good morning ~
(click the link / american eel to listen)
today’s recording features two baby grand pianos - one on cassette tape and one played in live response, intertwining like roses in stained glass
I feel a little too wiped to enthusiastically plug anything rn but I do wanna encourage you to get your tickets to the 24-hour drone at Basilica next month - - it will probably sell out and I am very pumped on what our new quartet accomplished in rehearsal over the weekend.
One day out of nowhere I receive an email from someone I kind of know. It has an insistent, almost admonishing quality, with a link to an entire ass podcast in a flirty pink typeface - sentences that would otherwise appear passive aggressive were they to be emphasized in bold are instead softened. The email wants to be soft, but comes out instead a little rocky. The men are not okay, especially in their relationships and desires - here is a workshop for men to become more okay. On first reading, I am interested in what’s being offered - a multi-week workshop analyzing and breaking down the inherent privileges, challenges, and struggles of the 21st-century male-identifying person. Well surely this is something I should at least consider - despite my soft, curvy body and my dangly little earring I am certainly a white, cis-gender man with facial hair who benefits from various categories of social privilege and could probably stand some more honest introspection (couldn’t we all?). On second reading I begin to realize something - I had never signed up for this person’s email list. So, was my name added to the BCC coincidentally or was this targeted advertising? Did they feel that I ought to sign up because I am an unexamined menace to my community, oblivious and awash of my terrible ripples, despite my having been for the last four years in what I would categorize as a healthy, happy, open-emotionally-but-not-open-in-that-way relationship? The email also implores us receivers to share this information with our wider network, so perhaps it is the band-t-shirt wearing loud noise bros often found at a bar I work at whom this person is targeting via my inbox. Or plausibly it could be just that this person really needs folks to sign up - maybe they need the cash, sliding scale be damned - and there were many email addressed culled and blasted. I can’t know for sure - I have neither the time nor the scratch to enroll in the workshop nor the social standing to question the action directly.
Men - I am frequently surrounded by them, a situation I wouldn’t say I find threatening exactly but is certainly a little uncomfortable on occasion, a bully’s echo. Too many dudes in almost every music scene on earth and very rarely will they ever turn down their guitars. This gig was different, however - to a man every male-presenting person in attendance either made or appreciated recorded or performed music peppered with birdsong. Single hoop piercings and kerchiefs, the hallmark of the therapy-sanded male. Everyone listens intently and an infant feeds at their mother’s breast for the duration of my set. There’s an air of digestible, palatable masculinity and open heartedness in the macho sculptor’s haunted workshop, surrounded by his sharp and rusty tools. I get weird vibes, however, from one obviously charismatic but seemingly wine drunk guy who keeps saying one nice thing and then one asshole thing - I feel as if I am being negged. The next day I text a buddy who confirms my suspicions that the dude is a creep. Which leads me to realize that I would immediately believe anyone were they to tell me of any bad behavior on the part of any of these men, in other words given witness from another person in the community I could immediately believe that any of us are not okay. Even in the rarefied, gentled spaces, the potential is there, just a word or action below.
After the gig I host the touring band at my new place, the first non-family guests we’ve had since moving in. They are sweet, attentive boys who together and indivudally make a spacious, tuned-in kind of music. We eat goat cheese and beer nuts and pickles in my kitchen and talk about where they’re driving to the next day and before long we’re all asleep. More tired than I realize, I miss the first volley of messages on my phone - we’re driving to breakfast a half an hour south, join us if you can! The boys are gone and I’m heading north for work that night. I ask them to send me pictures from the Rockaways but I don’t see them until they’re posted on Instagram a few days later.
Meanwhile I receive a series of texts and messages from three people I’m close to - we are all emotionally invested in each other’s lives and our very active group chat. On this particular evening they are pleasantly drunk at a hotel over a foreign border. They’re having a laugh - did someone actually think that Ben Seretan needed this kind of workshop? I know it’s something of a compliment - they love me for my sweetness. But couldn’t I become even sweeter?
At the first day of my new job I am told to watch a YouTube video produced by the New York State Department of Labor as part of my employee onboarding process. It is required by the state that all new employees complete the training. 54 minutes of terminology, context, and examples with an interactive PDF worksheet that I don’t remember ever completing when I got hired at the bar. I watch the video at 2x speed, confident that I will ace the questions as they occur. I am surprised, instead, that I got a bunch of them wrong. Well, good thing I did the training, I suppose, but I still can’t imagine that I would ever intentionally deadname or suggestively brush up against a coworker. A couple of days later, rushing from the parking lot, my new boss flags me down to introduce me to her husband and co-founder. “Meet Ben,” she says, and then, a little proudly, “he’s the only ever man to officially be on staff.” I apologize and ask her to run that back for me, did I hear her correctly? “Yeah! We’ve never really hired a man before - you must be special!” In that moment I take the last sentence as a command: be special, or else. Minutes later as I pull into the Stewart’s for my third coffee of the day I’m still wondering what it is about me.
But what about you? Are you walking around unexamined? Are you a little perplexed and annoyed having been included on this email list? What does your little dangly earring say about you?