Wednesday, October 10, 2018


Written October the Second, 2018.

I’m at Rancho La Puerta.  I have come here, I’ve been told, 37 times.  It’s true nothing remains the same.  And neither does this place.  At our arriving buffet lunch – for the first time I can remember, 

They serve peanuts.

There goes the neighborhood. 

Serving peanuts at the Ranch?  What’s next?  “Baked Alaska”?

I am fine with this nutritional addition.  I do not see “The Fall of The Roman Empire” in peanuts.  Caramelized pecans?  That’s testing the boundaries.  But peanuts, the Ranch’s regulated regimen can withstand. 

One of the things I look forward to doing here is playing the Ranch’s Steinway Grand Piano, which is located the… wait, I gotta go look it up.  It’s in some exercise building, but I do not know which one.  Yes, I have been here 37 times.  But, since I rarely participate in classes, if when someone looking for a gym goes,

“You’re an old-timer here.  Where’s…”

“I don’t know.”

Okay.  It’s called Oaktree Pavilion.  They do exercise classes in there, but also host regularly scheduled evening concerts.  And let me tell you, the sonorous resonances in that place, especially when it’s totally empty…

Folks, you have never heard “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” till you’ve heard it in Oaktree Pavilion. 

Even with mistakes, the Steinway was built for that Song of the South Oscar winner.

So, okay.  Everything changes.  I get that.


Ready to practice, I step into Oaktree Pavilion, making sure I interrupt no one.  No classes in session.  No preparation for the next class.  No janitorial maintenance. 

A fully empty pavilion.

I remove my sneakers – as instructed by the posted signage – and pad over to the Steinway. 


As I am about to remove its protective cloth covering – of a fabric similar to the covering of a Torah – I see a laminated notice sitting on top, which has never been present in all my visits to the Ranch.

I peruse the laminated notice, which says this:

 Dear Guest,

This piano is for the use of the guest musicians to perform for you. 

The beautiful piano in the Main Lounge is for the use of the guests.

                                                                                                             Thank you!

With an exclamation point!  Like we should be excited by this startling edict, which, though politely composed, is, in fact, a chilling “Declaration of Dismissal.”  (Tevye, banished from Anatevka.) 

There it is.  In protecting plastic.

Suddenly, I am no longer permitted to use the piano.

You can imagine my reaction.  (Westerns Fans:  The “Open Range” cowpuncher spotting the signifying barbed wire.)  (Non-Westerns Fans:  I was really upset.)

Restricted from tinkling the Steinway?  Who was I hurting?  I practice for forty-five minutes, at most.  I know I play terribly, but does that really damage the piano?

I feel seriously distraught.  The suggestion of using the “beautiful piano” in the Main Lounge is ridiculous.  There are people in there.  Reading the paper.  Doing the crossword.  Checking their “Net Worth” on their devices.  Who wants their peace and quiet impeded by a struggling piano player, stumbling through “When You Wish Upon A Star.”

Numerous feelings well up inside me.  Annoyance.  Disappointment.  A “throwback” infantile helplessness.  But the most tumultuous feeling of all is

Righteous Indignation. 

(Hey, I’ll capitalize both of them if I want to!)

I know myself.  Fundamentally, I am a congenital “Good Boy”, dutifully coloring within the lines.  If something’s “No”, then it’s “No.”  I grumpily complain, but take no ameliorating action.  I just impotently stew. 

But there’s another part of me – not a big part but it’s there – a part, bristling vociferously against senseless prohibitions.

One example. 

(Leaving you thinking, “If there’s one, there has got to be more.  I shall not dissuade you of that assumption.  Accurate or otherwise.)

You walk to an intersection where the light has just turned “Green”, arriving fractional moments too late to suppress the “Walk” button.  As a result, though the light distinctly says, “Green Light – Go”, the “Pedestrian Crossing Signal” below it registers, “‘Orange Hand’ – ‘Don’t Walk.’”

What essentially does that mean?  It means waiting all the way through that “Green” and then through the following “Red” until the signal cycles around again to “Green”, where, having in the interim pressed the “Walk” button, you can now lawfully cross the street.

Which makes entirely no sense.

When the light turns “Green”, the “Pedestrian Signal” should immediately say, “Walk.”  Because it doesn’t – even though you may have missed pressing the “Walk” button by one second – you are dutifully obligated to wait.  Throughout the whole ensuing “Green”, and, of course, the subsequent “Red.”

An inordinately long time.

I say, “No.”

And rebelliously act accordingly.

At the risk of arrest, a fine and possible incarceration if I truculently protest, I boldly step into the intersection, crossing – safely, and with impediment to no one – towards the admonishing “Orange Hand.” 

That is the kind of person I (occasionally) am. 


So here I am, standing at the corner of “Steinway” and “Trouble.”  There could be serious consequences if I deliberately disobey the interdicting order– possibly the loss of the rewarding chocolate chip cookie on Friday – but I cannot help myself.

You have to fight for the principle.

“Give me 'Piano Privileges' or give me death.”  (“Overwrought”, perhaps.  But I am a disenfranchised artiste.)

Knowing there is a law above the mean and arbitrary Rule of Man, and willing to face the punitive consequences, come what may, I sit down at the piano, take out my sheet music to “Remember Me” from Coco, and I begin to practice.

And as God is my witness,

I have never played worse.


Billy said...

Sing us a song, you're the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well, we're all in the mood for a melody
And you've got us feelin' alright.

Technically, you are a guest musician.

JED said...

You probably played badly because you were subconsciously expecting the piano police to show up at any time.

Dimension Skipper said...

Courtesy of Language Log: Feel free to play this piano

QUOTED: While passing through Hartsfield Atlanta airport a few weeks back, Neil Dolinger passed a piano located in a place where passersby could freely play it. A sign nearby encourages this in 12 different languages:

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