A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early January, 1997
by Richard Grayson
Wednesday, January 1, 1997
9:30 PM. It would be too much to hope for that all the days of 1997 would be as pleasant as New Year’s Day.
I was awakened from sleep shortly before midnight, and when I turned on the radio, I heard a voice counting down: “… nueve … ocho … siete …” and so on until it was midnight and people shouted “Happy new year!” as the crowd cheered and the music swelled.
I soon fell back asleep, to pleasant dreams. (I promised myself I would remember one, but not having written it down, the dream is beyond recalling now.)
Up at 6:45 AM, I dozed on and off till I finally got up for breakfast at 7:30 AM. It was a gloriously bright, sunny and mild day. I exercised, showered, put on a T-shirt and shorts, and forced myself to work on my queercore band story.
At 11:30 AM, I was interrupted by a call from Leora Tanenbaum, who interviewed me for the Salon story on PEN. Last night, to refresh my memory, I’d read all the articles I could find about PEN controversies going back to Mailer’s term as PEN president, and I added my own impressions of PEN events I’d attended, from the point of view of a non-active member.
When we were done, Leora said I’d been incredibly helpful. I flatter myself that I’m a good interview subject, but then, I’ve had lots of practice.
I returned to writing, and after several hours more I done enough work on “Boys Club” (the new title) to know that I’ve turned the corner.
I don’t know that I’ll have written a good story or one Janice Eidus and her co-editor will accept for the anthology – but I know I’ll have a story. Well, a Richard Grayson-type story, anyway: basically plotless.
It’s hard to work on the narrator’s voice because it’s someone so much younger than I. The stuff I got on queercore from the Internet I appropriated, transformed and embellished. Eventually I’ll have something.
I read a little, watched TV, and at 3:30 PM I took an hourlong walk, carrying my Walkman and listening to More Tales of the City on tape. It was 78° and I could feel quite comfortable in shorts.
Home again, I listened to all things considered while I had dinner – low-fat franks, sweet potato, strawberries – and then watched a Seinfeld rerun that I’d never caught before.
At 7:30 PM, the phone rang and someone asked for me. I recognized the voice immediately: it was Mark Savage, of all people.
A friend of his found me through a White Pages on the Internet. Actually, he found four Richard Graysons but I was the only one without a wife.
Mark lives in Union, New Jersey, the next town over from Hillsdale, where Consuelo still lives in the house they bought before their divorce five years ago.
Mark told me he worked as a proofreader for 17 years but finally decided to leave.
After getting himself together, he’s now a sixth-grade teacher at a public school on Sterling Place in Brooklyn: a nice school with a supportive principal, good faculty and pleasant students.
Consuelo, who lives with a Chilean man and his two teenage sons, just became an assistant principal in the Bronx. Mark is in no hurry for her to sell the house because they couldn’t get what they paid for it.
Their oldest son became Orthodox (but nonpolitical) and is married and living in Jerusalem. (No grandchildren yet, but Mark knows they’re coming.)
Their younger son is 22 and not quite as religious; he’s been studying in Israel but plans to come back to the States.
Mark’s youngest brother lives in San Francisco and plans to become a Reform rabbi. In a couple of months, Mark is flying out to go to his brother’s wedding to the guy he’s been living with for the last three years.
(“I don’t know how everyone got to be so religious,” Mark said, “with me and my parents still atheists.”)
Mark’s parents still live in Coney Island, but they bought a condo in Sun City, Arizona – where Mark visited them recently.
And his grandfather, at 101, is still alive but fading at the Harbor View nursing home, the one at Knapp Street by the Belt Parkway in Sheepshead Bay.
Mark and I talked for an hour, and of course I was in touch or knew more about friends from Brooklyn College than he did. Because Mark dropped out in 1971, his friends tended to be those who graduated before I did.
After we hung up, I realized I forgot to tell Mark about that New Year’s Eve party at his parents’ Trump Village co-op – exactly 26 years ago – that was so memorable for me.
Life is remarkable.
Friday, January 3, 1997
8 PM. The Gators won the mythical national football championship last night by demolishing the Seminoles 52-20 in the Sugar Bowl.
Thus, because Arizona State lost the day before and because of another upset earlier in the season, the Gators turned up number one in the polls of whoever it is – I guess coaches and sports writers – who decide these things.
I watched the game only intermittently, certain at first that UF would lose, and then, after I saw the big lead they developed in the second half, certain they’d win.
Even though there are few students in town and the apartment complex is more than half-empty, I could hear cheering after every Florida touchdown.
I returned to watch the last fifteen minutes of the game and the interviews with coach Steve Spurrier (who will now be even more God-like in Gainesville) and Heisman-winning quarterback, the too-good-to-be-true Danny Wuerffel.
Unable to sleep afterwards – the game didn’t end till after midnight – I listened to the last of seven tapes of Armistead Maupin’s More Tales of the City.
The novel kind of fell apart at the end, but in a serial, the parts had to be neatly tied up. Anyway, it was a diverting book to listen to, if not one I’d want to waste my eyesight on.
I didn’t get very much sleep, but then I didn’t get to the law school till after 10 AM, parking next to Nancy Dowd, who could hardly contain her excitement over the outcome of the game in New Orleans.
I brought a diskette with “Boys Club” on it to the office, and I spent two hours revising and adding to the story and then polishing it.
After reading one printout, I made minor editing changes and then printed out several final hard copies, which I took with me home for lunch.
I mailed out the story to Janice Eidus and John Kastan with a sense of satisfaction that isn’t related to my doubts about whether they will accept the story.
The accomplishment was that I had written the 10-page story at all, especially given all my doubts. On Monday I thought I’d never do it and felt that I was a fraud as a writer, but then I got it done by today, four weeks in advance of the deadline.
Later I thought about sending other copies to little magazines, but I don’t know where in tarnation to submit it.
“Twelve-Step Barbie” got rejected maybe 20 times, but once it came out in Mondo Barbie, that seemed to validate it, and all of a sudden it was, for me, a classically successful story.
I doubt if “Boys Club” works on the same level, and like all my stories, it’s deeply flawed – but if Janice and John don’t take it, I feel certain that I can get published somewhere, although it will probably garner lots of rejections on the way there.
The mail brought the $200 check from New Jersey Online, which in addition to my $930 paycheck electronically deposited to my account, raise my checking balance above $3000.
That has to last me for four weeks because I’ll hardly be getting any money two weeks from today. But all it means is I have to paid down less on my gold MasterCard.
I got a “pre-approved” 6.9% interest rate Citibank Visa application today, but I threw it away, knowing I’ll never get one and not sure I would want the credit line even if I could.
Today I did even less CGR work than I did yesterday, when at least I spent an hour with Tucker, advising him on ways of doing small group activities with the undergraduate class he’ll be teaching during the spring semester.
I e-mailed Pete that I thought his writing about his trip to India was excellent and that he should try to get it published, although I have no idea where. Pete said he didn’t submit to Janice’s anthology because he doesn’t “do rock ‘n’ roll.” I guess he’s a jazz and Tin Pan Alley man.
Pete asked me if I’d seen Ken Bernard’s book, which mentions me in the acknowledgements; I’ve been meaning to get it, and now I certainly will.
George e-mailed that he got promoted, finally, to assistant arts editor at the dispatch and he got a raise.
He invited me to submit a “Letter From…” for February’s online issue of George Jr., with a January 15 deadline.
Before I decide to do it, I want to see this month “Letter From…” But it’s always a wonderful opportunity when I’m invited to send in writing to a good publication.
After I downloaded and printed out a 110-page payroll manual from the university home page for Laura, I left the office at 3 PM and returned all my books on tape to the downtown library.
Wednesday, January 8, 1997
4 PM. I decided to leave the office early today, and as I wandered the parking lot, a guy asked me if I could give him a boost. He had cables, so I said I’d do it as soon as I could figure out where I’d parked.
Finally I remembered I’d found the space on the street, so I got my car, and after much maneuvering, we managed to get the cars’ batteries close enough together so that I could jump-start his Camaro.
The guy was a first semester student, Chad, and the more we talked, the more I was convinced he was gay.
I hope his gaydar was set off by me, too, but I never know. He’s not someone I’d normally be attracted to right away, but he’s sweet-looking, a white guy with long black sideburns and an earring.
He’s got Nunn for Criminal Law, Davis for Contracts, and Pearson (the only loser) for Torts, and he said he wants to later take classes with Dowd and Rush.
That, plus the Clinton/Gore sticker on his car, also made me think he’s gay – and he’s even heard of CGR, which is remarkable for a new student.
If I had more nerve, I would have asked him out, but I just told him to come to see me and I’d tell him stuff, as he was interested in what we do in our office.
Nothing will come of this, I’m sure, but it does remind me that there are a lot of guys out there, and maybe one day I’ll meet one special person in a weird way when I don’t expect it.
Yesterday I watched the video of Sunday, Bloody Sunday, which I’ve taken out from the library. I can’t seem to remember if I’ve seen the film in recent years, but it certainly seemed fresh in my memory, as I could recall background faces from particular scenes.
I remember the first time I saw it was probably in December 1971, on a Sunday at noon at one of those twin theatres on Second Avenue and 61st Street: either Cinema I or II or the Baronet or Coronet.
That was when I began driving into Manhattan on Sunday mornings to see movies on the East Side. In those days, everything was pretty much closed on Sunday – for example, Bloomingdale’s – and I could find parking easily.
The next time I saw the film was about 25 years ago this month, on that disastrous date with that girl Edie, who seemed shocked by the kiss between men.
What made that date memorable was that Jerry and Shelli were also in the theater at Kings Plaza that Friday night, accompanied by Avis, who was devastated because Scott had just broken up with her.
I got satisfaction out of Jerry and Shelli seeing me with a date, and I called out “Jerry” rather than either of the girl’s names to ask how Avis was doing, as I was really concerned about her.
The next night I took her to see Trojan Women at the Sheepshead Bay, the first of many of our platonic dates, and the next afternoon, Sunday, I took Stacy to Lincoln Center for a Kris Kristofferson concert.
That had been the first weekend I’d really gone out since I’d been dumped by Shelli, and I felt so good about myself. Avis and I both loved Sunday, Bloody Sunday and we went to see it again together. I can see why it would appeal to anyone in the middle of a breakup.
When I got to work this morning, Laura said that Payroll had gotten the information on me on time and that I would get a regular paycheck next Friday.
Yesterday I’d sent a check for $800 to Key Bank for a $1,200 secured Visa, so I’m glad I won’t have to worry about being stretched too thin.
I had hardly settled into my office when Cari buzzed, saying a reporter was on the phone and wanted to talk with someone about charter schools.
The woman was from WUFT-FM, our public radio station, and I resorted to my usual practice of saying I’d get back to her in twenty minutes and in the meantime did quick research on Lexis so I’d sound better-informed.
At noon they played one of my sound bites on the local news, and I let my parents listen by phone.
They played my sound bite about charter schools possibly creating a two-tier system of education and my speculation that vouchers might signal the end of the public school system.
They followed up with a sound bite from one of Education Commissioner Brogan’s GOP underlings at the DOE disputing me.
As usual, I’m happy even if only a couple of people heard it.
In the afternoon, everyone who gets a UF paycheck had to attend a workshop on the state’s new workers’ compensation system. So at 1 PM, I went with Joanne and Cari to the alpine classroom where I sat as a student many times to watch a video and listen to representatives from Humana, our HMO workers’ comp provider.
Now, if we’re hurt on the job, we have to get medical care through HMO primary care providers and specialists only. It’s typical of all medical care these days.
Thursday, January 9, 1997
4:30 PM. Yesterday this time I was relaxing, reading Richard Kostelanetz’s “Annual Report”: books published, articles written, mentions in scholarly publications, etc. – I hope my own reports of my accomplishments are not so pretentious, but they probably sound about the same – when I heard myself on the radio, again commenting on the disadvantages of school vouchers.
I have a very high and feminine voice, a nasal New York accent and a lisp, but I’ve grown so used to the sound of my own voice that I actually enjoy hearing myself.
Last night I fell asleep early and woke up at exactly 6 AM, as if I’d set the alarm clock.
I ate by 6:30 AM, so I could exercise an hour later (with the TV/VCR sound off and the radio still turned to NPR’s Morning Edition) and be out of the house by 8:15 AM.
Because heavy thunderstorms were expected, I went to the Citgo station on Newberry Road to have them check my oil and transmission fluid with a full-service fill-up.
The guy said I needed to have my oil change soon, as it’s “like mud.” I’ll try to do that tomorrow although I guess I feel towards oil changes and tune-ups the way Dad feels about medical checkups: I dread finding out that something’s wrong.
The parking lot at the law school was filled by 8:30 AM, so I parked on the street as those spaces were also being taken quickly.
I didn’t do much “work” today: I sent a video of Common Ground to a food science professor doing a survey on Everglades restoration, showed Laura how to e-mail and print out a file taken from UF’s home page, counseled a student who’s applying for a fellowship, and read the two applications that have come in so far.
There’s no Chad in the list of first-semester law students, so I figured it’s a guy with the middle initial C.
After seeing that Drew, DeShaun and Blaine all use their middle names, as does Justin Clouse on the Web (whose “Kool Pages” and online diary haven’t been updated since November), I figured that’s a common thing that young gay men do today, something to do with asserting their identity.
Using the university’s online phone book, I did find a 1LW named Jacob Chad Feinstein who must be a new student since his address is listed as in Naples. He works at the student recreation and fitness center.
I spent time reading an interesting law review article by Chris Slobogin on police “testilying” that began with a reference to Mark Fuhrman at the O.J. Simpson trial.
At noon, Jon called me into his office and read notes from what he said was a good meeting with Buddy MacKay yesterday.
The upshot is that I’m to write a 3- to 5-page memo to Buddy on charter schools, discussing the best ones, but also stating my opinions about the worst ones.
Jon disagrees with me that it’s possible to exploit the bad publicity over the recent D.C. charter school scandal to even try to get to the right of Jeb Bush on this issue.
I spoke with Jon about my perception of MacKay’s fuzzy image with the voters. When Jon told me the Chiles/MacKay administration has saved taxpayers in overhead costs, I remarked, “Well, that will put the voters to sleep.”
Jon hadn’t seen my Sun article attacking random drug testing of public school students, but he asked me not to use my identification with CGR when expressing my own opinions: “We all have our First Amendment rights, but . . .”
I told Jon I’d have the MacKay memo for him next week.
Tucker’s son is still in the hospital, dehydrated from diarrhea and vomiting from the stomach flu, and he hasn’t gotten better yet. In addition to Micajah, Tucker’s wife and Kylie have also been ill.
It’s supposed to get quite chilly tonight, and as I expected, it will be in the 30°s (and dark) when I set out for Ocala to teach on Saturday morning.
I’ll take off tomorrow to prepare for my first classes. Actually, I can take off the Friday before all my Nova classes since there are only five more until I leave work.
I got a letter from Crad saying how he can’t meet a compatible woman.
Crad is so wacky, I think he’s beyond ever finding happiness. His main interest, it seems, is the stock market, and he says he’s become a very smart investor.
However, at the same time Crad tells me his main interest is penny stocks, especially mining companies on the Vancouver exchange.
That tells me he knows nothing because it’s common knowledge that penny stocks are touted by frauds who lure in gullible investors with hopes of making a killing.
I thought about writing Crad – he asked me to write him if I needed any advice – but he’d just ignore and resent my warning him to avoid penny stocks and put his money in a decent mutual fund like a normal person.
Susan Ludvigson thanked me for telling her that her poem appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
She said she’s got her hands full with her 83-year-old mother who has Alzheimer’s and wants Susan there at the nursing home constantly.
Susan sees her mother every day, but it’s becoming too much of a strain, even with her supportive husband Scott and stepdaughter Laura (who just graduated from Winthrop).
Kevin hasn’t e-mailed me since he went back to Los Angeles, depriving me of the right to feel superior because I’d forgiven him for not seeing me while he was in Gainesville.
Tonight at 7 PM, we’ve got our first Human Rights Council board meeting of 1997.