Laurie Anderson, 30th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Lou Reed. I’m reminded of a moment on the day he died when I noticed my daughter’s fingers catch the sun spilling through the window. Graceful and elegant. And for a minute, everything stopped.
Just a twinkling ago, she first discovered her beautiful hands. For me, her besotted mother, it was a magical milestone in her development. She was surely the first child to ever make such a discovery, those slender fingers in constant motion.
We called it “hand ballet.”
Transfixed, as though under a spell, she paid rapt attention, staring intently, unblinking, at the dancing fingers that would too soon cooperate to clap hands, tie laces, make music, whisk eggs, and wipe away tears.
To fly, fly away . . .
One day she might tell me that she has always known about Lou Reed’s Dirty Boulevard and Van Morrison’s Cyprus Avenue. I hope so. Myself, I have known forever that Holly came from Miami, FLA, that she hitch-hiked her way across the USA; that little Joe never gave it away; and, that Jackie thought she was James Dean for a day. As young as I was when I first heard Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” I cannot possibly have known what the hustle here and the hustle there was all about. Had I known, I probably wouldn’t have been singing it within earshot of my parents – this was the early 1970s in provincial Northern Ireland.
Thinking about this reminds me of somebody else’s daughter. Author, Neil Gaiman, tells how he braced himself for almost twenty years for the inevitable conversation with his daughter about the story behind her name. Holly. When the day arrived, here’s how it went:
You named me from this song, didn’t you?” said Holly as the first bass notes sang. “Yup,” I said. Reed started singing. Holly listened to the first verse, and for the first time, actually heard the words. “Shaved her legs and then he was a she …? He?
That’s right,” I said, and bit the bullet. We were having The Conversation.”You were named after a drag queen in a Lou Reed song.” She grinned like a light going on. “Oh dad. I do love you,” she said. Then she picked up an envelope and wrote what I’d just said down on the back, in case she forgot it.
I’m not sure that I’d ever expected The Conversation to go quite like that.
I have always been a tiny bit afraid of whatever truths awaited me on the wild side with Lou Reed, but I always took a walk anyway. I have never regretted it, because I always found a book of magic in the garbag can, and it would take me away. Three years since his death, I’m sad that there will be no more tales from the dirty boulevard.
Almost nineteen years later, suspended in the one thought are my baby girl and the late Lou Reed, elegant hands in motion. Laurie Anderson writes that her husband, Lou Reed, spent much of his last days on earth:
. . . being happy and dazzled by the beauty and power and softness of nature. He died on Sunday morning looking at the trees and doing the famous 21 form of tai chi with just his musician hands moving through the air.
~ my baby girl saying hello to her hands. Lou Reed saying goodbye. Discovering and rediscovering that we cannot have the magic without the loss.