Friday, November 4, 2011

I Went Underground--Fiddler Style; Part 2

    Before beginning this post, I just have some things to tell you really quickly.  
    The winner, for a free advance copy of my book "The Golden Sky," was announced here

So fun!

Also, my book is now on Goodreads(Click HERE to include it on your to-read list.)

    In addition to all that wonderful, magical stuff, Baiba posted a review of my book--God bless her.  Here's that link if you're curious: 

Baiba's Blog  

 

And last of all, my brother struck the meanest blow of ALL today! 

Please go visit him here: 

Siamese Twins 

I still can't believe he stooped this low!!!

     If you didn't read my post yesterday, I ended with a cliffhanger mostly because the post was getting long and secondly because it's just fun.
    So, where we left off, I'd been invited to an underground bluegrass contest.  I dragged my violin to a condemned building downtown.  A bunch of old people sat around ready to fight a musical duel.  The old lady "Champ" made me sit at the crappy part of the circle with the only younger person in the whole place.  The younger guy was a symphony-loving jerk, and I wanted to show him up more than anything.
    I looked at everyone as we played.  If Georgie tapped you, it meant you were out.  We were suppose to out-play each other (by ear) or die trying.
    But everyone else there was so old!  I realized that's the thing about old folks--they're just ballsy.  There I was in my early twenties; I didn't want to die or go to jail, but those old people--they didn't care about anything!  They knew death was creeping close like a spirit in the night.  That's why they'd planned the meeting where we could get caught and end up being arrested.  They figured even if they were sentenced for life, it wouldn't be that long anyway.
    As we played, the Champ winked at me as if I'd never make it to her side of the circle.  Her taunting was just what I needed and as Georgie came closer, my bow turned to fire and instead of tapping me, he tapped the old banjo player on my other side.  The Symphony guy and I moved up a space.  I was getting closer, but could I best that old woman at the far end of the circle?

Picture taken by: Shear Luck
Photobucket
Gotta love my socks--matching is overrated!
     So, we played round after round.  The Champ eyed everyone taking in our weaknesses.  I got scared then because she didn't even have to stop playing to talk!  Her fiddle was an extension of her body and she studied everyone while kicking our butts!
    I hate admitting it, but I do have a weakness.  My left pinkie is double-jointed.  That wasn't an issue until I cut my thumb in half on a table saw and had to reteach myself how to play the violin by holding it differently.  Now (even after years of work) it nearly kills me to use my pinkie on the strings.
    As long as she didn't go to a key with a ton of flats or sharps, I knew I could win.
  "We're going to G Minor," the Champ said and we started again. 
    That wasn't my favorite key, but I still kept up.  It must have been a bad choice for some of the banjoists and guitarists, though; most of them couldn't adjust to the key change as fast as the fiddlers did.   
    Georgie went around, tapping people who dropped out like flies in the winter.  They left the circle and only a couple guitars remained after that.
     I moved next to a crazy harmonica player.  He looked like the cliche I've always imagined.  He had a straw hat and overalls.  A scruffy face and blood-shot eyes.  He didn't want to be friendly though.  He was ready to smoke me with the harmonica if he could.
    The Symphony Jerk huffed on the other side of me.  "I still can't believe I'm here with this . . . elderly crowd.  I got recruited to an underground contest, by a bunch of old people!"
    I couldn't take it then, and before the next round came, I looked at him.  "Old people?  They're pretty damn talented if you ask me.  But if one of them doesn't beat you, then I sure as heck will.  You're not that great for a Symphony Jerk."
    The Champ laughed--I didn't even realize she'd been listening.  The Symphony Jerk glared at me then.  He really didn't like me at all after that, and it showed in his fancy fingering. 
    "D Minor," the Champ yelled, and I nearly laughed.  Talk about easy!  The Harmonica player pulled out a different harmonica and that made me so mad--he could just switch instruments, while the rest of us had to compensate!  Talk about cheating.
    Now, at this point, there weren't many people left, probably less than ten when there had been over fifty to begin with.  All of the losers stood behind the circle, anxiously watching the musical duel.
    I suddenly understood why people have underground duels and fights.  It was epic!  There I was, doing something illegal with a bunch of aging daredevils.  We were beating the odds!  Playing music that actually sounded good!  That was even cooler than nice boots and hot coffee!
    Well, it finally got to the point where the last three people left were me, the Champ and the Symphony Jerk.  I couldn't believe the turn of fate.  But I almost felt as if the Champ had rigged it that way.  She looked at my scarred thumb and I suddenly knew she'd found my weakness.
    Her voice went low and I wished she wouldn't say it, not when I was so close to beating the narcissistic symphony guy.  "G flat Major."
    I swear black clouds swirled above us.  I forgot about everyone else in the room.  The Symphony Jerk went to stand on the other side of the Champ.  "I've played concertos in E flat Major, so switching it to G shouldn't be too hard."
    Oh I wanted to punch him!  If the Champ or I didn't best him, I swore I would melt onto the floor and evaporate from pure anger.
    It was the three of us, testing fate.  We played in one of the hardest fiddling keys ever!  Have you ever heard how a violinist can play an open string--that means you don't use any fingers for that note--well, in G flat Major, you can't play any open strings!  That means you HAVE to use your pinkie; if you play two strings at the same time, you HAVE to use multiple fingers!!!
    The song started.  I barred my teeth.  That's when something amazing happened.  I think I was so determined, so upset, I started doing slides and hitting harmonics.  I plucked my strings instead of playing regular notes.  I bent and swayed.  Every time I came upon something I couldn't do, I did something cooler instead.


    I love how I'm giving you a music lesson today, but if you go to second :30, I start the song on an open string (no fingers).  And on second 2:00 I attempt to hit a harmonic.  (Gotta love attempts.)


   The song got faster and faster.  As we picked up speed, that Symphony Jerk started messing up.  He just couldn't play as fast as we could.  
    He stood straighter, much taller than me, turned red from exertion, and before Georgie could even tap him out, the Symphony Jerk, pulled down his violin and said, "This is stupid!  She's cheating.  That old woman obviously rigged all these songs ahead of time."
    The Champ and I looked at each other and smiled; we had something important in common; we'd helped each other beat a creep.
    She just had fun with me then.  She played things, and I followed her lead, copying her melodies.  It's the first and only time I've done that with another fiddler.  It sounded just like we were talking back and forth, having a musical girl fight in front of a underground crowd.
     "You call this a competition!"  The creep yelled.  "Let me out."  The door was still locked.
    The Champ winked at me.  She got so fast and fantastic, shifting her finger position and doing things I've only seen on TV.  The accompanying guitars (the ones who hadn't even been in the competition, but had provided the chords and rhythms) even dropped out at that point.  

    My thumb ached like when a storm's coming; it must have sensed her unrivaled skills.  I dropped out at that point too. 
    It was the Champ, amazing us with her ethereal gift.  She played alone, her eyes shut and her bow sizzling the strings.  I gazed over at the Symphony Jerk, and his jaw was nearly on the ground.
    The winner was obvious--our awe was complete.  After everything had ended and we all packed up, the Champ came over to me.
    "Elisa, right?"
    I nodded, surprised she'd remembered my name.
    "Let's take a walk."
    I grabbed my violin case and followed her to the back of the building.  She pulled a HUGE cigar from her pocket and lit up right there.  "You remind me of myself," she said.  "You're not bad.  But you know in a few years I'll be dead and you still won't be as good as me.  Give it fifty more years though, Sunshine, and sometime you might get this good."
    I just looked at her.  I loved the woman; she had more spunk than most people I know.  "How old are you?" I asked.
    "Don't ever ask a woman about her age."  She winked, then held out her hand.  "But I'll tell you anyway,  I'm ninety-two."
    I couldn't breathe.  Was she for real?  I had my butt kicked by a ninety-two-year-old--that was awesome--how many chicks can say that?!
    She laughed so hard.  "My name's Opal.  It was nice to meet you."
    I shook her hand.  "You too."  But before I left, I had to tell her one last thing.  "Thanks for jamming with me; I've never played like that before."
    "I knew it," she said.  "I just hoped I could pull some new talent out of ya.  Just don't forget it, Kiddo.  You can always get better, always."
   "I won't forget," I said, and never have. 
 

    So, to Opal:
    Thanks, woman.  If you're up in Heaven, beating those string-loving angels, I hope you didn't forget me either, 'cause I'm getting better, and someday I just might beat you!