A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-March, 1988

Friday, March 11, 1988

3 PM. Last night I stayed up late and got about 100 pages into Secrets of the Temple.

Some of the material in the book reviewed the things I’d learned about the Fed and money creation in my Money and Banking course two years ago.

It seems clearer than ever to me that today money is information in motion.

The dizzying process of money creation via bank reserves and the money multiplier resembles recursion, that almost incomprehensible concept I learned about in my LOGO and Artificial Intelligence courses.

Actually, reading about the Fed may stimulate me to write another story like “I Saw Mommy Kissing Citicorp.”

I woke up very late today, and at noon I went across the street for a 45-minute workout. Yet another shipment of shirts for the flea market had arrived via UPS, and Dad was struggling to sort out the packages and handle his own paperwork.

It’s been over seven weeks since UPS brought me that VCR by mistake, but I’m not going to open the package because I’m certain that would ensure that UPS would call to claim it.

I’ll just keep waiting, and if they haven’t bothered me by the end of April, I’ll leave it at my parents’ house when I go to New York.

They can use it to rent movies for the downstairs TV, and maybe I can have the VCR for myself someday.

This afternoon I drove out to FIU to collect my paycheck. Out of $1750, I netted only $1511 – but I’ll get most of the withholding back with next year’s tax return, I suppose.

In two weeks I should get a check for a somewhat smaller amount, and then I’ll get a check for about $1000 in May for the last two courses.

Sophie had some more workshops for me to teach, but unfortunately they run past my May 4 deadline.

After depositing my state check and a $500 cash advance on one of my secured American National Bank Visa cards, I came home to read the papers.

For tomorrow’s creative writing workshop at Broward Community College, we’ve got only one piece to discuss, so I hope some of the students bring in some stories or poems. We’ll probably get something.

The last couple of days I was tempted to go out to the pool in the late afternoon, when it’s been sunny, but fear of the sun’s effect on my skin keeps me from going there.

I’m afraid of skin cancer, of course, but my vanity takes precedence over my hypochondria: I despise the wrinkles on my face and don’t want to get any more of them or deepen the wrinkles I already have.

I was excited to see the deaf students at Gallaudet University win their protest over the appointment of a hearing president over two deaf candidates.

The protests, which galvanized the deaf community across the country, heartened me. For the deaf, it was like Selma or Stonewall, only nobody had to get hurt.

Maybe this is the start of a trend toward social activism. I’m curious what the national mood will be this time next year. More liberal, I hope.

I wrote a letter to Sat Darshan, sending her some recently-published columns and stories.

Justin left a message on my answering machine. Good news: he’s directing Same Time, Next Year at a Lake George dinner theater.


Saturday, March 12, 1988

8:30 PM. I’ve just returned from my parents’ house, where I had dinner – our usual bagels and dairy dishes – and watched a little TV.

The air smells good now. It’s been mild lately, and I can’t remember the last time I had to wear my denim jacket, even at night.

Last night I didn’t get much sleep. I read Secrets of the Temple till 11 PM, then watched TV.

I fell asleep at about 2 AM but had a restless night, and when the radio alarm awoke me with “Sounds of the Caribbean” on WLRN-FM, I was in the middle of a dream in which I was on the roof of Teresa’s building because the elevator neglected to stop on any floor till we got to the top.

My BCC creative writing class went okay this morning, though we had only two pieces – and nobody handed in anything for the next class. But having little material to workshop makes me feel less guilty about not holding class next week.

Even the best of my student writers are terribly unsophisticated, but at least they are learning to be better readers of each other’s work.

Of course, none of them read any fiction outside of Stephen King and a couple of other bestselling authors.

Back at my parents’, I had lunch, read the papers, did the laundry, and at 2 PM I exercised to the Body Electric show I had taped two hours earlier on WLRN-TV/17. The show was a new one, and I had a pleasant workout.

I plan to take my exercise tapes to New York with me, but I have to be careful that Teresa doesn’t tape over them. I don’t know if I’m going to want to stay at Teresa’s for the whole summer if she’s going to be in the city most of the time, but for now, I’m willing to play it by ear.

I can always find a sublet if I have to.

As for the fall, I don’t know what I’ll be doing. I haven’t yet heard from the Rockland Center for the Arts, and no word is likely until August, when the NYSCA grants are announced.

However, I do plan to stay in New York for the fall anyway. I’m sure everything will work out.

In case of a disaster, I’ve always got Florida as a safety valve; at the very worst, I can live here and teach for FIU. But aside from my family, it’s an isolated, lonely life for me down here.

I miss my New York friends and the friends I know I could make up there – just because there’s a greater pool of young, educated professional people who share my sensibilities and attitudes.

While I’m sure there are people like that in Florida, the problem is I’d have to go out and look for them; I don’t run across them in my daily life. For instance, there are no writers my age down here . . . well, I guess they’re at FIU or the University of Miami, and that’s pretty far away.

Robert McFarlane pleaded guilty to four counts of misdemeanors in a plea bargain with the Iran/Contra special prosecutor. Within the month, North and Poindexter, among others, will probably be indicted.


Tuesday, March 15, 1988

Noon. It’s the Ides of March, and a cold wave swept through last night; it’s very odd for it to be this cool so late in the season, with only a week until spring.

When I called Ronna last night, she said it was snowing in New York. Ronna said they hired a new supervisor at work, a 30-year-old woman coming from Federated Department Stores, who doesn’t have experience with Jewish organizations.

Actually, Ronna probably should have applied for the position, but she’s so meek and non-aggressive when it comes to getting ahead at work; I worry that she lets people walk all over her.

She and her sister are flying to Orlando on March 30, a Wednesday night, and they’ll be back in New York Sunday night.

For the first night of Passover, they’re going to her aunt’s house, and they’ll have a small family dinner the second night.

Ronna’s grandmother has been back in the hospital again, and she obviously can’t do very much, and Ronna’s mother is pretty sure she’s going to be let go in favor of one of Proctor & Gamble’s own sales team (P&G took over Richardson-Vicks last year).

So Beatrice is worried about her future and waiting to hear if they’ll offer her a severance package or early retirement or what.

I’m hesitant about intruding when Ronna’s family is so messed up, but she said she’d like me to come up to Orlando; I told her we’ll decide at the end of next week.

I also spoke to Josh last night.

The guy he’s buying the co-op from turned out to be a real crook (how come it always happens like that with Josh?), but he hopes his lawyer will straighten things out. In the meantime, the negotiations are very frustrating.

Josh wanted to know if I knew of any sublets in New York starting in April. I’d already asked Teresa, who didn’t, but I gave Josh some suggestions, including putting an ad in the Voice.

It’s incredible the hassles one has to go through just to live in New York. Down here in Florida, I can easily move from one place to another; in fact, I’ll be out of here in six weeks.

Yesterday I got a brief letter from Crad, who said not to expect a proper letter for a month or so because he’s so busy. He’s selling his latest books on the street and researching for the hoax with which he intends to embarrass the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

He says this is turning out to be a year in which a great deal is happening, and that gives him hope. In the fall, he’ll be celebrating (if that’s the word) his tenth year on the street and he hopes to do something special.

The “worst poetry” anthology he’s put off for a while, till he can do it right.

He congratulated me on the Rockland residency but advised me not to do it on a volunteer basis if the NYSCA grant is denied.

Of course, Crad is very concerned with getting money for being a writer. Because I have other means of earning money, I’d be willing to work at Rockland for free just for the experience of being a Writer-in-Residence.


Thursday, March 17, 1988

9 PM. Marc and China just left. It’s so rare that I have visitors, and I’m afraid I kept them here so long that Marc, who gets up so early, became really tired.

I was showing him my computer and some BASIC programs and other software: PC-Write, D-Base, Lotus 1-2-3, LOGO, Pascal, etc.

Marc learned programming only on mainframes and isn’t familiar with DOS or any of the PC’s capabilities.

That China is so adorable, I could just eat her up. When she licks me, I feel loved. (She knows I’ll run away if she bites me, so she never does, but everyone else in the family keeps getting nipped by her.)

Last evening I called Pete Cherches at his new apartment in Montgomery Place.

He’s been there two months and has already decided he’s not going to take up the option to buy the apartment. Not only is the rent, $700 a month, more than twice his rent in the East Village, but he feels isolated and far away from things.

Park Slope is too quiet for him, even though he’d thought that was what he wanted.

His subtenant in Manhattan has to give him access to the apartment, and he keeps that as his legal residence, so he’ll have no problem moving back.

Except for readings, Pete has given up performing. and he’s working on his book project.

His NYU continuing ed course in experimental prose is going well again this term, and he’s using three of my stories, including “Go Not to Lethe.”

Susan Mernit will be observing him soon as part of her evaluation of the NYU Continuing Ed writing program.

I agreed to come to his class on Tuesday, May 10, and talk about what I do.

(What is it I do again?)

Pete said he ran into Laura, who is still teaching at that alternative high school and living with a boyfriend in Park Slope.

She seems bitter and beaten down, and Pete and I agreed it was sad because Laura used to have so much energy and drive.

I remember how intimidated I was by her when I was a sophomore and she was a senior and editor of the yearbook. (Maybe I could write a story about that.)

Anyway, last night we got the news that 3200 American soldiers were being sent to Honduras. I hope Alice’s brother and mother are in no danger.

Actually, I suspect the whole affair was blown up on the pretext of Sandinista incursions across the border to gain Congress’s support for Contra aid and to deflect attention from the Iran/Contra indictments.

This afternoon I went to BCC, and at the computer lab I saw Ray, who’d been looking for me.

He’s one of five candidates for a position at Queens College, and he wanted to ask me about the school and the area and CUNY.

He’s also up for other jobs, including one at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Because I’d been so busy with my TEC work, I hadn’t been to the FIU/FAU/BCC computer lab lately, and I didn’t know until today that Ray had been fired over Christmas. (They had to give him a year’s notice.)

The jerks at FIU treated Ray very badly. They just wanted to follow the lead of the Dade and Broward schools in computer education and were resistant to innovation.

When Janice Sandiford came in, Ray came over to the Apple IIe where I was working and told me he’s not speaking to her. Well, I guess he has every right to be upset about everyone at the FIU School of Education.

I hope Ray gets a good job at Queens or some other college where they’ll appreciate his research and publications.

I also spoke with Dave and Robert, BCC’s computer machers. Compared to them, I knew nothing about the technology.

I sent out a dozen more copies of “640K” to little magazines today after I got a rejection from The Cache Review that said, “I’ll probably regret not taking this – it’s intelligent and well-written.”

That gave me some confidence that I can eventually get the story published.


Sunday, March 20, 1988

10 PM. I was so tired last night, but a toothache kept me awake. I was sure I was having root canal problems, but the ache went away once I managed to fall asleep at 2 AM or so.

I slept very late, and at 11:45 AM I began a workout that lasted 90 minutes: one half-hour of Body Electric, another with the weight bench, and a third doing chin-ups (and I think I strained a muscle in my neck on that exercise).

I’m in pretty good physical shape now, at least compared to what I’ve been most of my life. Still, I’d like to increase my aerobic capacity and work more on my abdominal muscles.

Although I spent most of the day reading newspapers, I still haven’t read today’s Times Book Review. In fact, I haven’t gotten around to last week’s.

A lot of my reading time has been taken up with Greider’s book last week, and I hope to catch up on my magazines this week.

As Andy Rooney complained on 60 Minutes tonight, there’s too much to read and too much to see on video and TV. If I’m ever going to go back to a heavy writing schedule, I’m going to have to cut down on newspapers and magazines. If only the information weren’t out there and so tempting.

Compensating for yesterday’s disaster, my family had a terrific day at the flea market.

Although record cold is still with us (it hit 50° last night), today was clear and bright.

This evening I spoke to Teresa, who has a bad cold.

Teresa has been interviewing groups of prospective sharers for Fire Island but will probably end up settling on one couple who are Pam’s friends.

After the Inner Circle dinner, Frank called Teresa into his office and berated her for being “a floozy and a flake.” He said she can’t keep her mouth shut and has to change her personality if she’s going to stay in P.R. and politics.

Teresa was very upset and felt his criticisms were unfair. She had purposely avoided drinking too much or wearing provocative clothing at the dinner and said she couldn’t help it if this married guy latched onto her.

But Frank wouldn’t listen, and his partner Ceil backed him up – so Teresa seems pretty sure that she’s not going to work for Frank full-time: “It’s as if everything keeps telling me that this is not for me.”

I called Tom tonight and we spoke for an hour.

Tom seems disgusted with the way things have changed at NOCCA. The new principal and other administrators have destroyed the old attitudes and the school’s programs keep being undermined.

At least Tom has less than six years before retirement and a (small) pension.

He’s also distressed that he hasn’t written much since he came back from Europe, although his poems, stories and prose poems come out regularly in little magazines.

Still, he hasn’t been able to get any of his books published, and the stories he feels are his best have yet to be accepted.

He’ll join Debra in Zurich at the end of May and spend the entire summer in Europe; he may even get a grant from Pro Helvetia to translate three Walser essays.

Tom said Updike’s latest, S., is a piece of garbage, but he praised the new Bernhard and Calvino books.

Teresa said that she and Judy were in the elevator, talking about today being the first day of spring. Judy asked her, “Does this mean Richie will be coming up North soon?”

Yes, in six weeks.

I mean to enjoy my remaining time in Florida, but I also am going to try to work a bit harder while I’m here.TC mark

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