Tuesday Book Feature: Love Letters in the Grand

Note: Since Thanksgiving falls on the day I normally review books here, I’m changing things around a bit. I’ll have a special treat for you on Thanksgiving Day, so stay tuned.

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Love Letters in the Grand: The Adventures and Misadventures of a Big City Piano Tuner

By John Justice

Copyright 2017

In this collection of stories, the author, totally blind, relates his experiences tuning pianos in New York City and Philadelphia during the 1960’s and 70’s. Some tales are humorous like “It Won’t Play If You Don’t Pay,” in which he describes his underhanded way of dealing with a customer who refused to pay for his services. Others showcase how unfairly he was treated by some customers, e.g. “Unintended Disaster,” in which he was blamed for breaking a music lamp on a piano top after being told it was clear.

Some stories don’t have much to do with piano tuning like “Star’s Rippingly Good Solution,” in which he explains how his guide dog handled a mugger on a New York City subway. In the title story, he relates how he found a packet of love letters inside a grand piano. At the end, he explains how he met his second wife at a rehabilitation facility for the blind in Little Rock, Arkansas, and eventually married her and found other employment while still tuning pianos on the side.

Since I play the piano, I was fascinated by his explanation of the inner workings of the instrument, as he related his various experiences. I liked his descriptions of Madison Square Garden and the Lincoln Center where he was sent to tune pianos. As a registered music therapist, my favorite piece was “Song for Adrienne,” in which his playing of a familiar Christmas carol touched the heart of a young woman in a psychiatric hospital. I loved his quote at the end. “Life is like a piano. It has highs and lows, but when all is said and done, it is an instrument on which we all must play our tunes.”

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

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Saturday Song: Claire by Gilbert O. Sullivan

When Bruce Atchison posted Gilbert O. Sullivan’s “Alone Again,” I was reminded of this song. When it starts out, you think that like many others, this singer is extolling the virtues of a woman he loves, but then it turns out to be a child. Of course if you can see the video, that’s obvious from the start. Enjoy, and have a great Saturday.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

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LIBRARY Days

Thanks to blogger Alice Massa for inspiring this. In her post, she shares fond memories of visiting a public library as a child. Reading it brought back reminiscences of my own.

In the fall of 1973 after we moved here to Sheridan, Wyoming, from Tucson, Arizona, my younger brother Andy took an interest in library science. He’d started kindergarten, and I was in the sixth grade. Since Mother had taken us to a public library in Tucson on a regular basis, it was only natural that we would continue to do this once we were settled here.

The Sheridan library was an old building with a children’s section in the basement. Once a week or so, we would descend a creaking stairway to a world of wonder. The aroma in the large room reminded me of the library at the school for the blind in Arizona, where I’d enjoyed browsing shelves of Braille books. I couldn’t do that here, but there were records and cassettes containing stories and sometimes just plain music. Mother encouraged me to check out such books as Understood Betsy and Ann of Green Gables, which she read to me. Eventually, a librarian came to our home once a week and brought books on records that were issued by a library in Utah that specialized in recorded books for those with visual and other impairments that made reading difficult or impossible.

The check-out process at the Sheridan library was what fascinated Andy. He watched, wide-eyed, as the librarian stamped each of our selections with that day’s date. One day after we got home, we discovered that Andy had walked away with the librarian’s stamp.

Nonchalant, Mother told Andy he could keep the stamp for now, but the next day after school, he would have to return it and apologize for taking it. The librarian must have had extra stamps on hand for when we showed up the next day, and Andy handed her the stamp and told her he was sorry for stealing it, she only smiled and said it wasn’t a problem. At Christmas that year, Santa Claus gave Andy his own stamp and ink pad. For the next few months, he enjoyed playing “library” until he took an interest in something else.

A couple of years ago, Andy, now living in Florida, sent me, for my birthday, a t-shirt emblazoned with library stampings. He’d forgotten about his petty theft until I brought it up after receiving the shirt. It was apparently a coincidence that he, knowing I appreciated books as a writer, thought I would like the shirt, and he was right.

Today, the Sheridan library is located in a modern building with books and other items for both children and adults on the ground floor and an art gallery and meeting rooms on the second floor. With an elevator, it’s no longer necessary to ascend or descend any stairs. Instead of a card catalog, there are computers, and records and cassettes have been replaced by CD’s and devices called playaways, which contain one recorded book each. However, I download books from other sources, so I only visit the library to attend monthly Range Writers meetings and other programs. As for Andy, with a P.H.D. in physics, a family, and a full-time teaching job at a private high school in Jupiter, I imagine he has little time to visit a library, but we can still remember.

What do you remember about visiting your public library as a child? What kinds of books did you like to check out? Did you ever bring food or drink into the library, as Alice and her cousin did?

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

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Saturday Song: I Like Beer by Tom T. Hall

This was popular in 1976 when I was in the eighth grade at Central Junior High, a public school here in Sheridan, Wyoming. One day during home economics class, a bunch of us girls started singing the chorus. Our teacher was a stern woman who eventually told my mother she couldn’t teach me with my visual disability. She merely rolled her eyes and said, “Grow up.” In case you’re wondering, I myself am more partial to Dr. Pepper than beer. Enjoy this live performance, and have a great Saturday.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

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Sunday Best: Simply Sinatra

This past Tuesday evening, I attended a fun concert at the Wyo Theater. Vocalist Steve Lippia, along with a 10-piece band, performed many old standards, most of them made popular by Frank Sinatra. He shared anecdotes from his experiences as a singer and information about Sinatra and other artists. He ended the program with Sinatra’s “New York New York,” and we all sang along. His voice sounded almost like Old Blue Eyes, and I’m sorry my father, may he rest in peace, wasn’t there.

What’s the best thing that happened to you this past week? Please tell me about it in the comment field or in a blog post of your own with a link here. I hope something good happens to you this coming week.

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Sunday Best: Concert in the Park

Last Tuesday, I went with friends to a concert at a local park’s band shell. Such programs are held every Tuesday during July and August. This week, the community band, made up mostly of music teachers and students, played a variety of old favorites and new pieces.

My friends and I bought ice cream from a nearby stand. I had a scoop of salted caramel in a dish, and that was good.

There’s also a food truck that sells burgers and chips, so next week, we’ll go a little earlier so we’ll have time for both a hamburger and ice cream before the concert starts. A different band will play. I’m looking forward to that.

What’s the best thing that happened to you this past week? Please share in the comments field. I hope something good happens to you this coming week.

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Thursday Book Feature: MASH

This is a new feature I’m trying. I may not have a book to share every week, but when I do, it’ll go live Thursday. This should give you plenty of time to find a good read to get you through the weekend.

 

MASH: A Novel about Three Army Doctors

By Richard Hooker

Copyright 1996.

 

Before the movie and television series, this novel introduced such characters as Hawkeye Pierce, Trapper John, Radar O’Reilly, and Hot Lips Houlihan. In 1951 during the Korean War, Hawkeye and another doctor named Duke are assigned to the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Trapper John soon joins them, and the three live together in a tent they call the swamp, drinking and raising hell when they’re not operating on injured soldiers. Their excellent surgical skills improve the quality of care at MASH 4077.

According to the author, many doctors working in such hospitals were well trained but too young for the job. As a result, some broke down. Others, like Hawkeye, Duke, and Trapper, let off steam by drinking, engaging in sexual escapades, and pulling stunts. In the book, they sell photos of Trapper with a long beard and hair, passing him off as Christ, to raise money to send a Korean house boy to college in the U.S. They pretend to have flipped their lids in order to be sent to a nearby hospital for psychiatric evaluation, then spend their time in a brothel instead. They play in a corrupt football game with a team from another hospital.

This book was an Audible daily deal, and having once been a MASH fan in college, I snatched it up. I saw the movie years ago but don’t remember it as much as the TV series. I noticed many differences between that and the book.

For example, Frank Burns, a captain in the book, is a major in the TV series. In the book, Hawkeye is married, but Trapper is not. On TV, it’s the opposite. In the book, Col. Blake is a completely different character, and Col. Potter, B.J. Honeycut, Major Winchester, and Corporal Clinger don’t exist. The book portrays the 4077th MASH as having more doctors than the four in the television series.

Despite these differences, I enjoyed reading the book, laughing at all the doctors’ antics like I did when I saw them on television. It would have been really cool if it were read by Alan Alda, the actor who portrayed Hawkeye in the TV series, but the Audible narrator did a pretty good job of portraying each character. I like the way this book shows us the horrors of war but emphasizes the idea that in order to get through tough times, you have to have a sense of humor.

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.