A 21-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early December, 1972
by Richard Grayson
Friday, December 1, 1972
It’s hard to believe that it’s December already – and already Chanukah, too.
It’s 5:30 PM now, and in a little while I’m going over to Ronna’s house to pick up her and Susan. APO is showing Summer of ’42 tonight to benefit the Heart Fund, and I’m hoping it will be a pleasant evening – although my sinuses are killing me and my stomach’s acting up.
In Bio this morning, Scott told me he was going away for the weekend with Serena. I haven’t met her, but Debbie says, “She’s nothing compared to Avis.”
After class, I went with Josh to Jentz for breakfast; he’s such a real person that I admire him a lot. Josh is very well-read, has an offbeat sense of humor, and tells you what he thinks.
He really dislikes Stacy, who I saw after my Psych class, walking arm in arm with some guy; that made me feel more relieved than anything else.
I had lunch in the pizzeria with Avis, Beverly and Vito, and we had a nice time in spite of Avis and Vito continually making nasty comments about each other. I realize it’s a joke and their shtick, but it rubs me the wrong way. Probably that’s my problem.
Down in the Kingsman office, I found Ronna, who came home late last night from the printers. She said she’d go to Hair with me, which is good since I’d already bought the tickets.
Phyllis asked if I’d come down on Monday to a meeting of a new party to run candidates for the Assembly in the student government elections. I said I would. Why shouldn’t I give them the benefit of my experience losing three elections for rep in a row?
I went for tea with Mara, Vito and Nancy, who said she was “raving” about me to someone last night. Back in LaGuardia, Mara and I listened to Melvin and Costas make fun of the paper’s more pretentious and obnoxious staff members (none of them my friends).
Alan and I went to McDonald’s to bring back lunch for Elspeth, who was working at the Grapevine table. Alan told me he and Avis saw Jerry and Shelli last night and said, “Jerry is the most idealistic, stupidest person in the world.”
Alan said that because Jerry loafs around all day and has no money, they’re moving in with Shelli’s parents. We ran into Hal and Ivy, one of the best couples around. Hal got an incredibly high 725 on the law boards; Ivy’s finished with this term’s nursing school finals.
It’s 2 AM. Tonight, when I got to Ronna’s house, she and Susan were cleaning up from dinner. Ronna’s mother was out working, her sister was at a Sweet Sixteen, and her brother was with his grandparents.
We drove to the college and went to Whitman to see the movie, which was good. Not many people showed up. The three of us went back to Ronna’s house afterwards, for tea and conversation which lasted until 1 AM.
I think I am falling more and more in love with Ronna. I was watching her in the theater as she looked at the screen: she is so beautiful, so cute, I’m getting an erection just thinking about her now.
We haven’t really kissed, though – not a real kiss – and she’s never called my house. But we’re seeing a lot of each other and I liked being over at her house; her room seems very cozy and warm.
Susan is a bit loquacious, of course, but she’s so nice. I drove her home. Now I’m here, unable to sleep, thinking about Ronna, Ronna, Ronna. It must be serious.
Sunday, December 3, 1972
This has been the most idyllic weekend of my life. I didn’t do a drop of schoolwork, and in the end I’ll pay for this hedonism.
But right now I’m listening to Billie Holliday sing; Marc bought this old record of hers and I could listen to it again and again. Mom came upstairs and stood at the door, listening; she said had adored Billie Holliday ever since she was a teenage girl and her drug-addict friend Quinn turned Mom on to “Strange Fruit.”
Tonight I took an herbal bath that was fantastically sensuous, and right now I just feel so good, so secure, so happy; I wish it was always like this: tranquil, soft and beautiful.
I spent a really nice day all by myself. After waking up early from a deep sleep, I read the Sunday Times in bed, then went out to find it was a sunny, gloriously springlike day; the temperatures went up into the 60°s.
I drove into Manhattan and first had difficulty finding parking, but eventually I got a spot on 57th Street and Fifth Avenue. I walked down Fifth past the stores – Tiffany’s, F.A.O. Schwarz, Lord & Taylor – all decorated for Christmas.
At the Museum of Modern Art, I took in their very crowded Diane Arbus exhibit. She was a photographer who specialized in people: freaks, retards, and the just plain ugly. Something eerie struck me about her work, but I liked the feeling.
They also had a show of stuff lent by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Some of my favorites were Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase #2, Picasso’s Three Musicians and Brancusi’s sculpture The Kiss.
Walking out into the near-deserted Sculpture Garden, I sat for a while, admiring Rodin’s statue of Balzac; to me, that work epitomizes the glory of man as an artist and creator. Balzac created a whole world in his novels.
As I was walking back to the car, the bells from St. Patrick’s were loudly tolling. I drove back to Brooklyn and had lunch at the counter of Junior’s, where I had a nice time talking to the waitresses I know – I like the Southern woman who calls everyone “dollin’” – and the counter regulars I’ve seen before.
Then I drove to Rockaway. Grandpa Nat wasn’t home, and when I entered Grandpa Herb’s apartment, I found a note from him explaining that they went over to Marty’s house and a five-dollar bill, which he said was my Chanukah money.
A gentle, self-satisfied drowsiness came over me as I sat on the terrace watching the tide roll out.
Monday, December 4, 1972
I woke up this morning feeling good, which is pretty unusual for Monday at 7 AM. Scott greeted me in Bio this morning with a gift: a box of Rolaids that he’d swiped from the drugstore where he works. He said that he and Serena had spent the weekend in Stony Brook, where she had gotten on his nerves.
I got through Bio and Fiction Writing, but I decided to cut Psych. In LaGuardia, Avis told me she’d had a terrible weekend; she seemed to be having severe menstrual cramps.
I had lunch with Steve Katz at the Pub; it was nice to spend time with him for a change. He showed me a letter from the University of North Carolina, advising him to apply for admission to their master’s program in biostatistics in September, not February.
Steve and I shared a lot of gossip. He told me that Ivy extracted a promise from Hal that he’ll stop all his extra-relationship affairs after January 1. That sounds absurd.
After our lunch, I went over to Roosevelt and joined Ronna at Prof. Schlissel’s showing of Gold Diggers of 1933, which we enjoyed a lot; it’s part of the American Studies program’s series on the Great Depression.
Ronna had to go to her studio class, but before she left, she gave me a card for my half-birthday today. It was an e.e. cummings poem she’d written out. It ended:
and in a mystery to be
(when time from time shall set us free)
forgetting me, remember me
This evening I called her up to thank her and we spoke for a long time. I gave her some of my stories to read today, and we are beginning to share a lot.
After the movie, I went back to LaGuardia, where Mikey announced that he and Debbie are getting married. People said she had a diamond ring and everything, and they acted so serious, but of course it’s a goof. I went along with the gag, telling everyone that yes, it was true.
I drove Vito home and came in to watch TV with him and his mother. Some pornography came in the mail for his little brother, and we threw it out.
Tonight I spoke to Josh, who reported that Allan’s not coming in because the post office in Tampa where he works won’t give him time off. Frankly, although it would have been nice to see Allan, I don’t care all that much.
Thursday, December 7, 1972
It’s been kind of a hard day and I’m played out. So I indulge myself and try to unwind: I’m drinking spearmint tea, listening to Cat Stevens, and have just washed my hair and used the camomile rinse.
Last night I didn’t sleep very well. In every dream I kept seeing Ronna looking beautiful and lovable. At one point I awoke during the night feeling certain that I loved her; yet this morning, when I looked at my bedraggled image in the bathroom mirror, the certainty was gone.
Paul came in to see the Student Government draft counselor Charles Freehof, who of course was not in. Paul’s draft induction is on Monday. He’s got a letter from a psychiatrist, and I pray he won’t have to go to Vietnam.
I hung around, accomplishing nothing but talking with people. I spoke with Gary, who seemed incredibly nervous about his GREs on Saturday. After getting a sandwich at the deli, I went with Gary to the curriculum committee meeting.
Prof. Eisen took over as chairman, and it was a mercifully short meeting; our December document is now complete.
I drove to the Heights to Dr. Wouk’s office, where I received a surprise. Rochelle has decided, after a harrowing five-hour drive in the snow last week, that she can no longer come into the city every week.
So – I’ve got a bit of a problem. I told her immediately that I would like to continue in therapy, and Dr. Wouk said she felt that would be helpful for me.
She said she’ll recommend me to one of two women therapists – she thinks I need a woman and I agree – but she’ll come in for two more weeks.
She was upset and felt responsible, but she told me I should express my justifiable anger. And once I said how shitty it was, how could you do this to me, etc., I realized that she is behaving justifiably, too.
We talked about other things, notably about my relationship with Ronna, but both of us kept thinking about her leaving. At 21, after over six years of psychotherapy, I will begin with my fourth therapist.
I don’t consider therapy, as some of my friends do, a crutch. It really has helped me. It will be scary, starting over with a new therapist, but it’s also exciting.
Sunday, December 10, 1972
It’s 5 PM now and I’ve managed to survive the day intact so far. But I’m pretty sick, probably with the English flu that’s been going around; I have a fever of 101°.
Last night I got a call from Scott, who said he was “super-depressed” and needed to talk to me. I told him I was ill but that he could come over anyway if he didn’t mind the chance of catching the flu.
He arrived about 9:30 PM, bringing me tea; I remained in bed. Scott told me he was home, making out law school applications, and again he got the feeling of not knowing what he wants to do with his life.
“Four years in college,” Scott said, “and I’m not suited to do anything.”
I listened to him and offered my sympathy and what few suggestions I could make. We talked until 11 PM, and I fell asleep immediately after he left.
This morning I was incredibly sick. My head was throbbing with fever and mucus. I felt so weak I cried a little and kvetched a lot. I couldn’t do anything until 3 PM or so, when I felt strong enough at least to lift my head up off my pillow.
I feel all right now – still weak and grippey and feverish, though.
Gary called and said he had a rough time with the GREs yesterday, especially the Sociology advanced test.
I called Ronna, who was bored, she said, watching TV with her little brother. Sometimes I wonder if I’m not becoming a pest to her. Last night Scott said that “everybody in LaGuardia knows you’re always hanging around her.”
But I can talk to Ronna with ease now; I care for her more than I care for anyone else.
I called Mikey, who also spent the day indoors (it rained all day again today). He was having trouble with law school applications and constipation.
After I spoke to Grandma Ethel and Grandpa Herb, I had a little to eat. I hope this flu or whatever it is doesn’t last too long although I’m reconciled to staying home tomorrow and maybe Tuesday.