Magic and Loss

Sunday, November 3, 2013

This was another of those posts that seemed to write itself.

They seem to happen from time to time; in fact, one arrived, unbidden, last week. I have learned to simply get out of the way and let them go where they will.

It began as a light-hearted reply to Jenna's comment on my previous post, about her sudden interest in all things Red Sox.

(Jenna, all I can say is that you are now a citizen of Red Sox Nation. Welcome! Oh, and please - try not to get any tobacco stains on the clubhouse furniture, OK?)

But then, mysteriously, it turned into something more.

It was soon about baseball.

And Lou Reed.

And community.

How did all of those widely disparate things come together?

Follow along, and discover as I did.

As you can tell, I love baseball to my core, and have my entire life.

This Red Sox team is easily the most likable one I have ever had the pleasure to watch.

Even better: they get it. Their response after the Boston Marathon bombings was pitch-perfect. David Ortiz, their leader on and off the field (along with Dustin Pedroia) gave his memorable speech at the first game at Fenway Park after the bombing, when he summed up how everyone felt:

"This is OUR f***ing city!!!"

Amen. :c)

They proved that they "get it" once again, during their victory parade today.

By design, the parade would pass by the finish line of the Boston Marathon. (That has been the case for the two previous parades, in 2004 and 2007, as well.)

Theis time, their caravan stopped at the finish line. It is still there, there six months later. That much was planned.

What happened next was not.

Unprompted, Jonny Gomes climbed down. He walked up to the finish line - and placed the World Series trophy on it.

He then added a Red Sox jersey that read "Boston Strong" on the back.

The jersey was numbered 617 - the Boston area code:

Apparently he had decided to do this the night before, and told no one of his plans.

The goosebumps continued just moments later.

David Ortiz then climbed down off *his* float - and ran the final 100 yards across the finish line.

It, too, was apparently a spontaneous gesture.

You don't have to be a baseball fan, or even a fan of the city of Boston (I love one and have very mixed feelings about the other) to be deeply moved by their actions.

It's why I love baseball so much.

It's a chance to be passionate about something you care about that brings joy to so many people.

And it's an opportunity to be part of a larger community.

Those are both things to be celebrated, and cherished.

And to never, ever, take for granted.


In that spirit, I would like to write a bit about the late, great Lou Reed.

Like so many of us, I was, and still am, deeply saddened by his untimely passing last Sunday. I suspect it will be one of those "stop-the-clock" moments when I will be able to recall exactly where I was when I heard the news.

While his death was all too soon, I have been listening to the incredible music from his nearly 50-year career for the past week, and marveling at his gifts.

I was speaking with a friend and fellow Lou fan earlier this evening. We both agreed that Reed was just as influential as Bob Dylan in terms of his impact on popular music. He is less celebrated than Dylan, but that is no reflection on the quality of his work. (And both my friend and I say that as Dylan fanatics.)

Both men were - and are, in Dylan's case - true artists, who refused to acknowledge boundaries in their work, be they artificial labels or, particularly in Reed's case, what they chose to write about.

That fearlessness and dedication to following his muse wherever it took him is why Reed and his music will only continue to grow in stature. His work, like that of Dylan, is timeless.

I was fortunate enough to see him on a number of occasions. He loved Boston; in his early, Velvet Underground days, Boston was one of the few places that "got" the truly revolutionary music he and his fellow visionaries were creating and supported them wholeheartedly. He never forgot.

The most memorable occasion came on Memorial Day weekend 1992, when he played at the venue then known as Great Woods, a lovely outdoor amphitheatre in southeastern Massachusetts. The day before the show, Boston was sweltering in 100 degree heat (38-ish Celsius).

So of course, in true New England fashion, the temperature at show time the following night was... barely above freezing. lol The audience was seated under the roof (the lawn section was screened off), and I remember snow flurries drifting in for the length of the show.

In spite of the conditions, and although he was touring in support of his superb-but-somber Magic & Loss album, he was in good spirits all night.

He chatted amiably with the audience throughout the night, particularly during the frequent interruptions when he and his superb band had to pause between songs to re-tune their instruments because of the frigid weather.

He was generous with praise towards his entire band, and thanked us repeatedly for coming out to see them in such adverse conditions.

And he clearly meant every word of it. In spite of the chill, I still remember it as one of the warmest, most open-hearted shows I have ever attended.

Perhaps that warmth stand out because of whose show it was:

A noted curmudgeon; one who, try as he might, could never quite hide the tender heart beneath the tough, wizened New York exterior, the heart that wrote with such compassion about the sad, marginalized and maligned characters who inhabited his songs - the junkies, prostitutes, and, yes, transsexual men and women - all of whom longed for a connection.

They longed for a connection to someone who would love them for who they were, in spite of the scorn heaped upon them by those who would condemn them as being "other." And all simply because they did not fall inside the narrow parameters of what they deemed "normal," or "acceptable."

And they longed for a connection to a community bigger than themselves, one in which they felt accepted, and to which they could belong, proudly, defiantly, as themselves.

It took someone special to tell their story.

Someone who possessed the toughness needed to survive living on the margins themselves.

Someone with the sensitivity to bring the stories of the marginalized to life in a way that helped those those fortunate enough not to reside among them recognize the humanity they all shared.

Someone like Lou Reed.

 RIP, Lou.

And may all of your Days be Perfect.


Here are a few gems from his vast catalogue, performed by Reed himself, and by some of the countless artists he inspired.

People focus, quite rightly, on songs like "Waiting For The Man" and "Heroin" (which Reed wrote in 1963!!!!), but often overlooked was his ability to write the most tender, heartrending ballads as well. This is VU's "Pale Blue Eyes," which Lou wrote about Nico.

Here is a stark, moving version of "Perfect Day," with Elvis Costello:

Here is a wonderful version of "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" by My Morning Jacket, Neil Young, & friends at Young's Bridge School benefit last Sunday evening:

And here is a fiery take on the same song by the Black Crowes from 2010, when Luther Dickinson from the North Mississippi All Stars was in the band as co-lead guitarist with Rich Robinson. I saw the Crowes on this tour, and this is entirely representative of that memorable tour:

I will end with two covers, courtesy of one of America's great artists: Alejandro Escovedo. I cannot *beliveve* this is the first time I have posted anything from him. For shame, Cass, for shame. I can assure you, dear reader, that I will rectify that oversight forthwith. You will thank me later.

First, a stunning version of "Pale Blue Eyes":

And last, check out this riveting, twelve-and-a-half minute medley by the Alejandro Escovedo Orchestra - complete with string section - from his brilliant 1998 live album, More Miles Than Money. It concludes with a heart-stopping version of "Street Hassle,"  the title song to Reed's 1978 classic:

Trust me when I tell you it is more than worth it to listen to the entire version. For that matter, just buy the entire album. You won't regret it.


Jenna on November 3, 2013 at 10:40 AM said...

Brilliant post Cass.
That was a really brilliant thing for the team to do at the finish line.
I was listening to Lou Reed's Walk on the Wild Side the other day. I've heard that so many times in the past but had never really listened to the lyrics so I had to look them up. Was quite amazed at them when I read them.

Oh and I am not going to admit to the fact that we have a baseball and glove somewhere in the house I believe.
Or that I once played baseball when I was at school (even if it was only for one PE lesson).
Nope not going to admit to any of that.


Cassidy on November 3, 2013 at 6:56 PM said...

Hi Jenna!

Thank you, hon. I am blushing! :#)

It really was a lovely gesture on their part. Of the three championships since 2004 (and I cannot believe I am actually typing that! :-p), this was the most enjoyable. This team is truly beloved, and their legend is only going to grow as the years go by.

As far as "Walk On The Wild Side," I remember hearing it when I was about 12 (I was a strange child lol), and being puzzled by some of the references… but I figured enough out to be astonished that it became a major hit!

You have no need to shy away from your newfound status as a baseball junkie any longer, Miss J! The fact that you are a retired player only further proves your bonafides. ;-p

(If you are wearing eye black in your next profile pic, we will know you have been fully assimilated! lol)

Thank you again, hon!


Jenna on November 4, 2013 at 4:04 PM said...

If you've ever seen my attempts at putting on eyeliner then you'd already think I'd been assimilated :-)

Cassidy on November 8, 2013 at 10:23 PM said...

Fortunately, we baseball chicks can cover up any such miscues with some strategically-placed eyeblack:

That is Dwight Evans, btw, who played for the Red Sox in the 1970s and 1980s. Not only was he an excellent player, he was/is one of the nicest people you could hope to meet, by all accounts. (Being easy on the eyes did him no harm, either, I suspect. ;-p)


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