A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early April, 1995

Wednesday, April 5, 1995

4:30 PM. Because I woke up after 7 AM, I didn’t get in my half-hour of exercise until just now.

Last evening I read the Norton Anthology of American Literature section for between the wars, 1914-45. Incredibly, the only poems for the next Nova class are “Prufrock” and a couple by Frost. But I’ve still got the two stories from last time, and maybe I’ll show a movie.

I spent two hours reading Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner’s Our Cancer Year, an incredibly good graphic novel. I always liked Pekar’s work, but this is special: a harrowing look at his surgery and chemo treatments.

Harvey is very compulsive, as are many writers (myself obviously included). He got sick while he was in the process of buying his first house and while Joyce was involved with the project that had her as a conduit with a group of teens in war zones – Palestinians, Israelis, Cambodians – at the time of the Gulf War.

The comic book is such an underrated medium.

I didn’t get to sleep until after midnight, imagining how I would react to cancer treatments. I feel weird not having health insurance, and I wonder if I’m being very foolish when I keep putting off calling Blue Cross.

Still, I’ve been uninsured for nearly all of the past 11 years, except for those terms when I was full-time at Broward Community College.

I’ve had some dental pain, which reminds me that I’ll have to go to a dentist soon. Imagine what work I’ll need after five years without dental treatment!

I didn’t sleep that well and I didn’t even make a pretense of doing much work today – unless you call reading “work,” especially since most of my reading wasn’t intimately connected with the kind of work I’ve been hired for at CGR.

Still, as I told Russ when he came in and shared my office (the computer is going to be hooked up for him next week), I have no idea what I’m actually supposed to be doing all day in the office.

He said he sometimes has nothing to do, either, and the historical preservation model ordinance is something that he wouldn’t give himself a grant for, since all the information is already out there and he’s just synthesizing source material.

I told him I feel similarly about Schoolyear 2000, and we talked until it was 1 PM and I was starving.

Last week Russ went to Boston for a friend’s wedding, and then in D.C. he visited the National Trust, but mostly to use their librarian bookstore, since David Doheny, our contact, was on vacation. So far we haven’t heard back from them.

Josh’s response to my e-mail was milder than I expected, so when I replied, I didn’t argue with his comment that “there’s no real life outside New York City” – the child in me would have liked to say, “How would you know?” – and instead wrote about Harvey and Joyce’s book.

Elihu wrote that Les was interviewed in Atlanta for a job at Essex House on Central Park South; he baked a chocolate mousse for them. Elihu thinks Les will get the job “. . . but then I thought McGovern would win.”

Last week Elihu told his parents about Les when he “officially came out” to them. I still think he should have actually met Les in person by now rather than just put so much energy into a strictly online relationship with only promises of a future together.

I met Rosalie on her way back from a luncheon, and again congratulated her on the West Publishing award. She was shocked by winning – although she’d been nominated last year. Several faculty members wrote letters in her behalf. Rosalie will get the award (and $5000!) at the convention in Pittsburgh this summer.

She still thinks I should become a law professor, and I’ve stopped arguing with her, leaving her compliment as a nice tribute.

When Stacey came in to pick up some work, she told me she’s decided to put off graduation until December. Her summer graduation dates come after the July Pennsylvania and New Jersey bar exams, and I told her that as long as she didn’t have a job, she might as well stay in school.

Today’s mail brought another rejection of “Boniatos Are Not Boring.” I think I’ve still got some submissions of the story around, but it’s been rejected about twenty times. Of course, so was “Twelve-Step Barbie.”

I plan to go to the Human Rights Council town meeting at SFCC’s downtown center at 7:30 PM, but I expect a sparse crowd. It’s raining, and although there was an Alligator story on the event (quoting Javier), there hasn’t been much publicity.

I think Wednesday is generally a bad night for events in a college town.

One thing that I did accomplish at work today was to install Lexis on my computer and Linda’s so we can use our modems to access the service when the LAN Internet connection is down.

I’m going to listen to All Things Considered and have dinner now.

Thursday, April 6, 1995

4 PM. There were about 40 to 50 people at the Human Rights Council town meeting at SFCC’s Downtown Center last evening.

Javier was wearing a white shirt and tie, and he’d just gotten his hair cut. Bryan, a bit more stylish, had on a black button-down shirt and bright tie.

I sat behind Eden and her friends. She told me she’s got an apartment in San Francisco, but so far no job, and is leaving in mid-June.

Arozman came in late and sat down beside me, and most of the people there were familiar faces.

Javier introduced the program with a ten-minute talk on the history of the Human Rights Council and where the organization wants to go.

Then Kathy and Abby talked about last November’s referendum, what we did right and what we did wrong (started too late, failed to ID voters), and our goals for the future.

They passed out the new motor-voter easy-registration forms and talked about the coming local elections, which I can’t get excited about.

Then Javier again took the floor to explain the status of the legal challenge to Amendment One.

Turner and Griscti, the local attorneys handling the case (they donated my Criminal Law book award) are, with Lambda Legal’s help, just beginning the long process, and it’s possible it will take two years – maybe not till after the Supreme Court hears the Colorado case, Evans v. Romer.

Then Tim Burke explained how all the different gay groups are cooperating for Pride ’95 which will run from June 4-11. He showed the calendar of events and how much money is needed for funding.

They’ve been holding raffles at the three local gay clubs. I guess I feel out of it because I don’t go to bars; in Gainesville, that tends to be where gay people meet because there aren’t a lot of alternatives.

After questions, there were refreshments. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to talk much with Javier and Bryan. Tim Martin called me over because he needed my signature on that form for the state to be HRC’s registered agent.

Although I haven’t signed up to do particular stuff yet, I will help out if I’m needed.

Back at home, I stayed up late reading Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld’s Doctor, What Should I Eat?, a sensible compendium of nutrition advice for various ailments or physical problems.

At 11:30 PM, the Republican tax cut passed the House, and so the “100 days” of the Contract With America are over.

Waking up at 7 AM, I didn’t get to work until 9:30 AM because I took the time to have a good workout. Once again, I did no memo-writing today.

Joann said that on Monday there will be a two-hour luncheon meeting with Winston Nagan and Ivo Šlaus, a Croat physicist involved in human rights and all sorts of international organizations, as preparation in case we get the USIA grant.

I’ve read up on Croatia in travel articles, and I can’t imagine it being any more dangerous to be in Dubrovnik or Zagreb than it would be to go to most European cities.

And the articles did make Croatia – and especially the Dalmatian coast – sound wonderful.

Josh gave me Joyce Brabner’s e-mail address so I could write her about Our Cancer Year.

Meanwhile, Josh is still obsessing about both his brother’s run-in with an unlicensed driver in Miami and his niece’s being diagnosed with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).

Josh questions the medicine the doctor prescribed, wanting to know why Anne wasn’t given Prozac instead.

After doing a search, I found good information from recent studies that show that the drug that Anne got was more efficacious and had fewer side effects than the other drugs that work on serotonin, like Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft.

I spent most of the day reading or on the computer. At 3 PM, I left the office, telling Russ, who was working at the front desk, that he should go into my office to work in privacy with a closed door.

Driving home, I realized that I had some gay-related stuff out on my desk – but it’s good for me to be more “out” at work.

Last night Abby asked me if I was “out” to Jon Mills. (She thinks DLC Democrats like Jon might as well be Republicans, and I agree.)

“It doesn’t really come up,” I said, though I assume all the people in my office have figured out I’m gay.

Nobody has ever asked me about girlfriends or wedding plans, and I certainly don’t pretend to be heterosexual.

For all I know, Joann or others in the office could be gay. I’m not interested enough in them to care, and I assume they feel the same way about me.

Saturday, April 8, 1995

7 PM. I just finished reading White Racism: The Basics by UF sociology professors Joe R. Feagai and Hernán Vera.

It’s an excellent book about a problem most whites deny exists. I’m aware of my own racist tendencies, yet I’m very empathetic with the kind of discrimination blacks endure.

I remember last summer’s discussion with my white Santa Fe Community College students and my disgust at their polite, uncomprehending racism.

If I can’t be color-blind, then I don’t think the country can be color-blind – which is why we not only need affirmative action but probably some sort of reparations for descendants of slaves.

What amazes me is how many white Americans will denying themselves the benefits of stronger social programs so long as they can satisfy their racist attitudes by keeping nonwhites from getting them.

I believe in Derrick Bell’s interest convergence theory: that whites only support advances for blacks when it’s in the interests of whites. The same can be said for any top-dog group.

This sounds idiotic, but I hope there’ll be urban riots that will make Americans see that we’re on the verge of something close to a Chiapas-style rebellion that destabilized Mexico.

If that happened, foreign investors would eventually avoid the U.S. – or perhaps even boycott us economically, as the world did with apartheid South Africa.

Although I fell asleep early last evening, I woke up 1:30 AM. Soon after that, I heard my redneck next-door neighbor talking loudly, and when his friends arrived, they all got into a shouting match.

Apparently my neighbor had been in a bar playing pool with this woman (“girl”) and became so angry because he was losing that he had told his pals to leave without him.

He really didn’t expect them to do that, and he was fuming that he had to walk several miles back to his apartment.

I overheard several of the guys talking about being in prison. They went on and on, sometimes shouting at each other. I just kept reading my book and listening to them.

After 3 AM, there was a knock at my door. It was a young well-built blond guy with glasses named Ray. He had on a bathrobe and said he wanted to “talk about our neighbors.”

Hesitant at first, I let him in. Ray said he’d just moved in, and when he went over there to ask them to be quiet, they just blew him off.

He wanted to call the police and asked if I’d back him up. I told them that I understood how upset he was – it’s always good to validate people’s feelings – but I thought calling the police would only make matters worse, especially since they had already gone quiet.

I advised him to call the management and said he could give my name to corroborate his story. He shook my hand and thanked me when he left, so I guess I handled the situation well.

Certainly I don’t want to get involved. I can tolerate loud noises better than I can tolerate conflict.

And I suspect that this guy Ray, who seems intelligent and more of my social class than that of our neighbors, got into some kind of macho conflict with them. That’s what straight guys do.

It felt weird to have someone in my apartment and see me in my bedclothes (T-shirt and gym shorts) with my unmade bed.

Anyway, I fell asleep again an hour after that.

Today I did two loads of laundry by 10 AM and read newspapers and did aerobics before lunch.

In the mail, I found the International Male catalog, though I’m not sure why, as I don’t remember signing up for it. Still, it has lots of pictures of hunky guys in underwear and shorts.

Also I got an offer to subscribe to Wired, and I decided the reduced price was worth it.

Around noon, buying groceries at Albertsons, I met a friend from Adrian’s class who works at the main public library.

After lunch, I went over to UF’s Library West, returning books that I used for teaching Whitman and Dickinson and picking up one book, a new work by Frank Lentricchia, to help me when I go over Frost and Eliot in next week’s class.

I’m really starting to get lonely for companionship, and I probably should do something about it – but so far I haven’t wanted to go to the bars.

In Gainesville, I’m so much older than the college-student crowd who dominate places like the University Club. But the personal ads seem to bring out either closet cases or very odd people.

After spending an hour in the office – I called Phoenix and left a message on Sat Darshan’s machine – I took a walk to Lake Alice, doing dips on the parallel bars there and then pull-ups and chin-ups down by the woods across from the law school.

I spent an hour at the Harn Museum, taking in a couple of excellent exhibits: a faculty show and a show of Rembrandt etchings.

I’ll probably just stay in and read tonight.

Monday, April 10, 1995

8 PM. Last night I couldn’t fall asleep. I kept getting out of bed to read so I wouldn’t just lie there for hours.

Today was a long day at work. I missed coming home for lunch, although rather than rely on the fatty sandwiches I knew CGR would serve, I took my own meal (fat-free cheese sandwich, cold sweet potato, and baby carrots) in a brown bag and ate it in my office before the luncheon in the Fellows Room at noon.

Last evening and this morning, I boned up on Croatia, but I’m afraid my initial questions for Dr. Šlaus got the discussion off track.

I could tell that Jon and Joann don’t have a fraction of the knowledge about the situation in Croatia that I had even before I did my recent research on the former Yugoslavia.

Of course, they must be preoccupied. Earlier, when I went to the library to check out a map Croatia in the atlas, Ruthie told me there was an article in Saturday’s Gainesville Sun that said the legislature was planning to defund CGR. Apparently, the article had Jon’s photo and didn’t mention the FIU connection.

Tomorrow Joann is going to Tallahassee for meetings with legislators, and I expect when all is said and done, there will be no problem.

But as Liz said when she came to see me briefly about James getting his Docket article in, if she were in the legislature and didn’t know better, CGR would be an easy target to zero-fund.

A lot of it probably has to do with the research versus teaching debate at state universities.

Anyway, Jon, Joann and I had a two-hour lunch with Winston (ditsy as always, he thought I had been  in his Family Law class rather than International Law) and Dr. Ivo Šlaus, a physicist and recent addition to the Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights.

Then we decided that Winston and Ivo needed to talk alone for a while. They came back at 3:15 PM to talk with Joann and me for another 90 minutes.

There’s going to be this conference in Dubrovnik in early May, and they were really hot for any or all of us to join them there.

This made me a little anxious, but Joann later assured me there’s no way we could get any money for me to go. (Jon and Joann will be in Brazil the week after next.)

Still, I’d better get my passport because I’ll probably be going to Croatia in October for two institutes to be sandwiched around an already-scheduled conference.

Right now I don’t really understand all the details of the Institute for Peace and Human Rights in the Balkans.

While Ivo, a member of the Croatian Academy who’s also associated with the Inter-University Center in Dubrovnik, is very enthusiastic, and Winston’s zeal, as usual, is out somewhere beyond the Van Allen Belt, who knows if we can come up with the funding?

Joann said she’s going to take our USIA grant proposal and use that for a model to apply for more grants with various foundations and agencies.

She, Winston and I will meet later this week and she’ll give him material he can take to Dubrovnik in May. (After that, he’s got to go to Uganda to handle a crisis at the law school.)

All this talk about involving George Soros and his Soros Foundation and Aryeh Neier and Justice Goldstone of The Hague tribunal is beyond my comprehension.

After all, I’ve never even left the country and here I am, sitting in what appears to me high-flying international human rights business.

For a minute during the discussion I got scared that I would be named acting director of the Institute – but of course it will be Winston, with Ivo as acting chairman. We worked at a timetable for the organization for this year.

It seems ironic that we’re getting so involved in this international stuff just as Joann and Jon are trying to convince the legislature of CGR’s close-to-home worth to the state.

Stacey came in with her latest memo, which I copied from her diskette.

When she told me classes end next week, I was a little surprised that it was so soon. Now that I’m not a law student anymore, I’m no longer in touch with the rhythms of the academic calendar.