A 21-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early August, 1972
by Richard Grayson
Thursday, August 3, 1972
Last night I had this terrific dream in which I was making love to Avis. It was a shame to wake up. Of course, long ago I gave up on being anything but Avis’s friend, but I suppose many platonic male-female friendships have sexual undercurrents somewhere.
Before class, I went to the Registrar to get my copy of the new college Bulletin, which is printed on this shitty recycled paper. Today in Classics, we did Herodotus, whom I find as boring as hell. It was hot in the classroom, too.
After class, I went to LaGuardia and met Vito. I walked him to the bank, and then we got ice cream for him and a lime rickey for me. Vito said yesterday he and Geri saw Marjoe, which they liked as much as I did.
We went to the office of Dean Birkenhead, where I learned – happily – that I can use a Home Economics course for my Science requirement for the School of Social Science. Pablo came along and started making a pass at Vito; that kid is beginning to get on my nerves.
After we ditched Pablo, Vito mentioned that he’d run into Shelli yesterday. That started me talking about her, and that started Vito talking about Anthony.
Before today, Vito only alluded to it, but I was certain that he and Anthony were lovers (Geri introduced them). Well, it was Anthony’s first homosexual liaison, and soon he had these guilt feelings and stopped talking to Vito and went off into the sunset, trying to make every girl in sight.
“I cried for a month,” Vito said.
“I guess sometime in their lives everybody cries for a month,” I said. “But you’re a better person for it.”
“Sure you are,” Vito said.
A little while later, I was standing in front of LaGuardia, talking with Vito and Mendy, when I noticed Jerry loping along. I waved to him, and he waved back, probably surprising himself.
And then I watched as he positioned himself so as to avoid coming near Elayne, who was walking the other way. Elayne and I had lunch in Sugar Bowl, where she said, “You know, Jerry and I stopped talking, in effect, because of you.”
I do remember her saying last fall, “I’d call Jerry a cad, but he’s stupid to be a cad.” Anyway, Elayne doesn’t seem to miss his friendship.
I drove Scott to the camera store, and on the way we talked about how horny we’ve been lately. Then I went to the Heights for my appointment with Rochelle Wouk.
She and I had a good session, centering on the words “should” and “supposed to” and how many times I ignore my feelings because I feel I “should” do or say this or that.
Mom and Dad’s plane landed late this afternoon, and they arrived home at about 7 PM, tired after the long trip. They really loved Israel, though. It must be nice, seeing those historical sights, but I couldn’t care less for that “Wow-a-whole-country-and-they’re-all-Jews” shit.
Anyhow, they got me a nice wooden giraffe and a miniature Psalter and some jewelry. I didn’t really miss them, but it’s nice to have them home.
Tonight, when Vito and I went to Scott’s house, he was blowing grass, and there was a letter from Avis on the table. Scott mumbled something about her wanting to see him, yet not wanting him to come up to visit her at camp, or something like that.
We went to the East Village, a really crummy neighborhood, to see this triple feature at the St. Mark’s Cinema.
I enjoyed The Hospital again and even liked Harold and Maude again, but when Sunday, Bloody Sunday came on, I made an excuse about a stomachache because as much as I love that movie, I couldn’t bear to see it a fourth time.
Sunday, August 6, 1972
I awoke early and went into Manhattan. My burning desire was fulfilled: I got into the noon showing, the world premiere of the movie Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex etc. I thought it was tremendous; Woody Allen is a genius, the way he can make anything almost hysterically funny.
After the film, I had lunch in the Village, then went over to Washington Square. It was a really nice Sunday scene: people everywhere, the “dean of soap boxes” making a speech, guitar players singing, pretty girls and cute boys sunning themselves, little kids playing in the fountain.
It was so serene as I sat there, I never wanted to leave. But I had to come back home – to disturbing news. Grandma Sylvia had to be hospitalized again after another hemorrhage. I was really upset and felt shitty the rest of the afternoon.
To cheer myself up, I went over to Mikey’s house. His mother said Mikey and Mason (who returned last night from his trip) went to Brooklyn, to say goodbye to Leon.
So I went over to Leon’s house, finding him downstairs with Bob and Estelle. Leon said that Skip was driving him to Madison tomorrow; they rented a car.
Casey and Sharon came, and I listened as Casey and Bob started talking about their law schools (University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown). Marty and Ruth arrived after a trip to Connecticut, and then came Steve and Paula.
Mikey arrived with Mike, Mason and Libby. Mason told me how great seeing the country was. It was obvious that Libby’s thrilled that he’s back.
Mikey looked ill: he caught bronchitis from a friend of Mike’s and has been sick at home the last two weeks. Because Riesa’s in California, Mike said he’s a little bored. Robert also came over, and he mentioned that Alice is coming back from her long trip tomorrow.
I happened to mention something about Vito, and Mike asked me if he was “that faggot.” I said that Vito is effeminate but he’s a really nice person and Mike would like him too if he got to know him.
Everyone talked about Sargent Shriver being named McGovern’s new running mate and the Fischer-Spassky chess match and graduate schools and movies.
I had a very nice time and it was good to see the older people, the couples who graduated last year, as I rarely get a chance to talk to them anymore and they give a post-college perspective.
It was hard to say goodbye to Leon. He took my address, but I doubt if he’ll write. I’ll really miss him: it’s hard to think of Brooklyn College and LaGuardia Hall without him.
In the end, despite everything, I suppose I did grow to love him. Even though he hurt me – like by embarrassing me (and Elspeth) at the last Safari Awards, he possesses a quality which makes people want to be his friend. Anyway, I wish him luck in Wisconsin.
After I left Leon’s, I was driving when I saw Jerry trying to cross Flatbush Avenue. The light had changed, and he was trying to make the bus, and he kept running up and back, squinting and trying to avoid getting hit by a car.
It was so funny watching him that I laughed out loud, but even more, I suddenly felt great warmth toward Jerry as he looked so fragile and so human. At that moment, it was hard to think of him as a bad person.
Scott called tonight. He said Elspeth had invited him over for dinner but that he told her he’s not coming near her until she starts using birth control. I didn’t understand what he meant but didn’t ask.
It’s all comedy, anyway.
Tuesday, August 8, 1972
Last night Debbie called and we agreed to get together later in the week. I don’t know about my relationship with Debbie: there are times when I feel I have nothing to talk about with her.
Before class today, I saw Kurt, who hasn’t been around lately. I know something is troubling him deeply – he’s been anxious and nervous – but I don’t know what it is. Today he was uncommunicative, but it seems like he’s withdrawing from everything.
I told Kurt to call me if he ever wanted to talk. I wish I could do more. I know what it’s like to have psychological problems and to go under like that.
I spoke to Maddy for a while, then found Ronna and Sid and asked them about the Classics test they’d just come out of. Soon I found out for myself that Prof. Collins is tough; the exam was not easy at all.
Back in LaGuardia, I found Vito, whom I walked to the Junction. He made me cross the street at one point, and later he told me it was because he saw his father coming in the other direction.
A little later, we were all sitting around in front of LaGuardia – me, Vito, Elspeth, Teresa, Elayne – when Shelli walked over and asked for Scott. After I said I hadn’t seen him today, she quickly left, avoiding the others. It’s a shame when you have to avoid so many people, the way Shelli and Jerry do.
At the brand-new McDonald’s on Hillel Place, I had lunch with Elayne and Stanley, who’s still (naturally) doing nothing. Elayne’s parents are in Europe, so she invited Stanley over to spend the rest of the day.
I took them to her house, but not before we went over to say hello to President Kneller and Prof. Gorvine, who were eating Big Macs. Noticing they were wearing dark glasses, I asked if they were embarrassed to be seen eating at McDonald’s.
“Not at all,” President Kneller said. “It’s wholesome food.”
I went for a haircut by Dohn at the Cutting Crib; it came out okay, I guess. When I returned home, I got a call from Alice, who flew in late last night. From the airport, she immediately went to Andreas’s house in New Jersey, as I figured she’d do.
Alice got a story accepted by the magazine Seventeen. She plans to write and get just a part-time job to cover living expenses.
We’ll see each other tomorrow, when she says she’ll give me a present she got for me in Florence. Although she had some fascinating experiences, Alice said she’ll never go to Europe by herself again.
The latest news from the hospital was fairly encouraging: Grandma Sylvia’s bleeding has stopped and her heart, pulse rate and blood pressure are all normal.
Although they think the bleeding was caused by her arthritis medicine, she will undergo the same battery of tests she had last April when she first had a hemorrhage. But she says she’s happier to be in the hospital: they wait on her and she’s in no rush to go home.
Tonight the Democratic National Committee formally selected Sargent Shriver as the new vice presidential candidate.
Thursday, August 10, 1972
Life seems more like a soap opera than ever these days.
I never could get in touch with Debbie to make things definite about tonight. So on the spur of the moment, Marc and I decided to go to the movies. We went to Georgetown see The Graduate, which I enjoyed, although it does seem a bit dated now.
It was probably just my imagination, but as we were going out, I thought I saw Jerry and a girl sitting down. I’m sure I’m wrong, but it did look a lot like him.
This morning in Classics, we finished going over Oedipus Rex, really a masterpiece. I was disappointed to get only an 83 on the test, but I guess that’s not too bad.
After class, who do I find sitting in front of LaGuardia but Slade, with his familiar Afro and Pumas.
It seems like he’d gone to and left Colorado so quickly. Slade explained that he couldn’t stand the barrenness of the environment out there: the mental environment rather than the physical.
He described his experience as an epiphany. Slade got very little writing done there, and on the night he got into the Stones concert, he took acid for the first time. The next morning, realizing it was a waste of time for him to stay in Denver, he took the first plane back.
Right now Slade’s living in Bayside, writing a “revolutionary” story in which Mick Jagger appears, and he’s planning to go to Europe with Marc Nadel for an extended stay. It sounds a little weird.
After Slade left, I hung around LaGuardia for a while, but Scott and Vito are getting on my nerves a bit, probably because I’ve been hanging out with them too much. Also, I’m becoming more certain that Kurt’s heading for trouble, and I feel powerless to do anything about it.
I had a quiet lunch with Linda, who’s a sweet and sincere person. Harvey, she says, is getting used to seeing things like amputations and cardiac arrests. Being a medical student must be a messy business.
This afternoon Dr. Wouk and I had a good talk, centering on my future. We discussed whether I could be happy as an academician – despite my all protests, you know, I’m really half a Forsyte: that sense of property and possession is in me. It’s not like Dad or Mom with their Cadillacs and jewelry and furniture, but it’s there.
Gary called when I got home and I rushed over to his place. He had come in for only a few hours; he had to go to Peekskill for KP duty so they took time off and came into Brooklyn.
Camp Drum was the usual shit, but Gary will be leaving for Europe next week with Jeff, a buddy from the National Guard. I drove Gary to Kings Plaza, where the guys in his unit met for the trip to Peekskill, and I said I’d see him Sunday or Monday.
Being in the Guard is so shitty, I’m glad Gary’s going to get away. Speaking of getting away, I called Allan, and his plans are set: he’ll be leaving for Tampa at the end of the month, to live with his parents and to go to school at the University of South Florida.
Allan seems resigned to making the best of it, at least. I told Allan I’d miss him and that he can stay here when he comes up for Christmas.
Allan said that Stacy’s home, and that she and her sister got really ill with dysentery in Greece and returned early. Perhaps I should call Stacy; maybe we could salvage some sort of relationship.
Speaking of relationships, I got a letter from Avis which began, “Oh, Richie, what have I done!” She’s in an emotional quandary: she very badly wants to see Scott, “but if I do, it will be all over with Seymour.”
That relationship is coming along fine, but Avis says she still wants Scott – “but this time, on my terms.” Yet she fears losing “a chance for something with Scott” if she waits until September.
“Help!” Avis concludes her letter. But I doubt if I can. She also said that a kid in Kevin’s bunk was missing and was finally found dead at the bottom of the lake. How horrible.
I feel strange, as if – I don’t know, as if I’m on the brink of something, maybe something bad, maybe something good. It occurs to me that I’ve been sort of drifting along since I got back from Florida almost four weeks ago.
Now that in itself is not necessary bad, but now I feel that things are turning a corner. Maybe that’s just a neurotic premonition, but there it is.
Monday, August 14, 1972
Being with Kurt all day yesterday made me a bit uncomfortable, as if I had to keep the conversation going all the time. Kurt is a strange bird; one would hardly think he’s 28, as he’s so immature.
But I feel sorry for him. Do you know he takes three different kinds of tranquilizers a day? He told me their strange names, almost as if he were proud of it. I tend to love all people in trouble and try to “save” them.
The other day, after I told Slade about the compassion I felt seeing Jerry having so much trouble crossing Flatbush Avenue with the heavy traffic and his poor eyesight, Slade said, “I think you could write a good Christ novel about yourself.”
Kurt’s a lost soul, and I wonder if any amount of therapy or tranquilizers can help him. He doesn’t seem to want to help himself. But I suppose I was once like that, too.
Ronna came with me to Classics – she again missed her own class because she’d overslept – and we sat through an agonizingly boring discussion of Thucydides.
Back in LaGuardia, Elspeth told Teresa and me that she thinks she’s pregnant because her period is seven days overdue. Teresa scolded her for being so stupid (“Who doesn’t not use anything these days?”), but I’m certain it’s just another false alarm. Elspeth is just looking for attention. It’s a shame, because she’s really looking good these days.
Incidentally, Teresa said that some people assumed that she and I were brother and sister. We do have the same coloring, but as far as I can see, the resemblance ends there.
Vito told me that last night he dreamed that he found me in bed with a guy. “Hypocrite!” his dream-self yelled at my dream-self. I wish he wouldn’t be so swishy: it disturbs me, and then it disturbs me that it disturbs me.
He, Scott and I went over to Gary’s for lunch. While we were there, Gary got the call he was waiting for – and it’s no go to Europe.
So Gary was really depressed, and Scott brought out the old mother-remedy, grass, and we all smoked for a while, then walked back to the Junction, where Scott had to go to work at the candy store.
He annoyed me when he said I should get a job and stop grubbing off my parents, but of course he’s right.
Shelli seems to be getting bigger every time I see her. The thought of her body now repulses me. I just try to avoid her as much as possible. I suppose I should try to be friendlier, but when I see her, I just freeze up and don’t want to talk. “Approach-avoidance,” Gary calls it.
Pablo asked me and Vito and Gary to work on voter registration, and I suppose we’ll do it. At home, I talked for a while with Grandma Ethel and Grandpa Herb, who were over, and then gave in to my bad sinus headache and lay down.
My head is filled with sinus fluid and is pounding, with the mucus dripping and upsetting my stomach. My eyes hurt. I sometimes wonder if Sylvia Plath’s sinusitis was the real cause of her suicide.
Misery in search of company, I called Mikey, who sounded hoarse. He’s still fighting bronchitis, and he’s been out of breath and coughing up phlegm. Mikey should take vitamins and slippery elm bark lozenges and horehound tea, but he won’t listen to me.
But then not even I listen to me.