The book I bought today was Frederick Exley’s A Fan’s Notes. $16 plus tax at Barns and Noble on 17th Street. I read this book before, when I was in college. That copy I found someplace, probably in the Pratt Dorm’s laundry room. Kids were always leaving books in the laundry room. That copy was a paperback too, only it was .75¢ in 1970 or so.
I remember enjoying it immensely, despite having no Idea who Y.A. Tittle was. But I could identify with Exley’s hero’s excessive drinking and hero worship. My hero at the time was Lou Reed, and I obsessively followed him, as far as my age and wallet would allow at the time. I bought every Velvet Underground album I could lay my hands on, my favorite was Loaded. I would listen to Rock And Roll from that album over and over again, seeing my self as Jenny being saved by rock and roll, except I hadn’t been 5 years old when it happened to me. I was more like 16 when I heard that song on the old WNEW FM progressive rock station. I would listen to Sister Ray and wished I could be there with the sailor who was just here from Alabama.
I listened to Heroin and Waiting For The Man and wanted to part of that scene too. I bought Transformer and even Berlin when that came out. I was hooked, as much as Exley was hooked on the Y.A. Tittle and the New York Giants.
One night at Max’s Kansas City, it was at an after party for The Stooges who were doing the Raw Power tour that I’d managed to crash, I spotted my Idol Lou sitting by himself at a table. David Bowie, Todd Rundgren (with hair dyed green) and Alice Cooper were there. Lesser luminaries like the N.Y. Dolls were there as well; but I only had eyes for Lou. I made my way over to the great man’s table, confident that since he was alone he’d have time for a chat with his biggest fan. I approached his table and sat down in an empty seat.
“Mr. Reed,” (I actually called him Mr. Reed!) Mr. Reed, I think you are great. I think you are the best rock and roll songwriter in the world.
Instead of looking pleased, he looked horrified. He looked up and around, as if searching for someone. His mirror-sun-glassed eyes found whomever they were looking for and gestured them over. I felt a hand on my shoulder and heard a deep booming voice say, “Mr. Reed doesn’t want to be disturbed.” I looked over my shoulder to see a very large bald black man. That was my exit cue, but even with that, my fervor for Lou Reed hasn’t waned.
I was at a benefit for Lou’s body guard about 12 years ago, he was very ill and had no money to pay his medical bills. It was at the Bowery Ballroom and Lou played a couple of songs by himself and did a duet with Garland Jeffries at the end. Sylvain Sylvain played (he sang She’s a Feme Fatal) and there were others. They showed videos of the body guard, a guy named Mike Quashie, who was once known as The Limbo King. I just remembered him as the guy who Lou Reed used to tell me to fuck off.
I don’t know why starting the Exley book bought back memories of Max’s Kansas City and Lou Reed, but I guess that’s part of the obsession too, not being able to get away from significant moments in your life no matter how hard you try.