College freshman Robin Meloy decides to spend her summer vacation on Nantucket. She's landed a job at an Italian family restaurant, and she's going to be a sexy, sophisticated waitress and meet lots of handsome Ivy League men. She discovers, however, that as waitresses go she's pretty awful -- in fact, she writes, aside from dropped plates of lasagna and spilled red wine, there are "several incidents involving blood."
She misses being able to practice the piano, and a fellow waiter suggests she practice at a nearby bar and restaurant during the day. The owner agrees -- and as soon as he hears her practice, he offers her a job playing there at night. "For people?" she asks, horrified. When he offers her fifty bucks a night, though, she's in. Good-bye, waitressing!
Excited, she calls her father, who is also a musician (he was the drummer in Mister Rogers' band, among others), to tell him about her gig. "Robin, get a hold of yourself," her dad shouts into the phone. "You only only know twelve songs and eleven of them are Bach. What are you going to play?" He sends her some "fake books" - music books that have easy arrangements of popular songs; her mother throws in some cocktail gowns, and she's on her way to a career as a cocktail lounge pianist.
Thirty years later, she reflects on her journey in this memoir, recounting touching and laugh-out-loud hilarious anecdotes about events along the way. Life takes her to New York City hotels, a resort on Haiti, exclusive private islands, and German castles. The people she meets are described wonderfully, from the crazy lady on the New York street corner who shouts bizarre but strangely on-target comments to Robin when she passes, to the hotel restroom attendant who keeps a marvelous clothing boutique in the handicapped stall. It is a very fun read.
I first heard about this book in an interview with Goldsby on NPR, and it was on my book list for a long time. I'm glad I finally got around to it. (Go to Goldsby's website to hear some of her wonderful piano music. You can also buy her CDs on Amazon - I just ordered mine!)
Piano Girl by Robin Meloy Goldsby (Backbeat Books, 2005)