A 22-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early October, 1973
by Richard Grayson
Monday, October 1, 1973
Dad called from Pittsburgh late yesterday afternoon to say that things were so quiet at the menswear show that he was coming home that night. Marc was ill with the same symptoms I’d had – perhaps my cold was less psychosomatic than I thought – and so I drove Mom to the airport to pick him up.
We ate dinner in the American Airlines terminal’s coffee shop and waited half an hour, as the flight was delayed. When Dad came through the gates, you could actually see Mom’s face light up.
As we walked to my car, they held hands and talked excitedly about what each had done during the day. Now, is affection like that neurotic – after all, they’d been separated only one day – or is that what people call love?
Perhaps it’s one and the same thing, and that the habit of loving is more important than love itself.
I woke up feeling wonderful this morning, and after breakfast, I decided to go to Brooklyn College because the registrar sent me a letter saying my diploma was finally ready.
So I picked it up. All corrected, it read “Magna Cum Laude.” Sid looked at it and said, “That’s what you get after four years. . . This and 35 cents can get you on the subway.”
“Only till January first,” Stanley interjected as he got up to go to another screening at the Museum of Modern Art.
Still, the diploma is something – even if I feel more affection for my final transcript with its listing of my courses for each term. But even that can’t adequately record my experience at BC.
Finding Mike on the phone when I went into the Student Government office, I chatted with Scott, who was also in LaGuardia.
Dressed in a conservative suit and tie with a fresh haircut, Scott was off to an interview for a job as an insurance claims adjuster. The pay is fantastic – $12,000 a year – but Scott felt hesitant about accepting such a straight-assed job.
Avis entered the lobby with Helmut, who’s been sitting in on her classes. He told me had a nice weekend: while Avis was busy doing a paper, Mason took him to Rockaway for a party at Stacy’s.
Ronna came in, looking adorable in an orange sweater. She and Avis self-consciously chatted, but at least the ice was broken, and Ronna was showing Avis her sketchbook.
Teresa grabbed me, wanting to know the name of my shrink. As I gave her Mrs. Ehrlich’s phone number, she explained it was for Roger. Teresa broke up with Roger on Saturday night, deciding that if he could provoke her into punching him in the nose, their relationship had reached the point of no return.
Teresa says Roger is very sick and said he really needs Mrs. Ehrlich’s number. Rushing off as breathlessly as she entered the lobby, Teresa kissed me a quick goodbye as she ran to catch up with Costas.
I went with Ronna and Susan and Felicia to get sandwiches from Merit and eat outside. Susan has apparently got a new love: this guy Jan from the Open Road Club whose main accomplishment seems to be the feat of walking home from Vermont.
I never have seen Ronna as animated and bubbly as I did this afternoon. She said her Acting class exercises make her uninhibited, more like the way she was in high school. It’s a rather charming side of her.
Our class in linguistics tonight was once again a fascinating lecture by Prof. Jochnowitz, whom I love.
Tuesday, October 2, 1973
I’m extraordinarily tired this evening. I’m really getting into Richmond College, though, and I’m glad about that.
This morning I went to the meeting of the Elections Committee in Dean McCormick’s office. When Ed Merritt ushered in Mr. Abrams from the Honest Ballot Association and his secretary, they immediately remembered me.
Mr. Abrams embarrassed me slightly – but flattered me more – by saying to the others what “a clever boy” I was and how I was sort of an expert on election matters.
It seemed to raise my prestige in the group; after they had left and we debated the merits of using them, Dean McCormack kept asking me questions about my experiences at BC.
We finally decided to hire the HBA, over the objections of Pat McGiniss and this other guy from the Progressive Labor Party.
After the meeting, Andrea told me I should run for something and I went into her office. Until today, I hadn’t realized that she is the secretary of Student Government: not a title but a job like Mrs. D’s at Brooklyn.
This girl Janet, who’s the head of the Inter-Club Activities Council, told me how the name of the game at Richmond is grab as much money as you can for your group and then screw the students. There are no films or concerts or dances; the money just falls into the coffers of the elected students’ groups.
Andrea and Janet pretty much convinced me to run – but for what I’m not sure. I’m toying with the idea of running for the University Student Senate; my ambitious nature wouldn’t mind the prestige of a Dick Wright-type CUNY-wide job.
Tonight Prof. Ebel had a wonderful class; the man is so conversant with all facets of literature and life. After a class in which I assiduously participated, I told him my idea for a paper and he gave me a green light.
The only bad thing today was Mrs. Ehrlich; I rushed downtown after the meeting, only to find I had ten minutes to eat at Junior’s and then get to her office. Having missed dinner last night, I wasn’t going to skip lunch today.
So I called her and said I couldn’t make it and got really angry at her (“I’m sick of you!” I hissed) when she started with her inevitable probing of my psyche, with little thought to the outside realities of my life.
Tonight, however, I called her up, and we arranged to permanently switch my appointments to Tuesday nights at 8:15 PM.
Friday, October 5, 1973
Last night I picked up Ronna at 7:30 PM. The house was sort of crazy: Billy and Robbie and the dog were running around. Ronna looked pretty, wearing these worn-out old dungarees and her Abelard House T-shirt.
We took a drive out to Rockaway and walked along the boardwalk on the warm Indian summer night. I like being on the beach at night with Ronna; it was there, in December, that I first told her I loved her and she said, “It’s been so hard without you lately.”
For my part, it’s still true. I don’t know why – perhaps it is some kind of neurosis – but I do love her so much. The thing of it is, she has such doubts about her not being like Avis or Teresa, about her being so shy and a bit heavy and without a great index.
Those things don’t matter to me, though. She’s gentle and honest and funny and lovable. We went back to my house, and I told her not to worry about the future. She doesn’t think she can get into grad schools and is a bit confused.
We held each other and kissed and I caressed her round ass and freckled arms, lying in bed until about 11:30 PM, when I took her home.
I don’t think I love Ronna possessively or jealously. Corey still calls her and Leroy follows her around, but it doesn’t bother me at all. I know I can’t be everything to her.
This morning I was awakened at 10:30 AM by Scott, returning my call, and I went over to his house for coffee.
He’s still looking for a job, possibly as an airline steward, is seeing this one girl and also his old friend Nellie the nurse, who is a medium. Through Nellie, Scott spoke to his grandfather yesterday. (His grandfather died in 1960.)
Scott and I drove over to Brooklyn College and I went with him to get a transcript in the registrar’s office. Then we walked over to LaGuardia. Mason hobbled by and then Ronna came out. She and I were talking quietly while Mason and Scott were making very funny remarks commenting on the actions of “the lovebirds.”
Susan and Felicia called out, “Caplan!” in unison, and while Ronna was talking to them, Scott, Mason and I shouted out, “Caplan!” simultaneously.
Scott, Ronna and I went into Campus Corner, where we joined Avis and Helmut, who is staying temporarily at Libby’s house because Avis’s parents kicked him out.
When Avis’s parents go on vacation tomorrow, he’ll move back in with her. I know that she’s going to miss him terribly when he has to go back to Germany.
After lunch, Ronna and I went over the overpass on Bedford and explored the new Plaza and James Hall buildings.
When we returned to LaGuardia to meet Scott, Mason asked us if we could take Libby home, because she had another one of her stomach sicknesses, but Mike said he would do it.
Mason and Libby are still great friends despite not being boyfriend and girlfriend anymore. I know she’s going to Connecticut tomorrow to spend the weekend with Dane.
I took Scott home and then spent a little time with Ronna before the start of Yom Kippur.
Tuesday, October 9, 1973
It’s 3 PM, and I’ll be going to Staten Island soon for what I hope will be another interesting class with Prof. Ebel; later, I have a session with Mrs. Ehrlich.
I was right about getting back into the swing of things making me feel better. Early this morning I went to BC; although I am already caught up on schoolwork, I still wanted to get ahead. Intending to go to straight to the library, I of course never did go to the library.
Right away, I saw Mendy, who was on his day off from grad school at Fordham. We shook hands and talked about how we were doing; he seems to enjoy the school, except he had to mark over the cross on his Fordham notebook.
Vito was working at SUBO, but he told me he purchased a set of weights and started working out “to build up my tits.” He’s changing – into what, I’m not sure.
Teresa and Costas were acting like a couple of lovebirds, and when Costas had to go somewhere, Teresa asked me to have “a spot of tea” with her. She’s happy but confused.
The thing with Roger completely broke up week before last with them actually hitting each other. Roger wasn’t sure which way he was going sexually and he ended up being asexual. There was a lot of tension between them, so they decided not to see each other – although she still calls him every day, as a friend.
A week ago, Costas came over to her house, and Teresa said they laughed for hours, and they’ve seen each other every day since then. Teresa regales him with stories of the old Kingsman days as she finds herself drawn into the current Kingsman crowd.
Sid and Costas, Teresa reported are very cool with each other now. Costas is closer to Sean and he’s even thinking of running against Sid for editor-in-chief in February – that is, if Sid runs; Ronna says he’s getting awfully disgusted with the job.
Teresa says she just wants to have a good time with Costas, but she’s still confused and may make an appointment with Mrs. Ehrlich. We returned to LaGuardia, where I met Ronna on her way to a class. It was good to see her, if only for a few minutes; it sort of perked me up.
On the quadrangle, a rally was starting in support of the Israelis, who are locked in heavy combat with the Arabs in this new war.
Carl asked me if I’d seen Avis; he always seems to be looking for her.
Mara took me out to lunch, and it was a pleasure to be with her again. She said she’d been saving a good piece of gossip for me: Corinne broke up with Elliott and is now going with Sid. I found that a bit hard to swallow, especially when Mara’s source turned out to be Phyllis.
Mara is working in Sen. Javits’ office, illegally doing mailings in support of Marchi for mayor, probably because Jack is worried about a Republican primary fight next year when he comes up for re-election for Senator and he wants Marchi’s support.
Mara is still seeing Eric – and so is the other girl he likes. I guess she thinks he’s good enough so that she’d share her boyfriend with another girl all this time. I love Mara, who’s the closest thing I have to a co-conspirator.
We walked on campus the long way so as to avoid meeting Stacy, who Mara says – this news is via Phyllis, of course – is having a lesbian relationship these days.
On the quad, the pro-Israel rally was ending. Mason and Elayne (who’s still working in the Art Department, both at BC and the Grad Center) gave contributions to United Jewish Appeal; all the Jewish groups on campus are working hard to raise money for the war.
I ran into Kathy, who hugged me and kissed me on the lips – does she do that with everyone? – and said she’s student teaching, and I also bumped into Saul, who’s still weirdly metaphysical.
Would you believe Saul is now living with Leroy? I didn’t know they knew each other. What a world.
Before I left BC, I walked Elayne to her office. She told me nobody has heard anything from or about Leon in Madison since the last report that he was just getting stoned all day and listening to music. Leon’s parents moved to Florida.
Wednesday, October 10, 1973
When I walked into Mrs. Ehrlich’s office last night following another fascinating discussion in Prof. Ebel’s class (on Great Expectations), she asked me perfunctorily how I was.
“I’m fine,” I said, “but the world’s not.”
She said she suspected it would be easier to talk about the world’s problems than my own, and we began our session.
Twenty-four hours later, tonight, it seems to me that there are times when one is swept away by the tide of world events; it’s a history-making week that we’re living through.
Last night Mrs. Ehrlich and I discussed the anger I felt toward her last week; I felt she was being arbitrary, like Mom often is, and setting up different rules for us. I had to take out my anger on Mrs. Ehrlich over the phone because I was afraid that if I confronted her in person, she’d destroy me.
I feel very vulnerable. I realize that I’ve been taught, in effect, to explode in anger at home so I can be popular and well-liked on the outside (school, mostly), the place where I receive gratification.
I’m able to have so many good relationships with friends because I take out all my hostility on members of my family. Perhaps that’s why I don’t want to move out.
Mrs. Ehrlich says my acting out makes it more difficult in the long run, as I never understand my real conflicts. I told her about my cold and the things I’d worked out by myself concerning my identification with Aunt Arlyne at the hospital.
Maybe I didn’t want to see Mrs. Ehrlich last week so that I could show her that I can be my own psychotherapist. Mrs. Ehrlich said that what I did, and what Arlyne did, is exactly what therapy teaches you: how to cope with crises.
For, as Mrs. Ehrlich said, “You will be rendered helpless at times in the future . . . for a minute, an hour, a week.”
After I drove home from her loft – Atlantic Avenue is right in the center of the city’s Arab section, and I felt kind of funny, what with the war on – I called Ronna and we chatted away for two hours until late at night.
We told each other about all the people we’d seen during the day and gossiped shamelessly. Ronna and I have come to the conclusion that Phyllis simply makes up stuff that sounds like good dirt on people.
Ronna said Sid and Corinne aren’t dating and just went out together to get drunk last week on copy night. And the story about Stacy being a lesbian is probably motivated by jealousy: after all, Timmy still practically worships Stacy even though Phyllis is his girlfriend.
Ronna is very worried about Susan, who’s discovered that “Jan has a woman.” That’s just made Susan more depressed. I could hardly believe it, but Ronna said that since Evan and Susan broke up over a year ago, she hasn’t gone on a single date and nobody’s even asked her out.
I love talking to Ronna. Last night she told me something funny: that a year ago, when I got interested in her, she was afraid I was “a sexual athlete who preyed on all the virgins in LaGuardia Hall.”
I slept late today and went off to a meeting of the Elections Committee. Dean McCormack said that very few people have filed candidacies and on Monday we’ll decide whether to hold an election or make other arrangements for Student Government.
I’m getting really knowledgeable about the ins and outs of Richmond College, and I really like John and Andrea. Walking around St. George, I went over to a radio playing the baseball playoffs and learned that the Mets had won the National League pennant.
But more startling, Vice President Agnew resigned! He pleaded nolo contendere to a charge of tax evasion and got a fine and three years’ probation. It’s an unprecedented situation, and things are still crazy. And the war is raging inconclusively.
Prof. Fuchs’ class on the Marquis de Sade’s Philosophy in the Bedroom seemed to cap the day’s madness. The Jamaican woman who sits next to me said the book was filth, and when I defended it, Prof. Fuchs jokingly said that I must have a corrupt mind.
Saturday, October 13, 1973
It’s Saturday night at home. Last night I picked up Ronna at 7 PM and we went to the Albemarle Theatre to see Midnight Cowboy.
When it was first released, Ronna was too young to see it, and I wanted to see it again. It’s such a beautiful movie, but I’d forgotten how depressing it was.
We returned back to my house to watch the replay of Nixon’s announcement, made while we were in the theater. The new Vice President, after Congressional confirmation, will be Gerald Ford, the Republican leader in the House.
It’s a non-controversial choice: Ford is a bland team player. I was really engrossed in the political discussions afterward and became annoyed at Ronna because she kept asking what I thought were stupid questions.
I was cross with her, then felt sorry about it. Although she’s not as bright as me about some things, that shouldn’t be important; I can always share political talk with Mikey or others, and after all, there are lots of things Ronna knows about that I am totally ignorant of.
We talked it out, and talking led to kissing and general fooling around on the basement couch. We rolled all over each other and Ronna looked closely at my penis for the first time, both in its limp and erect states. She felt so wet and slippery through her panties, and I kissed and probed with my tongue.
I really don’t think Ronna will ever have intercourse with me if she hasn’t so far. She loves me, I know that, and I love her, as a friend and as a boyfriend, but can we go anywhere?
There are so many contradictions inside me: I want to have freedom but also security; I have homosexual desires; I want to be a dominant male to a submissive woman – yet I want to have an equal-based friendship with a girl.
Our sex play ended with my coming before she could have an orgasm, and I felt more guilty than she felt disappointed. I’ve always been conditioned to feel that every failure I have is a major defeat.
My spirits got a lot better, though, when I took Ronna home around 3 AM – it was a beautiful night – and I gave her her half-birthday card. It was a picture of a daisy that said, “Take care of yourself. . . You’re someone special.”
We recalled my last half-birthday card to her, before we were even dating, and she said, “It’s been a terrific year, kid.” And as I drove home, smiling at a carful of kids passing a joint in the Volkswagen next to me at a Ralph Avenue red light, I thought the same thing.
Today I visited Gary. His mother let me in and I found him sleeping, with his neck brace lying next to him. When he woke up, Gary said he’d gotten the doctor’s approval to forgo Guard duty today.
He really didn’t look too well; I could see he was in pain and hasn’t been sleeping much. As we chatted for an hour or so, I tried to cheer him up. Although I sometimes make fun of him, Gary’s a great guy.