A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late January, 1988


Wednesday, January 20, 1988

9 PM. Halfway through the week, I believe I’m going to burn out soon on Teacher Education Center workshops and I have yet to meet the class that begins tomorrow.

At Hialeah/Miami Lakes High School this afternoon, I gave a terrific little lecture on the parts of a computer, hardware and software, and computer history; it was an intelligent and lively talk, if I do say so myself.

Then, unfortunately, I had to go to the computers. I didn’t have a TV monitor, so my 15 students had to gather around one IBM XT as I put DOS in it and then demonstrated PC-Write, Lotus 1-2-3, BASIC, LOGO and some other programs.

It was entirely unsatisfactory, and I didn’t have anything but my own disks for my students’ hands-on experience.

The class encountered all kinds of problems with the machines. Only at 7 PM, when the next class came in, did I learn from their teacher that more than half the computers in the room were broken.

I’d spent last night at home at my own computer, preparing my lecture for today: good thing, too, or the whole day would have been a disaster.

I also read my Appleworks book for tomorrow’s workshop, and today at Broward Community College, I used Appleworks (from a 3.5” disk) on the GS.

It looks like a fairly straightforward piece of integrated software, but I’m unfamiliar with the commands in the individual applications. However, I have a fairly good general sense of the program.

But I don’t know how experienced with computers tomorrow’s class will be; for all I know, they may all be virgins. Before class, I’ll have to pick up the course material at FIU.

This morning I didn’t want anything to stand in the way of two activities, sleeping late and exercising. I woke up at 8:30 AM, and at 10 AM, I exercised for 45 minutes to Body Electric tapes.

Last night Josh called saying that he intends to move out of his apartment, “but I won’t if my neighbor’s harassment keeps up because I don’t want him to think I’m moving because of it.”

The annoying phone calls and menacing noises continue, and the guy from next door has shown up in the lobby of the building where Josh now works.

Anyway, Josh has looked at a one-bedroom condo in a renovated old factory building at 14th Street and Ninth Avenue: a pretty spooky neighborhood, but one likely to improve. Everything in the apartment is new, of course, and the price is about $150,000.

Josh said he would rather have a condo than a co-op because most co-ops have huge mortgage payments for the building coming up in the mid-1990s, and Josh feels the maintenance costs will skyrocket.

I told Josh that the building sounded okay and the price seemed reasonable as long as he wants a place to live and isn’t expecting to make a fortune. I doubt New York real estate will continue to go sky-high.

Crad sent a short letter today. He had a depressing holiday and is glad to see 1987 go.

Gwen, he reported, died when she choked on her own vomit in her sleep following a combination of alcohol and barbiturates.

He writes: “I think she pushed me out of her life because she couldn’t stand me anymore and felt I was making her sick. Her last note to me was completely free of rancor, however, so I prefer to think that she harbored no bad feelings toward me at the end. I think her death was probably suicide. . .”

He says he fully intends to get revenge on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Canada Council, and others who’ve used their “power” against him: “I have no fear whatever about generating possible ill will. I’m on the street indefinitely – perhaps forever – so I might as well have my say . . .

“People who take a Pollyanna view of life may be happier than I am, but I don’t place a high priority on personal happiness. I turned off onto the hard road long ago, and my satisfactions are of an entirely different nature than those of the happy-go-lucky nitwits of the world . . .

“If you prefer to err on the side of optimism, okay for you. You have to be true to your nature, and I have to be true to mine. (I’m not implying you’re one of the nitwits.)

“I expect 1988 to be interesting, especially after the next books come out.

“Incidentally, if you look on page 197 of Bret Easton Ellis’s The Rules of Attraction, you’ll find something astounding. So far, only one person has called it to my attention. Bye for now – Your pal, Crad.”

After lunch at Corky’s, I went to the B. Dalton at the 163rd Street mall and found the reference on page 197, where one of Ellis’s characters says to another, “Have you read Crad Kilodney’s Lightning Struck My Dick? Amazing, amazing.”

I have to reassess my opinion of Ellis – heretofore based mostly on envy – if he’s wise enough to appreciate Kilodney.

At the bookstore, I bought a copy of Interview because Rick told me it’s got interviews with T. Corraghessan Boyle and Gordon Lish, a review by Tana Janowitz, and fiction by Bukowski and Scott Sommer.

Thursday, January 21, 1988

6 PM. I had a hard time getting to sleep last night and was up from midnight till 5 AM before drifting off for a few hours.

I didn’t get a chance to exercise today, and I missed that, but I had to go to FIU to pick up the material for today’s workshop. Sophie was out to lunch when I arrived on campus, so I just picked up my envelope and left.

I drove to North Miami Beach, where I had lunch at the 163rd Street Mall. Then I went over to Miami Northwestern Senior High School.

It’s on 12th Avenue and NW 70th Street in the middle of a terrible black slum. The gates to the school are locked shut, but a guard on duty let me in.

Actually, this workshop proved to be pleasant because Mrs. Notero, the computer teacher, was a thoughtful person. She just started teaching in September and is obviously very dedicated.

I saw her class of athletes being pretty uproarious at times, but learning was definitely going on there. The school’s students are almost entirely black, as were all the teachers in my workshop except for one Hispanic man.

Still, because Mrs. Notero was kind enough to make up extra copies of the Appleworks lesson diskette, I had enough software for every teacher.

Most had never worked on a computer before, so I had to explain some things about the parts of a computer, how to turn it on, etc. The tutorial was there for each student to work on individually.

The group was small and pleasant to work with, and when I left at 4:45 PM, I felt a sense of accomplishment.

I meet them again on Monday, and the workshop will meet on the next three or four Mondays and Thursdays.

I have to keep studying Appleworks myself, but at least I have the disks to work with and tomorrow I’m off.

The next month is going to be rough, as I’ll be teaching every day but Friday and Sunday, but I’ll be making good money, and I can get through it – the way I got through the fall of 1985, when I taught at John Jay and Baruch and took classes at Columbia.

I’m going to sleep like a baby tonight, I expect.

I keep getting messages about renewing my lease, with Sun Pointe Cove promising me all these incentives, like discounts on the rent and free gifts. How amazing my friends in New York City would find such appeals from their landlords!

Friday, January 22, 1988

9 PM. I’ve just been reading my students’ stories for tomorrow’s creative writing class at BCC.

None of the stories is terrible, but none is close to publishable, and they’re all seriously flawed in intentions and awkward in style.

However, each of the stories has promise, at least, for a good discussion. It’s comforting to me, of course, to see that not everybody can write a short story.

Sometimes I feel so unsophisticated, but I see that I take for granted some fictional tricks and conventions other people don’t know about. I guess I tend to underestimate my own experience as a published writer.

Last night I felt relaxed, the way I always do at the end of a work week.

Neither of my Park Slope friends were home last night.

When I called Justin, Ben said he was at some meeting or rehearsal. When I called Susan, I got Barbara, who was babysitting for Zach (who turns 2 this week). Barbara sounded good, and it was a pleasure to talk to her, even briefly.

Sophie called this morning while I was eating breakfast. She had another workshop for me, Computers in Elementary Education, at Flagler Elementary, for five Wednesdays from March 9 to April 13. (The week of April 4-8 is Easter vacation.)

They specifically requested that I do the workshop. Fine with me, even though I have no idea how they know who I am.

Now I have something to do after mid-March. I’ll take on only one or two more workshops in March and April, but I won’t mind if this one is the last.

I exercised to the one-hour Body Shaping video and did the laundry at my parents’ house.

After showering at home, I got dressed and went to JT’s because I had been feeling scraggly lately. Nikki cut my hair and trimmed my beard nicely.

Now if only my skin would clear up; this week my face has been filled with pimples.

After lunch at home, I drove over to California Federal to deposit $900 in cash advances I’d gotten from ATMs and then went to BCC to xerox my students’ work and play around with Appleworks.

An editorial in today’s Fort Lauderdale News told Democrats not to vote for Undecided in the Florida Presidential preference primary and I wondered if they’d somehow gotten hold of my press release about Florida Democrats for Undecided.

Today I got my first response from anyone from that press release: I was invited to be on the Debbie Ellis Show at 7 PM on WNWS radio on February 19, a Friday.

Of course, I accepted. It’s been nearly two years since I was last an in-studio guest on a radio talk show, and I think I can have some fun. The producer said he’d send me written confirmation soon.

I brought dinner from Showtime Pizza over to my parents’ and ate with Mom and Dad. My stomach got upset afterwards, but it seems to be settling down now.

Ronna called a little while ago. Tomorrow she leaves Penn Station at 9 AM, and Billy will pick her up at 8 AM on Sunday at Winter Park.

She’ll be taking the train down here because her mother’s client will be out of town. I’m supposed to meet her at 5:45 PM on Thursday at the Fort Lauderdale Amtrak station.

I’m nervous about her visit – maybe “excited” is a better word than “nervous” – but I want Ronna to have a good time during the two days that she’ll be here.

It’s really so short a time. We won’t have much time for sight-seeing, but I’m not going to try to cram in everything in one trip.

I’ll just concentrate on letting Ronna do whatever she wants for the 48 hours until her train leaves on Saturday.

Tuesday, January 26, 1988

8 PM. Halfway through my work week and two days till Ronna’s visit, I seem to be doing all right.

Last evening I watched a now-celebrated live interview of George Bush on Dan Rather’s news show and I could tell immediately it would electrify audiences, as the two men were virtually shouting at each other over Bush’s statements about his role in the Iran/Contra scandal.

Today, most observers say that Bush gave as good as he got (I have a suspicion his forceful hostility was rehearsed) and that he’s broken “the wimp factor.”

Up at 7:30 AM, I got out of the house early and took care of business. It was chilly this morning – about 46° – and it’s supposed to get down to 35° tonight.

I deposited $1000 in cash advances in the bank, shopped for groceries at Publix, and did some work on the Apple IIe at the BCC computer lab.

After picking up my mail, I had lunch at Gaetano, where, as I was eating my Sicilian slices, Nikki, my hair stylist, surprised me with a hearty clap on the back. It felt nice.

Back at home, I read the papers and fed the ducks before driving to Southwest Dade to teach my BASIC workshop at Riviera Junior High School.

I had a good class today, letting my students go at their own pace. Some are enjoying the intellectual challenge of programming as much as I do.

They’ve put in a request that I teach Appleworks to them in a Productivity Software class, but I told them I probably won’t have time to do it before I leave on May 2.

It’s starting to stay light till about 6 PM these days, I noticed, as I drove home with the turnpike and I-75. Dad had gotten some baked potatoes at Wendy’s, and I found mine so filling that I couldn’t eat anything else for dinner.

In The Volunteer, the GMHC Newsletter, they noted that someone (me, of course) had donated money in the names of Senator Jesse Helms and Representative Bill Dannemeyer, the two most prominent gay-baiters in Congress, and they said they hoped the idea would catch on.

I got a letter from Miriam. She and Robert went back East for a month, first to Martha’s Vineyard and then to their relatives in New Jersey.

She sent along a clipping from the New Mexican newspaper about her Spilling Marmalade cassette and another about her reading last Saturday at a Santa Fe bookstore.

George Myers will write about it for the Columbus Dispatch. Miriam, who remarked that “he’s such a flirt,” said that George told her to give me his regards. I should write him.

Miriam’s agent hates her second novel. Meanwhile, Robert sent her first novel to Zephyr Press, but Miriam thinks they’ll feel it’s nepotism to publish her again.

While I wish I had more time to devote to fiction, I need to make money now so that I can buy time in the future. Besides, in another month or so, things will settle down a bit.

Saturday, January 30, 1988

8 PM. Despite my cold and back spasms and Mom’s dental emergency and all the other stuff that went wrong, Ronna’s visit was not a disaster.

Although the conditions, including cool and cloudy weather, were less than perfect, both Ronna and I had a perfectly good time.

I put her on the train a couple of hours ago, and she should be arriving at Penn Station at about this time tomorrow night.

On Thursday I had a pretty good class at Northwestern High School, as I went over the word processing part of Appleworks and let my students use the tutorial for practice.

I made it up I-95 in rush hour traffic to get to the Fort Lauderdale Amtrak station, a creaky relic out of the 1920’s. Unfortunately, Ronna’s train due in at 5:42 PM, was half an hour late.

But as it turned into night and became chilly, I had time to center myself a bit. And it was great to see Ronna as she walked off the train; we hugged and I showed her to my car.

I was hungry so I took her to Corky’s in Lauderhill and let her experience the Jewish crowd and Jewish food at that restaurant. Ronna said there’s nothing like it in Orlando.

She told me she’d received very bad news the night before she left NYC. Her friend in Harrisburg, Debbie, died on the operating table during surgery.

Debbie had a multitude of health problems, including a recent heart aneurysm, but her death was unexpected since Ronna had spoken to her only a week before.

The news hasn’t really sunk in yet, I think, because of Ronna’s trip and because Debbie was a friend she saw only once a year, if that often.

Things were pleasant in Orlando though Ronna sounded fed up with her cousins Esty (formerly Ellen) and Moshe, who are total religious fanatics in their Orthodoxy, with the smug nature of all true believers.

The Jewish religion is important to Ronna, not only because she works among the Orthodox at Yeshiva University (and she previously work at the Hebrew Arts School, of course), but because of her upbringing.

To me, Judaism is a con like all other religions, no better, no worse.

Of course, I was brought up by secular parents and influenced by an atheist grandfather. But I respect Ronna’s reasonable efforts to maintain Jewish traditions in her life.

I guess I understand her pretty well, and though it sort of shocks me to admit this, she understands me pretty well, too.

After all, we’ve known each other for 17 years, and when we began dating in November 1972, we started a relationship that has lasted through a lot of storms and separations.

Granted, marriages are harder to maintain, but Ronna and I have had to work on our friendship, too – whether or not sex was involved.

Ronna told me about her mother, brother and grandmother in Orlando, and I talked about what was happening down here.

On Friday, I tried to be a good guide to South Florida, and I think I succeeded in giving Ronna an idea of what the area is like.

First I took her down to Coconut Grove, where we walked around for half an hour, and we drove then past Vizcaya and up Brickell Avenue into downtown Miami, past Bayside and the Metromover and the skyscrapers you see on the opening montage of Miami Vice, which I’m certain Ronna has never once watched.

Then we took the causeway to Miami Beach and saw all of it, from the Deco District to Lincoln Road and the Fontainebleau to all the tall buildings on Collins Avenue hiding the beach behind them.

Even though it was cloudy, breezy and cool, it was a pleasure when we stopped to walk on the beach at 81st Street, where it opens up,

For lunch, I took Ronna to the Aventura Mall, and then we drove up Biscayne Boulevard into Hallandale, across to A1A and up past Hollywood to the Strip at Fort Lauderdale beach, with me giving commentary all the way.

For many years, I imagined showing Ronna South Florida, and I feel good now that she’s seen everything from downtown Davie to Tree Tops Park, where I granted her her wish to see an orange tree; I even picked an orange from the tree and put it in her hand.

Today we drove out to the start of Alligator Alley and past the development at Weston, and we had lunch at the Bagel Whole and went to Spyke’s Grove to check out the citrus, the alligators, and the peacocks.

Mom and Dad saw Ronna briefly on Thursday evening after we ate at Corky’s. Mom was in severe pain and had an appointment with a substitute endodontist.

He did a root canal on her dying nerve, but apparently he didn’t get enough pus out because last night Mom was in excruciating pain.

It ended up that she met the endodontist in his office at 11 PM last night; when he uncorked her tooth, it erupted like Vesuvius.

This morning her jaw swelled up like there was a tennis ball inside it, and she had to go back; the jaw is still swollen, but at least her pain is gone. Mom was too ill to go out to dinner with us last night, but Dad and Marc came.

China took to Ronna the way she has with no other stranger; within a few minutes she was licking Ronna’s hand and playfully nipping at her.

Ronna also got to speak briefly with Jonathan last night, and today Mom – who didn’t go to the flea market – let Ronna pick out a Bugle Boy shirt to take home. (She selected an indigo denim shirt, like the one I wore to pick her up.)

On Thursday night, Ronna and I went to bed late; we had a nice time making love then, but last night we had really terrific sex, some of the best I’ve ever had.

But I may be getting older than I think, and one of my more acrobatic contortions is probably responsible for the back spasms I began getting in the middle of the night. Right now I’m in pain when I change positions.

I’d hurt my left side on Wednesday while overdoing the exercise, and somehow I aggravated the injury. Also, I had a bad sore throat yesterday although it was somewhat relieved by zinc lozenges which I used after meals.

But now that Ronna’s gone, my cold is really breaking out, and I’m all stuffed up.

While she was here, Ronna diverted my attention, and I hardly complained. She said she didn’t mind risking contagion by kissing and hugging me.

We had one brief argument today, and both of us realized it was brought on by separation anxiety.

It really was trivial: I got annoyed because we went to three places to try to find a Florida t-shirt for Lori, and Ronna couldn’t find one; she got annoyed with me for getting annoyed. I’ve always been too impatient.

We had a good talk about her desire to get married and have kids. She told me about blind dates she went on and how guys she liked never called her a second time and how the others were creeps.

At the risk of ending what has been a great relationship, I still hope Ronna and some nice Jewish guy get married someday soon.

Ronna knows that because of my homosexuality and my commitment to a writing career and a vagabond life, I’m poor husband material – though she says she suspects I’d be a better father than I think I’d be.

To me, she still looks as pretty as ever, and I love her a lot, but if I could find a guy like Ronna, I’d probably enjoy sex more – because I am definitely gay.

In a sense, Ronna and I are both doing the same thing: not settling for someone but looking for someone each of us idealizes, and always coming back to the safe harbor of each other.

Is our relationship healthy? Well, it seems to make us feel good, not only while we’re together but while we’re apart. Unless I’m totally missing the boat – and I could be – above all, Ronna and I are friends.

While I’ve been writing this, I’ve been having very painful back spasms. I feel like I need about a week’s vacation in Florida.