Where I live it’s bloody hot! L.A. experiencing warmest year since records started being kept in 1877.

ambassadorI’ve started taking walks just after six a.m. Yesterday, when I turned the corner were my street starts to climb into the foothills, I saw the windows of a Spanish Colonial had all been flung open to catch the (relative) chill. My neighbor was seated at her kick-ass Steinway playing the most gorgeous, lilting, rippling, music into the morning…

The painted piano above, in the lobby of the old Ambassador Hotel, reminded me of another friend’s piano. She found it when she was a music student at USC and (according to legend) it had been one of many pianos belonging to José Iturbi.

For some reason this particular piano, instead of sitting in his home, was floating on a boat moored in Marina del Rey and was being sold [kind of] on the sly. Music students who want a Steinway Grand don’t ask too many questions. The thing is, the piano had a beautiful voice, but it was painted with garlands, pink blossoms, and cavorting bare-bummed cherubs wielding arrows on a pale gold background. This effusive artistry was giving my friend pause, but the piano was from an era of piano manufacture referred to as the Golden Age, and she quickly made up her mind.

Now the piano sits in her living room, it still has a beautiful voice, and it’s covered with shawls. She never had it refinished, or refurbished, “Don’t want to mess with its spirit,” she said. She’s like that; has a killer sense for a business deal, and believes in all sorts of things, woo-woo celestial things that I don’t. I figure her more alternative ways of expressing herself are a way of communicating her creativity—it’s one of the reasons I love her, and besides, it’s too damned hot to argue.

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  1. July 26, 2014

    That’s a lovely story! The piano is much loved, exactly as it should be.

    • July 26, 2014

      Much loved, and not played as much as it used to be when my friend was enduring six hours of practice daily. She didn’t go the concert circuit, but became a realtor…

  2. Heather in Arles
    July 26, 2014

    Just count your lucky stars that you didn’t have to move house in 90 something heat, Miss!
    And I too very much appreciated the story of your friends piano, although I couldn’t quite get my tired brain to find a solution as to how one moves such an instrument off (or on for that matter) a boat. A crane?

    • July 26, 2014

      Oof! 90 degrees???
      Have you ever seen piano movers? They are incredible…can do anything! Short extremely strong guys, usually just two, they brace their backs with huge belts, ONE will hoist the body of the piano with straps and carry it, and the other will guide and balance… It’s crazy. As for the boat, I don’t know how they did it. I will have to inquire!

  3. July 27, 2014

    Sending you some of our chill!

  4. July 31, 2014

    See, if I tell you that it’s been unseasonably cool and comfortable here on Long Island, it will immediately turn hot and muggy. So I won’t.

    As for pianos… I’m a piano player since 1968 (I was two) and I would love to have a real piano of any sort, but I live in a cottage, and the staircase is less than 3′ from the only door. Thus, I have an electric keyboard with “grand piano sound”. Not the same thing at all, but so much better than nothing. Neat part is, I love playing harpsichord music, and one of the 200 voices on this thing is harpsichord, so I guess I couldn’t do that on a grand piano.

    I used to work as a gofer for a construction guy out in the Hamptons, and part of my job was “babysitting” mansions (setting the various thermostats in different wings at the desired temperatures when the owners were coming in for the weekend – they spend most of their year in Europe, of course). Most of these mansions have grand pianos for picture frame stands. I made sure the pianos were … ahem … in good working order. There was something awesome about playing Beethoven on a grand piano in a mansion in the Hamptons and pretending, just for a little while, that it was all mine.

    • July 31, 2014

      Oh, I love that story! Thank you!

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