LA Phil Blog

Musical and Restaurant Adventures in Budapest

Musical and Restaurant Adventures in Budapest

It's 11 a.m. and I'm already all out of khazookies.

Hungarian dessert
Some Hungarian dessert delights, costing 350 'khazookies,' according to Jim Wilt's system of currency exchange - or about $1.75.

Last night we'd blown them all on a terrific Hungarian meal of traditional goulash soup and duck. Maybe a bottle (or two) of wine. There was a great trio of musicians playing Romani (or what used to be called "Gypsy") music on the violin, cimbalom and bass. The violinist was particularly impressive, laying down ridiculously technical passages with precision, clarity and panache. I noticed our waitress, Brigette, standing transfixed in front of them while not tending to her tables. Always a sucker for a pretty face, I called her over and asked whether she was a musician because she was listening so intently.

"No, I keep hoping they will play my favorite piece. The Opera Phantom."

"They don't like to play it?"

"It is very difficult. They only play if requested"

Like I said, I'm a sucker, so I quickly talked my colleagues into pooling some khazookies, and I walked them over to the massive tip jar on the cimbalom along with a piece of paper on which we had written our request. I walked sheepishly back to my table as the violinist scrutinized the request, a broad smile on his face. Sure enough, they launched into their rendition of Phantom. At this point, the only other people in the restaurant are two other tables of LA Phil personnel. All of them looked at me like I'm out of my mind. I quickly ran across the room and explained to them why I did what I did.

Uproarious laughter. Then it became obvious that this was far and away the easiest thing the group would play all night. We had just dropped a considerable amount of khazookies in their tip jar so they could, in essence, take a break. Had Brigette finished her sentence, perhaps it would have been, "it is very difficult for them to play to play with a straight face." But there she stood, reveling in the sounds of A.L. Webber.

So I guess you're wondering about the "khazookie" thing. As you may know, that is the currency of Hungary. No, really. OK. That was a lie. It is actually the forint, but who is going to remember that? This practice of renaming currency is a relic from tours from years ago before the European Union was formed. A tour like this one, which spans seven countries, would have meant seven distinct currencies to juggle. It is hard enough keeping track of exchange rates without having to remember what the hell they're called, so we came up with our own lexicon. In addition to being a sucker, I am also a traditionalist, and I like to preserve some of those rituals. So, from Lisbon through Paris, we were spending "schmenkies" (euros). That would be schmenkie "sterling" in London. The exchange rates were similar enough hat they could all fall under that umbrella. However, Hungary is a very different place, with a very different currency, so it got its own designation. "Khazookie".

Now I've got to find a khazookie machine before dinner. I've got to be careful and gauge how much I'll spend, however; tomorrow we go to Vienna, where schmenkie is king!