A 22-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Late August, 1973

by Richard Grayson

Thursday, August 23, 1973

10 PM. Ronna’s in the shower and I’m lying on top of our double bed in our hotel room in Washington, D.C. I’m really thrilled: today was a long day but very rewarding.

I woke up early, did my last-minute chores and then went to Ronna’s house to pick her up. I was nervous about driving down the whole way, but I never had a bad panicky anxiety attack.

We stopped after about two hours of driving – it was about noon – at a Howard Johnson’s on the Jersey side of the Delaware Memorial Bridge. Ronna was so good to be with on the drive down: she amused me and kept my mind occupied.

We drove through Delaware and Maryland. I got a bit tired after we passed Baltimore, so we stopped again and I had a coke and Ronna finished reading the letters she got from Felicia and Susan.

We were in Washington by 3 PM, but it took us a long time to find the Gralyn Hotel, where we had reservations (as Mr. and Mrs. Grayson). Washington traffic is confusing, but we finally got to it.

The hotel’s near DuPont Circle (I’d read about it inWashington on $10 a Day), on an old-fashioned street. It’s a small, cheap place but it’s quite pleasant; it was once the Persian Embassy and you can still imagine the luxuriousness of its past.

The young man who owns it or whatever (there’s an old lady at the desk) took our bags to our room, which is simple. We even got a private bath at no extra cost.

For a while we just rested. I think Ronna’s a little worried because we’ve never shared a bed before, but I told her, “I didn’t come to D.C. just to get laid.”

We went out for dinner at the Hot Shoppes Cafeteria on Connecticut Avenue, where I had Thanksgiving dinner with my family two years ago. Then we drove over to Arlington and saw the Iwo Jima statue.

From there we went to the Jefferson Memorial. It’s always been my favorite spot in the city, and Ronna is a Thomas Jefferson freak (they share the same birthday). That statue of him, the simple beauty of the monument, the fantastic view of the city all get to me.

The U.S. Naval Band was to give a concert and people sat on the steps. Ronna and I stayed there from sundown to darkness, staring out over Tidal Basin. It was so wonderful: we’d talked about going to Washington six months ago and we finally got here.

Then we went to see the Lincoln Memorial: that statue is very awesome. I found my way back to the hotel with no difficulty. Cat Stevens was singing “It’s a Wild World” on the radio as we passed Embassy Row.

Friday, August 24, 1973

7 PM. This has been one of the nicest days I can remember, thanks to Washington, D.C.; Ronna; and, I guess, myself.

It was fine to sleep in the same bed as Ronna last night. She looked so pretty in her pajamas that I kept hugging and kissing her. I wasn’t sure how far she wanted me to go if we didn’t sleep together (not literally “sleep together”), but I stimulated her until she had an orgasm.

I didn’t particularly feel like coming myself. I was comfortable just having an erection all that time; it felt nice. Although I had a difficult time getting to sleep in a strange bed, I finally dozed off around 3 AM.

Ronna and I awoke about 9 AM. It was so great to see her as she wakes up, her eyes full of sleep, her hair askew. We got dressed and went to a Holiday Inn for a good, hearty breakfast; I don’t eat that well at home.

We drove to the Capitol, where I parked in a “Members of Congress Only” spot – what the hell, I figured, they are out of session, after all – and walked up the Capitol steps.

We went on a tour of the building, seeing the Statuary Hall and the House chamber and stuff; the guide pointed out a lot of things I never knew. Just like all the other tourists, we took pictures of each other in front of the Capitol dome outside.

Then we walked down Constitution Avenue to the National Gallery, which had an exhibit of American impressionist paintings along with the usual masterpieces from the permanent collection – I noticed Picasso’s The Lovers – and a lovely indoor sculpture garden.

Tired and hot, we bought cokes and sat down by the Mall. Finally, Ronna and I trekked through the Museum of Natural History (past an interesting exhibit on synthetic gems) to the National Archives, where we saw the original Declaration of Independence (faded) and the Constitution.

We decided to wait till tomorrow to see the Smithsonian and the Freer Gallery, where Ronna wants to see Whistler’s famous Peacock Room. So we walked back to the car, pausing at the memorial to Senator Taft, which chimes every fifteen minutes.

From there, we drove through Rock Creek Park and spent about an hour at the National Zoo, walking the long, tree-lined trails, looking at ducks, giraffes and the famous giant pandas from Red China.

Ronna and I had dinner at the Hot Shoppes Cafeteria again and then walked down Connecticut Avenue to the Janus I and II theaters, where Brian, the manager, greeted us enthusiastically.

Brian seems to like his job. He’s traveling to film festivals and New York screenings, is having a lot of Women’s/Gay/Third World “movement” things (as always, his tirelessness astounds me), and even sold tickets toCabaret to George and Eleanor McGovern.

Brian was so friendly that he offered us free passes to any movie in town. It was so good to see him again. After that, we were so tired that we returned to our hotel room to rest for a while.

A great day.

Tuesday, August 28, 1973

It’s a little after midnight, the end of a very hot day. It hit 98° and was uncomfortably humid all day; more of the same is predicted for tomorrow.

I’ve just spent a very good evening with Ronna. Now that I’m not with her all the time the way I was in Washington, seeing her is like a treat. I arrived at 7 PM and talked with her mother and Hiram, who has to have rectal surgery next week.

When Ronna came out, I saw her hair had been cut: it looked fine, all smooth and silky and even. As we drove into the city, she mentioned that Corey is coming over for dinner tomorrow evening.

Unless I’m smoldering unconsciously and am completely unaware of it, I’m perfectly fine knowing that. Ronna’s got to have friends besides me, and she said Corey is very lonely now that he’s quit school, so why not?

Even if there was something more than friendship between then, I’m sure enough of Ronna’s feelings toward me to risk a bit of competition.

When we got to Cinema I, I met Gene by the door, with his girlfriend; of all the people in the Jewish Defense League, he is the only one I respect. We saw Bang the Drum Slowly, a funny but very sad film about a baseball player dying of Hodgkin’s disease.

Back into Brooklyn, we had ice cream sodas at Jahn’s and talked about the structure of student society in LaGuardia Hall. Coincidentally, I heard my name being called – by Teresa, who I kissed hello.

Stefanie was with her, and they’d recently returned from the Coast. They didn’t talk to us about the attractions there, just about Elspeth.

Just as Becky wrote Leroy that the two biggest problems in California were forest fires and Elspeth, and Sid told Ronna that he couldn’t stand living with her, Teresa and Stefanie told us their own stories about Elspeth.

We heard about her selfishness, her crazy driving (she was supposed to bring back Skip’s car last week but didn’t), and her fawning over guys, in particular Lee, with whom she reconnected in Berkeley.

I always knew Elspeth was kind of a selfish baby – remember how she left Shelli at the March on Washington? – but I find it hard to believe that she could be all thatimpossible.

Teresa knows Leroy from high school, and she confirmed that he’s very depressed that Becky has decided to remain in California. That’s why he’s been calling up Ronna and coming over all the time lately: to talk about Becky.

After Stefanie and Teresa left, Ronna and I resumed talking about LaGuardia Hall. It’s funny how when I was a freshman in May 1970 and first met people there, I never started out to be popular or important; I just wanted to be accepted, to fit in somewhere.

Ronna said she was never afraid of me the way she was afraid of Mikey or Mike or other “political” types because somehow she could tell I was like her and would listen to everybody because I, too, wanted only to be liked.

It’s funny how Ronna and I both got into two interlocking cliques, Kingsman and the Mugwumps, that were first enemies and then finally sort of merged in the last student government election. Over the years, everyone started hanging out with everyone else.

When we got to her house, her mother was just pulling up, and after I helped her carry up some groceries, I kissed Ronna good night.

Earlier today, I went to have lunch with Gary. He told me that while he was in England, he didn’t think of Wendy very much, but he’s doing it a bit now that he’s back.

Wendy sent him a note today: “You owe me $14” – for canceling their planned trip to Europe, they had to pay the travel agent. Gary’s decided to be hard with her even though he sometimes feels very fondly toward her; after all, they’re going to see a lot of each other, being grad students in the same department at Columbia.

He told me about going to Robert and Sandy’s engagement party last weekend and how he’d hardly seen them in the past year because Wendy didn’t like them; that’s so stupid.

And Gary could talk of nothing but Britain, Britain, Britain; everything English is better to him now. And of course, as a loyal friend, I dutifully admired his photos of Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus.

Thursday, August 30, 1973

I didn’t get to sleep until late last night, thinking about people.

I decided why Leon takes people to his bosom and then suddenly drops them; it’s happened with Laurie, Charlie, the Karpoff brothers, and now Skip. He can’t let people get too close to him, and when they do, he uses some excuse not to speak with them. Very sad.

And while I don’t see how Skip could do such a thing as literally prostitute himself, it’s not really doing anyone any harm, except maybe himself. Why should I judge others? Yet I find myself doing it constantly and I detest myself for it.

I spoke to Ronna early this morning, very briefly, as she was rushing to get her brother to his psychiatrist on time. She told me she doesn’t think she’ll be seeing Corey anymore and then had to go before she could explain fully.

I decided to meet her at Billy’s doctor’s office (she had said she wanted to see me later) and so I stood outside the building on Plaza Street and surprised them when they came out.

We went back to Ronna’s house and she made us lunch; then she and Billy changed into their bathing suits and came to our pool. Billy really loved the water; the kid went on the raft and played ball with me and Ronna and Jonny. It was another near-100° day and it was impossible to sit outside without swimming.

While Mom was giving Billy something to eat, Ronna told me about last night. She made Corey dinner, and then, in Billy’s bedroom, told him about me. He said that he was seeing a girl, too (although Ronna didn’t quite believe him) and said he wanted to take her to the movies anyway.

Just before they got to Kings Plaza, Ronna felt guilty and Corey got angry – “just the way Ivan did,” she said. (Apparently I get angry in a somewhat different way.)

Finally they did go into the theater. At the end of the evening, he told her, “Thanks anyway,” so she doesn’t think she’ll be hearing from him anymore.

I feel more sorry for Corey than relieved for myself. I even got the idea of fixing him up with Avis when she gets back – soon, I hope, because I miss her – but that’s rather absurd.

I guess a part of me is kind of glad that Ronna felt guilty about dating another guy, but she really had no reason to feel funny about it.

Ronna and I took her brother back to their house, along with the kissing gourami fish that Marc gave Billy. (Marc wanted to get rid of it and all Billy’s fish had died).

When her sister came home, Ronna and I were free to have dinner at the Charcoal Chef in Canarsie. It was a pleasant meal, and when I took her home, I came up for a while.

Hiram wasn’t feeling well and went home by bus; he wouldn’t let Ronna’s mother or me drive him home. Mrs. C seemed mystified by his behavior. I kissed Ronna goodnight: we’ve become very domestic since our trip to Washington.