A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late February, 1986


Friday, February 21, 1986

5 PM. Yesterday I was being childish when I complained about the warm weather. I’ve just driven up the turnpike from Dade, and it was delicious to have both windows open and feel the mild breezes.

It got up to about 87° today, and I treated myself to a day off. Usually I act like a drudge and insist on getting my work done, exercising . . . you know, all those “constructive” things I feel will improve me as a person.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been dying to see Woody Allen’s new film, Hannah and Her Sisters, which isn’t playing in Broward, and I decided to go to today’s 2 PM show at the 163rd Street Shopping Center in my old stamping grounds of North Miami Beach.

Getting to the mall an hour ahead of time, I wandered around. It was a pleasure to see fashionably-dressed people and the pastel-colored stores. For some reason, I almost deliberately practice a kind of sensory deprivation; my life has been so drab.

It was also great to look at cute guys in the mall. If I’m not getting into sexual relationships, at least I can give myself the pleasure of looking.

Browsing in B. Dalton’s, I ended up buying the Village Voice and reading it at the food patio as I had lunch.

On the way to the movie, I was stopped by a woman who asked me to take part in a taste test for a new iced tea. Always happy to be asked my opinion about anything, I complied. She needed an iced tea drinker (which I am) in the crucial 18-34 age group (which I won’t be in a few months).

Hannah and Her Sisters was an excellent film, very intelligent and novelistic and funny. Woody Allen seems to grow with each film he makes; I admire him more than I can say. Seeing his movies makes me want to write and discourages me about ever coming close to his brilliance.

This morning, having stayed up late reading, I woke up at a sinful 10:30 AM, and I didn’t get moving all that fast.

Stopping off in Davie to pick up my mail, I found the usual mélange of bills and invitations to Democratic fundraisers or picnics, which are usually in remote parts of Florida.

Except for the AAUW brunch a month ago, I haven’t been invited to any local events for education commissioner candidates. It’s just as well.

The grant specialist at the Florida Arts Council determined that I’m not eligible to apply for a fellowship this year. Next year I’ll apply, though of course by then it will be hard to prove I’m a Florida resident.

Tom sent me an article from the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “Von Bulow Won’t Run,” dated February 3. As Tom noted, the reporter had no sense of humor although Claus von Bulow did; he laughed and said it was pretty funny, the idea of him running for Senator.

The reporter said “repeated phone calls to a New York answering machine elicited no response,” but she wouldn’t answer any of my calls to her.

Yes, I was named as chairman of the Draft Von Bulow committee and Teresa was listed as treasurer. Since I haven’t heard from her, I assume everything is okay and I didn’t get her in trouble with the Regan campaign.

Next week is spring break at Florida Atlantic University, so I’m free Tuesday and Thursday evenings. In my FIU classes, I’ve got a BASIC midterm on Wednesday, so I need to study the PCjr graphic and music commands I don’t yet know.

Today was a very pleasurable interlude.

Sunday, February 23, 1986

1 PM. I’ve just finished the Sunday papers and turned off the TV. In Manila, some high-level military officials have turned against Marcos as people took to the streets, demanding his ouster.

Last evening I watched a TV movie, Welcome Home, Bobby, about a 16-year-old kid who returns home after an affair with an older man. The kid isn’t sure if he’s gay or not, and he has to put up with all kinds of hassles with people at school, rejection by his father, etc.

I cried buckets seeing what the kid went through, and in the end, when the father comes over and hugs him, I cried even more. It made me think about Justin; I hope his parents have come around by now.

My own parents, I’m certain, would not be thrilled if they were confronted with my homosexuality, but I can’t imagine them ever rejecting me: they’re just not that ignorant or unfeeling.

What I liked about the movie was that, for the most part, gay men were presented honestly; even the older guy who basically used the kid was also portrayed as loving him.

Obviously, I thought a lot about me and Sean, though our situation was different; while Sean was 17 and I was 30, he was much more sexually experienced than I. Boy, I really did love him.

I wish I knew he was all right. I keep thinking he’s dead of AIDS. It’s not that I’m worried about my own health, for Sean and I had “safe sex”; it would just make me relieved to know the guy was okay.

Whenever I get lonely, I tend to want to call Ronna, but I’ve been stopping myself. It’s not fair to her or to me to keep myself so close in her life.

Everything would just be easier if she were seeing a guy, the way it was when she was seeing Jordan. Then we could just be friends. I love her and I’ll always be attracted to her, but she needs more than I can give.

It’s real sad, I guess, but maybe things will work out.

Today is Gary’s wedding to Eileen; I hope it turns out to be a more successful marriage than Gary’s first.

I wish Ronna would find a guy she could marry and have kids with. Although it would hurt me a little, it would be the best thing for everyone.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll find someone in Washington if I end up moving there.

Alone too much in Florida, I concentrate on the faceless horrible people out there and forget that there are always a few wonderful people who make life livable.

Monday, February 24, 1986

10 PM. Life seems extraordinarily beautiful tonight. I’m elated after what has been an excellent day, and I feel that things are finally breaking my way for a change.

Now, I realize that’s an attitude more than it is anything based in reality, but at least one nice thing has happened: In the BCC computer lab this afternoon, Ray asked me if I’d be interested in doing a computer literacy workshop for teachers at Sunshine Elementary School starting next Monday. Naturally I agreed.

When I got home forty minutes ago, I called him and he told me to phone a secretary at FIU/Tamiami tomorrow for details. The class meets from 3:30 PM to 5:30 PM for the next seven Mondays (with a break for Easter vacation).

I also accepted a Computer Graphics workshop that runs six weeks from early May to mid-June. It would be stupid not to take it even if I still might decide to leave Florida in late April when my own classes end.

It will be good for me to have some computer teaching experience at last. I’m a little scared, as it will be a challenge to do this new thing.

So obviously I’m excited about this job offer, but my life is also going well in other respects.

Yesterday at 4:30 PM, I drove to the Miami Airport Ramada to attend the Brooklyn College Alumni open house, which I’d gotten word of a few weeks ago; I wanted to be there, if only to see Vice President Hilary Gold.

Recognizing me immediately, he said, “You’ve grown a beard,” and then, “Are you still writing?” Hilary looked no older — he told me I looked “great” — and asked what I’ve been doing.

Most of the alumni were quite old (there were people there from the college’s first graduating class), and I didn’t know anyone there, but I chatted with the “younger” people (in their fifties) and enjoyed the buffet.

Hilary gave an upbeat talk about BC: its now highly-publicized rigorous core curriculum, its Division I athletics, the new upper quadrangle, and the coming dormitories. A slide show made me a bit nostalgic.

On the way out, I scooped up all the souvenirs, including some fascinating books just put out by the Fund for Brooklyn (one, a report on Brooklyn in the 21st Century, kept me up for hours last night), and I said goodbye to Hilary, whose in-laws had come to see him; he still lives in Mill Basin and has become a grandfather.

As I left the banquet room, I passed Eastern Air Lines pilots and TV reporters covering the labor negotiations. Later in the day, it was announced that Eastern, unable to settle with the mechanics’ union, has decided to sell out to Texas Air to avoid bankruptcy.

I drove home up NW 27th Avenue/University Drive, through Liberty City, where the Metrorail is now in operation. Stopping off in Davie before coming home, I joined Dad in having a sandwich.

This morning I wrote a paper for tonight’s class and went over to Jaffe’s to xerox my recent clippings and a new résumé (that I sent to George Washington University, which is looking for adjuncts for the fall. Then I did some other chores around here before picking up my mail in Davie.

Besides three credit card bills, I got a new Visa card. However, this is not a credit card but a debit card that accesses my Zions National Bank money market account.

Gale Research sent back my photo, so I guess that means that the volume of Contemporary Literary Criticism with my entry is already in production.

Also in the mail: Miriam wrote that she’ll be spending March in Ragdale just outside Chicago, and Chase Manhattan of Delaware confirmed my money market account deposit there. I’m doing okay moneywise.

Last night I spoke to Justin for an hour.

He felt bad that he couldn’t send me another payment of his loan. Because of the flu and holidays, he missed six days of work at Shearson this month; even though February is short, he still has to pay the same rent. I told him not to worry.

His new play about the kidnapper/child molester sounds great: much more hard-edged and controversial than his earlier works. Meanwhile, Justin has been working with the Warbacher twins on their new play, which he feels needs a lot more work.

Justin sounded good; he said he’s been feeling less paranoid about having AIDS.

Visiting Larry in Reading last week, he learned that the Sheraton may decide to contract with a professional dinner theater package this season, so he can’t count on work there (so I can’t count on staying at Justin’s apartment again this summer).

This afternoon I finally got back in contact with Alice, and this may be one case where it’s good that I didn’t speak to her sooner.

Because the mortgage on her Nassau Street co-op was rejected, she and her brother had to go for another mortgage with a bigger down payment, so Alice needed to get another $7000 from friends.

By the time I got back to her, though, she’d already gotten the funds from three other friends, so she didn’t need to borrow anything from me.

Alice asked me for help with the photographs for the Davie articles, so I gave her the number for the town’s Chamber of Commerce.

She told me about a writers’ conference next fall in the Boston area that is looking for a fiction writer, and I’ll try to follow that up.

In tonight’s Community College class, our guest speaker was George Young, BCC Vice President for Student Development (and son of the former Fort Lauderdale mayor, Virginia Young). He’d never met me before, “but of course I’ve read and heard about you.”

He’d probably assumed I was a nutjob, but after hearing me talk tonight, I’m sure he realized I’m intelligent.

I was surprised at how liberal he was. He said all the things I’ve been saying about Florida education, though he gave perceptive reasons, based in history, for why things are the way they are in this state.

Although Dr. Young sounded quite pessimistic about the immediate future, he feels that the pendulum will swing away from conservatism and elitism back to the liberal idea of open access in education.

It’s so penny-wise and pound-foolish, as he said, to skimp on education and then put thousands of dollars into prisons to hold those who might otherwise be turned into productive workers.

The report on Brooklyn in the future expressed a similar theme: If we don’t educate our minorities, they’ll be stuck in the underclass and grow into a huge cancer gnawing away at our supposed general prosperity.

Whether in Brooklyn or Miami, we have to give these people a chance to learn; right now we’ve failed them totally. Dr. Young is an outspoken critic of CLAST and the emphasis on school testing in general because it’s counterproductive.

For me, the Community College course is very valuable, but then I’m getting a lot out of all my classes this term: I feel I’m learning and growing.

Friday, February 28, 1986

8 PM. One highlight of this week was watching the TV coverage of the Philippines, as Corazon Aquino took power in a relatively bloodless overthrow of dictator Marcos, now in exile in Hawaii.

It’s been thrilling to see how democracy could win by sheer “people power,” as the Filipinos called it.

Americans were so outraged by the obvious fraud in the election because they could see it for themselves. (It didn’t hurt that the people being brutalized were middle-class and English-speaking.)

That outrage forced the Reagan administration to abandon any ideas of keeping Marcos in power. I hope that’s a good omen for the future.

USA Today‘s cover story is about the college-educated career women in their twenties and thirties who may never marry and have children. Hilary Cosell, about to become a mother herself, wrote a book about the subject.

Of the women I know, I suspect neither Teresa nor Alice will have children, and they may never marry.

Ronna wants both marriage and kids, but as the story said, once women are in their mid-thirties and unmarried, the odds aren’t good. The same goes for Ronna’s roommate Lori and many of Teresa’s friends.

Married women like Susan and June are having their babies now; it might be too late for them five years from now. Of course, we men can have kids in our sixties and seventies. It’s quite unfair, biology.

This may be one of the most interesting stories of the Baby Boom generation.

While I slept okay last night, more importantly, I started to feel better. Today I had more energy.

Up at 9 AM, I called the computer teacher at Sunshine Elementary, who didn’t seem that interested in hearing from me about the in-service workshop. She said the MECC disks would be in the room for me and the teachers to use.

FIU’s Teacher Education Center sent me a ton of forms for me to fill out: there must have been at least 15 separate papers to send to various offices at the college.

It will be good that I can put on my résumé that I taught for, if not at, Florida International University. It could help me break into other computer education jobs.

I went to get my mail in Davie, where Dad was still suffering from a sinus infection. After putting up a wash, I took him to one of those family health care walk-in centers, a place on University and Peters where I’d been myself.

Dad didn’t want to spend $100 the way he did last year when he was similarly ill. But he did want a prescription for an antibiotic, and this clinic could do that for him.

They took Dad in right away, did a cursory examination (Dad’s blood pressure is better than mine), and gave him penicillin and decongestant, all for $40.

I spent a few hours doing banking. I did indeed get my Citibank Visa credit limit raised, and I was able to take out $200 from the Publix Teller; I also got various other cash advances and deposited the money into my credit union.

Spurred on by Wednesday’s “Get 102 Visas and MasterCards” meeting at the Miami Airport Ramada, I decided to apply for increases for my CalFed Visa and Broward Schools Credit Union MasterCard, and I filled out applications for a few new cards, too.

While I don’t expect to get any new cards, maybe I’ll be surprised and get lucky. If not, I’ll look at my credit files and then wait until late summer before applying further.

At 2:30 PM, I went to the movies, to see Down and Out in Beverly Hills, which was okay Mazursky: not as good as his films of the ’70s but not bad for a 1986 movie.

My shoulders are the slightest bit sore, so I must have done some good exercising yesterday. Back home, I made myself dinner, watched the news and read; I still have the New York Times for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to get through.

I’m going to try to enjoy myself this weekend and remember not to take life so seriously. It almost seems I’m afraid to let myself be happy, that I had to compensate for Monday’s euphoria with three rotten days.