Lonely Coney Island on the first day of November. The seagulls rule the school; the beach is shockingly swept; the borscht and blintzes are there for the taking. We remove what litter we find; make wishes and shyly feed them to the sea. The wind whips around us with gusto; the sun dips in and out of sight; the rides stand still like dogs awaiting unreliable masters. In Brighton Beach we find half-sour pickles, caviar, black bread, and, finally, prune chocolates, the candy forever in my grandparents’ blue dish. The Proustian madeleines of my wilderness of a childhood, writ large in a Russian’s lady hand.
Around 4pm I finished my desk work and, sufficiently pleased with the results, braided my hair, strapped on my equivalent of Harriet the Spy’s uniform—blue sneakers, blue trench coat, blue glasses, blue scarf, fur hat, scarlet lipstick, and waterproof, floor-length Meg shops pleather skirt—and gave myself 20 bucks to buy an afternoon treat. Off I waltzed into the teatime sky. Said hi to the old movie of a waterfront, said hi to my neighborhood guys, said hi to the sun as it changed its angle, said hi to each street corner as I loped on by. Finally, near the end of my big loop, I espied a very shiny, very large pair of royal blue earrings in the window of a store I’d never noticed before. Naturally, they cost 20 bucks. All in all, twas the kind of scavenger hunt of an afternoon that makes a ladygirl glad that she grew up.
A world without Lou Reed feels inconceivable to me. He’s any punk rock kid’s dad—all of punk rock’s dad, really—and I’d assumed the fact he’d initially survived his drug years meant the heroin had converted his blood to some high-tech preservative that rendered him not only timeless but immortal. God knows his what’s-it-to-you fuckery permanently opened all kinds of roads and minds when it came to mixing and matching genders, races, styles, sorrows. He was the deepest superficial guy rock ‘n’ roll never knew, a tabula rasa of high-low poetry and one-note chords, the reigning king of Open and Shut, not to mention Ugly Is Beautiful. In high school I dressed as Nico partly because it was the closest I could get to Lou. All the way through college, I had one sign on my dormroom door: “LOU IS GOD.” In the first week I moved to NYC, I actually met him. I was ogling a display of his Between Thoughts and Expression in the window of the old 8th Street Barnes and Noble, and turned around to discover him looking at me looking at his book. “I don’t believe it,” I said. “Believe it, dude,” he responded, and sped down the street before I could ruin the purity of the drama. It was at that moment I knew I was supposed to grow old in this Crazy Apple. I do take some solace in imagining that, wherever Lou is now, he’s shoving the 31 years he lived longer than Lester Bangs in the late music critic’s face. But, man. Today I am totally inconsolable about a city, planet, universe without my Lou. From now on it’ll be another loneliness I carry: forever waiting for my man.