"Chopsticks" was still a stretch.
At the rate I was learning to read music, and figure out chords and scales, I'd be lucky to get a gig playing birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese by the time I hit 80.
Forget that cool, red tuck-and-roll lounge I had envisioned in my delusional dreams.
So, after hanging it up last year as a local columnist for 30 years at the Los Angeles Daily News, I've come back to the old, corner newsstand for a cup of coffee.
Don't get me wrong. Retirement's great "" about five days a week. It's those other two days that had me reaching for an itch I couldn't quite scratch.
My old bosses threw me a curve when they took pity on me and invited me back to do one column a week. They wanted it for all nine papers in the Los Angeles News Group, not only the Daily News.
Which means most of you don't have a clue who I am or what kind of column I write. I could provide references, but that would be kind of pathetic at my age.
So I'll just jump in and wing it.
To all the Daily News readers "" hello, again. I missed having coffee and breakfast with you.
To everyone else at our sister papers, give me a shot. I'm told by reliable sources I grow on people.
One longtime reader liked my column so much she lined the bottom of her parakeet cage with it. Every month, like clockwork, she mailed me a picture of her parakeets perched over my smiling face.
But she didn't cancel her subscription. I grew on her. Or her parakeets.
In my book of favorite columns, "Here's to the Winners," I mentioned that the gripe I've heard most about the news media from readers is that there's too many negative stories driving up your blood pressure.
Once in a while, you want to read the kind of stories that kick-start your day with a smile, a laugh and maybe even a few tears because they touch something inside - something good for a change.
They're called human interest stories, a genre that's gotten a bad rap over the years as being soft and boring. Not if you find interesting people and stories to write about.
You know the ones. The kind of stories you read online and forward to a friend, saying take a look at this. Or stories you cut out and mail to relatives living in Arizona, and tell them, by the way, it was 75 degrees here yesterday.
The kind of stories your parents put up on the fridge when you were growing up.
My kind of stories.
I spent 30 years talking to war vets, school teachers, cops, firefighters, nurses, social workers, barbers, bartenders and anybody else in town who could point me in the direction of a good yarn.
I don't write about pampered stars, big egos, celebrity shoplifters, or murderers doing 25 years to life.
As one reader put it, you're going to find " the uncommon common man or woman. Real life. " You're not going to find the Kardashians living here.
There's a good story on every block in your neighborhood. The family down the street that steps out of the shadows and does something incredible that makes you smile and shake your head in awe. Or puts a lump in your throat.
People like the Pawleys , a white couple who opened their hearts and home 25 years ago to an abandoned, 3-day-old, African-American drug addicted baby curled up in withdrawal pain.
The Pawleys gave him a steady dose of love, faith and opportunity for more than two decades.
Last time I saw them the baby born with two strikes on him was standing tall and proud between his adoptive parents -- wearing a graduation robe and holding his degree from the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.
Now if that doesn't get to you, call 911 because you don't have a pulse.
Uncommon common people, that's who I'm looking for.
I've met and written about hundreds of them over the years, but I couldn't have done it without the eyes and ears of the community working for me - calling and emailing me tips.
So I'm asking for your help today to get the ball rolling.
Give me a shot.
Tell me a story for the fridge.
The piano thing didn't work out.
Dennis McCarthy's column appears Fridays. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.