienced legal writers, I guess. I don’t really have any doubts that I’m capable of learning.

Last night, several of my dreams took place in law school and featured Professors Baldwin and Weyrauch; obviously, these are anxiety dreams about my job performance at the Center.

When I got to SFCC, Doug told me to call Cissy Ward, who’ll be taking over my 1 PM English 102. She will sit in on Wednesday’s class and I’ll introduce her on Friday. I’ll also confer with her about the students and what we’ve been doing.

In class, I played The Glass Menagerie film and we discussed it. Before I left, I returned Kevin McGowin’s poems, which I’d read, along with a copy of Narcissism and Me and my home phone number.

Kevin’s got his MFA and has published in some little magazines. He found a copy of With Hitler in New York in the office and hadn’t realized I was so widely published.

Back home, I received a call from a woman who phoned yesterday and mistook me for a therapist. Today she wanted to ask about working in my write-in campaign for Congress against Bilirakis.

When she called yesterday, she said she wanted a consultation with me because she’d been depressed lately. I had told her that I wasn’t a therapist and mentioned that I was running for Congress in Clearwater, where she lives.

Today she explained that she had phoned Project Vote Smart and wanted to work for me because of my stand for a single-payer health care plan.

I told her I was more in need of a therapist myself than a campaign worker. I said the most I could ask of her was that she write in my name on Election Day and urge others to do the same.

I did low-impact aerobics and then, after lunch, I did laundry. This incredibly muscular black guy in a bathing suit said hi to me in the laundry room and explained that he had just moved in.

He said, “The girls by the swimming pool look nice.” It’s comforting to know that with that body, he’s not an intellectual.

I’ve read the New York Times already and I probably should grade papers – but if I do work, it’ll be more likely to plunge into that messy collection of documents Liz provided. I’ll read the stuff from Schoolyear 2000 first.

My only piece of mail was once again a bill – from Allstate. Tomorrow’s paycheck is already gone. What would I have done, how would I have survived, if I hadn’t gotten the staff attorney job at CGR?

Friday, October 14, 1994

3:30 PM. I’m sleepy. I kept getting up during the night and maybe I got to sleep only four or five hours. I really need the weekend coming up although I have many papers to grade.

Still, because it’s my last week at the community college, I can grade these papers lightly. I wish I had more than one weekend before ending my job at SFCC and starting at CGR.

Yesterday I went to the Oaks Mall and spent over $100 on my Burdines and Belk charge cards to buy three pairs of pants in that new wrinkle-free fabric.

Today, between classes, I took them to the tailor shop near Camelot and paid $18 to have the hems made up. They should be ready by Wednesday.

When I got home yesterday at 4 PM, Barbara called to tell me to call Iris and Susan Miller, who are taking over my other classes. I haven’t been able to reach Susan, but I’ll see Iris next week and give her my syllabus (which I’ve barely followed) and a memo on the students in the English 101 Downtown class, along with my records of grades and absences. I’ll have to work on that this weekend, too.

After that, I returned a call from a reporter, Michael Lepore of the Tampa tabloid Creative Loafing. For a survey of all the candidates, he asked me my stands on crime, education, abortion, gay rights and a few other issues.

Like the Tampa Tribune reporter, he said he’d send me a copy of the issue in which the story will run. I also got a call from some guy in Tallahassee who needed my name and occupation to complete his company or service’s candidate profiles.

I used Just for Men’s For Beards Only product to darken my beard. The gray hair – actually, it’s snow-white – on my beard makes me feel old. But I don’t know if I can really hope to look young anyway.

Last night I dreamed that I shaved off my beard completely and seemed to look much more youthful. In the last couple of months, I’ve begun to feel that my age is really beginning to catch up with me.

Maybe I just lived in a fantasy world before. Being rejected by Noor was part of it because it made me realize that no 25-year-old would find me attractive. I was once cute, never handsome, and I’m now too old to be cute.

My nose seems bigger and lumpier, my skin more creased and mottled and scarred. Physically, don’t have much to offer the younger guys I’m attracted to.

Take Noor or Javier: I’m eighteen years older than they are. Would I now be attracted to a 61-year-old man, no matter how wonderful he was?

That answers the question of why guys don’t look at me twice. And Gainesville doesn’t have a lot of guys my age who are decent-looking; it’s a college town. Vanity, vanity.

Last evening I did read a lot of the Schoolyear 2000 memos, which took me back to the jargon of my graduate classes in education. I believe that technology can change the outmoded paradigm of instructional delivery (see, I’m slipping into jargon myself), but so much of what I read last night seemed ephemeral: a lot of “eduspeak.”

I didn’t work too hard in class today. I conferred with students while they wrote, and I showed parts of The Glass Menagerie in my English 102 class, but it felt as if I were doing a lot of running around.

I really did have a messed-up schedule this semester. Imagine if I’d had two classes in a row on just one campus: it would have freed up so much time.

My paycheck was deposited to my account, and after factoring in all the checks I’ve written on bill payments not yet mailed, I break even. Maybe I’ll selectively pay a couple of bills late.

Once I start getting my University of Florida paychecks, I should be able to catch up until my student loan payments come due when my forbearances expire.

The Nobel Prize in Literature was award to a Japanese novelist, Kenzaburo Oe, barely known in this country, and the Peace Prize – shared by Rabin, Peres and Arafat – has led to the resignation of someone on the Nobel committee, who thinks a terrorist is underserving of the award.

Despite Aristide’s return to Haiti tomorrow and Clinton’s standing up to Saddam by sending troops to the Persian Gulf, the President can’t get a break with the American people. On talk radio, Clinton is routinely compared to Hitler, and people talk of his not being a “real” President.

This November’s election is expected to be a Republican sweep of Congress and the governorships, and it will probably be the most depressing election since 1980 to me.

Wednesday, October 19, 1994

7:30 PM. I suppose I slept adequately (although I didn’t sleep that long) because I didn’t feel tired today.

Marc phoned last night and said his friend outside Ocala would try to fix my car, but he needed information so he could get the proper replacement part.

Oddly enough, I had little trouble with the steering today, and that was a blessing, for I had my usual (but soon to be over) long Wednesday drive.

Although I didn’t feel like teaching at SFCC this morning, once I got into it, I found myself enjoying the lesson on extended definition. I also had a pretty good class at 1 PM though half of it was taken up with a clip from the Death of a Salesman video.

Cissy Wood sat in on the class today and she’ll also sit in on Friday, although she said I probably shouldn’t announce then that I’m leaving. “This way it will be a fait accompli,” Cissy said.

Now I have one class left with each of my three classes. I met with Iris, who’d gotten my packet of material, and we discussed how she’s going to handle the transition.

I also sent off my midterm grades for the Tuesday/Thursday class to Susan Miller. Tomorrow I’ll mostly show the video, and maybe I can use the rest of the day to do preparation for my CGR job.

I spoke with Rhoda, who’s renewing her lease at Camelot in December. Gordon had discussed raising her rent, but after she said she wanted a new kitchen counter, etc., he kept her rent stable.

Rhoda was pleased I got a job at the law school “instead of subsisting on adjunct work.”

And I really don’t know how I would have survived because I’m having a very rough time financially. Delphi suspended my account when my last bill was refused by my credit card, which was up to the limit.

This is as bad as my finances have been since the summer of 1992 before my scholarship money and student loan checks came. I don’t even have the $14 available on any credit card to get my Delphi service reinstated just yet, so my listserv E-mail will just pile up.

And I’ll probably be late in paying a bill or two. Hopefully, in a month, I should begin to catch up, although I don’t know how long it will take until I receive my first University of Florida paycheck.

I didn’t spend much time at home between classes – just fifteen minutes to eat, and even then, I took a couple of cold sweet potatoes to eat in the car as I drove to the main SFCC campus.

I haven’t finished today’s New York Times – and I still have yet to read yesterday’s Science section – but I won’t watch any TV this evening. I probably need to stop by CGR tomorrow, and I also can pick up my pants at the tailor’s.

This morning woke up with a sore throat, but that was probably because I left the window open last night.

Most of my neighbors keep their windows closed, I noticed, when I went to get milk early this morning.

I drove to Publix, although on Monday afternoon I realized it’s an easy walk.

Later I walked on Archer Road nearly all the way to I-75 and back. I miss walking and wish I still lived at Camelot so I could walk to work at the law school the way I did last winter and spring.

On the Freenet, I can’t get E-mail; I get that weird screen with the [80H etc. stuff that throws off the screen display. Last night Ed Teague said he had the same problem on the Freenet, but he mostly uses the UF E-mail system.

Thursday, October 20, 1994

10 PM. I just got in after staying later than I expected at the No on One mailing at the AvMed Building. Bryan, Roger and Bob got there before I did, and later a lot of other people came.

I worked mostly paired with Jill, who’s from Syosset. She just graduated from the physician’s assistant program and starts work tomorrow at the Waldo Road public health unit where I go for my flu shots. Most of her work will be in the AIDS Unit, though she sort of burned out on AIDS work in Boston.

Phil Attey and I talked politics – I’m such a political junkie – and there was the usual patter as we folded, sorted, stuffed, sealed and stamped out two mailings: the larger to Chamber of Commerce members, the smaller to a list from Sons and Daughters of America, mostly based in South Florida.

Kathy, Javier, Diego, Eden and some new people were there, including a guy who reminded me so much of Sean – but I never got to speak with him.

It’s really been a good experience for me to be involved in this campaign and to spend so much time around other gay people. I feel I’m definitely getting over my crush on Javier as I know him better and see the reality of him and Bryan.

Anyway, tomorrow’s my last day at Santa Fe Community College. I was really glad to see the last of today’s class, especially when this one airhead student asked me a question that showed she hadn’t read the play or even been watching the scene in the video before her.

“What are you, an idiot?” I blurted out after she asked me if Biff and Happy were gay lovers. Then another girl, who never looked up from her newspaper all class, said, “You don’t have to insult her.” I didn’t say anything but cursed under my breath.

Basically I just let them watch the film for the rest of the class because I didn’t feel like teaching. I gave out the xeroxes of Hamlet as Susan requested I do, and I told them to read Acts I and II.

Back home, in a sour mood, I exercised. It bothered me that I’d lost my temper in class. Perhaps it’s because I feel guilty about leaving my students in mid-semester – but some of them will probably be glad to have a new teacher.

My bathtub was filled again, and I called the rental office. A repairman unclogged the drain, which was filled with hair, and said I should get some of the stuff he used to dissolve the hair.

I got a hang-up call and then a message from Liz, who E-mailed a message I couldn’t see on Delphi. She wants to have a meeting with me and Ellen and the student working with us on Monday, and she wanted a way to get rid of the other student worker whom she called The Flake. I said fine.

Later I went to CGR, and Carol Dolder showed me my mailbox, filled with stuff from Liz and Ellen. She also introduced me to my secretary, Kristi (I think; I’m so bad with names). I said hi to Ellen and others; Liz had gone home by then because the air conditioner wasn’t working.

Tom D congratulated me on my job at CGR; he said Carolyn had been in his section and is a great person with a good sense of humor, so I should enjoy working with her.

Also, I spoke briefly with Rosalie, whom I encountered in the library on her way to Betty’s office. I told everyone at CGR I’d see them on Monday on my first official day of work there.

At home, I got my Delphi service back by paying the bill with my Spirit Visa; my $25 payment had arrived for that card and the newly available credit just covered the Delphi bill.

Kevin McGowin phoned to ask if I knew a good criminal lawyer. He was given 24 hours to leave by his landlord, and when he refused, the sheriff took his things out of the apartment. Kevin was put in jail, and they’re charging him with resisting arrest.

The only criminal lawyer in town that I could think of was Larry Turner, whose firm supplied the Criminal Law Book Award I won first year. I said that tomorrow I’d talk on campus with Kevin, who’s staying temporarily with another Santa Fe adjunct.

Justin sent the flyer for the Provincetown Rep’s New York premiere of his stockbroker play a week from tonight. It will run until November 6 at Larry Burns Studio on West 43rd between Eighth and Ninth.

Marc just called and said his friend will need to take my car for about three days; I told him I’d think about it.

Tom had showed me his bill from Pep Boys for the same procedure; it came to about $380.

Or maybe I’ll take it to the BP station by the Civic Media Center if I can put the repair on my BP credit card.

Friday, October 21, 1994

4:30 PM. Today has been the fullest day I’ve known in months. Weeks go by and life seems stagnant; then everything will happen in one day.

I slept as well as could be expected, which is to say not much. I dreamed that Mom and Dad were driving a bus on which I and the people from No on One were the passengers.

Marc had called last night to say that his friend would need three days to take the car and I said I’d let him know what I was doing by Sunday.

On Delphi again, I got several new messages from Liz, and I expect she’ll reply to my replies today. I tried to call Miami information to get the number of the New York Times bureau there for Javier.

Last night he told us the Herald is doing a story in which the Concerned Citizens spokesman says that if the amendment is defeated, Gainesville will become “the San Francisco of Florida.” To which one can only say: we should be so lucky.

But I dialed Mom instead of Miami information, so we chatted.

On the way to school, I picked up the papers and decided to buy the Tampa Tribune because they had a front-page story on Congressional elections.

I wasn’t in it, but at the office downtown, I found Cheryl Waldrip’s article, “Write-in will tell you he’s not the right one” on the front page of the Florida/Metro section.

It was a wonderful piece, and it contained some of my great (mostly self-deprecating) lines: “Under certain bizarre circumstances, even Grayson – an over-educated, extremely liberal, debt-ridden writer – could get elected in this mostly Republican district: ‘If they find he [Bilirakis] committed the murders in the O.J. Simpson case and a hurricane hit on Election Day so that only one lunatic goes to vote, I might win.’”

But it also gives my platform in bullets (“higher taxes, civil rights for gays, doing away with social security for the rich, affirmative action”) and mentions my endorsement by both Tampa and Florida NOW.

I was tickled pink and showed it to Gene, my Downtown Center office-mate; later I said goodbye and wished him well.

I had a good class with the half of the students who showed up and tried to pretend everything was normal. My steering was awful going home, making a grinding sound I hadn’t noticed before.

I got upset and called my parents asking if I could use Dad’s Mobil card to charge the repairs at the service station on 16th Boulevard and 4th Avenue where I trust the mechanic. I also read Mom and Dad the Tampa Tribune article.

After a quick bite, I went to the Mobil station, where Vaughn, the mechanic, said he could do it – but it might take two days. I told him I’ll bring it in on Monday morning; then I’ll take the bus to work.

It will make my first day at CGR very stressful, but I’ll be testing myself. My life always seems to work out like that.

At SFCC, I told Brendan about my job and talked with him, Donald, and Elizabeth, wishing them good luck and goodbye.

I took my nameplate off the door (Doug removed my blue schedule card himself) and was about to leave when I saw Kevin McGowan. He hadn’t called a lawyer yet, but if he’s telling me the truth, he has been the victim of an outrageous violation of his rights and liberties.

After ignoring his landlady’s orders to vacate within 24 hours, he was awakened at 2 AM by sheriff’s deputies who dragged him, naked, out of bed, and threw him and his possessions out of her house, arresting him for some undetermined charge and then, after he “resisted arrest,” beat him severely.

Because he had a room in the old lady’s house and she invited the police, they didn’t have a warrant. But surely he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his bed. I don’t know what Kevin’s not telling me, but I can’t believe the sheriff would behave so reprehensively.

I told Kevin I’ve heard of people winning multimillion-dollar civil suits for less outrageous behavior by cops.

I advised him to call Larry Turner or Robert Rush (the lawyer for the gay plaintiffs fighting the ballot issues, who also is a criminal lawyer) and he said he would.

Cissy didn’t show up for my 1 PM class, so I just discussed Death of a Salesman as I normally would have. I felt funny not telling them I won’t be their teacher anymore.

Back home, I had a couple of phone messages. The first was from George Myers, who said he’d like to interview me for a story.

I left a message on his machine, blushing over his compliments and congratulating him for an award he recently won for his entertainment reporting.

The other message was from Louise McKinney of PEN/Gulf South. I called her in New Orleans.

She wanted to check in and update my bio for the literary magazine (now called Southern Lights) that they’re taking to the printer tomorrow. They’re using my diary book excerpt and my mini-essay on reading the obituaries in the New York Times.

Anyway, the mail provided another treat. The Florida Family Council Voters Guide was out, and there I was, next to Bilirakis, our photos above personal information. The FFC is a religious right group but they can’t endorse candidates.

Nevertheless, it’s easy to see where they stand from the choice of questions. Bilirakis and I disagreed on all but 2 of 15 issues.

Describing myself as “Jewish/atheist,” I said I supported gays in the military and physician-assisted suicide and opposed prayer in the schools.

Like my stands in the Tribune, they’re not at all bizarre but only seem so because the breadth of political discourse is confined to positions that won’t offend voters.

I noticed that most candidates didn’t respond at all, but nearly half did – with the predictable “pro-family” positions like opposing gun control.

Betty Taylor wrote me to thank me for the article I sent her, and Mark Bernheim wrote me a letter, sort of congratulating me for my job (he hates the law) and telling me about his visit to Miami Beach.