Tuesday, July 22, 1980
4 PM. The only thing I can hope for now is that eventually some good will come out of all this pain. Life has ground me to a cinder. I am on the verge of giving up, but I don’t even know how to do that.
My life has become nightmarish as all my support systems fail. I don’t know how to cope with all the stress.
Yesterday Josh told me his building was condemned. He has thirty days to move out. It’s another example of the little person getting screwed, like me with Touro College and them denying me unemployment benefits because the school still owes me money for the spring term.
As I ate dinner at the Ram’s Horn last night, I watched the people at the counter drive a new waiter crazy. The poor guy just couldn’t manage, through no fault of his own. Yet he kept smiling through it.
Even though I couldn’t afford it, I gave him a big tip because the waiter, to me, epitomized every little guy that’s trying to make it despite great odds. But I wonder how long he will last.
At JFK Airport, Marc and Rikki came over to me. Rikki had on her usual hideous makeup and had stars pasted on at the sides of her eyes. She babbled on about clothes, about her father “blessing” her coming marriage or something, about her and Marc “sneaking” to see her kids today in Providence.
She will also see a cardiologist; she’s been very ill and during the course of the evening she looked faint several times. Rikki sickens me; she’s not a person but a hideous thing.
Mom came out of the plane looking like Mom, and I watched Rikki kiss her like she was her sister. As we walked with the luggage, people kept staring at Rikki. When Mom and I were alone in the car, I said sarcastically, “Your daughter-in-law.”
Mom said she’s decided that there’s nothing she can do about it: “I’ll just treat her as something which one day will be gone.”
I complained to Mom about my having most of the burden for Grandpa Herb’s illness and told her that Marc never calls anyone. When Mom said she could only stay through the weekend because Dad has a show in Miami next week, I exploded with rage.
She told me she wanted to see Grandpa Herb today, but I said I was too exhausted to drive into the city. I felt like, and I still feel like, I don’t have a life anymore.
Mom gave me two $100 bills. I thanked her and immediately felt guilty for having to take them, also knowing that this money wouldn’t even pay the rent that was due a week ago.
Back at Grandma Ethel’s, we sat around waiting for Grandma to arrive. I couldn’t imagine why she wasn’t home, and I guess it’s a sign of my nervous state that I panicked and pictured Grandma dying of a heart attack in the hospital.
Just as I said I was about to call the police, she returned from a neighbor’s apartment. After Marc and Rikki left, Mom said it’s like Marc’s “bedeviled.” Why is it he can’t see what any normal person sees: that Rikki is a sickie, that she’s poison.
Rikki told me that if “Dad” (my father!) can’t walk her down the aisle and give her away at the wedding, she wants me to do it. Me, father of the bride of Frankenstein! They want to get married in Central Park as soon as possible. What a freak show that will be.
I came home at 11 PM, feeling exhausted. I called Teresa and she told me that I absolutely must make some time for myself. So today I told Mom I wouldn’t go to the hospital. Instead, we went to Waldbaum’s, where Mom bought me $55 worth of groceries.
We were in line behind Stacy, who’s house-sitting for his father and his new wife. Stacy’s sister and Phyllis are both getting married this summer, she said.
In Brooklyn we fixed the car’s air-conditioning, met Evie for lunch at the Floridian, shopped, and had Grandpa Herb’s ring appraised. The jeweler at the said it “might” be worth $125 to $150.
That was the last blow. I broke down and wept like a baby in the shopping center. Grandpa had always told me that ring he gave me was worth thousands. Mom said she would pay my rent and telephone bill with a check on Friday. But what then?
Thursday, July 24, 1980
10 PM. Today was another day which will remain with me for a very long time. Last night I slept and dreamed well, and I was able to relax this morning.
Alice called to tell me that Janice was gravely ill in the hospital. Janice caught pneumonia, and Alice told me she thinks Janice is dying.
When I phoned Grandma Ethel, she sounded very depressed and she said that Grandpa Herb had been vomiting all night after getting sick while they had him on the CAT scanner.
I went over to her apartment and found Marc and Rikki with the kids. Those children are very affectionate; both Tara and Lee hugged me, kissed me, and held my hand throughout the day.
Grandma Ethel was distressed and at one point turned her head away as if to cry, and Tara climbed on her lap and said, “Don’t look so sad,” and kissed Grandma.
Outside on the terrace, I watched airplanes and a shuffleboard game with Lee. Then Grandma came out and said how she can’t live without Grandpa, how she’s an uneducated woman who can’t make out checks, how she should just commit suicide.
I tried to explain to her – as did Mom and Rikki – that nothing had changed since yesterday, that Grandpa’s nausea was caused by the hospital tests.
Grandma Ethel was bitter that Mom is leaving tomorrow and that Marty and Arlyne are going to visit Jeff at camp in the country: “You have children so they’ll be a help to you later on, but then everyone looks out for themselves first.”
She didn’t join the rest of us for dinner at the Ram’s Horn. The kids came with me and thought I drive too slowly. They were both well-behaved during the meal, and both Mom and I are falling in love with them.
While Mom took Tara into Waldbaum’s, I took Lee with me into the Citibank and let him press the buttons on the machine to get cash; then I bought him a Fantastic Four coloring book.
Marc and Rikki are taking the kids back to Rhode Island tonight. Mom and I still don’t know the whole story, but Rikki seems to be on better terms with her parents now.
When we returned to the apartment, Grandma Ethel said she was “feeling nauseous.” “Sympathy pains,” I said, and she said she’d gotten sick while eating the chow mein she took home from the restaurant last night.
Mom said it was nerves, and we drove to Manhattan without her. When we arrived, Grandpa Herb was feeling a little better although he was adamant about wanting to leave the hospital. “They put me through the wringer,” he said.
I had the impression that Grandpa’s roommate was a famous writer who I just couldn’t identify, and it turned out he is the cartoonist Edward Sorel. Grandpa Herb told him about me and my book, and Sorel said he’d heard of both. When Grandpa said my book didn’t make any money, Sorel told him, “Books never make money.”
Dr. Libby came in and told Grandpa that he has a small tumor on his lung: it hasn’t grown in two years, it’s “probably” cancer, and that if it were himself, Dr. Libby would want it out now.
But Dr. Libby – who doesn’t look much older than me – said he understood Grandpa Herb’s feelings and said he hoped he would be proven wrong, and it was possible that the tumor would never bother Grandpa.
Dr. Libby told Mom and me that Grandpa Herb must have checkups and x-rays every three months and that Grandpa could come home tomorrow. (He also said he didn’t believe Grandpa has ileitis.)
With that settled, and Grandpa Herb feeling relieved, I walked across York Avenue to Sloan Kettering to see Janice. She looked close to death. Her hair has fallen out, her features were sharp and old, and the tortured way she breathed through her oxygen mask were all frightening to me.
She had a terrible night because they put her in restraints so she wouldn’t take off her oxygen mask, which she had kept trying to do.
Janice kept crying that she wanted Ingrid and her mother to be with her. Earlier, Charlene Victor, who’s the head of the Brooklyn Art and Culture Association, had left Janice $40 to pay for car service to and from Manhattan for Ingrid and Mrs. G to visit.
Janice’s friend Margaret kept calling the house in Canarsie, but no one answered.
I felt I like I were in a scene in some terrible movie.
At times Janice was lucid, like when a black nurse came in, saw the present marked “Ingrid,” and said, “That’s my name, too.”
Janice responded by telling told us, “My husband was in love with Ingrid Bergman.”
I fed her dinner, and she managed to seat some turkey; it was pathetic to have to bring each forkful to her lips as if she were some helpless child. But what else can you do for the dying?
I have to admit I was a bit frightened, especially after Janice looked at me and said, out of the blue, “Who are you?”
She did talk about her book and she seemed excited about its publication. I left after the phone rang and one of her friends downstairs asked for one of the two visitor’s passes.
Back at New York Hospital, when Grandpa Herb asked me how my friend was, for some reason I said, “Nicht gut,” as if I didn’t want to say it in English.
Mom and I said goodbye to Grandpa and went out to eat at the International Health Bar on 57th and Sixth. (I found a parking space that became legal at 7 PM.)
At dinner, Mom told me that she’s worried because Dad isn’t doing so well and Grandma Sylvia’s money is running out. They may have to take out a second mortgage on the condo or apply for welfare for her.
After a good meal, Mom and I drove around Manhattan and Brooklyn. It was a beautiful evening, and we both enjoyed the time we spent alone together. We were like two adults, not a mother and son.
And I came home tired and a bit tense.
Friday, July 25, 1980
6 PM. This was an exhausting day. With Grandpa Herb home from the hospital, perhaps next week things will return to normal. Mom will be leaving tonight at 9 PM.
This morning she and I drove to the hospital and prepared Grandpa for his release; he was dying to get out of there (no pun intended). We took him home to Grandma Ethel, who was suffering chest pains – hopefully, they were just from anxiety.
If Grandma gets sick now, I don’t know how I’m going to manage. All of us are getting stress-related illnesses. Yesterday Marty too had an attack of nausea, and I’ve been dizzy for days.
Mom and I had lunch out and then went to return Grandpa’s x-rays to Peninsula Hospital and the Board of Health. (At the hospital, I ran into one of my former Touro students who’s an orderly there.)
Back at the apartment, Grandpa Herb gave me the $35 check he had left as a deposit with the hospital “for all your trouble.” And Mom gave me a check for this month’s rent and $50 towards the telephone bill. Someday I will repay both of them.
I’m so sick of driving I never want to see a car again. My Comet is out on the street and has a flat tire, but I’ll deal with that later; meanwhile, I’ll just go on using Grandpa Herb’s car.
I do have some other news which got lost in the shuffle of the week. Last night I spoke to Alice, who said she freaked out yesterday when Janice said she didn’t remember her visit the night before.
Alice’s friend Mark took one of my stories for Jump River Review and will be paying me $25. (Imagine if every story accepted brought me that much money.)
I spoke with Avis, who is getting the rest of her stuff out from Park Slope tonight; her life has been so hectic, she still has not unpacked her things in Bay Ridge. Dagmar, her friend from Bremen, is arriving tomorrow.
Josh thinks the landlord’s telling him about the building being condemned was just a ruse; now he plans to get everything he can out of the landlord before he agrees to move out.
Pete phoned last night; he’s doing nothing at the Fiction Collective and is trying to get a minimalist fiction chapbook published.
Barry Farber sent me the tape of the show he did with my grandparents. Unfortunately, I don’t have a tape recorder.
Dan Meltzer called and said he’s been having a hard time adjusting to New York after MacDowell. His agent rejected the play he wrote there.
Saturday, July 26, 1980
1 AM Sunday. I just came home half an hour ago, and I’ve been answering want ads in the New York Times. Tomorrow I’ll send out résumés for twenty jobs. I had new résumés xeroxed earlier today. It’s all part of Richie’s Get Your Shit Together Weekend.
I feel I can start moving now – to where, I’m not certain, but I am going to get somewhere. Last night I went over to my grandparents’ to say goodbye to Mom.
I decided not to go with Marc and Rikki to take her out to dinner and the airport; I was tired and I had spent a great deal of time alone with Mom. She and I got along wonderfully, and I enjoyed her company. I’m very lucky to have a mother I can really talk to – Mom understands.
Last night I spent several hours cleaning up the apartment. I straightened out most of my files, and I scrubbed the bathroom, dusted the furniture, and made myself feel good.
I also composed an open-ended list of things I have to do. I slept well and woke up at 10 AM. At the post office there was the usual junk mail – but Charlie Labeda of Street Bagel forwarded me a fan letter from a girl on Long Island who read my story in the last issue and loved it.
That’s always nice. It makes me feel I am reaching somebody after all.
Josh called to say he’d gotten a job as a programmer for $14,000. That’s a relief. I hope things work out as well for me.
I relaxed and read and went back to my exercises today, and it was a fine morning. I’ve gotten so accustomed to my little apartment after nine months. Rockaway can be gorgeous in the summer, and I’ll never be sorry I had this experience.
At 2 PM I drove into Brooklyn and xeroxed my résumés and the new Hitler reviews. An hour later, I picked up Alice and we drove to Sloan Kettering. Between Janice and Grandpa Herb, I feel I am living in that neighborhood of hospitals known as “Bedpan Alley.”
We found Janice looking a little better but still in bad shape. Ingrid and Janice’s mother were there – Frankie, a neighbor, had driven them – but they left soon after Alice and I arrived.
Janice was getting a blood transfusion and her arm was all purple. She kept trying to take off the oxygen mask and was crying because there’s no one around to help feed her at mealtimes.
It was heartbreaking to see Janice so helpless and in such pain; I was glad to be able to get out to First Avenue to feed the meter. Alice and I left at 5:30 PM.
She’s very depressed about Janice and said, “It makes you realize your own little troubles are so insignificant.”
Alice told me I was invited to the usual Saturday evening gourmet feast she makes for Peter, so I called Dan and told him I’d be by later in the evening.
I waited while Alice bought chicken and shrimp, and then, up in her apartment, as Alice prepared the elaborate meal, we listened to the tape of the Barry Farber show with my grandparents. It played very well and will be a lasting reminder of them.
Peter came home and the three of us dined in the air-conditioned living room. It was wonderful to be with my friends instead of with sick and old people.
Lately I’ve been so tense that my sexual desire has been fading, but I feel pretty perky now. Living at the beach in this summer heat, I get to see some very cute bodies, and it would be the answer to a prayer if I could find a guy I really liked. Today I almost believe that that part of my life will work out, too.
I haven’t heard from Bill-Dale in two months and I don’t know what’s happened to him – although I’m sure he’ll turn up sooner or later.
Well, getting back to Alice’s, her dinner was very good: curried chicken and shrimp with rice and an apple/pineapple sauce.
Peter told me he’ll be going to the Democratic convention as a representative of The Big Apple Report, and Cliff and June are going in connection with their children’s book on the life of newspaper reporters.
Alice showed me Janice’s book on calligraphy; Simon & Schuster did a great job with it. Alice said she had a lot of cash and offered to lend me $200. She was glad when I accepted. I don’t want to get into the habit of borrowing money, but this is a rough time, and I know Alice can spare the money.
God bless my friends: they feed me nutritionally, financially and emotionally. Can I ever really repay them? Driving uptown in a raging rainstorm, I realized how lucky I am.
I have my health, my brains, my looks – no, I’m not kidding – plus a family who’s supportive, a group of friends who can’t be beat, a nice apartment, food in my stomach, my writing. Remember the Sam Levenson title: Everything But Money. And you know you can’t have everything.
I was lucky, too, in getting a parking space right in front of Dan’s West 74th Street apartment, not an easy feat on a Saturday night when you consider that Plato’s Retreat, the famous sex club, is down the block.
Dan and his pretty girlfriend and roommate Tal entertained me and gave me lemonade. Dan is hoping to get adjunct courses for the fall; we talked about that and about MacDowell people and about the theater.
I enjoyed the conversation and left at 11:30 PM only because I was tired. The ride back to Rockaway was pleasant.
Looking at the Sunday paper, I got the petty satisfaction of seeing Baumbach get another bad review in the Times Book Review – but at least he got reviewed by them. Oh well, I’m not going to complain tonight.
Tuesday, July 29, 1980
2 PM on the first rainy day we’ve had in several weeks. Lately I’ve been finding all our hot, sunny weather oppressive, so I’d wished for a day like today. It’s a cool, lazy afternoon and I want to snooze and exercise and take care of business.
At 6 PM yesterday I drove into the city to see Janice. I wanted to see her, but even more, I wanted answers to the questions I was having: What does it all mean, the suffering and pain in life?
In the lobby of my apartment building before I left last evening, I met Genevieve, Tom the super’s wife. Tom is in the hospital with prostate cancer, she told me, and she cried and she asked about my grandfather.
As I drove to Manhattan, I thought: maybe that’s it, simple human kindness. Kevin Urick said my characters are nice people. Just maybe all that’s left in life is to treat other people and ourselves with dignity, concern and humor.
Janice looked bad. Her sister Donna and white-haired brother-in-law Sonny were with her. Janice was having trouble breathing even with the oxygen mask. “Can you stay with me nearly 24 hours a day?” she asked in a child’s voice so plaintive that I almost began to cry.
She was holding a pen in her hand, the same kind of Bic white accountant fine point pen that I am writing with now, and there was a clipboard in her lap. She put the pen and paper in my hand and said, “Write down all the hours you can stay with me.”
Janice also urged me to keep making what she called a “Percocet chart” with the date and the hours she could take that painkiller. She started telling me about the hospital staff, saying the nurses take away her Percocet and make her fall and hide her possessions and put her phone in the drawer.
Donna took the pen and pad from me and wrote something and gave it back to me: “She’s become paranoid and the doctors don’t know why.”
Janice then started getting excited about the “project” she wanted me to work on with her: clearing up all the problems of Sloan Kettering.
(Odd how this time of my life seems so filled with illness. I seem to attract it. In Ark Drugs today, when I went in to buy the Post, I overheard a woman with an Irish brogue tell a man: “He’s in Sloan Kettering and they don’t give him much hope of starting college in the fall.”)
I’ll never forget last night. I remember the TV was playing a favorite song of mine, Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Clair” – when Janice asked me if I could stay the whole night with her.
Before I could answer, her doctor, Dr. Hirschhorn, came in and spoke with her, patiently answering the questions Janice had her sister write on the pad:
1. How long is the curative process?
2. Will I have to be on antibiotics long?
3. Could this have been avoided?
Janice repeatedly introduced me to everyone as “Richard Grayson, the writer who Liz Smith in the Daily News said was one of the really funny people.”
At times she seemed happy: when she drank a vanilla milkshake or when she asked me to play Boggle, a word game we used to play.
The doctor said he would allow Janice to have a relative stay with her in the room after visiting hours were over, and she said, “Richard Grayson will be my relative tonight.”
When they left, Janice told Sonny to take care of Ingrid and she told Donna to pay for the night nurse, a West Indian woman named Mrs. Wright. Janice and I were alone, and I watched her tortured breathing.
“Want to put makeup on?” she asked me.
“I don’t wear makeup, Janice,” I said.
“No, on me.”
“I don’t know how, Janice. Besides, I like women better without makeup. They look more beautiful just natural.”
“Okay,” she said with a faint smile.
We were watching Channel 13, a documentary about Winifred Wagner, daughter-in-law of the composer and a chum to Hitler, and it was all in German.
I guess Janice knows the language, for at one point she said of an art festival that Wagner was talking about, “Richie, you should have been there; Alan and I were at one of those things.” And at another point she held my hand tightly and said, “Stick by me – you’re doing great.”
She couldn’t breathe without her mask on, and she kept coughing what I thought was a kind of death rattle. Her shoulders and head jerked forward with each breath.
Finally, after she was asleep for half an hour, I told the night nurse I was leaving. Mrs. Wright told me Janice’s paranoia and fear were understandable: “She’s 33 years old and she knows she’s dying of cancer and it might have gone to her brain, a tumor, or maybe she’s not getting enough oxygen there.”
I nodded and thanked her. Outside the hospital, I called Alice from a phone booth on York Avenue. After that I drove downtown: it was 11 PM and the city was still alive.
I felt as though I had done something important; staying with Janice was one of those little acts of kindness and decency that may be what the world is all about.
Going down Flatbush Avenue, I picked up the Times at the Grand Army Plaza newsstand and found my humorous letter which suggested that unscrupulous people will take advantage of Mayor Koch’s rush hour ban on single-passenger autos by selling life-sized inflatable dummies to lone motorists about to the drive over the East River bridges.
And I came home to bed. This morning I drove in a terrible thunderstorm to Queens College for an interview with Betty Leon in the Student Union. I’ve always liked that campus and felt comfortable there. Betty scheduled a creative writing workshop for me on Wednesday evenings starting in mid-October.
I came home to relax. Crad Kilodney’s Lightning Struck My Dick came in the mail; it’s a slick, handsome, great collection of his stories.
Wednesday, July 30, 1980
3 PM. It looks like my big résumé push is starting to pay off already. I got a call from Adult Education at Kingsborough and they want me to come down for an interview in three weeks.
Dr. Perkal of Touro called me, asking if I wanted to become a fulltime faculty member; he scheduled me for two courses at P.S. 109 in Brooklyn and two courses at Beach Channel. Tomorrow I’m going to call Dean Boylan there and see about an interview.
As I told Mom, I’m going to load up on courses and then stick with whatever I can handle. If Touro paid on time, I’d jump at the chance to teach the four night courses because that would give my days free to teach two CUNY courses.
I now get the feeling that I’m going to end up with more courses than I can handle, and that I’ll finally get myself out of this financial bind. I owe $500 outside the family – $200 to Alice and $300 to the Authors League Fund – and I’m probably going to have to borrow some more money before the paychecks start coming in October.
Last night Josh and I celebrated his last night of freedom before today’s first day of work. We had dinner at Junior’s, then went over to visit Simon.
Simon is slowly getting himself out of debt. Not much is doing at his job, but he doesn’t hate it. He sold another story – to the Nantucket Review this time – and he said they used my name in a brochure, as one of their regular contributors.
Simon asked me about Avis’s fiancé, so I guess he’s pretty curious about Anthony. I’d called Avis’s yesterday and spoke to her Bremen friend Dagmar, who said that she and her boyfriend can’t take the New York heat and will be leaving for Canada on a motorcycle trip.
This morning I did a number of chores and errands: did the laundry, went to the cleaners, got a haircut, filled up Grandpa Herb’s car with gas.
Three rejections came in the mail today, but they were from lousy magazines who don’t know any better. Rereading the stories in Crad Kilodney’s book convinces me that he’s a genius and will be recognized as one before too long. I wish the same were true of me.
Thursday, July 31, 1980
10 PM. Another year of diary pages – my eleventh – comes to an end. If my diary from August 1, 1969, to today has a theme, it’s that of an attempt to make sense of life. Also, the diary for me has become a reason to go on living.
Like tonight: I’ve been looking forward all day to writing this entry. Some of my happiest moments have been spent writing in my diary. It’s my own world where I am king, prime minister and court jester.
It is my life. If I could not write, I would never want to live. Now I do things that I couldn’t have dreamed of doing eleven years ago, but I don’t think I’ve gotten any more successful at making sense of life: the issues involved seem to get more complex with each passing year.
This month has been especially difficult. Yet I wouldn’t – I was going to say “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” but that’s not quite what I mean.
What I’m trying to say is that July has been a very rich month, full of life: mostly bad, but there have been exquisitely sweet moments, mostly spent with friends and family. And even the bad times seem important and resonant, like someday they’ll come in handy.
Fantasy: I see myself as a successful writer in my fifties, writing books of memoirs like Malcolm Cowley or Lillian Hellman, and looking back at this time of life and my struggles and the struggles of my friends and family, and it will all come out sounding wonderful and nostalgic.
But in a way, I already feel that now. There have been precious moments this month:
Tonight, sitting on a bench on the Promenade with Josh, the creamy lights of Manhattan in front of us.
My gourmet dinners courtesy of Teresa and Alice.
Last night’s kundalini yoga class with Avis and Anthony.
Enjoying my mother as a person, driving through New York with her, eating at that health food restaurant on 57th Street a week ago.
Hearing that Jonny got an A in astronomy, commiserating with him after he registered for the draft. Comforting my grandparents. Doing a mitzvah by staying with Janice. Meeting Rikki’s beautiful kids.
Seeing my letter in the paper; or today, buying the Webster Review at the Gotham Book Mart because on their back cover they had my name in the same space with those of other recent contributors, including Borges, Singer, and Edwin Honig,
Yes, there is a great deal of pain and frustration in my world, but there is beauty, too, and I don’t want to die.
This morning I felt despair and wondered how I can possibly get through the next two months until the fall’s adjunct paychecks start arriving. I began to think – first, of going to live with my parents, and next, of the inevitability of suicide. But now I see that somehow I’ll muddle through. I’ve become incredibly strong.
Last night I dreamed of flying in an airplane and I felt no anxiety. After this last year, I’ve discovered resources I never knew I had. I’m much tougher than I thought I was.
At this moment I feel incredibly happy, and I don’t think I could have felt this happy had all those bad things never happened. Do happy and happen have the same root?
Last evening I met Avis and Anthony at their apartment. I sat in the kitchen and read Time on Billygate; Avis came through the room in her panties, and I liked that because I felt it meant that she treats me as one of the family.
We drove to Bergen Street in Grandpa Herb’s car and went into the ashram. Avis and Anthony paid for me – if only I could ever repay my friends, I would be the happiest person on earth – and we were three of the five members of the 7 PM class.
About ten people live in the ashram. The men wear white turbans to keep the energy inside them or something. Kundalini yoga is based on energy, and after doing a few exercises, I soon realized it’s much more active and strenuous than the hatha yoga I’m used to.
I was familiar with the basic postures – the cobra, the bridge – and I can easily do a lotus while Anthony, who’s been practicing for years, can’t manage it.
I do have trouble with the breathing exercises. I tend to breathe through my mouth rather than my nose, and I’ve got a feeling that may have something to do with my sinus problems.
We all sweated like crazy, and I felt a bit dizzy when I had to move my head back. Anthony could do remarkable “breaths of fire.”
I kept telling myself it was all bullshit, like at the end when we meditated by chanting with each exhalation: “Ra, ra, ra, ra. Ma, ma, ma, ma. Sa, sa, sa, stt. Hardee-har, hardee-har” – or words to that effect.
But in a way it actually was relaxing, and of course, good exercise. Anthony later told me that our teacher was not one of the better ones. “Sat nam,” everyone said at the end: that means “Truth is your identity,” a credo I can understand.
Our legs buckled from the exercises as we walked down the ashram steps. We drove back to Bay Ridge, where Dagmar and Sasha were hanging out; Dagmar is pretty, and Sasha handsome. They’re pretty disgusted with the New York heat and plan to camp out in the country for a week.
The five of us went to a pizza parlor on 86th Street and Fourth Avenue. I just got Italian ices. On the way home Avis told Anthony, “I have to buy clothes for my wedding,” saying my as if she were marrying someone else.
Anyway, it was a fine evening.
At 11 AM today, when I called Touro, they told me to see Dean Boylan at 1 PM, so I drove into Manhattan and parked in a garage in the Village and took a train uptown.
After having a burger on 42nd Street, I snaked my way through buildings without using the streets – my old messenger skills – to get to Touro on 44th Street. Dr. Perkal was there and asked me about my writing and wished me good luck.
Finally, Dean Boylan saw me. He said he was busy signing the July checks, but then someone came in and told him that they couldn’t be sent out for a month, that the June checks are first going out now.
Boylan told me that Touro started ten years ago, and if I wanted to write “another Jewish satire” – he’d seen the L.A. Times review of Hitler –I could write the history of the college.
They depend on federal funding which doesn’t always come on time, hence the problem with the paychecks. The college just took out a loan to pay adjuncts. (The full-timers get paid on time, or so Boylan said.)
There’s not much advantage in being a full-time lecturer: the pay is $8,600 a year, not much more than adjuncts make, and you have to take four courses wherever they send you, maybe even in Harlem. I’d also have to teach English as a second language, which I said I could do.
Boylan, an Orthodox Jew like everyone else at Touro, seemed upset at the state Regents for making them hire more full-time faculty and said he’d let me know in a few weeks if I got the job.
I went out into the 90° heat and the crowds of beautiful Manhattan bodies, passing a student who yelled, “Hey, Mr. Grayson, they kicked me out of Kingsborough!” and went to Sloan Kettering to see Janice.
Her room and bed were empty, and my first thought was that she’d died, but she was out in the hall getting ready to go down for a chest x-ray and a bone marrow test.
She looked horrible and cried terribly. I held her hand, which was as cold as ice. After she came back – her stupid mother left early, so as to “avoid rush hour” – a lot of people started coming in: Sonny and Donna, Dolores, Maura, Harry Steinberg, two couples I don’t know – so I left after 6 PM.
After getting my car in the Village, I drove to the Heights to see Josh, who’s glad he has a great boss at work: a really sweet 34-year-old guy who’s “very patient” and “a real person.”
We had dinner at Mr. Souvlaki – where I said hi to Anthony’s friend Marsha at the next table – and then Josh and I spent the evening walking and sitting on the Promenade. It was another nice night.