One evening, when I was working away on the present issue, the phone rang. When I am struggling against time and gravity, I’m inclined to let the call go to voice mail. Creditors calling to extract money owed by near-relatives, unworthy charitable causes, political pests, and those offering to fix my Windows computer by remote control seldom leave messages. Occasionally our caller ID reveals an unfamiliar number that just might be an advertiser or a subscriber, and I bite. If it proves to be a typical random nuisance dialing incognito, I am the fastest hang-up in the West. (And isn’t it a delight to own a telephone you can still hang up!)
The caller the other night was a businessman who had a piano in his establishment and he needed a musical key-punch operator. All I heard was my name before I lifted the receiver. When I had established contact I heard the rest of his spiel. The caller said that he had my business card from the piano store and offered me a position on the bench of his Chickering. I vacillated, and told him I’d get back to him. And because I absolutely detest making telephone calls (particularly ones where I have to say “no”), I just mailed him the June issue of The Syncopated Times with a note saying, “This is what I do now.”
I hadn’t received a call for a piano gig for three years. Three years ago I was going through the first throes of a lasting private misery and gratefully accepted the assignment, which was to entertain for a private party. I had time to practice then, and I got to play for a few hours in the sumptuous lobby of the Hotel Utica. And since then—nothing.
I am actually pretty good—let’s just say that I am good enough to appreciate how great certain other pianists are. But since taking on every aspect of publication of a national music paper, I have absolutely zero time to make my own music. Since this January I’ve played piano for my own enjoyment a total of about thirty minutes.
More problematic is my radio program, which I haven’t attempted since the end of March. As opposed to my piano-playing, people actually want to hear my show. And I’ll do another RADIOLA! program—eventually. In April I purchased more records to transfer, restore, and play accompanied by my supposedly amusing commentary. RADIOLA! fans are restless, and their grumbles reach me. What I tell them is: “This is what I do now.”
But this is always what I wanted to do. I’ve been aiming at this job my whole life, even before it existed. My ability to navigate (somewhat) on musical instruments and my hobbies of record collecting, audio restoring, and radio production make what I do now possible.
The only other thing I’ll add is that if you somehow get my phone number (which the more resourceful of you may do), please leave a message. I’m most probably sitting right here, working away, and screening my calls.