A 22-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early December, 1973
by Richard Grayson
Saturday, December 1, 1973
Last evening, I think, was an important one in my relationship with Ronna, but I’m not yet certain why it was or how things will change. We went to Kings Plaza to seeJeremy, the film we were supposed to go to last Saturday night.
Just before I left for Ronna’s house, I received a curious call from Scott. He responded to my “How are you?” with an “All messed up – I don’t want to talk about it” and I gave him Avis’s new phone number, which is what he called for.
After asking me what I was doing tonight, Scott said maybe he and Avis would join us. But he never called back.
The film, by Arthur Barron, who teaches at BC and is the boyfriend of Avis’s sister’s friend Doris, was about two sensitive, artistic kids in a New York City high school falling in love for the first time. The girl had to move back to Detroit with her father at the ending, and Ronna cried a lot.
When we got to the roof of the mall’s parking lot and Ronna said she hadn’t expected the scene where the kids first have sex, I said, “You don’t expect it of anyone.” She was very hurt, and I apologized for upsetting her, but the feelings behind the statement held.
Ronna has always talked about how she wanted to ride a bus with me, so we waited for the Mill Basin line in front of the candy store on Avenue T. I told her that maybe I would have to stop seeing her because it’s been a year and now I know she’ll never sleep with me.
We were the only passengers on the bus, she sitting in front of me, and we got off at the last stop at Kings Highway and walked in the cold night. She thinks I condescend to her because she’s a virgin; perhaps I do, but I respect her feelings.
Sure, at times I think it’s because of something psychological in her. Like, after we had taken the Avenue R bus home, she was talking about her father’s affairs and his seeing prostitutes.
It struck me that she doesn’t have sex because to her that would be identifying with the bad women that broke up her parents’ marriage and hurt her badly.
Of course I didn’t tell her that; I shouldn’t play shrink.
But once in the basement, we had a long talk. She said that if she slept with me, she would lose self-respect, and I replied that was the most important thing, you have to live with yourself and no one else.
However, by the same token, I need to feel good about myself and having sex is one of the ways I do that.
We discussed breaking up, calmly and with almost no “pulling any shit” on each other. Ronna and I respect each other’s opinions even if we can’t agree; we can even give each other justifications for the other one’s position.
Finally I kissed her. Through the whole discussion, we hadn’t stopped loving each other, and we both knew that. The kiss led to warm hugs and finally I was on top of her on the couch.
It was a really tender experience. After she came, I could feel myself having an orgasm. Just before the first squirt of semen, I felt the most wonderful, scariest feeling that I was going to explode, and then an orgasm swept over me, like an onrushing wave hitting me with full force.
We lay in each other’s arms till 3 AM, cuddling, drifting into a light sleep.
Ronna had a bar mitzvah to go to this morning and tonight, so I won’t talk to her until tomorrow. But I still know that we haven’t solved our differences; perhaps we won’t be able to.
Tuesday, December 4, 1973
It’s the end of a rather delightful day. I slept poorly last night, bothered by an incoming wisdom tooth, but somehow I woke up feeling very refreshed. It was beautiful outside, with very un-December temperatures and the smell of spring in the air.
I couldn’t help but go for a walk on the Rockaway boardwalk. I suppose I was hoping to see if that cat ever had her kittens, but I couldn’t find a trace of them.
Sitting on a bench, I composed short stories and films in my mind; the ocean gives me a sense of renewal and stimulates my creativity.
The most encouraging thing I’ve heard about Abe Beame, who becomes Mayor on January 1, is that he likes to walk on the beach in Belle Harbor, where he rents an apartment from Ivan’s father’s business partner.
I went to Brooklyn College at 3 PM to pick up Ronna. A week ago we had made arrangements that she would come with me to Richmond today. Because Mrs. Ehrlich had canceled our usual session, Ronna and I could spend the whole evening together.
Mason and Libby were out on the steps of LaGuardia along with Vito, Helen, Matt, Nancy (who gave me regards from Elspeth) and Grace. We sat around reading personal ads from horny, lonely people in this college-oriented magazine, and some of the ads were so funny we were convulsed in laughter.
Stefanie was manning the Election Commissioner’s desk, handing out petitions to rep candidates; seeing her at that task made me feel both nostalgic and like some old warrior who’d seen student government battles come and go.
Vito wants me to come with him and Nancy to Pablo’s birthday party later this week, but I don’t think I could handle that scene. Lately Pablo has taken to wearing T-shirts that say FAGGOT.
Mikey came by, cursing the Registrar’s office; he had called Albany to find out why he hadn’t heard anything from their grad school and was informed that BC had never sent out his transcript. Poor Mikey.
Ronna came out of her appointment with Prof. Schlissel, and we left after some joking around with Sid, Susan and Felicia. Ronna said that Schlissel had given her the names of some grad schools in American Studies to apply to, and she seemed cheerier about her chances than she did last night.
If Ronna does get into a school, though, it’ll probably be out of town, and I’m not too thrilled with that idea.
She remembered my half-birthday today and gave me a card that said, “If you saw yourself as I do, you’d never lose faith.” We drove to Staten Island and I showed her my usual routine; it was odd but I felt I wanted to impress her.
After I showed her around the school – the library, cafeteria and the SG office, where I spoke to Andrea – we went up to class. Prof. Ebel had another one of his brilliant classes, today on Bleak House.
I like him so much because he gets enthusiastic about literature but he’s never over-impressed with it or his own academic credentials; he makes students feel their opinions are important.
Afterwards, Ronna said he was every bit as good as I said he was, and she said she found the school kind of charming. So do I.
We drove out the Staten Island Mall, where we had dinner (she’s on the Stillman diet this week) and then window-shopped in the bookstore and the pet store, and watched Santa Claus terrify little kids whose mothers had brought them to him.
Back in Brooklyn, at my house, we listened to records and basically messed around for a while. Somehow I felt very proud of Ronna today. For a minute I stared at her and had this weird feeling, seeing her as she would look as an old lady. I liked it.
Wednesday, December 5, 1973
3 PM on a rainy day, the kind of day I remember as a kid when Mom would find things for us to do: we’d play with toys and have hot chocolate and snuggle up and take a nap in the afternoon, listening to the rain fall on the roof.
I suppose my childhood was not the horror I sometimes make it out to be; there were many good things. Even Marc and I, and later Jonny, used to play together, and sometimes, though rarely, we still do.
On Saturday night, we were all lying on Marc’s bed, talking about our favorite stuffed animals: Jonny’s two Snoopy dogs; Marc’s plastic poodle, Lady; and my Lambie Pie. The other day I found it in the closet and the music box inside it still plays “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
Jonny said he was having a party next weekend and inviting girls. He told Marc to “keep your bed open,” then blushed and ran out of the room as Marc and I giggled. Yet Jonathan will soon be 13 and is going through the wonderful agonies of puberty.
And apparently Marc has gone through his first crisis de coeuralthough he never talked to me about it. I found Rita’s senior photo in his room one day, and on the back, it read:
“We went through a lot together, but I think we finally understand each other. I know I’ll always remember you and what we went through together. I hope you will, and whenever you see this picture, you’ll remember only the good times we had together.”
I guess it’s something universal, and maybe that’s not a bad way of looking at things, like Vonnegut says in Slaughterhouse-Five: “A pleasant way to spend eternity is to concentrate on the good things and ignore the bad ones.”
There have been an awful lot of good times, especially lately. I know from this weekend that Ronna and I have a solid relationship, based on trust, and if it ends, it won’t end with us becoming monsters to each other: that’s the easy way out.
And I hope I can come to understand Ronna’s attractions to other people, just as I have my own crushes on people, too: June, Spring, Jason, even girls and guys I see on the street.
Yesterday Ronna said that before she knew me, she believed she was an emotional cripple who could not love anybody. She said I showed her not only that she could love me, but that she had in fact loved Ivan as well, and perhaps other guys, too.
It’s like when you ask somebody how you know if you’re in love, or happy in your work, or simply “doing the right thing,” and all they can tell you is: “You’ll know when the time comes.” I imagine that’s just one of the things people must accept on faith.
I had a long and hysterically funny call from Josh last night. He’s now Prof. Goodman’s prize student in Playwriting. In Josh’s last play, he screwed Goodman’s wife and ran him over with a ’57 Chevy.
Christmas is coming in three weeks, yet due to the energy crisis, there are few of the usual lights and decorations up this year. Still, I’ve bought my Christmas cards and intend to get into the spirit of the holiday.
I have to go to Prof. Fuchs’ class at Richmond and then to Mrs. Ehrlich’s, but I’d rather just stay home.
Sunday, December 9, 1973
I’m bone-weary tired and my nerves are all jangled. I wish I were going to Florida with Grandpa Nat and Grandma Sylvia. To lie in the hot sun, get my feet wet in the ocean,breathe the relatively clean air: that would be terrific.
I guess it’s all due, this feeling of exhaustion, to today’s session of the University Student Senate. Perhaps I wasn’t cut out for a political career; there’s so much bullshit you have to sit through and very little gratification.
But things have to be done, and I feel the duty to do them if no one else will. Had I not run for the Senate, there would be no one representing the students at Richmond College.
Of course I’m not discounting what Brian once called the “intense ego-stimulation” that these things provide. Still, I feel frustrated in power – the little of it that I have. Perhaps that’s the problem: I’m at an intermediate stage, not having all the power I’d like to help students at CUNY.
One day I may have to choose between being a politician and being an artist. I find that political activity saps my creativity.
I slept deliciously for ten hours and trotted off in the rain to BHE headquarters. The guard at the door had not been notified of the meeting, so we had to stand outside getting wet until Alan Shark came.
At this session, we passed the National Student Association insurance plan, along with resolutions that Baruch College be kept in Manhattan and not moved to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn (by the old LIRR railroad tracks); that a student be appointed to the new Board of Higher Ed by Beame or Rockefeller (or Wilson, if the Governor resigns); and something condemning tenure quotas.
We got a free lunch, and I enjoyed a lot of the five-hour session, but there were so many moments that were achingly dull; I can’t stand tedious debate. I enjoy talking to people, especially the delegation from Queens: Jay Hershenson, the senator; Richie Rothbard, the SG President (day session); and Steve Rosenberg (evening session).
Jay and Steve are busy lobbying on trying to get the student on the BHE, and I agreed to attend their press conference Wednesday on the steps of City Hall. (This evening I notified Sid about it, soKingsman should be there to cover it).
I think Jay wants to run for Chairman next month when Alan’s term is up. John Fink of Hunter probably wants the job, too. Jay coyly offered me his support for Vice-Chairman for Graduate Affairs if I back him.
We gave Fred Brandes, the USS Executive Director, a gavel in recognition of two years’ service, and I gossiped with Steve Shark, the USS Public Relations Director and Alan’s brother, about Dick Wright and about Belle Zeller, the BC Poli Sci professor who’s the faculty union president.
But at 4 PM, I left the meeting feeling more down than up.
Monday, December 10, 1973
It’s 11 PM after a day filled with more meetings than yesterday.
But instead of feeling tired, I feel exhilarated. In contrast to yesterday, I feel that I am accomplishing things and taking certain directions that please me.
First of all, I now am completely at home at Richmond. While I can never replicate the feelings I had for Brooklyn College after four years, I have come to be quite fond of what Shelli called “that dinky little school by the ferry.”
Richmond College has a kind of vital force all its own. It’s smaller and freer and friendlier than Brooklyn College.
Perhaps what pleases me the most is that I’ve proved to myself that my “success” at BC was not just a fluke: I can do as well academically and socially at another college – which is something I’d never have learned had I not left the safe confines of LaGuardia Hall.
The past three nights I’ve had dreams which took place at Richmond; I think that means I’ve transferred a lot of psychic investment over to RC.
I arrived at school at 1 PM today and went to Dorothy McCormack’s office for the Student Life Committee meeting.
Dorothy introduced me to the other members: Kathy Millman, Carlos Suarez, and Patrick Sheridan (students), and Mirella Affron and Lanny Quart (faculty); I already know Pat McGinnis.
We thrashed around proposals for a day care center for the kids of students and staff, and I am happy to report that I did not volunteer for the subcommittee we set up to deal with it, nor did I accept the chairmanship of the full committee, which went to Patrick since no one else would take the job.
Then we hurried over to the SG office for a caucus of Faculty-Student Assembly members to elect our student representatives to the Personnel & Budget committee.
June had called the meeting, but only a third of the people showed up, so it took a while before we elected Paul Nelson and Eileen Hamlet.
The SG office is filled with touches of Andrea’s rather wonderful sense of humor: a wall depicting the adventures of a man-eating spider named Lotan, a daguerreotype of a fish entitled “Our Flounder,” and a file cabinet with individual drawers labeled Nail File, Vile File, and Necrophile.
We went down in a group to the lecture hall for the Assembly meeting; I sat with Ed Merritt, John Puleo, and his friend Freema. I had thought John was going with Andrea, but he held Freema’s hand and kissed her when he left.
George Jochnowitz came up to me and said, “I’m going to be very dull in class tonight”; one of the items on the agenda was a replacement for him on the P & B for the spring, when he goes on sabbatical.
But that item never came up. After we talked about sending a group to the BHE meeting next week and appointed members to a teacher evaluation committee, some joker – probably desiring to make a point about the students electing our representatives to the P & B committee without a quorum – called for a quorum count, and wouldn’t you know, there were 110 members present, one short of a quorum.
So President Touster shrugged and adjourned the meeting. I drove to the Staten Island Mall for dinner and returned for Jochnowitz’s class, which was not at all dull; I’m fascinated by languages like Catalan and Provençal. We’re getting out take-home finals next week and will hand them in in January.