A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early February, 1987

Monday, February 2, 1987

9 PM. Mondays are long days, and I’m tired, though sleeping only four hours last night didn’t add to my vitality. Still, I got through the day with no trouble, and now I’ve got six empty days – or should I say six free days? – ahead of me.

Last evening I called Ronna, who had just returned from a baby shower for her stepmother in Flushing. Ronna says she’s enormous and due in a month.

Ronna and I had our usual fine talk. When I told her about Josh’s investment in condom stocks, she said that her sister is head of the “condom committee” of the New York City Department of Health.

“Well, then,” I said, “if Sue is promoting the use of condoms, maybe she should do what Josh is doing and put her money where her mouth is.”

I didn’t mean it the way it came out, but Ronna and I had a good laugh.

Ronna told me she’s been dating, but no one seriously: “It’s hard to make connections.”

She’s got a personal ad in the New York issue out today. I hope some nice guy answers it and they get together. Ronna deserves that, though I would miss the closeness I now feel with her.

On Saturday night I dreamed about her twice. I think what’s special about our relationship is that we can still picture each other as that 17-year-old girl and that 19-year-old boy we were in 1971.

If I don’t see Ronna when she comes down to Orlando in April, I’ll see her in New York a few weeks later.

Although it’s three months away, I’ve begun to make preparations for my return to the city. This morning I called Manny Hanny to get a guaranteed student loan application for Teachers College.

Unable to sleep, I watched TV and listened to the radio for much of the night.

Early this morning, just after I walked over to the credit union and deposited the $200 paycheck from FIU’s Teacher Education Center, I got a call from 50 Plus, asking for my social security number so they can send me the $200 for the article I did for Alice last Thanksgiving.

And later today, I applied for a $200 refund for dropping a course at FIU; I’d totally forgotten about the money till recently.

In Roman History, Dr. Breslow lectured on the Punic Wars. It’s interesting stuff, and I take copious notes, but I wish the class were two 2-hour sessions instead of one 4-hour session.

After lunch at the Broward Mall, I went to Davie to rest for an hour.

Dr. Cook introduced Dr. Carol Ann Baldridge, FIU dean of continuing education, who took over our class as we started doing the philosophy of education. One group did perennialism, and our group did essentialism.

We’re now meeting in a seminar room in the BCC administration building.

The presentations and discussion were stimulating, and I felt better about the class. Steve and Elmer may be pompous, but they’re just two people.

The others are very intelligent, including Dr. Grasso, who gave an excellent presentation, quoting Annie Dillard and others. She asked if I’d be interested in teaching a creative writing workshop at Weekend College, and I said I would, but I don’t know if anything will come of it.

At 7:30 PM, back at my parents’ house, I found Dad swamped with work at the kitchen table. I made a sandwich, ate it hurriedly, and then came home. It looks as if I’m not going to have a problem staying in this apartment. Good.

Crad wrote an unhappy letter. He broke up with Gwen for the last time because he couldn’t take her continual criticism.

The poor guy really seems down on himself, full of self-pity – he said he’d commit suicide, but not while his grandparents are still alive – and apathetic about his life.

Responding to my statement that day to day I felt happy, Crad wrote that he’s never felt that. He realizes he has many idiosyncrasies and is difficult, and he frets that he’s “anti-life.”

His main goal now is to get a grant from the Ontario Arts Council so he can move.


Tuesday, February 3, 1987

10 PM. I’ve just returned from the BCC computer lab, where I spent many hours. When George was closing up, he said I could stay, but I figured I’d had enough.

I did accomplish a great deal today. Perhaps most importantly, I used the near-letter-quality printer to make five copies of my 25-page “I Survived Caracas Traffic” story for my National Endowment for the Arts fellowship application.

The NEA won’t accept dot-matrix applications, and with the deadline less than a month away, I was beginning to get worried. Earlier this afternoon, I printed out one copy, but tonight I could save $12 or so by making use of the school computer. If George minded, he didn’t say anything.

Every year since 1977, I’ve been turned down for an NEA literature fellowship, but I believe “Caracas Traffic” is closer to the kind of manuscript that gets fellowships than any of my previous submissions, which were three or four offbeat stories.

This story is representational and it’s the closest thing to a well-made story I’m ever going to write. With the odds still very bad, at least I’ll know I’ve given the NEA my best shot this year.

Notice, though, how I was hardly disappointed by this year’s rejection, which didn’t slow me down for more than a couple of hours. Ahem.

Also in the lab, I wrote some letters and put an ending on “You May Already Be a Winner.” But it’s an artificial ending, and although the story is 15 pages long, it cries out for more narrative.

One of my letters was to Stacy, who seems to be having lots of problems at her job at the Transit Authority.

But I know she and Jeanne do very well: Jeanne’s getting another masters, an M.B.A. from Columbia, and they own a co-op, a motorcycle and an IBM PC-XT.

Still, the aggravation at work sounds like it’s not worth it for Stacy. At least it wouldn’t be for me.

On the Apple IIe, I worked on VisiCalc, putting my credit cards with their credit limits and interest rates on a spreadsheet. For my next VisiCalc workshop, I’ll have a class roster that my students can load onto their machines to play with.

Before going to the computer lab, I had dinner with my parents at the Sonny’s Bar-B-Q across from their house on University Drive. It turns out Dad doesn’t have to go to the Gulf Coast after all, as he’s got meetings with Penney’s and Burdines in Miami instead.

Mom said she could sense that I’m growing “nudzhy” with Florida after nearly six months, and she’s right. But I can’t wish I was in New York now while it’s cold and snowy there and the weather here is perfection.

Still, I have to think about what I’m going to do in New York. For now, I think I’d like to spend the summer subletting in Park Slope, which is convenient to Manhattan and also to Rockaway.

If I take classes at Teachers College, Park Slope is a long subway ride away. But I’ve done it before and I can manage it again.

Well, we’ll see what’s in store for me.

I had a refreshing sleep last night, but tonight I expect to be up late since I’m so keyed up. I have nothing pressing tomorrow and don’t want to look at another computer all day.


Saturday, February 7, 1987

9 PM. I’m in Davie. When I got here last evening, I found Marc and his puppy eating some of Mom’s soy burgers, and Marc looked fine.

Today I learned what was the trouble this week: it seems that Adriana is pregnant. At dinner, Mom mentioned “Adriana’s abortion,” and I thought she had learned of the one in 1983, so I accidentally let that slip.

But my parents and Jonathan aren’t supposed to know about that, and I’m not supposed to know about the one that’s upcoming.

Funnily enough, Dad got a call tonight from Adriana’s mother, and at first he thought she was calling about the pregnancy; actually, she just wanted to inquire about Grandpa Nat’s nursing home as a place for her aged father-in-law.

Marc would marry Adriana, but she doesn’t want to get married, it seems. Like other couples I know, Marc and Adriana can’t get along together yet can’t stand being apart.

Mom and Dad feel that they might as well get married at this point because it seems as though they’re not going to separate for good – which would probably be the best thing for both of them.

“It’s a crazy world,” Mom said at dinner. Dad said that Marc believes that Adriana’s father would settle a lot of money on them if they married, because he and his wife have money and already spoil Adriana.

Who knows? I do like China, Marc’s little dog, whom I played with last evening: she’s a cute, frisky little puppy and very affectionate. After staying at my parents’ for soy burgers, I decided to spend the night there.

Reading Roman history all night made me dream about the Punic Wars and the Plebeian Council and Sulla and Pompey the Great.

It was raining very hard this morning, and I heard my parents and Jonathan delay their departure for the flea market.

At 9 AM, the phone rang; it was Scott, who said he was visiting his parents. I told him I was busy this morning but I would call him at 1 PM and we’d get together then, which also fit into his plans for the day.

For a couple of hours, I worked out, leaving me feel great afterwards.

The mail brought an announcement for Performance Hell, the “avant-garde vaudeville cabaret” Justin is directing; I wish I could attend.

Also, in addition to the usual rejections from college English Department chairpeople, I got the preliminary Teachers College summer class schedule.

There are very few computer ed classes I haven’t taken being offered, but I think I’d enjoy Computers and the Arts, which is given by the Art Department in the first summer session.

Scott and I agreed that I should come to his parents’ house in Tamarac, right near the Sunrise Musical Theatre. I hadn’t seen Scott’s parents in years; both had gained weight but look pretty young.

I’m starting to get around the age where Dad said he began realizing how much younger than his peers he looked, and Scott’s mother seemed surprised how little I’d changed. (Of course, she’s seen my photo in the papers in recent years.)

I know I look a lot younger than Scott, who’s totally grey. Scott flattered my vanity by asking if I’d been working out.

We got into the Camaro – “This is the last car I’d expect you to be driving,” Scott said – and I took him down Commercial Boulevard to A1A and then along the Strip by the beach.

I enjoy showing South Florida off to my friends and taking them places they’d never see otherwise.

Scott was surprised at the young crowd on the Strip; instead of the old people who dominate West Broward, he saw people who were “too young” for him.

I also took him through Las Olas Boulevard and downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Scott still chain-smokes, and naturally, the slow pace of Florida is very hard for a hyperkinetic guy like Scott to take. He says he’s now dating some 39-year-old woman and has just spent $10,000 on redecorating his co-op.

Although Scott wanted to go out with me tonight, I know how nervous he makes me when he’s desperately trying to have a good time, so I claimed I was too tired to stay out late.

Back at his parents’, I had some cake and soda while Scott made coffee for himself.

After two years, Scott’s parents seem to like Florida, though the pace is too slow for them. Many of their friends from Marine Park are living nearby, of course, in that mass migration from Brooklyn to Broward.

As I left, Scott hugged me – I felt awkward but hugged back – and said I should call him before I return to New York City. He offered to pick me up at the airport and invited me to stay at his apartment. He’s really a good egg.


Sunday, February 8, 1987

6 PM. Too keyed up to sleep last night, I read my Roman History text, stopping at the end of the Republic, and then watched a movie on HBO. Also, I thought about my life.

Seeing Scott – the first person from New York City I’ve been with in nearly six months – made me examine the way I’ve been living.

He spent $10,000 to redecorate his apartment. On that money, I could live like a king for a year.

I am not at all resentful about lowering my denominator rather than increasing my numerator, but I also know – and dread – that the time will come when I’ll have to pay for all the fun I’ve had over the past three years.

A little while ago, I started to get my stuff together for my income tax. Last year I earned very little: about $1600 from my writing, $3400 from teaching, and about $2000 from interest.

Since credit card interest payments are still fully deductible for 1986, and since I had over $8000 in such charges, combined with other deductions, I had no net income for last year.

It puzzles even me how I can survive this way; it’s as if I’ve been defying gravity and need to get ready for an enormous fall.

When I read, as I did today, front-page stories about people going bankrupt on credit cards, they’re always talking about people who buy things. However, I rarely buy anything.

On Friday, I spent $2.75; yesterday, a quarter; today, $3.25. I don’t own furniture, a color TV, a stereo, a VCR, a microwave or even many books.

The books I buy are mostly textbooks that I sell back at the end of the semester; otherwise, I use the public library except in rare cases.

Oh, I do spend money on newspapers, but they are a bargain, considering the information I get from them.

The Camaro is my one substantial possession.

Luckily, all my clothes are taken care of by my parents’ samples – or else I just wear things, like underwear and T-shirts and sneakers – until they fall apart.

I haven’t bought a pair of shoes since 1983. This is more in the line of a boast than a complaint, because I haven’t missed having a new pair of shoes.

Speaking of complaints, Chauncey Mabe, the new book editor of the News/Sun-Sentinel, devoted today’s column to Jack Saunders: “Portrait of the Artist as a Man Talking to Himself.”

He treats Jack with respect but correctly says that Jack’s 25 books are really one book rewritten 25 times. Jack himself seems to recognize this by now.

Anyway, Mabe does praise the style and force of the narrative voice in Jack’s books.

I wrote Mabe a letter complimenting him; his last column, about being a writer, was also very good.

Well, I’m pretty lazy today, I’m afraid. I read and napped and ate and cogitated.


Tuesday, February 10, 1987

9 PM. I’ve just come home from Boca Raton.

The world seems in a more precarious state than usual tonight. Remember how CIA director Bill Casey was stricken with a brain tumor just before he was to testify about the Iran/contra affair? He resigned last week, and he’s still very ill and unable to speak.

Yesterday, Bud McFarlane, the former National Security Council director, took 35 Valium pills in an apparent suicide attempt just before he had to testify before the Tower Commission.

Obviously, we haven’t heard the real story of this scandal yet, and I bet the truth, if it ever comes out, will be devastating. Meanwhile, the White House is in disarray, with staff members leaving and Reagan unable to provide leadership.

The stock market slipped badly today; it may have been overdue correction or just profit-taking, but it could also be a bad case of nerves caused by the free fall of the dollar.

Treasury Secretary Baker, who started the dollar’s fall in an attempt to lower the trade deficit (which is still very high), now has joined Paul Volcker in trying to stabilize it.

I may be a sadist, but it cheers me to see chickens coming home to roost. Yes, I expect the bull market will rise a great deal in the next year, but I’ll be really excited when the big crash comes.

Driving home from Boca, I heard one still-bullish stockbroker actually say that Americans haven’t had this much chance to make money in the stock market since 1927-28. What about 1929?

Liberace died of AIDS, the coroner reported, not of whatever his disease his publicist claimed.

Miriam writes that San Francisco is devastated by AIDS and mentioned that one of her close friends is dying of it; he started crying when they had lunch.

Josh’s condom manufacturing stocks will do well, I’m sure. When it was a “gay  disease,” the government paid little attention, but it’s now at the point where anyone who’s not monogamous or celibate is at risk.

Of course, I haven’t had sex with anyone lately and I don’t intend to unless I’ve got a good reason. I’ve had enough experience with celibacy to be able to endure it cheerfully as long as I have to.

No sex is worth dying for, and I really do want to stay alive. Although I know I could die in a car crash tomorrow, why take unnecessary chances? Even without Florida’s seat belt law, I’d still be buckling up.

This morning I stopped off in Davie and left a birthday card for Jonathan, who was in the shower; he’s 26 today.

Marc and his dog were there, too. He told me he has to move because at the condo they won’t let him keep his van in the parking lot.

At noon I left for Boca and went straight to the FAU library, where I worked on the bibliography of A.I. articles. For lunch, I went to the Town Center Mall and had fun browsing in the new Bloomingdale’s.

Back on campus, I put my list of articles in a PFS:file database which I’ll have to modify later to conform to Dr. Kauffman’s specifications. At least I’ve got another project out of the way.

I was the only one who had the KNOWOL knowledge base from two weeks ago working properly, but tonight we discovered so many bugs and problems with the language, it’s going to be nearly impossible to work on Dr. Kauffman’s latest, more difficult, expert system problem.

But I feel I’m ahead of the class, so I’m not too worried.

With Teresa’s visit canceled, the only thing I’ve got to worry about the rest of this week is teaching my Thursday VisiCalc class, and I’ve got a couple of days to prepare for that.

Maybe I can get some writing done, too.TC mark

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