Tuesday, December 16, 2003


Now here's a story I'd like to share. Over the past couple of years, I travelled to Honolulu on business about once a month. And while I love Hawaii, it's really hard to be away from your family and working while everyone else is on vacation.

One night, I was walking down Kalakaua in Waikiki and stopped to listen to a gathering of seniors who were playing ukulele and steel guitar in one of the picnic shelters that line the beach. I stood and listened for a while, regretting that my uke was back in my hotel room.

The leader announced that one of the players would hula to "Little Grass Shack," and when she laid down her uke, I asked the leader if I might sit in. Without missing a beat, the dancer handed me her uke. I checked the tuning, and it was way, way off, so I started to tune it up. "No, no! Stop!," several players said at once. The leader winked at me and whispered (in a voice that reminded me of the great Ed Wynn), "Never tune another person's uke."

A bit embarrassed, I sat down, joined in, and ended playing along for several joyous numbers. As the little goup packed up, I introduced myself to the leader, a ukulele teacher named Stan. He gave me his card and invited me to play with them whenever I was in town. Then the other day, while I was searching for something else entirely, Google returned a link to a blog called Ukulelestan.

At first, I thought it was some arch reference to Radio Free Blogistan. Then I clicked through, and who did I find, but Stan himself, ukulele teacher, leader of the little Waikiki troupe--and now, blogger!

So with much aloha to Stan and his merry band, indulge me in a little thought for the new year. I've thought back to that night many times, and have come to realize that I learned a great life lesson that night.

You know, you really shouldn't tune another person's uke. A guy once told me, "You'd sound really good if you were in tune." I've never forgotten the sting of that remark. And I don't think he meant it the way it came out. But there it was, and I felt ashamed.

On the other hand, you know, when you pick up another person's uke and it sounds out of tune to you, you might very well be holding the instument of a great slack key ukulele player, who just might know much more than you ever will. You really cannot tell for sure.

So for 2004, let's all make a resolution not to tune anyone else's uke, and make it a wonderful year.

Mahalo, Stan--and you, too Nancy for letting me borrow your uke. Hau'oli Makahiki Hou! Link Discuss

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