A 29-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early July, 1980

early-july-1980

Tuesday, July 1, 1980

Almost midnight. These past two days I have plunged back into life, my own and other people’s, and I have mixed feelings about it.

In one way, I feel revel in the energy and marvel at the changes, but a part of me longs for the peaceful solitude of MacDowell, where I seemed somehow apart from life.

Two nights ago I was up at this time, thinking about the year from July 1 of last year (around the time my parents decided to move to Florida) to June 30 of this year. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” was the quote that kept ringing in my head, somewhere north of my Ménière’s syndrome.

rockaway-signsSo much has happened.

For one thing, I feel certain Grandpa Herb is dying; I think he knows it, too. When I saw him Sunday night, he looked terrible, and when I ran into Aunt Tillie and Uncle Morris yesterday at the drug store, they also said how bad he looks.

Aunt Tillie is getting old, too: she looks more and more like Bubbe Ita every day. On Sunday, Aunt Minnie told me that she, too, felt guilty about going away. (“Your sister can’t do anything,” I said to Aunt Minnie, and she said, “I know, I know.”)

The whole Sarrett family seems to be falling apart. Aunt Betty is out of the hospital, but the doctors have told her that she’ll never walk again.

peninsula-hospitalTomorrow morning I take Grandpa Herb to Peninsula to get his records for a consultation with a doctor at New York Hospital. I feel very bad, but in a way I have to accept Grandpa’s illness as an inevitable fact of life: growing old means getting sick and dying. Of course, it’s easy for me to say that at 29. But I am 29.

This evening when I spoke to Mom, she told me that Marc drove back to Rhode Island on Sunday night; he’ll be back tomorrow, but he and Rikki are planning to spend the summer in Providence. Maybe I can use his (air-conditioned) apartment while he’s away.

I’m happy that Marc and Rikki are getting married, and I feel the same way about Avis and Anthony – even though Teresa, Simon and Josh have all rushed in to judge Avis as “crazy.”

Maybe Avis is being hasty, but she wants this marriage and feels it will be good for her, and who am I to say I know what’s good for Avis better than people-christie-billyshe does herself? There will always be people to tell you you’re doing the wrong thing.

Genius, as Emerson says, is believing in yourself – and I grant Avis and Marc the right to do what they think is best for themselves. (I can’t even grant that right, because they just have it and it’s not mine to give.)

Someone new has entered my life: Beth, the 19-year-old Belle Harbor girl who called me months ago and whom I never expected to hear from again. If you remember, she was a Pratt student who wanted to meet a bisexual guy.

She called me at 1 AM Monday morning and kept me on the phone for ninety minutes. She came over on Monday evening and stayed for over an hour. Beth is very cute; she’s lost forty pounds in two months by going to a diet doctor.

She is in therapy and is smart but a little immature. Mostly, Beth said, she’s 1980-corvetteattracted to teenage guys between 15 and 17. She’s rich and Jewish and drives a new car and has a bubbly, irrepressible spirit which reminds me of Shelli ten years ago.

Beth is a virgin, but she’s talking about having an affair with me; she thinks I’m cute and sexy. I like Beth, and I love the surprise of having her around. Who knows what can happen?

I spent most of yesterday sleeping, as if to adjust to the changes in my life. I’ve gotten accustomed to the routines of my apartment again.

I went through all my mail: there were checks from Touro College and from The peoples-almanac-3People’s Almanac, which bought my Stratemeyer article; a mixed review of Hitler in the Bellingham Review; notes from Mark Alan Stamaty, James Michener and Carolyn Bennett; letters from Crad and Tom (he won’t be coming up to New York after all); and the usual garbage.

Gary called when Beth was here on Monday night. He had just gotten word that Betty had divorced him in the Dominican Republic.

“Congratulations!” I said cheerfully. Gary told me that I was the only person who gave him that kind of response, and he liked it. He’s enjoying Fire Island, like Teresa, although he too finds some of the people there phonies.

Avis and Anthony didn’t come over last night because they went to (separately) break the news of their wedding plans to their parents. Avis said that she and Anthony are going away for the weekend, so I won’t get to see them for a while because they’re busy with school in the evenings.

nearings-graceI called Scott Sommer last evening, too. Beth saw Nearing’s Grace in my bookshelf and said she had taken it out from the library and liked it, so I gave her Scott’s number. Beth called later to tell me how nice he’d been (and how highly he spoke of me).

So I decided to call Scott myself. He says he’s fine but he’s really pissed at Taplinger for some problems with a movie option and other things.

Scott told me that no one at Taplinger tells him anything. In fact, Scott was the one who told me Hitler won’t be in paperback till next spring while his own book is already out in paper.

I also called Pete Cherches, who said the Zone party went well. He’s glad to be working for the Fiction Collective at the Braziller offices and Pete said he finakosti-2lly met Richard Kostelanetz, who raved about my work.

Richard himself called me this afternoon to tell me his Voice of America Short Story Symposium will be taped on July 15 in Manhattan. Carol Emshwiller and Ken Gangemi will be on the panel with me.

This morning I went down to Unemployment in Jamaica to file a claim. I waited only two hours: not bad for a recession.

One of life’s ironies: I got my mail beforehand (I’m now keeping all of it at the post office box) and my only letter was one from Who’s Who in the East, letting me know they were interested in including me in next year’s edition. So I filled out my biographical data form while waiting at the Unemployment office.beach-near-ocean-2

When I came back, I sat on the beach for an hour to revive my tan, then drove to Josh’s at 7 PM.

His trip to Los Angeles did him no good. He ended up on bad terms with International Katy, partly because he ended up in bed with Laurel, her closest friend, “who gives the best head in the world.”

Josh played back a taped call from a reporter for the Washington Star who wanted to know about the Ayatollah for Congress committee; I’ll call him in the morning. And Josh thought my scheme to turn myself in for the shooting of J.R. on Dallas is brilliant.

time-dallasWhile I was at Josh’s place, his mother called to nag him about wearing a suit for interviews; so far, Josh can’t find a job.

Over dinner at The Bagel, Josh said he’s beginning to forget what he learned about computers already. He told me Simon doesn’t do much at his job and is afraid he may be fired.

Both Simon and Josh are talking delight in pitying “poor, desperate Avis.” Maybe they both don’t want to realize that she’s over them.

After dinner, Josh and I walked over to the Art Theater to see some jazz documentary about Kansas City musicians, The Last of the Blue Devils. Following the film, Audrey was supposed to meet Josh, but we waited twenty minutes and she didn’t show up.

last-of-the-blue-devilsSo we both walked back to my car. Josh asked me to drive up West 8th Street to the theater again, and I refused, and then he just walked away without saying a word.

I waited a while and then drove back to the Art. Josh was standing in front of the theater and got in the car. He felt humiliated, I guess, at Audrey’s standing him up, and he took it out on me, trying to hurt me by saying I’d been acting weirdly.

When I got home and walked in the door, the phone was ringing. It was Josh, who said Audrey had called him to say that she’d been at the theater but had missed us somehow.

Perhaps it’s true, but perhaps Josh was trying to “save face,” not that I care whether or not he was stood up. It’s not like I don’t have other things in my own life to think about.

On Wednesday night I have an appointment with Dr. Pasquale, and I have a lot to talk over with him.


Thursday, July 3, 1980

129-beach-118th-back2 PM. A cool breeze is coming from the window. I rearranged the furniture to put the bed back against the window, so it will be easier to sleep on these hot nights. It’s a cool, cloudy day.

Yesterday I didn’t do much. I got out all the money I could from the bank, but I still have only $28 to get me through the weekend. Money is my most pressing problem.

I have $300 in the bank, but those checks may not clear for several days. I’m expecting another check for $160 from Touro College this month. I don’t know when I’ll get the $100 honorarium from the Voice of America.

Even if I’m allowed unemployment, I won’t be able to sign for my first check for at least three weeks, and the rent is due in two weeks. I have a $100 bill from the telephone company. I just don’t see how I’m going to get through central-savingsthis summer.

Last night I saw Dr. Pasquale. I didn’t have the money to pay him, either. We talked about my perceptions of myself as a writer and how they have changed.

MacDowell didn’t cause this to happen, but it set the stage for me to perceive myself differently. In a way I wish Dr. Pasquale and I had discussed more practical matters – but he said I’m able to handle those things fine on my own.

Now I have no doubt that writing is what I want to do with my life – and my judgment about my self-worth is not dependent upon outside forces; it comes from within.

I might have seen it without having gone to MacDowell, but my stay there seemed to clarify everything.

xrayYesterday morning I took Grandpa Herb to Peninsula Hospital to pick up his x-rays and records for a consultation with a doctor Marty found, someone at New York Hospital.

I’ve been driving Grandpa’s car and it’s a pleasure, although parking is difficult in Rockaway in the summer. I want to be out of here soon. I could take Avis’s room in Park Slope, or I could take over Marc and Rikki’s apartment in Sheepshead Bay, but I’m just not sure what it is I want to do.

I was at Brooklyn College yesterday and I noted from the English Department bulletin board that there might be evening classes Neil Schaeffer could get for me. I suppose I could find more adjunct jobs and get by, but is that what I really want to do?bc-summer

I spoke with Avis, who’s dazed by all the sudden changes in her life. On Monday she and Anthony went to see his elderly parents on Long Island. Mr. Rubio kept saying, “I just hope you kids know what you’re doing.”

Avis’s parents were shocked by the news, and they had a big fight. Yet they were also pleased that Avis is “finally” getting married. Tomorrow her parents meet Anthony at breakfast, and then he and Avis will motorcycle upstate for the weekend.

Anthony got into a program run by his hospital workers’ union; he’ll work part-time, get $150 a week, and go to school at NYU-Bellevue to become a respiratory therapist.

bay-ridge-bldgAvis will move into his Bay Ridge apartment and they’ll look for something larger and under $300 in that neighborhood. Like me, Anthony doesn’t like congested neighborhoods and wants to live close to the water.

Avis said he is a bit gun-shy because of his disastrous first marriage. I can’t wait to meet Anthony, but it will have to wait. They’ll probably get married in August, hopefully at the UN Chapel where her sister and brother-in-law were married.

I haven’t heard anything from Marc and Rikki, so I guess they’re still in Rhode Island.

This morning Deanna called me, wanting to know the name of Mom’s (and Ronna’s) gynecologist. I saw no point in telling Deanna that Marc’s going to be married; besides, I was a bit too befuddled to be up to it, so I just gave her Dr. Silverman’s name and his office address. I mentioned that he was the brother of Beverly Sills, but of course Deanna had never heard of her.

I still haven’t done half the things I wanted to do: the laundry, cleaning the laundromatapartment, xeroxing my new stories and résumés (I don’t have the money for that), and calling Linda Lerner and Frederich.

Still, I’ve been getting the urge to write, and I’ve been taking down notes for stories. This weekend I want to see if I can work out some plans for my future.


Saturday, July 5, 1980

1 AM. I can’t sleep because I get dizzy when I put my head down on the pillow, so I thought I’d write for a little while.

I’ve moved my bed so that it’s pressed against the window, and I’ve been watching the few remaining fireworks light up across the Rockaway peninsula. Somehow I feel very whole tonight: MacDowell is carrying over into my life back here in New York.

smurf-phoneAlice called to ask if I had any suggestions for writing assignments for her students at the Minnesota conference this week. She hung up abruptly when Andreas arrived to take her out for the evening.

I phoned Beth, who was busy making the Shabbos meal for her parents, who are back from Florida. She said she’ll call me next week.

At 7 PM, Mikey arrived to pick me up; we went to the movies in Kings Plaza, and Mikey was thoughtful enough to treat me. Both he and Alice said they’d lend me money if I really needed it. It’s so good to have friends.

Fame, the movie we saw, was about students at the High School of Performing Arts, showing how young artists struggle with teenage identity famecrises, sex, and friendship.

After Mikey dropped me off, I began making notes for a novel. At first I thought I could write a book about many characters, based on my friends at Brooklyn College, but the more I thought about it, the more I decided I should simplify the story to one of friendship between one man and one woman.

It would be based on my relationships with Avis, Alice, Teresa and Libby. One of the bright spots of my life has been my long-lasting friendships with women.

Platonic relationships in many ways are stronger than sexual ones. I remember Miss Stein, our freshman comp teacher – Mikey mentioned her this evening – once saying that a nonsexual friendship between a man and a woman wasn’t possible.

fame-posterShe was wrong, and I’d like to prove it with a book. It might have real commercial potential because it’s both a conservative and a radical idea. The conservatives can say, “Look, love is more important than sex,” and the feminists can say, “Look, men and women can be more than lovers to each other.”

If only I could write this novel! I’d want to be very traditional and not at all self-conscious, but I don’t want my style to slip into flatness. I’ve written best about family relationships and those between friends, as in “Hitler” and “Forrestal Lecture.” No one’s ever really covered this ground before.

I see two protagonists meeting in high school (a compromise between my meeting Alice in grade school and the others in college) and staying friends senior-singfrom 1968 to 1980.

Both would be bisexual, the woman mostly straight and the man mostly gay. They might sleep with the same people (at different times) and I think that one of them should get married.

I’d have to make the man a writer, but I’d want him to be a poet because if I made him a fiction writer, that’ll be too close for comfort. (And maybe I could get in a few observations about “po-biz.”)

The woman would be a late bloomer, either a lawyer or a nurse. The novel would end with a death, either the woman or her husband or a mutual friend of the protagonists’.

I see this as more worthy of my talent and time than merely typing up my diary entries. I think I may have hit on something. I’ll sleep on it.

*

boardwalk-fog7 PM. Fog is rolling in now. Thunderstorms are expected tonight, but it’s supposed to be sunny tomorrow.

I got up early and walked to the post office (no mail) and Citibank (my Touro check cleared!). Then I lay on the beach for ninety minutes, and after that, my neighbor Mrs. Goodstadt told me about her life and her disappointment with her two children while we sat on the boardwalk.

I got very sunburned and came upstairs at 3 PM and have been here since. The more I think about it, the better an idea my novel sounds. It will be fun and therapeutic to write. I’ll write it for myself and hope that it will find a rockaway-boardwalk-b-126wide audience.

When I called Alice’s, I spoke with an enthusiastic Peter, who encouraged me. He said both of us need commercial success and shouldn’t feel that we’re selling out.


Monday, July 7, 1980

9 PM. Last night I was very dizzy and couldn’t get to sleep until 6 AM. But in the past six months I’ve learned to handle being ill. I read Emerson and thought about the lovely evening I’d had.

First I went to dinner at the Floridian – which is still, after all these years, a real treat for me. Then I drove through Brooklyn, up Kings Highway and down Eastern Parkway; if you take the right route, the borough still looks eastern-pkwy-summerlovely on a quiet summer evening. (Going up Flatbush Avenue would have depressed me no end.)

I went to visit Mrs. Judson and her friends and was greeted at the door with enthusiasm by Wayne, who showed me the used car he bought. He was on his way to take some girls to the beach.

From Park Slope, I went by Josh’s in the Heights and then, when he wasn’t home, I called up Elihu at the St. George, and it was a real treat to go over there and see him and Elayne.

Elayne said she had spotted Jerry on the subway, and Elihu said he runs into him in the Heights all the time and that Jerry is always telling him about his latest lover.michaels-things

“They seem to get younger as Jerry gets older,” Elihu said.

I haven’t seen Jerry in over five years and at this point I doubt I’d recognize him. Talking about Jerry led to a discussion of Leon – a wasted life, we all agreed, considering his talent and charisma – and the other LaGuardia people.

And we spoke about college kids today and how they’re so uninformed, un-idealistic and illiterate. Ten years ago we were pretty obnoxious with our righteous liberalism, but at least we used our brains.

Elihu still thinks he can get a job teaching at some college, and Elayne hopes to escape the 9-to-5 meat market by eventually owning a crafts store.

st-georgeWhen I drove Elayne back to her apartment, she said she was sorry she never got to know me better; she said she liked me a lot, and the feeling was mutual.

This morning I went to the post office and got a disturbing letter: a notice that the phone company would disconnect my service if I didn’t pay my bill of $100. There went the rest of my Touro check, and I felt sick of the thought of trying to scrape through on the money I have.

All I’ve got is $50 in cash, a $120 check from The People’s Almanac (which hasn’t yet cleared), and the promise of a $160 check from Touro in the next week. If only Touro would pay me the $480 they owe me for the spring term, I’d be okay. As it is, it looks like I’m going to have to borrow money from somewhere to pay this month’s rent.

scott-meredithI made an appointment for Thursday at 2:30 PM to see Russell Galen, the agent at Scott Meredith, though I doubt anything will come of it.

Aunt Arlyne called to make sure I found out what was what when I took Grandpa Herb to the doctor this afternoon. He and Grandma Ethel are driving Marty and Arlyne crazy, and after spending time with my grandparents, I feel a little crazed, too.

As Arlyne and Marty both told me, Grandma Ethel is wallowing in self-pity; she’s always done that, but now it’s to the nth degree.

far-rock-central-aveI picked my grandparents up at 5 PM and we drove to Far Rockaway. They couldn’t remember where the doctor was, and they refused to take along the address. I rode up and down until they found a building they recognized.

There was a long wait, so after I got them settled in the waiting room, I went over to Cedarhurst for a frankfurter at the King David Deli and a walk along Central Avenue.

After Grandpa Herb was examined, they called Grandma Ethel in to see the doctor, and of course I went with her. I made sure Dr. Schwartz explained clearly to them the rules of diet and medication that Grandpa must follow.

king-david-deliEssentially the ileitis is a problem Grandpa Herb can live with; it’s the growth on his lung that’s the real danger to his life.

The doctor compared worrying about the ileitis to worrying about tying your shoelace while you’re in the middle of the street with cars coming at you from both sides.

On Friday, Marty will take Grandpa Herb to New York Hospital, and until we know what the thoracic surgeon says, we’re completely up in the air. I reported to Marty (who’s burdened with business problems just at the same time Arlyne got laid off) and to Mom.

rockaway-manorI’m really tired of being around senile old people. I overheard one of my neighbors saying it was unconscionable for my parents to move to Florida and “leave a fifteen-year-old boy here alone.”

If only life was more like the MacDowell Colony.


Tuesday, July 8, 1980

Almost midnight. There was enough material in today’s events to produce a dozen novels, if only I could get at it.

I don’t understand what’s going on with my brother. He’s getting involved over his head, and I see three possible futures for him: he will either get very rich, or he will go to jail, or he will end up in a block of cement at the bottom of Narragansett Bay.ronnie-the-pig

I went to see Marc early this afternoon. He had just driven in from Providence; yesterday he had driven into New York and then returned to Rhode Island last night.

Marc was manic: he’s been in a whirlwind. He and Rikki are staying at the Marriott in a $62-a-day suite (paid for by Dad’s Visa card), and Rikki is terrorizing the hotel staff with her incessant demands that everything be perfect.

Marc gleefully explained how she calls the front desk in the middle of the night with minute complaints and how the staff kowtows to “Mrs. Grayson’s” demands.

bentleyLast night Rikki rented a 1933 Bentley with a bar and chauffeur to impress some bigwigs from the Civic Center who she is trying to get sign a contract giving Marc’s new company, Skate Straight, a franchise for roller skates there.

If this sounds unclear, it’s because it is; I don’t understand any of it, and the whole story makes my afternoon soap operas seem like slices of the dullest lives imaginable.

According to Marc, Rikki knows everyone in Providence – and everyone running the city, like Rikki, is connected with the Mafia.

Marc said Rikki has gone to see “the Godfather” and gotten Marc rpprotection: “If anyone lays a hand on me, that’s it.”

She’s out all day cooking up millions of deals while Marc sits in the hotel room watching TV. Rikki says she wants to “pay back” Marc for saving her life and getting her out of her suicidal depression in Atlantic City.

Marc told me he’s already spent $2,000 on clothing for Rikki. He kept throwing around figures that I couldn’t comprehend – like Rikki was in on the buying of forty kilos of cocaine, worth half a million dollars.

He said that if she gets the Civic Center contract, she’s going to fly in tonight to celebrate. As Marc talked, I had the feeling I was in some science fiction movie and that my brother’s mind had been taken over by aliens.

wpriFor example, he told me Rikki started crying after hearing on the news that a man had been rubbed out mob-style; she told Marc that her father had probably ordered the killing. Rikki once got revenge on a guy by tricking him into paying $100,000 for a truckload of empty Sony TV cartons.

And the cocaine: Marc is into it more heavily than I had imagined. He plans to come into the city every week to sell coke until he makes $1,800 or so: Craig, studying for the bar exam, came over while I was there to buy $80 worth to help him keep working through the night.

I snorted with them; I got a high, but nothing fantastic. Marc is very open with me about all of this because in Rhode Island he’s got no one to talk to.

providence-1Is Rikki for real? Is she taking Marc for everything he’s got? My brother has always been impressionable and he gets taken advantage of by people like Curt, who came over today. After he left, Marc told me that Curt owes him thousands of dollars – as do other people.

I don’t understand any of it, and I’m scared for Marc. I feel he’s flying so high, it can end only in a crash landing. But there’s nothing I can do about it.

I can’t criticize Rikki when he worships her. I can’t tell him it’s morally wrong: I would sound pompous and tight-assed, and after all, I’m just some poor schmuck of a writer who can’t pay his bills.

ri-cokeI can’t even point out the dangers involved; my brother is too far gone to believe me. One day this will all end up in a book, but I don’t want the book to be a tragedy.

Tonight I had a different kind of experience altogether: I went back to the old block to pay a shiva call on the Fishmans.

I parked my car near Irv Cohen’s house when I saw him watering the lawn, and I chatted with him for a while; he and Doris are going to their place in Florida next week and plan to see Mom and Dad.

Before going in to the Fishmans’, I decided to walk down the block to see Jerry and Jo Bisogno. I passed Mike Malone, who’s back in Brooklyn, and Steve Handelman and his family, who’ve taken over his house now that his 56parents are in Florida, too.

Jo was glad to see me and stopped her housework to give me a coke and sit out on the porch with me. Jerry was out getting signatures on petitions for Jack Friedman, who’s running for district leader. She said Jerry was planning to go pay a shiva call with Bonnie Wagner, so I decided to wait and tag along with them.

Bonnie’s working for Blue Cross and will be married in November. I saw little Alex, the Soviet boy who’s now living in my old room. He said he’s happy there.

Jerry came back tired, and when Andrew Jacobi – I remember him as a baby; he’s now a salesman and a disco type – came along, the four of us 56-1walked up the block to the Fishmans’.

The house was crowded with his visitors. As we walked in, I noticed Israel Glasser, the vice president of Kingsborough, going out.

Annette seemed drugged, or maybe she had started drinking again. “I’m numb,” she told us and said that Connie had a massive coronary on Tuesday night in Ellenville. When she read the EKG, she knew he was better off dead. He died on Friday.

Joe told me there were four hundred people at the funeral – Billy Sherman arranged it all – and he said he, his brother and sister were shocked by their father’s death because it was so sudden and without warning.

Joe is doing lighting for various Broadway shows and asked me about Jonny’s interest in the theater. His brother Jeffrey is an aspiring actor/director and knows Justin.

56-3Steven stopped by on his way home to his wife; he told me he works like a dog for Crazy Eddie. Bonnie had spoken to Marc recently, so she told the others about his wedding plans; everyone seemed shocked. Apparently Marc hasn’t seen his old friends lately.

I felt warmth at the shiva, a sense of community; I felt part of a group from the old neighborhood. Afterwards, I had coffee with the Bisognos and then sat on the porch, the way I used to.

Back at home, I called Florida and told Mom and Jonny about my fears about Marc without going into any specifics. Mom phoned me again at 9:30 PM, not long ago, after Marc had called her, very upset.

ba-visaThey wouldn’t let Rikki back in the hotel room because they found her Visa card wasn’t good for so much money. Marc told Mom that Rikki keeps saying she wants to pay him back, but all she does is spend more money.

Marc said, “I’m going to tell her that if she can’t live my way in Brooklyn, then we have to break up.” Mom told me that Marc sounded very depressed; maybe it’s better that he realizes it now, though.


Wednesday, July 9, 1980

11 PM. Today in brief: Marc called this morning to ask if I had a few hundred he could borrow. Fat chance: until my People’s Almanac check clears, I’ve got less than $40 in cash.

Marc didn’t give any details, but Mom called a while ago and said they got the sales contract with the Civic Center; Rikki came into New York and left dr-ps-1tonight. How Marc will get the money for the skates is beyond me.

I discussed the situation with Dr. Pasquale, who thinks that if my brother continues dealing coke, he’ll wind up in prison eventually; at least there’s a good chance of that.

But I can’t control Marc’s drug dealing any more than I can control Grandpa Herb’s lung cancer; the appointment with the doctor is tomorrow morning.

I spoke with Josh, who’s depressed about not finding a job in computers (he failed a simple test at Simon’s office); with Teresa, who’s still depressed over Paul after six months since their breakup and who’s upset over how the LIRR is screwing commuters; with Pete Cherches, who asked if I wanted to interview Rodney Dangerfield for Zone; with Ronna, who said my zoneMacDowell letters made it sound like I was really happy there; and with Avis – I’ll help her and Anthony move on Friday night.

Tomorrow’s going to be a big day: getting the news about Grandpa Herb, the appointment with the agent, and the Voice of America short story symposium.


Thursday, July 10, 1980

11 PM. Today was a busy day and a hot and humid one as well. Grandpa Herb saw the doctor in Manhattan this morning and was told that the growth appears localized and that removal of the lung is necessary – if Grandpa can breathe with the remaining lung.

I spoke with Grandma Ethel, Cousin Wendy and Mom, and they all hoped the decision would be made soon; the waiting and uncertainty are awful.

rollsMeanwhile, according to Mom, Marc and Rikki spent today driving around Brooklyn in a Rolls Royce.

Fredo Milano, the rock promoter with whom they’ve signed a contract, sent Rikki down here in the Rolls with a chauffeur. Rikki went back to Providence this evening, and things seem to be working out.

As to my literary day, I arrived at the Scott Meredith office at 2:30 PM, and Russell Galen showed me to his office. He’s a young, very thin, attractive blond man whom I liked immediately.

convict-authorHe thinks that ordinarily he would have thrown my letter and publicity package away, but he sensed that maybe he would like my work. I brought him Hitler and a few other things, and he said he’d read the stuff over the weekend and let me know if he felt we could work together.

Russ wanted to make sure that I didn’t expect him to make me a best seller overnight; I assured him not at all, that I was in the business for the long haul. He has forty clients and has had hassles with other authors, so he was wary about taking on a “character” like me.

He also told me what I expected to hear: that he was interested only in a novel. Russ works on a salary, not a commission, so he doesn’t have to galenworry about making every sale. What he cares about is his track record.

He seemed very sharp, with a healthy ego and a cynical yet charitable view of the publishing business. But he also said good books don’t go unpublished, a contention with which I disagree.

I left his office hoping that we could work together but with the knowledge that Russ Galen isn’t the arbiter of my literary abilities. A taxi stuck in traffic made me ten minutes late for the Voice of America taping.

gangemiI rushed into the studio and sat next to Kenneth Gangemi. Across from us were Steve Dixon and Carol Emshwiller; Richard Kostelanetz moderated the symposium from another table.

We talked about the contemporary short story, our own careers, our influences, the nonexistent literary market for stories, and we read several paragraphs of our own work.dixon

I was surprised that the others, Steve Dixon in particular, seemed familiar with my work. I was no more stupid than I usually am or anyone else was. After the taping, we rushed into the downtown subway.

Steve’s next short story collection will be put out by Johns Hopkins, and they gave him a teaching job for next fall. Carol will be taking over Steve’s class atemshwiller NYU, her first time teaching.

Steve’s latest novel has been turned down by Harper & Row, who published his first books, and also by Taplinger. Carol is readying a second manuscript of stories for a university or small press. I told her how much I admire Joy in Our Cause.

Richard won the Berlin Prize and will spend a year in West Berlin lecturing.

I got off at West 4th Street and walked with Steve and Carol through Washington Square Park, where we passed that 14-year-old boy I met on wash-sq-pk-1981the subway in November; he was standing with some gay kids, and our eyes met for a moment of recognition.

I had parked Grandpa Herb’s car by Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, and with everything, I didn’t get home until 7:30 PM.

Tonight I had a two hour talk with Linda Lerner about adjuncting, writing, and managing to survive. She said that Neil Schaeffer sold his book on satire to Columbia University Press. TC mark

More From Thought Catalog