A 30-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Mid-February, 1982


Thursday, February 11, 1982

10 PM. Alone at last. It’s a luxurious feeling to be by myself in my own apartment again. I put Crad on the plane to Toronto at 3:30 PM.

Since early morning, Crad had been nervous about his flight and kept looking at his watch. Crad’s visit was an interesting adjustment for both of us.

We’re still friends, so the visit must be viewed as a success.

After leaving the airport, I went by my credit union and took out a loan for $500; they’ve given me a $1,000 credit line, so I can borrow another $500 if I have to. It’s nice to have the luxury of credit, though I must be sure not to misuse the privilege.

More and more, I think I will do the South Florida stories as a Rainbow Books book; it will save me time, and time is precious now.

Last night, in a burst of energy, I cleaned the bathroom and my bedroom, answered all my mail, and applied to the Montalvo Arts Center in California.

My 9:30 AM class was bored as I read them Crad’s stories. They’re nice kids but dead from the neck up. Like Jacqui and Patrick and just about all the faculty, the students love conformity and can’t stand the idea of standing out for any reason.

I think this coming generation will produce no leaders, just followers. Certainly they cannot reason, read, or write; I feel sorry for them, but then, they probably pity me for being so “weird.”

It’s a shame they’ve been cheated out of a good education because they – some of them, anyway – could have been geniuses.

(Boy, right now I’m writing as badly as they do; it must be the result of reading so many of their illiterate papers.)

I subbed for Rosemary Lanshe, getting paid about $12 for taking her class to the library. Then Maxine came by to tell me she was dropping my class because of the pressure of too many courses. I don’t know if that was the real reason or not, but I’m relieved she’s gone.

Sean also dropped by my office to ask me about his grade on the library test (he got100%); I wish I could tell if he really liked me, for I do like him.

The 101 class went okay, but they were fairly lifeless, too. Patrick said that BCC has advertised six openings in the English Department in the latest Chronicle of Higher Education.

I’ve changed my mind and decided to apply for the job. The worst that can happen is that a grueling interview will eliminate me and then I’ll definitely be eligible for unemployment insurance (and because of the recession, benefits should be extended).

When I called Zita Arocha at the Herald, I was told she was out sick, but Renee Krause of the Sun-Tattler phoned and thanked me for the things I’ve been sending her and just to see what as up.

I phoned Brad at his grandmother’s South Miami Beach hotel and we arranged for me to pick him up at noon on Saturday. I told him I’d see him only if he wasn’t sarcastic and critical of my life; Brad said he never dreamed he acted that way. Huh, as Miriam would say.

I’m sure we’ll have only a tolerable time. It ain’t the summer of 1969 in Brooklyn but the winter of 1982 in South Florida. And I ain’t 18 and Brad ain’t 23.

Saturday, February 13, 1982

8 PM. It was strange seeing Brad today.

Our relationship spans so many years from that depressing day in 1969 after the moon landing when I answered his ad in The East Village Other.

We really have not spent many times together, so it’s quite amazing that we’ve never lost touch. I did want to look nice for him today, the same way I want to look nice for Ronna when I see her.

It was a hot, hazy day, and I headed south via the Turnpike and I-95 and cut across I-195 to Miami Beach.

Sometimes I’m amazed that I live in a place other than Brooklyn and that I can be so familiar with South Florida roads – or even that I know my way around Uptown New Orleans.

Brad’s grandmother has a hotel room on South Beach, at a place just across the Bass Museum and their pretentious sign which spells the U’s in “museum” as V’s.

His grandmother answered the door; she was a tiny, elderly, typical Miami Beach Jewish grandmother. It’s like Brad that in all these years never did he mention that his grandmother was a Jew; I’d always assumed she was a German Catholic.

When Brad greeted me, he was clearly stunned by my appearance, and it made me uncomfortable because he kept staring at me. He told me I was “1,000% better-looking” than I was the last time I saw him; I’d forgotten that he’d never seen me with a beard or without glasses.

When we walked downstairs and out to the porch where the old people sit all day, he told me he wanted to have lunch. Since he was sick of seeing so many elderly people, I took him to CocoPlum in the Grove and we sat at a very un-private table surrounded by beautiful young gay men.

Brad expressed concern over my future, but in all the years I’ve known him, he never did understand what it is that I want.

How did he look? Younger than 35, of course, but also tired and a bit dissipated. He was pale and had a stye and was still pitifully thin, even though he said he was attempting to lose ten pounds.

Brad can’t stand warm weather and was very uncomfortable the past few days. His sister from Boston was visiting with her fiancé, another Gillette executive. Last year she divorced her first husband (“a twerp,” Brad said) and her new guy is in the process of getting a divorce.

The big news of the day was that Brad has finally decided to join the priesthood. He’s applied to the Marist order (and also to the Diocese of Brooklyn as a backup), has gone through preliminary interviews and hopes to have an answer from them by the end of March.

I suppose Brad was shocked that I wasn’t shocked – but somehow it seems logical, given Brad’s desires.

He’s been teaching CPR freelance, but he’s obviously been restless since coming out of the detox program. (I noted he had a glass of burgundy with his hamburger).

Since Danny broke up with him, Brad has been a mess. He loved Danny, and though he knew it wouldn’t go on forever, he wasn’t prepared for the call from Danny on his first Thanksgiving home from Dartmouth when Danny told Brad he never wanted to see him again.

There’s been no contact ever since then.

Brad says he was impotent for two years after the breakup; finally, one morning he woke up with an erection, but I don’t think he’s had much of a love life lately.

Sex with Danny was terrific, Brad reported. That brought us to our own relationship.

After reading my story about him in Beyond Baroque, Brad said that for the first time he was glad that we never had sex. He told me that I was the only person who wouldn’t go to bed with him after he’d asked, and he never quite understood why.

But now he sees that if we had become lovers, “we would have burned out in six weeks.”

Brad also said that he loved me from the first day he met me. Obviously it wasn’t sexual: “You were a pretty homely kid,” Brad said. “No, it was your solitude, fierce pride, and the way you blushed that made me love you.”

(That sounds like the weird kind of thing people are always telling Anaïs Nin in her diaries.)

After leaving Coconut Grove, I drove us to the Omni and we sat at a table for another hour, talking some more.

Brad’s been active in Dignity, the Catholic gay organization, and has a wonderful gay priest as his father confessor; the man won’t let Brad confess to the sin of masturbation “because at most it’s a sin of narcissism,” but Brad said he still feels guilty about it.

He will remain true to a vow of celibacy; I think it would be a relief for him.

Back by his grandmother’s hotel in Miami Beach, I said I wanted to walk to the beach. Just as we reached the beach, it started raining like hell. We ran back the three blocks to my car, but we got drenched and we collapsed laughing and soaking wet. It was fun.

During a lull in the storm, we went upstairs and I stripped down to my shorts as Brad tried to straighten out his hair with a blow dryer.

Brad told me he thought the only thing I needed to do to be gorgeous was to lose 25 pounds, but I didn’t feel bad about that.

I know that I weigh what I do precisely because I’m afraid I’ll be forced to be more sexual if I look really good. I’ve never been comfortable with any kind of sexuality.

I do want to be more active, but I feel so inexperienced and I’m afraid I’ll be thought foolish and incompetent. What I need is someone patient and general – and most importantly, someone whom I’m attracted to (not necessarily someone I love).

I’m definitely not attracted to Brad, though; neither of us is the other’s type.

I told him I wished him well. He gave me $5 and I autographed a copy of Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog for him. We shook hands; I couldn’t hug or kiss him, but that’s my problem.

Driving up Collins Avenue, wearing only a pair of running shorts, listening to The Prairie Home Companion on radio, I felt odd but happy.

I don’t know if Brad’s entering the priesthood (which will take five years of training before ordination) is based on genuine faith or is just an escape. He’s been hurt by life; I regret that I’ve never been able to help him much.

While Brad was in the bathroom, I stood in his grandmother’s one-room efficiency and noted a Jewish calendar on which every other day his grandmother had written, “I have to” – take some medication, I suppose.

There was a picture of David and Jonathan and some baloney about their friendship that made me smile.

What a life.

Back at home, Pete Cherches called and said he left the NYU Ph.D. program because of his involvement in Zone; other stuff caused him to drop courses, for which they took away his fellowship. He’s glad to be finished with academia but needs some freelance jobs so he can support himself.

Monday, February 15, 1982

1 PM. Yesterday was that “do-nothing” day I had been waiting for; I stayed in bed and read the papers and watched TV. I didn’t even make any phone calls. It was a dark, cloudy day, a perfect day to hide out.

This morning I fasted and retook my blood test. Along with my referral for the specialist, I also got the results of the first blood test.

The triglycerides were high and I had a cholesterol count of 212, but everything else was normal: no sugar in the urine, all else within normal limits except for a slightly higher CO2. I hope it was due to my meal of a hamburger and coke just before the blood test. We shall see.

I went to the Miami Herald Broward editorial board office, but only one man interviewed me and he had no sense of humor, so it was kind of a drag.

In the outer office, I met Art Lazear, my opponent for the Town Council, an earnest, likable, civic-minded and dull man.

The other politicians there from other cities you could spot a mile away. Even though some were my age, they looked old enough to be my father and oh-so-serious in their suits and with their bald hair, tortoise-shell glasses and briefcases.

The editor tried to make me feel as if I had no right to run. “Why should people vote for you?” he asked.

“They shouldn’t,” I said. “I don’t presume to tell people whom to vote for.”

I talked about the idiocy of having 29 cities in Broward and he seemed to agree with me but said it wasn’t a popular issue to run on. As if I cared! The old “can’t see the forest for the trees” cliché came to mind.

Damn it. I guess I still have that “fierce pride” that Brad talked about the other day, the same one he said I had as an 18-year-old.

Yeah, I demand that I be treated like everyone else. I have a perfect legal right to run for Davie Town Council, and if I get nobody’s vote but my own, it doesn’t matter.

I guess I’m making a fool of myself while trying to make a point. “Why are you running?” the Miami Herald editor asked me.

“Raw naked ambition,” I replied, and he did not crack a smile but instead admonished me:

“Be serious.”

As if no one else is running because he’s ambitious!

Well, after that experience, I sent back my answers to the Fort Lauderdale News/Sun-Sentinel’s West editorial board and said I didn’t want to waste their time at an interview.

Perhaps I made a mistake in running – but I’ll never believe that I don’t have a right to run. There are people all over the place who want to deny me my manhood – because I’m Jewish or gay or just because they don’t agree with my views.

I guess I sound pretty humorless now, but I’m never going to let anyone deny me my rights, whatever they may think of me.

Now I still have those papers to grade; it’s about three hours’ work, and I have to get to it today.

On Saturday night I called Kevin, who seemed upset by the Publishers Weekly interview with George Braziller, who said he does only an 850-print run of literary books. Kevin is beginning to realize that White Ewe Press better start doing some commercial books in order to make money.

I think Kevin’s hopes for my book are greater than mine and that he’s going to be more disappointed than I will when the book doesn’t sell. John Elsberg’s book hasn’t been reviewed yet, Kevin said.

Tuesday, February 16, 1982

8 PM. Last evening I went out to the Broward Mall to eat dinner and to see Making Love. At $1.75, the before-6 PM price, it was quite a bargain.

I was anxious to see how the movie dealt with the theme of a married man leaving his wife for another man. It was basically sentimental shit, but I like sentimental shit.

Although to most gays, the film would probably be simplistic and perhaps reactionary, I think it’s important to give this movie some business so that more (and more innovative) gay films can be made in Hollywood.

The guys in the movie – especially Harry Hamlin – were masculine, but you could tell, if you looked hard, that they were gay, and I think the best scenes were when the two men feel each other out: those moments rang true.

I was pleased to see a large audience, and although there was some tittering and remarks during the male love scene, I was surprised at how calmly the audience took it.

I remember how shocked the audiences seemed to be when Peter Finch and Murray Head kissed in Sunday, Bloody Sunday a decade ago. (I think I saw that film seven times.)

Making Love was also more about having an exclusive gay relationship versus being promiscuous and solitary. Even though the film’s viewpoint is definitely pro-monogamy, I have to admit that I identified a lot more with the attitude of the gay novelist played by Hamlin.

On Saturday I asked Brad why being in love with someone meant you wanted to live with him and he replied, “If you don’t know, I can’t explain it to you.”

Perhaps oddly, the film made me think of Ronna. She’s the one person I really loved. Although I had a much more passionate affair – and a terrible breakup – with Shelli, I hardly ever think about Shelli and I can’t remember the feeling of loving her.

I came home last night and thought about Ronna, Brad, my sexuality, and also about Sean. He was in the lobby reading his child psychology text when I walked in this morning.

I had mentioned to my class that they could look me up in the 1979 New York Times Index, and Sean said “You ran for Vice-President.” I told him a little about my publicity stunts, but I felt so foolish.

He is very young: he looks like a little boy, yet he seems jaded. I’m certain he’s much more sexually experienced than I.

I feel shy with him because I don’t know if he could view me – overweight, 30 years old, not terribly attractive – in a sexual way. I would love to have some way to break the ice, but I just don’t know how.

Should I ask him to go to lunch with me? I’m too scared of rejection. Obviously he has some interest me. He seems to seek me out and took the time to go to the library and look me up in a reference book.

Shit, I shouldn’t act like a schoolgirl.

I taught my lit class (badly), and then went for an interview at the Western News; I’m certain the resulting story will be a mess, for their reporter is incompetent.

After I had my 101 class go to the library, I attended a long, boring English department meeting before heading to the otolaryngologist in Hollywood.

He suggested I may have vestibular neuronitis (a diagnosis the doctor at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary also considered) and I’ve got to go to an audiologist for an ENG to evaluate my dizziness.

Tired after a long day, I came home an hour ago. I did manage to catch up on my marking today, and I read the Voice, PW, Writer’s Digest and the local paper.

Zephyr Press sent me a flyer in which they announced my story collection as their next book. Also, Miriam sent me a Valentine, I got a letter from Rick, and the University of Minnesota rejected me for their job opening.

Wednesday, February 17, 1982

4 PM. I’m rather tired, but I’m subbing for Rosa in her lit class tonight; the $30 or so I can get will come in handy.

It’s a muggy, wet day, and I’ve got a sinus headache. Last night I had an hour-long chat with Ronna; she said she enjoyed the talk as much as I did, though we didn’t go over any earthshaking matters.

Ronna is still very dear to me, and I can confide in her about things like my feelings for Sean. Everything is status quo with her, but it was good to hear her voice.

Mikey phoned to ask if March 25-28 was a good weekend for him and Larry to visit; I said fine. It will be fun to have them here for a short time.

I slept fitfully and was wide awake at 7 AM. At school an hour early, I read the newspapers and answered my mail. I had two lessons on sentence structure in my 100 classes and let my 101 class go to the library so I could leave early for the meeting of the South Florida Book Group.

In a letter, Betty Wright of Rainbow Books answered my questions to my satisfaction, but she said the book would probably take three months to do. That means more than four months, and I wouldn’t have the book until late June, when I leave for New York and Chicago.

I wrote Betty that we’d probably better postpone the book until the fall, if at all; I won’t go ahead unless she can guarantee a delivery date. It’s stupid to spend so much money on a project if it can’t be done right.

I’m anxious to do the South Florida book, but I’ve got Dog to promote, and Zephyr Press does seem to be serious about doing my book. I can’t do everything at once or I’ll make myself sick. And I don’t need the ego-satisfaction of publication for publication’s sake.

The Book Group met in the Broward Federal Savings building in Sunrise. The chairman, Nedda Anders, is a typical Jewish-chairlady type, as is the secretary, Lee Hamilton.

I was excited to meet Tom McHale, whose Farragan’s Retreat I really liked when it came out while I was in college. (It was a big deal back then: we got it in a Literary Guild edition.)

I told Tom how much I admired his writing and even quoted a great line from his book I still remember. (Ivan Gold creamed his new novel Dear Friends in Sunday’s Times Book Review.)

Rosemary Jones was at the meeting, and some elderly Jewish couple who write kids’ books, and various other unmemorable people as well as Myra Gross, a sharp-looking literary agent.

Bill Robertson, the Herald book editor, was the guest. There was much superficial chatter and the usual haggling over who ordered what for lunch. But I enjoyed Robertson’s informal talk after we ate.

He took questions and I guess I asked half of them, sounding him out to learn his feelings about reviewing, publishing, literary fiction, etc. I guess I sounded intelligent or at least well-informed, for it seemed to impress him.

I understand his problem: He has limited space and has to review the literary books he thinks are worthwhile. As he said in response to my question, very few people read the book page now.

I couldn’t expect him to review my book even if I am a local author. Nor can I expect a review from anyone else.

My expectations for the new book are nil; I don’t believe anyone could sell it. I would just like to see Kevin not lose too much money. No one ever asked me to be a writer.