Apocalypse, as anyone who survived the twentieth century knows, comes in many flavors but this was a new one. Accordion Apocalypse, as in, “Why don’t we take a trip down to Accordion Apocalypse tomorrow and you can look at accordions and I can get mine fixed?” During Friday’s inaugural lesson, while playing “Those Were the Days,” Jennifer discovered that her C-minor key was sticking.

Accordion Apocalypse is open two afternoons a week. On Saturday Jennifer and I drove down Folsom to a section of San Francisco on the cusp of Twitter Apocalypse, an ice floe in the hot market. The sign was less than conspicuous, Accordion Repair. The door was locked. The only indication the bell was functioning was a barking dog. Then we saw a shapely pair of legs in cut-offs descend the stairs, and a young man with shampoo-commercial blonde hair opened the door. The barking dog came careening down the staircase, prompting Jennifer to ask it its intentions. Friendly, thankfully. On the first landing  was a table with accordion sheet music in disarray, some primers included. Up a few more steps we entered a bright apartment without curtains on the windows, part shop and part, it seemed, home.

While a young woman behind a workbench operated on Jennifer’s instrument, I investigated the accordions displayed on shelves and pedestals. There were a dozen or more, many vintage, in ivories and pea greens and blacks with ornate grillwork. Each exuded melancholy. Tempus fugit, oom pa-pa. A small red one on a plinth, glowing like a startlet with a hint of cheap, was offered as Deal of the Month. It had two rows of bass keys. Most of the other accordions had rows upon rows of bass keys, a wilderness of them.   I asked Jennifer’s opinion about me getting the deal of the month. She strapped it on and played a bit. “It’s too limited. No minor chords. It’s okay if you want to play only songs in major chords,”

“No melancholy songs.”


Melody appeared from somewhere and introduced herself. I gathered she was the principal. Besides being career appropriate, her name conveyed her (chosen? acknowledged? preferred?) sex. Her scuffed army boots gave evidence of the intermediacy of where she had put down stakes.

Jennifer asked if I wanted to see the insides of her instrument, so I leaned in and watched the young woman, I never caught her name, maneuver her unfamiliar tools with unfamiliar movements. Her fingers were wonderfully capable; she never dropped anything, not even the teensy metal washers, but whenever she tested her adjustment, the key still stuck. Or they all stuck. She’d have to take the case apart again and do a little more experimenting. Jennifer winced when she extracted a very butch pliers and started bending metal.

An hour she was working at it. If she was getting impatient, she wasn’t showing it. I was convinced that when at play she picked up her own accordion and got pumping, it would pull you right up out of yourself.

The hour limit on parking was up fifteen minutes ago. Jennifer said she would go to Trader Joe’s and come back.

I went off the library to get a beginners’ book. I had made a decision, to rent an accordion with two rows of bass keys, unfit for minors but okay for newbies. Jennifer approved. For the time being. Later, she said,  I’ll want something more versatile.

That’s assuming the apocalypse can be postponed a while longer.



  1. You mean like Tennessee Birdwalk?

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