An 18-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From October, 1969
by Richard Grayson
Thursday, October 2, 1969
A cloudy, rainy day: kind of nice for a change. Robert and I went back to Midwood this morning. How small the halls of my old high school seem now!
Mr. Blumstein, sporting a beard, talked with us for quite a while. You can see how he loves being a teacher. I ran into Mr. Sarney, who vaguely remembered me; he looks the same.
Going with Robert for a drink in Whitehead, we ran into Alice and her boyfriend Howie, who I thought would be better looking.
Dillon lectured on vectors in Science, we discussed “Masque of the Red Death” in English, and in Health Ed, Aronin gave us a photo to describe (like a TAT) and dismissed us early.
Going home, Kjell and I again talked psychology. It’s getting so I’m never alone on the bus at night; either Kjell or Evan or Kenny is there for me to talk to.
From 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. I studied French in preparation for the test tomorrow.
Sunday, October 5, 1969
It was cool and breezy today. This morning I was a slugabed. Finally arising, I spent an hour after breakfast reading the Sunday Times. Politicians are already making their first moves for next year’s elections.
I drove out to Rockaway to visit Grandma Ethel and Grandpa Herb, bringing some books so I could study while I was there. We had gefilte fish and salad for lunch.
Then I drove over to Beach 56th Street where we used to spend our summers. The bungalows are all torn down, and it’s hard to believe that place contains so many memories for me of summers gone by.
I rode around Brooklyn for a while, then came home to watch the Mets win a long, agonizing game over Atlanta.
I feel sort of achy tonight and a bit sad. Today I thought of Kevin and of Oliver and wondered what they’re doing now. Kevin had so much potential; it’s depressing to think of him as a junkie on the West Coast.
And Oliver — my first love, I guess — I hope he’s holding up with the years. If I saw him, I probably wouldn’t have the nerve to tell him what he meant to me.
Wednesday, October 8, 1969
A rainy day. This morning I went off to Drama Workshop, where we started by having to introduce ourselves.
Then I volunteered for an exercise where six of us closed our eyes while Barry told us we were in a concentration camp and he was the commandant. One of us would die in the next ten minutes.
He went around asking us routine questions, but in an imposing manner. I think I reacted well — someone said I did — but it was quite a frightening experience.
Classes went okay: Math (equivalence sets), French (I got 89 on the last quiz) and English (Hawthorne’s “My Kinsman, Major Molineux”).
When I got back home, Mom had no hamburger rolls, so I went out and got some. Coming back, I dented the car when it hit the fence by the driveway. I am pretty aggravated about it, as is Mom.
I don’t want to think too much about it. I’m sure it will blow over in a few days, but it spoiled a pleasant day.
Tonight I unwound by watching Two for the Road: sometimes a plain old love story can be very helpful.
Friday, October 10, 1969
A very pleasant day, all things considered. It was sunny and I felt sunny.
I went off to school and signed up for M-Day. Everybody’s talking about it: Evie, Marc, Dr. D’Avanzo. It may be the biggest antiwar thing yet.
Tricky Dick is trying to trick us with the firing of General Hershey and such, but it won’t work. We shall overcome — I feel it — and the war will end sooner than we think.
The SDS people in Chicago got what they deserved; violence is not my thing. I’m thinking of going to Washington in November for the march of Coretta Scott King, one of my favorite people. Jeanne and I discussed it during Math. I hope it’ll be nonviolent.
We had another French quiz. I didn’t do too well, but I don’t really care. I’m so worked up: the mere mention of Vietnam angers, or perhaps, depresses me (in a good way, if depression can be good).
I think of that veteran’s jacket I saw the other day: “When I die I’m going to heaven, ‘cause I’ve spent my time in hell.” There is a great sense of community among the peace folks.
Saturday, October 11, 1969
Today was a schizophrenic day: it started off cloudy and rainy and ended up sunny and warm.
I went up to the Moratorium headquarters on Fifth Avenue this morning. What a beehive of activity: people on phones, kid selling buttons that say “moratorium” for ten cents apiece (I bought fifty), young girls running errands.
I also bought a poster with a dove on it that says “Vietnam Moratorium: October Till the End of the War.” They’re also selling candles, black armbands and a “work for peace” ribbons. And I did work, mostly carrying up boxes of literature and putting them in piles that need to be distributed.
Coming home on the train, an old lady asked to see my poster — she thought it was going to be for the Beatles — and she smiled when she saw it. Mom is wearing the button, as are my brothers and Bonnie next.
This afternoon I watched the Mets lose and studied Science.
Tonight I went out for a ride through the borough. A sophisticated-looking girl licking an ice cream cone in the next car smiled at me. I don’t know what I expected would happen next: something out of Two for the Road, maybe.
Tuesday, October 14, 1969
There was an air of mounting expectation on campus today. The YAF called us commies, but our side spent the day reading the names of the war dead.
School seemed sort of unimportant — the Science test was easy — compared to the hope for M-Day tomorrow.
Kjell saw me on television last night, being interviewed at Moratorium HQ; I was quite surprised they aired it. I got rid of all my buttons today and grabbed some leaflets.
I talked to Andrea over lunch, and Mr. Aronin and others, and everyone’s against the war, but some are not sure anything will happen.
Wednesday, October 15, 1969
Moratorium Day arrived early for me. I went to the college at 9 a.m. and handed out leaflets at the Junction subway stop. Some people spit at me, others called me a commie, and still others said, “Why don’t you go back to Russia?”
The person who affected me most was this old lady who told me that her nephew had had his legs shot off in “this horrible, horrible war.”
Alice, Howie, Jeanne and I attended the rally on campus. Howard Samuels, Assemblyman Kretchmer, a lady who had been to North Vietnam (Cora Weiss), Joe Flaherty and others spoke out for peace.
We ate lunch quickly and then marched down Flatbush Avenue to Church and back to the college. As we chanted “Peace now” and sang “We Shall Overcome,” some people along the way joined us in making the “V” peace sign.
Others cursed at us and a policeman made a “W” sign for war. A lot of cars on Flatbush Avenue had their headlights on in opposition to the war.
Tired, I came home to watch the Mets win game number three. Brad called, and we spoke for a while, but I wanted to watch the Bryant Park rally. So many good people are with us: Gene McCarthy, Mayor Lindsay, Senator Goodell, Senator Javits, lots of stars and just plain people.
The quote I remember best is Reverend Coffin’s line: “Silence is treason when good men are killed in a bad war.”
Now I feel a little depressed, as I knew I would. I guess it’s too early to tell if anything will happen. Tomorrow I go back to school, back to my personal problems.
Friday, October 17, 1969
The days are beginning to get cool, the nights cold.
I had a conference with Miss Stein today. She seems very interested in me. We went over my papers, and I talked about my love of drama and Henry James. She thinks I have writing talent and suggests I develop it.
Miss Stein asked me if I thought about majoring in English instead of Poli Sci. I told her I’m a bit of a dilettante, that everything interests me.
After that, I went to Math — theorems galore, on which we’re getting an exam in a week. I got my French quiz back: 86%, better than I expected.
Tonight I feel a little bit achy and my throat is sore. Postnasal drip will be the death of me yet.
Wednesday, October 22, 1969
Getting back to school after being sick was very satisfying. In just six weeks, I’ve become quite fond of my classes.
In the mail this morning, I got my permanent license; however, the fee and my interim license must be turned in before it can be validated.
In Math, Terry informed me that Jeanne was ill with a cold and fever and that Maria was also sick and didn’t show up to class, either. I guess it is going around. In French we discussed Jeanne d’Arc and Napoleon.
In English, Miss Stein gave back our essays; I got a B. Then we did some grammar — or rather, different connotations of words (i.e., buffoon, wit, comic). Dan said he found nothing obscene, except incest. I’m not sure I believe him or anyone who says that. Who knows how he could really feel if some hypothetical situation came up that affected him?
I like Dan very much, but I doubt we will ever be more than friends in this one class. He has chutzpah: he told Miss Stein the last essay topic was “shitty.” And he’s very bright and arrogant in a likable way.
At home, we discussed politics over dinner. The News poll shows Mayor Lindsay ahead. Dad was going to vote for Mario, but now he’s undecided because of Procaccino’s ridiculous mouthings.
Monday, October 27, 1969
I didn’t sleep too well last night because my throat is still very sore. This morning I felt quite depressed, and I thought of going to that psychologist I saw once a year ago. Mom discovered his name: Dr. Robert Wouk.
I’ll think about it for a while. Though I don’t really want to go through all that shit about my past again, I want a fresh point of view after four years with Dr. Lipton. Some tranquilizers and penicillin put me more at ease.
Math was boring today: he didn’t have the tests graded yet, thank God. In Science, we saw some films. One, which I found fascinating, was on relativity. So much depends upon your frame of reference. In English, we dissected some poor student’s miserable essay.
It gets dark so early now. I wrote 200 words about an ashtray and 300 words on my room. I also studied Math and French. Then I watched The Survivors, Peyton Place and the news.
Senator Cranston said tonight that the Pentagon has contingency plans in case the South Vietnamese turn around and attack us: bizarre but probably true. Can we tell our friends from our enemies anymore? Can I?
Thursday, October 30, 1969
Gisele came back to work this morning after almost a week in the hospital. She looks tired and maybe shouldn’t be cleaning the house yet.
This morning I read Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer” for English and also Jimmy Breslin’s profile of Queens in New York Magazine. The Time cover story, “The Homosexual in America,” disturbed me a little.
It’s a good thing, however, to recognize the problem and try to understand it. But when it comes to a personal thing, it becomes a hassle. For a while, I was certain I was gay, now I’m not so sure.
Boys are still very attractive to me, but now I’m also looking at the opposite sex. I have fantasies about a leggy, thin, long-haired pretty girl who would need me. But I’m not sure I could get it up for her.
In the cafeteria today, Robert, Neil and I discussed bus transfers. It’s strange how Robert and I both used to ride Brooklyn buses merely to collect the different transfers. We were thoroughly confused in Science by Dillon’s lecture.
In English, we had a long and sometimes heated discussion on open enrollment. Generally, I support it, but I think we have to redefine “college” itself. We got into the basic question, which is — naturally — race.
Speaking of race, I’m thrilled that the Burger Court socked it to Nixon with today’s Mississippi desegregation decision.
In Health Ed, we discussed love and sex. The discussion might be different if we had girls in the class. Kjell is getting engaged next year and says he will probably not have intercourse until after marriage. Is that patience or insanity?
It’s over a week since I confessed to Kjell that I had homosexual feelings for some boys (definitely not him). Although he was surprised, he wasn’t shocked and is obviously staying my friend, so I figured he’d be more liberal about sex generally.
I have an appointment with Dr. Wouk on Monday at 7:15 p.m. I can’t wait.
Listening to Spiro Agnew’s speech tonight made me realize that he hates the young.