[lit-ideas] Sunday Story

  • From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 3 Jul 2011 11:51:56 -0700

This week I talked with our piano tuner, as one does, about how to build a 
trebuchet, and whether Chriscraft-restorers in Alaska might want to buy the 
"Neverbudge."  The subject of nightmares came up.  I mentioned something I saw 
in Mexico, a grand that was situated on a patio no more than two hundred feet 
from the sea.  This, in a part of the world that suffers hurricanes. It was a 
Yamaha, but had a wild, honky tonk sound.  

Some music doesn't do well in honky tonk mode, but one evening there was a 
Tex-Mex themed event.  The pianist chose melancholy nineteenth century waltzes. 
 I applauded the matching of piano to music.  No one else did.  

"The worst piano I ever tuned," said our guy, "was the first.  It was in Guam, 
in a room also very close and open to the sea, but in addition to the humidity 
problem there was also a full, south facing wall of glass, so one moment the 
wood was full of water, and the next, completely toasted."

"Then there was a piano for the annual salmon bake outside of Juneau.  The 
event was always half way up a mountain.  They built a roof structure to 
protect the piano from rain, which is what the weather did ninety nine days out 
of a hundred, but it was otherwise open to the elements.  They had a bunch of 
insulation draped for all the time when the piano wasn't being used, but 
eventually I figured out that that was one you just had to give up on."

"I was more into boat building and repair in Alaska.  And black powder.  And 
trebuchets.  Did you see the Northern Exposure episode when they launched a 
piano?  That was a real piano, they used, you know."

"With the black powder we'd go out into the desert--this would be after I moved 
here--and people would shoot at stuff, but the grand finale was always the guy 
who shot the piano with cans filled with concrete from a cannon he'd made.  
Regular rounds didn't do much to a piano, but when he shot that cannon, boy 
that did some real damage."  

"Oh, and then there was the piano that belonged to the local cops.  It was in a 
social club they had.  Either the cops or a previous tuner couldn't figure out 
how to get into the case, so someone took a hacksaw to the mechanism.  They 
broke into their own piano.  What a nightmare."

David Ritchie,
Portland, Oregon

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