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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Balm Of Music And Brass Knuckles




At times like these, I'm particularly glad I have a keyboard to turn to.


Not my computer keyboard, which gets plenty of use every day. My piano keyboard. Music, as the ancients have assured us from time immemorial, can soothe the savage beast. It can also ease the stress of everyday life.


Earlier this year, when things in Russia seemed stable, I decided to buy a piano, offered at a reasonable price by Boris, a conservatory instructor who was leaving the country. Once I had made the difficult decision of buying the piano, there remained the problem of moving it.


But piano movers are not timid folk. When I called to say I needed a baby grand moved from the 15th floor of one building to the fourth floor of another, they didn't flinch. They just asked for both addresses, plus the date and time of the move.


On the big day, I met Boris in his 15th-floor studio. As he was saying a few last words to his beloved instrument, I went downstairs to meet the movers -- both of them, Volodya and Kolya. They were young men with inspiringly broad shoulders and beefy biceps.


The two accompanied me on the passenger elevator to the 15th floor. Within minutes, after securing the lid and removing the three legs, they had the behemoth on its side. They adjusted thick straps in two points around the body and lifted the piano with seeming ease.


Happily, Boris's building has a freight elevator. The movers boarded that with their heavy burden, got off at the first floor and lugged the thing to the truck. They then hoisted the piano onto the truck bed and secured it for the ride to my building.


"Okay," Kolya said as he jumped into the driver's seat. "There's no room in the cab for you, so you'll have to take the metro. We'll meet you at your place."


Hmm, I thought. Dare I leave this treasure unattended? "Can't I ride in the back?" I asked. The movers objected; by law they weren't allowed to transport anything in the back but pianos.


But I insisted, and they relented. "Just don't look out the back," Kolya warned me.


So off we went, they in the cab, the piano and I in the back. The ride to my building, over rutted roads and in minus-20-degree-Celsius cold, was mercifully brief.


When we arrived at my building, I cringed to think of how they would haul the piano up four flights of stairs (my building does not have a freight elevator). But Volodya and Kolya were unfazed. Aided only by those straps and mighty trapeziuses, they started up the stairs. I went on ahead, opening the apartment door to make way for them.


"Suzanne!" Kolya shouted from the second-floor landing. They've dropped it, I thought. Or one is hemorrhaging from the strain. I looked over the banister, down two flights of stairs.


"Look!" Volodya said as he held up a strange object in his hand. "Kastet!"


Brass knuckles. They had found them neatly tucked beneath the soundboard, apparently placed there by a former owner and forgotten. What's a pianist doing with brass knuckles? I thought.


The rest of the move was easy. Within a few more minutes the piano was standing in my living room, ready to be played.


And play it I do. With so many things uncertain, I'm doubly glad I bought that piano.