A 20-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Late January, 1972
by Richard Grayson
Sunday, January 16, 1972
When I was a kid, I used to dread Sunday nights because it meant a whole week of school again, the end of my precious freedom for another five days. But now I relish these Sunday evenings. They give me time to reflect on the week past and plan for the week ahead.
I feel that these first weeks of 1972 are mere prologue for a drama which will shortly begin. But first I need to settle some things. Like my two finals I’ve been studying fairly hard for. Mom said she’s never seen me so worried about an exam. It’s because I’m facing getting two C’s in Poli Sci, my major, after getting a disappointing B from Prof. Merritt in English.
All I want is to get these next two days over with, and with it this last term, and then have a few days of rest to prepare for what will hopefully be a good spring semester.
I watched Jules and Jim last night, and it was really great. I wonder if this whole thing with Jerry and Shelli might not be similar, but it was Jules – who was in my situation – who survived. Despite everything I say and my endless complaints and neuroses, I am definitely a survivor. Somewhere within me there is a very strong will to live.
It turned bitterly cold; the temperature did not rise above 15° all day. I awoke early, studied, had breakfast, and watched an interview with Gene McCarthy.
It’s hard to believe he was once my hero; he’s so offhandedly cynical now. The other day Leon was putting him down, saying McCarthy let everyone down. Marty asked Leon, “Just who did he let down?”
“His wife, for starters,” I said.
I went out for a drive to Rockaway, to visit Grandpa Nat and Grandma Sylvia. We had a pleasant hour’s chat, about soap operas and business and such. I came home and spent the rest of the day studying.
The Dallas Cowboys won the Super Bowl, a good thing for Dad and Lennie, who bet $1,000 on them.
Gary said on his date with Eileen last night he met Casey and his girlfriend, and they all went to the movies together. Later they met Eileen’s cousin Jill Erdman, who said she knows me from P.S. 203 and the neighborhood, but I don’t remember her even though she’s the sister of Julie Budd, the singer.
Tonight Mom and Dad discussed redoing the hotel with this gay interior decorator who came over to the house to show them some ideas he has for it. The hotel is about all they are thinking about these days.
Thursday, January 20, 1972
Winter returned today, as it turned cold and brisk. I awoke feeling wonderful: calm and confident.
Mom went into Manhattan to select some fabrics for the hotel; she’s enjoying her role as an interior decorator. And most of Mom and Dad’s spare time is taken up with the DeVille Country Club. We’re (we’re?) opening for Passover, just two months away.
Restless, I took a long drive on the Parkway and onto the Cross-Island and over the Throgs Neck Bridge into the Bronx. It was the first time I’d ever driven to the Bronx, and I drove along the still-unfinished Bruckner Boulevard and then back into Queens over the Triboro Bridge.
There’s not much to see in the Bronx, but after going to Staten Island with Marc the other day, I now have driven to each of the five boroughs.
I had lunch at Cooky’s in Kings Plaza and then went into the Cutting Crib for a hair styling. The place is really freaky – but expensive – and I got a layered cut that looks pretty good. It took about an hour and a half, however, and I returned home with a headache.
After picking up Jonny at P.S. 203, I went over to the college to get a copy of the Spigot with the teacher listings. I walked into LaGuardia, chuckling at our Mugwump photo in the paper. The only one in the lobby was Shelli, trying to figure out her schedule. She told me that Jerry really appreciated my card a lot, that he can walk around the house now and is in good spirits.
We talked about various teachers for a while, and then were joined by Elayne and Stanley, who still isn’t sure if he’s coming back next term.
It was raining, and Elayne said she had to get home by 4:30 PM, so I offered to drive her. I asked Stanley too, but he declined, and I heard Shelli say she was going to her parents’ house, so I had to ask her too.
I took Elayne home first, then Shelli – still the same – remembered she’d left a book in LaGuardia, so we went back to get it before I finally drove her home.
We discussed nothing but cars and roads the whole ride; it was absurd. But I think I passed the test: Shelli does not appeal to me anymore and she can no longer hurt me. The past is finally gone, and I’m ready for the future.
Sunday, January 23, 1972
It turned bright, sunny and mild today. I spent last night watching TV: To Be Young, Gifted and Black, a very good portrait of the late playwright Lorraine Hansberry. I wish I could write again; possibly I’ll register for Creative Writing this term.
I awoke late this morning, feeling drugged but physically okay. I spent a leisurely morning, having a big breakfast.
Then I went down to the basement, read the Sunday papers and watched the TV interview shows. Chancellor Kibbee was on, seemingly an idiot; he was not very clear about his positions on issues.
George Wallace was interviewed on Meet the Press. He toned down his racist image and is given a good chance of winning the Florida primary. But with each passing day, Senator Muskie picks up more and more endorsements and gains in the polls, and people are saying he’s got the Democratic nomination wrapped up.
I went upstairs and was amused to find Irv Cohen visiting Dad; he looked funny wearing bush jeans and argyle socks. Then Jonny and I took a ride out to Rockaway. Sometimes I feel as though I’m missing some of the fun of watching him grow up, so it’s nice once in a while to do things with my little brother.
We visited Grandpa Herb and Grandma Ethel, who looked fine – but she may need more surgery on her rectum. Jonny and I left after an hour and rode home with the windows open. This has been the mildest winter I can remember.
I spent a quiet afternoon and evening at home while the rest of the family is visiting Aunt Sydelle in Cedarhurst.
I called Alice, who said her job at the magazine has so far consisted of bimmie work, like totaling and reading entries in a contest of how many words can be made out of “rhinoceros.” But Alice hopes she’ll be given a chance later to do some writing, so she’ll stay on for now.
Renee is getting married Thursday at City Hall to this “nebbish” grad student whom Alice described as “an ugly Woody Allen.” Alice thinks Renee is marrying him out of loneliness. The way Renee put it was: “I need a cheerleader.” Alice tried to dissuade her from rushing into a wedding, to no avail.
The whole thing sounds like a mistake to me, but Renee must do what she wants to, and all I can do is offer my congratulations when I see her.
Tuesday, January 25, 1972
I had a restless night, dreaming again and again of registration, and so I was tired when I got up this morning. Mom went into Manhattan to pick out carpeting for the hotel.
Having nothing better to do, I went to school, but I found LaGuardia lobby basically deserted. Hal walked by, telling me of a Mugwump meeting tomorrow night in SUBO.
Scott, who says things are only marginally better at home despite his cutting his hair and shaving off his beard, was in and out, going back and forth to registration at Roosevelt. He’s getting very neurotic.
Elspeth came in and she looked like she was still sulking because no one would pull cards for her at registration. She’s always looking for people to do things for her, and I’m getting tired of it.
I talked for a while with Effie and Janice and with Lloyd, the Radical Zionist Mugwump. (Leon says we should now call ourselves the Mugvumps with a V.) Then Scott and I got into my car and picked up Avis at her building. She announced that she got her driver’s license!
Gary had a wisdom tooth pulled this morning, so Scott suggested the three of us visit him. We found him looking pale; he was bleeding a lot and was in pain, but we stayed for an hour and Scott gave Gary some grass to make him feel better.
They also exchanged course cards, as Scott is going to Virginia with Timmy tomorrow so he had to close out his registration today.
After dropping Scott and Avis off, I came home to have lunch and waste the afternoon. I had a 4:45 PM appointment with Dr. Wouk, who had a bad cold.
He thinks the hotel thing may give me something to do – God knows the hotel is all I hear about at home these days. Dr. Wouk lives upstate three days a week not far from the hotel, so he said he’ll visit and is hoping the hotel’s food will be good.
He said that I really shouldn’t feel guilty for Jerry’s accident and that if he and Shelli get married, he’d encourage me to give a gift.
Why? Because Jerry did me a favor, enabling me to end a neurotic relationship I couldn’t have broken off myself. And Dr. Wouk’s right about that.
Echoing Steve Katz a month ago, Dr. Wouk said that I like to put on the front of being so neurotic when I am actually pretty “together” in a lot of ways. He told me that I’ve changed enormously in the two and a half years of therapy with him.
Thursday, January 27, 1972
I feel fine tonight after a pleasant, slow-moving day. I sort of promised myself that after yesterday, I would take kind of a vacation from my problems today – and I did just that and I’m feeling 100% better.
I awoke late, long after Mom, Dad and Jonny had gone to South Fallsburg to see the hotel. I lolled in bed for an hour, then had a large, leisurely breakfast before I got into the Pontiac and drove off.
It was quite cold today but the brisk weather made me feel vibrant and alive. I drove over the Brooklyn Bridge; I never stop admiring the skyline of lower Manhattan, dominated by the giant phallic towers of the World Trade Center.
I drove along the FDR Drive and then around midtown Manhattan, but the city weekday traffic made me nervous, so I got on the West Side Highway and took the tunnel back into Brooklyn.
I got a couple of slices of pizza for lunch, then I bought some herbs and health foods. Everyone has noticed how much weight I’ve lost and I’m kind of proud of myself.
Dr. Wouk said that what really bothers me is that I have a lot of love to give, but since I broke up with Shelli, I have no love-object. Perhaps I’ve been concentrating my love on myself lately.
Yesterday when I asked Avis about Stacy, she said that while they hadn’t talked in a long time, Avis was a bit upset about always seeing Stacy with her “male harem” (or “groupies,” as Scott calls them).
I had dinner at the Floridian and then went out to Rockaway to visit Grandma Sylvia and Grandpa Nat. While I was there, Grandpa Herb and Grandma Ethel came over with upsetting news: Grandma Ethel goes into the hospital on Sunday and will have rectal surgery on Tuesday.
I’m very worried, but it’s to correct her last operation and hopefully will get rid of the terrible pain she has. I will pray for her; I love her so much.
When they got back from the country, Mom, Dad and Jonny said the hotel is still run-down, but I’m really getting into the excitement of it. Yesterday when Mason and Libby and I had lunch at the College Deli, I saw a poster for the hotel, so I’m beginning to think it’s really going to happen.
Apparently Ralph from the catering hall in Bensonhurst where we had Marc’s bar mitzvah is also an investor. Mom especially seems to trust him, but even back in high school when we went to book La Perville for the reception, I thought he was probably Mafia. But I guess their involvement could be a good thing.
Lennie has so many ideas for the hotel. He and Dad say even if it doesn’t make them any money, “at least we’ll all have a lot of fun.”
Friday, January 28, 1972
It’s a cold, icy, lovely midwinter night. I’m listening to the radio, hoping to hear Melanie sing this little risqué song in her cute raspy voice. I would like to go to bed with Melanie.
Or any girl. Or at least have somebody around to talk to, somebody quiet and soft and gentle, a human being with lips and arms and breasts.
It was never really like that with Shelli; I pretty much idealized her. But something is better than nothing. Nothing – not any thing.
Remember Glenda Jackson’s line in Sunday, Bloody Sunday? “There are times when nothing has to be better than anything.” She was right. I wouldn’t want to go back to a relationship like the one I had with Shelli, but now I do want to try for a good relationship with a new girl.
And so, when the term starts, I’m going to start dating. I never really did date girls, and I think it’s about time I went through that bit. There are many girls at school to whom I’m attracted, but I can’t picture any of them as my girlfriend.
It snowed during the night and through the early part of the day, making for slippery roads and a lot of shoveling and an unholy mess as the whole thing turned into grey slush.
Marc went to Maryland with Joey, who couldn’t afford the plane fare. So they had to schlep down by bus. I spent the morning wandering around Kings Plaza; I browsed a lot but I didn’t buy anything except the Times.
After lunch, I went over to Georgetown to see Harold and Maude, a weird movie about the romance of 80-year-old Ruth Gordon and 20-year-old Bud Cort. It was okay, but a bit overdone.
I did agree with the overall philosophy of the film: live life to the fullest, even if you get hurt, “so at least you’ll have something to talk about in the locker room.”
Tonight I gabbed for an hour with Gary, with whom I’ve felt closer in the past month than anyone else.
I’m not looking forward to the next couple of days: a dreary weekend, with Grandma Ethel going into the hospital. Still, I suppose, with a little luck, things will turn out all right. I hope so, anyway.