Sunday, May 1, 2016

Urban Bike: Purple Rain Tour

As I get older, I find it's best to focus on one task at a time. In fact, a task can become so engrossing it pushes out thoughts of everything else. Some would call this a deficiency of aging, I call it an advantage.

Last Wednesday, it was time for a bike ride with purpose. I wouldn't know the results of CT and bone scans until the next day, and didn't want my mind to drift to the worst possible outcomes. A bicycle tour of Purple Rain movie locations was a perfect diversion.

The world lost a huge talent when Prince died the previous week.

While I was establishing myself in the Twin Cities, Prince was putting Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Sound on the map. When Purple Rain was released in 1984, a bunch of us met after work and made a pilgrimage to a movie theater. My memory of the movie is somewhat blurred, possibly assisted by happy hour beers.

I didn't find the characters particularly sympathetic. They seemed self-absorbed, and certainly did not fit with my nerdy circles. The Prince character could be a misogynist: it seemed unkind to drop the girlfriend into a dumpster then trick her into skinny-dipping in Cedar Lake. But the music was and is wonderful.

So it was appropriate to start my explorations a few blocks from my home at a dumpster.
Of course, I didn't come here to stare at a dumpster. The draw was a mural that had just been painted to honor Prince's life.

I made my way to the Midtown Greenway, a former railroad trench that cuts a swath across south Minneapolis. This was a locale for another movie, the rather sweet Stuck Between Stations. I imagined myself floating like the Steadicam cycling shots as I headed to the first Purple Rain location, the Kid's House. [See the photo at the top of this post.]

In the movie, The Kid, played by Prince, lived here with his abusive parents. A grain elevator towers above the modest house. A temporary shrine to the Purple One on the front steps felt particularly touching.

I headed towards Downtown and the IDS Center's Crystal Court where The Kid eyed a white guitar through a store window. This beautiful indoor space is one of my first memories of Minneapolis on a cold December day.

Crystal Court, IDS Center
I walked my bike a few blocks through Downtown to the core location in the movie: the nightclub, First Avenue, where The Kid came to life. The building started life as a Greyhound bus depot, then in 1968 it was converted to its present use.

First Avenue
The previous weekend this was a place of high emotions. Crowds gathered outside, and inside the dancing went on all night.

A few blocks further on, I reached the Orpheum Theater. In the movie, the backstage warren of corridors and dressing rooms "underneath First Avenue" were actually filmed at the Orpheum.

Orpheum Theater
I hopped back on my bike, eventually joining the North Cedar Lake Regional Trail to get to the final location, the north side of Cedar Lake. Here, Prince declared this was not Lake Minnetonka, a lake about a dozen miles further west.

Cedar Lake
A small cairn caught my eye. Perhaps this was the spot the infamous skinny-dipping took place.

I didn't include Prince's home and studio, Paisley Park, in this tour. That would have added about 35 miles round-trip to my tour. Besides, Paisley Park was built in 1988, after the release of Purple Rain.
Next day, I learned no tumor was spotted beyond my prostate. This makes me eligible for surgery (a prostatectomy). I'm grateful.


  1. Glad to hear some positive news. Suggestion for a walk: after Morpeth, take trains to Koblenz. Start at Deutsches Eck and walk down the Moselle to Trier. The river is high, there are vines on every inch and the birds of prey are nesting: you'll love it.

    1. Thanks, Anonymous. A walk down the Moselle would be wonderful.