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The Rose of Spanish Harlem

I'd like to share a moment with you; the moment I realized that music could save me from a seemingly inevitable pit of misery.

By the time I reach junior high school the haze of darkness in my home and family is ever present. A dull buzz of depression surrounds my brain and colors my every experience. The anxiety that comes with never knowing if I would be smacked around, berated or otherwise abused at the end of the day has become so commonplace, I don’t really notice it anymore. Others do, however. My teachers comment on the dark circles under my eyes, my lack of focus, my seriousness and my sadness. Dying, although not fully understood, is starting to seem more and more like a reasonable solution to that heavy, constant mean hum; I need some relief. I ditch school, get on the bus to Massapequa. Destination; the Sunrise Mall- I can steal stuff and go to movies.

The $20 I took from the top of his dresser when he was passed out is in my pocket. Plenty for bus fare and a movie-hah! I’m showing my age. Whatever.

If I get to the mall early enough I can sit in the movie theatre all day and see the same movie three times! Last week it was Kramer vs Kramer. What would it be today?

Ah, this looks fun; The Blues Brothers. Mom lets us stay up to watch SNL. I love John Belushi and have a pretty serious crush on Dan Akroyd. I buy my ticket; although I would steal it if I could. I love to steal stuff. It gives me an odd sense of power in my otherwise powerless existence.

I slink past the merchandise display where there is all manner of Blues Brothers merchandise; t-shirts, albums, pins.

Once settled in my seat at the back of the theatre (I don’t like to have the back of my head exposed to anything) I wait for the curtain to open and the inevitable transport into some other place and time. Painless. I’ve become quite adept at suspending my disbelief and disappearing into other worlds.

The movie begins and salvation finds me. I return again and again; holding my breath each time Aretha's scene rolled out. There she is in her stained waitress outfit and pink fuzzy slippers; goddess! I savor every note, every gesture, every dance step. My God- she's come to this earth to save me. She's reaching out and shattering that dull buzz. She's the purest singer I have ever heard and she gave herself away in every performance.

Sweet, powerful, righteous, beautiful Queen of Soul...thank you.

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