A 21-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early February, 1973

by Richard Grayson

Monday, February 5, 1973

I’m tired after the first day of the new term – but it’s a good kind of tired, one I’ve missed feeling. It was a beautiful springlike day, just right for the beginning of the spring term. The campus was alive with people and activity and the first-day goings-on.

This morning I walked to Boylan with Vito, into my Russian class, where Prof. Roberts will be devoting the whole term to an in-depth look at the works of Dostoevsky.

A pleasant surprise is that Josh is in the class. As we walked to the Junction after Roberts let us out early to buy books, Josh said he didn’t like Florida very much.

Back on campus, I headed for LaGuardia. Avis and Alan had just come out of a class together. These past few weeks, Avis hasn’t been friendly but she’s been busy with Alan mostly, and Scott, and yes, Jacob again.

I sat around with Mason and Skip, who spoke to Leon last night; they said he’s depressed and wants people to come out to Madison to visit him.

Down in the Kingsman office, Maddy, Craig, Alex, Robert and everybody were discussing their vacations and their new courses. Phyllis was interviewing Borough President Leone, who I met on the LaGuardia stairs. He’s running for the first time after being appointed when Abe Stark resigned a couple of years ago.

Ronna and I had lunch together; she still has a cold but she manages to stay cheerful. Looking around the deli, where we ate, it felt like I knew everyone there, for at various tables were Debbie and Mandy; Mike and Mikey; Mason and Libby with Davey; Vito, Nancy and Riesa; and various others.

It really gave me a good “at home” feeling to look around the restaurant and see literally more than a dozen friends.

After lunch, Ronna and I went to make up keys to the office for Sid and Richard, and then back in LaGuardia, I found Mark. He said Consuelo and the baby are fine and that they’re all moving into his in-laws’ house next week.

Ronna and I hung around for a while, talking with everyone before we went to our 3 PM classes. I was relieved not to be the only white person in my Afro-American Studies class. The teacher, Prof. Mayers, seems nice and the course, Afro-American Literature I, going from colonial times to the start of the 20th century, looks interesting.

After I went textbook shopping with Ronna and Costas, I drove Ronna home. What a nice start for the new term.

Tuesday, February 6, 1973

A nice day, all things considered. When I got to LaGuardia this morning, I found Avis and Teresa chatting away.

Teresa talked about her skiing trip to Europe and said how great Nancy – whom she previously hadn’t known – was at skiing and swimming: “She even breathed better than the rest of us.”

Avis is thinking of going into a drug deal with Paul and Davey, and thereby making money for her summer trip. Avis has changed; she’s such a Rockaway person now, and I’m not sure we’re friends anymore.

I regret it, but that’s how it goes sometimes: people drift apart.

My English 27.1 (Chaucer to Johnson) class should fill in some gaps in British literature for me. The teacher. Prof. Murphy, is a rather bland Irishman who resembles Kurt Vonnegut. Stanley, back in school again, is in the class with me.

When I had tea with Debbie in Sugar Bowl, she apologized for not calling lately but said her house has been crazy since her sister’s sudden engagement. It’ll be a really schlocky wedding – at Leonard’s, no less – but Debbie seems to find it all mildly amusing.

I like Debbie, and at least that’s one friendship that seems secure.

I hung out in LaGuardia for an hour, listening to Phyllis and Sid’s plans for a new party to run in student government elections (I’ve sworn off involvement, except as an adviser/elder statesman); hearing about Carl’s getting ptomaine poisoning up in New Paltz this weekend; and Gary’s depression about his very low GRE scores and about not having a job.

Gary and I went to lunch with Ronna and Susan after they got out of their English class. Ronna still has a cold, but she takes it so cheerfully; I wish I were more like her.

It made me feel good to see Costas talking friendlily to Rose and Eddie; it’s nice to know that some people can endure breakups and forgive and forget so quickly and with what seems like such grace.

I drove home Cindy – she’s such a sweet kid – and of course Ronna, whom I wish I could see more of.

Tonight, at my first meeting of the Walt Whitman Reform Democratic Club, I listened to hours of speeches by candidates for City Council and Borough President.

Naturally we unanimously endorsed Rhoda Jacobs for City Council afterwards; she’d be so great if she got in.

We didn’t yet endorse either of the two candidates for Borough President who came in to speak with us: sincere Councilman Ruth Lerner or ambitious Assemblyman Steve Solarz, both of whom are trying to be the “reform” candidate against Leone. We’ll vote at the next meeting.

Thursday, February 8, 1973

Tonight I went to see Mrs. Ehrlich, but I wonder about therapy: the world is such a crazy place, what good does it do to adjust to its insanity?

Like the old story right-wing Republicans tell – I remember it from Phyllis Schlafly’s A Choice, Not an Echo – about the guy in the 1930s who escapes from an insane asylum and comes upon a farmer who tells him the government is paying him not to grow crops, and the man says, “Who’s looney now?”

Or as my great-grandmother would sigh, “A meshuggener velt!”

This afternoon I was minding my business, coming from school, when a black guy, about 20, came up to me in the street and asked me where he could get tickets for “the show tonight” at the college.

I assumed there was a show and gave directions to the Gershwin box office, but he started walking the other way, alongside me, asking all sorts of questions (“Is it sold out?”) which I answered as best I could. I asked if he wanted me to go back to the box office with him and see if I could get him a student discount.

Finally he said, “You all right, kid. I was going to rob you – I got a gun in my coat pocket – but because you all right, I’ll let you go.”

“Thank you,” I said, and he left, presumably to find a less “all right” victim.

A world where you have to thank people for not shooting you? Senator Stennis was shot after he gave thieves his money; even the police are getting shot, seemingly for no reason. Who’s looney now?

Today was not the best of days. This morning I was tired but finally got up and went to BC. On the way, I picked up this card for Ronna and wrote her a note, telling her I’d think of her today and asking her to think of me when she’s at the printers tonight.

“I love you even though you’re paranoid,” the note ended. I gave it to Susan to give to Ronna, as I didn’t get to see her today because by the time Stanley and I got out of our English lecture on Beowulf, Ronna was in class.

Skip, Elspeth and June took me along to the Curriculum Committee meeting, which was long – but we accomplished a lot today. By the time the meeting ended, when I went back to LaGuardia, Ronna and Maddy and the other editors had already left for Williamsburg.

So I started for home and that’s the story of how I almost became a statistic Mario Biaggi could use to aid in his “Lawn Order” mayoral campaign.

Tonight I drove down to Atlantic Avenue and got there early, so I walked around, looking in the windows of the interesting Arab stores there. Mrs. Ehrlich and I had a pretty good session, I suppose.

She said I reacted to today’s incident normally, not neurotically. We talked about how I do have these neurotic superstitions, figuring that I’m allotted only so much pain, sickness, crime attacks – and also good times.

Mrs. Ehrlich and I are getting somewhere, but it’s such a painfully slow process. At times I feel like I’m bleeding to death and all I’m getting are band-aids.

Tuesday, February 13, 1973

I feel very happy tonight, mostly because I’ve done something today that was emotionally healthy. Here’s the story:

When I met Ronna today, I noticed she had a bag from the card store. “Whose birthday is it?” I asked.

“Nobody’s,” she said.

I made some joke about her sending cards to herself and promptly forgot the whole thing and started talking about how much I liked being with her at MOMA yesterday even if we did end up sitting for half an hour in the Mrs. Guggenheim room staring at Monet’s water lilies.

Then, tonight, Ronna called me to talk. She said, “That card today – it was a belated birthday card for Ivan.” I was hurt, but we finished the conversation and hung up.

However, I felt really shitty afterwards. I drove over to Kings Plaza to look for Mara, but evidently she wasn’t working tonight. But I did a lot of thinking as I stood there in the mall, and when I got home I called Ronna back.

I told her that I was hurt because she lied to me (by omission, anyway). I explained to her that I’d just assumed she had sent a birthday card to Ivan last week: that wasn’t what mattered. No, what mattered was the principle of answering questions truthfully.

“On New Year’s Eve, you made our honesty rules,” I said, “and then you broke them.”

She said she didn’t tell me because Shelli had told her that I got very emotional (calling her up and crying whenever she went out with Jerry) and so Ronna was afraid I’d be upset and jealous (like Ivan used to be).

We straightened the whole thing out without bitter words or crying. I told her I’m not the same person I was, that she isn’t Shelli, that I’m not Ivan, and either we’re honest with each other or not.

Anyway, it felt so good to resolve things in an adult way; Dr. Rochelle Wouk would be proud of me.

Today was a cold but sunny day. Stanley and I endured a lecture on Chaucer in English, and then Vito and Mara and I had a lot of fun going over the Oscar nominations.

I met Ronna for lunch, and afterwards we went back to LaGuardia, where Scott told us that with Marty’s help, he’s trying to organize the workers at CVS in Kings Plaza. Undoubtedly Scott will be fired, but it’ll be a moral victory.

Avis’s flying lesson was canceled due to high winds. And Debbie and Mikey appear to have quarreled over something.

This afternoon I drove into Manhattan and got Ronna a bottle of essence of lilac at Kiehl Pharmacy. Once home, I completed my graduate school applications. At last! Yessireebob, things are all right.

Friday, February 16, 1973

It’s early evening now. It was really a nice day. When I woke up this morning, there was a gentle snow flurry falling and it continued throughout the day: a comfortable snow, not enough to be annoying.

I almost enjoyed taking the B41 bus to school today, for it gives me a chance to look at stores and people and to relax and not have a hassle looking for a parking space. I’ll get the car tomorrow night, so not having it isn’t so bad.

Mrs. Ehrlich and I had a really fine session last night. I discovered that a lot of my upset yesterday came from having to get recommendations for grad school.

Lately I’ve been feeling like kind of a schmuck, and I realize that when I have temper tantrums at home, I get yelled at by my parents and then I feel guilty and not worth anything – and that’s a feeling I’m actually trying to get because part of me wants to be feel worthless.

In Russian this morning – Josh couldn’t convince me to cut – Prof. Roberts read us a terrific Dostoevsky story, and in Classics, Prof. Hansen started lecturing on Prometheus.

In LaGuardia, I found Avis looking upset. She was waiting for Alan, who never showed up – apparently a not uncommon occurrence. She said he never calls her, and although he still likes her, he doesn’t want to get together so much these days. I gather Avis has been confiding a lot in Teresa.

Sometimes I think that Avis cannot be satisfied in her relationships with guys. Still, I worry about her.

When Ronna and Susan got out of class, Felicia and I joined them for lunch in Boylan cafeteria, where I hadn’t eaten in years. Ronna said they were at the printers until 1 AM. People kept telling me how funny my Rolaids article in today’s paper was.

All day, everyone was looking for Vito and no one could find him. Towards the end of the day, I passed him and discovered why he didn’t come to LaGuardia: he was badly scalped by some sadistic barber and was embarrassed to be seen by his friends.

Nancy kept telling him to go to a hair stylist, not some old neighborhood Italian barber, but Vito wouldn’t listen. “Always listen to Nancy,” I told him.

After persuading Vito to go see people, we went back to LaGuardia, where Nancy entertained me, Ronna and Avis with tales of her cloistered days in a strict Catholic girls’ high school. Even Vito, who’d heard these stories before, enjoyed it.

“She’s terrific,” Ronna said of Nancy afterwards as we walked to our respective bus stops.

She said Ivan called her last night while she was at the printers in Williamsburg. He talked to her sister and told her that he just called to say hi and not to call back this weekend because he was spending it in Pennsylvania, presumably with Vicky.