Mighty Contests

NOTE: The following post, on which I have lavished an absurd amount of time that I could have spent practicing (yippee!!!!!), is dedicated to Norman Lebrecht, who accuses classical bloggers of peddling “unchecked trivia,” and of writing material whose nutritional level “is lower than that of a bag of crisps.” I refer Norman respectfully (!) to a certain Pope poem concerning trivialities, and I hope he enjoys the appearance of chips, if not crisps, in the following homage. It is also dedicated to my delightful colleagues and friends, protagonists of this poem, with whom I spent the last week playing mostly Schumann.

If you really want to suffer, you can hear the author read the poem:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

JB, SI, and I, O hungry we,
all dithered at a crossroads made of three,
we stood near 1st and C, SE, DC;
near 2 PM, on 12/15/06,
to which the year AD let us affix;
the clockhand lingered ‘fore the sunny hour
and so we lingered ‘fore an awesome pow’r,
our burden made of choice, our yoke of freedom…
Before us stood a toothsome tawdry threesome,
a trinity of restaurants, T-obsessed,
Tortilla Coast, then Talay Thai, and next,
the oddly named Bullfeathers, with its T
ensconced amidst the word, a chickadee
disguised in feathers of the alphabet,
yet singing all the same its quodlibet …

Of all us three, it seemed as though JB
had made a meal of his dilemma; see!
he chews on choice like gristle in the mind
and, pacing, weighs each dining room in kind
and though th’initial burger-urge was strong,
and had propelled our trinity along,
the white and shining brick of Talay Thai
yet lured with citrus, spicy, yearning cry,
and Josh turned shining eyes unto the sky,
and chanted first “Pad Thai,” then “Tom Ka Gai”!
I swear it’s true! With this entrancing spell,
well laced with fish sauce, I divinely fell
among the pillows of some dream, in which
a goddess poured from coconuts a rich
and creamy fluid; noodles wrapped long hands
around my hungry stomach, in exotic lands.

BUT for the meantime, let us watch SI:
while normal DC residents pass by,
in furtive espionage he sneaks and slithers
and leers into the windows of Bullfeathers;
abandon I my creamy dream, and peer;
I turn from sun to darkened, recessed fear;
O what is seen within? Gadzooks, eftsoons,
We spy nefarious knives, and sinister spoons,
and forks which might yet fork the soul in twain
all posed on papered tables, like to feign
their innocence … and when we further crane
our spying heads, the waiters do then train
their baleful glances on our lurking forms,
we do then flee before their waking storms.

Accelerando, ma non troppo, say,
the story’s gone a tiny bit astray…

‘Tis said, there is but one preconcert meal,
and thus a deep decision doth one feel,
how best to feed your Schumann of the eve:
too torpid to become, or hungry leave?
I tend to err, ’tis true, on massish ground,
th’amount consumed pre-gig doth oft astound…
but never have I seen such indecision,
such angst, as in this JB/SI vision…
Like foxes on the hunt do prowl and rove
from hill to hill, so J and S did move
from menu fast to menu, so to know
from written clues, the choice with which to go.
Like priests of food they wished to read in code
the concert’s fate, the day’s unfolding road.

And just as Schumann heard his angels sing,
and thought they boons of melody did bring,
I likewise heard a voice from far below,
which spoke perhaps in Latin?: “Roberto,”*
a kiva in my soul did open wide
I dream’d of chips, tortillas, all deep fried,
a man with weathered hands came forward slyly,
and proffered me a freshly roasted chile.**
And so to J and S I said the magic word,
which once was heard, all felt their palates stirred,
made eddies of deliberation still,
and ceased the swamplike doubts of Cap’tol Hill…
I sang out to the sunny air, “FAJITAS!
just think, my friends, how well grilled steak will treat us
and with a spicy salsa that will heat us
and though we can consume no margaritas,
let’s bravely towards Tortilla Coast now speed us..
Oh J and S, let’s live las dolces vitas!

But fate did with our settled choices strive
to table now our trio did arrive,
and S observed a burger on the menu!
Imagine if you can, oh reader, can you?:
J’s eyes, a madly flitting swarm of bees
flew back and forth betwixt satieties;
a BURGER here, FAJITAS there, how best
a yawning gastric void addressed?
S too, across the anxious table, puzzled
while to his heart the twofold options nuzzled
so fickly, one by one, as though a youth
beset ‘tween ladies fair, and I, forsooth,
no longer calm amidst such stormy seas,
I tabulated my psychiatrist fees.

A waitress came, explaining “Salsa Ranch,”
said dressing’s explanation did not stanch
the flow of stress, my colleagues’ searing question,
the road whose either fork means indigestion…
Ignoring these obsessing twain, I made
a munching sacrifice of chips, and prayed
that this, my off’ring to my hunger god,
might for my tablemates yet serve and prod
to find some philosophic resignation,
to seek at very least some mild sedation.
When Bedlam’s nurses leave and no one’s there
to watch their vices, madmen cease to care;
so S and J did seem like men of reason
but when the waitress left, ’twas open season:
the hunt for what to order was resumed,
th’excruciating question was exhumed,
and my descent to madness was presumed.
The burger’s pros and cons were weighed and listed;
But meanwhile the fajita’s charms persisted.

Our waitress-nymph then sallied tableside
and smiling at us asked: did we decide?
Now S with flailing confidence proclaimed
the Lone Star burger was his choice (so-named),
while J with vocal quaver did then state
that he would eat fajitas on that date …
and sane men, then, would think the stresses over,
but they’d be wrong, since much like jilted lovers,
the twain now felt the demon Envy stealing
and like the fats they’d soon both eat, congealing,
in both there formed a deep regretful clot:
Each lusted for what he had ordered not.
Now J like Orpheus sings to melt the sun,
bewails the loss of burger, fries, and bun;
and S, he keens as though among the lepers,
he cries, he longs, he seeks his lost grilled peppers.
And I the fly entrapped in web of woe
want nothing but to eat and go.

But as from deepest darkest vale of pain
the Phoenix rises into life again,
so now amongst a warm and melting dollop
of sour cream, belike the sweetest trollop
in soft caress and tender graces giv’n,
we darkened souls did find our private heaven
in warm and sundry plates which laid before us
gave spirit thence, and with their taste restore us,
be-wrappéd steak which yielded to the tongue,
and guacamole-burgers can be sung,
for each and each found pleasure in his own,
and seeds of sweetest hotel naps were sown;
the gentlest settling wings of satisfaction
in time dispelled the former putrefaction,
for all the waiting woe of choice did fade
as slowly smiles were on each face displayed.
While walking back to waiting beds we three
gave thanks for our returned humanity.

*The author is clearly confused, and so are most scholars on this point. “Roberto” is not a Latin oath, but the owner of a Mexican restaurant in Las Cruces, New Mexico, famed for its delicious and inexpensive green chile and meat burritos.
**The author is clearly unaware of the proper pronunciation of the word chile, judging from the ungraceful rhyme.

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  1. jfmurray3
    Posted December 18, 2006 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Now sated, napped, our gents prepare to play.
    One last run through before the concert day.
    “What tempo shall we take?” JD inquires.
    Now SI, now JB debate for hours.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted December 18, 2006 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    “Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night;
    God said ‘Let Jeremy be’ and all was light.”
    Merry Christmas!

  3. hari
    Posted December 18, 2006 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    if piano practice gets too boring,
    become a food critic; it’s most alluring.

    i probably would’ve chosen a good burrito.

  4. Kelsey
    Posted December 19, 2006 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Fantastic. Thank you. Especially for the clip of you reading. As a regular reader of your blog, I enjoyed actually hearing your voice.

  5. Emily
    Posted December 19, 2006 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    How cleverly you captured
    pure gastronomic rapture
    in elegantly articulate verse.
    But I’m hard-pressed to say
    which blew me more away
    this, or your Carnegie premiere stature.

    Congratulations on a huge milestone! Wish I could’ve heard it in person, but alas, I was down in Antarctica communing with penguins.

  6. Kelsey (again)
    Posted December 21, 2006 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Alright, if everyone else feels the need to rhyme…

    An admirable reference to British literature,
    An epic tale although in miniture.
    And while busy expounding the plights of the other two men,
    you forgot to mention what your choice had been.

    Did you have the fajitas?

  7. Alessio
    Posted December 22, 2006 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    Wow, Jeremy. That’s impressive. How long did it take you?

  8. Anonymous
    Posted December 24, 2006 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    This morning in the warm New Mexico sun

    the annual Roberto’s run

    For green chili and cheese tamales to feed our faces

    Did take place.

  9. Anonymous
    Posted December 24, 2006 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    Merry Christmas, Jeremy!

  10. Language Lover
    Posted January 3, 2007 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Wow. Wow. WOW! I return from my holiday break from blog-reading and find this, this jewel, this masterpiece…words fail me, and rhyme and meter are out of the question.

    I may be the language lover, but you, sir, are the language MASTER. Your Italian and Spanish accents are marvelous. And as if we need any further proof that life is unjust, I’m sure your piano playing suffered not in the least for the time you spent on this.

    I’d flown into NYC the previous week to hear JB play the awesome Brahms Violin Concerto, but by all accounts the Schumann concert with you and SI was superior. Sorry I missed it.

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