A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early September, 1993
Thursday, September 2, 1993
7 PM. The negotiation went okay, although as you might expect, I settled for a higher amount than the others in my breakout group.
Bob, the guy I negotiated with, was friendly, open and cooperative, and we were honest with each other.
As I wrote in the first part of my reaction paper, if Bob had been less reasonable, I probably would have tried harder to keep the settlement down.
Jack Fine, the personal injury attorney who critiqued us, said that we all settled for too much money, so mine was way out of sight, but I had no way of knowing what a jury verdict would look like in this kind of “soft tissue” injury case; none of us thought we could ask around.
Sympathy with Bob’s injured client and my own temptation to rush to closure made me settle high.
On the other hand, we had a pleasant, non-hostile negotiating session, and I did keep my client from going to court and also won a few concessions that Bob readily agreed to.
I’ve written five pages of the reaction paper already, starting when I got home at 4P M. I’ll finish it tomorrow after I’ve looked at the videotape.
I haven’t read for Baldwin’s class tomorrow, but it’s the standard for effective assistance of counsel, and Nunn covered that.
In the mail, I got an application for Georgetown’s Street Law Fellowship; I’ll probably apply even though I think I have no chance, that it will go to an Ivy leaguer with mucho legal experience. I’ll figure out if it’s even worthwhile to try.
Going for the mail, I saw my very cute neighbor who always walks around bare-chested. Today was the first time he said hello to me. Maybe he’ll start wearing a shirt next! (Hope not.)
Friday, September 3, 1993
4 PM. Labor Day weekend and I’m already goofing off since I got back from school at noon. I went back to campus briefly just to drop off my reaction paper in Don Peters’ mailbox.
Last evening I didn’t fall asleep right away, so I did the reading of Strickland and Cronic for this morning’s Police Practices class and cleared up a few other loose ends.
Although I did sleep restfully, I would have liked to stay in bed and not have to get up at 6:30 AM.
All week I’ve been saving my shower till I return from my early classes so I could wait until after I exercise. I’ve been making my hair look presentable and putting on a pair of shorts or pants after shaving and washing up a bit. If I look unkempt in the morning, nobody’s mentioned it.
Baldwin had a good class today, and afterwards I went to the media library to watch the tape of the negotiation. I’m used to seeing myself on video, but I was surprised that I look so fat.
I had thought the tight button-down sport shirt flattered me, but it probably makes me look bulky, as my chest and arm strain against the fabric. Could I be working out too much?
I felt I did okay on the negotiation, but it took place on video way after all the others did, so it was hard to get a sense of how we developed a problem-solving atmosphere.
Back home, I completed the reaction paper. I just hope Don wanted what I want from my English 102 students: less plot summary and more analysis.
If I had a failure in the paper, it was that it didn’t have a minute-by-minute account of our negotiation, as I assumed Don would see the tapes and note the deal we had come to.
After finishing the paper, I began an aerobic workout, trying to ignore the little twinge I got during the warm-up when I stretched my back in a way it didn’t want to go.
I really hoped I’d see somebody to talk with when I returned to school, but nobody was around. I did see that first-year student, the skinny guy with the motorcycle helmet, that I met in line for our scholarship checks, but of course I don’t really know him.
I did catch Julie for a minute on her way to the CGR office. “How’s the Celtic goddess?” I asked.
She said she’s gotten about 70 more replies to her ad, including one guy who’s called her four times “saying he’d fallen in love with me – this after hearing my voice for 30 seconds.”
“I’d wait at least a minute before falling in love with you,” I said, which was halfway between joking and flirting.
At home, I ate, read the Times and watched soaps even though I’d promised myself I’d start studying.
At 3:30 PM, I got the mail – and today’s two pieces were a bonanza. My SLS check for $2,210.60 arrived, and I high-tailed it to the bank.
That means I’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief. Although it will leave me only $600 once I pay my tuition, that’s enough to help me manage until I start getting paid from SFCC in a month and until my Stafford loan check comes.
The other letter was from the Miami Book Fair International, enclosing a contract for me to sign and send back. This gig is for real, and that means I have something to look forward to.
They’ll reimburse me for airfare and a hotel for one night and give me a $50 per diem, which means I’ll probably come out about even.
And they want at least ten photos, so I’m going to have to spend money to take new head shots. The last ones were from 1985, when I was seven years younger and 30 pounds heavier.
This should be fun. All these years I’ve felt bad for not being included in the big literary event in Miami, so I can’t complain anymore.
Anyway, I’ve now got three days off.
Tomorrow’s the opening football game, so it will be madness in town even if some students have gone away for the holiday.
I’ve got a list of stuff to do and will be lucky to get to half of them.
Monday, September 6, 1993
8 PM. Labor Day was a welcome holiday this year. I’m about two-thirds of the way through Chagnon’s Yanomamo: The Fierce People and have read all the articles I got off Nexis.
Giving my oral presentation in Legal History next week will be challenging because the Yanomami have no law as we know it.
There’s no state, no judicial or legislative authority, and the village headmen aren’t rulers; they can basically be ignored if people don’t want to listen to them.
What holds the villages together are kinship ties, and when the village gets too large and these ties get looser, there’s a fission and a new group splits off to form its own village.
Incest seems to be common, but they define incest as marrying within your moiety. I haven’t gotten to reading about their violence, but about 30% of the men are murdered and a majority have taken part in a murder.
What’s really sad is how the last intact Stone Age tribe in the Americas is being devastated by contact with the outside world.
Since the gold rush began seven years ago, nearly a quarter of the Yanomami have died, mostly from illnesses like malaria and measles, and they probably will all be gone in the next century.
This morning when I went out to get the paper, I was enchanted by a spider’s web on the back of the stairway leading to the second floor apartments. The web was in a pattern of tight concentric circles, and as the sun shone through it, it shined with the colors of the rainbow, looking like an organic compact disc.
The other sight that amused me was a Ford Festiva wrapped with ribbon and toilet paper like a newlyweds’ car, but instead of “Just Married,” written on the side window was “Just Kidding.”
I did the final draft of my ten-minute play, which I titled What I Knew That Winter, and I sent it off to the contest in Louisville. It was fun to write even if I don’t see anything come of it.
Aside from reading and exercising, eating and working on the computer, I didn’t do too much today. I did use a coupon to get a $5.95 haircut at Fantastic Sam’s at Butler Plaza, and it’s a pretty good job for the money.
Late this afternoon I called Justin, and we talked for nearly an hour. Brooklyn College started last week, and in addition to teaching his own classes, Justin had to go to all the Theater classes that require crew work and tell them about the crew. He’s still waiting to hear if his thesis was finally approved.
The BCBC’s theater series subscriptions are low this year – people told the telemarketers they didn’t like the choice of plays – and Justin needs to work on that.
He and Larry went to Pennsylvania, but Justin had to return early last week. The adjunct paychecks don’t begin till mid-October (I’d forgotten how late they start at CUNY), and Justin’s other paycheck from the college barely covers his expenses.
He talked to me a lot about his parents, who haven’t spoken to him in months.
Throughout his whole life, when important things come up, Justin’s mother has gotten “ill” and so they’ve hardly seen any of his plays.
To me, Justin’s parents have always sounded unimaginably distant, absurdly formal – his mother got furious because Justin didn’t send a thank-you note for a present even though he called her to express his gratitude – and convinced that whatever the issue, they are right and the rest of the world is wrong.
They are not close to any of their seven grandchildren, and they didn’t attend the bris and naming ceremony for Justin’s sister’s newest baby, her first boy, because Justin’s mother was again “ill.”
What’s more, they got angry at Justin because he and Larry did attend the bris despite his parents not being there.
I don’t get them. I guess it would be hard for me, too, to accept such people as my parents.
Of course, my relationship with Mom and Dad is completely different. They have always supported me, even when they disapproved of what I was doing. Our family dynamic is based upon avoidance and denial so we never air any grievances.
Judd said Stephen McCauley’s novel The Easy Way Out has a family that reminds him of mine.
Tuesday, September 7, 1993
8 PM. I’ve just finished Chagnon’s Yanomamo, and combined with the other materials I read, it leaves me with a feeling of despair at how these people have been decimated by our culture.
To me, the Catholic missionaries seemed equally culpable with the greedy gold miners in their oppression.
Well, I’ll read the remaining articles I have and see if I can come up with enough material about Yanomami “law” to speak for fifteen minutes next Thursday.
I’m certainly comfortable in front of a class, and I enjoy teaching, so I’m actually looking forward to it. I remember Joe Cook saying you could always give a good lecture if you “wallowed” in your material and knew so much that the subject would pour out of you naturally.
At school a little after 8 AM, I decided to read the paper on the second floor of the library since I know that’s where Javier hangs out on Monday mornings. (Today we followed a Monday schedule.)
He did show up and sat a table about four feet away from me, and though we faced each other, he never acknowledged me.
As I told Justin yesterday, the homophobic born-again right-wingers on campus are friendlier to me than Javier is. I guess I give up with him.
So much for having something in common with someone just because he’s gay. What’s most disturbing is that I think he has contempt for me.
On the other hand, I’ve never seen Javier in conversation with friends at school, and I’ve never seen him smile. He always appears intense and a little angry.
Of course, I don’t know him and I could be misjudging him.
Why does it matter? Probably because I had a little crush on him since he gave that speech at the rally in June. But if I don’t put him out of my mind, it’s stupidity on my part.
My only class today was International Law. Nagan went over the act of state doctrine, and once again he kept looking over to the side of the room where Ana, Karin and I said in the first row.
He even kept coming over to us, and it’s making us nervous because it’s as if we’re constantly being forced to make eye contact with him.
At home the rest of the day, I felt a little depressed even though I discovered I owe the university only $1,331 for 11 credits; for some reason they aren’t charging me for the class I dropped.
Behind the depression is the usual feeling of helplessness. My loan check didn’t show up in my account yet, but I hope it will when I call the bank’s 800 number tomorrow.
I called a photographer whose ad I clipped from the Alligator, and I’m going over to his trailer to take photos tomorrow at 1 PM. The sitting will cost me $15 and the ten 8×10-inch photos $35.
Given what it’s costing me, I hope the book fair actually uses the photos.
Although I read fifty pages in Police Practices, I’m not sure that’s all I’ll need to read for this week.
I feel I have to get ahead in my classes and in my reading for Santa Fe, but I’ve made good progress since Friday.
After next week the pressure from Legal History will be off, and I can work on my paper slowly.
Thursday, September 9, 1993
8 PM. Last evening I got to Santa Fe half an hour early and potchkeyed around the office. Diane Matthews came in to substitute, and she said to call her if I ever needed a sub.
My class on “Bartleby, the Scrivener” went well, although perhaps I spent too much time going over the story page by page to suit some students. Only about five of the 18 students talk regularly, so it’s hard to tell.
My class generally seemed mystified by this story and annoyed with the lawyer/narrator for being a “wimp” and not throwing Bartleby out right away. Most thought Bartleby was merely, as Ginger Nut says in his only line in the story, “a little luny.”
One woman told me after class she felt relieved when I explained she didn’t have to know the reasons behind Bartleby’s behavior; I told her I certainly didn’t know it after perhaps fifteen readings.
Too “up” when I got home from teaching to sleep much, I read for hours, finally getting about four hours of sleep.
Although that caused me to have a morning headache, by afternoon I felt fine and I had plenty of energy. It’s helpful that it’s finally starting to cool off.
Today I started to consider staying in Gainesville another year. Maybe I could go for that master’s degree in journalism that I originally came here for. I could continue teaching at SFCC and living my cheap, comfortable life.
However, I soon realized that was the worst thing I could do: it would be a reaction of fear to the changes I need to make in my life. And it would just make it harder for me to leave the following year.
Passing the Placement office and seeing the names of students chosen for interviews that they post every day, Karin and Marsha clued me in about it.
Karin noted that very few 3L’s have been on the list lately and expressed surprise that Greg, who’s never really been an outstanding student, is getting more interviews than anyone else – including people with high GPAs like Marsha, Kathy, Angelina and Lori.
(Marsha did say that Lori accepted a position at Greenberg Traurig, which has the reputation of being the worst law firm sweatshop in Miami.)
I said that all those people are women and Greg is a guy, but they told me few male 3L’s are getting called, either, and that most firms are probably going to ask last summer’s law clerks to be associates.
Marsha said last year’s interviews were so dispiriting for her that she’s relieved not to be on the list even though she’s still trying for the jobs with these firms.
I guess a lot of my classmates are panicked at the thought of a tight job market. Me, I’ve lived my whole professional career in a much tighter job market and I’ve scraped by. Even today, it’s a lot easier to find work as a lawyer than to get a job as a college instructor or to get your fiction published.
Baldwin relished going over Mapp v. Ohio this morning; I was able to answer some of his questions because I dug out my notes from our March 1992 Con Law class on the same case.
After shopping at Publix, I came home and began reading the paper (I haven’t yet finished) and I exercised: the usual stuff.
Back on campus at 12:30 PM, I wandered about, finally settling into the library, where Martin was looking up material on coerced confessions to help Baldwin with the Rolling case.
Once the suppression hearings are over, Martin said, Baldwin’s job will probably be finished.
In negotiation, Don Peters handed back our evaluations and negotiation papers. As I expected, Jack Fine gave me 5 out of 10 points – probably the worst anyone did.
And my $15,000 settlement was the worst any defense lawyer got – except for someone who settled for $25,000 on the basis of an unethical misstatement. Still, I guess the plaintiff’s lawyers who settled real low also did poorly.
However, Don gave me 9 out of 10 on my “excellent” reaction paper. Several people gave him pure narratives, which as I expected, was not what he wanted.
I also volunteered to talk a lot as we went over a video simulation of our negotiation, so I now think I won’t end up blowing the course.
This negotiation was meant to be adversarial, and I mistook Bob’s cooperative style for a problem-solving strategy.
If I’m not temperamentally suited to be a negotiator, at least maybe I can learn something.
This weekend I have to prepare for our next negotiation, which will be out of class and won’t be graded (except for the papers). My partner is Aileen, whom I never met before, because like everyone else in the class, she came in the term before I did.
Don let us out early, so I went to the lounge and watched the U.S. Open with Rob, whom I rarely see around anymore.
Javier was actually pretty friendly with me today, and I saw him smile a lot. I had the Times with me and talked about a case where a Virginia jury took custody of a kid away from a lesbian mother and gave it to her mother because the younger woman lived “an immoral life” in violation of Virginia’s strict sodomy laws.
Javier knew about the case. He has obviously studied every gay rights litigation there is.
Yeah, I’ve got a crush on him. I can tell because I keep thinking of every stupid thing I said to him and how he must think I’m an asshole.
In class today, McCoy was like a doddering substitute sent in to control a class of obstreperous sixth-graders.
He divided us up into thirds based on our names, and we have to come in on designated days.
Only about half the students were in attendance today, and I felt sorry for McCoy, as even the ones who came to class seem to regard him as a senile old man. But I can tell he’s a lot sharper than they think.
In the car radio, I heard the news that the Israeli cabinet recognized the PLO, and Yassir Arafat recognized Israel’s right to exist.
My $3,450 Stafford loan came in today’s mail, so I now can relax – financially, anyway.