OT - Visit With Dad III

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Amskeptic
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OT - Visit With Dad III

Post by Amskeptic » Wed Aug 08, 2007 9:31 pm

No dad when I arrived. I looked around this stunning wreck of a place with a marvelling eye. Like the three previous visits, I was socked in the nose by the "fragrance" of many many many cats who have missed the cat box many many many times. This being the heat of summer, the harvest of flies was abundant and startling. Dad arrived in a senior-citizen bus whose driver appeared to be easily familiar with my dad's disheveled attire. The driver deposited a heavy box in my arms and scrammed efficiently. The "climate control system" was on the fritz and he had gone into town to obtain a 1/2 horse blower motor to drive the swamp cooler. Imagine. . . . the rich "fragrances" in that trailor made more intense still by the addition of damp swamp-cooler air. That poor swamp cooler, I was thanking every duct-taped part, every frayed wire, every chewed, hammered, broken, worn, filthy part for helping to keep my dad alive out there.

I was more interested in the piano, that Steinway Under Crap. We decided to deal with it after our trek to southern California for the family reunion. My old man's disdain for the human race was softening under the excitement of visiting relatives he has not seen (been in the presence of) in over a decade or two. It was my honor to be the catalyst.

My new relatives in Oceanside live in the same house they have always had (50 years!) in what was an old barrio, but is now an uneasy collection of apartments and over-populated single family homes. Theirs was easy to spot, Indian pottery and bric-a-brac, a bleached wolf howling next to a cactus, and a similar casualness towards housekeeping that made me have a stern talk with myself out in the car - "embrace it all, don't retreat!" These are a tough bunch of people, they have known hard lives and have carved a place in the community and with the local constabulary. My Aunt (dad's mom's sister) who really struck me. 91 years old and possessed of quick mind quick spirit and energy I wish I had. Old patterns asserted themselves, and I got to see my dad as the kid he once was amongst his family. That was a gift. I liked it even as I read between the lines the harder edges.

Image

The reunion was a blur of names and resemblances.

When we got back to my dad's house, his joy upon returning underscored that this is his life. This is his life. The cats, the three-legged dog, the amazing trailor that stands because there is nothing else to do, the projects scattered all over the place, his intimate knowledge of almost every little thing on the property arrived at by feel because he sure isn't going to see it.

The next morning, we cleared off the Steinway and I just sucked-in my longing to vomit and flee. This piano was talking to me, this magnificent music maker that has not been touched in decades. My Austin Texas F-string was not the right size by a long shot, and it was an E that we actually needed. "Ah don't worry about it, kid." I took the new string and the remnants of the original, stepping gingerly under the extension cord that was caked with sticky fly shit, out to my car. I shortened the new string and unwound the copper wire surrounding the core to match the original, vise-gripped the end of the copper winding to clamp it to the core, and threaded it through the sound board and dampers to the adjusting peg. Duh stupid, you can't thread it to the left of the damper push rod, that pushes the damper into the adjacent one. Some Steinway mechanic. . . After that was sorted out, we got his old allen wrench + 1/4" socket and drew the string taut. Lovely old Steinway accepted our new string and gave us a nicely synchronized tone alongside it's E string pair.

The electronic tuner was a great help in the middle octave. It has little LED's that glow red if your note is flat or sharp in comparison to the reference tone. But at the upper and lower octaves, it got confused. It also got confused with people TALKING, DAD. He kept getting excited and would start playing riffs that got me all anxious to finish the tuning so I could hear more, "Dad, just that one note, please," "oh yeah, sorry kid." "Dad. . . count to FOUR to give the note time to diminish," but he'd start pecking at it then add an octave up and finally would go into Full Chord Thunder. Enthusiasm, it's a beautiful thing. . . . This piano, unlike most (said the new "Steinway Tuning Expert"), had a bunch of lower keys that had gone sharp as though the string board's metal frame had expanded in the desert heat, while the higher notes had gone waaay flat and sour. After 5 1/2 hours, I was leaning on the keyboard and hugging the piano flyshitcatshitcatfoodcatpee-be-damned, and trying to get those ridiculously sensitive pegs to stay where I needed them to stay so their companion strings would synchronize. Meanwhile, dad's only Allowed Visitor had shown up and they had partaken of the peace pipe and were involved in a slightly stormy but definitely wandering philosophical discussion. The electronic tuner was not impressed with all of this conversation.

I was falling in love with this piano as it slowly came alive. Finally all of the sour notes were gone and the lower octaves were so warm and authoritative and the middle-to-uppers were becoming more clarion clear.
I am sure it was a lousy tune, I have no idea of how the experts work the "temperament" or whatever, but I was happy with no more sour and in love with the snippets of music mustered forth from old fragments of Chopin's Opus 28 #20 in C Minor that I learned in 1986.

I have recorded portions of pieces that my dad played. I have a pre-tune recording of "The Hypocrite" we did in January to compare to this post-tune recording I did yesterday with my sonically overwhelmed camera. Some beautiful notes came fleetingly out of his gnarled fingers. Some exasperated cussing came out of his mouth. But music came out of that piano.

Back to the Itinerary go I, mulling this new facet of my life. I like it.
Colin
BobD - 1978 Bus . . . . . . . . . . . 112,660 miles
Chloe - 1970 bus . . . . . . . . . . . 206,845 miles
Naranja - 1977 Westfalia . . . . . 112,885 miles
Pluck - 1973 Squareback . . . . . . 55,570 miles
Alexus - 1991 Lexus LS400 . . . 78,899 miles

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Elwood
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Post by Elwood » Wed Aug 08, 2007 10:55 pm

"Hello in there" Colin you did the best IAC call ever and your sharing makes me cry with joy for what this Karma will bring you. So very glad you have this space to tell the tale.

Let me know if you ever need that tuning tool. I have one I bought over 20 yrs ago at Coast Music in Costa Mesa, Ca. for about $20.00 , e
xpensisve then. I used to tune my upright grand and a baby grand then. It now is in a storage place in Phoenix with a studio Stienway given to my daughter by her grandfather, it has been in storage for over 7yrs and your story gives me hope that it too could be saved from the heat .

So very happy for your reunion of roots. Sounds like they may have made a place in your heart. Did they like your Bus?

xoxxo B/E
'69 weekender ~ Elwood

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hambone
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Post by hambone » Thu Aug 09, 2007 7:19 am

Your journeys have taken on a whole basket of metaphors! Peace in strange places...
http://greencascadia.blogspot.com
http://pdxvolksfolks.blogspot.com
it balances on your head just like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine
your brand new leopard skin pillbox hat

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spiffy
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Post by spiffy » Thu Aug 09, 2007 8:01 am

Yeppers, the lower octaves are harder to tune with a digital tuner because they have all the overtones of their particular key built into them. When I used to go crazy about tuning my tuba I would use a stroboscopic tuner becuase it shows all the overtones and allows you to harmonically balance all the elements of each low and thunderous tone, of course I would do this with my lips and I would have to do it over and over again in order to gain muscle memory for that one particular note....it's amazing though, your ears start to hear it 'right' after awhile too.

Those tuners are pricey though, but they are the standard.
78 Riviera "Spiffy"
67 Riviera "Bill"

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Amskeptic
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Post by Amskeptic » Thu Aug 09, 2007 8:47 am

spiffy wrote:Yeppers, the lower octaves are harder to tune with a digital tuner because they have all the overtones of their particular key built into them. When I used to go crazy about tuning my tuba I would use a stroboscopic tuner becuase it shows all the overtones and allows you to harmonically balance all the elements of each low and thunderous tone, of course I would do this with my lips and I would have to do it over and over again in order to gain muscle memory for that one particular note....it's amazing though, your ears start to hear it 'right' after awhile too.
My "method" was borne of queasy overheated desperation. I would lift the dampers with the right pedal and pluck the equivalent note one string up and "match" it to the one string I was working on. Once that seemed right, I would tune the companion string to offer the least "meow" (a term brought to me by the circumstances) as the struck strings would die down.
While my dad was still sitting next to me before the pot philosophy session with the One Allowed Visitor, we must have made a demented pair of Imposter Steinway Tuners. . . "Is that still meowing?" "I didn't hear it, hit again." "Is that meowing?" "Hit it again. That's pretty good! Leave it th. . .what'd you do?" "Damn, the wrench must have still been drawing it tight." "Okay. That's pretty good right there." "I haven't adjusted it yet." "Then don't touch it, here let me play." Then he'd play all over the keys I hadn't touched and the sour notes would give me a nostalgic fit, I love old barroom pianos and, like my bus freshen-up in 2001, I thought I was ruining some charm. But, like my bus six years later, the Steinway is actually incredibly charming regardless of the state of tune. Jeffrey, if you are reading this, I called our friends (the ones that were aghast at our plan) at Strait Music in Austin and triumphantly told them that the string repair was a cakewalk even with the string shortening and unwinding of copper coils) and that the tuning was presentable enough to wake up the old dame, didn't need any Zerex antifreeze to hold the pins either, an eighty four year-old piano has craftsmanship, by cracky.
Colin
BobD - 1978 Bus . . . . . . . . . . . 112,660 miles
Chloe - 1970 bus . . . . . . . . . . . 206,845 miles
Naranja - 1977 Westfalia . . . . . 112,885 miles
Pluck - 1973 Squareback . . . . . . 55,570 miles
Alexus - 1991 Lexus LS400 . . . 78,899 miles

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soulful66
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Post by soulful66 » Thu Aug 09, 2007 7:25 pm

Glad to hear you got that tunning completed. What an experience it must have been...meeting all of those relatives.
Best Regards,
John
'72 westy 3TC
'73 westy 1700 dual solex
'79 westy 2000 F.I.

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Velokid1
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Post by Velokid1 » Fri Aug 10, 2007 1:01 pm

Really enjoyed this, Colin.

Safe travels.

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Amskeptic
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Post by Amskeptic » Fri Aug 10, 2007 5:50 pm

I told Dad to just play through the errors, and they are magnificent when he accidentally shifts over a note or so on the keyboard, he plays almost soley kinesthetically.

http://s187.photobucket.com/albums/x133 ... critea.flv

http://s187.photobucket.com/albums/x133 ... ocrite.flv

All of this digitizing has degraded the sound quality horribly. I liked the sour pinao sound well enough, and really liked the warmth of the lower octaves on the tuned piano, but listening off the photobucket site, we have both poorly registered audio track and a horrendously muddy sound, BUT, the difference is still discernable. Use headphones, and reduce the volume control by half on the photobucket page to help reduce distortion, ayeee.
Colin
BobD - 1978 Bus . . . . . . . . . . . 112,660 miles
Chloe - 1970 bus . . . . . . . . . . . 206,845 miles
Naranja - 1977 Westfalia . . . . . 112,885 miles
Pluck - 1973 Squareback . . . . . . 55,570 miles
Alexus - 1991 Lexus LS400 . . . 78,899 miles

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glasseye
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Post by glasseye » Sat Aug 11, 2007 9:47 am

Great video. =D> I love the pan-slowly-up-to-the-curtains shot.
"This war will pay for itself."
Paul Wolfowitz, speaking of Iraq.

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Amskeptic
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Post by Amskeptic » Sat Aug 11, 2007 10:58 am

glasseye wrote:Great video. =D> I love the pan-slowly-up-to-the-curtains shot.
My very first review as a director/producer/gaffer/editor/fly-swatter :alien:

My earlier shots, when he was playing my very favorite haunting music, were mangled by my tripping over the aforementioned fly-crap-festooned extension cords that snake across the "living room" to the "entryway". These cords are at an altitude of two to four feet off the floor and I certainly no longer question his engineering decisions, it would be so. . . bourgeoise to think I could improve a damn thing about that place (one day, he decided the aluminum wiring was not to be trusted, so he wired the house with extension cords). I clapped my hand over the lens and kept the shutter button depressed so I would not interrupt the audio. But there he is, interrupting the audio, "hey kid, I'm blind and I am not stumbling all over the place." "Give me twenty years here too, and I won't either." "Ha HA, touche. . . where was I?" The last footage I shot was very satisfying to me, he played a final flourish and, gesturing at the keys, told the piano, "this. . . is . . . so . . . much . . . better."
Colin
(the first parental compliment in my life I believed in my heart)
BobD - 1978 Bus . . . . . . . . . . . 112,660 miles
Chloe - 1970 bus . . . . . . . . . . . 206,845 miles
Naranja - 1977 Westfalia . . . . . 112,885 miles
Pluck - 1973 Squareback . . . . . . 55,570 miles
Alexus - 1991 Lexus LS400 . . . 78,899 miles

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Velokid1
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Post by Velokid1 » Sat Aug 11, 2007 2:06 pm

What a gem, C. Those vids and your experiences with your dad recently are to be cherished. Good on ya, for making it all happen.

How cool.

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bretski
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Post by bretski » Mon Aug 13, 2007 11:39 am

Velokid1 wrote:What a gem, C. Those vids and your experiences with your dad recently are to be cherished. Good on ya, for making it all happen.

How cool.
+1. What a great read. Keep cultivating your new relationship with your dad!
1978 Deluxe Westfalia - "Klaus"

"transcripts are overrated. hardware store receipts: those are useful." --skin daddio

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