I’ve always thought of myself as working-class, and I think that anybody in the US who gets a W2 to attach to their tax return is working-class regardless of the color of their collar. Nevertheless, if what I know of American history is accurate then I may finally be part of the middle class – for late 19th and early 20th century values of middle class.
You see, there was an estate sale at the house across the street from mine. I never knew my neighbor across the street; she was an old lady even when my wife and I had moved in, and apparently an amateur painter as well.
My wife had originally bought a secretary, but saw a Winter & Company upright piano in the parlor marked “free”. Basically, if you were willing to pay somebody to move it, it was yours.
So I checked my local music store’s website to see if they provided piano moving services. They didn’t, but they had a recommended vendor for that sort of work. I was able to get the piano moved across the street this afternoon for half a grand, which is what I might spent now I’m the owner of a Winter & Company upright that, based on its serial number (219050) was manufactured between 1940 and 1946.
However, this particular Winter & Company no longer exists. It merged with Aeolian to become Aeolian-American Piano Company, which eventually went bankrupt and shut down in 19851, two years after being sold to former Steinway president Peter Perez.
It’s unsettling to know that I’ve got a functional hunk of American history in my living room, a relic from a time when home entertainment was often a DIY affair because there weren’t so many passive options available over the air or via cable or internet. Nevertheless, I now have at a bargain price an instrument that if bought new would cost me at least $10,000 – based on retail prices for Yamaha U-series upright pianos.
Small wonder people who want a piano tend to go for digital keyboards nowadays; they’re cheaper and can emulate entire orchestras if configured correctly. Nevertheless, there’s something about sitting down in front of an instrument that doesn’t draw AC power but can produce a powerful sound at my touch.
Unfortunately, I had barely learned to play as a young man; I had gotten viola lessons through my school but not piano lessons – and had to pick up the basics for a music theory elective in high school. But if I can effectively use Emacs then surely I can figure out how to play a piano with reasonable proficiency.
I might never play well enough to perform in public, but that’s all right. I have a piano now, and I mean to make some fucking noise.
And maybe Smudge will help. We can record some Random Cat Sonatas.
But first, I should probably get somebody in to tune my piano and make sure it’s in good condition. It sounds all right, but I could be mistaken. Besides, I want this instrument to last at least another 30-40 years so that it can pass down to somebody else. It will probably pass to another stranger as it passed to me, but I’m all right with that as long as whoever gets my piano treasures it as I intend to.