What do Prince, Leonard Nimoy and long-overdue library fees have in common?
Well, nothing to most people. To me, though, they all represent threads in the fabric of my adolescence. Let me explain.
I had the privilege of seeing His Purple Highness at the Louisville Palace Saturday. As you have no doubt seen, heard and read all over social media, he put on one HELL of a show. I haven’t been that energized or excited by a concert since, well… ever.
I actually had butterflies in my stomach and tears in my eyes the entire time the funkiest man in music was on stage. His band was phenomenal, and his voice sounds exactly the same (if not better) than it did 30 years ago. Dude can GET DOWN.
It was a glorious, sweaty, hands-in-the-air, ass-shaking, ladies-fainting, funk-fundamentalist tent revival. Prince has a reputation for being aloof and unapproachable, but that went straight out the window when he pulled about 30 people from the audience on stage with him because, "We need some dancers up here, y'all!" AND THAT WASN’T EVEN THE BEST PART.
He put on a true party for the people, playing hit after hit, with every voice in the theater singing along. From the first chord of “Let’s Go Crazy” to the last note of “Purple Rain” and everything in between, I was propelled on a wave of musical bliss. I am here to tell you that this was not simply a concert, it was a transcendental (maybe even existential) EXPERIENCE, and I was not on drugs. Seriously.
This was a bucket list show for me. “Purple Rain” came out in 1984, when I was 12. This oddly sexy man in purple velvet and high heels captivated my generation and horrified our parents. My mother bought me the album on cassette tape, then made me take it back to the store when she heard “Darling Nikki.” I didn’t even know what masturbation was yet, or how on Earth it could be accomplished with a magazine. Clearly, my mom wasn’t ready for me to find out.
In high school, my boyfriend (a musician himself) was obsessed with Prince. We watched all of his terrible movies and analyzed their fantastic accompanying albums. They were a staple on our real-life soundtrack. My boyfriend observed at one point that my hazel eyes are the same color as Prince’s, and I still catch myself smiling about that arbitrary fact when I stare into my makeup mirror.
In college, this same boyfriend performed “Irresistible Bitch” as his lip sync project for an acting class. Guess who got to sashay around the stage as the “bitch?” Needless to say, I was doomed to develop a lifelong affection for this legendary magician of funk. And now that I have seen him live, that love affair will only intensify.
On a sad but equally nostalgic note … when I heard that Leonard Nimoy moved on to the final frontier Feb. 27, a piece of my childhood died with him.
Mr. Spock is one of my all-time favorite movie and TV characters. I never went to Star Trek conventions (OK, just that ONE), and I don’t care for any of the show’s incarnations past “The Next Generation.” But I am a hardcore fan of the O.G. (original generation) of this silly little science-fiction masterpiece.
See, my dad loved the old Star Trek show, and we watched episodes of it together on Sunday mornings before church, starting when I was just a little kid. It was our thing. It was also our thing to see all the movies in the theater. I was too young to watch the first one when it premiered, so “The Wrath of Khan,” which came out in 1982, represented my maiden voyage into Trekkie films. I vividly recall clutching my dad’s arm as Ricardo Montalban’s chest-baring Khan forced the Ceti eel into Chekov’s ear. That freaked me the hell out. Still does, a little. Ew.
Dad and I went to see all the sequels together, up through “The Undiscovered Country.” We adored both the movies (even the crappy ones) and our time together. We especially loved Spock, and the on-screen relationship he shared with Captain Kirk. Leonard Nimoy brought the perfect mix of logic, tenderness and humor to his role.
When I first heard a new movie was being developed about the early years of the original crew starring (gasp!) some young actor playing my beloved Spock, I wanted nothing to do with it. I finally rented it recently under duress, and I have to give props to Zachary Quinto for staying true to his predecessor. I think he and Nimoy even became friends, so I can’t really hold a grudge. I mean, if old Spock likes new Spock, who am I?
I still love old Spock best, though, and I will miss the hell out of him. Rest in peace, Mr Nimoy. You have always been, and will always be, my friend.
To lighten the mood here a bit, and to pull yet another thread from my ’tween years, allow me to segue into a random story about unpaid library fees.
As a writer and avid reader, I have always loved the library — the smell of musty books, the silence, the stacks of knowledge at my fingertips. Of course, my generation’s Google consisted of card catalogs and microfiche, so I kind of HAD to love it. Research was hands-on in my day, by God.
Anyway, until I joined the Friends of the Library board of directors last month, I hadn't possessed my own library card in years. I’ve been checking out books on my son’s card for far too long.
Why, you ask? Well, I blame the Beastie Boys.
When I was 13, I checked out the Beasties’ “Licensed to Ill” LP (that’s a vinyl record for all you younguns) from the Louisville Free Public Library. Yes, kids, we used to do that. My friend promised to return it for me after I brought it to a sleepover at her house.
I know for a fact that she took it back, but it turns out there was no evidence of the transaction. The next time I innocently went to check out a book, I was informed a fee had been incurred to replace the “missing” album. So I went back to my friend, whose mom (even though she didn’t have to) paid the charge.
But then, the NEXT time I went in, it happened again — still no proof of the paid fee, which was probably around $25.
This went on for two years. My friend’s mom called the library and visited the branch several times to try to resolve the problem to no avail. Every time I went to check something out, the fee was attached to my card, like a lien on a house. I would explain to the librarian that it was a mistake, and she usually would let me check books out anyway.
No matter what I said or what my friend's mom did, the fee was ALWAYS on my record, from the time I was 13 all the way through high school. I stubbornly refused to pay it on principle and let it carry over. And over. I eventually forgot about it.
When I was in college, I had access to my university’s library, so there was no reason to go the public library. Then in my 20s, I decided to introduce my son to the joys of the shelves when he was about 3 years old. And son of a bitch if that fee was not still looming over me.
Rather than banging my head against the same tired old wall, I got my son a card, which we both used for the next 15 years.
When I was asked to join the FOTL board last month, I decided it was high time I got this fee shit resolved once and for all. So I applied for my own card online … and it was approved with nary a problem. What the what?? I fully expected to be on the LFPL's blacklist.
I’m still skeptical that I'm really in the clear, but I suppose a fee from 1985 might have finally fallen off their books. More likely, knowing my track record, that damn charge will pop up when I least expect it, and I will get stuck with it after all. I will probably laugh my ass off if I do. And then pay it, of course.
I will say that this perpetual fee saga has certainly made “Licensed to Ill” the single most memorable album of my life, which is kind of cool. I’m REALLY glad that it’s a kickass album. I would not be telling this story if the record in question was Milli Vanilli. For realz.
Today, the Beastie Boys incident is just an amusing and fond anecdote from my childhood, just like when I returned “Purple Rain” to the store and watched Star Trek with my dad. They all remind me how lucky I am to have grown up the way I did. This ’80s child has had a DAMN fine life so far. Yes, indeed.
So here’s to rock royalty, cheesy science fiction and musty stacks. Thanks for the memories. Time to get ill and party like it’s 1999. After all, that's the only logical solution.
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After 10 years, she's still just saying.