A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late November, 1994
Sunday, November 20, 1994
5 PM. I slept really well last night, which is good, since I may be too nervous about tomorrow’s meeting in Tallahassee to sleep much, if at all, tonight.
I exercised to both a Body Electric and a Body Pulse video this morning because I won’t get a chance to work out tomorrow with the trip to Tally.
Yesterday’s workout at the recreation center was too mild, or perhaps I’m in better shape than I thought, for I didn’t feel any of the anticipated charley horse that I sort of enjoy after a harder workout.
I caught my reflection in a store window, and in an orange T-shirt and low-slung baggy Levis, I looked almost hunky. Maybe that’s why this cute guy at Barnes & Noble kept smiling at me.
This morning, still unable to get 14 quarters to be accepted at the newspaper box at Westgate, I went further north, to the Publix at Millhopper Square. I’ve read the Times except for Arts & Leisure and the Book Review.
The magazine section had a special issue, “What’s New York the Capital of Now?” God, I’m so homesick for New York at times that I think I’ll burst.
Perhaps I idealize it now that I no longer have a place to stay there, but the excitement of New York City’s streets and subways and the energy and talent and attitude you get there – well, I want to live there again someday.
Maybe I’ll have enough money and time to sublet for a few weeks next summer and become a New Yorker again, if only for a little while.
I’ve still got to go over the memos for tomorrow’s meeting and also reread the Britannica contract, which is a bore, and set out my clothes. I’m going to wear my sport jacket, not my suit, so I can feel comfortable.
Although Liz may raise her eyebrows at my bringing food along, I probably should eat in the car. In any case, I’ll manage. I don’t know whether I’ll be a hit tomorrow in Tallahassee, either with Liz or the Schoolyear 2000 people, but I’m not that worried.
I know my stuff, and as far as my job is concerned, I’ve never had job security in my life, and I think I’m much more horrified at the prospect that the Center for Governmental Responsibility will never let me go than that they’ll let me go.
Three years from now, if I’m still at CGR, there better be a lot besides the job going on in my life or I’m doomed. Still, unless I change my personality drastically, there’s no way I could become my biggest nightmare: just another CGR lawyer. That “just another” horrifies me.
This afternoon it began drizzling, so probably tomorrow’s driving won’t be clear weather. I’ll feel relieved when I get back tomorrow night even if the trip is a disaster.
Still, I wish we somehow could stay overnight. I enjoyed staying two nights in Tallahassee last year when I had a little time to wander around.
I’m sure this business trip will be like other experiences, more fun to talk about than to go through.
I’m glad it’s a short week even if I don’t go anywhere for Thanksgiving.
This is a pretty good time in my life. If all I had to do tomorrow was what I did in September, just teach English at Santa Fe Community College, I’d be really depressed.
But I also feel more lonely than at any time in the last couple of years when I was surrounded by friends as a law student.
Monday, November 21, 1994
7:30 PM. I got home about 20 minutes ago and just had my dinner. Today was a long day since I met Liz at the car rental stand at the hotel 12 hours ago.
Although I didn’t sleep that well last night, I got enough rest to avoid fatigue during the day.
Liz drove in a drizzle to Tallahassee. We talked a lot, and as usual, I talked too much.
She’s got a much older brother, a journalist and book critic, who’s about 66, and a sister, 49, whose first children’s novel is being published next year.
Their 94-year-old father lives in Gainesville, and of course now Liz has Becky and Lee, who have lived with her since July. Edward, her biological son, is 23 and at Reed College.
She grew up all over – in Port Jefferson on Long Island, in various cities in South America. Before coming to UF 14 years ago, she was a legal services attorney in Jacksonville.
I hadn’t realized that she and Richard Hamann don’t speak to each other although she said that once they were slightly friendly.
I talked a blue streak, telling what are probably stale stories – I’ve got to watch out I don’t repeat myself – and after a while we stopped at a rest stop where I used the bathroom and Liz got freshly brewed coffee from a machine which also dispensed cappuccino and cafe latte.
It began to get sunny about two hours into our drive, just as we entered Leon County.
We bypassed the Capitol and the parts of downtown Tallahassee that I know because we were meeting at the Center for College Library Automation in an office park in the eastern part of town near the airport.
The meeting with the Schoolyear 2000 people turned out to be much less formal and stressful than I’d imagined, partly because most of the members of the committee couldn’t make it due to other business, sabbaticals, or imminent retirements.
Wendy Cuellar, project director for Schoolyear 2000, and Chris, a graduate student who had handled the meeting preparations, were there, of course, as were Bob Branson, the head of FSU’s Center for Educational Technology; Shea Goff, a woman with the Bureau of Student Services who deals with exceptional education; and Richard Maddaus, director of the College Center for Library Automation, which runs the LINCC network for Florida’s community college library systems.
So it was only the seven of us.
Liz presented the first memo, and I did all the others, with us taking a lunch break at 12:45 PM at the horrible little lunch counter in the complex.
The after-lunch session went quickly: we presented more memos; they had questions for me; and we discussed various issues.
I felt bad I got stuck on one memo, which I’ll have to revise, but Liz later told me that happened all the time in the past. I suspect they were impressed with me and that it was considered a very good meeting.
Liz has told me about past meetings, when she’s come out wondering whether they will realize they’re paying us $50,000 for such a small amount of work, only to get E-mail from Wendy saying how pleased she was with CGR.
Now that they’ve got new products coming up, and new co-development agreements, Schoolyear 2000 is going to want a faster turnaround on answers to their legal and technical questions.
We may find that we’ll have to go to more informal meetings on memos – for example, conference calls.
I took notes and will go over them tomorrow. We had to leave at 3 PM because a class was coming in to our meeting room.
As we said goodbye to everyone in Tallahassee, I was trying to decide if I think Chris is gay. A graduate student in instructional design, he’s cute and one of those types I like: a short, lean blond guy with wire-rimmed glasses.
Liz had left the lights on in the car and our battery was dead, so I couldn’t start it up. With the help of a CCLA staff member with jumper cables, we finally got it started. I felt relieved that it was Liz and not me who’d caused the problem.
I did become annoyed because traffic was at a crawl from Capital Circle to get on I-10 at Thomasville Road. It took us till 4:15 PM just to get out of Leon County, and I started to feel queasy.
But I recovered as I quickly drove the 100 or so miles east to I-75. It was dark enough to put on our headlights when we stopped for gas at Lake City, and night had fallen long before we arrived back in Gainesville to return the car.
I will probably coming in late to work tomorrow, Liz said we “police ourselves” about our hours at the office.
I guess now I’ll go to sleep or glance at today’s New York Times.
Saturday, November 26, 1994
7 PM. I’ve just been reading another excerpt from Sven Birkerts’ The Gutenberg Elegies in the AWP Chronicle, which arrived in today’s mail.
In “Hypertext,” Birkerts makes some fascinating points about the real differences between words on the page and words on a screen.
But somehow I can’t I get excited about hypertext fictions even though they’re striving for a lot of what I was interested in doing in fictional experiments.
I think Birkerts puts his finger on it when he says readers don’t really want to be liberated from the domination of the authorial text.
It’s never occurred to me, even as my handwriting has deteriorated to the point where I can barely discern a word I wrote ten minutes earlier, to replace my handwritten diaries with word-processed ones. I like the idea of the immutability, of the permanence, of my daily diary entries.
I’ve thought about releasing Thirties/Eighties on the Internet where someone, at least, might read it – but the manuscript was really meant to be a book, and if it’s not going to be a book, do I want it to be a potential text, a collection of electrons residing somewhere in cyberspace to be manipulated by others?
Birkerts is right when he says that the meditative pleasures of a book can’t be duplicated by the computer screen.
In Barnes & Noble today, it struck me that Wired magazine is much more appealing to me than any of the Internet sites it celebrates.
More and more, I find that reading E-mail or articles on Lexis and Westlaw leave me with a hunger to read books or magazines or newspapers.
Calling up all the articles in today’s St. Petersburg Times in the TODAY file of Nexis’ TOPNWS library is different from reading the physical paper.
Speaking of papers, tomorrow’s the day George’s Columbus Dispatch article on me is scheduled to run. In a way, I feel embarrassed because it’s a sign of how I’ve failed as a writer.
Last evening, sending out manuscripts, I was reduced to recycling stories like “Coping” that were published in little magazines over a decade ago and which I first wrote in 1976. I don’t think even some desperate Ph.D. candidate hungry for a research topic will ever discover my fiction.
It’s hard to have confidence in my work. But of course, I haven’t tried all that hard, have I? I’ve avoided risking everything to write fiction.
But I have to admit it: at this point in my life, I don’t much enjoy reading fiction. Yesterday, the one piece I could not read in The New Yorker issue Josh sent me was the short story.
The article on the CUNY remedial class reminded of my own struggles with semi-literate college students. But the gap between those minority SEEK students at CCNY and the middle-class white students I’ve had at Santa Fe Community College isn’t that large.
Neither group has learned to think properly; they have only a very small store of knowledge to use as a base when they read and write, and they can’t grasp complex concepts or reason logically.
As the CCNY professor in the article notes, they don’t even have mastery of the visual literacy of televised images that some say has replaced text-based literacy.
Of course, I often feel very inarticulate myself. I know that my own journal entries and journalism and fiction tend to be too easy, too cute, too slipshod, and often quite annoying.
I don’t think anyone could take my diary voice long enough to get through Thirties/Eighties, say.
Last evening I called Elihu and we chatted. Les has arranged a couple of job interviews in New York City, and Elihu’s hoping that Les will move there, although Elihu did send a letter to Les, saying he was open to the possibility of moving to the West Coast.
Still, Elihu’s lived in Brooklyn all his life and in Brooklyn Heights for 17 years, and he seems much more resistant to change than most people I know.
Who else do I know that is still in Brooklyn at all at this point, except for Justin, another creature of habit?
But Justin came to Park Slope after he grew up in Connecticut and graduated from Brown while Elihu’s few years at Brown for grad school and the time he lived with Alan in Morningside Heights were the only times he lived outside Brooklyn.
I missed Teresa’s call today. She said she has a lot to tell me, and I’ll call her tomorrow.
Last night I slept deliciously, awakening with a smile at 7:30 AM. I’m really enjoying this long weekend, but it’s creating a habit of laziness.
Today I did the usual reading, aerobics and grocery shopping. I bought hair styling gel, and I like the way it looks, but I hope I don’t seem foolish, like I’m going through male menopause and trying to look like I’m 22.
There’s no doubt I’ve become more preoccupied with my appearance and clothes and image. Hey, I probably looked better when I was a schlump.
Marc called today from that new flea market where he’s doing no business. He signed a one-year lease and he can’t pay December’s rent.
I advised him to try to take his goods out little by little before the month ends. The management of the flea market isn’t working to attract customers, and the vendors are being watched so they don’t try to skip out.
Tuesday, November 29, 1994
7 PM. I plan to go over to the Harn Museum in an hour and attend a lecture on AIDS.
Last evening, as I was drifting off to sleep, Josh returned my call. He’d just come back from seeing the new film about Dorothy Parker, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle.
It wasn’t until near the end of our conversation that Josh said, “I did tell you that Sharon dumped me, right?” I didn’t ask for any details and Josh didn’t offer any.
He’s the quintessential silent type when it comes to these things – but nearly all heterosexual white men never talk about the pain of their relationships with women with anyone, except maybe to their female friends, if they have any.
Still, I know how fond Josh was of Sharon and he probably didn’t want to break up with her.
Again, he asked when I was coming to New York; I said not till the summer. I know he misses me, though of course he can’t say that.
He told me about Harvey’s comic, Our Cancer Year, and how Harvey’s wife saved his life by insisting his non-Hodgkins lymphoma be treated properly by doctors. Thankfully, Harvey is now in remission.
A giant new Barnes & Noble opened near Josh, in the same space where Conran’s was. As Josh said, it’s hard to feel bad for the St. Marks Bookstore because it isn’t the warm comfortable store it used to be when it was across the street.
There are fewer and fewer wonderful little bookstores left, even in Manhattan. God, I just flashed on the old Eighth Street Bookshop, which was a place I loved, even before Laura got them to carry my chapbook.
Liz gave me her Havana diary manuscript today, and I gave her a copy of Hitler.
She wondered if I’m a bit unsure of what to do with my time in the office, and she told me to read education law and try to come up with ideas for grant proposals.
Today I read a couple of law review articles, although one was on gay students and the other was about whether legal education stifles creativity. (It specifically contrasted lawyers and fiction writers.)
Our 2 PM meeting with Mark Bergeron, who’d just won a productivity award ($300 and a plaque, according to Betty Taylor’s e-mail message) went pretty well. Mark is not as hard to talk to as people say.
Very soon we should be getting a law school Word Perfect license for versions 5.1 and 6.1 for DOS and version 6.1 for Windows.
We discussed our CGR computer plan. In January I can apply for a new faculty grant, and Carol said those are nearly always approved.
Earlier, at 10 AM, I went with Linda Baldwin, Laura, Nancy Dowd and others to get a new photo ID, but it turned out I had already gotten the new one and didn’t have to go.
So I just got a free ride to the main campus in the van and a chance to hear Laura talk about her weekend at the Fort Lauderdale beach and a chance to talk with Nancy, who said there’s a lot of talent at CGR but it’s very separate from the rest of the law school.
Liz said she wants me to get involved with selecting the Florida Bar Public Interest Law Fellows, and I’m looking forward to the informational meeting on Friday.
Micki Johnson called and asked if I wanted to teach an American Literature class in Gainesville on Saturday afternoons on eight dates between January and early May.
I talked to Liz about it, and she didn’t see any real conflict. None of the dates conflict with my trips to New Orleans or Orlando, so I’ll probably call Micki back and say yes. The class probably won’t run anyway.
I left work today soon after the meeting with Mark broke up, about 3:45 PM even though I didn’t get into the office today until 8:30 AM.
I suppose I need to be more productive, but I don’t know what productive in my job means.
I’ve got a tendency to ignore stuff that’s not as interesting – like the co-development agreement – and concentrate on what I consider sexy subjects like computer law, obscenity, gay and lesbian issues, higher education law, gender equality.
I’d love to get a grant to do something related to gay students, but I need to learn more, especially – as with all areas – how I can find funding sources.
I do miss my old attire of jeans and Reeboks, but I’m going to put them on when I go out right now.
Last evening I formatted my old story “640 K” into Works. It’s not a great story, and it’s very dated – the IBM PS/2s are new computers, yuppies are triumphant – but maybe I can do something with it now.
I’m hungry and want to snack, so I’d better get out of the house right now and head for the museum.
Wednesday, November 30, 1994
8 PM. Last night’s speaker at the Harn Museum was Martin Delaney of Project Inform.
Billed as a town meeting, the event began with a political update. Despite Clinton’s promises, he’s been only marginally better on AIDS than Reagan or Bush, and the new Republican Congress coming in will be a disaster.
But most of Martin’s lecture was about treatment and research, and a lot of it was too technical for me to fully comprehend.
It must have been great for people who are AIDS activists or people who are sick, and the NCFAN (North Central Florida AIDS Network) people were all in attendance and listening with rapt attention.
I sat a few seats away from that guy who reminds me of Sean; I know his name is Jeff, because Bryan called him by name at a No on One work session.
Jeff was alone; I hope he’s not HIV-positive. In any case, he didn’t return my glances any more than he’s ever done in the past.
Lester, the caterer, sat up front with friends, and later Bob walked in with Roger. Several young people were there because they are taking an undergraduate class in AIDS.
Anyway, the upshot is that there are many therapies and strategies to deal with AIDS, and the picture is now far from hopeless, at least if you’re an educated, middle-class American with good health insurance.
I can’t imagine the millions of HIV-positive people in the Third World having much use for information about oral ganciclovir or d4T or protease inhibitors, which are apparently going to be the gold standard for HIV treatment in the West.
On this dark and chilly day, I didn’t do much work at the office, but I did read a little and helped Laura write up the report of yesterday’s meeting.
Liz had a “do not disturb” sign on her door all day; she usually posts it when she’s sleeping.
At the CGR office at 8:30 AM, I played on Lexis and on the CD-ROM phone directory (the only program my computer has enough memory to read), and I discovered how to access Luis, the library catalog, and how to transfer a Word Perfect document into DOS and append it to a Phoenix-mail message.
Home for lunch, I discovered George’s package with some of my stuff and the tearsheets from Sunday’s Dispatch.
George’s column photo shows he got old; he looks like Kurt Vonnegut and he’s going bald.
At Xerographics I made copies of the article and later them sent out to Mom and a couple of friends. (I’d be embarrassed to use the office copier and I don’t feel it would be ethical to use it; it’s not like when I was at Broward Community College and felt underpaid.)
I left work at 3:30 PM and shopped at Publix. As I put my groceries in the trunk, I noticed the bumper sticker on the car next to me: Clinton’s Military: A Gay at Every Porthole, A Fag in Every Foxhole.
Sometimes I think that hate speech needs to be answered with more hate speech.
Still, up the street, a group of students was painting sections of the 34th Street Wall white for an AIDS memorial, as tomorrow is World AIDS Day.
After I put stuff away in the refrigerator – Laura tells me I can use my new hair dryer to speed up defrosting – I exercised and then did some paperwork.
Oh, and I called Micki and told her I’d take the American Literature class at Nova. It will be fun to teach that.