A 22-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early September, 1973
by Richard Grayson
Sunday, September 2, 1973
It’s midnight and I’m soaking my toe in hot water. I was troubled last night by the pain from, of all things, an ingrown toenail; it’s very annoying.
This afternoon I went over to Avis’s apartment for a get-together that reunited her, Beverly, and Libby. Also there was Libby’s friend Dane, who’s from Connecticut and who traveled around with Libby this past week; she’d mentioned him before to me.
I told Avis I’d had a good summer, and she said everyone else she knew in the city had a lousy summer. Her sister hated her job and is starting to have phobias, so she went back into therapy.
Avis reported that Jerry and Shelli invited Skip to stay with them, and after three weeks of freeloading and practically eating them out of house and home, he abruptly left. Shelli says he’s stopped talking to straight people. (Last night Ronna and Leroy saw Skip standing on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, presumably soliciting.)
Jerry and Shelli have moved to a Boston slum into an apartment with a Murphy bed, and Avis says they’re really “down and out.”
Alan Karpoff is embarking on an arduous mountain-climbing tour that will take him all over the place until January; I gathered that he’s not Avis’s boyfriend anymore (not that he ever really was).
But Avis seems to be thriving: she’s decided she’s not going back to work anymore and will subsist on a $10-a-week allowance from her parents. She said that she did a lot of partying and wrecking her body in Berkeley and San Francisco and met a lot of nice people on her travels.
Avis is still smoking a lot; after everyone arrived, we passed a joint around and all smoked, except for Beverly, who still doesn’t indulge. But Beverly does want to move to Colorado, and I think she’s right. Most of her friends have left the city and she’s finished with college, so why not start a new life?
The “why not?” is her widowed mother who hasn’t stopped crying and making her feel guilty since Bev told her of her plans.
Libby is the same as ever, perhaps a little less flighty. She complained that she couldn’t stay on her macrobiotic diet during the trip and so her stomach hurt.
They showed me photos of the places they’d been and talked about all their adventures, and it sounded very nice. They visited Kieran and Sindy in Seattle and said Sindy’s put on a lot of weight and is into camping and is going to law school.
Avis said she’d talked to Teresa, who is still hanging around Roger. But by now even Teresa now realizes she’s a masochist for dating a guy who’s actively gay. Teresa also mentioned that Elspeth has returned and seems to be less crazy than she did in California.
We had a pizza sent in, and I really had a good time being with old friends. I drove Beverly home and then went over to Ronna’s. I arrived there just before 9 PM and was greeted by barks from their new dog, Trevor.
Ronna and I watched TV until about 11:30 PM, when I returned home, my toe throbbing.
Wednesday, September 5, 1973
Early last evening Alice biked over here, bringing my very belated birthday presents (“You could look at them as presents for being 22 and 1/3 today,” she said): a Mae West poster and a furry frog that slides down a pole.
Alice didn’t stay but a minute. She showed me a layout for a woman’s page she designed for Flatbush Life and was running off to see her editor. (Alice mentioned that she doesn’t get along very well with Mark at the paper.)
Today Alice began teaching in a public school as part of Teacher Corps. Her energy amazes me.
Later last evening, I spoke to Ronna, who had been at BC earlier in the day. She gave me regards from Eddie and Debbie; I miss both of them.
It’s odd: Because I keep up contact with close friends, the people from college I really miss are the ones who were not among my best friends: people like Hal and Craig and Linda and Carl.
They’re not people I was particularly close to, but I miss their talk, their manner, the way they looked. I doubt it I’ll ever form such an attachment to anybody at Richmond.
I arrived there at 10 AM today to see my adviser, Prof. Ebel. He didn’t seem to know much about the Master’s degree program and said to ask Prof. Cullen or Prof. Cooley, but he said I had a broad enough background in English to take whatever courses I wanted.
(Incidentally, I learned that Mrs. Ebel, the English teacher at Brooklyn who Josh had for Chaucer, is this guy’s ex-wife.)
I got course cards for three 4-credit courses (I decided last night to limit myself to 12 credits a term and hope that I can get my degree by summer, at the latest): Dickens and Lawrence, with Prof. Ebel; the European Novel 2, with Daniel Fuchs, who’s a novelist (Stanley told me he used to write soap operas); and History of English and the Romance Languages, as a linguistics course is required for the M.A.
I went down to the cafeteria, handed in my course cards and waited for my name to be called, at which time I was able to go to the drolly-labeled “Rip-Off Desk” for my tuition bill.
A long-haired guy was like the MC of registration with a microphone. To pass the time as we waited for our names to be called, we played “Movie Geography.”
There are a lot of freaks at the school and I really felt comfortable there. Hey, I used the word comfortable my first day at Richmond College!
The teachers all seem very helpful, and I can’t wait for my classes to begin. I paid my bill and bought some books, then came home.
Gary picked me up and we went to the beach. He told me about his registration at Columbia and how he met Wendy, who was civil and even surprisingly friendly; they’re going to be in some of the same courses, but it doesn’t seem to bother Gary.
He said he felt “nothing” toward her, and I’m sure he’s not putting one over on me – but maybe he’s fooling himself. Or maybe not; I can’t go by my own reactions.
We were at Beach 145th Street, and while we didn’t see any of Ivan’s family, Gary told me he wants to go up to their Fifth Avenue “place” a couple of blocks north of Dad’s and Grandpa Nat’s and buy one of their suits wholesale. He went up there last year and asked me to accompany him this time.
I called Ronna when I got home from Rockaway, but her sister said she’d been out all day. Susan’s ship came in this morning and Ronna went to see it, and then she worked for Mr. Fishman all afternoon.
Friday, September 7, 1973
I was awakened this morning at 9 AM by a phone call. It was from Scott, who returned from Europe on Wednesday. He told me to pick up Avis, as he wanted to see both of us, and when I called her, she told me I should bring Scott over to her place.
I found him in his bedroom, still in his underwear. He gave me a hug and showed me the mementos from his trip. Scott gave me worry beads that he’d bought in Greece.
After he got dressed, we drove over to Avis’s. Before we got there, Scott told me that in Europe he’d received a letter from Avis apologizing for the way she’d acted toward him last spring and saying that she wanted to resume their friendship.
“I hope that’s all she wants,” Scott told me, “because I couldn’t get into anything heavier than that.” When we got to Avis’s apartment, she hugged Scott and tried on the Turkish blouse he’d gotten her.
So the three of us were reunited as Scott said, “I didn’t think I’d ever be in the same room with you both again.” Separately and together, Scott, Avis and I have gone through a lot over the years.
Scott told us about his trip: his visit to Greece and the islands, how he liked Israel but found the people there “arrogant,” and about all the girls he’d met.
Over mint tea, Avis recounted some of her adventures and she brought out her photos. Scott was particularly interested in her visit to Wilma, the Indian girl in Nevada who they contribute to as her foster parents. Two years ago, on his cross-country trip, Scott had visited her.
Avis rolled a joint that we smoked; Scott said he hadn’t touched grass in a month. And hementioned something peculiar: Last night, he spoke to Timmy’s father, who said that while in Cyprus, Timmy, Phyllis, Melvin and Costas each wired home for $100 and Timmy wrote his mother a note saying, “If I’m not home by the beginning of September, contact the State Department.”
It sounds like they were busted for drugs. We’ll find out soon, when they all come home.
Avis and Scott started discussing their futures: Avis wants to finish Brooklyn College and then maybe move out West; Scott hopes for a job with an international company, one in which he can travel.
Avis said her relationship with Alan Karpoff is over but she started getting “strange vibrations” from his brother Carl, who’ll be in one of her classes this fall. Despite Libby’s warnings, Avis says she likes Carl, and Scott said, “Lightning may strike twice.”
Avis talked about how well she got on with this German guy Helmut, who’ll be coming to New York soon, and Scott mentioned his own girlfriends.
Behind that closeness, I detected a faint air of them trying to prove something to each other. Which may be why they need me as a buffer, but I was so wrecked that basically I couldn’t stop giggling.
We were really having a good time and I felt very tight with them once more.
Monday, September 10, 1973
There are so many things happening now; it’s as if the relaxed pace of the summer came to a halt suddenly and things are beginning to return to the full rhythm of life.
This morning I called Ronna – the poor girl worked all of yesterday for Mr. Fishman – and we made plans to go to Brooklyn College.
It felt strange to be at BC as a graduate, but so nice to see so many familiar faces once again. When Ronna and I arrived on campus, we ran into Sid, now busily working as Kingsman’s editor-in-chief; he said he loved spending the summer in Berkeley.
I met Mikey in LaGuardia, and as we had discussed the previous evening, Mike got him a job as the director of the new “lay advocate” program, coordinating a team of people who will advise students on their rights.
Mandy came by and gave Mikey and me big kisses. She just got back from Europe on Friday, on the same plane as Timmy and Phyllis.
When I saw Vito and we hugged hello, I realized I missed him most of all. He had a completely marvelous time in Europe all by himself and he’s still the same crazy Vito – except he’s completely come out of the closet by now, thanks to John and the GAA Firehouse.
Nancy came by, tanned and blonde, and Vito gave Nancy her birthday present. She’ll be taking some Ed courses and student-teaching this term.
In the Student Government office, Mike and Cindy were at work, and it was great to see Mrs. DeSouza, whom I belatedly thanked for the graduation card. Eddie gave me a big hello; he’s on the newSpigot/BROCO magazine with Les and Bobby.
Marty came by to say hello; he’s doing his thesis and Ruth got an appointment as a regular teacher. Costas and Melvin said hello and told us about their trip to Europe; Melvin’s looking for a place to live. When Susan came in, I talked with her about her cruise home.
Felicia looked a bit upset. Ronna had told me that yesterday she broke up with Kevin and then confessed to his best friend, Spencer, a guy she and Susan traveled with in Europe, that she really likes him; without waiting for his response, Felicia quickly rode off on her bicycle, but they’re scheduled to meet up later today.
Ronna’s cousin Ellen also came by; she, like Ronna’s sister Sue, starts Brooklyn College this term. Ronna went off with her and had other things to do, but I was happy to sit in LaGuardia and see people like Mara, Helen, Ron, Alex, Matt, Spezz, Yolanda and all the rest after the long summer.
While I hope to do well at Richmond, Eddie said, “You will always have a home at Brooklyn College.”
I left my “home” to drive to Staten Island for my linguistics course, History of English and the Romance Languages.
The professor is George Jochnowitz, and he made it clear that we are all on a first-name basis. He’s a pleasant man and the course sounds much more interesting than I thought it would be. I left school with very positive feelings about it.
When I got home, I met Dad, who’d just come from a party for the new Ohrbach’s store in the just-opened Queens Center mall. At the party he saw, but didn’t get to speak to, Ivan’s mother.
I went with Dad to the Male Shop to pick out a few things, then I drove up Flatlands Avenue the few blocks to Ronna’s. Her house was the usual mob scene, so we went out by the landing to talk.
I had to tell Ronna that, I don’t know, my feelings toward her may be changing: there are times when I’m not sure I love her at all and I feel that I want the freedom to try new relationships.
To my surprise, she beamed. Incredibly, she too had been feeling almost exactly the same way, especially this past weekend. Ronna said she was afraid I was so passionately in love with her that she was going to break my heart, the way she did Ivan’s, by not reciprocating.
We laughed about it and agreed that we both liked each other all the time, and suddenly, curiously, I think we felt more in love than ever. Honesty really pays off: here we were, both being driven crazy by guilt, when we both felt the same way all the time.
I spent a few delicious hours with Ronna, trading tidbits of gossip we’d gotten during the day, and around midnight, I left, kissing Ronna, who looked marvelously sloppy in her house plan T-shirt, goodnight.