The first time I heard Amy Winehouse was in Fells Point.
My best friend at the time had taken me to Baltimore for the weekend to celebrate my 30th birthday.
Some folks head to the Bahamas when they hit a landmark bday, but Charm City suited me just fine.
We were sitting in Bertha's Bar, famous for their mussels and their gritty night life.
When I heard Winehouse's voice for the first time it was over a cheap CD player buried under the sink of the bar.
"Rehab" had just hit the charts and it totally blew my mind.
"Who is this?" I asked the bartender. She handed me the album.
I turned to my friend and proclaimed her "bad ass."
The singer spoke to me in more ways than are probably proper to admit.
She had brazen down to a "t" and despite her sometimes outlandish antics, made the ladies who listened to her want to be a bit naughty themselves.
A modern-day rebel without a cause, she epitomized the life and times of a genuine rock and roller and rejected many of the aesthetic preconditions of pop star fame. But it wasn't her behemoth of a beehive, whiter shade of pallor, or thick black eyeliner that made us love her, it was her caustic acknowledgment of all the unsavory truths we face in life.
She stated them without trepidation or remorse. Maybe it was the booze that made her brave like it does so many of us, but at least she wasn't ashamed of it. She didn't much worry about her reputation but rather lived her 27 years in the open, bore witness to the demons of addiction and spoke honestly about love and loss.
She made my nights crying on the kitchen floor relatable.
My carpet burns relevant.
My inner demons palpable to only the very bravest of men.
She makes the recollections of a boy I once loved come flooding back in Technicolor.
And waves of repeat, refrain, and repent.
Three friends sitting on a balcony facing the bay side of Ocean City in the latter part of the day -- stoned, warm, and debating the definition of "fuckery."
I took my t-shirt off and stretched out in the chaise facing the water.
It was a brief moment of defeated inhibition coaxed by the summer sun and soft hallucinogens.
It was a moment that has now long become a recollection only coaxed to the surface by a sufficient amount of booze, burden, and today's 100 degree heat.
So here I sit on my Glover Park patio, drinking a sweaty salute to a young woman who matters to me less because she topped the billboard charts and more because she revives a lost desire to make bad decisions in the name of youth and innocence.
"We only said goodbye with words, I died a hundred times. You go back to her and I go back to black." - Amy Winehouse (1983-2011)