The yen for a uke started with Amanda F. Palmer. I watched a video of her ukulele anthem and fell in love with it. She was standing in a color blocked leather coat in a wintry square, singing and strumming to a crowd on a background of black steel and windows. They cheered, laughed, clapped in all the right places. “Stop pretending art is hard,” she sang, confident and beautiful, and the words hit my heart. Because art isn’t really all that hard when you think about it, it’s silencing the voices in your head that tell you your art is no good and you really shouldn’t bother that is difficult. I want to be able to sing that anthem and feel free.
In high school, there was a girl in the theater department who had a ukulele. She and I were good acquaintances – not friends exactly, but in that awkward place where you hang out in the same social groups but never quite make a connection. She would sit in the green room of the theater and play us a song she wrote entitled “I Want to Be a Bad Gangster.” With the bright ukulele for accompaniment, she would toss her blonde hair and declare her love of things like tricked out station wagons that jump up and down. We couldn’t get enough. I wish I remembered her name.
A ukulele can be packed into just about anywhere. It is not a tragedy if a twenty dollar uke gets dirty, or left behind, or accidentally damaged. I could decorate it with stickers and words like “stop pretending art is hard.” We could fall in love, my ukulele and me, and we could make music together everywhere.
That is my real vision: Brian and I clustered around the campfire at night, our gray dome tent pitched in the background, green plastic tablecloth on the decrepit picnic bench. A bag of marshmallows is open at my feet, and I have achieved the perfect marshmallow sugar coma. My heart is racing and I feel content. The orange light of the fire glistens off the face of my ukulele as I strum the strings with my sticky fingers. I sing something bright and funny, and then I sing a love song. The stars shine above us through the branches of the trees, and we are happy.
The Folk Music Store has a light blue one with a dolphin shaped bridge. I think I’ll bring it home this weekend.
If you’re interested, AFP’s Uke video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CBDqQ3UxmM