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FIRST FALL IN GAINESVILLE
Superstition Mountain Press Phoenix – 2012
Copyright © 2012 by Richard Grayson. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Superstition Mountain Press 4303 Cactus Road Phoenix, AZ 85032
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
For Liz McCulloch
First Fall in Gainesville
Friday, August 16, 1991
8 PM. Today was a long day, as I was orientation from 8 AM till 4 PM. I’m already tired, so I’m not even going to think about law school tonight. I’ve put away all my papers and materials. Law school obviously is going to be an intense experience, and one person in today’s blur of speakers and faces said it was akin to being immersed in a foreign culture: the new language, customs and norms are strange, and their presence in your life becomes overwhelming for a while. What makes it easier is that everyone is a bit scared and rather confused at this point. And
the University of Florida seems like a law school where you’re not just left to sink or swim; we were put in small groups with an older student, and our group had a very caring adviser, Cheryl, who plans to get together with us regularly and who said we should call her at any time. The eight of us exchanged phone numbers, and I was in the same group as the people who sat on either side of me in the auditorium: Barry, a former IBM salesman from Boca, and Angelina, a Gainesville English teacher. Both are married but at least a decade younger than I, and I didn’t see too many people in our class of 200 who looked 40 or older. Still, I didn’t want to join the special nontraditional student group for orientation. After coffee and cake and numb chatter, we sat alphabetically for 3½ hours, listening to speeches and filling out forms. I didn’t remember much of what any of the people said, but the Dean (in law school there are several deans but only one guy – in our case, Jeff Lewis – is The Dean) talked about really loving the law. I can’t see loving something I don’t understand, although in my reading so far I’ve come across one elegant phrase by Holmes (“words are but the skin of living thoughts”) and a brilliant argued, eloquent decision by Cardozo. (Byron White’s opinion, however,
seemed muddled and awkward by comparison.) Diane Ferrara, the president of the John Marshall Bar Association, the student government that ran orientation and which runs the Justice Story Book Exchange and most activities, spoke (she’s from Fort Lauderdale), as did Abbey Milon, a UF grad and president of the local bar association, who jokingly told us to leave Gainesville after graduation because too many people want to stay on here and the attorneys don’t want more competition. Cheryl took us to lunch with a faculty member, Prof. Peterson, a torts expert that none of us have – he seemed nice so I was surprised to hear later his students call him “The Devil” – and then we saw the library, the offices, classrooms, etc. Some of the sights may stick in memory, but now I remember more the hints older students (you know what I mean: second- and third-year students) gave us, and the warm sympathy of Marty Peters, a woman who’s the school’s counselor. I was impressed with the care UF takes in helping students and hope it’s for real. Cheryl said that most of the deans and professors are accessible. Anyway, I absorbed a great deal today, and I’m not sure recording it would do much good now.
I can see that being a first-year law student is probably like being in boot camp, and I hope the feelings of “we’re all in this together” continue to outweigh the competition among students. The reports on our section’s professors are pretty good, even Davis, the Contracts prof, who’s hard but fair, intimidating but not sadistic. Tired at 4 PM when I got home, I ate some needed veggies and took off to NCNB so I could deposit my two unemployment checks (one forwarded from Rockaway by Aunt Tillie and the other sent to my apartment here in Gainesville) in my new checking account. (Bush declared he won’t let us have extended benefits, so I don’t have many checks left.) On Monday, we have the financial aid workshops, registration (cost is about $1500), ID cards, and filling out more forms. There’s a party at some third-year student’s house tonight, but I’m too tired and need to just veg out. I do feel an age gap; people kept asking me where I “went to college” and my undergrad years at Brooklyn seem like such a faraway part of my life.
Saturday, August 17, 1991
7 PM. My exhaustion led me to fall asleep at 9 PM yesterday. I slept fairly well until 4 AM, when I started having nightmares, one after another. The images weren’t monsters but those of intense anxiety as I felt myself in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Rockaway and Broward County with friends and family. The dreaming was lucid, however; I knew that if things got too intense, I could open my eyes and the anxiety-provoking images would disappear and be replaced by that of the lamp on my night table. Insight strikes: I used the phrase “if things got too intense.” Intense was a word I used yesterday to describe the law school experience. Eventually my dreams settled down, but I didn’t awaken until after 8 PM, meaning I slept nearly 11 hours. Even now, my wrists and ankles ache, and I’m sure that’s because of the tension yesterday. Perhaps UF deliberately scheduled orientation on a Friday to give us the weekend to recover. In any case, I’m grateful. I went out only twice today: this morning to get the papers and some veggies at Publix, and at 4 PM, when I took a walk to the main campus and wandered around the older brick buildings near University Avenue.
I feel very comfortable in Gainesville, but of course the settling-in process has barely begun, and I’m sure things will change drastically when all the other UF students – undergrads and grad students – arrive in town this week. I read the materials given out yesterday, including the law school catalog, an issue of the alumni magazine, and an article – yet another – on how to be successful in law school. I’ve got to avoid the tendency to get too caught up in the young students’ feelings about law school. Most of them have their whole identities tied up into being lawyers, and they’re already worried if they don’t well, they won’t have the good life they envision. At 40, I know that many lawyers are unhappy and even abuse alcohol and drugs; many have poor family lives and feel they’ve sacrificed a lot of life in pursuit about whatever the rewards billable hours bring. Even though some people might view my presence at law school as an indication that I’ve failed as a writer and a college teacher, I refuse to define myself as anything but a roaring success. And I’ll be successful whether or not I get my J.D. Just coming here to Gainesville and living on my own, testing myself like this, not being
in a rut, means I’m growing – and that, to me, is success. Yes, I plan to study hard because studying hard is fun (well, not much of the time, but the process can be enjoyable). Law school may be difficult (but a wag on TV said last night, “If it’s so hard, how come there are so many lawyers?”); however, everything that’s worth doing is difficult. The easy stuff, you tend to devalue. I don’t want to lose sight of my goals and my mission: to enjoy life and to see what I can do to express myself and maybe make a difference. Cornpone time, huh? Aside from studying hard – but smart – I want to make time to eat right, sleep enough, exercise daily, read the papers and keep up with the world, and make friends. I’d like to go to a meeting of the Gay and Lesbian Student Union so I can meet other gay people. Obviously, there are other gay people at law school, but in my class of 200, it would be hard to locate one, I’m sure. I’d also like to take part in some literary activities at the main campus. If Santa Fe Community College does come up with an evening or weekend class for me, I’ll take it. I need to be more than just a law student. Mom said I got a letter from a professor at a SUNY college, asking for a suggestion for an
academic to do an article on me for a volume of The Dictionary of Literary Biography or something on Post-1945 American Short Story Writers. That’ll be giving my fiction the same legitimacy that inclusion in Contemporary Literary Criticism did, and of course that pleases me. Anyway, I shouldn’t forget that my physical and mental health and my friends and family are more important than law school grades.
Sunday, August 18, 1991
7 PM. Tomorrow is the second day of orientation, and then on Tuesday, law school really begins. A couple of times today I thought I was coming down with the flu or something, but probably it’s just nerves. I slept okay last night, and now I have something to do when I can’t sleep, as when I got up at 4 AM: I can always read my law books. When I taught at Broward Community College, grading papers was always hanging over my head, but I expect reading cases is easier. I haven’t briefed any cases yet, but I’ve read my assignments for the week, finished most of Effective Legal Writing, and gone through the first chapters of Prosser & Keaton on Torts, a
hornbook that summarizes rules and principles in the field. I don’t have the proper terminology yet, but I’m sure there are a few of my fellow students who don’t yet know what a tort is. I can see I’ll be hard-pressed to avoid pressure imposed by myself and my peers, but I’ve got to remember that I’m not betting the farm on law school. Up at 7 AM today, I got the New York Times and Gainesville Sun and read both quickly, finishing before noon. I also did low-impact aerobics this morning. Because my TV choices are limited to PBS, ABC and Fox, I’m not tempted to watch all the Sunday news shows I used to catch, and while WUFT runs Weekend Edition on Sunday morning, it doesn’t put on All Things Considered on Sunday night. Brinkley’s show featured Tsongas, Wilder and Clinton, the three most likely Democratic presidential candidates. Hardly an inspiring bunch, they could just as well be moderate, pro-business Republicans. If Jackson or Cuomo sits ’92 out, then Tom Harkins, the only real liberal, will win the nomination. I’d just like to see the Democrats put up a good fight and not play dead like they did in ’84 and ’88. Sooner or later, the domestic problems will get everyone’s attention and people will be ready for a drastic change.
The latest fallout from the Greed Decade is another big Wall Street scandal: giant Salomon Brothers’ illegalities in the government bond market. With Bush brushing off the long-term unemployed, there’s an audience in America just wanting to hear some anti-elite populist rhetoric, and after the 80s, it wouldn’t be demagoguery. However, there’s nobody yet pushing the right buttons. If it weren’t for law school, I’d do something like hand out Federal Election Commission statements of candidacy to my fellow unemployed, urging them to “apply” for that $200,000 job in Washington that comes with a big white house. Or I’d ridicule my fellow Democrats’ reluctance to run. I spoke to Alice yesterday. She put in a successful bid at an auction and got a brandnew two-bedroom apartment on the 26th floor of that building across from Baruch College at East 23rd and Lex. By the end of the week, she should know if her mortgage application will be approved. Banks are hesitant about lending money these days, and Alice is a freelancer who owns other property. Although she’d be tripling her rent, the auction went so badly that she’s getting a terrific deal. I talked about being here. Alice said her favorite TV show is L.A. Law (which I’ve seen only rarely) and she can see me being interested in complex legal issues.
When I went out today, I saw lots of cars at school, as freshmen moved into the dorms, their anxious parents hovering nearby. I’m humiliated to admit that my experience last week with my own parents was nearly identical.
Monday, August 19, 1991
4 PM. Law school classes begin tomorrow. But as a reminder that the world doesn’t rise or fall on my little life, I was awakened by my radio at 6 AM and heard, “Russian leader Boris Yeltsin calls for a general strike to protest the ouster of Soviet President Gorbachev.” At about midnight our time, Tass announced Gorbachev had “resigned for health reasons” and was being replaced by an emergency committee consisting of the Vice President, KGB head and military chief. A hardline coup has taken place just one day before the new union treaty with the republics was to be signed. Gorbachev is apparently under house arrest, tanks and soldiers are in the streets, protests and demonstrations have been banned, and reformist city leaders have been replaced. The U.S. government was caught off guard; only three weeks ago Bush was in Moscow to sign the START treaty, now on hold along with
the Mideast peace conference, trade agreements and the whole of Bush’s New World Order. As it did in China after Tiananmen Square, in Iraq after the defeat of Saddam, in Yugoslavia and the Baltics, the U.S. will probably just give lip service to the democratic aspirations of the people but will support the strong central government in the end. I’m glad to see Bush’s foreign policy “genius” exposed and to see him totally lost control of the world situation. We were always too dependent upon Gorbachev remaining in power. What next? Back in Gainesville, I had another hectic day. At school at 8 AM, I sat with Larry, who’s kind of goofy but okay, until 9 AM, when we went into the auditorium for our fingerprints and photos for Bar applications. I’m not going to fill mine out until I can figure out how to deal with the extensive forms. I may never take the Florida bar exam, anyway; if I do intend to practice, it will be in another state. At 10 AM we had the financial aid workshop for first-time UF borrowers. Since my SLS loans are for the spring and summer semester, I really am not concerned yet. Mostly they want to terrify you into not defaulting and making the loan morass even worse.
I thought the worst was over, but the long line for our “all-in-one” photo ID took over an hour. However, I liked speaking to Karin and other classmates, as I discovered that many are in their thirties and my age; at least I don’t feel like a total oddball. Dean Patrick explained that I’ve got to take all my classes in Law this year, and next year I go to the Master of Arts in Mass Communication program, and for two years after that I’m in both the law and the journalism schools. I wrote a letter to Dean Kent of Journalism to make sure he knew, and at Criser Hall on the main campus this afternoon, I got the word to the admissions office. I also paid my tuition with my Dollar Dry Dock Visa, got papers so I can defer my existing student loans, and bought the remaining books I needed. With a horde of undergrads and grad students about, the campus is feeling like a college. I stumbled over to the English Department and read the class schedule and bulletin boards for old times’ sake. I like the idea that I’m just going to law school till next July, and next year I can have more free time in grad school and learn different stuff. If I decide not to continue with law, at least I’ll have the basics of a firstyear education. Tomorrow I’ve got Torts from 9:10-10:10 AM, Contracts from 11:30 AM-12:30 PM, and Jurisprudence from 3:00-4:00 PM. I’m going to
try to go home for lunch and see if I can get parking in the afternoon. My main non-academic worry is making sure I can get a decent lunch. As it is, I’ve missed the salad bars at Albertson’s in Fort Lauderdale and the Korean groceries in New York City; here, I’ve relied on Publix’s small salads and frozen veggies. Well, I’ll manage. I start school at 9:10 AM every day but Friday, and I’ll be at school till 3 or 4 PM, so I’ll have to get used to long days. I hope I can keep up, but at least I feel many of my classmates share my apprehension. I still have to review my readings for tomorrow and do my Legal Research and Writing assignment. I slept OK once I got to sleep after midnight. One woman, Emira, told us she just got into the law school last week; on Wednesday she was working in Los Angeles when Dean Patrick called and said she was admitted. At least I’ve had months to get used to the idea of coming here.
Tuesday, August 20, 1991
4 PM. I’ve survived my first day of law school classes. Up at 6 AM after a decent rest, I worked out to Body Electric at 6:15 AM and then I wanted to get to school early to ensure that I’d find parking, so I was on campus at
8:15 AM, when spaces were already at a premium. I walked into the “alpine room” where we have our big classes about 25 minutes before Torts began, at 9:10 AM, but already most of the seats in the middle row were taken. Because of my vertigo, I didn’t want to sit up high, so I wound up in the first row on the extreme right and nobody sat near me until the room filled up. I felt somewhat lost because most of the people in the class seemed to be talking animatedly. I do like Nancy Dowd, the Torts professor, who’s about 42. She gave us one way to do a careful brief, said we should do our best efforts in our class participation, and told us to use hornbooks and nutshells but not canned briefs. What she stressed, as did Prof. Davis, a gruff but hearty man in Contracts, is that it’s the process of analysis that’s important. Davis warned us not to miss the forest for the trees, even if in his classroom, we’re going to go tree by tree by tree as we’re called on to recite cases. Dowd said we’ll go about 600 pages in the casebook, starting at 15 pages a week and going up to 50 or 60. She began discussing her hypo (the Cipollone case against the tobacco companies, though it wasn’t identified as such) and we all (well, those who were called on; I wasn’t) discussed the injuries to
each possible complainant. (I have no idea if that’s the right term.) Davis is more intimidating; our class won’t really start till next Monday, he said, and we’ll do two or three cases a class, so we’ve got to stay that many cases (20 to 30 pages) ahead of him. It’s important we don’t “learn” cases or rules but concentrate on analysis and application. He said to ask ourselves why each case is in the particular section of the book and to try to figure out what we’re trying to learn. “Don’t get seduced by minutiae,” he warned us, and there’s a ton of minutiae in law school. I like the emphasis on process, which I’m familiar with from learning to play with computers and from teaching writing (I wrote “teaching writers” first, and I see now that’s what I really meant; Davis and Dowd would probably prefer to think they’re teaching lawyers, not the law of torts and contracts). Both Dowd and Davis seem accessible. I went home for lunch at 12:30 PM, but I made sure I got back to school an hour later so I’d find parking. (Today was a relatively cool, rainy day.) I skimmed the Times and read materials for Legal Research and Writing, though I still have to do the case briefing for Thursday. There’ll be seminars and workshops we have to attend outside of class.
I sat with Karin and Larry for Jurisprudence. Prof. Charles Collier is a young 43 or so, and he reminds me a little of me. He made sure we knew what to expect from the course in so much detail, he was boring, and he also talked about his prior experiences teaching Jurisprudence and related things to stuff in the news. I expect I’ll like his class; for Thursday we’re to read Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” I can see one problem will be not spending excessive time on classes I enjoy and short-shrifting the ones I find tedious. I got that letter from Prof. Patrick Meanor of SUNY Oneonta, who’s editing The Dictionary of Literary Biography volume on Contemporary American Short Story Writers Since World War II. He wants me to suggest an academic familiar with my work who could write a comprehensive article of 7500 words on it.
Wednesday, August 21, 1991
4 PM. Gorbachev is apparently back in control again, as the Kremlin coup failed. It’s quite confusing, but I’m suspicious as to how these events unfolded. Did Gorbachev mastermind a KGB “coup” to give more time for reforms and a stronger grip on power? It’s odd that the coup folded so swiftly. But perhaps democracy really has taken hold in Russia.
Law School, Day Two, went okay. I got home after 3 PM today and I just worked out and took a shower and wrote Prof. Meanor, suggesting writers for the article about my work (in order of my preference, Bib Siegle, David McWhirter, Tom Whalen and Pat Ellingham). Up at 8 AM today, I stayed in bed until it got light and I’d heard the latest news from Moscow. At 8 AM I was on campus, reading the Times before I went to get a seat in Torts. I sat next to Karin and Angelina in the center of the second row, and that’s my permanent seat for that class and for Criminal Law immediately afterwards. Later, we got similar seats for Civil Procedure, along with Shay, Midori, and this guy Dwight. Gradually I’m learning people’s names. I enjoyed Torts as we had a continued discussion on the hypothetical; today I participated. Our Criminal Law teacher, Prof. Kenneth Nunn, is a dynamic young black man who’s been a prosecutor in D.C. and San Francisco. He said if we like Oprah’s TV show, we’ll like his class. He spent most of the time going around to us and putting our names on the seating chart as he introduced himself to us individually. I’m glad he’s running a relaxed class. Our Civil Procedure teacher, Amy Mashburn, seems more traditional, and tomorrow she’ll start calling on us. If we’re not prepared, we’re in big trouble. She and Davis seem like the
biggest sticklers, but we heard that in one of the other two Jurisprudence sections yesterday, this older prof, Probert, immediately called on a student to state the facts and sadistically tortured him and others, shaking up many students. At least Davis and Mashburn lectured the first day. I’m a little nervous, but as long as I prepare, I’ll be okay. Nunn said that the secret of law school is that there are no wrong answers, that there is no “the law,” and some of the opinions in the casebooks are badly reasoned. Basically, I see the process of molding minds as beneficial. Everyone says after this year, we’ll always think different than the way we did before. Tomorrow I’ve got a long day, my only day with four classes – plus our group meeting Cheryl for lunch at 12:30 PM. I had no problem leaving at 11:20 AM after Crim and going shopping, having lunch at home, and returning to find a parking space; I don’t mind walking far as long as I can get a spot. Late yesterday I went to the public library and did research on Jackson’s “The Lottery” and I read one of the cases for next week’s Jurisprudence class. This evening I have to do briefs for Legal Research and Writing, which is at 9:10 AM tomorrow, and for Civ Pro – but right now I’m briefing without knowing what I’m doing.
I can see why reliance on canned briefs doesn’t help; one must learn to analyze cases by oneself. I’m tired, and I’ll probably be more tired tomorrow, but I have only two classes on Friday, and that morning I don’t have my first class till 10:20 AM. Little by little, I’m meeting people and trying to remember their names. Karin and Angelina are good people to talk with. On Saturday there’ll be an afternoon orientation party at the lake – or a lake – and I’ll go, though I also wanted to attend a book signing by Padgett Powell. Perhaps I shouldn’t bother to attempt to get into Gainesville’s literary scene; I might fit in better with my law school classmates. We shall see. Meanwhile, every day is an adventure. This sure beats teaching English at BCC, though the truth is I enjoyed doing that, too. But it’s fun to lead different lives – if that is what I’m doing.
Thursday, August 22, 1991
4 PM. I just got home and I’m thrilled that tomorrow’s Friday. Not only do I have only two classes tomorrow, but I also don’t have classes the following two days. Last night I barely slept as cases kept impinging themselves on my consciousness.
I’m finding the transition from college teacher to law student frustrating. Probably that’s magnified because today in Collier’s class we discussed “The Lottery,” and I kept wanting to run the discussion differently. I may have come off like a know-it-all asshole, too. And earlier, in Nunn’s class, I felt stupid because I made a comment someone else had apparently said earlier. Plus, it bothers me when Nunn says “antidote” when he means “anecdote” and makes subject/verb agreement errors. Maybe I’m too old for this. I have to deal with problems my young classmates don’t, but I also have to deal with the same kind of confusion they’re having, too. I’ve never felt as stupid as I’ve felt the past week, and I think that’s only a hint of what’s to come – although I’d bet it gets better eventually. Last night I kept getting so frustrated trying to brief cases for Civ Pro, and then today in Mashburn’s class, I see I missed seeing important points and issues. She uses the Socratic method without intimidation, so at least we students don’t have to worry about being devastated, just slightly humiliated. My Legal Research and Writing group consists of about 35 people – the only guy I knew in it is Greg – and we’re going to be learning how to do the really important stuff lawyers do.
Our instructor, Pat Thomson, is a genial woman, and she did help me understand more about doing case briefs. I guess once I brief enough cases, I’ll develop my own style and method. It’s all process, process. In Nunn’s class, I felt our discussion really bogged down, and then I felt like an idiot for having contributed a redundancy. At 12:30 PM, our group met Cheryl for lunch, and we talked a little about our difficulties, but of course guys just don’t open up, which is probably why I feel closer to Angelina and Karin than I do to the others. Maybe I need to get some non-law school friends. I definitely plan to go to whatever of the campus gay group events I can get to, given my schedule. I’m lonely, and Mom’s phoning every night doesn’t help. Last night I told her I was fine and very busy. I got coupons from her in the mail today, and a rejection from The Writers Film Project, and Josh sent an article he wrote for the New York Post about his assault. I don’t know whether he’s brilliant or paranoid or both. At least he’s getting constructive mileage out of his psychosis. Am I? I came home for an hour between classes at lunchtime and watched Gorbachev’s new conference. *
9 PM. Here’s an example of why I may be stuck with being an English teacher: I was just reading our Legal Research and Writing Course Materials to prepare for our visit to the library with a teaching assistant on Monday, and twice the book referred to a “pneumonic” device, when of course the word is mnemonic. Should I go tell them at the office? I know it’s the kind of error they’d rub in our noses. But I risk being thought of as a know-it-all. My big weakness is trying to prove how smart I am – which is probably pretty dumb.
Friday, August 23, 1991
3 PM. “Well, we’ve survived our first week of law school,” Karin said as we left Mashburn’s class fifteen minutes ago. Yeah, but just barely. I scanned a note from Tom and caught this sentence: “I know you won’t take it [law school] so seriously that it’ll damage you.” I wonder. Mashburn’s class had me sweating. How did I miss those details in Fuentes v. Shevin? Does my brain have the necessary muscles to perform the mental triathlon? Time and again, I see I don’t dig deep enough, don’t clearly delineate the issues. I see I’ve been reading like a literary person, not like a lawyer. Well, maybe after this year I’ll learn
this is not for me and I’ll go do what I did before, or something else. Part of me wishes I’d just gotten some fellowship to grad school here so I could have had more fun. Yes, there’s an intellectual excitement in seeing the issues Mashburn brought up and brought out of my classmates, but I’m not certain that it’s enough to sustain my interest. That same part of me wonders why I’ve done this to myself, and if I can, contrary to Tom’s assumption, damage my ego or whatever. On the other hand (well, that’s lawyerly, anyway), I like the fact that I’ve challenged myself at age 40 in a way many people wouldn’t. Comfortable in a field, they see no reason to become a novice in a strange area of expertise, especially one as demanding and competitive as law school. I think I’d be thrilled to be a C student, actually. And perhaps being a C student for the first time in my life wouldn’t be such a bad thing. I’d learn that I can’t do everything – or maybe that I don’t want or have to do some things. Confronting failure – or what other people consider failure – could spur me on as I learn from it. There’s something very odd about my life here in Gainesville. In a way, I feel I’m living someone else’s life, that the real me is back in Rockaway or Fort Lauderdale doing the stuff
I’ve been doing for years. Boy, is this stretching me. I couldn’t sleep last night after a phone call to Ronna. Contact with the real world was so jarring, I kept thinking about my life – or lives – and the people in it. Ronna was in Orlando till Wednesday, her return to New York City delayed by Hurricane Bob – but I’m glad she didn’t call from there because I was so involved in adjusting to law school. Her brother and sister-in-law will be starting school on Monday, so they’re coming here this weekend. Already the town is filling up with young people, a change from the quiet of the past few weeks. I needed to talk with someone about law school, and Ronna was helpful, but in a way I feel nobody who hasn’t gone through it would understand – although Ronna does know the scene, having experienced it through Jordan, who loved law school My mind is going blank. I’m going to need this weekend with my law books, reading carefully and slowly. The orientation party’s been postponed, and I’ll be glad to be away from law students for two days. I probably should go over my notes from Mashburn’s class now and try to make sense of them while I slightly comprehend what’s going on. And I need to work out.
I did report the “pneumonic” misspelling to Pat Thomson, who took it good-naturedly, saying it had been put there as a test. But nobody in the Legal Research and Writing office had noticed it, and it got by the spell-checker because pneumonic is indeed a word dealing with pneumonia. Pat did say aloud to the others, “A little firstyear student has to tell us this,” or something like that. People like Nunn’s Crim Law class, but I find his discussions rambling. In a way, I prefer hardball Socratics like Mashburn and Davis to teachers like Nunn and Collier (whom many students find pedantic and boring). Well, Karin was right – and I’ll never again have to experience the first week of law school. It’s really interesting watching myself do this.
Saturday, August 24, 1991
10 AM. I slept reasonably well last night, and so this morning I feel somewhat less frantic. I do resent having missed the full impact of the week’s events in Moscow, though I tried to keep up with the news. The coup that failed turned into a kind of democratic revolution, and Gorbachev may be back, but he’s turned into a kind of pathetic figurehead, forced to
acquiesce to Yeltsin and the people who saved him. The extraordinary images of people facing down tanks, toppling the gigantic statutes of the first KGB leader, and calling for the outlawing of the Communist party indicate that democracy really has taken hold in the USSR. Gorbachev, heroic as he was under house arrest, came back to Moscow and seems not to have gotten the point, because he says he’s still a Communist. It’s possible there’ll be witch-hunts against party members, but Russia and the other republics are on a new course: if there was any doubt the Cold War end, this week erased that. And Bush now looks stronger than ever, as economists say the recovery is on track (although I still see problems with unemployment and weak money supply growth, plus the banks) and as another Democrat, Al Gore, takes himself out of the ’92 race. Back here, what frustrates me is dealing with the minutiae of the law in a world where, clearly, change is everywhere. Well – no more law talk now. Gainesville still strikes me as a good place to make my base, and in a way the fact that so many people are here only temporarily makes it an apt venue for me, the guy who sees everything as transient.
I probably should try not to think so much and just let the process of living here and attending school happen to me. Whatever misgivings I have about being here are still overwhelmed by the delight I feel at the situation’s novelty. * 8 PM. Today I’ve begun to realize what the study of the law entails. I sat down at the table after my aerobics and began to read a case for Contracts. With me, I had not only the casebook but Black’s Law Dictionary, which I used every time I came across a slightly unfamiliar word; the Uniform Commercial Code and Restatement, Second, referred to whenever I came across them in the cases; and my hornbook for background. I got immersed in the first case and looked up and an hour had passed, spent in the kind of intellectual exercise I’d rarely experienced. In a way it was like writing when I feel I’m on a roll. The other day Gene, who’d been an Air Force major, said he figured it was all like a stream with no start or end, just middle, and we had to jump in and feel lost until we gained our bearings with time. I can see that’s how it’s going to work. It’s not like learning most subjects, where one body of knowledge builds on a prior base. I haven’t even yet briefed the six Contracts
cases I read, but I feel I know them very well after spending nearly six hours reading them. It’s a new kind of reading, not linear but Talmudic or maybe hypertextual. The concepts – consideration, bargain, promise – are so nebulous and it’s difficult to focus in on the fine shades of meaning and the exquisite lines of reasoning, but I can take pleasure in it. Perhaps I’m allocating my time badly, not seeing the big picture, but right now, at the start, I need to learn how this new world operates and so I’ll probably pick up speed as I go on. I feel dizzy and perhaps I’ve read too much. On the other hand, it’s a rainy, humid day, so it may be my sinuses. I don’t want to be become too seduced by my own efforts or I’ll never keep up as the semester goes on.
Sunday, August 25, 1991
7 PM. I got done most of the work I’d planned to do this weekend and I’m ready for week two of law school At the bookstore counter I front of me this afternoon, I heard a guy tell the cashier, “It’s very complicated,” and although I didn’t recognize him, I knew he was another first-year law student.
Still, I adapt quickly when I’m confronted with new kinds of textual material, and I don’t feel lost in another language yet. Yesterday afternoon I went to a bookstore for a book signing by Padgett Powell, who at my age has published two novels with Farrar, Straus and whose first story collection just came out. He’s a UF prof, of course. Why I get shy and flustered among literary people, I don’t know, but I feel like a kid or imposter around “real” writers. My strategy was to show him the letter from the professor about The Dictionary of Literary Biography and ask if any one of his colleagues would consider doing it. “This is a major article, 7500 words,” he said, seemingly impressed and probably puzzled: Who was this kid in a T-shirt and denim shorts? I told him I’d just moved here. Powell showed the letter to a recent MFA grad now in the Ph.D. program, and later I sent her – Wendy Brennan – copies of Hitler and Narcissism. I’ll probably send Padgett Powell a book once I read his story collection, which has gotten mixed reviews. Why am I such a literary weirdo? Nobody’s ever heard of me, but I guess I have a decent body of work, and I still think a lot of it has been underrated. Partly it’s the publishing business, partly it’s my own problems, partly it’s luck.
Maybe I wanted to spread this romantic notion of myself as a writer who’s disguised as a lowly first-year law student. I would like to get involved with some of UF’s writers, though I doubt they’d find me the kind of writer they’d read themselves. I’m used to spending weekends alone, so this one wasn’t so bad. I briefed the Torts and Contracts cases for tomorrow, read Plain English for Lawyers, and started on Civ Pro. Because I can get only three TV stations, there’s not much else but studying in competition for my time, though I did read the Times (all except the book review) before I worked out at 11 AM. Yesterday Gorbachev resigned as head of the Communist Party, which is all but banned, and the various republics are declaring independence. In one week the old order that lasted since 1917 has collapsed. Yesterday there was the funeral for the three men shot defending the Russian Parliament. They’re heroic martyrs who’ve been given the nation’s highest honors and their funerals featured Russian Orthodox prayers for two and kaddish for the Jewish one. I hope to go to Russia and the Ukraine myself to see the land my grandparents and greatgrandparents left a hundred years ago. Maybe I could even live in Russia one day. I have a
fantasy of taking Grandma Ethel back to Odessa, where she was born. I hope Grandma is doing okay. Mom called tonight, and I know she’d like to hear details about law school, but I wasn’t in the mood. I was very friendly but close-mouthed. She said Marc is probably going up north with his girlfriend Clarice to put her 14-year-old son in a Pennsylvania military school. Clarice has no family of her own, and she had a brain tumor two years ago, so she wants Jason to be independent and to get some discipline. A year ago Gainesville was in turmoil as the student murders were discovered. They say indictments may be coming soon, but I don’t think they’ve got hard evidence. From the people I’ve spoken to, those were traumatic days here, as it seemed somebody was targeting students. In New York City or Los Angles or South Florida, people get murdered every day, so I can’t imagine myself getting too upset or scared. Maybe in such a nice small town like this, life isn’t considered as cheap as it is in big cities. Tomorrow I’ve got a long day – 8 AM to 4 PM – and this is going to be a hectic week, but after it’s over, I’ve got the Labor Day weekend.
Monday, August 26, 1991
4:30 PM. I just returned home from a long day at law school. This week I’ve got four classes not just on Thursday but today and tomorrow as well. Actually, having my Research and Writing lab at 8 AM isn’t bad, because I normally have to get to campus by 8:20 AM to find parking anyway. Scott Shuster, our TA, led about six of us into the library and we went through procedures for doing research: basically, it was a broad overview, and we’ll get more details later. Tomorrow Pat Thomson’s going to give a lecture at 10:20 AM, and we’ll be having these labs and lectures most weeks for a while. The tradeoff is that the course ends early in November, before the other classes. In Torts, we continued the hypo of the Cipollone case, trying to determine responsibility as we thought up every possible dependent who might be responsible for Mrs. C’s lung cancer. During our break, I got a locker so I don’t have to keep running back to my car to exchange books. Contracts really began today, and Davis isn’t a martinet after all. He’s animated to the point where people suspect he’s drunk, but he’s direct, humorous, and provocative.
I went to Publix for salads and groceries, had lunch, and returned to school, reading in the library until 3 PM and Jurisprudence. We finished our discussion of “The Lottery” and of treating policy questions like raising the speed limit to 65 mph even though it’s going to cost lives as economic decisions based on costbenefit analysis. I’m glad I slept well last night because I hadn’t been having restful nights. But I forced myself to lie down at 8:30 PM and it took a couple of hours till I fell asleep, so I lost some time I could have used for work. At Dean Patrick’s office, I picked up my scholarship check for $1250. I get the other half next semester, and they’ll continue as long as I keep a 2.8 index. I let Dean Patrick know I’ll be in the M.A.M.C. program next fall, but he said the scholarship would continue when I returned to law school if I kept up my grades. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have time to deposit the scholarship check at NCNB. I used their bank card to pay for my groceries at Publix under the store’s Presto debit card system. The Times has a front-page story on college students who are getting so many credit cards are using them for food, rent or tuition, or are splurging on luxuries that these young people. These young people are already having problems paying bills.
I still blame the banks. They should have learned their lesson already, but the banks are continuing to find credit cards a good source of revenue in these bad times. The FDIC fund is nearly insolvent already. Well, at 5 PM I’m going to have dinner and listen to All Things Considered as I read the news and unwind. I’ll try to watch ABC’s news at 6:30 PM and then do work after 7 PM. Already can see time is a first-year law student’s most precious commodity. I feel hard-pressed for time, and the term has barely started. Well, we’ll see how this works out. Being in the joint degree program and knowing I’ll be out of law school next year makes it easier for me, because I know if I hate it or do poorly, I can always stay in grad school or do something else. One year of this seems simpler to handle than if I knew I’d have two more years right after this.
Tuesday, August 27, 1991
4:30 PM. Last evening I read Jurisprudence and Research and Writing material until about 9:30 PM, then got into bed. But my mind was racing, and at 11:30 PM, I still wasn’t asleep, so
I tried to make sense of some of the cases for Civil Procedure. Up at 6 AM, I exercised and was at school just after 8 AM. In the library I read the Times – I miss my old leisurely reading habits – before Torts. We finished the hypo based on the Cipollone case, which I think Dowd used to give us a good overview of the torts system. Our lecture by Pat Thomson followed immediately, and we learned about precedent through a clever set of role-playing by TA’s who presented us with hypothetical cases, each based on a line of reasoning in succeeding precedents. Also, Pat told us how to format our case memo, due next week. Contracts was next, in the same room, and Davis further examined consideration in the cases we covered. Tired and hungry after three classes in a row, I left campus to deposit my scholarship check in NCNB and come home for lunch. I tried to work in the library for an hour, but I gave up because of a headache. Since I’ve been in Gainesville with its intense humidity, my sinuses have been terrible. Jurisprudence focused on issues relating to that British 19th-century case of stranded seamen who had to eat a companion to survive. I’m learning a lot about the law, and it’s pretty interesting stuff, but I wish there wasn’t so much of it.
I feel more pressed for time than at any other time of my life. With the labs and lectures, I’m spending 17 hours a week in class – and they’re 60-minute hours, not the 50-minute hours I’m used to. Yes, law school seems even harder than teaching six classes a semester at Broward Community College last fall. Marty Peters is running a Time Management workshop this week, but I feel I don’t have the time to go. Just kidding, but barely. At least I can use the Labor Day weekend to catch up. I don’t know how my classmates can go away for weekends or have any kind of social life. I’d like to go the Gay and Lesbian Student Union tomorrow night for their opening gettogether. There was an article in the Alligator newspaper, and they’re now an officially recognized organization with an office on campus and about a hundred members (which has to be a small fraction of the gay people at UF). Lynette Williams was quoted as the GLSU president, and her name rang a bell: she was the short black woman who was ahead of me on line for a locker yesterday. I called the Gay Switchboard, and there are Thursday pot-luck diners at the United Church right on this block. God knows how I’ll ever find time to do anything else but study law, but I can’t let
schoolwork be all my life is. I’m slowly getting to know more of my classmates, but it’s hard to find time to socialize. Basically, I know the names of about forty people and I say hi to others I know by face. Obviously I’m going to have to curtail some activities. Maybe I don’t have to listen to all 90 minutes of All Things Considered, for example. I’ve got to set priorities. A half-hour of exercise each day is important. I want to keep eating healthily and at least keep skimming the New York Times. Yesterday I thought I’d be too tired to study after a long day of classes, and I feel the same way now, but yesterday I did perk up after 7 PM. If others manage, I suppose I can. Maybe that time management workshop can help. We’re supposed to meet Cheryl for lunch at 11:30 AM tomorrow, so I guess I’ll eat lunch in school. Law school is much harder than grad school, which seems like a vacation by comparison.
Wednesday, August 28, 1991
4:30 PM. I thought I’d get a lot of work done last night, but after an hour of briefing Civ Pro cases, I fell into a stupor and retreated to bed. Part of it was sleepiness and part the result of
my sinus headache, but I did rest well and got up early enough to brief one more case. At school at 8 AM, I read the Times, which is something I need to do, even if I can only glance at headlines and have to read only a few stories. (I’m subscribing to the paper to save money; I’ll get the combination to the lockbox on campus.) We did our first case in Torts, and we were pretty painstaking about it; Dowd showed us the importance of framing the issue because it makes a lot of difference whether you’re the lawyer for the plaintiff or the defendant. In Crim, we discussed punishment, using the case of U.S. v. Bergman. I’m probably the only one in the class who actually lived in New York City at the time of Rabbi Bernard Bergman and the scandal at his nursing homes and who really understood the political realities. In my story “On the Boardwalk,” I had the character based on Uncle Morris say what Morris actually did say about the case: “They should take away the man’s yarmulke.” Cheryl wanted to meet our group at 11:30 AM for lunch, and I found my rice cakes and Weight Watchers cheese stayed okay in my locker, and I got a salad in the cafeteria. There were no tables inside, so we sat outdoors, but only Larry and I stayed; Kenny, Barry and Greg soon left to play foosball (a
game in the lounge) and Angelina and Karin both decided to study instead. Cheryl wants to go into human rights law, especially regarding women and children, and she seems like a real decent person. After our group broke up, I went into the ladies’ room in Bruton-Geer by mistake. One of my family classmates came in as I was drying my hands and looked at me oddly. “God, I’d wondered why there were no urinals here!” I said. Despite all my preparation for Civil Pro, I didn’t catch all the details in the cases dealing with prejudgment seizure and had the feeling – I’m sure I’m not unique – that everyone in the class but me understands what is going on. Since Marty Peters’ Time Management workshop will be given again on Friday, I decided to come home at 3 PM so I could do aerobics and relax a bit before plunging into work. I’ve got reading for Crim and cases for Civ Pro and preparation of a case comparison for Legal Research tomorrow. Tonight I really wanted to go to the first GLSU meeting on campus, and I hope I’ll have time. Wendy Brennan left a message that she got my package of books and said to call her because she’s sure someone in the department would be interested in doing the Dictionary of Literary
Biography essay on my fiction. Of course I already gave the editor some names. Well, I’ll see what I can get out of this and make people in UF’s literary community aware of my existence. It started raining just as I got home. I’m going to eat now and then try to work and see if I finish in time to get out. Many of my classmates seem to be ahead of me, although a few are really brilliant and probably workaholic. One aspect of UF law school I like is being treated like a smart, sharp person. At Brooklyn College, in my graduate school programs, and in the places where I taught – certainly at Broward Community College – I always got the impression I was part of a second-rate group. Listening to WUFT-FM, I heard Denis Woychuk’s voice in a promo for a program on tomorrow. It’s about the mentally ill, and I’ll have to listen and then write or call Denis. I’m sorry I didn’t get in touch with him this summer; in a way, Denis is my role model. * 10 PM. I probably won’t get much sleep tonight because I only just got home from the GLSU meeting. But I don’t mind; it was good to get away from the law school. Lynette Williams, GLSU’s current president, told me her first year (last year) was a
nightmare, and she advised me to get away from law students as much as I can, not because they aren’t nice but because “you end up talking about the one thing that’s you’re biggest obsession anyway.” I don’t plan to be active in GLSU, but getting to their regular meetings biweekly and maybe to some non-party social functions will help me. I did a bit of my work before I left, and the rest I can do before class tomorrow. There were about 80 people at the meeting, and it looks like an excellent group of people, diverse but obviously skewed toward undergrads. There was a two-hour meeting which explained the group’s history and activities, and officers discussed what they do, and they gave us a packet of resource materials and a phone list. Then there was a social hour or two, but I find I don’t talk to strangers well and I definitely felt out of place – not because it was a gay group but for the same reason I found it hard to talk to anyone at the law school orientation brunch: I’ve lost my social skills in dealing with strangers. Actually, I did have several nice conversations, but I’ve been isolated from everyone but my oldest friends for so long that I’ve forgotten how to make new friends. Today’s Times had a story about 40-year-old unmarried straight men, and I expect I’m just
like them and will never get “married” or be in a serious relationship again. Anything’s possible, but like the man in the survey, I’ve grown accustomed to being along and I’m set in my ways. Yes, I can change my life by moving here and starting law school, but changing the pattern of my home life is harder, and most of me really prefers being alone. Still, I need friends so I’m not a total monk – although law school may be the perfect place for someone of my habits. I’ve done okay, considering that I spent my first night in Gainesville on the floor here only three weeks ago. G’night.
Thursday, August 29, 1991
It’s 4 AM and I haven’t gone to sleep yet. My mind raced for hours, and now it’s stuck at some overdrive stall, so I figured I might as well write. I feel panicked: How am I going to get through four classes today? But I know I’ve had literally sleepless nights before and managed to perform the following day. My sleep patterns have been poor since I moved to Gainesville, and part of that is natural as I adjust to the tremendous changes in my life.
Perhaps last evening was a bigger deal than I let myself think. It feels as if I’ve come out as gay in similar instances, but maybe I haven’t, not to that degree. Or possibly I goofed when I took a can of Barq’s root beer in lieu of Coke, not realizing it also contains caffeine. Not having caffeine for the past two years has made me hypersensitive to a drug that always affected my sleep. Whatever the cause of this is, it will pass, and eventually, as always, I’ll catch up on my rest. Remember, kiddo, you’ve got to get through today and then you have only a couple of classes on Friday and then a magnificent, terrific three-day weekend in which to catch up on schoolwork, sleep and maybe even phone calls with some friends. September begins on Sunday; I made out a rent check already. By far, August was the most stressful month of the year, and even though people like Lynette tell me law school only gets worse, I still feel I can handle academic pressure better than I can the emotional adjustment I made in leaving New York City and coming up here from Fort Lauderdale, living in a strange city by myself, and getting used to a new role as a law student. I rarely give myself a pat on the bad, and maybe, exhausted now, it’s a good time to congratulate myself on how well I’ve handled these changes.
Friday, August 30, 1991
4 PM. I feel buoyant right now. Not only is it Friday and I’ve survived my second week of law school, not only is this the start of a threeday weekend, not only did I learn yesterday that I could survive a day of four classes on no sleep, not only did I just deposit my unemployment check and pay September’s rent – but I feel like I fit in here in Gainesville, the second most humid city in America, according to rankings released this week. With enough Drixoral and Dimetapp, I can overlook the humidity. I can sense the possibility of being part of a community here. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I feel at home at the law school, where I know about fifty people by name and more by sight. I like my classes and enjoy what I’m learning. The atmosphere is relaxed and yet everyone seems to take it for granted that you’re smart and work hard. I can imagine getting to know people in the gay community, which seems nice, and maybe also the literary community and the journalism school. Yesterday there were times when I didn’t think I’d make it, as I felt woozy and weak in my morning classes.
But after I came home for lunch and lay down for an hour (and listened to the excellent Soundprint radio show on the criminally insane at Wards Island, which featured Denis – I sent away for a cassette of it), I returned to school and felt more energetic in my afternoon classes. Today’s classes went well, and I even got applauded after Prof. Nunn called on me to explain who Huey P. Newton was (we covered the case of The People v. Newton, hinging on the “not guilty by reason of unconsciousness” plea) – I went into such detail, but after all I once wore a button that said “The People Will Free the Panther 21” and hung out with movement people 21 years ago – that Nunn exclaimed, “Wow, you must be older than me!” And I’ve been thinking about that a lot: I’ve experienced a great many things in my life, and I haven’t just stood on the sidelines. I worked in the 1969 Vietnam Moratorium headquarters and participated in 1970’s first Earth Day and the Kent State/Cambodia student strike; I was at the 1972 Democratic convention; I’ve met interesting people in politics, literature and other fields. Yeah, I think – obviously, if you read my journals – that I’ve had a pretty special life. And I still see myself as being special. Perhaps that’s my worst blind spot. As I said, I’ve got to learn to defer to others because they have experiences and knowledge
I don’t have, and I tend to tell people I’m boring and have no real interests when I first meet them because I don’t know how to tell them what I’ve done, from my presidential campaign to my media stunts to my credit cards to the books I’ve published and my knowledge of literature and my incredibly talented friends. I don’t know what, exactly, I’m doing here in Gainesville, but at the moment, it feels right. At Marty Peters’ workshop on time management today, she gave us some good suggestions on how to maximize our scant time. There were only about seven people there, but I intend to take advantage of any psychological help UF offers. I spoke to Wendy Brenner, who said she’ll pass my books onto this MFA student, who like her is in the Ph.D. program. She asked if I liked Padgett’s work because she noticed both of us have admiring references to “Donald Barthelman” [sic]. I told her I’d call the Dictionary of Literary Biography editor next week and I’ll then phone her back. At least someone in the creative writing program knows of my existence, and I plan to go over to the J-school soon, too.
Saturday, August 31, 1991
8 PM. I didn’t get much work done today although I made a good start on my one-case memo and got ahead in Torts. Moreover, I accomplished some other tasks: I got a haircut (at a shop where everyone seemed to be real Southern and most of the other customers were UF football players or housewives with perms), and I read Padgett Powell’s Typical, which wasn’t at all bad, after which I sent him a note and some of my books. I also mailed out about a dozen postcards to friends, though I still need to call or write Pete, Teresa, Justin, Josh and Tom. Still, at least I’m keeping in contact with my friends, from the people at Broward Community College to my literary friends like Rick Peabody to old pals in New York like Sat Darshan, Mikey and Denis. Up at 7:30 AM, I listened to NPR, read the paper, had breakfast, did aerobics – the usual stuff. A number of people probably went home for the holiday weekend. Last evening I watched the news and public affairs shows on PBS and ABC. The USSR has virtually collapsed, as most of the republics declared independence. It doesn’t look like the Soviet Union will survive now that communism is all but dead. The banner Times headlines of the week ended today, but God knows what will happen next. The U.S. manufacturing economy, meanwhile, is rebounding, but the service industries aren’t bouncing back, and the revised GNP showed
the second quarter was negative, meaning the earliest the recession could have officially ended is July. Big news yesterday was one of the first findings of a biological basis for homosexuality. The brains of dead gay males sow a part of the hypothalamus that’s one-third the size of that of heterosexual men. It’s far from certain, of course, but I bet that by 2000, scientists will discover that sexual orientation is determined by birth, if not before. If that changes the mind of many homophobes, I’ll be surprised; logic and reason don’t stand up well against ignorant hatred. Tomorrow’s September 1, and I’ve spent most of this month in Gainesville. It still feels very new, of course, but all the moving around I did since 1984 has helped me adjust to a new environment quickly. Mom called the other night. Dad’s computer arrived: an IBM clone with a modem, mouse, printer and probably power I’d die for. Dad is struggling with it, Mom said. It’s a shame that all the time I lived with my parents, they couldn’t have found the time to let me teach them computer basics. I regret being away from computers, and I feel so far removed from my work in computer education, as I haven’t taught a workshop in the Miami public schools since April 1990. The software and hardware has gone far beyond
what I’m used to, though next term I’ll get to use Lexis and Westlaw in Appellate Advocacy. SAT scores have fallen again, with scores on the verbal test at an all-time low. With all the reforms in education since “A Nation at Risk” in 1983, things have only gotten worse, and there’s now a big gap between an educational elite and the semi-literate mass of students. The other night I felt good after a dream in which Marc, Jonathan and I pedaled bicycles down Flatbush Avenue from our old house to the foot of the Marine Parkway Bridge. There are times I regret not being close to my brothers. Jonathan’s a lost cause, and probably I did torture him when he was a kid and I was so screwed up, but I should make more of an effort with Marc. I’ll call Marc tomorrow. I feel sleepy now, although I find it hard to drop off until at least 11 PM these days, and only then if I’m lucky. Two-thirds of 1991 is gone. I really did take risks this year and did some stuff I was terrified of doing.
Sunday, September 1, 1991
9 PM. Not having to get up early on a Monday morning seems a luxury now, although in the three months I lived in Rockaway starting in
May, it was a fact of life for me. (I still got up then at 5:30 AM or 6 AM, as I tend to wake up when the sun rises, which doesn’t happen here till 7 AM.) Today I managed to work a little more on my one-case analysis memo, and I read Contracts and Criminal Law. It’s actually no help to get too far ahead, because I tend to forget the material and wind up rereading it anyway. More important is reading the closely and keeping the material in context, and then writing case briefs the second time I go over it. I hooked up the computer to my printer, but I need a new ribbon. I also managed to get through not only the Sunday New York Times but also the Gainesville Sun, St. Petersburg Times and Orlando Sentinel as well. And I wrote Tom and left messages with Josh and Pete. Justin was on his way to Brooklyn College when I phoned, so I’ll speak with him another time. Up at 7:30 AM, I’ve managed to have a pleasant day, going out only to get a salad bar at Wendy’s and then for a walk on the nearly deserted UF campus, which is starting to seem less formidable and more approachable as I get my bearings. My parents called this morning, peppering me with irrelevant questions. (Dad: “How’s the apartment shaping up?” Huh? Mom: “Have
you met any of your neighbors?” What?) Mom and Dad, I feel, are becoming more like my grandparents in that they can’t understand my life. But of course I don’t tell them much. Well, I haven’t really told anyone that I have no intention of becoming an attorney, though perhaps before I get my law degree, I may change my mind and want to. For now, my intention is to be a law student, a role I may be better suited to. We’ll see. I suppose my ideas about being this hifalutin’ social critic and force in our culture are all a pipe dream, but I enjoy the feeling that I’m a freelance thinker/writer/whatever. Yes, I know I’m not very productive, but when I did produce (stories, columns), nobody seemed too interested. Self-pity again. Spare us, kiddo. It’s unbecoming in someone so addicted to fun, or his own warped version of same. Am I totally fucked up?
Monday, September 2, 1991
4 PM. I’ve just printed out a rough draft of my one-case analysis memo, but I probably need to ask Pat Thomson or one of the TA’s about some questions I have. It’s due on Thursday, so I should have enough time to improve it.
Although I’m confident about my writing ability, legal writing is an unfamiliar genre. I’ve read ahead in Criminal Law and Jurisprudence, so all I need to do tonight is review my briefs for tomorrow’s Torts and Contracts classes. I’ll have a lot of stuff to do for Civil Pro, which is turning out to be the most demanding course, at least so far. Contracts is difficult, but it’s two credits this term, and this week, like the first week, we miss one session, so we don’t get very far. I feel on most solid ground with Jurisprudence and Criminal Law because these classes rely least on case analysis although I’m certainly prepared for a rude awakening in these subjects. However, I am beginning to relax regarding my legal studies. I don’t have the investment in law school that my classmates do, since I’m here basically for personal fulfillment and the fun of learning. Because I’m in the joint program with the journalism school, I know that next year I won’t be a law student but a grad student. And if my first-year index falls below 2.8, so be it. I’ll lose my scholarship, but on the other hand I’ll have gotten a year of legal education at a great school for very little money. I’d like to do well in law school, but there’s no reason I have to. I don’t want a summer law clerk position, nor am I going to try to get a
corporate job. As of now, I’m not even sure I want to take the bar exam. So what have I got to lose except time out of my life? I don’t know what else I’d be doing but teaching composition for low wages. Justin said his frustration with the Brooklyn College administration is growing after unbelievable problems he’s had with the financial aid office (I assured him financial aid is always like that) and a five-hour wait on line at registration. So many courses were closed due to budget cuts that students couldn’t get classes they needed. But Justin managed to get into some closed sections. The lack of air conditioning at Brooklyn College during a week of hot, humid weather was another problem, but Justin has enjoyed the two classes he’s gone to so far. The six people accepted for the MFA in directing are a diverse, talented group, Justin said, and many of the graduate students in Theater are older, experienced, and come from other states or countries. Justin’s five classes sound interesting, and he’s stage-managing a thesis presentation of Aunt Dan and Lemon directed by a second-year student. (I agreed with Justin that it’s an offputting play, as Shawn’s characters are unsympathetic and bizarre.)
Anyway, Justin seems to be making a place for himself at Brooklyn College, and I’m glad; that campus has lots of fond memories for me. I think about my undergraduate days a lot, sometimes because of my readings for class, like cases on Huey Newton or Lieutenant Calley. What’s history to my young classmates is something I lived through, and I’m terrifically glad for my experiences. Dad, who’s paranoid about his age, would never understand, but as a college student in the 60s and 70s, and as a working writer (okay, a published writer) and college teacher since 1975, I’m proud of my accomplishments and even the fact that I did stuff like protest the Vietnam War or took part in Earth Day 1970 or watched the Watergate hearings or went to Democratic conventions. The U.S. recognized the Baltics today. Grandpa Herb told me his father, Isidore Saretsky, was born in Riga, Latvia, though Aunt Tillie doesn’t believe so. With the Soviet Union breaking up and Communism all but dead, I’d love to return to the lands that my greatgrandparents and grandparents left at the beginning of this century. I know my relatives lived near Minsk, Odessa, Kiev and Moscow, although I don’t always know the exact towns. But the Ginsbergs and Slutskys were members of the Lenyin and Lachver burial society, and I know how to find out the name of the town where Grandma Ethel’s father’s family – the Shapiros, Katzes,
Tarrases, Birnbaums and Rosensteins – came from. If Bush is re-elected next year, the U.S. will only slide further downhill in terms of standards of living, education, health care and culture, and I doubt the steps backward can be reversed. The U.S. sits on its deluded, selfsatisfied behind while the Japanese and East Asians wallop us in industry and education, while the EC countries create a union with a higher quality of life than we have here, and while Russia and all its ex-satellites make a revolution. This is the last country where we’ll ever see people in the streets. The U.S. is comfortable and the leader in mass entertainment (Hollywood, Disney World, rap), but more and more, the action of the 21st century looks as if it’s going to happen elsewhere. If Henry Luce was right and this has been the American Century, the 21st century will belong to others. I’m an American, probably more so than I know, but there’s more to the world than the U.S.A., and I want to experience it. At 40, do I sound like a naïve, romantic schoolboy. Good. I envy Susan Bernofsky, teaching in Stuttgart. Of course life aboard may be just my crazy escape, my idée fixe.
Tuesday, September 3, 1991
8 PM. I still haven’t finished my memo for Legal Research and Writing. I don’t know why I’m agonizing over it so much; as my classmate Lorraine said when I saw her early this morning, it’s only one credit and it’s a pass/fail course. But I feel I want the first paper I hand in in law school to be as good as I can make it. I asked Pat Thomson questions about the memo in her office this morning, and she answered more questions by other students in our lecture class at 10:20 AM. We’re still on the first case in Trots, and I felt a little restless, but I can see that Dowd wants us to have a firm grounding on how to frame issues and proceed with analysis before we start going at it hot and heavy. I was surprised at how quickly Davis disposed of three cases in Contracts; I really hadn’t prepared a brief on the last one, not expecting it to come up till next week. But at least I followed the discussion. At 11:30 AM, I came home and had lunch, watched a little of All My Children (since I can’t get NBC, I’ve had to give up Another World), and changed into jeans, as my shorts – that black pair I’d worn to death the last couple of years – were made impractical once the zipper broke while I was in the bathroom.
Back on campus at 2 PM, I studied Civ Pro for tomorrow and went to Jurisprudence, where Collier is still stuck on this philosophical issue about sacrificing one person to allow the whole rest of the group to survive. We again went over the U.S. v. Holmes and Queen v. Dudley and Stephens cases. At 4 PM I took the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, given by Marty Peters, to me and two others; I’d like to see what it says about my learning and work style. Perhaps I can become more efficient. Tosha asked me, “You’re not really as old as Prof. Nunn, are you?” and seemed shocked I could be 40. “You’re the same age as my mother,” she said. But she was glad I knew all about the Black Panthers because I lived through that time, not because I knew something that everyone was supposed to know. Every day I get to know more of my fellow students and to know better the ones I already know. A social order is developing as people start hanging out together and people get reputations for talking too much or for being highly prepared. I have no idea how people see me at this point. Sometimes I’m dying to tell people about the books I’ve published or my publicity stunts – but I also like people accepting me not as a
writer, college professor or whatever, but as just another law student. My stomach has been very gassy since late afternoon; perhaps I just ate too many veggies today. Cheryl is skipping our group lunch this week and having us over to her place late on Friday afternoon. Anyway, today was interesting and productive, and it helped that I slept well last night and exercised at 6 AM. Tomorrow would be a “light” day since only on Wednesday and Friday do I get home by 3 PM, but I have the memo to do. I’ve blocked out the whole afternoon and evening for it. I still need to make time to see Dr. Stephenson at the journalism school and walk around Weimer Hall. Time – time – time: will I ever have enough time? Actually, I’m not pressured, but I like a more leisurely life. At least I don’t have to grade batches of essays from freshmen. I did correct two misspellings of “its” in Doug K’s paper for him, and I even corrected Pat Thomson (alone, after class) on a grammatical point she made.
Wednesday, September 4, 1991
4 PM. I’ve just returned from school. Pimples have broken out on my forehead, but I’ve noticed that half my classmates seem to have acne blemishes this week. Probably it’s
because most of them are young, but maybe it’s the stress of law school. I went to Marty Peters’ 3 PM workshop. Mark, who entered in the spring, spoke about how he studied very hard and used every study aid he could buy and still got only a C in Contracts I. In contrast, for Contracts II, Mark reviewed his notes every day, every week, and at the end of every unit, and he took lots of practice final exams and did lots of hypos, concentrating less on preparing detailed briefs and more on taking detailed notes and reviewing them immediately after class with his study group. He also prepared flowcharts, one page for each class, and of course in Contracts II he got an A. My problem is, I guess I wouldn’t mind a C in Contracts. Yes, it would be a blow to my ego because I’ve gotten only two C’s in my life, but I’m aware most first-year law students here have similar academic records and that half of them are so blown away by low grades that they don’t recover until they pass the bar exam. For me, it really doesn’t matter if I get an A or a C in my classes. Practically, I’ll lose my scholarship if my index falls below 2.8, but since I won’t be in law school next year and UF is a bargain anyway, it will damage only my ego and my pocketbook. It’s not as if I want to get a job that will depend on my getting high grades. I’d need that to be
a law school professor, but I actually think teaching college English suits me better. Is this my usual I’m-not-going-to-fail-becauseI’m-not-going-to-try syndrome? Well, if I didn’t care, I wouldn’t be going to Marty’s workshops. Of course I can always tell myself I’m learning law for learning’s sake. I’d like to be a good student, but once again, it’s only for my ego, so I can tell myself how great I am. Actually, it could be valuable for me to fail at something – or am I really rationalizing now? Yeah, okay, but the truth is, I don’t see myself as a lawyer. I feel I’ve got a dirty little secret that I can tell nobody, not even my friends, and especially not my family, who’d kill me if they didn’t believe this was going to lead somewhere. As far as my family is concerned, though, I’ve already separated from them. I have no desire to visit Fort Lauderdale, and I’m not going to go home for Thanksgiving. I want to go to New York City for Christmas because I have more ties there than in Fort Lauderdale. Up at 6 AM, I exercised, ate and was out the door by 8 AM; I read the paper until Torts started. We began our second case, on substandard care (negligence), and I’m trying to make the connections and see the big picture and figure out Dowd’s analytic process.
In Criminal Law, Nunn seems straightforward; our cases dealt with acts of omission, like a woman charged with child abuse merely because she did nothing while a mother beat her infant while visiting the woman. I went home for lunch and worked on my onecase analysis. I’ve agonized over it too much. In Civ Pro this afternoon, Mashburn raced through complicated material on contempt orders, the collateral rule, and lawyers’ fees. She’s got a steel-trap mind, and it’s a pleasure just to try to keep up with her, but it’s exhausting as well as exhilarating. Now I’ll have a light dinner, listen to All Things Considered, and do work: finish my legal memo, read Civ Pro, and most importantly, go over my notes from today, to try to make sense of them. Marty says we need to see things seven to nine times before we really know them.
Thursday, September 5, 1991
4:30 PM. I just got in after another long day. Even if this has been a short week, I’m glad the weekend is coming up. I’m enjoying law school and only wish I had more time. Twelve weeks from today is Thanksgiving, which means there are fewer than twelve weeks left in the term, and the days are going by so fast (maybe that’s because I’m older; I once heard Kitty Carlisle quote her mother:
“After 50, it seems like you’re having breakfast every fifteen minutes”) that I expect the time will fly and finals will soon be here already. I don’t mind the pressure, but I’d like to take a more leisurely look at the law. Prof. Mashburn in one of her brilliant real-world asides said the curriculum of law schools hasn’t changed much since Dean Langdell’s day, but out there the profession is in a tremendous crisis and one the brink of what could be drastic changes in the system. Last evening my one-case analysis took much longer than expected, and finally, at 8 PM, I just gave up and printed out what I had as the best I could do. Hm – maybe the reason for law school’s pressure is that give the student preparation for a career in which there’s never time to do everything as thoroughly as a practitioner would like. I rewarded myself with 30 minutes of The Wonder Years on ABC (I almost never watch TV except for the news shows and one soap) and then went to bed. I got a lot more sleep than I did last Wednesday night, and consequently I could handle my four hours of classes better today. On campus at 8 AM, I read Civ Pro until 9:10 AM, when Legal Research and Writing began. I enjoy learning about the reference tools and am glad we are getting lots of practice; next Monday at 8 AM, and for the next five weeks, we have labs in the library with our TA, Scott.
Crim was also interesting, as we discussed acts of omission some more. Larry was trying to make a point about Thought Police and attempted to say “We don’t want men in black suits knocking at our doors,” only it came out “black men in suits,” prompting Nunn to say he was glad he switched to casual attire today. His class is relaxed, and alone among all our professors, he calls us by our first names. I came home for lunch after buying a few items at Publix, finished my Civ Pro reading and then headed back on campus. Last night I did review the day’s notes, by the way; I’m going to force myself to do that. Tosha told me she thinks Mashburn is too “by the book,” but I think the woman is amazing. She’s clearly an idealist who’s been out there in the rough-and-tumble of litigation, and my mind is constantly challenged to keep up with her. Doug K, Lorraine and I signed up for Council of Ten tutoring in Civ Pro and Torts after Dwight told us we could do so. I was shocked that anyone would sign up to be tutored in Collier’s Jurisprudence section. After our class this afternoon, I asked Shay, who sits across the horseshoe room facing me, “You were doodling, weren’t you?” because I couldn’t imagine anyone taking notes during Collier’s philosophical discussions. She was doodling.
Still, I like Collier’s soft style and I find his readings – I just bought the rest of his xeroxed materials) fascinating. I like feeding my mind. During the night it struck me that if Henry Adams were around these days in my position, he’d be going to law school, too. Learning how lawyers think and reason will help me understand more about American society. I’m hesitant to admit how pleasant it all is. I also like coming to know my fellow first-year students as personalities. The Soviet Union just about voted itself out of business today, forming an interim government to make the transition to a loose confederation of independent republics. I hope good things happen there, but I’m wary.
Friday, September 6, 1991
9 PM. This past month my life has been incredibly dense. There are times when I feel I’m living someone else’s life, which for a writer probably isn’t such a bad thing. I feel glad the week is over, as today I started to feel fed up with law school and my identity as a law student, which seems to have subsumed the rest of me. The boot camp
aspect of law school, in which you’re broken down and put together anew, can be wearing. Cheryl had a get-together at her apartment at 5 PM, and at first I didn’t want to spend time talking law school. Because I completely missed the point of a question by Mashburn, I felt I humiliated myself by telling the class the answer to a point we’d already covered. Yes, I know: everyone in law school is going to have days like that, and probably some of my classmates didn’t notice the enormity of my gaffe the way I did, but I came home from school today embarrassed and frustrated. It seemed like a good time to take Dean Kent’s suggestion and go over to the journalism school on the main UF campus. I walked around, looking at bulletin boards, and found Prof. Bill Chamberlain, who runs the M.A.M.C. program, or maybe just a part of it. He knew me right away and figured I’m interested in legal journalism and First Amendment issues. He told me to see Prof. Bill McKeen, Prof. Lawrence Alexander, and Dean Kent about my studies next year. Since the J.D./M.A.M.C. program is new (I’m the first person admitted under it, though a second-year student, Mark Mann, got in and one student with a J.D. is also admitted now), I’ll be the guinea pig, but he said he’ll work things out with Dean Savage at the law school.
Dr. Chamberlain said that if I’d wanted to, I could have started grad school this term and that I can take both law and grad classes next year; he told me to use the resources of the Jschool and come to them with questions. He was very kind, but walking through the campus, I wondered what I’ve let myself in for with this and if I, with my lack of tolerance for structured situations I find confining, can ever get through this dual-degree program. I was in the mood to hibernate rather than socialize, but I had a good time at Cheryl’s. She and her boyfriend Casey, a second-year student, discussed study aids like canned briefs, but mostly we just talked. Karin has been sick with a bad cold and she had been waiting at the infirmary for two hours and didn’t get seen by a doctor or nurse. Probably she’s got the same cold a lot of people have, brought on by stress, and it’s no wonder the infirmary is filled because even good students and undergrads – especially freshmen – are stressed out. I don’t feel unduly burdened yet, but it’s hard not to be socialized into the pressure. Actually, I’ll probably be better off if I can prepare myself to be a C or C+ law student. All I have to lose is my scholarship, after all. Like Kenny H said, they don’t flunk people out here. Kenny and Greg were there (they’d assumed I was between 28 and 35), and Larry.
I was glad that Angelina and Barry brought their spouses. Angelina’s husband Dan is just what I’d expect: like her, blond, Southern, well-built, with an easy smile and I’ll-try-anything attitude. He teaches math at an all-black middle school in town. Barry’s wife of three weeks is Paula, a West Virginian Jew who taught English at South Plantation High School for four years and who is now teaching two classes part-time at Santa Fe Community College. We law students did talk too much about our professors’ foibles (Angelina found out that Mashburn “booked” – finished at the top of her class – in all but seven of her classes as a student here.) But eventually we went on to other topics, like surfing, tennis, education and non-legal subjects. Classes today were okay. Steve F and I xeroxed old finals of Mashburn and Davis between classes. Right now I’m tired but not sleepy although I intend to do absolutely no work tonight. Last evening I was going to call Teresa, but Mom phoned and then I got busy with work, so I ended up just sending Teresa a postcard instead. However, I did dream about Teresa, that she was having money problems and people were angry at her – which is probably true.
I’ve been dreaming about maps and taking trips to places but not being sure of the routes to my destination. Pitifully obvious, huh? Mom kept asking me what remedies she had against Preston Henn’s latest dictatorial edicts at the Swap Shop: he’s fining vendors for reading at their booths and there are other new rules she finds ridiculous. Dad is in Vegas for the Magic Show, but his business is dreadful. JC Penney and even Burdines are going downscale, and the Introspect clothes are too pricey for them. The Florida economy is in very bad shape, and it’s affecting UF as well as everything else. Anyway, Mom said Marc and Clarice and Jason may stop here this week on their way to Pennsylvania. Clarice is Marc’s age, 36, and Jason, 14, is from her first marriage. She’s divorced twice and still works for her second ex-husband and his new wife, but Jason has no contact with his father. Since Clarice herself has no family left – her father recently died – she wants her son to become independent: thus, military school. Mom said Clarice is nice, and Marc, of course, is good with Jason, but Marc just signed a new lease on his own apartment and probably won’t marry Clarice, who may not want to try a third time. I don’t know why I’m writing a lot about this, but at least it’s not law-related.
Last night I woke at midnight and listened to the last hour of ABC’s Town Meeting with America asking questions of Gorbachev and Yeltsin. The USSR really doesn’t exist anymore – I think. Love bugs are everywhere now, and I’ve been letting a spider hanging from a web just above my refrigerator just keeping hanging there. At first I tried to swipe him with a towel, but he scooted to the ceiling so swiftly, I admired his pluck and decided he wasn’t bothering me. Obviously, unlike the hero in Wesley’s movie, I don’t have arachnophobia.
Saturday, September 7, 1991
6 PM. I’m probably the only human being in Gainesville not at the Gators’ first home game against San Jose State. I went out only one time today, to get some groceries at Albertson’s and have lunch at McDonald’s on NW 13th Street, but I’ve never seen the town so jammed. UF alumni and other football fans have invaded Gainesville, and I could barely find a parking space in my own lot because people were leaving their cars here and walking to Florida Field.
Not being a football fan in Gainesville, I feel quite alien, more “different” than I’ve ever felt because I was Jewish or gay or whatever. In fact, I’ve never really understood the game, probably because I’ve never watched it with someone who could explain it to me. And at my age, I have no desire to suddenly become a football fan. Look at the time I save by not watching NFL and college games and by not reading the sports pages. Anyway, I got up late at 8 AM, and I spent most of the day inside, reading, exercising and doing the cases for Contracts. I need to brief the Jurisprudence cases already read, but I already did Wednesday’s assignment for Criminal Law. The killer, as usual, is Civ Pro. But if I work tonight and tomorrow, I should at least be prepared for classes through Wednesday, and I certainly don’t feel stressed out or pressured. Also, while I haven’t begun formally outlining, I’m getting a sense of where each class has been going and why I’m reading each particular case and how each one builds upon the earlier case. Last night I remembered Rilke’s lines, the ones that used to haunt me, the ones ending, “You must change your life.” Well, I have changed my life in a way that would have seemed impossible a couple of years ago. I hate to give myself a kinnahora, but I’m proud of myself for taking up the challenge.
Sunday, September 8, 1991
5 PM. Last night, as I was going to bed, I noticed a sore throat. Uh oh, the first sign of a cold. I’d figured I could catch Karin’s cold because I sit next to her in most classes, but I hoped I could avoid it. The sore throat stayed with me all night, but by morning, it felt a bit better. I’ve been taking vitamins and sucking zinc lozenges, and I’ve probably lessened the impact of the cold. I’ve had lots of colds this past year, probably an indication of the stress I put myself through. The thing is, I really don’t have great demands on myself. Unlike in Rockaway, where I constantly traveled to Woodmere, Brooklyn and Manhattan on trips that took an hour or two, I spend nearly all my life in Gainesville within a two-mile radius. It’s not even like when I taught all over Dade County and had to psych myself for the afternoon trips and rush hour traffic. In a way, while there’s pressure in law school, I had a lot more pressure teaching classes at BCC – although I felt in control there, and here I have no control over whether I’m called on in class.
I didn’t do all my work for the week, but I’ve read most everything. Do I really need to brief my Jurisprudence cases when I know the Lt. Calley case the way few of my classmates do – because I vas dere, Sharlie – and Collier is so laid-back? I definitely need to brief the complicated cases for civ Pro, but I have till Wednesday, and I understand them okay on first reading (though I’m learning that’s probably a misapprehension). I’ve been depressed today. I’m lonely. I didn’t get to the GLSU party on Friday because, well, I don’t like parties much and I can’t see myself at a “Trash Yourself” party with people I don’t know, most of whom are a lot younger. Today I wonder what the hell I’m doing here in Hogtown, so far away from the life that I knew. Hell, I don’t know. I hate to kvetch, but I’m not doing it to anyone but this diary. I can’t be optimistic and cheerful all the time. It’s going to be Rosh Hashona in a few hours, and I don’t even know what Hebrew year this is. 5742? In Gainesville there are lots of Jewish UF students, but it’s not a holiday. It wasn’t a holiday in South Florida, either – not the big deal that it was in New York City, where even non-Jews like Teresa celebrate it. In the Times it said that Fair Harbor firehouse (where Brian is fire chief) is being used for services, and I’m sure Teresa and Brian are having people over for a holiday dinner.
Ronna too – I was at her apartment last year for Rosh Hashona, on the final Friday before I left New York. I sent Grandma Ethel a Rosh Hashona card as well as one for Grandparents’ Day today. Obviously this isn’t the evening to call people. Since Friday night I haven’t really spoken to anyone but people in stores. Enough self-pity. Congress returns this week. Maybe they’ll pass extended unemployment benefits over Bush’s veto. I sent out a claim card today. On Friday the August unemployment figures came out and basically there’s been little improvement. Florida’s unemployment rate is at an 8-year high of 8.1%. Finally the Democrats are coming alive: Tom Harkin, Bill Clinton, Bob Kerrey, Doug Wilder and Jerry Brown will probably declare their candidacies this month. The hearings on Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court nomination begin on Tuesday, and now I’ll be watching with the interest of someone who’s more knowledgeable about the law. In just three weeks, I have learned a great deal already. I guess right now because of my discomfort or my loneliness, I feel those fall Sunday evening blues. Tomorrow I have to be on campus before 8 AM to get to our lab with the TA in the library.
I stocked up on frozen dinners and vegetables so I don’t have to shop for salads if I’m feeling sick, and hey, if I really feel terrible, I’ll just be absent. Usually life seems to fly by, but today is crawling and creeping along.
Monday, September 9, 1991
6 PM. I felt at loose ends in the early evening yesterday. Although I felt a bit ill, I was restless and couldn’t face any more schoolwork, so I took a walk on campus and found the Library West still open. On the fourth floor among the PS Library of Congress catalog numbers, I found Hitler and Dog in the stacks. Neither had been checked out since 1987, and the books were somewhat worse for wear. Still, it was nice to see them on the shelf. Downstairs, I looked at The Dictionary of Literary Biography, which seems like an excellent if somewhat cheesy series. Will my inclusion in a future volume get people interested in my short stories? Probably no more than did my Contemporary Literary Criticism entry, but at least I felt it gave me some legitimacy. Back home, I had dinner and tried to go to sleep early, but I suffered from insomnia. I tried everything from listening to my relaxation tapes to taking herbal sleep capsules and
Excedrin PM. I stretched, I attempted to remain motionless and my mind blank. Terribly frustrated, I finally went to the living room and lay on the bed I use as a couch, figuring I needed a change from being in my own bed. That seemed to work, and at least I slept from about 2:30 AM to 6:30 AM, enough so that I had some decent REM time. I’ve got a cold, but probably my immune system is strong because of the supplements and health food I eat; I’ve fought it enough to keep symptoms away, at least for the most part. But fighting it off may be worse than just giving in to it because maybe I’ll just get sick later anyway. Karin didn’t get seen at the infirmary until 8:30 PM Friday, and she was unhappy with the treatment, but she said she felt better and her fever was gone. Angelina’s husband Dan came down with a bad cold Saturday night, and a large number of law students seem to be sniffling and clearing their throats in class. At 8 AM, the small group – me, Greg, Rosemarie, Jonathan and Richard (Gena was out because her kid was ill) met Scott at the library, where we did some exercises dealing with legal encyclopedias – Fla Jur 2d, Am Jur 2d, CJS – and we got a homework assignment. Research is one area where I feel comfortable; I’m at home in the library and like getting to know the legal reference books.
In Torts, Dowd went over a new case, and tomorrow we’ll start dealing with another aspect of substandard care – the idiosyncrasies of the actor (people who are crazy or children or blind). I was buying some breath mints at Wilbert’s when I saw Cheryl and again thanked her for the get-together on Friday. I’m starting to feel comfortable telling people I’m not really interested in practicing law. Of course, I could change my mind. Remember how I wanted to go to that Master of Studies of Law program at Yale? Well, all that was, was a first-year curriculum, and I’m getting that at UF, a fine education. Already I know a lot more than I did three weeks ago. I stayed outside and read the Times, which I now get at the lockbox at school. (They give subscribers the combination: 1991.) Contracts was interesting, as Davis gave his usual lively performance, and then I came home for lunch. Before Jurisprudence, I talked to his guy Michael K, who’s in the class (like Jonathan, Richard and Rosemarie, he’s in the other section for most classes). Michael is very bright, as I could tell from his class participation. He was in the M.A. program in the history of science, and he taught undergrads here. I think he’s a little older than most of my fellow
students, and he might be gay. Whether he is or not, I think I could be friends with him. In class, Collier continued our discussion of Lon Fuller’s Speluncean Explorers case, and we discussed natural law – which Supreme Court nominee Thomas has put into the news. I came home tired, but I exercised (early today I couldn’t bring myself to work out), showered, had dinner, and I now feel relaxed. At school, I like having people call me Richard, and I try to use others’ names.
Tuesday, September 10, 1991
4:30 PM. I just walked in the door. Last night I slept well and woke up today feeling healthy. I had time to work out before breakfast, and it was about 8:15 AM when I got to school. I read the Alligator and the business section of the Times before heading for Torts early and preparing by reading and annotating yesterday’s notes and the cases for today. In Contracts today, some students were called on and seemed, if not totally unprepared, not quite prepared either. Davis didn’t cream them but he did make them squirm.
I can’t imagine going to class without having read the material so I could at least get some facts of the case straight, and really, that’s all you need to do to avoid total humiliation. If I can’t pick up the most important issue or I don’t understand points of law, that’s okay; I’m in law school to learn. I learn a lot from hearing my classmates’ errors. Once I was quoted in an article as saying I liked to teach because it was a pleasure to see people’s minds work. My fellow students have sharp minds, and I’m always amazed how they can discern issues I barely notice. Basically, I’m a repository of facts: because I’m well-read, especially regarding the events of my lifetime, I can recite names, places and dates nobody else can. For example, in Jurisprudence, when someone mentioned the Miami case of a storeowner killing a burglar with an electrified trap, only I could say it was the Prentice Rasheed case, and not just because he was someone Dad knew. But for an attorney, knowing facts isn’t an especially useful skill; for a storyteller or a journalist, it’s a lot more valuable. In the rec room, I was surprised nobody turned on the TV to the Thomas confirmation hearings till I did. I had to wait till the custodians finished their break because they were watching Sally Jessy Rafael, but later other law
students joined me, and when I came back after lunch I saw Michael K, Michael M, Dan and others watching. Unfortunately, 3 PM was Jurisprudence, and Thomas had only just started his up-frompoverty spiel. (I liked how Orrin Hatch emphasized that Thomas grew up without indoor plumbing: now there’s a great qualification for high office.) Most UF law students are conservative, I guess, although the only rabid right-winger is this guy Lawrence, whom I’d already pegged as the next Roy Cohn even before I knew his political beliefs. Karin hates him. Actually, most students seem fairly apolitical, which is probably the norm. Steve F had to tell me we were both missing the last page of one of Davis’ finals. When I went to the reserve desk and saw Midori taking it out, I noticed that her copy had a missing page, so I took out the second copy and made copies for myself, Steve, Midori and one for the folder so other people don’t get screwed. What a humanitarian I am. It’s creepy that people say some competitive law students tear out pages so other people can’t get all the information they’re getting. Cheryl left Casey’s outline for Davis’ class in her car, and I copied that, too. While I was in
school, Pete Cherches phoned, using his office’s 800 line; I’m sorry I missed him. Once again, I had prostate fluid or maybe even semen come out after I urinated. I need to see a doctor. It takes me so long to get started and to stop urinating, and this fluid stuff isn’t normal. I used to think it was because I didn’t have enough orgasms, but that can’t be it. Could I have a prostate problem? A tumor? Cancer? My hypochondriac mind remembers Uncle Abe Sarrett and how he died of the disease. He might have lived if he didn’t discover the problem after it had spread too far. I’ll go first to the library and examine some medical guides to see what they say about my symptoms. Last night I saw two news segments on Jews in Odessa and Moscow. There’s a lot of rightwing anti-Semitism in the former Soviet Union, but Jews can now practice their religion freely, and because economic conditions in Israel are bad, some Jews think they’re better off staying in Russia or the Ukraine. The people in Odessa looked like my relatives, and some of them probably are. I’m really getting interested in the notion of returning to my grandparents’ birthplace someday. Well, time for All Things Considered and Healthy Choice.
Wednesday, September 11, 1991
4 PM. I’ve just come from Dr. Peters’ workshop in which she went over how different types on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator need to – hey, Marc just called. He and Clarice are in the Holiday Inn. They came over before, but of course I wasn’t home. I’ll be glad to see him later. 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 Peters 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 INFJ’s 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: “INFJ’s 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. . . INFJ’s 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 in 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 fiveweek 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 Clarice came over at 6:30 PM yesterday. I went out to the parking lot to meet them and I hugged my brother, who introduced Clarice, a tall, redheaded, stylishlydressed 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 Clarice toured the campus. After mother and son said goodbye, Marc and Clarice 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 dinner. Clarice seems perfectly nice; she’s originally from Montclair, NJ, and works for an office supply. 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 left them go back to the motel 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 get to 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 protestor 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. Last night I began getting a bad sore throat, but it’s possible I have the same sinus/allergy postnasal-drip-caused sore throats that plagued me in New York in the summer of ’86. 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 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. She began yawning, so I left her get off the phone, but I’ll call Teresa in a couple of weeks. This morning I tried to take out the car, but because a Firebird was parked illegally, I didn’t have room; I scratched the other car and finally realized I couldn’t get out of my space, so I walked to the post office. I also began thinking like a lawyer. Did I breach my duty to the other car’s owner? Had he made himself contributorily negligent by parking in an illegal undesignated spot? Is College Park responsible by not providing a sufficient number of parking spaces? Well, apparently the other driver noticed the scratch, which was kind of small. In the Times I saw that Bob Miller conceded the Democratic primary to that homophobic crook, councilman Noach Dear, and then turned out to be the apparent winner by 15 votes. Last week, when I saw that the Times had endorsed bob, I sent him and Estelle a $10 campaign contribution and my chapbook. I hope Bob survives a recount and/or a new election.
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. I can see 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.
Sunday, September 15, 1991
8 PM. I didn’t do any outlining, and the 30 pages of reading for Civil Procedure was so complicated, I didn’t brief the six cases in them, but I did brief my Criminal Law cases and read about pleading in the Civ Pro hornbook. I finished all of the Sunday Times but half the book review, and I did aerobics and cleaned the kitchen and bathroom. I also watched The McLaughlin Group and David Brinkley and the news. Actually, I don’t know where the time went. Anyway, I feel I’ve been productive. Last night I fell into one of those deep, sinusclogged, dream-filled sleeps from which it’s hard to arouse myself. My last dream was a miniseries featuring a plot to kill all of my grandparents at a bus station in upstate New York. In my dreams, I also spent a lot of time on Brooklyn’s Avenue N, the shopping area closest to my childhood home, where I wandered amid the bars, candy stores, discount stores, tailor shops and cleaners. This afternoon I called Alice. Her publisher loved her book, and they’re going to make it one of their lead titles for January; they’ve hired a publicist, and Alice has high hopes. The bank turned her down for a mortgage, but she’s trying again with a mortgage broker. However, Alice is nervous about the expense of
the apartment she got at auction, and she’s looking into other places. Because of the credit crunch, nobody can get mortgages. The discount rate and prime rate fell on Friday after low inflation numbers and weak retail sales, but with all the bad loans from the 80s, all that means is that banks now won’t loan money at 8% rather than not loan it at 8½%. There were some interesting articles in the Times Magazine, profiles of a black intellectual, Princeton’s Cornel West, and filmmaker Gus Van Sant; they’re both younger than I, but these days, aren’t most folks? Mike Winerip, who’s on leave from the paper to write about a group home for the mentally ill, had an excerpt from his reporting, which I’m certain will make a fine book. A story about Western Europe’s problems in handling immigrants from the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe made me realize that living in France, Germany or Italy is not without the same tensions as the U.S. Actually, I’ve always thought we’re superior in terms of absorbing immigrants, and that’s our nation’s great strength. We may become multicultural much more smoothly than any other country, and if I do see a future here, it’s
with the rise of the “minority” groups who will eventually become a majority of our population. It will be a very different USA in thirty or forty years, just as my childhood in 1950s Brooklyn now seems as remote as the traditional America I saw in movies of the 1930s. Even when I was in college, New York City – and certainly L.A. and Miami – was not filled with immigrants; except for old people who’d talk Yiddish or Italian to supplement their English, I never heard people speaking a foreign language. I like the world the way it’s evolving – into one global market, if not Marshall McLuhan’s global village. Am I ready for another week of law school? After another weekend isolated with reading, why not? The pace of work is piling up, though, and I can see it’s going to get harder for me to make time for non-law school interests. God knows when I’ll get around to looking at all my newsletters and magazines. September’s half-over already.
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. Home for lunch, I got a bunch of mail: bills mostly, and Citibank was smart enough to turn me down for a Visa. Maybe they won’t fail after all. I also got a letter from Crad, which I have yet to open. I probably shouldn’t have opened a can of worms by sending him a postcard.
I expect to read a denunciation or some trash telling me I’ve “sold out.” Even if he’s friendly, if it’s like his last letter with all those bigoted remarks, I don’t think I want to read it. 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. Michael C, 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 Collier.
It doesn’t seem to be getting any cooler. This is a long week because I’ve got three days with four classes, but tomorrow is the last Legal Research and Writing lecture, so future weeks should be 16, not 17, hours – and once lab ends, it will be down to 15 hours.
Tuesday, September 17, 1991
6 PM. I couldn’t sleep last night although I was too tired to do any schoolwork. For the first time in a month, I allowed myself to feel dissatisfaction with my experience at law school. Maybe the grade on my paper bothered me. It’s hard for me to get used to the rookie status I have, the same status as these 22-year-old kids. And am I crazy to be putting myself through this since I really don’t intend to be a lawyer? Basically, my question was simple, “What am I doing here?” However, I know that I’m often disgruntled with my life. If I were teaching English at BCC or elsewhere, no doubt I’d be complaining plenty. I guess I’ve tried to bury my bitterness at not being accepted as a writer. Ninety per cent of the time I avoid that kind of negative thinking
because I don’t want to become a constant griper, like Crad or Tom. By the way, Crad wrote a three-page letter, most of it inoffensive – but still annoying. He’s still involved with his strategies of challenging the literary establishment in what seems like futile and even silly gestures. Crad noted he’d thought I’d had no use for him but I could still make it up to him if I issued a standard invitation to visit Gainesville. I’ll send him a Christmas card. There’s no one I could imagine dreading a visit from more. I guess I misjudged the strength of my own works. I thought, and I still think, that Narcissism and Me contains some of my best work. But I’ve deluged countless people with unsolicited copies and almost no one has reacted at all. Even from friends, I didn’t get compliments, so I assume that, like Crad, I’m too blind to see my own glaring faults are only too obvious to others. I should lay off my officious gift-giving of the chapbook, but I so want to make contact, to reach an audience. Yes, I know, I can’t blame anybody but myself and dumb luck – or lack thereof. In fact, whatever success I did have as a writer may have involved more luck than the quality of my work justified. Still, I’m here in Gainesville, and I’m in law school, and at least I have changed my life.
At the very least, this experience will give me confidence that I can live on my own in an entirely new community, without anyone here from my past life. True, I’ve relied on my parents for some financial support, but that will be temporary. Whatever I’m learning in my classes won’t be wasted. I’m not the type to waste knowledge. In three months my first semester will be over, my last final exam finished, and I’ll go to New York for the holidays. Today was long, with three classes in a row this morning and then Jurisprudence not finishing till 4 PM. I was dismayed how many of my classmates seemed to excuse Lt. Calley because he’d seen a Vietnamese kill his buddies. The law students are so conservative. Michael C argued that what Calley did at My Lai is no worse than other countless horrors in war. Finally, Gene, an Air Force major, said that military officers study Lt. Calley as a prime example of how not to act and react. There were other atrocities in Vietnam, but My Lai had to have been egregiously bad; if it wasn’t, lots of Vietnam veterans would have also murdered innocent civilians, and as strongly as I opposed the war, I can’t believe that.
I’m going to try to do some work tonight. The two-case analysis is due Monday, and I’ve got to improve over the last paper. At least tomorrow I’ve got only three hours of classes and I’ll get home by 3 PM. Maybe I’ll even get to do something fun. Last night, when I couldn’t sleep, I read the Associated Writing Program Newsletter, and that helped: to get away from law studies, if only for a little while.
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 Nina 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, I thin. 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 onecase 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 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 15minute 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 need 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 late 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 Peters’ 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.
Saturday, September 21, 1991
11 PM. I didn’t sleep as much as I needed last night, waking up at 6 AM and finding myself unable to get back to my dreams after five hours. 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. I’d been noticing that New York City had temperatures in the 70°s until recently that 1991 was another endless summer there, with nearly six weeks total with temperatures above 90°. Some people say global warming won’t be that bad, as people adapt to hotter climates. If, in thirty years, New York City has Gainesville’s climate, there’d be no point in leaving the city in winter. 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 Dan’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 Dan 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 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 Dan 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 longs 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 $6700 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 had promised to take myself to the movies this weekend as a treat, but instead I went to Angelina and Dan’s yesterday, bought a pair of jeans at Maas Brothers on Thursday night, and today I had lunch at McDonald’s. 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. I see at the top of the diary page that there are 100 days left in 1991. Autumn officially begins tomorrow. It still astonishes me a little that I’m in Gainesville. In Mickey D’s, eating my McLean Deluxe, I thought about the changes in my life since I tasted my first McLean Deluxe in April on Victory Boulevard in Van Nuys. Throughout the late 70s and all of the 80s, I kept promising myself I’d take risks, and while I did take a few, nothing was as big as the risks I’ve taken this year. I’ve managed to
overcome a lot of my fears dealing with abandonment, loss and identity. Yeah, I’ve still got a long way to go, but I like discovering new things about myself. Does this all sound like pop-psychobabble? Well, how about an economic analysis? Things are as bad as I thought they’d be. The other evening in the department store, I was practically alone, with no other customers around. In Florida, state budget cuts have already forced the Regents to put off starting a badly-needed tenth university in Fort Myers, and UF and all the other schools are facing the kind of substantial cuts that have crippled colleges in Massachusetts. Consumers are gloomy, and they should be. While Rust Belt manufacturing is doing okay, the rest of the economy stinks, and I don’t see where the upturn will come from. Bush makes these photo-ops to show he’s got a domestic agenda (one of the Democrats should really exploit how touchy and testily defensive Bush is; he’s constantly whining despite his huge popularity), but his real interests lie elsewhere: settling the Israeli-Arab conflict (Israel and the U.S. are at loggerheads over settlements on the West Bank – probably the only area where I agree with Bush) and threatening Saddam Hussein with more troops if the Iraqis don’t let UN inspectors see their weapons sites.
Enough writing about the world? How’m I doing? Better than Ed Koch, probably. My forehead seems to be the spawning ground for a new zit every day. I keep finding palmetto bugs in the bathroom. Last night I read till 1 AM but had the luxury of sleeping till 8:30 AM. Yesterday’s aerobics led to a pain in the bottom of my left foot (from jumping). 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 loquitor, 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 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 the Alligator: 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 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’ 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 might 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. My life is so full these days. I’ve got to do something to find time to do something. Seriously, 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. Actually, I slept fine last night, but I’m still tired. I even skipped a workout this morning so I could sleep until 6:45 AM. At 8 AM, I had the C-10 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. I wolfed down my lunch because I was so ravenous, and then I turned right around for school, where 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.
Wednesday, September 25, 1991
4 PM. I’m undressed and under the covers. A hard rain is falling, and there’s a tornado warning in effect. I was yawning all morning, but as usual, now that I have time to nap, I can’t. Law school is beginning to get to me. I made an appointment to speak with Marty Peters on Monday. I don’t know; I feel resentful that law school is interfering with my life. I’d like to go to the GLSU meeting tonight and Padgett Powell’s reading tomorrow night and the WUFT-FM open house on Saturday, but I can’t seem to find the time. Of course, I didn’t have to join a study group and go to all these tutorials. There are a few students, like Alain, who never seem to be anywhere except in class, and I suppose I should be one of those people who’ll be satisfied to get C’s. After all, what difference will it make in my life if I have a 3.2 index or a 2.3 index, other than losing my scholarship, which wouldn’t happen until I return to law school after grad school in the fall of ’93 a long way off?
Maybe I need someone to give me permission to be a C student. Even my friends whose only goal was to be a lawyer did okay being C students. Look at Mikey, for example. The kind of practice I’d have if I intended to practice wouldn’t be the kind I’d need top grades for. I didn’t think that I was killing myself, but study group adds nearly an hour to each day, although today we decided to meet at the end of the day and to go ahead with three people as a quorum. Last night I slept okay, but I’d taken two Triavils to ensure that, and I was still sleepy all morning. I don’t feel like writing what we did in each class, maybe because I was a bit bored and confused today. Well, in any enterprise there are good days and bad days, the best thing to do is make the most of the good days and the least of the bad ones. Tomorrow will be a long day, with four classes. At least Fridays are easier, though I now have the Contracts C-10 tutorial. I guess the question is whether I just want to slide by or really learn this stuff. There’s no right or wrong answer, and I’ll probably have to adjust my level of intensity to the way I feel at the moment. Maybe talking to Marty Peters will allow me to clear up some of this stuff in my own mind.
Today the semester is one-third over. Actually, it isn’t that bad. Assuming that next term is just like this one (even though it’s 13 credits, not 15), that’s still only about 120 more days of law school classes. I don’t have to go in the summer, although my least runs to the end of July, and I’d planned to take the rest of my first year classes next summer. Who knows, it’s unthinkable, but the new state budget cuts make it possible that the law school, like the undergraduate college, will have to drastically curtail its summer offerings. With all these budget cuts hitting academia from Florida to California (Long Beach State stopped taking freshmen) to Massachusetts, this is probably a good time not to be teaching English on the college level. Last night I dreamed I was at a meeting of BCC English teachers who were told we’d have to take more classes because of more students because of budget cuts. I’m sure meetings like that are going on in schools at every level across America: Do less with more, even if there wasn’t much to begin with. Well, I’ve been expecting this economic collapse for years, so I can’t complain that I didn’t see this coming. What a country. I’ve seen nothing that shakes me of the belief that the U.S. is never going to deal seriously with our society’s problems.
Thursday, September 26, 1991
8 PM. Autumn actually arrives on time in North Florida. This morning when I went out, it was delightfully cool – actually too cool for even the long heavy jeans I bought last week. It got up only to a delightful 78° today, and 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 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. Poverty rates rose last year, the GNP fell ½% in the first quarter, and weekly initial unemployment claims hit a three-month high.
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 artisticallyshaped 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? Actually, as global tensions recede now that the Cold War is history, it will probably sharpen the American people’s focus on our unmet needs at home. Within a few years at the most, the debate will shift, and the late 1990s will be a time of incredibly activity, maybe as exciting as the New Deal of the 60s. The question is, will the public reelect Bush and then turn against him and the kind of conservatism that dominated the 80s, or will things get bad enough so that the change will start with a redefining election in ’92? Either
way, I still feel we’ve got a chance to turn things around before it’s too late.
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 all the 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.” The material I delved into today was interesting, but I’m too close to it now and too full of it to draw any conclusions or even to fully comprehend it. So much of legal study is like that. I’m not used to not getting things the first time they’re explained.
The cases are all stories, however, and some are as interesting as I’d get reading a representational piece of fiction, although the way the opinions are written, all the real drama lies beyond the text. I’m dissatisfied with myself for having gained weight. I weighed 149 on the Albertson’s scale tonight, and that means I’ve gained nearly ten pounds since last year. Granted, I was wearing long pants – it’s cool out – but the 30” Levis are becoming tight on me. I still write down everything I eat, but I eat enormous quantities of food. It’s mostly healthy stuff, and I can still see a sheath of abdominal muscles, but I know I’m starting to get out control again. I have to remember that I’m like an alcoholic, except that I have to eat. I’ll limit myself to 1700 or 1800 calories rather than the 2000 I’ve been allotting myself. The 2000 is probably an undercount, but my estimated daily calorie intake has consistently been an undercount. Ronna sent a card dated Thursday, saying she’s “a free woman – last Friday was my last day at YU.” 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. It’s frustrating to have so much material to cover and to have so little time to reflect upon it. Last night, as now, I’ve kept the window by my bed open. Soon I can probably open all the windows and cut down on the air conditioning. The problem with trying to get all my work done over the weekend is that eventually, like at this moment, I get to the point of diminishing returns. So enough study for today, unless I can’t sleep and feel I’m not forcing myself. What to do? Nothing decent is on the three channels my TV gets. Radio? Or maybe I should just sleep, or attempt to sleep.
At this time last year I had just left Rockaway to move in with my parents. I wasn’t working and was beginning to get all these dunning phone calls from creditors. Still, the three or four weeks before I started working at BCC did give me lots of free time, especially to go to the 2 Live Crew obscenity trials. Maybe I should go over my notes from the trials and see if I can make sense of them in light of what I’ve learned in law school.
Sunday, September 29, 1991
2 PM. I just got dressed to go out to the UF library to try to get the Ocala Star-Banner article, but it’s been raining hard all day, and one second thought, I’ll be better off waiting till later in the week. Last night I found my notes from the Too Much Joy trial in January, and I could decipher most of them. I think the material from the Freeman and 2 Live Crew trials is at home in Fort Lauderdale. I’m curious as to how Charlie Freeman’s appeal is progressing. He was an unlikely defendant, some people said, but I think of him as the true hero in the case. Unlike Luther Campbell and the other musicians, Freeman had nothing to gain, and he got totally screwed.
Someone should give him an award for standing up for the First Amendment. It was nearly a year ago that a Florida jury convicted him of selling a record album, and even though I was in the courtroom every day, I can hardly believe it happened. Nothing I’ve learned in law school makes me any less apprehensive that under our legal system, such injustices won’t continue to occur. Clarence Thomas will be confirmed by the Senate, despite the Judiciary Committee tying 7-7 on a recommendation, and another right-wing mediocrity will decide our laws. Remember Sen. Hruska’s comment during the Carswell nomination about mediocre people needing representation on the Supreme Court? Even by American standards, mediocrities are now vastly overrepresented. As extreme as Bork was, at least he had a solid intellect. Having been subject to reading too many decisions by Justice White, I already know what bad writing and fuzzy logic can result from dumb judges. If there are any Cardozos or Learned Hands out there today, they’re unknown to me. Last night I found an AM station in Macon, Georgia, that broadcasts CNN Headline News, and I listened to that for a bit before I delved into Civil Procedure, which put me to sleep fast.
Up at 7:30 AM, I’ve managed to do my aerobics, listen to and watch news shows (Weekend Edition, McLaughlin, Brinkley, Business World) and do my week’s briefs for Torts and Contracts. I’ve got plenty to do, and I won’t get to it all, but at least I can save myself some work during the week. I wanted to see a movie this weekend, but I don’t feel I can sacrifice the time. Tomorrow I see Marty Peters. I’m not sure what I’m going to say to her, but maybe talking to a psychologist will help me clear up some of the issues rattling around in my head.
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. He cracks me up, like when he said putting an ad in a periodical saying “Dalmatian puppies – $25 each – first come, first saved” 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 very productively. Tomorrow is October already. Wasn’t I just writing, “Tomorrow is September already”? There are less than two months of classes left, and finals themselves will be over 11 weeks from today. They’ll pass quickly, I’m sure.
Tuesday, October 1, 1991
7 PM. I wondered why I felt so tired last night, but then I realized I’d been at school from 7:45 AM to 4:45 PM, with only an hour break for lunch, so it had been a long day. I fell asleep during a documentary on LBJ and slept soundly for over eight hours. At school by 8 AM, I was the last person to join Karin, Steve, Mark, Barry, Pauline and Nancy for Prescott’s C-10 tutorial on Civ Pro. It was helpful, but Prescott had to leave early for an interview, so I went to Jed’s carrel and xeroxed the hypo he’d left for his C-10 tutorial. Torts was okay; at one point I had to kick Doug G, who fell asleep. Usually his problem is talking too much to me; he comments on every case and I just nod. During the break, I managed to read most of the Times and the other papers and reread the
cases for Contracts. I enjoyed Davis again today. His class is lively, and it’s interesting to see how some students, notably Martin, keep being bloodied by Davis when they make rash statements but nevertheless continue to constantly raise their hands. I guess they’re learning by participating. During my lunch break, I went home and watched All My Children, an ABC soap I’d followed periodically; now, since I can’t get NBC’s Another World, and the only time I have is from 1-2 PM on Monday and Tuesday, I’ve been following AMC as a needed diversion. Our study group at met in the cafeteria at 2 PM to go over our notes. Costas still hasn’t come back from Miami, and we’re concerned he’s decided to drop out. I can understand why, since his wife has to live in Miami. He already found out the University of Miami will make him take first-year classes over if he transfers, so he won’t gain anything by staying at UF this year if he does transfer. Poor guy: it must be hard for him. The “face books” came out at Student Services: a catalog of the fall entering class’s photos with names and undergrad colleges. We all spent time poring over them, lamenting that our photos were so bad – but everyone else looked fine – and realizing, “Oh, so that’s so-and-so’s name.”
There were a lot of typos – Gary became “Gray”; Shay’s alma mater was listed as “Yassar College” – but the book is very useful. I enjoyed Jurisprudence, where we did the battered wife case. When Doug K asked me how we should outline the course, I told him I was clueless. Before coming home, I stopped at the public library and found the Ocala Star-Banner article, pretty much word for word what the Sun had. I got a letter from Dean Kent, who said I hadn’t officially registered for the joint J.D./M.A.M.C. program. I didn’t know why that happened: I just did what people told me to do when I went to registrar’s office. Anyway, I wrote Dean Kent and asked how to correct the problem and if I could get assistantship application for next year. After dinner, I watched the news: Congress passed extended benefits for the unemployed and sent the “garbage” bill to Bush for his veto. I think the President is being misled by his advisers because he really gives off the impression that he doesn’t care about the unemployed. Last night Mikey said sarcastically, “Haven’t you heard? The recession is over.” Over it ain’t – and it could be getting worse. Of course I’ve forecast gloom for so long, what do I know?
But the report card on the Bush administration’s vaunted education goals for 2000 all but admitted that some of the goals – like having American students first among nations in math and science within nine years – are impossible to achieve, given the current low standards and a lack of progress. How long before people in America start to wake up to what’s been happening?
Wednesday, October 2, 1991
8 PM. I really wanted to attend Barbara Grier’s talk, “A Garden Variety Lesbian,” right now at the Reitz Union. She’s the woman behind Tallahassee’s Naiad Press. But I’m already sleepy, and I guess I have to give up all my plans to go out at any time during a weeknight this term. Sleepy as I am now, I could force myself to get out, but then I’d probably end up being unable to sleep all night, the way I was when I attended the first GLSU meeting four weeks ago. I’ll have to put off most extracurricular activities till next year. Perhaps if I were younger, I’d have the stamina, but there are times when I feel every one of my forty years. I may appear young, but I don’t have the same level of energy as my 22-year-old classmates.
Even when I didn’t put in these 9 AM-to-4 PM days at school, I rarely stayed out late. Last night I fell asleep at 10 PM and woke up at 6 AM, did my usual exercises, had breakfast, and got to school early although I didn’t have a class or tutorial. Instead, I briefed cases for Crim and Civ Pro and copied Prescott’s Contracts outline from the C-10 file on reserve. Classes went slowly this morning, and I found my mind wandering during Torts and Criminal Law. I purposely asked Dowd a question with the expectation that she’d put me on the spot, firing back questions that made me think. Earlier, I’d read an article Jed left us, about legal argument. I understand that knowing the content of all these legal rules is less important than figuring out how to master the techniques of legal argument since all the rules are totally malleable. Everyone in first year is looking for the answer, but there is no answer. It’s all in getting the answer, any well-argued answer. I don’t quite get a lot of the stuff we’re learning, but I will, and as Dowd said, “If you’re a little confused, you’re probably just where you want to be.” I lay down for about twenty minutes when I came home for lunch, but even though I had only one class. Civ Pro, in the afternoon, the time felt heavy. It didn’t go slowly – no, not when I had to struggle to keep up with
Mashburn (and today I could follow her line of reasoning more often than not) – but it takes a lot out of me. Another thing that made today longer and more intense was a one-hour study group session. Costas returned, and I didn’t ask him what happened, but I’m glad he’s back. Also, Emira joined our group. By the time I got home, I wanted to get away from law, so I lay down and listened to an audiotape I got at the public library yesterday, Michael Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. If I don’t have the time or eyesight to read contemporary fiction, at least I can listen to it. I’m envious of Chabon’s ability to create a story and to use language so effectively. Compared to him, I have three left feet – and while a phrase like that may be somewhat original, it’s not close to the same league as Chabon, so I can understand why he’s praised and I’m ignored. Does that sound bitter? I honestly mean it. You know what else? Listening to the tape, I could only think about playing it for a class, like the English 1102 class I taught at BCC last spring, where I used many different techniques to get them interested in literature. I miss teaching college English even with the low status, poor salary and bad working conditions. If there were actually good schools in America – well, I was going to say I’d even
consider becoming a high school teacher, but let’s not get carried away. This summer Sat Darshan’s friend from Frankfurt, Alex, told me that in Germany, schoolteachers have about the same status and salary as do lawyers. I wrote to Sat Darshan and to Harold today.
Thursday, October 3, 1991
8 PM. I should have gone to a meeting about homophobia at the church across the street, but I kept looking and didn’t see any people go in, and the church looked dark. Maybe the Alligator got it wrong. Okay, part of it is that I dread meeting new people. And part of it is my ambivalence about being openly gay. I did attend the first GLSU meeting because I knew there’d be a large crowd there and a lot of people, and I was set to go to the second meeting when Marc called to say he was in town that night. Last night and last Wednesday I was too exhausted, but I feel peppier tonight. I thought I’d have an easier time coming out in Gainesville, but part of me is still afraid that people won’t think of me in the same way. Of course it didn’t seem to matter in New York or South Florida, but people had known me for years before I came out there.
I’ve mentioned to people here that I’ve had girlfriends, but not that I had ever had a boyfriend. Well, in recent years I haven’t had either a boyfriend or a girlfriend, but the point is, I still feel uncomfortable around others I don’t know well. A lot of it is just that I’m shy. If I weren’t forced to be in contact with law students, I probably wouldn’t know anyone in Gainesville, and I didn’t go to any of the law school parties I’ve been invited to, either. Being older here is also weird; at the GLSU meeting, I had a hard time talking to people because they were so much younger. I just read a review of John Cheever’s journals, which paint a portrait of a pathetic, lonely man. Is that me? Except unlike Cheever, I didn’t go out and have secret relationships; lately I’m not having any relationships at all. I can see using the heavy workload of law school as just another excuse to avoid meeting people. What am I scared of? Being hurt. Not being in control. Why else did I mostly have affairs with old friends like Ronna and a 17year-old boy like Sean, people I knew I could trust, who I knew wouldn’t hurt me? Thursdays are the only night I’m not that tired, because the week is over, and I know I don’t have to be up at 6 AM tomorrow. Last night I dozed off around 9 PM, and this morning I gave myself an extra 45 minutes because I was too tired to exercise.
At school, I read the Legal Research and Writing assignment before class. Next week the outlines of our memos are due. I got a 3+ on the two-case analysis, and they commented that it was a big improvement, but my paper was still as marked up as any freshman comp student’s. I know Scott’s pat on the back was an encouragement – he said my paper showed I worked hard – but after all, I am a writer, even if I’m not Nadine Gordimer, who today got the Nobel Prize. Criminal Law was confusing today. I’ve resisted thinking this, but sometimes Nunn doesn’t seem all that competent. The horror of thinking he wouldn’t be teaching at UF if not for affirmative action is beyond words for someone like me who supports it strongly, but Nunn mispronounces names, gets facts wrong, gives us irrelevant hypos, and sometimes seems to flounder. I like him a lot, and I know he’s teaching for the first time, and they say it’s always tough to get a new teacher, that Dowd and Mashburn weren’t great their first term out, either. But today Nunn confused us more than a professor should, for he wasn’t dealing with subtleties. After a quick lunch, I went to the media room and discovered I could copy the CALI program I’d taken to a computer. It’s on joinder, just what we’re doing now, as Mashburn went over the very complicated Pulitzer case.
As an experiment, she taught without notes so we wouldn’t be exposed to irrelevant details about parts of the law we don’t know yet, and she was fairly clear. In Jurisprudence, we went over an interesting case dealing with one’s duty to help a stricken person. On woman evoked stares when she said that not everybody would do a good deed, “maybe only a moral person or a Baptist.” I saw Ken K and Jonathan exchange glances – I think they’re both Jewish – and Karin (a Catholic) looked at me with a quizzical expression. Anyway, I knew what the woman meant. Although I haven’t been introduced to everyone, I try to say hi to all my classmates and use their names if I know them, but some people don’t respond. Maybe they’re shy or maybe they don’t like me, although I’m probably paranoid. There’s absolutely no one in the first year class I dislike – certainly not Lawrence, whose rightwing comments are offset by a wicked sense of humor. Some people seem a little odd, but I like oddballs. I can’t say I’ve met anyone who didn’t impress me as a decent person. We had a nice study group again. Emira is probably the most observant Jew in our class; it’s interesting to learn more about people. For example, Costas’ father was the captain of a
cruise ship, which is why Costas was brought up all over the world. And yesterday Dan shocked me by using the word “spic” jokingly; he said that he used to get called that, but I didn’t even realize that was an ethnic slur about Cubans. (Maybe people thought he was Puerto Rican?) In today’s mail, I saw that Harold’s letter crossed the one I wrote him. He’s still getting used to Minneapolis but said the workload at Minneapolis Community College is hard: three 5-credit courses each trimester. He’s been intrigued by his American Indian students, the first he’s ever had. And Minneapolis has already turned quite cold. I see American Express is laying off 1700 people because of huge losses with their Optima Card as defaults lead to bankruptcy. It’s no wonder: they had no business giving me a $16,000 credit line.
Friday, October 4, 1991
5 PM. Another week of law school gone. I’m learning an awful lot, but I’m frustrated by the lack of time to study in depth. The pace is only picking up, and it seems to me things could be taught more effectively if we weren’t all so pressed for time. But these
systems in education tend to perpetuate themselves, and I’ll survive. I spoke to Dad last night. He said he had to get out of the house because all his customers were calling with cancellations of orders due to poor sales. I talked about law school, and Dad mentioned that his sister just got back from Washington and reported that Scott is looking tired and old. Because of all the banking problems, he’s working seven-day weeks at his firm. What’s the point of having three kids if you don’t get to see them, or worse, if you work yourself into health problems? What good do a sky-high income and a law firm partnership do you then? Last night I noticed a photo in the Times about garbage collection on the Upper West Side, and I realized that 350 West 85th Street, or a slice of it, was in the background. So naturally I dreamed of being with Teresa at the old apartment, only somebody else was living there. I guess more than any other place in the 1980s, West 85th Street felt like home to me, and I miss it. This summer I couldn’t bring myself to visit the block. Eventually I’ll feel toward it the way I do about East 56th Street in Brooklyn and associated it with a farremoved past.
It’s a luxury to get to school at 10 AM on Fridays. Relaxed this morning, studied and exercised. Before Crim, I spoke with Mike W, who’s convinced that the practice of law, like medicine, is a “scam,” and we’re indoctrinated with a sense that we’re special because we’re getting an education that’s mysterious to others. But, Mike said, any reasonably intelligent person could do his or her own legal work if attorneys didn’t mystify and complicate everything. In Crim, we discussed provocation in homicide. I bought the Emanuel’s Criminal Law outline, which everyone else in the class already seemed to have; people tell me it’s clearer than Nunn’s discussions of the issues. In our C-10 tutorial, Jed told us how to answer the questions on Dowd’s final, and like others, he said our exam – and thus our grade – has little to do with what happens in class every day. I had lunch with Ray, Jim, and Darin, guys I don’t know too well. It’s interesting to see how different people experience and deal with law school. We exchanged what information we’d heard about various teachers’ finals. Everyone seems to be looking toward December, but I just wish I could concentrate on learning for learning’s sake. After Civ Pro,
though, our study group did talk about the concepts we’ve been learning. Emira is a moralist, and I argued with her (good-naturedly, of course) that she’s got to learn to see the other side, to figure out how she could make a case for some pretty immoral defendants and plaintiffs, whether they’re rapists or greedy corporations. Although I stayed at school late, the ideas we tossed around exhilarated me. Back at the apartment, I found my last unemployment check – for $87 – in my mailbox, and I took it to the bank. God knows how I’m going to survive financially now, but I think I can get through the academic year somehow. If I don’t get an assistantship next year, I may have to drop out, but I can’t think about that now. There aren’t many jobs out there at present, but I have confidence that if the worst happens, I will not go hungry. I spent the evening reading and watching news. God knows how I’ll get all my work done this weekend. I just wish that this weekend we’d have the extra hour we get a few weeks from now, when daylight savings times ends. (Jay Leno joked we set the clocks back this weekend because on Monday the Supreme Court goes back into session.) It’s still raining.
Saturday, October 5, 1991
2:30 PM. It just began raining heavily again. I went out only to get the papers, but it’s been oppressively humid, and my sinus-clogged head has caused me dizziness. I’m taking a break after doing the week’s reading for Contracts and Torts. Tomorrow I’ll brief the cases, which I’ve highlighted with my marker. If I can also read ahead in Criminal Law and Jurisprudence today, I’ll be happy, although I also need to do the outline for my legal memo before Thursday. Last night I finished listening to Michael Chabon’s Mysteries of Pittsburgh in bed. My only cassette player is a little portable one, so I have to place the earphones next to my head on the pillow. The book was excellent, and I regret feeling that Chabon’s early fame was undeserved. Actually, I’ve enjoyed nearly all the books of younger writers like McInerney, Leavitt, Janowitz, Eisenstadt, et al. – although each of them has produced at least one book I couldn’t bear to finish (usually their second or third book. Because I’ve been insulated (by my own doing) from a life of passion, I can’t really do what Chabon does when he makes his protagonist’s encounters with sex and danger come alive. For some reason, after the book ended, I felt I
missed Bubbe Ita terribly and wished she were still alive, and I wished I hadn’t, when I was in first grade, felt that I was too old to wear the Mickey Mouse cardigan she’d given me. Odd. I thought of the line from some poem: “After the first death, there is no other.” Coming when I was just 6 years old and didn’t real understand, my great-grandmother’s death may have made me feel worse than anyone’s death since then. Why do I feel certain I will return to writing fiction?
Sunday, October 6, 1991
7 PM. I didn’t even start my outline, but I did get through all the reading for the week, though I still have to brief Crim and Civ Pro. Reading cases and other material is sheer pleasure for me; it’s intellectually stimulating. This weekend I finally got to Cardozo’s big decision in Palsgraf for Torts, cases on natural law for Jurisprudence, cases on involuntary homicide – like the 1942 Cocoanut Grove fire for Crim, cases on acceptance for Contracts, and cases on intervention in Civ Pro. My mind is getting quite a workout. I like studying law on my own, and I like the companionship at school although I find the
rigid, hierarchical structure of law school and its underlying assumptions – after all, the Langdellian curriculum is based on 19th century capitalism and obedience to authority and furtherance of an elite class – as out-of-date as they are inescapable. The healthiest students are probably those like Mike W, who see it as a scam, but it’s impossible not to get caught up in the frantic, mystified quest for something to hold onto, something that’ll get you through the final. It doesn’t have to be this way. I’m convinced of the value of the case method in moderation, but there’s absolutely no reason our grades have to be determined solely by the final exam. I know that we need lots and lots of information to be able to handle the analytic process, but progress can be measured by other means before classes end for the semester. For me, law school provides an intellectual feat once I can get beyond the trivia of the trees and see the Amazon of what it’s all about. I don’t have the patience or eye for detail needed to be a lawyer, but so what? Here I am, 40 years old, learning something new, working my brain every day. I’m more worried about my health (all this rain and humidity destroy my sinuses and cause dizziness) than about screwing up on my Torts exam. I’ll try to do my best without going
crazy; it’s important to remember that and not get swept up in grade fever. I’m as competitive as most, but really, I don’t need the good grades as much as my fellow study group members do (or think they do, which is the same thing). Last night Gorbachev matched Bush’s missile cuts and went further, so disarmament is actually taking place. This is unbelievable by the standards of 1968, 1978 or 1988, so why aren’t I and everyone else ecstatic? Because our country’s in trouble, we all know it, and we’ve resolved not to do anything about it. My own feeling is that Harkin will beat Kerrey and Clinton for the Democratic nomination, but at this time next year he’ll be 25 points down in the polls. Because of the economy, people are frustrated, but they’re looking to blame someone – minorities, gays, people with AIDS, the Japanese and the Europeans – rather than looking for solutions. In Florida, Gov. Chiles seems to be waiting for things to get bad enough with all these budget cuts that people will finally realize we need an income tax and other fiscal reforms – but I see no evidence that will happen. I don’t want to get involved in 1990s-style political action because it seems so futile. The worst and the best are full of passionate intensity, but people are only accomplishing things on a one-on-one basis.
Do I sound like I’m talking up Bush’s thousand points of light? What I want to know is what kind of activism we’ll see over the next few years. Pompous stuff, no? Well, that’s what comes of a weekend spent reading and thinking. I think I’ll go watch Parker Lewis Can’t Lose! On Fox; that should be an antidote. Yesterday I phoned Teresa, but she was busy preparing for a party, so she said she’d phone me back. It’s now two months that I’ve been in Gainesville, and I wish I had more time to explore the place the way I did in the few days before school started.
Monday, October 7, 1991
8 PM. Last night I had a dream about Wesley, which is odd because I came across his name today in a Times story about his agent heading a new film unit at Universal. The agent, the article said, “represents some of the most powerful and prestigious directors and writers in Hollywood, including Martin Scorsese, Barry Levinson, Sydney Pollack, and Wesley Strick.” Wow: my old editor is in some heady company. I feel proud of Wes’s success, and after all, if he hadn’t liked my work when he saw it thirteen years ago, I’d have never gotten a
book out of a New York publisher, and my career probably would have been very different. I could argue that maybe it would have been better to wait before my first book publication, but no other trade publisher has ever been interested in my work, and Taplinger gave me a legitimacy that helped my later small press books get some notice. Also, I got to do stuff like join the Authors Guild. I got my membership card today, and I paid the dues promptly because the Guild allowed me to be a star in Jurisprudence today. We went over the Basic Books v. Kinko case which so troubled Collier because he returned from Germany last summer surprised that he could no longer put together xeroxed anthologies from books the way he had been. I “argued eloquently” (he said) for the author’s point of view, and I got to say some things that established I knew something about the copyright law: I corrected Collier about the length of copyright terms – and also pointedly said “she” when he called Judge Motley a “he.” And I spoke knowledgeably about publishing and technology. Was I being a show-off? Well, I hope not. But it’s often frustrating to have all this information in my brain, the result of so much reading and personal experience, and not have anyone to get it out to.
That’s where I miss teaching. In general, I find myself enjoying Jurisprudence most because it’s like an academic subject I feel most comfortable with. Yesterday’s Times Book Review had a cover story on Catherine MacKinnon, the feminist legal scholar – pretty timely, too, considering the revelation on NPR that the Senate and FBI investigated Clarence Thomas’ assistant at the EEOC, and the woman, now a law professor, claimed he sexually harassed her. Still, he’ll probably be confirmed tomorrow so he can join the other mediocrities on the Supreme Court who today began their energetic move to turn the clock back. Last night was chilly, and I had on a jacket this morning because it was a very cool 53°. Scott had us do our individual “tests”: I had to look up and Shepardize a statute and cases dealing with adoptive parents preventing natural parents from inheriting their child’s estate. Doing research is a part of law school I like, too. Torts was stimulating, as we went over Palsgraf. And I enjoyed Contracts, too, despite the headache, sore throat and vertigo I’ve had all day. My sinuses have been bad for the last two months, but today was dry. Maybe I need more sleep.
Our study group met at 2 PM at Emira’s house across the street from school. Karin and I weren’t thrilled about going there, but we got there before Dan, Todd and Costas, who forgot and ended up coming late. We were talking about Dowd and someone mentioned her daughter. “Is she married?” I asked. “No,” Emira said. “I’ve heard she’s a lesbian.” “She’s a carpet-hugger,” Dan said, or something like that – obviously a homophobic remark. “Well,” Todd said, “it is Coming Out Week.” The matter dropped, but I didn’t know if I should say anything. In one way I feel it’s not their business what kind of sexual preferences I have (perhaps more so since I’m not sexually active), but I also know that it is Coming Out Week, and that I feel guilty about not standing up for gay people. The fact that Dowd may be gay (if she is) is something that’s her business and has nothing to do with our class. Of course I was the one who started the personal questions by asking if she was married. It never occurred to me that Dowd was gay; that wasn’t why I asked – but I see now that it was just as homophobic of me to assume that
she was straight as it is for everyone to assume I’m straight. Anyway, today was interesting and productive, and I felt good except physically. When I spoke to Mom today, I discovered she and Dad had paid the rent for the last two months, when of course I did too, so we called College Park and they said my rent is now paid up for the rest of the year. Mom bemoaned the trickle of business at the flea market. They took in so little on the weekend, they were actually losing money by opening up. Mom doesn’t know if they can continue; I told her the vendors should get Preston Henn to lower their rent. Mom also said she should have listened to me and waited a while to change their mortgage rate. But I couldn’t be certain that the economy would falter and wouldn’t want my parents to depend on the reliability of my economic predictions. It’s really starting to get scary out there. Business stinks.
Tuesday, October 8, 1991
7 PM. Tomorrow is the midpoint of the law school semester, with seven weeks of classes left. It’s probably a good time to assess my
experience, though of course I’ve been doing that all along. I don’t know if I’ll ever get a J.D. degree and much less if I’ll ever decide to practice law, but I know that I’m getting the UF equivalent of Yale’s M.S.L. program essentially for free, and that even if I never attended another class, I’ve already learned so much that I feel the experience has been very valuable. It’s been a little strange, but I now understand the first-year law school process, or at least the basics of it, and why my lawyer friends always made it sound different from other kinds of schooling. I’ve made acquaintances if not friends, and it will be interesting to see what happens after Coming Out Week. I came out to Karin and Larry just before Jurisprudence, and it was spontaneous. Larry was saying he would wear his flannel pants on Friday, and I asked why, and he said that gay people announced they were going to be wearing jeans for Coming Out Day. “Well, I’m wearing jeans today,” I said. “No, that’s just if you’re gay.” “I am gay,” I said, “except since I started law school, I haven’t had time to be gay.” “You mean you’re not in a relationship?”
“No, well, that too. It’s just I don’t have time to do anything.” And we changed the topic – Karin sits between us – and soon class started. I kept thinking I’d done something silly and wondered if I’d upset Karin. It’s not that I think she’s homophobic, although that’s a possibility, but it might not have been fair to spring it on her the way I did, so matter-of-factly. Should I have prepared her? On the other hand, why should people make the presumption that everyone else is straight? That’s like making the assumption Collier did yesterday, that the Judge in the Kinko case was a man. And I didn’t “prepare” anyone when I told people I was Jewish – actually, it just came up in conversation, the way this did. But of course it’s different. Anti-Semitism isn’t acceptable and homophobia is. As I tell more people I’m gay, I wonder, will I be subjected to overt hostility, silence on the part of people who formerly would chat with me? But with all this Coming Out Week stuff, I feel too guilty to remain in my comfortable closet. Part of me resents that I have to do this, but if I don’t, who will? I mean, I couldn’t live with myself if I did something (not by an act but by an omission – see, I’m talking like a lawyer) that hurt gay
people in general and which allowed others to express bigotry without being challenged. My worst fantasies always involved being shunned and getting physically attacked – of course that never happened in New York or South Florida – but why should I be exempt when every other gay person who’s “out” has to deal with this? When sexual harassment is the lead story on every newscast – the Thomas confirmation vote was postponed – like it or not, private lives are public, and sex is politics. UF has a sexual harassment policy as well as a policy on homophobia, and even in the backward state, as of a week ago, gay-bashing became a hate crime. I still believe that talking about one’s sex life doesn’t really tell anybody anything, but this is 1991. Up early, I went to the C-10 tutorial, then Torts. Karin got called on today, which we predicted, and she was nervous, but now, like me, she’s relieved she won’t be called on again this semester. I enjoyed my other classes, copied the Contracts disks (I know, I’m a hypocrite after all my talk about protecting copyright in Jurisprudence), and went to our study group meeting outside at 12:30 PM. In the student lounge between classes, I sat behind this guy in our class, Martin, as the TV
featured a female impersonator doing Bette Davis. “That’s Zsa Zsa Gabor, isn’t it?” Martin asked his friend. God, I’m getting very, very old.
Wednesday, October 9, 1991
4:30 PM. Tired, as usual. At least I slept well last night. I’ve got to work on my outline for the Legal Research and Writing memo. Scott said we could hand it in to his mailbox by Friday, but I’d love to get it done by tomorrow. I’ve been putting it off as long as I could. Now that it’s the second half of the semester, the workload for classes is picking up, which I could tell by Dowd’s reading assignment next week: about 50 pages, nearly twice the length of assignments of just a few weeks ago. Everyone seemed tired today, although nobody but Doug G seems to fall asleep in class. (I had to nudge him three times today during our back-to-back Torts and Crim Law classes.) I actually understood nearly everything that went on today in Civ Pro, and that scares me a little. We had a good study group session after classes today. Yesterday a car hit Dan on his bicycle on SW 34th Street, and he was badly bruised and limping all day. His bike was undamaged and he had no cuts, but he was
quite shaken up and went over to Costas’ house. We all told Dan he probably should see a doctor, but I can understand why he didn’t – just like I didn’t when I totaled that rental car at Kennedy Airport last year. I can’t think of much else that was extraordinary today. The BarBri people keep signing up law students for their study programs, and I guess I’m one of the few who hasn’t paid the money. Cheryl invited our group to come over tomorrow night to watch L.A. Law and said, “You all study too much.” Of course, Karin said Cheryl got C’s her first semester, so I don’t think she’s a good role model. I honestly don’t know when my fellow students have time for a social life, but I guess I don’t remember what it’s like to have the stamina and energy level of a 22-year-old. As Todd said, one problem is that our days are so long; if our classes weren’t so spread out, we’d have bigger blocks of time to deal with. The 2½-hour midday breaks don’t really help, though I do like coming home for lunch. But since the study group began, I never get home for the day before 4 PM, and every day but Friday I leave at 7:45 AM.
Thursday, October 10, 1991
7 PM. By Thursday night I usually feel giddy with relief and weariness. I can see the strain the first year of law school is putting on my classmates. Greg said he just couldn’t face looking at textbooks last evening. Karin isn’t eating right and she nearly made herself sick by waiting till 3 PM to eat something yesterday. Doug G fell asleep at least seven times in Criminal Law today, and since we sit right in front of Prof. Nunn, I was afraid he’d notice, so I kept tapping my foot against Doug’s and he’d open his eyes, but soon his head would be falling forward again. In Crim, nobody volunteered to give the facts of a case because people were either tired or hadn’t read it. Embarrassed by the silence, I raised my hand even though I talk a lot in class. In Civ Pro, Mashburn called on a student who said she “passed,” which she should have known would not be “acceptable” in that class. From Legal Research and Writing at 9:10 AM to the end of Jurisprudence at 4 PM, everyone seemed to be in a mid-semester slump. Our study group didn’t even want to go over our Crim notes, though we did try some hypos.
And I forgot when I returned to school from lunch that I’d parked on the street. After the last class, I scoured the parking lot for fifteen minutes, wondering where my car was. Graffiti in a men’s room stall: “FUCK YOU” “Fuck me? I’m a first-semester law student and don’t have time.” I left a message with Cheryl saying I was too tired to accept her invitation to see L.A. Law at her house tonight. I didn’t lie when I said it’s past my bedtime. (Besides, I’ve never watched L.A. Law.) Greg, Kenny, Karin and Larry probably aren’t going, either. Well, at least I can sleep later than 6 AM tomorrow, even if I haven’t briefed my cases. I did a terribly half-assed job on the outline last night and early this morning, but at least I handed in something – this assignment was optional – so I can discuss it with Pat Thomson next week. And I don’t have to think about it now. Things are getting touch, and I guess this is a real test for all of us. Last night, after hearing about a record downpour in South Florida, I called my family and spoke to Jonathan, who said they were unable to get out of the house and had to move the Cougar because it was about to be submerged in a couple of feet of water.
Hollywood recorded over a foot of rain in 24 hours, and schools (including BCC) and businesses (including the flea market) were closed for the day. But the waters have receded by now and the sun has come out there. Teresa returned my call yesterday when I was out, but I wasn’t up to speaking on the phone after I talked to Jonathan, so I just sacked out. My dreams were pleasant, mostly: my parents running a gift shop in their home; Alice and me walking through the Village; and me helping a sick infant. I’ve slept well all week, but I’m still tired; of course, I got up at 5 AM today. Tomorrow is that sure-to-be-embarrassing Senate Judiciary hearing on the sexual harassment charges by Anita Hill against Clarence Thomas. I’ll watch it if I can, but it makes me feel dirty. Sexual harassment is an important issue, and I’m glad people are paying attention to it, but I hate to see people arguing about a specific charge in such a public way. I feel sorry for both Hill and Thomas. Tomorrow is also Coming Out Day, and wearing blue jeans will tell everyone I’m gay. I don’t really think my sexual preferences are anyone’s business, but I’m going to wear blue jeans because it will make some people aware not everybody in our law school class is straight.
Larry and Karin obviously don’t care or treat me differently, but if others do, I haven’t invested much in relationships with fellow law students and it will be an interesting experiment to see any changes.
Friday, October 11, 1991
1:30 PM. I’m sick – or at least I think I am. I feel queasy and nauseated, and I’ve had diarrhea. Last night I couldn’t sleep and I tried everything until finally I dozed off at 2:30 AM or so. I awakened several hours later feeling sick, and I spent some time in the bathroom. I wondered if this physical problem was related to my decision to wear jeans today and come out. Partly, I think it was. Yesterday I treated the issue rather cavalierly, because the truth is, I should be politically correct and courageous enough to let everyone know I’m gay. But it’s one thing to have told my friends years ago (and I never told quite all my friends) or to write obliquely about being gay in my published stories.
Because I felt nauseated, I thought about staying home today, but I was afraid of accusing myself of cowardice. So I went to school, and as far as I could tell, nobody paid any attention whatsoever and it appeared the usual number of people were wearing jeans. But I felt sick in Criminal Law and whispered to Karin to tell Prof. Nunn why I left; earlier, I’d told her and Dan that I’d been having stomach trouble. Was I having an anxiety attack? Not really, but perhaps I would have if I had stayed. I’m not going back for Civ Pro, and of course I’m mostly worried that once again, I’m going to have the same problem I had in high school: the terrible anxiety attacks that crippled me once I started getting sick in all my classes. As I left the classroom today, I did feel embarrassed, though I’m sure that it’s not the prime topic of conversation on campus. I remember the first time I missed a class as a freshman at Brooklyn College: that time I was worried that I’d never got back and screw up again as I had in high school. Presumably, whatever this thing is, I’ll be feeling better in a few days, and I’ll be back to normal. If I do start getting anxiety attacks, I’ll talk to my professors and seek all the professional help I can. And I’ll tell people about it rather than be silent and ashamed the way I was in high school.
“Silent and ashamed”? Am I talking about being agoraphobic or about being gay? As icky as I feel now – and I haven’t tried to keep much food down – I know I’m not seriously ill. Every once in a while I’ve had these stomach upsets that last a day or two. It might be a virus or just stress. Well, maybe I can use a day off from law school. I feel worn out, and I don’t want to get so stressed out today that I can’t get through the semester. Why should I even care about that? I do like law school. What I resent is not being able to do stuff like last night: there were gay group meetings, a reading by MFA students at Goering’s Bookstore, lots of other activities that seemed interesting to attend – but I didn’t have time or energy to go to any of these events. Today I’ll try to feel better and to listen to the horrible Senate hearings, which are like an auto accident bystanders can’t help starting at. So far, though, I think Prof. Hill is credible. This is the roughest time I’ve had, physically and emotionally, since I’ve moved to Gainesville. But as much as law school reminds me of high school rather than college or grad school, this is not October 1966 and I’m not a high school junior having that giant panic attack in Social Studies that began my serious difficulties.
I feel blah now, and I may feel blah later, but eventually I’ll feel better physically and emotionally. I’m not the fragile kid I was at 15, though part of me is scared precisely that I still am. This is like my undergrad days: my first sick day was the hardest, and then it became nothing. I’m not going to make a habit of this. * 9 PM. I’m definitely sick. Not only is my stomach queasy and gassy, but I’ve got chills, body aches, and 100° fever. In a way I’m glad I’m sick physically, and not emotionally upset, but naturally I feel frightened because I’m entirely alone, hundreds of miles from my family and old friends. Still, I believe that as long as I don’t feel much worse, I can handle this. And I’ve got the Thomas/Hill hearings to listen to; Judge Thomas comes on soon to rebut Prof. Hill, whose charges of sexual harassment seemed credible to me. I also guess it’s better that I miss only one day of school (so far, anyway), though I probably won’t be able to work very much this weekend. I suppose this is some kind of a virus. I have no upper respiratory symptoms, and it’s too early for the flu season. Perhaps I’ll feel a lot better in a couple of days. In a way I feel sick like I felt sick in late July 1982 in Virginia
and Maryland and when I returned to Florida in early August. I now think that was hepatitis. I was barely able to eat today, and I subsisted on soup, cream of rice, and canned pineapple.
Saturday, October 12, 1991
10 PM. There goes a cheer from the crowd, so the gators must have scored another touchdown. I felt better today, although I still had a bit of diarrhea and felt tired all morning. However, I managed to exercise and get a lot of reading done, and early this morning, I bought a load of groceries at Publix. I don’t have a fever anymore, and I’ve been able to eat a more substantial diet. I’m coming to the point in the semester when it’s harder to sustain my interest and level of activity. As we move towards finals, I’ll be motivated by anxiety, but now the early enthusiasm is waning just as the number and complexity of assignments pick up. Curiously, Saturday is always the most intellectually stimulating day because I do enjoy my reading assignments. I did the week’s reading for Torts, Contracts, Jurisprudence and Criminal Law and went over many interesting cases and other materials.
But I feel resentful I don’t have the time to do so many things I want to do, whether it’s participating in extracurricular activities or cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, going to the movies or taking a walk. It seems as if they’re trying to prepare us for the 70-hour workweek that some attorneys spend years wasting their time doing. But if yuppies were workaholics in the 80s, the new currency is time; people are making financial sacrifices to spend more time with family, friends, or to pursue hobbies. I guess you could argue that for me, law school is a hobby. I’ve always had the luxury of being time-rich although I felt constrained by my full-time jobs at Broward Community College. I think I really did have more time as a full-time BCC instructor than I do now, however; the problem was that so much of grading was drudgery. In law school, very little of my work is drudgery, but it’s also much more demanding intellectually. I could grade papers while the TV or radio news was on, but I can’t study law like that – though maybe I can brief cases I’ve already read, the way I plan to do tomorrow. Consequently, I didn’t see much of the Thomas hearings today, though the nominee seemed almost as believable in his denials as Prof. Hill was in her accusations. But they both can’t be telling the truth.
There’s blame all around in this ugly business, but it wouldn’t have come about if Bush hadn’t made such a cynical appointment, replacing Thurgood Marshall with a black man who followed the far-right line. Who could believe Bush’s contention that Thomas was the best-qualified person in the country for the Supreme Court? And because his qualifications were so thin, it was Bush’s people who emphasized Thomas’s character: all that born in poverty without indoor plumbing shit. I never disliked Reagan, who somehow didn’t seem as venal, calculating, craven or sneaky as Bush. Unfortunately, Bush will fool enough people long enough to get reelected, I fear.
Sunday, October 13, 1991
7 PM. I slept well, with pleasant dreams about being back in Brooklyn with my family and Alice and Ronna, but when I awoke, I immediately had cramps and diarrhea, and that happened again as I ate a Weight Watchers pizza an hour ago. The diarrhea isn’t severe, and I’ve been limiting my diet, cutting out my usual vegetables. I don’t know if this problem is a virus, a symptom of some other physical problem, or a result of tension and stress.
Because it’s happened over the weekend, I assume I’ve got a virus in my system; there’s no reason to keep me from classes if that was my goal. I’ve just made another run to the bathroom with gripping pains in my abdomen, and this doesn’t seem like a psychosomatic problem to me. Of course, I could be wrong. Suppose it is, though: as I wrote on Friday, what if this is like the panic attacks I got in high school? Well, I’d seek help. There are a lot of groups that deal with these problems, and I’d speak about it openly to my teachers and to my classmates. It’s not 1966, and all kinds of things are out of the closet. I’d also consider that if I wanted to get out of law school so badly that I’d get myself sick to do it, then law school isn’t for me. But I haven’t been unhappy, and I’ve been unable to think why I’d be repressing a dread of law school so that it would come out in this manner, in a somatic complaint. If the tension was due to my fears about coming out as gay on Friday, there’d be no reason to have that tension anymore, certainly. People couldn’t care less if I’m gay or not. I’ll assume this is a passing illness unless it continues for another week or so; then I’ll see a
doctor. On Friday I thought I might be getting violently ill, but now I see that’s not going to happen. Anyway, I briefed my Contracts and Torts cases, read ahead in Civ Pro, exercised lightly, washed the kitchen and bathroom floors, read the Sunday Times, and watched and listened to the Judiciary Committee hearings, which are continuing on into the night. I didn’t see much of Thomas yesterday, but he apparently convinced most of the public, who according to polls, don’t believe the charges. I believe Anita Hill is telling the truth, and today other witnesses testified that she told them about the harassment years ago. Sen. Spector said that Hill committed perjury, and Sen. Hatch said she took the incidents from casebooks and The Exorcist, but Hill passed a lie detector test. Thomas’s cry of lynching sounds phony to me coming from a man who’s always considered racial talk the province of self-pitying liberals. And after all, Thomas did tell the Senate he never talked about Roe v. Wade or even thought about the decision – so with me, at least, he’s got a credibility problem. Pete called and said he loves the hearings, and I too am starting to enjoy them the way I wallowed in Watergate and Iran/Contra. Talking to Pete was good because it reminded me of my non-law school life. He may be able
to visit me here in March on a train trip from Savannah to Fort Lauderdale. In December Pete has his big trip to Asia, and he just returned from San Francisco. He told a woman from Processed World the upshot of my “You’ve Got to Give Me Credit Story” – bankruptcy, of course – and she wants me to write a sequel for the magazine. I really should, of course. Next April my bankruptcy will become final, and the magazine wouldn’t come out before then. This request also reminds me that I am a writer, not just a law school student, and that I’ve got to make sure I disengage myself from law school enough not to forget that. I’ve always meant to read Gissing’s New Grub Street, and an article in the Times Book Review pointed out its relevance today. I guess I feel like Gissing, or at least the way the article describes him: third-rate in the second-rate qualities and first-rate in the first-rate ones (though I’m probably just second rate there). Like Gissing, I’m no elegant stylist, and I don’t deal well with nuance and detail. My work is clumsy, but I think I’m an honest writer, empathetic, with a grasp of the way ideas shape experience and social forces overwhelm the individual. Like Gissing, I disdain money, and yet I long for responsibility. Of course, I’ve never starved in a garret or suffered greatly, but I think that my
graceless writing at least does have the virtue of truth. At the public library I took out two more tapes of popular novels by young literary writers, Amy Tan and T. Coraghessan Boyle. Yeah, I do have a life outside law school, and I can’t let myself be overwhelmed by the law school experience. I wish I saw Michael K more often in school. He’s not the type to go to C-10 tutorials or be in a study group, and I’d like to know how he keeps his equilibrium – or maybe I’m just projecting when I think that he needs to. Alice writes that my Gainesville Sun clip on redistricting cracked her up. She’s been doing short celebrity stories for Playboy and may do a book with/by Georgette Mosbacher, “who’s been called a nightmare to deal with.” And Alice “quietly changed my mind about a co-op I’d been eyeing; I’m still looking, however.” So I guess her moving neurosis is still with her. I wish Mom talked more to Grandma Ethel. Mom and Dad aren’t going to New York City this month after all. I write to Grandma every couple of weeks but haven’t been able to call her.
Monday, October 14, 1991
4:30 PM. I still had cramps today, but no diarrhea, which may be a result of the medicine (Kaopectate and Imodium) I’ve taken. But I got through the day taking it easy. I didn’t have a lab this morning, of course, and I didn’t go to a C-10 tutorial, nor did I rush back to school for a study group session. I just attended my classes and after Torts went with a group of students and Dowd to a place outside where she helped us process the Thomas hearings and the issue of sexual harassment, which is Dowd’s specialty. Like her and most of the students (who were women), and unlike the majority of Americans, I believe Anita Hill’s charges. Dowd said they’re consistent with the sexual harassment cases she’s dealt with, notwithstanding the lack of corroboration by other female staffers of Thomas. It will probably be a very close vote in the Senate tomorrow night. I’ve tried to call Sen. Bob Graham’s office – he’s still undecided – but all the Capitol Hill circuits are overloaded, and the phone at his Miami office is busy every time I’ve tried it. After Jurisprudence, since we’re dealing with natural law, I showed Collier an article on the subject I’d taken from the Times from the Thomas hearings last month, and he took it for xeroxing. I spoke briefly with Michael K, whom I truly like and wish I had time to get to know better. If he’s gay, I’m sure he’s got a
boyfriend because he’s too neat not to have one, but I’d just like to be his friend. Costas went to Miami on Saturday, and Dan says he’s having marital problems and may be dropping out. Anyway, enough about law school. When I discovered that my parents won’t be going to New York City, last night I decided to book a flight for myself to New York on December 17, the Tuesday after finals end. I’ll fly on Delta jet – I made clear I didn’t want one of their commuter flights – to Atlanta, change plans for LaGuardia, and be in Queens that afternoon. That’s only two months from now really, or nine weeks from tomorrow. I assume I can still stay in Rockaway. If not, I’ll ask Teresa, Ronna or Alice if I can visit, or I’ll ask Pete I could stay at his place while he’s in the Far East. I booked a return trip for Monday, January 6, the day before registration, giving me three weeks in the city. In one respect, I’d like the time to relax here in Gainesville, but it’s important to me to see Grandma Ethel and my friends, renew my ties with New York City, and realize I have a life away from law school. It’s costing me $290 in nonrefundable tickets, which I charged to Diners Club.
Right now I feel more relaxed; it was good to get back in the groove, and I’m relieved I didn’t feel sick in my classes. (Before class, I had told Dowd I was ill so I felt comfortable because she’d know if I left in the middle.) I’ve been eating only cooked vegetables, not salad. It’s odd, but on Thursday night I decided I needed to lose weight. With all my clothes on, I’m getting mighty close to 150 when I get on the scale, so I’d planned to cut down on my food intake before I got sick. I slept well last night and exercised at 6:30 AM today, and read half the Times during my lunch break. Basically, I can relax for the rest of the day, and I need to take time to do that.
Tuesday, October 15, 1991
4:30 PM. Last evening Dad called to tell me Ron Ishoy used the Gainesville Sun clip I’d sent him in his Miami Herald column; Mom is mailing me a copy. I did my Crim briefs for the week, and tonight or tomorrow morning I need to work on Civ Pro. I’m far ahead in the reading, but I need to brief cases on class action suits. I slept fine, dreaming of visiting Harold in Minneapolis and seeing the community college where he works. I had some cramps this
morning, but basically I’m beginning to feel better. I skipped the C-10 again today, and although my grades may drop, I don’t care; I’m willing to see myself as a C student. Two months into law school, with two months till finals are over, I can already see past this term and the spring. The summer will be different since most people won’t be here at law school, and then, next fall, I won’t be in the law school but grad school. So already I feel liberated knowing that this is just a temporary interlude in my life, not the preparation for a career that it is for my 22year-old classmates. Classes went okay today, and in Jurisprudence we had a lively discussion over natural law in the Bradwell case, when the Supreme Court in 1872 decided it was against nature for women to be lawyers. Then we got into the Cruzan right-to-die case. Lorraine seems really upset by the Thomas nomination. She’s one of the few liberal Democrats at law school, and she said that’s why she hated teaching high school in Brevard County so much: “My students were little Nazis.” Doug G, on the other hand, expressed amazement that anybody would consider Democrats to be credible, Peter Arnett not to be a traitor, or Reagan and Bush not to be the best presidents ever.
He’s typical of most of the young students, and as I said to him, I understand it, kind of. He’s a product of his generation and background, just as I am of mine – except I’ve seen more of the world. (Doug actually believes the recession ended months ago.) Nothing, especially not Thomas’s expected confirmation coming in a few hours – I watched some of the Senate debate at home and in school – does anything to dissuade or dispel my fantasy of one day leaving the U.S. Gainesville may not be Barcelona, but at least for now I’m learning to live in a place by myself, to create a routine in a new city, to make friends. It’s a first step, right? In ten years I should be ready to move to Europe by myself, but a lot has to happen – I have to make it happen – between now and 2001.
Wednesday, October 16, 1991
9 PM. I’m tired now, but I may be too excited to sleep. Not that anything amazing has happened; I just feel good. Physically, for one thing. I didn’t have stomach trouble today. Last night I’d read ahead in some of my texts, and I also looked at hornbooks and outlines. Up at 6 AM, I exercised. At school by 8 AM, I read the Times in the library while sitting next to Darin. You know,
he’s not half-bad looking. To me, it’s obvious he’s gay, but I don’t think he knows it yet; he’s a Mormon or something fundamentalist, I suspect. But he’s very smart, and I’m sure he’ll do just fine as he gets older. The Times was filled with names of my contemporaries and old acquaintances: Jay Hershenson at CUNY was commenting on a disputed election for head of the University Student Senate, his old position back when I was the senator from Richmond College in ’73-’74. Harold Essig, the first boyfriend of Ronna’s college friend Felicia, was arguing as a New York State Assistant Attorney General with Justice Scalia as Harold defended the “Son of Sam” law preventing criminals from getting profits from books about their crimes. George Schweitzer, my friend from tenth grade at Franklin School, was quoted in the business section in his role as CBS’s senior vice president of communication. I guess people I know, people of my generation, are moving into positions of power. Speaking of which, I was sorry to hear from Bob Miller that the official recount showed him 181 votes behind Councilman Dear. He asked for more money – the campaign is in debt – but $10 was all I could afford to send him. More than I could afford, actually.
We had torts and then Crim Law one right after another, and then I went home and had a quick lunch before getting a haircut and returning to school. You know how they say law profs always spot the least prepared student in the room to call on? Because I looked at Karin’s notes from Friday’s Civ Pro class and saw that we started to cover a case, I never bothered to brief it. So of course I hear Mashburn call “Mr. Grayson” and my heart beats so loud I think the whole class can hear it. I fumbled a little, made one error of fact, and then saved myself at the end with an intelligent comment. Finally she left me and went on to the next case, calling on Karin with just ten minutes left to class. Both Karin and I were giddy with excitement and relief as we went over our notes with the study group. Dan was out sick this morning but returned for Civ Pro, and Todd said he saw Costas in Torts; however, nobody else saw him, and he wasn’t in the other classes. Before we parted today, I gave Karin a bunch my old newspaper and magazine clips, and I hope she gets a laugh out of them. At 4 PM we finished, and I did some shopping at Publix. Dean Kent wrote that my status is straightened out and he told me that I could apply for an assistantship, but that money was
– of course – problematic, given the budget cuts. I filled out the application and wrote a cover letter, which I printed out along with a curriculum vita and some other supporting material I’ll xerox at school. Calling Ronna, I learned she likes her job at Hadassah. She no longer feels underpaid although she may be more overworked. Ronna likes working on Central Park South rather than Washington Heights, of course. I was sorry to hear that she and Ralph are now seeing other people – although they were going together tonight to hear Rabbi Harold (When Bad Things Happen to Good People) Kushner lecture at the 92nd Street Y. She said their relationship hadn’t been going anywhere and they could have kept on, but she feels she can’t drag her feet at her age. Too bad: I like Ralph. Of course I also I liked Jordan and Steve and all of Ronna’s other boyfriends; except for me, she always had good taste in men. I told Ronna I’d see her in December.
Thursday, October 17, 1991
6 PM. Once again I thought I might go out this evening – there’s a fiction reading at the English Department – but once again, I’m too
exhausted. As I expected, last night my high level of excitement led to poor sleep; the noisy party upstairs didn’t help. Just about all of the University and Gainesville are off tomorrow for the Homecoming festivities, including a big parade and the Gator Growl at night – but not law school classes. In fact, because Nunn scheduled a double session to make up for some days he’s taking off in a couple of weeks, I’ll have three classes instead of two. On the other hand, in two weeks I won’t have Crim Law on Thursday and Friday, and I don’t have Legal Research and Writing that Thursday, either, so I’ve got two days when I won’t have to be in school till the afternoon. I spoke with Lorraine before class; she hadn’t realized I was a “real” writer until I showed her my Contemporary Authors bio. I xeroxed material to send with my application for a graduate assistantship, and then went to Legal Research and Writing. I feel fairly confident about the second half of our legal memo, and I plan to do a first draft this weekend. The first draft isn’t due till a week from Monday, but I’m trying to get things done ahead of time. My other classes today were fine, although Mashburn and Collier seemed uncharacteristically giddy as we went over the
Hansberry case in Civ Pro and the Cruzan case in Jurisprudence. Costas dropped out and returned to Miami today. Dan said Costas had been coughing up blood, so he got a medical leave of absence and a refund of his tuition. Costas’ old boss will give him his job back, so he’s in pretty good shape, but we’ve lost one of our study group. At least one or two other students in our section have also dropped out. Me, I can see the light at the end of the semester. Two months from today I’ll be in New York City, and six weeks from today it will be Thanksgiving and just before the start of finals. Today was so chilly I had to wear my blue jacket this morning; the dungaree jacket wasn’t warm enough. Evidently the last time I wore the blue jacket was on my birthday, for I found a Green Bus Lines transfer dated June 4; that must be the day I left Rockaway to meet Mikey for lunch and spend the evening with Ronna. When I heard today’s date on the radio this morning, I realized that today is twenty years to the day when I broke up with Shelli. Actually, we had already broken up and she was seeing Jerry. Unable to stay away from Shelli, I visited her and we ended up having sex, after which she told me she was sleeping with Jerry.
If I’d known that, I probably wouldn’t have gone there, and I certainly wouldn’t have gotten sexually involved with her. But then again, I’ve run away from sexual relationships most of my life, and I’ve used – among other things – the hurt I felt in the fall of 1971 as an excuse. Still, as depressed as I was twenty years ago, at age 20, it turned out to be a healing time in my life. I got into herbs, tried to make new friends and develop a way to be by myself. Maybe in the last, I succeeded too well. Thinking about Ronna, I wonder if she isn’t a lot like me in avoiding relationship. Unlike me, she certainly does see guys, but they never manage to get together in the permanent way she says she wants. Oh well. Look at how Alice still can’t move, how Teresa doesn’t progress in her career or love life, how we all seem to be stuck in self-limiting patterns. At least in 1991, I took the risk of moving to Gainesville and starting law school.
Friday, October 18, 1991
6 PM. It’s a dry, bright (though dusk is near) Indian summer day. I was actually a bit chilly during the night.
Last evening I did my Torts reading for all next week – we’re going on to damages, which seems like a simpler subject – and then I watched Beverly Hills 90210 and listened to the first half of Amy Tan’s bestselling novel, The Joy Luck Club, read by the author. There’s a lot of good writing in it, but it doesn’t dazzle me the way the Chabon novel did. Asleep by 11:30 PM, I awoke at 6 AM feeling refreshed, and the headache behind my eyes was finally gone. Today the entire university except the law school was off, and when I left the house at 9 AM after exercising and eating breakfast, I noticed heavy traffic on University Avenue as the floats for the Homecoming parade were getting set up in the parking lots by Florida Field and the O’Connell Center. It looked as though most of the second- and third-year students skipped class today, but our section had a double dose of confusion with two hours of Nunn and Criminal Law. As he stumbled through trying to explain criminal attempt, Angelina and Karin were marking off on a piece of paper the number of times he said “uh,” Gene fought to stay awake, and in the back row, students were playing turkey bingo. After I learned that during the break, I stopped raising my hand. The reason I volunteered to talk earlier was to stave off boredom. But I
don’t want to be one of the five turkeys – students who talk in class – on some guy’s “bingo card” (the first person to cross off all five students on his list wins). Everyone resented being at school today and some of the younger guys were in a state of impatient giddiness by the time Civil Procedure rolled around. I ate lunch with Dan and Emira. Like me, Dan also declared bankruptcy last winter and said he didn’t mind admitting it because I’d already talked about it. Apparently he and his wife had humongous medical bills when their daughter was hospitalized for months. He’s moved around a lot, living not only in Union City, N.J., and Tampa, but also in New Orleans for three years. Dan went to Tampa this weekend, and everybody else either also went home or is planning a big night at Gator Growl, the biggest university entertainment extravaganza in the county. Kenny K and Doug K both asked if I was going, but I told them I was too old. Actually, it would be interesting, but I’m too tired and don’t want to spend the money. Grateful I found a parking space in our lot when I came home at 3 PM, I’m trapped for the weekend as hordes of out-of-towners descend on Gainesville. There’s a big afternoon football game tomorrow.
Anyway, I’ve read the newspapers. Justice Thomas was sworn in today three days after his 52-48 Senate confirmation. In a move that will affect me more personally, by just two votes the Senate failed to override Bush’s veto of the extension of unemployment benefits. The President is talking up the improvement in the economy, but I can’t say anyone else sees much of a recovery. The economic statistics are mixed, but mostly negative, and people are very pessimistic. Dad said he expects a lousy Christmas shopping season, but of course his department store business has nearly disappeared anyway. This weekend all the Jordan Marsh and Maas Brothers stores – the ones that are still left – became Burdines as the latest fallout from Campeau’s leveraged buyout disaster. I’ll never forget that dinner we had a midtown Japanese restaurant this summer when Bert Stratton’s Japanese investment banker friend told me what a great deal Campeau’s leveraged buyout was. Sure, for him: he got all those fees. But the guy is probably out of work by now anyway. Still, who knows? The Dow keeps hitting record highs, and it’s four years since the Black Monday crash and two years after 1989’s mini-crash. At this point I have nothing to gain from a lousy economy – it did help my bankruptcy avoid
getting noticed last winter since the enormous number of cases were just being pushed through as fast as possible – except, of course, that it may get Bush out of office and change the mood of the country.
Saturday, October 19, 1991
6 PM. Even though today was sunny and dry, I went out only to get the Times and Gainesville Sun and to mail letters at the post office, getting out my assistantship application for next year. I’ve read ahead in most of my classes, although just to be sure I’ve covered the week’s reading, I need to go further ahead in Jurisprudence and Civil Procedure. Once again, I feel stimulated by the material, from the Goetz case and its ramifications to deconstruction-type stuff on interpreting the language of statutes to pre-contractual liability and damage awards. Right now I feel somewhat at loose ends. I’d take a drive, but I can’t move my car for fear I’ll lose my parking space. Some random thoughts:
I’m again getting worried my eating is getting out of control again. Still scrupulous about writing down my food intake, calories, food exchanges and fat grams, I find my weight heading up to 150 anyway, about 14 pounds over my lowest weight. It’s getting hard to fit into 30” waist jeans. What to do? Gradually, I allowed my daily calorie intake to go from 1600 to 1800 to 200. I feel I’m getting fat again, although I know I’m much better off than I was and that I’m in no immediate danger of ballooning up to 180 again. Yet, given a few years, I can see myself moving up on the scale. Keeping weight off is so unnatural; I can see why 90% of the people eventually regain their lost weight. . . Looking at AWP’s big October Job List, I’m tempted to apply for creative writing teaching jobs. There’s no reason I’d have better luck now than I did before, especially since I’m out of the creative writing loop and state budget cuts probably make many of the jobs “dependent upon funding” to be mirages. . . Despite all the friends I’ve made at law school, I don’t really have someone to go out to eat with, to attend movies with, or to chat with on the phone. Of course, I don’t seem to have time to go to restaurants or films. Is it just an excuse to think that if I weren’t so busy I’d have made closer friends? There’ll be
no way to know until next year, when I’ll have more free time. . . I made an appointment to get a free flu shot at the Board of Health on Monday at 7:30 AM. That will mean getting up early, but I hope I can get out of there in time to find a parking space before torts. Since I’ve been getting annual flu shots, I haven’t had the same kind of bad flu I got in January 1987. . . I definitely had a virus last week. I always imagine I’d be sicker except for my good health habits and a strong immune system. . . Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club picked up power as it moved along, and by the end I was crying. I don’t care what Tom Whalen or Pete Cherches would say. I find I like most of the hyped young fiction writers. . . I’ve had a sinus headache and dizziness all day. I can hear people yelling now. Is the football game over? It must be. I should stop being such a hermit. . . It’s nice to think about other things besides law school. Sometimes I feel that I lived in Gainesville only for the first week I was here, and since then I’ve been living in a city called UF College of Law. . . Gainesville is already much cooler than I expected. It seems like a real fall here, while in South Florida I imagine it’s still 85° every day. . .
Well, I’ll try to amuse myself tonight. Probably I should put the books away for a while and not keep eating to stave off boredom.
Sunday, October 20, 1991
3:30 PM. I haven’t done any work today, but I do feel like a human being. I’ve just returned from McDonald’s on 13th Avenue, where I had the luxury of sitting at a table and eating a McLean Deluxe as I watched young people pass on the street. I even saw a guy I knew from law school, from my Jurisprudence and Legal Writing classes, who said hello. It’s a gorgeous fall day: about 78°, perfect weather, really. I went out early to shop at Albertson’s and Mother Earth, the health food supermarket, and then I went out again, taking a drive to see if I could find the Alachua County Health Department, where I’m supposed to get my flu shot early tomorrow morning. That 7:30 a.m. appointment means I’ve got to get to sleep tonight at an earlier-than-usual hour although, since they never took my
number, there’s no obligation I’m under to show up. Last night I read Civ Pro and Jurisprudence and then I slept well, dreaming of being in Los Angeles with Libby and Lindsay. Although I was in Southern California for only a week in April, I feel close to the area, and I want to go back, perhaps to live in Los Angeles someday. Actually, the California boom has ended, and now more people are moving out of L.A. as urban problems mount and the economy drags along. Gainesville reminds me a little of L.A. but I think it’s mostly the climate, because it’s chilly in the mornings but warms up by afternoon. Out at 8 AM to get the paper, I thought about how peaceful it is here compared to crazy New York. And then, after I put twelve quarters in the vending machine and got my New York Times, I was stopped by a Hispanic man on a bicycle who asked me, “Do you know that the floodlights in this neighborhood have led to the extermination of Juan Miguel?” “Why, that’s. . .” and I was about to say “terrible,” but then I realized that this loco might think that Juan Miguel’s extermination was a good thing, so I said, “Why, that’s remarkable,” a more neutral word. Then, walking up 17th Street, I saw the old black woman with the shopping cart, the homeless woman I’ve seen many times. She
walked over and picked up soda and beer cans from last night’s celebrations, although God knows what she’ll do with them since Florida doesn’t have a can and bottle deposit law. Before I reached home, on the next block, I encountered a disheveled woman doing the rhumba as she walked down the street, and when I got home, I decided Gainesville isn’t all that different from New York City. Teresa and I spoke for an hour. She bought a 1992 Ford minivan with the help of a loan from “the Bank of Grandma,” she’s using Brian’s mother’s permit to bring it onto Fire Island. Trying to clean up her rental house in Fair Harbor, Teresa isn’t sure where she’ll move to next. She spends her nights with Brian, who’s got the old bed from 85th Street. That apartment is sublet, happily, but Teresa’s Oyster Bay tenant moved out abruptly when he lost his job (or said he did), and she feels she doesn’t want to spend the large amount of money on the rent for that house. “Right now everything is up in the air,” Teresa said, and she’s not sure where she’ll be living and if Brian will ever make a commitment. She doesn’t have much catering work, apart from several parties and three receptions she’s doing for the U.S. Mission to the UN. When I told her I’d be up in late December, she suggested might drive back together. Teresa
would like to spend January in Florida, and her visiting me here in Gainesville could either be fun or a disaster. Probably she’d spend most of her time in warmer places – at the beach on the Gulf Coast with her family. I read most of the Times; Neal Gabler had a great piece about American life as showbiz entertainment. I’d hoped to get my memo started, but we will see. . .
Monday, October 21, 1991
8 PM. Last night I got to sleep at midnight but had to be up early, and I awoke from a bad dream in which I was hiding Dad at Teresa’s West 85th Street apartment after someone had shot at him and missed. I think the plot of an ABC Dynasty reunion movie, which I listened to as I tried to fall asleep was the inspiration. At the end of the dream Dad was buzzing me frantically from downstairs, telling me to let him in, that men were following him. I went to the elevator and sent Marc down to fetch Dad, but neither of them returned and I felt certain that the bad guys had killed them both.
Leaving the house at 7 AM in the darkness of night, I rode the deserted streets, getting an AM news station from New Orleans on the car radio. (David Duke got in the gubernatorial runoff with Edwin Edwards and may be become Louisiana’s Nazi/Klan governor.) I didn’t have to wait long at the Board of Health, and I got my flu shot – I barely felt it – and paid $5, a great bargain. My arm is slightly sore now, but at least I’ve immunized myself against the flu. I try to keep healthy; for example, I exercised for one hour yesterday when I realized I wouldn’t have half an hour to spare this morning. But my weight has hit 150 and I feel fat. My pants are too tight, and I’m disgusted with myself. I can’t eat the same amount I did this summer in Rockaway, when I was walking at least several miles a day. So I’ll cut down on calories and starch exchanges, and last Saturday was the last time I’ll go overboard on sweets. True, they were all fat-free or low-fat products; however, they’re not nutritious, and if I eat too much of them, I’ll just keep getting fatter. Maybe I could use Alice’s book to see how I can lose the last ten pounds. If I can lose even five pounds by Christmas, I’ll feel a lot better.
School went fine today, although it was a long day. On campus at 8 AM, I read much of the Times, and in Torts we went over prenatal damages. I stayed for Jed’s C-10 tutorial as we went over a hypo. Actually, I find the hypos intellectually challenging and I like trying to spot issues and analyze the reasoning in applying the rules. I can see how some students may know cases down pat and have complete mastery of blackletter law yet still screw up their exams. In any event, I plan not to succumb to paranoia and panic. In Civ Pro, I’ll be happy with a C, and if I can get two B’s out of my five classes, I’ll be satisfied. Contracts was okay, and afterwards Todd, Dan, Emira, Karin and I went over the day’s notes. It’s odd not to have Costas in our group because in a lot of ways he seemed like the linchpin. I’m the only one of the five of us who volunteers in class, but they often seem to have a better grasp of the issues than I do. Home for lunch, I returned to school just in time for Jurisprudence, which nearly put me to sleep today. It wasn’t Prof. Collier or his discussion of customs vs. law but my own exhaustion, and once I was back home, I fell into bed for an hour till I revived a little. After I started working on my memo, I realized I needed three other cases, so I returned to law school, going there for the first time at night, and I xeroxed the cases from the reporters.
If I do an hour a day this week, I can probably get the memo done on the weekend without too much strain. I’ve done the Jurisprudence and Criminal Law reading for next week (we’ve got Crim only Wednesday that week) and we do have an extra hour because of the return to standard time. At Eckerd Drugs I bought Bonine and shampoo and weighed myself (140!) and took my blood pressure (115/70). Three teenaged boys with skateboards came over and asked my advice on using some black hair dye, a Clairol product for women. I felt like Quentin Crisp at the end of The Naked Civil Servant when suddenly it’s the 1960s and the outrageous clothes and styles he was scorned for wearing were suddenly the norm everywhere. Twenty years ago, when I used Sun-In to bleach my hair blond – or orange – I couldn’t imagine every guy in his teens would someday be dyeing their hair and wearing earrings like these kids were. And these boys were lowerclass Southerners, probably David Duke supporters.
Tuesday, October 22, 1991
1 PM. Last evening I listened to the second tape of four sides of T. Coraghessan Boyle’s East is East, a vibrant, funny novel that wickedly sends up life in an artists’ colony. Naturally, having been to MacDowell, Millay and VCCA, I got a big kick out of it. I couldn’t sleep, and at 12:30 AM, I turned on Nightline for an interview with Oliver North, whose new book alleges that Reagan knew everything about the Iran/Contra scandal. North has no smoking gun, and my own theory is that if Reagan did know, he forgot. Bush’s advisers are getting panicky about the economy, with good reason. Although the President of the World can drag Israel and the Arabs to next week’s peace conference in Madrid, that doesn’t help people in Peoria losing their jobs. Yesterday Jerry Brown announced his candidacy with a damn-all-politicians speech. More interesting, though, Cuomo is now talking about resigning as New York governor if he does decide to run. Mario’s probably just jerking everyone around, but he’s one guy I think could become President. He may be a so-so governor, but he’s a brilliant man who knows how to use the media.
I’d even consider working for his campaign, and it would be wonderful if another New York governor could get elected the way FDR was in ’32 in similar bad economic times. Mom said business continues to be dreadful at the flea market, and that when Dad does manage to place orders, the company ends up not making the goods because nationwide orders are too low to make a profit from them. Up at 6 AM, I exercised and put on shorts because it’s a bit milder today. School was okay this morning: a lecture on duties of landowners in Torts and stuff about liability for failed negotiations in Contracts. I spoke with a lot of people, including Judy, Greg, Darin, Paul (I was surprised he knew my name) and others. Yesterday Lorraine showed me an article from Sunday’s Florida Magazine in the Orlando Sentinel: they used the reapportionment story I’d sent them and the article included new ideas, not just what was in the Gainesville paper, but stuff about Disney districts for Central Florida. It seems as if those of us who’ve had experience teaching writing and publishing our own work – like Lorraine, Judy and I – are not going well in Legal Writing. Well, I’ll try to map out an hour to work on the memo today; I’d really like to finish it by Friday. Most of my classmates seem to be spending less time briefing cases now, and I’m doing my
briefing just before class these days, although only after I’ve already read and highlighted the cases. The one habit law school has given me is that of reading with a yellow highlighting pen. I’ll go back to school in an hour for Jurisprudence and our study group meeting to go over hypos. Right now I’ll stay here for a while and see if I can finish reading the Times. I sent a copy of Hitler to New York Times Book Review letter-writer who said she adored finding treasures in remainder bins. She wrote back saying she doesn’t care much for experimental fiction but liked some stories. And she asked me if I’m less depressed now than I was in my twenties.
Wednesday, October 23, 1991
4 PM. I’m less sleep-deprived than I had been, but not much. I can see myself and my classmates starting to “hit the wall” as the Legal Writing assignment is due and the base of the coursework has picked up. Everyone is concerned about finals. Both Dowd and Mashburn discussed practice finals with us today, and it’s great they’re both giving them, but it’s putting on the pressure. Well, because Nunn will hold only one class next week and there’s no Legal Research and
Writing hour, next week should give me some more time. Yesterday afternoon I again had to struggle to keep awake as Collier discussed Malinowski’s view of the Trobriand Islanders’ legal system, but I woke up in the study group when we started going over some Civ Pro hypos. Emira, like Mark and a bunch of others, has the cold that’s been going around our class, and she sounded bad yesterday. Back home at 5 PM, I lay down for an hour, and after dinner, I reworked the first part of my memo, trying to take into account all the comments I got on the draft. But I found the comments contradictory and I think I made some of my problems worse. If I ever do get the hang of legal writing, I’d better make sure I unlearn it quickly. I’ve heard that Appellate Advocacy next term involves a lot more work, but we also have two fewer hours of class: 13 as opposed to 15. That probably won’t help. There’s a faculty auction to benefit some group on Friday, and Shay asked me to be a part of a group of a dozen people bidding to let Dowd and Davis make us a homemade dinner. It would be fun if we won, but there are other groups of twelve also bidding. I’ll give Karin $40 and hope the bidding doesn’t get too high. I’d rather go home for lunch than stick around and watch the auction.
It would have been easier if I could get to sleep early, but last night I again had trouble. I awoke at 6 AM but couldn’t bring myself to exercise, so I stayed in bed till 7 AM. Classes went okay today, and I find my briefs in all my classes except Contracts (where I haven’t been called on) are getting less comprehensive. But they say it’s better to prepare for finals than spend hours on classwork. We’ve been skipping reviewing our notes in the study group and have been practicing hypos, which are actually kind of fun to deal with. Civ Pro is the hardest subject by far, and I don’t expect more than a C in the class. If I get two B’s – maybe in Jurisprudence and Criminal Law – I’ll be satisfied. Of course I’ve heard the classes people think are easier usually turn out to be the exams that they totally blow. There are so many interesting activities at the law school and at the university, I could be doing something interesting every night. Gainesville would be a terrific place to live if I had time. Next year, in grad school, things will get easier, and I’m certain I’ll see a whole side of this town and UF that I can’t even imagine now. Still, there’s a kind of integrity to this process of being inculcated with the law. When I read
the Times these days, I understand so much more than I used to, and I can also figure out stuff behind the articles. It’s amazing how many news stories have some kind of legal angle. I did aerobics when I came home during my break and showered after lunch just before returning to school. Can I face my memo and my computer tonight? We’ll see. I hate the idea of leaving everything till the weekend, although I know that no matter what, can whip up some first draft by Monday at 11:30 AM.
Thursday, October 24, 1991
7 PM. Last evening I worked on polishing the first issue in my memo and citing all the cases. I also did some hornbook reading before I fell asleep, and I finished listening to T. Coraghessan Boyle read his East is East, an entertaining novel without much substance. I slept okay and at 6 AM I was awake enough to exercise with Body Electric on WUFT-TV. At school, I went to see Mashburn because I wanted to show her a front page Wall Street Journal article on class action suits brought on behalf of fans of Milli Vanilli, the pop duo who lip-synched their songs. The story brought out
some of the abuses and problems of class action that Mashburn had told us about. It’s an indulgence for me to insist on keeping up with the news (the Times every day, the Journal when I can, and my daily doses of NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered and the ABC evening news show and occasionally, McNeil-Lehrer), but I’m always coming up with stories related to what I’ve been learning. Mashburn said she can’t read the paper on the days she teaches, so I see that law professors work a lot harder than I did as a writing, literature or computer teacher – at least until they’re experienced enough to teach their subject in their sleep, like Davis with Contracts. My own college teaching or teacher-training jobs, with smaller groups of students, seems more satisfying than being a law professor. Anyway, I told Mashburn about my joint law/journalism degree and said I wanted to write about the law, not practice it. She probably doesn’t realize I’m older than she is. At the media library, I printed out the rough draft of my memo (the second half is all outline so far); it makes me feel better to see some hard copy. I also printed out my résumé, though I’m not sure why – maybe to remind me that I’m not just a first-year law student. I heard a story about weird minor Presidential candidates today, and media fever almost bit
me – but I’ve done that before, and like all the stuff I’ve read and don’t quite disbelieve about Geminis, I hate to repeat myself. I stayed in the library and surreptitiously copied onto one of my own disks a copy of a Civ Pro simulation game, Buffalo Creek, based on the Buffalo Creek disaster, in which opposing players get to be attorneys on both sides and deal with discovery issues – what we’re covering in class these days. It looks like helpful fun, and of course, I’m fascinated by all computer education software. I wonder if I could carve out a niche as an expert on computers in legal education. Our last Legal Writing seminar was mostly tips on getting the memo in shape by 11:30 AM Monday, when it’s due at the office. I didn’t work on the memo this afternoon, but I know I can get it done before Sunday night. Luckily, I’ve read ahead in a couple of classes, so I don’t have to read that much this weekend. I enjoyed my Crim Law, Civ Pro and Jurisprudence classes today and I felt kind of like I’m doing what I want to be doing in life. Besides, this may be my last chance to indulge myself before money troubles force me to quit school. I couldn’t get hired even as an adjunct with all these state budget cuts now anyway. For years I’ve been preparing for an economic depression, but am I really any more ready to go through one than anybody else? Things are
looking so grim that Bush’s advisers are panicking with every new dismal statistic. Personally, though, I’m pretty happy these days. (Evidently my neighbors aren’t. I hear lots of screaming in Chinese coming from next door.) Lawrence asked me if I work for Bugle Boy because he noticed I keep wearing shirts with their logo. When I told him about Dad’s job and how I get the sample shirts for free, he said, “I can respect that.” We didn’t have a study group today. Nobody even discussed getting together.
Friday, October 25, 1991
4 PM. I awoke to the sound of sirens and flashing red lights of emergency vehicles, and instantly I knew the Lutheran church next door was on fire. There’s been a series of suspicious church fires in North Central Florida, and just Tuesday there was small fire at the United Church across the street and a larger one at another Gainesville church; yesterday, Ocala’s First Baptist Church burned to the ground.
It’s been on the national news, and the feds are investigating. When I went out in the morning darkness, the fire was already under control, and firefighters were taking the media on a tour of the church. Radio and TV reporters were there (there was a live broadcast on TV-20’s new noons – I mean noon news), and the block was cordoned off. I hope they find the people who are doing this before any more fires occur. Back in my apartment, I did aerobics, had breakfast, and left for school at 9:30 AM; after parking the car, I saw outside reading the paper till Criminal Law began. Today Nunn discussed the battered-woman syndrome in self-defense and whether we should apply objective or subjective standards to the “reasonable person test. Is the defendant regarded as a reasonable person who is a battered woman or a reasonable battered woman? Of such distinctions is first year law school comprised. If some people haven’t yet gotten that there’s no right answer, they should have got it when Mashburn emphasized that in her remarks about exams. She’s giving us a review session the Monday before classes end. Our final will be totally open book, but that doesn’t make the difference to me that it does to most of my classmates. Having Emanuel’s there isn’t going to help. You either know the
material, and more importantly, can use it in analysis, or you don’t and you can’t. For me, a C next to my name isn’t as important as what I’ve learned this semester, and that’s not just idealistic crap. Since, practically, high grades won’t help me at all, I’ve only got to aim for good grades the same way I did in all my classes I’ve taken just for the hell of it at FAU, FIU and Teachers College the past few years. Meanwhile, it’s interesting to see how my fellow students behave as the first year moves on. Most people know most of the other 95 or so people in our section, even if we’ve never spoken to them. Today was the faculty services auction, and I gave Karin $20 to pay my share if our group of twelve won the bidding. When I returned from lunch at home, I learned that Dwight, doing the bidding for us (me, Karin, Dennis, Shay, Kim, Midori, Dan, Angelina and a few others) dropped out after $240 -$20 each – but Lorraine (for a group Steve H had organized) and Nick (for a third group) got into a bidding war, and the Davis/Dowd dinner went for $520, with Lorraine dropping out long after a reasonable price. Karin later told me that Nick’s group actually had 15 people (including Angelina, who joined two groups – “Not right,” Karin said). Shay and Gena, who was in Lorraine’s group, found out about this and protested to Nick, who said, “It’s
like Burger King: sometimes you’ve got to break the rules.” “Very nice for a law student to say,” Midori told me when we heard that. I find it surprising – and probably a good sign – that Midori and others would expect law students to behave more ethically. It’s interesting to see the group dynamics at work in our class. I talk with just about everyone, of course, except those people who seem totally quiet, and there’s no one I dislike. But dyads and triads and groups form, and people that Rob and Paul (who got called on in Civ Pro today) are best buddies, and that Darla, Jim, Don and Ray are friends; that Steve F hangs out with Gena and Shara; that Dwight, Angelina, Midori and Shay always sit together; that Lorraine and Tosha have things in common; that Doug K, Wil, Greg and Kenny K work out together; that there are other groups that ebb and flow; that Todd, Emira, Dan, Karin and I are in a study group; and probably that Karin and I are close and sit next to one another in every class. Last night I dreamed that Karin and were in a class taught by Chief Justice Rehnquist. I stayed late to talk to her and Gena about our papers, which are hanging over all our heads this weekend. I’d better get started working on mine.
Saturday, October 26, 1991
7 PM, though I’ve set back my clocks (the clock radio by my night table, the analog clock on the counter, my two microwaves and my computer) to Standard Time already. What will I do with the extra hour? Right now I’m listening to klezmer music on Garrison Keillor’s radio show, live from Symphony Space on 95th and Broadway, right around the corner from Ronna’s. Earlier, I danced around as my Healthy Choice chicken enchilada heated up and Keillor talked about seeing the Anglo-American School street fair on 89th – that my old Franklin School, where I was a tenth grader 26 years ago. Pardon me while I sit here, slack-jawed at the passage of time. I guess it was 25 years ago when I started getting bad anxiety attacks the following year at Midwood High School, and I began seeing Dr. Lipton. Wow. Here I am, a quarter of a century later (I remember how depressed I was on my 25th birthday, having merely lived a quartercentury). Tonight’s the big Florida lottery drawing with a $100 million jackpot. What would I do with the money? First, I’d hire a good financial adviser, but I’d make sure I could spend some money right away.
I’d pay off my parents’ mortgage and give them their own income, and I’d take Grandma Ethel out of the home in Woodmere and get her live-in help at her own apartment. I’d pay off my student loans and other debts (no, I wouldn’t pay off the debts already discharged in bankruptcy – I’m not an idiot), and I’d set up some kind of foundation or trust till I could figure out what to do with the money: start a school or a small press, a writers’ center or some innovative charity. Or maybe I’d just take all the money and move to Odessa (maybe I could take Grandma with me, back to where she was born) and sit in cafés on the boulevard and walk along the Black Sea and eat pierogis. Where was I? I took a vacation from my casebooks today, and unlike most Saturdays, when I rarely come up for air, I didn’t even open a book today. Of course, I did do my legal memo. I worked on it last night and then when I got up at 4:30 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep. I sat at the computer and three hours later, I printed out a first draft. After I went out for the papers and had breakfast, I made some corrections on the hard copy and then on the disk. When I’d exercised and showered, I decided to take a walk: it was 10:30 AM, a warm, sunny morning.
I walked down to University and across to 13th Street, where I stopped at Goerings’, which looks like the literary/big bookstore in town: it’s where the people from the English Department give readings. I asked if they had Denis Woychuk’s picture book for kids, and it had just come in: The Other Side of the Wall, with great illustrations of Mimi the hippo and Gustav the mouse. Good for Denis: I hope he sent a copy to Baumbach, whose mouth would probably drop open upon seeing it. Even though I can’t really afford it, I bought the book; I’ll send a copy to Lindsay for her birthday next month. At the bookstore, I looked at the whatever literary magazines they had and realized how out of touch I am now. At this point, if any of the books and stories I’ve got out there – where, I don’t know – had really had much value, someone would have noticed. I tend to be self-effacing, but even I overestimated the quality of my stories, especially those in Narcissism and Me. I didn’t get the positive feedback I expected on that chapbook, and I can only conclude I don’t have much of a future as a fiction writer. I still get the urge to write, but it’s satisfied, sort of, by my journals and by my scribbling in notebooks. I’ll always define myself as a
writer, but I’ll have the spotty, struggling publishing record of the third-rate wannabees. Still, that’s a lot further than most people get, and I can’t complain. Well, I won’t, anyway. At the public library, I read recent issues of magazines and The Wall Street Journal, and then I exchanged my audiotapes for two new ones, books by Isherwood and Borges. An Eastern European woman going through the fiction tapes with me, said, “My poor husband, he’s so sick, he can’t even read a book. But at least there’s something he can get a little pleasure from while he’s lying in bed in agony.” I wished I could do something to make her husband better. Anyway, my next stop was the media library at the law school, where I used their quick formfeed printer to make a copy of my latest draft of the memo before making final corrections and changes at home, where I used my slowas-molasses single-sheet-feed, near-letterquality printer for the final final draft. Would you believe I still stick with PC-Write shareware after all these years, even when I have to add the underlining and bottom-of-thepage pagination by hand with a pen? I guess I am a semi-Luddite after all. While at the computer in the media library, I played (yes, and I copied) another Discovery game, one Mashburn recommended, Coney Island, in which you get to be attorneys in that
1973 Mark Twain J.H.S. , Weinstein. I plan to play these games until I understand Civil Procedure. Yesterday I bought Emanuel’s First Year Questions, which contains some of the little hypos Karin gave our group last week. After buying some groceries at Publix, I can home and finally finished the paper. It’s 16 pages, and I feel satisfaction with the job I did, and I learned a lot doing it, too. Whether it will get a good grade or not, I have no idea, because I’m still not sure what they want from a legal memo. Does it matter? Yesterday Den Kent acknowledged my assistantship application and said he’d use the recommendations I gave him last year to save me trouble.
Sunday, October 27, 1991
2 PM. I have yet to open a casebook this weekend, but that’s okay. I’ll read Contracts and Torts later today, but I don’t plan to go much further. It’s been a pleasant mini-vacation from law school that’s allowed me to gain some perspective as we’re going into the last month
of classes and the madness that will engulf us as finals approach. I hate to use the term “inner-directed,” but for me, the evaluation of my exams by my professors will not define my level of success at law school. I’d almost be shocked if I found I did very well on my exams because I’m not sure I value the skills being tested. That’s not quite true, for I’d like to be able to know I’ve sharpened my mind. Unfortunately, law school sharpens most people’s minds by narrowing them. That’s why the only reading I’ve done so far today has been a close look at the New York Times, which actually does provide me with a way to use and enhance my legal education. I realize I’m in my usual “outsider” stance. I’m not “really” a fiction writer or a Broward Community College English professor or a computer educator or a law student, so it really doesn’t matter if I fail, and of course I see the cop-out rationalizations behind that attitude. But it’s an attitude that’s familiar and comfortable, and I like being an amateur – the Latin root of which, as I’m fond of telling students, means someone who does something for the love of it. Besides, this is a new experience for me, and I’m learning a lot, and not only about the law. This is the first time in my life I’ve lived alone
in a new city, far from family and friends – and I’ve done better than just survive. So law school is already a small triumph. Just getting through this year will be quite an accomplishment – in my own eyes, if no one else’s. Last night I listened to Isherwood’s The Last of Mr. Norris and began Goodbye to Berlin when it dawned on me that I’d heard the latter book read on the radio in South Florida not too long ago. With the recent anti-foreigner riots in Germany and with hostility rising against Asians, Arabs and Africans and right-wing parties flourishing and anti-Semitism once again coming out of the closet, I suspect Europe may be less hospitable to see me than I had assumed. As an American, I figured I’d be spared the hostility of those who hate Jews and foreigners, but that was probably a naïve fantasy. Well, we’ll see. I’ll keep my luggage packed at all times. I slept extraordinarily well, dreaming elaborate stuff, until 8 AM: truly late since it was actually 9 AM to my body. My wrists and ankles ache, but I don’t feel sick. However, I am feeling tired still, so maybe something’s wrong. Well, I’m such a hypochondriac, who knows? I’ll close my eyes and get under the blanket for a while. There’ll be time to do work later.
Monday, October 28, 1991
8 PM. Last night I did my Torts reading for the week and most of Contracts by last night, and I fell asleep after I finished listening to The Berlin Stories. It’s still dark out at 6 AM now, but half an hour later, dawn breaks. I slept okay but still felt tired all day today. Most of my classmates had begun working on their papers only yesterday, and some, like Karin, who called me up last night with a question, stayed up half the night or even all night. I was happy to get rid of my paper at 8:15 AM in the Legal Research and Writing office. I showed Lorraine and Karin the book Denis wrote, which impressed them. And I was impressed when I read Denis’ byline on a review of a children’s book in yesterday’s Times Book Review – in the same issue as a review by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer. Denis’ literary success is enough so that it’s a challenge for me not to feel envious, but he deserves it after such a long time. He’s one person I totally underestimated back in our MFA program in the 70s. Classes were okay, even kind of interesting, although many students looked bedraggled after staying up so late working on their
papers. We had more students absent in the morning classes than I’d ever seen before. In Jurisprudence I got called on to do a case (about fencing out chickens), and it had been so long ago since I’d read it, I was a little shaky but I feel I did okay – even if Shay asked me afterward if I was reading the case as I was going along. Someone left a copy of the Appellate Advocacy book in the library, and I looked through it to see what tortures they’ll put us through next term. It’s probably more work than Research and Writing, but I’m looking forward to learning to use Westlaw and Lexis on the computers. We met as a study group from 4 PM to 5:15 PM, and I read short hypos from Emanuel’s First Year Questions. Going over some Contracts hypos was rewarding, but it also made me feel I hardly knew anything about these complex rules. Still, it’s only our first or second session doing the hypos. Davis put the rest of the term’s assignments on the board; after tomorrow, we’ve got only eight classes (the Wednesday after Veteran’s Day will follow a Monday schedule). I probably could think of more that happened at school today, but my brain shut down sometime at the end of our study group session. I came home to the news, dinner and a quick read of the New York Times. Our last Torts case this week is an accident that
happened at Gateway National Park, and reading it made me homesick for Brooklyn and Rockaway.
Tuesday, October 29, 1991
2 PM. I’m already tired, but I still have to return to school for Jurisprudence in an hour and then another session with the study group. Last night I fell asleep at about 9:30 PM, listening to the tape of Borges’ Labyrinths – somewhere before the end of “The Garden of Forking Paths,” a favorite of mine which I taught at BCC last year – but I woke up at 4 AM and started to drift off again only a few minutes before the alarm went off. I again worked out to Body Electric, and after breakfast and a shower, I briefed the cases (I’d already read them) for today’s Torts class. Unable to get to the C-10 tutorial on time, I glanced at the Times – today third-quarter GNP came in at 2.5%, so we officially came out of the recession in June, ha ha – and skimmed the Alligator and that conservative rag that comes out monthly, and then I briefed a case for Contracts that we ended up not getting to. Classes went okay: punitive damages in Torts, and a lecture on the Statute of Frauds in Contracts. In between, I briefed tomorrow’s
Torts cases. Some of my classmates seem to have stopped briefing, but I enjoy doing it even in classes where I’ve already been called on. It’s another beautiful day, just warm enough so that I can wear shorts in the morning (though maybe I’ve grown used to being dressed lightly when it’s 65°). Well, I should be getting back on campus. I’ve still got tomorrow’s Civ Pro reading to do, if I can manage it, tonight. I hate cutting it so close. Luckily I’ve got Thursday and Friday mornings free, though there’s some stuff I have to take care of, like checking on financial aid for next term. The Madrid peace conference is starting, and if there’s one thing this Bush-hater thinks the President is doing right, it’s bringing pressure on Israel to negotiate with the Arabs. Probably nothing will happen – both sides are carrying on with intransigence – but at least Israel and the Palestinians, Jordanians, Lebanese and Syrians are sitting down at the same table. Boy, I’m tired. Doug G kept falling asleep today in Torts, and Gena and others looked as tired as I feel now. * 8 PM. Jurisprudence was pretty interesting today. Karin had a problem with a tooth and went to a dentist after class, so I alone joined
Dan, Todd and Emira for some short-answer Crim hypos. I find Emira a bit ditzy; she’s very much into the social life of the law school and seems to go out every night. I’m not sure how smart she is, and I remember now that she also got into the law school at the last minute after other people canceled. Todd and Dan aren’t brilliant, either, though of course they are both smart. I don’t know if I come off as intelligent or not; although I’m the only one in our study group who talks in class, maybe I say stupid things. I think Karin is quite bright, and from their comments, I also admire the minds of others: Rich T, Rick, Lawrence, Michael K, and some others. But I’m sure the really bright ones, the people who’ll be at the top of the class, probably aren’t the same ones who talk a lot. They may very well be the faceless, silent students in the back rows. Talking in class and being able to analyze and synthesize and reason are not always – oh God, I can’t think of the word. That’s bound to happen a lot. Well, they’re not the same thing, surely. I’ve read the Upjohn case for Civ Pro. My eyes itch. There has never been a time in my adult life when I’ve received less mail. I can go for days with an empty mailbox. But with my
schedule at law school, that’s probably a good thing.
Wednesday, October 30, 1991
7 PM. It’s pathetic how grateful I am not to have my morning classes tomorrow. I don’t have to be at school until Civil Procedure at 1:50 PM. Maybe by sleeping later, I can make up for some of my recent restless nights. I couldn’t deal with exercising early today, so I lay in bed a little longer and eventually dragged myself off to school. I was tired, but the two classes in a row weren’t too bad, and I revived myself at home by doing aerobics and getting a decent lunch. Back on campus, I voted in the JMBA (John Marshall Bar Association) elections for student reps. Karin and I avoided voting for Nick, who, after the auction, strikes us as unethical – which probably argues for his future success in the legal profession – and instead I voted for Clinton and for Dee, a black woman I’ve spoken to only a few times. In Civil Procedure, Mashburn spent another hour on work-product immunity, and at times I just couldn’t keep up with her train of thought or those of my classmates who spoke. At this point, I’m resigned to getting a C in Civ Pro no matter how hard I work, and I’ll be
amazed if I score better than a C or C+ in most subjects. Can I live with that? Why not? In my life, does it matter at all, just as long as I do my best without going crazy? Right now I’m as good off being a law student here in Gainesville as I’d be anywhere else. Every day, my economic depression scenario is getting more play in the media, and as Dad said on the phone last night, the people have a better sense of what’s coming than the economists do. Whatever I learned this year, I’ll put to good use – in my writing, in political action, or just as part of my understanding of how our society works. I begged off a study group session to go to the main campus to check on my loan application for next term. The SLS application hasn’t been processed yet, but I think I’ll get it. The counselor suggested that if I worked fulltime, I should try to petition for a Stafford loan, but after looking at the form, I see I needed 30 weeks of full-time work in 1990, so I can’t do it. If I can get by with my scholarship and my SLS and whatever I can get elsewhere, I’ll manage. Perhaps I’ll need to go on food stamps, but a report today said that one out ten Americans uses the program. Advance registration started today, both at the law school and the university, and while at the
main campus, I picked up the spring schedule of classes. It could be a lot worse than my being here at UF. At the library, I read Newsweek’s cover story on “The Middle Class Crunch”—more economic gloom – and the “My Say” column, “Why I Quit Practicing Law, by a man who gave up after two years, so disgusted was he with the deceit, the chicanery and the misery his job caused other people. I copied the column and will show it to a couple of classmates. Rochelle Ratner is doing a nationwide reading tour for her novel from Coffee House Press, Lion’s Share; she wrote and asked me to come to her reading at Books & Books in Miami Beach. I sent back a postcard telling her I’m 350 miles away but said she should contact Betty, Patrick and others at BCC and FIU and I gave her the names of the book editors of the Herald and Sun-Sentinel. Last night dad said the literary magazine Pleiades came out with my “R Evolution” story. It’s probably the last story I’ll have coming out for a long time, so I’ll appreciate seeing it. My AWP membership is up, and I’ll renew; all this stuff reminds me I’m still a writer. And that, too, is pathetic: look at how eagerly I grab any crumb that comes my way. Even if I do stay at UF and finish the program, I’ll take off at least a semester to be a writer and a writing teacher – or maybe I’ll just mooch
of artists’ colonies if I can. Well, who knows how bad it will get?
Thursday, October 31, 1991
10 PM. I really goofed off today, and I feel guilty and terrific. The only work I did outside of class was actually play: playing those Discovery games, Coney Island and Buffalo Creek, on the computer. I did catch up on sleep last night, getting in nine hours before I woke up at 7 AM. My dreams were peopled with my law school classmates: Karin, Lawrence, Gena, Dori. This morning I relaxed, but I also called Aunt Tillie, who spent most of our conversation complaining about her hiatus hernia. It’s getting worse, but she’s afraid of that hospital procedure they gave her last year. Aunt Tillie always had the most sensitive gag reflex – she couldn’t stand the dentist – and wouldn’t you it, the procedure involves putting a tube all the way down the throat, which sounds horrifying. Her arthritis and sciatica are also bad, and sometimes she just wants to die. She told me something horrible: a few weeks ago, Aunt Minnie’s grandson died in an accident in Ithaca, just days before his bar mitzvah. It was cousin Jonny’s son. The poor kid’s bicycle got hit by a bus, and although he
wore a helmet, it cracked in two from the impact. What a tragedy for the family. For Aunt Minnie, it must bring back bad memories of her son Bobby’s death on a motorcycle so many years ago. Tillie found out when she phoned Minnie and someone else answered and Tillie thought she had the wrong number, but the woman on the phone said she was Susan, Kenny’s wife, who told her what happened. Last week Carol brought Minnie over to see Tillie, and of course Minnie is taking it very hard. Tillie’s so sad about it. She told the story to Lillian Goldberg, and it turned out that she’d heard about it because Lillian’s daughter’s boyfriend’s cousin had been invited to the bar mitzvah, and like all guests, he was called with the gruesome news that the bar mitzvah boy had died. I didn’t even know this second cousin of mine existed, but I feel terrible about his death. It’s heartbreaking. A bad storm swept the Northeastern seaboard last night and today, and Tillie said it was too windy in Rockaway to go out. Parts of Fire Island were evacuated, I heard on the news, and I left a message with Teresa. In the Times, I saw a photo of Plumb Beach inundated with water. Apparently this storm
caused more damage than Hurricane bob a couple of months ago. I got to school at 11:30 AM because I wanted to attend a forum with Prof. Baldwin speaking about Justice Thomas’ confirmation. Baldwin’s very liberal, and I think he’s extremely bright, too, but he seems as if could be an imperious or condescending Con Law teacher. However, I’m still looking forward to his course next term. Many of the frat boy Southerners among my classmates are movement conservatives who worship Judge Bork. And Baldwin said he could have lived with a brilliant legal mind like Bork’s on the Court, which now consists of Scalia (“top-notch,” Baldwin said), a couple of competent judges, and mostly mediocrities. Baldwin suggested that Thomas’ appointment shows Bush has no respect for the Court as an institution, and its stature is now very low in the legal community. I had lunch with Darin, who had been studying Prescott’s Civ Pro final exam answers from last year. Like nearly everyone in our class, Darin says he won’t sacrifice his personal life to work 70-hour weeks, but I wonder how many of them who say that now will end up working just that hard.
Mashburn has actually slowed down, though work-product immunity and lawyer-client privilege are very complex. She must like our class; today she gave a free pass to anyone whom she hadn’t called on if they could identify how the three drummers in Spinal Tap died. One guy in the back row knew: a gardening accident, choking on vomit (not his own); and spontaneous combustion – something Mashburn seems to be particularly interested in (Shay told her about the incident in Bleak House). In Jurisprudence, Collier talked about the positivist philosophy of John Austin, and I could barely keep myself sentient. Nobody wanted to have a study group session – maybe because it was Halloween – so I walked to the parking lot with Dori and Shay and went straight from school to Albertson’s, where I bought $93 worth of groceries, charging it to my Visa. (Without all my coupons, it would have been $105.) I plan to sleep late again tomorrow. “Four weeks,” Doug K said to me today. That means it’s been eleven weeks since Orientation.
Friday, November 1, 1991
8 PM. Last night I fell asleep after listening to the tape of Borges’ Labyrinths again. Up at 7 AM, I had a leisurely morning, doing aerobics, reading the paper, and then using the computer to play those Discovery games as I reread the chapter on discovery in the casebook. I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on what’s going on. “Good question,” Prof. Mashburn said to me twice, and I know it’s my knowledge and understanding that enables me to ask those questions – neither of which had a definite answer, of course. But I’m getting the idea that it’s more important to ask the questions than to get the answers. Although I didn’t get to school until after 1 PM, the day seemed lazy and our minds clouded over about an hour into our study group questions and answers in the cafeteria. Todd was out today, and Dan and Emira were worn out from the big Halloween party last night; they told me and Karin about the imaginative costumes our classmates wore. I can’t imagine Emira doing really well in law school since she’s such a social butterfly, especially when I see that blank look in her eyes when we discuss hypos. Actually, I probably study better on my own although I like the chance to thrash out possibilities with other people. This weekend I’ve got my usual workload of reading, and I also plan to get serious about my outlines.
At this point I feel confident that I can get C’s in all my classes and anything above that will be lagniappe, really. As the recession seems to be turning into the depression I’ve been predicting for the last five years, I realize it’s very possible I may not be able to afford even the low in-state tuition necessary to finance my education. At the very worst, I’ll have had one year of hard work and lot of legal knowledge under my belt. If I have to flip burgers this time next year, I’ll do that, though of course if things are that bad, I’ll probably be doing volunteer work for the Democratic presidential candidate. I can’t claim I didn’t expect these hard times. I’d like to avoid moving back in with my parents; instead, I’d love somewhere other than South Florida with roommates and do what I could to survive. Anyway, that’s the worst-case scenario. Today’s unemployment numbers were not good, and that, on top of the week’s bad economic statistics, seem to have Bush and the Republicans in a panic. However, the congressional Democrats are not likely to benefit since they’re held in worse regard than the President – with good reason. The Democratic presidential nominee will have to run as an outsider, as someone who’s going to shake things up.
Right now everyone seems unhappy with the way the country’s going, and with the Madrid Israel-Arab conference ending with the usual ancient charges and countercharges, Bush probably better spend some time on domestic problems. Right now, he just seems to be floundering. Today he actually said the economy “turned the corner,” a phrase reminiscent of Herbert Hoover’s “prosperity is just around the corner” of sixty years ago.
Saturday, November 2, 1991
8 PM. In some ways the most pleasurable aspect of law school are these Saturdays spent reading my casebooks with a yellow highlighter. Today I did all the Torts, Criminal Law and Contracts reading for the week, though I’ve left the briefing of the cases till later. Most of my classmates read the assignments a day before class, but I find I get more out of reading cases in a bunch, as it gives me a broader perspective on, say, affirmative defenses in negligence suits, excuses or justification as a defense in criminal law, or the Statute of Frauds in Contracts, all subjects I covered today.
The rest of the day was pedestrian: I exercised, I read the papers, and went out at 1 PM to have a McLean Deluxe (at first they put mayonnaise on it and wondered why I asked for a replacement for it: what’s the point of low-fat beef if you slather all that fat on it?), and to go to the library, where I exchanged my Borges and Isherwood tapes for a 22-hour monster, the unabridged Moby Dick. I’ve never read Melville’s masterpiece, I’m embarrassed to say, but I’m not certain I can get through the tapes, either. Pete called, and we chatted for half an hour. He’s a bit depressed. First, his application for a Fulbright to go to India was rejected. Pete, urged by Michael Kasper to call and inquire about it, was told that nothing was wrong, the quality of his work and the proposal were highly rated, it was just that others were rated higher and there are only so many funds to go around. With his NYU classes not making this term and no prospect of his book getting published, Pete is also now facing the possibility of losing his dream job at Equitable. The company is in severe financial trouble, and recently people have been laid off, including his boss’s boss, a man of 50 who’d worked for 25 at the company. The guy who laid him off was himself laid off two weeks later.
Equitable may get rid of the whole data processing division and contract out for the work. Pete’s job, like hundreds of others, is on the line. On the other hand, he is bored and dissatisfied at work (recently he’s been working five-day weeks) and feels the need for change. Last week he visited Harold in Minneapolis (yesterday 21 inches of snow fell there); Pete found the city to be “Midwestern bland.” Harold, having sold a Western novel – Harold says it’s not really a Western, of course – for a $1500 advance, now thinks he made a mistake in working full-time when he could have been writing the sequel. Pete says Harold is having a hard time adjusting to Minneapolis Community College’s course schedule and doesn’t like having to serve on committees. I guess Harold is very set in his ways; before MCC, he never taught anywhere but at John Jay. While Harold will be in New York for Christmas, Pete will be in Southeast Asia for six weeks, a trip he’s really looking forward to, in part because his only hope for publishing right now is his “eating my way through Asia” book. Pete is thinking about returning to school, so you know he’s dissatisfied with his life. I’ll probably get to the Civ Pro reading tomorrow and maybe do my outlines during
the week, though I can probably wait till next weekend, when Monday will be the Veterans Day holiday. I’m running out of money; after paying my phone bill, I have only about $600, so I’m going to have to dip into my Visa and Optima cash advance lines. With the shadow of economic depression, it’s starting to look less likely I’ll be able to afford to continue with school next year, but I’m grateful for this chance I’ve had.
Sunday, November 3, 1991
3 PM. Last evening, before I fell asleep, I listened to the first two of 15 cassettes of Moby Dick. Why did I never read this book before? It’s amazing how modern Melville’s story is, and how clearly and skillfully told. As hard as it might be to fit in the hours required to listen to the entire novel in two weeks – when the tape is due – I’m going to try. It’s a better break from law school than TV. My other diversions these days seem to be the news and my dreams. I awoke from a delicious dream of making love to a voluptuous Russian woman. It was chilly when I went out to buy the Sunday Times, and I haven’t ventured out since. I’ve
read much of the paper and I finished the Civ Pro chapter on discovery; I’ll probably leave case-briefing to just before my classes. As I’ve said, I find reading the casebooks the most pleasurable part of law school. I answered an ad in the Times for the Peace Corps. They need teachers, 800 volunteers, for a two-year project in fifty countries in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. With an M.A. in English, I’d be eligible to teach at a university. If things get really bad here and I can’t afford to continue at UF, at least with the Peace Corps, I’d avoid having to live on the streets, I’d be a university teacher, and I’d get to live, hopefully, in Eastern Europe, seeing history. Maybe, if my long-term goal is to live abroad, I should just go ahead and do it. Gainesville has taught me I can move to a place where I know nobody and can adjust to a different lifestyle without terror. Perhaps I’m ready to risk Europe in 1992. I’m still doubtful the economic situation will lead America to needed changes. Bush will probably be re-elected if he can convince the people to once again vote against their best interests and blame the Democrats in Congress, and not him, for the economy. People are very gloomy and distrustful of government, but they’re also stupid and easily susceptible to all the media manipulation we saw through the Reagan years, in Bush’s
sleazy ’88 campaign, and in the absurd Gulf War (though people are starting to wonder what the war was all about and what it accomplished, they just blink and put it out of their minds). I know Eastern Europe can be a real hellhole, and I fear that fascism can take hold there, but I’m not sure the U.S. is less susceptible to fascism: witness David Duke. No one is interested in hearing about or attempting to solve the U.S.’s real problems, and while Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria might be pretty scary places, at least something is happening there. It would certainly be exciting to be there now. Anyway, we’ll see what happens. I did aerobics and watched the New York City Marathon, which allowed me to see my beloved city on TV. I miss New York a lot, although I know the stresses of everyday life there. The woman’s leader, a Scot, lives here in Gainesville, as does Grete Weitz, who won the NYC Marathon many times. It’s a gray day. * 8 PM. Sunday evenings in November always used to depress me, especially on gray, chilly days like today – probably because night
comes so early and the week, particularly Monday morning, is in front of me. I don’t feel quite that way tonight, but I’ll be snuggling up in bed early with my Moby Dick tapes. I read – Freudian slip – I listened to another tape earlier: Ishmael and Queegqueg have shipped out on the Pequod but Captain Ahab hasn’t appeared yet. I think joining the Peace Corps and going to Europe might be an adventure like whaling. I’d prefer to stay in Gainesville and go to grad school, but I don’t know that I’ll have that choice. And I‘m not going to lapse into self-pity; instead, I’ll feel grateful that at least I had this year of law school. I’ll never have to wonder again what being a first-year law student is like, and I’ll have had the experience of living on my own – in luxury – here in Gainesville. More deserving people than I have had to drop out of school because of money, and I can’t – not even in my wildest dreams – picture myself ending up as Hardy’s Jude Fawley. Anyway, whatever happens, I’ve got to keep in mind that I have lots of options. Would it be smarmy of me to quote “Me and Bobby McGee” about freedom being just another word for nothing left to lose? Okay, so I won’t. I phoned Alice, who was planning to call me from work tomorrow. She and Peter were
supposed to appear on Oprah, but the taping was canceled twice because they couldn’t find any other couple who lived apart. Alice thinks the show probably won’t come off, and her agent said, “Wait till you have something to sell.” Alice always has got something to sell, though, doesn’t she? She’s been meeting with publishing editors to talk to them about her ideas as a book packager, and she’s treated with lots of respect – probably because people think they can make money off her. Alice’s view of writing and mine are so different. She writes only for money, whereas I’ve never thought about money. I guess it shows, huh? I hate to sound like an elitist snob, especially when I’m talking about my oldest friend. Anyway, Alice is very good at what she does. I’m good at what I do, only I haven’t yet figured out what that it is yet. I think about my books on library shelves; maybe before the century ends, someone will take out Hitler or Dog from the UF library, for example. But nobody’s going to discover me from my library bookshelf – I was going to say “nobody that matters,” but of course it’s the readers who “don’t matter” who really matter. Maybe somebody will look at my diary books in the Brautigan Library.
I’m rambling. Next Monday is Veterans Day, so I can avoid the Sunday blues then.
Monday, November 4, 1991
4:30 PM. I’ve just come in on this wintry day. The temperature may not get to 50° today, and the sky is so gray you’d think it was going to snow. Even for New York City, today would be a chilly, bleak day for early November. In a way I don’t mind because it forces to me to adjust to the kind of winters I’d have to expect in a colder climate, but then temperatures here aren’t so low I really have to suffer through winter. Teresa left a message saying that she’s okay, that the only real damage to the houses on Fire Island were caused by flooding from the terrible “blow” last week. I feel like getting into bed early. Although I slept okay, I still feel pressed for time and kind of drowsy. I spent most of my time before Torts and Contracts doing the briefs for those classes, and I haven’t yet finished my Torts briefs for the week. In addition, I have yet to read the Times. I’m glad none of us in the study group had the First Year Questions book to do hypos at school today. Earlier, Dan had told me that Todd
thinks he stories better alone, so he dropped out of the study group. I wish I could, too. Karin and I confessed to each other that Emira gets on our nerves because she’s such an airhead. But I figure it can’t hurt to see how other people analyze questions and legal principles. It was odd to see everyone at school bundled up today, though there were a few hardy (foolish?) guys who wore shorts. This is about as cold as it ever gets in South Florida in January, and it’s cold for Gainesville for this time of year; however, Lorraine said this is typical January weather. Our classes went quickly today, even Jurisprudence, which flew by with an interesting case about a guy who murdered his grandfather to prevent him from changing his will. Does the grandson inherit the farm because he was named in the will? A fascinating problem. I xeroxed another Contracts outline, but I probably should be making my own. However, I just don’t have time. People berate me for reading the Times every day, but I won’t give it up. Besides, it helps. Tomorrow we’re studying the voidability of minors’ contracts, and today I read that Paramount has to keep their 11-yearold star of Home Alone, Macauley Culkin, happy so he’ll do the sequel because as a
minor he can legally void the contract at any time. Probably if I read books about trials, I’d pick up a lot of stuff, too. Anyway, I’d rather get all C’s in my classes than give up reading the paper and listening to the news. Last night’s tape of Moby Dick contained Melville’s detailed explanations about the different kinds of whales. As Robin Cisne, the woman in Ithaca, wrote me, to her Moby Dick is an experimental novel. I picked up my schedule for next term; unlike Karin, Dan and Emira, I have Appellate Advocacy on Thursdays, which means I will be finished with classes on Wednesday at 11:20 AM. That will be a nice break. At Publix I took out an ATM cash advance of $200 on Optima. My bill arrived today, so this charge won’t appear till another month’s statement. Luckily, my $1250 scholarship will cover all but $5 of next spring’s tuition.
Tuesday, November 5, 1991
2 PM. I’m on my lunch break, trying to relax. I’d really like to go hear Jesse Jackson at the
O’Connell Center tonight, but I don’t know if I can do it. Last night I was practically under the covers at 8 PM and drifting off to sleep by 9 PM. It was even colder last night, but I put the heat on, and this morning it wasn’t all that hard to get up and exercise and send myself off to school. At least today the sun is shining brightly today despite the cold weather. Besides, I can adjust. I can adjust: I’ve learned that about myself. Last night I had my first anxiety dreams about taking a final exam, and in a way, I can see that I’m going to miss this term’s class schedule. My classes today were fascinating, and I’m starting to get more of a handle on the concepts. In Torts we were going over something incredibly complex but intellectually exhilarating, and I was impressed with some of the observations made by a classmate, Bill, because he’d discovered an entirely different but logical way to look at the problem. I wish I’d been called on in contracts; we’re on our last chapter of the term, Policing the Bargain. I guess there are only six more classes left. I’ve managed to read ahead to next week in Torts, but I haven’t yet done my Crim Law and Civ Pro briefing for tomorrow. It would be great if I could get enough ahead in my reading
to work on outlines and reviewing over the three-day weekend. I listened to a little Moby Dick last night and was most impressed with Melville’s tour de force on the scary connotations of whiteness. It’s Election Day, but the polls aren’t open in Florida. I’d better apply for my absentee ballot for next March’s primary election, although the date will fall during spring break, when I probably will be in Broward County. Tosha said it’s so much colder here than it is in Sarasota, and Karin says the same thing about Orlando – so you can imagine how I feel. I bet Miami is 25° warmer today than it is here in Gainesville. But I adjust. I’m looking forward to this afternoon’s Jurisprudence class more than I am to our study group session afterwards.
Wednesday, November 6, 1991
1 PM. Once again, I’m on a lunch break. I’ve just noticed my gland is swollen on my left side, making it sore when I chew.
The hypochondriac in me, of course, wonders if this is the beginning of something horrible, like those disease that always sneak up on people when they’re having the time of their lives. Well, if it is, I’ll deal with it. Do I have a choice? It’s probably nothing – perhaps even a muscle sprain. In some ways I do feel like I’m having the time of my life. According to the law school preview guides I’ve read, this is supposed to be a bad time in the semester because people start to panic. Of course, I don’t feel the pressure of grades and I also have the feeling that, yes, hard as all this stuff is, and as much of it as there is, I can handle most of it. Yesterday’s Jurisprudence class was fascinating, because we started using legal positivism to, in effect, deconstruct the texts of statutes and look at how the words in them can be interpreted. After class, Dan, Emira, Karin and I went to the cafeteria and Dad read us questions from his Torts flashcards. Emira seemed to know everyone who passed by and needed to say hi to them; she’s so flighty, I sometimes lose patience with her, but then I was interested in her photos from last week’s Halloween party. If I was fifteen years younger, I probably would have gone myself, as my classmates looked as
if they were having a ball. However, I had my fun as an undergrad twenty years ago. At forty, a big night out for me was like last night, when I went to hear Jesse Jackson speak at the O’Connell Center. I sat alone in the back of the top bleachers so I could leave early. About a thousand people were there, and I spotted a few classmates, like Darin and Albert. Jackson opened with a prayer for our murdered students (the grand jury is meeting now to hand down an indictment) and then went into his standard speech: “they work every day” and “a Yale scholarship is cheaper than a jail scholarship.” On Saturday he’d announced that he wasn’t running for President this year. After an hour’s talk, mostly about economic issues, D.C. statehood, and the usual stuff – all of which I agree with Jackson on – I left the arena. Coming home in the 40° cold, I was reminded of those nights during the winters back in the 1970s when I’d go to parties or films or other events with my friends from Brooklyn. Mom left a message to say that Dad had seen an ad for a movie that had Wesley’s name in the credits; of course, it’s Cape Fear, and I’ve been expecting it. I bet Scorsese, DeNiro, Nolte and Wes all get rave reviews, and I hope Wes gets nominated for an Oscar.
Surprisingly, I fell asleep right away, before I could hear the Senate results from Pennsylvania. At 6 AM, though, I heard that Democrat Harris Wofford trounced Bush’s Attorney General, Thornburgh, by stunning him with a populist crusade centering on health care and the economy. On his way to Rome this morning, Bush seemed to get the message: he canceled his two-week Asian tour at the end of the month just as the ridicule about all his foreign travel was getting out of hand. At the newspaper racks, Martin was jubilant over the news. Honestly, I’m surprised that any of my classmates are liberal Democrats, but it’s gratifying to see that at least a few are. A good Democratic candidate could get people to switch from Bush, people like Steve F, who said he’s a Republican but when I said it was in my own interest to vote Democratic because I have no health insurance, said, “Well, I agree with you on that.” Steve is in favor of abortion rights and other Democratic party positions, too. In other elections, the prime theme seemed to be the votes for outsiders, though Washington State voters wisely rejected term limits. I enjoyed Torts, but Crim Law was one of the worst classes I can remember. Nunn may be teaching for the first time, but he seemed
incompetent today, taking up the whole class to confuse a simple issue. He keeps cutting stuff from our syllabus, too. I’m going to feel cheated that I didn’t really have a top Criminal Law teacher. At Publix, I ran into Michael K, who said his section’s teacher, Seigel, is excellent. (Also at Publix were Martin, Steve S and two other law students, making it look like a convention.) Well, I’ve got to brief the Nelco case and head back for Civil Procedure at 1:50 PM.
Thursday, November 7, 1991
Noon. I’ve just come from another confusing Crim Law class. Nunn just seems to be floundering, and a lot of us feel we’ve hardly learned anything. I feel sorry for anyone who planned to be a criminal lawyer and who is getting this poor an introduction. This afternoon I’ve got Civ Pro and Jurisprudence, but I’m prepared. Yesterday the early arrivals in Civ Pro got into this great discussion about our teachers: Gena, Doug G, Shay, Dori, Kim, Mike W and I discussed their strengths and weaknesses. Some people like Davis the best because he could teach Contracts in his sleep, but all of us
agreed that he, Mashburn, and Dowd are excellent. Mashburn has slowed down because we have plenty of time. I’m having trouble understanding summary judgment, but she said it would be complicated and we’d take it slowly. After class, a lot of people went to a BarBri gathering to watch an Arthur Miller tape on Civil Procedure, but I went with Dori, Ken K, Kim, Marsha and Dionne from the other section to Marty Peters’ workshop on preparing for exams. Only yesterday did I learn that Marty had been let go along with six other law school staff members when budget cuts came down two weeks ago. Michael K, Dionne, Duane, Jeff and some other students have formed a group to help Marty keep her job, but unless the state legislature restores the money, it doesn’t look good. Too bad. When I saw Marty last month, she didn’t think her job was in jeopardy. She said she’s getting over the shock now. As usual, her presentation was helpful, and she gave out schedules, calendars going from now till December 17, so we can plan our studying. The important thing is to relax and have a positive attitude, I think. Of course, I’m not under the pressure of some of my classmates. I view finals as an intellectual challenge to do
my best. Anyway, I picked up a lot of good tips. Back home, I took in the election news; yesterday the Fed lowered the discount rate to 4½%, the lowest rate since I was an undergraduate, but who knows if it will do any good? Washington is clearly panicking over the state of the economy. I spent time organizing my materials by course, and this weekend I’ll start planning my exam strategy. Before I fell asleep, I listened to another few chapters of Moby Dick; at times I find Melville’s word so euphonious that I forget to listen for meaning as I concentrate on their sound. This morning I did aerobics and went to school at 9:30 AM because we don’t have our last Legal Research and Writing class till next week. Angelina told me something interesting when I asked if she and her husband are going to the Florida/ Georgia game in Jacksonville. She said they haven’t been getting on well for the past five weeks, and so they’re going to a beach motel for the weekend to try to work things out. Her husband accuses Angelina of changing totally, and he blames law school for her incessant analysis and her new aggressiveness. Karin has told me that her family notices she talks differently, too.
I’m pretty certain I haven’t changed. My personality is probably too fixed by now, or maybe at my age, it’s harder to be influenced by the culture of law school.
Friday, November 8, 1991
Noon. I think I just made myself unpopular with my fellow law students by my comment at the end of Criminal Law. We were discussing Tennessee v. Garner, the Supreme Court decision that declared unconstitutional a law that allowed a Memphis cop to shoot and kill and unarmed 15-year-old boy feeling a robbery. Doug G, sitting next to me, expressed his astonishment that police were being limited so much, and others chimed in, agreeing that cops should be able to shoot criminals escaping from robberies. I was astounded and wondered why these people are in the class: what do we need with a criminal justice system when we can have a police state? That’s not what I said, however. I started getting hisses when I said, “Let’s look at reality. This law is used against poor minority kids…” and I went on to say it wouldn’t be used against stockbrokers being arrested for the felony of insider trading and trying to leave down their back stairway.
Doug and I argued good-naturedly, but as class broke up, I could feel people were looking at me funny. My desire to be well-liked sometimes conflicts with the rising gorge of injustice I feel. I wish I didn’t get so excited. Maybe I was wrong to bring race into it – did people think I was trying to score some points with Nunn? – but I remember Clifford Glover, Eleanor Bumpers, Michael Stewart, Arthur McDuffie, Rodney King, and then I know I’m right. Before class, I was in the library reading the text when the guy across the table from me, reading the Alligator, hissed out, “Fuckin’ bastard.” I pretended not to hear, but then I noticed he was reading an article about David Duke. The head of UF Students for Duke (can you believe it’s someone with a Vietnamese name?) was quoted in the article. So at least somebody at the law school besides me has the propensity to get outraged. Well, relax, Richie – after Civ Pro and Jurisprudence this afternoon, the long weekend is starting. Yesterday’s Civ Pro and Jurisprudence classes were fine, though now that I think about it, I probably again blabbed too much when I criticized Judge Bork’s decision in the Cyanamid case and said that allowing the policy of hiring only women who’d been sterilized (to avoid high lead levels from
damaging a fetus) was sexual discrimination. People laughed when I said that lead probably affects men’s sperm production, too. Oh well. I don’t follow basketball, but yesterday L.A. Lakers superstar Magic Johnson’s announcement that he was retiring after testing HIV-positive led the national news. Johnson is an idol to millions of kids, and after watching how he handled himself so gracefully yesterday, I can see why. Perhaps as a spokesman for AIDS education, Magic Johnson can make a bigger contribution than he ever did in the NBA. Like Rock Hudson, he gives a face to the disease, but he’s the first major figure to be so open about it. Maybe people will wake up and see that it isn’t just Kimberly Bergalis who “did nothing wrong” and got infected with HIV. Hey, I thought I was going to get off my soapbox. Why do I let all this stuff get to me? But I think I like myself better because it does. Still, I’ve got to watch out or I’ll up selfrighteous and humorless. Maybe I get angrier these days because I’m no longer idealistic. I keep thinking about moving to Europe. There have to be places, like Amsterdam, where people aren’t as fucked up as they are in the U.S. I don’t think Duke will get elected next weekend, but if he is, it’s another signal that I
should apply for a passport. It would be easier to accept Nazis in Europe than in the U.S. Now I’ve gone and given myself acid indigestion. Probably my blood pressure is up, too, and I’m clenching my teeth. There’s nothing I can do about Nazis at the moment.
Saturday, November 9, 1991
8 PM. I was off-base with yesterday’s fear that I’d made myself unpopular. First of all, I know some people, like Shay and Lorraine, agreed with me. And nobody said anything to me when I returned to school yesterday; probably a lot of people weren’t even paying attention to my comment, which was totally defensible anyway. Civ Pro yesterday ended our discussion of discovery and began the difficult unit on summary judgment. Reading the cases for next week was time-consuming because the issues are unclear even to Rehnquist. But using the computer exercise, I think I have a slight grasp of summary judgment. At home yesterday, I read a bit for school, but mostly I could up with the news. My MHT student loans have gone into deferment, and I got the other god news from Dean Kent: an assistantship helping to teaching Introduction to Writing for Mass Communications will
probably turn up next fall, and I’m supposed to call Dr. Julie Dodd for an appointment to discuss it. Mom sent me a UPS package containing some household stuff I’ll never use, but also a heavy jeans jacket, two Introspect T-shirts, and the issue of Pleiades with my “R Evolution” in it. It’s not a great little magazine, but Edmund Pennant is also in the issue, and at this point I’m pleased to see anything I write in print. Mom also sent my Electronic Learning magazine and some other reading materials (but I still haven’t gotten around to reading last week’s Times Book Review). Today was a cool, dark day, and except for aerobics, shopping, and a McLean Deluxe out, I stayed in the apartment trying to work. The reading went slowly, however, though I did finish the week’s cases for Civ Pro, Torts and Contracts. Marty Peters said to concentrate less on class preparation, but I need to read the material to understand it, even if I don’t carefully brief the cases. It’s now three months since I arrived in Gainesville, and there are only three weeks of law school classes left. Already I’ve learned an incredible amount, and I understand so much more than I used to when I read the paper or watch or listen to the news, so much of which is law-related.
I wonder how I got along all these years without any legal knowledge. I must have missed a lot. I’ve really stretched myself in 1991, especially since April; I’ve been in South Florida only two weeks total since then. There was that wonderful trip to California, and then my terrific summer in Rockaway, and my experiences here at UF in Gainesville. Before April, living with my parents and Jonathan for six months was tough, but I didn’t fall back on being dependent on my family. If I don’t have much time these days to contemplate the changes in my life, I keep becoming more aware of the richness and variety of experiences I’ve had, especially when I compare them with those of my 22year-old classmates. Once again, I feel I have a lot to write about – if I ever again have time to write, but of course there will be time. But for now I have to concentrate on my first term at law school and at least getting passing grades in all my courses. I got a call from Delta yesterday changing my flights, but actually I’ll be getting to New York City earlier on Tuesday, December 17. That’s only about five weeks away. By then I’ll probably be used to cold weather; at least I won’t face the shock of going from 80° to 20° that I did in January 1989.
And I don’t have any obligations those three weeks I’ll be in New York, unlike back then – although teaching in Sloatsburg was a rewarding time for me. Nevertheless, I’m sure winter in New York will prove to be a pain in the neck since it’s three years since I’ve experienced it. Whatever that swollen gland problem was, it turned out to be fleeting. I weighed myself at Publix and I’m up to 150 pounds.
Sunday, November 10, 1991
9 PM. I didn’t accomplish much law school work today, although I finished the Criminal Law reading for the rest of the term. Still, I read the Times except for the book review (and I still have last week’s) and I listened to more of Moby Dick. Melville’s little essays on every aspect of whaling and things related to it are some of the best parts of the novel. Although some nights I’ve fallen asleep with a tape still running, I’ve got a feel for the novel, and I feel ashamed I never read it. But then, I’ve got a lot to learn. Cape Fear opens in New York City this week, and the Times had a big store on Scorsese, liberally quoting Wes, who first wrote the script for Spielberg. I feel much more comfortable
with Wes’ tremendous success than I did when I saw him at his house last spring. If he goes on to become a great screenwriter and director, I’ll always have the pleasure of knowing that he once saw something worthwhile in the weird short stories of a kid from Brooklyn. I was a kid back in 1978, wasn’t I? So was Wes. He’d just started seeing Marla then – she hadn’t yet broken up with her old boyfriend – so that must have been an important time in his life. The next summer, when Hitler came out, Wes was already performing, and I thought he would have made a great musician; of course, I’m as ignorant about the music business as I am about Hollywood. Anyway, I don’t feel in competition with anyone; I’m doing interesting things with my life. Today was another chilly day, spent mostly reading indoors and watching the Sunday news shows. My expanding waistline made me need a bigger size than the 30” waist I’ve been wearing. I’ve limited my calories, and if I can’t get my weight down, at least I can prevent it from going higher. Right now, I’m not yet fat, and my stomach muscles are more defined even as I’ve gained weight.
But I need to stop noshing and eat when I’m hungry. I eat good food, but even too much of nutritious, low-fat foot can put on the pounds. Anyway, Mom said she’d send me some of Dad’s Introspect 32” samples. The Crim Law stuff I read was interesting: on intoxication and on the insanity defense. Nearly everything I read in the casebooks is intellectually stimulating, but I wish I had more time to absorb it. Is there really such a need to cram all of this down a first-year student’s throat? I’ve got tomorrow off, so tonight is one Sunday night I don’t have to feel dread. Not that I dread Mondays, of course, but it’s a throwback to being a kid and associating Ed Sullivan (8 PM, WCBS-TV, channel 2) with a whole week of school ahead. Anyway, there’s just the next two Sunday nights left this term.
Monday, November 11, 1991
8 PM. I feel headachy and cranky tonight. Part of it is eyestrain, part a sinus headache, part weakness from not eating as much as I’m used to because of my weight gain. Also, there’s the inevitable disappointment of looking forward to a day off and then
experience a letdown. I thought I could finish the Jurisprudence reading for the term today, but I stopped far short of my goal. There’s obviously too much material for us to cover in eight more classes, and Collier will have to cut out some things. Still, I enjoyed reading Langdell and Pound and especially Holmes, whose clear prose complements a clear head for values. I’ve always admired Holmes. But try as I might, eventually today’s reading became numbing as I was reaching the point of diminished returns. Maybe I did as well as I could. At 4 PM I took a drive, listening to Moby Dick, getting excited as Old Ahab stalks the white whale (I’m on side two of 14 tapes of 15). I headed out northwest towards Santa Fe Community College. I don’t know: I feel empty tonight, without energy; having Veterans Day off has made me feel in need of another day off. Perhaps it was hard on me to be alone for three days straight. Last night I finally got to speak with Justin and David, both of whom have been incredibly busy. Justin’s theater MFA program at Brooklyn College sounds as rigorous as law school. First, he had that production he stagemanaged, and then he had tons of schoolwork: reading to do, papers to write, exams and interviews and reports.
Justin hasn’t had time to take any jobs because he’s overwhelmed with school. It’s a far cry from my own casual MFA program in creative writing at Brooklyn College, with our nine easy credits a term. Justin has 16 credits, and he sounds like he’s taking 25. He likes his fellow students, especially the other five or six in the directing program, all of whom are his age or older, and from varied backgrounds. Justin even roped David into taking a big part in a BC production of She Stoops to Conquer, which led to David attending rehearsals straight from work at the museum, staying up till 2 AM learning lines, and then going to Manhattan early the next morning. That production ended last weekend, but now David is preparing to show his work at a gallery being opened by that guy in Boston who bought some of David’s erotic paintings. Maybe I can get to see it – or get into the Seurat show at the Met, courtesy of David – when I’m in New York. They’ll probably go to Reading for Christmas, but they’ll be around some of the time I’ll be in town. It was good to speak with David and Justin. Why I’m so out of sorts tonight, I don’t know, but it will pass. Although this week is only four days, it’s going to be difficult.
Wednesday is a Monday schedule, so this week I’ve got three Jurisprudence classes, two of Contracts, two of Torts, two of Civ Pro, three of Crim Law, Legal Research and Writing on Thursday – tomorrow we get back our papers and sign up for conferences; our final draft is due next Monday – and on Friday at 4 PM, I’ve got our Torts practice exam. I don’t intend to brief cases except for Contracts, the only class where I haven’t been called on. I guess this is the time when I wonder why I’m putting myself through this torture and I wonder where my life took that wrong turn. Why aren’t I teaching creative writing somewhere instead of scrambling like a 22year-old? I’m really starting to feel my age tonight. * 11 PM. Tired as I was, I’m still awake. I listened to the end of Moby Dick, an exciting conclusion to a brilliant book. Someday I’ll have to take the time to read it at my leisure, but I’m glad I listened to all 21½ hours of it. Such a masterpiece, yet when Melville published it, he was ignored. The man who wrote this and Billy Budd (not published till long after he died), Benito Cereno and other great books spent the last twenty years of his life as a customs agent in New York City.
If that was Melville’s treatment, why should I – whose talent is a tiny fraction of his – expect anything better? If I did get it, all the praise and the good stuff that comes with it, I probably would go into spasms of guilt because I’d feel overpraised. I think about all the “successful” writers I’ve gotten to know, from Susan Fromberg Schaeffer to Wesley Strick, and they all seem about as dissatisfied as the “unsuccessful” ones because it’s never enough and there are always the slights, the bad reviews, the feelings of being overlooked. Till I read it in yesterday’s paper, I never would have imagined Scorsese feels so bad because he never won an Oscar as best director. Why would he care? Because that’s human nature.
Tuesday, November 12, 1991
4 PM. The others in the study group went to a BarBri lecture, which is fine with me. I’m not really studying properly. Actually, I’m spending too much time reading the texts. Collier told us not to read some of the stuff for his class that I already read, but I’m glad I read Brandeis and Warren’s “The Right to Privacy.” It’s hard not to get caught up in the desperation about finals and the mania over grades. But I don’t see any logical reason why
I need to do any better than just pass. Sure, I won’t be proud of my transcript, but since I don’t plan to clerk or put on a suit, I don’t need grades to impress anyone. As good as I could do in law school, people will always be more impressed with my other, earlier accomplishments. It’s harder to get books of short stories published than it is to go 3.4 in law school. Yeah, I know I came here under false pretenses, at least to the outside world and especially my family. Mom and Dad probably still think I’m going to make money as a lawyer. Well, I might, but I’d practice the kind of law that wouldn’t pay much – still, it’s better than adjunct teaching work – and the kind of law that people need. There is a big need to represent poor people, but I don’t need anything but a C average and a J.D. and passing the bar to do that. I’m not paying much for this education, and it’s first-rate. To me, law school is a lovely bonus. All I want to do is get through this first year and pass. Next year I’ll be in the J-school (Dr. Dodd is out of town this week; I’ve got to call her, about the assistantship, next week) and things will be different. I should be doing more hypos and outlines, but I can’t seem to get motivated. Perhaps my priorities are screwed up. My real worry is that I’ll get less than a C, but I don’t know how realistic that fear is.
Up at 6 AM after a short night’s sleep, I’ve been bothered by a bad sinus problem all day. During my morning breaks, I read ahead in my Torts casebook and briefed the cases for Contracts in case I was called on. (I wasn’t). I was disappointed with the comments on my legal memo, but Scott said I’ll definitely pass. I could probably get an S+ if I work really hard, he said, but it’s just not worth it to me. I don’t want to be a TA like him. They used to get paid, but now all they get is a three-credit A, and they have to pay the tuition for it. That’s a part of all the budget cuts. They let go half of the six Legal Research and Writing and Appellate Advocacy teachers; next year’s classes will be taught in large lecture sections. I guess I’m lucky I got here before the budget cuts hit hard. Torts, Contracts and Jurisprudence were all pretty interesting today. This evening I plan to read the paper, listen to the news, and work if I feel like it. I guess this isn’t a good attitude, huh? Or maybe it is: learning for learning’s sake. Discussing the Langdellian case method of legal education in Collier’s class, some of the second-year (transfer) students said it doesn’t work and that you’re better off for finals if you just read Emanuel’s and Gilbert’s and learn black-letter law.
But that stuff seems easy to me; the fun is in the analytical puzzling it out. I got the Peace Corps material in the mail just now, but I haven’t opened it yet. Strange as it sounds, for me, law school has been a haven in an economic depression, and it’s a way to grow into a more independent person with a wider set of experiences. Probably I should feel guilty – but it’s not like I’ve been goofing off. I work as hard as I can but within my own goals. It’s cold in the mornings but warms up by midafternoon. Two more church fires occurred in the last two days.
Wednesday, November 13, 1991
1:30 PM. I’m on my lunch break. Last evening, after I’d read the paper and watched the news and had dinner, I felt a bit restless. I called Mikey and probably bored him with my talk about law school although I’m sure he understands the phenomenon. He got a conviction in his big trial and says he will “happily coast on that until the end of the year.”
Because of New York state budget cuts, everyone at his agency has to take ten days off without leave; however, there’s talk of a longterm budget agreement that might make it easier for Cuomo to run for President. In a recent poll, Cuomo trials Bush 57% to 38%, but when faced with the choice between “any Democrat” and the President, there was an even split. Of course there’ll probably be another foreign adventure, maybe a new war, to divert people’s attention from home front troubles, and Bush is already making the “values” argument and bashing “liberals.” If the times really have changed, that shouldn’t work like it did in ’84 and ’88 – but with a Nazi on the verge of being elected governor of Louisiana, I have no faith in the perceptiveness of U.S. voters. Mikey said he doubted I’d be a C student, that law school exams aren’t all that different from other exams – but we shall see. I looked at some old Contracts exams after I let Mikey get off to have dinner, and then in bed at 9 PM, I listened to a PBS documentary about a case in which a woman sued her psychiatrist for having sex with her. A lot of what I learned in Torts and Civil Procedure gave me a deeper understanding of what was going on, but that just made me more dismayed at the outcome of the case and
the extent to which lawyers will go in order to “zealously” defend their client and make miserable the lives of people who aren’t really even involved. In this case, the biggest loser seemed to a woman psychiatrist who tried to help the abused patient while the abuser came out smelling like a rose – legally, anyway, and in terms of his private and professional life. I didn’t get much sleep, though since I was wide awake at 5:30 AM, I decided to exercise, have breakfast and get to school extra early. Students seem to be reacting oddly to the pressure of the end of the term. In Torts it seemed obvious people hadn’t done the reading – one guy passed – and there was a terrible moment when Lawrence called out, “Is this the attendance sheet?” referring to a prochoice petition some student had passed around. “I just wasn’t sure how much of an activist our teacher is.” Dowd lost her train of thought and glared at him icily. At the end of class, she asked to speak with him, and afterwards Karin saw Martin – the most active Democrat in the class – consoling Lawrence, saying he was sure it wouldn’t affect his grade in Torts. I probably over-prepared for Contracts on the chance I’d be called on, but I wasn’t. There are four more classes, however. This afternoon
I’ve got Jurisprudence and Marty Peters’ workshop. – That was the door. UPS brought me a package from Mom: two pairs of pants and two pairs of shorts from Introspect (I’ll have to have them shortened and tapered) and the Miami Book Fair supplement to the Herald. Well, I’d better get moving along. * 7 PM. I returned to school and sat outside with Dwight, Emira, Greg and Steve H. It had gotten warmer out and those fifteen minutes sitting in the sun relaxing with my classmates did me a world of good. Jurisprudence was fine; Collier canceled tomorrow’s class and said we’d make it up at a review session in two weeks. So that ends my plan to cut that class tomorrow. I went with Karin, Emira, Dan and about a dozen others to Marty Peters’ test-taking strategy workshop and picked up some helpful information. I’ve got to take practice exams; that’s the best way to prepare. Unfortunately, I feel so tired by the time the day ends. I did look at some old exams and last night and I’ll get to more of them later.
Thursday, November 14, 1991
5 PM. Yesterday I was thrilled to see the rave reviews of Cape Fear in the Times and USA Today. Dad said the movie got panned in the Herald, but Scorsese is a genius, and I’m sure Wesley’s screenplay is excellent. Hopefully they’ll both get Oscars and the film will do well at the box office this weekend, have “legs,” and make a lot of money. Of course I feel weird that I’m nowhere as successful as my old friend, but mostly I’m rooting for him. I admit that last night, when I read the Herald supplement for the Miami Book Fair and saw the names of scores of writers who’ll be appearing there, I felt resentful that I was never considered worthy enough of being asked to appear at the fair in the place where I’d lived and worked. But a little resentment can be toxic, and about a minute after I felt self-pity, I thought of Melville and all those talented guys my age whose obituaries I find every day in the Times. Immediately I counted my blessings, using the binary system so that the numbers stretched out into long rows of zeros and ones. Maybe there’s a metaphor buried somewhere in there, but my head hurts too much from trying to understand the Celotex opinions on summary judgment to do much with it.
Last evening I spoke with Teresa. She’s living sans answering machine, at a Fair Harbor house overlooking the bay. There are only about a dozen people left in the town at this time of year, but she says it doesn’t feel that isolated, that her place in Oyster Bay was also isolated. Apart from a few parties and her catering for the U.S. Mission to the UN, Teresa also gave a successful talk about preparing Thanksgiving dinner to the elderly ladies at the Syosset Homemakers Club, who enjoyed her recipes and jokes. She drives off and on Fire Island with her new car, which Brian’s mother also uses in exchange for her permit. Teresa sounded pretty cheerful. I’m a bit sleep-deprived, but I got through my classes today: first, our final Legal Research and Writing lecture, at which Pat gave us instructions for the final draft, due on Monday, and then Criminal Law. Back home for lunch, I spent an hour revising the first part of my memo. Before returning to campus, I dropped off the Moby Dick tape at the public library after detouring around the downtown street that was blocked off for the satellite dish trucks from Orlando and Tampa TV stations’ news departments.
I guess they’re expecting the grand jury will hand down an indictment in the student murders. (Next weekend I get to be on a jury myself, at a mock trial, as part of my law school obligations.) In an interesting Civ Pro class, Mashburn clarified summary judgment – somewhat – and it was a pleasure that Jurisprudence was canceled. Shay complimented me on my black turtleneck, saying I looked good in black. “Thanks,” I said. “I fit in really well in New York.” Mashburn explained why they make our schedules to be such a long day at school: it’s no coincidence but ABA guidelines on what constitutes the number of hours and days we have to be on campus. When I got home, I did aerobics and read the paper and I’ve just taken a shower. Tomorrow starts later than usual, but it will be a long day, what with back-to-back Crim classes, Civ Pro and then Dowd’s practice exam ending at 5 PM. But the reading load won’t be so bad for this weekend, and I hope I can get the paper finished by Saturday evening. Still, I should be reviewing and I’m not. I haven’t even reviewed for Dowd’s practice exam tomorrow.
Friday, November 15, 1991
4 PM. Even though this was a four-day week, it felt longer. Tomorrow I’m trapped in my apartment because the Gators are playing an afternoon game where they can win the SEC championship outright (they’re already assured of a tie), so it will be wall-to-wall cars and drunken fans here. Last evening and this morning I worked on revising my memo, and now I just have to do a little more revising and then edit the hardcopy I printed out at school today. I have less reading than usual, so actually I shouldn’t be too bad off, and I can start preparing for finals. The Torts practice exam was at 4:15 PM, and Dowd – who’d brought along her cute little daughter – gave us an hour and 15 minutes to answer one question with three parts. Most people chose to take the test at home, but I liked being in the uncomfortable position of seeing what a test is really like. The only preparation I did was reading an outline the hour before, and I found that I could spot more than enough issues. As Karin said when we left, “I hadn’t realized that I knew that much.” “Well, at least I know I would have passed,” was my reaction. My paper was badly organized and atrociously written, but I just
spewed out all the things I could think of and had time to name. I could have gone on for hours, but the point of law school exams is that you can’t possible spot all the issues in such a short time. The double session of Crim Law and my struggles to understand summary judgment in Civ Pro made the day a full one, but I feel productive and bit less anxious about finals. Getting home at 6 PM, I spent the evening with the news on TV. The stock market lost 4% of its value today on a week filled with gloomy economic news. The reason for the sharp selloff was also that after George Herbert Hoover Bush (“We are not in a recession”) called for lower credit card interest rates, the Senate, taking him seriously, passed a bill capping rates at 14%. That would probably lead to the failure of Citicorp, Chase Manhattan and other banks, and a cutoff of credit lines to millions of Americans. Naturally, I know better than most people that our economy is built on a house of credit cards, and I remember how Carter’s 1980 credit controls brought on an immediate recession. Tonight the Senate passed the unemployment benefits extension already passed by the
House, and things have changed enough so that the President may not kill it this third time. Also on TV was live courtroom coverage of the grand jury’s indictment of Danny Rolling, the guy who allegedly – you know I have to add that – killed the students last fall. My fellow law students who were at the county courthouse serving mock jury duty this evening may have seen some of the media frenzy. I have jury duty next Saturday morning. Cape Fear opened nationally today, and from the quotes I the ads and the reviews in Florida papers, it’s already a classic. Good for Wes – though in the St. Pete Times article about Scorsese and the film, Wesley’s name was never even mentioned. Maybe I can go see it on Sunday if I can get my work done. It did record opening night box office in the two Manhattan theaters on Wednesday. Maybe it’s the right movie for the right time, catching the crazy mood of the country right now, when the phrase “the worst ––––– since the Great Depression” keeps popping up and a Nazi/Ku Klux Klan candidate may win tomorrow’s election for governor of Louisiana. I bet Duke will lose, but not by much, and he’ll get a lot of votes when he runs for President next year.
Saturday, November 16, 1991
8 PM. They’re still voting in Louisiana, but according to what infer from CBS Radio’s hourly newscast, those exit polls point to a victory by Edwin Edwards. Still, Duke will win a majority of the white vote, and racists and antiSemites are becoming respectable again. Well, people look for scapegoats in hard times. I can see Duke running for President next year against quotas, crime, and welfare, and maybe even Wall Street (most of the insider trading crooks were Jews, after all). Bush can’t sue the quotas issue now, nor can be bring up Willie Horton-type ads again; Duke has made the Republicans’ subtle appeals to racism in every presidential elections since the civil rights bill passed into his own ugly property. Duke will get enough votes in Louisiana to say he would have won but for the media, and he can run in Republican primaries or as a third party candidate next November. A more pleasant public event is happening outside right now. Car horns are honking in celebration, and people are dancing, shouting, drinking and throwing up. The Gators beat Kentucky and are SEC champs. As I expected, I’m trapped in my apartment, but I did go out at 12:30 PM and walked to
McDonald’s on 13th Street. It was like being in Manhattan as hordes of football fans walked past me on University Avenue, carrying Gator seat cushions and lunch boxes, wearing Gator T-shirts, caps, shorts and probably underwear. Ticket scalpers were doing a brisk business, and I saw people with stuffed (real) alligator heads on a stick and kids with their faces painted orange and blue. Today was a warm, sunny day, and I enjoyed being outside. Later I could hear the shouts from the stadium as the game progressed, and lots of cheers after the win at 4:30 PM. Right now it’s like New Year’s Eve out there. I spent the morning working on the final draft of my memo. It was a struggle, once I’d done it, to change the margins and eliminate unnecessary words so the paper met the 16page limit. But I did it before going out for lunch, even if it’s dot-matrix. (I didn’t have the patience to single-feed sheets into my printer at slow near-letter-quality speed.) This afternoon I did this week’s reading for Contracts, Torts and Civil Procedure – and for Civ Pro, that’s all I have to read for the term. Maybe I can take care of the other two courses before the end of the weekend. I found time to work out, and after McDonald’s, I walked up to Mother Earth and bought some groceries and supplements and then I came home via 5th Avenue.
I felt I looked pretty good today, in my shorts and grey Introspect T-shirt (a new one). I’ve been cutting down my calorie intake and I’ve discovered if I don’t eat at night unless I feel real hunger, I can stop gaining weight. Too often I eat out of boredom.
Sunday, November 17, 1991
5 PM. I just came in. It’s gorgeous out now: about 72° and dry, with the sun falling low in the sky. I remember back 19 years ago Sean telling me how pretty Gainesville was, with all the live oak trees and Spanish moss. This is a nice place to be. I thought I’d get to see Cape Fear today – it’s at the Oaks Mall – but somehow I couldn’t get to the 2 PM show, and I didn’t go to the one starting now because I need to eat dinner and because I have a bad sore throat. I know I’m a hypochondriac, but actually I doubt I’m coming down with a cold because I don’t have postnasal drip. It just feels like my throat is closing up – like when I had all those allergy-related sore throats in the summer of 1986 which led to my taking the AIDS test. What I did find out at the time was that while I didn’t have HIV, I had antibodies of hepatitis B. Reading over the material the Peace Corps
sent me, I see that will make me ineligible to join. I’ve never been sure that test was accurate, but I assume that the illness I had in August 1982 was hepatitis B and that I’d gotten it from Sean somehow (although he wasn’t sick). Anyway, it may be interesting to stick around in this country and see what the 90s bring. So far I’ve proven to be a good prophet, and if I’m right, the national mood will shift drastically. It’s already started. Last night I stayed up to catch the Louisiana election results: Edwards beat Duke 61% to 39%, better than anyone expected. And maybe if Duke runs as an independent candidate next November, he can take enough votes from Bush in the South to let a Democrat sneak in. Anyway, I expect the economy to stay anemic until someone comes along who realizes all this conventional wisdom is wrong, and we need exactly the kinds of New Deal programs that put people to work and put money in their pockets that FDR used in the 30s. Investing in the infrastructure isn’t the same thing as running up the budget deficit with nothing to show for it. The budget deficit is a problem, but it’s getting worse all the time with conservative supply-side theories. We need to spend the money on health care, and I expect the move toward national health
insurance is irreversible, even if it takes years to come about. Sometimes I think we are all waking up from the dream of the 1980s. Certainly the crazy world I experienced in Manhattan in the mid-80s – Yuppies, real estate boom, those big deals on Wall Street, and all the credit lent to anyone (not least of all me) – wasn’t real. I’ve read all my stuff for the rest of the semester except for Torts. I just finished Contracts while sitting at a bench at the law school; I needed to get out and get some fresh air. Rob came over and we talked briefly for the first time. He’s one of my classmates on whom I’ve had an intermittent crush. Yesterday I had one of those emissions of prostate fluid after I urinated. It seems to happen when I build up a backlog of semen. I immediately masturbated and had an enormous ejaculation. I guess I still need to have orgasms every few days, but I tend to forget. Forget? How can a guy forget his sexual needs? Well, when you’re as repressed and screwed up as I am, it’s easy. Hey, if I wanted to meet guys, I should go at 7 PM to a meeting about the Gainesville human rights ordinance; somebody called me about it
last Friday. But you know me: yes, I say, if I weren’t so busy with law school, I’d do it. Partly that’s true. Next year I’ll be happy to have a social life – maybe even a sex life. I’m 40 but I look pretty good. I just don’t know how to deal with relationships any more. Part of it is lack of practice. And I don’t mean sex: like riding a bicycle, you never forget that and it all comes back quickly. But my social skills – aside from friendship – are rusty. Still, I’m sure I can remember how to act like a human being again. Last week was hard work, and this week might not be as bad. It’s the last full week of school. Orientation was three months ago. Can you believe all I’ve learned in three months? I don’t care what grades I get; in my own eyes, I’ve already been successful in law school. I’ve enjoyed the learning process and I do see society a little differently now. I’ve had some stimulating intellectual experiences and I’ve forced my brain to deal with some complicated material. While I still think my classmates are very bright, it’s also becoming clear that of the ones who came just out of college and who are 22 or 23, they’re less well-educated than I was. They don’t seem to get a lot of references they should, but why should I expect them to be so
different from the college composition students I taught for so many years? The questions I want to ask our teachers don’t turn on the material we need to know for our finals, but on speculation about how this issue relates to that one, etc. Naturally I keep silent. I feel I’m in UF law school under totally false pretenses, and that nobody would understand if I just came out and said I was here for personal enrichment, as if I were taking an adult ed class. Last night I read the last two issues of the Times Book Review and felt enriched by that. I’ve been in that literary world, a little anyway, and even if my own writing is artless and clumsy and nobody’s interested in what I have to say, I feel a part of that world. One Sunday another book of mine will eventually be reviewed there; I’m pretty sure of that. Of course it will probably be panned.
Monday, November 18, 1991
8 PM. Mom called last evening after another disappointing day at the flea market. She said Marc was going to the doctor for tests today because he’s been having pains and they want to check out his gall bladder. I suspect it’s just stress because business is so bad.
Marc would like to get married next year, but I don’t see why that would mean he’d have to spend more; he could just move into Clarice’s house. I asked if Clarice wouldn’t be gun-shy after two divorces, but Mom said she thinks Clarice would marry Marc. That would be interesting. Clarice’s son Jason is adjusting better to military school, but his grades are still bad. He’s a nice kid, Mom said, but “wild”: he just wants to party all the time. One way I can tell I’m older than my fellow law students was that in my day (ha!), “party” wasn’t a verb. Also last evening, Josh phoned, and I was glad to hear from him. He asked me about law school and if I had a lot of papers to write (he also asked if there’s a college here in Gainesville or if it’s just a law school!). Josh said he’s got a lot of work for this three John Jay grad courses in criminal justice, but of course he’s got a full-time job as well. He sounded relatively normal and said he’s learning some interesting stuff at John Jay. Mostly, though, he let me ramble on about law school and he asked me about how Wes got so successful. I‘ll call Josh when I get to New York. That will be in less than a month – in fact, just four weeks from tomorrow.
I sent Grandma Ethel a Thanksgiving card, asking her and Uncle Marty if I can stay at the apartment in Rockaway. Next week I’ll call Grandma. Because Mom doesn’t call her – and I’ve given up asking Mom about it – I don’t even know if Grandma is still in the home or if she’s in the hospital or if she’s dead. I dream about Rockaway all the time, particularly about crossing the Marine Parkway Bridge. Up at 6 AM, I lay in bed for half an hour before forcing myself to exercise, and then I got to school at 8 AM. Lorraine was in her usual studying spot, and we exchanged statements of relief that Duke lost. I handed in my paper at the Legal Research and Writing office and am glad to be rid of it. Tosha, who had gotten great comments on her papers, made the mistake of criticizing Pat Thomson on Friday, and Pat went ballistic, screaming and throwing her out of the office. Maybe grading all those papers got to her. At least the essays I’ve graded over the years weren’t all on the same topic using the same rigid form. I have no intention of ever teaching Legal Research and Writing; teaching college English is much better. I sat outside with Dan, Dwight and Rick before Contracts. They say next term Baldwin for Constitutional Law and Julin for Property will be
bad because they’re old-line Socratic method teachers, and Baldwin can be cruel. “But you’ll like his politics,” Rick said to me. “I don’t know how he’ll react to the rest of our class.” After a fun Contracts class, I drove to the Unemployment office and committed a thirddegree felony when I checked the “no” box next to “Are you attending school?” in my application for an unemployment benefits extension. They’ll call me for an interview in two weeks, but before then I should get something in the mail from Tallahassee, I was told. It looks like the credit card interest cap legislation is dead, so I don’t have to worry about Household Bank cutting off my Visa. Today I got my utilities bill and paid enough for the next month, too, because I won’t be here. So now I have only $200 in my NCNB account. It’s time for cash advances again, but I have about $2,000 in available credit left. Somehow I’ll get through the academic year. Jurisprudence went quickly today, and then I came home, feeling sleepy. I read the paper, caught the news, had dinner and now I’m too tired to study. Would I rather work two hours tonight or get a 2.0 index? That’s easy: I’ll take the 2.0 index.
Tuesday, November 19, 1991
1 PM. Remember how pleased I was with Dowd’s practice exam? Well, I would have been lucky to get a C. She went over it at the end of class today and for about 25 minutes afterward with those who stayed. It turns out I did exactly what she said not to do: I poured out everything I knew about law, whether it was relevant to the question or not, and I totally “missed the issue” on one question. I really screwed up, but a lot of other people had similar experiences, I think, and Dowd said that she herself did the same thing on her practice finals when she was in law school the first semester. To me, the key is doing as many practice exams as I can between now and when I have to take the final. I need to learn how to take a law school exam, because it isn’t a natural skill. Anyway, it’s probably good to have this jolt now. The half of the class who didn’t take the practice exam or didn’t stay after class today might get the jolt only after they see their final grades.
I know I’m not trying to be an A student, and if I got C’s, it would be okay, but I want to try my best – within reason. Maybe I should think about making a few sacrifices over the next month. Now that I’ve done most of my reading, I should have more time to take practice exams. The problem is I’m so tired when I get home. Even now, I’m tired although I slept seven hours last night. I guess my problem is that unlike my classmates, I don’t have fear as a great motivator. Would I really rather have a 2.0 index and avoid doing the necessary work to raise my grades? Well, I can do a Learned Hand BPLtype analysis. Is the burden of studying greater than the foreseeability of the harm and the magnitude of the risk? Either way, I have to accept responsibility for my actions. There’s no appellate court in my head I can go to when I feel lousy after seeing my final grades next January. I guess right now I feel conflicted. Maybe I’d be shattered by C’s. Well, I doubt it. Certainly if I got them and didn’t try very hard, I’d have my usual excuse. Usual excuse? But at least in academic work – if nowhere else – I’ve usually tried. Maybe the same isn’t true with my careers as a writer or a teacher. I don’t really like to
compete. Darin asked me who I thought “the real competition” would be and I hate to even think in those terms. But the pressure to feel pressure is intense these days, and it’s contagious. Am I am asshole to be interested in the study of law merely for its own sake? Should I be committing more of my identity into being a law student? Why? Today is the first day in the past several weeks that I’ve worn shorts to school.
Wednesday, November 20, 1991
4 PM. A week from now, classes will be over, and two weeks from now, I’ll be taking my first final exam. I’ve just come from Marty Peters’ workshop on relaxation and panic reduction, which helped me. We did one of those relaxation exercises which always makes you blissed out. It was just Lorraine, Karin and me. Exams are not especially anxiety-provoking for me, but I thought it can never hurt to pick up tips for relieving anxiety and stress. After school yesterday, I did manage to work out a few Civil Procedure hypos, and I’m going to figure out a way to studying to get the grades I can live with.
Right now I tell myself if I can get one B and two C+’s and two C’s – I’ll be satisfied. Naturally I can’t tell anyone I feel I’ve already gotten an A+ on my own self-evaluation. Actually, I’m too easy on myself. In terms of the world, that’s probably a misfortune, but I like remembering that I’m more concerned with what I know I learned than what my teachers think I learned. Besides, I may have learned all kinds of stuff they won’t be testing for – and who’s to say I haven’t learned what I needed to? Is this blissed-out psychobabble, or what? Classes are winding down, and I see people xeroxing nervously or discussing this or that in a kind of panic. It’s very difficult to stay centered. I actually think I’ll do better exam preparation once classes are over, and tomorrow I was thinking of cutting both Criminal Law and Jurisprudence because I might make more effective use of the time studying on my own. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow. I generally enjoy my classes, but they leave me too tired to study at the end of the day. Next term will probably be easier because I’ve got fewer hours of class, longer breaks, and free afternoons on Wednesday – at least until Appellate Advocacy stuff intrudes.
Sleeping soundly last night helped, and I didn’t exercise at 6 AM today; instead, I did aerobics when I got home at 11:39 AM and then showered before lunch and my return to school. I guess our study group has fallen apart, and basically that’s okay with me; neither Karin nor Dan or Emira brings up getting together. I started to make a Contracts outline from my notes, but I expect I’ll rely more on the outlines I got from former students. Like others, I am starting to dream about cases. I hate getting obsessed with law school. I was glad to see Cape Fear did great at the box office. * 10 PM. I took Davis’ practice exam and did pretty badly, judging by his comments afterward about the kind of answers he wanted to see. I did spot some issues, but I missed big ones and my format stank. Still, I’m learning. To relax, I just watched an hour of ABC sitcoms. I ‘d thought about going to a GLSU forum on bisexuality, but I guess I’d feel funny showing up when everyone probably knows everyone by now, and also I felt guilty about not studying.
As hard-pressed as Bush is right now, he could win easily next year if the Democrats keep acting like Democrats. Sen. Kerrey told a dirty joke about Jerry Brown and two lesbians to Gov. Clinton at some public event near a CSPAN open mike. The network won’t release the video, but it’s out there, and I can no longer support Kerry, who’d seemed like he could be interesting. But not only is he homophobic, he’s dumb – telling a joke like that right near a microphone. Even if you think it’s off, it’s stupid beyond belief to risk it. Maybe it’s time to revive my ’88 primary group, Florida Democrats for Undecided. I’m glad it’s turned warm enough to wear shorts again; I was afraid Gainesville was going to be really cold, but since the weekend, temperatures have been mild.
Thursday, November 21, 1991
4:30 PM. Up very early, I read the Times. I see Lucille Falcone, who’s Bob Miller’s law partner (I was invited to a party thanking contributors at Bob and Estelle’s Brooklyn home) is raising money for her Friends of Mario Cuomo group. Lucille, a women’s rights advocate, was a friend of former BCC student, Larry, who moved to New York.
I also noted in the paper that Jacob Hartstein, Ronna’s old boss at Yeshiva University, died. Ronna made him sound less saintly than his obituary did. After I worked out and had breakfast, I decided to put in a full day at school after all, and I’m glad. Nunn’s class on the insanity defense and Collier’s class on Lochner v. New York (the 1905 Supreme Court finding a labor law limiting workers’ hours to be unconstitutional) were stimulating discussions in which I participated. And in Civ Pro, we answered a question on summary judgment that I found difficult. Larry thought it was a breeze, and that’s probably why he’ll get a C. I’ll probably get a C, too, but I’ll have worked harder for it. Makes sense, no? It occurred to me that I hadn’t seen Wil in a while, and I asked Doug K about him. “He dropped out,” Doug said. “He said he was too immature for law school.” Hell, I’m too immature, too, but I’m here. Wil was one of those quiet types you rarely see in any group; they’re the ones I worry about. Todd is also like that, a little. We’re not meeting as a study group anymore, but Todd seems cut off from everyone. I may be a “turkey” in that I talk a lot in class, but I think we’re better off than the quiet loners.
The non-talkers who are otherwise involved in law school or who are in groups – people like Dan, Emira, and Karin – don’t seem to have any problems other than being shy about talking up in class. Kathy, Judy and Nancy, for example, rarely talk, but I bet they do fine. All three of them were dressed up for their lunch with Dean Lewis today, the one they won at the auction. I saw them after they returned from the restaurant. They said Dean Lewis was very nice and chatted about the school and the budget cuts, which are dreadful but which none of us have control over. The only saving grace the Dean found in the budget cuts was that all the other states are in similar fiscal pickles, so the quality of public higher education is going down everywhere. Lots of people are picking up my theme that the next 2½ years are going to be a good time not to be looking for a job. As Doug K asked, “Who’s going to hire Wil now when everybody’s losing their jobs?” Kathy worried that the economy will still be bad when she graduates, and I said, “If it is, you’ll have a lot of company, and the country will have worse problems than out-of-work lawyers.” Taking out the garbage a little while ago, I found an elderly black lady going through our
dumpster. “Excuse me,” I said, as she froze. I wasn’t going to treat her like an object, a nonperson. I only regret that I didn’t offer her some money. Earlier I deposited a $500 Visa cash advance check in my NCNB account. I have no alternative right now. Since I did the Civ Pro practice final today, I’m not going to write out another test tonight, but I hope to do a little studying. Mashburn will probably send me into a panic when I find out tomorrow that I completely missed the whole question. Actually, it was worth ten points on her three-hour exam, but she gave us 45 minutes, and I barely finished. It’s another warm, sunny day, but winter weather will replace summer over the weekend. I need to buy some heavier clothes, not just for Christmas in New York, but for here: gloves, long underwear, and maybe a heavier jacket. The first year students might have a party after our last final on Monday, December 16. I’m already looking forward to next term. Even though Baldwin is a tyrant, I’m interested in Constitutional Law; I dread Property and Prof. Julin, however. It will be nice to have Mashburn, Dowd and Davis next term again, and having Torts and Civ Pro only twice a week should make it easier
– unless we do the same amount of work in two-thirds the time.
Friday, November 22, 1991
3 PM. The last full week of law school just ended. I was amused yesterday when after the Civ Pro practice exam, I went into a stall in the men’s room and heard two voices talking: “Did you grant summary judgment on that question?” “Obviously. Sure. That was the only way to go.” “Uh, I didn’t grant it.” It made me feel better even though I knew I screwed up the answer – because these guys thought there was a “right” answer. Actually, I think my answer would get a C+, and I’m pleased with that. Once classes end, I’ll study and prepare, but I’ll also be away from my fellow students, some of whom appear wild-eyed at this point. To me, Nunn’s and Mashburn’s common-sense advice about taking exams makes perfect sense, and a lot of people seem to be looking for the one “answer” on how to take exams, too.
The point is, you’ve got your own way of looking at the law and your own style, and firstsemester exams are a way of testing you and letting you learn how to make the most of what you’ve got. Maybe Steve H has “gotta get an A in Civ Pro,” but I’ve got a life. I’ll just be happy if my sore gums/tooth doesn’t turn out to be anything major. I guess when you’re 22, you don’t have much else going for you but grades as the passport to that future you want, and the same competitive jerks will be the ones who see their salaries as their report cards and their BMWs and Rolexes as their GPA’s. Last night I did study a little, but I also watched Beverly Hills 90210 and spoke to Mom, who actually thinks I sit her and worry all day because my apartment is messy. She’s fucked-up enough so that it bothers her to think that this place is dirty – which it is – and I refuse to placate her by lying. I slept okay, except for my teeth (was I grinding them or this a more serious problem like an abscess?), and this morning I read the Wall Street Journal and then did aerobics before going to school. Today started off at 67° but got cooler, so I changed into long pants and added a jacket when I returned home for lunch.
Gena said she’s going to talk to Dean Savage about getting her course load reduced for next semester. Her three-year-old son has had a miserable time with Mommy working all the time, and she’s got to spend more time with him. One of the most anxious students, in spite of Marty Peters’ workshop, is Lorraine. She asked Nunn a question about grades and he started to say how he’d rather not give grades, just pass-fail with a written evaluation when she curtly interrupted him and said, “That’s all well and good for you, but I need to know…” What a jerk. I think she told me that she had to make law review. Karin says that all the C10 workshops don’t seem to be helping Lorraine, but I’m sure she knows the material a lot better than I do. She’s just so tense about it. I’m sure that even my second-rate efforts will improve if I can see the exams’ fact patterns as intriguing intellectual puzzles – which they are. Tomorrow morning I have jury duty, which I’m not looking forward to. But I’ll have the rest of the weekend to work, and I’m not going to torture myself. I got a nice postcard from Denis, who told me to get his book; I’ll tell him I already bought it. Bush keeps dithering on every domestic issue, from the economy to civil rights, and he
appears to be floundering as the economy continues to be what he calls a sluggish recovery. Yesterday first-time claims for unemployment rose to 493,000, the highest since April. I know that unemployment is a lagging factor in recoveries, but layoffs keep coming. I think I’m going to treat myself to a trip to the public library now. And I’m not going to feel guilty about not studying. When I need to study, I will.
Saturday, November 23, 1991
3 PM. I must have been really tired last night because one moment I was lying in bed just after 8 PM and listening to the start of Washington Week in Review and the next moment I was asleep. I slept till 6 AM and my teeth and gums felt less sore today. This morning I put on an unfamiliar outfit: khaki Dockers, my black shoes and a blue dress shirt, a tie and the sport jacket Dad gave me even though real-live juries, as I know, don’t really wear “courtroom attire.” At the county courthouse early, I parked in the public library lot and went into the building to meet my fellow students, who were all dressed up. The Alachua County Courthouse is smaller
than the one in Broward, but it’s pretty new and has cozy courtrooms. I got put on a jury with Marc, a guy from Coral Springs who went to the University of Michigan – he’s about 22 but looks closer to my age because he’s balding – and Kimberly, who I’d never met before. We all witnessed the same criminal trial put on by students in Trial Practice. Susan Haag, the John Marshall Bar Association president, was the defense attorney with another guy, and two other students were prosecutors. (Last week they had their roles reversed.) A young black female prosecutor – a real one, not a student – played the judge, and various students played the defendant and his wife and witnesses for the prosecution. It was a case of armed robbery and felony murder against the guy, who allegedly masterminded the robbery and drove the getaway car. The person killed was the grocery store owner’s wife, shot by her husband when the defendant’s accomplice (so he said) jumped out of the way. Everyone was very professional, at least as good as the litigation I’ve seen as a juror and courtroom observer – and the verdict could have gone either way, but we found the defendant guilty. Since I’ve been in courtrooms before, I didn’t learn much new, but it was an interesting experience.
Back home at 1 PM, I had a bite to eat and then exercised. Last evening I did a little work, making flowcharts of Torts rules. Except for 20 pages in Torts, I won’t be reading any more texts for the semester, and my preparations for exams will consist of outlining my notes, making flowcharts, studying the rules, doing the CAI stuff in Contracts and Civ Pro, and most importantly, doing three practice exams for each course. I’ll also do other stuff, like the short-answer questions in Emanuel’s. But I intend to be relaxed about it. I’ll make myself guilty enough to do what I need to do, and if I don’t, so be it. Last summer, nobody had to “make” me write up my Thirties/Eighties book, but I followed a schedule and stuck to it. It seems a long time ago that I was in Rockaway over the summer and felt the weight of Saturdays with nothing to do. So I’m not used to free time, so I’ll naturally fill it in with studying. But everyone at law school is sick with colds, and I’m not going to get myself stressed out. Right now I feel sleepy, and I might just lie down again. Remember when I started teaching full time at Broward Community college and was living in Sunrise ten years ago? I used to spend nearly
all Saturday asleep or half-asleep, not getting out of bed for more than a few hours a day. I worked hard this semester – maybe not as hard as most students, but hard for me – and I need to wind down. Just going to classes made for a long day, so once classes end, I’ll have lots of time – and I don’t intend to study eight or ten hours a day, either. It probably would be counterproductive anyway. Yesterday in the public library, I discovered some dreadful reviews of Cape Fear – the SunSentinel said it was “ineptly written” – and others that expressed admiration for the technical artistry but felt queasy because of its violence. I also read it’s coming out in video by spring. In a way, I see that films are just as fragile as books to the system of distribution and marketing.
Sunday, November 24, 1991
5 PM. When Ronna phoned at this time yesterday, she said darkness had already fallen in New York, but it’s still daylight here. Ronna apologized for not calling me when she was in Florida, but she said she was busy with Billy and Melinda’s wedding. She and the others from New York flew down last Thursday,
and the next day they drove to Fort Lauderdale. Her mother’s family is so close-knit, and they made up nearly two-thirds of the wedding guests and took up most of the rooms in the Wellesley Inn. As usual, Ronna’s innumerable cousins, aunts and uncles flew in from all over, except for the ones who live in South Florida. The wedding was at David’s, the catering mill on Commercial Boulevard, and Ronna said it seemed more like Melinda’s mother’s taste than the bride and groom’s.
But Melinda’s parents gave a splendid rehearsal dinner at Yesterday’s on the water, and Ronna had a good time there. Billy and Melinda returned to Orlando with everyone on Sunday, but he had to be back here in Gainesville on Monday to see a patient. Ronna had a cold and stayed in with her mother until she went home on Tuesday. Her only other news was that Jordan is marrying his girlfriend and moving to Philadelphia, where she’s got tenure in a community college English Department. Jordan’s giving up his position at the law firm in New York even though his job pays four times more than hers. Ronna said Jordan finds law practice to be frustrating drudgery, except for
the rare chance he gets to litigate. For Jordan, law school had more intellectual excitement. Ronna’s date for Saturday night asked for a rain check so she was going to the movies with David, her gay friend from Yeshiva University. I’m looking forward to seeing Ronna again at Christmas. Last evening I took a practice exam in Criminal Law and I missed a lot but answered reasonably. Today I studied Civ Pro – looking back at my notes makes me see and comprehend things I didn’t at the time – and I read the last assignment for Torts. Last night I slept soundly after rereading Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” and “Compensation,” seeing new ideas in light of my legal education. Generally, I feel I’m on the right track. I may not know where I’m heading, but the direction feels right, and I can’t ask for any more than that. I read the Sunday Times: Deborah Solomon, who interviewed me and Grandma Sylvia a decade ago, had another magazine article about a painter. Debbie writes well about the art world and has a biography of Joseph Cornell coming out. I don’t know why I should feel proud of reporters who wrote about me, like Debbie or Mike Winerip; I guess I feel lucky to have
known people who are accomplishing good things in the world. Next week will be my half-birthday, so I should begin my usual practice of telling myself and everyone else that I’m the age of my next birthday. In a way, I’ll be glad to say I’m 41, as it proves I’ve survived the big four-oh. I suspect my physiological age is about 27 or 28. My maturity level is probably that of a 14year-old. I did aerobics this morning and I just exercised again, to break up the monotony of studying and a day spent alone. I guess 90% of 1991 is over, and I feel I really stretched myself this year. Aren’t I so easy on myself? I’ve got my bedroom shades up, and I’m staring at the brick house across the way and the tall oak by the window. Ronna said she thought about me when she was in Broward, but I’ve spent only a couple of days in South Florida over the past seven months, and at the earliest, I won’t be back there till next March. I don’t really miss my parents or brothers as much as I do China.
Monday, November 25, 1991
7 PM. Last night was cold, and this morning my car stalled out a few times even though I warmed up the engine. It may get down to the 20°s tonight, but after tomorrow, it should warm up for the holidays. I’m feeling good about my approach to law school. Last evening I read some of the material we won’t get to in Jurisprudence: critical legal studies and feminist and Marxist jurisprudence. Yes, I should be “studying,” but I prefer learning, and damn the results. Maybe my newspaper-reading and broad intellectual interests will help me on the finals; maybe they’ll hurt. But unlike other students, I never have a problem keeping up with my reading in the texts; I’m almost always ahead of where we are, and I never come to class unprepared. Although I agree with most of the criticism of the first-year law school experience I found in a Jurisprudence article – namely, its rigid hierarchy, its conservative assumptions, its late-19th century upper-class white male mode – I still take pleasure in some of the ideas I’ve come across. Perhaps I’m “learning” the wrong things. But just as I took the classes I wanted to at Teachers College, designing my own curriculum rather than pursuing the requirements of a degree program, in law school I’m doing what they say to do at
Alcoholics Anonymous: take what I need and forget the rest. Today I especially felt myself at home intellectually in law school. In Contracts while Davis looked for someone to call on, I volunteered to do the case; that was the first time anyone has done that all semester. And I pretty much held my own, and after class I talked to Davis about New York City rent control. (He taught at NYU, and the case I did was about an apartment lease.) I know that whatever my grade is, he’ll think better of me. Besides, I enjoyed being put on the hot seat and now maybe I won’t be called on next term. In Jurisprudence, Collier called on Karin to give the facts of the case, and assuming that she’d never be called on again, she hadn’t read it: I told her not to worry about passing, but I know she felt humiliated, as I would have. Dowd said I asked her a good question when I went to her privately and asked if the abortion counseling gag rule of Rust v. Sullivan, a doctor who was sued for malpractice (breach of duty) could limit his liability by pointing to the federal government’s legislation. See, even if I don’t study much, I do think about the issues we’ve learned. During my lunch break, I called Dr. Julie Dodd in Journalism, and she sounded enthusiastic about my seeing her about an assistantship for the fall. I’ll call her for an appointment in January.
In the mail I got word I’m eligible for emergency unemployment benefits, and I got a claim card for last week and one for this week. I plan to make sure I put down tangible job contacts, which they want recorded on the postcard. Whatever I get in extended benefits will be gravy. Davis had an exam review session from 4:10 to 5 PM, so today was a long day, but I don’t feel tired. (However, I don’t feel like studying, either.) He, like so many of the other professors, doesn’t believe in grading and wishes he could just pass those of us who are at least competent. But it’s the students, and perhaps the law firms that hire them, that depend upon grades so that people are put in a pecking order. After the grades are posted and half the class has a C+ index or lower, people will be more relaxed about grades, I hope – once some of them recover from the disappointment. Although the semester won’t really end till three weeks from today, with the last final, I feel the important part of the term – the learning – will end on Wednesday, apart from any learning I’m able to do for and on the exams. Clinton and Nick said they were going to buy our class’s gifts for the professors tonight.
Marc’s medical tests all came back negative; he has neither an ulcer nor a gall bladder problem.
Tuesday, November 26, 1991
4:30 PM. Last night I dreamed about being at a picnic outside Ronna’s old house in Canarsie; Shelli was there, and so I was Ivan. Twenty years ago that might have happened. I know I’m not the only one who’s reached forty and can look back twenty years and see myself as a young adult, but I still am fascinated by the concept that I can go back to 1971. Twenty years ago this week, I was still in a funk over my breakup with Shelli. I went with my parents to Washington, and then flew home alone, terrified but not so terrified that I didn’t fly, on Saturday night; I went to a party at Carl and Alan Karpoff’s house and slept over in Rockaway at my grandparents’. The next Thanksgiving eve, I had my first date with Ronna, and I can remember everything about it from the blue turtleneck she wore to the cold she had (she was forced to resort to using the paper towels from the theater’s bathroom to blow her nose) to the film we saw (Rohmer’s Chloe in the Afternoon at the Midwood) to the tea we drank afterwards as the corner booth of the Foursome Diner on Avenue U. Well.
Except for one day, my first term’s classes at law school are over, and I find myself more enthusiastic about legal study than I ever thought I would be. This morning I skimmed law review articles by Davis, Collier and Dowd, and I was impressed. Collier’s article dealt with legal precedent and several legal scholars I don’t know, but he quoted Whitman (“Do I contradict myself?” etc.) to explain Cardozo, whom we discussed in the last hour. Collier’s article on humanism in legal scholarship hasn’t come out yet, but I read the xeroxed first page on his office door. I noticed it was dedicated to some guy who died last year at 49. I’d never really thought about it, but I suppose Collier might be gay. If he is, then two out of five of my professors are gay. Dowd’s article on work and family led off with a quote from Audre Lorde, whom I taught with at John Jay – and of course she’s a black lesbian – and Davis’s work was about consumer credit regulations and his research in testing the readability of contracts. We skipped part of the text that mentioned his work in a footnote, and since today we went over what is his specialty – consumer credit law – I went up to him after class to talk, and it was great to exchange ideas.
He laughed when I said, “Well, that’s why sophisticated consumers get their credit cards from Arkansas.” See, my knowing the Arkansas usury limits is something I’m sure none of my classmates knows, and I’ve picked it up in my normal (for me) reading. In class, Davis made reference to a law review article about noise in Boston Harbor called “Port Noise Complaint” and while many people did laugh, I saw blank expressions on faces of people like Midori. In Jurisprudence, Karin, who’d volunteered after not being prepared yesterday – I’m glad she spoke to Collier about it – asked me beforehand what Cardozo meant by the word recoinnoitre. She’d looked it up, but Cardozo used the French spelling. I raised my hand only once today in class, but I made a point about Cardozo’s wizardry with language, obscuring the sleight-of-hand tricks he uses to get where he wants to go, and Collier later referred to what I’d said. While I don’t expect good grades, I know I enjoy the material we’re studying more than most of my classmates. I hate to say I’m an intellectual because I can’t throw around critical terminology, but at least I do love the world of ideas. Besides, as someone who’s taught college students since 1975, I know how badly standards have fallen. It’s true I never had the
opportunity of working at first-class universities and dealing with bright students like my classmates, but I know the SAT scores have gone down even among the brightest kids. It doesn’t appear to me that law school has been “dumbed down,” but then why do my classmates seem to be having such trouble doing the assigned reading? I know many of them, who’ve grown up on MTV, don’t have my vocabulary or “cultural literacy” or points of historical reference. I think what I’m beginning to see is that I feel closer to my professors, who are interested in ideas and who are mostly counterculture, politically left types, than I am to the 22-yearold students who just want to be lawyers and make a good living. I think that even if I’m a C student, from my comments in class and to my teachers outside of class, the professors will say that I’m really bright. I’ll never be a legal scholar, and I don’t want to be one, but even one semester of legal education has given me a renewed sense that I can continue to grow intellectually. For that, I can give thanks on Thursday.
Wednesday, November 27, 1991
2 PM. A week from now I’ll be sitting down to my first exam, and I have a lot to do to prepare. But I have nothing else to do the next week, and I should have time to make my outlines, read and study, write practice exams and use my CAI material. I don’t have to get outstanding grades; I just have to pass my courses and not feel I didn’t give it at least a fighting chance. Last night I did no work, and maybe that’s good, because I now have time to immerse myself in exam preparation without feeling worn out. As Mashburn said, it will be different the next time we have a class because we’ll all know our grades. But like everyone else, she doesn’t like ranking us and cautioned us not to become our grades. I certainly won’t, not even in the unlikely event that I score high on my tests. Without feeling the pressure from other law students over the next week, I can prepare without anxiety – which in my case is even more uncalled-for than that of my classmates. It warmed up about ten degrees this morning, so it was 47° when I left for school. I saw Nick and Peter with our class gifts. Dowd put her skeletal outline of the course on the blackboard and generously brought in 100 donuts for us. We got her a tiny cash register, an alphabet book for Zoe, and some other tchotchkes. It’s
clear she really liked us, especially, she said, because we seemed more cooperative and less competitive than other law school classes and because a lot of us seem not to have lost the child within. She read a bit of Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go! before she began reviewing. Nunn told us he enjoyed our class, that it was the first time he’d taught Criminal Law and had only begun teaching last year. Nick presented him with an engraved clock (because he’s always tardy) and a rubber snake, a reference to a hypo that kept recurring. Nunn wore the snake around his neck as he outlined the course. We met Mashburn at 11:30 AM in the auditorium, filled out evaluations (mine was an exercise in hyperbole), and she talked a bit before we gave her a chalk holder and colored chalk (she’s always getting white chalk on her clothes) and a mug inscribed “G.O.C.P.” – Goddess of Civil Procedure. Then she answered some previously submitted questions. I see from our class reviews that I’ve forgotten a lot and am hazy about a lot more, but I figure I can get myself to where I want to be. If not, and I’m disappointed with my grades – well, this is only the first term. I told Pauline, who sat next to me in Civ Pro, that I enjoyed law school a lot more than I thought I would.
She sighed and said she hadn’t had time to think about it. Then we all dispersed. Many people are going home to Orlando, Tampa or Jacksonville, but a lot of the South Floridians may be sticking around, along with all the Gator fans who won’t miss the FSU game on Saturday. Well, let me relax a little while and then I’ll get to work.
Thursday, November 28, 1991
8 PM. I spent Thanksgiving by myself, trying to get some work done. I completed an outline for Torts on my computer, and I’ve highlighted my Contracts notes. Progress seems slow, but I suppose outlining is worth it and that I should have been doing this all along. On the other hand, I don’t regret any of the time I took from schoolwork all term. Why outline when I’ve already got a couple of outlines for Torts, Contracts and Civ Pro? I guess it’s the process of doing it myself that’s important. Tomorrow I’ll do a sample exam, but right now I don’t intend to do any more work tonight. Last evening Mom called. She sent me a Bugle Boy lined jacket, but I really need my old
winter jacket for New York City at Christmas; it’s big enough so that I can layer myself underneath it. I can’t fit a sweater under this snug denim jacket. The weather is changeable here: I needed heat last night and air conditioning today because wide-open windows didn’t help. Actually, I like the unexpected variety. Mom said Dad was going to work in the flea market today. Yesterday, when she worked there, Marc and Clarice brought Jason by, as he’s home for Thanksgiving. Marc spends most of his time at Clarice’s house, Mom said, and he seems to be doing okay. He’s seeing a counselor once a week and feels he understands himself better. It figures that since Marc is the least crazy one of my family, he’d be the one get psychological help. I wish him luck and hope he can have a happy family with Clarice and Jason. Steven Greenberg came down and rented an apartment in Plantation. His commissions for electronics sales in New York dwindled so much, Steven couldn’t make mortgage payments and he had to sell his house in Staten Island. Once he closes, he’ll move to Broward with his wife and kids. You hear that story all the time these days. I bought the Miami Herald today, and the lead story was about the unemployed middle class.
The story jumped to an inside page with ads from bankruptcy lawyers. It’s clear I was totally right when I predicted this. The sense of national concern over the economy is starting to border on panic when people can’t see the end to these hard times in sight. People are moving back in with their parents, taking jobs they once considered beneath them in order to put food on their tables, and middle class people are slowly slipping into poverty. It hasn’t really taken hold yet, the knowledge that this isn’t just a temporary thing, but when it does, society will change the way it did during the 30s and the 60s. The euphoria over the silly Persian Gulf War seems a long time ago. I took a break from working this afternoon and drove north along NW 13th Avenue till it left Gainesville and became four-lane U.S. 441 in the country. Past the little towns of Alachua (named like the county, but pronounced “Alachu-way”) and High Springs, it turned into a two-lane road with a 55-mile-per-hour speed limit. I drove past the shacks of poor blacks, fields of crops, cow pastures, and occasional housing developments, and I somehow managed to find my way home. Before today, I never realized how close I live to incredibly rural areas. But I
like the big elms and oaks and the rolling hills and the Deep South atmosphere. The drive made me wish I’d had more time in the last four months to explore my surroundings. Back home, I microwaved a Healthy Choice turkey dinner for Thanksgiving. Who says I’m not traditional? The parking lot in my complex is nearly deserted. Most people went home for the holiday. I actually feel kind of at home right here.
Friday, November 29, 1991
9 PM. Once again, I didn’t accomplish as much as I’d hoped. I highlighted my Civil Procedure notes but decided I don’t have time to make my own outline. Instead, I made an index to the one I got from Prescott and I began annotating his outline, too. That took an enormous chunk of time. I read slowly and understood a lot that I didn’t when I first read it. Because I haven’t reviewed my notes regularly, it’s going to be nearly impossible to absorb much of the material. There’s an enormous quantity of information, and cramming it in at this late date won’t help. Instead, I’ve got to make sure I can look up material quickly (all my exams are open-book,
but everyone says you don’t have time to use the stuff). I didn’t write out any hypos, but I thought a lot as I looked over two Civ Pro exams and basically I’ll keep trying to do the same thing. I did have a moment of panic when, in the media library at school, I printed out my Torts outline, and Steve F expressed surprised I hadn’t done all my outlines; he was finishing his up. It looks more and more like I’m going to be a C student, but I care less and less – or else I’m just trying to convince myself that’s true. Technically, all I need to get out of law school is a 2.0 index, so I could even manage a couple of D’s, but I think I’m smart enough to avoid them. However, even if I failed Civil Pro, say, I wouldn’t mind – except for the humiliation – taking the class over again because next time through I’d really understand it. Last night I slept really well, probably too well for a guy facing his first law school finals. It turned much warmer today. I finally phoned Grandma Ethel, who didn’t sound bad; her voice was strong. She must have been right by the phone because she got on almost immediately after they called her.
Grandma told me she got my note and said that when Marty came later today, she would ask him if I could stay at the apartment in Rockaway over Christmas, so I’ll call her next week to find out. She didn’t complain until I asked her about her mouth. Grandma asked if Mom was ill. She couldn’t understand why Mom wouldn’t call or write – I send Grandma cards all the time – unless Mom were ill. After I got off with Grandma Ethel, I phoned Mom and urged her to call her mother. God knows how she can just not speak to Grandma for nearly a year at a time, and it’s embarrassing for me. There’s got to be something more there than mere thoughtlessness, but I don’t know what Mom has against Grandma Ethel. Certainly if I went months between calls to Mom, she’d think I’d forgotten about her. I don’t know what Mom’s problem is, but it’s very fucked-up. Mom once told me that Grandma Sylvia thought her family consisted only of herself, Grandpa Nat and their children, Dan and Sydelle. Mom’s even worse than that. I don’t know why she never called any of her aunts or uncles; Aunt Claire lived and died right near Mom, and Mom never picked up the phone, much less visited her.
Mom didn’t visit Grandma Ethel this fall as she was supposed to. She’s seen Grandma for a week in 1990, and a week in 1984, and that’s it since then. Well, at least I know I don’t have to feel guilty if I don’t phone or visit Mom when she gets old. I mean, how much longer can Grandma live? Without phoning her, I wouldn’t even know if she were dead or hospitalized. Grandma sounded pretty good but she didn’t remember I was in law school and thought I was teaching college and living near my parents. I look forward to seeing Grandma in three weeks, even if I can’t stay in Rockaway. During my break from studying, I exercised, filled out my unemployment claim with phony job contacts, and bought $55 worth of groceries at Publix. Near campus, Gainesville seems just about deserted, but tomorrow is the big grudge match against FSU, and as Red Barber said on the radio this morning, “there’ll be blood on the moon.”
Saturday, November 30, 1991
4 PM. The Gators just beat the Seminoles, and sirens are roaring as the cheers of the crowd die down. The game was covered by ABC, so I was able to check part of it out if I wanted. I
was surprised at how strongly I was rooting for UF. I’ve been brainwashed. It will probably be noisy when the fans get back from the stadium. Last night – actually, this morning at 4:30 AM – drunken louts were roaming the streets and screaming and overturning some things that clanked a lot. I just heard a huge cheer from Florida Field, and firecrackers and sirens. Now I’m hearing the rumbling of a marching band. My eyes are a bit strained, so I’m taking a break from studying. Last night I awoke in a bit of a panic, but I feel better now. I’ve done all the Civ Pro questions in Emanuel’s First-Year Questions and I did three of my five Civ Pro computer-assisted instruction programs and I annotated the outline and the Rules of Civil Procedure (which kept coming up in bad dreams). I highlighted the first half of my Criminal Law notes and feel comfortable with that, especially since I’ve got two weeks until that test. I also made a list of the things I need to do prepare for each exam. I’m not going to be able to do all the hypos I planned, but I’ll try the best I can. This morning I went out to get the Times, though I haven’t read it, and later, during halftime, I walked to McDonald’s on streets deserted except for souvenir T-shirt vendors
(“Friends Don’t Let Friends Go to FSU”) and people who hate football. I could hear the game from every house’s TV as I made my way home through the alleys of the Student Ghetto. This neighborhood reminds me a lot of New Orleans, as does the climate; maybe the humidity is why I’ve got a headache and feel dizzy. Speaking of smells, I microwaved an acorn squash and mashed up the flesh with vanilla and rum extract, butter substitute, and various spices, and it tasted great. The cooked squash also smelled like China – our dog, not the nation. Horns are now honking, and the shouts are getting closer. The rest of today I’ll work on Civ Pro and Crim Law. Tomorrow I’ll avoid Civ Pro and make my Contracts outline. Contracts is the second test, which I’ll be finishing up exactly one week from now. I exercised as usual, and I’m glad I’m staying healthy. Now that the flu epidemic has started early, vaccine supplies are running out, so I planned well when I got my vaccine six weeks ago.
Sunday, December 1, 1991
8 PM. For the last few hours, I’ve been doing the Contracts questions in Emanuel’s, and it’s terrifying how many I get wrong. Even scarier than not knowing the rules is when I’m unable to spot the correct issue. I don’t feel all that confident about getting a C. There’s so much to remember, and I can’t keep all the rules straight. Probably I need to buy a black-letter law book for Contracts. I have trouble memorizing these rules because it’s such a boring exercise, and it seems pointless. However, I need to know these rules before I begin to do the harder work – that is, analyzing. I see now that finals have little to do with the way we work in class. I don’t mind facing complex problems, but every lawyer must forget this stuff a few years after he or she takes the bar exam. Away from my fellow students, I’m starting to feel disgust with this testing process. Is getting bad grades going to prove I was wrong all this term when I really felt I was learning? Does not being able to recall the complexities of offer and acceptance mean I don’t understand what I read and enjoyed reading? Who cares? I guess that’s a terrible attitude, but I don’t care. Last night, when I “should” have been studying, I was reading Emerson’s essay on Thoreau. I have about as much patience with the standards of society as Thoreau did, so I’m more likely to assume there’s something wrong
with law school than there is with me if I fail any of my tests. Realistically, I feel I know enough to get D’s, D+’s, and most likely C’s, however. Part of my problem is that there’s no one I feel I can talk to among my classmates, nobody who shares my perspective: loving the intellectual aspects of legal study but who doesn’t care for the practical necessities of being an attorney. There are some first-year students who have what I consider good attitudes, people who just want to pass. There’s Pauline, who has the burden of being a black woman in her forties raising a family, caring for others, and driving back and forth from Valdosta, Georgia, every day. And Michael W, who sees law school as a “scam.” And other people, like Alain, who seem relaxed about grading, or Larry, who’s not even sure he’s interested in the legal profession at all. But by and large, the brightest people are the competitive (if only with themselves) overachievers who go to all the tutorials and BarBri lectures and feel driven to get decent grades. Earlier today I felt had I had control of the situation, that I knew everything as best I could and that what I didn’t know, I could study and learn before exams. But then I hit myself in the head with these hypos.
Well, here are my guesses about my final grades: Contracts, C; Civ Pro, C or C+; Torts, C+; Criminal Law, C+ or B; Jurisprudence, C+ or B. Let’s figure this out. If I go by my low range, that’s about a 2.2 index, and at the high range, 2.6. Not bad, if I can do that well. Why am I driving myself crazy over this anyway? If I cared, I should have devoted myself to studying all term instead of reading the paper and watching and listening to the news. Naturally I didn’t let finals stop me from the Sunday Times, Morning Edition, or the TV news shows today. Calm down, kiddo. Yesterday I was so calm, I spent half an hour on the phone with both Pete and Harold. Pete is leaving for the Far East in two weeks, but before he goes, he’s taking the GRE, having decided to apply to Columbia’s Ph.D. program in literature. Pete said that now, unlike when he and Josh and Simon and so many others got into computer programming, the industry seems to be contracting, and he feels he just might have a better future in academia. He’ll keep his half-time job and go to school full-time if he can, which will make him very busy next year. Pete doesn’t want to go into debt, but he can probably get a fellowship at Columbia.
I guess that makes about as much sense as my going to law school or Josh being in graduate school in criminology at John Jay. Pete has carefully researched his forthcoming trip and already knows the places he wants to eat at and write about in Singapore, Thailand and China. He’ll be gone for over a month, and I wished him a good trip. Harold told me he’s okay, but he’s such a New Yorker, he’s having a hard time adjusting to Minneapolis. He dislikes the sterile modern downtown and prefers the older, “more Eastern, more blue-collar” atmosphere in St. Paul. He sold one of his genre novels (I call them that, Harold doesn’t) and he got an advance on another one (about $1500, I think); on the basis of that, he’s asked to go part-time in January. That’s pretty weird, considering how hard it was for him to get a full-time teaching job, but Harold wants to write, and as I said, you’ve got to take risks. I guess teaching fifteen hours a week was too much for him, though he had only three 5-credit classes over a 10-week term.
Monday, December 2, 1991
4 PM. I didn’t have a good night: I felt dizzy, couldn’t sleep and finally had bad dreams which I’ve blocked from my memory. Actually, today wasn’t too bad: I enjoyed studying Civ Pro, doing CAI programs and reading the Emanuel’s outline and my notes. But that’s not doing the real work of taking a practice exam or answering hypotheticals, and I have no idea if I can apply the material I am studying. Last night when I spoke to Dad, he said, “There’s such a thing as over-studying, you know.” There’s not much of a chance of that for me. Still, I feel confident I can pass my finals, and that’s all about law school that I’m going to bore myself with now. What else is going on in the world? Last night was the start of Chanukah, which comes early this year. The North Florida heat wave continued one more day, and it was already 70° when I went out to get the paper today at 7:30 AM. I guess I should be thrilled I don’t have to get up at 6 AM anymore, at least not for most of the rest of the year. With Congress having adjourned for the year, Bush is scrambling to look like he’s concerned about the economy, but nobody expects a plan until his State of the Union address in January. Actually, there’s little he or Congress can do right now, and I doubt middle-income tax breaks will help. If this is an ordinary
recession, the lag will mean no improvements until after the recovery has already begun, and if this is a depression, we’ll need New Dealtype fiscal stimulus, the budget deficit be damned. Since we won’t be able to tell for several months or more, probably Bush’s best bet is to do exactly what he’s been doing: nothing. Unfortunately, the time for action was years ago, and all our short-term decisions now leave us in a policy bind, and so Bush’s poll rating plummet as confidence in his leadership dies. David Duke is going to challenge Bush in some Southern GOP primaries, and if Pat Buchanan doesn’t run in New Hampshire, he doesn’t know what a great opportunity he’s missing. Of the Democrats, Clinton looks like he’s arousing the most interest, with Harkin strong with liberals; Kerrey seems to be fading, the others going nowhere, and Cuomo looks more irrelevant as time goes on. Dad told me I might see him when I’m in New York. His California trip this month was canceled because the samples won’t be ready, and he’s got a meeting in New York on January 3. I told Dad to make sure Mom calls Grandma Ethel, and he says he always tells her to call but that Mom “has something that matter with her.” Mom’s Aunt Rose called last week, and
Dad spoke to her, but Mom never called her back. Uncle Sidney once called, but Mom never phoned him, either. Dad agreed with me that I’m entitled to have little sympathy for Mom when she’s old if I go by the way she herself has acted. It won’t be possible for me to write honestly for publication – in fiction or nonfiction – about my parents until they’re dead or very old, but even though I’ve avoided the issues, I look at my parents and brothers and myself and see a nightmare. Calling us a dysfunctional family may be using up-to-date terminology, but it misses the total insanity of all the myths that our family lives by. One reason I’ve never regretted having children is that I’m happy not to perpetuate crazy ideas on another generation. Probably I prefer being alone and avoid intimacy because my only experience with a family was basically with a sick one. True, there was no drugs, alcohol, abuse, violence – which makes us a lot better than many American families – but that’s not a reason to reenact our family life again with other people. Well, I made myself forget about exams for a big, but then my eyes are still a bit sore from reading so much.
Tuesday, December 3, 1991
6 PM. I slept soundly last night, waking up at 6:30 AM from a dream in which I was happy to be visiting Teresa at her West 85th Street apartment. I’ll be in New York City two weeks from now, but at the moment I’m feeling panicky about my exams. I don’t know why I’m getting this way, and I can’t blame it on the contagious attitude of other students, since I went on campus only to get the newspaper at 7 AM the last couple of days. Actually, I feel more confident about tomorrow’s Civ Pro exam than I do for Contracts or Torts. And I have this terrible feeling I’m underestimating how difficult the Criminal Law exam will be. My stomach has been crampy and jumpy since mid-afternoon, and I’ve stopped studying for now. Whatever happens, I can’t do anything more about Civ Pro. I just had a thought: tonight I’ll play the Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway tape I got for my California trip and used to listen to on the long A train rides between Rockaway and Manhattan last summer. We had a blackout at 1:30 PM that lasted an hour. I was about to go to the library to study when the electricity finally came back on.
Alice left a message while I was out shopping; she said she had a bad Thanksgiving with her mother and her brother, who’s visiting. She and Peter will be in Tallahassee next week and she’s taking my suggestion that she wear warm clothes. I think with the rain that started a couple of hours ago, our heat wave has ended. Mom sent my raggedy old green winter jacket via UPS. It’s a mess, but unlike the Bugle Boy jacket, it allows me to put on layers underneath it. I’ll have to buy a scarf and gloves and maybe long underwear and rubbers before I go to New York. My studying today went well and was enjoyable until I started seeing how much I don’t know. I’ve enjoyed using the CAI materials and especially the games about discovery, and I also like reading Emanuel’s, although as Mashburn said, it deceptively obscures the real complexities and makes you think you understand concepts when you really don’t – partly because some of the concepts are hard for even a Supreme Court justice to understand. I feel unprepared for Contracts, but at least that test is only worth two credits. God knows how I’ll feel at this time tomorrow: probably I’ll be ready for a sanitarium.
Was I ever this concerned about exams? In college, I can’t recall ever feeling anxious, nor in grad school – even for my comprehensive exams. Certainly I wasn’t nervous for the GRE or LSAT. Doug G told me he got a 46 on the LSAT, and that’s a phenomenal score, but he took a course in which the teacher told him “tricks.” Doug could have gotten into any Ivy League law school but his GPA was only 3.3. I have no way to compare my knowledge and skills with those of my young classmates, but I suspect they don’t read as much as I do, and naturally I have a much larger base of information than they do, if only because I’ve lived 18 years longer. But I also know that law school exams test analytical powers, which aren’t my strongest suit. Oh, I’m getting boring again. I wish I could make myself not care, but then I guess I wouldn’t be me, would I? Why do I need to make every test a test of my self-worth? Would I expect any of my brightest friends to get good grades in law school? Well, it will be easier for all of us next semester, just as if by now we’d had our tests already and could see into what grade ranges we fall. In January, we can look at the incoming firstsemester students with the sense that they’ve got far to go before they get to where we are. Finals are the last ritual I have to get through;
if I didn’t go through this, I wouldn’t have had “the law school experience.” Whether the “experience” is worthwhile, I reserve judgment.
Wednesday, December 4, 1991
1 PM. My test begins in an hour, and I thought it would be useful to write down my current feelings and compare them with how I feel when I return home. My stomach is a bit rocky, but I’ll survive. I’ve got all my Civ Pro material and am ready to go. I didn’t study last night or this morning, so I have to accept full responsibility if blow my finals. I slept okay until I dreamed that I got my Contracts final back, the final’s grade was F-. Well, I know that in reality I can’t do that badly. After exercise and breakfast, I went back to bed on this 40° morning and stayed there till 11 AM. At noon I went out to buy a new track light bulb for the living room to replace the one that burned out last night, and stopping at school to pick up the Times, I saw Gene at the bulletin board. Because he’s got reserve duty this weekend, Gene’s taking the Contracts final next week.
He said he read all the commercial outlines and agreed that they lull you with a false sense of security. We discussed our preparation, and he mentioned annotating stuff like “the Matthews test.” I don’t even know what that is, but I vaguely recalled something – and I found I had put a post-it note on that page of the Supplement. I saw Denise and Greg with Steve H, who’s determined to get an A on today’s exam. I feel embarrassed about feeling this nervous. Well, here goes. * 5:30 PM. My first law school final is over. As I told Darlene, who was really nervous before the test, “Look at it this way: you’ll never have to take your first law school final again.” It was daunting, but I’m certain I passed, if Mashburn can read my handwriting. I know I missed a great deal, but I was rarely clueless, and I made good enough use of my time so that I was able to answer all the questions. I spoke with Donna, Bob and Roman when I got on campus; they were smart enough not to be discussing the test. In the room, Karin and Dan were going over “burden of proof” together, so I made certain not to listen. Lawrence kidded me: “Rich, a hornbook? What are you going to do with that?” I opened the
book and placed it on top of my head: “This is going to get through by osmosis.” I went to the other room once Mashburn had given out the test and our answer sheets, which had only limited space for each question. Intending to read the questions carefully and outline, I found myself thinking on paper and at one point totally going down the wrong path as I misunderstood which party had moved for what. I giggled when I got to the last page, whose hypo involved two people “in a bizarre gardening accident” that involved “spontaneous combustion.” (Mashburn got that from This is Spinal Tap.) Anyway, I don’t feel like my head is a punching bag, which is what I’d been led to expect. I made sure I avoided classmates who were discussing the test and quickly made my way down the back stairs. It’s dark and chilly: about 50°. My throat is sore, either because of the heat in the room or just from not drinking as much water as I wanted to. I’ll read the paper and watch the news and have dinner now. I took all my Civil Pro material and put it into a box, as Marty Peters suggested. That did feel good: a sense of closure.
Thursday, December 5, 1991
7 PM. Getting through the first exam left me elated last evening. To wind down, I watched and read the latest news. The last three American hostages in Beirut were released one by one this week, and yesterday Terry Anderson, the AP bureau chief, who’d been held captive for nearly seven years, was freed; he looked and sounded remarkably well and must be a very strong man. Compare the unspeakable horrors those men suffered with all the pain I’ve had in my life, and you’ve got a galaxy next to a gluon. It’s important to keep in mind how little importance things like law school finals have. Bush, facing primary challenges from Duke and Buchanan as his polls are sinking, finally got rid of John Sununu, his abrasive chief of staff. Pan Am stopped flying and the Maxwell publishing empire collapsed: more victims of the greed and craziness of the 1980s. This is an odd time. Bad economic news comes out nearly every day, yet no one wants to face what may be a depression. The Soviet Union has collapsed – as has war-torn Yugoslavia – but nothing’s replaced it, and the people in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kiev really are facing a depression this winter.
U.S.-Japan tensions rise as Saturday’s 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor approaches. Basically, the stability of the Cold War is over, and there’s no new world order yet. At 10 PM last night I watched Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan on PBS; it was a 1990 movie about New York debs and preppies that I hadn’t managed to catch, and it was a treat for me to stay up past midnight to watch a film. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to sleep till 2 AM and I woke up at 6 AM, so I had a dull headache all day. I spent about four or five hours studying Contracts today and am sick of it. The worst part about law school for me is final exams because so much of the preparation is trying to memorize black-letter rules I’ll soon forget anyway. I can understand how seeing the issues and applying the rules to an analyzed fact pattern is an intellectual challenge, but the time constraints make it hard, even with open-book exams, to do much consulting. And how realistic is that? If a client some to a lawyer with a problem, she has lots of resources to consult; time might be a factor, but I don’t think it’s crucial. Anyway, I’m resigned to getting C’s, especially in Contracts. I didn’t put in enough work to get A’s or even B’s. I could study twelve hours a
day like Steve H or Lorraine or Darin, but I don’t want to. Good grades in law school aren’t going to do me any good. Obviously, the struggle I’ve been going through shows that I have a problem reconciling what I “should” do as a “good students” and what I want to do as a mature adult. After yesterday’s exam, I have no doubt I can pass my finals. Who is going to know what my grades are unless I tell them? Anyway, I’ll put in another four or five hours each day, but no more. Being away from writing and literature and media for so long has made me antsy to put my hand back in that world. I’ve got ideas for stories and articles I want to write, and there are books I want to read. For better or worse, I’m a generalist, not a literary scholar nor a legal scholar nor an educational theorist nor a mass communications specialist. And I’m proud of that; I feel superior to most academics and their narrow interests. Also, I always wanted to be engaged in the world. That’s especially true now, because I sense that my prediction that the 1990s would be congenial to me is about to come true. I don’t like Joseph Campbell and I don’t really believe in his notion of “following one’s bliss,” but I know that I’m happiest when I listen to the guy inside me.
Friday, December 6, 1991
4 PM. I went to school for Davis’ question-andanswer session at 2 PM. That’s the same time as our final tomorrow, and as Kim said, I feel as ready for it as I’ll ever be. I outlined the issues and feel confident that I can spot the most important issues on an exam question. Perhaps that feeling is dangerous, but then again, all I need is a C. Karin seemed devastated by the Civ Pro test, but I bet that’s because she did extremely well and saw issues that I missed totally. Or else she just expects too much of herself. Angelina said she never felt so bad after a test in her life, and I said she should have expected to feel that way. Steve H still looks like he’s not sleeping at all. I know I totally screwed up on parts of the Civ Pro final, but that was okay with me. Davis came in, dressed in jeans and a Bugle Boy shirt (looking much more comfortable than he does in a tie and jacket), and he answered questions, none of which were too complex for me to follow. Paul asked a million questions,
which is a sign that he’s studied a lot, maybe too much. Steve H and Karin were upset with Mashburn because she snapped at them when they asked questions the day of the exam. Softening, Mashburn told them that if they didn’t understand something, to just forget about it. Certainly that’s what I’ve been doing. As Davis said today, law students hate ambiguities, but if there were no ambiguities, there would be no work for lawyers. I don’t understand people who can’t be comfortable with ambiguity, but maybe when you’re 22 and feel insecure, it’s harder to deal with the fact that you don’t comprehend stuff. In each of our classes, the teachers themselves aren’t always sure of the “answers.” It’s the process of getting there, not the product, that’s important. I did only a couple of hours of work today, and I feel that if I keep “studying,” it will just go to waste. When I called Grandma Ethel, she said Marty had hoped to rent the apartment this month. He’s doing so badly, he needs the money, but as of last week, he hadn’t rented it, and I didn’t want to call him, so I’m just going to take a cab to Rockaway, and if someone’s living in the apartment, I’ll ask Aunt Tillie if I can spend the night and then scrounge around for a place to live.
Besides, I have my microwave and some of my other stuff in the apartment, which I need to get out – Marc’s coin collection, too. Marty has no legal right to rent the apartment anyway. This Christmas in New York City may be a weird one like the time I had there in 1981. A decade ago I flew to New York after my first autumn term at Broward Community College, and I had a difficult time, getting shuffled between Teresa’s and Barbara’s and my grandparents’ and feeling I had no place where I could feel comfortable. I remember I barely slept for days, until one night Teresa put me into Barbara’s spare bedroom and I caught up on my sleep. I did that last night, but a terrible sinus headache prevented me from feeling rested. Mom tried to call Grandma yesterday, but Grandma had been downstairs watching a movie. Mom said she’d been feeling nauseated all week, perhaps due to postnasal drip from her sinuses. She seemed pretty steamed that her brother planned to get rid of the apartment and couldn’t understand why he didn’t want to give it up last summer, when she had planned to come up and take care of it.
Saturday, December 7, 1991
11 AM. I suppose I’ve been foolish and/or selfdestructive, but I haven’t studied at all either last evening or this morning, apart from looking at old Contracts exams and figuring out what I’d write about. Well, maybe I’ll panic at 2 PM but right now I feel relaxed. This will be an experiment to see if little studying actually makes for a much worse grade. I doubt it. Last evening I wanted to listen to and watch the news shows. Yesterday’s unemployment numbers were awful. Bush cowed that the jobless rate remained at 6.8%, but that’s because people are so discouraged, they’ve stopped looking for work. But 241,000 jobs were lost in November, three times the gloomiest estimates; the Fed lowered interest rates; and the double dip recession seems almost assured. There are still lots of optimists who say that the economy is fundamentally sound and people are irrationally gloomy. Of course, all the optimists are still employed. I couldn’t sleep, and I didn’t want to study, so I watched some TV programs. By now I’ve had my fill of Pearl Harbor 50th anniversary reports. It was actually nice to feel a little bored and at loose ends.
I read my diary entries from the summer. Just six months ago I wrote that since I didn’t need to get good grades, I’d be happy to be in the middle of my law school class. After reading One L, I was terrified about just getting through day to day at law school, and I’ve done that fine. The humiliation and fear I expected never was an issue at UF. And I wasn’t sure that I could live in a strange city I’d never been in before all by myself. So what if my GPA is 1.5, 2.3 or 2.7, I feel I’ve succeeded. I’m a bit concerned about New York City trip. In a way it would be a lot easier just to stay here and clean up my apartment, read ahead and hang out in Gainesville. New York won’t be relaxing and it will probably be stressful, especially if I don’t have a permanent place to stay there. But it will be a good test for me, and a change, and I don’t know when I’ll ever get to go to New York again. * 9 PM. I was right. I got a C or C+ on the Contracts exam, but if I’d spent hours more in study, my grade would probably be about the same.
The exam wasn’t hard, but I know I didn’t state half the issues and rules there, and I totally blew one section. But it was okay. As I drove off to school, I listened to Bush at Pearl Harbor, and I liked when he quoted “the Greek poet” (Aeschylus, though he didn’t say, I think from Prometheus Bound) about how drop by drop, pain becomes wisdom against our will, through the awful grace of God. Before the test, I sat outside with classmates I don’t see much because they tend to sit in the back: the older guys Rich, Bob and Rudy, the two Lauras and some other people. I’m not really close to any of my classmates outside of school, but they all seem to be extraordinarily nice people, and I try to be friendly and cheerful with everyone. I’m embarrassed because there are some people whose names I still don’t know, like the woman who sat next to me (and I took her UCC by mistake). Anyway, Davis was low-key, as he was yesterday when he told the story of the “Jewish-Japanese sex pervert” who, every December 7, “attacks Pearl Schwartz.” Midori Schoenberg didn’t think it was offensive, so I guess I should lighten up. And of course that joke is probably from 1942. Davis must be Jewish; in one of his exam questions he has a
subcontractor tell a contractor named Gerry Gentile, “Eat shellfish and die!” After the test, I drove out to the airport and picked up my boarding passes for all the flights; it was a good way to bring myself down, though just as I did on Wednesday, I felt a giddy sense of euphoria.
Sunday, December 8, 1991
7 PM. I studied Torts for about three hours this afternoon, but I’d already gotten together my outlines, done some hypos and made flowcharts, so I’ll probably just read the hornbook tonight. Last night I watched TV till about 10 PM, and as usual, I fell asleep later and work up earlier than I would have liked. At 6:30 AM, I was awakened from a dream in which I was in Manhattan during a snowstorm. Grandma Ethel told me they had snow in New York on Friday. In the dream, I was deciding whether I should go to Brooklyn, but I finally went to someone else’s apartment on Park Avenue, where this handsome, dark guy kept telling me how gorgeous I was; in the dream, strangely, I was very annoyed at him. I did go back into a restful semi-sleep later, after going out for the Times and then eating
breakfast. At 10 AM I did my low-impact aerobics, and for the next couple of hours I immersed myself in the newspaper and the TV news shows. It seemed like I was eating constantly today, but mostly I ate low-fat fruit and vegetables: acorn squash (I mash it up with spices, vanilla and NutraSweet), a boniato, sugar snap peas, spinach, grapefruit, and a Fuji apple. When I think about the terrible diet I used to have, I know that even if I overeat now, I’m eating healthier. Yesterday I began a new steno book for my food diary; if I didn’t list my calorie, fat gram and food group intake, I’d have trouble staying even at 150 pounds. Well, I don’t have the Sunday night blues tonight. The Torts test isn’t till Tuesday (say that three times fast) and I don’t feel pressured. Actually, I feel myself disengaging from law school as the experience becomes less intense. Wherever I go from here with my study of law, I have no doubt I can put to good use what I’ve learned this semester. At Bread Loaf in 1977, Hilma Wolitzer said a writer is a person on whom nothing should be lost, and at least when it comes to information and knowledge, little I take in seems to go to waste. The world is at such an interesting point now. On tonight’s news, they announced a confederation of the Slavic republics of Russia,
Byelorussia and Ukraine, a treaty of independent nations with headquarters in Minsk. Does that kill the old USSR? What’s left for Gorbachev? Will there be another coup? Food riots? Things are extremely precarious, not only in the former Soviet Union, but all over Eastern Europe. There’s civil war in Yugoslavia, and in Maastricht, Netherlands, the European Community leaders are trying to decide on a common currency and a closer political union. In Japan, a recession may be starting to affect even that country’s economic miracle. And here at home, polls show Bush in trouble and people convinced the country’s going in the wrong direction. Is this the change of direction I’ve predicted? If it’s not, we’re done for. Bush’s handlers say the question to ask is not Ronald Reagan’s ’80 debate winner – “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” – because we’re not, clearly – but “Are you better off now than you were twelve years ago?” They’re still trying to blame poor Carter for everything, but that won’t work anymore. Actually, things seemed less bleak back in 1980. By now a lot of people see that the bubble of debt-driven, short-term prosperity of the 1980s was a mirage, and that American
standards of living have been going down since 1973 or so. I figure the next few years will decide if this country can turn things around. If not, it’s adios for me. I’ll head for Europe if they’ll take me in. At least in Russia people are seeing change, so there’s the possibility of hope there.
Monday, December 9, 1991
It’s only noon, but if I don’t write a little now and think things through, I have no hope of concentrating for my Torts exam. This morning I was down to the Unemployment and Job Service, and they said my claim card had been mailed out on December 4. I just got it, and there was no check. They wouldn’t have told me if my benefits had been denied because they don’t want people causing a scene in the office. Now it may just be that I needed to register with the Job Service again – which I did today – but of course they could have found out that I’m in school. Now this wouldn’t be so bad except today’s Alligator had an ominous article. In the bill to extend unemployment benefits, there was provision that now credit checks are mandatory for all student loans.
Obviously that means they’ll avoid giving loans to bad credit risks, and I’m a bankrupt. Well, I should check out the legality of that; there might be some anti-discrimination clause. But I may have not only simply failed to benefit from extended benefits; it may have totally screwed me. At this point I don’t know how I can even get through next semester, but it looks unlikely that I can remain a student at UF after that. I can’t get my parents to help me beyond what they’ve already promised. Their income is onethird or less of what it used to be. Immediately, the chatterbox inside me says I’ll have to kill myself, but I know that’s nonsense. Remember how depressed I was when I didn’t get financial aid at first? I must remember that I’ve been lucky enough to experience these last four months, living in luxury and getting a first-rate first-semester law school education. Even if I’m not able to continue, nobody can take that away from me. And it’s not like I’m some poor kid whose heart has always been set on being a lawyer. In a way, this problem may turn out to be a blessing because it could set me on a new and exciting path. Besides, nothing’s really changed: I’ve been fooling myself for years that I could get along okay. What’s doing to be hard is even getting
the kind of teaching job I didn’t like in the first place. Times are so tough, and of course just when America needs education the most, everywhere there are cutbacks. Well, maybe, since I have nothing to lose, I can get on the front lines and push for some of the change that will bring hope, the stuff I wrote about yesterday. I’m smart and relatively healthy and I have skills I’ve been wasting. Maybe I can get involved in some political movement. If Bush is reelected next year, the game is over, because by 1996 it will be too late to make the needed changes. I can still try living abroad, of course. It’s not like I don’t have any options. Certainly only a schmuck would commit suicide. Besides as Emerson said, when a person is thrown out of his comfortable circumstances because of unexpected events, he develops real skills and wisdom as he deals with the problems. Have I talked myself into optimism? Not quite. But I can avoid worrying because that will do me no good at all. I’ve got final exams to take. Next week I get to go to New York City for what might be the last time in a long time because I don’t know when I’ll ever be able to afford a trip again. At least I should enjoy myself while
I can; unhappiness will come on its own, and I don’t have to court it. The knowledge that my present good times will end makes them more precious. Do I sound pretentious? Deep breath. Am I ready to devote the rest of the day to Torts? Yeah. And somehow, I don’t know how, but I’ll get through next term at law school, too. After that, I’ll handle what comes next when it happens. Ruminating now will only poison the sweetness of the present.
Tuesday, December 10, 1991
8 PM. My $348 unemployment check arrived today. So much for yesterday’s worrying. Now don’t I feel stupid! Let this be a good lesson on the fruitlessness of needless worrying. I checked the mail at 1 PM against my better judgment because I was afraid that bad news from Unemployment would throw off my concentration just before the Torts exam. Instead, I felt pretty good, and I feel good about my performance on the test, which lasted from 2 PM to 5 PM. There were two questions dealing with issues relating to airbags in cars and fetal alcohol syndrome, and several sub-questions in each. I tackled the longest question first, and I kept
good track of the time as I wrote 18 pages in all. At the end, my concentration flagged, but I know it was at the very least a C exam and maybe it’s a lot better than that. It’s hard to tell because I don’t know what issues I didn’t spot, but my answers were well-organized. Yesterday I read the hornbook and this morning I reread the term’s notes. Dowd was an excellent teacher, and I feel I learned a great deal in her class regardless of the grade I get. With three out of five tests over, I can see the end of the semester is in sight. I’ve probably slighted Jurisprudence and Criminal Law, but I need to do a lot of reading for them before the Jurisprudence exam on Friday and Criminal Law on Monday at 9 AM. Tomorrow at 3 PM we’ve got a review session with Collier. I spent nearly $100 – paying cash, not using a credit card – to buy the Constitutional Law and Property texts for next term, and I’ve done many of the chores on my to-do list, although I still need to get a haircut. I’ll be in New York City a week from now – hopefully at Grandma’s apartment in Rockaway but if not there, somewhere else. I always seem to force myself to leave right at the first possible moment – when my teaching ended at
BCC, CUNY, or Rockland County – giving myself no chance to relax. On the other hand, even after a hard first semester at law school, I don’t feel ready for a rocking chair, and as I wrote yesterday, I’m not going to get many chances to spend time in New York for a while. Also, being in a totally different environment will put the experience of the last four months in a new perspective – plus, I’ll get to see Grandma Ethel, Aunt Tillie and some of my friends. Besides, I already hear myself worrying that my routine will be different in New York; that change will help me from lapsing into the comfortable compulsive behavior I’m prone to. I slept okay, listening to distant AM radio stations fade in and out before I dozed off. Usually Atlanta and New Orleans stations come in clearly for a while, but last night I got two stations, both form Cincinnati. I like hearing traffic and weather reports and local news from places I’ve never been because it gives me a feel for the place – as do commercials for local businesses. I suppose America is as homogenous as it’s ever been. Even on Deep South stations, you rarely hear distinctive Southern drawls anymore. A lot of the time I take living in the
South for granted; I forget what’s particularly Southern about Gainesville.
Wednesday, December 11, 1991
9 PM. I’ve been reading stuff for Jurisprudence, including books I’ve taken out from the library. I just skimmed Bowen’s Yankee from Olympus, which didn’t tell me much about Holmes’ philosophy of law, but it made me admire him all the more. I just started a book on Cardozo. God, they were both brilliant men and good people. Where are the Holmeses and Cardozos of today? Not in the Reagan/Bush judiciary. The Supreme Court just unanimously ruled New York’s Son of Sam law unconstitutional. At least that’s one victory for the First Amendment. At the student lounge this afternoon, I did watch Roy Black’s masterful summation for the defense of William Kennedy Smith in the West Palm Beach rape trial on CNN. The jury brought in a “not guilty” verdict soon after, as I was sure they would because there were too many reasonable doubts about the defendant’s guilt. My mind is rambling; I’m a little tired. I was half-watching Oliver Stone’s Talk Radio with
Eric Bogosian, but I found it awful; perhaps that was because I wasn’t paying attention. Karin missed today’s Jurisprudence review because she thought it was scheduled for tomorrow, so earlier this evening I spoke to her and gave her the gist of what Collier had told us. The exam will be more like the usual essay test bullshit, and I figure my creativity and my writing style will help me on it. Up early, I left the house at 8:30 AM and did some errands, getting gas for the car, depositing my unemployment check, and shopping at Eckerd’s. I exercised once I got home and spent the rest of the day reading. It appears that I’m the only one of my law school classmates who hasn’t seen Cape Fear, and they seem to either love it or hate it. Anyway, I’m not alone in taking breaks from studying. I don’t know what grades I’ll get, but I started to feel law school got easier this last month. The learning curve went up sharply as things fell into place, and by now I feel comfortable with the language of the casebooks. It takes me a while to catch on, but once I do, I manage to pick up speed. Tomorrow I’ll spend the whole day reading; Jurisprudence is one subject I don’t mind studying for, because it’s not all dry rules and it’s filled with ideas -unlike myself at the moment.
Thursday, December 12, 1991
4:30 PM. I’ve just come back from seeing Cape Fear at the Oaks Mall. Despite the criticism of the violence I’ve read, I thought it was superb and well-written. Of course, I just close my eyes at the grisly stuff. It’s hard for me to tell how prejudiced in favor of the film I am, but I think I would have like it even if Wes hadn’t written the screenplay. Actually, Scorsese is almost always good, and the acting was top-notch. Also, of course, I liked seeing Broward County’s familiar places, including the Lecture Theatre at Broward Community College – our faculty meetings there were never as interesting as DeNiro’s encounter with the girl played by Juliette Lewis – and the New River Groves on Orange Drive in Davie, and the Fort Lauderdale downtown skyline, Hollywood Boulevard, Broward General Hospital, the riverfront. And, man, it was good to go to the movies again; I hadn’t seen a film since July in Rockaway. At least I can now write Wes and honestly say I saw the film when I send him and Marla a Christmas card. Yeah, I’m going to send out about thirty Christmas cards this year; being so isolated, it’s even more important for me to stay in touch with people.
I made good progress in my studying for tomorrow’s Jurisprudence final, so I felt I was entitled to a little treat this afternoon. It’s a gorgeous day, sunny and about 75°. In a way, it seems a shame to leave Florida at this time of year, but after I get back from a wintry vacation up North, I’ll appreciate even our coolest days in January. I tried to call Teresa this morning, but she was out. Yesterday she left a message saying that mornings are the best time to get her. Tomorrow I’ve got to be up early for the first time in two weeks, but since I got up before 6 AM today, I doubt I’ll have much trouble. After the exam, I’ll take some time off. I need to get a haircut because not only is my hair very shaggy, I don’t have a hair dryer, and in New York I don’t want to wait for my long hair to dry off before I venture out in the cold air. My eyes are a bit strained from the movie. I definitely have been wearing these lenses too long, but I have only one lens – a lefty – as a replacement. When I come back to Gainesville in January, I’ll have to go to an optometrist. The biography of Cardozo was interesting; I didn’t realize he was such an ascetic bachelor, a kind of priest of the law. There don’t seem to be people like him nowadays.
It was exciting to read about all the amazing people Holmes and Cardozo knew. God, I sound like a 14-year-old girl reading Tiger Beat. Actually, I like the guys in Tiger Beat, too. It sometimes feels like I’ve lived here in Gainesville all my life. That’s why it why it will be good to face New York again. * 7 PM. I doubt I’ll do any more reading for tomorrow’s test. My eyes are tired after reading the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, but they’re probably of more value to me than textbooks. Now I can understand an article about a California Supreme Court decision setting aside “but-for” tests in favor of “substantial factor” tests in multiple tortfeasor situations. And I read the text of a speech Salman Rushdie gave to a surprised crowd celebrating Justice Brennan and the First Amendment at Columbia University. Now that the hostages are free, Rushdie came to America to speak out about his own fate. (Tonight the hostages they lit the White House Christmas tree with Bush; fittingly, the President threw the switch and American technology failed to work until he banged it around for a few minutes.)
Rushdie is all but forgotten now, despite the hopes that the fatwa would be lifted when he embraced Islam and postponed paperback publication of The Satanic Verses. Now he realizes that that postponement was a mistake. What’s the life of a fiction writer worth? Not a whole lot. Rushdie has, he says, ceased to become a person in the mind of people who regard him as an issue, a bother, an “affair.” God knows how the poor man keeps his sanity. It’s ludicrous to live in a world where a Rushdie can be under constant threat of death, unable to go about his business because of a novel he wrote. If there were something I could do for him, I would. People have basically forgotten about Rushdie, and that’s our shame. For years I’ve been playing with the title This Planet Is Overrated, and I think one of these years I’m going to find a use for it. Right now I placate myself with the fantasy that life in Western Europe is better. The Maastricht agreement calls not only for a common currency (with Britain able to opt out) but other measures to bring the EC union closer, including “European citizenship.” Maybe I could marry a European and get citizenship – maybe a man in Denmark, where it’s legal. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth of Independent States looks like the USSR’s replacement and a
kind of European Community-style federation of nations. And it the U.S., nothing changes.
Friday, December 13, 1991
4 PM. I feel somewhat relaxed after this morning’s Jurisprudence exam. It was an effort to write on three open-ended questions for three hours, and I rambled a lot and probably wasn’t focused enough. However, I was able to exercise my creativity and show off some writing style – especially when I imitated the opinions of Bork or Cardozo on a “case” based on a fact pattern – and my knowledge, as the last question had to do with the Turing test recently performed in Boston, an even I read about in the Times. On the other hand, my knowledge of AI and Alan Turing probably allowed me to stray from the topic, and Collier might find my showing off to be annoying and my puns and phrases to be distractions. It depends; at least he’ll be entertained by my exam answers. Unless I’m totally off-base – and you always expect that here, given the rumors about law school exams – I’m pretty certain I got a B in the class, if I get a C+ on
the final and he raises my grade for meaningful class participation. This is the only chance where I think I have a chance at an A – and in my wildest fantasy, dream about “booking” the class – but I probably will get a B. I’ve got a lot of work to do for Criminal Law. I haven’t even finished my outline, and I need to read over Emanuel’s and look over my notes and do those First-Year Questions. I’m not sure how much I’ll accomplish today – anything would be nice – but I do have the whole weekend, with just the distractions of newspapers, shopping and packing. I’m really going to miss my friends from law school. Talking to Gena and Shay and Dan and Larry before the final today, I felt part of a group in a way I haven’t felt since I was a student like a Brooklyn College. I guess I feel real secure in a small world where people know me and I know them. At times I felt part of a community at some of the colleges where I’ve taught, especially at BCC – where I was for so long – but I also always felt different there. I deliberately made myself an outsider there, and here at law school I’ve managed to curb that tendency even though I don’t socialize with my classmates. Anyway, I’m looking forward to next semester.
After hanging out following the final exam, I drove to the McDonald’s at the Oaks Mall and unwound with a McLean Deluxe. Then I got a much-needed haircut at the shop where I usually go, the one where the owner cuts the hair of everyone associated with the football team. Every time I get a different woman stylist, but they always seem to be the ex-wives of former UF law students. Does law school make these guys ditch their spouses? According to a recent survey, the majority of law firms have been and expect to continue laying off partners, and nearly all are laying off associates. Once I get near a field, it’s doomed. On the other hand, lately I’ve been wondering how anyone who didn’t go to law school can function in this society. Mom called after she spoke to Grandma Ethel. Marty hasn’t even gone to the apartment yet or put an ad in the paper, so it should be okay for me to stay in Rockaway next Tuesday. Last night I dreamed of being in New York during a blizzard, and I expect the worst possible winter weather there, including a rough flight. On Tuesday I’ve got to leave really early so I can get to Gainesville airport by 7:20 AM. The flight leaves at 8:15 AM if it’s on time, and my
second flight is scheduled to leave Atlanta at 10:15 AM, but airline schedules are iffy these days. Remember all those airlines I flew in the 1980s: Eastern, Pan Am, Air Florida, Northeastern, People Express. None of them exist today, and the big carriers all seem in financial trouble.
Saturday, December 14, 1991
6 PM. I haven’t accomplished as much studying for Criminal Law as I had wanted to, but I hope to finish reading the Emanuel’s outline tonight, and tomorrow I’ll look over my notes and my own outline and do hypos. I’m limited by eyestrain, which makes it hard for me to read constantly for more than a couple of hours at a time. My contact lenses are in desperate need of replacement, and I thought of going to an optometrist today, but I didn’t have time. My disinfecting unit is broken, but luckily I got a new one today at Eckerd, where it was on sale for $5 less than the usual price. Because I have so little money, I’ve been putting off both my eye exams and a dental exam, but I need to take care of my body.
I spend an awful lot of money on groceries, but on the other hand, I don’t eat out the way I used to, and I eat lots of fruit, vegetables and whole grains in addition to low-fat snacks, and I know I’m helping my health by getting plenty of fiber and vitamins and minerals. My videocassette player may be the next appliance to go kaput; I managed to get it to give me a picture clear enough to exercise to in the morning, and I really don’t want to spend the money on a new one. I don’t even want to mention my car and my computer, but neither of them can last much longer, even if I don’t use them very much. I spoke to Teresa yesterday afternoon. She was watching soap operas, and though she always says she’s busy, I can’t imagine what she does all day. I’m not clear whether she’s living at Brian’s house or staying elsewhere, but I did hear Brian’s voice in the background. He’s still weird about his wife coming for Christmas, even if the woman already filed for divorce, which may even be final by now. Teresa and I talked about law school and the Smith rape trial and Cuomo still deciding whether to run for President (he wants to but can’t because the New York budget crisis isn’t resolved). In Florida yesterday, the legislature cut the budget by a lot.
Anyway, as expected, I did no work last night but instead read the newspapers and watched news shows. Tomorrow I’ll avoid all but a couple of news shows and save most of the Sunday papers till I’ve finished studying. Immediately after the Crim final ends, the firstyear class is having a party at the Purple Porpoise. I have time I’ll go over there – it’s just a few blocks away, on University – and probably feel out of place, as I always do in bars. But it would bring a sense of closure to the semester. Still, I know how much I have learned and experienced since August 16, that first long Friday of orientation. Hey, the term will be exactly four months long. In a way, I regret that I’ll be in the Journalism school next year because I feel anxious to complete my legal education and feel I’ll be missing out on stuff during the ’92-’93 academic year. Actually, I don’t even know how I’m going to afford to stay in school. Whatever happens, this year will have been a gold one, and I know that somehow I’ll get through till the end of this academic year. I’m looking forward to next term’s classes, especially Constitutional Law, which I’m most interested in – and I’m even curious about Property. Next year, if am at the J-school, I’ll just get that much more experienced in
adjusting to a new environment, and it’s probably a terrific place, too. What I’m most proud of in 1991 was that I took risks and did things I was scared to do before, from my visit to California to moving to Gainesville to starting law school. I feel renewed with an infusion of energy and the sense that I can do more than what I had already done in my life. Despite the pressure of Monday’s exam, I feel relaxed.
Sunday, December 15, 1991
7 PM. I just printed out the last page of Criminal Law outline. I overestimated the amount of work I’d already put in, and I think I surely have underestimated the difficulty of tomorrow’s final. Because Nunn isn’t that hard in class, I’d assumed the test couldn’t be that hard, either. But he didn’t always explain things very clearly, and he let out whole sections of the usual Crim Law course. Last night I did read all of Emanuel’s, including sections we never got to, like causation and conspiracy. This morning after I exercised and glanced (that’s all I’ve done) at the Sunday paper, I answered all the First-Year Questions relating
to the topics we did cover, and after lunch, I reviewed my notes and went over my outline, but despite 6½ hours of work today, I still feel more unprepared for this test than I did for the others. Also, knowing I’ve got to leave Tuesday morning and have to pack tomorrow has made me tense. Still, the exam will be over by 1 PM, and somehow I’ll find the time to get ready for my trip. And once I get to Rockaway, I really have no obligations besides seeing Grandma Ethel. If I want to hibernate, I can. A cold front came through during the night, pushing temperatures down by 20 degrees to a high of only 59° today. In New York today, the high was 29°, and so I should be facing very cold weather – although Monday’s snowstorm should be over by Tuesday. Want to know how the chatterbox inside me works? I just imagined several disasters: no heat in Grandma’s apartment, or an open window I can’t close, or my falling on the ice and hurting myself so badly I’ll need to go to the hospital. Finally I cut off any more thoughts of doom. Well, at least I know that my instinct to immediately say, “Why am I going to New York when I could be so much more comfortable here in Gainesville?” tells me that I probably do need to go to New York and face my fears.
Nothing I’ve learned in law school comes close to being as valuable a lesson as the one in facing up to my fears. The easy way out sometimes may be the best choice, but I wouldn’t have made arrangements for this trip so long ago if I didn’t really want to go. I have to be up at 6 AM the next couple of days, and I don’t expect to get much sleep because anticipation keeps me awake. Well, maybe I can get four or five hours each night; that would be plenty. Once I’m in New York, I can sleep all I want. Last night I slept well and dreamed about next term in law school, only I was living in Brooklyn or Rockaway and going to law school near Columbia in upper Manhattan. In the dream, I was trying to find the Legal Research and Writing office to discover what my grade was, and the building I looked in turned out to be Midwood High School. When I saw Pat Thomson there, she said I did okay but needed to learn a lot about writing, and after I told her that I’d published books of short stories, she acted patronizing and condescending, as if she were saying to a child, “Well, that’s nice, dear, but everyone does that.” What I think I need to do now is watch some junk TV and try to keep my stomach from getting even more acidic and gassy. Although I
should go over my outline and notes, I can do that in the morning. Right now, it’s more important to calm down and clear my mild. I just felt another acne pimple on my forehead: that little ball of pressure when my fingers glanced over it. I’ve been trying not to squeeze pimples, but they don’t seem to come to head otherwise, so I usually end up mutilating myself. Who has acne when they’re 40 years old? My jaw is really tight. Maybe I’ll skip tomorrow’s end-of-semester party and head straight for home so I can relax and get ready to leave on Tuesday.
Monday, December 16, 1991
8: 30 PM. My suitcase is packed, and I’m ready to leave early tomorrow morning. As expected, I found it hard to sleep last night, but I got in 4½ hours, enough to keep me going without weariness today. At school early, I went over my outline and took the final final exam at 9 AM. Before class, I sat in the cafeteria with Pauline and Dee, who said she just wanted the semester to be over already.
Nunn made the Criminal Law exam challenging, but it wasn’t incredibly difficult. Although I’m certain I missed some things, as I was not always able to spot the forest for the trees, but it helped that we had four hours to do the exam. After I handed in my paper at the third floor secretary’s office, I wandered around aimlessly for a bit, talking to a few people who also seemed somewhat at a loss. Following lunch at home, I walked over to the Purple Porpoise to find the first-semester law students’ end-of-term party underway. Karin wasn’t there, nor were the older people who have kids like Gene or Gena, nor serious women students like Tosha and Lorraine. There were some older people: Dwight, Rich, Bob. But I seemed to be the only person not drinking beer or something stronger. I smiled as broadly as I could when I remembered to, but I felt out of place among mostly 22-yearolds getting shitfaced. Really, I’m such an old stick-in-the-mud, but I feel uncomfortable with drunk people chanting our teachers’ names as the professors there – Davis, Dowd, Nunn, Seigel – were called up to Kenny H’s funnel and hose to have huge swigs of beer rushing into their throats. It’s not just a function of my age. When I was 22, I didn’t go to these kind of parties, either. But it was nice to sit and watch people having
fun and letting go after their semester-long experience, which may have been an ordeal for some. It would be churlish of me to express my feelings about why so many attorneys are alcoholics. Okay, I admit it: I’m a terrible prig when it comes to alcohol and drugs. I just don’t see why people can’t have fun without them. When it wasn’t too noisy, I talked with Ty, Steve F, Ray, Larry, Rosemarie and a few other people about their vacation plans, and I quietly left after an hour. At the UF parking services building, I bought my spring commuter decal and then I went to the bank and came home to pack, read the papers, and exercise; my videocassette player seems to be working all right now. Sat Darshan called after getting my postcard. Her birthday is on Friday, and she had decided to go gurdwara in Queens with Sikh friends, but some people from work – Alex, Diane and others – are also going to help her celebrate at a dinner on Saturday night, and I was thrilled to be invited to that. Twenty years ago, I went to Avis’s place in Philip Howard Apartments on Flatbush Avenue to give her her 1971 birthday present, some kind of cheap Chinese symbol on a chain.
I remember Scott had gotten her a little rocking chair with a teddy bear on the back, and I also remember a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach when, in looking over Avis’s Christmas and birthday cards, I found an engraved Christmas card from “Shelli and Jerry.” Twenty years. Sat Darshan said she’s coping with things. She’s paid off her debts by working extra, and now she needs plane fare for Gurujot and Gurudaya to come home from school in India next spring. B.J. is going to give her a good deal on a computer, which she plans not only for taking extra work at home but for writing; she really wants to do more with her writing. It will be a pleasure to see Sat Darshan again. I also spoke to my parents, and briefly, to Jonathan, who answered the phone. Mom has a bad cold. I’ll probably get sick once I’m in New York City, the way I did last May. Tomorrow’s high temperature is supposed to be about 26° there, so it should be a real shock for me. But I think my immune system always shuts down after being so active, the way it has been during the stress of the last term and of finals in particular. I don’t have any pre-flight panic yet, not even apprehension. I’ll be on a small plane out of Gainesville, but it’s a regular jet, and the flight
to Atlanta shouldn’t be more than an hour. Hopefully I’ll be in Rockaway by late afternoon.
Tuesday, December 17, 1991
4:30 PM. It’s already dark and the wind is howling outside. I’m in Rockaway, tired and headachy and ready to get into bed early. If the stress of today’s travel brings on a cold, I could get used to the idea of rooting here for a week or so. Last night I slept very well, and I felt good when I arose at 5:30 AM. I left the house at 7 AM with my big suitcase and my ugly gray carry-on bag that I’m been lugging on planes for many years. When I got to the airport, it occurred to me that because of the long-term parking fees, I probably would have saved lots of money if I’d called a cab – but it was too late to go back. When I got on line at the Delta ticket counter, they were already boarding my flight, but of course they held the plane for all of us. It was the only plan around, a small DC-9, and I had to go outside and walk up steps to enter it. Although I’ve flown a lot, I had anxiety attacks on recent flights, so I’d taken Triavil this morning in case I got panicky. But although the flight was less comfortable
than in a big plane – luckily, there were no bumpy patches – I didn’t have a problem other than my usual tension and the weird feelings I get when my balance gets screwed up. We got into Atlanta at 9:45 AM, and my flight to LaGuardia was on a big 767 just two gates away from where I’d gotten in. I guess this was the first time in my life I was ever in Atlanta, but all I saw was the skyline. The flight wasn’t crowded and I had no one sitting night to me. I listened to my Walkman and ate the fruit and lettuce and bread from my breakfast. We took off late and got into LaGuardia at 1 PM. Usually I try not to look out the window during landings, but I did get a nice view of the Bayonne Bridge between Staten Island and New Jersey when I glanced over. The taxi ride to Grandma Ethel’s apartment was awful because we encountered bumper-tobumper traffic on the Van Wyck. But it was nice to see Lillian Goldberg in the lobby when I arrived; I told her I’d make sure to see her again before I left town. Hungry, I came up only to drop off my luggage and put on the heat in the radiators before I went to Key Food. I assumed it was later than it was because it took me a while to realize that the clocks in the apartment had never been turned back for Standard Time.
Basically, the apartment is the same as I left it in midsummer, so it’s in a lot better shape than it was when I came here last May. I didn’t do much except have a late lunch and try to put some of my stuff away. Mom called to see if I got in okay, and I’ve been trying to cope with a bad headache, which is either tension- or sinus-related. I didn’t eat as well as usual, and I didn’t exercise today, nor have I done more than glance at the paper I bought in Gainesville. It takes me a while to orient myself after a trip, so today reminds me of the stressful, long day we drove from Fort Lauderdale to Gainesville in August. Of course right now I’m on familiar ground. Given my finances, I won’t be able to come to New York City till next July at the earliest. I’ve got spring break in March and the break between spring and summer semesters in early May, but I’ll either take a bus or train to Fort Lauderdale then or just stay at my apartment in Gainesville.
Wednesday, December 18, 1991
8 PM. I slept poorly last night. First I had my usual post-flight sensations of the ground
coming up at me at odd angels, causing me vertigo. (I try not to look at the window on takeoff and landing, but it’s like Lot’s wife at Sodom.) Then, as the dizziness faded, I just felt too awake to sleep. Maybe it was the strange surroundings and that I had trouble getting the heat to where it was neither deadly and stifling or too low to provide warmth. So I read, watched David Letterman for the first time in years, and though a lot before I finally drifted off at 3:30 AM. Up three hours later, I forced myself to exercise to Body Electric, and by then, it was too late to go back to bed. Still, I functioned okay today – for what little I had to do. I left the apartment at 9 AM and took the bus to Far Rock, where I bought the Times and caught the N32 bus to Woodmere. When I opened the door of the third floor at the health-related facility, I immediately saw Grandma Ethel by the chairs next to the nurses’ station. She recognized me when I got close, and we went back to her room to talk. Grandma looked pretty good, and it was at least half an hour before she complained about her itching or her mouth. Her roommate died on Sunday at the hospital after having been there a couple of weeks. She was a sick woman who kept Grandma up all night asking her for her help with going to
the bathroom or to call her long-dead husband, and Grandma was concerned that her new roommate will also be a problem. While I was there, they replaced the mattress in the other bed with a new one. The woman’s sons told Grandma their mother would have wanted her to have the plants, and Grandma has been taking care of them. When I went to the bathroom, I noticed that a pigeon was perched on the ledge. Could it be one of the summer pigeons? Several people, including Christine, stopped by to say hello, and it seems that after a year, Grandma has adjusted well to life in the home. When I asked her if she ever thought about living on her own again back here in the apartment, she looked – not wistful as I’d expected – but skeptical. “No, I can’t take care of myself,” she said. “I’d fall all the time.” But she doesn’t fall in the home, and maybe I’m wrong, but I think she actually looks very good. I joked about my moving into the room until the new resident arrived, and we talked about law school and the poor economy and the family until the P.A. announced lunch. I felt cold but not unbearably so as I waited for the bus home, but I didn’t want to go to Beach 116th Street for Korean salad bar, so I had the dollar van I got in Far Rock drop me off at Key
Food, where I bought some fresh and frozen veggies. (New York City supermarkets and their products are so disgusting when compared with Publix, Albertson’s or Kash ‘n’ Karry.) I had lunch and began reading the Times (I think I prefer the more compact national edition than the local paper stuffed with ad filler). Also, I watched Another World for the first time in 4½ months because I can’t get NBC in Gainesville. I tried to keep track of the new characters and the old characters played by new actors. At 3 PM I went to visit Aunt Tillie, who was in a robe. She’d been feeling ill, she said, with her hiatus hernia. Tillie told me stuff I already knew – about how she doesn’t want to go for the procedure to see if she has an ulcer (so she refuses to tell her doctor about her hiatal hernia problems and just keeps taking Tagamet and antacids), how she can barely eat anything, how crazy it was for the doctors to keep Uncle Morris hooked up to machines after he had his fatal heart attack and was in a coma. It was Tillie who told the doctors that her husband was already dead, couldn’t they see that – or did they just want specialists to get billed for consultations?
Aunt Tillie approves of Dr. Kevorkian’s suicide machine for terminal patients and said that from November 1936 to November 1937, my great-grandfather, her father, was in such pain from his cancer he couldn’t even sleep lying down. Tillie said Zayde told her, “If you were a good daughter, you’d take a knife and kill me.” “But I just said to him, ‘Oh, Pop, you’ll get better’ or some stupid thing the people say,” Aunt Tillie told me with regret. She’s down to 110 pounds and looks very frail. Aunt Minnie, she said, was devastated by her grandson’s death. It seems that in Ithaca Jonny’s wife had taken up karate lessons and “got involved with this bossy woman and took the kids” – the boy who died and his eightyear-old sister to an apartment away from Jonny. So Tillie said it was meant to happen: “I believe it was fated, the boy’s death, because if he’d stayed home at Jonny’s house, he wouldn’t have been riding his bike down the hill where the bus ran into him.” When Aunt Minnie returned after the funeral and saw Uncle Irving, he recognized she’d been crying and so she told him about their grandson’s death, “but it didn’t register.” Sometimes Irving doesn’t even remember who Minnie is.
At 5 PM I left Tillie’s. Back here, Alice returned my call. She and Peter are going to Philadelphia this weekend, but maybe we can get together next weekend. Her book is in the stores. Mostly I talked to her about how much I enjoy law school. Alice, of course, was more interested in the practical than the intellectual side of it. I told Alice I don’t expect to come into Manhattan that much while I’m here: it’s too cold and too far. “But what are you going to do then?” Alice asked. “Veg out,” I said. I’ll read and think and relax.
Thursday, December 19, 1991
1 PM. And I am vegging out today. I slept wonderfully and lay in my grandparents’ old bed till 9 AM, listening to NPR; then I exercised, showered, and made sure I didn’t go out. It hit a record low of 13° this morning, and the wind chill was -20°, so there was no way I was going to leave this toasty-warm apartment, where I can lounge around in a T-shirt and gym shorts and look out and see the beach and the ocean.
Maybe later, if it gets up to 25° and the wind dies down, I’ll go out to get the newspaper, but I’ve been reading the Appellate Advocacy book I found in the library. The course looks like more work than Legal Research and Writing, but it also should be more interesting because it involves a persuasive brief, federal issues, and oral arguments. I’ve also been catching up on TV, watching the New York local news. Despite the frigid weather, 50,000 construction workers marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to a City Hall rally demanding jobs for an industry where unemployment is at 50%. People are calling for New Deal-style work programs, and yesterday even Bush made a big deal out of the jobs that will come from the transportation bill he signed. (He didn’t mention he opposed it because his poll ratings plummeted.) Teresa called and said she might see me on Monday because she’s got to get glatt kosher food for a party she’s catering for Pam’s mother, so she thought we could go to the Five Towns for stuff. Otherwise, she’ll see me after December 29, when Brian’s wife arrives from Sweden. Teresa is spending Christmas with Brian’s family not her own, and she’s busy catering pre-Christmas parties, too.
This afternoon I left message for Ronna, Elihu and Mikey and I spoke to Justin, who was just rushing to Brooklyn College and said he’d have to call me back. Luckily, his term is almost over, and he’s starting to feel relieved about school. I know the feeling. Maybe I’ll be bored in a couple of hours, but for now, I’m enjoying the luxury of loafing and not having to think about law school. I feel I’m staying at a seaside hotel for a richly-deserved vacation.
Friday, December 20, 1991
4 PM. I just watched Gov. Cuomo announce that because there was no New York state budget agreement, he couldn’t meet today’s 5 PM deadline for filing in the New Hampshire primary and thus couldn’t in good faith run for President. Although lots of people were amazed by his “indecisiveness” – Florida Democrats booed his name at their convention on Sunday – I think he would have been an interesting candidate who might have played FDR to Bush’s Herbert Hoover.
The guy is an intellectual but earthy, and he’s got integrity and charisma. The six Democratic candidates don’t seem to have his gravitas, though I hope one will emerge from the primaries looking like something more than a lightweight. I guess it comes down to Kerrey, Clinton and Harkin, none of whom really excite me enough to work for them, as I might have done for Cuomo. Meanwhile, the Fed lowered the discount rate a full point to 3½%, as the Bush administration appears in full panic because a Depression mentality is taking hold. Marc called last night, and he said business is way off from last year, which itself was a bad holiday season, and that the only saving grace is that he’s topped paying $300 a week to people who used to work for him. I asked Marc if he and Clarice were getting married, and he said not anytime soon. They might have lived together, except for Jason, but they see no reason to rush to get married. It’s not like they plan to have kids or anything, and Marc currently spends nearly all his time at Clarice’s anyway. Today he was going to pick up Jason at Miami airport. Ronna also called last night, and we made tentative plans to get together Thursday evening. Ronna had another of her colds and sounded very hoarse, but she’d just come back
from the West Side Y, where she and David joined an exercise program. Ronna likes her boss at Hadassah, and she’s administering some interesting programs and had ideas for others. Basically she’s fine, “except my social life is in the toilet,” by which I guess she means she’s not seeing anyone. Billy and Melinda just left for their belated honeymoon in Hawaii, and Ronna’s spending Christmas with her father, stepmother and little half-brother. This morning I got up at 5:30 AM and spent the early morning exercising and listening to NPR. At 10 AM I went to Woodmere to visit Grandma Ethel. It was less frigid today, and it didn’t take me long to get there with the Q22 bus to Far Rockaway and then the Nassau County bus to the home. Grandma wasn’t in her room, but Christine said she was downstairs seeing the dentist and would be back shortly. Apparently Grandma is getting a new roommate today, something she was not looking forward to. When I saw her, she complained about her tongue and mouth problems but otherwise talked about the weather and the malfunctioning of elevators. I gave her a wristwatch Mom had sent me for her. Home at 1 PM, I ate garnet sweet potato I bought at the health food store on Broadway in Woodmere and read the papers and watched
TV. Tonight I’ll spend with more news shows and I’ll speak to Justin. David already went to Reading for the holidays, and Justin plans to join him once he finishes one more paper for school. That makes me wonder about my final exams, which must be being graded now and over the next couple of weeks and how I will react when I find out my law school grades. It’s nighttime already here, way before 5 PM, but the days will start getting longer after tomorrow, which is the first day of winter. I didn’t think about it when I saw Grandma Ethel, but December 21 was Grandpa Herb’s birthday. He was born in 1903, so he’d have been 88 tomorrow if he’d lived. That must make Aunt Tillie 86 or 87. I don’t know how much longer she can take care of herself in her apartment in the next building. Grandma did tell me that when she said Marty plans to “rent” this apartment, what she meant is that he plans to give it up totally. Anyway, although this apartment overlooking the beach in Rockaway has been my home away from home since 1966 – and I lived here for months this past summer – I won’t have this apartment to come to next July. My last ties to New York City are crumbling.
Monday, January 6, 1992
. . . while I was tired after traveling from New York for six hours, I drove straight to the law school to write down my assignments and my grades. My grades were better than expected, and even now I feel I need to double-check them because I didn’t get a single C or even a C+. I got B’s in Torts, Civil Procedure and Contracts, and A’s in Criminal Law and Jurisprudence, along with an S+ in Legal Research Writing. That seems to add up to a 3.42 index, which is much higher than I imagined . . .
Thursday, January 9, 1992
. . . When I got home for lunch, I was shocked to see that Nunn sent me a letter: I got the highest grade in his class and thus I’ll be getting the Book Award. I never imagined I’d do so well . . .
Monday, January 27, 1992
4:30 PM. After Torts ended half an hour ago, I was walking to my car with Peter and Min So
when someone told us they’d posted the class rankings, so we made our way to the back of the huddle in front of the bulletin board. I was pleased to see I’d booked Jurisprudence as well as Criminal Law, but I was pretty confident about that. (I even told Ronna and Alice that I’d booked two classes.) They put my name on the “Honors” list (above 3.0 but below the “High Honors” of 3.5), and I saw that I’m in the top 10% of the class. Actually, at 3.42 (no, they don’t tell everyone your index), I’m very close to the 95th percentile cutoff score of 3.43. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment, I guess . . .
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