It was musical. It was magical. It was, for many of us in the audience, a cheap ticket to the islands. Slack key guitar master Keola Beamer and his talented, artistic wife Moanalani, transformed a cold Crescent City night into a welcoming tropical escape.
Keola Beamer performed Friday in Crescent City. Del Norte Triplicate / Michele Postal
Some fans wore aloha shirts under their parkas and heavy jackets. A couple of women in the front row came with flowers in their hair. For the occasion I chose a sleeveless Hawaiian print dress layered with a sweater and wool coat, and around my neck the rainbow-colored ribbon lei my friend Pat made for me when I visited her in Honolulu a couple of years ago.
I eavesdropped to pass the time while we waited for the concert to begin and overheard folks talking about their personal experiences of Hawaii. A woman sitting behind us lived there as a child; a couple across the aisle gushed about their recent — and first — trip there. Others recalled how many times they’ve been, and inevitably had to choose what island they liked the best. Everyone had their favorite and their own reason why.
The women in the front row wearing flowers in their hair must have a deep connection to the islands because they knew all the Hawaiian lyrics to a song the Beamers encouraged everyone to sing along on. Most of us just faked it, but with huge smiles as we swayed side to side holding hands. Yes, the people in the audience — friends and strangers alike — held hands. That is aloha. That is the Hawaiian way.
On a cold January night, music fans were ready for some Hawaiian. Del Norte Triplicate / Michele Postal
I get a little sentimental when I hear Hawaiian music. I landed in Honolulu the first time on a January evening exactly 39 years ago. I didn’t know a soul there, but had made arrangements to move in with some University of Hawaii students who needed a roommate. My mother, in her infinite wisdom, insisted I make reservations at a Waikiki hotel for my first night, worried that I might arrive late and not find my new digs in the dark.
Eighteen months after I graduated from USF with a degree in English, I decided to start graduate school. I chose Hawaii because I was interested in learning more about Japanese culture and language in hopes of eventually teaching English in Japan. And, to be honest, after five years in San Francisco, I wanted a change of climate.
My modest motel on the west end of Waikiki was next door to a busy restaurant and bar called Pieces of Eight. They had live music and all-you-can-eat fish ’n’ chips for $2.99. I had my first meal in Hawaii there and my first taste of local music.