An 18-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From January, 1970
by Richard Grayson
Friday, January 2, 1970
Today was cloudy and not that hot. After breakfast in the dining room, I went across the street to Publix and Eckerd Drugs to buy Tang, peanut butter and the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Outside by the beach, we didn’t get much sun today. After finishing Michener’s Presidential Lottery and Kosinski’s engrossing Steps, I started Herzog, but found it impossible to get through. Then I had lunch with Scott and Jonny; Marty and the kids were also eating at a nearby table.
Marty said he found out our plane lands at Kennedy, not LaGuardia; I’m pretty scared about our flight, but my one consoling thought is that tomorrow night we’ll be safe at home.
Floridians seem to be very sensitive about the weather and don’t like to hear you complain about it being cloudy and cool. The hotel seems to have emptied out a great deal.
Back in the room, I watched soap operas and Mike Douglas, whose co-host was Wendy’s idol, Jack Wild, who seems dumb.
I went to dinner with my parents, Arlyne and Marty, and Dad’s Uncle Harry, who arrived today. Then they all went to Hollywood to see Joan Rivers, and Lily and I went to see an astrologist who gave readings. I walked out in the middle before he got to me; I don’t want to know the future.
Arlyne said today that I have spent my whole life preparing to do things and then failing at them.
Monday, January 5, 1970
The fucking (no other adjective) Selective Service System is screwing up my whole life. Those people who make murderers out of men have ordered me to report to Fort Hamilton at 7 a.m. on Friday.
Evidently those bastards haven’t received my 109 form yet. Today the college counselor was no help. I can get out of it by presenting papers from Dr. Lipton, but maybe the thing to do is just report and face the consequences: a small gesture against this insane war.
School helped to take my mind off the situation. I got an 81 on the Math test. Maria wasn’t in class. Science was one big boring review, and in English we talked about an imbecilic Nabokov story.
Tonight Dad and I went to Dr. Lipton, who gave me a letter saying I was under his care and “the prognosis is guarded.” He said if I ever needed his help, I should call him.
At home, the whole family had sort of a revealing group therapy session. Dad and I are alike — high-strung and impatient — and Mom and Marc are calm, shy, and stubborn. Jonny is in the middle. We should do this sort of thing more often, as it was very satisfying.
Remember that cute Sagittarian who put an ad in the Mensa Journal that interested me? It turns out in the second ad that it’s a gay guy, not a girl. (They misspelled petit as petite in the first ad.) I’m not sure I want to commit myself to anyone or anything, but as Pogo says, I don’t want to leave any turn unstoned.
Hooray for the valiant subway crashers!
Tuesday, January 6, 1970
Lab was short this morning, and Winnie and I chatted through the whole thing. I saw her last night on Flatbush Avenue near the record store where she works. She told me she was living with her boyfriend again.
Then Dad came to school and we broke through the bureaucracy to get my 109 form, which Dad took to the draft board. (The director of the Selective Service office assumed Dad was my brother because he looks so young.)
After the hassle with red tape, I ate lunch at Wolfie’s — funny, a week ago I was having lunch at the Wolfie’s in Miami Beach. Then I went to SUBO with Robert and later we went to see dull films in Science.
In French we went over pronouns; Rachel said I looked good with a tan. Health Ed was short today; we filled out evaluations of the course, and I said it was terribly organized. Maybe Women’s Health Ed is better?
When I went to deliver something next door, Bonnie told me that Dr. Wouk’s daughter Ellen, from his first marriage, is in her class. Evie has been very nice to me lately; Mom says she admires my courage for dealing with my problems.
I read New York magazine: people like Gloria Steinem, Breslin, Wolfe, Newfield and Joe McGinniss keep writing about each other, the snobs. (Would I love to be one of them, though!)
Mayor Daley was on the stand at the conspiracy trial today and there was pandemonium in the courtroom.
Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I mailed the letter to that guy with the ad today. I don’t want a lover so much as a friend. Does one ever have enough friends, I wonder?
Tonight we had a birthday cake for Marc, who’ll be 15 tomorrow. Heavy snow warnings tonight.
Friday, January 9, 1970
I got up at 5 a.m., and Dad drove me to Fort Hamilton in the 4° darkness. First about 150 of us were seated in an orientation room, where they called the roll and gave us two of the new 30-cent subway tokens each.
Then we went through an hour mental test. After another hour filling out endless forms in quadruplicate, the actual physical began. It was just like Alice’s Restaurant: I was “inspected, injected, rejected.”
I took off everything but my shoes and shorts — the old guy who took our clothes in plastic bags had only one arm, like Brad said — and I waited on endless benches to have everything checked: my vision, hearing, blood pressure, urine, blood tests, height (5’4″), weight (130!) and everything else. I got yelled at for watching blood being drawn because they were afraid I’d faint, but it doesn’t bother me.
Finally at about 1 p.m., I was allowed to get dressed and presented the letters from Dr. Lipton and Dr. Wouk to the guy at stop #11. (All the soldiers were expectedly gruff, especially a sergeant who looked like Flip Wilson.) He classified me 1-Y, said I would be rejected for a year, and said I could go home.
I called Dad and he picked me up. A quick late lunch, and then I was off to school. The French final was pleasant and not hard. Exams may make some people nervous, but the mental working relaxes me.
It’s difficult to believe that there are no more classes this term. I’m going to miss some of my friends, but hopefully I’ll be seeing them in the future. I’m going to take this weekend off to relax, and then I’ll study next week.
The family went out to eat, but I was so exhausted I just had a hamburger at home. Tonight it’s supposed to get even colder; it’s going to be in the 40s in Miami.
Saturday, January 10, 1970
My horoscope advised me to take it easy this weekend, and after this helluva week, I’m going to do just that.
After waking up late, I had a breakfast of toast with Florida-bought orange marmalade, and then I went out for a ride. The roads are still icy, and today was in the 20°s.
At the college library, I took out A Modern Comedy by Galsworthy. In Barron’s, which I was waiting at the checkout line (I bought Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano), I noticed Evan was in front of me on line. Although he was with some guys, he was friendlier than usual.
Back home again, I ate lunch and tried to get Marc to come with me to the movies; he stays home too much. But he said no, so I went by myself to the Marine and saw The Lion in Winter.
I’ve always been fascinated by the early Plantagenets, and the picture was great. It showed the bitchiness and family relationships beautifully. Katharine Hepburn was magnificent; she can say everything with just her face.
When I got out, it was dark and cold; the days are supposed to be getting longer, but I haven’t noticed it.
Grandma Sylvia came home from the hospital, and I’m going to go to Rockaway tomorrow to visit her. Mom and Dad went tonight to Cousin Randy’s wedding, and I wasn’t sorry I wasn’t invited.
Mom said I received a compliment from my step-great-grandmother; Grandma Bessie said she thought when I saw her at Aunt Claire’s last fall that I was “very handsome.”
It seems as though the Nigerians have beaten Biafra. I hope now the killing will stop.
Wednesday, January 14, 1970
Marc stayed home with a cold today and Jonny overslept and didn’t get to school till afternoon. (Without my prodding, he wouldn’t have gone.) The tranquilizers I gave Mom last night after the oven blew up helped her, and the burns are minor.
I studied Math this morning and early afternoon and helped Mom with the housework and went shopping for her. In the Flatlands library, I met Jeanne and we chatted. She’s a pleasant, plain girl, a lot like Alice only without Alice’s spunk.
This afternoon I again tried to conquer my fear of driving on parkways by riding on the Belt this afternoon. I went to Coney Island, to the aquarium; I’m a little in awe of fish. After the aquarium, I got some french fries at Nathan’s.
Coming home on the parkway, a mauve Caddy was behind me all the way. It was Dad, who was coming from the 86th Street store and going to the Male Shop. Apparently Lennie is doing fantastically well with the store; I spoke to him briefly yesterday when I got a haircut there.
When Grandpa Herb came over tonight, I gave him my new pair of jeans to alter.
Dr. Wouk read Pierre’s letter and told me to answer him kindly but firmly saying no go. I don’t want to hurt the guy, but it’s got to be done. I’m not interested in the sort of relationship. When Pierre described it, it sounded beautiful, but I just couldn’t go that way, be someone’s “permanent and forever” lover. Pierre is asking me to give him something I don’t have.
I don’t know if it’s that I’m afraid to admit I’m gay or that I’m straight, after all. When I see the unhappiness in lives like Pierre’s, I know I want to be straight.
Dr. Wouk said that I’m very narcissistic; I never thought it about it, but I suppose it’s true. We discussed my childhood: too often I felt like a precocious experiment. Dr. Wouk said my parents always treated me like an adult, so now I’m acting like a child and making sure they treat me like one.
Friday, January 16, 1970
I arose at 6 a.m. to make the Science final. It was pretty hard, and I think I blew my B in the course, but I’m glad it’s over.
Back home again, I heard about the eccentric young multimillionaire Mike Brody, 21, who wants to be a rock singer and is so happy in his recent marriage that he’s decided to give his $25 million fortune away.
He gave $100 to a newsboy, $1,000 to a TV reporter, and he’s being besieged by thousands of people. And he’s serious; it’s no gag. I wrote to him for Jonny, asking for money for a proposed trip to Washington.
The Math final, at 1 p.m., was fairly difficult, but I did all right. I was very happy to get a postcard saying I got an A in French from Dr. D’Avanzo. Along with my B in English from Miss Stein, I’m pretty happy with my first-term grades so far.
I felt achy late this afternoon and thought I might be getting that virus everybody has. I went out for some Pepto-Bismol and Scope, and while passing the Avenue T candy store, I picked up two girls and drove them to their house.
One of them, a strawberry blonde named June, a would-be dancer, was very friendly. She tried to flatter me by saying that she thought I was 21. (She was 16.) I’m sorry I didn’t get her last name; I need a girlfriend.
Grandpa Herb came over tonight to show me the missing balances that the manager apparently stole from the Slack Bar. He’s going to tell Marty tomorrow, and there’s going to be trouble.
Monday, January 19, 1970
It turned very cold again. Marc and Jonny had another battle royal that woke me this morning, so I left the house early.
I hadn’t been to Manhattan in two months, so I took the train to Washington Square. The Village was deserted except for a few hippies darting to get out of the cold. I went over see to a big fire on West 23rd Street, then rode the drafty subways.
Disappointed by my trip, I went back to Brooklyn and had hamburger at Junior’s and then walked over to the Slack Bar and rapped with Grandpa Herb and Joe for an hour. All the other black guys coming into the store seem to know Joe.
Grandpa Herb gave me some of that Aramis face bronzer that Marty’s been using, and it works well. After pseudo-shopping at A & S for a bit, I returned home.
Mom went through the “domestic situations wanted” section of yesterday’sTimes, with no success. She says Gisele is just too unreliable.
Mike Brody seems to have been revealed as a con man, an acid freak, and maybe insane. He’s saying that he ended the war.
Nixon nominated another conservative Southerner like the rejected Haynesworth to the Supreme Court, and sadly, it looks like this guy will go through.
I felt very sexy this afternoon and wanted a girl very much. Maybe I will have a girlfriend sooner than I think.
Tonight I finished A Modern Comedy. If my novels ever are as good as Galsworthy’s, I’ll have cause to be proud.
I called Kjell to find out the room for tomorrow’s Health Ed final. I’ve got to try to get to sleep early tonight for the test.
Wednesday, January 21, 1970
There were five inches of snow on the ground when I woke up. Marc and Jonny stayed home from school and shoveled everything before I was dressed, so I got to take it easy. Mom interviewed a new cleaning woman and she starts work tomorrow.
I stayed in most of the morning and afternoon, as it was very cold and icy out although I did go out and walk to Avenue T to have two slices of pizza for lunch. I was happily surprised to find I got B’s in both Science and Math.
I wrote Pierre a letter. Perhaps I was too blunt. I doubt I will hear from him again, but I do wish him well. Also, I finished writing David a breezy letter. I read magazines, watched TV, bickered with my brothers. After one day of intersession, I can’t wait till the new term begins.
Dad’s beard has started to grow in, and I can’t decide if I like it or not.
Tonight Dr. Wouk and I discussed my novel, Easy Rider, and freedom of expression. I need to express myself, yet I’m afraid to because I’m afraid of getting hurt, Dr. Wouk said.
He also said that in writing Pierre, I made a decision which was a greater accomplishment than all my grades this term. I think I’ve got to keep setting goals for myself and try to become a person who is getting somewhere. My life has been so achievement-oriented, and I’ve never achieved anything.
Dr. Wouk said that his book was written “for popular consumption, not for Mensa members like you.”
They’ve dug up some racist remarks by Judge Carswell, the new Supreme Court nominee.
Friday, January 23, 1970
This morning I sold some of my textbooks at Barron’s and received $5.50, which I intend to use to supplement my dwindling finances. On a whim, I decided to drive into Manhattan.
I have to admit I was scared driving over the upper level of the Manhattan Bridge. I drove a few blocks up Canal Street, then headed right home to pick up Mom at the beauty parlor. Driving is fine on the main roads but very hazardous on side streets.
Trying to avoid household blues, I went to a double feature at the College. Before Winter Comes was a run-of-the-mill story about an Austrian D.P. camp. I likedMe, Natalie very much. I really empathized with Patty Duke as the ugly-girl title character.
I had a splitting headache when I left the theater, and it stayed with me throughout the evening. While Dad took Mom and the boys out to dinner, I stayed home reading and watching the news.
France’s sale of arms to Arabs is mercenary and hypocritical. If I were a woman, I’d be very upset about the Senate hearings on the Pill.
Gary called, saying he’s been ill lately, probably because of his nerves. He’s taking the National Guard test on Monday, and they may not let him finish the spring term at Kingsborough, as he may be sent down South for four months of basic training.
Why must the government torture our young men?
Wednesday, January 26, 1970
I went out to the college this morning, and it was good seeing old acquaintances: Adele, Mr. Bartel, Rose, George Czutrin, others.
I’ve decided to take Art 1.1, Psych 2, English 2.2, Science 2 and French 0.6 (I think I’ll try to get Dr. D’Avanzo again). I looked up the teachers and worked out some schedules. This term I’ll enjoy my subjects more. Back home, I was surprised to find that Aronin gave me an A (!) in Health Ed; I expect my final did the trick.
Marc is on intersession, and he and I took a ride through the Five Towns and Rockaway. Our old bungalows have been torn down and nothingness surrounds the old neighborhood.
I spent the early afternoon watching soap operas. Nixon went on TV to give reasons why he was vetoing the health and education bill; he wasn’t convincing.
Tonight Dad finally shaved off his beard. I’m glad. Tommy Gerardi came over to take Dad to see Joe Pepitone’s new boutique/hair stylist thing on Flatbush Avenue, where Dad got an order.
Rosemary was in auto accident but wasn’t hurt. She says Arlyne’s cousin Dr. Soloway is helping her with her psychological problems.
Because Marc and Jonny are getting new beds tomorrow, I am getting Marc’s old bed, which is still better than mine. Jonny bought a harmonica and a Jew’s harp this afternoon.
Marty confronted his manager with the missing balances, and the man denied stealing.
Tonight on TV, I watched Bette Davis guest-star on It Takes a Thief and then the movie Suddenly, Last Summer.
I was glad the snow melted in the 45° weather.
Saturday, January 31, 1970
A pleasant day. After some early morning stomach cramps, I drove out to the college and bought Hardy’s Jude the Obscure and a psych book I needed.
Dad and Mom spent the day cleaning the car and fretting that they were closed out of a junket to Puerto Rico that their friends got on. Marc was next door with Bonnie, and Jonny played with Tommy and attended Tommy’s sister’s birthday party.
In the afternoon I stopped by Meyer Levin, my old junior high school. The school was open, so I walked right in. I could see Steve Handelman playing punchball on the “meatball” court, Gary Hermus as the King of Siam onstage in the auditorium, Mrs. Newman reading in Spanish, and all the rest.
It was half a decade ago that I was in junior high. Those were good times. How innocent we were.
I read the early chapters of Jude, which is quite engrossing and fairly modern in its thinking.
Gary came over tonight, and we drove around, watched The Front Page on TV, and chatted. He’s such a nice guy; I doubt if he’d come near me if he knew what kind of person I was really like.
I wonder if my novel will ever come off. I want to write it for my own pleasure, anyway.
It looks as though people are starting to pay attention to ecology, which is a good thing. The days are starting to get longer.