Fiddling While Rome Burned
This is the salad of red and white beets, whipped ricotta and pea sprouts I had at Terzo Piano, the proper restaurant at the Art Institute of Chicago. I ordered it to console myself.
The night before this solitary lunch, I sat huddled on a couch with Kari and Ruth’s two miniature schnauzers watching tv as we all watch tv these days–while also on the internet. My flight home had been cancelled after a crazy, four days at Grrls Meat Camp. But I digress. The mother of all storms slammed into my city that night as I watched and read powerlessly with a snuggly dog snoring against me. A reporter was standing hip deep in water and behind her was the building I had called home for nearly five years. I used to drink my Sunday coffee not ten feet from where she was standing. A friend in Korea posted the youtube video of the ConEd explosion on Facebook first. I couldn’t believe it was real. Then half an hour later it was on CNN. “Holy shit! Cars are under water on my street,” another friend posted. Shortly after, he was no longer online. I hoped it was just the black out. And so the night went until I was too tired of feeling powerless and I slept.
In the morning, I was still impotent. The Chicago sky was like a big, schnauzer-colored pillow advising me to crawl back into the fold-out couch that was now my home-away-from-home. Yet I walked through the City of Big Shoulders and found myself at the art museum. But somehow the cafeteria seemed less than sufficient. I had been frozen, hickory smoked and covered with heritage meat for four days. There was a crane dangling somewhere. I was worried for my friends at home. And I wanted a small, nice thing to happen.
Enter our friend the beet salad at Terzo Piano. I ate it while reading a long email from a dear friend about the state of his home and the loss of his art works. I wept from homesickness and a broken heart. I wept at my corner-table-for-one in a fancy-ass restaurant with nice cloth napkins and porcelain coffee cups while other people sat on their roofs waiting for rescue.
I had the Tempura’d Wisconsin Cheese Curds too.