benchmarksblog

WHAT I LEARN FROM LIFTING & PLAYING

Category: PLAYING

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.

 

 

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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.

IMPROVISATION

The Detroit Jazz Festival is being held this weekend.

 

And while I would never consider myself a jazz pianist, I find myself thinking about how I am changing because I engage daily with this specific discipline of making music.

 

Whatever real life situation is confounding me these days; I relax, close my eyes and do the same thing when I loose my place in the music while playing with a jazz trio.

 

That is, I listen and let myself be guided to finding the right path again.

 

A TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE HEART

Four business men sat at the piano bar and drunk talked through my entire first set.

One of them even slurred, “This is just like the all inclusive cruise I went on! Except that piano player was more interactive.”

So when it came time to decide where to go for dinner, because they wanted to “see more of Detroit”, it amused me greatly to overhear one of the men read out loud a yelp review describing the other restaurant where I play.

Seduced by the words ” … with a focus on classic Detroit architecture and American dining accompanied by the talented piano player”, the guys call for a reservation and then, an uber.

Every now and then I fall apart.

But there’s absolutely something that can be done for a total eclipse of the heart.

Be present.

Be mindful.

And count your blessings.

OPERA BUFFO

“Do you even speak English?”

 

After telling the elderly gentleman that I do, he speaks even more slowly, so that I will understand.

 

“Here’s ten bucks. Why don’t you cool it for a while. Like stop playing. We can’t hear ourselves talking over the piano.”

 

I smile and nod, but continue with the job I am actually paid to do.

 

It takes two managers to assure the table of 6 seniors, the farthest one in the dining room from the piano, that I am playing as softly as possible for the pleasure of all the guests, that I am playing acoustically, and that the speakers next to the piano are not even turned on.

 

One of the managers then suggests that perhaps the table would enjoy their dining experience more if they made some music requests.

 

He comes back to me with the deepest exasperation.

 

They want The Phantom of the Opera.

 

So I play a 25-minute selection from the entire score.

 

After which, the table asks to be reseated in another part of the restaurant, perhaps in the bar area, where it will be more quiet.

 

One of my favorites exchanges from Phantom is when Carlotta, the reigning prima donna of the Paris Opera House hisses “your part is silent little toad,” to Christine, rising ingénue.

 

Carlotta looses her voice minutes after that.

 

I didn’t loose or even raise my voice that night, but I am learning that keeping my silence is sometimes the best act of self-preservation.

KNOT FAMOUS

With information for everything from caters to florists to officiants to stationers, and of course musicians, the wedding website The Knot is a major resource that most brides will use to plan their big day.

 

So it was nice to get a lovely review on this platform.

 

I am described as “… talented, fun, flexible with song selection, and very, very kind.”

 

When they read this, many of my co-workers and close friends laughed.

 

“Who is this person that is very, very kind,” they inquired.

 

I know they are only half joking.

 

But I would still hate to know exactly what it is that I’m famous for.

TREES

A guest asks me to play the song Trees this week.

 

I tell her that I am not familiar with it.

 

She looks at me in astonishment and says, “But everyone knows Trees, it’s about autumn leaves!”

 

So even though it is in the middle of summer, and I like to play it in the appropriate season, I start the song Autumn Leaves.

 

“That’s it!,” she exclaims, “I told you that you would know it.”

 

I pray for a lot of things on a daily basis.

 

But this incident makes me wonder if I really do know what it is I’m really asking for.

TEACH THEM WELL AND LET THEM LEAD THE WAY

A mother brings her daughter to the piano bar and they sit quietly, listening to the music.

 

When I suddenly burst into a short Beauty & the Beast medley, the girl’s face lights up and she makes her Barbie doll dance along.

 

At the end, the mother gives the girl a twenty-dollar bill and instructs the child to put it in my jar, which she does obediently.

 

I thank them and they leave to finish their meals.

 

Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.

 

It is exactly what I need right now after overhearing a particularly shrill server trying to show a new young high school girl working with us this summer, all the beauty the later possesses inside.

 

In attempting to give her protégé a sense of pride, the senior lady feels the insane need to impart the following bit of wisdom:

 

“You have a treasure chest down there. You have to keep it locked and buried safely. It is the greatest love of all.”

 

The teenager is uncomfortable with this out of context maternal attention.

 

And because I do believe the children are our future, I feel the need to respond:

 

“Honey, don’t listen to her. She don’t know nothing about no treasure chests. Hers didn’t even come with a lock! And she done gone had her treasure chest pillaged, reburied, dug up and pillaged again so many damn times that there’s nothing in there but cobwebs and dried-up crabs.”

 

When it comes to calling out bullshit, sometimes people need someone to look up to.