I tried ctrl-alt-F1 and that took me to the command line. I then entered "startx"
... you needed to login first. I take it you didn't get a login prompt?
I entered "/boot/grub/grub.conf" and got "access denied"
That is likely because you didn't mount your installed /boot partition. Instead, you were asking to edit the rescue-mode grub.conf which is a nono.
Try fdisk -l from there and see how you've installed.
eg... if sda2 is /boot normally then you want to do:
mount -t ext3 /dev/sda2 /mnt
If fdisk shows lvm, things get more complex.