A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early February, 1997

Saturday, February 1, 1997

7 PM. Last night I slept very well so I’m fairly well rested.

True to form, I successfully avoided grading papers or researching charter schools all day today.

It was 38° when I went out at 7:30 AM to buy groceries, the paper and acne medicine at Albertsons, but by 1 PM, it was warm enough to go out wearing a t-shirt and no jacket.

On my e-mail, I got my usual monthly notice about the new issue of George Jr. on the web, so I went over to the office, and using Netscape on Helen’s computer, I printed out my article as well as copies of some of the other articles.

Instead of using my piece as a “Letter from Gainesville,” George made it a feature called “Court Report: Great Moments in Pantyhose Jurisprudence.” I’m not sure I should even show it to Liz because it mentions a mythical $47,500 grant I received from the Namath foundation as a CGR staff attorney.

However, as I write this, I just remembered seeing an e-mail from Professor Willis about a humorous site connected to the law school. My heart skipped a beat, and I wondered if it could be my article. . . Nope, I just checked, and it’s “tax humor” by Professor Willis.

Well, you can see I’m a little concerned about what people at the law school will think. On the other hand, a Legislators in Love-type scandal would be just the thing to get me out of the law school with a rousing sendoff.

I can recall Mom telling me that my media antics would prevent me from being taken seriously as a writer. After publishing all these serious op-ed pieces and being a staff attorney at the Center for Governmental Responsibility, can I still go back to having media fun? We’ll see.

I always liked that I could be both serious and playful in my public life, but I don’t know what that does to my credibility. Anyway, the chances of anyone at UF seeing George Jr. in February, when my piece will be up, aren’t all that great.

While in the office, I got on that Tampa e-mail matchmaker, but I’m certain it’s a poor way to meet guys. Maybe I’ll start going to bars when I move back to South Florida, though I still can’t imagine a worse place to meet someone than a crowded, loud, smoky room where half the people are drunk.

More likely, I’ll get involved in a gay rights organization similar to the Human Rights Council or go to the gay synagogue, places where I’m more likely to meet someone who’s at least not from a different planet than I am.

After leaving the law school, I went to the Tower Road library, but they didn’t have issues of either the Tampa or Orlando papers which had letters attacking me. If I’m so neurotic about collecting every news clip that mentions my name, I’ll just have to send away for back issues from the papers.

I got the St. Petersburg Times issue with the article on the Largo mayor’s funeral home discount which quoted me, and after doing step aerobics, showering and getting dressed, I went back to the office to xerox some copies of that.

The rest of the afternoon I read Wired and the New York Times. Tomorrow, I promise I’ll get to the Nova classes’ papers.

Would you believe there was a line for Star Wars at 10 AM at the multiplex cinema across the street? Like, it’s been out for 20 years, did these people think they were going to miss it?

Still, there are a lot of college students here who were too young or weren’t even born when the film was first released.

After Cari’s birthday cake the other day, someone asked her which president was the first one she could remember. It was Ronald Reagan, as she’s only 22. That makes me feel quite old.

Sat Darshan e-mailed late today, explaining that she’d been kicked off AOL and had to get a new address on EarthLink.

If her father gets better, she’s going to India on February 14. His dementia is getting worse: he took a little joyride in his car all the way to Miami, Arizona, which is quite far away from Phoenix – and she had to go pick him up at the police station there.

Sandi Cooper, whom I know as a history professor at Richmond College, is now the chairman of the CUNY Faculty Senate, and she had a letter in today’s Times Decrying the simultaneous raising of tuition and cutting of financial aid.

Over 60% of CUNY undergrads are near the poverty line, and they’ll have to pay top higher tuition than I paid in law school.

“A generation ago,” Cooper wrote, “nearly 15,000 full-time faculty served a quarter of a million students. Today, a pitiful 5,500 remain as full-timers serving a student body of 205,000, the difference made up by part-timers. As we lurch toward the 21st century, CUNY will lead the nation in a new university model — administrators and adjuncts.”

It’s so incredibly sad.

Thursday, February 6, 1997

7 PM. I dreamed about seeing my article in today’s newspaper, and when I woke up before 6 AM, I went out in the dark and drove to the nearest rack where they have the Sun.

My column was on the top of the op-ed page. With the dumb headline, “Education Committee Chair Should Tend to School Problems,” it identified me as a CGR staff attorney and an HRC board member. They edited it well, and it ran with a cartoon about the “morality police.”

After cutting and pasting, I got it onto a single 8½”-x-11” sheet (minus the cartoon), so I could xerox it at Office Max.

Surprisingly, no one mentioned it all day – except for Mom, to whom I’d faxed it. When I called her in the late morning, she said she’d just gotten off the phone with Dad in San Juan and they were saying how I should contact the Sun-Sentinel or the Herald and offer myself as their new columnist.

“You want me to write them a letter, so it doesn’t look like it’s your idea?” Mom asked me.

“Uh, I think they’d figure out you’re my mother and that would probably damage your credibility,” I replied.

Hey, I’ve managed to have four columns published in three different newspapers over the past six weeks. That’s pretty good. Of course, I really have had a lot of free time lately.

Those columns and my pantyhose piece in George Jr. have given me all these new clips for 1997.

Coming out soon is the Neil Simon casebook and the Anything Is Possible anthology, but since I’ve seen those pieces in galleys, it won’t be very exciting. However, at least I see some progress.

A year ago, I was getting to see my new book and that was more exciting – especially after the notice in the New York Times Book Review came out.

Martin never responded to my Christmas card, so I suspect he’s either gotten annoyed with me or is totally despondent over the failure of his dreams for Avisson Press.

I hate to sound I-told-you-so, but if the book had come out in trade paperback, even if it didn’t get the Times review, I could have sold copies at $9.95 – or even $11.95 – but at $21, a hardcover book of 140 pages wouldn’t sell.

Jon and Russ were in Tallahassee today, working on the Florida Constitution Revision project. I left a message for Matt – his girlfriend’s voice was on the machine – telling him that Russ needs research assistants for that.

I didn’t see Liz today or much of anyone else. Instead, I surfed the Web.

I found an e-mail address for Sean; he uses the-house-on-euclid as his before-the-@ name. Anyway, I decided to risk a short note.

Sean is probably still with Doug, and I certainly don’t expect to rekindle a 15-year-old romance, but I’d like to know how life has been for Sean. In reality, we probably have very little in common by now.

I did write back to that Julian guy I was matched with on the Tampa Matchmaker. After I discovered he hadn’t logged on since November, I figured I’d find his real e-mail address.

He studies sociology at New College in Sarasota, so I checked USF for all the Julians at that campus. There were two, and one was the sociology major.

I then put the guy’s full name on Alta Vista and came up with, first, an online New College magazine that quoted him in an article on black students, and then discovered their Sociology Department’s web page, which he runs – so I’ve gotten his e-mail address twice.

I didn’t know what to say to him, so I used his matchmaker code (JULIAN559) and said he seemed cool.

But dopily, I also told him he had misspelled Cornel West’s name. Am I an asshole or what?

I just hope he doesn’t think I’m a pervert. Though maybe I am a pervert. Julian seems like someone I could correspond with, anyway.

I also discovered, via Martindale-Hubble on Lexis, that Javier is an associate at a small Hollywood law firm that does collections and such.

He’s not listed in the Broward or Dade phone directories, but I can’t believe Javier still lives with his parents. Anyway, his father’s no longer at the old Kendall address.

What a snoop and busybody I am.

Coming home at 4:30 PM, I did an extra exercise session to a Body Electric tape in order to make up for Saturday, when I won’t have time to work out.

Friday, February 7, 1997

2:30 PM. I just got home from work. Last evening I did about all I could to prepare for Saturday’s classes, reading the poetry again and looking at some criticism.

Today’s a cool, cloudy, sleepy day, and I feel like getting under the covers.

I expect I will not sleep much tonight. Liz’s pizza party begins at 6 PM, so there’s that, and also I heard from Sean.

He wrote me at 6:30 AM today, the message titled “Long Time”:

Richard… Funny how life goes. About six months ago I looked up your e-mail address. I didn’t ever mail you, because I didn’t want to bother you, then last week I thought about you again, but simply never got around to actually writing a letter. I checked my mail last night… and there is a note from you. Isn’t life strange? Thanks for the note. If you could, though, please e-mail me [here]… The other address is my home address. I’ve been in the same relationship since I knew you back in Davie. We’ve been together 15½ years. However, I still have some secrets that I don’t want to have to explain… (i.e., you) :-)”

Sean asks if I’m happy, if I’m married with 2.5 kids, and asks: “What’s up with UF? Law?”

Then he goes on:

I’ve been “healthy (HIV-) and happy… I’ve lived in the same home in Tampa for 12 years. I’ve had the same job for 11 years. Pretty boring, huh? I’m just a stick-in-the-mud. When I get into something, I stick with it…

I don’t know what else to say. I’m really glad you wrote. I want to find out more about you and your life now.


P.S. – I hope you don’t look back on the past with regret. I don’t. I get a little “warm and fuzzy” thinking about it.

Well, after ten years – fourteen, really – you can imagine how hearing from Sean floored me. He sounds every bit as wonderful as I remember him – and he can write, too.

I’m really glad he’s happy and healthy. I admire Sean for sticking fast to things, and long ago I recognized that wasn’t me.

It’s weird because Sean and I don’t have any history together as friends, so all we can remember is when we were lovers. Unlike with Ronna, Shelli or anyone else, Sean is somebody I’ve never related to as a casual or good friend.

I mean, I would have liked to have been his friend, his and Doug’s, and I would have liked to tell him about my crushes, my career, my day-to-day life and hear about his. So what comes back instead are all these feelings that have made me a zombie since morning.

Oh yeah, I went into work and did quick research on child abuse syndrome so I could talk on WUFT-FM/Classic 89’s noon news about a Florida Supreme Court decision refusing to take that syndrome as a mitigating factor in a conviction because the expert testimony doesn’t have scientific credibility yet (the Frye rule and all that).

But I couldn’t tape it on the radio in time to play for Mom, and I also couldn’t remember where I parked my car in the law school lot, and I couldn’t concentrate when I read the newspaper.

Writing Sean back, I tried to restrain myself as much as possible from going on and on about my life and telling him everything I’ve done and experienced and felt since 1982.

It is nice to know that he still thinks about me and gets “warm and fuzzy.” Perhaps I shouldn’t have stirred up all these old feelings. I certainly don’t intend to intrude on Sean’s life, and I respect his wishes, but I’d love to be his friend via e-mail.

I wonder what he’s feeling now – if he’s as dopey as I am.

Making it totally weird is that we really don’t know each other. I mean, when I loved Sean, he was an 18-year-old boy and now he’s a 33-year-old man.


9 PM. Earlier I wrote that I expected to have insomnia all night, and I still do. I’m not at all sleepy, and I’ve only just returned from Liz’s pizza party. Being at a party stimulates me so much that it’s hard to come down.

At least Sean didn’t send me another e-mail today; I don’t think I could have handled the intensity. Once I get used to the idea of being in touch with him, I’ll be less distracted.

It’s not as if I’ve been in love with Sean all these years; on the other hand, I can’t say I’ve felt the same about anyone or had such a passionate affair with anyone since.

However, once I’m reconciled to the idea of just being e-mail pen pals or once-every-two-years acquaintances, I’ll be able to deal with a relationship with Sean that focuses on our very different present-day lives and not our past.

If he doesn’t write back, at least I’ve learned that he’s happy and healthy and that he thinks of me and gets warm and fuzzy. There’s no way I’ll say anything to him that I wouldn’t want him to be able to share with Doug. If Sean feels the need to keep secrets, that’s his business.

If I had known that I was a secret back in 1982, I probably would not have allowed us to have a relationship, and I would have missed something wonderful.

Still, Sean’s making me a secret from the most important person in his life just takes normalcy away and makes me exciting in the way that – you’ll pardon the expression – forbidden fruit is exciting.

Enough about Sean – though I decided to tell Liz about it when I arrived early at her house to help her set up for the pizza party. About 30 or so people came, including many, but not all, of the new Fellows.

I spent a great deal of time talking to Cecilia, the woman my age who is from Hendry County, whose four-year-old daughter said to me, “You have a weird voice,” making me smile as I watched her play with Ken Nunn’s older daughter. (Ken left early after his baby daughter threw up on him, an event that was also a cue for me to move to another room.)

Other people I spoke to a lot were Burnett, the black male Fellow (who uses his middle name, not his first name, John) and Steven, the white male Fellow, there though I also chatted with Jon, Diane Mazur, Sharon Rush, Cynthia (who passed her comps and is now ready to begin her dissertation, which she plans to do on some aspect of chronic pain), Barbara, Rhonda and her fiancé Jonas, and others.

Crazy as it sounds, I spent most of the last 20 minutes at Liz’s talking with Russ about titles of nobility, the relative social status of Protestant denominations, and the death of Pamela Harriman. I wish I had spoken to Joe and some other people more, but at 8:30 PM, I realized I had to leave.

Paul Fericano also replied to my e-mail. My old Stoogist pal is the father of a girl going into high school. Recently he’s worked at a waiter at an Italian (“what else?”) restaurant and he’s written “350 pages of a novel, 250 of which I like. There’s only a one letter difference between waiter and writer,” Paul wrote.

As I waited at the red light at the corner of 13th Street and University Avenue on my way to Liz’s and watched our local Hare Krishnas in their saffron robes chanting and swaying and clasping hands. I felt as if they were performing solely for my benefit.

Saturday, February 8, 1997

6 PM. I returned home an hour ago, and I’ve eaten dinner and gotten into my t-shirt and boxers. Now I’m preparing to unwind, to rest, and to read today’s New York Times.

Last night I slept about four or five hours, enough so that I was not tired all day – at least until now. It was a mild day, and when I left the house at 7:30 AM, it wasn’t foggy, so I had a pleasant ride into Ocala.

Jackie’s first day as Nova coordinator got screwed up, as the guy she sent to open the building didn’t arrive until 8:50 AM, twenty minutes after our class was supposed to begin. So we all stood outside and waited. Of course, I’m used to screw-ups like that.

I had a decent class, showing recent news articles that referred to W.E.B. Du Bois, Wallace Stevens and Marianne Moore, and I played the tapes of Frost reading some of his best-known poems and Stevens reading “The Idea of Order at Key West.”

In addition to the poems, I read aloud excerpts from Marianne Moore’s correspondence with the Ford Motor Company when they asked her to develop names for the car they ultimately called the Edsel.

When I let the students go just before noon, it was raining, but not as bad as it had been on my trip back to Gainesville last time.

I kept the afternoon class from 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM, as I can do more with them. There are more responsive group, and I usually feel freer about time since I only have a short drive home.

Two weeks from today in our next classes, I’ll teach fiction: Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Hemingway. These Nova classes make for long Saturdays, but I feel a sense of accomplishment when they are over.

In the mail I got four copies of Anyone Is Possible, the Red Hen Press fiction anthology that contains “Moon Over Moldova” along with stories by Stephen Dixon, Lance Olson, Frederick Barthelme, Charles Baxter and a lot of young writers I’ve never heard of. It’s generally a well-designed book.