A 21-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Late May, 1973
by Richard Grayson
Tuesday, May 22, 1973
Going to school this morning after I deposited the $150 playwriting award money in the bank, I picked up a hitchhiker, and we discovered that we were both graduating seniors who had started BC on the same day in September 1969 and had never seen each other in four entire years before today. Isn’t that amazing?
Last night I spoke to Alice, and she said that since her mother’s been back, they’ve been arguing, so she’s taking advantage of her vacation to fly to London on Friday. She’ll be back in a few weeks to begin a magazine writing course at The New School. I wished her bon voyage.
In LaGuardia, after telling Josh and Avis about my award – Avis, more impressed with the $150, said, “The rich just get richer” – I went up to Gary’s office in Whitehead. Last night Gary called me and said he wanted to discuss something with me, but not over the phone.
Today he told me that through some program at Columbia, he can receive free therapy – but with a Freudian analyst, five days a week. Apparently Gary has the neurosis they’re looking for.
He wondered if his problems were such that he should invest that much time and commitment to therapy. I told him I’d do it if I were him.
I decided not to stay for English (cutting my last undergraduate class!) and instead went back to LaGuardia after giving Stanley my postcard to hand in to Prof. Murphy.
I hung around with Susan, Mason, Skip, George, Avis and the rest for one of the last times. Later, Ronna and I went to the Junction to buy stockings because she planned to change into her dress for the dinner at school rather than go home as I did.
At home, Grandpa Herb and Grandma Ethel were over, and they congratulated me on the award. Prof. Roberts sent back my postcard; I got an A in Russian.
I was looking forward to the Kingsman dinner except for one thing. This morning I watched as Shelli handed Maddy the RSVP for the dinner that Mikey gave to her to turn in. Shelli made a cooing plea to be invited, too, and what could poor Maddy do?
But I was determined not to let Shelli’s presence affect my enjoyment of the dinner, and I ended up having a good time, not just participating but also observing: you get a bunch of people in one place for five hours and something interesting is bound to happen.
With Maddy and Ronna, I was the first to arrive, and I helped the two of them set things up, which turned out to be a good thing. When I noticed that Maddy had placed me at the same table as Shelli, I discreetly moved my place card to another one.
First came the cocktail hour, the small talk among the people, most of whom I hardly ever see so dressed up.
Bill Davis told me about his job at MGM, where he markets TV game shows. I spoke to Holly Henderson about vacations, and chatted with others, like Al Ellman, stiffly polite, and Dean Gold, who introduced me to his wife as “Richard Pontone.” So much for being a big man on campus.
Bruce Weitz, the Eternal Student, arrived wearing a straw hat; the only guys ever to appear nude in Kingsman, Skip and John B, arrived together; Larry told me he’s going to stay at BC for grad school.
Timmy got a birthday card from all of us and brought Stacy and her guitar; Ronna and Stacy even chatted cordially for a while. Shelli came over to me to tell me she liked my tie; I said thank you quietly, smiled, and exchanged grins with Ronna, who was still talking with Stacy a few feet away.
Ronna looked pretty in her white-and-yellow dress; I was really proud of her. Being managing editor this year was a big deal.
At dinner, I seated myself with Susan and Felicia, Marie and Ellen, Howie and Manny and some other reporters, as well as Bruce Porter and Cathy Heller, the Journalism professors who seemed more interested in each other than in the students. Phyllis, obviously hoping for an A, came over to present Porter with a bottle of rum as a gift.
Because Maddy was nervous, Karen helped her give out the keys to Howie, Manny, Lee, Marie and the others. Richard P got drunk – Mike said he’d been waiting four years to do it – and was really funny. Where did he keep that wit hidden all these years?
Naturally, the dinner was inedible, so mostly I hopped from table to table while other, more polite people were pretending to eat it. It was obvious that Sid, Costas, Melvin, Stefanie and Sean had gotten incredibly stoned beforehand and they were either giggling or walking around in a daze.
Ron was a bit high, too; he spilled a drink on Mara and me. At the time, Mara was holding my hand, using me to avoid the advances of Dennis, who had previously struck out with Rose and Susan.
It was hard to say goodbye, and we started to leave a dozen times, but we kept having to say goodbye to people: Craig. Ira. Linda. Bobby. Mendy. I will miss them all terribly.
I drove Susan and Felicia home and then Ronna, who said she enjoyed the evening enormously. So did I.
Friday, May 25, 1973
Early last evening, after Mason and Libby and I left the City Ballet rehearsal at Lincoln Center, I dropped them off at Third Avenue to see a movie. Then I drove to Brooklyn Heights for my session with Mrs. Ehrlich.
She started in about my reasons for not showing up last week, and we came up with three: I associated going to see her with a bad event, the car accident, just after our last session; I was angry over her switching days on me; and I was feeling that things are going too good, so I didn’t want to “rock the boat.”
I can’t really accept these “reasons,” however. Maybe I’m resisting therapy, but I feel stronger than ever, and I question Mrs. Ehrlich’s judgment. I suppose she’s helping me, but perhaps the time has come to be on my own.
I know I can function without therapy, for I certainly understand a lot of these things myself; I had thought of those “reasons” before Mrs. Ehrlich brought them up. We’ll see how it goes.
Other changes in my life: my old Pontiac is gone. This afternoon Marc and I met Dad at the Mercury dealer and we picked up my new Comet. It’s a nifty little car and rides well, but I have trouble adjusting to the fact that it’s mine.
I also keep forgetting that I have to use the gearshift on the floor, not by the steering wheel. Still, it’s only a matter of time before I adjust – like with most things.
And I’ve pretty nearly made my decision about graduate school. I’m going to Richmond College, whatever its “smallness” or newness or lack of prestige.
I like the way the school looks, both from the outside and in the Bulletin, and I love Staten Island, believing that New York City’s future lies there. Richmond is close by, but away from the things in Brooklyn I could conceivably become too attached to.
I’m looking forward to graduate school; I really do enjoy the learning part of it. So things seem to be falling into place.
Last night I dreamed that Ronna was the most beautiful girl in the world. When I awoke today, I kept trying in vain to recapture more of the details of the dream.
Mike has appointed people to his cabinet and to the Mugwump leadership. Many of them are unfamiliar to me, but Mara will be party secretary, Peter business manager, Eddie finance committee chairman, and Cara academic affairs director.
Cara is so nice and very pretty – she has amazing eyes – but I notice she and Mike flirt with another. I ran into Vito and Helen in the library, and Helen said she’s afraid Cara will get hurt because Mike has a girlfriend and Cara is “getting hung up on him.”
Scott let me read a short story he wrote, which surprised me by being very good. He’s upset that he wrecked his car yesterday and also learned he was rejected by NYU Law School.
Mark came by, doing a story for the Kings Courier about graduation. He said he’ll invite me over to the house as soon as Consuelo’s through with finals. Mark was the first person from all the students in various activities at LaGuardia Hall I got to know.
That was three years ago now, when we started out as elections commissioners and then Kent State happened. I guess I might have eventually discovered some of my friends, but you never know. I was pretty isolated most of my freshman year.
These past weeks have been the most exciting of my life. Life seems like a carnival with so many huge and gaudy entertainments and distractions. I feel like I’m floating on a bright, multicolored bubble. Things are almost unbearably eventful.
Sunday, May 27, 1973
1 AM. It’s been a long day.
It began early this morning when I went to Gary’s grandfather’s funeral. Gary’s father was outside the chapel, and I found Gary standing inside with Wendy. He looked ashen and had probably been crying. I feel sorry for him, but it’s hard to truly understand other people’s grief.
The services were short and swift. The rabbi obviously did not know Mr. Zaretsky and said the usual cliché stuff, most of which was true despite it being cliché.
Outside the chapel, I kissed Gary’s mother, said hello to Robert, and told Gary to take it easy on the way to the cemetery. I returned to my car, which I’d parked in front of Vito’s house a block away on Coney Island Avenue.
I picked up Ronna at 12:30 PM and we drove into Manhattan. She looked pretty today. It had been (or at least seemed) so long since we’d been together, and I was beginning to wonder if the old feelings were still there.
I have my answer now: they sure are, maybe even stronger than ever.
We went to the Hayden Planetarium and saw the sky show – with the lights out, we watched the stars on the domed ceiling of the theater – a different kind of thing to do.
Afterwards, we walked around at the Copernicus exhibit, where some of his instruments were on display.
It was another unseasonably chilly, cloudy day, but we decided to brave the elements and take in the outdoor art show on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. I enjoyed the walk and our lunch at Picadeli afterwards.
Then we came back to my house to watch my appearance on the Brooklyn College Presents TV show. Ronna said I sounded intelligent and the family seemed proud, but I could barely look at myself on the screen.
We went upstairs to my room and started making out. Ronna was nearing an orgasm, but I couldn’t keep it up. After several futile attempts, I started to be honest with her – which was so difficult.
I told her I was hurt that she takes my hand away from her crotch when I put it inside her pants and that she never touches my penis. It’s something I’d been thinking for a while and it felt good to finally verbalize it.
So Ronna said that from her limited experience, she didn’t know what I liked or didn’t. We decided that the idea that lovers don’t have to say things is bullshit; you have to tell each other what you like and what you don’t.
She said she loved me very much. I love her maybe more than I ever have. We talked, in the dark, for a long time.
Monday, May 28, 1973
Memorial Day – but not the most memorable day in recent memory. I’m not sure what it is, but something is bothering me.
It was Mom and Dad’s wedding anniversary today, and they spent it not speaking to each other. There was a fight this morning, and when I came down for breakfast, Mom had just ripped up all their anniversary cards. Things were icy in the house all day, so I escaped as early as possible.
I talked to Gary last evening and again tonight. Things have been quite hectic, what with the burial, and many guests at his house, and today’s Memorial Day parade in which he has to participate as a Guardsman.
I’ve also been in touch with Josh. Roberts gave him a C in Russian, which I think was undeserved. Aside from that, “life is a fucking bore,” as Josh continually asserts.
I picked up Ronna at her house early this afternoon and we drove to the Brooklyn Heights Cinema. We saw Save the Tiger, a film that reminded me of Dad (Ronna said it reminded her of her great-uncle and also of Ivan’s father).
In it, Jack Lemmon plays a garment manufacturer who is living in the past and is afraid of the future. It was almost progressively more depressing, but at least the sun had broken through the clouds by the time the film ended.
Ronna and I walked around Cadman Plaza, then went to Kings Plaza, as she had to buy a present for a friend of her sister’s. When we exited, Henry was outside, on a bullhorn, inviting people to meet city council candidate Lou Powsner, “the man in the gold sport jacket.”
I instinctively dropped Ronna’s hand when I saw Henry, as I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable.
Craig was leafleting and told Ronna that Henry failed two courses this term. I don’t know why that makes me feel shitty. Guilt, perhaps? Maybe that’s kind of how Jerry feels about me.
We went back to Ronna’s house and made out furiously for two hours, but I think she was more in the mood than I was. It’s not that my feelings have changed toward her. It’s just that now I know she really loves me a lot – and that scares me. I’m afraid of having to hurt her someday.
Thursday, May 31, 1973
The sun is setting now. The weather has turned warm and sunny, as it should be: tomorrow is, after all, the first of June. I’m going to see Mrs. Ehrlich tonight and hopefully we’ll work through some of the things in my relationship with Ronna.
Last evening, we went out to the beach and talked. She had been in the city yesterday, to a temporary agency, and with her skills, she had no trouble getting something: she starts on Monday at New York Life.
We came back to my house and watched TV in the basement, and we both got horny. So I mounted her and we went at it, what Matt calls “the old dry hump.”
She had an orgasm fairly soon, but I was still going at it with no sign of coming. So I partially masturbated myself to orgasm, because I knew she wouldn’t manipulate my penis.
We held each other until Ronna said, “I felt like I might just as well have been a towel.” I turned away quickly and started crying; I felt hurt and ashamed and couldn’t look at her.
She cried, too, saying what she meant was that it was she who was inadequate; she says she doesn’t know what to do, her experience doesn’t go that far.
Finally, we talked honestly, and I ended up telling her I wanted her to give me hand jobs. She said she didn’t think she could get used to that, and I said I couldn’t help it but I needed sexual release and that otherwise I’d soon resent her.
But of course, if she did something that repelled her, she would come to resent me. So we talked it over and discarded various alternatives (like going back to just hugs and kisses) and decided she has to make a decision.
She loves me and I love her, but if we can’t fulfill each other’s needs, perhaps the best thing to do would be to break up and part friends. (For I’m certain we will always be friends. We were totally honest and didn’t put each other down. Basically, we both respect each other’s feelings.)
I saw Ronna again in school today. Five of us went to lunch: me, her, Susan, Scott and Josh. (Ronna finally got to meet Josh and found him less intimidating than she’d pictured him.)
Afterwards, Ronna and I were alone in the ceramics workshop and she told me she’d try, if I will. So maybe it can work out. But if not, there doesn’t have to be bitterness.
Mike told me he’s getting sick of Phyllis as his vice president already. As usual, he didn’t go to three of his finals.
Josh thinks he’s found an apartment, finally.
And when I saw Dean Smith, he said we were both “TV stars.”