On early Monday morning, a young man in our building's elevator listened to Lou Reed's music through his ear buds. The sound was up high. All of us with him on the elevator could hear it, but no one of the five people on the ride complained. It was our own private ceremony to honor Lou Reed's passing.
"A bit of magic in everything and then some loss to even things out."
Lou Reed, from Magic and Loss
Later that Monday morning, I used my ear buds on the train to listen, start to finish, to Lou Reed's Magic and Loss album. A wonderful collection of songs said to be his response to the deaths of two friends, it seemed the best of his work to listen to now. Attending as carefully as I could to all the words and all the marvelous sounds, I mourned our loss of Lou Reed. As a piece of art, his album also helped me to to do more. As I listened, I grieved for all those others I have lost, thought about my own mortality, and tried to engage the impossible idea of death itself. Thank you, Lou.
Since his death, many New Yorkers have shared their favorite Lou Reed stories. Here is mine. Several years ago, buying a coffee in lovely funky cafe on Hudson Street, I spotted Lou Reed at a table eating his breakfast. Seeing him wasn't such a surprise. He lived in the West Village and was often on the street. It was what he was eating that stopped me in my tracks: Scrambled eggs. I had been certain that Lou Reed was a fried eggs kind of guy --- and not the over easy eggs, but the two large bright orange yolks staring you right in the eye eggs. I had been wrong. Lou Reed ate fluffy, very pale yellow eggs with his toast.
Having misjudged the kind of eggs to connect with Lou Reed, maybe I could do better with a painting analogy. Actually, I need to try out two. Twenty-five years ago, no question, I would have linked Lou Reed with an Egon Schiele self-portrait, actually several Egon Schiele self-portraits, but here is just one.
But today, given his long productive life and what many have written about that, it's a Picasso painting that best represents for me the spirit of Lou Reed. It's Picasso's Boy in Blue from 1905. There is a celebration of the person, seriousness, strength, quiet, and glory in this painting. Meyer Schapiro writes that this is Picasso's depiction of his own transforming artist-self. I think the painting is big enough for us to see in it the celebration of other artists, artists like Lou Reed.