A 19-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From October, 1970
by Richard Grayson
Monday, October 5, 1970
An insane day, a long day, a frustrating day. I arrived on campus bright and bushy-tailed at 9:30 AM and soon our troubles began.
Bruce really fucked up the ballots in the student government election: he made mistakes with candidates’ parties and put the space to put an X so far to the right of their names that everybody got confused.
A lot of people who wanted to vote for Sirota mistakenly voted for Madison, and I fear if Madison wins there may be a voiding of the whole election.
Bruce hired four women to watch the polls and give out ballots: his mother, his aunt, and two neighbors from his block.
I ran back and forth all morning between the two polling places in Boylan and Whitehead and LaGuardia, where Mark was busily mimeoing more ballots.
This morning is a blur of faces. I had a Wolfie’s lunch and then went to Acting, where Lucy and I rehearsed our scene from A Delicate Balance. It’s coming along well and we’re developing a rapport. Just wish I had more time to devote to it.
I listened in Soc as Mr. Katayama discussed a matriarchal society, then went to the cafeteria with Jed, who’s in both of those classes with me.
Because of election work, I had to cut Anthro again, and unfortunately, and we’re getting a quiz tomorrow. But at 5 PM I was needed as we sealed the ballot after closing the polls, and Bruce drove me home. The box of ballots is now sitting in my room a couple of feet away. At least we had a good turnout (850) anyway.
Grandpa Herb called tonight from the Saxony in Miami Beach, where they’re enjoying the 85° weather. Alice came over to tutor Marc tonight, but this afternoon, when Mom was going to drive Jonny to Hebrew school, he ran away.
I called Dr. Wouk to cancel for tomorrow. I wanted activity — and I got it!
Wednesday, October 7, 1970
Today is going to be difficult to write about: how does one describe madness? I stayed in bed as long as I could, knowing what the day would bring. But eventually I had to call a cab and bring the ballots to school.
Rumors were flying all over campus. I heard one that me and my girlfriend (!) stuffed the ballots. Mark confided that he thought that Bruce might have been stuffing them for Madison.
Then Mark found out from Marty Markowitz that Madison broke into the GSO (Graduate Students Organization) office and used their xerox machine to make campaign material.
Mark thought that was enough for us to kick Madison off the ballot. Bruce disagreed violently, leaving me in the middle with the final decision.
I think kicking anyone off the ballot is a drastic step, and just because Madison is a thief and a liar and he would ruin Student Government, it’s not good enough cause to justify that. I had little time for anything else today but the election today, although I rehearsed with Lucy.
At 6 PM we began the tedious process of counting the ballots. Everyone was there: Marty Sirota and his running-mate Casey Waxman, Alan Ellman, Elihu, Elspeth, Timmy, Jack, Mendy, Solly, Harvey and the four women inspectors Bruce hired.
Sirota seems to be leading, with Ellman a close second — except for the Tuesday vote, which has Madison leading 3-1 over the others. Something’s not kosher, but I don’t believe Madison can catch up.
All of us were all hoarse, bleary-eyed and punchy by 11 PM, when Dad drove me home, dropping off Bruce’s mother and her friend Min at their block.
Nixon called for a ceasefire, but I don’t know much about it. Tonight I’ll dream of ballots.
Thursday, October 8, 1970
A long but rewarding day. On campus this morning, the vote went smoothly except for a fistfight between Steve Dent and Scott Koestner, and the vote today was quite huge.
I sat and watched the ladies at the ballot boxes with Mikey, Bob Miller and Elspeth. I had time to go home for lunch (though I haven’t eaten much this week) and relax for the long night that was ahead of me.
I did go to Anthro, where we discussed economics.
At 5 PM, the balloting ended, and we spent three to four hours counting today’s vote. Finally, after endless tallying and quite a bit of arguing between Bruce Weitz and Bruce Balter (as acting SG president, left over from last year) about when the election ladies would be paid, we were done.
Bruce, Mark and I walked out to the LaGuardia lobby and Bruce announced the winters. He has a flair for the dramatic and revealed the assembly winners first. Some of my friends won: Elspeth, Elihu, Mikey, Harvey, Ralph, Joel, and others.
Then, of course, was the big race, though by then, everyone knew what the result would be: Sirota and Waxman approximately 1400, Ellman and Weinberger 900, Madison and Horowitz 700.
Marty and Casey made good victory statements, calling for unity as the crowd cheered and the flashbulbs popped. Earlier, I talked to Al Ellman in the cafeteria when he knew he was going to lose, and he took it gracefully, though I doubt if he’ll accept Marty’s offer to be in the cabinet.
I think we’re in for a good year with Marty and Casey; they told me Bob’s going to Business Manager. While shaking hands and kissing people, I promised Marty that I’d help him in any way.
Finally, I gave a stupid statement to a Kingsman reporter about how we can all work together. I’m relieved, yet sort of sad it’s over. I feel as good as a winner.
Tuesday, October 13, 1970
A sky-blue day. I woke up drowsy and began to memorize my lines in A Delicate Balance; I’ve got them down pat now. Tobias is a tricky character, like all of Albee’s married men; he’s certainly not likable.
After an early lunch, I went to the first meeting of the new Assembly in SUBO. First, Bruce Balter gave his “farewell address”; he looked happy to be out of student government and said he’s interested in community work.
Then he swore Marty and Casey in and they spoke out for unity and responsibility. The reps were sworn in by Alan Ellman, who spoke about the work that must be done.
Pam, the only black student in the Assembly, was sworn in as Chairman, and then the chairman of the four committees: Fred (Finance), Kieran (Student Activities) and his girlfriend Sindy (Academic Affairs), and Elspeth, who beat out Steve Dent for Government Operations chairman.
Bruce gave our Elections Commission budget of $411, but Lee said there was ballot stuffing and called for an investigation. Denker moved that they withhold payment to the ladies and Bruce Weitz until Government Operations conducts an investigation, and those schmucks agreed to it despite protests from Bruce, Scott and me.
Laura, a rep who’s been there for a while but who I didn’t know, came over to me and explained why they’re investigating. Apparently what I didn’t know is that they charged us to use the Honest Ballot Association, but Bruce went to Morris, the business manager, and told him it would cost too much, so Bruce used the ladies.
Bruce’s mother has now hired a lawyer to sue Student Government, and it’s a big mess. I spoke to Elspeth afterwards, and she said the whole thing will be probably just one meeting.
In Art, we looked over a Klee painting, and in Anthro, Mrs. Johnston discussed Alor society.
The cab driver who drove me to Dr. Wouk’s offered me a hit from his joint. Dr. Wouk seemed pleased with my activities. I thought maybe all this activity at school was running away from myself and my problems, but he says no.
On the train coming home, I realized how early it gets dark now. Tonight Dad and I went over to the mall, where Mom was minding the store; she’s becoming a smart businesswoman.
I wonder if Grandma Ethel and Grandpa Herb left Miami for home yet.
Saturday, October 17, 1970
It turned quite chilly today.
I got another from Ronald Lee, my convict pen-pal. He says the New York prison riots “lit the fuse” down there in Maryland; they’ve had some trouble, but where he is isn’t affected. They’re not under the board of corrections but instead run by psychologists.
Ronald doesn’t like it in the prison, but he writes, “At least I have been able to help myself quite a bit while I’ve been here.”
On campus after lunch, I took my copy of Kingsman and read it in LaGuardia with Mikey. The paper made a horrible mistake: printing Glenn Madison’s photo in place of the new dean of students, Hilary Gold.
Mark asked me to become features editor of the Spigot and I accepted. As of now, we have no features, but that will change.
Our office is being livened up by the new people next door in the Student Activities Director’s office, and we had a lot of fun with Elihu, who’s running things, and Jerry, Jill and the whole crowd.
Juan, who’s all hepped up about the flick he’s going to make, supervised Kang and Guy as they took shots of me and Elspeth, who’s a wonderful girl.
Bruce wants to do a recount of the ballots from Elspeth’s files. He wants me and him to do it tomorrow, so I went to SUBO and interrupted a meeting of the Government Operations Committee – Elspeth, Steve Denker, Mikey, Timmy, Hal and Lee — to tell them about it. They said they’d ignore any recount and I should, too, that the Elections Commission is out of business and has no power.
I skipped Acting. In Soc, Mr. Katayama said we’re all insignificant, “like raindrops falling at 2 AM.” I ran into Al Ellman, who took his election defeat hard but seems to be getting over it.
When I got home, Grandpa Herb and Grandma Ether were over; they looked relaxed and were very enthusiastic about Florida.
Tonight Gary and I went to see Bonnie and Clyde at Whitman Auditorium at the college. We sat with Mark, Casey, Elspeth, Elihu, Jerry and Jill. It was a powerful movie, and there was a good turnout; it seemed like everyone was there.
We stood outside SUBO in the 40° cold for a while before Gary, Mark, Elspeth and I decided to go to Jahn’s in Sheepshead Bay for ice cream. We had a fantastic time there, lots of fun, and I’m glad Gary met my friends.
We drove them home to Coney Island and then Gary and I came back to our house and had tea with Mom, Dad and Jonny. When I got up today, I had no idea it would be one of the best days of my life.
Wednesday, October 21, 1970
A humid, drizzly, chilly day: the first day of our two-week election recess which nobody wanted but which CUNY gave us after the Kent State strike.
I slept late because I had a hard time getting to sleep last night. It’s weird, feeling so uncomfortable with my mother, but after Dr. Wouk told me she called him to ask if I was a homosexual, I just feel funny around her even if he wouldn’t tell her anything.
I don’t know how to act now that I know she knows, or at least suspects. Things will never be the same in this family again.
I was awakened by call from Gary, who enjoyed the TV show he went to last night. He asked me if I wanted to go to the Ottinger campaign headquarters with him today, but I said no, I would go to BC.
But very few people were on campus, and I knew none of them. So I called Gary up again, but by that time he had decided to instead visit his grandfather in the hospital, where he’s recovering from cataract surgery.
I went down to Ottinger headquarters myself, and there I was sent, with a guy from Baruch named Neil and girl from Hunter named Kathy, to Flatbush. We went around to seven or eight apartment buildings and put literature under every door.
It sounds easy, but it added up to a lot of walking around. We had lunch in a Church Avenue deli and then I took the train and bus home. On the Mill Basin bus, I sat next to this kid who was reading a book called Bisexual Swapping. I thought about writing him a note and leaving it on my seat when I got off. I guess we all have our hangups.
Tonight at Grandma Sylvia’s we met her visiting sister from California, Annie, and her husband Al; Uncle Joe and Aunt Bessie were also there. They’re typical enough — smug, racist, concerned with themselves — and I didn’t really enjoy the evening and Marc and I left early.
Mark called and we rapped about BC politics; it’s really a lot of fun. Now that I’m features editor, I have some duties; I’m to call Elspeth to see how she’s making out on her series about living away from home. And I have to call Juan to get someone to photograph Stella’s home and discuss with Mendy our list of famous people to write to.
Friday, October 23, 1970
On this sticky, cloudy day, I went to the college this morning to attend, with Karen and Ray, a panel discussion of sexism — a new word I never heard before today.
There were speakers from Women’s Lib, and not the kooky kind either, but ones who seemed to know what they were talking about. Women and homosexuals are oppressed, not only in the U.S., but throughout the world.
People have to rid themselves of old ideas about sex, but it will take time. But that’s coming from a guy who’s pretty hung-up with sex himself.
Mark wants me to write Gloria Steinem and ask her for a column on a course in Women’s Studies.
After lunch at home, Mom drove me back to school. I xeroxed some copies of “Reflections on a Village Rosh Hashona,” then went to LaGuardia, where I found Mark in the office.
Solly is now threatening to take his suit against us to Civil Court; I doubt it will get that far, though. Elspeth was downstairs in Marty’s office; she hasn’t been to Stella’s yet to interview her about living alone.
We sat in the office and talked with Marty and his girlfriend Ruth, to whom he just gave a beautiful locket. Marty invited me to his delayed victory party on Monday night at his house plan. The five of us left the campus at 4:30 PM.
I went to Coney Island for a rally for Arthur Goldberg for Governor and saw him inside and outside Nathan’s. He actually did eat a frankfurter. He seems almost as stiff as a candidate as Ottinger except he doesn’t need to hold a cigarette all the time.
Gary told me he was handing out Ottinger leaflets today and that he planned the route for tomorrow’s Brooklyn visit of “moneybags herself,” Mrs. Louise Ottinger, the candidate’s millionaire mother.
Gary asked if I wanted to see The Graduate tonight, but I declined, as I wasn’t feeling up to it. Instead, I stayed home and washed my hair.
The family went out to dinner at Kings Plaza. Marc was mad because he wanted to go to a Byrds concert but Mom and Dad said he was too young.
The LIRR has gone out on a wildcat strike.
Monday, October 26, 1970
Another dreary, drizzly day — the weather’s been miserable.
This morning I got the fake mustache I ordered in the mail. Mustache! It looks more like a strip of carpeting. But what did I expect for five dollars?
I went to the college for a teach-in about the labor movement. I don’t think these radicals can ever get it together with the workers, despite all their talk, because most of the union leaders are so conservative. I left when they started discussing Marx, which always bores me to tears.
I ran into Gary on the street and we went over to Ottinger headquarters but didn’t want to do any work there, so we drove over to the County Democratic headquarters, where we ended up taking some posters and a list of registered voters in our assembly district.
Then we came back to the house, had lunch, and watched TV. Senator Goodell’s “Lassie” speech (so-called because he spoke during that show’s regular time) did rejuvenate his candidacy, further splitting the liberal vote and making a Buckley win on the Conservative Party line all the more likely.
I had a bad sinus headache this afternoon; I can’t take the humidity. Mom worked tonight as well as all day today. Alice came over to tutor Marc, and as she was leaving, I asked her if she wanted to go to the victory party with me.
She did, and we went over to her house, where she changed, and then to the Hamilton-State house plan. It was a pleasant party. Marty was, for some reason, wearing a tuxedo, and Ruth looked nice too.
Casey was there with his girl; Mark, Jerry and Dick were there, as were all the other Mugwumps: Elspeth, Elihu, Larry, Elayne, Jill, Greg, Rosemary, Laura, Leon, Bob, and the rest.
Elspeth had baked a delicious cake, and Rose showed the scrapbook she’s started making. I had a nice, friendly time, but Alice didn’t know too many people, so we left early.
I like my friends. Except maybe in junior high, I’ve never really been part of a crowd before.
Wednesday, October 28, 1970
I woke up late and decided to go to Ottinger headquarters. So I took the Mill Basin bus with Marc, who was on his way to Madison. Marc seems happier now, but he still does have his bad moments.
For instance, last night, for no apparent reason, he started slamming doors and locked himself in the basement, listening to the blast of rock music for hours.
Kathy was at the headquarters, and so were others, including the campaign coordinator, Ian Miller. Most people, including Gary, had already gone out campaigning with Ottinger himself, who was touring Brooklyn.
Kathy and I were assigned to Brighton Beach Avenue and handed out leaflets by the el station. It’s a heavily Democratic Jewish area, so Ottinger should have little trouble there.
For lunch, I had a frank standing up, and my stomach was upset almost immediately for the rest of the day. I have a very sour stomach; nothing serious, but with my gastric system, I need to watch my diet more carefully.
Kathy and I went back to Kings Highway, and from there I went home, where I spent the rest of the afternoon reading The Kingdom and the Power, Gay Talese’s very good book about the New York Times.
Mom had to work in the Kings Plaza store again tonight, and Dad’s at a meeting at Green Acres. I understand that they want to get rid of some the less profitable stores. Business is lousy; even General Motors had their first quarterly decline ($77 million) in twenty years.
Maybe the bad economy will counter the Nixon-Agnew law-and-order thrust and make them unpopular. Nixon’s been campaigning everywhere, something unusual for a President in an off-year election.
But the way he and Agnew are dividing the country, no matter who wins on Election Day, the country will be the loser. The wounds will be hard to heal.