A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late December, 1985

Sunday, December 22, 1985

4 PM. I’ve just come back from Ronna’s, where I spent most of the day.

We were in bed mostly, and it was great. It’s wonderful how it never seems to cease, the feelings Ronna and I have for one another.

I worry, of course: here I go again, leaving her in the lurch. If I make her feel bad, then today wasn’t worth it.

Of course now it seems like this afternoon was worth anything. To be held, and kissed and hugged and sucked and licked, and to do all of these things to Ronna – it was heaven.

For me, sexual intimacy is a refuge from the real world. As I make love, I tend to have images similar to those I get in dreams. I feel wonderful now, and I think I left Ronna feeling pretty good, too.

Poor kid, she has to work tonight at a Hebrew Arts School benefit conference and reception, and the details were on her mind.

I’d thought about us making love, but it wasn’t till we were sitting across from each other at the Argo Diner having brunch that I looked across and began to feel incredible passion. She looked so damn beautiful, I couldn’t believe it; I melted and got tremendously excited at the same time.

After knowing each other 15 years, and being lovers since 1972 – despite the long gaps – Ronna and I are attuned to each other.

Does that mean we love each other, or do married couples who hate each other also have fantastic sex because they know each other so well?

I’m gay, so wouldn’t I prefer to be with a guy? (It’s hard to imagine sex being better. Sex with Sean was as good as, but not better, than sex with Ronna.)

Anyway, with me, a little goes a long way, and I feel I could live another six months off the memories of today. Maybe I shouldn’t question the good feelings.

Partly I do it because I’m afraid, afraid that I don’t really deserve to feel good, and that I’ll have to pay for this in some way. That’s ridiculously superstitious and neurotic; it’s sad that I feel so bad about myself.

Speaking of feeling bad about oneself, as I was reading the paper at 11 PM last night, I heard Teresa put her key in the door.

Sniffling, she explained that Michael had told her he wanted to be alone. “He’s a crazy person,” she said.

At 8 PM, he began telling her that he felt stifled, that he wanted to see other people, that he needed his space. Teresa doesn’t want her “space”; she wants the security of a 24-hour-a-day relationship, and the evening’s discussion – “not an argument . . . that would be easier” – upset her very much.

She said she was stunned when Michael asked her to leave so he could be alone.

“I thought he was acting strange all week because he was sick,” she told me. She and I talked until after midnight.

She felt Michael ruined her Christmas and she isn’t sure where this leaves her California trip or the sharing of the Fire Island house this summer, and she feels fate is repeating itself.

Probably she made demands Michael wasn’t willing to accede to. Teresa admitted he doesn’t need a relationship, not after two divorces (one very recent).

She’s not here right now, and she could be at Michael’s for all I know, but I’m sure this whole relationship will end up badly, in true Teresa fashion.

Whatever problems Ronna and I may have, we never made each other crazy like that. I’m very wary of new relationships and I proceed very cautiously, and you know something? I’ve never been sorry, not in the long run.


Tuesday, December 24, 1985

9 PM. Christmas Eve in Florida.

My flight here was routine: no turbulence, a so-so movie, more boring than anything. Oh, my heart raced a little at takeoff, and as we ascended. I occasionally grabbed my seat’s armrests, but I never felt the kind of anxiety and panic that I used to feel every day in school 20 years ago.

Last evening I watched TV with Grandma when she got back from playing cards: Citizen Kane, actually, which still holds up well. Up early after a restless night (my stomach burned), I wanted to see if I could find ginger root capsules, which I’d forgotten to bring.

Walking along Rockaway Beach Boulevard, I saw a dog dart out into the street just as a car was rushing toward it. I knew there would be an accident but time was too short for me to do anything, and when I heard the thud and the dog’s yell, my hands flew to my head in an involuntary gesture of horror.

Amazingly, the dog survived – long enough, anyway, to limp back home as the driver followed it to see how it was.

I had no luck getting ginger capsules at the local health food or drug stores.

When I got back to Grandma’s, I was sweaty, for the day was too warm for my down jacket. It was about 45° and cloudless, the nicest day it’s been for weeks in New York.

After kissing Grandma, who was still in bed with a headache, I got a car service to take me to Kennedy.

The airport was a frenzied madhouse, but as it turned out, my flight wasn’t even full. I had no one sitting next to me, and all five middle seats in my row were empty.

Waiting to board at the terminal, I passed the time watching some cute guys, most of whom, I realized, were probably 15 to 18 years younger than I.

On Friday night, Justin told me I “take a young photograph” and that I looked about 25 in those head shots I took last month. On Sunday, Josh told me that he’d run into Alice, who’d “aged quickly”: Josh added that Alice looked ten years older than I do.

My short haircut, I think, helps me look like a younger person – but of course I’m actually almost halfway through the Biblical “threescore and ten.”

Dad met me at Fort Lauderdale Airport. The new Delta terminal, which I’d been in on my last flight, is complete now, and the airport certainly looks different than the rinky-dink little place my parents picked me up at six Christmases ago.

Mom and Marc were still at the flea market, Dad said, and they were having a pretty good day. We drove home under cloudy skies, but it was about 70°.

Here at the house, I found two weeks of mail: unbelievable when you see it all at once like that. I dove in gamely, first paying the 13 credit card bills I got. Landmark raised my MasterCard and Visa limits by $300 each, and BancOhio sent my replacement Visa card with a new ATM code.

Later I took a drive to get some cash out; I’ll deposit the money at the credit union on Thursday.

I got invitations to speak at local candidates’ meetings in January and February – and these are easy engagements to keep. I’ll have to see how these go before I commit myself to running seriously.

The first primary – the only one I’d be in – is on September 2, with filing the first two weeks of July. (I’m not sure if I have to go to Tallahassee by myself or if I can mail in my qualifying papers and check.)

Libby sent me a Christmas card – she and Grant are doing fine out West – and that made me feel very guilty for not seeing her mother while I was living in Park Slope.

I also got a card from the McAllisters, whose timing is bad: Wade wrote that I should visit them in Philadelphia, something I could have done all last summer and fall. Ellen having another kid next summer.

Six years ago on Christmas Eve, I came to Broward County for the first time and first stayed in this house.

Three years ago on Christmas Eve, Sean came over to my Sunrise condo – and that was the last time I saw him.

I’m disoriented and tired. This has been an odd year, and not just literally.

I’m beginning to wonder what 1986 will bring.


Wednesday, December 25, 1985

8 PM on Christmas Day.

Last night I slept on a mattress on the living room floor. I slept well and had a spectacular dream in which I was seduced by a sexy teenage girl.

Today was partly sunny, with a high of about 70°, but sharply colder temperatures are due in tonight.

My parents seem well, though they talk mostly about the flea market business.

Mom calculated that they took in $100,000 this year, but when Dad said only about $35,000 of that was profit, I remarked that they could all do better by taking civil service jobs. Mom’s face fell, and I felt bad; then I said, “Oh, but you don’t pay any taxes – that’s like making $55,000.” Which is probably true.

It always annoys me when my parents press me about my intentions and whether the courses I’m planning to take next term are “relevant” or if I’ll ever get my masters from Florida Atlantic University.

I realize I have to treat them almost the way I treat Grandma, and so I explain as little as possible and only in terms they understand.

Of course, it’s not only my parents who don’t understand what I’m doing: nobody does. Sometimes even I don’t. Yet I believe I’m heading in a positive direction, possibly toward something big.

I can’t very well tell people I’m training to become an intellectual/social critic/entrepreneur/whatever. What I’m really doing is training to become Richard Grayson. Naturally, I wouldn’t dare say that to anyone but myself.

I shouldn’t keep fantasizing about the National Endowment for the Arts literature fellowship because my chances of getting one are about nil. However, I should try to treat myself as if I were worthy of an NEA grant – because I am.

As for the courses I take being relevant, almost everything I learn is eventually relevant.

Having the edge of education, I can make money if I need to. My parents and brothers don’t really have that luxury. I’ve compiled a good work record, publications record, academic record and credit record, so I’ll be okay.

Remember: a decade ago my parents chastised me for leaving my job at Alexander’s.

A few weeks ago, I walked into that store when I was in Kings Plaza, and it looked just the same: the bins of slacks I used to straighten out were as manhandled as ever.

If I’d listened to my parents, I’d probably still be at Alexander’s . . . Well, that’s an exaggeration, but I’d be in an Alexander’s-type job.

This afternoon I read American Demographics (a feast for my brain), and I drove around a lot. I-75 is now complete from Arvida Parkway near the burgeoning Weston development almost to Miami Gardens Drive in Dade.

I still love to see the horses and cows in their pastures by the road, but increasingly, all available land is being taken up by condos, office parks, and shopping centers. At least they can’t pave over the huge South Florida sky.

Passing Sean’s mother’s house, I saw only her car in the driveway, so I knew Sean wasn’t visiting. A sign with the familiar phone number indicated Sean’s mother has put the house up for sale. And life goes on.

Now, Grayson, what are your intentions for the future? Not certain.

Tomorrow I’ll see if I can again get into Nova University student housing for the spring semester. That would give me flexibility because it’s not a commitment to a long-term lease.

Far from being disoriented, I feel comfortable here in Florida.

But I also want to continue to feel at ease in New York – and other places, too.

California, probably, is my future if I’m going to settle down. The West is the most progressive part of the U.S., most open to new ideas. And the California climate has neither New York’s harsh winters nor Florida’s cruel summers.

Watch me: I bet I do end up in California. I should try to make my first trip there in 1986.

Of course, then there’s always Washington, D.C.

Maybe this winter I can work out my plans for the future. The last couple of years’ shuttling between New York and Florida has been fun, but how long can I go on shuttling?


Thursday, December 26, 1985

7 PM. Today I put down a $50 deposit on an efficiency apartment in Lauderhill.

It’s a complex called SandalGrove, off NW 19th Street and U.S. 441, near the credit union. They said I should call tomorrow after they’ve run a credit check to see if my application is approved.

Having just seen my TRW “rap sheet,” I know I’ll probably be approved, but I did lie about my employment and renting history; I didn’t want to say I won’t be working now, and I gave Teresa as my present landlord.

SandalGrove has an Olympic-sized pool, health club and 24-hour security.

The apartment is $340 plus $35 for furniture. They’ll give me only a single bed, so I’ll need to buy a futon for guests. The room is pretty small, but it’s clean and new, and I don’t need all that much space, just privacy. I’ll sign a year lease.

After I left SandalGrove, I felt a bit overwhelmed about what I’d done; it will take me time to get used to it.

What strikes me is the year’s lease: I’m not accustomed to such “permanence.”

Still, I can always leave before the lease is up and forfeit my $345 security deposit. Really, $375 a month isn’t very much: it’s only $42 more than I paid at Justin’s, and $20 less than I paid to rent my Sunrise condo. Incidentally, my new place is in that same zip code, 33313.

Well, I’ll wait till tomorrow to see if the apartment is really mine, and then I’ll give them the $610 money order to move in on January 10.

Today’s been very cold. Everyone went to the flea market this morning, but they all came back, scared off by the 35° temperatures and brisk winds. It’s about 45° now and probably will be cold tomorrow. Because my family hasn’t been working, I haven’t had privacy except when I’ve been out driving.

This morning I took my $1700 in cash advances and deposited it in my credit union account.

At Nova, I learned that they had no student housing for January, and at Broward Community College, I got some FIU and FAU materials. I still don’t know what courses to take.

There really aren’t any computer ed classes in Broward, except Ray’s graduate FIU class in BASIC. I don’t want to go up to Boca for FAU’s BASIC II class, and I did want to take the graduate Community College course in Florida International University’s doctoral program in higher education.

So I’ll probably make it easier on myself and take my classes here at BCC, where I’m comfortable.

Perhaps an easy schedule will make things more conducive to writing. I very much want to write at least 12 stories in 1986: one story a month is my goal.

I know I have enough money to last me till the end of April. (Forget about the NEA money, and I’m not counting on unemployment, either.) After that, I may be in hot water.

I’ve accepted the invitation to the education commissioner candidate forum at the American Association of University Women’s brunch at the Miami Airport Hilton on Saturday, January 18. That’s where I intend to unveil my plan for a state income tax.

Look, I’ll get involved and see what happens.

Whew. All this is pretty scary, but kind of exhilarating. My horoscope today said, “Old life fades away, and new one begins.”

Five years ago, when I left Rockaway to live here in Florida, the radios were playing “Starting Over” by John Lennon, who’d just been killed.

Now I’m starting over again. I keep starting over. Yet my life seems to have a sense of continuity.

While I’m scared, the risks I’m taking are calculated, and I’m prepared for failure.

What’s the worst that can happen because of my decisions? I haven’t much to lose except money, and what’s money?

Perhaps I’ll gain more in ’86 than I did in ’85.


Monday, December 30, 1985

8 PM. SandalGrove approved my rental application, and the lease will be ready for my signature tomorrow when I bring a bank check for the security deposit and first month’s rent.

I supposed I can now rest easy, knowing I’ve got a place to live.

Last night I felt a bit bored and lonely, and it was great to be able to speak to Ronna. She said she’d been thinking a lot about me, as I have about her.

Still, I worry that she invests too much in our relationship because it’s easier than seeking out a stable, straight guy who could offer her marriage and kids. I’m a pig where Ronna is concerned, but I do care for her a lot.

Sometimes, I think: Well, with AIDS, it’s now unlikely I’ll meet a guy; it was difficult before and now I don’t intend to go out of my way to start a sexual relationship with a male.

So then I think: Maybe Ronna and I could make it work . . .

And then I realize that I am gay, or mostly gay, and I’ll never stop looking at or thinking about other guys – and it wouldn’t be fair to Ronna not to give her my total attention and support.

And we could never agree on anything: I don’t want kids, I’m so much neater than she is, she’s more stable than I am.

Anyway, she had a second interview with the New-York Historical Society, but she plans to turn down the job if it’s offered to her, despite the good salary and the chance to enter a new field. Ronna wants something more socially active and less stuffy and proper and WASPy than the Historical Society.

She still desperately wants out of her job at the Hebrew Arts School, though, so she plans to keep searching actively.

Restless last night, I kept turning channels on the cable TV: a huckster selling his system of buying houses with no money down; Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life; and on C-SPAN, Claude Pepper’s congressional hearing on phony college degrees. (He sent one “university” a check for a few thousand dollars and they immediately awarded him a Ph.D., making him Dr. Pepper.)

Finally I dozed off and I slept late.

The mail brought some bills and a list of state candidates I’d requested of the Elections Division. Apart from Rep. Larry Hawkins and Sen. Betty Crocker, I’m running for Education Commissioner along with two other unknown Democrats – and five Republicans. I don’t know how to proceed other than to play it by ear.

I finally wrote to Tom and Wade as well as to Crad, who’s been very depressed. Another reviewer skewered Cathy (although she praised the two humorous books), and he had a “nerve-wracking experience” with a group of “gifted” high schoolers whom he found obnoxious and ignorant.

He just expected too much of them. While Crad probably came off as something of a nut job, I believe he perceived the situation as worse than it was.

Seeing how good Crad was with Tom’s creative writing students at NOCCA, I bet he also scored some points with those kids in Toronto.

Dad asked me to go with him to the track this afternoon, and having nothing else to do, I agreed.

After we had pizza for lunch at Gaetano’s, Dad drover us to Gulfstream, where we hung out with a nice couple from Chicago.

The man was Cuban and claimed he’d been an alcoholic and compulsive gambler. Well, today he ended up winning about $500 while Dad lost a dollar, and I came out $2 ahead.

It was kind of interesting to see the people who hang out at the track; in Florida during the winter, it seems as though nobody really works.

Although I got some sun at the track, I’m such a bad gambler I shouldn’t really place any bets.

When I called Teresa, she was on her way to meet her sister and brother-in-law and Michael to go to a Robert Klein show.

The Berkshire house deal collapsed, but Teresa won’t tell her sister and brother-in-law until after Connie quits work next week. They were counting on the money from the sale of the house to help now that they’re losing Connie’s LIRR income, and I smell trouble ahead.

Otherwise, it sounded as though Teresa and Michael were pretty much together again.

Mom made us some great tofu franks and beans for dinner.


Tuesday, December 31, 1985

9 PM. I plan to spend a quiet New Year’s Eve, reading the rest of a book I bought today, Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in an Age of Show Business.

Even when I read disparaging reviews of the book, I knew it would excite me, and I find Postman’s arguments compelling, if somewhat exaggerated.

His thesis depends on McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” taken one step further: that the form of the printed word led to a prevailing mode of discourse — namely exposition, with its logical, linear progressions.

Telegraphy and photography undermined the Age of Typography, beginning an Era of No Context (my term), leading to today’s TV-dominated global village, in which image and perception are all-important.

Now we’re in an Age of Show Business that subsumes politics, economics, literature, everything – an age incompatible with exposition and ideas.

Of course I’ve observed some of this on my own; some of it I’ve used in my fiction (e.g., “Inside Barbara Walters”). Anyway, the book’s a fine companion for seeing in 1986.

On this last day of 1985, I woke up early, went to the bank to get a $610 money order, and gave that in at SandalGrove, where I signed the lease on apartment E105 at 1811 NW 42nd Terrace.

I’ve got my new phone number (735-2213) and started up electric service for the apartment.

SandalGrove looks like a friendly place. The rental office staff were all pleasant, and from what I can tell the development looks like a good mix of younger people and retirees, mostly whites but some blacks and Hispanics.

I’ve never lived in a place where I could make friends with neighbors, but maybe I can there.

Today was another gorgeous day with blue skies and a high of 75°. This afternoon I sat out by the pool for an hour and then exercised for 90 minutes.

I’m pretty tanned now, and I feel good about myself. For once, I even thought I looked more handsome than harried this morning.

Although my body is no worse than it’s been in the last five years. I would love to tighten up my flabby stomach so that I don’t feel weird without a shirt. The rest of my body is okay.

Last evening I talked to Josh (and later Chloe, after Josh put me on his speakerphone); it’s good to keep in touch with him.

Now that I’m going to live in Florida for a while, I’ve got to spend more time and energy keeping up my friendships in New York.

Though I’ll be down here till at least May, New York is still a very important part of my life. In fact, I’m looking forward to going back on Friday.

This morning I called Patrick and we shot the breeze for a while, mostly BCC-related gossip that I found interesting despite myself.

Patrick’s life clearly revolves around his job at Broward Community College. I suppose I could have had that life too, but I’m glad I chose to go another route.

What route is that? I’m not sure, but maybe I’ll know after I get to where I’m going.

On second thought, I’ll probably never “get anywhere” but the fun is in traveling.

As I wrote Crad, I’ve been in the process of re-forming goals for myself. I sort of know what I want to do, but there’s no name for it yet.

As aimless as I seem to be, I won’t be surprised if I end up as an influential person – as influential as one can be in this disjointed time. I feel I’m in a position to do something unique.

This sounds very vague, and of course my main problem is that I haven’t been able to focus my energies. Still, every weakness is also a strength.

Watch me in 1986. I’ll try to take more risks, to believe in myself, and to work harder.

Well, here I go, (literally) closing the book on another year.TC mark

More From Thought Catalog