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Piano lessons, part two

Notebook Recollections


We last left our beloved outside-the-clinic-piano at the end of January 2017. Under the UFM carport entrance. Inviting, daring patients to tickle the ivory.

February 2017 was piano neutral. Actually, piano nada. Not much action. Then, all of a sudden, St. Patrick’s Day was upon us.

3–15–17. noon–ish. 35°.

Eight old school-buses-turned-party-buses, were clomping while tethered along lower Randolph awaiting the St. Pat’s starting bell. Two pink buses and one each black, red, purple, green and yellow solos.


Tex cabbed two public housing moms to St. Vinny’s for some kitchen utensils and toys for their kids. One of the moms four-year-old son, Cowboy, was a Clinic-piano nut. In a good way.

“How is Cowboy?” Tex asked his mom in the backseat.

“Still petrified of shots.”

“Vaccines?” asked Tex.

“I just tell him we’re going to the Clinic piano. It’s the only way I can get him near the place.”

“I like his hat,” said Tex. “Looks like a big, white, 52 gallon Yellowstone thing.”

“That’s Cowboy,”said his mom. “He can actually kind of play that piano. Then we go in for the shots.”


7:30 a.m. Nice day. The Green Holy Day. Two down on their luck, rich white-boy, rough sleepers, Anthony and Mark, were pianoed up. This time Mark got the keyboard.

I was picking up some trash in the carport.

“We’re drinking today,” Mark said. It was 7:45 in the morning. He already had a fresh black eye. A good look for today. Maybe preventive.

Anthony said he finally got back with Dr. Ravi the previous week.

“We got my insulin figured out. 10 units of NovoLog per can of Mountain Dew. 12 if two, big Macs included.”

“Stop and smell the bacon!” I said

“ERIN Go Bragh,” Mark said, pounding the piano.

3– 19–17

Because I seem rather focused on the Clinic piano, I’m also quite focused on the first floor of the parking ramp. That started with the pigeons taking up residence there. Excreting pigeon waste product on the vehicles and concrete below them. Every day. All day. All the time. I’ve initiated a few pigeon stare downs. They seem pleasant enough but they’re certainly not worried. They’re non-engaged. They’ve got to go. I made that clear to them.

They have spared the piano, thank goodness. Although I have noted pigeon feathers in the vicinity.

I’ve seen a squirrel here and there run through the ramp. Mice are a given. No big deal. Same for the swooping bats. No one loves bats. But we really don’t see them much.

We have geese! Visitors from the nearby Midland Grain Elevators. 

Geese are classy. Beautiful. But they’re major league poopers. Thank goodness they’re travelers. They were here for a week and then gone with the wind.

Tex hopes someday there will be a complete Prairie dog village on UFM parking level one.

3– 20–17 

As a West 7th lifer and cab operator, Tex knows all things West 7th.

He told me today that two down and out young brothers we both knew had stolen an expensive church microphone from St. Stan’s and fenced it out to some Minneapolis rock band. 

Curt Weiner stopped by for a clinic appointment today. Said he was good. I asked what he was up to.

“Walking West 7th,” Curt said. “Checking my parking meters every day.“

“How much do you get from them?” I asked.

“Six or seven dollars a day. The closer to downtown the better.”

Curt is saving for a Jason Aldean entertainer of the year concert at the St. Paul Civic Center this spring. For he and his sister.


The Minnesota outdoors is taking it out on our 1926 Rauenbusch upright piano. Ravi read this in a book called The Piano in America 1890 to 1940: “… Over time as a piano is subjected to the environment, the stress–bearing wood, felt and wire components degrade rapidly.” Which basically translates to mean that in the Mni Sota Makoce winter, an outside piano was dead meat. The veneer “alligators” and loosens. Wires weaken. Felt falls apart and the piano no longer holds a standard pitch. That’s our beauty.

The same piano book said that back in the 1900’s, the Raundenbush family gave “special inducements to Methodist ministers and Methodist families.” (no mention of outdoor piano functionality.)


Warmer now. Finally. And some more great piano players.

Two sweet little Somali girls in beautiful, colorful garb, run from the parking ramp to the piano and start Jerry Lee Lewis-ing. Jumping up and down. Pounding the keys. Running their hands down the “Ivory.” Mom hustled over, full-on smile, giggling even, and takes them into the clinic before they backflip off the top of the piano.


Another nice day. Lunchtime. And the best player of them all. 

A fair-skinned pizza delivery guy. 25-ish. He speeds into the carport. Slams to a halt, hops out with a pizza or three in a shoulder bag and skips over to the piano. He whips off 10 seconds of some masterpiece and then runs into the clinic for his delivery. The pizza car driver’s door is still wide open, motor running. Then he’s back to the piano, pounds out something else spectacular, jumps back into the car and squeals away.

It must be noted, our beloved piano player, Edward of the green, fluffy slippers, has not shown at the keyboard since early March. Ravi said he had a bad pneumonia and got septic. He was three weeks in the ICU and is still in the United rehab unit.


I’m eating my bag lunch by the quiet piano. Tex drives in, no fare on board. He stops in front of me and from the cab, through the window down, driver side, asked out of nowhere “Dr., do you think you are a good doctor?”

I was flat footed for a moment with that question. “Well,” I said. ”I tried really hard to keep up, to know my stuff… And pay attention to folk, treat them well.”

Suddenly we were interrupted by an onslaught of profanity. Not at us or about us. But, wow, what a tirade. Several different languages, echoing and bouncing off the parking ramp walls. “Somebody just got a good deal on a case of Tourette’s,” said Tex.

I hooted.

Tex said he had to fly. He put his window up, and the way he flew.

Too bad. I hadn’t really finished talking about my doctoring. I had been working up a grand soliloquy.


I agree with Tex that there’s something going on with our piano. Something way beyond the white and black keys .

He thinks all Minnesota healthcare systems need to grandstand pianos outside their main entrances. Then check out the patient satisfaction, the return visits, and the did we get betters. And while they’re at it, the improved quality of piano plunkers.


Tex had his two most favorite customers today. Cowboy and his mom. On their way to United Family Medicine for his four year immunization catch up. Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough. And polio and flu. Three of those were combined so it wasn’t like five shots. More like two, maybe three. But they were still shots.

Tex addressed the little Liberace: “Where to Cowboy? Vegas?”

“If my mom says so.”

“You know where we’re going, honey.”

“Dairy Queen.”

“That’s after.”

“To see Dr. Ravi’s piano,” Cowboy said.

“He’s my doctor too,” Tex said. “What kind of music do you like to play?”

“I like to play the Clinic piano.”

to be continued. 

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