As a younger man I played the piano more often than I may have wanted. My Grandfather was a violinist for the San Francisco Symphony and he noticed a particular talent in me. Despite his weakness for promiscuous women, he was a committed father and husband who dedicated himself to teaching me “The ways of Beethoven.” As I played he would hummmm along a bit out of tune with the piece I was playing. I would ask him to stop but he would always furiously respond that “the world is not a friendly place! You must learn to play along when things are out of tune!!”
So along went our daily lessons and over time I noticed that he would fall asleep during the middle of our sessions together. He had taken to drinking whiskey and had developed thrombosis in his leg. He no longer took my musical career with as much seriousness as he once did because “I was incapable of playing along in a world that was out of tune.”
I studied music in college and ten years after my grandfather passed away (he was run over by a train) I developed the same obsession for promiscuous women. My first real love was with a bisexual young lady who drank more than a fifth of whiskey a day and collected rare birds. She was often drunk when we went out for dates and passed out by the time I took her home. With my music I had wanted to cure a world from all its imbalances and with my first love, well, I wanted to save her from herself. I wanted to be the knight in shinning armor that would come along and rescue her from the booze that eventually she chose over me.
My heart was broken but I poured my despair into the keys of the piano that I played mercilessly. Unrequited love had caused my soul to separate from myself and turned me toward a punishment that Psychologists refer to as Bulimia. I felt as if I did not deserve the food that I ate and whenever possible I would relieve myself with a pencil or pen down the throat. It was also around that time (my mid-twenties) that I was hired to be the lead pianist for the Oakland Symphony. My career as a maestro of the piano seemed to be budding but my weight and spirit was descending.
It was also around this time that I started to develop GERD (Gastro Intestinal Reflux Disorder). During my performances I would be overcome with a terrible need to burp and release gas. On the piano the microphone is hooked up close to the chest region of the pianist so when loud gas is released or a burp accidentally escapes- it can be heard in the middle of Bach, Brahms, Rachmaninoff or whatever piece I would be performing. This happened often and I remember the day that I saw in the San Fransisco Sunday Chronicle an article entitled “The Pianist and his Intestinal Sonatas.” I was mortified by the fact that the journalist wrote about my inability to refrain from farting during my performance of Brahms No. 1 in D minor or burping during a Beethoven Paino Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major. He also noticed that I was suffering from some horrible wasting disease. The word was out, people started judging me unfairly and I felt completely at a loss to accept myself. I started what I now refer to as the years of self hatred.
Self hate only drove me into a long winter of alcohol abuse. I drank two bottles of red wine a day and developed a serious obsession for eating cheese. Nothing brought me as much satisfaction as sitting alone in my rented room and eating cheese and drinking red wine until I passed out. I especially enjoyed eating warm brie or white cheddar cheese and drinking a bottle of red wine before my performances. But this indulgance also cost me my job, because even though the errors were subtle- I was throwing off the entire symphony because I was “out of tune all time,” the director told me.
In my attempts to create a world that was in tune through my music, I had strangely become out of tune myself. I was 28 years old and addicted to wine and cheese. I had managed to overcome my bulimia but I was afraid of eating food the was not made by my own person. I slept with strange women and started to develop a sexual addiction that lead me into some of the strangest whore houses in Amsterdam, Spain and Carson City Nevada. I was a man whose only purpose had become to forget about the musicality of life and seek out desperate pleasure at whatever cost- so that I could avoid feeling the pain of a world that was out of tune.
At the age of twenty nine I found myself broke and with little prospects for the future. Working in a gourmet shop that sold various kinds of cheeses and wines allowed me the time to take up tennis. I stopped playing after a few months because I found myself always frustrated by my inability to return a lob. I started meditation but could never stop hearing my grandfather voice saying over and over “you have got to learn how to play along with a world that is out of tune!!” The world had become like one big muted tone and I often reminded myself of my grandfather, sound asleep during the middle of a lesson.