Performer: Bruce Springsteen
Songwriter: Bruce Springsteen
Original Release: Music from the Motion Picture Philadelphia
Definitive Version: None
After I moved to Grand Blanc, I began going to movies again—particularly after I moved to sports when my evening schedule freed up. The closest theater was a Showcase cinema near the Courtland Center Mall in Burton (now closed).
By the winter of 1993-1994, I was going quite a bit. I had more money and lots of free time, and I didn’t have to rely on others to participate, unlike softball. Although the more obvious route would be to go up Dort Highway past the strip clubs to get there, I preferred to take what I called the back way, which was essentially unlit two-lane roads. It actually was more of a straight shot up from my apartment in Grand Blanc, and it made me feel as though I was far away from Flint though still attached somehow.
If the movie were long, I’d stop at Subway on the way and sneak in my dinner under my coat. I did this for Malcolm X and Gettysburg, which is still the longest movie I’ve seen in a theater, at four hours.
Philadelphia was one of the movies that I saw there during this time. It didn’t affect me as much as this haunting song by Bruce Springsteen. At the time, I had been fortunate to have danced around the periphery of the AIDS epidemic. I was going to Wabash when the whole Ryan White debacle took place, and I was in charge of the sports desk the night Magic Johnson retired from basketball after testing positive for HIV. And that was the extent of my “direct” involvement.
That’s no longer true. Although I still don’t personally know of anyone who has died from AIDS the way Laurie has, I have had as guests at my dinner table at least two people who are HIV-positive. I don’t know if it was Magic Johnson or this movie or just the timing of all the research, but HIV isn’t the hopeless situation that it was when this song hit the airwaves.
I suppose that’s something more worthwhile to attach to this song than just the vision of driving out in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night to see a movie.