For the moment, let's revisit the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center, Troy, Ohio, on a cold, cold evening back in February of 2008.
The worst of winter conditions had been predicted ... for just about the time the program was scheduled to get under way.
I was convinced that travel was going to be horrible, weather-wise, and advised those who called throughout the day ... either to express regrets ... or to get some advice ... that I would advise them to play it safe ... and not venture out.
The expected horrible weather didn't arrive. At least not that night. Highway conditions ... except for traffic ... couldn't have been better ... both before and after the program.
Oh, what people missed by following my advice! Even so, we had what I thought was an impressive turnout.
I went in expecting an interesting mix of poetry and music ... but the program ... a blending of music ... improvised on the spot by Joel Hoffman, Professor of Composition, College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati ... with my reading of some poems ... well, the program far exceeded my expectations.
I stood at the rostrum watching as Prof. Hoffman coaxed a delightful program of sounds ... rhythms ... passages ... interludes ... from the piano ... a perfect blending with the poetry I was sharing with the audience.
Afterward, I was really taken by the number of people who thought it was a carefully-rehearsed program.
In truth, Prof. Hoffman and I had not met before that night ... had not rehearsed ... and had had only a brief discussion of our "game plan" before the program began.
I say bravo! Bravo to Prof. Hoffman for so deftly working in the music around ... and with ... my readings ... Bravo! to the audience for shruggng off the dire weather forecasts and joining us for an evening that I will never forget ... and Bravo! to all those who put that program together!
By the way, Prof. Hoffman wears several hats in addition to Professor of Compositon ... including Artistic Director, Music08 and President, Chamber Music Cincinnati.
I thought of today's poem while I was standing at the podium enjoying his music, particularly a portion of the program in which I read "What Might Have Been" to a most beautiful piano accompaniment.
Perhaps it was just as well that I hadn't brought a copy of it to the reading. It might have spoiled the moment ... as my attempts at humor sometimes do.
But I've dug it out ... along with one of my most definite winter photographs.
Background for the poem:
Once upon a time ... way back in the previous century ... my grandparents had a piano. I believe it was for my mother, but I never heard her play it.
It sat in our living room. I remember a piano tuner coming once to do his magic on it. But mostly it just sat. Oh, I plinked and plunked on it when nobody was looking. But, of course, I couldn't play it.
I didn't feel deprived, and I don't now.
On the contrary, there was that imposing upright musical instrument which fed my imagination. I dreamed of playing it someday ... like I dreamed of many other things.
Then one day it was sold. Strangers came to move that magical creation carefully through the front door, down the front steps and into the truck.
And that was that ... except for the poem (be prepared for a slight twist with this one), originally published in Midwest Poetry Review:
I COULD HAVE PLAYED PIANO
My long, skinny fingers
itching for things to do,
toes just barely reaching
the pedals, and my bottom
gripping the slippery edge
of the bench, I dreamed
of playing ragtime, gospel,
boogie-woogie, maybe even
some of that girl-pleasing,
tough, classical stuff.
What I did was what
seemed to come naturally.
With only one lesson,
I flung myself into all
of the old favorites,
playing each several times
before going exuberantly
to the next. Finally,
Grandpa admitted he was
sorry he had taught me
what could be wrought
with a comb and paper.
Oh, I could have played
piano, no doubt, but my lips
wouldn't feel all numb
and fuzzy, like they do now.
Today's word: fuzzy