A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late June, 1985

Saturday, June 22, 1985

2 PM. Last evening Pete phoned to say that our roundtable on pop culture would be held on Saturday, August 3, so that we could accommodate Michael Kasper and Lynne Tillman.

Then, at 9 PM, Josh phoned from work. All week he’s been working long hours like a demon, and he’s at the office today, too. We’re scheduled to have dinner together this evening.

This morning I did most of my packing for Florida, I did a wash, and I called Ronna to say goodbye.

Things were different when I left New York in January, when Ronna and I were still lovers. Not being with her has made the past eight weeks less joyful than I’d expected, but it’s also forced me to confront my needs for a male lover.

With AIDS a growing threat, however, it’s vital that everyone, even heterosexuals, take great care in selecting sexual partners.

The American Medical Association and many gay groups have told people to be monogamous or at least very cautious. Still, I yearn for someone I could love.

Obviously, a lot of that is sexual: when I see all the cute West Side guys walking around in shorts and t-shirts, I feel the same kind of lust that straight guys feel when they see nice-looking women.

But as much as I want a beautiful body, I also would like the joy and playfulness of intimacy that I had with Ronna and Sean.

I keep thinking I’ve got larger issues in my life to settle, but it seems silly not to pursue a possible relationship that could bring me a lot of happiness.

Anyway, we’ll see. I’m fairly sore from working out, but I’m going to try to exercise now while watching a movie I rented. Catch you later.

*

4:30 PM. When I have to make a change in my life and take a trip, I become more thoughtful and less optimistic. Right now, my eyes are still wet from crying.

The film I rented, Cal, was about The Troubles in Northern Ireland. It was so sad to see people’s lives destroyed by stupid people’s inability to live with one another. At one point, someone in the film says, “Sometimes I think Hitler was right.”

I was already crying when I stopped the videotape to rewind it when the movie ended, and on the TV screen President Reagan was himself in tears as he finished a eulogy to the marines who were killed this week in Lebanon.

Both he and Mrs. Reagan were weeping as they put Purple Hearts on the flag-draped coffins. This lousy world!

Much of the time, I — and the Yuppies of my generation — feel if we just work hard enough, play hard enough, perfect our bodies and minds, and fatten our wallets, the world will grow better and better.

Like Pangloss in Candide, we’re in for a rude surprise. Even an optimist (all futurists have to be optimists) like Toffler ends his book by saying that what we need most in life is a sense of humor and “an appetite for surrealism.”

This is such a sad planet, a pathetic, crazy place. How does one go on?

*

9 PM. Josh, looking exhausted, got over here at 6 PM. He’s been working overtime this week because he, Joyce, Larry and others are working on a project on their own, which they plan to turn into a business.

It’s a system for management and billing for PCs at orphanages and nursing homes, a software package they’d like to sell around the country.

Of course, working at it while they’re employed at Blue Cross is dangerous since they’re doing it illegally: it’s theft of resources. Still, Josh might do well — very well financially — if he’s on his own.

He turned down the Board of Ed job (“I never imagined I’d make $40,000, and here I am, turning it down”) and hopes to start working three days a week, twelve hours each day.

I tried to get Josh to relax — he definitely looked pooped — and we had dinner. Then I walked him to the subway and wished him a happy birthday tomorrow.

I’m just about ready to go.


Sunday, June 23, 1985

3:30 PM. I’m in a 727 on the ground in Orlando. In twenty minutes we should be taking off for Fort Lauderdale. So far this is the closest I’ve gotten to Disney World. The flight down here was smooth.

Last night I had some trouble getting to sleep, but I wasn’t really nervous.

Teresa called this morning to say that she was going to Philadelphia to meet Deirdre. I had breakfast, cleaned the apartment, took a shower, and mailed out the eight résumés to the schools which advertised in today’s Times.

Then I schlepped the two suitcases (one of them, Jerry’s) to West End Avenue, where I caught a cab to LaGuardia. I’m a little queasy but generally okay.

It shouldn’t be more than an hour before we’re on the ground on Fort Lauderdale — I hope so, anyway.

*

9:30 PM. Our flight to Fort Lauderdale was quick and uneventful. Although I’ve conditioned myself to have a fear of flying, there’s really very little to fear.

Today was my 35th flight since Christmas 1979, when I came to Davie and this house for my first visit.

Jonathan was at the airport to pick me up, but after I got through the Hertz counter, they said getting my car would be faster if I took their courtesy bus — and it was, since it took me directly to the Corolla I’d rented.

Because I’ve been away only eight weeks, it didn’t feel that peculiar to be driving along State Road 84.

Mom and Dad and Marc have not come home yet from the flea market in the Miami Beach Convention Center.

After looking at my mail, I fell into a semi-sleep in Marc’s bed because the disorientation and the long trip had left me exhausted. Then I had a bite to eat and watched a funny move, Top Secret, on cable TV.

I’m a bit too numb to write any more this evening.


Monday, June 24, 1985

9 PM. I’ll be returning to New York sooner than I expected because my FIU class was cancelled. Only three people registered, and they couldn’t let it run. It’s a terrible shame. I know it would have been a good class; the instructor, Ty Matthews, is excellent, and I’m sure I would have learned a lot.

This has sort of ruined my summer plans. I could have picked up my Guaranteed Student Loan check any time in the last six weeks, and I could have made plans to attend classes at CUNY, The New School or elsewhere — or I could have taken one of those job offers to teach summer school.

This morning, everything started out fine. I got to Boca at 8:30 AM and was out of FAU’s Financial Aid office with my check in three minutes and on the Broward Community College campus by 9:10 AM.

When I went to find Ty Matthews, he was with Larry McFarlane and Glen Rose, who were amazingly friendly to me, given the fracas over Legislators in Love last year.

The other two students who registered for Teaching Word Processing had both come a long way, one woman up from Tavernier Key, the other down from West Palm Beach.

After a call to FIU’s Dade campus, Dr. Matthews said it was unlikely they’d ever offer this course again. He’d mailed out leaflets to all the business teachers in four counties and couldn’t understand, what with word processing becoming standard in business classes, why so few students had enrolled. Last summer he had a full class.

Disgusted, we filled out withdrawal and refund forms; I know it will take months before I get any money back from FIU.

Naturally, I felt very depressed, and I still feel bad, though I’m hoping all will work out for the best.

This afternoon, I accomplished basically all I had to do here in Florida: I deposited the $2344 GSL check in my credit union account, dropped my FAU classes at the school’s Broward campus, and bought stamps so that Mom can continue to send me my mail.

Mom came home very late last night, so I didn’t see her till this afternoon. She wants me to stay a few days, but I felt like leaving tonight. Now I figure I’ll go back to New York on Wednesday.

I’ll take advantage of Teresa’s absence to get a full four weeks on my own in the apartment. Maybe I can find a summer job or take some courses or do both.

Everyone here seems okay. Mom, Dad and Marc just came off long days working the Miami Beach flea market, where they didn’t make much money. Marc is still seeing Adriana and staying over at her house tonight, leaving me the bedroom to sleep in.

I spoke with Marc, who said he’d like to buy a small house next year. Real estate prices are now so depressed that Mom and Dad figure they might as well sell this house, and even if they don’t make a profit, they can buy a larger house (not a condo like this townhouse).

Jonathan said that business at his store is excellent, and he doesn’t seem to miss going to school.

We brought in Italian food for dinner as the boring Lebanese hostage story on the news was our background noise. I’m sick of this story already; the news media play into the hands of the terrorists, as in Tehran in 1979 and 1980, and we’re constantly numbed by detail after detail.

The only saving grace, to my mind, is that Reagan’s Teflon may wear off and he’ll be able to do no more than Carter could with Iran.

Telescope arrived, with my story, “My Basic Problem,” bringing up the rear. Bad news, though: the magazine is folding because of a lack of support. Sad, but typical in these times. The one magazine that would publish me in the last couple of years can’t sustain itself. (Maybe I’m a jinx.)

Also in the mail: An anthology of Florida writing would like a submission from me. I got five letters from agoraphobes in response to my query, but I’m saving them till tomorrow. Crad writes that Greek stupidity (poor security at Athens airport) led to the hostage crisis.

Of course, I’m sure he doesn’t say that to his Greek grandparents, who have decided to sell the house in Jamaica. Crad will get about $65,000 from the sale, which will obviously help him although he couldn’t live off the interest (and of course, Crad being Crad, he wouldn’t live off the principal).

I’ll see him on his annual New York visit in July.

It does surprise me how quickly I adjusted to being in Florida; by this morning, I didn’t feel disoriented at all. I’d like to be able to adapt easily to Florida and New York and be able to move between the two.

So now I have $2350 in the credit union, $2500 in my Citibank account, and $5300 in First Nationwide Savings. That’s over $10,000, though of course I owe more than double that amount. However, I just have to forget I owe money and keep all that information in motion.

Probably I won’t return to Florida till next winter. For the fall, there are many more opportunities in New York, or so it seems. However, I can always fall back on Florida if I have to, I guess.


Wednesday, June 26, 1985

9 PM.  Back in New York, I’m feeling confused.  Not that I’m having trouble orienting myself after my trip to Florida: the one positive aspect of this trip is that the gulf between the two places no longer seems so large.

But I’d planned my whole summer around this computer education course at FIU for the next three weeks, and now that it’s been cancelled, I feel empty-handed and have no idea what to do.

Last night my parents took me to Hurdy Gurdy’s, but I wasn’t very nice to them, at least at first, because I kept bitching about how things hadn’t worked out.  Then I realized I wasn’t being very likable or gracious, so I made an effort to forget my problems and talk with Mom and Dad.

Still, being in their house subjects me to Dad’s constant worrying and Mom’s nagging, and it brings out a side of me – the bratty kid – that I don’t display or even feel when I’m on my own.

Marc again went to Adriana’s, so I had his room to myself and could enjoy cable TV until late.  This morning, after saying goodbye to everyone, I left at 10:30 AM, taking State Road 84 to the airport.

It upset me that Hertz made me pay the full weekly fare for the rental car: with insurance, it came to $85.  Our flight, on a 767, left after noon.  By now I’m so used to takeoffs that my heart doesn’t race as the plane lifts off the ground.

Due to thunderstorms, the flight was bumpy, but I did manage to watch the movie and eat most of the lunch. Finally, I feel pretty much like a seasoned flyer.

If I didn’t have so much to cope with, I might have felt more depressed, but at Newark, I had to get my luggage and then get the bus to Port Authority and then take the subway home.

I wasn’t thrilled to find Fern’s cousin Wayne, a fortyish Chicago businessman, staying here.  Apparently, Teresa had given him and his girlfriend the apartment while I was gone and they weren’t expecting me back this early.

But they left after I arrived, with Wayne giving me instructions on what to say and not to mention Sue (the girlfriend) when his wife calls tonight.  How sleazy!

Teresa called to say she screwed up some money matters – so what else is new? – and that I should make out and mail some checks to various places.

Her brother-in-law keeps telling her that she shouldn’t be going to Europe with the Brooklyn co-op closing next week, but by now Teresa and her grandmother are somewhere over the North Atlantic on their way to Italy. I wouldn’t be shocked if they come home earlier than they’re scheduled to.

After taking everything out of my luggage and into its proper place, I went out to buy a few staples at the grocery and then phoned Josh and Susan to let them know I was back.

Josh said he had just gotten back from Rheinbeck. He’s been working so hard and now he’s very concerned about Blue Cross because Joyce handed in her resignation as of July 11.

She’s taking a better job that will have her in L.A. for months at a time.  Josh’s other news is that James returned to New York on Sunday. I hope he’s doing okay.

Susan said she had a great weekend at Rochelle’s upstate: the country was peaceful, and she met some nice people.  Today her doctor told her that she’s in her second month and that it’s okay to go ahead with plans for the trip to Britain.

Spencer told  her that New Mexico is hot and lovely and he really enjoys the zen center classes. (I think that’s the same place where Miriam and Robert go.)

Tom sent me a letter saying that he got the sole $5,000 Literature Fellowship in Louisiana this year (“I should be happier about it”). He will be at Linda Francis’s Chambers Street loft next weekend, but there’s still no word on his application for a sabbatical.

Life goes on, it seems.  (I’ll always remember the last words of Sean’s final letter to me: “And life goes on . . .”)


Friday, June 28, 1985

5 PM on another very cool, dark and rainy day.

Last evening Justin called me from the World Trade Center, where he was temping for Shearson Lehman. He’d checked in with his machine and gotten my message.

Since Justin had an interview for a directing job at 7:15 PM on Theatre Row, he suggested we meet for dinner at Marvin’s on 43rd and Ninth. Grateful for the company, I was more than happy to put up with a rainy rush hour.

Over dinner, Justin told me he was in a quandary. He just started temping and has a job at Shearson through next week, but then his friend Ava got him an interview for a showcase production of And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little, which she will be acting in.

The problem is that rehearsals will be during the day, and Justin is nervous because he’s got only $1000 in the bank. Although he will just about be able to pay his bills, it will be tight, so he’d like the security of the salary his temp job will bring in.

I reminded Justin that he quit his job with Eddie Murphy because his administrative résumé was outweighing his creative résumé, and that he’d intended to direct whenever he could. If he needed a loan, I told him I’d give it to him.

I don’t even know if he’ll get this directing job, but it’s an opportunity he shouldn’t turn down.

After dinner, I wished him luck and came home, where I read The New York Native, catching up on the gay world. While I’m not as active in the gay community as I probably should be — for example, I could be doing volunteer work with AIDS patients — I do identify with it and support it.

As the 16th anniversary of Stonewall arrives, there’s controversy caused by the AIDS crisis. I was never promiscuous, but that wasn’t out of any moral superiority; either it was cowardice (which now seems to have been well-advised) or else I didn’t need the validation others did because I got it in other ways.

The people who were promiscuous don’t deserve AIDS any more than Grandpa Herb deserved to die of lung cancer because he smoked. Even though I feel queasy at the thought of anonymous bathhouse sex, tt’s a matter of health, not morality.

Maybe it’s because I’m afraid of being judged, but I’d rather not judge others. Remember, at Stonewall it was the drag queens who fought back.

This morning, after reading the papers and doing the laundry, I went to the personnel office of the Board of Education at 65 Court Street in Brooklyn.

I’d brought my transcripts to be evaluated for what they call a temporary per diem certificate. It was my worst encounter in a long time with cold, bloated bureaucracy.

I became Number 22 as I filled out a form and waited with others, most of whom didn’t look like a better class of people than you’d see at Unemployment. When I was finally called (“Go in there, Number 22”) to see a supervisor, she was preoccupied and distant — and quite annoyed when I asked if they had a specialty in computers.

She told me that they hired computer teachers from among other teachers already in a school, and so I signed up to be an English teacher in high school.

Next, I was sent out to fill out more forms and to be fingerprinted. The whole experience made me certain I don’t want to teach in the New York City public schools, for I already felt beaten down and dehumanized by the application process.

I felt I was being treated as if I were applying for welfare benefits — and I was depressed by the typical sullen, uncaring New York City employees running the show.

(It made me nostalgic for Florida, which is saying a lot.)

I had a lousy lunch at an overpriced restaurant with slow service, and all the negative feelings I had for Brooklyn surfaced again. It seems to me like a dying Rust Belt city where nothing works.

Back at the Board of Ed, I waited on another line and got told there were too many people there for them to evaluate my transcripts until Monday, July 8.

While on line, I heard horror stories about paychecks delayed weeks and months — all the nightmares of bureaucracy.

On a filthy IRT train home, I thought: This school system is beyond help, just like the transit system. Our train smelled from track fires; a new 1 train was being taken out of service (these Canadian trains all seem to be as flawed as the Grumman Flxible buses were); and when I got to 86th Street, they were announcing that all service to Brooklyn was suspended.

The public schools are a prime candidate for disintermediation (Hawken’s term) or bypassing (Naisbitt’s term). It would be so much simpler, purer and more effective for me to start teaching two or three kids at home.

I keep saying that society has to reward intelligent, creative, competent people like myself, but I don’t know if I could hack the school system or other bureaucracies.

This past year, when I’ve been largely on my own, has made me more intolerant of stupid rules and stupid people.

By the time I got home today, I felt I’d gone through lots of stress — and that made me realize how lucky I’ve been not to be working if the alternative is drudgery.

Therefore, I needn’t feel guilty about not being employed, for I’m using my mind a lot more now than I would if I were in some job where I’d be just an automaton.


Sunday, June 30, 1985

4 PM. The first six months of 1985 are gone now.  I don’t know how to assess them or how to assess where I am now.  (Yes, I know I’m in Manhattan.)

Last evening I went over to Ronna’s, and from there we went to the Ziegfeld Theatre to meet her new friend Ellen, who’s 25 and cocky and bright.  “What’s your story?” she asked me as we walked around, and that put me at a loss for words.

Ellen wanted to know about my life, and I couldn’t imagine how to describe myself without sounding like a pathetic failure, so I probably came off like an asshole instead.  I don’t know: it was as if I’d forgotten how to act with people because I’ve been spending so much time alone.

Maybe part of it had something to do with Ronna.  Seeing her, I realized I no longer feel as attracted to her as I once did, and I wondered if the attraction Ronna had for me was because I always knew we were going to have sex.

Oh God, I can’t even express myself clearly anymore.  What I’m trying to say, I think, is that the expectation of sex with Ronna led me to view her in a sexual way, and now that the expectation is gone, so is the attraction.

St. Elmo’s Fire was a despicable movie for its pretentious attitudes and stereotypes (especially of a flouncing gay character).  It’s been years since I’ve heard an audience boo and hiss a picture like they did last night.

I resent all the young actors playing college graduates. I was gratified, at least, that they couldn’t make the characters seem like anything else but shallow, selfish people.

Going out of the theater, we ran into Alice, Peter and his son Brendan, who’s grown up into a teenager, and I was very glad to see them.  (Alice was the only one who liked the movie.)

It was 9:30 PM by then, and because I hadn’t eaten dinner, my system was all upset.  As we walked uptown, I grew increasingly irritated and didn’t want to have dinner at Ronna’s with her, Ellen, and Lori, so I pleaded a stomachache and took the subway the rest of the way home.

Ronna was probably upset, and I guess I was being rude, but I needed to be alone.  I ate something and then got into bed with the Sunday Times.  All night I tossed and turned and had sick dreams of frustration and anger, and this morning I awoke feeling depressed.

I saw myself as someone who never lived up to his potential, who never got his shit together: a failure who could never focus on anything long enough to succeed.  Though the line in the movie that got the most hisses was “I never thought I’d feel this tired at 22,” I can understand the feeling, in a way.

To shake off my depression, I went to Columbus Circle and spent two hours watching the Gay Pride Parade.

Sixteen years ago the Stonewall riot happened; at the time, I was just coming out – no, not sexually, but out of the house after my terrible winter of agoraphobia.

I was eighteen.  Do I want to explore agoraphobia by writing a book about it now?  Is it a way of getting back to where I began to understand how I got from there to here?

Brad was a part of that summer of 1969. When I called him yesterday, I got a recording that said his new number is in the 617 area code: Boston.  Oh well. I’d wanted to touch base with him again.

Back to the parade: it was great. It’s so good to see tens of thousands of gay men and women, black and white and brown and yellow, young and old, disabled people, parents of gays and gay parents, and all the various groups: the gay police officers, scientists, teachers.

The parade got off to a rousing start with the Gay Apple Corps marching band, though the banner that expressed the theme – “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet” – could be read in two ways in this age of the AIDS epidemic.

A car with two couples, two men and two men who each had been together for fifty years, was next, and hundreds of people followed.

I clapped as the lesbians’ groups passed, and the alumni and college students from the various schools, the religious groups (a guy wearing a yarmulke held hands with a Catholic priest), the Parents and Families of Gays (always a crowd-pleaser), the AIDS patients marching behind a banner that said “Fighting For Our Lives” (“That gives me a lump in my throat,” said the woman next to me), the city politicians, the gay youth – some from the Harvey Milk School – and all the others.

I hate parades and crowds, and standing in one spot for two hours made me dizzy and headachy enough not to want to go to the rally at West Street – but I was very glad I went to Columbus Circle.

Not to be corny, but it was beautiful to see so many diverse people with whom I shared something.  I wouldn’t like them all, or maybe even most of them, but all knew what it was like to feel different and to be oppressed in some way.

Although I wish I’d had someone to go with, I was still happy to go alone.  (Later, I spoke with Justin, who’s still uncomfortable with the idea that he’s gay.  I like him, but he’s such a wimp sometimes.)

It has to impress people that there are so many gay men and lesbians out.  Imagine what it must be like for a confused boy or girl who thinks he or she is the only one in the world.

As the last group paraded by and were followed by the clean-up crew, I left feeling better about humankind, if not about myself.

I still have not accomplished very much in this life.TC mark

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