A 20-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Late April, 1972
by Richard Grayson
Tuesday, April 25, 1972
This may be a bit incoherent, because I took a couple of downs an hour ago. I’m starting to get a calm, floating feeling.
No, today was not that bad: I just took a double dose of my tranquilizers so I’d get to sleep early tonight. I’m planning to immerse my tired bones in a bath and then get into bed and watch the primary results.
This morning Gene and I helped the ladies from the Honest Ballot Association set up the polls in Boylan and Whitehead for the second day of voting. Sitting in Whitehead, one of the ladies asked me if I understood Yiddish.
“A bissel,” I replied, and then she said that the majority of students voting were “schvartze” – blacks. Of course, I’d noticed that, and so has everyone else. With a big Third World turnout and the white vote split so many ways, Pablo’s victory seems inevitable.
Things calmed down enough for me to go to Bible class. Today Mrs. Starling did the Nativity, and I was pleased to get an unexpected A on my last paper. After class, Linda and I walked to LaGuardia, where I ate my lunch (brought from home in a brown paper bag).
I didn’t see much of the gang today; I guess everyone was out in Boylan or elsewhere campaigning. I saw Saul this morning; he’s very friendly, but his “deepness” makes him seem foolish.
I’ve also been seeing a lot of Esther, whom I love flirting with because it’s not at all serious. I was sitting on LaGuardia’s steps when I saw, from behind, Debbie and her boyfriend. I watched with the interest of a voyeur as they joked and finally kissed.
About then, I decided to go around the voting places to check on things, and everything seemed to be going smoothly. I talked to Stacy, who’s probably going to Greece this summer. I told her about my dream in which she died, and we talked and laughed, and damned if I didn’t find myself attracted to her in spite of everything I’ve said lately.
Back in the SG office, I was talking to Mrs. D and told her that she’d be employed by Pablo and “his boys” (Pablo’s term, not mine) next year. Mrs. D said that she’d been with student government through Chuck and Phil and Marty and now Harvey and that “it’d be interesting” to work for new people.
Shelli, depressed about a scene in Acting that didn’t go well, asked me to go with her to eat. I did, though mostly to watch her eat, and we discussed Carole’s engagement party this Sunday.
She wanted to know what I’d be wearing, and when I asked her what Jerry would be wearing, she said he wouldn’t be there. Passing us on campus, Mike gave me a dirty look; he doesn’t like seeing me with her.
Yesterday Mike said he voted for all the Movement candidates except for Shelli – “because she’s done nothing all year but spread her fat ugly legs.”
Thursday, April 27, 1972
It’s 4 PM and this has been the strangest day I’ve had in months. Tonight I have to go back to school as they tally the votes and announce the winners of the student government election. Big deal.
Last night Slade and the group had a really great discussion on Richard Fariña’s Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me. Afterwards, I said I’d drive Elspeth home. On our way to my car, I saw Avis and Jacob sitting at a window booth of Campus Corner; they looked nice together.
This morning, I drove to school, and when the Honest Ballot Association ladies came, I set up the voting booths and then drove two of them to Schermerhorn Street.
The downtown campus is really nice, sort of comfortably small, and once we set up things, I stayed there an hour in the student lounge talking with the ladies and Artie, Henry and Brian. After lunch, I went back to the main campus and LaGuardia Hall.
I was with Mrs. D, signing payment slips, when Elihu came in to ask if we’d heard the big news: Shelli is marrying Jerry at the end of May. I was a bit stunned, but now I realize that at no point did I feel any hurt. I even tried to cry later, but I couldn’t manage one tear.
At first, I sort of got into the spirit around campus: everyone thinks it’s the biggest joke since Carole’s miscarriage. Elihu said, “They deserve each other”; Jill called the phone booth from her desk at J. Walter Thompson, very amused, telling me they were “pigs”; Linda laughed when she heard the news; Steve Katz believed it was just a joke; and for once, Leon was speechless.
The rest of the day I went about my work, mimeoing ballots; taking complaints about ballot stuffing (a girl was caught doing it for Mikey); and other elections business.
Finally, I felt a little tired and called up Avis and asked if I could come over. As luck would have it, just as I was at the phone booth, Shelli passed by and saw me. I congratulated her on her engagement and gave her my best wishes (I get mixed up on which one you’re supposed to say, so I said both.)
She said they’ve taken a beautiful apartment on East 36th Street and Avenue U, not far away. And as Shelli went on talking, I realized that any depression I felt was not caused by feeling sorry for myself but for her.
It’s obvious she’s doing this to get away from her mother, but knowing Shelli’s mother, she’ll be over at their house a lot.
At Avis’s apartment, she said she thinks Shelli’s “crazy,” that she’s “playing house” – “and I’m playing along with her, too.” They rented the apartment yesterday. Avis said Shelli’s “finally caved in to months of pressure” from Jerry, whom she said is “an obnoxious baby” who’s “in love with marriage.”
I told Avis I know that Shelli is heading for trouble, but it’s my place only to sit by and offer my best wishes.
Friday, April 28, 1972
Twenty-four hours have passed since my last diary entry, and a zillion things have happened. I don’t think I’ll ever forget last evening’s nightmare. I’ve gone through it in my head a thousand times and I still can’t fully comprehend what occurred.
Briefly, it went like this: At 6 PM, I found Ari, Gene, Mr. Abrams of the Honest Ballot Association and the ladies compiling the ballots in the office of Dean Wiepert and Dean Jones.
Early on, we knew the results of the Presidential race: Pablo was winning heavily, followed by Mendy, Craig, Mikey and the rest, and we three elections commissioners decided not to tell anyone.
The spirit of the people in the lobby was good, almost festive: Lisa said she’d sleep with me if I clued her in on the results; Artie offered me Southern Comfort; everyone was joking.
The evening dragged on as the ballots for rep were being counted, and at one point I went out to get the HBA ladies some tea. What followed is a blur.
I had just gotten back to the vestibule and stopped to talk to Elayne, who was giving me her caustic opinion on Shelli and Jerry’s engagement when suddenly a melee erupted inside and I heard Ira yell, “He’s stealing the ballots!!”
I rushed in to see somebody with an armful of ballots and a dozen people trying to stop him. Some kid, 15 or 16, came in and joined the fray. Craig grappled with the guy and was knocked down and kneed in the eye.
After that, Mike and Bill tried to get the kid, who floored Mike with a punch that left him with a raw, half-closed eye. I was in shock and near hysteria as the ballots flew all over the lobby.
The guys escaped in all the confusion; I had Debbie take Mike and Craig over to the doctor (she later took Mike home since he couldn’t drive); we picked up the ballots and found only about a dozen Lower Slate ballots missing.
After the melee ended, the Wackenhuts came in, and they carefully let only a few people I approved into the building. We called Hilary at home and he came down for what turned into a midnight conference in his office with the candidates.
Everyone was sickened by the violence; I remember at one point, Mendy said that looking at the orange-and-brown carpeting in the dean’s office made him want to throw up.
Finally, after endless maneuvering, the candidates representing all parties agreed to abide by the election results.
While we were waiting for the recount, I went out for some coffee with Brian, and we were joined by Shelli, who followed us there and was very sympathetic as we sat on counter stools at Jentz with me in the middle.
“You look so haggard, Rich,” she said, and I said that she and Brian both did, too, as I put my arms around both of them.
It was that kind of evening: people got very touchy-feely and there was a lot of holding of hands. When I saw Pablo alone in the corridor after I got back to campus and told him he was going to be the next student government president, he said, “I didn’t want to win this way,” and started to cry, pretty much literally on my shoulder. “I didn’t want this to happen.”
The lobby was very tense when we returned, with the Jewish Defense League/Jewish Student Union on one side and Third World Federation on the other. Dean Gold, Ari, Gene and I talked about how we could avoid a riot, and they said I should be the one to announce the election results since both Ari and Gene wear yarmulkes.
Finally, at 2 AM, with the crowd in front of me, I had the complete results and was going to announce them outside on the steps of LaGuardia. First I started to talk about how we have to be united and bullshit but people shouted, “Just read the results!”
So I did. At the news of the victory of Third World Federation, the black and Puerto Rican kids shouted wildly and jumped up and cheered and then ran off in celebration. So there was no confrontation, and it ended up more or less peacefully.
Today at school it was all anti-climax. Everyone looked awful. Mike had an eyepatch; he said that when he called his girlfriend from the clinic, she asked him if he cried. He didn’t. Craig wasn’t hurt as badly, just scuffed up a bit.
The scenes from last night are still haunting me: the ballots flying in all directions in the scuffle, with Avi Malek kicking them out the door (he claims he was stepping on them so they wouldn’t fly away); stricken, helpless looks on the faces of Ira, Joel and Allan; that horrible time waiting for Hilary Gold to come to campus, with me talking to Dean Wiepert at home; the unwanted advice I was getting from Bruce Weitz and Glenn Madison; Hal and Ivy trying to calm me down.
Despite the horrible fight and its aftermath, some good came out of it, like the touching and holding of hands; it was as if we had gone through an ordeal together.
But the Jewish Student Union today held a press conference and said they’d decided to challenge the election results. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that the intruders were from the JDL, determined to stop Third World’s victory, with Avi, Ari and Stuie in a conspiracy with them.
But I’m pretty sure that neither Gene nor Moishe and most of the other people from JSU had nothing to do with it. They looked too shocked last night. I’m still shaken by the whole thing.
“I guess I missed all the excitement,” said Ronna, who was at the printers for Kingsman waiting for us to call in the results for today’s issue. I was touched that Ronna wanted to make sure I was all right. I guess I am.
And though Lisa and Hilary and the other deans said I did the best job I could, I still can’t shake the feeling that as the Elections Commissioner, I could have prevented what happened.
Mom, Dad and Jonny went to the hotel this morning and Marc drove up to South Fallsburg this afternoon. Gisele can’t come in tomorrow, so I’ll be alone in the house tonight and tomorrow.
I’m sick and exhausted and need sleep.
Sunday, April 30, 1972
At 8PM this evening I took a drive out to Rockaway and parked in Neponsit. It’s daylight savings time now, and it was only just getting dark.
It was cool, and I turned up the collar of my dungaree jacket as I walked along the beach, feeling the wind at my neck and the sand at my feet, and watching the waves crash up against the shore.
And I had the feeling or renewal, of optimism, of potential for growth. Life can be a beautiful and exciting thing.
Last night, however, was rather restless. I again had nightmares about the election and also dreamed that I got a call from Shelli. (Later I learned that it wasn’t a dream; she had called to find out the time of Carole’s engagement party, and apparently I mumbled something she didn’t understand.)
This morning I awoke groggily and did my morning chores: I cleaned up, ate, went out and washed the car. I enjoy my bachelor’s existence. It was quite warm out so I put on a pair of shorts and took off my shirt to sun myself in the backyard while I read the Sunday Times.
Carole’s invitation was for noon at SUBO, and I arrived there at the same time as Maddy (who will doubtless be elected editor-in-chief of Kingsman tomorrow).
We greeted Carole and Irv and awaited the other guests. Most of the APO fraternity were there: Ira, Buddy, Craig; Howie and Felicia; Harvey and Linda. There was a pretty nice buffet.
Ira said he tried to call me yesterday; if anyone was more upset about what happened on Thursday night than me, it was Ira. Craig said he felt better and that he’d seen Mike at Country Fair yesterday and reported that Mike felt better, too.
Carole gushed over Shelli’s news about her engagement. Of course Carole went with Jerry herself for a while back there. I tried to avoid Shelli as much as possible, but occasionally my eye met hers and we smiled.
Elspeth told me that Shelli and Jerry lost the apartment; the landlord probably didn’t like their furnishing it with garbage à la Consuelo and Mark.
For someone who should be happy, Shelli looks sad. Getting married at 19, she’s missing so much in life.
The party broke up at 5 PM and I dropped by Alice’s house. Her big news was her new job, as an assistant to this novelist/journalist, Paul Gillette. Alice will be working at his luxurious apartment in the city, and it really sounds glamorous.
I was saddened to hear from Alice that Renee is miserable and that a divorce or an annulment is practically inevitable. See, that’s what happens when one marries young out of desperation and loneliness.