“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.



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.


I’m grumpy this week because my coach is out sick and I’m training on my own.


It’s not that I don’t know what to do when I’m by myself.


It’s just easier to do the right thing when someone else is watching.


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.


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.


When a server comes up to tell me that their guests have enjoyed my playing, I tell them that a manager should be informed of the compliment so it can be recorded in the nightly closing report.


At a purely practical level, that compliment is of no use to me unless it has been documented.


On the other hand, when a workout buddy or another bodybuilder tells me I’m looking swole, that unwritten compliment makes my day and encourages me to keep on track with my fitness journey.


There is value in giving someone a compliment.


There is greater value in knowing how, where, when and to whom a compliment is given.




The G key in the middle register of the main piano I play isn’t sounding.

I won’t know exactly what’s happened until the technician fixes it on Monday.

Which makes me grumpy because it’s an annoying inconvenience to work around this weekend.

I’m not in the mood for small talk and when I’m angry most of my coworkers know to keep their distance anyway.

“I liked how you used dynamics in that last song you played. You’re a beautiful pianist.”

I look up, surprised that anyone would even be talking to me.

I recognize the conference tag he’s wearing.

It’s a guest from out of town traveling through corporate America, whose business it is to teach the employees in those companies how to get along with each other.

I thank him and sheepishly admit that I’ve been a cranky pants all night because I’m working with one note short on my piano.

He laughs and tells me that a long time ago, he was a music major at Berkeley. He would still rather be playing the piano than be on the road all the time. And that he would give anything to have even 44 working keys to my current 87.


When he sees me cart out my keyboard and all its related gear into the garden on hot, humid, Michigan summer afternoon, my Operations Manager asks me what I am doing.


I tell him that there is a wedding tomorrow and that the rehearsal for the ceremony is in 15 minutes.


“I didn’t think you of all people needed to rehearse,” he responds.


I want to tell him that I don’t need to rehearse.


But that I show up for these things because I remain critical and distrustful of some of the staff he has hired.


And that I would rather put in the extra time and have a beautiful event than have any miscommunication occur on the actual day itself.


Instead, I laugh and thank him for the compliment.


I’m really rehearsing staying silent on matters that warrant me saying nothing.


My left arm has been itching.


Not surprisingly, that itch developed into a nasty, red, bumpy rash because I couldn’t quit scratching.


After an extensive image search on Google, I freaked out, convinced that I had contracted scabies, bed bugs, leprosy or travelling herpes. Maybe even a combination of all four.


A quick picture of my arm and text to my doctor confirmed a possible diagnosis of scabies or spider bites. He called in a prescription to treat both. Just in case.


Because I also like second opinions, I sent the same picture to a pharmacist friend in New York, who told me that my doctor was wrong and that I had developed a heat rash.


I didn’t want to believe this second opinion. It seemed to be an unlikely thing for a guy born on the tropical island of Singapore to suddenly get heat rash for the first time in Detroit.


Nevertheless, I dutifully put on some Cortizone cream as the pharmacist instructed and went to bed.


The next morning, most of the inflammation had gone down.


More importantly, none of it had spread.


Indicating that it wasn’t scabies.


When my coach saw my arm later that day, he seconded the second opinion.


It’s apparently a common gym thing in the summer.


So now the face wipes I use after working out get used to clean my arms too.


And I bought a little fan that I use under the piano to keep myself dry and minimally sweaty at work.


The rash is nearly gone.


But my need to jump to the worst possible conclusion is probably still entirely intact.


Detroit Pride is this weekend.


But I won’t be attending the parade or any of the other special festivities planned.


I’m at the very peak of my bulking and at 210lbs, I’ve dealt with the most unkind remarks over the last few months:


“Did you stop going to the gym?”


“What’s going on with your belly, are you pregnant?”


“I see you’ve gained a few pounds.”


And these are some of the more innocuous comments.


I feel great and I know that I am on track with the training plan that was designed specifically for me.


So I wonder why mostly everyone else around me has a problem.


Just in case though, I’m going to stay home and keep my pride from getting any more wounded.