A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early December, 1997

Wednesday, December 3, 1997

Noon. I barely slept at all last night. While the insomnia enabled me to get all the grading done and return the first drafts of their final essays to the 8 AM class this morning, it didn’t do me much good otherwise.

How come I now sleep during the day and am wide awake all night? My mind couldn’t stop racing. I know I’m foolish to even think about Gianni. It’s so silly for me to imagine that I could have a relationship with someone so different from me, someone whom I have no reason to believe will be attracted to me.

I’m certain he’s as handsome as Jay and Terence were; don’t ask me why, but I assume all skinny gay black guys in their twenties look like fashion models.

If I do get to meet Gianni tomorrow, and that’s big if, it will probably be our only meeting. At least I should keep my mouth shut and let him talk about himself.

In a way, it’s pathetic that I’m so lonely and needy, but in another way, I have to smile at the eternal optimism of human beings like myself who never seem to flag in their determination that given enough time, hope will triumph over experience.

Probably we couldn’t go on without that hope, and I believe that if it’s not Gianni, it will be someone else. Hey, I’m not seeking a spouse, just some intimacy and affection, and I want to give it as well as receive it.

Hell, I’d settle for just giving it for now. I’d like to hand some flowers to another guy, the way I did with Terence.

Anyway, I struggled out of bed this morning only to shave, mousse up my hair, and put on my clothes from last night so I could go and teach. I was so fuzzy, but today I took my class to the MicroLab, where I let them do Web searches.

I printed out some stories, graded and handed back the late papers that I got today, and then had the class discuss their Web experiences – some more frustrating than others – trying to research their topics with the blunt tools of the Internet search engines.

Upstairs, I spoke to Scott about Angels in America; he’s never seen the play, and he says his students hate reading it and find it disgustingly dirty.

“It’s a very conservative generation,” Scott said – though of course if we were teaching at Purchase or Brandeis or Berkeley, we would have different experiences.

I composed and printed out and xeroxed my final essay exams for English 102 at FAU, as well as Language 1500 and 2000 at Nova while I was in the Liberal Arts office with Maria.

Then I came home to a message from Michael Murphy that the Orlando Sentinel will be running my Saturday Special column on career changing this week.

He remarked how my column on McCollum’s bankruptcy bill certainly elicited a great deal of reaction.

I would like to drive to the Orlando paper’s circulation area on Saturday afternoon, but I doubt my car would make it without breaking down. I’ll get to see the piece eventually – and a new publication always cheers me up.

Because I don’t have to go to Boca even once today, I can relax – though I have four sets of papers to grade or comment upon. Still, I need some time to goof off.


9 PM. I’ve just watched the tape of Howards End, the Merchant Ivory film I got at the downtown library this afternoon. To me, Forster pulled off a nearly perfect novel in the story of the Schlegels, the Wilcoxes and the Basts. It’s incredibly beautiful.

I went to the library to see if they carried the daily Orlando Sentinel, which they don’t, so I’ll have to order Saturday’s copy from the back issue department, as my car will never make it to Palm Bay the way it did when my last Saturday column appeared in mid-April and I drove up and down I-95 and the Turnpike listening to the tape of Howards End that I’d brought with me down from Gainesville.

That was near the end of the last Nova term in the spring, in the weeks before I left Gainesville for good, when I brought some things down in a rental car.

How extraordinary that Howards End – the audiotape – kept me company then, and now, nearly seven months later, after being with my parents, and then with Teresa and Paul and Jade on Long Island, at Ragdale in Chicago, at the house in Williamsburg in Brooklyn, and now starting my fourth of six months in this apartment in Davie – after a semester of teaching at FAU and Nova, after Dad’s heart attack, and so much else – I’m back with Howards End again.

It makes me feel that just as the Schlegels were fated to get Howards End, if I put myself in the hands of the universe, everything will turn out as it’s meant to be.

If I meet Gianni tomorrow and it doesn’t work out, it’s because it’s not meant to be. With Sean, back in the spring of 1982, everything that happened was meant to be. It was with Ronna, too.

Ronna called today, and it was so good to talk to her. She and Matthew and the children will be coming down in two weeks, to stay from Thursday night to Sunday morning, for Billy’s wedding here in Davie. Her mother will fly to Orlando, and she’ll drive down here with Ronna’s sister, brother-in-law and aunt.

Beatrice, who still hasn’t recovered fully from the stroke and probably never will, plans to spend the winter in Orlando, staying at her house with a home aide all day and sleeping at her sister’s at night. In March, she’ll go back to Philadelphia to stay with Ronna and Matthew and the girls.

For Billy’s wedding, Ronna and her family will be staying with Matthew’s sister in Kendall. With the money they’re saving by not staying at a hotel, they can stay an extra day and get an airplane seat for little Abigail, who’s got a baby-dress she can wear to the wedding. Chelsea will be the flower girl at a nondenominational Christian service for fifty guests.

I hope I can see Ronna and Matthew and their kids in two weeks.

Tomorrow will be my half-birthday, so I’ve got six months to go till I’m 47.

Thursday, December 4, 1997

4 PM. It’s a gloomy day with the steadiest, hardest rainfall I can remember outside of a tropical storm.

I called Gianni an hour ago, and he said he’d call me to say when we’re going to meet, but I wonder if today is a good day, especially around rush hour when the roads are likely to be flooded.

He called just before noon, around the time I was planning to call him. Oddly enough, he suggested we meet at the very spot I was going to suggest: the Borders bookstore in Fort Lauderdale. But he’d just woken up, and he said he wouldn’t be done with “domestic stuff” till late afternoon.

I doubt our meeting is going to lead to anything, and right now I feel like I want to stay home the rest of the day.

Last night when I called Dad, he said the cardiologist had checked him out, prescribed a cholesterol-lowering drug and adjusted his other medications, told him to walk 40 minutes a day, and said he could start working normal hours.

So I guess Dad’s not an invalid. In January he’ll go back for a stress test and we’ll see what happens from there.

I suppose it’s great that Dad doesn’t seem to be suffering from the depression that affects a quarter of cardiac patients after their first heart attack. On the other hand, with Dad, who would be able to tell?

I slept soundly last night, but I was making up the lost sleep. I had pleasant dreams about walking, or running, or flying around my old neighborhood in Brooklyn in the early hours of the morning as kids were going to P.S. 203 and the sanitation trucks began to pick up garbage.

Alice e-mailed instructions on how to reformat my manuscript and materials; She wants ten clean copies of the 50 pages. I worked on the word processing file that the packet is on, and I hope the Nova printer is working tomorrow morning.

Although I still haven’t graded the papers for Saturday’s Business, Government and Society class, they shouldn’t take more than an hour.


10 PM. I met Gianni at 7 PM at the Borders cafe.

Both of us recognized each other immediately. He’s what I expected: tall, thin, obviously gay, wearing a white dress shirt unbuttoned and showing a flat, smooth chest, black dress pants, dreary shoes, carrying a shoulder bag, with short kinky hair and a pleasant but not gorgeous face.

I had told him to look for a short ugly guy, so he knew who I was right away. At first I tried not to stare at him as we ordered. He’s got a Borders plastic covered coffee mug which he can fill up at a discount. I had two cups of herbal tea.

There were no tables available, so we went outside, but it was too wet to sit down even though it had stopped raining. So we talked for a couple of hours as we stood overlooking the water.

I tried not to talk too much, but you know me, and I got the feeling Gianni does, too. He told me about living with a guy 15 years older from when he was 18 until a year ago, when they realized they were going in different directions.

It’s a good sign that when I asked him, “Are you still friends?” He immediately said, “Of course, definitely!”

His last name isn’t Krieger like his screen name – he just took the name of people he grew up with in Reisterstown. His stepfather’s a computer programmer, his mother’s an actuary, his late grandfather was a lawyer, and his grandmother is head nurse at Walter Reed.

Gianni seems very intelligent and cultured: he talked about how the art galleries in South Beach have “only pretty pictures, nothing challenging.”

Borders was having a Joni Mitchell “mic-alike” contest in the cafe, and from the patio we could see several people step up to the microphone with their guitars.

At one point we went in when this pudgy white guy in his mid-40s began to sing that song about Woodstock and going down to Yasgur’s farm – the one with the line, “And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

He was surprisingly good, and instead of treating the contest like a joke, I found myself moved, thinking back to how Stacy worshipped Joni Mitchell and emulated her when she sang.

I didn’t tell Gianni how old I really was although I intended to and I should have. He seems much older than 23: he’s mature and sophisticated, and he could pass for 30.

He smokes Virginia Slims – there’s a dead giveaway – and drinks a lot of coffee.

Anyone seeing us could tell that we were two guys on a blind date, and a couple of people, including one woman who stared at one or both of us, were obviously listening at several points, probably because I talked too loudly.

On the phone Gianni had said that I reminded him of Woody Allen. He does like Jewish guys and said he seems to keep meeting doctors and lawyers who are really in the arts.

I walked out with him when he began to get antsy, and outside Borders, he said we agreed to be honest about attraction to each other, so he asked me if I was attracted to him.

“Moderately,” I said.

“Me, too,” he said, at which point I added, “You were the cutest guy in there” – which was true because I’d made it a point to look around the bookstore for comparison.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” he said.

So he’ll call me or I’ll call him. I’m not infatuated with him the way I was with Jody or Terence – and that’s a good sign. He’s not gorgeous but he could grow on me, I can tell. And I can relate to him better than I could to Jody or Terence, who were poor kids from the rural South.

If anything, Gianni’s family seems more educated, cultured and wealthy than mine. Anyway, I don’t want to push this or get overbearing, but I would like to see him again.

Just as some white bozo was standing nearby, I said, “You wouldn’t mind if I call you?” I assume that other people don’t think weird for two guys to be making a date.

It’s probably not that weird in that part of Fort Lauderdale anyway, but apparently my question made Gianni uncomfortable enough that he said under his breath that we should walk to his car.

Well, I’m glad that at least he knows I’m not totally hung up on being “str8-appearing.”

Sunday, December 7, 1997

3 PM. Last night I turned on the heat (which, as it always does the first time it’s turned on, smelled as if something was burning), got under the covers and watched the video of Evita.

Madonna was good, but apart from the spectacle and a few decent songs, I grew a little bored. Still, the opera-like intensity of it (every line of dialogue was sung) has stayed in my mind.

It was a bit chilly during the night, but I slept well, waking up to find that the electricity had gone off at one point. After calling 511 to get the time – 7:30 AM – I reset the clocks and began reading the Sunday paper.

I exercised at 10 AM, and then, after a shower and getting dressed, I took out the garbage. The phone was ringing when I returned to the apartment.

“Hello, Mr. Grayson,” said a familiar voice, but I couldn’t place which of my students it was. That was because it was Gianni. His being playful is a good sign.

Anyway we’re meeting at Borders again, at 6 PM, and he knows I’ve got to teach early in the morning.

At least over the past three hours, I managed to grade all the FAU literature papers – which means that I won’t be under pressure tomorrow.

I also did two loads of laundry and read the Times, though I still haven’t looked at Arts and Leisure, the Magazine or the Book Review (or last week’s Book Review, for that matter).

I emailed Tom and Kevin and Josh and Teresa. It’s a crisp, clear day, and I’m going to get some fresh air.


9 PM. It’s pretty chilly out. I had on my jean jacket, but I’m glad I also brought along my sweater – the only one I took with me this summer, the red-and-green one I wore nearly every day in May in Locust Valley – so I could let Gianni wear it.

When I got to the bookstore, he was wearing only a flimsy black t-shirt (I’d figured he had really skinny arms, but they’re cute) and since there were no tables in the cafe, we had to sit outside by the Intracoastal and I didn’t want him to freeze.

I liked learning more about Gianni. Somehow I wasn’t surprised that he was brought up Catholic or that at one point he attended synagogue services or that, like me, he began seeing a psychiatrist at 15.

Maybe I’m totally wrong, but I sense this connection between us, that we’re going to be friends, if not lovers.

I guess I was right the first night when I told him I was “moderately” attracted to him, and I think he feels the same way about me.

I don’t feel that lift-me-off-my-feet attraction that I felt with other guys I met through ads – Jody, Terence, Noor – but I like Gianni more than I did them and feel he’s someone I can relate to.

I was right about his wanting to be rich and famous, and he’s somebody I can see making a name for himself in the world of beauty and fashion and design.

I admitted to Gianni that he intimidates me a little: his confidence and maturity as opposed to my diffidence and awkwardness. But he said that maybe he’s just a better actor than I am.

He said he played Leroy in Fame in a community theater production (it was hard, he said, because the character was both dumb – he had to say de for the – and a ladies’ man) and at age 5 was on a TV commercial singing a jingle for Pabst Blue Ribbon Bread.

Now I know Pabst Blue Ribbon only as beer and I also am skeptical about his Fame story. He’s said other things I’m not sure about, like his grandmother’s position at the hospital and that his grandfather died of AIDS.

But I understand why people exaggerate or lie about their own life experiences; a lot of artists do that, and it says something about them other than dishonesty.

After I started discussing a Times article on black choreographers, Gianni interrupted to tell me that he wished he was as well-read as I am.

Monday, December 8, 1997

1 PM. It was about 50° and seemed very chilly when I left the house this morning at 7:30 AM.

At Nova, some of my Language 1500 students asked if they could take their finals on Wednesday, as other teachers have canceled class on Friday or scheduled finals that conflict.

So I agreed, explaining that I’d be in class on Friday to give the final to anyone who didn’t show up on Wednesday and that I’d also have conferences with students who wanted to talk with me.

I left the room while my students filled out the teacher evaluation forms, and then I taught grammar for the last class. Moving up the final means all I’ve got to do in class the rest of the week is proctor exams and talk with students.

In response to an e-mail I sent last night, Gianni wrote that he wasn’t sure “where this is heading, if anywhere, but I know that I definitely enjoy your company. You are also very charming.”

I wrote back that I wasn’t certain, either, but that I enjoyed spending time with him.

And I related a dream that I’d had about him in which we opened a restaurant on Miami Beach together. (In another dream, I was appointed to fill out an unexpired term as a U.S. senator.)

Later, Gianni wrote that he didn’t want a physical relationship to interfere with what we have. I replied, “I agree. Not that I still don’t think you’re really cute.”

I feel a mixture of disappointment and relief. I never was overwhelmingly attracted to Gianni, but I could have gotten there, I’m sure, because I did feel a frisson.

I suspect that he was less attracted to me. Anyway, I can take care of myself, but I wanted to assure Gianni that I did think he was cute.

I hope he’s serious about wanting to be friends, though, because now I feel I could relax more with him and not feel I have to look good when I see him. And I do think we could be friends, the way I am with Kevin.

I didn’t really see Gianni and me as a couple, but for me, it would be nice to know someone from the world of beauty and fashion.

Alice e-mailed me that she had most, if not all, of the book editors on the list I sent her on the list that she drew up herself on Friday.

She wanted to hear more about Gianni. Alice used to get her hair done at Bumble & Bumble, as did the whole Seventeen staff, and she said she’s glad I’m dating “a more sophisticated, older guy.”

In my reply, I told her that Gianni was half my age.

Tom asked me to see if I could get someone to tape him on tomorrow’s Sally Jessy Raphael show, and I said I could do it. I’m sure he’ll be good.