A 20-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Mid-April, 1972
by Richard Grayson
Sunday, April 16, 1972
Tonight I was leafing through our just-delivered new phone book, as I do every year when it arrives. I looked up the names of friends, and I spotted a name out of the past: Katherine Smithfield – the sister of Daniel, the kid I met in Washington Square on Rosh Hashona in 1969, just as I was starting college.
I dialed the number and pretended to be a wrong number. Daniel answered, and even after three years I could recall his soft Tennessee accent. He must be 18 now, and Katy’s even older. I wonder where their soap opera has taken them.
Mark and Consuelo came over at 10 PM last night. I was half-undressed, reading, but after I answered the door shirtless and barefoot, I put on a sweater and sneakers and was glad to see them.
We sat in the living room, talking by the fireplace. Consuelo is a strange woman, and I always feel that I have to watch my words with her; otherwise, she’ll get offended or want to dissect everything I say.
In any case, she’s now working at a day care center in East New York. Over the coffee and cake I served them, Mark said they might be moving to Sea Gate soon, taking over the apartment of Consuelo’s brother, who misses Mexico and is planning on moving back.
We talked about Friday’s tense meeting and reminisced about student government and the Spigot for hours. Before I knew it, it was 1 AM and Mark had to go to work the next day, so they left.
I woke up early today, and after cleaning up, I took off, driving into Manhattan. On impulse – I seem to do a lot on impulse these days – I parked near the UN and went in to see the place.
After looking at Foucault Pendulum and some moon rocks in the lobby and the things in the shops downstairs, I didn’t feel up to the tourist tour – my parents took me so many times to the UN when I was a kid that I probably should get honorary membership in the Trusteeship Council – so I went outside to the park overlooking the East River.
They call that part of Manhattan Turtle Bay. You can look across the river and see Queens’ heavy industry and the Pepsi-Cola sign. It was pleasant but I decided to drive uptown on First Avenue.
Parking on 57th Street, I took out a sandwich at the Smokehouse Deli and went to the Sutton to see Slaughterhouse-Five. It was quite good and the effects, like the bombing of Dresden, were superb.
Seeing the horror of that, I was reminded of the eight-column banner headline in today’s Times: the U.S. is bombing Hanoi and Haiphong very heavily, to try to stop the North Vietnamese offensive into South Vietnam.
Back home again, I read and watched TV as a thunderstorm materialized out of today’s haze. The family returned tonight from the hotel. I’m getting used to them being away and to living in the house by myself.
Monday, April 17, 1972
Today was warm and sunny, an almost-summer day. Soon after I arrived on campus, I learned from Mikey and Skip that the Third World had decided to run its own slate, headed by Pablo.
I had little time to think about that, however, for a dozen blacks and Puerto Ricans descended upon me to get out petitions.
Thankfully, Scott pulled me away eventually to go to Kitch’s class, where I actually relaxed as I listened to Kitch talk about Horatio Alger. I avoided going back to LaGuardia for as long as I could, but I had to go in eventually.
When I did, I was besieged by what seemed like hundreds of people, taking out petitions, returning them, asking favors and questions, and some people telling me what to do.
I got in a brief chat with Avis; I’ve been so busy with the election that I’ve had no time for my friends. Avis seemed depressed despite her date with Jacob this weekend. But soon, election business took precedence and I moved the stuff to SUBO for the Assembly meeting.
I walked there with Brian, who’s active in gay lib. He told me that he was very close to Henry Dreifus from the New Democratic Coalition, and that Henry had a heart attack and “died in my arms” just a few days after I met them at the Mill Basin Peace Council a couple of years ago.
I remember seeing Brian at the funeral with his then-girlfriend, a very pretty black girl, so I didn’t realize he was gay. It’s funny: Jerry was at that funeral too, at Billy Sherman’s family’s funeral home, but I didn’t know him back then.
Brian and I discussed Larry Simon’s candidacy for Congress; perhaps he’ll go to Washington and take Jerry with him. (And maybe – please – take Shelli, too?) But Brian expects Congressman Podell to win the primary, and he’s working on Liz Holtzman’s primary against Manny Celler.
I was nauseated by the behavior at the Assembly meeting – shouting, insults, no one showing respect for anyone – and handed in my resignation as recording secretary, which they would not accept.
After that, I sat on the grass with Carl, Mason and Libby. Ruth came over and gave us her new phone number; she and Marty are living with her parents till they go off to grad school.
I enjoyed Creative Writing today; I really respect Mr. Galin a lot, not just because he thinks I have talent.
After class, Gene and I took petitions back. Eight candidates are running for president and vice president: Craig and Bill (Alignment); Mikey and Lisa (The Movement, they call the semi-coalition); Mendy and an Orthodox girl; Hal and Lloyd; Stuie from the Jewish Student Union; Pablo on the Third World Federation ticket; David Weissberg (Workers League); and Bennett Latinoff (Socialists).
I attended a strategy session with Mike, Bobby and Allan, but then I got disgusted with the whole thing and drove Leon home – he was disgusted, too – and came home feeling very depressed.
The rest of the day, everything seemed to go wrong: nothing terrible, just a lot of little things piling up.
Tonight I called Artie and Henry from the Downtown Campus on Schermerhorn Street and we scheduled a debate there next Monday so the freshmen who go there can see the candidates.
Wednesday, April 19, 1972
I feel rather depressed tonight – more so than I’ve felt in weeks. It hit me suddenly, but I think it has something to do with the fact that so much has been happening and I’ve been in contact with so many people, but I haven’t felt my life touching anyone else’s.
Deep down, I think I fear that I will never have anybody love me. After all, where have the last six months gotten me?
The only really nice thing today was when I was plopped down outside with Ira and Elihu, and I was startled to get a kiss on my cheek.
It was Debbie, and I was really glad to see her. I guess she really likes me. I think she has a fantastic body and is very pretty, but after all, she does have a boyfriend.
Anyway, today was sunny and extremely warm (86°): perfect strike weather. Yesterday students at Columbia and other schools voted to strike on Friday to protest the re-escalation of the war. Vietnam is like a horrible specter that keeps appearing, living endlessly, just when you think it’s been destroyed.
In Kitch’s class this morning, we went into West’s A Cool Million, a book I really enjoyed. And afterwards, I found LaGuardia a beehive of activity: Leon was making the first “Strike” posters, and a rally was scheduled for the amphitheater at noon. It was inevitable, I suppose.
Gary and I had lunch together. He’s my best friend and I love him, but God, he can be dull. We found the rally in progress as we sat down next to Mason and Libby. A puny 150 or so people showed up, and the speakers said things about the war you’d heard so many times before, it made you want to puke.
Mikey spoke, pushing the Movement; Bart Myers, in his work shirt with the Viet Cong embroidered flag, did his thing; Assemblyman Larry Simon, with Jerry in tow, seems to have made the transition from Lindsay-for-President coordinator to McGovern coordinator with a politician’s ease.
I left off listening and instead went to talk to some of the crowd who were not involved in student government: Lynne, Dan, Maria. None of them seemed particularly enthusiastic about a strike, and these were the people that actually showed up for the rally.
Three times as many people were doing the hora on the quadrangle, celebrating Israeli Independence Day.
(Interruption: for the past half hour, I was on the phone being interviewed by a Kingsman cub reporter.)
Where was I? Oh yes, so in the afternoon Ari, Gene and I validated all the candidates’ petitions and tomorrow we’ll make up the ballot.
After Debbie came over and kissed me, I sat with her for an hour on the grass; we started playing with someone’s little kid. She pointed out her boyfriend, who was walking, shirtless, hand in hand with some girl.
“He’s cute,” I said, although I don’t know if that was the right thing to say even if Debbie did say, “Yeah, he really is.”
After dropping Scott off at his house, I came home and futzed around for what was left of the afternoon.
Tonight at Slade’s EXCO course, we had a fine discussion of Pynchon’s Crying of Lot 49, which I first discovered when it came out in that paperback with the psychedelic cover when I was in high school.
I enjoyed talking about the book, at least until Shelli walked in. Seeing her makes me feel ashamed I ever went with her.
Talking to Alice tonight, I learned that all is not going well with Renee, who told Alice she “regretted” her “hasty decision” to marry. At least I’m not going to do anything that foolish.
Friday, April 21, 1972
As I neared the campus this morning, I saw a picket line in front of Hillel Gate, manned by Carl, Scott and Mike’s girlfriend Riesa, among others. Other picket lines were up in front of Boylan and Ingersoll. Picket signs, chants, and red armbands – all the accoutrements of political action – were evident everywhere.
Avis and I walked around for a while, surveying the scene, taking it all in. (She scrupulously avoided Stacy, whom she hasn’t spoken to since the concert). Avis said she’s planning to seduce Jacob tomorrow night, and I sincerely wished her luck.
At noon, Gary joined us on the quadrangle as the “decision-making” rally began. Speaker after speaker talked about closing down the school for the rest of the term and turning Brooklyn College into an “antiwar university” to pressure Nixon to stop the bombing.
Annoyed by all the empty rhetoric, I left the quad and sat down on the steps of LaGuardia next to Dean Hilary Gold. He donated staff to run off leaflets and shit, but he told me he realized “the futility of it all.” I agreed with him, and then I got Gary to go with me for lunch.
Kingsman did endorse Craig (albeit with a dissenting endorsement of Mikey by one member of the editorial board, Hank), but everyone was talking about something else in today’s issue: the nude photo of Skip and John used in the Movement ad (“We have nothing to hide.”)
Mike said that any Orthodox Jewish girl who sees that page will see something she’s not supposed to “until she gets married, and probably not even then.” Even though he’s running against the Movement, Pablo said he thought the ad was fine, “but only because they have nice bodies.”
Meanwhile, back at the quad, the “rally” was still in progress, with Bart Myers and other professors and students arguing about strategy.
Finally the President himself came down from his office to read a typical Kneller statement – written, no doubt, by Holly Henderson (widow of the prof for whom the anti-disruption Henderson Rules were named for) – condemning the escalation of the war but keeping the school open.
Everyone was there, it seemed, even graduates like Fat Ronnie, Dick C, and Irving Itzkowitz. Once again, eventually I got disgusted and went to the lily pond with Gary and Shelli, although I know I really shouldn’t stay with her because it does me no good.
Later on, I tried to run off the ballots with Hal, Mendy and Craig around. Avi Malek came in, protesting that the other two commissioners weren’t around and that what I was doing was illegal. I told him to go find Ari and Gene.
Avi accused me of dishonesty and corruption, and I got really mad and would have flattened him had not Hal held me back. (That’s a switch! But when I get that mad, I sort of go wild – the way I did in fourth grade, when Alvin Bernstein said something that so enraged me that I punched him in the jaw and knocked him out.)
Anyway, the work got done and I came home to have dinner with Marc – we’re alone at the house again this weekend, of course – and spend the evening talking with Gary.
I’m in a state of virtual exhaustion tonight, looking forward (hopefully) to a weekend of rest.
Saturday, April 22, 1972
It’s early evening and I’m hoping to spend a quiet night at home. I need to be alone for one evening, and barring unexpected visits by Gary or Mark and Consuelo, I shall be alone tonight.
This past week was so full of doing that I just had no time for being: enjoying the warm, sunny weather; talking with Debbie; just thinking about things. I’m the kind of person who needs to reflect on my life.
Unlike somebody like Mike, I don’t enjoy life when I’m too involved with business. This coming week looks even worse, what with the leafleting and the voting and the chaos I know that it will bring. And then there’s my classes, curriculum committee meetings – God, I don’t even want to think ahead to all the work.
Last night I gave some serious thought to Shelli and Jerry, the first in a long time. I realized some things I hadn’t before. Back in the fall, Jerry had lost his mother and Shelli in some sense had “lost” her father, as he was in the mental hospital.
Jerry was jobless and felt insecure, and of course I know how insecure Shelli was (and is). So it was perhaps natural for them to find each other and hold on tight.
Now I can understand what Dr. Wouk meant when he said I was getting “too healthy” for Shelli. I also needed time to face myself and overcome fears and phobias, like going to Manhattan at night, and to get back on track and not live a frantic existence with all that fighting with Shelli.
In a sense, breaking up with Shelli has been one of the best things that ever happened to me.
Today was a very cold, rainy day: kind of dreary. This morning I drove to Manhattan and got annoyed when I was stuck in traffic for an hour. To soothe my savage breast, I went to the Met, and in the quiet of the museum, I became calm under the spell of Gauguin, Van Gogh and Seurat.
This afternoon, I stayed home, chatting with Gisele as she cleaned the house. I went out shopping and bought limes (I love to eat them whole; they’re rich in vitamin C) and herbs and a work shirt, and then I had burger at the counter of the Foursome.
I could have gone out tonight if I’d wanted to, but the point is, I don’t want to. I want to be by myself, and I’m not going to feel guilty about it.