The phenomenon of Snapchat was recently explained to me, and it got me to thinking: Wouldn’t it be great if you could make yourself disappear from a situation after ten seconds if seemed like something wasn’t quite right? Don’t get me wrong; I’m in the Music business and I love everyone, but I recently played for a party that eventually started to mess with my emotional equilibrium. It will be therapeutic for me to explain:
I got an email from a woman saying that her boss was having a Christmas party at his house, and would I be able to play the piano for it? I was indeed available, so I booked the gig; it was on the Saturday before Christmas, from 10 am to 1 pm. I’ve had long stints in both New York and Chicago, and have had the chance to play in some astoundingly opulent homes and neighborhoods, but this kind of took me by surprise because I thought I knew most of Chicagoland’s moneyed areas. This was in a suburb (but not on the North Shore) that featured several blocks of truly gorgeous old mansions.
Pulling into the client’s driveway at around 9:40, I was met at the front door by a Rich Guy straight out of Central Casting. He identified himself as the host, and pleasantly explained that the party was for his son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren, who would soon be travelling to be with the daughter-in-law’s family back East, so this was to be their family’s Early Christmas celebration. There would be seven people gathered for this event. It was pleasant enough, I guess. He showed me the piano, which was shoved into the corner of his huge Living Room so that I could barely squeeze in, and had to play the gig with crocodile arms. He also pointed back towards the kitchen, telling me “That’s where you’ll go if you need a glass of water or to go to the loo.” Nice to have something to look forward to.
At around 9:50, I heard a woman coming down the stairs, saying “Is that my boy?” in a cheery and hopeful voice. Seeing that I was definitely NOT her boy, her smile vanished, and she said, “I don’t know what I could have been thinking. He’s never showed up on time to anything in his whole life.”
At around 9:55, a man showed up with an armload of gifts. He was by himself. And, judging by his impeccable presentation and a few of his mannerisms, my guess was that he was gay. This would perhaps be a reason why the host had not seen fit to include him in his description of the guest list. Just a guess.
I launched into my mega-medley of Holiday Favorites at precisely 10:00, crammed into my little corner of this unfolding saga of Rich Folks and Their Habitat. The favored son showed up and around 10:20 with his wife and children in tow, and there was much celebration. Well, correction: I assumed there was much celebration, because the family quickly went into another room. They would, in fact, go into several rooms during the time that I played for them. But, at no time did they ever sit in the room where I was playing. I could never even see them. Oh, I take that back: I was able to see half of the Grande Dame for a few minutes, but only if I leaned waaay over on my seat. And I saw one of the children wander through my lonely living room later on.
After I had dutifully provided a solid ninety minutes of vacuum-sealed Yuletide Cheer, I decided that it was time to indulge myself in the promised glass of water and trip to the loo. It was then that I encountered a servant who very graciously offered me a cookie. While nibbling on my treat in the kitchen, the Lady of the House walked in: I was afraid that I was going to get chastised for overstepping my “loo/glass of water” parameters, but instead she asked if I had eaten anything besides the cookie. Upon learning that I hadn’t, she instructed the servant to “Prepare this gentleman a hamburger.” Whoa! Jackpot!
I relished my hamburger (get it? Relished?) and then went back to assume my Position of Merry Music-Making. At about 12:45, the Master of the House came up to me and said “Thank you very much.” I thanked him for the hamburger and said that I hoped that he had enjoyed my Sonic Offerings. “Yes”, he said, “Thank you very much.” I suddenly realized that “Thank you very much” means “Please stop what you are doing immediately and get out of my house” in Rich-People-ese. So that’s what I did.
A few days later, I followed up with an email to the woman who’d hired me, saying that I hoped that her boss had been pleased with my humble Musicale. “Yes”, she replied, “They were satisfied.”
Thinking about this gig made me a little sad, and I figured it out after doing some thinking: Despite the opulence of the setting, the Human-ness on display that morning was about the size of a rabbit turd. It doesn’t have to be that way.