A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early August, 1995
by Richard Grayson
Tuesday, August 1, 1995
3 PM. I’m at Ronna’s kitchen table. The living room air-conditioning is on although it’s not doing all that much good. Still, it’s 96° and humid outside, so it’s a large improvement.
I just killed two cockroaches (one was already on death’s door), so I feel quite at home in New York City.
My flight from Atlanta got in early and my African cab driver drove like a maniac, so I got here half an hour earlier than I’d expected to.
I went out almost immediately, grabbing a McLean Deluxe and Diet Coke at the Mickey D’s around the corner on Broadway.
Deciding that I didn’t want to waste energy walking, I took the bus down Broadway. Behind me sat an Englishwoman and longtime city resident who gave a block-by-block sightseeing tour to her elderly companion, an Italian tourist.
It was almost like my own private sightseeing ride, so I didn’t mind – unlike the woman next to me, who was distracted from reading Rubyfruit Jungle.
There was the usual turnover of stores on Broadway, but that’s always nonstop. I can’t remember if last time I was here the bank on the northeast corner of 86th (once Goldome, then East New York Savings) was a Banana Republic last year or not.
Like the Loews 84th, the new Sony Theaters Lincoln Square, a gargantuan monstrosity that took the place of the old Ansonia post office, seems to play only the big mass-market films like that flop Waterworld.
We slowed to a crawl in the Theater District, whose Disneyfication should be complete once the 42nd Street renovation project finally gets underway.
I got off the bus at Bryant Park, which looks like the classic example of a small urban park with pleasant spaces. It now has chairs and benches along the wall and just enough food amenities to make the place livable but not theme-parky.
Either the city is no longer as dirty as it once was, or I’m getting over my 1980s disgust at the garbage when I used to return after being in Florida for a long time. (A third possibility is that Florida is now as dirty as New York City.)
I went back uptown on the M5 bus so I could vary my route and see Sixth Avenue, Central Park South and Riverside Drive. At 85th Street, I noticed the exterior of Teresa’s old building was being repainted.
I like the look of New Yorkers and I don’t feel like an outsider. Okay, of course I haven’t yet spoken to anyone else.
Last night I dozed off around 9 PM, and given that I knew I had to be out so early, slept astonishingly well.
I quickly accomplished everything I needed to and was picked up by Gainesville Cab at 6:50 AM. Nevertheless, there was still a long line at the Delta ticket counter.
I felt my usual sweaty-palmed anxiety during the very smooth takeoff, but it was a wonderful flight, and we arrived in Atlanta so early we had to wait until our gate was free.
Everyone else had boarded the MD-88 to LaGuardia by the time I got to the gate from one end of terminal B to the other end of terminal A.
The two-hour flight was fine, and I had three seats to myself, but the landing took a very long time.
I didn’t put my lenses in till I arrived in New York because I don’t like the disconnect when I see the ground at an angle, but I looked out the window on landing and my inner ears became discombobulated anyway.
The cab driver was listening to WINS, the news station, and I felt at home right away. Both the cab and Ronna’s apartment smelled comfortably like New York.
The living room here is really set up now, and Ronna’s room is spacious all of a sudden, as she’s moved the TV and the foldaway futon out to the living room.
I haven’t read the Times yet. It’s 60¢ here and of course a lot thicker than the national edition.
Hurricane Erin is supposed to make landfall in South Florida by morning. They expect the storm to be less destructive than Andrew but forecasters predict ten inches of rain.
I left a message with Josh, sayingI would probably stay here all evening. Ronna, in her welcoming note, said she plans to be home around 6 PM.
I guess I should begin calling other friends to make plans. Although I feel tired, I know I can relax for a while. I’m on vacation in New York!
Wednesday, August 2, 1995
9 AM. Ronna just left for work.
Around 4:30 PM yesterday, the phone rang, and listening to the machine, I heard Leah congratulate Ronna on her engagement, so I was prepared to congratulate her when she came home after 6:30 PM.
It sounded as if she was expecting Matthew’s proposal because last Thursday was the one-year anniversary of their first date.
With Chelsea staying with Matthew’s parents, he and Ronna spent the day together in Philadelphia. The way Ronna related it, she was waiting for him to say something all day. But by the time he finally asked her to marry him very late in the evening, she was surprised – perhaps because by that time she’d forgotten about her expectations.
Anyway, she said yes, of course, and life has been pretty exciting since. She has so many friends and relatives to tell. Of course, she started by calling San Francisco and telling her mother and sister.
There’s a possibility that she and Matthew may get married in November, but then Matthew’s busy season begins as he starts interviewing people for the residency programs. So more likely it will be after “Match Day” in March although they’ve got a small window because Passover is in early April and you can’t get married during Lag B’Omer.
Naturally, she plans to move to Philadelphia. Nobody’s living in Matthew’s house in Elkins Park, as he and Chelsea are renting an apartment the size of this one in Huntingdon Valley.
Apparently he still has to make his financial settlement with his ex-wife, and contrary to what people think about doctors, he’s not made of money.
Ronna told people at work about her engagement, but most everyone is in Israel for the convention. She says it’s possible she could continue her job for national Hadassah at the Philadelphia office with occasional trips back here. Matthew expects her to continue working, and she’d like to stay on at Hadassah if she can.
I’m happy for Ronna. I knew Matthew would be the one she was finally ready to marry, as he sounds like a great person.
David came over at 10 PM with stuff for Ronna to edit: tons of documents from his job as an assistant dean at Lang, the New School’s undergrad college.
I think it was a terrible imposition, and at midnight she told him she’d have to do the rest of it tonight.
I’m not used to city folks’ late hours although I had bad insomnia and didn’t get to sleep until 3 AM.
I woke up at 6 AM, but somehow I will get through the day. I taped Body Electric and Homestretch (the TV and VCR are in the living room) and went out to the Food Emporium at 7:30 AM.
The streets are so nice when it’s early and cool out, not anything like the 100° heat index expected today.
When I called Fort Lauderdale yesterday, Marc told me that Hurricane Erin moved north and was expected to hit Central Florida near Vero Beach, which it did during the night.
Marc said he’ll be finished with school in a year. It’s a lot of math and complicated formulas: more like engineering than computer repair.
Westinghouse did make the expected offer to buy CBS, and that’s why there were news trucks outside Black Rock yesterday when my bus passed Sixth and 52nd.
I’m meeting Josh for lunch.
4 PM. I spent the last hour with my eyes shut and my head on the pillows Ronna gave me as I listened to U.S. senators bloviating on about opening Ethics Committee hearings about Packwood on the C-SPAN channel.
It hit 96° or 97° today, so just traveling downtown to meet Josh near his office took a lot out of me.
Of course, I’m sleep-deprived, so the heat and the humidity seemed even more hellish. Subway stations must have been 110°.
Josh met me after I called from a pay phone, and we went to a Tribeca place, Bubby’s, where it took half an hour for them to bring over our orders of fruit salad.
Josh looks the same. He was dressed in a T-shirt, khakis and sneakers. Now that he’s got a civil service position, his job is secure, and he plans to stay in it for life.
He related a long story about his niece, who really seemed screwed up. Now that she’s no longer living with her boyfriend in Boston, she wants to live with her aunt in New Jersey and attend community college there, but she’s afraid to drive the car up from Gulf Breeze. (Josh sends her money every month for the car.)
Josh’s mother has terrible problems getting around, but at least she’s covered by Russian home care attendants from 8 AM to 10 PM. He visits her every Wednesday evening and all day on Saturday.
I plan to see Josh again on Sunday morning, when he comes here to go to Ansche Chesed to say kaddish – and perhaps on Friday night as well.
I’ll do something with Justin and Larry on Saturday night, and on Friday I’m going to Alice’s for lunch.
I haven’t called anyone else yet. It’s weird spending all day in the apartment, but it’s so hot out and I’m very tired.
I have yet to read the paper today. Exercising, even without weights, to Body Electric at 10 AM on Channel 31/WNYC (soon to be sold to help the city make some money) was very difficult.
I checked in with Mom and she said it didn’t even rain in Broward County last night.
Jonathan is stuck in DeFuniak Springs, sick with diarrhea and vertigo, which he says is caused by driving the rolling hills of the Panhandle; he feels weak and miserable.
I wonder how he’ll see his whole experience: Will Jonathan decide the world is too hard and retreat to safety in our parents’ embrace, or will the taste of independence he got make him want to strike out on his own again?
I naturally relate Jonathan’s experience to my own. Today I feel very
Thursday, August 3, 1995
3 PM. Last evening I went out at 6 PM, when it was cool enough so I could walk down Broadway to Barnes & Noble, where I spent over an hour and bought a copy of I Brake for Delmore Schwartz, which at $4.95 is a bargain even for me.
As usual, I was overwhelmed with the vast number of books that get published – particularly quality fiction that still, despite the blockbuster syndrome, manages to get put out.
I can’t expect much from my little Avisson Press book, but I can make sure I do my best to see that it gets a chance to find readers.
But I know it’s difficult. I have no illusions that my work is any better than that of most other writers. And today it sometimes seems as if there are more authors than readers.
Last evening I called Pete, and we agreed to meet for lunch today. He just returned from a weeklong last-minute $100 courier flight trip to Copenhagen, which allowed him to visit Scandinavia at a time when the hot summer and his dissertation were getting to him.
I chatted with Ronna when she got home, but mostly I let her edit the material David gave her, and I fell asleep while she was still working.
Sleeping soundly from 10:30 PM to 7:30 AM, I felt refreshed this morning, so I’ve been able to cope better with today’s heat index of 110°.
Some things I’ve noticed in New York:
A lot of Greek diners have metamorphosized into something resembling the omnipresent coffee bars; the once-hamishe American Restaurant on 85th and Broadway now calls itself French Roast. However, I noticed the same Greeks are still behind the counter and at the cash register.
The coolest place to sit on an air-conditioned bus remains the seat directly behind the back door, with the air blasting directly on you.
There are fewer banks now due to mergers – but that’s true nationwide.
Beggars and the homeless are still around, but there seem to be fewer of them. Perhaps the heat makes them less insistent, or else they blend into my field of vision.
When Justin said that he and his Steel Magnolias cast having a picnic on Sunday, and I asked, “Where?” “Long Island,” Justin said. “Where?” I ask. “I said Long Island.” “I mean where on Long Island.” “Oh, I forgot you’re in New York person,” Justin said, because most of the people he knows just consider Long Island one big place.
When we sat down at lunch yesterday, Josh asked me if I could still read the specials board. Puzzled, I said, “You think that I forgot how to read?” He was trying to ask me about my eyesight, but then he said, “Talking like that, no matter where you’re living, you’re still a New Yorker.”
Finally, in view of the latest repairs to the Manhattan Bridge that once again have sent subways to alternate routes, wouldn’t it be simpler just to tear down the bridge and build a new one?
Leaving the house at 10:20 AM today, I took the 96th Street bus across to Fifth Avenue.
Lucky enough to be in the third M1 bus in a row, I was the sole passenger from 96th to 47th Street, enabling me to enjoy my private sightseeing tour of Museum Mile, the Plaza and St. Patrick’s, Trump Tower and the new brand-name (Coke, Disney, Warner Brothers) stores amid the classic tony shops in the 50s. Rockefeller Center, which the Japanese lost millions on, is rumored to be Disney’s next target.
I got off by the main library, but I didn’t have enough time to take in any exhibits upstairs, so I’ll have to go back. Because of the heat, I should have stayed on the bus.
Instead,I took the F train to 14th Street and walked across peddlers’ row and then down Fifth Avenue to West 8th Street, where there are lots of new shops but even more boarded-up storefronts.
My destination was the second branch of Dojo, on the corner of West 4th and Mercer, which used to be Swensen’s, and before that, another restaurant whose name I can’t remember.
Pete looks the same, perhaps a little greyer, and he was in his “diet mode”: a permanent condition for me.
Since the Times had a front-page story on soy protein lowering cholesterol, I enjoyed a soy burger without guilt.
We hung out as long as we could after lunch and then went to the Starbucks on Astor Place, where I lost my Starbucks virginity and had iced herb tea while Pete lingered over his Americano (apparently espresso light).
He’s going to China to deliver a paper at a conference; NYU is kicking in $300 for the trip.
And he’s doing an absurdly long triangle fare from New York City to San Francisco and Fort Lauderdale, with all flights via Northwest’s Detroit hub just so he can earn enough miles for yet another trip to Asia, this time to Seoul.
Pete is playing the academic game: publishing, giving papers at conferences and making contacts, and he expects to get a job at some college – in what department, he doesn’t know.
While Pete says he’s flexible about where he’d go, I can’t see him enjoying himself at a third-tier branch of some state university because he’s too cosmopolitan.
But maybe he’ll get a break and get a job somewhere good.
I told Pete about the Avisson Press book and my litmag acceptances, but I downplayed them, realizing that he might be depressed that he’s not writing and publishing fiction these days.
He said Kostelanetz called him to ask for my address, so I’ll call Richard myself.
I think Pete is someone who leads an interesting life, and unemployment seems to agree with him.
Taking the N train to 42nd Street and transferring to the IRT, I noticed that there seem to be a lot more cute guys in the city when it’s this hot. The combination of street life and public transportation make even a heat-advisory day bearable in New York.
I’m going to meet Ronna at work in a few hours.
Friday, August 4, 1995
3 PM. Late yesterday afternoon I took the M5 bus to Central Park South and Fifth.
Since I was early, I sat down near the Plaza and waited till 5:30 PM, when I called for Ronna up the block at 58th at the Hadassah office.
We walked over to Worldwide Plaza and bought tickets for the 7:20 PM show of Don Juan DeMarco. Then Ronna took me to an Eighth Avenue Thai restaurant she knows for dinner.
I paid for the movies and the meal, figuring that I can never repay Ronna for her hospitality, especially since running the air conditioner during the day is increasing her electric bill monumentally.
I like that Ronna is still a contrarian and continually challenges things I say even when I get annoyed momentarily. There’s nobody in Gainesville who does that, except maybe Liz.
Ronna is clearly obsessed with getting married, but who wouldn’t be? It’s also new and exciting that her plans change from day to day.
Sometimes she says they’ll just have close family there, but then she talks about a Sunday affair with brunch or lunch.
Now she thinks the wedding will be in February, but I’m sure everything is subject to change.
The only thing that bothers me about it is that Ronna’s friends and family act as if she’s achieved the greatest feat of her life, when she’s certainly an accomplished, successful woman, married or not.
Ronna doesn’t seem to feel she’s finally achieved a goal that makes her only now worthy of praise and congratulations, but it’s easy to see how people get carried away with this.
Of course I’m pretty much an old sourpuss who’s ignored the social rituals of life.
Still, I can’t help sharing Ronna’s euphoria. Right now it’s all sweet anticipation, and the details of the wedding don’t seem bothersome.
The $2 tickets at Worldwide Plaza attract a decidedly lowbrow crowd that talks back to the screen; I felt we were back in Brooklyn in the 1970s.
The movie was very romantic, and even I liked the sentiment as well as the acting by Brando, Faye Dunaway and Johnny Depp.
After we took the bus home, Ronna fell asleep as she was paying bills while I stayed up till 11:30 PM reading the Times.
Once again, I taped exercise shows this morning, and I exercised lightly to one of them soon after Ronna left at 9 AM.
I called a couple more people, leaving messages on Susan Mernit’s machine and getting Scott live at his office. He asked what I was doing although I’m certain I’ve written him the details of my job.
Scott was surprised when I said that Sat Darshan (he still calls her Avis) told me to say hello to him, as did Josh and Ronna.
He said he’d like me to see his house and “die Kinder” so he told me to go back to Westchester with him on Wednesday evening and have dinner there before he drives me back to Manhattan.
I left the house at 10:30 AM and took the IRT to 42nd and Fifth. In the Mid-Manhattan Library, I read today’s Times, then got a Fifth Avenue bus by Lord & Taylor.
A typical New York old lady talked my head off, telling me about the $60 slippers she’d just bought there. She volunteered that as a city person, she wouldn’t live in Florida for a million bucks – “but you look like the outdoors type.”
I got to see the rest of Fifth Avenue on the bus ride. The neighborhood around the old Art Pants offices (“the Place”), rechristened the Flatiron District, has become very tony, and there’s a Banana Republic on the ground floor of Dad’s old building, 87 Fifth.
Alice took me to a swanky eatery in the back room of one of those old Union Square coffee shops, where we could order penne with pesto sauce, sun-dried tomatoes and “vegetable wok.”
I made sure to make a fuss over Alice’s apartment, furnished in Miami art deco style. (The mint wallpaper came from a book on the Deco District.)
Ian Schrager, the Royalton/Peninsula Hotel guy, would be happy with Alice’s decor, and Andreas hand-crafted a beautiful aluminum door to Alice’s office.
Andreas, by the way, heard Ed Koch read my letter on affirmative action on his radio show, probably attacking it – though Alice was too polite to say that. They hadn’t realized it was published in the Times.
As usual, Alice had me talk about myself too much when she’s got all these exciting projects.
I like the cover for Why Can’t a Man Be More Like a Cat?, which Dell hopes will be one of their impulse buys they place at the registers.
Alice admits she works too hard, but she has a wonderful social life and a beautiful apartment in what I consider a fancy-schmancy building.
She also keeps making money with her writing, whether it’s her diet books, the Richard Simmons newsletter (she showed me a photo of him and her), or her other ideas.
She asked me to help with her computer. She wants to get online so she needs to buy a modem.
After she cashed some checks at NatWest, we went back to her apartment, where I astonished her by calling up Windows from her hard drive. Since she’s been using only an old version of XyWrite, Alice wasn’t aware that she could get colors, graphics, different fonts, sound effects, etc.
I plan to come back and help her buy a modem if she needs one so she can use CompuServe, which she says has more databases than America Online.
I took the subway back here. Josh is coming over for dinner at 6 PM. Sharon gets depressed and cranky during her periods and so is feeling too sick to join us.
When I called Dad, he said that Jonathan last phoned from Yeehaw Junction and so should be home soon.
Saturday, August 5, 1995
4 PM. I’m meeting Justin and Larry at Worldwide Plaza at 6 PM. We’ll buy our $2 tickets for Priest and have dinner before the show.
Last evening Josh arrived at 6 PM and wanted to have dinner at Patzo on 85th and Broadway. I agreed because it reminded me of old times when I lived on 85th.
It’s good to spend time with Josh again; he’s coming over here tomorrow at 9 AM after he says kaddish at Ansche Chesed.
Walking down West End Avenue, we saw people going into the B’nai Jeshurun services at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew.
Ronna said B’nai Jeshurun is the hot Upper West Side synagogue on Friday night, just as Ansche Chesed is hot on Saturday morning.
Then I’ll go downtown with him to see Sharon.
Josh said not to mention to Sharon that he’s thinking of investing in a Russian car service in Brooklyn as a silent partner. I think Josh makes risky investments because he takes no risks with his career.
I can understand his investment in the KGB Bar, because it’s glamorous. When Kristof was here from Germany last week, he brought a German magazine advising tourists that KGB was a hot spot to visit.
Josh stopped going to the synagogue on weekdays because downtown they made him feel unwelcome when he came in dressed casually; up here on Sundays, they are very friendly.
We stopped at Software Etc. and then stayed a long time at Barnes & Noble, where Josh looked for a Jewish genealogy book because he’s tracing his family’s roots.
While I know I should patronize small independent bookstores, I admit to loving Barnes & Noble superstores.
And as Josh said, Shakespeare & Company, with their insufferably rude staff, deserves to go out of business – although unlike Endicott Booksellers, they’re still hanging on.
This afternoon I went back to Barnes & Noble and bought two books for Ronna: one on Jewish weddings and the other, a guide to having a fancy wedding on a limited budget.
Ronna had gotten home from dinner with Jane at Popover before I got home after seeing Josh off at the IRT station at 96th.
I finally called Richard Kostelanetz, who had spent the day at Brighton Beach. What he had wanted was to send me the ad for the position of executive director of Associated Writing Programs. Weird that he would think I’d be interested or qualified.
As usual, Kosti is so wrapped up in himself; he’s got the idea of trying to publish a book of reviews of his work. I knew I shouldn’t have told him about the Avisson Press book, for he’ll only write Martin Hester to pester him with a submission.
After sleeping wonderfully, I woke up at 8:45 AM. I can’t imagine sleeping that light in Gainesville.
Ronna got out at 10 AM. She’s taking New Jersey Transit to Trenton, but Matthew is on duty at the hospital, so instead of being picked up by him, Ronna will take a SEPTA train to 30th Street and she’ll meet Matthew in the city.
She plans to stay with the baby until he gets home from rounds this evening. Tomorrow they going to a birthday party for his one-year-old nephew in New Jersey, and Sid and Cara were coming over tonight.
I went out at 11:30 AM and returned a couple of hours later. The wasps prevented me from peacefully enjoying my salad bar and yogurt in Riverside Park while flies somehow seemed attracted to my socks.
I spoke to Susan, who said the Newhouse people love the wacky creative employees she’s brought to New Jersey Online; they’re not the more straight-laced newspaper people Newhouse used to.
Susan said she’d like me to do some work for them, so I’ll meet her at her office in Jersey City on Monday at 4:30 PM.
Her other big news is that they’re buying a five-bedroom house in South Orange.
Ronna got her Con Ed bill in the mail today, and she’ll kill me, but I opened it and paid the $53 with the check. That will ease my guilt for using the air conditioner all day.
Monday, August 7, 1995
Noon. I forgot how much New Yorkers socialize in restaurants. I’ve been in four restaurants since Saturday night. I guess it’s because people’s apartments are so small that they don’t socialize at home – and of course there are thousands of good restaurants here.
It was raining when I took the 96th and Columbus/Ninth Avenue bus to Worldwide Plaza on Saturday evening.
I was a little taken aback when I saw Larry and Justin, not only because I feel uncomfortable when Justin kisses my cheek as well as hugs me – I don’t mind hugs – but because Justin has gotten so heavy that it seems like his face is distorted. He looks very middle-aged.
Larry, who’s older, looks good with his grey hair and stoutness.
After buying tickets, we went to Siam Inn Too, another Thai restaurant on Eighth Avenue.
Larry’s doing paintings for a gallery exhibition in Ohio in January; he’s already got enough drawings and prints for the show. What he’s doing sounds interesting although I couldn’t quite visualize it from the description.
Justin talked about the terrible situation at CUNY, Brooklyn College and its Theater Department, which he blames mostly on Governor Pataki.
The cuts seem unconscionable, as does the decision to do away with schoolkids’ bus passes as they raise the transit fare to $1.50. It’s all penny-wise, pound-foolish, eat-our-seed-corn stuff.
Despite the precariousness of careers in the theater and the visual arts, Larry and Justin have managed to hang on and they certainly have managed a lot of stability. Their relationship seems rock-solid, and I expect them to be together for life.
I hope Justin takes care of himself so that his blood pressure, weight and cholesterol go down, but he seems to court stress and thrive on it.
Priest was interesting, with the rowdy audience talking back to the movie, with mucho hullabaloo during the explicit gay scenes from the largely young black and Hispanic crowd.
Yet when the film ended in the sticky sentiment – almost as sticky as the theater’s men’s room floor – of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and the gay priest embracing the molested girl whose secret, given in the confessional, he never revealed, the young people in the audience applauded wildly, with some of them even whistling.
The three of us stood on the corner of 51st and chatted for half an hour before they went to the subway and I took the M104 bus home, stopping to buy the Sunday New York Times on Broadway.
Josh came over around 10 AM, later than expected; he’d been unaware that it was Tisha B’av. We read the paper and watched Governor Pete Wilson prevaricate on Meet the Press before going out at 11 AM.
I was unprepared for the change of weather, as it was humid and drizzly and so cool I probably shouldn’t have worn shorts.
Sharon’s apartment is on East 10th Street between Broadway and University Place, near the old Village Voice office where I used to work. She was upset because the cat, a big Maine coon she’d gotten for Thanksgiving, had been throwing up all night.
After it vomited while I was there, she and Josh decided it would be best to take it to the vet that afternoon.
But first we had lunch at a nearby family-owned diner, where they had waffles and I ate a greasy but tasty veggie burger.
Then we took the cat in his box to the East Village Animal Hospital, where we waited among people who look like their pets: a French woman who needed tranquilizers to take her enormous dog (which slobbered all over me) on a plane ride to Paris; a Japanese woman with a baby ferret; a gay black man with a cockatiel whose head resembled his own epic haircut; and an Asian woman with a Lhasa apso that shook with fear just the way China does when she’s nervous.
For $175, the young woman vet did some blood work and gave the cat shots, etc. Basically, it was just a virus, she said.
Josh and I went back to his apartment, where he showed me his turtles, who had mated the day before.
(Earlier, Josh had described it to me at Citibank, and I wondered if passersby thought we were discussing people: “So he’s attracted to her and she keeps moving away while he’s on top and he keeps saying, ‘Ack! Ack!’”)
I was impressed when Josh showed me that he could scan photos into his computer’s family tree software files from this device that scans from his fax machine.
We went back to Sharon’s, and from there down Broadway to the cheapo Indian-run Wholesale Warehouse, which shares the street not only with other discount houses but also new fancy shops like A/X Armani Exchange, Pottery Barn, etc.
At 6 PM, we met Harry and his visiting sister Rhonda (a messed-up, alcoholic, drug-taking, recently-fired San Francisco schoolteacher who said that the system there is run by Asians who don’t like her) for dinner at Helianthus, a vegetarian Chinese restaurant in Soho.
Harry seems the same as ever. He talked about getting an $120 automatic pants presser that will save him money on dry cleaning.
After dinner, all of us went to the Peacock Caffe on Greenwich Avenue in the Village, where everyone else had pastry while I ordered melon.
It was 9 PM when I got back home after a great day with Josh and Sharon. I like Sharon a lot: she’s funny, very bright, sexy and sweet. But she probably gives Josh a hard time with her depressions.
She liked my advising Josh not to invest in individual stocks that he gets tips on, but I think I might have gone overboard in my criticism with her egging me on. After all, it’s Josh’s money.
He’s a soft touch for anyone. He loaned $20,000 to a lesbian pal in Philadelphia, and Rhonda gave him a postdated check for money he had loaned her. (I still owe Josh $150.)
Ronna had a nice weekend in Philadelphia and New Jersey, and she and Matthew are now thinking about having more of a party than a wedding, probably in February but maybe as early as November.
She said she appreciated the wedding books I bought and offered to pay me for them. I told her they were a gift.
While Ronna made calls, I finished reading the Sunday paper.
Last night I again had trouble sleeping.
I felt guilty about falling back asleep until after 9 AM, and then I broke Ronna’s coffee carafe by mistaking it for something I could boil water in. (I should have continued using the kettle.)
Trying to replace the damaged metal wraparound thing, I gave myself a deep cut on my thumb. Then I panicked and went out to Lechters but bought the wrong thing: a coffee carafe for a machine, not a Melitta filter drip.
So I called Ronna, confessed and apologized a zillion times. She said she’d pick up a new one tonight, and of course I told her I’d pay for it.
My cut stings, but maybe that’s because I just had lunch and got onion or tomato juice on it.
Today has started off so badly I think that it’s one of those days to stay in bed.
Tuesday, August 8, 1995
10 AM. Yesterday I took the IRT to Penn Station and then caught a PATH train at Herald Square.
In Jersey City, Journal Square was even more dilapidated than I’d remembered from my interview at St. Peter’s College a decade ago.
But I had been prepared for the squalor when some stoned, rowdy Hispanic guys got on the train at Pavonia, making all the passengers uncomfortable as they smoked, shrieked, and otherwise acted out.
Jersey City is sort of the land that time forgot, and it reminded me of a bigger Far Rockaway.
Susan just moved to a larger office on the fifth floor of the Jersey Journal building. Her receptionist is on the fourth floor, and in the new offices the name on the door is still that of a detective agency.
She introduced me to three or four of her staff, all of whom are working on Mac Performas, and Susan set me up on one so I could play on the Web.
It was good to learn how to use Netscape because I feel so far behind. Susan showed me some cool graphics done by an artist for their movie pages; it was both slightly camp and off-center but also accessible, and that is exactly what Susan’s looking for.
She had me brainstorm with this guy about a book-and-authors page, and another ex-Newhouse reporter told me I was his idol for my media hoaxes although I think he had gotten me confused with the man that ran the cat brothel.
I found everything about the New Jersey Online office exciting; they’re on the ground floor of something cutting-edge.
Susan and I took the PATH to 23rd Street and then had dinner, courtesy of Newhouse New Media, at a swanky (to me) restaurant.
She seems to be doing very well. Spencer has become a little too Orthodox for her and Zach, and Zach himself is a very bright sports-minded reader who’s now, at 9, a person with his own tastes and opinions.
Susan’s delighted with the house they plan to move into in October, a run-down semi-mansion in South Orange, right near the train station.
Working at Scholastic, Susan discovered she had a gift for the corporate world, and she started up a variety of projects for the company, many of which were very successful.
But after five years, Susan wanted to leverage what she knows when it’s hot. She had many offers and interviews with all kinds of places, from BBN to ABC to AOL, but decided that she wanted to work for a publisher because she was interested in content.
“So you’re the Tina Brown of New Jersey Online,” I said, referring to Newhouse’s New Yorker and Vanity Fair editor.
New Jersey Online will reflect Susan’s tastes, and she’s assembled a talented staff of mostly contract and part-time workers, saving money and working smart and efficiently (unlike the sister startup, Conde Net).
Susan said she’d like me to do some work for them, and she mentioned some possibilities: my writing about New Jersey and interacting with . . . what do you call them? the audience? – or giving me space on the server to do what I wanted, or something else I forgot.
After dinner, we walked and talked until we got to the subway at Washington Square, and Susan said I should call her in a few days.
Interestingly, she thinks the Web is a tulip phenomenon and that eventually all this cyberstuff will merge with TV.
4:30 PM. I told Ronna I’d stay home and do the laundry with her tonight, but Josh is coming over in 90 minutes, and ideally we can all have dinner first.
Tomorrow I’m having lunch at noon with Pete and then I’m supposed to go to Westchester with Scott. On Saturday I told Alice I’d go with her to buy a modem, and I figured I’d see Josh again on Sunday.
With only a week left in New York City, today I left messages with Teresa and Elihu, though I may not be able to get to see them.
In late morning, I went out and read the paper on a bench on Central Park West, across from the block on 89th Street where I went to Franklin School 30 years ago. (it’s now Dwight School.)
After lunch, I returned to Central Park West, spending a couple of hours in the Museum of Natural History, mostly in mammals and human evolution and the two brand-new halls of dinosaurs, which were quite impressive.
On my way home just now, I stopped at the nearly-empty Endicott Booksellers, which is about to close for good, and then at Shakespeare & Company.
The new Manhattan phone books were delivered today, and I took two from the pile near Ronna’s door. For myself, I got a jiffy bag and mailed one, book rate, to my apartment in Gainesville.
I love being in a big city, and while I know life is stressful here, I’ve come to the point where I need a change.
Soon after I return, I’ll tell Liz and probably Jon that I’m definitely leaving Gainesville when my lease expires next April. My position at CGR will probably end before that.
There’s a great deal about my job that I’ll miss: the easy hours, the lack of pressure, and the access to E-mail, Lexis and Westlaw.
But as Susan said yesterday, she can’t imagine staying in any job for more than five years.
If I’m throwing away an excellent opportunity at UF for the unknown and a total lack of security, so be it.
The longer I stay in Gainesville, the harder it will be to leave.