A 21-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Late August, 1972
by Richard Grayson
Thursday, August 17, 1972
I still have to get through a hundred pages of Plato’s Republic, and it’s such dry stuff I can’t bear it. Last evening I was struggling with Plato when I received two surprise visitors: Allan and Stacy.
I knew Stacy was home, of course. She told me about her trip to the Greek islands, the good times, the man who of course “fell in love” with her, and how she and Cynthia contracted an intestinal disorder.
Allan is getting ready to move to Florida. He asked me to give him a farewell party, and perhaps I will. I was disturbed to hear that Allan had falling out with Josh, over Josh’s quitting his job, which nixed Allan’s plan to stay in New York and share an apartment with him.
Allan did say he’d spoken to Skip yesterday, and Skip reported that Leon was safely ensconced in Madison in a place with five other guys. After we talked for a while, Allan had to go home for dinner, and Stacy said she’d wait in my bedroom until he returned.
Lying on my bed, Stacy and I had a really good talk – about Europe, Scott and Avis (I think she’d like to make things up with them), about our therapy sessions. It was all very nice: she played the guitar, and I felt that she really is a good, gentle person.
“Are you seeing anyone seriously?” she asked me.
“I’m seeing a lot of people comically,” I said.
Allan returned with Bobby, who’s just back from camp. One good thing about friends going away for the summer: it’s great to see them when they come home. Bobby, Allan, Stacy and I sat around my bedroom, talking lazily, then went out into the cool night for ice cream and pizza.
In bed last night, I thought a lot about Stacy. I know I could love her, but it would never work out: she has her world and friends and I have mine, and neither of us would give up anything for the other.
So Stacy and will never “get together” (in her words). Maybe it’s for the best. But I definitely would like to sleep with her. Oh, I don’t know, it’s all such a comedy.
On campus this morning Elspeth, now freed of pregnancy worries, was instead worrying how to bail out some of her junkie friends, who were arrested in L.A. for skinny-dipping. Sometimes I wonder if I’m any better than old self-destructive, immature Elspeth.
For the rest of the morning – I got up too late to get to class – I sat around with Vito, talking about inconsequential stuff. At noon, we met Geri and had lunch in McDonald’s. Back from Europe, Geri will be taking writing courses and being prose editor of riverrun this year. I found out, small world, that she and Chuck Reilley are first cousins.
Teresa joined us. I like her, despite her rather flighty manner. She mentioned that she and her boyfriend saw Shelli and Jerry last night at Kings Plaza. “Despicable couple,” Teresa said.
I noticed Skip and John at another table and went over to say hello. They’re both looking for work. Skip said that Leon spoke to him last night, and that after living in the group house, he’s now finally found a place of his own. The University of Wisconsin, Skip reported, is a beautiful school, and Leon seems happy there.
Scott wants me and Debbie to go with him and this girl to a Mets game on Sunday. I don’t know.
Dad has been on jury duty all week – he couldn’t get out of it – and says he’s going out of his mind with boredom. I think the DeVille is up for sale; the whole deal should be over soon, and our family’s involvement with the hotel will be over.
I came home early to get some Classics work done, and so far I haven’t succeeded.
Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone will rescue me tonight from The Republic.
Tuesday, August 22, 1972
It’s midnight, and I’ve just watched the Republican convention nominate President Nixon for a second term by a vote of 1,371 to 1 for poor Pete McCloskey.
The people there cheered and danced and balloons fell. It amazes me how people can be so enthusiastic and almost loving toward such a cold, stupid, mediocre man. Marc remarked that the convention reminded him of the TV show The Prisoner or 1984.
Oh well, that’s good old stupid America for you: McGovern will be swamped in November. I ran into Brian yesterday, and he’s the McGovern campaign coordinator in the 43rd Assembly District. (Brian never did get out to San Francisco this summer, he said.)
After several horrible days since Grandma Sylvia was close to death, today she is somewhat improved. She’s aware of things and the doctors are going to start giving her milk. They say her condition is “miraculous.”
For all purposes, the doctors said, Grandma Sylvia was dead for a little while on Sunday evening. But now, although she’s very sick, she’s unexpectedly hanging on to life. We’re a tenacious breed.
This morning Ronna and Sid prepared me for the Classics test, and I found it fairly easy. After class, I was happy to see two more old friends back from Europe: Craig and Ira. Between them and Buddy, they lost enough weight to make another person. Ira got so thin that Linda and I decided we’ve got to feed him so that he’ll fatten up a little. Ira’s knee is still giving him trouble, and he’s got a nasty scar even now.
Downstairs, we found Maddy in the Kingsman office, and we all went to McDonald’s. (I like McDonald’s, but I still miss the Wolfie’s it replaced, even though I mostly ate my tuna salad sandwiches at their counter by myself during my freshman year.)
Ira and Craig told us about their trip: the whorehouse they accidentally stayed at in Copenhagen, meeting people from BC in Israel, shopping at the Roman markets, etc., and Maddy and I got them all caught up on the latest LaGuardia Hall gossip.
I had to drive Vito to the bank and then went with Scott to his house. Avis wrote us that Seymour will stay with her until his flight back on September 14th, and Scott is really upset about that.
Yet I have to admit that I feel a bit glad that Avis is showing Scott that she can make a go of it with someone else; maybe that will make him less insufferably egotistical.
After all, Scott went out with a 40-year-old married Italian woman last night. There are times when he nauseates me. Maybe Vito is right when he says that Avis was always too good for Scott.
I ran into a lot of people today. Stanley told me he’s going into Brookdale for a hernia operation on Thursday; that’ll effectively prevent him from returning for school in the fall.
Mark said Consuelo’s now on maternity leave and they’re going on vacation. Renee said her annulment hearing’s been scheduled for next week.
Thursday, August 24, 1972
Grandma Sylvia seems to be better although the bladder infection persists. Still, if she can avoid other complications, she should make it. It’s a miracle; it really is.
I awoke early this morning and washed my hair. Despite the 90° heat and humidity, I felt I looked good today.
Kurt and I were sitting around LaGuardia, talking, when Sid came by and gave me Ronna’s graded Classics test to give to her. Sid figured that Ronna would come to the later class, but she didn’t, and I really didn’t want the responsibility for holding her paper.
Yesterday after Vito met Ronna, he said, “She’s nice, but not important, I think.” But I find her sweet and gentle, and although she’s not really pretty, I find her very cute.
I know a lot of her uptight-ness about man-woman relationships stems from her parents’ divorce, but I don’t think I could make a go of anything with her.
In class today, Prof. Collins got through Lucretius and gave our class’s tests back; I got a 93. After class, I went to Sugar Bowl with Kurt, who’s decided to take some Ed classes in the fall and maybe get a teacher’s license.
When I saw Dr. Stone – he calls me “Lad,” probably because he forgets my name – he said the Counseling Department will be reduced even further because of the budget cuts.
Vito came by and practiced his speech on me. He told me that this morning he was in his grandmother’s house, and a good-looking young man came to deliver slipcovers.
They started talking, and the slipcover man kissed Vito before he left. How weird! Anyway, Vito and I made up to go over to Geri’s house in Sunset Park tomorrow.
Scott, Vito and I had lunch at Four Kings for a change. Scott reported his married date, Jeannie Zaccaro, was “fine,” but now he’s found this girl in Forest Hills he likes. He said he doesn’t want to see Avis while Seymour is around.
Later at home, I found a letter from Avis. She wrote, “I love you very much, I miss you very much, and I’m looking forward to our long talks over Coke and French fries at Campus Corner.”
She asks if I could do pick her and Seymour up at Port Authority on Monday; of course I can do that. And Avis said that if I want to get involved with Stacy, she’ll still be my friend.
That Avis wrote, “I love you very much,” meant more to me than any words I’ve received in years. I love you too, Avis.
After lunch, I went back to LaGuardia and then went to my car for the ride downtown to see Dr. Wouk. Sometime between the time I left LaGuardia and the time I arrived in Brooklyn Heights, I lost my book, containing my test – and Ronna’s.
Dr. Wouk said, “Well, I guess you really didn’t want the responsibility for it.”
When I asked her how their trip to Yugoslavia was, she replied that the plane had crashed on takeoff and although they weren’t hurt, they decided to go to Vegas instead.
We got into a lot of things in therapy today: Grandma Sylvia’s illness, my attraction towards Stacy, all the “shoulds” that I let run my life.
When I got home, I called Ronna, who said she wasn’t upset that I’d lost her Classics test as long as I remembered the grade. But I still feel bad.
Tonight I went over to Allan’s after he’d called, bringing over the spittoon I’d gotten him as a going-away present and a funny note I’d written. Allan was on the phone with Mikey when I got there.
Tuesday morning Allan leaves for Florida. We talked for a while, then went to Kings Plaza where we unavoidably ran into Carole and Irv.
At Nathan’s, Allan said that he and Fat Ronnie, who’s a good friend of Ray Davies, bumped into Elspeth at the Kinks concert. Allan said he couldn’t get over how well Elspeth looked: “pretty,” he said.
Then we dropped by Skip’s apartment. Skip had to cut his hair for his new job at Norton Simon, Inc. We talked and played scrabble and listened to records, mostly David Bowie’s incredible Ziggy Stardust album, which we played repeatedly until after midnight.
Allan’s moving to Tampa is bound to change things at school. Leon is gone, and so is Steve Katz, and Elayne and Gary will leave after the fall term. And then, in the spring, so will I: no more LaGuardia lobby to hang around in after I graduate next June.
Saturday, August 26, 1972
It’s a rainy, end-of-summer Saturday evening, and I’m indoors, feeling a little tired.
This morning I went to see Grandma Sylvia at New York Hospital. Parking my car in the lot, next to a Rolls Royce with MD license plates, I took the elevator to the 17th floor and found Grandma’s room closed.
The nurse told me I should go wait with my grandfather. I smelled alcohol, so I suppose the nurse was bathing Grandma Sylvia. I found Grandpa Nat in the solarium, and we talked as we looked out at the East River and the Queensborough Bridge.
Soon we got to see Grandma Sylvia. The nurse, Miss Murphy, a very talkative lady, said Grandma was kvetching all morning and Grandma Sylvia herself said, “I’m very depressed. . . Everything happens to me.”
Still, there was that sardonic humor of hers. When I said I didn’t expect to see her out of bed, sitting up in a wheelchair and looking so good, Grandma Sylvia said, “I’m sure you didn’t expect to see me at all.”
She was hooked up to an IV machine and she looked old and worn, but as Miss Murphy said to her, “You’re a lot better than you were a week ago, believe you me, dearie.”
We sat for a while, then I left as they brought her lunch: lamb fricassee. Miss Murphy gave me a bite, and it was good. Nurses – young girls – dropped into say hello to Grandma Sylvia like they knew her well.
Hospitals are not such horrible places, at least if you have the money to afford good care.
I drove down Second Avenue to Kiehl’s Pharmacy, where I bought life everlasting flowers (what symbolism!), and then I came back to Brooklyn.
After I had lunch at Junior’s, I dropped into the store to say hello to Grandpa Herb. The store still looks the same as when it was the Slack Bar.
Grandpa Herb was glad to hear Grandma Sylvia is better. Long before they ever imagined their children would marry each other, he knew Grandma Sylvia from being friends with her brothers back in Brownsville when they were kids.
While I was on Fulton Street, I also stopped off at the store where Debbie works to say hi. She said – with a big smile – that her boyfriend’s coming home tomorrow.
Gisele came in to clean today, and it was nice to see her again; she takes such a motherly interest in me, always asking about school and my friends and my romantic life.
I called Vito, just to talk. He’s really the first real friend outside the LaGuardia crowd that I’ve made in a very long time. But I guess now he’s a part of the crowd.
Kurt called after that. He said that Ronna asked for me on Friday. We chatted for a while but then ran out of things to say.
Finally, Gary called. He and Robert have scheduled a trip to Cape Cod next weekend, and I hope it comes off without a hitch.
Thursday, August 31, 1972
It was good to enter the world once again. Last night Avis called to ask if she and Seymour could come over. I felt better, so I said sure. And after that, I got a call from Alice, who said she’d come over, too.
They arrived at the same time: Alice on her trusty bike; Seymour determinedly hobbling up the stairs despite his cast; and Avis looking as beautiful as ever.
We sat in the living room and talked. Avis and Seymour told us about their experiences this summer at camp. Seymour is a very amiable, open person and I can’t help liking him.
Alice is taking over as manager of Vandeveer for a while. She said Renee’s annulment hearing is today. Renee had asked her to testify to the fact that her husband had promised to buy her a house and then reneged, but Alice wouldn’t do it.
Everyone got on very well: a successful evening, I think.
This morning, as I returned to the campus, I found it swarming with freshmen, in for orientation. I was even mistaken for one: imagine, a man of my position!
Classics was short today. Tomorrow is our final and I’ve been studying hard. I ran into Debbie with some of her hitter friends, and she said she’d call me soon.
Vito told me he’d spotted the slipcover man on campus – but when Vito approached the guy, he said he wasn’t the same person. Vito is sure it was.
In SUBO, Club Fair was in progress. I helped Peggy man the Classics Club table, and I walked around to see people. Melvin said he and Timmy had a good time, but they nearly got busted in Tel Aviv for drugs.
Pat, the new Academic Club Association president, was coordinating things; Skip, John and the other Gay People were serving fruit salad; Sid, who caught my cold, was getting people for Young Democrats. Craig, Harvey, Ira, and Buddy were there for APO; Mendy for Spigot; and Ronna and Maddy at the Kingsman table.
In LaGuardia, I chatted with the deans, then had to go to the bookstore, where I met Mikey, who’d just cycled in from Rockaway.
He said that he, Josh, John and Skip had a nice farewell dinner with Allan in Chinatown. Also, he’d heard from Leon, who’s okay and playing stickball in Madison.
I came home early to study for the Classics final.