Month: November, 2014


Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine on Thanksgiving Day.

She teases smilingly, “It’s a little too soon for Christmas music, don’t you think?”

I am reply adamantly, “It’s never too soon for Christmas music. I would play this stuff all year round if they let me.”

She laughs.

And it sounds like silver bells.

At the end of a leisurely two hour brunch, she thanks me, “Keep enjoying what you do. I had a lovely time listening.”

I cannot resist, I’ve been sneaking glances at her all day, and it finally just blurts out, “You look so much like Renée Fleming.”

She laughs.

And ringing merrily on high she informs me, “I get that a lot. I certainly know her very well. I’ve played her boyfriend on stage many times. And I watched Renée this morning on TV in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. But no, I’m Susan Graham.”

I have morosely mistaken one grammy winning opera diva and Living American Treasure for another.

To. Her. Face.

She sees my utter mortification and deep embarrassment.

With the graciousness of a true superstar, she asks to take a selfie with me at the piano.

In the photo, which then gets texted to me from her personal cell phone, I am positively beaming because I am so very thankful for her sense of humor and warmth, her generosity of spirit as well as her forthright humility.

May these fundamental things apply to us all.

As time goes by.



A lady is sitting at the bar with only a dubious looking martini in an odd shade of amber keeping her company.

She asks for Unforgettable.

Then holding up one French-manicured index finger, she specifically tells me to “play it like it actually sounds.”

“You know, instead of making up all of that other funny stuff.”

“I want to be able to recognize the tune,” she insists.

So I play it straight through.

I must have done a pretty damn amazing job of playing it straight because right before I can even finish the melody, she closes her eyes and slurs, “You must have a beautiful wife and kids to get home to after this, don’t you?”

With a completely straight face, amidst the turned faces of snickering co-workers and polite coughing of regular guests, I say yes, gently wish her, as well as the room, a pleasant good-night, and gratefully take the out to leave work for once a little ahead of schedule.

I can be honest with tempo and rhythm.

But sometimes, it’s a little harder to be honest with myself.

Not so much about my open identity but rather my private inner fears and doubts.

I commend though, through straight-talking prayer, that knowing there is someone so unforgettable who thinks that I am unforgettable too, helps. Incredibly.








I bought two new suits this week.

My tailor said there was no extra fabric left to let out on any of my jackets.

Compulsively, even though I have evidence that I’m growing, I keep looking for additional proof on the scale.

I’ve been stuck at 160lbs for this current workout cycle.

I had been hoping for a solid 165lbs.

It’s been driving me crazy.

Finally, after also driving him close to insanity with my insecurity, my trainer observed:

(1) Maybe your body just wasn’t meant to be at that weight; so,

(2) You gotta be happy with what you got; and,

(3) This doesn’t reflect the actual big boy weights you’ve been working out with recently; thus,

(4) You should be focused instead on the progress you’ve made in your lifts this year.

Tailored to fit.

Trained for strength.

Sometimes the best gains are the ones that don’t show.

They’re the gains that you already have but didn’t realize.






Much to everyone’s amusement, I opened Tuesday’s set with the gung-ho mega medley of  Battle Hymn of the Republic-Yankee Doodle-My Country ‘Tis of Thee-God Bless America-America the Beautiful.

I point to my I VOTED! DID YOU?? sticker and inform everyone that along with serving on a jury, voting is the only other civic responsibility an American citizen has to perform.

That is, according to the Learn About the United States: Quick Civics Lessons for the Naturalization Test Study Guide, document number M-638 (last revised 07/2011), issued by the US Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Since being sworn in two years ago, patriotic songs have come to  mean so much more to me than a sense of place.

They signify the right and the ability to choose.

So when I participate in the democratic system by voting, I am not just engaging in the external politics of social discourse.

I am also electing to operate from an internal spirit of love rather than fear; joy rather than anger; and acceptance rather than hate.



The thing that scares me the most on Halloween is having to play an entire dinner service using two keyboards.

Spooky music doesn’t feel quite right on just the piano so I use a digital instrument to augment my repertoire with organ sounds.

It’s a neat trick.

But the real trick that gets played here is the mental one where I unravel slowly during the course of the entire day thinking (1) I don’t have enough material for three hours, or even worse, (2) I’ll for sure fuck this up royally because it’s just so awkward playing two things at once.

And every year, the same thing happens.

My audience unanimously exclaims: ” Wow! What a treat! ”

One woman also tagged that with: ” Gosh, you sound even better than I remembered! ”

So then I relax into it, begin to wonder why I don’t do this more often, and eventually end up having a really great time.

I’m not in costume.

There is no mask.

It’s just me doing me and being loved for it.

I guess the only trick here is to keep treating myself with the same acceptance on the other non-spooky days of the year.