A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early October, 1995

Monday, October 2, 1995

4:30 PM. Last night I stayed up till 11 PM to watch E.M. Forster’s Where Angels Fear to Tread, a great production with Helen Mirren, Helena Bonham Carter, Judy Davis and Rupert Graves. The British do that stuff so well.

Up early, I was surprised and delighted to hear the Morning Edition local cutaway begin with a news story on the Human Rights Council’s resolution about the Legal Services Corporation.

I guess I was totally wrong in feeling that we were wasting our time on Thursday night.

I emailed Craig to say that his sound bite came across very well and also sent him Gary Stein’s column from yesterday’s Sun-Sentinel explaining that he didn’t learn bigotry in Hebrew school as a way of commenting on Broward businessman Charles Forman’s ad aimed at Jewish voters that railed against gays as being an abomination under the Torah. He’s trying to get them to repeal the county’s new gay rights law.

As Craig later remarked, the lies about us sound a lot like anti-Semitic propaganda under the Nazis, and he hopes Jewish people in Broward will be offended by it.

I wrote Gary Stein a letter yesterday, thanking him for the column and telling him what I’ve been up to in the five years that we last met at the trials of Charlie Freeman and 2 Live Crew.

I also wrote to Christy Sheffield Sanford, who sent her poetry/performance chapbook, The Kiss, to my Fort Lauderdale address with an invitation to visit her if I ever got up to Gainesville.

Coincidentally, George Myers Jr. praised her for her artist’s books in his Bookends column in yesterday’s Columbus Dispatch – and I sent her a copy, along with word that I live in town and she should call me.

Michael Chabon thanked me for my Rosh Hashona card, saying it was his “first electronic Good Yontif.” He’s busy at work on his new novel, which I’ve read has already been sold to the movies.

A Time article today noted that not only are more and more films being sold on the basis of book proposals and outlines, but movie studios are following Disney’s lead and establishing their own publishing companies.

A front-page New York Times story reports that liberal arts graduates are finding jobs in software and multimedia companies because, once again, the content provider is king and today they need creative people rather than just computer programmers.

Still, there’ll be a big shakeout in the industry soon. As with the early educational software, most CD-ROM and multimedia projects are pure junk, content just slapped on carelessly with little thought to using the potential of new media.

Josh wrote that his father’s unveiling was yesterday and that more people showed up at the cemetery than were at the funeral a year ago.

Even though his niece and Sharon got lost and never got to the restaurant afterwards, Josh said, “My mother was happy, and that’s the important thing.”

Liz was on a panel with Ken Nunn and a legal services lawyer at 11:30 AM as part of NAPIL’s First Monday in October Project. I would have liked to attend, but that’s just the time I had my scheduled appointment for a flu shot at the county HRS Public Health Unit.

The vaccines were again being given in a trailer behind the building. This year they were also giving shots for pneumonia, though I saw no reason to get one at my age.

Of course, the first Monday in October means the start of the Supreme Court term – although I’m sure many more people are looking to the O.J. Simpson jury in L.A., which begins deliberating today.

I assume it will be a hung jury. The racially polarized reactions to the O.J. case are a result of the racism black people have experienced from the police. African Americans say their cars get stopped for “DWB”: Driving While Black.

Jon had me again revise the self-study material. In checking the figures with Carol, I discovered that I’ve been repeating numbers that Jon apparently just pulled out of thin air without any relation to the real statistics. Sheesh.

I left the office at 3:30 PM and came home to exercise. My only side effect from the vaccine is a sore left shoulder.

This morning I got to work before 8 AM, and I knew Russ would comment on it, as if he was somehow derelict and showing up after me.

Of course, Russ knows that I work very little and he works like a dog – Jon and Joann have him doing stuff with the visiting Brazilian judges this week – but since I’m faculty and he’s OPS, I don’t have to put in “hours.”

It’s unfair to Russ, but it’s not my problem.

Thursday, October 5, 1995

8 PM. I arrived at my desk after 9 AM today and had a phone message from one of the HMOs that serve state employees. I can enroll in October, and of course I will, but I want the cheapest plan since I rarely need medical treatment.

Indeed, I’d rather have the money I took as salary in the over the past 11 months – but as it turned out, I didn’t need to see a doctor the whole time.

I had a good deal of e-mail – though nothing from New Jersey Online.

(Last night I noticed NJO’s Pope Trip homepage got mentioned in Newsweek’s cyberspace section. The Pope arrived in Newark yesterday and is saying Mass at the Meadowlands tonight.)

I got an e-mail from Josh that said, “Because Goldman is you, that’s why.” I couldn’t figure it out until I remembered that I asked him why I should care about two strangers I’ve never met.

I started to write a rational reply saying, “No, I’m not Goldman” (I don’t know if he meant the victim or his father), using logical arguments – until I realized that this is how Josh’s delusional paranoia manifests itself these days.

So I erased my original message and began, “I promise to think seriously about what you said, but I don’t want to talk about the trial anymore.”

I was humoring him, but I’m determined not to get sucked into his mishigass the way I did back in the late 1980s when I got into endless conversations with Josh about the people who were supposedly harassing him and following him everywhere.

I’d hoped his paranoia was gone, but it just comes out differently now. This teaches me I can’t rely on Josh for any kind of support in regard to my finding a place to live in New York. He’s too unstable.

Josh never had what’s now being called EQ, or emotional intelligence: the ability to read others, to control impulses, to express empathy.

Like Teresa, but in a different way, Josh was always getting into disputes with people, like Jon Baumbach or our Russian professor, Spencer Roberts.

What does it say about me that somebody like Josh is a close friend? E-mail can be dangerous, I’ve discovered, not only with Josh, but with messages I’ve sent to others, like Liz, on the spur of the moment when I’m unable to resist striking back with sarcasm or anger or pettiness.

I also wrote Josh that I hoped his niece’s family’s home in Gulf Breeze wasn’t damaged by the devastating Hurricane Opal. (We had rain last night, but nothing serious.)

I also told Josh I saw Denis’s name in the Daily News in regard to his motion to free his client Rakowitz, who claims he’s no longer crazy.

Wendy Cuellar emailed me a copy of a news article on copyright disputes, and this afternoon Annette Rice sent me a copy of the new Schoolyear 2000 Legal Issues document (in a light blue cover) along with the notice of an agenda for the October 26 meeting.

I was relieved to see that will be discussing issues they want covered and that I’m not expected to produce memos by that day – although I plan to update them on earlier memos.

Today’s most troublesome e-mail came from Gary Konas, who wanted to know what happened to my Neil Simon essay. I put it away on Labor Day weekend, when I had to get out my I Survived Caracas Traffic stories to Martin.

Since then I’ve been heavily involved with my New Jersey Online work. But by this weekend, I’ll respond to Gary, if only to show that I’m emotionally mature enough not to ignore him. I do still intend to write the article.

Christy Sheffield Sanford and I exchanged several messages during the day.

She’s going to visit her family in Atlanta next week but would like me to have lunch with her soon.

Christy asked if I’d like to come to a meeting of the Gainesville Writers Workshop where Barbara Hamby and David Kirby will be their guest speakers.

I said that would be nice. She said she has known George Myers Jr. for a long time.

When Christy asked me if I hung out at the English department at UF, I replied, “Certainly not!” For some reason, she thought that was hilarious.

Russ and Jon were involved in shepherding the Brazilian judges and prosecutors around all day, spending a lot of time in meetings. By the end of the day, Russ look exhausted by and even left the office before I did. He introduced me to a couple of the Brazilians, who seemed nice, not that I had much to say to them.

At 10:30 AM, I went to Bailey Courtroom as the Law School Democrats hosted Congresswoman Karen Thurman.

I arrived early, and she came over and introduced herself to me, so we talked for a while.

I’m sure she thought I was a nut when I told her about my PACs and my write-in campaign against Mike Bilirakis, though when I mentioned that I once shared a cab ride with her House colleague Carolyn Maloney, she seemed to think I was all right.

About 40 students showed up and most wanted to talk about student loans and especially the end of the Clinton policy of Direct Student Loans which dispensed with the banks as the money came directly from the federal government.

Thurman said the Republican Congress’s policies are driven strictly by numbers in every area from Medicaid and Medicare to education. The GOP has pledged to balance the budget and enact a $270 billion tax cut, mostly for the rich.

Back at the office, I read an e-mail from Kathy Lawhon to Craig in which she again sort of sounds off about people at HRC not trusting her. She admits she may be burning out.

While Kathy can annoy me sometimes, I admire her intensity and hope it doesn’t lead her to have some kind of breakdown.

Certainly I’m not the kind of person that will ever get myself that harried over any political cause or issue. Every day I take time to exercise, eat right, and try to get as much sleep as a chronic insomniac can.

I wrote out a $20 check for HRC, which is partly guilt because I really don’t want to do much for Coming Out Week next week. Remember how I used to give checks to GMHC and ACT-UP in New York instead of giving them my time?

OutLaw, the gay law student group, published a rather inane but heartfelt article in today’s Docket.

On campus this year, I’ve noticed more obviously gay and lesbian law students – including this one very pretty black guy who I’ve come across twice this week.

Obviously, our gaydar is working, though I can tell he’s just curious about who I am and not interested in an old wreck like me.

Home at lunchtime, I got the new International Directory of Little Magazines in the mail. It’s the first time I’ve bought it in over a decade.

I also got a note from Mark Bernstein, wondering why he hadn’t heard from me. I wrote him back and also sent Christy a copy of With Hitler in New York.

Sunday, October 8, 1995

8 PM. This week is going to be very busy although I suppose I can limit my activities – something I need to do and probably will.

On Monday and Wednesday mornings, I’ve got that class for faculty in Excel and I want to rush back to the law school tomorrow for an 11:30 AM talk on electronic privacy.

Tuesday night is Greg Louganis at the O’Dome, and on Wednesday there’s the Coming Out Week speak-out at the Plaza at noon and then Comedy Central at the Civic Media Center that night. Thursday I’ve got the HRC Board meeting.

Plus there’s my work work at CGR and my other work: my writing and publishing.

I just got off the phone with Martin about the new book. He’s now nervous about something which had concerned me before, the fact that some of these stories – most of them, in fact – were published years ago and are set in the 1970s.

He wonders how we should handle that, as he’s arranged the stories in no apparent time order, with the title story in the middle.

I suggested a couple of schemes: putting the date in parentheses after each title, grouping the stories by time., and my writing an introductory note explaining the dates of the stories.

I don’t really want to “update” stories from the 1970s; it’s too much trouble, and moreover, it won’t work.

Finally we decided he’ll send me what he’s got, and I’ll figure out what I think of the book and what needs to be done.

Martin still aims for a February pub date, so he wants to send the material to the place that makes galleys at the end of next week.

He’s printing 40 galleys. The bad news is that because of finances, all the published books will be in hardcover, none in trade paperback, and the price is $21.

What can I say? I expect nothing from this book but a couple of sour reviews, but I can’t tell Martin that. He’s investing his future and I’m not investing mine.

Even no reviews and no sales, or scathing reviews, won’t affect my own future writing career, which is already moribund.

I have nothing to lose with the publication of I Survived Caracas Traffic. If I had a chance to “make it,” it was with With Hitler in New York or I Brake for Delmore Schwartz. I know this book is not going to change my life.

Last evening I used the blow dryer, hot water and other methods to defrost as fast I could, then I read another New Jersey history. I also noodled around with the Neil Simon manuscript.

Today I got to the office at 3 PM, and faxed a letter to the editor of The New York Times. My letter noted the similarity of an Emerson quotation from “Compensation” to a nearly identical one I read in a recent article about Presidential complaining that was attributed to Mrs. James Monroe.

 I spent a couple of hours and managed to get out a coherent, if unpolished, five pages of my Simon essay, which I sent to Gary Konas.

If Gary thinks the work is salvageable, I’ll try to complete it by the end of the month.

I apologized for the long silence, explaining about my book and my column. At least for the moment, I feel relieved about the Neil Simon piece.

Up at 7:30 AM, I went to Kash n’ Karry to buy the Sunday Times and to replenish my freezer with bags of frozen fruit and vegetables and Healthy Choice dinners and entrees.

After finding all the washing machines occupied last evening, I got my laundry done this morning.

I spent the next six hours reading, exercising, eating (of course), and watching TV news shows, as well as reading articles on Lexis/Nexis.

The St. Pete Times had a story on the young HIV-positive men who’ve flocked to South Beach to die. In the meantime, they’re hiding their antibody status, pumping up, taking drugs and going to hot discos like the Warsaw Club and newer ones I haven’t heard of.

Ah, look at all the beautiful dying people in the Deco District. In a funny way, it’s still God’s waiting room.

At 5 PM, I left the office and went over to CIRCA, where I used a Mac to get on Netscape and surf the Web for a bit.

In contrast to the Lynx text browser I otherwise have to use, it’s so wonderful to actually see all the colorful images and the great graphics on a computer.

As far as I can tell, InterAct isn’t up yet at New Jersey Online. I also looked through some other applications on the Mac, which is to me far and away superior to Windows 3.1, let alone the clunky DOS I’m used to.

At Library West, I found and xeroxed the Roll Call article that mentioned my Giraffe Hunters of America PAC.

When I got home, I saw Martin had left message, and I returned his call after dinner. He did print my dedication of the book to Scott Sommer.

Monday, October 9, 1995

4:30 PM. I awoke at 2 AM and never got back to sleep. After a little while, I decided to put on a Body Electric video and exercise, and then I looked on the computer to see when each of the stories in the new book was first published.

I thought about the problem of the book for a long time, and I came up with a solution that so excited me that I couldn’t stop pacing the room and had to suppress the urge to call Martin and wake him.

He’s been out all day today, and now I’m less certain of my solution. Here goes: I saw the problem with the dated stories right away.

That’s why I was so shocked by Martin’s selections from my uncollected stories. Their average publication date was 1980, which means most stories were written over fifteen years ago, in the 1970s.

What upset me about stories like “The Bridge Beyond” and “Mini-People” and “With the Pope in Park Slope” was their adolescent earnestness, without the cynicism or satire or hipness of other work from that time or the trendiness of my more recent stories.

Then it struck me: every story in the book is about post-adolescence in the ’70s or ’80s. So you’ve got to advertise that, prepare the reader, not just with an introduction but make it a subtitle: “Stories of the ’70s and ’80s.” Or, say, “Post-Adolescence in the . . .” or “Coming of Age in . . .”

Then we not only let the reader know what the book is about, but you’d also have a hook: something I could be interviewed about by newspaper feature writers and maybe even on radio and TV.

My other collections were all mixed up, but this one’s all about one thing. I’m going to push this on Martin as hard as I can, and he’s probably going to resist, and eventually I’ll bow to his judgment even as I’ll know I’m right and he’s wrong.

After all, this is what attracted Martin to the stories: the quest for an adult identity, delayed in most baby boomers (okay, I’m an exaggerated example, but I’d have to be).

Anyway, I’ll call him tonight and try to convince him. I was so excited that I never got back to bed.

At my desk at 8 AM, I eventually decided to blow off the Excel class, but only because I couldn’t find parking anywhere near Turlington Hall.

Russ was out, being a host – he likened it to being a protocol director at an embassy – to the visiting Brazilian legislators.

Liz told me that at Jon’s yesterday, Joann told her that Russ is going to be our envoy to the Haitians, and that depressed her terribly, so we vented to each other about it today.

Russ – racist, Eurocentric, callous, pompous Russ – is precisely the wrong person to go to Haiti. He can’t even talk to African Americans!

It enrages both Liz and me, and she said one reason she went home sick last week was the AID/USIA international stuff that makes Joann and Jon salivate depresses her so much.

Anyway, I’d better not get started. Once I start to get angry, the rage feeds on itself.

Jon made me revise that stupid self-study document once again – mostly because he wants to highlight all the international bullshit CGR is doing.

I emailed Craig that I’m going to Tallahassee tomorrow, a lie that will get me out of leafleting the O’Dome.

I also sent him two Los Angeles Times stories about the probable defeat of the Colorado case going up before the Supreme Court tomorrow and the strategies gay rights groups will take after a bad decision. (They’ve decided not to renew a boycott of Colorado.)

Gary Konas said I could have a couple more weeks to finish the Neil Simon article.

Josh wrote that he went to shul on his father’s Yahrzeit day and then went out to the cemetery, that his niece and her boyfriend were at his apartment, and that he was fighting a lot with Sharon.

Christy Sheffield Sanford wrote that she loved what she’d read of Hitler. A friend saw her copy and said, “Oh, I have that book” and brought it to show her.

At 11:30 AM, I went to Bailey Hall for a lecture on electronic privacy by this guy David Sobel, a UF law grad who works for the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) in D.C.

Altom Maglio, head of the Computer Law Society, introduced Sobel for what was a good talk and Q&A, mostly on encryption, the Clipper Chip, PGP, and stuff I was happy to realize I’d already pretty much soaked up through all my reading.

When I returned to the office, Laura asked me to help one of the Brazilian legislators pick a New York City hotel – no one else had a clue – and I shopped by phone for another Brazilian and discovered the best place to get additional megs of RAM for his computer was Electric Avenue.

What am I, a concierge for foreign parliamentarians?

I kept getting e-mail all day, from the GLB list, the Computer Law list, the Consortium for School Networking list. (Everyone on the GayJews list must be out for Sukkoth.)

Twice I ran into David Jackson and we exchanged hellos and smiles. Luckily, I’m always in a rush every time I see him, so by now he must realize I’m not stalking him just because I think he’s cute.

Life’s too full and too fast for me lately.