A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late June, 1995
by Richard Grayson
Thursday, June 22, 1995
9 PM. I feel so much better now that I’m definitely not participating in the historic preservation workshops. At 9 AM, I called David Doheny and told his secretary that I wasn’t going to take part and that he needn’t bother to call later.
He faxed me acknowledgement and I faxed him that of course the room at the law school was still available. I didn’t mention it to anyone else but Liz, and nobody else asked about it.
When I walked into work this morning, everyone greeted me with “Great article!” “Really funny,” etc. I didn’t know what they were talking about until Linda told me she’d just put “an extra copy” in my box.
It turned out that today the Gainesville Sun printed my guest column, “Paddling will not cure schools.” They edited it, of course, but it looked really good, and they identified me as a CGR staff attorney.
So I did get an article on education printed in the paper after all. Naturally, that made me feel good, both because of the recognition and because I was making, through satire, a serious point about corporal punishment in schools.
Later this morning, a Levy County parent phoned to tell me that her son got sent home with a note asking for her permission to paddle him merely because he’d forgotten to bring in another note that she was supposed to sign.
When she called the principal and asked him if forgetfulness was punishable by hitting, he said, “The Bible tells us ‘spare the rod and spoil the child.’”
My evaluation session began with Jon saying, “Great year. How about another one?”
Mostly we talked about my plans and what he wants me to do regarding the annual report and update of CGR’s business plan. Liz said he used to stick that stuff with John Tucker, who won’t be back until Christmas.
Jon asked me to put my narrative self-evaluation into the prescribed UF format, using specific categories. After I finish that, Jon said we’ll talk again.
I spent a lot of time looking over the language covering distance learning and educational infrastructure buried in the telecommunications bill that the legislature passed. Governor Chiles allowed to become law without his signature last weekend while I was away.
I also got the CGR brochures from the O:/USERS/CGR directory and put the files on a disk, taking them to Anne Burns for Professor Taylor and Heather to place on the law school’s homepage.
On the bulletin board outside, Javier’s name led the list of spring Book Award recipients. He got his in Administrative Law, and I’m proud of him.
Another person I’m proud of is Jonathan. After driving 500 miles from Wichita Falls (where he had a bout with diarrhea for a couple of days) to Albuquerque yesterday, Jonathan arrived in Gallup, New Mexico today.
As I said to Dad, Jonathan has seen more of the country then he or I have.
Jonathan said that the scenery in the mountains of New Mexico is spectacular, but he still prefers Florida’s humidity to the aridity of the desert.
He’s disappointed that they have commercialized the Indian heritage in Gallup, where he was appalled to see wooden Indians in front of stores.
Tomorrow he hopes to get to the Hopi reservation in northeast Arizona. He’s long admired the tribe’s spiritual practices and culture.
Jonathan also that so far the only place where he felt truly at home was in Natchitoches, Louisiana, which has “the worst roads but the best people.”
Home at 4 PM, I read the Times, continued defrosting the freezer, and had dinner.
Later, I printed out five copies of the article I had originally sent to The Advocate, and in the public library I got the names of gay newspapers in various cities from the Gale Directory of Publications and Media.
I’ll send out more copies and hope some local gay weekly or monthly picks up my column advocating a gay presidential candidate in 1996.
Last evening’s Human Rights Council Board of Directors meeting was about to start just as I arrived at the SFCC Downtown Center community room at 7 PM.
At first I enjoyed the meeting, but by the time I left at 9 PM, I was bored and impatient with the interminable discussions.
By now I know that Kathy (our new vice president) likes to keep discussing a subject forever, but Bob (our new secretary) and Craig, presiding, also get bogged down in details and meeting-ese.
Richard Smith, who in his many years as a botany professor has undoubtedly experienced dozens of equally boring faculty meetings, left even before I did.
I found myself wondering why they all said the UF was such a bad place to be a gay employee because that’s not something I’ve ever felt.
And if I did feel UF was so hostile to gay employees, I’d be happy to be let go. Why would I ever want to stay in a workplace where people were homophobic?
This sounds pompous and heretical and it’s something I’d never say aloud to anyone, but I think some gay activists are too focused on their sexual orientation.
People are not their sexual orientation any more than they are their race, religion or nationality.
Friday, June 23, 1995
9 PM. I took this afternoon off after I was rear-ended on University Avenue.
After leaving the office around noon, I had started to go to the public library but then changed my mind and got into the right-turn lane to go down SW 13th Street and back to my apartment.
Because the two cars ahead of me abruptly braked, I had to stop a bit short, though not drastically so. But in the rear-view mirror, I could see two young white girls speeding so fast they might bang into me.
And so they did.
My head snapped back slightly, and I figured we’d stop, get out of our cars and exchange information the way normal people do.
Only these girls weren’t acting normal. Instead, they speeded ahead. I tried to stop them, but I couldn’t.
The two black women in the car next to me yelled, “We’ll get them!” and raced after the other car.
I flagged down a passing UF Police car and told them what happened. At that point, the black women, who worked at the UF registrar’s office, came back with the girls’ license plate number.
The UF police told me to wait by a construction site for the Gainesville Police Department, but first a Fire-Rescue Squad came, their sirens flashing on the red truck as if it were a fire. I told them my neck was sore but I didn’t need to see a doctor or go to a hospital.
When the GPD officers finally came, they told me they’d traced the tag to an out-of-town address in Lee County.
Probably, everyone speculated, the driver was uninsured or maybe had a bad record or didn’t even have a license.
I was surprised at how shaken I was. I felt like crying.
In spite of that – or maybe because of that – I decided to go ahead and do errands I’d planned to do on my lunch hour: shop at Albertsons and get gas.
But first I called Laurie to tell her what had happened and why I wouldn’t be going back to the office.
I feel better now, but maybe I’ll feel the whiplash later. We’ll see if I compressed my vertebrae, but right now I don’t expect it to be worse than a bad exercise injury.
I’m kind of glad I had the afternoon off since I got to unwind from the week’s stress and do the laundry and finally put on a new license tag. (I didn’t think I’d have to deal with police before June ran out, but today taught me to be prepared.)
Returning to the office at 5:30 PM, I ended up staying at my computer there for three hours.
Josh E-mailed that his mother is not doing well: she’s constantly losing her balance and is in need of 24-hour care.
His niece is staying in Boston with her boyfriend, who’s getting $20,000 to go to BU. Due to a housing shortage, the freshmen don’t have to live on campus. But his parents are evangelical Christians who object to his living with a girlfriend.
Josh said he and Sharon are looking for a two-bedroom apartment and asked if I’d like to rent his studio. I said yes but not till next May since I’m committed to staying here until then.
I also E-mailed Elihu, Justin and Sue Spahn and wandered around the World Wide Web.
On my office answering machine, I got a nice message from a guy who liked my Sun column, calling it “in the tradition of Jonathan Swift.” He left his number and name, so I guess I’ll call him back tomorrow.
Now that I don’t have to worry about making a fool of myself at the historic preservation workshop, this should be a relaxing weekend.
I need to figure out what I’m going to do about my summer vacation. The problem is that I don’t have much money at the moment, though I’m owed about $350 in travel money from UF and the Division of Cultural Affairs.
It was weird to see the U.S. Senate on TV – they filibustered Dr. Foster’s nomination as surgeon general – after having sat in the Visitors’ Gallery just five days ago.
Monday, June 26, 1995
8 PM. I just spoke to my parents. They praised my Gainesville Sun column and told me that Jonathan arrived at Second Mesa, Arizona, where the Hopi Indians have their reservation.
After driving up some very high mountains, he found a nice-looking restaurant and hotel amid incredible poverty and squalor. Tonight he’s staying down the mountain at a Holbrook campground.
No longer does he talk of going to Flagstaff or Sedona for the summer; instead, he’ll probably stay in Gallup for a couple of weeks because he liked it there and then maybe go to Santa Fe.
I expect that in the end, he’ll return to our parents’ house before the summer is over.
I still have qualms about Wednesday’s workshop, but the National Trust people are having Russ deal with all the logistics so I don’t have to interact with them.
Susan Mernit responded to my E-mail an hour after I sent it. She said she’d been trying to reach me for weeks.
It turns out that Susan is now the editor of New Jersey Online, a soon-to-be-launched Internet service for Newhouse New Media, and she asked me to come up with a feature with a Jersey slant that I could do for them.
Susan also asked about Peter Filichia after seeing his byline all the time in the Newark Star-Ledger, which is owned by Newhouse, along with the Jersey Journal and Trenton Times. She’d like him to be a contributor, too.
Susan said that if I want to live among friends, coming back to New York City would be the best thing for me. But I can’t let myself get excited about the possibility because it can’t happen for close to a year.
But Josh said that his studio would be available for a late summer stay once his niece and her boyfriend and then Christoph from Germany have their visits in July and early August.
I looked at Lexis and Westlaw trying to figure out something I can do for New Jersey Online. It has to be locally-oriented, and I’d like it to be funny. I remember how much I loved having my Hollywood Sun-Tattler column.
Even before Susan called, I was up late last night thinking that I love newspapers and online media enough so that I should be involved in the business. I’m a news junkie, and I think I’d love working for a company like Newhouse New Media.
Whatever comes of the new digital/electronic media world, it’s going to be exciting – and it’s not too late to get involved on the ground floor.
Because the focus is now moving to content and New York is where many creative people live, I expect a lot of startups will happen there.
At the office this morning, Tom and Richard narrated a slide show of their trip to Zambia. The pictures of the countryside were fascinating, and I enjoyed seeing the slides of giraffes, hippos, elephants, impalas and other wildlife.
Bur I’m not crazy about their plan to fund the conservation areas that we’re trying to establish with money that comes from Western big game trophy hunters. Is that really what CGR is all about?
Also, the white Afrikaners still own most of the land in the area. These huge estates are where Tom and Richard stayed as guests.
Meanwhile, AIDS Is decimating Zambia, with 25% of urban-dwellers testing HIV-positive. Tom said coffins are sold everywhere you go.
I guess it would be interesting to see such a different part of the world, but I don’t expect I’d enjoy a trip to Zambia, at least not at this point in my life.
Liz was the only CGR staff member to skip the slide show. I share her moral objections to all of our international work in the Third World, but we seem to be the only ones in the office who feel that way.
For some reason, the long slide show and discussion made me sleepy, so around noon, I went home for a little nap which refreshed me. I dreamed of being back in Brooklyn, around my old neighborhood, where trolley tracks ran in the air joining the second floors and roofs of houses.
Going back to the law school, on the car radio I heard about the latest Supreme Court decision upholding a school district’s random urinalysis testing of student athletes.
I made the mistake of complaining about it when I walked into the office. Then I had to listen to approval of such garbage from Russ, who obviously grew up with the very rigid judgmental attitudes typical of white Southern Christians.
(Can you blame me for wanting to live among my own kind of people in New York?)
Sharing an office with Russ makes me less happy at CGR than I was back when I could close the door, be by myself, and do what I wanted.
That’s another excuse for my feeling that I don’t need to work all that hard at this point.
I know I have a really bad attitude. I guess the truth is that I’m very lazy. I “work” hard only when I can follow my own interests.
While I love to read and study and write about certain subjects, I’m bored by a lot of the stuff my job requires – although actually, it doesn’t require much.
As I wrote to Susan, I get shpilkes too easily.
My story “E-Mail to the Next King of England” came back again. It feels like it’s been rejected about 25 or 30 times. It would be funny if it got in the Mondo Royals book after all that.
Tom and Richard will be out next month as they go back to Zambia, and Jeff is taking a month’s vacation, so things will be slow in the office the rest of this summer.
Thursday, June 29, 1995
4:30 PM. Last evening I read Biloxi Blues with its subplot about a minor character arrested for sodomy in the World War II army. It gave me some ideas to add to my article.
Using the gay characters in California Suite, The Gingerbread Lady and this play, I have the start of a decent critical essay about Neil Simon’s work, but I plan to read all of his plays to find references to gay people.
Tonight I’m going to finish reading The Prisoner of Second Avenue, which, like The Gingerbread Lady, seems turgid, and maybe start another Simon play.
After sleeping really well from 10 PM to 6 AM, I was at work before 9 AM today.
When the final decisions of the Supreme Court term came out today, I was on top of them.
Jon’s been writing about Shaw v. Reno with Richard Scheer, a UF poli sci professor, so when he asked me at 11 AM how he could get today’s decision striking down a majority-black congressional district in Georgia, I immediately went back to my office and handed him the hard copy which I’d already printed it out from Lexis and read myself.
By 5-4 votes in this case and in the case ordering the University of Virginia to fund an evangelical Christian magazine on the same basis as other student groups, the new very conservative majority of Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, O’Connor and Kennedy prevailed, radically changing the Court’s jurisprudence on several fronts.
Most of the new black congressional and legislative districts are now in jeopardy, so people like Jon will be busy as more and more states’ redistricting plans will be challenged. Race can never be the main factor, the Court says.
As in the Adarand Constructors affirmative action case, the Court gives the Equal Protection Clause more power to overturn remedies for discrimination and past inequities than it ever did to redress the old segregationist caste system.
The one good ruling from my point of view, the decision upholding the Endangered Species Act, will probably be undercut by legislation in a runaway right-wing Republican Congress.
It’s all pretty scary to me – although I’m sure conservatives like Russ are gleeful. (For the sake of harmony in the office we share, he and I are now trying to avoid talking about politics.)
I went to see Heather, who gave me copies of the HTML commands she used to turn our brochure’s text into pages on the law school’s website. She even gave me a chapter on HTML programming.
While I was in the library, I saw Betty Taylor, who told me that Justice Overton said that we could put up Florida Supreme Court opinions on our home page.
After she expressed in interest in seeing the proceedings of this year’s National Educational Computing Conference, I sent the book to her once I returned to my office.
I had much more energy today than I did earlier in the week. I began to make a press release for SCABBB (Supporters of a Constitutional Amendment to Ban Bra Burning) press release that I can mail out to the news media.
Bob Karp sent the revised HRC by-laws and the minutes of the last meeting, and I got a letter from Pride ’95 thanking me for my contribution.
In today’s mail, I got the latest issue of Poets & Writers, so now I can look for places to send the few untaken stories I have available. Plus, of course, I can read the articles.
Friday, June 30, 1995
4 PM. Reading Simon’s Last of the Red Hot Lovers last night didn’t give me any help with my critical essay – it has a few lesbian references – but it was somewhat amusing.
I looked good today, mostly because I blow-dried my hair so that it was thick and fluffy and parted in the middle.
I put a white T-shirt under a dress shirt (a blue striped one I can’t otherwise wear because I popped the middle button). And I wore extremely faded old jeans (my only pair with a 30” waist) along with white socks and Reeboks.
But I guess I actually looked pretty adolescent, huh?
Today was a slow day at work. I’m sure Monday, July 3, will be even slower.
I read an interesting article on anonymity in cyberspace in the Journal of Online Law by University of Miami law Professor Michael Froomkin, whose name comes up a lot in the computer law field.
Josh E-mailed that by next May, he should have the studio ready for me. He said I should definitely get out of Gainesville, for while I have a comfortable job that doesn’t require much work, I’m just “marking time and letting the world pass you by . . . I know this because I’m doing the same thing.”
I’ll never be able to get on Letterman if I stay here, that’s for sure. My ambitions are bigger than Gainesville.
Jon told me that the article he and Richard Scheer wrote on the Miller v. Johnson case was taken by the Tallahassee Democrat. Meanwhile, I still haven’t heard anything from the Orlando Sentinel about the article I sent them.
Robbie Curry sent me a fan letter about my article on paddling. I know that she served on this year’s Literature Fellowship panel and got a fellowship herself last year. (I assume I’m not going to get one because I would have heard about it from her or Peter Hargitai if I had.)
Anyway, I thanked Robbie, and wrote her at her Freenet E-mail address. She said she feels I’m a kindred spirit, and I’d like to meet her in person.