A 22-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Late June, 1973
by Richard Grayson
Wednesday, June 13, 1973
6 PM. I find that I am very easily getting used to this life of loafing. There are books to read and films to see and people to talk with and New York City to explore, and it’s all like some marshmallow dream, soft and inviting.
Last night Scott called to see if I wanted to go to the movies, making it clear – not a threat, but a plea – that otherwise he would go alone.
We ran into Rose, walking hand-in-hand with some guy; she does manage to get around a lot although I still miss seeing Eddie’s arm linked with hers.
Scott ended his therapy at the Postgraduate Center the day before graduation. Before his last session, in the waiting room, Scott struck up a conversation with a girl who turned out to be a model who poses nude for confession magazines.
She waited for him until he got out of therapy. That night they saw Last Tango; the next, he slept over her house. But he says she’s slow-moving and he thinks she’s a down freak.
The film we saw last night at the Avalon, Sleuth, was good, but I figured out the plot twists in advance. (After all, I am an expert at that. Ha!)
We went to Carvel’s after and Scott talked about his indecision about law school.
His father’s anxious for him to go, and maybe that’s just the reason he won’t. He’s supposed to go down to D.C., to Antioch, but he’s not sure what to do.
Somehow I find Scott’s indecision more touching and human than, say, Gary, who has his future neatly planned out.
After his two weeks of National Guard duty, Gary’s going to Europe with Wendy – they have their itinerary planned to a minute degree – and then grad school and work in the fall, both with Wendy.
Scott asked what I thought about last Friday on the beach, when Teresa’s boyfriend Roger walked over from Bay 1 at Riis Park to sit with us.
Like me, Scott and Avis thought Roger was very gay and feels that Teresa’s a masochist for staying with him despite their rapport and Roger’s good sense of humor.
I read Point Counter Point until 2 AM and woke up late today. I drove into the city to see Love at the Fifth Avenue Cinema at 13th Street; the old lady in the film reminded me of Grandma Sylvia.
When I came out of the theater, the ground was wet and the air smelled from a passing thunderstorm.
I walked over to Brownie’s for carrot cake and rose hips tea, then went up to “the place,” where Grandpa Nat gave me money and made me take a pair of pants for myself.
After I bought some books at Barnes & Noble, I drove home. Because of the heat, all the hydrants were turned on in Bed-Stuy, soaking my car and causing rainbows.
Last night Ronna told me that she and her sister would be in the city tonight. I’m not sure I miss her.
Sunday, June 17, 1973
It’s Sunday evening, the beginning and end of a week, a good time for taking stock. It’s been two weeks since my graduation and I’ve managed to survive, maybe even thrive.
I’ve had diarrhea for the past three days, but I’m sure that it’s only a psychological reflection of my emotional uncertainty.
This leisurely gadding-about has been fine, but it can’t go on much longer: I’ve got to make some kind of future for myself.
So I’ve made some tentative decisions. First, I’m going to register at Richmond for the summer on Thursday and go there in the fall unless I discover it’s really horrid.
I started looking at the apartment ads, but I don’t want to move out until the end of summer. And I’ve decided that I’m very much in love with Ronna.
This morning I found a long reddish-brown strand of hair on my bed, and I remembered the smell of her body, her firm plumpness (I suppose I have old-fashioned tastes in women), and even more, her gentle humor, honesty and earnestness.
She says she’s happy to continue just as we are, with no thought to the future, and so am I. Well, that’s good enough for one day’s thought-work.
It was cool Father’s Day. I gave Dad his present, which he liked a lot, and then went to Rockaway to see Grandpa Herb (I couldn’t get to see Grandpa Nat because he wasn’t home).
Today was Mikey’s barbecue. Ronna couldn’t make it because she was with her father, so I went alone, stopping off on the way from my grandparents’ to Carvel’s to get an ice-cream cake that said “Happy Anniversary Watergate” since it was a year ago that the break-in occurred. Everyone appreciated it.
Bobby was there but left early; he stayed a week with Allan in Tampa and is working at a construction site. Most of the people there were friends of Mikey and Mike who live in Rockaway or go to school at Buffalo: Helene; Charles; Rhonda, a vacuous redhead; a few others, including Neal from Calling Card.
Mike showed me a letter from President Kneller (obviously written by Holly) which refused to “certify” him because of the 30% Board of Higher Ed rule but “appointing” him and Phyllis as Kneller’s “designees” to take over student government as president and vice-president.
I spoke with Robin, who seems sweet if a little dull. But perhaps that’s unfair; I don’t know her. The food was great, and I enjoyed the company, and Mikey’s mom was her usual gracious self.
Thursday, June 21, 1973
It’s late afternoon on the first day of summer and there’s a thunderstorm outside; it’s hot and muggy.
Today was the day I registered for the summer session at Richmond College and my first real feeling of what it’s going to be like there as an M.A. student.
First of all, I feel proud to report that the strange new experience didn’t leave me a mass of anxious bewilderment. I think I let my instincts and curiosity take over.
I timed the drive at 45 minutes, so I figure I’ll give myself an hour for traveling each way. The drive is pleasant, along the Belt Parkway and over the Verrazano Bridge, then up Bay Street along the waterfront to St. George.
The ferry is a block away, and faded mansions line the side streets. Borough Hall and the courthouse are across the street from the main building, a nine-story, air-conditioned modern office-type building.
The school is an upper division college, starting at the junior year, and seems to be one of CUNY’s more experimental schools. There are no departments, just divisions, no letter grades but Pass, Honors and Fail, and the curriculum is rather experimental and disorganized.
I went to the Humanities Division to talk briefly with the adviser, Prof. Cullen. When I asked the secretary if I needed an appointment, she laughed and said, “No one needs an appointment to see Pat Cullen.”
Indeed, I found him to be informal; he looked like Mark, younger than me even. I’m going to have him for a teacher for Victorian Poetry this summer.
I picked up the course card in the Humanities office, then went to the cafeteria, standing on a line to give in my personal card with the course card, until they brought my bill back from the computer. Then I paid the $152 tuition and it was all over and relatively painless.
The president of the college has just resigned; from what I can gather, the Board of Higher Ed and most of his administration felt he was too liberal and too indecisive.
Perhaps a change to a stricter, more traditional type of governance (like BC’s Kneller) is in the offing; the students are afraid of that. But the place seems remarkably free and friendly.
Faculty, administrators and students squeeze into the elevators laughing all the time, and a rubber chicken hung over the Registrar’s desk.
After dinner, I drove out to Kennedy Airport and found Avis in the United terminal, sitting alone, staring out the window.
She was glad to see me. Her father had just dropped her off and she had her student standby ticket for the flight to Salt Lake City.
I took her out to eat in the coffee shop; previously, a horny fiftyish businessman had asked to go there with him. Avis was a bit nervous about the trip, but I could see she was glad to be getting away.
She said her climbing weekend in New Paltz with Alan was “like paradise” and that yesterday she found Scott very hostile when they met to say goodbye.
Avis reported that Shelli and Jerry are back from visiting Leon in Madison and they’re angry because Skip didn’t spend a dime the whole trip.
We sat in the terminal, talking, until I had to go; after we hugged each other tightly, I left her to wait for her flight.
Monday, June 25, 1973
6 PM. The daylong Senate Watergate hearings have just ended, and ousted White House counsel John Dean has deeply implicated the President in the cover-up of the scandal.
Nixon probably wishes that Brezhnev were still in the U.S. talking summit, but I have a feeling that old Tricky Dick will survive even this.
I have little faith in either the American people or our system of justice, and after all, most of Dean’s testimony is merely hearsay.
This morning I awoke feeling rested, although a pesky sore throat remained with me throughout the day. I went to the bank early, to cash in some savings bonds which Mom wanted to use towards the car – which, incidentally, runs like a dream.
I ran into Peter Amato, shepherding some little kids to the movies: a summer venture, “an exclusive day camp,” he called it.
When I returned home, I found a letter from Aunt Arlyne; she and Marty enclosed a $15 check for my graduation. I must visit them soon, to thank them and to give Jeffrey his birthday present. The money was not important, but it was such a wonderful gesture.
I also received a postcard from Salt Lake City. Avis writes that the town is “not exciting . . . but it’s peaceful and I’m happy.”
She enjoyed her visit to the Mormon temple and reported that Libby would join her and Beverly on Sunday, so by now they must have left “for the wilderness.”
Today I had my first class as a graduate student at Richmond, and it was a bit of a letdown. There are only four students in the class so far, and Prof. Cullen has a reputation for being difficult.
He certainly seems egotistical; he’s canceling a lot of classes because he’s the acting chair of Humanities and is on the search committee for a new president and has to meet with Chancellor Kibbee, and he has a book in galleys. (He managed to get that all in in five minutes.)
Now I am going to hold Scott’s hand while he gets a haircut.
11 PM. Tonight with Scott was ridiculous, like baby-sitting for a neurotic.
Scott is so afraid the hair stylist is going to mangle his good looks. He’ll be leaving for Greece soon, with the law school situation apparently unresolved, and he wanted a short haircut.
We went to this place on Kings Highway, Karizma, where all the barbers are women, and Scott just about drove them crazy while I shrugged laughingly and tried to read a Kings Courier column by Mark on how to burglar-proof your house.
Afterwards, of course, I had to reassure Scott a dozen times that “it looks fine” and to listen to him tell me about how all the girls in the place were flirting with him. I suppose it makes me feel better to know someone else is a little crazy, too.
When I got home, Ronna and I had a fine phone conversation as she told me about her sister’s graduation from South Shore. She, Billy and her father sat on one side of the field and her mother and grandparents on the other.
Ronna has often told me how she spent her own high school graduation crying because her father brought a present from his new wife, which enraged her mother and grandmother.
It seems he was stupid enough to do it again (why not just give Sue one present from the both of them?), but this time her mother was mature enough not to make any fuss. Her father says that his wife has to be accepted as part of their lives, but Ronna says she’s not a part of her mother’s life.
Marc’s graduation from Madison is early tomorrow morning, and as usual, my brother seems underwhelmed. Also tomorrow is the mayoral runoff between Badillo and Beame.
Friday, June 29, 1973
It’s odd, but I’ve been sort of lethargic all day and now suddenly I’ve perked up for no apparent reason.
Late this afternoon, I decided that I was giving in to my own crankiness and that I should call somebody and do what makes me feel better: get into other people.
So I called Mikey and although we had only a brief chat, at least I got a sense other people being in the world.
Mikey said that Harris is enjoying med school in Guadalajara, Mason left for camp after attending a party at Stacy’s with Stefanie, and Mikey himself will be leaving for Canada this weekend with Steve and Paula, with whom he’s been hanging around lately.
And tonight I get to see Ronna, and unlike my usual pessimistic self, I think we’re going to have fun.
Last night’s session with Mrs. Ehrlich went very well. I apologized for my verbal jousting and she asked why I have to do that.
I’m defensive, probably because I get that as a way of dealing with Mom. She’s always been, I’ve felt, more concerned with her possessions than with me.
As I told this to Mrs. Ehrlich, she noted that I kept defending my observations by using other people’s statements, as if I were not to be trusted, that I had faulty judgment.
We talked about how my fear of being pushed out of the womb is being brought back by thoughts of moving out and of grad school.
And we discussed how Prof. Cullen uses my weapon – intellectualizing – and how I was affected by his comments on Carlyle’s impotence, wondering what he might see in my writing.
We went over that dream and two others in which Ivan appeared. In one, Mom had left Dad for Ivan and threatened me with a knife, and in another Ronna told me I was an illegitimate son of Ivan’s father, who had to pay Mom and Dad to adopt me (a reversal of real adoption and an example of my own feelings of inadequacy).
I’ve always viewed Ivan’s family as a very close-knit, loving group, but they did “give away” their only imperfection – Mona’s brain-damaged daughter – which reminded me of Mom’s cousin’s death yesterday. At 33, Jean choked to death in an institution for the retarded.
In both dreams, there was a wish that my parents weren’t my parents, so I could act out Oedipal fantasies, with Ivan as a substitute for me.
Mrs. Ehrlich says I still fear castration (Mom’s knife) and am really scared of women in general, including Mrs. Ehrlich herself.