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

by Richard Grayson

Wednesday, October 11, 1995

3 PM. I went to work for only a couple of hours today.

Last night I woke up at 1 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep. I tried exercising even though I should have realized from Sunday night that that would only make it harder for me to return to sleep.

To my surprise, Lexis was operating even after 2 AM so I read for hours: reports from today’s newspapers, stuff for my column, the articles I read every day.

I never got back to bed. Consequently, with two hours’ sleep, I feel awful today.

I ended up not going to the Coming Out Week speak-out on the Plaza and I may not go to tonight’s Comedy Central show at the Civic Media Center because I don’t think I can stay up that late – or rather, I think I need to rest, though I’d feel bad about letting down the Human Rights Council Board.

The past few days I’ve been feeling life to be too full, and I realize I feel a lot of pressure, most of it self-imposed.

First, there’s my New Jersey Online column. Susan and Joe and Laura wrote me that InterAct is up on the Web, and last night at the office, I found it.

This afternoon I used Netscape on the new computer in the library until I blew the software trying to save my column and bio note.

It’s weird to see my own photo on a computer. The graphics and fonts look really cool in Netscape, but that only increases the pressure on me.

Then Jon wants a draft of the survey questions for the centers, but I haven’t written much yet.

Gary Konas said the first five pages of my Neil Simon article look fine, and I can have a couple of weeks to complete the piece.

The Caracas book should be coming tomorrow.

With computers and networks up all night, it’s as if the daytime never ends, and the temptation to work is always there. That’s dangerous for someone like me who finds it hard to shut down my brain.

Last evening I was heartened by the description of the oral arguments at the Supreme Court in Romer v. Evans that I heard on NPR.

Kennedy and O’Connor, one of whose votes is needed to overturn the anti-gay law, seemed skeptical. Scalia, Rehnquist and the silent Thomas are sure votes to sustain Colorado’s Amendment 2, and I’m positive our side can count on the four moderate to liberal justices.

I’m not going to get my hopes up, though; I remember Bowers v. Hardwick too well. It’s also possible the Court will send the case back to clarify the breadth of the amendment, as the justices wondered whether it meant that libraries could refuse to let gays borrow books or if hospitals could refuse to treat people.

After dinner last night, I went to the office for an hour and then headed to the O’Connell Center. With over four thousand people there, Craig, Kathy, Helen, George and Abby had run out of flyers and the newsletter before I got there.

I spoke to David Jackson and his friend (boyfriend?) at the OutLaw table with all the other UF student clubs. Faculty were supposed to wear pink triangles today, but they had run out of them by the time I got there.

We sat at the end of the first row of bleachers. At the office yesterday, Laurie had expressed the hope that the crowd would be “polite” to Greg Louganis, and I guess a standing ovation is certainly polite.

He talked about coming out and how difficult it was to do it as an Olympic athlete even though early on he’d come out to himself, his friends and family.

Louganis recounted the homophobia he had to put up with from his fellow divers and the few friends who supported him.

He talked about coming out as a person with HIV and AIDS and as a victim of domestic violence, and he also frankly discussed abusing drugs.

Louganis was an inspiring speaker, and I was as impressed with his courage and wisdom as I was when I saw the film footage of his historic dives in Seoul in 1988.

The New York Times printed my letter and illustrated it with a drawing of Mrs. Monroe and Emerson writing in their separate books. I wonder if discovered something original in Emerson scholarship and whether anyone will write in to correct me.

The note after my letter identified me as “a staff attorney at the Center for Governmental Responsibility at the University of Florida.” Obviously the school can’t object to my associating them with this.

Tomorrow morning we’ve got another meeting with the Fellows.

Liz wants them to discuss what they’re doing at their placements: Felicia at Southern Legal Counsel, Mark at the Office of the Public Defender, and others at the Department of Environmental Regulation, Florida Institutional Legal Services (prisoners’ rights), the St. Johns River Water Management District.

We have three Fellows at Three Rivers, and since they’ve stopped intake of new clients because of the Legal Services Corporation cuts, we may have to reassign one of them because there’s not enough work to go around.

Friday, October 13, 1995

9 PM. Although I got home late last evening, I slept well. I had an incredibly erotic dream about Ronna, so much so that I woke up with fantasies about a vagina (embarrassing to admit when I’m now a gay activist).

It was an okay day at work until the end, when Jon rushed me into making some last-minute changes on that goddamn self-study document, and I ended up staying until 5 PM to e-mail a copy to Professor Dawson.

Of course, it was my own fault – and that of the computers – because I neglected to save my last draft of the document, and Laura and I had different versions on our hard drives, so it took time to reconcile them and come up with a final version.

Josh e-mailed me that he and Sharon are still in fight mode, and he related what sounded like a bizarre story involving Zelda, Barry’s wife, calling Josh and asking all kinds of intrusive questions about Sharon.

Josh got so exasperated that he told Zelda that if she wanted to know the answers, she should call Sharon herself.

Zelda did just that, telling Sharon that Josh is very unhappy and is planning to leave her – which led Sharon to call Josh and scream and cry for two hours.

I told Josh that Zelda sounds like a nutcase and that she needs to be told her to mind her own business.

Sometimes I’m glad I’m single.

I actually did some work on the Neil Simon essay, which is very rough but starting to take shape, leading me to believe that I just may finish it this weekend.

This evening I called Martin to tell him the book looked fine. He’s done a cover with the title I Survived Caracas Traffic: Stories from the Me Decades, which is okay with me.

He says he’ll get me out a real set of galleys to correct and that he’ll probably make only 25, rather than 40, bound galleys, getting them to the binder by the beginning of the week after this one.

While I don’t expect this book to have any discernable effect upon my “career,” if it doesn’t get any pre-publication reviews, I’ll be disappointed – almost more for Martin’s sake than my own.

I am planning to publicize the book in my usual thorough way, but it’s a small press book in a sea of thousands of new books, and nothing makes it stand out; certainly neither the style nor the substance of the stories will be thought remarkable.

I signed up for health insurance (the AvMed HMO) starting January 1, when my 3% pay increase begins – so I shouldn’t see any decrease in my paychecks.

Today’s $905.32 check came with the usual notice about accrued leave; I now have over twenty annual leave days but not even three sick days because of all the ones I took in August during my trip to New York.

At lunchtime I went to Publix, where I stood next to Pat Thomson, my Legal Research and Writing teacher from first semester four years ago. She didn’t realize I worked at CGR.

Her supervisor in the Legal Skills Program, Henry Wihnyk, is playing Luther Billis in a version of South Pacific that she’s directing.

Coincidentally, today at 5 PM Henry and I were both walking to the parking lot at the same time – usually I just run into him in the men’s room – and I mentioned seeing David Doyle as Billis at Lincoln Center in the early 1960s in that production starring Florence Henderson.

Jon and Joann made Russ sit in on a meeting about the Everglades with an environmental lawyer; I guess they’ll have him doing household chores next.

This evening I prepared three more submissions of “Moon Over Moldova” and “Willie 95” to little magazines.

While there’s nothing pressing this next week, I’m sure things will heat up, so I’d better prepare a new “Only in Jersey” column this weekend.

Sunday, October 15, 1995

7 PM. I slept soundly again, with pleasant dreams that took place in Brooklyn, mostly in Williamsburg, where Teresa’s parents live.

At 7:30 AM, I was up – that hour, probably not 6 AM, is my natural waking time – and I went out to Kash n’ Karry to get the Sunday Times and some groceries.

It was almost too cool to be in a t-shirt and shorts, so the weather has indeed changed. Today was bright and sunny, a spectacularly beautiful day.

I went outside only at 2 PM, and even at that time I retreated to the CGR office. But later, I took a short walk in the woods, and I kept my Venetian blinds drawn so sun could come in.

My next column for New Jersey Online is just about ready to be delivered next Thursday, so I can concentrate – in my non-CGR writing anyway – on the Neil Simon article for the critical anthology.

Not only did I do some aerobics but I also did a half-hour of Body Electric exercise in case I find myself short of time tomorrow.

Christy Sheffield Sanford called and we made an 11:30 AM lunch date at Ivey’s tomorrow.

I can already see that she’s the type of arty woman of a certain age – like Skye Moody of PEN in New Orleans and a dozen others I’ve met over my adult life – without much sense of the real world of business, politics and media. Undoubtedly she’ll make me feel very conservative by comparison.

I’ve read most of the New York Times except the book review and the magazine cover story, and I’ve been on Westlaw and Lexis.

I also spent an hour in the law library using Netscape to surf the Web, stopping at home pages of a Gramercy Park lesbian who raises pug dogs, collects wine and runs a babysitting service; a twenty-something woman who toils in high tech and keeps all her undergraduate English papers online (so students can plagiarize them?); an LSU listing of Louisiana authors (yes, Tom’s name was there); an online magazine called Zen News; an M.C. Escher-like series of drawings; and God knows what else.

While the egalitarian nature of the Web is exhilarating – with the homepage of Susie Muhammed of Denver having the same access points as the website of AT&T or IBM – the enormity of the options turns it into Babel.

I suspect that gatekeepers – editors and publishers – will in the long run prove more important once people realize that they can’t make all the decisions about where to go by themselves.

When an established writer like Madison Smartt Bell has a World Wide Web site with his photo, bio and e-mail address (and hotlinks to his university affiliations), and next to him on a Yahoo list of writers is Nobody from Nowhere who’s published Nothing, what’s the point?

It’s like a giant version of Burlington’s Brautigan Library, except that War and Peace and Invisible Man are mixed in with Aunt Sybil’s corn syrup recipe book and Mrs. McGillicuddy’s journal from her trip to Branson, Missouri.

I’m old-fashioned enough and elitist enough to want to have a book reviewed in Publishers Weekly and a letter printed in the New York Times. Even my New Jersey Online columns seem ephemeral, despite coming from a major newspaper chain.

I was unable to do a “Print Screen” from the library computer or download it to disk, so the best I could do was a pathetic dot-matrix Print Screen of the Albert text-based browser from my office computer.

That makes it only marginally more real to me than my diary books on the shelves of the Brautigan Library.

At least for my own unpublished stories, there’s hope that someday they can be put in a relatively permanent medium – even a newspaper is permanent because I can xerox the article.

Sorry, Mr. Negroponte, but I still trust atoms more than electrons.

Most of the speculation on today’s news shows is about tomorrow’s Million Man March of black men in D.C. It’s too bad the idea was the brainchild of the hateful raving anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, who also stirs hatred for gays, whites, Koreans, Palestinians and Catholics.

Even if Farrakhan were not a hater, I dislike his conservative philosophy.

The march is supposed to be a day of “atonement,” which confuses the aim of the protest. Who are the black men supposed to be reproaching? Themselves? They aren’t the ones that have made themselves an endangered species in 1990s America.

Still, despite my strong misgivings, it’s good to see that not everyone has lain down to let the Republican Congress run them over. Maybe a lot of good can come out of this organized movement. At least it’s some form of activism.

Certainly the Democrats are brain-dead. It’s now clear, following the wave of retirements among Democrats in the House and Senate, that the GOP will control Congress for the foreseeable future.

It’s still possible, but not very likely, that the GOP might lose control of the House if people got mad enough, but too many Southern Democrats are bailing out, and let’s face it, the South will be under one-party control just as it was from 1900 till 1964.

I expect the Democratic party will wither away, but eventually there’ll be an opposition party with progressive ideas and a coherent counter-counter-revolutionary program.

Listen to me bloviate tonight! Well, a guy’s got to write something if he keeps a daily diary.

Monday, October 16, 1995

8 PM. I started off the week by getting a good night’s sleep. My favorite dream was one in which I was an attorney arguing two famous cases, one a murder trial and the other, obscenity charges.

In the dream, I watched TV and saw CBS report on me and one trial and ABC report on the other, and I read two articles on the same page of the New York Times with my name in both articles.

It was almost chilly inside when I got up, and indeed, it was only 54° at 6 AM. From the first morning news reports from Washington of the Million Man March, I could tell it was going to be a historic and heartening occasion.

It was 8 AM when I got to the office. In noting that Tipper Gore’s motorcade in Haiti was stoned, I got to listen to Russ say, “That only proves that 26 years of American involvement there has done no good. It’s still a black hole.”

Yes, he really said “black hole.” And after I suggested that when he’s in Haiti for CGR’s AID-funded program that Russ would make a tempting target to be taken hostage, Russ said, “Maybe I’ll just go in blackface.”

I can’t believe what a racist Russ is! But he just skirts the edge, so I haven’t felt free to call him on it. Besides, I have to live with him sharing my office for a few more months.

Josh wrote that Sharon accidentally got my last e-mail – he’s still using her address – in which I’d written how much I like her but that maybe it was better that they split because they’re two nice people who shouldn’t be making each other miserable.

They were setting up a meeting for tomorrow when she called to tell him about my e-mail. I expect that they’ll get back together and nothing will change.

I left the office just after 11 AM, to meet Christy at Ivey’s. She’s less ditzy than I expected.

Christy showed me some gorgeous stuff – collages and text – that she’s putting on the Web as a project called “Red Mona,” and she showed me some poems in little magazines that use text in concrete ways, like Federman or others who play with text placement and multiple linearity. (Is linearity a word?)

Christy is from Atlanta, where her mother still lives. She’s been in Gainesville for fifteen years and told me about the English Department.

Padgett Powell admires experimental writers because Barthelme was his teacher, but he discouraged her from going to grad school at UF because she’d have no one speaking her language. So she got an independent study MFA, working with David Kirby as her main adviser.

As usual, I gabbed too much about myself. Christy told me that George Myers had been separated from his wife for a while but recently went back to her; I told her that George had been married a couple of times before.

Anyway, I enjoyed our meal at Ivey’s and told Christy we’d have to do it again. But I needed to go home and eat some more because all I had at the restaurant was a light salad and I was famished.

I was delighted that ABC was covering the march on Washington while I was home, and this afternoon I ate up all I could of the media coverage.

Despite Farrakhan, it was inspiring to see maybe half a million black men come together in unity and purpose to show America they’re not all criminals, drug addicts or whatever media stereotypes they’re always portrayed as.

It was especially exciting to see young people and children there and to hear reports that everyone was sober, loving and earnest. Maybe I’m a sucker for this sort of thing, but the march showed that people can organize and come together.

If all these men go back to their communities and do good stuff, there’s no telling how far this movement can go.

I guess I get carried away; later, I’ll probably be embarrassed for this lapse from my usual cynicism.

At the office this afternoon, I had free time to work on my Neil Simon essay, and I have an almost-passable rough draft of about 16 pages.

Jon didn’t bother me today, but then I deliberately steered clear of him. We’ve got another deadly fall staff meeting on Friday morning.

Curiously, just after I’d asked Christy to send me George Myers’s e-mail address, I got a snail-mail package from George, featuring the photos in his hilarious piece on an “armrestus” disease in which writers’ heads and hands were fused together from all those hand-on-chin posing for photographers. And the letter provided George’s e-mail address.

I came home at 4:30 PM and did half an hour of chest flyes before I had dinner.

Saturday, October 21, 1995

8 PM. It was so cool that when I went out a few minutes after I woke up at 7:30 AM, I needed my denim jacket. In the pocket I found a supermarket receipt from April, so I hadn’t worn that jacket for six months.

Today’s sky was cloudless, the air dry.

This morning I did three loads of laundry and went shopping for groceries at Publix. I’ll get the remaining items on my shopping list tomorrow morning at Kash n’ Karry when I buy the Sunday New York Times.

Also this morning, I did light aerobics, calf raises and oblique exercises, and I cut my beard, giving myself a shadow beard that makes me look kind of young.

Last night I mentioned the idea for a title, “This Planet Is Overrated.”

Yesterday I received a notice from Nobodaddies, a Pittsburgh little magazine that publishes Kathy Ackeresque stuff, announcing an issue featuring appropriated collage material.

I put the two together and searched Nexis’s CURNWS and ARCNWS files for paragraph that contained the words “planet” and “overrated” in them.  At the office, I managed to edit and transform them into an eight-page story that reminds me of some of my early efforts using found material and collage – like my first published story, “Rampant Burping,” which New Writers came out with in 1975.

I like seeing the connections between what appears to be random texts, and if Nobodaddies doesn’t take “This Planet Is Overrated,” somebody else will.

I also worked on the Neil Simon essay, going to Library West to check and add page citations and to borrow two books of literary criticism that I just finished reading. Tomorrow I hope to work more on the essay, and I’ll be thrilled if I can finish it.

At CIRCA, I found that the New Jersey Online Internet page has posted my latest “Only in Jersey” column as well as a “Vox Populi” poll on Colin Powell replacing the one on O.J. Simpson.

I printed out a “best draft” on the Mac’s printer, and while it took a long time, the draft doesn’t look great when it’s xeroxed. But at least I have a hardcopy of the column in “published” form.

John Willcutt of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML) e-mailed me back and asked me to send him the Weitz decision via snail mail.

He thanked me for advising them and asked if I would come to the hearing in December. I replied that he should keep me informed.

Josh said that Sharon got a flu shot yesterday and was sick all night, vomiting and running a fever. She’s better today, but at 3 AM she asked him to go out and get her a Coke for her stomach. Josh reported that it surprised him how much life was going on all around at that hour.

Josh also gave me Joyce Horman’s e-mail address and news of a new treatment for prostate enlargement that sounded like torture.

I did some other stuff on the computer today, and I got stamps at the University post office, near my first apartment in Gainesville.

Some kid’s car got towed from the post office lot when he went to get change – at least what I gathered from his side of a pay phone conversation I overheard.

Poor guy. Like him and me, everyone in town seems to learn that lesson the hard way when they tow you from a lot on NW 17th Street.

Mom phoned me an hour ago, so upset that she had to put Jonathan on the line.

Dad, in cleaning up his office, mistakenly threw away his ticket on Carnival Airlines for his trip to New York City in January. Mom and Dad looked everywhere, but apparently the garbagemen picked it up.

When Dad called the airline, the woman told him that an airline ticket was just like cash and he’d have to buy a new ticket.

Mom said Dad keeps saying he can no longer “function.” I expect it’s only partly the fault of Dad’s advancing age; it’s that he gets so nervous and excitable that he doesn’t watch what he’s doing. Dad should remember that Grandpa Nat ended up the way he did because of his excitability.

After searching on Lexis, I called back to say that an airline ticket is a negotiable instrument and he’d have to buy a new ticket; however, the airline would probably refund the original ticket, less a $50 to $75 fee, a few months after the unused ticket expires.

I don’t think that was the answer that Mom was looking for. Dad is really too old to keep at it, but he’s got to fly to Puerto Rico again next week.

It makes me feel weird to see how much more competent I am than my parents in some (not all, by any means) aspects of coping with daily life.

I guess everyone goes through this if their parents live long enough. It’s distressing, in that it shakes my faith, but I suppose it’s also demonstrating that I’ve achieved a point in my life where my parents have to depend upon me for some guidance.

Today was productive.