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Dateline: California (an unfashionable, but surprisingly expensive neighborhood, where the residents walk their own dogs, rather than having the servants do it)
Monday, November 26, 2018
Tagline: Birthday of Two Famous Pianists and also Madame

Yes, Happy Birthday to You, Robin. And to sassy classic pianist and autobiographer, Earl Wild, and puppeteer Wayland Flowers (and alter-ego Madame, the Notorious).

You just do not see this kind of confluence every day. Were the deities in charge of populating Planet Earth in this year of grace 2018, nibbling at hallucinogenic mushrooms, which lasted longer than they expected? All the way to showtime?

One can only guess at such things. I will admit that the odds may be very long, not only in shaking loose with such personalities with such talents, but also in providing each unlikely case with show business jobs which paid good money; a whole career's worth. That is a rarity, ask anyone.

While we muse, Robin quietly lifts us up into her own special domain, carrying along all who hear in a cloud, knit by her own inner feeling and her skill.

Happy Birthday to You, Robin!


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Beautiful, Mr. Clef! smile Thank you for such an educational and warmly uplifting post - excellent!

Oh, and I'll add my birthday greetings to Robin - who I believe most certainly qualifies as THE Madame of this forum!

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Sweet piano tunes for weddings smile


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Hello old friends, it has been awhile.

Apologies for not checking in here sooner. Life, you know. I've been dealing with some serious family health issues, but all is well on the work front; I continue to play in the five star trench of my lovely Excelsior Hotel Ernst in Cologne, Germany, next to the cathedral. Occasionally, a wedding gig gets tossed in my direction and I think of all of you. The drama, the romance, the comedy, the music.

My next book, which includes some of the stories I've posted here over the past few years, will be published by Backbeat Books (Rowman & Littlefield) in fall, 2020. My streaming audience continues to grow and I was recently astonished to learn I have over 120 million listeners on Pandora. Evidently the world needs more quiet solo piano music, a good thing since that's pretty much all I play. But seriously, who would have thought I'd hit age 62 and have a recording career?

If you're in the Washington Metro area I'm playing a concert on February 22 at PianoCraft. Link is here. Robin Goldsby in Concert at PianoCraft

I'll also be playing in the Charleston, SC area on February 16th. That info is on my web site. It's a huge space and it's free, so no reservations needed. Piano Girl in South Carolina!

Please say hello if you get to one of these shindigs. I'd love to meet each of you in person!

Love,
Robin


Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Available June 18th, 2021--Piano Girl Playbook: Notes on a Musical Life
Also by RMG: Piano Girl, A Memoir; Waltz of the Asparagus People; Rhythm; Manhattan Roadtrip
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It's been almost ten years since I had my own "It's been awhile" post, also following a serious health issue. People were awfully kind to me here at a time when every little "lift" was appreciated. I am happy to say that I am still here and also 62 years old, within a mere couple of weeks of Robin, if memory serves.

I very much hope that Robin's report of traveling and playing gigs is a clue that things are easing a bit for her family. Her particular gifts have given me a lot of pleasure on this forum, even though I drifted away. I encourage anyone who has just stumbled on this thread to consider taking a couple of weeks to read through it. smile Hey, what else do you have to do with your time?

Actually, I have a few ideas. Musicians, especially musicians who have other jobs, can use the enforced spare time to play their instrument - or several. Confining me to this room:

[img]https://photos.app.goo.gl/skhtnhnLMpLUvfy78[/img]

... is not really that much of a hardship.

I have recorded several things that could reasonably be called "compositions", but more often I put together experiments, little etudes that allow me to play with a whole band, even if the whole band is usually me. In addition to a recent fascination with things you can bang on, I have been promising myself that I would eventually learn to play bass for at least 30 years. I finally bought one about two years ago. So I throw something together to play bass to. Or guitar. Or an excuse to use the Melodica or Udu.

Here's my latest etude. There's no "head" - at least not yet. Just a series of changes to jam on here in the current Covid-19 capital of the USA. The various parts step all over each other, and there are outright errors. But I am having a blast fooling around with it. Piano, Guitar, Bass, Djembe.

"Shelter in Place" - by Greg Guarino

I have also recently embarked on a program to have other people play on my tunes. That plan temporarily on hiatus, of course. But I am writing tunes specifically for my friends to play on. I'm working on a piece for French Horn, one that uses it in a less traditional combination of instruments - another thing I have grown fond of in my dotage.

Speaking of old age, here's my best advice: To whatever degree you are able, do stuff. Refinish that end table, or read the stack of books that's been building up on it. Go for a (rude, antisocial) walk. Play your instrument(s). We're all eating in, so try a new recipe. Most importantly, check in on your friends; use your technology of choice - the telephone is a tried and true option.

And watch the news sparingly.

Still stuck? Turn to most any page in this thread. Lots of it is old enough to be fresh again.

My best to all.

Greg Guarino



[i][/i]

Last edited by gdguarino; 03/26/20 11:51 PM. Reason: typos

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And Today in Wedding History:
April 9, 2005
at the several times refurbished and recently (then) reopened, Windsor Guildhall:

Wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles

December 21, 2005
Same Sex Civil Partnership Ceremony of Sir Elton John and David Furnish

I suppose we should take them in order. Even here, even with sex; even same-sex: A sloppy mess; always has been, always will be. As everyone knows. And don't blame me for bringing up the "S" word; it's on the front page of the invitations. So, everyone already knows, ok? Starting with the engraver's devil and expanding out from there. And if that's not what it's about, THAT is what goes without public mention.

In the case of Prince Charles and the Duchess Camilla, I believe we are safe. Everything that would be guaranteed to make Her Majesty the Queen break out in a rash has already been thoroughly rehearsed in the press, and I do mean thoroughly. Prince Charles's midnight phone calls, rated strictly X and you have to be over 18 to learn the details, unless you can read a newspaper. Randy Andy. You would not think he could be in worse trouble than back in the days of Koo Stark, then the Duchess Sarah (and their divorce and its sequelae). Yet, those visits to Florida with videotape of the prince (oh God) having to do with the underage young lady friends of his buddy, who was perhaps too used to having things all go his way.

Maybe this is the way they provide PR cover to the legacy branch of the royal family. It makes Charles and Camilla look downright innocent, if you leave Princess Diana out of the picture. But, even the briefest summary would have us set out upon far too wide a sea.

So never mind.

Anyway, the Windsor Guildhall is a very venerable place where the public has been served for many centuries. Court has been held there, the Quarter Sessions, harking back to the days when four sessions a year were enough to take care of all the crimes and judicial proceedings (readers of the Sherlock Holmes stories may recognize the custom).

Corn auctions have been held for a long time indeed, on the covered ground floor, the building being raised up upon pillars through many remodelings, yet preserving this important space and function. A couple of renovations before, the building was reopened and rededicated by none other than Princess Elizabeth. Since the formation of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in 1974, the guildhall has been used by the borough council for ceremonies and committee meetings. And on 12 March 2011, the new Windsor and Royal Borough Museum was officially opened in the Guildhall by Her Majesty, the Queen. [Thanks to Wiki for these details.]

So, it is a place of some importance, though at a lower pitch than the doings at Westminster Abbey. It's ok; we've been to the Abbey. And, so much for Charles and Camilla; we already know all about it. Happy anniversary, guys, and congratulations. Perhaps history will be more human in the future.

So that brings us, at last, to the day of the Winter Solstice of 2005, and the "Same Sex Civil Partnership Ceremony of Sir Elton John and David Furnish." That is what it is called; no doubt some shorter name is used in everyday talk. If I tried to make one up, or guess at it, I would only find myself accused of yet another snide or snarky remark. But why should I (other than the too obvious fact that I can hardly stop myself)? Perhaps we are approaching to a more human, or humane, point of historical view.

Was there music? The programme doesn't say. Perhaps it could be said that the principals ARE music, or as good as. Sir Elton's name, merely mentioned, is enough to make the mind think of music. To tell the truth, I know very little else about him, or his personal life. Conservatory grad, seduced by the stage, studio, and concert hall... and now the Guildhall.

Happy anniversary, guys, and congratulations. Perhaps history will be more human in the future. Let us hope.


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It's been a long while since anyone has posted on this thread. A shame, too, because a little extra camaraderie would be welcome about now.

No new gig stories, of course. Our band has not played since February. Oddly, I have been two two weddings this year. In what seems like reckless abandon to my 2020-altered brain, both were out of town. The first one even required a flight.

It was at the very beginning of our strange global adventure. In the one March week that we were away from home NY City went from a literal handful known cases to over a thousand. We were tourists in Arizona by day and worried New Yorkers by night, glued to the evening news.

I and mine have been healthy and working from home. Accustomed to a long commute for most of my working life, I have had a little extra time on my hands. I have spent some of it making recordings at home. Mostly my own compositions and noodling. But over the holidays I have recorded two covers: "Christmastime is Here" (Guaraldi) and "Auld Lang Syne". "Christmastime..." is a one-man trio of Piano, Melodica and (my new hobby) Bass. Although I'm more of an ensemble player than a soloist, "Auld..." is piano only.

Christmastime is Here

Auld Lang Syne

I hope all the old "regulars" are doing well. Maybe drop a line here sometime.

Greg Guarino


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I'm back. And I intend to be present in the most present way possible.

I'll cut to the chase—my dear husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer in September 2019. It was one heck of a year, with treatments, scary surgery, a brush with paralysis, and a lot of reassessing of his needs, our careers, and our future plans.

I will spare you details, except to say that the cancer is in remission and John is playing bass again. Anyone who is interested in this kind of medical journey can take a look at his Caring Bridge page. In an effort to avoid a Facebook Thoughts and Prayers circus (and also to control information) we've kept discussion of his disease off of social media.

Nothing like a midlife reassessment of what counts. Please know, we are okay.

I miss all of you, too. Greg, Clef, all the gang. I assume many of you are fighting the pandemic blues. I miss my job, but hope to be back in a few months. Due to the slow vaccine rollout in Europe we are still in a state of lockdown, with restaurants, bars, and hotels last on the list to reopen.

Maybe some of you will enjoy this little essay I wrote last spring. Hope to hear from you soon!

Love,
Robin

***
We Are the Musicians

Robin Meloy Goldsby is a pianist and the author of Piano Girl (Backbeat Books). She has appeared on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland.

We are the crooners, the head-bangers, concert stage artists, beer hall grinders, swinging jazz trios, choir accompanists, big band soldiers, guitar-strumming folksingers, hotel ambient players, Broadway pit veterans. We are the buskers, boppers, and bewildered career performers currently pivoting on the precipice of a new era.

Professional freelance musicians face an uncertain future. Even if society returns to its fast-paced tempo, we will likely encounter closed venues, germophobic fans, and a beaten down audience with no disposable income to afford the luxury of an evening out.

Like it wasn’t already difficult enough to make a living as a musician.

The overabundance of free content online gives the general impression that we happily share our art form because we love what we do.

That’s partially correct, but it’s not the whole story. We might play to challenge ourselves, unbreak our broken hearts, or carve out a corner of harmony in a dissonant world. But we also play to pay the bills.

Check out the richness of the artist livestream menu and you’ll see everything from desperation to generosity, often served up as a combination of both. Some of us dabble in monetizing the livestream market because we have families to feed, mortgages to pay, children to clothe and educate. Others showcase their talents in exchange for applause and recognition, or to stay on the radar of a general public that has the attention span of a fruit fly. Some of us don’t need the money (yet) or the praise but crave the human connection we make when performing for a live audience.

It turns out that most of us have been living on the edge for a very long time, even those who seem successful. A busy touring musician, one who relies on live performances to make her living, can suffer the sting of a season’s cancellations and hang in there financially for a few months. Maybe the A-listers can hold out for a few years. Maybe. The lucky among us have tenured teaching positions or full-time orchestra contracts to cushion the blow, at least for the time being. But those of us without a regular paycheck are now scrambling for every dollar—relying on the virtual tip jar, a GoFundMe campaign, a Patreon house of cards, or the benevolence of strangers who have the resources, good taste, and compassion to understand that live music delivers a vital link to our own humanity.

We create art, we compose soaring melodies and intricate bass lines that paint acoustic portraits of empathy, beauty, ugliness, and grace. This ability separates us from a every other form of life on the planet. Last time I checked, a troop of macaques, gregarious as they might be, were unable to perform or appreciate a Mozart string quartet, a burning version of “Cherokee,” or a choral version of the seemingly never-ending verses of a Dylan tune.

Is music essential? Yes, no, maybe. Depends who you ask. Music has never been essential for keeping people alive, but it has always been essential for helping us feel alive. Live music connects us in an impeccably human way. We use our 10,000 hours of practice (20,000 for the over-achievers among us) to tap into universal emotions, shout out the inequities of society, bask in our loneliness, celebrate freedom or recovery or victory, knock down walls or poke holes in plexiglass ceilings, to remember, to dream, to keep moving forward. That’s what live music does—sometimes, but not always. When it’s magical, it’s magical.

We get it. Musicians are not essential like frontline medical workers, sanitation employees, or people who bravely go to work every day so that the rest of us can purchase toilet paper, cake ingredients, or a jug of vodka. The truly essential workers are the brave folks who ensure that musicians can stay home, practice, and dream of a time when we might return to the handful of venues that have weathered the Corona storm.

So what do we do while all this weathering is going on? Any level of musician can click “Go Live” and open themselves up to a worldwide audience. We can livestream to our heart’s desire. But truth be told, our hearts aren’t much in it. At least, not yet. Now what? Pivot, some might say. Come on, we’re good at this. Musicians are experts at pivoting, sidestepping, and leaping through flaming hoops. Most of us have been fired and hired more times in year than most people are in a lifetime.

Quarantine? No problem. We’re accustomed to solitude; we actually enjoy lonely hours in a practice studio immersed in musical challenges large and small. We know about the dark hole of unemployment, the downward spiral of uncertainty, the futility of shining an aural sliver of light into a boomy, gloomy world. We’re well-equipped to fight the creeping sense of worthlessness that raises its dissonant voice every now and then. Will we really be defeated by a virus that may have been caused by a horseshoe bat, or a butt-ugly pangolin, or a biological warfare lab? Not likely.

Right now, we’re scuffling to support our families, just like you and everyone else. We are angry, unsettled, scared, sleeping poorly, and making do with ramen noodles and day-old banana bread. But in the middle of all this, some musicians are rising—tossing online bouquets of song to the outstretched hands of you, our sequestered sisters and brothers, our treasured audience that lives on in our wildest, happiest dreams.

I think about the Titanic band, the most famous group of anonymous musicians in the history of anonymous musicians, and how they played through their repertoire of popular songs as the ship slowly sank into icy water. Those eight courageous players, all of whom set sail on the Titanic as second-class passengers, played until the very end, providing a real-life real-death sound track that has been romanticized for decades.

Let’s name the musicians, shall we? Theodore Ronald Brailey, Roger Marie Bricoux, John Frederick Clarke, Wallace Hartley, John Law Hume, Georges Alexandre Krins, Percy Cornelius Taylor, John Wesley Woodward. They ranged in age from twenty to thirty-three years old. Why did they keep playing as the ship went down? Was it a sense of duty, the genuine desire to calm passengers being lowered into lifeboats and bring peace to those—like themselves—left stranded on deck? Or did they keep playing because they hoped the denizens of society (the ones in the lifeboats) would recognize artistry in the face of calamity? Maybe they thought that rescue—even for those in steerage class—was a possibility, that the next gig on the next ship was right on the other side of that pesky iceberg.

Musicians have always been ridiculous optimists. We have to be.

The family of one of the Titanic musicians, months after the tragedy, received a bill from the shipping company, asking them to pay for the rental of his uniform.

Even in the most turbulent times, even when faced with an iceberg of daunting proportions, musicians continue to believe that if we do what we do well, eventually someone will pay us. There’s not yet a clear business model as to how we’ll make a living during this mess—or even on the other side of it—but we are resourceful. The vast Internet is full of unchartered opportunity to monetize what we do and still find a connection to our audience.

Maybe we’re part of an unwelcome digital Darwinian experiment. Some of us—those too old-school, tired, or jaded to learn new technologies—will drop out, find another way to make a living, or spend the rest of our lives reminiscing about the good old days. But some of us will conquer the livestream, the interactive concert, the sponsorship scheme. Most of us will hope for redemption and muster the courage to keep playing while the ship sinks, because it’s what we do best.

Is our collective virtual tip jar half full or half empty? Do we even own a f***ing tip jar?

My last gig was March 15th, 2020, at Excelsior Hotel Ernst in Cologne, Germany where I’ve been performing for the last five years. As usual, I played solo piano music for a grateful audience of guests of all ages, most of them enjoying one last outing a few hours before the enforcement of Angela Merkel’s lockdown orders. I played music from my Magnolia album along with a few standards and closed the set with Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes.” We already seemed nostalgic for something we knew was slipping away—the chance to gather, listen to music, remember, forget, drift. My guests were strangers to me, but for the three hours we spent together that afternoon, we bonded. Maybe it was even a little magical.

I could have played the Titanic theme, but I didn’t.

When I covered the Steinway and left the hotel, part of me knew that I was likely walking away from a joyful forty-five-year career in live music, one that has grounded me, given me wings, and provided a livelihood for my family. But the survivor part of me, the Pollyanna Piano Girl who has never lost faith in the ability of music to unite hearts and minds, resorted to talking out loud to the piano.

“Don’t worry,” I said, “I’ll be back.”


Robin Meloy Goldsby
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Available June 18th, 2021--Piano Girl Playbook: Notes on a Musical Life
Also by RMG: Piano Girl, A Memoir; Waltz of the Asparagus People; Rhythm; Manhattan Roadtrip
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A serious and, ultimately, inspiring essay - thank you. Robin, I almost LITERALLY cheered when I saw you were back on the forum - YAY! And without the circus . . . I must say I am SO glad for this: "Please know, we are okay."

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Goodness you were missed around here! The great stories, the warmth and humor were sorely needed during the pandemic blues. Im sure you will be surprised that vaccination rollout in the US has been spotty as well— forcing some of us to live like hermit crabs for a year.

I’m so sorry to hear about John, but so relieved he is in remission.

There’s a lot to take in from your article— and I don’t think I will ever think about the Titanic in the same way

And yes, I’m glad you told the Steinway ‘I’ll be back”, because you will 😊
There will always be a place for a wonderful acoustic piano and talented pianist.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Thank you so much for your uplifting comments, dogperson and pwl.

I am humbled and relieved to be back among my piano people.

Sending love to all of you. More to come!


Robin Meloy Goldsby
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I'm just glad to see your name over your own byline again. I hope you have never imagined yourself forgotten; you are not that forgettable--- to say the least.

As I read over the new posts, over the headphones is a recording of me, limping through some Christmas carols and hymns. I can hear you saying, "But Clef--- it's not Christmas," with the glaringly obvious concern that I may have become unmoored from Time itself--- like that's a big deal. While I do harbor the opinion that time is host, within its innumerable mansions, to many versions, phases, romps, and experiences of itself, I reject the idea that these are contradictions of its own being, and its own rules. We just have a lot to learn.

And as for Christmas songs in March, no one need raise an eyebrow, or call for an armed guard with an ambulance to take me off to the booby hatch. I started with these well before Christmas, hoping to get them out of the way so I could work up "Santa Baby" (the Eartha Kitt version, of course), and "Merry Christmas, Darling," with whose lyric I may have taken a few liberties, but face it, with "Logs on the fire fill me with desire," Karen Carpenter has already done most of the damage with no help from me.

The hymns happen to be hard. For one thing, the pages are too small, the paper is cheap and horrible, and the print is very bad, though my printer has been able to enlarge them to a readable size, on paper you can't see through. Still, they have been scored for the convenience of choir and chorus, not the hapless pianist, who must read treble and bass clef separated by as many as six stanzas of the lyric text, and cope, on the fly, with an entirely unsuitable scheme of fingering.

Still, some of the songs are truly lovely, and scanning through the index of composers, one sees quite a many familiar names. Bach, Beethoven, Arthur Sullivan, Felix Mendelssohn, Vaughn Williams, William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, John Stainer, Louis Gottschalk, Charles Gounod, Handel, Haydn, Martin Luther, Mozart, Palestrina, Ignaz Joseph Pleyel, Purcell, Robert Schumann, Martin Shaw, Jean Sibelius... and many, some of them among the most powerful, whose roots strike so deep into the fabric of Time, itself, that their composers and lyricists are unknown in our time. They are attributed according to the modern names of the countries from which they are thought to have emanated, although even that is uncertain.

I don't doubt that most of these are as childs' play to some of the very accomplished keyboardists on the Forum, but I am trying to learn to read music better with a seventy-year-old brain, and I am finding it to be quite a job. All the same, it seems to me that there are parallels to the brain trained from the age of four to look at glyphs which represent letters and words. To the eye that sees this collection, or even a fragment, the word and its intention are instantly known to the brain; it can't help itself. I may not be four years old any longer, and have come to this work with both determination and surrender, and with a very late start. But it is yielding to me. After all, it is a language I already speak and know well, and ink spots on the page convey sense to the mind that opens to them, and keeps their company every day.

Add to this, there are tools now available to all, to conduct researches into words, questions, histories, authors, and meanings, which we would never have imagined, or even considered back then.

But there is more. The people in the church in which I was brought up, were very kind to the youngsters, and went well out of their way to help us. Only to lay eyes on this book is to remember them.

And then there are the lyrics themselves. Some are spooky; some are achingly lovely; some are a surprise to those who believe they know these songs well, for they look deeply into the heart. I will offer this sample from the tune that has just come through my headphones:

"...And ye, beneath life's crushing load, whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way, with painful steps, and slow;
Look now! For glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing...."

Or, listen to them play upon the piano, in whose voice so many deep mysteries are given to song, hearing which even the very star voyagers find it impossible to feel nothing... perhaps, something like what we sense when we hear a bird's song.

The return of Robin.


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This is beautiful, Mr. Clef. Thank you for taking me/us on this journey . . . And lest we forget, it's inspired by "the return of Robin". So fitting!

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Thank you, Clef! What a lovely post.

Welcome to Pandemic Season Two: The Second Spring. Here's a little something that reminds me of the killer swans from a previous post (a few yers ago). Nothing to do with weddings, but everything to do with the wedding pianist who has too much time on her hands while waiting for people start getting married again. Perhaps some of you will relate.

Swamp Rats and Other Thoughts (in E minor)

Pandemic fun fact: The giant swamp rat (also known as a nutria), formerly a resident of boggy parts of South America, now inhabits European city ponds and other small waterways. The revolting rodent boasts a beaver’s brawny body without its slapstick paddle tail. Instead, the swamp rat has a spiny, naked tail, the type seen in horror films about grisly devils with horns and pitchforks. If that’s not bad enough, the swamp rat, about the size of a dachshund, sports buckish, bright orange teeth. I’ve seen videos of Cologne families with small children, likely bored with Disney Plus and hankering for a fun-fun-fun pandemic outing, feeding cookies to these creatures.
In Cologne, we have an extra-hefty swamp rat named Theo at one of the popular city parks. A pandemic mascot, so to speak.

They’ve become a problem in the USA, too. In the state of Louisiana, government officials are currently paying six bucks for every swamp rat you can shoot. Here, we feed them cookies.

I do like the name Theo, though.

If biscuit-stuffed swamp rats inhabit our lesser bodies of water, I shudder to think of the colossal critters swimming in the Rhine.
Speaking of swimming, how I pine for a good splash party, though perhaps not in the Rhine. I miss the pool, but I can’t imagine entering a public locker room ever again. Maybe someday I’ll find a pristine, private body of water, devoid of rodents, noxious viruses, and anything else that sucks the life out of women and small children. Maybe I’ll stick with my bathtub.

I’ve invented a new word. Craughing. It’s crying and laughing at the same time. My friend Peg says that Craughing might be a town in Western Pennsylvania.

Does Interval Fasting work? Let’s give it a try.

Declutter! I’m all in.

But first, a little hand scrubbing with my new lavender scented soap that smells suspiciously like vomit.

I’m thinking about Wayne, a regular piano lounge customer of mine at the Manhattan Grand Hyatt several decades ago. He showed up most nights and sipped a gin martini (straight up, three olives, side of flavored rocks). Wayne was a nice guy who had obvious OCD issues—he insisted on sitting on the same barstool night after night and was known to arrange his uneaten smoked almonds so that they all faced the same direction in the nut bowl. He left the bar every five minutes to go to the men’s room. We thought he suffered from a spastic colon, but a Hyatt employee named Samson—a reliable source of information when it came to scoping out the scene in the men’s room, a place that hosted a fair amount of nefarious activity—told us Wayne was in there constantly scrubbing his hands. Poor Wayne was a germaphobe, years ahead of his time, which, considering the toxic condition of Manhattan and the Grand Hyatt in the eighties, may have been wise.

That’s me now. I am Wayne.

Out damned spot! Out, I say. This soap smells truly vile.

I’ve taken to composing music in E minor. It’s the only key that feels right to me.

“Waltz for Theo”—a little tune for the next album.

I do so love a good costume drama. Did you watch Bridgerton? I did, and I am bothered by the heaving bosoms, not because I find them unsanitary, sexist, or offensive, but because, after watching a few episodes, I made a serious attempt to make my own bosom heave and failed miserably. Even if I crank my breasts up to my chin, I can’t get the heaving thing happening. I think there’s something wrong with me.

Also, my arms are too short in comparison to my long torso. After I pointed this out to my ape-limbed family, they started calling me T-Rex Goldsby.

T-Rex Goldsby, from Craughing, PA. ( Note to self: good song title, shuffle tempo, with a "Hard-Hearted Hanna" feel)

My eyebrows are disappearing.

Let’s discuss pedicures. I think often of Howard Hughes and those long, curling toenails.

Hands up if you hate your own cooking!

I’m not craughing; you’re craughing.

Word of the year: Efficacy. A fancy and fun way of saying this s*** works.

I have a recurring nightmare that I’ve been cast in the next season of Bridgerton, and I get fired on the first day because of my non-heaving bosom, lack of brow, long toenails, and T-Rex arms.

Most overused media phrase: “shots in arms.” As opposed to what? Shots in necks?

I would gladly accept a shot in the neck if the EU could get it together to offer one. Or as the Brits say, a jab. A jab in the neck. Where do I sign up?

My daughter, whose default setting has always been cheerful, is applying to film school. She showed me her audition package. Dystopia, depression, loneliness—that’s what’s on her mind, and who can blame her? She’s a mirror, not a megaphone, and this is how she sees the world—a moment in time that seems to be lasting a thousand years, characterized by masked faces, jabs in arms, and swamp rats.

One of those swamp rats (not Theo) recently killed a dog. A small dog, but still.

“You watch,” Julia says. “Upcoming headline: Rat Eats Kid.”

In a year jampacked with outrageous stories, this would not be so outrageous.

I’ve gotten used to everyone looking like a robber. I’m afraid when I finally see my new neighbors without their masks, they will have buckish, bright orange teeth and I will be frightened.

Maybe I could toss them some cookies.

Call it age, call it Corona, but I’ve grown tired of aiming for the stars, so now I’m aiming for less carbs. In a world hellbent on winning big, looming large, and finishing first, the pandemic has taught me that I’m okay with losing ground as long as I can circle my wagons so tightly that I’m touching virtual noses with members of my squad.

Some members of the squad might be getting a tad bitchy.

I could eat that iced chocolate donut now, but I really should wait another eighteen hours. Interval fasting!

I struggle to find anything new, profound, or earth shaking to put forth through music or words. So I spit-shine what I already know—and those things, when I’m lucky, seem trifling and evanescent—like fireflies on a stagnant lake, petite reminders of diminishing hope in a world grown bleak and blue.

Anyone want some popcorn?

“Bleak and Blue.” This could be a new Billie Eilish song.

F*** interval fasting.

Maybe this is a really good time for a facelift.

In spite of my cushioned pandemic experience, I’m crushed by the desperation we’ve all witnessed over the past year. Is this a wake-up call to start paying attention to each other again? Not with likes and follows and clicks and comments, but with actual human contact. A phone call, a postcard, a letter—heck at this point even an email seems old-fashioned and quaint, texting fools that we’ve all become.

Cashew butter! Such fun.

I miss wearing lipstick.

I miss wearing real clothes.

I miss seeing smiles, grins, smirks, uplifting expressions of surprise or humor or run-of-the-mill good cheer.

I miss you.

I hate E minor.

Does anyone make gluten-free vegan pot brownies?

Swamp rats. Seriously?

Flirting is difficult without eyebrows.

I’m tired of feeling grateful.

Because I miss you.

Why does everyone on Instagram have access to better filters?

Why is my dermatologist fourteen years old?

Why do I only know twelve and a half of my 3,000 Facebook friends?

Why does Twitter feel like screaming into an empty paper-towel tube?

Is there a musician alive who successfully uses Linked-In?

Should I Tik? Or Tok? And if I’m older than fourteen is it okay to participate? Would my dermatologist approve?

Why can’t I heave my bosom?

I. Miss. You.

I loathe the term “new normal,” but by all accounts, that’s what we’re got. In addition to death and debilitating illness, we’re raising a generation of kids (Lil’ Waynes in training) who might spend the rest of their lives obsessively scrubbing their angry red mitts; young adults grieving their stunted careers and nonexistent social lives; millions of weary moms who have given up their jobs to make sure their six-year-olds don’t play with machetes and rifles when they should be doing their math homework; trampled down, forlorn and forgetful seniors who felt neglected and unjustly sequestered before the pandemic even began; and the rest of us—the empty-nest middle agers tilting into our best years without the questionable rewards of family reunions, holidays abroad, or leisurely cocktail hours with like-minded friends.

I admit it. I’m sad.

Here’s to the ladies who lunch—how I’d love to sit around a table with two or three of my favorite friends. We could cry; we could laugh; we could craugh. We could toss baguette crumbs and stale Fig Newtons to the swamp rats. Or shoot them (not Theo).

A year ago, at the beginning of the siege, I took some heat for calling a pangolin “butt-ugly.” With the recent appearance of the European swamp rat, it’s clear to me that our less-cute animal friends now rule the world. They probably think we’re the ugly ones.

Low-grade depression is a drag. It gnaws on your soul with buckish, bright orange teeth.

Buck up! Put on some real pants. More popcorn. Let’s reorganize that shoe rack one more time.

Who’s zoomin’ who?

This is the second spring in a row that I’ve bought every tulip in Holland in an attempt to cheer myself up. Despite its ballerina elegance, even a perfect red-headed tulip—when it ages and drapes itself over the edge of a crystal vase—resembles both a drunken comedian and a benzodiazepine overdose candidate.

A wilting tulip is the Lucille Ball of the botanical world. Even when it’s half-dead, I smile. Tulips are the only flowers that can make me craugh.

I miss you.

I would hug you if I could, but my short arms can’t reach that far.


Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Available June 18th, 2021--Piano Girl Playbook: Notes on a Musical Life
Also by RMG: Piano Girl, A Memoir; Waltz of the Asparagus People; Rhythm; Manhattan Roadtrip
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THAT was a helluva ride!

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This entire year has been a helluva ride, pwl. It's one long, slow emergency. Largo, but with urgency.

I'm thinking that if we get to the other side of this, there could be a gazillion weddings to play.

I did play one gorgeous castle wedding in September 2020, during a brief window of opportunity that allowed for groups of less than 50 to gather for weddings, funerals, and other life-altering events. Everyone was well behaved during the dinner, but by the time I left and the DJ was setting up, the wine had taken its toll, masks came off, and all thoughts of social distancing were abandoned. Guests had been tested in advance, but still. Yikes.


Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Available June 18th, 2021--Piano Girl Playbook: Notes on a Musical Life
Also by RMG: Piano Girl, A Memoir; Waltz of the Asparagus People; Rhythm; Manhattan Roadtrip
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A few notes from a year ago—my last concert tour before Pandemic: Season One. The tour started with a funeral—it should have been a sign of things to come.

Now Boarding


Earlier today, I attended my mother-in-law’s funeral. Right now, I’m sitting in a Louisville airport lounge waiting to board my Delta flight to Atlanta, connecting to Charleston. Bloody Mary or ginger-ale? I’ve got a concert to play in Charleston in a few days, and jet lag has slapped me silly. I feel slightly stoned (jet lag is one of the only chemical-free highs), a little lonely, and relieved that I’ve made it this far on three hours of sleep. I get foot cramps when I fly, and often wake out of a deep slumber and dance the midnight tango to make them go away. Last night was such a night.

Yesterday’s fifteen-hour flight odyssey from Germany to Kentucky culminated in an overnight stay at a Louisville hotel overlooking the viscous water flooding the banks of the Ohio River, a surprisingly nutritious (quinoa and veggies) breakfast in a restaurant called the Whiskey Corner, and a perilous Uber ride with Chuck the driver to the Southern Baptist church where my mother-in-law’s service took place. Visitation, open casket, a spray of pink flowers to match her suit jacket, an enthusiastic choir, and a compassionate crowd of well-wishers and family friends—a classic Baptist funeral befitting a preacher’s wife, with all the bells and whistles.

Due to my husband’s recent illness and subsequent inability to handle a transatlantic flight at this point in his recovery, I volunteered to show up at the church as the Designated Mourner on his behalf. It was an easy call, since I knew I would be stateside for my concerts. I’ve read about Chinese funeral rituals where strangers are hired to sit in the second pew and sob loudly, but that wasn’t my gig today. No sobbing. Instead, I played the Pachelbel Canon in D, which is evidently the only piece in my repertoire that anyone wants to hear. Vineyard weddings, formal funerals, baptism lunches, cocktail lounge birthday shindigs, formal concert halls, Buckingham Palace—I’ve performed the piece in just about every venue imaginable. I even played it outdoors on a stage in a park while my audience watched silent fireworks. My mother-in-law once referred to the Pachelbel Canon as the Taco Bell Canon. I like that. Music for the people. Soothing, reliable, familiar. Maybe that’s what Johann Pachelbel intended. I was honored to play it one more time, for her.

It was a good-sized house for the funeral of a ninety-seven-year old woman, who had, by the time she died, lost her husband and most of her church friends. She lived a charmed life, protected by her God and well taken care of by her brave husband and loyal daughters. She slipped away the way most of us would prefer to exit this world—in her sleep. At the funeral, we sang her favorite hymns, listened to glossy stories about her century of exemplary life choices, and recited some prayers, the faded words of which seemed both appropriate and sad.

Note: All songs in the Baptist hymnal are written in keys for male singers.

The preacher invited each of us to stand and say a few words, so I did, because, as Designated Mourner, I thought my husband would want me to do so. I thanked her for raising a son who had become a loving husband, engaged father, a man who knows how to respect women. His mother might have happily played the part of the southern belle, but her accidental feminist edge occasionally revealed itself.

She first met Julia, our daughter, when Julia was thirteen months old. We had taken the long flight from Germany to Kentucky to present our precious child to her grandmother. I was distracted when we got out of the car because our four-year old son, cranky and hungry after the long trip, had just called his baby sister an [censored]. He couldn’t pronounce it properly and said “sasshole,” but it was clear enough what he meant. Not exactly a good way to make a positive impression on one’s prim and proper Baptist grandmother.

“Why,” my mom-in-law said, in her charming Louisville accent, ignoring the sasshole comment and its perpetrator. “Julia looks just like me.”

“Oh, yes, I guess she does,” I replied. “Bless your heart.”

“But look, Robin, she does have your feet.”

She turned out to be half right. Julia, now twenty-three, looks very much like her beautiful grandmother, but she does not have my feet.

At the funeral service I played a decent improvisation of the Canon in D on a freshly tuned Steinway with a squeaky pedal and exited stage left. I picked up my suitcase and drove in a procession with our niece and nephew to Cave Hill Cemetery.

Our nephew helped carry the casket to the grave and I wept, not as the Designated Mourner, but as myself. I wept for her grandchildren, for my husband’s loss of his mother, for the trajectory of age and the oblivious way we march into the chasm of finality. One day you’re making French toast for your family, your kid is calling everyone a sasshole, and the future—with its endless opportunities to make good trouble—stretches out before you like an interminable game of hide and seek. The next day, it’s a spray of pink roses, a couple of hymns that no woman with a normal voice can sing, and a hundred resonating farewells.

She was buried next to her husband, and within spitting distance of Colonel Sanders. Muhammed Ali’s grave is also close by; she’s in good Louisville company. She believed in a heaven that features angels, a healed body, and a God who will always look out for her. May she be right. May the Canon in D be heaven’s soundtrack.

She was loved.

The air felt cold enough to break me in two, but the defiant sun shone fiercely on the end of an era.

**

People hover in the lounge, waiting for a chance to board the commuter jet—I’m sure it will be one of those planes with a dripping ceiling and seats with two and a half inches of legroom. Boarding begins for the privileged few. We, the great unwashed, stand patiently and listen to the over-worked gate attendant recite his endless list of elite pre-boarders—first class, business class, active military (thank you for your service), families with small children, disabled, economy premium, non-active military (thank you for your service) platinum card, gold card, silver card, bronze card, and more military (thank you for your service).

No one, and I mean no one, boards the plane in any of these categories.

“We’re pleased to announce a complimentary gate check of your cabin baggage today. Free of charge, we will gladly check your carry-on suitcase right here at the gate, and you can pick it up when you disembark in Atlanta.”

Does anyone fall for this? No.

“All other passengers may now board the plane.”

Finally. Like a pack of defeated, economy-class sassholes, we, the other passengers—also the only passengers—drag our weary selves onto the plane. No one thanks us for our service.

Drip, drip, drop.

I ask a flight attendant about the dripping ceiling. I’ve encountered this on other domestic flights in the USA. I’m reassured that the drip is normal—a flaw in the air conditioning system. It’s February. In a few weeks all flights will be cancelled due to CoVid 19. We settle in, naively assuming that the perks and privileges of our peripatetic lives will go on forever, uninterrupted by disease, death, and the destruction of our planet.

The canned music on the plane, the calming pre-flight playlist that’s usually accompanied by static and security announcements, drones on for a few moments before I realize I’m hearing the Canon in D. Not my recording, but a soulless midi-synth-string interpretation intended to soothe our nerves as we prepare for flight. They’re making an effort. I hear the sound of a fake cello and drift off to sleep, right before the plane lifts into the air.


Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Available June 18th, 2021--Piano Girl Playbook: Notes on a Musical Life
Also by RMG: Piano Girl, A Memoir; Waltz of the Asparagus People; Rhythm; Manhattan Roadtrip
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Great read Robin! As a 12-year participant at the Aebersold Jazz Camp (yes, I'm a slow learner) I've sat in that airport lounge many a time. I've also met your husband (excellent bassist, amazing teacher and really nice guy). My heartfelt condolences on yours and his loss.

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Hey Chrisbell—Best regards from John Goldsby.

Oh my, that Louisville airport lounge. The first time I was there I ordered a vodka martini and the server offered me a double for 50 cents extra, an offer I could not resist even though it was two in the afternoon. It was like a bucket of vodka. After my husband fetched me—sloshed and proclaiming my love for all things Louisville (baseball bats, Mohammed Ali, Cololnel Sanders) we went directly to one of the Aebersold concerts and who knows what I heard but I'm sure I loved it.

Let's hope those wonderful jazz camps can take place once again—if not this year, then in 2022. Let's meet in the lounge.


Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Available June 18th, 2021--Piano Girl Playbook: Notes on a Musical Life
Also by RMG: Piano Girl, A Memoir; Waltz of the Asparagus People; Rhythm; Manhattan Roadtrip
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