benchmarksblog

WHAT I LEARN FROM LIFTING & PLAYING

Category: PLAYING

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

A ghost of Christmas past came to visit me at work.

 

I didn’t see the apparition, but a regular guest informed me that the spirit was hovering over the piano as I played.

 

The spirit, the guest further elaborated, was definitely female, and enjoyed listening to all the Christmas music, because every time I played a holiday song, the spirit would gently sway back and forth in time to the music.

 

I didn’t think the guest was drunk.

 

I have been told numerous times by guests with the gift of the third eye that spirits have been seen to gather around the piano and dance when I’m playing.

 

The spirits don’t try to enter my body or touch me, (which is always my first paranoid question,) so I’ve learned to just laugh it off.

 

“I guess my approval rating goes beyond the grave,” I’ll quip.

 

But really, I’d like to think that on occasion, one of the spirits this season could be that of my late husband, who proposed to me many Christmases ago, and comes back to say hello.

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BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR

During this year’s holiday toy drive at the restaurant, the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? was left one night on the shelves where we display all the donations.

 

I was immediately piqued.

 

Being a lifelong fan of The Very Hungry Caterpillar myself, I have always loved the joyful expressionistic illustrations of Eric Carle. But I was not familiar with Brown Bear.

 

So I read it on my next set break.

 

And over the course of the week, managed to convince several co-workers to become their favorite colored animals, either from the book or imagined.

 

“White Dog, White Dog, what do you see?” I asked.

 

“I see a douche bag who thinks he’s hot shit because he’s a doctor,” he replied

 

“Purple Cat, Purple Cat, what do you see?” I asked

 

“I see Red Bird chirp, chirp, chirping away, pretending like he actually knows what the F he’s doing,” she replied.

 

“Blue Horse, Blue Horse, what do you see?” Orange Lion asked me.

 

“I see some ashy ass folks that need to moisturize,” I replied

 

It was a fun game. And we all laughed.

 

Until I asked, “Lavender Gazelle, Lavender Gazelle, what do you see?”

 

Lavender Gazelle replied, “I see a handsome Blue Horse who could be using his talent to make positive choices but instead is wasting his creativity, time and energy on insulting everything in the forest.”

THANKSGIVING 2017

I had regulars introduce me to their extended family this Thanksgiving weekend.

 

One of them, I suppose in order to sound knowledgeable, told me he was friends with Aretha Franklin’s current pianist, who also composed the music for the latest Lego movie. (A quick Google search later confirmed my immediate suspicions that this isn’t true, at all.)

 

And in a final statement of patronizing proportions, “Maybe one day we will see your name in the movies too.”

 

I told him that I didn’t have any interest in composing. That I never even have tried. And while I appreciated his faith in my abilities, I was exactly where I am supposed to be right now in life, playing the piano in a restaurant.

 

As soon as the words left my mouth, I felt thankful.

 

Not because they prevented me from punching the man in his face.

 

But because I whole-heartedly believed what I had just said.

WISHES COME TRUE, NOT FREE

 

I’m struggling this week with more challenging workouts and more hours in my playing schedule.

 

But I’m not complaining.

 

I asked for a new coach who would be able to help me continue with my training goals. And that’s what I got.

 

I asked not to be short-changed at work on regular hours and extra side gigs. And that’s also what I got.

 

So I’m not complaining.

 

The tightness in my lower back and neck is speaking volumes though.

 

TRICK OR TREAT

Playing for the annual Halloween event at the restaurant leads to an unusual offer this year.

 

The business owner/singer of a popular local wedding band is in the audience and slips me her business card between my sets.

 

“You can’t possibly be happy working here,” she whispers discreetly.

 

“Give me a call this week. You’re exactly what I need – someone who looks good on stage, who can arrange and who plays keyboard. I promise, you will make so much more money because my events are much higher end.”

 

When I get home that night, I take the card out of my wallet and toss it.

 

It’s a real treat to be desired.

 

But even though working here comes with it’s fair share of problems, it would be a real trick to think that I would actually throw away a solid 8 years of establishing myself at a venue, for the politics of another company.

 

 

LOVE NEVER DIES

The highlight of my week is in a text:

 

“OK, so Andrew Lloyd Webber is coming this evening. And they would like you to play from 10:30 until 11:15ish.”

 

Cast and crew, invited guests and patrons of the Fisher Theatre, as well as Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and his team are celebrating the premier of the first North American tour of Love Never Dies in Detroit at the restaurant.

 

It’s a late night affair, so I spend my regular dinner service running though what I’ve affectionately referred to as The Andrew Lloyd Webber Spectacular Medley.

 

Containing music from Evita, Cats, Starlight Express, Aspects of Love, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard and Song & Dance, this medley nostalgically reminds me of my very first encounters with falling in love with musical theatre as a teenager.

 

I even quickly arrange a fanfare of the main themes from Love Never Dies to mark the entrance of a childhood hero, thinking that at the very least, he will be slightly amused.

 

But the minute he enters, it becomes very clear what my role for the evening has to be: the cocktail hour pianist at a fancy venue for an equally fancy meet and greet.

 

And as Andrew Lloyd Webber walks by me to the bar without even a nod of acknowledgment, my love for him dies just a little.

 

TWO WRONGS AND A RIGHT

Tuesdays are my cheat day and I always have sushi for dinner.

 

This week, a woman walked up to the bar next to me and asked, “Which of these rolls can be deep fried?”

 

And then, when my chef friend reluctantly offered her the cooked up California roll she ordered, the woman asked for a side of ranch to go with it.

 

My own deep fried sushi with a side of ranch showed up for work later in the week in the form of a man who would not stop asking for Benny and the Jets.

 

I don’t honor requests for certain piano bar classics in the restaurant because they just don’t feel appropriate for upscale dinner service.

 

And the nice way to avoid any further confrontation is to say, “We aren’t allowed to play certain types of music here.”

 

But he was highly inebriated, or idiotic, probably both, and wasn’t in the right state of mind to comprehend my shady subtext, so he kept asking.

 

Until another guest walked up, dropped a twenty in my jar, looked me in the eye, and said, “I’ve enjoyed your music all evening.”

 

Which simultaneously restored my faith in humanity and made the man who was bothering me sit back down at his table quietly for the rest of the evening.

 

 

CANDLE LIGHT DINNER

I booked a gig this week for the upcoming holiday season.

Even though I played at the Grosse Pointe Club last Christmas with my trio for the same event, I thought I only got the job because I had been friends with the events manager for years.

Now that he’s left that position (for better opportunities), it surprised me that I still got the call.

The new manager said the club members enjoyed the music and requested us again.

Which just reminds me to have a little more faith.

And that if I do, I will sparkle the brightest wherever I go, because that’s where I’m supposed to be.

HEART & SOUL

I love playing piano duets, so when a guest at the restaurant says she wants to play one with me, I ask, “What song?”

 

As she begins to assure me that I’ll definitely know it, I get wary.

 

“This better not be Heart & Soul,” I warn her.

 

She promises that it absolutely isn’t.

 

But she slides herself onto the bench with me and bangs out the worn out chord progression of the very thing she swore she would not play.

 

I improvise a completely different melody line and remind her of what she had just promised.

 

“I lied,” was the bold faced reply I receive.

 

A few days later, I also decide that lying is the best way to get what I want.

 

In order for me to move on, I tell myself that I’m not heart broken, and that my soul isn’t devastated, because I’m loosing a coach, and a friend, to his commitment to the long process of rehabilitation.

MARINE WEEK

There are a lot of handsome men coming in for dinner this week with their families.

Hosted by the United States Marine Corps in one city per year, Marine Week is a celebration of Community, Country and Corps – providing the American public the experience of directly connecting with hundreds of Marines.

In Detroit, hands-on static displays, live demonstrations, time-honored Marine Corps traditions, musical performances and other events are being featured to showcase the history, military capabilities and community involvement of the Corps.

But my absolute favorite thing to do this week is to play the Marine’s Hymn (The Halls of Montezuma) on the piano and watch a guy in uniform bust out into a winsome smile.