I had heard earlier that Lou Reed had died but I didn't have a big emotional response. I felt sorry to hear it and I mostly thought about when I used to see him and his wife, Laurie Anderson, on the streets of Lower Manhattan when we lived down there. Something about an iconic rock star living such an accessible and down to earth life was just so damn nice to see. Especially when you consider the far less accomplished "stars" who place themselves in front of camera's whenever possible and then complain about their lack of privacy. Come live in New York baby, it is completely doable. Anyway, I'll miss Lou Reed as an artist and a New Yorker and will never stop enjoying his late 1980's album, New York, which I consider a relatively unappreciated masterpiece. Still, the sad news of his passing didn't really alter my groove on a nice autumn family Sunday.
While Bella and her amazing friend Charlotte were bopping around the house, my son, Charlie, was playing guitar and we were trying to harmonize on the Beatle's Obla-di Obla-da, with tiny baby steps towards sounding okay. While Charlie was playing I was just trying to contribute vocals that would, I hoped, sound somewhat musical underneath or on top of his. We actually made a little progress and when we finished he put my nice Taylor acoustic guitar down a little too hard and I heard it crack. He handed it to me and I saw a massive separation on the body of the instrument. I grabbed it and took it upstairs to assess the damage. As I reached my bedroom I felt a huge wave of emotion come over me and I was surprised to realize that I was about to start crying.
At that moment Charlie walked in, having followed me, and he looked so mortified about the damage to the instrument and my reaction that it sobered me up emotionally. I immediately got myself together, not really sure if he noticed I was on the verge of tears, and assured him, quite rationally, that it's just an instrument and can be repaired or replaced. And, at that moment I realized that was absolutely the truth.
Later I was considering my response to my guitar breaking and I tried to think about whether there were any other objects I could lose or break that could make me feel so upset. I honestly couldn't think of any. Then I began the self-analysis. Was it somehow connected to losing the Rock n' Roll Animal, Lou Reed or other things going on in my life? No way to know for certain but I didn't think so.
Of course there's always stuff going in life that lurks beneath the surface. I thought about Lou Reed and considered the fact that we're both jewish men with roots going back to Long Island who lived in Lower Manhattan before and after September 11. And, of course, there's the love of guitars and music. I know the comparison ends there as who am I to put myself in even the same sentence as a rock legend who was, in many ways, a defining character in a New York City that now seems so far away.
One of the things I love about Lou Reed's New York album is that it captures a real moment in the City's history. The record is dirty, vivid and sardonic. It came out in 1989 which was right before Giuliani came along and really transformed and homogenized the City. This record was about when being in Manhattan still had a slight air of danger. When it was a little too easy to find trouble that you might look back on with regret and, perhaps, a little smile if there was no actual permanent damage.
I guess I'd like to think that my cracked guitar was some kind of personal and timely metaphor connected to losing a musician I admired. However, I just don't believe that's the case. I'm not being cynical or denying the depths of the human emotional psyche. I just don't buy it in this instance. If I want to psycho-analyze my near crying jag there are several other primary life situations that are far more likely to have contributed and I don't think they had a damn thing to do with it either!
I am a basically a hack guitar player. Can strum my way through a song but not much else. However, it's something I do just about every day of my life going back now about 25 years. I don't ever really think about what meaning it has and why should I? It's like taking a walk or exercising. It's just something you do because you enjoy it and it's positive in a myriad of ways. My Taylor is just a great musical instrument and seeing it broken, even accidentally by my amazing son, just really hurt.
So, tonight I will take the strings off of the Taylor, align the crack and use some duct-tape to keep it all together. Even with the damage it still sounds pretty good. No metaphor or symbolism intended!
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