Friday, August 1, 1975
It’s hard to believe that it’s August already. It’s a hazy, searingly hot day. Late yesterday afternoon I decided that I would try to shake the doldrums and so I practically dragged myself into Manhattan.
Arriving in Greenwich Village at 6 PM, I parked on the corner of Greene and West 8th Streets and had a quick bite at the Greenwich Art Coffee Shop, where I had dinner once before, and then I went to the Art Theater, where they’re having a Robert Altman film festival.
Yesterday they were showing Brewster McCloud. I’d been wanting to see it again for a long time, and since my student discount card was good yesterday, everything was perfect.
I enjoyed the movie thoroughly, just as I’d enjoyed it before, and I saw some things it had in common with Altman’s Nashville: it was a non-linear portrait of Houston and the Astrodome. Altman loves making fun of hicks and hippies and showing car smashups.
It was about 8:30 PM when the film ended, and I walked up 8th Street, where you always see something unusual: a weirdly-dressed person, an old loony mumbling to himself, people who look like they’re out of some freak show.
So I feel at home there. It’s okay to be peculiar if everyone around you is. For half an hour I browsed in the Eighth Street Bookshop, spending a lot of time at the corner where they keep the little magazines and quarterlies.
Today I got back a very nice rejection letter from The Carleton Miscellany. Wayne Carver, the editor, wrote me that “Talking to a Stranger” came very close to getting in, but it was a bit too loose for him “despite the lovely wit.”
If I get my hands on some money, I’ll send out a new batch of stories to various places – although sometimes I wonder why I bother.
Anyhow, I realized that I should hang out in places like the Bookshop because that’s where I can meet people with whom I have something in common. (And I could also meet some perverts and weirdos.)
Driving out of Manhattan, I ruminated on Mayor Beame’s plan to make the city solvent.
Among other things, they’re raising the transit fare to fifty cents, increasing tolls on many bridges (it will soon cost me fifty cents every time I want to go to Rockaway: a round trip will be a dollar), and cutting the CUNY budget by $32 million.
While driving across the toll-free (so far) Brooklyn Bridge last night, I saw the Watchtower sign say it was exactly 9 PM, and it occurred to me that Libby ends her work at the YWCA at that time.
So I rode down Atlantic Avenue, and sure enough, I spotted Libby walking towards the subway. After I yelled to her, she jumped into my car; the other drivers must have wondered what was going on.
I took her home and she invited me up for some orangeade and watermelon. Her roommate Marisol and Marisol’s boyfriend Igor were there, half-undressed – the apartment was very hot – watching TV, so Libby and I went to her room.
She told me that she sent Mason the pills with a very apologetic letter about giving him the infection. Mason wrote her back that she shouldn’t feel guilty, that the infection might have come from him.
He explained that around graduation time, an old friend was visiting him and they got stoned one night and that led to intimacy. I didn’t say a word to Libby, but I’m positive that “old friend” was Helen. I know that Helen and Mason were together a lot then and they even said that they almost came over to my house one night.
But the infection probably didn’t even come from Helen, because Libby’s friend who also teaches swimming at the YWCA, also got the same infection. So it could have come from the pool or wearing a wet bathing suit.
Libby said that Mason will be coming into the city Monday night for his one-day vacation from the Fresh Air Fund camp.
Yesterday, Libby said, she rode a bike from Brooklyn to the Village with her friends Steve and Joyce, and Libby said that was a lot of fun; on their way back, they met Fred, who was cycling home from work.
Around 10:30 PM, I left Libby’s, read the Village Voice in bed, slept well, and this morning took the train into the city.
Only two other students in French class showed up today, and Linda Belfer said she was beginning to take it personally. I can’t understand why someone would spend $165 on a course and then not show up.
Sunday, August 3, 1975
Last night, on impulse, I bought this New Jersey rock paper, The Aquarian, and looked at the personals in the back. Most people were from 16-24, a lot were gay, and they all used code names like “Another World,” “Hot Italian” or “Starshine.”
I found it fascinating and also kind of sad: so many people are so lonely and hungering for contact. I’m thinking of placing an ad – they’re free – or maybe answering some of them.
Two bisexual guys gave their P.O. box numbers and they sound nice. It’s about time that I finally allowed myself a homosexual experience. By now I know that I’m not gay, and I don’t think one encounter with a male will turn me into a faggot.
It appears there are a lot of guys like me, who are oriented towards women (I like being a man with a woman, the way I was with Shelli and Ronna, and even the way I felt when I protected Libby that day we went to the clinic) but are attracted to straight-acting masculine guys.
The problem is that writing a letter is so ridiculous. I’ve done it with Brad, and Michael Montgomery, and Rachel, and that didn’t work. I think I’d rather just send someone a couple of my stories; probably “Reflections on a Village Rosh Hashona” and “Roman Buildings” capture more of who I am than would a formal note trying to introduce myself.
At 10:30 AM today, Ronna phoned and I told her she should come over. She was going to take the bus here, but I said it was much too hot for that and I went to Canarsie to pick her up an hour later.
At her house, I said hello to her sister (Ronna’s mother was at her friend Ben’s, and her brother was with his father) and saw their new baby snakes. But once we got into the car, I told Ronna straight off that I was angry with her for not calling me for such a long time.
In the end, happily, I decided to resort to direct honesty and not backbiting or name-calling. I didn’t attack Ronna personally, but made it clear that I was furious at her actions. However, it turned out that she thought I was angry with her and couldn’t understand why.
She had no recollection of my phone calls; evidently, her sister had not given her the messages. I told her she could have written while she was on Block Island with Susan, or in Virginia with Henry, and she said yes, she probably should have.
I explained all my hostile feelings to her and she pretty much understood, so by the time we got to my house, most of that mess had been straightened out, and we could enjoy the day with each other.
We still feel close when we’re together, but now we’re just friends, not so involved with each other’s lives. For myself, and I think for Ronna too, it’s a relief not to have to live two lives. We used to call each other every day and know everything the other was doing.
There was an intensity about the relationship that I could not stand at this point. Sometimes I think that I want that kind of relationship again, but I really don’t; for one thing, I can’t invest that much psychic energy in another person when the most important thing to me now is my writing.
And now I can be me and not worry whether Ronna thinks I’m too cynical or immature, just as it no longer bothers me that Ronna’s sloppy or late because I don’t have to live with it now.
So we got along very well today, talking, catching up on each other’s lives, and getting close for a time. We’re still very attracted to each other physically – our bodies seem to “fit” together, as Ronna says – and ultimately we made love.
I’ve discovered something about sex: all it is, is communication, and when Ronna and I have good communication, like today, we have good sex. I do love her and she loves me too, I think, but it’s in a different way and we didn’t have to tell each other.
Satisfaction makes it very hard for me to write well; it’s like smoking grass and just wanting to lie still afterwards. In contrast, sexual frustration is a spur to my creativity.
But it is wonderful to feel like a man, an active and alive human being, when I touch Ronna and she responds, or when we just lay together, the tips of our fingers just brushing against each other.
I suppose that, in time, Ronna will find someone and we won’t make love anymore – and in a way, I want her to find someone, for she deserves happiness – but I can’t help feeling that there will always be something special between us.
And I’m not going to let pride stand in my way anymore. The eight hours we spent together today seemed to fly by quickly, yet they also seemed days long in that we said so much to each other. It’s true: the quality of time spent together means so much more than the quantity of time.
We joked and gossiped and talked about the theater and literature; I read her some of my stuff; we went out for lunch at Jahn’s and had Italian ices afterward; we kissed and hugged a lot.
Now we’re individuals, leading lives that have little to do with one another: she’s involved now with Felicia’s wedding and her mother’s possible remarriage (last evening Ronna met Ben’s two sons at his apartment), and she’s very close with Henry and Craig.
But still we can talk like we used to, talk about stupid yet very important questions, kind of the way Woody Allen and Diane Keaton talked in Love and Death. (Ronna saw it with Henry and said she thought of me as she watched the movie.)
I can tell her about very intimate things. Now that I don’t feel that she’s judging me, I even told her about my internal debate about whether to have a homosexual experience.
Good feelings like the ones I had today, if they’re not studded with passion and romance, don’t make for very good writing – but they do make for the best experiences in life.
Monday, August 4, 1975
7 PM. The heat wave ended today. It’s still humid, but it was cloudy and not as hot as the weekend. I’m feeling pretty good, and a lot of the good feeling comes from yesterday.
I’m glad that I decided to see Ronna and I hope our friendship will continue. Just her physical presence is comforting: that soft, chubby body is nice to have around. And at least I don’t take her for granted this way.
After sleeping well last night, I woke up early this morning to take the train into Manhattan. As I walked to the bus stop, I saw a cardinal resting on a branch. It’s a magnificent red bird; I’d never seen one before, except in photographs. I also saw a magnificent huge sunflower as the Mill Basin bus passed Ocean Avenue.
We completed our translation of Candide in class today; Wednesday is our final, and on Friday we’ll go over the test. I’m going to miss French class a lot; Miss Belfer made it a very pleasant summer course.
On the train back to Brooklyn, a dog got on our car at DeKalb Avenue. He was a cute little mutt and resisted all attempts to get him off the train. Everyone, especially the young people, was having a lot of fun with the animal.
Finally, a transit worker with a walkie-talkie took charge, radioing for someone to meet him at the Prospect Park station with a rope. There were a lot of hoots, and the man said, “You think somebody having to get 28 rabies shots is a joke?”
Still, the kids kept playing with the dog, and one Puerto Rican kid told another that the dog was his brother and then some guy shouted, “There’s a lot of dogs on this train!” Anyway, at Prospect Park, the poor animal was coaxed off the train without having to resort to a rope.
At home, I did my exercises and had lunch. I called Cousin Michael, who was at home with a sitter while Robin was out; he’s such a cute kid. I told him I’d come over for a visit one of these days.
On Wednesday, Joel’s taking him to the orthopedist again, and perhaps they’ll put a boot on the cast so Michael can get around a little.
I went to the Brooklyn College library to do some work, but I ran into Elayne by the card catalog and we ended up going to the Sugar Bowl for coffee and a lime rickey. The Greek guys there asked Elayne if I was her brother.
She said that her job in the Art Department is in jeopardy because of the huge budget cuts, and odds are that she’ll be fired in September. The whole fiscal crisis is causing so much personal suffering. I wonder if Josh will still have his job in the mail room when he returns from California.
And Elayne threw a small scare into me when she said that some master’s programs might be eliminated; I’m sure our small MFA program would be the first to go. I don’t even want to think about that happening because I just don’t know what I’d do.
Elayne said she broke up with this vegetarian who she was seeing; she started telling me that he was a fantastic lover from the neck down but that he would never kiss her, and she couldn’t take not being kissed while having sex.
I don’t know: is there some reason people tell me these intimate things, or is everybody into True Confessions these days? Elayne simply said, “It’s all fodder for your pen.” That may be, but why does she have to mention these details at all?
She said she spoke to Elihu last evening and that he’s back from his whirlwind trip and looking for students to tutor at LIU. Elihu did not see Leon in Madison: he went to Leon’s house twice and no one answered the door although Elihu thought he saw Leon behind a window shade.
Jerry and Shelli still live in that house with their friends. It seems Shelli persuaded Jerry to dye his hair orange and that it sticks up in the air three inches straight.
And apparently Jerry’s taken to cruising the streets of Madison at night; I don’t know if he’s hustling, but it sounds very weird. I feel sorry for Jerry and even more so for Shelli.
When Elayne asked if I was happy, I told her, “Just give me chocolate milk, cookies and a TV set or a book, and I’m content.”
Wednesday, August 6, 1975
The cool, dark weather we had today was a relief. The days are starting to get shorter, and in four weeks, I’ll be registering for the fall semester. I’m looking forward to fall, but I want to make the most of these remaining weeks of summer.
This morning I took my French final. It was a load, taking my giant Mansion’s dictionary with me on the train to Manhattan. Although it took me the full two and a half hours to try and take the Goncourt Brothers’ preface to Germinie Lacerteux and turn it into “concise, idiomatic English,” I think I did fairly well; some of my constructions did sound a bit awkward, however.
I do hope Richmond College will accept this course in lieu of their own language exam; I feel confident that I could pass their test, but I just don’t want the trouble. It’s hard to believe that the course will be over on Friday; the six weeks went so quickly.
I spent a good part of the afternoon writing the “Remarks” that will form the basis of the “Summer 1972” section of my “novel in stories.” I think it just might be an effective technique although it could prove impossible to understand what’s going on.
Writing is so satisfying to me; it’s the only completely fulfilling thing I know. Working on this novel is not like “work” at all; it’s more an absorbing hobby or a game. I haven’t given much thought to even trying to get this novel published; I don’t want to think about that until it’s near completion.
But there’s a very good possibility that no book publisher would want my novel. It doesn’t really matter because I’ve gained a lot of discipline from the work and learned that it’s not impossible to write a novel, that it doesn’t take inspiration from the Heavenly Muse: it’s just diligent, thoughtful writing.
So maybe one day in the future I will write a good novel. This one is perhaps coming too easily to me. I know the story backwards and forwards, I’m familiar with the characters, and using my diaries and remembrances and people’s letters, it’s really writing itself.
This afternoon Gary called from his office at St. John’s. He was upset because he read his students’ evaluations of him, and although most were pretty favorable, he got terribly pissed off at the few negative comments, especially one that complained he had an accent.
It’s so like Gary to be like that and emphasize the negative. More and more, I see that it’s a person who makes his own fate. I’m glad I didn’t look at my students’ evaluations of me this spring.
Alice called last night, waiting to contact me until she finally got over her jet lag. Switzerland, she reported, was the same as usual, but the inflation rate there is phenomenal: dungarees are selling for $50 a pair.
She ate a lot of yummy food, gaining three and a half pounds, and had lots of fun with Andreas; Alice was just sorry her brother couldn’t meet her in Zurich. Alice is having dental work done, with the dentist who claims the world will end in thirty years unless people get behind his plan to save humanity. (That reminds me: I must make an appointment with Dr. Hersh.)
Alice’s boss at Vanderveer asked her to work full-time for a couple of days during other people’s vacations. She usually loves to be a meanie on Eviction Day, but yesterday she was touched by the plight of a guy with three kids who’s been laid off; he’d been on time with his rent for four years, and now, after being late one month, they’re kicking out his family.
I told Alice I’d see her soon; she said she brought back a gift for me.
Tomorrow morning I have to get up early to drive Mom, Dad and Jonny to the airport. Because of the golf clubs, they can’t fit all their luggage in Marc’s car, so we’ll both have to go. My car’s been making a knocking noise since Sunday, and I’ve got to take it in.
Thursday, August 7, 1975
1 PM. I just awoke from a delicious second sleep. It was kind of a half-sleep with demi-dreams. In the jangle of my thoughts, somehow I said to myself, “This is a Spanish Blue day.” It sounded good.
It’s chilly today, at least compared with what we’ve been used to, as well as dark and damp. It’s the kind of day you can get lost in, or hibernate in, as I’ve been doing, lying on top of my bed, the radio playing WQXR, the shades drawn and the lights out, a whirring sound in my head, my mouth half-open, my penis half-erect.
It would be a good day for driving through a strange town, some place in Fairfield County, Connecticut, or Union County, New Jersey, or on the North Shore of Long Island.
As a kid, I remember cool days in August like this. You’d think, Oh shit, school is going to start soon. And you’d go out and play the first game of football of the season and maybe your mother would give you Campbell’s tomato soup afterward.
I’m in a funny mood, but perhaps I haven’t fully woken up yet. Early this morning when Dad woke me, I jumped with terror. I’d been in the middle of a dream, walking under an overpass in Rockaway, where I saw Ronna, followed by Ivan and Vicky.
They said I could come along with them. Ivan was older; his mustache was gone and his hair had turned grey. Vicky’s face was wrinkled. We were in the car, and I was in the front seat, and Ronna was in the back seat, but she was so far away from me that I could barely see her.
We stopped on some tree-shaded street and Ivan got out to go give piano lessons to Phyllis or someone. The rest of us joked around and felt uncomfortable.
Later in the dream, I was driving the car alone, up Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan, past the block where Allan lives, until I finally found an auction going on by the water.
The edge of the land was there, but there was no beach; the water was very rough, though, swirling and sweeping everywhere. I liked the feeling of being on the edge.
Then reality intruded and Dad woke me, and I got up and shaved and listened to the news about Malaysian terror and Jimmy Hoffa’s kidnapping or whatever.
Marc drove Mom and Jonny to the airport; I just had Dad, one suitcase and the bag full of golf clubs. Marc took a wrong turn, so I didn’t wait for him to come; I just kissed Dad by the KLM terminal and left.
Driving out of the airport, I passed the place where they make meals for the airlines, and I looked in the parking lot there to see if I could find Ivan’s car. I guess I had confused the real Ivan with my dream-Ivan. On the Belt Parkway, some seedy-looking guys were being handcuffed and frisked by cops.
Yesterday Dad came into my room to give me some money, but I was working and so he just put what I thought was a $20 bill on my dresser. But when I got home this morning, it turned out it was a $50 bill.
I had breakfast, went out and bought a black T-shirt with a pocket for $1.69 (Fruit of the Loom just reduced them from $1.79), came back home, showered, blow-dried my hair and then fell into a sleep. How lazy and luxuriant I feel today!
Last night I showed up at Grandma Ethel’s for dinner. Grandpa Herb came home from work at “the place” soon after I arrived. I think Grandpa Nat is driving Grandpa Herb crazy, with his insistence on cutting the fabric his way.
Grandpa Nat is like a dictator at work, and it’s the only thing in life that he really enjoys. On the other hand, Grandpa Herb does not want to work at all; he figures that by now, he’s completely earned his rest.
Grandma Ethel gave me a hamburger and coke and hot apple pie – all ten times better than you get at McDonald’s – and then we sat around watching TV for the rest of the night.
Today, I just can’t seem to get myself going. It feels like it’s close to midnight, not early afternoon. My biorhythms must be off, I suppose, but as Jerry Lewis said, I like it! I like it!