A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-January, 1993

Thursday, January 7, 1993

7 PM. My grades turned out to be better than I could have expected.

When I went back to school late this afternoon to use the laser printer to print out my NEA fellowship application and to copy the forms, Julin’s grades were on the bulletin board. At the bottom of our class, an A was listed next to 2184.

I did the old hat trick. Three A’s is a remarkable achievement, considering I also taught at SFCC and Nova. For the semester I’ve got an incredible 3.66 index, way above the 3.5 needed to be on that “high honors” list they post.

And I’ve raised my overall GPA to 3.41, just one basis point from where I was a year ago. That tells me my first term was no fluke.

My GPA will probably go down again, but with the majority of my courses behind me, obviously it’s not going to go too far down.

I felt elated as I did my printing and xeroxing, and when I got home, I called Mom, who laughed because I got on pretending to be a bill collector.

She was happy, of course – but the better news was that Marc was at that moment seeing a counselor. I’m glad he’s going to get help. Today is his 38th birthday and it’s a good time for a new start.

In New York, Dad was a little embarrassed because he wore jeans while all the new Guess salesmen were in three-piece suits, but he said the line looks good (if expensive).

Already Mom has gotten queries from stores she’d sent a mailing to. With retail sales having been good over Christmas, perhaps Dad can have a last chance to make a little money.

Mom told me, “You didn’t get that $20,000 again.” Well, maybe my next NEA application will work despite the long odds. Instead of “Caracas Traffic” I’m submitting a manuscript of “Mondo Barbie” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Citicorp.”

Last night Laura C called, and we chatted for a while. She’d just gotten in that afternoon, having enjoyed being with her parents, who took her to Universal Studios. She, too, was happy with a B in Evidence.

I slept well although I definitely have a light cold. At 8:30 AM, I got one of the last of the parking spaces and plunked myself in the library to review the reading for Slobogin’s class.

Midori, sitting next to me, was reading Kundera’s The Incredible Lightness of Being and Lori jokingly asked what course she was doing it for.

I got to Professional Responsibility early, and Shara told me to sit with her in the third row, which is high up for me.

As our classmates came in, we all greeted one another; it was good to see familiar faces from both sections of our Fall ’91 entering class.

With half the school now having come in after we did, I find it’s funny to see people walking around with the texts for first-semester courses.

Slobogin did a good job of introducing the subject and he called on me to begin a discussion of legal education.

Lorraine seemed to hit a nerve when she talked about the tension at UF between being a national law school with intellectual aspirations and being a nuts-and-bolts Florida bar review course. Slobogin said the professors feel those tensions, too.

A lot of people treat this course as a joke, but of course I’m fascinated by the subject of professional ethics.

I spoke with Lorraine after class, and her grades last term were B’s and C+’s. She’s feeling so depressed and inadequate that she’s going to her psychiatrist twice a week now, and she’s taking lithium.

At the Career Services office, I got a booklet about the National Lawyer Guild’s summer intern program, which pays a $2,000 stipend for ten weeks’ work at various progressive groups.

The deadline is in two weeks, so I started my application. Two of the groups listed are in New York, and one of those is the Lambda Legal Defense Fund.

After working on that application and the NEA and my Thirties/Eighties manuscript for the AWP Awards Series, I worked out for half an hour.

Friday January 8, 1993

4 PM. It’s been raining heavily off and on all day, and Alachua County has been under a tornado watch for hours.

With only one class again today, it doesn’t feel like school has really started yet. On Monday, when I have three classes in a row, I should get that feeling.

On campus at 8:30 AM, I felt restless and wandered about in need of company. I gave Lorraine a copy of the Barbie story because she had offered me suggestions when I first got word about the anthology last winter.

In the TV room I chatted with Duane. Yesterday, he, Chris P and Paul D were complaining about the lousy grades at UF.

I know our tough grading system hits minority students really hard, and I think that’s unfair. There’s no reason for people to get D’s and D+’s in a graduate or professional school, but then again, I’m one of those college teachers who hates to give people C’s.

We sat in our permanent seats in Professional Responsibility, and I’ve still got Shara and Ray to my right, but instead of strangers to my left, Marc R and Barry are there.

We again discussed legal education and mostly talked around issues. So far the course is pretty amorphous, and those people who like hard rules and facts are restless. Me, I’m perfectly content.

I didn’t feel like going home at 11 AM, so I fooled around in Westlaw for an hour before lunch.

I xeroxed four copies of my NEA manuscript, bought a mailing envelope, and took the application to the post office to send it off “certified/return receipt” requested as usual.

However, I didn’t expect the big crowd at the P.O. because I was unaware the Elvis stamps went on sale at noon today (Elvis’s birthday).

Prodded by the sight of so many Elvis fans in line, I ended up buying 80 stamps of The King when I paid for mailing my package.

Back at school, I talked with Dwight and then got my $1,250 scholarship check from Dean Patrick, who asked if I was maintaining a 2.8 index. When I told him I’d gotten three A’s and a B, he said “Well, then. . .”

I deposited the check into my bank account only to come home to discover that my student loan checks totaling $3,450 came in the mail, forcing me to return to NationsBank.

Once I pay my tuition, I should have about $3,500 in my account. I’ve got another $140 SFCC check and my SLS loans totaling $1,600 coming, and that’s a wad of cash. But experience teaches me it will be eaten up quickly and unexpectedly.

Anyway, I did get those checks in the bank, and I can forget about the NEA until my rejection a year from now.

The rest of the day I plan on listening to the news, finishing today’s paper, and working on my AWP manuscript or my internship applications. This was an excellent week – and yes, my cold is almost gone.

Monday, January 11, 1993

8 PM. Last evening after dinner and ABC’s Life Goes On (a heterosexual teenager with HIV was mistaken for a gay and bashed by skinheads), I read the phases of criminal procedure in the Crim Pro text; I have another 20 pages to go for the week.

Tonight I should be reading the massive amount of material for our Latin American environmental course, but I went to Xerographic an hour ago and the stuff won’t be ready till later. I’ll get it in the morning.

I have reading assignments in Legal Drafting and Estates and Trusts. If only I’d had these syllabi, I could have done what I usually do and read ahead on the weekend.

But with next Monday Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I should be able to catch up this coming weekend.

Today was another cool, drizzly day, though I didn’t need a jacket. Up at 7:30 AM, I went out to get groceries and the Times.

In a story on HBO’s production of And The Band Played On, I learned that Richard Rothenstein, Alice’s friend who works for HBO, is involved in the series and that he has AIDS.

I remember first meeting him at one of Alice’s parties when he was 19 years old. I assumed he was straight because he was with a girlfriend, though he probably thought the same of me.

The Times had a front-page story headlined “Healthy, Gay, Guilt-Stricken: AIDS’ Toll on the Virus Free.” Unlike most HIV-negative gay men my age, I haven’t had dozens of friends die, although I do know a lot of people who died.

That’s probably why I don’t really feel guilty. Some guys actually lie and say they’re infected because everyone they know has HIV. I probably wouldn’t have accepted celibacy so quickly if AIDS weren’t a fact of life.

As safe as the sex I had with Sean was, I apparently contracted hepatitis B from him anyway – within just a couple of months.

Anyway, I exercised and read this morning and ate a big lunch so I could get through three classes in a row. It feels weird to begin my school day so late.

Professor Rodrigo Barahona Israel of Costa Rica was introduced by Richard Hamann from CGR, the course’s coordinator. (I hope Hamann’s not doing our final grades because he’s a notoriously low grader in his own classes.)

Although it’s the first time Barahona has taught en inglés, he’s fluent enough to be completely understandable.

However, he may be trying to cover too much material in too short a time.

Today he gave us an overview of the next three weeks, and he just began to touch on the Rio Summit and the issues involved in sustainable development in Latin America.

Like oil and gas law, this is an area I know little about. Somehow I’ve never been excited by the environmental movement, but I know how important it is.

I’ll read the handout he gave us, Al Gore’s introduction to his book on the environment.

I sat between two strangers, but a seat away from Gena. Others in the class are Ana, Dwight (of course, since he’s the environmental expert), Nancy Baldwin and a whole lot of unfamiliar faces.

At 3 PM, I remained in my front row seat but was joined by Karin for D.T. Smith’s Estates and Trusts. He’s the first professor to tell us he didn’t care if we attended class or not. The course looks tolerable to me.

At 4 PM Karin, Gena and I joined Judy and Kathy in the first row of our Legal Drafting section with Lynn McGilvray-Saltzman, who seems nice. The class has about 28 people in it, and I’m sure it’s of great practical value to people who’ll draft legal documents in their practice.

A number of students have clerked already and are familiar with these kinds of documents. For me, the course may prove boring, but I hope I can learn something useful.

Walking off campus, Karin told me that Sharon booked Evidence – no surprise there.

Unemployment sent me a determination that I’m eligible for benefits.

Wednesday, January 13, 1993

7 PM. Last evening, while reading an article on law and development for Professor Barahona, I came across a concept I’d never seen put in these terms: legal education for nonlawyers.

It was as if a light bulb appeared in a comic strip cloud above my head.

Yesterday’s Docket, the law school newspaper, said there’ll be a meeting next Tuesday for students interested in teaching legal concepts to public school students, and I received Georgetown’s graduate law catalog, which briefly mentioned its Street Law programs in high schools and prisons.

I’ve always loved teaching people who weren’t part of the elite and helping them understand what it’s like to be an insider in a field of knowledge.

I got great satisfaction helping Miami teachers learn word processing, showing Rockland elementary school kids how to write fiction, and giving nontraditional college students all kinds of information.

I’m a course junkie myself, and I believe strongly in lifelong learning. I’m not sure there’s a field called “legal education for nonlawyers,” but it sounds like something I’d be interested in doing.

Rather than waste my time with tedious scholarship that I don’t have the capacity or desire to work on – but necessary to be a law school professor – I could teach law to non-law students.

That appeals to me more than the tedium of working in an office, even for a cause I believe in like the First Amendment or gay rights or abortion. I’ve got to investigate this.

Anyway, I slept well, dreamed heavily and awoke at 6 AM, in time to exercise to Body Electric on TV. I was at school by 8:30 AM.

Nunn’s 9 AM Criminal Procedure class reminded me of why I like him: although he’s not brilliant and he sometimes searches for the next phrase, he intelligently lays out what you need to know. (Like I do?)

He just got back from the Bay Area last night, and he said more classes might have to be canceled because of his travel schedule.

Sitting front and center next to Lawrence, I think I’ll enjoy Nunn’s pragmatic focus. He admits that because of his experience, he’s got a pro-defense bias.

After class, I went to the bank to deposit my $802 check. Even after paying tuition, I have $4,200 in my account.

I read Legal Drafting and returned to school at 1 PM to read up on intestate succession before my afternoon classes began.

Barahona’s class was livelier today, and some of us began to participate.

Smith is a pisser; he said another half-dozen outrageous things today and covered little ground. For people who wanted to know exactly when a person becomes married, he had a clipping about a bridegroom who dropped dead during the wedding ceremony and the subsequent fight over his estate between his bride and his parents.

Lynn speeded thru our Legal Drafting class, but a lot of us got to speak and criticize verbose legalese in model complaints.

Our first assignment will be to draft a two-part complaint based on a statutory and common law cause of action. 

Friday, January 15, 1993

9 PM. It began raining early this afternoon. After lunch, I went back to campus to use the computer tutorial on intestate succession.

I spoke to Mom, who said that Marc is definitely back in counseling and that Clarissa has taken him back.

Otherwise, everything is fine except Dad’s Guess samples didn’t arrive until after he’d left for the Miami Merchandise Mart, so he’ll have to trim tomorrow for the menswear show that starts on Sunday.

Alice sent a note saying she loved “Twelve-Step Barbie.” She enclosed a paper Cliff wrote for a class in Popular Culture in his M.A. studies for a degree in Mass Communications. In the paper, Cliff interviewed Alice about her hundreds of self-help books.

Alice wrote that she’s pretty well captured on the page. If so, that’s too bad because Alice really sounds dopey, reverentially quoting Dale Carnegie.

After a lifetime of being friends with Alice, it’s taken me a long time to see how limited she is intellectually. More than that, there’s a moral vacuum there.

I guess she’s much happier than I am; it sounds as if she doesn’t care about anything or anyone but herself.

All that in emphasis on self-help precludes her from taking a stand on social or cultural issues or being involved in a community, whether it’s her neighborhood or an association of people with similar interests.

I’m appalled at her shallowness. It’s odd that Alice considers herself a Manhattan sophisticate – because most of my other New York City friends and any reader of New York Magazine, The Village Voice or The New Yorker or would laugh at the person presented in Cliff’s paper.

I mean, she’d be skewered by most writers I know – but I guess that’s why she works for a supermarket tabloid.

Certainly Alice is a nice person and a good friend who’s always been there for me, and clearly she doesn’t want to change.

Do I? Sure, but not into some person who spouts Dale Carnegie. Not that I didn’t get something out of Dale Carnegie when I read him at 16 – but my God, how can a person believe in that banality at 42?

It’s one thing to use a few helpful hints, but to make self-help books the guideposts of your whole philosophy of life?

Well, I guess it’s better than Mein Kampf. Who am I to be judging Alice?

Tuesday, January 19, 1993

8 PM. I spent the morning working on our first Legal Drafting assignment. It took two hours and required close reading of Florida Statutes on consumer protection and also the Administrative Code.

After exercising and doing some laundry, I left for school at 1 PM and had to park way down the hill on Village Road because the lot was filled.

When class began at 2 PM, Professor Barahona started discussing land tenure and distribution in Central America.

Smith blustered his way through another Estates and Trusts class, telling lots of jokes.

I find the intestate succession laws easy and am surprised some people have great difficulty in distinguishing between the two types of first cousins once removed: your parents’ first cousins and your first cousins’ kids.

At 4 PM, I came home for a snack and the mail. Nova University sent my W-2 form, and Mom forwarded a letter from a New Orleans writer who’s trying to organize a Gulf South PEN center.

Naturally, I can’t make the initial meeting in the French Quarter next week, but I sent back the postcard saying I’m interested. She also sent along a list of 111 PEN members in nearby states. In Gainesville there’s Padgett Powell and a couple of people I never heard of.

I returned to school for a 5 PM meeting of people interested in teaching the law to public school students. It surprised me to see so many people there.

Lorraine, Greg, Steve H, Kevin J and about a dozen others showed up. I sat with Larry and Shara. (Larry had with him a map of Alaska and says that’s where he wants to move.)

Jason S, who runs the program as part of his legal fraternity, explained there are several kinds of programs they work with the public schools’ volunteers office on: teaching the Bill of Rights to fifth graders; helping high school trial teams compete; and giving occasional lectures on law-related subjects.

He had material from the Florida Law-Related Education Association, and next week there’ll be a training session for the Bill of Rights education program.

It’s on Wednesday evening, the night before Barahona’s exam, but I’m really interested so I’ll try to do my studying before that time.

Wednesday, January 20, 1993

9 PM. Although I’m not teaching this semester, it seems as if I’m as busy as I was last fall. Probably that’s because I have six classes instead of four. But it will get much easier on the weeks when I don’t have Latin American Environmental Law.

This week would be easier if tomorrow weren’t a Monday schedule, but on the other hand, my first class won’t be until the afternoon so I’ll have the morning to finish my Legal Drafting assignment.

After sleeping well last night, I exercised when I awoke at 6 AM.

Parking is tough this term; even at 8:10 AM, there are few spaces left. Last fall I always parked in the same space at 7:30 AM and didn’t have to cruise around so much.

In Crim Pro at 9 AM, Nunn continued with right to counsel and we got our syllabus and seating chart.

I ended up at the end of the first row, in front of Laura, Donna and Bob, but seated next to a stranger.

Back home at 10 AM, I turned on ABC’s coverage of the inauguration and tried to read as I watched all the festivities and ceremonies.

Clinton gave a good fifteen-minute address that stressed renewal, with the metaphor of “forcing a spring” even in the dead of winter.

He talked about generational change, service, sacrifice and communitarianism, using the term “founders” rather than “founding fathers.”

Maya Angelou, in her poem, listed various American types and actually said the word “gay” – which is something you didn’t hear in recent inaugurations.

“Hope,” Clinton’s childhood hometown, seemed the watchword of the day as crowds of people jammed Washington. Tonight the big inaugural balls are taking place, and the MTV Ball is the hottest ticket in D.C.

Before today, Presidents have always been old enough to be my father – they were all even older than my father – but now the President is just four years older than I am and easily part of the same generation.

At the school lounge this afternoon, I sat next to Nick and Shay in front of the TV set and told them what I remembered of Kennedy’s inauguration during that blizzard 32 years ago.

Hey, I even remember watching Eisenhower being sworn in in 1957 when I got home from kindergarten at P.S. 244.

While I expect Clinton will be a one-term President, at worst the next four years will be a temporary respite from the selfishness and myopia of the Reagan-Bush era.

Classes today went quickly and were pretty enjoyable. Smith’s class is always a scream; I enjoy his jokes and manner in a way I haven’t enjoyed any other class at UF even if he spends too much time away from the material.

In Legal Drafting, Lynn goes so fast that I have a hard time following her, but so does everyone else.

Mom phoned this evening, saying that Dad did okay with the Guess line at the menswear show considering that Sunday’s football games and Monday’s holiday kept customers away and that the New York menswear show overlapped with the Miami show this year. Marc managed to do some Introspect business at the show as well.

There was a lot of interest in Guess by Latin American retailers. However, the company doesn’t want its goods shipped out of the country, so Mom said they’re using the addresses of freight pass-through places or local stores who get a percentage for sending in the goods to Paraguay or Panama.