A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early February, 1995

by Richard Grayson

Wednesday, February 1, 1995

4:30 PM. I’m just cooling down after some light low-impact aerobics, so I’m a bit overheated, but my mind is active (it’s doing high-impact aerobics), and I thought I’d write.

Last evening I called Ronna, who hasn’t been feeling well for the past few days. She was in Philadelphia for the weekend and seems to have caught another of Chelsea’s stomach viruses.

The baby gets sick a lot from the other kids in the day care center, where a lot of Matthew’s fellow employees at the hospital send their children.

While we were speaking, Ronna said her mother was napping in the apartment. Beatrice is up in New York for the bar mitzvah of the grandson of her uncle Al (Dad and Grandpa Nat’s old competitor from Yale Slacks).

Things at Hadassah are busy, but Ronna still seems happy there. She also likes having the apartment to herself even though it means she’s not saving any money.

I told her about my job, and after I said, “I do a lot of different interesting things,” Ronna said, “It sounds like there’s a but coming.”

“No,” I said honestly, “I hadn’t planned one.”

She wanted to get off so that she and her mother could call Sue in San Francisco, so we said goodbye.

Yesterday I looked through the brochure from the Florida Educational Technology Conference. Wendy Cuellar and other people from Schoolyear 2000 are giving presentations, so it sounds like I could do some networking there.

Other speakers and presenters at the conference are familiar to me from my computer education magazines. Remember, I actually was officially a presenter at the conference as part of that videodisc project Sue Spahn and Dr. Sandiford had us do as part of the latter’s Courseware Development class at FIU seven or eight years ago.

Liz thinks I should go. The conference is being held at the big convention center on International Drive, and Carol said I have the money.

(When I approached her desk this afternoon and asked if I could make an appointment to see her, Carol laughed. But I think the secretaries and staff appreciate being treated like human beings.)

Last evening I fell asleep at 10 PM and woke up at 6 AM, feeling somewhat refreshed. It was 31° when I arrived at school at 8 AM, but it should be warmer tonight. (The electric bill I got yesterday was for only $27 – and I didn’t put the heat on until after I was awakened this morning.)

After reading the grant proposal on the historic preservation manual, I met with Joann and Carol and we agreed that I’ll take salary for four pay periods around May and June from that grant.

Joann told Russ McAfee, and they came in while I was conferring with Liz just before she left the office at 10:30 AM.

After Russ said he’d see me later, Liz remarked, “He’s cute.” He is, sort of.

Ordinarily, he’s not a guy I’d look at twice, but if you squint or look at him long enough, he can appear attractive.

We got together in my office. Actually, he and I both graduated in May. He says we were in a class together, but while I thought I only remembered him from seeing him around, now I think it was Slobogin’s Professional Responsibility.

He said that John Tucker was the guy behind this grant, but soon after Russ met him, John left for his year at Lewis and Clark Law School in Oregon.

Russ read the CGR-produced historic preservation book by Roy , who took him to St. Augustine to meet the historic preservation people there.

Russ has worked up an outline for the model municipal code. He’s working on land use but thinks I can help him with the Fifth Amendment takings issues, particularly since that area is in such flux now.

While Russ has done a lot of research, a lot remains to be done, and he’s trying to get the ordinances from various cities now.

After we got that out of the way, we schmoozed for a while. Russ started law school the year before I did but took off after his first year, so when he came back in fall 1992, he didn’t know people that well.

He graduated from South Plantation High School – “Home of the Paladins,” I said, repeating the sign you see on the Turnpike – but his family no longer lives in Broward.

After graduation from law school, Russ worked part-time in Jacksonville before moving back here. I gather he’s not any more crazy about Gainesville than I am.

When I asked him where he went to undergraduate school, Russ said, “I graduated from Duke,” so I assume he went to another college as well.

We chatted for a while. He worked for Jon on the initiative process, keeping the budget amendment from getting on the ballot.

I told Russ he could use the free desk in my office because he doesn’t have his own spot and had to move today when John Moon came in.

I guess I need to read the CGR book on historic preservation.

Anyway, I’m definitely infatuated with Russ, but it’s hopeless. I think he might be gay, but then I think everybody is gay when I find them cute.

When I got home today, I thought to look at the commencement book and I saw that Russ was a member of the Federalist Society and the Christian Legal Society, so even given the remote possibility that he’s not straight, he’s obviously religious and politically conservative.

So I’d better put him out of my mind unless I want to tease myself with fantasies. Besides, it’s not good to mix romance and work.

Still, because we graduated together, I feel I can more relate to Russ as a contemporary than I can with most of the other people at CGR.

What I mean is that he’s sort of at my own level; although he’s probably about Christy’s age, 24 or so, Russ is more my equal since he’s an attorney – he passed the bar – and not someone I’m intimidated by, like the other staff attorneys.

Liz and Ellen are great, but I feel they’re “older” than I am, both because of their experience and because they both have grown kids.

Today I mostly worked on the State University System memo, but I didn’t get very far since I kept totally revising it and I had printer trouble.

Harold had to come in and reconfigure the computer so I had access to the laser printers again.

Thursday, February 2, 1995

4:30 PM. I just got home.

Before I left work today, Liz called me into her office and updated me about the placements of the Fellows, which are still in flux, and to ask if I come half an hour early to her house tomorrow. About 35 people are expected at the pizza party, and she may need me to help set things up.

Also, as much as she hates to get me involved in office politics, she needed to talk to me.

My helping Russ with the Historic Preservation project frees up money from my grant from the Department of Education for Ellen and Christie, but unless the Environmental Division people – Tom, in particular – contributes some of their grant money for support staff, we are going to lose Christy.

Liz explained the long history of office politics and personalities, which is too complex and boring to get into here. The upshot is that Jon basically won’t enforce our rules.

Liz said that she’ll talk to Tom on Monday to see if she can shake some money loose.

For me, giving up some DOE funding means that if the grant isn’t renewed, I’ll have to leave in July instead of August or something. It’s not that big a deal.

My future at CGR is riding on the renewal of the DOE grant, but I’m not that concerned. As I’ve said before, I never planned to make CGR my life’s work, and while it would obviously be more comfortable to stay a little longer, I can approach losing my job as an opportunity to do something else.

Last evening I read the Times and talked to Mom.

Dad is going to Puerto Rico by himself, which is difficult and expensive, but Marc has school, and of course, though Mom says she asked him, Jonathan could never manage to take a trip to Orlando, much less San Juan.

I also somehow managed to write out my three essay questions for my midterm in the Nova American Lit class. I’ll give the students a choice to pick any one of the topics. This morning I printed out 25 copies.

I went to work later than usual, taking the time to exercise at 8:30 AM. While it was hard to find parking, I feel I had a lot of energy for memo-writing today.

Despite computer glitches – Mark Bergeron sent Harold to fix my printer, only he ended up losing Word Perfect for a while – I finished the copyright portion of the State University System memo.

That’s the easier half, but it’s over four pages, and this is going to be a substantial memorandum, with lots of footnotes and details.

FSU sent me parts of their faculty handbook dealing with patents, and that will be a big help. If I don’t have the memo ready until the end of next week, that’s okay; Schoolyear 2000 will be getting a quality product.

It was milder and sunny today, and the groundhog in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, didn’t see his shadow.

Elihu spoke to Les in New Orleans and they’re trying to rework things out; Elihu may go down there in mid-March for a weekend.

Saturday, February 4, 1995

8 PM. Last evening I arrived at Liz’s comfortable home half an hour before the party for the new Fellows was to start, but there wasn’t much for me to help her with.

Lee and I went to a convenience store for bags of ice, and while the very nice South Asian woman owner was giving me a receipt, Lee was hanging on to the door, seeing how far he could open it without its making a warning tone.

He was behaving like any 10-year-old boy, but this middle-aged white lady came in and gave him a look of disgust, as if he were a piece of garbage.

Lee was either oblivious to it or is so used to it that he didn’t notice, but I gave the woman a look that could kill, so much so that she turned around because she could feel me staring at her.

Wayne, one of the current Fellows, arrived first, along with his wife. It was mostly couples among the law students – or it seemed to be. Except for Randall, all the new male Fellows came with their wives or girlfriends.

Randall, a black guy, was great with Lee, roughhousing and trying to snatch Lee’s Seminoles cap. Lee says the Gators “are slimy and have no pride.”

Mark’s wife was what I expected, a very upper-class white Southern woman. (Their fancy car has a bumper sticker that says SMASH RACISM.) People commented on her name – Becky made name tags for the guests – but I just said, “It’s a family name . . . your mother’s?” And of course I was right.

I think the gestures from Mark that I interpreted as possibly gay are just the way upper-class WASPs with their penny loafers and no socks behave.

From the CGR office, Laura showed up, as did Christy, Joann and Jon – and while I was standing around in a group with him, I decided to do all I could to impress him.

“So, Jon,” I started, “I heard you follow politics.”

A discussion about the 1996 election led to my doing my schtick about my 1984 presidential campaign, my Davie Town Council run, and my rendition of “I believe in God and Senator Dodd.”

I teased Jon that members of the Democratic Leadership Council like him were “Republican Democrats,” explaining that my political views came from a grandfather who worshipped Eugene V. Debs and Norman Thomas.

Later, Liz took me aside and told me Jon had said to her, “How come you never told me about Richard’s background? He had me laughing so much I was in tears.”

Of course, I love being the center of attention – Laura, Joann and a lot of the students heard my “act” – but it was really a performance aimed at Jon.

I chatted with the Fellows and their friends. I especially like Joy and Martine (who found my old Social Security card while working in the library; I must have lost it there when I first got my faculty library privileges), Mark, Jaime, Matt and Felicia.

When the new Fellows asked me what exactly it is I do at CGR, my response was, “Beats me. What do I do, Christy?”

My loyal secretary answered, “You write a lot of memos and go to conferences.”

I can’t understand why I didn’t realize that Isabella’s husband was Derrick – especially when he’d told me his wife was a Canadian whose father had been a politician – but it was nice to see them together and to learn that Derrick is now an assistant public defender.

He gave me his card, and I see that he handles defendants with last names beginning with E through K, so I may need him one day.

I stayed after everyone left; while Liz was busy at the door with the last few guests, I had a long conversation with Lee, who is terrified of terraces and spooked out by houses that are too big or apartments above the ground floor.

Lee is a pisser, saying these totally off-the-wall thing so seriously – but I always talk to kids at their own level, respecting them.

I can see Lee is a very serious kid, and he must have had a messed-up life that left him very insecure. Liz said that he and Becky were a little upset and antsy about the party, but they both seemed to handle it well.

I got home at 9:30 PM. (Joann and Jon accidentally took my favorite light jacket, that baby blue denim one I’ve had since 1983; I hope to get it back.)

Although yesterday was quite warm, today the temperature has been dropping throughout today, and the next few days will be the coldest of the year.

I hope this won’t be as bad as the incredible Christmas 1989 freeze, when all the power went out in much of South Florida.

I was reminded of that as I was showering this morning after I’d done aerobics and the electricity went off.

I ate lunch at Wendy’s and then had some frozen yogurt at Baskin-Robbins – a little girl, accompanied by her mother, was taking a survey of people’s favorite flavors: I said mocha – before I drove to Webster College for the Nova class.

I really like my adult students, and I tried to make today as painless as possible. Still, the poems by Whittier, Longfellow and Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. are very obscure, and even Bryant’s “Thanatopsis” is difficult, as is some of Poe.

But I tried to make the students comfortable. If I ever teach Survey of American Literature for Nova again, I’ll abandon their syllabus and design my own; there’s so much better material we could be reading.

I gave them their midterm essay topics and tried to answer questions and allay their anxieties; I know how important this is for them.

I wish I could get to know my students better, but I’ve gotten acquainted with some of them through informal talks during breaks.

There was time only to show the opening scene of Wim Wenders’s The Scarlet Letter, but it didn’t hold their interest.

Since their morning class held them late, I let them go at 4:45 PM, 45 minutes early by our official clock.

The power was back on when I got home. I went out and spent $50 at Walmart, as I needed a lot of different supplies.

Sunday, February 5, 1995

10 PM. Last evening I unwound by watching a dumb movie, Encino Man, on TV.

I also spoke to Mom, whose zealous advocacy of O.J. Simpson’s innocence seems to dwarf that of his high-paid defense “dream team” – who, from the reports I’ve seen from the trial, seem not all that dreamy.

Mom reports that she has to watch the courtroom saga in a different room from Dad and Jonathan because she argues with too much.

Not only does she believe Simpson is innocent but that he’s also blameless – and every prosecution witness is either “a drunk, a tramp, or crazy.”

I’m curious as to why my mother thinks this way.

Mom said that Dad’s Uncle Benny, 99, called Aunt Sydelle to say that his wife Molly had died – but he was sanguine about it, saying they’d had a good 78 years together.

Benny, the oldest of all the Cohens/Cranes/Crains, also called his youngest sister Rae in Los Angeles. Of the eight or nine brothers and sisters between them – including Grandma Sylvia – only Uncle Joe is still alive.

I slept well, and at 7:30 AM went out to Publix and to get the Times. I spent a relaxed Sunday, but I did accomplish some stuff.

In the afternoon, I went to the office to use the copier and typewriter for my annual futile NEA Literature Fellowship application, though I still haven’t decided what manuscript to send.

It probably doesn’t matter, since they’ll likely be giving only about five Fellowships anyway, what with the way Congress is acting. The major difference between the Republicans and the Nazis is that the Nazis had respect for art.

On Capitol Hill; in Albany, Sacramento, Trenton and other state capitals; in New York City, D.C. and other cities, budgets are being slashed for all kinds of social spending.

Hopefully, these cuts will start to disgust the public when they hit, and maybe people will realize that government isn’t just some malevolent force.

I like Clinton’s go-it-alone bypass of Congress on the Mexican bailout. Only on that and the Haiti invasion has he stood up to the public opinion polls.

On Friday he appointed a new surgeon general, and I want to see if he stands by the nominee now that conservatives are attacking him for having performed a few abortions. (The guy’s an OB/GYN, for God’s sake.)

I had a ton of E-mail messages, including several from Wendy Cuellar, Bob Branson and Richard Madaus about the latest question, about monitoring students’ access to software, and more interestingly, the Internet. Richard said a very interesting legal question is whether the Internet could be considered a de facto public library.

I wrote back to Elihu, who’s wondering why a fantastic guy like Les would be interested in him. Elihu realizes he’s got a self-esteem problem, but as I responded, who hasn’t?

I dropped off books at Library West and at the public library downtown, where I ran into JiaXing. I was really glad to see him.

He transferred to UF this semester and says the classes are too big. I gave him my phone number, and surprisingly, he gave me his. I’d love to work up the nerve to call him.

Again, he may not be gay, but he’s a cute little guy, and even if he’s straight, he would be a nice friend to have, as he’s really bright and nice.

I wish I could understand him better. He’s so eloquent in prose, but his speech is hard for me to figure out.

After reading Wired, I took out some library books on Hawthorne and also four plays I’ll probably never have a chance to read.

Home at 5 PM, I went back to the Sunday Times (which I still haven’t finished), and then got on Delphi and Lexis.