A Young Writer’s Diary Entries From Late November, 1982

Thursday, November 18, 1982

8 PM. I’m tired. Last night I didn’t get much sleep. I seem unable to catch up with life these days. Now, that may be for the best, as I know how miserable boredom can make me; still, I would like time to reflect, to write, and to catch up on my reading. (Books and magazines are piling up in my “to read” chair next to the bed.)

I went into the office for a couple of hours today, just to show up. I think I’ve lost a packet containing my Saturday class’s papers; I just don’t know where it is.

With three weeks left to the term, I’m already feeling as though I can’t teach another class. I did help Patrick with publicity on the reading that we English teachers are giving next month.

At 1:30 PM, I showed up at the Peking Panda, a Chinese restaurant, where the Plantation Newcomers Club was holding their monthly meeting. Formerly the Welcome Wagon, the Club consists of ladies (or women, though most of them looked like ladies) who moved to Plantation within the last four years.

There were about 65 women present; I sat at the head table, with the club’s officers, with whom I made small talk during the meal.

As guest speaker, I was the last item on the agenda. I talked about my Davie political race and got laughs; I did pretty well with the South Florida stories, too.

After it was over, I sold about fifteen copies of Eating at Arby’s. By now, I no longer feel embarrassed about signing books or taking compliments.

I drove to the credit union to deposit some money in a new share draft (checking) account. This year I’m going to owe the IRS money unless I itemize my taxes; it’s going to be a lot of fun for me to do it myself instead of consulting an accountant.

After a brief stop at Publix, I went to the health club, where I had a dismal workout. I fret about still being so fat, but then again, it’s hard to work on everything at once.

Back at home, I fell into a semi-sleep because I was so exhausted. After dinner, I read for an hour, and now I’m ready to go to sleep.

George sent me a postcard thanking me for sending him Arby’s. He said he heard I’m going to be reviewed in the next American Book Review. That would legitimize me as a serious writer, but I think ABR might be very glad to butcher me the way they did Dennis Cooper, Susan Mernit and Jack Saunders in recent reviews. George also says he’s starting a new literary magazine.

The Saturday Evening Post rejected “Pac-Man Ate My Cat” – I don’t know why I bothered to send it there – and there was no other mail of note. I’m very sleepy and I have nothing more to say, so I’ll hang up now.


Friday, November 19, 1982

4 PM. I slept very well and very long last night, but I’m still tired. Part of it must be a bad sinus condition.

Tonight I’m going on Neil Rogers; I hope the show ain’t a disaster.

Why would it be a disaster? For one thing, my car has been making a funny noise, and I didn’t attempt to drive it as far as Miami even when it was riding okay. I tried to get in touch with Marc to see about switching cars, but no one has been home at my parents’ all day. I hope nobody’s ill or been in an accident.

The Miami Herald again listed me as Richard “Krasin” in their radio listings, but at least I know I’m expected; also, one of my students said he heard Neil Rogers telling the audience about me last night.

Patrick and the other people at school seemed more excited than I am. To me, it’s almost a drag to have to publicize the book and to try to be bright and witty when I’m feeling anything but. I’m a little nervous, but more about logistics than the actual program.

This morning I had conferences with the students in my two English 100 classes, and this afternoon I bored my 101 class with footnotes.

Bill Jackson, the bright guy whom I’ve got a terrible crush on – he keeps wearing shorts and I have to avoid looking at his gorgeous legs – said he didn’t know why I was at Broward Community College when I was an author who knew so many journalists and celebrities.

“I don’t know why I’m here, either,” was my lame reply.

The schedules for next fall were handed out to the permanent full-timers today; needless to say, I didn’t get one.

I spoke with Grace Scheer, who said the administration treated her shabbily all these years, and even now, as she retires, they’re still being nasty.

Fred Curry, our union shop steward, always rails against the administration but seems unable to rid himself of the master/slave mentality or to realize that he is smart enough to get out of teaching and make more money elsewhere if he really wanted to.

When I said that younger people tend to question authority and wouldn’t put up with the shit around BCC, Fred said, “With such a bad job market, they’ve got us trapped.” What a mindset to be trapped in!

Crad wrote that he’s about sold out on Human Secrets Book Two and is antsy to begin selling Sex Slaves of the Astro-Mutants. However, life on the streets of downtown Toronto is very discouraging, and Crad actually hit a derelict who was annoying him one day. He told he might have enough money to visit Florida this winter, but said that meeting me in New York in early June would be no problem.

Alice finally called this afternoon. She was down in Trinidad last weekend and has been trying to reach me since she got back. Her trip was marred by a bad case of food poisoning from fish: she had all the classic symptoms.

Otherwise, projects are cooking. An agent at Julian Bach likes the concept of her Thin New York book, and Alice is convinced she’ll sell it. Diane Cleaver has had less luck with their Office Worker’s Handbook, which has been turned down by seven publishers, but she’s still trying. The Weight Watchers cable TV show will be going into production soon.

When Alice suggested we visit the Epcot Center for a weekend early next year, I said that sounded like fun.

Marc just called and said I could use his car tonight, so I’m less worried, but still, I’d better get moving. Wish me luck.

*

Midnight. I drove down to South Dade, a part of town I’d never been before; from what I could see of them, I liked the Coral Gables and Kendall areas very much.

The WNWS studio was in a little ramshackle house in South Miami. Neil Rogers is a heavyset, sad-faced, fortyish man whom I liked enormously.

We had lots of fun when I went on the air; our cynicism was well-matched, and we played it straight as we alternated reading stories in the book. When he got the first story, about the gay guys on the beach, he said, “I would get this one.”

It was wonderful fun although Neil told me during a break that he thought his audience would be hostile or uncomprehending.

Surprisingly, though, every call we got was complimentary, and people seemed to enjoy hearing the adventures of Manny and Zelda. Several people said they’d write away for the book, but we’ll see if I make any money out of this.

I left the WNWS studio at 10 PM, feeling very satisfied as I made my way home to Broward.


Saturday, November 20, 1982

7 PM. I’m ready for bed.

The past couple of days have been exhausting. I wish I could sleep late tomorrow but I have to attend the unveiling for Grandma Sylvia.

Luckily, Marc fixed my car by adding water to the radiator; apparently that was all that was needed. Marc also taped the radio show last night. I spoke to Mom and Dad when I arrived home and they both said it was terrific.

I’ll find out how many people actually have ordered the book when I check my post office box on Monday and Tuesday. If I could sell fifty copies at $3 each, I’d be doing very well.

Actually, I may be out of copies before the “official” publication date of December 15. I had been afraid to do a thousand-copy printing, but maybe I should have.

Anyway, even if I sell out – and of course I want to keep about fifty copies for myself – I won’t do a second printing. It wouldn’t be fair to Zephyr Press, with I Brake for Delmore Schwartz about to be published.

I guess I’m getting a little ahead of myself, though an elderly lady in Hallandale called today and said she wanted six copies of the book. They would make good stocking stuffers, as some ladies at the luncheon suggested.

Anyway, last night was another delightful experience. I was very comfortable being on the radio live. Part of it, of course, was that Neil was the perfect host and I felt we clicked.

Above all, I am now certain that I did the right thing in self-publishing Arby’s. My faith in the material now seems justified.

This morning I taught footnotes and bibliography to my Saturday class; we don’t meet next week because of Thanksgiving.

In today’s mail, I got another MasterCard – this one from the Broward Schools Credit Union, with a $300 credit limit. Also, Iowa State asked for my dossier; unfortunately, it’s terribly out-of-date by now.

Today I wrote away to have my transcripts sent to the University of Miami and the University of Florida, which are the only graduate schools I’m applying to. Going into a doctoral program might be the best alternative if I don’t get a teaching job for next year.

Now that it’s clear to everyone that I won’t be back at BCC next year, I feel very relieved and more relaxed. At this time of year, Florida becomes gorgeous, though mostly in comparison with the rest of the country.

I still feel dissatisfied with myself; even though I’m going to Bodyworks every other day (like today), I’m still as fat as ever. My house is a mess; my skin has broken out again with mean-looking acne pimples; I feel sexually frustrated.

Above all, I feel the frustration of never being able to catch up with life.


Monday, November 22, 1982

9 PM. Yesterday, Grandma Sylvia’s unveiling triggered an unexpected depression.

It hit me at my parents’ house after the cemetery. I was barely civil to anyone; I acted terribly and I couldn’t help myself. (That’s a cop-out, but we’ll let it pass for now.) I felt horrible all day yesterday.

But today was a pleasant day. This morning, there were ten orders for Eating at Arby’s in my post office box. I opened the letters at school with the secretaries; it was totally awesome to see all those different checks roll out.

One person ordered five copies, so I ended up taking in $42: not a bad haul for one day. Luckily, I had brought stamped envelopes and books to school, so I was able to get everything out after my 9 AM and 10 AM classes.

Rick Peabody, like George Myers, said he heard American Book Review plans to review Arby’s and Disjointed Fictions; probably George heard it from Rick. And Mark Bernheim of Miami University of Ohio said he plans to do a critical piece on the book.

The St. Lucie County Public Library’s Tina Marchese says she still doesn’t know when my talk will be scheduled, but I’ll be interviewed on WTVX, the local CBS affiliate.

I wasn’t one of the nine finalists (out of 150 candidates) to be Director of Creative Writing at UF, but I wrote the chairman to tell him I’d like to go for my doctorate in Gainesville.

Mick lent me his MLA Job List and I saw that most of the jobs, even in creative writing and composition, require doctorates. Still, there were about ten jobs which I decided to apply for now; I’ve just finished writing most of the cover letters after xeroxing a new batch of résumés.

My 1 PM class was spent going over note-taking (like my students, I’m now writing too many passive constructions), and before that, I subbed for Rosa (wisely taking her sick days before she leaves for her new job in New York) at noon.

After a mid-afternoon workout on the Nautilus machines, I did my laundry and went to the cleaners. Marc came by to work on his car, installing new speakers; since I have an outlet near the back, he could use his drill. He gave me an order for the book from his friends; the payment was three joints.


Wednesday, November 24, 1982

4 PM. After a fine workout and a refreshing shower, I feel great.

No part of any vacation is as good as the anticipation of it. Ahead of me are four days with no responsibilities. Perhaps I’ll feel lonely and bored and depressed, but at this point I’d be happy to have the chance to feel those things. I hope I can leave thoughts of BCC behind me.

This morning I woke up from a dream in which I had received a lucrative book contract; in the dream, I walked into a class and told them I was quitting – “and as for you students,” I said, “you can all go fuck yourselves.” I woke up deliriously happy.

Last evening I decided to go to the book party I was invited to after all. It was held at the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, which was appropriate since the book was a biography of William Lauderdale, published by Manatee Books.

Rosemary Jones introduced me to Fred Ruffner, the famous president of Gale Research, and Lista Foster introduced me to her new husband, Chuck. Fred is a pretty amazing guy who started his publishing empire because he couldn’t find a reference book he needed, so he decided to compile one himself.

Jean Trebbi and I had a nice talk, and Robert Tolf complimented me on my humor and made fun of my wardrobe (my unconstructed sport jacket and skinny tie).

Chatting with Floydene, I learned that the first volume of her Cuba/Florida saga is being published in March by Avon in a 200,000-copy first printing.

I had an okay time at the party and came home to read The Aquarian Conspiracy, which I’m really getting into.

At 9 PM last night, I called Mikey to find out how the Legal Aid lawyers’ strike is going after seeing the Voice, which had a pro-union article. He said that the city isn’t negotiating seriously and that Koch may try to replace the Legal Aid Society lawyers with public defenders.

Mikey and Amy are going to his cousin’s in Connecticut for Thanksgiving, and Amy’s throwing him a birthday party on New Year’s Eve. He had hoped I’d be in the city so I could attend and meet her.

This morning I taught the five-paragraph essay in my 100 classes. Devin Robins came in late, talked while I talked, and wanted to know why I wasn’t going to give him a B.

When I told him it was because of his behavior, he said, “If I’d known behavior counted, I would have behaved a lot better.” When he kept protesting, I continued to smile, and he left, calling me “a dick.”

Well, that’s what I have to put up with at BCC. Patrick said I should have withdrawn him, but Dave and Bob said I should give him a B to avoid trouble.

We’ll see. What I’d really like to do is go a few rounds with Devin Robins. It was satisfying, a little, to see him squirm after he made that class miserable for me, but it would be more satisfying still to punch him out. (I have about two inches and 25 pounds on him.)

We had a bomb scare, during which Lisa and I went to lunch at Lum’s. She said she hates Dr. Pawlowski, and at yesterday’s farewell party for Rosa, Rosa told her how much she hates him, too.

Pawlowski doesn’t like women or minority groups (or Jews), and he’s as homophobic as only a closeted gay could be. He’s the best example of why BCC is the place it is. He probably resents Rosa and the rest of us young teachers because he knows we’re going places and he’s not.

Well, enough about BCC. Today’s big surprise was the avalanche of checks in my mailbox – over 20 letters ordering the book, with about $72 worth of checks. I can’t believe how popular the show was!


Friday, November 26, 1982

7 PM. So far I’ve been having a fine vacation. It isn’t that I’m doing anything super-enjoyable; it’s what I’m not doing: thinking about school.

Last evening I scrubbed my bathrooms, dusted the bedroom, and vacuumed the whole apartment; I plan to get to the kitchen sometime this weekend.

I slept sporadically but had pleasant dreams, mostly about Brooklyn, although I did have one dream about the rocky beaches of the North Shore of Long Island that I used to drive to to get away from it all eight to ten years ago.

I’ve been thinking more about the novel I plan to write. Maybe it’s good that I have hardly written any stories in the past three years, which have been my true adulthood; I can save up my experiences for the novel.

My old stories, including the ones coming out in the Zephyr Press book, are really precious adolescent stuff.

I was amazed to find still more checks in my mailbox today: $48 in checks, plus another $9 in cash. I’ve sold over $200 worth of books in the past week.

In terms of finances, being on The Neil Rogers Show was the best break of my career. Obviously, I do well on radio; the letters contain great compliments for my work. If I could appear on TV, I’d probably become a superstar in no time.

There was a lot of mail besides the book orders: a GRE application form (I registered for the February test); my MasterCard and Visa bills (I paid off the Visa bill in full, and I owe nothing on MasterCard); my phone bill (those calls to Gainesville add up); The Metro, Miami’s new and rather anemic alternative arts newspaper; a pile of books from Merritt Clifton of Samisdat; and Home Video magazine (why I get that, I have no idea – it always used to amuse Sean when he saw it).

Anyway, I spent the afternoon shopping and doing errands; I had lunch out by myself at the old-Jewishy Boardwalk Restaurant in Tamarac.

It was a lovely mild, sunny day, and it was fun to have no work to do. Of course, it took me time to fill all the book orders, but that was a pleasure.

At 3 PM, I went over to Bodyworks and had a pretty good workout. Since Marc and Mom used the station wagon at the flea market, I had the little Pontiac Astre today and I zipped around West Broward.

Exhausted after the health club, I read the New York Times, Miami News, Fort Lauderdale News, and Hollywood Sun-Tattler – what a newspaper junkie I am.

I sent Rosemary back the corrected press release and her media list for review copies.

For dinner, I had a horrible protein drink. It’s the University Diet, a knockoff of the Cambridge Diet, where you substitute this protein mix for one meal a day. I desperately need/want to lose weight.

Hey, I need sexual companionship, and right now probably the only one I could attract is a nearsighted manatee.

I think about Sean – fall is always a good time for me to mourn love relationships – but I have no regrets.

There are thousands of men (and surprisingly, women – just when I think I’ve forgotten about my heterosexual impulses, I find myself attracted to females) out there I could love.

Love? Well, no. Lust after is more like it. I’ve been incredibly horny – another result of not working like a maniac.


Sunday, November 28, 1982

7 PM. The long Thanksgiving weekend is coming to an end, and while I feel I got my money’s worth, I’m not looking forward to returning to BCC tomorrow. At least there are only two weeks of classes and then one week of finals left.

Last evening I decided to smoke one of the joints that Marc’s friends had left me in payment for my book. I coughed a lot, being unused to marijuana these days, but after a while felt a modest buzz.

Then, for some reason, I slept for about 13 straight hours – pretty strange after sleeping at least two hours in the afternoon. But I guess I needed the rest. There were wonderful dreams last night, all pleasant landscapes and idyllic scenes.

This morning I called Aunt Sydelle and volunteered to take Robin to Miami Airport for her 4:30 PM flight back to California.

In mid-afternoon, I drove down the turnpike, imagining a novel all the way from here to the Golden Glades interchange, and I arrived at Aventura at 1 PM.

After getting through Secret Service-type security, I saw Sydelle’s 22nd floor apartment for the first time; it’s small, but she has a terrace with a spectacular view.

Robin looked well: very youthful, with curly long hair and a still-slim body. Apparently, she left New York when she was in the manic phase of her illness; now that she’s taking lithium, she’s been much more stable.

When Aunt Sydelle cancelled the redcap, she gave Robin’s name as Robin Williams (same as the Mork and Mindy comic actor); Robin’s divorce from Drew came through earlier this month.

She begins a new job on Wednesday, as a receptionist with an eye doctor; there have been six jobs in the last eighteen months.

Robin will also be moving to a Beverly Hills condo, where she’ll be living with a couple of other people, including a 49-year-old Hughes Tool meteorologist whom she’s dating but is not sleeping with.

Anyway, she seems much the same: not super-aware or very bright like her brother, but earnest and intense. I’ve never seen her get along so well with Aunt Sydelle; it must be the drugs.

We looked at family pictures from an album Sydelle took from the condo when Grandma Sylvia died.

Yesterday they went to the nursing home to see Grandpa Nat, who knew Robin after he was told who she was. As usual, he was affectionate, kissing her hand and using terms of endearment, and Robin said she’d like to take him back to L.A. to live with her if she could afford it. (Sure, sure.)

Anyway, I took photos of them, they took photos of me, and the two of them said goodbye as I put Robin’s luggage in the car.

On the ride to the airport, Robin told me that she’s worried that Scott is right about their mother being an alcoholic; Sydelle has to take a drink before she goes out to drive (at 20 m.p.h.), and she swallows enough Valium to keep Hoffmann-La Roche’s quarterly profit margin soaring.

As she hugged me goodbye, Robin said to come out to California for a visit. Maybe I will. Surprisingly, the busiest day of the year at the airport wasn’t all that bad, and I wished I were getting on the jet to LAX along with Robin.

Back home in Sunrise, I spoke to Grandma Ethel, who went to Marty’s for Thanksgiving dinner; she said Wendy was in from college, and Arlyne’s brother and his “brilliant” four-year-old daughter were there.

That was today. It’s back to the grind tomorrow. Possibly I’m doing the wrong thing in quitting a secure job for uncertainty; but I can’t help believing, instinctively, that the risk will pay off.


Monday, November 29, 1982

4 PM. It’s dark now and finally getting below 80°.

This November has been the hottest on record in Florida, as well as the wettest. Of course, the hurricane season was the slowest we’ve ever had, with only five minor tropical storms.

Wednesday will be December. It’s been three months since school started – since my Labor Day gig at Wynmoor Village, in fact. It’s four months that I’ve been back in Florida.

And in another five months I can leave, at least for a few weeks.

The return to school this morning was a letdown, of course, but the students’ lassitude is matched by my own. I just don’t feel like teaching, nevertheless, I kept my classes busy today.

I had the 100s do freewriting. (Devin Robins childishly cried out, “Can I read mine to the class? It’s about my English teacher,” but I ignored him. What an annoying little vontz.)

My mail today, as on Saturday, was mostly rejections, though I did get one order for the book. But I can’t help believing that luck actually does run in streaks and that my lucky streak is over for a while.

I got the last of the cartons of books from Kevin. I don’t know what I’m going to do with all those copies of Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog.

(Mom just called. She and Marc got stuck with the car, my station wagon, as they were moving stuff out of their warehouse. Maybe I am still lucky: I had the Pontiac today.)

Last night I all but finished The Aquarian Conspiracy. I’d like to believe in it, but I wonder if Marilyn Ferguson, like Charles Reich in The Greening of America a decade ago, is taking just a few ripples in society for a new wave.

Anyway, I myself feel very much an Aquarian conspirator. My network of friends keeps me informed and we all try to help each other create a kind of guerilla publishing.

If only I could believe that what Crad, Tom, Kevin, George, Rick, myself, and others are doing will one day be important to more than just ourselves.

I do think we’re in a pretty good position, as all of us baby-boomers are in the 1980s. By the end of the decade, our parents’ generation will be retiring, and those born in 1946 will be entering their mid-forties, which are usually times when people come to power in all fields.

Academia may be another story, though if I come out with a Ph.D. in five or six years, I might be able to wangle a decent job. What I fear about staying in academia is being part of the “lost generation” who will get passed over in favor of younger people as college teachers become in demand again in the mid-1990s.

At the moment, I’m content. Certainly my standard of living is as high as it needs to be. I can’t see how I could live any better than I do, though I could live with more financial security.

As it is, I live in a condo that’s really twice the size of a place I need.

I’m just happy as long as my old car and my black-and-white TV and clock radio continue to function. I don’t need more clothes.

Going to Bodyworks, as I did today, is important to me and worth the $345 for the year. So are my book purchases, my xerox and postage costs, my organizational memberships and everything associated with my career.

At this point, a word processor and a computer would be luxuries. My long-distance phone calls, though somewhat expensive, are necessary for me to maintain a closeness to my New York friends.

I have no jewelry and want none; I don’t need drugs other than Triavil, Drixoral and Tylenol; I think I’ve got just about everything I need.

Well, I’m now going to answer a fine letter from Stacy, who’s had a happy time lately. I know the feeling. TC mark

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