A 29-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early August, 1980


Sunday, August 3, 1980

5 PM on a hot and humid Sunday afternoon. I’ve been trying to work on my novel all weekend – “work on it” in this case meaning planning and not writing – and I’m not getting very far. Being a writer is hard work.

On Friday evening I took myself to Kings Plaza to see Fame again. I wanted to see how that story worked. All those kids at the High School of Performing Arts have dreams and talent, but what hard work they’ve got in front of them. Like writers.

Is it worth it? Even now, depressed, I believe that it is. Look what I’ve accomplished already. I’m not just your average weirdo; I’ve developed a style, a voice, a Zeitgeist or whatever, and people (however few) read me and see what I’m trying to say.

My problem with the novel is that I don’t know yet what I want to say. More agonizing and teeth-grinding – Gnashville – will be with me until I get it right. Or at least get it down on paper.

Bert Stratton, that Cleveland writer whom I met last summer, sent me his novel, Gigging, which he self-published in a handsome trade paperback. Obviously, he couldn’t get it commercially published.

It’s an unfocused book, and Bert is careless with language and punctuation (he overuses exclamation marks on every page), but there is a lot of energy in the novel and it gets that Shaker Heights Jewish milieu down to a T – or a chai. I’ll have to write him.

The other night I called Crad to tell him how much I admired Lightning Struck My Dick. Crad is very cheerful these days. He’s had a lot of luck selling his own books at a new location, and last Sunday, Virgo Press had him come to the Canadian Booksellers Convention.

Virgo’s head, Thad McIlroy, is only 23 but he’s the perfect publisher for Crad: he’s aggressive, innovative and very hungry. Thad has made up Lightning T-shirts, and of course the title has aroused a lot of attention in Canadian publishing circles.

Crad just may find himself famous before too long. No one (but me) deserves it more. Then again, Crad might be disappointed and depressed in the future – but still, it will have been worth it.

Remember how thrilled I was last summer when reviews of my book kept coming out in the papers? There will be times like that again, and I’ve got to keep that in mind.

I hope Love Street Books accepts the short story collection I sent them, but my attitude is that if they don’t want it, it’s their problem, not mine. As I told Russ Galen, I’ve always been in this for the long haul, and I’ve come too far to give up now.

On Thursday night on Montague Street, Josh and I ran into Cheryl Tarnowsky, whom I knew at college from having classes with her. She is still with the Social Services Department and she looks like she leads a very comfortable and very boring life.

I may envy her Brooklyn Heights apartment and her salary, but I still think I have more than she does. Whether I make it as a writer or not, nobody can say that I didn’t try.

Writing is an act of will, an act of ego, and I must keep at it. Like the “Fame” song says, “I want to live forever,” and the only way I can do that is through my writing. I am no longer an apprentice but I am not yet a craftsman.

I spoke to Marc today, but he was busy with the kids and couldn’t talk for very long. I’m sure he’s annoyed with me for what he probably considers my “spying” on him, but in the past I have had to force any information out of him.

Oh well, Jimmy Carter has Billy Carter. I’d better keep my distance from my brother for now.

I was on the beach for an hour today, but I have no patience for it anymore.

There were no decent jobs advertised in the Sunday Times. I keep wondering how the hell I’m going to get through August.

Monday, August 4, 1980

Midnight. In front of me now I have a white tissue with these words written on it: I’M SCARED. Janice wrote it and passed it to me tonight. Talk about my work being full of pathos: my life is full of pathos.

What an incredible summer this has been. Is it just me, or is everyone sick and dying?

I went over to my grandparents’ this morning and couldn’t contain myself when I saw Grandma Ethel: “You look terrible!” I exclaimed.

She looked like death. She said she felt very weak and had pains in her chest although last week the doctor said her heart and blood pressure were fine.

Jean Morse was there and lectured me: “She needs you here every day! She feels like she has no family. Your mother was here four days and ran away. Your uncle hasn’t been here since your grandfather got out of the hospital.”

What do you want from me, lady?

And both Jean and Grandpa Herb – who looks fit as a fiddle, by the way – told me that Grandma Ethel is mad at Mom and Marty because they “yelled” at her.

Jean forced Grandma to go out with her to Waldbaum’s, and when we were alone, Grandpa told me that he hasn’t seen this look on Grandma’s face since she was mentally ill after Marty’s birth and had to be institutionalized.

It’s obvious she is in a deep depression. She so fears being widowed that she seems to be making sure she will die before her husband. All Grandma Ethel talks about is how she’s dying. No wonder Marty yells at her. What else can your response be but total frustration and “Go ahead and die”?

Later, I spoke with Arlyne and we agreed that the thing Grandma Ethel needs is a psychiatrist familiar with geriatric problems. Now if we can only convince her to go see someone.

Old people are impossible. When I came home from the supermarket, I parked illegally in front of the house for a moment, and one old lady from the building, despite seeing that I had packages to carry up, asked me to come up to her apartment and open a stuck window for her.

When I said I would gladly do it after I put my groceries away and parked my car, she said, “But I want to go out now!” Old people demand so much of you. Is that because they’re near death?

Janice is the same way. Alice called me this afternoon after coming back from the hospital. She said Janice is insatiable in her demands for company, and Alice feels guilty if she doesn’t go every day during her lunch hour.

The doctor told Alice that while Janice is still critical, she could live for weeks or maybe months – and Alice dreads the thought of having to be with Janice for so long a time.

Alice’s optimistic attitude toward life has been profoundly shaken by Janice’s illness, and I’ve never known Alice to sound this depressed.

I went by to see Janice tonight and stayed until after 10 PM. Her legs are getting less swollen. We played a game called Pig’s Pen and watched TV, but it’s clear that she’s still gravely ill.

When the doctor came to see her, Janice practically begged him not to give her another myelogram. Mostly, Janice wrote notes in her still-strong calligrapher’s hand: in addition to the I’M SCARED tissue, I have one that says, “The strain and fear impede progress.”

Earlier today, Grandpa Herb said of Grandma Ethel: “She can’t take stress.”

How much stress can I take, I wonder? Yet, oddly, I am not scared now. I am concerned.

These are strange days. It’s so hot and humid that I can do little all day (I can’t exercise) and so I begin to live at night. Last evening I took a long drive to the Five Towns, and when I came back, I did some writing.

Today I made an appointment with Food Stamps for next week. The June check from Touro finally came. I got the June issue of Beyond Baroque, a gay issue that featured my story and other good work, including a brilliant essay on Brad Gooch.

Just enough is happening in my literary career to keep my head above water. I mailed out a voucher for $100 to the Voice of America for the short story symposium.

Tuesday, August 5, 1980

4 PM. It’s another hot, humid day, but worse weather is expected in the next few days. We haven’t had any relief from the heat in weeks. I have spent this afternoon lying around my apartment, ruminating and trying to keep cool.

My teeth ache, so I must be grinding them again. Mainly what I’m wondering is when all this shit will ever end. I don’t know if there will ever be another MacDowell period in my life again, and if the only way I can ever find happiness is in retreat and isolation.

Grandma Ethel feels she has no family. Grandma Sylvia tells Dad she wants to move back to New York – because “I have nobody in Florida.” Well, I too feel I have no one.

Suppose I got really sick and needed someone to be with me. My grandparents obviously can’t be called on, and Marc is completely unreliable. Of course, I’d manage somehow, but I do feel there is no one I can really turn to – no one special person.

Avis and Anthony and Teresa and Josh and Alice would all be there to help me, but they have their own lives to lead. No wonder I’m spending time with Janice: I probably think it means that someday, when I’m dying, someone will spend time with me.

I’m hot, I’m lonely, I’m broke, I’m tired, I’m horny, I’m out of shape, and I don’t know how much longer I can go on this way – but aside from that, I’m doing really well.

This morning I went to see my grandparents. Grandma Ethel again looked like death and said the pains in her chest were worse. I stayed there a couple of hours and came home thoroughly depressed.

I spoke with some friends. Pete Cherches phoned from the Fiction Collective office and we caught up on the latest literary gossip. Pete is what I would call a “shared-interest” friend in that we never discuss anything except writing and publishing.

The Collective continues to put out books of deadly serious experimental fiction by academics. At this point in my career, I wouldn’t even want to be published by them.

Teresa said her sister’s wedding was perfect from beginning to end, and despite Roger’s not showing up – his lover wouldn’t let him – Teresa had a marvelous time. I’ll probably sleep over at Teresa’s on Friday night and go with her to the wedding on Saturday.

I got a card from Wes inviting me to Marla’s birthday party on Thursday night. I still haven’t decided if I should go. Wes and Marla’s friends are really out of my league.

Linda Lerner got $69 a week unemployment, and she said it was only because she got a decent bureaucrat when she spoke to someone.

Linda told me that she has no relationship with her family and that Susan and Neil Schaeffer sort of adopted her years ago, before they were married, when Neil was trying to get a divorce from his first wife.

Neil is resigning as SGS deputy chairman, so there goes my hope of getting a Veterans Outreach course at Brooklyn College this fall.

What else is new? Not much.

This has been a very difficult year for me, and I hope that the rest of it rushes by. All I want is to be able to see the light at the end of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

I keep waiting for the phone to ring with some job offer that will turn my life around. (It’s obvious that all the Times want ads I answer don’t want me.) What I’m scared of is that life will never turn around and that all this struggling and pain will never end.

I keep consoling myself with the thought that all this will make me grow as a man and as a writer, but I am not really sure anything like that will happen. Like Janice, I am scared this afternoon.

How much longer can all of us go on like this? The hostages are still in Iran.

Thursday, August 7, 1980

Midnight. I’m in Teresa’s living room now. The apartment is quiet: Teresa is asleep in her bedroom, as she has to get up at 5 AM to go to work.

Last evening I got a call from Pat Johnston of the Jim Johnston Advertising Agency. She said she’s been trying to get me for weeks and asked if I would come in for an interview today at 2 PM. I said yes.

Then, when I called Wes and Marla to tell them I couldn’t come to their party tonight, they talked me into making an appearance. I hadn’t realized that they really wanted to see me.

Last night I slept very well and awoke early this morning. My chores were done fairly quickly: I got the mail (nothing of interest), withdrew money from Citibank, filled up Grandpa Herb’s car with gas, and did the laundry.

When I phoned Grandpa to see how everything was, he said Grandma Ethel was about the same.

I decided that if I were going to the interviews in the late afternoon and to Wes and Marla’s tonight that I might as well stay over at Teresa’s.

Jan and Ross are in, visiting from San Antonio; Ross, a psychiatrist, has been attending an NEH seminar in New Haven, but Teresa said they could stay in Karen’s empty apartment next door, and I could sleep here.

At Kings Plaza I paid off my $1,000 passbook loan in full, getting back a badly-needed $47 in interest, and I took two overnight bags up to Manhattan.

A truck spilled propane gas on the George Washington Bridge, and that resulted in the bridge being closed and a monumental traffic jam on this side of the Hudson that I got stuck in.

When I arrived at the Jim Johnston offices at 3 PM, I was introduced to Jim and Pat, an extremely friendly middle-aged couple. The interview was a delightful experience: they asked me about writing, teaching, publicity, the movies I’d seen this summer, the writing conferences I’d attended, my Zodiac sign, my family.

I really felt they were interested in me as a human being, and I ended up liking them enormously. Their agency does quality work, and I’ve admired their ads. Jim told me to do a portfolio of ads for them for next week, and I agreed.

He said I was a nice person, very bright, with a good sense of humor, but also – like many writers – very shy and introverted. It was 4:30 PM when I got out, and I’d already missed the Jove appointment, but by then I’d decided that I really didn’t want to work with a woman like Jane Heller, someone intimidating and bitchy.

So I got my car and was stuck in that monumental traffic jam again, and finally I got to Teresa’s just as she was getting home from work. Ross and Jan were in the air-conditioned bedroom watching TV, and we tried to make plans for dinner.

With the traffic all backed up outside, Teresa didn’t want to go out, so it was decided that their psychiatrist friend Zev Adler would bring in some good Szechuan food from what Teresa said was Paul’s favorite Chinese restaurant.

Teresa told me that after talking with Avis, she’s certain that the wedding is going to be a fiasco. Already we noted that the invitations were horrible: they were folded the wrong way, and the last line was “Your attendance would be greatly appreciated.” Huh?

Anthony’s father complained to Avis about the wedding not being traditional, and I can just imagine what Avis’s own parents must be thinking. Like Teresa, I sort of like traditional weddings; Avis’s may be one of the last hippie weddings.

Avis told Teresa that last Saturday they ran into Marsha while they were on their way to Barney’s to buy Anthony a wedding outfit, and Marsha decided to tag along. Neither Anthony nor Avis could stomach her comments that day, so they “grossed her out,” and now Marsha’s not going to sing at the wedding anymore.

When Zev arrived with the dinner, we set up a picnic spread in the bedroom, the only air-conditioned room in the apartment.

Teresa got a call from the LIRR that a fire on the tracks had disrupted service on the Main Line, so she spent most of the dinner on the phone with the MTA, various bosses, and the media: the New York Times, Daily News, WCBS radio (we heard her live in the living room), and other stations.

Meanwhile, the rest of us had a pleasant dinner conversation. Ross’s first wife was a doctor who left him for a doctor who lived upstairs, and Zev was saying that it was such a small world because he knew a doctor who told him that this guy upstairs, Phil Konner, was a psychopath.

“Phil Konner!” I shouted. “I know him from high school! He’s a schmuck!”

“It’s an even smaller world than I thought,” Zev said.

At 9 PM I drove up Riverside Drive and was the first person to arrive at Wes and Marla’s. Both of them gave me big hugs. Marla, as usual, was wearing next to nothing, and Wes had his hair slicked back.

He told me he got rid of the Stereotypes and is trying to start a trio; I met his bassist, and they’re looking for a drummer.

Marla’s fellow waitresses from Demetrios were there; like her, they’re all trying to break into acting. I spoke with the only people I knew there – Wes’s friends from Vassar, Lenny and Ed Adler (who’s now working at HBO) – and eventually I started coming out of my shell.

Some of Wes’s friends are very nice. I particularly like Jack, who does prop work at NBC, and his girlfriend Peggy. Some people were arty punk types, and I enjoyed talking with them, too.

I became aware of telling stories – mostly about my publicity ventures – and of enjoying the feeling of acting like a comedian. Earlier the Johnstons had asked me if I had ever considered a career as a performer. Maybe that’s one area I’ll have to force myself into.

I left the party at 11:30 PM and finally found a decent parking space around here. Teresa told me I could sleep with her in the bedroom, but I don’t want to disturb her. I don’t think I’ll sleep tonight in any case. But I’m just glad to be away from Rockaway tonight.

Friday, August 8, 1980

10 PM. This has been one of the most difficult days, but I hope that the worst is past. I really did have a good time at Wes and Marla’s party last night. I came out of myself and my stupid problems, and for once I started to enjoy life.

At 1 AM, I was so uncomfortably hot that I sneaked into Teresa’s bedroom and lay on the floor so as not to disturb her. But after about an hour, I got uncomfortable and made my way into the bed.

I’ve always loved Teresa’s bedroom with its warm colors, and I felt very secure there last night. The air conditioner was on full blast, and it was very refreshing; I had forgotten how nice it could be to sleep in an air-conditioned room.

And I enjoyed being in bed with another person. Although I stayed awake for hours, when I did fall asleep I had the most terrific dreams.

When Teresa woke up at 5 AM to go to work, we mumbled some conversation at each other; after telling her to take $5 out of my wallet in the living room to take a taxi to Penn Station, I soon fell back asleep.

I awoke at 9 AM, showered, had some cereal, and straightened up the apartment. I called Avis, who invited me to come to dinner with them and her sister and brother-in-law tonight.

She said that Marsha is going to sing at the wedding after all and that her new father-in-law was very rough on her and Anthony for not having a traditional wedding, yet he thought Marsha’s singing was a good idea.

Jan came into the apartment at about 11 AM after, I suppose, she and Ross were lazing around Karen’s cool apartment. I phoned Alice to see if she wanted to go with me to see Janice, but Alice was sick with a very bad cold.

I drove Ross and Jan to the Sheraton Centre, where their aunt was staying, and the car began acting oddly: the steering wheel tightened up and the temperature recorded “very hot,” so I figured I’d better not drive back to Rockaway quickly.

Of course it took quite a while: I don’t know if it was the arrival of the delegates and media for the Democratic Convention (“Welcome Delegates” signs were everywhere and TV cameras surrounded Madison Square Garden), but traffic was unbearable.

Also unbearable was the heat. Today was about the tenth 90° day in a row. I decided I’d better pay a visit to my grandparents, and when I got there, Grandma Ethel said she wanted to go to the doctor, so I volunteered to take her at 4 PM.

Back at my house, I discovered a mess in my apartment: four men, including the new super, were replacing my windows. I spent the two hours I had cleaning up after them and immersing myself in a quick shower.

Then I drove my grandparents to the doctor in Far Rockaway. He put Grandma Ethel on new medication and took blood to have tested for anemia and other diseases.

On the way back, the car started making a funny noise and there was a burning smell. After dropping my grandparents off, I went to take Grandma’s prescriptions to be filled.

But then I couldn’t stop the engine even after I took the key out of the ignition. I parked the car behind my grandparents’ building and called Grandpa to come down. (On his first day out since the hospital, he really got
a workout.)

While I’d gone to the lobby, the police had already come and they’d managed to shut the engine; the officers told us it was probably a busted water pump. The engine was hot, so we opened the hood for a few minutes.

I went to get my Comet, in Grandpa’s parking space, but found it had two flat tires! At that point, I was so disgusted I wanted to die; it seemed like my whole world was out of control.

After having dinner at their apartment, I called the AAA, waited as they changed one tire and pumped up the other one; then I got Grandma’s medicine and some groceries.

I felt exhausted and beaten down. I resented Marty and Arlyne for going away on vacation again and Mom for not doing anything.

When I got home, I called my parents and let out all my frustrations: How would I get to Avis’s wedding? How long would I have to go on taking care of my grandparents? Would I ever be able to have a life of my own?

Mom and Dad told me to think of myself first. I guess I’m lucky to have parents I can talk to, people who understand my frustrations. Dad said that I should go to the wedding and take Teresa up on her offer to spend the weekend in Fire Island.

Mom said she knows that all of this pain and hardship will make me grow and that I’ll understand life better and be a better writer for it. So I called up Avis and made arrangements to meet Ellen and Wade in Brooklyn and go to the UN Chapel with them and go to Fire Island with Teresa afterwards.

Something else may have happened, but I want to save it for next time.

Sunday, August 10, 1980

10 PM. For eleven years I’ve been using my writing in this diary to articulate life. How do I describe the last two days? I’ve been to Fire Island and back, and so much has happened. Avis is married. Janice is dead. Does any of it make sense?

Kurt Nimmo of The Smudge says he wants to publish “If Pain Persists,” maybe as a chapbook, and asks me how I can write about life so well.

Well, I have to start somewhere, so let’s be chronological: that’s one way to handle chaos. On Saturday morning I woke up early, got dressed, and took the bus into Brooklyn.

On the way, I stopped at the post office: Touro has given me four classes after all, and that means I’m going to have $8,600 income this year at least – that is, if they ever pay me.

When I arrived at Avis’s parents’ place in Sheepshead Bay, Ellen answered the door. She’s large for her sixth month, and I suspect she’s carrying twins.

While Wade was in the shower, I helped Ellen button her dress. She got a full-time job at UVa and Wade hopes to finish his dissertation soon. On the dive to Manhattan, the McAllisters urged me to write the English Department in Charlottesville, as they’re starting an MFA program.

I like Ellen and Wade and hope Anthony and Avis have as good a marriage as they do. Wade said that his mother-in-law finally got what she wanted: both daughters married off and a grandchild on the way.

For them, the UN Chapel was a rerun of their own wedding. When Wade and I went to the men’s room to fix up, we found Justin and Ari there.

Wade told us that just before his wedding, Ellen’s mother took her into the bathroom and said, “Just two things: stop taking The Pill and don’t forget you’re a Jew.” (Ellen’s reply: “Mother, you talking like that makes it impossible for me to forget.”)

In the chapel, I hugged Avis, who looked pretty in a white gauze dress, and shook hands with Anthony, who wore a white tunic and white slacks. Avis said she wished it were over already while Anthony seemed his usual calm self.

Marsha and the guitarist were there, and so were Roberta and Ruth from Avis’s office, and Rita and Jacob, who are moving to Atlanta this week.

Avis’s parents told me they’re going down to Florida to take title of their condo, and her mother said she’d call Mom while she’s there.

Anthony’s parents were a small, elderly couple. Also there were Anthony’s sharp sister and brother-in-law and several of his friends, all dressed casually.

Finally, the Unitarian minister called the service to order, and I sat in the front pew between Avis’s mother and Teresa. Avis and Anthony stood directly in front of us as Jacob took photos.

The minister welcomed us on behalf of the bridal couple and said it was “a celebration of life.” The ceremony was simply written, with their fairly traditional vows that began: “I, Avis, want you, Anthony, for my husband.”

Then Marsha sang “The Wedding Song” and the minister recited a prayer from the Sikh religion (he pronounced it “sick”) about the rounds of marriage and some slave god.

There were hugs and kisses all around, and Teresa arranged some photos for Jacob to take. Outside, on UN Plaza, some old drunk was kibitzing in a weird voice.

Teresa and I wished Avis and Anthony well – they’re going camping for a few days – and went out to T.G.I. Friday’s for lunch with Justin and Ari since we weren’t invited to the family celebration.

The wedding seemed a bit incomplete with them providing us with no food or drink, we decided, but the ceremony was sweet. During our nice meal at the restaurant, Justin and Ari told us about their new roommate, Avis’s replacement, and we talked about the theater; we even toasted the bride and groom with our bloody marys.

Justin asked me about this and that; Teresa said afterward that she liked him. I guess I still like Justin, too. Ari asked Teresa how Lance was doing since the two old roommates have lost touch.

We took a cab to Penn Station and took three trains – to Jamaica, to Babylon, and to Bay Shore; on each ride, Teresa flashed her employee card, and I looked enough like her husband to ride for free. For Teresa, it was a “busman’s holiday” as she proudly showed me things about the LIRR that only an executive would know.

She told me that on Friday night she went to a pre-Convention party at Les Mouches and then her friend took her to Madison Square Garden, where she got up on the podium in the empty arena and made a mock nominating speech.

Teresa said all her friends like me; Ross even volunteered to give me psychoanalysis through the mail.

At Bay Shore, we grabbed a cab to the ferry to Kismet that was due at 6 PM.

Off the boat came Teresa’s parents and Grandma Agnes, who had spent the week enjoying themselves on Fire Island. It was nice to meet them all, but they had to run to get to dinner at Teresa’s other grandmother’s, and we just made the ferry.

It was a breezy ride, very pretty, and Teresa’s hair – soft-permed and long – was swept by the wind. I was a little nervous on the ferry, but I soon got over that and I found riding on top exhilarating. I felt, as we pulled up on shore, that I was having a little adventure.

Zev, Barbara and Bea (the California woman who’s taken over Jan’s old apartment) were all in the shower together when we arrived; they did it to freak Teresa out. It was fun: they were all stoned and very funny.

Teresa and I changed, went out to the beach and then to visit her friend Judy. Teresa’s place is right on the dock and right next to The Out, a disco (which is right next to The Inn – get it?); Teresa explained the mating rites of Fire Island to me.

We had hibachi-cooked burgers for dinner and then sat out on the porch watching an exquisite rose-colored sunset. I took out my lenses and enjoyed walking around Kismet half-blind, feeling that people couldn’t see me because I couldn’t see them.

Teresa felt sleepy, and so did I, so we went to bed just as things began hopping around 11 PM; the others went out to a party. I slept well on the highriser. (There were four beds, and Teresa slept with Zev; “You’re both my guests, so I have to sleep with one of you,” she said, not meaning it that way).

Despite the din of the disco and my usual discomfort when I’m not in my own bed, I slept okay and had vivid dreams.

I dreamed about watching a missile being launched and then almost immediately crashing back to earth. Had Zev not had to leave early in the morning – he was on call at the Bronx VA Hospital – I’m certain he would have analyzed it for me.

Morning was gorgeous. I got the paper and an Entenmann’s coffee cake, and Bea and I made scrambled eggs. There’s no privacy on Fire Island – someone even peeked in while I was showering – but I enjoyed myself.

Our day guests began arriving early: Bea’s friend Chris (very cute); Bob and Camille, who are friends of Deirdre and Stan (Bob’s been fooling around with both Deirdre and Diana); and Teresa’s sister and brother-in-law, just back from a week’s honeymoon on Cape Cod.

All of us went to the beach and spent a relaxed afternoon sunning ourselves and splashing in the water.

Barbara has lost weight, too much to continue as a “large” model, so she’s now going to work for Eileen Ford. She said she’s been made a partner at her show-biz management firm and she told me a story about being abused by a nasty Sylvia Syms.

Joe, one of many men on Fire Island who’ve been rebuffed by Barbara this summer, came over and played a tape of Frank Sinatra songs that almost cleared the beach as people wanted to flee.

I got very sunburned. Back at the house, Teresa’s new brother-in-law barbecued us some dinner and we had a relaxed meal on the porch. “I could die here,” Bob remarked. It was a perfect summer Sunday.

Barbara and I caught the 4:30 PM ferry, a cab, and the 5:35 LIRR train to Jamaica. I liked traveling with Barbara, both because she’s nice and because I liked being seen with such a beautiful woman.

At Jamaica, I transferred to the Far Rockaway line, and from Far Rock I got the subway to Beach 116th Street, getting home at 8 PM. Gary called, telling me his Jewish divorce will be tomorrow, but he feels confident he can handle it alone.

Grandpa Herb then called: Grandma Ethel is still ill, St. Peter’s College called, and we’ll fix his car tomorrow. I spoke to my parents, and then a strange voice phoned. It was Alice with a terrible case of laryngitis.

“Janice died,” she said.

It happened on Friday night at 9 PM. Alan had just called Alice to tell her right before she called me, and Alice was a mess even though the reality of it hadn’t sunk in yet.

I told Alice that part of me is glad that Janice isn’t suffering anymore. I’m sort of relieved that the car’s breaking down on Friday prevented me from seeing her then. At the end, the only person she wanted to be there was her brother-in-law Sonny anyway; Janice didn’t want her mother, sister or Ingrid to see her die.

Six nights ago Janice and I were playing that “Pig’s Pen” game she taught me. When I left, I told her I was going for coffee, and I never came back.

The funeral is Tuesday.

Okay, so what does it all mean?