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Piano player, could you please play something snappy?

"When I picked up the banjo, I had no real musical gift or talent, but I was about 18 and I thought, well, you know…. one day I’ll have been playing for 35 years."    -Steve Martin

I heard him say that in 2003 on Imus, and scrawled it down.  It was profound.  "You gotta start somewhere," he was saying.  Time for me to pick up the banjo.

Mo Ohh!
At 40, I don't consider that I've qualified for "Mid-Life" to begin my crisis yet... and it's going to be a helluvalot bigger than playing a banjo.  [I can't go into details, but it involves Maureen O'Hara and a Wayback Machine.  But that's not important right now.]

So rather than a banjo, I think I'll take up the piano.  Here's the logic:

I'm already pretty good at the keyboard:  Granted, a computer keyboard.  But if I can navigate my way through 26 illogically placed letters, 10 numbers, and assorted shift, space, and delete keys, I can handle a few notes, chords, majors, and minors.  And if I can be trained on gas-brake-clutch,three pedals don't scare me. 

There's never a banjo around when you really need one:  And let's face it, unless you ARE Steve Martin, nobody's gonna talk to a guy carting a banjo around.  But where there's a crowd to be had... in a bar, restaurant, somebody's house... there's almost always a piano standing by.  So here's the deal:  I'm going to skip the hours upon hours sweating out scales and nursery rhymes and learn THREE SONGS...  really well.  I'm gonna OWN them, setting up the following.

The Piano Bar, Todd White
The scene:  An inviting neighborhood watering hole.  The kind that has regulars, a tin ceiling, a hand-carved, brass-festooned mahogany bar that stretches the long, arrow lane from the front door to the open area in the back, where a well-worn but stately baby grand keeps a quiet watch.  It's cold and windy outside.  The patrons are enjoying some good craic inside.  Then, unseen, Wry Guy takes his fresh Makers Mark [Double.  Neat.] and accompanying glass of ice in hand and approaches the piano; sits; lifts the cover; straightens his back; stretches his arm up, out and back, cracks his knuckles, and...

Plays [song one].  A ripple effect spreads out through the crowd.  People turn, voices fall.  They listen, smile.  Some even sway.  Depending on the song, percussion and a bass line magically join in on cue.  (Cut me some slack, it could happen.  It's my fantasy.  )  By the stretch turn of the song, they're all his.  The Big Finish!  Applause.  He smiles; head drops; nods a quiet thanks; closes the keyboard cover; begins to rise; reaches for his drink.  The hook is set. 

"Do another one!" 
"I couldn't."
"Aw, go ahead."
"I shouldn't."
"Come on!"
He sits. 

Plays [song 2].  Really pours it on this time.  The crowd runs with it, and he gives them as much line as they'll take.  Finishes strong.   The night is his!  More applause.  Maidens swoon.  Handkerchiefs deployed. Men gnash teeth; hate and envy course through their veins; they have seen greatness and they're powerless to do anything but watch it.

He stands.  This time he means it... two and out.  He takes a deep, savoring draw from one one of the drinks sent his way.  Eyes meet.  Smiles are exchanged. An eyebrow is cocked.  He turns, dons his coat, and leaves.  It's all about leaving them wanting more.

Nine out of ten times, that's how it's done.  What about the third song, you ask?  Well, it let's him rotate the material.  And he's always ready for that one-in-ten occasion when it's all about driving them right over the edge.  In that case, he gets to finish the second drink.

Request lines are open...

Okay gang.  I know you're out there.  Even you, Gordon from Accounting. 

  • Where is this bar? 
  • What are the three deadly melodies that you'd play... or the three that you're dying to hear?  

There's plenty of time.  I just remembered I don't have a piano...  but one day, I'll have been playing it for 35 years.

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Reader Comments (3)

Song 1: Lady Madonna (to get their attention)
Song 2: Coldplay, The Scientist (to get their phone numbers)

Song 3: Private showing if songs 1 and 2 work.

Setting: The Standing Stone, Hartford Conn.
November 22, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterlurker
Alas my dear Toastmaster, it's the banjo that gets me every time. Perhaps that's why I married a fellow who can pluck my hearstrings by plucking the strings of his banjo.

But I'll come hear you play anytime.. I might even buy you a drink if you wink in my direction before beginning the second song. Anything Sinatra will do.
November 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
Alas, my dear Monica... I'm destined to try to tickle your ivories, but will try to fit in the ukulele.

And you can count on the wink!
November 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterThe Toastmaster

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