Apr 21, 2017

"The year I hung out with Lou Reed at university" in The Guardian

A BRUSH WITH GREATNESS

I met Lou Reed in the cafeteria of Syracuse University in 1961. Lou was a sophomore. I was a freshman. No one introduced us; we were just in line for some lunch and kind of sniffed each other out as cool guys from the city. He was from Long Island and I was from Brooklyn and he was probably already way cooler than me, but nonetheless we started hanging out once we discovered that we both loved doo-wop. I was a Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers freak and he loved the Velours, the Moonglows, the Jesters and the Paragons. We only liked the groups that we considered to be the real thing.

There was some kind of standard. I don’t think either of us was thinking seriously about becoming songwriters or performers at the time, but we definitely both cared about pop music in the way that people do who know that music can save your life.

One day, not long after, he said, “Meet me at the bar,” and that meant the Orange Bar. I fell by and was surprised to find him sitting in a booth with an older guy, a kind of rumpled guy with dark hair. I didn’t get their relationship at first and was a bit suspicious since he was clearly not a student, but we started meeting there every day at 4pm and this guy was always there.

No one introduced us; we were just in line for some lunch and kind of sniffed each other out as cool guys from the city

Turned out he was Delmore Schwartz, Lou’s English professor, and he was drinking there with Lou every day. I just came around and listened to them talk, not always getting the literary references, but happy to be a part of it. I learned about sophisticated drinks like Dubonnet on the rocks with a twist of lemon.

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