This album, rife with the grit and darkness and corruption of Lou Reed's hometown, titled for its namesake, New York, was quite a precocious album for a fourteen-year-old girl to fall in love with. Every track taught me something: the betrayal of Vietnam vets and Native Americans, the slashing trauma of the cycles of physical abuse, poverty, murder, AIDs. I listened to this album day in and day out and still know most of the lyrics by heart. It was my first introduction to Lou Reed on his own.
I skipped past Transformer and Lou's glam phase. Went straight to the glistening guts of what Lou Reed saw as an expected aftermath of the trickle down economics, AIDS demonizing homosexuals, the poverty left over from the crack thrown into the poorest neighborhoods, the deep divide between the dirt-cracked poor and the shining, glistening wealth of Wall Street and upwardly mobile. Greed always has been a simple and single word used to define the 1980s. In fact, it was and still is defined as the decade of greed.
|Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, Title of a Song on Album|
Released in 1989, New York, with relentlessness and grim vision, bone-grating guitar, that flat delivery of eviscerating poetry belonging to Lou and Lou alone, painted a picture of not only the corruption of the eighties and the decline of the city, but more importantly the death throes of its soul, and the soul of its people.
I missed a lot of the references. Too young. Too innocent. Too ignorant. But the poetry hit me, as poetry always does, and the words stayed with me from then until now.
Dime Store Mystery
He was lying banged and battered, skewered and bleeding
Talking crippled on the cross
Was His mind reeling and heaving, hallucinating
Fleeing what a loss
The things He hadn't touched or kissed
His senses slowly stripped away
Not like Buddha, not like Vishnu
Life wouldn't rise through Him again
I find it easy to believe
That He might question His beliefs
The beginning of the last temptation
Dime story mystery
The duality of nature, Godly nature Human nature splits the soul
Fully human, fully divine and divided
The great immortal soul
Split into pieces, whirling pieces, opposites attract
From the front, the side, the back
The mind itself attacks
I know this feeling, I know it from before
Descartes through Hegel belief is never sure Dime store mystery, last temptation
I was sitting, drumming, thinking, thumping, pondering
The mysteries of life
Outside the city shrieking, screaming, whispering
The mysteries of life
There's a funeral tomorrow
At St. Patrick's the bells will ring for you
Ah, what must you have been thinking
When you realized the time had come for you
I wish I hadn't thrown away my time
On so much human and so much less divine
The end of the last temptation
The end of a dime store mystery
Why all of this exposition? How does this song relate to this love affair with myself I am beginning? The perspective of divinity. My wish to always pay attention to and become closer to divinity. Not away from humanity, but an awareness that these days in and these days out, these words in our heads and the terror in our hearts and the pains we put ourselves through, the banal conundrums all about the surface of things are a necessity but a far removal from our divinity.
I throw away my short time all the time on the super-ego of humanity and not the divinity of it. I want to actively seek and sometimes touch the divine in me, in everything around me. One more way to put in stark relief what our brains tell us is important--like that lost lover or the hoped-for job--always forgetting that not a one of this gets out of this world alive, only remembering it when your child jumps off an overpass into oncoming traffic, drives his Jeep through the brick wall of a house, falls beaten by drugs and alcohol unconscious on the street.
I don't want tragedy to have to remind me that all that matters is love and our corporeal bodies and thoughts are ghosts waiting to happen. Once upon a time I came quite close to that other side, in the shadows. Death can happen in life and that death disappeared from mine as I clawed my way back from the mythical underground of Hades to the bright spring of sunshine and fresh air and sky.
When those days came, the return to light, the first lines of this song rang through my mind in an endless loop:
"I was lying banged and battered/ scewered and bleeding/ Talking crippled on the cross/ Was my reeling and heaving hallucinating. fleeing what a loss/The things I hadn't touched or kissed/My senses slowly slipped away/ Not like Buddha not like Vishnu, life wouldn't rise through me again."
I was there. But life rose from me and I breathe a life near the ocean in a sun-filled home and I am surrounded by fortune.
But I want never to forget, never to forget, the fragility of what I have now and how, every once in awhile, more often than not, to forget the tiny pains in my psyche and my heart and remember to turn my head away from the prison of my own limited perspective and lift it higher and remember that to contemplate the divine is truly one of the greatest gifts of love I can give myself.
There is death in divinity. Divinity in death. Beauty in ugliness. Ugliness in beauty. It's all a matter of perspective. The transposition of words. When a new affair begins, you want to show your beloved all of the good and all of the bad in the world; to understand what is important because love is a divinity that awakens all of it and reminds us that there is no such thing as forever and you want to know: why do people die, however they die, and where do they go and why. Why do people have to die? A character in a wonderful television answered simply. "To make life important."