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

by Richard Grayson

Tuesday, June 13, 1972

I got the car back tonight, and after dinner, I test-drove it out to Rockaway, parking on the first street in Neponsit you can legally park on, and then going for a walk on the beach.

I guess I’m taking a leaf out of Mikey’s book; he often takes long walks along the beach at the end of the day. It’s a good place to think, especially when the sun is setting. The water seems to make things clear.

Tonight it was really beautiful and I was alone, except for two dogs frolicking in the water. Walking past Ivan’s block, I was kind of hoping to see him.

But if I had, would I have gone over to talk with him? I think not. Avis said Shelli told her, referring to me, “How can you just have no contact with someone you were so close to?”

Avis answered, quite rightly, “That’s the way life goes.”

Yesterday I was pretty silent around Shelli and instead she mostly directed her remarks to everyone who was with me, namely Mike and Mikey. That’s how I found out the registrar told her she can’t return in the fall because she took two leaves of absence the past two semesters.

On the beach, I thought a lot about what Dr. Wouk talked about in our next-to-last session this afternoon. He thinks a lot of what Elspeth and Avis and even Elayne said about Shelli still thinking about me is bullshit, that they are probably all jealous of Shelli being married.

Perhaps I’d hoped they were right because for Shelli to think about me is so ego-gratifying. I’d like to believe no one could ever forget me. But in reality, Shelli’s probably far too busy to give me more than a passing thought, and that’s how it should be.

Dr. Wouk again said it’s high time I had another girlfriend. I agree, but it’s not easy to find the right person. He asked one thing of me: that I invite him to my wedding.

From what I hear from my parents about his coming to the hotel this weekend – when Dr. Wouk ate two main courses courtesy of the management (his wife’s first patient was their hotel manager, Harris Nussbaum) – he’s probably looking forward most to the food that will be served at my wedding.

(Also at the hotel this past weekend was Assemblyman Larry Simon, who campaigned poolside with his advance man Jerry in tow.)

The uppermost thing in my mind right now is my trip to Miami for the Democratic convention. I’m apprehensive about it, but it’s something I really want to do: be a part of history and politics and life – and it may be the best play of the year, so to speak.

In Drama this morning, we had a fantastic discussion on Strindberg’s The Father and the power women have over men. After class, I saw Mark, who was on campus to try to get subscriptions for Brooklyn Today. He showed me the new edition, with five articles written by Mark.

I had him put me down for a Brooklyn Today subscription. Mark is a fine, gentle person, even if I don’t agree with his married lifestyle.

Mark was so proud when he told me that Consuelo was three months pregnant, I didn’t have the heart to tell him I already knew, so I pretended to be surprised and delighted.

Steve Katz said the film turned out very well as far as he can see. I declined an invitation to join a camping trip to Split Rock with him and his girlfriend, Leon and Skip, Elspeth and Jessie, Allan and Josh: what a weird assortment of people.

Wednesday, June 14, 1972

This morning I took the car to school. Mike, Mikey and I went to Campus Corner for coffee (them) and rose hips tea (me). We bullshitted, as we always do. We joke and kid and help each other.

It’s strange how you become close with people, but it’s a good feeling: to know that there are people you can talk with about anything. Slade once wrote in a column: “Friends slow down hell.” They certainly do that for me.

We had another good discussion in Drama, this time on Synge’s Riders to the Sea, a play I find primeval and comforting. After class, Prof. Galin told me I’ve been really helping him out with my comments, and I felt very flattered.

I found Leon in front of LaGuardia and gave him his birthday presents: the Fletcher and Zenobia children’s book Alice got me (a different copy, of course) and an autographed photo of former Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton.

Sitting with Leon and Skip and John, I enjoyed their chatter. I think Leon’s getting into the gay bag, as Skip keeps proselytizing for homosexuality. But I did hear Leon tell Skip not to bring acid along on the camping trip; Leon’s not tripping anymore after a bad experience.

I went to lunch with Elayne, a congenial meal partner, and Allan, who doesn’t like his summer typing job and who’s looking for another one. At least Allan isn’t angry with me anymore. I didn’t ask him about Stacy but did mention that I was spending the afternoon with Avis, who arrived almost on cue.

Avis and I stopped off at her apartment to pick up her shorts, and back at my house, we went out by the pool. It was cool, so we just sunned ourselves, although we had some fun splashing each other.

Avis looked so sexy and gorgeous by the pool. She never wears a bra and has such great tits (“supple” was what Scott called them) and her legs were milky-pale and too cute.

I was getting this really bad case of horniness, but when we went upstairs to watch soap operas, I chickened out. We talked all around the subject but I couldn’t find the words to ask her to sleep with me.

But as I took her home, I had the feeling she understands and that one day we might really be lovers. Oh God, I hope so.

Alice sent a postcard from England en route to Israel. London, Alice writes, will never make her “top ten list” – with “gloppy weather, uninteresting food and a sixth-floor walkup shared with two 80-year-olds and an Irish girl who doesn’t speak much and looks at me funny, though so far she’s kept her distance.”

I went over to McGovern HQ in Canarsie and worked writing down phone numbers of people who were canvassed and said they favored McGovern, so we can call them up on Primary Day.

Saturday, June 17, 1972

It’s only 4 PM, but today has been such an incredible day; so many things have happened.

At about 3 AM last night, I was awakened by a raging electrical storm. It was thundering so loudly and lightning struck every couple of seconds and the rain was coming down very heavily.

I’d never seen anything like it, and I was frightened. I called out tentatively to Marc, and he said he was awake, too. I went into his room to sleep, and on the way I flicked on the light switch and nothing happened. We had a blackout for a couple of hours, and I finally got some sleep.

This morning, after breakfast and cleanup, I thought I’d relax and take a drive to Manhattan. While paying the toll for the tunnel, I realized I’d left almost all my money at home. Then I made an even bigger mistake: I got on the West Side Highway.

It was jammed with bumper-to-bumper traffic, caused, I finally discovered, from flooding from last night’s storm. It took me an hour to get to 23rd Street and another hour of frustrating traffic to get back home, where I tried to relax my knotted stomach.

After lunch, I decided I’d do some schoolwork in the backyard. It was hot and humid, although the sun only periodically shone through the clouds.

I was sitting in the redwood chair, when I wanted to get more sun and so moved the chair back while still sitting on it. I felt one leg of the chair drop into the pool, I lost my balance, and the chair hit me in the head as I toppled backwards into the pool.

I can’t remember it quite clearly because I was dazed, kind of like getting punched out: there was a rush of blue, ice-cold water enveloping the universe. I remember thinking, “This is it; you’re going to die”; my glasses fell off; and I fought unconsciousness to upright myself so that I finally got to breathe.

I remember yelling for Marc. He came out and took me out of the water and went in the pool to retrieve my glasses. I was so weird, laughing and crying at the same time. We finally got out the heavy redwood chair from the pool and put it back, soaked, on the deck.

I now have a huge, badly-bruised long scrape on my thigh, but I’m okay otherwise. When I called Mom at the hotel, she told me that they’re coming home early tomorrow to go to a funeral. Dad’s cousin Richard, 31, died yesterday. Apparently it was a suicide, and Mom and Dad are keeping it from Grandma Sylvia and Grandpa Nat.

Sunday, June 18, 1972

It’s Sunday night and I’m in moderate pain. I imagine that I strained my leg muscles and I’m bruised and cut.

But the thing I find most extraordinary is the realization that I could have died quite easily yesterday: all that needed to happen was for the chair to hit me with enough force to knock me out.

What an absurd way to die: to drown in four feet of water, all while trying to read The Iceman Cometh. Yet it could have happened.

Last evening Avis picked me up – she declined my offer to show her the long scraped bruise on my thigh – and we went to Kings Highway, to a very crowded showing of Cabaret at the Avalon. We really enjoyed seeing it the second time around.

Afterwards, Avis took me home, where she made us egg sandwiches and we talked about this and that. She’s not too thrilled about going to camp and says she wishes I were coming along.

And I wish she wasn’t going; I’ll miss these nights and days we spend together. She was tired and my leg was hurting, so she left early, around 12:30 AM. At this point in my life, Avis is the person in the world to whom I feel closest.

This morning I went out to Rockaway, to Mikey’s house. We tried canvassing in Belle Harbor, but it started raining heavily so we decided to drop in at the McGov HQ in Far Rock.

We got soaked on the way over, and once there, Mikey had to make some phone calls and I was put to work folding leaflets. I spoke to Casey, who’s coming to the headquarters to work tonight, and I spotted a list of volunteers that included the names of Ivan and his girlfriend Vicky.

You know, the delegate slates are listed everywhere – on leaflets, posters, in the newspapers – but it certainly doesn’t go to Mikey’s head. He’s still his ordinary down-to-earth self, the nice guy I met in freshman English back in September 1969.

We made a couple of stops through Rockaway, then returned to Belle Harbor, where we sat on the porch and talked with Mikey’s mother, who’s a very friendly woman.

Mike came over, and Mikey’s mother made Mike’s favorite, hot dogs, for supper for the four of us. We spent the rest of the rainy, lazy Sunday in Mikey’s room, bullshitting about politics, school and girls.

Mike and I left at 6 PM when Paul came by to go leafleting with Mikey.

Back home I found that Mom and Dad, Aunt Sydelle and Monty had come home from the funeral. (Grandma Sylvia still hasn’t been told). Later, Grandpa Herb and Grandma Ethel brought Jonny home from the hotel.