A 22-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early August, 1973
by Richard Grayson
Friday, August 3, 1973
6 PM on a gloomy Friday afternoon. But despite the weather, I don’t feel particularly gloomy myself. For one thing, I finished my paper today.
Yesterday in class, Cullen told us the final would be a 15-page take-home job and that scared me, so the minute I got home, I scurried to my trusty typewriter and began clanking out my thesis that perhaps Christina Rossetti was a secret lesbian.
I’m not sure I totally believe that myself, but Pat Cullen should eat it up. He likes way-out literary interpretations like that, and I’m certain he’s gay. But it’s not entirely all “intellectual ass-licking,” as Ronna put it; I enjoyed doing the paper as an imaginative exercise.
Still, I find it hard to deny I’ve always tried to size people up, see what they want, and then give it to them.
I’m already excited about the fall term at Richmond. Truthfully, I’m surprised of how fond I’ve become of that “dinky little school by the ferry,” as Shelli called it when she told Ronna I was a schmuck for going there when I could get in to any grad school. (She also told Ronna I was the smartest person she’d ever met except for Leon.)
I’ve made some acquaintances at Richmond College, and everybody there tries to be so helpful. People go out of their way to talk to you, like the cafeteria cashier who told me her kids are down with the chicken pox.
Incidentally, I don’t have mono – the blood test came back negative – and my cold is beginning to clear up, so I can see sunlight for the first time in days.
Mrs. Ehrlich advised me to “put some structure” into this coming month because it’s a long time to simply drift. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do yet, but maybe I will do “just fine,” thank you.
Vito called me last night to say goodbye before going to Europe. Spezz finally came back, so Vito won’t be facing Europe alone now that Joey has bailed out on him. He said he’ll send me a postcard and we’ll see each other in September. I’m going to miss that big crazy nut.
Melvin came over to Ronna’s house on Wednesday night so she could type up a paper for him before he and Costas left for Greece yesterday. And Melvin said that Mara had already gone away with Phyllis.
So hardly any of the gang are left home except us homebodies.
Saturday, August 4, 1973
5 PM. I’ve spent the day lying outside in the backyard so as to recapture my tan, reading Women in Love, and making cantaloupe ices. I wonder how I shall “put some structure” into this coming month – right now I’m just not sure how exactly.
Last evening I called Ronna as she was getting up from a nap, and we decided just to “schmooze around” for the night. I had to take her home early anyway, as her father and his wife were taking them to Jones Beach this morning.
Before we left her house, I watched Billy imitate a stegosaurus; that kid is nuts about dinosaurs.
We drove around in my Comet, fresh from its 3,000-mile checkup. Driving on the elevated Gowanus Expressway, when you approach the towers of Manhattan and see those neon signs like “Goya Foods,” the scene somehow feels particularly European.
Ronna told me of her last day at work, how all the girls in the office said they’d miss her and how Mr. Donahue said he’d give her a terrific recommendation anytime. Some people might consider Ronna plain or ordinary, but there’s so much going on there under that rather placid surface.
We drove around the city, talking about all the different things we want to do in August. Her mother’s going into the hospital for a D & C this week, so Ronna will have Billy on her hands.
Back in Brooklyn, we stopped at 86th Street and Bay Parkway, where Dad used to have the store, and we went into Famous Dairy Cafeteria. Cafeterias are a dying institution now, but I enjoy standing on line with my tray, choosing my food, getting my ticket punched.
Sitting down at the table, Ronna reminded me about my story “Subtle Kinship,” where a boy and girl go to the old Famous on Eastern Parkway and talk. “It was the first time I ever heard of anyone eating vegetable cutlet with milk,” she said.
We were talking over dinner, me with my vegetable cutlet and Ronna with her proto-steak, and suddenly, looking at her, I had the odd but not unpleasant feeling that we were on our first date. (I remember the first time, when I came to pick her up, she did a double-take, for it was the first time she could remember seeing me outside Brooklyn College.)
We talked about her antipathy towards Hiram. The other night, after an argument with their neighbor, he came into the apartment denouncing refugees and Ronna was embarrassed in front of Melvin, whose parents are refugees.
I drove us home through Coney Island, and when we got to her place, not wanting to spread my cold germs, I took her hand, squeezed it, and said, “Good night, old girl.”
It was the simplest of evenings, but somehow the nicest, too.
Wednesday, August 8, 1973
6 PM. I’ve just turned off the TV. Vice-President Agnew, under possible indictment on kickback charges, denied any guilt.
And though Ronna and I watched the last of this summer’s Ervin Committee hearings yesterday, the Watergate scandal is still very much in the public eye. As Mikey said to me last night, Speaker Albert may become the next President. What a mess!
As I predicted, I was awake until 3 AM, my mind clanking out ideas. God knows why these burst of creativity happen at such ridiculous hours, but who am I to argue with genius?
Seriously, I know I am intelligent and creative, and even more than that, I know I can succeed in a variety of fields. I may go to law school next year or go on for a Ph.D. or possibly return to Brooklyn College to go into their new Creative Writing MFA program that Jonathan Baumbach is starting up.
Maybe I can do two of these things at once. I never have to worry about myself intellectually, only emotionally, and if I get things under control in that area, I feel I’m destined for great things.
But I guess there is a price people pay: even poor Mike, running student government like a madman. Mikey said Mike’s got stomach troubles again, and I’m sure it’s due to pressure.
Still, I wrote some letters today: one to a soap opera actor, asking for an interview for one of those daytime TV fan magazines – I read about the magazine in Writer’s Digest – and another to Irna Phillips, creator of many soaps, asking for a job as an assistant writer. I have nothing to lose.
Ronna woke me up this morning with exciting news: last night her mother got engaged to Hiram. They’ll be married in six months to a year, and Ronna said now she’s got to file away all her doubts now that it’s definite.
Mrs. C went into the hospital today, but Ronna said she’s so happy, she’s floating on air.
Grandpa Herb and Grandma Ethel came over to go swimming in the pool today, and I got another card from Gary, who seems to be having a ball in England.
I’m glad for him and know he made the right decision; I bet it’s really taken his mind off Wendy.
Saturday, August 11, 1973
6 PM. I’ve just been speculating on the “wearisome condition of humanity” and I feel quite depressed. Mrs. Ehrlich would say that it’s not the state of the world that’s bothering me, it’s some inner psychological thing, but maybe it is something more.
I think about the fear we all have, living in New York City: the fear I felt at Brooklyn Jewish Hospital on Thursday and in Manhattan last night. Today Alice told me she gives thanks every day she comes home safely.
It’s not paranoia on my part; the news is full of crime and everyone feels threatened by it. It’s set me wondering if there’s not a better life somewhere else. But is that hiding, and even if it’s not, is there any place to go?
The gasoline shortage is everywhere (last night I went to six stations before I found one that had gas); the beef shortage is growing worse; crime is everywhere; and there’s our awful government, embroiled in scandal.
I don’t know if this is a personal depression or part of a national malaise. It just seems as though when I’m making so many strides in my personal growth and can finally enjoy life, the outside world makes that difficult.
I had a good time last night. Ronna was late, as she cooked dinner for the family. Her mother was back from the hospital, and Hiram and his ever-present buddy Mort were there. I wish Hiram would stop praising me; it makes me uncomfortable.
Ronna and I had a brief quasi-argument over her lateness. I expressed my annoyance matter-of-factly, not bitchily, so nobody’s feelings got hurt, there was no scene and no angry words and or bitterness, and in the middle of it all I told her, “I love you.”
I’ve come to the realization that I do love Ronna a lot, but that didn’t prevent me from being angry with her even if the situation was not her fault. The idea of fault itself seems rather unproductive.
We went to the Playboy Theater and saw Hail to the Chief, a rather funny but sophomoric black comedy, then came back to my house to watch TV and talk in the basement.
Today was a rainy day, and I went over to visit Alice because I hadn’t seen her in so long. She was doing her term paper for the Teacher Corps thing; she’ll be getting her master’s through it.
Her mother said hello and I learned her brother will be coming home from Israel next month before being transferred to Stuttgart, Germany. Alice will soon be going down with Andreas to Raleigh, where they’re opening a shopping center with two of his sculptures.
We gossiped a bit as Alice served me iced tea. Alice thinks Renee may be heading toward another disastrous marriage, this time with this guy Manny, a 35-ish engineer whose “nose is like a can opener.”
It was a lot of fun to see Alice again.