A Young Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-November, 1984


Sunday, November 11, 1984

8 PM. I just got home from Mikey and Amy’s wedding half an hour ago. Up at 7:30 AM, I was out of the house by 8:45 AM to catch the 9:30 AM LIRR train to Roslyn.

Unfortunately, it was the last train till 11:30 AM, the time of the wedding, and even with the cab ride to the country club, I was an hour early. My cousin Scott got married at that place seven or eight years ago, I remember.

Luckily, Larry and Judy also arrived early, and they served coffee, tea and Danish to us early arrivals. I congratulated Judy on their engagement and praised her ring, which actually was quite beautiful.

Mikey and Larry’s other friends – Stuie and Ann, Jeff and Lillian, Steve and Robin – arrived soon, and they all know me from parties in Rockaway over the years. In fact, Lil said she was thrilled to see my photo in People.

The ceremony began at noon in a glass-enclosed room that made the howling storm outside seem even more fierce. Later, the rabbi said that Jewish folklore has it that rain on the day of a wedding means good fortune.

Amy’s parents – both sets – came down the aisle, followed by her sister, the only attendant, and Amy herself in a white strapless gown.

Mikey and his best man Wayne popped up from nowhere, it seemed to me, and he met Amy halfway and escorted her to the canopy.

The ceremony was a bit longer than usual because the rabbi explained stuff, like why the kiddush glass is broken (to make us aware, even in joy, that tragedy exists – I never knew that).

It was sort of sad to me that Mikey’s mom didn’t live to see him get married. His only relatives there were a couple of his cousins.

Mikey and Amy did fine with the formalities of the ceremony, and the storm seemed only to heighten the importance of the moment.

The cocktail hour was next, featuring terrific hors d’oeuvres, which I greedily gobbled up as I sat with the four couples.

Unfortunately, for the rest of the affair, I wasn’t seated with them but at a table with mostly Amy’s friends; I guess it was where they put the random singles.

I had some nice conversations with Steve, who works for American Express (I know a lot about that company from Gary) and with Mikey’s law school friend Marvin, who is counsel to the House Banking Committee in Washington.

Later, Marvin asked me how on earth I was so knowledgeable about banking; he said I talked like an “industry insider.”

All it is, of course, is reading the financial papers – but I do know my stuff and could rattle off names of people and institutions and explain the changes that are taking place in banking just as well as he could.

This may be vanity, but I’m proud of my knowledge of areas not usually understood by writer-types.

The band was great, and although I didn’t dance, I enjoyed watching the others.

Mikey and Amy danced every dance. About five little boys did some breakdancing, and there was the usual hora, with the usual two guys doing a Kazatska. Even Amy’s divorced parents danced together, which surprised her since they usually barely speak.

The meal was pretty good. I didn’t stuff myself, eating just a little of everything except stuffed derma. (Are there people who actually eat that?)

Tonight Mikey and Amy are staying at the InterContinental Hotel here in the city, and tomorrow morning they leave for a week at Little Bay in St. Marten.

As the wedding was ending at about 5 PM, unable to get a ride back to Manhattan, I went with Judy and Larry, who left me off at the Valley Stream LIRR station, opposite Green Acres and the office of a psychologist (Arlyne’s cousin) whom my parents once took me to.

Because I had just missed the train to Jamaica, I had to wait nearly an hour in the cold, desolate, rainy night.

I’m sniffling a lot now, but my sore throat is gone; I think I’m going through a very mild cold. There must be antibodies in my system from my last two colds.

Monday, November 12, 1984

3:30 PM. I’ll be off to The New School in a little while. John is supposed to meet with Bob and Rita to give them the lowdown on the new material he’ll cover tonight while we’re in our LOGO class, so I guess he’ll do the same for me at 5 PM, too.

It’s a cold, blustery day. The two months between now and my arrival in Florida may go slowly now that the weather has turned winter-like.

I’m glad I stayed in New York for the fall and I’m grateful for the opportunity Teresa gave me to live here. Teaching at John Jay and my computer classes at The New School have been good experiences, and I’ve had great times of intimacy with Ronna.

But I’ll definitely be ready for Florida in two months’ time. I’ve stayed in New York just long enough to get it out of my system.

Last night I slept heavily and had nourishing dreams, including one where I was being taken out on a date by this guy who thought it would be romantic if the orchestra played “Feelings.”

In another dream, I drove through the streets of Manhattan, only they were filled with the kind of houses you see in Florida.

I didn’t do much today, going out only for lunch and to buy groceries. Instead, I exercised, listened to music, and caught up on my reading.


10 PM. I just got back from The New School, as our first Intermediate LOGO class ran late. Coming back on the IRT in this frigid weather reminds me of those TV commercials for Florida tourism.

But living even half a cold season in New York will toughen me up a little. I’ll remember what I’ve missed in recent years, and I may appreciate Florida more.

Teresa phoned from San Francisco. Four hours after her plane landed in the Bay Area, she was knee-deep in snow in Tahoe at Deirdre and Wally’s condo. She had a good weekend even if, like me, she complained about the wintry weather.

It was still morning when she phoned from San Francisco, where it was raining and she felt alone. (Wally and Deirdre had gone off to their jobs at UCSF.)

Teresa said she missed home already and knew she could never live in California again, but I told her that I always feel that way at the start of a trip, before I’ve given myself a chance to adjust.

Also, I reassured her that I’m taking care of her affairs and her apartment.

I couldn’t find John, Bob and Rita around school, so I sat with Sue and tried to work out the bugs in her program. At one point, Sue got so frustrated that she muttered, “Oh, shit.” See, even a nun can lose her patience doing programming!

I felt bad I had to miss BASIC class tonight, but during our break from LOGO class, I did manage to sneak in to John’s lecture and learn a little and even copy a good quiz routine onto my disk.

In LOGO, Mike had to substitute for another teacher, so Lynn Rendle and Rose Sportello, two women who teach at NYU and who train teachers at Nassau BOCES, came in and showed us Sprite LOGO on the Apple (it has 32 sprites), gave us a quiz to see where we are (we all had trouble, but I had less than I thought I’d have), and showed us some of LOGO’s list-making capabilities.

They said that most teachers in public schools have limited knowledge of LOGO’s capabilities and so the kids run up against a wall sooner or later. Those teachers who take LOGO to get out of teaching one day a week turn out not to be highly motivated, as you’d expect.

In addition to me, Bob, Rita, and Sophie, we’ve got another woman in the class and a cute bearded guy about 27 who teaches at the Brooklyn Friends School and seems like a real whiz. (He took the course with Rose and Lynn at NYU.)

Earlier today, Josh called and said Wanda’s bag was stolen yesterday in a Soho restaurant – but today someone found it and she was able to reclaim her passport and other valuable items, if not her money.

Obviously Wanda’s visit has been great for Josh; he seems to spend all his free time with her. I’m glad because it’s been too long since Josh has had a girlfriend, and that has made him even more dyspeptic than usual.

Wednesday, November 14, 1984

10 PM. Last night I watched David Bowie in Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, and this morning I saw Between the Lines, in which my old friend Caaron (whatever happened to her?) and her sister had bit parts.

Today I wasn’t very energetic. It was cold and blustery, and I think I suffer from a mild form of winter depression: without enough light, I want to hibernate.

Also, I felt I looked crummy today, with my hair unkempt (Amira’s friend Billy disappeared from his shop and her life, so I have to find another hair stylist), face broken out, nose running, and my fat belly staring at me.

Sometimes I can’t imagine how I’ll live to 40. Then I hear about people who are much more unhealthy than I am, people who’ve abused their bodies more than I have, living on into their sixties and even seventies.

I imagine I’d be a terrific old man if I could live that long; in fact, I’d expect to be happier then than I’ll ever be as a young or middle-aged adult.

So today I did the laundry, caught up on my reading, spoke to Amira and Josh and Mom, and went off to The New School for LOGO class tonight.

We’re pretty much done with Turtle Graphics and onto LOGO’s list-processing capabilities. Based on LISP, it’s a much more powerful language than the BASIC/FORTRAN/COBOL family, and though it’s difficult to understand some of these concepts, I enjoy trying to stretch my mind.

Hard science challenges me to think in the way the humanities never did. I do love learning, which is why I hope the winter courses at Florida Atlantic University stimulate me the way my New School classes have done.

Well, I guess there’s other stuff on my mind. First, it’s wonderful to be alone again. I feel so much more free in the apartment without Teresa: free to be myself, to think for myself and not to worry about her reactions.

And it’s a pleasure not to listen to her incessant chatter. For my going away/Christmas present, I’m thinking of giving Teresa the money to put a personals ad in New York – but I don’t know that she’ll ever be able to find someone.

It’s hard for a woman in New York, and Teresa sometimes has a bad attitude to start with. I also feel she’ll have to change if she wants a relationship with someone really good.

She has a lot to offer, if only she wouldn’t be so bossy. I guess Teresa needs a strong guy who would both protect her and keep her in line. If that sounds chauvinistic, I didn’t mean it that way.

As for me, well, I love Ronna – but since I’m primarily attracted to men, a marriage wouldn’t be fair to either of us unless we could work things out, and that’s a long way down the road.

Ronna deserves a guy who wouldn’t stare at other guys when he’s with her.

Saturday, November 17, 1984

After midnight. When psychologists tell you to express your anger at all costs, I think sometimes they’re dead wrong.

For example, if, instead of “talking” to my diary last night, I had told Josh the way I felt, I probably wouldn’t have had the pleasure of his company and Wanda’s tonight.

They just left. Josh called at 5:30 PM and was here about an hour later.

Wanda is absolutely first-rate: she’s pretty, intelligent, with a good personality and a mind of her own. I liked her immediately and felt at ease with her all evening. It was good to spend time with her and Josh.

We hung out here first, then took a walk, then went to see DePalma’s Body Double at the New Yorker. Out of the theater at 10 PM, we came back here for coffee and conversation.

I was interested to hear that both Wanda and Josh believe that they, as computer programmers, are writing themselves out of jobs.

“We can see it’s coming,” said Josh. “The software’s getting too good.”

“Then they’ll realize they won’t have to overpay people like us to be arrogant,” Wanda said.

Wanda and I discussed politics in the U.S. and in Britain, which she thinks will ultimately turn into a softcore police state. Josh noted the renewed state of siege in Chile and Nicaraguan expectations of a U.S. invasion.

Of course, now that the election is over, Reagan will have to do something about the budget deficit, which is getting worse because we seem to be in an economic slowdown or maybe at the start of a mild recession.

Josh mentioned that he saw the Home Planet News with my photo on it at the St. Marks Bookshop. I’d like to get hold of a copy.

Last night Teresa called from California; she didn’t speak long, but everything sounded fine. I also spoke to Dad, who said Mavis told him I was on the front page of the Miami Beach Sun Reporter.

After yesterday’s total of four hours working out, I thought I’d be terribly sore today, but I must be in better shape than I thought, for I’m basically not charley horse – even though it had been four days since I last worked out.

I miss Ronna a lot this weekend. Last night I realized that I love her more than I thought I did. Although I’d missed Sean a lot and occasionally still think of him, I see that my feelings for Ronna are much deeper – and wider.

A dozen years ago around this time of the year, I found myself falling in love with her, and I still am crazy about her. In a way, our relationship has lasted longer than most.

Part of me is sorry that she didn’t marry Jordan because then I’d think of her as “safe”; now we’re lovers, and while I need her and want her and like her so very much, I don’t quite know how to reconcile my feelings for Ronna with my homosexuality.

Well, her father has an unlisted number, so I couldn’t get in touch with her. Maybe that’s a good thing.

I slept fine and by 11 AM, I was at the New School Computer Center, working on LOGO on an Apple IIe.

Back uptown, I made an appointment for a badly-needed haircut for Wednesday at noon; then, at home, I watched Silkwood and read a bit until Josh called me.

Monday, November 19, 1984

9:30 PM. I’m exhausted but feeling proud of myself.

Yesterday I went out in the desolate, rainy night at 8 PM, taking the F train to Second Avenue and finally finding Darinka, a basement club on East 1st Street and Avenue A.

The crowd was East Village artsy: lots of black stockings, ruby red lipstick, vintage herringbone sport jackets, round wire-rimmed glasses.

I don’t belong in that crowd, yet I felt comfortable enough. Mark Leyner, Judy Lopatin and Pete Cherches fit in better, and their friends made up most of the audience, along with some Darinka regulars. (People told me their house band, called They Must Be Giants, is terrific.)

Being there gave me a chance to play up being a Florida boy country slicker, the guy with contact lenses, still too much of a tan, and designer (Sasson) clothes. No matter what crowd I am in, I enjoy being a little outside it.

The only friends of mine who I noticed showed up were Sue Ribner and her friend. Sue is going through the trials of Job: in addition to all her problems, her sister now definitely has breast cancer and her father came back from Europe with a (mild) heart attack. God bless Sue for coming.

On a whim, I had sent a press release to Scott Koestner, and wouldn’t you know it, the old boy showed up – long after I’d read, though.

I went on first, and I was a bit blinded by the lights and so couldn’t see the audience. At first, I think they didn’t know what to make of me; I talked a lot before and while I read, going off into my usual tangents.

I did the first set out of Eating at Arby’s while sitting in a chair, and then, standing, I did my best out-loud piece, “But in a Thousand Other Worlds.”

There were plenty of laughs, and I felt good about it. After I left the stage, Judy was coming on, and she said I was a tough act to follow.

But Judy did beautifully, reading a very vibrant and funny piece from the Mississippi Review.

Likewise, Mark and Pete each read new stuff that I thought was (without exaggeration) brilliant in its language, intelligence, and perceptions. I felt too exhilarated by their work to be envious of their talents.

Scott made noise when he arrived, and I couldn’t talk to him until Pete had finished reading.

Lots of people agreed it was one of the best readings they’d attended, and I got compliments from Dorothy Friedman as well as from one of the editors of a new litmag, Between C and D.

It had been years since I’d last seen Scott, and he looked older. He has a mustache now, and his hair is quite grey.

Scott said he had some Chinese food at home, so I agreed to go back there with him even though it was already 11 PM.

On the drive to his apartment, one on Third Avenue and East 26th that he sublet just on Friday, Scott explained that he and Danielle had been separated since August.

Later, upstairs, he told me that he’d married Danielle because she was both exotic – French and Tunisian – and yet also a Jewish doctor.

They never lived together before marriage, and Scott said that after a few months it was obvious it wasn’t going to work out, but they tried – until this summer, “when we were either going to have to go on with our lives and start a family or we’d separate.”

Although Scott is making more money than he ever dreamed of – and is in line for a housing court judgeship (which would mean a pay cut), he’s spending $1700 a month on rent for two apartments, Danielle’s (his old place when they were together) and this sublet, and he’s supporting three therapists: their separate ones and the marriage counselor.

His parents are moving to Tamarac this winter (everyone seems to go from Brooklyn to Broward), and Scott feels and sounds sad about his life: “I wish I were 19 years old again and had no problems.”

I felt sorry for him, especially when he said, “I feel very despondent about the future.”

I could have said he has everything, but of course he doesn’t; I, who’ve never earned more than one-fifth of Scott’s income, am happier and more optimistic than he is.

I was flattered when he told me Danielle had read all my books and was a real fan – somehow that made me feel like a novelist-character in a movie – and that he always sees my name in papers and magazines.

Before I left, after we’d devoured some moo shu pork, Scott told me to call him and get together with him soon.

I took a cab uptown through nearly deserted Manhattan streets, and by the time I got to bed, it was 2 AM.

Although I slept okay, I definitely needed more sleep and was so tired this morning that I kept debating whether to call in sick.

But responsibility won out, and I made it to school. Today it was in the 40°s but windless, so it felt comfortable. However, tonight it’s supposed to drop down to the teens as Arctic air sweeps down.

Given my level of exhaustion, my John Jay classes went as well as could be expected. Home at 1 PM after a quick pizza lunch and a stop at the grocery, I got into bed and stayed there for three hours.

It was heaven as I half-slept, listening to David Del Tredici’s Final Alice on WQXR.

At 5 PM, I was at The New School, with Rita and Bob, ready for John to go over the last week’s material with us.

Later, because Mike had given us a LOGO break, I attended the end of the BASIC class and said goodbye to Sue, Merrill, Roberta and the others.

In LOGO class, we did lots more new procedures with words and list-making. I’m really learning so much; as Rita said, it confuses you for a while but eventually you come to understand it.

I feel that The New School has a brilliant computer faculty, one FAU is unlikely to equal.

Anyway, I took the old IRT home and reminded myself that I’m proud I’m a New Yorker and can handle life here. I’ve made a lot of personal progress this fall and am looking forward to returning to Florida.

By not having roots in any one place, I may be missing out on a lot, but I’ve gained flexibility and resourcefulness.

Tuesday, November 20, 1984

5 PM. Again today, I found it difficult to rouse myself this morning, but I made it to John Jay at 8 AM.

My classes didn’t go all that well today: the students were frisky and nearly unmanageable. Maybe it’s because of the holiday, or maybe I’m a lousy teacher.

If these kids are the product of inner-city schools, most are used to an environment where not much learning goes on.

Do I even want to subject myself to that humiliation a public school teacher has to go through? I doubt it.

Then why am I going for a graduate degree in education? Who knows? I guess I’m drifting.

Talking to my parents last night, I detected, behind their voices, the hope that I’ll “settle down” and find a comfortable, secure profession.

Mom thinks I’m going for my M.Ed. in computer education because I want a stable job as a computer teacher.

That’s not true, of course. What I want is to be given the time (and money – via the student loan) to learn, to acquire knowledge for the sheer joy of it. A job will be just a by-product of that for me.

I’m a RT 180 LOGO Turtle-turn from today’s college students, the namby-pamby practical types, the scared careerists.

Maybe I’m irresponsible, but I seem to be at least as happy, if not more so, than other people with their 9-to-5 jobs.

It’s not that I’m lazy; I like working, if it’s work that has meaning to me. A lazy person doesn’t spend $800 to take courses that make him happily exhausted.

This afternoon I bought 20-pound dumbbells (to replace the too-easy 15-pound ones) and I worked out for ninety minutes.

I also did the laundry, deposited Teresa’s unemployment check, watered the plants, and read the Times, USA Today and the Washington Post.