Diary of a Dancer
8:30 AM Thurs Sept 15 1977 Up early spending the last of my money on necessaries – hardware, lampshades, contact paper. Fri 16 September 1977 My books arrived at Larry’s! I spent the morning sending them out. Then drove to the Landover Mall, bought two g-strings and pasties and off to the Plush Palace. Steve was there – (Randy the bouncer just hired) thrilled to see me. Wanted to know where I’d been but I turned that easily away.Vacay! Who wouldn’t! Told me to come to work Saturday night and they’d give me my schedule. So that’s settled. I don’t like trying to live without money. Took the landlord my paint color selection – he buys the paint and I do the work. Probably will take me the next week. Every now and then am attacked by that claustrophobic feeling of restlessness and purposelessness but I am able to keep it at philosophical bay. Working at my poem index made me feel strong and soothed.
Corseted with verbs
French teacher sweeps
Cherry blossoms from the tennis court
As she would like to french
The cherries, squelch them soundly
Beneath her soccer-spiking shoes
While the headmistress
Polishes graffiti carved upon her coffin
In Chaucerian High English,
And the girls –
Soar above the hockey fields like
Foul-mouthed angels, anticipated ecstasy locked
In narrow hope chests ripening on
Called Chloe to see if I can get on the radio – she was excited to hear from me, but unfortunately gave Erika my number. Erika called – I was nervous that she wanted me to rewrite her manuscripts, but she just invited me to breakfast. After that she has another appointment so she can’t swallow up my day. Letter from Avril saying she is coming end of Oct.
10:15 PM Sat 17 Sept 77 – The Plush Palace, Alexandria Virginia
Ego lift. Nothing’s changed. I’m still the best dancer in the place. Four dancers on and I know two of them. The gossip, the Costume exchange, the curling irons, the dope in the dressing room – it’s all coming back to me. They’ve introduced some weird rules, like customers get to play the music, but it’s still a fun and relaxed place to be. Steve the floor manager says I can have all the work I want so I might be able to put money away.
Sun 18 Sept 77
Opal comes to over to say “hi” but really to complain about her incipient divorce. Not the best company. Not the best climate for me either – I found myself sobbing over Ryder (fortunately was alone by then). Why does it seem a lost paradise? So I can still get into that sort of mood.
Nice phone call with Mom and dad, not too pressured. They are coming to a boatyard in Annapolis to look at a boat – will see me then. One of the best things about this house is the month-to month lease. Feel I can leave any time but if I behave well they won’t kick me out. Gorgeous location but forty-five minute highway commute to The Plush Palace. Still wish I could live in Virginia.
Wed AM 20 Sept 77
Sent out a ton of poems. Replied to a woman who wants pieces for an anthology. Got a beautiful love-letter from Devon! His usual length – both sides of one page. Talked about how much fun we had in August, dressing up and going out and “afterwards…!” Made me smile. I said to hell with money and called Avril because I wanted to share – Mason is not there during the day. She is in a bad place. Providential I called. He has taken to staying out at night without explanation – she is frantic. Thank God she is coming here. I told Randy since I’m your best dancer, how about a raise. He gave me one! Only flaw to this house – they need to fix hot water. I had to heat water to wash my hair. Bought 2 more costumes bringing my total up to six – the bare minimum I’d say.
Plush Palace – 11:20 AM Sun 24 Sept – wrote a fourteen page letter to Avril tonight. There’s a very pretty blond here who looks just like R – they could be mistaken for each other – but it’s not him.
9:40 PM – walls dry so I could hang paintings. What a difference. Reading Redinger’s bio of George Eliot, The Emergent Self. Like it very much. Turns out I love driving to work – 5Pm is rush hour on the Beltway – everyone’s coming home but I’m going out for the night! Makes me feel weirdly close to all those people. And apparently they feel close to me – though they could just be reacting to my bumper sticker (Colette was a Nudie Dancer). They don’t seem to get the literary reference.
Mon 3 Oct 1977
I hear only from my sister Merrill who declares my book a “brilliant satire”. She wants to know why I work? Shouldn’t I tour with book? Sigh. Give me the money and leave me alone I say.
Spent the AM phoning around trying to find my book in all the stores. Only found it one place. Dropped note to publisher.
Out for Courvoisier with Erika who lectured me on my book. I ended up defending the Victorians saying everyone now thinks “honesty and openness” are going to save them but we don’t know enough about ourselves for real honesty and our lives are still based on “smothered panic” as far as I can see. (See Janet Case’s strictures to V. Woolf. ) Well off to my double life. When I pull into the Plush Palace parking lot I have such a good feeling. Everything coming together. Down the old runway.
Bought the most wonderful gold stripper shoes that tie with ribbons and have clear Lucite six-inch heels. I finally have enough costumes to feel really professional – every set should be good. Randy always compliments me. I am slowly phasing my hair from red to blonde – seems to help with the tips. I can live on fruit and cream of wheat – only buy groceries with tip money. Little man down front muttering “fuck me-fuck me-fuck me” over and over but not loud enough to be evicted. Randy said I am the best dancer in Washington area.
Sat 8 Oct 1977 Giving a dinner party. Bought 8 old-fashioned glasses for 50 cents apiece, five floor pillows, peacock chairs and a glass dining table. Now I’m looking for silk eiderdown (for my bed) in some violent color. Bought beautiful rose-lilac fabric for curtains. Randy gave me another raise without my even asking for one. I love my body again! After the long estrangement caused by Ryder…he deliberately tried to undermine my faith in my body. He would prefer bad sex with a slave as long as he can be boss. Wait – isn’t that the marriage he just got out of? Guess we all repeat ourselves. 7:30 PM Tues 11 Oct 77 I’m too fucking fragile. All my problems come from pretending I’m not. I look forward to old age when presumably throbbing metabolism, soaring hormones and plunging brain waves will have smoothed out. How to describe this scrambled day? I’ve been vibrating like a cilia ever since I got up this morning. Made dentist, gyno appts, shots for dogs, dog licenses, took angel puppies on an hour’s walk. Divorce lawyer on the 26th: “John Love”: seems appropriate. Clear the decks for writing. My area of Beltsville very rural. Poetry in all directions. Reading Mildred Savage’s A Great Fall and getting lots of ideas. Vac cleaner to repair shop they say they can fix for under $15. I hate errands, a disgusting dribble of irreplaceable time. Rewarded myself by getting Sleeping Murder at the library. Already know Dr Kennedy is the murderer. 2PM Wed 12 Oct 77 – Plush Palace Some men seem to interpret the fact that I’m a dancer as some sort of personal challenge to them. You can feel the spike of hostility. “You’re making me think about sex again!” Is it fear of rejection? Any aura of professionalism bothers them also. I always curtsy especially low to the hostile tables – they can never figure out whether I am mocking them or not AND THEY THINK I PROBABLY AM! I save them a lot of money by getting them thrown out early. One guy asked me how long it would take to get in bed with me. His erection was so obvious I almost asked, “And what is your little friend drinking?” but instead I said, “5 years.” He showed up next night, saying, “Day one of the five year plan!” I like those guys much better. Final R conclusion: What a JERK! Jerk’s absolutely the right word - in instinctual reflex – no brain activity involved. Will I ever find a gorgeous man (blond, please) whose soul connected to his brain? 9:20 PM Thurs 13 Oct 77 Shopping Loehmann’s yesterday with Maeve. 3 sweaters, silk jumpsuit with jacket & scarf, lime-colored silk jersey blouse, socks, boots, shoes, gloves - $140 cash. Nice. Saw a wonderful fake fur coat I’d like to come back for. It has a priceless air of Ken Russell camp. Buy it with my Folger money – Shakespeare would understand. Maeve bought nothing. Couldn’t find one thing she liked, reading labels with the expression of Queen Victoria viewing a slum. And the free-for all dressing rooms full of naked people just astonished her. (Stuff I see every day.) She wants to know exactly why Wealthier People rejected this clothing at its first price? They must know something we don’t. (Wondrous rhinestone earrings to dance in, too. M. expressed pious horror. ) People like this amaze me. Why is your own taste of little importance? Then went out to dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant – my choice – heavenly lamb shish kebab and a belly dancer! I loved it but Maeve had to rush out before dessert. But as it seems I can never be with ANYONE – even lovers – longer than 3 hrs it was just as well. Folger morning started badly, hair looked mangy, face requires immediate skin graft. Dog hair even on NEW clothing (How is this possible?) Running an hour behind schedule (compulsively early me). May Miller gave me worst intro I ever hope to have, misquoted my poems and said I was a grad of the U of Minn. I thought I would sob with emotion 52 times during reading. My “woodcunt” poem did not go down well (even though it is definitely my most Shakespearean). Damn. Then I could have strangled Erika Gelbfisz (at the after party) who is so scornful and cynical about everything you can’t even have an ordinary conversation with her. I felt like throwing my wine in her face saying, “Suppose you actually succeed in making us all feel rotten, what then? Fighting in the streets?” Nothing’s worth anything in her opinion, so why is she alive exactly? This is what gets my hostility going but because I am at a party I DON’T WANT TO GET INTO IT. So I just growl and stew. I don’t care for Cocktail Party Standing Around – my right boot was trying to extinguish my left toe, a toe already threatened with extermination from dancing. This is real Italian leather so SHOULD ultimately fit my feet – I can see each boot slowly outlining my toes – if I don’t come down with gangrene first. Will try Wet Washcloth Stuffing tonight. (Still, I looked ravishing, my dear, in a blue gaucho three-piece suit and my red, red, high-heeled boots.) Poet Usher Glayne seemed impressed with me – but he’s an old man. To bed with my main squeeze, Agatha Christie. Thank God for that woman. She has pulled me single handedly through the last three months. I was just drifting off when Marc Kramer called. We talked ½ hr. He bought a sailboat and a BMW and wanted to be sure to let me know. I like the sailboat and the car but the desire to “impress” me diminishes him in my eyes. Sad to say. He’s presently at risk of being filed under “has no conversation”. Well, he did talk about work. They wanted to fire him from The Washington Project, then admitted he had been right all along. He’d love to have dinner sometime, “see how I live”. Uh oh. Can I keep this relationship out of the sexual? I don’t want to go to bed, even experimentally with someone Lacking the Necessary Spark. Could they make up for it by enthusiasm or step-by-step instructions? I hesitate. Is it ever possible to just date? It was AWFUL with Keith. Marc, however, has a gift of humor. And my parents like him. “No expectations?” I finally say. And he promises. 4:20 PM Fri Oct 14 – 77 Blessed book! The joy, the solidity, the security this diary has afforded me all my life can’t be measured. Bizarre letter from my dentist thanking me for referring “Mr. Arlen” to them! Apparently he is stalking me. Now I have to wear makeup to the dentist! Hope I don’t run into Ryder while wacked out on Novocain. Usual day of quotidian pursuits, washing lingerie & hair, filing, letters. Avril writes that Mason is moving in with a friend! He thinks it will be “better” for her. Bet the “friend” is female! Sure sounds like death knell to me – he dragged her all the way out there, ran busily through her money & lost his spark. Still other’s relationships are always so much clearer! Now we can be glad she’s not going to school – she needs to get out NOW. Plush Palace – Mon – 11:40 PM 17 Oct 77 4 Dancers on tonight but Cindy and Linda walked out, ticked about my raise (I didn’t tell them.) So more dancing (and $$). Plus coffee machine broken and we need to order out so I treated myself to 2 Krispy Kremes. Ah, the simple joys. Five-year plan guy is back. His fave play? “Love is Alive” – unfortunately. The most gorgeous autumn weather tonight driving here – my heart soared. ONE MORE SET! Then fling on fake fur “Shakespearean” coat, jump into El Diablo, off into the night. Bar deserted, tips unspeakable. Asked if I could cash a check with Randy he just handed me a $20 bill, so there’s gas. Kiki says she’s getting married, worked the whole evening on her guest list for Big Event in Fredericksburg. Reading Hardwick’s Seduction & Betrayal and appreciating it although something’s “off” about her. Why won’t the ventriloquist put down the dummy and just talk? And she’s just flat wrong about Woolf and Plath. I brood about letting R. know where I work. Brave or stupid? Stupid, I think. Better class him with “dead end relationships”. I have plenty of people I’d never want to see again – Bruce and Kyro springs to mind. Other people I feel good about like Toss Sheffield. He’d be fun to see again. Could he handle my dancing? He had a fun “hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy” attitude in general towards effort & enterprise.
I can’t sleep
Because you’re gone
My muscles wake
My mind goes spinning on
And where your fingers
Plied and pruned my face
Night air is cold and
Caustic in its place
And where we turned and woke
In complex rhyme, I’m left
To face the music frayed by time
A waltz which once we won
A losing battle choreographed for one.
None to explore or
Appreciate my line though now at last
It’s incontestably mine.