Words for Lou The Apollo December 16, 2013
Welcome dear friends. We’re meeting here this evening because it’s a very special day it’s the fiftieth day after Lou’s death.
Lou and I were meditators. We were students of Buddhism and also artists so we had lots of reasons to try to understand how life and death can illuminate each other.
I was with Lou the morning he died and he knew exactly what was happening. He had described this feeling the week before of slipping down through the body through the inside and out. And that Sunday morning he said its happening again now. And then he had an expression on his face that I had only seen once before when my mother died and it looked like this.
That’s what it looked like. Inexpressible wonder and incredible joy.
We had been up the whole night before talking and we had actually gotten the chance to practice the things we had talked about, moving the breath up from the stomach through the heart and out the top of the head. He was doing tai chi- the 21 form of flowing water with his spinning hands.
In the morning he demanded to go out on the porch « Take me into the light! » he said. And it was only a few days later that I realized that light was his very last word.
According to the Tibetan Book of the Dead after death all beings spend forty nine days in the bardo. And the bardo is a place or really a process that lasts forty nine days as the mind dissolves and as the Tibetans believe the spirit or, let’s say, the energy prepares to take another life form.
The thing that’s forbidden by the Tibetan Book of the Dead also called the Great Liberation Through Hearing- is crying. Crying is not allowed because it’s supposedly confusing to the dead and you don’t want to summon them back because they actually can’t come back. So no crying.
Lou was a master of friendship and so for the past 49 days we his close friends have been spending every Sunday afternoon getting together at home and talking about Lou and his life and what he did and said and how very deeply he had changed our lives.
During the last 7 weeks I’ve heard literally hundreds of stories mostly about Lou’s kindness and generosity- he put me through college he gave me two cameras he listened to my problems but most of all the stories were: he changed my life by making me do whatever it was better- music, writing, planning,
Each Sunday circled around a different part of his life. One afternoon was about design glasses apps gadgets lenses chefs he was working with on cookbooks …another one photography – collaborators on films and his own photography and films – another one music where many people came and sang and played- his music and their music- another on writing and lyrics and essays and the radio show he did with Hal. Yesterday was the final 49 th day so we spent it in meditation and tai chi.
And I’m thinking about Lou’s beautiful record Transformer which has a new meaning with his transformation from a living person into pure energy
Today is the 50 th day the most significant of all because it represents the end of this process.
One minute after Lou’s heart stopped I called our Rinpoche to set in motion the 49 days of prayers of powa, which are prayers translated as « the practice of conscious dying » or the « transference of consciousness at the time of death ». This is now complete.
So we have asked all of you here today because you were his friends and so that you can join us in this most important moment of all – the liberation into the cosmos and into eternity of his power and his sweetness.
We wanted to be here at the Apollo near Lexington and 125 because that was a place he really loved. Here he comes our sweet sweet Lou.
I want to thank all the friends who are here this evening and have been part of the last 49 days of our celebration and who all have their own stories of Lou and the way their lives intertwined. And thank you to all the people who performed all of you were especially loved by Lou for your friendship and for your beautiful playing. And thanks to all of you who have joined us this evening.
I wasn’t really ready for this. I wasn’t ready for all the crazy things that have happened since Lou died. I’ve learned more in the last 50 days than I have in my whole life things I could never have predicted or imagined things about time and energy and transformation and about love and life and death and compassion.
I began to see things as if for the first time… bound together. It’s as if the world has suddenly opened and everything is illuminated and transparent and utterly fragile.
And I have had the great experience of actually living in the present …a state of the greatest possible happiness that I’m sure will take me the rest of my life to understand and fully realize.
I want to tell you a little more about that but I mostly want to say a few things about my 21 years as Lou’s partner and wife and he my husband and some of the ways we both learned about life.
From the moment we met Lou and I started to talk and we talked non stop about everything conceivable for 21 years.
We talked about love and work and ambition and sorrow.We talked about what we really wanted in life and how to get off the treadmill of doing the same thing over and over and about the tedious ego machine that so much of the art and music world has become.
We talked a lot about how to get rid of the endless chattering that goes on in your mind… the voice that is so constantly critical…the committee that greets you every morning with their gloomy news…of what an idiot you are what a loser
what do you do about that?? we talked about ways to make those voices disappear
we talked about how to find other words for things,
the meaning of tai chi and secrets of the world
We talked about how to make something beautiful, what to do when you fail, about how to make something ugly.
Because we were meditators and also artists we talked a lot about various ways to see the self-
self branding for marketing reason, the difference between the self and the writer about the self.
But then Lou knew how to escape. He had learned how not to be Lou Reed many years ago. He could put Lou Reed on and take him off like one of his jackets. He knew how that worked.
And he also knew how to get inside other people to jump inside them and see the world through their eyes and jump out again and write about it…right through the mirror- I’ll be your mirror was not only a song it was his alchemy, his magic, his compassion for other people which he knew how to feel and how to express.
Lou and I talked about music and song writing and the way Lou wrote was he would wake up in the morning or the middle of the night and just write the song down and it was complete he never changed a word first thought best thought.
For me to me this was infuriating to me who was whittling away at every word and looking at them through magnifying glasses.
Lou did not hide his emotions. Everyone who knew him saw him cry unselfconsciously when he heard something unspeakably beautiful or saw something that became one of his amazing photographs. He lived for beauty in all ways.
People who knew him also sometimes experienced his anger and his fury. But in the last few years each time he was angry it was followed by an apology until the anger and the apology got closer and closer until they were almost on top of each other. Lou knew what he was doing and what he was going for and his incredible complexity and his anger was the one of biggest parts of his beauty.
We also did so many things together we went out almost every night in New York to see playa and music and shows and concerts. We went to Africa, we looked for magic, we went on pilgrimages, went swimming, cared for each other when we were sick, raised our dogs Lolabelle and Will, we invented private worlds with countless crazy characters, built houses, played music together, did tours.
Playing with Lou was such a blast. Everyone who has done that knows he’ll change the tempo and slide into the words in a way you’ve never heard before and you get carried on this huge tide of music so full of freedom and joy-
take a solo! faster! faster ! come one! give it to me
As a partner in both work and love Lou was true and he was completely transparent. I never had a single doubt that we loved each other beyond anything else from the time we first met until the moment he died. Almost every day we said » and you- you are the love of my life » or some version of that in one of our many private and somewhat bizarre languages. We knew exactly what we had and we were both beyond grateful.
Lou helped me in countless ways as a partner and critic and writer. When I was having trouble finishing a record and was endlessly complaining and worried he said, « I can’t stand hearing about this one more second I’m going to come into the studio and work on this with you and stay there until you’re done »
Now this sounded kind of ominous…kind of a really bad idea. But it was so wonderful – he put so much energy into it – and it was so much fun and so intuitive it was like it was his own work because in many ways it was and the boundaries could often be so fluid.
As a partner Lou was also a witness which seems to me to be one of the greatest things about being a couple- to be able to say to someone Did that just happen? Did you see what I just saw? a familiar trusted voice doing yet another reality check.
No that’s not the way it was at all! Remember when you said that before and you were wrong then and you’re probably wrong now…things like that…
We didn’t have the kind of relationship where the other person has the qualities that you lack and you try to make a complete person by combining the two of you. We didn’t complete each others sentences either. I never really knew where things were going. And even if I was angry and frustrated I was never for one second bored.
Like many people who are couples there is a part of you that becomes joint- the part of you that makes the adjustments you need to make with your own ego and plans …so you can be part of a couple and make it a happy experience.
So when one of the couple dies or leaves what happens to that part of you the part that was the mix?
I was not ready for the shock of that- I had never read or heard anything about that but what has happened is something so amazing
The part that was doing the accommodating – that part has been suddenly filled with the most overwhelming energy and boundless joy and love. This has been so unexpected and weird and surprising that I hardly know what to do with this happiness and it will take me the rest of my life to contain it.
Lou and I talked about instinct…how to trust it-
Anyone who spent time with Lou knows the gesture- he’s holding up his arm to show you look the hairs are standing on end!
And so this is how I accept this wild happiness and vibrating energy.
We never once talked about what would happen when one of us died…what the other would do.
Living in the present I see him and the way his life has turned to energy everywhere I look….I see it in nature and in the things he loved. I see his exuberance and sometimes I hear his over the top insane laugh! I see his gestures his beautiful hands making the shapes of the 21 form.
Just the way music can get inside you and make you dance energy does the same.
I see why tai chi is called a moving meditation and what tai chi might have really meant to Lou as he studied it with his friends and his beloved teacher Master Ren.
I see how people turn into light and into music and eventually into other people. And how fluid the boundaries really are.
Lou and I studied with our teacher Mingyur Rinpoche who taught us many things that we tried to put into practice. One of the hardest things was he said try to practice this :how to feel sad without being sad which is much harder than it seems how to feel sad without being sad. how which we worked on all our lives….
We also worked on what to do with grief. and to follow this teaching whenever you think of that person you’re grieving for instead of giving into grief do something kind or give something away. But you say grief is terrible and it’s constant! I’d be giving things away non stop and he said So?
Mingyur Rinpoche made portraits of Lou and me beautiful large drawings of syllables of our mantra.
The mantra is om ah hung and we spoke it and thought it and tried to actually live it. The om is all of everything and is here in the head the ah of experience is in the throat…the breathless feeling of the moment which was his portrait of me meaning deathless unborn. And Lou’s syllable is centered in the heart and it is the syllable hung which means all of consciousness everything that exists descends down from the head from the mind and is expressed as an explosion in the human heart.
The beautiful song The power of the heart is a love song .
So how should we live? Lou and I tried to come up with a lot of different formulas. Our answer to the absurdity of life was always to make something beautiful. We also had three rules we tried to do. Here they are:
Number one: do not be afraid of anyone. Can you imagine what your life would be like if you weren’t afraid of anyone?
Second have a great bullshit detector and learn how to use it and how to apply it. And third be so tender. Be open to the world and in love with everything and everyone in it.
We meditated together in many different ways…in many different places and different ways we trusted the things the body can do! instinct over reason and tried to live in the present
We did meditations of or own..about sound about light about time…we made them up like look at this crack at the bottom of the swimming pool…look at this speck in my eye for an hour
here’e one. I’ll show you how it works it goes like this:
(2 minutes of silence)
You see how it works humans are so exquisite we already know everything and we have everything we need to live in the present we actually everything we need to live our lives.
We’re almost at the end of this evening and I wanted to say one more thing. That it’s important to remember Lou as a person. Myths happen and get created through repetition and over simplification. We are not meant to idolize each other but to take things from each other and to become the very best parts of each other.
I’m thinking of something Lou said when we were in restaurants or really good pizza places and he’d look at me and say, « Like you always say, ‘You can’t lose money with bread and cheese!’ »
I don’t remember ever saying that – or actually anything about bread and cheese- but it had become something Lou loved to quote part of the mythology the collective wisdom of downtown Manhattan…Although I’d never said that about bread and cheese I had said a lot of other things that I hoped would be memorable maybe even quotable but it was this one that he seemed to really have by heart- the one going down in his own personal history book.
Lou showed me so many things. And I got to show some things to him too. During the last few months of his life Lou was so dazzled by nature by the beauty of water and trees and he often said, « You always told me the trees were dancing and now I see that they are. They’re dancing. »
And we’d look at the sky for hours.
I want to play a short song I wrote for Lou on his birthday a few years ago. It’s called Flow.