A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late July, 1996

Monday, July 22, 1996

9:30 PM. I had bad insomnia last night as thinking about Dad’s birthday and his being 70 made me realize how old I am.

I thought I had no problem with being 45, yet suddenly last night 45 seemed so old. It struck me that there’s no way my body’s ever going to get better than it is now.

Actually, I’m in good shape – well at least I look good – but there’s no getting around the fact that I’m 45. And that makes my being interested in 25-year-olds seem so weird.

I started thinking how much I miss having grandparents, And by now I have almost no great-aunts and great-uncles even though my grandparents had over twenty siblings.

With Uncle Harry dead at 96, none of my Ginsberg great-aunts and-uncles are alive, and except for Aunt Minnie, neither are any of the Sarretts.

Grandma Sylvia’s eldest brother, Uncle Benny Cohen, is still doing well at 100, and I think her younger sisters in California are still alive. So, probably, is Grandma Ethel’s half-brother Uncle Jerry, but he’s not much older than my father.

Anyway, in bed last night my mind raced like a spell-checker, and I began thinking that Dad was my age in 1971, around the time I was a junior in college breaking up with my girlfriend. Mom was my age twenty years ago, when I got my second master’s degree and had been teaching college and publishing stories for a year. My parents seem so settled by then.

Patrick’s mother turned 70 yesterday, and Linda Baldwin’s father turned 77 (so young, I thought – because Linda has to be in her mid-50s) and Bob Dole is 73 today. But all these people aren’t really old the way people in their seventies used to be.

Anyway, I finally dozed off, but I slept fitfully.

Today at work I managed to get the whole shebang of my Common Ground material FedExed to WPBT/Channel 2 by the afternoon. It’s probably the shoddiest piece of work I’ve done for CGR.

I can’t imagine the South Florida Water Management District accepting the material as is and just handing over our $15,000 check. But I want to work with them so I can get help in revising the material.

Particularly bad is the manual for in-service and pre-service training, as it’s basically the regular teachers’ manual with a couple of pages added and a couple of pages deleted. It’s all bullshit, basically. But I did get the package out.

My office was my own today, and CGR was delightfully quiet with so many people gone.

Before work, I did some shopping at Walmart and Publix, and after work I went to the post office, bought three more of those irregular t-shirts for $5 total, and filled my gas tank.

In the mail, I got one rejection; the Reform Party nominating ballot containing the names of Perot and Lamm (it was due back July 20, two days ago); and a heavy-duty questionnaire for congressional candidates from a group of U.S. Forest Service employees that I’m going to work on tomorrow at the office.

Michael G from the pro-marijuana group called again, and thank God I have a secretary: I told Cari to tell him I was at a meeting.

The guy has incredible chutzpah, but I guess the daily intake of cannabis for thirty years lessens one’s inhibitions.

I e-mailed Patrick and Elihu and congratulated Robin Henley on his Nelson Algren Award, sending along Friday’s Chicago Tribune article. Robin’s story portraying Isaac Bashevis Singer as a lecher at Notre Dame sounds wonderful.

Right now I feel I’m ready to drop off, but I may be overtired.

Tuesday, July 23, 1996

9 PM. Today I got to work around 9:30 AM and went straight to that questionnaire from the Forest Service Employees for Environmental Education.

They allowed up to 1,000 words for each of the seven questions they asked – most of them relating to land use, energy policy, population growth and other environmental issues.

I downloaded some Nexis articles I had found last evening: mostly editorials, op-ed pieces and press releases whose viewpoint I agreed with (and with which the group’s members will probably agree).

Basically I took the material and molded and twisted it into essays of about 500 to 800 words each. In some ways, it might be high-tech plagiarism, but I was writing in my capacity as a politician, so who cares about ethics?

The group will put up the candidates’ responses to their questions at their website, and of course I love seeing my name online, so I tried to do a good job.

The whole exercise took longer than I expected, and a little after 11 AM, the screen locked up. It turned out that the law school server was down for the rest of the work day.

Of course, I didn’t know that at the time. But there wasn’t much for me to do except read the Times and the introductory chapter of Habits of the Heart, which I got from the law school library.

Ten years ago the book I thought the book was excellent, and it seems just as good now. I look forward to teaching it in my fall course at Nova, The Individual and Society.

Home by 3:30 PM this afternoon, I lay down for an hour and then read a couple of more stories in Shade. It’s a really cool anthology, and on Lexis I found numerous articles by some of the writers in it.

Several of them are excellent journalists and essayists, and I think one of them also wrote a Columbia Law Review article on heterosexism and Title VII that was cited by Frank Valdes and many others.

I’m going to read background material – articles and reviews of their novels and poetry and fiction collections of all the contributors I can locate. Hopefully I can do my ABR review before too long.

This evening I went back to the office and found the computers working again, so I finished my answer is for the Forest Service Employees’ voter inform project and e-mailed them.

I can’t imagine many congressional candidates will respond in as much detail as I did. Who else has the time?

Over at Library West, I found the volume of readings that accompanies Habits of the Heart, so now I’ve got both texts for the Nova class.

In the mail I got the contract from Valentine Publishing Group for their Red Hen Press anthology, tentatively titled Smorgasbord. They’re paying me 11¢ a word for “Moon Over Moldova,” which amounts to $63.

Also in the mail, Barbara Sharpe sent me a thank-you note for my $10 contribution to her School Board campaign. She said she told the other Nova students about my book – I sent her the reviews – and ended by saying, “I saw you on TV one night. I’m proud of you!”

I guess that’s about my being on the news as a gay rights activist. She’s the first person who mentioned seeing me since Blaine talked about it the morning after.

I still feel a little funny that everyone in town knows I’m gay, but I’m happy to be out.

Kevin e-mailed me that he moved into the screenwriter’s house and has been swimming after work every day, which relaxes him.

“Tomorrow I’m going to meet Barry Manilow,” he wrote. “My dream come true!”

I called Kevin while I was at the office this evening. He had to stay an hour after work ended at 5 PM (8 PM here) because his bus doesn’t come until 6 PM.

Then it takes him an hour to get home – although that’s no worse than when he was staying in Van Nuys.

He’s studying the California drivers’ manual so he can take his road test. His Florida driver’s license expired last month, and without that photo ID, he can’t even open up a bank account.

I offered to edit and send out to little magazines any stories he writes.

Kevin sounds so sweet on the phone, and he still writes me these endearments on e-mail.

This afternoon I spoke to Mom, who said Dad hadn’t arrived in New York yet – or at least he hadn’t called her.

One of the Paul Davril executives had phoned Dad yesterday to say he was leaving the company. It sounds to me like PDI is going downhill.

Dad said they made a bad licensing deal with Guess for shirts because Guess got to keep making chambray and denim shirts themselves, and that’s what is in most demand these days.

Monday, July 29, 1996

4 PM. Although Bonfire of the Vanities wasn’t as bad a movie as I expected, I started yawning at around 10 PM, so I got into bed, intending to listen to the rest of the film.

Naturally I drifted in and out of sleep so although I was awake for the ending, it didn’t seem very coherent to me.

I do remember reading the book in Teresa’s apartment one summer and enjoying it a great deal.

I was up before 6 AM, having dreamed that after I went to visit Grandma Ethel, she sent me a letter asking me to leave her alone because she was too busy running the company she was CEO of.

I exercised at 8 AM and was at work before 9 AM.

Liz had a terrific trip to the Northwest. She hiked in very difficult terrain, and not only did she get to know Joe better, but she had a fabulous visit with her son and his neat girlfriend.

Liz described how scared they were when they came across a family of black bears on the Olympic Peninsula, but the bears didn’t bother them.

The weather was unseasonably hot, and everyone in Washington State was complaining; however, the air was much drier than it is here and Liz felt quite comfortable.

We have an appointment on Thursday at 11:30 AM to see Jon so I can tell him I’m leaving CGR.

Ellen has moved up her departure date because of the closing on her house, and her last day in the office will be a week from Thursday, with a farewell lunch scheduled for next Tuesday.

I tried to avoid Jon today – but he was in the office only briefly.

From what I overheard of Joann’s conversation with Robertson, it sounded like the Brazilian conference and training session went splendidly.

Joann said CGR has prospects of doing some kind of thing in states other than Paraná.

Helen has scheduled a general staff meeting for August 8: a “brainstorming” session to deal with the ideas Dean Matasar brought up. I’ll be glad that my status will be clear by then.

Rochelle Ratner e-mailed me, saying that to her shock, Poets & Writers rejected her article on writers and repetitive stress disorder. I told her it was fine with me if she used what I’d said elsewhere.

I finally reached Teresa on the phone, albeit briefly, as she was entertaining six guests on Fire Island, all stuck inside because of the rain.

She said everyone was asking when I was coming back and that they were all disappointed I won’t be there next month.

However, Teresa said that I could come in October. She’ll be through with Fire Island by then, so it actually might be a better time for a visit.

I e-mailed Brad Richard in New Orleans and I left a message on Kev’s voice mail. (He e-mailed me late on Friday.)

At home for lunch, I called Kansas City’s KISF (KISS 107.3) to speak to their morning man, Jay Charles.

After seeing the Swing article about the Committee for Immediate Nuclear War, Jay had written me. He scheduled me for his show on Thursday, August 15 at 8:45 AM.

The National Rifle Association sent me a questionnaire as a congressional candidate, and I sent it back answering everything diametrically opposed to their positions.

To the open-ended “Describe your views about hunting,” I wrote: “I disapprove of the hunting lifestyle and feel hunters need to learn how to behave like normal people.”

Actually Ileana Ros-Lehtinen doesn’t really get much support from the gun lobby; NRA gave her a 25% rating last year.

Liz was happy that the Legal Services Corporation was spared in the House budget.

I suspect that Clinton will end up signing the welfare bill, which isn’t reform but abolition of the federal safety net for poor families.

The bill would put over a million children into poverty and cruelly cuts off all benefits to even legal immigrants.

Tuesday, July 30, 1996

8:30 PM. The last couple of evenings I’ve delayed having dinner till 7 PM, filling myself up with a cold sweet potato at 5 PM, when I usually eat.

I’m trying to cut down my daily calorie intake from about 1850 calories to 1750, hoping I can lose the few extra pounds I seem to have put on lately.

Last evening I threw out a whole cardboard box filled with stuff. It felt good to get rid of it. Obviously, in an apartment this small, I haven’t accumulated a lot, but I do have some unnecessary possessions I need to throw away before I leave Gainesville in five months.

Before going to bed, I watched the first hour of Peter Greenaway’s visually stunning film Prospero’s Books. But the video, which I got from the library, is a little too much for me to take.

Up at 6 AM, I got to work by 9 AM. Liz asked to see me, and she said that before we saw Jon on Thursday, she wanted to let me know that she’s going to apply for Graddy’s job as director of Three Rivers Legal Services.

When Graddy resigned, it crossed my mind that Liz would be an ideal replacement, and I think she’d be wonderful there. I’m sure she’ll have excellent references and she has good contacts.

They’re advertising only in-state, and the ad came out in the Florida Bar Journal yesterday.

Liz had been planning to apply for a month, but she didn’t tell anyone until now, and she’s told only me and Joe, who understood that this is the one job for which Liz would leave CGR.

When I asked her what she would do if they wanted her to start before her fall semester’s Poverty Law class ends, Liz said she didn’t see how she could do that. Her hope is that they would wait till December.

Liz’s line at CGR will need to be filled if she leaves. I guess Jon will want someone to change the focus of the Social Policy Division from poverty to stuff like the genome project.

If Liz doesn’t get the Three Rivers job, then she’ll need to work hard and find some grants and projects for the division.

Kevin sent me an e-mail yesterday, saying I was “such a sweetie” for leaving him voicemail while he was at lunch at “Taco Hell.”

He gave me his new home phone number, which should be connected tomorrow, and said, “Your voice makes me smile.”

Elihu e-mailed that he’s working overtime and half-days on Saturday, but he doesn’t mind.

He had two blind dates and he seemed to click with this one guy, a manager at Lexis/Nexis who’s Hispanic and the father of two: “He’s an intelligent, humorous nice guy. . . Could I actually have a second date with him?”

Speaking of Lexis/Nexis, Betty Taylor, whom I ran into this morning, said there was much excitement at the law librarians’ convention over Lexis and Westlaw going to electronic casebooks.

She mentioned that Chris Slobogin and Pedro are using Folio Views – which I have yet to look at – and said that the new software for Lexis will have a seamless connection to the web.

Mrs. Taylor asked me if I understood the new Microsoft paradigm with web pages replacing folders and files, and I said I think I do, but I’d like to see it demonstrated.

I showed Linda how to download a Lexis document to her disk and then use LEXFORM to turn it into a WordPerfect file that she could print out.

After days of getting four or five long GLB-POC digests, I finally unsubscribed. But it was interesting to lurk on a list of black lesbians and gay men to see what their concerns are.

Our GayJews list had a major ruckus in yesterday’s digest; usually it’s quite focused and filled with well-intentioned people.

I came home around 3 PM. I had a sinus headache and wanted to use nasal spray and take some medicine so I wouldn’t get dizzy the way I did a week ago.

When I pulled up in front of the apartment, my young neighbor with the blond ponytail called me over.

He was locked out of his car and asked me to help him use a wire hanger to open the door from the inside, which I did.

The guy was shirtless and in shorts, and he had one of those perfectly-toned smooth bodies that you tend not to encounter in real life.

It felt weird for me to be – I was going to write, “on top of him,” but to be clear, I mean “standing so close to him.”

I read all of the 150 pages of articles I downloaded on the Shade writers and on black gay writing in general.

I also did two more drafts of “The Five Stages of Eating in Cuban-Chinese Restaurants.”

It’s hard to tell how off my last section is; maybe in my minimalist style, it’s easier for me to write in the voice of a second character.

I just hope I can print out the final version of the story and send copies to literary magazines before too long.

Mellon Bank sent me an application for an Olympics Gold Visa, but since I stuck Mellon with $4,000 when I went bankrupt, naturally I just threw it away.

In Stuart Elliott’s New York Times advertising column today, he referred to something “as surprising as when telephone exchanges were switched from BUtterfield 8 and CLoverdale 1 to 288 and 251.”

I know Elliott is from Brooklyn, and he must have grown up with the Cloverdale exchange like I did: CLoverdale 8-6699. Grandma Ethel was ULster 2, Grandma Sylvia was HYacinth 7, and when I got my own extension I had DEwey 8-5490 (and later DE 8-1577). Dad and Grandpa Nat’s “place” was CHelsea 3-6930.

It’s very surprising that I can still remember those numbers.

In contrast, I remember none of my all-digit numbers in the apartments I’ve lived in in South Florida and Rockaway, except for Teresa’s 799-5359. Hey, I can barely remember my new current area code is 352.