Monday, March 11, 2013

A Bold Move

I play the piano. I know what you're thinking. "Oh my gosh Eli! You're like a triple threat! You play the piano, you can walk on the backs of your toes, AND your hair has been looking really good lately!" And you are all writing me an email to invite me to perform at your kid's birthday party. Which I will accept because I have a hard time saying no to things. Especially when cake is involved. And I'm assuming you would let me take home some of the cake because who invites a performer to a party and doesn't let them take some of the cake home?

But guys, I'm not super at it. I'm just good enough to earn myself all kinds of responsibility, but not good enough to impress very many people.

And thanks for the compliment about my hair, by the way. I'm trying a new thing today and I wasn't sure if I was pulling it off.

I made my musical debut at church in Palau about 2 months ago when someone asked me to please accompany a little girl who was going to be singing during one of our meetings. It was a song I had never heard of before and we met a few minutes before church started to run through it together. After going over it once I asked if she needed to practice again. She responded with attitude -- and I mean islander attitude, which cuts you to the core but also makes you really like the person and want to do everything they say for the rest of your life -- "does it SOUND like I need to practice again?"

When the time of our performance arrived, my lack of practice in recent months caught up to me and my playing was somewhere between painful and disaster. The occasional sharp look from the child during the course of the number only added to the mounting pressure. And she stormed back into the congregation and flipped her hands in the air the moment she was done singing, even though I wasn't quite done playing. I swear she gave the congregation a look like, "I'll never work with him again!"

Never again. I thought as well.

Then this Sunday came. The teenagers at church were asked to sing a song together, and out of necessity, I had to accompany them.

In what can only be called an extremely irresponsible decision, I failed to practice until late the night before. And that's when I found out that it was too late. Because I needed at least 3 weeks of consistent practice to make this sound un-embarrassing.

Ten minutes before church started the next morning, I gathered the teenagers in another room and we practiced our little hearts out. I told them that I was going to have the boys sing one part of the song alone and have the girls take another before the whole group joined together.

Then the time of reckoning came.

Guys. THE BIGGEST DISASTER OF MY LIFE. Besides the Ironman. And besides the time I peed my pants in the first grade and tried to convince everyone that I did the splits at recess on wet grass and then they asked me to prove that I could do the splits and so I tried, thinking that sheer will-power would get me to do it, even though I had never done the splits before.

And besides the time I tied the strings on my shorts to a desk of a class we were visiting in the third grade and then the teacher dismissed us and I was stuck and I had to sit there for 10 minutes while she tried to untie me with her long fingernails and the girl whose desk I was sitting in stood there crying while the rest of the third graders watched and when I got back to my class everyone was already there and my teacher asked me where I had been and I had to announce to everyone that I had tied myself to a desk in another room.

At least it got them to forget about the pee splits incident from first grade.

Actually, now that I think about it, this piano thing wasn't even close to being the biggest disaster of my life. Probably not even top ten. But guys, it was bad.

Fortunately the kids sounded pretty good and followed all of the instructions. This was in part due to Daniel's help, as he offered to step in and sing with the boys, even though he is a foot taller than the rest of the kids and looked like Gandalf singing with the hobbits.

For our next performance, I think we're going to do a Wizard of Oz themed number and have Daniel play Glenda, the good witch.

When we finished, one person told me how brave our decision was to have the boys sing part of the song alone and how great that turned out. I was very proud of this achievement, and partly to take the attention off of my piano disaster, in which large portions of the song had to be sung a cappella because I lost my place, I decided to share this compliment with the boys.

Eli: Guys, you won't believe it! Someone just told me that the best part of the song was when you sang alone. And they commented that it was a very daring decision. This is JUST like on the runway when a fashion designer makes a really bold choice on color and then pulls it off!

[Palauan boys who spend their weekends spear-fishing stare blankly]

Eli: You know. Or, like, on the red carpet when someone wears a dress that is really different and they say that it was such a brave move but then it ends up being fabulous.

[Palauan boys who have never seen or had any interest in anything I'm talking about continue to stare blankly, like I'm the biggest idiot they've ever encountered]

Daniel: This isn't working Eli. Try something else.

Eli: I grew up with sisters! I don't know what else to try! . . . um . . . ok, OR, it's JUST like when you decide to dye your hair, but you want to go with a totally new color and--

Daniel: Guys, he means it's like when you're playing basketball and you decide to take a three-point-shot instead of passing it to the inside, and then you make the basket.

Eli: Oh what business do you have drawing an analogy to sports!?

Daniel: I can talk about basketball because I'm tall!

One of the Palauan Boys: Um . . . can we go now?

I seriously need to be replaced.

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. Loved the pee splits and shorts'string stories. I was crying

  2. As a fellow semi-pianist that is out of practice, I'm sure I'd rather pee my pants than be asked to perform. You are a brave man, Eli.

    1. Amen to that! I'd rather curl into a tiny ball in a sewer and be chewed on by rats than jump up on stage an play! Someone told a waiter at a restaurant in India that I played while I was there, and he insisted (as only Indians can) that I get up and play something. Terrible. I KNOW everyone in that restaurant wished it had not happened. I certainly did!

      Also, have you ever tried to keep Indians whose job it is to DRESS YOU to keep from dressing you? Almost as difficult and embarassing as playing a song you don't REALLY remember in front of westerners at a restaurant.

      Remind me not to go back to that restaurant next time I am in India...

  3. Thanks for the early morning laugh!

  4. I love the part when you tied your self to the desk!! I laugh so hard that my boss ask me what's so funny! Lol

  5. Hilarious.

    That's how it works at church, they take the slightest bit of talent you may have once cared about and bring it front and center until you panic enough to really work at it. That's what they call "continuing education" and why we're supposed to do it.

  6. PS I can totally play anything because I'm awesome. Or I was embarrassed enough times that I decided that there is something to this practicing thing. I started taking piano lessons again, as an adult! It's super fun to play at a recital when your competition (and we all know it's a competition) are 10 year old girls.

  7. Thanks for making me pee my pants first thing in the morning! Holy CRAP I laughed so hard at this....mostly because I HAVE BEEN THERE!!! I totally agree with Amy N - my piano playing precedes me when I move into a last ward my first Sunday there and they said "OH YOU ARE THE ONE THAT CAN PLAY THE ORGAN" - what the hell!! How did they know that before I even showed up!!!!!

  8. Eli, will you please play piano at my kid's birthday party? I know I don't have a kid yet, but I think it's good to be prepared, and I should definitely have a pianist in line for these types of things. And of course you can take home some of the cake! What kind of host would I be if I didn't share the leftovers? Thanks a ton! :)

  9. When you say 'walk on the backs of your toes' are you referring to flipping your toes under and walking on the tops of them (and the knuckles)? Because I can totally do that too. It really freaks people out. They usually tell me I can do it because I was in ballet for 18 years, but my brother can do it too! I've never known anyone else who would admit to being able to do it.

  10. Hahaha too funny! :) I play piano also, not really well, but enough to be able to support my fellow choir students. Although I do prefer to sing, act and dance. Your stories about pants accidents reminded me of an incident when I was in karate. I went to to a front hand spring and mid air my pants ripped... right... down... the butt. It was terrifying. Not to mention a few minutes later when I did a front flip and face planted. We all have embarrassing stories to make others laugh! :)
    ~ KJ

  11. Alana - Tallahassee, FLMarch 11, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    I really hope "island attitude" incorporates neck rolls and finger snaps. If you need another weekly distraction, check out

    1. I think Eli will especially appreciate or feel identified with(?) the one on page #10 that says "When I think about my decision to go to law school"

  12. Great, thanks a lot. You brought back a repressed memory of that one time I was asked to play in church. One time. That was all it took for my church to learn their lesson.

  13. Omg I peed my pants in the first grade too! And this girl out her hand on my leg and was like "ew did you pee your pants? My excuse was that I "fell" in a mud puddle, luckily I didn't get called you like you did. I'm sure that experience scarred you for life, but thanks for sharing because that is hilarious. I was too embarrrassed to tell my teacher so I sat in my pissy pants for three hours. . . Gross. If Daniel is Gandolf, and the kids are hobbits, does that make you a dwarf?

  14. Ha ha ha ha.... oh man... tied yourself to the desk!?!? Ha... oh... my sides hurt...

  15. I feel your pain about playing piano for church! No amount of practice prevented me from messing up in front of elderly people smiling but expecting me to sound like regular lady who always played so perfectly.

  16. Back when I was RS president of my singles branch, somehow (SOMEHOW!), our regular piano player was gone, and nobody owned up to being able to play the piano. (I don't believe it for a minute: this is Mormondom we're talking about!) I took piano lessons for not very long when I was a wee lass, and I knew the meeting would go sour if we had to sing a cappella, so I marched over to the piano and played one of the four songs I can (only somewhat) play. Yes, I can play four hymns--but accompanying is totally different than sitting down and playing it! Gosh, it was horrific! After I staggered through the hymn, I had to go back to the front of the room and finish conducting the meeting. I died of shame a little bit that day...

    Favorite imagery? Gandalf singing with the hobbitses... :)

  17. Wait... You do know who Gandalf is and about hobbits! At least as far as height goes. My whole life is a lie.

    Or, rather, the last 24 hours in which I have found your blog and am desperately trying to get caught up, by reading the posts in backwards order.