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SPRINGTIME IN LAUDERHILL
Superstition Mountain Press Phoenix – 2011
Copyright © 2011 by Richard Grayson. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Superstition Mountain Press 4303 Cactus Road Phoenix, AZ 85032
ISBN #: 978-1-257-93769-1
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
To the memory of Blair Apperson
Springtime in Lauderhill
Saturday, March 1, 1986
9 PM. March is coming in like a lion, at least here in South Florida. The wind-chill factor may go down to 20° Fahrenheit tonight. Today it didn’t get much warmer than 65°. When I called Grandma Ethel to wish her a happy birthday, she said it was 40° and sunny, and she’d just spent an hour sitting outside. I told Grandma I’d see her in less than eight weeks. With two months gone, 1986 has raced by so far. I’ve been unable to decide definitely whether I’ll come back to Florida in May and June. I might like to take some more classes, and teaching that micro graphics course would be good experience, but I think that if I could get a student loan and housing at Teachers College, I’ll stay in New York.
I’ve lived in so many places, I could adjust myself to a small dorm room, and if I needed to, I could probably go to Teresa’s, and there’s always Grandma Ethel’s. I could take six credits over the summer and find a job; I’m sure the Teachers College placement office could help me find something related to computer education. Staying here wouldn’t be so bad, but I’ve spent only one May and June in hot, rainy South Florida, and that was in 1982, when I was seeing Sean. I’d stay at Columbia for the summer and then go to Washington in mid- or late August. I know that I don’t want to spend the fall in Florida. This place is only good for me in winters. I’m too lonely and isolated. Actually, tonight I was invited to a party at Lisa’s, but I didn’t feel like driving all the way to West Palm Beach. She’s doing fine, likes her new house, and gets away from teaching this week while she’s on jury duty. The core of my life isn’t in Florida. Tonight I had dinner – Chinese takeout – with my parents, and although I deeply love them, I like being away from them. This is selfish, but I don’t like getting involved in their mishigass. Dad had called me to type up a petition about the new rentals next door. It was very odd to use my old typewriter – my real old typewriter,
the one I used before 1978. The machine seemed so antiquated, with round keys, but I realize I typed many of my published stories on that machine. While I’m now used to electronic typewriters and word processors, I have to admit that the tap-tap-tap noise of the keyboard felt substantial and satisfying. Up early today, I went to Davie and collected my mail. Upstairs, in Jonathan’s room, I got out his weights and bench. Trying to be macho, I bench-pressed 100 pounds. On the last of ten sets of eight reps each, I gave out, and since I was without a spotter, I figured I could wait there for about seven hours till my family got home, or I could see if I could get out from under the barbell. Well, I managed, but I think I may have strained or bruised my abdominal muscles. Pretty stupid, huh? Especially after I did the same thing two weeks ago. Sometimes I’m such a jerky little boy. While exercising and having lunch, I watched Kind Hearts and Coronets, a delightful movie. I left Davie at 2 PM and spent the rest of the afternoon doing very little. Before going back to my parents’ for dinner, I drove to find Sunshine Elementary School in Miramar, as I want to be prepared for Monday.
This course is really scary for me. Maybe that’s what made me so sick this past week. Susan and Spencer sent a photo of little Zachary, who really is adorable. And Josh sent a New York magazine article by Georgia Brown, who recounts the shooting of the movie Heartburn in her apartment – which, of course, used to be Jonathan Baumbach’s.
Sunday, March 2, 1986
7 PM. I’ve just come in from a walk I took to get the cobwebs out. It’s just about dusk here, and quite chilly. I needed a leather jacket for my jaunt to State Road 7 and back. It’s interesting what a different perspective you get when you walk than when you drive. It seemed very odd to be walking along State Road 7; I feel almost naked without my car. Or I felt as if I’d be arrested as a suspicious character, as in “The Pedestrian,” that Ray Bradbury story I used to teach at Broward Community College. I miss the sights and sounds of my walks in the city, especially along Broadway near Teresa’s, and to a lesser degree, along Seventh Avenue in Park Slope. Last night the temperature went down to a record 35° here.
Tomorrow is my first day teaching the inservice course at Sunshine Elementary, and I’m anxious about it. On one level, I tell myself that I really shouldn’t be: This is no big test for me. Somehow I keep making my life into a struggle to survive. What good is the $24,000 I have in the bank if I can’t feel some sense of security? Since my revolving debts don’t bother me, I should be very relaxed. On the other hand, I feel guilt about the way I’m living – namely, that I don’t deserve this luxury. Obviously, I still have a poor self-image because I have to “pay” for every “success” with a corresponding “failure.” Probably I could use some therapy to discover if this has hindered my career. Other times I believe that I’m wise to avoid too much success and that it will come to me in time. There are even moments when I’m almost a megalomaniac and feel that it’s the world which has to catch up to me. We’ll see. Depressed earlier this week, I thought about suicide, but not the way I used to. As hard as life can be, much of the time I feel that if I just wait things out, things will work out. In one sense, I’ve predicated my whole life on the presumption that the 1980s will be a rough and inhospitable time for me, and that if I can
survive this decade, I’ll have an easier time in the 1990s. Maybe I’m stupid to hope for another period like the 1960s, when society was more tolerant of experimental in fiction, when liberation was in vogue, when people weren’t so materialistic and militaristic and “patriotic” and simpleminded. These are broad generalizations, but here’s something more tangible: Even a decade ago, society wasn’t so interested in immediate gratification. There wasn’t the emphasis on the quarterly corporate profit statement, the weekend movie box office grosses (I had to buy Variety if I wanted to find that out), the daily Dow highs. Remember “Small is beautiful”? Perhaps this trend of quantifying success in every endeavor – itself probably a reflection of the new power of the Baby Boomers, who grew up expecting everything yesterday – will only get worse and worse. But I don’t think so. One of the pleasures of being 35 is knowing that the world can and does change in profound ways. My life – my family’s life, American life – would have been unimaginable in 1951. And if I live to be 70, my life in 2021 will be radically different from anything I could imagine today. And if I die young from AIDS,
cancer, accident – at least I’ll have had a good time. I never really did postpone living. Obviously I’m thinking in broad terms because I’m so nervous about tomorrow. What if it’s a disaster? I felt so demoralized after my first night teaching at LIU in 1975 that I needed an appointment with a shrink. But in the long run, did that mean very much? If tomorrow is a disaster, it won’t mean much, either – at least in the long run. As Keynes said, “In the long run, we are all dead.”
Monday, March 3, 1986
9 PM. I’m worn out tonight. The computer workshop went okay, but it took a lot out of me, mostly because I was so anxious about it. I’ll feel more comfortable next week. But now I’m tired. Last night Josh told me he saw a Village Voice notice of a memorial concert for “violinist David Sontag” at some West Side church. It was sponsored by Gay Men’s Health Crisis, so naturally David died of AIDS. Poor guy. I didn’t know him well. Basically I knew him as Ralph’s brother, Frances’s son, and Allan’s roommate after Elihu left their
Morningside Heights apartment. I knew David was gay and a talented violinist; I kind of thought he was a little stuck-up, which is what Josh said about him. Maybe I saw him three or four times. I remember going to a party at the apartment on 120th and Amsterdam (right across from Teachers College), and I remember David wearing a Mickey Mouse T-shirt and being very thin, though I can’t recall his face or anything he ever said. But he’s the first person I know firsthand whom I’ve learned has died of AIDS. Shit. Then again, sometimes when I’m depressed, like today, I think I wouldn’t mind dying. Suffering, yes: I’d hate that. But dying itself has always seemed a relief to me. The best thing about being a human being is that you die. I’m a coward where pain is concerned, but I don’t fear death – unless I’m fooling myself. I picture it as a huge black hole of nothing. Quiet. Empty. I don’t think being alive is always a great proposition. Is that depression talking? Maybe. I’m tired. The teachers at Sunshine Elementary seemed to feel I was on their side – and I am. I think it’s terrible that they’ve be told to take all these kids to the computer lab once a week.
Imagine thirty kindergarteners at fifteen machines with one teacher, a computer novice, to watch them. With all these basic skills kindergarteners have to master, it’s absurd to me. Next week I’ll do Bank Street Writer and introduce Logo. I want to base the course on what the teachers need to know. I’ll do okay, I guess. I barely had time for a couple of slices of pizza before getting to Joe Cook’s class at BCC/FIU. He lectured on the community power structure, which was interesting – but I find most of my fellow students’ comments to be too anecdotal and without relevance. The Teacher’s Disease is Talking Too Much. No good mail today: the Division of Elections accepted my withdrawal as a candidate for Education Commissioner. Nobody cared about my campaign, and I guess there was no reason they should have. It was foolish of me to do that half-assed. Today was Mom’s 55th birthday, but I barely got to see her. She was busy with setting up for the Miami Beach Convention Center flea market. Now it’s Jonathan who has the flu. I’m going to sleep now, if I can. I can’t think.
Tuesday, March 4, 1986
4 PM. I had my usual insomnia last night. There’s been a change, though, in the kind of insomnia I’ve had in the past few months. Before, I always couldn’t get to sleep; now I usually wake up after sleeping for an hour or two and then can’t fall back asleep. In the past couple of days, I decided that I’m a pretty lazy guy. Let’s face it: I’m not enamored of work. The “work” I enjoy is really “fun.” Not much is going on today. I didn’t get any mail except junk mail. No phone calls, either. I made a half-hearted attempt to go to the warehouse and straighten out my things, but I gave up when the job seemed too tough. Hey, look – so I’m lazy. Somebody’s got to watch society. One trend given increasing scrutiny is generational conflict. Especially down here in South Florida, with its large population of wealthy retirees, a Baby Boomer can’t help resenting that people over 55 or 60 get discounts at banks, movies, restaurants and stores, not to mention public transit. Of course the Yuppie myth has fueled the idea that all of us Boomers are driving BMWs – when in reality, our real income is far less than that of our parents at a comparable stage. And Baby Boom families have two breadwinners.
Twenty-five years ago Dad could easily support a wife and three kids. Today a guy would need a $200,000 income to do that. Meanwhile, senior are the least likely age group to be poor (except those over 85, widows and minority people) while 40% of the poor are children. With a smaller generation behind us Baby Boomers, who will be the workers that will provide the money to give us our Social Security? Wait till 2015 and then you’ll see generational conflict. I bet we’ll be reviled in our old age. Oh well, maybe I won’t be around to see it. I sound like Grandma Ethel when she says, “Well, I don’t know how many more years you’ll have to send me a birthday card.” But it’s hard not to think of death when I hear about stuff like David Sontag’s dying of AIDS. I still don’t know if Sean is all right. The other day I tried the Tampa directory assistance, and of course there’s still no phone listing for Sean. Could he be dead? It’s hard to believe it, and I know this must sound melodramatic that I even think about it, but statistically, it’s a possibility. Sean wasn’t incredibly promiscuous, but he told me about a number of guys he slept with, and I’m sure he was fairly active. I wonder about the other gay people, friends I’ve lost touch with. Elihu? Vito? Allan? Skip?
Leon? Jerry? Are they okay, do they have AIDS, or are they already gone? And while I know the possibility is remote that I’m going to get AIDS, it’s almost a “There but for the grace of God. . .” phenomenon. Saved by Neurotic Apprehension, the headline should read. I was too chicken or too crazy to go the bars, the baths, the trucks on West Street to pick up guys. It’s funny that that could be what saved my life. Who knows how I could be cheating death now: by avoiding eating fish or being too scared to fly to Europe? As Allan once said when he and I were walking along Broadway and saw a sign advertising K-Y Jelly for 69 cents, “It’s all cosmic.” So is that my excuse? For living my life this way, you should pardon the expression? It’s a beautiful day, about 70°, not too warm or too chilly. It’s a Spring Fever day. Remember spring fever? It doesn’t really exist in South Florida. Where am I going, what am I doing? I’ve got exactly three months – one-quarter of a year – till I’m 35. I’ve lived five seven-year periods. Remembering the old saw about one’s cells turning over completely every seven years, does that mean I’m becoming my sixth self? Ed Hogan wrote, saying he understands why some people are infuriated and exasperated
with my writing. Hell, I’m one of those people. I’m very self-indulgent. True, I do monitor every penny in cash or coin that I spend (today I spent nada so far) – but that in itself is self-indulgent. March 4, 1986: it’s been a day like any other. And yet. . . (Exasperating, infuriating and self-indulgent conclusion.)
Wednesday, March 5, 1986
1 PM. I filed a complaint of discrimination with the Broward County Human Relations Board against AmeriFirst Savings and Loan Association for refusing me their “AmeriPlus 55” program. When I noticed their ad, I called a branch office and of course I was told that I couldn’t get all the benefits of the account because I was only 34. This morning, the lead article in the Miami Herald was about – I’ve got the news radio on, and right now they’re talking about me, “Live from the Broward County Courthouse” – I can’t believe it. This was the lead story on the news! They didn’t mention my name, though. Anyway, as I was saying, the Herald story said that discounts of all kinds to senior citizens are clearly illegal. The head of the county board, who’s 70, said he definitely felt that this kind of
discrimination was against the law: both Florida statutes and the Broward County ordinances which protect people from discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of race, age, sex, etc. It sounded as if they were looking for a test case, and I decided I’d be it. I drove downtown at 8 AM, taking with me a copy of AmeriFirst’s advertisement in today’s paper. At first, the woman there, Eileen Suchick, didn’t think I had a good case, but after calling the S&L, she discovered clearly that I’d have to pay more for a safety deposit box and credit cards and I couldn’t get other services like free travelers cheques and free cashier’s checks. So we decided to go ahead. She took all the information and I signed the form and statement. I got a copy and went to tell my parents, whom I didn’t want to get surprised by this. Mom wasn’t upset, but Dad doesn’t like the limelight and told me, “You have a hell of a nerve!” To me, the case is so obvious, it’s beautiful. As I asked the woman at the bank I spoke to, “You wouldn’t have an account for ‘whites only,’ would you?” “Of course not.” “Well, this is discrimination, too.”
“No, it’s not. All the Florida banks have special accounts for senior citizens.” Of course that doesn’t make it legal. Somehow the media found out about the complaint. While I was shopping and having lunch, Eileen – who’s 34, like me – called Dad, who told me to expect phone calls from the press. We’ll see. Is this a big egotrip for me? Yes. But that’s not all it is. A principle is at stake. Well, I’ll see what happens. * 11 PM. Crazy day, huh? I called WINZ to tell them to stop referring to the case as “reverse discrimination,” and they interviewed me of course – though I never did hear that interview. I did hear the other reports on the news. The WINZ reporter gave my name out, an so when I went to Davie to pick up the mail, I got called by WNWS (the reporter said she’d interviewed me four years ago for The Western News when I ran for Town Council) and the Herald. It was a relief to get to Ray’s BASIC class. I got 96 on the midterm and enjoyed listening to Ray discuss the AI conference he went to last week. He’s very enthusiastic about it and showed me an expert system he developed using a package; the system helps the user select
software by asking two questions – “so it’s as good as a Radio Shack salesman.” When I told Debbie Nycz about my lawsuit, she said she had to give me credit for doing things other people didn’t have the nerve to do. Nerve: that’s what Dad called it too. Yet I don’t think of myself as nervy. (Nervous, maybe.) Back home at 7 PM, Jonathan said Justin Gilley, the Herald reporter, was on the line; he needed more facts for tomorrow’s article. Also, I called back a reporter from the Sun-Tattler and did an interview. I hope I’m being articulate. Earlier, I left messages with Teresa and Josh, and I called Ronna at work to tell her. She’d just had a wisdom tooth pulled but was feeling okay. It was important to me to share this with my friends. With Jonathan, I watched the Davie Town Council meeting on cable TV. Mom and Dad were there to speak against the rental project, but the proposal got tabled and I saw our parents on their way out. Where will this thing lead? Time will tell, but tonight I’m glad I filed the complaint.
Thursday, March 6, 1986
4 PM. In days to come, I may regret bringing this complaint, but so far I’ve been handling things well. In my public statements, I lean over backwards to be fair, saying that I understand that many seniors need discounts and that I understand AmeriFirst’s position in wanting to market a service to a particular age segment. Basically, I’m taking the stance that I’m bringing this complaint to clarify the law, and that if I didn’t, somebody else would. I was horrified to hear myself called “The Yuppie Avenger” on radio this morning. I read the Herald’s story first: “Man Challenges S&L’s Age-Based Discount.” It was fairly straight-forward (although it led off by calling me “a droll short story writer”) and I came off okay. At 9 AM, I was a guest on Al Rantel’s show on WNWS, and he pretty much agreed with me, feeling that Mrs. Weissman in Miami Beach started the whole thing by challenging her landlord’s discount to renters under 50. After the half-hour interview, Dad called me up to say that I sounded responsible and intelligent, and I know if Dad, my harshest critic, felt that way, I was fine. I was a guest for an hour on WNJO in West Palm Beach. As the host kept escalating the rhetoric, I kept moderating my position.
Mrs. Weissman refused to appear on the WNJO show with me because she said she’d been so vilified in the media, that she had been the victim of many death threats and was on the verge of a breakdown. Obviously, these things can get out of hand, and I’ve got to learn from her experience. Probably people were incensed by the $50,000 in damages awarded her. I’ve consistently said that I seek no damages, and I was awarded any money, I’d donate it to research on Alzheimer’s disease. The Hollywood Sun-Tattler featured me on the front page: “Man, 34, Protests Senior Discounts,” in a story that presented the issues fairly. Probably when the Sun-Sentinel comes out tomorrow, I won’t fare as well, for the Fort Lauderdale paper tends to see me as a kook; I also made more statements, which are certainly well-founded, about the relative incomes of 60-year-olds versus 20-year-olds and about banks overcharging their customers. Every reporter asks me: “How far do you plan to take this?” – and by now I’ve decided to say that I’ll accept whatever decision the Human Relations Board makes. I don’t intend to make a crusade out of this. If I come off as some sort of shrill opportunist, I’m dead. Besides, I certainly do have doubts about what I’m doing. If, because of my case, all senior discounts were ruled illegal, I’d probably be hurting a lot of people. It’s a very, very tricky
area: legally I’m right, but as the epigraph to Hardy’s Jude the Obscure states, “The letter killeth.” Maybe we need to amend our laws to permit these discounts; I honestly don’t know, anyway, that’s not for me to decide. One talk show host told me I’ve “opened up a whole can of worms,” and I see that, but I am still bothered that senior discounts can occur in violation of, yes, the letter of the law, subject to challenge at any time. Perhaps it isn’t “discrimination” to give people added benefits rather than depriving people of their rights; maybe our society needs more of that. A spokesman for AmeriFirst appeared on the WNJO show on the condition that I not speak to him – which was fine with me – and he explained their position rather well, I thought. Am I naïve to think that I can get some people to think, maybe to understand that there are complexities and ambiguities in life? Today it’s all black and white: “Alla way USA” vs. The Evil Empire, Rambo vs. Commie gooks, right vs. wrong. Of course I am naïve. The media, as Neil Postman pointed out in his book, are incapable of dealing with complex issues like this one or affirmative action. Well, I’ll just take this day by day.
Yeah, I’m a troublemaker, but so were most of the people in history whom I admire. As long as I do what I’m doing right now – take the phone off the hook and have time to get my thoughts straight – I’ll be as okay as I can be. Meanwhile, I’ve had a sinus headache all day, I still found an hour to exercise, and Chevy Chase S&L sent me a letter saying my Visa with a $5,000 credit limit is on the way. I got an ATM card from my Republic credit line which is good at NYCE in New York and Publix Tellers here. I’ll be grateful for the tedium of my Money and Banking class at FAU tonight.
Friday, March 7, 1986
3 PM. I just came from being interviewed for a story for The CBS Evening News. Last night I had terrible insomnia as my mind wouldn’t stop racing, so I took two Triavils at 5 AM and also took the phone off the hook so I wouldn’t be pestered. I got up a little groggily at 11:30 AM, and as soon as I placed the receiver down, the phone rang with a call from the CBS News producer. After making myself look presentable enough to appear on network TV, I got over to my
parents’, stopping off to get the Fort Lauderdale News. “Crusader Challenges Seniors’ Discount,” ran the top headline in the Metro section. The article was better than I expected. And the Herald ran an editorial today which, without mentioning me by name (“a Davie man”) supported my position. So far so good. Yesterday I was invited on the Neil Rogers show on WINZ next Wednesday evening. With some hesitation, I accepted mostly because I feel I owe Neil for helping me sell so many copies of Eating at Arby’s; I am worried, though, because Neil tends to be very outspoken and I’m afraid of stirring up resentment against myself. Well, if I play good cop/bad cop, I’ll probably end up okay. With CBS, I felt the reporter, Bernard Goldberg, was trying to make this confrontational – that is, after all, the style of public discourse on the nightly network news – but I hope I deflected that. Neighbors listening in told me I made some good points. Still, I have doubts as to whether my actions will do more harm or good. Although I had a bad headache yesterday, it was a relief to go to FAU and be just a student. The cutoff for an A on the exam was 35, so I just made that. I’ll definitely get at least a B in the course, and I’m going to try hard for an A.
However, that won’t be easy because the second part of the term is all theory. The material is as dry as the desert. Last night we went over classical economic theory, and now we’ll go on to Keynes and Friedman. During the break, Mark asked me if I’d been doing anything “crazy” lately, so I told him about my complaint. Obviously he was impressed. In a way, Mark reminds me of Sean. I know publicity makes a person more attractive. Four years ago I got all the publicity for running for the Town Council and from that Herald profile by Mike Winerip and the reviews of Dog, I remember I’d see Sean in the lobby and go over to him with my latest news. That was when I could first tell how he felt about me. I got home at 10 PM and began catching up on my reading when Teresa called. She’d been in Albany for a few days. Work is okay, though she leaves home at 7:30 AM and doesn’t get back till twelve hours later. They take so much out of her paychecks that she’s netting only $2,200 a month. She did get a MasterCard that she had to deposit money in a South Dakota savings bank for. Teresa discovered that the woman at the Controller’s office whom she’s replacing – who finally leaves the office today – was having an affair with the press secretary. “It’s ironic,” Teresa said, “as if I were seeing what it would have been like to replace myself
at Andrew’s.” The woman broke up the boss’s marriage, then lost interest in the job and let a lot of things slide as she got into the punk rock scene. So the others in the office see Teresa as someone who can straighten out a bad situation and there’s a huge reservoir of good will she intended to use. Teresa sounded fine, actually. As I mentioned, although tired, I couldn’t get to sleep till 5 AM.
Saturday, March 8, 1986
10 PM. That the world is changing I can see just by my drive home on U.S. 441: at the new Hyundai dealership, these neat little Korean cars, selling for $5,000, all across the road from the Citgo station, where regular gasoline is going for 85¢ a gallon. My economics class and my reading have helped me understand some of these changes, but we seem to be entering a completely new phase in economic theory, one that can’t be explained by classical theory, Keynes or Friedman. But I think I’ve positioned myself well, if that doesn’t sound too crude. Since I don’t need many material possessions, I don’t need to be
rich. What I want to do is live comfortably – the way I am now – with a minimum of effort. My Chevy Chase S&L with its $5000 credit line arrived today. I broke it in tonight at Albertson’s, where I ran into an ex-student of mind, Todd Something. He’s even betterlooking now than he was four years ago when he was in my class, and he was glad to see me. Todd said he’s looking for a business and is now working at the Marriot on the beach. (That’s also where Mark works.) I seem to be rambling. Both last night and tonight I went over to my parents’ to make dinner: spaghetti last night and a frozen-food dinner I put in their new microwave tonight. Mom and Dad have been working late at the flea market at the Miami Beach Convention Center; from Marc and Jonathan say, business has been slow. I was in Davie this morning as well, after I xeroxed the clips from the three local newspapers. I have more publicity clips now, and what I like about this is that it’s an entirely new connection for me: not as a writer or a political prankster, although all three articles alluded to my books and my different political stunts. There’s the possibility that I may actually get to be what I’ve wanted to be: a sort of public personality, known in different fields. At least
I’m no longer being referred to as an English teacher. I worked out while watching TV this morning (I caught the second half of Desperately Seeking Susan); today I had no trouble bench-pressing 100 pounds. Soon after I collected the mail, I returned home to Lauderhill, where I set all my Visas and MasterCards in a rectangle on the bed: five rows and five columns of 25 bank cards. With the Choice, Sears and my Republic Preferred Credit, my combined credit lines total $47,000. It’s funny how I looked at my cards the way I used to look at my little magazines with my stories in them. That may be a sad commentary on how my values have changed. Maybe if my fiction had gotten more of a response, I never would have stopped feeling the way I did a decade ago, and maybe one day those feelings will come back. This afternoon I read the New York Times for most of this week (four days’ issues arrived in today’s mail) and I exercised some more.
Sunday, March 9, 1986
8 PM. This morning I got up early and went to Alamo to see if I could renew my car rental. Perhaps foolishly, I decided to take the
complete insurance package this month, which will double the cost of February’s rental (prices have gone up, too) to $600. I just put it on my new gold Visa card, and of course the charges won’t appear till next month. (If I’m lucky, the American Express charges won’t make this month’s bill, either, and will appear on my April statement.) The new Chevette I got has worse steering and brakes than the other one, and that depressed me, but perhaps I’ll get used to this car, too. Anyway, if I’m lucky, I’ll get into an accident; at least I don’t have to worry about being responsible for any expenses should the car be damaged. I can drive around more freely. Still, I’ll end up spending a bundle on car rentals. Should I have bought a car? Is this a case where not wanting to own anything has caught me doing something stupid. I don’t plan to remain in Florida, even though the longer I stay here, the easier it would be to settle down. But the loneliness gets to me. I had to call my New York friends – Ronna, Teresa, Alice, Josh, Susan and Justin – this week when I had big news. Down here, there was no one to call. I miss the excitement and activity of New York – of any big city, really. The only question in my mind is whether to leave for good in late April or to stay here until mid-June.
I don’t want to stay at Teresa’s even if she’d like to have me; that part of my life is over. It’s a miracle Teresa and I are still close, but any closer and we’d jeopardize our friendship. I don’t know what the Teachers College dorms are like, but I’m pretty hardy, and knowing that I could always visit Teresa’s – or go to Grandma Ethel’s or to another friend – would make me feel I had an escape. Apart from that, there’s always a sublet. I still think I might like to spend the fall in D.C. Of course if Justin gets called to Reading, I’ll be happy to move back to Brooklyn – and if either of his roommates moved out, I’d happily live in Park Slope again. The fact is, I have a lot of options. This afternoon I read the papers and spent two hours working on “Fab Fed Magazine,” that fan magazine for the Federal Reserve Board that I thought up a few weeks ago. Imagine if the Wall Street Journal did a story on it. Or USA Today’s Money section. The trouble is, I can’t think of too many other publications to send it to. Business newspapers? The business sections of daily papers? The Times is too staid and I’m overexposed in the Florida papers. Tomorrow I hope to xerox about 12 copies of this six-page “magazine.” Maybe nobody will pick up on this; the idea is great, but as usual, my execution was rushed and could be better.
Still, I felt very creating while writing it: just like in the old days; I experienced what they’re now calling a “flow” state. Tomorrow is my class at Sunshine Elementary, but I feel confident doing Bank Street Writer and Logo. I don’t have FIU classes this week, so I’ll be able to return home straight after teaching. Tuesday I have my Public Policy test; on Wednesday I’ve got the Neil Rogers show – I’m still concerned about being attacked – and on Thursday, class at FAU. Anything else? Well, maybe I’ll be on The CBS Evening News, but I’m almost hoping I won’t be. I really don’t want to be in the papers and on the news a lot in regard to my complaint; I don’t want to start sounding shrill or getting too identified with this issue. I’d like to be a spokesman for the Baby Boomers, but I hate the idea of being the elderly’s public enemy.
Monday, March 10, 1986
9 PM. Today was a productive day. Heavy rains fell intermittently, but I didn’t mind
because nine out of ten days here are sunny, and I like a change in the weather. My capped tooth got very loose during the night. It’s getting worse and worse and eventually I’m going to have to replace it. Josh phoned last night, the only break I had in an evening of reading. He was violently against what he called my “campaign” against old people because he believes most old people are sick and need a break. I understand Josh’s feelings. He’s always generalized from his own experiences, and now he’s going through the heartbreaking blindness and illness of his mother. Josh’s mother is like a saint to him, and he feels he’s caring for her when his father is not. Her blindness is almost total now, just like her own mother was at 76 (Josh said his grandmother had a nervous breakdown when she lost her sight), and Josh feels sure that he’ll inherit the macular degeneration; his eyesight is already worse than his mother’s at a comparable age. This knowledge, and the deaths of Josh’s sister and niece, have given him a dark view of life. And why not? He got into a big fight with Fat Ronnie, and now he realizes he was totally in the wrong but he feels so bad he doesn’t even want to be friends with Ronnie again – if Ronnie would forgive him
– because he’s embarrassed he acted so stupidly. (What it was, was that he accused Ronnie of stealing an idea for a product – earmuffs with headphones built in – that he planned to sell mail order.) This morning I found “Shades of Grayson” in Steve Bousquet’s Herald column. He printed my press release about hiring monkeys to solve the teacher shortage problem, but a misprint rendered the joke unintelligible. I’ve withdrawn from the Education Commissioner’s race, but it’s typical that the newspapers ignored my tax proposals and picked up on a silly idea. More and more, I’m convinced that Neil Postman was right about all the public discourse becoming entertainment and baby talk. That being so, I xeroxed ten copies of Fab Fed Magazine and mailed three to different editors at The Wall Street Journal and one to USA Today. Maybe I can figure out a couple of other places to send it if I go to the library. I used my new gold Visa card and got two cash advances of $2,000 each and deposit them into my credit union share draft account. With the help of Chevy Chase S&L, I just created new money and increased M-1 by $4,000. Not bad for a Fed fan.
I met Greg Eisman at the credit union and later saw the Gilmans in the BCC parking lot and Dave Shaw at the computer lab; all said they’d seen me in the paper (Dave told George Patton: “You better be nice to him or he’ll sue you.”) While at the lab, I previewed Bank Street Writer, which I later introduced to my class at Sunshine Elementary this afternoon. It was a good session, and although I worked hard, I felt very gratified afterward. Most of the teachers had a hard time with Bank Street Writer, but I know they learned the basics of using it. I’m not a bad computer trainer after all; I’ve enjoyed doing it unofficially for years. After teaching, I stopped at my parents’ for dinner. Dad has been ill – he’s been very nauseated – and hasn’t looked well in weeks. He and Mom have decided not to go to the Miami Beach Convention Center flea markets again. They made $300, but that isn’t worth all the work they put into the job. Yesterday 1.3 million were at the Calle Ocho Festival, and the flea market always occurs on the exact same date. Over Italian food, my parents told me they are not going to vote for Art Lazear tomorrow because they think he’s a phony.
Ever since at the debate four years ago, when I overheard Lazear disparaging me (someone said, “Well, you’ve got to give him credit,” Lazear said – when he could have afforded to be generous – “No, I don’t give him credit. The way he’s using bad language. . .” – a reference to my taking Jimmy Carter’s “I’ll whip his ass” line), I’ve thought of him as a fifth-rate Nixon. At the Town Council last week, he talked out of both sides of his mouth, but ended by siding with the developers. He’ll probably win tomorrow (with developers’ money, he’s outspent his opponent 20-1), but I won’t vote for him. At my parents’, I caught the start of The Flamingo Kid, which reminded us all of old Brooklyn and Rockaway, and then came home to Lauderhill.
Tuesday, March 11, 1986
9 PM. Last night I spoke to Ronna, who’d just come from her playwriting workshop, where her play got raked over the coals. She seemed pretty philosophical about the criticism, however. Work is, as usual, not very satisfying to her, and Ronna continues to go on interviews. Her
friend Ellen is pushing her to go on a trip to Florida together in April, but I know Ronna well enough to know she won’t go. Maybe she’ll come down in June, she said – and of course, that’s a terrible time to be in Florida, when it’s hot, rainy and muggy. It was almost like that today, in fact. I slept till 10 AM,; now that the Davie mail carrier doesn’t reach my parents’ until well into the afternoon, there’s not much reason for me to get out of the house early. At the West Regional Library, I xeroxed some articles on the economic plight of the Baby Boomers so that I might have something to talk about on the Neil Rogers show tomorrow night. I don’t expect a pleasant time, and by now I’m sorry I accepted. Being on Neil’s show won’t help me sell any books this time; in fact, it can’t do me much good at all except perhaps to practice dealing with a hostile public. Probably I can deflect some of their anger by being reasonable myself. I’ve got to remember to listen to these people. As crazy or obnoxious as some of them are, they have feelings and their reasons behind their feelings are as good to them as are my reasons for my feelings. The less I respond, the better. People don’t want to be argued with, they want to be
agreed with, so the least I can do is let them get their point across without interference. Besides, that’s the host’s job. Today I studied for my Public Policy test, which I got about an 85 on, I think. At FAU early, I sat with the instructor, Joan Pynes, who of course said she saw the article in the paper. We talked a good deal, and I learned she’s a graduate assistant in FAU’s Public Administration program. Compared to me, she’s a rookie instructor; she’s okay, but I would have learned more with a professor who really knew her stuff. Odd how I keep meeting people I know: at dinner at the Broadway Diner, I ran into a girl who remembered me when I spoke at her class at Boyd Anderson High School and an old man who was incredibly familiar-looking and whom I think was a neighbor when I lived in Sunrise. As the weeks go by, I’ve begun to think more and more about where I go from here. I don’t want to remain in Florida, and I’m not sure I’d like to stay here for even May and June. So far I haven’t gotten a financial aid application for a student loan, but if I can get a GSL at Columbia, I’d go there for the “A” summer term – if I can also get into student housing. I’ve still got over a month to decide. The FAU and FIU summer class schedules should be out
soon, and I need to look at them too before I make a decision. Obviously I haven’t written much fiction, nor do I seem very intent upon doing so. Gale Research called me today about an unsigned review they’re using in my entry in Contemporary Literary Criticism. It was from The Smudge, which is defunct. I gave them the name of the reviewer, Hank Malone, and the editor Kurt Nimmo, knowing that Kurt still lives in Detroit, which is where Gale Research is located. They’d sent my photo back a couple of weeks ago, so I guess they’re setting up the entry on me now. Probably it will be out before the year is over.
Wednesday, March 12, 1986
4 PM. I’m starting to get nervous about the radio show tonight. Last night Justin called and we talked for half an hour. He often feels frustrated now, because he really hadn’t planned on staying at Shearson past December, and here it is March.
Justin has the possibility of a job with a Broadway producer, but if the work is secretarial rather than substantial (giving him the opportunity to work on producing), he’d rather temp and have his freedom. Larry came in last weekend, so they’re still getting along fine, but Justin wonders when he’ll next get a break in theater. Ali is planning some sort of theater group, but naturally there’d be no money in it right away. This morning I did some chores and went to visit Patrick at South Campus, where I finally got to meet his good friend Arlene Pound. Patrick said this term is turning into a disaster, with even his Honors class not very good. It was good for me, though, to have an intelligent conversation with Patrick. Alice called his afternoon, asking if I knew how I could help get publicity to assist her local dry cleaner, a new Russian immigrant, fight the eviction notice he has received. We tossed around some ideas, but as Alice said, if you want news coverage, you need a demonstration – “something that can be photographed” – not just a cause or an idea. Alice called Jami Bernard at the Post and learned that Jami will be getting her very own humor column at the paper. Alice and her brother closed on the Nassau Street co-op on Monday and went to celebrate at Windows on the World afterwards.
As usual, Alice was skeptical about my latest round of publicity, but as the time comes for me to go on Neil Rogers, I feel pretty skeptical myself.
Thursday, March 13, 1986
4 PM. My appearance on Neil Rogers went well. He knew I wasn’t a “crusader” against senior discounts, that I just wanted to make a point. Neil was gracious and friendly and let me talk. The phone calls we got were generally supportive, though a few, including a man who claimed that South Florida should be just for old people “who’ve worked hard all their lives and deserve this as a reward,” drove Neil up the wall. I came off well, made a few cogent points based on statistics in the articles I gathered, got off a couple of good jokes, and pretty much enjoyed myself. The WINZ studios are just south of the DadeBroward line, west of University, so I stopped off in Davie on the way home and got a report from my parents, who said I’d come off very well, though unfortunately they couldn’t tape the show because of the poor reception.
Last night I fell asleep late, dreaming that I was attending a class at Nova University, which was actually the Neponsit Home for the Aged in Rockaway. In the dream, I bicycled there and had a scheduled meeting in a cafeteria (a kosher deli) with a blind date, a girl named Harriet who was a short, dark, pretty dancer. I’ve been studying economics all day and I still have a hard time grasping the model-building of classical economic theory. Tonight, when we get into IS/LM – whatever that is – I’ll probably fall further behind. Well, I’ll end up with a B in the course and I’ll try to understand and learn as much as I can. My stomach has been out of sorts today, and earlier, everything seemed out of synch. I exercised a little, but not enough, and I feel I hardly accomplished anything today. Perhaps I’ll be more productive tomorrow.
Friday, March 14, 1986
8 PM. It’s been a rainy day. I’ve got to get up early tomorrow, for I promised Dad I’d be at his house before 9 AM to wait for a package he’s expecting from California. If it rains again, of course, the family won’t go to the flea market and there’ll be no need for me to go to Davie at that hour. After finishing yesterday’s diary entry, I went to my parents’ to pick up my mail. I got a registered letter from the county Human
Relations Division requesting my presence at a fact-finding hearing on Tuesday, April 1, at 10 AM. I’ll be there, of course, presenting my side of the story, but if the bank wants to settle, I’ll consider what they have to say. After the hearing, the Division determines whether there’s “reasonable cause” to continue the complaint, and within 90 days – if there is “reasonable cause” – a panel or board is to meet to hear the case. Right now I don’t plan to stick around to follow it up that long. Frankly, I wonder if I haven’t already made my point. This is standard Grayson (Gemini) operating procedure: take up something, then drop it. But I’ve never been that good at details and follow-up. I’m good at bringing up issues, however; I guess I’m happier being a show horse than a work horse. I did get people talking about senior discounts, and I think I’ve done all the good I could have. Pressing the issue would only result in friction between generations. Cop-out? Rationalization? Perhaps. I had a pleasant dinner at the Broward Mall and went to FAU, where along with the others in my class, I struggled through a lecture on IS/LM, the Keynesian model of economic theory.
Next week we have a quiz on the last two weeks, and this stuff is so dense, I can barely comprehend it. (During our break, I overheard one student say to our teacher, “Can I ask you a question?” “Yes, go ahead.” “I didn’t understand a single thing you said tonight.” – which really isn’t a question but a statement.) I need to do a lot of reading in the text, my notes and the handouts I got in class if I’m going to do okay in the second half of the course. After class, I went to Albertson’s to do my grocery shopping, and then I came home and read until the wee hours. This morning I wrote some letters, including one to Crad, who says he’s revised his opinion of Jack Saunders. Crad now believes Jack comes across as flaky, “but there’s no denying his intelligence and dedication.” Jack, says Crad, needs to support his family, but Crad hopes Jack will quit his job at IBM and sell his books door-to-door. Crad has just finished what he claims is his best and most important story and he had a positive reaction at a reading, part of a large benefit for What Magazine. Coach House Press appears to be bankrupt, according to Crad. I spent a few hours in the BCC computer lab working on the latest assignment for Ray’s class. It works, but not with the user-defined function Ray wanted us to use.
In the office, I scanned a computer printout of FAU’s summer schedule. There are no courses of interest in the first summer session. Most classes run for the full summer semester, but even there, no computer ed courses are offered, and I don’t want to take any other classes, either. I’ll see what FIU offers, but I think I’d rather go back to New York in six weeks. I applied for a GSL from Citibank for Teachers College, and perhaps I’ll get in the dorms. Obviously I’d rather not stay at Teresa’s and I have no other prospects right now, though I’m sure I could find a sublet if I need to. Until then, I could always rough it in Rockaway with Grandma Ethel. I went to Delta Air Lines and had my fare lowered; their prices went down from $119 to $99 for a flight to New York. Wholesale prices in general took their steepest dive in forty years. Maybe it’s time to start paying off my highinterest credit cards. If I do return to New York, I should pay off the ones with the lower balances so I don’t have to deal with so many bills. Perhaps crazily, I now have four different money market accounts, so I don’t have that much money in my NOW checking accounts. Still, I can close my money market accounts. With savings interest rates low and credit card rates high, I keep losing more money.
Tonight I did a paper on Louisiana’s higher education system for my Community College class. Although some things got done today, I feel pretty sluggish.
Saturday, March 15, 1986
10 PM. Today was about as perfect as life gets. I had no frustrations, no complaints, and I enjoyed myself. Heaven. The way I feel now, I can’t imagine I could ever be depressed again. Of course happiness always feels like that, and it’s always wrong. In my dark moods I feel life is always dark, and these happy times are just cruel illusions. Are these feelings any more real than sadness? No. But I like to wallow in despair sometimes, so I might as well wallow in happiness. At times like this, I feel I’ve been so lucky, that I’ve had the most extraordinary life, that I have no regrets. Je ne regrette rien is a phrase that jumped through my head just now; it feels like being in love, but there’s nobody I’m in love with. Life seems sweet and rich. Corny? I’ll say, but I feel so good. Driving home from my parents’ just now, on the now-familiar route of
University Drive-Broward Boulevard-U.S. 441, I felt in synch with everything. Sometimes marijuana made me feel this way – I haven’t smoked it five times in the last ten years – but more often it would just be life – or myself. Last night I lay awake worrying: Should I stay in Florida in May and June? Should I return to New York? Where will I live? How will I survive? What will become of me? I need to play Rhett Butler to my own Scarlett O’Hara and say, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Worrying never helped me in the past. Besides, life has a way of setting its own agenda; I’m old enough to let things take care of themselves. Maybe I won’t have the longest life, but I lived while I had the chance. And I had loads of fun. Take today – please. The alarm woke me at 8 AM, and I was in Davie less than an hour later. After reading the papers, I worked out in Jonathan’s room. I did eight sets of reps, bench-pressing 110 pounds – but now I realize I’m making myself too barrel-chested; I need to play down the heroics and concentrate on definition rather than bulk. The Federal Express package came at 11 AM, in the middle of my workout and Desperately Seeking Susan on HBO.
Today was a real movie day. This afternoon I took myself to the Lakes Mall to see John Hughes’ Pretty in Pink, another decent teen film with Molly Ringwald. It was really a very old-fashioned comedy: Poor Girl Gets Rich Boy, with all the standard characters – Nice But Slightly Bummy Father, Wacky Friend Who Nobly Doesn’t Get Girl, Wisecracking Confidante, Jealous Friend of Hero. That occurred to me while I was watching Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo at my parents’ a little while ago. God, if only life could be like the movies. I think I became a fiction writer because I fantasized about creating and living in a made-up world. My parents brought in Chinese food, and I had great lemon chicken, fried rice and muu shu chicken. They had an outstanding day at the flea market despite the continual downpours, because the cutters – the migrant workers in the Palm Beach County sugar fields – were bussed down to shop. I got tons of mail, including my new money market checks from Chase, a starter set of checks for my Virginia Beach Federal account, and three bills, which I promptly paid. Taplinger’s royalty statement said that they sold three copies of my book in the first six months of 1985, and the NEA acknowledged my futile fellowship application.
I filled out, also probably futilely, an application to teach English at Howard Community College in Columbia, Maryland; I fit all the job qualifications, and I’d love to live between D.C. and Baltimore, so it’s probably hopeless – but I wrote great essay answers to the questions they asked on the application. And it gives the hope that I can change things and make things happen – if not the Howard Community College job or the NEA fellowship, well, it will be something else. Look what happened when I decided to go to the Governmental Center and file a complaint ten days ago. There will be bad days, slow days, boring days, days when I feel I’m going nowhere and that I’m useless – but there’ll also be great days like today. No, nothing special happened except maybe I appreciated the little joys of living. I’m suddenly very tired and need some sleep.
Sunday, March 16, 1986
3 PM. Last night I dreamed that an elegant old lady gave me a bouquet of lilies to hold. When I sniffed the flowers, I actually did smell lilies – one of the few times when I ever remember smelling something in a dream.
As I walked along in the dream, I remembered how I used to wear lilac body scents (I never did really, but back in the early ‘70s I used to wear strawberry and sandalwood and other “natural” scents). Then a disgustingly dirty and smelly old man came up to me and started shouting lunatic remarks. I awoke with a start. Metaphor there? My chest, shoulders and legs ache from the exercise I did yesterday. If only my stomach would respond to exercise. Of course it probably does respond to exercise; the trouble is, my stomach responds more to all the food I shovel into my mouth. It’s another cloudy, dark, humid day; I’m about ready for some South Florida sunshine again. I slept late and read the papers in bed till about 12:30 PM. The Times has a front-page story about the nation’s colleges preparing for a faculty shortage. By 1995, about one-quarter of current faculty are expected to retire, and by 2000, some colleges will have to build up whole new departments. Some big universities, like Columbia, are already trying to attract promising young scholars with salaries, bonuses and sabbaticals. However, for most of us, the job market will be tight for the next decade. The good news for me and people like me is that today’s
undergraduates seem to be avoiding Ph.D. work – so in fact the colleges may have to turn to us middle-aged adjuncts when their faculty ranks thin. I don’t have a Ph.D., of course, and I’m a writer, not a scholar – though I suppose I could manage to get a doctorate in the next decade. But I’m a great teacher – and the universities should be looking for teachers rather than just scholars. It’s hard for me to believe that I’ll be in demand, but if it does happen, it will be sweet revenge for all the indignities we adjuncts and temporary full-timers suffer. However, as with the public school teacher shortage, I’m inclined to believe society will refuse to pay for excellence and instead just scrape the bottom of the barrel. When I think about academia – say, the readership of the Chronicle of Higher Education – I have a hard time visualizing people in their twenties being a part of it. The full-time faculty members at the colleges where I’ve taught tend to be people in their forties, fifties and sixties. Look at the Brooklyn College MFA program: Spielberg, Baumbach, Gelber, Ashbery and Susan Schaeffer are all over 50 or close to it. As time goes by, I may find that I’m one of a small group of writers my age who’ve published short story collections. New “names” keep coming along, but it’s hard for
everybody, and it’s not like tons of people have gotten ahead of me. The new younger writers like Jay McInerney and David Leavitt tend to be non-academic types. I guess I’m pretty non-academic too, for someone who’s spent most of the last fifteen years in higher education. Still, I have other skills, like my computer education skills. Tomorrow I teach Logo, and I’ve just gotten out all my Logo material, and I plan to go over it tomorrow before class. Next week, the county schools are on spring break, so I get to skip a week. I certainly don’t feel pressured or overwhelmed, though I have quite a bit of work to do for my other courses. I’ve got only one more Public Policy test, but I’ve got a lot of studying to do for Money and Banking (then again, since only our two highest quizzes count and I don’t expect to better my scores, I’m probably just facing the final). For my BASIC project, I intend to translate the CAI project I did last year into structured IBM BASIC; as usual, that will be tedious work. Programming is interesting intellectually, but I don’t have the patience for it, really. I had lunch at the Broadway Diner. Imagine a burger deluxe and iced tea for only $3.31; in New York, that would cost at least $4.75. And I paid only 83.9¢ a gallon to fill up my tank with unleaded gas.
The stock market is still booming, with the Dow expected to hit 1800 this week, but I continue to feel it’s going to crash before the end of the year. I heard one prognosticator of doom say that by fall, “cash will be king.” If that turns out to be accurate, I will be sitting pretty.
Monday, March 17, 1986
9 PM. I just got home and I’m very tired. Jonathan called and said I was on The CBS Evening News tonight. They identified me as a writer and told about my complaint, but I got only one sentence of air time. Still, it was a witty remark: “What’s good for the goose is good for the gosling.” Kind of on a par with saying Jane Wyman had experience in dumping Ronald Reagan. Well, I always wanted to be Oscar Wilde. While the program was on here, from 6:30 PM to 7 PM, I was in my Community College class. I wonder how many people I know were watching Dan Rather this evening. Well, my phone isn’t ringing off the hook, so I don’t expect that all that many people saw it. I guess I’ll find out in the weeks to come.
Yesterday I spoke with Teresa, who wanted to make it clear that I can stay at her apartment again whenever I want to. She’s hardly stayed there since I left. Teresa moved the VCR and microwave oven to Ken’s, and she’s been spending one or two days a week in Albany. She said that if I don’t stay, she’ll probably sublet the apartment to someone else. I told her I’d have to think about it, but I’m leaning toward returning there. I know that anytime Teresa fights with Ken, she’ll be home, and if they break up, I’ll be out of luck. But still, I’m comfortable on West 85th Street and I can always move from there if I have to. Now the question is: Do I go “for good” on April 24 or do I come back here for the first summer session? If I stay here, I’ll get the experience of teaching that computer graphics workshop. However, the pay is not a factor. Rent and utilities would be greater in New York, but my daily expenses are higher there. However, in Florida, I would still have to rent a car. If it weren’t for the car rental expense, I’d probably stay here. If I got a student loan, that would probably cover my car rental, though. In New York, my student loan would all go to my tuition at Teachers College. Still, maybe through their placement office, I could wangle a job in computer education. And
I do love New York in late May and June. It’s a hard decision because both alternatives are pretty neat; either way, I really can’t lose. Part of me is inclined to stay here, if only because I’m used to my routine. However, today was warm and humid, and I know how uncomfortable it gets here by May. Right now I’m leaning towards returning to New York, but I have to give it more thought. My class at Sunshine Elementary was very satisfying to me. I taught Logo and some of the teachers caught on fast. I actually did a lot of work with them, and I encouraged them to play around and explore on their own; that is the beauty of Logo, after all. Teaching computers is so much more satisfying than teaching writing; I really do enjoy what I’m doing, and I know my students are learning. I had a quick pizza dinner before I got to BCC; our guest didn’t show up, so we gave reports. I did two, on Louisiana state university governance mess and on the new emphasis of technical education and cooperation with businesses at the City Colleges of Chicago (I found an article in the Sunday Chicago Tribune yesterday). We also had a lecture on curriculum development. Earlier today, I was in the lab with George Patton and Dave Shaw as I went over my Logo, which seemed like an old friend I’d missed. At
Davie, I picked up the mail. Jonathan is now Swami Something Something; he got his official documents from Rajneeshpuram. Tom write that he loved my articles and was glad about People (no, it didn’t appear in this week’s issue, and I plan to write them); he and Susan will have stories in the Florida Review and he plans to join her in Europe this summer. Miriam says she’ll look at my stories before the end of the year and make preliminary selection and then give it to Ed and Leora; I think Zephyr will definitely do the book, that it’s only a matter of time, and with the weeks and days going so fast, two years is practically no time. Miriam loves Ragdale and says I’d like it, too; I think I’d enjoy that it’s not isolated but in a wealthy suburb of a big city. Maybe I should reapply. She’s excited about a traveling artists program with the New Mexico Arts Council that’s hired her; she’ll get $110 per diem when she does workshops around the state. Miriam, by the way, has a Rajneeshi friend and went to a service; she found it silly, slightly anti-Semitic, but it’s harmless. What else? Citibank MasterCard rejected my request for an increase over my credit line of $500. I guess all the money I keep in my Citibank Financial Account does me no good when I try to credit; they turned me down for a Preferred Visa, too, so I plan to put some more of my money elsewhere. With inflation nearly
nonexistent, I really ought to pay off more of my credit cards and take the money out in cash advances as I need it. Yesterday I spoke to Mikey, and I was the one with all the news except that he and Amy have a new niece. I still have a lot of studying to do for my Money and Banking quiz. Spring break is in full swing now, and I envy these tanned young kids their pleasures and their bodies. But I don’t mind being (almost) 35, a goose, not a gosling.
Tuesday, March 18, 1986
4:30 PM. Despite last night’s weariness, I ended up with a bad case of insomnia and didn’t get to sleep till nearly 4 AM. Things are moving fast in my life and I feel hung over. Marc came over here today, and he seems eager to take over the apartment from me. I’m not certain what we’ll be doing is okay under my lease, but I think as long as I continue to pay the rent every month, we’ll be fine. I’m not sure if I’m doing “the right thing,” but I don’t know that there is a “right” thing. I’m
going to be back at Teresa’s, but I found her easier to deal with last fall. Now she’ll be working and seeing Ken, and she’ll have Fire Island starting in June. If she breaks up with Ken, I can try to live in the apartment with her or I can try to find a sublet, stay with Grandma Ethel, or do something else. I know I’m depending upon Teresa and Marc, and I might have problems, but I think I can deal with them. As for money, I applied for an MHT GSL and ALAS totaling $4000 today and told Teachers College to void my earlier application. If I take six credits in May, I’ll be left with approximately $2000, as I was last fall. To make things easier on Mom, I’ll pay off many of my credit card bills and concentrate on a few high-credit-line, low-interest accounts. I don’t need $30,000 in the bank if it’s earning me 7.75% and if I’m paying interest rates of 17.75%. At least I know I’ll have access to money using cash machines and checks. Anyway, it looks as though I’ve made up my mind about leaving in five weeks. I still have to confirm things with both Teresa and Marc, but it looks good. The big worry is that Teresa’s relationship with Ken will unhinge, but I think I could live with that, at least until the end of June. I saw my appearance on The CBS Evening News on Jonathan’s VCR. I looked good,
though my hair came out reddish-blond on tape. They didn’t speak my name but identified me as “a 34-year-old writer” and as I spoke, my name was printed on the screen. The only person I know for sure who saw me was Peter, as Alice called today and said she arrived at Peter’s just minutes after the piece ended. Like most viewers, myself included, Peter was watching clearly and didn’t realize it was I until I was almost off the screen. The Dade County Commission today voted to legalize discounts for people of any age, provided no real discrimination is involved, and Broward is expected to follow suit. I expect that the April 1 fact-finding hearing will be the end of the matter of Grayson vs. AmeriFirst; especially since I’m going away, I don’t plan to take my complaint further. As I said the other day, I have made my point via the newspapers, radio and network TV.
Wednesday, March 19, 1986
Noon. Finally I got a good night’s sleep. I dreamed about the IS/LM curves (I’ve been studying for Thursday’s quiz), about my parents suddenly having to go away to attend to a dying girl (whom I figured was either
Marc’s or Dad’s illegitimate daughter), and about my going into business with Amy and Mikey (my job was to “read a book about Gandhi” and write about his “tough curricular decisions”). I just got up an hour ago and I feel pretty refreshed after too many nights with five-hour sleeps. At FAU yesterday, I went through the summer catalog; absolutely nothing is being given the first term that I’d want to take, so I feel better about returning to New York. I was shocked to learn that I got a perfect score – 120 out of 120 – on last week’s Public Policy test when I thought I’d done poorly because I hadn’t studied. I guess I really am pretty smart. In class, we discussed equal opportunity, and Ms. Pynes showed a very clever videotape for executives on how people in the workplace deal with minorities. Well, I suppose I’d better get up and get going.
Thursday, March 20, 1986
10 PM. These Thursday evening Money and Banking classes are like an endurance contest. Some nights I think I’m not going to make it
through the entire lecture. But tonight I got a 10 on our quiz, another perfect score. That brings my two highest quizzes to a combined score of 18, which is an A, like my midterm. If I can pull off an A on the final, I’ll get an A in the course. Really, I’ve studied every day this week until, by God, I understood classical and Keynesian monetary and economic theory. I wonder how many other fiction writers – or English professors or computer teachers – could do as well as I’ve done at this kind of course. It’s really true that if you’re smart and you’ve learned how to learn, you can learn pretty much anything within reason. I believe that I could succeed in the business world if I wanted to. Yesterday I went over to Davie, where I studied, read the mail and even spent thirty minutes out in the sun before I went to Ray’s BASIC class. Before class, I finished the week’s assignment, and class itself was interesting; I still need to finish this coming week’s programs. My grade on the midterm was 95. One guy in my BASIC class said, “Hey, TV star,” and tonight at FAU in the elevator, one of my classmates told everyone I had been on Dan Rather. Last evening I stopped off again in Davie, where Mom was preparing to speak against the
new rental project at the Town Council meeting – though of course, the Council, dominated by the developers, was certain to approve the project. Jonathan and Mom told me they saw Cousin Robin on Hour Magazine the day before. he show’s resident psychiatrist was speaking about women who’ve had such bad relationships with men that they can’t get involved with them anymore, and he showed a tape of his patients, a woman whose exhusband abused her. It was Robin, and Jonathan said she looked terrible as she spoke about how Sandy used to beat her and lie to her. Poor Robin – but at least she’s getting help. Dad’s been away all week, but he’s still not feeling well, and Mom has made a doctor’s appointment for him. When I called Grandma Ethel, she told me that Wendy had decided to go to California and though Grandma couldn’t tell the story straight, it sounded as if Wendy will be going for her MBA at Stanford. I suppose Jeff will graduate high school in a few months and go off to college, and that would leave me alone of all the grandchildren with Grandma Ethel in New York. That really does make a difference in my plans. Last night I watched Dynasty and St. Elsewhere and then drifted off to sleep. I dreamed of arriving back at Teresa’s in New
York and of having lost my fourth finger in some accident; in another dream, I was back visiting John Jay College. Discover rejected me for their credit card, which surprised me; I wrote a reasonable letter to Sears’ CEO about their credit policies, not asking them to change their decision about me but giving them a rational explanation of why they may be rejecting good potential customers. The House defeated by a 12-vote margin the Reagan-sponsored bill that would have given $100 million in military aid to the Nicaraguan Contras. Frankly, I was surprised that the Congress didn’t cave in to the anti-Communist militaristic paranoia campaign. Maybe Vietnam did teach us something after all.
Friday, March 21, 1986
9 PM. For the first full day of spring, today was wintry for South Florida. The temperature didn’t get above 60° today after being 88° yesterday, and it’s rainy and raw. Actually, it kind of reminds me of New York. I woke up at 6 AM with stomach cramps and diarrhea; then I went back to sleep from 8 AM to
10 AM, but I didn’t feel that well today. I’ve been gassy, queasy and achy. (Those adjectives sound like three of the Seven Dwarfs.) Fred Bernstein left an urgent message on Teresa’s machine, and she called me, so I phoned the People offices in New York. It seemed that Fred wanted to send me the revised article by Monday morning. “You’re the most uncurious person I’ve ever met,” he exclaimed. “It’s been six weeks since you sent the article to me, and any other writer would have been pestering me every other day. Are you always this calm?” Me? Calm? I said I’d figured he’d call me eventually. Here’s the story: the plan to run in the issue after next week’s, although I know plans can always change. I’m not going to count my chickens before they you-know-what, because a glitch can always occur. Fred warned me that he did a very heavy rewrite job “based mostly on your very funny ideas” and said I shouldn’t get upset. I told him I know People is into heavy editing, and I really didn’t care how they’ve changed my article around. “It’s your magazine,” I said. If it gets in, I’ll get the $1500 – which is a good month’s pay for me in any month. On Monday, after I get the article, a People fact-checker will call me. And then I’ll wait. But as I said, I’m
not going to allow myself to be disappointed if the article isn’t published. Dad returned from the Gulf Coast last night, and today he went to the dermatologist, who confirmed what Dad had diagnosed: he’s lost pigment in the skin of his face and hands, making exposure to the sun extremely painful. The doctor said they don’t know why or how this happens, but it’s apparently more annoying than dangerous. Dad will try to regenerate the pigment cells by taking these pills and sitting out in the sun for 25 minutes twice a week. If this doesn’t work, Dad may be forced to avoid all sun exposure; right now, it’s as if he were a newborn baby with a sunburn. Mom gave me five new shirts today, and I took a mismatched pair of grey and white (one grey, one white) high-top running shoes out of Dad’s LA Gear samples. The shoe repair man in the Lauderhill Mall told me dyeing the shoes wouldn’t work, because they’ve got plastic as well as leather on them. So I can either start a new trend or have one leg amputated. Actually, if I reverse the grey and white shoelaces, it might look interesting. I got rejected for a new Visa card – I expect I won’t get any new credit cards from the applications I mailed last month – but Cal Fed Visa raised my credit limit $500, to $2000.
The Teachers College tentative schedule arrived, and I was surprised that their first summer session doesn’t begin till May 27. So I’ll have a month without school. Maybe that will be good; it will give me a chance to do other things. Today wasn’t bad for a “blah” day. I had dinner with my parents and then watched a Sherlock Holmes TV show with them. They both fell asleep before it ended.
Saturday, March 22, 1986
4 PM. I’ve been feeling lethargic today, so I just tried to rouse myself with some exercise. But I did a quick circuit of one set of 15 reps of seven exercises with 62 pounds on the barbell and I’m already exhausted. At least I got my heart pumping and worked up a hint of sweat. Maybe later I can do some waist exercises, but my stomach is still rocky. It took me a long time to get to sleep last night, and I woke up late after one of those sinus-clogged, obsessively complicated dreams. Right now I feel pretty queasy; maybe I shouldn’t have tried to work out. I feel as though I could nothing but sleep. Perhaps I’m ill. At my parents’ at 11:30 AM, I tried to start exercising but gave up before I began. In the
mail I got a payroll form for my FIU course at Sunshine Elementary; I’ll get $400 for the whole thing. I’d better notify FIU now that I can’t do the May Computer Graphics workshop. Officially, my title is Adjunct Lecturer, Teacher Education Center – and I’ll add that to my new résumé. I may not be feeling well right now, but I see that I’ve rather unexpectedly accomplished quite a few things already in 1986. If the People article comes out, I’ll have a great credit under my belt. I‘m teaching computers through FIU. I got a lot of publicity on the senior discount issue, making all the local papers, doing three radio shows and appearing on The CBS Evening News. I’ve increased my credit lines by about $6,000, including that Chevy Chase gold Visa and credit line increases on existing Visa cards. And I’m doing well in my Public Policy and Money and Banking courses at FAU. I’m a pretty well-rounded person. The campaign for Education Commissioner didn’t work out, but that’s just as well. And nobody followed up on my Federal Reserve Board fan magazine, but I’m still hoping. It looks as though Zephyr Press will be publishing a new book of mine, albeit in eighteen months to two years, but I can be patient. I have all the money that I can spend.
In a way, it’s scary how well everything is going; I almost don’t feel comfortable with this. Why? Deep down, a part of me feels I don’t deserve it. That’s probably why I’ve always tended to sabotage myself. My biggest accomplishment today was getting a haircut, and my biggest emotional lift told I looked as though I’d lost weight. I still feel really queasy now. Whew. Maybe I’ll write some more later. * 11 PM. I soon felt better and even exercised a bit more. At 6:30 PM, I went over to my parents’ for our usual Saturday night Chinese takeout dinner. Dad has decided not to go to New York for this week’s menswear show. I had a pretty decent time. With few friends here in Florida – there’s no one I can really hang out with – I need the companionship of my family. But I also need to spend more time with friends, which is one reason I’ll be happy to go back to New York in a month or so. It was really chilly as I left Davie a few hours ago. I’ve been lying around, reading Computer Living and American Demographics. Last night I kept thinking about the words that either Uncle Morris or Grandpa Herb once said: “We’re only boarders here.” Life itself may be permanent, but people are temporary.
Knowing that seems to make sense out of the way I live.
Sunday, March 23, 1986
8 PM. I did get in my exercise today, going over to my parents’ at 10:30 AM and working out until noon or so. I felt good afterwards, as I always do, especially after a good shower. I spent most of the day, as I seem to spend every Sunday, reading the newspapers, watching TV news shows, and just thinking. I haven’t spoken to another person all day, but I just realized that now. I also didn’t spend any cash, though I used a MasterCard to charge my groceries and other supplies (including the Sunday New York Times) at Albertson’s. I feel pretty good about myself these days. If my career as a fiction writer didn’t take off the way I once hoped it would, I see now that I have enough other talents to keep my head above water.
And I’ve always liked the idea of being a generalist, a jack-of-all-trades and a master of two or three. Not that I’m getting conceited; if anything, I think I’m more modest than I was ten years ago. I’ve lost the brashness of the guy who could write those early, crazy stories in Disjointed Fictions and With Hitler in New York. I no longer assume that people would find me and my life inherently fascinating. But if I’ve lost some of my bravado, I’ve gained confidence. I feel can handle myself in a variety of situations, whether it’s being interviewed on The CBS Evening News or teaching Logo and word processing to teachers or understanding what makes our banking system work. Besides, I’ve had fun. It’s been three years since I was in New York for the B. Dalton book party for I Brake for Delmore Schwartz that was a highlight of my life. And though I’ve had setbacks (though at the moment I can’t think of any), I’ve come out okay. Imagine: three years ago I knew absolutely nothing about microcomputers in education, and now I’ve got all these graduate credits under my belt. It makes me think that three years from now I could be doing something new and different – something I can’t even imagine now. Once I feared change, any kind of change; today,
while I still get butterflies in my stomach and have sleepless nights, I’m much more confident that I can endure change and even benefit from it. By most people’s standards, I suppose I’d be considered a failure – or more likely, a person who never tried hard enough to succeed. But I have succeeded – and here I resort to cliché again – beyond the wildest dreams I could have had when I was half the age I am now. Anyone knowing me in 1968 and 1969 could have never predicted I’d have done as well as I have. At best, they would have said one day he’ll be able to leave his house and get over anxiety attacks and lead some boring, ordinary life. How did I ever end up having so much fun? Sometimes I think about some of the stunts I’ve pulled – the John Hour, getting my grandparents on Barry Farber’s radio show, the Sylvia Ginsberg fan club, running for the Davie Town Council, trying to loan money to Ed Meese, my exposé of Jewish writers’ weird sex lives – and I have to smile and wonder where I ever got the chutzpah to carry this stuff off. If today’s entry seems self-congratulatory and self-serving, well, nobody else is around to congratulate me. I’ve done serious stuff, too: I have taught about 1500 students, written several books, etc. Well, no point in telling myself this. Or maybe there is.
When I get nervous about things going too well – as I do often – that indicates that I feel I’m unworthy of good times, and I need to remember that’s just not true.
Monday, March 24, 1986
5 PM. I did not get the People article today. Federal Express came to my parents’ for a pickup from Dad, but the man had nothing for me. I’m disappointed, but not overly so, because I’ve been expecting disappointment. When I see the article in print in the magazine, then I’ll celebrate. I’ll never forget how, in the fall of 1979, after People called Taplinger to ask for my photo, I kept expecting a review of my book week after week, and every week I was disappointed. I wonder if a favorable review of With Hitler in New York appearing in People would have changed everything. I think it would have; I doubt if I’d now have 2,000 copies of the book in the warehouse in Davie now. Shit. I’m in a bad mood. The New York City Council finally passed the gay rights bill, and suppose I should be grateful for that, but the vehement hatred of those opposed to the bill – from Cardinal O’Connor to the Orthodox rabbis – has left me feeling bitter.
Leafing through the Jewish Press and New York Post on the newsstand, I saw vitriolic homophobic editorials and comments. I’ll never buy the New York Post again, not that I have very much. Maybe I sound holier-thanthou, but I don’t know how someone like Jami Bernard can work for the Post. It’s a force for evil. Now People may be stupid, but it’s not vicious. On Saturday in Miami, two thousand Contra-aid supporters threw rocks and eggs and tried to beat up 200 anti-Contra protestors. Mostly these “good Americans” are fanatically antiCommunist Cubans. Mayor Xavier Suarez and other Cuban politicians pander to this crowd. Suarez said, “Unfortunately, these people [the anti-Contraaid folks] have a right to their views.” Yeah, but if these Cubans ran things, we’d be living in a totalitarian country. This incident reminded me of the way hardhat construction workers used to beat up peace marchers on Wall Street when I was in college, or the way the police rioted at the 1968 Chicago Democratic convention. People seem particularly intolerant and meanspirited these days, and sometimes I get so disgusted that I actually would like to see the policy of the Committee for Immediate Nuclear War put into action.
Sometimes I think that mankind deserves a nuclear war. I don’t have a very high opinion of my fellow human beings today. That may be because here in Florida, I don’t see enough of my friends who are all good people, and thus I get the idea that most people are vicious knownothings. In the mail I got my first Chevy Chase gold Visa bill, along with several other bills, a new bank card that accesses my Chase Manhattan money market account, and bank statements for the Chase and Virginia Federal accounts. Also, I got my renewed Bank One Visa Card. If it weren’t for the banks, I probably wouldn’t get very much mail. I did some money-juggling today, and I also completed this week’s BASIC projects in the computer lab and wrote the next-to-last article for my Community College class tonight. Last night I spoke to Josh. His parents are now in Miami; his mother is all but blind. Josh interviewed for a job at NYU, but he’s too advanced to work for them right now. He said, though, that if they call him in four months, he’ll probably go because he’d get free tuition and a month’s vacation and wouldn’t have to wear a tie. Josh said Todd is trying to get Newsday to accept an article about his Corvette after Josh
and Julie helped Todd fix up the piece so that it would fit in the paper.
Tuesday, March 25, 1986
4 PM. A blah day. I had terrible insomnia last night and didn’t get to sleep until 5 AM or so. Today’s yet another rainy day. This has been the wettest and coolest March I can remember in the six years I’ve spent the month in South Florida. Yesterday, before I left for class, a staffer from People called to read me the article. Her reading, in a monotone, took about fifteen minutes, but I was very pleased. Fred really punched up the jokes and tightened the article, although there were whole big sections I recognized as my untampered work. I was pretty ecstatic, but later, at 11 PM, when Fred called to tell me that we would be sharing a byline for the article, I felt disappointed. Of course I was agreeable, and rationally I do recognize that enough of the article was Fred’s so that he deserves equal credit. On the other hand, it makes the article less special and less mine. Maybe I should get used to writing in collaboration. Last night I watched
the Oscars, and rarely does a movie – or, for that matter, a TV show or a play – get written by one person. I’m afraid that I’m selfish and that I wanted it all: Fred’s improvements on and additions to my article but also sole credit for it. Secretly I had hoped that this piece would make everyone in the U.S. realize what a witty, brilliant person I was and that I’d go on talk shows and finally achieve my own celebrity. That isn’t going to happen now – not that this scenario wasn’t always just a fantasy – that I’m not the sole author. Probably the disappointment, which I didn’t allow myself to feel at first, was responsible for my sleeplessness. Now that I’m facing my feelings of resentment, I think I can move on. “America’s Celebrity Shortage” is definitely a funny piece. It’s so rare for People to use freelancers (Fred told me it had been so long that he had to go look into how much I was going to get paid) that I should consider myself lucky. I can still put the credit on my résumé and the $1500 in the bank. Last night’s Community College class was a little dull after hearing the People article read to me. I read aloud my last report and we had other reports and discussion, but no guest.
It seems it’s that time in the semester in all of my courses when things are dragging and everyone’s looking beyond the term. With no interesting FAU or FIU courses offered this summer, I’ll be glad to go to New York. Teresa said that she’s having her friends from Australia come to town in mid-April, but I’ll be happy to stay at Grandma Ethel’s till they leave. Teresa seems very happy these days; work is good for her, she’s in Albany a lot, and tomorrow she flies to Syracuse for the day. Maybe she’s more relaxed now that she’s productive and has more self-esteem. I’m glad for her. Yesterday, provoked by U.S. naval forces in what Libya considers her waters, Colonel Khadafy ordered bombing of our planes. The U.S. sunk a Libyan vessel, and today the hostilities are still going on. Meanwhile, the stupid Sandinistas have crossed the border into Honduras, and now Contra aid will probably be approved. It appears the world is interested in going to war. I’m too old to be drafted, but I don’t really want the U.S. to go through the agony of another Vietnam.
Wednesday, March 26, 1986
1 PM. It’s yet another rainy day. Meanwhile it’s 72° and sunny in New York. Oh well. I’ll be in New York in a month. I called Grandma Ethel yesterday. She, of course, has no idea or understanding of how I live my life; she began saying, “You don’t know what you’re doing.” Actually, I know exactly what I’m doing. The National Education Association journal Thought in Action had a series of articles about the adjunct shuffle, and one angry part-time college teacher said that the system left her with a feeling of impermanence, of living term by term, because her jobs were assured for only one semester at a time. Obviously, the same thing happened to me. It’s hard for me to understand the concept of someone working at a job for years with the assurance that they can stay there as long as they want. But often I feel my view of life is more rational. I’d never be surprised to hear I was being fired, for example, or if my company was going out of business. In a way, adjunct work has toughened me up and made me more flexible and adaptable. Last evening I was in a bad mood, but I’m glad I dragged myself to my Public Policy course, for
it proved stimulating as we went over affirmative action and occupational safety. We discussed the Bakke and Weber Supreme Court decisions of the late 1970s: again, these are things I couldn’t have learned when I was an undergrad because they hadn’t happened yet. I’m a devout believer in lifelong learning and that it’s important for everyone to keep his/her brain cells sharp. Ignorance is at the root of most of mankind’s troubles, and I see ignorance all around me: in the hysterical antiCommunists who tried to lynch peace demonstrators in Miami; in the Illinois primary victories of two Lyndon LaRouche weirdos, elected because ignorant Democrats liked the sound of their names; in the fundamentalist Christian credo seen on bumper stickers: God Said It, I Believe It, and That’s That; in the rising tide of homophobia in the wake of antiAIDS hysteria; and in the trouble younger people have in reading or following a complex argument or concept. I slept better last night, but I still am not able to sleep as peacefully as I’d like. I dreamed about Susan and Spencer and my playing with their baby; in another dream, I was in Park Slope, on my way to a party at their apartment. This morning I did some reading, banking and shopping.
Thursday, March 27, 1986
10 PM. My BASIC class yesterday was fairly interesting, as we went over arrays. I know most of the stuff I’ve learned in Ray’s course, but it’s good to refresh my memory and to learn BASIC in a structured way. I learned some interesting stuff from Ray, Debbie Nycz and others. Apparently FAU is in real trouble, and serious investigations are going on. Two years ago the Legislature gave them money to hire 25 full-time faculty in Broward, but the college used the money to hire Boca faculty. Already in hot water for not providing better service to Broward (FIU has done much better with one-tenth the money), FAU may face serious problems with the state. Changes are in the air. The FIU/FAU/BCC tower in downtown Fort Lauderdale is scheduled to open for the fall semester. Adams will be out at BCC president, and there’s the possibility he’s not just retiring, that there may be an investigation of financial irregularities under his tenure. And Ray and Debbie say Nova University, having lost the support of its big financial backers, may be up for sale at a bargain price of $20 million. It’s possible, Ray says, that the state may buy Nova and set up a tenth state university in Broward. That means there might be university jobs opening up. I’ve been reading the ads in the
Chronicle of Higher Education and applying for openings at community colleges in places where I’d like to live. On Tuesday I saw an ad for an English instructor at BCC. Originally, of course, I ignored it, but today I decided what the hell, it might just freak a few people out and I’d be interested to find out what reaction I’d get. Ray said the BCC instructors without doctorates would be wise to enroll in Joe Cook’s Ed.D. program if they wanted to teach in the new university. I’m definitely considering getting my Ed.D. at FIU because I wouldn’t have to take too many more courses. As Ray said, Joe Cook is Mr. Flexible. Perhaps I could get both an M.A. from Teachers College and an Ed.D. from FIU. It would take years, going back and forth, and money, but it would stand me in good stead nine or ten years from now, when the college faculty shortage begins. Anyway, it’s something to think about. Nearly ten inches of rain fell in the last 24 hours, most of it last night. I got home just as a dreadful thunderstorm with incredible lightning, hail and a downpour that flooded streets, began. Up at 5:30 am today, I read the paper (the Libyan military exercises are over; the Senate has passed Contra aid), had breakfast, and then fell back asleep from 7 AM until 10 AM.
In Davie, Dad was very upset following his prescribed 25 minutes in the sun. The part of his face where he lost his pigment was very red and blotchy – mostly it’s above his eyes – while the rest was tanned. I told Dad that I really hadn’t noticed the blotchiness – and he could see from the look on my face, that until he talked about it, I hadn’t – but of course we all magnify our own imperfections and think everyone is looking at them. I know that if my skin looked like Dad’s, I’d feel just awful about it. However, I also know that I’d be exaggerating the way others saw it. Feeling antsy again this afternoon, I worked out for half an hour, and that helped. A People staffer called to ask me for my social security number so they could pay me. I got turned down for a credit card from a very aggressive bank, so I think I won’t be able to get any new cards this year – unless they’re preapproved. Perhaps I’m reaching my final credit limit in terms of cards and all I can do now is get my existing cards’ limits raised. I studied my Money and Banking text before class this evening, when Ms. Wiggenhorn discussed stabilization policy and its limitations. Six students, including me, got perfect 10’s on last week’s quiz, which had generally high marks.
I made an appointment with the eye doctor for 9 AM tomorrow. Although I’m not looking forward to getting up early, sometimes I feel better if I get out and start the day before the morning drags on. I just noticed that tomorrow is Good Friday. March is almost over, and so is the first quarter of 1986. Life seems to be flying by at record speed. In less than a month, I’ll be in New York and it will be really be spring even there. Hey, in two months, I’ll be 35, though I’ve been thinking of myself as 35 for some time. I figure that come June, I’ll be on my way to 36: double chai.
Friday, March 28, 1986
11 PM. There’s a big silver moon low in the sky tonight; I saw it as I was driving east along Broward Boulevard. I’ve just come from Davie, where I had dinner, did my laundry and kept Mom company. Marc was in Miami; Jonathan – who yesterday got annoyed when someone saw his button with his photo of the Bhagwan on it and said, “You’re wearing a button with the Ayatollah
Khomeini’s picture on it!” – was with George); and Dad went to the Pompano race track. As I came back to Lauderhill and locked the door from the outside, with my laundry bag and the three new shirts Mom had given me in my hand, I flashed on an image that seemed to come from my childhood: the lonely middleaged bachelor taking his laundry to his mother’s and spending Friday night with her. Silly, no? But those images die hard. Remember “old maids”? In Davie I read a Newsweek story on working mothers; society needs to change to make life easier for those women. I spoke to Susan Mernit this afternoon and she said that the baby takes more of her time than she thought he would. She has all these magazine article assignments due, and one problem she never figured on was that she can’t interview people on the phone when the baby is crying loudly. Obviously, she’s crazy about the kid, but he has profoundly changed her life, and Spencer’s. Spencer’s father is having quadruple bypass heart surgery on Monday, and that has the family worried. My own blood pressure was tested this morning at the optometrist, and I was pleasantly surprised at the result: 120/70, much better than I tested last month.
My eyes are okay – in fact, for the second year in a row, my vision has improved slightly – but I had a thorough checkup and got new lenses. Drs. Solomon, Snyder, Klein et al. are expensive, but they’ve got the latest equipment and are very good at what they do. As with Dr. Hersh and my teeth, I don’t mind paying more where my eyesight is concerned. I slept well last night, and it was a pleasure to be up early and tooling downtown at 8:30 AM. After the examination, I picked up my mail at my parents’ and ten tried to go to the computer lab and the credit union, but I’d forgotten it was Good Friday and those places were closed. Back home after an hour at the public library – which was open – I exercised and read some more. Not having masturbated in three days, I feel exceedingly frisky. A Village Voice article had the line, “The only totally safe sex is between you and your hand.” Of course, I’m now grateful that I was so sexually retarded all those years and didn’t get involved in the whole gay scene that ended up causing so many young men to die of AIDS. But just as I started to become active sexually – with Sean, four years ago – AIDS became a real threat that has definitely kept me from being more aggressive about pursuing sexual relationships.
Obviously, being me, I probably never soul have been involved in really casual sex. But even with one guy: How can you be sure? Yeah, well, if the right guy came along – the way Sean did – I would have definitely tried again. If Mark at FAU had shown more interest in me, I would have tried to pursue the relationship and gladly slept with him. But Mark and I weren’t right for each other. Hey, I sound like I’m looking for Mr. Right, if not Mr. Goodbar. Actually, right now I’d be more likely to sleep with a woman I found attractive, but these days nobody of either sex seems to be breaking down my door.
Saturday, March 29, 1986
4 PM. Lisa called from her parents’ house in Boca and we agreed to meet in Coral Springs to try to go to the movies. That will be the first Saturday night out I’ve had in ages. I’ve been going through my mail just now, and I realized that mistakenly sent my rent check with my student loan payment yesterday. I suppose there’s no harm done; they’ll probably send me back the check or else I’ll stop payment on it.
Luckily I have plenty of financial resources. I never want to live so close to the edge that I can’t come up with money to pay my basic bills. I paid off three credit card bills in full right now, to the tune of $5500. That hurt, but at least I know I can call upon that $5500 in credit if I need to. I’m trying to avoid having to get lots of bills sent to me in New York. The change of address form I filled out was temporary, starting May 1, but I’m not confident the post office will deliver mail correctly. Later, when I’m sure I can receive mail at Teresa’s, I’ll feel freer about running up big credit card balances by taking out cash advances to put in the bank. Coda also arrived in today’s mail. Susan Mernit has the lead story, on poets and novelists as screenwriters. Of course, I remember when she was interviewing all these people last spring: Jay McInerney, Richard Price, Chuck Wachtel, Scott Sommer, Susan Fromberg Schaeffer. If I ever worked for Hollywood – and I don’t imagine they’d want me – I’d expect nothing more than the money and a lot of aggravation. George Myers has an article, “On Being a Book Reviewer,” which is somewhat self-serving, as my own Coda article was, but nonetheless quite interesting. I should get back in touch
with George. It’s good to see my friends making it. Coda published the list of NEA fellowship winners, and they’re a list of mostly nonentities. Of the fifty or so prose winners, I recognized only about ten names and most of them are mediocrities like Tom’s NOCCA assistant, Randy Bates, or funny old Mary Carter in Arizona. In fact, only Richard Ford, Joe McElroy and Steven Millhauser seem to me worthy of fellowships in fiction, and they must have gotten them by mistake. I’m beginning to think Updike is right and we should end the NEA fellowships in literature; I can’t see that they’re producing great results. Of course, as I read Coda, I feel alienated from the whole literary scene. Yes, as I wrote Rick, I believe that literature is important. But I also believe it has little impact on society. As Joyce Carol Oates said in the Coda report on the PEN Congress, writers always blame the publishing industry for this. But don’t most of us spend more time watching TV and video cassettes rather than reading fiction and poetry? If the audience were there, the publishers would be publishing literary books left and right. My values have changed, I guess, from a decade ago. Failure helped change my values, but so did success.
This morning I worked out in Davie while watching The Candidate, and then I spent an hour in the sun, hoping a tan would clear up my acne. I don’t know why lately my skin has been like a teenager’s. It’s a gorgeous day, but I understand it’s also 70° and sunny in New York and most of the Northeast.
Sunday, March 30, 1986
8 PM. I’ve had diarrhea for the last couple of hours, but I don’t believe it’s anything serious: it’s probably just something I ate. I’m a little apprehensive about the next couple of days. I’ve got to teach at Sunshine Elementary, and I’m not as familiar with the software I have to present as I’d like to be. I’ll spend a couple of hours going over the documentation tomorrow morning and maybe tonight if I have trouble sleeping. It’s hectic to run from Miramar to my Community College class at BCC, and it’s likely that while I’m busy, People will be coming out on local newsstands. Then, on Tuesday morning, I have to appear before the factfinding committee of the Human Relations Division.
So I’m tense about the next two days. I also don’t know what to expect with People coming out. Will it be a big disappointment, a story tucked away in the back of the magazine, or will they play it up? It’s hard for me to cure myself of the childhood delusion that one event will make me a “success,” after which time I enter a magical world where no harm can come to me, and despite my better knowledge, a part of me hopes that this People article will be that one event. Life doesn’t work that way, however. Yesterday when Lisa called from her parents’ house in Boca and suggested we go to the movies, I was happy. I was at the new Coral Ridge Mall at 7 PM and bought two tickets for the 7:45 PM showing of Hannah and Her Sisters. Lisa didn’t arrive till quite late, and we ended up having to sit in the fourth row, but I enjoyed being able to watch people as I waited for her. In New York City, I can people-watch on the streets and on subways and buses, but I miss that in Florida. It was fun to look at people dressed for Saturday night; I got some idea of young people’s fashions, for one thing. Lisa loved the film, and so did I, again (I didn’t tell her I’d already seen it), and after the move we went to Friday’s for salads and baked potatoes. This week Lisa is on vacation and
she’s trying to unwind and distance herself from her students. I have no doubt she’s an excellent teacher who gives much more than most of her pampered rich kids deserve. She told me she’s in love with one boy who’s a borderline failure because he doesn’t try, and Lisa talked about her frustrations. She’s always loved working with teenagers – I suspect that like me, she has a thing for older teenage boys – and she enjoys teaching, but sometimes feels nothing she does gets through to her students. Her rented house in West Palm Beach sounds gorgeous, and it’s in a secluded neighborhood that will be torn down to make way for the airport expansion. That’s how she and her roommates got a sweet deal from the owner. Lisa has no assurance that she’ll be back at Spanish River High School next year, though I expect she will; however, teaching is clearly taking a lot out of her emotionally. It was a pleasant change to be out on a Saturday night. Today I went to Miami Beach because I hadn’t been there all winter. I drove up Collins Avenue from the Art Deco District to Sunny Isles, then I cut across and visited Grandpa Nat in the nursing home. If I wasn’t used to seeing him, I’d feel devastated. He’s so thin now, and he keeps
chewing with his sunken jaw and touching his face and shoulders constantly; his clothes have holes in them. Though I play the tough guy while I’m there – mostly for myself – by talking to Grandpa as though he were lucid, it’s hard to see what becomes of a person. He’ll be 88 in a couple of weeks, and he’s lived nearly nine years in this incoherent state (and I don’t mean Florida, although that fits, too). It’s really so sad that I can hardly comprehend it. “Happy Easter!” I said when I walked in. “Happy Easter!” he parroted. Most of his answers to my questions were either repeats of my own words or something unintelligible. The only reaction I got from him was when I told him that in New York, I lived on West 85th Street near Broadway. “Oh my God!” he said sharply, but I don’t know what he meant. Who could have imagined in 1977 that Grandpa Nat would still be clinging to life in 1986?
Monday, March 31, 1986
9 PM. Today was one of the more satisfying days of my life, probably because I could see myself doing well in a variety of roles. If I’m not quite a Renaissance man, I’m something more than a dilettante. Up early, I read the paper, walked to the credit union to deposit $700 I’d gotten in cash advances from ATMs, and paid the rent. Stopping off at the Publix Teller on Broward Boulevard, I went into the supermarket and discovered the news dealer had arrived with a fresh shipment of magazines, including People, which I took from the his piled-high shopping cart before he put it on the racks. I couldn’t find my story in the table of contents, but I thumbed through and discovered it: “Unless We Bag a Few New Stars, the U.S. Will Face a Tragic Celebrity Shortage” by Richard Grayson and Fred Bernstein. Illustrate with a full-page photo of paparazzi shooting a bejeweled, glamorously dressed woman with a paper bag over her head, with the Hollywood sign in the distance, the whole article took up four pages, with another photo page devoted to a model pretending to be Barbara Walters interviewing a tree (“If you were a star, what kind of star would you be?”) I’m very pleased with the piece. In Davie, first Jonathan and then Mom and then Dad read the article, and they all thought it was good; of course, they’re my family.
While in Davie, I got a call from Joyce Brown of the Human Relations Division, reminding me about tomorrow’s hearing. Also, the People publicity department called to find out if they could give my number to radio stations wanting interviews. Of course I said yes, though Fred is probably taking the good ones for himself, but I hope he’s not going on Live at Five and getting TV exposure I could use. I’m kidding! Tons of mail, including the AWP Job List, with some creative writing vacancies I’ll apply for; loads of banking stuff, including my CBI credit file, a Virginia Beach Federal money market account checkbook, the PIN number for my Chase money market account, and applications for credit line increases on my Bank One and Chemical cards; and the leader of Americans for Generational Equality told me to “give ‘em hell” on senior discounts. After xeroxing the article at Jaffe’s and having lunch at the Broadway Diner, I came home to read newspapers and prepare for class. “It’s the computer man!” said the Sunshine Elementary school secretary as she opened the door for me at 3:30 PM. I showed the teachers the SRI math software today. It was kind of disorganized because I’d never seen the material before, but I enjoyed myself
and I think they learned a lot just by using it and experimenting with it. One thing I stress is that the computer is dumb compared to a teacher because it makes the teachers feel better knowing how limited the machines are. After a quick bite, I went to my FIU Community College class, where Kitty Hunter, BCC’s Academic Vice President, was our guest. Like most of the BCC administrators, she surprised me by her intellectual depth. She’s very future-oriented and interested in issues ranging from the role of the community college in relation to business and government to the need to educate people for a world economy and a world culture. Her remarks and the discussion which followed were stimulating. Can you tell me why today was so satisfying? I felt competent in all my roles as writer, “computer man,” banking maven, social activist, and educator. I feel integrated and whole. Let’s hope tomorrow isn’t a big disaster.
Tuesday, April 1, 1986
11 PM. Not exactly a disaster, but I need time to digest today. Before I left this morning, I got a call from a producer at WXYT radio in Detroit;
I’ll do an interview tomorrow at 5:30 PM, which means I’ll have to get out of class and go over to my parents’. I didn’t really know what to expect when I walked into the Governmental Center in downtown Fort Lauderdale this morning. A black woman ran the hearing, with me in my corduroys, sport shirt and sneakers on one side of the long table and on the other side, five business-suited attorneys and AmeriFirst Vice Presidents. One man was apparently an outside counsel, but a woman V.P., presumably also an attorney, did most of the talking. I suppose it was rather intimidating, and I’m sure the absurdity of the scene – like something in a movie – will stay with me for a long time. Of course the situation triggered all these weird childhood feelings, especially when I saw how much trouble the S&L had gone to in its marketing studies and accounts of other banks’ practices. I couldn’t help feeling I’d caused these important people a lot of trouble and would be punished for it. But since I was in touch with those feelings, I could act and react more calmly. First, they went over my complaint and each side agreed or disagreed with each charge. Early on after that, after a huddle between the
attorneys, they offered me the AmeriFirst 55 plan. But a condition of my accepting it would be confidentiality; I could not tell anyone about the settlement or I could be sued for breach of contract. I asked to leave the room to “consult my attorney by phone”; actually, I called Mom. She said that if I accepted the offer, I would be doing something other than what I set to do: namely, to expose and to try to stop age discrimination. Of course Mom was right, and her remarks confirmed my own judgment. I let them wait for a good while as I went outside and took a walk around the block a couple of times. Then I came in and rejected their offer, saying I wouldn’t be happy until their discriminatory practice – the AmeriPlus 55 plan – was ended or made available to everyone, regardless of age. Naturally they didn’t want to do that. The hearing officer took me aside and said that the S&L had offered me total redress of my complaint, and that if I didn’t accept it, she’d probably have to end the case on the argument that since I wouldn’t accept their offer, no hurt was done originally. Had this been a class action suit, I could have gone further, but she said the Human Relations
Division had a narrow scope. After some testimony and questioning about the plan versus other AmeriFirst accounts, the hearing was adjourned. I expect to hear that my complaint has been dismissed. But in a way I will have gotten what I wanted: the public awareness created by the publicity I got over the senior discount issue. Having rejected their offer, I was free to go to the press, so I called the Miami Herald and gave them a rundown of what happened. Since I intend to go to New York soon, I don’t really want to come back before another hearing before the Human Rights Board this time. I guess there’s still a slight chance the case could go on, but it’s over for me, whatever happens. Right now I’m too close to the situation to tell how I really feel. I did some banking and then came home, where I had loads of paperwork awaiting me. I’m also trying to work off the tension of the hearing. But I’ll be fine.
Wednesday, April 2, 1986
10 PM. What a week this has been – but it’s all been good. Last evening I enjoyed class. We discussed consumerism and somehow the discussion turned to senior discounts, and the teacher asked me to tell my story. Some students in the class had seen me on TV or in the papers. Funny, but I could see them looking at me, their fellow student, in a different light, and later, in the parking lot, several waved or said, “Bye, Rich!” Up at 5:30 AM, I got the paper from my door and found my photo on the first page of the Herald’s Broward section. “Writer Rejects Senior Benefits” was the headline, and the story pretty much told my side, as AmeriFirst refused comment. I still haven’t heard from the Human Relations Division, but I did hear from WINZ, who woke me up at 8:30 AM after I’d fallen back asleep, calling to ask for an interview about the senior discounts decision. I obliged the station, and an hour later I heard my voice on the news (the anchor was my former student Frank Mottek). I’m getting used to the sound of my own voice; it sounds familiar to me as anyone’s. For some reason, I decided to wear a T-shirt and gym pants today instead of my usual sport shirt and corduroys. I went to BCC to use the computer lab and I couldn’t help noticing all
the well-built young guys in their shorts and tank tops. When Mike Winerip came to interview me at BCC a few years ago, he thought everyone looked as though they were on the soma of Huxley’s Brave New World. Half the people at BCC look like models. I don’t quite fit in, but somebody not looking close might have figured I was a student – or am I kidding myself? The lab didn’t open on time, and I hung out for a while; Scott, a student I had five years ago, came over to say hello, and I was happy to see him. Back at my parents’ house when I waited a while and the lab still hadn’t opened, I ate lunch, watched TV and exercised for an hour, doing dips on Jonathan’s exercise machine – the one he built himself – as well as calf raises and shoulder exercises with dumbbells. Then I went back to BCC, where I finished the homework for tonight and went to Ray’s class on the bubble sort. I had to duck out at 5:15 PM to do half an hour on the Bob Hines show on WXYT, Detroit. It was an okay interview; he ended by saying I’d done a good job of talking tongue in cheek about the celebrity shortage. After a sandwich, I returned to the computer lab, where Ray, Dave Shaw and George Patton all seemed impressed by my People article. I was touched by the sincerity of Dave’s compliments, since he’s usually so sarcastic.
I got the bones of my programming project for this week working okay, and after a long conversation with my classmate Trish Black, the computer teacher at Blanche Forman Elementary, I left at 8:30 PM. At home, Justin called to congratulate me on the article. He felt it was funny and that it sounded like me. Poor kid, he’s having bad luck with all his projects and plays right now, but he’s really glad for me. I’m very satisfied after three very full days, but I’m exhausted. It will take time for me to digest all this.
Thursday, April 3, 1986
4 PM. I don’t know how I’m going to get through my Money and Banking class tonight, for I’ve got a splitting headache and feel exhausted. Last night my mind was too active – on everything from BASIC programming problems to my literary career – for me to get much rest. And today I kept active, figuring I probably wouldn’t be able to rest anyway. At least I was productive. I xeroxed yesterday’s Herald article along with my résumé, which I have to
send out to a few colleges. Then I went to Davie, where I put up a wash and had lunch. While the laundry was in the dryer, I went to the post office to buy stamps and then to BCC. Since I need one more article to write about for my Community College class, I went to the library, where I had a strange experience. Neil and the other librarians descended on me, calling me “TV star” and “celebrity.” As luck would have it, three of my former students were also there, and they also came over to me. I felt very embarrassed by the attention, but in a way I loved it, for I felt like . . . well, a celebrity. They were all so kind and interested in my life, and whatever I seemed of interest to them, whether it was my People article or the fact that I live on West 85th and Riverside in Manhattan. “You lead a glamorous life while the rest of us are drudges,” one librarian said. It was very odd, as if I’d become special simply by virtue of being on Dan Rather or in the newspapers. Probably I have a lot to learn about how publicity works and affects people. In the computer lab, with people I know and see every day, I felt more comfortable. In fact, George Patton had to go out for an hour and left me in charge of the lab while he was gone.
During that time, I worked on the project from yesterday, having the usual frustrations and the ultimate satisfaction of getting my programming to work. (One classmate suggested that it’s merely the satisfaction you get when you stop beating your head against the wall.) I love computers and education, but I find I’m not as sharp as I could be because of all my other interests. Still, it’s not as if I’m just a jack of all trades and master of none; I have mastered several trades, even though I may not be living up to my potential in all of them. Back at my parents’ house, I returned with my elegant computer program to pick up the laundry. By then, they were all back from the flea market, and Jonathan was happy to get his mala – a chain of 102 wooden beads to which is affixed a photo of Bhagwan. “Everyone in India wears one,” said Jonathan – or Swami Sangit Ansu, his Rajneeshi name – “but Bhagwan put his photo on his to freak everyone out.” Mom said that Marc told her that I could have his car, since he’s using only the van these days. Maybe I could save about $300 and not have to rent a car again this weekend. This morning I waited till 11:40 AM, but the scheduled 11 AM call from WOR in New York City never came. I had phoned Grandma Ethel
to tell her to listen but later called back and said, “That’s show business.” She sounded pretty out of it, with her leg difficulties making it impossible for her to get around. I’m afraid Grandma is entering a time of irreversible physical decline, and I worry how much longer she’ll be able to care for herself. Well, I’d better get moving; it’s 4:45 PM and I need to eat before I go to class.
Friday, April 4, 1986
11: 30 PM. After four busy days, today I pretty much goofed off. Last evening, in Money and Banking, Ms. Wiggenhorn finished our discussion of stabilization policy and began international money theory, which we finish next class. Next week is our quiz, and the following week will be our final. I think the final grade in this course will be a heartbreaker for me, since I’m so tantalizingly close to an A. Right now I’d have an A, but if I don’t get a 9 or 10 on next week’s quiz, I’ll have to equal my 35 midterm score on the final and that will be tough.
During the break, I told Mark about the People article – he was duly impressed – but when I told him I was going to New York soon, he said I “should settle down and getting a steady income.” In the People article, I used Mark as the “Fort Lauderdale marketing major” who shuns celebrityhood because it’s too uncertain a career, and I guess I had him to a T. He’s so boring and stodgy. Alice had told me a 22-year-old would be boring, but I think even she didn’t realize that I’d find Mark an old fogy. I’m sure that in fifteen years, if we’re both still alive, people will think that he’s older than I am. “Why should I settle down?” I said. “I’m young.” God, if young is so old today, I’d rather be 35 than 22 any day in the week. After a good night’s sleep and a calm day, I can reflect a little on this week. I feel great about it! Now that’s exuberance, not reflection, but what I enjoy is the feeling of being involved in life. I don’t feel alienated the way some people with boring jobs must feel. Once again, risk-taking paid off. It seemed pretty silly last August when I gave away my celebrity shortage leaflets in humid midtown Manhattan, but it led to a feature story in People.
And my age discrimination complaint got me pretty far. This teaches me that I should take some more calculated risks. Going back to New York is one, I suppose, and I can’t turn it down. I feel very safe here in Florida, and in a way I’m scared to go back to New York. Here I feel as though I know tons of people and I feel comfortable. New York offers me excitement and another kind of involvement: with the city and the people I’ve been friend with for years. Everyone says I can’t live my life the way I’ve been living it, and yet it has worked, so far, for me. Today I slept late, didn’t exercise and went to BCC only for an hour to work on my final project in BASIC. I ran into Phyllis Luck, as sweet as ever, who asked me, “Are you coming back here to teach?” I have a played for a vacancy in English I saw in the Chronicle, just as I’ve applied for half a dozen other jobs at various colleges – without expecting any of them to pan out, of course. Crad sent me a long letter. He’s boycotting his landlady’s shower because she told him he wastes hot water and he’s looking for a new place to live since he feels he can’t stand her erratic moods; one day she’s carping about something he did, and the next night she brings him dinner.
Although the weather has become mild, Crad is angry the way street sales of his books are going (or not going). He admits to intimidating passersby, and his letter contained a long racist diatribe. I’m offended by his casual use of “nigger” but don’t know if I should tell him. Crad’s only salvation is his weekly visit with his “distinguished woman writer friend”: a woman who sounds unstable to me. But then, Crad seems pretty unstable himself these days. He’s a genius, but he’s paid a terrible price – one that to me isn’t worth it. Crad is all but unfit to live with other people. He’s going to publish a new book with a disgusting title, something about pus oozing from dead dogs. I wish Crad would get off the street, but I know he feels it’s the only way he can get his books to the public. I had Chinese food with my parents tonight. We talked a lot, and Dad admitted that his generation – especially those who, like him, didn’t have to go to war – was luckier than mine. Dad said he had it so good in early adulthood that he assumed he would always be making tons of money. He very badly mismanaged his money: “I hate to think about how much money – maybe a quarter of a million – that I let slip through my hands.”
To me, it was ignorance and a lack of financial education that ruined Dad’s finances – he should have gotten a money manager if he couldn’t handle the money – but of course he always believed that he could, and why not? Now Dad barely manages to make ends meet. He also never realized that the world was going to change. I’ve taken his mistakes to heart and am determined not to make them. Naturally, being human, I’ll make other mistakes, and of course I too will be too blind to figure out what they will be until after the fact.
Saturday, April 5, 1986
9 PM. I’ve just been reading through Umbra, published and written by Tom’s NOCCA students. As usual, the writing was exquisitely sophisticated for high school students, and as usual, I wonder where the commitment to literature that Tom has instilled in them will take them. The senior students interviewed Valerie Martin, who has not been able to any of her four most recent novels and short story collections published, hasn’t had a book out since her second novel with Farrar, Straus in 1979.
What makes her go on? She has more faith than I do. My last book was published only three years ago and I’ve hardly written any fiction since. I guess I should consider myself lucky to have been published as widely as I have been; fiction’s such an awfully hard game. As I wrote Crad, I feel less and less like a fiction writer each week. Yet I still feel very much like a writer, and my People article – ephemeral and trashy as it is – makes me feel better about myself as a writer. But at least I’m doing other things in the meantime. I suppose I could have gone another route and single-mindedly concentrated on being a fiction writer – the way I did a decade ago – but that commitment could have very well ended in failure, and at what cost? No, I take risks, but I won’t put all my eggs in one basket until I feel I’ve got a lot more reason to expect a beautiful omelet will be the final result. And I’m not that great a cook. Today is a gorgeous day: dry, sunny, mild. In Davie, at 11 AM, I exercised in Jonathan’s room while watching Bill Forsythe’s Comfort and Joy on HBO. After a shower, I went out by the pool, where I lay near this very cute, slim guy about 22 or 23. Some kids were flying kites; I remember how we used to fly kites in Rockaway. Anyway, I
stayed out for an hour and now the back half of me is slightly sunburned. At 5 PM, I took my car back to Alamo Rent-aCar, where Dad met me. Now I’ve got Marc’s car, which isn’t the greatest, but I save the $300-$400 another rental would have cost me. Of all the friends in New York City that I phoned, only Ronna was home. She said she laughed out loud at the People article. Ronna’s down with a little cold and her sister had come over and brought her soup, so I didn’t keep her long. I feel pretty good.
Sunday, April 6, 1986
9 PM. I just finished my tenth and final paper for my Community College class. It was a joy to write because I could use my intelligence to analyze an issue, open access vs. standards in higher education. When I was writing fiction every week, I felt more comfortable with people and emotions, but now I think I’m more comfortable in the world of ideas. That may change, of course, but for now, I enjoy studying ideas and theories.
I spent an hour studying economics this afternoon, and dry as it is, the material provides me with a challenge. I may not have read much literature in the past few years, but I’ve devoured newspapers and magazines and nonfiction books and I’ve retained a great deal of information. For example, on the intergenerational conflict issue, after reading a dozen articles, I’ve got a storehouse of facts and information. It’s like some of the work in my Money and Banking course: you have to keep studying it, and eventually it penetrates. Learning a computer language is the same thing. I find I turn over programming stuff in my mind at night, when I’m unable to sleep, and even in my dreams. Of course I still have other dreams. One in which I was making love to Ronna was so intense that once awake, I held my pillow as if it were Ronna and imagined her next to me. I also dreamed that Grandma Ethel had a finger amputated; that’s probably a reflection about her abilities to function independently. Up at 9 AM, I went to Albertson’s, where I bought groceries and the Sunday Times, paying with a credit card. (I spent no cash all weekend.) This morning I read the Sunday papers until my eyes got tired. It was sunny, so I went to Davie, where I sunbathed by the pool for 45, today using a
sunscreen as the front of my body tanned. My biceps, chest and back are very sore today, but I can tell that my workouts are making me look better. Vanity! At the BCC South library, I studied economics till 4 PM, when I returned home to Lauderhill. Josh and I had a good talk. He said he’s sending me a “lousy” article Dorothy Friedman wrote for Newsday about a friend who died of AIDS. Todd’s story about the Corvette was rejected by Newsday, and of course Todd is devastated. Yesterday I wrote about putting all one’s eggs into one basket: Todd has done that more than anyone else, even Crad. Josh, after hearing Crad’s latest letter, believes that Crad is sounding crazier. Unless he has a dose of success soon, I’m afraid Crad will destroy himself with his rage and bitterness. At the risk of repeating myself, to me literature isn’t worth the suffering. Crad says his pus-from-dead-dogs story “will be notorious years after I’m dead.” Who cares, really, what happens after one is dead? Unless I’m kidding myself, my desire for immortality has drastically declined; the best I can hope for is that for a few years after I die, some people will remember me as a good guy – almost the way I think of Grandpa Herb.
As for being famous while I’m alive and can enjoy it – yes, I still want that.
Monday, April 7, 1986
11 PM. Everything seemed so screwed-up today, but I know it’s I who’s overreacted. I think I’m just upset that I have to uproot myself again. Except I don’t have to; I want to. At least I think I do. It’s really not so much readjusting to New York again; it’s all the things I have to do before I leave in a few weeks. I couldn’t get the gas cap on Marc’s car off this morning, and I got so upset that I gave myself stomach pains. Jonathan let me use his car (Marc was away) and I took Marc’s car back tonight after Marc had gotten the gas cap off. I dislike being at the mercy of my family. I had been expecting to keep renting a car; it was Mom who wanted me to take Marc’s car. But if I have trouble with the rental car, that’s business; now I have to involve my family, and I’d like to keep my distance from them. That sounds terrible, but it’s not because I don’t love them; I just don’t want my life so wrapped up in theirs. That’s one reason I’ll be
happy to return to New York. Maybe I will come back to Florida in the fall, and maybe not. Anyway, I just don’t know. I worry that I’m making a mistake in letting Marc have my apartment. I hope I can trust him with everything. The rent and utilities are under my name. Well, I can expect to pay them if Marc doesn’t, but I can’t let him feel that I think he’s irresponsible. Mar is just very uncommunicative but Mom tells me he’s very happy about moving. I hope he’ll be happier here than he was at my parents’; this will be his place now and he probably needs that. He screwed up on his own in New York, but that was nearly six years ago. Still, I worry. I’m selfish, I guess. I felt like such a dummy in teaching today; nothing I did with the computers seemed to go right. The teachers must have thought that I was an idiot. Well, every day can’t be like last Monday, when I felt multitalented and somehow full of grace. A new People came out today, displacing “my” issue, but I got my check from Time, Inc., as well as my IRS refund. Combined with some cash advances I made, I was able to deposit almost $3,000 in my credit union. And my Community College class went okay. It’s over, basically; next week we meet at Mr. Laff’s, a restaurant across University Drive from my parents’.
I still have my Public Policy final two weeks from tomorrow, but I don’t expect to have trouble with that. My BASIC CAI project will take hours and hours, but I know I’m well ahead of the others in my class, and I’m not worried about the final. As for Money and Banking, I’ll study more, but I should let myself be satisfied with a B and what I’ve learned in the course. I have to buy some pants and shorts before I leave Florida – prices are cheaper here – and figure out what I need to take to New York City and if I need to clean the apartment and straighten out my life. What am I talking about? What upset me today probably wasn’t so much the car problems per se, but what they represented: a lack of control. Even back in therapy with Dr. Pasquale, I had big problems with car troubles because of that “control” issue. A week ago I felt oh so confident and – the cliché popped into my head, and yes, I’ll say it – I felt in the driver’s seat. Oh, those insights that come when Freud hovers in the background! I slept so well last night. I had a delicious dream about making love to a woman in the back of a bus. Vehicles again! I usually don’t sleep well on Monday nights, but I’ll try tonight.
I certainly feel worn out, and I’d like to shut out the world.
Tuesday, April 8, 1986
11 PM. One reason I think I was so upset about the car yesterday was my nervousness about having so much to do before I leave for New York. This morning I called Delta to find out if I could change my flight to one week later, Thursday, May 1. Actually, I ended up with a cheaper fare – $69 – and later in the day I braved the crowd of old people at the Delta office on Sunrise and University and got my new ticket. When I called Teresa at the Comptroller’s office, she said the new date was fine, since her friends from Australia can now stay for two weeks at her apartment. She sounded well, said she enjoyed People (though she told Ken the opening was not in my own style), and has been busy with work. Rarely does she get to the West 85th Street apartment. We had a nice chat and then she had to get off to write a press release. Now I’ll have an extra week after school ends to get my apartment ready for Marc, get
myself packed for New York, buy some clothes (shoes and pants and shorts). Maybe if Ronna’s mother could convince her to come to Orlando for Passover, I’d go up there and/or bring Ronna down here to show her South Florida. Anyway, I feel more relaxed now. Tom writes that his publisher should be sending out copies of The Eustachia Stories soon. At the Ran premiere, Valerie Martin told Tom she saw me on CBS News. Tom will try for a sabbatical again next year, and he’d like Nick Bozanic to replace him at NOCCA. He’ll be arriving in New York on my birthday, a Wednesday, and he’ll stay till Sunday, when he flies to Dusseldorf to join Susan in Germany. He returns in early August. Anyway, I’ll see Tom during the four days that he’ll be in New York, I hope. This morning I visited Patrick, and we had a good long talk about the usual nonsense. I probably shouldn’t have applied for the BCC English position because it turns out it’s at Central. Going back to BCC wouldn’t be very good for me. The busywork and drudgery are not worth the $20,000 salary. I had lunch at the new Old Spaghetti Warehouse in Sunrise near where I used to live; the meal was good and Florida-cheap, the only
problem being that I spilled tomato sauce on a handsome brand-new shirt. Back home, I exercised a little and went over my economics notes again, hoping this stuff will sink in some more for Thursday’s quiz. Before class tonight, I showed the People story to Ms. Pynes and a couple of my fellow students in the cafeteria; the all thought it was funny and impressive. With this week’s issue now on the newsstands, I probably don’t have much chance for any more ego-gratification from my article. In class, we saw some films about environmental pollution – somewhat outdated CBS documentaries with a dark-haired Walter Cronkite showing the Concorde as the airplane of the future – and one on how Westchester copes with its solid waste. As important as environmental issues are, like Ms. Pynes admitted about herself, I’ve never been able to get too passionate about them. Still, the films and our discussion afterward were fairly stimulating. All in all, today was pretty good. My life really has been an interesting one. I may not know where I’m going (or as Tom asked me, “When are you going to decide what to be?”), but I’ve had a lot of fun on the way there.
I’ll always imagine I’ll die young because I’ve packed so much living into the last seventeen years.
Wednesday, April 9, 1986
9 PM. Remember the Anthony Newley musical, Stop the World – I Want to Get Off? Great title, and tonight I feel the sentiments, at least a little. I think maybe I’ve had enough of Florida and will be glad to be gone in three weeks. My family is starting to make me feel uncomfortable. This morning a Herald story about senior discounts – once they learned that their counsel said they were illegal, the Broward County Commission voted to change the charter – mentioned me, and some crank called my parents’ house. Dad said the man put on a Cuban accent – “it sounded like a young guy pretending and also pretending to be old” – and said, “You want to get rid of senior discounts?! We fix you good!” and hung up. All day Jonathan had been nasty to me, and finally at dinner Mom said, “He’s just upset about the call.”
Then Jonathan said, “If you want to get your name in the papers, that’s fine, but to involve the family, that’s disgraceful!” I told Jonathan he was being ridiculous, that I have no control over what some nut or wiseguy does. I didn’t want to get into a big argument, so after finishing dinner, I left. But Jonathan’s comments burned me up, even though they’re probably motivated by jealousy. It would be natural for my brothers to resentful towards me, the way Mia Farrow’s sisters felt in Hannah and Her Sisters. They might feel: “Look at us, we’re the ones who work our asses off in the flea market and real close with Mom and Dad, and Richard – who doesn’t have to put up with them and can saunter in any time he feels like – he gets all this attention.” I don’t know, but that’s probably how I’d feel if I were Marc or Jonathan. Unfortunately, I feel pretty guilty about my accomplishments because of that. I remember how sad I felt the morning after I first got a copy of With Hitler in New York – my first real book – in May 1979. Dad came in for a tranquilizer because he was so nervous about his business problems, and he looked at my copy of the book. I felt bad because I was the “Grayson” on the jacket spine and not him.
I feel fairly certain that one reason I’ve held back from success and have been afraid of success is the fear of showing up my family. Justin hinted last August that was one reason I keep coming to Florida – that I make my family feel that I need them when I really don’t. As I wrote on Monday, I half-dread having Marc stay in my apartment because I don’t have enough faith in him, and yet if I showed I didn’t trust him to be responsible, that would be insulting and unfair. As far as Jonathan goes, I shouldn’t get upset over something he said. He’s a fucked-up kid, wearing his mala with the Bhagwan’s picture on it; at 25, Jonathan still acts like a teenager. In his room are dozens of stuffed animals and photos of and books by Bhagwan. I hate to resort to “when I was his age” comparisons, but at 25 I had gotten a B.A. and two masters degrees, was popular and was publishing stories and I’d been a college teacher for three semesters. Jonathan finished BCC but quit FAU, and where’s he going? Working at the flea market won’t lead anywhere. Marc never finished his computer studies at BCC, either. I guess I feel guilty because worry that my academic success led to my brothers’ failure – that they felt they couldn’t compete with me, and so they retreated.
Of the three of us, I’m the only one who’s so far had a sustained career outside the family business. Even Dad worked for his father until Art Pants folded and Grandpa Nat retired, and then Dad floundered. I worry about my own dependence upon the family – hence the issue of Marc’s car. Mom’s having to send me my mail, my need to keep stuff in their warehouse. . . But, of course, looking at reality, I have succeeded outside the family: not only in my career but in living on my own. However, I feel I’ve sabotaged myself, too, in being unable to break away in my head. In coming to Florida in 1981, I was playing the role (as Marc was also to play) of the son who failed on his own and who needed to return to his parents. That’s part of our family myth. Oh well, at least this has stimulated my thoughts. Unfortunately, it’s also got my stomach churning. Maybe I can put these insights to good use. Today I did a lot of studying of economics, and during the lab portion of my BASIC class, I made headway on my final project. Gary Stein mentioned my People article in a humor column he did for today’s Fort Lauderdale paper. I can’t help it that I’m getting famous. Do I sound stupid? Yes. It’s time to try to get to bed.
Thursday, April 10, 1986
11 PM. Last night I watched Dynasty and St. Elsewhere and went to bed feeling a little better. Is there a difference between feeling better and just feeling less bad? Tonight I’m in good shape. My heavy-duty studying paid off, and if my score sheet matched my answers on tonight’s Money and Banking quiz, then I got another 10. Since we drop our two lowest quiz scores, I end up with 20 points out of 20 – where 17 is the cutoff for an A. Those three extra points will offset the fact that the 35 on the midterm was just barely an A. Next week on the final, I need 33 points out of 40 to get an A in the course, and if I work hard, I may be able to pull it off. I hope so, anyway. I saw Mark before class, and I think we started to flirt a little. Although he can be boring, he’s very cute and has a great body. After the quiz, he took my phone number because he was leaving then and said he’d call to find out what he’d missed. I’m sure nothing will happen between us, but I feel glad just because the possibility is there. When I came home a little while ago, ABC’s
20/20 had a powerful repeat on homophobia and increased gay-bashing because of AIDS (at least that’s the excuse). It’s a hard time for gays to be open and out of the closet, as prejudice is growing worse. On the other hand, when reports like these are aired and such establishment types and hosts Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters condemn anti-gay violence (if not prejudice), maybe some good is done – the way The Cosby Show’s number-one rating in South Africa must change the hearts and minds of some people. Naturally, I’d like to believe that education can help. Anyway, I studied a lot today. Because of Jonathan’s remarks, I limited my visit to Davie to picking up my mail when no one was home, and I intend to steer clear of my family this weekend. My mail was mostly banking stuff: acknowledgement of deposit slips, blank MasterCard cash advance checks, offers of insurance and other services. Because I paid off some my credit accounts, I have $2000 free on my AVCO and First Atlanta cards and even have a credit balance on them. By next week, I’ll use those accounts’ available credit to pay off some of my other accounts; that way I’ll miss owing money during this billing period. I want to keep my accounts active so as to increase the chances of getting my credit limits raised.
Friday, April 11, 1986
9 PM. Are we really 100 days into 1986? Last night I dreamed about Jerry and Shelli, that I was going to their anniversary party. Of course, they’ve been divorced for years. I guess I dreamed about this because yesterday I realized it was Shelli’s birthday and that she was 33. It was fifteen years ago when we were experiencing our first love relationship – somewhere between puppy love and a heavy college romance. We’d go places together on weekends: I’d pick her up on Saturday mornings in the spring of ’71 and we’d drive to Rockaway, Long Beach, some park or beach. Sometimes we’d have picnics. Often we’d have fights. It all seems very innocent now, including the sex. I can’t help but smile when I think about our relationship and even the end of it, the breakup in which Jerry figured. All three of us were fucked-up kids, and we all did our share of stupid things. I hope Jerry is okay; as with all the gay people I’ve lost contact with, I wonder if he’s gotten AIDS and died.
Last night I also dreamed about living back on East 56th Street, and of all the neighbors on the block, and I had a dream about getting a car but not wanting it because of the alternate parking rules on the West Side. Reading through Umbra and Tom’s students’ creative writing, I wondered why it is that little inspires me to write fiction anymore. Probably I’d need heavy-duty therapy to tell me the entire answer. I live much more in the real world than I used to. Maybe I lost a lot of the poetic nature I had in my twenties. I was such an idealistic kid, but of course I could afford to be idealistic then. Now, I’m not exactly comfortable with the more mundane, practical world – but I’ve adjusted, and I haven’t fought adjusting, because to me, it seemed the alternative was to become like Crad: a better writer but less and less able to fit into society. When I was an agoraphobic teenager, I felt like a misfit, and if that made me more introspective and therefore creative, I didn’t want to pay the price of being a misfit all my life. I loved being popular and at the center of things when I was an undergraduate. Will I ever become the writer I once expected to be? No. The world’s changed so much, and being that kind of writer is like being a blacksmith or chimney sweep or a keypunch operator; nobody needs them anymore.
This morning I worked out for 45 minutes or so, getting myself deliciously breathless and sweaty. The only mail I got in Davie was junk. Of all the credit card applications I filled out since February, none has given me a new card, and I’m starting to believe that there is a limit on how many credit cards one can get and that I’ve reached mine. Maybe if I pay off most of my cards, my credit profile will look better. Believe it or not, I’m in a good financial position right now even though I haven’t “worked” in three months. Three months ago I came to Florida, and in three weeks I’ll be back in New York. I’ve lived very, very well here. It’s going to be interesting to see how I feel being back in New York. I spent a few hours in the computer lab: my BASIC project works although it’s not very ambitious; I still need to be embellish it with some graphics and put in error traps. There’ll be no problem getting it to Ray by Wednesday evening. I have to study for my Money and Banking final, but I’m pretty well up on everything, and that leaves the BASIC and Public Policy finals for the week after this one. My last computer education workshop at Sunshine Elementary is on Monday, so the pressure should be all off me soon.
(The pressure, of course, was entirely selfinflicted and enjoyable.)
Saturday, April 12, 1986
7 PM. I’ve just come from eating dinner: a vegetarian plate at Taco Viva. It’s just turning into night now, and I’ve got time to read tonight. Last night I had some vivid dreams which I recorded. In one dream, it was New Year’s Day and I was alone in Philadelphia. I parked my car and walked around the city, getting the feel of it. I passed Independence Hall and the art museum and the Schuylkill. While I was on Market Street, it started to rain, but I kept walking until it stopped. Then I realized I’d forgotten where I parked my car, and I couldn’t remember the location for the life of me. In a slight panic, I woke up. Another dream had me in New England or upstate New York. I walked up country roads, passing some farmers selling corn and peaches, until I recognized some familiar stores: I was in Peterborough, N.H., near the
MacDowell Colony right where they pick up new colonists. In a café, I was spotted by a girl who looked like Libby Judson but who identified herself as Terry Ramsey (the real name of one of Tom’s NOCCA students), a painter who was with me at my last stay at MacDowell. Embarrassed because I wasn’t a colonist now, I listened to her as she praised my new book, which she’d read in the Harvard Co-op Bookstore. The book was about an old girlfriend. Terry and a guy from the colony were worried about me, and I wanted to leave because I hated their pity. Luckily, someone called out, “Richard!” It was Ann Marinaro (I don’t know where I got that name), a famous cook, who was strolling with Alice and some man. I kissed Ann and Alice, pretending I was supposed to be meeting them at the café. The people from MacDowell left, and I felt good because they no longer pitied me for being alone. What do I make of these dreams? I’m not sure. In both, I’m striking out in new places, a little uncertain where I’m going and worried about others’ opinions. Perhaps that’s the best analysis I can give right now, and it’s a pretty good one-sentence statement of how I feel.
If I don’t get my papers right way in the morning, someone steals them (the same thing is happening with the mail subscription to the New York Times); this morning one of my neighbors must have grabbed the Fort Lauderdale paper. Up at 10 AM, I decided to go to Davie to work out even though my shoulders were slightly sore from yesterday. I’m not going to get many more chances to use Jonathan’s weight bench. Today I went back up to bench-pressing 110 pounds. I did some chest flyes and pull-ups, too. After a shower, I sat out by the pool for thirty minutes, then went to work at the computer lab for about an hour. Back at my parents’, I made myself some spaghetti and then took my Economics notes out to the pool. I feel pretty confident about the material and just need to look it over a few more times before Thursday’s test. In the mail today, I got one piece of good news: with my credit union MasterCard bill, I noted a new credit line, $700, up from $300. I paid off that bill and my $2500 Bank One Visa so I don’t have any credit card bills coming in early May; I’m trying to making things easy on Mom, who mails me my stuff. So far, I’ve paid off $10,000 worth of bills, and I still have over $20,000 in my various accounts.
I’ll have little money coming in until my Teachers College student loans, though.
Sunday, April 13, 1986
3 PM. Last evening I felt a catch in the back of my throat and by now I have a cold. Unable to sleep except from 5 AM till 8 AM, I feel pretty crummy. I went out only to Albertson’s to get the Sunday Times, some cold remedies and enough groceries to last a while. A few days ago I thought I was coming down with a cold, but evidently it took a while to break out. I’m not running any temperature, and I don’t have the usual terrible postnasal drip that I get at the beginnings of most colds, not yet. My throat is quite sore, though, and I’m hoarse. Whether this will be a mild cold or one of those “whoppers” like I got in August, it’s too early to tell. But I guess if getting a cold now means the odds of my getting one in the next few months go down, I’d rather get the cold now. Except for my last workshop at Sunshine Elementary tomorrow and Thursday’s final in Money and Banking, I don’t have anything pressing this week. I’ll just relax and wait till I feel better.
Yes, the worry that this is a sign of AIDS has crossed my mind, but it does seem like only a cold; it’s six months since I was last sick, after all. I’ve spent the day reading newspapers and eating little snacks every so often. I’ve been thinking about what I’d do if Zephyr Press publishes my next book in, say, eighteen months. I’d like to take charge of the promotion myself; maybe I’d even go up to Boston for a while. I don’t know what stories they’ll select, but I’d favor a collection unified by stories about college students in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. In the Sixties would make a great title story because it has a “hook”; even TV interviewers could talk to me about college students of 1972 – or maybe by late ’87 or early ’88 we’d start to see a revival of nostalgia for that period. I’ve been predicting the end of the conservative cycle for a few years already, but it hasn’t run its course yet. Maybe a war with Libya or Nicaragua could speed up the process. With everyone so bellicose, it seems that people have forgotten the toll war takes. It’s interesting that it’s the generals in the Pentagon who are restraining the civilian hawks; military men know that unpopular actions – and any large losses of life would be unpopular – aren’t viable.
On Friday in the computer lab, George Patton and the other lab assistant were exuberant over the possibility, likely now, that we’ll strike at Libya for the recent terrorist bombings in Europe. However, what’s a strike at Libya going to accomplish? It was military action that triggered the recent terrorist attacks. How long can we go into a cycle of attack and retribution, attack and retribution? Anyway, back to my book: I would hope that we could sell me as an underrated, underpublicized author. I’ve published three hardcover story collections, yet not even literary people have heard of me – for my books, anyway. In comparison with the Knopf wunderkinder, I’m nowhere on the literary map. A new study says that the writing abilities of America’s 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds are still pretty dismal despite the recent emphasis on writing skills in education. Good: they’ll need more writing teachers and there’ll be fewer writers as competition in the future. I feel optimistic about my own future, if I do make it and live another ten to forty years. If not – if I drop dead tonight – at least I’ll have had lots of fun. I’m pretty starved for company right now; I’d like to speak to a human.
Monday, April 14, 1986
10 PM. I’ve just shut off the TV after a press conference by the Secretaries of State and Defense about a U.S. air raid on selected Libyan targets tonight. While our Community College class was meeting at Mr. Laff’s, I could see from the TV by the bar that White House spokesman Larry Speakes was having a press briefing that lasted too long for it to be merely a report on the network news. When a map of Libya came on screen, I assumed that we’d taken action after getting conclusive proof that Khadafy was responsible for the bombing of a West Berlin disco last week and that was what happened. At 9 PM, when I was home, Reagan got on and made a short speech explaining the air strike. Though I said yesterday I’m repelled by the current bellicose mood, I think we may be right to go ahead and do as the Israelis do, and respond to acts of terrorism. However, I’m not sure it will do any good in the long run. Back to earth – or to my life at least: I’m proud of the way I functioned today even though I was feeling rotten. My cold is very annoying, but I was away from home for nearly twelve hours today, and probably I was better off for
having my mind diverted from my physical complaints. This morning I went into downtown Fort Lauderdale and waited for the main branch of the library to open. It was a glorious morning – sunny, warm and breezy – and I enjoyed walking around the area till the library opened. Regretfully, I didn’t get to see much of the Computer Affair event, though I did some away with some documents. However, Jean Trebbi spotted me and greeted me effusively. She’s been doing wonders with the library’s Center for the Book and other programs, and she was kind enough to listen to me babble on about my doings. Jean said I should get in touch with her when my next book comes out. “I think you’ll end up as a Jean Shepard-type raconteur,” she said. I’d be happy with that. At my parents’ I looked at my mail, most of it from various banks. Every credit card I’ve applied for since January has turned me down, though the Dry Dock in New York responded to an ad from I filled out in last week’s New York Times by giving me a $2000 line of credit to be put into an IRA for 1986. I’m not certain how this works, but they gave me a checkbook, so I guess I can draw on the credit line eventually.
Unfortunately, my car rental for March as well as for February got on this month’s American Express bill, and it was a whopper, nearly $1200. However, I may be better off paying it now and using my credit lines for cash advances; that’s more pay-as-you-go. And I guess American Express will be happy to note that I have no problem paying off such a large bill, which also included MCI long distance and my optometrist bill. At BCC’s computer lab, I played with PILOT and some Apple programs that I took to Sunshine Elementary with me. Ray had just come from Jan Strickland, because he’s starting a workshop on Wednesday. I saw Jan at the school, where the principal slightly embarrassed me by telling her all about my 1984 Presidential campaign, which he’d read about in the Herald. My last session with my teachers was informal; only six of them showed up, and I demonstrated some material and answered questions. I don’t know how I rated on the evaluations, but I didn’t do my best during the course. I wasn’t organized enough, but then again, I wasn’t provided any guidance or the proper materials. I would say I was no more of a fuck-up than Mary Alice was in our FIU grad classes in PILOT
or Microcomputer as Teaching Tool. But I think that given time, I could do a fine job teaching computer education workshops. As I mentioned, our Community College class met at Mr. Laff’s, that new restaurant/bar across from my parents’ house. Actually, it’s so close I could have walked it – and when people start doing that, West Broward may become so dense it’s a regular city, like New York, and University Drive will be like Broadway. Joe Cook was as hoarse as I was, and he reported all my symptoms; silly as it is, I feel glad that I’ve got something that’s “going around” because it makes it less likely that I’ve got some problem with my immune system. I had a burger, a good one, and talked with my classmates. Earlier in the day, I’d been in the men’s room at the FIU/FAU building at BCC; I was washing my hands as Debbie Nycz walked in. We stared at each other for the longest time; it was as if we both knew something was wrong but couldn’t figure out what it was. Finally it hit me, and I said, “What are you doing in here?” It was so bizarre that we couldn’t stop laughing. Anyway, my FIU Community College class is over no. Not bad for sick guy today, huh? My
next big day isn’t till Thursday’s Economics final.
Tuesday, April 15, 1986
9 PM. It’s great how little things can sometimes make you feel good. On my way home from FAU just now, I stopped at the Eckerd’s in Inverrary to pick up some cough medicine and other supplies. While looking for a card for Teresa’s birthday, I overheard two elderly couples speculating about what day next week they’ll go back to Brooklyn. I felt a kinship with them. As I got on line for the checkout, I checked out the cashier, a handsome, open-faced guy of about 18. He was just my type: very cute, tanned, slim, in a white shirt (I love white shirts) with brown hair nicely swept back and a diamond stud in his left ear. He spoke to me right away about the customer on line before me: “Isn’t it too bad her mother dresses her that way?” “I didn’t notice,” I said. (Of course not; I’d been staring at him.) We talked all the time he was ringing up my order and taking my credit card and putting my stuff in a bag.
Damn if he wasn’t flirting with me! He probably didn’t mean anything by it, but it meant a lot to me that someone I considered gorgeous would think I was cute, too. How nice, especially when I’m feeling sick and kind of old. If strangers can enrage us, they also have the power to lift our spirits. I did sleep well last night, when I finally got to sleep, and I woke up feeling sick but refreshed. I lay in bed most of the morning, listening to the news about the Libyan invasion; most of Europe is against it, though the majority of Americans seem glad something was finally done. Nobody wants to travel to Europe this summer, and for the first time I think I share the feeling, the fear of terrorism rather than just my usual fears. At my parents’ today only to pick up the mail, I was surprised to see Dad on the phone because he was supposed to be in New York City today. Marc said he’d bought a microwave for the apartment. I hope he doesn’t go overboard in buying stuff because that could make him unable to meet his basic expenses. But as I’ve said before, I’ve got to trust him. Jonathan gave me his usual scowl, so I left quickly. I spent a couple of hours in the library and two and a half hours in the computer lab, where
George, Debbie, Ray and Dan Friedman of FAU all were hanging out. Ray and Dan had gone to see the FAU/FIU/BCC Tower downtown and said the equipment – from computers to TV facilities – are first-rate, but as usual, FAU has no programs scheduled there as yet. Rick wrote me, saying he thinks I’d be unhappy at the Maryland community colleges where I’ve applied, but I think he doesn’t have an understanding of the kind of teaching I’ve been doing and the kind of students I’ve had. The Francis Marion College Writers’ Retreat leaflet arrived; Susan Ludvigson will be there again. Bob Parham is now the department chair, and I supposed I’d applied to FMC (they had a one-year vacancy), I might have gotten the job, but Florence, South Carolina is a place where I probably would be unhappy, as I’d feel too isolated there. Tonight in class, Ms. Pynes reviewed and we filled out teacher evaluation forms; next week is our final. When I got home from FAU, Josh called and he sounded good. We had a nice long chat about nothing really substantial, but it was pleasant to chew the fat with an old friend.
Wednesday, April 16, 1986
6 PM. I feel like such a mess. I’m so congested that I’ve been coughing up phlegm all day and my throat feels as if Sherman tanks are rolling over it. In addition, part of my tooth chipped away, leaving highly sensitive to sweets. Usually my colds come with major psychological changes, often a sense of loss. Maybe I’m reading more into this than is warranted, but this might be my change-ofresidence cold. In the past three months I’ve lived here comfortably and I’m a bit worried about facing uncertainty in New York. Last summer wasn’t the happiest or most productive time of my life, and although I won’t make the same mistakes over again, I still don’t feel entirely comfortable going back to Manhattan. It’s becoming more likely that I may return here in the fall; I’d rather do that than adjunct in English again. Now that I’m away from grading papers and dealing with remedial students, I can’t forget how burned out I was and how much I disliked my jobs at John Jay and Baruch last fall. However, teaching in New York then served a purpose: it got me ahead financially. Obviously, I’m so much in debt, I’ll never catch up, but so far this year I’ve had an excellent cash flow by using my credit lines.
Thought the only additional income on the horizon is a $300 or so paycheck from FIU for the computer education classes, I’ll probably receive a GSL for Teachers College that could net me $1800 if I take only two courses this summer. Anyway, I may find a way to get some money by doing something enjoyable. We’ll see. I can always return to Florida if I need to. This winter I’m more established than I was last winter, and I feel I can always find a way to make money here. I’ve been having a bad time studying for tomorrow’s Economics test. The concepts don’t stick in my head, and I feel certain that I’ll blow the final and thus my A in the course. Why should I care? The A in Money and Banking won’t help me in any way, except in the ego department. Yet I feel that I’ll have let myself down if I don’t get an A. That’s really stupid, because this course is so hard and so out of my field that a B is certainly respectable – and I can argue that it’s my new knowledge that’s the accomplishment, not the grade. I’m such an idiot sometimes. Yet for my BASIC project, I worked on something very easy and safe: just good enough to satisfy Ray’s requirements. Why? Because I know he’ll give me an A in the course? I left the program with George in the lab.
Maybe this cold is an end-of-semester cold, a lack-of-structure cold. I do feel I function best when I have some structure in my life, not like last summer when I was at loose ends. What a mess I am.
Thursday, April 17, 1986
9:30 PM. It looks as though I got an A in Money and Banking. I did get a 10 on last week’s quiz, and by my reckoning, I got 36 out of 40 on tonight’s test. Even if muffed three extra points, I should get an A. Surprisingly, the teacher knew me, for when I got up to hand in my final after we’d graded it, she asked how I did and she said she couldn’t believe how well I’d done after my first lackluster quiz scores. Then she congratulated me on my A. I did work hard in this course; at first it seemed I was in way over my head, but I studied a great deal and concentrated on understanding the concepts. This is a private triumph, though; nobody I know could ever understand why this means so much to me. Most people would say, “Why do you care?” Well, why do I? Because I was proving myself in an entirely new area, not related to writing or teaching or even computer education.
Now I’m halfway through finals, with the Public Policy and BASIC finals next week. I should manage to keep up my A average in those courses and go 4.0 again this term. For tonight and tomorrow, though, I plan to relax. I’m still coughing up a mess of green slime, though I’ve been sleeping well. Last night I had lovely dreams, including adventures with various friends. I miss them: Josh, Ronna, Teresa, Alice, Justin, Pete, Mikey and Amy. But I know an awful lot of people in South Florida, too. In one sense, it’s easy for me to stay here. Life is inexpensive and undemanding, and I can always take courses and find ways of making money. And maybe I will return in August. As long as I can spend the summer in New York, I could endure the rest of the year here. If I’d spent last fall here, it would have been okay, though I think living in Brooklyn was a better experience because it was new. This morning I stayed in bed late and then went to my parents’ house, which was deserted, and I studied for several hours, taking a break to read USA Today outside. I’m pretty tanned, and although I haven’t exercised this week because of my illness, I noticed that my body’s been looking okay. If it’s hard for me to get rid of my thick, round belly, at least I’ve built up my chest and shoulders to offset it.
The trouble today is that everybody’s a bodybuilder and there’s a kind of muscleinflation; most of the guys in my class tonight, for example, have physiques that would have been judged outstanding 25 years ago – but today everyone’s well-built like that. I got bills from Southeast Bank MasterCard, Sears and Peoples Bank Visa today. To me, paying the bills is a treat because I like moving my money around. If Mom doesn’t mind mailing me my bills, I don’t mind paying them. Peoples Bank lowered their APR from 17% to 15.9%, and I sent them $700 even though my credit line is only $500; I want to show them I’m worthy of a higher credit line. Jack Saunders sent me four books and a lot more paraphernalia. He got mad at me years ago (I never knew why but felt it had something to do with my getting the Florida grant – it’s clear that Jack is still obsessed with his not receiving grants). I’ll enjoy reading Jack’s book, but I am a different kind of person than he is: more willing to compromise (to sell out?). In a way, Jack is very much like Crad: they see themselves as iconoclastic misfits who strongly believe that their work will change society, if society would only listen. Both Crad and Jack want nothing more than to be fulltime writers; neither feels he gets the respect he deserves.
I, on the other hand, am more diffident about my writing talent, know quite well that the world isn’t waiting for my latest book and think that in the long run, my writing won’t have much impact on society. Of course, I also think that I can work to change society in other ways besides being a writer. Today was a gorgeous day: cloudless and warm, not at all humid, with gentle breezes. April has been a glorious month here. I hope May is pleasant in New York.
Friday, April 18, 1986
5 PM. I’m still quite congested and coughing a great deal. I spoke to Ronna last night and learned she probably won’t be coming to Florida for Passover as I’d hoped. Instead, she’ll be here in mid-June when her brother and grandmother move out of the apartment in Canarsie. Ronna reports that her mother is “deliriously happy” in her new house in Orlando and enjoys her job, which takes her all over Florida. It’s sad that I won’t be able to show Ronna South Florida, but at least she’ll finally get to see the Sunshine State for herself.
Ronna said she’s got a lot of work on the NEA grant applications, which are due on May 1, but we didn’t talk much about our lives; instead, we mostly had a freewheeling conversation about lots of things. I’ve read most of the books Jack Saunders sent, and while I’m intrigued by them, how he can think that most people would enjoy his writing is beyond me. His writing is all about his attempts at being a writer, and he includes letters to friends, to Miami Herald book editor Bill Robertson, to Florida Secretary of State Firestone, to New York publishers: all of them repetitive complaints. Yes, Saunders has intelligence and energy, but he’s not the artistic genius he thinks he is. He’s also extremely naïve. He actually expected that his employer IBM would let him write his “megalith” on company time? I’m not sure if he’s putting it on; he can’t be as much of a crank as he sounds. Certainly, he’ll come off as a nutjob to any of the NEA officials, book editors and newspaper people to whom he writes; if I got “letters” like his, I’d ignore them, too. Yet I agree with most of what he says about the New York publishing industry, academic and the grant-givers, and I’m glad he’s writing. Is his work fiction? Not unless my diary is fiction.
Saunders boasts about his prolific output, yet his “books” are the kind of writing I don’t attempt to publish: my diaries and letters, which would make up as many “books” as Saunders publishes. Like Crad, Tom and myself – like most writers who’ve published in little magazines and selfpublished – Jack Saunders badly needs an editor. I guess I like him because he appeals to my own feelings about being an ignored writer while mediocrities get the rewards. But I’ve gotten past that feeling. I know for sure that even if I had twice the talent that I have, the world wouldn’t be waiting breathlessly for my next book nor would a book of mine change the world. Saunders believes that – or seems to – about his own work, and I think Crad sympathizes with him because he feels the same way. It’s interesting that I haven’t heard from a single one of my literary friends about the People piece; I want to know what their reactions will be. Crad might be outraged that I’ve sold out, but he’ll probably be too polite to say so. Rick didn’t mention it in his letter, so I’m assuming he didn’t see it; I sent him a copy with my reply to him. No word from Tom, Miriam or anyone else remotely “literary.” Me? I think it means nothing, one way or the other.
I did some banking business today, and the latest news about my “hobby” is that Bank One Visa raised my credit limit from $2500 to $3000 and Republic lowered its interest rate on my credit line to 13.5%. (The Fed lowered the discount rate again today, despite a surprisingly robust first-quarter GNP report.) At the computer lab I used IBM Writing Assistant (Jack Saunders probably wrote the manual for it while at IBM) to whip up a new résumé and I tried out Graphic Assistant, which is pretty neat. I do feel about something I said to Mark before our Money and Banking final last night. We were talking, pretty much fooling around, and I joked, “You’re the most boring person ever met.” “Well, I don’t tell you everything I do,” he said. Why did I make such an insensitive remark? Probably because I felt that Mark never showed the interest in me that I did in him. But I was childish and cruel and hurtful, and I don’t feel good about it.
Saturday, April 19, 1986
8 PM. One week after my cold began, I’m starting to feel like I’m not sick anymore. Last night I coughed my head off, and this morning I had the usual spewing out of the phlegm that gathered while I was lying down, but for most of the day I’ve been relatively cough-free. I didn’t want to do any weightlifting today, but at my parents’ house, I used Jonathan’s bars to do dips, chins, and shoulder lifts. My relationship with Jonathan has been bad since that threatening phone call ten days ago. Since then Jonathan has been barely speaking to me. I’ve really never communicated well with either of my brothers, though I do love them. In a dream last night, I was furious with my parents for keeping Marc and Jonathan as children. In reality, they’re not children, but my brothers now work so intimately with my parents that they’re pretty dependent on Mom and Dad. Of course, such family concerns are and have been natural in business and agriculture. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that kind of arrangement, even though most of my Yuppie friends think it’s weird. I just hope Marc and Jonathan don’t resent my parents one day. Dad is about 60 and Mom is 55, and though they’re relatively youthful, they
won’t be here forever and certainly in their later years they won’t have the means or the ability to support Marc and Jonathan. For Marc’s sake, I hope he can make it on his own in this apartment; it would give him a sense of independence that he needs. He’s lived with Mom and Dad so long, he’s too close to see that in reality they may well be more dependent upon him than he is on them. As for Jonathan, I just don’t know. I remember him as a bright, talkative, friendly 10-year-old. Now he dresses in his religious “sunrise” colors, is very thin, and often seems somewhat “off” though on occasion he can converse very intelligently. I wish he’d given therapy more of a chance or that he wouldn’t have quit college. If he’s been able or willing to go away to a good school, maybe he’d be more well-adjusted. I was extremely lucky to go to Brooklyn College at the time I did. Even though it was a commuter school, I made good friends and felt like I was an important part of something. Last night I had Chinese food with my parents, as we usually do on Friday nights, when Marc and Jonathan are both out. We watched the news. As the days go on, I feel less happy about our Libyan raid. All our allies are against us, and
now terrorist acts have started. One of our six Beirut hostages was killed. It’s amazing to me how conservatives bellyache about the media’s “liberal bias” when they’re so easy on Reagan after skewering Carter. Remember how night after night we were subject to “the 233rd day of captivity for the American hostages in Iran”? What about these guys in Beirut? Everyone calls Carter a wimp, but all 51 hostages came home alive. And 250 Marines Reagan sends to Beirut end up dead, and it’s forgotten when he manfully invades little Grenada. Everything the While House does is with the President’s phenomenal popularity in mind. On Thursday night in the FAU elevator, I heard two of the younger guys in the class talking, and one said grimly, “We’ll be at war in six months.” In a way, as I’ve written before, I’m glad Reagan’s regime will play out to its logical conclusion, because people will start to think and again and maybe some will abandon this militaristic, nationalistic, “We’re #1,” “USA alla way” attitude. It may take a war or a big disaster to shake us out of this conservative mood. It’s so ugly the way people worship money and glamour today. Behind the humor or my celebrity shortage article was real outrage at our values.
At the dinner table, following some dismal news story about the latest report on education – this one calling for an end to the undergraduate education major and better training of teachers – Mom said that things will start to get better in our schools now that everyone is aware of the problems. “I doubt it,” I said. “People don’t care, and kids will just get dumber and dumber – along with their teachers – until the U.S. is overtaken not only by Japan but by South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore.” I’d like to be proven wrong, but I don’t see anything on the horizon that will change our values. Enough speechmaking for one Saturday. I received nine pieces of mail from nine different banks today; if it wasn’t for banks, I’d probably be facing an empty mailbox most days. The good news: Chemical MasterCard raised my credit limit from $1000 to $1500. I shouldn’t have applied for all those new cards in February; I just have to keep raising the limits on my existing cards. Tom sent The Eustachia Stories, angry that Joron of Velocities Press in Berkeley was delaying sending the books out. “This is a good argument for self-publication,” Tom wrote. Dealing with his small press
publisher made bringing out the book “a nightmare.” Tom liked the People article and xeroxed it for friends who enjoyed it and who wondered how the magazine let me satirize their raison d’être. Alan Nadel kindly wrote that though I didn’t get the Purdue job, “Other members of the panel besides myself also thought you would have been a good choice.”
Sunday, April 20, 1986
8 PM. I’m having trouble shaking this cough. Every morning I wake up and cough up lots of disgusting phlegm. I guess it will go away. Today I read the Sunday papers and studied a little for Tuesday’s Public Policy quiz, though I don’t think I’ll have much trouble with it. I also went to see The Trip to Bountiful. Geraldine Page’s Oscar-winning portrayal of a beaten-down but spunky old lady really got to me, because it reminded me of Grandma Ethel. Growing old can be sad if you lack control over your own life. I’m really tired now.
Monday, April 21, 1986
9 PM. This morning I slept late; the last two nights I’ve been unable to get to sleep until 2 AM or so despite being tired. At noon I passed my parents’ house and took my mail out of their mailbox. Discover sent me a form for a “pre-approved” $2500 credit line so I sent it back even though I know that if they do recheck my credit file with TRW, they’ll reject me again. However, if they do send me a Discover card, I’ll be very happy. That would mean I’ll be over the $50,000 line in credit lines. Crad also wrote me; he found the People article funny and said, “You seem to be enjoying yourself. I’m tempted to say that no writer deserves to be so happy.” Last night I read all of Jack Saunders’ books and they all seem to express similar sentiments. Crad and Jack see the writer/artist as an outcast, a misfit who could change society if only stupid people would listen to them. I wrote Jack back a complimentary but brief note, as I don’t want to get involved in a correspondence with him again – one that would end up in one of his books. I agree with Crad that Jack has intelligence and determination, but the man repeats himself endlessly: he’s the one great writer; the media
and the arts bureaucrats ignore him; there’s a conspiracy out to silence him, etc. Although I agree with much of what Jack writes about our junk culture, the man doesn’t know when to stop complaining and lighten up. He’s too angry to see any of the humor in his situation. Anyway, getting back to Crad’s remark: I’ll take happiness over literature any day if I have to make that choice. Unlike Crad or Jack, I know that even if I were promoted as well as I should be, and even if my books were on the best seller list, I wouldn’t have much effect on society. Well, that’s not right. First of all, my books being my books, I wouldn’t expect to them to get on the best seller list. Have I sold out? No. Have I settled? Perhaps. I’m still a fighter, still a rebel – but I know my limitations, and society’s – and I’m not willing to sacrifice my happiness for somebody’s neurotic notion of “art.” Look, I already sound quite pretentious. People published three letters on the celebrity shortage article: one asked how they could waste their space on such “crap” when they could be helping struggling people become celebrities (no sense of humor); the second offered himself as a volunteer to fill the ranks
of celebrities (sense of humor); and the final letter said: “My hat is off to Richard Grayson and Fred Bernstein for writing this wonderful piece of humor and to People for publishing it. Please let’s have some more of this heartwarming satire!” – Phyllis Diller, Los Angeles. I always did like Phyllis Diller. Gee, what a nice compliment coming from a famous comedienne. This afternoon I had a great hamburger at Corky’s in North Miami Beach and then I drove into downtown, where I got on the new MetroMover at the Fort Dallas Park station. The people-mover is a computer-driven, onecar vehicle that runs along tracks and stops every couple of blocks on a loop around downtown. The views are interesting as it passes the major buildings: the Southeast Financial Center, the Knight Convention Center, the notyet-complete CenTrust Building, Freedom Tower, Miami-Dade Community College and Bayfront Park. At Government Center, it connects with Metrorail. One ride around was fun and free on this first week of operation. Probably, like Metrorail, nobody will use it, but it would make a nice ride at Disney World. Too bad New
York’s subways don’t look like Miami’s rapid transit. I had dinner at my parents’. Jonathan, seeing me at the door, said he’d come down to eat later – but as Dad and Marc said, that’s his problem. Sore from yesterday’s chins and dips, I did work out a little with my light weights this afternoon. All in all, this was a pleasant day.
Tuesday, April 22, 1986
9:30 PM. I’m still having trouble shaking this cough. My Public Policy final tonight was perhaps the toughest of the tests in the course, but I’m certain I got at least a 90 and therefore an A for the semester. This class could have been more challenging, but I enjoyed it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my FAU classes this semester, it’s that I’m smarter than most of the business majors taking these courses. If I really had money – say, if I won the lottery – I’d try to get three degrees at once: the M.A. in Computing in Education at Columbia, the Ed.D. in Community College Teaching at FIU, and a
second bachelor’s degree – this one in business – at FAU. In the past two years I’ve amassed 40 credits, 33 of them in education, all A’s (probably) except for one B+. And none of these courses was in English, literature or creative writing. I feel very multitalented these days. Today was another gorgeous day, but I wasn’t out all that much. I’ve been sleeping late because I’ve been having trouble getting to sleep; last night I had a hard time trying to control my cough. This morning I thought a lot about death. I wondered if Sean is dead of AIDS. Would it make a difference to me? Yes, a great deal, and it’s not because I’m afraid I got it from him. With Sean alive, at least I know he’s out there, in Tampa or wherever, even if I have no way to see or contact him. Although I haven’t been touched by the AIDS epidemic the way so many have – none of my close friends has, as far as I know, died – it’s still affected the way I look at life: as temporary, as a gift. Being an agoraphobic and recovering started me thinking I was living on borrowed time, and working as an adjunct has made me see life as temporary; AIDS has only made both feelings more intense.
Sometimes I think I’ll live until I’m in my seventies or eighties, but I know I could die much younger. “Why not me?” is what I’ve always thought, rather than “Why me?” And I know the world will go on very well without me, the way it does after everyone else’s death. Woody Allen seems to dread death, and while I’ll probably be as scared as anyone, it also holds out some relief. I don’t believe in an afterlife, but I equate death with unconsciousness, with dreamless sleep, with nothing – and that’s as reassuring as it is frightening.
Wednesday, April 23, 1986
9 PM. Mom didn’t have a seder tonight, but she made dinner for all of us. We had matzoh and gefilte fish, but the main course was some kind of spinach lasagna. It was a pleasant evening. Jonathan’s anger towards me seems to have cooled, and we all got along well. Mostly my parents and brothers talk about the flea market, which is understandable since that’s a big part of all their lives.
I went to their house after taking the BASIC final, which was really a gift from Ray. He was at his in-service course, so I left the final with George, to whom I said goodbye. And that ends the spring semester. Well, it always feels a little sad at the conclusion of a school term. Tonight in our discussion, Dad couldn’t believe that Uncle Monty died ten years ago, but I was sure of the year because I remember my diaries. It’s five years ago that I ended my first full winter down here, the first term I taught at BCC. After that, I headed back to New York to stay in Marc’s apartment in Sheepshead Bay. The next year, 1982, I stayed in Florida in May and June and had my relationship with Sean. The year after that, I was free for Term IIIA and so I stayed at Teresa’s for five or six weeks; that was a good time. In 1984 I also went to Teresa’s after the last day at BCC; I left my apartment in North Miami Beach, and the next day Teresa left for Europe. That May alone in New York was one of the happiest times of my life. Last May wasn’t all that terrible in Manhattan; I basically enjoyed myself. And in a week, I’ll be back at West 85th Street. Whether this coming May will be as good as the other Mays of the past five years, I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to being in New York again and seeing my friends.
I expect to feel a little disoriented at first, but after all my travels back and forth in the last few years, I should be getting used to the changes between Florida and New York. Within a month I can adjust to about anyplace. Remember how miserable I was at Justin’s right off? But I got used to it, and in late October I hated to leave Park Slope. When you think about it, I’ve been really lucky, having lived in so many comfortable situations in the past five years. Gee, time has flown. It’s nearly seven years ago that I moved to Rockaway when my parents moved to Florida. I miss Grandpa Herb. Dad said Grandma Ethel started crying on the phone when he spoke to her yesterday. Sheila and Jeff went out of town to look at some college, and Aunt Tillie was too ill to have a seder, and Grandma felt lonely and miserable. Dad suggested she come for a visited, but Grandma protested that she’d have nothing to do here, and then Mom said on the extension, “Yeah, what would she do all day?” Mom shouldn’t have given in so quickly. It’s odd that she’s not close to her mother. Dad later said to her, “If it were my mother and I hadn’t seen her for a year, I’d just want to see her again.” Actually, Mom probably hasn’t seen Grandma Ethel for well over a year, not since October
1984, and Marc and Jonathan haven’t seen her since she was last here, after Grandpa Herb died, in March or April 1983. I’ll have to spend a lot of time Rockaway in May. Now that she can’t get around, it must be hard for Grandma Ethel. I have a splitting headache now, probably because I didn’t get to sleep until 2 AM and I was wide awake five hours later. I’m still coughing quite a bit. Tomorrow, I’ve got to exercise; I feel as though my body has fallen apart.
Thursday, April 24, 1986
9 PM. I just came in after staying at the Plantation library till closing time. It’s a gorgeous night: cool and breezy. I’m going to miss Florida, but then again, it hasn’t started to get really hot down here. I called Grandma Ethel when I got in. She said her leg is bothering her and she can’t walk. On Monday she’ll go to a doctor. I told I’d probably see her the following Monday. I figure I’ll spend the weekend getting adjusted at Teresa’s. For the last fifteen weeks, I’ve stayed put, and I’ve gotten comfortable here in Lauderhill, but I
want to go back to Manhattan while I can. This year may be my last chance to live cheaply in the Big Apple. If think I can live in Florida again if I have to come back in August. More and more Yuppie types, mostly New York Jews, are settling in Broward and Palm Beach, and the influence of the retirees seems to be waning. The new retirees are those of my parents’ generation, and they’re younger, bettereducated and more modern than the old people; basically they’re the World War II vets’ generation, the first suburbanites, the parents of the Baby Boomers. With school out of the way, I’ve been goofing off. I slept late, but then I went over to Davie and used Jonathan’s barbells and weight bench to exercise. I got tired after an hour, but I accomplished something. The mail included some credit card bills, and I finally got those newsletters from I. David Small, the credit card maven whose seminar I went to in February. I learned a little from reading them; one fact I was happy about is that the Discover Card’s “pre-approved” notice really means the card is pre-approved. Well, another $2,500 credit line will be mine. Why do I find my credit card shenanigans so much fun? Probably because I’m playing, but I’m playing with real money, thousands of dollars.
As I told Marc, whom I got started with his first Visa card, if I needed to, tomorrow I could take ten cards and go to the bank and get $15,000 in cash advances. “What a wonderful country,” Marc mused, “when an unemployed guy can get money just by asking for it.” Speaking of unemployment, I think I’ll go to Unemployment in New York and try again. Probably I’m ineligible, but I’ll use the FIU job and see if I can get benefits. Since I’m not doing anything anyway, it’s worth a try, no? I feel pretty frisky tonight, though my cough lingers on. At the library I kept seeing these great-looking young guys in shorts and T-shirts. Yeah, I know I’m terrible, but looking never hurt, nor did fantasies; I may be 35 but my sexual desires haven’t lessened. Probably people in their seventies and eighties feel young when they feel sexual too. That, as Sean used to say, is neat. George Myers wrote me a strange letter back. He seems kind of flaky these days, or is it just that he’s impressed with himself for being the book editor of the Columbus Dispatch? Why is it that literary types let power go to their heads? Alice was editor-in-chief of Weight Watchers and wasn’t the least pretentious about it; she had the good sense to
know, as she said, that in the grand scheme of things, it didn’t really mean much. Nothing does, of course.
Friday, April 25, 1986
5:30 PM. Last night I dreamed that Sean’s mother called me and left a number where Sean could be reached. The area code was upstate New York, but that seemed logical since in his last letter to me, Sean reported visiting Curt’s parents’ home way upstate near the Canadian border. Rarely do I dream about Sean, and he didn’t appear in this dream, either, though I still think about him often. AIDS makes me think about him more than I would otherwise because I wonder if he’s ill or dead. A Times report today said that AIDS cases in New York haven’t leveled off, and a JAMA study shows that even though gay men in the city have drastically changed their sex habits, it hasn’t prevented more of them from getting the virus. The majority of gay men in New York seem to have antibodies to AIDS, and in time many of them will get the disease. One doctor predicts
that AIDS cases won’t level off until just about all gay men are infected, and then there’ll be nobody new to infect. Horrible. Although I’ve had three colds in the last nine months, I don’t believe I’m infected. Probably I should take the test for HTLV-III antibodies. But I believe it’s likely that nothing Sean and I did in bed would have infected me. Sean was fairly active sexually, but he’d been with other guys for only a year, so he was probably (that’s the second probably, along with one likely, in the last free sentences) not contagious in 1983. And, of course, aside from Sean, there’s no real way I could have picked up the AIDS virus. I’d be much more afraid to get involved with a guy my age in New York, for chances are that he’s infected. Well, I’ve handled celibacy for a long time, and I can always get involved with women. Meanwhile, I’ve got other things besides sex on my mind. This morning I exercised briefly with a quick circuit of light weights. Then I went over to BCC South, to say goodbye to Patrick. I’d brought him Jack Saunders’ books, but he’d read them when Jack submitted them to a technical-report-writing contest that Patrick judged, and he thought they were utter crap. Patrick and I schmoozed for an hour. BCC’s dismal CLAST test results – at least in
comparison to other state schools – has the college in hot water. Patrick said he’s heard that over 100 people, many of them from all over the nation, with excellent credentials, have applied to become BCC president, making it unlikely one of the local cronies will get it. Meanwhile, Betty got her long-expected sabbatical for next chair, and Patrick may end up as acting English Department chairman on South (Betty’s job as Division Director would go to someone else) – unless they give it to Shelby, a former chairman from North. Patrick would make an excellent administrator; they seem to be grooming him for the position. Teachers College sent a lease agreement for a room for the summer (at $298 a month); I would have taken it if I had not been going to Teresa’s. Of course I’m still afraid that the deal at Teresa’s won’t work out, but even if she breaks up with Ken, I could live with her now that she’s working and I’m not. Nassau Community College acknowledged my job application for an English position, but since I’ve applied five years in a row without success, I’m not expecting an interview. Before I leave Lauderhill, I’ve got to begin cleaning this apartment. Also, I want to get transcripts from FAU and FIU reflecting this term’s grades, and I need to get together all my résumés, transcripts, letters of
recommendations, newsclips, etc., to take to New York. I’m meeting Mom and Dad for dinner in half an hour.
Saturday, April 26, 1986
10 PM. Or 11 PM if you want to start Daylight Savings Time a few hours early. Driving home from Davie just now – I just walked in – I felt really happy. The night in clear and mild, and I feel terrific. You can’t deny that I’ve had a magnificent winter here; it’s been magical, and that’s what I’ve always loved about South Florida in winter since I first set foot here at Christmas 1969. That trip was pretty nearly a miracle when you consider that just a few months earlier I’d been agoraphobic to the point where it was difficult to leave my room. Well, I left that room but continued to live there another ten years, while in the six and a half years since then, I’ve had a lot of other rooms. I’ll miss this place because I’ve been happy here.
Last evening and today I’ve been going through my things, deciding what papers I need to take and what gets stored away. This afternoon, I had all my clippings out: book reviews, articles about my silly campaigns and stunts. God, there must 200 or 300 different clippings from the past eight years. They were fun. I did some crazy things, and I’m proud of that, because how many people ever get in the paper once, and because the things I’ve done were unique to me. I feel kind of stoned and I want to dance and play loud music, but I’m not stoned and I’ll confine the dancing and music to my brain. God, life can be a bitch, but when it feels good, it feels great. Whatever happens when I go back to New York, whatever happens tomorrow, at least I know I’ve been happy. Are there people who never feel this way? I mean, nothing’s happened to make me feel so happy; I’ve just had a pleasant day, though. Last night I met Mom and Dad at the Old Spaghetti Warehouse and we had a decent dinner served by a cute waiter, and Dad let me have the pleasure of putting the meal on my Diners Club card. Back home, I threw out a lot of unnecessary papers, bills, old financial records, and I finally
fell asleep. In a dream, I was bicycling, which felt really good. Up at 9 AM, I coughed up my usual phlegm – but it’s almost nothing now – and had breakfast, read the papers, and went to Davie, where although my chest is still sore, I did 25 chin-ups and worked out my thigh and calf muscles. Then I took a shower, put on suntan lotion, and sat out for fort minutes. What a hedonist, huh? I got some bills and other stuff in the mail – and my check for $400 (no tax taken out) for the computer training workshop from FIU. Back in Lauderhill, I read some more, exercised some more (the stubborn stomach muscles), straightened out some more, masturbated, fell into a delicious half-sleep. At 7 PM I was back in Davie for some Chinese food that Dad brought home. We watched TV: at 8 PM HBO had on a sweet comedy, No Small Affair, with Jon Cryer, who’s cute and funny and who reminds me of Sean. I don’t know what it is about guys around 18 that I find so attractive. It’s not so much sexual as it is the thrill of seeing someone on the verge of adulthood, pulling back occasionally to reveal a child. Maybe kids that age haven’t had a chance to learn to mask their feelings the way “mature” people do. Teenagers feel things so deeply. Remember how it felt when I was in love with
Shelli, in love for the first time, and how bad it hurt when we broke up. Some adults – the rare ones – don’t lose that quality of adolescence; they don’t accept that they always have to be oh so sophisticated. Of course, teens can be a pain, too. Anyway, the movie put me in a good mood. I want to be able to entertain people the way a good movie can; that’s why Phyllis Diller’s letter about my People article meant so much to me. Hey, last August, when I was making a fool of myself, handing out those “celebrity shortage” leaflets on Sixth Avenue, did I have any idea it would lead to a People article? Maybe, way in the back of my mind – but even though it seemed to lead to nothing, I had fun. When Alice sort of ridiculed me for acting like a child, I felt bad, but again I’ve learned not to worry about people think, to be as playful or “juvenile” as I want, and to trust my instincts. Hell, I may be 35 but I’m just a kid.
Sunday, April 27, 1986
11:30 PM, though it feels earlier since it’s the first day of daylight savings time.
Last night I watched TV until 1 AM, which was really 2 AM, and then I had trouble getting to sleep – which didn’t surprise me because my mind was active and I’d napped in the afternoon. I’m not sure how many hours I slept, maybe as much as five or as little as three, but I didn’t feel tired during the day. After breakfast, I went to Albertson’s for groceries and the Sunday papers, which I read in bed till about noon. (I’ve been working on them for the last ninety minutes too, and I still have the Times magazine and book review sections to finish.) For months I’ve badly needed some pants; my present jeans and corduroys are all either ripped or transparently worn in the crotch. So I took myself to Sears at the Broward Mall and got one nice pair of walking shorts, three pairs of Levis, two pairs of corduroys and one other pair. It came to $92 on my Sears charge. Ouch. I know I’ll never become a true credit card junkie because I’m so cheap that even clothes buying makes me wince. I’ve been spoiled by a lifetime in the clothes business. Just in the last four months Mom has given me shirts that would probably cost about $200 to $350 in total. Another factor in my dread of clothes shopping is forcing myself to confront my physique. I was pleasantly surprised at how nice my legs
looked in the dressing room mirror, but that blog of fat on my stomach – yech! Sometimes it doesn’t look so bad – in the right light or out in the bright sun – but hanging over the waist of a new pair of jeans, my fat is truly repulsive. Still, I didn’t file an environmental impact statement before going to lie in the sun at my parents’ condo’s pool. It was warm and sunny today: the take-it-forgranted Florida weather I love. My parents came home with Jonathan at about 4:30 PM. (Marc, despite his fights with Danielle, went with her to Orlando this morning.) Dad helped me put oil in the car and then I went with him to the warehouse, where I helped him put away dozens of boxes of shirts; I also put away two boxes of books and papers I’d taken from the house. This evening I’ve been going through my clothes and classifying them into three categories: take to New York, leave here, and oh-God-throw-away-already. (Lots of T-shirts fall into the latter group.) I also cleaned the bathroom, which was pretty disgusting because I hadn’t cleaned it in the last sixteen weeks. And I’m two-thirds of the way through The Impostor Phenomenon, a pop-psych book that deals with a problem I have: the feeling that despite my successes and achievements, I’m
not really very talented – just lucky and hardworking.
Monday, April 28, 1986
7:30 PM. Last night I again had insomnia, and it was at least 4:30 AM before I managed to fall asleep. I had so much I wanted to do today, it was preying on my mind. No matter how much time I leave myself, it always seems there’s a large number of chores to be done before I go from Florida to New York City and vice versa. Unfortunately, Marc is away, and somehow I’ve got to see him before I go and explain the logistics of living here. Deep down, I’ve got a feeling this isn’t going to work out, but I’ve got to give Marc a chance; to do otherwise would be to let him know I don’t think he’s responsible enough to take over the apartment, and I can’t insult him that way. Probably everything will be fine, and I’m just worrying needlessly. Last year, when I returned to New York, I knew I’d be coming back in June to pick up my student loan check and, I thought, to take the FIU word processing class.
My stay was only four days, but it threw my whole summer off-balance. Now I don’t plan to return until mid-August at the earliest. Obviously, if I do spend next fall in Florida, I can’t expect Marc to give up my apartment if he doesn’t want to, so I’d have to look for another place. At least I’d have a room to myself at my parents’ if I needed it. Mom and Dad went house-hunting today. I saw Dad earlier when he got me out of a jam: rushing about trying to accomplish all my errands, I accidentally locked myself out of the car at a Barnett Bank on State Road 7. (I had been going out to use the ATM when my arm accidentally hit the door lock, with the keys still in the ignition.) Well, I eventually deposited my FIU check and some cash in the credit union, gave some clothes to Goodwill, xeroxed some stuff, took my paints over to a tailor who promised to have them ready on Wednesday, got a haircut, etc. Actually, none of these errands were desperately needed, but I will feel better knowing I don’t have to do them in New York – where xeroxing , tailoring and haircuts are more expensive. I just checked to see that I have all the keys to Teresa’s; I do.
Having received a letter to all students in the Community College Teaching Program about a seminar today at 4:30 PM at FIU, I mistakenly went to the Bay Vista campus, as the letterhead indicated; however, the seminar was at Tamiami although the letter hadn’t indicated that. While I was at FIU, I went to the registrar to request a copy of my transcript and then tried to get home before rush hour traffic got too bad. Last night I spoke to Lisa, who invited me to her house on Wednesday evening; as we spoke, she asked if I’d talk to one of her classes at Spanish River High School. I agreed, but now I’ll probably try to get out of the trip back to West Palm Beach with her because I don’t want to leave myself with everything to do on Thursday morning. I have all of tomorrow free, so I should be able to get things done then. Today was the first real hot day here; it must have gotten close to 90°, and I’ll be glad to escape the South Florida summer. Ronna was busy working on her play when I called last night. Her good news is that her brother got a full scholarship to Rollins College.
Tuesday, April 29, 1986
8 PM. After two nights with little sleep, I made up for it last night, and usual, that first night of good sleep in a while felt delicious. I had a long involved dream – which felt like I’d dreamed it before – in which I kept getting captured in the Soviet Union. Probably the USSR was on my mind because of a nuclear power plant disaster, which may have killed over 2,000 people. Anyway, I awoke feeling refreshed this morning. I drove up to FAU in Boca only to find that the grades won’t be out until tomorrow, but at least I filled out a transcript request form. Today was another sunny and hot day, hitting 92° in Fort Lauderdale. Driving along the turnpike, I reveled in the sheer physical beauty outside. I love South Florida because of the climate and the natural beauty. What I hate about is the mindset of the people. I’m afraid the Florida mentality will prevent this state from progressing in the future. People down here scoff at “Taxachusetts,” but states like Massachusetts are better prepared to meet the new economy; already
Massachusetts has the lowest unemployment rate in the U.S. Why? Because it has terrific schools and universities, good transportation, lots of cultural amenities and a well-educated work force. In the old industrial days, factories might want to relocate to Florida, where they’d get low taxes, cheap labor and sunshine. Today a corporation wants brain power, quality – and they don’t mind paying for it. I’m sure I was right all along about having a state income tax, and someday people in Florida will wonder how stupid people could have been to have fought against it. Actually, no one’s had to fight, because just bring up the issue is enough to kill a political career. I got calls from Herald and Sun-Sentinel reporters to tell me that a decision has been reached in my complaint. As I expected, the Human Relations Division ruled that because I rejected the offer from AmeriFirst to give me AmeriPlus 55, my complaint was being dismissed. I gave the reporters some quotes about generational equity; I’ll see what mishmash comes out in the papers tomorrow. The Herald reporter told me the County Commission has passed or will pass a law (that will go to a referendum) making discounts
based on age legal, and the reporter said it was strictly a result of my case. If that’s true, I’ve really done something to change the system; at least I’ve forced the government to change their laws. And that’s something. It’s nice that it happened while I was still here in Florida. By the way, last week Mom told me that Jan Strickland of the county school system had called, and for days I avoided her calls, figuring that she would berate me for not doing a good job in my Sunshine Elementary computer workshops. But today I spoke to her, and only needed to clear up a minor point on one of the payroll forms I’d left with her. The Impostor Phenomenon at work again. I’ve got to watch that. My parents always told me, “Oh, Richard, you can do anything,” but such vague praise rang hollow, and I always discounted it. I also have a fear of success, of being given more work and harder challenges. And of course I fear outdoing my father and brothers. The book gave me exercises to deal with these feelings (for example, I have to realize that my brothers would be no more successful if I was unsuccessful), and I’ll try to work on these issues.
Teresa called to say hello. She goofed and didn’t check a speech she handed to out to make sure that some Koch-bashing was deleted, as Ned Regan had wanted. The discrepancy between the Comptroller’s remarks – which didn’t mention Koch – and the copies of the speech Teresa gave out have turned into a mini-scandal. Teresa read me a newspaper item in which she blamed the mistakes on an accidental typing up of an unauthorized draft of the speech. “But the one who gives out the press release is the one responsible for it,” Teresa said, “so I may be out of a job.” I hope not, for her sake and mine. Probably I’m not lucky enough to get two good nights of sleep in a row, but I’m going to try.
Wednesday, April 30, 1986
8 PM. I’m waiting for Marc to come by so I can give him last-minute instructions about the apartment. My flight is at 1:30 PM tomorrow, and I’m already nervous. It’s funny; this will be my fortieth flight since I first began flying again
when I came to Davie at Christmas 1979, and I still am not used to being in a jet. I’ve pretty much got everything packed. I need to do a wash at my parents’ tomorrow, so I figure if I get there by about 10:30 AM, I’ll have enough time. Why am I so nervous when this is a leisurely leave-taking, unlike last year? I can’t remember how I felt then, but it’s hard to go. I feel so much a part of this area. My photo was again in the Herald, and there was a story about me in the Sun-Sentinel, too, and I just spoke to a Sun-Tattler reporter. Basically, the stories were brief and factual and didn’t print my comments about the inequities between the generations. Okay by me. I also got a message from a Howard Community College professor in Columbia, Maryland, who wants to interview me by phone about the job opening there. It’s crazy that all this happens just as I’m leaving. At my parents’ house at 11 AM today, I collected the mail, which included a shiny new Discover card and the letter from the Human Relations Division dismissing my complaint. The Discover card has a $5,000 credit limit, double the $2,500 limit mentioned on the form I’d sent back. If that’s true, I’ve really hit the jackpot. I used the card this evening in a bookstore where I was the first person ever to
use Discover; they had just gotten their material last week. I was at Lisa’s school in Boca at 12:45 PM. It felt very odd to see so many kids all in one place; with all those white, affluent teenagers, I felt I was on the set of a John Hughes movie. Spanish River High School is a huge, sprawling modern complex. Lisa’s class treated me with respect, which means they were mostly quiet and didn’t make rude remarks. I talked and read for too long and didn’t realize the time; I should have paid more attention to them and asked if they had questions. Staying with Lisa during her work period afterwards, I realized I could never teach high school and put up with the paperwork, bureaucracy and administration tight-ass attitudes. It’s a miracle that these kids learn anything with the system the way it is. Lisa’s too good a teacher for them, and they don’t appreciate her – but they will, later on. She and I had some diet ice cream in a Boca store after school ended, but I didn’t have time to go back with her to her house in West Palm Beach. We said goodbye, and I stopped at FAU, where I picked up my grades. As expected, I got A’s in Money and Banking as well as The Changing Environment of Society,
Business and Government, giving me a total of 16 credits at FAU with a 4.0 index. I drove back to Davie, where I picked up my pants at the tailor, put gas in the car, and bought a Mother’s Day card which I mailed to Mom before I went home to say goodbye to her. Jonathan didn’t come out of his room to say goodbye to me, but he sounded friendly. I’ll see Dad tomorrow when he takes me to the airport, and Marc should have been here by now. So ends my winter and spring of ’86 in Florida. Tomorrow will be May, and the first four months of 1986 will be over. I doubt the next two-thirds of the year can live up to the first third, but that may be my neuroses at work.
Thursday, May 1, 1986
10 PM. Back in the Big Apple. Marc came over at 9 PM last night, bringing a wall unit it took both of us to lug in. We talked for an hour, and I showed him around the apartment, where I was so happy. But I felt I
couldn’t give up this chance to stay at Teresa’s again. In Davie, I did a wash and worked out with Jonathan’s weights. When I realized that I’d left my box of diaries in the apartment, I felt nervous about it and went back to bring them to Davie. The diaries probably would have been safe in Lauderhill, but I feel better about them being in Davie with my parents. Time seemed to be going so fast, and I had a million things to do. Well, I got up ready really late and I almost missed my flight because Dad and I kept getting into horrendous traffic jams. Probably I was the last passenger to board the flight, and of course this was the one time my carry-on luggage had to be inspected because it failed the x-ray test. It felt all day as if everything was conspiring to make me late for the plane. Once in my seat, I was out of breath and sweaty. The takeoff was almost a relief, and the flight was extraordinarily smooth. I pretty much relaxed, enjoyed the meal and watched Rocky IV. One advantage of my being the last one to board is that my luggage came out first. I really took too much with me: two heavy suitcases and a big carry-on bag. Luckily I caught a cab driver who was polite, intelligent and a good driver. We had a great
conversation, and he helped me get my bags to the elevator. It didn’t feel all that odd to be in Manhattan, and the apartment feels familiar. I put all my stuff in the closet; it will take time till I’ve got things where I want them. I called Teresa at work and she told me to meet her and Ken for dinner at his apartment on Second Avenue and 71st. Josh phoned to say hi, and Justin left a message wondering if I’d arrived yet. After calling Dad to let him know I’d gotten in safely, I took the crosstown bus at 86th Street and Broadway, where across the street the whole block is almost entirely down. All over, new high-rise condos are going up; both Manhattan and South Florida can change drastically in only a few months. Teresa and Ken seem pretty comfortable in their relationship although he can be nasty to her at times, but in a playful way. “Isn’t he mean?” she asked me. “No, I’m cute,” said Ken. “He’s cute,” I said. And Ken said, “Sure, he’s not going to say I mean because he doesn’t want to spend the whole summer with you.” The man is correct. I liked Ken and enjoyed
our dinner. Teresa’s job has made her more confident and interesting. They had an appointment, and I walked them to 72nd, where I bought a few groceries and grabbed a crosstown bus back to the West Side. I’d forgotten how expensive everything is in Manhattan, but I’m glad to be here.