A 21-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Late November, 1972
by Richard Grayson
Wednesday, November 15, 1972
I was going to return to the college tonight – there are movies in Whitman and it’s copy night at Kingsman – but I’m really tired after a long day. So I’m sitting in Marc’s bedroom, listening to the tape of Cat Stevens singing “Wild World,” which always gives me a good/sad feeling.
It’s about a guy’s feelings toward the girl that’s he’s breaking up with (“Hey baby, it’s a wild world / You can’t get by on just a smile”). It makes me think of Shelli, of course, and all the nice feelings we felt before everything turned sour.
But lately I’ve been thinking of mostly the good times, the beautiful times of the early spring of ’71. Maybe it’s because I think I’m falling in love with someone now. It’s Ronna, of all people.
I didn’t get to see her too much today. Late this afternoon, I went down to Kingsman and sat close to her as she worked on placing the ads on dummy sheets. She knows I care about her a lot.
But my day today was mostly concerned with work, not love.
In Bio, we discussed the population crisis, which is the greatest problem facing humanity – so much so that it scares me and I don’t want to think about it although sooner or later, I’ll have to face it, along with everybody else.
As we were leaving class, Scott told me that he and Avis were going into the city to buy winter coats. That shouldn’t surprise me, but it did; I guess Avis and Scott will always be close.
We just had a rap session today in Fiction Writing. Baumbach is such an intelligent man. I subscribe to his philosophy that “people usually get what they want, more or less.” Life is what you make it.
Felicia and I suffered through this stupid group discussion in Psych. What a drag. After class, Phyllis sent me to SUBO to cover a story: these two guys from the National Lampoon came to talk, but in the end, it wasn’t worth an article in the paper.
By then, I was starving. Luckily, Costas wanted to eat lunch too. He’s a very considerate person, someone you feel you can depend on. Snow was falling again as we left Campus Corner and I went to my Poli Sci seminar.
Today I gave my presentation on my research paper’s thesis: that gynecological care has contributed to the oppression of American womanhood. It came off quite well.
Saturday, November 18, 1972
Saturday night and alone at home. It doesn’t bother me that much; I do have a cold. And although I’d much prefer companionship, I can make do by myself.
I got a letter from Leon in which he writes: “The rallying cry for this year is No More Melodrama – at least in one’s personal lives – and I urge you to avoid it, as I am doing. Biography is a corrupting genre, and autobiography is cross-listed with fantasy, so there is really no need to make fools of ourselves . . . and it is not right to make fools of others.”
I’m not certain whether he’s talking about anything specific, but he did say that since returning from New York, he’s been filled with “an entrenched, justifiable rancor.” Perhaps I’ll see him when he comes in for Thanksgiving weekend and we’ll talk about it.
There are so many things about myself I’d like to change. I’d really like to get out of the gossiping bag. Dr. Wouk says gossip is a way of living vicariously through others’ joys and defeats.
Today, at least, I tried to change the least important part of myself: the outside. I bought three new shirts, a pair of work shoes and socks, fixed up my car, cleaned up my room. I guess it’s a start.
I’ve been thinking about Ronna. In her play Maybe Tomorrow, the character who is obviously Ivan keeps saying to her, “I love you,” and the Ronna character keeps replying, “I know.”
And it makes me wonder how, if Ivan couldn’t get her to love him – Ivan, handsome, rich, charming Ivan – how can little old Richie Grayson? But I’m not going to take the attitude of giving up before I start.
I’m going to hang around Ronna and establish – or try my best to, anyway – a good relationship.
Yesterday Stacy said she was angry because I act one way with her and another way with the LaGuardia people, whom she says are “sick.” She may be right about me, but I doubt that the people who hang out in LaGuardia are any sicker than people who hang out elsewhere in the world.
When I spoke to Gary earlier, he hinted that he’s been sleeping with Wendy; that’s nice for him. He also said that Wendy wants to meet me.
I’ve begun plowing through the graduate school catalogues and have started to fill out the application blanks. Sometimes I wonder, though, if an academic life is the right one for me.
I’m certainly not cut out to join my father and grandfather in the pants business; the slick, high-powered world of business with all its false heartiness and constant tensions isn’t my world.
I suppose I am an intellectual. On Thursday Dr. Wouk said that one thing I need in a girlfriend is intellectual companionship and stimulation, and she’s right.
I’m starting my paper on transformations in literature, comparing Roth’s The Breast to Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Gogol’s “The Nose.”
Monday, November 20, 1972
It was cold today, yet it was bright and sunny and didn’t really feel cold. This morning I felt pretty good: I had washed my hair and was wearing a new shirt. I guess that shows where I’m at – the world of appearances – yet considering my upbringing, it’s a wonder I’m not totally hung up on those things.
I spoke to Scott during Bio, and he said he’s getting along all right; I just wish I’d been more attentive to him lately. I felt I got a lot out of today’s Fiction Writing class; it’s good to exchange ideas and thoughts with other people who are also writing.
I cut Psych and hung around LaGuardia. Stanley came by for the EXCO movies they were showing. He “thinks” he’s coming back next term, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
Avis and Alan are, from all evidence, getting along great – but I don’t get to talk to Avis that much anymore. Ronna and I ate lunch together, almost as if it were a foregone conclusion that we always eat lunch together.
I’m learning more about her. Today, for the first time, she mentioned Ivan – and only in a passing reference to a junior high story. I don’t think she ever resolved her relationship with Ivan – or, for that matter, with her father.
I saw Leon, who just got home from Madison last night. He’d brought some “genuine Wisconsin grass,” so Mike opened the Country Fair office, and he, Leon, Mason, Libby and I smoked and talked.
I have never been so wrecked in my life. The room was spinning, but I rather liked the feeling. It’s good to have Leon back. But I got the feeling that he’d rather be in Wisconsin.
Driving Debbie home, she told me she went over to Jim’s house yesterday and she didn’t sound sorry about it.
Marc’s been complaining of fatigue and a sore throat lately, so today he took a blood test to see if he has mono.
After seeing it in Manhattan yesterday, I’ve been recommending Truffaut’s Two English Girls to everyone. It was such a beautiful film that left me with a very pleasant feeling of gentle melancholy. The only problem was that all through the movie, I kept wishing Ronna were there to share it with.
Tonight I went to the library to study and met Vito and Riesa, who were studying together. Vito is so outrageous; he’s a good, gentle person, though, and he makes me laugh more than he embarrasses me.
Thursday, November 23, 1972
Thanksgiving Day 1972 – and I don’t think I’ve ever had so much to be thankful for. Life seems so sweet and full of good things.
Last night was so fantastic. After dinner with the family and Gene (since Lennie threw him out, or over, he comes over every so often to talk to Mom and Dad; although he’s my age, I’m not really jealous of their interest in a guy who’s more like they are than I am, even if he is gay), I went over to Ronna’s apartment in Canarsie to pick her up.
Her mother was out working, and her sister, a heavy-set girl of 17, was babysitting their little brother, 6-year-old Billy. Ronna stared at me when she came out of her room; she said she’d never seen me outside LaGuardia before.
We drove to Avenue J and saw Rohmer’s Chloe in the Afternoon at the Midwood; I think she really liked it, and I know I enjoyed it a lot.
She was wearing this blue turtleneck that looked great, and she said she was getting a cold. When she went to the ladies’ room, she couldn’t find tissues, so she was blowing her nose with a paper towel and I worried she’d irritate her skin.
Afterwards, we held hands as we walked to my car and then went to the Foursome and had corn muffins and tea, and we started talking, really talking, for the first time.
She told me about her father and the divorce and her problems. She also said that Shelli told her that she thinks she’s pregnant; I suppose I could have predicted that. Talking about Shelli led to talk about Ivan.
Ronna never really spoke about him before, but the breakup must have been as hard for her as my breakup was for me. She last saw Ivan on her birthday in the spring and she cried a lot in his room, which was filled with pictures and mementos of Vicky.
She said she never really dated anyone “seriously” except for Ivan – and maybe Hal, whom she found “very sweet, not at all like his reputation.”
At home, in my bedroom, we talked and looked at old photographs. She’s a lot like me in that she has to be sweet and nice all the time so that everyone will love her, or at least not hate her.
I told her about my emotional problems and she started to tell me about how she had this need, and maybe still does, to touch everything she sees that she likes, so she’ll have at least some kind of permanence.
At that moment I loved her; I had a strong erection and wanted to kiss and hug her, but I didn’t. It was 2:30 AM – the time with Ronna had flown so quickly – and we talked to Mom and Dad downstairs. (They loved her.)
I drove her home and told her I had a wonderful time. I really did.
Waking up at noon today, I drove to the beach and went over to Grandma Ethel and Grandpa Herb’s for turkey dinner and Grandma’s famous carrot cake. I had a good time.
Thank God Marc doesn’t have mono; the poor kid just seems to be suffering from exhaustion.
And at home, I called Miami, where both Grandpa Nat and Grandma Sylvia sounded fine.
Yes, we have a lot to be thankful for this year.
Monday, November 27, 1972
It was good to get back to school. Scott told me he got a 602 on his law boards, which is fairly good – but he didn’t seem to care either way. After Bio, Josh and I had a long, good talk; I should have called him over the weekend, because he’s good company.
Next week, Josh said, Allan Cooper will be in. I received a letter from him today in which he said he’s working after school at the post office in Tampa.
I went through English and an abbreviated Psych class and then sauntered into LaGuardia, where Alan Karpoff thanked me for his birthday present, and we went out with his friend Davey to the deli for lunch.
AK, as Debbie calls him, is really so gentle and kind, I’m convinced he’s good medicine for Avis: something stable after her roller-coaster romance with Scott.
And when I saw Avis in LaGuardia, I felt even more convinced: I’ve never seen her looking so happy. But I wonder if her decision to stop therapy wasn’t too hasty; still, I can’t really judge.
I lugged the wine from the English Department office over to SUBO for the reading by Ivan Gold. It was okay, but I was rather bored through most of it. Geri Reilley, sitting next to me, found Gold’s stories more interesting. We talked to Gold afterwards, and he seemed very nice.
When I returned to LaGuardia, Stacy descended upon me – apparently she’d been looking for me – and sat me down for a talk. I kept looking at Ronna in the corner, talking to others, and I’m afraid I wasn’t very attentive to Stacy.
When her old beau Eric from WBCR came over, I took advantage of the situation and went downstairs to be with Ronna. I didn’t have much time with her, though, because she had Art class at 2 PM.
But Slade came in, wearing a suit and tie; he’d been job-hunting. He told me he’d come back from Europe with “a girl I met”; that Marc Nadel was mad at him; and finally that the “girl he met” was Nadel’s girlfriend. “I know it sounds perverse,” said Slade. “But it’s not.”
He told me about his playing basketball with the Oxford team and how Steve was enjoying living in Boston. I always like talking with Slade.
After hanging around with Vito for a little bit, Debbie and I were going home when we passed the Pub and Mikey called to us from inside, asking us to join him and Mike for some drinks. Mikey didn’t do very well on the law boards and he looked quite depressed.
I’m not really digging Eudora Welty’s Losing Battles.
Tuesday, November 28, 1972
It’s 8 PM. I’ve just shampooed my hair and rinsed it with camomile tea I had boiling for a couple of hours this afternoon. It’s a recipe I learned from one of my herbals. I showered and cut my nails and cleaned my ears and got into a new, freshly-starched shirt.
I feel good, pink and clean and new, all the tensions of the day are gone. The past couple of days I’ve been doing yoga, trying to get my body into some semblance of physical shape. Lately I’ve been on one of my self-improvement kicks; at least it keeps me from getting too complacent.
The wallpaper man has been here the last two days, and the house is kind of chaotic. Grandpa Nat came home today, leaving Grandma Sylvia in Miami with a nurse-companion. But I’m certain she’ll become ill and he’ll have to rush down there.
Dad has been pretty short-handed. Joel hasn’t come in lately because Robin is having some kind of breakdown; Joel says she’s screaming all night.
Tonight Dad spoke to Robin and she’s in a very bad way and can’t function. She doesn’t want Joel to go out of town selling for Art Pants because she’s afraid to be left alone and she’s afraid he’ll cheat on her.
But Dad really needs Joel on the road. He can’t depend on Grandpa Nat anymore, and he may have to sell the business to or merge with another company that manufactures pants, like the one owned by Ronna’s great-uncle Alec, or maybe bring in a partner.
Poor Dad: he’s such a fine person and I admire him so much, I just wish I could be more of a help to him.
This morning, when I walked into LaGuardia, Elspeth and the others started clapping, for no apparent reason. Avis told me she’s almost constantly with Alan these days; Gary told jokes that only Gary laughed at; and after an hour of that sort of thing, it was time for class.
Kitch went over Ellison’s amazing Invisible Man today, and afterwards, I went over to Mason and asked him about getting tickets for Hair. He said that the director was mad at the cast for not showing up to rehearsal and he canceled the show, but now, after a long talk last night, it’s on again.
(Mason was pissed at Shelli, who made a big speech about how everyone had to work harder – when she never shows up to their rehearsals.)
I had lunch with Ronna, Susan, Lee and Howie – at the table next to us were Mara, Yolanda, Melvin and Timmy – and then I hung out in the Kingsman office, keeping Ronna company. I got us tickets for Beethoven’s opera Fidelio on December 16.
Elijah dropped by, and he seems really serious about running for Congress in ’74, if only he can raise the money; I’d think his contacts in the churches in Williamsburg and nearby could help him.
I came home early to do my paper for Poli Sci on Zelda, Nancy Milford’s biography of Zelda Fitzgerald, which is really interesting. Zelda Fitzgerald’s novel, Save Me the Waltz, was almost completely autobiographical. It makes me feel that I too can write a novel, maybe with greater ease than I used to think was possible.
Tonight when I went to Kings Plaza to pick up Mara, she said that with Christmas coming, things are getting really hectic in the store.