A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-June, 1986


Wednesday, June 11, 1986

10 PM. Last evening I got into bed early and listened to a couple of PBS programs, one on unified field theories of physics, the other about the terrible poverty and unemployment in the north of England.

Feeling better at 11 PM, I went out to get the next day’s Times and a cranberry muffin at the Korean store. As soon as I walked out of the house, I was almost blinded – even without my contacts in – by a big bright light.

Down the block they were making a movie. They’re there again tonight, with a fake street corner phone booth set up near The Bridge, the drug rehabilitation center.

From the crowd last night, I gathered this was a horror movie “with no big stars,” though I did recognize a little boy actor who normally plays precocious brats.

I’d like to be in a movie now – not act in one, but be in one, the way Mia Farrow got into the celluloid in The Purple Rose of Cairo.

Today was pretty much a fiasco, and most of it was my own fault. At 5 AM, I awoke with a pounding stuffed head; I took some Tylenol and Drixoral, and a few hours later the headache was gone, but I had bad stomach cramps – kind of a gripping pain.

By 10 AM, feeling better, I made a stupid decision because I’ve been too wrapped up in my credit card dealings: I decided I wanted to get another Discover card cash advance at Sears.

I knew there was a Sears in Hackensack and I knew that the bus that goes to Hackensack leaves ten minutes before every hour. Unfortunately, I didn’t know enough.

Because the guy at the window where I bought my ticket gave me the wrong platform, I missed the 10:50 AM bus and had to wait an hour.

Then, at noon, finally in New Jersey, I started feeling sick to my stomach. When I got off in Hackensack, I was in the middle of nowhere, and downtown wasn’t in sight.

Several people told me it was pretty far, so I decided, acting wisely for once, to cut my losses and get the next bus back to Port Authority.

Well, that wasn’t so bad, I figured: at least I got a change of scenery and got to look at parts of Bergen County.

I decided that if I got to Columbus Circle in time, I’d catch the 2 PM show of the first day of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off at the Paramount, where I’d been unable to get into the preview on Saturday.

After a quick lunch, I went to the movie. John Hughes supposedly knows teenagers, but this movie was a mess. It made little sense and relied entirely on the considerable charms of Matthew Broderick.

I’ve got enough of a crush on him to have liked the movie for that alone, but it also depressed me because it made me feel more alone.

Now, I’m really glad that Ronna’s seeing somebody – I hope her plane trip went okay – but I miss sharing intimacy with someone.

And sex is only a part of it; the bigger part is having someone special to share things with and having physical and emotional closeness.

Anyway, it was very hot and humid out, and everything seemed to go wrong at once. Nothing major has happened: just a lot of little annoyances. Before class, I had diarrhea and I debated not going.

What made me feel good was that two other students before class told me they dreaded coming the way they did no other course; they also shared my feelings about being lost in the material.

Still, I got an A on the first project, and tonight’s class wasn’t so bad: I got to pretend to be a four-year-old as I worked the keyboard on an estimating skills software package.

Thursday, June 12, 1986

9 PM. Although today was humid and rainy, the temperature dropped about 20 degrees so that it actually seemed chilly.

After a decent night’s sleep, I felt much more energized.

I got to the Teachers College library before it opened at 10 AM, and it took me only about 90 minutes to go over the Cause-and-Effect software that I’m supposed to evaluate for tomorrow’s EPIE training session.

I thought this was a fairly good tool in practicing reasoning inductively and deductively.

After tomorrow’s session, I’ll figure out if I’m still interested in working for EPIE.

It amazes me how at Teachers College, there are so many mediocre teachers. Except for Chris Lubrano, none of the other three Teachers College teachers I’ve had have been very good at all, and I hear Robbie Taylor, supposedly the expert on teaching computing, is the worst of them all.

I’m also not used to all the jargon of educational research. That’s why this term paper is bugging me. Still, I’ll do the best I can and will be satisfied with a B+ in the course.

This afternoon I looked over my “Caracas” story and made a few changes – but it still reads well, and I’m more pleased with it than anything I’ve written in the last year or two. I definitely want to get back into fiction again.

Despite what I said about credit cards yesterday, I allowed myself one last fling today, getting six cash advances from different Visas and MasterCards as I made my way down Broadway to have lunch at 72nd Street.

I deposited $1200 into my checking account at Chemical; now I have checks with this address on them. I also did a wash today and cleared up my correspondence and some other loose ends.

My birth certificate arrived, so I’m almost finished with the material for my employment at FIT.

Mom is holding my mail to give it to Dad, but she said I got a Carte Blanche card. That’s a travel-and-entertainment card, with no credit line, but I figure it will help my credit rating.

Teresa came over after work to help me put in the air conditioner and do some other chores. I’m totally helpless when it comes to household repairs; that’s one reason I should never be a homeowner.

I had gotten the window jammed and couldn’t figure out how to get it unstuck, but Teresa took a screwdriver and hammer and had it back to normal in no time.

She had to pick up a couple of weeks’ worth of mail. After Fire Island this weekend, she has to spend the first three days of next week on the road campaigning with the Comptroller.

With fewer expenses, Teresa should be doing better financially, though she told me she lent Michael $4000 to pay the deposit on his son’s first-year expenses at Cornell.

She and Michael seem to be in a stable relationship, though she says Michael will never get married again.

Earlier, I spoke to Susan Mernit, who just finished the last of her big writing assignments and is looking forward to relaxing for a while.

The baby is fine, and tomorrow night she’s making a big dinner for the woman at Spencer’s office who got him the permanent job.

Josh hasn’t called, and I suspect that we’re both a little tired of each other following some verbal fireworks last Saturday at Tom’s (at Linda Francis’ loft).

It’s possible I offended Josh and don’t know it because he’s incredibly thin-skinned.

I called Grandma to let her know I’ll be coming tomorrow evening. Maybe this visit to Rockaway won’t be as bad as the last one. My major concern over the next ten days is the work for my Software Evaluation course.

Monday, June 16, 1986

9:30 PM. I just got in from class. Dad should soon be home from his dinner with Sasson people.

My stomach is acting up again, and I have cramps. I’m beginning to think this is a stress-related problem, like the spasms I got in junior high. Maybe I’ll see a doctor who can prescribe something to soothe my stomach.

Dad’s flight was delayed, and he didn’t get in till 1 AM. He was tired and went to sleep fairly quickly on the living room couch.

I, on the other hand, stayed up really late, looking at the week’s mail he’d brought: mostly bills and nonsense, but also the latest issues of Coda, the Associated Writing Programs Newsletter, American Demographics and the American Book Review.

Yesterday I was anxious to find out how Ronna’s trip went, so I called her at 5 PM. She said my advice about the flights and my Walkman helped.

It rained every day she was in Orlando, but as I expected, Ronna was bubbling over with details of the things she had seen, including her first palm tree as she disembarked at the airport.

Her mother’s house (as well as her aunt’s) is in the Williamsburg development built by William Levitt. Ronna’s mother is close to the airport, to Sea World (where she and Billy went on Friday), and to downtown Orlando.

Of course, she did a lot of work when the moving van arrived and afterwards, but Ronna got to shop at Publix and eat out at restaurants with early bird specials, and she saw a lot that was new to her.

So finally Ronna went to Florida; like me on my first visit, she found it an interesting experience. I’m glad we shared talking about it.

Alice called to say hi and to ask my help in getting money from the crooked book packagers she successfully sued in small claims court. We had a pleasant chat.

Dad couldn’t find a Fort Lauderdale News anywhere yesterday, so I’ll try to see if I can get the Sunday paper at the out-of-town newsstand on Wednesday; I’m still not sure they printed my article.

Dad had a 9:30 AM appointment at the Empire State Building, where Sasson’s offices are, and he was up early. I Because I didn’t get to sleep till 4 AM, I slept late. While Dad was gone, I did the laundry and read the papers.

When Dad returned at 1:30 PM, we went out for lunch at The Front Porch. It’s been a horribly muggy day, and Dad didn’t really feel like doing much, so we came back to Teresa’s air-conditioned room, where we watched TV.

Dad’s back has been so bad that he’s given up running the past two months, but he looks well. His face isn’t as blotchy as it was: the pigment seems to be returning, and he looks younger than he did when I saw him last October in Brooklyn.

After he left for the Sasson office at 4 PM, I worked out for 45 minutes: my first exercise in nearly a week, and I badly needed it.

Then I went to class, which was fairly interesting tonight as we looked at different early childhood software packages.

Mark Sherry of EPIE, despite my awful evaluation (he said it wasn’t so bad), wants me to come in and review another piece of software, this one in English. I told him I really couldn’t until I finished the paper for Software Evaluation.

Tomorrow I have to meet Ken in the library to work on our presentation for Wednesday. Then I’ll have a week to start and finish my term paper.

Justin called, but Dad was in the room so we didn’t talk much. I gathered that he and Larry had some kind of fight yesterday, as Larry left earlier than expected.

Josh definitely is mad at me, since I haven’t heard from him in nine days. Oh, well, maybe we need a vacation from one another.

Wednesday, June 18, 1986

4 PM. It was a real treat having Dad here these past few days, and I’m going to miss him.

Last evening he came home at about 6 PM, and we went out as soon as he changed into comfortable clothes.

At Marvin Gardens, over angel’s hair pasta with sun-dried tomatoes, Dad told me about his day and his work frustrations, and we talked about the family.

Jonathan has grown a ponytail, and with his red outfits and mala with the Bhagwan on it, “everyone stares at him at the flea market. But your mother says it could be worse because he’s not doing anything antisocial.”

Marc has really fixed up my apartment in Lauderhill, but now that Dad doesn’t see much of him, he’s worried that Marc will get involved with drugs: “I gave him an article about crack to read.”

I myself have been worried about Marc getting on crack since I know he’s got an addictive personality and had so much trouble getting off plain old cocaine.

Dad says his sister thinks he’s crazy for “doing so much for my children. But Sydelle is selfish. If anything, I feel I’m not doing enough. . .”

Because Grandpa Nat did everything for Dad and “always tried to make sure I didn’t have to work too hard,” Dad feels guilty that, for example, I even have to go to work to make a living. That’s crazy, of course, but I love Dad for it.

He can’t understand how some parents, like Justin’s, can be distant or cold with their children. And of course, Dad wouldn’t let me pay for dinner although at least he allowed me to leave the $2 tip.

We walked across the street to Zabar’s. Dad hadn’t been there in fifteen years, and I knew he’d get a kick out of all the delicious goodies on sale.

As we walked back on Riverside Drive, Dad actually felt cold and marveled how changeable the New York weather was, unlike in Florida, where one day is always like the next.

He said the walk among the old grand buildings reminded him of walks he’d taken in New York as a child.

Back home, we watched TV. Dad normally never watches network TV and was amazed at how stupid it is.

Mostly we ended up watching the Mets game. Dad packed his things, for he planned to go straight from midtown to the airport this afternoon.

Last night I slept like a log and said goodbye to Dad in the morning; we really spent what they call “quality time” together during his visit.

I fell back asleep and got up again at 9:30 AM – well, sort of: I went out to buy USA Today and the Times, which I read in bed.

Chief Justice Burger resigned and was replaced by Rehnquist, who in turn was replaced by another arch-conservative Justice.

At 11 AM, I went to the Times Square out-of-town newsstand to get Sunday’s Fort Lauderdale News/Sun-Sentinel.

It was thrilling to see my “response,” headlined “The ‘Problem’ with South Florida’s Senior Citizens,” on the front page of the Outlook section and continued on the last page.

Described as “active in several political arenas,” the bio note said I “maintained homes in Davie and New York.”

(“That’s true,” said Teresa, back from the campaign trip to Binghamton and Elmira. “You do maintain homes.”)

What a treat to be able to unload my opinions on everyone. They printed my article almost exactly the way I wrote it, and if I seem immodest, it’s a terrific piece; I don’t have my usual diffidence about my writing.

Though I’d clean it up in a few places, the article is one of the strongest pieces of writing I’ve done, and it has style and wit.

I’m sure it will make many elderly people angry. Good.

The article gives me new confidence in myself as a writer and a public figure, and I’m grateful to Barc Bowman for giving me the opportunity to respond to the column he wrote criticizing me.

It was good to see the whole paper and see what’s going on in Broward.

The Sawgrass Expressway opens this weekend, and the paper’s lead editorial called on Governor Graham to veto the expenditures for the Broward honors college, which the newspaper feels will detract from the Southeast Florida higher education plan.

As usual in Florida education, politics comes first: it appears the whole honors college is a provincial attempt by one man, Senate President Ken Jenne, to wield power. It probably is a bad mistake.

This afternoon I xeroxed my article, had a burger out (my stomach feels okay now), did some banking (I’m now up to a record $33,000 in all my accounts), and worked out.

Now I’ve got to get to school.

Friday, June 20, 1986

3 PM. I just had lunch: I put two turkey franks into the microwave, chopped up the sweet Vidalia onion Ronna brought back from Florida, and made hot dogs with whole wheat bread and Dijon mustard. Delicious!

My stomach seems to be working lots better than it was a week ago.

I spent much of yesterday afternoon reviewing material for my term paper; I’ve just come back from one last trip to the Teachers College library and feel that once I’ve sorted through my material, I can begin writing this weekend.

The books to be used in my Computers and Writing class for the next summer session are really fine, and I always enjoy learning about the writing process.

With my academic work now concentrated in writing, and having written a long story and published the Fort Lauderdale News article just a couple of months after the People piece, I now feel very much like a writer again.

Fiction may no longer be my main interest, but I’m definitely a writer. If that’s true, I should be able to do this term paper in the next five days, huh?

Ronna had asked me along to a party at Ellen’s, celebrating Ellen’s new job as a runner (gopher) on Kate and Allie. Because Ronna got home from work late, and she also had to prepare for an interview today, she didn’t get over here until after 10 PM.

By that time, I had given up working, and I’d put on some party clothes. Looking in the mirror, I felt pleased. Dad had brought me a couple of tank tops, very low-cut, and I was surprised at how good my chest looked. (Maybe all those bench presses paid off.)

I put on a big print shirt over the tank top, rolled up my corduroys, and wore my mismatched grey and white high-top LA Gear sneakers. Also, I wet my hair and foamed in some blond mousse.

For a while I wondered if I looked silly, but then it occurred to me that if I felt silly, I’d probably look silly, and if I felt sexy – well, maybe I’d look okay.

Was I just playing at being a model-type hunk? Well, why not? It’s fun.

Ronna and I got to the party (around the corner on 86th Street) at its peak, and people started leaving just after we’d arrived, probably because they had to go to work the next day.

Ellen was pretty drunk by the time we got there – she’s a cutie – and I met her two roommates.

The party was a mix of young Wall Street types and actor-types. Although I was about a decade older than the median age, it pleased me that I didn’t look it.

Not terribly social, I spent time talking with Lori, whose job was eliminated last week; she needs to find another one fairly soon.

Nobody at the party seemed particularly fascinating or attractive to me although several of the guys were probably gay.

Anyway, Ronna, Lori and I left at about midnight, when it had started to rain. I got Friday’s Times and a blueberry muffin on Broadway and stayed up to enjoy them both.

I was up at 8 AM today, but I kept falling back asleep, and I didn’t get out of bed until noon.

Mom sent me a letter from a Cheryl Fish, who says she’s an MFA student in fiction at Brooklyn College and head of the new networking committee.

She got my address from Miriam at Ragdale and said that as “a Brooklyn success story,” I’d be welcome to come back to BC during the year and give a reading or lecture to the current MFA students.

I guess I’m probably the biggest “name” to come out of the MFA program so far, except maybe for John Yau or Edward Byrne, who are poets. How I’d love to go back to BC as a “successful” alumnus – especially when they wouldn’t hire me last fall to teach composition.

I’d like to excoriate President Hess, who almost fired the whole Alumni Association staff when they published “With Hitler in New York” in their bulletin (he eventually did fire them all, anyway) and attack all the old farts in the BC English Department: It’s the old “I’ll show them all” fantasy.

In reality, of course, I’d be boringly polite and gracious.