The Beat Goes On

We’d stalk each other in the underbrush. The guy who got smacked first lost the game. You knew when you were hit, too. It stung. But not for long.


Sometime around the age of ten or eleven, I sold subscriptions to Colliers and Liberty Magazines. I worked the entire neighborhood, not very successfully. The job didn’t pay a single dime. But they gave me a prize catalog. And I earned points towards a prize for each subscription that I sold.

One prize I earned that I had fun with was a ukulele. It came with full instructions for fingering the chords and it included a small-scale repertoire of songs.

My best rendition was a little depression era tune that became the theme song for many flat broke lovers:

T can’t give you anything but love, baby.
    Love’s the only thing I’ve plenty of, baby.”


Like most kids, I changed my mind countless times about what I wanted to be when I grew up. In ’31 or ‘32, with all the commotion about the new Empire State Building, I became enthusiastic about the world of architecture. I decided then and there I would grow up to be an architect.

When the Empire State Building officially opened, the New York celebration was broadcast by radio to millions of listeners. It even became a subject our teacher had us write about at school.

I got a good grade for a short paper I wrote that went something like this: “The world’s tallest building shoots straight up 1,050-feet. It has 85 floors and 67 elevators. On the roof is a 200-foot mooring mast for big dirigible airships like the Graf Zeppelin. I think it’s terrific.” What did I know about the future of dirigibles?

(In the early ‘30s, “aeronautical experts” predicted that dirigible airships would soon become the favored mode for crossing the Atlantic and the continent. The planners of the Empire State Building were looking ahead. All such predictions came tumbling down, however, when the Hindenberg exploded in flames in 1937.)

Building the Empire State Building in the face of the Great Depression was hailed as a symbolic triumph for the country. And for me, that exciting structure will always remain “the world’s tallest building.”

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