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

Friday, October 12, 1984

11 PM. I’m in Teresa’s house in Becket, Massachusetts. I’ve got my own room, and she and Amira are on the other side of the house.

Last evening I made a bunch of calls, leaving a message on Claire’s machine and then getting Emily, who has the bad cold everyone’s got.

Emily said that after the Millay Colony, Cummington was a bit like a crowded zoo, but she stayed until mid-September and got a lot of painting done.

She’s been upset because Jason went back to his girlfriend after making a lot of fancy speeches last July. (I don’t feel too badly towards Jason because Emily said he bought my book and enjoyed it.)

Anyway, she has to see Jason at work, but she’s moving on, preparing for her show next month in Providence.

I also spoke to Susan, who’s had further tests, which reveal that she does have a tumor in her uterus; she plans to see another doctor in December, and obviously she’s facing eventual surgery.

She and Spencer are going to spend Thanksgiving in Sarasota, where she hopes to relax after hectic weeks of teaching and heavy-duty writing.

Teresa came home, and while she was on the phone, I watched the Bush-Ferraro debate, which seemed to me a draw but which the commentators scored as a Bush victory, if only by a small margin.

Later, I spoke to Ronna, wishing her a good weekend in Pennsylvania; she and Jordan are driving to State College for Russ and Pat’s wedding.

I slept well, and this morning Teresa and I packed for the trip and picked up Amira at 10:30 AM.

Amira said that she wants to quit her job at the 92nd Street Y, where she has little to do, but it’s a very difficult decision because she needs the income and has nothing else lined up.

The autumn leaves were beautiful, even starting in the Bronx and Westchester: all golden and orange, russet and purple.

We had to stop in Mahopac, near Brewster, where Suzanne, Bruce’s sister, lives. Teresa gave her my keys to the apartment so she can stay there this weekend.

Suzanne was on her way to work, but her Danish au pair girl, Kirsten, fed us lunch and we played with two of Suzanne’s little boys, who are royally cute.

The drive up to the Berkshires was very scenic as we took Route 7, the long way, through Connecticut towns like Kent and Canaan in Litchfield County, and passing fashionable villages along the Housatonic River.

Things began to look familiar when we got to Great Barrington, and at Stockbridge, we got out of the car and walked on Main Street, jammed with tourists here for the peak fall foliage weekend.

Later, I drove us to Lenox, where we went to some stores (Amira bought a copy of my book) and got ice cream and some candy.

Teresa’s house is about ten miles away, on a country road off a major highway. From the outside, it’s not pretty, but inside, it’s large and less spartan than I had imagined.

We went out to watch the sun set behind the hills as we sat beside a lake, and then we took a drive through brilliantly-colored arbors.

I had a big fight with Teresa later when she wanted me to accompany her and Amira to Lake George to visit her friends. I didn’t really want to go, and we yelled a lot, and finally we talked it out.

I offered to go home by bus if they went to Lake George, but Teresa wouldn’t hear of it.

She feels I don’t include her enough in my life, and she wants us to do more things together; I feel that Theresa likes me only if I agree with her, and I don’t like feeling like an appendage.

A bad headache after the long car trip didn’t help my emotional balance, but our fight and our subsequent making-up (I hugged her) cleared the air.

We went out to a decent dinner at the East Lee Steak House, and Amira fell out as soon as we got back here.

Teresa’s got a bad case of hiccups, which has recurred all day.

Me, I’ve got more to say but I’m tired and will try to see if I can sleep here.


Saturday, October 13, 1984

7 PM. Teresa is preparing dinner, Amira is getting in her daily run before the sun goes down, and I’m using Teresa’s Walkman headset to get some privacy and write.

Today was a pleasant day, though it’s awfully hard for me to be with them sometimes. It’s just too much togetherness: they get on my nerves.

This may sound sexist, but I sometimes think women are more talkative, more scatterbrained, more impulsive and less practical than men.

I wish I had more male friends, like Josh, who can – I don’t know how else to say it – relate to me in a way that women cannot.

I know men don’t express themselves, but at times there’s a lot to be said for silence.

I’m also a little bit tired of hearing about nail polish and fashions and things that don’t interest me.

While I know most yuppies and gay men in Manhattan are like women in that they’re into wines and furniture and stylish foods and fashions, that stuff doesn’t interest me.

For a guy who’s both gay and a supposedly sensitive writer, I really am your basic slob when it comes to these so-called civilized aspects of modern life. I’d probably call them trivialities.

Maybe that’s one reason I could never feel fully at home in Manhattan. Yet I am proud that I’m not fashionable: I like to think I’m like Emerson or Thoreau or Hawthorne or Melville.

I guess I bring up these writers because I’ve spent the day in New England, and in fact, visited Melville’s home, Arrowhead, headquarters of the Berkshire Historical Society, and where he knew Hawthorne, who gave Tanglewood its name.

We also attended a chamber music concert at The Mount, a palatial estate that was Edith Wharton’s home. (She was a writer who was, of course, interested in fashion and furniture, but she was also someone who could write Ethan Frome.)

The concert was a little dull, especially because we had to sit in the cramped library, in the next room from the concert room, and we couldn’t see the oboist, harpsichordist or violinist.

Today dawned cool and a bit cloudier than yesterday, which had been extraordinarily summerlike. I slept well, as did the others, and we all reported the kind of intricate bizarre dreams one always seems to have in the country.

I dreamed of subway trains, elaborate mixups, and returning to Florida to watch a TV news program featuring a protest by Broward Community College students demonstrating for my return to teaching at the school.

This morning Teresa and Amira entertained themselves by reading aloud the papers I have to grade; I hope to get some work done tomorrow.

We drove all over Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge, around areas I’m familiar with since my July residency at Millay. I like knowing where I’m going, even if I did get lost a couple of times. In any case, driving again after so many months is a small pleasure.

I’ve never been any good at writing about nature, but it’s certainly beautiful up here. The Day-Glo orange and russet colors of the leaves, the clear skies, and the picturesque houses, lakes and arbors all looked postcard-back-home perfect.

We went to various tourist spots and stores and had pizza for lunch in Lenox. While there’s no doubt it’s beautiful here, I don’t think I could stand it in winter. Give me palm trees in January any day.

I also wish I could be alone more. I realize how much I need what Virginia Woolf called “A Room of One’s Own” – something I haven’t had since Millay, except for the weekends when Teresa went to Fire Island.

But if I’ve lost privacy and solitude living on West 85th Street, I’ve gained something else.

Still, I feel very guilty about feeling encroached upon when Teresa’s been so generous to me. I’ve repressed my frustration and anger because I feel ashamed of these feelings.

But I need to get my own “room” even if I have to resort to headphones playing “Sentimental Journey,” as I’m doing now.

Clearly, Teresa does not want me to leave her apartment. Sometimes she’s so stubborn and impossible, and at other times there’s no one better.

I just wish I had the relief of hearing Teresa say that I got on her nerves. But she never does.


Monday, October 15, 1984

1:30 PM. I just got in from teaching at John Jay.

Teresa’s in bed, complaining of severe back pains; last night she was dizzy and her ears were burning up. I think she’s just having anxiety reactions to her situation. Today she has to take the car back to Brooklyn and to go to Unemployment.

Yesterday I drove the whole way back from the Berkshires. We left at 4:30 PM, and the trip, down to Connecticut on Route 8, then across to White Plains and down into the city, took about three hours – the longest I’ve driven in years.

I enjoyed the driving and handled the sharp curves easily; the scenery was beautiful too, and I’ve still got the images of golden and red leaves in my mind.

Back in Manhattan, we dropped off Amira, and Teresa and I got ourselves settled. There was a message on the phone machine from Mom, and I knew it had to be bad news.

It was: Murray, the man who Aunt Sydelle was preparing to move in with, died of a sudden heart attack in her apartment while they were packing on Saturday night.

Murray had a wife who’d been a vegetable for years, and he’d brought her down to Florida from New York to the same nursing home where Grandpa Nat lives.

Murray couldn’t marry Sydelle, but he’d given her a ring, and she told her all her friends that they were already married.

They both were going to give up their apartments to move into a luxury condo together, and Murray planned to set aside a $25,000 trust fund for Sydelle to take care of her in case he died.

According to the wallet ID the police found on him, he was 74. He’d told Sydelle he was 71, and she told her friends that he was 62.

They were getting ready to go out to dinner when he suddenly felt ill, and he died just as Sydelle was dialing 911. She got hysterical and called neighbors, Dad, and the police.

What a tragedy. They didn’t know how to reach his only child, a daughter who’s in her eighth month of pregnancy here in New York, but they finally got through and she said she’d bring the body up for a funeral.

Now Sydelle has lost Murray in addition to Uncle Ralph and Monty; she really has bad luck with men.

Sydelle told Dad that I should write the story of her life, and I guess it is really kind of incredible to lose two husbands and a fiancé like that.

It finally looked like she was going to have happiness and financial security, and now she’s back where she was. Luckily, the people who were going to rent her apartment backed out at the last minute.

Obviously, not being his wife, Sydelle didn’t want to attend the funeral, but she told people she was going to New York; instead, she went to Washington to visit Scott and Barbara (who’s expecting again).

Mom and Dad were very upset, of course. This might make for an interesting story someday.

I also got messages from Claire, Pete and Alice which I have yet to return.

Because of bad subway delays, this morning at 8:30 AM, I had a mostly empty class, so I just tutored people individually.

My students’ papers are filled with tales of crime, violence, family troubles and alcoholism, often expressed in street language.

Their lives are so different from the white middle-class kids at Broward Community College. It’s hard for them to come to class and do work when they’ve got so many serious problems at home.

One guy came to class for the first time today. A girl is going to the hospital to have her baby. Another guy got cut in a street fight, and another student has to take care of four kids, her own and her sister’s.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing any good at all as their teacher. Yesterday the Times had a “Careers ’85” section which listed college teaching as the profession with the worst job outlook.

*

5 PM. I’ve just done a half-hour of waist exercises: nothing strenuous, just enough to work up a light sweat.

Dr. Gerber worked on my gums and polished my teeth; he’s a great guy and didn’t charge me for today. The dental treatment, combined with the bright warm weather, made me feel energetic.

I got a $300 unemployment check from Florida, so right now I have no problem with money. Also, I got my absentee ballot, which I filled out, voting only for Democrats.

Stacy and I made a date for 7:30 PM tomorrow night.

Teresa isn’t home, so she must have gone to Williamsburg to return the car. I’m going to head over to The New School in a little while.


Tuesday, October 16, 1984

3 PM on a gorgeous, sunny fall day. I feel great; I feel in tune with life. I’ve just spent the past ninety minutes working out with dumbbells and feel the usual rush exercise gives me.

More than that, though, I feel I’ve made the right decisions in life and that I’m on the right path – even though I don’t know where it’s leading me.

Last night I had a terrific BASIC class at The New School.

John Kallas is a good teacher, but I had to correct his programming mistakes a couple of times. That makes me feel confident, as did the obvious distress and difficulty that the older students have. They just can’t “think” computers.

Later, I spoke with Pete, who’s finding his own NYU programming classes easy while others are having trouble grasping everything.

Pete said that as writers, we’re probably used to logical processes and systems and making something out of nothing on a keyboard.

I can’t say that I’m a computer whiz, but I know that I could be. I just feel confident and playful and innovative when I’m in front of a CRT, my hands playing over the keyboard.

It can be frustrating, like writing, but it also can be exhilarating. It feels natural. It just popped into my head that being at a computer reminds me of the first time I was with Sean.

Last night my computer partner, Sue, was upset because Ira Wolfson had just laid her off as software editor at Enter just an hour before.

I gave Sue a lot of information about getting jobs in the school system, about how to get Unemployment, etc. She said I really helped, and naturally that made me feel good.

Sue, who’s 23 and lives in Kew Gardens, just got out of school a year ago with a master’s in educational media and she moved here from Boston to take the magazine job.

It’s amazing how many friends I’ve made in the class.

John is teaching PILOT at Fairleigh Dickinson, and he says it’s the best authoring language for educational software. In talking with him about PILOT, I realized how much I’ve retained from the FIU course.

It was warm out as I took the train home. On the subway I witnessed a violent confrontation between two black men who were drunk and hung out in the same group. It was scary to see so much rage up close.

Teresa was out when I arrived home, so I made some phone calls. First I called Mike Snow, a freelancer who’s coordinating the People article on weird Presidential candidates.

Today when I talked to him again, he said I’m his favorite; he’d previously done stories on this for the Globe and the L.A. Times and said Jonathan had given him a lot of information on me.

He’s going to put the photo department in touch with me so I can either send my old standard glossy or arrange for a new shooting (which isn’t done very often).

I expect I’ll get mentioned in the article, but I wonder if they’ll actually run my photo, which would have a wide impact.

I’m sure that dozens of people who know me would be sure to see it in People.

It would be nice for the people in Florida to know I’m still alive and kicking. (I have a terrible need to prove myself to Broward Community College and the local South Florida media.)

Ronna said she and Jordan had a lovely time at Russ and Pat’s wedding in State College. The ceremony, with only four guests, was dignified and sweet, Ronna said, and she and Jordan had nice drives back and forth, enjoying the turning of the leaves.

Ronna’s off for Simchas Torah, so we made a date for Friday.

Alice said she’s been busy but having fun. Going to a singles bar with a friend made her realize how lucky she is to have Peter. His new manuscript, Kill the Landlord, is based on the situation in Alice’s building, and Alice says it’s hysterically funny, especially to her because she knows who most of the characters are in real life.

This weekend she’ll be in West Palm Beach, and she said we’ll get together when she returns.

Pete Cherches is enjoying his computer classes at NYU; the teacher, whom Josh had recommended, is funny and adept. He and Sonorexia are performing Wednesday night at Folk City, and I’ll try not to miss this performance.

I spoke to Justin earlier, and he is also doing okay.

This morning’s classes went well. I’m always learning from my students.


Wednesday, October 17, 1984

11 PM. Nobody called from People, so I assume I’m not going to have my photo in it. Oh well.

Last evening Stacy met me in front of her co-op. She looked good with a short boyish haircut. (I’ve got to find a new haircutter now that Joseph and Teresa are on the outs.)

We went out to dinner at Quantum Leap, where I had some great steamed vegetables. Stacy said things seem to be stable at the Transit Authority: that is, not much is happening, and they haven’t posted positions yet.

Stacy continues to do her job in Brooklyn but expects to get a better position; meanwhile, she’s got her name on the civil service lists after doing well on a test.

There have been problems at home, as Jeanne has decided to go for her second master’s, an M.B.A., and she’s been working hard in Stanley Kaplan’s GMAT preparation course; she hopes to go full-time in Columbia’s Executive M.B.A. program.

For weekends, Stacy and Jeanne get away on their motorcycles, and I’m sure they’re doing okay. Stacy is a real sweetheart, a good friend to see every couple of months. We made up to get together once more before I leave New York.

I walked across to the West Village through Washington Square Park; it was a mild night, and I felt free, not having to get up early today.

I slept well, and after breakfast out – at the diner, I sat next to Alma and Isaac Bashevis Singer, reading the Times with egg yolk on his chin – I headed for The New School, where I worked on the IBM-PC for ninety minutes, learning FOR…NEXT statements.

It was another mild day, and in the afternoon I went to John Jay, partly to get away from Teresa, who seemed in an argumentative mood, and partly to grade papers and read.

Teresa accuses me of not having “spunk” because I don’t argue with her, yet she still talks about my “snit” of last Friday. So I can’t win: if I don’t argue, I’m a wimp; if I stand up to her, which she says I should do, I’m “worse than four fags.”

I know this is a difficult time for her, and that unlike Theresa, I have definite goals and must keep them by doing constructive stuff like studying, exercising, and trying to be a competent teacher.

I got a fine observation report from Professor Regan, heavy on details and definitely good for future reference. I like my little cubbyhole at John Jay more and more because it’s the one place where I can close the door and be master of my own domain.

I walked home, stopping off for a bite for dinner on Broadway.

Sandra Thompson called, inviting me to write one of those “Personal Lives” articles for the St. Pete Times; I asked her to send me some samples by Sterling Watson and others, and I said I’d try.

When I called Mikey to tell him that I hadn’t yet received my wedding invitation, it was as I expected: he and Amy had no idea why it hadn’t arrived. Busy with wedding plans, Mikey’s had no luck finding a new job, and Amy’s working long hours at City Opera, where lots of screaming is usual.

Libby sent a postcard from Yosemite, where she’s on her honeymoon with Grant – and her mother.


Friday, October 19, 1984

11 PM. In Florida, I would never be aware that it was Simchas Torah, but here, on the Upper West Side, it’s hard to ignore it.

Teresa can’t figure out how bald men keep their yarmulkes on, and she wanted to go to shul to find out.

She’s in Mahopac with Suzanne tonight, so for the first time in weeks, I’m going to sleep in her bed, alone in the apartment.

I just now came home, saying goodbye to Ronna and Lori at 85th and Broadway. We’d seen, at the 83rd Street Quad, Garbo Talks, a sweet film about a son who fulfills his dying mother’s request to meet the reclusive Greta Garbo.

My eyes got a little wet even though the rational side of me thought the premise was thin.

Ronna, our would-be playwright, compared Anne Bancroft’s final monologue with the one she wrote and read aloud last night at her playwriting class.

The response from the teacher and the other students was not terrific but not terribly bad, either; after all, as Ronna said, she hasn’t written in thirteen years. (I wonder if I’m responsible for that.)

Before the movie, Ronna and I had a lovely, precious afternoon.

As I told Ronna, in order to avoid sentimentality in writing about sweet things, one should throw in a shit or fuck to give the writing an edge.

That might not be good advice, but shit, what do I know?

I know one thing: I do love Ronna. I love her so much. It’s sad that I’m going back to Florida, but I can’t change that, and it’s sad – for our relationship, anyway – that I’m gay, but I can’t change that, either.

Ronna understands. She told me so with a smile, and I believe her.

Teresa said I should have been jealous last weekend with Ronna away with Jordan, but I really wasn’t, and I don’t think it means I love Ronna less.

Jordan phoned as we were kissing and hugging in her bedroom this afternoon. I listened as Ronna recounted him the plot of this week’s St. Elsewhere and explained that she was busy.

She said Jordan asked her out for tonight, but she told him she had other plans.

At first, she said she was going out to dinner and a movie with Lori, but when he asked to go along, Ronna told him I was going, too, and he seemed a bit annoyed, saying that the last four times he’s asked her out, she’s been with me.

So I guess he’s a little jealous – if not of me, of the time I spend with Ronna. The irony is that I’ve hardly seen Ronna at all this month.

As for me, when Ronna told me that she and Jordan fooled around in their hotel room last Sunday morning, I wasn’t upset; in fact, I was a little relieved.

I don’t like feeling guilty about my desires for men, so I’m glad Ronna has another guy who wants her – even if she says it’s only because he doesn’t have another woman right now.

Like all of us, Jordan is responsible for filling in his own weekends (though I’m not sure Teresa would agree).

Enough.

Ronna and I made love on her couch, and it was as intense as it was – well, shit, I can’t describe lovemaking.

I just know I’ve rarely felt like that. If you want clinical observations, it was probably one of the ten best orgasms I’ve ever had in my life.

I completely lost myself in her; I let go while holding on, and then I never wanted to let go of her again. Stuff like that. It was terrific.

Even when I first met her at 70th and Broadway at 1 PM, I couldn’t keep my hands off her and we walked to Diane’s Uptown with our arms around each other’s shoulder.

I waited while Ronna did some errands and then we went back to her place until 5:30 PM, when we left for the Village and our dinner with Lori at the Figaro on Broadway and Macdougal.

It was a mild day. This morning the weatherman said this has been one of the warmest falls we’ve ever had in New York. It’s been nearly six months – half of 1984 – that I’ve been here, and I’ll never forget this time of my life.

I feel so satisfied. I feel that I’ve experienced the best of life, that all the little annoyances and frustrations mean nothing now, that it doesn’t matter whether I get an NEA fellowship or if People uses my photograph.

Mike Snow left a message for me to call him, and apparently he didn’t know they had my photo, so who knows what will be with People? I’ve lived.

Gary Stein called this morning and said he was asking local Broward politicos what questions they’d ask Reagan and Mondale in Sunday night’s debate, and I tried to come up with something witty. It feels good to know I’m still a part of life in Florida.

Oh God, this is going to sound so sloppy, but if I died now – I’ve always said this, but it’s easier to say than experience – I’d be glad go, knowing how good my life has been. I’ve had everything.TC mark

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