A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-September, 1991

Wednesday, September 11, 1991

4 PM. I’ve just come from Marty’s workshop in which she went over how different types on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator need to – hey, Marc just called. He and Denise are in the Holiday Inn.

Well, that means going out this evening. I’d planned to skip the GLSU meeting because I was tired and it’s an election meeting, but I have no work that can’t wait till the morning or tomorrow afternoon.

Anyway, back to the MBTI: Marty said we need to adjust our study styles to compensate for our weaknesses. The MBTI indicates sixteen types. I’m INFJ: Introverted (as opposed to Extroverted), Intuition (as opposed to Sensing), Feeling (as opposed to Thinking), and Judgment (as opposed to Perception).

The analysis says INFJs trust their own thoughts and inspirations rather than authorities or accepted wisdom, are only stimulated by problems, are independent and individualistic but value harmony and fellowship:

“INFJs can be great leaders. . . They lead by winning (rather than demanding) acceptance of their ideas. They are most content in work that satisfies both their intuition and feeling. Teaching in higher education [!] or through the arts [!] or ministry appeals to them. . .

“They are gifted in communicating their insights and take satisfaction in aiding the development of individual students. . . INFJs stand in danger from their single-minded devotion to their inspirations.

“They may see the goal so clearly, they fail to look for things which might conflict with the goal. They may not take the trouble to learn the details of the situation they prepare to change. . .

If their judgment is undeveloped [but I thought I scored high on judgment], they can’t evaluate their own inner vision nor will they listen to judgments from outside . . . they may try to regulate everything so that nothing comes of their inspirations but domestic tyranny.”

Sounds good – well, accurate – but then so do the horoscopes for Gemini.

Pete phoned again yesterday, and it was great to talk to a New York City friend, even if I mostly went on about myself and Gainesville and law school. Pete’s been to California, Italy and Mexico since I last saw him, and he won’t be New York at Christmas because his five-week trip to Southeast Asia is scheduled for then.

Before that trip, he’s going to visit Harold in Minneapolis on a free Pan Am flight (he got it for being bumped). I got a card from Harold today, replying to my own card. Harold says he feels lonely, but I know once school starts, he’ll be okay.

Anyway, I may see Pete if I go home to Fort Lauderdale for Presidents Day because he’s visiting his parents then – but now that I think of it, UF doesn’t get that as a holiday.

Up at 6 AM after a night of weird dreams (in a Manhattan nightclub, a Nazi soldier watched as I had sex with his Chinese daughter), exercised and arrived on campus at 8 AM. After getting the Times, I sat down to skim the paper. I noticed many UF faculty get the Times: Dowd and Pearson, among others.

Dowd called on me to recite the facts in a case today, and I swear my heartbeat was audible and my voice was shaking. But I didn’t falter, and she didn’t need to go to anyone else, and as she threw challenges at me, I began to feel more confidence and actually enjoy having to think quickly.

I can see the value of the Socratic method, but I also know it can be humiliating. As I left on a break before Crim Law, some people said, “Good job,” and one guy clapped my shoulder. That felt good.

The rest of my classes were fine, but Mashburn makes my head swim and I can barely keep my train of thought up to her mental and verbal gymnastics. Often I find myself still puzzling out a concept and she’s on to the next one.

But I can deal with not seeing every detail if I can get a big picture and a pattern. Marty Peters says that’s a trait of Intuition types. Incidentally, Feeling types make up less than 12% of the law school population, and probably most of the ones who are Feeling types are female.

But there was another guy in the group who had the same Indicator types as I did. Still, Feeling types are often law school dropouts, Marty said, not because they don’t have the brains or ability but because they feel out of place.

Thursday, September 12, 1991

4:30 PM. Marc and Denise came over at 6:30 PM yesterday. I went out to the parking lot to meet them and I hugged my brother, who introduced Denise, a tall, redheaded, stylishly-dressed woman.

They were tired from their long trip. On Sunday they drove to South of the Border, and by Monday they got to Carlisle, Pennsylvania (a lovely town, Ronna and others have told me), where Jason’s military school is located. They next day they went to the school, and Jason got oriented, fitted for his uniform and such while Marc and Denise toured the campus.

After mother and son said goodbye, Marc and Denise returned to the car and headed south. Yesterday they drove here from South of the Border.

I talked a lot about law school, naturally, and eventually we went out to dinner. Figuring Ruby Tuesday’s would be okay, I drove us to the mall and we had a pleasant meal.

Denise seems perfectly nice; she’s originally from Montclair, New Jersey, and works for an office supply company. I’ve always liked all of Marc’s girlfriends – even the crazy Nikki – though I haven’t known them very well. Naturally I have no way of knowing if they have a good relationship, but they certainly seem comfortable and caring with one another.

We walked around the Oaks Mall after dinner, and because they were tired, I let them go back to the hotel at 9 PM, saying I’d see them whenever in South Florida, and I called Dad to tell him Marc had gotten here okay. Marc seemed distracted, but he’d just driven thousands of miles in only a couple of days.

I fell asleep after I wondered when I’m going to have time to read all the magazines and newsletters Marc gave me from Mom: Electronic Learning, the newsletters from AWP, MacDowell, and more. Still, I need to keep up with other parts of my life besides my legal studies. Otherwise, I’ll just be defeating the point of being here – which is to make me a more well-rounded person.

Pete said, “Law school would be okay, I guess, if you can afford it.” I can’t afford it, of course, but when have I let that stop me before? People manage to do what they really want to do, just the way Pete manages to spend his time traveling to exotic destinations.

Marc did tell me he hasn’t made money in months and has recently begun living on credit cards because business is so bad at the flea market. I don’t hear good economic news from anyone except the Bush administration.

Today was a four-class day, but I enjoyed it. We all screwed up our one-case analysis, Thomson said, but that was to be expected. I understand that you can’t really learn the process until you begin to write. We can pick them up on Monday, and the two-case analysis will be due before the end of the month.

In Crim, we worked on the difficult concepts of analyzing the elements of a crime. I probably embarrassed myself because after Nunn gave a hypo about whether a Vietnam War protester would be committing treason by supporting the enemy and one student said sure, I alluded to my own antiwar activities. I’ll probably get pegged as the ex-student radical from the ’60s. Actually, that makes me sound much more interesting than I was.

In Civ Pro, I enjoyed our discussion, complex as it was, on the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the federal court’s right of inherent power to impose sanctions on parties.

Mashburn pointed out how distorted these reports get in the press, and I can see how the New York Times versions of this case, Chambers v. Nasco, as well as the recent Connecticut v. Doehr, were so simplistic as to be misleading.

In Jurisprudence, we finally finished our introduction to the course and will begin formal reading of cases next week. Collier outlined our themes so far and handed out a sample essay final, which doesn’t look hard at all.

The work is beginning to pile up, and I have to begin outlining this weekend. But I’m having fun so far.

Friday, September 13, 1991

9 PM. The JMBA orientation party is starting now, but I’m too tired to go, and besides, I don’t drink and I don’t feel comfortable around loud music and crowds. Also, I know a lot of people at school already and feel I can make friends there.

It’s true, I don’t have close friends I can see outside of school or talk to, but I’m at the law school nearly all day and I’m constantly seeing familiar faces.

It’s four weeks since the first day of orientation, and school has begun to become routine – although I still feel I’m learning tons of material and don’t have time to process it all. This weekend I plan to start outlines of my courses in addition to doing all my reading and briefing of cases.

Classes were fine today, and once again I felt I have begun to fit in at school. In Gainesville when I’m alone and not studying, I’ve thought a great deal about the experiences of my life, and they seem more special than they ever did.

I’ve been privileged to have been in the places I was when I was there. I also realize that at heart, my true vocation is storytelling. I try to think of ways to translate my experiences into coherent patters, and really, that’s what storytelling is all about.

What I like about my current life is that I’m involved with a completely new world, new people, and have a chance to start over, even though I don’t think I failed before.

In discussing his protagonist in True Believer, Wesley told the New York Times that it wasn’t true what they said about there being no second acts in American lives. Actually, I believe there are even third acts.

If I dropped dead of old age during the night, I know I’ll have accomplished more than I thought I could have back when I started writing these diaries, at 18 in the summer of 1969.

Yes, in some ways I have accomplished little: I’ve never had material success, and at this point I doubt I ever will be rich and famous. But I’ve had many moments like this one, times of pure happiness.

Saturday, September 14, 1991

4 PM. Teresa phoned last night, and it felt good to hear her voice. She said that my postcards sounded very upbeat, especially coming from “my most depressed friend.” Do I really come off that depressed, or is it just that Teresa doesn’t know me well anymore?

I did much of the talking, but I was glad to hear Teresa managed to put away $10,000 this summer, and with her parents’ help, she plans to buy a new car.

She made an agreement with the Oyster Bay Cove subtenant to have him stay upstairs and give her the basement and use of the kitchen until the landlords want the house. That will be soon, but they’re on good terms: Teresa is catering Bruce’s 40th birthday party next weekend.

On Fire Island, Brian had gone into one of his it’s-all-too-much-for-me moods last night and retreated to his own house after Teresa had been bugging him to give her his permit for her new car, when she gets it, so she can drive onto the beach.

Of course, Teresa wouldn’t be Teresa without her usual legal and people problems. An irate neighbor tipped off the Town of Islip health department, which sent someone out who demanded her catering business cease operations. Since the summer’s over, she’d already stopped. She said that this summer she let a lot of her old workers go and hired newer, younger ones who work harder for less money.

And she plans to stay at David and Christine’s winterized house for most of the fall. Teresa said maybe she’ll drive down here this winter. Her parents stay with relatives in New Port Richey, which is only a few hours from Gainesville.

Most of the day I studied law. I ate and exercised and potchkeyed around a little, but I spent a solid six or seven hours working. I read and briefed this week’s cases for Contracts, Torts, and Jurisprudence, and I read ahead in Criminal Law but didn’t brief the cases yet.

Tomorrow I’ll do that and my 30 pages of Civ Pro and the reading for Legal Research and Writing and work on my outlines, though I have a pretty clear sense of where I am in each class.

Law school may be different from all the other schools I’ve attended, but after this term, in three months (or 13 weeks), I’ll have taken my finals and survived my first semester. And I’ll never have to wonder what it’s like again after I’ve gotten through it.

The workload is daunting, but I have no doubt I can handle it if my classmates can. The one thing about UF having a spring entering class is that we don’t have to be the new guys for more than one semester. In January, there’ll be a whole new group of people confused at orientation.

I can hear the crowds and the loudspeaker at the Florida-Alabama game, which started at the stadium at 7:30 PM.

Monday, September 16, 1991

4:30 PM. Even though I slept nine hours last night, I still feel tired now. But maybe it’s simply because I just arrived home. I may feel like doing some work again after I’ve wound down from the day and have eaten dinner and relaxed.

Up at 6 AM, I exercised and went off to school after my usual routine of breakfast, a shower, and dressing. Today we had our lab at the library, but only four out of the six of us in Scott’s group showed: me, Gena, Rosemarie and Jonathan. We did an exercise involving Florida Statutes Annotated.

Later in the day we got back our papers, and mine was, like everyone else’s, covered with corrections. I got a 3, which is average, but Scott had originally given me a 3- and then, as I’ve done in grading so many times, he crossed out the minus sign.

Is my ego hurt? Well, they keep telling us not to worry, but I’m not really worried. After all I’ve published, my confidence in my writing ability isn’t going to suffer.

But it does point up a problem I didn’t have at BCC: here, nobody knows I’m an author, except maybe a few people I’ve told and they probably don’t take me seriously.

At times it’s hard for me, like that time when I first moved to Fort Lauderdale and attended a lecture by an attorney who published a novel with a vanity press. The adult-education instructor who’d invited him treated my skeptical questions with contempt.

Still, that’s a good lesson. The black professor who’s mistaken for a custodian, the woman surgeon thought to be a nurse’s aide: they have it a lot worse.

Remember in Buñuel’s film The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie how the bishop is shooed away when he shows up at the door in farmer’s clothes, yet just five minutes later, in clerical garb, he’s obsequiously welcomed by the very people who chased him off before?

And don’t we all have the nightmare of being back in grade school, unable to convince anyone we’re adults?

Steve F said I should have gone to Friday’s party: lots of people came, including Dowd and her young child. She had a good class today, as did Davis in Contracts. I think I’m getting the idea of promissory estoppel, a term I’ve been trying to figure out since I found it in Black’s three months ago.

I took the receipt from my utility bill – $90, shockingly high, I thought – to the Alachua County Public Library and got a library card although I’ll probably never get to read for pleasure while I’m in town.

In the library, I briefed the first Civ Pro case and then went to Jurisprudence, where we discussed U.S. v. Calley. I kept quiet mostly, not wanting to become the Ancient Mariner of the ’60s, stopping one out of three to tell about what it was like then.

Lawrence, the right-wing Roy Cohn-in-training, asked if there indeed was anything particularly wrong with killing women and children. I should have replied that it’s natural law.

Actually, guys like Gene and Steve, who’d spent years in the military, were the most emphatic that if Calley had gotten an order telling him to waste all those people, any officer would know it was an illegal order.

The main issue is the Nuremberg defense, of course, but I think I’ll xerox the opening chapter of Roth’s Our Gang, when Nixon contemplates what he’d do if Calley performed an abortion at My Lai, and give it to Lawrence.

Wednesday, September 18, 1991

4 PM. If today is Yom Kippur, there’s no way I would have known it. Every Jewish classmate seemed to be in attendance today, so either law students are all as unobservant as I am or else they are religious but fear Civil Procedure more than they do the wrath of G-d.

I just took a shower and am trying to unwind. Today should have been a “light” day with only three hours of class instead of four, but it seems as if it was as long as Monday and Tuesday were.

Part of it is I didn’t sleep well for the second night in a row. I can’t seem to stop my racing mind. Actually, it would have been a pleasure to take Yom Kippur off for a day of reflection, if not atonement, although I could argue that law school is already a punishment for my sins.

It’s just that the work is so relentless. I, who am usually good at controlling my time, can never stay even. Today’s classes seemed more mind-numbing than usual.

Torts was okay, but in Crim Law, Nunn confused all of us with mens rea, and Mashburn skillfully explained some of the Rules of Civil Procedure, but she lost me somewhere in the first fifteen minutes and my brain never quite caught up.

It’s time to buy some study aids. God knows how my classmates manage: presumably some of them have social or family lives. Maybe because I’m older, it’s harder for me.

There’s an older transfer student in our Jurisprudence class who told Karin the professors just love to play with your brains in the first year, but once they’ve got you “thinking like a lawyer,” school reverts to a more familiar pattern, and there’s a lot less murky speculation.

In a way, the teachers tease us all the time, always seeming to come close to giving us an answer but never quite, always taking it back at the last minute.

Last evening I did a lot of revising on my one-case memo. Scott’s and Pat Thomson’s comments helped me trim the fat and streamline my writing. It’s always a pleasure to play with words on the computer.

I didn’t quite finish revising the one-case memo yet, but I’ll do it by Friday, and then I’ll find it easier, I hope, to graft the second case onto it.

I just can’t get ahead in Civ Pro; that course is giving me the most trouble, and I’ll be ready for those tutoring sessions I signed up for. Contracts and Torts are both tricky, but I have a clear outline of where we’ve gone already, and basically I get all the concepts.

Criminal Law isn’t that easy lately, but I feel confident that I can get at least a C on Nunn’s final, and I feel the same about Jurisprudence. And if I don’t get an S in Legal Research and Writing, something is seriously wrong.

I guess my real problem with law school is you have to have the goal of becoming a lawyer so strongly in mind that you’ll take all this bullshit, and I’m just not motivated, making it easy for me to walk away.

But haven’t I been like that all my life? I’ve never been able to commit to a career, a job, a place, or a person. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but my inability to sustain commitments is the major reason why I haven’t been more successful in the conventional sense.

I feel like an outsider everywhere, not because I’m not made to feel welcome, but – why? Because I like to feel superior, and if I don’t try, I can’t fail? Oh dear, I need to sleep.

I exercised lightly to Homestretch when I came home for lunch, but I need more of a release. No matter how much work I’ve got, I need to make some time to reward myself other than Simple Pleasures Light Caramel Chocolate or the pages of The Wall Street Journal.

Maybe I should treat myself to a movie – or even renting a videotape might be a nice diversion. If I didn’t need to sleep, life would be a lot simpler. Boy, I’ve really started to complain over the last few days, haven’t I?

I got my 1992 diary via UPS today.

Thursday, September 19, 1991

4:30 PM.  Another day at law school is over. I’m tired now, but at least I slept okay last night, and I was even thinking of going out tonight.

GLSU is having a discussion group at the church next door, and on campus there’s a debate between George McGovern and William F. Buckley. I’ll see how I feel and if I can keep my eyes open.

On campus at 7:30 AM, I wanted to see Pat Thomson when she got in, but she was late and didn’t arrive till 8:40 AM. In the meantime, I read the Times and chatted with Pauline, a black woman in our class who said, “We older people have to stick together,” and told me she, too, wore a “Free Huey” button back in the early ’70s, “an exciting time to be alive.”

I showed Pat my revised memo and she cleared up some questions I had, and then, in class, she gave us pretty clear explanations for the two-case analysis due on Monday. I think I’ve now got that format and should at least get an average grade.

My experience as a writer may work against me in the class because I’ve developed such definite ideas about writing that I find it hard to follow rules which I don’t always find logical.

I enjoyed Crim, and after lunch, I used that CALI software that Mashburn told us about. A diskette lesson on Rule 12 motions really helped, though I need to go through the quiz/tutorial a little more before I really understand it. In any case, today’s class was a bit more comprehensible.

I still have to do the reading for Crim and Civ Pro for tomorrow, but I’ll have time, and I probably don’t need to start the two-case analysis until the weekend because I have no need to let Pat or Scott see it until it’s done.

Collier ended our discussion of the Calley case by talking about Stanley Milgram’s “obedience to authority” experiments I remember from Psych 2 back in 1970 (and the William Shatner TV movie). On Monday we’re seeing a film about the Katz case about deprogramming Moonies and we’re doing a group exercise with that.

So – this weekend I can review a little. Right now I’m slightly ahead in my readings for Contracts and Jurisprudence, so I’ll have I’ll have time for the memo and my outlines.

Friday, September 20, 1991

9 PM. Yesterday I went out to Maas Brothers after dinner and bought an expensive pair of Levis walking shorts. My philosophy is buy one really nice item and wear it a lot rather than buy many cheap items.

I looked good in a 31, but I decided to buy a looser-fitting 32 in case I keep gaining weight. I really haven’t gained since I got here, but I’m also about ten pounds heavier than I was last summer.

I came home from the department store feeling tired, but I decided to go out to the O’Connell Center, the basketball arena, and see the McGovern/Buckley debate.

Sitting way up high in the stands and chatting with some undergrads who want to go to law school, I did see a few of my classmates there, but I didn’t join any of them. It was good enough to be out in public at this event; I started to feel like a human being instead of merely a student in law school.

Buckley and McGovern both acted as I expected, and there wasn’t much zip to the official debate issue, “Is Liberalism Dying?” The crowd was clearly with McGovern, who after all did carry Alachua County in ’72.

I left after the first 90 minutes, when each had made half-hour opening statements and 15-minute rebuttals, and before audience questions. Back home, it was after 11 PM when I fell asleep, but I woke up, as usual, at 6 AM even though I could have slept a bit later.

I used the extra hour to brief cases for Crim and Civ Pro that we ended up not getting around to today. On campus, I looked at the Council of 10 bulletin board and saw the listing for the tutors’ groups. My Civ Pro tutor told us to meet him at noon.

In Crim, we discussed mistakes of law, and after class, Larry and I waited for Cheryl to meet us for lunch, but she never showed up, so we went to the cafeteria by ourselves.

This guy, Darin, joined us; he’s nice but kind of geeky the way screwed-up gay guys can be at that age when they don’t yet realize they’re gay. He’ll probably blossom late.

He and Larry are both a little too young for me. I don’t mean that in any way except as friends, of course. It’s just that Larry spent lunch relating last night’s episode of The Simpsons in great detail.

At noon, Marc, Lorraine and I were the only ones in our group (which also includes Pauline, Steve F and others) to show up to talk with our Civ Pro tutor Prescott, who’s got the air of a farmer (he did grow up on a farm) but who is helpful and very bright (he got an A with Mashburn last fall, the first time she taught).

He’s putting the answers to his final on reserve, as well as an outline for Civ Pro and for Davis’s Contracts, and he gave us advice on study aids and tips about Mashburn.

Lorraine is one of the anxious ones – she feels she must make law review and needs to get a high-paying job to support herself and pay off her loans – but she’s not as bad as the woman Karin saw in the bathroom, compulsively washing her hands and talking to herself about Contracts.

I sat outside on the steps with Midori as she ate her lunch, and then I was approached by Costas and Dan M, inviting me to join the study group they and Todd are starting.

They’d just gone to Marty’s workshop and were impressed by the second-year group who discussed their experiences. Dan and Costas said they were looking for a diverse group of four or five.

I hadn’t thought about a study group, but I was flattered that they asked me and I agreed to join them. In the cafeteria, I met Todd – they’d all been in the same orientation group – and we decided we’d meet after every class, if we could, to go over our notes.

Just about all the first-year students who went to Marty’s workshop seemed to putting themselves in study groups.

When Dan, Costas and Todd said they would like a female for more diversity, I suggested Karin, who was eating lunch nearby with Gene and Judy, the woman in her fifties from Jacksonville. They had figured Karin was already in a group, but said they’d love to get her if she would consider joining.

Before class, I spoke to Michael K, who missed Jurisprudence yesterday. I don’t know if I’m misreading his signals, but I thought we might have a mutual attraction. Michael isn’t cute like the younger guys, but he’s good-looking and very bright, and I find him sweet and sexy.

Is he gay? And if he is, he may already be involved. Well, I tend to go slowly. It might be nice to get to know him, especially because he’s in only one of my classes.

I am glad I don’t find any of the guys in my study group attractive; they’re quiet, bookish types with glasses, but they seem mature and diligent.

As I walked to Civ Pro, Angelina said, “Richard, your book bag is unzipped and everything’s hanging out!” I thanked her and joked that at least I was glad my fly was zipped up so that only law books were hanging out.

Mashburn was her usual intense self. Anyone who loves the rules of civil procedure as much as she does is a sick person, but I can appreciate her sickness because I find stuff like that fun, too.

Karin agreed to join the study group; she had tentatively joined another one but decided ours would be better because of the people. So Karin, Costas, Dan, Todd and I sat on a bench and debriefed the day’s classes.

Today I read my notes aloud and they filled in; we’ll all take turns doing that. It really did seem to help and is a way of forcing ourselves to review the material and understand what we didn’t quite get in class.

What I love about law school, aside from the subject matter, is the feeling I’m beginning to get of a sense of a community, something I haven’t felt this strongly since my days at Brooklyn College in LaGuardia Hall.