A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early May, 1994
by Richard Grayson
Sunday, May 1, 1994
4 PM. “Reunions are always bittersweet,” Scott last night, but for myself, I found our twentieth reunion gratifying.
Ronna and I left here at this time yesterday, late as usual, supposedly to go to Susan and Evan’s house.
Earlier, I had spoken to Teresa, who gave me a song and dance about her car needing a new radiator and how she’d bought a dress and shoes yesterday and how she might come if she could get a car.
But I’ve lived with Teresa enough to know how she lies to get out of things, and I felt it was just as well. The money I spent on her ticket at least preserves our relationship.
Ronna and I had one of those nightmare subway experiences where, after five trains, we ended up back on the #2 to Flatbush Avenue that we had been on to begin with, and we were too late to get to Susan’s.
I didn’t really mind (and I felt unexpressed satisfaction that I was right to suggest that we stay on it till Atlantic Avenue, at least) although I felt odd because I’m not used to wearing a suit. And Dad’s shoes were so big on me that I wore white athletic socks under my black dress socks.
I’ve been to the Junction many times, most recently a year ago, but Ronna hadn’t been there in quite a while, and everything looked strange to her.
There are new gates set up at all the campus entrances. (Evan was right when he said as we later went through one of them, “Passport?” because they had the aura of a security checkpoint.)
Ronna and I walked around the campus, which looked pretty, with the lilacs and apple blossoms in bloom. In LaGuardia Hall, we went to the bathrooms and looked at the now-empty, sterile lobby that had been the focus of our activity as undergraduates.
In Boylan’s central corridor on the second floor, I saw how many English professors from our day haven’t yet retired. I saw that Susan has to share an office with Baumbach, Spielberg and Gelber.
Ronna and I then went to SUBO to register, getting a packet full of stuff I haven’t yet looked at carefully. It was with trepidation that I entered the basement of SUBO for our class reunion reception.
Seeing Ronna’s friends was a bit of shock. Felicia had gotten heavier and so old-looking; her husband is a bald guy and not the handsome 22-year-old I met only once, on a double date.
Although Evan had a gray beard, I’d have recognized him right away, and Susan looked pretty good although her voice was hoarse. (Later, Ronna told me Susan damaged her vocal cords yelling at her kids.)
At one table I spotted Janice and Nappy, good friends from the old days. Janice said she’d seen reviews of my book and I had seen her byline as a freelancer in the Times, and I knew from the papers that Nappy had once been associated with Saturday Night Live; he’s a stagehand at NBC, now working on Today.
Like a lot of people, Mike and Mandy looked like TV multigenerational miniseries versions of themselves – that is, everyone appeared to be wearing padding and facial prostheses and makeup to make them look old.
Mike’s hair, which I remember as blond, was a mixture of steel-gray and silver, and it had receded, and he was somewhat stout. Mandy had become heavy-set in the way that Mom got like that in her forties.
But, like everyone else, their gestures and voices were the same. My voice was what Carol said she recognized as we embraced. She told me that if I hadn’t spoken, she never would have recognized me in a million years.
She looked older, but pretty good for the mother of two teenagers, and I shook hands with her husband, whom I recall vaguely.
One redheaded woman looked very familiar to me, and I to her, but our names didn’t ring a bell with one another, and we couldn’t figure out where we knew each other from, unless it was just as faces in the undergraduate crowd.
I kissed Marie and Stuie, and Marie told me that there were about 7,200 people in the classes of ’73/’74. The planning committee had the whole list.
Mike, Carol and Marie were kind enough to keep my name on the committee and put me in a photo with its members and introduce me at the dinner; that was thoughtful, but more importantly, it showed that people liked me.
(Do I sound like Sally Field at the Oscars?)
Josh, Harry and Sharon arrived, and as I told Sharon at the end of the evening, this is something she can hold over Josh for years: that she was good enough to come to a reunion that must have bored her to tears.
Harry looked fine, and he knew Marie and Stuie from their work together at the Housing Authority.
Scott looked good, though of course I already know him as a gray-haired man with glasses. His older brother had come for a reunion of George House, and so had George Czutrin (with his wife Lynne) from Canada – he’s a distinguished attorney in Toronto. (Alice had told me George had been the person who had come the farthest for our Midwood High School reunion.)
Another of the George House members there, and also someone I know from high school, was Henry Yuk, as bald as he was in his appearance in Radio Days.
Ronna and her friends went to the Boylan bookstore to buy Brooklyn College items and missed our classes’ photo, which was scheduled between the class of ’69 and the ZBT fraternity.
Our dinner reception was on the fourth floor, and Josh grabbed an empty table for ten: we had three seats for him and his friends; six for me and Ronna and her friends; and one extra for Scott, who also spent time sitting with his brother.
The dinners were pretty bad, but I was so hungry I ate whatever it was they put in my vegetarian entrée.
Hilary Gold, who looks about the same age as some of the people in the room, was the first speaker; he’s still BC’s vice president. The new president, Vernon Lattin, spoke excitedly about his plans for the college.
Then we heard from the head of the alumni association and finally Mike, who thanked various people and made a few announcements. At 9 PM or so, we went over to Boylan cafeteria (now dining hall) for dessert, dancing and talk.
I chatted with Scott for a while: he really loves being a father, said I should look up cases he’s argued before the New York Court of Appeals, and invited me to a party at his house in two weeks (which I can’t attend).
I recognized Nancy at about the same time Nappy did; Nancy seemed as bubbly as ever. She lives in Bay Shore with her husband and two kids and teaches biology at Stony Brook. It was really great to again see Nancy, who said she’d hoped Vito or Tony would show up (“I worry about them”), just as I had.
Nancy introduced Carmine, who looked great. He’s living in Falmouth – Felicia asked him if worked at Woods Hole, and he did – doing his oceanography, writing science books and TV shows for kids.
I admired photos of the cute kids of Susan and Evan and of Felicia and Spencer and listened to stories about them.
Felicia, an art librarian at Harvard, took my E-mail address and told me that being a law librarian is a very good profession. (I’m thinking about it more and more.)
On our way out, I explained to older alumni and to Sharon, who was too young to remember IBM punch cards, the meaning of a sign carried by a guy from the of Class of ’69 that said, “Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate.”
We were all tired and said our goodbyes around 10:30 PM. Harry called a car service for him, Josh and Sharon, and Scott got on to call another one for me, Ronna and himself.
Our car came first, and Scott, the ex-cabby (he still keeps his chauffeur’s license, “just in case”) approved of the driver taking Ocean Parkway to the tunnel and FDR Drive to Grand Central Station, where he got Metro-North back to Hartsdale. (Unfortunately, he had to wait 45 minutes for the next train.)
Ronna and I went on uptown, and once home, we put on our gold-and-maroon 20th anniversary T-shirts and dished the reunion.
Some of the people whom we didn’t know (and that included most of the crowd there) looked so old compared to us – especially the fat, gray-haired or balding men.
I know I was probably the youngest-looking guy there, though I look nothing like the shaggy-haired kid on my yearbook photo button.
Ronna said she was glad we went, and so am I. I’d like to go to the 25th reunion, too.
Monday, May 2, 1994
4 PM. I’m having a great time in New York. I feel as though I fit right in, and of course I’ve had thoughts of coming here again and adjuncting at CUNY in the fall, subletting an apartment, and going back to Florida at the end of the year.
But I suspect this isn’t the right time to do it because it’s already a transition period in my life. If I were settled in another city and could sublet my own apartment, it would be a lot easier.
Ronna slept very late yesterday, but she went out to Flushing in the afternoon to spend the day with Joel. (She wanted him to come here, but they’d have more privacy at Joel’s even though I offered to get lost.)
It rained half the day but cleared up by 4 PM, when I met Josh and Sharon at the Angelika 57 on 57th and Broadway.
They’d had a bad day apartment-hunting – landlords still do shit like asking for $50 to fill out a rental “application” – and Sharon was even more despairing than she’d been the other day.
Nevertheless, she agreed to accompany Josh to see High Lonesome, a documentary about bluegrass music which neither she nor I care much about.
Still, I like their company (although these $7.50 movies are expensive), and the film – mostly about Bill Monroe – was pretty interesting, if long enough so that I didn’t want to stay to hear the bluegrass fiddlers performing outside the theater as we were leaving.
We couldn’t decide where to eat, and Josh wanted to get out of the neighborhood, so we split up. I was just as happy to go home, make my Healthy Choice chicken fajitas, and try to read the huge New York Sunday edition of the Times.
Ronna got home at 8 PM, and soon after, Leslie came by because she wanted to pick up some of her art supplies.
Offended by the all-over-town posters of the anorectic supermodel Kate Moss in either a bikini or a bra and panties (I didn’t look carefully), Ellen and her friends wanted to do more than just keep scrawling graffiti (“I’m hungry!”) on them, so they’ve made dressy outfits to cover Moss’s body – or what there is of it. I love stuff like that, of course.
Cape Fear was on NBC and I watched a little of it, impressed by Wes’s dialogue, until bedtime.
This morning Ronna told me she planned to spend tonight in Queens with Joel, but she just phoned and she was coming back to Manhattan – so I’m meeting her around Lincoln Center for dinner.
Teresa left me a message, but I’m going to delay returning her call because I dread schlepping out to Locust Valley to see her. If I wanted to be in the suburbs, I could have stayed in Gainesville.
I love walking the streets of the city, riding the buses and subways, observing the dramas and comedies of Manhattan life.
Today I went to the Public Library on 42nd Street; the renovated Bryant Park is an impressive urban oasis now. I spent time in the reference rooms and taking in the big exhibit of Charles Addams’s cartoons and drawings.
Across the street at the CUNY Graduate Center, I read the bulletin board, which included news of adjunct conferences and symposia from the Gay and Lesbian Studies Center. Obviously, wherever I go, I need to be around a university because I’m happiest there and in libraries.
I walked up Fifth Avenue, stopping off at the General Society Library’s Small Press Center (the New York Book Fairs are held there now) and a few other places before getting a Madison Avenue bus at 60th Street and coming home via the 96th Street crosstown bus.
Yesterday I called Mike and left a message thanking him for the reunion. He called here, and I need to call him back.
After playing telephone tag with Justin, we finally settled on a date, Wednesday night, and he agreed to come up here at 7 PM.
I called Mikey at work. Not only did he move two months ago, but last week he and Missy got engaged and bought a co-op. I’m supposed to have dinner with them on Thursday.
Alice wasn’t surprised I enjoyed the reunion – because she said I’m “the type who does.”
She’s booked solid evenings, but asked me to come over Friday morning and help her buy free weights and show her how to use them.
So my dance card is getting filled. My days here in New York have been busy. It’s particularly rewarding to renew my friendship with Ronna, who tells me I’m a good roommate. (I try to do dishes and do whatever I can to be useful and to stay out of the way when I need to.)
Even if I’m in New York for only two weeks in 1994, it’s enough to keep me remembering I am a New Yorker.
Tuesday, May 3, 1994
4 PM. I’ve just been sitting and reading the paper in Riverside Park among the elderly, the nannies and their charges in strollers, the dog walkers and the Collegiate Prep track team.
It’s a cool day, but warm enough to take off my jacket – I have on a flannel shirt – and I felt very relaxed in the sun.
Last night I took the train to Columbus Circle and met Ronna by the Lincoln Plaza theaters, where we got tickets for the 8 PM show of Belle Epoque, a Spanish movie that won the foreign film Oscar.
We ate dinner a couple blocks away at the Saloon, where Ronna kindly paid for my pizzetta and green salad. The dinner reminded me of all the pleasant meals I’ve had on the Upper West Side over the past ten years.
The movie was excellent: a sweet comedy about a 1930s Spanish deserter who gets involved with the four beautiful daughters of an old man who befriends him.
We got out after 10 PM and took the M104 bus home, commenting on the changes streetscapes of Broadway. I keep thinking that Ronna and I will run out of things to say, but we know each other too well.
I fell asleep fairly quickly and slept till 8 AM. My getting up to go to the bathroom during the night doesn’t seem to bother Ronna, and she’s been good enough to let me come in early and tape Body Electric shows.
By exercising to two shows on Friday and Monday, I’ve managed to average my half an hour of light exercise every day. After working out this morning, I shaved off all but my mustache and goatee and took a shower.
Then I did laundry, for I was running out of underwear and socks.
The doorman here knows me by now and seems to be always saying hello to me. I don’t know if it’s my own mood, but New Yorkers act more friendly than I ever remember them being.
I got the number for USF’s School of Library and Information Science, and they said they’ll send me material about their programs. They’re even offering a class this summer in Gainesville.
After buying some groceries, salad bar and household items, I had lunch at home, leaving another message with Mike and one with Elihu.
Although I’d hoped to get Teresa’s machine, she answered the phone. At first she thought I was angry with her, and she made up more lies about how she almost went to the reunion. I told her what it was like, and she went on about whatever.
By now Teresa dislikes the city and rarely comes here because of the “crazy people, soot and crime.”
Her subtenant, Judy’s stepbrother-in-law, skipped out when Jack and Isadora tried to evict Teresa because she was subletting to him illegally. Because he ruined the apartment, Teresa had to give up her lease and pay the Silvermans $1,000 in damages, mostly in the form of her security deposit.
Now Teresa says she’s “a suburban non-mom.” When I told her how I couldn’t sleep over at her house and complained that it was a schlep to get to Oyster Bay, Teresa became “highly insulted,” using that exact phrase at least three times.
Of course her not going to Brooklyn on Saturday – when she called going to Brooklyn a schlep – was different. She started arguing with me and trying to make me feel guilty, but I stayed cool. After all, I’ve seen Teresa play these mind games with so many people over the years.
The reality is that Teresa and I have little in common: she lives in the suburbs, does what she does, and her friends are now old married conservatives, the kind of people who consider this city a cesspool of minorities and weirdos and who feel bad that Nixon died.
We left it at that. I was prepared to end my friendship with Teresa during this trip, and while I’d like to remain on good terms with her – if only because I know she’s capable of plotting revenge – there’s not all that much there.
She’ll probably say that once I didn’t need her for the apartment I dumped her, but I haven’t stayed on West 85th Street for nearly four years.
Wednesday, May 4, 1994
6 PM. I just got home a little while ago, catching a call from Ronna, who said she was going to Joel’s but will return tonight; she also said that Elihu called. Josh is due here within the hour.
Last evening at this time, I had just gotten off the IRT at Sheridan Square. With time to kill, I explored the West Village, strolling down West 8th Street and walking through Washington Square Park.
It was just about 25 years ago that I discovered the Village in the summer of ’69. The first time I went, I bought a leather peace symbol and coconut incense sticks – the same kind that a Jamaican woman with selling outside B. Dalton last night.
That store on the corner was Nathan’s back then. Nearly all the stores on 8th Street have turned over a few times since the early ’70s and the days of the Postermat, Orange Julius and the 8th Street Playhouse.
But in the park last evening, guys with hair past their shoulders played guitar, and if I didn’t have my lenses in, maybe I could have fooled myself that it was still 1969 and I was 18 again, exploring an exhilarating new world.
Pete was seated at the corner window seat of Quantum Leap when I arrived. He’d been doing research after work.
We talked about his dissertation, on celebrity in the nineteenth century, and while I’d heard of Chauncey Depew, I couldn’t identify him – nor had I ever heard of Robert Ingersoll, the greatest celebrity of his day.
I suspect Pete is onto something and he’ll have a dissertation that can be turned into a book and get him a good job in academia – assuming there still are any.
Pete looks about the same, slightly balder and grayer. He still has firm opinions and a measured sense of what’s important.
Strolling along lower Sixth Avenue after dinner, I told him that a great idea for a screenplay would be if two guys like us – a modern-day Colonel Pickering and Professor Henry Higgins – bet on whether they could turn the most unlikely character into a celebrity. I’d love to pitch that to Hollywood producers, though I’m sure they would turn it into a wholly unrecognizable movie that I would despise.
Pete said he was too tired to go to KGB although earlier in the day he’d overheard someone say they’d meet another person there later. I must tell that to Josh.
I got home around 9 PM. Ronna was there after meeting with the guy who is going to paint the apartment. She is trying to cure me of saying, “The truth is . . .” when I want to make a point. Before this past week, I never noticed I did that so often.
I slept poorly last night. After Ronna left this morning, I exercised and got out of the house by 10 AM, taking the crosstown bus to Fifth Avenue.
After reading the paper at the edge of Central Park, I walked over to the Guggenheim, paying a reduced admission price due to the closing of several floors.
I loved The Mind-Body Problem, an exhibition of work by Robert Morris that was more than clever; it was the kind of playful self-referential art I enjoy.
Leaving the museum, I took a couple of buses to the Theater District and paid $10 for a balcony seat for Millennium Approaches, the first half of Angels in America. I had just enough time to get a McLean Deluxe before the 2 PM curtain.
The play was fabulous although I had loved it even when I read it. It’s gayer than it seemed on the page, and of course, the special effects, set design and the actors made it real, even in the last row of the balcony.
I think F. Murray Abraham was a touch too nice to play Roy Cohn, but the three and a half hours in the theater made me wish I could see the second half of the play.
Tony Kushner is so filled with ideas about God, Jews, Mormons, gay life, AIDS, Reaganism, destiny, death, America – I’m not sure if his vision is coherent, but that’s one reason I like it.
If I were a playwright like Justin, I’d want to quit after seeing Angels in America because it says so much of what I’d like to say, except that Kushner is light years ahead of my level of sophistication.
Teresa didn’t call today and I didn’t initiate a call to her. I’m sure I had a better time alone than I would have had with her.
I will always remember May 4 as the anniversary of Kent State. The hectic days afterward at Brooklyn College were a formative part of my life.
Thursday, May 5, 1994
4 PM. I’ve had a throbbing headache for hours. At first I thought it was from hunger, but now I believe it’s a sinus headache.
When I saw him last night, Justin also had sinus problems. We ate at Empire Szechuan Gourmet, which has expanded and is refurbished nicely.
Since Justin and I have spoken fairly regularly lately, we didn’t have that much to catch up on. He did give me details about how his two one-act plays are getting to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
The woman who produced his play at the Hotel Macklowe’s theater is the force behind this, and she’s excellent at details, including getting financial backing. Justin had a say in the casting, and Chuck Maryan – whom I passed on Broadway this afternoon – will direct.
Britain’s Channel 4 is doing a documentary on the festival and has decided to follow several groups, including the one doing Justin’s play – though he says he can’t imagine what he’ll say if he were interviewed.
Justin finds it ironic that Boundaries was produced this year and he’s having his other plays performed when he’s hardly written at all this year.
He does love teaching at Brooklyn College, and although he’s a demanding instructor – he requires his students to do a lot of writing, including a journal, which gives him a lot more work – they seem to enjoy his directing and acting classes a lot.
I spoke about my own experiences teaching plays in English 102 at Santa Fe Community College this term. Justin and I also talked about his use of CompuServe and my use of Delphi and the Internet. Before returning to Brooklyn, he came here to Ronna’s for half an hour.
Justin looks better than he did last year – but of course then I saw him made up to play an old man in that Strindberg play.
Ronna came home at about 11 PM. She seemed happy, saying she’d worked stuff out with Joel. I gave her the phone messages I’d taken.
Her sister had called from Philadelphia and told me she likes it there: “It’s a smaller, more manageable New York City.” Sue enjoys her job. and her pregnancy is going well.
After sleeping well last night, I taped three Body Electric programs and one of Homestretch this morning. Ronna gets several PBS stations and Body Electric runs on all of them.
I’ve now got my first VHS collection of shows from the last couple of seasons. I exercised to two shows for an hour, knowing I probably won’t get to work out this weekend.
After calling Mikey and making arrangements to go to his place on 69th and Second at 7:30 PM (Missy will in D.C. for the day), I went out.
Ronna had asked me to get her Alice’s book, and I bought two copies at Barnes & Noble, spending nearly an hour reading various reference books there.
In Best Law Schools 1994, I noted that the University of Florida law school certainly was a great bargain; places like Nova, Stetson, Cardozo and Brooklyn are more than four times as expensive.
I was disappointed to see that UF doesn’t offer an M.L.S., just an M.A. in Library, Media and Information Science from the College of Education. That’s disappointing. more and more favorably disposed towards moving to Tampa/St. Pete.
Like USF, FSU also has an M.L.S. program, but I’d much live in Tampa than in Tallahassee: It’s a bigger metro area with a warmer climate, and it’s less isolated and less Southern.
I wonder if there are any messages at home for me to go on interviews for teaching jobs. I doubt it, but I’ll find out when I’m back in Gainesville next week.
This afternoon I spent three hours at the Met, starting with their exhibit Waist Not! in the Costume Institute, where a lecturer took us around to see how the waist has migrated since the early 1800s.
The rest of the time I covered the familiar European paintings and sculpture, the Sackler Wing galleries of Egyptian art, and lots more. I was disappointed I couldn’t find Larry at the Acoustiguide stands.
Friday, May 6, 1994
4 PM. I was feeling so sick at this time yesterday that after I wrote in my diary, I decided that the decongestants and Tylenol weren’t helping.
So I went into Ronna’s bathroom and took a Q-tip and forced myself to sneeze repeatedly. Gradually that seemed to open up my head a bit, and I felt better by the time I left to see Mikey.
It was a pleasantly mild evening, and the 96th Street and Second Avenue buses weren’t crowded. Mikey came down after the doorman buzzed him. I suspect Missy was not in D.C. on business but just didn’t feel like going out – not that I cared.
Mikey said it had been a hectic week, not only because of work but also problems renting an outdoor space where they can hold a wedding in July: “At our age, why wait?” (She’s a week younger than he is.)
Apparently Missy’s parents are causing problems, and Mikey just didn’t want to get into it.
After a stop at the Citibank ATM, we went to this place on First Avenue, the Hi-Life Café, where he’d never been before. Mikey always was a big eater and drinker; I remember meals with him and Amy in which they’d devour enough red meat to last me a year.
I had a pizza margherita and tried not to eat too much of it. Mikey drank three margaritas, the last one for dessert (which I thought excessive).
Mikey tends to argue and he couldn’t understand why I liked law school when no one else does, why I’d prefer theory to practice, why if I’m running for the Senate, did I tell the newspaper I’d quit before my term was up.
There was no way to argue back or even explain. I can understand Mikey: he wanted all his life to be a lawyer and had to struggle to get into law school. Once there, he “busted [his] butt” and got bad grades anyway.
In contrast, I didn’t care about being a lawyer and I’m graduating tenth in my class, as if on a lark. No wonder it offends him.
Anyway, I asked him about Missy. She trained as a journalist, lived in Paris as an AP correspondent, worked at 60 Minutes and eventually became Steve Ross’s right-hand PR person at Time Warner. Currently she’s still at the company, embarrassed to be working on their four-city cable startup of an upscale shopping network.
Mike’s reading Connie Bruck’s recent biography of Ross. To me, Ross sounds like a highly overpaid monster, but what do I know? I’m just some nobody who orders the cheapest item on the menu and then is relieved when someone offers to pay for me.
I had trouble sleeping last night. I guess it was thinking about all the unsolicited advice my New York friends have given me.
They did the same thing in 1985, and the advice then was equally useless and confusing and it made me feel as though I’m a lunatic.
Thinking about things all night, in the end I decided I’ll politely listen to people but find my own way to get on with my life after law school.
Late this morning, I brought my own salad bar, cooked yellow sweet potato, and low-fat cheese with me to Alice’s, where we had a pleasant lunch.
She told me her mother is going to be in the hospital for two months after an operation to fix her knees; Mrs. D is now in a wheelchair, but doctors think she’ll be able to walk again.
Alice had a Mother’s Day card from her 19-month- old nephew, who’ll soon be leaving with his parents for two years in Mongolia.
Alice’s brother told her he’ll probably come back only once during his tour in Ulan Bator, and Alice said she won’t visit him there.
She told me funny stories about her experiences on Atlanta TV shows and on the Food Network, a Manhattan-based cable channel, and she was glad to autograph the books for Ronna and her friend. (To Ronna, she wrote, “Let Richie eat all your leftovers!”)
After helping Alice select a three-pound pair of weights at Herman’s on Union Square, I decided to skip the subway and see more of Manhattan by taking a leisurely bus ride back to the Upper West Side.
Today I saw people with fluorescent yellow and pink hair.
Saturday, May 7, 1994
7 PM. Last evening I took the subway to Chelsea to meet Ronna at the multiplex on 23rd Street and Eighth Avenue. As I have during my entire visit here, I used the opportunity to observe New Yorkers.
I’m trying to store up memories and impressions that will get me through the next year away from the city I still feel is home. There’s far more implanted in my brain than I could ever write about in this diary.
It’s been an extraordinarily chilly May, and last evening was windy, too. When Ronna arrived, she paid for our tickets to the 8:15 PM show of Naked in New York.
Then we walked down to Tenth Avenue to the Empire Diner, where we sat at the counter as a pianist played and we had tofu fajitas (Ronna) and a lentil burger (me).
She was upset after talking to Joel, and I don’t think she’s seeing him tonight as she’d planned to.
At first Joel pursued her, but when she responded and fell for him harder than she has for any other guy (Ralph, Steve, etc.), Joel backed off. Now Ronna finds her familiar position reversed: she’s more interested in deepening the relationship than the guy is.
The film was great: a first-time effort by a quirky director named Daniel Algrant who’ll undoubtedly go on to make better movies. This one was a Woody Allen-ish film for twentysomethings, and it had likable characters.
Since Ronna doesn’t like the subway at night, when we got out at 10 PM, we walked to Tenth Avenue to take the bus home. As we passed all the bars and restaurants on Amsterdam, I noticed the crowds were so much younger than we are now that we’re people in our forties who don’t go out that much these days.
I slept very well, having several dreams about graduation a week from today. In the dreams, I kept missing the time for graduation or forgetting to pick up my regalia.
Finally managing to get Elihu on the phone, I chatted with him for half an hour, swapping cat stories. (His Alex is dumber than Nicky, who died, but more affectionate.)
Elihu turned down a job offer from Bear Stearns that would have required him to commute by car to distant New Jersey. I told him to say hi to his father when he sees his parents for Mother’s Day and said I’ll let him know wherever it is that I end up.
At 11 AM today, I walked out of the apartment with Ronna. She went to her synagogue and I took the IRT for Brooklyn. When I got out at Grand Army Plaza, the air smelled of spring flowers; I’d forgotten how pretty Brooklyn’s tulips can be.
After stopping at the main library (“Here Are Enshrined the Longings of Great Hearts”), I walked over to the recently reopened Prospect Park Wildlife Conservation Center, a wonderful scaled-down remodeling of the old zoo.
Gone are the cages and the big cats and monkeys and elephants. Instead, the place is an educational center for kids, with classrooms and exhibits about “Animals in Our Lives” and a Discovery Trail along which kids can pretend they’re in turtle shells or burrows like the prairie dogs (they pop up to the surface in domed plastic bubbles) or being hatched in a newly-opened egg.
There are only domestic animals and a few others: wallabies, various birds, a baboon. And the sea lions still have their place of honor as you descend from the staircase entrance on Flatbush Avenue.
For much of my time in Brooklyn, I was the only white person on the bus or subway car. But I heard the lilt of West Indian accents and the familiar sounds of Haitian Creole that I miss in Gainesville. There were many interracial couples and families at the zoo, where the strictly white people spoke mostly Russian.
From Lincoln Road to way past Church Avenue, throngs of shoppers made Flatbush Avenue seem more vibrant a shopping district than I remember it from the ’50s or ’60s although the stores are downscale and the shoppers nearly all black.
Hungry, I got off the bus at the McDonald’s by Fillmore Avenue for a McLean Deluxe and then I walked to my old block, passing a group of Hasidim.
It was good to see that Joel Deutsch is still at the pharmacy. He gave me my generic Triavil 2/10, which costs one-third of what the now-unavailable patented drug used to cost me,
The Wagners weren’t home when I rang their bell, so I left Lou and Evie a note on the back of one of the articles about my Senate campaign.
On the porch next door were a child of about 6, a lady about 60, and Grigori. When I told him I’d lived here, he said, “You’re Richard?” and he told me to give his family’s regards to my parents.
I walked to the stop for the Rockaway bus (which now transfers at Avenue U and Flatbush from the Flatbush bus, so it was free – I guess the transit authority needs to compete with the van operators) and just managed to catch one before it pulled out.
Within fifteen minutes, I was on Beach 116th Street. After getting salad bar at the Koreans’, I called Aunt Tillie – but she sounded very bad and said she wasn’t up to visitors. Despite my desire to see her, I settled for just speaking with her on the phone for ten minutes.
Her eye has never recovered from her surgery six months ago, and her health is very bad. After she had an EKG, her new doctor asked her how many heart attacks she’d suffered, so she figures she must have cardiac damage.
She forces herself to go to Key Food once every couple of weeks to get food that she doesn’t have the desire to eat. Obviously, Tillie is dying; I don’t expect to see her again. She must be about 88 or 89.
Tillie said Minnie asked her about going into a home, but Tillie doesn’t want to, and hopefully, she said, she’ll die before she has to. Even though I didn’t get to see her, I wasn’t at all sorry I’d made the trip to Rockaway.
Although it was chilly, I found a bench on the boardwalk so I could sit down, relax and eat my salad while I looked out at the beach and the ocean.
Making my way down Beach 116th past the Surf Shop and other stores, I got some nonfat peanut butter frozen yogurt at a new Colombo outlet before taking the bus back to Brooklyn and the train back to Manhattan.
At least I got to see a lot of Brooklyn and Rockaway today. I’m happy not to be going out tonight, as I’m tired from my travels.