Piano from the 1800s needs a new home

img_20190824_0814447681.jpgWhat do you want to do about the piano at your father’s house? Everyone asks me because I’m the only one who plays piano. I taught myself to play on that piano. It ought to be mine, right? But wait. I already have a piano.

The piano is a Kranich & Bach cabinet grand, patented 1886. Take the baby grands we’re used to seeing on concert stages, turn them sideways, and that’s what this is. It’s a beautiful thing, and if it weren’t so God-awful out of tune, it would offer a big, rich sound. The keys are ivory and intact, the pedals are sturdy, and there is a delightful round stool that you spin to adjust the height. As kids, my brother Mike and I had a good time spinning on it at Grandpa Fagalde’s house until some grownup made us stop.

But we’re not children now. Grandpa is long gone, and now our parents are gone. We’re cleaning out the house they bought in 1950. As I understand it, Grandpa got the piano from his boss, Jack Dorrance, when he was the foreman on the Dorrance ranch in San Jose. Jack had show business aspirations. His family had more than one piano. At some point, this one may have provided music in the little theater he built on the ranch. I suppose my parents brought it home when Grandpa retired to the beach.

I didn’t have piano lessons. I envy people who did. My father apparently thought Mom, who did have lessons, could teach us. But taking lessons doesn’t necessarily mean you can teach. She showed my brother Mike and me where Middle C was and gave us her old books to teach ourselves the rest. Mike lost interest, but I started a lifelong obsession with pianos, really anything with keys. I learned the notes. I played through the one-hand exercises, moved on to two, three, and more notes at a time. I practiced counting four-four, three-four, six-eight.

Not having lessons means I never learned proper fingering, and I can’t do scales worth beans, but I can make music. I even get paid for it these days as a music minister at Sacred Heart Church.

As an adult, I didn’t have a piano for a long time. I sneaked into the practice rooms at San Jose State. I grabbed time on my parents’ piano when they weren’t around. For a while between marriages, I rented a piano, feeling bad for the guys who had to get it up the stairs. Mostly I played guitar instead because it was cheaper and more portable. Also, it was the ‘60s and everybody was playing guitar.

My late husband’s wedding present to me was a piano, a Wurlitzer spinet, not as fancy as the old cabinet grand, but mine, and I could play it whenever I wanted. Fred knew the way to my heart. That instrument is scarred now from our many moves and three decades of hard use, but it sounds good, and it’s my piano. Do I want to replace it with the old Kranich & Bach, forgetting for the moment the cost of fixing it up and shipping it to Oregon?

After my father died, I came home, looked at my piano and knew that’s the one I want to keep, not the antique that was never really mine. But somebody needs to keep it and love it. My brother and I have asked around about the value of such an old, elegant piano. It seems it’s not worth much money in this digital world. It was not a deluxe model, plus musicians are going for electronic pianos these days. I play one at church, and I love all its many features, but there’s nothing like the feel and sound of a real piano.

That old Kranich & Bach is a beautiful piece of furniture, mostly used as a rack for family photographs in recent times. Is there someone lurking in the family who secretly wants to play piano? Does anyone remember how Grandpa used to bang out songs honky-tonk style with no training at all?

Grandpa Fagalde was always buying and trading musical instruments. Remember the pump organ in the garage? In his day, pre-TV, pre-Internet, everybody played music. Families would bring out their instruments after dinner and jam. And every house had a piano. Tune it? Not in the years since I’ve been around. I have friends who won’t perform on a piano that has not been tuned THAT DAY. I guess folks weren’t so picky a hundred years ago.

I can see this piano in an Old West saloon, the kind with swinging doors, floozies entertaining cowboys, and the stranger leaning on the bar, saying, “Whiskey!”

Where do I find that saloon?

The piano is in San Jose. If anyone has a yen to adopt it for their home, a museum, a school, a senior center, or anywhere it would be played and loved, let me know at sufalick@yahoo.com. I would be willing to pay the cost of making it sound its best again if somebody wants to give it a good home.

 

MY MIND WANDERS INTO THE LAND OF ‘WHAT IF’

Thiel Creek 12218BSometimes I think about moving back to California. Hold on, coastal friends, I’m only thinking. If you know me, you know I think about a lot of stuff, but keep living the same life.

On those days when I’m tired of the cold, I yearn to live someplace warm, someplace where I could grow tomatoes and roses and sit in the sun in February. When I talk to my father and think about how much better his life might be if I were there to help him, I think I need to be in San Jose. When family members get together without me, I think what the heck am I doing up here alone in Oregon? That’s what my family thinks, too. They don’t understand why I’m still here now that my husband is gone.

If not San Jose, maybe I could relocate to Merced, near my brother’s family and not too far from Dad. It’s warm there. Okay, in the summer, it’s damned hot. It’s cow country, conservative, possibly sexist, and my allergies would probably go nuts. But they do have a Catholic church where I could sing. There’s a writer’s group I could join, a community college where I could teach, and all the stores we don’t have here. I could make it work.

But after 22 ½ years on the Oregon coast, I’d have to start over, wouldn’t I? Here, I run into people I know everywhere I go. When I step out the door, my neighbors wave hello, and it continues in the nearby towns up and down Highway 101. Friday night, for example, I went to listen to friends playing music at Canyon Way, an old bookstore where two of its rooms have been transformed into a nightclub. My friend Renae, outside grabbing her last pre-gig smoke, hugged me on the way in. My friend Debbie found me a seat with Twylah, a woman I hadn’t met yet. We had seen each other all over town, and now we are friends, too. I got many handshakes, hugs, and smiles. I came alone, but I didn’t stay that way. I can’t imagine this happening in San Jose.

On Sunday, after playing music at two Masses at Sacred Heart, where I knew almost everybody, I attended the Oregon Music Teachers Association concert at the Performing Arts Center. I had friends on stage and friends all around me. Again I came alone, but I didn’t feel alone. Of course I also got drafted to sing at an event this week, but that’s okay.

When I think about the crowds in the vast theaters in big cities, I get nervous. Talk about feeling alone. I probably wouldn’t know a soul, and I’m not the kind of person who chats easily with strangers. And yet I know all these wonderful people here on the coast. In a small town, that happens. Even if we don’t know each other, we talk in line at the J.C. Market or in the waiting room at Grove Veterinary Clinic.

When Fred died, my father and brother were amazed at how many people came to the funeral. The chapel was full. Friends sang and took care of the food, so I didn’t have to do anything. I was not surprised. That’s how it is here.

In Oregon, people know me as a musician and a writer, the identity I have carved out for myself. That and Annie’s “mom.” They know I worked for the News-Times, taught at the college, have published books, performed at various events, and sung and played at Sacred Heart for years. They know me from yoga class, the Central Coast Chorale, the Nye Beach Writers Series, Willamette Writers, and the vet’s office. They see my name in the paper. They know I used to be married to Fred. Except for the part about being married to Fred, most people in my family don’t know any of that, although Facebook helps.

How many of our families really understand who we are?

Back in California, I’m Ed and Elaine’s daughter, Mike’s sister, his kids’ Aunt Sue, and cousin to a bunch of people who barely know me. It’s sad but true. I love my family and wish I could spend more time with them. Commuting to San Jose to be with Dad is exhausting and expensive. I wish the family would come here sometimes. I-5 does go both ways. They have their reasons.

Sometimes I truly hate the weather here. Cold, wet, windy, icy, bleh, but oh, when the sun shines, it’s glorious. I love the ocean. I love the trees. I still look around and say, “It’s so beautiful!”

I always get this feeling when I cross the border back into Oregon that now I can breathe and be myself. I didn’t grow up in a family that sang together, attended poetry readings or plays, or considered the arts a worthy investment of time. I was the odd one, but here, I have found my tribe. Also a place with no yellow jackets, no poisonous snakes, no poison oak, and no real traffic, except the occasional slow-moving motorhome.

A week from Saturday, I’ll be 67 (yikes!). Do I want to start over again? I don’t think so. I might move into a smaller home nearby with less maintenance. I wouldn’t mind a vacation to somewhere sunny and warm, preferably with a handsome man who could pay for it all. But this is where I live.

The house across the street from my father, built around 1950, an ordinary post-war tract house, just sold for $1.5 million dollars. It’s nuts down there in San Jose. So when I think about moving, I’m just thinking, not doing. No worries.

All airplane flights are not created equal

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After my last plane trip to San Jose, I swore I wouldn’t do it again. I’d go by car, train, boat or on a donkey, but not in an airplane. Ha. Last week, I was up in the air again. Same flight, same plane, same cheesy cracker snacks. But all flights are not created equal.

Flying was the only way I could get down there on a Monday night and be back in Oregon on Wednesday night, spending two whole days with my father in-between. Tuesday was his big meeting with the orthopedic surgeon that would determine whether he could start trying to walk again—or not. At 95, a broken leg heals mighty slowly. The doctor said yes, “go for it.” What the bones won’t do, the metal plate and screws holding his leg together will. So, at the moment you read this, he may be roaming the halls of Somerset Senior Living with his walker. He says people there were surprised that he was so tall; they had only seen him sitting in a wheelchair. They probably look short to him now.

So, cautious optimism for Dad. The doctor also said he could go home as soon as he’s comfortable walking. That’s a lot of motivation for laps around the complex (And a lot of worry for his kids).

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From above, Oregon is all green fields and trees
Back to the plane. Having done the same route before, I knew where to go and what to expect. It’s a long journey, even by airplane. I left home at 10:21 a.m. to take Annie to the Alsea River kennel in Tidewater on Highway 34 because, less than three weeks after her knee surgery, she needed to be restricted, medicated and watched over just like Dad. I ate lunch in Florence, where I discovered Clawson’s Wheelhouse. Good food, good people. Killer French dip. Then it was over the river and through the woods via Highway 126 to Eugene to check in at 2 p.m. for a 4 p.m. flight.

Locals fly out of the Eugene airport if they can because it’s smaller than the average big-city airport. You can park in a lot just outside the terminal. It only takes a few minutes to get through security and to the gate. At the gate, there’s a lounge area where you can plug in your laptop or relax in a rocking chair watching the action on the tarmac through the big windows.

The actual flight from Eugene to San Jose was not so mellow for me. I have this condition called Restless Leg Syndrome, also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease. Essentially it’s a feeling of needing to move one’s legs or die. I get crawling sensations and involuntary spasms. It doesn’t happen all the time, but put me in a confined space with no way to get out, and boom, I’m miserable. Thus it was on the way to San Jose. Alaska Airlines assigned me a window seat in the second to last row. The views were spectacular, but I was wedged in by a non-communicative man wearing sunglasses and reading the Bible. Mark, Chapter 6. Beside him, I squirmed the whole trip, my left leg spasming about once a minute. I tried to distract myself by reading, writing, and taking pictures. I drank the complimentary beer. No good. I even started praying the Rosary without the actual beads. I quickly lost track of my Hail Marys. I was never so glad to see San Francisco Bay down below.

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San Francisco Bay was a welcome sight. Note  fog creeping in.
The temperature was near 100 in San Jose, and Dad’s house was no cooler. But I was so glad to be walking out of that plane. Free at last! I dreaded the return trip two days later.

 

This time, Alaska assigned me a window seat in the very last row. When I saw it, I thought I was doomed. But God was with me big-time. The flight was half empty, and nobody sat in the other seat. I had the best plane ride ever. The back seat felt cushy and comfortable. I had room to spread out. I read and wrote and enjoyed the view. I guzzled a glass of pinot grigio. I was surprised when the flight attendant told me to put my computer away because we were beginning our descent into Eugene. Already? By the time we landed, I felt so mellow I wanted to hug all those pale-skinned Oregonians.

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San Jose’s freeways look like a carnival ride from above
It was the day after the summer solstice. Getting off the plane at 9:30 p.m., I towed my suitcase toward the sunset, delighted to be up and walking on my two strong legs. I promptly got lost on my way to the motel where I was spending the night before the long drive home, but who cares? I was on the ground.

I wonder if it would be kosher to buy two seats so I don’t get penned in. Nah. Next time, I’m driving.

***

I don’t usually talk about my restless legs (RLS). It’s embarrassing. Does anybody else have this problem? I’m working on an article about it. How does it affect you, and how do you deal with it?

Maybe we should change I-5 to "Dry-5"

Weed after the fire, Mt. Shasta in the background

View of Lake Shasta from the rest stop–no water

As I sit here on the Oregon coast with rain looming in the weather forecast, it’s hard to believe that I was in San Jose a little over a week ago, that the sun was shining every day and forecasts of rain were met with laughs because actual rain was so unlikely.

I spent 28 days back home helping my father, who broke his hip in late August. Dad, who is amazingly resilient, is healing well. Now we’re back to comparing weather over the phone. Those 700 miles make a big difference.

Me: It’s cold. I had to light up the pellet stove and turn on my electric blanket.
Dad: It’s hot! 91 degrees right now outside, and about 85 in the house. I’ve got all the fans going.
Me: They’re predicting rain here.
Dad: Hah. We don’t know what we’re going to do if we don’t get some water pretty soon. Send some down here.
Me: I’m trying, I’m trying. I keep telling the rain to go south.

Most of my trip between San Jose and South Beach takes place on Interstate 5. It’s a nice wide road with lots of rest stops and plenty of places to eat, sleep or shop. It’s also loaded with trucks and RVs.  I keep awake by playing “dodge-truck,” passing the slow-moving 18-wheelers, muttering when they try to pass each other and block all the lanes.

Traveling I-5 in the fall, it’s usually hot. But this year, the heat and the drought have had dramatic effects. Fire is a big problem. Watching the news, it seems as if half the state is burning. While I was in San Jose, one of those fires destroyed a large section of Weed. This town of 3,000 at the foot of Mt. Shasta is a place where we have often stopped on our trips.We have stayed in its motels, eaten in its restaurants and walked its streets. The news reports were awful. Homes, schools, and churches destroyed. Was anything left? I had to see. I also had to see Mt. Shasta, where it was reported a glacier at the top was melting, causing a giant mudslide.

As I headed north last week, tearful from saying goodbye to my father, the reporter in me was anxious to see what had happened while I was gone. Most of the way, nothing had changed. The hills and fields were brown. The cows still grazed and dozed in the sun. The road was still lined with trucks. It was still hot. Lake Shasta was still nearly empty, vast areas of exposed dirt between the road and the water.

Then I rounded a bend after Dunsmuir and there was Mt. Shasta. When I drove south in early September, the mountain was brown, except for a small area of white on the very top. Now it looked like someone had taken a giant knife and spread that white thinly down the sides of the mountain, almost to the base. It had melted like frosting on a cake left in the sun.

Then came Weed. I expected to see exits closed and signs covered, but no. I exited and found myself passing the usual restaurants, motels and businesses. Where was the fire? I drove a few miles north before I came upon charred hills and police cars blocking roads leading into the hills. Only residents were being allowed in. About two weeks after the fire, all I could see of what was left was . . . nothing where a whole neighborhood used to be. The ruins had been cleared away. What happened was tragic, 157 homes were destroyed, along with numerous commercial properties, including two churches, the library and part of the lumber mill, but most of Weed was still standing, still in business. They will rebuild. Meanwhile, I needed to drive on.

I spent the night in Yreka, the next town up from Weed, exactly halfway on my San Jose-South Beach run. Room 30 at the Best Western Miner’s Inn, dinner at the Purple Plum, a walk through the old gold rush town, some Internet, some TV, some sleep, and back on the road toward home.

Once I crossed into Oregon, the landscape turned green and clouds dotted the sky. Go south, I said, go south.

Dripping with sweat in San Jose

Once upon a time in California, I preferred shade to sun. I touched the steering wheel of my car on a hot day with caution and knew better than to leave chocolate or butter inside. I only wore sweaters for a few days in winter, and I bought a new pair of sandals every spring. I did not worry about things left outside getting wet, rusty or moldy. It rarely rained, only a few inches a year. My natural color was tan, and I believed I was a person who did not sweat. Eighty to ninety degrees was normal, and 70 was cold.
Then I moved to the Oregon coast. I sat in the sun whenever I could. We had plenty of shade. The steering wheel was cool, and you could leave groceries safely in the car for hours. I wore sweaters, hoodies and socks every day of the year while my sandals grew mold in the closet. Everything left outside got wet, rusty or moldy—or grew moss. Fifty to sixty degrees was normal, and 70 was hot. We had one or two days a year over 80 when we languished inside while the bugs went crazy out in the yard. Carpenter ants and flies swarmed our faces and knocked against the windows. But no worries. It would be back to 60 and foggy the next day. Or it would rain. It rained a lot. 80 inches a year. . I discovered my natural color was several shades whiter, but I still believed I was a person who did not sweat.
Not long ago, I discovered it was only 65 degrees out and I was warm. I did not need a sweater or socks. I could wear my California sandals. I had acclimated.
Now I’m in California. My father broke his hip and I’m back at my childhood home taking care of him. He’s healing, but progress is slow. The temperature has ranged from 75 to 95 outside and hovered around 84 in the house, with no air conditioning, minimal insulation, and windows left open all day. The living room faces east, the kitchen faces west, so the sun beats through the paper window shades. I never perspired so much in my life. Under my hair, down my face, down my neck, down my shirt, I’m soaked and salty. Cooking or doing dishes, I drown in my own juices, occasionally stopping to stick my head in the freezer or stand up against one of Dad’s fans. At night, I lie with my head at the foot of the bed trying to grab a hint of breeze from the wide-open windows. Meanwhile, Dad says it’s “cool,” asks me to shut the door, turn off the fan, and fetch his sweater.
A couple nights ago, the San Jose weather forecasters predicted rain. Big black clouds filled the sky toward sunset. A man I passed on my nightly walk broke the Silicon Valley code of silence and said, “Isn’t it a marvelous evening?” “Yes,” I replied, soaking in the cooling breeze and the hint of rain in the air. But it did not rain on San Jose. It has not rained on San Jose for four months. Clouds appear and promise rain, then fade away without dropping their load of precious water. The area is in a severe drought. The yards I pass on my walks are full of dead lawns and dead flowers. Cobwebs hang off of everything. Water is rationed, and people can be severely fined if they are caught wasting water.

It has been a dry year in Oregon, too, but we have had rain. We will have more rain. It will be wet, and it will be cool. I’m sure my lawn is tall and green now and the berries and ferns are poking through the boards of my deck again. Meanwhile, I’m here, completely acclimated to the Oregon Coast, sweating in epic quantities, seeking shade, and wondering how I ever stood it before.

The human body adapts. When my father returned from his World War II service in the Philippines, he could not get warm. He huddled in his father’s heavy coat in the middle of summer and shivered. Doctors told him it would take a while to reacclimate to the California weather. I’m hoping I’m not here long enough for my body to get used to California heat again. It turns out I am a person who sweats.  

S is for . . . Shoes Full of Sand

Long before I wrote a book titled Shoes Full of Sand, I wrote a song by that name. It was inspired by my then-new love for Fred Lick. Our first date took place just before Christmas. Dinner and a movie. Then Fred went to Southern California for two weeks to spend the holidays with his family. After only one date, we were already in love. We agreed to meet in Monterey.

I arrived first. I remember looking for him by the carousel, walking down the steps and seeing him coming toward me. Just like in the movies, we flew into other’s arms. We spent a magical weekend at the beach, where every moment confirmed that we were meant to be together. That was 1984. We were married in May 1985 and lived in San Jose, where Fred finished out his career with the City of San Jose’s recreation department and I worked for several newspapers, ending up as editor of the Saratoga News.

In 1996, we moved to Oregon. We both wanted to live by the beach, and here we could actually afford it. We longed for those shoes full of sand.

Tomorrow is the third anniversary of Fred’s death of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease. We never suspected back in 1984 that our lives would take such a turn. As I dig my feet into Oregon’s cool gray sand, I hear “Shoes Full of Sand” playing in my head again. I recorded it for you the other day. Dressed up, arranged the perfect background, repeated it till it was perfect. Unfortunately, that computer is in the shop today with a virus, so I tried it a capella on my phone. Note the dog helping in the lower right. 

I’m participating in this month’s A to Z blogging challenge. S stands for “Shoes Full of Sand.” My alphabetical posts are distributed among my various blogs. Here is the schedule:

Dad’s 90th: A Party to Remember

When my brother and his wife drove Dad to lunch in San Jose on Sunday, he suspected a few people were gathering to celebrate his upcoming birthday, but he had no idea so many people would be there, or that I’d be walking out of the restaurant to greet him. After all, I live in Oregon and I was just there a few weeks ago. He’s a hard man to surprise, but we did it.

It was a hot sunny day as we gathered at Antonella’s Italian restaurant kitty corner from the Rosicrucian Museum. They had opened the restaurant just for us. We partied in a beautiful room decorated with murals of the Italian countryside. The tables were set with white cloths and stemmed cobalt blue glasses. Pictures of Dad from boyhood to now decorated the walls and tables. A chocolate cake decorated with tractors and a frosting orchard sat next to a little red barn with replicas of the horses Bud and Daisy that Dad grew up with.
People piled in from all over to honor Clarence “Ed” Fagalde. Nearly everyone was a cousin in some way, descended from the Fagalde or the Souza side of the family. So many people who had not seen each other for years. Our voices roared above the sound of the fans striving vainly to push out the heat. Everyone is older now. The kids are grown. “You look like your mother,” one of my cousins shouted when he saw me. I know. I do. That’s okay. She was a beautiful person.
How do you capture the feeling of that afternoon in words? So many hugs, so many laughs, so many smiles. Too much food. So much happiness. In a world where nothing is ever perfect, Sunday afternoon came as close as life ever does. It was the kind of party that will be remembered in the list of big parties–my parents’ 50th anniversary party, Grandpa’s 90th birthday party, the memorial for Uncle Don and Aunt Gen, my 50th birthday party in the cafeteria at my old elementary school… It was the kind of day that just filled me up, and I believe it did the same for my father.
He didn’t know he was going to have a house guest Sunday night, but he welcomed me back into my old room. In the evening, we sat in the kitchen eating leftover lasagna and pie, and we talked for hours. In the morning over coffee and tea, we talked some more. I am so blessed to have a father who is so strong, smart, handsome and interesting, even at 90.Our family history goes back to the pioneers of Santa Clara County, and Dad is a fountain of stories about the old days.
My brother Mike, his wife Sharon and I started tossing around ideas for Dad’s birthday when I was in California in early March. Sharon and my niece Susie did the invitations, posters and pictures, and baked cookie keepsakes for the guests to take home while I supplied a guest list and old photos—and myself. But a lot of the credit goes to my Aunt Suzanne, the only one who lived close enough to organize the setting and the food. I am grateful to everyone who helped or just showed up from all over California. I got the prize for greatest distance traveled. My cousin Jenny and her crew came in second, flying in from San Diego for the day.
I drove to Portland on Saturday afternoon, got up at 3 a.m. to fly south Sunday morning and was back in Portland by 5:00 Monday evening. It was raining. Last night, Dad and I were back to talking on the phone, both amazed that it all actually happened.
Today, May 1, is my father’s actual birthday. He was planning to go to the grocery store, do some laundry and maybe take himself out to dinner. That makes me sad, but I’m so glad he’s able to do those things, and I think we should keep celebrating life every day. We are so blessed. 
The photo, taken by Aunt Suzanne, shows Dad, my cousin Tom Sandkhule and me.