Because Of A Song

And so I turn towards home. Past the white steeples, sailboats, and rusted industry of Connecticut, Amtrak Acela #2157 is rushing me there. Outside, the autumn sun strains to burn through a cold fog that refuses to yeild. Skies are gray; it is Monday.

Saturday’s wedding, it ends up — this terrific gathering of Slavins and Dunphys — would not have been were it not for one simple act: my stapling a lone flyer onto Syracuse University’s student center bulletin board. It read: Singer Seeks Bass + Guitar.

Only two brave souls replied: bassist Paul Perreault and guitarist Jamie Dunphy. Together with drummer Tod Salmonson (recruited through a friend in my creative writing class), we became Smokey Junglefrog. Our popular success in the clubs, basements, and attics of that miserably gray and snow-buried town sowed the seeds of my rock star dreams. A few nights of harmony, booze, and rabid enthusiasm, and I was hooked. I became addicted to the music we made, and the deafening applause that followed.

And so then, when that time and place ended, I knew no other pursuit. I could only persist: writing songs, recording and performing them — alone. Struggling, still, to capture that magic, and reach those heights alone, I kept on. To my solo acoustic Boston debut in 1996, Jamie brought a first date: Paul’s cousin Kara Slavin. Seven years later, they are married.

Because of the music.

From that music, and the round world around it, a family has grown. It stretches from Boston to New York, from Kentucky to Arizona, Nashua to Los Angeles. Individual notes in a staff, together we are a raucous, melodic cacophony.

Because of a song.

Sunday on the Lake found us, then, laughing and dancing still. I lept of the dock — labored over by three generations of Perreaults — like a giddy child. We hooped and howled behind a speedboat in ‘The Patriot,’ an ingenious, hilarious, and ironically named (for these times) pleasure craft of air and canvas. We were younger, then, than all the days we’d spent before. We lived all summer in a day.

Then the sun snuck away. The families scattered. And I sat with the twins, Peter and Paul, into the little hours of morning. Stars streaked across the blinking sky. The moon rose large, throwing its white onto the clouds racing below. And I dove again into that inky blackness, uncertain where the night ended and the water began. The world slipped beneath, and I paused an instant, listening to the stillness, and the muffled beating of my heart.

Approaching New York now — full-circle, round trip — I feel somehow further from home. Still, I know it is where I belong: alone in this big, blue world. The sun is a great, white disc now, fighting through the rolling clouds. And my family is waiting there, just over the round, gilded horizon.

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