A 21-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Mid-May, 1973
by Richard Grayson
Saturday, May 12, 1973
It’s 7 PM and I’m staying in tonight. I called Ronna this afternoon and told her I’m just too tired and have too much work to do to go out again tonight. She was disappointed, but I think she understood.
Anyway, part of me (my id) would like to be with her tonight too, but I know the other part of me (my superego) who says to stay home and do schoolwork is right.
Last night I picked up Ronna at 8 PM – my car is riding, at least – and we went to Country Fair at Roosevelt Field. Evan was the director this year, and I know he must have put a lot of work into it, but it really wasn’t much: the usual games and bad skits and things.
But it was still so popular that we had to wait an hour on line to get in. We let Scott walk around with us; Ronna later said he reminds her of Dorian Gray. Scott still doesn’t know what he’s doing next year and doesn’t want to talk about it.
After Scott found one of those girls who are always throwing themselves at him, we separated. Walking around, we ran into Kevin and Cathy; they’re so affectionate in public, it makes me a bit uncomfortable, but they’re really nice.
Craig and Henry were there. Ronna said Henry is “an angel” because he makes things so easy when the three of us are together. Sometimes one can be nice in that situation – when you’re with your ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend – yet still be really nasty, but Henry’s not like that. He’s such a Boy Scout, I can’t help admiring him.
Unfortunately, later on in the evening Craig told Ronna that Henry’s very down these days. He’s getting three F’s, is managing Lou’s hopeless campaign for the city council, and may lose his job as news director at WBCR.
Ronna talked to Craig when we had decided to split up for a while and I walked around with Karen and Teresa. We saw Fat Ronnie, more obese than ever, and we talked with him about Ray Davies and the Kinks, whom he’s still tight with.
After another hour or so, Ronna and I decided to leave Country Fair, and as we were going back to SUBO, she met an old friend of Ivan’s, who said he’d recently seen Ivan when he went to visit the house of “this girl in Rockaway, Stacy Bernstein.” Small world.
Before we left, we did stop and tell Evan what a good job he did as Country Fair director, and Evan and I talked about how we met on the Flatbush Avenue bus that first day of classes back in September 1969. It seems so long ago; I never thought I’d love college the way I ended up doing.
Ronna and I came back to my house, and the hours flew by. She told me not to be surprised if she goes out with someone else. “I’m happy with you, but I’m still looking,” she said.
It didn’t bother me at all. “So am I,” I said.
We agreed that we probably would get upset if we dated others, but we would try to make it easy for each other.
Sitting on the floor in my room, we talked and held each other and made out, with me on top of her with our jeans still on. It was beautiful, especially because we came at the same time.
By the time I took her home, it was nearly 4 AM. I slept away today.
Monday, May 14, 1973
Midnight after a nice evening out on Broadway. I picked up Ronna at 6 PM and we caught up with her sister at her psychologist’s, then drove into the city. Ronna’s mother had gotten us tickets for Pippin, which turned out to be a very good musical.
All of us enjoyed the show, and it was good to break up the monotony of usual weeknight things.
Ronna had called me last night after speaking to Susan, who had told her that with her marks, Ronna should forget about grad school and instead concentrate on becoming a teacher.
All day today, Susan and Felicia kept feeding her lines like, “The only thing you can do with a B.A. in English is be a housewife.”
So when I picked Ronna up tonight, she told me she’d spoken to Prof. Merritt today and tomorrow she was going to see Prof. Starling about taking the Ed sequence.
Unfortunately, it may mean going to summer school. Ronna’s down about it, but she says she’s being realistic.
I went to Russian today, where we’re still on The Brothers Karamazov – Josh wasn’t in class – and headed for LaGuardia afterwards. The computer registration began today, but the only involvement I had was to recommend courses and teachers to Sid, Mara and others.
Avis said that on Friday, she realized her “big love affair” with Alan Karpoff is “all in my mind.” Alan treats her very well, but not really any better than he treats all of his close friends.
Teresa told us about her weekend with Roger. Doesn’t she realize she’s just asking for trouble, wanting to marry somebody who’s that strongly homosexual?
Vito says Teresa’s in danger of becoming a “fag hag.” Incidentally, Vito and Joey are going to Malta this summer – though why Malta, I have no idea.
I went to Sugar Bowl for tea with Carl Karpoff. He told me about one night last spring, when he and Steve Katz and Leon got drunk. He and Leon started hugging and then got into “heavier things,” at which point Carl said he felt uncomfortable and stopped.
The next day Leon accused him of “testing his sexuality,” and soon after that, Leon dropped him as a friend and started hanging out with Skip.
Carl said Leon’s very afraid of women, that last year Carl noticed that Mara had a crush on Leon, and Leon didn’t even want Carl to tell him about it.
Back in LaGuardia later, Ronna’s friend Judy came by and we bought her along to lunch with us and others. Judy was at loose ends, more than usual even, talking about how she was going to commit suicide.
But I always thought Judy was, if not crazy, then eccentric, so I concentrated on talking to the others at our table, like Susan and Bill Breitbart.
Later Ronna told me that Judy slept with a guy for the first time recently. She thinks she’s pregnant and the guy doesn’t even like her. I shrugged it off until this evening, when Ronna swore me to secrecy and told me the guy was Scott. I shouldn’t be surprised.
After lunch, I went to the Assembly meeting – Mike is fully in control of the new student government – and then to Afro-American Studies.
Out of the blue, I got an acceptance in today’s mail from Richmond College, my first choice – just a day after I told Stony Brook I was going there. And now I don’t know where to go for my M.A. I’d prefer Richmond, but Stony Brook has more prestige.
One week at Brooklyn College to go.
Wednesday, May 16, 1973
11 PM. Mrs. Ehrlich called me this evening. I had completely forgotten, in all of last Thursday’s excitement, that she had changed my appointment to Wednesday for this week.
She said that at our next session we’ll discuss my “reason” for missing the appointment – no doubt a deep psychological reason. Why can’t people just forget things?
More and more, I feel myself questioning the dicta of psychology. Is it true that “the truth shall set ye free” or can analyzing everything drive one batty?
This morning, in Russian, we again discussed The Brothers Karamazov. I’m struggling to finish The Possessed by Friday, when we’re having our last test.
I really like The Possessed as much as Dostoevsky’s more famous books. I wonder if I will ever write a novel. In these past few years, I sometimes feel that I’ve acquired enough raw material to furnish a dozen novels.
But do I have anything to say, or am I just a snoop and a gossip and a thinker, not a doer? Henry James said, “Where emotions are, there am I.” That was rather pompous, but I feel a bit like that myself.
Yet maybe I plunge into exploring others’ lives because I’m afraid of the real, deep feelings within myself. So maybe Mrs. Ehrlich was more right than I realized.
After class, Josh told me he’s still looking for an apartment. Is it really that hard to find one or is Josh hesitant about moving out? (And am I doing the same thing I accuse Mrs. Ehrlich of doing?)
Back in LaGuardia, I noticed Shelli there with Jerry. I hadn’t seen him in months, and I stole a few glances at him while speaking with Howie and Richard.
Jerry is really almost ugly, he’s loud, and he’s such a bad dresser. I can’t see him as evil anymore, but rather as someone who’s kind of pitiful. I noticed that he and Shelli went off somewhere with Elspeth, which struck me as odd.
But then Elspeth and Shelli have been together a lot lately, and Teresa reported that Shelli told Elspeth that she has been calling me with those silent calls throughout her marriage. But why? And why is she telling people, especially Elspeth, who’s certainly not discreet?
I had lunch with Susan, and afterwards, Ronna arrived; she’d been at home, doing her paper. I walked the girls to Merritt’s office at the English Department, then returned to LaGuardia.
It was Wednesday, and Avis was happy because it’s the one day both she and Alan are off from work. If it’s no big love affair, they still look happy together.
Mikey told me about the new Assembly committee chairmen and the Mugwump executive board. I don’t think I know a quarter of the Mugwumps now, but I guess it’s time for old-timers like me and Mikey to graduate and give the “young generation” a chance. Ha!
Tonight I had dinner out at the Floridian with Mom and Dad, and afterwards we went up Utica Avenue to the Mercury dealer on Kings Highway and bought a ’73 Comet: two doors, gold, floor gearshift, very nifty.
It’s a wonderful graduation/birthday present, but I’m going to miss my old Pontiac.
Friday, May 18, 1973
Last night did not go as well as I had predicted. I wanted Ronna to see Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, which was playing in the Village. So we went, although she really didn’t want to see it.
Ronna, by her own admission, has been brought up on musical comedy and “nice”-type entertainment. She sat through the movie; I enjoyed it, but she was silent afterwards.
As we walked along the bookstores and shops and the Orange Julius stand on West 8th Street, I told her that I had the view that life is chaotic, absurd, and that there is no order in the universe. But I know Ronna believes in some ultimate force: God or love or goodness.
Still, she didn’t say much until we were driving past the Brooklyn Museum, and exasperated, I finally got it out of her that she’d been upset all evening at my views. “I know it’s irrational and stupid, but I can’t help feeling that way,” she said.
We thrashed it out, and although we came to no conclusions, we did air our feelings. I see no reason why we have to have compatible views, but Ronna thinks it’s important.
We keep apologizing to one another. Ronna said maybe we don’t know each other as well as we should or thought we did. I got home at midnight but couldn’t sleep: my legs ached and my sinuses throbbed.
This morning I could barely rouse myself, but of course I made it to the Russian final, which was the most difficult test this term. Afterwards, I was so tired that I went back home to bed for a couple of hours.
When I finally went back to school at 4 PM, the campus was nearly deserted, except for Vito, Skip, Mandy and George, who seem an inseparable quartet these days, and Mike, besieged by various people who want something out of the new student government president.
I started to think that maybe I was getting very depressed about leaving Brooklyn College. I walked across the campus, thinking of so many things: talks, meeting, great moments, bad times.
For the first time, really, I looked at the quote and inscription on LaGuardia Hall although they’ve been under my nose all these years.
Back home, I had dinner and then picked up Ronna. We took a ride to Staten Island, up Bay Street, all the way to the ferry, where you can see the lower Manhattan skyline. That’s where I’ll be going to grad school if I decide to attend Richmond College, and it’s a beautiful spot.
We found our way up Todt Hill Road, a very hilly (and a bit scary) two-lane country road. We passed the Richmondtown restoration before returning over the bridge to Brooklyn.
The moon was very low in the sky and was a reddish-orange color I’d never seen before. Ronna and I had something to eat, then went into the basement and watched television.
There was an incredible interview with Martha Mitchell, who claims she and John are being made scapegoats in the Watergate affair; then she urged President Nixon to resign.
We sat and talked and played with each other. When I’m with Ronna, time passes so quickly, even when we’re disagreeing the way we did last night.
Most of the time, late at night we talk about things that are silly and secret, and it’s a pleasure to be able to feel free with someone. We made love on the couch, of course with our clothes on.
While I’d like to have intercourse with her, I’m pretty satisfied sexually. Again we had almost simultaneous orgasms and clutched each other tightly. But I think we can also let go.
I remarked that we’ve been seeing each other almost six months – half a year; I never thought, when I went out with her on the night before Thanksgiving, it would ever lead to anything like what we’ve had.
Though Susan keeps telling Ronna that we’ll get married, we both know that will never happen. But relationships don’t have to permanent to be successful, do they?
Monday, May 21, 1973
One of the proudest days of my life: my stay at Brooklyn College seems to be ending on a high note.
In Russian this morning, Prof. Roberts gave back our tests (I got an 88) and after class Josh and I went out to breakfast. He says we’re going to lose touch now, but I want to stay friends with Josh because I need his irascibility.
Steve Katz came into LaGuardia. He got a full scholarship to North Carolina (Chapel Hill), and he’ll be going there for his master’s in public health. He also reported that he’s going to be Casey’s best man this summer.
Alan Karpoff got doctor’s stationery from Teresa and is writing that he has mono and has to drop all his classes this term: the old LaGuardia syndrome, which I’ve never quite understood.
When Ronna came in at noon, she said she had to finish typing her English paper, so I went to the English majors’ tea in SUBO with Susan and Felicia. I mingled for a while and ate the lousy food, but of course I was waiting for the contest results.
The Ottilie Grebanier Drama Award for playwriting was given out first, and even before my name was called, I had a clear premonition that they were going to say it, that I’d won.
Susan later told me I was shaking like a leaf, but all I can remember is going up to the chairman and getting the award and then people gathering around to congratulate me: Elspeth, Scott, Mason and Libby, Cathy, Susan, and Maddy (who got the Castan Journalism Award). Geri Reilly got the Goodman Short Story Award for one of her Barthelme-like gems.
I kept looking at the playwriting award certificate and the check for $150: it’s the first time I’ve ever earned any money for my writing. I wanted to shout out the news to everyone. First I went downstairs to the Assembly meeting and got handshakes from Mike and Mikey and a kiss from Mara.
And in LaGuardia, sitting at her typewriter, Ronna just grinned from ear to ear and said, “You give me naches.” I accepted congratulations from everyone, even talking pleasantly with Shelli, who wangled an invitation to the Kingsman dinner tomorrow night.
All through my Afro-American Studies class, I was floating on air and didn’t come down until long afterwards. I drove Ronna and her sculpture project for Art class home, stopping on the way to buy flowers for the dinner.
We hugged each other tightly when I dropped her off. It’s great to have someone to share the good times with. At home, Mom, Dad, Marc and Jonny were all happy for me. What a wonderful day it’s been.