One Old Song
In January of the year 2000, I stepped onto a commuter train that would take me to the center of my native city for the next five years. At 38 years old, I enrolled at Portland State University in Oregon so that I could become a teacher. Each morning I would drive from my hometown of Boring to the eastern terminus of the train line. An hour later, I would look out the train’s window as we crossed the Willamette River into downtown Portland. It was a beautiful view, rain or shine. And it needed a song.
Bored commuters have probably hatched half of the world’s songs. I tried to write a few but I wasn’t very good at it. I submitted a draft of the song about Portland to the school’s music department for an opinion. The professor said, “I don’t have the right words to respond here.” But I’m very stubborn and took the next 20 years to re-work that one song. Over and over again every few months, despite my apparent lack of talent.
It started as an anthem to Portland. (The last version, “The Portland Three-Step,” has been on streaming platforms for the last several years.) But, in naming the city, a friend suggested that it might be considered a “novelty song.” So, I removed the city’s name and reproduced the song. “Send Your River” is the current incarnation. The production company, Sundown Sessions Studio, did a fabulous job with the production of this demo. They suggested the Rhythm & Blues format and found a fantastic R&B singer. I’d love to name her right here to properly recognize her talents, but the work agreement with the studio requires that the vocalist’s details be kept private.
While shifting the focus of the song from the city to the protagonist, I’ve recognized just how much that protagonist could be me. I grew up in a Baptist family in a fairly rural setting in Boring. (I was born in nearby Portland.) My family’s love was unwavering, but sexual orientation was not a topic of conversation. And, despite critical examination, I couldn’t see other examples of myself reflected in the world. Apparently gay people weren’t “supposed” to exist. Adolescence can be hard on a young person in that context. Given my affinity for alcohol in the navy during the years of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” this song really tells a story that I can relate to. Thankfully—eventually—a short love affair with another sailor at age 21 showed me that I was not alone and in good company; just a regular Joe. That was very reassuring.
I’m now 60 years old and I am happy. I love the life I have. I love my family. I love one special man.
Please be sure to tell the young people you know that, in this universe, they are perfect in every way by the simple virtue of having a beating heart. We’re all fabulous Joes, Janes and Jaimes. People who say otherwise are only human, and humans say the damnedest things.
Please contact me on this website if you wish to discuss licensing rights for this song. Thanks for listening!