Y’all may laugh, but at 30 years old, I decided to take piano lessons. Private lessons. I rented a piano, had it delivered to my little one bedroom cottage – high wood ceilings, pane glass windows looking out on a private garden and… it was rent controlled in the infamous Santa Monica, California, back in the late ’80s or so.
After much thought, I determined my education was lacking in that I had never played a musical instrument. Oh, I signed up to play flute in the 5th grade, but somehow, and to this day I still don’t understand it, everybody else learned to read music while my back was turned. Sad days – could blow like a champion, but couldn’t read a note to save my soul. My good friend, Chrissy Trulio, who came with us to rent our flutes, went on to become a professional flautist, but not me. So, there I am at 30, feeling like I missed out. Well, that was easily fixed, just go do it.
I found a teacher who gave private lessons and truly tailored them to the desires of her adult students. She asked me what I wanted to learn and I said promptly, “Moonlight Sonata, Fleur de Lis, Ode to Joy – those ones.” She nodded and went to work on me. (There’s a very long pause here while I try to figure out how to write what happened.) Pausing…
Alright, a little visual here – I’m just under 5’3, on a good day I weigh about 94 lbs, I wear a size 4.5 shoe in women’s and a size 3 in boy’s tennis shoes. My hands are equally small. I went for a manicure and pedicure and the woman looked at my hands and feet and yelled, “Gawd! Barbie doll toes and fingers!”
For those who do not play piano, it is designed by octave – 8 keys – but you’ve only got five fingers, so, stay with me here, you’ve got to have large hands and long fingers to do the eight octave thing. (God, she shudders, knowing somebody is going to call me on the use of octave.) I have dumped the data and I do not want to do a lot of research to determine whether I’m recalling this correctly – I’m telling you I did the lessons, I have small hands, and I am shitty at math. Math and music go hand and hand (a little, very little pun). Between trying to reach for keys and trying to understand notes, here is how I worked it out. I painstakingly sat at my desk or piano bench and translated those notes from sight to letter – C, for example. Visualize the following with the notes having little letters next to them:
My lovely, patient, very, very patient teacher would assign me a piece to practice and the next week, I would come to her house and perform it. I think she felt bad about taking my money for the results we were getting. “That’s really very nice, Huntie… It’s just,” her voice trailed off helplessly, “It’s just not Moonlight Sonata.” After a while, she asked me to show her how I learned the music and practiced at home. I showed her. I showed her my music notes, because I always memorized it so she would not know. She sat very still, on the bench beside me, staring at my music notes and my piano book. “Oh…. Oh dear, oh Hunt…” She lifted her eyes from my work and looked me in the eye. “You’ve been doing this every week?”
“Well, yes.” I gulped at her expression. There was pain in her eyes, not at me, but for me.
She was a good woman, an honorable woman, who loved teaching piano and wanted to pass on the joy it gave her to her students. Her gaze dropped, she held up a hand for silence, and dropped her head in thought, her hair falling forward and hiding her expression. Time passed. I waited. She did not disappoint. Suddenly, she straightened up, pushed back her shoulders, lifted her chin and took a deep breath. “Okay, Hunt, one of the major problems is the size of your hands and that is not going to change – you simply do not have the span required to reach the keys, so you’re having to rock and roll when you play. How do you feel about boogie music?” (She may, indeed, have said “Honky Tonk music,” but I have looked up the definition of Honky Tonk and ….)
“I have no idea.” I said, fascinated she was going to keep going with me. She nudge me over on the bench, stretched out her hands and began to play. The most rollicking, joyful, dancing tune erupted out of the old scarred piano. My feet immediately began dancing underneath the bench. “I think you can do this, Hunt. Are you willing to give it a try? The best part is, nobody will ever know if you make a mistake!” (I think this last was more in the realm of a heartfelt prayer.)
So, I transcribed my boogie tunes and rock and rolled ’em with great gusto and the cat howled throughout, but I persevered. I went so far as to record it on my telephone answering machine – pre-voicemail for those of you too young to know. One of my best days was a wrong number, but the guy said, “Oh, I’m sorry… I’ve dialed the wrong number… say! Was that you performing that boogie music?! I love it! I’m calling back to hear it again!”
This memory came to mind because Bill of Dealing with COPD has made it his mission to go back to the beginning of this blog and read every damn thing I have ever written…. Yeah! And then he comments on just about every post. A big “Yeah!” for Bill, and for me, because he’s a favorable critic! What’s not to love about Bill, eh?
Bill has made it to July and today he commented on this one, about Joy, a singular sensation. Bill commented that he fired up his music, which just happened to be Brooks & Dunn’s Boot Scootin’ Boogie, which is one of my favorites and immediately brought to mind my music lessons.
See, this is quintessential Chasing Rabbit Holes. Admit it, you could not figure out where the hell I was going with this post. But, see, we’ve come full circle. While we’re at it, this one post about learning to paint got more attention than any other post until recently. Have a read, why don’t you? In the mean time, here is Brooks & Dunn’s Boot Scootin’ Bogie (the Old Spice commercial is actually pretty darn funny) and (may I just say that Country singers are some of the most virile men on the planet!):