Five Points, Vol. 2 No. 1Fall 1997
From Allen Ginsberg, “I don’t know what I’m doing any more than anyone else, but at least I know I don’t know what I’m doing, and most people think they know what they’re doing.”
Frankie and Perry and Patti and Dean
The “den” in our house in Great Neck, Long Island where my family lived in the early 1950’s contained more of our real lives than any other room in the house. The living room, with its light-green sofa and matching arm chairs and baby grand piano, its cut-glass decanters and porcelain figurines, was mainly for company; and the dining room, lit by a glittering chandelier above the dark, glistening mahogany dining table, was simply stuffy. The den, however, was where, on Sunday nights, our family would gather in front of our only television set to eat pastrami and corned beef sandwiches on collapsible TV trays and watch Ed Sullivan’s The Toast of the Town. My father’s 78 albums were also shelved in the den, two rows’ worth—Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Bix Beiderbecke, Benny Goodman; also an odd assortment of books whose authors, I assumed, were the best in Western civilization: Joseph Conrad, Charles Dickens, Carl Sandburg and John Gunther. Yet the only object in our den that still retains the luminous glow with which my young eyes used to surround the special things of this world was my red and gold 45-rpm Motorola record player. It was about a foot long and six inches high, with a short, thick spindle that jutted up from the center of its turntable, capable of stacking eight records. When I stood in front of the card table on which my record player sat like a plump, little household god, and listened to the music shrilling out of its tiny speakers, I was transformed from an ordinary, lackadaisical boy into a fierce idolater whose heart was full of praise and devotion. Dangerous passions flowed through me, and I understood that life, which was getting ready to spring at me, its heart apparently bursting with song, was something altogether different than what I had imagined.