A Young Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-March, 1985

Tuesday, March 12, 1985

1 PM. Yesterday’s Computers in the Classroom class went okay although I have little patience for the dumb women schoolteachers who are my fellow students.

Even Pam, whose patience is legendary, seems to find them more difficult than the elementary school kids she’s accustomed to.

As we go on, much of the classwork is old hat to me since Pam’s already covered it in her BASIC Programming class: yesterday, for example, we went over FLASH, INVERSE and FOR/NEXT.

Still, it’s good to reinforce this stuff so I can have basic BASIC down pat. Pam gave me 100%/A+ – on my vocabulary word project, and I think I’ll get an A in the course.

It was gorgeous out when we took our break at 5:15 PM and also splendid when we left at sunset.

I’ve been falling asleep earlier and earlier each night, and last night I was dozing off by 9 PM. I seem to need a lot of sleep these days. But I was up at 6 AM, and from 8 AM to 9 AM I spent an hour lifting weights and making myself queasy.

I called Ronna because I remembered a dream in which I was walking up West End Avenue to 95th Street and thinking how nice it was being on the West Side again.

Having figured I’d get Ronna before she left for work so I could wish her a good day, I was taken aback when I discovered I’d awakened her on a day off.

Ronna worked this weekend and last, and so she was entitled to take today off. I apologized several times even though Ronna, bless her, said it was pleasant to wake up to the sound of my voice.

Although we talked about nothing in particular, I was glad to speak with her.

Before it got too hot, I did some errands outside. It’s already getting difficult for me to be out in the heat of the day: by 11 AM, it’s 80° and the sun is glaring down. If we don’t get some serious rain soon, Florida’s going to be in big trouble.

I’ve just had lunch of cottage cheese and vanilla-almond bark Tofutti and feel myself about ready to lie down before I go off to FAU-Broward.

*

9 PM. I had hoped to exercise some more now, but I’m terribly sleepy.

As I expected, I got 100% on my statistics test in Measurement class. It’s been a revelation to me how good I am at learning something I once thought so alien to me, and it occurs to me how much I may have limited myself over the years.

Last night, while reading a Times review of a story collection by a talented young humor writer, I began to feel sorry for myself.

Again, I wondered: Is it simply that I’m not good enough, or did my stories just get lost in the literary shuffle?

I even wrote Michiko Kakutani of the Times, sending her my books and asking her if she felt I had enough talent to justify my continuing as a writer. Of course, that’s a decision I alone have to make.

Am I fooling myself when I tell myself that writing is only one of the talents I have? And that that’s why I shouldn’t worry about the failure of my writing to gain critical or popular attention?

Still, there are times – like last night – when my sense of failure seems overwhelming. Luckily, one can’t live with lots of self-pity for long, even in isolation.

In class today, Dr. Murray began discussing teacher-made tests and how to construct effective ones.

The FAU summer course schedule is out, and in my field, they’re offering nothing but LOGO, PILOT, Measurement and the equivalent of Computers in the Classroom – so I don’t feel I’ll be missing anything by going to New York.

I’ll register for something for the Summer B semester and then withdraw before the term begins on June 24 so I can get my money back.

So I’ll either take the three-week FIU administrator’s course Ray is giving or just come back to Florida to pick up my guaranteed student loan check.


Wednesday, March 13, 1985

9 PM. I can hardly keep my eyes open. Towards the end of Pam’s BASIC class, I was struck by severe stomach cramps and diarrhea. Feeling sick, I came home to lie down and take three Triavils.

After half an hour, I felt a bit better and went to Ray’s LOGO class, where I quickly did the assessment items. I’m glad I got through my classes, but I’m not sure if I have a virus or just a stomachache caused by food or tension. I know I need sleep.

I feel the need to escape into my dreams. Last night I dreamed that there was a photo of me and Grandma Ethel, all bundled up for a winter trip, on the front page of the New York Times. She was embarrassed by the publicity.

I also dreamed Ronna was twins and I was her boyfriend, but I also kissed the guy who was her twin’s boyfriend.

Gee, I feel really sick again. When I got home, I had a tuna sandwich, and maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. I’ll write more later.


Thursday, March 14, 1985

5 PM. I’ve just showered after exercising; I got very sweaty and tired after only a mild workout. Perhaps I am ill, though I felt nothing worse than wooziness and queasiness.

(Woozy and Queasy: aren’t they two of the Seven Dwarfs?)

Well, those Triavils really knocked me out last night. I slept for nearly twelve hours, dreaming that I was asleep and dreaming.

This morning I felt like I’d been drugged, which I had been. No more triple doses of Triavil for me. Obviously, my system isn’t used to them as it was back in the days when I took three every night.

Yesterday, like today – like every day it seems — was glaringly sunny, warm (about 85°) and boringly perfect weather-wise.

The one good event today was that a copy of Menu, the literary magazine edited by George Myers, which arrived in the mail.

They printed Susan Kurnas’s glowing review of I Brake for Delmore Schwartz and Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog. Last year she’d sent me a copy of the review, so I won’t quote it here, but it made me feel good.

What I need to do is to take more pleasure in the review and not dismiss it (“She’s being kind to me”) the way I never dismiss bad reviews. Why can’t I take the good reviews to heart?

In BASIC yesterday, Pam went over the character string functions: here’s where it really starts to get complicated.

As I said, I don’t know what caused my attack of diarrhea at the end of class, but I’m glad I fought it enough to get through LOGO, where I had no trouble doing Ray’s assessment items.

Today in the lab – while I was struggling with Pam’s assignment (I never did finish it after two frustrating hours) – Ray asked me if I had a master’s degree.

When I said yes, I had two, he said, “Okay, just in case we ever need an adjunct to teach LOGO or something, either a grad course or in-service…” That’s really good to hear.

So why can’t I enjoy it? Maybe it’s just today, the blahs.

Teresa called and said she’s flying in with a friend tomorrow and staying until Sunday. Maybe her visit will help pick me up.

I just hope it won’t be a disaster. I’ve got to do everything I can to let Teresa feel at home here.

When we talked the other night, she sounded happier than she has in a long time. She started working on Fred Grayson’s Yellow Pages project and seemed to enjoy working out on the street, scaring up ads at stores.

Teresa has nice co-workers (she’s coming down with one of them) and so far, so good.

Latest on her shit list is her ex-roommate in California, who cashed the rent check Teresa gave her before she left.

Meanwhile, Teresa’s possessions are still in San Francisco and she can’t afford to bring them back. I’ll know more when I see her tomorrow after I get back from Boca Raton.

Lisa called last night, profoundly apologetic for not getting back to me.

She has to take 14 education credits before she can get her permanent teaching certificate; right now, she’s got her temporary one.

But there are many jobs for English teachers. In fact, she has her pick of high school jobs in Broward and Palm Beach, and she could have been working in January if she hadn’t been loyal to her job at B’nai B’rith Youth Organization.

Lisa’s two FAU English classes are “worse than BCC: they can’t write at all.”

Like a lot of women friends, Lisa can’t imagine how I could be taking computers and math stuff. She didn’t mention her own poetry, and I’m sure she’s one of the many MFAs who’s fallen by the wayside.

Probably I’m one of them, too. Why do I feel so discouraged today? It’s one of those days when all my efforts seem futile.

*

9 PM. I thought I could relax at my parents’ house while doing the laundry.

But between my parents’ complaining and bickering, Mom’s criticism of the way I did a wash and her admonition not to read the newspaper on her couch, I decided, calmly, to leave rather than stay for the dinner to which I’d been invited.

I don’t enjoy seeing my family. Probably it’s just that they have their ways and problems, and I have mine, and the two don’t jibe. I don’t feel I can talk to my parents about anything.

It’s almost as if they’ve become like my grandparents and it just isn’t worth the bother explaining things to them – not that they have time to listen. It’s sad, but it can’t be helped.

Cleaning up, I found the Florida Arts Council grants handbook and read a sentence that was so clear I can’t imagine how I missed it before: No one who got a fellowship within the last five years is eligible!

Obviously, I missed it because I wanted to miss it; I wanted to believe I had a chance for the grant. That about does it: There’s no reason for me to come back to Florida any more.

As for the FIU course offered in late June, it wouldn’t be worth it to have to stay cooped up in my parents’ house during the hottest part of the year – especially when the course would be of little value to me and when it’s so nice in New York in late June.

I’ll just return for a two-day visit, like Teresa’s visit – or Alice’s – and pick up my GSL check and drop the classes I’ll register for.

Tonight Mom said they’ve got to move to a new warehouse on April 1, so I’ll have the chance then to look through my things and take what I need. This all makes me sad.

Well, grow up, Grayson. You’ll manage in New York: you have before, you will again. Besides, you belong there because that’s where your support system is.

Here in Florida, you’re isolated. Your family doesn’t offer you support, and you don’t have any friends except people who are really into BCC, FIU and FAU and the petty problems of those places.

In New York, there are people you can relate to: friends like Ronna, Teresa, Josh, Justin, Alice and the rest. And it’s so much easier to make friends in New York. It’s not as if you’re going someplace you hate.

Yet I still feel sad about leaving Florida – probably because I feel like a failure. I came here four years ago eager to start over, and here I am, no better off than I was in 1981.

Well, that’s not really true; you’re just in a low mood today.

I guess what scares me the most is: what if I don’t fit in anywhere? Will I be ground down by the rodent marathon of Manhattan?

Stay tuned.


Saturday, March 16, 1985

2 PM. I left Teresa at the beach with her friends and will pick her up later. She loves the beach and wanted to stay there until 6 PM, but I have no patience for it anymore.

It was interesting to see the kids at spring break, and of course I enjoyed looking at all the college guys’ bodies, but it actually was too much for me to appreciate.

I mean, seeing one good-looking young muscular guy is exciting, but seeing a thousand of them in fifteen minutes is too many for the mind to handle.

Also, the beach air reeked of two smells I hate: beer and vomit.

On my own, I’d never go to the beach, and especially not Fort Lauderdale at Spring Break. (Patrick’s reaction when I told him where I was going was, “What? Are you insane?”)

I’m glad Teresa didn’t insist that I stay.

Getting to her friend’s boyfriend’s house last night was difficult enough. He lives at the very worst spot, on Sunrise Boulevard right by the beach, just over the already overloaded drawbridge and just at the start of the Strip.

I had to park several blocks away to pick up Teresa. It was easier to walk once I found a space as someone pulled out.

Teresa looks the same, though her hair has grown in nicely. She and I had a late bite at Hurdy Gurdy’s — by the time we arrived it was after 10 PM — and then we came back here.

I tried to make her comfortable, but I don’t have that many items here. She did get fresh sheets and a pillow. We chatted until midnight before going to sleep.

Actually, I couldn’t sleep. One reason was I felt I needed an extra pillow; anyway, I didn’t get more than three hours of good sleep.

Up at 7 AM, I got ready for school.

It was a warm, cloudless morning, so I dropped Teresa off at my parents’ so she could at least sit out by the pool. Of course, for her, “a pool doesn’t make it.”

After Mary Alice’s class, I picked her up and drove her to the beach. Originally, I was going to stay, but I underestimated my distaste for the glare, the sand and the sun.

Teresa could see I was unhappy and suggested that I could go home. That was fine with me, so I made my way out of the traffic, had lunch out, and came home to relax.

To be on the beach is not relaxing to me anymore. More and more, I’ve come to feel like Alice, who always found the beach a terrible waste of time.

I feel there are so many more constructive things to do, and if I want to rest, I’d rather sack out in an air-conditioned house.

Yesterday’s FAU LOGO class was fun, as we went over tail recursion and embedded recursion. I now see that I’m ahead of most of the class.

When we get to words and list processing, I seem to catch on faster than most. Even though class lasted until 7:30 PM, I felt energized by it.

In today’s FIU class, Mary Alice sent a replacement teacher who gave us an introduction to PC-FILE, a public domain database for IBM. We created files of friend’s addresses and phone books.

In the mail I got my new Bank One Visa card, complete with $2,500 credit limit: the highest credit limit I’ve gotten.

How do I feel about Teresa being here? Okay, I guess. It’s good to have company.

But I still have a great deal of resentment towards her because of her bossiness. I don’t really want to return to her apartment; I’m much happier in my own domain.

Teresa will never change. She sees all her problems as caused by others: Amira, Bruce, et al.

Really, since she got back from Europe last summer, she’s totally fucked up everything, starting with the way she left her cushy job with the state, which she already fucked up before she left.

Then she had all that trouble with her housemates on Fire Island, ending, as usual, with the police being called in and lawsuits threatened and money lost.

There were a couple of small claims cases for the Berkshires house with the renters there, and then she ended her job with Eddie and Joseph under the usual bad conditions: threats, screams, and money lost.

Her Brooklyn co-op deal went sour and was rescued only by her sister and brother-in-law. (Teresa’s lucky her family has two lawyers.) Her investments with Bruce were a total disaster.

She made a rash decision to move to San Francisco and take a job with her cousin, but upon arriving, she discovered she didn’t want to work, couldn’t rent a car because of her bad credit, and so she came back to New York in just a few weeks.

Need I go into the way she ended up screwing her first subtenant, Sharon, or the fracas with Amira that ended a long friendship? Today she told me it’s a relief not to have Amira around.

Teresa is like a self-deluding soap opera lady, always rationalizing her disasters. She has a lot to give, and she can be a good friend and generous person. Although she wouldn’t admit it, Teresa’s worst enemy is herself.

But I can’t be a witness to her fuck-ups much longer. If only I had some sense that she was learning from all this, but she goes blithely on, unaware of how self-destructive she can be.

As for my writing and my schoolwork, I can tell she feels it’s all trivial.

But if I’m not going to stay with Teresa, can I return to New York and find an affordable place to live? Can I move back to the nether reaches of the outer boroughs?

Well, look at it this way: I’ll still be less isolated than I was in Florida.

Manhattan is only a subway ride away, even if it’s a long one. It won’t be like being on the West Side, but I’m going to have to “get real.” I’ll be happy to go from sublet to sublet if I can.

Maybe I will return to Florida next winter so I’ll have to get a real job: that will build up some needed strength of character.

If I say Teresa is a bit lazy, then what can I say about myself? Am I that much better?


Sunday, March 17, 1985

2 PM. I just came out of the shower after a 90-minute workout. Exercise always makes me feel better.

It’s dark and rainy now, and although I know the weather has spoiled my family’s business at the flea market and Teresa’s day at the beach, I enjoy the cool winds and dark skies. I think the New York weather I miss the most are grey spring and fall days.

Teresa’s visit has caused me to do a lot of soul-searching. Our values are so different that I know I can’t live with her, even though it would be the most convenient thing.

She gets on my nerves, and I don’t want to go back to being constrained by her domineering presence. We just don’t speak the same language, although there are cognates that we can use to communicate.

But I see Teresa as a highly neurotic, frivolous, lazy person. She probably sees me as a rigid, moralistic drudge, but she needs me more than I need her.

Do I sound cruel or pompous?

I would like to remain her friend, but I need to ease up on our relationship. She’s so tenacious in her grip, I feel choky when I’m with her. If she’d be honest, she’d probably say she feels she needs to “watch herself” when she’s with me, too.

The things Teresa finds fun, I abhor (for the most part), and she isn’t interested in the things I find fun and would probably dispute that they were fun at all.

If I had the same kind of relationship with Josh or Justin or Alice, I’d probably feel the same way about them — but none of them would want such a close relationship.

To me, last night was a disaster. I picked Teresa up at her friend’s opulent penthouse — the terrace view of the beach and the Intercoastal was spectacular — and then we went to South Miami to visit her friend Jessica, a Fire Islander who’s even more neurotic than Teresa, and Jessica’s roommate, a total mess: a girl who got involved with drug smuggling and who’s been waiting for a month for her German lover, who may or may not pick her up.

I hate to sound judgmental, but these people are fucked-up. A mad, stoned drive with them through Coral Gables had me both scared and fuming with rage at their recklessness.

I hate these people, the Fire Island types Teresa collects: they represent smug, materialistic, greedy and shallow values. . .

There I go again, sounding like some insufferable Jeremiah. But if I don’t have to hang out with people like that, I don’t have to think about them and I won’t be so self-righteous.

Look, I’ve got enough to think about with my own life. Maybe I’m as fucked-up as they are, but in a different way. (That I don’t see it may be a testimony to my healthy outlook or my own neurotic delusions.)

I’ve got just six weeks before I return to New York. Some decisions have to be made, but I’ll make them in due time.

Justin called with big news: he’s directing his first Off-Off-Broadway play, the Werbacher twins’ Ferry Tales.

His staged reading a few weeks ago caught the eye of the director of the Meat and Potatoes Theater Company upstairs, and when an opening developed from mid-April to mid-May, the man asked Justin to fill it.

With rehearsals taking place nearly every day, he’s very busy, but I bet it will be good. And I’m happy that I’ll get a chance to see the play for myself.

After Ari moved out, Justin took over his room, and he and Kenny got a new roommate. See: other people move in and out of apartments in New York. So can I. Being back there will be interesting.

*

9 PM. The rain seems to have loosened my pen, and I want to write a little. It’s funny how exhilarating a storm can be after so many days of sunshine. I feel I write better when it’s not sunny and warm.

I just got off the phone with Ronna — what a treasure she is. We communicate so well, not just about feelings, but about ideas. Ronna is the only woman I can talk to about ideas and get intelligent, challenging responses. She also provokes my own thinking.

Today she saw Albert Innaurato’s new play about a gay writer in Soho confronting himself, his long-lost son, and a teenage boy he falls in love with. Ronna said the first act was so good, it made her want to give up any idea of being a playwright.

We talked about so many different things that it felt like an intellectual feast for me.  Compared to the way I relate to Teresa — who must be getting on the plane back to New York right now — Ronna and I get along as if we’re one consciousness.

If there’s one regret I have about being gay — and by now there is only one — it’s that I really do love Ronna and wish I could be her lifelong companion. But a marriage between us would never last: not only would I end up hurting her, I’d also lose her. . . and her respect.

I hope she finds a guy who appreciates her. If that means I have to give up her friendship, at least on a regular basis, then I should do it. She’s too special for me to keep her dangling — if that’s what I’m doing.

I know I need a guy to satisfy me in a way Ronna can’t. Probably a guy couldn’t satisfy me in quite the way Ronna does, but primarily I’m attracted to men: at the beach, I’m reflexively drawn to guys and not women.

I still think about Sean: I had something with him that I couldn’t have with a woman. I hope Sean is happy and that he’ll be graduating college soon and becoming a fine person.

What about my larger future? I’m scared, but I feel there will be opportunities for me. I feel good about the courses I’m taking and the way I’m educating myself.

The only thing really troubling me now is my dangerously wobbly front caps. Well, I’ll just have to spend the time and money to replace them. I’m really broke, but if I have to use up all my credit and declare bankruptcy, I will. Corporations do it, and so can I.

The inequities of our consumer culture enrage me, and I don’t feel immoral for taking advantage of student loans, unemployment insurance and credit cards. In fact, I think I’m pretty clever to work the system the way I do.

Am I corrupt?TC mark

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