A 20-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From August, 1971
by Richard Grayson
Monday, August 2, 1971
A sunny and cloudy day. When I got on campus this morning, I saw Timmy’s unmistakable skinny little figure. After we exchanged greetings, he told me that he left Scott and their friend Morry in Los Angeles and arrived at 1:30 AM today at Kennedy.
Timmy told me, Elspeth and Father Reagan about their cross-country adventures. Their car broke down twice, they went hungry a lot, they were ripped into and they ripped things off, with Timmy getting away with a federal rap on the wrist for stealing steaks at Yellowstone. They met a lot of freaks and a lot of people who hate hippies.
It was interesting, but of course, Timmy has a tendency to go on and on.
In Art, we saw sculpture by Rosso and the paintings and woodcuts of that weirdo, Edvard Munch. After class, I sat in front of LaGuardia with Timmy, Terry, Slade and Elspeth, discussing baseball and other stuff.
Timmy drove me home and came in for a while. He wanted Stacy’s mailing addresses in Europe so he could send her a postcard he got at Disneyland; he definitely has a thing for Stacy, which I can understand. Timmy has applied to transfer to SUNY at Purchase, but he doesn’t think he can get in.
Shelli had to stay home today because the REA man was coming to take Sindy’s furniture and stuff to Seattle. And Jonny and I had to go to the dentist. Dr. Hersh gave Jonny a cleaning and filled a cavity of mine.
After dinner, Shelli came over from Kings Plaza. She wasn’t surprised to learn that Timmy said that Scott was fooling around with a lot of girls during the trip and said she just hopes Avis doesn’t get word of it. Today I got a card from Avis, who said she and Stacy can’t wait to get out of Norway.
Grandma Ethel called from the Catskills, where she and Grandpa Herb are visiting Great-Grandma Bessie on their way back from Canada. Right afterwards, Gary called; he will give up his taxi driving job for one working in a liquor store.
Shelli and I practiced tennis with Jonathan, then went upstairs to bed. We had a lot of fun, although we didn’t go all the way since she had her period. Shelli and I want to go to Planned Parenthood as soon as possible. My nerves can’t handle another pregnancy scare.
Friday, August 6, 1971
I was saved from oversleeping by a phone call from Shelli; we decided I’d come to her house after school. At the college, Mendy told me to he’s been gathering the teacher listings for our first Spigot.
He asked me to assign a story on the new college vice-president, Sherman Van Solkema, to Ellen, but it’s so good I think I’ll keep it for myself. I’m going to get a tape recorder so I can do a good interview.
Dean Wiepert asked me how Kieran and Sindy are in their married life. In her last letter, Sindy wrote that she had gained weight and was a bit unhappy in Seattle.
In Art we looked at Cubist Picassos. So many stupid people in the class keep saying so many idiotic, ignorant things about abstract art, I don’t know why it doesn’t drive Mr. Viola crazy.
After class, I had a long conversation with Slade. We discussed the whole LaGuardia scene, the decline of Kingsman under Karen and her editors, the relationships between various people, including Leon and Laurie.
Slade told me that he had a nervous breakdown after high school, too – the only other person I’ve ever met who could really relate to my experience. Because of his columns, he used to be idolized by people, like Leon is, but now Slade said he can’t take it.
We talked about the novel he’s working on about the artist’s mistake in pursuing the personification of beauty, like in Death in Venice; he’s looking for a publisher.
Feeling that I’d made a good friend in Slade today, I went over to see Shelli, who made me lunch and gave me Gerber’s baby food vanilla custard for dessert.
We took the Ralph Avenue bus to Georgetown and bought some things, including condoms, which were on sale. In my bedroom, we made love, and it was perfectly beautiful.
It was a nice lazy afternoon, but we couldn’t help fighting – about abstract painting, of all things. As I was walking her to the bus stop – we won’t have the Pontiac back from the shop until next week – Dad came along and drove her home.
While the family went to a restaurant, I had dinner by myself and afterwards stayed on the porch and talked with neighbors.
Elihu sent me a postcard from Berlin. The first lines were: “You’re right. It’s a bad idea and you’d hate yourself for it.” At first I didn’t realize what he was referring to, and then it dawned on me it was my telling Jerry about the seriousness of his mother’s illness.
“Stepping across Check Point Charlie is like the gulf between the Earth and the Moon,” Elihu wrote. I’ve decided to forgive and forget with Elihu. But I still can’t understand why Jerry hasn’t written for so long. I’m worried about him.
Shelli spoke to her friend Dinah tonight before Dinah went out to spend the night with a lover. She knows Ivan for a long time, longer than Shelli does, and Dinah said, “In two years he’ll be a raving faggot.” That thought has crossed my mind, too.
Sunday, August 8, 1971
I awoke at 2 AM from a dream that disturbed me: I dreamed I was making love with Avis – and enjoying it. I was awake for hours after that, sitting up thinking.
Naturally it’s not Avis per se, but the whole question of being attracted to other girls – and boys, too. I felt very closed in and needed breathing room.
So when I called Shelli this morning, I told her that I wanted to be alone today. She said she understood but she was cold to me.
Then I actually faced the prospect of being alone all day. I guess I had romanticized it, because it wasn’t so great. I became very fidgety and took a long drive in Dad’s Cadillac, looking around to see if there were any girls I could pick up. That was useless.
Finally I got so desperate for company that I went over to Hal’s house. He introduced me to Ivy, who was the same girl he brought to Gary’s party. Hal said he wants to form a new party at school because he’s “sick of Leon and the Rockaway crowd.”
I thought Ivy was hysterically funny and the one girl who can stand up to Hal. At one point she said to me, “Can you please do me a favor and punch him in the jaw and knock him out for a while?”
I laughed and told her that Hal wanted to beat me up back in March and how Shelli assumed he’d give me a black eye. Ivy said she was probably hoping he would because “Every girl wants to watch her boyfriend get beaten up.” Hal and I couldn’t stop laughing.
As I left, Ivy said next time I should bring my girlfriend and Hal and I could have a boxing match in the backyard and she would root for me and my girlfriend would root for Hal.
“Then we could have an orgy afterward,” Hal said. They were joking (I think), but it made me a little light-headed. Hal didn’t have his shirt on the whole time I was there.
When I came home, I called Shelli, saying I was lonely. She said okay, that I should pick her up, and we went to lunch at the Mill Basin Deli.
Shelli gave me a mushroom needlepoint thing – very pretty, as she was today. She said that yesterday she got the first-day covers of the space stamp I had sent out for her.
We got our rackets and a ball and went to the playground on Avenue N and Utica and practiced tennis – we played squash, actually. We worked up quite a sweat and I got sunburned, as I was just wearing shorts without a shirt.
After our workout, we had cold drinks and I drove her home. We had a nice simple time, no sex for a change, and I enjoyed myself.
Back home in our backyard, Irving Cohen put up a barbecue and I had a burger and a frank with the Cohens and my parents, then I went upstairs, where I took a shower, washed my hair, and watched TV: The First Churchills and The Six Wives of Henry VIII.
On the whole, this weekend wasn’t so bad.
Tuesday, August 10, 1971
A very hot and humid day. This morning I met Alice on campus and kissed her hello and welcome back. She arrived in New York on Sunday afternoon and today is her first day back at work in the admissions office.
Alice loved Switzerland and hated coming back. When I asked her for suggestions on a topic for my Contemporary Art paper, she said I should go to Andreas’ studio and report on his sculpture. “He’s better than Rodin,” Alice said, but she’s a bit prejudiced.
She got a letter from Juan in Puerto Rico, asking questions about the admissions office for a story he’s writing for the Spigot.
Sitting in front of LaGuardia with the gang, Terry showed me postcards she’d gotten from Don, Elihu and Robert in Europe. I asked if anyone had heard from Jerry lately and no one had but Terry suggested I call Jill.
In Art, we looked at slides of Brancusi’s sculpture, really wonderful stuff. I think I’m going to do my paper on some aspect of pop art or the work of the painter Larry Rivers. It’s due in a week.
After class, Alice wanted me to go with her to see Bananas, but I had a sinus headache, made worse by the searing heat and humidity.
When Ruth and Marty came along, they had good news. At yesterday’s draft physical, Marty got a 4-F – because of allergies, hemorrhoids, and one arm being longer (or shorter, I guess) than the other. That’s really great. So far nobody from LaGuardia has ever passed his draft physical.
Back home, I called Shelli, who had chores to do today, among them making a new tennis outfit. My girl is not only beautiful and gentle, but she is talented, too.
Avis wrote from Paris, which she liked — somewhat more than Scandinavia, anyway. She says Europeans ostracize Americans: “We miss America, and despite how shitty it is, the feeling between the kids in America can’t be found in Europe.” She and Stacy have decided to leave a week early and will be home on Saturday night.
I went to the dentist this afternoon and Dr. Hersh filled a cavity and cleaned my teeth. Then I went home to have dinner and call Gary, who after quitting his jobs as a cabbie and working in the liquor store, now is working for a butcher.
Dad picked up the Pontiac tonight and I took it for a spin; the brake is too high, but it’s back. Tomorrow Mom and Dad are leaving for the Bahamas.
Mayor Lindsay may switch parties this week to run for President as a Democrat.
Friday, August 13, 1971
Friday the Thirteenth. Shelli and I made what appears to be the final break in our relationship tonight. It’s all over. Of course I’ve thought that many times before, but this is really the end.
The day started off badly: I hardly slept at all last night and woke up with a terrible headache. I took the Pontiac into the dealer’s repair place and the guy said he wouldn’t have the car back till at least Monday. The continuing problems with the car have been so annoying.
Shelli came over about noontime, after coming from school, where she interviewed the dean of the summer session. We walked to Kings Plaza and bought some scented candles (mine was coconut, my favorite smell) and looked around.
At home, we had pizza and then decided to go swimming. As we were getting undressed to change, we became very aroused and made love. It was pretty nice – probably the last time we’ll ever do that again.
Then we went swimming and after that came the inevitable argument: I never take her out at night, I do whatever I want to do, I am selfish, etc., etc. She said, “Melissa said she wouldn’t take it.”
So after she left, I thought about it and wrote her a note, not in anger but rationally – and I read it to her over the phone. It read that I wanted to be a friend and that friendship is a form of love.
“Melissa was right,” I wrote. “No girl should take the things I’ve been giving you. I hope you will forgive me and still think fondly of me. . . I want you to be happy and I am convinced that your future does not include me. Please be happy.”
She cried a lot, said she felt sick, and was really upset. But she also knew it was right thing to do.
Later, though, she called and said that I was doing it because I felt guilty for treating her so rottenly and I wanted to use her, etc. The upshot of it was that now she doesn’t even want to be my friend.
Timmy called and asked me to find out the details of tomorrow’s return flight of Stacy and Avis from Shelli, the only one who might have the information. When I called her, she was very cold.
I knew it would end like this.
Monday, August 16, 1971
A cool, sunny day. Mom and Dad arrived last night after 10 PM and they seemed to have enjoyed their vacation in the Bahamas.
Last evening President Nixon announced a whole new economic policy to take care of inflation and recession: a 90-day freeze on wages and prices, a 10% import tax, an income tax cut, and a floating of the dollar, which will virtually devalue it.
This morning I heard Dad talking to Mom over the phone. He complained of chest pains and said the car wouldn’t be ready today; those Pontiac people keep stalling and stalling.
At school, I showed my sketches to Elspeth, Terry and Robert, who were not very impressed, and I’m a bit discouraged.
Mendy brought out some old Kingsmans and it was hilarious going through them and seeing what our friends looked like two years ago.
In Art, Viola showed slides of the paintings of Kandinsky, which I thought were shitty.
After class, I ran into Ray, who told me Mark helped Ray and his girlfriend move. Ray wants Elspeth’s $60 share of the first month’s rent, so I’m supposed to tell her to call Ray or his girlfriend.
I met with Mendy about the first Spigot issue. I still haven’t done my story on the library yet. Harvey came by and startled me when he said that the new Student Activities Director would be Bruce, of all people.
Harvey said he’s afraid the Student Assembly will be “reactionary” — and that’s coming from a conservative! We had lunch with Baruch, who is such a nebbish.
When I got home, I saw Dad’s car outside. He was ill all day with severe chest pains. He’s stubborn and won’t see a doctor, as usual. I hope it’s not his heart. I was upset and nervous all day because of it.
The Art paper is breathing down my neck. I’ve changed the topic to the influence of comic books on Lichtenstein’s painting, and I only just started it.
Shelli spent the day with Avis, getting stoned and baking cookies. There’s a lot of pressure and things on my mind now, and it’s getting me down.
Tuesday, August 17, 1971
A worrisome day. Dad had a bad night and the chest pains were very severe today. Mom called the internist Irving Cohen goes to and he said that Dad should go into Maimonides Hospital for an electrocardiogram.
I was worried and very upset as I went to school. Alice took a load off my mind by volunteering to do the library story for me; she’s a doll. I decided not to go to class, as I would become bored and anxious there, so I just stayed with my friends.
Mikey got back from Boston, saying he got a letter today from Jerry, who was in Munich. Jerry has been all over Eastern Europe, having a good time in Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia and Hungary. He also said he saw Allan in Munich but didn’t seem happy about it. At least I know he’s okay.
Shelli got a letter from Allan today, and he mentioned meeting Jerry in Munich and said he, too, is fine. She came along with me and Mikey as he discussed plans for the Mugwumps this year.
Mikey wants us to put out a blacklist of rotten teachers and has some other ideas. And he definitely wants to be our candidate for student government president next spring.
Mikey and I played football – using Terry’s moccasin as a ball – with Slade and Robert. Carole and Irving dropped by, just back from a trip upstate.
Shelli warned Timmy not to tell Avis about Scott’s fooling around with other girls during their cross-country trip. From what Timmy told Shelli, Scott did considerable fooling around.
On his way back home to Rockaway, Mikey drove us to Kings Plaza; he’s coming back there tonight to start his new job at Alexander’s. I like Mikey and think he could really become a good leader. He’s meeting with Marty on Saturday to get some tips.
Shelli and I had lunch at Cooky’s, window-shopped in the mall, and then came home. Mom called with good news: the EKG showed nothing wrong with Dad’s heart.
Before my parents got back, Shelli and I got into bed and had a beautiful sexual encounter.
Later, Dad said he felt better psychologically but the chest pains were still bad and he had diarrhea. He’s going for a complete physical tomorrow.
After I took Shelli home, I finally managed to grind out an Art paper; it’s bad, but it’s the best I could do under the circumstances.
Grandpa Nat and Grandma Sylvia and the Cohens came over tonight to see how Dad was. I’m still very worried about him. Please let him be all right.
Friday, August 20, 1971
Saying today was an interesting day would be an understatement.
At least things at home are good, with Dad being given a clean bill of health and the Pontiac back and running like a dream.
This morning I met Gary on campus. After we spoke yesterday and I felt so bad for ignoring him lately, I gave him a book on B.F. Skinner to try to make up for my being such a lousy friend.
I feel real warmth and sympathy for Gary again. Like me, he has his neuroses, too. Gary is basically a good guy and I now realize what made him my friend in high school in the first place.
In Art, we looked at Duchamp’s paintings. I think they’re just wonderful, especially “L.H.O.O.Q.,” the Mona Lisa with a goatee and mustache.
Mendy and I started working on the schedules of classes. Mendy was getting me nervous and the whole thing just wasn’t working out. With the small print, my eyes hurt after a couple of hours.
Shelli and I had made up to play tennis in Roosevelt Hall, and when I went outside for a break from working with Mendy, I found Slade and Terry coming out of class, and then Shelli came walking past with Jack.
When I told Shelli I couldn’t play, she said I should give my racquet to Jack so they could play together. I did, and then I watched Jack and Shelli walk off to Roosevelt holding hands. I started to feel fluttery, as if my world was beginning to crumble.
Terry tried to cheer me up and told me to go with her for bagels, cream cheese and orange juice, which we brought back for the two of us and Slade. Alice came out of the admissions office and said she may have gotten a full-time job with a magazine but didn’t have time to stop and talk.
When Shelli and Jack came back from playing tennis, they went to have lunch in Sugar Bowl together.
After Mendy and I finished, I went in to talk with Harvey in the Student Government office for a while; I had to do something to keep my mind busy and not thinking about Jack and Shelli.
To my surprise, Harvey offered me my pick of committees to be on. Even though I’m not in his party, he thinks I am competent and fair-minded. As my political stock went up, my love life declined.
When I asked Shelli about tonight, she said she had a date with Jack, who was taking her to Manhattan for a movie and dinner. I was crushed.
Just after they left, Scott came in, having just gotten back this morning. When I hugged Scott hello, I almost wanted to cry in his arms.
Avis noticed how depressed I was and they both offered to take me “out on the town” tonight, but I declined with thanks, saying that after all that time apart, they should be alone on their first evening together.
I can’t forget how coldly Shelli acted towards me. At home, I almost threw up and cried hard for two hours. I wrote a pretty hysterical letter about it to Jerry, who had sent me a postcard from Denmark.
Later, Gary came over and tried to cheer me up, and I do feel a bit better now. I guess everything worked out for the best. I still love her.
Saturday, August 21, 1971
I spoke to Elspeth for a long time late last night. She was very sympathetic, and when we hung up, I said, “I love you.” It just slipped out. I’ve never thought of her as anything but a platonic friend – and I didn’t give it a second thought until later today.
At 1 AM, I called Shelli when she got home from her date with Jack. She had a nice time, she said, but she said she thought of me all evening. We talked, and I tried to hurt her because my ego was bruised.
I felt better after we said we loved each other, but I still couldn’t sleep at all. I decided I’d go away and stay in Rockaway for a few days to think things through and sort out my life again.
But I first went to Shelli’s house and we walked around the block. She said I was torturing her, that after all, I had urged her to date other guys. We took a drive out to the airport, thinking of seeing Elihu come home, but we decided we’d like to go to my house.
And this afternoon was heaven: we discovered each other again. Mom, with a knowing smile, made us lunch, and then Shelli and I went into bedroom.
We had an afternoon of love, sexual and otherwise. She didn’t really like Jack, she said, just as a friend. He asked her out again Tuesday, and I told her to go, but she’s undecided.
We made love so many times I lost count. I’m exhausted from all those orgasms. It was so damn beautiful, just like it used to be. When you come down to it, all you’ve got are trite clichés – like “we were meant for each other” and stuff. I love her and she loves me and that’s the way it’s going to be (I hope).
Driving around, we spotted Karen and her boyfriend and went with them to Kings Plaza. We had dinner at Bun ‘n’ Burger and walked around. In Macy’s we visited Craig and I bought dungarees. Then we went to her house and spent a quiet evening with Shelli’s family.
I spoke to Gary on the phone while Shelli spoke to Elspeth. Elspeth told Shelli what I’d said and wants to do “something nice” for me tomorrow. Shelli thinks that because I said “I love you” to her last night, Elspeth has a crush on me, but I don’t believe it.
Wednesday, August 25, 1971
A cool, breezy day. Bobby called Shelli last night, and yesterday he came over, first to her house, and then to mine, while we were out — because he was so upset.
Poor Bobby. This girl in New Jersey who he really liked first kept giving excuses about not being able to go out to them, then said her family was moving to Ohio.
But when Bobby called up their house today, thinking he’d get a forwarded phone number, the family was still there and the girl’s mother didn’t know what he was talking about when he mentioned them moving to Ohio.
I just hope Bobby meets a girl who can appreciate him when he goes back to Gainesville for the fall term. He was Shelli’s friend from high school, but he’s a nice guy: quiet, intellectual, and athletic.
This morning Mendy kept bothering me about the Spigot stories; he was going to the printers today.
Elspeth said she ran into Casey in Coney Island, and he’s leaving on Sunday for law school at Penn. When Ray came by, he and Elspeth had a row about the rent money. As I accompanied Ray to pick up his diploma, he said, “Jack’s no threat to you.”
In Art, we went over the action painters: Kline, de Kooning, et al.
Leaving my classroom in Boylan, I saw Terry, who said Shelli was waiting for me in front of LaGuardia. On the way there, Renee told me she was asked out by a gynecologist at the clinic where she works.
I found Shelli wearing her purple dashiki as a dress; it’s a real knockout, just gorgeous.
Passing by Robert and a guy in a ponytail, I said hello to Elihu and Jill after a summer of not seeing them. Elihu looks the same, perhaps a bit thinner. Jill cut her hair into a Jane Fonda and also lost some weight.
We all went into LaGuardia, and while Jill was telling me about her decision not to go to grad school in psych after graduating next January, I heard Elihu telling Shelli how creepy Leon looks.
I asked about Leon, and they said I just saw him: he was the guy with the ponytail!
At lunch, Shelli told me she called Jack and told his mother that she wouldn’t see him tonight. She didn’t call him last night, either. She said he wanted her to pay for dinner. Anyway, I’m glad, but it was her decision and I didn’t intend to influence her.
Slade surmised that Susan is interested in him because she made a snide, jealous comment to Terry today, not realizing that Terry and Slade are just old friends like Alice and I am or Shelli and Ivan.
After I walked Shelli to the dentist from my house, I picked her up later by car and we came home and made love in my room. The past few days with her have been heaven.
Tonight Shelli spoke to Ronna, who’s still talking about whether she should marry Ivan, who’s coming back from camp next week.
It’s been a good day. I’m enjoying being alive.
Saturday, August 28, 1971
The hurricane swiftly and furiously passed through the city during the night. I slept through it all, but this morning there were uprooted trees and the pool was overflowing.
Yet the sky was a remarkably clear powder blue. Perhaps the storm washed away the smog and pollution.
I had a long night’s sleep, but I felt very tired this morning. When Shelli called, we decided I’d pick her up at noon. Melissa called Shelli last night and told her about her date with a guy she’d picked up at Wetson’s.
This morning I did some reading and then went to Shelli’s house. She looked more beautiful than usual as she waited for me outside.
We drove into Prospect Park and I bought her a balloon at the zoo. We went on this surrey-trolley kind of ride around the park and it really made me carsick. Shelli was dizzy too.
Back at my house, I found a letter from Stockholm, from Jerry, who seems blissfully happy, living in Sweden with the family of Börje, “the finest friend I have ever had.”
He booked passage on a boat leaving tomorrow for Britain. Börje is now seeking to avoid Allan “after a disastrous incident in Munich,” which Jerry doesn’t elaborate on. He also told me to “stop throwing away money on that half-wit shrink.”
I called Elihu and asked him if I should tell Jerry’s parents about his whereabouts: maybe he doesn’t want to know about his mother’s condition and maybe she’s improving. Elihu was unsure. he looked up in a book when Jerry’s boat would be arriving. I’ll call Elspeth next.
Shelli and I had a luncheon on the grass — I had gotten stuff from the deli — and then we went upstairs and had a delicious time.
She was in pain when I first entered her vagina, so perhaps she’s getting her period. I hope so. I couldn’t take another month like last one. But we’re going to Planned Parenthood this week.
We bought birthday cards for Slade and a huge polyethylene snake for him. Tonight I did my Art work and spoke to Gary, who was at the Armory on Guard duty all day.
Monday, August 30, 1971
For the first time in many years, today I found myself thinking of suicide. I guess it was a moment of weakness and won’t happen again.
I was about to fall into a delicious sleep last night when I got a call from Mendy. He was nagging me to death about the stories and how he wants me to go to the printer with him this week.
Then Mark called and invited me over on Thursday night to his house, where there’s going to be a really big party. Mark is mad at Leon for running for president last spring and splitting the vote, but I told him to invite Leon anyway.
The other day, when Leon and I had lunch alone at the College Deli and he told me about his travels through Iran, Afghanistan and Cyprus, it was the first time we ever talked one on one, and I really felt close to him.
When I met Elspeth this morning, I gave her the money to buy Slade a present. I gave Mendy the story I made up from Alice’s notes. Alice decided not to take the magazine job after all.
After Slade came out of class, we gave him our presents. Elspeth gave him a funny statue that said “You bring out the beast in me.” Terry gave him this great game, Leaping Lizards, and I gave him a card in Polish and a Playboy anthology. Shelli gave him that cute polyethylene snake.
In Art, Mr. Viola concluded the term’s work by showing a Philip Pearlstein portrait of Mr. Viola. He gave me a B+ on my paper: “OK but diffuse.”
After class, Jill, Elihu and Avis’s sister Ellen came over on their bikes and joined us in front of LaGuardia. Renee told me her date with the gynecologist went very well.
The campus with filled with lots of entering freshmen walking around looking bewildered: that was me two years ago. I came home and wrote my Art essay; since I did so well on the paper, some of the pressure’s off.
But I still can’t help worrying about Shelli. She had a tennis lesson, then went to Kings Plaza and came here over dinner. Because his parents are away, Scott had invited us to his house, but we were too upset.
I’m afraid this time Shelli is really pregnant. I never told her about the day the condom broke. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but things look very bleak. Very bleak indeed.