My 15-year-old son is working on his piano, and he’s taken to learning the introduction to the Styx classic, “Come Sail Away.”
It’s a very nice piece, and he’s getting pretty good at it. I’m not sure exactly when and where he picked it up, but it’s not such a bad thing when those sounds begin drifting through the house. The other evening, he and I were the only ones home, it was quiet and getting dark outside, and the gentle notes were very relaxing and comforting.
For some reason, it made me remember another piano player and another song from a completely different setting many years and many miles ago. It was back in the fall of 1981, my first semester at Stephen F. Austin. I was in the lobby of Griffith or Kerr Hall, one of those girls dorms that were mirror images of each other on the southwest side of the SFA campus. I went there to meet up with a blind date that my older sister had set me up with. I was taking her to a fraternity party, and as a Pi Kappa Alpha pledge, I was told that I would get hassled by active members significantly less at the party if I brought a date.
So, my sister to the rescue, setting me up with one of her Delta Zeta pledges. I was supposed to meet my date in the lobby, so I sat down and waited since I was a few minutes early. Then I heard someone playing the piano, the intro to Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungleland.” It’s a haunting kind of tune, and it leads into one of my absolute favorite Springsteen songs.
But there, in that moment, my mind raced into a scenario that was overly optimistic, sadly romantic and pathetically tragic. I thought/hoped for a minute that the girl playing the piano was my date, she came down early because she was a little nervous and playing the piano helped her relax. Her song selection signaled a connection between the two of us, like minds with similar tastes and appreciation for music and and entertainment and life.
Yeah, well, no, that’s not exactly how it worked out. My date hadn’t come down 10 minutes after the time we were supposed to meet, so I called up to her room. She came down and was clearly not a Springsteen fan. We had very little in common in terms of music, entertainment or life. I never saw the girl playing the piano again on campus. Maybe she was just visiting a friend for the weekend. Maybe she was just Born to Run.
Oh well. It just wasn’t meant to be. But it would have been cool.
Kind of the same romantic scenario that I always thought might happen where I’d turn around while Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” was playing and this beautiful woman would be bump into me and our eyes would meet and it would be “happily ever after.”