Monday, September 10, 2007

Tickling Ivories

I play the piano. This little fact surprises some of my friends. If they happen to hear me not even hitting the same notes that Mick Jagger hits when I'm singing along to the Stones, they say either aloud or to themselves, "This guy may be a champion mountain bicyclist and all-around good guy, but he has no musical talent whatsoever." Not true! I can play three songs on the piano, and my siblings can name all of them (likely with clenched teeth): "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore," "When the Saints Go Marching In," and "Jingle Bells." I am not counting "Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater" since it doesn't include any of the white keys. Ah, but here's another cool thing I can do on the piano. I can make up songs in the key of C. That's right. I can mix and match the left-hand chords from the two Christian songs I know with the proper right-hand notes and make up music. It fools people into thinking I know a lot of songs. So when I sit down at someone's piano to play, I play the song with my whole body, swaying and nodding and mouthing imaginary lyrics, occasionally closing my eyes as if delaying orgasm.

How did I learn to play the piano? Glad you asked.

It all started in Nebraska. My mother wanted all the children to learn to play, and since I derived much of my self-worth from being more obedient than my older brother (and saving more of my allowance), I complied. The teacher in Nebraska taught me to play by numbering my fingers. 1-3-4-5 ("Oh when those saints") 1-3-4-5 ("go march-ing in") 1-3-4-5-3-1-3-2 ("oh when those saints go mar- ching in"). I practiced piano enough to meet the minimum requirements of obedience, and then my family moved to Colorado.

"I hear there's a great piano teacher in the ward," my mother exclaimed. "Would you like to take piano lessons?"

Yes, and can I please have a paper route that forces me to wake up a 5:00 a.m.? Oh, and while I'm desperate for approval, is it too early prepare for my Mormon mission?

The Colorado music teacher taught me all the same crappy Christian folk songs that involve the rowing of boats and marching of saints, only she forced me to unlearn the numbering technique. "C-D-E-D-C, in that number, oh when the saints go mar...ching... in...!" I had a friend who told me that he used to take lessons from this woman. He warned me that after he quit, she ignored him in church. If he spoke to her, she refused to reply.

I was a decent piano player. I would much rather play football by myself* in the backyard than play piano. Even though I practiced hard enough to memorize the scales and play the assigned songs well enough to win gold stars from my piano teacher, my heart wasn't in it. When I had to choose between piano lessons and baseball practice, it gave me a good reason to quit without being considered a quitter. Despite this excellent excuse, my former piano teacher refused to speak to me when I saw her in church, even when I asked her a direct question**.

Why do I mention this? Well, because it fits in to what I want to write about tomorrow. Drugs.

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* One of my strongest memories of Colorado is of me playing elaborate football games by myself in the back yard, complete with pre-game warmups, incomplete passes, and television timeouts, during which time I drank from an imaginary water bottle. All the other kids in my neighborhood were in school while I was off-track at a year-round school during October and November, so even if I had had any friends in the area, which I didn't, I wouldn't have been able to play with them anyway. In retrospect, i regret not having taken up masturbation earlier.

** Indisputable fact: Colorado Springs has the highest per capita ratio of assholes to non-assholes of any community in the western United States. I really, truly believe this. Think about the principal players in the South Park, Columbine, and the Jon-Benét Ramsey stories, and you have a pretty good idea of what people in Colorado Springs are like. It really surprises me that the Menendez brothers weren't from Colorado. That whole thing should have happened there.