1. Tuesday, August 13, 2002

    people often ask me what i do for a living 

    and usually i say something flippant or ridiculous and that’s because i like my privacy, as im sure that you like yours.

    but last night at work i met someone who recognized me from this blog and afterwards we went out for drinks and she convinced me that i shouldn’t be so paranoid.

    i play the piano next to the escalator on the second floor of a fancy department store near beverly hills.

    there. i said it.

    i got the job from the musicians union after the dot com laid me off.

    i couldn’t believe that i landed the job so quickly and easilly, but apparently professional musicians hate working at this particular department store because the belief is that even though the store has a spectacular reputation for customer service, the actual customers, however, have a notorious reputation for being demanding and rude and never satisfied.

    in my interview i said that i don’t mind loud, mean customers, in fact i prefer them, because at least they’re telling you their problem. i said that i didnt like the quiet passive aggressive customers because then you can never fix their concerns.

    the store manager seemed to like this and asked me to play “Piano Man” which i did and i was hired on the spot.

    there is no tip jar atop my piano. i have to wear a tuxedo with tails. it’s black. i don’t sing. i don’t banter with the customers. management prefers it if i just smile and nod and keep playing. by all means keep playing.

    after a year of this gig i am getting a bit tired. people do shout requests as they ride upstairs, which i like to oblige. the kids are the worst though. all they know are nursery rhymes which are fun sometimes unless their hot moms try to use me as a babysitter, plopping their heirs at my piano for me to entertain.

    its then that i go right into Debussy and scare the hell out of them. they start to cry, they leave, i go back to playing show tunes and smiling at the trophy wives.

    because of our location we get a lot of tourists. i love tourists. probably because it reminds me of all the times that i got to travel to foreign lands. i have lots of patience when it comes to tourists because my heart is with them.

    usually they request the Beatles, or Cole Porter, but sometimes they ask for obscure anthems from their homeland. when they ask and i don’t know, i put on a sad face, pout my lower lip and break into “new york, new york” which usually distracts them.

    people like to sing along.

    god, do they ever.

    most people cant sing. i cant sing. odds are you cant sing. who knows how to sing who’s shopping for $45 polo shirts at 11am in a department store? nobody.

    but people go for it anyway.

    if i see that someone is singing i will slowly segue into an unsingable song like van halen’s “jump” or zep’s “stairway to heaven”. the big boss doesn’t like zeppelin, he says its devil music. he will give me a frown if he hears me playing “stairway” which i think is perfect being situated right next to an escalator. but these jokes, as subtle as they might be, are usually lost, and like the notes, float up up up and disipate into the central air.

    ladies like to talk to me when i play. i think it’s the tuxedo. i like the ladies. the older the better because they appreciate it the most. the younger ones are just lonely and need some. i don’t have any to give them. im just trying to get my $15 an hour.

    if an old lady seems sad i’ll play something upbeat like “we’re just wild about harry” or “bicycle built for two” or if i really want to go nuts, i’ll play a flourishing version of “im coming out” by diana ross.

    people fight in department stores. when they fight they pretend that no one can hear them. everyone can hear them. i certainly can.

    “love will keep us together” is something i like to play when i hear couples fight.

    ive been asked by management not to play that during those occasions, several times.

    songs i wont play: “short people,” “bring in the clowns,” “yesterday.”

    the first will probably offend someone in the store. the other two usually make people cry. tears do not equal sales.

    when it comes down to it im really only there to help stimulate sales.

    and someone for the cosmetic counter gals to smile at.

    hey good lookin

    whatcha got cookin

    so that’s my job. everyone has one. if you see me you can smile.

    please don’t request “piano man” for even though it got me the gig, i have had to play it every day for passerbys and when i get depressed at work i like to bust into a little philip glass until people start shooting me looks.

    but please don’t stalk. or stare.

    its not fair.

    this post is dedicated to my girl anna who won in montreal yesterday 6-3, 6-1 in the canadian open over Saori Obata of japan in the first round.