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LOU YORK THE GREAT

Posted on: Monday


"Some kinds of love... between thought and expression..."

A very long time ago, when I was a dreamy teenager making my way uneasily through an uncomfortably sunny and stucco'd southern California world, my Dad taught me how to drive.  When I got behind the wheel, an overwhelming sense of freedom settled into my heart, and the world joyously opened up before my eyes.  I saved up my money and bought my first car, a 1984 black Peugeot, which I envisioned one day driving into the sunset, to some great place full of adventure and excitement, where I would make my future.

It was right around this time that I discovered The Velvet Underground.  I'm not sure how I came upon the old mixed tape of Lou Reed's mesmerizing and raw rock and roll recordings, but when I put on that little tape and layed on my bedroom floor, life began to make sense.  This was back in the days before iTunes and Google, at the very dawn of the information age, so when I held that tape in my hands, I didn't know exactly what it was.  I didn't know if the music was old or new, or who this Lou person was.  All I knew was that these songs made sense.  They spoke to me in a primal and ethereal way which shook my bones and jarred me with inspiration, and they demanded the artist in me come forth.  I connected with the music in a beautiful and tragic way, and it forever changed me. 

My Dad came to visit me and my sister one weekend just after I got my driver's license and my very own car, and I proudly asked him if he'd like me to take him for a ride around the town.  "I've got something to show you!" I excitedly exclaimed.  We got in the car and started it up, and I put on "Heroin" by the Velvet Underground.  "Listen to this Dad, it's amazing," I said, and we drove through the winding dark streets as the song wildly unfolded.  When it was over, my Dad looked over at me with a smile, "The Velvet Underground, eh?" he slyly inquired, and proceeded to tell me all about his times with Lou from the past years, the wild years, when my mother was alive and the world was their oyster.  He pride in my musical taste was palpable.

As I listened to more and more Lou Reed, I began to long for the world that he sang about... the gritty, dimensional, glamorous city, where offbeat eccentrics flocked together to collectively create a new reality for themselves, where dark alleys and hidden nooks held the secrets and remnants of the city's storied past, where everyone seemed to abide by the gospel of "live and let live." He sang of a world I had only dreamt about, and one which I had always felt drawn to.  He proved to me that it did indeed exist. He inspired me to go and find it. 

And so, just after my 18th birthday, I went.  As it turned out, New York City was too far of a drive for my rickety old car, so I sold the car and bought a plane ticket.  My best friend Lauren drove me to the airport, and we listened to Lou the entire time.  We both cried as we pulled up to the airport, but I had never been more excited in my life.  As we said our goodbyes, Lou's voice echoed from the speakers,

"New York City's the place where they said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side..". 

After bouncing around downtown for many months, I rented a pretty sun-filled room in an old emerald-green-painted apartment in the East Village with a lovely boy, a fellow artist and dreamer, my friend Alex.  We redefined ourselves a dozen times in that crooked old candle-lit apartment, taking pictures and spinning adventures and weaving decades of history and lore into our self-created nighttime worlds.   Alex and I saw each other fall in love, saw each other through despair, and saw each other through the magical years of experimental youth.  Together, inside of our emerald palace and outside in the city's underworld, we became, all the while making coffee for each other each morning, and throwing glitter on each other each night.  And each week when Sunday morning rolled around, we would turn on the record player by the cracked fire-escape window and listen to Lou..

"Early dawning, sunday morning, it's all the streets you crossed not so long ago.."

As my years in the city mounted, Lou and I began to cross paths.. at a restaurant, at a deli... a secret show here, a conference or poetry reading there.  We shared a village within the city, and random circles of friends as well.  But that's just the way the city is, I guess, the longer you've been here.  To slowly realize that this artistic force, this icon of mine, was just a man, just as I was a woman, who grabbed a coffee at the corner deli, was humbling, and deeply inspiring, to say the least.  One day as I sat in an old wooden chair in a small room in the West Village, listening to a woman three times my age speak vibrantly about her adventures through NYC, I looked over and saw Lou sitting there next to me, listening, in stillness and silence.  In that moment I felt like a New Yorker.  And in that moment, my journey here made sense.

"And I've walked down life's lonely highways, hand in hand with myself, and I realized how many paths have crossed between us."

Gaby and I often quote Lou's poignant lyrics on fatherhood when our own parenting stresses seem to become unbearable.  We say to each other, "Baby, it's the beginning of a great adventure."  And that always somehow puts our troubles back into perspective.  Part of me always hoped, each time I would walk around the West Village carrying Lucien, that I would spontaneously run into him again.  I saw myself smiling and saying, "Lou, meet Lou."  Alas, fate had other plans.

Lou Reed passed yesterday at the age of 71. My heart broke a little when I heard the news.  He was a poet who spoke the truth of the world that I, and many others, dared to believe exists.  He was such a kindred spirit.  And he will be missed.






19 COMMENTS:

  1. How beautifully you write and caption your memories.This article made me yearn to roll back the years, to be young again, and embarking on an adventure in New York as you did. It's amazing you actually ran in to the man himself! R.I.P. Lou.
    Lou xx

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  2. So lovely to come across this post. I heard the news and was upset and then never even heard anyone talking about him or anything and felt sad about that on top of his death. RIP Lou!

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  3. Thanks for posting this. RIP Lou...

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  4. So well said Belle. Your writing is beautiful and brought tears to my eyes.

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  5. You are one talented writer.

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  6. This post is so lovely. What a beautiful reflection on crossing paths and making marks in NYC.

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  7. This is a beautiful story. Your writing is very engaging. I'm going to look this artist up. I had never heard of him before.

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  8. so beautifully written. it's amazing how powerful the poetry of music can be and how many lives it can touch. like you, I discovered the velvet underground at a young age and they touched my soul. music is the key to memories and it sounds like you have many memories tied to your family. that's wonderful.
    may lou reed live on forever through his words and songs.

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  9. That was beautiful and inspiring.

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