A 30-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Mid-January, 1982

Tuesday, January 12, 1981

10 PM. Today was a pleasant day.

Last night I had a very sweet dream about New York. I was at my parents’ old house, giving away copies of my latest book when Stacy came over; I felt so warmly toward her that I woke up feeling good.

Even in the winter cold, I have been experiencing sexual stirrings – a surprising number of them for women. But mostly it’s boys.

I feel I’m surrounded by beautiful boys and if only one out of a hundred of them are gay, I should have a chance to meet someone sweet and nice and sexy and smart and decent and gorgeous.

Too much to ask for? Of course.

But it would be so neat to be in love again. Harumph!

It was 30° when I left this morning and I wore my New York outfit of sweater, gloves and down jacket.

At Broward Community College, I had to tell the 8 AM class to switch to Rosa’s section, and then I had time to kill before the 9:30 AM class.

I showed Maureen and Marilyn the Gargoyle interview, which impressed them. To someone who doesn’t know the score, I suppose that it could look impressive.

I had a pretty good introduction to fiction in the 102 class, and I began going over the Grasso text in 101.

I’d like to be less involved in my work this term without totally cheating the students. But BCC is so bad, in general, I know I can’t cheat them that much, especially when I compare myself with total idiots like Dave or Jim.

At 3 PM, with the temperature a balmy 65°, I went downtown to see Lista Foster and Rosemary Jones at the Council for Florida Libraries, which is located in the Gale Research offices. (Rosemary also is a Gale employee).

They’re doing a great job booking authors at local libraries, and Lista wanted to get to know me. She took me out for tea at The Chemist Shop on Las Olas – Rosemary was busy and unfriendly – and we had a great old time.

Lista’s about my mother’s age, divorced but living with a guy for years; she’s a recovered alcoholic and a genuinely fine person. I enjoyed her company enormously, and I think I made a good impression on her.

She wants me to go on a cable TV interview show, and who knows, maybe she can help me publicize the new book. In any case, it was a pleasure to meet her.

For dinner this evening, I met my parents, Marc, and Jonny at the Chinese restaurant near my place. It was the first time all of us have been together in almost a year.

Marc looks a little better although his eyes have very dark circles under them and he seemed jumpy.

Dad said his business has fallen off terribly, both because of the general recession and the decline of the Sasson name.

Jeans are a dying business these days, and Dad’s orders are suffering. Also, the Latin Americans just aren’t coming up any more.

Dad tells me there will be a Florida boom in 1984 that will outdo the last one, and I hope he’s right. I myself think growth in Dade and Broward will level off – but still, this is an exciting place to be now.

Jonny said that the teachers at Florida Atlantic University are very good and that the work is ten times harder than that at BCC; all his friends there who went to BCC say the school didn’t prepare them for real college work.

The important thing is that Jonny is being stimulated intellectually by his classes.

Teresa called and said Paul testified yesterday at the trial about the car accident only on the condition that she testify today so he would not have to see her. That was fine with her.

This morning she gave the jury a laugh when the lawyer said that Paul had testified that he and Teresa were arguing loudly when they witnessed the accident.

“To me, the argument was over,” Teresa said. “I already had won it.”

Thursday, January 14, 1981

4 PM. It’s an atypical dark, stormy day and I’ve been lying in bed listening to “Rhapsody in Blue.” It is a luxury to be able to be alone on an afternoon like this, and to feel half-sleepy and very calm and a little sexy.

I love sex; I just wish there was someone I could share it with.

Yesterday afternoon, while I was out driving, I heard the first reports of a plane crash at Washington’s D.C. National Airport.

When I got home, I saw live photos of the jet crash; it was taking off during a bad snowstorm and went right into the 14th Street Bridge, killing motorists before it fell into the icy Potomac.

It was Air Florida flight #90 en route to Tampa and Fort Lauderdale – the exact flight I took last summer.

As the pictures played on TV all night, I couldn’t help thinking how I could have been aboard that plane. The D.C. airport runways are too short and the flight pattern is old and tricky.

Out of 80 passengers, only five survived; many got out of the plane but drowned or froze in the river. It looked like a nightmare.

It’s been over two years since an American commercial airline last had a crash, but I suppose this will be in my mind for some time.

Of course, my fraidy-cat instincts probably would have served me well: I wouldn’t have gotten on a plane during a blizzard – weather probably contributing to the crash.

Anyway, I told my parents of the irony, and I also felt I had to call Kevin.

“Imagine me ending up in the Potomac,” I said. “Do you think that would be a romantic writer’s death?”

Kevin, typically, replied that he thought Nelson Rockefeller’s death while making love was the height of romance.

Poor Kevin, he’s still semi-hysterical over his last breakup.

I also called my grandparents and Josh, who were in the middle of a severe snowstorm. Josh said he hadn’t eaten and I told him to come over to my place; if only he could.

The past three nights I’ve slept well and had very pleasant dreams of New York City and of being with my friends and family and even a friendly Jackie Onassis.

Perhaps I will go back to the Big Apple sooner than I thought and be a starving artist all over again.

Aaron Publications in Sarasota rejected Eating at Arby’s but thought I should self-publish it. More and more, I think I will.

If I can borrow $1,000 at 13% interest from my credit union, there seems no reason why I couldn’t get a nice booklet together.

I need a new project and I’m not ready to start the agoraphobia book; I want to do the Arby’s book while I’m still living in South Florida.

I had two marvelous classes today, a great lunch with Patrick, and I felt good about myself.

The Hollywood Sun-Tattler’s West section treated my candidacy very matter-of-factly; I was identified simply as “Richard Grayson, 30, a BCC English instructor who is in the race for the seat of Davie Mayor Scott Cowen.”

God, all these risks I’m taking. Out of them is bound to blow up in my face, so I just hope I’m prepared for that.

Friday, January 15, 1981

11 PM. The first full week of the spring semester is over, and it seems as if this term will be somewhat easier than last, especially since I’ve grown accustomed to the routine.

I have ten days before Crad’s visit to be alone; I’m afraid that while he’s visiting, I’ll feel a bit put-upon, but it will be good to have him here.

Yesterday I called Alice at the Weight Watchers office. She’s getting ready for her songs to be performed at that showcase next week, things are hectic at the magazine, and she’s as busy as ever.

Sometimes I wonder what I would do without the telephone, for it makes me feel close to my friends.

Kevin called to say that my books would be delivered to him in Maryland today. He said he’d send my copies via UPS, so I might have them by the end of the week.

I hope the books look nice. It’s odd, but now that my second big story collection is being published, I feel the important thing is the writing itself.

Patrick criticizes me for being egotistical about my writing, but he did agree that one has to develop a kind of arrogance in the face of so many rejections (there were more today – the University of Michigan doesn’t want me, and Doubleday doesn’t want to look at my manuscript).

Patrick said he goes into a tailspin with every rejection – no wonder he’s not a real writer.

Last night I slept very well with vivid dreams. When I got up in the middle of the night, I decided that I have become fairly tough.

New York did that to me, as did all the rejections and struggling and hard times. I could go back to New York if I had to. I almost feel that I need a certain amount of pain and struggling to make me stronger.

Florida has provided a haven for me – not only from the cold weather (though it’s been cool lately), but from the struggle for survival.

In New York, I felt totally on my own. Here in Florida, I’ve lived in pleasant surroundings, and I’ve had money, family, comfort, recognition, peace.

Maybe I’m crazy, and I admit I don’t know what it is I really want, but I don’t think I’ll find it if I stay here.

At the very least, I’d have to move to Coconut Grove or Coral Gables in Miami. I need the excitement of city streets.

I had a dream in which I screamed at Gretchen Johnsen, but I finally worked it out with her, explaining I was just upset with myself and didn’t mean to hurt her; we ended up hugging.

Last night I felt deliciously happy, and today wasn’t bad, either. I had my 100 classes write paragraphs and I had a good lecture in 101. I did a lot of reading and worked out and handed in my campaign’s financial report at Town Hall.

The University of Minnesota called for my dossier and a writing sample. I sent out more query letters about A Version of Life and asked local printers for estimates for Arby’s; there were letters to friends to write and bills to pay.

Miriam sounded fine in her letter. She loves massage school and is going to a new zen center and enjoying her lover, the 22-year-old Sierra Club Dharma bum.

She told me that With Hitler in New York is rated B+ on Naiad Press’s The Lesbian in Literature bibliography, which is neat.

Miriam’s cat broke its leg, and that emergency made her cancel a dinner date with Pete Cherches when he visited San Francisco. (I must call Pete.)

Tonight I had dinner in Hollywood with Marc and our parents; Jonny was out with his Venezuelan friend Gigi.

Marc now seems so much better here: he’s relaxed, not hyper, and he makes sense and looks well.

Mom and Dad spent all day trimming for the Miami show. Dad will miss the New York show because they conflict – but business is so bad it hardly matters.

As usual, I ran into one of my students at the restaurant. They are all over the place.

This weekend, I have papers to grade and a few letters to write. I want to work out with weights and read ahead in my literature text.

Monday, January 18, 1981

4 PM. Last night I called Gary. He was planning to fly to Boston today on business and then later in the week he has to go to Dallas and San Francisco. While he’s in the Bay Area, he plans to try to get an interview at Atari.

Gary said he was thinking of coming to Florida for the weekend on his way back, and I told him he’d be more than welcome, but he now thinks he’ll go to L.A. instead.

I envy Gary, being able to travel so often.

It took a long time for me to get to bed, but I did sleep okay – again having nice dreams of New York.

At school Patrick is always baiting me about being conceited and trendy, and I’m also sure there’s a lot of antisemitism, homophobia and anti-New York feeling there.

Today I dismissed him as a “breeder” – which was dumb, but sometimes he gets to me.

Of course, he’s just envious. Carol Bergé wrote that the academics at the schools she’s been at hate her – and she enjoys their hatred because she knows they envy her writing career.

Patrick is a classic loser, someone who went into the navy and got married to his first wife at 18, and who is now stuck with low-paying, low-prestige, dead-end jobs like being an adjunct.

Of course, I do understand him and feel for him, but he should know that I also envy his family life and stability.

I guess on the outside it looks like it’s all fallen into my lap: here I am this ballsy, pushy, New York gay Jew who’s become a writer as easily as snapping my fingers.

I look young and dress well and am friendly and quick, and so I seem like a Golden Boy, a Whiz Kid. Of course, all the while I feel like I’m just a household drudge, a colorless workaholic. Oh, well.

In New York, people do understand – and now, living outside the city for the first time in my life, I can see how painful it must be for ambitious, artistic kids in small-minded small towns. Do I sound obnoxious?

I had three decent classes today; I just hope it isn’t too obvious how little I care.

But I do care, of course, probably more than most BCC teachers; I have to do a good job if only to make it interesting for myself.

At my parents’ house, I sat out in the sun for 90 minutes, joined by Marc for the last half hour. He looks well here and sounds normal, but he admitted that in New York he lives in his “own little world.”

I had to go over to Town Hall to amend the dates on my campaign statement. While doing that, Patti Cormier told me that William Snyder has dropped out of the race for health reasons.

Now, I’m really glad I’m running, since Art Lazear would have gotten a free ride otherwise.

I was interviewed by a dull woman from The Western News, a dull newspaper; I gave dull answers to her dull questions.

I told Marc that I feel I’m out of sync with everyone here in South Florida, as if I’m on speed all the time.

Well, I’m now going to devour Publishers Weekly and the Voice and the Times Book Review (left over from yesterday) and the Wall Street Journal and then settle down to watch Brideshead Revisited on PBS.

Do I sound like a schmuck? Maybe I am a schmuck – but at least I’m a visible schmuck.

Tuesday, January 19, 1981

6:30 PM. The sun has just gone down. I’m sitting in front of my sliding glass door, which I’ve opened to let in the mild night air.

One of my neighbors is barbecuing and the smell is wafting over here, mixing with the slight aroma of dog shit, which smells almost pleasant.

The crickets are chirping, and the dog across the way is barking in the backyard. There’s an orange tree there, with real ready-to-eat oranges (forgive my New York amazement).

When I complain about the banality of life here, the problems at work, the lack of friends, I neglect to mention that there can be no more beautiful place in the winter than South Florida.

Dusk is my favorite time here.

Now the days are getting longer – they’re longer than in New York, anyway – and it feels like spring. Not the same kind of spring as up North, of course, but there’s a lazy, self-satisfied feeling in the air here.

At 5 PM, I went to the Broward Mall. In the bookstore, I thought the two girls at the counter were staring at me and giggling, but then I decided that was just paranoia.

However, when I plunked down my copy of Brideshead Revisited at the counter – I liked the TV show, especially Sebastian carrying around a teddy bear at Oxford – they asked: “What book did you write?”

“How do you know that I’m a writer?”

More giggles. “We’re in your class.”

“Which one?”

“The 9:30 lit class – this morning we did that Doris Lessing story.”

I apologized for not recognizing them (“I’m oblivious to students after school”) and then told them the title of my book.

“We looked you up in the library and there were so many Richard Graysons,” one said.

I studied their nametags and said, “Gayle, Terri [I think]: I’ll remember you next time.”

I also bought today’s New York Times  and sat down at the counter of Danny’s for dinner. If all of life here could be so leisurely, I’d be in paradise . . . or dying of boredom.

Last night, when I spoke to Ronna, she said the temperature had gone below zero for the second day.

Ronna said she xeroxed the Florida radio and TV stations from her PR list and would send them; I said I’d send her my new book.

After watching the Waugh teleplay, I slept fitfully, again dreaming of New York (Alice and I were buying out-of-town papers at Columbus Circle).

This morning, the discussion on Lessing’s feminist-oriented story was pretty good, though only a few students in the class dominate: an older woman who looks at things with a different perspective; a bright black girl (that reminds me – I also dreamed of Kim last night); a clever kid named Dana Mahoney, very earnest; some cute boy who’s probably gay; and a heavyset girl who reminds me of Shelli.

Back at the office, we all learned that Alan Merickel had quit. He took a job at a college in Springfield, Massachusetts, and bought a house in Hadley and will leave in two weeks.

We all congratulated him – but he won’t be the last to leave.

Dr. Grasso now has seven full-time vacancies. She told me she had read the Gargoyle interview, which Maureen had xeroxed.

“A rising young fiction writer,” she said.

Well, I managed to rise up to teach my 12:30-2 PM class on paragraphing, and then I came home to answer my mail, mark papers and pump iron.

Thursday, January 21, 1981

9 PM. I have a premonition that the next few weeks will be very stressful. (They now have “stress management” courses – which says something about something.)

Part of the premonition is neurotic: things have been too good for the past three weeks.

This evening, as if on cue, my car started acting up. To avoid getting stuck (or getting stuck more than necessary), I’m taking it over to my parents’ early tomorrow morning so Dad can drive it to Freddy’s.

Crad’s impending visit leaves me with mixed feelings: I want to see him, but I’ll be losing my privacy, my routine will be upset, and I’m afraid he’ll be bored and impatient because I have so much schoolwork to do.

Hopefully Crad will understand that I’ve got a full-time job and I have to be semi-responsible.

I hope Gary decides to go to L.A. rather than come here this weekend – again, not because I don’t want to see Gary but because I need time to mark over a hundred papers and prepare my lessons for next week.

Luckily, three classes – my 101s at the end of next week – will all be held in Bailey Hall as part of the library lecture.

I haven’t had time to savor seeing my new book since the package got here; I haven’t really “read” it yet. But I don’t know if that’s necessary.

Still, I now have the physical proof that Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog is a book. It exists. Yet in a way, it doesn’t. I brought a copy into school today but I showed it to only a few people, and I didn’t let anyone read it.

In today’s Sun-Tattler, Renee Krause wrote that I’m “asking for disappointment” by running for Town Council and also filing for U.S. Senator and for President in 1984.

She quoted me as saying I’ll run a “screened-in terrace campaign,” similar to McKinley’s 1896 “front porch campaign.”

My parents feel I am embarrassing them. Dad says, “If you’re going to run, run. Don’t make yourself a laughing stock.”

Dad doesn’t understand that I’m trying to poke fun at the system, from the silliness of the Davie Town Council to the absurdity of a movie actor as President.

My parents are proud of my book, but I’m sure they’re embarrassed by it, too, and would rather not have people read about my homosexual feelings.

I’m a little embarrassed myself. But really, I know nothing I write is so terrible, and a lot of it is honest.

I had a couple of nice classes today and I did feel good about myself as a teacher.

Alan started clearing out his office, and we all helped ourselves to books he doesn’t want.

“It’s Another Beautiful Day in Broward County, Florida” got rejected by one little magazine but accepted by another, The Vanderbilt Review.

Alice sent the new Weight Watchers which features Peter’s before-and-after story: the photo of him jumping for joy under a Broadway marquee with his name on it was priceless.

Marc was supposed to leave yesterday, but he’s staying on, and tomorrow his girlfriend Alison, who went to high school with Jonathan (who’s not crazy about her visit) will be coming to stay in Davie.

Before Mom said I could use the Buick tomorrow, she had to ask Marc if he needed to go to the beach – as if that was equivalent to my needing it for work.

I did sit in the sun for an hour today, but it will be the last time I’m able to do that for a while. I’ve had a lot of free time this week and I haven’t worked enough.

My papers and files – relating to my writing and my classes – are an unholy mess, and I feel I’ll never get organized.

I hurt my back lifting weights. I feel fat and not attractive and I wish I had more time to read Brideshead Revisited. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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