This post is THE FINAL INSTALLMENT of the 11-part series, “Marvelous Midwest,” about discovering my extended family in Indiana and “ukeing” it up in Missouri. All in one very eventful trip.
My husband I live a 10K race away from LAX. It’s like there’s an airplane freeway in the sky that passes over our condo. This is the soundscape of life around here. In Missouri, it’s cicadas. I never actually see one, no little green guy with a “C” on his butt. But I hear them and ask a local person “what the hell is that?” I am told that sometimes the cicadas get so loud it’s impossible to carry on a conversation.
Thankfully today there’s just a gentle buggy whoosh, with strains of ukulele melodies thrown in. Both Craig and I teach workshops and prepare for the concert tonight. It’s a long evening with the Open Mic winners (the ones that got the most votes from the troops), the Flea Bitten Dawgs and us.
The concert is outside under a pergola, with the pool to our left and more seating to the right. It’s hot. As the sun goes down, it gets hotter. It’s humid. As the sun goes down, it gets humid-er. They are worried about me because I am just plain not used to this weather. Janelle and the sound guy haul out fans. I’m ready to do Gatorade, intravenous, because swallowing the stuff ain’t working fast enough. We begin our two-hour set late and I’m smiling and perky but inside I’m wondering how the hell I’m going to get through this.
Well adrenaline is a wonderful thing and having such a sweet and supportive audience seals the deal. The time passes at light speed. Years ago, a wizened old pro pulled me aside at one of my piano bar gigs and offered some advice. “Take it from me Cali, get out of town once in while and play where people appreciate you.” I thought he was full of you-know-what. It’s taken me this long to realize he was right.
The folks in the audience are eager, eager to hear original tunes. Once Craig joins the party, we fall into an easy “married folk” banter. That’s fertile ground for humor, don’t you think? And the hilarity and music continue as we do some “kanikapila” songs like “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”
My ukulele group, The CC Strummers, finish this tune with “cries of the jungle.” Birds, monkeys, lions, mystery-critters. But right now Craig and I are in the Midwest, so I suggest we throw in “barnyard” animals instead. Lo and behold, Elvis lets loose with what he calls an Arkansas hog cry. It is a moment I will never forget. The sound is so real, so omnipresent, that for a second I am looking around for the pig.
Until I realize it’s Elvis. “Oh my God that is just fabulous!” I gush. And in his finest Elvis voice, he says “Thank you. It’s a gift.” You have to know that every time I think of bacon, smell bacon, eat bacon, see the commercial on TV where the big sloppy dog barrel-races to the bowl of guess-what as a gravely voiceover huffs and puffs “bacon, bacon, bacon,” I will think of Elvis and his Arkansas hog cry.
The next morning, we rub the bleary from our eyes and share our final breakfast together. Janelle hires a local photographer to take a group picture. Can you believe it? Like high school, except happier.
Then we spread out in a big circle on the grass, sing Aloha Oe’ and bid farewell to each other and this most endearing weekend. It’s fortuitous that “Aloha” means both hello and goodbye. I look forward to staying in touch with our new Midwest ukulele ohana and my newly-discovered and totally loved family in Indianapolis.
By nightfall, my husband and I will be home, snuggling under the covers in our own bed and soon enough our sojourn to the Midwest will feel like a dream.
And some dreams change us…