Sunday, November 3, 2013
On the Death of Lou Reed / Flying Panda Kite Along the Oregon Coast
“You made me forget myself. I thought I was someone else, someone good.” -Reed, Perfect Day
My family has experienced three deaths this calendar year. Three phone calls or emails which brought the unexpected and sad news that someone we knew had passed.
“When I see you walking down the street. I step on your hand and I mangle your feet…” -Reed, Vicious
The first two were natural, men dropping right where they stood. The third by his own hand.
“And where will she go and what shall she do, when midnight comes around. She’ll turn once more to Sunday’s clown and cry behind the door.” -Reed, All Tomorrow’s Parties
No explanations were needed except by the last, I thought. But the response I got was, “What does it matter how? He’s gone. That’s all.” So I let it go.
“All the poets they studied rules of verse, and those ladies, they rolled their eyes…” -Reed, Sweet Jane
The last funeral I attended, an entire town assembled to mourn one man and one of my closest friends stood up to eulogize his father. It was moving and powerful and the hours afterward have never left me.
“Baby don’t you holler, darlin’ don’t you bawl and shout…” -Reed, Waiting For The Man
I have never understood what makes the passing of one life more significant than another. Are our deeds and achievements accomplished while part of the living so memorable that we need to be honored in death? Is it really about the impact we had and the lives we touched?
“And everyone who ever had a heart, they wouldn’t turn around and break it… and anyone who ever played a part…Oh, wouldn’t turn around and hate it.” -Reed, Sweet Jane
No bother answering. The best a person gets is to be remembered by their immediate family and friends, those close enough to hop on an airplane to pay their respects, if that.
“And the colored girls go…do do do do do…” -Reed, Walk on the Wild Side
I heard about Lou Reed in such a surreal way. I had come home from a long day of teaching and dropped my weary bones onto the couch, flipped on the TV in sheer exhaustion. BBC story out of the Sudan, forest and puddles of mud and what looked like dangling legs from a face down corpse in the waving grass. My first thought was ... is that a person? That’s a dead person, isn’t it? Then another corpse dropped in the muck. Then another in a pool of blood lay beaten beside the road. The reporter’s voice spoke French to a black skinned soldier shouldering a rifle who sneered and said more would follow. Back in the studio, the next story was of the passing of an American rock legend.
“Heavenly wine and roses, seems to whisper to her when he smiles…” -Reed, Sweet Jane
I liked Lou Reed… he wasn’t Dylan or Simon or Cash or Waits or Bowie or even Iggy Pop, but he had his place in the soundtrack of my life. Mournful and melodic, touching lyrics that whispered in my ears. When I look at these pictures of flying the panda kite at Seaside… the gentle wind and Rebekah’s constant laugh, Xian’s knowing eyes always catching mine and little Kinu digging toes in the sand… it’s Reed’s music that played in my ears in my ears that morning. There are perfect days… Lou Reed taught me that.