A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late September, 1995

Thursday, September 20, 1995

8 PM. Dad knocked on my door at 2:30 PM yesterday after I just finished exercising and vacuuming. He looked the way I remembered, but he noticed my new hairstyle and glasses.

Dad complained about his rental car, which took a long time to start in the mornings and had other problems, and he complained that his company is cheap and is taking away some of his accounts.

He said he’s beginning to get “Lomanitis” although it doesn’t appear to be having Willy’s problems yet. Still, at 69, it’s hard for him to keep going, and I see that he’s turning into an old man.

We went over to the law school, as I needed to do a little work. Showing Dad where my office was so he could pick me up at 5 PM, I introduced him to Carol.

“She runs everything here,” I said.

After taking a long walk around the Butler Plaza area and calling Mom in Fort Lauderdale, Dad returned. By that time, Russ and I were the only ones still in the office. Naturally, Russ was respectful and polite to Dad; as you’d expect, he has great parent-manners.

After coming home, I made myself a Healthy Choice meatloaf dinner while Dad kept obsessing about his rental car. I suggested we drive over to Budget at the airport and see if we could exchange it for a better car.

On the drive over, I had to smile as I listened to Dad talk. In his manner, his repetition, and his musing, he sounded like Mel Brooks’ 2000 Year Old Man – or else like Dad’s own parents when they were old (and to me, Grandma Sylvia and Grandpa Nat were always old).

Although it was somewhat tricky, Dad managed to get a better, larger car to which we transferred his heavy load of samples.

By then, it was 6:30 PM and Dad wanted to eat at Quincy’s because he likes the salad bar there.

Over dinner, he told me that Mom had gotten heavier and that Jonathan was disappointed because he’d gotten a letter turning him down for a sales job at a new Barnes & Noble superstore after what Jonathan thought was an interview that went well.

Apparently Jonathan’s not making plans to return to Arizona. (“How could he? He’d never be able to drive there with that van again. It’s a miracle he made it the first time – and he has no job or money.”)

Dad says that Jonathan thinks the world is filled with people as spiritual as he is. Mom says the same thing although I suspect Dad is more cynical of spirituality than Mom is.

Dad wouldn’t let me pay for dinner, but he did let me pay for our $1.50 movie tickets when we went to an 8 PM show of the Arthur/Lancelot/Guinevere film First Night.

Although I was tired and knew the movie would be lousy, I knew it was better than staying in my apartment, which Dad thought was junky and small. (I can imagine him telling Mom: “I don’t know how Richard lives like that!”)

I let him have my bed, and I didn’t sleep too well on the couch because the air conditioner right over me made it either too warm or too cold.

I knew I disturbed Dad during the night with my constant going to the bathroom, but he didn’t complain.

While I had breakfast between 7 AM and 8 AM, Dad got ready to go out, and I hugged him as he kissed me goodbye and set off for Jacksonville.

Since his third and final appointment was in Orange Park today, Dad decided to go home with I-95 rather than stay here tonight.

At first it was weird seeing him, and it took me a couple of hours to get used to his presence, but after that, it seems as if the things were the same as ever.

Except, of course, during the four years I’ve been in Gainesville, I’ve managed to become more of an adult and Dad has gotten older. There’s no longer any question of his giving me money when he sees me, for instance.

I got to work at 9:30 AM and stayed late, mostly because Julie F came in at 4:30 PM and Russ and I fooled around with her. She seems to lighten up Russ in a way I hadn’t seen anyone else manage before.

I showed them the satirical Bob Dole and Pete Wilson home pages on the Internet as well as New Jersey Online’s Pope trip pages.

Although AT&T split itself up into three different companies yesterday, Joe Territo told me to go ahead with “The AT&T Insider” page and gave me instructions for “Heard on the ’Net.”

After I described what Joe wants with that column to Josh, he said it sounded like they were looking for a “Stan Mack’s Real Life Funnies” for cyberspace.

I finally heard from Schoolyear 2000. Annette Rice gave me and Liz possible dates for a Legal Issues Working Group meeting that Wendy wants to call between mid-October and mid-November. After talking to Liz, I sent Annette dates that are good for both of us.

This afternoon I phoned Alice and finally got through. She’s been okay. Her brother stayed a few weeks after the funeral and then went to Australia to await the birth of his second child.

(Given what I’ve heard about it, Ulan Bator sounds like the worst place in the world – and Michael’s got another year being stationed there.)

Alice told me that they destroyed their mother’s will because it was easier without it, and they’re waiting for the court to name Alice the estate’s administrator so they can sell the co-op in Brooklyn – the estate’s only asset – to the buyer they’ve got from a New York Times ad.

Coincidentally, the woman is also deaf and speaks like Alice’s mother and her deaf friends. She wants to pay cash and she’s already put down a deposit and gone with Alice and her brother to meet with the co-op board.

There’s no reason that the board should reject her except that she’d be the first black owner in the building, where most of the other residents are old Jewish people.

Alice asked me if she’s responsible for her mother’s credit card debts. Although she never worked and was on food stamps and Medicaid, Alice’s mother got bank cards and ended up with over $10,000 in debts on several cards. Her brother notified all their mothers accounts that she was dead.

I told Alice she shouldn’t respond to the creditors’ letters they keep forwarding to her and said I’d research the law for her.

A friend convinced Alice to get an external modem – CompUSA made the exchange – and will come over to set it up.

Before we hung up, Alice said I should send her galleys of my book because she knows some editors who could review it.

I called a Rutgers geography professor to ask him why about the many newspaper and magazine articles I found that compared the size of different foreign countries to New Jersey. We had a good talk, but I’m still not sure how I can turn this into an article.

Saturday, September 23, 1995

8 PM. Waking up at 5 AM, I was unable to return to sleep, so I listened to some old-time radio shows like The Great Gildersleeve.

Before it got light out, I went to Kash n’ Karry to buy $40 worth of groceries and the New York Times.

After I got back under the covers for a little while, I went on Lexis and wrote part of my letter to Martin about whom to send galleys to and other matters regarding the book. Then I exercised and showered.

Heading for the office, I spotted Ivana and her baby in the car next to me as I turned onto 34th Street, and we both parked in front of the Agriculture Department building. I kissed Ivana and admired Talia, who’s pretty and bigger than I would have expected.

Having graduated from SFCC, Ivana will enter the UF School of Business in January. She’s taking this semester off, though, and recently returned from three months in Belgrade. Unfortunately, neither of us had much time to talk, so she said she’d call me.

At work, I answered e-mail from Rod Brooker, Josh and Justin, who said he’s as busy as ever with teaching, his BCBC duties and directing Steel Magnolias, which opens in a couple of weeks. Justin complained that he’s been having even worse computer problems than he did when I was in New York.

After polishing up nine items, I sent the latest “Only in Jersey” column to Joe and Laura (and to myself) and I read the rest of my e-mail and surfed for new material on Westlaw.

I tried to find the Human Rights Council mailing session, which was supposed to be in 3191 McCarty Hall.

Only Craig didn’t tell me that McCarty was actually four different buildings – A, B, C, D – and I ended up walking around for 25 minutes, finding locked doors, stairways that went nowhere, and empty corridors until my shirt was soaked with sweat and I was so disgusted that I returned home and lay down for a couple of hours.

I called Mom, who said Dad arrived back yesterday morning after spending Thursday night in Titusville.

China is sick, and Mom thinks she hurt her back again; she throws it out when she jumps up on a surface that is too high.

I had to scramble to get Mom off the phone, but I wanted to get some stuff at Walmart and then look for more material online.

But all I ended up with were jokes from Delphi’s comedy forum, and that’s not the kind of thing Joe wants for “Heard on the ’Net.”

I feel less confident about doing this feature because I generally don’t read forums and Usenet groups, which I find boring. I have a Thursday deadline on this and I don’t think I’d want to do it every week.

Besides, I still feel the need to troll for the “Only in Jersey” column, which is my first priority.

On Monday, I think I’m going to go into work wearing a suit and tie and tell them I’m going to shul for Rosh Hashona so I can have a good excuse to be away from the office most of the day.

I’d wanted to go to the public library today to get ideas for book publicity, but I guess I can do that tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 27, 1995

7 PM. Last evening when I arrived at Abby’s house, Bob, Tim, Craig, Kathy, Abby’s daughter Emma and a couple of others were already working on the mailing. Bob set up a card table on the screened-in porch for him, Tim, me and eventually George to work.

Many of the envelopes had already been stuffed with the newsletter and the address labels attached, so mostly we had to seal the envelopes and put on the bulk-rate stamps.

Also, somebody had to stamp all the envelopes “Return Address Requested” so the post office would forward to us (for a price) corrections that needed to be made. Unfortunately, we had only one rubber stamp.

Although a steady rain was falling, it was a pleasant evening out, and I found that the combination of repetitive, low-intensity tasks and conversation relaxed me.

Bob told me that Javier is interviewing at Miami law firms but doesn’t yet have a job; he’s doing some temp legal work in the meantime. Javier and Bryan are still living in Kendall at Javier’s parents’ house, where they don’t have much privacy.

Bob asked me some questions about the law and where I I’d lived in New York City. He grew up in Cleveland but has lived in Brooklyn, Manhattan, San Francisco and a lot of other places.

Bob and Tim seem to travel a good deal and are going to Boston and Cape Cod soon. I’ve always found Tim less forthcoming than Bob, but maybe he’s just quieter, or else he doesn’t like me. They didn’t know that I’d published books of fiction or that I planned to leave Gainesville next year.

After leaving Abby’s at 8:30 PM, I stopped off at the Publix in Westgate Plaza to buy some groceries. At home I watched the third installment of PBS’s five-part, ten-hour series on the history of rock and roll.

I was oblivious to rock when I was younger, liking individual artists and songs but never buying records or taking much care to get a band’s name straight – something I’m embarrassed about today.

Still, I hear the music of Cream or CSNY or Jimi Hendrix or the Eagles or Rolling Stones and I can be transported back to 1967 or 1970 or another year in the past and feel comforted.

Once again, I slept fitfully, and it occurs to me that instead of helping me, the three milligrams of melatonin I’ve been taking nightly for the past few weeks is actually throwing off my internal clock. So I’m not going to take it tonight and see if I sleep better.

At work by 8:30 AM, I faxed Beth Muller at St. Martin’s Press, who’d called me about my request for permission to reprint “Twelve Step Barbie.” I’ll be surprised if there’s a problem because I can’t see how they have the right to the story now.

(Reading the National Information Infrastructure White Paper is proving to be a good review of copyright law for me.)

I did my usual reading and answering of e-mail and surfing on Lexis and Westlaw and squirreling away weird New Jersey stories.

Once again Tom Andersen has gone off in on his own, embarrassing me because one of his research assistants asked Mark Bergeron for an NERDC account so that he can set up a CGR home page on the web.

I only learned of this through an e-mail from Betty Taylor, who said she and Harold had thought it was better when we all decided that CGR be a part of the College of Law’s home page, especially since all the material posted there needs to have the Dean Lewis’s approval.

Tom and his student made me look bad because I’m supposed to be the CGR contact person for the web pages.

I needed to look at the law school home page, and to my relief, it’s still not very developed, but all our CGR stuff – that is, what I gave them – is there.

For an hour I struggled to turn Jon’s tortured prose into a coherent document. I hope he was just brainstorming and that Jon ordinarily writes a lot better than that.

Bill Black from the HRC Board forwarded a message he’d gotten from a friend, which reprinted the San Francisco Chronicle article on Giraffe Hunters of America. Surprisingly, the only person on the HRC Board that he showed it to who caught the humor and understood what I was trying to do there was Kathy.

Thursday, September 28, 1995

4 PM. Last evening I got off letters to Rick and Martin, read most of a history of New Jersey that I got at the library, and watched Rock & Roll segments on glam rock and funk on PBS before I managed to fall into a fairly satisfying sleep.

Up at 6 AM, I prowled Lexis, ate my breakfast (my cereal today was a mixture of oatmeal, quinoa flakes and cream of buckwheat with skim milk and artificial rum flavoring, plus a banana and orange juice), listened to NPR, exercised to Body Electric and went off to work at 9 AM, feeling relaxed.

Jon was in today because the tropical disturbance made filming the PBS show in Miami impossible, so I worked on the self-study letter and by 11 AM had a draft in good enough shape to leave it in his mailbox.

Apparently, Jon is easily satisfied, for he returned it to me in mid-afternoon with only minor editing changes. It will save me time to have this done today rather than postpone it until the weekend.

Since Liz had to be in Orlando today, she’d asked me to tell the Fellows at their 11:30 AM meeting to make sure to record their hours and hand in their Docket articles.

I sat back and  observed as Monica ran a fairly productive meeting. The group seems to function well with each other, joking as if they were all old friends.

After checking with the Black Law Students Association to make sure they didn’t have a symposium on affirmative action planned, the Fellows finally decided to go ahead with the topic. They organized themselves into committees and will try to narrow the focus and select prospective speakers. Our next meeting is in two weeks.

Mark said that he’ll write Deval Patrick, the Civil Rights Division chief at the Department of Justice, whom he met at the Carter Center in Atlanta on the day that the Adarand decision came down. If they could get him to speak, it would be a real coup.

Kathy e-mailed me about possibly proposing a resolution tonight in favor of funding for the Legal Services Corporation.

She works with Julie Graddy, the wife of Robert Graddy, Three Rivers Legal Services’ director. Although Kathy is upset that Three Rivers’ conservative board took “sexual orientation” off their non-discrimination list last year, she still wants HRC to support this.

For my part, I wonder why we would bother with a resolution. I hate it when little organizations or legislative bodies like city councils pass resolutions on all kinds of subjects and issues far from their purview.

For example, I don’t want us to debate today’s Israeli-Palestinian agreement signing or U.S. policy on Bosnia. Who cares if the Human Rights Council of North Central Florida takes a position on funding of LSC? We might as well take a stand against hurricanes hitting Florida.

This afternoon I revised – edited is a better word – the self-study letter and chatted with Russ about colonial New Jersey history and Florida’s homestead exemption.

Tom Andersen wrote Betty Taylor saying he wanted a separate link for the Mesoamerican Center since it’s bigger than the College of Law even as Betty replied to me that I shouldn’t feel bad about what some overenthusiastic student did.

But I feel that Tom is the opposite of a team player. While I may like being independent in my life as a whole, I’m know I’m just a small part of an organization at CGR, just as I am at HRC, and I don’t go above other people’s heads.


11 PM. I stopped off at my office before heading downtown, but I did not have any interesting e-mail.

Arriving early at the SFCC Downtown Center early, I chatted with Mark Knight, who’s not on the board, but like Richard Smith and others, attends our meetings.

Mark was reading a book of short stories, and I told him about my writing. That led us to talk about Andrew Holleran, Edmund White and Brad Gooch (whom he hadn’t read) as well as Gide and Genet.

What made tonight’s meeting interminable was Kathy’s passionate but badly-worded resolution about funding the Legal Services Corporation and Three Rivers in particular.

Kathy works extremely hard, but I felt this was an ignorant, impulsive piece of work. She didn’t have all her facts straight, and the resolution was supporting Three Rivers while condemning them for taking “sexual orientation” off their list of non-discrimination criteria for employees.

I wish that I had more information about how the LSC is set up and its relationship to locally-funded legal service agencies.

Kathy also had stuff in there criticizing “the immoral news media” for not covering poor people. I pointed out that a gay rights organization probably didn’t want to call other people immoral, and I made larger points about the efficacy of our little resolution.

Kathy was so far away from realpolitik that she wanted to say that LSC funding should be increased by the Republican Congress!

If the Bar Association and other groups, including Three Rivers itself, doesn’t want to publicize the LSC funding fight right now, why should we? Don’t they have more credibility in this area and understand the delicate political situation than we do?

We talked about this for more than an hour – pointlessly, in my opinion – until we finally approved a revised, much shorter resolution supporting LSC and not mentioning Three Rivers.

As soon as we adjourned– a number of the others usually go out for beers together afterwards, but I’m not interested – I hurried out to my car.

To my surprise, Mark followed me, called me by name and gave me a piece of paper on which he’d written his name, phone number and Ocala address. He said he liked talking to me and hope we could talk more about books.

“Sure,” I said, but I was kind of shocked. That’s the first time a guy has ever handed me his phone number. I’d never really thought that much about Mark. He’s not bad-looking although I have to admit I never looked at him closely. Since he likes to read short stories, I’ll send him a copy of With Hitler in New York.

Back home, I caught the final two hours of PBS’s rock’n’roll: “Punk,” on the influence of the Sex Pistols and the Clash on U.S. groups, and “The Perfect Beat,” on the evolution of rap/hip-hop, with looks at reggae, house and techno music.

This morning the Times had a front-page story on writers like Joyce Carol Oates, Thulani Davis and Ishmael Reed turning to opera librettos.

That got me thinking about how I once thought of turning the 2 Live Crew obscenity trials in Broward into an opera. I still have all the yellowing clippings I saved from 1990 and 1991.

I know I should do something with the material, but as usual, I’ve been too lazy to follow through on my ideas.