November 08, 2021

Every year since I bought my car in 2017, I've driven from New York City to Houston in October for International Quilt Festival. It's a 4-day trip, and each year I have planned in a couple of extra days for an adventure along the way. This year's trip was no exception!

My longest friend, Ann, recently moved from southern California to Columbus, Ohio, which means I'll get to see her a lot more often now. She invited me to stay at the end of my first day of driving, and I decided to come a day early in order to spend a whole day with her. As she was showing me around her new home, she pointed out the spot in her office / music room where the piano would go when she got one. She had "babysat" my Steinway grand piano for a couple of years when I first moved to NYC, but since I sold it 20 years ago she hasn't had a piano at home, and has often gone to her church to practice.

Saturday morning, as she, her husband and I drove to a local park for a hike, I noticed her scrolling through piano ads on Facebook marketplace, so I suggested that she make a couple of appointments so we could go look at them together. With my lifelong experience as a pianist I could help her assess the instruments. She mentioned that she would like a black piano, and one without too much frou-frou styling.

We played a couple of pianos that afternoon but neither was right. One of the people we met mentioned the local piano store, so I suggested that we go there to try out a whole bunch of pianos to see what she liked and what prices were like. The thing about buying a piano -- like any musical instrument -- is that you have to find "your" instrument, the one that sounds and feels just right for you.

After playing a number of pianos in the showroom we realized that for the quality of sound, Ann wanted a tall upright, but everything was way beyond her $2000-$3000 budget. We were about to leave, when the salesman offered to take us back into the warehouse. Well! There was a sea of maybe 60 pianos, mostly spinets. Ann played a few, but still, the sound was thin and tinny. None of them was "her" piano. I could see she was losing enthusiasm for the search, and then I noticed all the way back in the back corner, a tall, black piano.

"What's that piano?" I asked the salesman. "Oh, that's an old Steinway" he replied. A STEINWAY??  Ann and I made a beeline for the instrument. I got there and started to play it -- the sound was lovely and rich. Ann played it a bit and her eyes lit up. "I think this is my piano!" she said.

"I can't sell you this piano" said the salesman. "It won't hold a pitch. It was kept in a really dry environment, the wood has dried out, and it's about a 1/4 tone low." "That's okay," I replied "as long as it stays in tune with itself. Ann won't be tuning with any other instruments so it won't bother her."

Meanwhile, Ann kept playing. Not only did she like the sound, she loved the antique style of it as well. The salesman got out his Steinway reference book and checked the serial number. It was built in 1883, but was in remarkably good condition for a piano that old. Then we looked at the price tag. It was $1880!

You know the end of the story -- Ann bought her piano that day. And as we walked back to the car she said "I had always dreamed of owning a Steinway but never thought I would -- and now I do!"

The next day I was supposed to drive to Illinois to pick up Melissa, my Event Coordinator, but the weather forecast was for torrential rain, damaging hail, flash floods and possible tornadoes, so I hung out with Ann for another enjoyable day then left on Monday.. Tuesday Melissa and I drove as far as we could to make up for the lost travel day, and made it as far as Marshall, TX. Upon settling into the hotel room, Melissa checked the next day's weather and we discovered that we were in for another round of torrential rain, damaging hail, flash floods and possible tornadoes, starting at around 9:00 a.m.

So, we got up at 5:00 and took off at 6:00 a.m., hoping to outrun the storm. But, at almost exactly at 9:00 my phone suddenly blared out an alert "Extreme tornado warning. If you are on the road, take shelter NOW!" We could see black clouds moving in fast, and suddenly rain was falling so thickly we couldn't see. We got off the highway into a gas station, then from there moved to a Chick-fil-A that had interior booths with high seat backs. We sat there for about an hour waiting for the storm to pass, then hit the road again. By the time we reached the convention center an hour later, the sun was shining and it looked as if nothing had ever happened. We were very grateful to have made it safely!

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