Tou Ly Vangkhue In My Eyes
Years ago, I accepted a gig in a small California town that I had never heard of. I was skeptical (and a bit naive), but I put my faith in the Universe that everything would be okay and went for it.
Prior to the show, I'd been informed by the host that I'd travel with the band playing that night from the big city, which was one hour away, into the small town.
The show went well. The crowd was incredible. And I met new and familiar faces. Faces like Tou Ly Vangkhue's. He was one of the guest artists, and I had met him before a couple times.
After the show, all the artists had a late dinner together. As the night came to an end, I noticed the band I came with was leaving the venue. No one had mentioned anything to me. To my surprise, the host informed me that I would not have a ride back to the big city.
I felt small, unsafe, neglected. And dumb. I had put my trust in the host. I knew I should've listened to my gut. I should've rejected this gig.
As I sat there, I didn't realize that Tou Ly and his wife had been sitting in front of me, watching me go from happy to worried.
"Pagnia, where do you need to go?" they asked.
"The big city," I said.
"Are you staying here tonight too?"
"Yes, I am. I have a room for tonight."
"Come with us. We'll take you back to the big city tomorrow morning," they said, without hesitation.
"No... Are you sure?"
"Yes, we took our own car and need to head that way home anyways."
In that exact moment, I couldn't find the words. I was filled with gratitude beyond words.
Tou Ly and his wife had just saved me.
The next morning, all three of us left, bright-eyed and happy from a good night's rest. The one hour ride felt like a blink of an eye.
Tou Ly advised me on how to protect myself as an artist. His wife gave me advice on finding a romantic partner as a singer. And we talked about the future of Hmong music, and of course, Tou Ly's music memories.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
I have only met Tou Ly a few times in my life, but I have never ever forgotten how he and his wife made me feel that weekend AND this weekend, where we sung "Kuv Leej Muam" together...perhaps, for the last time ever.
I still have no words to fully express my deepest gratitude for what Tou Ly and his wife have done for and shown me as a music artist. Honestly, I don't know if there ever will be. ❤️
June 29, 2018
St. Paul, MN
Photo by Andrew L. Xiong