vəˈräɡō/: a woman of strength or spirit; a female warrior.

Lou Reed/New York Stars

White Light/White Heat was the first Velvet Underground cassette that I owned. I popped it into my walkman and strolled out of my avenue. When I started listening to The Gift, I stopped and sat down on the steps of an insurance office… which became the steps of Marsha, Waldo, and Sheila’s apartment. I walked into a short film, with an urgent lazy soundtrack and I wasn’t here anymore. When I reached the train tracks Sister Ray was playing and Lou Reed was so hard with that guitar that I wanted to be damaged by it. I don’t like heavy fingers, but Sister Ray pressed me up against a brick wall of sound and I was so turned on. This is when I fell in love with New York and Lou Reed.

And I say…”Take a walk on the wild side. Do Do Do Do Do Do Do Do Do…” I’m in my cut off shorts, fishnets, and black leopard boots not giving one damn about anything. My reflection slips through the glass of every small town store front as I imagine up all night, dirty streets, hookers in neon skirts, boys in girls’ shirts. New York was I got a mouth like a pocket knife and eyes that flash like street lights. And I wanted to live there long enough to let it all stick.

 

When I heard that Lou Reed was playing the Palace Theater in Columbus, Ohio, I couldn’t wait. My friends and I jumped into an 82 Chevette with our Velvet Underground albums and the closest thing we had to an edgy outfit (off record: I was wearing a white mini skirt, boots, and some sort of leopard jacket thing). It’s been a long time but I can remember a phone booth on stage and a graffiti backdrop. He sang I Love You Suzanne from the booth, made me cry with Sweet Jane, and ended the show with Walk on the Wild Side and Vicious.

I had an unlit cigarette in my mouth and I was so far from cool but for that moment I was so vicious. After the show we waited in line at the back door. Lou came out of an alternate door and jumped into a white van and we were now first in line. We ran as he slid the door open and hardly smiled through 30 degrees of an Ohio October. He put his hand out and asked if I was cold. I said yes. He said “Come inside and sit next to me and warm up.” My friends looked at me like…get your ass in there. It’s Lou Reed!”  We had everything but a sharpie so my friend gave Lou a gold, paint pen. He signed our t-shirts, albums, and a picture for our cheap friend (which pissed us both off because we copped $20 on a t-shirt and she didn’t buy a damn thing).

I asked Lou Reed to take me to prom. He smirked and shook his head, annoyed at the ignorance of  youth. I stayed there until he gave me the gesture to go. For some unknown reason, I slapped his leg when I got up. We waited until he was done signing autographs and then followed him down every offshoot of High Street until we realized that he wasn’t stopping again. I was 17 and had no idea that this would mean anything years from now. I sat next to Lou Reed long enough for something to stick, long enough to see the New York stars up close.

About Ara Harris

Ara Harris

Music junkie, Atari 2600 bringer backer, word maker upper, loves to photograph and write about suburban decay. Ara grew up on a corner lot in small town Ohio. She began escaping the micro minds of the Midwest by listening to music, watching b films, and touring the cities in her mind. She wrote poetry on the back of algebra tests and asked Lou Reed to take her to prom. Two decades later she self published a full collection of poetry that one reader described as “a Tom Verlaine riff in every synapse”. She believes that we all have a gift, we just have to find it.

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