The cars were piled on top of each other and bleeding onto the curb of the highway as they inched west and north towards the Lake Ann Park parking lot, each blasting their favorite from the windows; families walked down the trail and under the tunnel beneath the highway they’d just come from, holding the strings of the purple balloons floating just behind them; families walking back to their cars had no balloons and little expression. Altars of brown paper lanterns, unlit during the overcast day, peppered the path towards the off-white, square-paneled compound.
I had gone past Paisley Park innumerable times growing up but, even with an aunt living less than two miles away, had never been this close before. The black chain link fence that surrounded Prince’s home was a mecca and an altar. Within two days it was already dense, thick with families’ shiny purple balloons, potted violets laid at its base, signs made of purple construction paper carrying messages of love and grief, all with a subtext of shock. And so much Bisquick. Inside, a memorial was rumored to be taking place. Outside, it was quiet. People paced and observed, took portraits, laughed, shared their sightings — at the airport, downtown, at the Fetus — and cried. The fence was the focal point, at least in this solar system, of confronting the sudden loss of an artist we’d come to assume would be shrieking and riffing into old age, while those much younger worked on indenting their living room recliners. Fifty or so feet behind the fence a line of media tents, dripping with tired-eyed reporters and their beaten-up lanyards, looked on bored, waiting for something to happen. When a member of Prince’s inner circle came out offering flowers, they descended and edged their way to the front of the crowd for better shots.