By Gonz Blinko
“White light going messing up my mind, Don’t you know it’s going to make you go blind, White light, White heat…” – Lou Reed, Velvet Underground.
Samhara had just arrived in one of our undisclosed locations deep in the Glades. El Negro took off on his Harley to collect new girlfriend and hang out at South Beach. I received secret communication that said Lou Reed, the heart of the Velvets, the Rock and Roll Animal, the transformer, the man who took us for a walk on the wild side had grown vision impaired in his advancing years. Not only had Lou lost some of his vision, he actually went out and had a programmer make a special “ghetto” application to make his iPhone easier to read.
I would have preferred if he had chosen Zoom but to find an artist of his caliber actually taking action and diving right into AT was amazing.
“Sam?” I said, “I’ve got to get to New York.”
I explained about Lou Reed getting into the blindness biz and that I had to get the story for Blind Confidential.
“So, you had the boat brought down and hidden so you could return to New York in two days?”
“It’s not about the boat, it’s the dirty boulevard. It’s about a major player from the never ending scene jumping right into the belly of our beast,” I said with emphasis.
“What makes him so important?”
“Have you noticed that all cool people, especially men, in the New York scene dress like he has for years?” I asked rhetorically, “Look at the string, Springsteen, The Ramones, even the hip hop kids – black leather jacket, Ray bans, t-shirt, jeans, leaning against a wall on St. Marks Place, smoking cigarettes and acting so entirely nonchalant that one would think their existential realism might make them disappear in a cloud of apathy.”
“And you were once one of these kids?” asked Samhara knowingly.
“About 30 years ago…” I mumbled.
I hitched a ride on a friend’s private jet from Fort Myers to New York and, using numerous evasive maneuvers, found myself at my condo on Joey Ramone Blvd. The X-Dog and entered through the back door, got upstairs and made a pot of coffee.
“Allie,” answered the familiar voice.
“I’m in New York,” I told her.
“Cool, what’s up?”
“It’s Lou Reed.”
“Did he die?”
“Oh, well then what do you have to discuss with Lou? By the way, is he still married to Laurie?”
“Don’t know about marital status, his vision got really bad and he’s making AT these days.”
“I’ll get us an appointment.”
We sat down with Reed in a Middle Eastern place called Mustache on a side street in the West Village. We started with a bit of chit chat about the early days of punk and how many of our old friends had already died. Jim Carroll, the most recent made us the most sad. It always seems that reunions from that period start with a “who died” topic and then move into happier subjects.
“You look great,” Reed said to Allie with his heavy Long Island accent.
“I look old,” she quipped.
“We’re all looking older,” he said, “You just look better than the rest of us.”
Allie laughed and we started talking vision impairment.
“Well, I couldn’t use my iPhone too well,” said Lou, “So, I had a programmer friend make me the contacts programmer.”
“Why didn’t you use Zoom, the program on your phone that makes everything bigger?” I asked.
“Zoom? What’s Zoom?”
Allie took Lou’s phone from his hand and turned on its magnifier.
“Holy shit!” blurted Reed, “And this works in all programs?”
“Yup,” I replied, “and it comes built into all of the iPhones Apple sells.”
“No shit?” asked Reed again.
“Truth,” added Allie.
“Well it’s not as pretty as my contacts program,” said Reed, “we took a lot of time designing our program.”
“I’m sure you did and maybe your custom program will be useful for you and others but the real solution is getting the technology onto all handsets without modification,” I lectured.
Lou agreed to join our band of blinks and work, in his own way, toward universal accessibility. He clings to the thought of artsy fartsy custom interfaces but we need all of the help we can get.
We took some additional evasive Maneuvers returning to the condo on Joey Ramon Blvd. where we had a pizza delivered from a trusted source. Allie and I catted about how Lou and his commitment to art hadn’t changed, we did a toast of espresso to Andy Warhol and talked rapid fire like the old days. Allie fell asleep on the sofa and I went to the bedroom.
“Well, Lou Reed is in the fold,” I said to Samhara as I got back to the house boat carefully cloaked in on of our favorite secluded locations.
“So, are you going to say hello?” asked Sam. “I got here and you jumped off and sped to New York.”
“Oh, uh, sorry about that,” I stumbled, “Hello, hello, hello, I repeated and leaned over to give Samhara a peck on the cheat.”
There is one strand of truth in the story above, namely, Lou Reed has, had a magnified contacts program made for him that runs on the iPhone. Other than that, I know nothing about his vision, computer use and I’ve not said more than three words to the man in 25 years or so. He remains a musical hero of both Gonz and BC and, if you don’t know of him, check out the 1960s recordings by the Velvet Underground (an invention of Andy Warhol in which Lou played guitar and sang) and lots of recordings that Lou has released as a soloist since. He is also a poet and art photographer.
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Happy Christmas everyone!
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