A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early May, 1995

by Richard Grayson

Monday, May 1, 1995

7 PM. I called Sat Darshan yesterday, but she wasn’t home, so I left a message with her daughter.

Then I called Pete Cherches, who was home. He’s enjoying his unemployment and should start getting checks soon now that his severance pay has run out.

In New York State these days, unemployment recipients report by phone (using touch-tone signals) rather than in person.

Pete is going back to San Francisco soon to combine a pleasure trip with some research for his dissertation. NYU gave him some summer travel money that will allow him to go to D.C. and other cities this summer.

Pete couldn’t understand why I bother sending out stuff to little magazines, but I told him I don’t know what else to do with my new stories.

Unable to access the World Wide Web, Pete nevertheless feels the Internet is way oversold as a revolutionary medium.

Today I found Mr. Showbiz, an online daily magazine, after I read an article about it in the New York Times. (I read the entire paper online today after discovering that my subscription had run out and there were none of today’s papers in the lockbox.)

It seems as if all media companies and many other corporations are rushing to put up websites.

Anyway, I watched the two-hour Hard Times on PBS last night. I read that gloomy novel in my Dickens and Lawrence class at Richmond College 21 years ago.

Today at work, I got some inkling about my future. Early in the day, I learned from Liz that CGR’s funding seems secure.

Jon has apparently placated the Republican senator who defunded us. It turns out the Senate President didn’t even know the item had been in the budget passed by his chamber.

Liz said that the old guard at the law school fought to give Jon tenure, but that it wasn’t something they did to secure Jon a job in case CGR got defunded.

Jon had told Liz years ago that he wanted tenure and felt that she and Richard Hamann should get it, too. (Liz said she doesn’t want to have to publish.)

And Liz told me that my attending the National Educational Computing Conference in Baltimore on June 17-19 sounds like a good idea.

I got the information about the conference on E-mail this morning and was reading it when I got a memo Liz had forwarded from Wendy.

Wendy told us Schoolyear 2000 and the nine participating school districts are applying for a big grant from the federal National Challenge Grant program, and they wanted us to send a letter of support and a statement that we’ll participate in the project, which is aimed specifically at disabled and disadvantaged children.

That gave Liz an excuse to call Wendy. After they spoke at 3:30 PM, Liz came in and said the news from the legislature isn’t all bad. The House has funded Schoolyear 2000 at the current $7.2 million level, but so far the Senate had not. So they’re still very nervous up at FSU.

Commissioner Brogan is waiting until the end of the session to clean house at the Department of Education. Although his deputy likes Schoolyear 2000, everything depends upon who the commissioner appoints as his technology person.

Our $50,000 grant, which covers my salary, has been provided half by Schoolyear 2000 and half by the Department of Education, and if they lose DOE funding but keep their own money, they’ll try to cover the entire cost. Wendy told Liz to call her a few days after the legislature ends their session.

At least I know that Schoolyear 2000 would like us to continue doing legal research for them. In any case, I’m probably going to know something more definite about my job soon – at least in time to make a decision about renewing my lease here.

I called Mom, who said the doctor brought up “the big fuss” she had made about the CAT charges. He told her he sees a “big mass” in the x-rays and wanted her to take antibiotics for another ten days and then have more CAT scans taken.

Mom, however, says she’s getting better and figures the mass is merely the green mucus clogging up her sinuses. She’ll go to a doctor whose name she got from J.J. today, rather than return to the current doctor.

Dad is in New York now, Mom said, where it’s damp and dark.

Mom reported that Elliott’s bar mitzvah is at 10:45 AM on Saturday, June 17, at Temple Sinai on Military Road in the district – that’s somewhere between Bethesda and Rock Creek Park, I think.

I got some flights off the Eaasy Sabre reservation systems on Delphi, and I guess I can stay at motels between Baltimore and Washington.

This will be an interesting trip. I haven’t been to the D.C. area since I last went to the Virginia Center for Creative Arts and stayed with Kevin in July of ’81 and ’82.

Leaving work at 4 PM, I came home, where I did chest flyes and calf raises – I’d exercised to Body Electric this morning – before having dinner.

Mark Bernstein sent an article from Modern Culture about Florida, which I haven’t read, and I got two rejections, both of which said to try them again.

I bought some stuff at Walmart and got rolls of quarters (for the New York Times vending machines) at NationsBank.

So, it’s May, it’s May, the lusty month of May – as the song from Ronna’s beloved Camelot goes.

Yesterday morning on the radio, I heard the original cast album from Hair, and that was a treat. The songs are great; my favorite is the non-rhyming “Frank Mills.”

Thursday, May 4, 1995

1:30 PM. I’m going back to work as soon as I finish writing this, but I feel the need to write now.

As I E-mailed Elihu this morning, I was glad to see a front-page article on Kent State in today’s Gainesville Sun along with that photo of the girl wailing over Jeff Miller’s body.

Yesterday NPR had a great segment on centenarians, but I feel very lucky to have lived what already seems like a long and full life, and there is wonder and joy in being able to remember what I was doing exactly 25 years ago.

I first heard about Kent State that Monday in 1970 when I turned on Walter Cronkite on WCBS/Channel 2 at 7 PM, and I can remember going straight to my diary.

I clearly remember the next few days: the demonstrations, the rallies, the takeover of the campus, the strike meetings. It was a scary and exciting time.

Today’s college students can’t possibly comprehend what it was like back at that time, the sense of alienation and anger and solidarity – as well as the antipathy of much of the public, who believed the dead students deserved what they got.

Last evening Josh called, asking me if I thought he could trust Denis, as Denis keeps saying the money that Josh gave him for his 9% ownership of the KGB Bar is just going back into the business. I think Josh thought he’d get some profits by now, but that seems unrealistic.

I said I thought Denis was trustworthy, especially after I saw an article on Lexis about Denis’s defense of his client Rakowitz – the nut who killed his girlfriend, boiled her remains, and then served the concoction to homeless people in Tompkins Square Park.

I also got a call from Tom D, asking for pointers for his airport job interview with Lexis.

After doing some reading, I watched the Danish movie Babette’s Feast, with its unsentimental Christian theme and that wonderful, transcendent French dinner.

This morning I was at work at 9 AM after a good night’s sleep, and I felt vital and eager.

Elihu E-mailed, first asking if I’d heard from Noor, and then telling me about his nervous preparations for Les’s arrival in New York.

Les begins work at Essex House in August and told Elihu not to spend the money to come to New Orleans before then.

Elihu is scared about how he’ll adapt to living with someone else after being alone for 20 years, but he’s doing something so exciting that I’m envious.

Liz told me how dreadful her Poverty Law class finals were and then asked me if I’d like to prepare to teach a class in Education Law. She figures it would take a semester to create a syllabus.

While I probably could do it, I really know very little about the field, and I’m afraid of ending up sounding like that Professor Dolan when she taught Employment Discrimination.

We chatted about it, but I think it’s awfully weird to talk about it now since I don’t know if my grant is going to be renewed.

I walked her out on her way to a hair stylist appointment and bumped into Javier at the Placement Office bulletin adds. He’s through with finals, and he’s moving real soon.

Javier is relieved to be finished with law school. He said that Hal, his roommate still has two papers to write (including the one from McCoy’s class) because Hal got chicken pox last week.

Javier told me that “my boyfriend Bryan” (as if I didn’t know who Bryan was!) just found out that AvMed, the company where he works, has hired him for a position in Miami that he applied for. It begins on May 23.

Everyone in Bryan’s office is telling him how horrible Miami is, but I told Javier that’s probably because they’re all racists who hate Hispanic and black people. I said I love South Florida precisely because it’s multicultural and exciting.

We walked around for a while, talking. I learned that Javier has two younger brothers, who are both at Miami-Dade Community College, and that his mother’s my age, his father’s 57, and his abuelos live in Nicaragua but visit often.

I asked him to give me his parents’ address because that’s where he and Bryan will be staying till he finds work.

Tom came along as I was with Javier and said his interview with Lexis went okay.

Back at work after Javier left – I’ll see him at Abby’s tonight – I showed Linda how to get the Wall Street Journal and Florida Times-Union on Westlaw and how the Westlaw commands differ from those on Lexis.

I feel weird with everyone going off to exciting big cities and me being stuck here in Gainesville.

But I guess there’s something to be said for a small town where I can go over to our county Democratic Party chair’s house, where the school board chair is my student, and where, as yesterday, I can go to the courthouse and find myself chatting with the state’s attorney in an elevator.

Well, I’ve got to get back to the office. Christy made reservations for me on the flights to and from Baltimore, but I need to give her my frequent flyer number.

Saturday, May 6, 1995

3 PM. My students’ presentations on American authors ran longer than I expected, but they were interesting, and I feel that I, as well as the class, learned something and they got more out of doing this than they would have gotten from taking a final exam.

This class was a nice group, and most seemed to enjoy our survey of American literature and appreciate what I did to lessen the workload and liven things up.

Phil Ratcliffe wasn’t there, so I’ll have to call him at Webster College on Monday to find out where I can get the final class roster so I can assign grades once I finish marking their reaction papers and the research papers on Billy Budd.

I won’t go to the students’ party tonight, but I appreciate them asking me.

Yesterday Ronna called from Philadelphia to say that she’s owed me a call and this wasn’t it, but she’d get back to me in the next couple of weeks. Everything is fine, she said.

I read the PEN Newsletter (another special issue on electronic publishing) but didn’t do much else last night except ruminate. These are the same kind of late-night worries I had last year after I graduated.

I’ve got to talk to Liz after I find out when my landlord needs to know if I’m going to renew my lease. What makes me feel so uneasy is having no control of when I will know for sure if I’m going to continue working at CGR.

If I just had a date certain, I could deal with it better. Liz is going on the assumption that I’m staying – as does everyone else at school.

But for me, it seems more healthy psychologically to assume that I’m not going to be reappointed. That way I won’t feel crushed and surprised the way most people are when they lose their jobs.

Now, in the light of day, my initial response is to say that if I’m not rehired, I’m going back to New York, at least temporarily.

There’s a lot that’s very hard about living there, but I know the city and I have a support network of friends there.

I can store my stuff in Fort Lauderdale with my parents. I just need to have them send me what I need (computer, microwave, TV, videocassette player) or else keep it all until I return to South Florida.

I won’t live with my parents, of course, though I realize I may have to stay there temporarily until I can find a job that will allow me to rent in Miami. (Not in Broward, which is too close.)

I don’t know exactly what I can do in either New York or South Florida, but I can’t be worse off than before I went to law school and worked at CGR, can I?

I may not be able to find another full-time job in academia, but now I know I can work in an office successfully. I’m interested in the new electronic publishing field, wherever it’s heading.

While I don’t want to practice law, I certainly can do good legal research for a nonprofit, a think tank, or even a law firm.

If I stay at CGR, I’ve got comfort, stability, steady paychecks and more experience; if I go, I can stretch myself even if it’s painful to do that.

I guess that if I didn’t have sleepless nights, I wouldn’t think through my situation.

Wednesday, May 10, 1995

2 PM. I had a great deal of energy this morning, but the humidity seems to have sucked it all out of me. I went back to work an hour ago, but the air conditioner in my office wasn’t performing, and I was getting all schvitzy.

I also was depressed after seeing Liz.

We’d both gotten an E-mail from Wendy, who wants to do another book of legal memos like the last one. She wanted to know how many memos we need to produce a book, and since she doesn’t have a graduate student working for her, can we help?

I figured that if Liz had been in the office, she would have contacted me about Wendy’s request, but as I was going to lunch, Russ mentioned that he saw her earlier.

I spotted her when I got back, and she looked weird.

“I need to talk to you in my office,” she said, and I figured it would be about business, but her voice breaking, she said, “They’re taking my son away from me.”

Liz explained that Lee had been violent these past couple of weeks, and she had a hard time and couldn’t handle him. She had to go home and pack his stuff – and he didn’t even know yet.

I went over and hugged her and said that if there was anything I could do, just to let me know. She smiled and thanked me and then left.

I feel terrible about this. Liz must feel that she’s failed as a foster mother, and that must wound very deeply.

It seems as though Becky is staying – for now. I didn’t want to upset Liz with more questions.

“They’re taking my son away from me.” I mean, even in me, that raises these horrible feelings of helplessness and abandonment.

Maybe I left the office as much because of that as because of the temperature.

Liz did say, “Hey, it looks good about the budget, huh?” before she left, and I guess Wendy’s memo is an indication of that.

Laura gave me a printout of E-mail from the administration telling her that Russ and I needed to make appointments for photo shoots – presumably for the new law school catalog – with News and Public Affairs at the stadium.

Jon also sent out a memo saying it’s time for staff annual evaluations, and mine is on June 14. By the end of the month, I have to send him a detailed self-evaluation letter with all these criteria.

This makes me believe I’m going to stay on at CGR, and I find myself surprisingly let down. I hadn’t realized how much I’d been looking forward to leaving Gainesville.

I was heading for the faculty library when I stopped to look at a poster, and when I turned, I saw Javier’s back as he walked into the Legal Research and Writing office.

I didn’t call out his name because, one, I didn’t know if he seen me and deliberately avoided me, or two, even if he hadn’t, I felt embarrassed after giving him my book last Thursday night.

It made me feel so sad. For a while, I’d had this hopeless crush on him, and now, when I at least could think of him as my friend, he’s going away.

It’s pathetic, but I don’t really have any friends in Gainesville. No wonder staying here depresses me.

Yesterday afternoon I read Electronic Learning and I exercised (enough push-ups so that I’ve got a little soreness – not quite in my chest but on whatever muscles hold something together on my sides).

Then, at night, I finished reading Wonder Boys, which I enjoyed so much that I E-mailed Michael Chabon a short (non-intrusive) note.

Last night I had a dream in which Rick appeared, and this morning on Lexis, I found a short review of his and Lucinda’s abortion anthology, Coming to Terms, from Sunday’s Minneapolis Tribune. Naturally, I mailed it off to him.

Having neglected to answer Josh’s E-mail from last week, I got this message from him: “You dead?”

What a weird planet, solar system and galaxy this is.

(I guess I’m now sounding fey and twee and all those cutesy-poo things that reviewers of my books complain about.)