Meeting the Ukelele Boy
(May 10, 2005)
Sunday, ~3 PM:
I'm standing on the platform at Finch station when a boy walks by with a ukelele. He's wearing the quintessential hipster uniform of a grey shirt and a skinny white tie, his hair a brown mop in his eyes and his pants well-hemmed; this is all well and good, but it contrasts intriguingly with the cheerful twanging he's producing. He catches a glimpse of my highly amused grin and looks affronted. "What are you laughing at?" he asks, his tone a bit disheartened. "I'm not - I'm just impressed you're here and playing that!"
His face lights up. "Would you like me to play you a song? Do you know Tiptoe Through the Tulips?" I answer yes to both, and when the train pulls up, he follows me inside, strumming the ukelele and singing happily. The car is about half-full; the Sunday-afternoon riders seem torn between amusement and annoyance at this disruption. When he finishes his song, we both laugh, and I ask him, "What else can you play?"
"Do you know the Flaming Lips?"
"Of course I do!"
"Shall we sing Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots?"
"I don't think I know it well enough, but please do, and I'll hum along."
This is how I end up flying through York Mills beside a hipster performing Flaming Lips songs on the ukelele. (Her name is Yoshimi, she's a black belt in karate... workin' for the city, she has to discipline her boooody...) Somewhere around Eglinton, I tell him that I was in the ukelele band at my school in grade 5, and he insists on my trying my hand at Louie, Louie; it's hard to screw up three chords, and he beams as I sing along. "You're fantastic!" "Ahahaha, oh, you know it." I request more Flaming Lips, but he doesn't know how to play any other songs, so we end up singing an a capella version of She Don't Use Jelly, giggling at each other between verses. The general tone of rest of the car is now distinctly more cheerful.
We talk for a while, then the sunlight outside of Rosedale gives way to Yonge station. Still laughing, we hug for no good reason apart from shared, bizarre experience, and I thank him for a most unusual subway ride before making my exit. I quite intentionally fail to offer any way for him to contact me, because I don't want to give him any ideas - and besides, some things are best left as they are. He is a random encounter, and I appreciate that.
If you ever meet a boy with a ukelele underground, be sure to sing with him. The fellow playing the violin and the man strumming the guitar at Queen are also viable subjects, and if you ever locate a banjo-player, please let me know. Life is funny, after all!