A Young Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-June, 1984

Tuesday, June 12, 1984

6 PM. Teresa never returned last night. I waited for her to arrive, but at 11 PM she called and said she was going to stay at her sister’s overnight.

That makes sense, of course, since after her long European trip, she probably felt like spending time with her family, especially her niece.

This afternoon she called and said her parents wanted her to come to Brooklyn for dinner, so that means she’ll be here in a couple of hours.

Teresa sounds cheerful, if a bit overwhelmed, and she already knew that she didn’t have her job anymore. I told her that for two days, her friends have been calling like crazy, anxious to speak with her.

I didn’t sleep all that well last night – too much caffeine in diet soda and iced tea, I think – but I stayed in bed until late this morning.

Today was a one-day respite from the humidity; though it got up to 87°, it was great not to be so sticky.

I read and exercised and watched TV, went out to Ray’s Pizza for lunch, browsed in Endicott Booksellers, and was interviewed by Tom Foley of U.S. News and World Report for a feature on weird presidential candidates.

I phoned Gary, whose work piled so high that he canceled out on dinner, and later I spoke with Susan Mernit, who had a fabulous time at VCCA. Apparently, there were very congenial people there this visit, and she made a lot of good friends.

Artist colony dynamics are always weird. I’m a little worried about being at Millay because it’s so small and isolated.

One advantage may be that we’re all arriving on the same day so no clique will be in control when I get there.

I tried to get a dinner companion for now, but neither Josh nor Ronna were in their offices, so I’m just going to go out and get a burger or something.

And life goes on. . .


Thursday, June 14, 1984

11 PM. No, I haven’t been ill the past fifty or so hours; I just haven’t had time to write in my diary.

Teresa came back at about 9 PM on Tuesday. Earlier I had gone over to West 76th to meet Tom for dinner. He showed me some of the books he’d gotten at the Strand and elsewhere, and we had a fine dinner conversation about – what else? – literature and film.

I miss a number of Tom’s references to books, authors and directors, but the more common occurrence is that I’ve only heard of the books while Tom has actually read them. He walked me back here and I was in the apartment when Teresa’s parents brought her home.

She looked tanned and said that was from Greece; she also gained a little weight from all that food, but I’m sure it would have been more if she hadn’t walked so much in Europe.

Her father installed the air conditioner in the bedroom window, and almost immediately we had blissful relief from the heat and humidity. Teresa fooled around with her new vacuum, and after her parents left, she told me about her trip.

All yesterday – Wednesday – we were together, so by now I’ve heard everything, either directly once or again several times as I’ve heard her talking on the phone. Despite what she sometimes claims, Teresa has a great many friends, all of whom seemed to call in the past two days.

About Europe: She complained terribly about Amira, almost as much as Amira complained about her. Where Amira said Teresa was bossy and “like an old lady,” Teresa said Amira was uncouth, immature and “wanted a vacation by the beach” instead of a cultural and dining tour.

They just had very different goals for the trip. To Teresa, Amira was boy-crazy and not interested in museums and good restaurants. Of course, Teresa, like Amira, did admit that there were times when the other was a fine traveling companion. It seems they got along best when they visited the relatives in Sicily.

After Amira left, Teresa went to Greece to meet Paul. She was carrying $2000 from Deirdre and Wally, who’s Paul’s best friend. Paul is a 40-year-old ex-doctor who lives like a hippie. He’s supposedly discovered a new form of yoga and is writing “a book which will change the world.”

The joke, according to Teresa, is that the book’s premise that it’s possible for one to do anything one wants – while Paul himself kept constantly rationalizing and giving excuses why he couldn’t do things.

After a visit to a Greek isle, Teresa became disgusted with him and he felt he needed his space; she also began to see that Paul was a paranoid schizophrenic. So she went back to Italy, anxious to come home.

But since KLM wouldn’t let her trade in her ticket for an earlier flight, she decided to travel to Florence and ended up surprising herself by having the time of her life. She stayed in a fabulous pensione, and once Amira wasn’t there, Teresa was able to meet lots of interesting people, mostly older couples who treated her royally.

Now that she’s back, Teresa is annoyed by the constant question “What are you going to do now?” – asked by a least a score of her friends. But with the 1170 Ocean Parkway co-op deal and the prospect of the West 104th Street apartment being even more lucrative, she really doesn’t have to worry about money – plus she still has that $18,000 in a money market fund.

She’d probably do well in real estate or in some entrepreneurial enterprise. Teresa is still the same, but she plans to do less for other people – not because she doesn’t want to run their lives (she still feels she knows best) but because it’s not appreciated.

After 48 hours with her, I’ll be glad to be alone for the weekend. I can’t understand why she isn’t tired of me; she really wanted me to come with her to Fire Island tomorrow morning.

I think most other people would be annoyed to have someone like me – anyone – still around in their “space” (I know I would feel that way), but Teresa seems to have a need to have people around her all the time.

Yesterday we woke up early – I had barely slept – and spent most of the day in the air-conditioned bedroom, with Teresa talking on the phone and me reading, or us watching TV together. We went out for lunch and grocery shopping, but a heavy thunderstorm kept us from eating dinner out, so we sent in for Chinese food.

Amira bicycled over and got caught in the downpour; she was so soaked that she had to get out of her wet clothes and she ended up spending the night.

We had a fine evening, actually, with me and Amira fooling around with each other – I am really attracted to her. As Teresa realized, Amira is my “type,” but she likes Hispanic hunks, and I’m decidedly not one. Still, Amira and I do relate well, and last night was like an adult slumber party.

They brought the couch mattress onto the bedroom floor, and after a week of lousy sleeping, I slept like a baby last night, from 11 PM to 11 AM. I had vivid dreams and slept through Amira’s leaving and the noise of Judy’s kids being over.

I spoke to Grandma Ethel, who had more complaints than usual; she had problems with a 24-hour heart monitor the doctor gave her to wear.

Larry called and said he’s going back to Florida on Monday, but he left me his phone number. Miriam wrote from Martha’s Vineyard, and Crad sent his two new books in the mail.

Teresa and I spent today together, too. I do love Teresa: she’s generous and funny and sometimes every easy to be with. But she’s also headstrong and bossy and convinced that she is always in the right. I guess Teresa has such a strong personality that it’s difficult to be alone with her for such an extended period.

We went out of the house at 1 PM today and stopped off at Barbara’s office, where I felt funny and out of place. Teresa wanted to hang out there longer and talk (Barbara’s pregnant and plans to have the baby in the winter).

After we left and I expressed my discomfort being in someone’s office while people were working, Teresa just said she feels at home everywhere.

We took the subway down to 19th Street, so we could get out hair cut at Joseph’s. Teresa was excited because Ed’s son Teddy was visiting from Arizona, where he lives with his mother. (Ed was married before he was gay – or before he came out, anyway.)

Also visiting were Ed’s mother and stepfather, who live on 441 and Oakland Park Boulevard back in Broward. (There always seem to be people from Fort Lauderdale in New York in the summer.)

We were the first to arrive for Joseph’s haircuts, and I went before Teresa. Teddy has one of those very short punk cuts, and while I’d love to get something like that, with my fat face, I’d look like a balloon. So I settled for a nice simple cut.

We were invited out to dinner with the family (Ed and Joseph, Teddy, and Ed’s parents), and while I wasn’t crazy about waiting around Chelsea all afternoon, it ended up being a nice time.

Teresa’s parents arrived at 4 PM, and by then all sorts of people had shown up in that fabulous apartment. About an hour later, Teresa, Teddy and I went into the van with Ed to the Village, where he had an appointment with a woman who wanted Ed and Joseph to cater her wedding.

(Their business, a model of the new entrepreneurial style, must be very successful, for they obviously live very well.)

I was very taken with Teddy, who’s a cute, bright, Italian-looking punky kid; if he were five or six years older, I’d have a crush on him, although unlike his father, Teddy seems very much interested in girls.

I know how hard it is for his kind of kid in a place like Phoenix or Fort Lauderdale. He loves New York and is crazy about his father and Joseph – though Teresa later told me they’ve never told Teddy that they’re lovers; of course I’m sure the kid can figure it out.

Teddy hates Phoenix. “I want to move back here,” he said, as if he were an adult; he actually left New York when he was five years old. Anyway, we hung out until Ed was finished with his business, and I took Teddy to the Strand while Teresa watched the van.

Back at the apartment, there were still a lot of heads waiting to be cut. Teresa’s parents and I talked with Ed’s parents, and we spoke with this woman, Ursula, and her mother, who’s visiting from Dusseldorf and just learned English a little in the six months she’s been here. She plans to move to New York, but Teresa said all Europeans want to move here.

The two of them also joined us for dinner when Teresa’s haircut – the last of the day – was done. All eleven of us traipsed over to the Cortina, a Mexican restaurant on Ninth and 19th, where we were joined by John, a friend of Ed and Joseph’s who Teresa later said was cruising me all night; if he was, I never noticed it.

We had a nice gay Puerto Rican waiter, Michael, who used to be a haircutter at Lord & Taylor with Joseph, and who had a son Teddy’s age. (I just now remembered that I met Joseph in Fire Island in 1980 on the weekend of Avis’s wedding.)

The food was slow in coming and lousy when it came, but I was faint from hunger and even a soggy burrito was better than nothing. The conversation was lively. I find Italian-Americans are about the most social people around, gregarious and funny. And loud – we startled people at other tables by singing.

While Joseph wouldn’t do an aria – he’s a fine baritone who has worked in opera – we did get off several rounds of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

Ursula’s mother was delighted by it all and said that by comparison, German restaurants are very sedate and boring.

It was her birthday as well as Ed’s, and I think it all turned into a lovely celebration.

Finally, Teresa and I got into a cab and came home. Now I’m really tired.


Saturday, June 16, 1984

7 PM. Last night was wonderful. Ronna came here directly after work, and she looked terrific, at least to my contact lenses. We talked for a while, and then, since neither of us was really hungry, we decided to eat at that Greek diner on 85th and Broadway.

We go sit in a booth in the back and the next thing we know, Alma and Isaac Bashevis Singer are sitting in the booth alongside of us, he next to me, she next to Ronna. It’s funny how often I come across them in restaurants, both here and in Miami.

After our quick bite, we rented the seventh and last movie I’m entitled to at the video place: Risky Business, which Ronna had never seen. We snuggled in bed and watched the film.

It was a sweet, pleasant experience and we did some major hugging, fondling, kissing, and all that stuff.

But both of us agreed not to have intercourse, and the decision seems to be a wise one. While it’s possible we’re afraid of the commitment, I feel that if I cared less about Ronna as a friend, then I would sleep with her.

It’s just easy for me to get aroused by Ronna. She may be one of the few women who can get me excited sexually (though come to think of it, I’m sure I’d have no problem with someone like Amira, either).

As Teresa said when Doug called her the other night, there are so few people in life who you are really attracted to who are also really attracted to you.

I do love Ronna and think that she’s gorgeous and sexy, and it’s also heavenly to be intimate with someone even if you’re stopping short of intercourse.

Even if this sounds fuzzy, I’m clear in my sexual identity. I am gay, but I am attracted to certain women (not many); I guess I am somewhere along that numbered Kinsey continuum.

Anyway, this all sounds clinical when last night was just plain wonderful.

At midnight, I walked Ronna up West End Avenue, a ritual that reminded me of driving her home to Canarsie late at night (or early in the morning) on our dates about a dozen years ago.

She said that Jordan may be a little jealous of me, but that he understands, basically; after all, he’s been with other women.

Unable to sleep, I read Saturday’s Times, watched the videotaped news, and read Crad’s fantastic new books. (I had read parts aloud earlier to Ronna.)

This morning Tom was supposed to come over, but he said he was nauseated all night and vomited and had diarrhea, so he just wanted to rest today.

This afternoon we spoke on the phone. His plane leaves from Newark (People Express, of course) for Buffalo tomorrow, and he’ll go up to Toronto to visit Crad.

Tom should be back in New York around July 20 and then off to California before returning to New Orleans. Next time I’ll see him, it will probably be there when I return for a visit to guest-teach at NOCCA.

Josh had asked me to meet him, Simon’s sister Lynn and her husband, and another couple for brunch at Café Figaro in the Village, so I decided to do that since I was now free for the day.

From there, we all went over to the Tompkins Square Park festival on the Lower East Side.

It was cool, dry and clear, the perfect day to be outdoors and a great contrast to last week’s oppressive heat.

At the festival, there were the usual booths, but Josh and I wanted to go to the marathon poetry reading, put on by the St. Mark’s Poetry Project.

Earlier in the week, Tom had talked about meeting these “assholes” from St. Mark’s, and Josh and I spoke to a couple of their tribe today.

Josh published this guy, Sal Salasin, in Grinning Idiot, and we went with him to this artsy place, the Life Cafe where, Sal told us, “the poetry readings are very prestigious.”

All Sal talked about was how careful you have to play your politics to succeed in the poetry world – which to him consisted solely of St. Mark’s.

“I am dependent upon these people for my career,” he said. “I can’t alienate them because I will have to live with them for the rest of my life.”

Later, Josh said he just took this bullshit comically, but it made me a bit angry. What an insulated, careful, pissant way to produce “poetry”!

The other poet, Etan Ben Ami, was slightly less pompous, but you could tell he thought his life would be a complete nothing without the St. Mark’s Poetry Project.


Tuesday, June 19, 1984

9 PM. I’ve just come back from dinner with Josh in Brooklyn. Teresa has gone out to Studio 54 with a friend.

Taking the IRT express to 96th Street, I realized that of the forty or so people in my subway car, I was the only one who was not black, Hispanic or Asian.

Walking down Broadway – with a stop at the Korean grocery store and the Indian newsstand – I was again struck by the remarkable diversity of people.

What I love most about New York is its tolerance of diversity in terms of race, religion, style, dress, sexual orientation, etc.

I know it’s still hard for a black man to get a cab on West End Avenue – I’ve seen that – but it’s still so much better other places, including South Florida.

Of course, Broward County has a narrow-minded, anti-Semitic, highly racist background, and I guess we’ve come a long way, but nothing can compare to New York or Los Angeles as being a city of immigrants. I’m glad Miami comes close.

In the Democratic primaries, Jesse Jackson’s “rainbow coalition” never materialized – although his domination of a strong black vote was enough to enable him to carry major cities like New York. Someday a real rainbow coalition will come to pass.

There’s talk of California becoming the first (outside of Hawaii) “third world state,” when Asians, Hispanics and blacks become a majority of the population in the next decade. I like the idea.

Well, enough ruminating – but I see that unlike Teresa or Alice, I’m interested in ideas, even ideas as banal as the ones I’ve written about here.

Though I’ve never liked to say it – mostly because of embarrassment – I am an intellectual.

Teresa said she hates libraries and schools, and I find that dismaying. I spent two hours last evening, and another two hours today, in the public library, just sitting there and reading.

More than ever, I have a hunger for knowledge and books and ideas; I still remember how intoxicating they were to me as a kid.

This morning Teresa never did get to Unemployment even though she was up at 8 AM; she must have made forty or fifty phone calls.

I guess these are the important things in her life, but I really can’t understand how she can spend so much time on all these details.

I went out at 1 PM to join Justin, Ari, and Justin’s actor friend Ryan for lunch at Eat Here Now. It was a welcome break, and I enjoyed the conversation.

Today turned sunny and hot, not quite oppressive but getting there. Because Stacy called to push up our dinner date to tomorrow night, I called Grandma Ethel and told her I’d now be in Rockaway on Thursday.

Suddenly, with than less than two weeks to go before I head up to the Millay Colony, time seems short.

Late this afternoon I went into Brooklyn and had dinner with Josh at this glitzy Greek diner, Park Plaza, that just opened on Cadman Plaza off Pineapple. Afterwards. we walked around the Heights and shot the breeze.

This has really been a pressure-filled week for Josh. He’s decided to forgo a trip to Europe and opt for a week in New Orleans in late August; I told him it will be hot then, but he’ll like the city.

Teresa left a message that “Bob from Broward Community College” called; he left his number in Florida. I suppose I should call him, but Bob’s become so strange since he got rejected for a full-time job there that I dread speaking with him.

Justin’s play Boundaries will be at Roosevelt Island next weekend, and maybe Ronna will want to go with me. I’ve also got to get back to Mikey, who left a message on the machine.

Before I go to Millay, I need to again see Pete, Ronna, Josh, Susan, Mikey and Amy, Justin, Alice and a few others. It feels really good to have all these friends.

As the days lengthen and summer officially begins with the solstice, I realize I’ve had a great spring – and winter wasn’t bad, either!


Wednesday, June 20, 1984

2 PM. I just walked in from having lunch at the 4 Brothers on 87th and Broadway, where I had a grilled cheese sandwich and a Sprite and read tributes in the Village Voice to Arthur Bell, who died a couple of weeks ago.

He was a terrific person, not just because he was kind enough to put me in his column back in the summer of ’79, but because he was an honest and good reporter, a fighter for gay rights, someone who hated pretense and evinced a healthy cynicism.

Well, Teresa went to Unemployment downtown – they’ve closed the Club 90 office – and hasn’t yet come back.

Last night I slept like a stone – being off caffeine seems to help – and lazed around this morning until I went to the public library’s Newspaper Collection on West 43rd and Tenth.

There, I found two articles about me that I’m missing. The first was from the Post’s Page Six about “The Weird Sex Lives of Jewish-American Novelists,” and the other from December 1979, on the Gloria Vanderbilt for Senator campaign.

Seeing the latter story brought back that time in my life. I was living in Rockaway, working at Kingsborough Community College and the School of Visual, and I was freezing and lonely.

With headlines like TEDDY IS THE TOAST OF TEHRAN and WILL THE HOSTAGES BE HOME FOR XMAS?, the Post was feeding into the Iran hysteria that dominated the news back then.

It’s hard to believe that all that took place less than five years ago. So much has happened in my life since December ’79: my first visit to my parents in Davie; Grandpa Herb’s illness and death; another year in Rockaway; stays at MacDowell and VCCA; three and a half years of working at Broward Community College; apartments in Sunrise and North Miami Beach; my relationship with Sean; my visits to New York; the new books I had published; trips to New Orleans and South Carolina to teach creative writing; all the publicity I’ve gotten since that time.

At 33, I’m much happier than I was at 28.

Last evening I spoke to Mikey. After some hectic weeks, he and Amy are settling into their new apartment on West 16th Street. We agreed to meet for dinner on Tuesday, with Amy joining us after her shrink appointment.

I’m supposed to meet Stacy tonight at her co-op at 6 PM.

I hope Teresa made out okay downtown. She’s really incredibly kind and generous, and at times I feel I’m taking advantage of her.

*

Midnight. I left the house at 5 PM, after Teresa returned from a four-hour wait at Unemployment.

Mom mailed me another new credit card, a Visa from Beneficial National Bank in Delaware, along with my letter of acceptance into the M.Ed. program in computer education from Florida Atlantic University.

On the way to the crosstown bus, I ran into Ari, who was going to help a friend nearby paint his apartment. All these chance meetings in the street convince me that for me, at least, New York is not a big strange city but a familiar hometown.

When I got to 77 Bleecker, Stacy was upset over a $6,000 discrepancy in her bank statement: Chase had neglected to credit a deposit to an ATM.

But she looked great, and on the way to dinner, she showed me the motorcycle she and Jeanne ride. On weekends they go to Long Island, and Jeanne wants to take it to the Smoky Mountains for their vacation.

Stacy took me to this fine macrobiotic place, Quantum Leap, where we had delicious tempura vegetables. We talked about the Transit Authority and co-ops and Florida and Jeanne’s starting an MBA program at Baruch and the usual stuff.

Later, we spent an hour or so chatting in her apartment. Stacy is not the closest friend I have, but she’s a warm person (she wasn’t always) and we do get on well together. I guess there’s a reason we were once attracted to each other.

From there I went to 19th and Eighth to meet Teresa at Joseph’s surprise party for Ed. Unfortunately, Ed wouldn’t leave the house and the surprise was that the guests kept trickling in after Teresa, I, and a gay couple were the first to arrive.

Although Joseph was pissed at him, Ed seemed delighted and happy about the unexpected party without us all jumping out and yelling “Surprise!” About a dozen people showed up, and I had a fairly good time.

Joseph hired a Marilyn Monroe impersonator to come in and sit on Ed’s lap. She was pretty funny, even spontaneous; informed about Ed’s foibles in advance, she did a funny monologue and sang a witty song Joseph must have composed.

Little Teddy had had his hair cut by Joseph so that the sides were shaven: not like a Mohawk but some other punk style. I chatted with Ed’s mother and stepfather and John, the friend I met last week.

Teresa and I left around 11:30 PM, taking the 1 train back uptown.

Grandma left a message, asking “Martin” to call her, so despite the late hour, I phoned Rockaway.

She just wanted to tell me that tomorrow she was going to the dentist and the cemetery, so that I should go to Aunt Tillie’s for the key. I told her I’m intending to come around dinnertime anyway.

I guess that after all this running around in Manhattan, it will be nice to spend a little quiet time at the beach with Grandma.TC mark

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