A 22-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Mid-May, 1974
by Richard Grayson
Saturday, May 11, 1974
It’s actually Sunday morning; the grandfather clock downstairs has just struck two. This evening wasn’t exactly a disaster, but it wasn’t exactly a success, either.
Susan and Ronna arrived at my house separately at about 6:30 PM and we took off for the Nassau Coliseum, using the directions Marc gave me. Ronna’s sister, cousin and their friend were also going, but I couldn’t fit six people in my car, so Mrs. Caplan had to take them there and wait at a friend’s home in Roslyn until they called to be picked up.
Susan kept chattering away the whole ride there: I was concentrating on the drive and the crawling traffic, so I couldn’t concentrate on her talk. Ronna seemed notably silent. I’ve noticed these past few days that I no longer think Ronna is as pretty as I used to.
Even earlier in the evening, I had the feeling that Ronna and I haven’t been on the same wavelength lately. We stood in a long line, and our seats were so high up, we nearly got nosebleeds.
When John Denver came out, I could only make out his blond hair; he was faceless, glasses-less, and blurry to me. I enjoyed a lot of his songs – “Sunshine,” “Country Roads,” “Going Home,” and especially “Rocky Mountain High” – but after two hours, it just got to be a bit too much.
John Denver is so sweet, I felt that I needed an insulin injection after the concert. He does sing of nature’s beauty, and of Colorado and West Virginia and birds, but who doesn’t like that? And the way he kept telling us how much he loved his wife – as Ronna said, “He doth protest too much.”
Somewhere around the second half of the concert, what had been a vague tingling feeling in the front of my mouth became more and more painful until after a while I had a gnawing toothache.
(Just this past Tuesday, I told Mrs. Ehrlich I hadn’t been to a dentist in two years “because they start trouble, poking around.”)
The pain put me in a miserable mood and made me even more upset when I agreed to wait with the girls for half an hour until Ronna’s mother arrived. I walked to the car myself, wanting to be alone, and the ride home was virtually silent – except back in Brooklyn, when I nearly ran over a cat, I said “Fucking cat.”
I know Ronna was pissed at me, but I didn’t care. In my mind I picked a fight with her; all I could think about was the pain in my tooth, and everything looked sour.
I began wondering whether I should end my relationship with Ronna; it’s been a good year and a half, but I’m starting to get bored with the routine of dating one girl.
I’ve definitely decided that Ronna is not the person I want to share my life with, but deep down I doubt that person could ever exist. I kissed her goodbye lightly and came home and found that one of my feelings . . .
Now there’s a perfect example of a Freudian slip. Of course I meant to write “one of my fillings washed away,” but it came out “feelings.” Well, I don’t think the middle of the night, in pain from a raging toothache, is the time to sort things out.
Earlier today, I went to Grandma Ethel’s and joined her, Grandpa Herb and Irene Krasner for lunch. Irene said I got too thin (she’s mistaken, bless her anyway) and urged me to write a book.
She also remarked, curiously, “I’d rather have my children remain single than take those drugs.” The lesser of two evils, I guess. Grandpa Herb and Grandma Ethel reminisced a lot; their stories are worth hearing even if I know them by heart by now.
Tuesday, May 14, 1974
Life has taken on a rich, intricate texture; it’s not always enjoyable, but I have been able to do an awful lot of cogitating lately.
I’d like to be able to write fiction soon, and I will, as soon as those damn term papers are finished. (I’ve banished them to some nether corner of my mind for a while, but I’m going to have a lot of work before this month is over.)
Last night I got a call from Alice, who was depressed, she said, after a long conversation with her mother, to whom she confessed that she loved Mr. Blaustein. Alice was at Midwood H.S. yesterday, and she went to ask him when his drawings would be on display at thePromenade.
He was teaching a class, but told Alice to stop by during his lunch hour tomorrow. Alice doesn’t want to go although I told her she should: that way she could get over this thing once and for all and find out if he is interested in her or not.
Eight years is a long time to have a crush on someone – and that’s what it is, despite Alice’s protestations that she doesn’t know what the man is really like. Perhaps she wants to continue to love a fantasy. But she loves Andreas all the while.
Still, she does complain about Andreas’s ways a lot, though there are valid reasons for that. He’s never even let her meet his mother, as he doesn’t want his memories of her to mix with his feelings about Alice.
They never go anywhere or dress up and they end up eating spaghetti on the sidewalk curb or waiting to get thrown out of the Plaza. I think it’s all mighty peculiar, and it occurred to me that maybe Andreas has a girlfriend or a wife (he’s always working so much).
Of course, I could never suggest that to Alice. She scorns her friend Jeane for urging her to try therapy and get beyond surface feelings, and I don’t want to play shrink with her.
But Alice says that when I get to see her posthumous diaries, I’ll see that Andreas was the cause of all her depressions and all her highs as well. (Alice is going on the assumption that I’ll outlast her because I’m younger. But women live longer than men, and I can more easily see Alice editing my journals after my death).
After I spent two hours on the phone with Alice, she said she felt better.
I had a very pleasant dream last night. In it, Leon returned to Brooklyn and I loved him so much; as I was hugging and stroking him, he turned into a girl, but he was still Leon. It’s amazing how Leon’s charisma can stay with a person; I’ve hardly seen him in the past year and a half, but I still miss him.
At rush hour I took the train into Manhattan. Wearing a tie and jacket and carrying envelopes of proposals and papers, I must have looked like some junior executive.
I arrived at the CUNY Research Foundation right at 9:30 AM and Dean Kingkade – or Jane, as she asked me to call her – introduced me to the other members of the Chancellor’s Grant Fund Advisory Committee: Prof. Tom Prapas of Richmond, Prof. Avis Pitman of Bronx Community College; Dean Felix Cardegna of Staten Island Community College; Vice President Nat Siegel of Queens College; and others.
We began rating the projects we had reviewed as “good” or “excellent”; I was nervous about defending my selections. After lunch, the meeting concerned itself with funding the second year of projects previously passed and funded. The meeting dragged on interminably, and I was headachy from the tension.
When I called Mrs. Ehrlich to say I wouldn’t make our appointment tonight, she tried to imply there was some underlying reason for it. There was: I was exhausted and didn’t need the trip to downtown Brooklyn and then home.
During the climax of boredom, after 3 PM, I left the meeting and took a cab to Dad’s place, where he told me he’d be leaving for home in an hour. So I browsed in Barnes & Noble, ate something at Brownie’s, and thought things out sitting at the desk in the office.
Wednesday, May 15, 1974
3 PM on a gloriously summery day. It’s not going to be glorious much longer, though, for I still have to get through Fuchs’s lecture later this afternoon. But even if I am kind of worried because I don’t have my paper, which is due today, I’m more nervous about the results of my comprehensive exam.
I still get solace from knowing that I never have to sit through another of Daniel Fuchs’s lectures again; next week is the final, and that doesn’t count.
I’ve been speculating about living a life of hedonism. That old Spanish proverb, “Living well is the best revenge,” comes to mind.
I suppose it isn’t fair to my parents, my mooching off them, and it does make me feel like a cripple or dependent child, but at times, goofing off can be so delicious.
I was reading the other day that a Florida psychiatrist said that striving for success is bad for you emotionally and physically: if that’s so, I have nothing to worry about.
Take today: I slept late, had breakfast, exercised, and sat out in the back yard. The hot sun turned my skin a deep golden bronze. For weeks, everyone I see has been commenting on my tan, and I like being noticed for my appearance rather than my intellect or “good guy” nature.
At 2 PM I took a shower, washed and styled my hair, got dressed again, and went over to Kings Plaza, where I walked around and had a leisurely lunch as I watched the shoppers stroll by.
Now I suppose that kind of routine could become tiresome, but after yesterday’s marathon meeting, I deserve it.
This week has been at once frightening and exciting. Every few hours I remember that Ronna is not my girlfriend anymore, as I did while sitting in Grandpa Nat’s dusty office yesterday, and suddenly I get a chilling elevator stomach.
No wonder people go steady and get engaged and marry: we’ve all been led to believe that you can’t have any security without “another person you can call your own,” someone who loves you no matter what.
But it’s not like after breaking up with Shelli. First of all, I’m still dating Ronna: there’s nobody else in her life, and there’s no hostility between us. And second, I’m more mature; if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have joined Ronna in our decision, which I think showed great maturity on her part.
Yesterday in Brownie’s when some old loony at the counter refused to pay, I felt a bit excited when I exchanged bemused smiles with this blonde sweat-shirted girl sitting across from me.
Nothing came of it, because I feared rejection if I came on to her, but there will be other times, and other girls. And boys, too. I’m sure that part of the reason I needed a girlfriend was to protect me from acting on my homosexual impulses.
But I realize that I’m bisexual, not completely gay, and will always be that way. One homosexual experience won’t turn me into a raving faggot. In the dream in which I made love to Leon, he turned into a girl.
Last night I called Ronna, who was upset about a long talk she had with Susan and Felicia that day. Felicia has finally realized that Susan is destroying Felicia’s identity.
After four years at college, Felicia says she has only two friends and she’s been so identified with Susan that people always expect them to be together. So Felicia doesn’t want to go to grad school with Susan.
According to Ronna, after hearing that, Susan became – to put it mildly – hysterical.
Saturday, May 18, 1974
This afternoon, for the first time in recent memory, I slept during the day. From 3 PM to 5 PM, I was in a world of half-dreams and misty situations. I must have been even more tired than I realized, or else I was just trying to escape reality.
For the time has come, the walrus said, to pay for days of pleasure with regret: the paper for Fuchs is due on Monday, and I haven’t written a single word in what is to be a 15-page paper comparing the play and novel version of Mailer’s The Deer Park.
There’s no written research material on it, so it will all have to come out of my own little old brain. I did make a start today, or tried to. I went to the Brooklyn College library and looked for books and articles, but found there weren’t any.
Tomorrow I’ll be tied up at the University Student Senate meeting – Jay, fearing another no-show on my part, sent a special delivery letter to my house last night, scaring Dad half to death – and then possibly attend homecoming at BC, so there’ll be no time to work on it. Perhaps I’ll hand it in at the final on Wednesday, as I know I could manage it by then.
Last night’s date with Ronna went very well. I picked her up at 7 PM; she was wearing her Chicago T-shirt and looked terrific in it. Ronna’s been on a diet these past couple of weeks and she’s already lost weight. I had missed her, so it was really good to see her again.
We arrived at Gershwin Theater early and saw Karen, Maddy, and their friend Toby, all of whom Ronna met at the John Denver concert, as well as Leslie and Linda, with whom we bullshitted for a while. Karen’s been appointed editor of the Alumni Bulletin, and Maddy’s taking her place as Student Liaison chairman.
The play wasn’t going to start for a while, so Ronna and I took a walk in the warm night air; the college looked so empty and peaceful at twilight.
Ronna said she’s been a bit troubled by homosexual feelings. This girl, Nina, she met at the Gay Festival is bisexual, and Ronna really likes her and vice versa, but says she gets sick at the thought of anything physical occurring between them.
It’s probably just because this girl is nice, I told her, and the only girl Ronna knows to be bisexual. But it makes me feel much freer with Ronna about my own homosexual feelings; I told her the dream I had about Leon.
Parenthetically, Ronna mentioned that this girl sang with Stacy and her sister at the Women’s Festival. I wondered if this Nina could be the one Stacy had been living with. Now that would be ironic.
The play, Your Own Thing, a rock musical based on Twelfth Night, was beautifully done, and I enjoyed it very much. The tone was even in keeping with what we had discussed before: how you should love whoever you love, regardless of their sex: “The only crime is loneliness.”
To make things even funnier (or nicer), Maddy’s friend Gina, who people say is gay, and Kjell’s friend Peter, whom I know from junior high, played the main pair of lovers. The last time I saw Peter, at Kjell’s house four years ago, I was really attracted to him, and Ronna, who had him as a drama counselor in the country, thinks he might be gay, too.
Kyle Karpoff, Alan and Carl’s little brother (who Avis once said is also probably gay; I guess everyone in theater is) also had a minor role.
The rest of the evening after the play went well, too, except for the argument when I got too defensive about therapy; I have to watch that. We walked along the boardwalk, came home, and brought out milk for four kittens that looked hungry (they lapped every bit of it up) and went downstairs to watch TV.
Ronna cooled off my sunburn and we made out pretty heavily although neither of us had an orgasm. Perhaps we’re both holding back a bit; we have to get used to each other again.
But when I took her home at 2 AM, I felt – and she did, too – that so far, our experiment was succeeding.
Sunday, May 19, 1974
It’s late Sunday night and I’m feeling hopeful about the future – the near future, anyway. I’ve got six pages of my Mailer paper written and typed, and perhaps I can finish it tomorrow, and if not then, then Wednesday for sure.
But I can see beyond this term now; in just ten days, thank the Lord, I’ll be through with all my courses and can begin the serious business of job-hunting for the summer.
Ronna and I had such pleasant talks these past two days; things are working out well and I’m pleased about that. Last night it seemed that she had a funny anecdote about everybody that I talked about.
I mentioned to her that Ira Harkavy wrote me to thank me for agreeing to serve as Playbill chairman. He said he was appointing me to the Finance Committee and sent a carbon copy to the chairman, who’s Ivan’s ex-brother-in-law Ken.
Ronna said that she liked Ken a lot, mostly because of one incident: one night while babysitting for him and Ivan’s sister, she fell asleep on the white fur rug on the floor of their Brooklyn Heights brownstone. Ken put a cover over her while she was half-asleep and cold.
And when I mentioned that our guest speaker at the Senate today was Larry Friedman, president of the National Student Association, she had a story about him, too.
Some years back, Maddy couldn’t attend this meeting in Manhattan and sent Ronna in her stead. Ronna didn’t understand what was going on, something about CUNY budget cuts.
Anyway, Larry Friedman, tall, curly-haired and cute, gave her the line, “Haven’t we met somewhere before?” and she all but fell in love with him. Ronna was young and not used to shaking hands, and after he shook hers, she looked at it and Larry stared at her, wondering if Ronna thought he had given her cooties.
“And that’s how I lost my chance at romance with Larry Friedman,” Ronna said. I like her a lot.
This morning at 10:30 AM, I arrived at the Board of Higher Ed – neither Mikey nor Mike wanted to go, so I drove up alone – and met Fred, Sid Kitain, and the others. It’s strange that somehow, after all these months, I’ve slowly become friends with many of the people at the University Student Senate; I even think I’m going to miss these meetings.
I actually enjoyed every bit of today’s session. Jay Hershenson was as friendly as ever, though it may be a bit forced; he told me not to be intimidated just because I’m the only student on the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee.
Larry Friedman spoke about the National Student Association and its annual congress to be held this summer. I can understand why Ronna liked him back when he was student body president at Queens; he’s very affable.
He told a story about how he appeared at the University of Tennessee: afterwards a girl came up to him and said he had made the worst speech she had ever heard in her life. To make him feel better, the UT student body president came over and said, “Don’t listen to that woman. She’s the campus fool: she only repeats what everybody else says.”
I feel Larry is probably doing a good job organizing and lobbying in Washington for the NSA.
The Senate also honored Fred Hechinger, education editor of the Times, and gave Fred Brandes a cigarette lighter on his “retirement.” We heard reports about the community colleges’ budget gap, trouble at Borough of Manhattan Community College, and our successful lobbying effort to defeat the Marchi bill.
All of today’s agenda was permeated with a sense of good humor. I joked with Jay Lunzer about his alternate, who’s such an idiot I almost think he’s retarded; I spoke with Cary and Richie about the Queens Student Government elections; and John Boyle of Staten Island Community College told me about his trip to L.A. to attend an Evening Students’ Conference.
We adjourned for lunch at 2:30 PM, and I enjoyed my sandwiches and the farewell cake for Fred. I kissed Clarissa goodbye and told everyone to have a good summer. Jay said to visit the office, and I think I will.
I may not be in the Senate in the fall, but I want to keep up with the people from USS as much as I can. From the meeting, I went to Homecoming at Brooklyn College, but stayed only to hear the speeches from President Kneller and Ira Harkavy.