A 23-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Late June, 1974
by Richard Grayson
Thursday, June 20, 1974
3 PM. It’s a cloudy, muggy afternoon, but I feel terrific. I just came back from Kings Plaza, where I had a delicious lunch at Bun n’ Burger.
While eating, I looked at the mirrored wall next to me, and I looked so good. Wearing a tight blue t-shirt, cutoff dungarees and white socks and sneakers, I looked sexy and athletic.
On Tuesday Ronna had said, “Your arms have gotten so big!” I haven’t been lifting weights every day, but I’ve been working out at least three times a week, and I guess that has paid off.
After I ate, I ran into Stu in the mall. The first thing he said was, “You’ve lost so much weight; you look great.”
Now I’d always considered Stu kind of a schmuck, but he made me feel so good that I listened intently to his story about a search for a job, complimented him on his three-piece suit, and gave his arm a friendly squeeze when we parted. Aren’t I awful!
Last night I called Alice, who kept me enthralled for an hour. I don’t know whether Alice’s experiences are any more humorous than other people’s or it’s that she just tells stories so well, but it’s a treat to listen to her.
She went back to Meyer Levin Junior High to see about a teaching job. Dr. Bernstein, who’s gone completely grey but is still cute, gave her a big hello and said, “I must go find Gladys.”
Alice reported that Mrs. Newman seems even shorter, but that’s probably because the last time Alice saw her was when Alice was 14. Even fat old Miss Sasuly, the assistant principal, is still there.
The problem is Alice doesn’t have a license, so they told her to come back in September and they’d try to get her an emergency license through the Board.
Mrs. Smith, the steno teacher, is trying to get Alice in at Midwood, and she’s also trying to get Alice a man. (Mrs. Smith: “Does your boyfriend think you’re wonderful?” Alice: “He thinks I’m all right.” Mrs. Smith: “But you’re wonderful, not just all right!”)
Mrs. Smith said she’d put in a good word with her chairman to get Alice a job in her department, and when Alice said, “Uh, there’s just one thing: I don’t know steno,” Mrs. Smith exclaimed, “There you go, putting yourself down again!”
Alice never ceases to amaze me: through Robert, she got a job typing up Marty’s master’s thesis, and she got a job withThe Shore Record writing a book commemorating the 450th anniversary of Flatlands.
Last evening, Sheila called. Very mysteriously, she said she was going to tell me “a story.” It seems that Scott has decided to go to American University Law School in Washington, D.C., next year – a fact she thought I already knew.
Anyway, Sheila’s been offered “a great job” as an administrative assistant to some guys in a burgeoning new property-development company downtown, so she’s going to stay in New York.
She wanted to know if I knew anyone who would like to sublet their apartment from July to mid-August. Originally, they were just going to leave it, but Sheila plans to stay there after they get back from their trip.
I told her I’d ask around and put up some signs at Brooklyn College; they were expecting more money, which Sheila is in very bad need of. I guess they’ve decided it’s best to split up.
Sheila said they’d see me before they left and that she would “ring me up” in the fall “if you don’t mind.” I told her I’d be delighted.
At the post office on Nostrand Avenue, I met Gary’s father, who said he got a letter today from Gary, and “it was so pathetic.” At the army base, it was about 100° on Monday, and there was a big storm and afterwards the temperatures cooled off about 50 degrees, but they refused to let the soldiers wear jackets.
So Gary caught a very bad cold. The National Guardsman were so mad at their general treatment that they went on strike – “a camp action,” Gary’s father called it – against the first sergeant, and for taking part in it, Gary’s been put on probation.
Saturday, June 22, 1974
7 PM. I just awoke from a short nap after feeling deliciously serene and fuzzy. I awoke with an erection and the feeling I was floating. Perhaps it’s because I was on the raft in the pool today. It’s summer officially and in reality, de facto as well as de jure, as the lawyers say.
I had a much better time last evening than I expected to. When I picked up Ronna at her house, she looked terrific, wearing this sleeveless blouse that covered up her chubbiness.
We went over to her cousin’s house for Diane’s 18th birthday party. I was not looking forward to spending time with such young kids and Ronna agreed that we only had to put in a token appearance, but I surprised myself by wanting to stay the whole evening. Maybe it’s because I was relaxed and was myself, but I didn’t feel a bit uncomfortable.
Ronna’s uncle left for a poker game and her aunt was a visible presence, preparing watered-down Sant ’gria punch and cheese and chocolate fondue. Ronna had been over there earlier in the day to bake some sour cream bread, which was very delicious.
Ronna is talented in the kitchen. Her little cousin Robbie was around, getting underfoot and instigating everywhere.
Ronna asked Diane how she was feeling and Diane replied that she still got tired a lot and often had sick headaches. Even Diane has come to believe that her illness is psychogenic in origin; she doesn’t get on at all well with her grandmother – her father’s mother – with whom she shares a room.
I had met some of Diane’s girlfriends in the hospital and I remembered her friend Tom from seeing him in Arsenic and Old Lace and reminded him we met when we saw Women in Love at Brooklyn College.
“That was good,” Tom said, and I replied, teasingly, “Seeing the movie or meeting me?” and after that, we got along really well.
My guess is Tom’s definitely gay or at least bisexual. He’s an opera freak, so I immediately thought of fixing him up with Tony (God, am I a busybody); he loves All About Eve(somehow I knew he would start quoting that movie when he and Ronna and I were sitting on the stairs drinking), and he’s well-versed in politics (he says he’s a cousin of Mario Procaccino and whenever he’s depressed, he calls up Mario, who does his crying for him).
It was Tom’s overall sense of humor that made me recall my first encounter with Vito (whom I haven’t heard from in a month).
As I sampled Diane’s angel food cake, I listened to her friends talking about what it would have been like in the old activist days when colleges went on strike and students took over the president’s offices. I felt very old because I was there.
Ronna and I left at 10:30 PM to go back to her house. Diane kissed me as we left. I told her not to worry about what she’d complained about as “another year without a boyfriend”; it was an enjoyable role, like being her older brother.
Ronna’s sister said to me, “I’ll see you later,” and Tom, who was sitting on her lap, said, “Where?”
Sue replied, “They’re going to my sister’s bedroom.” I feigned embarrassment and we left.
Ronna and I indeed went straight to her bedroom, without the usual preliminaries and got right into bed. It was heaven, really. She just looked so gorgeous, I was hungry for her touch.
Ronna is letting down her guard a lot too. She seemed to have a terrific orgasm and mine must have equaled hers; it was so intense, I couldn’t help moaning with pleasure. We hugged and nearly fell asleep holding each other.
Later we talked: little anecdotes and gossip. She said I smelled like I used to when we first started going out; her own smell was incredibly arousing. I left at 2 AM, running into Sue at the front door after Diane’s friends had dropped her off.
I spent today outside by the pool with my brothers.
Monday, June 24, 1974
10 PM. I‘ve just had bad news. For days now, I’ve been trying to call Vito, and tonight I finally got through to his mother. She told me that Vito’s been in Maimonides Hospital fortwo weeks with terrible pain.
At first, they thought it was his back, but now they think it’s something else. “His intestines,” Vito’s brother interjected on the extension.
Vito’s pain is very bad; they’ve been giving him some painkillers which help, but from the way his mother spoke, Vito is quite ill, and the doctors haven’t yet diagnosed his problem
It’s been going on for a month, Mrs. LoGiudice said; he desperately tried to make graduation, but he got as far as the line, and then his mother and brother took him home because he couldn’t really stand up.
I can’t believe anything could knock Vito LoGiudice for a loop like that; he’s always been so active, so chatty, maybe even a little obnoxious, but always so alive. I felt guilty about not calling sooner – but how was I to know he was ill? I even believed he might be angry with me.
Although I dread visiting Vito because I don’t want to see him in pain, obviously I must go to the hospital tomorrow, when Nancy will also be visiting. Perhaps his mother made it sound more serious than it is; I hope so. I’ll find out tomorrow.
Last night I dreamed I was Don Quixote, which may or may not be appropriate. I spoke to Ronna, who enjoyed her cousin Brucie’s wedding a great deal; she’s pretty old-fashioned and sentimental about weddings.
If I ever do marry – which I doubt – I’ll never have one of those vulgar cateredGoodbye, Columbus-type affairs. More and more, I see myself leading a single life, and I don’t think it will be a bad life at all. Maybe, if want, someday I could adopt a kid; single-parent adoptions are becoming more common.
Mom and Dad arrived back home at 4 AM. Their flight was delayed over in Denver, and then the luggage ramp broke down at Kennedy. They said Vegas was hectic and they lost money. My parents looked really tired – and they call that a vacation?
This afternoon I went to Greenwich Village and walked along Eighth Street. I hoped to findLaurie at the bookstore, but she wasn’t there. I am pretty sure I spotted Sylvia Sidney shopping, but I didn’t want to embarrass myself if it wasn’t her, so I didn’t say hello or tell her I liked her movies.
Back in Brooklyn, I bought a copy of Flatbush Life. The front page story by Mark was about a woman who went berserk on Church Avenue and stabbed six people. Mark reports on so many of these weird violent incidents that he says he’s become hardened to them, that nothing fazes him any more after covering Brooklyn violent crime for so long.
Later in the afternoon, I biked over to Alice’s house, where she and I shared a cantaloupe. Tomorrow she registers for her summer session ed classes at Richmond College. I offered to drive her there, but she decided it was best if she learns how to get there by train and ferry.
She showed me a letter Andreas sent her, containing some uplifting quote by Goethe that he found in the Reader’s Digest. Alice and I mostly discussed writing; she wants to speak to Jon Baumbach to see if maybe she could get into the MFA program, too.
We talked about Stanley Hoffman and his novel; Alice said Curtis knew him at grad school in Rochester and was pretty jealous of Hoffman’s new-found fame.
In addition to Marty’s thesis, Alice is typing a translation of a Chinese philosophical work – “it’s either about the nothingness of being or the beingness of nothing” – written by Ping, a waiter at the Mayfair Chinese Restaurant.
Ping hopes it will be the next The Prophet, but Alice said the book doesn’t have a Chinaman’s chance of being published.
I left her house at 6 PM to hurry home for dinner.
Friday, June 28, 1974
5 PM. I don’t know how many more of these cool, dark, drizzly days I can stand. It was sort of a change of pace on Tuesday, but it’s getting a bit ridiculous now; after all, it’s almost July.
My suntan has faded and my face is all broken out. I’ve got a cold, which I probably caught from Ronna. I’m feeling terribly dissatisfied with life. But I know this depression will be of short duration; something will snap me out of it soon.
I wish I could say the same for Vito, who continues to be in really bad shape. John Sweeney was at his bedside when I arrived at Maimonides today. Vito was again in a lot of pain, and they’ve stopped giving him Percodan.
He has moved his bowels slightly, but I can’t understand why they haven’t given him a GI series yet. While we were there, a psychiatric nurse went to see Vito, and I tried to eavesdrop on their talk.
The doctors believe his problems are psychosomatic. Now, I believe in psychogenic illnesses, and perhaps Vito’s condition is aggravated by mental factors, but I can’t believe that an emotional disturbance could cause that much pain.
The woman was very interested in learning about his parents’ divorce and how he got along with his family. “You seem to be quite anxious,” she remarked, as if that were not normal after spending weeks in the hospital in that much pain.
I heard the nurse say, “I know you’d like to believe the cause of this is physical and not emotional,” and Vito reply, “Look, if you can stop the pain in any way, I’ll be happy.” What smug assholes these medical people are!
Mrs. LoGiudice came, and Vito exacted a promise from her that if nothing were done by Wednesday, she’d have him released from the hospital. Vito was so frustrated that he was close to tears as he talked to his mother and sister Stella.
I wish I could do something to help him, but there’s nothing I can do except keep him company and reassure him.
When I had to leave, I drove John Sweeney home; he lives with his parents in Gary’s family’s building on Nostrand Avenue. John is not what you’d call bright, and I didn’t have that much to say to him. He did laugh when I told him about Vito asking the priest to bless his bedpan when Nancy and I were at the hospital on Tuesday.
Funny, when John and Vito discuss gay things, I feel out of it. When I’m around homosexuals is when I feel most strongly heterosexual; their lifestyle – the bars, the baths, cruising – doesn’t interest me at all.
In a way, I think Vito is as unliberated as the most macho swinging-single male chauvinist pig, for he won’t open himself to the possibility of females being attractive or of seeing other ways to be gay.
Scott sent me a belated birthday card today. He wrote, “We’ll always be in touch, regardless of where we are. I treasure you as a friend. Love, Scott.” That made me feel good.
Sunday, June 30, 1974
10 PM. A rain is falling now, but it was hot and sunny all day. I just realized that the first six months of the year are almost over, and half of 1974 is gone.
I changed the calendar Ronna gave me to July, which is decorated with her watercolor of an orange sun, a blue sky and some birds. (June was a cutout of two teddy bears – from the wrapping paper I put her 1973 birthday presents in – with the legend “Grazin’ in the grass.”)
I finally got to see Ronna today when I went over to her house at noon. Ronna’s cold was still with her, but her sister was much sicker, in bed with 103° fever. Ronna sounded a bit hoarse and she kept a generous supply of tissues with her for her runny nose.
We drove out to Rockaway, but every parking space at the beach had been taken, even the driveway of the abandoned house across from Mikey’s, so we returned to Brooklyn.
Ronna told me that last night she dreamed she was in bed with both me and Ivan. We both wanted to sleep with her, but she refused, and while Ivan was disappointed, I was a bit more upset and threatened to kill her. But because of her pleas against murder, I didn’t do it; instead, I decided to scramble some eggs.
We went back to my house – this is reality now, not the dream – and sat in the backyard by the pool. Ronna and I were discussing sociology (her midterm is tomorrow) and I made a beauty of a Freudian slip: instead of saying “cities,” the word that came out of my mouth was “titties.” I suppose it’s understandable.
I went into the pool while she stayed on the deck, and once we felt we had enough sun, we retired to my room to watch the Democratic Party telethon. We hugged and kissed but made sure to avoid mouth-to-mouth contact so as not to spread germs; keeping that distance was difficult because Ronna looked so soft and grabbable (a new word?).
We sat, touching each other, and I told her it took me 22 months from the first time I saw her until I got the nerve to ask her out. Ronna said Shelli told her in the spring of ’71 that I was talking about asking her out. I did it to make Shelli jealous, but there was a hint of desire for Ronna even then (Shelli told then me that if I asked Ronna out, Ivan would beat me up).
But Ronna said she wouldn’t have liked me then because “you were too scared to be yourself so you put on this front.” Ronna said that even Melvin mentioned how much I’ve changed over the past couple of years.
After we had lunch in the kitchen, I drove her home early, to study and rest her cold.
I again went to visit Vito at Maimonides tonight; his friends, Maria and Ed, who are engaged, were already there. Vito’s mother took me aside and said the doctors finally realized the problem wasn’t orthopedic; they now think there’s a blockage in his colon or intestines.
The doctors told Mrs. LoGiudice last night and she broke the news to Vito today. “He took it well,” she said. Apparently they’ve thought the problem was gastrointestinal for a while. The psychiatric nurse was brought in to help Vito cope with the news once they saw how very high-strung he is.
I stood and joked along with his friends. Maria just graduated BC, is looking for a job and will be on a TV game show on Thursday (she didn’t win any money). Vito was in pain, but he’s off painkillers because they’re doing tests and X-rays tomorrow.
Hopefully, they’ll do surgery before the holiday weekend. I tried to reassure Vito and then drove home his mother and uncle, who were very grateful for the ride. Mrs. LoGiudice is so tired. She’s had a rough life and a lot of problems, but she seems not to give in to things. I admire her a lot.