Paisley Park: Finding Your Place with Prince

"Life is just a game, we're all just the same."

Prince died yesterday. I’m all over the place, full of feelings, and writing this hastily. What’s my angle here, other than I, too, am sad? I don’t know.

Here’s something nice that keeps coming to mind, though: he was a human being. Everyone is lovingly joking that David Bowie was the scout for whichever unknown planet those two fantastic aliens now inhabit, and yesterday, he called Prince to join him. It’s a comforting, wonderful, tear-jerking thought. But: those two were not aliens. They were flesh and blood, and that might be the most inspiring thing about them. They brushed their teeth. Their clothing was made of cotton and denim just like yours and mine. (And then silk and glitter and stuff, but you know what I mean.)

I hope it goes without saying that I love Prince just as much as you do, but I’m going to say it anyway. When I was young and obsessed with my dad’s all-encompassing collection of music, I was paging through the booklet that came with The Bangles’ Greatest Hits and learned that someone named Christopher had written one of my favorite songs (despite the fact that, at that point in my life, Monday was about as manic as Sunday, and every day was my I-don’t-have-to-run day). Then I bought Purple Rain on cassette tape at a yard sale in southeastern Pennsylvania (along with Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet). For years, I thought that was my introduction to the wild and wonderful world of Prince—and then, somewhere between then and now, I figured out who Christopher was.

Much later, my current boyfriend suggested I give Dirty Mind and Controversy a listen. He loves Purple Rain, but he’s always referred to it as a victory lap by someone who was capable of more musically complicated things. Maybe so—but damn, does it sound good when Prince wins. Now I’m the kind of person who buys purple things on purpose, like soap dispensers and spray bottles for when my cat is misbehaving and a fuzzy purple blanket for the first apartment the aforementioned boyfriend and I would share.

One of my favorite lines Prince ever wrote is from “Controversy”: “Life is just a game / We’re all just the same.” He seemed untouchable and unknowable. Maybe he was, but you’re more like him than you think.

He had a first, middle, and last name. His life moved within the same seconds and minutes and hours and years that ours did. He was of somewhere not of his creation, a city founded by someone else.

Reading the official statement from the Carver County sheriff’s office yesterday was jarring. “He has been identified as Prince Rogers Nelson (57) of Chanhassen,” part of it says. You can take his information out and put yours in. I’m not suggesting this to be morbid. I’m doing it to remind you what you and he had in common. He had a first, middle, and last name. His life moved within the same seconds and minutes and hours and years that ours did. He was of somewhere not of his creation, a city founded by someone else. Chanhassen was organized in May of 1858. It’s named after the sugar maple, from two Sioux words meaning “tree of sweet juice.”

So maybe, when I bought that purple blanket at a T.J. Maxx down the street from my apartment, I knew that I’d think of Prince when I would drape it over our couch and take naps under it and watch my cat sleep on it—maybe not every time, but sometimes. I’d be reminded of what humans are capable of, despite their humanity. I’d think about the magic we can make when we let ourselves. Sometimes has turned out to be often enough.

Prince slept somewhere every night (when he wasn’t throwing midnight pajama parties). He called it Paisley Park, but it was a residence, with a mailing address. He paid taxes. He got junk mail. Most of us live somewhere, too. Go home and rename your apartment. You don’t even have to tell anyone. Paisley Park is in your heart. FL

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