A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early December, 1996

by Richard Grayson

Tuesday, December 3, 1996

4 PM. My energy level began to flag a couple of hours ago, and now I need to rest a bit before going out to this evening’s Human Rights Council board meeting. I got an Internet bulletin that there’d be a ruling in the Hawaii gay marriage case late today; perhaps it will come before 7:30 PM.

This morning I went into to talk with Liz, first about Professor Nagan, whom she’ll have to handle. But she wanted to tell me about her ten days in South Florida with Joe and his family. Liz said she’d never been in that world that I knew so well: the Broward County of Jewish New Yorkers.

Both Joe’s parents have remarried, and his father lives near the beach south of Boca, and his mother is in Pembroke Pines. At 39, Joe is the eldest of five brothers, one of whom died of AIDS; he’s got another brother who looks like Jesus and is a fundamentalist preacher, Liz said.

Thanksgiving was a trip for her, because she wasn’t used to such raucous Jewish people, but she loved it, even the visit to Joe’s great-aunt in the assisted living facility (where one of the residents became indignant when Liz won at bingo).

We talked a lot about South Florida. Liz said she hates the layout, the vast urban sprawl, of West Broward, but that the area has definite attractions, and we talked about my future there, and I said, “Things always turn up.”

Sure enough, as soon as I returned to my office, Micki Johnson called and said that if I was moving to South Florida, she’d have more Nova classes for me. We agreed to meet at noon next Tuesday, and she said she’d introduce me to people and put me to work.

Actually, I’d like to be attached to another university, particularly one that has a law school. I tend to forget that I originally started working at Nova in August of 1992, and as Micki said, growth there seems exponential.

Micki said that I’m “versatile” and can teach a variety of subjects, like Argumentative Writing, The Individual and Society, Business Writing, American Literature and Business Law.

Earlier, Liz had mentioned that someone in the dean’s office told her that by mistake, my non-reappointment letter omitted the paragraph that I could be let go at any time. Apparently under the law, they’re obliged to give me ninety days’ notice.

Now I’ve just checked the faculty handbook, and it says that if a certain statement wasn’t in my contract, “90 days’ notice must be provided. The effective date of the non-reappointment may not occur during the term of the existing contract.”

I’ve just looked through my papers, and I can’t find my appointment letter, but I’m sure a copy is in the office in Laura’s files. This might be a real problem if, as I read the regulation, they are commanded not to reappoint me now.

I can’t leave the Center for Governmental Responsibility without the assurance of collecting unemployment insurance, so I’d better talk to Jon tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 4, 1996

8 PM. I hope I can sleep tonight after being up nearly all the last two days. I expect I will, as I now know exactly where I’ll be till the end of April: right here.

Let’s do this chronologically. Yesterday I became more and more upset; I called Liz, who told me to talk with Jon, and then I spoke with my parents for an hour.

Before I left for the Human Rights Council meeting, I heard that the Hawaii gay marriage decision came down, so at the CGR office, I got news stories from the MSNBC and CNN Web sites printed out to share at the board meeting.

We met for ninety minutes at the SFCC Downtown Center: the people who always attend – Craig, Bob, Roger, Richard Smith, Abby, Sue and me – as well as two people from the Gay Lesbian and Bisexual Student Union.

At the meeting we discussed the newsletter and bulletin, lobbying the County Commission not to appeal the court decision on Amendment 1, and the tactics we should use to get the City Commission to pass a gay rights law. We have to get Bruce Delaney reelected in March, and then he, Sandy and Pegeen will be a 3-2 majority.

I enjoyed the give and take, the inside stuff, and the humor (a lot of which I supply myself).

After coming home, I fell asleep at 10:30 PM, only to awaken an hour later and be up most of the night, feeling upset, impatient, my brain working furiously.

Jon wasn’t in today, so I told my problem to Linda, Russ and finally to Joann, who gave me copies of Laura’s e-mails from last Tuesday: one requesting a letter of non-reappointment for me and then telling Jon, Tucker, Liz and Joann that because they’d left the two-sentence magic phrase out, I had to be given ninety days’ notice before I could leave CGR.

I’m a bit annoyed that Laura didn’t mention this to me, but it probably would have ruined my long weekend. Joann suggested I talk to Kathy, so I e-mailed her, and she confirmed everything, saying she would have to see if I could waive the ninety days.

But I’d already checked the Florida Administrative Code and it was there in rule 6C1-whatever. If I resign, I can’t collect unemployment. If I just stopped showing up at work, I’d be deemed to have resigned. If I accepted a letter from them, I could turn around and sue them – which is why they never would write one.

I spoke to Mom at length, and also to Teresa, who said this happened all the time when she worked for the State of New York, particularly when administrations changed.

Linda Baldwin suggested they could back-date a letter, but I had all the public record – the e-mails – and that would be fraud.

Anyway, I went home for lunch and decided that I couldn’t wait till I spoke with Jon. My landlord – the rental agent, anyway – jumped at my offer to extend the lease until the end of April, and I went to the post office to fill out a form sending my mail back from Mom’s house to this address.

I left a message with Micki that I was now still available for the American Lit classes in Gainesville and Ocala if she didn’t give them to someone else. She told me they would be mine, that I could teach them till the end of April, but I said that I still wanted to see her in Fort Lauderdale next week.

I’d thought of canceling my trip, but I already got out of the New Jersey Online forum, so I decided I might as well take a vacation in South Florida.

And when I got back to the office this afternoon, I told everyone, including Jon, who arrived at 4:30 PM as I was leaving, that I will be staying on in the job at CGR for another three months after the end of this year – assuming they send me a letter of non-reappointment as of December 31.

So I’ll still be a CGR staff attorney in social policy until spring.

I spoke with Linda and Joann and Bill about the lack of progress on the genome front. Dr. Holbrooke is the problem. I guess I will end up working on the genome conference after all.

But there’s no main speaker yet, so we don’t know what direction that it will take – and without funding, Bill will have less time to devote to it because he must come up with funds for the medical school to continue his own program.

I e-mailed various friends with individually tailored “You’re Not Going to Believe This” messages. Ronna wrote back that I appear to adjust well to changes even if I think otherwise. And Kevin said he’ll be in Gainesville Christmas week.

Teresa said Cat’s wedding will be the second Saturday and June; Cat and her husband are moving to Tucson soon after that. Teresa also said Carolyn will apparently agree to a settlement of her alimony claims.

The buyers of their house don’t have financing yet, so it’s not clear when Teresa and John can move into their new Locust Valley home, and it looks as if J.J. will go back to Aspen rather than move in with them. Back there, Teresa’s cousin is divorcing his wife of ten years.

Now that I’ve got flat-rate monthly pricing on Delphi, I don’t have to worry about how long or when I log on at home to check my e-mail.

Today’s Supreme Court oral argument on Arizona’s English-only law convinces me that I was right last night at the Human Rights Council board meeting when I wondered whether Concerned Citizens has standing to appeal the overturning of Amendment 1 even if the county decides not to.

I’ve got Judge Chang’s ruling in Baehr v. Miike to read, as well as Liz’s Poverty Law final to edit and proofread.

I’m so wired I probably won’t fall asleep right away, even if I am exhausted. In truth, this change makes the immediate future easier. We’re getting a salary increase on January 1, and I’ll now be able to be much better off in terms of paying off all my credit cards and maybe saving some more.

And once I get the letter, I’ll have a date certain when I’m leaving CGR. Of course, I may not go to South Florida at the end of April if I can get one of the fellowships I applied for.

Anyway, I think it was fate that they inadvertently left those two sentences off the letter. I’ll enjoy helping Liz interview for the Public Interest Law Fellows program, and it’s really easy to live in Gainesville.

So ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on. (It would have anyway.)

Saturday December 7, 1996

4:30 PM. It started raining furiously at 7:30 AM when I was shopping at Walmart – among other things, I bought one of those step devices for the step aerobics they do on Homestretch and a glass two-quart pitcher for making the dry nonfat milk I think will be cheaper than fresh skim milk – and it’s let up only sporadically since then.

After I got home from my final Nova class of the semester and had lunch, I called Richard and said I’d be staying in the rest of the day.

Last night I had a dream I can’t quite remember, but it involved relief at not getting involved with him. Just on the basis of an hour’s conversation, I could find myself chafing at his domesticity and his attempts to bring me into it. It made me realize how much I value my independence.

Going alone to an event – like last night’s lecture – meant that I could leave when I pleased. And I don’t really want to live with anyone just yet. Richard already seemed to be considering how he could adjust his cooking of candlelight dinners to my low-fat diet. We haven’t even met yet!

As for going to the house he once shared with Eric, it made me envision the terror of Rebecca, complete with a servant who worshipped the late first spouse of the house’s owner.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. But Richard isn’t bright enough for me and he’s far too conservative. I’d have the same cultural problem with him that I had with Terence, just in a different way. He drives a Cadillac and is probably a Republican!

I certainly wouldn’t expect any guy, especially a younger one, to come into my world at all, let alone two months after my long-term lover died. If I do get involved with another guy, it will be one who has his own independent life apart from me: his own interests, friends, habits, whatever.

Anyway, I think Richard now understands that we’re not a match and I don’t think he’ll be disappointed when I don’t call him again.

Although I’d like to have sex with someone, if I did that with Richard, he’d probably see it as a commitment, and all I want for now is a guy to date: to go out to the movies with, spend some time together, share affection, and see if that leads to anything in the future.

Am I too cautious when I think that it takes at least a couple of months before two people can know one another well enough even to be a couple?

I now understand how I alarmed Terence by telling him how I felt about him soon after we met. I was simply needy, just as Richard is needy – and because of Eric’s relatively recent death, he’s extremely vulnerable.

Since yesterday my e-mail inbox has received over 250 annoying messages from Kevin’s friend James in Lakeland replying to Kevin’s mass mailing about his spotting the actors from The Dukes of Hazzard in a restaurant.

I called Kevin’s work voicemail at Warner Bros. and told him never to send me e-mail unless it’s for me alone. “Reply all” is a curse on humanity.

But it’s my own fault; I should have acted on my early impulse to tell Kevin to take me off his mass mailings. To me, sending such things shows disrespect for your friends.

Whether my friendship with Kevin can survive this, I don’t know, although I tried to make it clear that I still liked him. I’m afraid James’s messages will overflow my mailbox while I’m away, and legitimate messages would be unable to get through.

On Delphi, it was impossible to read my “real” messages and it takes 15 minutes just to delete all of James’s every time I go on. When the deluge started yesterday, I asked the CGR computer guru, Ken Tinkler, who explained that the problem sometimes occurred with the sender’s mailer. Jesus, what a pain.

This afternoon I lectured a little over an hour to the Nova class and then had them write an essay in the next 75 minutes – and so The Individual and Society course is over.

As I said to Liz yesterday, it could be a great class if you have decent students. At least I knew that the other Nova teachers considered this group the cluster from Hell, and really it was only five of the ten that were beyond all hope.

However, that’s half the class and enough to poison the whole experience. Still, I enjoyed teaching the course and will do a better job next time.

Tuesday, December 10, 1996

9:30 PM. I’m trying to adjust to being back in Fort Lauderdale.

My parents, who are unused to temperatures below 60°, turned up the heat last night, even though I would never have thought I needed heat if I were home in Gainesville. The warmth kept me drowsy, and I had a terrific night’s sleep despite being on two air mattresses on the floor of Dad’s office.

My appointment with Micki was at noon today, and I’m glad I asked Dad to lend me one of his dress shirts, as well as the tie and suit jacket.

Dad said I can have many of his dress shirts in his suits, both because he doesn’t need to wear them anymore and because they no longer fit him.

After handing in my grades, I waited in Micki’s office while she talked on the phone. I heard her say how many sections she’s got to fill as I looked at the textbooks, including a Business Law text from West and the new Fourth Shorter Edition of The Norton Anthology of American Literature, which I’m going to use next term.

When I got to see her, Micki was so effusive and complimentary that it embarrassed me. She introduced me to a number of people, all Nova Business School administrators or faculty, one of whom asked me if I could teach Hospitality Law next month in Kingston, Jamaica.

Only one of her colleagues could join us for lunch: George Andropoulos, a handsome guy in his late twenties. (That’s how old he looked to me, anyway. Before I told them my age, Micki and George thought I was in my mid-thirties.)

We went to lunch at Town Pizza on University and Nova Drive, where I ate only a small portion of my spaghetti marinara.

George is a Canadian who only recently moved here with his wife, and I was surprised when Micki said that she’d been living in South Florida for just the past five years. So I go back way further in Broward County than either of them do.

While I enjoyed the lunch, I hope I didn’t talk too much about my accomplishments and made it sound as if I’ve done everything.

Micki is really hot for me to teach for Nova in South Florida, and she even called someone in charge of the English classes and told him she’d personally bring over my curriculum vita.

After thanked her profusely, I took my American Lit books and left Nova around 1:30 PM. Since I was dressed up, I decided to go across the street and visit BCC-Central.

Surprisingly, Building 6, the old English Department offices, was completely closed. I asked around, and one student told me the faculty were now on the second floor of Building 7.

When I got there, I saw Lynn Grow – whose name came up with the Nova folks because he teaches there. Lynn took me in to see Rosemary Lansche, who went back to teaching after giving up her position as Curriculum Coordinator so she could finally get her Ph.D.

It was odd that I got hugs and kisses from both Rosemary and Mary Ellen Grasso, who’s currently crammed into the Reading Lab with other teachers while their offices are being renovated. (The pipes in Building 6 burst, and the college is also removing the asbestos that’s everywhere.)

Dr. Grasso said of BCC: “The teachers are getting burned out, the students are getting worse, and now they’re plagiarizing from the Internet.” So she still has her same preoccupations.

Mary Ellen swore she’d stay just two years more at most before retiring. Both she and Rosemary looked older, but of course after five years, I’m sure that I do, too.

Susan and Flora, the secretaries, said hello, as did Greg Maddison. It felt good to return to a place where I worked and still feel welcome.

It’s nearly 16 years since I first met Dr. Grasso and began teaching at BCC and 17 years since I first came to Broward County, back when this whole area was practically rural instead of the sprawling, congested mess it is now.

Mom says they now call this area Central Broward rather than West Broward, since by now Weston and all the other developments that stretch to U.S. 27 have added tens of thousands of new residents.

I still feel at home here.

Yesterday when I went to Publix, I saw the kinds of people I’d never see in Gainesville – like the Giorgio-scented middle-aged blonde Jewish women wearing white nylon Members Only jackets who brought to mind how Mom looked fifteen years ago.

There’s just so many more people around now. And if South Florida isn’t New York City, it’s clearly a big metropolitan area and very different from small-town Gainesville.

I went out to the South Regional Library at BCC-South this evening, and while I was there, I also checked on Patrick’s hours; I’ll go to see him in the late morning tomorrow.

Being at both BCC and Nova reminded me that I have a life apart from the UF College of Law, and that’s important to me.

I like that I can go back to places where I worked and be greeted warmly. It’s always been smart of me to leave jobs on good terms, and it pays off.

Before I go to sleep, I plan to finish reading today’s New York Times. It’s pledge time on PBS, so WPBT is running schmaltzy shows on Jewish culture and klezmer music. I wonder if they’ll mention Uncle Dave.