A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early June, 1995

by Richard Grayson

Thursday, June 1, 1995

9 PM. I’ll probably be up all night. Not only did I have too much Diet Coke with caffeine at the Millhopper library, but I’m also excited after hearing Suzanne Goldberg’s talk.

We drew a big crowd, and after nine months of being involved with gay rights, I knew many people there, if not by name, then by sight.

As Suzanne said, the religious right didn’t realize all their anti-gay activity would spark so many people to become actively involved on our side: people like me, who’d never been active before.

This morning, the Alligator had a front-page story on Fred Phelps, the nut from Topeka. The accompanying photo showed Phelps and his grandchildren standing right outside Camelot on the corner of 34th and University with their “God Hates Fags” signs.

(They’re now on their way to protest Gay Day at Disney World.)

I pointed out the charming Phelps family to Russ and explained about their funeral-picketing. Maybe I can educate a knee-jerk reactionary, but I doubt it.

At least the story included some nice quotes from Joe Antonelli and Tim Burke and mentioned Suzanne Goldberg’s speech tonight.

We had an amazing turnout, too. I sat down next to this guy I’ve seen around the law school for two years. I’ve always thought he was cute, but although I once saw him chatting with Javier, I didn’t know he was gay.

After Suzanne’s talk, I spoke with him for quite a while, and of course I now have this humongous crush on him. I remember I always used to watch him bicycling on SW 2nd Avenue as I walked to and from school.

His name is David, and he’s intelligent and sweet, a black guy about 22 with a husky build. He said he’s graduating in December but doesn’t want to practice law and will probably go to live in D.C.

It’s always silly when I get these crushes on young guys like Noor or Javier.

I also chatted with Tim Burke, Craig, Cynthia (whom I hadn’t seen in months), Kathy (who spoke about voter registration), Dottie Dreyer (who introduced Suzanne), and Suzanne herself, who gave a great speech explaining anti-gay initiatives and the Colorado and Cincinnati cases and how Lassiter v. Alachua County fits in.

The lead plaintiff, Patricia Lassiter, who runs the Women’s Health Center, is someone I’d never met before. A number of the other plaintiffs were in attendance. The briefs in the case are due soon.

I spotted Larry Turner, the Gainesville lawyer working with Lambda Legal on the case, there with his little girl – although they left early. (His firm sponsored my Criminal Law Book Award.)

Following her talk, Suzanne answered questions, and in response to mine about the outlook in the Supreme Court, she said she was optimistic because of all the deep constitutional questions Romer v. Evans raises.

Although I hope that I’m proven wrong a year from now, I’m enough of a pessimist to expect a 5-4 defeat.

Anyway, it was a nice kickoff to Gay Pride Week. As Tim Burke said, if there weren’t people like Reverend Phelps, we wouldn’t need to express our pride.

Of course, Pride Week is also both a celebration and an important educational tool for the public.

I chatted with Richard Smith, the elderly man who has come to help with some of our mailings. It turns out he’s a UF botany professor and a grandfather.

Last night I fell asleep at about 10 PM, but I was up for several hours during the night.

When I got back to sleep, I dreamed I was having lunch in a London restaurant with Princess Diana when John Majors and his wife came in to eat. Diana called him over to our table and said, “Prime Minister, this is Richard Grayson.” Talk about weird.

I didn’t do much at work today. I got a call from an Orlando lawyer who was given my name by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He had this question relating to the recapture of rehabilitation tax credits if the building’s ownership were transferred to an S corporation.

Thank God that Russ was there to help me out – but we had to go deep into the arcane weeds of the IRS Code. Neither of us really understood what an S corporation was (and the lawyer confused me by calling it a “sub S” – which I eventually realized merely meant “subchapter S” of the code).

Teresa called during my lunch break at home, and she went on and on, again complaining about Paul’s rotten kids. Teresa always has to have something to complain about, and this time, it’s not the guy but his spoiled children.

It’s a hard enough situation with Teresa and Paul moving into the same house where the kids were brought up and where they lived for the past two years with an alcoholic mom who left them to run wild.

Paul’s 23-year-old won’t finish college despite having only 19 credits left – but she can’t possibly be as lazy, irresponsible and selfish as Teresa says.

Obviously his 16-year-old daughter has to be living at home with them. Teresa says she needs an adult to discipline her, “but of course I can’t, and Paul won’t.”

Anyway, Teresa just kept talking. She was in Brooklyn at her mother’s, babysitting for her grandmother while her parents were out.

In San Francisco, she had a nice five-day vacation for Deirdre’s 40th birthday.

Now that it’s summer, Teresa enjoys going to the house in Fire Island, “if only as a getaway from the war in Oyster Bay.”

Her Locust Valley house is rented for the rest of the summer, and she’s had offers to rent it year-round.

When she let me get a few words in edgewise, I filled her in on what’s going on with my job and Jonathan’s plans.

I love Teresa, but bless her heart, she’ll never change.

Monday, June 5, 1995

6 PM. Last night I got only about five hours of sleep and woke up at 6 AM.

This area was under a flood watch and a tornado watch, but as I kept my eye on news reports about Hurricane Allison, I figured it was okay to start packing for my trip to Tallahassee, as the hurricane was supposed to make landfall at Apalachicola and quickly diminish to a tropical storm.

At 9 AM, I went to the office, but I was too preoccupied even to read the New York Times; I’ve got the paper with me, and I guess I’ll look at it this evening.

I called Mom to tell her my plans. She said Jonathan has postponed his departure till Wednesday, so I should have no problem seeing him when he comes through Gainesville.

Elihu E-mailed that he’s preparing for Les’s arrival but felt very jealous that Les was having dinner in New Orleans with an old boyfriend who just moved back to town.

Back home at 11 AM, I had lunch and finished packing (Mom and Dad’s birthday card still hadn’t come in today’s mail) before I left for the hotel and the Budget car rental place.

They didn’t have an economy-sized car so they upgraded me to a full-size Mercury Sable – which was probably a good thing, given the heavy winds.

Actually, it was only raining off and on, and the sun kept peeking out of the clouds.

But by the time I got on I-75 at 12:30 PM, it began to rain steadily, and it took about an hour to get to I-10.

Still, I managed to drive at the 65 mph speed limit, which helped because I stopped to pee at every one of the five rest stops on the way to Tallahassee.

As I drove, I listened to NPR, first on WUFT and then the station here in Tally, WFSU.

I took U.S. 90 into town, though because I thought I’d gone the wrong way, I turned back – but my original instincts had been correct, and by looking at the map, I found the road that led to Apalachee Parkway.

This stretch looks pretty familiar from two years ago. I checked into the Quality Inn, and although my first Visa card was rejected, the second one proved okay.

I’m in room 231, which is tiny but has most everything I need, including a TV with dozens of channels. I’m a radio person so I guess I do miss having one of them.

About ten minutes after I got to my room, I went out and drove downtown. Finding a meter on Monroe Street, I made an ATM withdrawal at the NationsBank branch there.

It was very windy and even kind of cool, but I decided to go over to the Capitol to take my first walk around the grounds.

I’d never gone up close to see the West Portico of the Old Capitol and the east side with its candy-cane striped awnings; the tall new Capitol building with the House and Senate office buildings on either side; and behind them, the Supreme Court.

It was all surrealistic, because I was the only human being around the Capitol grounds. What I didn’t know was that Governor Chiles had told all state workers to take the day off.

I felt a bit spooked, fearing I could be mugged if someone did appear, so I soon went back to the car.

Because I was hungry and the weather was so bad, I didn’t feel like driving around the way I did in 1993, so I just returned to Apalachee Parkway and had a McLean Deluxe and orange juice at a nearly-deserted McDonald’s.

A disheveled black man came over to my table, started a conversation and ended up asking me for a dollar for the bus.

(The last time I was in Tallahassee, I also had a panhandler come up to me. I’ve never seen one in Gainesville.)

After I picked up some baby carrots and bananas at Albertsons, I came back to the motel room.

I wonder if Jeffrey Knapp’s plane will get in all right this evening.

The meeting doesn’t begin until 10 AM, so I don’t have to rush in the morning.

I hope I can rest tonight, but if not, there’s always cable TV – and I do have a king-size bed.

Tuesday, June 6, 1995

4 PM. When I arrived at the Cultural Affairs Division office this morning and told the receptionist I was there for the panel meeting, she had a stricken look on her face and asked, “Didn’t they call you to tell you it was canceled?”

First Judy Pettijohn and then Gaylen Phillips came out to talk to me. Gaylen said she called my office and left a message on my home machine at 2:30 PM yesterday, not figuring I’d leave before then.

The meeting has been rescheduled for two weeks from today, when I can’t make it because I’ll be at the National Trust workshop – ironically, also in Tallahassee. So I made the trip for nothing.

I left all my materials with Gaylen, and they’ll have to get an alternate to replace me.

It made me feel stupid, but even Gaylen said she’d been certain that it would be beautiful today. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky in Tallahassee. I guess I should have called their office when I got to town yesterday, but it would have been closed.

Jeffrey Knapp left two messages on my answering machine yesterday. The first said that he talked to Barbara Hamby, who said they were told the meeting would go ahead. The next said Barbara had called him and told him the meeting was off, and we’d be getting calls telling us that in the afternoon.

I suppose it’s no big tragedy. I did get out of work for two days, and I got to enjoy last night at the Quality Inn.

I slept very well and enjoyed the cable TV (I’m glad I don’t subscribe because there are too many distractions on it) and being away from home.

But it also seems as if nothing’s gone right lately, not since June began. My birthday card and check from my parents may have gotten lost in the mail: another misconnection. And what happened to the story Demos was sending back for revisions?

There was also my back problem and the gloomy weekend and just other stuff – like Libby leaving a message that they’ll be in New York for her brother’s wedding in September, when of course I can’t be there.

(I had six messages in all. The other two were from Tim Burke and another Pride ’95 committee person, wanting to know what I could do.)

I know, I know: I’m behaving the way I often do when a string of events seems bad: I’m taking everything that happens and giving it a negative spin.

Still, I feel unsettled.

On my way out of Tallahassee, U.S. 90 was blocked, and I ended up getting lost in a maze of rural roads before I reconnected with I-10 in Jefferson County.

I didn’t know if I had any time to spare because I didn’t want to be charged for an extra day on the car rental, and that meant I had to be back at the hotel around noon.

I made it just about exactly (I think they do give you some kind of leeway), but I laid out $100 in cash for both the motel and the car because I wasn’t sure I had any credit available on my cards. (As of yesterday, the $600 payment on my Household Visa hadn’t cleared.)

I drove back listening to NPR news and trying to go as fast as I could without getting caught for speeding.

I would have had no problem at all except for the roadblock – caused, I later learned, by a huge tree felled by the hurricane.

It was so depressing to be back in Gainesville that I couldn’t face going into the office, especially since I’m embarrassed that the meeting never came off.

So I came home, ate, called my parents and exercised, and now I’ll read the newspaper.

One of my teeth in the rear upper left side is giving me root-canal-like twinges, but why shouldn’t it? This is a time when a lot of little things are going wrong.

Jonathan should be here tomorrow, and I’m worried about him. He doesn’t realize there are all these events he can’t control once he’s out of the safety of our parents’ house.

Probably, like Mom, I’m imagining all these terrible things that can happen to him. My own impulse is to do what I did last weekend and just collapse into bed.

I remember feeling this way a lot when I lived in Rockaway in 1980 and all these beyond-my-control things happen. Maybe knowing what Jonathan faces has brought back the pain and despair I felt 15 years ago.

In my own way, I was accustomed to Jonathan always staying with our parents because at least he was safe there. But of course he’s got to become an adult at some point, and this is probably going to be the best thing he’s ever done in his life.

Still, I feel that familiar empty, drowsy, depressed feeling creeping up on me now.

Friday, June 9, 1995

8 PM. I saw Jonathan for less than 15 minutes late yesterday afternoon.

He called from U.S. 441, just south of the UF campus, and I gave him directions here. He called again when he got lost.

Finally he came in to my apartment and immediately said the smell was making him ill, kept repeating “I can’t stay here,” and went to the bathroom.

I knew there was a musty smell when I walked into the apartment. Although I’d been cleaning, I hadn’t been able to locate the source of the smell because once I was inside, I didn’t smell it anymore.

I didn’t know what to do. I tried to persuade Jonathan that he soon wouldn’t notice the smell, but he said he would rather stay at a campground.

Annoyed at his intransigence, I said “So then go, but call Mom first.”

Jonathan looks like a nut to me: his ponytail comes down to his ass, and he reminded me of nobody so much as Marshall – which I suppose is natural.

Last evening I had to go to the Human Rights Council board meeting. I arrived just after it had begun, while announcements were being made.

Three people were then unanimously elected to the board: me, a woman who wasn’t there, and Bob Karp, who’s returned from San Francisco, where he’d been working on funding an AIDS project.

We discussed the by-laws and got into one of those discussions that seems endless, over points that seem obscure. In one case, it was whether to keep our mailing list “confidential” or use the term “not subject to public disclosure.”

Despite my legal training, every fiber of my being rebels against the minutiae of endless codification. Kathy in particular seems to think we need to explicitly clarify everything.

Eventually we passed the new by-laws with the same modifications, and we talked about Pride Week.

We all agreed to stay at the HRC table on Sunday, and they unveiled the HRC banner and a U.S. flag with 13 rainbow stripes that we’ll be displaying.

Exhausted by the long day, when the meeting broke up around 9 PM, I decided not to join some of the others at the Reitz Union for the second night of Pride Week films.

When I got home, Dad called and told me that Jonathan had checked into the local Comfort Inn and was planning to drive to Tallahassee today.

Although I’d asked Jonathan to call me, he didn’t.

Whatever the smell in the apartment was, it was gone this morning. I actually think what bothered Jonathan was the plug-in air freshener.

Josh gave me good advice on E-mail this morning. He says I’m too grumpy about Jonathan, that he’s just doing what kids normally do at 21, and that he’ll be fine.

Josh wrote: “In the end he’ll probably just go back to your parents and be their pampered pet for the rest of his life. In any case, you’re really only a bystander.”

Still, one day, years from now, I’m going to write about my parents and brothers in some form. And what happened yesterday will make a great “scene.”

I got to work early, and people asked me what happened with my brother. When I told them, Linda and Laura said (separately), “Bless his heart.”

They felt sorry for him – something I was unable to do yesterday when I was annoyed that he refused to stay in my apartment, as if it were such a horrible place.

I do wish my brother good luck, but I’m not going to follow his progress as if he were a Mercury astronaut.

Laurie gave me the voucher for my Baltimore car rental, and I called Budget to rent cars for the week of the historic preservation seminar.

Carol was livid when she found that Christy’s paycheck didn’t come again. The people in the Dean’s office are so callous, saying nothing could be done – when of course it could.

It reminded me of the time the Dean at Kingsborough wouldn’t pay me for the teaching I did before I quit, and I became so enraged by hearing “Nothing can be done” that I quivered and suddenly decided to feign an epileptic seizure.

Boy, the check soon got cut after that.

So I understood Carol’s seething frustration. I told her that I was going to call the Dean’s office, but she said they’d only tell me what they told her.

I bet that if it were the check of a faculty member, the Dean’s office would somehow make sure Payroll cut an emergency check, but of course secretaries like Christy are treated like garbage.

Russ just got back from a visit to his grandmother in Jacksonville.

He showed me a piece of writing he’d done: a parody of the kind of conveyance he had to work on when he was doing legal work in London, written to his parents as a Christmas letter. It was very sweet.

Russ is weird, but despite his right-wing views, he’s a pleasure to talk to. He has a very broad knowledge of the world and I don’t have to explain my allusions or references to him.

We read the staff analysis of the state Senate Judiciary Committee on the property owners’ rights bill and then discussed the issues involved.

I spent time on the computer, researching cybercash. Scott had told me that one of his clients, a banking entity, wanted to get into that.

Home for lunch, I picked up my mail and a package from Deutsch with the generic Triavil, three bottles’ worth for $60.

Back at work, I explored websites and chatted with Russ. I tell my old war (or antiwar) stories and he listens.

It’s weird because Russ is far more worldly than I am. He’s lived in Slovakia, Vienna and London, so I’m sure he’s done a number of more interesting things than I have. He just doesn’t seem to like to tell stories the way I do.

I showed off the Marilyn Monroe stamps I bought at the post office on my lunch break. I can’t wait till I have an occasion to combine a Marilyn stamp with the Nixon stamp on some envelope.

This morning, when I heard on the radio that the Alachua County School Board is considering a return to paddling – my former Nova student Barbara Sharpe is opposed – I revised and updated my old Sun-Tattler column on the subject and sent it in as a guest column to the Gainesville Sun.

After having dinner and doing laundry, I now feel ready to relax and maybe go to bed.

Sunday, June 11, 1995

9 PM. It was a treat to talk to Libby last evening. It was about 5 PM Pacific Time, and they’d just been outside waiting for the workmen who were going to build their new swimming pool.

Libby said they’re all fine. Lindsay is 7½ and finishing first grade. Wyatt, 4½, in pre-school, just had his first sleepover at a friend’s house for her fifth birthday and was cranky because he got only six hours of sleep rather than his usual twelve.

Her brother’s wedding is on Labor Day weekend, and he’s marrying that Ukrainian-American private investigator he’s been seeing for years.

Libby said that her mother escaped the Ukrainian ghetto and she herself also married out of it, so it’s odd that Wayne – by chance – is getting married to another Ukrainian.

Unlike their cousins, Libby and Wayne never went to Ukrainian schools and can’t speak the language and don’t feel Ukrainian – but the wedding will be at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the East Village.

Libby, Grant and the kids will go out the week before and visit friends in Philadelphia (a married couple and Thomas, that guy I really liked) and then go upstate to enjoy the Catskills and stay with Mason (who, once again, can’t make a commitment to his latest girlfriend) at the old stone house he recently bought.

In New York City, they’ll stay with Brendan, who owns a brownstone on Ninth Street in Park Slope, a couple of blocks from the old house that Libby’s mother inherited from her father and where her brother and his wife are living.

If I can’t be in New York at the time, Libby invited me to visit them in California; they’ve got a third of an acre and plenty of room in the new house, including a guesthouse they share with their neighbor on the property.

She complained that it was too cool in L.A. this winter and that this was the first year she had a buy the kids winter coats.

Given that they’re putting in a swimming pool, I assume Grant’s business is doing well.

Last night I had a lot of lucid dreams, like the one in which I saw a vivid red and thought, See, people do see colors in their dreams.

I left the house at 11 AM today for Westside Park, where several dozen people were setting up for the Pride Picnic.

Someone told me to help this woman, Carrie, set up the volleyball net, and in doing so, I learned how to use this implement I’m sure everyone but me has seen, to dig holes in the ground for the poles.

That done, I joined the group decorating what became the stage. We made a rainbow of balloons and put them in a rainbow shape to display over where performance space would be.

I also put up some decorations in the air-conditioned area we had in the park’s sole building, and then I helped set up tables and chairs.

At one point Tim Martin told me to go to the table with the soda, and somehow I ended up in charge of the soda stand for pretty much the entire day.

We had loads of cans of Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, etc., in ice-filled pails and a jar for 50¢ donations.

For me, it was an ideal job. Not only could I escape the heat and humidity outside, but I also cooled off my arms by putting fresh cans into the icy water of the pails.

Besides, although I know a lot of people from the No On One campaign and from HRC, I still feel a bit like I’m always alone at gay events, and this gave me a chance to talk to a lot of people and not feel weird about being off by myself.

I still had plenty of time to get out during long breaks while others relieved me at the soda stand.

The Pride March all the way from the Harn Museum went smoothly, and it seemed as if we had 500 or so people in the park.

As always, I’m impressed by the incredible diversity of the gay community in Gainesville.

I saw David with another guy from law school whom I always thought was gay. Although David made sure it wasn’t obvious, it seemed like he was deliberately ignoring me.

Still, I got the message. It hurt, but I’m glad I don’t have to go on with another silly crush.

I’m attracted to only a small fraction of gay guys, so I can certainly understand why so few people are attracted to me.

The only guy who I definitely felt was flirting with me with this apple-cheeked blond boy who couldn’t have been more than 16. He kept talking to me and smiling, and though I was tempted to flirt back, I’m not that crazy.

Perhaps old Richard Smith, who left early, also found me attractive – but he looks about 75.

Was it in Radio Days that Kitty Carlisle Hart sang the World War II lament “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old”?

I chatted with Arozman, who just rented a place in Austin, which he said definitely has a Southwestern/cowboy vibe. But everyone in Austin seems to love it, he said, and it’s probably more liberal than Gainesville even if it is in Texas.

I happened to be outside when Kathy introduced Tim Burke, who did an outstanding job running Pride Week, and the others who helped him organize the event. They got a huge round of applause.

It was after 5 PM when, hungry, tired and out of soda, I decided to slip away quietly and go home to eat dinner and read the newspaper.

On Channel 20’s 6:30 PM news, Tim, Kathy and Craig were interviewed as part of the station’s very positive coverage of the Pride March.