Saturday, May 22, 2010

Somebody tell me what I’m doing

On Tuesday, or maybe Wednesday, I discovered a Victorian square piano on Craigslist. Until that very moment, I’d only ever been vaguely aware of square pianos, but somehow, that piano seemed to be calling me. I called the owner to make an appointment to see it, and I was disappointed to learn that I was second in line to a guy who wanted to buy it as a decoration for his house. The owner, however, asked me a little about my intentions for the piano. She asked what I planned to do with it if I fixed it up (it’s in need of some minor repair, from what I gather), and I said quite frankly and truthfully, “I plan to keep it!”

Now, square pianos are quite rare. In many ways, they are like the AMC Gremlins of the auto world: there isn’t anything particularly bad (or good) about them, they were popular enough in their day, and now, they are pretty hard to find. My preliminary attempt to research square pianos on the web revealed that a good one, refurbished and fixed up, can get upwards of $30,000. The one I’m looking to buy costs $1900 and the owner tells me it will cost between $5K and $10K to fix it up. Okay. But if at the end of that, I’ve got a $25K piano (and I might), wouldn’t that be great?

So I did more and more research. Wikipedia has some excellent key action diagrams, and even the Wall Street Journal (no link because it's too old, but easy to find if you Google it) had contributed with a piece late last year about another person’s story with their square piano. (How I missed it the first time around, I’ll never know.) Suddenly, I found myself craving that piano. I mean, I felt like I really, really, really wanted to buy it.

I placed a couple phone calls and sent a few emails to people who I thought might be able to tell me something about square pianos. I gleaned some useful information, but in general, nobody is really familiar with these things. Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Last night, we got tied up at work and at 5:30 or so, the owner of the piano calls to ask if I can come earlier to look at the piano. She says she can’t get a hold of the guy who called about the piano before I did, and that she will sell it to me if I want it.

I have an appointment in less than five hours with a piano and its owner. I’ve basically already decided I’m going to buy the sucker. So does somebody want to tell me: what the hell am I doing?

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