A 21-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Late October, 1972
by Richard Grayson
Tuesday, October 24, 1972
I could use an extra seven or eight hours in each day.
Mark and Consuelo called last night, inviting me to a party at their house Friday night. I doubt it I’ll go, seeing as I have the GRE’s the next morning.
I slept well and had a dream that McGovern won the election. I also dreamed that I slept with Yolanda. I wonder which dream was the more preposterous.
It’s two weeks until Election Day and McGovern is still far, far behind in the polls, which are predicting a huge landslide for Nixon. But no one has any real affection for Nixon; it’s just that people are afraid of change, afraid of McGovern.
I still cling to the hope that things can be turned around somehow, but deep down I know the pollsters and the pundits are right. It’s sad, but what can you do?
I don’t have the energy of someone like Brian who’s working hard in the McGovern campaign; I’ve been involved in too many lost causes already. I guess I’m selfish.
In LaGuardia this morning, Gary and Mikey were talking about their weekends when Debbie and Mandy came in, telling us about the Moody Blues concert last night.
Debbie said she and Jim had broken up, finally and – she said – irrevocably. I haven’t been paying much attention to Debbie lately, but we still obviously are going to see Lysistrata.
Vito was happy when I gave him his birthday gifts: a coffee-table book on Hollywood fan magazines, a Belle Barth album and a card in Ukrainian with a sloppy message inside.
In English, Kitch went over Mailer’s early writing. Walking me back to LaGuardia after class, Mason said he’s very involved in his Hair rehearsals –he’s playing Woof – and he says Shelli is very good.
When I saw Nancy, she told me that something had happened on Friday night, something more than what Vito told me about. Nancy said she wasn’t angry at Vito, she was “apathetic,” but she seemed very upset.
She said, “You know about his friend Anthony? Well, he must have felt this way, too.”
I don’t know how Vito could hurt her so much, but I won’t get involved. When I saw Vito later, he was playing with Stefanie’s crutches, and I could see that he and Nancy weren’t really talking.
At lunch with Vito, Timmy and Skip, I didn’t learn anything more about it. Instead Skip told us about his Navy experiences. He enlisted at 19 to follow his lover to Vietnam, but of course they weren’t assigned to the same ship, so it was kind of crazy.
In LaGuardia, Robert told me he had that strange virus that’s going around; he’s such a nice guy. Debbie asked if she could go home with me, and I said sure, but first I had to go to Boylan.
I got into a long discussion about grad school in English with Prof. Merritt, and when I returned to LaGuardia, Mikey said Debbie had left, that she’d been crying after some scene with her boyfriend.
I rushed over to Sheepshead Bay to see if she was home and if she was all right. Debbie seemed okay, and we talked for a while. She said I really made her feel important by coming over and she kissed me on the cheek when I left. It felt good.
Thursday, October 26, 1972
Last night at school, I was feeling tired and disgusted and was about to go home when I met Vito outside LaGuardia. Whenever I see him, I feel good.
I suppose I love him, although not sexually. While there are times I could strangle him, sometimes I feel like hugging him. Whenever he’s around, I feel relaxed and at ease.
He read the story I handed in to Baumbach’s class and loved the character “Mario” that was based on him. I left the story in the Kingsman office, and I hope nobody read it because it refers to his homosexuality and he’s reticent about that.
Ronna showed me the play she wrote for her class, about herself and her family. It was corny but good, and it made me realize she was so standoffish with Ivan because of her mother’s bad relationship with her father and the feeling that commitment and closeness could mean pain and hurt. Sound familiar?
In LaGuardia this morning, Debbie called me aside and told me of an encounter with Jim yesterday: He said he was nasty to her on Tuesday because she “looked bad” (pale, with pimples), he told her about the girls he’s going to fuck and other things that sound even crazier.
I went to Boylan and waited outside Stacy’s class for her to come out, and when she did, I gave her her birthday present and a note I’d written and a big kiss – and I quickly left.
Back in front of LaGuardia, Ronna returned my story, which she said depressed her. I wish I could get to know Ronna better. Well, “Maybe Tomorrow,” which was the title of her play.
BROCO, the newspaper that Bobby, Mikey, Mike and others were working on, came out today. It’s okay, but I doubt if they’ll get funds for another issue.
Mason and I went to English, where Kitch went over Mailer’s “White Negro,” an interesting piece about “the hipster.”
After class, I walked with Elspeth to the Curriculum Committee meeting. Gary couldn’t attend because his grandfather’s wife died. Committee business is starting to pile up. We received a lot of documents from Ethyle Wolfe today; one was a huge proposal for a major in Film Studies, something that Leon had always pushed for.
The meeting broke up early and I went down to the Kingsman office and learned from Ronna that Henry Kissinger announced on TV that a Vietnam peace settlement was only a week away: a ceasefire, withdrawal, return of POWs.
Nancy said, “Shouldn’t we be dancing in the streets, like at the end of World War II?” But there’s nothing to celebrate, and now McGovern’s cause looks even more hopeless.
Yet personally, I felt good, anyway, as I drove downtown to see Dr. Wouk. It was a bright, mild day, and things seemed in harmony. We had a really good session and now I feel at peace with myself and the world even if Kissinger’s TV statement about Vietnam that “peace is at hand” is a lot of bullshit.
Friday, October 27, 1972
I’m home tonight, trying to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for the GRE’s tomorrow morning. Because I filed too late to take it at BC, I have to drive downtown to Poly Tech and I need to leave early.
I’m scared shitless about the test and feel like chucking the whole thing and going to Mark and Consuelo’s party tonight. But I know I have to take the test to go to grad school.
Last night I went to Kings Plaza to buy herbs and then I drove Mara home. During the ride to Sheepshead Bay, I realized that she assumes I’m gay. It’s odd to have her feel that way, but I’m sure it’s because somehow I’ve given her that impression.
I got up too late to go to Bio, and when I entered LaGuardia I found a surprise: Leon, who had gotten a lift from Madison into the city for the weekend. It was great to see him again after all these months.
Everyone crowded around him and talked about their latest news. Leon looked fine, although he seemed tired from the long drive. (“That’s Leon?” Vito said to me. “He looks like Jesus Christ.”)
I met Stacy at 10 AM and we went for coffee. Late last night she called me to thank me for the present. But at the moment, I really don’t think I like Stacy. I’m so mixed-up now.
Gary came in wearing this short-hair wig for his Guard duty this weekend; he looked so absurd in it, but the rest of my day was complete absurdity as well.
I decided to cut Psych – but as luck would have it, I ran into Bart Myers in LaGuardia so I had to go to class. Afterwards, Vito told me he didn’t want me to introduce him to Leon because “it would spoil the image I have of him.” Consuelo said she understood my not being able to make the party tonight.
I had lunch with Avis, who was serenely stoned, and Beverly, who was also anxious about the GRE’s. Back in LaGuardia, I had a great time with Nancy, whom I proudly introduced to Leon. (“You just met the Godfather,” Teresa told Nancy afterward.)
When I got to the SUBO penthouse to teach my EXCO herb course, I found no students there. So I went to 07 Library, where Skip was showing two short films by this guy Artie Bressan, a gay friend of his.
I said goodbye to Leon, who was going home to get some sleep. “Keep writing,” he said.
While we waited for Skip to start the movie, Joey and Vito told me that they were in Four Kings last night and saw Shelli making out with this guy who’s an actor in Hair.
After watching Artie’s films – nice little documentaries about the gay rights movement – Skip, Artie, Vito, Joey, Mason, Libby and I went to the Pub and had a raucous, totally insane time over lots of beer and Sangria.
Saturday, October 28, 1972
It’s a cold, rainy evening, and I can sure use that extra hour of sleep tonight when we go back to Standard Time. Last night I slept very fitfully, waking up half a dozen times before finally getting up at 6:30 AM.
It was dark when I left for Poly Tech this morning, but I was not as nervous as I thought I would be. It actually felt kind of nice to be driving through Brooklyn before dawn: very peaceful.
The GRE’s were not too difficult. I had been worried about the Math part, but I think I did passably well on that, too. When I came home for lunch, I felt tired and my eyes ached from the small print on the test.
But I feel relieved that I’m done with the GRE’s – until the Advanced Test in Literature in December, anyway.
I went over to Kings Highway and East 16th Street for a campaign rally. It was raining hard, but a lot of people were there; I saw Lee, Brian and Ken Elstein. I went up to the BMT station’s platform to get a better view of the podium, filled with pols from the neighborhood.
Finally – amid cries of “We Want Sarge!” – the “next Vice President of the United States” was introduced. Shriver looked handsome and elegant despite the pouring rain.
He gave a generally rousing speech against “Nixonism” and he was definitely trying to appeal to the Archie Bunker vote: “Prices are higher than ever,” Shriver said, “even here on Kings Road.”
“He must think he’s in London,” said the cop standing next to me.
I left the rally in a hurry to get to my appointment at Cutting Crib, though I needn’t have rushed. They took their time, but I like the way my hair looks.
When I called Debbie tonight, she was home studying. She had gone with Mike and Mikey to Mark and Consuelo’s party last night.
Debbie expressed distaste for their messy apartment. She said John McManus tried to make a pass at Mikey; Shelli kept kissing Jerry, “as if to prove something to everybody”; Skip claimed he’s had sex with Joe Namath; and “generally, it was a bore.”
I guess I didn’t miss much.
Sunday, October 29, 1972
Today was a warm day. All that remained of last night’s storm were dozens of burnt-orange leaves scattered all over the ground. It was a pleasant, quiet day.
This morning I drove into Manhattan, parked the car on Fifth and 57th, and walked over to the Little Carnegie to see Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.
It was tremendous, one of the best movies I’ve seen in my life: hilariously funny, but as surrealistic as it was, a lot of it struck deep. Dream and unpleasantness greeted with polite smiles: sometimes that just about sums life up.
I’m grateful to Leon and Stanley for exposing me to good films. Even I, a writer, often get more out of movies than I do from books.
As I walked out of the theater, I felt giddy and for some reason I started using my index finger as a pistol to shoot people along 57th Street: couples walking by, old ladies in the Automat, cops directing traffic.
I drove down Fifth Avenue and then Broadway all the way to City Hall without stopping for a single red light, then took the bridge back into Brooklyn for lunch at the counter of Junior’s.
From downtown, I drove out to Rockaway, but no one was home at either of my grandparents’ apartments. So I walked along the boardwalk for a while, thinking I’m ready to try my wings in the world: maybe England this summer, graduate school next year.
I may not know where I’m heading, but as Prof. Galin once said, “It’s not the destination that’s important; it’s the journey.”
I dropped in at Alice’s house, where she’d been doing nothing all day but filling out her application for a Fulbright scholarship. She scolded me for not calling her to go with me to see the movie today.
Alice is writing a lot, seeing Andreas: last weekend they went up to Cape Cod. We had a nice chat in her kitchen.
Her mother was around and she’s looking well; over the years I’ve learned to communicate with her by always looking directly at her and exaggerating my speech so she can read my lips easily. And I can understand her own deaf-person speech pretty well.
Avis just this minute called. That pleased me. Last night she and Scott went to a party and something happened, she wouldn’t spell it out. Their relationship is so stormy.
Yesterday I got a letter from Allan Cooper, who should be coming up to New York from Tampa at the beginning of December. It will be good to see Allan again.