A 30-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early April, 1982


Thursday, April 1, 1982

4 PM on April Fool’s Day.

Last night I had long conversations with both Ronna and Susan. My phone bill will be about $150 this month, but it’s worth it to me to carry on my friendships. Since I live alone, have no lover, and have few friends here, I need the support of my old friends.

Susan told me she’s been very despondent since the movie ended production.

While she didn’t mention it, I gathered there are strains in her marriage to Spencer and that she probably envies some of her single friends. But more than that was a great letdown, postpartum feeling after the movie production ended, along with an “I’m-not-getting-anywhere” attitude.

So she’s gone into therapy.

Susan was upset because VCCA put her on the waiting list for the summer. She told me that a friend of hers went to Ragdale, and he liked it much better than other colonies because it’s not isolated but in a chic suburban neighborhood only 90 minutes from the heart of Chicago. It’s a very small community, however, and Susan feels it might be stifling.

Right now I’m leaning more toward going to Chicago than Virginia, if only for the novelty of the experience. Actually, I could do both – stay at Ragdale from July 1 to July 18 or thereabouts, and then head for VCCA until August.

Susan said Brooklyn is wonderful just now: the trees around Grand Army Plaza are starting to bloom.

Ronna told me that work at Redbook has been very stressful due to a new employee who thinks she’s Ronna’s superior and who has taken away some of her responsibilities.

Ronna is too timid for cutthroat office politics, but she said she has a few friends in high places – Anne Mollegen Smith likes her – so she’s enduring. Of course, she has decided to look for a better position elsewhere.

While I’m very fond of Ronna, I do wish she had more ambition and was more assertive.

She didn’t mention Jordan, but she said that her grandmother, recovering from a serious illness, is now living with her mother.

When I asked Ronna if she’d seen the Times Book Review piece last month, she said, “Yes, and if I didn’t, a frantic phone call from Cara would have alerted me.” I told her to look out for the paper this Sunday.

Last night I slept a long time, but fitfully, having weird dreams set in Miami Beach and New Orleans, and I woke up feeling queasy and with diarrhea.

I did see Sean this morning; he told me he won’t be in class tomorrow because he’s going to Key West with friends for the weekend. I don’t know what I expected – that the kid didn’t have attractive young gay friends and lovers? He said he’d never been to Key West before.

Anyway, I can see now that a relationship between us is impossible; he doesn’t want a stuffy old English teacher who’s paunchy and bearded, and I need someone close to my own age with whom I can share references.

Although it’s possible Sean and I could get to be friends, I tend to doubt it because I don’t feel comfortable around someone so young. If I didn’t know it by now, I should. The person I want doesn’t exist.

I had a pretty good class with my lit students, and I had some fun with the afternoon class, too. Afterwards, I went over to see Mary, who thought the new TBR column was superb, that all the writers will remember me because of it.

Philip Corwin, the head of Dena/Corwin, book packagers, loved my idea for a book called Garfield Gets Assassinated. Since four books about Garfield, Jim Davis’s cartoon cat, are on the bestseller list, this might be a cute novelty item.

I checked out two huge bios of our 20th president and brought them home; Corwin said I should hurry before someone steals the idea.

Dad should be flying home tonight.

Saturday, April 3, 1982

9 PM. Yesterday afternoon Gale Arnoux of Associated Writing Programs called to say that while the organization-backed slate of Board of Directors candidates all won, I came very close to getting elected.

It’s really gratifying for me because it proves to AWP that there are a number of under-30 writers (and probably most writers in their thirties) who can’t find teaching jobs. I’ve never taught a college creative writing course even though I’m a more experienced and more published writer than most who do.

Anyway, maybe AWP will see the light. I called Tom to tell him thanks for nominating me. “Wait till next year,” he said.

I also called Kevin, who was preparing to go to a weekend Book Fair in Charlottesville with John Elsberg and Rick Peabody.

Kevin is very discouraged because Elsberg’s book was never reviewed and hasn’t sold. And he did not get a single response to the TBR column on my book. At this point, I don’t see how Kevin can sell more than 50 copies of my book, and perhaps White Ewe Press will have to go under.

If only Kevin could sell 400 copies of each book, he could keep going on a profit.

Although the publicity I get may help my own career, it doesn’t seem to sell my books – and then Kevin is the one who really suffers. I’ll probably end up having to take the money Kevin owes me in copies of Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog.

I met Bob Weimann at Nova at 7 PM last night and we sat in the front row of the auditorium to watch Fassbinder’s In a Year of 13 Moons, a film about a transsexual. It was pretty good, but when I’m with a film buff, I never know what to say about movies.

Bob drove me out to the Unicorn, a health-food restaurant in North Miami, and we had some veggie juices and talked. Bob is 26, from Fort Lauderdale (his parents still live here), went to NYU film school and was quite a success as an editor (he worked with Jerry Lewis on Hardly Working) but plans to go to Nova Law School so he can – I’m not sure what.

He’s lived in New York, Los Angeles, and all over: he said that for a while he “played Jack Kerouac.” He’s incredibly well-read, much better than I. Why do I feel like a pragmatic philistine next to so many people?

I can’t tell if Bob is gay and interested in me, but I kind of doubt it; he probably just likes me for my brains. I’m getting so tired of being fat.

Today I took Richard Simmons’ Never-Say-Diet Book out of the library. I feel very embarrassed about being fat and feel nobody will ever be attracted to me. How could nice-looking thin guys like Bob or Sean find me sexy the way I look now?

Speaking of sex, I do wish I could come out. Most everyone who reads  Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog should realize that I’m gay, and I guess that’s the closest I’ve come out of the closet.

Larry, bless him,  sent me a package of paper, envelopes and jiffy bags made by his company. He’s one person – and so is Mikey – who wouldn’t care about my being gay. I guess none of the people who count do.

While I can’t know what my parents feel, I think they accept me. I just wish I could be openly gay and then get it out of the way and go about my life as a normal person.

I called Alice this morning. All is well: she and her brother are going to their mother’s for Passover. Alice did say the magazine business is very bad and that Weight Watchers is losing circulation and advertising; she’s been job-seeking for months with no luck.

Today I exercised, cleaned the apartment, shopped, cleaned my lenses, marked all the papers, and took care of odds and ends.

Josh phoned to tell me that a woman-friend of his is going to be here this week: he gave her my number, so she might call. Josh also said that Scott Sommer’s photo was splashed all over this week’s Village Voice.

Sunday, April 4, 1982

4 PM. In an hour or so I’ll leave to pick up Teresa at Palm Beach Airport.

Although her flight from Newark isn’t due to arrive until 7:30 PM, I’m nervous about making the trip up to West Palm Beach; I’ve never been there before, and my car’s “engine” light has been going on like crazy all week.

If the car has to be repaired during the week, I can try to rent one, but it would put us in a real pickle. However, if the car breaks down today, it’ll be a disaster. Cross your fingers.

The story in the Herald came out on the first page of the Living Today section. Early in the morning, I kept dreaming about it. And after I’d heard the thud of the newspaper against my front door, I knew it was there.

But I read the Fort Lauderdale News/Sun-Sentinel and the rest of the Herald before I looked at the article about me.

It contained two photographs: one not-so-hot of me handing back papers, the other a great shot (I don’t look fat) of me in front of a blackboard with my “comma rules” written down.

The front page headline: “Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog’s Author.” The inside headline: “Life’s one big burger for offbeat author.”

Mike Winerip did an excellent job, starting off with a scene of me reading the TBR piece, which he goes on to quote and telling of the reaction and my plans to learn computer programming.

Then he describes my “compare-and-contrast lesson” at BCC: It wasn’t clear if anyone was getting this concept. . . Broward Community College does not feel like the kind of place anyone would be doing any serious writing. . . It feels very clean and scrubbed and wholesome. Lots of tanned young people wearing very little clothing . . . no one looks fat or excessive. . .

Then he writes, about me: “I know most of you, when you get the urge to read, lie down until it passes,” he says, though not in a mean way. The tone is of a man being left behind.

Now, that passage could conceivably cause me to lose my job at BCC. I don’t think the school will like being portrayed the way Mike describes the class.

But he’s being accurate, and if it causes a furor, I’ll handle it.

He goes on to talk about my teaching, gets in a good line from my résumé (my being a “Substitute Adjunct Lecturer” at New York City Technical College), says how I’ve never made any money from my writing. He calls my agoraphobia “a classic case of being rehatched.” (A neat phrase.)

Mike also gives Herald readers a couple of excerpts from “With Hitler in New York” and a passage about childhood constipation from “Infant Sorrow,” quotes reviews good and bad, and discusses my “minor media events [which] bring little of the recognition you don’t get when you’re trying to do something enduring in Davie.”

Very funnily, he describes the Burt Reynolds Senate campaign, my race for Davie Town Council, and the Sylvia Ginsberg Fan Club as disasters (“Reynolds refused. . .Grayson lost. . . She died”).

The article goes on: “Grayson expects to be famous. ‘I have a feeling I’ll be discovered in my 70s. . . It’s fate.’” He describes my stay at MacDowell, the Thornton Wilder connection, and ends with my comparing my life to Alice’s: how she makes money but doesn’t get to write what she wants. (I hope this won’t offend Alice.)

Winerip mentions the “Summoning Alice Keppel” term paper done by that girl at Mount Holyoke and about the kid in class in Wisconsin, who, when asked who his favorite writer was (by Alice’s friend Mark), said: ‘You’ve probably never heard of him, but Richard Grayson.’

Tuesday, April 6, 1982

3 PM. I’ve just been lying in the sun – not that I need it, but since New York City is having a blizzard, I felt that I should.

Teresa’s family got stuck in the storm and didn’t make it here; LaGuardia closed after their Air Florida jet made it to the gate. Her mother was really freaked out last night, Teresa said, and it must have been very bad today.

At my parents’ house at noon, I saw the local news on WOR-TV; in New York they expect over a foot of snow – it’s the first blizzard ever recorded in April.

I had a headache all afternoon yesterday (it’s back now, but not as bad) and managed to get to Taco Viva for dinner (I’ve come to love tacos). Then I fell asleep quite early.

Last night Teresa went out to dinner at Yesterday’s on the Intracoastal with Deirdre, Deirdre’s parents, and her aunt and uncle (who are the parents of Gena, Teresa’s parents’ former tenant, and the grandparents of Darius).

Teresa really got around yesterday – from Deirdre’s parents’ place in Inverrary, to their condo in Palm Aire in Pompano (where Teresa’s sister and brother-in-law will be staying), and up to Gena’s parents’ place in Boca; they also took her to the Strip in Fort Lauderdale.

I was asleep when Teresa kept knocking on the door at 11 PM, but I managed to get up. (Now she has her own key, so there’s no problem.)

Far from being disappointed by Teresa’s comings and goings, I’m grateful she has lots to do; she lives here the way I do when I visit her in New York. She got very tanned from a day at the Pompano Beach beach, which she said was heavenly; I’m glad Teresa’s having a good time.

Although I slept heavily last night, I’m still short on sleep.

When I got to school this morning, I found everyone clacking over a letter Mick Cleary wrote Mike Winerip. Dr. Grasso was beaming.

In the letter, Mick went on for two pages about how Mike’s reaction to BCC was nasty and snobbish, and he tried to refute him point by point. In rebutting Mike’s claim that BCC doesn’t seem to be a place where serious writing is done, Mick sent him samples of student work from his creative writing classes.

Though he went out of his way to avoid attacking me, Mick was obviously angry for me being the cause of the bad BCC publicity.

I just said, about Mike Winerip, “Well, you know, he got his degrees at Harvard,” and Mick looked a little deflated. (To people from Harvard, unlike those at BCC, a Doctor of Arts degree from Middle Tennessee State must look pretty crummy.)

Still, I was shaken up by the brouhaha and sat down next to Sean in the lobby as we read the letter together. Sean was just there – as he always seems to be these days.

He was tanned and said he liked Key West, though he was vague about what he did there.

“Why did they write an article about you anyway?” he asked.

“I’m a famous person, I guess,” I said.

This sounds very stupid but I keep thinking of Sean, and I notice little ways we grow “closer”: today our shoulders touched and I saw the hairs on the back of his ankles.

I wish I could put him out of my mind, but I’m afraid I’m totally infatuated with him. I haven’t felt this way about anyone in years.

I keep seeing Sean sitting near my office door and I think he’s there to see me while he studies, but I wish I knew for sure – so I could either try to pursue him or put him out of my mind. . .

Teresa’s sister just called to say that they’re all in Brooklyn; they would have taken off except for a disabled plane on the runway.

Wednesday, April 7, 1982

3 PM. As Passover 1982 approaches, I feel in love with life. I hate to keep repeating myself, but I can’t believe how lucky I have been. There is nothing in life that I need that I don’t have.

Obviously there will be harder times ahead, but I’ll get through them fine if I can just keep alive the memory of days like these, the happiest times of my life.

After exercising yesterday afternoon, I went out by the pool and got into a long conversation with a bright elderly lady who told me that she was one of the condo’s first residents; only three of them are left.

My apartment belonged to her best friend, Kay, a very cheerful lady who’d done the whole place up in rose and pink. Kay suffered a stroke and couldn’t take care of herself, so the apartment was sold to a man who rented it out to a very young couple who weren’t married. The boy was waiting on a football scholarship at some college and when it came through, the apartment was again empty. (But Kay said that he didn’t make the team at the college, for some reason.)

Then a single old man lived here until the Maynards bought it, supposedly for Mike to live in – but evidently they decided against separating, and so they rented it to me.

An interesting story: it might make a nice fiction about a condo, à la the movie The Yellow Rolls Royce.

This woman was a born storyteller and she told me about her life, her wealthy childhood in New Orleans, marrying her husband and running away from his tyrannical parents, getting disowned by her mother, having five children and losing one in a motorcycle accident, being in the awning business in Houston, etc., etc., etc.

People’s lives are sad and beautiful; I loved listening to this woman’s story.

I went over to Inverrary to the condo where Deirdre’s parents are staying; Teresa and Deirdre were the only ones at the pool at dusk, their sunburns glaring.

Deirdre looks well and happy although it’s obviously a strain for her to put up with her mother, who feels Deirdre’s divorce is a disgrace.

Teresa is surprised at how much she likes Florida. Her family was still unable to get out of New York, and Teresa felt gleeful that she had the luck to miss the April blizzard.

We ate at Mister Gummps, a very California-style place; in fact, Teresa told me she thought Florida is a lot like California.

Then we drove out to my parents’ house, and I showed Teresa around; she liked their place. We all sat around watching cable TV.

Teresa had never before met my brothers, whom she thought looked good. Marc does look better, beardless and tanned, and Jonathan showed me an army/navy jacket he’d gotten at his store and asked me if I thought he would like reading the works of Erving Goffman.

Although the New York menswear show was a disaster, my parents seemed in good spirits.

Tonight I’m going to go with my family to the Littmans’, and Teresa will help Deirdre cope with her family’s seder.

Teresa and I slept together in my bed. We decided we’re like an old married couple because we’ve grown comfortable with each other but are not interested in sex. After watching the 11 PM news, we mumbled to each other as we fell asleep.

This morning was cooler – yesterday it hit 95° in Hollywood – and Teresa and I had breakfast together, reading the Herald. Very married.

At school, I had two good 100 classes on grammar, and I felt good: the non-humid weather and a fresh tan made me feel perky and happy.

The mail brought a letter from a doctor’s wife in Boca Raton, Mrs. Golden, who read the Herald article:

You’re lucky! You only suffered from agoraphobia for one year. Why only one year? What do you know that I don’t know about licking this awful affliction? Richard, you expect to be famous in your 70’s. Don’t wait so long. Write a book on Agoraphobia as only you could write it. Do you know how many of us you would make famous? Hundreds of thousands of the most wonderful people locked behind doors. But if you wrote that book, we’d all get well and be out on the streets and then what chance would the rest of the dimwits have? We’re all home, peeping out of the window, hoping some magic will strike and free us of our pain. If you experienced true agoraphobia, write about it.

Mrs. Golden has stirred me to rethink my plans for that book that I planned on agoraphobia.

Publishers Weekly came out, and there, first in the Fiction review section, was this piece on Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog:

These 22 brief, sometimes forced, sometimes playful stories by the author of ‘With Hitler in New York’ are not for everyone. Grayson is not successful in all of his experiments and the uneven quality of this collection will disappoint some. However, this writer of stories is not afraid to take risks, not a bad quality, and he can be very funny indeed. Try ‘Here at Cubist College,’ an entertaining spoof of the academic world, or the amusing title story in which Sparky, Lincoln’s doctor’s dog, becomes a successful politician and lecturer. In quite another vein, ‘I Eliza Curtis’ tells the story of Washington’s granddaughter, and in other tales Grayson writes of the 60’s and 70’s and being young in New York. Grayson has many voices, plays many roles in this collection, but he seems to be a versatile, interesting experimenter with promise for the future.

I read this as I walked into school, where I found Sean re-reading the Herald article. God, he’s always there when I need him; I read him the PW review, and the nice feelings were doubly nice because I shared them with Sean. I do love him.

I had a great 101 class, reading Orwell’s “A Hanging” and parts of Michael Lally’s Catch My Breath, and Joe Brainard’s I Remember.

Today was better than I deserve.

Thursday, April 8, 1982

9 PM. Last night’s seder at the Littmans’ was endurable but not particularly pleasant.

I went for Mom and Dad, and I guess Marc and Jonny did too. There was an incredibly loud and vulgar old Jewish couple there as well as a divorced doctor and his 7-year-old son.

The Littmans are wonderful people, but they grate on my nerves, and for some reason they make my parents grate on my nerves, too. We went through the whole Haggadah in English except for my annual rendition of the Four Questions in Hebrew. (There’s never anyone else who can do it, so I suppose four years of Hebrew taught me something).

I played Pac-Man with my brothers and the little boy, Ryan, and I can see why the video game is addicting; however, it dulls the passage of time like a drug.

Luckily, Jonny had come there from work at the store, so he was able to drive Marc and me home early. It was the first time in years that the three of us were alone together, and it’s amazing how little we have to say to one another.

I can see us being three old men someday, just like the brothers of Grandma Sylvia at her funeral. I do like the tradition of the seder, though, and feel it’s important to go through the ritual every year.

Teresa came home later than I did and said she had a good time at Deirdre’s family’s seder. But she had a big favor to ask of me: her parents got a Braniff flight out of Newark Thursday morning to Dallas, and then a connecting flight that would land in Miami at 4 PM. Could I pick them up? Of course.

I slept okay but awoke with a headache, and while showering, I decided to call in sick. I felt a little guilty about it even though I do have a sick day due.

I guess I’m worried that Dr. Grasso won’t ask me back. I’m afraid that they all think I’m too unconventional for BCC even though I’m a good teacher. My long hair, my campaigns, my publicity, and especially the last article, may have contributed to getting me booted out.

Still, I’m not guilty of doing anything wrong and I have to believe that I can survive without BCC rehiring me.

Of course, I can’t help thinking about three years ago when everything seemed to be so rosy: In the spring of 1979, I had a book coming out (I remember Wes reading me the PW review around this time of year), I had more money than I’d ever had, and I had a SUNY/Albany fellowship and a job offer in Texas. It looked as though the good timing wouldn’t end.

Now, of course, I’m a little wiser, if not worse for wear. The next academic/Jewish year (I live from September to September) may be as bad as ’79-’80 in terms of money and career, but I can handle it because I’ve been there before and I’m preparing myself for a huge letdown.

I’m much stronger than I was three years ago and I’ve lived on my own, cared for myself (and others), traveled, and learned a lot.

Teresa and I spent a cloudy day driving in Dade County, from Opa-Locka to Miami Beach to downtown Miami to Coconut Grove, where we had a pleasant lunch at CocoPlum. Teresa got to see that there’s more to South Florida than condos and malls.

We drove through Little Havana on our way to the madhouse called Miami International Airport, where Teresa’s family flew in. They were plainly exhausted from a three-day struggle to get out of New York.

Her brother-in-law rented a car, but I had to take them to Teresa’s grandmother in Hollywood, fighting rush hour traffic all the way.

Teresa went out for a big night on the town with Deirdre and other girlfriends, but I was glad for the chance to be alone.

Teresa says I’ve made too comfortable a single life for myself, that I have amoraphobia – but I thought about Sean all day.

Friday, April 9, 1982

9 PM on  Good Friday. Today I took Teresa to Deirdre’s, and she’ll be gone all evening.

I got out of going to dinner with their families and instead spent the evening learning BASIC programming with my new ZX81 computer (it’s fun but addictive), listening to Laurie Anderson’s haunting “O Superman” and “Walk the Dog,” and talking on the phone with that Mrs. Helene Golden, a charming agoraphobic.

Earlier today, I got a haircut, told the MacDowell Colony I couldn’t make it in May; fretted about my weight; exercised too little; avoided the sun; ate junk food; got letters from Larry, Mikey, and Jane DeLynn; saw Mom, who was in a daze from last night’s session with a nasty accountant; trimmed my beard; made lists of all I want to accomplish in the next two months; and felt very glad that I’m me and no one else (despite my fat).

Sunday, April 11, 1982

8 PM on a glorious Easter Sunday.

I spent last evening reading – among other things, a new bestseller called Living Alone and Liking It. The author did not have to convince me.

But it reminded me that I, too, was once afraid of living alone. Right now, after living alone for fifteen months in Rockaway, six weeks in Sheepshead Bay last spring, and six months here in Sunrise, I’m very content with the idea of living alone.

The book did point out a pitfall of living alone, and that’s the rigidity that sets in when you don’t have to compromise with anyone over daily routines. I’ve got to be more flexible; that’s why I’m glad I’ll be moving this summer.

Teresa came in at 11 PM last night and we stayed up late talking; this morning we had breakfast and read the paper together. (One good way of avoiding rigidity is by having guests visit me.)

Deirdre’s parents left for Philadelphia at 9 AM, and so Teresa picked up Deirdre and her luggage and brought them over here. Deirdre’s flight to San Francisco was at 4 PM out of Fort Lauderdale.

In the interim, since it wasn’t a beach day, we drove out to Alligator Alley and through Cooper City, had lunch at the Hitching Post, and visited my family.

After getting Deirdre off, Teresa and I drove down A1A into North Miami Beach and then past Grandma Sylvia’s old condo (Mom and Dad can’t even get people to look at it).

At Teresa’s grandmother’s in Hollywood, we sat around the rest of the afternoon, admiring Teresa’s baby niece (she’s really very cute, except when she spits up), and reading the Sunday Times. (The Lively Arts section featured an interview with Jerry Bisogno’s sister-in-law Louisa Bisogno-Burns, whose play will be on TV tomorrow night as My Body, My Child.)

Dinner was delicious, as Grandma Agnes, her best friend Ida, and Teresa’s mother outdid themselves. I ate nearly as much as I did at Christmas in Floral Park.

There’s something very comforting about spending both Christmas and Easter with Teresa’s family: it’s a sense of continuity, even if the seasons and locales change.

We had ziti, lemon chicken, pork, meatballs, garlic bread, cantaloupe and ricotta pie. (Teresa’s brother-in-law had his steak). I felt a part of the family, almost more so than I did at the Littmans’ seder. It was good to spend a whole day with Teresa.

Today Sharon entered Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital to undergo surgery for the removal of a cyst on her leg, and she called to let Teresa know where all her papers were “just in case.” When she returns to New York, Teresa will stay with Susie while Sharon is in the hospital.

She’ll find out about a job Richie Kessel and Frank are pushing her for – it’s as Bob Abrams’ campaign press secretary for his reelection as Attorney General.

Teresa’s visit was another high spot in this year; I didn’t realize how much I missed her.

Since last fall, Miriam, Crad, Brad, Alice, Ellen and Wade, Mikey and Larry, and now Teresa and her family have all been here to make me feel less isolated.

But Teresa has been one person who’s gotten me out of really bad times by having me come over and stay on West 85th Street or on Fire Island; she lifts my spirits in a way no one else can.

If she appears to focus on the trivial, she can also divert other people from the ponderous. I’m crazy about Teresa, and I am very glad to have spent this past week with her.

She’s spending tonight in Hollywood, and in the morning her father will drive her to Palm Beach Airport.

Well, there’s a new week ahead of me but I do feel I’ve had a vacation and am ready to tackle my routines. I hate to keep saying this, but I feel like the luckiest man alive.