A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-August, 1996

by Richard Grayson

Sunday, August 11, 1996

8 PM. Last evening I watched the video of Jean Cocteau’s 1948 film Les Parents terribles, which was excellent.

I fell into a deep sleep and had numerous dreams, most of which took place in lower Manhattan; one featured a film similar in structure and tone to Pulp Fiction. I also remember a dream in which I was at a familiar location, West 8th Street and Sixth Avenue in the Village.

After going out at 7:30 AM to buy the Sunday Times and groceries at Kash n’ Karry, I never went out again.

Much of the afternoon it rained heavily, but I probably should have gone out later. I also should have worked more on my Shade review.

In truth, I don’t know where the day went to. Except for exercise, meals, grooming, and 90 minutes of TV news shows, I didn’t seem to accomplish anything but reading the paper.

Other people must read the Sunday New York Times a lot quicker or less thoroughly than I do because it takes me such a long time.

A guy from the Bronx named Michael Reyes wrote a letter to the Times responding to mine. Based on his experience as a 12-year-old immigrant put in hopeless bilingual classes in junior high, Reyes favors the Official English bill.

He says he was only able to get where he is – he recently graduated from Hunter and will attend law school in the fall – because he was mistakenly put into a non-bilingual class in high school and forced to learn the language.

Reyes suggested that I was delusional when I said that Americans are in no danger of being split off into linguistic ghettos and pointed to Chinatown and Washington Heights.

He said he agreed with me about second-generation Americans learning English, but the issue was helping immigrants like himself.

I think he conflates the issue of bilingualism as educational practice with what the bill that the House passed does.

I could argue with some of his points – the neighborhoods he mentions are filled with immigrants, and most of their descendants will speak English better than they will be able to manage talking in Chinese or Spanish.

But I’ve never been dismayed to see my name in the New York Times; he quoted me, and people who didn’t see my letter (those who only read the Sunday paper, for example) might learn about it today.

And as a teacher, I’ve always found it nice to make a young person think and respond thoughtfully to my ideas.

Anyway, this has been one of my monastic Sundays. The week ahead is the last “slow” week of summer.

Hard as it is to imagine, the first-year students start Intro to Law on Thursday, and full classes start a week from Tuesday, so I’ll have to begin getting to school early enough to get a parking space.

Next week I start teaching at Nova, so I’ll be under a lot more time pressure.

I should also be hearing from the South Florida Water Management District about how terrible my documents were; I can’t believe they’ll let the month go by without telling me how to revise them.

While I’m a bit scared about the feedback, I need guidance before I can proceed further.

I didn’t get any e-mail from George today, and I’m glad he took the day off from ruminating about the lawsuit publicity.

If I’d been more productive today, I’d probably feel better – but at least I feel a lot better physically.

Tuesday, August 13, 1996

8 PM. I dozed off during the Republican convention once I got into bed.

Before that, I was working on my Nova syllabi at the computer as I watched the GOP relentlessly hide the full-mooners of the religious right and instead parade in front of the TV cameras people like that Bosnian war hero (the Air Force guy who got shot down and had to eat insects, I mean) and a little black girl with HIV who read a poem she wrote.

Anyway, I missed the speeches of Ford and Bush – if the TV network even ran them – but did manage to awaken at the end of a video salute to senility in the form of Ronald Reagan and a touching talk by Nancy.

Colin Powell’s speech was pretty good – though when he said he favored a woman’s right to choose and affirmative action, the boos were audible until he rushed through to the applause line about Republican unity.

I’ve always expected that 1996 will be a close election, and I expect Dole to get a good bump in the polls from this week.

Hell, Dole could even win in November for all I know, depending on how the next three months play out.

I woke up at 5 AM, unable to get back to sleep, so I got online and found e-mail from Kevin, telling me about his weekend.

I like when he shares the details of his life with me: his dinner with friends, the mistake of drinking ten glasses of Amaretto one night, his housemate’s film scripts.

I left a long message on his voicemail at Warner Bros., telling him what’s happening here. At 6 AM, the phone rates are pretty low.

Elihu also e-mailed me with his news: unpaid overtime at work, the usual hassles with the shareholders of his co-op as a member of the board, his inability to make a second date with the guy he likes due to the guy’s busy schedule.

Elihu wondering if he could use “seeing someone” as an excuse not to go out and meet other people. Hey, I’ve found “being busy” to be the best excuse.

Although I didn’t get to work till 9:30 AM, I was there before Russ for a change.

The paint smell in my new office went away, but the entire place stinks because they painted Joann’s old office before Linda moves in there.

I had the usual 20 or so messages from George and Steve regarding the trademark dispute following Steve’s call to George magazine’s lawyer Lawrence Shire. He reported that the guy is arrogant and totally ignorant of trademark law.

To give Shire a little pressure this afternoon, I joined the chorus of Netizens who are apparently harassing him: I called his office and told Shire’s secretary that I’d like to come up from Brooklyn and punch him in the nose.

I worked some more on the Shade review, discussing images of gay black men in film and some homophobic lyrics in rap songs. I’m also going to mention Marlon Riggs’s Tongues Untied and Pomo Afro Homos.

But enough with the background already, Grayson; now it’s time for you to get down with the stories in the anthology themselves.

The power at the law school kept going on and off for a while, so I took a long lunch and read the Times at home.

Tucker told his mother that I knew Stephen Wright, and she wanted him to ask where I knew Stephen from, so we ended up talking about the arts grant panels and Seminole Community College and Tucker’s family’s long history in Sanford.

I called Mom this morning and was annoyed (but I didn’t show it) when she asked me, “But if they found money to keep your job going, you’d stay, wouldn’t you?”

She still doesn’t get it! I keep forgetting that my parents are now elderly people and it’s useless to try to explain stuff to them that they won’t understand.

Thursday, August 15, 1996

1 PM. After a good night’s sleep and an evening spent centering myself and reading the first assignment in that miserable Rottenberg text for Argumentative Writing, my old irrepressible self has returned.

Today the Washington Post story is out, quoting lawyer Shire, and George said the AP released the Columbus Dispatch story nationwide.

This morning I had my interview about the Committee for Immediate Nuclear War with Jay Charles and his female sidekick on Kansas City’s KISF-FM.

It went well, and I was ebullient and funny, so much so that they asked me to tape a promo: “Hi, this is Richard Grayson, chairman of the Committee for Immediate Nuclear War, and you’re listening to the Morning Head Rush on 107-point-3 – it’s a bomb!”

The interview energized me and confirmed my belief that my true calling lies in doing something related to performing – well, in addition to the more serious stuff.

I just got a call from a Sprint operator asking me if this is 372-9842. I got scared that someone was trying to confirm my name and number, but it turned out to be a Nova student who’s finishing her associate degree at Webster College with classes that conflict for the first few weeks of my course.

I told her that she could home-study and then I’d work it out with her on Wednesday. She kept calling me “Sir.”

Here at UF’s law school, the first-year students are back on campus, and while I thought I’d resent seeing students back, I’m glad to have them around because they’re energizing. It was nice to spot at least one rainbow sticker on a sports utility vehicle in the parking lot.

Anyway, I got a call today from Professor Sandra Fradd of the University of Miami whose study on bilingualism I cited in my New York Times letter.

We talked about her work and how maybe CGR could do something in conjunction with her department, as she’s actually up here in Gainesville at UF for the summer. After we hung up, I emailed her the reply from the guy against bilingual education.

I also got a postcard from a woman in Bridgehampton complimenting me on my letter, saying she’d sent it to her congressman.

In the mail I got another survey for congressional candidates, this one from the Florida Cultural Action Alliance. As a member of the arts community, I’m probably more supportive than any other congressional candidate of arts funding – especially since I’ve been a beneficiary of it.

I read a very good story by Charles Pouncy in the anthology Brother to Brother. It’s probably autobiographical, about a 14-year-old Brooklyn junior high student’s first gay party.

I wrote Pouncy, complimenting him on his fiction, and later he thanked me, saying that maybe one day he’d have the energy to get back to it.

Last night the GOP convention was so boring that I shut off the TV and got much-needed sleep instead.


7 PM. At work this afternoon I read all of Ellen’s files on the genome project, and I cleaned out a lot of files she’s got that we don’t need anymore.

Unlike most of the CGR staff, I enjoy throwing out papers, and all my files since I came to CGR don’t even take up half of one drawer of the filing cabinet.

When Jon came into my office a few days ago, he noticed my pristine desk compared to Russ’s desk, which is overflowing with all kinds of junk, and said, “In the next four months, can you take some time to teach Russ how to organize?”

Tucker said that if all goes well, I can move into my new office next week. Linda has already moved into hers.

Tucker and I spoke about CGR’s future, to prepare for the next meeting he and I are having with Joann and Jeff on Monday.

When I phoned my parents, Dad was busy with work – he’s going to San Juan on Sunday – so Mom spoke to me.

Marc was having severe chest pains on Tuesday evening, so he went to the emergency room. The EKG and other tests were fine, but the doctor told Marc he should have a stress test.

The doctor also told him to take an aspirin a day, as Dad does, to ward off not only cardiovascular disease but also colon cancer.

Mom told me to do the same, but I get sick from aspirin, and if I don’t eat enough fiber to ward off colon cancer, then aspirin is not going to help.

We have no family history of heart disease before age 60, but Marc is overweight and eats terribly. (I don’t think much of his Atkins diet.)

Anyway, Marc is lucky to have health insurance through his job at the store.

Micki Johnson called at 5 PM to tell me to check in with the Nova cluster coordinators.

When I spoke to Phil, I learned that the Bellah books haven’t yet been ordered, but they seem to be out of print anyway. God knows what we’ll do; Phil will call Micki tomorrow.

I can’t believe I might have to improvise a curriculum for the course – but that’s Nova’s Bachelor of Professional Management program for you.

The Ocala coordinator, Roseanne Fricks, gave me one bit of bad news: there are about 20 students in the class. That will mean a lot of papers to grade.

I told Roseanne I’d see her on Wednesday evening, and she gave me directions to the school: it’s right off Pine Avenue (U.S. 441) and south of State Road 200, where I often stop to eat and gas up on my trips south.

I voted in the September primary by absentee ballot. Tonight I will watch the last night of the Republican convention.

Monday, August 19, 1996

8 PM. Last evening I watched the video of Gus van Sant’s 1989 film Drugstore Cowboy with Matt Dillon as an addict who leads a group of thieves who rob drug stores to get high. It was excellent, one of the few times I could understand how wonderful that heroin can make a person feel.

Today was the last day before law school classes begin, which means I’d better get to school earlier than 9 AM most days from now on. I’ve been spoiled by the four months since the spring term ended and the plentiful parking I’ve had.

I saw Becky coming downstairs as I entered Bruton-Geer hall, and she told me what a great time she’d had during the four weeks at the camp in New Jersey where she got to perform in plays and learn theater techniques and acting and tech stuff.

Becky looked great, and it would not shock me if she actually made performing her career when she grows up.

Russ had left the office before I got there, as he and Jon were spending the day in Tallahassee.

I managed to get a few things done before a 10 AM meeting in Tucker’s office with him, Joann and Jeff, during which we tried to thrash out just what it is we want to do in this proposal and presentation for Dean Matasar.

In the end, after two hours, we decided on a short written document and a presentation that would need graphics.

After Tucker produced an outline, I started working on the introduction but found it rough going. It’s all such bullshit, and I hate writing stuff like that.

On the other hand, I just spent the last 45 minutes in a futile attempt to revise what I’ve got of my book review of Shade, and in the end all the work I did was so bad that I didn’t save any changes.

Now I’m back to what I had at the beginning, which I had been so dissatisfied with. I think I may need to read the book again, but maybe I’m just having trouble writing today.

Last evening I got another call from an anxious Nova student. His name was James and he wanted to know about the diagnostic essay.

I’m going to take Wednesday afternoon off and maybe the whole day so I can prepare for my classes and work on some other tasks I need to accomplish.

At this point I regret taking on this Wednesday evening class in Ocala, and I’m sure I’m going to feel the same way for the next seven weeks, asking myself why I took on this extra pressure.

During the summer, it would have been easier because I didn’t have much CGR work. Oh well.

My friend Jerry from Meyer Levin Junior High emailed me to ask if I was still in Gainesville, and I wrote him back at his new e-mail address.

I also exchanged e-mail with Ronna after I saw a Times photo of Stanley Newman, the editor of puzzle books at Random House, who was a Brooklyn College classmate of ours, an APO member, and a friend of Craig and Harvey.

I received a “You silly…” note from Kevin responding to my voicemail about him being awfully adorable for a tall white guy.

Kevin bought his housemate’s 1964 Studebaker with 60,000 miles for $900, so now he’ll have transportation in L.A. on the weekends.

George and Steve Hill sent several messages to each other regarding the trademark case that they copied me on, and I emailed George articles from AP in several papers: the Los Angeles Times and dailies in Tacoma and Edmonton.

Steve is preparing a proposal for Shire, but George seems to be anxious to file for a declaratory judgment in federal court in Columbus if Shire turns down the offer and refuses to negotiate.

I’m staying out of it.

My car hit 100,000 miles when I wasn’t looking as I drove home for lunch. As Marc had pointed out to me when I was in Miami, odometers used to “turn over” at 100,000, but now they just keep adding up the miles. Mine is digital anyway.

I’m starting to feel time-pressured, but that’s only because I’ve had the luxury of so much free time lately.

Where did it all go? I seem to have wasted so many hours, but I can’t remember what I was doing. The reality , of course, is that I’m terribly spoiled.