Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Pursuit of Trivia

On Oct. 1, 2011, I wrote in a post about Fernando Sor, "Until I came upon Fernando Sor's grave in Cimetiere Montmartre in Paris I don't think I'd ever heard the name."  I subsequently learned that he was a Barcelona-born classical guitarist and composer.  A Belgian musicologist/critic of the period called Sor "le Beethoven de la guitare"

I came across Sor's name recently in Oscar Hijuelos's excellent memoir Thoughts Without Cigarettes. He mentions that when, as a teenager, he was studying guitar, he learned of a neighbor who also "played the guitar, but in the classical style, with sheet music for studies by Tarrega, Fernando Sol, and others lying in stacks on a table by a stand in his living room."

(Hijuelos won the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Mambo King Plays Songs of Love.)

I loved knowing who Fernando Sol was when I came across that line.  Not that I think a Jeopardy answer will ever be "Who was Fernando Sol?"  And, nor, do I ever think I'll be a contestant on Jeopardy.

I tried once.  It was the late eighties.  A call went out in Vermont: Come to such and such ballroom in Burlington to try out for Jeopardy.  About three hundred of us showed up.  At the time there was a large monitor on which Alex Trebek asked questions and we had some amount of time to write the answer on the paper with lines numbered one through fifty provided to us.  As it turned out, I knew the answers to 48 of the 50 questions but on question #12 (the answer to which was, if I remember, the name of one of the famous National Parks out west). I couldn't think of the right answer, but thought it would come to me later, but instead of leaving line #12 blank, I wrote the answer to #13 on line #12, and so on, right on through to #27, the answer to which was "who were Hugh Cronyn and Jessica Tandy" but which I also couldn't think of at the time, though I knew it.  I did remember to leave that line blank, and then realized my earlier error, but there wasn't enough time to go back and erase and re-write all the correct answers I'd written on incorrect lines.  And, anyhow, as I progressed through the test I wasn't positive that it was at line 12 I'd need to start correcting ... was it maybe 13?

I'm not sure that 48 correct answers out of 50 would have gotten me into the next round anyhow.  At the end, after our entries were checked, five people were called to another room for a second round of testing.  Out of some 300 people, if I could get 48 out of 50, I supposed that 5 out of 300 could get 50 out of 50.

Oh, well.  Maybe in the far distant future we'll get to live our lives over again, but with improvements.  And maybe there will be a TV show called Jeopardy and I'll get on it and win and win and win and then I'll be in the Tournament of Champions and for Final Jeopardy they'll ask us to name an 18-19th century guitarist who was called by a critic "le Beethoven de la guitare".
"Who was Fernando Sol?" I'll answer, and Alex will ask me what I'm going to do with all my money.
Or maybe in that other life I'll be a quick-as-a-flash and flashy point guard on Florida Gulf Coast University's basketball team and I'll be feeling like a million bucks on a day like today ... a member of the first 15th seeded team to get to the Sweet Sixteen!

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