It’s the heart that matters most….
In the song “Omaha” from the Counting Crows’ debut album August and Everything Adam Duritz sings “get right to the heart of matters, it’s the heart that matters more.”
It’s easy to take that lyric pretty much as written: it is the heart, of any given issue or idea, that matters more than whatever window dressing or bullshit going on around it.
This past Sunday, July 22nd, the band performed at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in the Woodlands, TX just north of Houston. I was there with my best friend…as has become a bit of a tradition over the years.
And as Adam sang Omaha that night, the lyric took on a slightly different meaning for me.
It is The Heart that matters more.
There is A Heart that matters more.
My Heart matters more.
Your Heart matters more.
The band was celebrating their 25th anniversary. 25 years seems like such a long time and yet just a week ago or so ago.
I’ve spent 25 years drowning in the Counting Crows. They are, all at once, my inspiration, my precious warm blanket, my favorite tool of reaffirming my own worst self-perceptions, and my source of emancipation from those harmful thoughts.
The band was cooking with joy and enthusiasm. Adam, normally reserved except when lost in the midst of a song, was cheerfully sharing thoughts on life and music that I’d never heard. His tales gave new meaning and context to songs that I’d thought I’d consumed to their fullest.
Now they beg further exploration.
I wish I could offer a set list or photos or specific examples of stellar playing but all I can say is the songs felt like a perfect mix for the affair. Their albums seemed to receive equal attention and reverence.
I have nothing beyond that though because it was the first show I’ve been to in I don’t know how long where the idea of jotting down the set list, taking notes, or puling my phone out for a photo never even occurred to me.
It was the best concert I’ve ever attended.
There was a moment early in the set where Adam made mention of this being their 25th anniversary. It occurred to my pal, “hey, we’ve got 25 years too!”
Indeed we do.
It also occurred to me that the Counting Crows are somewhat of a bridge between two of my best friends: Wendy who turned me on to them in the first place and Kristin with whom I’ve bathed in this band’s music for all these years since. I think that’s pretty amazing. Two people, a thousand miles apart, one on either side of me for all these years and in their own way they’ve been pushing me, motivating me, reminding me that it’s good man. It’s ok. One or the other has always been in my ear saying “You got this. You are good.”
It’s the heart that matters more.
Wendy introduced me to the Counting Crows via the most sacred of childhood communication tools: a mix tape.
It’s important to note that Wendy and I weren’t supposed to be friends with one another or with anyone else for that matter haha.
When we each landed in Miami in the early 1990s, we had committed ourselves to NOT making any friends. Miami Southridge High School was not our destination, just a brief detour. We were just passing through and were determined to do so without complication or attachment. We failed…miserably.
One day without an empty table to sit at, I saw her sitting alone, the only other person I’d seen in classes seemingly as resolute in her silence as I. She was reading a book and munching on chips. I think she had a Walkman on. I may have too for that matter. I carried mine everywhere.
I surrendered to what I was sure would be the most awkward moment of my young life.
“Hey can I sit here? I won’t talk or anything?”
“Yeah if you want.”
I pulled a chair, sat down with my book and chips and there we sat.
And so it began. Within weeks we became friends and by semester’s end we became known as some sort of inseparable terror twins.
“Do you know who we are?!”
Perhaps in another world Wendy and I really are brother and sister.
So all these years later, I’m sitting at this Counting Crows show with one of my best friend, who I met shortly before Wendy, in Houston before my family made our brief but impactful move to Miami.
Kristin is one of only a couple of people who breathe the Counting Crows in as deeply as I do. Sitting back with her, taking in the show and breathing in all the years we’ve shared was an incredible feeling.
It seems like an entirely different life when Kristin was laughing at Steven and me as we cut up in geometry. It seems like an entirely different world where Wendy and I were roaming the halls of our Miami high school like we owned the joint.
I suppose in another life I’m Ricky to Kristin’s Angela or I dunno, Dawson to her Joey…or ha, just a pair of winos in a slop house. In another life Wendy I could actually be brother and sister…adopted most likely…not much of a resemblance. haha
But in THIS life we are friends who, after 25 years, are still propping one another up when we it feels like we are about to collapse.
In this life Wendy and I began as two kids resolved in our commitment to self-imposed exile and we’ve maintained an eye on one another as our lives have taken us on our journeys. We’ve enjoyed watching our families grow and seeing each step we take through our lives.
Kristin and I have watched ourselves and each other go from kids whose teachers loved to tell our parents of our unfulfilled potential turn into adults who are actually reaching some of that potential….and WITHOUT having to keep our mouths shut…at least not all the time.
In this life Kristin and I keep going because the other keeps going and every step we take in life have been steps taken together…sometimes side by side, sometimes one carrying the other, and sometimes one dragging the other kicking and screaming.
Somehow the phrase “Look man, I can’t do this. Forget it.” turned into “Look, damn it, we’re doing this. OK? So get up! NOW!”
That phrase then evolved into “LOOK! We’re doing this! We’re actually doing this!”
Then, that too changed. It has become “LOOK DAMN IT! WE DID IT!! We actually did it! Now, what ELSE can we do!” (We literally had our graduate degree commencement ceremonies on the same day. How neat is that!?)
In this life Kristin and Wendy are dear friends of mine and when I think about all the times over the last 25 years that I’ve said I was lonely and had no friends, that I was on my own and that no one understood me…I feel ashamed at how dismissive of both their feelings have been. I’ve deserved every one of those slaps across the back of my head for staying stupid shit like that.
25 years ago the only thing 25 years meant was that in 1968 the Beatles released the White Album.
I had no concept of what 25 years in the future would look like.
Hell, I couldn’t see past Thursday. (To be fair though, I STILL have a hard time looking past Thursday).
Today, my God, 25 years means so much.
As important as anything it means 25 years of incredible music and profound friendship.
Wendy, sis, thanks for the mix tapes.
Adam, Charlie, Dan, and the boys: thanks for one hell of a show on Sunday and 25 years of music that is so deeply embedded in my everything.
Kristin, thanks for going to the show with me! My ear had me so freaked out that I wouldn’t have gone if not for you. I’m so happy to report that while there was a definite uptick in The Ringing’s volume and was a bit louder the next day, I’m fine….more than fine. I was not nearly as bad off as I feared and that gives me hope. The Ringing may never go away but that doesn’t mean I can’t live the life I want to live.
I think Sunday was a big step in that regard.
So after all that…I guess I’ll leave you with this:
Somewhere in middle America
Get right to the heart of matters
It’s the heart that matters more
I think you’d better turn your ticket in
And get your money right at the door
– Omaha, Counting Crows.
Life is life but friendship?
It’s Always and Forever and Regardless.
Everything else is just details.
Be Well and Kind,