A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early October, 1987

Thursday, October 1, 1987

4 PM on a chilly, blustery first of October: a preview of fall and winter. It won’t take too many more days like this to make me happy to be back in Florida.

Last night I watched several hours of news, only to feel dismayed at the world and the prospects of satirizing what is already funny.

For example, another joke candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on my part seems redundant when the campaign is already a joke.

Because I didn’t get the Florida Arts Council fellowship, I can’t afford the $1000 filing fee for either the Presidential or Vice-Presidential primary in New Hampshire. (I’ll probably also have to forget about buying a computer.)

The new Florida gun law – the most lenient in the nation – takes effect today, and thousands of South Floridians have signed up to carry concealed weapons. I predict even more murders, and I just pray that nobody I love gets hurt.

I get so disgusted by Florida’s idiocy that I constantly think about moving elsewhere. For the past few days, I’ve been considering Los Angeles, which was hit by a major earthquake today.

L.A. is expensive, though, and it’s a car culture; of course, it is a major city, and unlike New York or South Florida, it has great weather year-round.

I’ve also been giving some thought to moving to the D.C. area, which still has winter but one that’s a tad milder than New York City’s. For me, on the basis of weather alone, Boston and New England are out.

But I don’t think I could live in a Southern city outside Florida; that would give me everything I don’t like about Florida and little that I do.

When Grandma came home from her card game last night, we watched some sitcoms and my favorite, St. Elsewhere.

I slept well last night and worked out this morning to Body Electric. Of course, Grandma cried when I left at 11:30 AM.

I was back in Manhattan a couple of hours later, and I’ve had lunch, read the papers, lifted weights.

Ronna and I are seeing each other tonight – finally. She’ll call me when she gets home from work at 6:30 PM.


Friday, October 2, 1987

2:30 PM. My throat is a bit sore and I feel tired, but I think it’s probably from lack of sleep rather than a cold.

Teresa will be coming home tonight, as she’s working in the chicken store after the Yom Kippur holiday begins at sunset. She’ll probably leave tomorrow morning for Fire Island and come back Sunday night.

This morning we took most of my stuff out of the front closet and removed the air conditioner from the bedroom window. Most of my clothing is already in my luggage, and packing should not take too long.

Last evening I arrived at Ronna’s at 7 PM, about half an hour after she got home from work.

After going out to Hunan Royal for dinner, we returned to her apartment, where I jumped on top of her and where we remained horizontal for hours. It was very sweet lovemaking, and it felt great.

I feel I sound banal when I write about sex, but I never know what to say because vivid descriptions always sound like second-rate pornography.

Probably I’m too repressed and sexually backward to describe lovemaking in detail, but I know how it felt.

It’s been rare in my life, and therefore very special, when I’ve felt secure and comfortable enough to be with another person so intimately.

Ronna and I know each other well after fifteen years, but we make love so infrequently, it’s not in danger of being boring.

It’s funny, though: Last night during sex, Ronna looked up at me and said, “Oh, yeah?” just the way Sean used to when he’d say that.

After five years, I barely think about Sean, nor can I truly remember what he looked like.

Ronna and I probably should have a serious discussion about our relationship because I feel guilty – but not guilty enough to stop – knowing that I can’t offer her a future.

Still, I’ve given her lots of time and space to get involved with someone who could, and she’s tried the personals twice, gone on a number of blind dates, and come up empty.

Ronna’s problem with men is probably that her virtues are not immediately apparent; it takes time to appreciate her intelligence, her quiet strength, her wit and her warmth.

One day some guy will stand still long enough to realize what he’s missing, and then I’ll miss Ronna – but I’ll also be happy for her when she marries and has kids. I have no doubt she’d make a fine mother.

I left Ronna’s at about 11 PM; Lori left me some disks she’d copied for me.

It was about midnight when I got into my futon, but it was only after 3 AM that I could finally fall asleep, and I was awake five hours later, though I feigned sleep through a before-work visit by Eric.

Right now I feel like I’m getting a cold. If I have a bad cold, I’ll just take the train to Florida the way Ronna does rather than get on a plane being all congested.

Yesterday, when I spoke to Mom, she said it’s beginning to get cooler in Florida, with daytime highs below 90°. I’ve missed the worst of the Florida heat these last 22 weeks, and that will make the remaining hot weather there easier to endure.

When I came to New York on Friday, May 1, on a dark, chilly day, Perry was sick in this apartment, and I felt I didn’t quite belong.

But as May proceeded along and I saw my friends and started class at Techers College, the weather improved and I began to feel at home. I spent lots of time with Grandma in Rockaway.

In June, I enjoyed jury duty and Dad’s visit, and even in the hot, humid days of July, I never really got depressed.

I kept writing columns and seeing them come out every two weeks, though I think that part of my life is now over. (I don’t expect another to appear this weekend, for the Sun-Tattler has so far avoided printing the five or six columns of mine they have on file.)

August was wonderful, and I’m very glad I went to MacDowell and had the last two weeks to spend in New York City

Gee, after such a wonderful summer, it would be selfish of me to want everything to be perfect and avoid getting a cold, but I tend to get miserably cranky when I’m sick.

The truth is, I feel guilty. Judy said I lead “the life of Reilly,” and I fear that I’ve squandered all the good karma capital in my account and am due for some bad times.

I walked with Teresa down Broadway to 72nd Street, where she got the subway to Brooklyn Heights, and I then got $1400 in cash advances, which I deposited in my Chemical account.

I’ve already made up checks for the fifteen or so credit card bills I expect are awaiting me in Florida; when I get there on Monday, I’ll have about ten days’ worth of mail.

Teresa says that she doesn’t like the idea of working on Yom Kippur – even (or especially) in place of Jews – but I’ve never been religious and said that God would not punish her.

Still, I’m superstitious enough to understand how she feels. After all, I do believe in the law of compensation.

But I know that if I have a cold, it’s because my body’s immune system failed to fight off the germs of a virus. God wouldn’t dole out such a petty punishment.


Monday, October 5, 1987

11:15 AM. I’m at the gate for my flight to Fort Lauderdale, and as usual, I’m terrified. I’ve just taken a Triavil, four ginger capsules, and a Bonine.

I didn’t sleep more than an hour or two last night, and my nose started to run. Teresa came in at 8 PM and argued with Eric on the phone for hours. I was extremely nervous and remain so.

The last few days I’ve really suffered with anxiety and dread. When I get to Davie, I plan to go straight to bed. I just hope that I’m not ill during the flight.

My ear hurts already because of the congestion from my cold. I feel that I’ll get violently ill, vomit, get dizzy, and panic in the air. We’ll see.

*

9 PM. I did not get violently ill, vomit, get dizzy or panic on the flight to Fort Lauderdale, but my ears did hurt. Right now my head is aching, both from lack of sleep and from congestion.

In February 1980, stress caused my long bout with labyrinthitis and dizziness, and I just hope I can avoid the same thing happening now. I do have an ache in my right ear.

The flight was smooth and I really wasn’t nervous once the takeoff was over. My seatmate was another fearful flyer, a Hallandale woman who had to brave the snow from Duchess County in order to make it to the airport this morning.

I watched the movie, a terrible one called Amazing Grace and Chuck, and ate my lunch and listened to Vivaldi on my Walkman.

Marc was at the airport to pick me up; he fixed up my car a great deal. We talked about his visit to New York and how he felt the city was too filthy and crowded for him to ever live in New York again.

Jonathan was here when I arrived. He asked me not to play the TV or radio between 5 PM and 6 PM, as that’s his meditation time.

I looked through mounds and mounds of mail, and then came upstairs, where I lay down for two hours. Mom and Dad were glad to see me, and I had dinner (Italian takeout) with them and Jonathan.

I paid a dozen bills and now I’m ready to drop. I can’t really concentrate on anything or figure out what I’m going to do. Not only am I disoriented, I’m also feeling sick and extremely tired.


Tuesday, October 6, 1987

Noon. Teresa jokes that I’m the only person to get jet lag flying between New York and Florida. I still feel tired and my cold has broken out, so I guess I’m glad I flew yesterday instead of today.

I was about to go to sleep last night when Dad said there was a phone call for me from Sean. Huh?

But it really was Sean: I couldn’t believe that at first and asked him how he knew I’d just come to visit my parents.

He didn’t know that, of course; he’d gotten the number from an operator. We talked for about an hour.

Sean asked if I knew he’d called me on the Paul Gonzales radio show four years ago; of course, I said. He’d been listening in the car and pulled over to call.

When I asked Sean why he hadn’t had any contact with me except that call for five years, he said his lover Doug was extremely jealous of me because Sean had been seeing us both at the same time. Doug didn’t like when I sent Sean books and even now Sean hides them.

Last night Sean was calling from the Jupiter Holiday Inn, where he was attending a conference of software users. Sean works for a small Tampa firm that designs and sells software for civil engineers, and he programs in FORTRAN.

When I asked him how old he was, Sean said that it was his 23rd birthday. He sounded much the same, and he said I did, too.

Years ago I desperately wanted Sean to contact me because I felt we left our relationship unresolved. But by this time, I’d just about put Sean out of my mind.

He said he wasn’t even sure I’d remember him, “because I wasn’t important in your life.”

I told him that was not true.

Talking to Sean, I felt a surge of the affection that we had between us, but it seems so long ago, a time when my Timex Sinclair Z1000 computer had only 1K of memory.

“A lot has happened since then,” Sean said, talking about microcomputers.

I see clearly now that Sean and I could have never integrated each other into our own lives; I was always right when I knew that our relationship had no real future.

It’s odd that he called just a day after Ronna and I started talking about marriage. I mentioned this to Sean, who seemed amazed that I had spoken to Ronna about my relationship with him.

“I don’t know how long this relationship will last,” he said, speaking of Doug, “but we’ve been together five years.” I told him about my life in New York City and how I got into computer education, and he wanted to know if I was still writing books.

He said he’d been thinking of driving down to Fort Lauderdale to visit his mother during the week he’s in Jupiter, and he might call and see me. I would like to see Sean, but I also feel it’s okay if we don’t meet.

I had been so tired, I’d expected to fall asleep right away, but Sean’s call stirred up a lot of feelings.

Teresa called while I was on the line with Sean (Mom has call waiting) to say that Grandma Ethel had called the apartment.

I spoke to Grandma, who had been to the doctor and said she was bruised but feeling better.

Then I spoke to Teresa again; Eric was with her. She said she missed me and felt bad when she came home and there was no one to tell her about the mail.

“Who’ll buy soda and milk and toilet paper now?” she wondered.

Although I didn’t get to sleep until 2 AM, when I finally drifted off, I slept soundly and had rich dreams with vibrant characters. I still haven’t gotten myself together enough to unpack. I feel tired and a bit weak from the cold.

Jonathan may have given up Bhagwan, but he’s still hiding from life, I feel, behind his spirituality. If nothing has any meaning and there’s nowhere to go, he can avoid relationships and situations which could cause him pain or fear or hurt.

He says that I can’t understand how scary it is to confront life in meditation, but I think everyday life is scarier for Jonathan.

Of course he may be right and I may be wrong; we did agree that you couldn’t reconcile our views. Jonathan says transcendence is not avoidance and that he’s living life as it was meant to be lived.

Other family news:

Marc has become a fanatic Neil Rogers fan.

I learned from Dad that Uncle Monty’s daughter Merryl died a couple of years ago. She was only 32 and had some rare lung disease.

Aunt Sydelle and Bill are having terrible arguments. He called her a “New York mocky” and said she wasn’t fit to shine his late wife’s shoes. “If you loved her so much, you should have died with her,” retorted Sydelle.

Meanwhile, Cousin Michael quit his job at the Broadway Athlete’s Foot and is moving to L.A. to live with his mother now that Robin has contacted him again.

What a planet.

*

8 PM. Slowly I’m adjusting to Florida. Jonathan took me over to Marc’s apartment to get my car. Marc tinted the windows and fixed a few things.

It felt odd to be at Marc’s with both my brothers after not seeing them for so many months.

I was surprised to see how affectionate China was to me; even though she doesn’t know me, she rested on my lap and kept trying to kiss me.

Although I haven’t driven a car for over five months, I quickly got used to driving. At the West Regional Library, I looked at the Sun-Tattler for the past two Saturdays. The “Funhouse” feature is gone, and their new feature of excerpts from other papers takes up a lot of room.

Perhaps they’ve shifted me to every three weeks, or perhaps they’re not going to run my column anymore.

True, I haven’t sent them new material in a month. We’ll see if anything runs this Saturday, which would be three weeks since the last column.

I decided to go to the Family Health Care Center and get some prescriptions for my congested head; as expected, the doctor gave me penicillin and a decongestant.

At Broward Community College-Central, I looked around to see what was going on, but the only person I saw there that I knew was Jonathan, who’d come to meditate at the view outside my old offices in Building 6.

There’s really nothing worth taking at the Term IB Weekend College, but I did see several English classes listed without instructors.

Should I ask Dr. Grasso if I can teach a course?

It wouldn’t be for the money but for the experience of teaching English again after nearly two years. We’ll see.

From Davie, I drove over to the new FIU/FAU/BCC Tower in Fort Lauderdale to see FIU’s Barbara Bader, who looked at my social security card and voter registration for the new I-9 form; now all employers need to verify that their workers are not illegal aliens.

She told me about a new Broward-based doctoral program in Educational Leadership that looks interesting.

I got my annual Zephyr Press royalty statement from Ed Hogan, along with a $17.50 check for the 22 copies of I Brake for Delmore Schwartz sold and a letter asking what I’m up to.

Paul Fericano called. I haven’t yet read his and Ligi’s The One-Minute President, but it looks good, I told him.

He wants me to do a column for the Yossarian Universal Briefing Book. The column would be called “Disjointed Fictions,” and he’d like to use the “Whom Is Kidding Whom?” section about Teddy Roosevelt for the next issue.

I said that sounded great. Paul said he’d get back to me and that he hoped he could persuade Pete Cherches to do a column for YU.


Friday, October 9, 1987

10 PM. My cold has improved with a good night’s sleep.

Sophie called early this morning to ask if she could put both workshops on one pay voucher. I said that was fine, but I needed to look at some of the Dade County requirements for third- and fifth-grade computer literacy skills.

She told me she had the book I could xerox it from, so I said I’d come down and do that today and sign my contract as well.

So after breakfast and a quick shower, I drove down I-75 and the Turnpike to FIU’s newly-rechristened University Park campus. Sophie will be away in Texas next week, looking after her ailing father, so I’m glad I could make it today.

She copied the pages I needed, I signed my contracts, and I’m ready to start next Wednesday once I make up some materials for the workshop. It felt good to be out and about for a change.

Today was cloudy and only about 80°. I decided to drop in on Patrick at Broward Community College-South on my way home and found him with Vicki, Scott and Eileen.

I heard a lot of BCC gossip, though I tend to get further removed from it as the years go by. President Holcombe hasn’t really changed things much, though apparently the atmosphere at the school is better than under President Adams.

Patrick’s enjoying his creative writing class and showed me Chauncey Mabe’s column from last week’s Sun-Sentinel.

Les Standiford is starting that MFA program at FIU. In addition to hiring “well-known short story writer Lynne Barrett” (whom I’ve never heard of), he’s gotten two other writers-in-residence to live at the FIU dorms and be available to students. (I’ve never heard of that, either.)

It’s becoming obvious that I’m never going to be given respect as a writer in South Florida, and I don’t want to come back here to live – except for brief periods – after I leave next spring.

If there’s no column in tomorrow’s Sun-Tattler, then I’ll know that the new editorial page editor (yes, today I learned that Mike Burke has been replaced) isn’t interested in continuing to publish my work. I’ll ask for the return of my earlier columns and see if I can peddle them elsewhere.

Last night I read from my September 1978 diary and I realized how good the writing is. I know I’m a decent writer, and if I can work at it, a book about my college years could be a first-rate piece of writing.

I’m not bitter about the Sun-Tattler because writing those columns and seeing them in print gave me a new sense of confidence. The work was very good.

I found four regional publishers from Literary Market Place, and I plan to send each of them my complete set of columns.

Naturally, I expect they’ll all turn me down. When that happens, I’ll see about self-publication using the Grinning Idiot imprint or maybe Patrick’s Cathartic Press imprint. It would put me further in debt, but what’s another two or three thousand dollars when I’m already so deeply in debt?

I feel kind of feisty about my writing career now. I’m not going to let anyone label me a failure because society is so fucked-up and I’m not appreciated or paid the way I should be.

For years I’ve refused to think of myself as a victim, and I’m not going to think of myself as a failed writer.

I wrote Tom Whalen and Ed Hogan this evening, and I’ve got more correspondence to catch up on.

Anyway, I’m glad I’m feeling better and more energetic.

I’ve got a little more than six months to enjoy the winter in Florida, and it’s not going to be time wasted. I’m going to be productive and try not to complain about my fate.


Saturday, October 10, 1987

3 PM. This was a terribly stressful day for my family. Mom was hit by a car at the flea market. She’s okay, but she had to go to the hospital for cuts and bruises.

The day started out with an incredible rainstorm.

Disgusted with the weather and lack of business, Dad came home just before noon. Because Marc’s van had gotten a nail stuck in one tire, the two of them decided to call it a day.

Dad went to the warehouse, and I began my Body Electric exercises (they were difficult to get back to after a week’s illness) when Jonathan called to tell me Mom had been in an accident.

He stressed that she wasn’t hurt badly but that I should have Dad come over to take her to the hospital for x-rays and to see to her bleeding foot.

I also had to call Marc to tell him to return to the flea market to help Jonny close up.

Dad became nearly hysterical when I told him the news. If I hadn’t been so excited myself, I probably would have known not to tell him the truth and would have made up some excuse why he had to go back to the Swap Shop.

I was very sweaty, but after a quick shower, I drove over to the flea market, where I found Jonathan and Marc at the booth where Mom usually works.

Marc showed me where the accident happened. A vendor had been told by some flea market bigwig to move his van, and apparently – we learned this later – he was so angry, he gunned the gas pedal, not realizing the wheels were turned.

He crashed into some man’s booth and then into Mom, who just happened to be passing by on her way to the bathroom.

The wooden booth was destroyed, and I suspect that Mom might have been hit by that rather than by the car itself.

I went over to Humana Hospital Bennett, where Dad had taken Mom, and they let me into the emergency room, where I found her in a hospital gown.

The doctor had cut away the dead skin on her toe – her shoe was caked with blood – but she didn’t need any stitches.

X-rays showed that nothing was broken, but her thigh was badly bruised, and so was her elbow and the hand that she fell on.

“I thought somebody was trying to kill people with that car,” Mom told me.

She didn’t scream, but she did try to get out of the way. She was carrying a plastic bag of Dad’s jeans, and after the impact, all she was left holding was the handle of the bag.

Jonathan was called over, and he calmed her down, and people were very solicitous.

Mom refused the paramedics’ offer of an ambulance ride along with another person who was hurt; tonight, that man is still in shock at the hospital.

I waited outside in the ER waiting room as a “code orange” was sounded because they got in a call of a plane crash.

But it was just one of those mock practice drills. A busload of Boy Scouts came in with very realistic and bloody-looking injuries as the emergency room went into a general triage situation.

Anyway, Dad decided to cancel his flight to New York tonight. Eastern Air Lines will let him use his ticket tomorrow night provided he shows them the note he got from the hospital.

Figuring that there was nothing more I could do at the hospital, I went to the nearby West Regional Library for a few hours. But when I returned home, Mom said that Dad had to go back to the flea market because Jonathan’s car wouldn’t start.

Finally, at 6 PM, after the car had been fixed, Dad and Jonathan came home.

What a day! Mom seems okay and will probably call the lawyer who got Marc his settlement from his car accident. But everyone is emotionally drained.

On a somewhat less momentous note, as I expected, the Sun-Tattler didn’t print a column by me today, and I was mailed what I assume is a final check by the new editor.

Perhaps it’s for the best. But after only a few days here, I’ve had my fill of Florida, and as God is or is not my witness, I will not be coming back here next fall and winter.

In the spring, I’m going to take all my things and see if I can live, more or less permanently, in New York.


Sunday, October 11, 1987

9 PM. I’ve just been on the phone with Ronna, and it was heaven being able to talk with her about all the mishigass in my life.

She sounds fine after a good visit with her mother, a pleasant Sukkoth, and her first playwriting class at a new school.

I told her about the stuff in my life: yesterday’s accident at the flea market (Mom made the Herald and News/Sun-Sentinel as the victim of the runaway van); Sean’s call; the end of my Sun-Tattler column; my frustration about not getting a Florida Arts Council grant or a job in the FIU creative writing program; and my decision that this will be my last winter in South Florida.

I’m firm about that, the way I was about my adjuncting in New York City last fall. Next winter I’ll be living up North where I’ll have a full-time, more-or-less permanent job.

I’ll get used to the cold and come down here to stay with my family – maybe for a long visit, but not for the whole winter.

I’ve thought of returning to New York this winter, but I might as well stay here and have a few more months of relative leisure, working part-time and living off borrowed money as well as borrowed time. If I start earning money next spring, I figure I can manage to get through the next six months financially.

Mom stayed home today, and she’s all bruised and sore.

Now I’ve got my own bandages, because I cut my legs badly taking out the garbage tonight. I didn’t realize the trash compactor breaks up glass, and I must have scraped up against some jagged edges inside the plastic trash bag.

Late this afternoon I drove Dad to the airport, and hopefully he’ll be in New York City before too long.

It’s still very rainy here, and Tropical Storm Floyd is now in western Cuba and heading northeast, so we’ve got hurricane warnings for the Keys.

I did manage to catch up on my correspondence today, mailing out letters to Miriam, Chris Barnes, Bobby Frauenglas, and others.

I also sent my columns to four publishers (Banyan Books, Compact Press, Pineapple Press, and the University Presses of Florida) and to South Florida magazine.

Reading the columns over, I still feel that they’re terrific: witty and stylish satire. But I expect I may have to pay for self-publication, the way I did with Eating at Arby’s.

If all four presses turn me down, as I expect they will, I’ll probably make a book of my columns my farewell gift to and parting shot at Florida.

God, this has been a long week, and I’ve had so much to take in.

Ronna listened to the details about Sean’s call, and she said I handled it well. I’m glad that I haven’t had to pretend I’m not gay to Ronna all these years.

I’m also glad Sean didn’t come to Fort Lauderdale. I don’t know whether I would have wanted to see him. How could he just cut off all contact for five years?

But of course, I knew five years ago that Sean and I could have never have a lasting relationship; he was so young and so different from me, and I’m sure that his drinking would have started to bother me.

It’s good that Sean already had a guy who wanted to spend his life with him.

Now, if I met a terrific guy with whom I could have a long-term relationship, that would be wonderful.

But I don’t see that happening, and I’m not ready for anything “permanent.” I may never be. Still, I have hopes of meeting someone to be with for now.

Two hundred thousand lesbians and gay men marched on Washington today for gay civil rights and money for AIDS treatment and research.

I should go to Center One in Oakland Park and volunteer my services. How much longer can I go without doing anything (other than giving money) in the fight against AIDS?

Last night I began reading The Day the Bubble Burst, a social history of the 1929 stock market crash, which is surprisingly well-written.

Well, I’ve survived a tumultuous (at least emotionally tumultuous) Week One in Florida.

I’ve got a feeling Life is going to keep throwing stuff at me.TC mark

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