Monday, June 05, 2017

Zero to Cap'n Crunch: Prince, Purple Rain, & a pilgrimage to Paisley Park

On a warm evening in the final week of July of 1984 there was a cataclysmic shift in the music space continuum when the movie Purple Rain hit theaters like a thunder bolt. It catapulted Prince into the stratosphere and would transform multiple generations of music lovers to come.

I was a kid in Grand Forks North Dakota when this movie came out. My bff Kristi and I loved him so much that used to  seriously talk about running away to First Avenue in Minneapolis to join the Revolution.

When we talk about the soundtrack of our lives mine is 95% Prince. His music is not just a cornerstone but the entire foundation to my music loving life. My mom only recently confessed that she used to worry about my obsession with Prince to such a degree she seriously considered breaking into my room to steal and burn all of his records. She singled out his songs Sister and Head for special derision because she came home one day and heard me singing them full decibel and was horrified.

It is a good thing her senses kicked in before she did such a thing because there would have been hell to pay if anything ever happened to my treasured collection.

Prince saved my life. His music, His spirit. His message. Prince'energy and light was a source of fuel that powered me thru every challenge that has come up thru the years including his shocking death.

On the morning of April 21 2016 I was awakened by the most extraordinary pain. It was 4 or 5 am and the pain was so intense and visceral that I could taste it and  there were flashes of white light when I closed my eyes with hope it would  just pass. As I laid there wondering if I should call 911 I tried to figure out where the pain was. I couldn't seem to pinpoint its exact location because it was everywhere and nowhere deep within and beyond my body. To this day I still can't reconcile what happened. I was embarrassed to call 911 for myself and worse not quite knowing how to explain the problem. It eventually subsided and I fell back to sleep.

I woke up later and felt fine, went into work, got online and the whole world melted in front of my eyes. One of my friends on twitter had posted something that I recognized as being written in English but the words were incomprehensible....something in the water did not compute. But the tears started flowing as I read the reactions to her tweet and the sickening realization sank in.

Our radiant purple hero had embarked on the long journey home.

Being on the air on April 21 2016 was fucking depressing and an exercise in abject futility. I desperately wanted to go home to be alone with my grief. I did NOT want to say those words on the air. "Prince has died"

I recall after whispering them, turning off my mic, falling to my knees and sobbing on the floor as Purple Rain played. I drove home that night for the first of many sleepless nights wrestling with an all consuming depression that grew deeper and more agonizing with each passing day that reality became clear. He was gone. Forever.

A few days after Prince died and as a way to cope with the loss I went out to The Tattoo Ranch in Fort Worth and got a Prince portrait inspired by the classic Herb Ritts photoshoot he did for Vogue.

Trey English really did an extraordinary job. It is a masterpiece.It was around this time I got a call from my high school best friend friend Kristi who said "isn't it time to make the pilgrimage?" So I booked a flight to Minneapolis to be there for what would have been his 58th birthday.
“Today in my heart a vague trembling of stars and all roses are as purple as my pain.”
In my room when I checked in were 58 long stemmed purple roses and his portrait by the bed.

My first mission on this journey was to see the club Kristi and I had dreamed of running away to. First Avenue. Its legend is sacrosanct and cherished in the realm of music venues and I steeled myself for the impact seeing it in person would have. It was bigger and more beautiful than I ever could have dreamed possible.It came with a goofball.
 There are stars all over the outside walls with the names of bands who have played there and for years they have all been uniformly silver. But after Prince died an anonymous fan came to the wall in the overnight hours and painted over Prince's silver star and replaced it with gold  one

There was a sold out Prince tribute show at First Avenue hosted by Jake Rudh and The Current (Prince's favorite radio station) I didnt think I would be able to get in but I wrote to the station and told them why I was coming and asked if they had room on their guest list. Jim McGuinn put me on the list and even invited me to tour their station. FIRST AVENUE. The dream finally realized.  My heart was a bit sore though because he would not be there. His spirit though was everywhere.

In Let's Go Crazy Prince sings "...let's look for the purple banana until they put us in the truck" I was planning on visiting Paisley Park on his birthday and wanted to leave something on the memorial that had grown there since he died. So I drew those beautiful bananas crying in the back of the truck that had flat tires and was also crying and added the elephants and flowers so the bananas and the truck wouldn't be alone in their grief

On Prince's birthday (June 7th) Minnesota's governor declared it Prince Day. I joined a group of Prince fans on a bus that would take us all over Minnie to see Prince places including his favorite record store and Lake Minnetonka but the primary goal was Paisley Park.

We wanted to pay our respects, to show our love and gratitude and to be able to bond and speak the Prince language...the one that is basically going back and forth with all of his lyrics. Especially the smutty ones and the funny ones because Prince was, at his core, a ham.  Fam there were a lot of Texans on this journey mostly from Houston so you know that sh*t was LIT. When I brought up Joint 2 Joint everybody screamed because they KNEW & went full zero to Cap'n Crunch:
"Oh great, now U think U're my soulmate
U don't even know what kind of cereal I like
Wrong! Cap'n Crunch with soy milk
'cause cows are 4 calves
U'd probably take me 4 half
U don't love me, U're a faker
U just want me 4 my acres"
Our first stop was where it all started, where Prince originally got signed. The Capri Theater.

We also got to visit the Purple Rain house. Prince bought it just before he died. My favorite story here was sitting in the van outside of this legendary house and talking to one of my fellow Texans about making out to Prince songs. She said Prince was a magician because whenever Do Me Baby came on her underpants disappeared. I jokingly asked what she named the baby and she whipped out her wallet, showed me a photo and said "Alisha, she'll be 32 next week" LOL.

Our guide was savvy and instead of taking us right to to Paisley he dropped us off on a trail that led to tunnels that led to Paisley.

He said the tributes there were just as beautiful as on the fence and he was right.

There were hundreds and hundreds of messages covering every inch of the tunnels. I added one too although I was too emotional and incoherent and spelled it all wrong.

It was overwhelming and stunning and impossible to take it all in. So much love for Prince I wonder if he knew just how much he meant to so many people all over the world.

I had brought my drawings and the 58 purple roses to leave at the memorial with Emma who I met on the bus and who came from Australia to leave her own drawing in remembrance. I didn't know it when we took this photo but I would also end up leaving my shirt.

Once we passed thru the tunnel you could see the fence to Paisley Park and the mementos fans had left were everywhere....EVERYWHERE. A single silver sequin slipper, a lion and even a fully decorated birthday cake

There were so many long, deeply personal and heartfelt letters.

I was overwhelmed by the passion, the emotion, the sheer depth of the love so many fans put out there on that beautiful living tribute to such an extraordinary artist.

This was the second round of mementos left on the fence at Paisley Park, the first were taken down in May by the Minnesota Historical Society.

Sadly this second batch of fan mementos would not be treated with the same dignity and respect. But that is another blog for another day.

As I wandered around wondering where to put my own tribute I felt a presence. There was the distinct aroma of PANCAKES and I turned around to see one of my favorite artists in the whole wide world DAN LACEY. AKA Pancake Dan. I had been following him on twitter since his painting of Justin Bieber balancing pancakes on his penis went viral. I had tweeted him the night before to see if he was going to be there and he said he didnt think so and yet HERE HE WAS in his infamous pan of buttery syrupy pancakes beanie

He had painted a beautiful portrait of Prince with clouds in his eyes and pancake w a pat of butter and syrup dripping down his forehead

Pancake Dan gave me the biggest hug in the land and then proceeded to help me hang my bananas and elephant on the fence. He even gave me chicken wire to secure it so if the wind picked up they wouldn't blow away and I left the 58 purple roses below

 After I left Pancake Dan sent me updates on my drawings and roses

 My new friend Emma took a photo of my tat in front of my drawings on the fence

While in Minneapolis  I took a drive Uptown to find the mural everyone had been talking about. I liked it although wished they would have put him some place other than on top of dumpsters. I cropped them out because they bothered me so much and still do to this day.

That night I got to go to another show thanks again to The Current and to Lara at The Parkway Theater. New Power Generation was playing a live tribute and of course it too was sold out so I was incredibly grateful that complete strangers were so tremendously gracious to throw some tickets at this random emotional  pink haired Texan in their midst.

A Lovesexy margarita was in my very near future. It was purple, it was sweet, it was delicious.

NPG was joined by. the legendary Hornheads along with Julius Collins and Sounds of Blackness’s electrifying Jamecia Bennett as well as Katy Gearty of Bookers n Blow, Rachel Hennig of Wolverines. I got into the theater early and planted myself like a determined rutabaga at the center speaker at the front of the stage and waited for the show to begin.

(photo credit: The Current)

It was a transformative experience to finally, after all these years, make it to Minneapolis. I'd be lying if I said I felt any better because the truth is I didn't and here a year later still don't. The loss is just too much to contemplate all at once. It will likely take years to grapple with the enormity of it all. I am still struggling with the deep depression that enveloped me after he died. It was a relief when I got laid off in November because I crawled under the covers and slept for 6 months straight. I was grateful for Sheila E speaking up on fans behalf...with no memorial her precious words were a blessing that offered us the compassion we so desperately needed to try to find even the tiniest sliver of closure, peace and acceptance.

The day after the Parkway show I went back out to Paisley Park and unlike the previous day it was totally deserted. There was not a soul in sight. I went back thru the tunnels to see the new messages and drawings and up and down the memorial along the fence because seeing what all the other fans had left made me feel less alone in my grief. And because I was alone I could talk to him and tell him everything most especially thank you.. Before I left I took off my Prince shirt and tied it to the fence under my drawings.

Then I said goodbye and quietly read Maya Angelou's poem When Great Trees Fall:
"When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed."