It all started 21 years ago with a peck on the cheek. I was 30 and living in Cambridge, waiting for a bus to take me home to my apartment from the Commons above Harvard Square one afternoon. A young woman smiled at me as she got on the bus before me, but I went and sat by myself at the back. To my surprise when I got off the bus, she did too. Apparently we lived only a few houses apart. Me with my two Italian and Greek astrophysicist flatmates. She in need of a replacement. We talked a few minutes before going to our separate destinations, but smack, she pecked me on the cheek as we parted. Another surprise. I was used to cheek kissing from my year in Italy, but this was the US. Strangers didn't do that the first time they met.
Our first year lease together was about up so I found a replacement and jumped ship from the bachelor pad. It turned out that Diane, a psychologist, was one of your fans. I had never heard of you, but I kind of liked what she played for me just before she dragged me to some small bar music venue on the North Shore one night to hear you perform. From that night on I was also a fan. I have always had a special liking for female vocalists over the years, but you were unique. Even now still classified as country when you don't seem like that at all. A strong intelligent woman with strong feelings. I don't know exactly what connected with me, but somehow you worked your way into my music heart and never left. Diane and I both moved on after that year and I eventually lost track of her somehow, one of the few important friends from my past that slipped through my fingers.
Flash forward to the 12th annual Philadelphia Film Festival, April, 2003. Ani and I like to catch the opening and closing films each year if possible, and I like to catch as many other films as circumstances permit, which is often not very many. The inertia of life and the threshold of crashing the city from the burbs. We've only seen the opening film this year and it's already a week later, one week to go. All my post-it marked choices in the program booklet are passing me by. When the woman film critic from the Inkie, the one I trust on the "chick-flick" reviews that are also one of my favorite categories, does a four star review (4 out of 4) of this Bollywood film A Peck on the Cheek that I had somehow overlooked. We had missed my selection Bollywood/Hollywood, sadly, but here was a reprieve. I had once watched a whole Bollywood film without subtitles on the ethnic programming public television channel, so engaging and easily interpretable that the dialogue was not essential. So you see where I am coming from. But at 9:45pm? Returning home after midnight? This would be a hard sell with Ani. But it was a Friday night. Maybe...
Then I hear on our special listener supported local radio station XPN, where we have been joint member supporters even before they thought up the different membership levels to raise more funding, that you will be on the World Cafe that day at the 2 o'clock hour, exactly when my second class in differential equations meets, BUT... I was giving a quiz and then a take home test for the students to start, allowing me the option of catching the live interview/performance on my 20 year old Walkman while they worked away. Which I forgot to bring to class! So I call the station to see how I can find out when they will rebroadcast the program and find out that every night at 1am they repeat the day's show. I go to your website and read your long essay about the awarding of a purple heart to your uncle 58 years after the fact, and the need for dissent in a democracy, and I was happy that your smart thinking in feelings expressed in your songs also extended to the larger world at a time when musicians are experiencing backlash from "patriots" for voicing opposition to Bush's Iraq war. You proudly took a stand anyway.
I convince Ani to make the effort. She too has a soft spot for Bollywood from when she was a little girl growing up in Lebanon. We go early and finally choose to eat Indian before the movie. The movie turns out to be worth every star Carrie gave it. A touching tale about a 9 year old Tamil girl born in an Indian refugee camp and adopted by Indian parents who tell her on her 9th birthday that she was adopted, and then end up taking her to Sri Lanka to find her birth mother, and get caught up in the guerrilla war. A love story. Mother and daughter. Father and daughter. Mother and father, who were brought together in marriage by this little abandoned baby. A Peck on the Cheek.
Back home in bed it is only a short wait for your segment. I taped it to make sure I did not miss anything if I fell asleep. The last time I had recorded a tape had been years ago, when I would put together a mix of eclectic music for my friend Emanuela in Rome each summer before departing for my several month visit. Since which she and her husband Domenico have been spending a few months each winter in Sri Lanka. It's a small world in some ways. I was jolted out of my awake-sleep state at the 30 minute mark by a loud click as the tape deck shut down the recording. I had forgotten that tapes have to be flipped halfway through. But I managed to stay awake for the whole thing and I enjoyed hearing you speak. I'd already picked up your CD that had just come out the week before.
So my kiss on the cheek in 1982 had come full circle in this coincidence of events that brought together music and movies and nostalgia about friendships. Thanks for contributing to the mix and for all the heartstrings you've pulled with your music over the intervening years.