An 18-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From May, 1970
by Richard Grayson
Monday, May 4, 1970
I got to the office to help Mark in getting out the petitions to the various candidates and giving them assistance. Some people I know, like Mikey and Rodney, are running for rep. I’m getting to know a lot of the people in student government, even the candidates for president and vice president.
I was exhausted by lunchtime, but attended a protest rally. President Kneller cancelled classes from 11 AM to 2 PM tomorrow in protest over the new escalation. Some students are planning a strike, and I, for one, hope it comes to pass.
In Psych, we saw a film about behavioral therapy with psychotic children. I cut English and went to SUBO and had a coke with Janet. In Science, Prof. Levine discussed chromosomes and DNA.
– I just learned that four students, two of them girls, were shot to death at an antiwar rally at Kent State University in Ohio by National Guardsmen.
This makes me so depressed and angry I can’t express myself very well. Repression is setting in, the stock market is tumbling, and the killing in Asia goes on, and nobody seems to care.
Dad told me after he spoke with Irving Cohen, who bought half of Dad’s interest in Space Age, that Rhonda said there are “ominous undercurrents” on the American University campus tonight.
This week and next are going to be hectic, especially checking the petitions on Wednesday evening.
Tuesday, May 5, 1970
A rough day, but these are rough times. When I arrived on campus at 9 AM, picket lines were up at every entrance and I knew things were coming. Everyone was furious and bewildered over the Kent State shootings.
I was alternately in my office working and attending the biggest rally I’ve ever seen at the college. I didn’t want to leave the office for too long as the nutty Erica Morton (chief virgin on campus) was the only one there.
A strike was called, and although Dr. Kneller called off classes for two hours, he wouldn’t support a strike. Suddenly, after the rally, the President’s office was taken. There was little resistance.
I walked up there and heard a student tell Kneller, “Sometimes you’ve got to stick your neck out.” The President replied, “If you don’t think I’m sticking my neck out, you’re crazy.”
I called home from Dr. Kneller’s phone, stood on his balcony, pilfered some stationery and sat at his desk. It was unbelievable — just like what I’ve read about it.
I went back to the office and talked and rested with Juan and Esther Ng, who’s a dedicated radical; I’m going to vote for her and her black running-mate Pam Harvey, although they have no chance of winning.
By now I know so many people on campus, and everybody knows me, even the president of the student body, Phil.
Strikes are on at most city colleges and all over the country, too. “Avenge the Kent State 4″ was written all over campus. The country is getting out of Nixon’s control. Things are very weird and happening so fast, I need to catch my breath.
Wednesday, May 6, 1970
A cold, hairy day. I relaxed for a change this morning. I did pass by Midwood, which was on strike.
When I did get on campus after 2 PM, I went to the office and did some work. We’ll have to postpone, or as things turned out, cancel the elections.
Mark and I went to a crammed meeting of Concerned Faculty who voted to strike indefinitely. The black and Puerto Rican students want the school kept open, however.
I was in the liberated President’s office when a bomb threat call was received, and Boylan Hall was evacuated. Meetings were held everywhere: Student Government in SUBO, the strike steering committee at Whitman, blacks at Roosevelt.
Kneller called the Concerned Faculty members “unrepresentative” but called off classes for the rest of the week. Mark and I had to lock our office so that it won’t be taken over.
Things are pretty confused. Strikes are going on all over the country and there’s a Washington demonstration scheduled for this weekend. Various people around the campus that I’ve been speaking to – Richard Pontone, Esther, Evan and others — are not sure of what’s happening, and neither am I.
Dad’s Bronx store was closed due to the Fordham demonstrations.
Now I’m just living day by day. But I wish I had time to reflect on what’s gone on in the past few days.
Thursday, May 7, 1970
Another day of protest and turmoil.
On campus early, I was chased out of Kneller’s office by the strike leaders: the liberators seem to be becoming repressors.
Mark and I went to a liberation class with Jerry Sachs, a sociology professor, and we discussed how this whole movement relates to us as individuals.
Marc said Madison was closed, as were most other high schools, and there was a huge high school rally at the Whitman amphitheater. I’m amazed that they’re so politically aware.
Michelle Nagel and I went to the Concerned Faculty meeting, and then went with Juan to the mass meeting at Whitman. I left there and went into LaGuardia and rapped with Esther and a black guy, Zeke Clayton, who wore a nameplate saying “outside agitator emeritus.”
After lunch, I went to the Sociology Department meeting. Sachs rented a bus to Washington and people bought tickets. After considerable discussion, they passed a resolution supporting the strike for the rest of the term.
Tired and somewhat disgusted, I spotted Doris Cohen driving down Flatbush Avenue and she drove me home. I took some photos on campus, but everyone gets touchy about being photographed.
Funeral services were held for Jeffrey Miller, one of the dead Kent students. Some people are using the tragedy to further their own causes.
Of all people, Interior Secretary Hickel called on Nixon to “end the war on the young.”
This week, as Jerry Sachs said, seems three years long. I don’t like not thinking all this through. I’m an orderly person who’s most comfortable with routine living at a chaotic time like this.
Friday, May 8, 1970
And it goes on. Alice and I went to a faculty meeting at Whitman at 10 AM. Kneller spoke, as did one of the Concerned Faculty and a representative of blacks. Not much was accomplished.
We found Howie in the President’s office (now Strike Central) and walked around campus, and then Jeanne and I went to a workshop. No one knows if police will be sent on campus to break up the strike.
I went to quite a few other meetings during the day, including one of marshals for the Washington march. Esther is working as a marshal, Sheila is working on the clean-up committee, Mr. Feltman is on the Concerned Faculty.
I came home for lunch and returned to the college until 5 PM. The school will be open, but classes are shut “indefinitely.” More departments — Chem, Bio, Poli Sci — have supported the strike. All public schools were closed today.
Construction workers beat up students in Wall Street and threw rocks at women protestors. This saddens and angers me and does more than all the peace rhetoric to convince me that the strike is right. On campus, there were a few confrontations with YAF, but nothing serious. I wish the strikers were better organized.
Mom and Dad went to a Neil Simon play tonight. A heavy thunderstorm struck — if only it could wash away all the world’s troubles. At Nixon’s press conference he was oh so sincere, but it won’t help him.
Saturday, May 9, 1970
A hot day: it hit 90° and was sunny. I got a letter from Gary this morning. Things seem to be going all right at Fort Polk, although his folder says “Pvt. Mary Marcus” and he said he thought he could get out for being a transvestite.
At the college, the crowds were small. I attended a liberation class held by Prof. Vincent of the Bio Department on how to influence legislators. I took a list of names for a national political action committee.
I met Jeanne as she was leaving and I drove her home. There was a rumor that more of those hard-hat construction workers were coming to the college to cause trouble, but none showed up.
The Washington rally was large and non-violent. The ball may be rolling for some sort of general strike. Nixon met with some demonstrators at dawn, but he may revert to Mr. Mean if this thing goes on.
I relaxed, got a suntan and read James Watson’s The Double Helix the rest of the afternoon. I got pictures back of O’Dwyer and the peace rally that seems so long ago; all came out well.
Tonight I went out and talked with my parents, Lou and Evie, and our neighbor Jerry, who works for the telephone company. Evie tells me that Julie down the block is going to Fort Polk this week. Maybe I should give him Gary’s name.
WBAI gave their excellent coverage of the Washington demonstration again. Free radio like that is good. This was the week that was, but is it an end or merely a prelude of things to come.
Monday, May 11, 1970
A hot, sunny day. Marc went to school, but there was a strike on at Madison and he came home. The Board of Higher Education opened the City University, but President Kneller closed Brooklyn.
Dr. Wouk and I discussed my role in all of this. He’s pleased that I’m making excellent progress. His new book, The Right to Lie, has been published.
When I got back on campus, I went into a crowd that included Janet, Effie, Rose and Prof. Levine and heard Abbie Hoffman speak. I never heard so many “fuck”s in my life. The speech was filled with bad logic, revolutionary rhetoric and some humor; I did not applaud with the others.
Hoffman’s a showman. I doubt if he wants peace and hope not too many are fooled by him.
Then I went to the Spigot office. The SG elections have been officially cancelled. Steve Denker, who appointed me elections commissioner, chaired a meeting that included Juan and Mitch. A quasi-official student government committee was set up to contact local organizations.
I may take Mark up on his offer to join the Spigot staff. Juan told me there are advantages to being nice to Erica: “she’s very liberal about sex.”
At home, I spent the afternoon sunning myself and reading The Deer Park. I stopped by the Cohens tonight. Sid and Charlotte Rotenberg reported that Joey wants to quit high school and fight the hardhats. We decided that the best way to express dissent was at the ballot box.
Tuesday, May 12, 1970
A hot, humid day. I spent the morning in the back yard and I’m as red as a lobster.
They served an injunction on the strike steering committee last night and they fled Kneller’s office. I walked into the Spigot office and Mark asked me to go around and estimate the percentage of attendance; from what I saw, I figured 20% at most.
I met with most of my teachers, although I couldn’t find Miss Glikin. Dr. Bonchek sent a letter saying the class will meet on Friday at Hillel. Dr. D’Avanzo’s giving me an A, Benezra and Wachsberger will give A’s, B’s and P’s — I’ll probably get the latter.
This afternoon I renewed my friendship with Kjell by staying at his house for a couple of hours. His mother is very nice, like Kjell. Two of his friends came over, and I recognized one of them, Peter, from junior high. (Why is it no one remembers me?)
When I drove Kjell to the store where he works, he told me he’s joining the Reserves. He invited me to stop by his house often, and I think I will.
In the news, the Senate confirmed Blackmun and may cut off funds for the war. The Liberal Party nominated Goldberg for Governor and Goodell for Senate. Senators Church, Goodell, Hughes, McGovern and Hatfield made a good case for their bill to cut off war funds in a TV special.
I found Peter very attractive this afternoon, and I got the feeling he could also be gay. Am I ready for that kind of relationship? Sometimes I feel an overwhelming need to hold another human being in my arms.
Wednesday, May 13, 1970
A warm, sunny day punctuated by a morning rain shower. I was very dizzy last night and didn’t get much sleep. Mom spent the day shopping downtown and she got me a Wallace Beery-type shirt.
I had lunch near the college with Howie and Alice, who was on her lunch hour from her job. Howie may get a job announcing the news on Saturdays on a Long Island radio station; he’s auditioning on the air on Friday. They make a nice couple; it’s obvious they’re in love.
In Boylan Hall, I was walking around and saw that riverrun was on sale. When I told them who I was, they gave me three copies free. The story, “Reflections on a Village Rosh Hashona,” is just the way I wrote it. It was elating to see it in print. I didn’t let anyone read it, however; it’s too embarrassing.
I briefly joined Esther on a picket line and went home to lie in the sun and finish the Mailer novel. Morgenthau dropped out of the race for governor. The hardhats and those dandruffy clerks in their Robert Hall shirts were out on Wall Street shouting “U.S.A. alla way.”
Thank God for Secretary Hickel standing up for the protestors; I made a mistake in opposing his appointment. Agnew was on David Frost, taking a cue from his boss, coming on quiet and sincere. God, sometimes I wonder late at night what would have been had Bobby Kennedy not gotten shot.
Gary’s mother called and gave me his address so I can write him back.
Thursday, May 14, 1970
A cooler, cloudy day. I woke up late and when I got on campus, Steve said to me that he saw my name on the masthead of the special offset edition of the Spigot. Sure enough, Mark roped me into joining the staff.
I spent three hours typing up announcements for the next special edition, which may or may not come out tomorrow. I lost track of the time and just made it to Miss Glikin’s class. She said if we want better than a P, we’ll have to do a paper onOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Then I had lunch at the Campus Coffee Shop with Leonard, and we went to see Prof. Levine. You can take a final if you want to; I’m undecided. The day seemed to go by so fast; when I came home after 4 PM, I saw Bonnie on the porch and absent-mindedly said, “No school today?”
I started to write Gary, but there’s just so much to tell him. Joey was over today with his guitar to hang out with Marc, so apparently he’s calmed down about fighting the hardhats.
The stock market hit a new low and Vietnam casualties hit an eight-month high.
I’ve got to start on my new novel, an expansion of the stories. Remember how Moby Dick begins “Call me Ishmael.” Mine starts, “Call me a schlemiel.”
Lately I’ve been functioning so well, it frightens me. Everything is clicking into place in my life. Things are good.
Friday, May 15, 1970
It remained cool and cloudy. I woke up early and while Mom was in the beauty parlor, I drove around and took Steven to Tilden; there’s been race friction at the school lately.
Then I went to the camera store and I got back the BC photos from last week, which were uninteresting. I finished writing my letter to Gary; it’s funny communicating with him like this.
When I arrived at school, Mark was working on the second special edition, which may come out Monday. I went with Leonard to SUBO, where we attended a meeting of the Brooklyn chapter of the Movement for a New Congress. The main campaign in the area is Peter Eikenberry’s fight to unseat Rep. Rooney.
I had a quick bite and found that the Spigot office had been turned into Strike Central. They even repaired the telephone. I went into the next office and sat around with Mark and the others for a while.
Dr. Bonchek is standing up for his principles, however idiotic they may be, and is giving us a final and two quizzes next Friday. He got so exercised about the whole thing, I thought he’d have a stroke.
Grandpa Herb came over tonight with a racing newspaper; two of the experts in it say that Space Age will come in third at Monticello tonight. Tonight I drove to 86th Street and everything seemed okay in the store.
Two black students were killed by police at Jackson State College in Mississippi. Everyone is saying we’re in the gravest crisis since the Civil War.
Remember Mike Brody, the millionaire who wanted to give away his fortune? He’s now in a mental hospital.
Monday, May 18, 1970
Mark called me early this morning from State Supreme Court downtown and told me to stop by at the college and distribute Friday’s Spigot. I took the car and did as he told me.
Then I drove downtown to see Dr. Wouk. I showed him my published story and he told me to keep on writing. We spoke about freedom — which is, after all, only the ability to make choices. I can now choose whatever lifestyle I want; Dr. Wouk said he can only give me guidance.
We were interrupted by phone calls requesting Dr. Wouk to appear on various TV shows; I guess it’s because his book is being published today.
From downtown, I drove home for lunch and then went back to the college. I talked with Juan and Leonard and looked in vain for Joe Benezra.
When Mark came back from court, he had some announcements for me to type up and some other chores. I really like him, but he’s a little peculiar — that’s not a criticism.
Esther came in the office to give me a hug and kiss because I’m so cute. She’s trying to scare Mark by telling him she’s going to win the election and when she becomes student government president, she’ll replace him as editor with me.
A delegation from the college is going to Washington on Thursday to lobby for peace. The South Vietnamese have now admitted they have troops in Laos.
Mom went to work with Dad this morning and in Manhattan she bought a diamond and emerald ring.
Tonight I did my English paper and joked around with my brothers.
Thursday, May 21, 1970
Another warm and sunny day. This morning I got a letter from Mansarde, who told me of the Kent State goings-on in Madison, about her crazy mother who owns 61 pairs of shoes, and about her love for Alexander, who “plays the bassoon quite well.”
I spent from 11 AM to 1 PM in the back yard by the pool, studying for tomorrow’s Psych final. I didn’t mind the work, which is very interesting. By 3 PM, I was bored and drove to the college.
Hardly anyone was there: the revolution was called on account of good weather. I did find Juan and drove him to his house on Carroll Street. Juan is very nice, my first Puerto Rican friend.
Dad brought home Mom’s stunning diamond and emerald ring. Today Dad conferred with his lawyer; they’re going to meet with Ron Jay next week.
The family went out for dinner, but I had a burger at home. Driving around Flatlands, I passed Jerry Lewisohn’s house and saw him on the porch. I stopped and spoke to him for a while. He’s all wrapped up in his work for the LIU radio station.
I got a call from this guy who asked me if I could work on some political action Saturday, and I agreed; it’ll keep me off the streets.
Tonight I watched a Peter Max-designed Fifth Dimension special and stuff. On the news, Senator Mansfield agreed with Dad and Lou: we’re in a recession.
Friday, May 22, 1970
A hot and humid day. I didn’t sleep well and had a headache most of the day. This morning I stopped by Kjell’s and we bullshitted for a while.
On campus, I hung around outside with Esther, Ray and Benny, one of the people from the strike charged with “show cause” orders.
After I took the Psych final, which was fairly easy, Fran and I went to a sparsely-attended rally on the quadrangle. I ran into Mark and worked with him for the rest of the afternoon.
We went to the Associate Dean’s office to get the information on how students can appeal their grades, which we’re going to publish in Monday’s Spigot. Mark’s gong on a camping trip to Virginia, so I’ve got responsibility for distributing the paper.
By myself, I went over to interview Dean Breglio, who as yet has not heard the judge’s decision on the injunction the college filed.
My brothers were off from school today, as the murdered Jackson State students were being honored. Grandpa Herb came over tonight to pick up some pants for Marty.
I spoke briefly to Marty later and heard Jeffrey giggling in the background; I hope to see Jeffrey before he enters the hospital for his eye surgery.
The obstetrician who delivered Mom, Marty and me died today; his obituary was in the Post.
Some idiots — from the Jewish Defense League, probably – violently attacked pro-Arab people in New York in one of the most revolting incidents I’ve heard of lately.
Monday, May 25, 1970
A dark, drizzly day. I slept well, and this morning Dr. Wouk and I talked about how I set up my parents and make myself dependent upon then. I am scared of being abandoned, which is why I reacted strongly to Jeffrey’s stay in the hospital.
School was practically empty. I had lunch at the Campus Coffee Shop and then went around to distribute the Spigot and to the library and Student Center. I met Evan, but he was on his way to a Chem final and I didn’t want to hold him up.
At home, I watched Another World and wrote Gary. I received a letter from Rep. Brasco, who says he opposes the war and supports cutting off funds.
Dad went with his lawyer Stan Goldstein to confront Ron Jay. Jay finally admitted that he never file the Pants Set debentures offer with the SEC. Jay’s once-luxurious offices are gone, and he’s now in an old, ratty apartment.
Dad told Ron Jay that he didn’t want any more excuses, that he wanted him to appear Wednesday with the checks he was given by the Pants Set. But Dad admitted to me that they were taken and doubts that he’ll ever see Ron Jay again.
Tonight I saw What Do You Say to a Naked Lady? at the Brook. I thought it was trash and left in the middle. I just didn’t see the humor in it; it was just cashing in on people’s prurient interests.
Arlyne’s sister said that Jeff was as good as gold when Marty and Arlyne left him alone in the hospital.
The stock market is down again.
Thursday, May 28, 1970
Another cool, sunny day. Mom and Dad celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary today. Mom, of course, got her ring, and she gave Dad jade cufflinks.
They told us not to bother with a present, so we just gave them a card. Mom and Dad said they’ll be going to Las Vegas the end of July.
This morning Mom gave me the car and I drove to no particular destination. After lunch, I went to the college, found no one in the Spigot office and was about to leave for home when I spotted Steve Denker, who invited me to sit in at a meeting of the student-faculty committee on Legal Counseling.
They want to hire a young lawyer to advise students on their legal problems. Present at the meeting were Dean West; Prof. Jones, head of the Office of Economic Assistance; Steve; Phil, the student government president; and Paul Levy, representing GSO, the Graduate Student Organization.
There were disagreements on funding and duties, mostly between Levy and West, and the meeting gave me a headache when nothing was resolved.
Tonight Mom and Dad took the boys to see the new Beatles movie, Let It Be. At home, I began a story called “Kenny, Anytime,” but I’m not satisfied with it.
I rinsed my hair with lemon juice to lighten it and used the sauna belt and Tensolator.
For the past two days, the stock market has been booming, and I can’t figure it out.
Lately I’ve been having strange sensations; sometimes I’m afraid gravity will let go.