I met Dave Beck making mashed potatoes.

We both worked at a resort in northern Michigan called Camp Arcadia for three summers while in college.  That first summer we worked together in the kitchen.  I had just finished high school, arriving part way through the summer to replace a staff member who had to leave early.  Now I should explain that working on the kitchen staff at Arcadia is not like your average summer camp (no frozen pizzas or fried food).  Kurt Harvey is a chef, and while there I helped prepare pork loin with a mango chutney glaze, mushroom vegetarian lasagna with a white sauce, and a delicate chocolate mousse.  And I made mashed potatoes that first week with Dave Beck, in a giant mixer the size of a Lazy Boy recliner.

We grew up together, on the shores of Michigan (beach carnival/boat regatta)

Camp Arcadia is a camp, but also sort of a resort.  You don’t stay in cabins, but rather a rustic inn.  Its not a place where kids come for the entire summer, but mostly a place where families come for a one week vacation.  In his interview, Dave describes it as “Dirty Dancing meets Christian slash On the Lake, Happy Fun Time,” perhaps one of the more accurate descriptions I’ve heard.  It is also among the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.  Camp Arcadia is literally on the northern shores of Lake Michigan; the building are only a few yards from the water.  I grew up going to the week for high school students at the beginning of the summer, while Dave had gone to the family weeks.  Even before working there, Arcadia held a lot of history for both of us.  We knew this place, inside and out.

The second and third summers, Dave and I worked on program staff together and became close friends.  The program staff runs all of the events, which meant that we led softball and soccer games, ran beach carnivals and patio carnivals, served as lifeguards at the beach and on canoe trips, and yes, even called the square dance.  We alternated as DJ for the radio program which played each morning from 8:00-8:30.  Dave ran the boat regatta as his pirate alter ego Captain Salty, and I played taps each night as the flag was lowered and the sun set into Lake Michigan.  I can honestly say that some of my most profoundly happy memories are at Camp Arcadia, a place I have difficulty explaining to people who have never been.

I’m on a postcard, Dave he drew a coloring book (playing taps circa 2000)

Dave still returns to Arcadia each summer as an adult counselor for the high school week I used to attend.  And my family has started to go to a family week each year at the end of July.  In fact I’ll be there soon after performing the song cycle in New York, and look forward to taking Eva and Leo (“Ten Times Round the House”) to the beach.  The imagery in the portrait of Dave (“I Can Breathe Underwater”) comes mostly from our time spent at Arcadia.  Dave is an artist, and did in fact design a coloring book that I think is still sold in the gift shop.  I am likewise still on a postcard you can buy at the Trading Post, an image of this younger version of myself playing taps at sunset in front of the Wigwam.

The chorus is meant to evoke the sound of the water that I heard every night while falling asleep, Lake Michigan only a few feet from where I slept.  It is probably the only moment to reference the work of Philip Glass, whose friendship with Chuck Close inspired this project, and whose writing is much, much different than my own.  He builds simple, repetitive musical structures in his music that ebb and flow, and for the choruses of Dave’s portrait I tried to do the same.

Water carry me back home / I can breathe underwater