Do you like these stories?
So leave a comment, for cryin' out loud.
Oh, yeah; and buy my book:

Piano Man

    I accompanied my friend John to his afternoon gig playing piano in the elegant lobby of the Red Lion Inn at Stockbridge.
    For three hours I sat and listened with great enjoyment, as he played through his endlessly varied repertoire of jazz, ragtime and classical pieces. I love John's playing. But the patrons filed past without a sideways glance: the full-length mink coats, the impeccable Italian suits, being ushered to their places at tables accoutered for the cream of American privilege.
    John played on, and after he finished his last set, he shut the piano and went off to the bathroom. Then I sidled over and gingerly sat down on the gleaming bench, opened the piano, and hesitantly began to play a rendition of my one Scott Joplin piece, Maple Leaf Rag. I was eager to try out the beautiful Steinway instrument, but I felt awkward to touch it in that place, after John's creative and masterful playing. 
    So as a result of my reticence- fear, actually- my playing was lukewarm at best, and in the second movement of the piece I lost my place altogether. In a controlled panic, I faked along dismally for a few bars, and when I managed to find my way again, my only thought was to conclude as gracefully as possible and get out of there. Which I did, finishing with a conclusive phrase, in what would ordinarily be the middle of my arrangement. I never felt the music at all; just embarrassment.
    After I was done and had shut the cover of the piano, John returned, and we were chatting as we put on our coats to leave. A lady came over to us from an adjacent sitting room around the corner, and she walked up to me, ignoring John completely. She said to me, "I loved your Scott Joplin."
I never blinked, but I thanked her, and she walked on.
    Probably, the lady had just arrived, and hadn't been there when John was playing, but it was still pretty funny. The master plays his heart out for three hours and is pretty much ignored, and then this bum sneaks in and plays a hideously stumbling rendition of one-half of a piece, and then the bum gets the glory. 

Click below to leave a comment. 

Two Show Stories

A Nice Tip -

    A young boy was watching me set up before a show, and his conversation was somewhat rude: skeptical and confrontative: 
    "What is this for?" "A kid I know can do that!" "Why do you have horns?"
    I was nice to him, although busy, and I told him that he would see how everything works, once the show started; not to worry.
    So I played the show, and afterward the boy was completely changed. He came politely up to me and asked, "Do people ever give you money after you play?" I explained to the boy that when somebody decides that he wants me to do a show, he'll talk to me beforehand, and we'll make an agreement of what I'll get paid to come and do it. 
    The boy said, "That's not what I meant. I mean, do the people who watch you ever give you money after they see it?" I said no, not really. He said he wanted to give me some money, and he solemnly presented me with a nickel.
    I accepted the nickel, and I put it in my pocket with sincere thanks.


Rescue -

    This happened before another show, a very large summer school show. I had finished getting my stuff set up and ready on the stage, and I was pacing back and forth in an empty hallway behind the performing hall, waiting till it was time to go in. I could hear the hectic noise from inside, where the teachers were wrangling all the kids into their places; there were over a thousand young boys from two parochial schools, and maybe 150 staff and teachers, all men. So as I was pacing back and forth out in the hallway, I saw a little boy huddled against the wall by himself, crying. I went over to him and asked what was wrong, why wasn't he inside?
    He said, "I lost my ticket." The tickets didn't cost anything, but all the kids had been given one, for some reason of keeping the event organized.
    The boy was trying to put a brave face on it, but he was clearly in deep distress, and he had snuck away out of the line somehow. I said, "Come on, I think we can get you in."
    I brought him inside and found a teacher in the hubbub, and explained matters, and asked if this boy could be let in without his ticket. The teacher said, "Of course," and he took the boy and went off with him to find his class.
    I performed the show, and it was fun in its way, but it was one of the really challenging situations; the kids started storming the stage more than once, grabbing props and stuff, and all the teachers had to run among them shouting and trying to restore order. This was summer school, with discipline a bit less rigorous than regular session, but it was still a bit shocking. I never let it rattle me, but I kept everything happy and upbeat, and pretended that this happens all the time. I guess, for these people it does; they're used to it. (Earlier, when I had been negotiating the show over the phone, the teacher had commented that they could stop the show at any point if I needed it, so they could discipline the kids. These comments puzzled me, and caused me some uneasiness. Why would he be telling me that?) As it turns out, everything went better than they expected, and the teachers were thanking me profusely after the show. 
     But as for that little boy that I found in the hallway, I never even asked his name, or found out where he ended up sitting; in the hurry of spirits before the show, I neglected to do that. I'm not even sure the boy was aware, at the time, that I was "the guy".
    Well, I hope he liked the show. I did feel a real bond for him; he reminded me exactly of the sort of thing I might have done when I was his age.

Click below to leave a comment.