How’s that joke go? Guy walks into a saloon and says to a patron sitting at the bar, “Play the piano, Broken Nose.”
The patron says, “I don’t have a broken nose.”
Plink plink plink plink.
Anyhoo . . .
My column last week about how to get rid of an unwanted piano brought several suggestions from readers. Barbara Kawamura of Rockville, Md., wrote: “You didn’t mention Freecycle, where many people advertise things they are giving away or people ask for things they want. You can sign up online by the community you live in. I have given and received many things over the years: Mason jars, Easter baskets, kids bikes, Legos, computers, a piano!”
A great idea. Visit www.freecycle.org.
The New York-based Society of Unique Artists is sort of like the Beethoven Foundation, which was mentioned in my column. It accepts donated pianos in good condition. These are sold to fund the foundation, which is devoted to body painters, ice carvers, sidewalk chalk sketchers and other nontraditional artists. Visit www.suartists.org and click on “Services.”
Several readers said that no piano should be destroyed. Rather, the instruments should be repurposed. That’s what the District’s Indra Books did. She was given a 1920s baby grand piano that had reached its point of no return.
“I am a big proponent of finding other uses for things rather than dumping in the landfill,” she wrote. “So one mistreated baby grand has become at least three different things.”
Indra gutted the body, turned it on its side and transformed it into shelves. The harp — the metal frame that holds the strings — will be cleaned up and placed in Indra’s yard as a trellis for climbing roses; the piano’s legs will be used for a rolling plant table.
The downside is there’s still a lot of stuff to go into the trash, and Indra isn’t sure the District will pick it up. “Regardless,” she said, “I encourage your readers to recycle.”
That’s certainly commendable, but I think that sort of recycling might be too labor-intensive for many people. If you don’t have the energy to sell your piano, how likely is it you’ll have the energy to go all HGTV on its carcass?
Years ago, Edie Trageser of Oak Hill, Va., lived in New England, where individual towns handled the trash pickup for their residents. Some friends had an old, broken-down upright piano they wanted to get rid of. They called the town and asked if they could put it out at the curb with the rest of the trash.
“They were told absolutely not, as it was much too heavy for the crew to safely lift, plus it would take up too much room on the truck,” Edie wrote. “Being resourceful types who are not easily outsmarted, they rolled the piano into their garage, and using screwdrivers and pry bars, allowed their preteen kids to disassemble the monster. Each week, they snuck pieces of the piano into their trash bins. It took almost an entire year, but they eventually got it all out of the garage, and the town, indeed, had now taken away their unwanted piano.”
Here’s another creative way to dispose of a piano. Roger Elmore of Woodbridge, Va., graduated from the University of Georgia in 1970. Years before he attended, there was a brief craze on the campus.
“A frat or two came up with an unusual way to dispose of unwanted pianos,” Roger wrote. “These frats competed to smash pianos thoroughly and completely into small enough pieces — splinters actually — to fit through a small hole in a square of plywood. The ‘fad’ came and went quickly, but could be revived so that frats today could serve some public purpose other than embarrassing themselves in public to the great amusement and satisfaction of old school GDIs like myself.”
And what does “GDI” stand for? Let’s say, “Gosh durn independent,” in other words, someone who is not in a frat.
Of course, every fraternity should have a piano, a place to gather round and sing old Tin Pan Alley hits and Broadway show tunes.
Finally, Ken Herst of Springfield, Va., has the tale of Piano Mountain, a landmark in the hamlet of Shrub Oak, N.Y., where he grew up. It isn’t much of a landmark, being the 58,901st-highest mountain in the United States.
Ken wrote: “As the story goes, in the mid-1800s, there was a guy who owned the mountain and another guy who lived near Yonkers, N.Y. The wife of the mountain owner always wanted a piano, and the guy in Yonkers always wanted to own a mountain. Allegedly, the two gentleman got together and made the trade, sealed with a handshake. It was much easier to accomplish a business transaction back in those days, apparently.”
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.