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My Prince Story

April 21, 2016 Leave a comment

 

Prince’s star on the wall of First Avenue in Minneapolis

It has been said that everyone who lives or has lived in the Twin Cities of Minnesota has a Prince story. Prince – that most mysterious and elusive of all Minneapolis musicians. That legend beyond explanation. No one ever quite knew how his mind worked, or what direction he would move next. Was he human? Or was he a spaceman on par with Bowie? I know several people that have had a number of Prince encounters, whether it be simply seeing a surprise performance, interviewing for a recording engineering gig with Prince lurking over their shoulder, or even watching unreleased concert footage with him in his home. These were not my experiences, but those of first-degree friends of mine. A lot of Twin Citizens have these kinds of experiences.

Mine is simple. Not extravagant. Unimportant. Fleeting.

But it was impactful to me. It still is, even sixteen years later.

It took place seven years before I even lived in Minnesota. In 2000, some friends and I went to Minneapolis primarily to see an unrelated show at the Target Center. It was Muse/Foo Fighters/Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was a fun show and we had a heck of a time. When it was over, however, it was not the end of our night. We had heard tell there may be something going down at Paisley Park later on. Three of my friends in our group, Dustin, Bryna, and Heather are the biggest Prince fans I know. They kept their ear to the ground in the right places to know these kinds of things.

On their hunch, we went to Chanhassen. We lined up outside with a couple dozen other folks. It was getting into the late hours of the night. My friends explained that often Prince has unannounced parties at Paisley Park. There’s music, dancing, snacks, refreshing (non-alcoholic) drinks. The simple purpose was to have a good time. They explained that sometimes Prince would show up and dance. Sometimes he would usher the attendees into a larger room and put on a performance. Other times he would simply stand in the corner and nod approvingly. Sometimes he didn’t make an appearance at all.

The doors opened around 2:00 a.m. or so and security let us in after inspecting us. We were led into an open dark room with party lights, a dance floor and a basketball hoop. I would later see photographs of the Man posing on that very floor, and hear tell of the basketball games he would play there. When we entered the room the music was already playing, the subwoofers thumping, pulsating our insides. The only thing to do, the only natural thing, the compulsory thing, was to dance. I am not a dancer. I have no moves. I fit the “white man” stereotype quite accurately. But it didn’t matter. Not to me. Not to my friends. Not to anyone there. There was something magical and mystical about that night that has always lived in my memory. Inhibitions were gone, and we all moved our bodies to the music without a care of what any single person thought. I was not the least bit self-conscious about my movements and neither was anyone else. I did not feel out of place at all, though I may have anticipated as much beforehand. In my memory, it’s in slow motion. I look around at my beautiful friends, making a circle as we dance. All of us moving, sweating, laughing, sharing in this moment, free, enjoying and having the time of our life.

And then a feeling washed over me. Just a feeling that to this day, I can’t fully explain. Like the pressure in the room changed. Like the sleepy memory of your mother putting a blanket on you in the middle of the night as a child. Dustin must have felt something too, because he and I looked at each other wide-eyed. We looked at our friends in our circle, who I surmise felt the same thing. I began looking around the room, and sure enough, Prince was there. He was off in the shadows, leaning against the wall, arms crossed with one hand to his chin — nodding approvingly.

He was right next to the entrance/exit of the room. A portal through which you must pass if you had to, say, use the restroom. And though my body wasn’t feeling the need for relief, by golly I felt a pressing need to go to the restroom. As I walked toward the door and consequently toward the Artist, I played it cool, remained nonchalant, even though I was physically drawing ever closer to one of the greatest living musical legends. Again, in my memory this plays in slow motion. I slowly look up from my feet directly at him. He looks me in the eye. I give him a cool-guy hello nod. He smirks and gives me an upward nod as the hand at his chin moves loosely into a somewhat limp two-fingered peace sign. Prince Rogers Nelson acknowledged my existence in that moment. I saw him up close. I saw his face. I saw the texture of his facial hair. I saw his stature (something we share — I am 5’4″). I saw individual strands of hair on his head. He was human to me for the first time. Not a photograph, not television, not cinema. We shared the same air. He had a presence and an aura that could only be explained as Royal.

My slow-motion moment passed as I passed Prince and time returned to normal. I entered the restroom, washed my hands and came back out. By then, he had vanished.

It was a fleeting moment that he undoubtedly forgot about the second it was over. But a moment that has lived vividly in my memory ever since.

To be clear, I was never a die-hard fan. Those would be my friends – Dustin, Bryna, and Heather. They introduced me to Prince and ushered me into my appreciation of his work. I have been a casual fan at best. But I have always recognized the legend, the talent, and everything that goes with those. A true Artist has the ability to transcend certain barriers. You never truly knew them, but often through their work you feel as if you were close. Sometimes you just admire everything they accomplished and everything they were capable of. It is a shame to lose one of the greats at an age in which he had so much more to explore, so much more to create, and so much more to share. Even as a casual fan, I am heartbroken today. I can’t imagine how my beautiful friends feel.

I share this story today, on April 21, 2016, because today I know that this is the only encounter I will ever have with the man. And I want to always remember the feeling of that moment. I shared immediate space with one of the all-time greats for only a few seconds. He looked me in the eye and smiled. It was special to me. I have always regarded it as such. Even more so today. I type it out today because I want some record of it. I want to always cherish it. I don’t ever want to forget it.

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