A 20-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Late March, 1972
by Richard Grayson
Friday, March 17, 1972
I’m home all alone, spending a quiet evening by myself – but I’m not bored and I’m not even lonely. The rest of the family went to the country to stay at the hotel for the weekend, so I’m holding down the fort here for the next couple of days.
This morning it was drizzling slightly when I arrived at school, sat down in the lobby and read Kingsman. The Student Activity Fee Review Committee was the main story; half-faculty and half-student, it will supposedly review the way the Assembly has allocated funds.
Prof. Kitch did not show up this morning, so I returned to LaGuardia, sitting down between Leon and Timmy. Shelli came in, with Jerry; as soon as he saw me, he put his arm around her.
He does that whenever I’m in their presence: on Wednesday, on Monday, back in February during Sunday, Bloody Sunday. It’s sort of an act of possession, to prove to everyone and me (and maybe even himself?) that Shelli is his.
I no longer get any kind of sick feeling when I see them together. I feel a lot more “together,” to use Scott’s term, than either of them.
I gave Shelli the copy of Slaughterhouse-Five, and as I left for Sociology, she flirtingly cooed, “Poo-tee-weet” (the final word in the book) after me. I turned around and gave her a quick, false smile. I don’t know what Jerry was thinking.
Prof. Beer said he’d give me, Gary, Felicia and Craig A’s in the course because of our grades on the exam, so we left. Gary was upset because this weekend he has National Guard duty in Westchester.
We had lunch with Alan Karpoff, Mikey and Mike. The latter pair said they were discouraged by the meeting yesterday because they don’t think they can get Third World Coalition’s support for the Mugwumps in the coming election.
Mikey is being urged by Jerry and Leon to chuck running for Student Government President and instead take up an offer to run as a McGovern delegate to the Miami convention from our congressional district, which takes in my part of Brooklyn and all of Rockaway.
I told him to do both, that I’d work in his campaign. Later, I learned that Mikey was with Jerry at a political meeting last night. That helps explain things.
Avis asked me up to her apartment this afternoon and we talked and had a real good time, discussing how sick everyone in LaGuardia is. I overheard her say on the phone that she was going out with Shelli and Jerry tonight.
Anyway, after dinner, I drove into Manhattan, but I evidently I just managed to miss Avis at the Postgraduate Center. I drove around the city in the rain and even called up Brad to see if I could come up, but he was busy.
So I came home and here I remain, relaxing and reading, blissfully alone.
Saturday, March 18, 1972
I slept very well all by myself in this big house. I had pleasant dreams of going places, to Boston and to Chicago. I fixed myself breakfast and decided that I would take a little excursion to celebrate being alive on a sunny, almost-spring day.
Getting on the Belt Parkway, I went over the Verrazano Bridge, which no longer seems very awesome. I drove through Richmond along the road leading to New Jersey. It doesn’t take long to cross Staten Island and I was feeling good, driving 60, 65, 70 miles an hour.
Crossing the Goethals Bridge, I emerged in New Jersey – Elizabeth, to be exact. I found it a dreary place and full of smokestacks and cables, so I turned around and went back to Staten Island, getting off the expressway at Todt Hill Road and rambling up winding countrified roads for a while.
I like Staten Island: the parts that are quaint and old-fashioned, anyway. I got myself back to Brooklyn without getting lost once, a major accomplishment.
Back home, I made lunch and then was off again, to the Georgetown Theater, to see The Last Picture Show. I’m glad I finally caught it, for it’s as good as everyone says it is.
The film is filled with so many great scenes that showed the loneliness, sterility and emptiness of a small Texas town in the early 1950s. I really enjoyed it.
I’m going to try to write a screenplay of my own soon, as I’ve fallen in love with “the cinema,” as it’s pompously called by Stanley.
After I shopped in Hill’s for some food and came home, Dad called, saying they’d be back tomorrow and that things at the hotel are going well.
Avis came over at about 7 PM. We went for a drive in her car to Kings Highway, where we bought a pound of walnuts to munch on during the evening.
It was a quiet, relaxing night. We went downstairs and sat in chairs next to each other, covered by blankets, as it was kind of chilly in the basement.
Avis brought out a joint and we smoked it, getting pleasantly stoned and then giggling hysterically at things that seemed terribly funny at the time. After watching a movie on television, we came upstairs again and talked and listened to records.
Avis is a gentle person, almost like one of those mid-60s “flower children” – and I think that’s her problem. She’s so sweet and never argues or raises her voice, so people take advantage of her.
For instance, Shelli stood her up Friday night. And Scott used to walk all over her. She still seems to be in love with him; they’re seeing each other but not going out.
I gave her a short kiss as she got into her car; I guess this is going to be a platonic friendship after all.
Tuesday, March 21, 1972
It’s kind of late, and I should be asleep, but I’m not. Perhaps I’ll take off tomorrow morning and take a ride somewhere to celebrate the start of spring.
Right now I’m lying on my bed with Lambie Pie, the stuffed lamb a dentist gave me when I was an infant. I found him the night when I took out blankets for me and Avis from a basement closet.
Lambie Pie is somewhat worse for wear now, with one ear almost torn off and his sewed-on black nose pretty worn, but the music box inside him still plays “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
This morning, in Bible class, Mrs. Starling went over a lot of Hebrew poetry: the “there is a season” chapter from Ecclesiastes, some Proverbs, Deborah’s Song, and parts of the lusciously sensuous Song of Solomon.
After class, Mike prevailed upon me to walk him to his car as he had to move it for alternate side parking. Mike thinks he may be getting an ulcer, which doesn’t really surprise me, given the way he runs around running things all the time.
Actually, Mike is the person in school I find it easiest to confide in; he’s very empathetic, and unlike most of the other Psych majors I know, will make a really good psychologist someday.
Back on campus, I met Avis, and we had lunch with Stacy at Campus Corner. Stacy’s working at Downstate now and she’s still very into her music. She said Cynthia went for a psychiatric interview at the Postgraduate Center: boy, is that place popular for therapy!
Avis, Stacy and I may go see Cabaret on Friday night. But I don’t know if I can be satisfied with just being Avis’s friend. After spending most of the day with her (and listening her to talk a lot about Scott), last night I had another dream in which I went to bed with her.
She is beautiful, with a great body, but I’m not going to touch her unless I get some encouragement. When the girls went to their classes, I sat outside LaGuardia for a while with an untalkative Mikey.
Eventually, Mason, the Karpoffs and Barry Fried came over, and Barry tried to rope me into another philosophical discussion, which I escaped by going over with Bobby to help him carry some props into the TV Center.
Gary said that his weekend with the National Guard was, as expected, a miserable experience, and he caught a cold from spending Friday night out on a canvas truck tent. I got the impression that Eileen has just sort of told him she doesn’t want to continue their relationship.
This afternoon, Dr. Wouk and I had a good session. We talked about why Mom has been moody lately. She just feels she isn’t being appreciated for merely doing housework. Mom never worked outside the home before Kings Plaza opened last September, and now she’s not there anymore. Mom wants “fulfillment,” in the words of the ladies’ magazines.
Dr. Wouk also cautioned me to beware of Shelli’s flirtations and advances: sound advice. I’m glad I didn’t see her at all on campus today.
When I told Dr. Wouk I had negative feelings toward going into a group – that group therapy was one reason I left Dr. Lipton – he said he’d drop the subject. We talked about my writing and Avis and this coming summer, and I left his office feeling good.
Thursday, March 23, 1972
I’ve spent the last three hours on the phone. Earlier this evening, I had taken a ride out to Kennedy Airport by myself. I walked around the International Arrivals Building, watching the people returning from faraway places.
When I returned home, I got a message from Jonny that Avis had called. She said that Stacy has too much work to go out tomorrow night, but we decided to go by ourselves.
A bit later, I received a call from Mendy, who astounded me by saying he was running for Student Government President as an independent and then further astounded me by asking me to be his running mate.
Of course, I declined, although it was flattering. I guess Mendy thinks he can get Jewish Student Union support away from Craig or Bill Breitbart. Did he think I would balance his ticket because of my criticism of JSU?
After I hung up with Mendy, I called an amused Mikey, who told me there’s almost certainly going to be a coalition of the Mugwumps with Third World-Left groups, and Pablo from Third World Coalition may be his running mate.
Then Gary called to tell me he’d had a car accident, not serious, in Rockaway.
Before class this morning, I was in LaGuardia and started deliberately leafing through the Kings James Bible so I could pretend not to notice Shelli coming toward me. Not getting the hint, she went behind me and tried to “scare” me with a “Boo!” – and then she sat right down in front of me to talk.
I was polite but was very grateful when Hal interrupted her and asked me about getting him a counselor’s job at our hotel this summer. I started to talking to Hal about stuff – he said Ivy is fine – and Shelli walked away.
In English, Mrs. Starling gave back our tests (I got a B+) and we went into the Psalms. After class, I had lunch with Jay in the Faculty Dining Room.
He and his friend Arthur Evans – one of the founders of Gay Activists Alliance a few years ago – will be driving to the Coast starting next Friday, hoping to start a gay commune, although they have no knowledge of farming outside of books.
I really admire Jay. He’s faced himself directly, and now he’s going to a new life, one that is pretty uncertain, in California. We can talk openly about homosexuality, and he has a lot of dignity.
His father is a pretty famous cantor, and I think Jay is upset that his father isn’t more proud of him. I am going to give Jay my St. Christopher’s medal as a going-away present.
We didn’t do very much at the Curriculum Committee meeting. Prof. Kaye just handed out documents for the members to study and we drank our free coffee. I feel pretty comfortable interacting with the faculty members – I actually like Profs. Shoemaker and Cantwell – and of course, Elihu, Elspeth, Elayne and Mike are there to keep me company.
Elspeth showed me a copy of her high school yearbook. After seeing her photo, I leafed through it and in the back I found a long note. It was signed “Jerry” and was from when he was Elspeth’s boyfriend. Isn’t life weird?
After the meeting, Debbie gave me her phone number and address. I was supposed to go over to her place tonight to pick up my play manuscript, but when I called, Debbie was out.
Having dropped out this semester, Stanley said he “may travel,” but he’s been saying that for two months, and all ever does is travel between various movie theaters, the screening room at the Museum of Modern Art, and the lobby in LaGuardia Hall.
After I hung around for a bit with Stanley, Jay and Elayne, I came home. Mom and Dad are all into the hotel and the difficult preparations for its opening.
As I thought to myself watching a 747 take off at Kennedy Airport tonight, “Life is so exciting; I don’t want to miss a minute of it.”
Sunday, March 25, 1972
Last evening I picked up Avis at her house instead of at the Postgraduate Center, as her shrink had canceled on her. We drove into the city at twilight. The traffic was heavy and I had to park the car in an expensive garage next to the Ziegfeld Theatre.
Avis and I bought tickets (an incredibly expensive $4 each) and then had almost an hour to kill before they let us into the theater. It was cold out, so we sought refuge in the Hilton across the street. Everyone and everything there was so lavish and rich, I felt weird in my dungarees.
Finally we got into the movie. Cabaret was an excellent film about the decadence and glossy frivolity in early 1930s Berlin. Liza Minnelli was superb as the singer Sally Bowles, and my enjoyment was only disturbed by the film breaking four times during the showing.
Avis and I drove back to my house for some coffee and cake and conversation. We really have become close friends. I think if we slept together, it would wreck a good relationship.
This morning, I awoke late, with a pesky sore throat and body aches; I think I’m getting a cold. Gisele came in to do the cleaning, so I was free to go out this morning, leaving Marc on his own to do his thing.
Driving out to Rockaway, I picked up a hitchhiker, a blond kid who goes to Far Rock High, and then went up to visit Grandma Ethel. No one was home, so I let myself in the apartment and relaxed there for a while, watching the beach and ocean from the terrace.
Later I spoke to Grandma Ethel, who said she had been at the beauty parlor and Grandpa Herb had been working at the store that used to be the Slack Bar for the new owners.
On my way back to Brooklyn, I ran into Leon and Mikey, who were heading to a softball game made up of members of tonight’s wedding party. I declined an invitation to participate and came home to read Lolita, exercise and watch TV for the rest of day.
Marc went over to Steven’s tonight, so after Gisele left, I was alone. Around 8 PM, the phone rang. I reached it on the second ring, but the other party had already hung up.
With Jerry by himself at Ruth and Marty’s wedding tonight, Mike predicted that I’d get another call from Shelli. Perhaps it was her and she got cold feet at the last minute.
Tuesday, March 28, 1972
I woke up today feeling pretty horrible: my throat was sore, my body ached, and I felt weak and wretched throughout the day. Perhaps my body – or my mind – is telling me to slow down from frenetic activity.
I need a vacation – and after tomorrow, I shall have one: for Passover and Easter. Anyway, I’m not going to kvetch, and I’m hoping that massive doses of vitamin C and some rest will help.
I didn’t go to class this morning but to LaGuardia, where I found a serene and placid Avis, doped up on Darvon to fight menstrual pain.
In the Student Government office, Mrs. D and I tried to figure out which Student Assembly seats are up in this election, and I spoke to the Honest Ballot Association and arranged for their people to be down here on the election days. This is my second stint as elections commissioner, and this time I more or less know what I’m doing.
Mikey has decided to run as a McGovern delegate in the 11th Congressional District, which includes Rockaway and this part of Brooklyn. I’ve definitely decided to take advantage of Grandpa Nat’s condominium and go down to Miami for the Democratic convention, maybe with Mikey or someone else.
Avis, Ira and I went to lunch at Campus Corner. Avis said she met her friend Jacob, who asked her out; recently he broke up with his fiancée, who’s now having an affair with a married man.
Ira said he might go to Washington for a few days during the holidays, but I also made plans to do something with him one day during the vacation. I’ve come to like him a lot.
Back in LaGuardia, Scott told me he has a urinary infection; they gave him some pills at the clinic. I sat around for a while, listening to Elihu and Stanley talk about Marty and Ruth’s wedding.
Then Carl and I tried to convince Stanley to lose weight and expounded on the virtues of fitness – Carl’s leaving tomorrow to ski in Italy over the vacation – but Stanley said it was too much bother.
The high point of my day was when Debbie came in and we spent time talking together. We said we’d see each other over Easter, maybe go to Central Park. I could easily fall in love with Debbie (I think Avis believes I already have), but the cautious side of my nature holds me back.
I can’t flirt with Debbie the way Mike does (though today he was in a bad mood after an argument with his girlfriend), and I can’t rush into things like a “romance,” to use Scott’s word.
Anyway, soon after Debbie went to class, I left the campus, stopping off to run an errand for Steve Katz on my way to see Dr. Wouk.
Dr. Wouk said that I was feeling sorry for myself today – and he was right. What with being ill and facing an empty week without school and with the whole family away, I feel down. But I’m going to try and fight to be as happy as I can.
Friday, March 31, 1972
It’s Friday night, and I’m home listening to the Doors (can Jim Morrison really be dead?) and sipping plantain tea. It’s the end of March, and also Good Friday, the day they crucified Jesus. Three months, the first quarter of 1972, is gone.
Last night at the Foursome, I told Debbie that this was the happiest time of my life, and in a way, that’s true – but I wonder if “happiness” is ever the end of anything.
Today, for instance, this favorite soap opera of mine, Bright Promise, ended. Gary got me started watching it a few years ago. We liked it because it was set on a college campus. Today, the show’s heroine was found not guilty of murder, she married her fiancé, and the other characters’ tangled lives became untangled after years of suffering.
But the soap opera was canceled because of low ratings; life hardly ever is. Yet maybe this is what it’s all about: a search, basically. Two steps ahead and one step back, maybe, but you get somewhere at the end. I have to believe that you do.
Last night with Debbie, we were close – maybe closer than I’ve been to anyone in a long while. I want to have an open, natural relationship with her. She said she had an upset stomach, and when she returned to the table from the bathroom, I asked her if she’d had diarrhea.
That startled her. She said she wasn’t used to thinking of diarrhea as something people actually talk about. But whatever it is – diarrhea, homosexuality, drugs, etc. – why shouldn’t people talk about it?
Debbie’s boyfriend is 18, and he sounds like Scott in that he fools around a lot with other girls. It was my turn to be startled when Debbie asked me, “How does a person know they’re in love?”
I thought for a minute she was referring to me and then I went into my whole long story about me and Shelli and Jerry.
But of course then she said she’s been going with her boyfriend for a year and even though he fools around with other girls, he wants to marry her eventually. I have the feeling Debbie is clinging to him out of need.
She paid me the highest compliment when she said that I seemed like the type of person who people could come to if they were in trouble. I told Debbie she could call me up anytime.
Today I did some shopping, drove around, read a little, nothing much else. It was a dark, drizzly day and a bit of a lonely one.
This evening I was walking through Kings Plaza when I saw Sharon working at the jewelry counter at Macy’s. She was beaming about Kjell getting into that clinical psychology program at St. John’s. Sharon is a sweet girl, and I envy her and Kjell a little.
With my parents away at the hotel in the Catskills for most of the last few weeks, I’m getting accustomed to living without them, and I’ve gained a measure of independence I didn’t have before.