Tag Archives: Prince

Remembering Prince, 1958-2016

prince_shmI have to say something about Prince’s death because, honestly, I just have to write to feel better about this. And, because, he was probably my first true love. Yeah, I know. That sounds pathetic. I remember when Michael Jackson died and everyone went crazy. People were crying. I thought, “Are you kidding me? You act like you knew the guy…” Well, now I understand.

I’ve cried for three days straight. No, I mean, I’ve sobbed. I had devoted so much fantasy time to that man for a good ten years–I had every single solitary one of his albums, his 45s, his cassettes and his CDs; I knew every song, I could tell you which album each song came from; I had all his song lyrics figured out and in high school, my walls were painted purple with the big EYES from the Purple Rain album; I even lost my virginity to Purple Rain with a kid who I believed was the closest thing I could get to Prince–I devoted so much emotional time to that man,  it only seems natural I would feel this loss, and yet, a part of my identity that took years to build seems to have crumbled away in an instant. That’s a bizarre feeling. For sure.

Untitled-1Aside from my father, Prince was probably the man who influenced me most, good and bad, and fueled a latent nature that was dying to burst forth. Everything I was running away from, everything I wanted to be, everything I couldn’t attain was wrapped up in that man. His lyrics held all the answers for a girl who was clueless and afraid of love and life. What’s more, I think he changed the chemistry of who I was the night I first saw him in concert. As he sat at his piano, screaming The Beautiful Ones, “I gotta know…Is it him or is it me…” Prince reconfigured my DNA that night, and there was no going back. Without him, I couldn’t tell you what I would look like today, what I might have become. I was transformed.

My mother couldn’t figure out the attraction. I think Prince scared her. He was black, he was half naked all the time, he wore frilly clothes like a woman and he sang about masturbation and God and she wasn’t having any of it for her perfect little girl. After I had bought the Controversy album at a record store at the mall, I hung the poster that came with the album in my bedroom closet. If anyone remembers this poster they might see how it could horrify a parent of a 15-year-old girl. It was Prince in black bikini underwear only, standing in a shower with a crucifix hanging on the shower wall. When my mother uncovered it at one point, not long after I had put it up, she told me to take it down. I refused. She told me, “If that ‘thing’ is not gone in three days, I am ripping it down.” I said, “No. It’s my room! You have no right to do that.” She said, “It’s my house.”

I held my ground and left the poster on the wall and, when I came home from school on the third day, the poster was ripped to shreds in a heap on my purple bedroom carpet.

I suppose that story is more telling of my mother than of me or my sentiments for Prince. And yet, there were many more times I would cry over the man. I cried out of frustration when I missed one of his concerts, I cried out of jealousy when I learned he was dating Vanity or some other woman. And I cried just to cry because, when you’re 16, that’s what you do.

And I wasn’t alone. I had a clique of friends that also worshipped the Purple One. We wore fringe and lace, swooshed our hair to one side, wrote letters to God, painted our rooms purple and drew The Sign and those Eyes on all our notebooks along with lyrics, carefully chosen that spoke to us like no parent ever could. We worked diligently trying to uncover all the hidden messages in his albums. When Paisley Park came out, we were hysterical because we thought Prince was dying. And we all wrote in our yearbooks that we were going to DMSR our lives away…

Shortly after graduation my best friend came to visit me in Wildwood where I worked for a summer selling t-shirts. I was so lonely and so missing my old friends that her visit was a godsend. We noted the cherry moon on the night she showed up. It was a sign.

When I was in my 20’s, living in Paris, I lived my life through the Sign of the Times and Batman albums. I drank “pink things” at an American bar called the Violon Dingue with my British friend Karen and we smoked Gauloises and bemoaned living in Paris with zero money. I thought it was a miracle when a boy selling cassettes on the street offered to sell me the Black Album and a bootlegged copy of Crystal Ball that he had clearly made in his parents’ basement—all for a whopping 20 francs. I think I sacrificed a meal and a pack of cigarettes that week. But, it was worth it.  This collection of songs I shared immediately with my other Prince-addicted friend, Kimberly, who was also living in Paris at the time. One night we ended up at club that was promoting an All-Prince night. We had come across one of their paper advertisements in the street—a red heart that said LoveSexy and were convinced the Man would make an appearance. I begged my au pair family to let me have the night off. I took the train into Paris from Fountainbleau met Kim and we stayed out until 7am—until the Metro started running again—dancing and waiting. He never did show, and what’s more my purse was stolen. But, I still have the LoveSexy advert. That’s all that really mattered.

princeI marked the years by albums, and, maybe shortly after Emancipation (ironically), my styles changed and I drifted. Or did I drift away organically? It’s not clear. The impoverished, but spiritually abundant days of Paris were long gone, and the girl who was so averse to growing up, grew up faster than she wanted in a less-than-perfect marriage and a deep struggle within myself to hold on to the woman I wanted to be. I remember one afternoon, living in Madrid with my new husband. I was happy within myself for a moment, in between fighting and a seemingly never ending long string of days where I would cry and rock back and forth wondering what the hell I was doing with my life. I remember putting on Friend, Lover, Sister, Mother/Wife, singing at the top of my lungs and dancing around a rather empty Madrid apartment living room that only had a futon and a TV. My husband came in and yelled, “Stop singing, you’re annoying me.”

That was the end of Prince.

I came back briefly during his Musicology period—Call My Name and On the Couch were the throaty, moaning, slow love songs that had first drawn me in and I simply needed to go back. That was 2004. The year my father died and the year I divorced. But, it wasn’t the same. I had changed. Prince’s spirituality imbued with sexuality was the perfect message of inspiration and validation I needed when I was younger, when I believed in those things, but I simply no longer possessed any of that anymore. Letters to God were replaced with the logical promise of science. And as far as my sexuality was concerned, I had spent years devoid of everything Prince told me true love and sexuality should look like. There were no hot nights in bathtubs with candles. My husband never said to me,

“If I was your girlfriend

Would U let me dress U

I mean, help U pick out your clothes…”

I got nothing remotely close to that. And so, I stop believing. In Prince. In the promises of youth. In me.

And that was that.

Until it wasn’t anymore. In 2009 I met Doug. By then, I had been through my fair share of ups and downs, reconnected with my true self, or rather, found my true self, not my fantasy one, and felt the warm glow of aliveness and happiness coming from within and from my children. While I no longer needed an idol to help me form my identity, I was no longer jaded by all the dreams that never came true. Doug and I, when we first met, talked about the fact that we both had Prince posters all over our walls and that he always dug girls who were into Prince because, well, let’s be honest, if Prince did one thing for any true fan, it was to teach them how to fuck. From a man’s perspective I could see how that might be appealing.

But, the truth is, Prince was a distant memory, a larger-than-life figure that gave me so much more than a song to dance to. He taught me how to be free. How to love. How to be my own duality. How to express myself. How to be unique. How to look at the world in all its glory and say, this is beautiful.

When I heard the news that he was dead it came in the form of a text that I only briefly saw. And then another, something about TMZ reporting it and it can’t be confirmed. I froze. I was at my computer, just off a 2-hour conference call. I went right on to Facebook and saw the posts blowing up my newsfeed. I called one of my old high schools friends right away and just kept saying, “No, no, no, no, no…It can’t be…” We were both crying. Holding on to the possibility that Prince not remotely capable of dying.

I looked at the date. And I knew.

Ironically, or coincidentally, both my father and Prince died at age 57. And ironically, or coincidentally, they both died on the same date. This is significant. There had always been a mystique about the world for me–an innocent belief that the universe aligns certain major events in your life mysteriously–as if someone behind a curtain is trying to tell you something–I may be invisible but there’s a purpose and a plan, and I’m going to drop little clues to keep you guessing. I stopped believing in that for a very long time, but in that very moment of reconciling Prince’s passing, I knew. It was a gentle reminder that the world is still a mystery and I need to keep my eyes open for signs.

Thank you, Prince. Thank you. For a lifetime of helping to build a girl into a woman. That’s a pretty big feat for such a little guy.

best-prince-songs-5I read today that Prince’s remains were cremated. And that reports of his death were that he may have overdosed on percocets. To me, those are crazy hard facts to hear. They don’t compute. They bring me back to the girl with the ripped to shreds poster on her bedroom floor. Crying because it just doesn’t make sense.

One of my homegirls sent me a poignant quote that sums up exactly how I feel about Prince’s death and why it’s possible I still feel a bit lost.

Prince was so utterly, effortlessly enshrouded in mystique that he seemed other-than-human, to the point where mortality never figured into our calculations.—Vanity Fair

Rest in peace. Nothing compares to you.

“…time we all reach out 4 something new…”

So, out of the blue, up pops my very first boyfriend from 25 years ago on facebook yesterday. The one and only B.J., affectionately known as “homeboy.”  The 17-year-old I lost my virginity to during an abridged, radio version of Purple Rain. The boy responsible for one of the most defining moments of my life. Back from the dead. On facebook.

As a child I often loved the idea of an old lover coming back after many years to find me still pining away for him and ready to pick up where we left off. But as Time, intelligence and my own transient, fickle nature would have it, it really never worked out that way. Nor would I have ever wanted it to. And yet Homeboy, and a boat load of others from my long ago past, keep popping up, forcing me to once again re-evaluate how far I’ve come and how very little of myself I am actually able to discard.

So, I start  re-reading old journals from when I was sixteen, while simultaneously analyzing Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants and the John Patrick Shanley film “Doubt.” Combining old me and new me makes me feel as though I have come far (analyzing literature and film with my hot, intelligent, creative boyfriend as opposed to chasing some dope-smoker around, forcing him to wear purple bikini underwear-ah yes. I have changed).

Both Doubt and Hills Like White Elephants leave the reader/audience in suspended animation. With Doubt, the audience is asked the following: “do you believe character A or do you believe character B?” But no resolution is ever offered. If it were, the film would be sending a different message: we may always expect the truth and know the answer. That, however, is not the case, nor is it the underlying message in Doubt. 

Hills Like White Elephants also leaves its readers conflicted as to what will happen in the end regarding Jig’s possible abortion and the relationship between her and the American because nothing is ever really said. It’s all implied with Hemingway’s expert use of symbolism and subtlety. 

My point of comparison I guess with all these things, including Homeboy and the journals, is not so much the storyline as the fact that we are left without a solid conclusion. We connect to these characters but we never quite know the truth in the end. 

To appreciate something like Hills Like White Elephants you have to be satisfied with guessing. And the same can be said about Doubt. Do we really know as audience members what the Truth is in either of these stories? Not really. Instead, we must replace “fact “with assumption and opinion and learn to appreciate it anyway. That’s a hard thing to do, and yet art and life so often demand it. 

So, Homeboy popped up on the screen very briefly and then disappeared again. We connected, once and again, and yet, there is never any ultimate truth in the end. Still, the meeting left me to rediscover some long ago truth about myself and my past via his presence. That the collection of facts and memories and people from long ago never really go away. They are a quiet, unspoken, but latently existent testament to how I was built and who I became. Good or bad. They are the marks of humiliation that eventually morphed into what now makes me humble.  And they are a celebration of my progress and courage to grow and change as opposed to a sad reminder of who I was. Most importantly, whether they be true or not, they have shaped me based on my own personal interpretation of them. And just like we can appreciate Doubt or Hills Like White Elephants for their substance and not their conclusions, so too can I appreciate my own life for the fact that it is circular, changing and sometimes has no ultimate message. And that the only truth I can assign my life is that which I make up all on my own. 

Ironically, Spin magazine’s cover this month (July) has “Celebrating 25 years of Purple Rain.” I could so look at that magazine cover and say, “that fucking song should have been buried 25 years ago, right along with Homeboy.” But instead, I saw the purple, Princy cover and laughed at it having been exhumed.  I remembered a 14-karat gold chain I was wearing during the “act” that one afternoon and how, much later, after I was home and crying hysterically about my newly acquired loss of virginity, I noticed it had broken off. It had made me smile as I assumed it was left some where between the sheets of Homeboy’s bed. Whether it was or not was really not of importance. What was important was that I remember trying to gauge at what point it broke off by the lyrics of the track.  Did it happen as early as “I never meant to cause you any sorrow,” or was it later at “I only wanted 2 be some kind of friend”? At whatever point it happened, or even if it never really did, I was happy believing it was somewhere in his room.  It meant I was connected to Homeboy. It meant that he’d go to sleep that night and feel the cold chain rub against his ass and think with his little 17-year-old boy brain, “Wow. Her virginity is all mine until the end of time.”