That Ultimate Thing…


The weird thing about famous people passing away is how shocked I am when it happens. As if Prince was a good friend, just lounging around in my living room the other day sipping iced tea, one leg crossed over the other, chit-chatting about traffic on the freeway or how surprised he was that he didn’t miss eating meat at all.

But he wasn’t sitting in my living room and I didn’t know him and he had no idea that I existed. Somehow, though, memories of Prince, like other famous people, got woven throughout the memories of my life.

The first time I saw Purple Rain, for example. I was adopted when I was a year and a month old. Why that happened so late is another story for another post. But shoot forward years later. I had been living with my aunt in San Francisco and had just met my biological mother for the first time. “You’ve never seen Purple Rain?” she asked. I recall her looking at me as if I had just piloted a UFO from deep space and landed in her backyard. I also may be exaggerating a little. But just slightly. Still, Prince got wrapped up in those memories of my biological mother and he remains there, to this day, locked in a repeating loop of  x-rated onstage undulations mixed in with secret thoughts boomeranging around inside my head concerning the alienness and awkwardness of the entire situation. I mean, it’s pretty weird finally meeting the person who gave you up so many years before. Surreal, to say the least.

It’s the youth and relative youth, too, of sudden deaths. It’s a tragic waste, isn’t it, when people who are so blatantly talented catch a ride to the other side prematurely. Don’t we expect more from them? Aren’t they going to give us more? But once this happens—the ultimate thing that happens to us all—we can’t hope for or wish for or wait for or expect or receive anything new from them ever again. I don’t know about you, but I often wonder why Dick Cheney’s still alive. Didn’t he get a major organ transplant recently? Maybe from some orphan in the Ukraine? Why did Prince have to go but Dick Cheney keeps thriving? Look at Salieri to Mozart. Mozart kicked the bucket super-young while Salieri lived to the ripe old age of 75! Not saying that Salieri didn’t deserve to live till old age, but…Mozart was thinking out of the box a little more, wasn’t he?

East Indians would put it all on karma. And who knows. Maybe it’s true. But the last thing on my agenda is to try to unravel the mysterious intricacies of karma. I have no idea who gets to stay in the lifeboat and who has to go over the side and why. But it happens. At least we got something from Prince before he had to go. He did the thing we all would like to do: Create something. Make something. Do something. Invent something. Improvise. Hand it out. Leave it behind.

So I’d like to say good-bye to Prince, along with many other great and potentially great talents, in my opinion, some of my favorites, who all hitched a ride out too early to take part in that ultimate thing that happens to us all. There are, of course, so many more, and I wish I could name them all:

Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Brandon Lee,  Jim Croce, Whitney Houston, River Phoenix,  Freddie Prinze, Bob Marley, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Gregory Hines, Amy Winehouse, Freddie Mercury, Bernie Mac, Heath Ledger.