A 21-Year-Old’s Diary Entries For Late June, 1972
by Richard Grayson
Tuesday, June 20, 1972
It’s nearly midnight and I’m feeling buoyant after watching the primary returns. Earlier this evening, I had driven out to Rockaway in a terrible fog to the school in Belle Harbor where Mikey and Casey were poll-watching, and the three of us started thinking aloud how great it would be to go to Miami for the convention.
Well, it looks now that we’re going to just that. There were long lines in Rockaway. I watched Paul vote – seeing his tanned bare legs at the bottom of the voting machine, anyway – and Mikey gave me a “hello” from Ivan, who’d voted earlier in the day.
The fog was getting worse as it got dark, so I left for Brooklyn to watch the results on TV, stopping at the HQ in Canarsie, where they said all our six delegates seemed to be comfortably ahead of party boss Meade Esposito’s regular slate (also committed to McGovern now).
Just now, McGovern was on TV, claiming an enormous victory – and for the first time I’m almost beginning to believe that we can turn this country around.
The Congressional races were interesting: Liz Holtzman and Celler in the 10th C.D., and Al Lowenstein and Rooney in the 14th C.D., are locked in tight races; dependable Bill Ryan beat fiery Bella Abzug in the district in Manhattan where they were thrown together; and in the 13th C.D., Podell trounced Larry Simon two to one. (I can’t help smirking over that last race; Jerry will not be becoming a congressional aide after all.)
As usual, I had breakfast this morning with Mikey and Mike; the latter was still feeling the effects of the 25 mg. of Valium and two shots of whiskey he’d had last night.
In class today, we had a good discussion of the O’Neill play, and afterwards I went to lunch with Elayne and Kurt. Although Kurt is 26, I think of him as younger than me because he acts so immature, always seeking approval and attention.
“Slade’s back in the Big Apple,” Elayne reported. I wonder why he didn’t stay in Denver.
This afternoon, I cast my vote at the American Legion Hall on Avenue N without any hassle and then drove downtown for my last session with Dr. Wouk. I have an appointment with his wife next week – she was able to fit me in on her one day in the city when she comes down to see her own patients – so I guess things won’t be totally different.
Besides, as Dr. Wouk said, change is good – and the only thing irreversible is death. You can replace possessions and people, even a wife or a shrink, but as long as you survive, there’s still hope.
Dr. Wouk and I talked about the maturity I’ve gained in these past couple of years, and as our final session ended, I gave him a warm handshake and said goodbye.
Feeling sad, I left his building at Concord Village and walked down Jay Street to my car. I didn’t look back because I have expectations of exciting adventures ahead of me.
Wednesday, June 21, 1972
Today was the first day of summer, although it didn’t feel like it; it rained off and on all day.
Now that the primary is over, and going down to Miami is a reality, I find myself both excitedly anticipating the Democratic convention and at the same time, a little scared and worried about handling the trip.
In a lot of ways I’m still very agoraphobic, and in a sense, this trip will be the first time I’ll be on my own, without family, away from home. But I suppose I’ll do all right and cope with everything.
I’ve grown up a lot – but have I grown up enough?
This morning at school, I spoke with Gary, who’d been with Liz Holtzman at her campaign headquarters last night. Gary said her victory even seemed to surprise the candidate, who didn’t expect to topple the dean of the House, Celler.
Cutting class, I went to Holtzman HQ on Flatbush Avenue, where congratulatory calls were coming in – including one from Gloria Steinem while we were there. Down the block, Celler HQ was deserted and depressing, with pizza-stained leaflets strewn all around.
But I was happiest for Mikey. When I called him, he was as unperturbed as ever – even though he’d just gotten a call from CBS News. Mikey deserved to win and he’ll make a great delegate; in many election districts, he led the slate.
I had lunch by myself and then went with this real pretty black girl Yolanda, a friend of Melvin and Leroy, to their hearing in SUBO before the Disciplinary Committee. The committee, now headed by Kevin Evans (Mike is still on it) started off with the case in which John Scacalossi, head of security, charged Melvin and Leroy with trespassing when they allegedly broke into a temporary at night.
They were quite nervous, especially Melvin, and so were their friends – me, Yolanda, Costas, Karen – who were there rooting for them. A couple of Wackenhut guards testified, and then Melvin and Leroy gave a story about trying to retrieve a frisbee.
The second case was patently ridiculous: Melvin was accused of opening 160 LaGuardia at night – but it provided a lot of laughs, especially from the testimony of an ancient black security guard who both joked around and was unintentionally funny.
When the committee adjourned without reaching a decision, I left for home.
Avis called tonight and we agreed to do something together tomorrow night. She told me Shelli is upset over Larry Simon’s defeat and that Jerry was physically ill, with a cold verging on pneumonia.
Friday, June 23, 1972
It’s a bit past 1 AM on a chilly, rainy night – and a very nice one, too. I picked up Avis at her place at about 7 PM, just after she’d gotten in from her session with the shrink.
As we drove in the rain to Kings Plaza, she started to tell me Shelli’s version of the incident with Elspeth at Simon HQ on election night – Elspeth had said how obnoxious Jerry was to everyone and how Shelli’s bitchiness extended even to Estelle, whom we all consider a saint – but I stopped her, telling Avis quietly that I didn’t want to hear it any more than I did Elspeth’s version.
We went to the mall theater to see Alfred Hitchcock’s new picture Frenzy, another of his great suspense things, this time about a London necktie-murderer.
Both Avis and I liked the film a lot. There was a big line for the next show, and near the front of it, we saw Ivan and a girl.
We said hello, shook hands, and Ivan introduced us to Vicky, whom I suppose could be best described as “perky.” We started talking about old times; Ivan expressed his amused surprise about Shelli – he’d learned about the wedding from her sister – and he asked about Scott. I (stupidly?) told him how Ronna was doing.
So much has changed, and it all wasn’t that long ago, either. Vicky was getting impatient, not knowing the people we were talking about, and tugged at Ivan’s sleeve as he left us. But he did say to stop by his house this summer, either before he leaves for camp or after he comes back.
Avis and I came back to my house, but for the first weekend in a long time, Mom and Dad didn’t go away and were padding about, so we went out for pizza on Avenue T.
We started talking about so many things and continued the discussion in her kitchen as we drank jasmine tea. Now that I know we’re platonic, I’m glad to have Avis for a friend.
She told me that Scott had done terrible, humiliating things to her, but she is still so hung up on him that she can’t get involved with anybody yet. She doesn’t think she’s changed after two years of therapy. A big problem for her is expressing emotions.
We agreed that Jerry was a bad person and Ira a very good one, and we spoke about a lot of things until I left very late to let Avis get some sleep. I’m going to miss her a lot.
Today itself was yet another miserable rainy day. Elspeth told the story about primary night at Simon HQ, and while the others were amused by the gossip, I couldn’t really stand to hear the gossip except that it confirmed what worthless people I think Shelli and Jerry are.
In class, we had a spirited discussion on Death of a Salesman. Prof. Galin partly agreed with me that the play was flat, clichéd, manipulative and so schematic that it could have been punched out by a computer.
Monday, June 26, 1972
How am I doing? I’m not sure. Psychologically, I’ve been holding my own. Physically, I’ve caught a rather nasty cold (from Jonny – or from my neurosis?).
Anyway, I felt slightly rotten today, which was – needless to say – another rainy, cloudy mess. Isn’t it about time we had summer already?
I spoke to Gary last night. He’d spent the weekend at his cousin’s estate in Great Neck. It’s funny: when I’m depressed I always seem to turn to solid, dependable Gary, but at other times I treat him cavalierly because he bores me.
Early today I got a call from Avis, who wasn’t feeling well; her neck was stiff and she’d had a bad reaction to the pill, so could I come up to her apartment instead of meeting her at school? Sure, I said.
On campus, Steve Katz showed us the movie he’d made. It really came out well and I enjoyed it, although I wince when I see myself on the screen. He’d showed it to Prof. Giuriceo and she’d given him an A- for it. Thus, Steve has finally graduated and he wants to drop the math courses he’s taking now since he doesn’t need them anymore.
I walked to Flatbush Avenue with Meyer, this radical fat Poli Sci lecturer who’s been hanging around lately. He introduced me to Liz Holtzman at her campaign HQ, which is still open despite her being a sure thing to get elected to Congress in November.
She was suffering with a bad cold, so I gave her some rose hips tea, which she accepted graciously. By the end of our conversation, Liz was calling me “Richie.” I said I’d see her at the convention in Miami.
The final count shows McGovern delegates pretty much swept the city and state, except for Shirley Chisholm’s district in Bed-Stuy where her own delegates won.
Before class, I saw Stacy, who asked for my address so she could write me while she and her sister were in Greece. What a strange lady! I also ran into the humorist Sam Levenson, who was on his way to the Xerox room.
In class, we did A Streetcar Named Desire; I have this fantasy of being earthy, sensual and crude like Stanley Kowalski.
Renee told me that she’d been to a wedding on Sunday: Alice’s old boyfriend Howie married this very nice girl whom he’d known for a long time. Howie, Renee reported, says he’s grown up and changed a lot since he went with Alice.
I’m sure he has, and I wish him the best of luck. As I wrote Alice in Tel Aviv today, now she and I have something else in common: our first loves are married off.
Elspeth said that Stanley had heard from Jay: because Jay and Arthur couldn’t find work in British Columbia, they’re now on their way to Alaska.
After having lunch with Steve and Kurt, I went to Avis’s place, where she was in severe pain from a stiff neck. She was sitting lopsided and so pathetically cute.
Avis refused to let me crack her neck, but I massaged it and got pretty horny doing it. We sat on the floor talking until finally we decided to go out to the Junction. Because she couldn’t comb her own hair, I took a brush and did it, smoothly going over her long, silky-black hair.
We browsed in card stores and bookstores and pet stores and Avis treated me to a soda. Back at her apartment, we went to her bedroom and talked. She leaves tomorrow for the camp in Milford, Pennsylvania.
I told her to have a nice summer as I kissed her goodbye. But I wish Avis were not going away.
Thursday, June 29, 1972
I was extremely horny all last night and even dreamed that I slept with, of all people, Elspeth. This morning, on my way, to school, I decided to buy a birthday card for Debbie. She’ll be 18 tomorrow and I was hoping to get in touch with her again.
While mailing the card, I ran into Yolanda, and we went together to LaGuardia to try to find out how Melvin and Leroy made out with the Disciplinary Committee. But Mike couldn’t say anything until the letter reaches them.
So Yolanda and I went to Boylan, where she went through the arduous process of dropping a course: first to the English Department, and then Counseling.
Yolanda is the first black girl that I’ve been so sexually attracted to. Today she wasn’t wearing a bra. She has these beautiful, lusciously round breasts, and she’s got such a pretty face.
Prof. Galin asked us to hold class without him, but mostly what we did was gather in small groups and rap about other things besides Waiting for Godot. On my way out of “class,” I met Stanley, who’s still unsure if he’ll return to college in the fall.
Robert told me he was sorry I couldn’t make it to Hamlet last night in Central Park. He liked it and said the performances by Stacy Keach, Colleen Dewhurst and James Earl Jones were wonderful.
I had lunch in Sugar Bowl with Yolanda, Kurt and Timmy. Timmy wants me to take over his process-serving job for the rest of the summer, as he and Melvin are going to Greece. The pay’s good – $50 a week – but it’s kind of risky, going to those bad neighborhoods.
Taking Yolanda to the mall, I learned she’s 18, from Panama, is a sophomore and lives in Rosedale. Then Timmy accompanied me as I drove to downtown Brooklyn, with us stopping on the way to pick up Cynthia and drop her off at Tilden to get something.
I arrived at Dr. Rochelle Wouk’s new rented office on the corner of Remsen and Henry Streets. For some reason, she was standing outside the building; she told me to come in. At first it was strange, and I did feel uncomfortable, but the hour flew by so quickly as I discussed my anxieties about the trip to Miami.
Like her husband, she also talks about “looking at reality” and was warmly sympathetic, giving me good suggestions to control my anxiety. Rochelle asked me to try to remember my dreams, and I said I’d see her next week.
I trust her already and can talk to her, so I think we’ll have a good relationship. After shopping and browsing in all the cool stores around the corner on Montague Street, I came home for supper.
Tonight at Kings Plaza, I met Sharon at work at the jewelry counter at Macy’s. Kjell will return from Reserve training this weekend. I was happy to hear that Kjell’s mother, whom I voted for, was indeed elected County Committeewoman. Sharon said she and Kjell like their new apartment in Mill Basin.
It looks like Miami may be more exciting than we figured. When the convention’s credentials committee – stupidly, I think – stripped McGovern of half his California delegates, saying that the winner-take-all primary violated the new guidelines, it also took away McGov’s chances for a first ballot nomination.
Anything could happen now – and a big party split between the old-timers and the McGovern forces is emerging.
Speaking of Florida, Allan told me his parents are moving to Tampa in August and he may have to go with them – unless maybe he can find a good job and share an apartment with Josh.
Tomorrow, to correct a discrepancy in timekeeping, one extra second will be added to the day, making tomorrow the longest day in history as well as the mid-point of 1972.