restricted access 21. Another Wednesday Night
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Twenty-One Another Wednesday Night six months later From the outside, the house looked dark, just like the other small stucco bungalows lining the street. No sound disturbed the autumn air. It was late, at least by the standards of this quiet residential neighborhood on a Berkeley side street: nearly ten thirty on a weekday evening. It was only when I reached the door that I heard the faint promise of music, coming from deep inside the house. “There must be a couple of people still inside,” I thought, “hanging on till the very end.” I opened the door and walked in. In that moment, I crossed the threshold from dark to light, from chill to warmth, from quiet to sound. I had been feeling tense and restless, but now I was filled with a sense of ease and expansiveness . The music called me back into the heart of the house, where I found a much bigger group than I’d expected. Ten people were gathered in a close circle, shoulder to shoulder, filling the space that usually served as the dining room—my dining room. Although I was in my own home, the space had been transformed . I was enveloped in the sights, sounds, and smells of a Cajun jam in full swing. I hadn’t really thought about what a jam smelled like, until someone recently mentioned the scent of something—maybe the wine?—when she first entered. It was true.There was a kind of rich heaviness in the air, a warm vapor rising up to surround you when you walked in from outside.The red wine was just a small part of it, though. The air was filled with many things: the sharp tang of new accordion bellows; the softer, more complex scent of the woods in the instruments; the dust of the rosin from the fiddle bows. Was it possible that the sound itself had a smell? Or perhaps the heaviness in the air came from the heat and scent 237 238 Danse de Poullard of people working physically together—their bodies close, almost touching, synchronized as they made music. There were always so many men at these musical gatherings. Maybe it was their scent we’d noticed, that other woman and I. As I looked around the circle I was about to enter, I felt a quick rush of affection for everyone in the room. The level of closeness and the degree of personal knowledge we had of one another—well, it varied. I had known Steve for over thirty years, the rest for four years, at most. But this was the closest I had come to finding a community in California. This was where I felt most at ease. It was a diverse group, the people who passed in and out of these music circles. We all had day jobs, toiling at many different tasks: writing and welding, teaching and truck driving, healing and repairing , working on computers and on boats.We represented different races and backgrounds, with an age span of close to thirty years. A few hadn’t quite finished high school, and some had graduate degrees. We were single and coupled up, divorced and married, straight and gay, childless and not, vegetarians harmonizing with NRA members. Our local Louisiana French music community was rich and varied. But I’d come to believe that it was usually like this with musicians, this crossing of all the divides that so often separate people. Whatever the differences among us, we had one thing in common : we were locked in an embrace with this music we had come to love. So we were also locked in an embrace with one another, however fleeting. It is a hard thing to understand, until you have made music with other people, and have felt it: That powerful connection that feels so intimate—and at the same time impersonal, linking everyone to something larger, outside themselves. Steve left the circle to greet me. We kissed and stepped into the kitchen to exchange a few words about our respective evenings. I gave him a quick review of my writing group, and he told me how tonight’s jam had been going. We had hosted our first jam session six months earlier, just a few weeks after Danny’s death, with the prospect of all those empty Wednesday nights beginning to loom. We knew that simply playing together, or having a band practice, wouldn’t fill the void. But I...


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