A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late April, 1996
Saturday, April 20, 1996
9 PM. I got to Liz’s house just as she was pulling up with some last-minute purchases, mostly beer. To help her prepare, I cleaned the lawn furniture after she hosed it off.
Wendy Fitzgerald brought back her daughter and Becky from a class trip to Sea World, and soon after that, the first guests, Russ and John Marshall, arrived.
Christy Grier couldn’t make it, as she’s about to go into the hospital for that surgery she needs: they expect to keep her only overnight.
There were more faculty members than at the last party, but Liz had ordered more pizza. There surely were more children.
I chatted with Wendy Fitzgerald, Sharon Rush and Don Peters, and I had a nice conversation with Pedro Malavet, a new law professor from Puerto Rico, a guy about my age I could relate to.
Isabelle brought Derrick, who told some funny public defender stories, and I spent time talking with the new secretaries, Cari and Helen, and Helen’s boyfriend Joseph.
Tucker and his wife brought their little twins, but Jon and Beth left Marguerite with a sitter.
Robertson told me about a recent trip to Atlanta. Today he went to Rochester to compete in a fencing tournament, and on Tuesday he’ll be giving an 11:30 AM talk on the main campus that I’ll probably attend.
Ellen and Laura were the only others from CGR who came to the party, and about half the Fellows did. The ones who are graduating – Monica, Randall, Syles, Jamie, etc. – have to get through finals beforehand and then, I guess they (hopefully) get jobs.
Barbara gave me a copy of the comment on Bowers v. Shahar for the law review, and I put it away.
I did chat with Joe Jackson, who’s definitely Liz’s sweetie. Joe grew up in Connecticut and Broward, went to UF law school in the early 1980s and was last living in Los Angeles, working for a textbook company designing interactive legal exercises for high school students before returning to Gainesville last year to teach Legal Drafting.
Out in the backyard I chatted with Jill and Marcia and some kids, and inside, I had a very long conversation with Marcia’s seven-year-old daughter Bree, who enchanted me. The first thing she said as I watched her take something apart was, “I’m small, strong and smart.”
I realized that the people were noticing our conversation, thinking – as Liz later said she did – something like “Isn’t it sweet how Richard relates to a child.” But the truth is, I like talking to seven-year-olds.
Bree talked to me as if she were debriefing me on the life of a second grader in 1996, and I was fascinated. She clearly likes boys but said she also enjoys “terrorizing” them. She told me she can scare away any boy by making kissing sounds in their direction.
Bree did say she once kissed the boy on the lips, and I learned about her goldfish, her grandfather’s forearm hair (“Stretched out, it’s as long as my head hair”), and the new Muppet movie (“I knew it all without having seen it”).
At one point she asked, “Do you think it’s possible for a girl my age to like an adult like you?”
I said yes.
She told me about this guy in his forties who tried to kidnap her brother Trey. Apparently the guy was a pedophile, and the incident was in the paper.
That was quite a far cry from our earlier conversation about the safety of monkey bars. (New York City is taking them off all its playgrounds due to injury-related lawsuits.)
While I was talking to Bree, Russ and the others who stayed late helped Liz clean up.
Before I left, Russ told me that Jon told him that “that committee picked me over all those Ph.D.’s.” He was clearly relieved.
As annoying as Russ can be when he becomes an elitist reactionary, he can also be charming. I have no doubt he’s the best person for the job.
At home, I read the comment on the Shahar case and Bowers v. Hardwick and the importance of the traditional family. But the case comment is to a nonexistent case because Shahar has been depublished.
I called Barbara about it this morning, but Cynthia said she was out. (Cynthia also said I looked handsome on TV; I’m definitely the kind of guy only lesbians would describe as “handsome.”)
When Barbara called back this evening, she told me she had put up some posters around the law school about the article.
Diane Mazur talked to the people on the law review, but they apparently don’t care that the footnotes in the comment refer to a decision that can’t be found.
Barbara said she’d call Joe Beatty and let him understand the importance of depublication of cases.
Ordinarily, I’d be hesitant about trying to censor anyone, and if Shahar hadn’t been vacated and depublished, I’d let this go.
But the author – who also wrote a Docket article attacking affirmative action – clearly has an agenda, as perhaps the law review does if they’re going ahead with it.
In today’s mail I got a lot of packages. The biggest was the stuff for the Literature Organizations Grant Panel meeting: all the grant applications and supporting materials. I filled out and mailed the travel voucher and will look at the box later.
The Cultural Affairs Division also said my fellowship application is in order – but of course I won’t get one this year. “Moon over Moldova” is a weak story, judging by all the rejections it’s gotten – and I don’t want to influence Christy Sanford on the Fellowship Grant Panel.
My own group’s organization panel is me and three other guys, including Page Edwards.
I got turned down for another NEA fellowship, but given that they awarded a paltry 21 fellowships out of 1,060 applications at a reduced grant of $15,000, it’s obvious that if I couldn’t score one in the NEA’s better days, I’ll never get one post-Gingrich.
Martin sent a copy of the American Book Review, saying the reviewer is “off the beam – but at least they reviewed the book.”
Orders are very slow, he said, coming in in ones and twos – but he hopes libraries will kick in eventually.
The full page review, “Irony and/or Authenticity,” was by one Tyrus Miller, who teaches lit and film at Yale. He must be a grad student because he writes so badly.
Why they linked my book with a collection by Jonis Agee, a solid Midwesterner whose earnest stories feature down-to-earth characters, I can’t imagine.
(The Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1979 reviewed With Hitler in New York with Jim Harrison’s Legends of the Fall, another strange pairing.)
Tyrus Miller hated both of our books. He said I can’t write narrative exposition, which may be true, but he faulted me for using the airline People Express because it no longer exists. Didn’t he understand that the stories were set (and written) in the 1970s and 1980s?
I’m going to resist the temptation to quote him, but he did say that “A Clumsy Story” made him wonder if I’m a more skilled writer than he thought because I proactively addressed the criticisms he had.
But then he said even my metafictional frame of the story was badly written – and that led him to wonder just one last time, if I’m using meta-meta-fiction trying to say that metafiction itself is a cliché. He concludes by saying, Nah, irony can only go so far.
Oddly, the story he liked best was the embarrassingly juvenile “Mini-People.”
Anyway, once I realized that he’s talking about work I did mostly twenty years ago, I don’t feel so bad.
And it is another review, after all. I feel most sorry for poor Jonis Agee having to get clobbered along with me.
At the office this afternoon, I managed to xerox most of the review that was about me (ABR is such an oversized publication; seeing it reminds me I don’t miss it), along with Josh’s harassment diary and five copies of “Moldova.”
I returned that video about job interviews that I showed in class to the public library, where I Survived Caracas Traffic is “checked out,” according to the computer catalog. So the book arrived.
Then I went to the Oaks Mall for sale at Burdines. I bought five short-sleeved button-down sport shirts for $7.99 each (minus a 10% discount) and a good pair of walking shorts.
The cashier was this effeminate black guy I’ve seen before and whom I think is so cute. “Aren’t you excited to get such a bargain?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said, “but I don’t want to show it.”
(I should have said something like, “I’d be more excited if you’d agree to go out with me,” but I’m a wuss.)
I hope to get more done today, but new stuff keeps happening.
Look how unartfully I just phrased that. God how do I get published anyway?
Tuesday, April 23, 1996
8 PM. Last evening I felt awful. I had a throbbing ache in my cheek that could have been sinus trouble or the result of grinding my tea.
Either way I was stressed out and couldn’t sleep, so I listened to the tape of The Fugees’ The Score I bought on Saturday, began reading Dorothy Farnan’s Auden in Love, and watched Murder One on ABC-TV.
Although I slept poorly, I felt better today – probably because I didn’t attempt to do much work. I feel under pressure to produce legal memoranda for Schoolyear 2000, but on the other hand, I’d also like to make sure I do a decent job, and for that I need to be more alert.
Part of me is still hoping the project won’t be re-funded anyway.
Liz talked to me about problems with the Fellows. As I suspected, Mark didn’t finish his hours. Liz said he had a personal catastrophe that he confided in her about five weeks ago which has since been resolved happily.
Yesterday when she told Mark she’d send him a letter about not releasing the money, he grew defensive, and Liz is afraid he may appeal her decision not to let him extend his hours until next fall.
Mark knows that Liz gave Monica a two-week extension because of her work for the symposium, but I told Liz that I doubt that Mark would formally appeal.
I think he’s a Golden Boy – smart, rich, talented – who’s never faced a major obstacle in his life and has never “failed” anything before, so he’s just having difficulty with what happened. But Mark seems sensible, and I figure he’ll probably accept it and grow from the experience.
Liz was also concerned that Matt hadn’t published a Docket article, but I told her she just hadn’t seen it; I had read it and it was on Florida scrub land.
Vinnie Jones from North Florida Journal called to ask if I knew anyone besides Jon Mills or Richard Scher who could go on TV and talk about the Third Congressional District and reapportionment.
I told him the only person at CGR who knew anything about it at all was me, and that I obviously couldn’t be on the program again so soon.
When I went to the library, Rick Donnelly told me that he and his wife saw me on the show last week.
Teresa’s wedding invitation arrived yesterday, and I sent back the response card. It’s Saturday afternoon, June 15, at the house in Oyster Bay. I guess I’ll have to make flight plans in a few weeks.
I did make hotel and car rental reservations for the Literature Organizations Grant Panel meeting in Tallahassee three weeks from now.
Robertson was speaking at 11:45 AM today at the Center for Latin American Studies at Grinter Hall. Jeff drove me and Russ over there for the event, which I felt I had to attend out of politeness.
Robertson is an interesting guy, and while I’m not his friend the way Russ is, I certainly like him. His talk on how he, as a prosecutor, has tried to rescue the Paraná River and particularly the Ilha Grande from the planned dam to turn the river into a lake and provide hydroelectric power to São Paulo, was interesting, if hard to follow for someone not versed in environmental matters.
But after an hour, I was bored out of my mind, and I thought he’d never stop talking. Clearly, Robertson is very enthusiastic about what he does, but he tried to convey all the knowledge he’s absorbed in three years to his audience, and it was just too much.
I understand it because I, too, assume that everyone is interested in what interests me; it’s a bad fault of mine.
I wrote to Brad Richard and the NOCCA writing students a letter about how good this year’s issue of Umbra was, and I sent Denis Woychuk a postcard congratulating him on a fine review in The American Lawyer.
When I went home for lunch, I learned from Barbara that my outgoing message on the answering machine was the news account of Governor Chiles speaking at Shands Hospital on the expense that tobacco use causes the state.
Obviously, I taped over my old message when I tried to see if I could tape myself on the radio last Friday. That Englishwoman who called must have thought I was daft to have such a message!
I answered Barbara’s question on which states have gay civil rights laws.
Back at the office, I read Justin Clouse’s online diary, Justin’s Koool Page, which like all diaries gets tedious and enveloping as you’re in the presence of a particular person’s day-to-day life. Most of the diary entries are given over to his “search for a red-haired knight.”
Justin can be adorable, but I expect he can be quite a pain in the ass, too. He’s amazingly old-fashioned: a country boy who won’t exchange bodily fluids until he meets his soulmate.
Kevin wrote me a brief note to tell me he’d be staying put for a while. Over the weekend, someone broke into his room and stole $600, “all I had that was going to get me out of here.”
I told him that I was so sorry, that I wish I were rich so that I could just replace the money he’d lost – “not that you’d ever accept it, of course.”
I don’t really think Kevin is my brown-haired knight – but was Chester Kallman W.H. Auden’s? Before reading Farnan’s book, I didn’t realize they never had sex after Chester was unfaithful to him for the first time, which was soon after they met.
Like Auden, I’m more interested in loving than being loved, but I don’t give a shit about fidelity or exclusiveness.
Wednesday, April 24, 1996
10 PM. Either I slept in a weird position or I caught a draft from the open window last night because I woke up with a terrible stiff neck that doesn’t seem to have gotten any better during the day.
I’ve been massaging my neck and shoulder with some heat-inducing ointment that Linda recommended when we went out to lunch for Secretaries Day, and I didn’t go back to work this afternoon.
I did attend the Human Rights Council board meeting tonight, however. We discussed giving money to the Pride Committee, having a table at the Fifth Avenue Arts Festival that the black community holds in May, how to react to the Supreme Court decision in Romer v. Evans, and other stuff.
Along with most others, I gave $10 to Helen to join the “10 for Clinton/Gore” committee.
When I got home, I returned a call from Pete Cherches, who finished the first draft of his dissertation.
I’m sure it’s a big relief to have that 330-page manuscript done. He’s given it to his advisor and hopes to get his comments by the time he returns from a mid-May trip to San Francisco, where he’ll see Paul Fericano and Don Skiles.
Since so many people apply for each job, Pete wants to have his Ph.D. by November so he can avoid any weeding out they do for ABD’s (all but dissertations).
While I was home this afternoon, I finished Auden in Love. Why Auden felt the need to be “married” to Chester Kallman is hard for me to fathom. I’m attracted to young guys, but I can’t see myself falling so hard in love that I’d be able to overlook the kind of monumental faults that Kallman had.
On the other hand, I’m alone. Maybe that’s because I prefer nobody to a lover like Chester Kallman. I’ve gotten used to celibacy over the years. While I can understand the need for affection, I guess I won’t risk a lot for it.
I feel guilty about not doing any real work except background reading for Schoolyear 2000 the past couple of days, but the prospect of redoing Monday’s memo has me paralyzed with frustration right now.
At least I did enjoy our office lunch at the Olive Garden. It was not only Secretaries Day for Cari and Helen, but also Helen’s 30th birthday, which is a tough one.
I sat at one end of a long table between Linda and Ellen, and near Tucker, Jon, Joann and Liz.
I feel at ease with the people from the office by now, and that includes Jon. He’s having us all to his lake house the night before Mother’s Day.
I sent Rick a review I found of Mondo James Dean from Sunday’s Oregonian, and Christy Sanford e-mailed that she’s off to Atlanta to lead a workshop in Crossing Genre Boundaries in Teaching Creative Writing at the AWP Convention.
In the mail I got a card to sign as part of the petition to get Ross Perot’s Reform Party on the Florida ballot, and I sent it back since I think Perot’s presence on the ballot will only help Clinton.
Sunday, April 28, 1996
2 PM. Last evening I was listening to The Fugees’ The Score and feeling lonely when I decided to call the Matchmaker, that phone dating service.
There was only one guy worth responding to: a 24-year-old black guy who said he was 145 pounds and looking for “friendship and possibly more.”
When he called at 11 PM, I was asleep and he was apologetic. I should have talked to him – he said his name was Terence and he sounded sweet – but instead I told him it would be better if he called back tomorrow.
So today I’ve been waiting for the phone to ring. Stupid me! I fantasized about his calling and us meeting during the day and naturally I had all these romantic notions more appropriate to a 20-year-old virgin like Justin Clouse.
Naturally, once I got off the phone last night, I was wide awake. I thought about Terence and other guys and how I miss hugging someone, holding them, just looking into someone else’s eyes. Sometimes I get so carried away.
In thinking about identity after reading Sherry Turkel’s Life on the Screen, I remembered coming to Gainesville five years ago. At first I was a first-year law student, nothing more – but gradually I made a place for myself among my classmates, and then I began telling people more about myself.
I began teaching; I got a reputation as a good law student; I started writing and publishing again (Mondo Barbie helped a lot); I became a gay activist and then a staff attorney at CGR.
Five years later, my life is very different than it was when I was about to move to Gainesville, during the precious three months in the summer of 1991 when I lived in Rockaway, wrote my 1980s diary book, visited Grandma Ethel at the adult home in Woodmere, and made occasional forays into Manhattan to see friends.
I think I really do need to leave Gainesville now, and so I hope the DOE grant does not come through. But I’m still scared of what Kevin called “the transient life” in a message titled “I Miss You, Too” that he sent me today.
Kevin said he’d been doing outdoorsy stuff in preparation for moving away from Vermont.
For there is no place that cannot see me, I must change my life. I can stagnate in relative comfort here or I can grow and be uncomfortable and unsure and scared somewhere else.
Christy said that the AWP Convention in Atlanta it was like being at a Republican National Convention. I can just imagine.
Up at 7:30 AM, I did laundry and got groceries and gassed up the car, began reading the Sunday Times, and did aerobics.
10 PM. I just got off the phone after talking to Terence for two hours. He’s a sweet kid, and we’ll probably meet tomorrow evening and that will be the end of it.
He kind of reminds me of Jody. He comes from Live Oak, a fairly small town, and came to Gainesville to come out, go to clubs and meet other gay people. I’m not certain, but I don’t think he’s had any real relationships.
He said he went to Lake City Community College and says he’s going to transfer in the fall but may need to go to Santa Fe before UF.
He’s come out only recently, and he’s still feeling his way, but he sounds level-headed about it. Actually, he sounds like someone who’d be a great catch for a younger guy.
I doubt he’ll be attracted to me, and I don’t know if I could – I hesitate to use the word, but here goes – integrate him into the framework of my life.
I told him I’m 34, mostly because I didn’t think he’d call if I said my real age and I know I look 34 or younger.
Terence works as a cashier at Goody’s, the clothing store at the old Gainesville Mall on 13th Street and lives not far from here on Archer Road and 23rd Terrace.
Probably the age, educational and cultural differences would be too much to overcome even if we were attracted to one another. Still, I enjoyed talking to him and I’m sure I’ll enjoy meeting him.
Earlier, I went to the office and got on the computer and even worked for 20 minutes on my memo before I went over to the Tower Road library.
Kathy resigned from the Human Rights Council board in a huff after Vince, Abby’s husband, said he heard a rumor she had mad cow disease.
That would be funny, I guess, if it weren’t pathetic. Apparently he was responding to Kathy spreading a rumor that Sande Calkins was a lesbian; that really ticked off Bob and Craig.
But I’m not sure I have the story straight.
Monday, April 29, 1996
10:30 PM. I just came back from Terence’s apartment. I don’t know where this will go, but at the door I brought him two purple camellias leftover from last Wednesday’s Secretaries Day bouquet, and he seemed really touched by that.
He gave me a hug and I kissed him on the cheek and it felt weird and wonderful.
He’s adorable: he looks like he’s 18, not 24, skinny and dark-skinned with curly (“not kinky”: his words) hair he hid under a cap all evening.
We talked about a whole lot of stuff. He wanted to be a fashion designer and go to school in Fort Lauderdale, but his family talked him out of it and he went to Lake City Community College and majored in business administration, which he hated.
Terence is very fem; his hands flutter as he talks, and somehow I find that very appealing. I think he doesn’t find me repulsive, and he said he’d call me tomorrow.
He drinks but isn’t good at it, and he doesn’t smoke or use drugs. Basically – I could tell this – he’s been the goody-goody/mama’s boy/perfect student most of his life.
I told him more about myself but not my age. He didn’t seem intimidated that I’ve published books and I’m a lawyer or whatever. I don’t know if we could make a relationship out of this, but I wouldn’t mind trying.
When I got out of my car at home, a neighbor asked me to help him load a dresser into the trunk of his car. After being with Terence all evening, it seemed like such a macho thing to do.
Terence has a sparsely furnished one-bedroom apartment in a complex similar to mine. (He needs to clean his toilet bowl.)
On the surface, he’s obviously a lot like Jody. I want to take it slowly so that it doesn’t end the same way as my relationship with Jody did.
I got an e-mail Craig sent to the HRC board in which he accepted Kathy’s resignation and praised her work. He did it so quickly, I guess he wanted to make sure she couldn’t un-resign.
Bob Karp stopped by the office late this afternoon to get my signatures as the registered agent for the 501(c)(4) form for the Human Rights Council that we have to file with the Secretary of State’s office.
Bob said he’d he’s relieved Kathy is gone. Like me, he knows people who would be active in HRC if Kathy weren’t involved.
Earlier this afternoon, we had a loan forgiveness committee meeting at school that seemed to go on forever.
The problem in designing a system is that none of us are wizards with figures, and like the income tax, it gets more and more complex as you try to make the loan forgiveness program as fair as possible, considering stuff like total indebtedness, salary, dependence, forbearances, etc.
I think we’re having yet another meeting on Friday.
Ronna e-mailed that she, Matthew and Chelsea just got back from a glorious week in San Francisco, where she visited her sister and Matthew attended a medical conference.