Spare Changes – A Personal Remembrance
By Tom Wachunas
This time of year invariably brings some missives from friends or family chronicling their doings over the past year. And with the approach of 2017, that particular holiday practice has put me in a reflective frame of mind. What I wish to share with you here is not a recap of the past year, however, but rather a few thoughts on something that recently startled me: January, 2017, will mark the 25th anniversary of my decision to resettle in Canton, where I was born, after living in New York City for 14 years. Twenty-five years back in Canton! Whaaat the…where’d the…who…how did…Huh?
Not very long ago, I was surprised to get an email note sent by a New York friend from a lifetime ago. It included a YouTube link that plays back an original song I had recorded, titled “Happy the Man,” for an LP (yep, a full-length vinyl album) I made in Columbus, called “Spare Changes,” in 1975. It also included a those-were-the-days remembrance of how I often played the song during my brief stint as a singer (in the loosest sense of the word)-songwriter at various Manhattan folk music venues. The song was originally about a broken romance with a specific young woman. Yet in listening to it again, I thought of another broken romance altogether.
The song now has the strange effect of bringing me to the moment when I decided to leave New York for good. I had been staying with my oldest brother and his family for the holidays at their North Canton home. At that point, I was coming to grips with the unsavory details of my circumstances – taking an inventory, if you will – which included being recently divorced, jobless, and homeless. I had beaten a hasty retreat from the city that never sleeps to take a long, sobering look at my very un-sober life. New York, that beguiling playground of possibilities, had morphed into an ugly landscape of self-sabotaged dreams.
And so it is that on one January morning in 1992, after an ice storm in these parts, I was looking out of the picture window of my brother’s house, framing a pristine vision of Ohio winter. A decision was waiting, as if standing in the wings, poised to make its entrance on to the stage of my life, cluttered as it was with the debris of so many previously bad decisions. I stepped outside to breathe in the landscape. A persistent wind was whistling through the ice-laden branches of the trees, causing a gentle cacophony of clicking noises as they flapped together. Back and forth, like so many crystalline hands etched into the sky. It sounded almost like…yes, that was it. Applause. The premiere of a new show. Adieu, New York.
One line in “Happy the Man” is particularly relevant in this context - “We cannot stay in one place long if staying means losing what we are.” Indeed.
For your entertainment, I include here a link to the YouTube entry
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUQBEQz_9aA ,as well as a link to info about the album,
which includes this short and… uhm, flattering review:
“among the Top Shelf Singer-Songwriter albums ever! ...imagine Neil Young in some carribean lagoon crackin' up shells for new songs and you get an idea for Tom's voice! 6- and 12-string guitars w/accordion, e-piano, vibes, bass 'n drums and Bruce Roberts (of ONE ST. STEPHEN-FAME!!) cranks some lead-guit-licks that shimmer w/the icy-intense-sparse ("happy the man") ...I guess Acid-Folk is the term! an utterly relaxed performance with THAT introspective, poetic fade-glow that borders to the ethereal shiver (Joni M. would love this...) ...10 songs like delicious fruit in the bowl or shootin' smooth arrows outta ever-full quiver (at the owl) recorded in Columbus, Ohio in the summer of '75 .”
And speaking of happy, my wish for all of you readers is that your New Year is just that. See you then.