A 21-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early March, 1973
by Richard Grayson
Thursday, March 1, 1973
6 PM. While I’m not exactly feeling depressed this evening, I do feel – well, pensive, and maybe a little melancholy. After all, it is the first of March, and today was a warm, sunny day. It’s not even dark yet. So spring is almost here.
Despite all the hassles, it’s been the nicest, most pleasant winter I can remember.
An hour ago I went to The Floridian to bring home dinner for me and my brothers, and as I sat at the counter waiting for our order to be ready, I reminisced about other times in the diner: with the family; with Shelli and Jerry when we took him out the weekend before his draft physical; with Avis last spring; with Debbie, Mandy and Scott; and years ago, with Brad.
Yesterday I learned from Maddy that she lives on the block where Brad used to live with his grandmother and his sisters. I wonder what Brad’s up to these days and if he ever found the ideal boyfriend he wanted.
Last night’s Walt Whitman Club meeting proved disastrous. It turned out in the end that the club voted to endorse no one in the Borough President primary. Most people disliked Steve Solarz’s slick wheeling and dealing style.
But Rhoda was counting on Solarz’s help in her race for City Council, and now he’ll probably back another reform candidate instead. Brian lost his temper, but it was really his own fault for not telling everyone the situation – how Rhoda needed Solarz – ahead of our endorsement vote.
Today I ran into Stacy, and she was most cold and unfriendly. It made me feel bad, because despite everything, I think she’s a good human being.
But it’s Ronna that I love: last night I stopped by LaGuardia to see how she was doing on copy night and made sure she had dinner.
Tonight the student government election results will be announced, and so Ronna will have to stay very late at the printers. I worry about her overworking, but she’s a sturdy girl.
I slept late today, went into school for a dull Curriculum Committee meeting and finally got to see Jonathan Baumbach, who was more than happy to give me letters of recommendation.
Tonight I’m going to Mrs. Ehrlich, and maybe I’ll stop by school afterwards for the election results.
11:30 PM. My session with Mrs. Ehrlich went well. For the first time, I began to talk about sexual feelings.
In a way, I discovered, I’m not unhappy that Ronna and I aren’t having intercourse, as it makes things less complicated. Sex leaves one virtually defenseless, I found, when I got terribly hurt with Shelli.
Mrs. Ehrlich and I also discussed the fact that the week did not go badly at all – and Mom and Dad will be back from Mexico on Saturday night.
Driving straight down Atlantic Avenue and then Flatbush, I made it so fast that I decided to stop off at school, where the ballots were being counted in a secret room in SUBO.
Mike and Rose both told me that the Populists were sweeping, but because of the huge turnout the results wouldn’t be known till 1 AM.
So I hung around the cloakroom talking to Nancy, and when she got off duty at 11 PM, I drove her home. She was very grateful for the ride, but Nancy’s always-pleasant company was more than worth the trouble.
Saturday, March 3, 1973
It’s a cool, rainy evening. Tonight I have to pick up Mom and Dad at the airport; their plane arrives at 11 PM.
Last night, when I went over to Ronna’s house, she said she had diarrhea and I guess I was being overprotective or something because I didn’t want her to go out, and we argued about it.
But it wasn’t a real fight; we went outside and walked for a long time, talking things over. I must be honest with her all the time and tell her what annoys me: that’s what she wants.
It was nothing, really, and once inside my house, things were fine again. We looked through my high school yearbook and talked, then watched a concert with The Guess Who, B.B. King and Melanie. We kissed and hugged and it was so nice.
Ronna said she’d really like to go with me to Washington this spring to see the cherry blossoms, and I said that was a great idea.
We watched Jean Renoir’s Rules of the Game, a fine film, and afterwards started petting heavily and soon were simulating intercourse. Both of us came, but Ronna looked like something was wrong afterwards and she wouldn’t tell me what it was.
I reassured her, and finally she told me she doesn’t want to sleep with me, that she’s not ready to give herself up to vulnerability and hurt. She said, “You may not want to see me anymore now.”
I told her that I understood and said that she should have had faith in me.
Ronna said, “I don’t know what I’m saving myself for. . . Maybe for love.”
“Okay,” I said.
And she said, “If I’m ever ready, you’ll be the first to know.” I hugged her tightly and drove her home, as it was very late.
Marc never came home last night. God knows what he’s messing around with – besides grass and whippets, I mean.
This morning I took Jonny and his friends to the bowling alley and then went into the city, to Stuyvesant High School, for the New Democratic Coalition convention.
All the reform hacks were around: Al Lowenstein, Tony Olivieri, O’Dwyer, Kretchmer, Koch, Dick Neuhaus, Ken Elstein and others who are always at these things.
Stepping outside for a breath of air, I found myself standing next to a pipe-smoking Dick Ottinger, who told me he was there to nominate mayoral candidate Mario Biaggi, whose limo soon pulled up. Ottinger must have made a deal to support such a conservative Democrat, who had zero chance with the NDC crowd.
It seems so long ago that I was working for Ottinger’s U.S. Senate campaign during our 1970 election recess. He really must be a heavy smoker; I remember him campaigning with a cigarette in his hand.
I went uptown to have lunch and buy herbs. The last I heard on WBAI, Badillo and Blumenthal were in a close contest for the NDC endorsement for mayor.
Monday, March 5, 1973
I’m feeling much better tonight. I spent the evening with Ronna, who called me from Kings Plaza. After I picked her up, we went back to her house for supper.
Mrs. C is a good cook, but she looked rather tired tonight. I know things haven’t been going too well there. On Saturday, Billy said that he was afraid to go with his father, and a lot of hassles ensued.
After cleaning up, Ronna and I went for a ride to Manhattan Beach. We stood on the Ocean Avenue Bridge and the water looked so cool and shiny in the dark.
We parked back at her house and it took us an hour to say goodbye. It’s so nice to be with her.
This morning I discussed politics with Noah Seabrook, who’ll be the Third World candidate for Assembly speaker.
When Gary came into LaGuardia, I talked to him for a while, recognizing that I was using him not only to catch up on things, but also to avoid Shelli, who made one of her now-infrequent visits to the lobby.
Gary said Wendy has been quite ill with a kidney infection – a result of sex, Gary told me – and poor Gary still doesn’t have a job although he’s hoping to hear from the Mayor’s Office by the end of the week.
In Russian, Prof. Roberts lectured on symbolism in Crime and Punishment, but Josh and I are dissatisfied with his strict Christian interpretation of everything.
After class, Josh said he’s determined to change my outlook, which he termed “self-satisfiedly neurotic.”
Back in LaGuardia, I found Jon Z talking to Mikey, Elspeth and Skip. I said hi although I never really cared much for Jon; he’s been in Boston, studying Poli Sci.
Elspeth told me a secret: that Slade never graduated and is now taking three credits in night school. Renee came in, just back to Florida and with a new job in the Psych lab. Skip got the part of Donald in Boys in the Band when the guy who originally was picked dropped out of the production.
Skip and Scott got into some sort of heated argument about something, but as Avis said, there were “bad vibrations” in the lobby this morning while I was in Russian.
First, Stanley and Vito were bickering loudly over the merits of various films nominated and not nominated for the Oscars. Avis herself was furious at Alan, who never showed up (only part of the reason for her anger).
And then Avis said that she witnessed some kind of a scene between Felicia and Susan with Ronna. It was over the trip to Europe and other things, as I later found out when Ronna and I had lunch by the rock garden. Now Susan isn’t speaking to her.
Mason came in, looking a bit washed-out from his surgery and convalescence but otherwise okay. I was talking to him when Hal came over, in a very jokey mood, and put his hand on my thigh, telling me he’s decided to “come out.”
“Not you too, Hal!” I said. “Now who’ll I look up to for an ideal image of masculinity?”
Then I said (honestly, based on what Ronna’s told me): “But I do hear from a reliable source that you’re a good kisser.”
“Only one source?” Hal said. Behind that veneer of studied hostility, Hal is actually one of the warmest people I know. I told him to call me when Ivy throws him out.
(I wonder what Hal would think if I told him that when I first met him almost three years ago, I really was attracted to him. Ronna didn’t seem all that fazed when I told her about it.)
Costas, Sid and I got our first entrant in the “Why I Love Euripides Dervis” in fifty words or less essay contest. The winner gets a date with “Euripides Dervis.”
I went home after Afro-American Lit and read, in one gulp, Notes from Underground, which stunned me. It’s amazing how much I feel like Dostoevsky’s anti-hero: “In despair there are the most intense enjoyments.”
But at times I wonder if I’m more like this character in Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point (a BBC serial Ronna and I have been watching): Philip Quarles, a novelist who uses his friends as material in his writing but who has no real human feelings toward them.
Thursday, March 8, 1973
Last evening, I saw Ronna at copy night before my Walt Whitman Democratic Club meeting; she walked me over to Rhoda’s house on Kenilworth Place and everything seemed perfect.
On the way we met Gary, who was really upset after visiting his dying grandfather. Why is there so much pain in the world?
At the Whitman Club meeting at Rhoda’s, we elected Sue Korn to replace Brian as our president and then endorsed Solarz for Borough President as a matter of expediency. We also made our judicial convention slate.
At the door as I left, Brian told me, “Help out the club, Richie.” I’ll miss Brian a lot. He’s leaving New York on Sunday. Brian always claimed that all his good works are merely ego-gratification, but surely there’s something else.
Is there such a thing as “the good” – in me, in others – that Ronna was talking about this afternoon? Is “the spiritual side of man” that Prof. Roberts always alludes to actually something real?
Anyway, Brian told me that Ronna and I could stay at his place when we visit Washington.
This afternoon, Ronna and I had another argument. But they’re not really arguments; perhaps I’m afraid to get into one with her. Anyway, I was acting like a baby and Ronna said I was getting on her nerves, and that hurt me.
We sat on a bench by the lily pond, talking. Apparently I’m going into the same neurotic pattern I had with Shelli. I told Ronna that I’m trying to change and not be such a nervous person, a hypochondriac, a nudzh, but maybe I’m not making her happy.
She said she was happy and told me that “there is so much good in you.” But I don’t want to make my problems her problems. That’s why I might have been more comfortable with less expression of love from her.
Last Saturday night – or Sunday morning at 2 AM – we were eating Deaf Smith peanut butter sandwiches in the kitchen when she suddenly turned to me and said, “You know I love you, don’t you?” I just nodded, but it sort of freaked me out to hear her say it for the first time.
And maybe that’s why, not just a stomach virus, I felt I wanted to throw up early that morning and much of Sunday.
But who knows? Maybe I’m just really angry because we never seem to discuss her hangups. But there aren’t any that really bother me enough to tell her and hurt her. Perhaps I’ve been reading too much Dostoevsky.
Mikey told me that on the bus going back to Rockaway yesterday Stacy asked him why I’m not talking to her. Well, it’s because I thought she was mad at me. And then I felt guilty about ignoring her. And now I feel even more terrible, like I’m a horrible person.
This evening I feel very full of questions. Perhaps I’ll come to some answers tonight at my therapy session with Mrs. Ehrlich.