sad

Lou Reed

On October 27th at 11:46 AM, I opened a text that said “Lou Reed died”.  After reading it, I immediately felt a plunge in my chest and realized I was actually crying.  I knew I loved Lou Reed but I had no idea how much he meant to my life until I read that text message.  The only other artists I’ve ever cried for are Etta James and Elliott Smith.  Elliott Smith’s death hit me like a sledgehammer; I opened the newspaper and saw a picture of him in his white suit on the upper corner of the front page.  In excitement, I turned to the article and was completely blindsided in the middle of my High School Economics class as I read he’d stabbed himself in the heart twice.  Amid all of the dates I can’t remember, I have never forgotten Elliott Smith died on October 21, 2003.

My interests swim all over the place.  I pick up a hobby, hang out with it for a while and then drop it and move on.  I’ve always been this way, just bouncing around trying to learn a little about everything because I’m interested in more than I can squish in to this life.  Music is one of the very few things in my life that I’ve stuck with since the moment I realized how much I truly needed it and never has there been a moment when it wasn’t entirely significant to my well-being.  It took me a while to summon the proper words for Lou Reed because he has been a major part of my growth as a person and as a music lover, and I still don’t know where to start.

When you live the most vulnerable part of your life with your emotions on the front line infantry, you’re inevitably going to have some internal scarring.  Thus far in my emotional journey, I can count on one hand, the bands/artists that have truly nurtured the wounds suffered on that battlefield and The Velvet Underground is one of them.
During a miserable bout of a “what does it all mean” crisis in my late teens/early twenties (before you could just downloaded music from home), I came across a copy of The Velvet Underground’s Loaded Fully Loaded Edition at a local record store.  Since that day, I have never once considered removing them from my Top 5.   For days, maybe even a couple of weeks, I listened the Ride in to the Sun and Sad Song demos and felt my entire life fold into and around itself.

Unfortunately, while I do enjoy Reed’s solo work (who couldn’t love Transformer and Berlin), my love lies in the late 60’s and early 70’s VU albums.  Candy Says, Stephanie Says, Louise, Pale Blue Eyes, I Found a Reason, I’m Set Free, Who Loves the Sun, Sunday Morning… the list just goes on an on.  These are songs I have worn out, made terrible life decisions to and redeemed myself to.  I feel like the Velvet Underground has been playing in the background of my life since I first let them into my weird little world.
Lou Reed made sense in the fog of drugs and liquor, in the loneliness and depression of solitude and introversion and in moments of absolute joy and bliss.  His music is like an emotional chameleon that promises comfort and understanding because his pain is your pain and his words are your life.   And I still feel this way.  There isn’t a single emotion that can’t be emphasized by listening to the poetry of his own experiences.

The musicians he influenced and the music he has inspired are endless lists of amazing talent.  To think that without Lou Reed there would be no David Bowie (another top fiver), I can’t even imagine what sort of turmoil my emotions would be in.  But still, in spite of all of his glory and his inspiration, one of greatest things about Lou Reed is that he somehow always manged to hold on to that “cool guy” persona that he greeted the music world with.
He remained ageless with the greats that died young like Hendrix and Joplin.  The name Lou Reed never drew to a mind a picture of an aged musician struggling to be hip.  Just sunglasses and a black jacket.  Lou Reed was a rare bird that glided gracefully across the generations and his significance remains untouched by time just like Johnny Cash and Hunter S. Thompson.  He was a pillar of the music world and the hole left by his death is as significant as the torch lit by his life.

The generation of music that truly changed music is slowly beginning to crumble and break apart and it’s incredibly painful to watch and experience. But like great literature, there will be those that refuse to be forgotten and Lou Reed lives among them.

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Random Childhood Memories #1 (of about 10,000)

My Uncle Willie was the best storyteller I’ve ever known.  He was nothing more than an alcoholic country boy with Jesus in his back pocket, but when he  started in on his stories, there was no tearing yourself away.   The best memories of growing up are of the summers spent at the lake house with my uncle and my grandmother in the little town of Cisco, TX.
I was the “caboose” of all the grandchildren (as my grandmother always called me), and wherever my uncle and grandma were, I could be found. I have no doubt some would look those summers and shake their heads at the things I was exposed to, but the bonds of love and family were never stronger than those days at the lake house.
Perhaps it was the magnitude of their personalities, but even in my earliest memories, I recall preferring the company of my grandmother and her siblings over kids my own age, even to my cousins.

I owe any sense of adventure I have to my Uncle.  Not because he was particularly adventurous or even a daring sort of man, but because he always had a story to tell and no matter how dull it might have been in real life, he added just the right amount of garnish and you could visualize every moment in a sort of glittery shimmer.

His best known tale was the story of “The Old Man”, a sort-of swamp creature with one, big, yellow eye above his nose that lived at the bottom of the lake and ate raw fish and only talked to Uncle Willie. Any fish or animal bones found near the shore were just the remains of the Old Man’s meals. Nights when the coyotes were silent were nights you stayed inside because the silence meant he was roaming around looking for something to eat.
If you did go outside, you didn’t dare go without Uncle Willie because the Old Man wasn’t only ugly, he was mean and wouldn’t hesitate to make a meal out of you.

In the mornings, my uncle and grandmother would sit on the screened-in porch drinking their coffee and smoking cigarettes until everyone else woke up.  I was usually the first awake and I’d sit with them at the table and listen to whatever memories they were suddenly struck by.
Nearly every morning at the lake house, my uncle would tell me I fell asleep right before the Old Man came to visit him.
He’d brief me on their conversation and said he’d told the Old Man I was back (or still) in town. He always said he’d introduce me to the him one day and thought the Old Man might like me, but he probably wouldn’t like anyone else.  So, every night I’d sit up waiting to meet him with my uncle and grandma on the porch, listening to them talk until I eventually fell asleep.

Somewhere in the early 90’s Uncle Cliff married in the family through my aunt (my mom’s sister).  Cliff is 6’7 and 400 pounds of stupid but also 400 pounds of heart.  The first 10 or so years, my grandmother wasn’t very fond of him (she preferred my aunt’s ex-husband) and being blood, that meant Uncle Willie didn’t much care for him either.
Cliff was extremely gullible which made him the butt-end of countless jokes when he dared go to the lake house with the rest of the family.  Maybe he was too stupid to realize they were picking on him, but either way, he was always good sport about it.
Even in my single-digit years, I had my doubts about the existence of the Old Man but at 35, it wasn’t hard to make Cliff scared of the water.  I’m not sure he actually believed Uncle Willie, but he was still uncomfortable being out alone in the dark, nonetheless.

However it came about, one night he was dared to sleep on the fishing dock alone.  He talked big, but somehow my aunt ended up with sleeping bags on the dock with him.
At some point in the middle of the night, Cliff came bounding up to the house from the dock soaking wet, swearing the old man was after him.  To this day, no one is sure who scared him, but his delinquent stepsons weren’t his biggest fans.
Family legend has it that he couldn’t shut his eyes at all that night and heard branches cracking and something moving in the water.  In attempting to try to wake my aunt up, he swore someone grabbed his arm which scared him absolutely shitless, causing him to roll over and fall off of the dock and into the lake.  My aunt laughed at him that night and she still laughs at him this day.
Cliff has been dubbed the “titty-baby” of the family since that night.

Even when I was older and saw less and less of Uncle Willie, when I did see him, he’d always ask if I’d seen the Old Man lately.  For whatever reason, I always envisioned sitting at a picnic table under a tree by the lake house (even though there was no picnic table) and eating burgers with him and my uncle in the dark.  I remember thinking I wouldn’t act like I was afraid of him even if I was, espeically if Uncle Willie was with me.
Every time I watch To Kill a Mockingbird and Scout sees Boo Radley behind the door, I always think of the Old Man.  He is my Boo Radley, I just never stayed up late enough to meet him.  Uncle Willie died about 10 years ago and as I’ve gotten older and feel the sting of things I can never have again, I think the largest hole is reserved for summers spent in that shitty shack of a lake house in Cisco.

2013, ain’t it a beaut?

Today, I filled out my FAFSA application for Financial Aid.  Today, I also decided I should really start working on that whole “aspiring alcoholic” thing.  This was before the FAFSA business.  So now, in a tingly, merry state of mind, I can hold my head up.  Should I be ashamed?  Probably.  Am I?  No, not really.  I figure, I’m a failure in every other aspect of life, why not give my nagging blood the thing it craves and succumb to my heredity?   My family is full of failed dreams and alcoholism.  And hey, at least I’ll really have something to write about, right?
I already make myself miserable by trapping any happiness in thoughts of doubts and insecurities, so why not weaken such a cruel structure with some liquor?  Hell, at least then I’ll have an excuse other than sheer laziness for my lack of accomplishments.  And my family will look at these days, here, as the days when I really could have been something.
It’s like giving in to my destiny.
You see, after my grandmother died (the smoking alcoholic she was — to give you an idea), my mother found a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of whiskey hidden in a drawer in the kitchen.   My grandmother, Nanny, fought cancer for about 11 years and claimed she’d quit drinking after her first visit to the hospital in those 11 years prior to her death.  She battled with smoking and had weened herself to the point of being able to not smoke in front of other people, but we all knew she still smoked.  I told my mother to let Nanny live her life in a way that was comfortable for her, but my mother nagged her about it anyway because well, daughters need mothers.  The same cravings course through my mother that course through me, and we both inherited our “desires” from  my grandmother and grandfather.   My  mother had successfully fought off the demons until she lost both parents last year and now she spends her weekends in a drunken stupor from wine.  Last week, I flew home for Christmas and stayed 7 days, 5 of which were spent drunk with my mother.  How wonderful it felt to rest in the bottoms of bottles 1,700 miles away from my problems.
And now, with flushed cheeks that greet saddened cheekbones, I have continued my grandmother’s legacy.  Only, she was brave and stubborn and confident and she died living up to  the bold letters of her name.
Sure, she was sad but I’ve come to accept that we’re all sad, we’re also all happy.  We’re a mess of every emotion tangled in to a single, conscious vessel, obligated to ignoring certain things because, well, we have to if we want to be happy.  I simply have problems with putting on my blinders.  It’s not a bad thing, necessarily, but it takes it’s toll.  And tonight, I drink to all of those thoughts and problems and to my grandmother who was certainly brave, honest and genuine until the day she died.
I’ll get through my problems but it will never be below me to drink some of them away.

I can’t believe I’m almost 27

Sometimes I feel so broken beneath my life that I have to sit and tell myself “This isn’t my life, this isn’t my life.”   I have never felt so broken, ever.  I don’t know what I let happen to myself.  Why am I with a person who has no genuine interest in me?  We’re silhouettes; we’re two people leading lives that do not belong to our desires — playing roles we were unwillingly cast in to, hoping to walk away with some profit.
I’m too young to fear that my life is melting.