A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-July, 1995
by Richard Grayson
Tuesday, July 11, 1995
9 PM. I woke up early enough to exercise to one of the new Body Electric 1995 shows at 6 AM, and I was at the dentist’s office at 8:45 AM.
I knew how he’d react when he saw my mouth full of silver and amalgam fillings and all the schmutz from years without dental care, but I didn’t enjoy watching it myself on the TV monitor in his probe. Who needs to look at my own fillings, fractures and plaque?
He said my diagnosis of bruxism was correct and that I need a mouth guard to keep me from grinding down my molars until they break, as some have done in the past.
Naturally, Dr. Witt said I needed crowns on most of my teeth. The technician took two bite x-rays and then something I never had before: the thing whirls around you and gets a full x-ray of your entire mouth, not to mention your sinuses. All this high-tech stuff gets expensive, no?
I submitted to about 45 minutes of scraping during the dental hygienist’s cleaning. It would have been worse if the TV hadn’t been playing a talk show about women whose boyfriends thought they could be Playgirl centerfolds, so I got to watch a bunch of hunky guys flexing, stripping and posing in loincloths.
The dentist wants me to come back for a fluoride cleaning and an impression for that $120 mouth guard, and then he’s going to discuss the treatment plan. I made another appointment, but I am going to cancel it. I decided that after today’s bill came to $170. Yikes!
I know I haven’t been to a dentist in years, but his prices seem very high, and shelling out that money hurt worse than any dental pain I’ve had in years.
But I did get a good cleaning and learned I have none of the abscesses he expected to find. In the end, the dentist was forced to admit that my mouth is in better shape than it looks.
Liz told me that her dentist told her to get a cheap mouth guard in a sporting goods store and use that to avoid grinding her teeth.
It was 10:30 AM when I got to work. Liz showed me a Federal Register call for research proposals on poverty issues. She was going to talk to someone in Women’s Studies who can do the empirical research, but she’d like me to get involved.
I got off my Delphi listserv and instead I’m getting the GLB-News posts on my work computer E-mail. I also subscribe to the Gay Jews discussion group, but most of the people there seem Orthodox and use Jewish and Hebrew expressions I don’t understand with references that are totally foreign to me.
At noon I went to Walmart for some supplies, and then I got the mail.
I’d written a query letter and sent out material to a new small press publisher who had a call for submissions in Poets & Writers. Martin Hester, the president of Avisson Press in Greensboro wrote that he knew Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog and I Brake for Delmore Schwartz, though it wasn’t clear if he’d read the books or just remembered “two of the all-time best titles.”
“I like your work and hopefully we could put out a book of your stories,” he said, asking me to send him “a good selection,” including the chapbooks, too.
Martin said he lived in Plantation in 1979-80 and that he’s been in the small press scene for 20 years (like me), first as a litmag contributor and then as an editor of several small commercial presses.
Avisson Press is new – to me, that’s opportunity and also danger – and he’d like to put out distinctive work, “mostly fiction in hardcover and/or trade paperback.”
Getting home from work at 5 PM, I began going through my boxes of xeroxes and found stories I thought I’d lost. At 7:30 PM, I went back to the office and made some xeroxes so I could have another copy of those pieces.
But essentially I just weeded out the weakest stories. Martin says he prefers irony to satire. I may just send him everything, the way I did with the Stricks at Taplinger, Kevin Urick at White Ewe Press, and the Zephyr Press editors.
I’m not going to allow myself to get too hopeful about Avisson Press, though, because I’ve been disappointed before by promises that came to nothing from small publishers like Story Press in the ’70s and early ’80s.
This afternoon, Laura said that Christina Haran of Classic 89, the NPR station, wanted to talk to someone who knew about politicians and their health.
I took the call and learned she was asking “in lieu of” (she meant “in light of”) Governor Chiles’s mini-stroke last week (he’s fine now) and the resignation of the mayor of Ocala after revealing he had Alzheimer’s (he was already in financial hot water, though).
In the interview, I talked about the 25th Amendment, Woodrow Wilson and William McKinley and FDR and Reagan. Russ found the Florida Constitution section that dealt with the incapacity of the governor, which I read to her, and I discussed legislators’ health and Justices Holmes and Douglas, etc.
Anyway, Christina has a regular Tuesday/Thursday feature called “Q&A” on the half-hour Florida First show that precedes All Things Considered in which she selects a topic and asks questions of a guest for four minutes.
I agreed to come into the studio at 1 PM on Thursday to tape an interview and immediately began to research the topic on Lexis so that I don’t sound stupid on the radio.
I didn’t leave the office until Laurie closed up at 4:30 PM, taking the new Florida Lawyer alumni magazine with me. It’s embarrassing that they write more about my activities than anyone else’s at CGR.
It makes me feel like a publicity hound. I am one, of course, but I don’t want to be a publicity-hound lawyer . . . he said as he prepared to go on the radio.
As I was walking to the parking lot, David H rode his bike past me and flashed me that incredible smile. He did it again later when my car stopped to let him cross the campus road. Probably he just finished his finals and was exhilarated.
God, seeing David’s smile makes me feel so stoopid.
Back at the office tonight, I saw Stacey in the library and told her the recent summaries of law review cases was fine. I also saw Dave G, who’s starting a job at a Jacksonville accounting firm next week now that he has his tax LL.M.
I E-mailed Patrick, Jeffrey and Susan Mernit – who said wants to see me when I’m in New York next month.
Thursday, July 13, 1995
4 PM. I may be on the radio in half an hour although WUFT-FM might have to run the interview on Tuesday if it’s not edited on time.
I was called to the studio at 2 PM – they ran late – and drove over to the main campus, parking by Reitz Union and then going over to the Classic 89 studio in Weimer Hall, which was the frantic newsroom scene you’d expect.
The news director, Kevin Allen, had me wait in his office and got me water while Christina, the reporter – a very tanned, very blonde student – was working on something else.
It was weird to see people whose voices I’d heard on the local newscasts and NPR fundraising drives. During the interview, I felt I was inarticulate”: I forgot to discuss certain subjects and I paused too much with “um.”
It’s been a while since I was facing one of those fuzzy-ball microphones and doing sound checks at the at a radio studio, but I definitely could get used to it.
I hope I can tape the interview by pressing the “memo” button on my telephone answering machine. I trie
Last evening I wrote a two-page letter to Martin Hester of Avisson Press, arranged my stories, chapbooks and With Hitler in New York into a neat pile, and put the whole shebang into a big envelope. This morning I went to the post office and spent $6 to send it out priority mail.
I’ll now try to forget about it. I don’t expect to hear from the publisher till after I return from New York, and even then, I can’t expect anything but disappointment.
It would be wonderful if I could have my first trade paperback or hardcover book published since 1983, but I can’t assume anything. Besides, even if Martin takes it, I never will quite believe it until I see the book itself or a review on paper or online.
At work early, I went through my thirty or forty E-mail messages, most from listservs.
Josh’s mother’s doctor said what Josh already knew: she needs an operation but is too old to have it, so she’ll always have chronic pain. He put her on Darvocet, a painkiller Josh says makes her “dopey,” and he’s worried about her falling again.
I wouldn’t bring up a nursing home, certainly not after Josh read my “don’t give unsolicited advice” column in the Orlando Sentinel.
I did confess to Josh that if my parents were to suddenly die now, I would grieve deeply and it would take me years to get over their deaths – but I would have the compensation of avoiding future difficulties with a seriously incapacitated elderly parent.
In the mail I got the new issue of Pebbles with my “Legislators in Love.” It wasn’t much of a thrill after the Tropic article, but it gets my name around – to their 130 subscribers anyway. Besides, it’s my preferred version because they left in the material that the Miami Herald editors took out.
When I got out of the radio station at 3 PM, I decided not to return to work and instead came back home, and as usual, changed into a T-shirt and shorts. (Right now I’m wearing green leopard-print silk boxers). Usually I remove my lenses at home, but I still have them in now.
I kept the air conditioning in the apartment on all day because otherwise this time of year it takes so long to cool off. At night I sometimes shut it, but it’s a necessity for me.
If my car air conditioner goes again, as it might – I hear this click every once in a while – I’ll pay another $400 to fix it because it’s so important to me.
My teeth no longer hurt, thank God.
9 PM. My radio interview came on at about 4:45 PM and I was able to get Mom and Dad to listen by calling them ahead of time, and I also taped it on my answering machine.
My parents were very impressed – Dad said he was amazed I was “so knowledgeable and articulate” on the subject of presidential disability and politicians’ illnesses and that I could tell so many anecdotes.
To be honest, I was impressed myself. Not only don’t I cringe when my when I hear my own voice these days, I actually like the sound of it.
I’ve been feeling so good since I heard the interview. If I analyze it, it’s partly what I always like to think about myself: that I’m versatile and able to be an expert in a lot of totally unrelated areas. It’s also that I’m getting recognition publicly, which helps me imagine myself going on to do much more important stuff.
Of course, over the years I’ve given countless radio interviews, especially when I was a presidential candidate, but also going back to the Committee for Immediate Nuclear War, the John Hour and my Davie town council campaign.
I’ve been on TV plenty, too, although not lately: on CNN, The CBS Evening News, Back Wards to Back Streets on PBS, and those cable interview shows in South Florida.
Anyway, it was exciting to be on WUFT. I thought about people who might hear me, though Russ was the only one who called to tell me he listened.
On Lexis, I discovered that the editor of the Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin, put my bra-burning amendment press release in his column. He realized it was a satire of the flag-burning amendment and quoted my funniest lines.
I called the paper and they said they’d send me a copy of Wednesday’s edition free. The electronic version, even printed out, isn’t as much pleasure to look at as is the dead-trees version.
Monday, July 17, 1995
4 PM. Tonight’s the party at Jon’s house on Lake Santa Fe for our Hungarian legislator guests. It’s been raining hard most of the day, with periods of intense showers, so it doesn’t look like we’ll be outdoors this evening although by now the rain seems to have stopped.
After getting a haircut when Fantastic Sam’s opened up, I went to the office, where the local area network was still acting up. Russ said that Liz got so annoyed that she returned home to work even though it was before 10 AM.
The Hungarians’ bus broke down on the way from Orlando, and they had to wait 90 minutes at the Okahumpka rest stop on the Turnpike before a replacement bus got sent.
When I left for lunch at noon, the Hungarians had already missed the two-hour session on politics with Jon and Richard Scheer, so Joann said that Kern was going to take them directly to their luncheon at the Holiday Inn. (I don’t know how Kern got involved, but he is an international lawyer.)
When I returned after lunch, Joann took me up on my offer to help, and I walked one of the three translators to Wilbert’s so she could get a sandwich for the member of parliament who had to speak at the luncheon and didn’t get a chance to eat.
The translator, based in Los Angeles, said they had a terrible day yesterday. First, they had a six-hour drive from Wyoming to the Salt Lake City airport, and then some of them didn’t have seat assignments on the plane.
When the plane finally took off, the plane lost an engine and had to make an emergency stop in St. Louis, where three takeoffs were aborted due to severe thunderstorms. Their ultimate ride to Orlando was very turbulent, and it was midnight when they got to the motel.
Then their bus got stuck this morning. These poor people must be exhausted, and after Jon’s party, they’ve still got to go back to Orlando tonight, and tomorrow they’ve got a full day of activities there before they go to New York, their last destination, on Wednesday.
I haven’t seen the Hungarians, but I imagine that even if they’re supposed to be “young” politicians, they’re all pudgy, pasty-faced guys with bad haircuts and badly-tailored suits.
The James White Review, the gay literary quarterly, finally rejected “Moon Over Moldova.” Maybe I’m not gay or PC enough for them. Perhaps I’ll have better luck with a non-gay publication like a college magazine.
Elihu E-mailed that Saturday’s 102° heat wave in New York was awful but it didn’t last long.
He hasn’t been able to contact Les, who’s visiting his brother in San Francisco. (Les’s youngest brother should be going home from the hospital in Austin soon.)
Les is moving in on August 7, and Elihu is very nervous. But at least he’ll get to relieve his sexual tensions then.
God knows why, but I’ve been unbelievably horny all day. My sperm count or hormones or something must be acting up.
10 PM. I enjoyed driving out to Jon’s country home on Lake Santa Fe even if it did involve two-lane country roads where cars kept passing me and I got lost several times, including on the dirt roads leading to the lakeside cottages.
I was one of the last to arrive. I met Laura’s husband Norman and Jon’s wife Beth and spoke to several of the Hungarians. Most of them were at the dock, swimming and then going out for rides on Jon’s motorboat. Several guys tried water-skiing for the first time.
The men were all in their skinny European bathing suits, hairy and sturdy.
The public relations director for the country’s big tobacco company (mostly owned by BAT) used his own product and said there’s no proven link between cigarettes and cancer. He was one of the older guys, and he’d actually been chief of staff to the last Communist prime minister.
The Socialists (ex-Communists) now govern in coalition with the left-center Free Democrats, but there were young men from several opposition parties to the right: the Smallholders, the Republicans, the Democratic Forum, the Christian Democrats.
The latter party was represented by a guy of 22 who asked me, “What religion are you?” and “Are you married?” I figure he was sizing me up as a homosexual Jewish troublemaker.
And I guess it was provocative to wear my KGB Bar T-shirt with its heroic Soviet drawing and motto. The Hungarians had fun attempting to translate the Russian.
Russ, who’s lived in Eastern Europe and who’s fluent in German, Czech, Slovak and Polish, did better than I did in talking to the Hungarians.
I did enjoy talking to the tour’s leader from the organization that facilitates these exchanges of young politicians from various nations. Since he was a gay guy from Ireland who’s based in D.C., I could relate to him better than I could to anyone else there.
I tried to avoid the obnoxious Hungarians and spent more of my time with Joann and Carol, and then I had a nice talk with Linda’s old boss, former State Representative Sid Martin, who’s a grand old man of Florida politics.
I loved hearing him talk about what the area was like when he was a kid. His grandfather, a farmer and circuit-riding Methodist preacher, moved his family here over a hundred years ago when it was virgin territory.
Jon had hired a Cajun chef who created what everyone said was a fabulous meal; I, of course, didn’t have any jambalaya or the other fish dishes, but I enjoyed a spinach, kiwi and strawberry salad and smoked turkey cooked in peanut oil.
I left around 9 PM, when others seem to be getting ready to leave as well.
Jon and Beth have a lovely lake house, and the lake is spectacularly beautiful, but I’ll always be a city boy, kind of uncomfortable in places where there’s no concrete.