A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-June, 1996
Wednesday, June 12, 1996
7 PM and I’m stuck in Charlotte, waiting for the landing gate to clear so that we can go in. This has been the worst Florida-to-New York flight I’ve ever had.
I left Gainesville in the late morning and got to Orlando at 1:30 PM. After eating at the Wendy’s near Ronna’s mother’s house, I arrived at the airport more than an hour early.
Clouds looked ominous, but after we took off on time, they said we’d be in LaGuardia at 6 PM or even earlier. Everything was fine until I noticed us starting to circle, and just when I went to the lavatory, it got extremely bumpy.
The pilot announced that the Washington airspace wouldn’t let us enter, and we circled in a holding pattern through bumpy air, first till 5:15 PM, then 5:45 PM, then 6:15 PM, and then they announced we needed to refuel in Charlotte.
The New York airspace isn’t letting planes through – it may not just be the storms (I had a feeling this would happen as early as Monday, when I saw the extended weather forecast) but a computer error.
I knew this would be a difficult trip, and right now I’m sorry I didn’t cancel it and change my flight when I wanted to on Monday.
Well, the skies are blue here in Charlotte.
8:30 PM. Night is falling and we’re still sitting on the tarmac in Charlotte. There will be an update, the pilot said, by 9 PM, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll let us take off.
So I figured the earliest I can be at Teresa and Paul’s is midnight. When they let us off the plane, I spoke with Paul. He told me that his son P.J., who was coming in from Denver, got stuck in Chicago, and he was supposed to get in at 10 PM – though his original arrival time was at 6 PM, the same as my flight’s.
Talk about not being in control when one travels: I was so right about what I said. This is probably the most stressful and uncertain airline trip I’ve ever had. If only I’d flown out of Gainesville.
11 PM and it’s very bumpy, so this will be short. We took off but ended up holding over Columbus, Ohio, for 45 minutes. It looked like we were going to have to stop there, but supposedly we’ll now be landing at La Guardia after all.
I’m really stressed out. This trip has been a nightmare, and I still have to rent my car and find Paul’s house when it’s dark and I’m exhausted.
Thursday, June 13, 1996
11 AM. We finally landed at La Guardia after 12:30 AM. The monumental air traffic tie-up didn’t seem to make the news (although I haven’t heard or read the news today), but many flights were coming in hours late.
By the time I had my rental car from Hertz, it was 1:15 AM. I got on the Grand Central to the LIE to the 106 – it was raining, but not that hard – and I managed to find the house by 1:45 PM.
Although the house lights were on, nobody seemed to be home. I thought maybe Teresa and Paul had gone to meet P.J.’s plane (I met people from his Denver flight on the Hertz van; they landed in Allentown and were bussed to LaGuardia), but later I realized they must have been asleep upstairs.
So I lay down on the couch in the den after finding a pillow and blanket in a downstairs linen closet.
Naturally, I couldn’t fall asleep – for one thing, I kept getting spasms of vertigo from the motion of the plane – but Paul came downstairs at 4 AM to get Teresa a Bufferin and discovered me.
He led me upstairs to the spare bedroom, where I’ll also stay tonight. On Friday and Saturday I’ll go to Teresa’s cousins in Centerport, and she said I could probably stay in this room after that.
I barely slept and feel exhausted now. Also, my body must be going crazy wondering what changes I put it through in terms of stress, diet and lack of exercise.
Paul seems to be a wonderful guy, and I’ve been hanging out with him and Teresa as they do all the million and one chores necessary before a wedding.
As usual, Teresa is able to do two things at the same time as she holds three separate conversations.
Jade, who’s 18, is the only one who lives with them now, but P.J. is coming back tonight after spending the night in Jersey with a friend.
I’m very disoriented, and I now see I probably won’t get to New York City much during this trip. I doubt I’ll have time to see Alice, Elihu, or Justin and Larry – but we’ll see.
7 PM. Although I’m tired, I’m certainly a lot better off than I was 24 hours ago when I was stuck in Charlotte. At least I’m writing this on a bed in a pleasant room, with a thunderstorm starting outside.
I’ve been enjoying myself today. It’s nice just hanging out with Teresa and Paul and their family and friends, watching them deal so competently with the crazy details of making a wedding.
I just took a ride with Paul and his Springer spaniel Dottie to his property at the old lumber yard to bring back a ladder so Teresa’s friends could help us decorate the tent poles with some of the white-and-peach tulle we bought in Syosset today.
I’ve met all Paul’s kids now: Cat, who lives with a boyfriend; P.J., the 21-year-old who’s moved to Aspen near Teresa’s cousins; and I’d already met Jade, still in high school.
The kids seem to like Teresa, and if they’ve got any problems with the wedding, it’s certainly not obvious.
I met Paul’s mother, Nan, a sweet old English lady who’s friendly and talkative. It made me feel better about the Waterford vase I sent from Cash’s when I discovered at Nan’s house that both she and Paul’s sister also got them Waterford vases (from Fortunoff).
Paul’s father, who ran the Oyster Bay Lumber Company, lived in town for all of his 55 years, and the family seems to know everyone here.
I love hearing New York accents. This place may be small-townish, but it’s unlike Gainesville in that it’s part of a big metropolitan area. Nassau and Suffolk alone would be big, but this is part of New York City, too, even if people here never set foot in the city proper.
I hung out in the kitchen as Teresa talked on the phone and made crab cakes and some other dishes, and Paul came in and out.
The wedding menu is enormous, but it’s all stuff Teresa has prepared hundreds of times in her catering jobs. She can relax a bit now because a lot of it has already been made and just needs to be heated up or fixed in some fairly simple manner.
As for me, I’m staying here tonight, although Pam is coming and may share the room with me.
Tomorrow night Paul’s close friends are giving the rehearsal dinner at their house on the Sound, which used to be owned by J.P. Morgan. Then I’ll go home to Centerport with Teresa’s mother’s cousins, John and Martin, who’ve been together for 46 years.
When I heard Teresa tell her mother-in-law (who obviously loathed her first daughter-in-law) that her cousins asked her if I would be upset about their “living conditions,” I was apprehensive – but they just meant that they were gay, not that their house was a hovel or anything. (Teresa didn’t tell them I was gay.)
I went out with Teresa on various errands, and then back at the house, I took the rental car and went to the supermarket on Pine Hollow Road for some food I could eat (a banana, broccoli, celery, and carrot sticks) as I drove around the area.
In the mid-1970s, I used to love to drive out around this area – Oyster Bay, Glen Cove, Locust Valley, Greenvale – so I know it fairly well.
I got the Times and later read it in this room, looking at excerpts from the Third Circuit opinion in the Computer Decency Act case and an article about Shakespeare & Co. closing on Broadway and 81st. (I liked the store, but the help there was so rude, Barnes & Noble didn’t have to work overtime to destroy them.)
I also found a column about Ivan’s family being one of the few clothing manufacturers who do not use sweatshops but pay $7 an hour to their workers at their factory in Bushwick.
Yesterday Alice noted by e-mail that Harris Sarney was principal of Bayside High School, where there’s a lawsuit over which of two girls should be valedictorian. (I’m surprised that Mr. Sarney, my Midwood drama teacher, would even want to be a principal.)
Teresa said her wedding is supposed to be written up in the Times.
This morning I called Dad and let him congratulate Teresa. She said I can stay here on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday if I need to.
Friday, June 14, 1996
Midnight. Pam said she could sleep in the den tonight after Paul put in an air conditioner for the flowers that were delivered a little while ago. So I’m in the same bedroom where I slept last night.
Today was the kind of day you hope to have on your vacation: filled with enough sights, sounds and people to take up four or five of my regular-size diary entries. I assume that I’ll leave out a lot of the stuff that I’d otherwise write about because there’s so much I won’t remember.
This morning I intended to make a getaway, but Teresa provided me with an excuse to go to Manhattan when she asked if I’d pick up a dress that her sister might want to wear and a pair of earrings left with the doorman at Lincoln Plaza.
So, after dropping off directions to the house at the motels in Woodbury where out-of-town guests are staying, I took the LIE into the Clearview, went across the Bronx and down the West Side.
As usual, I had to go to the bathroom, and as soon as I got off the parkway at 95th Street I found a parking meter on Broadway right by my old stomping grounds where Ronna lived.
After I had a fruit salad at the Argo on 90th, one of the last of the Greek diners, and used their bathroom, I walked down Broadway to 82nd Street and back.
What struck me about being on the Upper West Side again was how normal it seemed for me to be there: I wasn’t taking everything in, but instead my mind wandered as if I was walking someplace I walked every day.
I managed to find a space on West 70th Street and West End that became legal at 11 AM, and after I picked up the stuff and put it in the trunk, I walked down to Columbus Circle, took the D train to 34th Street and walked around there.
I went into the new Science, Business and Industry Library at the old B. Altman’s (it will be replaced there by the new CUNY Graduate Center campus), then walked up Madison, over to Bryant Park and finally to Times Square, where I hopped on the IRT one stop to 72nd to retrieve my car.
Although I enjoyed wandering around Manhattan, I’d also wanted to get to Brooklyn, so I drove via the West Side, the tunnel and the Belt Parkway – landing on Wednesday night I saw the Verrazano Bridge and Coney Island’s lights – into our old neighborhood. Once again, things looked surprisingly familiar.
But after all, I was in New York only ten months ago and not much has changed – though there’s the Fairway sign advertising their Harlem hypermarket, the new little $1.50 subway tokens with their center hole, and some other stuff like the now-free Village Voice issues.
Of course, I saw people dressed in ways unlike anyone I’ve ever seen in Gainesville, from Hasidim to dandies in Panama hats, but basically I feel so at home in New York City that everything here still feels normal to me. Unlike others who’ve moved away, I’ve made efforts to come back regularly and stay in touch with what’s going on here.
After wandering around the old neighborhood – our block seemed smaller from a car than it did when I’ve walked through it in recent years – I got on the Belt Parkway and crawled till I got off at Elmont.
At the office at Beth David Cemetery, I got a computer printout with Grandma Ethel’s plot highlighted. I drove to the area and found the headstone for her and Grandpa Herb.
Like my birth announcement, I thought, the headstone is also made to look like a book, with my grandparents’ separate sides being pages.
Grandma’s side was overgrown with weeds, so I gave a Jamaican worker $3 to clear it away.
Swigging from a bottle of water, I thought about Grandma Ethel and Grandpa Herb being there, but I don’t really relate to whatever is under the grass to the people I knew and loved. I left a stone for them.
Then I found my way through Nassau County roads back here, where the tables had all been set up and Pam was on the porch, making out the place cards. She said it’s been very tense here, but I was happy when they told me to stay rather than go to Martin and John’s house.
This evening I went with Pam, Paul and Teresa to Ted and Renata Van Vorst’s Gatsbyesque mansion overlooking the Sound.
It’s an incredible place that still needs a tremendous amount of work; there are fireplaces in every room, and you can walk down a steep hill to the water.
What was once J.P. Morgan’s summer home still seems posh, but it’s pretty run-down, with one whole wing basically bare. (They’ve lived there a while, so my guess is that they may not be able to afford to heat, cool or furnish it.)
Ted is penniless Social Register, and Alice brought the money into their marriage from German-Brazilian war profiteers (on both sides of World War II). The Van Vorsts are charming drunks and excellent hosts.
I talked a lot with Teresa’s parents, of course – her mother still wants me to write a trashy novel – and their New Port Richey friends Evelyn and Buddy, and Teresa’s aunt and uncle, and Connie and Peter. Martin and John are very nice, as are her father’s cousins.
Paul’s mother got quite tipsy and I couldn’t get away from her as she just kept telling me what a wonderful person Teresa was and how happy she made Paul and how intellectual I was.
And she told me the long tragedy of the lumber yard fire in 1978 and her husband’s death from a heart attack five weeks later.
The way she tells it, it’s as if it was the defining moment of her life. I got the impression that, like the ancient mariner, she apparently repeats this story in detail to every third person she meets.
Gena, Syed, Deirdre and her kids came late; I hadn’t seen any of them in years.
Jade came to the party from work, and arrived with P.J. (who pissed off Paul by later going drinking in the city with his friends) and Cat, who, with her boyfriend, gave Paul and Teresa an elegant set of plates and bowls.
There’s a lot more to tell, but maybe I can use being so intimate apart of a wedding in my fiction someday.
Saturday, June 15, 1996
9:30 PM. Teresa’s wedding day. I just left her, believe it or not, putting up a load of laundry: the stuff the waiters were wearing.
I’d been sitting with Teresa and three of the women who worked the wedding, nibbling on the leftovers (which we couldn’t finish in a century) and talking.
Paul and Jade are both asleep, each of them having drunk a bit too much.
It was by far the nicest wedding I ever attended, and I just thanked Teresa for letting me be a part of it. “You’re like an extra brother,” she said.
This morning the house was controlled chaos, of course, with the various errands and chores that had to be done.
I went to pick up the mini-bagels in town at Sue’s, and I made a run to Syosset to pick up the rolls at the Italian bakery and the sushi boats and trays and the dumplings at the Oriental market.
I also did various other jobs around the house so at least I didn’t feel like an encumbrance. After using my own money to pay for the rolls, I gave Paul back his $100.
Just after noon, we started showering in shifts, and Pam, who’d done a superb job of supervising the 15-20 people who showed up to work, didn’t go till last.
I tried to be quick in the shower, and then I pitched in, directing people, both guests and staff, and doing stuff like putting the centerpieces and the disposable cameras on the tables.
It was a hot day, and Paul, especially, sweated a lot; it felt nice when he asked me to put on his bow tie for him. I really like him so very much.
The ceremony began after most people were here, at 3 PM, and the family had finished with the photographers.
Thomas escorted Teresa’s mother and then got on the steps with Paul, P.J. and the judge. Then came the bridesmaids, Heidi, Cat and Jade.
When Teresa’s father escorted her as they played “Here Comes the Bride,” I choked up and began to cry a little. The judge spoke so softly that those of us standing in the first row in front of the steps all moved closer.
The wedding vows were simple and brief, and after they were pronounced husband and wife, some of us had bags of rose petals which we could sprinkle on the bride and groom.
There were about 18 tables of eight to ten people under the tent, and I knew so many of the guests. I chatted with Barbara and Stuart Klein – their son is about 14 now – and Gena and Syed (Omar, whom I last saw when he was three, is now a husky 17-year-old) and Deirdre, her kids, and her parents (who remembered me from visiting them in Inverrary about 14 years ago).
I sat with Connie and Peter, Heidi and Thomas, and their cousins, Vivian (Teresa’s dentist) and Joanne and their husbands.
The food was, of course, superb. Today I forgot about my diet and ate dumplings, knishes, chicken teriyaki, and later, at dinner, the Chateaubriand, chicken and pasta.
The band was great and just loud enough, and a lot of people danced. I participated only when people got into a circle for the tarantella and the hora (Peter and P.J. even carried Teresa around on a chair), but I enjoyed watching others dance.
It was fun to see Judy and Brian from next door on West 85th Street and Norton, Pam’s husband, and other of Teresa’s friends from way back.
I went over to her brother-in-law’s parents and sat down next to Martin and John and Syed, and I talked for a long time with Jim, Sue’s husband, who likes my writing and who has a creative writing degree from Stony Brook.
Paul’s sister Charmaine and her husband Jock proved as standoffish as I’d been led to believe, and I think his mother was very quiet today after Paul read her the riot act about last night’s drinking.
(On the bumpy car ride home from the Van Vorsts’, sitting next to Nan in the back seat, I was afraid she was going to vomit all over me.)
P.J. made a very sweet toast as best man, and Diana spoke eloquently in her matron-of-honor toast to the newlyweds.
Everything seemed to go smoothly, down to the wedding cake and desserts, which were incredibly good – or at least most of them looked good to me.
I know Teresa’s relatives better than I know my own, from her father’s mother – who is shaky but sharp at 92 – to her aunt and uncle to her cousins, in-laws, and friends of the family.
As people started to leave, I said goodbye to them, but of course I stayed on when Teresa opened the presents in front of the family and about a dozen close friends of hers and Paul’s. The newlyweds got a lot of beautiful stuff.
Paul, obviously feeling no pain, went to bed fairly early, and the last people to leave were Teresa’s immediate family, Pam and her parents, and a couple of others.
Finally it was just me, Teresa, and Norton, who had to wait around for a flight out of Kennedy Airport at 10 PM.
I chatted with the staff as I helped them clean up, and then we had our snacks with three of the women who regularly do catering work for Teresa.
As Teresa said, catering one’s own wedding at home is like swimming the English Channel: there are no greater challenges left for her.
This is the closest I’ve come to having an immediate family member get married. My routine is all messed up, and that’s a good thing. I really enjoyed myself today.
Monday, June 17, 1996
6 PM. I’ve just brought Samantha, Deirdre’s daughter, back from the town of Oyster Bay, where we got some Carvel ice cream and sat on a bench by the post office.
Then we drove over to Sagamore Hill. Although the house was closed, we were able to walk around the grounds and get a great view of the bay.
On Saturday night I slept pretty well. Apparently Paul woke up around 3 AM, and he and Teresa talked till the early morning as they cleaned up. There’s been so much work to do!
Yesterday I went into Manhattan, but today I just hung around Oyster Bay. While yesterday was sunny, dry and the ideal temperature of 85°, today is cooler, damper and cloudy.
My account of Teresa and Paul’s wedding in my last entry wasn’t good writing, and this probably won’t be either – but on my vacation I’d rather experience life than write elegantly about my experiences and impressions.
This trip has been wonderful, of course, in that I’ve not only formed – or renewed – a strong bond with Teresa, but I’ve gotten to know and care for her husband, with whom I’ve had long talks about his parents, his children and his divorce.
“Teresa is the best thing that ever happened to me,” Paul said as we sat on the porch this afternoon. I think he is the best thing to have happened to her as well.
Yesterday morning I went out early and got the Sunday Times, hoping to see the wedding announcement, and there it was: they couldn’t avoid misspelling something, of course, but at least it was only Paul’s middle name (“Matson” for “Watson”).
He was annoyed that they ended the announcement with the standard line about the bridegroom’s previous marriage ending in divorce, but they always do that.
The rest of Sunday morning, I read the paper on the porch and helped putting all the stuff together for the silverware and cookware rental people to pick up.
Cooking and serving had turned the kitchen floor scummy, and I was scrubbing it around noon when Alice called. She found Paul’s phone number after reading the wedding news in the paper.
Alice said that Sunday was the best day to see me – a brunch had been unexpectedly canceled – so I headed out at 12:30 PM.
By that time Syed and Gena had bought Deirdre and her kids over; presumably everyone was going to Fire Island.
Although Teresa suggested I take the train into the city, I took Paul’s advice to drive and listen to WCBS/880 AM for the traffic report every ten minutes (“on the 8s”).
Actually, the LIE wasn’t bad. I decided the tunnel sounded too crowded, so I took the BQE and the Williamsburg Bridge, and I was in Manhattan an hour after I’d started out.
I found a parking place on East 15th Street off Irving Place and walked across Union Square to Alice’s apartment. She was heading there just as I arrived.
I ended up spending five hours with Alice, and it was a joy. She’s still the upbeat, funny, supportive friend I’ve had all these years.
We sat in her living room and took one walk because I wanted to see all the new superstores (Old Navy, Bed Bath & Beyond, etc.) on Sixth Avenue between 14th and 23rd.
Just as I did on Friday, I felt very comfortable in Manhattan, enjoying the cityscape but feeling as if I went there every few days rather than every ten months. I’m glad I haven’t lost that New York City part of me.
Alice will finish her eighth and last diet book and then quit writing books to concentrate on being a literary agent. She’s already sold a couple of books, one to Hyperion (Disney), and she could have sold more of the authors had been willing to make the changes the publisher wanted.
She said that Peter is doing fantastic, still unable to believe his good fortune in getting paid so well to attend the theater and write about it.
Alice often accompanies him to New Jersey for plays and sometimes to cast parties, although she usually conks out early while Peter, like most showbiz people, is a night owl.
She still isn’t over her mother’s death and is dreading the unveiling next month when her brother and his family will be in town on the way to Michael’s new assignment – his last before retirement – in Tanzania. But Alice is too positive to let herself be dragged down by depression.
I told her about my experiences with Josh, and she expressed the view that I needed to get his negativity, hostility and paranoia out of my life.
She related stories about her cousin Larry, the screenwriter, who’s a walking Hollywood cliché: the world-weary, chain-smoking Jewish guy in the film business who keeps telling everyone how rich he is although he realizes that everything he does is crap.
Alice recounted going to a meeting of the Web Grrrls to which a friend had taken her. Everyone was supposed to speak in turn and say what help she needs and what she can offer other people.
“I’m the stupidest person about computers in this room,” Alice said when it was her turn. She’s still using XyWrite but says she’s finally planning to get an ink-jet printer to replace her antiquated dot-matrix.
While Alice said that she’s grateful to her former therapist for getting her over her mental block about moving, at least as far as computers go, she’s change-resistant.
I brought up how our parents sent us messages that affect us as adults. But Alice said she never listened to her mother’s warnings that she would fail as a writer and would instead need to concentrate on a secure job teaching elementary school and finding a man to take care of her.
One thing Alice and I have in common is that unlike most people, we have no interest in being a parent or a spouse.
The time went so quickly that when Alice told me it was 7 PM, I was shocked. After hugging her goodbye, I drove around the East Village and the Lower East Side for a bit. Then I headed back over the Williamsburg Bridge to the BQE, LIE and Oyster Bay.
(Today Teresa showed me an article about the sky-high rents in the neighborhoods I drove through; even crummy efficiencies off Avenue A are now unaffordable.)
Because there was so much cleaning to do, Deirdre couldn’t get out to Fire Island yesterday – nor today, either – so she slept with the kids in the bedroom I had been in.
That meant I slept in the living room last night (and will again tonight). The sofa bed was quite comfortable – but I was out in the open without a door to close.
Early last evening, we all watched videos of the wedding taken by Paul’s cousin; it was fun to relive the event.
Then Teresa’s sister and her family stopped by on their way home from Mattituck, and they stayed for a couple of hours as we dished the wedding even more.
I had a great deal of fun, and by the time I went to bed (or at least attempted to sleep), I was too tired to attempt a diary entry.
Besides, I felt I had no privacy. I’m writing this behind a closed door on the desk in the office where the Mac Performa is located.
This morning I went into town with Teresa to stay in the double-parked car while she went out to do errands, and I helped Paul prepare for the guys coming to strike the tent and take away the tables and chairs and other stuff in the yard.
I again read the paper on the porch and went to the Edwards supermarket for salad bar with lots of fruits and vegetables.
I also lugged in cartons of liquor and soda, and I played with Corey, who’s a cute kid even if he’s very difficult. Basically he’s like a three- or four-year-old even though he’s seven. But Deirdre seems to have the patience to deal with him.
Samantha really wanted to go to Fire Island today, so when Teresa took Deirdre and Corey to a local beach on Long Island Sound, Samantha felt it was a poor alternative to the ocean and angrily refused to go.
After a long talk with Paul, I offered to take Samantha to town for ice cream. Although she refused at first, a little while later she came to me saying she changed her mind.
I tried to chat with her, an 11-year-old San Franciscan, without being either too adult or too patronizing.
I thought about going into the city tonight. Joel Rose and Catherine Texier are reading at KGB at 7 PM, and I would have liked to see them and maybe Pete and also Denis – but I’m just too tired.
I hope I’m not going to be a pain to Jade and P.J. if I stay here while the others go to Fire Island, but I’ll stay out of their way.
This morning Teresa and I saw Cat with her little charges outside the Oyster Babies day care center where she works.
Paul and Teresa complain constantly about all the kids, especially P.J. He doesn’t want to stay in Colorado anymore, even as Paul insists he lives up to their agreement and stay till September.
But P.J. is only 21, and all the kids have been through a lot with their parents’ problems, divorce, and remarriages. I expect they’ll turn out fine eventually.
My life in Gainesville and my job at CGR have crossed my mind periodically while I’ve been here, but what I feel most is that I do have a satisfying life apart from that town and my job.
Tuesday, June 18, 1996
8 PM on my last night in New York. I’m in the bedroom I was first in when I came to Oyster Bay.
Jade is upstairs listening to music, and P.J. is downstairs watching TV; his mother is supposed to have dinner with him tonight.
This afternoon Teresa took Deirdre and the kids, as well as her little Yorkie Lulu, to Fire Island. Later, Paul and his dog Dottie left to join them even though the rest of the week is supposed to be as cool and dreary as today was, with even more chance of rain.
Thunderstorms are expected over the East Coast tomorrow, and I expect another delayed flight. If I get in really late, I’ll stay over in Orlando tomorrow night.
Last evening Teresa and Paul barbecued, and I broke my diet by eating half a burger. God, that was good; like an alcoholic, I felt like eating more and more of the meat.
I know I’ve had the worst eating habits in six years on this trip, but once I get back to my routine, I’ll be okay, I imagine.
Teresa and Paul and Deirdre and the kids and P.J. and I had a nice dinner, and then Paul and I talked. The more I get to know him, the better I like him.
He told me about the way he cleared title to the Oyster Bay Lumber Company land and how, as road commissioner of Cove Neck, he had to handle the out-of-fuel Avianca plane crash rescue in 1990.
Paul said that John Lennon bought a house here and was a customer of his; he called Paul “the loomber man,” and Paul liked him a great deal although he thought that Yoko was crazy.
Paul’s sanding of the roads is very lucrative – he gets $770 for two hours of sanding the village of Oyster Bay Cove – and this season’s record number of snowstorms paid for the wedding.
Inside, I watched MTV with Samantha and then sat on the porch with Teresa and Deirdre until the mosquitoes chased us away.
One thing that calms Corey out of his hyper moods is doing laundry, and he was thrilled to pieces that he could do two loads for me – so I’ll be going home with mostly clean clothes.
Last night I slept a bit better in the living room, and I missed the big argument between Paul and P.J. this morning. (P.J. had agreed to work for one of Paul’s friends today but then didn’t want to get up early.)
I’ve been bothered by not having the privacy to exercise for four days, but I’ll try to do some stuff tonight.
I left the house at 9:30 AM, saying, “I’ll see you” to everyone. I don’t like goodbyes, and I’ve been saying that I’ll be back in July or August.
That’s also what I’ve been telling my friends that I haven’t gotten to see, but I don’t know if I can afford to stay in New York again as I spend money like I pee here.
Today my usual need to stop frequently at bathrooms dictated many of my choices. Facing heavy traffic on the LIE and Grand Central, I ultimately decided not to go to Manhattan.
I couldn’t really come up with a good reason to be there. Going to a museum would have been expensive, and I don’t really need another “fix” of Manhattan after being on the West Side and Chelsea and Midtown and the East Village and Times Square.
Anyway, I got off the LIE and drove along Northern Boulevard, taking pleasure in the stores and restaurants that reflected an immigrant culture, with Korean and Chinese signs next to Brazilian Portuguese and Spanish ones. Later, on Atlantic Avenue, I delighted in seeing a Lebanese bakery next to a Jamaican restaurant next to a halal butcher.
I had some melon and Diet Pepsi at the Mark Twain Diner, mostly to use the bathroom, but also because I miss interacting with the customers and waitresses at the counters of Greek diners.
I took the BQE into downtown Brooklyn, where I enjoyed seeing the lower Manhattan skyline from Front Street, and then drove down Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues to Grand Army Plaza.
The main library didn’t have I Survived Caracas Traffic, but I did xerox the brief review from Kirkus before I called Pete.
Luckily, he hadn’t yet begun working and was looking for a diversion, so we met at the Second Street Cafe, yet another Seventh Avenue coffee bar.
It was fun to be in Park Slope again, of course, and I enjoyed seeing Pete.
The first thing he said was, “Josh sends his regards and says he doesn’t hold a grudge despite your cyber-spat.” Apparently he had run into Josh recently.
Pete has some leads on trade publishers (Basic Books, Hill & Wang) to send his dissertation to. He tried out a title on me: Star Course: Popular Lecturers and the Manufacturing of Celebrity in Nineteenth Century America.
Pete also likes his $25-an-hour freelance work for the Freedom Forum and suggested I might try them as a prospective employer. He’s working on mini-biographies of a hundred publishing figures – today he had to do Dorothy Schiff – and said that he could have gotten work for me if I were in New York now.
Pete likes living in Park Slope better than he did Manhattan, he told me as we sat on a bench in a peaceful part of Prospect Park.
The neighborhood has good restaurants, a quiet atmosphere, and decent transportation options, and in the Slope you can still get a studio for around $650, something that’s impossible in Manhattan.
He was unable to make Joel and Catherine’s KGB reading last night but reported that Crown’s big advertising budget for Joel’s Kill Kill Faster Faster all but ensures good sales for the novel.
In August, Pete is taking a three-week vacation to southern India – mostly Kerala and Tamil Nadu – using his frequent flyer mileage, as he did on his last trip.
After he walked me to Grand Army Plaza, I got in my car and drove down Flatbush. Between the left turns, the double-parked vehicles and the illegal vans constantly stopping, it was a frustrating ride.
But Flatbush Avenue is a vibrant shopping street. It shows that African-American neighborhoods can create what appears to be a decent economy – though I wonder who owns all the stores.
On Bedford Avenue, I passed Midwood High School and Brooklyn College before I headed down Utica Avenue and then back to Flatbush Avenue on my way to Rockaway.
The Marine Parkway Bridge, like the others, now has E-ZPass lanes for people who buy the stickers that are read by sensors, but Paul says he finds their lines at the toll booth are sometimes the longest ones.
I stopped at the new Wendy’s on Cross Bay Boulevard off Beach 116th Street and ate a baked potato in their patio facing Jamaica Bay.
Then I walked down Beach 116th, checking out the changes and buying a birthday card to Josh which I mailed at the post office before I left.
(I’m not angry with Josh, but I don’t want to deal with his negativity and paranoia, and Pete’s message and Josh’s birthday allowed me to get in touch without calling him.)
Hanging out on the boardwalk, I remembered how much I love the smell of the beach: that mixture of salt air, suntan lotion and whatever else that makes me feel good.
Outside my old building on Beach 118th Street, I wondered how my life would have been different if, instead of moving to Florida in January 1981, I had stuck it out in my studio in Rockaway.
By now, given rent control, that apartment would still be very cheap – not that I would ever have stayed in one place for 17 years.
On Sunday I told Alice that I had no regrets, aside from sunbathing too much when I was younger. Still, I sometimes wonder how things would have been different if I had chosen another way of dealing with life.
It was so pretty out and so cool today (about 73°) that I almost forgot how bad the weather can be in New York City much of the year.
I drove back to Oyster Bay through the Rockaways – in the run-down Far Rock shopping district, Orthodox Jews and blacks mix warily – and then the Five Towns, Peninsula Boulevard, the Southern State and 106, stopping in Hicksville for gas and Baskin-Robbins fat-free ice cream.
A year ago I was in Baltimore and D.C., and I can recall feeling the same way I do now: that I felt more at home up North, that I can’t wait to leave Gainesville, that I feel trapped at CGR. It’s been good to escape my everyday life this week.