An 18-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From November, 1969
by Richard Grayson
Sunday, November 2, 1969
It rained all day and it’s supposed to do so again tomorrow. I got up late after a night of strange dreams. After breakfast, I went over to work at the Lindsay headquarters, where it was pretty quiet, so after a while I left for Rockaway.
Grandma Ethel and Grandpa Herb were at home, and with them I watched the football game and The Story of Louis Pasteur and ate lunch.
Grandma Ethel surprised me by saying that she didn’t love her father. She said that Great-Grandpa Max certainly never loved her and that he wasn’t too fond of me, either. I don’t have good memories of him.
Before I left, Grandpa Herb asked me to give his battery a boost, as he couldn’t start his car. To my surprise, it worked. Mechanical devices unnerve me; I don’t trust them.
At home again, I called Gary, and we spoke for an hour. He’s still doing Spanish tutoring, and like Grandma Ethel and Grandpa Herb, he’s switched to supporting Lindsay.
I wonder if the President will muff his chance to become a hero tomorrow night. Probably. Dad says not to expect too much from Nixon’s speech.
Tonight I did my Math and French work and then read John Cheever’s Bullet Park. I loved it! There’s a writer who can make characters interesting. I also watched David Frye on Ed Sullivan and The Forsyte Saga.
Monday, November 3, 1969
I felt dizzy last night and this morning and wasn’t sure why; perhaps it was my appointment with Dr. Wouk.
School was okay today, but I was preoccupied during Math and Science. In English, Miss Stein asked us personal questions (favorite graffiti, most evil thing we ever did, etc.) and after I collected the answers, she read them aloud. It was very interesting to hear that some of my classmates are as mixed-up as I.
Dr. Wouk remembered me. He operates much more directly than Dr. Lipton. He wanted to know why I would want to switch therapists after three years. I’m not sure, I said; I may be conning everyone but I don’t think I’m making fast enough progress.
He says basically my problem is one of identity; that may be why I think I’m gay, and my love of politics may be a way of trying to gain control. We agreed that I should bring switching up in group therapy tomorrow and come to a decision within a few days.
Nixon’s speech was depressing to watch. He is positive he is right and says pulling out would be the easy way out. It’s not. Does it matter how one ends the war? But Nixon’s made his choice. I truly hope he’s right, but I don’t think so.
Dr. Wouk’s book, Yes Power, is coming out on Wednesday. Scared but ever hopeful, I may be on the verge of a new life.
The reaction around to Nixon’s speech was mostly that it was nothing new and that it would just polarize the country even more.
After checking in on Jonny, who was sick in bed with a cold, I got on the Flatbush Avenue bus to go to Lindsay headquarters. Evan was also on the bus, going to buy some records, and we had a long, friendly chat. He’s a nice guy.
At the Lindsay headquarters, I somehow got in with a bunch of poll-watchers from Manhattan and went with them on a bus to the Bay Ridge campaign office.
There, I was shocked to learn that Larry Royce, the head of our primary storefront in the spring and a beautiful guy, died of a heart attack on Sunday. He was fifty years old.
I hung around the Bay Ridge store, doing stuff as I rapped with the other college students there about politics and junk. So many kids today are aware of things, it’s amazing.
Finding my way home through strange territory, I learned from Mom that the mayor shook hands with Grandpa Herb on Fulton Street yesterday and now Grandpa’s a big Lindsay fan.
For various reasons, fatigue among them, I decided to skip group therapy. Instead, I just watched the election results tonight; the projections come too fast. Lindsay’s victory restores my faith in New York.
It’s an amazing comeback since the heartbreaking June primary; I wish Larry were alive to see it.
I’d expected Beame to win for Controller, but as I write this, the Council President’s race is too close. People in New Jersey just must have been tired of Dems; I can’t believe they like Nixon.
Saturday, November 8, 1969
A very pleasant autumn day. Dad’s car was in the garage being fixed, so he and the family took the Pontiac today.
Without wheels, I rode the subway to 14th Street and went up to the place to visit Grandpa Nat. A lot of men were there, looking for wholesale pants.
I called Brad from the office, perhaps thinking about lunch, but he sounded very hung over. “A typical Friday night,” he called it, telling me to come by at 3 p.m. for coffee. I declined, as I didn’t feel like waiting in Manhattan till then.
Over at the Fifth Avenue Peace Committee headquarters around the corner from the place, I bought some “March on Washington” buttons in their busy loft. Then I walked over to 150 Fifth and looked in at the Moratorium headquarters for a while.
Having nothing better to do after that, I took the Sixth Avenue (I mean Avenue of the Americas) bus to 57th Street, passing Herald Square, Rockefeller Center, and the pornography capital of the world.
In downtown Brooklyn, I had a hamburger in Junior’s and then, on an impulse, walked into the Albee to see The Graduate, which I thought was pretty good, if unbelievable. Dustin Hoffman is an excellent actor, and Simon and Garfunkel’s music sounded better than ever.
Tonight I had supper at the Mill Basin Deli, where I met Irving Cohen. He said at Rhonda’s school, American University, they’re setting up sleeping rooms for the marchers next week.
Back home, I watched a scary Rod Serling movie.
Tuesday, November 11, 1969
The sun broke through occasionally on this Veterans’ Day. This morning I did my Math work and studied Science.
In the afternoon, I had to deliver a pair of slacks over to Roxy’s on Utica and Church. The kid working there told me he’s planning on hitching a ride to Washington Thursday.
From there, I went over to the 86th Street Pants Set store, where business was slow and the new manager seems a little too shrewd, a little too vulgar, as I later told Dad.
I came home and watched soap operas that I hadn’t seen in month. Nothing has changed.
Tonight at Dr. Lipton’s, I told the group about my plans for changing therapists. Surprisingly, no one tried to dissuade me; they just wanted me to be sure I knew my reasons. I’m not sure I do, but I’m looking forward to sessions with Dr. Wouk.
Driving home from group was slightly difficult, as I had to fight off that tight, nauseating fear that encroached upon me — but I made it.
Dad and the boys went to see Alice’s Restaurant; maybe I’ll go later this week. Mom and I had a very friendly talk tonight; we get along so much better now and are more like equals.
A man in Sid’s Green Acres store dropped dead today while trying on a pair of Dad’s pants.
Thursday, November 13, 1969
For a change, it was a bright and breezy day. In the mail today I got my beautiful new English cashmere sweater and also the Teen Mensa newsletter; I’m thinking of writing an article for it.
At Whitman Auditorium, Dr. Strangelove was shown, and then Senator Goodell was introduced. He began, “My fellow rotten apples. . .”
Goodell attacked Saigon corruption, the domino theory, and the expenditures on defense. If Nixon escalates, he said, “the country will come apart at the seams” and there is a chance that there will be a violent revolution.
Finishing up his speech, Goodell flashed the V sign and got a standing ovation. Hungry, I went to Wolfie’s for a tuna salad sandwich and relaxed in the Student Center.
After the Science test, which was fairly easy, I recognized Sheila, the girl who I was with on Election Day. Still wearing her Lindsay button, she was collecting money to aid Vietnamese victims of bombing raids. Sheila joins every cause in the book.
Nearby, Neil was handing out leaflets in support of the GE strike and others were handing out leaflets for their causes.
I don’t know why the networks carried Agnew’s idiotic attack on news. The vice president is a genuine card-carrying cunt who must think everyone is as dumb as he is.
Today I bought my 1970 diary. This diary has become very important in my life. I think I’m getting sick.
Saturday, November 15, 1969
Worried about going to Florida for Christmas, I had trouble getting to sleep last night. I’m scared of flying and being away. Mom says I don’t have to go if I don’t want to. We’ll see.
This morning I listened to the March on Washington on WBAI. Then I drove over to Rockaway and had lunch with Grandma Sylvia and Grandpa Nat. (My other grandparents are at Grossinger’s for the weekend.)
I read the Voice while looking out at the ocean from the terrace. Grandma Sylvia disagreed with me about the war, but as Grandpa Nat said, “What does she know?”
Driving back to Brooklyn, I decided to see Alice’s Restaurant at the Brook. The picture was uneven, but it showed the emptiness in people’s lives and the things they do to fill the void. And there were some hilarious moments at Whitehall Street. Some older people behind me thought the movie was disgusting.
I picked up some franks at the Mill Basin Deli and headed home to listen to news from Washington. The march came off rather peacefully, and the crowd may have been half a million people.
Senator McGovern was right when he said we are all prisoners of war. It’s too bad about the crazies by the Justice Department.
Tonight I watched The Fortune Cookie and did all my Math and French work.
Monday, November 17, 1969
I slept very well last night and studied French before I went to school. Mom told me this morning that Evie told her that Fern had a baby girl yesterday. It’s weird that we’re the same age and she’s a mom.
As usual, Math was boring. Maria and Robert weren’t in school and I missed them. Jeanne said Maria got her citizenship papers last week. We started a new unit in Science today.
In English, Miss Stein asked us to define words like cat, orange, love, happiness. It was very difficult for the class; everyone had different definitions for the abstract terms.
I had a hard time getting a cab downtown to Dr. Wouk’s. I told him what my life is like: about Brad, Daniel, my family, my sexual desires, my interests, friends and hobbies.
Dad interrupted us with a call saying he would pick me up, as he was in Manhattan because there was a minor robbery in the place. (Dad’s having business troubles aplenty.)
Dr. Wouk suggested something interesting: if I want something (affection, food) from someone, why can’t I just ask for it? It sounds simple yet so novel. I like Dr. Wouk; he’s so much more direct than Dr. Lipton, and their ideas contrast so sharply.
Tonight I watched a little TV and started reading The Forsyte Saga, which I got from the college library. Galsworthy writes well, and even though I know the story, I still find the story exciting.
Thursday, November 20, 1969
A cold, blustery day. I felt very good this morning except for some vague chest pains which soon went away. After breakfast, I drove to Kings Highway and picked up the Voice and the Times. I passed Brad’s family’s house. His familiar green Mustang was parked outside.
I have come into contact with so many people in the last few months that I’m always seeing familiar faces.
I learned that Mom called Dr. Wouk. I’m not upset about it, but I didn’t think it necessary. If she wants to discuss something with him, it’s okay with me.
Science was the usual bore, and in English we discussed Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat.” Miss Stein always calls on me when no one else answers.
A few of the guys in Health Ed thought the people who came from Phoenix House last class were phonies or wrong. Kjell put it well when he defended them.
I know I use other “drugs” that I use to escape from tension, but I am not physically dependent on anything.
Rodney, a kid from Harlem, told us how hard it is to escape the hard stuff in the ghetto, and I admire any of the guys like him that can do it.
This afternoon I watched the docking of Apollo 12 after they left the moon. Grandpa Herb and Marty came over tonight. Grandpa finally sold his battered Mercury and is taking Marty’s old car.
I called Gary and invited him over tomorrow night.
The slaughter of that Vietnamese village, if true, is shocking and it deserves investigation. Right now I’d say the Haynesworth confirmation vote could go either way.
Monday, November 24, 1969
Today passed fairly quickly. Jonny stayed home from school (constipation) and Mom went to the doctor.
This morning I got a letter from Mansarde, who thinks I should give up giving advice because I become too preachy. I read Thomas Mann’s “Little Herr Freidemann” for English, ate lunch, and went to school.
On Flatbush Avenue I met Maria — she said her citizenship test was very easy — and we went together to Math, where Mr. Feltman discussed inequalities.
In Science, Prof. Dillon placed his hands on some sort of electric thing and his hair stood up perfectly straight. He looked really funny!
Dan wasn’t in English today, and Mikey told me it’s because Dan’s mother is really sick with cancer. Miss Stein discussed the Mann story and made the statement that men and women can’t be platonic friends (unless they’re queer). I disagree and think maybe that’s her hangup.
Dad, Marc and I went out to Kennedy Airport to get Marc’s student card for a discount fare. I like the airport’s intriguing atmosphere and imagined that I was a foreign spy or a famous diplomat.
Back at home, I watched TV and read The Forsyte Saga. The lyrics of “Eleanor Rigby” kept running through my mind all evening: “Ah, look at all the lonely people / Where do they all come from?”
In her letter, Mansarde wondered if “growing up” just means accepting our self-ignorance. I’m not sure she’s wrong.
Wednesday, November 26, 1969
I didn’t get to sleep until late last night because I was arguing philosophy with myself. I remembered an Arab proverb: “Keep your tents separate but bring your hearts together.” Also, Linus’s line in Peanuts: “I love mankind — it’s people I can’t stand!”
Without school, today was boring. I drove around this morning, but I didn’t find anything interesting. Jonny was home again with the problem of Portnoy’s father, but it got resolved this afternoon.
To relieve my boredom, I went to see Last Summer, which is one of the best pictures I can remember seeing. It had some of the necessary flaws of the novel, but it was a great portrait of adolescent innocence and cruelty. Cathy Burns should win an Oscar for playing Rhoda.
Tonight I went to Dr. Wouk. I am afraid to find out how scared I am, and I’m also nervous because Dr. Wouk won’t allow any games or bullshit.
He says my main interest is people. I want to say “Love me” but I’m afraid of getting hurt, so I try to be cool and unemotional. My greatest need and my greatest fear is to communicate, to love.
I guess my life is lonely. But it’s much less lonely than it used to be, and I have faith that things will get better.
Marjorie Guthrie was on David Frost tonight; there’s one hell of a lady.
Saturday, November 29, 1969
A day loaded with surprises. I met Carole at the college and gave her a lift to her job at Fae Mart on Avenue U. She feels that I have courage to quit Dr. Lipton, and she asked me if I still see Brad. I said occasionally. We talked a lot; she still seems insecure.
Next I met Gary in the school library doing a paper on German history. I waited for him to get done and we chatted over tuna salad at Wolfie’s. If you ask me, Gary’s still in love with his old girlfriend.
When I got home, surprise number three was a letter from the goddamn draft board classifying me 1-A! Quicker than you could say “General Hershey,” I wrote off a letter of appeal. Don’t those idiots know I’m a student? Hell no, I won’t go!
When I called Brad, he said he had company and promised to call me later in the week. His cryptic replies can be rather infuriating. I got a psychosomatic headache after talking to him.
I’m still unsure of my sexual identity. Boys still look mighty good to me. But I’m not going to beat my head against the wall; I’ll take things as they come.
I started reading Pete Hamill’s A Killing for Christ: gutsy, ballsy writing. Tonight I watched a Peter Sellers movie.