A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late September, 1991

Saturday, September 21, 1991

11 PM. It was only 63° when I went to the post office to get the newspapers; the first cold front finally reached this far south, and today was delightfully mild.

Aside from aerobics (and I hurt the bottom of my foot) and a couple of hours with friends, I spent today on schoolwork. I read the week’s material for Torts, Contracts and Jurisprudence, though I left briefing the cases till tomorrow.

And I spent hours writing the two-case analysis due on Monday. After finally finishing it, I’ll print out a copy in the morning and then revise it before printing out a final copy later.

I hope to do the reading and briefing for all the week’s classes before the weekend is over. I did start an outline for Torts today.

I’m used to spending weekends alone reading, so when Angelina called to invite me over to watch the football game, I wasn’t certain I wanted to spend the time away from my studies.

But by 4:30 PM, I decided I’d drive to Angelina and Danny’s mobile home. It was half-time and UF was losing to Syracuse. Angelina was showing Dwight and Barry some spiders she enjoyed looking at, as well as the garden she’d been trying to rid of poison ivy.

She and Danny have turned their little mobile home (actually, not so little and an incredibly good value) into a real homey place that looks warm and comfortable. I liked their little Siamese cat and white poodle; when the dog licked me, I thought of China.

Barry’s wife Paula was there, and she discovered she knew Midori as a student of hers at South Plantation High. Kim and another woman in our class were also there.

I don’t understand football and I don’t like beer, but only Barry and Danny were concentrating heavily on the game, which UF lost, and I enjoyed getting out and talking to people.

I get the feeling that Barry and Angelina, like some others (Larry, Greg) in our orientation group don’t work all that hard, although they do seem to keep up with the reading assignments. And who knows? They may do better in their final exams than the grinds, and the finals are all that counts.

I hadn’t intended to drive myself to get good grades, but I like to look at it as a game, and it’ll be fun to try to do my best. As long as I’m in law school, I might as well get the full value of the experience of it as long as it doesn’t stress me out.

Funny: I speak of getting grades as a “game.” Usually I hate games because they’re so purposeless. I don’t play cards or board games or watch spectator sports. Of course, the “game” of learning doesn’t seem like a waste of time.

At Angelina’s, Karin called to say she was too busy to come over; Karin is more serious about her studies than most people.

Southeast Bank finally failed, and the government sold it to First Union, which will close overlapping branches and lay off more people. They never should have approved that gold MasterCard they gave me. I left them $6,700 poorer when I went bankrupt, but I did pay them plenty of interest over the years.

Sunday, September 22, 1991

8 PM. This weekend I managed to do all my reading for the week and to brief the cases for everything but Civil Procedure. And I wrote my 8-page two-case analysis for tomorrow.

I also read the Times, except for the book review, and caught up on most of the magazines that Marc brought ten days ago.

I think I’ve adapted well to my legal studies, but then for most of the last decade, I’ve spent a lot of time reading and “studying” on my own. If I weren’t formally a law student, I’d be learning something else on my own.

My handwriting is getting indecipherable. I had such a steady, precise handwriting in my twenties. Last week Gene looked over at my notebook and suggested I type my finals.

Padgett Powell, like everyone else, never responded when I sent him my books. I’m positive I must come off badly in my fiction, that evidently I am the only person who thinks it has any worth.

Oh, we’re all entitled to fatal flaws. Did the Brautigan Library folks think my Thirties/Eighties manuscript was the work of a consummate asshole? Maybe they’re right.

I’m going to listen to WUFT-FM’s Sunday night old-time radio shows program, Theater of the Mind, now. I need to read but I feel the need to lie down and close my eyes more. I have the sinus headache that Gainesville’s humidity makes a frequent companion. Kvetch, kvetch.

Monday, September 23, 1991

8 PM. I slept well last night, but as usual, I didn’t sleep enough. During the day I kept feeling tired, though now that it’s bedtime, of course, I’m wide awake.

At 8 AM our group met Scott at the library for another research lab, this time using Florida Digest. I handed in my paper along with everyone else, and later in the day I did our homework exercise.

Torts was next, and Dowd went over cases dealing with industry custom and res ipsa loquitur, one of the many new “terms of art” I’ve come across in the past five weeks.

In Contracts, after a student used the word consideration in the usual, general sense rather than the way it’s used in contract formation, Davis said that while doctors, engineers and carpenters have physical tools like stethoscopes and slide rules, a lawyer’s only tools are words and therefore we have to use our words carefully.

Well, that says more than simply knowing the meaning of mens rea, promissory estoppel and all the other terms in Black’s. I do find I have to consult the dictionary less as I go on with my case briefings.

Our study group met after Torts to review our class notes. Costas and his wife were sick today with stomach trouble, although Dan, who had dinner with them last night, said he felt fine.

Lorraine had a bad cold and fever, and she eventually went home before Jurisprudence. People are entitled to be sick; if I am, I don’t intend to drag myself to class with fever.

During the rest of the break before Contracts, I read in the Alligator that Money rated Gainesville the 41st best city in America to live in, higher than any other Florida city.

I was glad Davis called on Clinton and not me because I missed a lot of what was going on in a case dealing with moral obligation. Having finished the doctrine of consideration and its alternatives, we now move on to the bargain.

At home, I had a quick lunch as I watched Bush address the UN General Assembly; then I returned to campus, where I chatted with Dwight before our study group met to go over Contracts.

I learned that Dan was a minister, and he’s from Union City (which makes sense, since he’s Hispanic); his wife is in Tampa finishing her degree at USF, and they’ve got a daughter.

Costas’s wife lives in Miami and she came up this weekend; otherwise, he visits her there. Todd is from all over, from Texas to New York City; his parents live in Jacksonville now. Most of us agreed with Karin that her Orlando is probably the best of Florida’s big cities.

In Jurisprudence, we relaxed watching a movie related to the Katz case, about Moonies and how they were suckered in and brainwashed and how they got deprogrammed. Tomorrow I’ll be in a group that will pretend to be lawyers for the parents who wanted temporary conservatorship of their Moonie kids, but I feel skittish about the tactics of deprogramming and the violation of civil liberties and even religious freedom.

The strongest point against the Moonies is that they use deception to lure people into their “charitable” groups, bombard them with “love,” isolate them and don’t tell them about the Unification Church until the people are already hooked.

But many Moonies eventually left on their own, didn’t they? You can’t watch people every minute, and eventually some will begin to think on their own. Of course, deprogramming could provide them with an opportunity to question their cult that might otherwise take them years.

Libby sent a photo of Lindsay and Wyatt, whose first birthday is this week (and he’s 28 pounds!); Lindsay is happy after starting her second year at the pre-school, and the family had a much-needed three-week vacation in July. In another letter from Southern California, Ruth Shigezawa sent a nice note, along with a xerox of her first published story.

Tuesday, September 24, 1991

9 PM. What all first-year law students need is an extra four hours a day.

Unfortunately, sometimes those hours come to me as a gift via insomnia and then it doesn’t help.

At 8 AM, I had the C-10 Civ Pro tutorial with Prescott. Lorraine said she was feeling a bit better – I tried to call her last night but she must have slept through the phone ringing – and Dan, Mark, Pauline, Steve F and Nancy were also in the group.

Prescott gave an excellent overview of the steps in a trial, and he discussed some of the Federal Rules. He put his final and outline on reserve, and later I took the time to copy them.

In Torts, Dowd gave us our own outline, which is something most professors would never do. After we finished our unit, she basically reviewed so that anyone could fill in the notes and make a fine outline.

During the break, I reviewed Contracts with Steve, Gena and Judy. A lot of law school is talking over the material with classmates. I wish I’d get called on already by Mashburn and Davis; even if I end up totally embarrassing myself, I’d get the thing over with. In Torts, I feel more relaxed because I’ve already been called on to present a case.

Davis finished the unit on enforcing the bargain, and we began offer and acceptance together; I’m sure the material will get more complicated from here on in.

By the time class ended, I was weak from hunger but had to meet with our study group to go over our notes. I guess it’s valuable because it forces me to review all my classes right away.

Todd, I learned, just got out of the military last fall. He was stationed in Germany and wants to go back to Europe after law school.

At home, I wolfed down my lunch because I was so ravenous, and then I turned right around for school. I did some work before Jurisprudence, where we met in our small group “law firms.” Greg was the facilitator and Doug K the recorder in our group, although Clinton and a few others had the best ideas.

Still, as counsel for the parents of the Moonies, we didn’t have a strong case. As the last of the eight groups to go, we ran out of time.

I knew Doug was nervous because we weren’t as systematic as the others and everyone had already made our point, so I slipped him a note: “Ask for a continuance till Thursday’s class.” He did so, just at 4 PM, and we were saved by the clock.

I did aerobics at home, showered and had dinner, and then wasted a couple of hours with what I thought might be a bright idea that could get me in the news.

I’d heard about the legislative reapportionment committee holding a public hearing at City Hall, so I went and testified at the end. My idea was since they can’t please everyone, they should draw district lines on aesthetic principles: so they’ll look good on a map.

And I showed them my drawings of legislative districts shaped like the sun, a sailboat, the Space Shuttle blasting off, a palm tree, and “for the area around Gainesville,” a district shaped like a gator.

They all laughed and it broke up the tedium, but there were no reporters or TV cameras present. Too bad, because I had good visuals, which the panel asked to keep. Fine with me.

There’s so much to do – so many activities – and I have little time to make time for them. But I do try to do what’s important to me. I guess being in the media would give my ego a boost, especially because I feel so anonymous here.

Thursday, September 26, 1991

8 PM. Autumn actually arrives on time in North Florida. This morning when I went out, it was delightfully cool. Tonight we’re expecting record lows around 55°.

I slept well again last night, and this morning I exercised, ate, showered and dressed, and was on campus before 8 AM. In the library I met Doug K, helping him with our group’s statement for Jurisprudence.

Then I went to Legal Research and Writing. Greg is the latest one to come down with the law school virus, and I was glad he kept a couple of seats away as he sneezed and coughed.

It’s interesting to notice which students didn’t sign up for C-10 tutoring: people like Larry, Greg, Alain and many of the faceless ones who only speak when called on and barely even then.

In class, Pat Thomson explained what we’ll be doing for our major memo, the outline for which is due in two weeks. I’ve got to start researching interspousal tort immunity soon.

We had a lovely discussion on rape in Criminal Law as we covered “hard” cases (as opposed to the “easy” case of stranger’s violent attack) and issues dealing with force and consent.

It’s a tricky business, and I kept my mouth shut for a change, but there were great exchanges, and it wasn’t only the women who put all the onus for acquaintance rape on men who won’t take no for an answer.

Some of the most “feminist” comments came from guys like Rich T, an older Hispanic army veteran, who said men should be on notice that no means no when women give the first sign of protest and that they should be prosecuted every time they keep going after that.

I came home for lunch after doing some shopping and then I read Civ Pro until it was time to go back to school. In class, Mashburn did cases dealing with voluntary dismissal and amendments.

She said the learning curve in Civil Procedure is odd; it goes up at the end of the semester when everything comes together. Reading Prescott’s outline has helped me.

In Jurisprudence, after we finished the Moonie case, we began U.S. v. Alexander, where black men got into a confrontation with white Marines in a D.C. restaurant on June 4, 1968 (my 17th birthday, the day Bobby Kennedy was shot). One claimed he reacted to a racial slur by shooting the man who said “nigger” because he was mentally ill: not insane but a victim of racial prejudice and a “rotten social background.”

It was interesting to hear what the black students said. They all sit together, but I don’t know why the white students, including myself, don’t go over to them: Is it because they seem to want to exclude us or because of our own racism? Of the black students, I really only know Dean and Pauline, who actually drives to school every day from her home in Valdosta, Georgia.

The five of us in our study group met for an hour in the otherwise deserted cafeteria to go over the day’s notes.

I learned today that Costas took “O” levels at a British school in Athens and so he probably didn’t need to spend his senior year at Miami Sunset High School, where he graduated five years ago. I told him I’d taught computer workshops there.

Dan said he graduated high school twelve years ago, so he must be about thirty. People today all look younger than they are; it’s not just me. The other day I was asked to settle an argument over when FDR was first elected President, but hopefully my fellow students didn’t assume I was alive then.

The AIDS commission really criticized the Bush administration and Congress for not doing anything about the disease. The public perception is that the crisis is over, but the worst of the epidemic is ahead.

Friday, September 27, 1991

9 PM. It helped to sleep an hour and a half later than usual today; I got up at 7:30 AM. While going over today’s case for Civ Pro, I had WUFT-FM on in the background and something on the local news sounded familiar. It was my own name.

They were reading a story about my appearance before the redistricting panel on Tuesday. It felt gratifying to hear the story and to hear it again on WRUF-AM as I drove to school at 9 AM.

On Wednesday night, I’d gotten a call from a reporter at the Ocala Star-Banner who asked if I was the guy with the idea about artistically-shaped districts.

Today’s Gainesville Sun carried a short item, “A Gator-Shaped Voting District?” which probably picked up on the Star-Banner report, and obviously that was the basis for the radio story. I was identified as a law student and the article said, “The local residents and nearly 20 state legislators present burst into laughter as Grayson soberly continued his explanation.”

As I entered the library, Midori said, “I read about you in the paper. That was really funny.” Nobody else said anything except the ones she showed it to, but I’m sure others saw it.

Anyway, this has given me confidence that I still have clever satirical ideas the media picks up on, and that I can continue whatever it is you’d call this thing I do.

Down to business at the library, I found the case I needed for Legal Research and Writing and then went to Crim, where we again dealt with rape. After that, Jed, our C-10 Torts tutor, had an introductory session which seems like it will be helpful.

I went home for lunch, and back at school, I looked through the catalog of software and videos at the media library before meeting the study group in the cafeteria to go over our Crim notes.

In Civ Pro, Mashburn went over the Swartz v. Gold Dust Casino case, dealing with relation back of amendments. It was hard to keep up with her and the dozen or so students who seem to grasp the complexities of the rules, but I enjoy putting out the effort, and I felt better after we discussed it in the study group after class.

This weekend everyone seems to be going out of town: Dan always goes to Tampa, but Costas went to Miami (he misses his wife so much he almost decided to drop out this week), and Karin went back home to Orlando, where the Gators are playing tomorrow.

I came home to fetch my unemployment check from the mailbox and take it to NCNB. I have to file for my last check this week. Congress has passed the extended benefits bill, but Bush called it “garbage” and his veto will probably be sustained; he hasn’t been overridden once so far.

He’s acting just like Herbert Hoover in 1931: “Prosperity is just around the corner.” Right. Did he go on TV an hour ago to announce a vast pullback of nuclear and strategic weapons to take people’s minds off domestic affairs again?

Saturday, September 28, 1991

9 PM. I’ve done all the week’s reading for Torts, Contracts and Criminal Law, though I haven’t yet briefed the cases. I’ll do that tomorrow. I’d already done the reading and briefing for Jurisprudence, but I need to review the material.

And as usual, I haven’t gotten around to Civil Procedure, nor have I done the reading for Thursday’s Legal Research and Writing seminar.

I spent nearly the entire day working when I wasn’t doing aerobics, eating, grocery shopping and doing other mundane things. When I paid October’s rent, the guy looked at my name on the check and asked if I was the one “with the gator district plan – I thought that was funny.”

Ronna sent a card dated Thursday, saying she’s “a free woman – last Friday was my last day at Yeshiva University.”

She’s going to work for Hadassah as a program administrator in the education department starting next week: “More substantive work, better geographically and financially. Figure it can’t hurt re: literacy, and maybe I’ll put some $ away.” Good for Ronna, especially in these tough times.

I’d left a message the other night, but I bet Ronna went on vacation since she’s between jobs. I haven’t heard from Sat Darshan or Josh, and I’ve been remiss in calling Justin, but I figure he’s incredibly busy at Brooklyn College anyway.

Hopefully, I’ll get chances to see my New York City friends at Christmas. I really can’t afford the trip, but I need to get away. Maybe Mom will kick in some money because a big part of my reason for going is to spend time with Grandma Ethel.

I should send some more postcards to people this weekend. There’s always so much to do.

I got through about half my Torts outline today, and I wanted the chance to look at some of the hornbooks.

Monday, September 30, 1991

7 PM. I finally did go out yesterday after it stopped raining. I couldn’t find the Ocala paper, but I spent an hour in Library West reading various Florida and national newspapers.

Back home at 5 PM, I slept well, although I woke up with a stiff neck. I wore jeans instead of shorts to school today although most guys still wore shorts. Life could be worse; at least on Monday I actually look forward to classes.

At 8 AM, I met Scott and our six-person group at the library. We did some exercises involving Shepardizing statutes and cases and using ALR, a legal encyclopedia which Scott said few people ever use. Next week we have a final lab with a test.

I had time to xerox the Gainesville Sun clipping before Torts. Many of my classmates said they enjoyed their weekend trips, though Greg said he was jet-lagged after a four-day visit to San Diego.

After Torts, where Dowd went over cases dealing with causation, I went to see Marty Peters for my reality check. She said my goal of being in the middle of the class, with a 2.6 index, sounded reasonable given my goals and interests.

Law school’s first semester, she said, is the most competitive because people haven’t sorted themselves out yet and a lot of them see themselves as law review material.

Once people see their first semester grades, Marty said, more people will feel the way I do as they give up on their most optimistic career goals. Feeling the way I do is a function of my age and experience. Also, unlike somebody whose whole identity is based on being a student, I know that law school is only a part of my life.

Well, my real identity comes from being a writer and a teacher and satirist and a friend. It’s hard to put so much emphasis on getting a B+ in Contracts when you have many acquaintances who’ve died of AIDS or when you have friends raising kids or when you yourself have declared bankruptcy.

Basically, my health is my first concern, and if I’m healthy, I’ve got 90% of what I want out of life. Law school is lagniappe for me. Marty suggested that I might even get better grades because of my attitude.

Anyway, part of it is a crap shoot: having graded thousands of papers, I know I still can’t distinguish between a B and a C+ all the time.

In the media lab I worked on some software on contract formation before class.

Davis was hysterically funny today. He cracks me up, like when he said putting an ad in a periodical saying “Dalmatian puppies – $25 each – first come, first served” isn’t an offer: “What if I come and say [here he put on a maniacal face], ‘I’ll take them all; I need them for my experiments’?”

At Publix, where I went during the break to buy some salad, I saw Michael K at the checkout line. I haven’t had a chance to talk to him in weeks, so the initial crush I had on him has waned, but I still think he’s incredibly bright.

After lunch at home, I returned to school and worked in the library on my research assignment with Jonathan and then briefed a couple of cases for Crim before Jurisprudence began.

Karin had her lab after class and Costas wasn’t around today – I guess he’s still with his wife in Miami – so just Dan, Todd and I met in the cafeteria to go over our notes. Home at 5 PM, I had dinner and listened to All Things Considered.

Mikey just called. It was great to hear a voice from New York City. He’s been on this big trial since September 8, though they’ve been skipping all the Jewish holidays, even the ones like today (Simchat Torah?) because another attorney is Orthodox.

He hasn’t been able to sell the co-op in Riverdale, so Mikey will probably stay in his sublet for the year of the sublease. He was interested in hearing about law school and how it’s probably a lot different from his experiences in brand-new Cardozo.

It was good to have that reality check, too, to hear from a real lawyer how meaningless law school can be.

Mikey told me of a classmate of his, around our age, who dropped dead at her desk at a prestigious Wall Street firm last week. Apparently, she had a heart attack. Her husband, who found her there when she didn’t come home late at night and didn’t call, blames overwork – karoshi – for killing her.

Mikey said he’s never worked harder in his life than in the current trial. I said I’d probably see him in December.

I’m tired, but I feel my days are spent productively. Tomorrow is October already. Wasn’t I just writing, “Tomorrow is September already”?