Authors: J.J. Murray
Trina gave up.
He asks a question and doesn’t wait for the answer, and he never even asked for
name! What kind of a journalist is he?
Tony kept playing, transitioning from the sexy hate song to some serious old stomp music, complete with Tony stomping his feet, swaying, and dancing behind the keys.
“Can I interview him after his set’s over?” the reporter shouted.
Trina turned on the piano bench to face him. “Will you listen to his entire answer?”
“Yeah,” the reporter said.
“I don’t know when it’s going to end,” Trina said.
I don’t want it to end! Go, Tony, go!
Tony held out his empty glass. “More root beer, please.”
The reporter wrote it down.
These will be the first words Art E. will
say in print. An entrepreneur in Omaha, Nebraska, will produce T-shirts with this phrase spelled out in frothy letters and sell them on the Internet.
Saturday Night Live
will use this phrase as the punch line to a joke. David Letterman will put the phrase into his nightly top ten. The First Lady will use this phrase in her anti-drinking-and-driving campaign.
Trina took the glass and handed it to a woman in the first row of swaying dancers. “I can’t get back to the bar. Could you get Tony some more root beer, please?”
Trina watched the empty glass move above the crowd’s heads to the bar and come back filled and foamy in less than a minute, while Tony played a fast version of the theme from
“Funny stuff,” a reporter said.
Trina handed the glass to Tony, and he guzzled half of it while keeping his right hand doing lilting runs on the high notes. “I will play your song now,” Tony said. “I must sit down to play it.”
Trina moved the bench forward, and Tony sat.
Tony patted the space to his right.
“What song is this?” the reporter asked.
It’s my song.
“It is called ‘Trina,’” Tony said.
Trina’s song was soft and romantic, light on bass with a melody that rose more than it fell. The crowd fell silent, and many started slow dancing.
This is my song and only I know some of the words and it’s beautiful and beguiling and genuinely moving and I want to cry! His fingers are caressing the keys now, loving them, massaging them. I can almost hear the lyrics in every note: “Streams of gold shine all around her, I thank God that I have found her, I will remember this sunlight moment as long as I live, as long as I love.”
Tony finished, turned, and winked at Trina.
Trina couldn’t find her voice, so she winked back.
As the applause died down, the first reporter and several newcomers surrounded Tony on the platform. Four of them shoved microphones into Tony’s face.
Lord, help us with these vultures.
“Will that song be on Naomi Stringer’s next album?” a reporter asked.
“No,” Tony said. “It is only for Trina.”
Take that, Naomi Stringer! Ha! He wrote that song for me!
“Is Trina your girlfriend?”
“No,” Tony said. “Trina is a woman, and she is my friend.”
Which is better than any old
friend, thank you very much.
“Why have you been hiding?”
“I have not been hiding,” Tony said. “Many people have seen me. You see me.”
“You know what I mean,” the reporter said.
“No,” Tony said. “I do not know what you mean.” Tony sipped some more root beer.
“No one knew who you were for twenty-four years,” a reporter said.
“I have known who I am for forty years,” Tony said. “I am Tony Santangelo from Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, New York, USA.”
“So your brother wrote the book about you,” a reporter said.
“My brother Angelo wrote it,” Tony said.
“Have you read it?” a reporter asked.
“Yes,” Tony said.
The reporter blinked. “So . . . what did you think of it?”
“Angelo left many things out,” Tony said.
“You have heard what he left out,” Tony said. He winked again at Trina.
Trina again winked back.
Angelo left out the music! He wrote the words, the lyrics of Tony’s life, but not the music. That is so profound! You have to hear Tony play to truly know Tony. When he was playing my song, it’s as if the music hugged me, held me, and wouldn’t let me go.
“What’s it like to have Asperger’s syndrome?” a reporter asked.
Jerk! That’s like asking a double amputee what it’s like not to have legs!
Tony looked around the crowd until all was silent. “This is what it is like.”
Great answer! Please quote him correctly.
“What I meant was,” the reporter said, “how does it feel to be different?”
“I do not know,” Tony said. “I can only be me. I cannot be anyone else.”
Another great answer!
“Aren’t you worried about how people will accept your music now that they know you have Asperger’s syndrome?”
“No,” Tony said. “Music is music no matter who plays it.”
And Angela was worried about this man? Tony is
“What do you think of San Francisco?” another reporter asked.
“San Francisco is good for my legs,” Tony said. “I have to wear my hiking boots. Trina lives here. I like it.”
“Are you familiar with San Francisco’s great musical heritage?” the reporter asked.
“Yes,” Tony said.
“Would you care to . . .
on San Francisco’s musical heritage?”
“San Francisco is a musical city,” Tony said. “There have been many good musicians here.”
“Which ones are your favorites?” a reporter asked.
Tony looked into the cameras. “Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Starship, Pablo Cruise, Santana, Third Eye Blind, Sly and the Family Stone, Grateful Dead, The Steve Miller Band, Journey, Con Funk Shun, Faith No More, Huey Lewis and the News, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Counting Crows, Digital Underground, En Vogue, Green Day, Joe Satriani, MC Hammer, Country Joe and the Fish, The Pointer Sisters, Too Short, and Tony! Toni! Toné!”
My date is a musical encyclopedia.
your favorites?” a reporter asked.
“I like them all,” Tony said. “I want to synthesize them with my music.”
Several reporters shook their heads. “You plan to fuse
of San Francisco’s music into one song?”
“I already tried tonight,” Tony said. “It was the second song I played. I will call it ‘Fog City.’”
“Could you give us one more song?” a reporter asked. “For the cameras. We only caught part of the last one.”
Tony looked at Trina. “You look tired.”
“I’m okay,” Trina said.
And I’m taking the rest of the week off, so . . .
Tony stood. “I will not need the bench.”
Trina pushed it back.
“You will sit on top,” Tony said, and he lifted her onto the piano, her feet dangling above the platform.
So many flashes! Geez, he only lifted me—with ease—onto a piano. But that is because I am slender and Tony has arms of steel.
“You will have to hold on, Trina,” Tony said.
Trina looked for something to grip.
This piano has nothing to grip!
“What are you going to do?”
Tony looked her in the eye. “I am going to play my heart out for you.”
He’s looking right at me now. Those eyes, those eyes. He sees me. He really sees me.
“Play your heart out, Tony.”
The next fifteen minutes of furious playing would be all over the television, the Internet, and YouTube in less than an hour.
Tony gave the
His fingers flying so fast they became a blur, Tony stomped his feet, slapped the keys, punched the fall-board, and tapped on the music rack. As his sweat sprayed into the glow around him, he rapped on a piano leg while playing thunderous bass and made sounds come out of the piano Trina had never heard before.
Trina felt the vibrations jolting through her feet, her legs, and her soul.
This song is Tony’s heart, and he’s playing it for me on his only constant companion, his piano, which didn’t care if he had Asperger’s, which never asked him any strange questions, which simply let him be himself. This song is Tony’s heart, and Tony’s heart is loud!
Tony played a series of five-finger chords up and down the keyboard as he leaped into the air until ending the song with one soft, high note.
The ovation shook the piano.
Tony helped Trina down, and Trina hugged him. “That was awesome, that was awesome,” she repeated.
Tony remained stiff as a board, his arms rigid at his sides. “I am glad you liked it.”
Angela wasn’t kidding about Tony’s stiffness.
Trina stepped back. “I
it, Tony. Your heart is so loud.”
“Yes,” Tony said. “I am quiet, but my heart is loud.”
“Thank you,” Trina said.
“You are welcome,” Tony said. “You are tired now.”
“Do you want to go?” Trina asked.
“Yes,” Tony said. “I am tired. It has been a good night.” He held out his hand.
Trina took it.
“We are leaving now,” Tony said.
Reporters surrounded them, shouting more questions as Tony and Trina weaved through a sea of cell phones held high in the air, a camera crew backing away in front of them all the way down Johnny Foley’s hallway to O’Farrell Street.
Now that I know what it’s like to be a star,
I’d much rather never be one. I want some alone time with this star, this man holding my hand.
Reporters followed them and shouted more questions as they walked to her apartment building.
I know he hears them,
But he only sees me. This is how a man should treat a lady. Ignore what doesn’t matter and focus on what does.
One question, though, stopped Trina in her tracks: “Hey, Trina. Are you a friend with benefits?”
“I will answer this one,” Tony whispered.
“I’d rather you didn’t,” Trina whispered.
Tony winked. “It is okay. I know what to say.” He turned and addressed the reporters jockeying for position on the sidewalk. “Trina is a friend with many benefits.” He turned to Trina and winked.
Oh, that’s going to sound
wrong in the newspaper and on TV tomorrow.
nce inside Trina’s apartment, Tony collapsed onto the couch and became inert, blandly watching the weather on the television.
“Are you okay?” Trina asked.
“I am tired.”
“You should be,” Trina said. “I am wired.”
Tony looked all around her. “I see no wires.”
“It means I’m hyped, I’m still full of adrenaline, I’m still excited about the way you played tonight,” Trina said.
“I played for you,” Tony said.
“And I am so happy you did.” She drifted toward the front window and looked down on a group of reporters milling around on the sidewalk, some of the reporters lit up by cameras and speaking into microphones.
My apartment house might be on television right now, but I don’t want to change the channel to check. But why is this such big news? Okay, Tony’s been incognito his entire life, but why are they jumping on this so hard tonight? There have to be more important stories out there, right?
“I’ve never seen it so crowded at Johnny Foley’s, and it’s not even a Friday or a Saturday night,” Trina said. “You are a showman, Tony. A virtuoso.”
“I must go to sleep now,” Tony said.
Trina moved behind the couch. “Um, where would you like to sleep? The couch or the bed?”
I hoped he would say that.
“I’ll get it ready for you.”
And even if nothing happens, it will be so nice not to sleep alone.
Trina stripped her bedding and remade the bed with fresh sheets and pillowcases. When she returned to the couch, however, Tony was sound asleep sitting up.
He is knocked out! He probably burned a thousand calories playing tonight, and he will be so hungry in the morning. I wish I had more than toast and beef stew to offer him. We could go out for breakfast, but I don’t have much money, and the media might still be skulking around. I’ll let Tony decide.
She listened to him breathing.
And he doesn’t snore. Yes!
She helped him lie down, nestling a pillow under his head. She removed his boots and sat on the opposite couch arm watching him sleep for several minutes.
He’s so peaceful and so calm. It’s hard to believe this sleeping angel of a man was trying to kill the piano I was sitting on. I wish there was more room on that couch so I could snuggle up to him.
Trina left her bedroom door open so she could just see the back of Tony’s head on the couch from where she sat on her bed. She turned on her netbook, waited five minutes for Internet Explorer to load, and surfed to YouTube.
The cell-phone videos are already running,
And there I am holding on to that piano for dear life. Maybe I’ve always been holding on for dear life. Maybe it’s time to let go. Look at my face! It’s shining! I do have a glow about me.
She ran a simple Google search for “Art E.” and saw numerous results from eonline.com, Huffingtonpost. com, and TMZ.com. As she read through a sketchy and generally fact-free article on TMZ.com, she saw herself listed as the “mystery woman at Johnny Foley’s,” “Art. E’s friend,” and “Tony Santangelo’s gal pal.”
Where did that phrase come from anyway? A gal pal? At least they didn’t call me his “muddy buddy.” And why didn’t they use my first name? Tony named a song after me!
She typed in “Art E. at Johnny Foley’s” and found numerous “reviews” of Tony’s performance, each review making her smile:
“Shattering, simply shattering! Sheer, utter brilliance! Using the piano for percussion—pure genius!”