A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late March, 1995
by Richard Grayson
Friday, March 24, 1995
4 PM. Last evening I got over to Tim Martin’s house later than most folks did, as about a dozen people were already there when I arrived.
Kathy assigned me to a table, where I folded a Human Rights Council letter and a pink sheet about Pride Week in June and handed that over to Arozman, who stuffed it with a little return envelope and a contribution slip into a regular envelope.
Roberta, an older woman, and the guy from the UF library shared our table. Javier was there, and Bryan came in late. I didn’t see Bob, and I noticed he’s not on the new HRC list of officers, so perhaps he’s left town.
Others I knew there were Bill, several lesbians, and Abby Goldsmith and her husband.
When we took a break for pizza, I got to talk with Javier and Bryan, and afterwards we worked at the same table. Bryan is moving to Miami with Javier – they’ll probably settle in Kendall – and I think that’s great.
Bryan told me he forced Javier to study very hard last semester, and Javier did very well in his classes.
It really helps to see them together. I like the way they relate to each other and suspect they’re very good for one another. I think my attraction to Javier was based on my own loneliness and need for friendship. He’s a little too fixated on gay rights for my tastes, but he seems perfect for Bryan.
Outlaw, the new gay law students association, has been chartered and has ten members to start – including Hal, who is Javier’s roommate.
Javier says he knows that a lot more law students are gay and feels he should say to them, “You may not know it, but you need this organization.”
When I was a law student, I knew others who I figured out were gay, but I also knew they either weren’t aware of it or didn’t want to deal with it, and I didn’t think it was my business or my job to tell them that they’re gay. Some people just need time.
Evidently the Montana Senate got the message, because I heard on NPR as I drove to Tim’s house that they unanimously rescinded the homosexual registration bill and its leading sponsor apologized for saying that consensual gay sex was worse than heterosexual rape.
I didn’t get to read the letter I was folding all night, but I guess I’ll receive a copy soon.
It was after 10 PM when I felt I had to leave, and I went quietly, about twenty minutes after Javier and Bryan left.
At home, I actually fell asleep fairly quickly and I slept well. In one dream, I enjoyed a visit with Libby and her family, including her mother.
Today was another warm, sunny day.
Elihu sent a brief e-mail saying that Les had some inquiries from top New York City restaurants, so he may be coming to town, and that Elihu’s heavy workload at the accounting firm had let up a bit lately.
Stacey did a pretty good job of summarizing the cases I gave her last week, so I gave her two more. Like Javier, Stacey hasn’t begun serious job hunting yet, but she did send out her first answer to an ad for an attorney from the MTA in New York. (Stacey wants to go back up North.)
Ellen asked for help in understanding Florida school funding so she could explain it to her Children’s Law class, but I think she has a better grasp of the issues than I do, as well as more familiarity with the recently-dismissed equity inadequacy lawsuit. Some education expert I am.
In the mail I got the first package from the Division of Cultural Affairs about our Literature Organizations Grant Panel meeting. The mailing included an introductory letter saying the meeting is on June 6, a list of last year’s applicants and level of funding, a handbook for panelists, and the organization application booklet.
I phoned Teresa this afternoon after getting a message from her. She’s been fine. Next week she and Paul are going to Cozumel, returning to Mexico where she and Deirdre spent a week together in January.
Next month Deirdre’s husband is flying Teresa out to San Francisco for Deirdre’s surprise 40th birthday party. (Walter was offered the department chair here at the University of Florida, but he said it’s too close to Pompano Beach, where Deirdre’s mother lives. Besides both he and Deirdre like working at UCSF.)
Teresa’s rented her Locust Valley house for the summer to the same lovely family who took it last year, and she’s planning to on going to Fire Island as usual.
In late April, Paul will close on his own house, buying it from his ex-wife, who plans to move to Vermont with her boyfriend.
Teresa said Paul’s ex-wife is getting on with her life, but the kids aren’t – and she went on and on complaining about how lazy and greedy and selfish and screwed-up they are.
The son, 20, isn’t that bad; he’s staying with them now because he’s on spring break.
But his 24-year-old sister, according to Teresa, is very possessive of Paul. She’s in her sixth year of college and seems to expect Paul to take care of her financially for an indefinite period.
The 16-year-old girl is “flunking out of tenth grade,” tattooed, pierced, a pot smoker whose dropout boyfriend lives with her and the mother. She definitely doesn’t like the idea of Teresa and Paul coming to change her style of living.
For all her complaints, I suspect that Teresa’s right when she says it seems to her a mistake for her and Paul to live in the house that he lived in with his wife. The house is up Cove Road, near the old carriage house Teresa used to rent.
For that reason, Teresa is keeping her little house on Birch Hill Road, which she loves, and has rented it “only for this summer.”
She’ll take things one step at a time. Paul works ten hours a day and has blinding migraines from tension, she said.
I didn’t ask and she didn’t volunteer anything about her business, but I guess she doesn’t need much money these days. At least she and Paul have had six happy months together.
On another upbeat note, Teresa’s niece Heidi, now 13 years old, has become an actress, the youngest member of a community theater group.
Back at work, Joann and I took a 2 PM conference call from the guys at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and we talked about what CGR could do during their three one-day workshops.
Today they faxed us a tentative plan. These National Trust guys seems like they’re clueless as to what they’re doing. I don’t expect anything will happen next week while Joann and Carol are away in Vancouver.
Saturday, March 25, 1995
8 PM. Last night I fell asleep early after rereading Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” for my Nova class.
The last dream I had before I awoke this morning was so odd that I turned on my word processor and wrote it as the possible opening of this story. In it, I was in bed in the streets of Brooklyn, and a chimpanzee from the orphanage next door was bothering me.
I asked the Catholic bishop who ran the orphanage, a handsome long-haired young guy, to call off the chimp, and he said, “He’s not a Catholic. There’s nothing I can do.” To which I replied: “Well, I’m not Catholic, either, but can’t you put him on the same leash the Pope has you on?”
I spent the morning listening to NPR, reading the New York Times, going online on Delphi, Lexis and Sun.One, and doing low-impact aerobics – in other words, the usual routine.
After lunch, I paid $5 to go to the 2 PM showing of Alan Rudolph’s Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle at the Plaza Triple.
Jennifer Jason Leigh made an interesting Dorothy Parker, and although the Algonquin wits tended to speak in literary dialogue, the film nicely recreated the period and was good on Parker’s relationship with Robert Benchley, Charles MacArthur, and her husbands.
It seems long ago that there was a time when verbal dexterity was so prized. The vicious circle – FPA, Walcott, Kaufman, Benchley, et al. – might have been hollow at this centers, but today’s celebrities are both hollow and inarticulate.
The movie put me in an odd mood, and I as I drove along 13th Street and University Avenue, listening to the Saturday opera at the Met, everything looked very weird, from the sidewalk diners at The Swamp (the new restaurant where Chaucer’s had been) to the ROTC members drilling outside the stadium.
At the Publix checkout, I ran into Russ McAfee. “You eat Cap’n Crunch?” I deadpanned.
“There is no character flaw inherent in eating Cap’n Crunch,” he replied.
I underestimated Russ. He’s a nice guy and is smarter than I thought.
Two more rejections came today. I’ve got to send out some more stories, as I’ve gotten five manuscripts back this week.
In response to the mailing from the Human Rights Council, I sent them a $10 check. Javier is now the president, with Kathy Lawhon as secretary and Tim Martin as treasurer.
Wednesday, March 29, 1995
4 PM. I have to be at the La Quinta Inn for my driver improvement class at 5:45 PM sharp, or they lock the doors and I have to take the class and pay the fee again. So I’d better get leave early because I don’t want to get another speeding ticket!
Today was a great day. Last evening I listened to La Traviata on PBS, read my Authors Guild Bulletin and chatted with Ronna.
She ran into Melvin after a presentation on “The Next Generation” at the Jewish Museum (I started to write the “Fulton Fish Market” because I just heard about a terrible fire there) and she said Melvin asked about me.
At work, Ronna’s group is moving back into the education division from the communications division, and she’s getting a new chairperson. With a new leader, Hadassah is going through a major reorganization, and Ronna likes the changes although she worries a bit about job security.
She said her brother is in the same position I am, waiting to hear about a grant that will keep him in Gainesville for another year.
Ronna’s mother, Billy and Melissa, and Sue and the baby are all coming into New York from Orlando, Gainesville and San Francisco in a couple of weeks to celebrate Passover with Ronna.
After sleeping well, I felt refreshed this morning as I exercised, showered and dressed.
I wore my burgundy blazer over a red shirt with burgundy slacks and a black-and-burgundy tie. Even if I looked dopey, I knew my outfit would attract attention from the secretaries.
In the office, I read the Times with interest, and then I checked my e-mail and got on Lexis, which was very slow today.
I talked with Christy when she came in with my retyped BBS defamation paper. (We couldn’t convert it to WordPerfect without losing the footnotes.)
Christy said that yesterday the dean of UF’s entomology program told her she would be admitted – but first she has to take three science classes at Santa Fe this summer and get at least B’s. So Christy will be busy even though her job at CGR is ending.
On e-mail, I got responses from Richard Maddaus at LINCC and Amy at MIT’s Media Lab to stuff I had said them.
Leaving the office at 11:30 AM, I shopped at Publix and came home for lunch. The mail contained a wonderful surprise: ACM (Another Chicago Magazine) took that World Wide Web homepage story I wrote less than two weeks ago.
The story will be in the fall 1995 issue. What a thrill – plus they sent me a check for $40!
Yesterday I felt incredibly discouraged about my writing, so this acceptance came just at the right time. It’s a good magazine, too, one I’m proud to be in.
Great! (That’s how I said I was when I passed Marty Peters this afternoon and she asked, “How are you doing?”)
Everything seemed to go so well today. In the mailbox at work, I received a travel voucher check for $260, so I was able to deposit two checks totaling $300 at the bank later.
Professor Hunt sent one of his historic preservation students over to see me. When the guy, Eric, walked into the room – well, it wasn’t love at first sight, but it was like at first sight.
Eric is tall, thin, Southern, and as far as I can tell, definitely gay and really cute. He’s getting his master’s in urban and regional planning this year and will get an M.A. in the architecture school next year.
He told me that this summer he’s going to intern in St. Augustine. The city wants to revise their historic preservation code, so Eric is interested in what we’re doing, and I told him about the National Historic Trust grant.
But I said that the person he really needed to speak to was Russ. After leaving a message on Russ’s machine, I gave his number to Eric.
I don’t know if it was obvious I was smitten, but I kept talking to him, and then, when he said he was actually a first-semester law student last spring but dropped out because he hated it here, I remembered where I knew him from.
Karin was a teaching assistant in Eric’s Legal Research and Writing class, and last year I joined them in a conversation. I remember how unhappy he was. At the time, I told him he might as well stick with it, but he withdrew on the last day he could.
Eric said he knew he hated law school from the first day, but he kept hoping it would get better. He was already a dual major with Urban and Regional Planning, and he just went back there the next semester.
Eric said he’s wanted to be involved in his historic preservation since he was a little boy. I hope I can see him again.
After he left, I went to the faculty library to pick up two copies of yesterday’s Supreme Court cases saying you can trademark a color.
Professor McCoy was in the library. He said the opinion sounded ridiculous to him, and we had a nice conversation.
Then I caught Amy Mashburn walking out of her office; like other faculty members, she figured I was just hanging around at the law school. When I told her about my job at CGR, she said it sounded interesting.
Then I went to congratulate Gwen, Professor Hunt’s secretary, on her five-year pin and to tell the professor that I’d met with Eric and sent him to see Russ. As I figured he would, Hunt welcome the extra copy I made of Supreme Court color trademark case.
On my way out, I ran into Charles Collier, who had also assumed I was just hanging out. He had an appointment but said to stop by some Thursday or Friday.
Wow, I better get moving for driver improvement class!
10:30 PM. Driver improvement class had about 40 to 50 people attending. We filled chairs in a large motel room, and our instructor was a bald man with a jolly demeanor.
Most of the people there were pretty young although I sat with an ex-hippie lady a few years older than I, and there was a surgeon who used his pager to check on patients’ conditions during breaks.
The majority of the class was on tape although we took breaks from the video to discuss what we’d seen.
I did pick up a few tips about driving, like how to know you’re far enough back from the car in front of you, but the video showed so many unexpected accidents that it made me paranoid when I drove home half an hour ago.
Friday, March 31, 1995
3:30 PM. It’s a very wet, cool, sleepy Friday. I feel guilty that I mostly goofed off all week, but I’ll get back to working harder next week.
Last evening I went to the SFCC Downtown Center and sat in on the meeting of the Human Rights Council as the only non-board member there.
Javier, in glasses, presided over the meeting, and Bryan sat at the other side of the table. Tim Martin, Kathy Lawhon, Craig Lowe, Tim Burke and John (the minister) were the others present.
I kept quiet and graded papers through the administrative trivia. Next Wednesday is a community meeting, and I volunteered to call people if Kathy emails me the names.
Tim Burke seems to be heading Pride ’95, the June 4-11 Gay Pride Week celebration, and they’re planning a big voter registration education program.
There were some other items of business, including the murder of an 18-year-old boy in redneck Fort White that might have been a hate crime that’s being covered up by the State Attorney. Apparently Rod Smith is a homophobe.
At the end of the meeting, I agreed to let my name and address be used in place of Dottie Dreyer’s as the Human Rights Council’s registered agent.
The state requires that all nonprofit corporations have a real address, not a post office box, so they can serve legal papers if the organization is sued, and I certainly don’t mind giving out my address.
With Javier and Bryan going to Miami, Eden moving to San Francisco, and others gone or leaving the community, they’re going to need new board members.
Although I suspect they’ll ask me, I’m not sure I want to join the board. Still, I’ll see how I feel if and when the time comes.
The truth is, more and more I want to leave Gainesville, and certainly, if my job at CGR ends, I’ll be out of here soon.
When I got into work at 9:30 AM today, I continued listening to a radio interview with Gary Gordon, the former Gainesville mayor/commissioner who was my student at the writing conference in Long Beach four years ago.
He’s back in town and was discussing his role as a co-producer and co-author of O.J. Law, the Los Angeles revue that’s been running as long as the trial, changing its satire to keep up with courtroom developments. Gary sounded as if he’s still having a hard time getting his screenplays looked at.
I was pleased to get an e-mail that Betty Taylor sent out to everyone saying that Rosalie was named one of the 1995 winners of West Publishing’s Award for Excellence in Academic Law Librarianship. I congratulated Rosalie via e-mail.
Josh wrote me about a lesbian friend who wants to have a baby and is trying to get her non-Jewish partner to convert so they can bring up a Jewish baby.
Josh can’t understand why it matters and says he doesn’t believe Christian converts are sincere Jews.
I told him that if they follow halacha, they were more genuinely religious Jews than I am. Although I certainly identify as a Jew ethnically and culturally, I don’t consider Judaism my religion.
When Stacey came in, I copied her file to my disk and told him to come back next week, when I’d give her another writing assignment.
After getting home for lunch despite a downpour, I went to hear Liz’s talk on welfare reform as part of the faculty brown bag lunches this week.
Only a couple of students came. One of them was this very bright sociology grad student, Dana, who’s taking Liz’s family law class and will work with her this summer. (Later, Liz told me she’s Ben’s fiancée. What an incredibly nice couple they make.)
Anyway, Liz’s discussion of the welfare reform bill that passed the House was limited to the subject of Aid to Families with Dependent Children, which is what everyone thinks of when they think “welfare.”
Liz first gave us a welfare quiz that quickly dispelled most of the myths about AFDC.
What’s so awful is that Liz thinks even the conservative Congress members know the real facts produced by many studies. But they also know that it’s popular to demonize poor people, especially poor women, and even more especially poor black women.
The news is even grimmer than I thought. By ending the federal entitlement, imposing punitive rules on states, and giving them block grants that will all end up throwing thousands of poor children off welfare, Congress is – God help us – getting rid of the New Deal safety net.
I can’t imagine what the consequences will be from this legislation. It makes me want to throw up.