top of page

Use Value

Rain. And a delayed subway. A long work day. They're all long, with soggy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at my desk. Wrapped in aluminum foil. The same lunch since 1990. I shouted out of my office, "In all my life, I have never not wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that was put in front of me!"

Silence. Still early to be making jokes about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

(Though I do love them).

On my mind: billionaires who need to decide whether to take their their planes and their pilots and the families of their pilots when they leave. On my mind: what it really means when a subway is delayed because of a sick passenger. On my mind: oh, well, I'm sure it's okay that it's 60 degrees in January on my walk to a chamber music concert.

I'm going to see chamber music in a room full of 83-year-olds who are paying $40 to take a nap. I paid $30 because I am under 35 years old. Senior citizens get discounts at movie theaters but not at chamber concerts. I get discounts at chamber concerts but not at the movie theater.

On my mind: how things all even out.

I'm going to see chamber music while everyone's screaming about the world on fire. I'm going to see chamber music because the world feels like it's on fire and instruments burn well.

Speaking of, on stage are a 450-year-old violin and a 300-year-old fiddle. Two centuries were in the viola, and who knows about the cello. How do these things last so long? Lots of wax?

What would it feel like to lose one of those things? Who knows enough about what they sound like for it to make a difference?

Certainly not the nonagenarian woman asleep in front of me, who hung her head so low it looked like she was either dead or in a trance.

They played Brahms, and all I could think about was order. Because lots of things have felt disordered lately, and here are these four folks up there with a combined thousand years of existence in their instruments -- and a combined million years of snoring experience in the room.

Look, I don't know anything about this stuff. I don't know who invented the idea that it's bourgeois to listen to this kind of music. I want to say, "Oh yeah, well I know what you are but what am I!" I wish I could either say with confidence that it made me feel better and that I didn't care if it sounded silly to say so -- or that I could say confidently that listening to this music made me feel no better at all. That music should not make one feel any better about anything.

"It's hard to describe music," I said to a friend a few days later. "I like the challenge," I said, eating apps in a crowded bar, and lying into my beer.

bottom of page