An 18-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From September, 1969
by Richard Grayson
Friday, September 5, 1969
It was another rain-filled day.
Thanks to the barking of the dog next door, I rose early this morning and went riding on trains, stopping at Canal Street and Broadway. In the station there, I met Mr. Muldoon, who philosophized about life, parents and subway renovation.
I saw Mitchell Heller on the Mill Basin bus, but I didn’t speak to him.
The group therapy session depressed me very much. Dr. Lipton was there and John and Carole, whose new nose is very nice. I know that I’ve been repressing my problems. The doctor says my homosexuality is irrelevant.
I’ve been feeling good all this summer and along comes the shrink and I’m nauseous again. I don’t want to know how frightened I am. I’m thinking of not going back to Dr. Lipton.
I talked it over with Mom and Dad, and whatever I do is all right with them. Brad and I talked about it tonight. We went through everything: sex, love, life. Brad says: Be all you can be.
There is so much to think about. I love Brad, not sexually, but I do love him. In his Mustang, I held his hand for a long time and said, “If I can’t call you brother yet, how about friend?”
I thought about things for a long time. Who is Richard Grayson? I think I’ll call that doctor that I went to once, almost a year ago. I’ll say, “My name is Richard Grayson. I met you once before. I need help. I trust you. May have an appointment?”
There is no one answer; I know that now. I can’t live my life my parents’ way, or Brad’s way, or Dr. Lipton’s way. I have to find the right lifestyle for Richard.
I am afraid, as Brad says, to love someone, even to get into any intimate contact. I can’t live this way much longer, now that I see how nice life can be.
Sex is only a part of life, but it is an important part. I want to be able to love someone sexually, wholly. But right now I can’t, not without giving up some of my own “identity.”
Things will work out, I’m sure of that. Brad says I’m lucky, at 18 I have enormous potential, and I’m aware of that.
I’m so confused. Brad is a living contradiction of all the things Dr. Lipton has said. He’s not afraid of women, he feels no guilt, he’s as happy as he ever wants to be.
I just don’t know.
What am I sure of? That I love some people, like my family, and they love me. That I want to be a first-class searcher. That I want to experience new things but am afraid of them. That I am me.
Saturday, September 6, 1969
Last night was one of the toughest I can remember. I cried because I was unable to sleep. I looked at myself in the mirror: God, how awful I looked.
I am so afraid I am going insane. Now I’m sure I’m a manic depressive. I cried and cried and cried. I’m worrying Mom and Dad and don’t mean to. I need help badly.
I must be strong. I did get some sleep, from 4 AM to 9 AM. I felt a little better during the day. At Kings Highway I picked up Variety.
Then I went out and put stickers on places:Don’t Kill Yourself, Call Us: 338-1577. I got a call from a 14-year-old girl who was curious. At Barron’s this afternoon, I bought some books.
I begged off going to Cousin Edward’s bar mitzvah tonight. I’m a well-known hater of catered affairs. Crowds no longer make me anxious, but I’m tired and don’t feel like putting up a happy false front for six hours. I probably won’t be missing much. I’m not much of a family person; I can barely remember my cousins’ names.
Tonight I washed my hair, exercised with the weights and the Tensolator and did some yoga.
Wednesday, September 10, 1969
I spoke to Alice for ninety minutes last night. She is my oldest friend. Alice said I was “extremely handsome.” I’d really like to meet her boyfriend Howie, who sounds very likable.
I don’t remember either sleeping or not sleeping last night. So I guess I slept. I have a sore throat.
On the bus to Brooklyn College, I started a conversation with this guy who was also an entering freshman. We had a long talk – his name is Evan – and I think we may be good friends. In the bookstore I met Peggy: long time no see. She said her boyfriend, Aaron, is fine.
Brad picked me up at 1 PM and I had my first look at the Cloisters, which is one of his favorite thinking-spots.
He showed me a lot about medieval art: we saw statutes and reliquaries and the Unicorn Tapestry and a rosary which was fantastic. Their garden has every herb imaginable and a beautiful view of the Palisades.
Brad had transmission trouble, so he took me home at 3:30 PM. I was very disappointed that it was so early, but there are accidents.
On TV, I watched The Fountainhead. I don’t agree with its conclusions, but individualism is important. Tonight I went to the library and hung around with Joey, John and Nicky. I’m drinking fennel tea.
Sunday, September 14, 1969
I woke up at 10 AM and lolled (I love that word!) in bed for an hour reading subway maps.
I went to the Village and sat around in Washington Square. Next to me was this good-looking hippie 16-year-old kid. A dirty old man tried to proposition us both. He asked me if the kid was my lover (an interesting idea).
Anyway, we lied our heads off to him. (I did swallow the kid’s lie about being from Hibbing, Minnesota and coming into New York for his mother’s remarriage; the dirty old man wanted to know what he would do if his new stepfather “took a liking” to him.) And we sort of became friends.
His name is Daniel, he’s a doctor’s son from Brooklyn Heights, and he goes to Poly Prep. He asked me if I wanted to wander around with him and his New Jersey friend Seth, who came later. I did, and we had a good time. I paid for lunch: bad pizza.
It was the last day of the art show, and on MacDougal Street, I ran into Brad, who was buying a $100 painting. He was with a girl who kept close to his side and a guy I take to be his roommate.
We ran into each other again at the Postermat. An interesting question in etiquette: What does one do when one meets one’s lover’s girlfriend? Of course, Brad isn’t my lover, but still. . .
It made me a bit uptight and I said goodbye to Daniel and Seth, promising to call Daniel. Better get some sleep.
College begins tomorrow.
Monday, September 15, 1969
I slept but tossed and turned all night. Yesterday’s “chance meeting” (are there accidents?) unnerved me. Knowing there is a girl and seeing her in the flesh are two different things. Still, I made a new friend and have some material for my book.
I was very nervous before the start of Brooklyn College. School was all right – nothing earth-shattering – but I feel a bit depressed.
I had lunch with Alice, Sue and Jeanne. Jeanne wants me to be a moderator in the College Bowl.
My Science lecturer, Prof. Dillon, is a senile monotonous bore. Robert Greenberg from high school is in my Science class but I don’t know anyone in English.
My English teacher, Miss Stein, seems all right. We have a paper due Thursday; I think I’ll write about my analysis and personal problems. I’ll try to spill out my guts in the paper and make Miss Stein think I’m utterly fantastic.
I wasn’t too nervous, but it was a hot day and I perspired a lot.
Uncle Marty came over tonight. There seems to be some business trouble with The Pants Set: tight money market and all that.
Watching Laugh-In, I was preoccupied. Something is bothering me. I’m afraid I’ll never see Daniel again, and I really liked him. Maybe it was more than that.
Friday, September 19, 1969
A relatively pleasant day, partly cloudy and cool. Last night I slept fitfully. (I only took two tranquilizers.)
Today when I went to the Language Lab, my tape didn’t play and I was too embarrassed to ask for help. In Math we discussed Logic, which I can’t follow very well. We’re adding a lot to our French vocabulary: Où est le bureau de poste?
Tonight we ate at The Charcoal Chef in Canarsie and went out to Oceanside, where Marc fixed Wendy’s TV. Arlyne and Jeffrey both have colds.
Now I’ve got severe stomach cramps. I want to know why. Is it because I want to? I guess so. Maybe I want to balance out my first week in college (good) with diarrhea (bad) because I don’t feel I deserve good times.
Isn’t that silly, though? But then people do a lot of silly things. I used to get diarrhea every two weeks or so. I only had it once all summer, a week ago last Monday. Will I get it now? Answer: if I want to.
I’d like to talk to Brad or John or Daniel. I’m scared.
I didn’t have diarrhea tonight. Instead, I watched the premiere ofBracken’s World: what Hollywood corn! I haven’t really liked any new shows except the wry My World and Welcome to It.
Monday, September 22, 1969
The Day of Atonement. I don’t think I have any sins, nor does anybody else. We just make mistakes.
As soon as I got out of bed, Jonny handed me a long letter from David. I really like him and want to call him on the phone one day. Then, to my surprise, as I was writing my letter back to David, Daniel called.
I took a cab to Brooklyn Heights and found his house on Grace Court with little difficulty. I met his mom, an artist who seems nice, and Daniel’s 17-year-old sis, Kate. We had grilled cheese sandwiches and left for the Village.
By mistake, we took the IRT and had to walk to Washington Square. In the park, there was a Japanese guy handing out leaflets for an SDS rally in Chicago in October. I saw Crazy Judy by the fountain.
Daniel quit Poly Prep last week and starts at Friends on Wednesday; he’s half-Quaker himself. Now I can see that all we can ever be is friends. We talked about everything from sex to psychology to astrology and ate at this horribly expensive restaurant, The Cookery, on University Place.
Then we went to downtown Brooklyn, where Daniel bought some dungarees at A & S. The Slack Bar was closed for Yom Kippur; I told Daniel I used to work there, that it was my uncle’s store.
I came home tired but happy. My legs are aching from walking so much. I finished writing David and then I watched The New Peopleand Bob Hope and Flip Wilson.
Thursday, September 24, 1969
I got up early today and went downtown to the Motor Vehicles Bureau. With a little struggling with the bureaucracy there, I got my temporary driver’s license after finally passing my road test on the third try. I came home, still not believing it.
Going to school on the bus, I met Kenny, who is the rush chairman of Marshall House, who advised me to rush. Maybe I will.
The logic in Math is ridiculous (“If every boojun is a snark. . .”). The French quiz was a bit difficult. Then, in English, we discussed “Rip Van Winkle.” I stated that in some modern novels there’s little to do with reality – like in Vonnegut, Nabokov and some of Mailer.
After English, I saw Carole, who said she’s now going on Thursday nights to group.
Coming home on the bus, Kjell and I talked. He wants to be a psychologist, he said, so I told him about my therapy. We had a long conversation, the length of the bus ride to our block, and I almost think we could be friends. Strange how things turn out: in sixth grade, I couldn’t stand him.
Tonight I took my first legal solo drive: to the college and back. It feels strange but good. The Mets clinched the eastern division championship tonight. What ecstasy all Mets fans must be in!
Everything made me feel good tonight. I watched A Guide for the Married Man but found it vulgar and disgusting.
Saturday, September 27, 1969
I got to bed after 1 AM. I was thinking about my relationships with people and also about writing a story for riverrun, the student literary magazine. About Brad and Daniel and Mansarde (fictionalized, of course).
Getting up at 10 AM, I drove around. I thought about going to an antiwar demonstration, but it seemed too much trouble to go into Manhattan. After dropping in at the 86th Street store – business was slow, Monica said – I called Gary, but he was out, natch.
Then I decided to drive to Rockaway. Crossing over the Marine Parkway Bridge was not as frightening as I figured it might be.
Grandma Sylvia served me pot roast for lunch. Grandma Ethel wasn’t home. (I later found out she went shopping.)
When I got home, there was some Lab work to do and some reading (“The Masque of the Red Death,” which I don’t think I understood). Then I felt listless, but a good hamburger at the Fillmore Queen fixed that.
Dad and the family went out to the Island and bought a ’70 mauve Cadillac. I put forty miles on the Pontiac myself today.
Tonight Gary called me back and we gabbed for an hour. I watched Charlie Brown and Shenandoah: I’m a sucker for sentimentality.
Tuesday, September 30, 1969
At 9:30 AM, I got up groggily and headed off to Lab. We did some experiments on parallax, the seasons, etc., and then I came home for lunch.
In Science we had a few dull films, in French we learned a new conversation, and in Health Ed we discussed the self and suicide. I don’t think I will ever go through with killing myself – if I ever try. I’d probably always leave myself an out.
After a quick dinner at Wolfie’s, I was off to Dr. Lipton. Debra was back and has had her baby – a little girl, Lisa – and has left her mother’s house and is living with her grandmother. It was good to see her again.
We were on the same theme as last week: how we “set up” people and events and then complain about them. Lila brought up her problems with her job; Dave, his hangups on sex; John keeps quiet; Evelyn laughs and cries.
What do I do? I keep on searching.
The days are getting cooler, the nights are getting longer, leaves are falling – I like the crunch when I step on them. Tomorrow is October, and September, on the whole was a good month: the whole new world of college, the new group, new friends.
I have conflicts, but basically I’m at peace.