A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-August, 1995
by Richard Grayson
Wednesday, August 9, 1995
3 PM. Last evening Josh came by at 6:30 PM, followed by Ronna, who had brought her own dinner (I should have called her) and decided against joining us.
Ronna gave Josh the names of several neighborhood restaurants she recommended – Thai, Mexican, Sichuan – but I could see Josh was intent on going to Mana, the macrobiotic successor to Souen.
Josh had a bowl of udon with vegetables, and I had the same except I had soba, buckwheat rather than whole wheat noodles, and we ordered brown rice. The food was filling but tasteless.
Josh said I didn’t have to apologize for criticizing his investments, but I was relieved to hear that he wasn’t going to invest in Brina’s husband’s car service – only because she was frightened when Josh promised to call the police if their low-level Russian Mafia partner ever threatened her family again.
I figured I’d better come back to help Ronna with the laundry, which we began at 8:30 PM, amid phone calls from her mother, sister and aunt.
She’s going to look at several places for the wedding over the next week, including the relatively cheap Workmen’s Circle, which is $1,000 less than what Ansche Chesed is asking – although the latter has a sanctuary.
We couldn’t do all the laundry because Ronna had enough for only two loads – today I bought Wisk at Sloan’s for more than twice what I would pay for it in Gainesville – but we were finished before the laundry room closed at 10 PM.
I fell asleep early. It’s been, as they say, good weather for sleeping. The past three days have been sunny in the low 80°s with low humidity – about as good as I could ask for in New York City in August.
At noon today, I met Pete at Quantum Leap in the West Village before he went off to do some NYU work. Their vegetarian dumplings and steamed veggies were great.
Pete booked another trip, getting a discount fare to Prague and back from Budapest for Thanksgiving week.
We talked about the mystifying rise of the Language poets in academia, the dismantling of the NEA and NEH, and the relatively cheap prices of notebook computers.
After we parted, I took a walk in Washington Square Park, but found the black guys constantly asking me “Wassup?” from their benches as annoying as their counterparts selling the same or earlier versions of drugs in 1969.
It’s exactly 26 years ago that I discovered the West Village. Thinking about strolling that heady place in August 1969, I can smell the coconut incense sticks and see the peace symbols and love beads in my brain.
On the way to the refurbished Christopher Street station, I noticed George Segal’s statues of a gay couple and a lesbian couple in the triangular park at Sheridan Square, a reminder of the seminal event of that summer in the Village.
I spoke to Teresa in Fire Island. When she phoned last evening to return my call while I was out for dinner, she congratulated Ronna on her engagement.
Teresa usually spends the first three days of the week off the island, but this week she took Paul’s youngest daughter to the beach to see if she liked babysitting. (She didn’t, but apparently she was in the room because Teresa didn’t complain about her.)
I lied and told Teresa I’d arrived only this past weekend, and she said I should come out to Oyster Bay on Monday.
Teresa told me that the part of northeast Philly where Matthew lives is where Deirdre’s family comes from. She knew the area well and said that when she visited, she got off at the Trenton train station, too.
When I suggested that I wanted to leave Gainesville, Teresa mentioned that some of her friends in San Francisco are always looking for roommates. Hmm . . .
Alice just called, and I agreed to come to her apartment at 1 PM on Saturday to look at her computer before we go modem-shopping. She also wanted to know my opinion of inkjet versus laser printers.
As in the CGR office, in the kingdom of the blind, a nearsighted writer like me is the computer maven.
I’m meeting Scott at Grand Central station at 4:45 PM to catch the train to Hartsdale.
I’ve really been enjoying my trip to New York. I know that it would be different living here than being on vacation here, but after the past week, I’m convinced that I haven’t lost my New York edge in Gainesville.
Thursday, August 10, 1995
4 PM. The past 24 hours have been wonderful. As in my trip to Baltimore and D.C., my diary entries for this trip don’t really express what I’ve been experiencing.
There’s a lot I’m taking in that either doesn’t register right away or doesn’t fit into my writing, but I definitely have been experiencing New York as fully as I can.
This time yesterday I left for Midtown. Sitting in the shade in the cool breeze of Bryant Park, I read the Times in what seems to be the perfect urban space. I sat on a bench with a Yuppie black couple and then, miracle of miracles, I found the park’s outdoor bathroom to be amazingly clean.
It was 5 PM when I joined the throngs vomited from offices in the march along 42nd Street as I listened on my Walkman to NPR’s All Things Considered lead story on the death of the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia.
At Grand Central Station, I bought a one-way ticket to Hartsdale and went to the clock/information booth, where Scott, with short grey hair and an impeccably tailored suit, came up to get the 5:47 PM train. (M.J. takes the next train, the 6:09 PM.)
The ride was comfortable and short. Scott and I talked about law and his brother’s losing his job when the Interstate Commerce Commission folds this fall. I also showed him some recent clippings.
We got off the train one stop past Scarsdale and walked past the “village” of Hartsdale about a quarter-mile to Scott’s “baronial mansion,” a 1927 two-story stucco house with lots of property in front and back.
The Polish nanny, Margaret, greeted us, and Brianna, three years old and as pretty as anything, welcomed Scott home with a kiss.
Unlike many children, she was gregarious with a stranger, and nearly immediately she made me a playmate, showing me her many toys, from a green Slinky to a passel of Sesame Street and Disney musical instruments. She’s got a playroom that’s really large.
Scott took me on a tour of the house: nice kitchen, dining and living rooms and a screened-in patio downstairs, and upstairs, there are two bedrooms, M.J.’s study, a computer room, and the nanny’s bedroom with a separate staircase.
After M.J. arrived home, she and Scott changed into casual clothes, and Scott took me and his daughter for a walk.
He loves Westchester and is thinking of moving to Scarsdale because the school system is better. Next year they won’t need a nanny and so can use a smaller house.
The nanny made us an enjoyable chicken, broccoli and rice meal. Although M.J. and Scott worried that it was boring for me to be interrupted from my “adult” dinner-table conversation by a kid, talking with Brianna was a pleasure.
Later I read her nursery rhymes and we played in her room until her parents decided she’d never get to sleep while I was there.
Scott drove me back after I kissed M.J. and Brianna goodbye.
M.J.’s co-op on 87th and Columbus will be vacant next spring, and they said I could stay there till they sell it.
On the short ride home, Scott asked me about my social life, and I said I’ve been seeing mostly guys, which of course came as no surprise to him.
It was 9:15 PM when I got home and I spoke to Elihu.
Les was supposed to arrive on Monday, but he didn’t show up, and Elihu hasn’t heard from him in over two weeks, not since Les left New Orleans for San Francisco to visit his brother. Les’s furniture was supposed to arrive today or tomorrow.
Elihu can’t get in touch with Les or his family members; his New Orleans phone has been disconnected, and he didn’t give Elihu’s number as a new one.
Elihu, pretending to be MasterCard, called Essex House, where Les was supposedly hired and asked if they had an employee by his name.
They didn’t, but if Les wasn’t supposed to start till August 15, they wouldn’t have it in their computer yet.
Elihu says he’s not depressed yet because he’s in denial and he half-expects Les to call from LaGuardia with a plausible explanation any minute.
I cannot believe that Les, even if he got cold feet about moving to New York and decided to stay in San Francisco, couldn’t find the time or decency to call Elihu.
I can relate to the situation with my crushes on people who didn’t phone – but I never took these only-in-my-mind “relationships” as far as Elihu did.
Naturally, I’m not going to say that it was folly to make life-partner plans with a guy you met over a hot one-week New Orleans vacation.
To top off all this fun, Elihu lost his entire client list on the computer, and it will take his office many, many hours to try to reconstruct it.
He feels overwhelmed, as anyone in his situation would be. Les is either very cruel or very unreliable or else he’s lying dead or sick in an alley somewhere.
I’m to meet Elihu for lunch on Friday.
This morning I left Ronna’s at 9:30 AM. I decided that today was the one day I had to explore Brooklyn, especially since another heat wave is coming tomorrow.
Taking the IRT to Nevins Street. On Flatbush Avenue, I decided the bus would be more leisurely than the now-licensed dollar vans so I got on the B41 and rode it to the end of the line at Kings Plaza.
It was a great experience to see Flatbush Avenue, the heart of the borough. We went past the demolished LIRR station awaiting redevelopment and the newly gentrified stores in Prospect Heights; Grand Army Plaza, the main library (“Here are enshrined the longing of great hearts”) and the Botanic Garden; the West Indian stores and “international calling” places between Prospect Park and the Junction.
And then I was on the familiar route I took home from high school, college and grad school.
In Kings Plaza, I noticed some new stores (Warner Bros.) and lots of uniformed guards.
I submitted to a survey by a market research lady, not just for the $2 but because I’d spoken to Ronna’s mother last night and I remembered how she used to do that kind of market research when she was first divorced.
(Beatrice is so happy Ronna is finally getting her due: “You know, Richie, she’s gone out with a lot of guys who were very unsuitable; I only wish she and Matthew had met years ago.”)
After I answered the questions about Federal Express (they seem to be worried their ads aren’t serious enough) the market researcher, a fiftyish Jewish woman, told me, for no apparent reason, a long story about her lovely single audiologist daughter whose Sheepshead Bay office, decorated so beautifully, was ruined when the pipes broke and it was flooded with tons of water and excrement.
People in New York love to tell stories like that. I overheard many of them today just wandering around Brooklyn and Rockaway, where I went next.
The city bus now transfers to the Green bus. Although I could smell the salty breezes of Mill Basin near Kings Plaza, I was astounded by something I often took for granted: the expanse of water from the Atlantic Ocean and Jamaica Bay that I saw from the Marine Parkway Bridge. (That’s what happens when you live in a landlocked place like Gainesville.)
After walking along Beach 116th Street, I strolled the boardwalk alongside a parade of police vehicles until I got to a bench overlooking the beach and ocean right where I lived 15 years ago on Beach 118th Street.
It was so gorgeous out as I ate my Korean salad bar and sipped my Fresca that I could only wonder why the scene seemed so much less beautiful in 1980, when I’d often sit there when I was depressed.
Back in Brooklyn, I walked from Avenue U to Fillmore but didn’t feel the need to revisit my old block. Instead, I took the Mill Basin bus (another private bus line) through Marine Park and past Madison High School to Kings Highway, where Russian signs now are everywhere.
I relished the cool breeze as I waited for the train. Once again it’s the same Q line I took 30 years ago when I went to Franklin School.
Friday, August 11, 1995
4 PM. It turned quite humid again, something I discovered when I took a walk last evening. I decided to go north of 96th Street, which I hadn’t done before.
I probably overdid it, walking all the way to the Columbia campus, where there’s a lot of construction. I love the people-watching I can do here, and I enjoyed seeing what Broadway is like uptown.
On my way back, I became very tired and weak and barely managed to return home without fainting from exhaustion. I guess I overdid walking yesterday.
Very restless last night, I tossed and turned, and my pillows and shirt were too hot. Right now I’ve got the air conditioner on.
After I exercised to the last Body Electric tape I made today – I use Ronna’s heaviest books in lieu of weights – I showered, dressed and then called Mikey.
He’s still living on West End and 81st – only fourteen blocks from here – but I won’t get to see him since I told Teresa I’d go to Long Island on Monday.
I was glad to hear that despite an awful pregnancy and horrible delivery (a day of labor followed by a dangerous C-section), he and Missy are the parents of Tommy, a healthy baby boy, now 4½ months and already 18 pounds.
Mikey said that becoming a father at 42 has its upside in that he doesn’t sweat the little stuff, but the physical demands are hard on him: for example, the lack of sleep and the difficulty he has carrying the baby over long distances.
He and every other lawyer in his office had to be interviewed in order to keep their jobs as everything is up in the air until Attorney General Vacco announces his budget cuts.
Missy is doing something at Time Warner, but her position isn’t really defined yet.
Mikey sounds a bit war-weary, but he loves being a father and regrets that because of the pregnancy, Tommy will be their only child.
I took the 96th Street bus to Lexington so I could sightsee on Lexington Avenue down to 42nd Street.
Arriving earlier than I’d expected, I used the extra time to take in the Writers at War exhibit at the Berg Collection, where I looked over Virginia Woolf’s World War II diary entries, W.H. Auden’s marriage certificate to Erika Mann and drafts of “September 1, 1939,” and a letter from John Steinbeck replying to fascist rumors that he had Jewish blood. (Steinbeck said it was no source of pride that he had not.)
Elihu, looking boyish for “Dress-Down Friday,” was waiting for me at the Grand Central station clock, and we walked to the UN Garden overlooking the East River, a serene place where Elihu likes to go on his lunch hour. (He never eats lunch.)
When Les’s furniture didn’t come, Elihu came to accept the fact the Les isn’t coming, either. We talked about the situation and nothing really makes sense.
Elihu recounted their initial meeting at a bar in the French Quarter in October – but Elihu never visited Les’s apartment or saw him after his vacation week in New Orleans.
Still, Elihu did exchange letters with him at an address on St. Charles Avenue and they had talked every few days on the phone.
Anyway, Elihu has put off looking for a new job for nine months, feeling that the change – even from a job he hates – would be one too many alterations in his life.
All the stuff he did to prepare for Les’s moving in – painting and cleaning his apartment and throwing out stuff after ten years in Brooklyn Heights – wasn’t a bad idea, but he’s left with this emptiness and a frustrating lack of closure.
Unlike me, Elihu loves stability and will stay in New York City forever. He says it’s partly because of his parents, but his mother and father are healthy, and his brother lives in Brooklyn and could look after them.
Although I imagine he needs time to heal – as I would – Elihu said he’d like to start “going out” quickly.
Still, people are different. Seeing where my old friends are in their own lives is an interesting way of taking my own developmental pulse.
Saturday, August 12, 1995
8 PM. Yesterday I spoke with Justin, who had a busy week and was going with Larry to Reading until Monday night. I probably won’t get to see them again.
Justin recommended I try to get to see Terrence McNally’s Love! Valour! Compassion!, now in its last weeks on Broadway. He and Larry had seen it for $15 a ticket the night before, and they moved down from the balcony to the first mezzanine.
So when Josh said that his fighting with Sharon precluded our going out last evening and I knew Ronna was going to the movies with Ellen, I decided to head for the Theater District at 6:45 PM.
After paying $20 for a balcony ticket, I got some salad bar at a deli on Ninth Avenue and ate it while sitting at one of the benches across from Worldwide Plaza.
Although the house was pretty full – I think the Walter Kerr Theatre was also where I saw Angels in America last year – I was able to get a seat in the back of the mezzanine after the first act.
Love! Valour! Compassion! is an excellent play, terrific McNally, set in a Columbia County country home over the course of three summer holiday weekends (Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day) corresponding to the three acts.
The eight characters are gay men, played by seven excellent actors, including John Glover, amazing in the parts of twin brothers.
Although I would have liked to see Nathan Lane as Buzz, the guy who’s got AIDS and is a musical comedy fanatic, his replacement was fine.
As Justin had said, there was a lot of nudity and the actors by and large were extremely attractive.
The play was moving and funny and it rang true – though of course I’ve liked all the McNally plays that I’ve read.
Coming out of the theater at 11 PM and catching the M104 bus with other Broadway-goers, I felt exhilarated.
By then it had cooled off a lot, and by the time I got home I felt almost a rapture about being in New York City.
Ronna was on the phone with her mother when I fell asleep after David Letterman’s Top Ten list and still on the phone when I awoke a couple of hours later to go to the bathroom.
I slept deeply despite my usual getting up to pee, and this morning I lay in bed till late.
Ronna left for Philadelphia at 10:30 AM, and I decided to forgo my usual half-hour of exercise (maybe I can make it up later or tomorrow) in favor of getting other stuff accomplished.
In the space of two hours, I showered and dressed, did a load of laundry (my sheets and pillowcases were sweaty), shopped for groceries and household supplies, withdrew $200 from checking at the Citibank ATM, and had lunch.
At 1 PM I was over at Alice’s, staying with her for four hours.
Josh had suggested I avoid installing a modem because Alice would get angry if anything went wrong. I made it clear to Alice that I’m no hardware expert and the least handy of men.
Alice wants to get online (she’s decided on CompuServe but had the Windows, not the DOS, diskette) so she can download articles in medical journals and consumer magazines, E-mail her brother in Mongolia, and find fit people to interview for her next health-related book.
But she doesn’t have the slightest idea of how computers work. She was under the impression that her operating system was XyWrite rather than DOS or Windows.
Her ancient pirated word processing program still had a 1982 DOS date, as I discovered when I looked at the dates in her files – I fixed the computer’s date and time – and she’s unable to paginate with it, so she writes in her page numbers by hand.
It’s lucky that Alice knows her editors and publishers because otherwise they’d think she was an amateur.
We took a cab to CompUSA on Fifth Avenue and 36th, where I helped Alice buy a 28.8 internal fax/modem as well as the wrist pad I suggested.
Back home, opening her computer was such a hassle that eventually she had to get a building fix-it guy to work on a screw we couldn’t untighten.
But even after that, I realized I had no idea where to put in the fax/modem card. In the end we both agreed that I would only install the communication software and let someone else put in the hardware.
Still, Alice appreciated my help and my tutorial.
Getting home a couple of hours ago, I read the paper and watched the news. I suppose it’s odd to be staying in Manhattan at home on a Saturday night, but I feel tired and I have no reason to keep going out, especially on a hot humid evening.
I also need time to think about my trip and how I see my life in Gainesville.
Sunday, August 13, 1995
9 PM. This afternoon I was squooshed in an enormous crowd at Times Square to celebrate the 50th anniversary of V-J Day.
The famous photo of the sailor kissing the nurse from Life magazine was reproduced on the platform as Mayor Giuliani tried to replicate the bent-over-backwards pose with his wife, Donna Hanover.
I went mostly to say I was there, and I got the official program to prove it.
Because I had to be at Sharon’s apartment at 5 PM, I was a bit anxious about being wedged in, but after “The Star-Spangled Banner” and speeches by Giuliani and Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey, the event’s host (who else?) Celeste Holm introduced the first of several World War II-era singers.
There was also a military color guard and Henny Youngman, who said that during the war, an Italian girl saved his life: “She hid me in a cellar on Mulberry Street.”
I couldn’t help thinking about the changes since 1945 when I saw the Sony video screen with ads for ProComm Telecommunications software and CNN’s live coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial and saw on the Times Square news ribbon that Mickey Mantle had died.
I was born only six years after the war ended, and growing up, I always knew World War II as “the war.”
Anyway – a word that came up constantly in one character’s speech in Love! Valour! Compassion! (but also one I use a lot, with the same tone: any-way) – last night I got into to bed early.
But just before that, I’d fallen into a funk because after looking at myself in the full-length mirror, I decided that nobody could ever fall in love with me.
I’m 44 and don’t have a hot young body. The only guys would be interested in me would be guys who I wouldn’t be interested in.
Of course, I realize that not everybody is as shallow and concerned with physical appearances as I am. But I thought of the very real possibility that unlike my friends, I will spend the rest of my life alone, unloved and unloving. That kept me awake for a while.
When Josh called at 9 AM, I’d only just struggled to get out of bed, but I managed to get myself together in the fifteen minutes it took for him to walk from the synagogue.
Josh was really burned out. He and Sharon had a night out of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on top of their horrendous fight on Friday.
Josh had come home from a bad day with his mother to Sharon’s demand that he meet her parents and have dinner together.
But she’d previously filled Josh with horror stories about how they’d treated her and he’d already met her mother, who Sharon said disliked him.
Naturally, the argument was really about something else, and it was horrible. Sharon told Josh she wished he were dead, she wished she were dead, and that even though Josh is the only person she has, she can’t count on him.
Frustrated, Sharon cried and hit Josh and brought up old wounds from the past two years. She’s very unhappy.
Josh made her his domestic partner so she could get his benefits, but she quit therapy after a few sessions.
He wants to have a kid (“It’s the natural order of things”) and she doesn’t.
If they did have a kid, they’d need a two-bedroom apartment, which means Brooklyn, where Josh doesn’t want to move.
“I love her,” Josh said, “but it’s so awful that last night I kept thinking I’d be better off alone at home jerking off.” I guess that made me feel better, since that’s what my life is like.
We left the apartment and went to Starbucks for Frappuccino and iced tea, and I agreed to meet him and Sharon in the East Village for dinner.
After managing to exercise for an hour, I took bus rides across 96th Street – I love the architecture of the Islamic Cultural Center – and down Second Avenue with the Limited bus (which detoured on Lex due to a street fair).
Later, amid the roller-bladders, dog-walkers and sunbathers in Riverside Park, I read the Sunday paper and saw lots of people coming from today’s big Dominican Day parade before going to Times Square.
When I finally extricated myself from the mob there and showed up at Sharon’s, she looked frazzled and delicate as she answered the door.
For dinner, we went to Veselka, a Ukrainian restaurant on Second Avenue, where I had a fabulous meatless stuffed cabbage, veggies and a superb horseradish-beet dish.
As they walked me to the Seventh Avenue IRT, I told Josh that he doesn’t have to feel he can’t take a vacation because of his mother, and I gave the example of my family: my parents and their siblings didn’t let being caretakers confine them in that way.
Once again, as with the investment talk, Sharon said I was telling Josh stuff that she tells him all the time. I don’t know if I’ll see Josh again before I leave, but it was good to spend time with him.
It has been so wonderful to soak up New York City again.
Monday, August 14, 1995
4:30 PM. Just as I was beginning to get really depressed by my impending return to Gainesville, the Center for Governmental Responsibility intruded itself in my life.
Getting home half an hour ago from Long Island with a raging headache, I found a message from Jon Mills asking me to call him. “It’s nothing catastrophic,” he said, but he made it clear I should call.
I know I did something major, on the order of telling the guy at the National Trust to go fuck himself.
When I called the office, Joann spoke to me coldly and said she’d have Jon call me back; he was on another line and “I know he wanted to talk to you.”
After waiting nervously for about ten minutes, I decided to take the phone off the hook because I wanted to think through the situation.
My head is pounding, as is my heart, and my hands are shaking. Obviously, something I did has come to light, and it’s made CGR look bad again.
My first thought was that in the press release for the PAC supporting a constitutional amendment to ban bra-burning, I identified myself by my title, and I used CGR’s E-mail to send out the press release.
But it did have a disclaimer that only my own thoughts, time and money were involved and not those of CGR, UF, or the law school.
I can understand why that would make CGR look bad, but my point about the flag burning amendment is valid, and I certainly have both academic freedom and my First Amendment rights to petition the government.
If there’s any repercussions, I can do what I did at Broward Community College with Legislators in Love and get further publicity out of it.
Okay, another possibility is further flak from the National Trust, but my abject apology to them went as far as I could possibly have gone.
What else? There’s my Giraffe Hunters PAC that Roll Call phoned about, but I don’t think I ever mentioned my CGR connection there.
Could it be the New York Times letter? As Scott said, I probably shouldn’t have identified myself with CGR. But when the letter was published, Liz said she couldn’t imagine me getting into trouble at UF for supporting affirmative action.
I guess I could be fired, but being a law school and a university, they’d have to give me due process.
Telling individuals like Rosalie that I think CGR should be abolished is an act of disloyalty, but I can’t see how anyone would have gotten wind of that.
Is there anything else I’ve done that could prove embarrassing? Maybe – but if so, I obviously never saw it as such.
It’s possible, of course, that Jon just wants to see my business plan update or there’s a question regarding the Department of Education grant or something similar. Yet I imagine that Liz would have called me about that.
Once again, this is like being called into the principal’s office, and I react badly to that: it’s also a child/parent thing: “You’ve misbehaved and now you must be punished.”
Taking the phone off the hook gives me more of a sense of control even if it delays the inevitable. I’ll hang up at 5 PM, and if it’s that important, he’ll get me later.
I can always say I’m using a phone my friend uses for business; Jon doesn’t have to know about call-waiting.
The IRT was hellish during rush hour this morning. At Penn Station, I took the 9:33 AM train to Syosset, where Teresa picked me up. She looked tanned and blonde and was driving a van.
We stopped first in the Oyster Bay home where she’s now living with Paul, his three kids, two dogs and two cats. It’s a very large house with lots of grounds, where Teresa grows tomatoes.
Jess, the 16-year-old, was totally depressed today because her abusive 20-year-old boyfriend broke up with her.
Teresa likes Jess the best of the kids. Despite her nose rings, she says Jess has “a brain,” unlike her older siblings. She has lupus, which isn’t easy for her.
I met Cat, the 23-year-old daughter Teresa called a “slug” and P.J. (Paul Jr.), the 20-year-old son, who – like all the siblings, seemed perfectly nice to me.
Teresa drove me to Locust Valley, where her own little house sits on charming Birch Hill Road. The house is cute, and Teresa fixed it up nicely, adding many improvements. Here and there in the house I spotted a familiar object from 85th Street: a table, a clock, a picture.
Now that the summer renters have left, she has to get a lot of stuff out of there because she’s got tenants coming in on a one-year lease starting September 1.
They’ll pay her mortgage and then some, but Teresa feels loath to leave the house where she was happy, first with her little Yorkshire terrier Allie and then for six months with Paul.
Moving into the house he lived with his first wife and the kids for 16 years isn’t her favorite thing, but she’s doing it because she loves Paul and this is what he wants.
I helped Teresa take down all the boxes from the attic and put some in the van; this evening she and Paul will take the truck over there and get some more stuff.
Teresa took me to lunch at a neat restaurant in Oyster Bay’s “village,” where she brought me up-to-date on her family and friends like Barbara and Stewart.
After hanging out with Teresa in the big house for a while, I got the 2:39 PM train back to the city.
It’s now 5:12 PM, so I suppose I need to face Jon’s call even if I’m not yet prepared. What a coward I am.
Tuesday, August 15, 1995
4:30 PM. I’m much calmer than I was 24 hours ago, when I could practically feel my body releasing stress hormones.
Jon never called back, and it only occurred to me late last night that maybe he didn’t want to fire me or yell at me but instead just ask me a question or discuss a new grant.
When Ronna said, “You must have a guilty conscience,” I replied, “I’m Jewish, aren’t I?”
Today at lunch, Josh said they always warn you before they fire you unless they catch you stealing, and anyway, why did I care since I want to leave? Good question.
Ronna came home exhausted last evening because she and Matthew got home at midnight and then the baby got up crying at 1 AM, so she had little sleep and that long Philly-to-Manhattan commute.
Anyway, I slept badly and surfed the 77 cable channels from 2:30 AM until 4 AM. This morning I made one last Food Emporium run, exercised and made calls.
I left messages with Justin, whom I thanked for the suggestion about Love! Valour! Compassion!, and with Alice, who sweetly thanked me yesterday in a long message.
After reading the Times, I walked down Broadway to 79th Street and took the train downtown to meet Josh by his office for lunch.
He asked me to ask Elihu about two-bedroom apartments in the St. George. Josh found a Brooklyn Heights condo in Harry’s building where the selling price is low – $145,000 – but the monthly maintenance is $1,400.
After I said goodbye to Josh – I’ll miss him – I decided to take the IRT into Brooklyn Heights, to see my home borough one more time despite the heat and humidity.
I walked around the Heights and took in the view as I strolled the entire Promenade, sitting on a bench for half an hour.
Then I got an iced tea at Starbucks on Montague Street and read the Heights Courier, a Courier-Life weekly paper. I noticed ads for apartments that didn’t sound outrageous, like $595 for a furnished basement studio in Old Mill Basin, my old neighborhood.
At the Business Library on Cadman Plaza, I printed out a bibliography of biographical sources on me from a database. The Brooklyn Heights library branch still had its copy of With Hitler in New York.
On the subway ride back home, I got to enjoy all these little black kids on a camp excursion – and the cute gay white guy who supervised them with such pleasure. (You can tell what a great catch he was by the delight he took in speaking with the kids.)
What I love about New York is the many encounters with people one has during the course of the day. Granted, some encounters can be horrific – but I like the way life is lived in an urban setting.
Tomorrow is mostly a travel day, and I won’t be home till evening. I dread all the catching up I have to do in Gainesville.
Wednesday, August 16, 1995
1 PM. I’m at La Guardia Airport on my way to the city that Money magazine today named the best place to live in America.
I guess I must be crazy for wanting to leave Gainesville for a place like New York City or some other urban cesspool. However, seeing Jacksonville and Ocala also in Money’s top five list makes me wonder about their criteria.
At 6 PM yesterday I met Ronna at Ollie’s for pleasant final dinner. She said she planned to spend the evening listing all her friends and relatives and trying to decide whether it’s feasible to have a big wedding.
When Ronna went to the ladies’ room after I paid the bill, the waitress said, “Your wife left her bag on the seat,” so I guess that Ronna does look like somebody’s wife.
But by now we are old people: At the next table, high school seniors were contemptuously referring to their parents as “typical baby boomers.”
After we stopped off to buy some food at Han’s, I watched TV and Ronna spoke to her mother and sister, trying to decide whether it’s feasible to have a big wedding.
Last night I slept very well, and this morning I hugged Ronna goodbye before she left for work. I also spoke to Alice, who asked for Josh’s phone number in case she can’t find anyone else to install her modem. Alice is the one who told me about Gainesville topping Money’s list.
I left a last message with Josh and one with Susan Mernit at her house.
The cab driver took me up Amsterdam and across 125th Street, so I got to see the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and the midday vibrancy of Harlem’s main shopping district.
When I checked in at Delta, they asked me if I’d left my bags unattended at any time. That was a first.
I’m at the snack bar with TCBY frozen yogurt and heading for the big security at the gate now.
Next stop, Atlanta – or Hotlanta, because it’s 100° there today.
Friday, August 18, 1995
8 PM. Up at 6 AM and at work at 8 AM, I find that I want to lie down now even if I’m not ready for sleep.
This morning I learned what the big crisis was that caused Jon to call me in New York.
It turns out that visiting faculty can take annual leave only after the start of the second calendar year of working. While Jon, the Dean’s office and everyone else had approved my leave, the paperwork didn’t get to Personnel until after I was gone a week.
On Monday, Joann took a call from Kathy Cowart, who wanted her to call me and say I should come home.
Jon wasn’t in today, and I have to discuss it with him on Monday, but I can use my ten days of accrued sick leave to cover the first two weeks.
Liz and Carol said that we should say I was doing CGR work in New York.
If I have to, I’ll just forfeit the pay – which to me is less scary than the prospect that I’d done something wrong.
By comparison, losing the money doesn’t matter although Laura and Liz thought it was a big deal.
But if I don’t take the accrued annual leave before I go, I can get paid for the days, I think.
Everyone in the office seemed glad to see me and said they missed me, although I’m sure Russ enjoyed having the office to himself even if Laura said Russ “suffered” by not having me to talk with.
Liz told me she had a terrific vacation, going with Becky to Boston and the coast of Maine.
What’s more, before she left town, she met a really nice guy; unfortunately, he had to go to Africa for a few months.
Liz knows that I plan to go back to New York when my lease expires in April, and she understands that has more to do with my personal life than with any dissatisfaction with CGR.
The truth is simply that I’m lonely here and I’m less lonely in New York, and I’m dreadfully homesick. As Russ suggested, “You must feel like you’re in exile.”
I brought in a copy of the New York Post with a provocative headline, a listing magazine featuring expensive Upper West Side apartments for sale, and other New York City tchotchkes.
I spent nearly all day proofreading the Department of Education legal memo publication. Later, without telling anyone, I went to the post office before it closed and spent my own money to assure that Wendy gets my corrected pages in Monday’s mail because I feel guilty about being away.
At 12:30 PM, I went to Burdines for my eye exam. It had been 2½ years since my last one, and both eyes’ distance vision improved.
Although I decided not to opt for bifocals just yet, the optician said I’m beginning to get farsighted. I’ll buy a pair of low-power reading glasses to wear over my lenses or just not wear lenses or glasses for close work. (I’m writing this without any corrective lenses, for example, and it’s quite comfortable.)
I’m giving up the clunky aviator-shaped glasses for a rounder look and antiqued metal frames. Although I can hardly look at my aging face in the mirror, these new frames are pretty nice.
I stayed at the office till 4:30 PM. Law school classes began on Tuesday although the first-semester students are already on campus and dealing with Introduction to Law.
Feeling tired, I’m glad to have the weekend to readjust to Gainesville.