Close Your Eyes (And Start To See)
Sam said I buried the lead. The truth is, it was a double murder.
The subject line read, “Benjamin Wagner Invites You To Rock And Muthafuckin’ Roll!” The details were as follows:
Host: Benjamin Wagner
Location: Rockwood Music Hall
196 Allen Street, New York City
When: Sunday, March 25, 7:00pm
Join Chris Abad, Tony Maceli, Ryan Vaughn and me as we perform tunes from my “Heartland,” “Love & Other Indoor Games,” “Almost Home” and “Crash Site” albums, plus new songs from my forthcoming release, “Giving Up The Ghost,” plus a cover or two for good measure.
Also, celebrate my engagement to Ms. Abbigail Keller exactly two years to the date and at the very venue at which she tapped me on the shoulder, introduced herself and said, “Good show.”
Sam is better known as Samantha Critchell, Fashion Editor for the Associated Press. She and I attended Syracuse University together. In fact, we lived in the same freshman dorm. She’s seen me at my worst, including at least one occasion in which she found unconscious (too much Mr. Boston vodka) and covered in magic marker scribblings.
Sam emailed yesterday to congratulate us, and — like any true journalist — make a few comments on my Evite copy. To her credit, she didn’t chastize me for dropping the F Bomb on 347 unwitting invitees (including, I would come to find out later, singer/songwriter/guitarist Chris Abad‘s boss), but she did point out my lapse in journalistic priorities:
So you bury the news that you’re engaged!?!
Congratulations. We knew this would happen after our picnic. It wasn’t a question of if but when. She’s a very lucky girl. (I know you’re going to say that you are a lucky guy, but let me give you a little credit here.)
Of course, I didn’t occur to me that my random Evite would constitute breaking news for many of my closest friends. Sometimes I forget that Benjamin Wagner Dot Com isn’t everyone’s home page. It did occur to me, however, that I was scooping myself on the title of my next CD, “Giving Up The Ghost.”
I was in the subway just a few days prior to releasing “Heartland” when, out of the blue, the phrase came to me. Somehow it summarized everything that I was (and still am) going through, specifically, letting go of all of the dreams, fantasies, and delusions of youth. I’m not relinquishing the ones that drive and motivate and inspire me, I’m casting out those that haunt me, that torture me and keep me up at night. You know the laundry list: the record deal, Grammy award, the cover of Rolling Stone, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the house in the Hollywood hills — things like that. These aren’t the things that sustain us. They’re distractions, false idols, golden cows. They’re a ruse.
I was listening to Terry Gross interview on of my musical heros, Michael Stipe, on Fresh Air this weekend. Of course, he and REM were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last night. On the surface, it’s everything I dreamed of as a kid. She asked him (as most interviewers, including myself have) “What impact did it have on you always being the new kid in the neighborhood?”.
“The positive aspects are that my family are very close. When you’re forced to make friends all the time it kind of makes you come together as a unit. We were a great loving family and we still are.”
‘If only I’d heard him say that when I was a teenager,’ I thought to myself. ‘Imagine all of the heartbreak I could have avoided!’
I helped Chris put together a bunk bed for Ethan on Sunday afternoon. It was one of those classic Ikea challenges, where you lay everything out on the floor, determine what’s missing, and forge ahead into your three hour construction project. As it was taking shape, Chris and Jen began to move furniture around the room. I took Ethan and Edward into the living room to keep them out of the way. Naturally, I grabbed Chris’ guitar, and Ethan grabbed his, and we began strumming.
“Name an animal,” I said.
“A lion!” Ethan replied.
“And what’s the lion’s name?” I asked.
“Daddy!” he said.
So there we were, Ethan and I, sitting on the corner of the couch, singing “The Lion Song” (“And the lion goes ‘Roar!'”) for our audience of one eight-month-old. And it was as meaningful, as inspiring, and as rewarding as any school auditorium, house party, or hip venue I’ve ever played.
So I’m giving up on the day dream. I’m giving up on the coast. I’m giving up on you, baby. I’m giving up…
I’m giving up the ghost.