If you’re looking to serenade a special someone in the moonlight, it’s never advisable to bring a synthesizer. Trust me on this one. Even if it’s portable and uses four D batteries instead of an electrical cord, the hassle is sure to undermine your amorous intentions.
First of all, you have the lug the oversized thing four blocks to your lover’s downtown apartment. And being an underpaid artist with starry-eyed aspirations, she of course lives in a sketchy neighborhood. Tromping along the sidewalk with the keyboard hoisted upon your shoulder — like a lone pallbearer at a Yamaha funeral — you’re always afraid some hoodlum’s going to approach you, pull out a switchblade, and demand you play the distinctive riff from “Low Rider.” (Which would be terrifying, because you’ve never practiced any War songs.)
Then you have to set the thing up on the sidewalk beneath her third-story window, and the latch on the flimsy plastic stand breaks when you pry it open. And there are no streetlights near this deteriorating, forlorn structure, so you can’t see what you’re doing. You end up setting the keyboard off-center, and it slips off the stand and onto the sidewalk, chipping one of the keys — with your luck, probably a C.
And then the wretched thing won’t turn on because when it fell, one of the batteries came loose. So now you got to flip the keyboard over to find the hatch. And when you step backward, you end up kicking an alley cat that was rubbing against your shoe, because it has a thing for slip-on Vans with checkerboard patterns.
So the miserable feline screeches and belts for a nearby Dumpster, knocking the metal lid off a trashcan, which echoes like a sonic boom in the otherwise silent night. It almost sounds as if you’re jamming with Stomp.
When you finally get the keyboard on, you stare up at your beloved’s window and launch into a soul-wrenching rendition of “Broken Wings.” The bass notes thud in time to your hammering heart, and your soul pours out in a quixotic display of melody and harmony … even though you tend to sing off-key.
And lights flicker on throughout the apartment building, like individual stars blinking to life in the twilight sky. And a blue-haired old bag in a ratty bathrobe sticks her head out the window and screams “Shut the hell up, you whiny bastard! You sound like Justin Bieber with his testicles caught in a blender!” (You decide to take that as a compliment.)
And other tenants start yelling, too. An empty bottle of Early Times whizzes past your ear and shatters in the alley behind you. And now that cat is screeching too, perched on the Dumpster and clawing on the lid, almost as if it were a DJ scratching a metal turntable.
“Shut up!” the neighbors scream.
And yet the window of your beloved’s apartment remains dark. Perhaps she’s a deep sleeper, or maybe she’s pulling a late-night shift at the animal shelter, where she volunteers her time comforting abandoned alligators rescued from the sewer. She once said she’d like to adopt one for a pet, to give it a nice home.
“You could learn to stick your head in its mouth,” she once said. “You could perform on the street corner, and the crowds would love it. You’d probably make more money than you do now playing your stupid synthesizer in the subway.”
Now, as you launch into an elegant rendition of “Nights in White Satin,” every window except your lover’s is lit up. And as your voice cracks during the long, wailing refrain, you remember suddenly that Tuesday is her night to dance downtown at Trixie’s Gentleman’s Club. It dawns on you that she’s not even home tonight. (It also dawns on you that in addition to “Nights in White Satin,” the Moody Blues sang “Tuesday Afternoon,” which is either an eerie coincidence or a completely unrelated tangent to this rambling narrative.)
So you decide to pack in the operation as bottles and beer cans pelt the asphalt around you. But when the apartment’s lobby door flies open, and the overweight landlord starts charging toward you in his bathrobe, you can’t help setting the synthesizer to “tuba” mode and providing a rapid succession of bass notes to accompany his huffing, heavy-footed gait.
“Shut up!” he screams. “I’m big-boned!”
Just before he reaches you, you grab the keyboard and stand and start running. The alley cat prances alongside you. The landlord collapses on the pavement in a massive coughing fit.
Music is the pulse that surges through the night, like a saxophone on a street corner or a synthesizer in a subway. And because you brought the damn thing all this way (and also because is your lover is busy collecting dollar bills in her G-string), you decide to lug it down the stairs to the grimy station to entertain the late-night commuters.
And if someone requests “Broken Wings” or “Freebird,” then so much the better.