My deal with Buddha: Getting 
the piano up the stairs


By Evalyn Baron
Published April 2011

The 75-foot North American Van Lines truck had been nestled in its police-sanctioned spot on Lombard Street for hours, and most of the boxes and furniture had made it safely into our new home. Now it was time for the baby grand!

We had driven thousands of miles across country to our dream city and all had gone smoothly, until now. A tired fear crept in: what if this prized possession wouldn’t fit up the stairs or into the small elevator? Suddenly, our second-floor flat seemed impossibly high up, and our fate rested in the strong hands of Manny, Alvarado, Tito, Jorge, and the driver, Jay. I heard them conferring in the ornate lobby below.

“I dunno, man,” said Manny, the crew head. “That’s one big piano. Even with the legs off …,” his voice trailed. My heart sank.

“C’mon, man,” Tito piped in. “Looks to me like it’ll fit up the stairs. Right around that corner! Yeah!” I’d had a good feeling about little Tito from the start.

“Sure, man, c’mon. This ain’t nothin’! We can get this thing up there. We’ll figure it out, man! C’maaan!” This was Jorge, the mostly silent one. His chiming in seemed to give the guys fresh courage.

“Well, fellas, we ain’t got no choice. I’m on a schedule, so let’s do it.” This was Jay, the man who had driven our life from the East Coast. Their worried voices hummed from below, while I went to collapse on our sofa, which, thank goodness, was already in place.

If this wasn’t the time for meditation, there would never be a better one, so I began to count breaths and spoke to the Buddha in my mind. “OK, if You help these guys get our piano up here, I promise to meditate for 20 minutes daily, and be grateful in every breath. I will also write for an hour each day on the mysteries of life as You present them … and cut down on sugar! All in
all, a good deal, so please get that piano in here! OK?”

Suddenly, I heard the elevator arrive, a small, muffled cheer fill the hallway, and my husband rushed in to tell me the piano had made it. We went to see the miracle for ourselves, and there was Jay, who had climbed the stairs, opening the elevator doors on the sweaty, strained, breathless, filled-with-pride faces of Manny, Alvarado, Tito, and Jorge, who were squashed against the walls of the elevator with the enormous body of the baby grand in their midst. They were smiling.

After extricating themselves and the instrument, placing it gently in our new home, and making sure all the pieces fit together, they shared our champagne, pocketed large tips and departed.

We collapsed.

Now, five months later, the piano is settled in, tuned, and our neighbors like what they hear. There’s even a building sing-along being discussed, since we have so many musical theater fans in the three buildings that make up our community. San Francisco is coming alive for us in ways we didn’t expect, and I wouldn’t be surprised if more pianos start showing up in these lovely old apartments. This is a dog and music friendly place to live, and we feel lucky.

But, we always did feel the magic of this city, which is why we moved to it from Manhattan, and the area we’ve settled in feels the most magical of all with its spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the beautiful stretches of the Marina and Bay close by, the interesting walks that take us to parks named after poets, schools with Rivera murals, superb cafes anywhere in the city we want to go, and finally, the warm community of friends we seem to be making every time we take those walks with Sally and Cyrano, our two dachshund pups.

It’s clear that getting the grand piano up to our apartment wasn’t the only prayer answered in our move: we’ve found a place to put our hearts and minds, which, though new, feels like it’s been home for a good,
long time.

Before moving to San Francisco, Manhattan was Evalyn Baron’s longtime home. Actress, director, teacher, she’s worked on Broadway, at many regional theaters around the country, and had a bustling commercial TV and radio career, all of which she is happy to abandon in order to finally get some writing done.