Christophe was moving his office and had to get rid of a piano. But one does not simply get rid of a piano. He and Todd concocted a plan to bring it to a public place so that it could be enjoyed by many. Locations were kicked around and Bernal Heights, an amazing park in San Francisco, won out.
I'm embarrassed to say that I wasn't all that into the idea. I thought it was cool, but I'm trying to spend all of my time working on our startup, SETT. Still, there are some friends you'd help move a body, some friends you'd help move a piano, and Todd is both.
All together there were about six of us that night. We loaded the piano to and from the Ziptruck, pushed it on a dolly up the hill, and carried it over the guardrail and onto a perfect flat area Todd had scoped out that overlooks both bridges, the hills, and downtown. It was perfect.
We hung out for an hour or so, taking turns playing the piano and taking pictures, and then we left. Predictably, the piano was all over the Internet the next day.
Todd had the brilliant idea of arranging a small piano recital. Get a few piano players together, invite a few friends, and enjoy the piano while it lasts. The volunteers lined up and the guest list started stacking up on Facebook.
Three hours before the recital is supposed to begin, it's gotten out of control. Over 100 people have RSVP'd, and we've all invited other friends, too. Then the worst happens-- we're sitting in my RV working when Todd starts getting texts from every corner of the earth.
"The Piano is Gone."
Some people might call off the event. Others might substitute a keyboard or some other lesser instrument. Not Todd. He's on the phone with everyone on Craigslist selling a piano as well as several music shops. He finds a deal on a passable one and flies over to Oakland on his motorcycle to go rent a truck and bring it back over.
Right on time, fifteen minutes before the show is to begin, he pulls up to a dozen of us waiting, dressed in suits and tuxedos, ready to push the piano up the hill.
We offload the piano and repeat the process from two nights prior. Bernal Heights once again has a piano. As it should.
The joy of living in San Francisco is experiencing those magical moments that couldn't happen in any other city. Tonight's piano recital was one of those moments. When the first song was played, there were twenty people or so watching. By the end there must have been two hundred.
There were old people, young people, tech people, and people with face tattoos. Everyone sat on blankets or on the grass, listening to the pianists play. There was jazz improv and there was Rachmaninov. Jodi from tap twice tea brought a tea table out and served people oolong by candlelight. Passerbys walking with families and dogs stopped and enjoyed the music. The sun set over the city as we all sat there listening.
All of a sudden, during a rousing jazz piece, a firework exploded low over our heads. Then another and another. Someone lower down on the hill was providing a rogue fireworks display. People cheered. It was stunning, but it was also a beacon to the police.
Fifteen minutes later, the park ranger has made his way to the piano and is trying to stop the playing. It's not working, because he's not quite mean enough to slam the cover on the pianist's hands. So classical music floats through the air as the finer points of symphonic law are discussed.
The piano continues. It's hard to stop it, really. You can't take the piano or unplug it. Finally Todd and Joe take responsibility for the piano and go to the back to get citations written and try to negotiate.
In the end, some sort of agreement is reached. The police and ranger remain for another twenty or thirty minutes of music, supervise the removal of the piano, and even enjoy a round of applause from the audience for their understanding. Everyone is happy. As we roll the piano down the hill, one last song is played by a crabwalking pianist.
Of all the people involved in this, I deserve the least credit, but I'm really happy to have been a part of it, and to have experienced it. It was really a magical moment to share with 200 of my favorite San Franciscans. A huge shout out to to Todd for coming up with the idea and executing it with perfection and to everyone else who helped move pianos!
My wife and I visited SF last January and were totally disappointed to (not) see the street musicians that made San Francisco a city worth visiting. It felt like a city of office workers instead of the old hippie hangout we loved. You brought back a little of the city's old soul.
Wow I wish I were a man with a piano sitting on a hill getting arrested for playing music. Oh wait! I am! I have a piano in taksim square and here come the riot police to punish me.
So sad I missed it. I heard about the piano while I was out of town, and when I decided to go Sunday, heard it was gone.
So Sunday night, myself and friends lugged a large electric keyboard, speakers, and a generator up to where the piano was, because we couldn't bear the thought of not playing up there while watching the city move around us: https://vine.co/v/had0tgrIOhz
...there should always be a piano at the top of Bernal Hill.
Hey man, don't discredit yourself. Even if you didn't come up with the idea, you were like the one-eyed man from 300.
So that I don't sound too cryptic, I mean you told everyone about it. Which is that.
Great story. I used to live at 111 Ripley Street in SF in the mid-80s. Great city and great neighborhood. Love the little Italian restaurant at the bottom of the hill across from Precita Park.
Bravo! And not that we want to hijack this, but know that we are doing our part. Mauro ff is placing 12 pianos on the San Mateo coast at this moment... please check out our KickStarter... and great job! http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1881876647/sunset-piano-opus-two-for-twelve-pianos
I've spent most of my time in San Francisco since fleeing the oppressive summer heat of Texas. Since then, mostly thanks to awesome recommendations from other people, I've discovered some amazing places here. This is a selection of my favorites... all of which should be checked out by anyone who lives here. Know somewhere else amazing? Let me know!
Samovar Tea Lounge
If you like tea you should come to Samovar. If you love tea, you'll probably end up coming here every day like I do. Samovar does tea like tea is meant to be done: large servings of loose leaf tea, steeped for the exact right time in the exact right temperature water. The lounges are very pleasant comfortable places, and the employees are awesome people. There are three locations; I like the Page Street one the best.
Adult Night at the Exploratorium
On Tuesday, May 31, I performed on the cello in public for the very first time. My teacher, the lovely Ms. Ronda Armstrong, orchestrated a charming little recital for her music students in the library of the Stratford Montessori School in Nashville's Donelson area. There were three very young piano students and two adult cello students who performed.
Before the recital started, we did a quick practice in Ms. Armstrongs music room, and I totally bombed on every piece. Thankfully, I've always accepted this as a good omen. I always wind up playing well when this happens. I guess I just needed to get all the nerves calmed down and ironed out.
After the practice, all five of us walked in singe-file line to the library. We sat in the back, and before too long, the show began. On the piano, all the kids that played were just adorable. Jordan Widener played "Donkey" and "It's Halloween". Sam Crow played "Minuet and Trio" and "I've Been Wishing". Later on, Bella Dobson performed "German Folk Song" and "Kangaroo Family". Watching them reminded me of a couple of piano recitals that I did when I was young. I hope all of them continue to perform music in one way or the other. It's just a fun skill to have even if you don't do it professionally.
Then, it was time for the cellists to play. I was on first and played two solo pieces ("Go Tell Aunt Rodie" and "May Song") while Ms. Ronda accompanied me on the piano. Here's a photo. (There's a look of determined Asian concentration on my face.)