A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-December, 1994
by Richard Grayson
Monday, December 12, 1994
4 PM. It was chilly when I got up this morning.
For the first time I turned on the heat knob of the air conditioning unit. The air smelled like it was burning, and I’m not certain if that’s how it’s supposed to smell or if something is wrong.
In any case, I shut it off right away, as it wasn’t really that cold. We’ve all been spoiled by the unseasonably warm weather recently.
This is actually the normal temperature range for this time of year. Anyway, it shouldn’t get much above 65° all week.
Last night I read Steve Kowit’s Mysteries of the Body and sent him a note praising his fine, clear poems; he has the sensibility of a mensch. I sent him some of my recently published stuff as well.
Then I read some work-related material and the Gainesville Sun, which had its usual homophobic letter to the editor.
I hardly did anything at the office today. I got in about 7:45 AM and left for good at 2:45 PM, but I spent most of the afternoon typing up “Early Warnings” from Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog.
I used a PC-Write disk that I could transfer to Microsoft Works at home so I can put it into my short story manuscript as well as in a stand-alone story.
The New York Times finally did an article on the Alachua county anti-gay vote, but nobody from No on One was quoted. The upshot of the article was the continuing unpopularity of gay rights laws when presented for a vote.
But these referenda have not only energized conservatives; the defeats have also stirred a lot of people like me, who were never gay activists before. A new group in Dade and Broward will be running a proactive advertising campaign.
Even I was surprised when I read a St. Pete Times business section article on how common job discrimination against gays and lesbians is.
The only CGR work I did was write letters to various groups requesting information, and I called Leroy Newman at the Texas Education Agency, who said he’d try to find more information on SGML for me.
What I probably should do is work on the co-development agreements – but I’ll start researching them tomorrow.
Liz didn’t come in, nor did Carol or Laura, so the office was quiet today. For a while, it was just Laurie and me although Linda, Christy, Ellen and Joanne all eventually arrived. One time I walked past their desks and saw that Laurie was looking at a clothes catalog and Linda was doing a crossword puzzle, so I can’t feel too guilty.
With the bills I paid today, I’m back at in the minus column in my checking account balance.
As I told Mom, I’m never going to be able to save money. Although my rent is cheaper than it was last year, my car insurance and other expenses more than made up for that.
Plus, I’ll be paying off student loans and buying necessities that I have been putting off like new glasses and dental work.
I did close two of my secured credit card accounts so I can reduce the number of bills I have to pay. God knows if I’ll ever catch up – I still owe Josh $500, after all.
If that Nova American Literature class runs, I’m probably going to need the money I’ll get for it.
How would I have managed if I hadn’t gotten my job at UF? I guess I would have just avoided buying stuff like pants and new shoes and paying my membership dues, etc.
After catching the end of One Life to Live, I exercised for half an hour. I wish I were busier than I am. Perhaps I’m not good at disciplining myself to work unless I’m directed more.
Thursday, December 15, 1994
8 PM. I had thought about going over to the Thursday night poetry jam at the Civic Media Center, but I’m just too tired.
With the soon-to-be-off-the-air My So-Called Life preempted tonight, I’ll just watch the president pander to Republican voters with his speech proposing a tax cut.
I’m sick of Clinton, even beyond the point of wanting him to succeed as President. I see him now the way I saw Johnson in 1968 and Carter in 1979 and 1980.
I don’t know what Clinton can do to save himself, but he could do the country good by announcing he’s foregoing running for reelection. His credibility would go sky-high, and maybe he could manage to accomplish something with the Republican Congress over the next two years.
But Clinton is a politician, and I’m sure it never has occurred to him not to run for a second term. Even two years ago, I figured he’d be a one-termer, but I didn’t know the energy would be coming from a far-right Speaker of the House in the last half of Clinton term.
The Republicans were right in 1992 when they said Clinton had a character problem. He wants to please everyone and will end up with everyone hating him. The Republicans will just one-up him every time he moves to the right.
Everyone is outbidding each other for this “middle class” tax cut, which, like Reagan’s tax cuts of 1981, will make everything worse in the future. Nobody thinks long-term anymore, and it’s the kids who get screwed. Well.
After doing aerobics at 4 PM yesterday, I got a huge burst of energy and was busy for hours, sending out Christmas cards – sometimes with articles enclosed – and submitting stories to magazines.
I got an E-mail hello from Josh, so I called him. When a woman answered the phone, I figured I dialed the wrong number, but Josh told me he had called-forwarded to Sharon’s “in case of an emergency.” (I suppose he meant with his mother.)
Josh told me he could talk, but I didn’t want to stay on long while he was at Sharon’s. Mostly I spoke about my job.
This morning I attended my first regular staff meeting.
The Social Policy Division reported first, and Liz had me talk about our meeting in Tallahassee.
As I could see from the minutes of the last CGR meeting, our division has little else to report – Ellen’s project in Brazil was with homeless street kids in Rio – except about the National Health Forum.
But the Environmental and International Divisions had loads of projects, proposals and meetings involving all kinds of exotic names and acronyms and impressive titles.
(After the meeting, when I expressed that I felt overwhelmed by this, Liz told me that all the names and acronyms they used were code for a discussion of penis size.)
CGR even seems to be involved with Carter’s proposed peace mission to Bosnia.
In our discussions of international programs, I could tell I impressed Jon because I knew who Cheddi Jagan was and I could point out Moldova on the map and explain its political situation.
This afternoon Liz debriefed me on the meeting. I didn’t realize that Jeff barely speaks to Tom and Richard, and that Carol hates all three of them.
I told her I want to stay out of office politics, and she said I can.
Liz is bothered by CGR’s supposedly glamorous international activities because she thinks Americans have no business telling the Third World how to run their countries.
And she feels that our taking money from organizations like the World Bank to hold conferences of environmental ministers is distasteful.
Liz is the sole holdout in “going international.” She told me Joanne has approached her with the possibility of my getting involved with a project in regarding community colleges in Poland. I’m not sure how I feel about that.
Anyway, I’m less intimidated by Tom Ankersen’s impressive list of possible projects projects now that Liz has told me that Jon likes the fact that the Social Policy Division brings in nice grants like the one from the Department of Education and we always have budget money while Environmental Policy has to constantly go begging to the university for funding.
Right after the meeting, I got a call from Chuck Mayer at the Texas Education Agency. Finally, someone who knew what he was talking about in regard to SGML!
The Texas Legislature did pass a bill years ago, and 11 states have followed suit – including, I was embarrassed to learn, Florida.
The SGML (or the ICADD22 tagset) provisions are in “Braille bills” because these markup languages support conversion of text to Braille.
Chuck was extremely helpful, and he gave me people to call. One person was at the Florida Instructional Materials Center, who gave me the specs in the proposed DOE rule to implement the statute, which I found after doing a legislative history search.
By the end of the day, I had what is basically a two-page memo to E-mail to Wendy. Once I get more information, I’ll write up a longer, more complete memo.
I do enjoy the writing and researching part of my job, and it will be nice if my name goes on a Schoolyear 2000 publication.
In today’s mail, I got a collection of short stories, Paraffin Days, by Rick Peabody. Published by Cumberland, with George Myers quoted on the back, the book was almost surely subsidized by Rick.
I also got a letter from Laura C, who’s begun a job doing research for a company involved in health care and politics in Boca (though their main office is in Washington). But she’s also got a second interview in the Broward state’s attorney’s office.
When I got home at 4 PM, I had a message from Sat Darshan, who said she’s gotten a new job. When I called her at the Khalsa Montessori School, she told me that she’ll start working for the Department of Veterans Affairs the week after next.
She’ll be in a federal office building, a five-minute car ride or half-hour walk from her house. So finally those federal civil service tests she took have panned out.
As grade GS-5, she won’t make any more money than she does now, but there are opportunities for advancement, and she’ll have good benefits.
Sat Darshan told me something I hadn’t realized: that in Phoenix, a lot of people start work before 8 AM, even as early as 6:30 AM, to avoid the desert heat in the afternoon. Thinking about it, of course, it makes sense.
Ravinder is going to be working for MCI doing telemarketing to the local South Asian community, and he’s in training now.
But before he starts, he’s going to New York to raise money to print a book he wrote for new cabdrivers, giving tips about driving in Manhattan in Punjabi and Urdu. I told Sat Darshan I’d help in any way I could with getting publicity.
Elihu sent me an E-mail saying that Les was offered a job as a chef in New York City – but Les feels it’s a comedown in status from his current position, since it’s at a hotel restaurant (the Macklowe) and not a famous stand-alone restaurant like Antoine’s.
Elihu says he’s all excited – and a little ambivalent, of course – about Les coming to New York.
Sunday, December 18, 1994
8 PM. In an hour-long conversation last night, I got caught up with Justin. He’s been his usual frantically busy self, and on the Monday before Thanksgiving, he was lying in bed telling Larry that he felt incredibly stressed and rushed all the time.
At Brooklyn College, Justin had taken over a colleague’s classes in addition to his own, his play had just closed, he had lots of tech work and BCBC work and was going to other people’s shows as a supportive friend.
As he was going to the bathroom, he told Larry: “I’ve got to get off this treadmill.”
Then, as Justin returned to the bedroom and attempted to climb onto their high captain’s bed, one leg didn’t make it and he fell over backwards, hitting his knee badly.
Justin fell asleep, but in the morning his knee had swelled to grapefruit size and was giving him a lot of pain.
Larry walked him over to Methodist Hospital, where they took x-rays, put his knee in an immobilizer and gave him crutches, ordering him to stay off it for four to five days.
Luckily Justin is on the CUNY health care plan, and on Wednesday he saw his primary care physician, whom he had to see before going to an orthopedist. The doctor drained the knee, which was very painful and gave him anti-inflammatory medicine.
He should be okay in a week, but the accident forced him to slow down, cancel classes, stay home, and realize he’s not indispensable. Justin feels his body did just what he wanted to do: get him off that treadmill.
He hasn’t been to Manhattan in a month although he and Larry did see the Brooklyn Academy of Music production of Philip Glass’s opera based on Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast.
The production of Justin’s stockbroker play went all right although it was “a little rough” and the director and cast were constantly at loggerheads. The company said they’d like to do it in Provincetown next summer, but Justin told them, “We’ll see.”
Meanwhile, nothing is happening with any of Justin’s other plays, and he’s actually relieved about that.
Larry was in Pennsylvania for the weekend, and Justin was using the time alone to catch up on his Brooklyn College work.
For the first time in years, the college has gone back to holding finals after Christmas, which makes it easier for Justin to take his time in grading papers.
After we hung up, I watched Buñuel’s Abismos de Pasión, his Mexican Wuthering Heights, which was good. More feverish than any other film version, the movie had that melodramatic telenovela quality of his Una Mujer Sin Amor.
Today I didn’t do much more than exercise, watch new shows and read the Sunday New York Times. I don’t care if I spend a lot of time with the paper; to me, it’s rewarding and makes me able to know where Moldova is and who Cheddi Jagan is.
Restless at mid-afternoon and needing air, I walked to the Albertsons shopping plaza. Now I can walk straight from the old Butler Plaza (now Butler Plaza East) all the way to Butler Plaza West by walking along the dirt roads they’ve made as they start construction for Butler Plaza Central. From here to I-75, it will all be one giant shopping center.
I passed the Christmas tree lot and spent about 45 minutes browsing in Barnes & Noble. It was a sunny, brisk afternoon, and when I came home, I was feeling so good that I managed to write myself into what may become a story.
I’ve got six pages and a title: “Moon Over Moldova.” I started with general observations about how I pick up pennies in the street – I found one today – and take the one-cent stamps no one wants from the post office vending machines and somehow ended up writing about working on the No on One and about Javier and Bryan – fictionalized, of course.
I hope they’ll be at Abby’s party on Tuesday night, but I suspect Javier has already gone to Miami for the holidays and that Bryan would not come to the party without him. At least I know Bob and Tim will be there.
I’ll try to get work done this week because I didn’t do a thing over the past two days.
At 9 PM, ABC is showing a new version of Woody Allen’s old farce, Don’t Drink the Water. It’s his first TV program since his 1969 special – which I remember watching when I was in my first term at Brooklyn College.
Law school finals end tomorrow, and the college should be empty after that.
I hope my checking account balance holds out until I get paid again on Friday, as I’ve had to mail out a lot of bills. Still, I freed up some available credit on a couple of credit cards.
Tuesday, December 20, 1994
4 PM. It’s a grey, ominous-looking afternoon and it will be dark soon. Last night I slept well but despite my good rest and a short stay at work – I just got home, but I didn’t go in till 10 AM – I’m tired already. Still, I don’t want to miss the party at Abby’s house.
After waking up at 6 AM, I decided I’d get a haircut when Fantastic Sam’s opened at 9 AM. So I exercised at 8 AM, played on the computer, showered (but didn’t wash my hair) before I went out.
Although I’ve never had the same cutter at that place twice, I actually like the change in styles. This woman was afraid she’d scalped me, but I like the spiky buzzcut (hardly any gel), and Liz and Laura complimented me when I walked into work.
Susan Mernit called the office answering machine last night after she got my Christmas card. I called her today, and she called me, but we missed each other. It was nice to hear her voice, however.
Actually, even though my hours were short, I worked productively today, taking all the Braille bill laws of a dozen or so states and the specifications for Florida’s proposed rule (SGML or ICADD22 tagset for Braille conversion) and putting it into a memo. The last draft I printed out was four pages with a lot of footnotes.
I managed to get my curriculum vita on WordPerfect from my home computer; I need to work on it for the computer grant. Carol sent me a memo on the specs for my new computer – if I get it, that is – and it’s basically what I’ve got at home.
Liz got all excited when Education Dean McDavis’s secretary called to say he’s going to meet with us at 10:15 AM on January 5. I’ll read up on what I need to in order to prepare.
Liz and Ellen were still at the office when I left, but Liz will now be out for nearly two weeks and Ellen told me she’ll be in Houston next week.
9:30 PM. The party was pretty nice, although I’m not good at small talk; once I’m out of a conversation, I tend to hang on the periphery of little groups, but I guess everyone does that a little.
When I got to Abby’s house, there were already several people I know there – although I’m so bad with names that I can’t believe it.
Actually, I knew most of the people at the party by sight although there were a few people that I met for the first time, like this older guy who kept talking to me and Ed about his recent trip to Chile.
I talked for a long time with Eden, who’s moved downtown, and her friend Janine. I was busy chatting with them when Tim – the Tim I like – came in and touched me to get my attention, calling me by name.
Later we talked alone. He’s in the psychology counseling program, so he knows Ronna’s brother Billy and Shay’s husband Jonathan (who’s now doing his internship at Emory).
Tim is from Glens Falls. He’s doing his dissertation on the response of students to gay male educators who are either “typically” gay or who don’t show stereotypical characteristics to see if his hunch is correct that homophobic students have higher stress levels when confronted with a “masculine” gay teacher.
Tim is kind of cute (less so now with his goatee, but still okay). Later, one of his grad student friends arrived, and I didn’t get to speak with him again.
Bob and his boyfriend (also Tim) came, and I chatted with them and Kathy and Abby, both of whom have given up on Clinton but are resigned to his heading the 1996 ticket. They and Bob, of course are also involved in the next city and county elections.
Dottie came by for a short time, and as I said, there were other familiar faces there. As I expected, Javier and Bryan weren’t there, and I missed seeing Cynthia.
Before I left, I hugged Kathy and Abby and said goodbye to whomever I thought cared.
I definitely would do badly in gay bars, so it’s fine with me that I’ve never gone to them.
The only parties I ever felt totally comfortable at were ones where I’d be with all the people I’d normally spend time with anyway – and even then, I’ve always preferred small groups to larger gatherings.