A 27-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Late September, 1978

Late September 1978 stolen cars

Friday, September 22, 1978

3 PM. Mom took the keys to Marc’s rented car last night and Marc had to go out. I lent him my car and I took the bus to Brooklyn College. It wasn’t so bad. I’m the only one in this family who doesn’t think he’s too good for public transportation. And the feeling that I can get there from here is a good one; it keeps me from getting scared.

Last night, though it was dark by 7:30 PM, was warm, and the campus looked so empty. (Later I discovered that enrollment is down to 19,000 as compared to 35,000 when I was an undergraduate.)

The Alumni Board of Directors meetings are a bore and we always get off on tangents that go nowhere, but it’s good to see old and familiar faces. And the tea and cakes are always first-rate.

Elaine Taibi was pleased that I gave her a few stories to read. She asked if she could get my book at the Eighth Street, and I was pleased to say yes. When she asked Ira Harkavy if he’d read “Hitler” in Flatbush Life, Ira, always the politician, said he did.

subo nightMaddy and Peter came up from the Executive Board meeting and we said hello. Maddy is finding the second year of law school just as much work as the first. She told me the deadline for Class Notes is October 15: something else for me to do. Oh well, somebody’s got to do it; it’s my third year on the job and I suppose I enjoy being the recorder of other people’s lives.

Jerry Borenstein told me he was surprised that the Anniversarygrams netted $3800 so far, which is better than he expected. He urged me to write to Irwin Shaw, who’s a lovely man, he says – though “a very heavy drinker.”

Peter is married to Joanne Decker, they live in Flushing (where “politics is dull”) and he still works as counsel to the Major League Baseball Players Association.

QC clocktowerMike came in late because he teaches a class in Advanced Personality at Queens College on Tuesdays and Thursdays; he’s pleased he got the job on his own.

He left the program at Fordham after a dispute with the new chairman, who’s very conservative; Mike said he would now like to get into the CUNY Graduate Center.

Eddie, looking every inch the young lawyer in his three-piece gray flannel suit, is working for a downtown law firm. Wells Barron, who got heavy again, is going for his M.A. in Poli Sci at BC and has just come off several Jeremiah Bloomlosing political campaigns, including Bloom’s for governor.

We talked about local politics and the primary losses of Balter and Kravitz and the victories of Rhoda Jacobs and Marty Markowitz.

At the meeting we approved the budget, some new constitutional amendments, got into a ridiculously protracted debate (as usual) and heard the report on CUNY: it may be absorbed into SUNY, but by now nobody really cares as long as Brooklyn College continues to be a good school.

When the meeting broke up at 10 PM, I got a lift with Wells, who also drove Eddie home; we chatted about this one and that one, who’s where and who married whom.

Eddie mentioned running into Alex, so I assume that by now he knows that Rose died. (Was it five years ago that Eddie and Rose double-dated with Ronna and me?)

antiochI had some news that Ronna had given me earlier: Sid and Corinne are getting married in June. Corinne is finishing her fiction dissertation at Indiana University and Sid’s enrolled in an Urbanology program at Antioch.

Today I taught singular and plural in English 23 and did a good job. I got six rejections today and I tried to write but didn’t get very far. It’s a dark, cool, humid day. Tonight I’m going out but I wish I was staying in.


Saturday, September 23, 1978

6 PM. Autumn came in cool: it’s hard to get around without wearing a 1974 arch dinerjacket. I’ve just been sitting at the counter of the Arch, chewing on a cheeseburger and playing with a tossed salad and apprising myself of my shortcomings as a human being, writer, and son – mostly the latter.

Dad is checking into Brookdale at 1 PM tomorrow and his surgery is scheduled for sometime on Monday. As much as we believe everything will turn out all right, it’s foolish not to recall that things don’t always work out for the best.

My father’s life for the past six or seven years has been a continuous and unrelenting series of disappointments and it pains me to think that I have become one of them.

I know Dad would say, “That’s ridiculous; none of my children are a disappointment to me.” But since I’ve never been a father and I’ve never been my father, I find that difficult to believe.

blessmefather1979I’ve been so disappointed in him and didn’t I let him know it. I can be very harsh in my judgments, telling Dad that he’s behaving counterproductively or negatively and that’s why things always go wrong for him.

Of course I am a great psychologist, having come to the stage of well-adjustment through eight years of therapy (which he paid for – $10,000 worth, a sum that could open up a door or two for him now – but he never begrudges me for it).

I never did accept him for himself; I always tried to make him The Perfect Father. These things don’t make me feel very good about myself. Oh, I know, I know: at times like this everyone is feeling vaguely guilty for the bigdaddys-ca-01moment, but that doesn’t change how I feel, does it?

I haven’t said “I love you” to him since I-don’t-know-when. I take his generosity as a matter of course. I look at him from time to time with disapproval and bemusement. Not a model son.

And the worst of is he’s two rooms away lying on the floor watching a college football game, and as much as I may want to walk in there and hug him, I can’t. Sad. Maybe I can and maybe I will – later.

I just wish life could turn around for him and not start picking up speed downhill as it did with Uncle Monty and Uncle Abe. My father has had termites of suffering for years and I don’t know if I can bear to see things get worse for him. (This is the closest I’ve come to unselfishness in a long while.)

Think DirtySo: Saturday evening. Autumn. The 23rd of September. It’s been over two months since I’ve written anything first-rate and I know it. Let’s face it: the Courier-Life article; the publication of the chapbook; the jobs at LIU and Kingsborough; the feelers from Taplinger – none of this has done my writing any good.

I’ve been merely repeating tired themes and overused formulae. That’s why I spent hours and money today sending out over 30 submissions: I’m desperate. The more outwardly I show success, the greater my feelings of failure.

This page mrain bus umbrellaay be the most real writing I’ve done in weeks. Every word aches as it comes out of the pen and spills neatly on this page. I know nothing about myself or other people or any of this, so why don’t I shut up?

Or else: Last night Mason and I drove to Manhattan in the rain. We picked up Mikey and then Mason’s (and Shelli’s) friend Kathy, who’s unhappily working at Paragon because she can’t get a job designing for the theater.

At my suggestion, we ate at Emilio’s on Sixth Avenue and then we couldn’t figure out what to do. There were no parking spaces uptown and I acted like an extroverted maniac, yelling at people, making the others laugh.Jackson_Browne_Running_on_Empty

Eventually we sat in the West 80th Street apartment Kathy shares  with Olivia, Marie’s sister, and ended up doing very little but sitting around and listening to Jackson Browne.


Sunday, September 24, 1978

4 PM. A few hours ago we drove over to Brookdale Hospital in my car; I let Dad drive because he felt it would steady his nerves. (Though isn’t that how Daisy Buchanan ran over Myrtle Wilson?)

We were lucky enough to get a nearby parking space, and we checked into Admissions. There, we waited for a long time before Dad’s name was called.

Brookdale oldI went in with him to be interviewed about his medical insurance; he signed some consent forms, and paid $5 for a phone. They had his address wrong, leaving out the zero in ‘1607,’ so the forms had to be done over. Then he went for a blood test, a urinalysis and an EKG.

Aunt Sydelle surprised us in the lobby; a friend had driven her from Cedarhurst. We all went up to Dad’s room, on a new floor, and I left them there. Mom wants to stay there all the time, and there’s no reasoning with her; I think Dad is comforted by the way she hovers.

He didn’t seem nervous, though I know how frightened he must be. I hugged and kissed him goodbye and said, “I love you.” I still don’t know what time surgery is scheduled for.

Brookdale bldgBeing in the hospital made me very tense; my arms and legs began to ache and I felt a tension headache beginning. I’m very nervous, but that’s natural.

I plan to teach tomorrow, as there’s nothing I can do at the hospital. Mom and Marc will be there, and so will Grandma Ethel and Grandpa Herb.

I think Jonny’s afraid of even visiting a hospital; he’s got all these neurotic fears and hypochondria that I once had. Last night he didn’t want Deanna in his room because she mentioned that she’d vomited the day before. Thank God (God?) I don’t have that mishigass anymore.

Brookdale waiting roomThere’s really nothing to be done now except wait. I don’t pray because even if there was a God, He couldn’t make a benign tumor malignant or vice versa. We can hope, that’s all, Dad having a malignancy would be against the odds, but he’s had a lot of bad breaks.

But I can’t think about that now; I won’t; I don’t have to wonder about that possibility now. Besides, even if it’s benign, there could be complications – an infection or whatever. This is the most serious operation a member of the immediate family has had, and I hope we have the strength to get through it.

Aunt Sydelle said she’d tell Grandma Sylvia that Dad was out of town on business, but Mom told her not to say anything; maybe Dad can call her Tuesday night. We’re all going to be under a great deal of stress this week.

phone wall unpluggedSurprisingly, I’ve been writing a little – and it’s not all that bad, either. I slept soundly when I did sleep, though I kept waking up every few hours. I phoned Ronna, who was helping Alison clean up her new apartment. I can’t write another word now.

*

9 PM. We just came back from the hospital. I went with Marc and Deanna at 6:30 PM. Jonny was lifting weights and said he “couldn’t be ready” in time. I know he wanted to see Dad, but his terror prevented him, and now is not the time to make an issue of it.

We found Dad in his pajamas and bathrobe, and Mom by his side. The five of us sat in the dayroom. Dad looked pale, but then so did I. It was a moment of drama, but I can’t relate it as I would in a story because it’s not a story. Dad said, “You should be able to get a story out of this.” Maybe someday.

brookdale-hosp-med-ctr-logoWe made the kind of absurd small talk and ridiculous jokes that you make to keep from screaming. Deanna, with her naiveté, really helped. The anesthesiologist came and talked to Dad; he’s scheduled for surgery at 8 AM.

Dad said he’s been in hospital rooms all his life and it’s a shock to him when he looks down and sees the bathrobe and the wrist bracelet. I can’t imagine what he’s going through. It was very poignant to leave him there.

Tomorrow we’ll know if it’s malignant or benign. Two words, and one means a future and the other means. . .


Monday, September 25, 1978

5 PM. Benign. But I can’t seem to say “benign” without “thank God.” “Thank God” is what I said when I first heard it.

surgeryMom and Marc and I were waiting at the hospital for hours this morning. Dad phoned Mom at 7 AM and said they’d already given him an injection and he was waiting to be wheeled into surgery.

Mom and Marc went to the hospital at 9 AM and I drove there about an hour later. Waiting was agony. Dr. Saltzman had told Mom that the surgery takes from 2½ to 5 hours, so when there was no word at 10:30 AM, 11 AM, 11:30 AM, we began to get very frightened that maybe something had gone wrong.

Mom was very upset but she maintained outward calm. I couldn’t sit still and had to walk around the block several times. I called Evalin at Kingsborough and told her to cancel my 12:40 PM class; she was very nice and said not to worry. I just hope I don’t have to endure more waiting like that again.

nurses stationWhen we left Brookdale this afternoon, they still hadn’t brought Dad into the recovery room. He’ll be there till tonight, and I ordered a private nurse for the midnight-8 PM shift.

I went to Kingsborough for my 3 PM class. It went terribly, but it was a miracle I had the presence of mind to teach it. They didn’t mark me as absent for the day, so that’s all right. My office was changed to C-109.

Just when I called Jonny to tell him Dad’s surgery was over, he reported getting a letter from the Police Department telling us that Marc’s car had been found in a lot filled with wrecks right on East 56th Street and Foster Avenue – the very place Marc told me was a haven for stolen cars when we chop shoppassed it last night.

I’ve just spoken to Alice and Gary and Aunt Arlyne on the phone; Evie came in earlier; and of course Jonny called Aunt Sydelle and Grandpa Herb as soon as I gave him the word.

Marc and Mom are at the hospital now, but we’ve had no news from them, and I’m not sure they’re able to see Dad. I hope to go at 7 PM. Now we’ve just got to pray that no complications arise, either with the draining fluid or the facial nerve.

*

hospital interior8 PM. I’ve just come back from Brookdale. I went there only to discover that Rick had been there and taken Mom home. Dad is going to be in Recovery until 10:30 PM. Mom wants to go back then and see Dad in his room, but I’m too exhausted to go; Marc will drive her.

I’m aware that Marc has borne the brunt of this so far, but he hasn’t seemed to mind. He works with Dad every day and so is naturally closer with him. (Last night he told me that Dad had been impossible at work all week.)

Marc and Mom finally got to see Dad in Recovery after they had dinner; they were a little queasy at the sight of so many people just out of surgery, and they had to wear gowns.

Dad was very uncomfortable with a great deal of pain in his ear. hospital cafeteria(Downstairs, in the cafeteria, Mom had a similar pain in her ear. ESP?) He’s bandaged all around his head and there are drainage tubes and IV tubes. He was coherent and talked about how he wanted to walk around.

Anyway, the important thing is that there was no malignancy and that they removed the tumor. I’m emotionally exhausted and I imagine Mom would be too, but for her desire to see Dad, which, even if it’s at midnight, seems to overcome whatever weariness she feels.

Jerry Klinkowitz wrote that he’s quitting Seems and can’t let anyone else bear the responsibility for publishing “Innovations”; he said Baumbach “hit the ceiling” when he read a copy of it. I suppose it’s for the best: it won’t be in print but Jon knows how I feel about him.


Tuesday, September 26, 1978

hospital TV room9 PM. Tonight I went to see Dad at the hospital. His entire head is bandaged like a football helmet and he’s carrying around a bag into which fluid and blood are draining. He’s quite uncomfortable, with pains around his ear and cheek where they did the surgery. It’s also hard for him to eat because he can’t open his mouth wide enough to chew properly, and his throat is sore from the pipe that was there.

But for a man who had major surgery yesterday, he looks terrific. He’s tired but he can sleep, and there’s codeine for the pain. I went with Mom, and Irving and Doris Cohen were there, and so was Rick and his wife.

Dad had phoned at 8 PM last evening after they brought him back to his room; Mom and Marc went over and stayed until 11 PM. He was very The Doctors paperbackrestless because he couldn’t get out of bed, but he was and is in remarkably good shape.

I think that this experience will actually benefit Dad. As he said to me and the Cohens in the day room, “When a guy hands you a piece of paper and says this is what he’s got to do to save your life, and you realize it isn’t a dream, you see the rest of it is all shit. . .”

(Of course, Doris remarked that when Ike Hoffeld thought he was dying in the casino in Vegas, he swore he’d never buy another Cadillac and his wife said she’d never wear her jewelry again. “But,” Irving said, “Ike did buy a Continental afterwards and Ruth wore her jewelry – up until the day she died of cancer.”)

This afternoon Mom, Marc and Jonny were up there to see Dad, and so were Aunt Sydelle and her friend and Grandpa Herb and Grandma Ethel (whose doctor said her rash on her back has entirely cleared up, so the topical chemo is working).

moorings nmbDad even called up Grandma Sylvia in Florida and told her about the surgery; she called him tonight and seemed reassured. The Littmans also phoned from Miami tonight, and Lennie Schindler sent a plant.

Dad is so well-liked, his friends don’t stop calling. I really have to admire the way he’s held up through this. I’ve never thought of Dad as a strong person, but he is, and I have increased respect for him.

He’s bound to feel uncomfortable, but as long as the tumor was benign and it’s out, we can breathe easily. Maybe Dad’s luck has begun to change and maybe he’ll take a more relaxed view of things and be more positive – and then things will go his way more often.

The Doctors magazinePerhaps the surgery was a turning point in Dad’s life. He finally stopped behaving as though things didn’t exist; he faced up to this tumor instead of being an ostrich. I should take a leaf from Dad’s book now.

Anyway, the family has been strong throughout this, and we’ve gotten a bit closer, I think. No matter what I may think or say, there’s nothing better than a family – a good one, anyway.

Last night when I spoke to Ronna, I could hear her mother screaming; Mrs. C had found out (from Ronna’s sister) that Ronna had visited her father and was accusing her of being “a traitor to the cause.” And it’s not as if Ronna gets anything out of seeing Mr. C; he’s usually very distant with her.

Ronna says it doesn’t matter all that much anymore, but it must. She faces rejection from her father, and then rejection from her mother for undergoing the first rejection.

canarsie houseI stayed on a long time with Ronna even though I knew Wesley Strick from Taplinger was going to call. “This is more important,” I told Ronna, and it was. She said I helped her.

Wesley and I arranged a meeting at his apartment on the Upper East Side for next Monday evening. We’ll see what happens. I’m fatalistic about my future now. I don’t even care that they’re beginning to observe the adjuncts at Kingsborough; if I don’t get rehired, I don’t.

A woman who’s an editor of Aspect, Susan Lloyd McGarry, wrote that she’d like to do an essay on my work.


Wednesday, September 27, 1978

Relax magazine11 PM. I feel I can begin to relax a little. Tomorrow at 3 PM the woman from Counseling will speak to my students, so I have only one class on Friday to teach and then a four-day weekend. This past week has been a great strain on me, but at least I can sleep late tomorrow.

I took Mom to see Dad tonight. Marc and Deanna also came, and Lou and Evie and Jerry and Jo also dropped by. Dad is very uncomfortable and hasn’t slept since Monday, but he’s getting along. Mom watched as they changed his bandage for another one this afternoon; they also took out the drain.

Brookdale Hospital frontDad seems almost a different person with his head wrapped in bandages and wearing pajamas, robe and slippers. He doesn’t seem as excitable as he used to be; he appears more patient (is that where the term doctor’s patient comes from?) and accepting. He complains but he endures.

There’s a great strength within him, and I don’t think he even knew he had it until he was tested like this. When I was very young, like all boys, I thought my father was invincible. More recently I’ve only looked at his weaknesses. Now I see a more balanced picture of him.

His beard gets scratchier every time I kiss him (and I kiss him hello and goodbye, even at the elevator with a crowd around).

garment center cartsLast night I dreamed of Dad and Grandpa Nat and other Jewish men in the Garment Center celebrating a holiday called Vexing Day, when they make clothes just for the sheer pleasure of it.

All my life, the men in my family – Grandpa Nat, Dad, Marc, Uncle Marty, Grandpa Herb, Great-Uncle Harry, Great-Uncle Paul, Great-Grandpa Max – have always been in the clothing business, and I’ve never thought about it much.

On Monday, during that agonizing wait for some word to come out of surgery, Mom and I were looking through the Metro (one of the strike papers) and we saw an ad for a store advertising that it had famous brand jeans, including Jim Dandy. I wonder if Dad gets the same feeling when he strike newspaper 1978sees someone wearing his pants as a writer does when s/he seems someone reading his/her book.

Dad’s facial nerves are apparently undamaged, but he’s depressed because he won’t be able to lift heavy things or play tennis or run for 6-8 weeks (they don’t want the scar to swell up). Dad will probably be home this weekend, so we can begin the Jewish New Year together.

I haven’t written much about school this week. Maybe it’s because it’s basically a way I’m making money. My students are nice kids, but they’re young and ignorant and don’t know what they’re doing in college – most of them, anyway. I get hoarse and try to teach, and when each hour ends I can only think that I’ve earned another $22.

BC quad LaGThis morning I went to the Alumni Association office and picked up the Class Notes, though God knows when I’m going to get a chance to do them: the deadline is October 15. The next two weeks will be easy with only two 2-class days. But I’ve got the Class Notes and the meeting with Wesley Strick and next weekend is shot with George coming in for the Book Fair.

Back Bay View came out with my “Escape from the Planet of the Humans”: not impressive to me because it’s already in Disjointed Fictions. Tom Whalen sent me Lowlands Review (a special issue, a great chapbook of fictions by Crad Kilodney) and I got Shenandoah, Rockbottom and Sun & Moon in tMental Caseshe mail.

My “Clumsy Story” is advertised as appearing in Sun & Moon’s next issue. (It was accepted about three years ago.) I love getting little magazines, especially good ones. I also got The People’s Almanac 2 with my “Joanne Vincente” article – the book is a feast for a trivia freak like me.


Thursday, September 28, 1978

9 PM. Little relaxing was done today. This is the busiest I’ve been in years. I don’t think I’ve had a free hour in the past five days. Even though I didn’t teach today and just went in to hear my students’ counselor talk with them, I couldn’t relax.

Last night Bernhard Frank of Buckle called, wanting to know what happened to the piece on Susan Fromberg Schaeffer that I promised him. Susan SchaefferSpurred into action, I decided to stop stalling; it took half a dozen rewrites, but I finally came up with something that satisfied me.

What I like about Susan is her energy and her independence and healthy self-confidence; she can be difficult and I can see why others call her arrogant, but I’m attracted to those qualities.

Josh called today, and in a funny way he got a job through me. Denis Woychuk went to LIU on the Friday when Dr. Tucker was stuck for someone to replace me; Denis got the job. So then Denis’s tutoring position at NYC Community College was open, as well as others, and Josh and Simon both went down for interviews and got the jobs.

NYCCC logoJosh starts tomorrow; he’ll be making $150 for 30 hours a week, which isn’t great, but it’s better than driving an oil truck. I feel a little funny about Denis taking my place at LIU; I can’t imagine Margaret liking him as much as she liked me.

But LIU is in my past now. Last spring I vowed that I would not come back in the fall, and surprisingly, I managed to keep that vow.

The mail brought Small Press Review and the AWPress (the new name for the newsletter of AWP – they listed Disjointed Fictions first in their “Books by Members”). Anyway, that gave me new places to submit to, and that took time. And money. God, with the 48-cent book rate, I’ve been spending over $20 a week on postage.

Anyway (that’s the second “anyway” in two sentences: what’s going on here, anyway?), there were a lot of chores to take care of today: drugstore, post office, gas station, copy center.

icelandic ticket wrapperI spoke to Alice, who must be taking off for Reykjavik now. She’s anxious to see her brother and to spend time alone in Paris, and getting away from work will be a relief.

Robert and Judy invited her to their wedding in Rhode Island, and she’s decided to go. Robert bought a copy of Disjointed Fictions at the Eighth Street last week, so at least some copies are selling. I’m happy that he thinks enough of me to buy my work; it’s pretty expensive for what’s offered.

Robert is teaching history at Brooklyn College, at Poly Tech, and in Manhattan at Baruch College: what a grind that must be. Busy as I am, I can’t imagine how I would have survived if I also had a course at LIU.

My Kingsborough students are so obnoxious. Today, after class, Tyrone Hayward came up to me and asked, “Did you ever consider becoming a jockey?” I just gave him an icy stare. Look, I may not be a great and world-renowned writer, but do I have put up with punks like that?

Disco SucksMy students are all from the Disco Generation; they’re so into themselves that they have no sense of society or history. None of them know what the Vietnam War was about, and to them, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King are vague historical figures.

Maybe Bill-Dale was more correct than I figured. God knows what these people will grow into: stylish consumers, probably. Welcome back to the Silent Generation of the 1950s. Jesus, it makes me glad I was born when I was: when it was all right to be different.

Dad looked good when Mom, Jonny and I went to see him tonight. He’ll probably be coming home on Saturday. He walks the hospital corridors getting involved with the doctors and nurses and patients and says that hospital life – if you’re not sick, as he is not – can be relaxing. He’s rather uncomfortable in his bandages because he can’t shave.


Friday, September 29, 1978

Soap Opera Digest Sept 784 PM. For the last two hours I’ve allowed myself the luxury of lying in bed and catching up on the soap operas I now can watch only on Fridays. It’s been pleasant to feel bored after such a hectic week. One class today; no mail to speak of; no errands to run.

I’m going to be observed a week from Thursday: Prof. Rosalind Depas called me this morning to let me know. I’ll do the best I can. It’s most likely a formality anyway.

I woke up today to stunning news: Jonny calling up from the kitchen to say that the Pope had died. I turned on the TV and it was true: John Paul I, The Smiling Popeafter only a month in office, had died in his sleep.

I feel worse than I did when Paul VI died, because John Paul was a more likable, hamishe man, if popes can have that Yiddish trait, and he never got to show what he could have done. I went back to sleep and had weird dreams about going to Mass. Pope Paul’s death gave me nightmares, too.

I really don’t know where my life is going, yet I feel I’m at the beginning of something new. I’ll never feel about Kingsborough the way I felt about LIU – just as I never felt at home as a student at Richmond as I did at Brooklyn College.

Yet being at a new college is good for me more than just financially. If I can make it at Kingsborough – and so far I haven’t proved myself to my satisfaction – I’ll have learned that I can successfully adjust to a new KCC campus marqueeenvironment.

I haven’t given much thought to moving out yet; my first paycheck is three weeks away. The term ends before Christmas and I won’t be hired for the winter module, so if I teach in the spring, it won’t start till the middle of March. If LIU offers me a course before that, I’ll take it, though they may be pissed off at me by now.

I’m not even sure I want to remain in academia if academia means teaching remedial writing and reading. It’s so wearying; I might be better off doing something which has nothing to do with literature and writing but which doesn’t drain me so.

best american short stories 1978I’m 27 now and I’m becoming established as a short story writer; little by little, my strategy seems to have paid off. What I would like now is a job teaching creative writing or fiction writing. (See, spare time makes me reflective: maybe that’s bad.)

But if this week and this month of September have proved anything, it’s that I’m not heading toward a rerun of my 1968 breakdown. No way. In fact, I haven’t even given that a thought in weeks.

And now I’ve passed over the hump, the worst part of the tenth anniversary, I am certain I am going to make it. John Paul I’s death reminds me that life can be short and end unexpectedly. But at least he died a pope; I bet it was all worth it.

Patience album 1978Of course Dad’s operation tells me that we can recover, that it’s not quite that easy to die. I do have hope now. I also feel more patient – especially more patient with myself.

I just spoke with Dad and he said the doctor took off the bandage today and if there’s not any swelling, he can come home tomorrow. He’s still in pain, of course. I’m not going to the hospital tonight. I don’t think it’s necessary and neither does Dad.

Ronna phoned last night. I suggested that she, Alison and I go to see Interiors at Kings Plaza. (I didn’t tell her I’d seen it before because in the summer we made up to see it together.) At first I thought going out tonight would be too much for me, but I think it can only do me good.

It was 45° this morning when I awoke; summer seems a memory already. Aunt Sydelle’s going to Florida to stay with Grandma Sylvia tomorrow. Arlyne and Marty took Grandma Ethel to the nutrition doctor.


Saturday, September 30, 1978

typewriter coronetMidnight. I’m just coming off a writing high, having spent the last 4 hours finishing the final version of “Q & A,” a 13-page story that is the best work I’ve done in a long time.

About 24 hours ago I began it. I felt like writing, but I didn’t know how to get into it and then I remembered how the question-and-answer format worked so well for me in the past.

The writing flowed easily and I had a fairly good piece, but this evening I realized I could improve it if I wrote a second set of answers to the questions and set the answers side by side on a split page. It worked out Ko-Rec-Typevery nicely and I feel relieved to know my creativity is not dead.

Dad’s home now; Mom picked him up early this morning. He insisted on driving home – Mom said he’s just like Grandpa Nat – but was tired afterwards and spent most of the day sleeping.

When he eats, he’s in a great deal of pain, as the chewing hurts the scar (which is very deep, but the doctors said eventually it will fill out).

Aquabed 1I spent most of the early part of the day lying in bed; I couldn’t awaken till 11 AM and then kept lying down. All the strain of the week had finally got to me.

Sometimes you feel worse when a trauma is over; during the week my resources were drained, but the adrenaline and energy kept flowing. Now that the crisis is over, I feel a little overwhelmed, but certainly I feel much better than I did last Saturday.

I went to the Village at 4 PM, stopped at the Eighth Street Bookshop, found my book in the window and four copies upstairs in the alphabetical fiction section. Laurie (who wasn’t there) took the book off display: the only copy 8th street bookshop insidesold was to Robert.

I got some magazines and sniffed around; just getting into Manhattan for the first time in two weeks made me feel better.

Last evening was very pleasant. Mason came over here at 7 PM and I gave him my book and some ideas for lesson plans. Now he’s calmed down a bit, but he’s still exhausted from dealing with those brats. I don’t think I could hack teaching junior high; I’m having enough trouble with rowdy college students.

We drove over to Ronna’s – I dislike the way Mason drives, so cautiously canarsie flatlands aveand meekly, but that’s his style (mine is rush, cut in, and make that light) – and picked up Ronna and Alison.

Alison and Mason met for the first time; they had being English majors in common. They’re not a couple, nor did Ronna and I intend them to be, but I was surprised in Kings Plaza when Alison sat next to Mason rather than Ronna in the theater.

Interiors seemed better the second time; I recognize its many flaws, but it does raise serious issues, especially about creativity. Joey, the middle sister played by Marybeth Hurt, longs to be as creative as her interior decorator mother and her sisters, a poet and an actress. Joey has all their angst and Interiors poster 1sensitivity but no talent at all.

Sometimes I wonder just what I would do with all my problems if I weren’t able to work them out in my writing. What does Ronna do with her frustrations? (She says she identified with Joey.) What do thousands of college-educated people who are unemployed and underemployed do?

After the movie, the four of us went to the Floridian – rather than to a bar, a Mason had suggested; upstate he got into the habit of drinking a fifth of Jack DanielsJack Daniels every few nights – where we sat in a booth next to Evie and Lou. It was relaxing to get out; even if I couldn’t be alone with Ronna, it’s good to be her friend.

Earlier in the day I spoke to Elihu, who’s got an assistantship in the CUNY Graduate Center History Department and is teaching a 9 AM class – in his field, Early American History, for a change. He said his brother’s not too crazy about Kingsborough; I can understand why. TC mark

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