A 19-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From November, 1970


Thursday, November 5, 1970

I’m over yesterday’s post-election letdown and have accepted that Buckley indeed is our new Senator, getting 39% to Ottinger’s 37% and 24% for Goodell. But at least the Senate remains in Democratic hands and the party did really well elsewhere. And at least Jim Buckley has a sense of humor.

Today the house was again being painted. Jimmy Holmes, a fireman who does this sort of thing part-time, started in the living room. He’ll be back tomorrow to give it a second coat.

Mom was able to drive me to school, for which I was most grateful. Books and records and stuff are coming in to the Spigot office, thanks to Bill’s sending away to all the companies.

Mark wants me to review Soledad Brother, a book of letters by George Jackson, a black militant in prison. I won’t have a story in next week’s issue, as Mark wants to give the freshman cub reporters some stories.

Marty called a special Assembly meeting after receiving a threatening letter from Mrs. Weitz’s attorney. They quickly agreed to pay the fees of the four women who worked in the election, then lost a quorum, so no further business could be brought up.

It was good to be back in Art class, to see Effie and Janet and even Leonard, and Mr. Sawin, too. He showed us slides of paintings by Caravaggio.

I have an Art paper due after Thanksgiving, and I must go to the Natural History Museum this weekend for Anthro and write a report.

In Anthro, we started learning about some weird marriage customs in Indian societies. I was happily shocked to find I got a B on the midterm.

As I was leaving school, I passed Hal, who runs home – he lives around here – every day. He’s a real physical fitness nut.

I got on the bus with Evan, whom I hadn’t seen in ages. He said he knew about my election duties and read my column in the paper. I gather he was once a good friend of Hal’s, but now Evan doesn’t like him at all. At one point, I thought Evan was going to have an attack of some sort, maybe asthma or epilepsy, but it passed, and I didn’t say anything.

Only 24 soldiers dead in Vietnam last week. Only?

Sunday, November 8, 1970

So far, living with pityriasis rosea has not been easy, but I suppose I have to get adjusted to it. Fortunately, in six weeks it will all be gone. All last night I had dreams about having leprosy and junk like that.

I persuaded Dad to drive me to the Museum of Natural History, and Mom and Jonny said they wanted to come along, too. We left at noon and arrived at the museum an hour later.

So many Brooklyn College students were there at the Woodlands Indians exhibit, including Scott and his girlfriend. Mom, Dad and Jonny went to the planetarium while I spent an hour and a half taking copious notes about the Indians’ architecture, weaponry, agriculture and religion.

After endless notes, I finally came to the end of the exhibit. We drove through the park, and then we were driving along East 76th Street on our way to the FDR Drive when I spotted Jackie Onassis walking along the street.

She looked just like the photos, so I’m pretty sure it was her, except I didn’t know she had brown hair, not jet-black hair, since most photos I’ve seen are black-and-white.

I was so excited to see her that I didn’t sputter out whom I had seen until the end of the block, so the rest of the family missed her. On our way home, we ate in Junior’s – always excellent food.

Another sign of our bad economy: Lou came over from next door and said he had to borrow $50 from Dad – and he’s a broker on the New York Stock Exchange!

I called Gary, who had a fair weekend at a National Guard camp upstate, to wish him well on his 20th birthday. I talked about my infection and he sympathized.

Gary said he’s glad that he’s no longer a teenager and that he is now more responsible for his actions. Which is the opposite of me.

I also learned for the first time that Gary’s been smoking pot lately. And he told me that Kjell suffered whiplash from an auto accident last week.

Thursday, November 12, 1970

Another dark, drizzly day. Mom and Dad went into Manhattan again, to see about furniture. The Pontiac had to have its battery charged, so I didn’t have use of it.

I decided to send my story “Nostalgia” to Nocturne and had it xeroxed at the Junction. Now I have some stories written and there are more stories running through my mind.

Tonight I was retyping “Reflections” and got into a real ego trip about how I’m going to be an important writer someday. The other day, Cheryl quoted Kurt Vonnegut: “Writers write books they can’t find on bookshelves.” I guess that sums it up.

I had lunch at the Sugar Bowl with Elspeth, who said very few people showed up for the screening last night. Elspeth’s dropped out of group therapy and is seeing her doctor privately now.

Impressed by Stella’s apartment, Elspeth wants to leave home, but she couldn’t convince Rose, Marty’s girl, or anyone else to share a place with her.

We got a whole bunch of books from Simon & Schuster at the office. I took Ramsey Clark’s Crime in America, kept some in the desk, and divided the rest among Elspeth, Mark, Hal, Juan and Mendy. Juan, incidentally, told me he’s on the Campus Planning Committee now.

Downstairs, Marty, Mikey and Bob were preparing facts sheets on the curriculum forum for Sunday.

Esther came over to talk about the unkosher things she’s seen in SUBO and she wants an investigation. John Caggiano was in to complain about the exact same thing.

Art was cancelled today, and in Anthro, Mrs. Johnston discussed terms used in kinship structures; we have to read a Levi-Strauss article on marriage. Anthro is fascinating.

I came home directly after class and made my own dinner. The pityriasis rosea rash is spreading and itches a bit.

DeGaulle requested a small funeral, but the world leaders went to memorial services in Notre Dame.

Slowly I can sense winter coming.

Friday, November 13, 1970

Again, a miserably rainy day. Last night I spoke with Dad, who said that the Pants Set is filing under Chapter 11, which is a little different form of bankruptcy. Timmy explained it to me at school today; he knows so much about business.

Anyway, Dad said it was nothing to worry about. Most of his income is from Art Pants, and they’re in good shape.

This morning I typed up my proposed topic for the Soc paper: the effects of television political advertising.

After lunch, I fought the cold rain and went to the forum in Whitman, chaired by Marty, Sindy and the members of the commission, including Greg and Mark Hager, the only two student members.

But very few people showed up – Joel, Mikey, Mason, Jerry, Jill, Elayne and a couple of others. People just aren’t interested in reforms that won’t take place until after they’re well out of college. I doubt if Sunday’s attendance will be any better.

In Acting, I did a “pantalogue” about being harried by an old lady; it went over well. In Soc, Mr. Katayama lectured on social stratification and we had a good discussion.

After class, Barry and I rehearsed our scene he’s adapted from Catch-22 in which I play the shrink and he’s Yossarian. The scene should be funny. We’ve got to keep from laughing ourselves as we learn our lines.

Kingsman had a blistering editorial attack on Mark and the Spigot, and their letters column exchanged heated charges from Fred, Casey, Hal, Bob and Pam on their last editorial, along with replies from Jeff, the Kingsman editor.

While I was eating dinner, the lights went out. The blackout covered several blocks and lasted for 90 minutes; it might have been caused by the storm.

It was a reminder of the Great Blackout on a November evening five years ago when I was sitting in the kitchen reading a comic book after getting home from Franklin School. My first thought as a 15-year-old hypochondriac: “I’m going blind.”

Uncle Abe had another prostate operation, and I don’t know what his condition is. The dermatologist said Jonny has eczema in addition to very dry skin.

Monday, November 16, 1970

I had another bad night and didn’t get to sleep until 6 AM. So I felt drowsy and useless most of the day.

I wrote my review of Soledad Brother, but Mark made me cut it to 600 words. It didn’t come out as well as I wanted it to. I guess I’m just not cut out to be a literary critic.

Anyway, the book made a lot of sense and gave a better portrait of a black man’s rage than did Soul on Ice. And as I wrote the other day, I’m becoming radicalized even if I can never condone violence.

In Acting today, we finished the “pantologues”: some of the members of the class are quite talented. I almost arrived late, as I had to wait thirty minutes for a bus. As we walked off the bus to the BC campus, Lee asked me I was going to run for the Assembly in December; I said no but I urged him to seek re-election.

In Soc, Katayama continued his lecture on social stratification. After class, I went up to the office to help with copy day. Bill, Kang and Juan were there, too. Timmy agreed to be the Spigot’s new business manager; maybe he can get us some ads.

Mark’s column this week politely criticizes Kingsman in general – the way they’re criticizing us – and then asked for some sort of détente.

Larry came in and told us that Aaron Federman is suing Kingsman for defamation of character or something because Marc Nadel drew a cartoon that made Aaron look ridiculous.

Harvey is starting a new party for the next student government election; he’s a nice guy, but if he’s the head of it, it’s got to be idiotic.

I felt tired and weak and so skipped Anthro, though I read Levi-Strauss’s fascinating article on the family at home.

I called Alice to tell her not to come over tonight to tutor Marc, as Dad was taking him over to the Male Shop to try to see if he could get him a sport jacket there. (He couldn’t, and Marc finally got one at Alexander’s.)

Mark wants me to come with him to the printers in Williamsburg tomorrow night, but I want to get out of it in the worst way.

A taxi strike is threatened.

Friday, November 20, 1970

Today started off sunny and mild, but then it turned cold and rainy. They brought in the marble fireplace for the living room this morning. It looks okay, but I don’t think Mom is satisfied with it. But then when is Mom satisfied with anything?

I waited till after lunch to go to school. Kingsman didn’t attack the Spigot today, but they did attack Marty’s Hillel veto, and their Assembly story was biased, as usual.

I showed Mason a letter they published from Hillel’s rabbi, saying that a rep – Mason’s name wasn’t printed – had used “a four-letter word about the Jewish traditions.”

What Mason, a soft-spoken guy, said, “I went to Hebrew school and all that shit. . .” He was a bit upset, and he and Mikey went over to Hillel House to see the rabbi, who told Mason to watch his language.

Jews are paranoid, although I guess they still have a right to be. Harvey had his first meeting of his new party, the BC Student Alignment. His proposed slate includes his friend Craig, Phil Becker from my Acting class, and Elan Steinberg, who was in Mr. Graves’ class with me last summer.

Elspeth was depressed because she saw Greg with a girl all morning. I’ve got a feeling Greg is going to hurt her, but maybe she looks for it: look at her experience as Jerry’s fiancée.

I see Elihu charted a Gay People’s group – I knew it was only a matter a time. I don’t see how I could go to a meeting and identify myself as queer before everyone. So I’m a closet queen. So I’m a coward. So what?

I never saw Mark today, but I saw a letter critical of his column that he plans to print in the next issue. Barry and I rehearsed for Mrs. Myers; we decided we don’t need another rehearsal before Monday.

Mr. Katayama gave us a Soc midterm to take home that will keep the class thinking and working the entire weekend; it’s very deep.

Tonight I stayed home, as I feel a cold coming on. I read where an Israeli doctor says colds come from sudden temperature change and that freezing your foot can cure a cold – the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.

Sgt. Mitchell was acquitted in the first of the My Lai massacre cases.

Monday, November 23, 1970

It turned quite cold. The steam is up high and the quilts are on our beds.

I was kind of nervous this morning before our Catch-22 scene; I could hardly keep my lunch down. But it came off very well: the class laughed in the proper places and the reaction was good, both for Barry and myself.

Mrs. Myers said the scene worked. The class was let out early for other students to keep rehearsing, so I went to LaGuardia. I only realize how much I miss all of those nuts when I haven’t seen them in a while.

Scott, Timmy, Jill, Elayne, Elihu and I spent time reminiscing about our childhoods, but it soon became time for Soc; however, Katayama kept us for only ten minutes, and Cheryl, Ruth and I went to SUBO for drinks. They’re nice girls.

I went back to the Spigot office. Kang and I were sitting around when this heavy, 25-ish girl comes in and asks if we’re the newspaper. I told her yes, and she said she was a defendant in the Seattle 8 conspiracy trial.

Her name is Susan Stern, but since she wasn’t supposed to leave Washington State, she wished to remain anonymous. Good reporter that I am, I whisked her into Elihu’s office and locked the door and interviewed her for half an hour.

The Seattle conspiracy trial is on the same lines as the Chicago 7; in fact, the supposed riot took place on the day after Judge Hoffman announced the contempt things.

When Mark got back and I told him about it, he was excited. Most of the media aren’t covering the trial carefully, so I have a good story.

In Anthro, Mrs. Kardas discussed ritual co-parenthood; I know I enjoy being Jeff’s godfather.

Dad got tickets for a 7:30 AM Thanksgiving flight to San Juan for him, Mom and the boys. Alice said she hopes Marc will pick up some Spanish while he’s in Puerto Rico.

When I talked to Howie today, he said he’s graduating in January and will look for work in radio, and said he’s leaving town “will leave Alice with a clear field.”

Tonight, when she came over to tutor, I ask her what that meant, and she said, “Howie’s a schmuck!”

Defense Secretary Laird said the U.S. sent troops into North Vietnam to try to evacuate POWs – but the mission failed. What next? The war is heating up again.

Wednesday, November 25, 1970

Another cold day. I finished writing the Soc midterm this morning. Mom was busy all day making last minute preparations for the trip. Jonny was home with a cold; I hope he feels better tomorrow.

I went to BC after lunch; on the bus I met Marty and Ruth. Ruth was going shopping and Marty told me it was his birthday.

Up in Elihu’s office, I talked with the crowd. Jill was telling me about her therapy and we each commiserated with the other’s anxiety attacks. She’s going to be a psychologist, Jill says, because she can understand and help people who are mentally ill.

I decided to skip Acting and instead attend a surprise birthday party for Marty in his office. Elihu, Leon, Jill, Bob, Robert, Lou, Casey, Mark, Elspeth and I surprised Marty (though not very much) with an ice cream cake.

I stayed in Soc just long enough to hand in Mr. Katayama my midterm; he told me he was cancelling class on Friday.

At home, while I was making sure I had enough food, my keys, my medicine, everything for the duration, the news came over that Nixon fired Interior Secretary Hickel, who kept criticizing the Prez’s relations with youth.

Tonight I took the car back to school for the free SG movie. I sat with the whole crowd, including Bill, whom I later drove home. Also there were Esther with her latest guy, Howie and Alice, Mason and others.

First a film about Kent State was shown, and then contributions ($17) were taken for the Kent State students’ defense – Ramsey Clark is their lawyer – and the Seattle 8.

Lou told me that Susan Stern doesn’t want to be known by name in my story due to her leaving Washington State when she’s not supposed to. Instead, I need to use the name of the Seattle Lib Front’s Eastern coordinator Joan Epstein.

The movie was a good Czech film, Closely Watched Trains. When I got home, I said goodbye to everyone in my family. For the next five days, I’m on my own.

Saturday, November 28, 1970

A mild but drizzly day. Grandma Ethel and I cleaned up what needed to be cleaned up last night.

She was busy sewing when I went downstairs for breakfast. I guess I’m glad I finally gave in yesterday when Grandpa Herb finally convinced me to let them stay over.

I went out for a short ride and when I got back, she was ready to go to her stepmother’s, and we went there together.

Great-Grandma Bessie seemed in good spirits and she made lunch for us. Her little basement apartment must be quite lonely for her, but apparently she doesn’t mind it.

Grandma Ethel said she had wanted to see her Uncle Dave and Aunt Shifra for some time, so we drove out to their apartment on Linden Boulevard with Great-Grandma Bessie.

I hadn’t seen Aunt Shifra and Uncle Dave in over two years, but they’re always quite friendly. Dave talked about his friend Jan Peerce and about music and gave me a collector’s edition recording of Enrico Caruso singing operatic arias.

Dave Tarras, Dad has told me, was once considered one of the finest clarinet players in the world. Maybe only Benny Goodman was more famous. I wish I had been a better student for him, but I have no musical talent and hated playing.

I have to make a family genealogy for Monday’s Anthro recitation, and Aunt Shifra helped me out, going really far back.

Aunt Shifra showed me a photo of her parents, Samuel and Sylvia Shapiro, who were my great-great-grandparents, and said they owned a store not far from where we were in Brownsville.

She said they recently came back from a trip to Russia, where Uncle Dave’s brother and sister live; there are some of our family’s cousins there, too.

Family can be pleasant; I try not to think of other things, like their provincialism and their racism.

After we left Shifra and Dave’s place, we dropped off Great-Grandma Bessie and went shopping for groceries on Ralph Avenue – although Grandpa Herb brought Chinese food home for dinner.

Bonnie came in from next door while we were eating; Marc asked her to feed the fish.

The Pentagon has now switched its position and admitted they did bomb Hanoi last week. The Pakistan cyclone and tidal wave may be one of the world’s worst most tragic natural disasters.

I spent the evening rereading The Forsyte Saga. I want to continue with my own writing despite my rejection notice from the New American Review.

Monday, November 30, 1970

A long, mild day to end November. Maud came in this morning, and I drove Grandma Ethel to the bus stop immediately after breakfast.

With nothing else to do, I drove directly to BC and found a parking space surprisingly easily. The moment I entered LaGuardia, I heard a large group chanting something.

The sound was coming from the Placement office next door to our office, and 30 or 40 SDS members were protesting the appearance there of a recruiter from American Express, which exploits people in Indochina and Africa.

Dean Breglio tried to read last May’s “John Doe” injunction and CUNY’s Henderson rules, which forbid office-disrupting demonstrations like that.

The Placement office was mobbed with SDSers, deans, Mark, Lou, Ray, Jack, Elspeth, Scott, Alice and others who were simply curious. The SDS group marched to the President’s office, but Kneller locked the door.

I had to leave to cover a meeting of the Education Department. Two teachers recommended for tenure by the department’s appointment committee were refused tenure although they were highly qualified.

Once again, on this issue like others, Kneller has wavered; he’s more wishy-washy than I am. Besides the faculty at the meeting, there were students, including Lou, Ray, Marty, Mark and Alice again, there to support the two teachers.

Leaving the meeting, Mark and I walked with Esther in the cloakroom. She’s going to be “indisposed” the rest of the week: she’s getting an abortion. So she herself was the “friend” who I gave money to when Esther asked me.

Mark and I had lunch with Benny, and then I went to Soc, where Katayama talked about crowds. In Anthro, we handed in our genealogies and talked about overpopulation.

Up in the office for copy night with Mark, Carole, Kang and Juan, I copy-read some stories, including my own interview with “Joan Epstein” about the Seattle 8. After 6 PM, I called home and spoke to Jonny, who said they’d just come in.

Back at the house, I found them all tan: they had good flights, fairly good weather, and a beautiful hotel in San Juan (not the Caribe Hilton that I stayed at). Mom brought me a pretty paperweight, and she also had a fascinating portrait in pastels done of Jonathan.

So things are back to normal, which means that they’re anything but normal. But that’s what makes life interesting.