Art In Real Life

steinway grand piano

This is an old story. Actually, it’s an old blog post from 2003 but this happened in the 90’s. It came up in the forum; I said I would try to find it and here it is.

The story is true, of course. I am leaving it as is. No edit. This includes the rude bit in the beginning because it’s relevant to the story.  We’d known each other fifteen years at this point.

Scott writes:

In Tucson is when you heard me much more. You said, “You play just how you fuck.” Plus another nice comment I won’t repeat right now. 🙂 But it’s true, you never cared about it, and that’s something I immensely appreciated. Thank you.

Elsa writes:

Here is a story. I’m about thirty. Scott is thirty-two.

We were away from home (his piano) and Scott wanted to play. He needed a fix, you could say. If you saw the movie “Shine”, Scott would do same as Helfgott did in the movie, many times. He would get drunk and play in a bar somewhere to the shock of the people who happened to be there. This was one way he could scratch that itch, but at this time, he was sober, so the bar idea was out.

Instead, he searched the paper for a piano to play. Where? In the want ads of course. Who is going to buy a piano without playing it, right? This is what he told me.

So he scans the paper and finds an instrument that he is interested in playing. He makes a call, talks “piano” and a few minutes later we are in the car on the way over.

Turns out that the owner is a guy who restores pianos. He plays, but not that well I guess. His father played better, he says. His father is dead.

He’s telling me this while Scott shuffles around the way he does. I don’t think Scott knows that he shuffles, but he does, and I guess he thinks I am a piano-phile, which of course I am not. I am from the desert, but you know how I am. People tell me stuff. Anyway, this guy loves pianos, and especially this one, because it was his father’s.

I listen with interest that is more than polite, because I like the feel of this guy. He’s very warm. That and because I know that Scott is not going to buy the piano. I want to make sure the guy is happy and has a pleasant interaction with us because I know we are kind of using him. For the sake of art, of course. I really don’t get it.

So this is what happens.

We are in a warehouse, where he has been working on the piano. This guy and I lean up against the unfinished unpainted wall and Scott starts to play.

I am hanging like a loose tooth, classic Elsa, oblivious style. As Scott starts to play, this guy next to me starts to get shorter. Yeah. He starts to slide down the wall, to a crouched position on the floor. He has his head in his hands and I realize that he is moved. He is crying in fact, so I crouch down next to him, and feeling me there, he looks up and I look him in the eye. I look at him in a way to let him know that he can talk, so he does.

He’s choking some, quiet sobs, and he whispers. Crying profusely, but gently, he conveys what this instrument means to him and what it meant to his father. He says that he has never heard it played… Well, Scott’s talent is rare. He tells me this. He asks me if I know how well Scott plays and of course, I don’t. He tells me that he had never heard the instrument sound the way it did. He stops to listen and I see him wince from pure awe.

More tears.

And then he tells me this. He tells me that if his father knew that hands like Scott’s would touch his keyboard one day, he’d have died a happy man. I swallow, and Scott continues to play. The man is astounded.

Uncomfortable in our crouched positions, he sits flat on the floor and pats the spot next to him, for me to sit. We sit with our backs against the wall and he explains that he used to sit on the floor and listen to his father play when he was a kid. He wants me to stay with him so I do. He listens. I can’t hear what he can, but I can feel him, so I contain his emotion while he processes, sitting close to him to give comfort.

Whatever it was, he worked it through it. Eventually, he composed himself and then sprung up, completely exhilarated. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

Scott done good that day.

The End

14 thoughts on “Art In Real Life”

  1. Wow he was so moved! It hit him right in his center. He couldn’t even stop it. I feel like that rarely happens; it must have been amazing to witness.

  2. Brilliant story, fabulous to the end.
    Piano does this to me, when well played, and well “felt” playing, at that. Deep and emotional I’d say, the piano playing, I mean. With rifts, ripples and falls, the roller-coaster of the ivories.
    Awesome Elsa, thank you.

  3. “I can’t hear what he can, but I can feel him, so I contain his emotion while he processes, sitting close to him to give comfort.”
    that is what it’s all about, on this earth! ❤️❤️❤️
    Thank you, Elsa, I loved this memory! (also love the piano, and, like the man in your story, always remember my mother playing the piano — she was a very gifted amateur, and, being a Virgo married to a reallly difficult angry crazymaker demanding Leo man, piano was her only emotional outlet other than gardening…)
    What a gift, thank you, Elsa!

    1. So nice! My mom played the piano with this kind of love, with long graceful fingers and glide. I never put it together that expression as an outlet for the anger my father harbored but it could well have been. Oh my, thanks Elsa.

  4. Amazing story Elsa! That Scott found this man and gave him what sounds like a profound experience connecting him to his father and deep childhood memories. And that you were there to hold space for him. Divine intervention in action! Love it!
    Thank you for sharing this heart warming story ♥️

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