Please don’t play it again, Sam


‘Living in harmony with the Piano Man’

Even the most wonderfully wacky honeymoon — spent driving around Portugal and Spain checking out caves (well, make that one cave) and mooching off Malcolm Forbes in Morocco — has to end sometime. And then you have to get back to Real Life.

Which The Dude and I did. We lived, as we do now, in an apartment here in New York City. Not the same apartment as now, though. This one was on the ground floor of the building right next door, which is an oddity I won’t get into right now, for lack of space (mine) and patience (yours).

Anyway. I mention the Ground Floor Thing because it meant that any pedestrian striding by on his or her way to work or class (hospital down the street, school across it) had a clear view through our windows of anything we happened to be doing. I remember getting our living room ready for moving in — this was before our blinds were installed — and feeling, you know, watched. I glanced up to see a whole Peanut Gallery checking out my floor-polishing technique. So we pretty much had to keep those blinds shut. Which made the apartment feel rather like that cave we visited on our honeymoon.

The Dude enjoys a mug of decaf and a medical journal. That’s about as ‘open’ as our kitchen blinds could get. The ones in the living room and bedroom were shut even tighter

Like many young couples, we had furnished this apartment with an array of cast-offs, thrift-shop finds, and stuff ‘inherited’ from parents or even (in my case) Old Beaux. (For a funny story about the furniture in this apartment and what happened to some of it, see ‘The Truly Ugly Chair’.)

Fine dining chez Whitmore. Bedroom behind The Dude, kitchen behind me. Table made from a plank sets off Mom-of-Dude donated china cabinet

It’s hard to fully appreciate this from the few pictures I could find, but this apartment was crowded. It sounds roomy enough; it had a bathroom and a kitchen and even a bedroom. Some apartments in New York are called ‘studios’, which is a fancy way of saying ‘no bedroom’. Come to think of it, Mary Richards had to put her bed away in her couch every morning and she didn’t even live in New York City. So, hey, even crowded we had it better than Mary.

And, of course, this apartment did have a living room — one room that served many purposes and held many things. True, we didn’t have to jam a bed in there, but we did have sectional couches from a garage sale and a giant wedding-gift television and our dining area stuff and The Dude’s home office — complete with desk, big ole rolling desk chair and huge metal filing cabinet. I remember once when we were discussing whether or not to have a child asking where the heck we would put said child and The Dude answering “we could put the baby where the TV is.” Which, eventually, we did.

Oh, and we had a piano in there. Not just any piano. A baby grand piano. A Steinway. It’s quite wonderful (we still have it, in fact), but it does take up quite a bit of space. Space that we didn’t have a whole lot of back then.

Wayne doing his Piano Thing. Note humongous filing cabinet next to firmly-shut gray blinds, plus weights on the floor. (This room was also the gym)

One little aside before I get on with my amusing crowded-with-furniture tale. Of course I realized before we got married that The Dude enjoyed playing the piano. After all, we had (gasp) lived together before we got married. (I know. You are shocked, shocked!) But somehow I guess it didn’t really sink in that not only would I be hearing someone play the piano every day for the rest of my life, but that I would be hearing him play the same three pieces: the Chopin Thing, the Ragtime Thing, and Some Jazz Thing I Can’t Remember The Name Of.

Oh well. Marriage is based on compromise. If we could sort out which way the toilet paper unrolls (we settled for ‘over the front’), we could certainly sort out when ‘Maple Leaf Rag’ got played (usually when I was making dinner).

Me, modeling birthday presents in a desperate attempt to distract the piano player

So. Anyway. Long story sort of short, we inherited another piano. It was, in fact, the upright that The Dude is playing in the picture at the top of this post. Now The Dude had not formed any particular emotional bond with this piano like he had with the Steinway. And, more importantly — to me anyway — we didn’t have room for it, so he had, quite wisely, decided to sell it. But somehow he never got around to doing so, and, then, speaking of selling, we found out that his childhood home, where the piano ‘lived’, was being sold. Which meant the piano had to be delivered — to our crowded apartment.

The guys show up on the appointed day, piano in tow. I hand them a check for the delivery fee. “We don’t take checks, Lady”, the burly one says. “Fine. Take the piano back, ” I say. I start to shut the door on them — and the piano — when they say they need to call their boss. I hand them the phone, there’s a heated conversation, then they hand the phone to me. “He wants to talk to you.” “We don’t take checks, Lady” he says. “I know. But a check is all I have. Tell your men to take the piano back.”

Well, it didn’t work. They took the check. And left the piano. But I must admit I laughed out loud when they asked me where I wanted them to put it.

New York City. April 2017


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19 thoughts on “Please don’t play it again, Sam

  1. Char

    Ah, the joys of living with a pianist! 😀
    I really didn’t mind the repetitive pieces… I found myself silently cheering him on when I knew the tricky bit was coming. My first house was also way too crowded… To think i then moved to the UK with just a cabin bag!

  2. I was heart-broken to come home from university to discover that my parents had got rid of my old upright piano. It had been bought from a pub in 1965. It cost 7 guineas and had holes in the front where the candelabra had been. It was an old piano even then. The piano stool that came with it contained sheet music from the First World War, including a song about the Angel of Mons.

    I envy the Dude’s baby grand. I have an electronic pianonow, but it’s not the same.

    • Oh my. What a sad story! Even I wouldn’t have tossed such a wonderful piece of the past — even if it WAS a piano! Thank you for stopping by. I wish I could send you a spare ‘real’ piano. I know what you mean about keyboards. The Dude has one of those too (!)

  3. Unbound Roots

    You wouldn’t believe it, but my in-laws are currently trying to convince us to take their baby grand piano. We already have a piano AND and their old organ in our house. An organ that no one knows how to play or cares to play. WHY WOULD WE WANT ANOTHER PIANO? They say we have enough room in our basement (where we are storing the organ that we can’t even GIVE away because no one wants it). Well, I think I’ve convinced them that we don’t want the piano now.

    I had to laugh when your distraction picture popped up. It’s like football season here. 🙂

    • As far as I’m concerned there should be a strict rule: one piano per household. And the organ? Come to think of it, there was one in The Dude’s parents’ place when I mer him. I wonder who got stuck with it? (Not us; though we did get the snake cage) So glad you can identify with my ‘desperation outfit’. I’d trot it out for the French Open except that I’m just as hooked on tennis as Dude Man!

  4. Sharon McGavin

    I really love knowing that someone else plays a very limited (but much loved) repertoire. Go Wayne.

    • Yes, it is a limited — but much loved — repertoire! Even if he did add to it, I would always request an ‘oldie’. The soundtrack of my life! Thanks for chiming in! xoxo

    • Ah, compromise! So true. And we’ve made so many. Once in a while he does try a new piece. But I must admit I’ve grown rather fond of those three (!) Thanks, as always, for reading — and commenting xo

  5. sk888888

    Loved your piece, Alice. I went through a series of pianos (I am piano-less now, by choice) and my one ‘by heart’ piece was the theme from The Apartment. I still love hearing it.

  6. Suzy johnson

    This is as usual priceless. Hilarious. Tell Wayne that my grand piano goes wherever I go and I play only three pieces as well….rhapsody in Blue ( perhaps black and blue), mozarts variations of twinkle and Rocky Racoon! We could and should have a concert!!

    • Hah! I’m so glad (I think) that I’m not the only one who gets to hear this kind of concert! I’ll tell The Dude — he’ll be impressed. And I would dearly love to hear your rendition of Rocky Raccoon. I think.

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