Here’s my draft for today, Saturday 06.01.19.
Wow, it’s amazing what you might stumble across on the internet quite by chance. Riatea Helm and her music: I’ve had a special place in my heart for her ever since she played at the fundraiser for my alma mater here in Honolulu, the Lab School (aka University High), after a fire destroyed the building that housed the drama, strings, choir, Hawaiian culture, and athletic programs.
Riatea volunteered her musical talents, and I’ll never forget her standing up in front of the mic, just her and her ʻukulele. She is, among other things, the niece of the legendary musician and Hawaiian activist George Helm, and I recall how brave she looked, playing and singing there in the drizzle of rain blessing all of us that night.
I don’t know Riatea at all, but one day back in 2010 I was browsing TVs in Sam’s Club, and who should be checking out TVs as well, but Riatea Helm. I think I scared her when I said with great enthusiasm, “Riatea Helm!”
She jumped back and away from me, saying cautiously, sounding like a question, “Yes?” It looked like she might have known something about martial arts, crouching in a sort of kung fu defensive position. Or, heaven forbid, an attack position.
Wanting to put her at ease, I immediately said, “I know you don’t know me, but my name is Lanning Lee and I’m a graduate of the University Lab School. I want to thank you for helping out the school with the fundraiser after the fire in 2006.”
“Oh, oh, oh,” she relaxed, looking much relieved. “Thank you. Thank you. I was happy to help out.”
She and another legendary Hawaiian musician, Keola Beamer, had just released a CD together, so I continued, “I also want to congratulate you on the CD with Keola Beamer. It’s beautiful.”
“Oh, thank you very much.”
“I just went to China with Keola last year along with our qi gong master, and we had a lot of fun.”
“China, you went with him?”
“Yes, not his most recent trip, but the one before. He didn’t go to play music that time we went, just to tour with our master.”
“Oh, that’s nice.”
“If you see Keola, please give him my best, and tell him how much I love the CD.”
“Oh definitely. I will. What is your name again?”
“It’s Lanning, like planning without the P. Lanning Lee.”
She laughed. “Well that should make it easy to remember. You’re the only planning without a P I’ve ever met.”
I said goodbye, but I’ve never really said goodbye. I always carry her music in my heart, and I’m always thankful for her and all the musicians who played at the fire fundraiser.
*Hoʻomaikaʻi: To thank, bless, render thanks, congratulate, praise. Grateful, thankful.
*Incidentally, the steel guitar player here is named Jeff Au Hoy, and his dad happens to be a University High grad as well : )