Happy Anniversary from your Vagabond

For Christmas last year, my children pitched in and bought me a thing called Storyworth. Each week they send me a question and I’m supposed to write about those questions. Some of the questions are really personal (most of those are still sitting in the inbox), while others are just attempts to get my memories on paper. It’s fun, and it’s often simultaneously gut-wrenching. At the end of the year, the stories get bound into a book and my kids will have stories to make fun of long after I’m gone.

One of the questions asked about my favorite songs, and I’ve been working on that one for weeks. I couldn’t just make a list, so I picked five songs and I’m writing about why they are my favorites. A pretty simple question has turned into thousands of words.

It was not my intent to share any of my stuff until the project was done, but today, August 11, 2022, is our 15th wedding anniversary. We decided not to buy each other anything this year as we cope with an uncertain economic future. But there’s no such thing as an anniversary where Lisa gets nothing. So I’m sharing what I wrote about one of my favorite songs. Who knows, by the time the thing gets put into book form, I will re-write this six times. But today, this serves as my gift to Lisa as some kind of attempt to tell her how much I appreciate what she’s done for me.

It’s also a chance to thank the artist who created this song. I know he’s carrying a heavy load right now, and I hope that by him knowing how important his art has been to Lisa and me, that maybe that load will be slightly lighter.

So here’s the excerpt from the Storyworth article picking up with song #1 on list…

The last two songs come from what I guess is the second half of my life…that is, my time with Lisa.  When we were first dating and living 3+ hours apart, I would spend a lot of time alone and listening to music.  On the long drives to and from Petoskey I listened to a lot more music.  I began to collect songs that I thought were cool, or spoke about my feelings, or that I thought Lisa would like.  I would compile these onto to CD’s and make labels for them.  When we did get together, I’d hand off the latest “Lisa” album and we would listen together.  It was a uniquely sweet way to reconnect and to share some of the things we were thinking about during our time away.  I could write about a lot of those songs, but I am limiting myself to two.

(Song #2 is discussed here in the original article…but you don’t get to read that one yet.)

It seems like there is so much background required for all of the songs in this article, and it’s true again here.  When we were first dating, we went to the Ark in Ann Arbor for a folk festival.  There were so many great artists there who became favorites of ours.  One, however, stood out.  I had never heard of Kevin Meisel before the festival, but he and his music have been a part of our lives since.   In the next several years we saw him in concert a few times, and when it came time to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary, I invited him and his band to come north and play a concert in our back yard for our friends.  I had no idea he would say yes, but he did.   They set up under the trees on Grand Oak and played for hours.  He was gracious enough to play our favorites (mostly from the Coal and Diamonds album), but, as with most artists, they want to play their new stuff too.  It was a glorious evening under the stars.  

The next time we got to see him downstate, he acknowledged us to the crowd and dedicated a song to us.   He told the audience that he had written it for his wife, but that he was willing to share.  I honestly felt guilty at how much I LOVED this song because it was so clearly influenced by his relationship with his wife.  I didn’t think he should have to share, but he did…I regularly think of it as one of the greatest love songs ever written.  

Every once in a while, we’ll play the “Lisa” CD that this song is on, and I am occasionally brave enough to ask Lisa to dance with me so that when the tears well up in my eyes, I can hide on her shoulder.  But because I can rarely just let things be, I have spent a lot of time thinking about this song and analyzing why I think it’s so great.   You can listen to “Vagabond Dreams” here.  

Like all great art, we are free to interpret the work in our ways.  If Kevin ever reads this, he might be appalled at how wrong I got it.  But maybe not.  

Let’s dispense with the music first.  Kevin is a terrific guitar player.  I have always enjoyed the concept of a single musician and the instrument of his/her choice playing solo and singing along.   Think of Billy Joel, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Cheryl Crow, etc…some of their best songs are just them playing and singing without other musicians supporting them.  (Now, granted in Vagabond Dreams, Kevin’s wife joins in on some of the vocals, but you get my point.)

The guitar work on this song  really establishes the loneliness, fear, and hope of the lyrics to follow.  There’s no doubt why this song connects with me so well.  Lisa came along at a time of my life when I had a lot of doubts about what the hell I had been doing for so many years…and more importantly what I was going to do going forward.  Only the support of my children and some friends kept me on track for…well….for something.  

The lyrics of this song reflect many of the emotions I was dealing with when I met Lisa.  I was not a confident person anymore.  I took a huge chance, and took on huge debt, to go back to school and take up teaching.  It would be a glaring lie to assert that I headed into that experience with any kind of confidence.  In the relationship world, I was even more adrift.  I suppose like many recently divorced people, the midnight hours staring at the ceiling produced a lot of promises to never get involved that deeply with anyone ever again.  But that’s a commitment to a very lonely life.  Children move on as they must, and holding dad’s hand for more than a short time isn’t really in their job descriptions.

Here are some of the lyrics that get me everytime I listen to this song.  Every. Damn. Time.

Maybe I had cold feet

I was running from the past

But I’m seizing the moment 

Cuz it’s fading fast

Hold it in your eyes

Hold it in your heart

And keep it where belongs

Lisa made it easy to abandon my midnight oath, though I knew that if I didn’t act on what I was feeling, she’d be gone.  I was a pretty broken guy, and what made me think she could see what we’ve become?

I can do the time

I can do the walk

When I’m walking with you.

Oh take this ring, take this devolution

Cuz I’m lying in this heartbeat of emotion

That I can do the time

I can do the walk 

When I’m walking with you

There never was a time that I thought I would be an easy partner, or that I would be able to fully dismiss those midnight demons.  But once Lisa and I had been together for a while, it was clear she was a risk worth taking…if she would have me.

But maybe I’d rather take the chance on losing

All these running ways

Oh and if our love is real 

I got no jealous heart

Sooner or later you know that a man’s 

Gotta make a start

And I wanna settle down now

I wanna make a home and

Find some comfort there

So that’s it…me at my lowest point of self-confidence taking a shot at a woman who many have reminded me is way out of my class…and Kevin Meisel singing the story of my life after she took a chance on me.


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