A 20-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Late May, 1972
by Richard Grayson
Wednesday, May 24, 1972
Decisions, decisions. . . I’ve never been very good at them, and a big one is awaiting me tonight. The specter of the student government elections returned to haunt me today, and it’s going to be a while before I get rid of this albatross. (I guess that is a mixed metaphor.)
I just wasn’t prepared for today: I had a bad night, being up for hours with a terrible upset stomach. I managed to grab some sleep, but I didn’t wake up till 9:30 AM, so I had to rush to get to school.
Mr. Abrams of the Honest Ballot Association brought along his material, and at a meeting with Archie, Sam Sherman and another administrator, the other elections commissioners, and others, Abrams listed his findings:
Fifteen people voted twice; 200-odd signatures on the voting rolls were illegible and couldn’t be traced; many ballots were invalidated – because they voted for more than nine reps, say.
The people in the room – Mike, Mikey, Ira, Ralph – made their points as to how the ballots were stuffed (Mike admitted doing it himself) and accused HBA of trying to save its reputation, arguing that the elections should be voided.
Abrams defended his certification, and the whole thing was thrown into the lap of the Elections Commission. So Gene, Ari and I hold the key – and tomorrow we’re going to discuss the situation at a meeting that’ll probably last all day.
I don’t know where I stand at the moment. Mendy called me tonight, naturally pressing for invalidation, but I’m not sure this election was any less fair than any other. I’m hoping that will become clear when we go over each irregularity, point by point.
I spent the afternoon recuperating in the sunny backyard, reading. When I called Ruth in the hospital, I was glad to hear she’s coming home tomorrow.
This evening I called Avis, who asked me if I wanted to go out with her on Friday night. I agreed, although I hope she won’t be talking all evening about the wedding, which takes place that afternoon.
She said that Scott really like the coat-hanger she got him. I think Avis still adores him.
When I spoke to Gary, he said his father’s accompanying him to the oral surgeon tomorrow, so I don’t have to – although I’d rather be sitting in the waiting room there than be at school.
I haven’t even had much time to be upset about the wedding. I guess Marc is right when he says I overdramatize everything. “You watch too many soap operas,” my brother said.
Thursday, May 25, 1972
It’s only 7 PM, but I’m completely worn out and depressed. I feel more blue than I’ve felt in months; I feel completely rotten and sad.
Is it Shelli’s wedding tomorrow? Naturally, that’s a part of it, but I was expecting to feel down because of that.
No, I think my depression can be directly traced to a call from Avis late this afternoon. She said that Scott had called her and wanted to go out with us tomorrow night: “Can he?” she asked.
“Why, certainly,” I replied, but I was deeply hurt. Like today I had just begun to think that maybe, just maybe, Avis and I could be more than platonic friends. She said she’d bought The Art of Sensual Massage and that she’d try out it out on me. I offered to pay her money for the massage, and she said slyly, “You can pay me another way.”
But I was such a fool to think that she could care for me when all she talks about is Scott. I just felt so terribly ego-bruised. Maybe I should have told them to forget me and go out by themselves tomorrow night.
Instead, Avis and I talked further. She told me about Shelli’s apartment and the plans for the wedding – Sindy’s back from Seattle for it – all things that didn’t exactly make me feel any better.
Then I learned from Dad that the hotel is for sale, as it’s on the verge of bankruptcy. What a letdown it must be for Dad and Mom.
It just seems that the pieces of my life are shattering one by one. But I will survive; I’m going to handle the future like a mensch and get through it. I’ve survived worse.
I’ve decided that I must, in good conscience, vote for the certification of the election of Third World Federation. Ari and Gene disagreed at the meeting today, and all my friends disagree, too, but I see no other choice.
I’m going to look like a flunky for Archie, Sam and the other college administrators, but I do believe that none of those things that were alleged can be proven to have changed the outcome of the vote, which Third World Federation won by a very large margin.
This morning was kind of nice, spent with nice people. Elijah and I had a long talk, about a lot of things; Ronna came by before her final, and I took her phone number and said I’d call her – she’s such a sweet girl; Mason was nervous before his test and so I took him to Sugar Bowl and fed him coffee and English muffins.
An hour ago I called Gary to find out how the oral surgery went. Despite his pain, Gary was concerned with my depression. I guess there must be good things in the world if there are good people like my friends. It’s really not such a hard life.
Friday, May 26, 1972
Well, I’ve managed to survive the day – but the evening and night are still ahead of me. Scott and Avis will be coming over in half an hour.
I had called Scott and told him to go out with Avis by himself, and when Avis called, I told her the same thing. But after a “conference,” Avis called to say, “We’ve taken a vote and we’re coming over to your house with Scott’s marijuana plant.”
I said that was a hard offer to turn down.
“Besides,” Avis said, “I have to tell you about the wedding.” That’s sort of what I most didn’t like about tonight’s planned evening.
This morning when I met Avis at school, she’d just taken a History final and was wearing a long dress for the wedding. We joked about it. Avis said she didn’t want to go, but it still bothered me.
I talked with Ira and Susan and Bill and Dean Jones, and they all thought the whole idea of Shelli getting married was ridiculous. I laughed about it then, but still, I find myself in a depression tonight.
At home, I met Marc and we picked up Joey and drove out to LaGuardia Airport to meet Ron’s plane, but he was already waiting outside the terminal. Back home, I started to eat something but found it indigestible and figured I’d feel better if I was around people, so I went back to school.
Gary was still in a lot of pain from his tooth (or his ex-tooth), but rather than hang out, he had to go somewhere. I found Melvin and Mara on the LaGuardia steps and I started a conversation with their friend Vito, whom I’d never seen around before.
For some reason, I blurted out, “My ex-girlfriend is getting married today.”
“I’ve heard that line before from guys in bars,” Vito said.
I don’t know why, but I began telling him, a total stranger, the whole story of Shelli and Jerry and everything. Amazingly, absurdly, he said, “That wasn’t the way I’d heard it.”
It turned out he was a friend of Avis’s from high school – they were in the same homeroom at Midwood – and he knew Shelli, too. Vito and I talked for a long time and we got on famously.
When Gary came back, we all went over to Melvin’s new place on Nostrand Avenue: Gary, Vito, me, Melvin, Leroy and these two girls Yolanda Braithwaite and Kim Chang. From there we went to Henry’s ice cream parlor, and I had a great time.
But now I feel feverish and sick. It’s probably psychosomatic.
Saturday, May 27, 1972
I’m a bit surprised – and pleased – at how easy today has been for me to get through. Scott and Avis arrived last night with Scott’s marijuana plant. We baked it in the oven and then put the leaves through a sieve.
Marc rolled some joints, Ron and Joey came down from upstairs, and the six of us sat around smoking, getting really stoned. My brother and his friends left for somewhere, and Scott, Avis and I moved to the living room.
Avis said the wedding went as expected. Shelli wore off-white (appropriate, I guess) and Jerry a blue suit. There was an accordionist and a photographer and there was a reception afterwards at Brothers Restaurant, where Avis sat with Leon, Stanley and Assemblyman and Mrs. Larry Simon.
Now that it’s over, I’m relieved. A chapter in my life is now closed forever, and all I wish for the newly-married couple are good things.
Scott and Avis and I talked for a while, enjoying ourselves. We took a ride on the Belt Parkway, and I thought I was driving well, but around Bay Ridge, Avis said I was still stoned because I was weaving in and out of the lane. So we came home to watch Dick Cavett in the basement.
After a while, they became tired and went home. It turned out to be a nice night.
This morning, I got up early, and as planned, I drove over to Prospect Park and rented a bike, then rode over to the Parade Grounds, where I met Ira, Dean, Manny, Artie and Henry.
We bicycled all over the park in the pleasant spring weather, joking as we made our way over the roads, closed to car traffic.
I wasn’t used to cycling that much and I got tired, but I really hadn’t had so much fun in ages, barreling down the hills, just like on a motorcycle. The guys in APO are really nice, and I like them; I was the only non-fraternity brother who was asked to come.
Later in the day I went to Rockaway, but nobody was either home at either grandparents’ house so I just sat in the sun for a while.
Vito from yesterday called at 5:30 PM and we ended up talking for an hour. Avis told me she thinks he’s gay. Vito’s a nice guy, but I hope he’s not after my body or anything because I just want to be his friend.
Dad just called from the hotel. He said the place is a “madhouse” on this holiday weekend.
I’ve got to put in an appearance at Elspeth’s party tonight, especially because I missed her party last year.
Sunday, May 28, 1972
It’s a little after 5 PM. I’ve just taken a bath and washed my hair, and I’m now lying in bed, my skin fresh with Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder. I feel really nice and content and lazy.
I’ve got to get dinner – perhaps I’ll go out to a restaurant – and then I have to pick up Avis. We’re going to the airport to see Scott off. He’ll be in Europe for ten weeks, a long time away.
Elspeth’s party last night seemed like a minor disaster. I arrived in 9:30 PM in that awful neighborhood; that part of Coney Island looks like Dresden in Slaughterhouse-Five. Elspeth’s awful friends were there, and besides them, the only people I knew were Elayne, Elihu and Leon.
Leon and I went out on the terrace and smoked a couple of joints, and we proved to be each other’s salvation. Leon described the wedding as “pleasant” and “functional” and told some humorous anecdotes about it. At least they seemed funny when I was stoned.
When we came back in, Mikey had arrived with Mason and his brother Ken. Mikey told me that a McGovern headquarters had opened in the Brooklyn part of the 11th C.D. The conversation turned to politics; if McGovern can win California, he seems unstoppable. Leon announced he’s supporting Celler over Holtzman. “Age before virginity” was his rationale.
Allan arrived with Bobby and his friend Josh. Apparently they’re all mad at Mike for something that happened last night. Allan mentioned Mike’s insults of Stacy, but Mikey said that Mike was upset over this Experimental Psych final (that was the same course that gave Gary and Kjell such trouble).
A girl I barely know came over to me and said, “Why are you sitting there looking so sexy?” I think I said, “Huh?”
Larry and Slade came in, to Elspeth’s relief and delight; she bought Slade an Adidas shirt as a going-away present. Alone with me on the terrace, Larry said they didn’t really want to come but would have felt guilty not to, and I suspect that’s how a lot of people felt.
When I left after midnight with a “Gotta go,” Elspeth said, “I’ve been hearing that all evening.”
This morning was very hot and sunny. I sat out by the pool most of the time, reading the papers. Gary came over and we bullshitted away the afternoon. Gary’s really a bore at times, but he certainly means well and he’s a loyal friend; that makes it easier to put up with his dullness.
On a drive to Rockaway, we met Carl and his friend Paul riding their bikes around “Grease Park,” as Paul called Riis Park. Later, after Gary left, I spoke to Mom and wished her and Dad a happy 23rd wedding anniversary.
Monday, May 29, 1972
Last evening Scott called from his aunt’s house, saying he was really nervous and sick with a sore throat, stomachache, etc. He seemed to be having a giant anxiety attack, and I (I!) tried to calm him down, saying it was natural and that I’d bring some Libriums to the airport.
Avis and I got to the TWA terminal at 8:45 PM, and Scott was nowhere to be found. Finally he showed up looking pale, saying he’d “gotten rid of” his parents. But while I was busy reuniting a lost toddler with his mother, Scott told Avis that they didn’t want to see him off; they just dropped off at the curb with a “Have a nice trip.”
Avis and I stayed with him, trying to relieve his anxiety (which he covered with his usual surface bravado), and when the awful moment came for him to board the 747 and be frisked by sky marshals, Avis kissed him and hugged him tightly.
“Take care of her in the style to which she’s become accustomed,” Scott told me as I held his hand and we hugged each other goodbye.
Poor Avis was really depressed and upset; I watched her twirl her hair with her fingers anxiously as she kept looking out the window at the giant jet.
I’m certain she really loves Scott. She told me of a dream in which she interrupted sex with, of all people, Marc’s friend Ron, who she met Friday night for the first time and who’s about 17, to run when Scott called her.
We didn’t wait for the plane to take off. On the ride home, we were silent, but we stopped off at Carvel’s. When I tried to start the car again, the engine wouldn’t turn over. I called the AAA, who said it was the timer or the wiring.
Marc, Joey and Ron came down and called their friend Mickey Malone, who drives a tow truck, and he brought the car to our house at no expense (our payment was a joint).
Avis, Joey, Ron and Marc and I talked until 2 AM and then we drove Avis home. I can see why she loves Scott, who’s a great person and my dear friend. But Avis has become very special to me; perhaps she’s now my best friend.
Since the garage was closed today, I was car-less – which was okay considering the heavy holiday traffic – and I sat in the sun, reading, most of the day.
In the bookshop at Kings Plaza, I found Don standing beside me. He had just gotten in from Cambridge after the end of his second year at Harvard Law, where finals had forced him to miss Jerry and Shelli’s wedding and Elspeth’s party.
Don said he’ll be working with Jerry to help Larry Simon in the primary and then go down to D.C. to work for the summer.
Tonight Mom, Dad and Jonny returned from the country and Ron went back to Maryland.
Wednesday, May 31, 1972
I woke up late and lazy this morning and decided to take a long drive with the repaired Pontiac on the parkway. It was a cloudy, hazy morning, and I drove out towards Long Island, thinking about the state of myself near the eve of (official) manhood.
Actually, I’m quite pleased with the way my life has been going: I enjoy every day and feel that I’m on the road to becoming a mensch.
On campus, I paid my consolidated fee of $51.50 for both summer sessions, then went to Roosevelt to register. I’m taking only one course the first session, Modern Drama with Prof. Galin, and in the second session I’m going to try Classics 1 again.
Coming out of the gym, I ran into Timmy, who said he was about to “institute Emergency Plan C to avoid getting closed out” of courses. Back in LaGuardia, I found Mason and Libby, Mike and Mikey and Elsepth.
It looks like a lot of people will be around this summer; Elayne and Steve Katz will be taking courses, too.
Craig told me that Ira was hit by a car while riding his bicycle yesterday; he cut his knee badly and required 18 stitches. I was really upset, but tonight I called Ira and he was he was okay, that he’d just have to stay off his leg for a week. But his bike was wrecked.
I had lunch with Mikey, Mike, Mason, Libby and Barry. Mikey think his chances of going to Miami are diminished. The regular slate, heretofore “uncommitted,” is now backing McGovern too, and so there are two slates, reformers and regulars, backing him.
Mike seemed back to normal again, probing everyone’s emotions as we ate and drank. Mason and Barry will be leaving for British Columbia next week. After our lunch party broke up, I sat down next to Stacy when I spotted her on the grass.
She was very friendly – with yet another “I was going to call you” – and we talked until a sunshower came and we had to go inside. Stacy will forever be an enigma to me.
I went out to Sugar Bowl for some iced tea with Susan and Ronna. For the first time since our rocky start after I met her last year, Ronna and I are getting quite close; I think she’s learning to trust me a little. Now I can see how much she was hurt by her parents’ divorce. And also why Ivan was so crazy about her.
I left to take a taxi for Dr. Wouk. Just today Mason said, “You don’t need therapy, you’re healthier than anyone else around here,” but that isn’t true. And I want to stay healthy, anyway.
Dr. Wouk and I had a good session. He thinks I should sleep with Avis, that she wants me to – but I’m not sure he’s right.
On the way home, I stopped in Canarsie at the new 11th C.D. McGovern HQ and got some material for my neighborhood to canvass it for McGovern – or actually our delegate slate, including Mikey – since it’s just their names, not the presidential candidates’, which will be on the ballot.
Back on campus tonight, I ran into Dr. Stone and told him of Shelli’s marriage. He seemed surprised, but the first thing he asked was how I was feeling about it.
I explained things to him – a little weird, since he was Shelli’s psychologist – and Dr. Stone said that whatever good was in the relationship can never be taken away from me.
Pablo came along and said he wanted to talk to me, so Dr. Stone said goodbye and that I should stop by his office one day and we’d go out for coffee. I accompanied Pablo to the bookstore, where he bought $50 worth of office supplies for Student Government.
He asked me to be SG’s Public Relations Director; I was flattered but turned him down with thanks for the offer. It’s not that I wouldn’t want to be in a Third World Federation cabinet, but I need to relax a little and enjoy my senior year.
Avis called and we made a date for tomorrow night. She said she had called me yesterday, but apparently Jonny botched the message. I think Avis and I may be headed toward something, but I don’t know what.
I also returned routine phone calls from Gary and Mendy. The dean’s office tells me we still haven’t had a response to our questions from the Honest Ballot Association.
Tonight I drove out to the beach to visit Grandpa Nat and Grandma Sylvia, who gave me my birthday money, most of which I spent at Kings Plaza immediately afterwards.