A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late January, 1996

Monday, January 22, 1996

8:30 PM. I slept pretty well last night without the heater on, but I was unprepared for the 38° temperature when I went to work at 8 AM. I put on a sweater under my sport jacket, but it was still too cold until midday.

Carol told Liz that she couldn’t appoint me and my salary would run out if we didn’t get that award letter from the Department of Education they were promising.

After an urgent plea, the DOE faxed it, signed by Commissioner Brogan, and now I have $14,000 in salary money and $1,000 in expenses that should take me till the end of June.

I worked on the legal memo about Stratton Oakmont v. Prodigy, which probably interests me more than it will Schoolyear 2000.

Our last interviewee for the Public Interest Law Fellows was Marsha, a hippie-ish earth-mother type around 40, the kind of woman I’ve always admired and liked.

Within three minutes, I think Liz and I were both set on selecting this mother of five and foster mother of many who had her college education interrupted when her first husband was killed in an accident.

Her second husband (the children’s father) is a Vietnam vet blinded in the war, and she’s been active in all sorts of community projects and groups.

After she left, Liz and I agreed on our ten Fellows for next year. The group is heavily female (8-2) and white (7-3), but partly that was just who applied this year.

Laura printed out the acceptance and rejection letters, Liz and I signed them, and they were mailed out this afternoon.

I found a terrific feature story on Larry from yesterday’s Reading Eagle-Times that made a great preview of his exhibit.

I’m sure Larry saw the story, but after downloading it from Westlaw, I e-mailed it to Justin. Larry’s work sounds so good from the way the writer described it.

I’ve always thought that Larry was a fine artist, but I’ve been blasé about it because Larry himself is so unassuming.

I also found a fine review of Denis’s book in yesterday’s Cleveland Plain Dealer. I sent him a copy of the review at the KGB address.

I haven’t heard from Josh since I got back from Orlando and I feel funny e-mailing him at Sharon’s address because I don’t know what the story is with them.

Robertson, the Brazilian guy, hangs out in our office with Russ a lot, and this morning I purposely annoyed Russ by letting him sound stuffy when Robertson and I expressed our fondness for such early punk bands as the Velvet Underground, the New York Dolls and the Stooges.

Russ is like a 68-year-old curmudgeon. When I brought up Smashing Pumpkins, he said in that imperious voice that somehow always disappears in Jon’s presence: “Do they really smash pumpkins?” Jesus. But Russ is too clueless and sad to scorn.

During my lunch hour, I picked up my stuff at the cleaners and did the laundry.

This afternoon I finally realized that I was trying to add two memos about students’ free speech rights and school liability that were handled adequately in memos by student research assistants in the first book of CGR memos.

They were written way back in April 1993 when I was still a 2L, and there’s no reason for me to update them in the absence of new caselaw.

Much of my legal work is interesting to me – all these cases on free speech, defamation, obscenity and privacy – but I don’t know how useful they are to Schoolyear 2000.

With Liz not coming to the meeting In Tallahassee, I think I may drop a hint to them that I’m leaving CGR.

As I write that, it scares me because I am quite comfortable here in Gainesville. I’m paying my bills, I have little pressure, I have access to the great search engines of Lexis and Westlaw, and generally I’ve got a pleasant routine.

But just as I shook up my life when I was 40 and first came to Gainesville, I need to shake it up again this summer when I turn 45.

Thursday, January 25, 1996

9 PM in Tallahassee. I couldn’t have asked for a more restful night’s sleep than the eight hours I got between 9:30 PM last night to 5:30 AM today.

It was chilly when I went out at 8 AM to get the rental car at the Budget counter at the University Centre hotel, and I wore a heavy jacket.

Stopping off at home to retrieve my stuff, I heard on the radio that Sid Martin had died this morning, just as Linda had expected. If I can go to the funeral, I probably will.

Anyway, I started off in the rented Mercury Tracer, a car I’m familiar with from recent rentals. (Like the last one, it reeked of tobacco). It wasn’t until I passed the Alachua County line that the road construction began.

I listened to the radio psychologist Dr. Joy Browne until the Gainesville AM station faded, and then I switched to WFSU, Tallahassee’s news and public affairs station.

As usual, I stopped at every rest stop on I-10before I entered town via Thomasville Road.

After making a brief visit to the Leroy Collins Leon County Public Library, which didn’t have the latest Library Journal, I went to a Wendy’s on Tennessee Avenue.

Wendy’s has apparently closed most of their salad bars in favor of prepackaged salads, but I’d prepared a cheese sandwich and a sweet potato that I ate in the car.

When I got to the Community College Library Association office, I was half an hour early, so I reacquainted myself with the distance learning memo.

We had a big crowd: Craig and the others from the Department of Education, who are the ones really paying my salary these days – and Chuck Ruberg, their general counsel, and several others in addition to Wendy, Bob Branson, and Richard Madaus.

As usual, I felt clueless about what I was supposed to be doing. We talked for so long about the distance learning memo that it made everyone’s head hurt, but it should – because the issues are so metaphysical.

The meeting ran till 4:15 PM as I presented the various memos one by one, spending the most time on the fed’s White Paper memo, of course.

I explained to everyone that I had originally misunderstood the issue in the area of confidentiality agreements regarding co-developers because it’s definitely not university research, as an attorney from FSU’s Patent Office explained.

Now that that’s settled, I don’t know how much more I can do about their Tycho co-developer other than to state the current law to them.

I’ll of course look at the proposed statue Wendy and Chuck drafted on the subject it, but they’ve decided to drop it after the 1994 election and the resultant change in the political climate.

I’m glad I picked up some bottled water at Winn-Dixie before coming to the meeting because I had to talk for over three hours. (How I avoided having to go to the bathroom is a miracle since everyone else except Wendy got up at least once.)

I was told I’d done a good job, and I enjoyed discussing the issues despite their murky and confusing nature.

We are no longer putting out annual compilations of legal memos but documents in shorter form over a shorter time frame.

Wendy wants the memos that update earlier memos together with an introduction by me to be distributed to all the school districts.

– – I just realized that this entry sounds like what Lucy Calkins used to call the “bed-to-bed” narratives that kids write, the kind that gives equal weight to writing about their breakfast at the hotel and their actual hours-long visit to Disney World.

I suppose I could write about the meeting in greater detail, but frankly, it’s boring, and I want to forget about it.

Leaving CCLA, I drove east on Tennessee Avenue into Monroe Street past the Capitol and then on Apalachee Parkway to the area of town I’m most familiar with because I stayed here for the Cultural Affairs Division grant panel meetings.

This is my fifth or sixth visit to Tallahassee, and while I know my way around the major arteries, I have no conception of neighborhoods in this city.

The Days Inn where I’m staying is junky, but the room has a microwave, so I had a frozen Weight Watchers dinner that I bought at Albertsons and I won’t have to go out for hot water for my oatmeal in the morning.

After I ate dinner and finished reading the New York Times, I still really needed to unwind.

So I went out to the Governor’s Square mall to walk around among shoppers and see the sights and smell the smells that make you want to buy stuff.

I feel relieved that work pressure is off for a while, but I probably won’t be able to avoid another Tallahassee meeting before I leave CGR.

It’s a chilly night, but I’ve got good heat here. The motel is crawling with noisy school kids who are here for some music competition.

Friday, January 26, 1996

8:30 PM. I was restless much of last night at Tallahassee. The cold weather had made my skin sandpaper-rough and I didn’t have moisturizer with me, so I felt uncomfortable.

But when I did sleep, as so often happens in strange beds, I had vivid dreams. In one, I was terrified as I had to walk past lions and tigers on the streets of Greenwich Village, but I made it without getting mauled. That dream probably was about the relief I felt following the work group meeting.

In another dream, I was playing a minor character onstage, and as we rehearsed, this other actor – playing a flimflam artist in a loud sport jacket, someone like Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man – and I would improvise bits of business and play off each other.

When I awoke, I knew right away this other actor was Kevin, and the dream was about how we respond to each other’s lines, improvising a relationship.

At one point in the dream, I grabbed the ruler out of the other actor’s hands and said, holding it up to the now-distant train which he just jumped from, “That train is only six inches long, so jumping off it is no great feat.”

Obviously the ruler is a Freudian phallic symbol, but on another level, I was taking the measure of Kevin and wondering if his gestures were illusory.

Anyway, I was up by then although it was still quite dark. (Tallahassee is about as far west as you can get in the Eastern Time Zone.)

After making myself cereal and listening to NPR, I was ready to leave the motel at 8:45 AM.

Driving west on Apalachee Parkway, I soon realized I was too far south to hook up with I-10 easily, so I decided to take Liz’s suggestion and go straight until the road became U.S. 27 through rural North Florida past the towns of Perry and Mayo.

As the highway turned into a two-lane blacktop, I felt I was going through territory somewhere between Tobacco Road and Deliverance. I drove through tiny towns with odd names that look like misspellings, little meandering rivers, and dirt roads that led to Baptist churches which were invariably named either Mount Olive or Shiloh.

When I stopped for gas at this station-cum-restaurant in the town of Branford in Suwannee County, I discovered that my accent had become more Southern.

I kept saying “Yes’m” to the cashier, who was being pestered by her Flannery O’Connor-ish daughter, Kelly Ann, and I exchanged country pleasantries with an old black man, nodding and smiling even as I couldn’t quite understand what he was saying.

Only when I got to High Springs in Alachua County and saw a café that advertised espresso and vegetarian dishes did I feel I was close to civilization.

Places like Fort White, where Jody told me he grew up, were more typical – and God, they looked ugly.

The last leg of my trip was back on I-75. I saved about ten miles and added twenty minutes to the ride by skipping I-10.

At home, I put my stuff away, had lunch, and answered Micki Johnson’s phone call. I agreed to take a Nova class in Business Writing that meets on eight Tuesday nights beginning February 27. This will give me $1,500 and a chance to teach at least one course during this academic year.

Micki’s later message confirming my appointment mentioned that I should send her an updated resume that has my J.D. degree so I can teach Nova “law classes” for her.

After dropping off the car at Budget, I took my Chrysler to the law school. It was a quiet day at work.

Sid Martin’s memorial service will be on February 10 at UF. Linda said there’s no place in his hole-in-the-wall hometown Hawthorne that’s big enough to fit everyone who wants to attend.

I returned a message from the WUFT-FM news department about their series on baby boomers (I had sent them my Publishers Weekly review) and caught up on Lexis and my e-mail.

Teresa said that her trip to Mexico was warm but wet. She and her parents both ordered copies of my book.

And she and Paul have set June 15 as their wedding day. Teresa said I can stay in Brooklyn because her parents will be in Mattituck then. Great!

I saw John Marquette, who learned that he got the fellowship, and Barbara Lewicki left an invitation on my desk to an OutLaw lunch meeting on Monday at Joe’s Deli near Kash n’ Karry. Of course I’ll go.

Home at 4:30 PM, I exercised, read the paper, and had dinner. I let the machine get a message from Tony, the guy from the GayJews list who’s in town for an interview as a faculty member. I’ll call him now.

Saturday, January 27, 1996

9 PM. I spent three hours this afternoon with Tony, picking him up at the Reitz Union, where he had a hotel room. Tony is 36, dark, bearded, and thin.

Although at first he looked kind of nerdy – probably because he’d been dressed for a synagogue service at a Reconstructionist congregation that meets at the United Church – when I finally looked at him as we sat in the Reitz Union food court a few hours later, I found him more attractive.

He’s much more knowledgeable about Judaism than I am, and as I suspected, he’s a convert, so that makes sense.

He grew up with fundamentalist Pentecostal parents in Ohio, and he’s now ABD from the best grad program in the country in applied linguistics, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

UF was his second on-campus interview. He’d previously been out to Nebraska, and if they were to call and offer him the job there, Tony would take it over Gainesville.

Although Tony was enthralled with our warm weather and palm trees, he said he was treated much better by the faculty in Lincoln then he was here.

He seems in demand, at least, for academic jobs. At UI, he’s in the Spanish and Portuguese Department but his field is second-language acquisition.

As we drove around Gainesville. I apologized several times for being an inadequate guide to town. Because I go out so little and am generally quite peculiar, I warned him not to go by my opinions about anything.

I found it interesting that he converted because his fiancée was Jewish and they were planning on getting married before each got involved in same-sex relationships.

Tony sounds as though he’s got a healthy sex life, but his current relationship is with a married guy whose wife doesn’t know he’s gay.

I’m not judgmental, but I would never get involved with a married guy. But then of course, I don’t much get involved with anyone, do I?

Anyway, although Tony thanked me for taking him around town and futilely searching for a coffee bar that was open on Saturday afternoon, I’m sure he would have preferred me to take him to the University Club this evening.

I’ll “speak” to him online. I wished him good luck with Nebraska.

At 5 PM, I stopped by the office. As usual Josh’s response to my last e-mail reminded me how negative he is. He told me not to teach at Nova and said my Johnson & Johnson “Off the Shelf” columns are a waste.

I got another affectionate, sweet note from Kevin, who has finished all his grad school applications. I wonder how he’ll react to the e-mail I sent him about the dream I had.

I’d like to really get to know him and for us to be more than flirty and affectionate. But so far he’s rarely responded to the openings I’ve made in what I consider real intimacy.

Of course, given my weird nature, I should remember that not everyone considers self-revelation as important as I do.

Or maybe Kevin prefers to keep our online relationship in the sexual fantasy stage. I guess I’ll settle for that since I started it that way.

I got mail from Mark Bernstein, who really must be an old fogy because at 50, he keeps complaining about the feminists in his department at Miami University.

Rick Peabody wrote and said that Atticus Bookstore has improved a lot since I saw it last June. He asked me for a new copy of the Kirkus review of Mondo James Dean. He said he’s heard they got a good review in Publishers Weekly but hasn’t seen it.

Up at 7 AM this morning, I did the laundry, got gas, and went to the post office to get quarters.

I put a $20 bill in the big stamp machine, buy some stamps, and use the Susan B. Anthony coins in the other machine to buy 25¢ worth of stamps (a 23¢ and two 1¢ stamps) thus getting three quarters in change each time.

I also bought $72 worth of stuff at Target, exercised, and worked on my Johnson & Johnson column before I went to meet Tony.

Monday, January 29, 1996

7 PM. I woke during the night and got all upset about Kevin. I finally determined to write him a long e-mail entitled fear and honesty, discussing how I felt.

The response was pretty harsh. He accused me of – well, I’m not sure – I guess of treating him like a sex object. He says he doesn’t care what I look like, and he told me he can always have any guy he wants at the University Club. He has no intention of sleeping with me now but just wants to see how things turn out, and he told me I’m a coward when it comes to taking risks.

I responded that he was right, that I am lonely – he got angry when I suggested that he might be, too – and vulnerable, that I’m scared of being hurt because our relationship has gotten so intense.

His reply came after he’d gone outside. (I picture him smoking a cigarette in the freezing Vermont air.) He said I could “pull his chain” the way nobody else could. He said I should help him with his “subtle temper” and he would help me take risks.

We did agree that something has clicked. And he liked it when I used the Casablanca line about the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Kevin made me feel – no, he didn’t make me feel anything – I felt bad because I hurt him; even now, I feel myself beginning to tear up.

We left it while we were both kind of blissed out, but this two-hour emotional upheaval drained me. If we were together, we could at least hug one another.

And it all came during a blizzard of e-mail, including the unexpected news that Carol is retiring – her last day will be next Friday – and Joe Territo telling me they’ve cancelled the Johnson & Johnson Insider page, and with it the “Off the Shelf” column I sent him this morning.

I was useless the rest of the day. It’s a good thing I had a productive weekend because I couldn’t accomplish any work today.

I did go to Joe’s Deli for the OutLaw meeting at 1 PM. Barbara – whom I was finally able to congratulate, as we posted and announced the new Fellows today – expressed disappointment in the turnout.

It was just me, Professor Pouncy, Professor Diane Mazur (who began teaching in August 1994), a couple of new students, but mostly the same people: DeShaun, Reed, this guy Jordan I’d never seen before, some older woman and a couple of others.

We talked about the difficulties of getting law students to meetings and discussed initiating a series of talks by faculty.

I agreed to give a talk about something, but I’d have to research the issues involved first because I don’t want to sound like an idiot. Maybe harassment of gay and lesbian students? At least that’s in education law, my supposed specialty. But, really, I’m no expert in anything. I just know a little about a lot of things.

Back at the office, I reported to Liz on the Tallahassee meeting. I forwarded to her a message I got from Wendy thanking me for all the work I did.

The new Visiting Assistant in Law position that is now open has been tailored specifically for Russ. “We need a resident reactionary, I guess,” Liz said. But Russ isn’t always that bad.

Today was sunny and springlike and I’m so confused and dazed that I don’t quite know what’s what. It feels very much like I’m hurting and feeling great at the same time.