You don't mess with US Border Security services. Such a contrast to the Hanoi airport security guard who joked about me having a gun in my ukulele case. He smiled at me, laughed, said 'joke!', and waved me through. At the US Customs entry you don't make such jokes. Any jokes. Or banter of any kind. You don't even dare crack a smile. Just be straight up and down and hopefully keep walking.
Its sorta similar with me mouthing off at gigs – I often tread a fine line with what quips comes out of my mouth when I perform (or host a performance). Our debut Lark Camp Ukestra performance (to the dinner queue passing through the hall into the kitchen) went off a treat. The dubious hundreds who stayed away from the twice-daily Ukestra workshops were instant converts.
“You did that with the ukulele? You got everyone playing parts??!!! You mean you disciplined people? That sounded fantastic!! You guys have such a great time!”.
And the master musician / mentor ukulele teacher here at Lark, he came up after and very solemnly shook my hand saying what a fantastic job we had done – I think it was Mum's colourful woollen Fair Isle vest and Jane's beautiful dress, big hair and our very large quantities of happiness that helped give a good show too. Catch My Disease, My Girl, and Way Down in the Hole – all resulted in hoots of approval from the audience. The last one in particular, with big American (hungry) hoots of “Yeah!”, “Bring it on!”. And the solos, introduced by yours truly, dubiously; and deferring to geography (as is appropriate).
I have worked with Skip a little, in the big band, a fellow surfer (crazy Mendocino kind of surfer – water temp is never above 14deg C), a kindred 64 year old spirit who looks 49. Ladies and gentlemen! Give it up for Mr Skip Stand Up Paddle Boarder from Mendocino County!. And then it was Julie's solo – a better uke player – except I don't know her last name either, or even worse, her geography.... uh oh … here goes mouthing off improvisation. Ladies and Gentlemen! Give it up for Julie! An American! God Bless America! - I'm just glad a bunch of straighter people weren't there, or US Border control. I think it worked. Sitting around the campfire later a passing stranger whispers to me - God Bless America.
My 6:30am start yesterday finished with a campfire performance by myself to about 3-4 people – maybe 3-4 songs in 45 minutes, in between chats. My standard folk song – Gloria Gaynor's I will survive rocked the house, with Jim, proud new owner of a Low C charango joining in with soulful backing vocals. It went off, probably much to the morning chagrin of the seven closely parked RV's.
The campfire conversations also included respectful discussions about Rolf Harris (yes, they do know about our tortured Australian childhood souls), and succession planning at such Folk Camps. I asked where are the young people?
My ignorant question was answered at midnight, and in the kitchen. Us oldies are there in the kitchen, plates at the ready to be dished up our slops. Behind the counter, slaving in the kitchen are a bunch of young people – working for their ticket entry. Then at midnight the bus disgorges all the pretty young people, (they say they mostly reside in Camp One). They are ready to party and are here in spades. On our wander home to bed at midnight we pass a erstwhilely abandoned marqueed dance floor. Seems barely used in the daytime, albeit for an occasional practising piper. But why the very long electrical cable connecting it to mains power? Ahhhh!!!! now, at midnight, it is heaving with dancing to contemporary songs played by traditional instruments played by young people. Here they are! They are vampires! Only appear late late at night, or in the kitchen!
Questionus Ingnoramus Answerus.
Everywhere there are dumped instruments. Looking abandoned, they litter strategic corners, far away from their sleeping owners. Some are probably really valuable. Who knows. When you return to your own strategic corner – your instrument is there. No doubts at all.
There is a lost property box. I had a peep for my water bottle (eventually found in my trumpet case). In there I found Jane's Shower Gel that I had left in the shower, with about a centimetre of juice in the bottom. No finders keepers culture here. Just a downright honest and loving culture. My God this place, this culture, this week. It is amazing and wonderful and I will miss it in a few days when we leave.