Piano: The Voice Mail at Buddha’s House (When Times are Bad)
Updated: Apr 29, 2020
Imagine Fat Nick of Mulberry, dark glasses staring forward, arms folded across his chest, then one arm rising in exasperation as he speaks:
"What, you don' know "New Yawk New Yawk?"
I have just played "New York, New York" twice. "Deep Sleep," the mobster bar whose title hints at what happens to piano players who do not follow instructions, is not a spiritual place. Tonight there is no Buddha. I've played "C'mon-A My House" three times. I've played "Mambo Italiano." I've played "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" with "San Francisco" changed to "Staten Island." It's just a matter of time until Fat Nick will desire that I allow his girl friend, Trixie, to use the microphone. Trixie sings like Betty Boop. Trixie sings in the key of Whatever.
I need Buddha. I call, but I keep getting his Voice-Mail: “If you wish to leave a prayer, press One.”
I press One. The voice returns: "If you have a really big donation, press Two. If it's even bigger, like Construct-a-New-Temple-in Manhattan-Big, Press Om. Otherwise, Press Three.
I Press Two. No one answers. While I wait, Fat Nick collars a waitress: “Hey Baby how come you don’ love me! Of cawse I respeckyoo, Yolanda, shee! Wha’ wrong witchoo! Shee!"
I press Three. I get through! Buddha himself answers! But he is in a hurry. He says, 'Buddha!'
“Buddha!” I cry. "It it really you?"
“Yes, yes,” he says, impatiently, “this is why I said, ‘Buddha,’ If I had been, say, Mohammed, that upstart, I would have said, “Mohammed.” But I didn’t, did I? What did I say? See if you can get this right for once.”
“You said, ‘Buddha,’” I say.
“Yes, so what does that tell you?” The line disconnects. Dial tone.
Oh God, here comes Trixie. She will leave my microphone dripping with lip gloss.
I press Three again.
“Are you a musician?” says a new, perky robo-call voice. "Do you suffer from extreme anxiety? Do you have trouble sleeping? Would you like to take one simple pill a day and solo like the wind?”
“Oh, my, y…”
“Well, you can’t, Dipwad, because you were too stupid to learn how to program a computer or sell earthquake insurance to nomads or run for the school board so you can skim money off the top that is supposed to go for school books.”
Fat Nick puts his arm around Trixie. He smiles at her, like a donut with jelly oozing out the bottom, then at me, like a switchblade.
I press Two again. Two! Two!
“Hello, this is Buddha. I am either away from my desk or on another line. Compared to Oscar Peterson, you are a speck of sand. And your voice, have you ever tasted yak butter? You sing like that. Still, your call is relatively important to me, in a minuscule, rather pathetic sort of way."
Trixie sees my plight. She sits down on my piano bench, cradles my head in her arms. She smells good. “G’head,” she says. “Press Four. Unless you ain’t got the balls.”
I press Four.
The world ends.