Friday, January 8, 2010
I got lost in the fog yesterday afternoon. I missed a turn on a back road up in the hills and found myself in the world famous Sonoma valley. The sun was setting, but the fog was so thick I couldn't figure out which way was west. I drove and drove for an hour. I never came to a town. I passed Fifth Street three times and Eighth Street twice. I drove over little bridges with signs that said "Sonoma Creek" at least ten times. I was trying to get to downtown Petaluma. Eventually I found myself driving East, away from downtown. The thing was that I had started out east of downtown and I had never driven through downtown, but there was downtown, behind me.
Eventually, I got turned around and drove around downtown for a real long time and finally found a place to park. California is supposed to have a twelve percent unemployment rate. I think the whole twelve percent spends its time driving around Petaluma, looking for parking places. Petaluma is a beautiful little town. The craziest people in the world live there and I do not mean that in a good way.
I wanted to go to the music store in Petaluma. It is a really classy old store, so packed full of stringed instruments that it is hard to walk around. I heard they had a five thousand dollar Martin ukulele. Sure enough, there it was. Five thousand dollars in a glass case next to a gazillion dollar one of a kind Martin guitar. They weren't going anywhere.
I have a two hundred and sixty dollar Republic metal bodied resonator ukulele. I have always wanted to try one of those fifteen hundred/ two thousand dollar National Resophonic metal bodied ukuleles. There was one of them sitting right there. All I had to do was pick it up and play it. I did. It really didn't sound as good as my little Republic. I liked that music store but I didn't need to spend any money there. I walked out smiling.
I was really going to a meeting of the Petalukes ukulele club. The meeting was held in the Moose Lodge. I got there early and a Moosette tried to convince me that it would be to my advantage to become a Moose. I know she was a Moosette because the Men's and Lady's room doors said, "Moose" and Moosette." A couple of minutes later a couple of guys came in carrying ukulele cases. They saved me from the Moosette. I liked them right away.
Thirty five people ended up showing up for the meeting. Chairs were pulled into a big circle. Music stands were set up. Big notebooks of photocopied sheet music were unpacked along with a whole bunch of ukuleles from brand new cheapo ukes to classy old well loved ones. After a round of introductions and a disclaimer from one woman, "I'm not the 'leader' of the group. The group doesn't have any leaders", we started a wonderfully chaotic sing along. Sometimes the whole group was playing together and most of us were singing. Sometimes half the group was playing and singing at one speed while the other half was half a verse behind them. We weren't singing rounds or anything, we just weren't singing the same thing. Sometimes part of the group had sheet music in one key while the rest of us had it in another.
The group was mostly pretty old, but it was California and they were mostly pretty old hippies so we sang "Ripple" by the Grateful Dead and "Yellow Submarine" by some other band. We tried to do a medley of "God Bless America" and "This Land Is Your Land" but only one guy knew all of the chords and he kept shouting out the changes to us. We sang a couple of Everly Brothers songs. There were several really good players, a bunch of sort of competent strummers and a few people who could barely understand what was going on. It was a big goddam mess and lots and lots of fun. I got to make tons of mistakes without looking dumb. Every once in a while it even worked and sounded pretty good. I showed one guy a couple of tricks to get through some of the harder parts. A couple of people taught me things. One woman told me, "We can only agree to play in one key and that's 'Anar-key'. " I was smiling and smiling.
I did not get lost on the way home. I listened to Shonen Knife and The Monroe Brothers. I kept smiling and smiling. Every once in a while I said to myself, "Jesus. That was really fun."
Fine Artiste Blues- R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders- Buy
Posted by Your driver at 11:27 PM