A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late October, 1986

Friday, October 17, 1986

7 PM. Sometime when I wasn’t looking, my good humor and cheerfulness returned.

Perhaps it’s the weather. With Wednesday’s torrential rain and wind came the long-awaited-for seasonal change. The past few days have been at least five degrees cooler, with highs of only about 84° or 85° – and it’s getting down to about 68° at night.

I just walked in, and right now it’s simply gorgeous out. With our big sky, dusk is always pretty here, but now there’s a breeze and a hint of fall, sort of like New York City in late August. It feels good. I feel good.

Yesterday I drove to Coconut Grove to walk around – something I needed to do after getting the letter from that literary agent – and to pick up twn, the gay paper in which I plan to place a personals ad.

Today I got my P.O. box in Davie – a lucky break because when I applied on Wednesday, they were all taken – and I plan to use that in the ad.

I’ve just come from the Broward Mall, where I had dinner at Cozzoli’s. A cute gay couple about 23 were sitting nearby, and it made me happy to see them looking happy.

After a while, Jonathan and Marshall came in wearing their red outfits; apparently, they eat at Cozzoli’s every Friday evening.

Earlier this week, Jonathan shaved off his beard and got his very long hair cut and styled. He looks a lot better, I think, though I didn’t mind the beard. (Obviously.)

Yesterday I gave him the copy of The New Yorker that Josh sent, the one with the second part of Frances FitzGerald’s piece about Rajneeshpuram, part of her new book.

I’m glad Jonathan read an objective article. After reading it, I feel that Bhagwan is not at all sinister or dangerous – but he and his followers seem extraordinarily childish.

Of course, Sheela and others at the ranch were evil, but most sennyasins were just oblivious human-potential-movement Yuppies with superiority complexes.

What bugs me about Rajneeshis is their smugness, akin to that of all fundamentalists: they’re enlightened (read: saved) and you’re not, so that’s that.

Lately I haven’t been sleeping well: I tend to get to bed at 1 AM and I’m up at 6 AM, when I get the Herald and turn on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition. Then I usually fall back asleep and wake up at 9:30 AM or so, feeling not very rested

But my dreams have been pleasant: I’ve been encountering old friends and dead relatives, perhaps to make up for not seeing them in real life. Not only have I dreamed about Grandpa Herb and Grandma Sylvia the last couple of nights, but I’ve seen Avis, Vito, Ronna, Justin, and Libby and her family in my dreams.

Last year at this time I was living at Justin’s in Park Slope and finally getting adjusted to it. That was a good experience, but then so is this.

I wish there were fewer ants in my apartment, though. Every night I meet a dozen of the suckers in bed.

I had an idea for a column this morning and went to the Broward Community College computer lab at noon, but it wasn’t open yet, so I walked to the Pit Stop to get a sandwich. Mick saw me and invited me to have lunch with him in the cafeteria.

He just finished moving to a new house, and he got one of those $5000 Florida Arts Council grants for writers that I’m finally eligible to apply for again next year.

We were joined by a very friendly Jacqui. As always when I’m with BCC faculty, the talk turned to their complaints about work. As an outsider now, I can see that the school has a terrible morale problem.

Jim Wilson stopped by our table. He just resigned as president of the school’s union to run for president of United Faculty of Florida, the NEA-related union that bargains for all the state universities and many of the community colleges.

Mick says that the problem at BCC is mostly in the English Department; other teachers don’t work that hard, and Jacqui mentioned that Lynn moved to the Philosophy Department and works a lot less.

Both Mick and Jacqui told me that the quality of the current adjuncts stinks, but what do you expect given what they’re being paid?

At the lab, I wrote a four-page column, a whimsical piece that started with the idea of “non-bank banks.” I mailed it off to the Sun-Tattler.

Although I don’t know when or if they’ll print the other columns I’ve already sent them, I feel that the newspaper column is my natural form, similar to the diary entry. Fiction comes harder to me.

Yesterday, in Coral Gables’ great Books & Books store, I bought the 1986 Best American Short Stories (edited by Carver) and 20 Under 30 – perhaps to see where I’m going wrong.

Maybe I’ll discover that I’m not nearly as talented as these writers; however, it’s possible I’m just not interested in writing the kind of things they do.

Anyway, I also revised “I Survived Caracas Traffic” a little. I’m not going to send it out until it’s returned from the three places it’s at now: Madison Review, Missouri Review, and Crescent Review. Perhaps it will find a home at one of them.

Back home at 4 PM, I worked out and paid a bunch of credit card bills.

Dad came back from the Gulf Coast today, but tomorrow night he may fly to New York for the menswear show; he’s upset because they want him to drag all his samples with him.

I’ve been reading Thomas Mallon’s A Book of One’s Own: People and Their Diaries, which is terrific. I figure I’ve hit over three million words in 17 years, which is nearly triple Pepys’s output. Not bad.

Of course, all diarists hope that someday people will read their diaries. I sometimes find myself addressing a future reader.

Like most diarists, I remember anniversaries. Today’s the fifteenth anniversary of that Sunday in 1971 when Shelli exploded my world by telling me she slept with Jerry. How I suffered that fall, and how insignificant it all seems now.

From this vantage point, I can appreciate the pain and see how it led to growth, but I guess at the time I felt terribly hurt.

See, that’s the main advantage of having a diary and growing older.

As I wrote the other day, I know I’ll survive the disappointment of not having another book published because I’ve survived a lot worse.

Am I a survivor? So far, I guess. We’ll just have to see what happens in the future.


Friday, October 24, 1986

5:30 PM. I got home around 3 PM, and after reading USA Today, I worked out with my weights for an hour.

After my cool-down exercises (which I’d neglected too much in the past), I walked over to the credit union to deposit a check for over $4500, the sum in my Virginia Beach Federal money market account. I waited till I got my last statement today so I could include the interest.

I’ve decided to stop all this floating money around and to eliminate several of my six money market accounts. “Simplify, simplify,” said Thoreau, and while I can’t do that with my credit card accounts, I can do it with my deposits.

Besides, there may be an advantage in having larger sums in the credit union and one or two other accounts. With interest rates and inflation so low, it hardly pays to put cash into a money market account anyway; the highest interest paid is only about 6.6% these days.

The economy continues to give off mixed signals: 1986, like 1985, is another year of sputtering growth but with low inflation.

Social security recipients will get only a 1.3% increase next January, and that’s only because an amendment passed to waive the 3% inflation trigger for COLAs.

Some people are beginning to see that inflation has its benefits. Deflation in the oil industry and in farm properties have actually caused a lot more harm.

Although I had my usual trouble getting to sleep last night, I slept okay from 2 AM to 9:30 AM. My stomach muscles ached a little from yesterday’s exercises, which I based on that aerobics show I watch on Saturday.

After reading the paper, I drove down I-95 and then west on the Palmetto Expressway till I got to Hialeah, where I searched for the Palm Springs Elementary School.

It took over an hour before I found it, but I’m glad I won’t be searching for it next Wednesday when I begin teaching my computer workshop there.

This weekend I’ve got a lot of preparation to do, not only for my own class but for Joe Cook’s class on Monday. I don’t expect to be doing any writing, but I hope my first column will come out in the Sun-Tattler on Saturday.

Back in Davie via NW 27th Avenue/University Drive, I collected my mail and then went with Dad to the warehouse, where I threw out some books and papers. Actually, probably 75% of what I’ve got there is crap I don’t really need.

After getting pizza at the mall, I collected $1000 in cash advances from ATMs, which I deposited in the credit union before coming home.

I’m now getting the New York Times and USA Today here in Lauderhill, so I’m settling in; unfortunately, the ants are still settling in, too.

The workout and shower I just took made me feel good, and so does the warm (but not hot), sunny, breezy weather.

Just as New York City is getting gloomy, I’m starting to enjoy our South Florida climate. It’s two months since I arrived, and I always figured the first two months would be the hardest.

*

It’s 12:30 AM. I’ve just returned from seeing a community theater production of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy at the main library.

Only at 7:45 PM did I decide to catch the 8 PM show, but luckily I live pretty close enough to downtown Fort Lauderdale, so I got there in time.

The play is a very long one – it’s really three long one-acters – and although the performances were pretty good, the last part tended to drag.

I’d read the play years ago when it won the Tony, and it still holds up as the best modern play about gay life I’m familiar with. Fierstein has wit as well as heart.

I felt a little funny being there by myself, but it certainly is better for me to go out on a Friday night than just to stay home and watch TV as I usually do.

The audience was mostly older Jewish people – the condo crowd – and a few middle-aged gays. Very few young people go to the theater, I notice; except for some kids with their parents, I was one of the youngest people there.

My ad should be coming out in the weekly news. I wonder if I’ll get any replies. Although I don’t expect to meet someone special, I can still hope – and putting in the ad in can’t hurt.

A CBS News special the other night, AIDS Hits Home, showed how careful everyone has to be about his sex life.

One AIDS counselor said you’re not just sleeping with one person but with everyone that person has slept with in the past two years.


Saturday, October 25, 1986

5 PM. Again, I had a near-sleepless night. It wasn’t until 6 AM that I finally dozed off, and three hours later I was awakened by a call from Dad, who was home sick in bed.

Last night he began to have chills, nausea and fever, so he’s probably got a virus. Dad’s had back-to-back trips to L.A., Tampa and New York, so he’s probably been working too hard. He’s 60 now and not a kid anymore.

Anyway, he wanted to see if I could help out at the flea market. Going to the Swap Shop was about the last thing I felt like doing, but I got there at 11 AM.

At his spot, Marc said that although Dad felt guilty about not being able to work, he, Marc, was grateful for the “vacation” because Dad is so nervous that he makes Marc crazy.

When I went to help Jonathan at his spot, he told me he refuses to work with Dad because Dad is such a nervous wreck. Jonathan said that our parents now “do nothing but talk about shirts, shirts, shirts” and he can’t stand being around them because of it.

The members of my family all think the others are crazy.

Mom said there wasn’t much for me to do, so after I hung around another couple of hours, I left when Marc returned from his lunch break.

In Davie, I picked up the Sun-Tattler (no column by me), withdrew $1200 in advances at Publix Teller, and brought Dad some Tylenol. Usually I’d worry about getting sick, but if I do, I do.

I got a lot of mail, most of it related to credit cards and bank accounts. First Atlanta raised my credit line from $2000 to $2400 before I had a chance to apply for an increase; the extra $400 will help in my never-ending quest for more revolving credit.

Also in the mail, an editor liked “I Saw Mommy Kissing Citicorp” but his magazine is folding, and agent Michael Congdon was amused by my presidential campaign clippings.

I’m also getting responses from artists’ colonies in response to my queries. If I don’t have a good teaching job next fall, I’m going to spend the fall at colonies instead of New York or Florida. From May to August 1987, I’d like to be in the Big Apple again.

The mail also brought the computer literacy component from the Dade County schools; actually, it doesn’t look that hard to teach.

I’ll start to design a curriculum for my workshop, a sort of mini-version of Computers in the Classroom. (Yesterday I found my notebook from that course.)

I called Alice, and we had a nice talk – about our job searches (she dislikes working at Woman’s World), personals ad searches for True Love, and other stuff.

Andreas made her an incredible Halloween costume that’s so good, Alice is going to mark in the Village parade.

The costume? Alice will be a giant roll of Scott toilet paper, complete down to the price bar code with its numbers being Alice’s phone number. Funny stuff.

Last night I got an idea for a story called “Beating Dan Rather”: another satire, this one about the greed and competition of the 1980s. What a bloody awful time.

Speaking of time, tomorrow we’re back on Standard Time, and I’ll be grateful for the extra hour this weekend.


Wednesday, October 29, 1986

8 PM. Tonight I feel good about myself. Teaching the first session of the computer literacy workshop at Palm Springs Elementary was a positive experience.

I have nearly twenty students, all crowded into a small computer room: they include the principal, assistant principal, and lots of teachers, some of them from the nearby Amelia Earhart Elementary.

They’re all computer novices, and I think I did a good job in helping them get comfortable in the three hours of our class.

I feel good because I like teaching people who are interested and motivated, as opposed to the remedial writing and composition college students I’m used to.

Last night, after not having seen the ocean for months, I took a ride out to Fort Lauderdale beach, and just stayed there for a while, thinking.

Back home, I called Justin and then Josh.

Josh said that RAMIS, the product that he programs in, got sold by Martin-Marietta and is on the way out, and because of that, he may have to stop acting so arrogant at work. Now he can get away with it because they know he will be hard to replace and it would be easy for him to get work elsewhere.

Yet Josh still dreams about getting into another field, one he’d enjoy more. Security is definitely Josh’s main trip, though.

We discussed computers and books and other stuff; I miss our dinners on the Upper West Side.

Justin said he’d written me a letter that very day, to send along with the mail I’d gotten in Brooklyn from my new Dime Visa account.

Like Josh, Justin avoided the crazy ticker-tape parade for the Mets although he was excited about the Series. He’s got a whole lot of projects in the fire now, and people are asking him to direct their productions.

Justin also began leading an acting workshop at the newly-revitalized Meat and Potatoes Company, and he enjoys doing that very much. The rest of the news, Josh said, I’ll read in his letter.

We had a nice chat that ended at 11 PM, when he hung up to call Larry in Reading.

I slept well and was out of the house at 11 AM today. Stopping off to xerox my course outline, I drove around for a while, all the way into West Dade.

At the Miami International Mall, I walked around and I filled out an application for a new store credit card, The Mall Card, issued by Banco Popular of Puerto Rico and New York.

At a mall nearer the school in Hialeah, the Westland Mall, I had lunch at Burdines’ little deli counter. In both malls, very few people spoke English, and I was surprised that it made me feel a little insecure to hear only Spanish spoken around me.

Perhaps it was just that I’d never been to these places before; I should be used to hearing Spanish, after all.

As I said, the workshop seemed to go very well: I gave a good introductory lecture and demo, and then presided over an interesting discussion.

Just barely escaping the rush hour, I drove up NW 27th Avenue/University Drive into Broward, stopping off at Davie, where my parents asked me to join them for dinner.

Dad felt better and spent most of the time complaining about the people who work at PDI in Los Angeles. They’re totally incompetent, Dad said, and can’t perform the simplest tasks.

As he said that, I was reminded of an American Demographics article on how a poorly-educated American work force is really going to be a problem in the future as most jobs will require some higher-level skills.

After eating my ravioli and salad with Mom and Dad, I picked up my mail, and here I am, back at home.

My throat and feet aren’t used to teaching.


Thursday, October 30, 1986

8 PM. It really felt great to be working yesterday, to be teaching again. My sore throat lasted until this afternoon; obviously, I’m unaccustomed to lecturing as much as I did.

It’s very humid and unseasonably hot – it hit 87° today – and I’ve had a bad sinus headache since last night although I’ve been trying to ignore it.

This morning I called Jean Marbella at the Fort Lauderdale News/Sun-Sentinel, who’d left a message for me.

She was asking various people “unanswerable” questions about South Florida, like why it’s more Northern than Southern or why even the library looks like a shopping mall.

Although I tried to be as funny as possible, I don’t think my humor will make it into the paper.

I noticed that a lawyer for the Lambda Legal Defense Fund was speaking at Nova Law School on Post-Bowers v. Hardwick, so I went there at 1 PM.

The speaker, Abby Rubenfeld – one of those tiny, spunky Jewish lesbians – was very good. She called the impact of the Hardwick case “devastating,” but she put it in perspective and outlined a possible legal challenge to Florida’s sodomy law.

(Now that the federal courts are Reaganized, civil rights cases have to look to the state courts, a reversal of a longstanding trend.)

The two guys sitting next to me, both young law students, admitted they were a little afraid to come because people would think they were gay; they didn’t want to get in the TV camera’s range.

Well, at least they attended.

Most people remain apathetic as, little by little, our rights get taken away by the Reagan administration – in the sodomy decision, the Tennessee schoolbook case, etc. One more vote and the Supreme Court can overrule Roe v. Wade and outlaw abortion.

Reagan has been running around the country, campaigning for GOP Senate candidates. I’d love to see the Democrats take over the Senate, but I’m afraid the people will again be mesmerized by the Great Communicator.

Was there ever a luckier politician than Ronald Reagan? When the legacy of his deficits and his other policies hits the fan, he’ll be out of office and it’ll be the Democrats’ bad luck to have to take the blame for all of Reagan’s mistakes.

I did like the atmosphere at the law school, however; it was good to see so many intelligent (for Florida, anyway) people in one place. I bet I’d be a good law student.

Speaking of students, I’ve got a November 13 interview for the Ed.D. program in Community College Teaching at FIU; I had been out of town during the last round of interviews.

If I can get admitted to the program, maybe next term I could get a student loan at FIU. I already intended to take Joe Cook’s History and Philosophy of Higher Education course that’s scheduled for Monday evenings at BCC next term.

The FIU and FAU spring schedules should be out soon.

Last week I asked for credit line increases on four of my cards, and today I learned that Broward Schools Credit Union had upped me $200; Choice, $500; and First Atlanta, $400. So I’ve added $1100 to my unsecured credit lines.

In the main library downtown, I looked through recent issues of American Banker to keep up with credit card trends.

Having dinner at the Broadway Diner, I sat opposite a very pretty, very tan kid about 18 in a t-shirt with the sides cut away. Cute.

Will anyone answer my ad? And will it be anyone I could really like?

I’m reconciled to being alone, knowing I won’t get AIDS from my hand, but I also think it would be terrific to have someone, the way Justin has Larry.

In the meantime I continue to enjoy my life.

Maybe I’m greedy because I already have so much to make me happy.TC mark

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