We play our parts
Friday July 24th 2015, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life,Music

I was at the satellite Stanford clinic today for the first time in maybe a year and a half? I wondered if he still played. But it was Friday afternoon, one of his times, and when I walked in there there he was at the piano in the atrium still (intro to Piano Guy in that post).

His face lit up when he saw me, and after finishing one piece he made a point of getting up and coming over and telling me he’d worn that hat I’d knit him just last week.

There were cushy couches and chairs and elderly patients who were taking the time to listen, like I was; it’s not often you get offered a live concert simply for being present.

One woman walking past saw the knitting in my hands, smiled, and pulled out the burnt-orange wool in stockinette stitch from her bag. We had that moment of mutual recognition that knitters everywhere get to share before she continued on her way.

Piano Guy came over to our little group again with a piece of paper, where typed in quite fine print was a very long list of songs. He said he plays maybe 20% from such a list on any given two-hour set, and did I want to pick one?

The elderly woman he’d asked first had apparently picked a Beatles song. I–and I wondered immediately after what had possessed me, but I picked Candle In The Wind, and he smiled and said sure and looked pleased.

I’ve been told he’s a cancer survivor and that he plays there to give back in thanks and to make the day a little easier for others going through such ordeals. He’s a gifted musician, and I wondered what he would do with that piece in that context.

He made it into a searching, honest, positive, uplifting piece of music. I doubt the elderly there knew the words (although come to think of it they likely had kids my age so who knows.) He made it something a patient would take strength from. It was the most amazing rendition. He looked my way and nodded as his hands flew.

And then, hey, while we’re on Elton John he continued on into Daniel my brother…

He was playing the next thing when three young women walked up and singled me out and asked if they could ask me some questions, since I wasn’t doing anything.

Uh, my head was nodding and my foot tapping while my hands were knitting to the time of the music and I was actually quite engaged in the moment, but what I said out loud was, Sure!

The leader plopped down next to me and started talking, utterly oblivious to the scene around her and the look of distress of the woman who’d gotten to hear her Beatles song.

Playing music is a thing you do and become and are in the childhood that I grew up in, not incessant background chatter to ignore.

But they were so intent on their mission that it just didn’t even enter in.

Their questions were not going to take fewer than thirty seconds–I pulled them away down that hall thataway. (Reluctantly.) But they were offering me a chance to help other patients in their own way: they wanted to revamp Stanford’s patients’ website’s user interface.

And fixing that particular site was something I could totally get on board with. It’s been a wreck. If the patient with username and password at hand can’t even get in…

What did you do, did you call?

Yes, I called.

The leader asked the questions, the younger two took notes to compare against each other later. She presented page after page after page, if they had it like this, what would be good/bad about it? What about this? Which do you like better?

The eye is drawn here, I said, and that button up there in the corner is not intuitive–put it here and put a second one there by this and by that. Make it easy. Make it make sense. This? This is trying to put everything on one page, one of the problems you already have. The elderly might not know to scroll. Have a page for this, a page for that–no, you should be doing that before you get to the list of providers, it makes no sense to put it after.

Would you want a dropdown list of all the providers? Or just all your providers? Or a truncated list of yours, based on the ones you’ve seen in, say, the last year?

How many doctors are there at Stanford? (!) All one’s own providers, and that Find A New Provider entry on the next line. If a patient is seeing an individual doctor, do this, but if they’re to see any doctor within a group in that specialty at any given time without getting to choose just the one, then set it up this way.

“I do have opinions,” I laughed.

“We want opinions!” they laughed in return. “That’s what we’re looking for!”

I had totally lost all sense of time by that point, and so it was that they sent me on my way with a $10 gift card for Starbucks in thanks, apologizing that it was so small while I said No, thank you, that’s cool! (Thinking, it offers a sense of discovery: a Mormon inside the ubiquitous coffee chain, ordering hot chocolate and–a pastry? Bagel? What do they have? I just never go, it’ll be an adventure. They had no idea.)

Turns out I walked out the front door with that elderly woman I’d been sitting near and she told me our pianist had left immediately before us. I’d just missed him.

I had wanted to thank him for how he’d played Candle.

But I didn’t really need to. He knew.



Barking up the wrong tree
Tuesday July 22nd 2014, 7:30 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life,Music

Michelle told us she’s been baking ganache-filled cupcakes, and I can just picture the chocolate being folded into the flour mixture. Sing it with me: While my Guittard gently wheats…

George Harrison died not in London as I would have thought but in Los Angeles thirteen years ago, and it turns out a pine tree was planted in a park there in his name.

We’ve had drought across California, we’ve had heat, and in the end the city was sorry to have to notify Harrison’s widow as they took it down that it was gone, promising to plant a new tree to replace it.

It had been done in by the beetles.



Steinway
Friday August 10th 2012, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life,Music

One of the Stanford satellite clinics has a grand piano in the lobby–actually, two clinics do that I know of, but anyway, most of the times I’ve been to the one, there’s been someone playing.

And the guy’s good. Really good. No sheet music, any style you want, any age any tune, he’s got it. I have no idea if he’s a young doctor on break (dresses in a suit, no white coat) or how he came to be there, but he’s a master musician.

And here’s the thing: it’s like Joshua Bell in the subway station.

Okay, wait–I just went looking for the video of that to give you the link, and on impulse decided to click on the snopes article verifying it. Not only did it happen, but it tells that the same experiment had been tried 77 years earlier–by a man playing the exact same Stradivarius. Who played two of the exact same pieces during the same amount of time. While also having been put up to it as a social experiment by a metro newspaper, in a subway station, at rush hour.

Who knew.  Bell didn’t. Wow.

The Stanford pianist chatted a bit with me between songs once about music, but other than that I haven’t interrupted him. He always has a smile, always nods in acknowledgement of those going by whether they notice it or not, always lights up when someone stops a moment rather than just passing through to one of the hallways spoking off.

And yet. I’ve seen people sitting on the couches curving in the inner and outer sides of a circle there, some clearly listening to him but almost as if they were hiding it, some reading, all but one that I’ve ever seen turned away so as not to be facing him. Trying not to invade his space, perhaps.

And nobody. Not one. Ever clapped.

Until I did.

The guy looked surprised, abashed, and very very gratified. And then another patient joined in.

I have no idea if I’ll ever see him again. I do know I’ve seen him playing there three times now: clearly he enjoys being able to give of himself like that, always choosing music that lifts the heart, music to do good by every person coming in in need of healing–including, each in their own way, the medical staff.

I went stash diving today. Part of me is second-guessing myself, wondering if the Zarzamora colorway in Malabrigo Rios really is just the one, but it’s very soft and it’s the one I’ve got out of all the stash I looked at that seemed the most right. I will finish this hat, then, and if it doesn’t feel perfect, I’ll make another.

But I just didn’t want to wait. Some projects need to be pounced on the moment they come up; I really like how this is coming out and I really like the thought of being able to give a little art back.

Hoping he’s there next time… I have an errand to run past there before then. I can pop in and try.



Organ-ized
Sunday May 27th 2012, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Life,Music

Today I got to meet the man whose family built the big pipe organ at our church: some anonymous benefactor decades ago had wanted the new building to have a fine one, no electronic pretender but a real honest-t0-goodness fine instrument to be proud of for generations. And so we have been.

The man’s company also built the organ in the new conference center in Salt Lake City, designed (we were told a few years ago by one of its organists) to be just shy of the grandeur of the one in the Mormon Tabernacle, not wanting to upstage the grand old lady of them all.

“You built a beautiful organ,” I told him.

“It all depends on who’s playing it,” he answered, motioning towards the one who was; “not everybody’s Jim.” (Jim looked over at us, smiling.)

I explained, “Jim taught my son to play on that organ and he ended up minoring in organ performance; for his final, his professor took him to Salt Lake to play the tabernacle organ.”

The man was smiling broadly now: someone who understood. He had centered his whole life around making the most beautiful music in the world possible–if…

And here it was, valued and worked towards and its possibilities being earned by yet another generation.