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


Tuesday, November 2, 1976

5 PM on Election Day. Despite all the promises I made to myself, I find that I am hoping desperately for a Carter/Mondale victory tonight.

In a couple of hours, the returns will start coming in, and I think what I’d like to do is leave room to record my reactions throughout the evening as the vote count progresses. It will give me some room to let out my feelings of disappointment or exhilaration.

It’s such a peculiar thing. I know that my life doesn’t depend on Jimmy Carter being elected President, but somehow I think I’d be happier if the Democrats controlled the White House again. Another mirage? Of course. But we live with mirages all the time.

At the American Legion Hall I voted this morning, for Carter and Mondale and Moynihan on the Liberal Party line, and then voted either Liberal or Democratic for the other offices. It was a cold, bright day, and there was good weather all over the country.

So far the widespread apathy everyone’s been talking about for a month doesn’t seem in evidence, as it looks like a good turnout across the nation, and that may be good news for Carter, but I’m not sure of that.

(Incidentally, Dixville Notch, N.H., went for Ford, 13-11.)

I went to visit Grandma Ethel and Grandpa Herb and have lunch with them and Grandma’s friend Sarah. Now that Grandma Sylvia and Grandpa Nat have moved to Florida full-time, they are the only grandparents I’ve got to visit in Rockaway.

Grandpa Herb fixed some more shirts for me on his sewing machine, and we talked about the family, politics and crime. Old people are so frightened about teenagers mugging them; it’s happening so frequently, many old people in Rockaway are afraid to go out, even during the day.

No one seems to care about our senior citizens. For years, TV commercials advertised, “The young are America’s greatest natural resource.” But what about the elderly? They have much to offer us, too.

I came home at about 3 PM to face six rejection notices and one acceptance (not bad odds, actually): the Anaesthesia Review in Ann Arbor took “R Evolution” and “Classified Personal,” two of my weaker efforts. Philip Mirowski, the editor sent me a copy of the magazine, and it looks nice; they’ll probably print the stories in different issues.

Gary phoned from work. He’s doing a dull study of some steel products. Gary was angry that he was disenfranchised because he moved to New Jersey.

I’ve got a splitting sinus headache now.


8 PM. So far no major surprises. As expected, Carter has won Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama and West Virginia while Ford has taken Indiana. But Carter is doing poorly among urban Catholics.

I’d feel much better if Carter’s margins were larger. This is going to be a heartbreaker either way. The popular vote is 50-50. Polls are closing now in the large Eastern states, and the next hour may tell the story.


9 PM. It’s very scary. Carter won Florida and probably most of the South, possibly including Texas (oh, I hope so). But very bad news: Ford won Connecticut and is leading in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Michigan.

If Ford can win all four of those states, he’s practically assured of election.


10 PM. Ford won New Jersey, but Carter hasn’t yet lost a Southern state to Ford. In New York, Moynihan beat Buckley in the Senate race, but New York hasn’t been called for Ford yet.

Ohio, Michigan and Illinois are the crucial states and all are practically ties. Ford is taking the Farm Belt except for Mondale’s Minnesota. Carter is halfway there.


11 PM. My hopes are being dashed by my home state. Ford is ahead in New York with 55% of the vote in; I’m shocked and disappointed. The popular vote is close, but Ford is sweeping the West now, and Carter can only go downhill.

Ohio, Illinois and Michigan are all still too close to call. We’re not going to have a winner until tomorrow, when Ford will probably squeak in.


Midnight. It’s so very close. I’ve got a headache and better get to sleep. How can Carter be losing New York? Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan and ten small states (mostly leaning toward Ford) are still too close to call.

I have a terrible feeling that Carter has blown it. Oh God damn it, fuck, fuck, fuck! (Very mature of me.)

Wednesday, November 3, 1976

4 PM. Like many people in the country, I’m tired after a mostly sleepless night. But I’m elated. President-elect Carter was just on TV, speaking from the railroad station in Plains, Georgia, responding to what he called President Ford’s “gracious” concession statement.

New York finally fell to Carter by a 52-48% margin. What had happened was that all the heavily Democratic returns from Brooklyn and the Bronx were the last precincts to report.

At 1:30 AM, I shut off the TV set, with the election still in doubt. Carter was very close to an electoral majority, but the Western states were going heavily for Ford.

Carter had New York, Pennsylvania and Texas, but the President won Michigan and was leading in Illinois, Ohio and California. As it turned out, though, Carter did not need any of those states because the South held for him with the sole exception of Virginia.

I awoke at 3:30 AM and turned on the set just as NBC was flashing the words “Carter Elected” on the screen. I switched to ABC and they projected the same thing when Mississippi and Hawaii came in and gave him 272 electoral votes, two more than he needed.

Everyone else was asleep, so I silently jumped up and down and clapped my hands as I saw Miss Lillian remove her raincoat to reveal a sweatshirt that said JIMMY WON ’76.

After falling asleep for a few more hours, I groggily awoke at 7 AM. On TV, Carter was returning to his hometown and choking up with emotion. While I was eating breakfast, they projected Ford victories in California and Illinois, but it didn’t matter.

Carter has a solid, if very narrow, lead in the Electoral College that may grow as the Ohio and Oregon returns are finally discerned.

Congress will remain overwhelmingly Democratic. About as many Democratic incumbents as Republicans were defeated for reelection to the House and Senate. In New York, no congressional districts changed hands and the state legislature remains divided.

I went to LIU feeling as groggy as hell, and there was such a traffic jam that I arrived in my classroom just in time. The class really thought I was in a lousy mood because Ford and Buckley had lost; they actually believed that I was a conservative Republican because I was a “professor” and they knew that rich people vote Republican.

I disabused them of that notion by recounting my liberal Democratic credentials and telling them my teaching salary, the smallness of which astounded them.

Mostly we discussed the election today although I tried to turn the lesson around to the notion of argument. I’m aware that I often go off on tangents, but I think tangents are often more real than the basics.

Mark O’Donnell slapped me on the back in the office and said he’d take the soda I bet him on the election anytime. That’s one bet I’ll be glad to pay off; I’m sorry I didn’t have more faith, but it was very close and I didn’t want to bear the disappointment I’ve had before.

Even now, I still cannot really believe that Carter and Mondale were elected. If Wisconsin or Mississippi or Delaware had gone Republican, it’s possible Ford would have been elected.

I kept my noon class only an hour because I was tired and they’re ahead of most of the other English 10 classes; besides, their paragraphs about a routine were surprisingly good.

In the car radio coming home, I heard Betty Ford reading the telegram of congratulations the President was sending Carter; Ford has laryngitis and couldn’t speak a word.

I’ve done all my marking and preparations until Monday, and so I have some free time.

Last evening Hal and Ivy called to invite me to a party at their house; I was thrilled that they thought of me. I was also gratified to hear that Hal is now an assistant district attorney.

Carter has proven that if a man believes in himself, works hard, and can impose self-discipline and is intelligent . . . well, that man can go as far as he wants. I bet I can, too.

Thursday, November 4, 1976

5 PM. After so many cold days, today’s cool, bright weather was a relief. It’s almost dark now.

I got letters from Avis and Teresa today. Teresa writes that she can’t believe it’s November and still warm and sunny in California. Teresa and her roommate have boarders, and one of them, “a nice Jewish dentist and former professional stage manager,” fell in love with her.

Teresa hasn’t quite fallen in love with him yet, though the thought crosses her mind. Instead, Teresa is doing “a lot of thinking about the things Avis and I used to talk about: mainly about being attracted to the bastards like Scott.”

This dentist is sweet and lives in Philadelphia; on Teresa’s Christmas trip home, she will make a side trip to see him. Jed, her current man, is “a royal pain in the ass,” but Teresa’s job with March of Dimes is going well. She signed off, “Yours for a Democratic Prez.”

Avis’s letter was a different story. She was very turned off because I put down Scott for voting for McCarthy. She writes:

“Carter is a dangerous fool, a religious fanatic, a capitalist, a liar, a politician . . . I think Scott is right in voting for McCarthy. Richie, if you don’t vote for the person you really believe is the best man, how can you live with yourself when the shit hits the fan? As you can tell, I’m a Socialist. It’s difficult to live in Bremen and not to become a Socialist.”

This really annoyed me; I found it hard to believe that Avis could be getting such a distorted view of the campaign. I suppose it’s merely the result of bad European press and Avis’s environment.

But it showed me that the geographical distance between Avis and me has created a real distance between us. (Teresa, in California, is more on my wavelength.)

Avis hasn’t really lived in America for over two years, and I don’t think she understands the changes that have taken place. There are no more hippies or radicals or even activists; indeed, young people tend to be more conservative than those in their thirties.

I’m not the only one who’s become more conservative and joined the system; at this point, we’re lucky if the system will have us. This is probably a small point, but I don’t think I shall ever feel quite as close to Avis.

Another thing that bothered me was that her mother wrote her that she called me recently to find out if I’d heard from Avis, and Avis wrote that her mother said I agreed with her about not understanding why she is in Germany:

“If she really did call and you just humored her along, well, OK. If it is true that you agree with her, can you explain why.”

I told Avis that I hadn’t spoken to her mother since last winter. Her mother must have been referring to our phone call last winter when I did humor her. Anyway, I feel somewhat estranged from Avis now, although the rest of her letter is breezy and affectionate.

Last evening I spoke to Mikey on one of the few nights he wasn’t at the law library. The work is really being piled on now.

Mikey told me that Mike’s mother ran into Debbie on Nostrand Avenue when they were both buying the Sunday Times on Saturday night. It turns out Debbie’s not in Boston at all, but working in a Manhattan hospital.

I caught up on my sleep last night, and now I feel refreshed and my headache went away. It was good to again see Gloria at the Fiction Collective office; she had a cold but was otherwise fine and un-pregnant.

Jon and Peter came in, and both were pissed over the English Department chairman’s slighting of them and his putting down the Collective. I saw the jacket copy of Statements 2 and liked seeing my name in print between Thomas Glynn’s and Marianne Hauser’s.

Peter and George Economou keep getting messages to each other via me. Jon and Peter are to do a reading at LIU’s Southampton campus, where George and Rochelle read last week.

I took care of some inquiries and sent a rejection notice out. Gloria was excited because Commentary wants to do a big story on the Collective, but Jon and Peter say they’ve been promising that for years.

Friday, November 5, 1976

9 PM. I wrote two stories today but am dissatisfied with both of them. In my heart I know they are lightweights. Many of the stories I’ve been writing have been preludes, warm-ups to really ambitious stories.

I’ve got to stop writing rambling pastiches and get something meaty going. Of course, I often feel I have very little to say. I haven’t been breaking any new ground; I’m just using old tricks and strategies, and that is a sure way to write myself into the ground.

Recently, I came across something about the Talmud: how it is a collage of stories, commentaries, anecdotes and aphorisms. I suppose that in that way, my stories are in the Jewish tradition. Rambam’s commentary on the Mishnah included a recipe. I like the idea of that.

Last night was a lot of fun. When I arrived in Soho at 7 PM, Alice wasn’t there yet, so I walked around. Everyone in the area, gay or straight, seems to look like an artist, and I felt very out-of-place and touristy.

Somehow I don’t fit in the world of lofts, art galleries and that rolled-up-jeans-with-Frye-boots-and-frizzy-hair kind of sophistication. Yet Soho intrigues me, and I would like to become more familiar with it.

Alice finally came – she had gotten lost – and we were seated in The Ballroom, which is supposed to be a well-known place; at least I was impressed by it.

Dinner was delicious, and as it was free, Alice and I went to town: white wine, Japanese beef with vegetables, chicken surrounded by a pillow-like pie crust, apple cake with whipped cream, walnut pie, coffee and tea.

Alice told me about her adventures on the handball court, at Seventeen, with June and Richard and Cliff, and how Andreas promised her to try to be more attentive and more aggressive romantically.

In passing, Alice said that I was her best friend, which was good to hear. I told her how difficult it’s been at home lately; I feel everyone’s off into their own little fantasy world.

Anyway, last night’s dinner was scrumptious, and listening to the show composer Stephen Schwartz sing (rather badly) his own songs from Pippin, Godspell, and other shows was entertaining.

It was my first experience at a night spot, and if I could go to other such places for free, I would.

This morning’s class didn’t go very well, but that happens from time to time; getting a response from them today was like pulling teeth. There was no secretary’s strike at LIU, thankfully, so I didn’t have to worry about crossing a picket line.

It was a strange day: very dark in the morning, mild and sunny in the afternoon, and cloudy and much colder in the evening. I wrote, as I said, taking a few hours off to go into the Village to buy a literary magazine at the Eighth Street Bookshop and eat a burger platter at the very campus-like Adam & Eve.

I looked good today. The other day I went into the Woolworth’s at Ralph and Flatlands to get one of those four-for-50¢ photos taken in the booth.

I was surprised to see myself looking handsomer than I’d imagined. If only I could keep my acne under control! And my stomach as well. (Last night’s dinner did not help.)

I feel very content, maybe even complacent.

Tuesday, November 9, 1976

8 PM. This morning’s mail brought a dinner invitation from Elspeth for a week from Saturday night. I must call her to say I’m coming; it will be good to spend an evening with an old friend.

I wonder if her roommate Robin had anything to do with the invitation. From our last phone call, I got strange vibrations from her; it’s flattering that she may be interested in me.

AIEEE! accepted “An Appropriated Story” for their spring issue. The story is supposed to appear in City, so I guess I’ll just play dumb and cross my fingers that no one reads both magazines.

It’s a dangerous game, I suppose, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with simultaneous publication: these magazines have such small circulations. City is in Manhattan, and AIEEE! is in Charlottesville (I wonder if Ellen and Wade will see it), so perhaps the twain will not meet.

I also got my copy of Coda today. There was a story on our First Novel Contest with a photo of Andree Connors, who looks every bit as weird as I thought she would.

I sent out a batch of already-accepted stories to Seagull Publications, a new small press here in Brooklyn which recently asked to see book-length manuscripts. I think it’s about time to start looking for a small press to publish my first story collection.

At the Fiction Collective office, Gloria was busy addressing the very spiffy invitations to the Gotham Book Mart party next Monday, which should be nicer than either of the publication parties I’ve attended so far. There’ll be champagne there.

Jon was very depressed over English Department politics; Susan Schaeffer and Saul Galin have a lot of influence with the chairman, and Jon and Peter are widely disliked. As Jon himself said, he doesn’t have the ability to get along with people he dislikes; unlike me, he’s not a politician.

(On Saturday night, I asked Hal whether a particular attorney was political, and he replied, “Everyone is political, Richie.”)

It looks like Baumbach can’t get me a job with the MFA program. The Department wants the MFA Program Administrator to be one of their own: probably Donez Xiques, a very fine lady.

Peter called the office after meeting with George Braziller, who was angry when he heard rumors that Braziller was dissatisfied with the Collective. There have been so many shakeups at Braziller, and unanswered calls, that everyone’s been getting jittery.

Dan Curzon sent me his collection of gay-oriented stories for possible publication, and I sent them off to Steve Katz to get his opinion although I’d love to look at the manuscript myself.

The signed contracts from Elaine Kraf and Leon Rooke have come in, and we need only one more book for the fall ’77 list.

Statements 2 is going to the printer this week, I think, and there’ll be some copies out in hardcover. I believe Robert Coover is doing the introduction (he’ll have a story in it); I hear his new novel about the Rosenbergs will be a big one.

Laurie came in to have a tutorial with Jon. She was a bit nervous after being observed by Dan Mayers; Laura felt he’s stuffy and didn’t go for her loose teaching style.

In the hall, I bumped into – of all people – Jay Hershenson, looking like a businessman with a suit, raincoat, briefcase and short haircut. He greeted me like the master politician he is, probably figuring that it’s possible that I may be able to do him some good someday.

I was friendly to him for the same reason; also, I’m fairly fond of him, and I think he is of me. He’s now with the United Fund and had to go to some meeting.

I went off to have lunch by myself in Campus Corner, reminiscing about old times. I ran into Yolanda, who’s still taking lit courses; Kenny McNamara, who’s grown a beard; and Josh’s friend Harry, who is sending out résumés after getting his M.A. in Urban Studies from Wisconsin.

Harry asked if I wanted to go with him and Josh to the movies tonight; while I would have loved to, I couldn’t spare the time. Maybe I should have gone anyway.

I just kept running into people from the past today, and in the end I was afraid I’d run into someone whom I didn’t want to see. I had a dream like that last night.