December 29, 1999
Teaching Little Fingers To Play


Moe's Bookstore was a bust last night.

I could swear that was the place where I saw all of the old piano books, a few months ago ... but then again David and I go to so many bookstores, all over the Bay Area, that I'm probably confusing Moe's with City Lights in North Beach, or maybe with one of the bookstores over in the Richmond District, or possibly even our own funky little bookstore right here in Alameda. I don't know.

I'm seriously confused.

All I know is that we were in some-or-another bookstore, late last summer, when I accidentally ran across an entire TABLE full of John L. Thompson "Teaching Little Fingers to Play," and a bunch of the Schirmers stuff, and the whole "Piano Expression" series. I remember I was so delighted to find them ... "These were the books I learned to play with!" I told David, at the time: it was like discovering that old friends you thought had passed away, but who were still alive and well and living in Berkeley ... but I didn't buy anything that day because we didn't have a piano yet. I figured that *someday* I would come back and load up.

Now I can't remember which bookstore it was. Sigh.

The good news here, of course, is that this simply means we're going to have to go around and *visit* each and every one of our favorite bookstores until we find what I'm looking for. Even if it takes weeks ... months ... years.

Or most of a sunny Saturday afternoon.

(And please don't write and tell me that I can find this stuff on the Internet. I know that already. But I'm not likely to be treated to a scenic drive across the Bay Bridge and a pastrami sandwich on eBay, now , am I?)

We had fun last night anyway.

David picked me up at the office at 5:30 and we drove straight to Berkeley, still in our office clothes. I was worn out from my first full day back at the Totem Pole Company in almost a week (I can't even describe the mess that awaited me when I walked into my office yesterday morning: it looked like a Kinko's had EXPLODED on my desk) ... plus I'm still battling the final stages of a droopy, drippy cold ... but the whole *bookstore run* had been my idea in the first place. So I wasn't about to to poop out at the last minute.

Besides, it's been a while since the two of us have gone anywhere alone together at night.

Berkeley is still decorated for the holidays. All of the little shops along College Avenue are still decked out in those ubiquitous twinkly white "icicle lights" (notice how good I was this year, btw? I didn't even complain about the stupid icicle lights much??) ... but at nighttime, especially in a retail setting with all of the store windows filled with Christmas displays, the lights really work. The street looked like a fairyland: it almost made me wish that the holidays weren't over already.


It took less than thirty seconds in Moe's to realize that I'd gotten my bookstores confused.

The music section was in the "wrong" part of the store, for one thing. And most of the music books they did carry were newer editions of series I'd never seen before: "Romance Music of the 19th Century" ... "Romance Music of the 20th Century" ... "The Complete Dan Fogelberg Songbook."  None of the raggedy, musty, blue and yellow and red workbooks of my childhood. (I'm sorry. I know I'm being anal about this. But if I am going to replicate my old music collection, it's going to have to be an exact duplication  ... right down to the dog-eared corners,  the chocolate milk stains on the cover and Jerry Sinclair's name doodled on every margin.)  But I figured that as long as we were there, I might as well look. I did find one copy of a Mozart anthology that I used to own, in second or third grade, so I grabbed that for two bucks. And there was a book of children's music which, although "new," looked interesting. (It has "The Spinning Song" in it! My nose hurts already. Hahahahahahaha!) So I bought that one, too.

While I was rifling through the music books, an older gentleman scooched into the aisle beside me. "Mind if I reach across you to the 'G' section?" he asked politely. 

I stole a sideways glance at him: he was portly, with a neatly-trimmed gray beard and horn-rimmed glasses. I nodded and wordlessly moved around to the other side of the table, next to David (who was flipping through -- what else? -- the guitar books), and the three of us stood there silently looking at books for a couple of minutes.

All of a sudden the guy looked at David and said accusingly, "Sir, you have been associating with this young lady."

We both looked at him in surprise. "Excuse me?" David said.

"I can tell that you have been associating with this young lady," he said. "You're both sniffling."

Ahhhhh. OK. One of those weirdly-verbose-but-innocuous types. I've met a lot of them since I moved to California. (Hell: I share a TOOTHBRUSH HOLDER with one of them.)  

"Yep," David replied. "We've been exchanging saliva, I'm afraid." The guy laughed like this was just the funniest thing he'd ever heard in his life.

I quietly moved a couple of inches closer to David.

He asked us if we were looking for anything in particular, and I explained that we were trying to recreate my childhood music library. Generally I hate making conversation with strangers ... especially in stores. ("Paper or plastic?" is about as much check-out line chit-chat as I can tolerate.)  And this time was no exception. But David was unfailingly courteous, as always, and he answered the guy's questions ("Where are the two of you from?"), and nodded attentively as the man described some other Bay Area bookstores that might have the music we're looking for, and then -- thank god -- managed to bring the conversation to a comfortable and expeditious conclusion ("Well, we do need to be moving along now ... thanks for your help").

Once we'd paid for my books and were safely outside, I exhaled. "Now we can talk about him," I said. "Was he digging on you or what?"

David looked shocked. "Me?" he said, incredulously. "I thought he was hitting on YOU."


Anyway,  I did wind up getting a couple of first-year piano books. They weren't exactly what I was looking for, maybe, but they're enough to get me started. And no, I haven't had a chance to play anything yet. After Berkeley, we had to do a semi-major grocery store run ... followed by dinner (frozen pizza and salad) ... and it was wayyy past our bedtime by the time we got everything done.  So I'm going to try and carve out some piano-time tonight, maybe, when David is at the library.

Or maybe I'll wait until this weekend ... unless, of course, the world as we know it ends on Friday night.

I'll let you know how it goes.

self-important blurb #1 will
go HERE:
yes, i'm making new year's resolutions. and yes, they're going to be [mostly] sincere and well thought-out and [i hope] ATTAINABLE. practically everybody i've asked says, "i'm not making any resolutions because i know i'll just break them." horseshit. make them anyway, people! this is a once-in-a-millennium opportunity, forcryingoutloud! how many times in our lives are we going to be able to say, "here is how i plan to make my life better in the next thousand years" ???

self-important blurb #2: and yes, grandma ... one of my resolutions will be to practice the piano every day.

special *howdy* to: to daughters #1 and
#2: don't forget to visit *college avenue* in berkeley, next month. we never made it that far when you were here, jaymes ... but you would love it. trust me on this one. it's wall-to-wall clothing/jewelry/book/music/bath/candle/tobacco shops ... and not a single bumper-sticker vendor in sight.

a year ago

here's where i'll ask a *relevant* question:
you wouldn't happen to have any leftover piano music sitting around, wouldyou?
if it's muzio clementi, i wanna hear about it

amazingly profound thought of the day: I know only two tunes: one of them is "Yankee Doodle" and the other one isn't. ~ Ulysses S. Grant ~