A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early May, 1992

Friday, May 1, 1992

1 PM. The Property exam totally freaked me out. I felt panicky because I wasn’t seeing all the issues. There had to be problems of contingent remainders, Shelley’s Rule, Worthier Title, etc., and I could only see straightforward issues.

I got worried I wasn’t even going to pass. But in talking with others after the test ended at noon, I discovered there was indeed less to the exam than I expected.

That’s a good lesson, even if my grade in Property suffers for it: I should trust my instincts more.

I wrote a six-page answer on the first question but couldn’t find enough to write six pages together on the second two questions. However, I think I covered the basics of each question, which dealt with the intent of the grantor/testator and unreasonable restraints on alienation.

If I’d known that the test was to be that straightforward, I could have written a better exam. Instead, I floundered, grasping at straws.

Julin rarely gives D’s, and maybe I got a C+ because my answers appeared to jibe with those of others.

But everyone seemed blown away by the exam, and that made me feel better. I know I’m not an idiot, so I should have assumed that I’m not the only one having a problem.

Next comes Contracts and Civ Pro, but right now I need to calm down from the last test. While I don’t feel particularly confident about my performance on any of the finals, I know the remaining ones will be the hardest for me.

There were riots not only in Los Angeles last night but also in San Francisco and other cities. People at school talked about it. Bob asked if it reminded me of the ’60s, and he was exactly right.

A lot of people can’t understand the jury’s verdict. I blame Bush and Reagan for pursuing an agenda that has divided the races and done great harm to the inner cities.

Though I don’t condone the violence and I hate to see innocent people hurt, I can empathize with the rage and powerlessness people feel.

When I used to go through Rockaway on those dollar vans, I could see how people in ghettos live. If the Watts riot and others in the ’60s did any good, it was to make people pay attention.

But will they pay attention only to the violent acts of the looters and vandals, and will that only make things worse?

Anyway, it’s another sign that it’s not “morning in America” anymore and that the government is clueless as to what’s happening. Good grief!

Saturday, May 2, 1992

2 PM. I’ve been slowly going through my Civ Pro notes and I’ve stopped at supplemental jurisdiction because I can’t understand its complexities.

I figured I need to do some Civ Pro before working on Contracts tomorrow and Monday because the Wednesday exam won’t give me enough time to study for Civ Pro. I should have used last night’s insomnia to study, but I couldn’t bring myself to read anything having to do with law.

Although I fell asleep right after the news shows and Bush’s speech (it was okay, but he never addressed the race issue – nobody talks about it), I woke up at 11:30 PM to watch Nightline coming from a church in South Central L.A.

I lay awake from 12:30 AM to nearly 4 AM, my mind racing with trivia. I ruminated about what I left out of the Property exam and how I could have written a much better test if I’d known what kind of exam Julin was giving. Oh well.

I see in today’s Sun that “many members of Law Review who are in the top 15 percent of the graduating class still don’t have jobs.”  Even if I wanted a job in law, I couldn’t get it, so why should I worry?

Actually, I’m pleased to see lawyers facing the kind of tough times I did as a college instructor and writer. It’s the same impulse that made me want to see an economic depression or that takes some satisfaction in the urban riots. At least people are facing a bit of reality and not living in that movie-set fool’s paradise of the self-centered ’80s.

“No justice, no peace” is today’s rallying cry, one I endorse. I’m cynical (or experienced) enough to know it’s too late for America to come to grips with its problems, but at least people are now starting to realize how they were conned.

If anything, a year in law school has made me more radicalized than I was last year.

In the AWP Chronicle, I read some good stuff that quoted Vaclav Havel and also criticized MFA programs for producing students and faculty who create “beautifully-crafted nonsense” – because they have absolutely nothing to say.

I know now I never would have been happy had I achieved a tenure-track job teaching short story writing; I’d have gotten restless after a year, or worse, I would have stayed on and gotten comfortable.

Boy, I’m really sounding off like a crackpot today. I guess I am seen as a crackpot by people who read stuff of mine. Who cares?

Today is graduation for undergrads, and some of my neighbors are moving out. Yesterday the rental office brought a couple and their daughter over so they could see the floor plan of my apartment. My throat is fine now, by the way; I’m just a bit dizzy.

Can I face getting back to Civil Procedure? Sometimes I think I’ll either do okay on these finals or I won’t, and that most of the decision has already been made. But the exams are an intellectual challenge for me.

Sunday, May 3, 1992

8 PM. I’ve been studying Contracts off and on today, but not driving myself crazy. Yesterday I went to the law school in the afternoon because I needed a change of pace, and it was nice to see Dan N, Martin and Albert there.

I got some cases from Lexis that deal with issues in Civ Pro, and I stayed up till 11 PM reading them. I think it’s a good way to study, and maybe I’ll luck out and Mashburn will use a recent case the way she did last year.

Gainesville has emptied out a bit. This afternoon when I took a break and walked to Baskin-Robbins for some fat-free Jamoca “ice cream,” the streets were nearly deserted. A lot of my neighbors have packed up and left town, and again another person came by to look at the floor plan of the apartment.

Up at 8 AM, I read the paper and spent the rest of the morning with the news shows. The rioting has stopped and the cleanup has begun.

It should be no surprise to me that the Simi Valley jury acquitted the cops who beat Rodney King. After all, I witnessed an all-white jury convict Charles Freeman of selling an obscene record, and it was clear to me they were acting out of racism, whether they knew it or not. (The jury who acquitted 2 Live Crew was integrated.)

So anyway, I made up an attack outline for Contracts and did some Emanuel’s First-Year Questions and I sat out on the patio until 6 PM, when I came in to watch ABC News and Life Goes On, a program I began to watch regularly a few months ago.

I find I need to follow a couple of “stories” – soap operas or whatever. I catch ABC’s All My Children sometimes and I watch 90210 on Thursdays.

Dad called this evening. He has to go to Los Angeles in two weeks, but he’s not concerned, and thankfully, the company is giving the salesmen $500 for the trip. Dad spent $600 on car repairs, which upset him, and he said Grandma Ethel called collect yesterday and sounded okay. Mom, of course, was fast asleep although it was only 7 PM when her mother phoned.

Ronna just called, and it was great to finally be in touch. She sounded fine although she told me she’s been a little depressed.

Steve and Ronna saw each other for a while and even went to a therapist together, but they broke up because Ronna didn’t want to get engaged – which was Steve’s condition precedent (I know, too much studying) for “working on the relationship.”

I guess she also feels weird, at least a bit, about Jordan’s wedding next month. He’s asked her, among other friends, to walk down the aisle at the ceremony.

Ronna loves work at Hadassah and spent today at the Israeli Day parade, but most of her friends are now young marrieds with kids and are keeping to themselves. She has decided to spring for an ad in New York magazine and figures she should start seeing new people.

Her mother visited for ten days, and they met her uncle and aunt’s new adopted sons, two black brothers, Darryl, 10 and Jamal, 8. Her uncle and aunt bought a house in Seattle on one of the islands in Puget Sound and will move there in a few years.

It’s good to see some people giving black male kids a good home, although I’m sure the boys are also enriching their lives. Sometimes I envy Ronna her close-knit clan and many cousins.

She said they got off work early on Friday as rumors of riots hit New York City, but no violence erupted except for a few minor incidents.

Ronna was a joy to speak with. I need to connect periodically with the important people in my life since I’m now so isolated from everything but law school.

I’d planned to study more, but I think I’ll call it a night. Last night I had a happy dream about taking a cross-country bus ride with Sat Darshan.

Wednesday, May 6, 1992

4 PM. I’m writing this on the floor, because my usual writing-place, the bed, is covered with papers and books, post-it notes and other paraphernalia. I’ve been studying Civil Procedure since 8:30 AM and I can’t go on.

As on Saturday, I got up to supplementary jurisdiction, and at that point, my circuits got overloaded. On Saturday night, the rest of the course seemed to make more sense, so I’m hoping it will later today as well.

Our review session is at 5:30 PM, and I have only one question I’d like to ask Mashburn: When you analyze 28 U.S.C. § 1367, how do make your head stop hurting? Jesus!

I actually get off on all the complexities and ambiguities of this stuff, but right now I need a break. Except for going to the bathroom, eating, doing aerobics and showering, I’ve done nothing but Civ Pro today.

I’ve covered a lot, writing out notes to myself, flowcharting balancing tests, and making pages on the Rules. And I have all morning tomorrow, which gives me two or three extra hours to study.

I slept very well, and I didn’t get up till after 7 AM. Whether I get my student loan or not, at least I got a fee waiver in the mail; I don’t have to pay summer tuition until late July, and that’s a relief, as I have no money now.

My back continues to hurt, as it has for the last couple of weeks. I don’t know what I can do to get it right again.


10 PM. I just finished studying Civ Pro, which I’ve been doing again since 7 PM, except for a half-hour break to watch The Wonder Years.

Our review session lasted an hour, and from some of the questions, I think my classmates have studied too much. I don’t need to do much else; anything I do tomorrow morning will be gravy.

Mashburn wants us to use the cases we’ve read, and my notes and outlines are probably my best resource. I’ve got all the balancing tests down, confused and jumbled as they are.

At school early, I spoke with Gina and Kim, both of whom are more relaxed than most people. Lorraine was trying to use Lexis to find out possible cases Mashburn could give on the exam, but she had very little idea of how to go about it.

I’ve used Lexis nearly every day and was able to give her some tips. I’m pretty good at doing searches for information, as I should be after playing around so much. The Lexis rep was there and showed both of us some shortcuts. Our passwords will be on once they get a list of summer registration.

I only skimmed through today’s Times, but if I can’t sleep tonight, I’ll read it. I don’t have much to say that’s not about non-mutual defensive collateral estoppel right now.

Thursday, May 6, 1992

10 PM. It’s over, my first year in law school.

Around noontime, I took a walk around the neighborhood and picked up some wildflowers: pretty tiger-lily-colored ones and purple buds and yellow daffodils. There was this chalk-white bug on the stem of some orange flowers I picked, so I let those go.

I thought about a recurring dream I had years ago in which I had to get someplace driving two cars by myself at the same time, and the only way I could figure out how to do it was to drive one car a block or two, then go back to get the other one, drive it a few blocks ahead, and then switch.

I never have been able to decide how I wanted to get anywhere, have I?

This afternoon’s Civ Pro exam was incredibly stressful because the time pressure was intense. There was a three-page 60-minute question and then one page each of six 20-minute questions.

After reading the whole test, I somehow took 90 minutes to answer the first question, and in the end I had only about half an hour, or 10 minutes each, for the last three questions.

I can’t imagine anyone could have written a good answer in that time; there wasn’t even time to go through all my notes.

But it ended, and I could sense everyone feeling giddy as we stood on line outside Mashburn’s office, waiting to sign in and drop off our exam answers and honor code pledge.

I felt like hugging people, and I did in fact put my arms on the shoulders of . . . I can’t even think of her name, the woman who was in the military, I hardly know her but I know her name – Nancy! – who was angry because she said people were cheating by writing as they stood on line in the hallway.

When asked, I told Kenny H and David A and others I’d probably be heading over to The Landing, but I knew I didn’t want to be with all these young people drinking their heads off as they attempted to unwind.

My arms and legs were tense, and I needed to go home and be by myself.

It was raining hard, and I said goodbye to Tasha and Min, who were also heading to their cars while most people congregated by the bulletin boards.

In the mail I got the Florida Review rejection of my Barbie story. The editor said he was taken by it but it seemed too familiar. I guess that could be a good sign.

Of course it would have been a wonderful coda to my year at law school to get a story accepted today, and I found myself feeling upset about it on top of already being upset without knowing why.

I made myself dinner and listened to and watched the news and I threw out the 13 back issues of the Times Book Review I’ve been saving to read this week, realizing that I can’t do everything. It was painful but a relief to do that.

I also threw out my “to do” list, but it’s still on the computer. When I saw “revise Barbie story and send out again after FR rejection,” I knew I’d expected them not to take the piece.

But even if Rick doesn’t sell his anthology (I worry that he’s put too much faith in it), my story will get published somewhere.

At 7 PM, I went downtown, and in the public library for 90 minutes, I read magazines and looked at the new books and scanned the shelves of videos and tapes.

Then, back here, I watched 90210 and now I’m starting to feel like a human being again.

I’m no longer in a daze or a bad mood, just aware that it’s going to take time before I make sense of the last year.

A year ago I was settling in at Rockaway. Last summer I was really scared I couldn’t do this— go to law school – but I did. And that’s enough for now.

Friday, May 8, 1992

7 PM. I feel headachy this evening, probably from sleep deprivation. Although I had a couple of energizing dreams last night, I slept only a few hours.

Naturally, I remembered stuff I should have put down on yesterday’s exam, and my mind raced so much that I didn’t even notice I was awake nearly the entire night.

I feel weird and kind of let down, but I can’t expect myself to adjust to solitude and idleness overnight.

Probably I should have done more today, but I just feel like I’ve been numbed from giant Novocain needle to my brain.

At 8 AM, it was only 45° when I walked over to the post office to get the Times and Wall Street Journal.

I also picked up the Miami Herald because of a headline about an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision: yesterday they overturned Judge Gonzalez’s declaration of 2 Live Crew’s As Nasty As They Wanna Be as obscene.

This means, of course, the album was never obscene in the first place, and presumably Charles Freeman’s misdemeanor conviction will be thrown out.

It’s ironic that this appellate decision came down on my last day of law school when it was the case that really got me excited about the law.

I suppose I should now feel more faith in the system. Last week I wrote that I could have expected the acquittal of the L.A. cops because I’d seen how a jury had treated Charles Freeman, a black man they couldn’t relate to. But in the end, there was a right result.

However, the cost was high (the trials were expensive, but I mean the human cost).

Sheriff Navarro – Mom said his stepdaughter killed herself, leaving a suicide note that accused him of sexual abuse – told the press that 2 Live Crew and Freeman merely should have waited until the appeal to Gonzalez’s ruling came down before they performed or sold the “obscene” material. What a joke.

Anyway, I read a little, exercise, finally wrote back to Robin Hemley, tried to call Grandma but nobody answered the phone, and did speak to Mom to wish her a happy Mother’s Day on Sunday, when she’ll be working.

And I went to McDonald’s for lunch, bought stuff at Walmart and Publix, took several walks (it was nice to run into Paul D on University Avenue), and wondered if I felt weird because I’d become a workaholic.

The rush of law school work masked my loneliness. Without school, there’s no one friend I could call up this week and hang with, and there’s certainly no “significant other” in my life. (Judy used the term once, to describe the man she lives with in Jacksonville.)

Most of the people in my class have spouses or boyfriends/girlfriends, and there are at least two couples in our section: Nick and Carol, and Kelly and Marc.

I don’t know of one other male law student at UF who’s gay, though obviously there must be quite a few.

I went to that one GLSU meeting last fall but never went to another. The truth is, I felt uncomfortable there, not about being gay but because I don’t do well in social situations with lots of people. For similar reasons, I skipped  yesterday’s party at The Landing.

Today might be the exact day a decade ago when I started seeing Sean. He took the initiative, of course, and I’ll always be grateful for that.

The thought just struck me: Maybe there’s a guy out there who’d be grateful if I took the initiative.