December 9, 2008 at 9:23 AM
Though the neon indicator sign wasn't lit, the thought of something so hot and fresh compelled us to stop by anyway. Inside, half a dozen people already stood in line, picking out their holiday dozen while the workers performed with a cheerful ease of experience, quickly filling boxes and completing orders late into the evening. Our turn was coming. Looking for a reason to stall, I spied one of the bakers adding more glaze to the magical waterfall at the end of the runway. Perhaps in preparation... Perhaps they might be getting ready! Then, as if on cue, little moving silhouettes caught the corner of my eye.
Stepping out of line, I scurried over to the proofer where the very first wave of dough was coming into view behind the glass. They crept slowly but surely, three rings per rack, up and down on the conveyor belt. Since they needed a good while to get fluffy, this part felt a bit like watching a minute hand on a clock. But all the while the Christmas music played, and all the while they made progress. Only four more ups and three more downs to go. I could wait. I didn't need to hold my breath. Practicing for the cantata could be put off a little longer, couldn't it? I had all the way until morning to look at the music. And when was the last time I felt this excited about something, anyway?
After a while, smaller children joined us, so I explained to them what the donuts were doing. Now we could all wait together, fingers and foreheads pressed to the glass, counting down. We talked about the distance we'd traveled to get to this donut shop in Tulsa, and how long it might be before we'd have another opportunity like this. Before we knew it, the first three donuts were ready to go. Plump and tight-skinned like expectant mothers, they tipped down the conveyor belt and into the steaming oil, bubbling merrily along. Halfway downstream, another machine lifted one row after another like a watermill, flipping them so that their brown bellies showed. Last but not least, each trio entered the magic waterfall where they received their anointment of glaze.
This well-timed mechanical process is meant to keep the donuts as uniform as possible, but right away I noticed the very best one, and I hoped it would be mine. The smiling baker behind the counter must have seen the lustful gleam in my eye right before I shut them tightly because when I opened them, he handed that perfect package of hot fresh joy to me! Mmm... At that point, any guilt I'd felt about wasting time at the donut shop was completely forgotten.
It wasn't until 10:00 that night that I began to finally sight-read through the music for the cantata. This was when I quickly discovered that I'd grossly underestimated the difficulty of this piece. Those tricky runs were obviously written by a non-violinist; I had no idea what fingers to apply! With my procrastination about to take its toll, guilt came nipping at my heels again. But at 10:30, my mother handed the phone over to me. "It's the orchestra conductor." Setting my violin on the table, I took the phone. "Hello?"
"You mean just now practicing, yes."
He went on to explain that their only second violinist had gone into labor and would not be able to make tomorrow's performance. Rather than having three first violins, would I mind switching to second? "I know this is so last minute, and you were doing us such a huge favor to join us in the first place without having been able to attend any of the rehearsals, but would you consider it?"
Under normal circumstances, this probably would have unsettled me severely, and long diatribes about my well-thought fingerings and hours of practice gone to waste would have ensued. But since this wasn't the case after all, what was one more act of spontaneity on top of everything? "Sure, no problem," I heard myself say. And at that point, any guilt I'd felt about wasting time at the donut shop was completely forgotten.
Sunday morning's second violin ended up coming off better than I'd expected. Actually, I performed with a cheerful ease of experience, as though I'd had the music a month in advance. Now, I'm not bragging. I'm not saying that practicing is over-rated, either. I have no real explanation for this miraculous feat.
Other than, perhaps it's good to get 'em hot and fresh every once in a while.
I sent you a note, but I also wanted to say publicly that this essay is lovely.
Yum. Your calm answer to the orch director was clearly the donuts talking. What a wonderful story.
You had me at "neon indicator sign wasn't lit". Wonderful writing - I am compelled to walk the 2 blocks to my local "Hot Now" establishment right this moment!
Oh, do it! What better excuse for fresh air?
A wonderfully delicious story with a victorious ending:-)
God is good to those who appreciate the blessings inherent in a fresh,hot doughnut! :-)
Your story gave me a warm glow--same as if I'd been one of the kids in the store! You really should write a book of such stories. I'll buy it for sure!
Have a wonderful Christmas!
Lovely little story - great response to the conductor and a happy ending too. Fortunately there is not a doughnut place near where I live or I'd probably be the same shape as one... Mmmmh love these things and they taste much fluffier in the USA somehow!
The best donut I ever had came from a donut shop in Cleveland's little Italy at about 2 a.m. Yum!
Been there in the wee hours as a student! Simply amazing. Worth the risk of getting mugged, braving the cold wind and losing sleep! :-)
Ahh, I see we have some donut fans here! Presti's sounds amazing--now my curiosity is piqued...
Thanks for sharing your enthusiam, everyone! And Merry Christmas, David Russell!
Loved this story, Emily! You're such a wonderful writer, artist, photographer, violinist...is there ANY art form you haven't mastered? :)
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Violinist.com Editor Laurie Niles is in New York to cover the biennial event at The Juilliard School, including classes by Brian Lewis and Sarah Chang.
Emily Grossman is from Soldotna, Alaska. Biography
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