Over the Rainbow
One time in the South Pacific – a long time ago, in a land far away – an older gentleman stood in the center of a baggage carousel playing the ukulele – my favorite instrument. Songs like “What a Wonderful World” and “Over the Rainbow” lazily spilled from his lips as he tenderly added the island twist made famous by Israel Kamikawiwo’ole. It was delightful and I felt like I had, indeed, crossed over the rainbow.
I found an empty airport bench, out of the rain that gently fell, stacked my luggage about me and nestled in, hoping for a nap. But the sun continued to rise, the rain ceased and jungle-covered mountains towered in the distance. I was over the rainbow. There was no doubt in my mind, that I was standing at the front door of paradise. I turned away from the mountains for a bit and saw the same elderly gentleman who had so idyllically serenaded us schlep his way from the airport, ukulele case in hand, lei and straw hat gone.
The Fourth Wall Came Down
I have to say, I was disappointed. I sadly felt like I had accidentally seen backstage at Disneyland. The magic was gone and, now, only a show stood in its place. He slid into the front seat of his beat-up car and drove away, on the wrong side of the road, I might add – the left, as did everyone else. I tried to shrug it off and forget that I had been cheated, that it wasn’t real. No one played and sang island songs all day, not even in paradise.
And it Went Right Back Up
Later that same week, while skimming through a small local newspaper, I stumbled upon an article about the airport crooner. For thirty-five years, he had been coming to the airport and playing his sweet island-infused music for visitors as they arrived. And his efforts were completely voluntary, neither the airlines nor the airport compensated him. The article stated that he had never missed an arrival or a departure.
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His Life’s Work
Work that he gladly volunteered because he loved his island and wanted to wave the musical torch. My previous feelings instantly melted away. I felt ashamed. It wasn’t a show, it was a love. How could I feel badly about that? How could I question it or compare it to a Mickey Mouse costume strolling through Carnation Gardens?
An Encore to Appreciate
As we waited in the same airport two weeks later for a plane to arrive and take us home, a sweet island-inspired version of “Leaving on a Jet Plane” crept through the airport like a light and misty fog. I turned to where it was coming from and there he stood, sending us on our way with songs that would make Tony Orlando and Dawn, as well as John Denver, smile from ear to ear and remember a yellow ribbon on an old oak tree. And as we all smiled and listened intently, I realized that sometimes, a life’s passion doesn’t have to be as crazy as flying around the world, it can be as down-to-earth as four simple strings.
by Rayanne Thorn