Prince

On the late evening of April 19, I had a most wondrous experience…

I saw the artist that I’ve always known as Prince perform live in Seattle at a small club tucked into the pocket of Pike Place Market. It was an intimate venue that barely holds 1,200 people, but it was filled to the brim and the air was heavy with humidity and expectation.

I never thought I would see a massive musical legend from my childhood in such close proximity. Capturing glances of his smirks, his ominous stares, and his serious side turning to smiles when the crowd reacted to his amazing musicality and off-the-cuff commentary. It was a dream come true, and although he mostly played newer material which I did not recognize, his dedication and versatility were nothing short of jaw-dropping. Flitting from guitar, to microphone, to keyboards like a humming bird sampling all varieties of melodic nectar, he showcased the wide range of talents which first catapulted him to stardom in the late 70’s and early 80’s. He wore a scarlet and gold ensemble (with matching headband) that strongly invoked the memory of Jimi Hendrix – particularly during the vast guitar solos which reached out far and wide like dragon wings.

PrinceLOL

Then, the powerful stage lights dimmed, and a back-lit Prince sang “Purple Rain” through a lavender haze created by two stage columns that doubled as fog machines. He dedicated the song to the memory of those lost during the Boston Marathon bombings earlier this week. The ballad united the room and everyone sang along like a heavenly choir bound to the Earth by gravity alone. He extended the coda several times and the experience seemed to last almost 15 minutes. Shortly after, he teased the crowd with snippets of hits that would not be seen tonight, including 10 seconds of  the introduction to “I Would Die 4 U” which elicited a roar of excitement. However, once I heard the opening chords of “When Doves Cry” – that violent scribble of guitar – I prayed that he would play the entire song. I never thought I would get to sing a long with a live Prince to the lyrics:

Dream if you can a courtyard, an ocean of violets in bloom
Animals strike curious poses, they feel the heat, the heat between me and you…

But I did. And my friends and I danced like witch doctors purging a poison from our bodies. It was celebration in its purest and most primal form.

I’ve always been fascinated by the power of music and its ability to alter emotional states and invoke memories. Tonight, however, brought it to a higher octave of understanding: It brought me back to my youth when I would watch Prince on Friday Night Videos while perched on the carpet of our living room floor. It put me back into the car rides to school when his songs would be on the radio and my sister would be driving with her fingerless gloves and the frost of the Iowa winter decorated the windshield with frozen spirals. It recalled school dances, the summer county fair, and every other event cataloged by my mind where Prince was the soundtrack of the moment.

It made me appreciate the gift of someone sharing their talent with the world. A talent which gave me some of the most beautiful bookmarks for my memory.

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A Totally Bitchin’ Brunch

I remember in the 80’s people used to say “bitchin'” as a good thing. See the Urban Dictionary entry:

bitchin (adjective) 1. good, fuckin great, awesome

Well, today I had a totally bitchin‘ brunch with some ladies who were friends of a very good friend. This very good friend invited us all over to celebrate spring time and the blooming of her backyard camellia tree. I brought twice-baked almond croissants, and the mimosas flowed like rain water down the roofs of our mouths. I’ve never had brunch with six ladies before and it was a curious experience being the sole representative of the testosterone delegation. I naively assumed there would be a lot of evisceration of the male power structure in society, monologues about obscure feminist literature, or verbal worship of various Sex & The City episodes. However, instead I was treated to a hilarious circle of witty banter that had my ass laughing all morning. I’d like to share two snippets of conversation from this gathering:

“If you are about to be raped, they say you should shit your pants. I’m not kidding. They say it is a more effective deterrent than poking the rapist in the eyes. Or you could vomit on him…actually, that might be easier.”

Lady #3: “On the way over here, I saw a squirrel with a Toblerone bar in its mouth.”
Me: “Squirrels don’t have money to pay for candy. He was probably selling them to raise funds for the junior high band and took one for himself. I did that all the time when I was growing up.”

This is purely a Photoshop reenactment.

This is purely a Photoshop reenactment.

My Prison Is Made of Full Spectrum Sunlight

All my life I’ve been a nocturnal creature. As I unravel my memory, I can look back and recall that I have always loved the night with its palpable silence and soft, velveteen darkness.

Rousseau

“La Bohémienne endormie (The Sleeping Gypsy)”
by Henri Rousseau. 1897.

Most of my friends were overjoyed for me when I accepted a daytime position in 2011, however I often feel as though I regret that decision. They said my dating life would improve and my social calendar would expand, but they really haven’t. I can certainly now attend more “happy hours” after work, but I often feel too tired to fully engage with people at these events, and most of the time I am watching the clock so I can get home and go to bed at a reasonable hour. It’s like subjecting myself to a government-imposed curfew – as if I live in a police state.

Although I cannot specify exactly what it is about the night that I find so alluring, I can definitely speculate…

I do know I enjoy the fact that planet feels a little bit more mine; I don’t have to share as many things like road space, grocery store lines, or internet bandwidth. I can open my windows without the constant droning of Seattle’s snarled traffic or the occasional ambulance wail. When driving, I can hit all the green lights if I time it just right. No stopping. No waiting. The quietness of each shadow is a balm and I can hear my thoughts like greedy dwarves working deep in the mines. The absence of light relaxes my tired eyes, whereas the daggers of sun feel like blasts of hot sand. After midnight, I feel like my mind is fully ripe – pregnant with mental juices and surreal visions for illustration or forging on my word anvil.

There isn’t much company, save for the moon: a friendly nightwatchman perched in the sky. Sometimes he’s wrapped in a gauze of clouds like a harmless drop of sun tucked in a cotton ball. On nights when the overcast skies of the Pacific Northwest hang like a ghostly ceiling over this city, the ambient light of the power grid echos off of it like an old electric blanket.

Yes, I miss the night. It feels like a beautiful language I once knew by heart but have now forgotten thanks to the processes of age and evaporation. Nowadays, I feel forced to sleep through its dark magnificence like a parent who has to work two full-time jobs to raise a family, and while honoring those commitments never gets to see their children grow-up into amazing human beings.

I often feel the best things in life pass us by while we are living by the rules of others.

A chain that runs from 8 to 5 can end up binding an entire life.

The Inverse Relationship Between the Gravity of Aging and The Accumulation of Knowledge

At 38, I am a far cry from being “old”, but about ten stops past “spring chicken” and I can definitely see “middle age” just over the hill. When I was in my 20’s, I never dreaded the thought of being older as I always felt like every year that passed contained some sort of life lesson that revealed a new truth or asset I could carry on my journey. More arrows for the quiver, more ammunition to fight my battles.

When I turned 35 my dad died, and a year later one of my very best friends. I know that people die every day and death really can’t be a major tragedy because it happens so frequently on this planet it’s just mechanical at this point. However, since those experiences I’ve felt like a wounded bird. The life lessons – on the whole – do not feel “enriching” anymore. Per the Hallmark psychology department, one could argue that I am “learning about loss” and that this lesson will serve a purpose later down the road. Such experiences should teach appreciation of what one has, and to a degree they do. I definitely appreciate the company of others more so now than I ever have. But since birthday #35, the aging process has felt more like someone is steadily applying coats of lead to my soul. Days seem heavier and moments of laughter have to be manufactured more frequently to sustain any wind in the sails. I often wonder if some miraculous event will take place that melts away this cumulative gravity. I certainly hope that it does. It would be wonderful to fall in love again at some point, but looking around I think the chances may be slimmer than even I realize. While there is still life in my creaky body, there must be at least a thimble of hope (and perhaps some red wine).

Despite this weighted feeling, my mind can see that there is a certain mellowing in progress and perhaps that isn’t entirely a bad thing. I’ve long been an over-reactive type. A bitter, yellow fruit that might need a few more days of harsh sun to decay into a sweeter golden brown. How many times can one freak out about the trials of life before they simply see it’s just part of a pattern that constantly cycles?

To quote that Welsh singer Jemma Griffiths:

“It’s just a ride, it’s just a ride, don’t be afraid (now dry your eyes). It may feel so real inside, but don’t forget, it’s just a ride.”