A 25-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early October, 1976


Saturday, October 2, 1976

It’s only 12:10 AM, only ten minutes into Saturday – but old Richie Grayson feels the need to pour out his little heart once again. This evening was a disaster. I feel so bad. I hate to sound self-pitying – but that never has stopped me yet, so . . . I could barely find my way home from the Meadowlands tonight because my eyes kept tearing over.

I hurt. I feel humiliated. But I’ve decided (he said with a gulp, his head raised high) that tonight is the last time that I will ever submit myself to people or events that I really dread because it’s expected of me and because I don’t want to hurt another’s feelings.

I can start with the note I just found on my night table: “Call Scott. He’s in Brooklyn.” I tore it up. Scott never cared about me except to provide him with information, assurance or assistance. And I’m tired of one-way relationships.

I got very little out of my friendship with Gary, really, except a sense of stability and a feeling of being needed. That’s not good enough anymore. I should have broken off with Gary years ago. Alice is right: life is too precious to waste time with people who bore you.

Well, so far I’ve avoided recounting tonight’s disaster, and I want to tell the truth. At 6:30 PM, I was at the Beekman-Downtown Hospital, where I met Robert, Gary’s cousin Jerry, and Betty’s brother Lou.

Right away I could see the evening was going to be terrible: I didn’t fit in. They were married, paunchy, Qiana-shirted, three-piece-suited accountant types.

I – thank God for this – said I’d take my own car, and I made it through the Lincoln Tunnel to the Meadowlands in time to meet Gary and the others there – the others being Betty’s brother-in-law Dave, Gary’s brother-in-law Donald, and Marty Cohen, who’d driven up from Philadelphia.

We ate at the Handicapper, a supposedly plush place in the track’s clubhouse. The prices on the menu were so high, I made sure to order only the cheapest items: chopped sirloin and tea. The others had fancy dinners, drinks and desserts.

They bet furiously on the races, and Robert collected $3 from each of us give to Gary to bet. Earlier in the day, I had taken out money from the bank and was left with $31 in my savings account.

I decided to quietly bet $2 on the sixth race on a horse called Command Decision, and I watched in silence on the TV screen as the horse led the entire race, only to lose at the very end. (I wanted to bet on that horse to place, too, except I was embarrassed to do so. If I had, I would have won $8.)

Marty was even more boring than I remembered him from high school, but I must admit he’s very nice in a well-meaning, imbecilic, gentle way. I found Donald’s obnoxiousness kind of interesting, and I barely spoke to Gary all night.

When the check came, Robert, the accountant, started figuring out on paper what we each owed: we were splitting the check down the middle instead of each paying for his own share!

Each person’s share came out to $17.50, and I didn’t have that much money. (My own share couldn’t have been more than $8.) I didn’t have the money and was forced to go through the embarrassment of asking Gary to put in part of my share, just so I’d have enough money to pay the tolls going home.

And while Robert was crapping about putting in more, I just up and left, saying goodbye to Gary and Marty but to no one else. I felt ashamed. However, it’s good for me to know how poor people must feel.

It wouldn’t have bothered me so much, but I know what schleps these guys are. They’re not the real classy vulgar types who are at least interesting and even fun.

I had a lot of trouble finding my car in the Meadowlands parking field, and as I said, I cried on the way home. I was crying at a red light and then I stopped and thought that the people in the car next to me must be staring, so I turned my head and looked – and there in the next car was a woman, and she was crying, too.

I hated tonight the way I hated my cousin’s wedding in June, the way I hated Ronna’s cousins’ weddings. Now I realize that my phobia and anxiety about these things years ago were just excuses. Now that I’m not phobic, I have to admit that I just don’t like these things and I never will.

For some crazy reason I kept wanting, once I got to Manhattan, to go over to Brad’s apartment and dissolve into tears and have him comfort me. Dumb, no?

Sunday, October 3, 1976

1 PM on a rainy afternoon. I awoke very late today after spending the evening with Brad at his apartment on West 14th Street.

When I got off the elevator at his floor, I saw him standing in front of his apartment door, saw that he had hardly changed, and said, “The years have treated you kindly.”

Brad is thinner than I remember him and somewhat looser, more gay. Either he or I managed to put me at ease right away, from the moment I plunked myself down on his couch. We spent the evening talking quietly, drinking Cherry Kijafa, and munching on cheese and crackers.

Brad still has my original letter, the one I wrote him in the summer of 1969, and he got a kick out of reading it aloud, especially when he got to the part where I described myself as “an eighteen-year-old neurotic.” He was pleased that I don’t think I’m neurotic anymore.

Les, his roommate, came in after 10 PM following a dinner out with his lover. Both Brad and Les had bad colds. Les is effeminate but very sweet. I enjoyed the evening, the talking, the jokes, the company, the spiffy apartment, and the idea of seeing Brad again.

I think I stayed too long and left a little too late, as Brad’s 15-year-old lover was coming over early this morning. As much as I enjoyed the company, I came away relieved rather than regretful that I never got involved with Brad when I was 18 and certain that there can never be anything but friendship between us.

At 25, I’m far too old to be somebody’s protégé. While I was flattered that Brad said I got even better-looking (although I do need to lose weight and get contact lenses) and that Les remarked – as if weren’t there – “Oh, he’s a good-looking boy, no doubt about it,” I don’t exactly think of myself as a pretty young thing and that’s never been what I wanted to be.

Last night, I saw, for the first time, one of the positive aspects of myself: how, since I reentered the world in 1969, I’ve completely resisted being molded by others. I never let anyone else define me: not parents or therapists or society or friends or teachers or lovers.

Brad and Les live in a shiny Manhattan world which depends upon appearances even more than does the world of my parents; indeed, I can see Mom and Dad fitting in and living more comfortably in Brad and Les’s apartment than I would.

I love Brad, of course, just as I love my parents, but I’m not about to be plugged in to their ways. Brad and Les still see being gay as a kind of secret fraternity while I’ve been exposed to more open, less self-conscious, more liberated forms of gayness.

And I do not and probably never will think of myself as gay. Nor am I straight. I say I’m bisexual, but that’s only a label of compromise. What I am is Richard Grayson, and Richard Grayson is what he does and thinks and feels.

For better or worse, I’ve defined myself through my writing, therapy, and trial and error (eliminating possibilities). I do not completely fit into Brad’s world, though I am comfortable in it; the same holds true for the world of Gary and his brothers-in-law and friends.

And I shall continue to go my own way – making compromises, to be sure, but never giving up what I feel. I think I’m an original, and I like other originals. Brad argues that no one is unique, that all the variables are the same, that the same patterns occur regularly and repeatedly in everyone’s lives.

I have to disagree: even the slightest difference and you come up with a unique person. I don’t think I’m any more unique than anyone else, but I do believe I have understood the variables that make me Richard Grayson.

Is this arrogant and pompous? Let it be so, and let me say, “Let it be so,” without my worrying about being liked.

Just the fact that I can argue with a Brad or a Scott (he called last night and I pretty much turned him off: as usual, he demanded rather than do anything else, and I ended up telling him he was a jerk to be voting for Gene McCarthy – who come to think of it, is just as obnoxious as Scott) is something that makes me happy.

There was a time when I never argued with anyone. I have even learned to get angry when it’s appropriate. I’d like to see Brad again, but in retrospect, I’m very happy that nothing serious happened between us in 1969 – because then I was a cipher and he could have shaped me any way he chose to. I like Brad, but I like being me even more.

Tuesday, October 5, 1976

7 PM. It’s dark already – not that it was much lighter on a day in which it drizzled on and off. Maybe October will get better as the days pass; it’s usually the nicest month in New York.

Tonight I have to get to bed early, as I have a full teaching day tomorrow. Although I am more relaxed about teaching now, I still prepare neurotically the night before.

I’m thinking of canceling my 9 AM class next Monday, the morning after Gary’s wedding. His mother asked me if I could take two of her friends who live in the neighborhood, and jerk that I am, I said yes. How could I not?

But after the wedding I hope to keep contact with Gary and Betty and their family to a minimum. Gary himself called on Saturday, and as usual he was so self-engrossed that he never noticed I was having a miserable time all Friday night although he did notice I was “a little upset over the financial arrangements.”

But mostly he was expressing his fury at Donald for being so obnoxious all evening. I had to admit that I found Donald’s contrariness a great relief. At least Donald says what he’s thinking.

Last night Josh phoned. I want to get together with him one of these days. He’s had VD: that nonspecific urethritis or whatever it is that everyone seems to be getting lately. Josh is working in Purchasing at Brooklyn College, trying to turn out stories, and just hanging out.

Prof. Goodman advised Josh to take my advice about sending out stories to literary magazines. I heard from Josh that Jon’s been telling students in his class that they can work at the Fiction Collective if they see me.

“You’re a big man now,” Josh said.

Far from it. Today I helped mailing out review copies of the Alonso and Glynn books, which is basically shit work. Yet after it was over, I did feel gratification knowing that I’d helped get a job done.

I went in early this morning, taking the bus because Mom needed the car. The bus ride reminded me of my days as a freshman at the college.

Lethe was annoyed because Tom Glynn had phoned to say he had a meeting in Manhattan and wouldn’t be able to come in until the afternoon to help with the mailing. Gloria hasn’t had her baby yet and she’s getting very impatient, Lethe reported.

Jon came in with the news that the New York State Council on the Arts grant was approved, but we’re getting only $8,000, cut from a $15,000 request. This will not be enough to completely cover Gloria’s salary, so a lot of fundraising will have to be done.

“This is a make-or-break year for the Collective,” Lethe said, and Jon did not disagree. What we really need is a publicist, someone to get the word out about the Collective and dispel rumors about our demise.

There are so many details in the Coordinator’s job that the really important work doesn’t get done. Hoping for better reviews with Series V, Lethe and I prepared mailing out the books (about 200) to various publications, individuals and organizations.

Jack Gelber came in while we were working and was really friendly, as always. His new play Rehearsal is in rehearsal, and he’s moved to Brooklyn, to a house on Marlborough Road because President Kneller, who’s on the board of directors of a bank, got him a loan.

“I’m in such bad financial shape that my kids might have to attend Brooklyn College,” Jack said.

Tom came in at 1 PM and we let him lick stamps and staple while Lethe and I had a leisurely lunch at Campus Corner. After lunch, Sharon joined us, and the work got done by 4 PM. We brought all the jiffy bags down to the mailroom in shopping carts.

Sharon said she’s substitute-teaching, looking for a job as a proofreader, attending class and struggling to write.

I got home by dinnertime and now I’m ready to call it a day.

A little while ago, Elspeth called from work at the precinct house, telling me that Scott called her on Friday to see what she was doing. (She was busy both nights, unfortunately.) Elspeth is fine, though as usual she’s still seeing married cops. She said Leon is talking to Elihu again.

Wednesday, October 6, 1976

9 PM. Looking at myself in the mirror just now, I saw a very haggard person. I am worn out. My throat is sore. My limbs ache. Perhaps I am coming down with the cold that everyone in New York seems to have.

Or maybe I’m just sorely in need of sleep. I’ve worked hard these past two days. In any case, tomorrow morning I’m going to sleep late and take it very slow. I need more time for myself.

Last night I had very phallic dreams. In one, I brought a snake to a girl’s house and she fed it a frankfurter, which the snake refused to eat. In another dream, I carried around an elongated duffel bag throughout the day. My cock seems to want to assert itself; I know I’ve been madly repressing my sexuality.

Brad would be proud of me, for I at least answered a Voice ad today. But I probably worded my letter in some subconscious way as to turn off anyone. Am I going about life the wrong way, perhaps? Now’s a good time to ask, right? Oh well.

Dad drove me to LIU this morning. He had some kind of meeting downtown and then had to go to Unemployment. This weekend Mom and Dad are driving to Florida. I don’t ask questions about their plans, and I’ve stopped eavesdropping. I’ve got enough of my own life to keep me busy.

Last night it struck me as curious that I’ve never really written fiction about my family. We are, after all, a diverse and eccentric lot.

There’s 15-year-old Jonny, who is a fanatic weight-lifter, an Orthodox Jew (or getting there – he observes the Sabbath and Yom Kippur), a Latin music and Broadway show-tunes freak, a sports nut, and the block’s leading gossip.

Marc is a phlegmatic hedonist, a sharp dresser, a drug dealer, a gambler, an electronics freak, usually quiet, given to occasional outbursts, but mostly more of a person who sulks.

Dad now thinks of himself as a failure at 50; he plays tennis well, keeps up with all things in the world, prides himself on his youthful appearance. But now Dad is drifting aimlessly; although I’m sure he’ll pull himself out of this slump and get himself together, his eyes look sadder every day.

Mom gets more and more distant, still intent on running a perfect house. She works furiously on her dollhouse and its miniature furniture, reads everything on Zionism, has few friends, and avoids the parts of the world that she does not want to see.

Today my classes at LIU went well, but I tried to cram two lessons in my English 10 class and I’m afraid I strained my voice. I enjoy teaching and I’m growing fond of my classes.

LIU is my home now, and my friends – Margaret, Mark O’Donnell, George Economou, Dr. Tucker – are there to keep me from feeling isolated. Today I got my faculty photo ID card and parking sticker, and the free parking will help with my finances.

I canceled my 9 AM class on Monday so now I don’t have to worry about getting up early the morning after Gary’s wedding. The students seemed pleased that they’ll be getting off at least one class on Columbus Day, which LIU doesn’t observe.

This evening I went to dinner with Josh at Henry’s End. When I got out of my car at Henry and Orange Streets, I noticed Felicia walking by. She was barely civil to me, only acknowledging my presence after I said hello.

And she didn’t answer my “What’s doing?” I felt very hurt, even though I know how much Felicia dislikes me. I feel as though I’ve committed some terrible sin against Ronna that all her friends hate me for. But I haven’t the slightest idea what it was that I did.

Josh and I had a pleasant dinner even if we both got nauseated almost immediately afterward. I had to let Josh drive because I felt so sick, but it passed quickly.

Still a very nice guy, Josh knows he’s got no discipline or patience, but he’s kind and generous and funny and good-hearted. I will not lose him as a friend.

Sunday, October 10, 1976

4 PM. Do not think that I don’t like my life. I am fond of it in a comfortable, grudging way.

I like being a college instructor and looking like a kid. I like writing and being a writer. I like living in New York and eating at the counters of diners and talking to old people and Tab and flannel shirts with blue jeans and driving on the parkway and singing in the shower and flirting and gossip and soap operas and being loud and crying and going to the movies by myself and walking along the beach and sleeping late.

Life is not a bad proposition, you know.

Last evening Alice and I drove into the Village. We couldn’t get into The Bottom Line, so we just walked around. Alice wants things that I don’t give a damn about: going to elegant places, seeing and being seen, eating at fabled restaurants, dressing up. I care about those things about as little as Andreas does.

Alice is also turning into an almost absurd man-hunting dame. It’s getting embarrassing to see her so hard up and desperate, and it makes me uncomfortable, especially when she rails against psychiatry, as in her Women’s Week article.

The man from the Times Op-Ed page did her a favor in not publishing it, and I can see why after reading it. It’s almost pathetically self-revealing; Alice could use therapy as much as anyone can.

To my surprise, Jim actually sent back her “handy-dandy respond card,” checking the box that said, “You’re as swell as ever, but my heart belongs to another.” Although she was glad he did send the card back, Alice was disappointed he didn’t check “Not now but maybe soon” and she intends to keep sending him the same form once a month.

Despite all of Alice’s peccadillos, I still love her for her sense of fun, her craziness, her stick-to-it-iveness and her vast ambition. Like myself, Alice will not settle for an ordinary life; she’s already got her autobiography’s title: Small Potatoes.

We visited Laurie at the Eighth Street Bookshop and had a nice chat. Laurie’s so busy, what with teaching her class, working at the store, and attending MFA classes that she has hardly any time to turn out fiction. She got ill from overwork, and now she’s got one of those awful inner-ear disturbances.

We gossiped about the Wilentz family and Baumbach and Spielberg with Laurie, and then Alice and I left to have coffee and share a slice of pecan pie at Adam & Eve’s, a very collegiate place near NYU, where I destroyed Alice at the pinball machine.

There were no movies worth seeing playing anywhere, so we got home about 10 PM and I finally fell asleep a few hours later after reading the Sunday Times.

I had this very realistic dream in which Gary died right in front of me and other friends. In the dream, I had to call his family and Betty and let them know the tragic news that he passed away the day before his wedding. But in another dream – or was it the same one? – Gary phoned to say that he hadn’t really died, that he was all right and ready to go through with the wedding.

Obviously Gary and Betty’s wedding tonight is setting off various feelings for me, none of which I can as yet get a grasp on.

Last night I also dreamed that I, among others, was set loose in gay bathhouse, and although I had been given license to do anything I felt like, I discovered that I didn’t want to actually have sex with any guy there because the thought of a physical act with a male turned me off.

This morning I exercised, prepared my lessons, breakfasted and went off to Rockaway to visit Grandma Ethel and Grandpa Herb, staying until they left for Marty’s house.

After lunch at the Floridian, I came back home to find Grandma Sylvia and Grandpa Nat here. They have to vacate their apartment by the end of October, so they’ll be moving to Florida then.

Now I’m going to get ready for Gary’s wedding. I have to pick up two old biddies, friends of Gary’s mother.