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He Comes Here to Hug Strangers / Impulse Birkenstocks

from My Life's Work by Ben Seretan

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Hit recently - and hard - by the sudden realization that many of the greatest and most precious nights of my life are clouded by drinking. And what’s more, now that I’m a little bit older, the fuzziest nights are slipping entirely from my grasp - I can almost hear their footsteps backwards into the shadows, retreating. The nights I do still remember are the ones I talk about - stories and bits of narrative I tell myself and others that have congealed into easily recalled gems of pride and happiness. I do remember, for instance, that when my self-titled record came out back in 2014, I played a show at Shea Stadium. I remember that when we started playing “Light Leaks” there was spontaneous applause in the audience, that thing where select listeners recognize the song as it is being introduced. I had never experienced that before and it felt like “the real deal.” But I don’t remember the day leading up to that show, or what my friends and I talked about before or after, or who else was with us in my bass player’s practice space where we ate chips and had a little after party. And I don’t remember how I felt when I went to sleep that night, whether my ears were ringing or if my heart was full (I assume both are true, though).
One thing of course is that music is almost always played in a place that serves alcohol and, in fact, more often than not musicians are partially compensated with drinks. And generally a beer or two - maybe the band takes a shot together, for solidarity, or you enjoy a well drink with an old buddy who came out to the show - all of that feels good and yes, is helpful. Loosens ya up, takes the edge off - yes, in fact, it makes you feel more brave. Helps you keep eye contact while you’re singing just a moment longer. And the venue wants to sell drinks - the musicians encourage others to do so (“oh, the drummer’s got a tallboy maybe I’ll get one, too”). Plus a liquored up crowd is more fun to play to.
But I think that’s all just one narrative excuse I tell myself. It’s not just when I play, it’s when I’m watching shows. It’s when I’m going out dancing, people’s birthdays, many occasions where the drinks aren’t free and don’t serve a grander kind of vibe purpose. And I really enjoy it. Not trying to yuck anyone’s yums, even my own. I understand the appeal of staring oblivion in the face - I embrace it. Just concerned, in the first of my decades of sunset years, about what stays available at the surface. What I talk about and to who, what details I remember and the countless nuances I’ve sanded over with liquor. What does it mean to keep sandin'?

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from My Life's Work, released August 30, 2018

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Ben Seretan Troy, New York

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