A 22-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Mid-January, 1974
by Richard Grayson
Friday, January 11, 1974
3 PM. A cold rain has been falling all day, making things very mushy outside. In a little while I’m going over to Ronna’s house, where we can go out in the early part of the evening rather than risk driving the icy roads after they’ve frozen.
Last night I spoke to Mike about our meeting with Jay Hershenson. I think that both Brenda and I smoothed things over between Mike and Jay, acting as intermediaries. In the end, Mike said he would come to the University Student Senate meeting as Brooklyn’s Senator himself and vote for Jay. But Mike said: “He wants it [the chairmanship] too much.”
I also spoke with Gary. Although we call each other every few days, I haven’t seen him since early November. I don’t think he’s going to last more than the year at Columbia: he’s disappointed over his grades last term and says all the teachers are very snotty. Also, he failed his language exam.
I tried calling Scott, too. He was out, so I left a message, but as he hasn’t returned my call – he never returned my last one – I guess he’s given up on me as a friend.
Scott and I did have some very good times together, and I’m not angry with him; I understand his psychology. Teresa says he’s angry with her, too, and Avis said the same thing. Scott wants you to give so much to him, and if you can’t, he becomes furious.
Late last night I finished Mrs. Dalloway, a book I very much enjoyed.
In it, Virginia Woolf achieved something I’ve always wanted to do: focus in on the inner consciousness of a group of people influenced by their surroundings – in her case, London – over a single day.
But she did it so artistically, everything being organic – it makes me despair I could ever achieve anything like that.
I dreamed that I was stationed on an army base in Rockaway during World War II. Prof. Jochnowitz was my sergeant, and while riding down the Boulevard in a jeep, he asked me if I wanted to go with him and the other soldiers to a whorehouse.
When I refused, he asked me if I was homosexual; I replied no, but I have this girl in California I’m faithful to. . .
This morning I got a call from Elaine Taibi, the executive director of the Brooklyn College Alumni Association. I’d called a few days ago, asking about being put on a committee, but she said all spots were full.
However, she went on, Ira Harkavy, the Alumni Association president, asked various people about me and came away “hearing wonderful things” and so asked me to serve as the Class of ‘73’s representative on the Board of Directors. I was so flattered I accepted immediately.
For the first time in three days I went out to drive. It took me half an hour in line to fill up the gas tank. Then I decided to get a haircut at the Cutting Crib. While waiting for Joey, I became pleasantly drowsy and mellow, and I enjoyed the shampoo. Without my glasses on, everything seemed so blurry, but it made me feel calm and good.
Joey and I had a good long talk while he cut my hair; I found myself confiding in him like I always pictured middle-aged matrons doing with their hairdressers. But Joey’s very friendly and only two years older than me. Very satisfied with my hair, I left to have lunch in Kings Plaza.
Saturday, January 12, 1974
There are times when I have this awful/wonderful need to write, to create a fictional masterpiece, but somehow I find myself unable to begin. I rationalize that by saying that I’m reading and experiencing things right now, serving my literary apprenticeship, laying the groundwork for a novel.
For instance, I’ve begun To the Lighthouse and have been reading a lot of Woolf criticism. It spurs me on to ideas for a form for my book. One idea I’ve been toying with is to experience a week through the consciousness of a character almost identical with myself.
In the novel, I see myself having an anxiety attack in Prof. Jochnowitz’s class related to my turmoil over homosexual fantasies, copying with a silent phone call from Shelli (counterpointed by a call Ivan makes that disturbs Ronna), taking me through Aunt Arlyne’s hysteria after surgery, resulting in my becoming sick, helping Avis by driving Helmut’s friend to the airport, arguing with Ronna over going to her grandparents’ for Rosh Hashona dinner.
Then I resolve things more or less, spend a great Saturday night with Ronna at a concert, meet Ivan and Vicky the next day, play with my godson and see that Arlyne is fine, and have the novel close with Mom and me meeting Dad the airport after the menswear show in Pittsburgh, showing that even Mom’s neurotic love for Dad is not such a horrible thing: if we can’t get perfect love, at least we can enjoy flawed love.
If only I could get it down on paper, I know it would be beautiful.
I had a great time with Ronna yesterday. When I went to pick her up at 4 PM, she gave me a calendar that it must have taken weeks to make. “Made with (not much couth but lots of) love,” she wrote, it is undoubtedly the most generous thing any human being has ever done for me.
Filed with adorable sayings and drawings (like “June 4 – birthday – and Roquefort cheese invented 1070,” “April 8 – eat a peach today,” and “June 9 – make tracks for the beach”), I think I will treasure it forever.
All alone in Ronna’s house, with the others away, I noted the empty fish tank. Marc’s kissing Gourami died finally; it survived three years without a mate to kiss.
Although we were tempted to go to the bedroom, we went out to Georgetown, where we bought tickets in advance, so we wouldn’t miss it this time, for Serpico, and in the meantime went to have franks and french fries and some of George & Sid’s delicious health salad.
The movie was a tour-de-force for Al Pacino, and it made you really wonder about the corruption in the Police Department. We came back to my bedroom, where I showed Ronna some photographs of me as a chubby baby and we talked and made out.
At 11 PM, we went down to the basement, sharing a navel orange and watching the news. We lay on the couch and I sort of attacked her. Sometimes I have to make love furiously, feeling her body, grasping her back and buttocks and breast.
She was wearing a beige turtleneck and looked terrific, and she didn’t look so bad without it, either. The greatest thing about us is that we can be very sensual with each other and still enjoy each other as intellectual and emotional companions.
I talked with her about the night of our first encounter nearly three years ago, at Kieran and Sindy’s engagement party, when we found ourselves seated next to each other at the Mayfair Chinese Restaurant.
I took her home at 2 AM in Marc’s car because mine was stuck in the ice.
Wednesday, January 16, 1974
A vague sense of uneasiness has been hanging over me for a while. I’ve been reading Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead; it’s a profoundly pessimistic book and makes me feel that life is just a series of meaningless comings and goings.
I suppose that there is something bothering me, something which I didn’t feel like talking to Mrs. Ehrlich about, but I’m not quite sure what it is. I don’t think it’s something like a sexual problem, although I’ve started to have my bimonthly doubts about the way my sex life is going.
Yet in a curious way, it has nothing to do with Ronna per se, though obviously that’s part of the problem, her not sleeping with me. I do get satisfaction from being with her, and yet still something is missing.
Perhaps for once I should do what Stacy did and try someone of my own sex; I no longer think it would traumatize me. But the sex part is too easy; that can be solved.
Freud notwithstanding, there are other considerations in my depression. I’m approaching 23 years old and am still living with my parents, not working, taking money from my father every week, using a car that was bought for me (which now will be in the shop for a few days; they’re fixing the power steering).
I’m apparently successful in a few areas: schoolwork, and the social activities that go with it (I received a letter from Ira Harkavy, the Alumni Association president, informing me of my election to the Board of Directors; Maddy is the other Class of ’73 representative), but I feel dissatisfied with my life somehow.
I can’t see a way of breaking out of the routine of boredom. I have to admit, though, that there are times when I enjoy my existence enormously. Like, I get pleasure from my friends.
Avis called the other night and talked to me of her troubles: her bird died, she’s so hard up for money that she’s trying to convince the other girl in the store to take a vacation so that she can take over her hours.
Avis said she’d like to get out of the city, and Alan offered to take her along climbing – surprisingly, he’s been very friendly since he returned – but she can’t call him because what if Carl answers the phone?
Carl – whom I learned she was definitely sleeping with – is angry at Avis, partly because of Alan, and even Avis admits that she’s never gotten herself into such a mess, being sexually involved with twin brothers.
Yesterday while I was out, Mason came by to drop off a belated Chanukah present: the record of theAmerican Graffiti soundtrack, which he got at Sam Goody’s. I was almost glad I missed Mason, because I was so touched, it would have been embarrassing to get the gift in person.
Josh called last night to say goodbye. He and his friend Bill are driving someone’s car to Florida today, following his last final exam; they’re heading to Fort Lauderdale to visit Artie.
We talked for a while about the difficulty of driving straight through, especially with the gas shortage. Josh is a very good kid; I’m really fond of him.
And then there’s always Ronna and her life: despite whatever difficulties I might have with her as a girlfriend, we share a lot as friends.
She’s concerned about her sister’s relationship with Leroy. Last Friday night they were making out in SUBO and Leroy lent Sue $53 to pay the general fee at registration.
I went to Brooklyn College briefly today. While I was there I spoke with Linda about her work in Holly Henderson’s office and played with a speculum that Vito and Mike had gotten in the mail.
Perhaps I’m just not used to being on vacation.
Saturday, January 19, 1974
Life – you remember life – has moments of wonderful extraordinary sweetness. Some of the sweetest times are those late Friday night – actually early Saturday morning – when I’ve returned to my room after taking Ronna home following a date.
I never feel tired then; I feel exhilarated, the good feelings that come from sharing experiences and having moments of fun and closeness. Sometimes I see Ronna as a companion with whom I’d like to spend my life – but of course that’s very premature.
At 5:30 PM yesterday, it was still light out when I picked up Ronna. After a few minutes of chatter with her family – Billy is back and looked adorable wearing bright red pajamas – we went to Manhattan.
I assured Ronna that if we did get tied up in traffic, I would not get pissed off the way I used to, but we did arrive on time, parking in front of the Ziegfeld Theatre.
(The Ziegfeld is my favorite: I have fond memories of seeingCabaret with Avis there, and the Nureyev film with Debbie, Mandy and Costas, and Romeo and Juliet with Ronna. Also, they have the most beautiful restrooms).
We went in to see The Day of the Dolphin, which was a bit weird, but I fell in love with the talking dolphins. The movie ended around 9 PM, and it was snowing lightly as we drove back to Brooklyn, where we had a late supper at the Foursome: eggs once over lightly and milk for her, waffles and tea for me.
Back at my house, we went to the basement to listen to theAmerican Graffiti soundtrack album. (When I called Mason to thank him, he said he’d be leaving today to help Paul settle into his new home in Atlanta.)
Somehow I got to talking about the night of the séance in Scott’s house two years ago, and the weird vibrations between all of us there: me, Avis, Scott, Stacy and Cynthia, Ivan and Allan Cooper, and that made Ronna think of a dream the previous night that had upset her.
In Ronna’s dream, Ivan left Vicky (because she had a new boyfriend) and he returned to Ronna to start their relationship over. Ronna mentioned that Ivan called her on Monday – the day after Vicky left for school, I figure.
She said she’d already told me about that call, but I guess it completely passed over me because it didn’t make much of an impression. (Perhaps we hear only what we want to hear.)
Anyway, after all this time, Ivan can’t spoil my relationship with Ronna, not even with ill-advised comments like saying how he’d found a three-year-old picture of Ronna that Leroy took and said, “You photograph well in my memory, too.”
Ronna and I had one of our long talks, so open to the point of me saying that I had this crush on a guy in a deodorant commercial. It’s good for me to feel so free with her. We made love and both of us came quickly; it was a cozy, rhythmic, friendly kind of lovemaking.
Snuggling, we lay together and examined the contents of each other’s wallets and laughed a lot at a silly old Bob Hope movie. When I took her home at 2:30 AM, it was very icy, but I managed to control the skidding and get both of us home safely.
This afternoon I awoke to a mild, sunny day. After washing the car, I drove out to Rockaway and visited with Grandpa Herb and Grandma Ethel, who came in after a long walk.
Last night Dad brought Grandpa Nat home to our house for dinner and then they both went over to Grandpa Herb’s to play pinochle with him and Mr. Schwartz.
Today Grandpa Herb showed me his new contact lens – with it, he has 20/20 vision – and a boat he’d made for Jeffrey.