A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late June, 1990

by Richard Grayson

Friday, June 22, 1990

6 PM. Yesterday I decided to go to Grandma’s via the subway to Jackson Heights and then the Rockaway bus that travels through Queens.

Arriving at the station before 3 PM, I took the time to get a haircut before I hopped on the Q53.

This gay Hispanic guy who couldn’t speak English managed to do a nice job on my hair and beard, cutting them short so that maybe I can go another two months before my next haircut.

The sun came out by the time I was on my way to the beach, and I arrived at Grandma’s at 5 PM.

All the Mandela coverage on TV was getting on her nerves, Grandma said (not that she has anything against him; she doesn’t understand who he is), so I put on the radio and read till dinner.

Grandma’s stubbornness about not wanting a new toaster oven annoyed me terribly, especially since it kept going on and off and took half an hour extra to cook the frozen dinner I’d bought.

She had no idea what my newspaper clippings about the Trump Rescue Fund and Radio Free Broward meant and kept asking, “What’s going to come from this?” and “Were you paid for these stories?”

This morning I went to Beach 116th Street to get Grandma’s antidepressant medication renewed. At Waldbaum’s, I got the Weight Watchers apple chips and snacks, which are hard to find in Manhattan.

Aunt Tillie was arriving just as I returned to the apartment. She said she’s “half dead,” doesn’t sleep, and has numerous health problems, but because she’s more educated, Tillie is easier to converse with than Grandma is.

As it was 90° in the city but breezy at the beach, I didn’t leave till after 3 PM today.

Returning through Brooklyn was a miscalculation because at Riis Park, the bus got filled to the brim with beachgoers calling it a day. Still, the IRT was cool and not crowded, and I timed my arrival to miss the worst of the rush hour.

I returned some messages from Alice. Peter wanted to show me an underground video on Saturday night, but I figured I’ll be busy with Dad then, so maybe we can do it on Sunday.

I also returned a call from Justin, who still sounds pretty busy even after the show’s closing.

And Denis Woychuk called to thank me for sending him my book; I’d like to get together with him soon.

Saturday, June 23, 1990

10 PM. Last night Dad and I went over to the Urban Grill at my suggestion, because I like the chicken in a pita there.

Also, I’ve been steering Dad to places where I can use my Diners Club card.

Over dinner, he told me about office stuff and his going to Peter Luger’s, where, as a vegetarian, he could only eat potatoes, tomatoes and onions with the other salesmen, who annoy him by ostentatiously flaunting their wealth.

Dad said that Marc’s apartment was robbed while he was at the flea market in the afternoon. China wasn’t hurt, but a towel on the floor may have been used to gag her. They took Marc’s stereo, VCR, camcorder and other stuff.

Remembering that Alice and Peter and I went to the first performance of Shakespeare in the Park last year by getting there at the last minute, I suggested that Dad and I try to do the same.

But all we got was a long walk through Central Park and a chance meeting with Alice, Peter and their friends, who couldn’t get tickets, either.

They said they’d see me tomorrow night, and Dad and I left the park – he said that Alice and Peter both looked very good – stopping off at TCBY before coming home and putting in the air conditioner.

Up at 7 AM today, I watched the tapes of last night’s Wall Street Week and Washington Week in Review (happily, the flag burning amendment didn’t pass the House), read the Times, exercised to Homestretch, and had a big breakfast (big for me, anyway).

When Dad called, I suggested we go to the TKTS booth and try to get into a matinee and he agreed. It was a humid day, and it poured while I waited for the bus, but the sun came out later.

Dad and I walked to 47th and Broadway, and since he left the choice of show to me (yes, I could have said, “Whatever you want” the way he did, but I remember how once Ronna and I each thought the other wanted to see one play and only after we’d bought the tickets did we learn that each wanted to see another play – the same play, in fact), I picked The Heidi Chronicles, Wendy Wasserstein’s play that won the Tony and Pulitzer last year.

Before the show, as we had salads at the Gaiety Deli, Dad tried to recall the last time he’d seen a Broadway play: probably fifteen or twenty years ago.

Brooke Adams starred as Heidi, and I found the play to be the story of my generation – more particularly, the story of women I know in New York City.

During intermission, Dad said he thought the people in the play were “too intellectual,” but I told him that my friends were like that, at least in some ways.

If we’re not super-achievers like Wasserstein’s characters, we’ve dealt with the same issues, and I know women like Ronna and M.J. who told me the play struck a nerve with them.

The changing roles of men and women, the biological clock, conflicts between career and family, “having it all,” your friends as your family, gay relationships, liberals in a conservative age, being an academic, selling out, New York, Los Angeles, AIDS, materialism and triviality: the play was fuzzy in its treatment of these issues, but at least it raised them, and it was funny, too.

As usual, seeing a play awakened my desire to see other plays. Dad did like the play generally, and after resting at the Days Inn and having dinner at the Circle West, I took a cab uptown.

I’ve been watching a Channel 13 “gay town meeting” with panels in New York and San Francisco and a couple of documentaries about gay parenting and lesbians in suburbia. I expect to go the Gay Pride march tomorrow.

Sunday, June 24, 1990

4 PM. I’ll be going over to Peter’s in a couple of hours, and after I leave there, I’ll see if Dad is in his hotel room around the corner from Peter’s apartment.

Dad called a little while ago and said the menswear show, as he’d expected, is “completely dead” and he would probably fly back to Florida tomorrow afternoon, there being no reason for him to stay until Tuesday.

This week I have school every day: the Computers and Young Children workshop with Howard Budin tomorrow and Tuesday, and Creativity: Its Nature and Nurture on the remaining days (with a final class on Monday, July 9, the day summer session B starts).

Up at 7:30 AM, I watched Cory Everson’s ESPN show Body Shaping – not so much an exercise show as tips for serious bodybuilders – and then I worked out to Body Electric at 8 AM.

I managed to finish all of the Sunday Times except the main news section by noon, when I went out to the 21st annual Gay Pride parade.

This year, because my body is better, I wore a tank top and shorts and felt good about how I looked even though it wasn’t hot and the parade isn’t about being attractive, it’s about being yourself.

Over the last six or seven years, I’ve seen most of the parades from their starting point at Columbus Circle. The crowds seem to grow each year, and for the first time, New York City’s mayor led the march. (Dinkins seemed popular, especially in contrast to Koch, who’d merely meet the parade in the Village).

The music was good and the spirit was festive. At one point I found myself standing right next to Rollerena, the fairy godmother in drag on roller skates who’s been around for decades; I thought of asking her to bless me with her magic wand but was too shy.

My hands got tired from clapping, but every year it’s such a pleasure to see the diversity and sheer numbers of gay people in every conceivable color, size, shape, age, interest, etc., from the gay soccer players to the recovering alcoholics, from the seniors of SAGE to the leather queens (whom you could smell – their leather, I mean), from the Philadelphia Mummers to the gay police officers and bankers.

The biggest contingent by far and the one that got the biggest hand was ACT-UP. While I sometimes think their tactics are too radical, they’ve had an incredible impact in empowering people and getting the government to approve new AIDS drugs.

Other AIDS groups got a big response from the crowd: GMHC, the PWA Coalition, God’s Love We Deliver. There’s a new group, Queer Nation, which seems like it’s going to have an impact similar to ACT-UP, on a general gay rights basis.

There were the usual outrageous costumes and drag queens and groups representing different cities, religions, professions, activities and proclivities.


At 2:30 PM, just as the last of the contingents was departing Columbus Circle, there was a moment of silence for all those we lost to AIDS. I don’t know how people march, because just watching was tiring for me.

However, I felt strong enough to walk home, stopping on the way to make ATM cash advances because I had lent Dad $200 (Mom will reimburse me with a check) and had to make $300 in student loan payments.

I’m already in desperate need of cash, just six days after I got $4800 from my IRA. Hopefully, this time in July, I’ll also have the $1000 from the Chemical IRA as well as netting the $1700 from the student loan check at Teachers College.

By next week I’ll need to come up with $560 for July’s rent and over $1000 for my Gold AmEx bill, and once again, things are going to be very tight.

Monday, June 25, 1990

9 PM. Last evening at 6 PM, I took the bus at Riverside down to Columbus Circle and walked to Peter’s apartment.

I had a good time with him and Alice, who always seems much more effervescent when Peter is around.

After helping Peter install his air conditioner – it’s that time of year again – but before the video, I declined to join him and Alice in smoking a joint.

I don’t mind them getting stoned, of course, but marijuana use is something I associate with being a teenager, and I guess I’m surprised at how many people my age and older smoke it regularly.

The film, directed by a friend of a friend, was called The Lonely Loves of Doctor Voctor, and Peter had the only extant copy of this 1983 hoot, in which Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, and Liz Taylor (played by men), are killed by their drug-dealing transexual physician.

It had a bizarre musical soundtrack, and the interstitial titles were ridiculous, as was the plot.

Peter fast-forwarded through the slower parts, and I had plenty of laughs, including fits during which I was doubled up, for example, watching Garland’s flatulence problem or her treating her daughter Liza as a pet dog.

This week Alice is off to Colorado and next week she and Peter are going to Israel. Her brother and his unfriendly wife (“The Mouse”) are in New York, so Alice is glad to be getting away for a while.

At 9:15 PM, I thanked Peter and Alice for the chuckles and stopped off at Dad’s hotel room on the next block to say goodbye.

He said with the show “dead,” there was no reason not to leave tomorrow. Dad gave me back $150 of the $200 I’d lent him, saying he didn’t need it, and gave me an extra $5 to take a taxi home.

We said goodbye on Tenth Avenue as I got in the cab. I had my usual good times with Dad here, and I’ll see him again in Florida.

Ronna had called just before I went out tonight, asking if I wanted to see Cinema Paradiso with her. She said she’d been very depressed and spending a lot of time alone at home.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“Boy trouble,” Ronna said, to which I replied, “I know the feeling.”

She chuckled, and we agreed to see each other soon. Obviously things are not working out between Ronna and Steven.

Up at 7AM today, I was out of the house two hours later, again taking a bus on Riverside Drive, going uptown this time, but still in awe of how gorgeous it is at this time of year before it becomes too hot.

Howard Budin knows my name by now, and his and Diane Kendall’s Computers and Young Children workshop, now half over, is pretty good.

From my previous Teachers College workshops, I knew what to expect: demonstrations in Horace Mann for half the morning, and then hands-on work with the software in the library’s Apple room before and after lunch, and finally, back in the classroom, a general discussion of what we’d seen.

The day went fast, and I looked at some interesting programs and met the usual interesting people: teachers from Chicago, rural Iowa, and the U.S. base in Heidelberg, Germany; Wall Streeters retooling for new careers; young student teachers and seasoned administrators, as well as classroom computer teachers and coordinators.

We watched Howard’s 4-year-old son Sammy play with some software in the morning, and later, when we were on our own, I explored some stuff on the Apple IIgs that takes advantage of the sound and graphics but seems very slow-moving.

Thinking about issues I haven’t had to deal with lately, I found myself once again interested in computer education.

Wednesday, June 27, 1990

7:30 PM. This has been a rough week, at least in contrast to the previous weeks I had been in New York.

I’m not used to being cooped up in a classroom most of the day, but then I chose to take these intensive classes. I did stay late at Teachers College and switch my program for the next session, though I might change it again.

Last evening I made the best of things and did the laundry, read the Times (I’ve only glanced at today’s paper), and tried to get to bed early.

Up at 6 AM, I “exercised” to the only show I could find: a yoga lesson. Late this afternoon, I tried to do some stretching and muscle-toning on my own, after which I took a shower – it’s humid and I’ve got the air conditioner on now – and had dinner.

I feel pretty worn out, and I’m glad Ronna also was too busy to keep our date for this evening.  I feel crappy because of my facial zits, and once again I got a batch of credit card bills I’m unable to pay.

Although I could mail out the last group of payments this morning, I’m going to need nearly $2000 to cover the latest ones, and I don’t know where I can get it.

No sign of the second student loan check or the Chemical IRA money yet, and I may have to resort to desperate measures.

Well, anyway, I’ll have to start thinking of creative ways to get cash. This summer is going to be a real struggle to get through, and once again, I’m not sure I can squeak through till September. I’ve got to figure out how I can get other people to use my Diners Club credit line and pay me in cash, maybe.

Speaking of creativity, I’m not certain how I feel about the Teachers College class, Creativity: Its Nature and Nurture. Prof. Abe Tannenbaum is retired from the TC special ed department, and he’s a leading expert in creativity as it relates to gifted programs.

He went to Brooklyn College for his B.A. (’46) and he loves classical music; he played tapes to prove his points. At first I was disarmed by his eclectic views and his lack of a fundamental system; I thought that because Tannenbaum said we’d raise lots of questions and probably answer few of them, his class would be terrific.

True, his morning lecture was good and tantalized me with issues he brought up, but in the afternoon he went on and on about Spengler’s theory of history’s cycles (discredited, as far as I know), and I couldn’t figure out what point he was making except to say that creativity is valued only in the context of a particular culture and time.

And Tannenbaum should have learned that just because a student keeps raising her hand, you don’t have to keep calling on her; one woman must have accounted for 60% of the class discussion, with two other guys taking 15% each.

They had points to make, but the woman kept restating the obvious, and I began to think Tannenbaum, in his tolerance of this windbag, was a bit pedantic himself.

At least our assignment is free-form, and I’m going to examine my own creative process and efforts.

In the last hour of class, a woman came in and did a mildly interesting Harvard Business School-style case study of a teacher confronted with a decision on whom to choose for a gifted and talented program.

Donald Trump avoided default by agreeing to live within a budget set up by bankers. Last month Trump paid $2.1 million on interest for his debts – just a bit more than I did.

Friday, June 29, 1990

7:30 PM. Today’s Creativity class was the best so far, but I don’t know how much I absorbed in the 6½ hours in class.

Still, I’ve come to feel it spurred lots of ideas and thoughts, and Tannenbaum has grown on me. Before we left, he played us tapes of Beethoven and Mahler; the first is sad, he said, but the second is tragic.

I like his jaundiced view of all the tests that are supposed to predict creative people or measure creativity. Basically, he views creativity as quality innovations and divergent thinking.

He set up a five-pointed star featuring general ability, special aptitude, environmental factors, non-intellectual factors (like persistence), and of course, chance, in determining who will become a creative person.

We distinguished between big-C creativity (Beethoven, Shakespeare, Picasso) and little-C creativity (kindergarteners or other gifted students).

I learned a lot in the last three days, not only from Tannenbaum but also from other students; as usual, Teachers College has a diverse group.

And I don’t know what it is, but I often get a crush on someone in these intensive classes. The woman who sat in back with me, Maggie, is a knockout brunette, probably about 25, a math teacher at the Cathedral School and a karate instructor; she’s kind of prim-looking with hair in a bun and wire-rimmed glasses, and she has a great body.

We were on a bus together after class yesterday, and earlier, I’d eaten lunch with her and her friend.

The weird thing is, I get the feeling she likes me, too. I guess I should have asked for her number.

Saturday, June 30, 1990

11 AM. Instead of making up my sleep deficit, I only made it worse last night, as I slept for barely three hours, from 3 AM to 6 AM.

Consequently, I feel like a mess today. I know that a good night’s sleep will eventually come after I have these patches of bad sleep, but it’s hard to get through the day.

I exercised to Body Electric at 8 AM today, and that made me feel better for a while.

But after going out to the bank – at my Chemical branch, they said they’d fax my signature to the investment center and instruct them to transfer the $1100 from the IRA to my checking account – and to buy some salad for lunch, I think I’m going to hide in this air-conditioned bedroom all day.

The constant dripping of water from the air conditioner on the floor above onto my air conditioner drove me crazy during the night, but I guess I’ll get used to the sound eventually.

Also, I’ve been dizzy, but not so badly that I think the vertigo will return the way it did this time last year.

I guess AmEx upped my Optima credit line because I could take out another cash advance, but at this point the extra $1000 isn’t going to help much. Like Donald Trump (whose creditor banks are taking losses, listing his loans as nonperforming), I see the relentless power of compound interest.

If I were in South Florida now, I’d go to the credit counseling service and make plans to declare bankruptcy already, but I need to get through the next two months in New York.

It’s the end of the first half of 1990, which has flown by. The national mood is evolving into what I expected, with everyone from the President on down realizing that the bill from the ’80s is due.

But the ’90s won’t truly arrive until the eight-year economic expansion finally ends.

By the way, Andrew Wylie’s rejection was a standard, flunky-written “not for us/best of luck elsewhere” letter.

God, my mind is swimming. It was swimming last night, too: part (a lot?) of the reason I couldn’t sleep. It’s as if I needed to stay awake to allow my brain to process all the week’s data into my CPU. Yet I feel I have little that’s intelligent to write right now.

My forehead became such an acne-scarred mess that I resorted to putting a Band-Aid on it. Maybe I’m going through some sort of physical cycle’s low, with insomnia, pimples, and depression.

At least I haven’t started being hounded by creditors yet.  I want to declare bankruptcy so I can protect myself from that. What I really need to do is start a whole new way of life.

Ten years ago, 1980, was such a difficult summer. I remember how utterly miserable I was in my apartment on Beach 118th Street by the boardwalk. I had money problems and career problems, car trouble, Grandpa Herb’s illness, and all that shit of that summer.

But I know I also gained a lot from that bad time. I started listening to classical music and reading Emerson. I got myself together for the fall semester of adjunct teaching at multiple schools.

And in October – basically on the day I learned Taplinger wasn’t going to do a paperback of Hitler – I made the decision (a wise one, but I felt I had come close to the end of my tether) to move to Florida.

It would be instructive to look at my 1980 diary and see how I lived from day to day. I guess the one thing the Creativity class made me see is that I’ve been a kind of artist all along and I live like one, in an idiosyncratic way.

Somehow I’ve always find a way to heal myself, whether it was from the panic disorder that worsened in 1968 and 1969, or my breakups with Shelli in 1971 and Ronna in 1974, or the trauma of delayed adulthood in 1979-80.

The credit cards have allowed me to get through most of the 1980s with a minimum of pain along with the minimum payments, but as Mom said, “It’s all coming to a head.”

I only wish my pimples would come to a head, too, so I wouldn’t have to mutilate my skin. (I know, no one’s forcing me to squeeze them.)

Ready or not, the second half of 1990 starts tomorrow.