A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-September, 1995

Tuesday, September 12, 1995

7 PM. Last night I got to sleep before 10 PM and I slept for eight hours, enough so that I felt rested today. Once I have a good dream and wake up with an erection, I usually feel that at least I’ve rested although I almost always wake up four or five times during the night.

It’s odd, but I find I get up after every REM period although sometimes I go back to sleep almost immediately. Other times I go to the bathroom and fall asleep again within minutes.

However, if I let my mind start going, I could be up for hours. Still, middle-of-the-night insomnia, the kind where I’ve already managed to doze off, isn’t as bad as the kind I had Sunday night, when I’m utterly unable to fall asleep in the first place.

The Times today had a story on British eccentrics, and I noticed I fit the profile that researchers had discovered in their study: an oldest or only child, intelligent, from a middle class family, who prefers to live alone, has a good sense of humor, and tends to be healthier than other people his age.

Today, while working on the CGR business plan, I looked at all the others’ résumés, and they all seem so much more substantial and sober than mine. Jon and Russ list hobbies or interests. I don’t have any hobbies or interests apart from my work – but then again, my “work” is what I consider my hobbies and interests. Joann once “fixed” my curriculum vita, leaving the most interesting stuff out.

Apart from Jon, I know I’ve done more important stuff than anyone else in the office. One reason I don’t belong at CGR is that I haven’t the slightest aspiration to write “scholarly” work – not that the CGR staff have done much that’s impressed me.

Of course, I don’t think scholarship is as impressive as creative work, and that would probably make me an oddball even in English Departments today.

Anyway, I wrote a funny multi-paragraph bio for New Jersey Online and e-mailed it to Laura Italiano at Newhouse.

I also wrote the first draft of the introduction to the accreditation material and gave it to Joann. It turned out then Jon had asked her to do the exact same thing, apparently a common practice of his.

I worked some more on the updated business plan but I need more information before I can proceed much further.

Stacey dropped by, but I told her I don’t have any research work for her right now. I’ve been quite spoiled because Schoolyear 2000 has let me alone for months. Stacey’s graduating in December and still looking for a job; she now plans to stay in Central or North Florida.

I’ve been corresponding by-mail with Tony Houston, a linguistics professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne. He’s got a job interview at UF in the spring and asked about the gay and Jewish communities in Gainesville as well as the political climate and the arts scene. Tony’s into theater, and I told him there was a gay chorus.

Why am I put off when someone describes himself, as Tony did, as a feygeleh? It’s certainly not a term I’d use myself.

I guess I’m somewhat uncomfortable with guys for whom everything is “fabulous” or “dreadful,” as one humor column I read today put it. In real life, I don’t know any men who talk like that. Yeah, they’re out there, but I don’t meet them.

Probably it’s that I don’t respond well to all sorts of affectations – as when Russ pronounced schedule as “shedule” today. I noticed on his résumé that Russ led the Campus Crusade for Christ at Duke.

A flash: Back in college, one time I went to the movies with Vito and some other friends. Gary was supposed to come along, but when I told Vito (gay) that Gary (straight) stayed home because he had the sniffles, Vito exclaimed, “What a pansy!”

The kind of fussbudgetry I associate with people like Russ, Gary and Neil Simon’s Odd Couple character Felix Unger is usually associated with gay men, for some reason – like the characters Clifton Webb and Franklin Pangborn played in old movies.

The new issue of Wired magazine arrived not long after I finally got through last month’s issue. It was all I could do today to finish reading Sunday’s Times Book Review and the college issue of U.S. News.

I also have to read the final report of the Commerce Department’s task force on Intellectual Property and the National Information Infrastructure. And I never really completed the fall books issue of Publishers Weekly.

Oh well. My main goal over the next week is to finish the 1995 update to the CGR business plan. I made pretty good progress today.

When I got home at 3:30 PM, I did low-impact aerobics, but now I feel my eyelids getting heavy, though that doesn’t always mean I’ll sleep well.

Incidentally, I found melatonin pills have no beneficial effect on insomnia for me.

Friday, September 15, 1995

9 PM. Last evening I stopped at the office before going downtown and saw that the fax from the Florida Department of Education with the grant forms had come in.

There was also a message Russ took from Alice, who’s been missing my calls. (She missed two more last night and today.)

Arriving at the Santa Fe Community College Downtown Center meeting room a bit early, I sat in on the tail end of a somewhat strained meeting of the group planning Coming Out Week activities.

In the end, given the competition on Tuesday night with Greg Louganis. they decided not to go with Kathy’s suggestion to invite a Louisville activist that week

Our Human Rights Council board meeting was briefer than usual.

First we had a guest, Tom Miller, who’s running for the Gainesville city commission in March. Tom is a performance artist but seems to be serious about his candidacy after managing a campaign this past year.

Kathy asked him if he were gay, which is what she’s heard, and if he plans to run as an openly gay person. Tom said he thought his sexuality was a private matter.

Then Abby asked about skeletons in his closet, in particular the rumor that he once said his penis on fire. He denied it and also said he never photocopied parts of his body.

I liked Tom, but after he left, Helen said he made her uneasy, that he’s a loose cannon, and I had to agree.

I’m like Tom, and I’m best left alone. But then I never asked anyone to support my political campaigns.

Helen mentioned that she and George were going down to Broward for Tuesday’s tax increase referendum because Americans for Equality, the local group, asked for some Alachua County help in their “Decline to Sign” (the anti-gay petitions) effort aimed at voters at the polls. Maybe I’ll get involved.

Getting home at 9 PM, I relaxed, and this morning I felt fine after a good night’s sleep.

After exercising this morning, I was surprised when I went to my Lexis clipping service to find that the first three stories were about me rather than reviews of Wes’s movie. (The reviews have been very bad, but the film is still playing in town this weekend.)

The first article was from Leah Garchik’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle and quoted the Roll Call story about new political action committees.

The article called me “a hunting enthusiast” as the head of Giraffe Hunters of America, and the story had other cute quotes.

The next item was a freestanding story in the Phoenix Gazette, and then there was the Roll Call article itself, which put Giraffe Hunters in the sub-head.

I called the newspapers and ordered back issues. Naturally, I’m pleased because I see that I haven’t lost my touch: I’m still able to get funny news in the media.

Anyway, today was a leisurely day as well as dress-down Friday and a payday. Carol just wasn’t up to dealing with my questions and asked if I could see her about the business plan update on Monday instead. Sure, I said.

Carol thinks Jon should have asked someone who’s been here longer to do the business plan, and of course she’s right. But I’ll have something for Jon by mid-week.

I was dismayed when I read Patrick’s reply to the message I sent yesterday. His wife got a very bad prognosis last week, and the doctors don’t even think chemotherapy can help her.

Patrick said that Bert had gotten through the second mastectomy in good spirits, but of course now she’s devastated – and so is he.

Sadly, Doris Sams – a very sweet woman at BCC-South who helped Bert because she had cancer many years before – died on Sunday, of cancer.

Anyway, not much else seems to matter. It sounds to me as if Bert isn’t going to make it. Patrick is very upset with the doctors and is thinking about a malpractice lawsuit.

I feel so sorry for them. No wonder Patrick says that although the term has just begun, he’s already badly in need of a vacation.

At the office, I made word-processing files of articles that I can use for my Schoolyear 2000 work or for the New Jersey Online column.

I also signed up for some faculty enrichment seminars and workshops. I might as well take advantage of the free training and educational technology that the University of Florida is offering.

Russ proudly showed me the completed historic preservation model ordinance document, which got sent off to the printer. Joann made him take out the silly dedication to Lord Mansfield. Sometimes Russ is such a pill.

Today he referred to children born to non-married parents as “bastards” (it’s interesting he doesn’t find that word offensive) and mused about how much better it might have been to have lived under the Articles of Confederation. I guess Russ will end up as a character in a Grayson story someday.

Ed Hogan wrote, asking me to send him through e-mail any references I can find online to Zephyr Press and said that Avisson Press should put him down for a pre-order copy of the new book.

Home at 3:30 PM, I decided to call a talk show I’d been listening to in the car. It was a local one, on the NPR station, with a fairly intelligent guy as host.

I complained that there were very few white janitors at the University of Florida and that the imbalance must be due to the unfairness of affirmative action.

I then explained that I knew many white men in Gainesville who were “extremely well-qualified” to do janitorial work, but instead of finding a job in their true calling, they had to accept positions as faculty members instead.

The host was dumbfounded. But a later caller got my point, and said, “No, those people actually found jobs as elected officials.”

It’s interesting how when crowds appear in my dreams now, they are multi-ethnic, and when I see individuals in my dreams, they’re often black, Latino or Asian. It must come from my seeing the world differently as on the streets and subways.

I’d love to live sixty more years, if only to see a prediction I heard this week about 2055 will come true: that whites will be a minority of Americans by then. I hope it comes to pass.

Maybe all the bashing of people who are different is part of the realization, dawning early or late, that as James Baldwin said, “The world is no longer white and will never be white again.”

Yesterday Russ expressed the nostalgia for the name Rhodesia, typical of his Anglocentric narrow mindedness. Imagine people, living in a place for hundreds of years and being told in the nineteenth century, okay, you live in Rhodesia now.

In an article on Mugabe’s vicious homophobia this week, I learned that Cecil Rhodes was almost certainly gay.

Monday, September 18, 1995

8 PM. After sleeping about six hours last night, I got up at 6 AM although I kept my eyes closed as I listened to the radio and didn’t stir out of bed till 7:30 AM. Still, I managed to leave the house around 8 AM and was at school fairly early.

Rosalie crossed my path and said that even at a distance, before she could see my face, she recognized my “walk.” it never occurred to me that I have a distinct gait, but maybe everyone does.

Liz liked the article about Giraffe Hunters of America and placed it on the board.

Surprisingly, Jon was pleased with my updated business plan memo. After making some changes that took me an hour, I had a copy for him to show Dean Lewis at their meeting this afternoon.

Having accomplished that task, I spent the rest of my day at the office reading Lexis and Westlaw articles, newspapers and e-mail messages.

Josh wrote that I must be “pretty desperate” if seeing The Brothers McMullen made me want to live on Long Island. “Every place except Manhattan is nowhere,” he wrote.

In response, I accused him of snobbery and explained that I would probably prefer to live in Manhattan except I will never be able to afford it.

I should keep in mind that the reason Josh wants me to live closer to him is so that I can see him and Sharon regularly, and so I should be flattered rather than annoyed at his provincialism (although he is provincial).

In the afternoon I got a note from Elihu, who was taking a mental health day off from work. He sounded rather whipped although the cleanup from the fire is coming along, albeit slowly.

Elihu said he’s bad on dates. Right now all he really wants to talk to people about are the fire and his experience with Les, and no blind date wants to discuss those topics.

Elihu has decided not to run for reelection to the co-op board. He was the only member whose apartment was damaged and he had a contretemps with other members about his desire to see more diverse types of people move in.

The others sound like they are narrow-minded. Josh said that his co-op is also all white and he too would like to see some blacks and Hispanics move into the building.

I was driven wild by reading Dinesh D’Souza’s The End of Racism, though the book hasn’t gotten a big push in the media yet.

The book that is getting all the press now is, of course, General Powell’s, and I must say I now view him more favorably than I once did.

Powell understands that affirmative action is still necessary in a country where black Secret Service agents can’t get served in Denny’s even though they’re guarding the life of the President.

D’Souza says that racism no longer exists except in the form of discrimination, which he calls rational. D’Souza and that whole Dartmouth Review crowd make me sick in the same way that Russ can make me sick.

Anyway, Colin Powell is no Clarence Thomas – who hired the D’Souza’s ex-fiancée as a law clerk although (or because) the woman called a Dartmouth black music professor “Brillo head” and surreptitiously taped a gay group and published their remarks. After it was brought to her attention that taping them was illegal, she said that homosexuality was so immoral that she was justified.

I need to take a deep breath. Just writing that last sentence got me all worked up.

In the mail I got a pleasant surprise: a charming and very clever story at Fiction International written by Kenneth Bernard that Ken was kind enough to share with me. Ken wrote that he’s “still at it, teaching at LIU.”

That made me wonder how I would find teaching English at LIU today, twenty years after I began teaching there.

Also in today’s mail, I got the Phoenix Gazette, so I was able to xerox the article and read that paper.

The Giraffe Hunters story was also picked up by the San Diego Union Tribune, which suggested their zoo would not be a good locale for shooting giraffes. (In the press release, I had said, “You’d have to go to the San Diego Zoo to shoot a giraffe.”)

Wednesday, September 20, 1995

1 PM. I was cleaning the bathroom while ABC’s network news was on last evening when Martin called. We spoke for about an hour.

He put in all the stories we talked about, and he didn’t want to put in “Coping.” Okay by me. The book is 144 pages long, and I said that was fine.

The title will be I Survived Caracas Traffic, which has always been my favorite; it’s a nice counterpoint to my last hardcover book, I Brake for Delmore Schwartz, and it’s the longest and best story in the collection.

The font is 12-point Arial, which I don’t know – but Martin prefers it to Times Roman. Having typeset the book, he’s ready to do galleys, and he needs me to come up with a list of places where the galleys should be set.

Avisson Press has a little catalog with my book, the Charles Fishman and Richard Krawiec books, Martin’s own YA novel (not his first by a long shot), and a reference book. Martin also wants Bill Joyce to do a book of his essays of cultural criticism.

I told Martin I’m certainly willing and eager to do publicity, book signings and stores, readings, whatever. We both have a lot of planning to do.

By the time I got off the phone, it was nearly 8 PM and I still needed to do laundry.

I grabbed a pair of shorts that had been on the floor to put on and immediately got bites or stings from numerous insects – probably red ants, although at first I suspected mosquitoes.

Anyway, it was 9:30 PM before I got my laundry done, and by that time I had these painful swollen spots all over my ass and thighs (right now they itch mightily) and my mind was buzzing. I didn’t get more than four or five hours of sleep.

At work this morning, I got an e-mail from Joe Territo of New Jersey Online. He wants me to do a column of weird stories about AT&T for their “AT&T Insider” page of the Business section.

Joe wants it written in the voice of “a superhero for the overstressed white-collar worker – or anything else you dream up.”

I located mounds of material about AT&T during an hour on Nexis, but it was hard to find anything truly funny. In the end I managed to get five items but have no idea if they’re appropriate. I also don’t think I could do a new column very often.

The second assignment for a column is “Heard on the ‘Net”: fly-on-the-wall-in-cyberspace conversations that Joe says would be part of “InterActions” on NJO’s “Virtual Op-Ed page.”

This would be a scroll of humorous and unusual comments gathered from newsgroups, web forums and e-mail. I think this will be a lot harder to do. I’ll be paid $100 for each shot.

I should reply to Joe soon, but I have some questions. I did my other database-searching as usual.

At 11 AM, Dad called from Altamonte Springs and said he’ll be here around 3 PM. I gave him directions and have taken off the afternoon although I’ll need to return to the office this evening. It will be weird to see Dad again.

Once I digest lunch, I need to exercise and maybe start reading today’s Times. While I could also use a nap, I don’t have time.

Mom called to complain how unfair Judge Ito and the prosecution are being to O.J. She demanded to know why taxpayers’ money is helping to try to convict Simpson when he probably paid a lot of those taxes himself.