The snow the forecasters talked about never came. This week we’re getting highs in the 70s. Not a good forecast for ski dreams, but it makes for nice walking weather.

lou reedSpeaking of highs in the 70s, this morning I loaded the iPod with some music I hadn’t heard in a while, Lou Reed’s great Rock n Roll Animal, recording live in December 1973. Then I set out on the morning trudge, propelled out the door the blistering twin-guitar attack of Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter on the introduction to “Sweet Jane.”

It doesn’t get much better than that.

It is a little strange listening to Rock n Roll Animal as I walk through my neighborhood in the morning. I walk past parents waiting at the bus stops with their schoolchildren. I nod hello to the seniors getting their morning exercise and the folks walking their dogs, while Reed and the band fills my ears with the sounds of “Heroin.” “It’s my wife and it’s my life,” Reed sings in his characteristic monotone during this 13-minute rock and roll epic. Don’t get me wrong. The only “H” I know comes with the prefix “Preparation,” but I remain awestruck by this harrowing and downright exhilarating ode about the ups and downs of drug addiction. Reed and the band start off quietly but gradually work their way into a frenzy of screaming guitars, pounding bass, flailing drums, and Reed’s own passionately deadpan vocals before slowing back down—and then they do it all over again. At one point the song catches its breath with an organ break, and the notes careen upward like an out-of-control rocket reaching for the upper atmosphere before tumbling back to earth. As the liner notes say, “The piece has the atmosphere of a cathedral at a black mass, where heroin is God.”

So, no, it wasn’t exactly the expected soundtrack to a peaceful suburban morning, but it got my adrenaline flowing and my ears ringing. By the time I bounced down the path to the neighborhood’s creek—where mist rose silently from the quiet waters, quite a contrast to the cacophony in my ears—I was pumping my fist to each power chord as the song built to its final climax.

Though I’m not sure what’s more horrifying—the terrors of drug addiction or the idea that Lou Reed wants to wear a “sailor’s suit and cap.” To quote Mr. Reed: I guess I just don’t know.

P.S. Days later I remembered that my neighborhood has its own strange heroin story. A few years ago two young men and a woman in Harrisburg were shooting up when the young lady had a fatal overdose. Her two companions decided to ditch her body in my neighborhood. They drove down the steep dead-end road that leads to the creek and parked at the end. Then they took took the body down the old, abandoned road that runs parallel to the creek and dumped it there. I assume some poor soul walking a dog the next morning discovered it. Police quickly discovered clues that led them right back to the two men.  “Heroin will be the death of me,” sang Reed. He managed to escape that fate, but this unfortunate woman didn’t.

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