Tag Archives: Prince

The Days Run Away Like the Great B-Side of a Hit Single by Prince

Photograph by Jose Padua
I was sitting in the car with Julien while Heather went into the grocery store. It had been about a month since Prince had died, and while for the last month I had been playing the music of Prince almost non-stop—he’s one of a small number of people you can do that with and never get tired of it all—that day, I was taking a break. So it was a sunny, spring day with something other than Prince playing on the car stereo. Julien listened for a minute before asking, “Who’s that?”

“It’s Herbie Hancock,” I said. We were a few minutes into the “Chameleon” from the Head Hunters LP.

Julien paused then said, “I don’t like Herbie Hancock. Play Miles Davis.” Miles Davis was Julien’s favorite at the time. I don’t suppose there are too many five year olds whose favorite music is Miles Davis’s music, but there we were. The windows of the car were down, and a cool breeze came inside.

I tried to explain to Julien that Herbie Hancock played with Miles Davis, but he didn’t care and he refused to give Herbie Hancock’s music a chance. To make the wait easier, I went ahead and put on Miles Davis.

Back then, while my daughter Maggie was doing her homework, I’d hear her playing Public Image Limited (PiL) a lot. She had been listening to Talking Heads, the Ramones, and Kleenex/LiliPUT while she was studying, but then she added PiL to the mix. After that I’d always hear the voice of John Lydon going “This is not a love song/ This is not a love song” or “Anger is an energy/ Anger is an energy” as she did her algebra homework or worked on a brief essay she had to write.

That morning, right before we headed out to take them all to school, Maggie looked something up on her phone then she said, “I have the same birthday as the guitarist for PiL!”

“You mean Keith Levene?”

“Yes,” she said. “We have the same birthday!”

“Wow,” I said. And I remembered that she also shares a birthday with Hunter S. Thompson, but I didn’t mention it because I think it’s still a few years before she’s ready to read about things like the massive drug run that begins Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I also didn’t mention that I share a birthday with Jean Genet, because I didn’t think she was quite ready to read a book like Our Lady of the Flowers yet either. But, when she’s old enough, these great books will be among my recommended reading and can be added to the volumes of Baudelaire, Lucille Clifton, and Junot Diaz that she was already carrying around with her all the time.

For a couple of weeks, the question Julien had been asking most frequently was, “Who’s bad?”—with it being election season and with the death of Prince there were a lot of bad things in the air, making it a time for questions. (But then, when is it not a time for questions?) In the second of those two weeks, Julien began answering his own question. And when we all said, “I don’t know. Who’s bad?” Julien would then say, without the slightest pause of doubt, “Donald Trump’s bad.”

“Yes, he is bad,” we’d say.

A couple of days later, while we were having lunch at Blue Wing Frog over on Chester Street, Julien answered his own question about who was bad and added, “Donald Trump is a poopy head!” Then he stopped to think about it for a moment before asking, “Does he poop with his head?”

“Well, in a way he does,” we all said. Or words to that effect.

And later that day, it rained. Like on the B-side of an old Prince song—it rained and kept on raining. After having spent a few days not listening to Prince that week, he was back on the soundtrack, and  I was listening closely, hoping for more answers.

I took this photograph of Union Hall, which was part of a joint called Victoria’s Restaurant, when we left Blue Wing Frog that day. Union Hall and Victoria’s restaurant have been closed since February 2009, when it was discovered that its owner was a fugitive wanted on drug charges in Massachusetts. Union Hall had been one of the few places in Front Royal where you had music and dancing. The owner had been here, in our small Virginia town, for nearly two decades. He raised his kids here, had grandkids, and ran his restaurant and club for as long as he could. And then they took him away.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

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Listening to Prince Outside Berryville, Virginia and the Last Poem I’ll Ever Write About Godzilla

Photograph by Jose Padua
Driving this winding
country road I
half expect
that when I get past
the next curve
in the woods and
enter a clearing
I’ll see Godzilla,
towering over the horizon,
his eyes blazing,
flames shooting out
from between his jagged-tooth jaws
as he destroys
a pretty red barn
and a quaint little farmhouse
with one grand sweep
of his massive tail,
but instead I just turn
the volume up
on the car stereo
because a Prince song
has started playing
and the world is spinning
beautifully once again.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

Notes from a Poem Rewritten While Listening to Prince

Photograph by Jose Padua
The first protest I ever attended
was on a beautiful spring day
and I was asked to leave
because I wasn’t animated enough
for a spring day or for a protest
or for the guy who was filming it
who yelled “Go home!” at me
as he lifted his nose with his face
raised his right arm in frustration
then threw it back down
like a drunk tossing an empty beer can.
I don’t know,
maybe he meant for me to go home to my apartment,
maybe he meant for me to go home to my country,
but I didn’t go home and I ignored him
and kept on marching even more quietly than before.
I’d like to say that twenty years later,
the guy who told me to go home
has become one of my closest friends,
that our families get together,
my kids play with his kids,
he cooks, my wife and I bring good wine
but I don’t think he has kids,
and this isn’t that kind of poem,
and if I were to see him again today
my mind would still swell
with insults and imprecations
that I would refrain from speaking
because although I’m not good at forgetting
much less forgiving
I like to think that the world is a big enough place
for us both of us
and all of us
to live and ignore each other
as long as we agree that gray skies
can still be replaced by blue
and that years
are just these separate days gathered
by snow and dust and wind.
All of which is to say
that this is a celebration of sorts,
a poem of light and praise
in anticipation of the moment
when the heavy lifting is done for the day
because this is for you, my friend,
and you and you,
not him.
You who never told me to go home
when you could have,
you who never told me to get lost,
when getting lost
was what I feared more than poverty, madness, dying.
You who listened to me when I was young
and knew nothing,
who sat with me quietly
when I was quiet and still
in the hushed air of early morning,
waiting for animation and sound.

-Jose Padua