Keys to bringing a new `baby' into the house

October 22, 2005|By ROB KASPER

I WAS IN THE ONE WORLD Cafe last Friday evening, getting hydrated before walking across the street to watch the Hopkins-Gettysburg football game when a baby grand piano entered my life.

My cell phone rang and on the other end was my wife with word that she had found a baby grand at the annual piano sale at the Peabody Conservatory. While I had headed off to the football game, she and a friend had gone to the Peabody "just to look" at pianos. One caught her ear, and it was love at first pianissimo. She called me for spousal approval of the addition to our household.

I did a quick calculation of what this answer could mean for my weekend. If I said, "Lets think about it,"I would have to rise early Saturday and hurry down to the Peabody to view the piano before the sale ended. Besides what did I know about pianos? For radial tires or football defensive schemes, I could offer some insight. But pianos, and most matters musical, are not my domain.

If I said, "No," I would be positioning myself as an obstacle to cultural betterment, a dicey predicament for any spouse to be in. As a lifelong recreational pianist, my wife had for years been looking longingly at baby grands, many of them not in use, in homes we visited. She liked some of them so much, that ... well lets just say it is a good thing a piano can't fit in a purse.

Also I have long been a proponent of weekend passion, of having some activity that relieves pressure of your work life and makes you feel good. For some of us that release is yelling at football games, for others it is playing Bach.

I had only one condition about signing on to the piano deal. I did not want to move the old upright piano. It weighed a ton and painful experience has taught me that moving a piano can wreck your weekend as well as your back. It turned out that the guys who were delivering the new piano would take the old one as a trade in.

So I said "sure" to the new piano and went to the football game. Later my wife showed up at the game, and wanted to tell me the fine points of the instrument. I had to tell her "Not now dear, I am busy yelling at the officials." Hopkins won 14-0.

Sunday morning when the truck rolled up in front of our house, we were not quite ready logistically or emotionally for the new arrival. To make room for the bigger piano, a 5-foot-2-inch-long Kohler & Campbell, we had to hurriedly reposition some of the living room furniture. Moreover, my wife was momentarily reluctant to say goodbye to the old piano, a Gulbransen that she and her sister had grown up with, a piano that our boys had played for a few years before abandoning piano lessons. But after a few snapshots, the old piano went out the door.

The piano movers were a skillful duo. Employing lifts, trolleys and ramps, they made short work of the installation. They had, however, brought the wrong kind of piano bench.

When they returned to our house, about 30 minutes later, with the right bench, one of them simply handed me a box with the bench parts inside it.

I had never assembled a piano bench before. How hard could it be? Harder than it looked, because there were extra parts. Extra parts terrify us part-time assemblers. Where, you ask yourself, was that supposed to go?

That is what I asked myself when I saw that each leg of the piano bench came with not one, but two nuts. It seemed clear that one nut would fasten each leg's threaded metal spoke to the bench. But what about the other nut? I stared at the innards of the bench, looking for likely nut nesting spots. I found none. I carried one leg bench and its two nuts and two washers over to the neighborhood hardware store to consult with the guys there. We figured out where the washers went, but not the extra nut.

The piano bench came with a cool tool that tightened the nuts. It was the size of a beer can opener, with slightly bent ends. The bent ends let me slip the device over the nuts and tighten the nuts to my heart's delight. That is what I did, doubling up the nuts on each leg.

Gingerly I lowered myself onto the assembled bench. It held. But this wasn't the true test. The bench would have to hold two pianists, my wife and her teacher. The two play classical pieces together. That means four hands on the keyboard and two bodies on the bench.

I fired up the computer to check the Internet to see if I could verify that I had put the bench together the right way. Meanwhile the two of them were in the living room, trying out the piano.

Pianists, I'm told, judge an instrument by the action of its hammers striking the strings, by its damper, by its sounding board, and by the way the piano wires vibrate.

All I am looking at is the piano bench. After the duo stopped playing, I sneaked in, flipped up the top and counted the nuts. The tally was eight and holding with no fortissimo crashes.

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