There are events that remind us that life is indeed a fragile thing. None so profound as when we lose someone like Lou Reed. In seeing notes and tributes on the media landscape, there have been countless uses of the word "fixture." That's what he had become, especially to those of us in New York City where he lived - a fixture. Someone we thought would always be around. But like so many others before him, and so many of the structures he frequented during his life here, those fixtures are dwindling. Over my years living here, I spotted him in public several times. The first time was the best too, when I was 19, drinking under age at the bar in CBGB (another so-called "fixture") to hear a band I was reviewing for the NYU newspaper. No idea why he would have been there to see this particular outfit - who sang off key and played jangly, disorted sounds with no real detectable mastery of their instruments - but there he was. And I realized then there was no way this band could have existed without the precedent this man, right here, in this bar, had set. He just did it better and earlier. He listened for a few minutes, paid for his drink and left. It was a cruel thing perhaps, but to prevent swollen heads, I never told the members of that band that Lou Reed himself had heard them play.
But back to being a fixture. Lou Reed was a New Yorker, and the reason I saw him in public so often, besides luck, is because he was a part of us. From his music to his art to the albums he produced for others to his daily routines and even his drug use in the 70s and 80s. He was just always there, contributing to our lives in some way, even if he was simply out buying a cup of coffee.
That's why I think the best way to pay tribute to such a person is to go somewhere you haven't been in a long time and have a drink. Let it know you still care. Don't assume it will always be there. You never know.
Of all the Velvet Underground and solo songs, "Pale Blue Eyes" is the one that has continued to resonate with me the most. Love, hate, remorse, longing, resignation - it covers all the bases. Why do we love something that puts us through so much?
Sometimes I feel so happy,Sometimes I feel so sad.Sometimes I feel so happy,But mostly you just make me mad.Baby, you just make me mad.Linger on, your pale blue eyes.Linger on, your pale blue eyes.
Because as humans, we can't help ourselves.
Cheers to you, Lou. Wherever you may be today, not just those of us in New York City, say hello to an old friend and have one for him today.