Unshelved comic strip for 12/20/2012

A Christmas Mir-uke-le

Okay, this doesn't really have to do with Christmas, per se, but same idea.

As I've occasionally blogged (here, here, and here), I've been learning to play music by way of the humble ukulele. For years I've been satisfied with my little red Flea, but like most musicians I'm always looking for my next instrument.

This summer I spent a little too much time on eBay looking at tenor ukuleles, and I ended up falling in love with a Big Island Honu Deluxe. Make no mistake, even discounted on the Internet, this is more ukulele than a cartoonist's salary allows. So, as with many other love affairs in my life, I was left broken-hearted. I tweeted a sad goodbye, and prepared to move on. A week passed, then two.

Then something amazing happened.


A package arrived at the door. When you review books this happens several times a day. But this was no box of books - it was long, narrow, and light, and addressed to me personally. I couldn't have been more surprised to discover what you've probably already guessed - it was the very ukulele I had admired. And with it, a short printed note from an anonymous fan, telling me they had enjoyed my work for many years for free, and this was their way of helping pay back.

I was floored. I called my wife, and Gene, and a few other likely candidates, to see if this was their work, but they all denied it, and I believed them - it wasn't really their style. This really was a gift in the purest sense, given without expectation of return or even acknowledgement. So I tweeted a simple thank-you, and since then I've been practicing like crazy. This thing sounds even better than it looks, and I love making music on it.

Five years ago I quit my day job to pursue a career in cartooning. I won't lie - it's an extremely challenging way to making a living, and my family has made all sorts of sacrifices to let me have the world's best job. But thanks to one unusually big-hearted fan, I get to enjoy a bit of luxury that would otherwise be unthinkable.

Happy Holidays, everyone.

This Unshelved strip

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