A Young Writer’s Diary Entries From Late July, 1983


Thursday, July 21, 1983

5 PM. I’m relaxing after a heavy workout for which I seemed to have lots of energy; in this heat, that’s surprising.

The Bodyworks membership over this past year was definitely worth the money I paid for it, and I intend to find a similar health club in North Dade. Even Phyllis has begun to work out at Bodyworks.

This morning I waited for two hours at Freddy’s Mobil station while some pretty kid attempted to replace my hose. It cost just $10, but now the air conditioner seems to blow only hot air. It’s truly miserable to drive around like that in this heat.

Gary called at midnight – I remember this now – but I was already asleep and asked if I could call him back. He said all was well with his job at Citicorp.

This morning I taught my class, finishing A Doll’s House; tomorrow we’ve got an in-class writing assignment and I hope to have time to mark the evening class’s papers while the day students are doing their essays.

Well, in two weeks, I’ll be finished with Broward Community College – or is that vice versa?

Full-time employment for two years brought me a bit of self-confidence (once I didn’t think I could do it), a steady income, a good credit rating, one or two friendships, my love affair with Sean, and some interesting experiences – including finally being able, for the first time, to teach creative writing.

Of course, it also brought me lots of headaches and frustrations, but on the whole, I think I got a decent bargain.

Would I like the security of knowing I’d be back next year? In a way, it would make life simpler: at least I know I could pay my bills.

But I’m not sorry I’m leaving. I can’t learn any more at BCC, which is such a conservative place, and with the Gordon Rule, I’d be miserable if I had little to do but mark papers. I had to take this risk. And it sure seems like a cold-feeling-in-the-pit-of-my-stomach risk right now.

I have no idea how I’m going to get through the next year. Will I have the security to enable me to write? Will I discover that I can’t write, despite all the time I’ve had, and that perhaps my career as a writer is really over before it’s begun?

Will I like the University of Miami and my new apartment in North Miami Beach? Will I succumb to depression the way I did so often in Rockaway? Will I meet someone I can love? For these and other answers, stay tuned. . .

Rochelle Ratner called from her farm upstate. She asked me to do a piece for American Book Review on freshman comp textbooks – something I can probably have fun with. The deadline isn’t till January, so I’ll have time.

I saw Marc at school today, and he said that in two weeks he’s driving to New York; a part of me wishes I were going there, too.

It’s this awful heat. Of course, there’s a heat wave up North right now as well. But I am finding Florida summers as oppressive as I found Northern winters.

Friday, July 22, 1983

3 PM. I’ve still got a dozen papers to grade before class tonight – and I really have no idea what I’m going to teach.

I just can’t seem to find enough time to breathe. After this weekend, I won’t have that many papers to grade, however.

Dad said he’d bring his station wagon over and we could take lots of cartons to the new apartment this weekend. If only it weren’t so hot.

I got an electric bill for $100, but if I didn’t run the air conditioner, I don’t think I could survive here. With no air-conditioning in the car, it’s difficult enough. I feel as though I’ve got a real hard year ahead of me.

Last night I called Alice and left a message (naturally) with my new address and phone number.

Next, I called Mikey and spoke with Amy – Mikey was at Macy’s, she said – and I felt cheered by our talk. I really like her. She and Mikey are taking a two-week vacation on Fire Island starting this weekend.

My next call was to Ronna, who was busy cutting up broccoli for a party she and Lori are throwing tonight.

Ronna was also busy with her cousin’s wedding, and now she’s trying to find a job again: answering ads, writing letters, “networking.” I also gave her my new address and phone.

For the rest of the evening I read Carol Tavris’ Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion, which argues that ventilating your anger makes you feel worse rather than better, as commonly supposed.

I slept well, and this morning at the office, I xeroxed like mad. I had to copy some of my nonfiction to send to Marilyn Mower at the University of Miami’s public affairs office. I had applied for a job there and she wanted to see some of my stuff.

Although I’m sure I won’t get the job, I feel I’d prefer it to going to grad school and teaching. For a change, I’d like to work in an office, doing P.R. – it sounds exciting and pays more than I’m currently making at BCC.

Lisa told me she considered not going to Virginia for the interview at Northern Virginia Community College and instead just accepting the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization job offer, but she’ll probably fly to D.C. tomorrow. I’ll take over her classes while she’s gone.

Lisa said that maybe she needs to do something other than than teach. Sometimes I think that I, too, would like a change from teaching. I’d like to try a 9-to-5 office job, anyway.

Tom Whalen wrote that Rick Peabody tentatively agreed to my suggestion that he take “The Enchanted Forest” for Fiction/84. Tom’s still translating Walser – he enclosed a nifty, weird piece he just translated – and he, too, is worried about Crad.

I got a call from Ruth Pine of the Broward Jewish Journal. (She formerly worked at the Sunrise JCC. I know her new boss is unhappy with her because Lisa had an interview for Ruth’s job.)

Ruth asked if I’d be one of the speakers at their Jewish Book Luncheon on November 14. We tentatively made a deal; there’s no honorarium, “but you get a chance to sell your books.”

As expected, I was turned down for that $2,000 loan. With credit card bills piling up, and my only income the next two (final) BCC checks, I’ve been sending in only the minimum payments.

I’m scared, but I suppose I’ll survive. As usual, I see just enough progress – the calls from Ruth Pine, Rochelle Ratner and Marilyn Mower, say – to keep me from falling into despair.


10 PM. One thing about working on Friday nights: it makes it much better when my class is over. I really feel relaxed right now.

We had a good class on The Glass Menagerie; the students responded well to the play.

Also, I sold a copy of I Brake for Delmore Schwartz to Ben, my creative writing student from last term, who’s now in Lisa’s lit class.

Marilyn Mower of UM’s Public Affairs Department called again, and I’ve got a Tuesday 1:30 PM appointment to see her.

This job would end my financial worries but give me little time to write or play. However, I might enjoy the work so much that it could be worth it.

In a burst of energy this afternoon, not only did I get all my grading and reading done, but I also did a lot of packing.

It’s funny how my feelings toward Clay have changed. I still see him as a very cute, very nice guy – oddly, he’s even more terrific than I originally thought: much stronger and spunkier – but now I see that my crush on him was just a silly fantasy.

Sunday, July 24, 1983

6 PM. Ed Hogan called at 10 PM last night. Susan had come in from New Hampshire and they were doing Zephyr Press work.

Ed was glad that I learned that Baker & Taylor/Bookslinger were listing the book as out of print when they really meant out of stock. He fixed the situation and said the new hardcovers will be ready August 15 or so.

Ed also gave me instructions on going around to local bookstores and said he’d send 20 copies my way for that purpose.

He asked me to prepare a list of New York bookstores because right now he has no idea which bookstores have the book.

Ivan Gold is still writing the review, apparently, but I don’t have much hope for its appearance in the Times. I feel altogether less optimistic than I did last Monday, when for a moment it seemed I had gone on to a new plateau.

The article in the Athens paper that Christine saw didn’t trigger any great response; I couldn’t even find it.

I now I feel sure I’m not going to get the Juniata College job. Nor will I win the $1,000 Hemingway Days Short Story Contest – the winner will be announced in Key West tonight. I won’t get the $5,000 GE/CCLM Fellowship, either.

I feel very tired.

I worked till 1 AM, going over all my Publishers Weeklys before throwing them out; I came up with about a dozen bookstores in Florida and/or reviewers whom I notified about I Brake.

Unable to fall asleep until 4 AM, I had fitful dreams when I finally dropped off. In one dream, I’d applied for a job at a college, and the professor in charge of hiring returned my writing sample, one of my books, all marked up with corrections and comments – as if it were a freshman English paper.

After all my years of teaching college, after all my publications, I don’t think I’m going to like being just another English Ph.D. student at Miami.

Despite my late night, I got up at 8:30 AM, read the paper, and was the first person there when Bodyworks opened at 10 AM.

After a not-so-hot workout, I came home and relaxed a little before Dad got here at 12:45 PM.

First, we had to empty his station wagon and then we got all the boxes in: mostly books and papers, some linens, and kitchen and bathroom supplies. It was very hard work taking them upstairs to my apartment in North Miami Beach in the oppressive heat and humidity.

Dad thought the apartment was more cheerful than my present one. A lot of Cubans seem to live at the complex, but that’s Miami for you. Mrs. Baron was out at the pool, so I feel she keeps a good watch on the place.

We got back here at 3:30 PM, and I felt really exhausted, but I was also hungry, so I went out to get some pizza from my ex-student Ralph Caruso, who’d just come back from Long Island; he seems to want to go back there to live again. A lot of people move to Florida and then go back home after a few years.

The heat was so dreadful today, there was a report – it seemed incredible – of a 98° reading in Miami. That would be about the hottest it’s ever been in the city.

Right now I’ve got a bad headache, and I stupidly sent all my Tylenol to the new apartment. It’s going to be hard to adjust to living in a new environment.

Although I finished marking all the day class’s papers, tomorrow I’ve got to grade 20 evening papers. And I’ve got to be at school early to substitute for Lisa.

Tuesday should be equally arduous, with my UM public relations interview scheduled for 1:30 PM. Things should slacken off by Thursday, but I’ve got tons of stuff – including the couch and all my clothing – to bring to Miami.

I wish it were already August 4, that the term at BCC was over, and that I was already settled in my new apartment.

Crad is right when he says moving is a trauma. I do hope Crad’s doing okay. I’ve never known him to sound so depressed in his letters. Hopefully, he’ll get off the street and into something more rewarding.

Wednesday, July 27, 1983

3:30 PM. I just got off the phone with my “running mate,” Christina, who called from Athens, Georgia.

She’s a woman after my own heart: very shrewd, quick, and publicity-wise. I think she’ll probably have some fun running for Vice President.

I had some fun today myself: At 6 AM, I heard myself interviewed on WINZ radio news, and an hour later I was called by WIOD for their 8 AM news. Then, at noon, I did a ten-minute interview on the Sandy Payton Show on WIOD; after I got off the air, a man called in and said I was a “classic comedian.”

It would certainly be more fun to be a media celebrity than to be working at UM, either as a teacher or in the public affairs office, but I can’t seem to figure out how to get my minor celebrity status to pay off.

Speaking of payoffs, BCC goofed on my paycheck and gave me over $113 more than they should have: apparently I was paid for 10.5 hours of subbing instead of 1.5 hours. In any case, I don’t intend to notify Payroll.

Lisa came back from Virginia, having decided to take the BBYO job.

(Interruption: Michael Ladd just called. He’s scheduled three “debates” between – among – Presidential hopefuls at his client malls the first weekend of October.)

The job at Northern Virginia Community College was at the Manassas campus, which is very rural and quite far from D.C., so Lisa feels she’d be isolated there.

Well, at least she got up to New York to visit her grandparents; she was in five different airports in three days. I’m glad Lisa isn’t going anywhere and that I’ll still have my friend here in South Florida.

Last night I was struggling with my usual insomnia and finally was falling asleep around 1 AM when the phone rang.

“Hello?” I asked, trying not to sound incoherent.

A raspy whisper: “I…want…to blow…you.” I hung up.

Two seconds later, ringy-dingy. The same whisper: “I…want…to blow…you.”

Deciding this was no one I was acquainted with, I said, “Yeah, well, we all want something,” hung up, and pulled the plug out.

(Luckily, I remembered to replug it in before morning.)

Weird. At first I thought it was funny, but I had two nightmares about a nutcase trying to break into my apartment after he followed me home, so I guess the calls stuck with me subconsciously.

Later, towards morning, I had a more pleasant dream: One of my students, Michael Gorovich (a smart kid with fascist tendencies; he was reading some anti-Trilateralist paranoia before class today), had come to stay with me.

In the dream, I found myself speaking with Ellen McAllister on lower Fifth Avenue. I told her I didn’t understand why he’d come.

“He’s in love with you,” Ellen explained, and I woke up with a lingering feeling of happiness.

I was deadly dull in class today, but you can’t shine all the time.

I finally got the Voice of America’s American Writing Today volumes – with the short story symposium Kostelanetz chaired three summers ago.

Last night I called Elihu, from whom I’d received a letter earlier in the day. He’d just come in from his course at the finance school.

Elihu sounded happy and is looking forward to his trip to Houston and New Orleans in the fall. He seems to live for his vacations, as I guess many people who work on Wall Street must.

I got a postcard from Josh, who’s enjoying London and on his way to Amsterdam.

Susan Mernit writes that her reviews are appearing all over the place but the novel is not moving.

Bobby Frauenglas tells me Somrie Press got not-for-profit status, and he’s meeting with some potential corporate donors.

I feel very sleepy now, too sleepy to teach for very long tonight. Maybe I’ll take tomorrow or Friday off. So much has to be done, I don’t know how I’ll manage.

Friday, July 29, 1983

4 PM. It’s raining heavily, as it has been sporadically since yesterday morning. To me, it’s delightful, as the showers have reduced the temperatures into the 70°s, cooler than it’s been in many weeks.

I slept wonderfully: I can’t recall when I had such a refreshing night. I think the thunder and lightning actually helped.

After many nourishing dreams, I didn’t get out of bed till 10:30 AM, when I went to Bodyworks for one of my last workouts before I move.

Last night I spoke to Teresa, who convinced me to take the UM P.R. job if it’s offered.

“Give yourself a chance to see if you’d like this,” Teresa said, and as she suggested, it could lead to a job in New York. Now that I’ve become enthusiastic about the job, I probably won’t get it.

Marilyn Mower didn’t call today, though perhaps she still will. In any case, I feel very fatalistic; I’ll go wherever events take me.

I’m not superstitious, but I do believe that in matters like these, things have a way of working out for the best – in the long run, anyway.

Teresa herself seems pretty depressed. The Commissioner wants her in Albany and seems ready to get into a “pissing match” with the Governor’s Appointments office over this.

Teresa feels Andrew Cuomo wants her in New York; otherwise, he would have put her in Albany originally, when she wanted to go there.

At this point, she’s not psychologically ready to move – especially when the Commissioner refuses to give her a specific job.

Teresa feels that she can’t do anything to change the situation, and I told her she’s probably right, and that she should look at it, not as inertia, but with an oriental kind of positive passivity.

This weekend she’ll be alone at Fire Island, and while she really doesn’t want to go, she thinks she’d be suicidal if she remained in Manhattan.

She is bothered about all these failures: with the job, her relationship with Howard, the problems with everyone in the house at the beach.

As Fair Harbor’s resident shrink Bill Breitbart told Teresa, she’s awfully hard on herself. I wish I was with her (and so does she, I’m happy to say).

In his latest letter, Crad sounds a bit more cheerful. He plans to stay on the street selling his books till the end of the year.

In January he’ll accept my invitation for a visit here. And then he’ll go back to Toronto and look for work.

The Canada Council rejection has really hurt him – especially since they didn’t even bother to check out his references.

Bill Kinsella feels that Crad should have sent Lightning Struck My Dick as an artistic sample rather than his latest self-published book, and I agree.

But the new book is getting good reader reaction, and all his years on the street haven’t been in vain, as orders trickle in. It’s like with me: you wear them down, little by little.

Lisa’s mother heard me on the radio last night, so they’re still running my interview on some of the stations. Today I did an interview with Mark of the Sun-Tattler.

And I relaxed in bed, enjoying the relief of a dark day: I watched soaps, read the papers, listened to music, and packed away more stuff.

Right now I feel fairly optimistic. Sooner or later, I’ll turn that corner.

Sunday, July 31, 1983

6 PM. This marks the end of fourteen years of diary-keeping.

The anniversary finds me in a strange situation: I’m not quite moved out of this apartment and not quite moved into the new one.

And my job ends Wednesday, so I’m really not quite in one world nor out of the other.

I just got back from the new apartment. So far, with Dad and by myself, I’ve brought lots of stuff over to there.

It now has most everything except some clothes, papers, bathroom stuff and my typewriter, so the place has started to feel like it’s mine.

It’s beginning to feel endless, the number of boxes I have.

If I weren’t a writer and didn’t have cartons of books and papers, moving would be a snap because I’m not really very acquisitive. My acquisitive nature seems to confine itself to words on the page.

Last evening I read some literary magazines and called Pete and Josh.

Pete is working steady now, so he can take off the whole month of October. He’ll be down here in Florida for a week and then he’s off to California, both San Francisco and L.A. (where he’ll read at Beyond Baroque).

There’s no word yet from the Fiction Collective on his manuscript, but Pete is the first writer/artist to be invited to work on a pilot project on videotex at NYU. From the way he describes it, that sounds like real fun.

Josh said his trip to Europe was wonderful. He didn’t do much sightseeing in London but concentrated on having fun with his host, his German friend Chris, with whom he traveled to Amsterdam.

It sounds glorious – but of course Josh will be brought back to reality when he has to punch in at work tomorrow.

Josh said his dog was acting very quiet and had lost weight in the kennel while he was gone.

He read me some crazy novel John Fahey sent excerpts from for the next issue of Grinning Idiot and he was pleased I got the Grinning Idiot Party in the papers.

I also phoned Teresa, but she was preparing a dinner for twelve people, so I said I’d call her another time.

Up early, I read the papers and found that Luis Buñuel had died. One of my favorite film directors, Buñuel never could stand sham or pretense.

I’ll never forget the effect The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie had on me when I saw it in 1972; I’d love to see it again.

It seems as though when I was in college, there were so many wonderful films around all the time – intelligent foreign films, particularly. What happened to them?

In the past weeks, I’ve thought of going to the movies, but I don’t want to see the junk that’s playing. They all seem like movies for kids: dumb sequels, mostly.

Like publishing, the film industry seems to have fallen into the blockbuster syndrome. I liked seeing John Sayles’ films in New York. And both Elihu and Teresa praised Woody Allen’s Zelig, which hasn’t opened here yet.

The past week was fairly hectic, and I expect this one will be the same. Undoubtedly there’ll be some unexpected trauma or new errand I have to do.

Patrick called me at the new place. He still hasn’t heard from South Campus about the full-time job there, and he did apply for Unemployment – he has to go back tomorrow.

I wonder if I’ll hear from Marilyn Mower again; perhaps I’ll have to come down to UM for another interview, but I doubt it.

I guess if I don’t hear from Juniata College this week about the writer-in-residence position, I’ll be staying in Miami and going to grad school – something I’m already adjusted to.

My skin has broken out worse than it’s been in years: I’ve got acne zits all over my forehead. It’s mostly from sweating so much, I think.

Although I feel very tired and a little depressed, at least I did get through the month of July.

After being back in South Florida for seven weeks, I miss New York terribly, but I’ve accepted the fact that I won’t be able to go back there until next summer – if then.

This coming year I may be so broke, I won’t be able to leave Florida at all in 1984. But I guess I’ll find out over my fifteenth year of diary-keeping, assuming I get through it.