“Was I loud?” I asked, remembering how a lone table of Americans can
sound in a quiet Paris restaurant.
I apologized, while in my friendly
American way I tried to decipher the
titles, upside down and in French, of his
reading material. He had the sheet music
for a composition by Franz Liszt and
what looked like a biography of Joseph
Haydn. I left my book in my bag—there
was no way I was going to read a self-help book called French Women Don’t
Get Fat in front of this guy.
“Are you a pianist?” I asked. He turned
out to be a French concert organist visiting the U.S. to teach some master classes
and perform. What were the odds?
He was not sorry to be leaving New
York City, which he found painfully
noisy. He showed me a photo on his
phone of the elegant view from his Paris
apartment. The sound track of his daily
life is the tolling of bells at nearby Notre
Dame Cathedral, his version of “seren-
“How did you find the food in New
York restaurants?” I asked, playing the
“Phhhh!” he said, blowing out air
expressively in the French way. He said
he got so fed up trying to find quality
dining that he bought groceries and picnicked in his hotel room.
We lamented the tragedy of globaliza-tion: the death of quality at the hands of
fast and easy. Then he showed me where
I could download recordings of his live
performances from i Tunes.
Before he left the train in Philadelphia, I asked if he worried that in this
noisy world of fast food for the body and
the brain, the market for classical organ
music was disappearing, as well.
Not at all, he said. There will always
be a place in the world for people who
are passionately seeking excellence in
any endeavor. I hope so.
After he was gone, young businessmen celebrating Friday piled into the
booth across from me. They laughed
loudly, drank Budweiser, and flirted with
a blonde who cleverly managed to use a
profanity as a gerund in every sentence.
The coast was clear. I pulled out
French Women Don’t Get Fat and read to
Union Station. I made a New Year’s resolution to savor every meal I make and
every delicate macaron from Tout de
Sweet, as if it were my last. I also resolved
to start making my own yogurt, which
the author suggests we really should be
eating twice a day.
By the way, she says to drink more
April Witt is a former Washington Post
writer who lives in Bethesda. To comment
on this column or suggest ideas, email
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