On Father’s Day, in the morning, I took the advice of this website’s founder to take my bike up Ohio Street in St. Paul. And Monday night, I took the advice of the Dakota Bar and Grill’s website and checked out the jazz virtuosa Hiromi Uehara.
What do these two events have in common? At face value, admittedly nothing, but as I watched Hiromi positively pummel the piano, nearly brought to tears by her dazzling virtuosity, I couldn’t help but think that what she can do on the piano I wish to do on the bike and as a writer. That is, I want to dazzle.
That’s why I climb hills like Ramsey and Ohio. However humbly, it is my way of striving for greatness. And that’s why I write this weekly column. It is my hope that by developing the habit of practice, either on my bike or at my computer, I might achieve virtuosity like Hiromi.
It was clear, watching the blur of Hiromi’s delicate fingers over the keyboard, that she has been blessed with talent. It was also clear that she has not squandered that talent. I said to my wife, “How does she not miss a note?” Well, the only way that’s possible, in my lay musical opinion, is through relentless practice.
Ohio Street in St. Paul was just the sort of climbing practice I was looking for. I had been cycling out and back from Longfellow to Harriet Island for years, but I had never taken the hairpin turn off Plato and onto Ohio.
At first, the climb did not seem like much. The gradient seemed manageable, and I started the ascent in 2-3 gear. But the climb gradually crescendos and, after a bit, I was off the middle chain ring and onto the little one.
While the hill does not appear to be as steep as Ramsey, it is certainly longer, and there are several switchbacks before the summit.
I was able to find a gear, and a tempo, that I could maintain without going into the red zone. I was puffing and blowing, yes, but I was not blowing up. I was reasonably pleased with how well I climbed Ohio. Granted, it was not a blistering pace, but I stayed steady to the top.
Even Hiromi started at the bottom at some point.
What I want, what we all want I would imagine, is to achieve greatness. For some, it means playing the piano with dazzling, pyrotechnical skill like Hiromi does. For others, it means writing an award winning novel or, perhaps more humbly, to be a virtuoso father, friend, or employee.
Since I cannot play the piano, I have to strive for something else. I may not know what the key is, exactly, but I do know that every climb reaches a crescendo.