From Sammie Cat sitting on the piano in the spring of 2005 while I played "The Last Time I Saw Paris", to Hurricane Katrina in August; Dali Dog, Sammie Cat and I returned home to many heart-wrenching sights in New Orleans and on Columbus Street that October. I'd been told the house had been vandalized and was advised by some of my law enforcement friends to call the NOPD before we even went into the house. That way, they could go in and check to make sure everything was okay. They came within 15 minutes, and I was good to enter.
There was lots to break my heart, but the biggest was my flooded piano. It sat for weeks with at least 6 inches of water in the bottom. Had it been a baby grand like Monsieur Winkelmann, we'd have managed. As it was, we were pretty much buggered. I sat down to play Moon River to keys that sounded like plywood crashing on concrete. The antique music cabinet stood in water too, but the music was high enough and the legs were minimally damaged.
We hung in. The piano appraiser told me what it was worth and how much it would cost to repair, but admitted that once the felts were wet they might not hold even after being repaired. Eventually, the piano was tuned and we moved into the apartment that had not flooded, so we could fight the good fight.
My piano was a comfort and solace for me. It was also something I discovered soothed the ragged edges for my friend Vann Yates, who loved to hear me play show tunes in the mornings. It was a nice way to start our days...coffee...show tunes...and then he was off to supervise "debris removal" and I was off doing quality assurance for a children's program. He used to tell me that the only place he felt "normal" was in the apartment with me.
Vann was brutally murdered in North Carolina earlier this year. I used to tease him that some day I'd play "Moon RIver" for him in France, but it looks like I'll instead get to play it for him one more time on Columbus Street.
By May of 2006, Dali, Sammie Cat and I were on our way to Cadrieu so I could clear my head. By my November return, I'd decided to renovate the house and apartment and put them up for rent so we could be full time French Girls. Although most of my stuff had gone to the street, I couldn't do that with the piano. My friend Kate Gundersen said that she'd love to have the piano for her, Chloe and Clare. Plus, her husband Wayne loved Moon River. They moved it over to Grand Route St. John. Later that Christmas season, we all stood around the piano as I played "Let it Snow", before I drove the rental truck to St. Louis with the few items I'd planned on keeping and storing in the basement at 411.
The voyage of the piano began. More soon.
I'm not sure who took that photo of Vann, but I know I didn't. It captures his sweet gentle spirit and his love of animals. He is loved and missed by many-We love you, Vann.