I used to know a guy who packed an open-carry mandolin everywhere he went. He’d invade Jake’s Cafeteria with that mandolin strapped to his chest, find a table in a corner and play it hard at anyone who came near unless they were bearing an instrument.
      If someone armed with an instrument approached, he’d point his mandolin at them and pick two or three rapid phrases. If they could play along he’d stay if not they’d sheepishly slink away. He never had to say a word, which wasn’t surprising because he’d never been known to speak.
      When the local paper sent me out to try to interview him, I brought my banjo.
      I played him back his two or three phrases and then hit the opening of Foggy Mountain Breakdown. He responded with a Ricky Skaggs riff that was impossibly fast.
      “Okay, what’s your story?” I asked.
      He laughed and played a Greek tune with his mandolin sounding like a bouzouki. I answered by slackening the strings on my banjo until it had the one of a middle eastern Oud and played a Greek rembetika tune back at him to let him know that we had the same background.
      “Do you play any other instruments?” I asked.

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