Written at Rancho La Puerta, October the Fourth, 2018.
I practice the piano with four eyes.
One eye on sheet music.
One eye, focused on my hands.
One eye, fixed to the piano keys.
And one eye, looking for the arrival of someone who will make me stop playing the piano.
No wonder I am making all kinds of mistakes. I am (at least) two eyes in arrears, my attention perilously divided.
Though, at my request, bordering on insistence, I have received permission to continue practicing on the Oaktree Pavilion Steinway, despite laminated instructions for guests not performing in evening concerts not to, I fear the on-duty concierge who countermanded the prohibiting ordinance was not authorized to do so.
Although I acted like she was.
While reacting internally like she wasn’t.
It was not just my natural infuriation to the interdicting “You can’t.” – “But I want to!” Clearly, I do not appreciate when that happens. It triggers an “Entitled Princeling” response, “His Royal Loftiness”, coldly rebuffed in his intentions. Heads will definitely roll!
But beyond me, the Ranch has a longstanding philosophy, which is about nothing if not spiritual harmony and personal wellbeing, a nourishing oasis from outside intervention, reconnecting us with our deeper, more spiritual selves. No TV’s in the room – it fits. No phones in the Dining Hall – of course.
“The Steinway’s not intended for visiting guests”?
“Jarringly inconsistent”, is what that is. Incongruently discriminatory. Come on! Are we not equal here at the Ranch, that welcome haven against hierarchy and status? Consistent with that leveling philosophy, should we not all enjoy equal access to tinkling the Steinway’s elevating ivories?
A sour note resounded at the Ranch.
And, this time, it was not delivered by me.
“An unfortunate happenstance”, I concedingly allow.
And then, this happened.
It started with a call to our room from a different concierge. (The Ranch originally did not have phones in the room. Was their subsequent addition, retrospectively, the “Beginning of the End”?)
The call proceeded, formally but politely:
“It has come to our attention by some of your neighbors that they have smelled cigarette smoke coming from your patio. We are not sure if you are aware, that the Ranch is a smoke-free environment and we ask our guests not to smoke anywhere on the property.”
(Note: It sounded like he was reading from some official “Form Letter.” Stay tuned for validating confirmation.)
I immediately assured him I don’t smoke.
“And your partner?”
“She doesn’t smoke either.”
The concierge appeared sufficiently persuaded on that account. But the next day, we found a letter in our “mailbox”, that began:
It has been brought to our attention by some of your neighbors that they have smelled cigarette smoke coming from your patio…”
You see? That guy was reading. The complaint had now apparently moved up the authoritarial “Chain of Command”, the arriving letter, signed by the “Director of Guest Relations and Programming.”
A “Director”, no less.
That guy was big.
So here we are, visiting what, for us, is the proverbial “Heaven on Earth”, ordered to stay away from the Steinway, and accused of illicit cigarette smoking on the patio.
How did that unfair “outing” eventualize?
We are staying in casita “Flores – 26.”
Apparently, the people in Flores – 27” ratted us out.
Inaccurately, because neither of us smokes.
I thought I was just being silly the day before when a passing guest, preambling a compliment, said,
“I heard you playing the piano in Oaktree Pavilion”, and my joking reaction was,
But who knows? Maybe it wasn’t a compliment, but was, instead, a threatening warning?
(ACCUSATORILY) “I heard you playing the piano in Oaktree Pavilion.”
You see how different it sounds that way? You know, the 1984 version?
I knew I had to be careful. My credibility was hanging by a thread. I mean if a man can use a piano he has been specifically told not to, surely he can lie about smoking cigarettes on the patio.
Or cover malevolently for his wife.
The place had definitely changed.
We were unquestionably “marked” Ranch guests.
In a Nirvana, seeping with treachery.