A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-March, 1992

Thursday, March 12, 1992

8 PM. I didn’t do any reading of the material I xeroxed from my casebooks, and the only thing I’ve used my Con Law textbook for has been as a substitute for weights when I exercised at 8 AM to Body Electric in Dad’s office.

Still, I just found the steno book with my notes from the obscenity trials in October 1990, which I want to examine, and I’ve got only about a third of Anthony Lewis’s Make No Law to finish.

Lewis had access to Brennan’s nine drafts of the New York Times v. Sullivan opinion as well as material on how the justices worked on changing it to satisfy a majority of six. So, First Amendment-wise, I’ve done okay.

I even wrote some notes for my Appellate Advocacy oral argument. I also finally consolidated the six different word processing files that made up the first draft of my brief.

Learning how lawyers who work on briefs for the Supreme Court struggle gives me a little hope.

I also made up a revised “to do” list, putting down all the things I could think of to help me prepare for finals.

Most importantly – as I realized while driving up the Strip at Fort Lauderdale, watching the beach and Atlantic on this cool, cloudy day – even if I get all C+’s this semester, I’ll still have a 3.0 index.

So there’s no pressure on me except to learn, and I’ll say what I said last fall: even if I get poor grades and still learned a lot, I’ll have succeeded.

Josh called me here after failing to get me in Gainesville. He’s decided to take the LSAT and had some questions about it and admission to law school. He’s taking another nine credits at John Jay and enjoys learning about criminal law. Josh no longer sounds paranoid to me.

This afternoon I again took myself to the movies, this time to the one across from the Broward Mall, now styling itself an “art” theatre.

I loved Kasdan’s Grand Canyon because it was very literary in its structure and because I agree with Kasdan’s aesthetic and philosophical views, and it’s the kind of story I’d like to tell if I had the talent: how people cope in a 1990s Los Angeles where homeless people stand in the street holding cardboard signs saying “Will Work For Food,” where babies are abandoned, where ghetto violence makes children into killers and fatalities, where people get shot for no apparent reason.

Like Kasdan, I’m a cynical optimist despite all the horror and I try to concentrate on those moments of luck or fate or whatever that seems to make it all make sense.

Driving home, I saw a man at Pine Island Road off I-595 who was black and about 35, who carried the same “Will Work For Food” cardboard sign as in the movie. I began to sob violently, wondering how things can be like they are.

When I walked in the house, Mom saw I was upset – my eyes were red-rimmed – and after I confessed why I’d been crying, she told me those people are part of a scam, that there’s a group of them, and they prey on people’s sympathies but are paid by a man in a Cadillac (she’s seen this) who collects most of the money they’re given.

I felt even more stupid, but not really; it’s so much more like Planet Earth that I should be brought to such sympathy by phonies that it only increases my wonder at this world.

I’ve got only two more days here, and I don’t expect to do much work, but that’s okay. As in New York City over Christmas, I’m learning to remember that I’m a human being first and a law student ninth or tenth.

Mom has given me a lot of Introspect shirts and walking shorts.

Saturday, March 14, 1992

2 PM. It’s another cool, gloomy day. The first four days I was down here it was warm, if not hot and sunny, but these last four days have been like the winter in Gainesville.

I’m starting to get antsy about going back tomorrow. Today I read some of my Property assignment and I’m heading back into Emanuel’s to see if I can get a better grasp of Property. Right now the subject eludes me.

I’m feeling pretty insecure about law school and the future after this term ends. Money is going to be a real problem, but maybe I can get a job teaching at Santa Fe Community College this summer.

Even if my student loan application gets processed soon, it will be months before I get a check, and I don’t know how I can pay my rent for April or tuition for the summer.

I’m free-associating disaster, I see. . .


8 PM. After the sun came out this afternoon, I went to North Hollywood, to one of those nearly-deserted blocks just off A1A with the parking meters.

I sat on the beach by the palm tree on which someone had spray-painted CRIPS (the gang in L.A., and probably here, too).

The sky was pastel blue, and I told myself that when I go back to Gainesville, I should try to get to the ocean in North Florida or maybe go to the beach at the Gulf.

Driving home, I listened to a folk song about mothers and sons, and I knew that as crazy as Mom and the rest of my family are, they’re still my family, and part of what I’m feeling about tomorrow is not just neurotic separation anxiety but that I’ll miss my parents and brothers as much as I’ll miss the dog.

Jonathan left me in charge of China when he went to the flea market to help them close. The dog all but shouted, “Take me out!” so we went out for a walk at dusk. (It gets dark here after 6:30 PM.) The sky was filled with cumulus clouds and the sound of crickets, distant dogs and airplanes, and a lone owl.

Once she was tired of walking, China wouldn’t go back in but instead lay down in front of our house. I didn’t want to drag her in, so I stayed outside with her for half an hour until the van with Mom and Jonathan returned.

Dad just phoned from Las Vegas, where things are okay. He told me he was sorry the week went so fast and that he missed most of my visit.

In the mail, I got a press release from the NEA about the creative writing fellowships. Of the 90 winners’ names, about 80 were totally unfamiliar to me.

Oh, I almost forgot: when I was driving home from the beach via Griffin Road and just passed the Turnpike, I saw a sign that said: “O’Brien Building.”

I made a U-turn and went back to the little building that featured O’Brien Bookkeeping Service – Sean’s mother’s business – and a nail salon and “Barbara’s Jewelry.”

Barbara was the name of Sean’s sister, the lesbian who got pregnant while she was in the Air Force. I bet anything that’s her. If the store had been open, I might have gone in and asked about Sean.

Sunday, March 15, 1992

5:30 PM. I’m exhausted and I have a throbbing headache, but my trip back to Gainesville went perfectly.

Last night I fell asleep at 10 PM and dreamed that I met Marty and Jeff in Manhattan and that after I gave Jeff the diamond ring that Grandpa Herb had given me, we reconciled, and I felt better although Arlyne still wouldn’t speak to me. That convinces me I should send the ring to Jeff as compensation for my not sending him the coin thing.

I hugged Mom and Jonathan when I got up at 5:30 AM and they left for the flea market.

Around 8 AM, Marc and Clarissa came to pick me up. If I could have waited until tomorrow, Marc said, they would have driven me to Orlando because they’re going to Disney World with Jason, who spent last night at a girlfriend’s house.

At the airport I gave Clarissa and Marc big hugs, checked in my luggage, bought the Sunday New York Times and waited for my flight to Orlando.

Although I was dizzy as I boarded the plane and the batteries in my Walkman conked out, the time in the air was so brief that I wasn’t uncomfortable for long.

It took me a while to get my luggage back to the car, but at about 11 AM, I was on my way out of Orlando airport, on the Bee Line Expressway and heading north along the Turnpike.

It took almost an hour to get to Wildwood and I-75, where I got off at the first exit and had a salad bar and baked potato at Wendy’s amid lots of travelers.

The day had turned warm and sunny. When the car radio picked up Gainesville stations, I began to feel relaxed for the hour or so it took to drive the 60 miles into town.

I stopped at Publix, figuring I could avoid the crowds of returning undergraduates later, so I didn’t get into the house till 2 PM.

There must have been a blackout because the digital clocks on the microwave and the answering machine were out.

After putting away the groceries, I changed into shorts and went out again, first to get a new backpack.

After getting a McLean Deluxe, I drove to the post office, where I mailed out my unemployment claim card and my packages: some kids’ Bugle Boy T-shirts to Libby and Grant in L.A. and Grandpa Herb’s ring to Cousin Jeff in care of his parents in Oceanside.

Back at home, I had plenty to do – laundry, putting all my stuff away, getting my classwork in order, exercising to a video, lots of paperwork – but I accomplished it all.

Monday, March 16, 1992

8 PM. Scott, in a note thanking me for the baby’s present, advised me not to become too obsessive about law school. It’s a tall order, but I want to follow his advice.

After one day back following spring break, I feel overwhelmed. That’s stupid, I know, and I’ve got to remember what I kept telling myself in Fort Lauderdale, that there’s more to life than law school.

Well, I figure the most intense part will end in five weeks when classes stop, or two weeks after that, when finals are over.

I made an appointment to talk with Dean Savage at her earliest free time, next Monday at 9 AM.

Classes today were interesting, but I already feel I’m behind. Not on the reading, but on my comprehension of the material – especially with what Davis calls the “heart of contracts.”

I picked up my brief but only glanced at Harris’s comments. I’d hoped to get to do some editing this evening, but I’ve barely finished reading the papers.

I did spend a couple of hours pursuing research in legal ideas I’m interested in, like libel law and the case that declared unconstitutional Florida’s 1982 Bush-Trask Amendment, which forbade funding of universities where groups “advocated” homosexuality.

I also found a case, Hoffman v. International Society for Krishna Consciousness, which featured an amicus brief by Baldwin. Today he went over Gideon and mentioned stuff that wasn’t in Lewis’s book.

In Torts, Dowd discussed reputation as we got into our study of defamation.

Arriving on campus at 7:20 AM, I was the first one in the classroom except for Denise, who said I was right when I told her that seeing snow was no big deal. She liked skiing in Colorado but said that driving in the snow was the pits.

Other people talked about going home to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa or wherever and of the week flying by. Most everyone said they didn’t do the amount of work they expected to.

I didn’t exercise till I got home at 4:15 PM, and by that time I was so tired I felt feverish.

Today was a chilly, windy, bright day. It’s not going to warm up for a while yet. I guess I want the kind of weather where I can go out at 7 AM in a T-shirt and shorts.

Today I wore one of my new Introspect shirts, a mustard-colored one with a spiral design of the “definition” of Introspect.

I needed to get the registrar’s signature for the deferment of my student loan, but I decided to mail it along with a SASE rather than go over there – and I didn’t check to see if my financial aid application had finally gone through.

A lot of people will be going to summer school, apparently because there are few jobs. Angelina, Claudia, Jim and some others got $950-a-week clerkships in a Tallahassee firm, but most first-year students can’t find clerk jobs.

That reminds me: I’ve got to get my résumé to the chair of the Santa Fe Community College English Department.

I didn’t want to ask Mom to pay my April rent, but after paying the rent the last couple of months, I don’t know how else I’ll come up with the money in two weeks.

I really couldn’t afford the trip to Fort Lauderdale, but I did enjoy myself, and it will probably be my only visit there this year.

Well, I’m playing with the veins on the back of my hand, so obviously I can’t think of anything else to say.

Wednesday, March 18, 1992

4 PM. I was up at 4 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep. Since I started law school, the pattern of my insomnia has changed: I have less trouble falling asleep, perhaps because I’m so exhausted at the end of the day, but I wake up more frequently and often can’t return to sleep.

Although I have Wednesday afternoons off, I was at school all day, trying to revise my brief before I saw Harris, the TA, who told me he didn’t feel confident telling me that everything was okay.

So I went to see Tracy Rambo, who said I should make the changes Harris suggested – at least the ones she agreed with – and give it to her to read by Friday.

I should have given her a copy of my brief weeks ago. Anyway, I’ll work on it tomorrow and Friday morning.

I’ve done most of the Property reading although I keep putting off getting to Moynihan, and I’ll save the remaining cases for some time other than today.

Actually, I had two great classes today. Baldwin was brilliant in Con Law as we are moving into the real exciting stuff of privacy and personal liberty.

The Horowitz case we did today was amazing, and it looked completely different once Baldwin gave us the facts from the briefs.

Davis’s Contracts class, on anticipatory repudiation, was also delightful.

As Alice said when I called her, “You seem to be where you want to be.”

She was on her way to a monthly book packagers’ luncheon. Alice didn’t mention her diet book but said her agent is pushing her new ideas around. She stopped talking to her mother (again), and she said working at Woman’s World is intolerable now – so Alice is looking for a new part-time job.

She must have thought it strange when I told her I probably wouldn’t see her the rest of 1992 because I don’t have the money to go to New York or the time.

I called Mom and she said she’ll pay the April rent in two weeks. It took a lot for me to ask her, but I’m not going to dwell on it.

There’s no way I’m going to succumb to self-pity – not even after I looked up Wes on Nexis and saw 500 citations for his name.

He and the director of Heathers are the screenwriters for Batman Returns, Tim Burton’s sequel, due out this summer. In the articles, Wes is usually described as “hot” or “very hot,” and I see him linked with all the stars at Hollywood gatherings.

Now I’d be embarrassed to call him, and I even feel foolish about sending him a Christmas card. Still, he was kind to me in L.A. last spring and I probably came off as snotty.

Anyway, I saw enough of his life to know that with the glamour and megabucks come huge problems and pressures. If I think I’ve got pressure, at least nobody’s counting on me to make their multimillion-dollar investment pay off. While Wes has many freedoms unavailable to me, the reverse is also true.

Last evening I called Sat Darshan, who said she’d been sick with a persistent cold all this time. Losing her job in the financial services industry must have been a shocking to her as it was to Elihu when Goldman Sachs let him go.

Sat Darshan couldn’t talk for very long. She said she had nonrefundable tickets for Phoenix this weekend and had made appointments there, but Ravinder wants to go the following weekend, and they were trying to work things out.

I wish I had more time for my friends.

This afternoon I finally called Aunt Tillie, who sounded worse than I imagined. She’s been suffering from shingles the last five weeks and said the pain has been unbearable.

I feel so bad for Tillie, who’s all alone. She paid a neighbor five dollars to buy her groceries because she couldn’t go out, but now the shingles are finally beginning to subside and she went to Key Food yesterday.

At the end of March, Tillie said, Marty is “giving up” Grandma’s apartment, and Jeff brought her Grandpa’s black La-Z-Boy recliner, which is “a wonderful chair.”

I wonder what the Sarrett family’s reaction will be to my sending Jeff the ring Grandpa gave me. They might be offended or they could think I’m even more of a schmuck. Or maybe they’ll finally realize what a great humanitarian I am.

Mom will pitch a fit if she finds out I gave Jeff the ring. I can tell it bothers her that her brother might see some money from Grandma’s apartment.

Well, even if I’m not a millionaire like Wes, I can still give stuff away. I may be an asshole, but I’m certain that it’s better to give away all you can than to try to get all you can.

Friday, March 20, 1992

8:30 PM. After a full week of school, I’m exhausted. Yet I learned a hell of a lot the last five days and have had many intellectually exciting experiences as well as moments of camaraderie with my fellow law students.

I didn’t hand in my brief yet although I rewrote the argument between my classes in Property and Civil Procedure today. But I can do a much better job if I devote time this weekend to the brief, and Karin and others are handing in their papers on Monday, too.

Civ Pro was interesting both yesterday and today, and Mashburn asked us for suggestions on reforming the first-year curriculum, as she’s on Davis’s committee doing just that.

Should it make me nervous that I feel I can understand more this semester? In Civ Pro, I feel I’ve got a surer grasp of issues, and even Property is becoming clear to me.

It’s Contracts where I feel at a loss, not really getting the big picture.

Con Law is so fascinating that I don’t care how badly I do because I’ve learned so much.

Even in doing my Appellate Advocacy brief, I feel I’m making myself clearer as I focus in on the issues.

In a month, classes will be over. Winter officially ended today.