The fact that I was born on Oct. 29, the day the Stock Market crashed, is no coincidence -- it is, witness the stack of bills in my shoebox, poetic truth. Coincidence, on the other hand, has little to do with just desserts or any such versions of fatalism.

"Coincidence" is a matter of definition.

Two years ago I was working as a street musician in, among other places, Florence. The hot spot for that sort of thing then was the Ponte Vecchio, the brittle bridge that spans the Arno.

One day I was playing "Like A Rolling Stone" for the 87th time and in the small crowd an older man signaled to me with his index finger. After the song I walked over to him, my Yamaha FG-150 slung over my back.

"What can I do for you?" I said.

"I'd like-a to buy you guitar," he said. "I will give you $50 American money!"

"Sorry," I said. "I'm not selling."

That night I was eating a plate of ravioli in a restaurant, reading, as I remember, a pornographic Italian comic book a little kid had slipped into my pocket when I was playing on the bridge. After months alone traveling, the comic book was just what the eros ordered and I was absorbed by it even though I speak 12 words of Italian, all of them foods.

When I went to pay the check, I noticed my guitar was gone. My meal ticket was ciao for now.

The next day I walked into a music store to see if I could find another cheap guitar, and there it was, in the window, my long lost ax, with a tag that read 20,000 lira. I pushed open the door, like the Duke bursting into Movieland Saloon, and there he was. The old man, smiling, not at all suprised to see me.

"That's my damn guitar!" I said. "Let's have it right now, buddy! Right now."

"I am sorry," he said. "Is no yours."

"It looks exactly like mine, doesn't it, fella! A Yamaha FG-150!"

"Funny, it just come in yesterday. Is coincidence, no?"

A coincidence? Maybe. It depends on how you define it.