Category: PLAYING


Two different couples come in for a late Valentine’s Day celebration.


They are regulars whom I adore, so it is with great love that I play all of their favorite songs.


However, I can’t help but notice, with one couple, the greater part of dinner is spent in silence, each of them glowing in the screens of their individual phones.


And with the other couple, bright giggles continuously illuminate their conversation.


It shines a light on what I value most in a partner – not photographable good looks, not a good figure, not smarts, not good hair – because I would much rather that he laughs at all my jokes, and can make me laugh in return.




Rehabilitation on the back has been slow, but steady, and I have started to lift at what I consider to be my personal baseline numbers.

So I am more than irritated that my right hip decides to go out of alignment on Monday.

Everything is connected, and that hip was probably overcompensating more than it should have been while I focused on the first injury. 

My trainer advises me to get a massage because it’s an early catch; the muscles surrounding the hip can be encouraged to unknot before they permanently lock up.

I complain that I’ve been out of work for a week and now I have the added anxiety of not being able to perform comfortably, or for long periods of time, when I go back. 

She immediately tells me not to worry, and to be reminded that whatever has been rightfully given to me, no one can take away.

Perfect aim for shooting from the hip. 


The pipes freeze, burst, and when the ice thaws, the basement fills with 6 feet of water. 

The restaurant closes to deal with the mess, and everyone is out of work for a week. 

Tension is high, and anxiety even greater. 

I buy donuts to boost the morale of the clean up crew, offer to help as well, but really, the only thing I can do is trust and pray.  

When my boss says we are open again for business on Tuesday, the flood of relief pours over me. 


Even though it is terrible for the piano, I am grateful that I get to play close to the roaring fireplace. 

It’s a record breaking cold tonight in the state. 

But it’s not as cold as the servers who whisper in my ear, that an ex-hostess who moved on to manage at another restaurant, has been fired for showing that other staff phone pictures of her bleached asshole.

“She deserved what she got.”

“You reap what you sow.”

“She had it coming.”

One by one, each stokes the flames of vengeance against someone whom they collectively despise. 

And I shiver. 


I’ve been making these protein snack muffins for my last meal of the day.


So far, I’ve created four flavors: Meatloaf, Tuna Noodle, Chicken Rice and Sweet Potato Salmon.


I eat them on my first set break at work and the muffins are perfectly balanced with protein and carbs to fuel me through the night.


This week, I finally sat down, committed to writing down the recipes for the muffins, and emailed the instructions to my trainer and a few workout buddies who have been asking for this novelty food prep item.


I have a feeling that it’s not going to go well.


First of all, the portion size may not be correct for every individual, and if the ratio of protein to carbs shifts, the muffins may not hold together during baking.


Secondly, I don’t season this meal at all because I eat it during work. I don’t want to feel thirsty, I don’t want to be self-conscious that my breath smells like onion or garlic, and I certainly don’t to spend any time trying to pick out flecks of pepper or herbs from my teeth.


I warned them, saying that these recipes were developed specifically for my needs, that they might have to adjusted for each person’s needs, and to be fully aware that blindly following someone else’s instructions could turn out to be a recipe for disaster.



The Christmas village is set up this year to reflect the socio-economic conditions of Detroit. 

In the wealthy suburbs, the streets are free of cotton wool snow, because they obviously have means to plough. But in the ghetto, the houses are almost covered over.

The suburbs also have amenities like the police station and the fire house. It’s a safe place to live and the school yard is full of rosy-cheeked children. 

In contrast, the “urban” neighborhood has blue collar jobs like the Christmas Tree Shed which requires manual labor, and Ye Olde Toy Shoppe, which we pretend sells adult novelties and pornography, along with a secret sex trade in the back.

It is next to this house where we place the manger, the prostitutes having overtaken all the rooms at a charming ceramic replica of The Inn on Maine Street across the way. 

Then, like I do every year, I hide the baby Jesus.

On the last day we are open before Christmas, I intend to put him in front of Mary and Joseph.

Except, this year I forget.

And I didn’t remember to do it until Wednesday, my first day back to work in the New Year. 

When I walk into the room that normally houses the Christmas village, I have a minor heart attack. The village has already been packed away. 

I stand there frantic, palms sweating all over the Christ child clenched tightly in my fist.

I don’t want to have a conversation about this with my boss, so I take the set of master keys from the hostess stand and spend all my breaks looking through every closet for the village.

I can’t find it. 

Just mail it back to the restaurant with no return address, suggests a friend.

Pretend you found the baby Jesus on the floor and give it to a manager suggests another.

Leave it on a dining room table for someone to find is an equally preposterous suggestion. 

I just can’t. 

The sole responsibility of returning Jesus to the village is mine. I cannot abdicate it or entertain the possibility of someone else loosing him. I will not be at peace until I place him, with my own two hands, in the storage box where he belongs.

Last night, I finally find the box, shoddily packed and careless kicked in the dusty corner of the closet normally reserved for other seasonal decorations. 

The box isn’t even sealed and it looks as though the houses would tumble out or break if it was bumped even a little bit. 

Surely, I think, the baby Jesus will get lost in here. 

I cannot bear the thought of spending another Christmas with a baby-less crèche.

So I wrap him up in my pocket square, and place him gently in my spare tip jar, which I keep in a Santa hat at the back of my office drawer. 

Until next Christmas, I will know that he is there safe, and waiting. 


I strike my last note at 8:30pm, walk out the restaurant and am seated in my pew at church by 8:45pm on Christmas Eve.


Candlelight service is the one tradition that I uphold every year,


This is my favorite church to attend because it holds a carol service, and manages to program all my favorites into a concise hour.


The homily this year is entitled “Be the Star.”


We are encouraged for the holidays and in the new year, to not just follow the star like the wise men did in order to find Jesus (salvation), but to shine brightly through word and deed, so that others can be similarly lead to redemption.


As I ponder my own constant search for “sparkles”, which can be briefly described as joy inducing incidents, and how I use these sparkles to fuel my mood, the couple in the pew behind me taps my shoulder.


“You played amazingly tonight, we recognize you from the restaurant,” they whisper.


Instead of chasing those sparkles, I’m going to be so much sparkles from now on.


The Christmas presents have all been sent out.


And in return, I have cards and gifts underneath my own tree.


Yet, even though I’ve playing carols since Thanksgiving, it doesn’t feel quite like Christmas.


Maybe it’s because all the traditions I’ve come to love haven’t been continued this year at work, where I express the bulk of my Christmas spirit through song.


We didn’t play secret Santa.


In fact, I didn’t even play for Santa this year because he decided to come on Mondays this season, when I’m not there, instead of the usual December Saturdays.


A local celebrity singer, as promotion for her new single, replaced my tree lighting duties.


There was no toy collection for me to put dolls, action figures and stuffed animals into compromising positions.


But mostly, I feel like it’s because I’m working alone and no amount of my own personal spirit can undo the enormous type of dysfunction that happens in the service industry during the holidays.


Still, I baked a large batch of brownies, and when I walk into work tonight, this annual treat that I give to my co-workers will, like it always has, put everyone in a good mood, and take us all through the weekend.


Remembering that as long as I have hope, it will always feel a lot like Christmas.


I have not even finished a phrase from the first song of the night.


A manager whispers into my ear that there has just been a shooting on our street.


No one is advised to leave the restaurant until the suspect has been apprehended.


So I play on, knowing that someone has my back not just tonight, but everyday.


My trainer tells me to be patient. 

Even though it is healing up, my back will need time to fully recover.

And it is a slow process. 

Meanwhile, when a grumpy old man comes up and tells me, in the middle of a Christmas song, that his son is a concert pianist and that I am just “making a bunch of annoyance inducing noise,” I immediately ask him with which orchestra his child is performing tonight. 

The man mutters something incoherent under his breath and walks away.

Some comebacks are a lot quicker.