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A Lei Hali`a 
(A Lei of Fond Remembrances) 
 
July 27, 2003:  The Association in Concert
Big Bear Discovery Center Gala
Fawnskin/Big Bear Lake, California

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My dearest, DH,

Big Bear Lake, quiet and far from the madding crowds, is where we live most weekends. We seek out its profound quiet to relax, rejuvenate and recover from the rigors of LA living. 

Last night was the exception.

On the eve of our 29th wedding anniversary, music from the 1960s shattered the tranquillity of the mountains and we rocked the night away in the middle of a pine forest under a canopy of stars.

The Association -- that talented rock group with those blissful multi-part harmonies that toppled the Beatles off the charts in the 1960s -- were here to perform at the biggest summer event up at the lake, the annual Big Bear Discovery Center Gala.  

A few weekends ago, our Big Bear Lake neighbor Pat reminded us to hurry up and get our tickets as it was expected to sell out. (It did)  Pat's singing of a few bars of the heart-melting song, "Cherish," was enough to trigger a cascade of nostalgic memories. Before you could say 'Never My Love,'  we decided to join Pat and her husband Bernie and our neighbors down the road, Beth and Reg, for an evening with The Association. 

>> Click here for The Vocal Group Hall of Fame & Museum site with an audio clip of the sweet harmonies of "Cherish." This will load in a new window.  If you are not DSL-connected, it may take a while to load in. Hang in. In the meantime, reacquaint yourself with its lyrics:  

"Cherish is the word that I use to describe / All the feeling that I have hiding here for you inside / You don't know how many times I've wished that I had told you / You don't know how many times I've wished that I could hold you / You don't know how many times that I've wished I could mold you / into someone who could cherish me as much as I cherish you..."

Only a handful of keiki o ka `ina (meaning 'children of the land' or less poetically, those born in Hawai`i) can lay claim to albums that have sold multi-millions.  Bette Midler and Yvonne Elliman (Jesus Christ Superstar) come to mind. Include Larry Ramos on that short list. He is from the island of Kaua`i, then lived on O`ahu until age 12, moved to the mainland, and became one of the original members of The Association, a group that has sold 30 million records and earned six gold albums and one platinum.

"As of the new millenium, three of the 100 most played tunes of all time on the radio are The Association's "Never My Love" (#2) with 8 million+;  "Cherish" (#22) with 3 million+; and "Windy" (#61) with 4 million+."

>> Click here for The Association's site with "Never My Love" sung in Hawaiian -- YES!

>> Another clip from  Never My Love ~ 'A'ole La E Ku'ulei from Larry's solo CD can be found here

 

 

Yesterday, while still "down the hill" in Suburbia and listening to the Aloha Joe Internet Radio Show as we do most Saturday mornings, I did a Google search to catch up on Larry's life since we last saw him when he performed at the Pagoda Hotel in Honolulu back in the 1970s. 

I landed on a Honolulu Star-Bulletin article about Larry. He married an Idaho girl 39 years ago, and the rolling prairie of Idaho has been home for Larry and his family. Next to Las Vegas, I think you couldn't pick a place more different than his homeland. In that archived newspaper interview, Larry mentioned how he missed Hawai`i every single day.  Having just returned from Maui earlier in the week, I could feel my heartstrings being tugged.

Was there a way that we could bring a little bit of Hawai`i to Larry? 

I asked you if there were enough blossoms on our little plumeria tree to make a lei. You thought so and promptly proceeded to pick the flowers off the tree. Flowers bagged and lei needle packed, we took off to the mountains.  

 

 

An hour before it was time to head to the gala, I plopped down on the living room floor to string the fragrant blossoms into a lei. You helped me by selecting the choicest blossoms. It turned out to be a lei of fond remembrances, a lei hali`a.  As each blossom was added, precious memories were revived, relived and enlivened.

 

We remembered my high school friend, Gayle, who went through a painful time in 1966.  Her parents were divorcing, and the love ballad "Cherish" about unrequited love held personal significance for her.  Too bad all the times she played it didn't count toward the record for most radio play. "Cherish" would have easily secured the #1 spot for all time.  Gayle invented the concept of "Auto-Repeat."  

We remembered the song "Windy" that lifted spirits with its breezy optimism. 

"Who's peeking out from under the stairway / Calling a name that's lighter than air / Who's bending down to give me a rainbow / Everyone know's it's Windy / Who's tripping down the streets of the city / Smiling at everybody she sees / Who's reaching out to capture a moment / Everyone knows it's Windy / And Windy has stormy eyes / That flash at the sound of lies / And Windy has wings to fly / Above the clouds..."

We remembered "Never My Love" and the bittersweet poignancy of young love, passion's urgencies and an innocence that did not know that "forever" had an end. 

"You ask me if there'll come a time / When I grow tired of you / Never my love / Never my love / You wonder if this heart of mine / Will lose its desire for you / Never my love / Never my love / What makes you think love will end / When you know my whole life depends on you / You say you fear I'll change my mind / I won't require you / Never my love / Never my love / How can you think love will end / When I've asked you to spend your whole life with me / Never my love / Never my love..."

And then there was the uptempo classic "Along Comes Mary," "Everything That Touches You," and your favorite, "Time for Livin'." Funny, how songs and scents allow for effortless time travel, for in those moments, we was there in Hawai`i reliving those beautiful, carefree days of our youth.

The lush tropical fragrance of the plumeria mingled with the refreshing, vanilla-tinged pine scents, fueling our anticipation. Larry would soon be experiencing a most familiar and nostalgic Hawaiian scent in a place he'd least expect to do so -- an alpine forest in Southern California!  

Sprinkled with water and cushioned in plastic wrap, the lei was carefully tucked, out of sight, into my bag.

 

 

Once we got to the Discovery Center, it was apparent that this was going to be a very fun evening.  People were into the spirit. 

The decor was vintage 1960s. 

The flower children.

 Headbands and peace signs.  

Flower power. 

 

 Leather fringe and embroidered jeans.

 

"These boots were made for walking..." 

 

We staked out a 60's-themed, gaily decorated table, then browsed the rows and rows of impressive silent auction items, all donated by the kind and generous folks of the area to raise funds for the center.  

The center is nonprofit and dependent on donations, grants and fundraising. The community support for this center is overwhelming.  The list of individuals, volunteers, donors and sponsors was awesome and this was the largest gala ever.  The thousands of hours of dedicated hard work by gala committee members and volunteers were evident everywhere.  It was exquisitely well-organized!

The purpose of the center is noble:  to connect people and the forest.  I'm looking forward to retirement and becoming a volunteer "to help preserve our precious forest for generations to come."

Now this is a fascinating factette:

The Discovery Center has more visitors per year than Yellowstone and Yosemite combined! 


How sweetly these "oh-so-in-love" bears gaze into each other's eyes.

They remind me of us.

If money were no object, I would have bought every raffle ticket and this pair of lovey bears by Tom Biethan would have surely come home with us to commemorate our 29th wedding anniversary:


As a foodie, I was busy admiring the beautifully presented hors d'oeuvres, stuffing my face, sipping the complimentary wines, and snapping pictures of stuffed olive puffs, marinated mushrooms, smoked salmon and cream cheese canaps, Swedish meatballs, stuffed celery sticks, grilled sausages, bruschetta topped with caramelized onions and more, generously provided by the members of A Big Bear Bed & Breakfast Experience. 

These folks know how to make `ono pp (delicious appetizers)!

 

Meanwhile, you were 'talking story' (chatting it up) with a Hawai`i-looking fellow.  We "brownies" from Hawai`i have this built-in radar for each other.  

Del Ramos, Garlena and Linsey Leilani

Turns out he was Del Ramos, Larry's younger brother with his lovely wife Garlena and their adorable daughter, Linsey, who shares my Hawaiian name, Leilani. Del is a sweetheart with a warm personality; we learned that he too is now a member of the band, singing baritone and bass and playing bass. 

Living in California, Del is closer to Hawai`i than Larry.  Del married a California girl. They live not far from us down the hill, and Del's and Larry's sister once lived in our city. We talked about the Hawaiian restaurants in our area. If there's one common love that Hawai`i people share and love critiquing, it is island food.  Nothing like it!

Del invited us to join them in a luxurious fifth-wheel trailer.  

There, we spent time with Del and his family, his brother Larry and fellow band member Bob Werner, rhythm guitarist and vocalist. Russ Giguere, the other original member of the band, stopped by. 

They were a congenial bunch of guys, and I did not detect even the teensiest bit of ennui.  There was none of  that "been there, done that" insouciance. 

We recalled the last time we saw Larry and Russ in concert at Honolulu's Pagoda Hotel, known for its spectacular koi ponds. Larry shared a poignant story of that time.  

He saw a woman along in years, leaning against the railing and enjoying the colorful koi. Engaging her in conversation, he learned that she was Dorothy Lamour, the sarong-draped actress of our parents' generation. In the sunset of her life, she had come to see and listen to The Association.

Russ Giguere &  Bob Werner


 

  

Larry, in the movies with Rita Moreno, 
an erstwhile Big Bear Lake resident

What a life Larry Ramos has crammed into his 60 years:     

Musical talent is encoded in the family genes; their mother sang and their father was a `ukulele player. Like Herb 'Ohta-San' Ohta, Larry's show business career began when he was a wee one. 

At age 5 in 1947, he accompanied his sister's singing of the song "Jealousy" with his `ukulele and sang harmony.  They won the KGMB Amateur Hour radio show competition. His burgeoning talent was a shock to his father who had taught him the basics.  

How did his little boy learn to play those licks or sing those harmonies? 

 As Larry explains it, "I have an ear for music." 

At age 7, he was in the 1950 movie "Pagan Love Song" with Esther Williams and Rita Moreno (this was her first movie role). 

That year, after Larry won top honors at a statewide `ukulele contest, Arthur Godfrey whisked the young lad off to New York to appear on his national TV and radio shows. Other Godfrey discoveries include Pat Boone, Steve Lawrence, Roy Clark and Patsy Cline. (Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley flunked his auditions)

Larry then won the role of the oldest son in the Broadway play, "The King and I" with Yul Brynner...  

Between 1962-1966, he was with The New Christy Minstrels, who were regulars on the "The Andy Williams Show"...  

A wife, Helene, and twin girls, Tracy and Stacy, were added to his life's mix... 

Then he became one of the original members of The Association in 1967... In the 1970s, with Russ, he bought the rights to the group's name. He continues to tour extensively.   

Larry playing his `ukulele on the set of the movie, Pagan Love Song  

        But it was not his career that Larry dwelled on as we caught up on his life.  

Drooling, we talked about picking and devouring sweet lychee, luscious mountain apples, and tasty apple bananas of Hawai`i. We lamented how this fresh bounty -- even calamungai -- is denied us here on the mainland. 

We reminisced about the bon dances in Koloa. Remember how we overnighted in the canefield after going to one on our honeymoon, 29 years ago?

Larry still has the rhythm of the taiko drum and the moves in his head! 

Tun, tun, tun ta tun tun.

 

We reminisced about our 'hanabata'  (childhood) days growing up in innocent, unspoiled Hawai`i and found ourselves lapsing into pidgin English, our first language. 

It's a bonding thing, identifying us as Hawai`i-born and -raised and bringing us back to our roots.  Derived from the original language of the island, Hawaiian, pidgin's intonation and sentence structure are unique, difficult to acquire and impossible to fake. And so we revive it with one another -- even if our kids may think speaking it makes us sound like a bunch of ignorant Hawaiian hayseeds!  

No worry, keeds. `A`ole pilikia. 
Leeving all dese years Mainlan', 
we can talk regulah English wen we laik. 
We only talk 'da kine' wen us locals get togeddah... 
oh eef we laik embahrass da  h*** outta you ... nah, on'y joke.

We caught up with family. His mom is now 83 and thank goodness, recovering successfully from hip surgery. These days, Larry makes it a priority to get home more often to be with them. His folks have returned to live in Kapa`a, Kaua`i after years of California living. Time waits for no man...

 

 

Larry excused himself momentarily, returning with a binder of his favorite photographs. He flipped through the pages with us, sharing bits and pieces of his life. It serves as his lei hali`a

Larry with his car drawings

Larry with one of his early toy boats
Say Toy Boat -- Fast -- Three Times In A Row

As Larry shared his passions -- cars, designing cars, and toy boats --  with us, his eyes lit up with enthusiasm.  

He talked about his place in Idaho with its serpentine road that wends its way to his house -- a car driver's dream with tight turns. He glowed, exuding an endearing boyishness that was a delight to witness.  

He gazed fondly at the black Corvette of his early Association days ... his modified Volkswagen car designs... his van...  

He spoke nostalgically about the `57 Thunderbird that he bought for his father.  In Hawai`i, most residents park their cars in open carports; Larry's father built an enclosed garage -- special -- to protect his T-bird from Kaua`i's salt spray. 

His father is now 88 and no longer drives, but that T-Bird remains his pride and joy.  It is his heart's delight.  

Knowing that our friends must have been wondering if we had been sucked into a black hole, we excused ourselves. But before we took our leave, I remembered to reach into my bag and pull out the lei, still fresh and chilled. 

Larry's eyes brightened, registering surprise, as  I presented it to him, Hawaiian style. Knowing the fragility of the blooms as only a local would, he gently held it up to his nose and breathed in the fragrance that we grew up with in Hawai`i.  I would like to think for those moments his spirit made a quick trip home, just long enough to be infused with Aloha.   

 

 

We returned to our table just in time for a delicious dinner.  We apologized profusely to our friends for being waylaid in a very unexpected -- but very nice -- way.  They understood.  These are our understanding friends:  

Bernie & Pat

Reg & Beth

Huell Howser, 
host of the California Gold TV show

As we stood in the buffet line, another highlight of the evening appeared right before our very eyes.

It was the guest of honor: Huell Howser!   We are big Huell fans. We've watched him enough times that we can even affect his drawl.  And we're from Hawai`i!

Thanks to Huell, his informative California travelogues and off-the-beaten-track adventures, we've discovered the best treasures of our adopted state, including the fascinating Integratron in Landers, not far from Big Bear, that I wrote about here.

And because of Huell's visit to Sylvia Wood's Harp Center, I've been known to pluck a few strings on a harp. Promise me that you will teach me to play "Kawaipunahele" on it.  How about "Cherish"?

Most recently, Huell produced an hour-long program on Big Bear for his California Gold series; unfortunately we were on Maui when it was broadcasted. Let's be sure to order a copy of it. If it's by Huell, it is primo.

Brawny yet with a sweet charm and gentleness, he is a most attractive man on TV, and even more so in real life, especially in an Aloha shirt.  

Best of all, he's a hugger of the first order.

The clouds above intermittently dropped huge raindrops -- including a few that plopped right into our wine glasses.  
 

 

The folks took it all in stride.  Some were downright creative in fashioning rain covers. Thank goodness, these were just passing sprinkles; in Hawai`i, we consider them blessings. 

 

I personally hope that it was an omen of more rains to come.  Our trees need a long tall drink.  

Pray for rain.

The fine folks at Stillwell's Restaurant and the Northwoods Resort and Conference Center were in charge of dinner.  There was no shortage of food. They would have piled it higher if I let them.  And the best part of it was the friendliness of  the serving crew.  Everyone was up and enjoying themselves.  A class operation. And, yes, the food was simply delicious!  What diet?

Nothing like a warm smile.

Dinner was excellent.

Our compliments to the chef!

The live auction at sunset was lively, spirited and lots of fun.  We experienced the thrill of raising our auction paddles a few times, thanks to Pat's business acumen and quick calculations.  All totaled, the live action alone netted a whopping $39,000 for the center. Thank you to all the donors of the auction items.  

We were awed and touched by the generosity of the donors and the bidders.  

 Mark Larson and Larry Marino did a fantastic job as gala hosts.  
 
KRLA 870AM (LA) & KRLH 590AM (SB):- 6-9 am, weekdays
Aka: Co-deputy Mayors of Fawnskin and Grand Marshalls of the Doo Dah Parade, 2003

"Intriguing, smart, thoughtful, hilariously creative and entertaining..."  Were they all that?
Yes, they were ALL THAT and more. 

Again, if money were no object, this Roy Hamari wood sculpture would have made its way home with me, teddy bear lover that I am. I've enjoyed this particular creation that welcomed folks into the model home at Hamari Log Homes. This is the only one that Roy ever produced that was finished with color.   

And now Roy is retiring from the carving business. Darn!

It went off the block for $4100 and no doubt will bring years of sweet dreams to its new owner. Just look at the those red pajamas and precious bunny rabbit slippers.  

I'll be content to admire this picture of it. Roy's bears have the sweetest expressions on their faces, and these are no exceptions. I'm grateful that this picture of the bears will be here for us to remember and enjoy.  

I have no complaints. I have you and our dogs, and you three are the best live "teddy bears" ever. You are priceless. And money is no object.

The most touching was the bidding for this sweet labrador retriever-Springer spaniel mix.  

This darling, sweet dispositioned pooch was the one you saw over at the VCA Animal Hospital & Pet Store the other day when you went to pick up dog food for our dog-kids.

He was donated by Drs. Hovick and Sevedge and they are providing one year of free medical care, including neutering, shots, fecal exam and de-worming, if necessary and any other medical treatment during the year. 

His value including the vet services was listed at $750. If he's anything like our kolohe  (naughty) two, especially our all-guts-no-brains, thinks-she's-an-indestructible-rubber-tank `Oli, this deal is a steal!

Again, if money were no object, I would have brought this one home, too!

Up on the block!

SOLD to the highest bidder!
(He went for over $750!)

Love at First Bite Sight!

Shared joy.

And then The Association's concert, "Re-Discovering the 60s" began in earnest.  

There was Larry Ramos (tenor, lead guitar) with our fresh plumeria lei, front and center with Russ Giguere (baritone, percussion), the original members. There were Jordan Cole (tenor-bass, keyboards), Bruce Pictor (baritone, drums), Del Ramos (baritone, bass and plays bass),  Bob Werner (baritone, rhythm and lead guitar) and (?), guitarist from Orange County. 

Their sound was as fresh as ever; their precision harmonies, tight and smooth.  They wove a lei hali`a of songs around each member of the audience. 

As we danced with abandon under the stars to the beat of those oh, so familiar tunes, we were taken back to our teen years. Our memories of that time were refreshed, and we revisited our homeland.  For us, our experience of The Association, their songs and the happiness and joy that they conveyed happened in Hawai`i.  

All around me were faces aglow.  We were not alone in taking our sentimental journeys. As hearts, minds and spirits sped back to the 1960s, people were criss-crossing all across the map, recalling another time, another place. 

The Association
July, 2003
Big Bear Lake, CA

Whenever possible, I make it a point to get up front and close. It's all in the eyes. 

Show business with its fame-seekers, power brokers, and its constant scrambling for the top can be a rough and tumble business, capable of dehumanizing and making people less than their full glory. 

We've all seen burnt out musicians who mechanically go through the motions of yet another gig. My heart aches for them. They're the ones with the glazed eyes that no longer reach out to touch their audience. Disconnected and having lost their way, they also lose sight of their audience.

And then there was those with eyes that keep reaching out, continually making contact with souls: Israel Kamakawiwo`ole, John Denver, Keali`i Reichel, The Mkaha Sons, The Brothers Cazimero, Kenny Rankin, and The Association's Larry and Del Ramos, Russ Giguere, Bob Werner, Bruce Pictor, and Jordan Cole.  Wanting to please their audience, even after years of entertaining, they reach deep within and keep coming up with the best of themselves. 

They sing from the heart -- or as we say in Hawai`i, from the na`au -- the gut. 

I'm still marveling at what I saw. Even after 55 years in show business, Larry's eyes still light up, looking not at an abstract sea of people but at the faces of the people themselves. Grangeville, Idaho, his wife and family must be taking good care of Larry, nurturing his spirit.  For that I am grateful, as Larry is open, friendly, and retains his Aloha.  Life on the road can wreak havoc on any relationship.  Yet, 33 years later, they are together.  And look what I just found on the `Net:  they're the parents of a Xolo named Olive Oyl. 

He dedicated a love song to his wife of 33 years.  A touching remembrance. A sweet gesture. Though distance may separate them, I hope Helene is feeling the full force of his love.

The Association's music is still full of heart. THEY DELIVER!  Each member serves a wonderful purpose of refreshing memories of a bygone time and of getting people back in touch with their glory days, their wonder years.  A life review with music. 

They create nostalgia of the best kind, the kind that allows the glory and wonder of those years to spill over into present time. They are joy creators who allow us to reclaim Windy's buoyant optimism that was once ours: 

"Who's trippin' down the streets of the city, smilin' at everybody she sees.
Who's reachin' out to capture a moment, everyone knows it's Windy
"

 

 

Thank you for your anniversary card to your sweet Leilani.  I love it. 
I got my bears after all!

29 Years and Going Strong!
Mahalo for the best years of my life.

This evening is one I want to always remember.  
It was the perfect anniversary evening with you.


 We ate. We laughed.  We danced.  We reminisced.  

We remembered how blessed we are, loving one another as we do.

This is my 'card' back to you.  May this account keep our beautiful memories of this night -- with all of its details, thoughts, and perceptions intact -- as fresh as the plumeria blossom you picked for me to wear in my hair...

Me ke Aloha pau`ole,
D

 

  "The only gift is a portion of thyself."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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