Play it once, Sam, for old times’ sake

When I was little, maybe ten, my mom bought this old player piano from someone in Santa Cruz who lived at the bottom of a steep hill.  Or maybe the top.  All I remember is the story of how the driveway was so steep that they weren’t sure the truck would make it up (or down) the hill with the piano in the bed. 

It’s old.  It’s a little broken.  Someone (hello late 60s and early 70s) painted it the color of split pea soup, even though the wood beneath is dark and lovely.  The keys are yellowed, but I’m sure they are ivory.  There is a cigarette burn between the two last keys on the right, and one (or more maybe) of the keys hasn’t worked since it began its time in our dining room.  By the time it was in the bed of my stepdad’s truck, the player parts to it were lost.  But I seem to remember a big roller that fit in the sliding wood front, so maybe not. 

A few years ago, after piano fixers patted it and just shook their heads and sighed, it ended up in my garage.  Mom took the beautiful front piece off so that it could be refinished and hung on the wall, and the rest is here, with me.  It would cost so much money to restore it that the piano people said it wouldn’t be ethical to do the job and that the wood is in no shape to ever hold a tune even with a major overhaul.  Still, though, I’d love to someday strip all the old paint off and see what could be done with it.  It’s so beautiful, even in its rundown condition.  Then again, I’m partial to things that are weathered and worn: old and broken windows in abandonded factories; wooden doors with peeling paint; faded and paint-peeling rowboats; beat up old 1940’s pickup trucks; falling-down barns and leaning barbed-wire fences.  I nearly lost my mind when I first saw those coffee tables made out of old doors. 

My dad’s cousin hates to cook, so she pulled the burners out of her stove and put in some potted plants.  Maybe I’ll throw a big party, force my friends to help me refinish the piano, and then use it as a spice rack.  Or, I could put a stereo inside it.  Make it into a computer desk? 

5 thoughts on “Play it once, Sam, for old times’ sake

  1. melissa

    we had an old (beautiful, but really musically-shot) piano when i was a kid. once we accepted the fact that the sound board was irreparable, my parents took all the keys/hammers/etc out of the piano, and put a full sized electric keyboard where the keys had been. it made such a functional instrument and beautiful piece of furniture that way!

    once we finally got a new piano, we used a portion of the piano-top as a mantel over the fireplace.

  2. laura

    my piano man said the same about mine but fixed it well enough (for less than $300) for us to play.

    also, he turns a lot of old pianos into booze cupboards. and if anyone needs a kick-ass booze cupboard it would be you, my dear friend.

  3. viellefemme

    Jen, the photos are beautiful! I appreciate you letting it live in your garage these last few years. I didn’t have the heart to send it to the dump. If it could just tell us its story…………..


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