Last night I stayed up past my bed time to see Ben Folds, joking with fellow concert goers who saw me in the lobby drinking a cup of coffee. "Where did you get that? We want some!"
"This is not what I was drinking when I first saw him," I joked. I don't even remember the name of the venue, but it was some small club in North Carolina in the mid-90s when I was in college. We'd piled into a friend's hatchback and driven across state lines to see him, I remember that. But that was 20 years ago, and kind of everything is different. Like I'm a mom in Volvo who drove in from the suburbs and had a plate of artisanal cheese before the show. And then sought out coffee.
To be clear: I don't just drink coffee to stay up because I'm 40 and 9 p.m. is my preferred bed time. It's because I don't drink.
Oh I used to, and concerts were among my favorite places to do that. On couches at at dinners, and especially concerts and airports. The concerts I had through my earphones in airports were some of my favorites, or so I thought. I felt a lot and I couldn't process it all, and I did what a lot of people did to "cope." Avoided. In the worst years, I'd often sit in the airport bar after what I thought was an impossible week, listening to Ben Folds "Landed."
"I've been flying high all night
So come pick me up, I've landed."
It's always hard for me to hear that song now, and last night was not an exception. But there was something cathartic about hearing it wide awake, thinking about how much had changed in the 355 days since I woke up in a hotel room and decided I would do whatever it took to live.
I texted my sponsor, who was in the audience as well. I said that that song reminded me of my worst years. But the tears that I cried weren't of sadness -- it was because I was present to enjoy an incredible show by one of the best artists of our generation.
Which is why the drunk talker in the audience was so damn hard for me to stomach.
The show is called "Ben Folds & A Piano", because, well it's him and his piano. It's a high energy, beautiful, moving set. In between, as he told stories, one audience member talked back. The first time it was kind of funny ha-ha -- "What are you drinking, Ben? Want to go to the bar later?" The fourth and fifth times, her voice going through the historic theater's space, not so much. At one point she screamed out that she had missed a song because she was at the bar. I cringed.
The audience talked back. "These kind people will handle our friend up here," is a paraphrase of Mr. Folds. And they did, shushing her and telling her to stop.
It was uncomfortable for me. Because in her I could see myself.
I didn't like that.
I didn't like thinking about the times I had to leave concerts because I'd had way too much to drink. I didn't like thinking about the fact that I used to "have the energy" to be able to stay up for shows, and then forgot half of then. I didn't like that it brought me right back to the airport bars where I tried to drown out the noise and pressures of the world with one Hendrick's after the next.
Luckily, I have a way to process all those memories now. I have recovery. It's the hardest thing I've ever done, but today I have no desire to numb myself to the point of forgetting, especially the things that I love. Like live music by one of my favorite artists.
Last night, on the way home in the Volvo, I Tweeted this (I wasn't driving!), and got the following response from Ben Folds. I know, I know, I don't need to apologize for anyone. Maybe I was apologizing for an old version of myself.
Then today came Tweets from a person who claimed to be the "talker." It's a new Twitter account, so I guess it was created for this purpose.
She even made this art.
Very graciously, Mr. Folds replied "no worries," which was pretty gracious. My response was to suggest experiencing live music sober -- it's actually really great.
Why do I share this here? Well Twitter will only allow me say so much. Last night I was annoyed, and a little uncomfortable, but I enjoyed a hell of a show. One drunk concertgoer does not ruin an experience like that.
But -- I know what it's like to wake up with existential dread and feel like I need to apologize to someone. So maybe I don't write as much to that specific concertgoer as I do for someone else who needs to read this. Maybe there's someone else out there that needs to know that coffee at concerts is OK, and that crying to songs because they make you feel is OK too. (And if you want to drink and can, OK. You do you. But be careful please.)
So it's not really about our friend the talker. Maybe it's for some other person going to some other concert, passing through some other airport.
Maybe it's for the old version of myself, with whom I make peace with every day.
There's something that some of my fellow recovery friends say: we are the luckiest.
"I don't get many things right the first time
In fact I'm told that a lot.
But I am the luckiest." --Ben Folds
Thanks Mr. Ben Folds. Thank you, fellow concert goer. I am the luckiest.