When you think about it, desks will come and desks will go. Live and work long enough and they’ll have done so by the forgotten myriad. And yet there are bound to be favorites where, all aesthetics aside, you become so engaged in what you do that you reach a centered “state of flow.” Perhaps you’re at just such a desk now.
This interruption comes to you from my desk (basically an L shaped top with filing cabinets for drawers), that was custom-made for my last office, in the turret of our Victorian house in Melrose, Massachusetts. When we moved to a new old-house, it was placed on the partially finished third-floor. Although it hasn’t moved much since, it’s now in an office that was custom-made to fit the desk.
Yet my all time favorite was the “flow friendly” roll-top desk I had in college, which I bought third-or fourth-hand when I rented my first apartment, and later passed along to my brother after graduation. That was a desk worthy of a song and lo…
Just such a song was written and recorded by the late Harry Edward Nilsson III of Brooklyn, New York, a descendent of circus people who as a young man worked on bank computers at night, while pursuing a songwriting career by day, in an office (not too begrudglingly) provided by his record label.
Along with “Everybody’s Talkin’” (for which he won a Grammy) and “One” (as in the Loneliest Number), it was included as a track on his third album and Nilsson later conceded that “Good Old Desk” (with an acronym “G.O.D.”) was written with spiritual allusions very much in mind.
It was 1968 and after he’d completed his studio stint (with a maverick reputation, Nilsson never performed live before a major audience), he flew to London at the blessed invitation of the Beatles. And there he was very much surprised to meet some kindred spirits.
John Lennon, who admired his songwriting and incredible vocal range would become a close friend, as would Ringo, who later served as best man at his wedding. But first they had to become acquainted.
To break the ice, Lennon, who had just been listening to Nilsson’s previous LP, played selections from “his band’s” upcoming “White Album”. Nilsson then played a demo of his own upcoming record, “Aerial Ballet” which he had named after his grandparents’ circus act, and had nearly written in its entirety at his…
…Good Old Desk
My old desk does an arabesque
In the morning when I first arrive
It’s a pleasure to see it’s waiting there for me
To keep my hopes alive
Such a comfort to know it’s got no place to go
It’s always there
It’s the one thing I’ve got, a huge success
My good, old desk
My old desk never needs a rest
And I’ve never once heard it cry
I’ve never seen it tease, it’s always there to please me
From nine to five
Such a comfort to know, it’s dependable and slow
But it’s always there
It’s the one friend I’ve got, a giant of all times
My good, old desk
My old desk isn’t picturesque
But it’s happy as a desk can be
We never say a word, but it’s perfectly all right with me
For when my heart’s on the floor, I just open the drawer
Of my favorite guest
And what do I see? But a picture of me
Working at my good, old desk