A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-November, 1994
Wednesday, November 9, 1994
1 AM. ABC News TV coverage of the Republican landslide is ending. I see that my political instincts are pretty good: the GOP is doing just about as I expected, taking over both houses of Congress.
No Republican senator or seat turned over, and every open Democratic seat did turn over, with Senators Sasser of Tennessee and Wofford of Pennsylvania losing. The Feinstein-Huffington race in California is too close to call.
I expected the Republicans to gain 55 House seats, and they may do that well, sweeping away everyone from Dan Rostenkowski to Speaker Foley and many other old Democrats.
When I got home at 11:30 PM, Governor Chiles was declaring victory in a squeaker against Jeb Bush. The ol’ he-coon walks just before the light of day!
But it’s very close, and Chiles seems an exception to the trend. Mario Cuomo in New York and Ann Richards in Texas lost, and the GOP swept nearly all the governorships.
Locally, I called the anti-gay referendum about right. The last figures I heard were about 43% No, 57% Yes for both the repeal referendum and the county charter amendment.
Before I left home, I called Congressman Bilirakis’s office in Clearwater and heartily congratulated his assistant as I conceded. He took it in the good spirit in which I intended it.
It was 6:30 PM when I got to the Sun Center to help out with the catering.
Lester, a former caterer and very particular, gave me crudités and said I should make them look beautiful on a platter.
Not exactly my forte, as Lester soon learned. After that, he treated me like I was some dumb jock, good only for lifting things.
Gwen was late with the rest of the food, so I went outside and watched my little TV, which proved the major news source for everyone over the evening.
Cynthia came early with Roberta and other lesbians, and when the food came, they helped me carry everything to the tables.
It was a long time before any returns came in, and there were a lot of media people who wanted an interview. But all of us deferred to Javier, who came in late.
Bryan told me he’d been ill earlier in the day and that Javier had a bad headache. I hope the stress isn’t too much for the two of them.
The first precincts came in 62-38% Yes. Clearly, some of the younger people were not expecting this.
I talked a long time with Tim, who headed the speakers bureau; he seemed as if he were about to cry.
I was philosophical when interviewed for an anthropology project on video and said I believed the charter amendment would ultimately be overturned by the courts the way the Colorado Supreme Court overturned that state’s Amendment 2.
The Sun Center filled up with a lot of people I knew from our Tuesday night work sessions, but also a lot of gay people I hadn’t seen before – some of them cute college students, very young and hopeful before they heard the results, and then they looked bewildered and hurt.
I went outside to chat with the (straight) guy from the Civic Media Center and his girlfriend, and I talked to Elizabeth and Timothy from the Human Rights Council.
Phil came late – he’d been standing outside for ten hours holding signs – and said we should challenge the election on the basis that most polling stations were churches that put up Yes posters on their grounds but wouldn’t allow No signs.
Kathy looked upset and exhausted when she and Bob arrived from the county election supervisor’s office.
As Bob announced the results with about half the precincts reporting, people cheered when he gave the totals for precincts where we won. When all the votes are tallied up, we might even have gotten a No majority within the city of Gainesville.
Everyone was tired, and with the food all gone, people were drifting out of the Sun Center.
I looked for Cynthia, with whom I had gone earlier to buy ice at Publix, but couldn’t find her. I did say goodbye to Eden and Janine and others before driving home around 11:30 PM.
I don’t expect to sleep much, if at all, the rest of the night, but somehow I’ll get through Wednesday.
8 PM. As a shell-shocked Pres. Clinton said at his late afternoon press conference, we all need a good night’s sleep. I slept just an hour or two last night, but somehow I got through the day.
I’ve read and watched and listened to a lot of election results and analysis and interviews. Clearly, yesterday was a historic turning point.
If I was correct about the voting results (at 53-47, I predicted the Senate breakdown exactly; Feinstein squeaked through, but Shelby switched parties today) and was not surprised by anything in the GOP tidal wave.
All along I’ve been spectacularly wrong about a new era of progressivism arising.
If there’s one silver lining I can torture out of the huge cloud, it’s that being out of power – especially after forty years in the House – and being a real minority party may energize the left wing of the Democratic party the way the 1964 debacle and years in the minority spurred the Republican conservatives to come up with exciting ideas that captured voters’ imaginations.
I know Javier is usually in the law library at 8 AM on Fridays, and today was a Friday class schedule, so he was the first person I went to see.
I asked him how he was doing, and he said okay but was concerned about his exam on Brazil in a foreign enrichment course today.
I had wanted to tell him to concentrate on himself, his studies, and his relationship with Bryan for a while – because they’re just as important, if not more so, than the struggle for gay rights – but Javier obviously didn’t need to hear me say it.
God, I do love him, but in this weird way: like I see myself as a noble soap opera character who wants only the best for the people he loves, even if that means reveling in Javier’s love for somebody else.
Besides, I’ll get over him the way I got over Ronna, Avis and Wesley, and maybe one day we, too, will be good friends.
Javier said he wanted to see if we’d won the city of Gainesville. We got killed in the rural areas of the county, of course.
The Just Vote No group separate from those of us in No on One – Cal Morris and Clive Gilbert – are going ahead with their lawsuit, and as Phil said last night at the Sun Center, with the anti-gay initiatives losing in Idaho and Oregon (52% to 48%), national gay organizations like Lambda Legal Defense Fund will now be concentrating on what happened in Alachua County.
Everyone at CGR was very somber. Linda Baldwin, a good ol’ Southern yellow-dog Democrat, was trying to assess the damage to the cabinet and legislature: Jamerson lost as education commissioner; the State Senate went Republican, and the State House just barely stayed Democratic.
It’s only the heavy turnout that allowed Chiles to be reelected. A little St. Pete Times article mentioned my write-in congressional campaign but had no results.
Late this afternoon, I called election supervisors in the three counties of the Ninth Congressional District.
Hillsborough said Bilirakis got 100% of the vote, but Pinellas had 100 write-ins to Bilirakis’ 95,000 (99.9%), and Pasco said the write-ins wouldn’t be counted till tomorrow.
I chatted with Liz and others, and somehow I managed to do a little work; at the end of the day, I had new edits of the Stacey memos and my two finished ones, but Liz said her brain was too overloaded to look at them today. I know how she felt.
At 3:30 PM, I came home and watched Clinton and exercised lightly.
Tomorrow’s the end of the work week, and boy, do I ever need a holiday. I’ve been busy with No on One for part of each of the past eight days. Plus, I’m still adjusting to life as a CGR staff attorney and getting used to my beardless self.
I’ve gone through more changes in the last couple of months than I did in the last couple of years.
Thursday, November 10, 1994
9 PM. I feel relaxed and happy. Not only did I sleep deeply and long last night, but I had the gravity-defying dreams I had maybe twenty years ago when everything in life seemed ahead of me.
I used to dream about flying and running along the ground at incredible speeds and feel so . . . I was struggling to think of the next word and started to write “on top of things” and then realized how literal it was.
Last night I was hovering in the air, astounding people in one dream, and in another I was flying over Flatlands back in Brooklyn, from Ralph Avenue to Utica Avenue, along Avenues J, K, L and M, passing Alice’s old house, and Billy Sherman’s house, and the neighborhood where my junior high friends lived. I woke up at 6 AM feeling refreshed.
Getting to work at 8:30 AM, I did nothing but read the newspaper for the first hour, but since I closed my office door, who’s to know?
I didn’t accomplish much today, but then Liz never got around to reading my memos, and at the end of the day she was really apologetic, as if I were her supervisor and she had neglected to do some important piece of work.
I futzed around with the pornography waiver memo all day, going to the library to do research.
It took till the afternoon to get me hooked up on the system as a faculty member because Susie Potter was at a meeting. However, I did take out some books, including a general text and casebook on school law.
Seeing Larry in the library, I asked what he was doing these days, and he said he’d taken over Charmaine’s paralegal class, which was the only work he had, at $140 a week.
Larry’s had to move back with his parents, who are giving him a hard time, especially now that he’s passed the bar and can’t use the excuse that employers might not be interested in him because they were waiting to see how he did on the exam.
Worse, everyone he knows seems to have gotten a job – although that may be unusual in this job market.
Larry himself told me that someone from our class mentioned to a guy at a video store that he’d just graduated law school – and the guy turned out to be a lawyer who hired him to start work at the store the very next day.
I said I knew that Larry wasn’t alone, and the others with jobs just weren’t around the law school, that’s all. And I told him I lived with my parents until I was 27, hoping it would make him feel better.
Despite Larry’s own situation, he nevertheless seemed really pleased when he heard about my job.
Going upstairs, I met Professor Baldwin and when I told him I was working on computer obscenity and school liability, and he said my job sounded interesting and even asked to see my “paper” when I was done. I also told Betty Taylor about the memo when I saw her in the parking lot later.
When I got back from my first visit to the library, Carol gave me my first paycheck. I netted $829, more than I expected (of course once the crazy Republicans in Congress repeal the federal income tax, as one of them proposed today, I’ll be netting even more), and it felt good to take it to the bank.
My power was out at home, so I ate lunch at McDonald’s and just missed a collision with another car in the parking lot by about two inches. Today some guardian angel must have been watching me.
In the mail I got a copy of a black newspaper in Tampa – like a pennysaver, really – by the name of The Dollar Stretcher, and I saw that they listed me as one of the candidates they were endorsing for Congress, right next to Sam Gibbons.
I’m definitely going to try to write my congressional candidate’s diary as a column for the St. Petersburg Times or Tampa Tribune when I get the chance. The next ten days, though, I’ve got plenty to do for the Tallahassee meeting.
I called Stacey and found out she had not done anything yet on the student privacy memo. After she researches it a bit, she’ll come by on Monday, but I’ll probably end up doing the memo myself, I expect.
Tuesday at 2 PM we’ve got a staff meeting with Mark Bergeron about our computer plan – about which E-mail has been going back and forth, letting me see office politics in action – and on Friday at 2 PM we have our regular staff meeting, my first.
I’d better do a lot this weekend because next week will be hectic. Before I left at 4:15 PM, Carol told me that Christy is going to be full-time staring on Monday because without Carolyn coming on board as another staff attorney, Ellen’s feeling overwhelmed by Health Forum work.
At home, I had a hard workout and listened to more election analysis as I had dinner, and then Tom Whalen called to talk for an hour. It’s been hard for him to focus at NOCCA, as the days at the New Orleans school are longer than he’s been used to in Stuttgart.
He’s probably going to go back to Germany next year. Tom just returned from the first American university he’d ever been asked to guest-lecture at, Salisbury State in Maryland, to give a talk on film noir, invited by a guy who heard Tom speak in Europe.
NOCCA is moving to a shiny new building on the other side of the French Quarter in two years, and Tom will probably retire rather than teach there.
Alone among NOCCA people, Tom feels it’s a disgrace to waste so much money on a new building facility for 250 arts students, “half of whom shouldn’t be here,” when most New Orleans schools woefully lack basic amenities and half the district’s students are illiterate.
He invited me to come on February 15 and 16 and do a morning workshop and an afternoon one, and of course I happily agreed. I’m sure I can work it out at my job.
Tom hasn’t been writing much since got back from Europe, but a magazine accepted some of his Walser translations.
Bantam is delaying the publication of his 70%/30% book with Dan Quinn because they think Quinn’s nonfiction book will turn him into the latest New Age guru, and they’ll sell more copies of the novel later.
Quinn got $700,000 for both books, and he keeps urging Tom – as does Tom’s agent – to write something really commercial and make a similar killing.
In January, Annette is coming, and his other former girlfriends are doing well: what’s-her-name is back from Tokyo and in a poetry MFA at Eastern Washington, and Debra’s starting her dissertation at Princeton and has a contract with Farrar, Straus to do a Rezzori translation.
Tom seemed glad about my job and said it’s good that I’m not doing adjunct work anymore.
Monday, November 14, 1994
7 PM. I felt productive today. I got into work early, at 7:30 AM, and I left just before 4 PM. Not bad, especially considering my computer crashed after lunch.
Laura called Mark and Lamont at computer services, but nobody came, so I took my floppy full of memos (luckily – or intelligently – I saved the files on two floppies before I went home for lunch) to Jeff’s computer because he’s out of town.
Liz gave me back the six memos I’d given her, and there was only minor editing on each of them.
I worked to refine the memo on the network-use policy, and I got someone from FIRN, the Florida Instructional Resource Network, to mail out the guidelines they’re going to send to school districts.
After Liz said we could hold the student privacy memo over till the next meeting, Stacey had some suggestions on how to approach it when I chatted with her this afternoon.
Tomorrow I might feel differently, but today I felt as if I’ve got a good grip on what I’m doing.
Liz told me to reread Schoolyear 2000’s contract with Britannica, just in case they ask about it at the meeting.
Next Monday she’ll rent a car at Budget and pick me up around 8 AM at CGR. So at this time next week, I’ll be feeling relieved or mortified after the Tallahassee meeting.
Now that I’ve got a full-time job, I’m planning on spending more of my free time on outside interests. Partially that’s because I don’t want to be defined by my job.
Also, when I was in New York City, I noticed how Ronna and Josh, who work 9 to 5, manage to have a life – and a busy one – outside of their jobs.
As I’ve been saying, I need a social life. I’ve been catching up with my old friends who live out of town. After I exercised late this afternoon, I called Sat Darshan at her office; it was about 2:30 PM Phoenix time.
She and I talked for about fifteen minutes, mostly about my job – Sat Darshan said not much was new with her – before she had to get off.
Bert Stratton, responding to my note, sent out a slick leaflet promoting Yiddishe Cup, with a photo of the band, news of their first album, and admiring quotes from newspapers, including an article Harvey Pekar did on them for the Boston Herald.
Since he’s a big klezmer fan, Harvey is seeing a lot more of Bert. Alice is folk-dancing, and the kids are now 13, 10 and 7.
Phil Attey replied to my E-mail complimenting him on his leadership of the No on One campaign by saying we were all fantastic, and that I in particular, was “a volunteer coordinator’s dream.”
I also E-mailed Bob K a note saying what a great job No on One had done.
I feel tired now, but that usually means I’ll have insomnia later. Still, I can’t complain because I’ve slept well for five nights in a row, and I can’t recall the last time that happened.
Micki Johnson left a message that she’s got two Nova clusters for me to teach. Yeah, right.
The biggest problem I had today – aside from my computer refusing to boot up (is this the hard crash I’ve always dreaded?) – was discomfort from my left contact lens. I had the same problem yesterday.
On Saturday I didn’t wear my lenses, and they sat in the enzymatic cleaner. I’ve tried to clean them again tonight and I hope I can avoid having to buy new lenses. I haven’t got enough available credit on any of my credit cards to order them by phone.
At Bib ‘n’ Tucker, I picked up my two newly-hemmed pants: burgundy and forest-green versions of the no-wrinkle ones I’ve been wearing.
I can see that I’m not going to have any extra money because I’ll just spend it on all the stuff I haven’t been buying for years and which is now a necessity or something I feel entitled to.
One place I’m not going to spend more money on is cable TV. I’ve lived in Gainesville without NBC, CBS, CNN, etc., for so many years that I can continue to get along without it.
(George Schweitzer was again extensively quoted in a Times article, about CBS’s Gone With the Wind sequel miniseries, Scarlet.)
Mom asked if I’d be coming home for Thanksgiving, and I told her I’d decide after I got back from Tallahassee.
Saturday, November 19, 1994
4 PM. My eyes haven’t adjusted to the light after coming out of the movies.
I didn’t go to a dollar theater – Mom said the article I wrote about Saturday matinees that was published in last Saturday’s Orlando Sentinel was excellent – but instead I paid $3.50 to see Interview With the Vampire across the street from my apartment.
It dragged a little but was generally pretty good. I can see why Anne Rice has all those gay fans; the vampire story is intensely homoerotic and contains a lot of gay metaphors. I noticed several male couples in the audience.
Last night I fell asleep early and had a good rest. In one dream I was sitting with two young guys and we were being read something, then shown something on a video monitor. It was incredibly erotic, and we were all naked and excited.
The first guy, slim and blond, obviously had an ejaculation; then the second guy, a little darker and sturdier, did the same. This was without touching one another or themselves.
But after he came, the first guy gingerly put his hand on the other’s shoulder, and I, now no longer with them but instead observing them on the video monitor, thought that gesture was so sweet and so sexy.
I wanted to get back to that dream after I woke up from it, but the rest of my dreams were more complex and less erotic.
By 8 AM, I’d already done two loads of laundry, gotten the newspapers and read the Sun, gone to the post office to get stamps and been shopping at Albertsons.
At 10 AM, I went over to the new Southwest Recreation Center, where they’ve got wonderful facilities. For 45 minutes I used the machines – not Nautilus but similar enough for me to remember how to use them.
I made sure I used light weights because I’m not accustomed to that kind of exercise anymore. Most of the others there seemed to be undergraduates, but I didn’t feel out of place.
Girls tend to go on the Stairmaster and the real weightlifting guys concentrate on the free weights, but I could tell that it’s not the kind of place a serious bodybuilder would go although some of the people working out looked pretty good.
It’s nice to vary my exercise routines. I weighed 153 on their scale, but this morning I was back to 147 on my bathroom scale, and I don’t think I’m any heavier than I was.
Nevertheless, I got my old Nutri/System Behavior Breakthrough book and began rereading it last evening. I’ve fallen back into some bad habits, like eating while reading or watching TV and eating in a place other than the table.
Today’s mail brought the second rejection notice in a row – but they’re for old, already-published stories, and I don’t feel that bad if they’re not anthologized.
Laura C sent me a Chanukah card; she’s still living at her parents’ house in Coral Springs but didn’t say if she was working.
I got a mailing from the North Central Florida Human Rights Council, signed by Bob K and Dottie Dreyer.
They reflected on the election and enclosed the Lambda Update story on the Legal Defense Fund’s victory in Cincinnati in the courts, obviously encouraging us to donate to the Legal Defense Fund as well as to HRC.
A lawsuit is being filed in the county by Lambda with pro bono local attorneys, and it’ll be interesting from a purely intellectual point of view, as constitutional law, as well as from the reality of life in Gainesville, to see how challenging the Alachua referendum in court proceeds.