The Bernal Heights Piano Incident(s)

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!

Categorized as Uncategorized Tagged

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *