Gute Reisen

Thank god for the ukulele, cause I needed a magic moment.

The magic of my evening wouldn’t exist without my mad-man of a brother. Years ago my mom and I used to do puzzles on Sunday mornings. Often we’d listen to A Prairie Home Companion, but when Trevor was home he’d be all wound up, and pace around the house like a caged animal. He had a uniform for when he was feeling like making trouble: boxer shorts and an old German army jacket he’d picked up at Banana Bay or Goodwill or somewhere. I’m know he played a lot of music during these mornings, but the music I remember most clearly is the incredible “Buck Owens & The Buckaroos Live at Carnegie Hall” album. I remember groaning at it, but after Trevor had left for college and CD ripping was possible, I had my own copy. I know the words to all those songs, and of course, “Crying Time” is one of them.

I almost didn’t go to the Ukulele Meetup tonight. The latest task in my visa quest is creating a profit and loss estimation for the next 24 months for my “business” of being an independent freelancer. I’m having to familiarize myself with the delights and intricacies of the German Tax Code, just so I can weave a believable fantasy. I’d made good headway today, but I felt like I needed a few more hours. So I considered not going, but I’d already RSVP’d, and I got my ukulele out to warm up a little and it made me feel happy, so I hopped on my bike and pedaled to the little Bavarian restaurant where the Ukulele Meetup was happening. 

I was only 10 minutes late, but the little side room was quite full. More than 20 ukulele players. I arrived just in time to introduce myself in my clumsy German, and sit down next to a bearded guy in his 40s who stuck his hand out and said “Stuart.” I said, “Ja, und wie heissen Sie?” Yes and what is your name? He said again, “Stuart.” Ah, a grey haired Stuart here to play the ukulele! Was this me in the future come to tell me not to give up hope. No, it was simply Stuart from Wales, here to tell me after 10 year in Munich he still loves it.

We plowed through a lot of songs, and the group had a wide range of skills. There was one guy in an old driving cap, heavy set, big grey beard, real nice ukulele, that was clearly the hot rod of the group. Another guy plucked his way through “Big Rock Candy Mountain” with a thick German accent. I sang along since he seemed to be a little embarrassed to be playing alone, he seemed appreciative. Someone asked if it was an Irish song.

We plowed through “Smoke on the Water,” “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?,” “Let It Be.” As the evening went a long and I started my second beer I realized that other than us two Stuarts this was a fully German affair. They played every note and chord on the page faithfully. Hot Rod was playing his way through a Hawaiian song, and kind of lost the group so it turned into almost a solo act, except I was keeping up with him on the chords. When he launched into a nice solo, I was with him and he turned give me a serious look. I winked at him, it was good to follow his lead. 

After a couple of hours my fingers were hurting, and people were leaving. Hot Rod hollered at me from across the room and asked if I knew Guy Clark. I came over and played through a Guy Clark song, and also “Brazil” and “Girl From Impanema.” A middle aged red headed woman sat with us and sang nicely. Soon it was time for me to go, but I asked if we could play one more song, it was great fun to support a real player. He flipped through his book, and there was “Crying Time.” “Wir müssen das spielen” I said “Das ist ein Lied aus mein Kindheit.” We have to play that, it’s a song from my childhood. 

So Hot Rod, me and the red headed woman dove right in. Hot Rod must have known the song cause he peeled through it and the solo wonderfully. Red Head seemed to really love the song, and at the end she asked if I sang in a band. As we were playing I was laughing like an idiot, it made me so happy to have something so Texan float out to me. So I said, “Können wir ein andere Lied spielen? Und darf Ich es aufnehmen?” Can we play a different song? And may I record it? They agreed, but Red Head insisted we play “Crying Time” again. Almost before I could get my phone out, we dove back into the song. And, of course, take two wasn’t as good. 

Ah, well, here it is.

After we played, Red Head asked me about Buck Owens, I said he was born in Texas, but I didn’t know how to say he was an Admiral in the Texas Navy. 

I listened to the recording as I biked to dinner. Laughing, and remembering Trevor, only barely dressed, prancing around, trying to get a rise out of me, and unknowingly sowing the seeds for a perfect night in Germany, 20 years later.