A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early March, 1997
by Richard Grayson
Thursday, March 6, 1997
8 PM. My spirits soared last evening after I’d had a wonderful Business Communications class in Ocala. After feeling so bedraggled all afternoon, it was good for me to get dressed, go down I-75 and arrive at Webster College just before 6 PM.
Several of my regular students don’t have to take Business Communications, so I have a class of about ten people, all of whom I know like.
The odd thing is that they seem to have gone over most of the material here in a class called Organizational Communications. But they had the texts, and the overhead projector worked once the class showed me how to use it, and I was funny and easygoing and we laughed a lot and talked and I felt great after I let them go at 8 PM.
It was such a beautiful evening. I stopped for gas ($1.27 a gallon, 20¢ cheaper than in Gainesville because conservative Marion County doesn’t like gas taxes) at the Speedway station before I got on I-75.
The highway, which used to intimidate me at night, is now like an old friend, and I found the 35-mile drive back home very relaxing.
I was composing an e-mail letter to Sean in my head, and when I got to my computer, I wrote him on Delphi since that’s where Sean sent his last message.
Today I downloaded my address book from Pegasus Mail in the office and took the document home on a disk so I can have everyone’s e-mail address handy in print for home use.
I left only my regular correspondents in the e-mail address in the office: the people I need to notify about my new cyberspace address.
Last night I fell asleep a little after 11 PM and woke up as usual at 6 AM – maybe not enough Z’s, but adequate to clear my head of cobwebs.
At work, Laura needed to know how many annual leave days I’d be taking, and I said three; Payroll told her that I’d get my check for the unused time earlier if they knew now.
Probably the six weeks’ pay will be a lump sum, which will mean that I’ll get killed on taxes for that check – but next year I’ll owe the IRS less money.
Nothing has yet arrived about the Sunshine State Standards from the Florida Department of Education, but I didn’t worry about it. I wanted to fool around and relax today, and behind my closed office door, I did just that.
I chatted with Jill Greaves, who in her Docket article wrote about being a welfare recipient and living in her car, and with Russ, who asked my advice on several office matters.
Robertson saw the Human Rights Council Newsletter reprint and asked me at what church I’ll be speaking on Sunday. That reminded me to e-mail Bob Karp and ask what time I need to be there.
Joe Antonelli called from NCFAN, the North Central Florida AIDS Network, where he works, leaving two messages on my home machine. WUFT-FM wanted a quote on the same-sex marriage bill in the legislature and nobody else was around to talk.
When I finally got back to Joe, he said he ended up doing the radio show himself, which is just as well as I was on the noon news very recently.
In the afternoon I spent several hours writing that piece on how journalists use New Jersey as a size comparison. I put in the best examples, which I got from Lexis, and after revising the article during the dinner hour, I returned to the office an hour ago and printed out neat laser-printer copies.
These went out right away to the op-ed pages of the big Jersey newspapers: the Star-Ledger, the Record and the Asbury Park Press. I made other copies, as I think it’s something that I could get published elsewhere eventually.
Maybe I’ll ask Susan if New Jersey Online wants it, or try George at George Jr. (whose March issue I read today online).
When I went to the library to check on New Jersey’s area in square miles, I saw Rosalie. She said only about ten people showed up for Scott Storper’s second Folio Views class. (Earlier, I e-mailed him a note of thanks for the training session I attended the other day.)
Rosalie asked if I’d be part of a panel of former students in her Advanced Legal Research class on March 27. I’ll probably do it, although it will be the day of the CGR symposium and probably a hectic time for me, as I was invited to the Florida Law Review’s Dunwoody dinner that evening as well.
Friday, March 7, 1997
8 PM. I woke at 3:30 AM, as I periodically do during the night, but last night I started musing about whatever and couldn’t get back to sleep.
I listened to WCBS-AM, the New York City news radio station for a while (gale winds knocked down a tree that killed four girls in a school van on Francis Lewis Boulevard yesterday), then exercised to a Body Electric tape.
Back in bed at 5 AM, I fell asleep for a little while – I know this because I had a lucid dream – before getting up a little after 6 AM.
I exercised for another half-hour, to make up for my not exercising tomorrow, and I graded the papers I got on Tuesday night and prepared my bag for tomorrow’s class with all the books, the Death of a Salesman video, and papers I need.
(It’s still that same purple gym bag I bought years ago on Beach 116th Street in Rockaway, the one I’d carry on subway trips between Rockaway and Manhattan, and later to teach in South Florida, New York and Gainesville.)
Bob Karp answered my e-mail request for information about the church appearance on Sunday. He’s staying in Berkeley now and will be there, he says, for several months. Sometimes I visualize Bob is a traveling political activist; he was in the Bay Area for many months between the 1994 election and sometime in mid-1995.
Anyway, Bob told me to call the United Church’s Barbara Pepper, who responded to my message with another I found on my machine when I got home at 5:30 PM.
She told me that I was invited to services at 9:30 AM. After that, they have coffee at 10:30 AM, so the panels – she’s leading a different one – meet in various rooms starting at 11 AM.
I think I’ll get there around 10:45 AM with some sketchy notes prepared – but it will be a sort of free-form session.
When I arrived at work at 9:30 AM, Laura told me I’d be getting 240 hours of pay with my last paycheck, but that the remaining 12 hours (it now turns out that I can get more than 240 hours under rules that changed in January) will have to come in a later check because the software hasn’t been changed and is stuck at 240 hours.
I spent the morning trying to work the test generation software I got with the Business Communications text. The questions are pretty dopey, and I’m not certain I’ll make use of them at all.
I also read a little of the Times, looked at the Web for university jobs in Florida, and told Rosalie I’d definitely come to her class on March 27.
After lunch, I returned to work in my suit and tie for Rhonda Ford’s wedding to Jonas Milton. For our gift, Liz said she got them a nice ceramic bowl for $28, so I gave her half the money.
Before I left for the wedding, I devised the PICAP proposal the way those who met on Monday asked me to, and I distributed copies to all the committee members’ mailboxes. Hopefully, the new program will allow UF to offer decent student loan repayment assistance to those grads in public interest law jobs.
Parking downtown by the public library, I was one of the first to arrive in the courtroom where the wedding ceremony would be performed. Liz arrived as I was chatting with Professor Stu Cohn.
From the law school, Rahim Reed, Gail Sasnett and a couple of others came, as did a number of students. Jonas introduced me to his nephew Anthony, and I also spoke with Rhonda’s mother, who’s a painter in Rochester.
Liz and I sat next to two black women who just met the couple two weeks ago and who recently moved to Gainesville from the Upper West Side. They thought it was very romantic, the story of how Rhonda met Jonas in D.C. at the Million Man March. I’m not much of a fan of Minister Louis Farrakhan, but I guess you could give him credit for indirectly playing cupid here.
Liz introduced me to Robert Rush, supposedly a good-guy attorney in town, who sat with Stu Cohn in front of us.
It’s weird that Jonas has only recently arrived in Gainesville and made so many high-profile connections. Supposedly his family in New York is quite wealthy and he’s been buying up various real estate parcels in town.
Half an hour late, the wedding party came into the courtroom: first Jonas and his best man (a white guy with a killer handshake), then Phyllis in her judicial robes, and then Jill, who was Rhonda’s attendant, and nine-year-old Sierra as the ring bearer/flower girl, both of them looking wonderful in burgundy gowns.
The photographers clicked like crazy as Rhonda came down the aisle in a traditional bridal gown, looking like one of those elegant dolls you used to see in old-time toy stores. As she passed me, I found her quite beautiful.
The ceremony – the first wedding Phyllis has performed since becoming judge – was relatively brief.
When she asked Jonas the “Do you take this woman…” question, he ebulliently said, “And how!” instead of “I do,” and at one point all three – bride, groom and judge – got a case of the giggles.
We applauded as the wedding party – including the bride’s mother and the groom’s nephew – left the courtroom, and then the guests, about 50, started to pile out of the courtroom.
Liz and I spotted Adrienne Rosenberg, who’s the new head of the Guardian Ad Litem program, and I chatted outside with her as we waited for the bride and groom to come out and go into their white limousine. Adrienne seemed surprised that I was still in Gainesville. She’s just bought a house (“It was cheaper than my rent”) so she’s planning to settle down here.
The wedding reception was at the Sweetwater Branch Inn, a lovely old house and gardens a few blocks east on University Avenue.
I’m not very good at making small talk with strangers, so I tried to see the reception the way a novelist like Henry James would, but I’m no good at that, either.
Rhonda and Jonas, both of them go-getters, have an eclectic mix of friends, and there were probably more whites at the reception than blacks.
Apparently Jonas is some kind of developer and entrepreneur, and I suspect that after nine months in town, he’s got his finger in all sorts of pies. (Someone said he was a big contributor to Phyllis’s campaign, for example.)
Anyway, I chatted with Liz and the guy who runs Florida Institutional Legal Services, the prisoners’ rights attorneys, and his wife. Apparently FILS is getting killed little by little by the new right-wing legislature.
I also talked with Gail about her time as a dean at St. Petersburg Junior College and spoke further with Robert Rush and Jill.
After eating a small plate from the buffet, I made my excuses and wished Liz a good four-day trip to Atlanta.
As I was leaving, the bride and groom had just come back from taking photos at the Thomas Center and at a local church. Going to the library parking lot for my car, I passed their hansom cab driver with his white horse.
Back at home, I got out of my pinstripe suit and tie and into my t-shirt and boxer shorts to spend the remainder of the day relaxing, eating dinner, and reading the paper.
Saturday, March 8, 1997
8 PM. Up at 6 AM after pleasant night sleep, I panicked when my car died after I stopped to get a newspaper.
It wouldn’t start until the fifth try, and even that seemed a miracle, so I had a nervous ride to Ocala.
On the way back to Gainesville, I was also anxious, not only because I was running late, but because my digital speedometer was going crazy for a while, moving around from 69 to 43 to 65 to 20 and even to zero as I slowed down or drove faster. I must have an electrical problem that I’m sure will surface soon.
But I had good classes today. I misjudged the timing of the Ocala class, for I spent half an hour on the assigned poetry and then gave too long a break. The video of Death of a Salesman ran two hours and fifteen minutes, so it ended at noon, with no time to discuss it as the class broke up amid some teary eyes and sniffles.
I felt rushed, as I got home at 12:45 PM and had only half an hour to eat lunch before I left for my afternoon class.
Dispensing with the poetry, I introduced the subject of drama and Arthur Miller, and I gave them a break during what was the intermission between Act One and Act Two.
Then we had a good half-hour discussion on Willy Loman and the American dream, the nature of tragedy, and a whole lot of related issues before I dismissed the class at 5 PM.
This was the fifth of the eight Saturdays that I’ve taught two classes in American Literature, and they’ve all gone well.
After listening to All Things Considered on my Walkman while taking a stroll, I went to Albertsons to buy groceries before coming home to dinner.
In the Sun’s religion section, the United Church listed me and Bob Karp as one of seven or eight adult seminars at 11 AM tomorrow. I think I’ll skip the 9:30 AM services and the sermon on “Jesus: The Body and Boundaries.”
I guess that my group – assuming any in the congregation are interested – will meet in one of those classrooms, like the one where I was a guest at Christy’s creative writing workshop.
The United Church of Christ is a liberal denomination and obviously has a more enlightened attitude toward gay people than most of the local churches in town.
I was just thinking of how Kevin, when he came out to his Pentecostal minister, was told, “I’ll find someone to help you.”
When Kevin protested that he didn’t want to be “cured,” the pastor wrote stuff about Kevin in his file and “brought him up” before the congregation.
Kevin’s mother was once “brought up” for wearing slacks to church, as was a young man who wore sandals – but that guy said, “Jesus wore sandals and he was persecuted, so I guess you can persecute me, too.”
I probably need to review cases regarding gay rights, but I’ll do it in the morning, as I’ve spent the last hour reading the New York Times.
Perhaps if I have insomnia tonight I’ll use the time to prepare. God knows, what with teaching on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, I have plenty to do these days.
Sunday, March 9, 1997
8 PM. Last night I stayed up past 11 PM, doing research on gay and lesbian legal issues, reading a couple of interesting post-Romer law review articles. It was much more preparation than necessary, but I found that intellectually stimulating.
I slept well and was up at 6 AM. Treating today like a working weekday, I exercised at 7:30 AM an hour after I’d finished breakfast, and I left the house at 10 AM after I’d read the news and we can review sections of the Sunday Times.
At the CGR office, I made some copies of my termination letter and the notice about today’s church seminar.
The Student Ghetto – a neighborhood I lived in five years ago – was as quiet as ever on Sunday mornings, perhaps more so because it’s spring break. I arrived just as the service had ended and the congregation was milling about, chatting, getting coffee, signing up for a retreat and doing whatever it is that nice liberal churchgoers do after services and.
I was dressed appropriately, in a sport shirt and casual pants, and I probably fit in so well that people assumed I was a member of the congregation.
I introduced myself to Barbara Pepper, who showed me the seminar room, and then I wandered around, sipping herbal tea in the courtyard. The only person there I recognized was Larry Turner, the soon-to-be Circuit Court judge.
At 11 AM, I went to the room assigned to my group, immediately noticing that there were only a handful of people there. In the end, there were four young women, three of them lesbians, and the mother of one of the partners of the only couple. Their questions were very basic, and I kept my discussion on that level.
I probably handled the garrulous older lady better than anyone else who’d be speaking on gay rights, as it turned out she was a Jewish woman from Ocean Parkway and 18th Avenue in Brooklyn and then the owner of a store at the Great Southern Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard in downtown Hollywood for 17 years.
As annoying as her type can be, I felt great affection for her, because she reminded me of all the mothers and aunts I knew from the world I came from, so we clicked.
When I discussed the appointment of judges, she said, “They should appoint more judges from Brooklyn because smartest people come from Brooklyn.”
Anyway, I think I was informative and served my purpose – and I enjoyed myself, too. Apparently Mrs. Greenfield, this older woman, lives in a retirement home for fairly well-off people outside town.
When I got home, I called my parents and spoke to Mom and Dad for about ten minutes each.
Between my Nova classes and the big package from the DOE that arrived on Friday, I expect my last three weeks at CGR to be very busy and rather hectic. That will probably keep me from getting too upset over the big changes coming in my life.