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View Full Version : My Oahu Uke Adventure - ukelog Part 2



bdukes
06-20-2011, 07:39 PM
Alrighty then, next day, here we are. Koaloha factory. We arrive at the factory around noon. Industrial warehousey part of town. We drive to the end of the road to a tight parking lot and I can see the logo so I think we're here. The door is locked, I knock. I peer through the fence. Can't see anybody. Do these guys not open until later too. Suddenly, the door opens and a gentleman introduces himself as Paul invites us in. I recognized him from some youtube vids so I was optimistic of our adventure. I asked if I was ok where I was parked and he said just make sure you lock your doors. We enter the lobby and sitting in a circle by the stage are several employees. They're playing music. I can see Papa and Brian. The others in group were Dennis, Keith and Dominic. Now at this point Papa introduces himself to me and my family and asks me where we're from, how old are the kids, where are we staying, etc. Then he asks us if we can keep a secret. Yep. So I can't talk about what happened during the next 10 minutes… so fast forward.

We're browsing around the lobby, ukuleles on the wall, the super tiny ukulele that got Papa into the business and just enjoying being there.

http://gallery.me.com/bill.dukes/100073/photo/web.jpg?ver=13086336010001

Paul shows us one of the Japan Earthquake relief ukuleles being built and then Papa says they recorded a benefit song and would we like to hear it? Heck yeah. Well the crew assembles near the stage, Papa with six string in hand belt out this moving tune, You Can Do It If You Try with verses in Japanese and English. I mean this as a compliment, these guys look like some of the toughest SOBs you'd ever want to meet, but they're harmonizing like the Beach Boys. It was incredible. I'm literally in tears at this point. I look at my wife and she's welling up. Papa asks me if those are tears and I say, yep. Well he starts to cry too and exclaims to everyone that this is why they do what they do. His brother Harold comes in and Papa brings him over to meet "Bill from Rhode Island and his family." Mrs. Okami (Mom) tells us that song is on the website and I could download it. Cool. Papa then says that we should get a disc. Now I'm pretty good with a computer and could easily download it, but he insists and runs upstairs to get one. He comes back down a few minutes later with a disc with a handwritten label: to Bill and family. Mom wants to hold my daughter, Ruby. Quick get a picture! Wow.

27479

Can it get any better? Yep. We get taken on a tour of the shop by Dom. He shows us everything and graciously answers all our questions. The smell in there is intoxicating. Mmmmm, koa. We meet the other workers and hear from them what stage in the process they're supporting and how they do it. We see prototypes. We learn about the D-brace and Dom stands on the uke to show its strength. Looks like a regular crowd-pleaser demonstration. Really cool stuff. Well the tour ends and I'm ready for the ukes. I go to the wall and start to look at what they had and at this point, I want one of each. I pick up a concert. Fantastic. Then a soprano. Very nice. I grab a Pineapple Sunday but it doesn't have strings and Brian tells us that one is not for sale. It's in for repair. My wife, God bless her, says "oh, that's what you wanted isn't it?" Now, I may have mentioned it would be cool to try one out. But she doesn't miss a thing. Brian then says "you know, there's one upstairs in the office. Hang on." He comes down a few minutes later, Pineapple Sunday in hand, puts a tag on it and hands it to me. It plays like a dream, definitely unique and has a nice bright sound. OK, I guess I'm getting a Pineapple Sunday. He says he'd like to set it up and for the next 15 minutes he's filing, measuring, plucking away. It's time to go. We settled up and Brian kept throwing in stuff. Strings, taro chips, these cool little tuning key charms. We'd been there the better part of 2.5 hours and the 10 month old is ready for a nap. So am I.

We get to back to the hotel and I'm ready to sit on the balcony and strum away. The next morning we were supposed to go to Kamaka but I didn't want to. How could it live up to yesterday's experience? We decide to save it for the next visit to Hawaii. The girls all wanted to hang on the beach so we went up to Pipeline for the day. I have neither the body or temperament for sitting on the beach.

So while they sun, I'll just drive down to Wahiawa and check out Hawaii Music Supply. I've enjoyed their videos and their selection seemed good and hopefully they'll have some Ko'olau's and Pono's to try out. Really enamored with that maple slot head Pono tenor. But remember, I was in Hawaii for Hawaiian-made ukuleles. You're just looking. Well thankfully they didn't have any in stock. Upon entering I'm greeted by Aaron. Hey I know that dude. At least it feels that way as I've learned some pretty cool stuff from his videos. Super nice guy. Takes me to the Kamaka concerts. I noodle around and then he asks if I ever played a Collings. Nope. Well today is your lucky day… just came in. Strung low G, it's in the back wood-paneled room so well known on youtube. It's a tenor model UT-1 Koa. No frills, light as air and OMG the sound. As a guitar player, what's seems lacking in many ukuleles is that feel-it-in-your-chest resonance that playing a nice 6 string acoustic guitar has. This had it. The sound and feeling really spoke to me as a guitarist. Low G probably helped but man, me likey. What follows is the emotional, maybe irrational, UAS induced conversation with myself I had in the back room.

Me:But these are made in Austin, TX… that's not Hawaii, so no, you can't buy.
Me:But it's koa and koa is Hawaiian.
Me:Touche'.
Me:But this has got to cost a mint for that sound.
Me:Well let's find out.

I asked Aaron what the price was and he said he didn't know. It just came in. He asked John out front and he didn't know. They get on the phone. I overhear Aaron's side only, "that seems cheap. Are you sure?" He comes back and I'm expecting something north of $2 grand but he says he checked and it's going for $1300 with case. Now I'm not really in the market for another uke (remember I just picked up a Pineapple Sunday) but I'm thinking there has got to be a mistake. I ask over and over again, are you sure? Because I'm walking out of here with this thing and not looking back. It sounded that good. I plunk down the plastic. He gets the case out of the back and even the case is a work of art. It is so well fitted to that ukulele. Absolute perfect. I think I'm about to pull off what is akin to the uke version of the Sting. (OK, now I've given up my age. The Sting was a big movie when I was a kid.) So I get in the car and pull out my iPhone and look it up. It was priced correctly, Elderly had it at $1305. I still feel it was worth every penny if not more.

http://gallery.me.com/bill.dukes/100073/photo-201/web.jpg?ver=13086295120001

So let's recap so far. Two ukes and assorted accoutrements totaling nearly $3K. I had budgeted roughly $700. Oh well, I've done worse, but the trip is not over yet.

We spend the remaining trip enjoying Oahu. Drive up to Diamond Head. Romantic dinner with wife at Michele's. (I knew taking the baby sitter would pay off.) Rainbow Drive-in. Pearl Harbor. Luau at Paradise Cove. Duke's Barefoot Bar. Morimoto's. Breakfast buffet at Moana Surfrider (highly recommended, sit outside). Swim with dolphins. Wandering the shops of Waikiki. Nico's at Pier 38. And just hanging out on the beach with my family.

Our last day in Oahu was spent with the usual amount of stress, sadness and healthy anticipation of sleeping in your own bed. We missed our dogs too. I will say that I've noticed over the years that there is not a whole lot of aloha going on at the departure terminals. When you arrive it's all leis and cocktails. When leaving, it's tough to find help. Gotta go through Agriculture check first, then TSA big bag drop off, then security. Oh well, travel is tough no matter where you are these days. So anyway, I drop off the family and I still need to gas up and return the rental car. Not a whole lot of time to spare. I'm not sure where Thrifty is and where the nearest gas station is so my stress level is rapidly increasing. It takes a while, but I manage to get back to the airport and hop in line at security. Thankfully it's slow and I'm the only one in line. I place my two new ukuleles on the belt and a guy behind me asks, "what did you get?" I turn and get ready to answer when the TSA Lady says, "Hey Jake, where you headed?" C'mon, really? Right behind me is none other than Jake. The Jake. I'm not prepared. I tell him my wife and I are coming to see him in Fall River, MA in July. Big fan. Whole deal. And he still asks me about the ukes. Wow, what a genuinely nice guy. By this point the TSA folks are snapping off pics and asking us to pose together. Weird. One lady asked me how long I've known Jake. Ummm, about 40 seconds. Ok, so I'm running through all the things that had to happen for our two paths to cross. Unreal. I text my wife the "you'll never believe who I ran into" pic. I catch up with the family and Grace, the ten year-old, asks if he's like my Taylor Swift. Yes, he's my Taylor Swift.

http://gallery.me.com/bill.dukes/100073/jake-and-teen/web.jpg?ver=13065077830001

So we made back safely and I'm sitting in my man cave surrounded by my ukes, guitars, cameras and computers, still riding the high from our trip to Hawaii and the unbelievable ukulele hunt memories.

Time to start start planning next year's vacation...

TheOnlyUkeThatMatters
06-20-2011, 08:04 PM
A. Maze. Ing.

Wow, thanks for sharing your incredible journey.

Enjoy those ukes for years and years!!!

mudflap
06-20-2011, 08:58 PM
Very inspiring story. My extended family is thinking about a trip to HI in Nov. Plus my sister is thinking of moving back to HI. I'm definitely going to start weighing in because of this story.

aido
06-20-2011, 09:14 PM
"Days we'll remember the rest of our lives."

GKK
06-20-2011, 09:27 PM
Awesome story!

Did you have Jake sign your new Ukes?...

Thanks, for sharing!

wickedwahine11
06-21-2011, 04:39 AM
Great story, thanks for telling it - complete with photos. Congratulations on the new ukuleles and on meeting Jake. :)

molokinirum
06-21-2011, 04:48 AM
My friend...you hit a grand slam!!! Two awesome ukes and meet Jake, in person!!!! WOW!!!!!
Thanks for telling us and including the pictures as well!!!

Uncle Rod Higuchi
06-21-2011, 05:20 AM
What a wonderful story to open the day with!

thank you so much for just the right amount of details and, of course,
the fortuitous concourse of events!

Again, Amazing! Wow!

Unfortunately, you set the bar way too high for anyone following in your
footsteps to ever retrace! I'm happy all of this happened to you...
and no sunburn too!

Enjoy it all and keep uke'in',

ItsAMeCasey
06-21-2011, 05:32 AM
Wow, that's what you call really making the most out of your trip to Hawaii! Sounds like you had an awesome time :D So trippy that you just turn around and it's like "WHOA, JAKE S?" must of been awesome.

RyanMFT
06-21-2011, 05:44 AM
Oh Man what a great story! Clearly you and Jake are very close now! :D
Thanks for sharing all this and congrats on the amazing new ukes!

hapuna
06-21-2011, 05:46 AM
Surely you broke out the ukes and had Jake take them for a ride right! I was at a mall in Hawaii Kai where Jake was doing some promotion before he was
"THE MAN" and they were giving away a fairly lowend ukulele. Jake played the crap out of it then signed it for the winner. It was great. Just done in a breezeway between a couple of buildings in the mall!

hopkid
06-21-2011, 06:06 AM
Wow! And I was already amazed after reading Part 1! Awesome, no EPIC trip! Thanks for taking the time to retell it so well. I seriously had chills up my spine at the end.

bdukes
06-21-2011, 07:04 AM
Awesome story!

Did you have Jake sign your new Ukes?...


No, I was totally caught off guard. Besides, I kind have this OCD thing about artists signing ukes they don't play... I mean Jake should only sign a Kamaka. :) Now if I had my HF-3 with me...




Unfortunately, you set the bar way too high for anyone following in your
footsteps to ever retrace! I'm happy all of this happened to you...
and no sunburn too!


Silly luck. And you can't burn what you can't see. I consider me staying off the beach a public service.


My friend...you hit a grand slam!!! Two awesome ukes and meet Jake, in person!!!! WOW!!!!!


Again, quite a string of luck. Soon as we landed I bought Powerball tix hoping the streak might continue. Nope.


Oh Man what a great story! Clearly you and Jake are very close now! :D
Thanks for sharing all this and congrats on the amazing new ukes!

BFFs. My wedding invite must've got lost in the mail. :D

bdukes
06-21-2011, 07:16 AM
Surely you broke out the ukes and had Jake take them for a ride right! I was at a mall in Hawaii Kai where Jake was doing some promotion before he was
"THE MAN" and they were giving away a fairly lowend ukulele. Jake played the crap out of it then signed it for the winner. It was great. Just done in a breezeway between a couple of buildings in the mall!

I wish. Like I said, totally caught off guard. I did get him to sign my boarding pass... it was all I could think of. And I only had a red pen to boot.

http://gallery.me.com/bill.dukes/100073/Jake-20sig/web.jpg?ver=13086764540001

Note to self: Put a sharpie in each ukulele case.

misterpk
06-21-2011, 07:54 AM
What a trip! You'll be telling this story for quite a while! Congrats on the 2 awesome uke purchases!

Rzr
06-21-2011, 08:03 AM
Amazing! Thank you so much for sharing. Great story!

Trinimon
01-23-2012, 10:55 AM
Holy! What a trip! Sounds a lot more exciting than my visits! Heck I came back with jetlag and a $69. Kala uke! hahaha!
Congrats on the two ukes! This scares me because I know I'll be picking up my custom Kamaka on my trip but will be dropping by KoAloha as well for a tour and I'm afraid I walk out with a tenor or concert. Well if they happen to have a KoAloha concert with ebony fretboard and headstock, I'll HAVE to buy it. lol

Kauai808
01-23-2012, 11:18 AM
trip of a lifetime. hawaii will do that to you every now and then

AKuker
01-23-2012, 01:16 PM
Well, the second episode was certainly worth the short wait. What a great trip. The folks at KoAlhoa seem to be top notch. And Jake, too.Thanks for sharing the story.

myrnaukelele
01-23-2012, 02:48 PM
Great stories!! And beautiful ukes- what memories. And meeting Jake- such a coincidence! Serendipity.
A couple years ago my hubby and I were on Oahu- just walking along when I heard the most amazing ukulele sounds coming from the hotel across the street. And it's Taimane! I love Taimane! We ran across the street and headed up the stairs as fast as we could go. Never expected to run into Taimane doing a show on our only night in Waikiki.

Plainsong
01-23-2012, 04:02 PM
Pics or gtfo..l oh wait, there he is. :)

What a story, getting all that goodness AND sharing an adventure in UAS with Jake!

UkueBass23
01-24-2012, 09:22 AM
Wait...am I the only one who now HAS to know what happened during the ten minutes you couldn't talk about at KoAloha? Is this going to be like the Nixon tapes? Will we find out at some point???? Something new???
You're KILLING me here.

Otherwise a fantastic journal of the trip. Congrats on the new ukes and meeting up with Jake! A sign perhaps? Having met him after a show, he is awesome to be around.

PM ME, I can keep a secret too!

gokidd
01-24-2012, 10:19 AM
Excellent adventure, told well.
But I am curious -- in your sig, it says:

"Previous Relationships: Collings UT1-Koa, Koaloha Pineapple Sunday, Pono MHT-SH Tenor"

You already finished with the two you just got in Hawaii?

bdukes
01-24-2012, 11:04 AM
Excellent adventure, told well.
But I am curious -- in your sig, it says:

"Previous Relationships: Collings UT1-Koa, Koaloha Pineapple Sunday, Pono MHT-SH Tenor"

You already finished with the two you just got in Hawaii?

Thanks and nice detective work. :)

Actually, this thread was resurrected recently. My trip was back in May of last year and original posting in June. But yes, I no longer have those ukes. Long story short... about a week after we returned I was laid off from my job. Given my career stage and current state of the economy, I knew it would be more than likely a longer job search than normal. In the end, I thought it best to liquidate and be prepared for the long haul. These ukes were the first to go. Both are incredible instruments, but I don't regret anything as I still have the awesome memories. I also ended up selling my prized Kamaka Tenor which was indeed very tough. Thankfully, I was able to re-acquire it from a fellow UU member. That uke I did regret selling... and I'm grateful to have it back. I've thanked her publicly before so why not again... thanks to Doreen (Guitharsis) who I've gotten to know better through the forum. As do many others here, she has epitomized the aloha spirit and what this community about. I do intend on finding another Koaloha, probably a concert, because I have so much respect for the Okami family. Plus they do make a killer uke.

Anyway, happy endings all around. I am once again gainfully employed in an industry I've always loved. And we're planning our next trip to HI as we speak. I can't fathom the kind of experiences I'll have given the bar was raised pretty high on the uke-front already, but I'm definitely ready for more.

gokidd
01-24-2012, 12:02 PM
MOST excellent, Bill.
Your decisions do you credit as a father and husband.
Best wishes,
Bob