We are smoke
It seems that my time away from home has suddenly taken a turn for the gloomy. I saw an Instagram story with a couple I first met ten years ago the other night. Earlier, I saw another story that implied that my real first encounter with another person I had known since ten years ago happened to be a year before that. It was enough to make me look back and feel very sad. Two of those people were special to me. I can’t say anything more about that.
That mood I had the other night went away the following day after I emailed them. However, I started getting into the next phase of it: regrets. For instance, if I got to know someone a year before it happened, would things have turned out differently? I don’t precisely recall what else I thought, and thank goodness. I would not even get to this point where I could look back on these feelings.
Last night, while going on a YouTube rabbit hole, I came across a video by the Ben Folds Five, a band whose song “Brick” was a minor hit while I was an undergraduate student. From the same album as “Brick,” there was a song which I later discovered thanks to Nick Hornby and his 31 Songs book (which in America is called Songbook). He recorded a recurring segment for BBC Radio 4 where he read essays from the book and, conveniently, played excerpts from the songs he discussed. I loved listening to his segments back when I listened to Radio 4 online in 2007 (before the BBC put in geographic restrictions). I came across that song when he mentioned it one day, and I liked how it began. I looked up the song and was immediately hooked.
“Smoke” is all about the act of choosing to forget a past relationship, and if one is in the process of doing that, it is catchy and cathartic. The picture it paints is clear from the very first lines. I’ll let you listen to them because it’s better if Ben Folds sings it.
Perhaps what happened to me the night I remembered it was what I hoped would happen: a reminder that everything, regrets and melancholy, will fade away if we choose to make it so. “We are smoke,” Ben Folds sings. I wonder if I can make that choice because there’s little else to do.
There’s just one thing, though. A friend named Cat was in this fantastic band called Arigato, Hato!
They were around in the late Oughts and early Tens. I first got to see them when I visited Cubao Expo, and they had all sorts of live music events. I still remember that they covered Portishead’s “Glory Box” there while I was sitting at a booth with a friend selling shirts. This band was one of those connected with a student music organization based in UP Diliman, about which I will say more in my subsequent essay. By the way, here’s a video of their Portishead cover performed at another venue that shaped my life with the arts, Mag:net Katipunan.
Cat knows this, but sometimes I’ve mentioned her band on Instagram, usually expressing how much I miss them. She recently put up a lengthy post on her blog talking about her experience with the songs she wrote and recorded and eventually performed with the band. On a related Instagram post, I commented on it, and we both recalled a memorable 2011 gig at Big Sky Mind (it was a pre-nuptial gig for a graphic designer). Around midnight, we all ended up at the nearby McDonald’s, where we hung out for some time. I forgot what we talked about, but I do remember that occasion.
I might come back to that in my next essay later this week because it does have to do with the story of the music org that changed my life. It’s part of a longer work that includes essays on the gig series and the music label that changed my life. I hope you’ll get around to reading it when I post it later this week. Until then, here’s another version of “Smoke” performed by Ben Folds in a moving orchestral arrangement.