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A 28-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Late February, 1980

Friday, February 22, 1980

4 PM on a dreary, rainy, snowy day. Im going to see Dr. Gentile in an hour. I need to talk to someone, but Im afraid it wont help. This winter since Ive gotten back from Florida has been one of the worst times of my life: illness, money problems, loneliness.

Few things make me want to go on. I wonder if Ill have this labyrinthitis for the rest of my life. Alice tells me to cheer up, but she doesnt realize how severely depressed I am. Can something good come out of this? I wonder.

Hes very young, she said.

Hes earnest, I said.

Arrogant, she countered.

Hey, Ronna, I said, its obvious youre crazy about him.

I know, isnt it awful?

She said Jordan liked me, too he thought I was clever and funny and that pleased me very much.

Im glad were friends, I told Ronna. It was hard work, but I think we made it.

She said it was mostly because I persisted, because she was willing to let it drop. But I trust you, she said, and youre one of the few people I do trust.

Ronnas friendship makes me very happy. I hope she and Jordan make it. Ronna says she thinks Jordan thinks hes settling, that he could get something better; I hope thats not true.

Ronna said Jordan just got his first job offer for only $20,000. I just hope I dont marry him out of fear and desperation, Ronna said. I dont know: at this point, knowing how important security can be, Id probably tell her to do it.

Justin called. He was feeling a bit down. On Tuesday night he and the guy he had sex with last week went to the theater, and Justin felt he was with a stranger. I struggled to keep him interested in the conversation, Justin said, and when we said good night, there was no affection.

Justin put Avis and Simon on the phone; both of them had bad colds.

After reading the first chapter of his novel, which had a lot of raw feeling and energy, I tried to call Bill-Dale. He wasnt in the dorm, so I wrote him a letter in which I told him that hes become important to me which he has.

Today I got a letter from Crad, who sent along an endorsement of my Vice Presidential candidacy that he used in his Rustler column. He says Im doing a therapeutic service by my publicity, that it takes peoples mind off

Yes, move to Florida . . . relax . . . write . . . and leave that pig New York, Crad writes.

Lightning Struck My Dick will be published by Virgo Press in April; Crad got only a $150 advance, but he believes in his publisher, Thad McIlroy. And his Charnel House book, Gainfully Employed in Limbo, will be out in May.

Crads FLAC (Film Lovers Against Censorship) work seems to be getting somewhere. But he writes:

My new writing is minimal. I have very little urge to write fiction. Sometimes I think Ill never again write stuff that was as good as some of my old stories. . . I have fantasies about writing a very grim novelette, then giving up writing indefinitely. . .

I certainly never for a minute thought of Crad as not serious. His humor (like mine?) is very bleak. We both have a dark view of life. God, I love Crads letters.


Saturday, February 23, 1980

4 PM. Life, I once heard Aunt Sydelle say. Well never get out of it alive.

Crad Kilodney thinks he has to tell me that hes really a serious person. I suppose people think Im a funny guy and nothing else, too.

Take my neighbor, John, a 45-ish balding guy. He caught me as I was coming in last night and invited me in for a drink.

John knew I was an English teacher and wanted to know if his grammar was all right because he planned to switch professions and become a psychotherapist. He now drives a truck for the city Housing Authority.

Do you at least hes very stupid in the ways of the world.

He plans to take the fifty days off he has coming to him and during that time become a therapist. John thinks he can help people with their psychological problems.

He told me he plans to rent an office on Park Avenue and wear silk shirts and gold chains to impress people and charge the highest rate of any real shrink. Ill tell each person I have a degree from a different school so no one will find out I dont, John said.

He even has his office hours figured out: 9 AM until 4 PM every day, and he wont practice during the summer. John asked if I wanted to work with him as his receptionist. That poor deluded guy.

At 11 PM, John knocked on my door, but I pretended I was asleep.

A real therapist, Dr. Pasquale, and I discussed my health problems yesterday. He said that my feeling that this condition may be permanent is related to other feelings I have: Ill never be able to make money, love someone, get a good job, etc.

I do tend to become overwhelmed by the present. Sometimes I think the best therapy for me is to just read my diary. Look: for over a decade, life has been changing for me; the bad times dont last and nothing is permanent.

Its a different situation from my condition eleven years ago: then I was psychologically ill and housebound. Believe it or not, Im pretty together psychologically now, and Ive been coping with this situation fairly well.

I havent fallen apart. Of course, Ive been depressed and upset, but thats only natural. I just wish I didnt hate myself so. I have this very strong desire to punish myself for imagined failings.

Why do I feel I have to be perfect? Unless I get over that, no matter what I accomplish, Im always going to feel like a failure.


Sunday, February 24, 1980

8 PM. My dizziness seems to be going away. I can only hope that this ordeal is finally ending. But I do feel Ive turned a corner and am now fully able to function. I enjoyed myself at Alices party last night, slept over at Teresas, went to the screening at WNET/13 today, and was able to get through everything feeling only a little uncomfortable.

Alices party was one of her best: the people, the food, and the mood were all a welcome tonic for me. Peter was in his usual good humor, and it turns out that I have a job interview Tuesday at One Minute Productions, the

We dialed the number last night, and the recording began: Hello, New Yorkers! Dont feel bad if you werent invited to Alices party. There are many other things going on. . .

I didnt recognize Richard Rothenstein, whos lost weight and grown a beard and looks terrific; hes left Zebra Books and is freelancing.

June was concerned about my health and my career. She told me that because of intense curiosity about the rest of America, Im probably restless here in New York. From living with Cliff, June has visited Oklahoma twice and is very intrigued with Middle America.

Robert is teaching at Baruch and writing labor union histories for the ILGWU and other unions. We swapped adjunct horror stories, the latest being one Elihu that related to me on the phone.

Elihu was hired to teach an American history course at LIU (at the last moment, of course). Then some professor decided he wanted to switch his evening Ancient History course with Elihus.

Elihu protested that ancient history wasnt his field and said he couldnt be one chapter ahead of the class, as the professor advised him and Elihu was fired.

Anita and Keith told me theyre moving into a co-op in Tribeca. Anita, another academia dropout, told me how her career as a literary agent is going and we gossiped about publishing. Naturally, Alice had told everyone at the party about my book many people had read it and about my publicity exploits.

Alices brother took time off from his position at the State Departments Crisis Desk (Afghanistan, Iran, the Olympics) in Washington to join the party, and he regaled Teresa and me with stories of his successes as a diplomat such as the time when he and Cyrus Vance went to Bolivia to show support for Bolivian democracy and two days after they left, there was a military coup.

Teresa and Mario got into an argument over whether NewYork was becoming more or less livable. Im afraid I have to agree with Mario, whos selling his Flatlands house and moving down to Broward: New York is a fantasyland for young up-and-coming professionals, but its hell on children, old people, and the middle class in the outer boroughs.

People like Teresa, Keith and Anita, Peter and Alice, June and Cliff: they have it made in chic Manhattan. But what about older people, poor people, the minorities, people like my neighbors in Brooklyn and Rockaway?

The more I think about it, the surer I am that Im going to move to Florida after the summer. Jeanne told me that shes moved back into Brooklyn with her mother and is finding it pleasant. Jeannes mother contributed to the

Martha (who didnt remember my name) told me she was getting used to living alone, and Mark the photographer told me hes been sending out his short stories and is working on a novel.

The other Mark, from Lehman Engels BMI class, is still writing his songs, and Judy is enrolling in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Everyone at the party seems on the verge of making it big: all lively, talented, intelligent people. Their company stimulated me, but I still think theres a world beyond Manhattan.

Back in her apartment, we read the Sunday Times and then, after Teresa declined my offer made in jest, of course that we make love, she made up the couch for me.

I was dizzy and restless, and it took hours for me to fall asleep; I wandered around my brain and Teresas living room (there was a Valentine from Lance, whos now in California), but finally I did manage to snooze.

In the morning, I showered and dressed and helped Teresa clean up before I left for the morning screening at WNET/13. It was refreshing to be in Manh

Roger Weisberg greeted me warmly at WNET, and I signed a release for the program. The screening room was filled with mental health professionals, ex-patients, community activists (especially from the West Side, which is saturated with SRO hotels filled with the dumped institutionalized), Carol Bellamy and other politicians, psychiatrists, lawyers, etc.

Back Wards to Back Streets was very effective, very moving, very pro-patient. I thought I looked fat and sounded fruity, but I didnt cringe; its

Afterwards we went into the studio and taped a panel discussion. I sat in the audience, listening and wondering if maybe theres a book or an article I could write on the plight of deinstitutionalized mental patients.

I drove back into Brooklyn and stopped off at Marcs; it was good to see him. Hes no longer seeing Deanna, and there were pounds of grass in his kitchen.

Marc looks tanned and said he might consider moving to Florida someday. I borrowed $60 and took his tax returns, which Ill prepare.


Monday, February 25, 1980

8 PM. This morning I went to see Dr. Brownstein, who said my sinuses were very badly infected. He thinks thats where the dizziness is coming from, as the symptoms Im getting, getting especially the dizziness when I cough or belch, are not typical of real labyrinthitis.

I slept most of the afternoon, then went over to my grandparents for dinner. Grandpa Herb took me aside and wrote out a check for $400; I promised to pay him back soon.

Grandma Ethel made me some lamb chops and lectured me on my extravagance. She means well, of course, but by 1980 standards, Im living pretty modestly.


Thursday, February 28, 1980

8 PM. Its been a bizarre evening. This afternoon I was contacted by a 12-year-old boy who said he was a guest writer on the Soho Weekly News. He

In the course of the conversation, he asked me whether Id considered supporting Gov. Cliff Finch of Mississippi. Anyway, I went out and forgot about it.

When I returned home, I got a call from someone who said he was on Gov. Finchs staff. He said the Governor (whose term has just expired) would be very interested in getting my support. I didnt quite understand.

The campaign staffer told me they were in Georgia, where Gov. Finch was fixing somebodys roof as a publicity stunt. He told me that Fred Silverman wasnt going to run (big surprise!) and that he wanted me and the Governor to get together for a meeting.

I was bowled over. The Governor of Mississippi calling me to ask my support for his Presidential candidacy? Is he off his nut or what? The call sounded legit, but again, I didnt think about it until the kid from the Soho Weekly News called again and said he learned I was now supporting Finch. I told him yes, I was.

This was unbelievable, but then Josh suggested that someone was pulling my leg. Im not sure. Its like something out of Good as Gold. Apparently Gov. Finch is coming to New York and needs bodies at a press conference. Or something.

I had only three students show up for the Touro class at the high school last night, but I had a good class nonetheless.

David Wolfe from One Minute Productions didnt get back to me until midnight when he told me to cool my heels for a few weeks. Peters talking me up to both David and Don (Peter just read my book and was surprised that it was that good) and I guess something will come of it.

I had my SVA class write this morning they complained my topics were boring and Pete Cherches met me for coffee near Union Square

I showed Pete the perfect poem issue of The Fault in which we both appeared, and we chatted about literary politics and the poetry scene. Hes rushing to get the crime issue of Zone out by April, when the Book Fair will be held (at NYUs Loeb Student Center this year).

I decided to walk over to the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary after lunch because I was feeling quite dizzy. I paid $17 to get a clinic card, and I was lucky enough to be randomly assigned #1 in a large crowd of people waiting to see a doctor. (Theres always a first time)

He didnt think it was sinuses either, and he ruled out any psychosomatic factors. The doctor said it was probably a virus, in which case it would slowly go away by itself. He told me not to worry about the dizziness, as the body will adjust to compensate for it.

He did say there was a possibility it was vestibular neuronitis, with the nerve pressing against the inner ear. But my ear looked clean to him, and I obviously didnt have a brain problem. Ill go back to the clinic next week.

Part of me wonders whether Ive got M.S. or some degenerative nerve disease; Im more than a little scared. Yet doesnt some part of me want to die?

I got a cruel rejection (Who cares?) and nothing else of interest in the mail, unless you count a newsletter addressed to Rocjard Grauspm. Obviously somebody had their right hand on the wrong typewriter keys.

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