A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late November, 1995

by Richard Grayson

Monday, November 20, 1995

4:30 PM. I just returned home to find that I have a new address.

According to a notice in my mailbox, because the fire department has had problems responding to 911 calls, Sundowne’s address is no longer 3619 SW 24th Avenue but instead is now 3600 Windmeadows Boulevard.

What drives me crazy is that the notice says that mail to the old address will be returned to the sender as of January 1. I hope I can get around that if I fill out a change of address card. It’s incredibly annoying how many people and organizations I’m going to have to notify.

What’s really a pain is that I’m going to have to go through this all again in a few months. With our area code becoming 352 (from 904), I guess I’d better start calling, writing and e-mailing people now.

Last night I watched The Beatles Anthology on ABC-TV and loved hearing those early songs (“I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves Me,” “Please Please Me,” “Twist and Shout”) that take me back to 1964 and 1965 and those wonderful innocent days of junior high.

I remember Mr. Berger, our eighth-grade homeroom and English teacher, saying around the time of the Beatles’ arrival at the Pan Am terminal at the newly-renamed Kennedy Airport, “I never knew a successful song could have only three words.”

I also clearly recall watching CBS on Sunday at 8 PM as Ed Sullivan presented the Beatles, in the same show as Topo Gigio and Tessie O’Shea, and them printing “Sorry girls, he’s married!” over John’s picture.

It never occurred to me that the Beatles were cute, but I could see last night that they were. I guess I was pre-sexual in 1964.

They played Beatles songs at our bar mitzvahs that year, and I remember so much when I hear them:

The opening of the 1964 World’s Fair and our reading Twelfth Night and then seeing the play at William E. Grady Technical High School in Brighton Beach.

A cold winter Saturday when a bunch of us guys and gals went ice-skating at the Wollman Rink in Prospect Park. Billy Sherman’s mother lent me one of his sweaters because she thought I wasn’t dressed warmly enough. I remember my fingers feeling numb with cold and the taste of hot cocoa at the rink.

Another Saturday from that winter, a freezing morning when those of us in the Sultans – me, Eugene, Arnie, Jerry, Steve and Billy – went to one of those movie palaces on Flatbush Avenue to get into the 10 AM show to Goldfinger. While we were waiting for the box office to open, we walked over to Sears to warm up and I remember on a display of typewriter on sale, squinted to see that someone had typed on the sheet of paper in the roller, “Queers are nearsighted.”

Our background music always seemed to be the Beatles songs, mostly played by Cousin Brucie and Herb Oscar Anderson on WABC-AM.

God, those were good times.

After sleeping sporadically, I exercised and was at school in a tie and jacket by 8:20 AM.

I e-mailed Wendy some questions about Tycho, and I managed to send to Joe and Laura this week’s “Only in Jersey” and AT&T columns before I accompanied Liz to our informational meeting for prospective Bar Foundation Fellows.

On the way, she told me what a fabulous long weekend she’d had in Boston.

I mostly stood around while Liz gave her spiel. Barb, the white woman I met at the OutLaw event, is going to apply, and there were about five others there, the same number as we had last year.

Afterwards, Liz and I went to the cafeteria and chatted about the government and her conference of activist lawyers. She also told me a story about Sharon Rush’s adopted daughter drawing a picture of her mommy and her mommy’s girlfriend and the first-grade teacher putting a smiley-face on it.

Professor Charlotte Porter from the Florida Natural History Museum called to ask if I would review some manuscripts on Brown v. Board of Education and San Antonio School District v. Rodriguez for an issue of the magazine Proteus that she’s guest-editing.

Naturally, I agreed to check the manuscripts for accuracy, though I’ve never done this kind of review for an academic journal before.

I heard back from Kevin, my Match.com E-mail pen-pal, and I responded. It’s fun to flirt with someone when I know that we are so badly matched that nothing will ever come of it.

I see that with Kevin I’m creating a persona that’s younger, hipper, more laid-back and arty then the dullard I really am.

Tuesday, November 21, 1995

3 PM. I told Laura I was going to the Education Library (which I need to do, as the books I took out were helpful, but I’ve since found five articles on distance learning I need to get there), but instead I came home half an hour ago.

I felt sleepy, and I’ve just been lying down. Last evening I plowed through the rest of the Sunday New York Times and read U.S. News.

Up at 5 AM and unable to return to sleep, I exercised to the 6 AM show of Body Electric on WUFT/5 and spent another ninety minutes on Lexis before I went to work.

I phoned the post office, and after getting transferred from one person to his supervisor, I was told that they’d continue to deliver the mail to both my addresses for a year – so changing my address isn’t as crucial as the leaflet from Sundowne led me to believe.

One reason I came home early is that I’m leaving at 7 PM to pick up Christy Sheffield Sanford and her friend Janet (her husband, Tom, is working) and we’ll go to the O’Connell Center to hear Marcia Clark speak.

I probably shouldn’t have offered to drive, since Christy lives on the east side of town, and I’d be happier coming and going on my own as I please, the way I go everywhere solo. But I have to get over my confirmed bachelor mode.

Wendy Cuellar wrote back about the Tycho deal and said I should contact Jan McKay, whom I sent an E-mail to, and Francis Walton, with whom I left a phone message, and then speak to Marty Beach after I get feedback from the first two, and after that, to call Chuck Ruberg, the DOE lawyer.

Elihu didn’t get to meet his aspiring stripper friend, but he’s “talking” to guys on AOL and he’ll be off for his vacation in Tombstone, Arizona, the day after Thanksgiving. Elihu sounds better than he was in August and September, certainly.

As people begin to leave for the Thanksgiving holiday, fewer people are coming in to the office each day, but I’m not going anywhere, so I don’t feel guilty for ducking out early today. I was on Lexis, Westlaw, E-mail and the Web much of the day when I was at work.

Mark Bergeron said we can access the law school server from home, but I need more RAM to do so. I guess I have to learn how to buy some and install the added memory. Already my 4MB 386 – which once seemed powerful – is now pathetic.

If I can use Phoenix Mail from the office at home, that would be excellent. In the regular mail, all I got was one thin letter – but that one letter contained a $600 check from Newhouse New Media, which I deposited (along with a $5 voucher for the airport parking lot for last month’s trip to Tally) after lunch.

My eyes are still tired, so I’m going to lie down again.

Wednesday, November 22, 1995

4 PM. Last night I went to the office and answered some work E-mail. I’ll have to get back to the Schoolyear 2000 people about Tycho on Monday. Today’s a virtual holiday for most people, especially at a university like UF.

For some reason, Ton Andersen felt like being friendly for the first time ever as I was typing away last night. He had no idea I was a writer who’d published several books, and naturally he told me he’d always wanted to be a writer. I’d once seen his résumé and knew he’d been an English major.

God knows why Tom turned into a human being all of a sudden. He was shocked when I told him I’d be 45 on my next birthday. “I always thought you were a young guy, maybe 35,” he said. He’s 40 himself, I know from his résumé, but of course he looks older than I do.

The parking lot at the O’Connell Center was already starting to fill up when I passed it to pick up Christy, who lives in this adorable house in the Duck Pond area near the Thomas Center, a neighborhood I don’t know very well.

She gave me a copy of a little magazine she’s in (I noticed Kevin McGowin of SFCC had a poem opposite her work), and before we left for UF, Christy’s Pekinese playfully insinuated herself on me, reminding me of China.

It took a very long time till we got to the roof of the parking lot by the O’Dome, and the crowd was later estimated at 8,000. It was certainly larger than crowds I’d seen for Jesse Jackson or Greg Louganis at past Accent speeches.

We did manage to find Christy’s friend Janet – she spotted us by Christy’s long, flowing purple cape – who’d saved us seats on the benches just one row down.

I don’t know what everyone expected, but it always had been clear to me that Marcia Clark wasn’t going to squander her valuable intellectual property and discuss the Simpson trial here when she’s got a book contract.

Still, I was disappointed with her talk, which resembled a platitudinous commencement address urging undergraduates to reject unbridled materialism for public service.

If she’d included more anecdotes and fewer generalities, it might have been better. Certainly no person could disagree with anything she said, but Christy or I could have given the same speech, probably to better effect.

Clark answered four pre-screened questions at the end of the hour and got another standing ovation – although most in the crowd clearly felt they didn’t hear what they’d come for, dish on O.J. Simpson and company.

Well, I don’t begrudge an assistant D.A. the money, and this morning Liz told me that her friend’s young son was very inspired by Clark’s speech.

It took us a good 45 minutes to get out of the parking lot, and by the time Christy and I got to the Leonardo’s off 13th Street, Janet had left a note that she’d gone home.

Christy and I settled into a back booth and talked about writing, the Web, cities, whatever. It was past 11 PM when I finally arrived home, and it had turned chilly.

A bit wired, I watched a Seinfeld rerun (I never saw any of the originals because I don’t have NBC) and Nightline on the Bosnian settlement initialed by the three Yugoslavian leaders in Dayton that afternoon.

I’m not sure how I feel about U.S. soldiers going over to be peacemakers, but I guess there’ll be a good debate, and Clinton will have to make his case.

I didn’t sleep too well, but I could find parking when I got to school at 9 AM. Liz asked if I’d like to come over for Thanksgiving with her, Becky, her sister and father, Wendy Fitzgerald and her kid, and Sharon Rush and her partner and kid.

I told Liz what I’d already told other people when invitations for Thanksgiving were offered: that I was spending the holiday “with friends.” I suppose this shows that I’m a total social misfit, but I really prefer being alone.

I come from a family which has always downplayed rituals, from birthdays to holidays, and while I wouldn’t mind being with my parents and brothers or with the families of people I know for so long they’re like family – I’ve had Thanksgiving with Alice, Ronna and Teresa in the past – I just didn’t feel like spending all of Thursday with a lot of people I don’t know.

After finding parking at the Education Library, I xeroxed the articles I found on distance education, but aside from that and a few other things, I didn’t do much CGR work today. I hope I can make up for my sloth by working over the four-day weekend.

Kevin wrote me again, and I wrote him back, and it’s totally silly, ending our messages, “Kiss, Kevin” and “Kissback, Richard.” It’s harmless because neither of us takes our flirtation seriously and so we can talking about my peeling him grapes and feeding them to him as he sunbathes nude in Aruba knowing that we’ll probably never have to reveal our real selves.

In real life, we’d hardly look at each other, at least not in that way. We’d just look at each other and then start chattering away nonstop.

I also responded to one of Greg Phelan’s columns, “Technologically Speaking,” in The Record. Greg is a software designer who writes commonsense stuff about cyberspace in The Record and New York Times.

Greg wrote back that Susan Mernit says he can’t do stuff for New Jersey Online because The Record is the Star-Ledger’s enemy. He’d like to write literary fiction, but his agent says literary fiction is dead. I wrote back that of course she’s right. I also got some other interesting E-mail from listservs today.

This morning Russ began talking in his fake British accent, which comes and goes with his level of pretentiousness. Doesn’t he know how silly he sounds? What a stuffy guy.

Monday, November 27, 1995

7:30 PM. After I finish writing this, I’m going to watch President Clinton’s speech on why we should send troops to Bosnia.

I was at work before 8:30 AM. Someone from Schoolyear 2000 sent me a legal memo on intellectual property and distance learning in Florida that was prepared just a couple of weeks ago by a committee of the legislature.

While it’s a valuable document, the downside is that it’s exactly the kind of thing Schoolyear 2000 pays me to do. Maybe this will make them realize that they don’t need to be giving us money just to duplicate or strongly build upon the work already being done by the state.

While it provides a framework for my memo, I was going to focus on other issues, so now I’ll probably rejoin the two halves of the distance learning memo I’d decided to split in two.

Stacey was in early with a handwritten memo that’s basically worthless. but as I told her, I’d wanted to spread a little money her way, and I guess I can use the documents she xeroxed.

Stacey’s excited about getting a job with the two-partner law firm in Philadelphia, where she clerked one summer. She went to Penn and likes the city, and now she has to move quickly, soon after she graduates next month, and take the Pennsylvania and New Jersey bar exams.

(Stacey said the Pennsylvania test is supposed to be easy, so maybe I should consider it.)

With Laurie gone and Laura on vacation all week, we had to make do in the office, but the student aides helped. In the afternoon, Erica kindly agreed to put up the information posters on next year’s Florida Bar Foundation Fellowships that took me way too long to make using Printmaster Gold.

Carol interviewed a few more potential secretaries, but she hasn’t been impressed with anyone: “The one that presented a nice appearance turned out to be bad at grammar and spelling, according to her present supervisor.”

Carol told me she expects to go through more batches of names that personnel gave her.

I asked her if anyone had ever failed to work out, and she mentioned the woman who was “too Christian,” objecting when anyone in the office would say “damn” and making everyone else uncomfortable by constantly evangelizing.

I sent in my columns today and had a little dust-up with Joe Territo, who didn’t understand an item I’d written for Johnson & Johnson.

I wrote about an exhibit of the famous Horst P. Horst photographs for the 1950s “Modess… because” ads and ended by saying that these ads all made kids ask, “Because why?” – to which their mothers responded, “Uh, don’t you have any homework to do?”

After much back and forth, and after I assured Joe that Modess was indeed a Johnson & Johnson product, he finally asked me what Modess was. Well, naturally he didn’t get it if he didn’t understand it was a feminine hygiene product.

After I explained it, Joe tersely wrote back that he killed the item because it still wasn’t funny. He’s very brusque.

I thought I was being too sensitive before, but I can see he doesn’t know how to handle people, not even when he gives me New Jersey Online style sheet stuff.

I wish Joe would have just killed the item without telling me. I probably wouldn’t have noticed.

Even though the corporate work pays well, I would just as well have New Jersey Online take it away from me.

I’ve never expected Newhouse New Media to provide me with steady income. While they seem okay with “Only in Jersey,” and I enjoy doing it, the company can cancel it whenever they like.

The column, like most of the text on the web, is something that doesn’t use the medium’s capabilities – although I guess that right now few users have computers that can get quick audio, video or even still photography.

Someday – probably within a year, definitely within two – “Only in Jersey” will look as silly as early TV shows that didn’t take advantage of the new medium and were merely radio programs with pictures.

Rochelle Ratner said hi back and asked if I could post my e-mail comment to her about Jewish people thinking that Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus being anti-Semitic and offensive to the good nouveau riche citizens of suburban Essex County online at NJO’s Book Nook page – so I did so.

Back to Joe: I remember Susan telling me that she thinks the Vox Populi gay poll was worded in a homophobic way “because of our news editor.” Did she mean Joe? Maybe he doesn’t like me because I’m gay.

Well, I did notice on Sunday that the still-running poll had the pro-gay rights side winning by about four to one.

I got a short note from Kevin and tried to be more serious in my reply so we can get beyond banality. we’ll see what happens.

I went to visit Rosalie for half an hour this afternoon. Her biggest frustration is the lack of Internet access for law students.

She wants to turn the library’s computer lab over to CIRCA so they can take the computers being used solely for word-processing and give them full (text-based) Web access.

But the law school administration knows CIRCA would have to open the lab to undergrads, and they don’t want them here. Rosalie thanks they could get around that problem by having rules about time limits or net surfing.

Just before I left the office at 4 PM, a student came in, wanting to know if it was too late to apply for next year’s Fellowship program.

I told him that it certainly was not too late since the signs had been posted only an hour before. (That’s my fault for not including a deadline date.)

Tuesday, November 28, 1995

4 PM. I felt drowsy as the President spoke on Bosnia last evening, and in truth, I don’t seem to have developed strong feelings one way or the other on sending U.S. troops there as peacemakers.

Anyway, after the speech, I began to feel more energetic, and as it ended up, I slept only from 2 AM to 6 AM. My sinus headache continues to plague me, despite all the over-the-counter decongestants and my nasal spray and finger massage and my supplements. Of course, now I’m really tired.

But I’ve made some progress on Schoolyear 2000 work, and last evening I read the entire Joint Legislative Committee Report on Distance Education and Intellectual Property, and it’s just the kind of thing I would have liked to produce.

I did take pleasure in that they came to the same conclusions on State University System copyright policy as I did, and I was glad to see that, given the dates of their telephone interviews, the project took at least four months.

Also, the fact that they’d obviously renumbered their footnotes without changing first references – so that a footnote would refer, supra, to another footnote that was wrong, with the first reference coming after that – made me feel a little better in case one day I do the same thing (although I’m pretty careful about that).

The memo also led me to the Florida Instructional Resource Network (FIRN) homepage, which in turn led me to an endless supply of material on distance education.

I noted that the Copyright Office is coming out with fair use guidelines regarding distance education “by the end of the year” and so I decided I should obviously wait until then.

I now also have the information on the legislation creating the Florida Distance Learning Network that was passed this summer (and which led to the report).

See, with this kind of law, procrastination has its benefits. Wait till the last possible deadline and you’ll have important new information.

On the Tycho problem, I spoke with Francis Watson, the ex-DOE official who became – surprise! – a consultant to the project, and after our conversation, I’m fairly certain there’s no “contract dispute” between Schoolyear 2000 and their co-developer, just some foot-dragging and a lot of (understandable) frustration on both sides. Calling it a legal problem won’t solve anything; as usual, it can only make things worse.

I felt pretty icky when I woke up this morning, but I got through the day. I got one résumé and one e-mail promise of one now that they’ve posted my announcement for a graduate student assistant on the main bulletin board.

Kevin didn’t e-mail me back, and I’m surprised to discover how I’m not as disappointed as I thought I’d be. I remember Elihu’s experience with Les, whom he’d met online, and how some guys (and women) just like the thrill of getting someone to like them. (I hope I’m not describing myself.)

There were the usual calls and e-mails at the office today although I was glad a series of messages turned out to be for Richard Hamann, not me.

I can’t blame whoever took the message; while Carol was interviewing today, I volunteered to take messages, and I’d make a terrible secretary or receptionist.

I saw Barb from OutLaw and e-mailed Craig Lowe. It turned out that the Human Rights Council had already written a supportive letter to Disney about their domestic partnership benefits policy, which is under attack by the funda-Nazis.

John Wilkeets of the marijuana reform organization NORML called to tell me about a meeting tonight and the hearing on the constitutionality of marijuana laws next Thursday.

I called my parents and later phoned Dad again to get the exact translation of a Yiddish curse that Alan Dershowitz wrote in the American Bar Association Journal.

My electric bill last month was only $30, but GRU says they expect blackouts as they repair our system.