I began frequenting Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera House.
In Katz's store I learned that money was not essential in gaining admission
to these temples of music.
One of the piano students who, like me, hung around the store
wondered that I had not heard the great
Polish pianist Vladimir de Pachmann.
And on my confessing that I couldn't afford to buy a ticket,
he declared a ticket was not necessary,
and invited me to accompany him to the virtuoso's next recital.
We gave ourselves time to walk to Carnegie Hall,
thus saving twenty cents in car fare.
Once there, my friend advised me to stick close to him,
and on no account to say anything to anyone.
Then, with me behind him, he joined the crowd that, tickets in hand,
pressed at the gate of the ticket-taker.
When his turn arrived, my friend rushed so quickly past the ticket-taker
that the man could barely put forth a restraining hand
before I too had passed him.
Me, however, he stopped, and demanded my ticket.
Whereupon my friend boldly called back:
"That's all right! He's with me", and drew me forward.
The ticket-taker appeared satisfied with this explanation.
At any rate, his attention was immediately diverted
by the press of impatient ticket-holders behind us,
and a second later we were safely inside the auditorium,
two anonymous youths among a large group of standees.
The incomparable De Pachmann did not command my entire attention,
for I expected the ticket-taker to appear at any moment
and order us to leave the hall.
But we were safe enough; and toward the end of the concert
I felt sufficiently at ease to be ravished by a group of Chopin mazurkas
which the pianist played with shimmering coloring
and an ease I thought I could duplicate.
Yet when I tried out these same muzurkas
in Katz's store, I found them not at all easy to play.
Nor could I summon the variety of tone-colors De Pachmann had,
so to speak, shaken out of his sleeve.
Every celebrated virtuoso I listened to invariably sent me confidently
to the piano to repeat what I had heard.
And, invariably, the music confronted me with difficulties
that had not existed for the virtuoso.