A 20-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early December, 1971
by Richard Grayson
Wednesday, December 1, 1971
December began with a cold, bright day. I awoke early and studied more for the midterm. Dad was home this morning; the people he sold the Caddy to came over, gave him $4100, and took possession of it. At the bus stop on Avenue N, I met Dr. Fletcher, who was very friendly.
In LaGuardia, I talked with Stanley and Marty, and then went to the test. Vince made it hard, and I had to bullshit a lot on the questions on British and French politics.
As soon as we got out of the test, Mikey asked me to go to a meeting with Hoa Binh and DESU, a black group, about the coalition; Linda, who’s elections commissioner this term, has set the elections for right before Christmas.
Mikey said it was important and everyone else with the Mugwumps was busy: some with planning the strategy to oppose the six-schools curriculum’s proposed requirements.
Although I didn’t really want to, I told Mikey I’d go; it was my obligation and of course I respect Mikey more than I do practically anyone.
But because I was hungry, before I went with Mikey, first I walked with Mike – one of the people working on the curriculum stuff – to Merit Farms to get some lunch to eat at the meetings.
Anyway, the meeting never came off. DESU didn’t show up and I had to listen to Bart Myers talk about how Puerto Ricans and blacks can’t relate to a “whitey” name like Mugwumps. And Fran, the leader of Hoa Binh, is just obnoxious. Frankly, I don’t care if this “grand coalition” comes off or not.
I had a much better time going to see the last hour of this very good Italian movie Leon was showing even if I didn’t see the first part of it. Then Terry and I, following Allan and Shelli, went to SUBO for the Assembly meeting, but there was no quorum, so I went to have a soda with Avis and came home.
After dinner tonight, I drove to Rockaway and visited Ivan. His basement room looks great with black light and day-glo posters, and we got high as I lay on his waterbed with him. It’s really comfortable, and he and Vicky must have a good time in it.
Ivan’s lucky he left Ronna for Vicky, who is pretty, brilliant, and more like him. I’m envious but glad for him, and I told him not to let go of Vicky.
From Ivan’s house, I went over to visit Grandpa Nat and Grandma Sylvia. They were arguing because Grandpa Nat said he won’t go to Florida on Sunday because there’s too much work in “the place.”
Sunday, December 5, 1971
Marianne Moore wrote that “the cure for loneliness is solitude,” and I do believe she was right. For the past two days I’ve been in comparative isolation, and yet I’ve been content – perhaps even happy.
I just thought about the fact that I haven’t cried in days – not since the morning I left for Washington. In a sense, that trip was a turning point, even if I don’t really believe in turning points.
I now feel more self-assured, and I know instinctively that there is a future, that I “will make it on my own,” in the words of the theme song to the Mary Tyler Moore Show I watched last night.
I’ve even been giving some thought to getting a job and my own apartment when spring rolls around. I’d like a small place, nothing fancy, by the beach in Rockaway. Mikey’s mother owns some apartments by the beach: maybe one of those.
It’s struck me that lately I’ve been writing a lot about simple things. Perhaps that is where I’m heading: toward simple things. My herbs, and my natural foods and natural hair color and my jeans, work shirts and flannels – I guess what it amounts to is getting back to basics.
In the last two months I’ve been listening more and more to music, mostly rock, trying to feel the beat and listen carefully. I want a little more excitement in my life. But there’s enjoyment in work, too.
Today I studied and read a book for the Foreign Policy test and decided what my topic will be for Merritt’s term paper: Serpent Symbolism in Romantic Poetry.
After breakfast, Dad took me for a drive in his new mauve Caddy. It’s really elegant, if a bit vulgar, but why must we take it as a fact of life that Volkswagen owners are morally superior to people who own Cadillacs?
Grandma Sylvia and Grandpa Nat left for Florida today after all, and Aunt Sydelle and Monty are joining them there tomorrow.
This afternoon I washed my new bush jeans to soften them, and I took this old yellow shirt I never wear and dyed it burnt orange and put studs on it, and now it looks great.
I also worked with my herbs. I’ve gotten some books about them, and the diseases and conditions they supposedly cure. But mostly I like to savor the taste of them in tea, feel them in my hand, smell them.
I called Stacy this afternoon and we talked for a while. Music is so much a part of her life that it’s hard for me to keep up with her. And she goes out a lot. If I want to get involved with her, I’m going to have a lot of competition. I know Timmy, Leroy and Allan all like her.
But I think I’m more confident now and have less need for the kind of clutching, exclusive “one-and-only” relationship I had with Shelli. I can definitely see sleeping with a girl who’s sleeping with other guys.
Tonight I spoke with Gary about his National Guard experiences this weekend and took a rosewater bath. Right now I’m listening to The Dead concert, which is being played live on WNEW-FM; Stacy’s going to see them at the Garden tomorrow night.
Monday, December 6, 1971
A cold rain fell all day. I overslept, as I listened to The Dead concert until 2 AM. I could have made it to Poli Sci, but I decided not to rush, that I could afford a cut.
So when I arrived at school, I went to LaGuardia, where Ivan, Avis and Shelli were sitting out front on the steps. I went over to talk to Leon for a while – today he again was nice – but then I decided, the hell with it, I’d join the others.
Shelli mentioned that today was her last session with Dr. Russett; with her father in the mental hospital for so long, she couldn’t afford it anymore.
And she said she dropped her Abnormal Psych class. That’s the second Psych elective she’s dropped, and she only got a C in Psych 2, but she still thinks she’s a Psych major. I almost feel ashamed I ever went with her; she’s so immature and so fat.
When I talked with Ivan, Allan, and Leroy for a while, I noticed that Shelli seems angry that I’m friendly with Ivan now. Maybe because it’s that Ivan was her friend going back to junior high. Or maybe it’s because Shelli knows how Ivan feels about Jerry.
Scott said he wasn’t at all mad at me, and Timmy came over and reported that he lost his cab driving job.
There was no Assembly meeting again. Petitioning is scheduled to begin next week, and there has been no Assembly approval of the dates or of Linda and the other two elections commissioners.
I hung around the Kingsman sports office for a while, playing Simon Says with Steve, Terry, Slade, Shelli and Ivan. But I’m sorry I was with Shelli so much today. I no longer like her and she can only bring me pain.
And I’ve given up on Elspeth, too. She’s been sending Shelli nasty notes all the time. I just don’t want to get involved with other people’s sickness.
I got a little exercise when I went with Mike to move his car, and then Hal and Steve asked me to referee their wrestling match, which ended in a draw.
Then I drove downtown and had a good session with Dr. Wouk. He wants me to start dating soon. Back at home, I was happily surprised to get an invitation to Kjell and Sharon’s wedding.
Mom missed her last period, and it’s just possible she may be pregnant. That’s all I need, right, yet another little brother? I hope she’s not really having a baby. Where would we put it?
I spent the rest of the day studying Foreign Policy.
Wednesday, December 8, 1971
Things are coming and going so fast, I don’t really where I’m at. The day began early; I woke up and found myself anxious, as if I had an important appointment or something. Putting on the new suede coat I got at the Male Shop, I went to the college.
For an hour I sat around LaGuardia, talking with Mike. He kept teasing Amy about sex and she was a bit embarrassed. But Mike’s a good guy, and he’s very good with people.
Stacy came over and asked me to have lunch with her and Leroy at noon. In Poli Sci, Vince discussed the rise of Nazism but I couldn’t concentrate and kept waiting for the class to end so I could have lunch with Stacy.
I met her on the steps of Gershwin. Leroy couldn’t make it – I wasn’t unhappy about that – so we ate by ourselves in Campus Corner.
From the restaurant, I went back to LaGuardia to help the new, just-picked elections commissioners work out details for the elections next week. Then I went down to Kingsman and listened to Stacy sing as she played Leroy’s guitar.
Going into the sports office for a second, I found that Shelli was there and she managed to be bitchily condescending for the two minutes I was in the room. We checked with Alice about the progress of Mother. Slade hasn’t handed in his story, and Alice is angry that she’s been doing all the work.
Allan and Scott got totally wrecked this afternoon at Avis’ house.
I asked Stacy to come home with me, and she accepted. First we went to Marc’s room, where he and Stacy talked about music a lot and she played his old guitar as we smoked a little grass.
In my room, Stacy and I got to know one another as we sat on my bed. She sang me some of her songs – I like the one about California – and she read some of my stories and we talked about each other’s therapy.
I told her she’s so direct, she scares me. She said she felt affection for me and said, “I could love you.” I told her I could love her, too, and I rested my hand on hers.
But we discussed the many problems: Timmy, Shelli, and the disapproval of Scott and Avis. I doubt if anything will come of our relationship. She’s gorgeous and sexy and brilliant, but Stacy says she’s an “outsider” and very lonely.
I wish I could share more with Stacy. But after being hurt so much, I’m afraid of rendering myself so vulnerable again. Yet I do like her so very much.
Thursday, December 9, 1971
People – Mom, Marc, Stacy – tell me I’m too sensitive. Perhaps they’re right. Yet I doubt that I can change. Today I was hurt very badly, and people say I should not have been. But can they understand my psychic pain?
I awoke at 4 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep, as butterfly thoughts raced through my mind. I thought of taking a drive to the beach to sort things out, but instead I decided to cut English and go to school late.
In LaGuardia, I found Stacy and we agreed to meet for lunch at noon. I cut Poli Sci, too, and went to Peter’s office to proofread the Mother copy. At least we’re getting three credits for the magazine from Father Reagan’s Education in Modern Society class, so I could feel I was doing some schoolwork today.
Back in LaGuardia, I met Ivan and we talked, but when Shelli came over, I left and went to talk with Jill and Stanley. Stacy came along with Scott, and more people began to join us, and by the time we got to the Pub, our group consisted of the three of us, Leroy, Ivan, Allan, Amy and Gary.
Everything was nice and cheerful until Allan started talking about Tuesday night when he, Shelli and Jerry went to see Ivan’s waterbed. Ivan said Shelli “sexually assaulted” him, and when he and Allan went out to take a walk on the beach, they came back to see Jerry and Shelli making love on the waterbed.
Everyone laughed, but I excused myself from the table as Allan was describing Shelli’s ecstatic groans during sex with Jerry. In the bathroom, I had a good cry. It wasn’t good enough, apparently, for I returned to the table in a black mood.
Of course I know they sleep together, but I don’t have to have that fact flaunted in my face. Separately, Scott, Mikey and Amy asked me if anything was the matter, but I kept still.
Afterwards, I aimlessly joined Ivan, Allan and Leroy as they went home with Stacy. In her room, they were all listening to her beautiful voice, but I just felt out of it, lonely and sick.
I left early, apologizing to Stacy for being bad company. She said to forget it, said “Some things were said that shouldn’t have been said,” and “Take care; please take care.”
I started to cry the minute I left her apartment, but I had to compose myself when I met her sister Cynthia downstairs in the hall. At home, I cried to Marc, who said Shelli was just no good and not worth it.
It’s not that I still feel anything for her; it’s just that I have no one.
Tonight I went to the Mugwump meeting and agreed to run (and naturally, lose) for the third time just to fill up the slate. The “coalition” never came off. The whole election may not, either. My head is pounding.
Saturday, December 11, 1971
Today was springlike: it was bright and breezy, and the temperature soared into the 60°s. I awoke late, as I was watching old movies after I got home from the séance at Scott’s house.
Before going over there last evening, I stopped at Kings Plaza and bought some Christmas cards from CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) with doves and a quote from another diary-keeper, Anne Frank:
“I still believe that people are really good at heart . . . if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right and that peace and tranquility will return again.”
I went to the séance only after Scott assured me that Shelli would not be there. When I arrived, Scott and Ivan were sitting outside on Scott’s porch; Allan soon came, bringing Avis, Stacy and Stacy’s sister Cynthia.
The seven of us went into the basement, shut the lights, lit a candle in the center of the table, joined hands and meditated, all in an attempt to contact the old woman who’d previously owned the house who died there.
Nothing really happened; a couple of us felt chills, was all. But I sat there in the dark for an hour, holding the sweaty palms of Ivan and Cynthia. Things got better afterwards when we all got stoned.
I was really high and giggly; Avis, Allan and I couldn’t stop laughing. We settled down dreamily to an evening of music (Kris Kristofferson, Streisand) and soundless TV (The Twilight Zone, the UN Security Council meeting on Bangladesh).
Stacy made a lot of sexual remarks, but she concentrated most of her attention on Ivan – which really didn’t bother me, at least at first. We went out at midnight for Carvel.
Shelli called and tried to invite herself over, but Scott was cool. In the hazy kaleidoscope of stoned comments, I heard someone (Ivan or Allan) say, “Why don’t we go over to Shelli’s house and laugh at her?”
After a while, Cynthia said she needed to get up early, so I drove her home to East Flatbush while the others went to Rockaway to see Ivan’s waterbed. I enjoyed talking to Cynthia as I drove her home; she seems to be a sweet kid and less complicated than her older sister.
Regarding Stacy, I guess I was a bit hurt about all the attention she gave to Ivan. I know Allan likes her too, and Leroy is always following her around. If nothing else, Stacy will end up being my friend the way she is Timmy’s, and that could be enough for me.
While I was in the bathroom this morning, Mom and Dad had a really bad fight. I don’t know what it was about, but Mom was very upset. I’ve never seen her like that; she cried in bed half the day. But finally they straightened things out and everything went back to normal.
In the early afternoon I took a drive out to Manhattan Beach and walked along the beach, by the ocean, where the sand is hard and dark. It was gorgeous out, and the ocean was calm and it glistened and smelled salty.
I don’t think that this winter is going to be so cold and lonely after all. When I got home after I stopped off to buy a few things, I received a call from Ivan, at work, who said he left a notebook in the back seat of my car last night.
So I drove out to Neponsit and left the book with Ivan’s family’s maid, who always seems to be wearing only a towel every time I see her.
Later I told Gary to give my apologies to Joel, but I was canceling out on tonight’s party because of tiredness. Gary read me this cornball poem he wrote to Eileen on a book Rod McKuen poetry he’s giving her. Gary’s my friend – but, Lord, he can be so bourgeois.
Sunday, December 12, 1971
For the first time in days, I slept very well last night. Upon awakening, I decided that I would do something unusual for a change. So after breakfast, I got in the Pontiac and began driving.
I went all the way up Flatbush Avenue and over the Manhattan Bridge into the city. I have always been sort of frightened about going to New York, especially by car, so I wanted to see if I could do it without having an anxiety attack – and I found out I could.
I drove up First Avenue, passing Bellevue and the UN (where the Security Council was still meeting today about the war between India and Pakistan over Bangladesh) and turned up 60th Street and parked right on the corner of Third Avenue, near the restaurant Yellowfingers.
I passed by several movie theaters until I came to the Coronet, which I went into for the noon showing of Sunday, Bloody Sunday. It was excellent, and afterward I felt good, not depressed, about being bisexual. Sometimes I wish I could make a movie; sometimes I find myself thinking of my own life situations cinematically as well as fictionally.
I was proud that it took me only half an hour to get home, via the FDR Drive and the Brooklyn Bridge.
At home, I had lunch, then received a call from Gary, who said Joel’s party last night was terrible and it was a good thing I didn’t go. Gary is so uncultured that he thought Sunday, Bloody Sunday was a horror picture.
On the other hand, lately he has taken to writing (lousy, sing-song) poetry. These days, everybody’s a poet.
I went out driving with Marc – his car will be ready on Wednesday – and then went to Rockaway on my own. Grandma Ethel and Grandpa Herb weren’t home, and I realized they must have gone to Oceanside to give our little cousins their Chanukah presents.
It was starting to get dark by then. As I drove over the bridge back to Brooklyn, Jamaica Bay looked so calm and serenely blue. I found no one home at Mark and Consuelo’s, but met Charlie waiting for the bus.
As I was in a generous (and somewhat lonely) mood, I drove him to his new place in Bensonhurst. Charlie dropped out of the crowd after the election last spring.
I see now that Leon used him as kind of a plaything, just as Jill had suggested he might, before he moved on to the Rockaway people, other cute guys. After our drive, I also realized that everyone, including me, underrated Charlie and that he’s sort of brilliant.
I called Brad and also spoke to Les, his roommate/boyfriend. We exchanged friendly, inconsequential chatter for twenty minutes. This was a good weekend.
Tuesday, December 14, 1971
Mike called last night. Tomorrow Leon’s EXCO film is a silent one, and Mike wanted to borrow my projector so he could view the movie at home and compose a score and tape his piano-playing.
So Mike came over and we had a nice talk. He’s a fine person, and I talked to him again this morning at BC. I told him how Shelli had fucked me up and everything.
He said, “I could never see you two as a couple” because in his opinion, Shelli wasn’t bright enough or attractive enough for me. Mike said that maybe I was so insecure that I didn’t think I was good enough for someone thinner, smarter, and better-looking.
Mike also said not to spend too much time with the people in LaGuardia, that he keeps his girlfriend away from them. Smart man.
Since the elections have been canceled, most of Mike’s current attention is centered on packing next Tuesday’s Faculty Council meeting on the proposal to eliminate required courses.
The Poli Sci midterm was okay. I bullshitted, as did Scott, but we think that’s what Berkowitz wants us to do.
I found Stacy in the LaGuardia crowd. “The world is sick,” she said, and she looked depressed. She said that she got the feeling on Friday that I was mad at her. I told her it was nothing.
But later in the day I wrote a long letter to her, opening up, explaining things and saying I want to be her friend. All my letters – like the one last summer to Ivan – have gotten me into trouble in the past, and I probably shouldn’t give this one to Stacy.
I had lunch at Campus Corner with Ronna and Susan, two chattering magpies. But they’re nice and they mean well.
Later, Leon was being extremely friendly – so much so that he was even chatting with Gary and told us about the GREs and what grad schools he was applying to.
Joel is trying to get conscientious objector status for his draft board. He’s getting letters from his rabbi and from Prof. Kiraly (who was a famous Hungarian general in the 1956 uprising). I wish him luck.
I listened to a cute conversation between Ivan and Jill, in which she told him she’d like to make so much money that she’d be as rich as his family so she could keep herself in good style and not have to depend on a man.
We walked to the Junction, and I took the bus home, where I wasted the afternoon. Grandpa Herb and Grandma Ethel came over and gave us kids our Chanukah money.
Gary called tonight. He was worried about Steve Katz, who has become very withdrawn; Gary suspects he’s been tripping.
The other day Steve’s girlfriend Paula gave Ivan a puzzle to play with; I looked at it and saw that the idea was to separate the metal rings. Sometimes I think life is like that: each person’s life gets so entangled with the lives of their friends that it’s hard to pull them apart.