Aloha state, ahhhhh

When I told my friends I had only five days in Hawaii they felt really sorry for me. Their opinions didn’t change much when I added that in that time I was visiting two islands, performing two full concerts and giving a radio interview. I felt like I was working a lot but as one of them reminded me, it’s HAWAII … put away the lace hanky.

It was February so I arrived in Honolulu feeling a tad overdressed in heavy jeans and long sleeved shirt. A smiling woman greeted me warmly with “Aloha,” gave me a quick hug and drove me to my housing. My gracious host had a wonderful mountainside home. Just outside my window the sun shone on a thick bougainvillea bursting with red blooms. A small pool was just beyond and in the distance, a bright blue bay with the jagged black Diamond Head rising up on one side.

I could’ve spent my whole visit in satisfying repose next to that pool, reading a deliciously good book. However, when my host offered to take me on a quick tour around the island I replied hell yeah. She took me to her favorite beaches of brilliant white sand and turquoise water, then hiking in a cool rain forest laced with delicate vines. I’ll bet my friends would feel extra sorry for me now.

The concert that night was a blast. I started with my song “Drive All Night” then briefly stopped in the middle.  “I guess you can’t drive all night here,” I teased. Someone in the back yelled out, “Yeah but we can drive around and around.” Somehow that didn’t sound as romantic. After moving through a selection of ballads and up-tempo songs, I finished the show to a standing ovation.

The next day I told my concert producer that I wanted real Hawaiian food and asked if I could go to a place that wasn’t featured in tourist brochures. She and a couple of friends took me to a downtown diner with battered chairs, wobbly-legged tables and harried but efficient waitresses dressed in tee-shirts and jeans. After explaining to me the different foods we ordered a sampler of dishes. I enjoyed most of it except poi, a purplish pudding-like dish made from taro root. One of my companions likened it to library paste and since I was a paste-eating child I thought I’d love it. Maturity has changed my taste. Or maybe it’s only good to me if I’m sitting in a tiny little chair.

My time on Oahu only lasted a couple of days before I had to fly to Maui. Had to fly to Maui. (Imagine the back of my hand lightly touching my forehead while a tortured sigh escapes my lips.) Again I was met at the airport by a friendly woman and whisked away to housing.

Just before I got up on stage at my university show I noticed a smiling older woman wearing a large colorful rayon scarf. Alive with pink and purple flowers in batik, I told her it was gorgeous. She smiled, took it off and said, “I designed it. Here, you wear it.” It looked great with my otherwise plain outfit of a brown skirt and cream colored top. I was overdressed again, though, taking off my dark stockings and boots halfway through the concert but still wearing the scarf. Afterwards I removed it and handed it to her. She waved me off and said, “You keep it.” I gave her a CD in return, hardly payment for the beautiful wrap.

I stayed with two wonderful women in a borrowed apartment. Like many people who live on the island, they were escapees from the mainland. One was an artist who did these magnificent creations with coconuts, making them into whimsical cartoon-like fish. My favorite was a “cow-fish” complete with black and white spots, pink udders and glasses perched on its nose below comically bulging eyes; he came with an adoption certificate from the Fallen Coconut Adoption Agency.

One day we stopped at a small market, buying a pineapple, some starfruit and a small green banana (a special kind you can only get there). We drove out to a beach jagged with black volcanic rock, the ocean splashing up several feet high through blowholes. Sitting above the rocks, the warm breezes blowing my hair back, sweet pineapple juice running down my chin as I bit into the luscious fruit, I couldn’t think of any where else I’d rather be.

A month before my trip I contacted Maui resident Ginni Clemmens. I knew her music from the folk and women’s music circuit and even though I’d only met her once, my friend Toni suggested I talk with her. Ginni said she’d love to show me around her island. Days before I left on my trip, though, she was killed in an auto accident. The day we were supposed to go sightseeing was the day of her memorial service. I joined a gathering of her friends on her favorite beach. They were so welcoming and it was such a moving ceremony, with readings, dance and music, including traditional Hawaiian slack key guitar and sing alongs. Ginni loved for people to sing at her concerts so of course we sang.

As the peaceful sun sank on a blue-green ocean, we put our leis into a boat. Friends paddled the vessel into the waves, tossing the colorful blossoms in as we said our goodbye to Ginni. Music lasted late into the night as we sat around campfires remembering the songs she loved. One of the guests was Spanky, from the 60’s group Spanky and our Gang, who went on to replace Cass Elliot in the Mamas and the Papas. When the guitarist started “Monday, Monday” she beamed, “I know this one!” and delighted us all with her part as we sang the rest. I could swear I heard Ginni’s harmony.

Too soon, I was sitting on a plane headed for northern California. I arrived in San Francisco to a misty cold evening but I had beautiful memories, a gorgeous new scarf to keep me warm and a sudden craving for paste.


About jamiebobamie

Musician - teacher - writer - gets bored easily. I write an almost-weekly blog that includes true stories gathered from 20-plus years of touring, how-to articles for musicians and profiles of performers. Also, I love dark chocolate, I can play "Brown Eyed Girl" behind my head, and I twirl the baton badly.
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6 Responses to Aloha state, ahhhhh

  1. I like your voice Jamie. Nice job! I want to go to Hawaii now after reading your blog.

  2. Melissa Axel says:

    What a great story, Jamie, loved reading about these experiences! My tuba-playing husband and I were there during part of our honeymoon and long to go back and perform on the islands somewhere lovely with a piano! Our friends are staying on Maui for a while, they’ve been looking around for places to play and practice (she’s a classical pianist, he plays classical guitar). How did you put together your performances and interview?

    • jamiebobamie says:


      I started asking friends who asked friends … connected with a couple of performers who lived there and then with a women’s organization. Ginni may have given me some information. I can’t remember now.

  3. mefoley says:

    Your trip sounds great — heck, any trip to Hawaii sounds great.

    (But if your coconut cow fish has udders, surely it’d be a ‘she’, not a ‘he’?)

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