Saturday, July 5
Having never heard West Coast Live, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was invited onto this San Francisco-based, two-hour weekly NPR program. It turned out to be was of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in months.
The guest host was Mike Greensill, a pianist (aka “the man who knows the white keys from the black keys”) who wanted me on this wacky and wonderful show because he loves the book (lucky me). The regular host, Sedge Thomson, was on vacation and apparently listening in from Paris.
When I arrived at the second floor of the Ferry Building, I walked into a scene of delirious chaos. The first hour was to proceed as (relatively) normal, but the second hour was to be devoted mostly to the wedding of Asa de Matteo and Tom Brady, who have been together for more than 30 years and were making it official. The wedding was to be officiated by the Rev. Sam Barry.
In the green room with me were: Miriam Goodman, who has a new book about retirement; Amy Tan (with her two peanut-sized Yorkshire Terriers stowed in her handbag), there to talk about her new opera based on her novel The Bonesetter’s Daughter; and Larkin Gayle, a singer/guitarist/songwriter who just wrote “I Do,” a same-sex marriage song.
The wedding ceremony was incredibly touching. The S.F. Gay Men’s Chorus sang, and Larkin performed her song, and we all raised a glass of champagne to the happy couple. It reminded me of all the reasons I love living in the S.F. Bay Area.
I was the first guest up, and the interview went really well. Mike put me at ease, and vice versa– the best way for an interview to flow. And the audience seemed amused, especially when Mike read aloud one of his favorite parts of the book — a sentence about urine content in the wool used for hammer felts. Go figure.
Afterwards, the authors were invited to sign books, which were being sold by Booksmith on Haight St. (Speaking of which, I’ll be there this Wednesday, July 9 at 7:30 p.m. for a booksigning.)
Alameda, July 2
On Wednesday evening, a nice crowd gathered at John Callahan’s piano restoration shop in Alameda for a book reading and a couple of hours of piano playing. The occasion was the sendoff of a beautiful 1910 flame mahogany Steinway Model O owned by the Cornland family and refinished to perfection by John’s team. The piano was to be sent off to Sweden the following day. Booksellers from Mrs. Dalloway’s in Berkeley came to sell books, John and Nancy put out some delicious food, served some lovely wine (including a beautiful Callahan cabernet) and everyone settled in for an evening of beautiful music and readings from the book.
As it turned out, it wasn’t merely a lovely evening. It was magical.
I was up first, with a brief talk about the book, during which I described what it was like to have John come over to my house to interview Verne on the speaker phone, in order to try to understand what, exactly, Verne had done to CD 318 to make it so responsive.
To my delight, I noticed that the group included several piano fetishists — the opimal kind of crowd for the book. People were buying copies of the book not just for themselves but for others as well: the pianists, teachers, tuners and Gould fans in their lives.
Then three frighteningly talented young pianists — Rachel Breen, Christine Xu and Chloe Ma, ages, 12, 13 and 7 –sat down to the Cornland piano and flew through a breathtaking array of Bach, Brahms, Chopin etc. You name it, these squirts could play it.
The most adorable part was watching seven-year-old Chloe, in her pink dress, almost stand up in order to reach the pedals.