Indulgent reflections on the late, great Lou Reed

Dear Lou,

The night you died, slipping through the same alley where your trashbag liver pustulated out the excesses of your beloved fringe, a lot of people you shan’t miss—the same upstanding suburban types who couldn’t zap their compartmentalized sexuality into your teenage brain—dressed up their bland tyranny in bad rock star wigs and “sexy” vampire lace.

There was the slight black man in pristine white dress at Folsom Lake Bowl, sucking down cigarettes like pixie sticks and prophesying the great flood that would blot out the western seaboard, “all the way up to Alaska.” Blown black pupils rattled like marbles from the coke (or what I guessed to be coke) tightening his sinews. He didn’t want to talk about his horrible visions anymore, he said, then carried on about them nonetheless. When an arriving pal wrapped his arms around the mad little man, he tensed up and sank the cigarette cherry into his skull. To prove a point, it seemed, but no one knew what it was. We left him there, a blister the size of an eraser smoking out of his head.

There was the couple pressed against the busy bar at Scarlett’s. They wriggled as a pretense to dance, but had other business. He bent her back over the hard edge, pulled her left breast out of its slip and sucked like he desperately needed the calcium. The masked faces around them leered and laughed and sopped up the oblivious frenzy.

There was the white man in the Motley Crue shag shouting “nigger” beyond the gate, his black friend taking no offense.

There were the mundane disasters of a half-hearted Halloween. At the bars in the old town of an affluent suburb. White yuppies, nice cars, valuable real estate. HOAs and divorcees, full bellies and leather cleavage, insatiable hunger and never the right kind of food.

In hindsight, I can’t help thinking it was the type of night you might have written about in your hollowed, vagrant voice. But maybe that’s just me wanting a truer connection with the personal hero whose bruising musical poetry sweeps us through the everlasting bittersweet and solemnizes our lonely hearts.

And how can I not? The tributes-cum-obituaries pouring in from north and south of the main dial testify to the kingdom you built of scraps for the scrappers—for the disregarded and unpeopled, the undercounted and unestimated. For the fuck-alls and of-no-consequences. For the beautiful losers and their bounties of pain.

Last night was just a night. And when it wore off, everything was still there. Everything except you. You left through the alley. And behind you, the trail we will always be following.


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