Ain't She Sweet, The Invisibility of Old Guys, Back from Canada, Working Out

My First Music Gig

(Well, the first in 50 years*)

My mom is 99 and is living in a rest home. She lives in a wing with ladies in their 80s and 90s, maybe 15 of them. As are many people of this age, they have varying degrees of forgetfulness or confusion. Yesterday I took over my ukulele and sang songs with them. My repertoire of uke songs consists mostly of old tunes from the ’20s and ’30s’ like of the flapper era. When I played the uke in high school, these were the type songs that had ukulele arrangements.

The ladies had been playing Bingo and were all sitting around a table, looking bored. Boredom is a big problem for people in retirement homes. I was a bit nervous, but Clara, one of the caregivers, urged me on. She said they’d love it. I took the uke out of the case – none of them knew what I was going to do – tuned it, then played and sang Five Foot Two.

Five foot two

Eyes of blue

But oh what those five feet can do,

Has anybody seen my gal

By god, they all sat up. Sparkles came into eyes.

Turned up nose,

Turned down hose,

Never had no other beaus,

Has anybody seen my gal

It was a hit! Some of them were bouncing to the music. Big smiles. One lady, sitting next to my mom, was singing along, as were maybe 6-7 of them, and she had a clear, lovely voice. I focused on her and we sang together. Her eyes were bright and shining. She could really sing. Another lady, who I’d seen before, and always looked pretty out of it, never smiling, was transformed. Her face lit up, and she sang along. One of the caregiver girls was dancing in the background.

Bye Bye Blackbird/Ja-Da/When You Wore a Tulip/Over the Rainbow/Toot Toot Tootsie/My Little Grass Shack/Coney Island Baby/Singin’ in the Rain/Ain’t Gonna Study War No More/Peg O’ My Heart. We must have sung 30 songs. I was sweating. It was fun!

They liked the peppy ones like Ain’t She Sweet, but they also seemed to love the sentimental ones, which I ended up singing to them, like I’m In the Mood For Love, or I’ll See You in My Dreams. They clapped after each song. It was a very forgiving audience

Music can transform people. It cuts through everything, direct to the heart. I realized that these were the songs that these ladies had danced to and listened to with their beaus in the 30’s, and they (the songs) are mostly forgotten now. They want a return engagement this Sunday. I’m starting to practice at night. A few of them wanted to pay me and one said she was going to give me $750. I told her cash, check or money order.

*In high school (Lowell High, San Francisco, class of ’52), we had a quartet called “The Uncalled Four” and sang at rallies and parties. I had a Martin ukulele and one guy played the washtub bass. (One of our members was Bill Bixby, who went on to fame and fortune (The Incredible Hulk, My Favorite Martian, etc.)

The Invisibility of Old Guys

Grey hair has meant I can walk down the street virtually unnoticed. There’s none of the former sparring around with alpha males. I’m not considered a threat. And women? I saw an old friend recently, a guy who was a dashing figure in his earlier days; girls always noticed him. He said, “I walk down the street now and women don’t even see me.” When I’m in my reporter’s mode it’s great to go unnoticed. At times I wish I could be invisible, so I could observe “purely,” as it were, without my presence (and camera) altering the people I’m observing. Maybe by the time I’m 80 I’ll be totally invisible.

Back from Canada

I got back about 10 days ago from a trip shooting photos of carpenters and their work in and around Vancouver island, B. C. It takes me about this long to decompress, to get back into home mode. I’m pretty whacked out when I travel. On the road I operate at about 50% of my normal energy. A different bed every night, long periods driving. But at the same time I love it. Going down a road I’ve never been down before. It’s hunting, except with a camera instead of gun. I love the Pacific Northwest and the people up there. It was a great trip in terms of gathering material and hanging out with new-found sympático friends. The worst thing was not working out for a month. Hard on the body. When I get back and start running or paddling again, I get such a rush of energy and good-feeling. It’s a very real addiction,

Working Out

Bob Anderson, the author of Stretching, says “You never hear anyone say, ‘I’m sorry I worked out.'” Often I’m just too lazy or comfortable to get out and run or surf, but every single time I do I feel great. It never fails. If I make myself jump in a cold creek, I end up feeling incredible. Gotta do stuff like that more often. Talking to myself here.

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

3 Responses to Ain't She Sweet, The Invisibility of Old Guys, Back from Canada, Working Out

  1. HI LLOYD!
    THIS IS DLORAH CASTLES, KARLTON'S WIFE. JUST A NOTE TO LET YOU KNOW YOUR NOTES ENCOURAGED ME AND PUT TEARS IN MY EYES.

    WHEN WE VISITED GRANNIE VIRGINIA IT WAS SAD TO SEE THE LOSS OF MEMORY SHE WAS EXPERIENCING. HOWEVER, THE MEMORIES SHE DID REMEMBER SEEM TO KEEP HER GOING. ALTHOUGH I DID NOT KNOW HER IN HER YOUTH, I COULD SEE THE VIBRANT AND RADIANT MOTHER SHE MUST HAVE BEEN. VERY STRONG AND BOLD YET HONORING OF HER HUSBAND. SHE IS ONE I WILL TRULY SEEK TO VISIT WHEN I GO HOME TO HEAVEN. I ADMIRE HER FROM THE STORIES I HAVE ALREADY HEARD FROM HER AND ABOUT HER.

    I TOO HAVE A MOTHER WHO IS, OF COURSE, STRUGGLING WITH GETTING OLDER. SHE TELLS ME NOW SHE REALIZES HOW MUCH SHE SHOULD HAVE EXERCISED AND PAID MORE ATTENTION TO HER DIET. I HAVE LEARNED FROM HER AND FROM THE SCRIPTURE THAT LONG LIFE IS NOT TO BE TAKEN FOR GRANTED. WE NEED TO WORK FOR IT, PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY.

    NOW THAT I AM IN MY MID LIFE, I AM ENJOYING THE CHILDREN GOD HAS BLESSED ME WITH AND THEIR NEW LIVES AND GRANDSON. GOD IS GOOD. HE HAS BEEN THE FATHER TO MY FATHERLESS CHILDREN AND THE DEFENDER OF THIS WIDOW.PSALMS 68:5 WHEN MY FIRST HUSBAND PASSED AWAY. HE HAS BLESSED ME WITH A NEW HUSBAND IN KARLTON WHOM I LOVE AND REJOICE IN GOD'S GOODNESS DAILY BECAUSE OF HIM. I HOPE AND PRAY TO GROW OLD WITH HIM BUT EVEN IF I DIED TODAY, I KNOW WHERE I AM GOING AND THAT WE ARE A MIST THAT APEARS FOR A LITTLE WHILE AND THEN VANISHES.JAMES 4:14 HOWEVER; I AM A CHILD OF GOD…AN HEIR CO HEIR WITH CHRIST.ROMANS 8:17. AND KNOWING I WILL BE WITH MY FAMILY ETERNALLY BECAUSE THE ALL KNOW GOD AS THEIR PERSONAL LORD AND SAVIOR GIVES ME PEACE …PEACE LIKE A RIVER. GLORY TO GOD!
    THANK YOU FOR YOUR KINDNESS TO THESE LADIES WHO ALL THEY HAVE TO LOOK FORWARD TO IS THEIR MEMORIES AND HEAVEN… PRAISE THE LORD! AND GOD BLESS YOU LLOYD.

  2. Hello Lloyd:

    Thanks for the blog. I was looking for chords to "Ain't she Sweet" and I read your recent blog. I have been learning the uke, running and doing yoga. I went to Victoria, B.C. and loved the island.

    Jeff in SF Bay Area, CA

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