I wrote the below piece for a music blog that I contribute to called Yeah, Uh-Huh.
As I remember it right now. It was the fourth of July. I was 12 years old and we were at Kalihiwai beach for the big annual riverside potluck thrown by two elderly people I don’t remember the names of. They always had plenty of food, and tents, huge barbecues, live bands at night, and DJ’s during the day. Hundreds of people would run through this Independence Day party and before I became curious as to what ‘the fourth’ would look like somewhere else I went every year with my family.
On this particular day I had just eaten hot dogs, run off to the edge of the beach and the ocean to play in the waves. I was digging a hole in the sand, a bunker of sorts for the sand ball fight we were not supposed to be having. My dad would have been a stern type of livid if he had known. There were so many other children on the beach we were like zebras among other zebras - lost in the fray so it was safe.
I had just stood up and I heard this sort of strummy guitar tune in the distance. It was really appealing, I couldn’t make out the words but there was bass rocking back and forth, and a man’s voice that had a sort of Bob Dylan styled drawl to it but it was more melodic than Dylan, and catchy - in much the same way that McCartney was catchy in relation to Lennon but their being still cut from the same mindful tree - if that seems to make any sense. Anyway, there were ladies voices singing in the background too “do-do…do-do-do’s” and there wasn’t much drumming, and I loved what I was hearing. I just didn’t know who was playing.
Now this was much before the time when you could just Shazam anything you heard and didn’t know the name of - also before the time that I was really aware of the fact that you could strain and listen for one line of lyric in the music and then run to a computer later and type it into Google with quotations to get its name.
During this time, whenever I heard a song I liked and couldn’t possibly find out what it was called I would just be patient until I heard it again and then run up to whoever was nearest who I thought might know the answer. Most often the person who knew the name of the song on the radio was my father.
This time however, being lost among a pack of sand ball throwing zebras, I couldn’t make my way to my dad in time to get the name of the song.
So I decided to wait. The beach wars ended, night time came, the fourth turned into the fifth, and I don’t remember how many months went by - it could have been a year or two before one day I was sitting in the car, a VW van, with my dad and this same song I had been waiting to hear for so long started to play on the radio. I could finally hear the lyrics “Hey girl, take a walk on the wild side, I said hey darlin’ take a walk on the wild side” I burst out to my dad “Who is this, Poppa!?” “It’s Lou Reed, son,” “It’s so good!” I said. He smiled.
And that was the first time I knew who Lou Reed was, and a couple days ago upon hearing the news of Lou’s passing I remembered this story.
A great Chinese general once said that when men die entire worlds die with them. At times I’ve been tempted to agree with this general but something about the words in me has kept me from ever agreeing fully. You see, when people die, yes worlds die with them but their stories live on - in the small ways that they touched and affected others.
I never knew Lou’s music well, and never listened to much more than a few of his hits but his music framed more than a few memories for me, and for that I am grateful. He gave what he had and to this day it’s worth telling about. His story lives on.
What does it mean to not know how to do something when you can already see it in your mind or hear it in your head - the only thing is that you can’t just put it down on paper or out into the air - something about your body doesn’t know how.
The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off… .
Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off — just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt — and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me — I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again… .
After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me … in new clothes.
”—Eustace, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis
“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers [meeting] together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”—A. W. Tozer
“On the other hand, when your feeling about a book is mirrored by another reader, there’s a wonderful complicity, as if you’d both been involved in a life changing event that no one who wasn’t there would understand. Sharing an interpretation is like sharing history.”—Robert Rowland Smith, Breakfast with Socrates