By the time I got out of the Franco Center, I was half in love with Tamara Poddubnaya.
It was her passion — the way she moved and the way she turned her face to the heavens in moments of great exaltation. And her fingers. My God, her fingers! How they crept and crawled, probed and danced over the familiar terrain. Her fingers flew like shooting stars and wherever they landed, beauty was born.
Tamara Poddubnaya has something I want, all right. And I want it real bad.
Put away your poison pens, busybodies. There's no scandal here. I gave up scandal 10 years ago and, other than that thing with the Pringles can, I've been clean ever since.
Tamara P. is a classical pianist from Russia and on Friday night, she played Lewiston. My journey to the concert came about in the usual way.
"I don't want to go."
"Sure you do. You'll love it."
"No, I won't. I hate peas."
"That's not the conversation we're having right now. We're talking about the piano concert."
"Oh, right. The concert. I don't want to go! I want to stay home, watch TV and eat Pringles."
"You're not allowed to eat Pringles anymore. Put your pants on. We're going."
So I went, took a seat and for two hours, I was blown away.
There's just something about piano. People who know how to play are magical to me. Just by moving their hands a certain way over the ivories, they create something as monumental as any building, as complex as any novel and as beautiful as any poem ever put to ink.
Every time I watch a pianist at work, I think of the road not traveled. If I could go back to a much earlier age, I know what I would do. I would first hide my original Stretch Armstrong somewhere so I could grow up and sell it for a million bucks. After that, I would take piano lessons and learn to do what Tamara Poddubnaya does.
Of course, try telling 6-year-old me that he's going to take a piano lesson. Six-year-old me would laugh at you, kick you in the shin and disappear up a tree. Six-year-old me plays hockey and takes karate. He rides a Huffy and tries to tempt neighborhood girls into his closet. Piano lessons? Six-year-old me would rather eat peas.
That's the problem, you know. By the time I was old enough to appreciate the beauty of piano, the chance to learn had mostly passed. Not that I didn't try, mind you. When I was 22 or 23, I enticed a friend named Linette to teach me. And she tried; she really did. The trouble was that at 22 or 23, I was habitually drunk, which is OK if you're Jerry Lee Lewis, I suppose, but if you're trying to start from scratch, it's a real pain in the Pringles can.
The other problem was that Linette wasn't teaching me how to play "Roll Over Beethoven" or even "Chopsticks." She was teaching me complex stuff; something even grosser than peas. Namely, math. Scales, chords, etc. Which was a deal-breaker because I had hoped to perform my first concert that very night. Who has time for the continental drift rate of learning when he wants to start wowing people immediately?
Today, all I can play is the Halloween movie theme on three or four keys. Which is OK, I suppose. If you know how it works, maybe it isn't so transcendental to watch someone like Tamara P. do her thing. If everybody was a magician, magic itself would lose its power to astound.
Or something. We all think about the things we never did as we evaluate our lives and ponder the roads not taken. Perhaps Tamara Poddubnaya stays awake at night lamenting that she never learned how to ride a dirt bike. And if that's so, Ms. P, look me up and I'll show you the way. Wear sturdy boots with plenty of ankle support.
And bring your own Pringles.
Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. You can petrify him with math problems at firstname.lastname@example.org.