March 1987. My first year in NYC at the School of Visual Arts. The big apple was rotting from the crack epidemic. I saw it first hand, felt it grab at my neck looking for gold chains and I smelled it at night on my corner. I was mugged five times at knifepoint. I worked as a coat check girl at the Marriot Marquis in Times Square, when it was an empty, dank place. I survived on tips and stealing toilet paper from my employer. It was all a sign of the times.
I had graduated from the emotional haze of Purple Rain, singing Let’s Go Crazy at my high school graduation, to the deep, dark tunnels of NYC, taking the A train at midnight train from Times Square to my 11’ by 17’ room at the Sloan House YMCA on 34th and 11th.
Prince taught me the good, the bad and the ugly. He taught me how to dress and how to snarl. He taught me you can look like a girl boy or a boy girl, or both and then fall in love riding off on a motorcycle without a care.
He made it ok for me to walk in through the out door and shop at second hand stores. He elevated me from the white kid in the projects wearing Goodwill threads, to a movie star, a confident young thing who could rock an Edwardian collar like no one’s business.
His androgyny slayed me. His talent made me stand still. His lyrics made me feel butterflies.
And his style – his style humbled me.
No matter where I was, or how dark it got, Prince Rogers Nelson always whispered this in my ear:
Honey I know, I know, I know times are changing
It’s time we all reach out for something new
That means you too
– Prince, Purple Rain