A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-February, 1997

Tuesday, February 11, 1997

4 PM. Last evening’s Fellows meeting to prepare for the symposium on migrant farm workers helped take my mind off my problems.

Afterwards, I told Liz what Laura had said about not being able to find money to pay me, and Liz said that’s Jon’s problem, not mine.

Liz told me she dreads being the only one left in the Social Policy Division and wishes she could leave CGR, too.

After going downtown to return books and tapes to the public library before it closed, I came home to spend the evening reading. I slept sporadically, waking up and thinking about what I’m going to do after Gainesville and also about Sean.

I started to read Emerson’s “Circles” because I wanted some comfort, but the space heater (it’s chilly once again) made me sleepy before I completed the essay.

Up at 6 AM, I was at CGR by 8:30 AM as usual, but I felt uncomfortable at work and was happy to say in my own little office. Is it my imagination or has everyone but Liz and Russ started to act coolly towards me? No, it’s probably a projection of my own discomfort.

The computers were down for the first hour I was at my desk, so I read the New York Times.

I guess if there ever was a good time to be looking for a job, this is it. After a six-year expansion, the U.S. still seems to have a goldilocks economy: neither too hot nor too cold.

Western Europe seems handicapped by their social democratic welfare states and bureaucracies, and Japan is hobbling along, its financial system in tatters, its once-vaunted economy stagnant.

Of all the developed countries, only the U.S. has the kind of flexibility – thanks to all those painful layoffs, restructurings, lowered wages, and reduced benefits – to compete in the new global economy.

At least that’s the current conventional wisdom in these optimistic times. Supposedly the divorce rate and the rate of teenage pregnancies are down, and of course violent crime has dwindled to half what it was a decade ago in New York and other cities (although not in D.C. or South Florida).

And if you believe her report that came out today, even income inequality is not getting any worse. And of course you have to look hard to find anyone who’s not bullish on stocks.

Somehow I doubt that the country has entered a new golden age, but I’ll be perfectly happy to share in the good times.

Nevertheless, I feel very insecure. I expect I’m going to have a lot of stress-related health problems over the next few months – like my hemorrhoid, which doesn’t really hurt but which does itch. I probably need to make an appointment with Dr. Kantrowitz while I’ve still got medical coverage.

It disappointed me but did not surprise me that Sean didn’t e-mail me today. For the next week, I’ll anticipate seeing a note from him, but I’ve got a strong feeling I won’t get one.

Stupidly, I opened up a wound that I thought had closed years ago. Still, it was worth it to receive that one message I got from Sean.

It’s just that I’m at a vulnerable time right now. But at least as far as Sean is concerned, I will heal quickly. After all, what did I expect? What he did write me was pretty amazing. Anyway, I deleted Sean’s message.

I also went through my Pegasus Mail address book, deleting at least one-third of the names, who are people I’ll never write to, like people from the GayJews listserv.

I also began copying my WordPerfect files onto diskettes so I can take them with me when I leave.

Trish wasn’t in most of the day, and in the afternoon I became too occupied to go to her office and get the PICAP proposal diskette.

Craig Lowe e-mailed that my domestic partnership article doesn’t seem too long for the next issue of the Guardian, so it’s possible they’ll print something I can be proud of.

At home I got a call from the editor of the Star-Banner. They want me to come down and take a color photo for their “Other Voices” column because they plan to print my article on gay speech on campus. So I said I’d go down there at 3 PM tomorrow.

In addition to Elihu, whom I told about Sean’s getting in touch with me, I e-mailed Patrick and Alice. (I didn’t say a word about her disagreeing with me on the welfare issue; by now I know what a conservative Alice is.)

I also wrote and printed out my writing assignment for the Nova American Lit classes following the next one. It’s good to get ahead in my syllabus.

Wednesday, February 12, 1997

8 PM. Last night I went to sleep early, so when I found myself wide awake at 4:30 AM, I exercised for half an hour.

Out of the house by 7:15 AM, I had time to get to the office and still make it to the Reitz Union for the 8 AM start of the mini-conference on sexual harassment.

It was only 32° out and so chilly that waiting for the Fraternity Row bus seemed an eternity, but the e-mail Sean had sent an hour before warmed me up a little.

He explained that he may not respond to e-mail immediately, “but I will respond.”

Sean again asked if I had been married (“maybe several times”) and if there were “little Richards” running around.

He said he’s glad he has stability but envies my freedom (ha!) and told me that his hobby – or obsession – is winning radio contests. He’s won many prizes, including a trip to San Francisco and a trip to London last year to see an Eric Clapton concert.

Setting off a section of his e-mail labeled “Flashback,” he asked if I could believe he had the balls to look up my address in the phone book and come over to my apartment in May 1982. (“I can’t. I’m such a wimp.”) And then he recalled how I made the first move when we were talking and I started massaging his shoulders “and then – ZINGO!”

Hey, I can’t believe I did that, since I’m such a wimp. Anyway, then Sean said he hoped I didn’t mind his being “silly.”

I thought about Sean a lot today, perhaps too much. I’d prefer to talk with him about the present than the past, but what if the past is all we have in common?

I know that I’m never going to see Sean again and I’m glad he’s with Doug and not me, so could I really get hurt by a little e-mail flirtation?

Well, I’m not sure. I’ll respond tomorrow but try not to get “silly” myself – and I’ll send Sean some clippings, which he asked to see.

The mini-conference turned out to be excellent. After an hour-long opening session featuring a lawyer, a psychologist, and a “pragmatic” administrator, the 150 or so people at in attendance broke into a dozen small groups.

We were each given a case study to discuss and report on. Ours was about a mostly-female office where the newest employee, a young man, felt disgusted by the scantily-clad man on a Chippendales calendar of a veteran worker who made crude sexual remarks and told lurid stories with the other women.

Naturally, I spoke up during the discussion; I’ve always got to get my three cents in. But at the final session, when the groups reported back, I learned two very important things.

First, the person being harassed has no responsibility to report the harassment although he or she has a right to do so.

Second, unlike a blooper I made in a Schoolyear 2000 memo about e-mail harassment, the intent of the behavior is irrelevant.

It was good to have all these UF employees – physicians and professors, custodians and secretaries and even President Lombardi – together in one setting, talking as equals. It’s interesting to hear, for example, what a young female assistant volleyball coach has to put up with in the university’s macho sports culture dominated by older traditional men.

Back at the office at 12:30 PM, I did some chores and then took off. Yesterday I’d gotten the Orlando Sentinel with the letters mentioning me; today the Tampa Tribune arrived, but they sent the wrong date.

After lunch, I left for Ocala. By then it had turned into a really beautiful day.

Early as usual, I found the Star-Banner office, and during the time I had to kill before my 3 PM appointment, I went over to the Barnes & Noble on State Road 200 and then the Publix near the Paddock Mall.

What’s so different about Ocala as compared to Gainesville is that, like most of Florida, Ocala is filled with senior citizens.

For the color photo, I wanted to avoid looking like a lawyer, so instead of a suit and standard dress shirt and tie, I wore my dark blue combed corduroy shirt and my funkiest tie under a burgundy blazer.

The photographer was a gorgeous redhaired black woman whom I flirted with as she tried to turn my sow’s ear of a mug into a silk purse of a face.

She was really sexy, and I don’t know why, but I almost felt like asking her out. I guess it was that she made me feel I looked good.

When I left the newspaper office, it was 76° in Ocala even though today never got out of the 60°s in Gainesville.

Within ten minutes of parking downtown in the municipal lot next to the main Marion County Public Library, I had a xeroxed copy of the January 18 Tampa Tribune letter about my drug testing op-ed.

Remember how I thought Avisson Press went under? While at the library, I saw a review from a January Publishers Weekly of the Daniela Gioseffi short story collection that Martin published.

I’m not surprised the reviewer found it sentimental, as that’s the weakness of I Survived Caracas Traffic and most of the fiction Martin decided to publish.

I drove the 35 miles home from Ocala thinking about Sean and feeling very good about the way today went.

Friday, February 14, 1997

9:30 PM. When I got home this afternoon, I found a phone message from Micki, who said that if I want them, I can have the Nova Business Communications evening classes on Tuesday, in Gainesville and Wednesday in Ocala starting March 4 and 5.

They’re eight weeks long, so they should be over in late April. Although the added work will make life more hectic in March, I like the students in these clusters. I just hope they don’t mind having me as their teacher again.

I left a message with Micki saying I’d take both sections and that I had the text we used last winter. That means I’ll gross another $3,100 in my May paycheck from Nova.

That not only gives me a more comfortable financial cushion, but in April after I leave UF, I’ll be teaching at Nova and not totally at loose ends during my last weeks living here.

Micki called me back to let me know that Business Communications has a new textbook, and she’ll have Alyssa send it out to me.

Although cloudy and drizzly, today was the warmest day in quite a while. While doing the laundry a couple of hours ago, I was able to wear shorts because it was 80°.

However, I spent much of the day inside Touchdown Terrace, the banquet room in the football stadium, at the 1997 Focus on Teaching Workshop.

This year’s theme was on Learning Styles and University Teaching. I got to work early and then walked to the stadium at 8:30 AM.

I didn’t see any faculty from UF that I knew, but I was glad to see Julie Robitaille, who runs the writing lab at Santa Fe Community College, and Gay Ziegler, an SFCC English instructor. I sat and chatted with them during the morning session.

For two hours Mary McCaulley of the Center for Applications of Psychological Type spoke about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and how the sixteen different types have different learning styles and predominate in different disciplines and careers.

She said that college faculty tend to be Introverted Intuition (IN) types, people who also tend to get good grades as students. Of course, I’m an INFJ, so I guess I gravitated to the right profession.

While I think the MBTI explains a lot about how people perceive the world (or sense it, to use the P-S scale terminology), I wonder if it’s as determinative of people’s styles as its partisans believe.

After talking about teaching with Gay (who’s currently teaching African-American Lit at SFCC’s Downtown campus), I joined one of the eleven groups we were broken into as we ate our box lunches.

They put me in Social Sciences, and I was glad that Marty Peters, who introduced me to the MBTI, arrived to sit with me. Others at our table were from Poli Sci, Geography, Wildlife Conservation and Park Management, and the Community and Family Program at IFAS, UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

We had an interesting talk, and I volunteered to be the recorder and respondent.

At 1 PM, I was the first one to report to the whole meeting on the various groups’ discussions. After we finished that, we heard from the keynote speaker, Wayne K. Davis, a cognitive scientist from the University of Michigan Medical School.

His gave an interesting talk on how we learn everything first in short-term memory and only later (if at all) in long-term memory.

Because we can remember only about seven new pieces of information at one time, we resort to “chunking” larger amounts of material we’re trying to learn. We also have to work with and manipulate the new material before it gets into storage in our brain.

Davis said that learning occurs in context, which is why students do better on exams that are given in the rooms where they learned the stuff being tested.

He also claimed that most experts (for example, medical specialists) make their judgments based on pattern recognition rather than on complex rule-making or decision trees.

At 3:30 PM, I returned to the office for about forty minutes before returning home.

Lots of e-mail today: Pete Cherches responded to the phone message I left last night saying that he starts work as a programmer at Guardian Life on Union Square. So he’s back where he began, doing data processing for an insurance company.

Julian, that New College sociology student I tracked down from the Tampa online Matchmaker asked where I found his Internet address.

I told him how I researched it, sent him some columns, and said that I was only looking for a friendly e-mail correspondence for now. Although Julian sounded really neat, I expect that’s the last I’ll ever hear from him.

Christy wrote from Aix-en-Provence, where she said life is easy if you want to eat great food but bad if you want a good Internet connection.

She reported on a lecture she’d attended on a subject much discussed in art schools, materiality and immateriality – only the talk was about art on the Internet. What I could understand of what Christy could understand (in French) sounded interesting.

George Myers sent me and Rick this message: “And the Kennedy magazine got nothing.” Good for George and George Jr. (and their attorney).

Teresa e-mailed, “Moving is hell.” It took them from Sunday to Thursday to get everything out of Oyster Bay and into the new Locust Valley house.

They’ve still got lots of unopened boxes – Paul couldn’t believe how endless the boxes were – but things are starting to shape up.

Jade, having graduated high school, is happy and looking for a job, and Teresa is glad to be in a cozier house that’s much more their style.

Teresa said her parents are heading for Florida in three weeks, and she ended by writing, “Happy Valentine’s Day from your oldest Valentine, Teresa.”

Kevin wrote: “Yo, cutie. Thank you for the Valentine. That was so sweet of you. Before yours, I’d never received a Valentine from anyone but classmates in elementary school (when it was required) and my Granny, who used to send them to me before she passed away.”

Kevin said he would have sent me something but didn’t have any money. But of course, I don’t want anything from him – not even a sexual relationship. Besides, he’s seeing someone who’s his fantasy type: Colin, who’s 6’11’ and looks like Alex Karras.

Well, it’s comforting to know that guys are attracted to all different types.

Wednesday, February 19, 1997

9 PM. When I got to Abby’s last evening at 6 PM, I joined Helen and Sue, who were starting on getting out our latest Human Rights Council mailing.

Bob, Tim, Craig and Richard Smith arrived shortly after me. Abby was working late, but she finally showed up, and her house guest, a gay emergency room doctor, made a brief appearance before he left for the gym.

Helen, who told me she’s meeting with Linda Baldwin on Thursday to see about getting Al Gore to speak at the Alachua County dinner for the party, had to leave early for another meeting.

In addition to the article on Amendment 1 and the Gainesville City Commission elections, the Guardian printed my “Basic Facts About Domestic Partnership Ordinances” pretty much as I wrote it.

There was also a little notice about how “HRC board member and legal expert Richard Grayson” is going to speak about legal issues affecting lesbians and gays at the United Church of Christ on March 9.

I stayed at Abby’s, stamping envelopes and collating the newsletter, pledge slip and return envelope, and stuffing the packet into the large envelopes to be mailed out. Around 9 PM, I started to conk out and went home; I had been one of the last ones to stay..

Although I didn’t get much sleep, I had lots of energy today, perhaps thanks to two cans of Diet Pepsi. Up at 6 AM, I exercised and was out of the house by 8 AM.

Before work, I went to OfficeMax and made 50 copies of my article on domestic partnerships, which Liz would like to use in her Family Law class.

After I signed a birthday card for Russ and told him, “Stay 29 for as long as possible,” I went in to chat with Joann before she and Russ left for South Florida this afternoon.

They’ll be there a great deal over the next year on the MacArthur Foundation project educating and training local officials on sustainable development.

Joann and I agreed that I’d check out other universities’ public policy centers and see what they were working on in the fields of immigration, migrant workers and race relations. I’ll also try to find out if there’s grant money available we could get in those areas.

Later I met with Jon about the memo to the MacKay campaign. He asked me to take out the political advice on the attack ad and couch the suggestion in neutral terms. (“A candidate identified with charter schools may be vulnerable to an attack ad.”)

When Jon indicated that it might be better if I didn’t fax the memo to MacKay’s deputy chief of staff, Karl Koch, from the office, I called Dad, who agreed to fax it to Tallahassee from his house once I faxed it to Fort Lauderdale.

Koch is taking a job in Tampa with a Democratic consulting firm headed by this guy Michael Whouley, who is going to be a big macher in Gore’s 2000 campaign.

Both Gore and MacKay have the problem of trying to succeed two-term Democratic incumbents whom they served as number two, and frankly, I don’t see either of them succeeding in getting elected. In fact, I’m not so sure either will have a clear path to the nomination in ’98 or ’00. (Is ’00 correct form?)

I also spent an hour polishing the road test article for the Orlando Sentinel and getting it down from 1100 words to 550. It hurt, but I guess the piece will read better in a newspaper.

Tom Whalen suggested I send future op-ed pieces to his former student Lolis Eric Elie at the Times-Picayune, where he’s doing a thrice-weekly column.

Tom quoted from a letter from Crad: “I’m glad I’m not a writer anymore. I sometimes have dreams involving writing or selling, and they’re all bad.”

Tom said he understands how Crad feels, but I don’t. I think my view of writing as a hobby keeps me sane and free of bitterness. Anything that happens to me as far as my writing career is concerned seems like gravy – or lagniappe, as Tom’s friends in New Orleans probably wouldn’t say.

Tom’s getting injections for his knee problem, and he’s got the fourth bad cold of the academic year.

Elihu e-mailed that despite fighting the flu, he still came in to work on Presidents’ Day. Then he regaled me with stories of the guys he met online: the 50-year-old foot fetishist, the Asian who couldn’t speak English, “two under-age infants.”

But he did meet at least one prospect: Rick, a 45-year-old school therapist (does that mean he counsels educational institutions?) who lives in Elmwood Park, New Jersey.

On the subject of Sean, Elihu’s comment was:

After fifteen years in a relationship, Sean is still uncomfortable about meeting you? Otherwise, I think it’s great to meet again with a long-lost love. Yes, I would like to meet Les (check). Would you come to visit me in prison after the trial? (Just kidding, I think.)

Last thought: I remember when Skip came into the Student Activities office to present me with the charter for Gay People at Brooklyn College. I didn’t know which one of us was more nervous!

On my lunch break, I went to Publix, checked the oil and transmission fluid when I got gas, and withdrew $100 from checking while depositing a $5 rebate from Lean Cuisine that Mom had sent my way.

The New York Times had a big article on Junior’s cheesecake, now being hustled on the QVC shopping channel.

The third generation of the Rosen family has taken over the restaurant from their father and uncle, and the photo posed them at the counter where I used to sit every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11 AM between my LIU classes when I ate a juicy burger with smothered onions and a slice of that cheesecake. No wonder I got fat back then!

Chuck Ruberg finally got back to me. He would like me to research both the issue of whether the Department of Education can copyright the Sunshine State Standards, the new student performance standards, and write a memo on it.

Chuck asked what I wanted as a fee (he said he wanted to “retain” me), and I said I’d have to ask someone at CGR, but he could send the material over in the meantime.

I spoke to Laura, who said I should talk with Joann about it. I suppose I could take all the money if I did the job as outside employment, but I feel I owe it to CGR to bring in some cash to the Center.