A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early October, 1993
Friday, October 1, 1993
10 PM. I feel I squandered much of today; I had so much free time, and I’m not sure where it went, except I kept dawdling instead of doing work.
By 4 PM, I became restless and went to McCoy’s class to hear reports on Sumeria and the Code of Hammurabi, figuring I’d accomplish nothing if I stayed at home.
I’ve been thinking that maybe my Myers-Briggs test mischaracterized me as an introvert. Not only do I interrupt people a lot, but I sometimes gain as much from being with others as I do by being by myself.
This is the first week of the semester I didn’t feel sleep-deprived. I’ve been going to bed later than usual and avoided lying down during the day even when I feel tired.
Last night I slept okay although I spent time lying awake and thinking about what a valuable experience UF law school has been for me. I may not fully appreciate the time I’ve spent in Gainesville until I’ve left and law school is behind me.
A lot of my identity the last few years has been as a law student. At school, I’ve met a mess of people (and I like messes), both fellow students and interesting professors like Baldwin, who today did not know what a bong was when I mentioned it in connection with a drug seizure case.
He thought I said a bomb, and when I told him a bong was drug paraphernalia, he said, “Maybe we should search your room,” and the class laughed – me most of all.
I’ll miss the fun of being a law student, the camaraderie, the hard work and hard thinking, preparing for class and even studying for exams.
I got some more LL.M. program catalogs in the mail, but most don’t have financial aid, and the University of Michigan wants Ivy League/Coif/law review types, which I’m not. I also got an application to be a White House Fellow, but I don’t think I’d ever be considered with my background; besides, all this year’s Fellows are in their thirties.
I still haven’t found a niche for myself other than the one I’ve already created: a job description I’ve made up out of thin air which basically amounts to being Richard Grayson. I’ve had a long run already, and I’m grateful.
I did apply to one job as an English instructor at, God help me, Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville.
Mom called today after she discovered I applied to FSU’s Humanities Ph.D. program. I asked her not to hock me about my future, so instead she went on and on about all the trouble Jason has caused for Clarissa and Marc.
Last week Clarissa was happy because she thought she could get him in the army. But the army won’t take him without a high school diploma, and Jason will probably never graduate.
He turned 17 last month, and now Clarissa has somehow managed to convince Jason’s father to take him to live with him and his family in New Jersey, starting in November.
I feel sorry for that poor man, a recent widower with little kids.
Tuesday, October 5, 1993
9 PM. Working two nights a week makes the evenings I don’t work more pleasurable.
Last evening at Santa Fe, when I went to the AV office I found – not unexpectedly – that they didn’t have my TV-and-VCR order on their schedule. Now hopefully they do.
Back in the office, I got a note from Iris Hart, who’s in charge of adjuncts, about class visits. Any night except the next two would be fine with me.
Tamarsha, the cleaning woman, seemed very upset, and I let her talk to me for half an hour. The father of her three children always falls behind in his support payments even though she says he owns a radio station.
She showed me some records that said he was the president of Minority Media, Inc., which did $260,000 business last year.
On Friday, Judge Smith quashed a criminal warrant for the guy, and Tamarsha’s HRS-appointed lawyer didn’t do anything.
I told her to call the Civil Clinic at the law school, and this morning I talked to Marsha about it. Marsha said they might be able to help Tamarsha, and she knew the judge and the HRS attorney and more of what was going on than I could grasp.
I think the Civil Clinic is a great experience for law students (as are the Criminal Clinics) – and as Marsha said, “With 24 ‘lawyers,’ it’s the city’s biggest law firm.”
Anyway, because I didn’t want to run out on Tamarsha, I was slightly late to class.
I gave back the CLAST essays, discussed the essay exam, handed out the topics for the next at-home essay, and we discussed the Gish Jen, Grace Paley, Jamaica Kincaid and Kafka stories before I called a halt to the class at 9:30 PM. It was a good session.
After getting home, I read a little before bed. Although I only slept from midnight to about 5:30 AM, I didn’t feel tired today.
After listening to the news on NPR and eating breakfast, I went off to school, where I chatted a bit with Jeff H and Michael K.
Ana told me she missed her Poverty Law class this morning because her friend who’s getting divorced called and wouldn’t get off the phone. (Like me with Tamarsha, Ana didn’t want to cut off someone telling her their troubles.)
We went into Nagan’s class; Karin was out today, as she said she might be. I’m liking International Law a lot more now that we’re getting into real-world issues.
While I strongly disagree with keeping U.S. troops in Somalia, I suspect that Nagan, a human rights activist, supports it.
Perhaps he’s right that Somalia should return to being a UN trusteeship because there’s no real “state” left there.
But that smacks of a return to colonialism, and where does that end? Liberia? Haiti? (They’ve both been independent for around 150 years.)
I called Senators Mack and Graham and voiced my opinion that we should pull our troops out. Both offices were keeping track of responses, and calls like mine were common.
At 10:30 AM, I had my graduation check. As I knew, I need to take 12 credits next semester and do my writing requirement in a seminar. I had to sign a form acknowledging that I’d received notice of that.
I also told the school I want my name on my diploma without a middle initial. When they asked what I wanted to list as my hometown, I said “Fort Lauderdale, I guess.”
My “permanent” address is my parents’ house, which isn’t in the city and is surrounded by Davie – but as an unincorporated area, it takes a Fort Lauderdale address.
Before leaving school, I had a good talk with Dan R, who was wearing a white dress shirt and tie with shorts.
He’s taking Interviewing, Counseling and Mediation – the other class Don Peters teaches – which he said was a great experience.
“Along with Criminal Clinic, which I took over the summer,” Dan said, “it’s the best stuff I had in law school. Practical! And I can see that most lawyers have no idea how to deal with clients.”
Back home, I exercised, read for tomorrow’s Police Practices – I hope I’m called on because I have all the facts of the cases from Supreme Court briefs I got on Lexis – and spent a couple of hours turning out a six-page negotiation plan for Thursday.
Late in the day, I dropped it off at Don’s mailbox at school and hung around campus for a while, getting a book I needed at the library.
Thursday, October 7, 1993
7:30 PM. I was surprised a while ago to get a call from Elihu. What prompted him to phone was seeing me on CNN last evening.
Apparently Moneyline was doing a story on Donald Trump, and they ran that June 1990 footage of me standing on the corner of Broadway and 86th Street trying to raise money for The Donald. I wonder if anyone else who knows me saw it.
Elihu sounded well. He’s still working at the same accounting firm, where they’re starting their slow season (they do only corporate returns) and where he doesn’t get to use his brain very much.
We chatted about our generation and the twentysomethings we know from school and work, the dismal choices in this year’s New York City mayoral race, and what field will be the next hotbed of new jobs in the United States.
It was good to speak with Elihu. I recognized his voice immediately, although I guess that makes sense since I’ve known him since high school.
While I was on CNN last night, I was teaching at Santa Fe. The AV people had brought the TV and VCR to the wrong room, but the English 101 teacher kindly offered to switch rooms.
My students thought The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie was very weird, but they reacted okay for a group of people who didn’t know what bourgeoisie meant. I felt good about the class as I drove home last night.
This morning I woke up to a very heavy rain, and I got soaked just getting to school. The floods in the parking lots – Camelot’s and the law school’s – caused me to get my shoes and socks wet.
Baldwin called on the woman in front of me today. I haven’t read carefully for tomorrow, so I had better do so tonight.
I dried off at home, and by the time I went back to school in the afternoon, it was merely drizzling.
Julie informed me she’s not pregnant, and she seemed very glad about it. Good for her.
I told Kevin L that I called on our “client,” “Martha Greenpiece,” and made arrangements for a meeting at 10:20 AM on Monday. I suspect “Martha” is Elizabeth because she said she lives in Ocala and has a daughter.
Instead of going to class today, Don wanted us to do our negotiations, so Steve F and I met in the cafeteria. He complained about being uncomfortable because he had on a suit for an interview.
In negotiating, we both used a problem-solving strategy and a highly cooperative style. Steve even tried to help me out at one point when he realized I wasn’t doing well.
We came out of the negotiation with what I thought were “fair” compromises. I know I always accept worse outcomes because I tend to be compliant.
Once we came to an agreement, Steve and I answered Don’s questionnaire, not taking it all that seriously. (I like that about Steve.)
When I put our questionnaires into Don’s mailbox while Steve changed into normal clothes, I noticed that the other “bankers” got about as many points as Steve did, although Mark B got about 200 points as the company seeking the loan.
I asked Mark’s partner, David D, about this when I saw him outside. (Like Steve and me, he’s at the start of the alphabet and had to go to Legal History at 4:10 PM.) He gave Mark way too much, I think, getting little in return and ending up with only about 300 points himself.
Before McCoy’s class, I chatted with Doug G, who really likes the judge leading his Trial Practice group. Most students seem to get a lot more out of clinical classes than regular ones.
Today two pairs of black students gave somewhat boring reports on ancient Egypt and Kush as McCoy constantly interrupted them.
“That was brain death,” muttered Mark R to me and Julie F as we walked to our cars.
As I turned on the radio, I heard the end of a Clinton speech announcing more troops to Somalia – but with a definite pullout date by April.
Toni Morrison got the Nobel Prize in Literature. She seemed like such a warm, sympathetic person when I knew her at Bread Loaf in 1977. I remember the thrill of hearing her read that chapter from Song of Solomon before it was published.
Friday, October 8, 1993
6 PM. I got home from school about 40 minutes ago. I went to McCoy’s class even though I didn’t have to. The oral reports were much better than yesterday’s.
Last evening I didn’t get any work done, but I can’t remember what I did do after watching The Simpsons.
I slept all right, so this marks the second week I haven’t been severely sleep-deprived. My strategy of not spending time in bed during the day and not getting into bed until later seems to be working. At 7 AM, I got some groceries at Publix before going off to school.
After Baldwin went over some more warrantless arrest and search cases, we began the Terry case, part of a new unit on stop-and-frisk.
I hung out in the library, using Lexis for a little bit, and then I came home and did aerobics and read the Times.
This afternoon, I met David D in the laundry room. He’s graduating in December, and he’s been negotiating with a firm in Pensacola that wants to hire him. While they want him to start right away, he would prefer to stay in Gainesville and study for the February bar exam here.
At 2 PM, I drove over to the main library downtown to return books and videos, and on the way home I stopped to buy a new backpack.
The last one became totally useless today. Hopefully, this new one will last me till the end of law school. This is the fifth backpack I’ve torn up since I arrived in Gainesville. Law books are so heavy.
Returning to campus at 3 PM, I ran into Karin.
“I really respect what you do as a teacher,” she said, explaining that she’d spent the day grading her group’s Legal Research and Writing memos.
Karin said that the first-year students’ work is filled with run-ons, comma splices, fragments, and all kinds of punctuation and grammar errors. They misspell statute as statue and can’t spell negligence at all.
“I don’t know how some of these people got into law school,” Karin said.
I didn’t want to ask her how many of her students are minorities, but I suspect that’s part of the problem. On the other hand, I know that white middle-class college graduates can have 3.3 GPAs and still write worse than some of my English 101 students at Santa Fe. (My best writers are really good.)
Angelina told us her interview at the South Carolina firm was abrupt and they had her talk to two lawyers who’d been there only a week. But today she had an interview in Jacksonville that she felt a lot better about.
Sitting down at a bench outside, I read a Wall Street Journal that I picked up in the lounge. An article about baby boomers declaring Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy noted that most of them had periods of unemployment and were forced to live off their credit cards. So once again, I’m not as unique as I thought.
Mark R came over with a copy of I. F. Stone’s The Trial of Socrates, which he was using to prepare for his oral report on that topic today.
He told me he was in New York City last week interviewing for positions at Coopers & Lybrand, a Big Six accounting firm, where they hire only attorneys who are also accountants.
Mark stayed with a friend on West 111th Street and was a little put off by the Upper West Side and the apartment: “I like new. I don’t like radiators. But New York has the best and worst of anything.”
He mentioned that the people at Coopers & Lybrand who interviewed him were all super-bright, contrasting them with some of the “dummies” who interviewed him here.
I didn’t talk much with Javier before and after class, mostly because I feel so self-conscious with him. I have a crush on Javier the size of Montana and I feel so stupid about it.
Monday, October 11, 1993
2 PM. I’ve just come back from the main campus, where I was at the Speak-Out for Coming Out Day at the Plaza of the Americas.
While I couldn’t stay for the whole thing, I did want to hear Javier, who spoke about coming out to your parents.
He said his mother cried all night when he told his parents, and he read a poem about how they had worshipped him up until that time.
I bet: he’s the perfect son. He says his parents are now supportive.
Some of the deans spoke, as did other students. A grad student in theater talked about how after he got involved with a production of The Normal Heart as an undergrad at Southwest Missouri State in Springfield, his house was set on fire and destroyed in a still-unsolved arson case. Another guy said he was rejected by his fundamentalist family.
Most people stressed that coming out is a lifelong process, and I know that to be true. Obviously, my parents know I’m gay, and they’ve said as much – but we don’t discuss it, really.
However, my family doesn’t discuss my brother’s drug dependency or my other brother’s severe emotional problems or anything else, and at 42, unless I’m involved in a long-term relationship, I don’t think there’s any need to discuss my sex life with my parents.
I wore blue jeans today, the way we were supposed to, but most people on campus wore shorts.
Before I left, I went over to Javier and patted him on the back (literally) and complimented him on his talk.
If I didn’t have my meter ticking and there was time after the scheduled speakers, I would have liked to say something.
Up at 6 AM today, I got to school early. In International Law, Nagan was pretty interesting, and then Kevin L and I met our client in an empty jury room near the Bailey Courtroom.
As I expected, it was Elizabeth, but I addressed her as “Martha” during our one-hour scheduled session, and Kevin and I stayed in role as the county’s attorneys the entire time.
Kevin is a diligent guy, and we both conveyed the sense to “Martha” that we needed to know what our client’s needs and desires were.
Basically, she said the county is in the middle between a developer who’s dredging wetlands in violation of an agreement and the environmentalists who want to halt the development project completely.
The county wants the development to go ahead, but in a limited way and with provisions that will send a signal that developers can’t rape the environment.
Our next step is to meet with the lawyers for the developers and environmentalists, either separately or jointly.
The negotiation must be complete by three weeks from Friday, and we have to produce a written agreement signed by all three clients or deadlock and pay the penalty (extra writing assignments).
I like Negotiation class, and I’ve been thinking about taking Civil Clinic next semester. I’m the 48th person to register, so I could probably get it.
The problem is that Civil Clinic is nine credits, a seminar – which I have to take – is two credits, and I need twelve credits to graduate.
So I’d have to take an extra class just to get that one credit. I need to think about it and wait till I see the final schedule for the spring.