Moving Melodies: The Heart of the Matter

I didn’t even like her music particularly, well the one song I had heard. They played it on Alice, my favorite radio station, All. The. Time. Funny that now I can’t remember the song to save my life. Not that I would want to. Well, maybe to save my life. But nothing short of self preservation could make me want to remember that song now.

Every September, Alice hosts a music festival in Golden Gate Park called Now and Zen Fest. Each year there are three to five acts that appear and most years, they aren’t interesting enough, to me, to brave the crowds and the chaos and the extended travel time (two hours to go eight miles by public transit.) Eight years ago, there were a couple of musical acts that were actually appealing to me. The price of the tickets, though, was prohibitive for me to attend.

I listened to the radio station at work everyday and when the DJ said to call in for free passes to the festival, I started dialing, not even listening, hearing or caring what else she had to say about it.

We have what I consider to be an antiquated phone system in my building, but with well over 2500 individual handsets it would cost, literally, half a million dollars to replace so we stick with it until we can’t any more. This phone system has a pause before dialing the number you keyed and I was sure this would prevent me from being the requisite caller and winning the passes so you can imagine my surprise when the phone actually rang.

I’m the tenth caller, I thought. They wanted the ninth. They’ve already gotten the right caller and they’re just letting the rest of the lines ring. It just wasn’t possible that I had won. And then the DJ answered the phone and asked me my name. I couldn’t believe I was the correct caller. I had won two free passes to Alice’s Now and Zen Fest, 2002. And what else? There’s more? Wow. I didn’t expect more. Oh. My guest and I would also get to come back stage to meet none other than India Arie. OK. Whatever. Don’t care!

I took my friend Michelle, because for as long as I’ve lived in California, twelve years and one month, she is the only person I ever do anything with. When it comes to an actual social life, she’s it. Michelle was actually excited to meet India Arie. I couldn’t have cared less.

The concert starts at noon and they don’t open the gates until 11:00 but people start lining up early in the morning. We arrived at the park at about 11:40 having no idea how long it would take to get there, or how long the line would be or what it would look like inside the gates. My free passes afforded me no special treatment, beyond the brief adventure backstage where I would meet a recording artist I didn’t even like. As it turns out, 20,000 people make for a very long line and even though the gates had been open for forty minutes already when we arrived, the line was still quite long. We brought a quilt to sit on, and Michelle pulled a bottle of spray on sun screen out of her purse and proceeded to spray her exposed flesh (she never wears shorts) and rub the concoction in. When she was finished she offered the bottle to me.

I don’t know if this has ever been discussed on this site, but Michelle is a moderately light skin toned black woman. Sun burn is a possibility but not a major concern. I, on the other hand, am of Irish, Scottish, English and German ancestry and I’m certain I’ve made no secret of the fact that you could find me in the middle of a forest at midnight on a cloudy night with no stars or moon and without the aid of a search light because I’d be the one glowing from the collective rays of the sun through the day prior to the presumed maroon-ment (there’s a word I want to use here, but it’s completely escaping me) that had you searching for me in the first place.

Michelle offered me the bottle of sun screen, looking at my bare arms and legs. I declined. “Nah, I’ll be OK. I could use a little sun.” Of my siblings and me, I’m the only one who wasn’t cursed with red hair and while I got a very similar complexion, I actually do retain a minimal amount of tan after my skin heals, when I get a sun burn. A little bit of a sun burn would heal nicely into a barely perceptible (except to me) tan and I was going to take advantage of the opportunity. Michelle looked at me warily and then put the bottle back in her bag.

When we finally got into the park, there was a sea of humanity as far as the eye could see and in every direction. Quite honestly, I was ready to turn around right then and there, but we had come all this way and Michelle actually wanted to meet India Arie, so fine, we continued our trek into the park.

The meet and greet was supposed to be before one of the bands set but Ms. Arie’s transportation was running late so we were told to come back after her set and we could meet her then. Michelle and I headed into the mass of people in search of a patch of ground big enough to spread out our quilt and not get trampled. What we finally found was easily a quarter mile away from the stage out in the middle of a field with no hope of shade of any kind. San Francisco is not known for its warm weather, although September is the warmest month of the year. But even when the ambient temperature in the city is only in the low to mid 70’s, sitting in the middle of a field, with 20,000 of your nearest and dearest and the sun beating straight down on you, it is hot and very quickly became miserable.

We sat through the second act, the first having played the entire time we were searching for a spot, and I was roasting. I was drenched in sweat (not my favorite) and felt as if my skin had been under a broiler for quite some time. I was in denial and convinced myself that the sun wasn’t that bad and I’d heal nicely to a decent if minimal tan.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, India Arie took to the stage. I was happy, because it meant that soon she’d be finished and we would go to meet her and then Michelle and I could go home. Since it was just the two of us, we weren’t going to leave the quilt behind and if we were taking it with us, we were sure to loose our spot. I wasn’t really interested in staying anyway as I was soaking wet and could no longer deny that my skin hurt.

The meet and greet consisted of six or eight people crowding around India Arie and saying “hi” while trying to shake her hand. When the first person tried to take a picture with Ms. Arie, the promotions person from the station told us there wasn’t time for pictures and said that we should all gather together on either side and they’d take one group picture. She promised she’d make sure we all got a copy. As we walked away I thought, she didn’t get e-mail addresses or home address from any of us. I’m never going to see that picture. It didn’t matter to me, but I’m sure there were some to whom it did.

So what is the point of this typically drawn out story? Well, we’re getting there, so just hold your horses. 😉

The first time I ever heard of India Arie was when this song, which I can no longer remember, that I did not like, started playing on my favorite radio station. I wasn’t impressed. I didn’t care for her, particularly, as a performer. I, of course, had nothing against her personally, but was not impressed with her music. Michelle and I left the park after her set and the meet and greet and I never even heard the band that I had really wanted to see. (I think that was Train, but honestly, I don’t even remember anymore.) I had attended the event in a short sleeved t-shirt with shorts and flip flops. At that point I had not yet fallen prey under the spell of the knee length short fashion. I wasn’t wearing short shorts, but when I was sitting on my quilt on the ground they only went about halfway down my thigh. I walked away from the park that day with what turned out to be second degree burns on the front of my legs that hurt for weeks and it took more than three years for the color (which was red and not tan) to completely fade away. For quite some time after that there was a very discernable line across each of my thighs where the color changed from tomato (or some shade) red to pasty, Elmer’s glue white (OK, not quite that white).

The entire event ended up being an unpleasant experience and when you combine that with the music I didn’t enjoy and the meet and greet that was more of a meet and shoo, I guess I have a less than pleasant reaction to the sound of her voice or the mention of her name.


There’s a song on my iPod that happens to be performed by India Arie that I absolutely love. I was surprised to realize it was her singing as the song came on the soundtrack for the Sex and the City movie. The song is called The Heart of the Matter originally performed by Don Henley, but I have to be honest, I actually like this version better. I like it because it’s a great mix of genres. It’s not too rock and roll but not too R&B. Her voice, in this song at least is smooth and soothing and you can really feel the emotion of the song while she sings.

Take a look at the lyrics:

I got the call today, I didn’t wanna hear
but I knew that it would come
An old true friend of ours was talkin’ on the phone
She said you found someone
And I thought of all the bad luck,
And all the struggles we went through
How I lost me and you lost you
What are all these voices outside love’s open door
Make us throw off our contentment
And beg for something more?

I’ve been learning to live without you now
But I miss you sometimes
The more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I knew, I’m learning them again
I’ve been trying to get down to the Heart of the Matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore

These times are so uncertain
There’s a yearning undefined
And people filled with rage
We all need a little tenderness
How can love survive in such a graceless age
And the trust and self-assurance that lead to happiness
Are the very things we kill, I guess
Pride and competition cannot fill these empty arms
And the wall they put between us,
You know it doesn’t keep us warm

I’ve been trying to live without you now
But I miss you, baby
The more I know, the less I understand
And all the things I thought I figured out, I have to learn again
I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the Heart of the Matter
But my will gets weak
And my heart is so shattered
But I think it’s about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore

All the people in your life who’ve come and gone
They let you down, you know they hurt your pride
Gotta put it all behind you; cause life goes on
You keep carryin’ that anger, it’ll eat you up inside

I wanted happily ever after
And my heart is so shattered
But I know it’s about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me

I’ve been trying to get down to the Heart of the Matter
Because the flesh gets weak
And the ashes will scatter
So I’m thinkin’ about forgiveness
Even if you don’t love me anymore

Even if you don’t love me anymore

It’s clear, both from the lyrics in the first verse and from it’s place in the movie that this song is about moving on from a lost love, but I think it’s true that the lyrics mean so much more than that.

It was actually my intention when starting this post to tell you what’s been going on in my head while listening to this song on repeat (because that’s what I do when there’s an emotional response) but I realize now that this post has gone in a very different direction and to get into that now would just be weird and this post is already too long. So instead, I’m just going to leave you with this somewhat unimpressive memory and the mental picture of my pasty white/tomato red “farmers tan” and perhaps save the mental ravings for another day.

Hope you had fun.

2 thoughts on “Moving Melodies: The Heart of the Matter

  1. There is nothing worse then a sneak attack sunburn that kicks your ass. And nothing worse then going to a bad concert when your friends are having a great time and you are bored out of your mind lol.

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