As you know, almost all of the songs we write tell stories. We want to share those stories with you. We’ll post the story behind the story for each song on 13 here for you to read. The plan is to feature one song each week for the next 13 weeks.
Here is the story behind Drink as related by Allen Kitselman.
The song “Drink”
Mike Jewell and I grew up in Waterford, Virginia in the 1970’s. We are two lucky people for it.
Mike and I met in August, 1970 on Catoctin Creek and have been brothers ever since. Waterford was a small village with a group of kids who felt they were completely disconnected with the rest of the world. What a gift that was! We were forced to create our own entertainment. We played music, we created art, we fished and camped, we did stupid crazy stuff, and we formed bonds that remain strong to this day between our little band of brothers and sisters.
The headquarters of our lives in those days was the house of two of my closest friends in the world, Hope and Elizabeth. Their parents became Mama and Papa to us all. They trusted and loved us all and created a club house for our base of operations. They remain seminal figures in all of our lives.
The song, “Drink” was written a few years ago at Lake Buell up in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts while I was on vacation. Elizabeth was fighting yet another battle with cancer (one that she would eventually lose) and I was thinking and writing about her. I had this song started about the salad days of our youth in Waterford and just couldn’t find the idea to bring the pieces together. I went on the Internet and Googled Elizabeth’s name and found a beautiful poem she had written called, “In the East”. The words “drink deeply from the water of this deep clear pool” came to me as an amalgam of the imagery she used. It was the missing piece that crystalized the super cooled water of the song.
Drink is built around three vignettes that linger in my mind about those days:
The first is a walking snapshot of Hope and Elizabeth’s house including the sunlight in the den, the two big dogs they had (named James-Michael and Nicholas-Allen to give full coverage to all their parents “adopted” sons), even the upholstery on the love seat. If I close my eyes I can still see it all.
The second is the story of when Elizabeth, Mike, Jim, and I were spotted out in the box wood hedge sneaking a cigarette by the house painter who was one of Mama’s college interns from work making some extra money. We named him Rembrandt (hah) and we thought he was really cool until he ratted us out about the secret smoke when Mama got home. I think she was less pleased with him for being a snitch. She told us smoking was not smart.
The third story involves an epic summer night on the street in front of Elizabeth and Hope’s house. We were bored, really bored, electron bored. Someone had the bright idea to form an organized all-boy, car mooning party strung across the road with one guy up the street as a look-out for cops or certain other local people who were challenged in the sense of humor department. Things were going really well until it was my turn as look-out. Due to a communication error, the boys down the street ended up mooning my father, Colonel Kitselman, who was less than receptive to the display. He deployed his hi-beam, and went off-road, chasing the mooning party up the empty lot and into those boxwood bushes. We all circled back and into the back door of the house, as pre-planned in case of trouble, to hide in the bathroom. My father dismounted and came to the front door to start a house to house search for the perverts responsible for “that disgusting display.” Hope, Elizabeth, Anne, and Diane answered the door and told him they had seen nothing, heard nothing, as they held our belts (taken off for easy mooning access) behind their backs. I can still feel the sensation of laughing hysterically even as my heart tries to beat it’s way out of my chest.
When Mike and I play this song we can’t help but run the magic lantern slide show in our heads. What used to be tears about the loss of our dear friend Elizabeth become simply love.
IN THE EAST
by Elizabeth Hahn
In the east her portrait is exotic
A fine patch of light
Red she saves for him
The earth—the tone of voice
As if the story is untold
Free flight she falls
And opens with a crack
A whip, a bat
The words fold up inside her on the line
Quiet she returns
A tea of comfort and losing
Inside her deep inside
The scars of rust diminish—
And in the east she drinks the blue
She breathes the sea