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Driving to Distraction

Somewhere a hill blossoms in green and gold. And there are dreams all that your heart can hold” ― Maurice Jarre

I rarely ever play piano gigs anymore but I took on a ton this summer because, inspired by Paul Manafort, I’m saving up for a new python-skin jacket and so I was driving to one of these gigs or racing really as I only had an hour to get from downtown Chicago to Lakeview in rush hour traffic or not so much racing really as sitting immobile in traffic cursing everyone around me though mentally because I had my windows down and the last thing I needed was a confrontation and who knows who has a gun these days and I flashed back to my first gig in Chicago.

Not my first paid gig but my first gig.  I was fresh off the boat so to speak and saw an ad from someone looking for pianists for a show called Monster Piano. I don’t think they do this anymore but it was like thirty pianos with two people to a piano playing cheesy things like Somewhere, My Love.  It didn’t pay, required that I attend three rehearsals in the burbs plus the concert and I didn’t have a car at the time so in short it was the kind of gig only a still wet behind the ears 22 year old would think was worthwhile.

The gig was posted on the bulletin board at the old Carl Fischer music shop on Wabash where I was working at the time.  I was paid $6 an hour to help people purchase everything from Billy Joel’s Rootbeer Rag to Rachmaninoff’s third piano concerto because the movie Shine had just come out and everyone thought it would be cool to buy that piece and practice it until they went insane though needless to say the vast majority of people just didn’t have what it took, not to play the piece necessarily though that’s certainly true but I mean to become insane trying. People just don’t have that kind of dedication anymore.

At any rate I would leave Carl Fischer after a long day of listening to people hum tunes at me in the vain hope that I’d recognize them and track down the out of print sheet music for the song even though everyone knows that out of print is out of print and we didn’t even dream there would be something like Ebay back then and I would go to DePaul to practice though I wasn’t a student and would have to sneak in which hardly required ninja training and I would practice and practice because I really didn’t want to be the one pianist out of sixty who screwed up and knowing my luck would be the only individual pianist anyone would actually hear just as I played a wrong note during the chorus of The Man I Love.

I practiced a lot and the gig came and went and I got a ride home from someone who was dating a guy who worked for the Federal Reserve Bank which I thought was cool even though I had no idea what that was.  We were listening to a Jazz trumpeter on the radio and I said that’s Miles, I always recognize Miles and she said are you sure it’s not Chet Baker and I said, yes I am because Miles uses a mute like ninety percent of the time and Chet never uses a mute even though I’m not sure if that’s true though I think it is.

I got home to my little studio apartment and put away my music notebook, made a snack and watched network television because I couldn’t afford cable TV and we didn’t have things like Netflix or Red Box back then so watching a movie wasn’t an option.   I remember so much about that night but weirdly don’t remember what I watched though if I had to guess I would guess that it was M*A*S*H.  Seems like M*A*S*H was always on back then.  Some things never change.

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