A 19-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From June, 1970
by Richard Grayson
Wednesday, June 3, 1970
A muggy day. Dad bought me my birthday present: a beautiful Japanese camera which I shall treasure and use well. Later, Mom and I went to the Male Shop, where I bought jeans, shorts and a shirt.
I got an A in French and a P in Science: no surprises. Also in the mail, I received a card from Aunt Sydelle and Uncle Monty and a notice that my Mensa membership is expiring.
I finished Wuthering Heights in the backyard, briefly went to the college, and listened to the news: Wallace will be governor of Alabama again and probably run for President in ’72.
I spoke to Alice, who’s now working and preparing for her European trip in August. I tentatively invited her and Howie over to the pool this Sunday.
Mom and Dad went out with Evie and Lou to see Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.
Tricky Dick was on TV tonight, telling us how “successful” the Cambodian venture is. I almost began to pity him for a second; as Marc said, it looked as though his face were about to fall off.
I went to Kings Highway and picked up the Voice. Jack Newfield had a great article on the second anniversary of Bobby Kennedy’s death.
We can’t depend on heroes anymore; there are none inside politics worth following and there are too many Sirhans loose. Movements will have to be grass-roots, and we must be human, honest and good — that horrible word — not ranting Jerry Rubins.
On the eve of my 19th birthday, I commit myself to action.
Friday, June 5, 1970
In this morning’s mail, I got birthday cards from Marty and Arlyne and my cousins and a chain letter from Dad’s Aunt Mildred which I have to send to six other people: it’s got a postcard to Nixon protesting the Indochina war. They are calling it the Indochina war since the invasion of Cambodia.
I went out early and rode the subways for hours, it seemed. Getting off at Central Park West and 86th Street, I went up to 89th and visited Franklin School, my old private school where I spent my fourteenth year.
I walked in and found it looks the same four years later. I can remember Oliver and Dr. Spahn and Mr. O’Hanlon fondly, but the year I was in tenth grade was pretty unhappy for me.
I didn’t stay long there — it still makes me nervous — so I went back to Brooklyn and had pizza on Kings Highway. My stomach was gassy all afternoon and I was tired, so I just stayed in bed watching soap operas, on which I’m starting to get hooked again.
When I felt better later, I went for what Lou terms “a short spin.” Mom and Dad had dinner out by themselves and met Dad’s Uncle Joe and Aunt Bessie at the Georgetown shopping center. They came over to look at our house and to gossip about business and relatives.
The weather reports say rain for tomorrow. Shit. Alice and Howie are coming over to spend the day at the pool.
Sunday, June 14, 1970
A mild, sunny day. My stomach was still rocky all day, but I tried to concentrate on other things.
This morning I went to East New York to see Howard Samuels on a walking tour of Blake Avenue. The neighborhood is entirely black and Puerto Rican, and it’s a bad slum.
I felt uncomfortable there, but not in any danger although there have been disturbances in the neighborhood in recent days. (There was trouble tonight in Spanish Harlem.)
In East New York, Samuels made the most of his endorsement by Shirley Chisholm. I now think he’ll beat Goldberg in the primary.
On my way home, I drove past Eugene’s house in Canarsie. He and his father were outside washing the car. I lent a hand and talked with Eugene, who’s going away in two weeks to the camp where he’ll be a dramatic counselor.
Grandma Sylvia and Grandpa Nat came by later. They made reservations for July 11, a Saturday night, at Carl Hoppl’s for a family party celebrating their 50th anniversary.
They’d just come back from an organization meeting in Manhattan. The purpose of the organization, the Lenyin and Lachver Benevolent Association is to provide graves. They reported that Merryl’s now dating different boys and that Sheldon is very hurt.
Three blocks from here, a woman was murdered a few nights ago.
Today was Flag Day. It’s sad how the flag has become the sole property of the Silent Majority.
Monday, June 15, 1970
A cool, busy day. Dr. Wouk told me this morning not to feel guilty about not working at the 86th Street store after just a couple of days there, but he told me to keep busy. He says I’ve never been in such good emotional health in my life as I am now.
From Dr. Wouk’s office at Concord Village, I walked to Court Street to Pete Eikenberry for Congress headquarters. They sent us down to Williamsburg (a cruddy neighborhood) for canvassing.
Four of us — Betty Knake, an Upper East Side, matron; Steve, another Brooklyn College student; Reed, a high school kid; and myself — took the GG train to Broadway. (As we were leaving the headquarters, Betty asked me how you pronounce “Joralemon.”)
We went to the storefront headquarters there and were given names and addresses. We split up, and Betty and I took floors 1-6 of a high-rise apartment building on Lorimer Street near Broadway.
Most people weren’t home. We had doors slammed in our faces, sympathetic old women who don’t vote in primaries, people who had moved away or died. There were no pro-Eikenberry people in the building, but no pro-Rooney people, either.
It was a lot of legwork for little value. Betty said she’d pay for a cab ride back downtown, and there I ate a late lunch — it was 3:30 PM — and dropped into the Slack Bar, intending to wait for Grandpa Herb to finish up and drop me off on his way home to Rockaway.
I hadn’t seen Grandpa Herb or the others in the store for a while. Big Hank was downtown, buying like mad with stolen credit cards, which everyone on Fulton Street from Joe to Marty seems to be using. (Grandpa Herb and Carlos disapprove.)
Dad happened to come into the store on business, so I went home with him. While he was seeing customers at another store, I bought a silver St. Christopher’s medal. I’ve always wanted one. I think it’s so campy.
The Mill Basin Peace Council meeting tonight was chaired by Roger Goodman, who expressed fears of repression.
Henry Dreifuss and Bob Corbin of the NDC spoke on behalf of O’Dwyer. I took an O’Dwyer poster and some literature so I can do some canvassing for him in Mill Basin.
I’m tired tonight.
Saturday, June 20, 1970
A mild, sunny June day: a perfect last day of spring. I felt fine this morning, put gas in the car, bought film and went off to the Heights, where I parked on Henry Street.
I walked along Montague and strolled through the Promenade, where there was an art show. The view of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline is beautiful.
The peace rally started late, but Paul O’Dwyer and Peter Eikenberry were there, and I talked with both of them before the rally began. Paul is a beautiful person, and Pete, as he likes to be called, was friendly; I think he has a touch of the Kennedy about him.
They both made pretty good speeches from the back of a pickup truck parked at the end of Montague Street by the Promenade. But Cora Weiss of Women’s Strike for Peace was even better.
She talked of stuff other than election strategy: sit-ins at senators’ offices, court cases, political education. Weiss raised the question of whether all U.S. forces will be out of Cambodia next week, as Nixon promised they would be.
John Hamill, Pete’s brother, a Vietnam veteran, also spoke, as did Leroy Bowser, a candidate for state senator, and Gail Osborne from Kent State.
It was all well and good, but aren’t we just talking to ourselves?
In the afternoon, I played with Jonny and went to visit Aunt Mildred, but no one was home. I wrote Gary; I haven’t had a letter from him from Fort Polk in a while.
Since Mom and Dad went with the Cohens to see Z tonight and Marc went over to Steven’s house, I’m home watching Jonny. I’m reading Galsworthy’s Flowering Wilderness.
Monday, June 22, 1970
I went to school this morning only to find out that summer classes don’t start until Wednesday. I never bothered to check the schedule and just assumed the term would start on Monday. That was my biggest gaffe of the year.
Dr. Wouk said I don’t need to lose any weight, that I look fine. But he’s pretty fat himself. We talked today of cabbages and kings: little new ground was broken, but he did lift me out of a depression.
He’s going to be on the radio Wednesday night and has been on TV a lot lately. Dr. Wouk admits he’s a ham.
I told him I have compulsions. Probably because my life is so disorderly, all these little external things have to be so tidy. After therapy, I walked to Fulton Street to stop in at the Slack Bar and say hello to Grandpa Herb.
On the Mill Basin bus coming home from the station, a very good-looking boy came over and sat down next to me. I think we were attracted to each other. He sat really close to me and I had a desire (too weak a word) to embrace him. But, alas, that will have to be, as Langston Hughes put it, a dream deferred.
Jonny and Bonnie helped me give out O’Dwyer leaflets in the neighborhood. I convinced Mom, Dad, Evie, and Sid Rotenberg to vote for O’Dwyer and Samuels in tomorrow’s primary.
Nixon signed the vote-at-18 bill Congress passed. A court test of its constitutionality will come soon.
Friday, June 30, 1970
This morning I looked for Kjell to drive me to school, but I couldn’t find him so I took the bus. I ran into Rachel in Barron’s and she was extremely nice to me.
In Speech, I gave an oral report on ethos (I tried to work on my lisp and my rising inflection) and Mr. Cohen lectured on the process of communication.
English was quite a bore, even Yeats’ “The Second Coming.” Mr. Graves doesn’t seem to be a good teacher although I like him as a person. I have no luck with English teachers.
Mark’s “message” turned out to be nothing, really. After I had lunch in Wolfie’s, I kept Mark company in the cafeteria, and later we browsed in the bookstore. Up in the office, various people dropped in to chat: Juan, Mike Gerstein, Mendy, and Harvey (who always calls me “David”).
Juan made a remark to the effect that Mark is grooming me to be editor-in-chief when he graduates. I wouldn’t want the job under any circumstances. Anyway, I have yet to actually write a real story.
When I got home, they were delivering an olive-green refrigerator; our old refrigerator goes in to the basement.
Nixon hailed Cambodia as a “victory” as our troops left — but the Senate passed the Cooper-Church Amendment to end funding for Cambodia and Laos as of tonight.