We all have ’em. Those important things in our lives that find their places on our to-do lists. What is high up on one’s list is probably not as high up on another’s. Our perceptions are all different, our priorities are all different… one of the many reasons why we all are different.
My sense of what is important is keeping me from posting a new post this week. Usually I spend a few evenings during the week designing, writing and adding pics to my post for the coming week. Then, when Sunday night rolls around, I’m almost ready.
That is not the case this week. I’ve had several interesting diversions which have led me to redefine what is really important in my life these days. I’ve been having a great time writing for my new blog and receiving your most welcome responses. The fact that I have no new post ready this week is somewhat a tribute to what I deem more important than a weekly post… sorry, blog. You’ll have to accept your new place in the great scheme of things both sagebrush and musical.
Virginia City has literally hundreds of old music machines of nearly every type, dating back to the turn of the twentieth century. The bulk of them are player pianos, cremonas, loud air-driven horn machines, with several calliopes and even a rare Photo Player thrown in forgood measure. (There will be more from me this winter on the Photo Player… what it is, where it is, why it is, and the fact that there are only 3 left in the world.) These old machines still run, still play… when properly maintained. There are parts and piano rolls for many of them, and some are so crudely built that they can be fixed with easy-to-find elements such as hairpins, garden hose, pieces of wood and coat hangers. But… they need someone who understands them and knows how to fix them and *keep* them maintained. And that’s where my friend, Mike Edwards, comes in.
Mike is a piano expert from Rapid City, South Dakota, who is known all around the northwest as a piano dealer, tuner and repair technician. That he knows all about the ancient player pianos and calliopes of a day gone by is a huge bonus for him, as there are still many old machines floating around the West. Collectors and small music museums know Mike can keep them in business, as there is rarely a mechanical musical instrument he can’t repair and make well. I’ve watched him work his magic on a number of machines, including my baby grand, and can vouch for his expertise. Am sorry to report, however, that as of this writing, Mike has been unable to fix the player part of my piano. He says that the *player* mechanism is damaged beyond repair, and actually makes no sense anyway. He patiently explained to me that even if he *could* fix it, he wouldn’t know where to begin. Not sure I understand why this is so… the player part was made in ’43 and not nearly as old as some of the players he has repaired. Oh well…
Mike has been hired part-time by the Montana History Foundation for several years now, repairing the old machines during the summer months. There has been, just last week, a shake-up in the Montana Heritage Commission’s strange attempts to save and preserve Virginia City & its close neighbor, Nevada City. Several major heads have rolled and those left standing are walking on egg shells. The politics of these recent events is not the concern of this blog. But it IS the concern of the Sagebrush Chronicles as to what will happen to all the old music machines.
Mike is giving a 12-minute slide presentation of the valuable music machines he has repaired and those still in need of repair.. including the Photo Player. Because of the ever-changing landscape of Montana politics and the skewed perception of correct budget usage, his position is as unstable as the rest of them.
Hence the slide show. Over a few friendly Jameson’s one evening earlier this summer, Mike suggested an original score to his slide show, as an additional element to the show that might give it more attraction and zip. I agreed to do one for him, as he’s been very good about tuning my piano for free from time to time, with the additional support of a few Jameson’s. Yes, we drink a bit of Jameson’s together. Hell, that’s what friends do, right? It also seemed a very good idea to me, as I’ve lived with most of these old machines, and heard them from time to time, since I was four. Much of my early childhood comes back to life instantly when I hear their hundred-year-old melodies spill out into the streets of Virginia City of a summer’s afternoon. Why would I not at least try to do my share, to give a little time and effort, to help Mike keep this job, this job that he loves, looks forward to from year to year, and is very good at… and, perhaps, help save some of these dear old music machines at the same time?
Yes, I have my priorities, just as you have yours. In this particular case, and in one other case this week, my priorities have become crystal clear… and re-defined. And so I used my blog time this past week to compose and record 11:30 of of original period music for Mike’s show. Who knows whether it will be enough, whether it will be the difference maker, whether Mike will be back next summer to work his continuing magic? Of course we can’t know. So we do what we can… we give it our best shot and attach all the pure intentions to the one attempt that is ours to give. Then we stand back, hoping, waiting for the results. We hope that we don’t have to say, after a failed attempt, that “at least we tried.” But that’s unfortunately the whole of it… we have no say in the final outcome. We can’t grab these people, shake them and show them what an opportunity they’re missing by diverting future funds to another concern rather than help preserve the precious and delicate integrity of two small historical prizes in Southwest Montana. I hate to say it… damn, I hate to say it. But at least we’re trying.