A 21-Year-Old’s Diary Entries For Early June, 1972

by Richard Grayson

Thursday, June 1, 1972

It’s a bit after midnight. I just got in a little while ago from a date with Avis. We had a nice time, I guess, but I’ve decided that I cannot really afford to get any more emotionally involved with her.

I really think that I could fall in love with her, but she has never given me any encouragement in that direction. We went to the movies, to see Fritz the Cat, that X-rated cartoon – which was a trip, although it dragged a lot toward the end.

Beforehand, we got stoned, and so we giggled and laughed over stupid things in the movie. There was a hysterical second feature, a film of a gay bar act with hilarious skits and female impersonators.

Afterwards, we got a bite to eat and went for a drive along the beach. But Avis said things like “Scott must be sleeping now in England”; she’s already written him twice. And when I went to kiss her good night, she turned her head slightly so I’d get her cheek.

It’s just that I have to avoid falling into the trap of thinking she’s a girlfriend; following the movie, when we ran into Gary and Robert, I felt proud to be seen with Avis. In any case, she’s going up to Boston this weekend for her sister’s graduation from Emerson.

It was an incredibly humid day, and my sinuses ached a lot. On campus late this morning, I went down to the Kingsman office, and along with Maddy, Karen, Hank and Elijah, I looked at this year’s Broeklundian yearbook.

Upstairs, I met Allan and went with him to Barron’s to buy a book; he’s looking for a job as a clerk or typist. I went into see Sam Sherman, who said nothing has come in from the Honest Ballot Association. “Tomorrow, definitely!” Sam said.

Around 5 PM, I took a drive to Mikey’s house at the beach. Mikey said that the Jewish Defense League has hired a lawyer to contest the student government election in court, if necessary. Considering that JDL was probably in charge of stealing the ballots, that sounds pretty strange.

I called Alice to wish her goodbye, but she postponed her departure for Tel Aviv until Monday night to spend one more weekend with Andreas.

Sunday, June 4, 1972

A fine birthday, probably the nicest one I’ve had. A swift, heavy thunderstorm has just ended and the air is full of ozone and the sky is turning a reddish violet.

I woke up this morning when I felt another presence in the room. It was Dad, who left two envelopes on my desk. I opened them after he left. The first was a birthday card from him and Mom.

The second was a letter, in which had four $10 bills enclosed. The letter, however, was precious. Dad wrote, “What I am really enclosing is something I hope you feel – which I sometimes have trouble giving – and that’s my deep love and affection for you.”

How beautiful. I kissed Dad for that. And Marc and Jonny got together and gave me $21 and a cute card.

Allan called. He’d been over last night with his friends Josh and Artie while I was out. Allan’s phone call was to make arrangements for today’s softball game.

I picked up Bobby at his house. But I had to wait for him down an awful-looking breakfast drink he made in the blender, the kind of thing bodybuilders think they need to build bigger muscles, though Bobby already has the biggest muscles of anyone I know.

Bobby and I went over to Mikey’s. Upstairs, Mikey gave me my present: a Chinese cricket cage. Allan arrived from Brooklyn with Mike, Josh and Artie – who gave me and Allan (whose birthday is also today, though he’s only 20) a grab bag of kazoos, whistles, waterguns, etc.

When Leon came with Robert and Anson, he brought me a book: the Marquis de Sade’s Philosophy in the Bedroom. We all went out, in four cars, through Rockaway to the field in a Hewlett private school, where Paul’s brother-in-law Billy works and lives.

We chose up sides and played ball. It was a very good game, and although I’m not very good – I struck out three times and walked twice – I played catcher and enjoyed myself immensely.

Our team of me, Mike, Mikey, Allan, Mason, Billy and his friends beat the other team of Leon, Paul, Steve, Anson, Robert, Bobby, Artie, Josh, Barry and Casey (who’s home after law school finals) by 13-9 after a strong eighth-inning rally.

I took Mason home to Beach 126th Street – he, Barry and Richie will be leaving soon for Canada – then sweltered in the beach traffic.

Tonight I got birthday congratulations from Grandpa Herb and from Gary, after he’d gotten back from his weekend Guard duty at Fort Dix. With one breath, I blew out the 21 candles on the cake Mom bought.

Well, I’ve reached my majority. There were times when I never thought I’d make it.

Tuesday, June 6, 1972

Sometimes things happen so fast I wish I had time to catch my breath.

It was a cool, cloudy day: not too hot or too humid. I arrived on campus this morning to find the talk in LaGuardia again centered on politics. Elspeth came in with a red-white-and-blue Larry Simon for Congress umbrella.

I see that man’s face everywhere: on buses, posters, in newspapers. But despite the lavish expenses and the work of Jerry, Shelli, Don, Marty, et al., I hear the campaign is floundering.

Late tonight come the big results from the California primary, which could give the whole show to McGovern.

While I walked with Mike to move his car, I showed him the birthday card I got from Avis, in which she wrote: “Now that you’re well into your third decade, all I can say is: Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be sweet. Let’s make this a sinful year for the two of us. – Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense.”

Mike termed it “a proposition if I’ve ever heard one.” I suppose it was sort of saying she wants me to sleep with her. I’ve wanted her for so long and so futilely that I find it hard to believe, though.

And about being “too sweet”: Mike said that my problem is that I can’t say “fuck it” to some people, and that’s why I get hurt too easily.

Mike is a person with his own view of morality. He detests, for example, people like Stacy or Scott, who believe in “fucking for fucking’s sake.” Still, with all his accomplishments, Mike could sigh and say, “My life is a failure” as he walked me to class.

In Drama, we had a great discussion on A Doll’s House; at one point, Prof. Galin remarked that “you have to learn to be alone before you can be with people.”

Coming toward LaGuardia, I saw Leon sitting on the steps with Greg, who looks more dissipated and slimy than ever. Greg was telling Leon about Madison. Leon’s got to make his mind up about whether to go to grad school in September there or at Chicago.

I went to lunch with Elayne and Elspeth, and coming out of Campus Corner, I spotted Avis walking a stroller with the baby she’s been “sitting on,” as she puts it. She showed me a letter Scott wrote to both of us; he’s doing fine but is a bit lonely and scared. (Tonight I wrote him back.)

Avis and I took the baby to the playground, where we played on the swings and watched him pull leaves and we hugged him and talked. There was a moment when the baby walked away and Avis turned to me and I looked at her directly and things suddenly got so weird and heavy, I had to turn away.

After I told Avis I’d call her, I drove downtown to Dr. Wouk’s, where I got a mild jolt. My shrink announced that he’s leaving New York City and his practice for good, in two weeks.

Dr. Wouk thinks I should continue with therapy and will refer me to somebody else. But now, after three years, how am I going to relate to someone else? Dr. Wouk has been a constant in my life, and soon he’ll be gone.

Thursday, June 8, 1972

I lay in bed, thinking, until the early morning. I decided that I’m not going to call Avis for a while. I can’t keep on an emotional merry-go-round with uncertainty as to our relationship.

I really should, I suppose, sit down and talk things out with her, but in any case, in two weeks she’ll be leaving for that camp where she’ll be working as a counselor.

More and more I realize how much Avis has come to mean to me. I picture her in my mind – long, silky black hair, that long face with a Roman nose, her smile, that cute blue cardigan sweater she wears, her funny way of saying “I dunno” – all the time.

But it’s hopeless and I’ve got to put my mind on other things. Along with Avis going away, and Mason and Barry going to British Columbia – how far away and romantic that sounds – and all my friends going to Europe or grad school, it seems everyone is leaving me. Including my shrink.

Dr. Wouk’s forthcoming departure is bothering me a lot. I’m trying to avoid thinking about seeing a new shrink.

In school this morning, I told Mike and Mikey about seeing Oh, Calcutta! with Avis last night. They’re both under the impression that Avis and I are having an affair. Speaking of affairs, Allan’s parents are going on vacation, and Stacy’s moving in with him while they’ll be away.

Skip came by, talking some nonsense about Warhol and hanging up posters for a “Gay Dance for McGovern.” Mikey told us he’d had a chance to go to a McGovern press conference, but he “couldn’t hack it.”

Mike told me he thinks Mikey doesn’t seem to care about winning his delegate race. The three of us walked over to the McGovern headquarters on Flatbush Avenue. The place is a mess, but a lot of people, including Brian, are working there.

I saw Ronna briefly. She’s going away with Susan and Felicia to Nova Scotia. Ira hobbled by on his cane. The stitches came out, and he’ll be able to go to Europe, as planned, with Buddy and Craig.

In Drama today, we went over The Seagull by Chekhov. Prof. Galin remarked that no one ever achieves their goals; it’s the journey, not the destination, that’s important. The “changes” all around us are an illusion, he said, and no one has free will.

I got stuff to eat with Steve Katz and his friend Kurt, who’s 26 and finally trying to graduate after years of working, bumming around and being hospitalized for LSD psychosis. Steve had to make a movie in lieu of a paper for his Comp Lit course, and so a bunch of us – foolishly, it turned out – agreed to be in it.

Gary and I drove to the school in Hewlett, which Steve picked as a location for its Tudor architecture, and there we met the rest of the cast.

Steve rather ineptly directed this film of a Machiavelli story set in Renaissance Italy. Casey and his girlfriend played my parents, Kurt a friend, Gary a bailiff, and Timmy a servant.

The whole thing took a long time to film, and by the time Gary, Kurt, Timmy and I got back to Brooklyn, it was past 8 PM and we were all starving. What a way to start the weekend.