A 30-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Late February, 1982

Friday, February 19, 1982

9 PM. I’m trying to wind down from a hectic week. Every day seems to bring a new project – or an annoying errand I must do.

No doubt about it: I’m a workaholic. I feel I can’t waste a minute; for example, while I’m waiting in line at the supermarket, I read Newsweek.

That would be great if I were a motion-study expert, but I’m a writer – I think. Well, I suppose I wouldn’t have had 150+ stories published if I hadn’t been compulsive.

This afternoon I was home by 2 PM and immediately lifted weights and marked all my papers (I’d done most in school, miraculously); following that, I could have rested or done nothing.

But I was so anxious to get my South Florida stories to magazines that I couldn’t wait – so I bought postage, envelopes and did xeroxing. (The cost of sending out seven copies was about $40.)

I do hope some magazine takes “Eating at Arby’s.”

Last evening I read the Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, Discovery, Publishers Weekly, the AWP Newsletter.

This morning was glorious, and I had more energy than I could put to use.

But I had my early classes write while I caught up on my marking and reading, subbed for Phyllis at 11 AM, taught a five lesson in my own 101 class at noon, and then subbed for Rosa (“a sub rosa,” Casey called it) at 1 PM. God knows what I’m trying to prove.

Jacqui had her final interview with Southern Bell yesterday, and today she found out she qualified for the job. So she’ll be leaving the English Department, too – though it may not be until the term is over. “Maybe if I leave now, following Alan, maybe it will make the administration see what’s the matter here,” Jacqui said.

I applied for one of the full-time vacancies but don’t know whether I want it. I got turned down for yet another teaching job today – from Behrend College – and by now it’s obvious that I won’t be hired anywhere for next year.

Reagan’s cuts in student aid are badly hurting colleges, and academia seems an increasingly inhospitable place. But I figure that if I just keep working my ass off and trying for every opportunity, that the future will take care of itself.

In the mail, I got letters from George (who’s glad to be divorced but in bad financial shape) and Susan Mermit (she’s busy and seemingly happy), the new Gargoyle #9 (a book featuring poems by Gretchen, Eric Baizer and David Sheridan), and some other junk (now I get lots of stuff advising me how to invest my fortune).

It was a gorgeous, sunny day – but still a bit too warm.

Sean and I still stare at each other in my noon 101 class. I looked in the phone book and found a Lenore Alving who lives near my parents in Davie; presumably she’s Sean’s (single?) mother.

Nedda Anders of the Book Group called me to see whom I’d called to invite to Tom McHale’s Dear Friends publication party on Tuesday; she said she’d like the group to have a party for me and Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog, too.

On Tuesday, Jim Hohman, a Fort Lauderdale News reporter is coming to BCC to interview me, not about my Davie campaign, but about my candidacy for the U.S. Senate. (By now I’d forgotten I’d filed.)

Do you think I’ve gotten myself in so deep that I’ll never get out of it?

I’ve got to take the car in to the service station; it’s in very bad shape.

Sunday, February 21, 1982

6 PM. I feel uneasy tonight, as though I’m on the verge of a minor disaster.

The Herald’s Broward editor, Carol Weber, today had a column about candidate interviews in which she mentioned a Davie “mystery candidate” who, surprisingly, did show up for an interview and said that he was running because “I wanna get some of that graft and corruption, and because of ego-gratification.”

Weber obviously has no sense of humor, nor does she have a large mind. Very few people do. So why am I letting myself in for all of this abuse?

Granted, it’s good to get bad reviews and bad publicity because it toughens you and teaches you that nobody can expect a free ride.

I’m nervous, however, about the Chamber of Commerce’s “candidate forum” next week. I am concerned I’m going to be made to feel that I didn’t have the right to run.

Intellectually, I know that certainly I have a legal and a moral right to be a candidate . . . but then there are the feelings that go back to what Dr. Pasquale and I used to discuss: calling attention to myself, showing off.

Perhaps I did make a big mistaking in running. Anyway, let’s see what I can learn from this experience.

One thing: it has definitely begun to estrange me from my parents. It’s as though I’m not playing the role of “good little boy” anymore, so they’re withholding their approval.

Again, intellectually, I feel they’re certainly entitled to do that. But deep down, I am hurt and angry.

Of course, I can learn from that, too: they’ll never really accept my gayness, either, and I may have to go away from them if I’m to be comfortable in a gay role (if there is such an animal).

As for my writing career – I just don’t know. I’m inclined to agree with Tom Whalen, who says I’ll never get famous because I’m too difficult for the general public and too unserious for the literary critics.

I keep telling myself that if New York publishers don’t need me, I don’t need them, either.

But can I go on for years and years like this? It seems that no matter how good I am, I’ll never get a job teaching creative writing. More academia’s loss than mine, as I wrote in a letter to Stacy – but that ain’t the whole truth.

Yes, I’m a little scared. I’m almost 31 years old and I don’t seem to have a future. All I’ve got are my wits. Actually, I almost welcome the resounding thud I’m about to make, because I can have the luxury of starting all over again.

I’m tough and I keep getting tougher. I probably shouldn’t get too comfortable. Yet I can’t help feeling more than a little frightened.

Tuesday, February 23, 1982

8 PM. Today was a twelve-hour day; I just got back home. Though I missed the chance to exercise and relax, I had a surprisingly high energy level all day.

Last night I was fairly dizzy, so after watching Brideshead Revisited, I stayed up to finish the novel. It’s a good book but becomes too preachy and Catholic at the end.

I tried to call Alice, but she wasn’t home and so I got Peter. He said Alice’s party was a great success, but because of it, he missed his own appearance on Saturday Night Live. Interviewed on the street about the person whom he hates the most, Peter said Donny Osmond. (He’s glad he resisted the urge to say his mother.)

He told me he and his former student whom he’s been meeting every five years made the back page of the Arlington paper. The kid looked as if he were on drugs or ill, Peter said, but they agreed to meet in another five years.

Up early this morning after a restless night, I taught my lit class and then was interviewed and photographed for the Fort Lauderdale News about my Senate candidacy.

Jim Hohman, the paper’s political reporter, asked me some questions and I think I gave pretty good responses. I’m one of three Senate candidates for the GOP nomination, and the others are also from Broward County; tax assessor William Markham and State Senator Van Poole.

After lunch with Patrick (who’s decided to start up his poetry magazine again), I taught my 12:30 PM class, letting them go early.

Then I went over to my parents’, where I found that Betty Wright had sent a contract for printing Arby’s. But I don’t intend to do the book now: too much else is going on, and if the book is really good, it can wait.

Dad has been in Tampa and the Gulf Coast this week, so Mom and Jonny are alone.

Jonny took me to pick up the station wagon at Freddy’s. He’s decided not to go to summer school, but instead to find part-time work this summer; he may have something lined up in an art gallery. Jonny said he wished people could get and change jobs as easily as soap opera characters do.

I had an hour before the book party, so I stopped at the Aventura library and discovered that Dog is listed, as am I, in the latest Forthcoming Books In Print.

The party was in the very posh La Fontaine on the elegant Bay Harbor Islands. I figured I’d stay only a minute, but ended up being there an hour, mostly because I discovered I ain’t bad at small talk.

I met Grant Segall of the Fort Lauderdale News, a guy about my age (almost every reporter I’ve met is young – which probably makes it easier for me to get publicity); he said I’d been in the paper more than anyone else in town. I also met two woman reporters I’d seen last week at The Western News interview.

Jean Trebbi of the Broward County Library had a long talk with me, saying she’d like me to be a guest on her cable TV show and to do a program for the library.

Rosemary Jones said that she and Lista received Dog and told me it looked good.

Nedda Anders, Lee Hoffman, and Myra all were so sweet to me, and I had a nice talk with a man from New American Library who does all their Latin American deals.

Predictably, Tom McHale looked uncomfortable at his publication party. For photographers, he and I smiled together for one of those frozen portraits that end up, if anywhere, in Chamber of Commerce magazines or a local weekly’s “society” pages.

But I surprised myself by having a good time. After a little more than a year in Florida, I’ve become fairly well-known.

Wednesday, February 24, 1982

8 PM. I’m tired. Last night, as I have every night this week, I took the phone off the hook. (It’s off the hook now.) I slept from 10 PM until 7 AM, but my sleep was very light and frequently interrupted. However, I did dream, and most dreams were of fame.

I had my photo in today’s Miami Herald and Fort Lauderdale News along with articles about my runs for, respectively, the Davie Town Council and the U.S. Senate.

In the Herald, I got a box, as did Art Lazear and the other candidates. The photo of me was so flattering, I can’t hardly believe it’s I, as I look like a movie star.

Excerpts from the article:

By his own admission, Richard Grayson is not a serious contender . . . He explains candidly that he decided to run only because he didn’t want his opponent to run unopposed . . .

‘I’ll get the vote of every thinking person in Davie, about 10% of the people,’ Grayson said . . . He supports the University Drive moratorium and controlled growth. He thinks gun sales should be banned in Davie.”

Well, the Herald didn’t treat me like an idiot, as I thought they would.

The News article, “Senate Hopeful Defers Promises,” offered these lines:

Grayson said he offers the voters a choice – a choice to vote for machismo and charisma. ‘The other two guys are wimps,’ he said . . . Although he has raised no money and plans no campaign appearances, he evoked the memory of Jimmy Carter by saying, ‘I’ll whip their asses.’

Grayson’s campaign strategy is simple: ‘Markham and Poole will split the conservative vote, particularly the criminal element.’ He plans to promote his ‘New Deferralism,’ a program of delaying everything and shutting down the federal government . . .

His platform:
Draft registration: ‘Draft senior citizens. They have nothing to do anyway.’
Social services: ‘We need more big giveaway programs for the poor. We should also give cable TV stamps, because if you don’t have cable, you’re deprived.’
The environment: ‘Take James Watt and stuff him as an example of what happens when you screw up the environment.’

Grayson said he expects help later in the campaign from the White House. ‘I’m pretty tight with the Reagan family. My cousin is hairdresser to Jane Wyman, who was Reagan’s first wife.’

Poking fun at politics and the system comes from a frustration with politics today, Grayson said in a serious note. ‘It all seems to be show business today. It isn’t a coincidence that we have a show business president,’ he said. He blamed the media . . . and thinks young people have been turned off by politics.”

Not bad. The photo was a horror, though.

I had a hard time with my classes today; they were fine, but the lessons were complicated to teach.

Sean is doing his research paper on gay power. My heart beat fast when we had our conference, and I tried to act as if I didn’t care about him any more than I care about anyone else in the class.

He’s probably ten times more sophisticated than I am about gay life; he makes me feel tongue-tied and awkward even if he’s practically half my age. Nothing will ever happen, of course.

I got home early after depositing my paycheck and a check that Wade and Ellen sent me for Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog (four dollars, which doesn’t even cover my costs).

Good news in the mail: Diane Kruchkow called Dog “a mixture of Leonard Michaels and Jerry Bumpus” in a short review in Small Press Notes.

The car conked out again.

I keep wondering whether I should let Rainbow Books print Eating at Arby’s, but I think not. I can always do it with them at a later date. Right now I’m not cash-rich and too much else is going on. So I’ll write Betty Wright to let her know that now isn’t the time.

I can’t wait until life settles down after the election and my trip to Cocoa Beach for the Book and Author Luncheon. I need to relax, write, diet, exercise, and try to have some sort of social life.

Exhaustion. . .

Thursday, February 25, 1982

6 PM. There are much worse places to live than South Florida. It’s a glorious late afternoon here, still quite light out, and the temperature is a delightful 72° or so.

If I were in New York, it would be dark and freezing. (I just called the New York weather number and heard that the current wind-chill factor is -5°.)

I’ve just come back from dinner and shopping, all much less hectic than they are up north.

And I stopped, two blocks away from here, as a mother goose (!) and five of her goslings crossed the street in army-file just in front of my car. A calico cat came purring up to me as I struggled with my grocery bags.

I have no doubt I did the right thing in coming to Florida. If I compare this month, which is all but over, with the February two years ago, it’s obvious I’m ten times better off than I was when I lived in Rockaway.

If I have to stay in Florida for another year – and remember, my years go from September to August – it will certainly be no hardship. My life is comfortable, and despite the recession, I’m doing well financially.

When the bills come in, I can always pay them with money to spare. I live relatively luxuriously in a place by myself; I have a decent job; I have close acquaintances, if no special friends; my family is nearby; I’m tanned; I’m in the papers every day and busier than I want to be.

Not that there is not a great deal I lack in my life – but for now, I’m fairly content.

Unlike the captain in “The Secret Sharer,” the Conrad story I taught this morning, I am not untested; I’ve learned that I can cope with all sorts of crises which would have sent me running for tranquilizers three years ago.

I feel I have a place in the world, even if it’s only as “Mr. Greyson” to my bright-eyed, cute, terrible-speller students.

I’ve applied for the English vacancy at BCC’s North Campus, and I think I would like to get it.

Of course, I’m a bit frustrated, both sexually and as a writer. There are so many gorgeous guys in my morning lit class. And in the afternoon class, where all the guys are fat, skinny or ugly (except one – a long-haired, big blond guy who’s doing his term paper on sadomasochism; he sat on my desk today, dangling his tanned bare legs), I have crushes on several girls whom I love to tease.

My only mail was a letter from sweet Miriam. Gosh, I miss her.

I spoke to Alice and then to Josh last night; both are doing wonderfully, though Josh still dislikes his job. Funny, being away from my New York friends gives me a larger – or rather, a more novelistic – point of view.

I also feel more patient about big things, though I still have that annoying (and potentially fatal) Type-A New York impatience with slow Florida clerks.

Renee just called and told me to come to the Sun-Tattler for an editorial board endorsement interview on Saturday at 11:30 AM.

Meanwhile, I’ve got to seriously clean (split infinitive) the house, and by tomorrow I’ll have over a hundred student papers to go over this weekend.

I really worked up a sweat exercising today; it feels so good to get out of breath. No, things are not as bad as I sometimes think.

Saturday, February 27, 1982

Today was a delight.

Last night I slept wonderfully and had my most nourishing dreams in a long while, and I woke up feeling happy.

I read the papers – which I now get delivered – while listening to Caribbean music on public radio, supervised the exterminator’s visit, and then got back into bed for two delightful hours.

When Mike Maynard phoned, he seemed glad to extend my lease and rent me the apartment until June. Later, I took advantage of the quiet Saturday afternoon to lie in bed, read, relax and think.

But at 10:30 AM, I got dressed and stopped in Davie to pick up my mail.

Story Quarterly rejected the South Florida stories: “Dick and Jane is too simplistic for us.” As if that weren’t the point!

Sooner or later, though, I’ll hit on someone who understands what I’m doing. More on the subject of rejection in due course. . .

I got a $150 check from the Orleans Parish School Board for my NOCCA work, and this week’s Village Voice arrived.

Then I went down to the Sun-Tattler office and was let in the back way.

I guess I was early, for when I got there, Art Lazear was just getting out of the interview with Renee Kraus and the editor (I don’t think I ever got his name), and Bud Jenkins – who’s running in the other district – was going in.

Art was waiting for him, so we had lots of time to talk. I felt a bit uncomfortable, but I suppose all candidates feel that way when they’re alone with their opponents.

I asked Art about himself. He has two children and lost a third, a son who was 27 and studying for his masters in English at FAU, to brain cancer. After his first wife died, he married again, to a psychologist with two children of her own.

He seems like a decent, hardworking, honorable man, and I can see he really wants to be councilman. I think I’d feel terrible if he lost.

By using the work schlep and saying, “You know what that means?” he was trying to find out if I was Jewish like him.

The interview started with the editor asking me why I was turning the Davie election into a farce.

My first impulse was to get defensive and angry, but I talked rationally and answered all the questions at such length that at the end he was impressed with my knowledge of issues, my intelligence, and my semi-eloquence and asked why I wasn’t running seriously.

In a way, I can’t lose – since I’ve reconciled myself to being a loser, I can only go up.

When I got home, Kevin called and said, “Kirkus Reviews doesn’t like you, do they?” They creamed me again.

In their March 1 issue, the reviewer likened Dog to “a kid’s messy room”: fun for the kid but a pain in the ass to everyone else. (People just hate it when the writer appears to be enjoying himself).

I don’t remember much of what Kevin quoted, but it was almost all negative – “childishly junky” is the phrase that comes to mind.

Yet they did grudgingly admit that I could be “boyishly charming” and they liked two realistic stories.

Well, I told Kevin that when I found that first Kirkus review, of Hitler, at the Brooklyn public library on a June Sunday in ’79, I was so crushed that I wanted to give up writing – but only for about a day.

By now, this is the kind of review I’d expect from them, and my main feeling at the moment is relief that Dog will not be totally ignored.

I think this means other reviews will come in. Whether they translate into sales is more Kevin’s problem than mine.

I guess I’m a bit disappointed that Kirkus didn’t hail me as a great writer, but I think I can learn more this way – as I do by being a candidate.

Nothing that shakes me up, that keeps me from being complacent, that teaches me that I will always face rejection and hostility – none of that can harm me.

I feel pretty lucky, to be honest. Every knock is a boost – just as long as I’m not ignored and I continue to have fun. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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