A Prince Challenge Writing Contest Entry
|I wasn’t born there, but I spent all of my teenage years and more in Philadelphia. It’s a unique place, and I have many fond memories from my youth. The one thing about larger cities is how they relax a bit on underage people coming into clubs. So, by the time I could grow a mustache, I could get into certain places. Most notably, for this story anyway, were the dance clubs. The Prince song Little Red Corvette was released in 1983 when I was still twenty, and it became a huge hit. It would also turn out to be the last year I would be in the city until later in life. Every club in the area, probably in most urban areas, was playing that song along with others from the album. One night, it had an effect on me that would keep going like a row of dominoes.
I don’t remember the name of the place, just that it was across the bridge in New Jersey. I do remember the girl. Her reddish-blond hair was curly and bounced when she danced, and though she had many lovely features, I remember that the most. I was smitten. We talked, mostly on the phone, and I wrote bad poetry and an even worse short story about her. I thought it was great at the time, though reading it again some months later, even I saw it was terrible. She ended up being my little red Corvette, and the song reminds me of her to this day. I felt I needed to get away. So, even though I could have transferred to Temple University with all expenses paid, I opted to leave the city and head south. At the time, I never explained my reasons.
I expected it to be different, but not as different as I found it. The second weekend I was there the fraternities held wet, open rush. Anyone could go to any house and drink. However, I didn’t look like them or dress like them, and actually got tossed out of one of the parties. I actually ended up going to events at the fraternity of my resident assistant, and I felt much more comfortable. Unfortunately, there was no way they would let me pledge. The south was still a bit backward and I had the wrong skin tone. The semester wasn’t even half over, and it seemed like it was already time to leave.
Over the previous summer, Prince, along with The Revolution, released a new album called Purple Rain. It was groundbreaking stuff, and it was a huge hit. Then something interesting happened. The university’s student government decided to have a campus-wide party with the theme being that new album. I still have a picture of me on a motorcycle, a Honda CM400 Hondamatic, just like in the movie. The girl who posed on the back of the bike invited me to a party. It was at the Animal House of the university, so I was fairly comfortable there. Sure, they had guys in Wranglers with big belt buckles and boots who would have rather been two-steppin’, but not to the band they had that evening. That night it was my kind of music, and I danced the way I used to dance back then. They offered me a pledge card.
Later that semester, I would sign it, and now I’m a member forever. It would take ten years, but I did graduate. I'd lived many places, traveled much, and had a wife and two sons when I finally made it. All of my family joined me in that southern town, too. My parents are buried there, and I have nieces and nephews, and their children I still hope to meet one day. Someone might ask me if the music changed my life, and my answer would be that it did not. There is a big difference between changing and influencing, and I didn’t make this connection for a long time. I still describe it as a row of dominoes. They fall how they will, but if you take one or two out. You can vary the outcome quite a bit.