Fun title, huh? I can explain. It’s kind of a long story, but I’ve told it many times and I’m getting pretty good at it so I’m gonna try to write it out. I’ve been getting a little too high up on my soapbox lately, so I thought I’d try and settle down with something a little more fun.
It’s about my baby. Not a real baby, mind you, but my baby. Actually, it’s a little odd calling her my baby when she’s actually around 15-20 years older than me. But baby sounds better than Auntie, so…OK. Enough baby talk. I got a Hammond organ off of the internet. This may not seem like a big deal, but I’ve badly wanted a Hammond for a really long time. I mean badly. Like enough to sell my own organs (no pun intended) badly. No surgery was required, thankfully, because this little beauty was sold at the wonderful price of free.
Well, sort of. Nothing is really free, is it? It all started a month ago when my beautiful fiancee, Claire, called my attention to an ad for the organ online. I reluctantly glanced over at her computer screen. I had seen ads for free instruments before and there is almost always a catch; the owner lives in another state or the instrument is damaged beyond repair. More often then not, the item is just not even worth the trouble to pick up, let alone use. As I studied the ad, though, my heart rate spiked. There, prominently displayed in the photo, was the blessed surname that changed everything. Ordinarily, I’m no instrument snob. I appreciate quality instruments of all kinds, and I even have a wish-list that I keep in case I ever strike it rich or find a genie, but I believe that the instrument is only as good as the person playing it. Hammonds, though, are a special breed for a lot of reasons, but I’ll get into those when I spec this thing out.
I immediately emailed the current owner and was delighted when, about an hour later, she emailed me back with her address, a mere eight minute drive from where I was jumping up and down with glee. Claire lent me her car keys (my car is too small to carry much of anything) and sent me on my way. I started the ignition and what should come pouring out of the radio but, I kid you not, the organ solo from “Light My Fire” by The Doors. This was going to work.
I arrived at the address and was greeted by three busy college students dutifully making a last minute attempt to get their deposit back from their landlord. The apartment, even though they had clearly spent hours cleaning it, was filthy. Dirt covered the floor like a film. Thick dust hung heavily in the air. They smoked tobacco in this apartment, which I don’t oppose on principal, but the organ suffered for it. A sticky layer of brown, grimy tar covered the keys and colorful switches. The Hammond stood in the doorway, a single ray of sunlight illuminating its sorrowful condition. It silently pleaded for rescue from this tomb. I instantly vowed that it would come with me by any means.
“Yeah, it was working earlier today, so that’s a good sign,” the soon-to-be-organ-less renter told me with a chuckle. I’m sure many people might become angry upon learning this new information, especially when I was clearly doing them a favor by taking it off their hands, but I had already made up my mind. I didn’t even test it before I asked them to help me load it up. It sounds cheesy, but I felt such a strong bond with it after that first encounter. I knew deep down that I would have dragged its cumbersome frame across state lines to get it home.
As we loaded the surprisingly heavy instrument into the waiting station wagon, the owner, perhaps regretting her candor, told me about the origin of my prize. Apparently, she and one of her roommates had done some relief work in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. They had stayed at a church there and when they left, the minister told them they could take the organ with them if they liked. So they loaded it up into the bus and drove it back to North Carolina. I’ll admit that the cynic in me still wonders if this story is true, but the romantic in me believes every word. Actually, the romantic in me has done one better and concocted an elaborate fantasy in which Louis Armstrong has wandered into this small church one night during a thunderstorm after his limo has broken down. He steps inside to ask for help and sees this simple little organ in the corner. He sits down and, sure that he is alone, flips the on-switch. A simple blue melody spills out, punctuated by the clap of thunder. He curves his lips into that signature grin, unveiling his impossibly white teeth. All is right with the world. I know, kind of pathetic, right?
Anyway, after gingerly driving home at a top speed of 15 mph, the organ was home at last. Almost. It was too heavy to move by myself, Claire was gone for the night and most of the neighbors were out of town for the holiday weekend. Not discouraged, I decided to wait for Claire to get back and help me move it in. Simple. The only thing left to do was clear out a space in the living room.
Claire arrived a while later, almost as excited as I. Giddy, I regaled the day’s events as I brought her down to the car. I began to gently heave it out when Claire stopped me. Her face fell. She has a knack for seeing the glaringly obvious obstacles that I foolishly overlooked while my head was up in the clouds. First, we needed someone to hold the hatch open for us, so we would at the very least need a third person. Second, it weighed a lot, and she may or may not be able to carry it up three flights of stairs without dropping it. And third, why is there a roach crawling out of this thing?
Uh-oh. I followed her gaze to the large bug that was poking its creepy little head out of the back panel. I didn’t dare look back at Claire. I knew what I’d see. What awaited me was a look that all committed men can recognize. You know the one I’m talking about. Medusa herself has nothing on it. I felt like I was part of a bad sitcom.
“It’s okay,” I bluffed, brushing the insect away while still avoiding her stare. “Let me just think about this.”