An old man, some music, and lots of e-mo-tion.

Riding to work on the Ftrain, I stood above an old man, maybe 80. He was seated, reading a score, something slow in whole-notes and quarter-notes, and his aspect made me want badly, suddenly, to crouch down by his side and tell him about you, how you are a musician, that you live far off, and that I miss you.

I would explain that you are a classical pianist, and tell him about the first time you took me into the practice room, how you wore patent-leather boots up to your delicious knees, knees like apples for biting. There, you took Scriabin and Schumann out of the Steinway's keys, and when you looked up after playing something had changed; all the ions in the room had tilted 10 degrees.

I own recordings of those pieces, now, but I can't get back to them through a stranger's performance. Classical is so inaccessible, so hard to reach, marketed in such clinical, pill-bottle packages. I need it to be you, instead of any compact disc, the callouses on your fingers raising old, dead voices, blanketing the room with sound, your body swinging back and forth across the bench, hips and power, and those generous, gorgeous knees.

8 months later you came to my grandfather's funeral, the first time you met any of my relatives, and played on our ancient, detuned spinet. From that groaning mess of wire and wood, switching octaves as you went, you squeezed out Scriabin, and a Busoni Bach transcription. It meant so much to my mother; she wept.

The old man packed his score into a leather bag older than you are, then got off at Delancey. He stepped slowly up the station stairs, and I kept telling him through the closed doors, as the train pulled North, that the woman I was trying to put into words has words of her own, and that I wished he could hear them.




Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some time.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

Woods+. People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately. (July 10)

Reading Tonight. Reading! (May 25)

Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford. (May 18)

Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford. (May 17)

Nanolaw with Daughter. Why privacy mattered. (May 16)

0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford. It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So: Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...) (May 13)

That Shaggy Feeling. Soon, orphans. (May 12)

Antilunchism, by Paul Ford. Snack trams. (May 11)

Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford. I'll have no one to blame but future me. (May 10)

Time's Inverted Index, by Paul Ford. (1) When robots write history we can get in trouble with our past selves. (2) Search-generated, "false" chrestomathies and the historical fallacy. (May 9)

Bantha Tracks. (May 5)

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