Previous entry: Dennis
Pavao: Th, 01/17/02
Still no word.
So for this morning's entry, I will keep my focus on you and on our times
By ethnicity, our
class of 28 was roughly divided in thirds: one third, Filipino;
one third, Hawaiian and part-Hawaiian; and one third, Japanese.
Hawai`i is often called a melting pot. Our class proved it is so.
Most of our class ended up intermarrying and many of us are now
"calabash" (related), if not by blood, by marriage.
Back then, however,
you were one of the
few hapa kids, being Portuguese on your father's side and
Hawaiian on your mother's side. You were a mini-version of your
Daddy. I remember staring at you, when you weren't
looking, to spot the Hawaiian in you.
Maybe your eyebrows?
Yet in every other
way, you were Hawaiian, especially your heart and soul. With
your friendliness and easy smile, Aloha was a natural part of you.
You were on the shy, quiet side back then, and the joke-cracking
Portuguese blood still latently unexpressed.
Although I went off to
high school on O'ahu in 9th grade, I never forgot you or our
classmates back home. Thank all of you for not
forgetting me either. When I came home, I
made sure I was "regulah," i.e., regular, real, not phony.
I'd learned from a
Pahoa guy who joined the Army and came home on furlough talking
"jah like one haole." He wouldn't turn it off.
And we all know that pidgin, being our first language, is
something we can turn off and on like water from a spigot.
We turned our pidgin off when we spoke to teachers or to tourists, and
always turned it back on for each other.
It's an identity
And all of you stayed
"regulah" with me, keeping me in that warm circle of
friendship. When word got around that I was home for the holidays,
the phone would ring and I would be told to meet "da
classmates" at the basketball game at the school gym.
We'd have an instant class reunion, and you'd have that smile for
Our birth year, 1951,
must have been a good year, as we were a bunch of regular kids who
were given generous allotments of talent and hidden gifts, all in
different areas. As it turned out, the most musically
talented among us was you!
You certainly did a
good job hiding that huge talent under a bushel. I knew you could
sing and play `ukulele and guitar. After all, every day that I
walked home from school, you'd be sitting on the gym steps with
the other kids from Kalapana and Opihikao, strumming your `uke and
singing with the rest as you waited for the bus to take you home.
You never stood out.
As I said, you were more on the shy side. When I was away at
boarding school, you blossomed into your musical talent, as I
heard you were in a rock band with your brother, Lenneth.
couldn't believe it. You. Dennis. A rocker!
I was thrilled when
our class invited me to the Pahoa School prom, even setting me up
with a date with my kid-time sweetheart, Wayne. Going to the Pahoa
School prom and being together with all of you meant the world to
me. We were in the same gym that we danced our hearts out just as
we did as kids, although that night, in our prom attire, we felt
very grown up. That year,
you were dancing with your prom date when I spotted you and you
smiled at me over her shoulder.
Somewhere between high
school and life, your falsetto singing ability came to the fore
and with your cousins, Ledward and Nedward, you went far
beyond being our little corner of our island. You became Hawai`i's
rising star as a member of the phenomenal Hawaiian music group, Hui
`Ohana. You'd even recorded an album, and your fame
reached every island in the Hawaiian chain.
Your First Album:
Ledward, You, Nedward
You guys were HOT!
for an audio clip of you singing
"Sweet Lei Mokihana" with your cousins,
courtesy of mele.com
One year, I was home
from college, when my love of a cousin, Milton, who took
good care of me, invited me out to see you and your cousins
perform at Hilo's premier show room, the Naniloa Hotel's Crown
Hui 'Ohana was the
hottest group in Hawai`i. With lots of radio air time, sold-out
performances, steady gigs in Waikiki showrooms, and several hit
albums, you and your cousins were riding the crest of your group's
It was the first time
that I saw you performing professionally. I couldn't believe what
I was hearing. Your tenor singing was rich and robust.
Your astonishingly sweet falsetto reduced me -- and others -- to
tears. As I watched you
singing your exquisite, smooth and round falsetto and playing your
guitar in your own inimitable way -- left-handed and upside down,
I was burstingly proud of you.
And you were cracking
jokes! Hô, da strong, dat Poragee blood. Finally came righ'
t'ru, no? You cracked us up.
You looked so happy up
there, singing your heart out to your appreciative home island
crowd. Afterwards, my cousin made sure that we went up to
see you. You flashed me your smile.
You were "regulah."
I was "regulah." And we hugged.
continue my vigil tonight with thoughts and reminiscences of you.
years that followed, your talent reached out beyond Hawai`i.
As you touched others with your music and talent on the Mainland, Japan, and
Europe, I had my nose stuck in books, going to school.
was carving my little career niche on the Mainland, you were carving a
gigantic niche in the Hawaiian music world, winning countless
awards. You became the premier
falsetto singer, now known as "The Golden Voice of
You. Dennis. A legend in your own time. We knew you
when...and you are still "regulah."
1995, I was awakened to my island heritage and was inspired by
the chants and music. Many of you musicians were using your talents to help further and perpetuate
the Hawaiian language, inspiring me to make my own little
contribution, however small. My consciousness was late in coming, but it did finally come and because of your
song, "All Hawai`i Stand Together," I began paying
far closer attention to what was going on at home.
for an audio clip of you singing
"All Hawai`i Stand Together",
courtesy of mele.com
years ago, we were at the Aloha Jam concert in Long Beach to see
you perform. I ran into Ben Churchill of Dancing Cat
Records, who we'd met sitting next to us at a Keali`i
Reichel concert in San Francisco. "Talking story" again with Ben, I mentioned that
I had grown up with you and how thrilled I was that I
would be seeing you perform -- live -- after all these years. Ben urged me to personally say
hello to you, that you'd be so happy to see someone from home.
can I say? Even if I was 45 years old at the time, I
reverted to that shy Pahoa girl you once knew. If it weren't for Ben's
urging, maybe I wouldn't have been so maha`oi (bold). I let him take me to the side of
the stage and he put in a word with the burly security guys. Sure
enough, they let me through and I was taken backstage to see you.
Over the years, I was seeing your
face on the album covers, so I saw you maturing into a man.
In person, you not only look like your dad, you're
his spittin' image. I'd recognize you anywhere!
didn't recognize me.
Flustered, I hastily introduced
myself. I saw that quizzical look cross your face, as you tried in
put a name to a face you'd last seen over 20 years ago. I realized then
that I'd introduced myself by my married name, which meant nothing to
You only knew me by my maiden
name. Well, of course!
reintroduced myself, you caught a glimpse of that small potot from Pahoa,
because your face lit up with that same Dennis smile that I loved
as a girl. It was a huge smile of recognition.
I apologize, Dennis, for putting you through that awkwardness.
hugged, laughed and got caught up with each other's lives and our
classmates' lives. You told me that you were married to a super
lady, Leialoha Spencer, and that you were a "brand-new" daddy. In
your mid-forties, you were a daddy of keiki (little ones),
and you were so proud, in a sweet and utterly charming way
great to see you after all these years. We had grown up in the
meantime, but we
were still the same: classmates from Puna, lifelong friends, even
if time and distance had separated us.
were still "regulah."
were due on stage, and we gave each other one more hug. We were fortunate to have great seats
upfront, and that was one unbelievable live concert you put on.
You have a huge
following here in Southern California, and you proceeded to knock
the socks and slippahs off of us -- and everyone else, as the
crowd erupted with wild applause with every song.
then you did the sweetest thing: You told the audience how
you had just met up again with a classmate from home
and you wished to dedicate a song to that friend. When you sang
Dolly's Lullaby," I knew we were still
connected. I'm sure you did not know this: it was the
first hula I ever learned as a keiki ! As you sang, I felt like
you were hugging me one more time.
for an audio clip of
"A Dolly's Lullaby",
courtesy of mele.com
then you put the delicious icing on an already scrumptious
cake: you announced that you had a new album coming out: Sweet
Leilani CD with clips.
and Background of Sweet Leilani
for an audio clip of Sweet Leilani,
courtesy of mele.com
things unexpectedly intersect in time and space, as in meaningful
"coincidences," a fancy haole
word is used to describe this phenomenon: synchronicity. Hawaiians
would simply say:
Ua pili mâua.
We are connected.
Mahalo â nui for all
that, Dennis. You put so much of yourself into the CD,
Sweet Leilani. You could not have gifted me with a better
gift than that.
And the CD cover is purple!
"Life is a Gift."
Your classmate and
friend, who is keeping you in my prayers,
only gift is a portion of thyself..."
Ralph Waldo Emerson