My time on Maui impressed me with its relative lack of seasons. Sure, there was a hot season, dog days when the trade winds died, a rainy season... but to a North Easterner like me, such low variation made it easy to lose the sense of time passing. Birthdays were less a discreet bead on an abacus (or a salty pearl) than, well, .... just a little more time passing. I wrote this "birthday haiku" for Walter one year:
“Just one season here!” -
- tossing back to the water
forty-six salt pearls
Apparently taken by one of the phrases, he repeated it a few times under his breath :
just one season here...interesting...
And what creative, personalized gift would I like for my birthday? We were trying to stop gift-giving entirely so I picked a guaranteed impossibility: write me a song! We both had a good laugh; you just don't give commissions to Walter Becker. I laughed and laughed...
...until some years later, when on one birthday I was presented with a CD, gold bow on top. It's a little late , he said. It was "my" commission. Well knock me over with a guitar pick.
It was a truly precious gift of course, and somehow -- was it the "waltz with a push" maybe? -- a different type of song from his usual. It also typified something you learn spending time with a creative person: for them, the transformation of meaning is endless and effortless: any concept or phrase encountered in one context could and would be transfigured, almost automatically, to several others entirely. When he was repeating the phrase just one season , I reasonably thought he was repeating the words along with their "original" context: the timeless feel of a place without seasons.
Ha. In that moment he was likely running the phrase through some kind of " context thesaurus" where the phrase takes on other meanings...in this case, the tiresome predictabilty of various interpersonal dramas. I came to think of this as a type of untethered, superflexible three-dimensional engagement with language that "regular" Folk just didn't naturally have without trying for it. His song typifies this notion..
I told him many times it was really good, he really should release it on his website. To this he invariably shrugged... but in that way that meant I wouldn't protest too much if it happened to slip itself online.
Today, though, I hoard his gifts. I once urged him to share it with everyone; now , I don't want to share it with anyone.
But I know how good it is, and how distinctive ...and I believe he did too. Now that I feel among friends here at at wbmedia, friends who hold WB's talent in esteem and his memory with affection, I'm happy to present you, fellow WB freaks, the World Premiere of Walter Becker's Only One Season