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The Vagabond

By Deems Tsutakawa For The North American Post

According to the dictionary, the adjective version of “vagabond” means “having no settled home.” As a lifetime musician, this term has personal meaning in terms of employment spanning over a half a century.

Many American working-class peo-ple and most Asian Americans who are gainfully employed seem to be quite loyal to their employers. In Japan and throughout the Far East, the term “company man” is extremely common indeed. The comfort and security of a steady job brings satisfaction and is conducive to a quality family lifestyle to be sure. Never mind the Fortune 500 Companies as the vast majority of workers are basically salaried and/or paid by the hour for their labors. 

It is no secret that a career artist, writer, dancer, ceramicist, or jazz musician will most likely never be a “company man.” The only way this idea holds any water for such individuals is a lifelong passion to be “self-employed.” Of course, the term “unemployed” may be the recurring theme until the artist can carve a niche or hit the big time. 

I have been quite fortunate and resourceful as well spanning the past few decades of hustling, courting, and winning a plethora of somewhat steady gigs to make ends meet. The list of hotels, restaurants, bars, shopping malls and special events which I have worked is actually long, albeit sometimes unremarkable. In my business, a steady gig might mean six months and occasionally will stretch to as many as ten years. Ten years with the freedom to play your own style of music and get paid is unusual and considered a gift for a musician. I have generally been a grateful person and to quote a Buddhist monk, “I believe it is through gratitude that we can appreciate and realize the true meaning of life.”