A 22-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Mid-September, 1973


Thursday, September 13, 1973

The days seem so long now, when in reality, of course, at least the time of daylight is getting shorter. I woke up this morning from a dream about, of all people, Kurt; I guess I wonder how he is.

This morning Grandpa Herb was operated on. When Mom, Marc and Grandma Ethel went to the hospital, they were upset to find Grandpa Herb disobeying doctor’s orders to stay in bed; he already had gotten up to smoke a cigarette in the bathroom.

That man is impossible. I’m really worried, though, that he might hemorrhage by moving around; also, yesterday they discovered a trace of diabetes in his system.

I went to see Grandpa Herb this afternoon, but he was sleeping soundly by the time I entered his room at Peninsula Hospital, and I didn’t want to wake him. He looked so fragile lying there, I felt protective toward him, as though I were the grandfather and he the grandson.

Tonight I went to see Mrs. Ehrlich and I told her about my past month: about my getting an Honors in Prof. Cullen’s Victorian Poets course, my trip to Washington, my evolving relationship with Ronna, and what’s going on with my family.

Mrs. Ehrlich said it showed I didn’t merely survive without her, but I also did something I was afraid to do, like the D.C. trip.

When I left her office, though, I somehow felt sad because I felt she was a bit distant tonight. But maybe I was holding back because of fear of trusting her again or anger over her leaving me.

But we did decide that this was kind of an “in-between” time for me: I’ve got one foot still at Brooklyn College and the other not planted firmly anywhere yet.

Ronna and I had a long talk tonight. She told me about her classes and how things were going at school today.

Last night Melvin asked me to do a word count on my story about being a new graduate, and Ronna was trying to read it over my shoulder. I got annoyed, a mixture of lost concentration and genuine shyness about my writing. She left, saying, “Do your fucking word count!” but I didn’t really think anything of it.

She was gone for a long time, and when she finally came back, she apologized profusely. I was mildly astounded at this, as there didn’t seem anything to apologize for, and I told her so.

She said she’d been very upset, and tonight on the phone, I found out why: after seeing Kathy throw her arms around me and kiss me in welcome yesterday, she was feeling very jealous of Kathy and felt guilty about it.

I told her that I had to admit I did enjoy Kathy’s unexpectedly warm greeting and that I do think Kathy’s a nice person and also cute, but I completely forgot about the hug and kiss ten minutes later and don’t think of Kathy as anything but a friend. My main reaction to her gesture was perplexed surprise since we’re not that close.

I always thought I would be the jealous one in a relationship, but with Ronna, it was first Avis, then maybe Debbie or Stacy, and now Kathy – while I handled Leroy and Corey both hanging around Ronna this summer pretty well. I don’t even mind my suspicion that Sid is a little in love with Ronna.

Felicia spoke with Kevin until 1 AM and told him the whole story – and he was kind enough to say that he would help her go out with Spencer if that was what she wanted.

Romantic triangles are crazy, and I should know. But it’s funny: now that Jerry and Shelli are gone, I feel kindly toward them.

Monday, September 17, 1973

While I’m not ecstatic, I think I am becoming comfortable with my new routine. It’s nice to be able to sleep late, for one thing, although I rose at 9 AM today.

After breakfast, I went outside and finished rereading Lady Chatterley’s Lover for Prof. Ebel’s class. D.H. Lawrence’s ideas make you think a lot; I wonder if I haven’t sacrificed my body and my belly and my cock and my loins (the words themselves make me uncomfortable) to my intellect and have become like Huxley’s Philip Quarles in Point Counter Point.

I’d really like to do my thesis on some variation of those two authors, temperamental opposites and close friends.

When Lawrence read Point Counter Point and saw he was portrayed in the novel as the painter Mark Rampion, he wrote Huxley: “Well, caro, I feel like saying goodbye to you now. But one will have to go on saying goodbye for a long time.”

Which is weird, of course, because if there’s one admirable character in Point Counter Point, it’s Rampion.

After lunch, I went to Richmond, specifically for the orientation for new students. As of yet, there’s nobody in the school I can call a friend, and I want to get involved in the school and meet people. The meeting was hosted by Dorothy McCormack, the Dean of Students, a fortyish woman who vaguely reminds me of Jill.

She introduced Dean Odion, the Dean of Faculties; the Registrar, Ramon Hulsey, who’s very nearly a freak; and finally the new Acting President, Saul Touster, who spoke briefly.

Appointed just two weeks ago, he was already the object of a “Don’t Trust Touster” leaflet. After the speeches were over, when everyone was getting coffee, I went over to Dr. Touster, who was studying the leaflet.

“Poets are to be trusted on faith,” I told him. I had read his biography in the CUNY staff bulletin; he’s a poet with a book from the University of Missouri Press as well as legal scholar and a former provost of City.

Dr. Touster asked me about my graduate studies, why I chose to go to Richmond, what I thought of it so far, and . . . well, I sort of talked my head off. And most surprisingly, he listened attentively.

A gray-haired man in a corduroy suit, he seemed honest and unpretentious. I told him that he had to establish some sort of coherence at the school but not impose tight structure. We discussed governance, the quality of the faculty, and I finally admitted my desire to be a college administrator. He told me to come to see him in two weeks and maybe he could set me up as some sort of assistant in his office.

If only he would! But by then, he’ll have forgotten me, I’m sure; still, I will come to see him.

My linguistics course went very well tonight, and Prof. Jochnowitz let us out a little early. I also ran into Professors Fuchs and Ebel today, and both of them were quite friendly. I am beginning to enjoy school again.

After I came back to Brooklyn, I went to see Ronna. I had missed her a lot, and when I saw her coming down the steps in my favorite red and white smock of hers, blue jeans and barefoot, I couldn’t restrain myself from giving her a big bear hug.

We sat in the kitchen talking: she telling me about her day at Brooklyn, and I telling her of my experiences at Richmond.

Today Felicia said that Ronna and I were right when we told her that she and Kevin can’t be friends for a while yet; even Kevin is beginning to realize that. If he still thinks there’s the slightest chance they can get back together, there’s always the possibilities Ronna and I know about: of a kiss in the SUBO elevator or someone crying in a Neponsit basement.

For a while, Ronna has been telling me that with me not at the college, Avis ignores her. So I told Ronna to say hello to Avis and see what happens. Ronna said she tried being friendly and Avis was nasty.

I know Avis can be cool, but I can’t see why she doesn’t like Ronna, who’s never done anything bad to her. I should talk it over with Avis, inasmuch as it’s affecting our friendship.

Ronna and I took Trevor out for a walk, restraining him from copulating with female canines. Then, around 11 PM, an hour ago, I left Ronna’s. I’m wide awake but I need to try to get to sleep.

Wednesday, September 19, 1973

I’m a bit tired, but the thing is, my week’s responsibilities are over. I don’t have a class again until Monday.

Once again, I’m starting to really get into school. This afternoon, Prof. Fuchs discussed Diderot’s Rameau’s Nephew and he was kind of boring, but he’s not a bad teacher at all.

And I think Prof. Ebel is a marvelous teacher; his discussion yesterday on Hard Times was fascinating. He has all the good human instincts, and he looks you straight in the eye when he’s talking to you.

Today was a beautiful late summer day. At BC this morning, I ran into Vince Fuccillo and told him I was impressed with an article about him I read in the Post, about his Center for Italian-American Studies.

June approached me and we remarked how we keep talking to each other’s sibling when Marc calls for Rita or vice versa. I got some work done in the library, and noon, I found a student government-sponsored concert in progress on the quadrangle.

Avis and Mandy asked me to lunch at Campus Corner, and I accepted. Avis seemed especially glad to see me; still, I couldn’t bring myself to discuss with her the issue of her attitude toward Ronna.

She reported that Shelli is now attending Emerson and that Shelli’s father is in the hospital, although whether his difficulties were physical or psychological, she wasn’t sure.

With Alan Karpoff gone (and Avis is glad of that: “we just played games”), I think she’s turning her attention to Carl. Despite all the warnings from Libby, Avis likes Carl.

Last Friday, Carl asked me what Avis was like, which seemed strange, considering he could have asked that question of his own twin brother who dated her. Maybe, knowing what a blabbermouth I am, Carl wanted me to tell Avis I asked him that so she’d know he was interested in her.

Avis is anxiously awaiting the arrival of her German friend Helmut, who’s due in New York any day now.

During lunch, Mandy and I had a good laugh remembering the time we cracked up at the Nureyev movie. Back on campus, we ran into Jim, looking aesthetically perfect as he always does; Mandy says Debbie still sees Jim “off and on.”

I sat down with Elspeth, who told me she’s going back to work at Mays; I’m certain that she’ll return to school in the spring. Elspeth seems as mixed-up as ever, though maybe a bit less babyish.

I was reading my textbook on the history of the Romance languages when Vito came over to ask me what I was studying.

“Vulgar Latin,” I said, and naturally he asked if I wanted to see him do an imitation of one, and without waiting for my reply, proceeded to go into his act.

Then he asked if he could borrow five dollars. I’m a soft touch and always willing to support artistic performances.

Ronna came along after teaching the cub class the fundamentals of journalism, Kingsman style. She’s like a sight for sore eyes, to use an overworked cliché.

I walked her to Bedford Gate, as she had to go work for Fishman. Ronna and I seem like an old married couple. “Come on already, Grayson,” she says, and I say, “Coming, Caplan.”

We’ve been going out nearly ten months and I like her more now than I ever did.