Me and Prince

This morning after I took my bath, I wrestled into my purple bra and underwear, shoved my purple long-sleeved shirt over my head and torso and slipped my phone with its purple case into my pocket before heading out the door. I briefly considered taking my purple cane but decided against it because I knew I would be gone for about 20 minutes tops, which is the high end of how long it takes for the CSF to start pressing on my brain and making me wobbly.

Then the news started to trickle in: A dead body was reported at Paisley Park, Prince’s residence here in Minnesota. Just a week ago or less, there was a report that Prince’s plane had to make an emergency landing because he was experiencing some sort of health crisis, but he was resting at home comfortably. It was not a huge leap to assume the body was Prince’s, and it’s also not a huge leap to know that many of us locals are just plain sad about it. Of course he has a large following outside of Minnesota, but he was OUR guy.

Back when my dad was working on making a name for himself as a top-rate hair stylist in the very early 1980’s, he met Prince. My dad loved to name drop. He also thought Prince was a spoiled brat and didn’t hold back on saying so. Prince always traveled with an entourage (read: there was never a time he wasn’t a star). I later bragged to my classmates that my dad talked to Prince. I wasn’t afraid to name drop either.

The movie “Purple Rain” came out and the residents of Minneapolis/St. Paul (commonly referred to as the Twin Cities) were absolutely thrilled to be featured in a movie. First Avenue – “First Ave” if you’re cool – was forever galvanized as THE stage to play on thanks to “Purple Rain,” and who cares that the script was weak? The soundtrack was to die for! I mean, “Darling Nikki”?? Prince was so dirty! He actually talked about masturbation in a song and if any stations played it, the word had to be altered. How could such a short little guy get so many women to throw their panties at him?

When I went to the arts high school for my junior and senior year, I remember a boy who was trying to get into my pants saying to me, “Just give me a dark room and a Sam Cooke album.” I had no idea he was quoting a line from “Under the Cherry Moon,” another low-budget Prince movie that also starred Kristin Scott Thomas, at that point an actress largely unknown to American audiences in a film that didn’t have the commercial or musical success that “Purple Rain” did. I laughed when I finally did see the movie (on VHS tape!) because Prince found a way to infiltrate my love life as I’m sure was his intention all along.

In my senior year at the arts high school, I had a roommate who only played three albums: Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Weird Al (I can’t remember the name) and Prince’s “Diamonds and Pearls.”

I don’t remember which album the rumors were flying around for, but supposedly Prince actually recorded a woman getting off and put her “sounds” on a track. This was well before we could actually research anything on the internet. He is well-known for pushing artistic and cultural boundaries. I mean, who else would have a top 40 song called “Cream (Get On Top)”?

In 1996, my boyfriend at the time and I road tripped back from Albuquerque to Minneapolis and after a night of drinking with a friend and my sister, decided to check out Paisley Park. My friend had worked there previously as a security guard and offered to guide us with him driving his car and me driving my car just to show us where it was. Well, my boyfriend told me to pull into the driveway where the guard was stationed; when my friend saw what we were doing, he took off. My sister was pretty drunk in the back seat and pulled a blanket over her head, saying, “If I can’t see them, they can’t see me.” The guard greeted us, saying, “Can I help you?” My boyfriend leaned over me from the passenger seat and slurred, “Is this where Prince lives??” The guard straightened up and said, “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” My boyfriend persisted, saying, “Can we take your picture??” The guard said again, “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” In the meantime, my sister Heidi is quietly saying, “Oh god, oh god” in the back seat under the blanket. I backed up and managed to find our way out of the back roads of wherever we were; this was well before GPS and it was around 1:00 a.m. in a very rural area, and my friend was long gone, so it was no cake walk. Thank goodness I have a pretty good internal compass.

The same boyfriend and I relocated to Cincinnati and worked for a box office that was also a Ticketmaster outlet and managed to score tickets to two very different Prince shows. One was in Columbus, Ohio; the entire show started two hours later than it should have and we were already an hour away from home. Start time was supposed to be 8 but it was more like 10 and it was an opening act, then Prince came on at around midnight and played “Purple Rain” and we thought well shit, that’s it – but NO, he played for two more hours!!! The next day was hell because of course we had to work after taking an hour to drive home, but we got to see it. The next show we saw was very different, which was Prince playing with no opening act and playing all of his hit songs, but it was like one 2-hour medley – he had so many hits that he couldn’t play any of them all the way through. I was sitting behind Peter Frampton for that show.

After I moved here from Phoenix last summer, I saw something I never thought I would see, and that is Prince opening Paisley Park up to the public for parties. He has always been notoriously private. I hope that holding those parties brought him some joy. I never thought they would be his final act.

I feel like those of us (and yes, I say “us” because I count myself in this bunch) who do as much as we can as soon as we can somehow have a sense that our time on this earth will end at a much younger age than those who are much more methodical about how they spend their time. The moral of this story is to get your purple on and party like it’s 1999. We will miss this magical man and all of the soundtracks that he has provided for our lives.

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Travel Realistically In Your 20’s

I’m a gypsy at heart. Anyone who knows just a portion of my story always asks, “So what brought you to _______?” My answer is always, “Me.” With the exception of this move back to Minnesota to be crazy ill, I have always driven my choices – I never waited for something to be decided for me. If I set my heart on a destination, I went. I moved without knowing a single person at my chosen location. I moved without having ever visited prior. I moved with a bag of clothes, a music collection and an air mattress.

Understand that 20 years after my friend and I took our road trip around the U.S. and camped for a couple of months, the economy was much more stable than it is now. But also, for being 20 years later, the gas prices are hella affordable.

My advice if you decide to move or travel, for what it’s worth, is: 1) Be prepared to live minimally. Decide what is truly essential. Forego your mani/pedi. Pare down your electronic subscriptions. Stop buying more clothes. Don’t go out to eat and instead learn to cook well AND creatively, because that is going to save your ass when money is lean. I have survived for months on $10 a week for groceries. 2) Work multiple jobs. This will give you extra cash to save up (or pay off bills) that will afford you more travel money. It also makes you a MORE VALUABLE employee. People often ask me what I do, and my answers for the past 20 years have always included an “and”: I am an escrow assistant AND box office representative. I’m a software trainer AND a legal proofreader. Again, have a variety of skills, even if it means that you know how to assign seats for a performance at a theater as well as answer phones and direct calls, because that will save your hide. 3) Research the area you are interested in visiting or moving to. Search ads on Roommates.com and Craigslist.com to get an idea of whether rents are affordable in that area AND if there seems to be an abundance of rentals in your price range. If the rent seems steep, everything else is going to be as well. 4) It’s perfectly normal to be afraid. The best way to dial down your fear is to plan and research. 5) Don’t just talk about it, live it!

I can tell you, with all of my heart, that I regretted nothing – even when I had barely enough to pay bills – because I was in charge of my life and my choices.
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I honestly can’t stand all of the articles I read that are like “You’re in your 20’s! Quit your job and open up an ice cream shack in the Bahamas!” or “Don’…

Source: Travel Realistically In Your 20’s

Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word

When I was 21, I worked two jobs with the goal of saving up enough cash to travel for a while. I also wanted to pick a new place to live, but I wasn’t sure where. My best friend and I packed up my car, converted most of our cash to traveler’s checks, borrowed my dad’s 6-person tent and took off. We stayed for a month on Mackinac Island to earn some more cash. After that, we cut across Canada and started at Niagara Falls and camped our way down the entire east coast. It was my first encounter with the ocean.

I almost set up residence in Hilton Head Island, but I kept seeing all of the hurricane evacuation signs and they freaked me out. As we looped back up and cut through Tennessee, I considered Nashville, but then I figured all of the country music would make me want to jump off a tall building. Later we cut back through Missouri and headed to the southwest, and I finally ran out of money in Albuquerque, so there I stayed. Within a short amount of time I landed two jobs and a place to live. My friend opted to go to the Everglades in Florida to live and work.

A year later, she made her way back to New Mexico, and I was happy to have a good friend so close after floundering for a year with trying to make friends. We decided to take on dating together. Back in 1996, the best way to meet the opposite sex besides getting tanked at a bar was either posting or answering personal ads published in newspapers. Let me take just a little time out and post an ad that I found, clipped and saved for these almost 20 years:

SPM, 31, seeking female amputee, age 18-99, for romance. Your beauty and grace astounds me. Box ID 23394.

Talk about a fetish!

My friend and I placed an ad saying something to the effect that we were looking for double dates. The ad was free, but to initiate a call to someone is where the fee kicked in. We got a couple of bites but they were from men who didn’t have single buddies. One was a guy I will call Bear; he had a really deep voice and was very articulate, so after talking to him we agreed on a date.

Bear was tall, 6’2, with glasses and a bookish manner – or if you prefer, he was geeky or nerdy in general. Our first date was right after Christmas that year. Immediately, we hit it off. We hardly spent any days apart and were on the phone constantly. I remember telling him one time that I couldn’t get close enough – I wished that I could crawl under his skin and live there.

A month after we started dating, we were at a restaurant eating dinner in the middle of some serious winter weather. We looked around the place and noted all of the kids having meltdowns and said, “I’m so glad we don’t have kids.” Bear then said, “Why don’t we go to Las Vegas?” We both had never been and Bear liked to play blackjack. He revealed that he had saved up a wad of cash (something like $600, which was a pretty good chunk in early 1997) and decided he wanted to use it to take a short trip with me. We ran to our respective places and quickly packed backpacks and called for tickets. We didn’t even take time to book a hotel.

When we arrived, we realized our mistake – it was the electronics convention, and EVERY hotel room was booked. However, our chain smoking cabby with the biggest, flashiest earrings told us that the Happi Inn was a sure thing – she always took people there for situations like these. Sure enough, they had a room. And what a room it was! Mirror on the ceiling, garish orange bedding with a bed sagging horribly in the middle, one TV station and cockroaches in the bathroom. We were also being price gouged because of the convention, $80 for the night. We did the best we could because we were flying out the next day.

It was a fun day. We played slots, and Bear got three blackjacks in a row, which was noticed by the pit boss, and we were rewarded with two tickets to the Ceaser’s Palace buffet. We took many pictures around the strip and visited M&M World. We even saw our first Cirque du Soleil show, “Mystere.” It was a fun little trip…or so we thought, until we tried to fly back. Because of snow storms all over the U.S., we couldn’t get a flight home until the next day at 1 p.m. I left a message on the work answering machine to tell everyone I was momentarily stranded and that I would be back to work Tuesday. The managers didn’t think to check the messages when I didn’t show up to work Monday morning, and they were in the process of calling the police to do a wellness check on me when I called in to make sure they got my message.

It didn’t take long for Bear and I to move in together. He was my first love (though he had had other loves before me). I loved him deeply. He was a patron of the arts. He wrote me love letters. He talked about the future.

However, there were problems at his workplace, and he decided to try to land a job closer to the Midwest or east coast. He almost took a job in Allentown, PA, but decided to take an offer in Cincinnati, OH instead. It was still early in our relationship and I wasn’t ready to say goodbye, so I moved with him. I figured I would get a job after we relocated. We rented an apartment on a short lease without seeing it first on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River.

Shortly after we moved to yet another city where I didn’t know anyone else, Bear told me to make my own friends because he wasn’t going to be my entertainment. So I did. First I went out a few times and partied with a lady I met while working a temp job as a proofreader. Later I partied a lot with the people who worked with me at the large law firm. It seemed that his declaration was the turning point in our relationship, and nothing was ever the same after that.

Bear also became somewhat addicted to the internet. His nerd side was strong – his mind was blown with the potential the internet held at that point – and that meant that he was on it constantly. Part of the problem was that resources were available that never had been before, like being able to buy video games that weren’t always sold in the immediate vicinity. Oh, and the porn…

So the problem was that money that was supposed to go for rent was being used up by video games and porn. I was unhappy because there were a few times when Bear would blow his portion of the rent on games and I would have to pay for everything. He also spent money and time on porn instead of joining me. There were so many times I would beg him to come to bed, and he would refuse. I felt ugly and undesirable. Since I was living with a nerd, I was becoming more computer and internet savvy myself. I started to go to chat rooms, and then I began talking to men in private chat sessions.

My first trip to Europe was in May of 1999. I was visiting a university friend who lives in England for ten days. I had been saving and saving, knowing that even though I had a free place to stay, there would still be lots of expenses. A week before leaving, Bear revealed to me that he didn’t have the rent money again because he had purchased video games. I was absolutely furious. Like a true daughter of an alcoholic, my brain went into dissociation mode and I completely forgot what Bear’s face looked like. In fact, when he picked me up from the airport at the end of my trip with a fist full of flowers, I walked straight past him like he was a stranger – he had to call out my name and grab my arm.

A few weeks later I met up with one of the men from the chats while Bear was working. I was so eager that I failed to properly turn off the computer, so the message box was still there for Bear to see when he got home from work and the house was empty. Of course he read it, all of it. When I got home, he was sitting on the edge of our bed, looking absolutely crushed.

We broke up but continued to live in the same apartment and sleep in the same bed because we were still obligated to the lease we signed. Luckily it ran its course within two months and we could move on. We actually stayed friendly through the breakup – he helped me move into my new apartment, and he joined me at a friend’s house for Thanksgiving (my friend’s mom introduced us as, “This is Kiwi and this is Bear and they were dating and now they’re not, so I don’t know”).

Bear later went on to marry one of our mutual friends and have two sons – the two sons we used to discuss when we were a couple and talking about our future. He even named them the names he had picked out then.

Today I had a chance to trade messages with him and catch up. Bear is now divorced and in a relationship with another woman, and his sons have adjusted well to the major shift in the household. We exchanged information about our families and friends. I also sincerely apologized for cheating on him, acknowledging that I did not have the best tools at age 25-26 to deal with my anger and disappointment, and I hurt him deeply. He very graciously told me that it was forgiven and forgotten. I cried big, fat tears.