The year I turned eight, I listened to Prince every Wednesday night. Wednesdays were my mother’s night to drive me and two other girls to and from swim practice. The practices were held at Wellesley College, and in my memory they started late — after dinner, certainly, though before dessert. The trip to the pool from my home was, in total, around twenty minutes, or five Prince songs. The album must have been a Best Of, for it contained Little Red Corvette and Raspberry Beret and When the Doves Cry and 1999. I loved them all, but the first two I loved the best, particularly Raspberry Beret, with its mix of Springsteen nostalgia and peacock exoticism.
I loved them, and yet they inspired a nagging dread, for they were always played on the way to practice, with its endless, burning laps, and never on the way back. (The way back was reserved for The Beatles, whom I to this day associate with roast chicken.)
I don’t know if it was because of the chlorinated dread his songs inspired, but I have not listened to Prince much in the twenty years since those carpool nights. And then tonight, I heard licks of Little Red Corvette as I was walking home from the subway. In front of Spike Lee’s studio on South Elliott Street, a block party was underway. A dj played 1999 and Around the World in a Day and Sign o’the Times while Lee himself grinned maniacally and exhorted the crowd with two lit iPhones. Small children swayed on shoulders. An older man, portly in a blue blazer, told his son that this night was about respecting his generation. Two women talked about the time they saw Prince in Savannah. A man reminisced about dancing to 1999 in its pre-YTK heyday. On a parked car, two small girls took selfies.
I have lived in Fort Greene for nearly four years now. I like the trees and the plentitude of cafes and transportation, and I love the park, but it’s never, until tonight, felt like a place I belonged to.