A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early February, 1988

Monday, February 1, 1988

8 PM. I’ve been trying to rest out my cold. At dinner with my family tonight, Jonathan said he had a sore throat, so he’s probably got the same virus I have. I don’t recall ever sneezing so much with a cold before.

Yet basically, I feel pretty good. I was able to work today with no problem although I had to rely on a stack of tissues to get the mucus out.

The Super Bowl was just getting underway last evening when I brought Chinese food over to Mom and Dad’s. I left about 8 PM and finished reading the Sunday papers at home.

At 10 PM, I called Ronna, who’d gotten home about an hour earlier. Her train ride back was boring, she said, but she did go outside when they stopped at Richmond yesterday to get some fresh air and buy the Washington Post.

Arriving in New York during a warm spell, Ronna said it was about as mild as it had been in Orlando. She thanked me for my hospitality, and of course I said it was my pleasure and the least I could do for her.

“I was just telling Lori,” Ronna said, “that you took me everywhere.” She said it was nice – and I agreed – that she could now envision where I was calling from.

So far, she hasn’t gotten any hint of my cold, and I just hope I didn’t infect her.

I got up at 9 AM, but I must have needed more rest, because after reading the Times and watching Donahue and going out for an hour to do some banking, I lay down for another hour.

After paying the bills I got in today’s mail, I had lunch at Gaetano’s and then went to Northwestern High School.

I’m getting more accustomed to the all-black school. Mrs. Montero, the computer teacher, said that most of her students are very good kids, and I could see real learning going on in her class.

A little learning also went on in my workshop as I had the teachers use Appleworks to correct a badly misspelled and horribly written version of “The Three Little Piggs” [sic].

Most of them had a great deal of trouble getting used to the word processing commands and features, but that’s to be expected: it takes time and practice to master applications software.

At Broward Community College at 6 PM, I xeroxed stuff for tomorrow’s BASIC class, saving myself at least $10. I also got to talk with the other part-timers, my friends from last term, none of whom were selected for the new full-time positions in the English Department.

Well, I plan to get into bed soon and stay there for twelve hours or so, as this cold still has me a little wiped out.

David Huddle, whom I disliked when we were together at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts years ago, had a really perceptive essay on rejection (his first novel has been rejected) in the Times Book Review.


Friday, February 5, 1988

5 PM. When I called Ronna last night, she was feeling fine, but her grandmother had had a heart attack early that morning in Orlando.

During Ronna’s visit, Mrs. S had been having serious angina pain, and while Ronna was traveling to New York, the pain got worse and she went into the hospital for tests and evaluation for a possible angioplasty.

Because of her age, her grandmother decided against it, and the doctors released her on Wednesday. Since Ronna’s mother had to go to Fort Pierce on business, Mrs. S stayed with Ronna’s aunt and uncle, and in the middle of the night, she had an apparently mild coronary.

She’s in the cardiac care unit, and Ronna was awaiting more news. Although Ronna waited until I went on and on about other stuff to tell me this, I know how worried she must be now.

Well, at least I didn’t give her my cold.

After an interview with a position in the New York State Department of Education, in the division that regulates professionals’ licenses, Ronna turned down the job offer, feeling it was kind of a sleazy atmosphere.

When I hung up with Ronna, I called up my own grandmother to find out how she was. Grandma Ethel said that on Wednesday, she went to the doctor, who found that her blood pressure had gone down. Her CT scan stuck to another one and there was no result because both were unreadable.

Hopefully, with Grandma’s blood pressure down, her headaches will go away.

The pill I took last night helped with my nasal congestion and allowed to me to sleep soundly, dreaming that I had earned $5000 from writing a comic book about the death of Superman. I’m less drippy today.

Dad has been busy showing customers his new line of Bugle Boy goods. The other day he spent seven hours with Burdines, and today he went to J. Byron.

Dad told me the buyer for Jordan Marsh/Maas Brothers keeps trying to cancel her huge order because business is terrible and their stores are frantically trying to cut back.

Department stores have been nervous since Black Monday. Although most economic prognosticators still do not see a recession in 1988, I feel that we’re on the verge of one. New York City, heavily dependent on financial services, will lose 55,000 jobs this year and 2% of its income.

Teresa called from Frank’s office. It hasn’t been officially announced yet, but Frank’s client, the developer Peter Kalikow, will buy the New York Post from Rupert Murdoch, forced to sell because he also owns WNYW-TV, Channel 5.

I told her if the Post needs a humor columnist, I’m available.

The phone lines at the office were busy with calls from the media, and of course Teresa loves being at the heart of the action. While she enjoys working for Frank, she’s also putting in some time at the chicken store.

Teresa had to hang up to answer other lines, but she said she’ll be on vacation in Mexico all next week.

Sophie called with two teacher education workshops for which I was specifically requested.

I took the one in Productivity Software at Riviera Junior High School for eight Tuesdays.

It ends May 3, which kills my plan to leave for New York the day before, but I couldn’t turn it down. Not only am I used to spending my Tuesdays at Riviera, I’m friendly with my students, some of whom will probably be in the new class.

For the extra $900 or so, it’s worth it to extend my stay in Florida for another couple of days. But I did tell Sophie that May 3 is the last day I can work.

She thinks I’ll be back for the fall, and I didn’t want to tell her about the Rockland position just yet.

This new workshop will have me earning $6000 for the spring semester, enough so that I can relax for the summer.

I keep telling myself I’m taking all these jobs to buy time for my writing. At this point, I don’t feel overburdened, but I won’t take on any more workshops without serious thought.

With my last 1099-INT form in, I was able to do my income taxes today. I should get back the $253 in withholding tax I paid.


Saturday, February 6, 1988

8 PM. Today was the first day I didn’t have to use any tissues for my cold. I’m a little nasal, but otherwise fully recovered.

It’s a wintry evening in South Florida. It’s been dark and windy since a cold front came in during the day and dropped the temperatures. Of course, in New York City, the wind-chill factor is -40° Fahrenheit, so we’re pretty well off.

As long as it’s winter, I’m happy not to be in New York, but Ronna’s visit – and Teresa’s before that – made me homesick for the big city.

I even toyed with the idea of going up there for Easter, when I have the week off, but it would be expensive, and I’ll be back in New York four weeks later anyway.

This morning’s creative writing class at BCC went well. Although my students are all adults, they’re quite naïve and unsophisticated as writers. Clearly, they haven’t read much good literature.

Most of their stories are knockoffs of genres more found on TV and movie screens than in the pages of books. There are Twilight Zone stories, murder mysteries, “heartwarming” stories . . . but the students are all very nice people, and the class is a pleasant chore for me.

This afternoon I exercised to one Body Electric video, taking care not to strain my back or to overdo it so as to jeopardize my recovery from the cold.

Later, I drove to downtown Fort Lauderdale, where at the Main Library I caught up with a month’s worth of issues of American Banker.

I need a break, so I’m not going to do any work tonight.

I was thinking that it’s only three years since I was a full-time FIU and FAU grad student in computer education, living in Nova University housing.

My idea to switch to a new field ended up working, so I’m glad I followed my instincts.

On my résumé, I now have two years of teaching computer education workshops at FIU, and in the past few months, I’ve actually been able to make a decent living teaching a variety of courses.

But I do feel, however, I’ve gotten away from writing and literature, and I welcome the chance to get back to it this fall at the Rockland Center for the Arts.


Sunday, February 7, 1988

4:30 PM. It’s another dark, gloomy, windy day: South Florida’s equivalent of the depths of winter.

Last evening, after writing letters to Jack Saunders, Miriam and Crad, I began reading Jimmy Breslin’s new novel, He Got Hungry and Forgot His Manners.

It’s a sharp little satire of New York City circa 1988. Breslin knows the city in a way that writers like Jay McInerney and Tama Janowitz never will.

Even if I never live in the outer boroughs again, I guess I’m basically a Brooklyn/Rockaway boy.

After sleeping well, this morning I read the newspapers and exercised for an hour to two Body Electric tapes. Perhaps I overdid it; I’ve got to remember that with exercise – as with many other things – more is not necessarily better.

I also watched the Sunday TV news shows, all focused on tomorrow night’s Iowa caucuses. If Gephardt wins on the Democratic side, he’ll immediately become famous, and if he beats Dukakis next Tuesday in New Hampshire, he’ll probably have a lock on the nomination even though he’s got about 6% in a national poll released today.

All the jokes about the “Seven Dwarfs” stem from the Democratic candidates’ lack of celebrity rather than their lack of capability.

Of course, I like upsets and would like to see Pat Robertson win the Iowa Republican caucus, if only because of all the turmoil it would cause.

I keep thinking back to Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death when I reflect how, in a context-less arena, politics is nothing more than show business.

This afternoon I went to the rental office and extended my lease one month, to April 30, by charging it to one of my credit cards. Now I’ll continue to have my privacy and only have to move back in with my parents for my last couple of days in Florida.

I’m glad that’s settled. Now I’m going to go out for a little ride.


Monday, February 8, 1988

11 AM. A hard rain that had been falling all morning finally stopped a little while ago.

This afternoon I’ve got my class at Northwestern High School, so maybe I’ll go over to the BCC computer lab and try to enter some files on the Appleworks database.

Last night, after my drive, I brought Chinese food over to my parents and Jonathan, who’d had a surprisingly good day at the flea market thanks to the Jamaican sugar cane cutters who came down in buses from Belle Glade.

Later, Teresa returned my phone call. She confided to me that after a fabulous week working for Frank, she’d “shot [her]self in the foot” on Friday night.

To celebrate Kalikow’s buying the Post from Murdoch – the deal was officially announced yesterday – she went along with others to one of his restaurants.

Though he’s called “the poor man’s Donald Trump,” Kalikow, at age 44, has over $500 million. (I’d be happy to be known as “the poor man’s Peter Kalikow.”)

At the celebration, Teresa got very, very drunk – which she says is unlike her, and also surprising since she had only four vodkas.

Colin Dwyer, Kalikow’s attorney – a guy about our age – started coming on to her, and Teresa says they were nuzzling and petting at the restaurant. “It felt good,” she told me.

He took her home, where she got violently ill and couldn’t remember anything the next morning.

Later that day, Colin came back to the apartment to see her, and he seemed to Teresa a perfect candidate for an affair. He’s married, of course, but Teresa said it’s an “Irish marriage” where he goes home only a few nights a week.

She said she was looking for just this kind of guy, and she felt really happy.

Teresa has long wanted to work for Frank, and she loved being at the center of the action, again talking with Andrew Stein and city councilmen and prominent business leaders.

She’d even considered canceling her Mexican vacation and going to work full-time for Frank and his partner Ceil.

But on Sunday morning, Ceil called Teresa and really dressed her down.

Ceil said that everyone saw her and Colin necking on Friday night, and of course people watched as they left together.

Unlike Donald Trump, Peter Kalikow is a devoted family man and doesn’t like married people who fool around.

Although Colin was the one who first came on to her, in the business world, it’s always the woman who bears the burden of responsibility.

Ceil told Teresa she has to be very careful because she represents Frank, and she also intimated that she knew the details of Frank and Teresa’s affair eight years ago.

Ceil, a recent widow, has her whole life savings invested in Frank’s business, and Peter Kalikow is their biggest client, “the one who pays the rent.”

Frank was off at the Inner Circle on Friday evening, and Teresa doesn’t know if Ceil told him about her behavior or not.

“I can’t believe I blew it so quickly,” Teresa said.

I suggested that her own phrase – “shot myself in the foot” – meant that she had a self-destructive streak. Then I reminded her that she’d given up politics and PR, and that this world wasn’t really her life anymore.

Although she’d been nervous about going on vacation to Mexico by herself, Teresa was now grateful to be going out of town for a week. I wished her a good trip.

Boy, Teresa manages to screw up so well, it’s hard to believe she doesn’t plan it that way.

After hanging up with Teresa, I called Ronna and woke her up. Before I let her go, she told me that her grandmother had a setback yesterday and they had to put in a pacemaker.

I’ll call Ronna later to find out what’s what with her grandmother. Well, I’d better go now.

*

6 PM. After having lunch at the 163rd Street Mall, I drove down to Northwestern High School, where I demonstrated the database feature of the Appleworks program.

Because of the rain, everyone seemed to lack energy, so I let the class go early, around 4:30 PM. After today’s sixth session, there are only two more to go.

Battling rush hour traffic on N.W. 27th Avenue/University Drive, I made it home about 45 minutes ago. I read USA Today and paid the one bill I got in the mail.

Sophie left word to stop in at FIU tomorrow to sign a contract for one of the workshops.

I’m going over to my parents’ now, as Marc said he’ll be bringing China over. Hopefully, I can watch the Iowa caucuses on C-SPAN there.


Tuesday, February 9, 1988

8 PM. At my parents’ house last evening, we all played with the dog after dinner (pasta for us, Mighty Dog for China).

Then I watched the results of the much-hyped Iowa caucuses. On the Democratic side, the vote went as expected: Gephardt 27%, Simon 25%, Dukakis 22%, with the others trailing.

Dole, as predicted, took the Republican caucus with about 38%, but the surprise was that Pat Robertson mobilized his Religious Right troops enough so that he came in with 25%, ahead of Vice President Bush, who finished a poor third with 19%. With Bush’s inevitability destroyed, he must win in New Hampshire next week to survive.

Today I went to the county Democratic headquarters and got a form to qualify as delegate candidate for the Democratic National Convention.

Unlike in 1984, when delegate candidates (like me and Mom) appeared on the ballot, this year the delegates allocated by congressional district will be elected at caucuses following the results of the primary.

I filed as an uncommitted delegate. I’ve got no chance, but as head of Florida Democrats for Undecided, I figure it’s my duty to be in the process.

Before I taught today, I drove over to the Teacher Education Center at FIU.  Sophie needed to combine several workshops into one contract to keep me under the number of FTE’s taught by full-time faculty members.

Figuring it all out is complicated, but I’m just about under the wire and can’t teach any more workshops this academic year. That’s fine with me, as I’ll be making about $6000 as is.

The Riviera Junior High BASIC class was very happy to hear that I’ll be teaching their Productivity Software workshop. Today I introduced READ/DATA, and as I expected, my students found it rather confusing.

Still, they seemed to have fun working on their computers, and I enjoyed demonstrating a vote-counting system I made during class.

My car began making a funny noise on the drive home, and I’m certain it’s going to break down soon. Since it’s riding okay so far, I’m going to risk taking it to work tomorrow and then on Thursday.

I can’t complain, because the Camaro – which must be the official car of the Howard Beach defendants – hasn’t given me any trouble in months.

But I definitely decided against taking it to New York. If I need a car to drive from the city to Rockland County, I’ll get another one up there.

I got my money’s worth from the Camaro, and if it can be sold for $2000, I’ll be happy.

Ronna called and said her grandmother was in guarded condition and they’re not sure whether to give her a permanent pacemaker or an angioplasty or what.

My feeling is that Mrs. S’s heart may just be giving out. I expect the same thing will happen to Grandma Ethel sooner or later.

It will be a shock to me when Grandma Ethel goes. I’ll miss those overnight stays in Rockaway even if I had to put with the miserably long bus and subway rides to get out there.

But life goes on, people age, and they die.

On the radio this morning, I heard Dr. Wayne Dyer, the upbeat pop psychologist. A 23-year-old guy from Coral Springs called in, and he was upset about having panic attacks; Dyer advised him to change his attitude.

I called up and said the guy should seek out a medical doctor who was up on the latest treatments – both drugs and behavioral – for agoraphobia. I hope the caller heard me and that he will get some help.TC mark

Related

More From Thought Catalog