by Yvonne Georgina Puig
Yesterday I drove to the other side of town to see about buying a piano. I went out there knowing the woman was old and spoke slowly.
The drive seemed like forever. North, north, north, in a mournful gray drizzle. I counted four drive-in burger joints. Two of them were vintage, still mustard yellow or high school spirit red with cheerful, antiquated fonts. The other two were derivative, a pair of Sonics just a couple miles apart. Strip centers one after another. Oceanic parking lots. In spite of the occasional tree, a pure absence of life.
I passed the Oak Farms milk factory. This made me happy, to see unexpectedly where the milk I’d consumed nearly every day of elementary school was boxed and shipped. An old friend.
There were two wrought-iron chairs on the front porch of the house. And a doormat displaying the image of a basset hound in the back seat of a red Mustang convertible, banana-peelish ears flapping in the wind. The dining room was long and empty except for a rectangular table in the center, and the piano against a wall. The woman was old, but not elderly, hen-like.
The house was quiet. I wondered what she’d been doing before I arrived.
Within minutes, she was playing “Memories” from CATS. Listening to a perfect stranger play a pretty song in the intimacy of that stranger’s dining room is an odd experience. Sort of awkwardly heartwarming and human. She played the song with emotion and scolded herself when she goofed. I looked around and noticed a small disco ball in one corner of the room and a strobe in another. There was no rug on the floor.
She finished, and sighed. Are you a dancer? I asked. Yes, she said, a competitive ballroom dancer. Tango, waltz, samba, you name it she dances it. On my way out, through a window looking to the backyard, I glimpsed a decorative armadillo poised on the end of the diving board.
Yvonne Georgina Puig is the contributing editor to This Recording. She lives in Los Angeles. Her tumblr is here.
All photos by William Eggleston. William Eggleston: Democratic Camera, Photographs and Video, 1961 – 2008 through January 29th at the Whitney.
“Rank Strangers” – The Stanley Brothers (mp3)
“Man of Constant Sorrow” – The Stanley Brothers (mp3)
“That Happy Night” – The Stanley Brothers (mp3)
“Love Me Darlin Just Tonight” – The Stanley Brothers (mp3)
“Midnight Rambler” – The Stanley Brothers (mp3)
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