I was not at all surprised when I noticed Gustav Mahler sweating on the elliptic machine next to me at Talpiot’s Body & Soul gym, although I’m not sure whether I should be proud or embarrassed that I’m probably the only patron of that middle-browridge establishment who would have recognized the gentleman with the high forehead, electric hair, and wire-rimmed glasses, especially since he was wearing a track suit rather than the usual three-piecer and bowtie. He strode at quite a brisk pace, his gaze directed intently at the vista of southwest Jerusalem visible through the gym’s large windows.
What I mean to say is not that I’m so familiar with the countenances of the great composers that I could pick any one of them out of a crowd of a thousand (although I could, I certainly could), but that I half-expected to see this particular late-Romantic Austrian-Bohemian-Jewish symphonist and conductor on this particular day, a fact that I remarked to him after removing my Ipod’s left earphone.
He didn’t hear me at first, and then it seemed to take him three or four beats to tear himself away from the view of Bayit VaGan, Malha, and the hazy Vale of the Spirits that winds through the Jerusalem hills down to the House of the Sun.
“Not surprised? Why would that be?” he asked, looking me over with what I could best describe as a sharp critical eye. “I do not normally patronize this place, but the celestial health club is closed for repairs and they have sent us here in the meantime.”