Friday, February 5, 2010

Piano Lessons

Piano lessons are every other Thursday at 6:30 PM.
I drive in from work, eat at the little Lebanese restaurant Habibi, and then walk across the street to the Arts Building. Each studio is a concentration of creative energy, and all over the building, people are creating and dreaming and thinking in these little rooms. You can hear the uncertain tapping of drum kits, the repeated arcs of the practiced aria, and the fluidity of Chopin preludes imbue the halls from the space beneath each door. If all the tenants were there at the same time, say on a rainy Saturday morning, what would happen if all the doors were flung open at once? All that energy bursting out to fill the negative space in the hall would create a collision. A symphony? A cloud of dissonance?

I go to the door where the heavy and dutiful pounding of a Bach piece beckons me and wait to knock, because I don't get to hear Diana play often. She gets to a place that I feel is an appropiate hesistation and I knock twice and turn the knob.


The room is chock full of things, in part due to her living situation: she and her husband have been living in a hotel for years now. When you ask her for how long, she'll say a few years. When you really press her, the truth surfaces: "Twenty years, now, I guess...gee, has it been that long?" The other reason is her livelihood, as Diana has turned into a fierce merchant of books in her later years. Every morning she wakes up, gathers her empty suitcases, takes the lightrail, and then a bus, out to a Goodwill donation center in Beaverton. There, she fights for elbow room and prime position with the other book hawks for classics, rarities, out-of-print editions, and literature on music. She buys them up, stuffs her luggage, hefts the suitcase onto the bus (or cons a man to heft it for her, depending on her willingness to play the part of a senile old hag), transfers to the lightrail, rides back into Portland, and treks to Powell's Books where she tries to sell her acquisitions.

She also deals in antique silk scarves and vintage mens' ties at local resale shops, teaches piano lessons, and plays the piano at Rimsky Korsacoffee in SE Portland on Saturday nights.

She is a character in the most brilliant ways, and deserves, after a Hobbesian "poor, nasty, brutish" latter-half of existence, immortality. Diana belongs in a book, and I intend to put her there.

"I love Bach," she pauses for emphasis, "Because Bach loved God."


Diana is always convinced that someone has been in her studio, meddling, stealing, confounding, and "putting their paws" on her extensive collection of sheet music. She typically spends 7-15 minutes per lesson searching fervently for a piece that she is sure she stored one place, but is inevitably in another place. This is never her fault, and she is constantly raising suspicion about one conspiracy or another that must be building against her. The most recent one being the inspector who came to assess the home she and husband own near Lewis & Clark college (why they don't live in it is fodder for the novel - I wouldn't want to ruin the story): "He said we need a new roof...I don't know about these things. Just because it has a hole in it, that means we need a whole new one? I just don't know. I think he's low-balling us so his slumlord wife can buy up the house cheap."

I picked my way through a dumbed-down Sibelius piece, and then drove her home, to her hotel in the city, where she doesn't belong.

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