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forget the specific event in UN history that the organization was observing, if I ever knew, but some of us street players must have felt crowded out by it. No one had laid claim to my favorite walkstreet, Rue Chair et Pain. Not quite out of earshot of the gathering


UN festivities, but far enough, I set my case down on the stone and popped the latches. Upon lifting my old violin out by the neck, I flicked my fingers across the strings while admiring its eloquence. The finish was neither brassy,


“. . . an unsettling feeling stole over me, crimping the soft pour of my notes.”


red-toned, nor burnished—like that of your contemporary fiddles—but a dimly glossed nut- brown, a hue that seemed to enhance the sound of the instrument. It had once belonged to my teacher of twelve years, Miss Gross, the woman who taught me all she could about classical violin, if not so much about fiddle. No matter how unhinged a street jam turned, my playing was (c’est dommage) solidly grounded in the formal technique Miss Gross ingrained down in my heartwood. I slipped the bow from the felt brackets in


the lid. While I rosined up, some stray snatches of the UN’s opener, a march, got into my ears like the hum of a gnat. Faint applause, momentous speeches, and more stately UN music would filter my way as the night wore on. Now and then I’d also catch the odd crackle from the PA


27


or a shriek of feedback, sometimes so loud I’d hear it through my fiddling, and once, some wise-guy UN enthusiast tried to shout me down as he skirted by, something about my lacking respect. But up until that point, the night was unremarkable. Nothing unearthly seemed to be on the horizon as I prepared to play. My fingers fit lovingly around the


fingerboard and neck, and I warmed up with a slow sweetlet, “While Roving On Last Winter’s Night.” All went beautifully. Midway through the song, however, an unsettling feeling stole over me, crimping the soft pour of my notes. I wouldn’t have blamed the unrest of the dead for my suddenly heightened awareness. It felt more like one of my ex-girlfriends or someone else who had returned in spirit and was standing in judgment of me. None of my exes had died or fled to Europe as far as I knew, but whoever she was seemed intent on following my melody, and she stayed until the wistful open D that ended the song. Then it was as if no one had been there at all, except for the few passersby who had stopped to listen. And when I started up again—with a set of fast, full-on tunes—I felt as alone as before. I tossed off “Yellow Gals” and “New-


Rigged Ship” without event, but partway through the next one, which I both sang and fiddled, a washtub-bass player joined my small audience at the rear. I’d really been pulling out the stops on my tune, and I wanted to keep going; but I also wanted to get the story on the bassist, so I let my fiddle hang. Himself a rather tubby guy, he came over and asked if he and his friend could “hook up” with me. By his friend I thought he


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