I Just Want Your Extra Time, And, Saturday Morning at 7:34am


Prince, the American R&B artists famous for songs like “Purple Rain,” “1999,” and “Let’s Go Crazy,” died last Thursday. Cause yet unknown, suicide not suspected. Although I have always loved his music, I have no particular insight about his place in the pantheon. I saw him only once in concert and it was during a time when he was struggling terribly and, unusually, could barely perform.

But I have a story.

When I first got out of business school I worked for a Fortune 250 chemical company. I spent 11 months in headquarters analyzing who knows what, and then flew off to Silicon Valley to become a salesperson. Although I was good at the job by dint of sheer perseverance, it did not suit my temperament or experience in the world. But I had a good boss. His name was Rich. He’d been a football player for Syracuse University. When I asked him once why he was good at football – did he run fast, did he catch well – he said, “If they told me to run my head into a brick wall I’d just run my head into that wall over and over again.”

He was a good enough manager that one quarter we held a sales challenge for our whole team and we won the prize. An overnight trip to Monterey Bay, the five of us. At least I think we were five. Could have been six.

We went out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant. In the time-honored tradition of sales teams, we drank. Beers, and then tequila shots. I was unfamiliar with tequila.

I should point out that I was the only woman.

The restaurant had a jukebox. We’d been there a while, long enough to finish dinner. The floor was tiled, saltillo maybe, the tablecloths were white, napkins in all the primary colors. Someone put on Prince’s song, “Kiss.” It might have been me?

We danced.

This sounds like nothing but I will say that it was the only time in my professional career that I felt wholly safe acknowledging my body. (Until I got old enough that it didn’t matter any more.) By which I mean I could dance to Prince, which one cannot do without implication, and remain part of the team. We danced through the lacuna in “Kiss.” The lyrics go, “I just want your extra time and your (guitar riff, pause, breath) kiss.” Nobody batted an eye. It sounds like nothing, but remember 1986, remember we wore suits, remember all kinds of things.

Partly I credit Rich, who along with the brick wall talent was an honorable man, and established good behavior as part of the group’s culture. But partly, and I cannot say how much, it was Prince, who knew how to both pause and say it all. Artists who break barriers for themselves can do so for others too.

I wish I’d been brave enough to carry that moment forward. My being a woman wasn’t my problem, now was it?

When I heard Prince had died, I regretted that I’d never written him to say thank you. I think I’ll thank Elvis Costello for “Clowntime Is Over.” I know famous artists get recognition and a lot of money, but then when we hear some of them are lonely or shy or struggling, I dunno. More thank yous rather than fewer are in general a good thing.

Have a wonderful weekend.

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21 Comments

  • 04/23/16
    9:17 am

    Reply

    Sue Burpee said...

    Love this story, Lisa. Bet that drinking and dancing and good behaviour did not alwyas go together for every “team.” But I’ve worked for bosses like that…who could allow team members to let their hair down… but only so far. I also worked worked in sales for a time… Pharmaceutical Sales, in the eighties. Gad I hated that job. Years afterward, I’d sometimes shock the kids in my class by saying that I used to sell drugs for a living…of course I’d always qualify the statement and explain…eventually:)

    04/23/16
    10:17 am
    Lisa said...

    @Sue Burpee, You were a Pharma Babe! So many stories in that.

  • 04/23/16
    10:01 am

    Reply

    Claire Johnson said...

    My own personal Prince story. It is Berkeley, and myself, my husband, and another couple that we were friends with decide to see Purple Rain, the movie, when it came out. My husband and I were more of the Allman Brother’s band persuasion, but hey, time to broaden our horizons. This was showing in a big theater in downtown Berkeley. And the four of us were the only white people in the crowd. The ONLY white people. Naturally, we were ignored because, indeed, why should we be noticed? But there was that sense that we were the other. That this is what it felt like to be a minority in a crowd. And I thank Prince for that, because as a middle-class white woman, My eyes were opened in a way that no rhetoric or speeches could possibly do. And sure, Berkeley is fairly diverse and this situation was unique, but what a way to hit home the concept of minority.

    04/23/16
    10:18 am
    Lisa said...

    @Claire Johnson, Thank you. Great story. He wasn’t nothing, Prince, not at all.

  • 04/23/16
    1:22 pm

    Reply

    Kathy said...

    I’m not sure what you mean by being brave enough to move that moment forward? Do you mean with Rich?

    Somehow, Prince was a bit off my radar, although I was saddened by his death I’ve always tried to stay “current” in the arts, but with music I’ve never moved much past the music of my teenage and college years. They have memories tied up with the music that come back when I listen, and it seems I don’t connect with that in contemporary music. Joni Mitchell, Simon and Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen, Crosby, Still, Nash and Young, The Doors….it’s still what I listen to, especially when I paint.

    Good story Lisa.

    04/23/16
    3:46 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Kathy, I meant moving forward in my work world, largely dominated by men, having a more confident approach to being visibly a woman in that environment.

    04/25/16
    9:55 am
    Poppy B. said...

    @Kathy, You should know that Prince was a huge Joni Mitchell fan and thought that the Hissing of Summer Lawns was as close to perfection as an album could be. She says she remembers him at one of her concerts and how he wrote her letters with his unique orthography even back when he was in his teens.

  • 04/23/16
    1:44 pm

    Reply

    Marion said...

    Lovely thoughts about Prince and professional relationships, Lisa.

    And yes, write to artists to say “thank you.” Spread the gratitude! Who wouldn’t love confirmation that their life’s work is important?

    04/23/16
    3:47 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Marion, Thank you. I bet that’s not a phrase you expected to say ever! Or maybe I just have a limited imagination. So thank you again.

  • 04/23/16
    9:47 pm

    Reply

    dottoressa said...

    Songs and memories…….it is a nice story….I can imagine the feeling…..
    Can’t remember any special memory connected with Prince….who knows how fragile they really are,or were,thank you would be fine
    Dottoressa

    04/25/16
    10:17 am
    Lisa said...

    @dottoressa, <3

  • 04/23/16
    11:22 pm

    Reply

    Noelle said...

    Prince’s place in the Pantheon is huge. He played 27 instruments with skill, and though he drew his inspiration from artists before him, he created his own unique sound. He didn’t mimic; he moved the music forward.

    Of his hits, I’m partial to When Doves Cry and Raspberry Beret.

    04/25/16
    10:17 am
    Lisa said...

    @Noelle, Excellent. Thank you for weighing in.

  • 04/24/16
    2:40 am

    Reply

    Eleanorjane said...

    Prince was incredible, for the way he played with gender norms as well as many other things: “I’m not a woman. I’m not a man. I am something that you’ll never understand.”

    When Doves Cry is one of my favourite songs. It created an amazing moment in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet.

    04/27/16
    1:08 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Eleanorjane, I had totally forgotten those lyrics, but you’re right, they are incredible. Especially as parsed in his rhythm.

  • 04/24/16
    5:20 am

    Reply

    DaniBP said...

    Love this story Lisa and I could visualize the whole thing, my gosh.
    I was a teenager in the late 80’s so Prince was really a backdrop to that time for me and his music so fitting to the drama, I can’t believe he’s gone so soon. I can’t get Little Red Corvette out of my mind. xo

    04/27/16
    1:08 pm
    Lisa said...

    @DaniBP, Thank you. The drama – all of it.

  • 04/24/16
    8:05 am

    Reply

    Frances/Materfamilias said...

    Once again, with Prince’s death, I feel myself out of step with a large portion of my age cohort. Only a few years younger than you (I’m 63 next month), the late 70s and the 80s were dominated by my kids, and music tended to be either Raffi or something I’d heard in my aerobics class. I’d heard of Prince, of course, but learned more of him in the 90s, through my daughter’s boyfriend, now her husband. In fact, I think my most powerful association Prince’s name evokes is the red Fortrel pantsuit A. found at a thrift store and wore to a Hallowe’en party when he was about 18 — he somehow glued the funniest thatch of fake hair to the part of his chest revealed by the red jacket’s deep V.
    My son-in-law, who has counted as family for almost 25 years now, unbelievably) is a sound engineer, sometime music producer, who has seen Prince countless times in concert, counts him among a handful of the greatest musicians ever, I texted him condolences on Thursday. He’s a very sanguine man, but was stricken, glad to be deeply involved in a project in the sound studio, to put off the sadness until later. We’ll see him this morning and he’ll talk about what Prince meant to him. I’ll pass along your story, ask him what he knows and thinks of musicians being thanked. But I’m left wondering what it means that I’m consoling my younger generations for a loss that so many of my peers experience so much more intensely than I do. . .
    (and yes, it’s entirely true that I might have said much the same here , without an accompanying anecdote, when David Bowie died. . . I do have an entire roster of contemporary musicians I listened to throughout the decades and now, but somehow these big icons didn’t register the same way with me. . .

    04/27/16
    1:13 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Frances/Materfamilias, Older than me. Not that I mind:), but, for timing accuracy, I’ll be 60 in September – and didn’t have kids until I was 30. So Prince hit when I was out and about. I do have things I missed by having children. Certain movies, when people talk about them, I’m like, huh, I don’t remember that. When I look up the date I see they opened in the era of Baby Blur.

    04/27/16
    4:08 pm
    Frances/Materfamilias said...

    @Frances/Materfamilias, Whoops! Of course, I know that, and it’s what I meant to say. Was that a revealing Freudian slip or what?! Yes, I’m definitely older than you are…. I think there’s something other than being busy with babies that kept me from hearing much of Prince, but I’ll have to stop and think about what that was. I’ll do it somewhere else . . . ;-)

    04/29/16
    7:19 am
    Lisa said...

    @Frances/Materfamilias, You have other things to focus on now!

  • 04/24/16
    9:58 am

    Reply

    Mary anne said...

    I, too, am one of those who was so involved with kids, job, elderly mother next door and life in general to have time for music. My kids were too young for Prince, and my go to music is classical. So, guess I missed out on that one. Always sorry to hear of someone’s death, however.

    Your experience was pretty cool.

    04/27/16
    1:16 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Mary anne, I just figured something else out. I was a salesperson, with a territory and a car, so I listened to more music then than ever again in my life!

  • 04/24/16
    10:18 am

    Reply

    Susanna said...

    Awesome memory Lisa! I remember suits from the 1986’ish era, those were the days, haha. Anyway, I’m not a writer, I’m a reader and I love your writing. Look forward to your posts every time.

    04/27/16
    1:17 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Susanna, Thank you ever so much. Those suits!

  • 04/24/16
    10:36 am

    Reply

    Nancy said...

    What a lovely story also by the others that commented.I have No important memories about Prince. I am more a The Cure fan!

    04/27/16
    1:18 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Nancy, Love the Cure. And the Clash too;). Thank you!

  • 04/24/16
    12:52 pm

    Reply

    joannawnyc said...

    My Prince memories consist having been taken to see “Purple Rain” even though I had no idea who Prince was (I loved it!) and being in a mall near Pittsburgh with my sisters and cousins in a store which started playing the “1999” album and I insisted on staying there to listen to the whole thing and everyone thought I was nuts, including the store manager. I did buy a cheap chain belt, possibly never worn after that. I have no idea when this was, exactly.

    Both of these are 80s memories of course. My fave (so far) piece on life after Prince is this one from The Nation http://www.thenation.com/article/the-prince-of-sex/

    04/27/16
    1:22 pm
    Lisa said...

    @joannawnyc, Such great stories. Prince would have loved the cheap chain belt, I am sure. And thank you for the link. I forgot, but of course, Prince was part of our emergence from the black AIDs years.

  • 04/24/16
    6:56 pm

    Reply

    amie said...

    I really enjoyed the guts you had for addressing Prince’s death. His music is not typically something a “Prep” would listen to. I read your views and blog bc by attending prep high school, college and graduate schools have made me more conservative in my views than my peers from my background. Prince was a musical genius. He could play a ridiculous amount of musical instruments and sing a multitude of styles of music. He was a singer, composer, producer, actor, and philanthropist. I did not buy his music, but if it came on the radio I always listened to it out of curiosity and respect? My favorite song of his was in the movie Pretty Woman, where Julia Roberts sang his song in the bathtub while Richard Gere watched. It was so funny and romantic at the same time! KISS!

    04/27/16
    1:24 pm
    Lisa said...

    @amie, Well thank you. I should clarify, I don’t identify myself as a prep. I started writing about originally High WASPs so as to differentiate the culture I grew up in from the 2009 version prep that I saw in blogs. But, that said, it is very unusual for me to discuss sexuality here, particularly my own, so yes, it did take a mustering up of grit. xox.

  • 04/24/16
    10:00 pm

    Reply

    Norbyah said...

    I love this story because it’s honest. You don’t have to be Prince’s number one fan to have been touched by his genius. Thanks for sharing.

    04/27/16
    1:25 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Norbyah, You are very welcome. Thanks in turn for the comment.

  • 04/25/16
    8:42 am

    Reply

    SAJ said...

    I love this idea and message. Artists of any kind love feedback from those who have consumed their work in any way. Now if only I had better handwriting.
    I had a similar sales team experience except in Indianapolis so not as picturesque, the food was bad, and our behavior- collectively- was much worse. I think it was fun though.

    04/27/16
    1:26 pm
    Lisa said...

    @SAJ, Feedback, from now on. And I think I’d prefer fun to picturesque, although, hmm, it’s a tough call:).

  • 04/25/16
    12:27 pm

    Reply

    That's Not My Age said...

    ‘He knew how to pause and say it all.’ Love that.

    04/27/16
    1:47 pm
    Lisa said...

    @That’s Not My Age, <3.

  • 04/25/16
    1:35 pm

    Reply

    Marla said...

    I love this post. I was at a chichi private girls’ school in the early 1980s (not very happily) and we were huge Prince fans. At that time, the lyrics in “When Doves Cry” about being demanding, like an overly bold father or a mother who is never satisfied got a lot of nods in the student lounge. We all came from families where something was off, someone was never happy, and he got the details right.

    Now, just over 45, I’m obsessed with Controversy. Probably because no one slot (like “woman” or “professional woman”) ever fit me, and I appreciate the way he challenged certainty and nosiness.

    I know what you mean about being the only woman on a business team, and I have never yet felt secure or OK in being visibly female. The Other isn’t a comfortable skin to wear.

    Best,

    04/27/16
    1:48 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Marla, Very well put. The Other is a uncomfortable skin, but one with so much potential to teach.

  • 04/26/16
    10:17 am

    Reply

    Patsy said...

    Raspberry Beret…..1985, my sister and I, college summer….her with a Cape house share. Brings me right back there every time I hear it, which is a lot this week.

    Working on an equity sales & trading desk in the late 80s, early 90s, we did our fair share of drinking and dancing. We had a good culture, too. Surprisingly.

    04/29/16
    7:21 am
    Lisa said...

    @Patsy, A good culture should be treasured forever. Bad cultures are like huge reeking toxic waste dumps. Ha. Guess you can tell how I feel about this;).

  • 04/26/16
    4:16 pm

    Reply

    nyreader said...

    I see you a 1986 suit and raise you a madras or foulard floppy “girl tie.” Thank goodness we surived?

    04/29/16
    7:21 am
    Lisa said...

    @nyreader, Thank goodness. And I had a foulard bow tie, which I wore once. When I looked around the office and saw that I was dressed like every one of the men, blue shirt, blue suit, red tie, I vowed never again.

  • 04/27/16
    5:06 am

    Reply

    Mardel said...

    I admired Prince’s talent and loved his music, although I often did not pay attention. I remember when his first album came out and how shocked I was, but although there was only a month’s difference in our age, I was far more naïve and sheltered at that stage of my life. But in many ways Prince’s music, especially the early music played some part in my changing understanding of the world.

    04/29/16
    7:23 am
    Lisa said...

    @Mardel, I was shocked too, and am still shocked by blatant lyrics. And yet that shock managed to coexist with impact, and growth, as I think you are saying too.

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