A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late January, 1995

Saturday, January 21, 1995

7 PM. After watching news programs (the Republicans in Congress, led by Nutty Newt, may be awful on policy but, as I expected, they’re great on entertainment value), I read some of the material I’ve had for a while, like the interesting Project 21 stuff Jessea Greenman sent me.

I fell asleep around 10 PM, and when I thought I’d woken up in the middle of the night again, I looked at the clock and saw it was 6:30 AM.

An hour later I went out, splashing hot water on my car windows to remove the frost. If today was cool, tonight will be very cold and it looks like our temperatures will range from the low 30°s to about 60° all this week. We’re getting real winter at last, and I expect I’ll need heat tonight.

After getting the papers and taking advantage of the early hour to make a brief shopping trip to Walmart, I had breakfast and read some of the sources on today’s readings that I’d found on Nexis.

At 10 AM, I found the video of Fall of the House of Usher at the Millhopper Library, got some money out of the NationsBank ATM (yesterday was pay day – by direct deposit), and came home to do aerobics.

In the mail, I got another rejection: the editor “loved” the idea of telling a story in E-mail, but felt there wasn’t enough tension or conflict between Gladys and the prince.

The editor’s probably right, but I’ll keep sending out the story, as I can’t figure out how to fix it yet. (I’m a lazy writer).

I was surprised but happy to receive a letter in Mikey’s familiar handwriting.

He said that they found out Missy was pregnant when she got very sick on their honeymoon, and it sounds like the first months of her pregnancy were a nightmare.

Missy was nauseated constantly, and rarely got out; they needed to move since Missy’s apartment had only one bedroom, and he had to do all the looking since she was so ill.

They couldn’t sell her place because the co-op market is still crazy, so they found a renter and moved to the Upper West Side. The address is 424 West End Avenue, which is about West 81st  Street, probably around the corner from Shakespeare & Company in my beloved old neighborhood.

Their child, a boy, is due in March.

There’s a lot of tension in Mikey’s office because of the new Republican Attorney General, Vacco, who may politicize the office and let people go.

Mikey said a lot of the nursing home operators that the Medicaid fraud attorneys like him go after were big contributors to Vacco and Governor Pataki. It’s terrible that that could affect their prosecution.

Of course, even in Florida, where we still have a Democratic governor, agencies are facing big budget cuts and have been asked to knock out 25% of their current budgets.

The Regents have a plan that would privatize a lot of the state university system: mostly the sponsored research, the kind of stuff I do at CGR.

My job is probably in some jeopardy, but I refuse to be concerned. If the grant isn’t renewed, I’ll go on to something else the way I always have, and it’ll be interesting and exciting.

Today’s Nova class went well, although I wasn’t as eloquent as I’d planned to be.

As I expected, my students had trouble with Emerson and Thoreau, but I tried to “translate” the essays into language they could understand and I did so with a certain amount of energy and passion.

We ran out of time to fully discuss “House of Usher,” so I just showed parts of the end of the 1960 Vincent Price low-budget horror classic, which they enjoyed.

Earlier, they seemed to appreciate the Fairie Tale Theatre version of Rip Van Winkle, directed by Francis Ford Coppola with well-known actors.

It’s a long day for the Nova students, but they appreciate that I try to make the class as lively as I can, and they’re a nice group.

Before coming home, I stopped off at Mother Earth to buy cereals I can’t get elsewhere: a bran/flax/wheat blend, quinoa flakes, and spelt.

For dinner, I had a Harvest Burger and veggies and lots of fruit and a new Entenmann’s “fat-free” pineapple cheesecake for dessert. Then I read today’s paper.

Earlier, I spoke with Mom, who she said she couldn’t believe that a week ago I was at her house, that seven days had passed so quickly.

She was watching Clinton address the DNC on C-SPAN and told me about a book of prophecies George had bequeathed to Jonathan.

Mom really believes that Japan will cease to exist because an earthquake will bury all the islands in the Pacific within 20 years.

Monday, January 23, 1995

8 PM. Last evening I did my taxes on a form 1040EZ; I should be getting at $216 refund from the IRS.

Then, before falling asleep at midnight, I managed to read the book review section of the Sunday Times.

At school at 8 AM, I found I was able to get the paper from the New York Times lockbox. Last week I paid the bargain price of about $25 to get weekday issues for the semester. After so many months, I can now avoid saving all those quarters.

I passed the second floor of the library specifically so I could see if Javier was there – and he was, reading the Alligator.

Trying to be discreet, I went around and came from behind him to say hi. I told him that I was in West Palm Beach last week the day after their referendum. Javier volunteered what I felt weird saying: the reason gay rights won there is because of the Jewish community.

I probably should talk to Javier about something else besides politics.

Liz came into the office soon after I did, and she showed me the chart of the Fellows’ tentative placements at local public interest law firms, the public defender’s office, the guardian ad litem program, etc.

She called half of the new Fellows last night and told me to call the others because she had to know how many will be coming to the Orlando conference by tomorrow morning.

The first two women I called screamed in delight; another was more blasé, but then I’d woken her up. I left messages with the others, and Jaime and Matt came to see me at CGR, so I gave them the news in person.

Of the three white male Fellows – all of whom I thought were cute – Matt is the only one who isn’t married, but the chances that he’s gay are slim. Still, I did notice that while he was waiting for Stacey and me to get finished, he picked up my Times and was looking at the review of the Houston premiere of the Harvey Milk opera.

Stacey disappointed me because she didn’t have anything at all on the Florida public meeting law memo. She said she had the flu last week, and I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that she had the whole previous week to do the work, too. She’s getting paid for ten hours a week, after all.

I gave her the State University System patent and copyright regulations and told her to have one or the other memo by next week.

Liz told me it’s important to set deadlines with research assistants, so I guess I need to know how to supervise better.

I spent the rest of my workday reading the first half of the Patent and Trademark Office’s draft report, Intellectual Property and the National Information Infrastructure.

Reading it slowly, I took the time to think about issues raised by the Internet and multimedia.

What if I took a copyrighted, digitized work – graphic or text – and altered it but kept enough of it so that I was sued for infringement? Would it be a derivative work? Fair use?

What about sending someone a multimedia work via the Internet? Is that distribution, performance, display, or two or three of those copyright rights?

I hope I can finish the report tomorrow.

I also read the papers and articles on Lexis, including today’s two biggest Supreme Court decisions.

Bad news came in a late afternoon memo from Jon. He talked to the DSR director today, and both Tom and I are ineligible for computer grants because we’re “visiting” faculty and considered temporary, and the DSR money is for “permanent” faculty.

I wish they could have found that out before I went to the trouble of applying. The memo said Tom and I would be eligible to apply if we were ever made permanent – and the earliest I can be made permanent is October 1999.

Schoolyear 2000’s target year would be a couple of months away, and if I’m still working at UF, I’ll probably be brain-dead be then.

No, I really can’t imagine any circumstances in which I would stay at UF for five years, no matter how much comfort I feel at CGR or how bad the job market is.

Back home at 4 PM, I did aerobics and got a call from Martine, the last of the fellows to be notified.

Liz and I both signed the rejection and acceptance letters this morning. We told people to keep the news confidential so the “losers” wouldn’t hear about it before they got their mail.

I got a “pre-approved” credit line of $2,000 from a finance company – but for their $2,000 check, I’d be paying over $1,000 in interest at a 24% APR. Forget it.

I did get a refund of my membership fee and credit balance from the secured Spirit Visa that I canceled, so at 6 PM, I went to NationsBank to deposit the two checks totaling $61.17 in the ATM.

I also dropped my sport jacket and pants off at the cleaners in Westgate and then went to the Publix near my old apartment.

Walking out, I spotted Bob C, or he spotted me. He had no idea I was still in Gainesville, and I told him about my job. He’s a lawyer at the three-man firm where he clerked, and his wife successfully completed her history M.A. with high honors and is pursuing a doctorate.

Bob said that Dan R is still at the state’s attorney’s office, but he’s moved in with his in-laws in Inverness to save money.

Bob asked about my writing, and when I got home, I got together some stuff to send to his office. (He gave me his card.)

Friday, January 26, 1995

8:30 PM. Last night the House passed the so-called balanced budget amendment and today the Senate passed the unfunded mandates bill, but the exciting TV out of Capitol Hill was the recording of Rep. Dick Armey (R-Texas) the majority leader, referring to a colleague as “Barney Fag . . . er, Barney Frank.”

Although Armey apologized and excoriated the press for calling his remark a Freudian slip or an indication of his prejudice, after hearing the tape several times it’s hard to imagine that the word “fag” hadn’t passed his lips before. (Perhaps he meant to say “Barney Kike”?)

The great thing about this, like Gingrich’s odd refusal to understand why people would object to his $4.5 million book deal, is that it shows what conservatives are really like.

Just as Clinton’s character flaws can’t be hidden, the Republicans’ flaws emerge – almost as if they were unconsciously trying to trip up their own success.

I’m reminded of something in Emerson where he says that people’s character ultimately comes out in everything they do. That’s why it’s so useless to pretend to be something you’re not.

Today was the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and I am fairly convinced that not only cannot horrors on the magnitude of the Nazi concentration camps happen again, but that they definitely will.

Next time it probably won’t be the Jews, for history never happens twice in the same exact way. I suppose you could argue that it has already happened again, in Cambodia, East Timor, Bosnia, Rwanda, etc., etc.

Last evening Mom called during the last-ever episode of My So-Called Life, and I quickly told her I’d call her back at 9 PM when the program ended.

Mom is such a partisan of O.J. Simpson that she complained about the prosecutors’ remarks – even though I tried to explain how it violated discovery rules for the defense to spring 13 surprise witnesses in their opening statement.

The trial was in recess today, but the more entertaining case, from the snippet I saw, is on Long Island, where Colin Ferguson, the alleged LIRR mass murderer, having rejected his attorneys and their advice to plead insanity, is conducting his own offense in a manner Mom found amazingly professional (“He refers to himself in the third person!”) and I found sickeningly bizarre but funny. (Ferguson suggested the only reason 93 counts were filed against him was because the shooting happened in 1993: “If it had happened in 1925, there would have been 25 counts.”)

Today I had breakfast at 6:30 AM and exercised before I left the house. I put in a short day at work and didn’t accomplish very much. But Liz didn’t come in at all, and the office was very quiet.

Susan Mernit thanked me in an E-mail for sending her samples of my writing. She said that “Twelve Step Barbie” is “a masterpiece.”

Susan has been so involved in creating Scholastic’s online services that she stopped writing – but she says she’ll get back to it one day.

For Rick and Lucinda’s sake, I was happy to see that Publishers Weekly gave Mondo Marilyn an excellent review.

At 11:30 AM, J. Joaquin Fraxedas, a UF and UF Law grad who last year published an acclaimed novel, The Lonely Crossing of Juan Cabrera, about a Cuban rafter, was to speak to people at 11:30 AM in Bailey Courtroom.

I was about to go in when I noticed that only students seemed to be attending. I felt funny and decided I’d go see the author at his talk and reception at the main campus after work. Unfortunately, even with my Orange 2 sticker, I couldn’t find parking.

From my reading, I know the guy is only a couple of years older than I, but he looks so much more mature. (His hair is totally white.)

Carol told me I need to be doing what the others at CGR who don’t have state-supported salaries do: keep applying for grants to pay for myself. She told me how to get the update on deadlines and announcements from the Division of Sponsored Research.

I guess my lack of ambition is a detriment to CGR, but I’m so sanguine about keeping my job.

If the Schoolyear 2000 grant doesn’t get renewed, I’ll be unemployed in October, but I would take that not as a tragedy but as a chance to go on, take what I’ve learned and experienced here at CGR, and move on to the next phase of my life.

I guess that’s a terrible attitude – or a wonderful one.

Mom sent me a Miami Herald clipping of a column decrying the fall 1996 opening of two new private, stand-alone law schools in Orlando and Jacksonville. I had no idea they were being planned.

Well, that will make for more unemployed and underemployed law school graduates in this state.

I had nice chats with Marty and David G, both of whom I ran into on the stairwell. I do like working in the familiar comfort of this law school. For now, anyway.

Tuesday, January 31, 1995

7:30 PM. My head hurts, the probable result of very little sleep last night. I was so weary when I wrote my last journal entry, but then I got on Delphi and read through 25 messages on the GLB-Digest.

One guy in Atlanta wanted to see the New York Times, Boston Globe and Dallas Morning Herald stories on Dick Armey’s “Barney Fag” remark, so I downloaded them from Nexis at work today.

After I got off the computer, I made up seven submissions packages for the stories that have recently come back rejected.

Although I’d thought I had plenty of stamps, these seven submissions (all with self-addressed stamped envelopes) cost about $17 in postage.

I got into bed and listened to a PBS show on Will Rogers, and then I drifted off during another on W. Edwards Deming. But I was soon awake and unable to stop my mind from racing.

At 12:30 AM, I decided I might as well get out a Body Electric video and do today’s half-hour of exercise ahead of time since I wasn’t anywhere near dreamland.

After I exercised, I found the wild, irrepressible, outrageous Camille Paglia being interviewed by PBS’s Charlie Rose, and she was so hyper that she kept me awake as a cup of espresso might.

It was close to 3 AM, I’d judge, when I finally drifted off, and I was up soon after 6 AM.

One of my neighbors suggested I could damage my windshield by putting warm water on it to clear off the frost (it was 34°), and now that I’ve thought about it, I suppose it might cause the glass to crack.

At work by 8:30 AM, I read the first section of the Times, went on Lexis – my old pediatrician in Brooklyn, Sidney Freund, had a letter attacking Newt Gingrich in the St. Pete Times – and read E-mail from Elihu, Josh and others.

At 10 AM, our CGR staff meeting began, and that had the tensions that seem all too familiar already: between Carol and Joann on one side and Tom and the other Environmental Division guys on the other. Jon seems unwilling to use his power to stop the distasteful sniping.

I learned, for the first time, that our grant from the Department of Education isn’t going to be even talked about until near the end of the legislative session this spring.

The National Health Forum seems to be a nightmare for Ellen, and then there’s the continuing fiasco of our computer plan.

Actually, I got the most immediate relief: When Joann’s laptop is ready (Mark Bergeron says he’s got 34 computers to a prepare ahead of it) to use as her office model, I’ll inherit Joann’s 386.

After lunch, I spoke with Joann in her office for an hour because she wanted to hear about my research interests and how flexible I am so that she can look out for possible grants to pay my salary.

I don’t understand how the financing at CGR works, but if I work on this project on historic preservation that Russ McAfee, an OPS hourly worker, has been researching, I can grab some of that money and free up DOE money to pay some of the salaries of Ellen and Christy.

While I don’t know much about historic preservation, I’m definitely interested in it, and maybe if the Poland trip by Joann and others produces anything in education, I could get involved in that.

Anyway, Joann said she’d send me the information on historic preservation; I think they’re trying to write a model municipal code.

At 3:30 PM, after I futzed around – I couldn’t concentrate on my State University System memo today – I went to Ivey’s Grill for tea with Ellen and Liz, to have our own little Social Policy Division meeting.

We spent 90 minutes there, talking about politics and other stuff, but also the Health Forum.

(At their working group meeting, when the woman from the hospice announced that one of their speakers was the ex-minister from Jacksonville who has AIDS and runs an AIDS hospice in New York City, Liz realized that she’d slept with the guy – but too long ago to be concerned about catching HIV.)

Jon wants us to continue the National Health Forum, but funding has been a real problem, and I can see the logistics are driving Ellen buggy, taking needed time away from teaching her Children’s Law class.

Liz again remarked how CGR is becoming a tool of multinational corporations trying to horn in on the developing world – places like Haiti and “post-Castro Cuba.”

Sighing, she mentioned that the job as head of Legal Services in Jacksonville is still vacant. But I know Liz wouldn’t leave Gainesville or CGR now, especially since she loves teaching at UF.

This very handsome guy who works at the restaurant and I kept meeting each other’s eye. I remember him from the last time I went to Ivey’s, with Nancy Dowd. He may not have been attracted to me, but I got more of that sense from him than I have from anyone in months.

It was 5:30 PM when I got home to finish reading the paper. Statistics now show that more than 25% of America’s children live in poverty and that AIDS is the leading killer of both men and women aged 25-44.

If I weren’t a teetotaler, I’d be making myself a drink.