I step inside from the drizzly rain, the old creaky door slams shut behind me and a little bell rings to notify the customers of my presence. The place has a musty smell like a grandfather’s garage. The entire store is cluttered with instruments and their various accessories. One corner is piled high with guitar cases and there’s dozens of violins hanging from the ceiling. Standing behind the counter is a pudgy baby faced man who looks at me like I’m from another planet.
“Hi there, I’m looking for a….” I start to say as the man begins walking away, “uh wait, hi…excuse me…sir?”
The clerk, who abruptly leaves, is now rummaging around in the back room. Grunting and loud clunking sounds echo throughout the store.
A few minutes later he reemerges from the back room and resumes his position behind the dusty counter top.
“Hi” I say again
“Can I help you sir?” he says calmly, as if he has just now become aware of my presence
“Yes, do you happen to sell ukuleles?” I ask
“Yep, we have two of them that just came in the other day.” he says
There is a long awkward pause, as if he cannot comprehend why I’d be asking if he had any musical instruments in his musical instrument store!
“Umm, so can I look at them?” I ask
“Oh, you want to buy a ukulele?” he asks me
“Yes, well, that was my intention.” I reply
He lets out a heavy sigh, realizing that he’d actually have to sell an instrument today.
“Right this way.” he says
I follow him to a table in the corner. It is filled with an assortment of musical rarities. It’s like an isle of misfit instruments. There’s an accordion, a tambourine, a set of bongo drums and sitting off to the side are what look like two tiny toy guitars. These are the ukuleles.
I pick up each one, holding them in various positions, plucking each string as if I know what I’m doing.
“So let me ask you, which of these do you think has the best quality sound?” I ask
“I don’t think it matters, they’re both the same.” he says pointedly
“Oh, uh, I guess I’ll just get this one.” I say referring to the one I’m holding
The clerk rings up my order, places the ukulele into a vinyl jam bag and sends me on my way…
Awhile back, I wrote a post about finding one’s passion in life. I still haven’t found mine and I doubt that playing the ukulele will become my passion. What I have realized is that I constantly need to be trying new things and sampling what the world has to offer. Because without continuous overall improvement, how could one possibly move forward in life?
I’ve wanted to learn how to play an instrument for a long time and after watching a performance by Jake Shimabukuro on Conan O’Brien the other night I was inspired. To be able to create such a beautiful sound from an instrument that is generally regarded as a toy is amazing.
I’m not expecting to be able to sit down and belt out My Guitar Gently Weeps on the first day. In fact, I’m expecting the learning process to be quite difficult as I know nothing about music. I’ve never played any instrument before. I don’t know how to read music. Hell, I don’t even know what a chord is! Like anything else, it’s going to take a lot of practice. Maybe it’ll catch on and maybe it won’t, the important thing is that I’m willing try.
… I arrive home, sit down in my favorite chair and remove the ukulele from it’s case. I sit there holding it, pondering all the great rock songs that I will convert to the elegant sounds of the ukulele.
I decide that it needs a name. What should I call it?
The curves and the elegance show that it must be a female. I think back to all the women I’ve interacted with, all the women who have somehow affected my life. I think all the way back to elementary school. Ah yes, I know what her name is.
She was simple. She was elegant. She was pretty. She was my best friend. She was my first crush. She is a reminder that with everything in life there is always a first and the potential to become a thing of great beauty.
This is my ukulele. This is Alyssa.