A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-June, 1989

by Richard Grayson

Wednesday, June 14, 1989

8 PM. It rained again today. Intermittent showers are expected to continue for the rest of the week, just as they did most of last week. The dark, cool weather is a change for me, and I appreciate it because I know I’ll be back in South Florida in two months.

According to my Snowbird Edition of the Sun-Sentinel, the legislature funded the Broward branch campus of Florida Atlantic University, and unless the Governor vetoes the bill, classes will begin on August 28 in temporary buildings at BCC-Central in Davie. Perhaps I can teach there.

I know Betty came back from her vacation today, but I didn’t want to bother her now. Tomorrow or Friday, I’ll call her to find out what’s doing. Even if they don’t want me at BCC-South as a sabbatical replacement, I’ll be happy to return to Florida and teach English part-time at BCC, FIU, FAU or a combination of any of them.

There are probably no adjunct English jobs at CUNY in the fall because of the budget cuts, but I don’t want to deal with teaching remedial writing to the city’s underclass again.

Last evening I picked up my reading of T.D. Allman’s Miami: City of the Future, which I’ve brought back to Manhattan so I can finally finish it. When Grandma returned from her friend’s apartment, we watched TV sitcoms together till bedtime.

I dreamed about moving again – something I’ll have do in the fall – and I felt the anxiety of getting myself ready to go to a new place.

I left Rockaway in mid-morning after I’d exercised and watched an old Lucy show with Grandma. Her ankles looked awfully swollen, and I told her to see the doctor if that continues.

Teresa called last night after she’d arrived home. She stayed in Fire Island on Monday and had Pam deliver chicken to the Christian Dior Lingerie office in her absence.

That was Teresa’s first episode of not coming into work this summer. While I suspect it won’t be the last, Teresa sounds fairly determined to keep her job making lunch there.

Since she’s off the books, getting fired would mean she couldn’t collect unemployment benefits.

Teresa’s Fire Island parties went well, and she’s got two booked for this weekend and more after that. She even had some takeout business on Monday.

Teresa told me she met another wonderful guy – a rich (naturally) 47-year-old lawyer (ditto) who has two little daughters and a fortune in real estate.

But like all the wealthy middle-aged men Teresa meets, he prefers 21-year-olds, so Teresa wrote him a cute poem – more accurately, it’s cutesy – which she plans to deliver to his doorman.

I don’t think that’s a good idea, but I kept quiet about it.

This morning Teresa blamed the bank for losing $600 of her money, but it might have been her own carelessness that did it.

Being careless is the hallmark of the way Teresa lives, and that scares me. Of course, I live an overly cautious life.

Anyway, late this morning I came home through the IRT in Brooklyn, and my subway ride was enlivened by a class of fourth-graders (all black) and their harassed teacher Miss White (white) who made an adorable ruckus. Most of the kids seemed to have African or pseudo-African names.

I brought in some Sicilian pizza for lunch, and unlike last Wednesday, my stomach has been okay. This evening I’m meeting Pete at the B. Dalton in the Village at 6:15 PM.

I’ve been reading the papers and watching Another World. (Mac finally died on the show, just as the actor Douglass Watson did in real life last month.)

This weekend I need to work on my Broward Cultural Quarterly article.

I haven’t heard from the printer about the chapbook, so I assume everything is going fine.

There’s a growing consensus that New York City is already in a recession, driven by the cutbacks in financial services.

There’s still billions to be made in mega-deals on Wall Street, but despite the run-up in stock prices, the small investor remembers Black Monday too vividly to return to the market.

I’ve been feeling horny lately, staring at bare legs and arms on the streets and subways. Maybe when I get back to Florida and have a better social life, lightning will strike me again.

Could it be possible?

Anything’s possible.


Thursday, June 15, 1989

7:30 PM. I called Dad yesterday and learned that Marc’s car was stolen while he and Adriana were at the movies in Miami Beach the night before.

Naturally, Marc, who took pride in that Cadillac, is quite upset.

They should have stolen my car since I have no sentimental attachment to it (or any other car). At least Marc can drive my Pontiac for now.

Dad thanked me for my Father’s Day card, which “hit the spot” because it touched upon his feelings of being harried all the time.

He also gave me a message from Jodi Horne of The Broward Cultural Quarterly.

I phoned Jodi, whose editor wanted to know if I’d decided upon a topic for my article. I told her I’d send her a list, but I’d like to finish the Presidential campaign piece first.

As innocuous as it is by my standards, it may be too biting for a government-sponsored publication.

I just read the Corcoran Gallery in Washington canceled a showing of Mapplethorpe photographs because the government (who fund the gallery and its shows) thought politicians might be upset by the homoerotic and S&M images.

Funding of the arts by government, corporations and individuals is at a very low point as it is, but it’s sad to see this censorship. As if art is supposed to be comfortable and “nice”! As one artist put it, Hamlet and Macbeth aren’t exactly about charming doings.

While I’d like to have another outlet for my writing, the Cultural Quarterly gets my work (literally) as a donation (in-kind), and I’m not going to go crazy to write for them.

If they don’t want me, fine. I mean, I’d definitely sell out – but not when I’m the one who’s doing do the paying.

Teresa came in last evening and left this morning like a whirlwind, so I didn’t see her much.

At 5:30 PM yesterday, I went to meet Pete at B. Dalton in the Village.

We looked at the fiction racks, giving each other suggestions on good books . . . though I hardly read any fiction at all nowadays. I used to read a lot.

Although Pete hasn’t had any luck with his new book manuscript, he seems to know all these people who’ve got contracts with trade publishing houses.

I feel so removed from the scene of these young ambitious writers that it’s almost as if I operate in another galaxy.

Every few weeks another young talent is launched by Farrar Straus, Knopf or Vintage and hailed as a sensitive new voice in fiction.

I myself have no desire to read any of these people’s books: the descriptions of their stories or novels in the reviews are quite enough to turn me off.

Earlier, I had typed up “Narcissism and Me” and put it at the front of the manuscript I’m compiling of experimental stories. When I got home I put “Innovations” after it, at the end of the four stories I’ve got at present.

I’m surprised at how well my old stories hold up and feel they’re as good as the work of many overrated writers.

Well, if we’re lucky, Pete and I may one day become overrated.

While we were having dinner at BBQ, I was struck by the thought that it was one of the first restaurants in Manhattan that I’d gone to on my own as an adult. Twenty years ago, I used to eat there when it was The Cookery.

Pete said that Harold is off on some seminar in the country on how to build one’s own house; apparently, Harold intends to do just that when he leaves New York.

The black book on Pete and Harold’s building gave outrageous prices for their apartments.

If the co-op plan doesn’t go through and they have to refile a plan, the two-year delay may make Pete decide to give up the place because it’s not worth the trouble.

If the co-op plan does go through, Pete won’t buy at the exorbitant current asking price.

Pete told me all about his visit to Michael Kasper in Massachusetts and his planned trip to the West Coast in August.

Back on the Upper West Side, I got a call from Scott.

When I’d left a message for him, I’d heard both his voice and Joon’s on the answering machine, so I figured they were living together.

Scott said he and Howie Zwirner from Brooklyn College were co-counsel in arguing a case before the Appellate Division last week: “It was so strange to be with someone I went to school with, and here we are, him bald and me all grey, doing something so important.”

Scott and Joon are having a party in a few weeks, and I’m invited. Scott’s brother’s wife is due to give birth soon, and his parents have been up from Florida. It was good to hear from him.

I still haven’t been able to reach Sat Darshan, but I left a message with Mark and Amy.

Last night I slept very poorly and woke up to another rainy, chilly (58° high) day.

Teresa’s party for Saturday was canceled; naturally, she won’t be giving back these clients their $500 deposit.

At least it didn’t stop her from going to Fire Island tonight, so I can be alone in the apartment all weekend.

She called to ask me if I’d do her the favor of depositing $150 of my money to cover a check on her Virgil Enterprises account (which deals with the Berkshires house); as usual, Teresa screwed up financially.

This afternoon at Teachers College, I got my ID card. Now I can use the computers and printers in the CCIMS lab.

After calling Betty and getting no response, I wrote her instead. The coward’s way out? Well, if she has to turn me down for the job, it will be easier to do it through the mail than over the phone.

I paid some credit card bills. My Goldome Visa account was sold to GE’s Monogram Bank in Ohio. Goldome is probably on its way to failing, I expect.

The Supreme Court continues to overturn old civil rights rulings in order to address the grievances of white males.


Friday, June 16, 1989

9 PM. Remember a week ago, when I wrote how embarrassed I felt when Teresa and I were taking her shopping cart of supplies down the lobby stairs and Chris Bernau was sitting there, unable to move? I just read his obituary in the Times.

He died on Wednesday in Roosevelt Hospital. I didn’t imagine he was close to death when we saw him.

According to the obit, not only did he appear as Alan Spaulding on Guiding Light for so many years, but he also acted on Broadway and in off-Broadway plays. (In fact, I may have seen him 20 years ago in The Boys in the Band.)

The obit didn’t mention AIDS. It’s scary to think how many productive people like Chris have been lost in the AIDS epidemic.

Marc’s car was found in Liberty City. The Cadillac’s exterior and interior were untouched, but there was nothing under the hood: no motor, engine, nothing. The insurance adjustor hasn’t seen it yet, but it may be written off as a total loss.

Crad writes that he’s lonely and unhappy in Toronto. With the publication of Excrement, he alienated Stu, Pamela and most of his other friends. I can’t believe it was worth it.

Crad’s mother won’t be operated on after all; the doctors think it’s too risky with her heart condition. I assume that means she’ll die of her brain tumor.

Crad will be in Long Island in late July, and I may go to see him there.

Last night I watched Another Country, set in a British school in the 1930s: lots of boys giving each other languid looks.

I slept deeply and woke up at 8 AM today. When Teresa’s been away, I’ve been taping Homestretch on Channel 25 and also a series called Teaching Writing: A Process Approach on the same channel.

I went to the bank when it opened to deposit some cash. (Later, I returned to make an ATM deposit of the $50 check for the Broward Community College Writers Conference I got in the mail.)

I also bought a lot of stuff at the Love Store and the variety store, using my credit cards: now I’m supplied with toilet paper, plastic cups, soap, drugs, etc. for the next few weeks.

After working out, I called Sat Darshan at her office.

Mostly she wanted to talk about the co-op apartment she and Krishna have a bought. It’s in a four-story, eight-apartment building now under construction on Wyckoff Street, two blocks from their present home.

All the apartments in the new building have been bought by members of the Sikh community, and Sat Darshan is happy they can do their devotions together now and the girls can play with the other kids without having to be walked several blocks away.

It sounds great: a duplex 3-bedroom, 2½-bath apartment with access to the backyard. The rooms are smaller than the spacious brownstones she’s been used to, but Sat Darshan said she’ll be glad to live in a modern home after spending most of her adult life in 100-year-old buildings.

She’s going with the girls to New Mexico for three weeks in July. It’s costing a fortune, but she needs a vacation and wants the girls to spend time with Yogi Bhajan, whom they’ve met only once on a stopover he made in New York.

At the camp, the girls sleep in one area and “the ladies” (Sat Darshan’s term) in another, and all have to do some kind of chores.

Ronna called this afternoon to say she’s spending most of the weekend getting her room and closets back in shape now that the plumbing work is done – but she can see me on Sunday.

I got turned down for a JCPenney Bank MasterCard, so I won’t be applying for any new cards.

Today I saved money by not eating out; aside from my credit card purchases (all necessary items), I spent only $7 all day.


Sunday, June 18, 1989

8 PM. I’m tired – not sleepy, but tired because I’m not used to walking as much as I did today.

I went to Ronna’s at 12:35 PM and waited as she got ready to go out. Ronna showed me all the plumbing work that was done in the apartment and the mess it caused.

Jordan called while I was there. Someone in his law firm is handling the closing on the condo in Huntington bought by Lori and Alex.

Today was a great New York summer day: about 80°, dry, sunny and slightly breezy.

Ronna and I had lunch at Marvin Gardens (where they could not take my credit card because they were having trouble with their new system, which is supposed to make it easier; it’s the same kind of printed roll-type receipt I’ve gotten at the Love Store and the health food store).

In talking about her future career prospects, I told Ronna she’d be crazy to think about becoming a New York public school teacher. (Her stepmother told Ronna she could get her a job in her East Harlem district).

Ronna said she wants to remain in the not-for-profit world, where she is, rather than the corporate world; she doesn’t want to dress corporate or think corporate.

But anything’s better than the New York City Board of Education: libraries, museums, cultural organizations, universities.

Ronna wants to stay in New York for the foreseeable future, though she’s toyed with the idea of moving back to Pennsylvania, and her mother would love it if Ronna moved to Orlando.

I asked Ronna if she was interested in law school, but she said no. “Remember, I dated Jordan all through law school,” she said. “It’s not for me.”

I can understand that, but I think law school might be for me.

I’d like to see if I could get into Harvard, Yale, UC Berkeley, Stanford and maybe Columbia – the top five law schools in the U.S. If I could get a total scholarship, I think I could happily devote three years to law school.

What would I do afterwards? The obvious answer is that I’d like to be a law school professor and continue teaching.

But mostly I guess I’d like the novelty of law school.

Anyway, back to Ronna’s situation: It’s clear to me she’s stayed on too long at Yeshiva University, but maybe she should look at different jobs (not just in publications departments) at other colleges.

We walked all the way through Central Park to the new zoo that opened a year ago.

At 4 PM, we were in line and watching the musical animal figures on the Delacorte Clock go around, and we saw them again an hour later, before we left.

The zoo is organized on a climatological basis: a tropical rain forest, a frigid polar zone, a temperate zone.

We watched sea lions and seals being fed, and we saw penguins strut and swim and jibber, monkeys groom each other, colorful poisonous frogs, tropical birds and snakes, polar bears, swans.

The zoo doesn’t have everything (no lions or elephants, for example) but it does take good care of the animals it has. They don’t look sad the way the caged animals in the old Central Park (and Prospect Park) Zoo did.

For Father’s Day, there were hundreds of families, couples and friends out in Central Park – and lots of performers, from Cajun musicians to puppeteers to magicians and mimes.

We passed the Belvedere Fountain and all the serene-looking rowers on the lake, the renovated Boathouse, the statues of Shakespeare and Mother Goose, the landmark rocks, the meadow where gay men sunbathe.

All the while, Ronna and I talked about this and that and nothing at all.

I wish I hadn’t worn my ill-fitting Reeboks that I used for an aerobic workout earlier today, as my feet got blistered and weary.

Ronna didn’t mind my not walking her home, and I came back here to some muffins, some air conditioning, some foot care (spray foot deodorant, a massage), a comfy bed and the evening news.

I didn’t get any work done, but it was great to spend a day with Ronna, taking advantage of New York.