A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early June, 1988

Wednesday, June 1, 1988

4 PM. I just spoke to Anson Fife, who liked the material I sent him but thought it was so distinctive that if I write for his revue, he wanted me to be a performer – “an actor,” he said – in the show. How very odd.

Anson and the other writers are having a meeting near here a week from Sunday, and I said I’d be there. Perhaps I can use my shticks as an independent Vice Presidential candidate at different points during the evening.

They’re looking toward an August tryout night, with performances expected in September at Primary Stages. While this could lead nowhere, it could also be very exciting.

Until I see what’s what, I won’t get my hopes up – just as I won’t with the book Jeff Timpe is planning with Tom’s backing. The revue may not be for me, but Anson seemed very interested.

I just got in from Teachers College, where I attended an Introduction to the Macintosh workshop from 1 to 3 PM. It was, for three dollars, a great bargain: just the kind of thing I needed.

I did work once before at a Mac at Ronna’s office, but after today, I’ll feel much more comfortable with one.

We went over the way the Mac operates, with the mouse, icons and pull-down menus, and then we got into MacWrite; I even printed out a gorgeous page on the laser printer.

Anyway, it was well worth the time and money, especially since there were only three other students, all of whom were basically computer-illiterate. For me, it provided a lot of the hands-on experience I needed.

Oddly, Sat Darshan wrote a letter to Teresa a day after I’d written her to ask for her work number, which I’d lost. She apologized for being rude to Teresa but said she felt great hostility toward her for stopping contact once Sat Darshan became a Sikh.

Anyway, in her letter, Sat Darshan gave me her number to call, but she was away at a seminar today.

Last night I had trouble getting to sleep and was up until 4 AM. Around 7 AM, Teresa got in after an evening that she described in comic terms.

Colin took her to his boat, docked at Jersey City’s new Newport Centre complex, and basically he spent the night chasing her around.

Teresa is beginning to think that Colin’s lending her a car isn’t worth putting up with his pomposity and pretentiousness. She’ll be back home in a couple of hours and plans to go to Fire Island tomorrow.

It’s about to storm again, and I can feel the ozone in the air. And I just heard of clap of thunder. I feel good.


Friday, June 3, 1988

8 PM. Last night’s reading of Justin’s play was interesting. I got to the place early and spoke with Justin and Ben, who was reading the parts of two characters.

It was good to see Ben, who said he’s in the market for a new roommate now that Justin is moving out. Whoever gets to be Ben’s roommate is lucky; he was a pleasure to live with five years ago.

I remembered Veronica Berein from the reading of Justin’s diner play, and I also had met Alan Carlson, who last night read the part of Justin’s protagonist.

John Bianchi, an incredibly cute little guy, read the part of the teenage son; I was really disappointed to find out he had a girlfriend.

The reading went very well, with some actors performing excellently, and I stayed for the discussion afterward. Chuck Maryan conducted the workshop the way I do my creative writing classes.

While it looked like Justin wasn’t pleased with the individual reactions, I think most of them were on target as to the play’s weaknesses. Chuck gave a particularly good critique of the protagonist’s fuzzy motivation.

Walking to Times Square, I took the IRT home and was asleep by 11 PM.

Today’s AIDS Education and Human Sexuality course was enjoyable, if very long. I got an A on my first paper and don’t have to hand in the second one tomorrow but can put it Ms. Rosado’s mailbox by Tuesday.

This morning we talked about affective learning and went over guidelines for lessons involving discussions of feelings. Then Gerri Abelson, the AIDS education coordinator for the Board of Ed, discussed various issues.

In the afternoon we went through a lot of sensitivity training and began exploring our own discomfort with sexual topics.

We were asked to give synonyms for words such as “homosexual” (naturally, most were highly negative), “menstruation,” “penis,” “vagina,” and “testes.”

In fact, I got picked to read all the synonyms for “homosexual”: fag, faggot, queer, fairy, fruit, etc.

Our last speaker, Ann Northrop from the Hetrick-Martin Institute for the Protection of Lesbian and Gay Youth (to which I’ve donated money in the past), was very dynamic.

She talked about homosexuality, describing it as natural and normal, and the particular problems of the gay adolescent.

The Institute not only runs Harvey Milk High School but also provides a center that’s an alternative to the dangerous piers and other places where gay kids go because there’s no other place for them.

As Ann said, where else can two high school boys get together and talk about another boy they think is cute? The Institute provides them with a non-erotic atmosphere where gay and lesbian teens can socialize.

Despite some dumb questions by the two JAPs sitting next to me, I enjoyed the class today and I feel I’ve gotten a lot out of it in all three learning domains: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor.

As we began talking about AIDS , Ann told us there’s no such thing as “the AIDS virus.” AIDS is a syndrome, not a disease, caused by HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus. (Even the President’s Commission on the HIV Epidemic recognized this by taking that name.)

AIDS is not contagious; HIV is a transmissible virus, blood-borne and spread by sexual contact.

Although I knew most of this, it made me realize how much of the basic “facts” given by the media are gross distortions.

I haven’t yet fully processed everything from today, but I expect I will in time.

Home at 5:30 PM, I got a call from Marc, who wished me a happy birthday and asked me some computer questions.

I explained about DOS and its commands and suggested some books for him to get started playing with the computer. He already has all the hardware set up and has gotten to the A> prompt.

After dinner alone at the counter of the American Diner, I came home to read the papers and watched the TV news.

Last night I called Ronna, and this time I was the one who woke her up, so we didn’t stay on the line.

Tomorrow I turn 37, and I think it’s going to be a piece of cake.


Sunday, June 5, 1988

9 PM. I’ve just completed writing the lesson plan on sex education for junior high school that was our second assignment. I’ll put it in Lilliam’s mailbox at Teachers College tomorrow. That’s a relief.

Now I have to write a high school lesson plan on AIDS and write a three-page position paper on a controversial issue in sex education, but I have till June 18 to do those.

At 1 PM, I left here for downtown Brooklyn, a place I haven’t been to in a long time.

Judging from the bad service and poor food I got at lunch, Junior’s Restaurant seems to have gone downhill.

Walking down Nevins Street, I crossed over at Dean Street and found Sat Darshan’s apartment without any difficulty. She and Dharma Singh live on the top two floors of an old brownstone (probably now worth $500,000) in newly fashionable Cobble Hill – or is it Boerum Hill?

Sat Darshan looked very much the way I remembered her, and later, when she took off her turban, I could see that her jet-black hair had no grey in it.

She brought me a Diet Coke, and we sat in the living room, talking about computers and her job at the bank and the teaching that I do.

I went along with her as she shopped, buying cinnamon sticks from one of the Arab specialty stores on Atlantic Avenue, some fruits from a grocer, and other supplies at a bodega.

She likes Atlantic Avenue because in her white outfit and turban, she isn’t hassled there – not with all the Hare Krishnas, Black Muslims, Palestinians and other Arabs about.

I began talking with her just like I did when she was the old Avis – which, partly, she still is.

She told me that in addition to being marijuana-dependent, she became an alcoholic when she lived in Germany.

Even now, after being totally sober for eight years, Sat Darshan says that when she’s emotionally upset, the first thing she craves is a drink.

I gathered that she and Dharma Singh ran into a real rough spot in their marriage last year, but she went into therapy and seems to have gotten past it.

The two girls from India should be arriving at the end of the month, and Sat Darshan will take a leave of absence from the bank for the summer to help her daughters make the adjustment to life in the West.

They’ve stayed in New York City because Sat Darshan is paid so well at Bayerische Landesbank – where she’s worked for seven years – and Dharma Singh’s built up a practice in homeopathy, herbology and acupuncture at his office on West 52nd Street in Hell’s Kitchen.

I waited to leave until 5:30 PM after he came home so I could chat with him for a little while, and I meant it when I told Sat Darshan that I hoped to see her again, as our friendship picked up so easily.

Anyway, I walked down to the Fulton Street mall and took the subway home.

Soon after I got in, Josh called from a phone booth, saying he’s in his new apartment and “the nuts” are still watching him, right outside his building. I said I’d see him on Monday.

Ronna also called, and we made plans to get together on Friday. She’s just been busy and hasn’t been angry with me, she said. I guess we’ll see where we are when we get together.

Teresa said she’ll be home tomorrow night – when I expect to be at Grandma Ethel’s in Rockaway.


Monday, June 6, 1988

8 PM. It’s a pleasant evening at the beach in Rockaway.

Last night I watched the Tony Awards and read Sunday’s Washington Post, which had the first estimate of the projected number of AIDS cases by 1993, and it’s bad: by then, 450,000 Americans will have the disease.

Actually, I now know that AIDS is really a medical construct, and people should instead speak of HIV disease.

Scientists now believe that almost everybody who tests positive will eventually get sick, a sharp contrast to what was common wisdom less than two years ago.

After exercising to the 9:30 AM Body Electric on WNYC-TV, I worked out with my dumbbells using my makeshift weight bench (the table on which the VCR is stored).

I was still sweating and reading the Times when Susan called, asking if I wanted to meet her at the American Diner for coffee. After quickly showering and dressing, I walked, wet-headed and lens-less, down 85th Street to the restaurant.

This week Susan is so incredibly busy with a slew of articles to work on that she feels pressured.

NYU’s School of Continuing Ed wants her to continue to be a consultant to their Writing Program, and Susan said she could get me a class to teach there if I wanted to.

It turns out that the reason Pete never mentioned Susan’s lousy observation report of his class to me was that he didn’t get it until last week.

Susan’s looking forward to Zack starting nursery school in the fall. She’d like to have the time to start writing more personal essays, and perhaps the NYU work will provide a cushion for her so that she won’t have to take on so many freelance assignments.

After leaving Susan at a shoe store on Broadway, I went up to Teachers College with my assignment, and when I returned to Teresa’s, I got my mail, which included a sweet birthday card – one they’d sent before – from my parents and a check for $50.

I then left for Brooklyn, getting to Dr. Hersh’s office at 4 PM. Robert didn’t find any cavities, but perhaps the x-rays will pick up something.

Despite flossing and using the Interplak, my gums above my caps are still inflamed; I’ll try using Listerine, which the dentist said can fight plaque.

Next Monday at 4 PM, I’ll return for another appointment, and I guess I’ll come to Grandma’s after that, too.

Today was a gorgeous day – dry, sunny, about 75° – though in South Florida, it would be just a standard winter day.

I’m glad I missed seeing Teresa tonight.

Talking to Sat Darshan yesterday, I realized I share more values with her than I do with Teresa. Like me, Sat Darshan isn’t interested in the stylish but shallow Yuppie world that Teresa’s always wanted to be a part of.

Teresa admires Peter Kalikow and Donald Trump, and I don’t know anyone else in my life who does.

I love staying in Teresa’s apartment as long as I don’t have to share her life. Sat Darshan pointed out that Teresa could never stand being alone, and I guess that trait is what makes her hardest to live with.

Anyway, I had dinner out, took the bus across from Kings Plaza to Beach 116th Street, and walked here. Grandma’s out playing cards.


Wednesday, June 8, 1988

10 PM. This is one of those days when I feel indescribably happy to be alive and to be living my life.

Although I felt good all day, just a little while ago – after reading the Times and watching the end of Dirty Dancing on HBO – a feeling of intense well-being swept over me, a moment when I realized how rich all my experiences have been.

I’m at Teresa’s, in Manhattan, by myself, and everything seems delicious.

I even ate well today. For lunch I had one of my favorites, the baby pizza (small, round, without cheese, with onions) at Roma Pizza in Park Slope, and for dinner I had delicious blintzes and pierogis at the Kiev.

Last night Grandma Ethel and I watched TV after she returned from playing cards.

The results of the final primary, in California, came in at 11 PM. Dukakis’s win there, and in New Jersey, put him over the top in delegates, and he’s wrapped up the Democratic nomination.

I remember twenty years ago, on my 17th birthday, that I shut the TV once I watched Robert Kennedy give his victory statement after winning the 1968 California primary.

It wasn’t until I turned on the radio at 6 AM the next day that I learned he’d been shot just a few minutes later. As I realized what had happened, I started sobbing, and I burst in on my sleeping parents with the news.

“This goddamn country,” Dad said as Mom tried to calm me down.

After sleeping well last night, I had breakfast at 8 AM, worked out to Body Electric at 9:30 AM, and left Grandma’s an hour or so later.

In the elevator, her elderly next-door neighbor quoted Jackie Mason to me: “I know I’m old because everything hurts – and the one thing that don’t hurt, don’t work.”

It was cool and cloudy as I walked to the bus at Beach 116th Street.

At Fort Tilden, I gave a soldier a token in exchange for his dollar bill so he could pay his fare. “They take bills on the buses in Chicago,” he said, thanking me.

At the Junction, I got on the B41 bus up Flatbush Avenue, taking it to Eastern Parkway.

Then, after lunch on Seventh Avenue, I caught the B67 bus, which went up Flatbush to downtown Brooklyn, past the Department of Motor Vehicles building where I got my first driver’s license in 1969, the Schermerhorn Street tower where I worked with Peggy Humphreys for the Fiction Collective in the mid-1970s, and the little store on Fulton Street, the old Slack Bar, where I also worked (when I was 14 and 15) and where I later used to visit Grandpa Herb in the back, sitting at his sewing machine.

I got off the bus at Jay Street, by New York City Tech (where I taught for one day back when it was NYC Community College), St. James Pro-Cathedral, and the Concord Village apartment house where Dr. Bob Wouk and I had our therapy sessions.

At Grand Army Plaza, I’d seen a sign advertising Sunday as “Come Home to Brooklyn Day.” Today I transversed the length of the borough by bus, stirring up a lot of memories.

Last night Teresa had called and told me to stop by the chicken store, so I walked over to Henry Street, noticing that the big Morgan Stanley building on Pierrepont was up already.

At the store, I found not only Teresa but also Pam and Norton and Norton’s daughter Chrissy, who’s living with her Puerto Rican boyfriend in the Bronx. (Pam is worried because the guy’s wife and ex-girlfriend both died of pneumonia that she thinks might have been the result of AIDS.)

I helped Teresa take dozens of bottles of soda she had just ordered from some guys from their truck to her van (borrowed from Colin), which, despite its large size, could barely accommodate all we were putting into it.

This Saturday, Teresa is catering her largest party yet – a wedding for 200 people – and she’s been nervous about it.

Last night Teresa told me that yesterday Norton had raged at her, in front of her father, for not coming in this Sunday, and later he fired her and told her to get out of the store.

But then Pam said that if Norton fired Teresa, she would leave, too, so Norton quickly un-fired her, and Pam left them alone to fight for another hour.

Although Teresa likes her job at the chicken store, I can see that with her summer in Fire Island now a reality, she’s not far from quitting. I think Norton will be flexible with her hours since he needs her so badly.

Anyway, the real purpose of my visit to the Henry Street Chicken Company was to make Teresa think I wasn’t avoiding her in by staying in Rockaway.

Back on the West Side, I had phone messages from Justin, Pete, and Josh.

Since I was supposed to see him this evening, I called Josh back right away. He told me to meet him at 5:30 PM at a lumber store around the corner of Mays near Union Square.

Harry also arrived at the lumber store when I did, as Josh wanted us to carry a door-sized piece of wood back to his apartment.

The three of us somewhat awkwardly made our way to Josh’s building, a fairly fancy place with an elegant lobby and doorman, up to his 17th floor apartment.

The place is very tiny, smaller than any apartment I’ve ever been in, although I could imagine myself being comfortable there.

Josh plans to use the door as a tabletop for his workspace: computer, printer, TV and VCR. He’s hardly unpacked yet and has been sleeping on the floor.

After we admired the apartment sufficiently – I did like the view of Astor Place and Cooper Square – Harry and I helped Josh carry a lot of garbage down to the basement.

We walked down St. Marks to Second Avenue to have dinner at the Kiev. It’s going to be interesting to visit Josh now that he lives in the East Village, a more interesting place than Brooklyn Heights.

Aside from mentioning that he’d seen Phil Straniere outside his building, Josh didn’t talk about the harassment conspiracy during dinner, and he seemed pretty sane.

I took the subway uptown, and have been enjoying myself since I got in. Days like today are the reason I stay in New York.TC mark

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