Before this virus turned our world upside down, my sister had a work trip planned to New York and I decided to join her. I’d get out of Los Angeles and see some friends and family. As we walked around Manhattan, my sister said she wanted to go to Washington Square Park to visit someone.
When we walked through the park’s iconic arch, she looked around and said, “I don’t see him. Maybe he’s not coming today.” I wondered how it was so easy for her to assess the park so quickly. It’s huge. But when the man she was looking for finally showed, I understood:
Colin Huggins left his apartment that morning and wheeled a massive baby grand piano through the streets of New York. He positioned his piano near some benches, placed white buckets around the space, and prepared to perform.
My sister pulled me over to introduce me to Colin. I gave them a minute to catch up, not wanting to interrupt. But when I looked up from my phone, I realized they were both staring at me. Colin motioned under the piano, where he laid down some blankets. My sister explained that Colin invited people to lie down underneath the piano while he played. It wasn’t enough for them to hear the songs he’d play. No, he wanted them to feel it.
I’ve thought a lot about that trip. Just a few months ago, we could fly on a plane across the country, have dinner with friends or family in a nice restaurant, and not be consumed by the dangers around us. Just a few months later, our world feels very different. It’s dangerous, scary, uncomfortable.
Uncomfortable is the word I’d use to describe how I felt when I was asked to lie under Colin’s piano. When did I become a part of the show? When was the last time those blankets were washed? Do I look like the kind of guy who likes to lie under a 900-pound piano? My sister and Colin stared at me, waiting for an answer. Instead of asking any of those questions, I took a breath, sat down on one of the blankets, and positioned myself under the middle of the piano, staring up at the inner workings of its underbelly. Then Colin started to play.
You know the feeling when you put on a really nice pair of headphones and feel the sound of the treble and bass in your ears? How the music can transport you from your shitty job or your boring apartment to a place where all your problems melt away? Lying there, I felt like Colin plugged me into his enormous piano and was recharging my soul’s batteries with every key he played, every flourish of his enormously talented and intricately-tattooed fingers.
When Colin finished, I opened my eyes and picked myself up off the ground. My sister looked at me, excited to hear what I thought. It was then that I realized she’d experienced this magical sensation before and brought me there to share it with me. Colin was doing something incredible.
If a documentary about the piano’s inventor came out and he said he originally intended for his instrument to be experienced this way, I would one hundred percent believe it. ❏
Aaron Wiener is a television writer who’s worked on shows like Bones, Body Of Proof, AP Bio, Ground Floor, The Soul Man, Game Shakers, and Sydney To The Max.
Photo by Miriam Wiener