Somehow, I don't think my description as "fame" would be fully embraced by Tom Piazza, but I have no better word. Let me paint a scene for you. Black hair combed back, black boots, black pants, black jacket, black t-shirt, and a crisply pressed buttoned down white dress shirt - the contrast is a little striking. He's comfortable with the audience, and immediately disarming. Reading now. Engaging. Voice inflections that are somewhere between New Orleans (pronounced New Orlens) and Long Island. First chapter of his latest novel. We're immediately drawn in by the characters, by the story, and by the humor. A wonderfully complex and vivid imagination at work. Tom's body moves like water, movement and gesture taken to a new level. Each gesture presented with rythm, poise and flare. A man might open his arms for emphasis, Tom's arms open and his hands roll in the ripples of a stream of fluid thought. Like a painter using his voice as a brush, and words as the media, he reads. Then sing, "American Eagle..." in the voice of a character still being developed on a desk made from a door slab and sawhorses. Sixty dollars at Lowes, plus tax. We shook hands that evening, he signed our books, and we met his charming "better half." It was a delightful date night with my bride. It was the night WE met Tom Piazza.
My story is different. I built a house for Tom. We'll, renovated a house and built a living room. One might even say I knew Tom before we knew who Tom would be. Finding the house, drawing and planning the renovation, negotiating with the City and the neighbors. More drawing...a bigger room, fireplace, change the second floor... More negotiating...you'll flood my yard, where will they park... A hint, "I think you should sketch in a piano." I fought with the Architect, "There's no room in the budget for a piano!" The drawings came the morning I first met Tom in the run-down old place that would become the Trias House and the attached "tree house." And what did Tom immediately focus on? The Piano! "Of course I said, but I'm not sure it will be a baby grand." In retrospect, I think the hope for the piano is the only glimmer that he had to hold onto given the state of the house.
Fast forward several months...let's pretend the neighbors and the city and the threatening of the contractors never happened. 10 am Monday morning, the first day of classes. It's a "move that bus" experience as we give the keys to him. Paint still slightly tacky in places. A blue foam insulation door with hinges of duct tape still hanging just off the kitchen. The house was done. Beatiful. Wonderful. Four bottles of wine on the table, all the clocks eventually set to the same time. As close to home as I could make it...almost. Tom was appreciative and kind, but something was missing... It took two additional weeks to get the piano there. Some people think of dog as man's best friend. And others? It only became a home away from home the day the piano showed up!
So much I'd love to share, but privacy is so important. I'll keep those stories, those moments with Tom Piazza for myself. But I'll give you one hint as you wonder what Tom might have meant in the bottom left, when he wrote this as a thank you for a job well done...