Above: Writer Neal Karlen was photographed at the Edina Barnes & Noble in 2002. (Star Tribune file)
During an apartment fire this month, Minneapolis writer Neal Karlen lost his many and varied collections: his baseball cards, his bobbleheads, his vintage T-shirts. A ticket to the Ramones' last concert, signed by the late Joey Ramone.
But luckily, on the night of the fire, Karlen was out. And he had his laptop with him.
Which is a good thing, because on that laptop was the book he's writing about Prince, whom he knew in "forever alternating cycles of greater, lesser and sometimes not-at-all friendship over the last 31 years."
After a friend heard about the fire on April 7, she started a GoFundMe page to help Karlen replace what is replaceable -- clothes, furniture, etc.:
"When I told him I'd like to set up a GoFundMe campaign to help him get back on his feet after the fire, Neal was initially uncomfortable with the idea (shame spiral and all that)," Emily Goldberg wrote. "But after taking some time to think about it and get feedback from other people, he's letting me do this.
"Recovering from a disaster like this is something Neal shouldn't have to do alone. Prove to him that I was right when I told him his community wants to help and welcomes a way to do so."
So far that page has collected more than $43,000.
Friends and readers offered donations from $10 to $5,000, often with a few words of encouragement.
The fire started in the rear bedroom of Karlen's apartment, which is part of a 13-unit complex in Uptown, according to a report by the Minneapolis Fire Department. It was unintentional, the report said, caused by an electrical malfunction.
Karlen, a Minneapolis character known for his funny, musical musings, did not return a phone call Tuesday morning. On Facebook, he described the loss he felt standing in "rubble and ashes as high as my Hi-Top PF Flyer sneakers." But he also felt grateful, he wrote:
"So, trying to catch a wink or three of sleep this week on that tiny mattress in my childhood home, I came to realize how wealthy I actually am. I DID have my memories--a lifetime of memories merely symbolized by my lifetime of accumulated, and weirdly almost curated 'stuff.' And I get to keep going—not 'collecting'—but LIVING!"