A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late June, 1989
by Richard Grayson
Wednesday, June 21, 1989
Noon. Teresa stayed in Fire Island yesterday because the weather, upsetting predictions, remained warm and sunny. That’s probably a sign she soon will begin staying out there most of the time.
Since I’m used to Florida, “nice” days here don’t affect me the way they do people like Teresa, who feel they’re so rare that they make working impossible.
I spent the afternoon reading in Riverside Park, and in the evening I took a bus to Columbus Circle, where Hare Krishnas had set up a series of booths and a man was walking a Capuchin monkey.
At the Days Inn, Dad had told me his meetings had gone okay. We went out to the Circles West diner for some food, which tasted all right – but I found a dime in my french fries.
I took out a $200 cash advance to lend Dad money he may need to buy some chains for their chandelier; apparently they can’t get them anywhere in Florida.
Back in Dad’s room, we tried to watch the movie The Naked Gun, but the sound was so distorted, that proved impossible, and Dad went down to the lobby to tell them not to charge him for the film.
Instead, we watched a new show about the Time/Warner/Paramount imbroglio. The latest is Time’s plan to buy Warner, which unlike the original stock swap, will involve a heavy debt load. It’s ironic that heavy debt is seen today as a strength, a defense against takeovers.
I’m certain all this leverage will lead to disaster, but with my huge credit card debt, I’m “going with the flow.”
The other issue involved here also affects me: the domination of a few, giant media companies. Trade publishing is already an oligarchy of six or seven firms.
Worldwide, Bertelsmann, Hachette, Murdoch, Maxwell and only a few other companies control newspapers, magazines, books, TV and movies.
The buzzword is “synergy,” wherein some book can become a movie, a TV series, be spun off into a comic strip (or vice versa: look at the ultra-hyped Batman), etc. But I suspect “synergy” is just a cover for greed.
I slept very well last night, having one terrific dream about attending a wedding in Rockaway with Marc and Justin and other people and driving a car through the house where the wedding was held.
This morning I got up late (9 AM), read the Times, and did aerobics. Mom phoned to say I should call Sophie, who’s leaving for Europe tomorrow.
Sophie told me that Rosa Harvey called and said two schools want me to do computer workshops for the fall. I told her I’d definitely be back before Dade County schools open after Labor Day. It’s nice to be in demand.
It struck me that maybe I should send “The Greatest” to the Cultural Quarterly to give me some publicity for the book.
I’m going to miss seeing Teresa when she comes home: I’m heading out to Rockaway now and planning on staying there overnight.
Friday, June 23, 1989
4 PM. I just spoke to Alice and then Dad.
Dad’s having dinner with the Texas salesman, Barry, while I’m meeting Alice at 6:40 PM to eat and then to meet Peter at the Delacorte.
However, there’s a thunderstorm raging at present, so I don’t know if Shakespeare will go on. But at least I’ll get to see Alice and Peter.
I like the energy in the air that comes with thunderstorms.
Last night I slept fairly well, though I have to get used to the especially loud rumble of Teresa’s air conditioner.
At least it’s working. I woke up at 9 AM and read most of the Times before I exercised at 10:30 AM.
After a shower, I put the finishing touches on my article for the Cultural Quarterly. Already prepared with a stamped, addressed envelope, I mailed it right outside Horace Mann Hall at Teachers College.
In the CCIMS lab, I printed out the first four stories in my Narcissism and Me manuscript. So it was a productive morning.
I did worry about my LOGO workshop on Monday because I saw this Chinese guy on the next computer doing an incredibly detailed program for Nancy Cunniff’s regular LOGO course using Apple LOGO Writer.
That made me realize that I’m not familiar with many of the advanced commands. Still, I was impressed with the animation, sound and graphics of the program.
I’ve been thinking I might switch my two credits of computer education workshops in August for a two-credit class on Alcohol and Health. Maybe that would be more interesting because it would put me in a new area and continue the health education trend I started when I took AIDS Education last summer.
Back at home, I did the laundry, read USA Today and the Wall Street Journal (which has a centennial edition that’s going to take me time to get through).
I feel relieved to have put the Cultural Quarterly manuscript in the mail.
This week I need to concentrate on my LOGO workshop, and I want to take a haircut and get my Triavil prescription at Deutsch.
Midnight. I’ve just taken a shower, washing my hair with Teresa’s special orange spice shampoo and using her sesame oil on my skin. Since I just came in from an evening outside in the humid air, I felt I needed to cool off till the air conditioner kicks in.
I feel magical after seeing the first preview of Twelfth Night in the park.
I had gotten to the corner of 86th and Broadway early because I xeroxed and mailed a dozen copies of a silly press release I wrote about me, a mayoral candidate of the Right to Be the Life of the Party, renaming the city New Trump so it would have the glamour of Trump Plaza and all the other things Donald Trump has named after himself.
It’s kind of dumb, but it does satirize the ’80s the way my deal for RJR Nabisco that got me into the New York Post and Business Week did.
Maybe somebody will pick up on it; despite the mayoral campaign, summer can be a slow news time. We’ll see. Anyway, I enjoyed doing it.
I waited for Alice on the corner for nearly half an hour, watching various intriguing carbon-based life forms pass.
It gave me the opportunity to observe the humiliation an aspiring City Council candidate goes through: in this case, Teresa’s acquaintance Scott Stringer, 28, supposedly a good guy.
Scott and his petition gatherer got lied to a lot when they asked passersby, “Are you a Democrat?”
Alice arrived late from a racquetball date, and we had dinner at Patzo.
During the meal, she offhandedly described a fight she had with her brother “on their way to Montana”; I didn’t even know they’d gone.
Today Alice had been scheduled to go on People Are Talking, a syndicated show, to discuss why celebrities get married so much, but she canceled, feeling she had little intelligent material to talk about.
Alice still is afraid to see her videotape of her appearance on Sally Jessy Raphael, but I told her watching it would help her evaluate her image.
Because I know how even the kindest remarks about one’s appearance hurt like a hangnail, all I’ve ever given her was praise – but I do think she needs to work on her posture.
We were a little late to the Delacorte because Alice wanted to stop for Häagen-Dazs, but we made the 8 PM show.
As Peter said, the first night often doesn’t draw a big crowd, and although we had to sit in the next to last row, I was happy.
Alice only wanted to see her idol Gregory Hines and said she never really liked or understood Shakespeare.
I reminded her we read Twelfth Night in Mr. Berger’s class in eighth grade before we saw a performance at Grady Vocational High School.
There were some opening night problems with body mikes, and the lines couldn’t always be heard distinctly, but I liked the performances by Gregory Hines (Feste), Jeff Goldblum (Malvolio), Michelle Pfeiffer (Viola), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Olivia), Stephen Collins (Orsino), John Amos (Sir Toby Belch), Fisher Stevens (Sir Andrew Aguecheek) and others.
I was somewhat surprised when both Alice and Peter decided to leave at the intermission.
They were tired, they said, but Alice also seemed bored, and she didn’t exactly follow the play: she thought Sir Toby was an uncle of the maid Maria. (Probably because both actors were black?)
Maybe I’m just less sophisticated and more easily impressed than Alice and Peter, who live in Manhattan, travel all over the world, and go to many social events, plays, films, etc., but I was excited to see the show.
So I stayed on by myself for the rest of the play, which got better as it went along.
Set in the 1890s at a seaside resort, this production may get bad reviews – but I enjoyed it. How bad can Shakespeare in the Park ever be, with the sky gradually darkening in that gorgeous setting, with Belvedere Castle looming in the background?
I walked home, following the crowd when I could and ready to brandish my umbrella like a rapier at any villain who dared come at me.
Good night, Richie.
Saturday, June 24, 1989
11 PM. Last night I was too exhilarated to sleep much. Waking up at 9:30 AM, I had only time to exercise for twenty minutes before Dad arrived at 11 AM.
He and I walked through Riverside Park and then by the river all the way uptown. We had to carefully cross the West Side Highway at around 108th Street because Dad wanted to see the 1 PM show of Field of Dreams at the Metro.
After a quick lunch at a nearby café on Broadway, we went over to the theater, where I paid with my American Express Computer Learning Systems corporate card.
I enjoyed the film but found it more sentimental than Bill Kinsella’s excellent novel, Shoeless Joe, on which it was based. Dad loved it, however, and like many men in the audience, snuffled a lot at the end.
We walked back to the apartment, where I had an attack of diarrhea. Should I be concerned about getting diarrhea as often as I do? I assume it’s mostly nerves and don’t pay much attention to it.
Dad went back to the hotel, where I met him for dinner at 6 PM, when I felt better. It turned from a cloudy day into a beautiful, dry early evening.
We had dinner at Wolf’s and then walked through Central Park and Lincoln Center before I bought the Sunday Times and took a cab home.
I got some papers in the mail from BookCrafters I don’t understand. They say they need shipping authorization and so forth; I’ll have to phone Ed Blissick, my account rep, about it.
Sunday, June 25, 1989
5 PM. I slept poorly again last night. When I did sleep, I dreamed about today’s Gay Pride march, which was logical because the gay movement has been much on my mind the past few days.
I’ve watched lots of TV shows dealing with gay history and gay issues, and as expected, the Times had a front-page piece today that summarized the movement twenty years after Stonewall. (One activist quoted in the article was Martin Algaze, who I remember as someone I went to Hebrew school with.)
Today I met Justin and Larry at Columbus Circle and watched the parade with them. I’ve seen a number of the parades, and I think I’ve gone to all of them in recent years, but it was a first for Justin and Larry.
Most of the elements familiar to me – Bruce the Bear, the placards of the Lesbian Herstory Archives, the moving volleyball game, the marching bands, Miss Liberty with great biceps, etc. – were new to them.
Because of the twentieth anniversary of the riot at the Stonewall, this year’s parade drew a bigger crowd and was longer, lasting over two hours. The theme was “A Generation of Pride.”
Yesterday there was a big rally and an ACT-UP march, and later today there’ll be a dance and fireworks. The post office is even issuing a special cancellation commemorating the Stonewall anniversary.
As usual, the hundreds of thousands of people out proved that gay men and lesbians come in all the varieties of people in general.
Obviously, I’ve never been in the mainstream of gay life. Unlike Fred, whom we saw marching with Brooklyn’s Gay Friends and Neighbors, I’ve never been part of an organization; and unlike Justin and Larry, I haven’t had a lasting relationship with a guy.
But I’m not going to be too hard on myself for not being more active or more “out.” I’m aware that we still live in a society that largely disapproves of gay people, hates homosexuality, and continues to be ignorant. Violence against gay people increases every year.
At least I’ve contributed money to gay causes, and I support everything the people marching today stand for, including – especially – the outrageous drag queens, who were the heroes of Stonewall.
Justin, Larry and I had a bite at a café afterwards, and then I came home to exercise and read more of the Sunday paper.
Now I plan to close my eyes and see if I can rest before I head downtown for dinner with Scott and M.J. Tomorrow I’ve got to get to Teachers College early and stay there all day.
Monday, June 26, 1989
8:30 PM. When I arrived at Teachers College early this morning, I learned that my LOGO workshop had been cancelled.
That freed up a lot of time for me today, but it also put me in a quandary because I’m now registered for only five credits. What if my other computer education workshops are also cancelled?
After looking at the schedule of classes, I think I’ll register for that class on Alcohol and Health for two credits and I’ll drop one of the August workshops.
The Alcohol and Health class meets on Friday and Saturday, August 4 and 5, and then on Friday, August 11 and 18.
I don’t want to have any regular class that meets twice a week because that will limit the times I can visit Grandma, and I want to keep the Teaching of Writing Institute.
Last evening I took the subway to Chelsea and arrived at Scott and M.J.’s doorstep at 8 PM. The dog, Mamacita, barked at me, but she was friendly and sat on my lap.
While Scott was dressing, I spoke with M.J. She moved in with Scott in March. and last week they decided to get married, probably around October. She’s now trying to sell her co-op up here on the West Side but has been meeting price resistance in a soft market.
M.J. also switched jobs; as Scott said, now she’s a big fish in a little pond rather than the other way around.
On Friday, Alice had commented that men who marry foreigners (as Scott did with his first wife, who was French, and now with a Korean woman) are often on a subtle power trip, for by having that linguistic edge, they are able to mediate between the world and the woman.
I did notice Scott having to explain idioms I used or words he thought might be unfamiliar: for example, a joke I made about how Van Nuys, California (I was telling him that Libby and Grant live there) got named: supposedly by an old Jewish man who got off the train and said “Very nice” in a heavy Yiddish accent.
But M.J.is smart, and when Southern California later came up in the conversation she said, “It’s Van Nuys there.”
I suppose Alice is right, but obviously Scott likes bright career women: he first married a pediatrician and now he’s marrying an architect.
Over dinner at a brand-new high-tech Greek diner called Moonstruck, Scott told me that he and M.J. would like to move to Westchester, preferably someplace like Hastings-on-Hudson, and I picked up that they’d like to start a family. (Scott’s sister-in-law, pregnant by artificial insemination, is due next week).
They’d prefer to keep the apartment in London Terrace but realize they probably won’t be able to once the management realizes they’ve moved.
Remember yesterday I mentioned seeing the name Martin Algaze in the front-page Times article on gay rights? Scott is a friend of Marty’s from high school, and Marty recently came out to Scott and another lawyer friend, Abe.
Scott emphasized how he couldn’t care less (he and M.J. had seen part of the Gay Pride parade) but that Abe freaked out and couldn’t deal with it.
Anyway, I had a very pleasant evening.
Catching the Tenth Avenue bus at 10:30 PM, I got back home in twenty minutes. I fell asleep at midnight but woke up a couple of hours later and barely slept after that.
I dragged myself out of the house to get to Teachers College before 8 AM. As it turned out, of course, I didn’t have to get up that early.
But I did take advantage of the cancellation of my class, using the extra time to get a haircut, deposit $900 in cash advances at the bank, call Book Crafters and send them the required papers and do grocery shopping.
Mom sent four credit card bills for me to pay, and I got my Trans-Union credit report in the mail.
Dad called from the menswear show and will be coming over soon to have dinner with me.
Eight weeks from today I’ll be back in Florida. I don’t want the time to go so fast, but I bet it will.
Friday, June 30, 1989
8 PM. I had a long talk with Teresa yesterday afternoon.
One of her Fire Island housemates. Sandy, who works at Teresa’s office, called her to say that she’d better come into work because the bosses are getting pissed.
Teresa found out the bosses were rude to the Tibetan girl she sent to make lunch in her place, and she’s sure she’ll be fired, so she’d rather quit first.
A lot of her reasoning was rationalization, but I encouraged it because I’d be happy if she stayed in Fire Island for the next eight weeks.
Also, she may be right that to have the motivation to succeed as a caterer at the beach, she needs to give up the security of a day job in the city.
The couple who canceled their party went to Europe but not before barraging Teresa – here and in Fire Island – with phone calls, threatening to “ruin” her business and to take her to Small Claims Court.
(They don’t know Teresa’s an expert, having been faced with at least one annual Small Claims suit against her every year since I can remember.)
I do agree with Teresa that the security she’d be giving up is a necessary trade-off to enjoy her life at the beach. Of course, that’s self-serving of me – because that’s how I run my life.
Teresa said lots of people hear about my life and decide it’s ideal before she tells them how much I’ve had to give up.
Just as I figured, I got my In The Sixties manuscript back from the Galileo Press contest with a polite form letter.
Easing my disappointment was the knowledge that one of the fiction winners was someone I like: Pat Rushin, the Florida Review editor who published “I Survived Caracas Traffic.” (He also got a Florida Arts Council fellowship this year.)
Mom sent the new issue of Poets & Writers, and I’ve decided to send the manuscript out right away to a Boston small press advertising for works of fiction to consider.
However, I’m going to do something more ambitious with the manuscript and add my best autobiographical stories from “Reflections on a Village Rosh Hashona 1969” (it needs a new title) to “Caracas.”
I’ll change names, dates and places to make the collection unified, the way I did with the stories already in In the Sixties (that title has to be changed, too). Then I’ll have a full-length collection.
Mom phoned late this morning to say the two sample copies of The Greatest Short Story That Absolutely Ever Was had arrived.
She said it looked professional and handsome, and I told her to Express Mail a copy to me at Grandma’s house. It will be exciting to see my first book in over six years.
If it looks good, I’ve been thinking about spending another $1400 on Narcissism and Me which I worked on last night, adding another story to the collection.
What if I published it from this address, using my own made-up small publisher name? I’ll have to ask Teresa, but I don’t think she’d mind. I already wrote away to ISBN, just in case.
I spoke to Grandma this morning and told her I would be over there tomorrow. She said only a dozen people came to Uncle Morris’s funeral, which was merely a graveside service. I’ll see Aunt Tillie over the weekend.
Last night at 11 PM, I got today’s Times at the newsstand on Broadway and read it till 2 AM. Although I was dizzy during the night, so far today I’ve been okay, and I haven’t taken a Bonine yet.
After doing aerobics this morning, I called Sat Darshan to wish her and the girls a good trip to New Mexico. She said she’ll see me when she returns in three weeks.
Sat Darshan inquired how Josh was doing. He’s been on my mind a lot. My utter helplessness regarding his delusions makes me feel angry, and in a way I hate Josh for ruining our friendship by becoming paranoid.
He’s always said the tale of the “harassment” will end sadly. I’m sure I’ll write about it eventually.
At 1 PM, I went to the opening showing of Do the Right Thing at the Metro. The movie was one I wanted to see badly enough that I’d made an effort to go on the first day. A large crowd, mostly black, lined up early, but I got a decent seat.
Spike Lee is brilliant, and the filming impressed me greatly with its single-day portrayal of a block in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, and its exploration of racism.
Many people have criticized the final race riot, but I didn’t find it incendiary at all. Lee was just showing how human beings behave, and that’s always ambiguous – except in the moronic pap you see in most films of the don’t-worry-be-happy 1980s.
Spike Lee is to me what Woody Allen or Robert Altman once was: a director whose every movie I want to see, whose failures are always thought-provoking and interesting.
And so the first half of 1989 ends. I have a feeling the remaining months of the year will be interesting. And then it will be the 1990s at last.