Friday, November 1, 2013

Sanskrit Read to a Pony: A World Without Lou Reed

A Sunday morning ago I awoke to my usual routine.  The alarm went off and I quickly silenced it as not to disturb my wife Kelley, who usually sleeps a bit later than I do.  Our dogs, Molly and Maizie, excitedly scurried around my feet as I put on the pajamas that always inevitably get kicked off during the night.  After a quick stop in the restroom, the three of us head downstairs where I let them take care of their business outside and then we all rush to my cat Mazzy's room, where he is anxiously awaiting, as he knows our morning arrival signals his breakfast time.  I flip the coffee on, feed the animals and then pick out some music.  My selection this past Sunday was my well-worn, but much-loved, autographed copy of Lou Reed's LP The Blue Mask, the very same copy my father had brought home for me more than twenty years ago from a trip to New York.  With the first cup of coffee poured I flipped my turntable on, dropped the switch, and waited for the opening moments of "My House" to fill the room but nothing happened.  I tried again but the needle strangely wouldn't drop and just remained in its resting position.  Frustrated, I manually picked the needle up and dropped it on the still shiny black vinyl but the sound coming out of the speaker was foreign to me...draggy...not right.  I verified the speed was at 33 1/3 and tried again but got the same result.  After a couple more attempts I gave up, figuring the belt needed replacing, even though when I tried again later in the day it played perfectly. 

A life is filled with Sunday mornings.  I have been thinking of a number of them these past few torturous days like the Sunday in the fall of 1987 when I found a copy of Lou Reed's Growing Up in Public in my father's record collection.  I was fifteen and within the span of just under forty minutes my life was forever changed.  It's funny, as many truly defining moments can happen without a person realizing it but I knew instantaneously.  I had found the voice I had been looking for...the meaning.  I had found the voice that I knew would be there from that day on and I knew I would never really be alone again. 

Kelley came down about an hour after I got up this most recent Sunday morning.  We quickly got ready to go out to get some final supplies we needed for the Halloween party we were having that evening.  I was feeling pretty rough due to an emergency root canal I had had the day before and I took some prescribed pain medicine to help forgot how uncomfortable I was.  We got back in the early part of the afternoon from the store and, as we were unpacking the groceries, I noticed I had a message on my phone.  Opening the notifications tab I saw it was a Facebook message from my friend John Levy.  Without opening the full message all I could see was "Hey Jeremy, I'm sorry to report that Lou Reed has..."  I didn't have to open the message to see the rest.  Stunned and feeling sick I made my way over to the steps next to our door and fell against them.  The tears didn't come immediately although I would have preferred them to the terrible feeling that surged through my entire body.  Our little dog Maizie sensed that something was wrong and came up to check on me.  I grasped on to her and whispered, "my voice is gone" and then the tears came...

The first time I ever got my heart broken came on a Sunday morning as well.  Getting your heart broke by an unrequited love is a necessary part of  growing up.  The first time I ever had my heart truly fractured came around the winter of 1992 when I was rejected by a very special young lady who had been my best friend for the better part of a couple of years at that point.  There is something really dramatic about being in love in your late teens and I was, of course, convinced the world would end.  After the Saturday night rejection I had made my way to my friend Trace's house as the sun rose on an extremely cold and snowy Evansville, Indiana morning.  The snow was beautiful, the roads were treacherous and a cassette dub of The Blue Mask, with Coney Island Baby on the flipside, kept me warm physically and spiritually that morning.  Before we lost touch for a painful spell in the mid nineties (due to a fall off the planet earth that I took) Lou Reed was able to offer some solace to her as well, on another Sunday morning, when I sent her the lyrics to "Magic and Loss" to help her deal with the passing of one of her grandparents.  On Sunday she was one of the first people to send me some much needed words of sorrow with, "I thought of you immediately. I can't believe he's gone."  I got similar messages from many friends throughout the week, all of which were greatly appreciated.

I did my best to put on my own personal blue mask during our Halloween party, as the last thing I wanted to do was ruin it for Kelley.  I had originally planned to dress as the mom from Psycho but changed my mind and attempted to morph myself into Candy Darling as my own internal tribute to Lou and a time that now seemed more far away than ever.  I laughed, I socialized and I watched Kelley's friends make their way in all through the night...all of them much prettier and younger than I.  I wondered what they thought of me, as the seven hour Halloween mix I had spent the week before creating played in the background.  I couldn't hear it though, I could just hear Lou's voice in the distance but instead of having a Peter Laughner type breakdown I maintained my cool and somehow even managed to enjoy myself even though I dreaded waking the next morning.

Years before I stopped speaking to nearly everyone I had loved, and that had loved me, I would spend many a Sunday morning with friends and lovers.  Late Saturday nights that bled into those mornings have been filing in and out of my brain all week.  An impossibly late night with my friend Ryan listening to different versions of "Heroin" in his basement room with his father occasionally interrupting wanting to know what we were doing.  A Sunday morning in 1994 spent with my most corrosive and passionate partner Shayna making love and listening to the Live in Berlin bootleg I had picked up the day before at a local Bloomington, Indiana record shop walking distance from her place.  Introducing Take No Prisoners to my friend Dave, who just recently recalled a bit of his favorite between song banter to me again all these years later, and seeing Lou for the first time live with my oldest friend Kimbre.  Memory after memory of hundreds of Sunday mornings have been coming back to me starring so many people from my past, a number of whom got in touch with me this week via phone-calls, texts and emails making sure I was okay. 

It was indeed all those incredibly kind messages that I have gotten throughout the week, from people (some of whom I have never even met) who recognized that this wasn't just another celebrity passing for me.  Lou Reed was family, the brother I never had, the best friend who I didn't let go of, the voice that helped me through every crisis (small and major) I have faced in my adult life.  For the past quarter of a century the knowledge that there would be more lyrics and music from him to help get me through the most difficult nights, and darkest days, has always been there.  Now that knowledge is gone and I don't know what to do.  What am I going to do without Lou Reed?  That thought has plagued and troubled me all week.  One friend noted that the music and words will always be there to offer their help and support but the idea that there won't be more coming, that the voice I have depended on for so long has been silenced, is absolutely devastating to me.  I still haven't been able to process the news of Lou Reed's passing.  I recall the story that Jerry Schilling told about Brian Wilson's reaction to Elvis Presley dying.  "What do we do now? I don't know what to do."  I know I am not the only one feeling that way right now. 

The world has felt and looked strange since Sunday October 27th.  Feelings of anger and despair have mixed with a strong sense of gratitude and love the past few days.  I feel different, dazed and not sure what my next move should be.  I am grateful for Kelley, and our little furry family, and I am grateful for the memories...grateful for all those Sundays since that fateful day more than 25 years ago when I first discovered the artist who would have the greatest impact of any on my life.  Lou Reed blew open my mind and introduced me to artistic, cultural and spiritual worlds I had never known of before.  Attempting to imagine what my life would have been like if I hadn't discovered and fell completely in love with his work is not only impossible but also unthinkable.  The Jeremy Richey I am today simply wouldn't exist...I wouldn't be married to Kelley, there would be no Moon in the Gutter, I wouldn't have the memories and friends that I do...none of it would be the same.  More than likely I would have become that middle class conforming douchebag I have always hated and, while I ultimately might not be worth a damn, I can at least look myself in the mirror each day with the knowledge that I am still, deep-down, that transformed 15 year old kid in Indiana discovering and embracing a world I found in the dusty grooves of a cut-out record my father had buried in his collection. 

I wish I could write a proper tribute to Lou Reed but I am just not capable right now.  I loved this man so much and his work meant everything to me.  I honestly thought he would never least not in my lifetime.  If there is an "over there" then I hope Lou has seen all of the incredible tributes that have been pouring out of people he touched, all over the world, and I hope that he can feel all of the love.  We have lost the most important figure in popular American music since Elvis Presley and one of our finest poets.  I, and many other folks around the world, have lost a friend, mentor and spiritual guide.  Lou Reed taught us to see the light and we can all take some comfort in the thought that while the source is gone the reflection can still be found in the people touched by him. 
-Jeremy Richey, 2013-

Dedicated to Laurie Anderson and my Father.


Heather Drain said...

Perfect. Absolutely perfect, Jeremy. We are heartbroken too & I am honestly still processing it.

Amanda By Night said...

Wow. This was so candid and real and moving. Thank you for writing it.

Btw, the dedication brought me to tears. Laurie had an amazing husband and you had a wonderful father.

Anonymous said...

Your heartfelt words here are a fine and touching tribute.

Steve Langton said...

Beautiful and moving tribute, Jeremy. There's no doubt that music plays an important part in our lives, often shaping the person we grow up to be, and it's important we never forget the good times when music made us feel invincible, and also the bad times when it helped us through.It's good that Lou helped shape the soundtrack of your life, and so very sad he's no longer here to add to it. Thanks for writing such a great tribute. Although we have never met, I'm proud to call you my friend, and grateful I have such a gifted writer to make me think, and sometimes cry. Lou would be so very appreciative of your love for his music.

Anonymous said...

That was a great tribute. Thank You. I too was somewhat shocked to hear of Lou's death. His music was so important to me. Just the day before or something I was really grooving on a live version of Femme Fatale on youtube. I understand really indentifing with an artist that way. I really love Nico's solo work and feel almost like she is a mother to me telling me everything will be alright. wherever I go I can feel her with me even though she died a year before I was born. She always belonged to the realm of death tho. Lou was alive. Now he isnt and it leaves a void that nothing will ever fill. The best we can do is to appreciate the creative individuals who remain are true to themselves like Lou was. Thanks for your blog I enjoy it. Whats there to do in Kentucky?