A 20-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early April, 1972
by Richard Grayson
Monday, April 3, 1972
Tonight I feel good, as if things are working out according to some vast eternal plan. I guess part of that feeling stems from a phone conversation with Avis tonight.
She said she’s “superfine,” due in large part to her date with her friend Jacob over the weekend. Avis and Shelli had met Jacob when they worked for Welfare over the summer. Avis had gone out with him, but they were both seeing other people back then.
Anyway, I think things sound good for them now, and I’m genuinely happy for Avis. Now I realize how nice it is to simply be friends with a girl.
I had a boring morning, but at 12:30 PM, I got a call from Debbie, a sort of SOS, calling on me to help her with her term paper. So I picked her up in front of her apartment in Sheepshead Bay and we had lunch in a diner on Nostrand Avenue.
Debbie’s brother had his bar mitzvah services this past weekend; the affair will be in two weeks, at the Deauville, where I had mine nearly eight years ago on Memorial Day in 1964.
After lunch, we drove over to the college and I went over with her material for the research paper with her. Influenced by me, she had chosen the topic “herbs for health,” and I gave her some information and some criticism of her style and focus.
We really get along well together – you know, we’re developing “lines,” phrases that mean something only to us and make us laugh.
While in LaGuardia, I got Harvey’s okay for hiring voting booths for the election. Ira came in, saying he didn’t go to Washington as planned. Melvin was there, attempting to do a paper; apparently he’s been doing nothing all vacation, too.
Dropping Debbie off at her house, I told her I’d call tomorrow night, and she thanked me for my help.
From Sheepshead Bay, I drove to Georgetown to buy something for Ronna, whose birthday is next week. I know Ronna likes poetry, so I selected this book, Peter McWilliams’ Surviving the Loss of a Love, which I read and found very true to my own feelings these past months.
You do get over it, finally: you get over waiting for the phone calls that never come; wasting creative energy writing unmailed letters; waiting for “The Re-creation of We.” But it’s not easy.
Tonight Gary and I went shopping to buy a housewarming gift for Kjell and Sharon. Then we went to the Torregrossa Funeral Home and stood outside because we couldn’t get into the wake for the late Mets manager Gil Hodges, who died suddenly the other day. I probably should send a card to Gil Jr., but I haven’t seen him since high school.
Grandpa Nat told us that Grandma Sylvia was feeling better and the doctors in New York Hospital hadn’t made a diagnosis yet.
Thursday, April 6, 1972
Today was such a clear, warm, beautiful day that it’s hard to believe that things aren’t perfectly harmonious, that there could be such fierce killing and bombing in Vietnam or anywhere.
Tonight supposedly ends my spring vacation, but no one I spoke to is going to classes tomorrow. At any rate, it was a good vacation: I rested and saw a lot of my friends and did some things, and now I feel renewed and ready for the final weeks of school.
I slept well all alone again, and after breakfast, I decided to drive into Manhattan to visit Grandma Sylvia. I found a parking space right near New York Hospital, a huge modern medical complex on First Avenue uptown.
Taking the elevator to the 17th floor, I found Grandma Sylvia in bed in a large private room. She had just taken the GI series tests and was exhausted, but her color was good and she looked okay despite a loss of weight.
So far the doctors have found nothing organically wrong with her, which is good. I suspect that the hemorrhaging was caused by her arthritis medicine, compounded by drinking that harsh country water at the hotel.
Grandma Sylvia’s big room was lovely, with a fantastic view of the East River, the 59th Street Bridge and Roosevelt Island.
I left the hospital after about an hour, and came home to do push-ups, chin-ups, sit-ups and other exercises. They make me feel invigorated, especially when I do yoga afterwards.
Scott called later, sounding depressed, so I drove over to his house. He knows about Avis and Jacob, and I think that might be getting him down although he would deny it. He’s seeing a high school junior that he picked up in Kings Plaza, and that girl in Kitch’s class – who is 23 and a divorcée – is definitely after him.
Scott talked about his therapist, whom he’s not too crazy about; the doctor seems very formal and Scott describes him as a “super-Stoic.” Scott said he hasn’t been doing anything all vacation, and he seems pretty unhappy.
But I felt good today. There was a whiff of summer in the air when I left Scott’s, and I drove from Marine Park to Kings Highway, where I bought coconut shreds, soybeans and herb candy at the health food store. In a fruit store I got some lemons and limes, which I eat whole, for quick energy and vitamin C.
The world seemed in tune with the universe: on Kings Highway I chatted and joked with the storeowners, watched a barber trim a man’s nostrils, spoke to little children on roller skates, and smiled at people, most of whom smiled back.
The whole family came back from South Fallsburg tonight. It’s going to be strange having them home again. I’ve gotten used to living by myself.
Sunday, April 9, 1972
I feel depressed again tonight. It’s been that sort of a day. All day I’ve had an awful sinus headache. I know I’m trying to give up kvetching, but I think I’m going to for a while.
My head is stuffy and it’s pounding and I’m feeling run-down. Yet I know it can’t really be anything serious physically. First of all, the humidity was low today, and the air quality was good, so my sinuses shouldn’t be this bad.
And I’ve been exercising faithfully every day and taking my vitamins and watching my diet, so it’s probably psychogenic.
This morning I woke early but was lured back to sleep by interesting dreams. There are times when I think I prefer my fantasy life to reality. Anyway, eventually I got up and washed and dried my hair, showered and ate breakfast, then drove off into Manhattan.
Earlier, Dad had gone to the Men’s Sportswear Show at the New Yorker Hotel, and I thought that after all these years since the last time I went – as a kid, I found them pretty exciting, and I still have my little white football autographed by Y.A. Tittle and other freebies – it was time to see the menswear show again.
As it turned out, I was probably better off not going. For one thing, the place was a nuthouse, with buyers and manufacturers strutting like peacocks in their clothes, many so stylish as to be outrageous.
I guess I looked dashing in my blue turtleneck and bathtub-bleached jeans because a black man in the lobby mistook me for a department-store buyer from California, and before I could protest, he sat me down and tried to sell me a line of American flag sweaters.
A bit flustered, I took the elevator to the 14th floor and found Dad, Joel and Ben squeezed with their slacks into a small, stuffy, hot-as-hell room. I walked around the hotel for a while, taking in the fashion scene, which is definitely not my scene.
Everyone had to wear nameplates, and I saw this good-looking fiftyish man whose nametag told me that he was Ivan’s father just outside his company’s room. I think Ivan might have been inside, but I didn’t go into say hello.
After all these months, it’s obvious Ivan doesn’t want my friendship. And, mostly because of Shelli, there are too many unpleasant memories associated with him.
I left the menswear show and went to the Village, intending to get a burger at Nathan’s on Eighth Street. But the employees were on strike, and lily-livered liberal that I am, I couldn’t cross the picket line and so went across Sixth Avenue to eat at Howard Johnson’s.
Wednesday, April 12, 1972
An exhausting day that has left me drained. I had forgotten how hard an Elections Commissioner works.
The day began peacefully enough. I talked with Avis and Elihu before class and then went to Kitch’s lecture on nineteenth century parody. When I reentered LaGuardia, I found that Ari had already handed out some petitions.
We had a big hassle finding out how many Assembly seats were up and what was the proportion of Upper to Lower. I ran around all day and didn’t find the definitive answer.
At first, handing out petitions was easy, but by club hours, we got extremely busy and the next few hours were a haze of people, papers and pressure.
Mikey and Mike were running around, and I knew something was up, but I couldn’t leave the table. Not even for lunch – and I was grateful to Gary for bringing me a sandwich and soda.
Over sixty people took out petitions to run for rep – from Shelli and Allan to Brian, Juan and innumerable others.
I learned that there was some sort of split between the Mugwumps and the Third World people. Mikey was really upset, and Pablo and Mikey ended up taking out separate petitions for President. So did Mendy, Hal, Craig and two others.
At the time, it seemed like hours of work, but now it’s just a blur. Finally, at about 2:30 PM, I closed up shop and got a breath of fresh air on the LaGuardia steps with Melvin and Debbie, who tried to cheer me up.
I was so dazed and out of it that when Jerry passed by, we had the friendliest exchange in months. I knew then that I was so exhausted that I needed to go home and take a nap.
After dinner, I came back to school for Slade’s EXCO course on counterculture literature. Tonight we discussed Ken Kesey, and as I do every week, I enjoyed the class.
From there, at around 8:15 PM, I went down to the Kingsman office to be interviewed by Phyllis about the SG elections. I said some stupid things, and Melvin even took my photo, which may go on the front page.
Later we had a birthday party for Ronna and I had fun. I enjoy the Kingsman people: Susan, Marie, Felicia, David, Karen and the rest. I gave Ronna her present – that book of poetry – and a birthday kiss.
After I finished my cake, I drove Bill home and finally returned to the comfort of my bed.
Friday, April 14, 1972
Today was another rough day. Although it’s only just 9 PM, I’m feeling dog-tired.
I woke up early and finished Nathanael West’s very funny A Cool Million. Not finding a parking space near school, I had to put my car in the lot at the Junction.
On page one, Kingsman ran Phyllis’s news story on the election – without the photo of me Melvin took – and a feature story by Ronna. In a way, I’m kind of disappointed, but after seeing Bobby’s picture on page 7, I’m glad they didn’t wreck my face the way they did Bobby’s.
Mr. Kitch didn’t show up for class, so I returned to LaGuardia, where I began the day’s election commission work.
Still more people took out petitions for rep, others returned them, and the Jewish Student Union’s Stuie Tabb took out petitions for president. Now I wonder if JSU is supporting Mendy as I’d assumed they would.
Enjoying the bright, mild weather, I spent some time outdoors talking with Cathy and Gary and Stanley and others. Mike’s girlfriend Riesa came to LaGuardia – she rarely does – and she told me about her new car. When Sheryl came to work at the Grapevine, we exchanged stories of our dreams last night.
At 1 PM, Gary and I took off for his house, where I had lunch. Afterwards we took his aging dog Sandy for a walk, then we went out to Manhattan Beach, where Gary and I sat on the rocks and looked across the water to Rockaway. It was a bit cool as we walked around the beach.
Calmed down, we returned to the campus for the big meeting to deal with the Mugwump-Third World split. Even Mark returned to campus to be there. He said he now works on Sunday since Newsday is putting out a new Sunday edition, so he’s off Fridays.
The waiting inside and outside SUBO seemed forever, but finally we all got in one room: me, Mikey, Mike, Elihu, Shelli, and Gary for the Mugwumps; Goldie, Pat and Suzanne from Hoa Binh; Skip from Gay People; and Pablo.
Then the blacks and Puerto Ricans walked in, almost marching in military style. They were interested in the coalition but hostile. There was so much tension in the room you could cut it with a knife; there was no trust at all between the groups.
Afterwards, we split up into separate caucuses, and on Monday there’ll be a final decision to see who will head the slate of the coalition – if there is one – and what platforms we’ll take.
Mike thought the blacks came off really hostile toward us, but Leon – who’s older than the rest of us – said it went better than any black-white meeting he’d been to on campus. Gary and Shelli said the tension upset them emotionally and physically. And it bothered me a lot, too. I guess now I know a little about how the lone black kids in my classes feel.
Tired, I came home to an empty house for the weekend.