the big move.

Eventually, we had to actually move into this new house.  So we did.

Unlike our first two moves, where we recruited every friend we had to help, we decided to hire an actual moving company this time.  And because we were moving into an actual house, my mother was kind enough to give us my childhood piano – the piano I played on from the time I was about eight years old, straight through college.

Oh, yeah.  I play the piano, I neglected to mention.  

I started taking lessons when I was – believe it or not – four years old.  My mother caught me plucking the notes to “We’ve Only Just Begun” with my index finger one day, and I suppose I got it right enough that she felt I had some innate musical ability that needed to be honed.  So she found a piano teacher stupid enough to teach a four-year-old.  I still recall one of my first lessons, where I fought with my teacher about the proper way to play “Mary Had A Little Lamb” – the sheet music had no G in the melody, and my recollection of the melody did.

I went through a couple of piano teachers until I was a teenager and latched onto an older woman who was an excellent classical player.  Soon I realized that she would fall asleep during my lessons, which made it very easy for me to cheat.  When she gave me a new piece to play, I’d ask her to play it for me a few times so that I knew how it sounded.  Then I’d go home and peck at the notes a little bit, and fill in the blanks with what was in my head, remembered from how she played it.

On lesson day each week, I’d play as far as I could remember by ear, then ask her to pick it up and play the rest for me.

Eventually I lost all ability to read music, and could only play by ear.  It worked great when I was learning some rock song for my high school garage bands, but eventually I realized that it completely limited my ability to improve beyond the place where I was.  I could play virtually any song I knew – eventually – but I couldn’t sit down and improvise on a jazz progression, I couldn’t play any classical pieces, and I was useless as a member of a band because I could not read a lick of music.  By the time I was sixteen, I had stopped taking lessons.  I tried to pick it up again in college, but there was an outstanding music school on my campus, with some of the country’s greatest musicians, and I didn’t even make it through one Intro to Music Theory class.

I still liked to play, though, and I wanted my piano.

My piano is actually a fairly cheap upright – more a piece of furniture than a piano – but when my parents got divorced my mother fought to keep it, and so it had special meaning for me.  For $400, the moving company agreed to drive to my mom’s house in Mahwah and load up the piano, then bring it back to our place.  To make sure they were careful, I went with them.

As they dragged the piano out of my mother’s house and up the ramp leading into the truck, there was a crew of four guys handling the instrument.  Two were pushing the piano up the ramp, one was in the truck, pulling the piano backwards, and one was on the ground level, behind the piano, guiding it.

In the Bugs Bunny and Woody Woodpecker cartoons, a common device is to have a piano fall from the sky and land on a character’s head, smashing him into the ground.  Inevitably, his head pops up through the inside of the piano and then a giant bump raises on his head.  Then, a bird flies around the bump while he sits there cross-eyed, tongue lolling out of his mouth.

I can vouch for this – that’s pretty much how it happens.

As they were dragging the piano up the ramp, it began to tilt backwards.  I saw it happening, almost in slow motion.  One of the guys began yelling “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!”

And then the piano tilted completely backwards, fell off the side of the ramp, and landed on the guy’s head.  The piano made a huge BONNNNG!

“Holy shit!” One guy yelled.

I ran underneath the piano.  “That’s my fuckin’ piano!” I screamed, pushing up from underneath, trying to prevent it from smashing to the ground (and, secondarily, from doing further damage to the mover’s head).

One of the guys on the ramp jumped down underneath the piano as well, and the two of us were able to push it upward until it was upright again.  Then, we wheeled it up the ramp and into the truck.  Once the piano was secure, we all looked at the guy who absorbed the blow.  He was standing there in silence, in the middle of the road.

“Holy shit,” he eventually said.  “A fucking piano just fell on my head.”

Nobody said anything.

“I think I’m allright,” he said.

Finally, one of them asked “Is the piano okay?”  

I climbed back into the truck and tested it.  It played fine.  The legs hadn’t snapped.  There were no cracks anywhere.  “I think so,” I said.

He looked at me and said “That was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.”

We drove back to our house and – gently – wheeled the piano into our new living room.  By the time we got there, Sandy had half the kitchen unpacked.  I immediately went to work on the stereo, and by the end of the day, we had food and music.

Before I went to bed that night, I played my out-of-tune, fell-on-a-guy’s-head-that-day piano in the living room of my new house.  It never sounded so good.

Within a week or so, we had a good amount of the house unpacked.  I had taken over the finished part of the basement, putting old 1940s and 50s records all over the walls, along with some Dromedary pictures and some baseball stuff.  It looked like a 1950s ballroom down there.  The previous owner had built a crude bar out of 2x4s and paneling; we put our liquor behind the bar and plugged in the 1950s’ era fridge that he had left us in the basement (that didn’t stay plugged in long after we got the first electric bill).  

We were homeowners.

~ by Al on September 17, 2009.

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