A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early January, 1995

Tuesday, January 3, 1995

4:30 PM. I was not in the mood to get back to the grind of work today.

Liz said her Christmas was the best: the kids didn’t get too excited or obnoxious after receiving so many presents, their trip to Atlanta was a fun experience, and she’s glad she could enjoy the two weeks they spent together.

She hadn’t realized there was no school today, so Becky and Lee had to amuse themselves outside the CGR office. I introduced myself to them, and they seem to be wonderful kids.

Liz and I talked mostly about the Florida Bar Foundation fellowship interviews. It’s going to be a grueling week, starting two weeks from today, but I’m sure it will be interesting to meet and talk with 35 or so law students.

I worked on my DSR grant application and even E-mailed mine to Tom Ankersen, who had asked me how I was doing it. That proves what I’ve always suspected: everyone, not just me, is faking it or making it up as he goes along.

Jon was supposed to “interview” me regarding my outside employment form, but he didn’t want to chat at all. He just said “fine” to my teaching American Literature at Nova and then, when I started to talk about education, he was looking at the pink “while you were out” messages. I’m too chatty anyway.

Now I that I’ve become aware of office politics and personalities (or lack of them), I see that ignorance was much more blissful.

Since Liz went home early, we didn’t talk much, but we have our meeting with Dean McDavis on Thursday at 10:15 AM.

I think I’ll get another green Commuter sticker after talking with people who say the Orange 2 sticker doesn’t make it any easier to find a parking space. While I’ll have to continue to come in early, at least there are many more Commuter spaces to choose from.

I haven’t been able to reach Stacey yet. Either she is on the phone constantly or else she took her receiver off the hook.

Josh emailed that he spent New Year’s Eve at Sharon’s (so they are back together, for however long). He said they were asleep at 11 PM when his niece called.

Ann insists that she wants to go to an out-of-state college with her boyfriend rather than come to Gainesville. Of course she’s making a mistake, but you can’t tell a 17-year-old girl what to do.

Looking out the window, I can see a really cute towheaded undergraduate moving in his stereo and soccer ball to the apartment across the way. It’s sort of nice to see new students coming in every term, all full of hope and wonder.

The Introduction to Law class began today, and the small group advisors were shepherding their 1L first-semester flocks around the law school.

I’ve got lots of reading to do tonight.

Thursday, January 5, 1995

7 PM. Last night I got eight hours of much-needed sleep, and I was able to function on a much higher level because I was rested.

It was only 35° when I went to work this morning, and I put on a bulky sweater under my sport jacket and over my dress shirt and tie.

Even on the day before classes began, I was unable to find parking in the Orange 2 lots, so I definitely made a mistake in spending the extra money on that sticker instead of just sticking (pun intended) with my old green Commuter sticker.

Either way, it looks as if I’m going to have to go back to getting to school at 8 AM or so.

Liz and I drove to Norman Hall, on the other side of SW 13th Street, to meet with Rod McDavis, Dean of Education. He’s an affable, intelligent man, and I enjoyed our 20-minute conversation, which was basically a way for us to introduce what we do at CGR to him.

We couldn’t just come out and ask him to cut us in on grant money, but Liz made herself understood. McDavis’s P.K. Yonge School At-Risk Demonstration Project Is it a crucial stage right now with a Republican-dominated legislature and a new GOP education commissioner coming in.

McDavis said that he sees – both in Tallahassee and in D.C. – a threat to public education in the form of school vouchers and charter schools.

Although Gingrich’s rhetoric yesterday was encouragingly reasonable, the GOP seems to always go back to bashing poor and minority people.

As McDavis said, voters see results when prisons are built, but when a first-grader learns to read, the benefits to society aren’t immediately apparent.

I dropped names like Comer and Slavin and Reading Recovery and TQL – education stuff I’m familiar with from my own reading – to let McDavis know that I’m not just a lawyer but that I’m conversant with what’s going on in his field.

After Liz and I got back from his office to the law school, I responded to E-mail from Wendy Cuellar. She sent my SGML memo to Richard Maddaus and says she met with Chuck Ruberg and has new issues for me to research.

But the big news was her asking me to join them next Thursday at the Florida Public Schools Council meeting in Fort Lauderdale at the airport Sheraton.

They’re going to update everyone on Schoolyear 2000, and in the afternoon they want to present a panel on legal issues and share our memos.

Liz said I should go, so I checked with Carol and then had Christy make arrangements. I’ll leave with a rental car on Wednesday afternoon, stay two nights at the Days Inn on Sheridan Road (unless I can find a cheaper place) and make sure I return before my Nova class at noon on Saturday.

I have mixed feelings about the trip. Next week was going to be the first five-day week in a while, but on the other hand, I had nothing on my agenda before the grueling interviews for the fellowships the following week.

I like getting out of the office, and I really don’t even mind the drive to South Florida, especially because it’s not with my car this time. I do have to pay for everything but the car rental myself and get reimbursed later.

And Mom seemed glad to be seeing me again so soon. Besides, it’s got to be warmer in Fort Lauderdale, and I should get more used to traveling and forcing myself to shake up my routine.

Mom said that Marc got an off-the-books job with an upholsterer and seems happier.

Jonathan, though, is still stunned by Marshall’s death. “There’s been no finality to it,” Mom said, although Marshall’s brother, prodded by a letter Jonathan wrote, did bring over the stuff that Marshall had promised Jonathan.

Probably if Jonathan had visited Marshall in the hospital that weekend and had seen him so sick, his death would seem more real now. But I think Jonathan has a phobia about hospitals.

Stacey came by this afternoon, saying that her phone had been broken. For this semester I appointed her as a research assistant for ten hours a week, as her former 15 hours is more than I have in my OPS budget – and I got her started on the memo on Florida’s Sunshine Law and public meetings.

Stacey told me this term she’s taking Civil Clinic, Trial Practice and Professor Taylor’s Computer Law seminar (which should prove helpful to her work for CGR).

Liz and I had that computer plan meeting with Jon, but basically we all decided to put our future plans on hold till we see if either Tom and I get one of our DSR grants approved.

Back home at 4:30 PM, I returned a call from Phil Ratcliff, the Gainesville cluster for Nova (actually, it’s now officially Nova Southeastern University after the merger), who told me what room at Webster College to go to on Saturday.

The morning professor for the cluster would like to switch with me, and although it would mean getting up early yet another day, I’m inclined to do it since I can start my weekend on Saturday afternoon.

I already got a call from a student who’s unable to attend the first class due to a job-related conference. Obviously, since the Bachelor of Professional Management program caters to working adults, I told him not to worry about it.

I received a long letter from Crad, who apparently thought I knew that his mother had died in November. She sold the Plainview house last summer and put the money in a joint account with his sister, whose home she moved into.

Now, of course, his sister is claiming all the money in that joint account, but I am unclear if there is a will. The estate lawyer considers the matter closed, and Crad is “sick over it,” especially because his sister’s family is relatively prosperous.

He asked my legal advice, but I will tell him that I need to have more information.

Saturday, January 7, 1995

8 PM. Now that the Nova class is over, I feel I can truly relax for the rest of the weekend.

A little after 1 PM, I got to Webster College, just north of Gainesville High School on NW 13th Street, and went upstairs to meet Phil Ratcliff, who introduced me to some of the students in the cluster.

Their module began last July, so they were all well-acquainted with one another, leaving me the outsider. But we seemed to get on well during our first class together.

There are about 20 students, all working adults, of course, and they seemed impressed with my many degrees in publications.

Last night I reread the assigned material and much of the other stuff in the section – Franklin’s autobiography excerpts, Samuel Sewall’s diary, Olaudah Equiano’s slave narrative (which I first read over 20 years ago as an undergrad in Afro-American Studies), Jonathan Edwards’ fiery sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” – and I brushed up on Pilgrims, Puritans, and English history so that I could come up with a three-hour class that wasn’t too boring, given that Edward Taylor’s poems are a real snooze.

Some people came up and said it was more interesting than they expected, and Barbara Sharpe, a black Alachua County School Board member, seemed the most complimentary.

I like being able to teach American literature that contains material that’s new to me because it allows me to learn as if I were taking a class myself.

Except, of course I get to control things and I get paid – plus, I don’t have to grade any papers until mid-February.

After doing lots of reading in the Norton Anthology last night, I couldn’t sleep, so at midnight I turned on the TV and saw an episode of St. Elsewhere that Teresa told me about but which I’d always missed: the Our Town homage that was actually set in Peterborough.

Seeing the town library and post office and the church inspired me to say what the heck and get together an application for MacDowell, which I sent off at the post office this morning.

It’s the only colony I’ve applied to this year, and I’ll see what happens. I was at MacDowell in 1980 and 1987, so it’s not like I make a habit of being a colonist.

In a way, it’s hard to believe that it’s so long ago that I was last there.

I also tried to prepare a manuscript for my application for a Florida Literature Fellowship. As a member of the Organization Grants Panel, I’m not prohibited from applying the way those on the Individual Artist Grants Panel are.

I also sent off a manuscript to the Illinois Writers, Inc., fiction chapbook contest.

Today is Marc’s 40th birthday, but he was out with friends when I called this evening.

This is one of the first days – probably the first day in my life when I recall what I was doing exactly 40 years before.

I can see myself in our old kitchen in that apartment at 388 East 54th Street, pacing back and forth waiting for news from the maternity ward as Grandma Ethel was either cooking or cleaning.

That’s the only scene from that day that I can picture, and it’s a very hazy black-and-white kinescope. I thought pacing was what I was supposed to do in the situation, as I’d seen in I Love Lucy and other early 1950s TV shows.

It’s weird to think that in January 1955, Grandma Ethel was not much older than I am now.

Just now I remembered going to Brookdale (then Beth-El) Hospital to see Mom wave from the window as I stood outside, but I’m mixing that up with Jonathan’s birth in 1961, when I stayed with Grandma Sylvia and Grandpa Nat on Snyder Avenue while Marc slept at Grandma Ethel’s a few blocks away.

I really should set down all these memories on paper (or disk).

 Sunday, January 8, 1995

8 PM. I managed to accomplish my goals for today, although they were fairly modest: I did the laundry, returned videos to the library, shopped at Albertsons, did low-impact aerobics, read most of the New York Times, and got my Florida fellowship application ready to be mailed out.

I also watched some TV news shows, which were all about the Republican revolution Newt Gingrich has engineered.

At this point, I feel there’s not much that liberals can do but sit back and enjoy the show while pointing out the contradiction and unfairness of the coming fiscal policy.

Reforms that Gingrich engineered in the House are long overdue. One reason the Democrats deserved to lose control was their failure to change the system. However, the real reforms needed are in campaign financing, and neither party will touch that.

My feeling is that if the Democrats are counting on the GOP to self-destruct, they’ve got a long wait. While I’m sure the Republicans will overreach (just the way Clinton seemed to), the country is still filled with surly, resentful white people who mistakenly blame the poor, the minorities, and the “counter-culture” for their stagnant wages.

Clinton could never get credit for the economic expansion: on Friday, the unemployment rate fell to 5.4%, and so many new jobs were created last year that the Fed will obviously keep pushing up the interest rate until it finally raises unemployment and supposedly kills the mythical inflation dragon.

Right now the conservatives are steering clear of social issues – though it’s scary how many “pro-life” spokespeople justify the latest abortion clinic murderer up in Brookline.

In the St. Petersburg Times, Bill Maxwell reports that he was visiting Gainesville and was chatting with an ex-student in the Oaks Mall when an elderly woman came over to them, pointed a finger and shouted, “God hates pride!”

The guy had been wearing a jacket that expressed pride in the championship of his old high school basketball team.

Bill followed the old lady to the parking lot, where she got in a car filled with anti-abortion and religious bumper stickers and a taped photo of a fetus. It’s really scary out there.

Today was a sunny day, but much cooler than yesterday – which was the first summerlike day in recent memory.

The odd weather spawned a terrible thunderstorm in the early morning hours, and Alice called tonight because she’d heard on the national news about a killer tornado outside Ocala and wanted to see if I had blown away.

After I assured her I was quite stationery, Alice told me she had spent the day in Brooklyn at her mother’s, and Jeanne brought over her mother, “so we had two dysfunctional families together.”

Alice asked if I got much response to my New York Times letter. She said that as soon as she saw the headline over it, she knew I’d written it.

Actually, except for the man whose letter I was responding to, not one person mentioned seeing it except Alice herself.

I did get a letter yesterday from Ed Hogan, thanking me for sending him a Christmas card and George’s column.

Zephyr Press is now publishing Russian-related books almost exclusively, Ed said, and is “still hanging on.” He enclosed some recent brochures.

I think I’ll just veg out the rest of the evening and read only if my insomnia recurs.

Monday, January 10, 1994

8 PM. I fell asleep watching Ethan Frome on PBS last night, and when I awoke at 6 AM, it was close to freezing. My car’s windows were iced over, and I used up the windshield washer fluid in a vain attempt to clear my view. A kind neighbor splashed some hot water on it from the bucket he took out for his own car.

Arriving at school at 8 AM, I got the last open space in the Orange 2 lot on the side of Holland Hall.

For my first 90 minutes at work, I mostly I read the New York Times.

Josh sent an E-mail message at about 9 AM. Sharon got the flu over the weekend and ran a 103° fever. (“We may have broken up by the time you read this but now we’re still together”).

Josh mentioned hearing from James, who’s okay and has divorced his wife and currently has a new girlfriend in New Orleans.

And Josh said he had lunch with Leslie, who’s been writing for Computerworld – including articles that mention Josh.

On Nexis, I saw that Peter Filichia was quoted in the Long Island section of the New York Times yesterday. I hadn’t realized he’s the president of the Drama Desk Awards, as Alice has never mentioned it.

I had a hard time with filling out the faculty assignment form I was given. Liz suggested I put 100% for Sponsored Research while Jon wanted me to put a percentage on Administrative Work because of my what I did creating the CGR computer plan.

But Jon finally agreed that because the Florida Department of Education pays my full salary, it was politic to say I’m doing 100% of my work for them.

Laura showed me an E-mail from Mark Bergeron that expressed ignorance of any device that connects a laptop modem to a cellular fax machine. Of course, I’d already priced several, like the Motorola Cellular Connection, for Jon last week.

By lunchtime it had warmed up enough so I that I could take off my winter jacket and go outside in just my heavy sweater. I returned at 1:30 PM, after a trip to Walmart to get windshield wiper fluid and a couple of other things.

After Christy got the Schoolyear 2000 memos copied for me, I put them in packages. Christy also gave me the slip to rent the car at Budget. Having a secretary makes work a lot easier.

By 3:15 PM, after spending several hours rereading the first set of memos, the ones in the book from before I began at CGR, I needed some fresh air.

On the walkway near the second floor library entrance, I saw Javier. He was all excited, having just come back from a Victory Fund training session over three days in Atlanta.

“Now Kathy and I know why we lost the election,” he said, and explained that we needed much more extensive fieldwork and voter ID.

They’ve actually quantified how many volunteers you need, and Javier said we really needed 500 – plus at least a year in advance to begin planning.

He was told that for anyone who wants to run for office in 1996, it’s already too late not to have decided.

Javier said that in Atlanta they gave them information that Kathy had never gotten in her graduate program in political campaigning at UF.

Javier’s enthusiasm was infectious – but I couldn’t help just looking at how handsome he becomes when he smiles.

We talked for about 15 minutes. He told me what classes he was now taking, and how, despite his inattention to his studies last term, he got his best GPA ever.

Surprisingly, Javier even asked me how I liked my job. It was wonderful to talk with him.

On the way back to the office, I saw Julia, who, like Tom, has a bad cold. (She was carrying a box of Kleenex.) Julia used to be Alex Borgard’s assistant and said that Schoolyear 2000 is a plot to turn our minds over to Big Brother.

Yeah, I said, but they’ve already got me. In Tallahassee, they implemented the SY2000 chip in my brain and now I’m one of them.

Another nice surprise today was a call from Ivana, who’d finally tracked me down. She couldn’t find me at the old apartment or at SFCC, but Barbara Sloan gave her my work phone number.

Ivana and her husband want to invite me over for a meal, and she said she bought a book for me in Belgrade.

How nice – I said I’d call her when I got back from Fort Lauderdale next week.

I came home at 4 PM and exercised before turning on All Things Considered and having dinner.

Peter H. Kaskell thanked me for the material I mailed him on four-year House terms; he’s working on an article about it.

I got the guidelines for the AWP Award Series and tonight I printed out yet another copy of my contest manuscript – all 231 pages. I won’t enter the 1980s journal entries in the nonfiction contest again and I know even the short story entry is just a waste of time, paper, postage and printer ribbon. I also sent the Duke of Gloucester story in to the Chicago Tribune’s Nelson Algren Contest: another one-in-a-million shot.

I wrote to the Jacksonville address of my student loan holder from the FAU loans, asking them to sign a form selling their loan to Sallie Mae (although supposedly they’re Sallie Mae also).

I also read a pathfinder on discrimination in education – most of it was summaries of cases. And I read The Hotline on Lexis and checked my Delphi E-mail.

Today was a pleasant day: filled with just enough stimulation. By far, the nicest part was talking to Javier. I bet I am right in my long-held belief that he’ll be a candidate himself someday.

Because he got so used to spending so much time on the campaign last fall, Javier said he can’t believe all he has to do to graduate is be a student this semester – “but I probably need to make sure I get a job.”