A 19-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From July, 1970
by Richard Grayson
Saturday, July 4, 1970
A warm, humid and unexpectedly sunny Independence Day. My stomach was rocky again, so I got some medicine Dr. Freund once gave me for stomach spasms. I’ve had a nervous stomach for three weeks now; maybe I should see a doctor.
I spent the afternoon outside by the pool, reading Soul on Ice; Eldridge Cleaver is a remarkably astute man, although I differ with him on some points. Jonny went for a drum lesson and Marc “messed around” with Joey and Ronnie.
There was no sense bucking the holiday traffic, but this afternoon I went shopping to cheer myself up. I bought a fascinating book on names as well as spearmint extract, cinnamon bark and muscatel-flavored tea.
Well, the 194th anniversary of our independence was celebrated in Washington with a huge Honor America thing led by Bob Hope and Reverend Billy Graham. I watched the ceremonies on channel 13. They strived to be nonpartisan, but it seemed tailor-made for the Silent Majority.
I reread the Declaration of Independence in the Almanac and I daresay it would be regarded by Middle America as “commie trash” if they saw it out of context.
Independence Day means more than America or the firecrackers now noisily bursting outside my window. We must strive to be independent, proud and able to love others.
I believe we, as Americans, must reverse our perverse policies and move forward. (Wow, am I pompous!)
Tuesday, July 7, 1970
Today was hotter and sunnier than yesterday. I met Kjell at the bus stop and we went to school together. Sharon persuaded him to stop smoking again. He’s going soon for a physical for the Reserves.
We had a fair test in Speech; I did okay, not terrific. But I got an 82 on my tea speech and an A on the outline. For Thursday I decided to recite a passage from James Baldwin’s Tell Me How Long The Train’s Been Gone and a poem by Langston Hughes, “Brass Spittoons.”
In English, Mr. Graves talked about sounds in poetry: iambs and stuff. I had lunch with Mike and John, and afterwards, the three of us visited the new children’s Day Care Collective in the basement of Ingersoll.
It seems a good idea to care for the kids of students, but they’re having trouble, financial and otherwise. I’m writing an article about it for the summer Spigot.
It was nice out when I got home, so I decided to take a drive to Rockaway, picking up a hitchhiker on Avenue U: Peter, a BC junior. He was a nice guy, but I saw all he wanted from me was a ride and small talk.
At the beach and back home by the pool, I read King Lear in one sitting. It remains one of my favorite plays. We had a barbecue by the pool for dinner; I’m hoping my stomach doesn’t turn again, as it’s been threatening to do all day.
Congressmen found brutal, barbaric conditions at a prison for South Vietnamese political prisoners.
Thursday, July 9, 1970
In contrast to a week ago, today was marvelous.
Kjell told me on the bus going to school that he’s got his physical for the Reserves soon.
I volunteered to go first in Speech and get my speech over with, and I think it went fairly well. I suppose I’m a ham; I got a tremendous feeling of power up there on the speaker’s platform.
In English, we discussed some poetry by LeRoi Jones: bitter stuff, but I liked it. I had a burger at the Campus Coffee Shop after class and took the Avenue J bus to the Midwood Theater.
Boys in the Band was playing, and I enjoyed it immensely: beautiful dialogue and acting. Some gay liberationists say it’s outdated, and that may be. Still, who wants to see a movie a movie about happy homosexuals? Or happy anybody?
I left the theater in a good mood, whistling all the way home. Right at the moment, I don’t care who knows I’m gay — except, perhaps, my family.
After a rest, a shower, and dinner, I went to the first play in the college’s summer theater series in the basement auditorium at Whitman. It was a cute play, about U.S. history in terms of the hot dog, and Rodney was in it – but I left feeling unsatisfied.
I’m not sure I haven’t changed my mind about the theater-versus-movies controversy. Live plays are great, but movies can do things plays can’t.
Norman fell through the glass window at the Roosevelt Field store and had to be rushed to a hospital.
Sunday, July 12, 1970
A day concerned with other people’s problems. Grandma Sylvia’s and Grandpa Nat’s anniversary party last night was enjoyable, my parents said, but I’m glad I didn’t go.
This morning I drove to the Kane Street address that David Gross gave his parents in London as his mailing address. I found a letter for him in the hall from his British tour group, telling him to contact his frantic parents.
There were also messages for him to pick up telegrams under the name David Gross Chez and then the address. No one in the building was named Chez, but I spoke to a Mrs. Scott there who was going to ask all the tenants if they knew anything about David. She called me tonight: nothing. Curiouser and curiouser.
Gary’s parents, his uncle Dr. Marcus, and Gary’s friend Robert and I had a long conference at the Marcus apartment about Gary. At Fort Polk, he’s physically sick, depressed, and at the end of his wits.
He called and said he’s going to try again to pass the PT tests and seemed to have cheered up slightly. Robert said we should stop letting Gary play on our sympathy, and Mr. Marcus said we shouldn’t pull any punches with him. Mrs. Marcus is very upset and wanted to write a letter to the chaplain, but we men thought it’s best to leave things be.
From there, I had lunch and went to a party given by the Committee to Defend the Panthers. All my favorite radicals were there: Esther, Jack, Lou, Karen Sandler, Monroe Seifer, Ira Cohen. I gave a contribution and we listened to Dylan and someone played a Cleaver speech.
After the party, I went over to the Cohens to see if they had any ideas about David Gross’s whereabouts. Irv said he’s probably just irresponsible. I think that was an awful thing to say: in London, the Grosses are worried sick and we need to do something.
I don’t understand how others can be depending upon me when I’m so undependable.
Wednesday, July 15, 1970
The mystery of David Gross was solved last night when Laura Katz called. David gave the wrong address and has been living on Baltic Street, not Kane Street. He wrote his parents, but they never got the letter. He was coming today to the Katzes in Long Beach, and I wanted to be there.
Today’s Speech class was cancelled due to the Speech Conference. I attended a workshop there of the college’s Afro-American Theater, led by Prof. J. Scot Kennedy; it was verrry interesting.
I picked up a few copies of the Spigot with my little article about the Day Care Center, but it seemed kind of insignificant now that the Post and Daily News have had articles on it.
Mark is going to help Stella, who runs the Day Care Center, find a permanent place. President Kneller needs to be pushed, and the publicity will help.
Mark was classified 1-A, but he went to a draft counselor and is going to cook something up that will keep him safe for a year.
I decided to cut English and go to Long Beach early. On the way, I stopped by to see Grandma Ethel, who hasn’t been feeling well lately. She showed me a letter from Wendy at camp – such spelling!
Driving to Long Beach through Far Rockaway and over the Long Beach Bridge was easy. When I arrived at the Katzes’ summer home, only Laura’s mother, Mrs. Vrachoritis (it sounds like a disease but is a Greek Jewish name), was there. I went out to the corner to find Murray and Laura; they are so very friendly.
David called from the station while we were finishing lunch, and the three of us went to pick him up. David is a frizzy-haired, sloppy, slightly daft young man. He got his law degree from Leeds and is now going to tour this country, with no set plans, until September.
It took a while to get used to his accent, but he’s quite bright and we got to know each other well during the course of the afternoon. Mom and Dad had a funeral, so they didn’t come with the boys till about 4 PM.
Others there were Julie, Murray’s sister; Miltie, Laura’s brother; Drew, their 8-year-old son; and some friends. We had a big barbecue for supper and everyone had a wonderful time, myself included. It was a very nice change of pace.
I came home around 7 PM. The family stayed a little later and drove David to Baltic Street, where he’s staying with a bunch of kids. Maybe we could go to London someday.
Friday, July 15, 1970
A pleasantly hot day. I haven’t been sleeping well the for the past few nights, but at least I can sleep late tomorrow.
I got a 77 on the last speech, and I should have done better. Mr. Cohen lectured on how we’ll present our group discussion. The other five members of my group informed me that I was chairman, so I’ll have to start working on it soon.
In English, after discussing the comedy in it yesterday, we discussed the serious side of The Caretaker. After lunch, I went up to the office to talk with Mark, Mendy and Jack for a while. Mark told me how the Spigot started and how he hoped to improve it; he strives for perfection.
In the bookstore, I bought a BC beer mug for my tea because my old one broke yesterday.
At home, I sat by the pool and read as my brothers splashed each other. In an article, Jack Newfield suggested Ramsey Clark for President in ’72; if only the Democrats deserved him.
A big surprise came when I opened a letter from Mansarde from a Wisconsin Audubon camp. She and her Binghamton friend Martha are coming to the city in two weeks, and she wants to meet me. I want to meet her but will feel self-conscious. “Gray,” the name I sign my letters to her, must sound very different than I appear in real life.
The play that was put on at Wollman Rink in Prospect Park was Bleecker Street Allegorical. It had some extremely clever uses of repeated dialogue, with slight variations, in different contexts, over and over again.
When the performance ended, I stayed and talked with some of the actors. It was another great night in the park, almost as good as seeing them perform Now We Are Free last night and then going to the rock concert. I told the actors I’m going to come tomorrow to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Then I took a drive to Manhattan and back; it was such a beautiful night. I feel that I’m coming to a decision accepting my gayness. I can’t explain it, but even though I have other feelings, I just know that it’s a very important part of me.
I feel light and loose, free from that strangling guilt. I believe that something very good, or maybe very bad, will happen this weekend. Maybe they’ll both happen. God, am I a nut!
Monday, July 20, 1970
A humid, hazy day; it started storming tonight.
This morning Kjell and I went to school together. I had wanted to invite and Sharon over to the pool this Sunday but forgot to ask him.
In Speech, we started to do the speeches to convince; I think I’m going to do mine on the seniority system in Congress.
In English, Mr. Graves cleared up some of the confusing points in Adrienne Kennedy’s A Rat’s Mass. He also gave back last week’s essays. I was surprised to get a B+ on the bullshit I wrote on “Fern Hill.”
I went to the office and talked to Mark for a while; somehow I don’t think he believes half the things I tell him. After lunch, I went downtown to Dr. Wouk, who’s leaving tomorrow for a six-week lecture tour of Europe.
He says he got a different impression of my parents from their visit last week than I gave him – Dad, especially. We discussed Mansarde’s visit, my plans for the rest of the summer, and other junk. I’m going to miss Dr. Wouk.
Grandpa Herb was on vacation this week, so I passed by the store on my way home.
In the mail, I got application from Joseph Whitehill, the director of Mensa Friends. I filled it out and hope they’ll send me the name of a prison inmate I can correspond with. It should prove interesting; maybe I can help someone and make a friend at the same time.
Tonight I got some books on population and birth control. On TV, I saw two people I admire, Dick Gregory and Pete Seeger. It’s been a year since the moon landing; nothing terribly wonderful has happened on earth since then.
Friday, July 24, 1970
A warm, lazy day. I slept exceedingly well and was “up” for the group discussion in Speech this morning. It went beautifully, and all the girls on our panel came up to me afterwards to say what a good job I did as chairman.
I think we had a real exchange of ideas and that we got across the seriousness of the situation. Drastic methods must be taken — and soon — if we are to control our population.
I felt so elated that I cut English and went with Mark to the Day Care Co-op, now in Whitehead Cafeteria. Later, I sat on the grass and talked with Mark, John, Stella, Rosemary and Carol.
Then Mark and I went to the office and I designed an invitation, using my “jumbly” letters, for the Day Care Co-op party that Stella plans to give next Friday. We ran it off on the mimeograph machine and it came out well.
Keeping busy and seeing people lifts me out of those depressions I get into; I also took photos on campus today. Community Action is vacating their office, and I took a great Marc Nadel cartoon poster of Nixon; maybe it will be worth something someday when Marc is a famous cartoonist.
Gary’s mother called last night and gave me his new address, and I got a letter from him today. Gary seems in much better spirits, and the worst of basic training is surely over. I wrote him while waiting for Grandma Ethel to fix supper.
Mom and Dad called from Las Vegas. So far they haven’t lost too much money and tonight they’re going to see Don Rickles and Hair, which they already saw on Broadway.
I’m not regressing.
Sunday, July 26, 1970
After breakfast, I drove around Bed-Stuy, then into Manhattan, around Washington Square, but no one was there. I don’t like Manhattan as much as good old Brooklyn, so I came home.
I had lunch and then read the Sunday papers. Feeling bored, I went to the Brook and saw The Story of Christine Jorgensen. It was a tasteful presentation of her life as a man and a woman.
Transsexuals are certainly misunderstood and were certainly ridiculed at the time of Miss Jorgensen’s operation. But the fact that that movie can be made at all is proof that things are changing.
While on the way to my car, I noticed a gathering outside the auditorium of St. Thomas Aquinas church. I paid two dollars to aid retarded children and saw a performance of Anything Goes.
I dig those old musicals, something I picked up from Eugene in junior high. I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the show and then had a cheeseburger at the Floridian diner (formerly the Fillmore Queen).
Steven came over tonight to see Marc and asked me how to get into TV commercials; he read about how “actors make so much dough.” Mom called from the airport at 10 PM; she’s waiting for Dad’s flight to land.
Grandma Ethel and Grandpa Herb went home, knowing Mom and Dad will be back later, but I don’t intend to wait up for them.
Wednesday, July 29, 1970
Living in New York is one crisis after another, and sometimes two at a time. The heat wave has caused a temperature inversion and heavy, unhealthy air pollution hangs over the city.
The hot weather put Con Ed to the test in supplying electricity; they cut voltage 5% again today. No relief is in sight.
The English final was shitty; it was so hot, I couldn’t concentrate. I found Mark by the Day Care Center’s kiddie pool; they now have a real duck.
Stella said that Nat Jones talked to President Kneller about giving them space, but Kneller stalled and bullshitted. The Prez is coming to the party, though, and I’m going to interview him and try to pin him down.
Mark’s family has been in Europe for three weeks and he’s alone, so maybe I’ll invite him over when and if Mansarde comes.
Today Mom and Jonny went with Dad to the Plainview warehouse, so I had the car all day.
I drove around this afternoon and tried to see Z, but the Elm’s air-conditioning was broken.
I got another letter from Gary, who wants me to meet him at the airport when he comes home from Fort Polk. He says he still gets depressed and moody.
I saw a notice that volunteers are needed at Kings County Hospital; maybe I should look into that.
Marty went for a checkup, and the doctor says he may need surgery on his varicose veins, like the surgery Mom had maybe ten years ago.
I’ve been thinking about Brad lately; it’s a year since we met.
Friday, July 31, 1970
A muggy day, punctuated by intermittent showers. I awoke late from a heavy sleep and read my magazines.
On Avenue N, while waiting for the bus, I met Mom coming out of the beauty parlor, so she drove me to school. I got there the same time Mark did and invited him over on Sunday.
We helped Stella and the mothers get things straightened out for the party. I’d expected to ask Kneller why he wasn’t giving the Day Care Center a home in the fall, but apparently Dean Jones convinced him in a meeting this morning.
So President Kneller announced that Day Care would be moved to the basement of Whitman Hall and that he wants Stella to stay on with the center. Juan took photos, and also there were Steve Denker and last term’s SG vice president, Bruce Balter, whom Mark dislikes.
There was a buffet lunch and then we all went to see the new room. Those kids are so much fun, so full of life.
At home, I sat outside and wrote Gary a long letter.
Israel agreed to the U.S peace plan, but some hawkish cabinet members walked out. Chet Huntley said, “Good night, David,” for the last time this evening; he was a good journalist.
I’ve been writing in this diary for a year now without missing a day. Good record, isn’t it?