A 21-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early September, 1972

by Richard Grayson

Monday, September 4, 1972

Labor Day came and brought with it a warm, sunny day.

I awoke early and went off to Manhattan. The air was clean and bright and everyone seemed happy this morning. When I found Grandma Sylvia at New York Hospital, she was in bed, complaining that she was weak. But she’s looking much better. It’s good to see her, no matter how she looks.

I drove over to the Museum of Modern Art and spent a lot of time outdoors in the Sculpture Garden and then I lost track of the time I spent immersed in the paintings in the galleries.

Home at 2:30 PM, I had lunch and with a bad sinus headache, I didn’t do much the rest of the day.

The hotel is being sold tomorrow – to the Mafia, who’ve been pushing Dad, Lennie, Al and the others out for months. It will probably be sold for nothing. As Dad said, like in The Godfather, they made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. Perhaps Dad and Lennie will invest in something new.

I called Debbie and told her I didn’t really feel like doing anything tonight; she sounded disappointed and a little angry. Whenever I thought that Debbie might want a more intimate and lasting relationship, I felt so choky and suffocated.

I realize now that I could have a girlfriend, but after my experience with Shelli, I’m not sure I want a girlfriend again. I’m scared of being hurt, I guess.

Anyway, although she’s considered pretty, I never really have been sexually attracted to Debbie in the way I feel for Stacy, say, or Yolanda, or even Ronna. Debbie has a way of making me feel nonplussed because she’s free of pretension and the more “sophisticated” cynicism of the people in LaGuardia.

I’m not ready to be completely open and free with someone else, and I’m not sure I ever will be again. I think of Shelli and other people and how much of my life I kept closed to them. How much of my life do I keep closed from myself?

Sometimes I’m such a fool with people. Vito called and gave me this long speech he’d prepared. I’d hurt him on Friday when I said he took “crap courses.” Am I a very callous person, or are people just so vulnerable?

Anyway, Vito said that he and his friend Nancy were out dancing the other night when they met Scott. Vito said that it was nice and that “for the first time, I realized that Scott has a lot to give, as well as take.”

I called Alice as she was about to go to New Jersey to visit Andreas. She said she really dug Seymour.

But it seems, however, that Avis is not that happy with him. Seymour is getting on her nerves, she said, when I spoke with her later.

“It’s a strain having him around all the time,” Avis said, and add to that all the uncertainty with Scott – “One day he’s nice and one day he’s nasty” – and poor Avis has been having bad migraine headaches.

One person who’s feeling better is Gary, who called to say he and Robert had a fine, relaxing weekend on Cape Cod. Gary deserved a good vacation.

My final call of this talkative evening came from Mikey, and it was sort of a warning. Carl Karpoff, the Chutzpah Kid, called Mikey and asked him for my number. Carl wants me to pull cards at registration for him!

What in hell are people for, anyway?

Thursday, September 7, 1972

It’s 1 AM and I’ve had another wonderful evening, thanks again to Vito and Nancy, who took me out of the house for a second night this week.

I really am in love with Nancy: she’s tall and buxom and tanned and blonde, with the sexiest throaty voice and fantastic joie de vivre.

Tonight Vito called me and we went to the College Theater again. Vito told me to ask Gary along, and Gary brought Kurt, which was a mistake. The two of them are rather dull and couldn’t keep up the conversational pace with me, Nancy, Vito and their friend Joey, a very nice theater-major type.

Before the movie, we walked over to visit Scott at the candy store, and then I spotted Shelli walking down Flatbush Avenue. Nancy was so great, taking my arm and pretending to be my girlfriend.

But after she started talking to Shelli, Nancy really liked her. And you know what? With Nancy there, I liked Shelli, too.

We enjoyed the movies and talked incessantly. At one point a guy in the row in front of us told us to shut up and Vito said, “We came here to talk, so too bad,” and the guy stood up to ask Vito to step outside, much to the embarrassment of his girlfriend.

“No, that’s okay, you’re too big, we’ll move,” Vito said, and the rest of us, cracking up totally (well, I’m not sure about Gary and Kurt), moved a few rows back.

“Wow, did you see how big that guy was?” Vito said, and Joey and I couldn’t stop laughing.

Since Nancy lives near me, I drove her home; she’s the most wonderful girl I’ve met in a long time – not as girlfriend material but as a person.

I woke up this morning to the funeral services for the ten dead members of the Israeli Olympic team: a tragic business.

When I got to school, Debbie was waiting for me, and I went with her to register. Afterwards, she paid for my lunch. Debbie definitely seems interested in me; she touches me a lot and says baby-talk-suggestive phrases, but I don’t know.

After Vito got his Acting course, the final course I pulled for others, I closed out my registration. Skip said he was having a lot of trouble, and Vito and I tried to help him find a good course to fit in his schedule.

Back in LaGuardia, Avis came in with three girlfriends from camp. She introduced me as “my best friend Richie.” Avis says the “crotch rot” is really getting bad and she can’t wait till Seymour leaves for England on Sunday.

I ran into Elayne, who passed her summer course and thus has graduated at last. Now what will she do?

My session with Dr. Wouk went well this afternoon. She’s making me see how many hostile and angry feelings I have, but that I’ve always kept them under the surface, so as not to show other people I’m “bad.”

Just before I went out tonight, Stanley called. He’s home, recuperating from his operation. The surgeon, who he said looked like Richard Attenborough, suggested he lose weight because to get to Stanley’s hernia, they had to cut through too many layers of fat.

Stanley hasn’t decided whether or not to return to school this fall.

Wednesday, September 13, 1972

The first day of classes.

I called Stacy back last night. I told her a lot of things and she told me the trouble she’d been having with her parents not wanting to pay Louise (her shrink) any more money and the letter she got from Allan and how they never really had sex together.

Stacy said she wanted to “get close” to me and I feel we are closer now. Inevitably, though I hadn’t seen her in a while, today she (along with her sister) was the first person I saw on campus before I went to Bio.

Biology and Society, a big lecture class, looks interesting, with a good teacher, Prof. Fried. Scott, Ira and Josh are in the class and sat with me.

Then came Prof. Baumbach’s Fiction Writing course – very small – where we have to write only twenty pages all semester. That’s nothing to me.

Social Psych with Bart Myers looks all right, although he made it clear he’s not giving any ripoff grades. Lisa and Felicia are in the class.

After Psych, I walked into LaGuardia, which I’d never seen brimming with so many familiar faces. It was like a big party, and I couldn’t relate to everyone at once.

Debbie was there waiting for me, and I wanted to talk with Avis and others, but finally we organized a big group to go to lunch. We all couldn’t fit at one table, so Avis, poor dear, had to sit with Elspeth, while I was with Debbie, Gary and Carl.

Carl mentioned that he hadn’t heard from Leon and said they left their relationship “with things unsaid.” According to Carl, Leon made advances toward him, and Carl wasn’t into that. “Then Skip came along,” Carl said, “and he sort of dropped me.”

Avis looks good. Yesterday Scott said Avis had “caught” him, so obviously they’re sleeping together again. In a way I’m glad, and although I’ve gotten over the “thing” I had for Avis, she probably won’t need me so much now that she has Scott again.

Back in LaGuardia, Debbie and I went down to the Kingsman office, where I copyread my story on the convention; Maddy liked it, and it’s going in.

Ronna was around with Susan, and I felt funny being with Debbie in front of her. Why the hell am I running around trying to get in deep with so many people? Maybe it’s because I don’t want to get in too deep with any one person.

I ran into Elijah, who’s running Lowenstein’s campaign in the new court-ordered congressional primary against Rooney.

Vito was getting on my nerves a little today, but I’m glad the other people in LaGuardia seem to like him and have accepted him.

Consuelo was positively glowing with her pregnancy although, like me, she’s been having sinus trouble and says she’s tired and cranky a lot. Despite the arrival of the baby, Consuelo’s going to school this term, and she says Mark may come back and try to finish up in night school.

My Poli Sci seminar teacher, Ms. Cehelsky, just about scared me out of the course. I’ll probably get kicked out, because she wasn’t happy with the two-to-one male-dominated class for a Sex and Politics seminar.

So she’s going to interview guys and kick out some of them to even things up. Skip, being gay, will be able to stay, of course.

My big mouth got Vito in trouble with Geri (it’s a long story), so to atone, I’m taking him to the movies tonight.

I’m looking forward to this senior year, and at the same time, I’m dreading it because it will be my last year at a place where I feel so comfortable and secure, a place where I know people and places and everything’s so exciting and so routine at the same time.

But I must avoid the syndrome that I’ve seen befall other graduating seniors. I will get away to grad school and begin a new experience on another campus. Sure I’m apprehensive, but I’ve got to give it a try.

It’s long past the time when I should’ve tried out my wings and left the nest.

Thursday, September 14, 1972

I feel worn-out tonight. Perhaps it’s partly due to my going to the college bookstore tonight to buy my texts.

Debbie picked me up with her car at 6:30 PM, and we had to park so far away, and then the bookstore lines were so long and the stores were so crowded and they didn’t have most of my books, and then we got caught in the rain going back to her car.

Other than that, it was a perfect evening.

I did enjoy last night a lot. Vito cheers me up so much, and I’m pretty sure by now that he’s not at all attracted to me. From what I can tell, he prefers guys who are less soft types than I am. We saw Play It Again, Sam, and I laughed a lot and identified like mad with Woody Allen.

On campus this morning, in front of LaGuardia, Avis said that she’d done what I had urged her to and called Stacy last night. They’re friends again, and I hope this time it lasts.

Then Stacy herself came along, and as she talked, I stared at her, thinking about what Josh said yesterday: that Stacy is very boyish and I’m attracted to her, as Allan was, because of my homosexual feelings. Josh may be right: Stacy is kind of tough and masculine.

I was hoping to talk with Avis and Stacy, but then, inevitably, Debbie came by, and I really felt funny because I wanted to ask Stacy for a date and I couldn’t very well do that in front of Debbie.

Deb told me that Mike drove her home yesterday and said, “He really turns me off with his egotism.” It’s rumored Mike and Riesa are breaking up; I always considered her immature anyway.

Mason and Mikey took me off to our huge (about 80 students) English 60.6 class. The course is Current American Writers, the book list is good, and Jack Kitch is the teacher, so I think I should enjoy the class.

Debbie said she’d buy me lunch, and we went to the deli. On the way we were joined by Hal, and never have I so welcomed Hal’s company. He said Ivy loves nursing school and has taken an apartment near Downstate and the hospital. Ivy: now there’s a real girl – or, I guess, a real woman.

I rushed over to the Curriculum Committee meeting; it was good to see waspish Arthur Lifshin, Zita Cantwell and the other faculty members again. Prof. Fife is every bit as pedantic and picky as Prof. Kaye, but she doesn’t have his expertise.

We divided up, each taking departments to check for errors in the new Bulletin. Besides me, Skip and Elspeth were the only students attending today’s meeting.

Downtown, Dr. Wouk and I discussed the business with the seminar (she says to tell the professor I have a female therapist) and my relationships with girls. Dr. Wouk said all I’ve got now are “pieces of people,” and I’ll have to give up these parts of people if I want a “whole” of one girl.

“I assume you mean whole with a W,” I said. To Dr. Wouk’s credit, she cracked up.

Saturday, September 16, 1972

It’s only 7 PM, but it’s getting dark out already. In half an hour, I’ll go over the few blocks to Renee’s party, the one to celebrate the annulment of her marriage.

It’s strange how many friends of mine have married already or are about to; yesterday I learned that Bob and Estelle’s wedding is set for November. Renee is the first one to end a marriage.

I suppose that should keep me from feeling out of it as I see so many others “join in holy wedlock.” I don’t know if I’ll ever find the right person to “share my life with” – and I’m certain that there are parts of my life that I want to share with different people, or with no one.

I wish I knew myself better. After years of psychotherapy, at times I still find myself a stranger.

I had a very bad night, with a couple of nightmares that I awoke from feeling scared. One concerned Vito and a boat ride around Manhattan and finally Vito and I fell off a sheer cliff.

Prof. Galin used to say that our dream world, our fantasy life, was so much more real than our “real” day-to-day existence. If he was right, I have a lot to learn.

At 5 AM, I took a couple of tranquilizers and woke up very late this morning feeling drugged and hung over. I’m not used to having Mom and Dad and Jonny around on weekends, but with the hotel sold (for one dollar), it’s something I’ve got to get used to again.

I’d really like my own apartment, but I am not earning any money. Dad might pay for it, but that’s the same thing as staying home. Someday I’ve got to start working.

I feel guilty watching Scott and Avis and Alice and others work part-time while I, decadent bastard, do nothing to earn my keep. It’s quite unnerving, though, to realize that I’m not really qualified to do anything.

I suppose I have enough of my parents’ capitalistic instincts to be some kind of businessman. Marc is already thinking of opening a TV repair store of his own. No doubt my brother will be a rich man someday. He’ll probably have an ulcer, too.

How depressing it all is. Now I’ve got to go to a party and I’m no mood for one. Still, it will be good to talk to Alice again.


1 AM. I was one of the first guests to arrive at Renee’s place. She had a barbecue going in the backyard and liquor of every conceivable variety, snacks, etc. I knew some of the people, like Marv, who used to work in Admissions, and his girlfriend Cora, and Renee’s sister Toby and her boyfriend Tevye.

But I wasn’t really comfortable until dear old Alice arrived, looking radiant. She and Andreas had been at the San Gennaro festival in Little Italy the night before; I’d like to see it.

Robert came alone, and then Lynne, who’s rather nice, and another old junior high classmate, Annette, who’s married but otherwise doesn’t look like she’s changed much in eight years.

Renee’s new boyfriend Billy was there, and I like him: behind that stoned, bearded façade, he’s a very caring person.

Renee was busy cooking and being a hostess at first, but I noticed she was drinking quite a bit. A lot of people from the Psych Department were there, reminding me of vultures.

Renee said, “I’m drunk,” and the evening was all light-hearted until it wasn’t and Renee got very sick and collapsed in the backyard, vomiting into the bushes.

She was really sick and she was crying, “But it’s my own party!” She was so embarrassed. And except for Alice and Robert and Renee’s sister and her boyfriend, everyone just seemed to go on with the party.

Billy sat with her, and I brought her ice, but the vultures kept on drinking and left without a goodbye. Finally, after Renee was put to bed and we tried to put the place in order, the rest of us left, with me driving home Alice, Lynne and Robert. We all were more than a little upset.

I still am upset and don’t think I’ll sleep for a while. I guess the annulment was a terrible strain on Renee. So much for the joys of marriage.