Saturday, November 16, 2013

Old Folks, Pianos, and Bucky

On occasion, I like to have a little fun with my appearance as a typical motorcycle rider when I am around "normal" people. 

Now, "typical" is probably not a good way of putting it.

The usual stereotype of a bad biker is one of black chaps and a slant-zip jacket over a sleeveless shirt, with maybe a bandanna, a colors vest, a few chains, and some tattoos in conspicuous places. 

Or, it could be a kid on a too-high-powered sportbike wearing cargo shorts and a tee shirt, perhaps with a back protector over the tee (for safety). 

How about that Gold Wing rider with his drink holders and space enough to carry a complete closet full of clothes and a mechanic's tool chest just in case? 

Well, I have to admit that we bikers, especially the ones dressed for the road, look a little odd when we are not riding, but still in our getup around non-biker people.  On occasion, I have stopped at a take-out restaurant or other retail establishment and had folks give me the eye for the way I am dressed.  Not very many make a comment, surprisingly, and even if they do, the comments are often flippant: "'fraid of fallin' off that thing?" or "Ya' look like ya' just stepped off the Starship Enterprise."  

And, when I buy gas, I don't like to waste time taking off my gloves so I can unbuckle my helmet to go in and pay for my purchase.  So, I go in with the full regalia, credit card in hand, and fork it over to the clerk who no-doubt is wondering if I am about to rob him and take off at high speed with his money. 

There is one other situation where I have a little more fun.  You know that I play the piano, and that I tickle the ivories with mostly old popular tunes -- from the early twentieth century into the sixties.  They come from sheet music I have collected over the years, and from my mimicking some of the songs on my hoard of player piano rolls. 

I also play a lot of old-favorite hymns. 

There are several nursing and assisted living homes that periodically ask me to come and play for their residents.  After all, I may be one of the only people still playing tunes that their parents grew up with or that they, themselves enjoyed when they were young. 

I sometimes ride the bike on the days I play for them, a pack on my back filled with music books.  When I get there, it is easier to leave everything -- helmet, gloves, backpack, etc. -- on rather than try to carry it all in my arms separately.  I've done it both ways, and I usually drop something along the way if I take everything off first.

And that is where my fun begins. 

As I walk in the door and to the room with the piano, which is sometimes quite a ways away from the entrance, the residents look agape, wondering whether they are seeing things that don't really exist. 

And some are ready to defend themselves against the likes of me.

The staff of the home thinks an alien has invaded from outer space for sure, and place their hand on the phone in case they need to call in the Men in Black -- or more. 

Little kids visiting grandmas and grandpas often ask me if I am a Power Ranger. 
I am, I tell them -- the Silver one.

I think I see in the eyes of some of the men a glimmer of memories of days gone by, maybe when they rode a now-ancient motorcycle cross country on a shoestring.  Or they remember trying to impress the young ladies with their style and daring. They might be reliving that time in their past through me today. 
Students of Scott Sr. High School
Westwood, PA
I get a kick out of giving them something to talk about the next day over lunch or supper, too.  " know, Mabel, that young man with the odd clothes, who came and played the piano for us last night?  Well, I've never seen anything like it...." 
SuperStock photo
Often times, I banter with the audience.  I kid, and tease, or explain something interesting about the numbers I play.  I bring up the importance of God, country, and family, and the very real potential of our losing our freedoms of religion and speech if we don't pass down our values to young people. 

Sometimes I jokingly tell them that there will be rides on the back of my motorcycle after I am through playing. 

One summer evening, a spry lady actually followed me out to the bike, expecting to get her ride right then and there.  I had to explain that I could not give her a ride that night, but maybe the next time I came around.  Well, the next time I came around, about six weeks later, she asked first thing if I were going to give her the ride she missed last time!  I had to decline again, but she remembers to this day that I owe her one. 

There is something else. 

A few of the people in these places are in pretty bad shape.  Life has become less full for them.  Some are no longer the people they once were, and they might not realize as much about what is going on around them any more.  Their eyes have become dim, and their bodies frail. 

I sometimes wonder to myself whether they will really get anything out of some guy pounding on a piano. 

And I would be wrong if I thought they didn't. 

Getty Collection
It is amazing to me.  Some who appear to be quite unresponsive seem to be moved by the music.  The hymns, especially, are still familiar to them, learned long ago.  They may remember the words of every verse, and they sing along with my playing.  Despite their foggy memories of things that happened just yesterday, they still remember the old things. 

I was at first surprised by this.  Then I became moved.  I am encouraged by them.  I play my heart out for them.

And I know that I should never forget that my meager God-given talents are to be shared freely.

I hope someone comes to see me and play for me when I am long past my prime.  It might bring back a misty distant memory or two I have made. 

Do something for someone else today. You will get more out of it than you might think. 


rc5695 said...

haha. Love it. You really should give the lady a ride tho ;)

oldchigger said...

Thanks Bucky for kind your attention and thoughtfulness for those still lite stars that you play for. My heart is so touched by your compassion and I hope that someone is there for you one day to perk you up and trigger those memories of the words to that old hymn you used to play for everone. God Bless You my friend, I'll see you in eternitysome day!