A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-October, 1993
Tuesday, October 12, 1993
8 PM. Although I have a zillion things to do, I can’t seem to get focused.
Just now I was so restless that I exercised to a Body Electric tape even though I’d already worked out for a half-hour today.
Last night I didn’t sleep well. A lot of my insomnia was caused by thinking about all the work I have to get done this week, but at least some of it was because I kept thinking about my utterly juvenile infatuation with Javier.
Even though my first class today wasn’t till 9:10 AM, I got to school at 7:30 AM because I hoped I could see Javier – yes, I know his schedule – but he wasn’t around.
I did see him this afternoon – yes, I went back early so I could catch him coming out of class – when I babbled something and handed him a copy of Eating at Arby’s and the autobiographical Go Not to Lethe story, the pages of which I tore it out of With Hitler in New York.
Immediately afterwards I felt so stoopid about bothering him. I still do.
Look, the guy has dozens of friends who are gay, and if he doesn’t have a steady partner by now, everyone in this town is nuts.
Still, at the law school, I always see Javier by himself while I’m usually surrounded by pals.
Anyhow, I guess it’s sort of a step forward for me to make a fool of myself over a guy.
Javier barely notices me. I’ve never gotten the slightest indication he was interested in me – and I don’t mean sexually or romantically, but just as a friend.
On the other hand, what did I have to lose except my dignity? I was acting as cringey as Laura Wingfield with the Gentleman Caller.
I don’t even have to go to Legal History on the same day Javier does, so I could easily avoid him if I think I’ve irredeemably embarrassed myself.
I know I’ll get over this crush, but it’s sort of nice to know I could feel this goofy about someone at my age.
I mean, this is totally ridiculous: I don’t even know this guy, and I’ve idealized him so.
What’s weirdest is that physically, he’s not my type at all. But I’m incredibly attracted to his brain and his sense of himself.
In one of our afternoons lying in my king-sized bed in Sunrise, Sean once told me, “You’ve really got your act together.” But that’s ten times truer of Javier. He’s so uncool that he’s the coolest guy I’ve ever met.
Yesterday in a review of a new work at City Opera – Esther, based on the Purim story – the New York Times critic wrote: “Joseph Corteggiano was a warm but stern Mordechai.”
I realized that was probably Teresa’s old friend Joseph, the caterer, hair stylist and companion to the late Ed. He was studying opera, and I remembered that Teresa had said he was a basso profondo.
When I got home at 10 PM last night, I called Teresa in Fire Island, waking her up. But she said yes, that was indeed Joseph and that she would call him to offer our congratulations.
I’m so glad he achieved his dream, especially since he had to go through Ed’s death. (For all I know, Joseph is HIV-positive, so who knows what the future will bring him.)
Class at Santa Fe went fine last night, though I don’t think I will watch The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie again any time soon.
In the office before class, Tamarsha spent an hour telling me about her 18-year-old son, who’s spent six years in and out of prisons, where they’ve beaten him, treated him with psychotropic drugs he didn’t need (after they misdiagnosed him as paranoid-schizophrenic), and locked him up in solitary, naked, for weeks at a time.
Tamarsha says he keeps getting taken in for violating parole because the cops here in Gainesville are so racist and brutal.
I’m sure part of what she says is true, but I suspect her son probably does steal, sell drugs, and beat up his girlfriend – the offenses he’s been charged with.
Tamarsha had an appointment to see Marsha at the Civil Clinic today, and Marsha said she kept it – but of course Marsha couldn’t violate confidentiality by telling me anything more.
I got to school early, as I said. In International Law, Nagan again lectured on national security doctrine, and I made the mistake of asking too many questions. (I wanted to know why his proposal to turn Somalia back into a UN trusteeship wasn’t neocolonialism.)
While I was looking out for Javier, I sat on the steps with guys from my first-semester small group whom I rarely see on campus anymore: Kenny H, Barry (who’s got a job at $70,000-plus with a D.C. law firm), and Greg and his girlfriend.
I felt no weirdness in listening to them talk sports and shit and then going over to intercept Javier. I almost would have liked to tell them it was “homo business” or something like that.
When Steve F came into Negotiation, he said, “We really screwed up.” Yeah, I guess we did – although one other person came out with minus more points than I did.
I felt so bad about how I’d done that I was uncharacteristically silent the whole class.
On Thursday, I’ve got a complicated divorce negotiation with Mark M and a negotiation plan due that morning.
Plus, tomorrow Kevin and I will meet at noon to confer before we spend an hour negotiating with Anoush and Aileen, who represent the environmentalists.
And I have to grade papers for tomorrow night’s Santa Fe class tomorrow and also prepare my lesson.
Thursday, October 14, 1993
7 PM. Last evening I had a good class at SFCC, discussing Lawrence’s “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter” and starting our unit on drama with The Glass Menagerie. We had good discussions, and by this point in the term I feel fond of my students.
Ken, who works for the Navy at UF, stayed to discuss the errors I found in his paper – but he was grateful, not resentful, and I walked to the parking lot with Christian, my cool young student, as we talked about R.E.M. and Kafka.
He lives 60 miles north in Live Oak but has two jobs in the mall – one at Babbage’s computer software store – and mostly hangs out here in Gainesville, where he plays softball.
While I think this town is backward compared to New York or South Florida, it must be paradise to someone from Live Oak – or, like Jody was, from Fort White and High Springs.
Still, coming home from school this morning I heard a disgusting radio ad against “special rights” for gays, urging listeners to sign petitions to get a vote to overturn the county gay rights ordinance on the ballot.
At noon, I heard Javier on the radio news, responding eloquently to the Concerned Citizens’ hate campaign. What a guy.
I saw him today when I was leaving law school after 4 PM, but Steve L from Negotiation was talking to me, and I wasn’t going to suddenly excuse myself to catch up with Javier.
To him, I must seem like a totally frivolous person. I understand how he feels: Gainesville is his community.
It’s how I would have felt if there was an anti-gay campaign in Brooklyn when I was his age.
But all I could think of when I heard that incitement of a commercial was that I’m glad I’ll be out of this town after graduation.
At its worst, homophobia in New York City, and even in South Florida, never reached the level it does here.
Of course, it’s true that I see it mostly through the media. I listen to local news only because they interrupt the NPR news shows for WUFT break-in segments (the last week has been the horrible “pledge week”), and I read about local news in the Alligator or when I can grab the Gainesville Sun for free.
I don’t watch TV20’s local news and haven’t even been following the Rolling case.
Anyway, I fell asleep by 11 PM, something I realized only when Mark M woke me up with a late phone call.
His girlfriend had to student-teach today, and he asked if I could do him a big favor: follow him to the elementary school so he could leave his car for his girlfriend and then drive him back to law school.
No problem, I said, and I hung up and fell back into a sweet deep sleep.
Although I didn’t sleep for more than six and a half hours, that rejuvenated me enough so that I felt fine at 6 AM.
Baldwin’s class was great. We went over Florida v. Bostick, upholding a search and seizure of drugs from a Fort Lauderdale bus passenger. I had printed out the Florida District Court of Appeal dissent from which Baldwin took his facts, so I could say more about the case than anyone else.
At home, I exercised and ate lunch. Mark came over after the meeting about next term’s clinics. I followed him to an East Side school, and we drove back to campus together.
Mark told me his father was originally from Flatbush and that his parents are divorced and remarried. I figured that experience would cause him to be sympathetic toward the kids in the case, and apparently it did.
We still had a long negotiating session and probably ended up the way we both did last week: with a fair deal and low scores. But I did manage to come up with what I thought was a creative custody agreement.
Both sides wanted to keep the joint custody arrangement they had, but the judge wouldn’t accept it, so while the wife (my client) got custody, we agreed to ask the judge to give the husband the obligation to take care of the kids three days a week.
Since the judge rarely reads agreements carefully, we can probably get joint custody in fact, if not in name. And we’ll get points if Don thinks it’s creative.
(Steve L and his partner had the kids stay in the house and the parents move in and out alternating weeks.)
Back at home, I read the AWP Newsletter that came in today’s mail. Lately I’ve resumed submitting to places looking for stories and essays.
Monday, October 18, 1993
Noon. Last evening, after I had dinner and watched the excellent last half of La Dolce Vita, I got an unexpected call from Sat Darshan in Phoenix.
She explained that she’s been too busy to write and can’t afford to call very often.
Sat Darshan and Ravinder are really struggling financially although their mortgage sounds pretty reasonable by big-city standards.
She still likes her job at the Montessori school, where she gets to be around kids and there’s little pressure from the boss, who leaves at 2 PM while she stays on till 5 PM.
But she’s had to supplement her income by cleaning the school in the evenings and taking on another cleaning job on alternate nights.
Sat Darshan and Ravinder have both begun to consider taking civil service jobs with the state or city (“See, we do turn into our parents”). In Phoenix, Ravinder can make only $200 a week driving a cab, so he keeps going back to New York City – he’s there now – where he can make $500 a week.
Despite barely scraping by there, Sat Darshan likes Phoenix and even Ravinder notices how grim and glum New York looks when he goes back.
Her daughters are okay in their school in India; the older one is in seventh grade and struggles, and the little one is very bright but doesn’t try that hard.
Sat Darshan’s grandfather finally died at 97 this summer. Her father has had a series of small strokes, which have impaired him slightly, and her mother nearly died from congestive heart failure and pneumonia after having a lumpectomy for breast cancer.
Her sister now lives in Pasadena, where she kind of broke up with her boyfriend and seems to be having some kind of nervous breakdown. But the sisters don’t really talk anymore, and Sat Darshan doesn’t even know what kind of job Ellen has.
She told me that Grant and Libby moved from Van Nuys to Woodland Hills – Sat Darshan gave me their new address – and hopefully that’s a step up for them.
Helmut is coming this week to visit her, although – typically – he didn’t write till the day before he and his wife left Germany for San Francisco.
They’re renting a car and will drive over to Phoenix before they fly back to San Francisco, so I don’t expect to see them while they’re in the U.S.
She told me about Phoenix’s weather (“I’m a desert person now,” she said) and her neighborhood and Ravinder’s trip to India to see his family and settle his father’s estate with his seven brothers and sisters.
Sat Darshan said that Sikh families are similar to Jewish families, citing the lavish bar mitzvah-like parties celebrating her nephews’ turban-tying ceremonies that her nouveau riche sister-in-law threw.
We talked for 90 minutes, and I told her I was really glad she called and happy we haven’t lost touch.
I didn’t have nearly that much to catch up on with Ronna, who’d spent much of the evening on the phone with Cara and Sid and then Susan and Evan (all of whom said hi to me).
She said that Steve took charge at his father’s unveiling rather than have a rabbi, and that her relationship with him is “better than not.” (I didn’t ask her for clarification.)
Ronna’s very busy at work these days, although when her mother visited for the Jewish holidays, she took off for a week so she and Beatrice could go to Massachusetts.
When I talked about my silly crush on Javier, Ronna said that sometimes it’s nice to have these feelings, if only because you know you’re still capable of them.
I told her to be on the lookout for any roommate situation for me in the city. David needs a roommate, but I couldn’t afford half of his $1,395 rent.
Ronna and Susan are both interested in the Brooklyn College reunion this coming May, and they’ll keep me posted about it.
The sun finally came out this morning. I left early for school, where I attended Nagan’s lecture on diplomatic recognition.
After getting a haircut, I came home and got a call from Pamela Gordon of the Book Fair. She wanted to get me a flight to Miami, but I told her I’d prefer to drive, and she said she would check to see if they can reimburse me for travel expenses.
I told her that even if they didn’t, I’d probably just drive down and chalk up the car rental to my vacation; after all, I do want to see my parents.
Pamela’s made arrangements to put Rick, Lucinda and Denise Duhamel up at a hotel both Friday and Saturday night. Our panel – Pamela called it a “reading” – is scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
I figure I can skip my one class on Monday morning and stay over at my parents’ house on the Sunday night. I can still drive back to Gainesville in time to teach my Monday night SFCC class.
When Pamela asked for the address and phone of my “publishers,” I gave her the info for Zephyr Press so she can order some copies of I Brake for Delmore Schwartz – and maybe With Hitler in New York if there are any left – to try to sell at the Book Fair.
Well, I’ve got to get moving and start doing something today.
Tuesday, October 19, 1993
4:30 PM. I’m tired and headachy, but if I have insomnia tonight, the way I did a week ago, I’ve got plenty of work I can catch up on while I’m awake.
Yesterday afternoon I went back to school, where I first sat outside reading the new Docket.
Michael K introduced me to his wife – so much for my thinking he was gay – and asked if I could lend him one of my books. He said he’s always admired creative writers, and of course I’ll be happy to give him a copy of something.
Actually, I’m really happy about the Miami Book Fair, which – like being on the state Literature Panel last summer – is a rare chance for me to be treated as a writer.
Last evening’s class at Santa Fe went okay although I now have a dozen papers to grade for next week.
After we talked about the Lawrence story, I began the drama unit with Tennessee Williams, letting them out at 9:15 PM when I ran out of energy.
But I didn’t get home any earlier than usual because one woman came up to me and talked for 15 minutes. She explained that she found the stories so “morbid” that she had “a mental block” against writing the last assignment.
I told her to relax and take it easy and not drop the class because she’ll pass even if she’s missing an essay. (She already has an old A.A. degree and needs English 102 just so she can take the CLAST.)
At home, I finished reading Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, which I’d begun that afternoon. Kushner’s play is stunning, and it must be even better on stage: he’s made an important statement about the 1980s although I’m not sure exactly what it is.
Of course I come from his New York/gay/Jewish sensibility, and I’m interested in AIDS, Reaganism, justice and all that. I’m even interested in Mormons and Roy Cohn, whose depiction in the play is devastating.
This morning the Alligator didn’t print my letter, but their editorial, titled “Televised Hatred,” said the commercials only proved that the Concerned Citizens weren’t interested in issues but were a hate group directed against gays.
Nagan’s class was okay today, though I felt tired and left campus right afterwards. Steve S spotted me walking to the car and waited for me to pull out so he could take my parking space.
A few hours later, somewhat rested, I was back at school and chatting with Shara (who I don’t get to get to see much anymore), Pauline, Kenny K, Nancy and a few others about what they plan to take next term.
Most of my classmates are trying to get into one of the clinics. It seems like they don’t run enough sections.
Don went over the divorce negotiation, and Mark and I scored somewhere in the middle; I didn’t really look at all the scores.
We’ve got that three-way personal injury negotiation on Thursday – two hours, videotaped – but the class got Don to move the due date of our reaction papers from Friday at 5 PM to Monday at noon.
Tomorrow I’m meeting my partner, Steve L, at 10:20 AM, after my classes. We represent a hotel that’s being sued, along with an airline (whose lawyers are Darren and Mark B), by a couple on behalf of their child (represented by Kevin and Steve F). I haven’t read my confidential facts yet.
On Friday at 9:10 AM, Kevin and I are going to meet Darren and Steve F in our respective roles as the county and the developers in the ongoing final negotiation.
Kevin and I met after class for an hour, and he reported on his phone call last night to Elizabeth (playing our client, the county’s “Martha Greenpiece”).
He and I went over strategy for the Friday meeting. So far Kevin’s done much more work on this than I have, and I need to start pulling my weight.
I came home at 4 PM. This morning my lenses were irritating me so badly that I wore my glasses this afternoon.
I got my Burdines credit card in the mail. It will come in handy, as I need to buy jeans – I got my last pair over three years ago – and dress shoes. (It’s embarrassing for me not to have a single pair.)