My wife wants a piano. She doesn’t play the piano and neither do I. There are all kinds of musical chromosomes floating around in my DNA. My mother never had a piano lesson in her life, she couldn’t read music, but she could play the piano by ear (mostly polkas, but it still technically counts as music.) My father’s brother overflowed with musical talent. My grandmother said when he was a baby, if someone played a song on the piano and hit a wrong note, he would start crying. When he grew up he got a doctorate in music and was the head of the music department at a major university. I’m not sure where all those chromosomes went, but I have the musical talent of a deaf badger with brain damage.
When I was young my mother made me take piano lessons. At that period in history it was the patriotic duty of all mothers to torture their sons by sending them to piano lessons (I believe it was a law passed by the Truman Administration. It had to do with toughening young boys up for the military. Having to practice Speed Boat until your fingers stiffened and became bloody stumps prepared you for sitting in a foxhole later in life with mortar rounds detonating around you. Either way you felt as if you were going to die. I’m still a firm believer that the piano lessons had more to do with the repeal of the draft than the Vietnam War.)
My two older sisters also took piano lessons, but they could play songs that you could tell were songs. My songs all sounded the same: very long pauses between the wrong notes.
My piano teacher: Okay, you sit here and try to figure out which note comes next. I’m going to run to the store to pick up some things and come back and make us some cookies. If you haven’t figured out which note it is by then, I’ll give you another hint.
After hearing me practice the piano for a month, my mother decided a better use for the money she was spending for my piano lessons would be to throw it out the window of a moving car and hope some poor person found it. I was given a reprieve from taking lessons, and as far as I know Mom never did any time in federal prison for it.
My oldest daughter took piano lessons and was good at it. My son took piano lessons, too, and after a month his teacher suggested we throw the piano lessons’ money out a car window. He inherited the deaf-brain-damaged-badger gene from me. My son also tried to play the trombone. After a week of lessons he would go down to the river and sit for an hour when he was supposed to be taking his lesson. When my wife found out, she was furious. I pretended to be mad too, but what I thought was: That’s my boy.
My grandson plays the trombone, and he’s good at it. He wants to major in music when he goes to college. My oldest daughter, his mother, wants him to major in making-a-boatload-of-money-so-you-don’t-have-to-live-with-your-parents-until-your-forty, and the trombone is the wrong instrument for that. (Tommy Dorsey was the exception.)
How did this post start again …? Okay, I remember. My wife wants a piano. We had a piano at one time. It was an ancient full size upright that weighed eighteen gazillion tons. The floor in our first house would creak under its weight, pleading with me to get the monster off it. I half expected to come home one day to find a giant hole in the floor and the monster in the basement between the furnace and the shelves of canned sauerkraut, completely unharmed of course. You just couldn’t hurt those old giants. When we moved to our new house, we took the monster with us. You can still see the scar from my hernia surgery. After a few years we gave it away to a clueless family that actually wanted it.
When I was growing up the only pianos you ever saw were the big uprights or the grand pianos the schools had. The little spinet pianos hadn’t become popular yet. When I was little I had a friend, Curtis, who had a baby grand piano in his house. Curtis was a few years older than me and a good musician. He played the guitar, piano and coronet. He and his father were on television once on some amateur show playing You Are My Sunshine on their coronets. (It might have been The Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour, but I doubt it.) I was over at his house once when his parents were gone. He was playing the piano while his cocker spaniel lay on the floor nearby. I had on an old pair of Curtis’ hip boots he had left out, and I was attempting to balance a broom on the palm of my hand. Both of us were smoking cigarettes we had borrowed from his father’s pack on top of the fridge. My cigarette was dangling tough guy like from my lips when the broom started to get away from me. When I moved to catch it, I tripped over the dog which made me drop my cigarette which went down Curtis’ back which made him jump up which knocked over the ashtray with his lit cigarette which went into my hip boots. By the time we were done gyrating and wildly pulling off clothes, I was on the floor in my underwear where the dog had been, Curtis was wearing the hip boots backwards with the broom clenched in his teeth while the dog played the piano—and even without fingers the dog still played better than I ever did.
Anyway, my wife wants to get a piano, and the reason she wants it is because someone wants to give it to her for free. This post was supposed to be about how people will take anything if it’s free or they have a coupon, but it’s a little late for any of that now.