A 19-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From September, 1970

by Richard Grayson

Wednesday, September 2, 1970

The weather changed so quickly from summer to fall in one week. I went to school this morning and happily greeted old friends. Esther Ng gave a big hug and kiss and told me about her trip to the Orient; she had a great time in Hong Kong.

I went up to WBCR and said hello to Howie, who loved Canada and was busy auditioning new disk jockeys. WBCR’s going progressive rock, and he asked me to see if I could get some more student government funds for them.

Howie surprised me by saying he drove Alice home from the airport last night. I called Alice and she was glad/sad to be back; she absolutely loved Paris and said she bought me a gift.

I struck up a conversation with a guy I saw this summer who acted in some of the plays in Prospect Park. He’s an entering freshman and about as confused as most of them. He had a good grip when he shook my hand — I can’t stand a weak handshake — so I liked him enormously. His name is Ted.

Marie, the counter waitress in Wolfie’s, said she’s glad I’m back.

At home, I wrote a letter on President Kneller’s stationery — I copped it last May when his office was taken over — inviting Ramsey Clark to speak at the college.

Tonight I spoke to Mark, who also has a cold. He said Stella thinks Kneller may be reneging on the Day Care funds he promised. That makes me not sorry for pretending to be him in the letter to Ramsey Clark.

Friday, September 4, 1970

I slept well during the night, and my throat was better today, but the infection seems to have settled in my chest and I have laryngitis.

Dad drove me to school this morning for registration. It was frantic as usual: the “neurotic waiting” (as Juan described it), endless forms to be filled out, interminable lines.

The whole process was computerized this year and it was complicated by having to have ID photos taken for the first time. I got everything I wanted — Soc, Anthro, Art, Classics and Speech (acting), but still I was a perspiring mess when the whole thing was over.

Dad won almost $1800 at the track last night. It looks easy, but I’m sure it’s not. At least Dad could afford to take the day off; he took the boys to Forest Hills to see the U.S. Open tennis matches.

I spent the entire afternoon reading Justice — Richard Harris’s book that deals with the Justice Department under Ramsey Clark and John Mitchell — and drinking Gisele’s tea and talking with her about her life in Haiti. (Maud will be back from vacation next week.)

After coming back from the Kings Plaza construction, Mom wondered if the store will be open next week. She bought me a chai to wear around my neck. I prefer my St. Christopher’s medal, but I guess I can alternate them.

I spoke with Gary, who’s been fine, and with Grandma Ethel, who’s worried because Grandpa Herb’s been worried lately. They’re thinking of driving to Florida with Aunt Claire and Uncle Sidney.

Things have quieted down in Vietnam, but I wonder if the Communists are not planning a new offensive.

Monday, September 7, 1970

A pleasantly mild Labor Day. My cold came out in full force — sore throat, headache, cough — just as I thought it was going away. Asi es la vida. Jonny seems to have picked up a cold somewhere, though I hope not from me.

After breakfast, I went to Brighton Beach, as I heard on the radio that Arthur Goldberg would be campaigning there at noon. It was hard to find a parking space because of the beach traffic, so I didn’t arrive at the boardwalk until 12:45 PM, though still ahead of the candidate.

Since Brighton Beach is 99% Jewish, Goldberg got a decent reception and sounded less wooden than usual. He still cannot match Rockefeller’s personality and money, a lot of which is going into TV ads.

Adam Walinsky was there, too, looking very casual and cool. I talked with his wife Jane, and also there was State Senate candidate Don Halperin.

At home, Irv came over to give me Rhonda’s criminology textbook from her summer course at BC to sell.

One plane’s hijacking was foiled; a Pan Am 757 was bombed in Egypt; and the people in the other planes are still being held by the Arabs, who want to exchange them for Arab prisoners in the West, possibly even Sirhan Sirhan.

Labor Day has always seemed like a watershed day to me, more so than New Year’s Day. After all, we go from a lazy, warm summer to a cooler, busier fall and winter. And school is coming up. I hope to get back into the swing of things right away.

Thursday, September 10, 1970

Jonny got out of bed today, but now Mom’s caught a cold. Maud returned to work after her vacation in Virginia Beach.

The Spigot staff meeting was at noon. Mendy called to say that he was stuck in his yeshiva (that phrase now brings a strange picture to my mind), and Erica didn’t show, so the only ones there were:

Mark, who says that things are not running smoothly enough if we’re to come out weekly; Scott Koestner, news copy editor, who was in my Health Ed class — he asked if I wanted to share an apartment with him; Hal, who is really well-built; Maury, Mr. Conservative; Bill, who’s writing an exposé of the bookstore; and Stu, who asked a lot of dumb questions but then he’s a frosh.

Mark went into a lot of stuff, and the meeting lasted two hours. Afterwards, I ran into Stella, who says President Kneller is two-faced. As I was bushed, I’ll have to get back to her later; I just wanted to go home.

I went to Kings Plaza this afternoon, and Mom introduced me to Bernice, the store manager; also there were Marty, Bernie, Norman, and Jack Lubel. I got the construction workers beer and did some cleaning up.

Tonight the whole family, minus me, went over there to try to get the store ready for tomorrow’s opening. It will be the first indoor mall in all of New York City.

Instead of going there, I watched the thunderstorm while drinking tea and did some writing. I don’t know whether it’s better to be busy, like I was this week, or to have time to think, like I did last week.

I miss Brad. Before tonight, I hadn’t thought about him in months.

The deadline is Saturday for the release of Arab prisoners; otherwise, bye bye Boeings.

Friday, September 11, 1970

A completely nutty day: I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people in the space of one day.

When I went to Kings Plaza’s opening this morning, the Pants Set was open and doing a lively business. Marty (who slept overnight in the store to get it ready), Mom, Dad, Jonny, Bernie, Bernice, both Normans, Bonnie and Scott Koestner were there.

The center was mobbed, jammed, crammed, crowded; it’s indescribable. Scott and I walked to his house in Marine Park, picked up a friend, and went to club fair at BC.

Freshmen were signing up for all the activities. The Ol’ Spigot table was manned by Paul, Juan, Erica, Mendy and Bill; at the next table, Sheila was signing people up for Women’s Lib.

Others there were Al Ellman, Bruce Weitz and Bruce Balter (Student Government), Leonard (Ed Society), Steve Denker (Law Society), Steve Raddock (Cinema Club), Maury (Young Republicans). Wandering around, I saw Esther, Monroe, Stu, Howie Chen and a zillion wonderful familiar faces.

After I had a quick bite, I took a cab through the gnarled traffic back to Kings Plaza. I worked for a while, selling and running errands, but after a couple of hours, I think I suffered a bad case of people-shock and was glad to get home and be alone.

Would you believe people are double-parked on our block, which is four blocks from the mall? I had to park in the driveway: unheard of! I called Gary and both Grandmas to tell them about the opening.

Needing to unwind, I volunteered to drive Debbie and Stacy to a high school party in Bay Ridge, and Joey came with me to ride shotgun.

Dad just called to say the stores are staying open till 11 PM and the Pants Set already took in $1200 today. Is this a dream? It looks as though Kings Plaza is going to change all our lives.

Monday, September 14, 1970

A grey day. I went downtown to Dr. Wouk, but I’m going to have to change my appointments, as it doesn’t leave me enough time to get to the college.

Dr. Wouk and I discussed my feelings toward men. I noticed I’ve chosen male friends whom I’m not attracted to.

He asked me if I ever wanted to dress in women’s clothes. Of course not, and I added that since my family owns a chain of women’s clothing stores, I’ve certainly had the opportunity. The question puzzled me.

Taking a cab to the college, I had a quick lunch, then went to Speech, my acting class, which was hard to find in the basement of Whitman.

The teacher, Miss Myers, is a small, gray-haired Bostonian who seems very nice. We’re going to do scenes, but first we’ve got to do a reading, a monologue. Looks like fun.

My Sociology teacher, Mr. Katayama, is a young man with a thick Japanese accent. He kept us for only a few minutes; I know some kids in the class.

In the cafeteria, I met Eugene — his sister’s going to Europe, maybe to live — and also Evan. Up in the Spigot office, Mark asked me to go interview Charles Freehof, the new draft counselor.
Freehof seems dedicated and knowledgeable, and I wrote a short piece on him.

I spent some time with Stu and Karen, then went to the Anthropology recitation. The teacher is Miss Kardas, plain and scholarly. Effie and Carla are in the class, and they’re also going to be in my Art section.

Today Marc began Madison High School; he’ll go on a late schedule. At P.S. 203, Jonny was elected vice president of his fourth grade class. Mom began work at the store today, and she seems to like it a lot. I think it’s her first job ever. Dad said he saw Uncle Abe downtown and said Abe looks terrible.

I sent away for some bodybuilding equipment, part of some new experimental thing, for five dollars. I’ve been exercising with the barbells for weeks now, and my muscles are beginning to show for it. I don’t have a fantastic build, but it is kind of sexy.

It’s amazing how fast one adjusts to fall.

Friday, September 18, 1970

A rainy day; the heavens wept all day.

This morning I got a card from David Gross, who says he’s alive and well in Alberta, after seeing Boston, Washington, the South (“where I got shot at”), and the West Coast. He’ll be back in the city this week before going home to England.

At school, I got my copy of today’s Spigot and went up to the office. Stylistically, the paper is poorer than Kingsman, but I enjoy seeing my name in print.

Kids who want to run in the SG elections came up and I handed out petitions to them. One was a girl named Spring Gardner.

The office was filled with all my favorite nuts: Maury, Stu, Harvey, Bruce, Scott. They’re wacky, but I love them.

Bill and I sent out circulars to the freshman and prospective Spigotreporters, about the tea we’re having next week. A black girl, Raulita Nuñez, came in asking to join the staff, and Mark was ecstatic about that.

Since I’m going to be (among other things) the Spigot’s liaison man with WBCR, its founder, Fred Horowitz, took me to the station and introduced me to the gang there.

Howie was doing his show, and during a break, as the new program director, he told me all about the new progressive rock format. He asked me to say hello to Alice, so I guess it’s actually all over between them.

In Speech, I did my monologue from After the Fall; Mrs. Myers said my timing was off. In Soc, we went over the experimental method; Mr. Katayama said he was in a Buddhist monastery for a dozen years.

Tonight I went to see The Angel Levine, a moving flick with fine acting. I did a bit of writing tonight, too, working on another story I hope riverrun will publish.

Jimi Hendrix died of an overdose today, and there were TV shows on tonight again pointing out the dangers of drugs.

In the Middle East, King Hussein’s troops seem to have the upper hand now.

Monday, September 21, 1970

This morning I wrote the robbery scene in “Brooklyn”; something light was needed to break the ominousness of the story.

Also this morning, I received that new exercise program and started it; now my body aches, but it’s a good feeling, one of accomplishment.

Jonny stayed home, claiming he had a sore throat, though possibly he was only playing hooky.

When I got on campus, I met Gary, and we sat down for half an hour. His National Guard weekend duty in Fort Dix was like a picnic compared to Fort Polk, he reported. He even fired a machine gun. Gary is adjusting to BC even if he doesn’t know that many people yet.

In Acting, we all but finished the readings. Some of the kids are quite good, others terrible.

In Soc, Mr. Katayama talked about dichotomies and discussed his own work. He’s been a med student, an engineer, and worked on political research with Seymour Martin Lipset until he found out the study was being financed by the CIA.

I went to SUBO after class with Cheryl and her friend Ruth, then up to the Spigot office. Mark and Bill were debating whether to come out with the paper this week; in any case, I won’t do a story.

I felt nauseous, and so skipped Anthro, and I think it was fate. For I got in a cab driven by Philip Engel, and he and I rapped about Kahlil Gibran, Hermann Hesse, change, life and love, which he called “the ultimate force.”

Now I have a character to provide a climax to my story. . . I think.

The situation in Jordan is ominous; it’s unclear whether King Hussein or the guerillas and Syrians will come out on top. Amman is in shambles, U.S. troops are on alert, and Hussein asked for military aid from us.

Wednesday, September 23, 1970

We always seem to be living on the brink of chaos, but we never go over the edge. The situation in Jordan has changed for the better: King Hussein’s forces have routed the Syrians, and there is now no U.S. intervention expected.

But we had a more pressing problem in New York and throughout the East Coast today. The temperature was again in the 90°s, without enough electrical power.

Con Ed lowered the voltage by 8% (the maximum), and everyone was asked to conserve power. There is a threat of blackouts if this extraordinary heat wave continues. I wore shorts to school on the first day of autumn.

In Acting, we did some exercises. A girl named Lucy and I are going to do a scene together, although we haven’t decided on a play yet. I saw Alice during changing classes — she’ll be over Monday to tutor Marc in Spanish — and also Gary. Mr. Katayama delivered an interesting lecture on culture in Soc; he’s a good teacher.

The petitions were all due today, so Bruce and I spent two hours looking for invalid signatures. In the end, we validated everyone’s petitions. The candidates for SG president are Al Ellman, Marty Sirota, and Glenn Madison.

Later, I spoke to Esther, who’s working in the cloakroom of SUBO. She said even though she decided not to run again, she said she hopes Al won’t win.

Kingsman was taking Bruce’s photo tonight, so Scott had to go to Bruce’s house to bring his wig over. (Bruce is balding.) Mark left for the printers tonight.

In our session this evening, Dr. Wouk wondered why I see myself as a helpless emotional cripple when it’s getting harder to maintain that fiction with every passing day.

He says he, too, gets obsessed when he’s “in a writing jag” and that it’s natural.

Friday, September 25, 1970

The heat wave let up a bit today. This morning I listened to WMCA radio’s new format: telephone talk shows. These programs depress me when I hear all this shit from the people about how we’re “handcuffing the police” and how killing students at Kent State was justified.

Dialogue doesn’t seem to get us anywhere. Agnew was on David Frost with some college students, and it’s apparent that they’re just so far apart, they can never come together.

It’s a culture clash, something Mr. Katayama has been talking about in Soc. Agnew uses words like “pusillanimous pussy-footers” and “hysterical hypochondriacs of history” and people applaud.

The Spigot came out today with my story on Peter Amato, head of Student Volunteer Resources, and Mark’s column against separate bathroom facilities for students and faculty. I got my press card today, finally.

There are still some details to be cleared up at the Elections Commission. Today’s Kingsman editorial suggests that students, instead of voting for candidates in the election, write in that that they want a new form of student government. That’s all I need.

In Acting, we did pantomime exercises; I did one making a cup of tea. Lucy and I are probably going to do a scene from Albee’s A Delicate Balance. In Sociology, we discussed culture and other interesting stuff.

I came home early and caught up on my relaxing. I did write a bit during the evening; I think I’ll xerox the story when it’s finished. Bonnie told me that the racial troubles — caused by whites, apparently — at the new high school, South Shore, seem to be easing.

The Jordan ceasefire seems to be holding. South Vietnam Vice President Ky is coming to Washington to appear at a “Victory Rally” sponsored by rightwing Rev. Carl McIntire.

Saturday, September 26, 1970

Another very warm day. My photo ID card from school arrived in the mail: a real mug shot. We also received the first our Jewish New Year cards, from Fran and Matt in Maryland.

Early this morning Mark called me with a new story to cover. It’s about the recent rash of bike thefts; I had heard about it only this week, from Richard Pontone. Hopefully, Mark said, the story will be an Action Reporter column with a head shot of me.

I was so excited by that that I went to Woolworth’s on Ralph Avenue and went through the photo machine, the kind Andy Warhol used to use.

This evening I called up my main contact, John Caggiano, who gave me the story. It seems an organized gang of kids with tools have been stealing bikes from the racks. Three were copped on Thursday alone.

John went to see Dean Glickman, the facilities director, who asked for a week’s time to do something about it; I’ll try to get to Glickman on Monday.

I went outside this afternoon and walked over to Steve Berman when he was washing the car with his father. Steve’s a sergeant, a mechanic, back from Germany.

He has orders for Vietnam at the end of October. Steve described the Army as “a bad trip” and is looking to get out of in some way. He no longer seems wild; in fact, he’s quite subdued. I’m happy that he’s off heroin and that he looks well; he’s got a mustache.

We talked about old friends and just other stuff. In junior high, when we went to school together every day, we were such an odd pair of friends: the wild, girl-crazy athlete and the shy, nervous “brain.”

I then went over to Kings Plaza. Both the shopping center and our store were unbearably hot. Bernice was given the sack, and Shirley’s come in from the Green Acres store to fill in as manager for a while.

I called Grandma Sylvia tonight; they’re leaving for the country tomorrow. And Grandpa Herb and Grandma Ethel are driving down to Miami Beach with Aunt Claire and Uncle Sidney a week from today.

Mom and Dad went with the Cohens tonight to Yonkers Raceway, where Lennie had a few “sure things” for them tonight. (The trotters drivers seem to get together before the race and decide which one is going to “try hard.”) But Doris, a pessimist, said before they left, “This night’s going to cost us a lot.”

Wednesday, September 30, 1970

It turned rather chilly and cloudy. I left for school quite early this morning and ran into Alice. We went into Whitehead Cafeteria for coffee (tea for me) as we listened to Howie’s radio show.

Alice is the college coordinator of the Movement for a Responsible Congress, and she collected money from me, Mark, Hal and Dick to buy TV time for candidates like Bella Abzug and Herman Badillo.

Alice asked me if I could get Mom to write her cousin Chuck in Barcelona; she wants to stay with a Spanish family this summer. She’s thinking of taking a leave of absence from school.

We ran into Kjell and I congratulated him. He says Sharon’s “tickled pink” about their engagement, and the Reserves haven’t called him up yet.

The Spigot came out with platform statements from the various candidates and my column, “Thieves in the Rock Garden,” about the bike rack thefts and my interview with Dean Glickman. The photo was just awful.

Elections Commission business is getting tricky. Bruce is paranoid because of the unhappy experiences of the SGS election (but night school is different because so many students are adults). He drew up charges against Solly, a candidate for rep, but they were virtually baseless.

The ballot box will probably be stored at home with me: Glenn Madison doesn’t trust Mark and Marty Sirota doesn’t truce Bruce.

In Acting, Lucy and I picked a date (October 14) for our scene, and Miss Myers discussed motivation. We had an informal Soc class in which Mr. Katayama talked about his friends Timothy Leary and Dan Berrigan.

Dad came home early tonight for the New Year, but he didn’t go to temple. Mom informed me that Jonny hasn’t gone to Hebrew school in days and doesn’t want to go back. I hated it myself but somehow I stuck it through four years to my bar mitzvah.

I don’t believe in Judaism and I don’t know if I believe in God even if I’m always invoking his name.