Friday, February 11, 1977
7 PM. I remember writing sometime last year about a day so magnificent it should be bottled and brought out during the depths of winter. Today was that kind of day. It hit 55° without a cloud in the sky, and this afternoon I exchanged my snorkel jacket, scarf and gloves for my leather jacket and Adidas sneakers and went out for a walk.
Before I had my accident, it would have never occurred to me to take a walk. But now I remember how much I used to love walking before all my neurotic symptoms started appearing in high school. (By the time they went away, I was already driving.)
You get a completely different picture of things when you walk down Avenue N to Flatbush Avenue than when you drive down the street in an enclosed vehicle. Walking is, for lack of a better word, is so organic. There’s no slight annoyance at red lights because you have all the time in the world, and you feel more alive, more a part of the world.
When kids on bikes pointed their toy guns at me, I clutched my arm in mock pain. “You got me!” I moaned. (And behind me, a sour-faced old lady muttered, “Bastards,” meaning the kids.)
Likewise, riding on buses and subways is a surprisingly relaxing way to spend time. I went to and from LIU today, and it was completely pleasant. If the bus or train was late or stuck, I had nothing to do with it, so I didn’t have to become anxious.
Of course today was a heaven-sent gift, just the kind of day we so desperately needed in this horrible winter. Even now, the air smells of that sweet spring smell. I can’t describe it any other way. Yes, spring will come, after all.
At LIU this morning, I was working on English 10 papers when Abe sneaked up behind me and grabbed my throat; for a second I was startled, but you could tell by the easy grip that it was only someone being playful.
It was that kind of day. Beverly and I talked for a while. She looked gorgeous today, and her voice was so sexy. I helped her order her desk copy of Wuthering Heights.
Marianne George, the Indian woman in my English 10 class who’s getting 100% on all her exercises, came to see me. For some reason, it’s always the very good students who constantly worry about how they’re doing.
Mrs. Aronson, who had Marianne in her ESL class last term, told me I’ve got to handle her with kid gloves – “otherwise she’ll burst into tears.” She didn’t today, thank Jehovah. Anita Negron, one of my repeat-students, is out recovering from an operation, and I sent her some work.
We had a fantastic discussion on “My Oedipus Complex” today, the kind of discussion that makes up for all the bad days. They talked, they laughed and they thought a little.
On my way to the subway, Desiree Forgenie from last term said, “Mr. Grayson, we all miss you so much. It’s hard to get used to our new teacher.” And she told me they caught their new teacher starting a sentence with “because” without an independent clause after it. The teacher said, “You people really know your stuff!” That made me so proud.
Back at home I got a letter from Joe McCrindle with my submission: “I always like your stories, but Transatlantic Review is ceasing publication.” A great loss: it printed some very good stuff. It depresses me that even in the little magazines, the markets for fiction are shrinking.
But the highlight of my day was my walk this afternoon. I read magazines in the library for an hour or so, catching up on the world – and then I walked the twelve blocks home at 6 PM.
Last night we had a birthday cake from Carvel for Jonny, and Marc’s girlfriend Deanna was here for dinner. I don’t know what Marc sees in her: she’s like a little mouse, so immature and giggly and too slow to keep up with the witty insults and quips and jokes that Jonny and I trade at the dinner table.
(I’ve got to say one thing for Jonny: he’s got one hell of a personality. He’s witty and outgoing and very quick.)
Later, Dad told me he was nauseated by the way Marc was pawing Deanna all evening. Marc obviously sees her as a goddess. Perhaps she provides him with someone who can be very dependent upon him.
Saturday, February 12, 1977
3 PM. Last evening Consuelo called and said that Mark wasn’t feeling too well, but that she wanted to get out of the house and see Network. I thought it might be fun to get out of the house myself, so I put away the work I was planning to do and said she should come by and pick me up.
She arrived about 8:15 PM and we drove into the city. It was nice having someone else do the driving for a change. Consuelo looks very well: she’s got her hair cut short and she’s lost some weight.
I got the tickets at the theater while Consuelo parked the car in a lot on Park and 85th. I liked the movie better a second time; it seemed to make more sense, and the performances were magnificent. (I didn’t tell Consuelo I’d seen it before.)
Afterwards we drove down to the Village and had cappuccino at Caffé Reggio on West 4th Street. Consuelo and I walked the streets arm in arm; at first I was uncomfortable when she took my arm, but after a while, it seemed very natural.
She loves her work in the school – teaching, running bilingual programs, being active – and I can’t blame her. She told me she likes to flirt with one teacher in particular, and then said, “Oh, I forgot! You’re Mark’s friend and I wouldn’t want him to know about it!”
I’m sure Consuelo is faithful to Mark, but as she said, they don’t really like to do the same things. She has other friends she can go out with – like Stella, who has finally come out of the closet. (No, Consuelo never slept with Stella “although people used to talk, I know.”)
From what Consuelo said, after you’re married for five or six years, you don’t have all that much sex – or romance, either. Mark has been very nervous lately, worried about getting closed out of courses he needs for graduation.
All night Consuelo kept apologizing for saying things she thought might have offended me. She had assumed I was very sensitive until I told her she was wasting her time, that she didn’t have to watch her words with me.
She dropped me off at home at 2 AM, and I felt good getting out. Even though it was not a romantic thing with Consuelo, I felt so much more masculine and more sensuous to be out with a woman on a Friday night.
I always feel differently about myself when I go out, as I did with Libby and her family on Christmas, or when Alice and I went to see Janice and Dolores.
It made me feel slightly sinful to awake after noon today, but after breakfast I walked to Kings Plaza – it isn’t as nice today as yesterday, but it’s still mild – cashed my $57.60 refund from Internal Revenue, and bought a gauze shirt in Macy’s for $1.99. When I tried it on, it made me feel very sexy, and so I bought it.
I’ve got to start watching my weight again. I haven’t been eating the right things and I’ve been eating too much of the wrong things, as my waistline has been bulging and my shirts are getting tight around the middle again. Disgusting.
Henry Jacobs sent me back my stories, saying Junction couldn’t use them. That pissed me off, but then I’ve got to realize that a great deal of jealousy may be operating there.
The people in the MFA program know how much I’ve been published and that might have been a factor in their form-letter rejection. Big deal: if they want to cut off their noses to spite their faces, it’s their loss, right? (How I’d love to snap, “Right!” convincingly.) Anyway, Henry Jacobs and Jed Dash always struck me as very snotty, self-important people, anyway.
Aunt Arlyne sent Mom a clipping from last Sunday’s New York Times Long Island section, which had an article on Arlyne’s health-food cooking classes and her campaign against chemical additives.
Yesterday I called Seventeen to speak with Alice, who said she was coming down with yet another cold – emotionally induced, no doubt. She and Andreas had a long talk on Tuesday, and Alice poured out all her frustrations to him.
She reported that Andreas, who hates to talk things out anyway, said Alice was now “a stranger to him” because all this time the things Andreas thought she loved most about their relationship were actually the things she hated the most.
Alice doesn’t know it yet, but her relationship with Andreas is already over. It may have been for some time.
Tuesday, February 15, 1977
5 PM. I am just beginning to feel yesterday’s depression dissipate. I had a very rough night: those stomach pains again. For some reason I was unable to expel the gas that was gnawing at me with sharp cramps. I made camomile and fennel tea, I read a little, I tried to watch an old movie, I tossed and turned, fixed up my blanket again, and moaned softly.
All morning I was completely without energy. I felt so depressed; I can’t remember feeling that blue in a long time. And I was angry with myself for being so unproductive. I’ve tried to bury myself in my work all month, but now I can’t even work.
Living in this house is terribly depressing. I have to watch Jonny’s compulsion neurosis getting worse and worse, and that reminds me of my own past.
Marc sleeps till noon and is engaged in numerous drug deals: when I came home yesterday, I found him in my room, laying out more money than I’d ever seen in my life into various piles. Phone calls come on both lines for Marc night and day; I must get only 5% of the calls on our line (no one ever calls Jonny).
Mom and Dad are always “talking things out” about business. They both chain-smoke and Dad has a habit of constantly burping which is getting worse and which drives me crazy. He looks terrible these days: his face is slack, he looks beaten, and I don’t think one ever recovers from that. Mom is growing shriller, and these days she leaves the house only to shop.
I guess I do miss the freedom of having my car, which could take me away from this bleak house. Every night I’ve been eating dinner at home, and I don’t enjoy it. Maybe that’s why I got sick last night.
I need something more than I have. Vainly I answered another personals ad in the Voice: from a “straight, shy and honest” 19-year-old male who wants a male friend. God knows what I’d have in common with a rock-music freak, confused, grubby, pimply kid. Of course I imagine him to be a well-groomed, super-intelligent prep-school type.
I don’t even know what I want anymore: boys, women, money, success, solitude, company. The February thaw of last weekend is over and I feel a wintry mood enveloping me again. I hate to sound this way, but I’ll just have to wait this mood out and it will pass.
Tomorrow I have to teach English 10, but in English 12 I’m having them write. And while I teach for an hour on Friday, Monday is Washington’s Birthday, a holiday.
This afternoon I went to Brooklyn College by bus. After doing some Fiction Collective work, I looked over the acceptances for the Conference. E.L. Doctorow can’t make it, but a surprisingly large number – about half – of the other invited speakers have already responded to say they’re coming.
I was amazed that people like Harvey Shapiro will be there for lunch both days rather than just the day of their own panel. Jon and Jack and I were almost scared at the prospect of this being such a big event.
We’ve decided that the next thing for me to do is to begin pricing a brochure that can serve as a mailer, and to write the first press release and see that it gets around to the Times, Voice, Newsday, local papers, etc. (I can feel myself feeling just a little bit better at the prospect of this work ahead.)
Josh returned the call I gave him yesterday. He’s got his first job interview tomorrow, at Brooklyn Jewish Hospital, and he was debating whether or not to go because it is in such a bad neighborhood. In the meantime, Josh is still working at BC, waiting for the airline job to come through.
Todd’s wife gave birth to a baby girl last week. Josh reported that Alan Cooper “is still a fag” and he’s having another party later this month. (Josh said he’ll go if he gets bored enough.) I told him about my accident and said I’d see him around.
My stomach still hurts. I wish I could write something. My revision of “Peacock Room” just doesn’t work.
Friday, February 18, 1977
2 PM. One has to stop feeling sorry for oneself sometime. So yesterday I went from my diary to finish my story “Adjuncts,” which I think is pretty good. I used my anger to good advantage in the piece, though maybe I think it says more than it does.
Anyway, at 4 PM, I took a chocolate bar and got myself out of the house. I went to the MFA/Fiction Collective office and was surprised at the number of manuscripts that had come in and which required my attention.
I didn’t have time to get to any of them, however, as Gloria was leaving and Jon wanted me to come along with him to his class and help recruit people to help with the Conference. Jon already has a student to drive Cynthia Ozick to and from Brooklyn; it’s a guy who wrote a story with the first line, “My wife thinks I’m having an affair with Cynthia Ozick.”
Jon was unhappy with the way the department handled the MFA teaching assistantships; he wanted them given out on the basis of need, but Jules selected them from interviews.
It’s caused a lot of dissension and jealousy among those students who were turned down, like Harvey. Laurie got another class, but she muffed the interview by playing Bartleby and refusing to answer questions.
Jon was angry that Jules had given a class to Dorothy Friedman, Susan Schaeffer’s MFA graduate, and not to me. (Jon has been talking me up for months, but Susan carries more weight with the chairman – no pun intended.)
But there was also nice news yesterday: Statements 2 is out. Peter got two copies, and we should have all the review copies in the office in a couple of weeks. Yesterday was really the first time I started to get excited about the book; till now, I haven’t thought about it much.
I went to Jon’s MFA class in SUBO with him and a new student, Sandy, who appears to be a Brooklyn Heights snob-type. I congratulated Todd on the birth of his baby daughter; he said that both she and his wife are doing well.
Todd told me that David Lenson had written him to say that he just missed getting a story in the next issue of Panache. That’s too bad, because I would have loved to be in the same magazine as Todd.
I said how-de-do to Laurie, Harvey and Ron Mace, and I was introduced to another new student, Les Von Losberg, who reminds me a little of Denis Woychuk, except I think he’s gay because he’s a good dresser and wears an earring.
Harvey showed me a copy of Zone #1, a literary magazine he and five friends (including some familiar BC names) are putting out. I bought a copy and found it pretty good; there were a lot of gay poems in it and it included recipes, though not much fiction. Still, the design was very neat and professional-looking.
I stayed till 6 PM as the class went over a rewrite of a story by Harvey, a story I enjoyed very much (and I said so when I commented on it). Everyone said they would help at the Conference in some capacity; at the moment, I’m not sure how I can use them.
I went over to the Junction to get “Adjuncts” xeroxed; crossing Flatbush Avenue, I waved to Arnie, who was driving past. After dinner at Jentz, I took the bus home.
In the evening I felt much better than I had earlier. I read the collection of Dan Curzon’s stories that we’re definitely rejecting; they aren’t very good, and I think they got published because they were the only stories about gays around. He’s much too heavy-handed and didactic, preaching the message that “gay is good” on every page.
Dad and I went to see The Last Tycoon at Georgetown. It was okay but unsatisfying.
Last night I dreamed about being in a class with Skip and Billy Sherman and others; in another dream, I walked barefoot in the snow, and that was delightful.
Today in English 12, I improvised, just talking about writing in general; I think I’m at my best when I do that. I got home from LIU only a little while ago, and I’m sort of at a loss to think up something to do the rest of the afternoon and evening. I hate to waste time.
Sunday, February 20, 1977
9 PM on a snowy, rainy Sunday. It’s a sleepy day, the kind I remember from my college days when I was dating and partying.
Alice’s party last night was an unqualified success from everyone’s point of view, and I can’t remember having so much fun in ages. Over the past two years I’ve forced myself into solitude to work, but my nature is still to be very sociable. I love people, I’m an extrovert, and I enjoy having fun.
I was the first to arrive and the last to leave. I said hello to Alice’s mother, who was going out, and to her brother, who looked really good and was very personable. He’s learning Icelandic in preparation for his two years in Reykjavik starting this summer; it’s a post he can’t wait to take over. He’ll be the only American in the embassy who’ll speak Icelandic and he can already say, “I am an excellent lover.”
All the guests seemed to come at one time. Janice arrived with her new boyfriend Jay, who doesn’t look like much – but if Janice likes him, he must have something. My old buddy Dolores came with another friend, Kara. Two of Alice’s brother’s friends were there, as were Bernie and Rob Adelman from Flatbush Life.
Richard and June brought Annette Capone, who used to work at Seventeen, as well as Hilary, her roommate Isadora, and Cliff, whom I’ve been wanting to meet for some time.
It was good to again see Robert, who looked terrific; his wife Judy is also a really sweet and interesting person. And Jeane and her longtime lover Bob were there, along with some other people, all of whom were very friendly.
The mood of the party was fairly low-key, but everyone seemed to be mingling and enjoying themselves. Alice was very busy, getting the food to the tables; her living room no longer looked like her living room at all.
Even Andreas showed up, and I know what an effort that was for him; he doesn’t like crowds and he usually doesn’t go out on Saturday nights, but he did talk with everyone who wanted to meet him. Andreas knows me, of course, and he consoled me on my accident.
He slipped away at 11:30 PM, and a little while later, Alice’s brother caught me alone and said he was “amazed” at Andreas’ even putting in an appearance; we exchanged knowing “so-what-are-you-gonna-do?” shrugs.
Robert is still working on his dissertation, which is taking a lot longer than expected. He’s obviously crazy about his wife, but they didn’t cling to each other all night, which is nice.
Jeane’s boyfriend is a little bit pompous, but I suppose he means well; still, I had wanted to talk to Cliff and he kept butting in. Cliff is very nice-looking, with an Oklahoma accent; from things people said, I had pictured him as something of a buffoon, but he’s certainly anything but.
Hilary and I got into an argument over First Amendment rights covering gross pornography like Hustler, and she said I couldn’t understand her point of view because I had a penis and not a vagina. “My having a penis is irrelevant,” I told her.
I liked Hilary and found her rather attractive; we talked about her dog, Tori (who hates all men except her father), adopting kids, and music. She acts like a bitch only because she’s obviously so vulnerable; although she’s very devoted to her father, being Howard Cosell’s daughter can’t be easy.
Dolores and I were all over each other the entire night; she is probably the one person in the world who could get me to dance. She led as we did the Lindy, and I was having so much fun that I didn’t care whether I looked foolish or not.
Later, we played patty-cake and arm-wrestled; I love women like Dolores, who’s so vivacious and outgoing and strong – physically, she’s the strongest woman I’ve met, perhaps apart from Nancy.
I laughed and talked and ate so much that I lost track of the time. Richard was flirting with Alice, so I flirted with June, who said that compared to me, she’s just a hack; I told June that wasn’t true. She’s got an article in today’s Times real estate section.
I got into an interesting conversation with Judy, Robert, and Bernie Adelman, who said he’d send reporters over to cover the Conference at Brooklyn College.
Everyone was in such high spirits, it made me feel like soaring. A party like that makes me feel very close to all the people there, and there was much kissing at the end, at around 1:30 AM.
I told Alice she was another Perle Mesta and gave her a big hug; I was so glad for her that everything turned out so well. Jeane and Bob dropped me off at home, where I lay in bed for hours, feeling exhilarated and golden.
These are the times I feel I’m really alive.