A 20-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early May, 1972
by Richard Grayson
Tuesday, May 2, 1972
It’s another primary-watching Tuesday night, and it looks like old Hubert H. Humphrey is winning slimly over Wallace in Indiana and over McGovern in Ohio.
Today was a humid, drizzly day. Before class this morning, I talked with Elijah about his community work with poor people in Williamsburg. He’s really involved, mostly through his Baptist church.
In Bible, Mrs. Starling went over the miracles of Jesus. It’s hard to believe that there are only three class meetings left to the term.
After class, I sat on the steps of LaGuardia with Avis, who told me that yesterday Shelli again dropped all her courses. Avis told her she was stupid but Shelli just got angry; that girl is the most self-destructive person I know.
Scott came along, and Avis and I joined him in the old Spigot office upstairs, where I ate my lunch as Scott and Avis tried out some grass he was planning to buy. Scott’s leaving for Europe at the end of the month.
They both went to their classes, so I shared a lime with Carl and then walked Leon to the Campus Closet to buy rolling paper; Leon made me go in to buy it, as he was too embarrassed to do it himself.
He’s a funny guy: he told me yesterday that at one time he didn’t want to have anything to do with the things of the twentieth century. But evidently he likes grass; he, Mike and Allan went downstairs to turn on.
Everyone was celebrating the death of J. Edgar Hoover, and some people brought a cake from Lord’s Bakery. I know it sounds callous, but he was a terrible person and I guess he lived long enough.
Debbie came by; seeing her always brightens me up. I told her we could see each other during the summer, and she liked the idea. We sat outside talking to Mikey, who had to hand in his designating petitions in the Democratic primary for 11th C.D. convention delegate today.
Downtown, Dr. Wouk listened as I told him the events of the past couple of weeks and my feelings toward them. He thinks I got through it well, but he warned me against getting involved with Shelli in any way, and I know he’s right.
Tonight I called Jill. Like everyone else – Leon, Ruth, Avis, Elayne – she thinks Shelli and Jerry are stupid and I’m more mature than either of them. “Jerry is not a nice person,” Jill said, “and he’s a liar.”
Talking of more pleasant things, Jill said she loves her job at the ad agency so much she may never go to grad school. We had a nice long talk.
Friday, May 5, 1972
I feel quite exhilarated tonight. No real reason behind it; it was just a very pleasant day. (Most of them are, you know.) I didn’t go to class this morning, but in LaGuardia, I met Avis. I lied to her and told her I was sleeping at this girl’s place tonight.
I’m not sure why I did that. Yesterday at lunch she expressed her disappointment at the state of her relationship with Jacob: how he doesn’t want to get tied down, he’s not that sensitive, etc.
Somehow that made me feel good, but I don’t know if it’s just that misery loves company or if it’s something else: that I love Avis. I don’t know, but all she wants to be (and is) is one of my closest friends.
I could never tell her I want her; she would just laugh softly and think I was joking. So I just felt it would be better today if she thought I was sleeping with Katy (the girl I made up, based on Daniel’s sister in Brooklyn Heights).
It was kind of a stupid lie, but I kept it up all day, and I almost began to believe it myself – so much so that I found myself horny and radiating sexuality.
“Your sperm count must be in the stratosphere,” Avis said before going home, just after we had lunch with Steve Katz at the Pub. “You’re even getting to me a little.”
At the same time we were at the Pub, Leon, Ray, Mike and Mikey were in SUBO for a lunch with the Congressmen who Ray and Mike invited to a forum in Gershwin at 1 PM.
Steve and I stopped to talk with Gary, Ruth and Stacy, and they all joined us in going to the forum. (Archie, Sam, and Hope were hysterical in trying to get us to go; Kneller would have had their heads if nobody showed.)
A fairly big crowd did show; unfortunately, Reps. Bertram Podell and Emanuel Celler were the only Brooklyn members of Congress to come, and they probably did it only because they have tough primaries against Larry Simon and Liz Holtzman.
Celler is 84 and seeking his 25th term. He looked barely alive and had an aide mumble answers to questions in his ear. The lectern Mike got him had wheels, and at one point it looked like it moved so far in front of him that he would fall over. (Mike came in and steadied it.)
The questions were pretty hostile; I asked Celler about a remark he’d once made deprecating the antiwar students and asked how he could say today he was so anti-Vietnam.
I quoted what I remembered he’d said about the protests – “The dogs may bark, but the caravan marches on” – and then I asked, “Congressman Celler, are we the dogs?”
People hooted, and the old man hemmed and hawed. After that, Mike, the moderator, said were running out of time, so mine was the last question.
After I took Mason to a music shop to buy a guitar, I came home to an empty house for the weekend.
At 6 PM, I drove to the magical island of Manhattan and had a lovely evening all by myself. I walked along the pond in Central Park, where I enjoyed the scenery but was a bit wary of others (I was scared of the much-talked-about muggers).
While looking at all the high-class stores on Fifth Avenue, I ran into Alice and Andreas at Doubleday’s. Andreas was one of those people whom I liked immediately on sight.
Then I drove down Fifth Avenue and rode through the Village, looking at the passing scene. It was great but it would have been nicer if I’d had a warm body next to me in the car.
At 9:30 PM, I went over to Rockaway to give Grandpa Herb some of my old Spigot articles because he thinks he can get me a job with the Metropolitan Review.
Monday, May 8, 1972
It’s only 6 PM, and I should be working on the two term papers that are due at the end of the week. But like an alcoholic, I need to write – perhaps to clear my mind.
I envy those people who have found their god, be it the dollar or Communism or Freud or Jesus; they can act with certainty. On the other hand, I can only believe (and only some of the time) in myself and in others; it’s a lot harder.
In Kitch’s class this morning, Scott passed me a note with a cute limerick:
Now I have a friend, Richie G
Who is very special to me
He listens and is kind
For my state of mind
That’s Richie G, you see
I laughed it off, but it really touched me and made me think that I actually do some good in this world.
I spoke to Avis briefly, but she didn’t say much other than that her weekend was “okay.” After class, I was sitting in LaGuardia, reading Peter’s New York Times, when Leon told me he’d been invited to Shelli and Jerry’s wedding.
Later I learned that Stanley and Donald had also been invited, and this hurt me. “Perhaps they thought it would be too painful for you to attend,” Mike suggested. But still, I would have liked the chance to decide whether or not to go.
I suppose my hurt stemmed from the fact that I no longer mean anything to Shelli. But after all, it is her wedding, and Jerry’s, and it’s their day to remember as they want to.
I walked Leon to the post office to mail a letter to Jay in San Francisco, where Jay is not too happy, Leon reported. San Francisco is not much more liberated than New York, and Jay and Arthur are just hanging in limbo, basically, until they decide their next move.
Brian’s heading out to San Francisco soon, he told me, to visit his girlfriend, the same black girl I saw him with at Henry Dreifus’ funeral. I think it’s cool that Brian can be gay and still have a girlfriend.
Today’s visit by Meir Kahane came off as coolly as it could have, considering all that demagoguery.
Debbie came along, saying she’d been alone all weekend. She and her boyfriend are drifting apart. He’s very jealous of me, and even more of Mike – because, he told her, he thinks the LaGuardia people like Mike and me are doing so much while he does “nothing.”
That stupid kid – of course he’s wrong. But perhaps Debbie encourages his jealously by talking about us so much. She also called Mike this weekend and said she was embarrassed about it when she met Riesa. What a world.
Deb, Mike and I drove Leon, Mason and Libby over to Holy Cross Cemetery, so Leon could film the horror movie he’s making as his project for Prof. Merritt.
Tonight Nixon’s going on TV to make an important announcement about the worsening crisis in Vietnam. This same old fucking war!
Tuesday, May 9, 1972
A cold, hard rain fell steadily all day, and it was almost like winter out.
Last night Nixon announced that he was mining Haiphong harbor and cutting North Viet rail links to China to keep them from getting supplies from the Chinese or the Russians.
And so a new escalation – perhaps the most dangerous one yet – of this endless war is now upon us. Vietnam is like a spectre that haunts us; just as soon as it seems to be going away, it returns, scarier than ever.
Anyway, they’re saying we’re in the worst international crisis since Cuba in ’62. And so the world hovers on the brink of disaster, just like in an Allen Drury novel. Time will tell how it ends, I guess.
Meanwhile, somehow my little world goes on. The summer session bulletin came out and a lot of good courses are being offered. Avis came into LaGuardia as I was leaving for class and tried to tempt me to cut, but I resisted.
In Bible, Mrs. Starling went over Revelations, the last book of the New Testament, which stunned me with its strange visions of the Apocalypse. I decided to do my final paper on the image of the lamb in the Bible, and I’ve started it already.
When I returned to LaGuardia, Avis was still sitting there, looking serenely beautiful. We went for lunch at Campus Corner, and it was one of the few meals I’ve enjoyed lately.
Avis and I always have so much to talk about. She told me about her Archaeology paper, about her decision to get her hair cut short, and other things.
We have a really nice relationship, but later today, Dr. Wouk said I should tell Avis I want to sleep with her. I’m afraid she’d laugh embarrassedly, and then we couldn’t be friends anymore.
Still, I feel so comfortable with her . . . oh, I don’t know. I hung around LaGuardia to listen to another pathetic antiwar meeting with its petty bickering and differences over tactics, then came home to do some work.
Today Dr. Wouk and I thrashed a lot of things out. We decided that I was (and am) hurt because, despite these past weeks when Shelli again seemed to be interested in me, that now she has put me away in the past.
Dr. Wouk thought that Shelli might have wanted to invite me to the wedding, “but Jerry put the kibosh on that.” Anyway, Dr. Wouk said, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to attend.
The good doctor suggested that it’s high time that I had another love affair. I suppose I’m ready for one now – but is the girl?
Thursday, May 11, 1972
It’s 5:30 PM and I’m lying on my bed in my shorts and a T-shirt, freshly bathed. A cool breeze is coming from outside, and soon I’m going to start on – and hopefully finish – my Parody paper. At least my Bible paper is done already.
It seems calm and serene now, but this morning was a different story. I woke up feeling ill: I had stomach pains and felt weak and irritable. I even broke a dish and lost control of myself.
So I went over to see Dr. Fletcher. After examining me, he said, “Physically, you’re as fit as a fiddle” and said my stomach distress was due to “nervous tension.” He prescribed a stomach relaxant.
From his office on Avenue N, I went directly across the street to the bus stop. I walked in late to Bible class as students were reading their term papers aloud.
After class, I found an antiwar rally in progress outside Boylan, arriving just in time to hear David Weissberg of the Workers League give his usual bullshit about “building a labor party now, man.”
I joined Leon, Elihu and Mason with the rest of the crowd on a wildly disorganized march to the Junction. Even the chants were bad: their “Out now!” couldn’t match Senator Hartke.
We found all the recruiting stations closed, so we aimlessly marched over to Midwood to try to get some high school kids interested, but all that happened there was a YAF guy ripped our banner to shreds.
From Ray to Dean Gold to Leon, everyone said they’d never been to a worse demonstration in their lives. (Where are the student strikes of yesteryear?)
Walking away from it all, I ran into Amy, who must have been one of the few people who didn’t know about Jerry and Shelli getting married. She laughed in amazement when I told her.
In LaGuardia, Mike and Debbie were working on the voter registration forms. I wonder how Riesa feels about Debbie’s interest in Mike.
But Mikey says Mike’s already made up his mind that he’ll marry Riesa someday and that Mike’s got an ad coming out in tomorrow’s end-of-the-year Kingsman telling Riesa that she’s a prick but that he still loves her anyway.
So many friends are graduating this term, and I’m surprised at some of the people I’m going to miss, like Karen at Kingsman. And Elijah and our talks about race and politics and Jesus, in whom Elijah devoutly believes.
I’ll even miss seeing old Bill D loping around campus and writing those stuffy film reviews. And of course Elihu, who barely spoke to me back when I used to sit next to him in Social Studies in high school but who’s become a close friend.
Steve Katz is finally going to graduate this term, and it looks as if even Leon will make it. Mike took a lot of incompletes again; I just wish he wouldn’t take on so much extracurricular stuff and do a little schoolwork. Mikey is doing all right this term, and I’m glad about that.
Gary and I went back to his house, where we had some of his extra-special tuna for a nice, relaxed lunch. My stomach felt a lot better.
At SUBO for the final Faculty Council Curriculum Committee meeting of the year, we introduced the new student members, Skip and Peter.
Next year’s meetings should be fun, although I’ll miss Prof. Shoemaker, who’s being replaced by Prof. Morales from Puerto Rican Studies. I’ll even miss fusty Prof. Kaye; our new chair will be Prof. Hildegarde Fife of Modern Languages.
I enjoy the work and fun of the curriculum committee and wished all the faculty members a good summer. After Elihu, Elspeth and I returned to LaGuardia, I hung around for only a few minutes so I could come home and do my paper.
I’m not going to get all tense and pressured by it, though. It’s the last piece of work this term, and I’ve got months of excitement and wonderment ahead of me. If only I can put that time to good use: growing, learning and being happy.
As I was leaving campus, I saw Ronna. She looked sad and was sitting on a bench with Susan talking quietly, as if she were discussing a problem. I wish I could help. God! Why am I such a busybody?