A Young Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-April, 1983

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Wednesday, April 13, 1983

7 PM. I feel worn out, too tired to go to the gym tonight, too tired to go out to dinner with my parents and Grandma.

Last night’s class went all right, but sometimes I feel like such a fool for being a teacher. When I berate myself for not being good enough or caring enough, then I remember that I’m getting paid just $16,000 a year.

Of course, then I can berate myself for having chosen to be a teacher in the first place.

In some ways I ache for the money, the respect, and the power that would come if I were in the business world. I enjoy reading about high-tech fields like banking, airlines, communications, and of course, publishing.

Sometimes I think I should give up, at least temporarily, the goal of being a novelist and concentrate on accumulating money.

For one thing, I want to help my parents out of their desperate financial situation. I feel so bad when I see how defeated Dad looks.

Of course, it isn’t all mere generosity; I’d also like their respect and gratitude for helping them out. (My motives are never 100% altruistic. Are anyone’s?)

Teresa called last night, just as Harold Washington seemed to be pulling ahead in the mayor’s race in Chicago. (He won, a pleasant surprise.) It turns out Teresa’s not mad at me at all; in fact, she can’t wait for me to come to New York so we can “play.”

She barely shows up at work now, and in fact, she’s going to help out Frank with his new PR firm. Frank’s partner, the husband of CNN’s Mary Alice Williams, isn’t pulling his weight in the new venture, and Frank would welcome Teresa’s help.

Yes, it does sound strange, Teresa going to work for Frank, but in a way it makes perfect sense. Public relations, like politics, makes strange bedfellows. Or ex-bedfellows.

She spent Oscars night with the Kleins, and she’s been going shopping a lot, but Teresa feels out of the political scene these days.

My book is on her coffee table, and one acquaintance remarked that he used to know Delmore Schwartz in the 1950s.

I really can’t wait to be back in New York, especially as it’s getting so warm here in Florida.

This morning’s classes were a pain in the ass – my students get on my nerves – and then I drove up to the Boca Teeca Country Club for my talk with the American Pen Women, a rather white-gloved and genteel group.

I was dressed terribly and felt like a fat, uncouth pig around all those la-di-da ladies.

Anna Mae Burke, the Nova scientist who’s written all those computer books – I met her at Pompano library – spoke on non-fiction, and then I talked on fiction.

One lady, Mrs. Hildegarde Schine, widow of the hotel and movie zillionaire and mother of the Roy Cohn associate, kept interrupting me with pointless anecdotes that went on forever.

Other people were clearly annoyed, but I could do nothing but let her go on, though I got in a few “zingers,” all of which went right past the estimable lady.

I may only be a Brooklyn street kid, but I have better manners than this society grande dame. But at least she bought two of my books afterwards.

At the end, lots of ladies came up and said the usual: that I should be on TV (”You’d give Andy Rooney stiff competition”), that I should be a stand-up comedian, that I should write for the movies, etc.

I guess I must be funny – even though I didn’t think I got off one good joke.

The Eyewitness News camera from Channel 12 in West Palm Beach showed up, and I caught a glimpse of myself (fuzzy and fat) as Anna Mae spoke; they got my name right and had a nice photo of my books.

Giving the speech drained me – but I suppose the $50 I took in made it worthwhile.


Thursday, April 14, 1983

4 PM. I fell asleep early last night. This morning I had what seemed to be a pretty good workout. I like using the Nautilus machines in the morning when few people, mostly oldsters, are around.

Back home again, I relaxed in bed and got a call from a Toronto radio station, Q-107, which will interview me at noon next Tuesday.

The car was acting up again, as I expected it would, when I turned on the air conditioner.

Stacy wrote that she and Jeanne have sublet in the Heights, on Hicks Street, and asked if they could use my apartment in Florida while I’m away. That would be fine: lesbians are always welcome here.

Other mail included the latest Publishers Weekly, my AmEx and gas bills (both of which I’ve paid through next month), some more bumper stickers (since I sold my one copy of I Brake for Delmore Schwartz, I’m without the book till my 100 copies arrive via UPS), and the usual junk.

At BCC, I told Maureen that I would be sick tomorrow – and that will still leave me with three sick days for the rest of the term.

The “MaleBox” profile on Patrick appeared in the Fort Lauderdale News. It was good even though Patrick expressed surprise at how much was inaccurate; I told him that’s how it always works when you’re in the newspaper.

I’m glad I wrote Bill DiPaoli at the paper to use Patrick in an article; it proves I can get publicity, not only for myself, but for others.

Lisa has been sick all week, since she started taking the pill to regulate her menstrual cycle, but she seemed less nauseated today.

At the BCC library, Fran Brown found Library Journal, and my review – by Page Edwards, who also reviewed With Hitler in New York:

Forget the title. Forget the introduction. Both are far too cute. But Grayson is a fabulous storyteller and stand-up talker. His stories are short and anecdotal and rely upon captivating the reader immediately; then they sort of swim along, like a heavy bedtime story. Yet, Grayson can make us believe we are listening to something as outrageous as the voice of a dead U.S. President’s cold. It works. We become a party to a benign assassination as we hear the cold alternately brag and confess. Grayson can be harsh and, at times, self-indulgent and completely without taste. Yet, his intelligence and imagination are fine. Highly recommended.

Wowee! That’s a fine and fair review; it’s even a trifle over-generous. Obviously, it delights me. Now, how can I use this?


Friday, April 15, 1983

6 PM. When I went to school last evening, I saw a letter addressed to Patrick among the letters in the departmental mailbox.

As I didn’t want anyone to see me peeking into it (both Grasso and Pawlowski were around), I took it to the bathroom under cover of the school newspaper.

I shouldn’t have opened it, but I did, and I was shocked to see that Grasso was telling Patrick he didn’t get picked for the permanent position. It was a cold, formal note.

Replacing it in the mailbox, I went outside and felt rage – rage against the small minds at BCC who’ve now turned down Patrick, who’s been a better teacher than BCC deserved.

I had to tell someone, so I called Lisa; I’m sure her concern for Patrick was mixed with a feeling that he’s now in the same boat as she, Bob and Dave are.

I was very glad I decided to call in sick today because I could not have faced Patrick, knowing what I do. How ironic that the letter went out on the very day the Fort Lauderdale News had an article about him.

I’m also even more certain I was right in my decision not to apply for any of the permanent jobs and not to let myself be judged by a committee of my inferiors. I guess they’ve selected Chip and Mimi, who are not liked by their students.

Broward Community College is so fucked up, I just want to tear down the whole place. I guess I can take satisfaction in the knowledge that eventually everyone at BCC will get what’s coming to them.

I did have a good writing workshop last evening, and during the break, one of my students told me about his experience in Dr. Grasso’s comp class, which ended up with about nine students after the rest dropped.

“She’s a drill sergeant.” he said, “and she does not let you deviate one iota from the text she wrote. She leaves no room for any leeway.”

He also said Dr. Grasso “played dumb” one day and tried to get him to tell her now I “structured” my class, and she also made snide remarks about “creative” as opposed to “real” writing.

Fuck her and all of BCC: they’re all losers, nearly every one of the full-time faculty members. Some of them are simply hateful, like Ledford is to Arab students, who have complained to me and Patrick about Ledford’s anti-Arab remarks in class.

I’ll be glad not to be a part of that place anymore after this summer. Still, I did work there for over two years, and it was a big part of my life.

I didn’t do much today. In my P.O. box, I discovered a letter to Hildegarde Schine, the carbon of which I’d been sent by its writer, a fellow club member excoriating her for her “rude behavior” to me on Wednesday. All in a day’s work.

Stopping by at Davie for lunch, I saw Jonathan, who was off from work because his store was being used for filming a scene in the Paul Newman/Robby Benson movie, Harry and Son.

I also went to the credit union, xeroxed the Library Journal review, and bought, for $5, an Indian head penny medallion on a chain.

When I was 18, I used to wear a St. Christopher’s medal, and then I wore a peace symbol that I got on my 20th birthday, but I’ve not worn anything around my neck since college.

I feel bad because I’m so pudgy; the fat just rolls up at my stomach. Of course, I’ve become more muscular, but I’m not at all defined. My chest is bigger but not all that firm. The best success I’ve had in bodybuilding has been with my calves, which are really gorgeous now.

Well, I shouldn’t complain. I’ll just watch my diet; perhaps in New York I’ll be able to lose weight. If I get up to 170 pounds – and that could happen any day – I think I’ll go crazy.

I’ve got to face the fact that I’m fat. It’s difficult for me, because in my mind, I‘m still the average-sized kid. But I have to remember the thing is not to feel sorry for myself but to work on changing.

After all, I’m healthy: I don’t have AIDS or leukemia or cancer. And I’m probably not in bad shape – except for my shape. I don’t smoke, drink or take drugs. Though I eat a lot of sweets, I also eat lots of fiber and high protein stuff.

Today I went to visit Grandma, but no one was home.


Monday, April 18, 1983

7 PM. It was a record-breaking cool day – but I was happy enough with our 48° low. It was a pleasure for me; I felt good and had lots of energy.

Last night Ronna called; she’d gotten back from her weekend at Jordan’s and returned my birthday call. We had a fine talk.

She’s still unemployed but she’s got some prospects and lots of hope. Ronna found turning 30 a bit traumatic, but she said her life is good.

I slept fairly well and woke up feeling refreshed.

Patrick knew about his letter on Friday, when he’d taken it out of the mailbox. I guess he’d had an entire weekend to stew about it, for he seemed philosophical.

“Didn’t Judy Cofer get the Arts Council grant the year they turned her down here?” he said. “Maybe I’ll get lucky, too.”

I noted that Casey could barely look Patrick in the eye when we passed him. Since Mimi and Chip didn’t get letters, I’m assuming they’ve been hired.

What a crock! As Lisa keeps announcing, “This is a sick place.” Tom Clayton, with the perspective of a visitor from Valley College in L.A., said BCC is a monolith where one man – Clinton Hamilton – controls everything and all decisions are made behind closed doors.

I did virtually nothing with my students today, just went over their essay outlines. At noon, I went to lunch with Lisa, and then I drove to South Campus, where I typeset P’an Ku for a couple of hours.

I really don’t mind doing that, for I’m alone – but the quality of the material I’m typesetting is so awful, it does get me down.

Of course, I suppose I should be pleased to realize that not everyone can write half as well as I can. On days like today, when I feel I can barely put together an intelligible sentence, that knowledge should give me solace.

Crad writes that he’s on his way to selling out Sex Slaves of the Astro-Mutants and is typesetting Human Secrets, Book III right now.

This film that his friend is making on Toronto’s street bookseller/authors may garner a lot of interest – “though not in Toronto, of course.” A prophet in his own country and all that.

There was no other mail worthy of mention.

I came home from South Campus via the Turnpike, a quick ride, stopping to shop on the way.

Dad said the menswear show in Miami was “terrible. . . the worst I’ve ever seen.” Poor Dad. Although the recovery is supposedly here – the stock market went through the roof again today – retail clothing sales are still in a severe depression.

Like many others, Dad may not be able to last till the recovery reaches him. I just wish there was some way I could help him financially.

Ronna said Jordan’s raise at his law firm was bigger than her annual salary. If only I could be making that kind of money, I could keep my parents afloat.

I feel guilty because they spent tens of thousands of dollars on me and I’m not able to pay them back. Not yet, anyway.

I’m not playing martyr: for myself, all I could really use is a better car and more security, but I can always manage with what I have now. Still, I’ve got to figure out a way I can make some money next year. If my brothers both work, we can all help out Mom and Dad.

Suddenly I feel sleepy and hungry at the same time. All I had for dinner was a Cambridge Diet milkshake. Tomorrow morning I hope to go to the gym.

It’s hard to believe I’ll be going to New York in a little more than two weeks.


Wednesday, April 20, 1983

8 PM. Every once in a while, I realize how lucky I am. I really do have it all. I’ve got to keep that in mind when I’m depressed or frustrated: I’ve had the most wonderful life.

Yesterday Dr. Grasso sent us all a notice saying that Florida International University was looking for a BCC instructor to teach his/her courses at the Tamiami campus this summer.

Two classes of Kuwaiti students need English 101, and the instructor can make his/her own hours and schedule. I volunteered to do it if no one else would, and it looks as though I might be spending the summer session at FIU rather than BCC.

The disadvantage, of course, is that long drive on the Turnpike: car problems, the heat, the traffic, the tolls. Also, it won’t be as easy as it would to coast by on my last term at BCC.

However, if I want to teach at FIU in the future, this might be an “in.” At least I can put on my resume that I taught at one of Florida’s four-year colleges.

Besides, it will be a challenge, as well as a new experience – it sounds like a good risk. We’ll see what Dr. Grasso says.

I did a little teaching today – as little as possible. This morning I took Marc to school, and at 11 AM, I brought him home; Mom decided to go to the flea market by herself, although she eventually found business to be dead.

I hadn’t been able to get to a Book Group meeting for months because my schedule always conflicted, but today I was able to attend.

After depositing my paycheck in the credit union, I drove to downtown Fort Lauderdale. Since September, the Book Group has been having their meetings at the Riverside Hotel on Las Olas, which is a little too ritzy and WASPy for my blood.

The food was good, and I enjoyed seeing some of the members, but even though I paid membership dues, I don’t think I’m going to return for a while.

Myra wasn’t there (she’s busy at work) nor was Rosemary (her brother died), and so the meeting was dominated by bossy Nedda and fussy Lee. Except for a few people, there’s no one there I really like.

Luckily, I sat next to Jean Trebbi, who’s always a delight; she’s been busy with her TV show and her other library work and she gave me some good suggestions on how to market the book to libraries.

At one point, Jean and I were talking and Nedda boomed, “Richard, are you having a private meeting?”

I felt a childish rage surface for a minute, but I deflected it, recognizing that I was merely reacting to Nedda’s grammar-school-teacher tone – in TA terms, she was pulling a Parent, but I decided to respond as an Adult, not a Child – which had been the immediate temptation.

All the dull talk of by-laws and associate members seemed out of left field and a waste of time for me.

But I was glad to see Floydene Partain, whose new novel, the first in the Caribbean Chronicles saga Avon is doing, is getting loads of publicity and is selling briskly.

Floydene spoke at the St. Lucie library a few weeks ago, and she said people there were full of praise for me. She likes being an author, “but it’s interfering with my writing.”

As the meeting broke up, the by-laws still unresolved, a nice novelist and nonfiction writer, whose name always escapes me but who has read my books and has told me about her 25-year-old daughter, asked me, “Richard, are you seeing a girl?”

I figured she wanted to set me up with her daughter. For the first time in my life – and I don’t know why I said it – I replied, “No, I’m gay.”

At first, she was taken aback, and was flustered, and then asked if her daughter could call me when she was in town.

“Of course,” I said, “I’d like to meet her.”

The woman assured me that my being gay was okay with her, and I felt mildly pleased with myself. I was just being honest. Probably it would have been enough to say no, I’m not seeing a girl, and it may have been cruel of me to discombobulate the woman.

I didn’t mean to embarrass her, however: what I said just came out. (Like I did.)

Anyway, it did tell me that I have a much more positive image of my sexuality. (Last night I dreamed a girl told me I had a terrific chest, so I may even be getting a more positive image of my body.)

God, at BCC today, I felt I was in a feast of good-looking guys wearing hardly anything. I get so much pleasure from just looking now that I don’t feel guilty about it.

Today I got a letter from Blair Apperson, who was “ecstatic” I answered him and who said he “loved my stories.” He sent a self-made questionnaire, very clever, and answered a lot of questions.

Blair is 17, has to live with his parents, doesn’t go to school, wants to write, does write and is being published in his sister’s boyfriend’s Austin punk fanzine.

He wears four earrings, works in a snack bar at a park, has a great-grandmother, once fell off a cliff (and walked two miles with terrible injuries till he got to an ambulance), and has been paid for sex.

He began the letter, “Dear Mr. Grayson,” and ended, “Your friend, Blair.”

I’m getting old, pardner. It hits me a couple of times a day.

Last night one of my students handed in a paper on Jello Biafra and thought he had to explain to me who Jello Biafra was. “I know the Dead Kennedys,” I snapped defensively.

Or the cute guy in the library who comes over and says, “Sir, can you look at this paper I wrote?”

Or my students who shriek when I tell them I graduated from high school in 1968. (“I was four years old then!”)

But sometimes I still feel like I’m 17. I definitely can still relate to myself back then.

This evening, after I did lots of mailings on the book, I took a drive to the mall to have dinner. At first, I thought I’d have a hamburger since I hadn’t had one since Sunday, but I just don’t enjoy red meat all that much anymore. So I ate turkey instead.

Then I stopped by BCC briefly and ended up at my parents’ house, where they were having Grandma over for dinner.

Dad got a new line, Paco Rabanne – but not in Miami, just north of Broward County. He and Mom will be going to Orlando on a sales trip next weekend.

Mom showed me where their condo board of directors had raised the percentage on their maintenance without ever calling a meeting; according to state law, that’s illegal, and Mom sent a letter to the board threatening a suit.

When I phoned Teresa, she was worn out from her own suit: she’s countersuing her tenants in the Berkshires who sued her in small claims court. She said I’ll get to see the continuance of the hearing on May 10.

Teresa reported that it snowed eight inches in the country this weekend and about an inch yesterday in the city.

Her truly bad news is that grandfather, 91, is very ill following yet another stroke. Also, Teresa has to go to Philadelphia for the funeral of Deirdre’s uncle, who died suddenly and unexpectedly.

It’s a beautiful night: the sun was huge when it set. I plan to read for a while and then watch the season finale of Dynasty.TC mark

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