My first uke was a Kyle gift when I was p.g. with my first son; he figured I would grow too big for my guitar. He was right. Kyle always gave the best presents. Hence, “Kyle gift.” I noodled off and on with it for a few years but then pretty steadily the past two years as a deva bard in a D&D campaign. It's a bright-orange Mahalo. Jake Shimabukuro autographed it on my fifth wedding anniversary; Jim Beloff did likewise during his October 2010 uke workshops at the Northampton Community Music Center. Kyle put a bunch of stickers all over it, including puffy hot-pink “L Y N N” along the base that I had to move to the bottom of the neck because they were digging my name backwards into my skin. I felt kind of guilty admitting it to him but he replied with a nearly French insouciance, “Usability upgrades are allowed. No, not allowed: they are imperative.”
I bought a 1950s ladies'-bathroom pink Makala as a uke we could take to the beach last summer — it was cheap and I didn't want to mind if sand got into the tuning pegs. Also, Kyle died late last spring, and plus it's signed by Jake Shimabukuro.
So this afternoon when A E I O Ukes played on the same stage that once featured the vocal stylings of Jenny Lind, a stage I've wanted to perform on since moving to Western Massachusetts six-and-a-half years ago, a stage where I met my longest-term local client (at a Chamber of Commerce Arrive at Five mixer; I think it was around Christmas), I sang mic'd with them on the stage w/ my uke mic'd, too.
“You didn't know it, but you were the lead,” Monstro said before he left w/ BK at intermission.
It's been hard digesting that Kyle is gone because of his widespread imprint: from the memory of my first kiss with Monstro (…while Kyle was in Butler Hall finding me an EGSC conference t-shirt); Cthulhu/BP/Totoro mash-ups on South Park (pretty sure “My Neighbor Totoro” was in that ukulele box, too) ; to any matter of Pop Surrealism.
Kyle I can't help but think of that today, having sung lead on a 110-year-old stage thanks entirely to a Kyle-gift ukulele. It's so funny, because the diabetes rendered him blind –such a cruel loss to a man who read and made pictures, but a loss you faced bravely and with vim– but nevertheless Kyle had a… vision about him. The stuff he'd been into years ago will resonate as popular culture maybe 5-20 years from now.
Kyle was a blind visionary and he gave me my first ukulele. For his gifts and his friendship and love I will ever be thankful.
[And, oh, he was so proud that Monstro was graduating. “Brian's going to walk,” he announced to his mom the week before he died. His mom didn't understand the context so she responded, “Was he in an accident?”]