Straight Wire with Gain


Tuesday nights in Redondo Mother goes out to eat at the Brewery, a nice two-story bar-bistro in the Riviera Village, only a block from our old apartment – in fact, from the second floor, one can just see the black roofline of the apartment building itself among the jumbled gloom at the bottom of the large money-making rectangle of sunset and palm trees visible from the restaurant balcony. Her across-the-street neighbors Fred and Dee have been taking her there for years, and now they follow a fond and well-articulated routine into which I’m invited when I’m in town – the brisk walk down the hill to the village, the chattering conversation under the rushing sounds of home-going commuter traffic and the streetlights coming on in the overcast. At the restaurant, Fred regales me with his recent garage sale finds, AR two-way speakers in mid-60s walnut enclosures, an Altec Lansing preamp, and Dynaco woofers that heft like exercise gear, treasures over which a shockingly small amount of money has changed hands. I always find this subject soothing: here are my idyllic 1950s moments spent with my beloved Uncle Bob, maker of Heathkits and installer of an endlessly fascinating Gerrard turntable on its pull-out base in the cabinet above his records, Big Tiny Little, Andre Kostelanetz, and Jackie Gleason’s “Martinis and Memories.” He and his wife Nancy, Father’s sister – chic, indulgent and childless – lived up the hill from here in the Hollywood Riviera with a view of the basin. Both are gone now, but the fogs of the village and the palms and the cars winding down the French-curved post-war suburban streets and the sighing ocean to the barely reddened west are the same while Fred’s litany of mid-century hi-fi, of Fisher and McIntosh, of the quest for the Spartan circuit, the straight wire with gain, the supreme fidelity of the linear, have all dropped me into some quietly helpful dream.

(from Chapter 1, “Meter to the Black”)