A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early November, 1995
by Richard Grayson
Friday, November 3, 1995
It’s 7 AM, but the power is again off after going on for a few hours during the night. Still, it’s light enough for me to write in my diary now.
I’m still really annoyed after a message I got yesterday from Joe Territo about my work for New Jersey Online.
Joe said that they were upset with me for mentioning not only non-Newhouse Jersey newspapers but also the New York Times and Wall Street Journal when I use bits for the “Only in Jersey” column.
Then he said I shouldn’t do more things like the piece I did on M&M’s, which was “basically a free ad with no editorial value.”
In my reply, I told Joe that (1) I needed to have more time if I was going to do the “AT&T Insider” column; (2) I wanted to know if my “trying” the column for Johnson & Johnson column under our usual terms; (3) that I wouldn’t mention the Asbury Park Press or The Record but this would make writing the “Only in Jersey” column more difficult; (4) that if they didn’t want me to promote New Jersey companies mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, “What about in Newsday?”; (5) and that above all, I need guidance about using links that send people to other sites, what I can and can’t do, etc.
This wasn’t phrased smoothly, but I didn’t hear back from Joe, and the more I think about it, the more inclined I am to pull the plug on “Only in Jersey” or tell them to get someone else to write the column.
As much as I’d like to continue to work for Susan Mernit at Newhouse New Media, I react very badly when I’m given conflicting signals and no clear direction on what I’m supposed to do.
Remember how Jon Baumbach’s 1977 Brooklyn College conference on literature and publishing or last June’s historic preservation panel ended up? I don’t want this to end with my stalking off, but I also know I have a low shit tolerance.
It occurs to me that it would be just as easy to do “Only in Jersey” on my own Web site – or peddle a similar “Only in Florida” weekly feature to a Florida online news service.
But of course I wouldn’t get paid to do it on my own and the investment in time and energy wouldn’t be worth it.
However, the column now seems more trouble than it’s worth, to both me and Newhouse New Media. The weekly deadline is a pain. I’d like to continue it, but only if I don’t have to put up with these hassles.
Yesterday Liz met with me and Ellen in her office for over an hour. We showed Ellen our DOE booklets and explained the Schoolyear 2000 project to her. She may need salary money after I leave, and Liz said that Ellen should think about whether she wants to take over the project herself. Liz doesn’t want it.
I also learned yesterday, that with my funding gone thanks to the new Republican legislature and education commissioner, I’ll be eligible to collect unemployment because our real appointments are done by Carol, and they last only a month or two at a time.
When Carol comes back from vacation, we need to ask her for the date the current money pays me through and for how long, if we got the new $25,000, would I be funded.
At 11:30 AM yesterday, we all went to the auditorium to hear a panel of people who were in the Million Man March. Except for one white student, Ellen, Liz and I were the only non-black people in the audience.
I was terribly moved by the testimony – that seems like the best word – of the six students and of Professor Nunn. Whatever Louis Farrakhan is, these people were definitely not on that march because they agree with him about Jews.
They each described the Million Man March as a spiritual experience, and several said that for the first time, they felt what it must be like to be white – meaning that in that sea of black men, they felt (and this is my interpretation) that being a black man was the norm. At the march, nobody looked at them in fear or with contempt or however white people look at black men.
They came from the Chicago inner city and from the well-off upper-middle class, and I know that whether these students are lawyers, professors or judges, some people will never look at them without seeing their color first and maybe fifteenth and last.
I thought Russ should be here when I heard one guy say how certain students don’t feel that he belongs at the law school and he said people at one time or another have probably felt that way about students who were women, Jews, Hispanics and Asians.
Every time I think about Russ calling French-Canadians “frogs” on Tuesday, I become enraged all over again with what still seems like righteous indignation.
Anyway, I enjoyed hearing the experiences of the Million Man Marchers, and it made me think that only good has come out of Farrakhan’s summons of a year ago.
Mom called last evening and ended up depressing me. Because she and Dad need more income, Mom wants to do calligraphy for invitations but she didn’t have a clue as to how go about starting it as a business until I gave her some suggestions. (She asked if I could “put an ad on the Internet” for her.)
Mom also gave her usual “Mmm…” when I told her not to worry about me, that with or without my job, I would not starve. It bothers me that she has no confidence in me, but maybe Mom doesn’t realize I’m not like her and Dad.
4:30 PM. I’ve got a cold, but it’s nothing like the heavy-duty colds I consider real colds. My immune system must be fantastic. I don’t know if it’s all the fruit, veggies and grain I eat or the supplements I take (and double up on when I feel sick), but my symptoms – sore throat, headache, malaise – are so low-key I hardly feel sick.
Anyway, I didn’t work much today. It’s Homecoming and like most everyone else at CGR, I pretty much avoided the office, and staying home most of the day, I just pampered myself.
After some back and forth over the phone, Joe and I agreed that I would have an “AT&T Insider” column of four or five items by Wednesday, and a Johnson & Johnson one the following week, and then do biweekly updates on each for the usual $100 a column.
I managed to find five decent AT&T items. Joe told me not to worry, that his job is to run interference for people like me so we “can do the creative stuff.”
I spent part of the afternoon at home – a soap opera hunk who plays a teacher matter-of-factly talked about being gay on All My Children – and I went to get a haircut before going briefly to the nearly-deserted CGR office.
Monday, November 6, 1995
7 PM. I just shut the TV, as I don’t want to see any more coverage of the aftermath of Rabin’s assassination. I watched most of the funeral as I got ready to go to work this morning.
The eulogies by Clinton, King Hussein, President Mubarak of Egypt, President Weizmann and Shimon Peres were all eloquent, but the personal reflections of Rabin’s driver and granddaughter were more touching.
Leah Rabin blames right-wing politicians for the climate that led to her husband’s murder, and on ABC News, I saw a chillingly dull-eyed yeshiva boy, his sideburns just growing in, say that it was sad, “but the Prime Minister had to be killed.”
In the media I’ve heard this surprised shock because “Jews don’t kill Jews.” Whoever said that? You mean it’s better to kill a non-Jew because their lives are worth less? That’s ridiculous.
As the only Jew in our office, I was greeted with expressions of sympathy. Later in the day, Laura asked me, “How did your parents take the news?” I think they were all surprised by my reaction, which is was to explain that a lot of Jews are fanatic, just like other people, that it was no surprise to me that one of these fanatics would do this.
The Rabin assassination knocked the news of Colin Powell’s will-he-or-won’t-he-run ruminations off the news, but if Mrs. Powell was supposed to be against his candidacy because she feared some nut would take a shot at the General, the news from Israel may end Powell’s campaign before he starts it.
And I don’t for a minute think that some followers of the Christian Coalition wouldn’t just stop at character assassination of Powell. My distrust of religious true believers may have been influenced by Grandpa Herb’s humanistic atheism, but I’d like to believe that congenitally and by temperament, I abhor fanaticism.
I remember Meir Kahane from when I was a Brooklyn College undergraduate; even then, I hated the strident, militaristic Jewish Defense League. Rabin’s assassin was a member of Kahane Chai, followers of that evil man.
Kahane may have been the most evil human being I’ve ever seen in person, and he was a rabbi.
Well, enough anti-clericalism for this cool fall evening.
It’s been a pleasure with Russ out of the office. I keep the door closed and feel I have privacy.
I cleaned up my files, made file folders for the memos that have to be written for Schoolyear 2000, and I called Stacey after Carol said I have $500 in OPS money to hire a research assistant.
True, I didn’t do any actual research or writing today, but I started executing a strategy to begin. I also finally threw out of those boxes of Alex’s stuff that Tom had put in my office.
Based on the two (out of five) responses to the questionnaires I’d sent out and the information in Research Centers Directory, I wrote a one-page memo to Jon, basically saying that the Center for Governmental Responsibility is much bigger than any other law school research center in the country, so we can’t really make meaningful comparisons with places that focus on narrow research activities that have budgets a fraction of CGR’s.
I also read today’s Times and what was left of yesterday’s paper. Unable to bring myself to read all of “A Clumsy Story,” I’m going to hope that Martin can catch any typos in it before book publication. I’ll send him the corrections to the page proofs that I’ve got.
Back home at 3:30 PM, I exercised more vigorously than usual because I feel I’m losing muscle tone. Part of it is that I’ll be 45 on my next birthday.
I’ll never have the body that a 30-year-old could have. On the other hand, I want to maintain my present fitness level (and appearance).
Today I had the slightest hint of the tail end of my cold; I sneezed a few times and felt a little stuffy.
It was cool enough so that I wore a jacket over my flannel shirt this morning but mild enough so that I could leave the jacket home at lunchtime.
Tuesday, November 7, 1995
8 PM. I definitely remember Election Night last year at the Sun Center downtown, when every one of the results seemed depressing. This year, only a political junkie like me will pay attention to the results.
At the office, both Joann and Linda glumly predicted GOP wins in the governor’s races in their home states, Mississippi and Kentucky, and they’re probably right.
Last evening I read Jews and Strangers, the issue of the Russian literary magazine Glas that Zephyr Press publishes in this country.
This morning I exercised before going to work at 8:30 AM. Wendy Cuellar sent the minutes of the Legal Issues Work Group and the next steps we need to take.
I met with Stacey late in the day and gave her the assignment about copying material off the Internet, and I had Carol appoint Stacey for four weeks at $7 an hour for ten hours each week.
I also told Altom, who e-mailed about my research assistant position, and he said he would pass the word on to his fellow members of the Computer Law Society, which is meeting this evening, and he would distribute my post to them.
Steve Mizrach answered my E-mail and said he not only felt underdressed at the Law and the Internet roundtable, but also out of place because what he loves about the Net are the possibilities for creative anarchy and he found himself in a room full of lawyers who want to regulate the Net the way they do everything else.
Josh responded to the Rabin assassination with his usual off-kilter spin: what bothered him the most was that it was cowardly to kill an “elderly” person.
Probably I should have resisted questioning his logic when I wrote back, but I’m still not over the first-year law student experience of challenging everyone else’s logic, I guess.
Felicity Barringer of Business Day Monday at the New York Times wrote that she liked my e-mailed suggestion that she write about the conflict between newspaper journalists and the online people when a newspaper starts a Web site.
She said it hits close to home at the Times, so I’m sure the problems I’ve noticed with New Jersey Online and the Star-Ledger aren’t unique. The corporation wants to keep people on their own pages, but what’s the point of the Web if you can’t send readers elsewhere with links?
U.S. News had a cover story on “The Gold Rush in Cyberspace,” and for me, the most interesting news was about the new job taken by the political columnist, New Republic editor and co-host of CNN’s Crossfire, Michael Kinsley. He’s been hired by Microsoft to run a new on-line magazine for the Microsoft Network.
I found Kinsley’s Chevy Chase address in the Lexis property records and mailed him a letter and a selection of my writing, online work, and publicity.
Probably it will be ignored. But sooner or later, someone will realize I have potential, and maybe the World Wide Web will be the medium in which I finally break through.
Rosalie was at meetings all day but said I should try to see her tomorrow.
In the mail I got the Lambda Update, which I’ve just finished reading, and the minutes from the last Human Rights Council meeting.
Since Kathy was absent for that meeting, there was a discussion of “group dynamics on the Board,” as Bob phrased it, in the minutes. I hope time has cooled off emotions so that Thursday’s meeting isn’t confrontational.
Laurie told me she’s applied for a new position at UF because although she likes her job at CGR, it’s a dead end. There’s nowhere for her to advance because Laura and Carol aren’t leaving (and if Carol did, Laura could advance to Carol’s job and then Laurie could advance only to Laura’s).
I understand perfectly. Lori says that as a military brat, she got used to frequent changes. If Laurie leaves, I’ll miss her – that is, if she leaves CGR before I do.
I got home at around 4:30 PM this afternoon and have been reading and watching and listening to some news shows. Whatever cold I had is gone.
Christy Sheffield Sanford thanked me for my compliments on Only the Nude and said she hopes I can come to her writers’ group soon.
Anyway, although tomorrow’s Wednesday, the law school classes will be on a Friday schedule – so I can come into work a little later and still get parking.
I feel I’m involved in a bunch of really interesting projects these days. When Grandma Sylvia used to sigh and say, “Never a dull a moment,” she meant it as a complaint, but I like feeling that life is very busy as long as I feel I have I control – even though I often actually don’t.
Thursday, November 9, 1995
8:30 PM. It seems odd to begin the weekend now. I don’t know why tomorrow is a UF holiday, although I suppose the veterans lobby is strong. Certainly the federal Veterans Day is on Saturday; I expect mail delivery tomorrow.
Anyway, I got paid today and I have tomorrow off.
Up at 6 AM, I listened to NPR while I had breakfast and spent an hour on Lexis before I exercised at 8 AM. Russ didn’t show up today, so I had a whole week of privacy in our office.
I got only one response from my post on the consortium for school networking list, and it didn’t help my research: It was Susan Mernit, who must also subscribe.
She just wanted to say hi “to one of my favorite people” and to tell me they’re closing on the House on Monday: “Gotta move, buy a car. It’s crazy!”
The woman who does the GayTV listings, Carol Mortimer, thanked me for telling her about the All My Children storyline and said she’d put my post (without my last name) on her Web page.
Naturally, I wrote back saying she could use my last name if she wanted, and noticing that she was in New Jersey, I told her about my column.
Laura Italiano called later to say that the Garrison Keillor quotation I used is a fragment (“G.K. is a fragment” was the message Carol took.) It came from an introduction to a book, and grammatically it’s not a fragment, but it’s kind of awkward; still, the problem is Garrison’s, not mine. We decided to put an ellipsis around the infelicitous phrase.
I asked Joe Territo via E-mail if I could name Johnson & Johnson products, and he said, “Yes, liberally!”
After finding four great items for “Only in Jersey” on Lexis today, I took home a printout of what I’ve got for hard-copy revision.
At 10 AM, Liz came in to chat about this and that, so I missed an E-mail message from Anne Byrne to tell me about an immediate meeting of the home page committee until just after Liz left.
I rushed over to Betty Taylor’s office, getting there just as Anne was trying to call me on the phone: “Why, here he is now!”
It turned out that Denise Stobbie of Publications couldn’t make it, and we’ll have the meeting next week instead.
The 11:30 AM Fellows’ meeting was interesting, as the six or seven who did show up discussed their placements and the kinds of cases and research they were handling. They are a great group of people.
When I got back to my desk, I noted an E-mail from Carol titled “Despair.” It said that Laurie had resigned to accept that job at Personnel.
I wasn’t surprised, and I couldn’t stop myself from going over to kiss Laurie when I saw her while she, Carol, Laura and Linda were having their lunch salads in the reception area.
Carol, who was near tears, said that she just wanted to say one thing: “This is what happens when you don’t pay good people anything near the salary they deserve.”
CGR has been very fortunate to have such excellent workers when they are paid so little money. I think Laurie was making around $15,000. I certainly applaud her initiative in trying to move up, and I suspect we have the same outlook. But it will be very hard to replace her.
At least at the UF Personnel office, she won’t have to deal with Tom’s busy-work or his supercilious attitude.
As I walked to my car to go home for lunch, I got bopped in the head by an acorn, a familiar occurrence these days. I suppose I get my revenge by inadvertently squashing the little acorns as I walk.
The mail brought two rejections – but one was of “Suspicious Caucasians,” which will be published in the winter issue of Happy.
At 2 PM in the office, Martine came to see me.
When she told Liz that she was doing a seminar paper for Professor Baldwin’s Media Law class on obscenity and the Internet, Liz told her that I knew a lot about this subject, so at the Fellows meeting, Martine said she could use my help.
I xeroxed portions of my memo on the Thomas case and found articles on the Communications Decency Act; one was in today’s New York Times, about the ongoing Senate-House conference on the telecom bill.
Martine has to give her oral presentation on Tuesday night, and I think I gave her enough stuff and explained what I felt were the major issues so that she should do fine.
It was a pleasure to be “teaching” a student again. I showed her how to get newspaper articles and the text of bills on Lexis.
After Martine left, I did some reading on distance learning before going home at 4 PM.
I got to this evening’s HRC Board meeting at the SFCC Downtown Center on time.
We had a relatively big turnout. Much of the meeting was taken up by Bill Black’s desire to air the differences between Kathy on the one hand (maybe Sue was totally with her) and Craig, Bob and Abby on the other.
I hope the airing of views was helpful. It’s obvious, I said at one point, that Craig and Kathy have different Myers-Briggs types.
But mostly I was bored and annoyed with the details of rehashing the old problem regarding the Pam McMichael visit. (She’s finally coming next Sunday afternoon to the Civic Media Center.)
Of course, I’m a big-picture, feelings-oriented INFJ type. Hopefully, my own contribution to the discussion were helpful. I tend to want to smooth over conflict, and maybe that’s not always the best thing to do.
Anyway, everyone seemed to feel better after they all opened up. Our next board meeting is in three weeks because of Thanksgiving.
Alice called to give me her CompuServe account address. She didn’t understand the difference between her internal CompuServe address (5 digits, comma 4 digits) and her Internet address.
Her friend came by and hooked up her modem and got her started on CompuServe on Windows.
Alice again asked how she could get a color word processing server, and of course her friend explained, just as I have been telling her, that she’d have to give up her Jurassic period version of XyWrite, which Alice refuses to do. (Remember, this is someone who was afraid to move to a new apartment.)
Tomorrow Alice is closing on her co-op refinancing, which she did without a lawyer; the closing of her mother’s Brooklyn co-op is next week.
Alice said she liked the New Jersey Online columns I sent, and she’ll show them to Peter, who’s become a New Jersey buff. Even though he works at Newhouse, Peter’s at a Net-less part of the Star-Ledger, so he doesn’t see New Jersey Online.