The Rushmore Series- Sign Of The Times

As far back as I can remember there were fences that separated us.

The line for us was the Patio Deli on Linden Boulevard. This was the demarcation your sneakers needed to be on the friendly side of come night fall. There was an ‘us’ and a ‘them’; two uniquely compelling sides to this fiery equator that had been sewn by previous generations, and who were we to question it? All that we knew was that we had a side of the fence, and we had to own it.

Sports and music had no use for fences. In these worlds, black and white kids were teammates. We rooted for the Yankees and the Knicks. We spoke the same language. And perhaps no musical artist fused that gap better than Prince. His quixotically extravagant lyrics and moodily amorous melodies tore right through our restless spirits and pushed us to imagine the world differently.

Prince was the electrical storm that shattered the disparate entanglements of our black and white world with lyrics that riveted themselves to our wildest imaginations. It loosed us from stereotypes inside an abject bliss whose momentary lapse was full of reason and righteousness; all the things we somehow could not muster inside the day to day.

When you discovered Prince, you had arrived at the musical equivalent of a moon landing. He sang the words of Milton with an indefatigable funk, and you knew . . you just knew that you were listening to music that would book passage into history. And he existed, right there in the great big middle of disco jeans and bubble jackets and designer sneakers and multi-plexes.

I moved away in the fall of ’86, so I was almost a year removed from the place I had called home when it achieved notoriety for what would come to be known as the incident at Howard Beach. This nuanced reference provided the veneer for the worst case scenario of those fences when a bunch of white kids formed a lynch mob, with baseball bats in tow, chasing three black men from the neighborhood late one night. They put one of those men in the hospital and they chased another down onto the Belt Parkway, where he was struck and killed.

It would be several years before I went back to visit with my girlfriend. I showed her all my old hangouts and we grabbed lunch at New Park Pizza on the Boulevard- a place that had become famous for all the wrong reasons as it was where the chase had ensued on that horrible night years earlier. The sadness of the place stuck to my bones as we sat there and talked about better days and old friends, and ghosts.

And then I took her to the narrow little alley behind my old apartment building where me and my friends used to play stickball, pretendingย  it was Yankee Stadium because it felt that way to us. Back then. Before the fences ventured away from that field of play and into our real lives. Everything was different now, every single thing. And it was as if Thomas Wolf was busy telling me that maybe he was wrong . . maybe you really shouldn’t try going home again.

I took my girlfriend by the hand, holding tightly to whatever came next, chasing the ghosts to the other side of the fence. Her smile carried me home, to the one I’d found away from all this madness. And as if Prince had enlisted the lyrics to lift me from the rain of a melancholic afternoon, she was wearing a raspberry beret.

The very same kind you’d find in a second hand store.

(Check out Dale’s female choice over at A Dalectable Life. And no, Debbie Gibson didn’t make the cut.)

46 thoughts on “The Rushmore Series- Sign Of The Times

  1. B,

    I love, love, LOVE what you are doing with this series.

    That choosing Prince – who definitely belongs on your Mount Rushmore (as he would be on mine if I were to do a male one) – brought you back to that time in your life, evoking those memories of how things were, how there were rules to follow, and lines not to cross because to do so meant pain and death. I can’t even imagine.

    Prince was that type of artist. Whether you were a lover of heavy metal or disco, or whatever, you could still admit to digging at least one Prince tune. Just like he brought the two sides of the fence together so has he brought those who appreciate music.

    I have to say I am rather glad you were one year removed from having been there at that horrible time. And that you were able to walk away from those ghosts.

    Love your choice of song. No easy task when you look at the volume you had to choose from!


    Liked by 1 person

    • Q,

      Yes but do you love it? ๐Ÿ˜‰

      And Prince was our middle ground. We kids, black and white, agreed when it came to music and he led the way in this regard.

      Prince transcended everything from the moment he hit the scene. He changed the way we listened to the words, and he changed our expectations as far as the words were concerned.

      Sad though. I had known or known of all the boys involved in the attack. The ringleader had wanted to date my sister, to which I responded with a resounding NOPE. He was always a punk. The other boys, it didn’t seem possible that they had given in to that madness and hatred.

      It was impossible, almost. I had about twenty different songs ready to go. I decided to go with signature.



      Liked by 1 person

      • I might… ๐Ÿ˜‰

        That is a beautiful thing. Music is a great assembler. (Can you say that?)

        He did. And what an impact he made from the moment he bounded in!

        Ah man. That is way closer to home than I imagined. And goes to show how easily people can be dragged into ugly. And you’re such a good big brother.

        I know what you mean. Any Prince song would have gotten my thumbs up, anyway.

        You know it.


  2. LOVE. IT. YES. I was wondering if he was gonna make it on your Rushmore. He was such a great songwriter. Plus his concerts? Dude forget it. Prince was the first concert Iโ€™d ever seen. And it was awesome. And that story. Raspberry beret, huh? Every chica I knew tried to find a raspberry beret after that song. I be cracking up when I heard that. Great line though. Your endings to these posts are definitely memorable with those lines ๐Ÿ™‚ sunshine and waves brother ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Marco,

    I must admit that I’m not overly familiar with Prince’s music. But you have me wanting to go back and visit what I missed.
    I love the way you weave the music in with your own story. Music is such an integral part of our lives, isn’t it?
    Wonderful post!



    Liked by 1 person

    • Rochelle,

      There is a lot, so much. It wasn’t one particular album that hit me way back when, but the compilation of albums, with songs that ran the gamut.

      That was just it. I had no blessed idea how to get in, until it hit me. To go with the memories, because the songs were there, every step of the way.

      Thank you lovely.



      Liked by 1 person

  4. Back in the 80s I hung out a lot with a group of friends. All a bunch of middle class white people. When the movie Purple Rain came out, we watched it over and over again and the soundtrack was on constantly. Prince is one of those artists for me, like Neil Young, who has some songs that I absolutely love, but when I go further into his catalog, I’m left wondering.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark,

      I think that’s what was so interesting about this series. How music speaks to all of us differently. And to be able to have no wrong answers, just different ones. Music is a tether to the people, places and things that make us, us. And each person’s memory is beautiful and unique, Theirs and theirs alone.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yep. When I hear Letโ€™s Go Crazy or Purple Rain or When Doves Cry, Iโ€™m taken back to Jenniferโ€™s family room. There are eight or ten of us crowded in there and weโ€™re having fun. Laughing and becoming the friends we have remained for almost 40 years.

        Liked by 1 person

          • It is … this group diverged for about 10-15 years, but over the last 5-10, we’ve re-connected and it’s a wonderful thing to still have those connections with people who there at the beginning. ๐Ÿ˜‰

            If I remember correctly, there were three movies on regular rotation for us back then. Purple Rain, The Big Chill, and Eddie Murphy’s Delirious.

            Liked by 1 person

    • It was a sad tale, and even sadder was that Howard Beach had a similar incident happen in 2005.

      I don’t much care for Super Bowl halftimes, except for that one. THAT was the anomaly, for sure.

      Thanks Eilene.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I am getting caught up on posts and so the mention of the raspberry beret led us into your other post!
    And here in this post I agree that Prince fused the gap and more.

    Your mention of fall of 86 kind of flooded me with my own memories of that year – was njce to have that quick memory lane stroll
    And you really captured Pience’s genius and uniqueness

    For me –
    I “liked” his hit songs – but was not in full admiration of his amazing talent until he passed away!
    I always loved Purple rain and it remains on that special list of all-time top songs

    And his other hits bring back certain memories
    Oh and like the way you started this post:
    Patio Deli on Linden Boulevard.


  6. Loved this piece. Those invisible fences – fiery equator, great phrase – are so high when you’re young, and fall away later on. That’s some mountain you’re building, man. Can’t wait for next one, cheers

    Liked by 1 person

    • Those fences, when I look back on all those times and all those fences it’s a wonder we all didn’t get in more trouble. And by “we”, I mean the kids on both sides of the fence.

      Thank you PM

      Liked by 1 person

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