The summer of 2003, the summer between my second and third years of college, I spent some time in Austin, TX. If you have ever been to Austin, you know one of the Things to do is visit Waterloo records on Lamar (or, at least, it was a thing…I assume Waterloo is still going strong, but I have not been back to the town in years). The day I went in was a gorgeous sunny day in early summer. It also happened to be the day Reckless Kelly did a release party in the store for their album Under the Table and Above the Sun. I sort of knew about the band, more by name than by music, so I had no idea the event was happening. I liked the music playing on the store speakers enough to ask what it was, and that’s when the clerk told me they’d be playing in about 5 minutes. So I picked up a copy of the CD (and the shotglass that came with it) and hung out. I don’t know that the set was memorable, other than as a general experience, but the album (or, at least, the first half of it) became a favorite.
All of that is backstory to the point of the post, which is about the first time I heard “Vancouver,” my favorite track on the album and an all-time favorite song in general. I was driving back to my quarters from Waterloo; the sun was white and hot, but the air was fine because it was still early summer, so I had my windows down and my sunglasses on, and it was fabulous just to drive north on Lamar. Naturally, I put on the CD I had just bought and fast forward through the songs I remembered hearing over the store PA. And the first new song was track 6. And it was one of the best damn break-up songs I had ever heard, and still is; this recognized at a time I was newly in love (with my husband, but of course that was years in the future) and spending the summer apart from him. The break-up aspect was not relevant to us, but the longing in the song for the time of togetherness was.
When the sun went down
You were sittin’
Under someone else’s sunset
And I wasn’t around
And you were wishin’
That I was the guy that you’d just met
And I was probably stumblin’ down some back street alley in Amsterdam
While you were makin’ excuses and breakin’ another heart
Or maybe I was drinkin’ wine with the pigeons in a square in Venice
And I was wonderin’ what you’re doin’ and wonderin’ where you are…
It’s still a great song – one that never leaves my iPod, because I always listen to it when it pops up in a playlist or on shuffle. And every time I hear it, I am pulled back to that sunny summer day, driving around Austin, happy and carefree and missing my man. It’s amazing to me how indelibly moments can be etched into one’s mind, such that no other iteration of that song, in all the thousand or so times I have heard it, can overcome that very first listen.