A 21-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Late July, 1972

by Richard Grayson

Friday, July 21, 1972

Yesterday, knowing what a rough week this would be, Rochelle Wouk said, “I won’t say have a nice week, but have a tolerable week.”

At 6 PM today, as I write this, I’m not sure today has been tolerable – or maybe just barely. I’m in sort of a blue funk, the first real depression I’ve been in since Miami.

A week ago at this time, I was a thousand miles away from home with a flat tire and the prospects of a long, hard trip home. Yet at least there was something to look forward to. Right now, I’m just looking back, and looking at my friends’ progress, and I feel stagnant.

Of course there’s my night with Debbie tonight – but I know nothing will come of it, and I’m not sure I’d even want anything to come of it at this point.

I spoke to Allan last night; he was rather cool and distant. Poor Allan is up in the air about staying in New York or moving to Florida with his parents.

I had a very restless night – I tossed and turned and had diarrhea – and woke up feeling very lethargic. So many little things are getting me down.

I got a letter from Avis, who’s so happy and in love (or at least something) with this British chap, Seymour, at camp. They’re coming to New York next week on their day off and staying at her sister’s new apartment in Morningside Heights.

Avis writes that she’ll try to call me on Wednesday: “I miss seeing you so much. I’ve so much to tell you about my life and friends here.” She loves hearing from Scott and hopes that things between them will change in the fall.

“But I’ve changed,” Avis writes. “I don’t want to come back and be the way I was in June.” Finally, she mentions running into Ivan and Vicky last weekend in Monticello: “He was gracious, as usual.”

Gary came over today and we spent the warm, hazy afternoon out by the pool, splashing with Jonny, reading, sunning. It really wasn’t such a bad time; Gary was pleasant company despite his being so disappointed about his trip to Europe not coming off.

But Robert couldn’t help backing out when his sister is so sick. Gary saw Gail yesterday, and the chemotherapy is having a lot of side effects.

I’m going to have some people over to the pool on Sunday: Mark and Consuelo, Mikey, Mike and Riesa, and hopefully Debbie and maybe some other people.

Well, I guess I’ll go downstairs and have the chicken dinner that Grandma Ethel spent all day preparing. There’s a nice thunderstorm outside now.

I guess I shall endure. I always do, don’t I?

Tuesday, July 25, 1972

I awoke early this morning from an incredible dream, now mostly forgotten, about being in prison. As soon as Maud came in, I took the car and drove off into the city, parking on Eighth Street in the Village.

The Village seems a seedier and less joyous place than it was when I discovered it three years ago. There were kids in the fountain in Washington Square, but the people around seemed detached and hostile; perhaps they’re frightened.

I spotted this kid, a boy of around 16 or 17, bare-chested, with a beautifully muscular body and long, wavy brown hair. I couldn’t help staring at him with a mixture of envy and lust. I couldn’t keep my eyes off him – just like Death in Venice.

It upset me a little. I must discuss it with Rochelle Wouk.

In Marboro Books, I bought two Vonnegut novels, reduced to a dollar each. Then I walked through Azuma and the Postermat and hung around the Electric Circus, but it all seemed so seedy today.

Before going back to Brooklyn, I drove by Madison Square Garden: cops were everywhere, ready for the Stones’ concert tonight. I’m not sure what they’re expecting.

I went to the college, and lonely for company, I offered to buy Pablo lunch – and surprisingly, he accepted. Pablo is into so many things, all of them half-assed if you ask me.

He wanted to know if I’d be a delegate to the NSA’s National Student Congress, to be held in Washington next month. I said yes because I’d love to spend a week in the capital, but I don’t think this will come off.

I have the feeling Pablo has a big crush on Skip; he keeps talking about him and said I was lucky to spend a week “with” Skip in Miami. In any case, I think Pablo is very immature, but then he’s only going to be a sophomore during the year he’s student government President.

While we were in SG office – now decorated with lots of revolutionary posters featuring Che Guevara, etc. – Archie came in and asked me if I, as the Elections Commissioner, would file a complaint against all those students who voted twice.

After I politely told him I wouldn’t it, he said, “Think about it.” I don’t know how much more pressure I’ll get from the deans, but I’m certainly not going to do it since some of the students on the list were my friends from various political parties, including Debbie, Mike, Buddy, Maddy and Ira.

When I got home, Maud said that Gary and Kurt were over while I was out and they wanted me to join them at the beach and then a movie tonight.

Wednesday, July 26, 1972

Today was an incredible trip. This morning, on campus early, I spoke with Kurt and Teresa, who’s back from a cross-country trip with some guy. Maddy said I could write up the story of the Miami convention for Kingsman.

I spoke to Ronna and Sid, who were coming out of Prof. Collins’ first Classics class as I was going into his second one in the same room. Collins seems okay, and I guess I’ll keep the course; I already had to read a bunch of The Iliad for tomorrow.

It was nice seeing people I hadn’t seen in some time, like freaky Saul, back from the Catskills, and Dr. Stone. I guess it says good things about me that my ex-girlfriend’s former boyfriend and shrink both seem to like me a lot.

Linda and Harvey got back from Europe last week, and I gave her a hello kiss. Alice will be back from her trip in two weeks, and more people will be home soon.

Linda and I had lunch with Susan, who’d taken a day off from her job as a counselor at Brooklyn Day Camp in Broad Channel. We sat in Campus Corner for an hour, talking travel (Linda said Europe is supposed to be so beautiful “but upstate New York is as nice as the countryside in Switzerland”) and poetry and shit. It was a really nice conversation.

When I returned to LaGuardia, Vito told me that Avis had been there with Seymour. I called her house; she was in and said to come over. Avis’s parents were home and everyone was eating bagels and lox.

Avis looked more beautiful and happier than I’d ever seen her. She introduced me to Seymour, who’s a nice-looking, gentle-seeming, very British guy. He was an economics major, and we talked about the impending general strike and whether it will bring down the Tory government.

Avis seems so buoyantly happy. After we left the apartment, out of her parents’ earshot, she told me that they’d spent the night at her sister and Ed’s new place in Morningside Heights.

As we parted, Avis gave me a kiss on the cheek and told me to come up to the country to visit her. I’m so happy she found someone, even if it’s only for a summer romance.

Gary and I went to Kings Plaza. On Friday he’ll be leaving for summer camp himself. Gary can be dull, but he’s a good friend.

After dinner at home, Marc and I drove into the city to see if we could find any scalpers selling tickets to tonight’s Stones concert. About two thousand other people had the same idea, and there were freaks and kids everywhere, asking, “You got a ticket?”

Rumor had them going to for $100 apiece, but we couldn’t find one even if we’d been willing to pay that much. When we got home, Elspeth called. She actually had gotten into the Garden for last night’s show with tickets she got through the computer.

I’m concerned with how strange Elspeth sounded, and she said she’s been taking a lot of Quaaludes lately. Of course, she’s just ripe for that sort of thing, but I don’t want to see her go under.

Jonny had a message from when we were out: Scott called and he’s home from Europe! What a day. Things are really jumping.

Friday, July 28, 1972

My world has quieted down a bit; the past couple of days have been hectic, a merry-go-round of faces. I love that, of course, but I also need time to think and reflect.

I haven’t even written about the news story that everyone’s been talking about all week. On Tuesday, Sen. Eagleton announced that he had had shock treatments and psychiatric care three times in the 60s.

Apparently he said this just before the press was going to break the story. McGovern stood by him, although it came out that when he was picked for the ticket, Eagleton told McGov that he had no health problems.

This omission of fact, if you will, combined with the American public’s fear of any kind of mental illness, has led to people – Matty Troy, the Times and the Post, for example – asking for Eagleton’s withdrawal as V.P. candidate. Right now, it’s all up in the air.

Mike reported that Mikey said, “I ain’t going back to Miami for nothing!”

This morning, Classics was good; I’m really into The Iliad and dig Prof. Collins. After class, I hung around with Elspeth and Teresa. Elspeth is going to night school in the fall – a decision, I later learned from Elayne, forced upon Elspeth by the college, because of her low grades and dropped courses.

Elspeth is also looking for an apartment with Teresa. Curiously, despite her Quaalude use, I’ve never seen Elspeth looking better: she’s lost weight, dresses better, and seems prettier.

After the girls left for work, I went inside LaGuardia, where Don showed me a release that NBC had him sign for the TV thing on tuition they shot three weeks ago. I also met Kang, back from Belgium for the summer; he reported that med school is very tough.

Elayne and I had lunch in Sugar Bowl. I enjoy talking to her; she’s more mature than she used to be.

Scott came home with me, and we spent the afternoon by the pool, and tonight we went to Kings Plaza to see Slaughterhouse-Five (it still seemed great the second time for me) and then we had ice cream and took a ride out to the beach.

Scott told me all about Europe. He said he wrote Avis last night, “an emotional letter.” He now thinks he can return her feelings of love – which is why they broke up: he couldn’t do that before – but now Avis has somebody else.

They’re both my best friends, but I don’t know. I am very glad that I never told Avis that I “loved” her. Sexual love is so transient, it fades after a while, but friendships – close ones – can last forever.

Monday, July 31, 1972

Mick Jagger is on TV now, in Gimme Shelter, doing his fantastic act. He is by far the best performer I’ve ever seen. His gestures – vocal, facial, and physical – and the way he can feel out an audience (something he lost control of at Altamont), are so physical and sensual and vibrant.

I secretly wish I could be a rock star. Oh well, there’s a little Walter Mitty in all of us.

Scott is one of the more impossible people in this world. Earlier tonight, I went through a comedy with him – or at least it seemed comic to me. Sal had given Scott the name of this guy who cuts hair out of his apartment on Central Park West. Scott made an appointment, and I came with him to hold his hand, as it were. I didn’t want to go, but who can turn down Scott?

Anyway, this guy, Christopher Pluck (honest, that’s his name) has a penthouse just off West 89th Street, right where I used to go to school at Franklin School in tenth grade. When we walked in, we found him as drunk as anything.

As he’s going away to St. Croix, he had his friend Eddie cut Scott’s hair. It came out fairly well, but Scott – who sat like a frightened rabbit during the whole haircut – thought it looked shitty.

As I drove us back to Brooklyn, I kept having to reassure him every ten minutes, “It looks fine.” It was as if Scott thought his good looks were permanently mangled. I must have said, “It looks fine” a dozen times, and once more when I dropped him off at his house.

When I opened the door at home, I heard my phone ringing so I ran upstairs to catch the call. It was Scott: “Does it really look okay?”

“Yes,” I sighed, and I thought: “Well, what could you do now if it didn’t?”

What can you do with a person like that? I guess I love him anyway.

Driving home, when I wasn’t offering hair reassurance, we heard the news everyone was expecting: Sen. McGovern has dropped Eagleton from the ticket gently and with Eagleton’s assent – but still, I feel sorry for the guy. Either way it had gone, it was a rotten decision.

In Classics this morning, we finished The Iliad, which I really had gotten into. I spoke with Ronna, who’s always having trouble keeping up with the reading. Ronna and I had a rather long chat.

She’s such a sweet person. I don’t think she’s completely over Ivan yet. Does one ever get “completely over” these things?

After chatting a while with Josh, who’s weird but a good conversationalist, I had lunch with Scott, Vito and Linda. Vito is so engaging with his witticisms and non sequiturs that I’m certain he’s gay.

Linda upset me by saying she’d talked to Prof. Berkowitz, and he said if you want any kind of intellectual stimulation, don’t go to law school because it’s a stifling atmosphere of learning by rote. I admire Berkowitz and will have to give his opinion a lot of thought.

After spending a few hours this afternoon with Scott at his house, I came home for Grandma Ethel’s dinner before Scott and I went to Manhattan for the near-fatal haircut.

Jonny left a message that Vito called.